Each month, we take 5 minutes to ask a lettings industry expert 5 things. This month we are talking to Melinda Illes, Head of Business Development at Apropos.

Q. Hi Melinda! Thank you so much for your time today. I know you’re busy, so i’ll just jump straight in – and i’ll start with the topic on everyone’s mind. Covid-19. The pandemic we are currently living through has changed the housing market and created new ways of working together. And we’ve been hearing some really interesting news stories recently about the creative ways that agents have found to adapt their business/marketing strategies and communication practices. How have you and your team managed and adapted throughout this time?

A. We have been working for over three years to fully digitalise the rental journey for both landlords and tenants, taking it from traditional high street interactions – and moving it all online. During this lockdown, we went live with apropos, a revolutionary new property management solution designed to transform the rental experience for both landlords and tenants to deliver better tenancies. With apropos, there is no requirement for customer facing offices and almost no need for any face to face interactions. Virtual valuations, video tours and all other transactions can be done remotely and on-line or with a solo, unaccompanied visit to a property.

Apropos enables landlords to track and manage their entire rental portfolio by monitoring all activity via an online dashboard that delivers complete visibility of all transactions accessible 24/7. Tenancies can be facilitated, in many cases, with no face to face contact with centralised client support provided by our specialist teams at apropos HQ. Tenants can book viewings and provide feedback on the property, submit and track their full rental application online, pay their rent and book their check in date. In addition, they can report and monitor maintenance online during their tenancy. We have therefore been able to adapt far more easily than most to the new world we find ourselves in – our extensive network of local agents now covers 44% of the UK’s property hot-spots including; Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham and London (to name just a few). We’re also on track to expand further in the coming months.

Q. That’s amazing! It’s so good to hear a success story! Adaptation has been key to the success of so many businesses hasn’t it? So much change. Even when the lockdown is lifted – I think it’s extremely unlikely that life will return completely to the way it was previously. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that some of the changes we have made to our every-day working practices might turn out to be long-lasting?

A. The current home working experience has been a real eye opener for those who have remained in full time employment. It has certainly showed how much people have pulled together and gone above and beyond to ensure that furloughed colleagues have jobs to come back to when the restrictions are lifted. There is no doubt in my mind that some roles will now have the flexibility to continue to be carried out from home, working around people’s lives and families to ensure a healthier work/life balance is achieved.

Our dedicated team is in higher spirit than ever before, working hard to ensure we are on course for apropos to continue enhancing our customer’s experience by increasing the capabilities and functionality of their interactive online dashboards, delivering a 24/7 renting experience.  For many years now we have believed that this is a more efficient and effective way to deliver our service – and we believe apropos will continue to grow significantly after lock-down measures have been removed.

Q. I’m sure it will! Now, prior to coronavirus, many landlords were becoming despondent with the increasing amounts of government legislation being imposed upon the sector. According to the head of ARLA Propertymark, there’s likely to be much more regulation of parts of the rental sector once the worst of the Coronavirus crisis passes. How do you see this affecting the rental market long-term? 

A. We are fully embracing the upcoming changes and feel the regulation of our sector is well overdue in England and Wales. Perhaps we will now follow in Scotland’s footsteps, where a fully regulated PRS has been the norm for many years now. I do hope so – because I see a growing and urgent need for safe, secure and well managed rental stock in all areas of the UK. As the aspiration of home ownership has now moved even further out of reach for much of the population – renting will become the only form of housing tenure available to a rapidly growing proportion of our population. In times of uncertainty and financial hardship, people are driven to the flexibility and lower cost barriers offered by renting. So with more and more people relying on rented accommodation, (many of whom will be very vulnerable), there is an even greater need to ensure the industry is well regulated and professionally run. Tenants must be safeguarded, but so must landlords.  With stricter regulations, responsible landlords can confidently embrace new compliance laws knowing that they are operating on a level and fair playing field, with no unscrupulous landlords being able to offer lower rents by cutting corners and the same applies for agents.

Q. That’s so encouraging to hear. Thank you. So on the subject of vulnerable people… As the housing sector responds to the Coronavirus outbreak, how important do you think it is to bring empty properties into use to help secure accommodation to those in need of emergency housing? 

A. It’s a very important issue of course – but our particular area of focus here as a digital property management platform remains the welfare and safety of staff, landlords and tenants during these difficult times. The service we provide is to find tenants for our landlords – and a decision of this kind would need to be made by the owner of each property.

Q. Yes of course. And it’s a complex issue isn’t it? I’ll finish on a more positive note. Amidst the doom and gloom, we have heard so many touching stories of people coming together and helping/supporting each other/raising money etc. Have you got any stories you would like to share? Or anything you have learned from this time that you will take forwards with you? 

A. I truly believe that this crisis has brought people together and that there’s a far greater sense of connection and empathy between us all.  This applies to work colleagues, business relationships and neighbours across our communities all around the UK.  As we all face a common threat, it forces many of us to put aside our differences/prejudices and accept that we are all in this together.  People of all ages, races and religions are coming together and I genuinely believe we will take some real positives and a rejuvenated community spirit forwards with us once we come out on the other end.

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A huge thank you to Melinda for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk to us. You can further connect with Melinda here. And if you are keen to work with Property Inventory Clerks who truly understand the sector, get in touch with us today!