Proptech is an emerging field in the property market and is changing the face of estate agency. Yet most people outside the industry may not have heard of the term or do not understand what it is. We’re going to take a brief view of what is a large market and try to explain.
What is Proptech?
What all of these have in common is they change the way that we interact with properties. Imagine it as the difference in personal fitness before we had apps like Strava or wearable tech such as Fitbit. Gone are the days of using a paper map and a stopwatch to calculate your speed. Now an app will track everything and calculate your speed through the whole course so you can pinpoint exactly where you are losing time.
As keen followers of Formula 1 will identify with, strapping a world class driver into a fast car doesn’t automatically mean World Championships… even when that driver is Lewis Hamilton or Ayrton Senna. For every Hamilton and Senna, there will be a Niki Lauda or Alain Prost. Those who analyse their car, analyse the track and analyse themselves to the nth degree to tweak out that small margin to give them the advantage.
Nowadays all teams have massive support networks who will be doing this during and between races. Feeding information to the driver and the pit wall as the margins for winning get smaller and more significant. This type of analytics has become the norm for every professional sport as technology has made analysis easier and more accessible.
This constant performance analysis is what many companies are now bringing to the residential property market. Now landlords and their agents can really be sure their investment is reaching its full potential. It’s all about increasing those margins.
What can Proptech do for a landlord?
Put you in control of your portfolio. Too many landlords rely on the agent to give them updates about what is happening at their properties. This is fine if your agent is always available to talk, replies to emails promptly and gives reliable and helpful feedback.
However, is this how you would expect to manage any other investment? Your ISAs are available to view via online banking on a phone app. Stocks and shares can be managed on an online dashboard. You can even download an app to trade in gold. Isn’t about time the largest investment you’ll make gets the same treatment?
Even if you’re not a lover of spreadsheets, Proptech can make your life easier just for simple record keeping or for a snapshot of your property. Ridley Thaw Residential provide all our managed landlords with an online dashboard, from which they can manage all their properties. This gives our landlords instant 24/7 access to all their statements, all the repair histories, important documents such as ASTs, EPCs and deposit certificates, and important dates for events such as the next inspection.
What can Proptech do for tenants?
We aim to make every transaction and interaction with our tenants that little bit easier. One of the simplest things we have done is moving all our referencing onto an online platform. Realistically most of our tenants are at work while our office is open so don’t have time to come back and forth to sign or provide documents or make payments.
By moving this online we have managed to cut down the time it takes to get tenants fully referenced and given them the convenience to make payments at any time of the day or night. We also provide our managed tenants with an online platform and phone app to help manage their tenancy. For instance providing detailed maintenance reports with photos that have sped up times from the initial report to the issue being rectified.
We’re constantly on the lookout for new tech that makes tenants lives easier and ensures they have a simple and happy tenancy. As the renter profile in Manchester City Centre is primarily 20-35-year-olds, technology is much more integrated into their lives. We would also expect they are at least more receptive to new methods of interaction. We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel so believe any new tech has to have some similarity to a scenario tenants will recognise in daily life, for example, signing documents online.
What does the future hold?
This is one area of the property market where speculation can be a bit more accurate than guessing price trends and expected demand. Startups with great ideas are often looking for venture capital or being acquired by larger firms. We can see where the smart money is going.
We can also see what trends are in the commercial arena. We can then reasonably expect a time when these technologies will be cost effective for the residential market.
We would expect something like the VTS platform, which was recently acquired by Hightower, to eventually become available. This is a platform used for commercial properties to streamline the letting and management of portfolios while allowing analysis and comparables of a portfolio in the given market. There is still a long way to go before this will be viable in the residential market. There is not nearly enough transparency of real-time data, especially in the lettings industry.
The data is there (deposit schemes *should* hold the actual rents of every tenancy in the UK), but it is not freely available. This is in stark comparison to the data of sold prices available from the land registry.
Why does Ridley Thaw Residential care so much about Proptech?
First, it’s exciting, and it’s something to be passionate about. We love when a new piece of technology comes along that fits a need that we’ve trying to address. Or even better, fits a need we never knew we had! It also keeps us on our toes and helps us avoid complacency.
The market is rapidly changing in the sales industry but the lettings industry has barely changed since Rightmove came about. We want to be at the forefront of the inevitable change. Always having that competitive edge while never compromising on the most important aspect of our business; our customer service.