Apart from a buoyant market, high transaction levels, and consumer confidence in the property market, one considerable additional benefit which has come out of the COVID-19 era surrounds the rise of PropTech.
As we have all had to adapt to working in unusual conditions, many of the day-to-day physical functions within a standard property process, whether buying or selling, can now be undertaken using technology. In addition to this, the consumer is continuing to want greater degrees of clarity and more responsive solutions with instant access to relevant information.
Transactional delays have seen a desire from a Governmental, industry and consumer level to find solutions which will speed up timescales and enable agents to operate seamlessly through the entire property process. This now places agents in a position where numerous fragmented solutions are coming to the forefront, all of which cater for distinct parts of the property cycle from a marketing, sales, and lettings perspective as well as financial and conveyancing services, aimed to reduce waiting times and speed up house moves.
Whilst this marketplace does remain fragmented at this moment in time, increased levels of collaboration, open CRM platforms and a better willingness between the relevant professions involved in the house buying, selling, and letting processes has meant that cohesive end-to-end solutions should come to the fore in the not-too-distant future.
It is imperative for any property agent, whether lettings or sales, to keep abreast of the digital transformation revolution which is occurring at this moment in time. This will not only ensure that they are engaging with the most relevant products for the short and medium-term, but they are also in a position where they can strategically place themselves to continue to deliver and exceed client and customer demands.
Due to the enhanced rate and the reliance on PropTech as a result of COVID-19, there are clear definitions in the business output levels from those practitioners that have adapted to a remote environment, compared to those that have failed to integrate and adapt relevant processes.
The evolution of lettings
If we consider a standard letting transaction, agents have gone from a physical process including valuations, inspections, viewings, inventories, check-in and check-out procedures moving from predominantly physical, time-consuming jobs, to a position where the adoption of PropTech platforms have enabled not only a workable solution during lockdown but provided a more transparent and robust solution to many of the day-to-day functions.
Combined with remote identification checkers and digital signatures, it is now fully possible for an estate and letting agency to facilitate a move without ever physically attending a property. This is a considerable movement compared to the industry’s position prior to the pandemic.
Advances in sales
Whilst a complete end-to-end solution has not been entirely adapted on a property sale, it is still possible to not only list and remotely market property but be in a position where a potential buyer can now view full 3D interactive videos, floorplans and effectively filter out potential choices to a much more granular detail. Due to this, the average viewing to sale ratio has decreased considerably and most agencies are now more efficient in their ways of working having to do fewer physical viewings than previously. With carefully integrated digital solutions, it is possible for most agencies to operate more effectively and efficiently with smaller and more dynamic teams than ever before.
Technical solutions have also levelled the playing field for smaller operators who previously may not have had access to the same facilities as larger operators. With prices controlled by supply and demand, and as more users are integrating with them, the prices for these are becoming more palatable for sole operators, franchises, and the personal agent model.
A daunting task for some
For many business owners, the prospect of engaging and trialling the range of products to see which is right for them is daunting and time-consuming, many will opt to trial multiple products themselves, whilst others will employ specialist PropTech consultants to advise on what is available and the best fit.
There’s no perfect one size fits all solution for agents due to the fragmented nature of the market, however, the integration of multiple tools, as long as well thought out, can arm many businesses with the acquisition of new stock, marketing, distribution, and client engagement, in addition to satisfying regulatory requirements, anti-money laundering regulations and the provision of a transparent, professional service.
As time has progressed, many long-standing practitioners would appreciate that the role of an agent has evolved. The availability of information at the tips of the public’s fingers in terms of property information, historic market values and pricing models now sees the industry in a position where some members of the public are as well-versed on a pricing basis than the agents themselves.
Whilst PropTech has been beneficial in many respects, it has also seen the consumer armed with more information than they would normally have. It also places the property professional in a position where they not only have to demonstrate professional knowledge, but rely on their marketing and problem-solving abilities to justify their place within the housing transaction cycle.
Looking to the future
Considering the future, inevitably many of the emerging solutions will fall to one side or integrate with other suppliers, but it is clear we are eventually moving toward digital end-to-end solutions in the industry. Communication between professionals such as solicitors, financial advisors and estate agents will provide greater degrees of clarity and consumer awareness.
As more PropTech is developed, information is accessible, and entry to portals becomes available to individual members of the public, agents will have to adapt and evolve to make sure they remain relevant but should do so by maintaining a blended approach to customer service and traditional client contact.
*Nathan Emerson is the CEO of trade body Propertymark