CDL forges future of property sales with OutSystems

Image created by Gemini.

Developing a sales platform is pretty much like building a high-rise: If you use substandard materials, expect subpar results. 

This is why for City Developments Limited, which has been in the real estate business since 1963, there is no compromise. In the middle of the pandemic, when agents and clients could not physically view houses due to safety concerns, the multinational flipped the script on property sales.

“Property sales are highly regulated in most countries due to the quantum and the potential of fraud and money laundering. Traditionally a complex process, it also involves many parties and numerous exchanges of documents between homebuyers, developers, agencies, architects, conveyancing lawyers, banks, and regulators. This can be time-consuming and confusing,” noted Ivan Ng, Chief Technology Officer, CDL.

Reimagining the entire property purchase process, the company carefully developed a new platform to enable satellite and remote sales, with end-to-end orchestration of processes across ecosystem partners.

Low-code, high-stakes

The real estate giant soon launched its CDL Home Sales (CHS) platform, which aimed to simplify the entire sales journey— from presales, to offsite purchases, down to the conclusion of sales processes. 

Since CHS needed to be agile and scalable, CDL partnered with OutSystems to leverage the latter’s low-code solutions. 

“Given the sizeable quantum involved in property transactions, processes need to be robust with a focus on non-repudiation, anti-money laundering, and compliance with country regulators. Traditionally all parties, whether buyers, sellers, and agencies are required to be physically present, to ensure accuracy and timely submission of physical documents, often resulting in long waiting times and anxiety for buyers who are purchasing their dream homes,” Ng said.

According to Leonard Tan, Regional Director, Singapore and Greater China region, OutSystems, tailoring its solutions to CDL’s unique needs was not without challenges. 

Leonard Tan, Regional Director, Singapore and Greater China region, OutSystems. Image courtesy of OutSystems.

“The tight timeline and lean manpower posed our biggest challenges. With the team facing mounting challenges due to the need to quickly develop a Home Sales platform to help the CDL team sort through a large number of forms and manual processes, we needed to find ways to shorten development cycles to streamline the balloting and buying process for homebuyers and property agencies,” he recalled.

To prevent unwanted delays, OutSystems guided CDL’s team through the conduct of rigorous testing on the platform, to ensure CHS meets CDL’s stringent app guidelines.

“Our goal is to ensure that the OutSystems enterprise low-code platform empowers customers to rapidly build new applications scaled to meet the changing needs of the business and deliver solutions from simple mobile front-ends to large enterprise migrations,” Tan added.

Additionally, CDL encountered reporting and branching limitations during the app development, and worked with OutSystems to mitigate them.

“(At first, our) reporting was tedious and had to be enhanced for easier coding, for example, exporting to Excel or CSV formats. To enable this, the development teams have to develop additional components to complement the platform. In terms of branching, we can’t natively store multiple versions of source codes. This meant the team had to store different versions separately and perform internal segregation and controls,” Ng shared.

Through the partnership, CDL reduced development time by over 30%, pushing out the first launch of the application within three months, with only two application developers deployed. 

“These developers were supported by a structured training programme, allowing CDL to scale up resources within weeks, which was highly advantageous against the backdrop of today’s talent crunch and hiring challenges,” Tan said.

Safety checklist

To ensure its CHS platform isn’t just a band-aid solution, CDL abided by several standards during the development phase.

The first one was that it should be a trusted, common platform.

“As our intent is for CHS to be a single source of truth across different partner ecosystems, data has to be shared, and consistent across different stages, from expressions of Interest, to ballot queue number, to final assignment of the unit, up until the completion of sales. Agencies, developers, solicitors, and architects have access to the same set of data anytime; documents (are) signed electronically, which is EA-certified to ensure authenticity, and; all supporting correspondences (are)captured in the platform,” Ng said.

Ivan Ng, Chief Technology Officer, City Developments Limited. Image courtesy of CDL.

Secondly, with mounting cyberattacks on all fronts, CHS had to adhere to high standards of security. 

“Security must be designed and tightly-controlled as access to the single platform is controlled to a granular level, from different agencies to different teams within the agency, with an enterprise-grade security policy, and different levels of checks and controls to reduce fraud. OutSystems passed our security reviews and also they have undergone security certifications which provide further assurance,” he explained.

Finally, the platform ought to have the capability to engage outside the traditional value chain. Unlike traditional development platforms, OutSystems’ low-code solutions allowed CDL to do rapid prototyping, which then facilitated quick feedback from its partner ecosystem for improvement purposes. 

Additionally, CHS integrates well with other systems, such as Docusign and Myinfo, simplifying the process for customers.

“Purchasing a private residential unit is process intensive, and involves lots of manual checking, many documents, and multiple parties to complete, and the completion will normally take hours. Through CHS, we have digitised the process from expression of interest to completion of sales. This shortens the whole processing time, and all documents are processed electronically thereby reducing the physical documents, which contributes to sustainability and drive toward digital adoption,” the CTO added.

On the rise

Shortly after deploying CHS, the real estate giant observed notable improvements in various areas, including customer experience. What used to take an hour is now down to 20 minutes, thanks to quick retrieval of information (Myinfo), prior information captured (during Expressions of Interest), single signatory (DocuSign) and remote signing.

Moreover, easy UI and customer-centric UX created a faster entry experience, with mobile devices for faster entry and photo taking, and electronic signature for customers to sign one-time, rather than multiple times. A copy of the document is then sent to customers once completed. 

For the industry at large, CHS introduced a new way of doing business.

“CHS offered operating efficiencies for both developers, agencies/agents, and buyers as it is a common platform, easy to access, and data is digitally captured and shared. Remote offices can be set up anywhere and this is especially so during COVID-19 pandemic,” Ng said.

Then, real-time unit availability enabled agents to share information faster with clients for better decision-making, while electronic balloting provided a convenient method to secure a new property. Balloting, which used to take hours, was now completed in less than an hour for 1500 entries, and seamlessly flowed into the next stage.

Through CHS, overseas buyers also enjoyed easy and secure access to Singapore’s real estate market, since electronic balloting can be viewed through Zoom, while documents are sent via secured emails, and signed through DocuSign.

In terms of productivity, CHS significantly reduced hours spent on administrative tasks, since the platform is centralised and single source.  

“Accessibility via mobile devices allowed sales consultants and agents to capture the information anywhere, anytime especially during expressions of interest versus the traditional way of capturing it on paper,” Ng said.

Since its launch, CHS facilitated the successful sales and processing of more than 1,450 homes, equivalent to around SG$3.1 billion in total transaction volume.


Having revolutionised property sales, CDL is showing no signs of slowing down. To support its business strategy of Growth-Enhancement-Transform (GET), Ng said the company is focusing on three main objectives:

  • Smart Building Technologies— CDL at its core is a real estate company, and technology is helping transform experiences for customers and tenants. The company has developed a proprietary platform, CityNexus that incorporates several smart building technologies, including integration to IoT devices, building automation systems, and energy management solutions. This platform also provides end-to-end access to building services to provide convenience for tenants.
  • Data Platforms and AI— CDL will continue to explore ways to use AI and Data to derive actionable insights from large volumes of data, optimise property management processes, predict market trends, and personalise customer experiences. This also means breaking out data silos and developing an enterprise-wide data platform.
  • Cybersecurity and Data Privacy— While not in a regulated industry, ensuring trust and confidence among customers, employees, and other stakeholders continues to be critical. Therefore, the company is taking a proactive stance to strengthen cybersecurity measures and data privacy protocols to safeguard sensitive information, mitigate cyber threats, and comply with regulatory requirements to provide assurance that data entrusted with CDL is safe.

Likewise, OutSystems has been on a path of continuous innovation, having launched its AI Agent Builder platform last March. The new AI capability aims to simplify generative AI integration to businesses.

“With these capabilities, OutSystems gives customers the ability to easily build apps that take advantage of GenAI capabilities. The OutSystems platform brings AI into the development process to make it easier for junior developers to build sophisticated applications,” Tan said.

As for the development of the APAC real estate space, OutSystems sees its presence pivotal in the years to come.

“With the increasing shift towards digitalisation in APAC, we expect to see a demand from industries like the real estate sector looking for solutions like OutSystems to improve speed-to-market and productivity. As such, we are always looking to improve our offerings with the common goal of accelerating digital transformation for businesses and helping them build applications to scale without compromising on performance,” he concluded.