Any technology developed to advance the property industry started being referred to as ‘PropTech’ a few years ago and the term has become more widely-used, much like when FinTech emerged in the 1980s and 90s.

The United States also refers to it as CREtech (Commercial Real Estate Technology) or REtech (Real Estate Technology) when businesses offer technology solutions and products for the property sector.

PropTech aims to make the process of renting, letting, buying, selling or managing a property faster and simpler for consumers.

As technology is a key part of property transactions for landlords, agents and tenants alike, which PropTech-based services are becoming popular and will be important to develop? What tools should professionals in the industry be adopting to work for their own business?

Rise of the PropTech Providers

The number of companies offering PropTech services continues to grow but the attitude towards them is shifting as well. According to a recent survey of property professionals, 95% of respondents said they saw PropTech as an opportunity instead of a threat. And 59% said they used some form of PropTech in their jobs.

The property industry is still learning how to use all these services, how their business can benefit from them as well as their clients. PropTech firms need to reach out and engage with letting agents and landlords so they can keep up to date with the latest advances and have a digital strategy that’s fit for purpose.

For the property professionals embracing new technology, what products can they benefit from?

Online Valuations

This tool embedded into a website allows letting agents to contact more prospective landlords, faster and easier.

By giving landlords an idea of how much they could earn from letting their property after they fill out a simple online valuation, agents can capture their contact details.

Once they have these potential client details, agents can generate several leads and contact landlords to offer a full market appraisal.

Property Maintenance and Repair Reporting Apps

Maintenance and repairs are some of the most frustrating parts of a tenancy for landlords and tenants. Technology solutions and software like reporting apps allow tenants to report issues at any time and describe the problem in detail.

The concept isn’t new; construction firm Kier developed their Kier Repairs app back in 2012. The PropTech products on the market have been refined to save time and allow landlords to service their tenants out of hours as well as connect with contractors, suppliers and repairers instantly. Some have language translation features for tenants who struggle to report requests.

Government Wants Payment Record Product: The Rent Recognition Challenge

Last December the Government launched the Rent Recognition Challenge – a competition with a prize fund of £2million to encourage companies to develop new applications or improve existing products that help renters boost their credit scores, access credit and get on the housing ladder.

The existing problem was tenants meeting rent payments not being routinely recognised in their credit scores. Despite being a crucial indicator of how creditworthy a person is in terms of borrowing, banks couldn’t use the information. So the Government felt technology was the answer and the product has to enable tenants to record and share their rental payment data with lenders and credit reference agencies.

The six firms that made it through round one were CreditLadder, Bud, Canopy, RentalStep, FirstHomeCoach and Movem. They were given an initial £100,000 and the remaining £1.4 million will be awarded later in the year after the second round to three or four teams whose prototypes have most impressed a panel of industry judges.

What do Buyers Want?

OneDome recently asked 1000 homeowners across England and Wales which brands offer the best digital experience as well as which functionality they’d like estate agents to offer.

84% of the respondents (aged between 25 and 64) said Amazon’s ‘progress tracking’ tool was technology they would most like their agent to have. They also desired recommendations for properties that ‘you may also like’ similar to Amazon’s marketplace.

Almost half of the respondents identified the taxi service Uber as having the best digital experience due to its real-time updates and functionality that they would like their agent to have.

Babek Ismayil, founder and CEO of OneDome, said PropTech companies need to be careful of solving problems that don’t exist.

He said, “Our report looks at the type of technology that people are using in other areas of their lives and applying them to property.

“We live in a time when people are used to being kept informed, and the ability to log on and view the progress of their transaction in real time makes people feel at ease.”

Providing the Industry with Solutions

PropTech doesn’t just provide useful tools but could help offset the upcoming Tenant Fees Ban.

According to the founder of the Digital Marketing Bureau and PropTech influencer, James Dearsley, it can help letting agents.

He commented, “2018 will be another year of shifting goalposts. The ban on upfront letting agent fees charged to tenants should be seen as the first intervention from the Government and opportunities in PropTech are the opportunities to counter those threats.”

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