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Agents' PropTech Toolshed: Who am I and recruiting PropTech

PropTech has been the industry soundbite for the last couple of years.

For many of my fellow agents, I think it’s one that, more often than not, has a negative perception. For me, PropTech for agents right now is about four simple, essential benefits:

1. Streamlining your in-house procedures


2. Automating repetitive & unpleasant tasks

3. Delivering a ‘better’ digital consumer experience (I use consumer very intentionally)

4. Boosting profitability (yes- I used the dirty ‘p’ word)

Before I start spouting my thoughts on PropTech and its value in today’s evolving (residential) agency landscape, I think it’s vital that I tell those of you who don’t know me (which will no doubt be the majority of you) a little bit about who I am so here we go…

Who am I?

My name is Kristjan and back in 2004, aged 24 and with about 18 months’ experience in the industry, I launched my London agency ‘base property specialists’. 

base was a ‘bootstrap start-up’, with my partner and I putting in just £10k each to launch the company. The company back then was just me, An, our laptops and a mission. We’ve never borrowed, never been in debt and never made a loss - we have grown slowly and steadily, re-investing what we could when we could back in to the business.

Nearly 14 years later and we are still a small agency - and that is fine by us. We have a tight-knit, effective team, but PropTech has been vital in us achieving the following to date:

  • We fully manage around 70% of our lettings portfolio
  • We achieve fees of 10% Let Only and 15% Let & Fully Managed (or 12% & 18% in consumer ‘VAT included’ speak)
  • We generate revenue of more than £100k per head
  • We currently operate at around 25-30% profit
  • We have won around 15 industry awards to date

I say this purely because PropTech has made this possible- and I believe every agent can use it to:

  • Delight and exceed the expectations of your consumers
  • Deliver a digital agency experience that leverages the personalities and expertise sat in your offices
  • Achieve great fee levels- maintaining or even increasing them
  • Have an office that is infinitely more efficient
  • Have happier staff

With over 80% of our industry being made up of independent agents, I personally think one of the greatest misconceptions that I keep hearing is ‘tech is for the corporates - it’s not for us’. 

I couldn’t disagree with this more. In fact, I think smaller independent agents are actually the best placed to quickly adopt tech and evolve as an agency. 

Just think, is it easier to get a team of 5-10 to start doing something differently or a team of 100s or even 1000s? Exactly!

In the weeks ahead, I will try and cover a different area/product range of agency PropTech and I want to hear from agents big and small across the country on topics you want to see covered, questions or problems you face, reservations, success stories - you name it, please get in touch with me directly at: kristjan@baseps.co.uk.

‘Recruiting’ PropTech

One of the biggest factors that will decide whether the adoption of PropTech actually benefits your agency is how you go about adopting it. 

For that reason, you need to treat each new PropTech product as a new member of staff taking up a new role in your company. By that I mean:

1. Each and every member of staff must know who the new recruit is, what their role is and how this impacts them directly and the company as a whole.

2. You have to invest time training and embedding them in to the business - invest time and effort at the start configuring them properly, revising and enforcing new office/company procedures and monitoring uptake and performance.

3. Talk to them - just like a member of staff, no product will be perfect. However, like staff, good PropTech is constantly evolving so make sure you and your staff provide regular feedback on what you do and don’t like, what could work better, what’s missing and what would be a great addition. They want the product to be as great as it can be.

4. Do they fit? Not every staff or role will work out in your company and the same can be said for PropTech. Make sure you understand what you want from a product and how to measure that and monitor this. You wouldn’t keep a member of staff that doesn’t add any value so the same should apply with PropTech.

5. Are they a different fit? Sometimes people work out in a different role than they were hired for. Likewise, you may adopt a product in the hope that it increases new deal volume but find that it boosts your renewals pipeline, or that it makes you more efficient but it winds up justifying a higher fee. Don’t let you (or the company pitching a product to you) limit how that can be applied to your business.

6. No two staff are the same - each and every person you hire will have different strengths and weaknesses and varying impacts on your business. PropTech is the same, just because one product from a company doesn’t work out, doesn’t mean all their products are bad. Just because one PropTech solution doesn’t work, doesn’t mean none of them will. Never stop exploring and seeking out new products that are right for your business.

7. Success is worth shouting about - you wouldn’t hide a star member of staff, or a big name exec, in a back room, so don’t hide your tech either. When you adopt tech, shout about it from the rooftops - feature it on your website, share it in your social media, get users to post reviews about it, share videos of it…make it part of your marketing.

Take this approach and you can be sure to have an agency that evolves, and pivots, quickly and effectively, improving immensely along the way. 

Tune in next time when I plan to talk about the ‘hub’ of all things PropTech - your agency software.

*Kristjan Byfield is company director and co-founder of base property specialists

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    Interesting read, Kristjan. In the last year or so particularly, use of the phrase PropTech has bordered on getting out of control. Many firms have been jumping on the bandwagon using the phrase to try and sell agents goods that they don't really need.

    The biggest problem for me, and one that many others have voiced before, is that many 'PropTech' products don't offer solutions to genuine issues. They are purporting to solve issues which don't really exist in the name of making quick cash from agents who feel they need to be diversifying and embracing digital.

    There are some brilliant products out there, but agents must be wary of some of the opportunists. I hope this series goes some way to helping to educate agents on what to look for and what they don't need.

    Kristjan, I note you operate solely in lettings, will this series be covering only PropTech for lettings or the whole industry? I look forward to the next piece.

    Kristjan Byfield

    Hi T Dap- I somewhat agree that there are some products out there that have questionable value. It is important that agents understand their business, where the friction points (for staff and consumers alike) are and how best to solve those using relevant products. As an agency we have rarely been sold a product that we weren't actively seeking to solve an identified issue. Of course, there are products where you have an easily identifiable ROI and there are others that give a better consumer experience, nicer work environment and provide you with a USP or to be seen as a pioneer- so it's not always black and white. Hence why I advise that agents should experiment, engage, review and repeat- and be open to alternate uses.
    Whilst we are primarily a letting and management company we do sell 10-15 properties a year so I will be looking at the sales side as well as lettings. Glad you liked the piece!


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