The results are finally in, and to no-one’s surprise Liz Truss has been named the new leader of the Conservative Party – and therefore the new Prime Minister.
Most would agree that her in-tray is a very difficult one, with a huge cost-of-living crisis to deal with alongside various other issues.
But she could take inspiration from an undeniable British success story: our booming property technology industry, which received around £1.6bn of investment last year, more than 15 times more than in 2016 according to venture capital firm Pi Labs. The UK has been one of the world leaders, along with the US, in PropTech – improving property sale and rental processes with tech that automates, streamlines, solves problems and strips away time-consuming manual tasks.
Understanding this industry’s success and potential could help our new Prime Minister take a smart approach to housing sector legislation – and perhaps provide a blueprint for tech-friendly regulation in other industries.
One of the new PM’s key tasks will be making good on the plans for rental reform set out under the previous government. The ongoing uncertainty over issues like the probable scrapping of Section 21 has dampened confidence in the sector. Estate agency Hamptons estimates that an average of 3,800 landlords will sell up each month in 2022.
However, making space for the inclusion of PropTech in new laws could vastly improve the functioning of the industry – making the rules fairer, more transparent and far easier to navigate. At the moment, legislation is often complex and unclear, and enforcement of existing rules can be patchy. Simpler, more tech-friendly regulation that acknowledged the power of automation could help keep standards and compliance levels high without imposing extra burdens on agents.
PropTech could also prove to be useful in other ways, helping the entire industry – landlords, letting agents, estate agents, conveyancers, lenders, mortgage advisers, housebuilders and others – to cope better with the cost-of-living crisis, which is being driven by soaring inflation and record-high energy prices.
The smooth running (at scale) of tech-enhanced tenancy processes and more effective arrears recovery could help to keep agencies’ bottom lines healthy, while better use of tech could also help with the early reporting of maintenance tasks and cutting down on deposit disputes – all of which cost parties in a rental transaction significant time and money.
Setting high standards
The growth of PropTech has shown that Britain can still be a world leader when people invest and innovate in key areas of the economy. The creativity and dynamism of PropTech providers, and the property professionals who have adopted their products, have helped to grow the sector into something that is now very established in its own right.
If Britain wants to help this success story continue, deal with the huge cost-of-living crisis, come through the challenges of the next few years and lead the next wave of the technological revolution, then innovation is crucial.
Powering up the property sector with PropTech isn’t about taking people’s jobs away, or the robots taking over, but making people’s lives simpler – on both the provider and consumer side. Just as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, contactless technology, smartphones, the internet and television have transformed the way we live, making modern life much easier, PropTech can help to make the property market a less complicated beast without removing its essential human element.
Mrs Truss has claimed she is a disruptor. Now is her chance to prove it.
*Neil Cobbold is Managing Director at PayProp UK