What does #PropTech mean to letting agents?


Could this be the hi-tech letting agent of the future?

I wouldn’t describe myself as especially ‘tech-savvy’, but I do like to learn about new ways of doing things – especially if it involves some kind of shiny new gadget.

Of course the important thing is to find efficiencies in everyday life and business, and dare I say it I appreciate the ingenuity of those market disrupters who aim to disturb the apple cart from time to time in search of roads less travelled.

So what’s new?

Despite out principle assets often being decades, if not centuries old (the properties I mean, not their owners) and the home buying process remaining largely untouched for most of recent history, change is not new to the property industry;  especially in the lettings arena.

One of the biggest changes seems to be the degree to which this latest technological revolution is self-aware and providing its own running commentary. Just look up #PropTech and you will be inundated with blogs, articles and (above all) start-ups vying for primacy explaining new approaches to everything from the mundanity of diary organisation to ways to apply the principles of blockchain to the property market.

Some of this PropTech is genuinely revolutionary, think back for instance to the market before Rightmove and Zoopla.

When I first started working in letting agency, having a properly designed website was the big tech innovation and odd as it may seem today it was not universally welcomed. We didn’t get many leads from the web and I can remember quite clearly the annoyance of some negotiators at having to take the new-fangled digital camera with them to listings – as well as the trusty old SLR so we could still get ‘good’ pictures developed for the window cards.

It wasn’t until we started to embrace aggregators, which look our new online listings and spread them across the myriad of sites which eventually matured into the portals we now know today.

In 2017 I can’t imagine any agency surviving long without an online offer of some sort, let alone without the option to advertise further afield.

It’s amazing how quickly the extra-ordinary can become humdrum in a fast moving sector.

Other innovations are more subtle, like the adoption of cloud-based property software, producing cost-effective floorplans, e-signatures (one of my personal favourites) and even mobile optimised listings to ease the process for applicants.

One of the biggest threats to traditional agency, or potential opportunities, is the growth in ‘full-service’ renting apps. Increasingly tech companies seem to be taking aim at the landlord/tenant relationship with offerings which encompass marketing, documentation, vetting and even matching issues with maintenance solutions. They may not be able to rival the expertise of an experienced agent, but they certainly seem keenly priced.

What’s next?

Virtual reality viewings seem ready to take off, but are perhaps more of a gimmick than a game-changer.

Eye-tracking during viewing s will supposedly help identify the differences between applicants priorities and assist in targeted marketing, but again this hardly seems likely to revolutionise lettings throughout the land.

The truth is property companies need to be ready to adapt, in the way that they always have. However, the human touch is unlikely to disappear any time soon.

The question is how ready are letting agents to embrace change?


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