Journal of Environmental Treatment Techniques  
2021, Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages: 72-76  
J. Environ. Treat. Tech.  
ISSN: 2309-1185  
Journal web link:  
Using Activity Theory to Review Internet Technology  
Engagement by Real Estate Negotiator in Malaysia  
towards Agency Best Practice  
Azir Rezha bin Norizan *, Ahmad Naim Che Pee  
Malaysian Institute of Information Technology, Universiti Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  
Faculty of Information and Communication Technology, Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka, Melaka, Malaysia  
Received: 15/07/2020  
Accepted: 13/09/2020  
Published: 10/10/2020  
Real estate is a revelatory industry for the study of ICT uses because it is information-intensive and realtors are information intermediaries  
between buyers and sellers. As agents, buyers and sellers increase their uses of ICT, they also change how they approach their daily work.  
Information intensive industries, by their nature, show the greatest impacts due to ICTs that enable information sharing and the bypassing of  
traditional information intermediaries. However, while the effects and uses of ICT are often associated with organizations (and industries),  
their use occurs at the individual level. In other words, it is changes to individual work related to the use of ICTs that reshape both organization  
and industry structures, and vice-versa. In this study, we use activity theory to provide an analytic perspective within the setting in Malaysia.  
Data reveal historical structures of this industry guiding the day-to-day work of agents, buyers, sellers and the role of agency. Many of these  
structures are embodied in a set of explicit contracts that reify existing structures and legitimize realtors’ actions. While looking from the  
agencies practices, we explain possible improvement in the real estate industry following the advancement of internet & mobile technology,  
viewing the possibilities towards the use of IOT in real estate industry.  
Keywords: ICT, Real Estate, IOT, agency, digital media  
driverless cars and delivery vehicles, plus bots offering a range of  
services, are setting in motion many thought processes  
imagineering the likely future of logistics and retail real estate [1].  
Real estate is the largest asset type and one of the last to adopt  
technological change and the innovation that tech can bring [13].  
The internet and mobile telephone have enabled vast  
improvement in technology platforms applied to nearly all areas  
of our lives. This has happened through the facilitation of three  
different activities which are information provision; transactions;  
and management and control. Wikipedia and on-line newspapers  
are examples of on-line information engines. Initially, the  
internet, mobile telephony, social networking and e-mail were all  
about information, hence the previously ubiquitous use of the  
term ‘infotech’[7]. Information is the key input into the due  
diligence phase of a transaction. Shopping on-line was therefore  
the natural next phase of technology development. Paypal,  
Amazon and on-line banking are examples of internet and mobile  
telephony being used as a medium for the exchange of money,  
goods and services. PCs, tablets and mobile phones are potential  
dashboards for controlling electronic functions [10]. The Internet  
of Things (IoT) allows objects to be measured (information  
provision) but also sensed and/or controlled remotely across the  
existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities to adjust or  
turn systems on or off remotely [6]. As an example, Google’s  
This should present  
a massive area of opportunity for  
entrepreneurs. The opportunity is driven not only by the size of  
the industry and its lack of tech adoption, but also by industry  
practices plagued by inefficient processes and unnecessary  
transactional costs defended by self-interested professionals and  
The real estate business helps fulfil one of our most basic  
needs: shelter. For many people, this shelter is a house, but real  
estate is more than just shelter and houses. It includes apartments,  
condominiums, cooperatives, farms, retail stores, office  
buildings, shopping centres, warehouses, industrial plants,  
medical centres, and many other types of property. Hundreds of  
thousands of licensed professionals sell, lease, manage, appraise,  
or otherwise work full time in the real estate industry [10]. The  
industry also provides employment for many part-time and  
support personnel.  
014 acquisition of Nest to create a Google IoT division was seen  
at the time as a significant moment. Also, the remote control of  
Real estate is not known as an industry which readily embraces  
change [5]. The nature of the asset class, which comprises large  
Corresponding author: Azir Rezha bin Norizan, Malaysian Institute of Information Technology, Universiti Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur,  
Malaysia. E-mail:  
Journal of Environmental Treatment Techniques  
2021, Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages: 72-76  
heterogeneous assets traded in a largely private market, is perhaps  
a good reason for this. Homes may be too important a part of a  
private portfolio to take any risks with the process whereby it is  
traded, held or valued. It may also be the case that there is an  
agency problem: the professional advisers that dominate the  
transaction process clearly have an interest in protecting their  
income sources, so chartered surveyors, brokers and lawyers  
might all be expected to resist tech-driven innovations designed  
to ‘disrupt’ their work. Nevertheless, in current times we are  
witnessing a battle for market share between traditional advisers  
and a discernible second wave of technology-based innovation  
huge number of people regardless of their gender, age or  
experience level [10]. We choose to locate our study in Selangor  
State area as more than 500 real estate agencies located within.  
We use close observation and unstructured interviews as the  
methods to collect information of 267 real estate negotiator from  
14 different agencies. The respondents were from three major  
Malaysian races, 72% malay, 16% chinese and 12% indian. In  
terms of age, range of respondents were aged between 30-40  
years. These respondents were selected while taking into account  
the level of literacy towards internet and smart phone technology.  
The study looked at the real estate business activities, therefore  
the respondents were among real estate negotiator (REN) because  
REN play a very significant role in the activity. The selected REN  
also has more than 3 years of work experience and can be  
considered skilled in real estate activities.  
Previous study saw that the growth of ICT in one industry  
allows for removal of information intermediaries which including  
the real estate agents [11]. Analysis of the data from a  
structurational perspective suggests that real estate agents have  
lost some of the domination originally created by their control  
over the information resources. But the changes that happen in  
industry structure is much more complex than simple  
disintermediation. The real estate agent’s actions are helping them  
to restructure their roles in the industry which we going to discuss  
in the next section.  
Activities of Real Estate Negotiator  
Due to fast technological development, studies of  
digitalisation and platforms have explored more in the past  
decade, but none has gone detail into micro level of activities in  
the real estate industry. We use activity theory (AT) framework  
to help in looking further detail action and interception that occur  
in the stakeholder’s activities [3].  
Real Estate Industry in Malaysia  
Activity theory is an analytical framework that has the ability  
to examine phenomena in their native context through multiple  
perspectives and can be used for analysis of qualitative data. AT  
aims to connect the individuals and their surrounding social  
structures by pursuing a monist approach in which both are  
studied at the same time by focusing on the generated activity [8].  
The framework has the ability to look further than design and  
social innovation as an isolated method, process or idea by also  
providing insight into the ecosystem in which an initiative takes  
place and to which it is inextricably linked [3][12].  
The relationship between subject, tools and object can be  
considered as an activity conducted by a subject to achieve a  
certain outcome [11]. Collective activities are driven by  
communal motives, which are formed when collective needs  
might potentially be fulfilled by certain objects. Linking the  
subject-tools-object relationship to the wider social context are  
rules, which can be implicit or explicit, the broader community,  
consisting of other activity systems and, if applicable, shared and  
coordinated by a division of labour [11]. Activity system is the  
basic unit of analysis in AT which are the relationship between  
these different elements.  
Since Malaysia gained independence in 1957, the real estate  
industry has grown rapidly. Evidence shows that real estate is one  
of the main drivers of Malaysian economic growth and the engine  
of social stability thus an important part of economic  
development. The growth of the real estate industry is closely  
related to developments in other industries as well such as in the  
corporate and commercial sector, hospitality and tourism sector,  
retail sector, information technology (IT) sector, infrastructure,  
service sector and many other fields [2]. However, there are some  
challenges that exist today that are a major contributor to the  
imbalance between socio-economic achievement and real estate  
deals. According to a study conducted from 2002 to 2016, the  
level of inability to buy a home has increased drastically. The  
level of property ownership has dropped from 2012 to 2014. The  
price of home offered to the market is increasing and at the same  
time affecting the level of property ownership among the general  
public [9].  
On the economic basis, when demand equals supply, then  
market equilibrium will occur. However, this does not seem to  
exist in the real estate market - especially in urban areas. In major  
cities in Malaysia, housing supply is more geared towards high-  
cost housing such as bungalows, apartment and residential  
services. For example, in Pulau Pinang alone, all properties  
launched in 2016 are worth more than RM250,000 and most are  
worth RM500,000 to RM1,000,000. Home transactions under  
RM500,000 also dropped to 83% in the third quarter of 2014  
compared to 98% in 2002 [9].  
The lack of data and statistics has created a huge gap in the  
analysis of demand and housing. This needs to be addressed so  
that comprehensive and holistic analysis can be carried out to  
enable more effective monitoring and planning into these  
challenges [10]. One of the key issues regarding data and statistics  
at the state and central levels is the incomplete and up to date  
database. In addition, most data do not meet the spatial scale and  
data is only written and not digital.  
Figure.1: Activity System (Engeström, 1999)  
The real estate business has now become one of the highest  
paying salary in Malaysia. This opportunity has been grab by  
As the study looked at qualitative information, in-depth  
Journal of Environmental Treatment Techniques  
2021, Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages: 72-76  
observation and open-ended interviews were conducted on 267  
real estate agents and involved 14 real estate agencies around the  
Klang Valley, Malaysia. By putting the Real Estate Negotiator  
the agency, and already have a lot of property listings and has a  
high frequency of sales cases. The basic activities REN has to do  
is promoting their identity as a real estate negotiator; and  
compiling a list of properties for sale as well as obtaining the  
rights as official dealers. Only then will REN act to find potential  
buyers as described.  
REN) as the subject; and properties for sale as objects to  
activities, Observation of activity was done by looking at the  
elements or entities that surround the subject and object to be  
matched with other entities such as those on figure 1.  
A real estate negotiator needs to be registered with The Board  
of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Malaysia (BOVAEA)  
through any Real Estate Agency. The existence of BOVAEA  
helps in controlling the operation property businesses by setting a  
rules for approving a sale. Real estate agency is a company  
operated by Real Estate Agent (REA) and depending on the size  
of the agency, an agency can have up to 500 registered RENs.  
REN works under REA supervision and paid according to the  
case of the sale of the property and the percentage of commission  
earned varies according to the agreement made by the agency.  
Property selling activity begins with the interaction between  
REN and the owner who looking to sell the property. Owner must  
enter into an agreement to allow the RENto act as a representative  
to sell his property. There are two types of agreement; exclusive  
appointment where only the REN appointed is entitled to deal  
with the sale of the property; and open appointment in which REN  
shares the rights with other RENs appointed to carry out the sale.  
Before making an agreement, usually the REN will conduct a  
review of the quality and condition of the home to suggest repairs  
to be made by the owner in order to set a reasonable price.  
After the agreement, REN will start their advertising work to  
reach potential buyers with the various methods they know. REN  
also need to get the average value of the property to be advertised  
from the valuer. There are some agencies that have their own  
valuer to facilitate REN's work, but for agencies that don't provide  
valuers, REN needs to get valuer services from other companies.  
This is because the market value of the advertised property must  
be accurate, otherwise REN and agencies may be subject to legal  
action by BOVAEA. After getting serious buyer, REN will  
conduct a buy-in review of the buyer's financial eligibility,  
whether he is eligible to purchase the property. If eligible, REN  
will bring buyers to view properties and continue further  
discussions until the buyer agrees to purchase and sign the  
agreement document.  
Next, the REN will need to bring the property sale agreement  
from both the owner and buyer to the agency's verification.  
Agency approval is required because the agency is the real  
intermediary between the owner and buyer in the property sales  
activity, while REN represents the agency. The next process is  
assisting the buyer to apply property’s loan from bank, and at the  
same time helping the owner and buyer in dealing with the  
appointed lawyer until the buyer successfully obtain the bank  
There are also situations where RENs need to cooperate with  
other RENs from the same or different agencies, to get a case of  
property sales. In such cases, the value of the commission will be  
divided according to the previously agreed agreement prior to  
cooperation. Overall activity can be illustrated by Figure 2. Based  
on figure 2, we can see more clearly the relationship between the  
entities involved in the activity. However, selling a property is  
just one of REN's activities in the real estate field of work. A  
newly enrolled REN will usually be paired with a senior REN to  
learn the routine that needs to be done. Senior REN in this study  
is a person who has completed all training sessions provided by  
Figure 2: Activity System of a REN to sale a property  
The real estate industry can also be seen as a multilevel concept  
business starting with REA as a top leader. REA as an agency will  
recruit REN to assist in real estate negotiation work and deal  
directly with both the seller and the buyer. REN will receive a  
percentage of the commission based on the agreement with the  
agency. Senior RENs will usually look for new REN prospects as  
a down-line and can earn commissions from their down-lines,  
indirectly become one of REN activities.  
4 Internet Engagement in Ren Activity  
By observing the activities in the real estate industries  
surrounding REN and the agencies, the use of technology  
especially smartphones and internet seems compulsory these  
days. Looking for property to buy or to sale has becoming lots  
easier as how buying and selling things online has become  
common. There are just a lot of platforms ready to be use for the  
property owner to market their property, and the REN will get  
their attention from those platforms to get appointed.  
Open interviews that has been done among 267 REN allow us  
to analyse some interesting data regarding their activities. The  
activity of a REN usually involves marketing work, whether to  
market their identities and professions as real estate consultants,  
or market the property for which they are an authorized seller. As  
many as 92% of respondents who are all senior REN, states have  
established their own platforms whether professional website, or  
a large network of social media followers. The rest say they have  
no skills in developing their own website and rely solely on social  
media in search of property or potential buyer. The majority agree  
that the existence of their own official website helps to enhance  
the professional perception of their careers indirectly increasing  
the success rate of being appointed as the official seller for a  
Variety of smartphones apps or websites available for the  
owner to do marketing on their own. Even social media networks  
such as Facebook and instagram could do such work as almost  
everyone has their own accounts. Selling and buying a properties  
are not the same as selling and buying a car because of the detail  
procedures, involving huge amount of money and taking lots of  
time. Common people usually aren’t ready and do not understand  
the work need to be done before the property could change the  
owner, and most people don’t want to waste their precious time  
Journal of Environmental Treatment Techniques  
2021, Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages: 72-76