Hello again from Italy. Only another week or so left out here, working every day from the same table at my local cafe while the family goes off to explore the local area, both on land and at sea.
Being out here is great, the world seems to move so slowly, but I’ll tell you what: nothing makes it more clear that everything back at home is continuing at its normal frantic pace than waking up yesterday morning to read a good-old Purplebricks story.
I see Mr. Bruce is rustling on the other hand, claiming that high street agents only sell around 50% of the properties they list.
At first glance, you’ve got to wonder if he’s doing it on purpose, saying the most inflammatory thing possible just to see what happens.
Reminds me of a story a colleague told me, about how he and his dad would walk into the local post office, crunch two stink bombs under their feet and then scurry out to the car to watch and laugh as people come staggering into the street, clutching their noses and gagging.
On the other hand, there could be method to Bruce’s madness - he might have a dastardly plan of which this is simply Phase 1: Provoke the Masses. Probably not, though.
Anyway, it’s summer! Enough of all that glumness. I want to talk about this instead, an article from Bisnow identifying ‘The Rise and Rise of Real Estate’s New Buzzwords’.
I love what they’ve done and you should definitely check it out, but I thought it would be a bit of fun to add some of my own into the mix.
Please, throw yours in too, and maybe soon we’ll have our own glossary published by Oxford Dictionaries. Or, if we’re really desperate, Cambridge.
The first property buzzword, the O.G, if you like, was ReTech - Real Estate Technology.
However, we Brits, along with many of our colleagues across Europe, thought that PropTech was much better, and over time we’ve pretty much won.
ReTech is still seen out and about, very occasionally, but nobody really pays it any attention. Maybe because ReTech sounds like you’ve already teched something and now you’re going to retech it.
CRETech, Commercial Real Estate Technology, has stuck about, though, so maybe we need our own commercial-specific word in the U.K, too. Something simple like ComPropTech, or CropTech.
It’s a simple rule we’ve all agreed on, isn’t it. Take the first syllable of your industry and tag ‘tech’ onto the end of it.
ConTech, Construction Technology, has become an increasingly important phrase in property. For years we focused on what we could do help improve the physical infrastructure that already exists. Then we focussed on how to streamline the process of identifying and purchasing new land to build on. Then, finally, proper attention was given to the actual construction process.
This is because, as it’s quite natural to do, we started at the top and have gradually worked our way down to the root of the problem.
If we are, for example, trying to cut costs, we started with improving the efficiency of what is already there, finally working our way to revolutionise the methods and materials used for building.
This means the next big movement in PropTech will focus on the actual land that we want to use; the soil, rocks, and clay. We could call it GeoTech. No, that’s already taken. How about RockTech? Or MudTech?
A true modern classic, Xyz-as-a-service. It started with the alliterative Space-as-a-Service, a term sometimes credited to Antony Slumbers, but I can’t speak to the validity of that.
It started out as a way of neatly expressing that physical space must, nowadays, be thought of a service rather than a product if its true value is to be extracted.
But then it spread like wildfire, adopted, much like the ‘tech’ suffix was, by any and all aspects of property. Software-as-a-Service, Search-as-a-Service, Storage-as-a-Service. And that’s just a few of the S’s!
As the NHS collapses and is gradually privatised, we’ll end up with Life-as-a-Service. As robots start to become more popular it won’t be long before we realise that without giving them convincing personalities it gets pretty boring, and so we’ll see the rise of Identity-as-a-Service.
Does that sound a step too far? Well, it shouldn’t because it’s already real! See the ‘...as-a-service’ Wikipedia page (yeah, that’s right), here.
Someone on Whatsapp suggested this one today, CX, or Customer Experience.
I know Customer Experience is nothing new. Even the oldest job in the world (talking of ...as-a-service!) is based largely on providing a high quality Customer Experience.
What has changed is now we have neither the time nor inclination to use all of those syllables. Cus-to-mer Ex-per-i-ence. Far too long and arduous. CX is much easier. And. let’s face it, X is the coolest of all the letters.
This is one I’ve been noticing more and more over the recent months. This idea of incentivisation has become a core part of many property and PropTech conversations.
You hear it a lot in the world of hybrid agency and online portals. ‘The agent needs to be incentivised to pursue the best price.’ ‘The client needs the incentive to buy.’ ‘By receiving an up-front fee, the incentive is gone.’
I’m not a fan of how popular it’s become because it seems to me that people only need to be incentivised to do things that they don’t really want to do.
If a portal is having to incentivise the agent, for example, then the agent must not really want to do what the portal wants them to do? Like when I have to incentivise my boys to go to bed.
No, not the identical-but-evil robot sidekick that we all hoped for as a kid, a Digital Twin is, to put it simply, the perfect representation of a property on the computer screen.
The Digital Twin allows us to observe exactly how a property is running. Is it efficient or wasteful? Where might the next maintenance issue arise, and how do we preempt it now to avoid high cost repairs later? Which rooms are used a lot, and which are vacant?
If I had a Digital Twin it would tell you that my height makes me susceptible to strong winds, that my left nostril is far more efficient than my right, that if it’s not pitch black I cannot sleep, and that sausage rolls really perk me up at the time, but cause a lot of damage over the years.
If PropTech is guilty of overusing one word in particular, it’s ‘Effortless’. Everything needs to be effortless, apparently. Completing paperwork - effortless. Communicating with clients - effortless. Generating leads - effortless.
Creating complex networks of electronic money, cabling, and code on which all activity is recorded in full and totally infallible so that we can securely purchase property in small virtual blocks on a long virtual chain - effortless.
Basically, the lesson is we all need to be putting far more effort into making things effortless.
*James Dearsley is a leading PropTech influencer and commentator. You can follow him on Twitter here.