Property and technology have been a hot topic over the last couple of years in the media with many claims of how it is going to revolutionise the property industry. As a technology enthusiast and someone who has spent 14+ years in the property industry, naturally, this has always caught my attention. Whilst a lot of the emerging technology appears exciting, in practice, I have been seeing very little of the hype being put into action.
After following the trending articles and events over the last few years I was keen to see what 2017 had in store for the whole property and technology sector and more importantly, do residential agencies have an appetite for implementing any of this new technology? Having just gone past the halfway mark for the year, we seem to still be firmly where we were at the start of the year. You walk past residential agencies and still see perspex window holders with paper details, some may even have a digital display that’s barely visible in the sunlight. You can book a viewing online and meet an agent at the property, you even get a text message to confirm the appointment. Then there are the agencies expanding out of their traditional high street area using services like Viewber. Largely though it is still the same as it was 10 years ago. Perhaps there is too much expectation from what is essentially a people service?
I am not saying that none of the technology is being implemented. I called an Islington Estate agent who launched a VR experience in May 2016 and they still have it in the office, they had to find the hardware, but it was still there. Whilst Virtual Reality may have a place in Estate Agency, the only practical use I can see is for clients that are abroad, far away or cannot travel. If you are going to implement this type of viewing, then you are going to have to make sure all your properties have VR tours and hope that if you have clients abroad they happen to have the right form of VR goggles. Not the best or most practical use of technology, someone walking around the property using Facetime may be a more suitable alternative not to mention more personal.
What I have noticed over the last few years and what has not been shouted about nearly as much is the subtle shift in software talking to software. Many agents have systems that have been in use for many years and switching is not practical, or even possible without major upset and change. Agencies have many different parts to their business models and rarely have I seen two run the same way, using the same processes. they may all be doing the same work but the way they go about it can differ vastly. Having the ability to use software specifically designed for a service like property maintenance and have that integrate back into your business as the usual package is invaluable.
This should not come as anything new to any agency, for years we have been setting up feeds and API’s to companies like RightMove and Zoopla and shutting them down just as quickly as the various portals have been acquired or closed. The ability to expand and contract with these third-party services as needed is an absolute necessity. I recently had a conversation with a tenancy deposit service who have been working on ways to integrate with client software. The vision is to be able to complete an entire transaction life cycle automatically without a user having to log in and out of a website, this will no doubt save huge amounts of man hours for all agencies across the country. This is just one example of how these software property tech companies will in real terms affect the way in which we can do business.
Perhaps more focus and attention should be placed on property software and efficiencies that can be derived from implementing more streamlined, lower cost to deliver services. The only downside is that this is not new and it does not have the exciting ‘Technology’ buzz word which makes one think of driver-less cars chauffeuring them between properties, being ushered in by Android Robots for a viewing.