Today’s consumers judge a business not just on the quality of its products, but also on their experience in using them. That’s as true in the PropTech sector as it is anywhere else: agents, landlords and tenants know what a good user experience looks like, and they expect the PropTech they use to be fast, accessible and convenient.
But even the largest, most all-encompassing enterprise platforms cannot be everything to all kinds of users, and neither can best-of-breed category solutions. So why do some PropTech providers still not provide an API?
Growing up and out
The sector has grown massively over the last few years: PropTech marketplace Unissu lists 771 PropTech companies in the UK. Agents have more options than ever to differentiate themselves with first-rate tech-enabled services, ranging from rental payment processing to property valuation.
But if the various individual platforms don’t connect with others that fill out their value proposition, agents will be forced to learn and use potentially dozens of different systems – or else, vote with their feet and go with business-enhancing best-of-breed solutions that do link to third-party solutions.
An integrated future
The industry has long dreamed of a connected future, and it’s entirely achievable through open standards integrations. Think about it: a tenant moves into their new home on the first day of their tenancy. Having set up monthly rental payments from their smartphone, they can now use the same tech platform to submit pictures for the inventory report. The hot tap in the kitchen isn’t running, so in a couple more clicks or taps they can send a maintenance request to the landlord. Then, while they wait for the removals firm (potentially booked through the same portal), they can set up their utilities and broadband and check a local community group to see what’s going on at the weekend – all from the same device in a couple of minutes.
In turn, the landlord can see in real-time that the first month’s rent has arrived and inventory pictures have been submitted. When the maintenance request comes in, he can arrange in-app for a plumber to visit – but first, he can troubleshoot using his landlord portal or app, for example messaging the tenant and asking them to check the stop tap under the sink.
Streamlining the landlord and tenant experience in this way would be a huge win for PropTech providers and sector stakeholders too. The growing popularity of Build to Rent demonstrates that tenants are willing to pay a premium for convenient integrated services. Meanwhile, a recent survey of UK landlords reveals room for improvement for letting agents on customer service.
And it isn’t only landlords, tenants and the tech sector who stand to gain from PropTech integration. For agents, having PropTech solutions with value-added connections into other business functions saves precious time. While other industries experiment with four-day weeks, estate and letting agents are more likely to work six-day weeks – and with eviction processes about to get tougher once Section 21 is scrapped, they’re about to have an even heavier workload. It’s important that PropTech enables agents to improve their service to landlords and tenants, but equally importantly, it does so without requiring any extra admin hours on the agent’s part – in fact, freeing them up to do more important things like living and taking care of their business is much more to the point.
And there’s payoff down the line too. If PropTech platforms are built to integrate from day one, this can help agents to adopt new PropTech innovations seamlessly and to future-proof their choice of tech. Think back to 2020: while virtual viewing and 3D tour technology existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, usage rocketed in a way that no one had foreseen when lockdowns made in-person viewings more difficult to arrange.
Talking to each other
At PayProp, we’ve opened up our API to third-party developers and built integrations with top industry suppliers like Fixflo, Xero and Billing Better, and this open approach has enabled us to look forward to building an even bigger ecosystem in the future.
Many top UK PropTech providers now work together through the Innovation Collaboration Group to build more interconnected solutions for property professionals. Individual PropTech companies are also building strategic partnerships, like the recently announced integration between property management platform teclet and e-signature service Signable.
As PropTech providers, we need to understand that our role is to enable agents to do what they do best, but quicker, easier and more efficiently. Instead of expecting them to use our services on our terms, we should ensure that our technology can fit seamlessly into the proven processes that they already use and enhance their existing experiences.
*Neil Cobbold is managing director of PayProp UK