Three weeks has flown by (I missed an early deadline last week - apologies) and I find myself writing the next instalment of the Agents’ PropTech Toolshed.
It’s great to see the articles getting shared and read by so many - LinkedIn saw the article read by over 2,600 people with the top four companies all being agents.
What’s more, key decision makers are leading the uptake with the top two groups being CEO & founder - but I am still keen to hear from as many of you as possible about how I can continue to shape these articles to give you the insights you really want.
Before I go on to this week’s topic, I wanted to briefly address what I feel is currently the biggest problem facing agents on their PropTech journey…
How much will I make with your product?
There’s nothing wrong with this question. Of course, agents should think about any cost before they adopt it. But, answer me this:
When you are considering sending a member of staff on a training course do you ask yourself the same question?
If you do, is your decision based purely on your ‘return on investment’? No? I didn’t think so.
You invest in your staff because you know better, more capable, more knowledgeable staff deliver a better consumer experience which creates a more loyal consumer which can lead to more business, better fee potential, a smoother internal operation or all three.
PropTech, when chosen and adopted correctly, does exactly the same thing! Adopting good tech, evolving your processes, empowering your staff and consumers can only lead to a better business.
With that said, I turn my attention this week to sales progression tech - and some of the innovations out there helping agents and consumers.
As we all know, the residential sales process in the UK is probably the area most in need of a PropTech revolution, although a transformative solution still appears to be several years off. That said, here are a few to think about:
One of the biggest hurdles in sales progression is the communication amongst the four user groups (buyer, seller and each solicitor) and this, of course, can multiply exponentially in a sizeable chain.
Put a weak agent or two in there and a good agent can end up doing more than their fair share. This is the obstacle many are looking to streamline - with some great results:
View My Chain
These guys are trying to transform the process by automatically updating parties by collecting external data and sharing it instantly.
Their website states: ‘View My Chain was able to see 84% of searches ordered for 59,759 sales. The remaining 16% will include some searches that we have not been able to match to our search database due to difference in address descriptions or because the property has been bought at the buyer’s risk without any searches.’
By capturing the real time data externally, such as a request or delivery of searches, and instantly sharing this with all parties, everyone remains up to date.
This not only lightens the workload for agents but removes much of the stress and anxiety in sales for consumers through lack of information - creating a better experience.
‘Each milestone is automatically updated and does not require any input from legal companies, other estate agents or integration with third party systems’ – I don’t know about you, but this all sounds pretty good to me.
And remember, we are just at the start of this evolution, as more data becomes available to companies like View My Chain throughout the process, it will only get faster, smoother and more efficient. With prices starting at less than £8 a day, can you afford not to give this a go?
‘Taylor Hill & Bond Reduces time to searches ordered by 61%’, ‘[Leaders’] initial trial of View My Chain improved completion times in some cases by up to three weeks’ and ‘winning instructions over competitors, particularly low-cost businesses…is something View My Chain has proven [for Fisher German].
Check out their demo video here.
eWay by MyHomeMove
Meanwhile, conveyancers MyHomeMove have developed their own ‘online case management service’ called eWay.
While perhaps not as ‘automated’ as View My Chain (and I have some reservations as to how much automation VMC have achieved as yet), eWay still tackles the issues of transaction status and progression and, importantly, enables the client to log in and progress their file with key actions from any internet enabled device.
With online forms and a progression wheel, the process claims to improve completion times by up to three weeks. The big ‘win’ here? This is a part of their service offering - so as long as you engage their conveyancing services there is no cost to the agent.
However, the downside with that is that only your MyHomeMove clients will get this enhanced user environment and not all of your clients.
From what I have seen and heard, and based on a significant update due out soon, this brings almost complete transparency to the process and enables clients and agents to see what actions have been undertaken, what chases have been made and what actions they need to complete.
‘My Home Move’s conveyancing app becomes the most popular choice on the App Store for UK home movers’- there’s your user engagement.
‘Absolutely loved dealing with My Home Move Conveyancing. Service was superb, First class 21St century conveyancing. The eWay electronic system was very easy and simple to use, which allowed us to see exactly where we are at with the case. Would definitely recommend and will use again.’ – does this sound like your clients?
Take a look at their demo video here (you might want to jump one minute in).
PropertyFile Plus by Zoopla
PropertyFile, the web and app service provided by PSG/Zoopla as an addition to their agent software products like Jupix and alto, has been around for a few years now.
However, there is now a host of functionality being released under the PropertyFile Plus offering with more to come in the coming months. Key features in this regard are: sales progression updates, esigning and AML checks.
The sales progression element aims to bring transparency on the progress of a sale. With the sales progression tracking, users can log in and see the progress of the sale as well as see any notes an agent wishes to leave/update them with through the notes section of the sale in Jupix.
Due to positive feedback and further feature requests from early adopting agents, they’ve added email notifications to the user that the agent can trigger to alert them as soon as there is an update on the sales progression chain.
Add in clients being able to sign up to services through the new esigning functionality and the AML checks in the pipeline and this all combines to an enhanced, streamlined process that delivers transparency and hopefully reduces transaction times.
PropertyFile Plus is currently being offered at an introductory rate of around £9 per user (and you get lettings features for that also) with this due to increase later in the year.
If you’re a PSG/Zoopla software user, get in there quick!
In a similar vein, Reapit’s digital offering gives agents a host of ‘hybrid’ functionality as they seek to give their agents the broadest set of digital tools as our industry evolves. An agent’s clients can log in to a white-labelled digital console with a host of tabs - one of which is conveyancing.
Driven by the agent’s updates, this gives clients an insight in to the % of progression through the transaction, a timeline of key stages through this process and what has been completed to date as well as a percentage-based ‘chain summary’ giving full oversight of the status throughout a chain.
Some nice touches are the access to a diary feature which, in early days, will display viewings data but, later on, can display survey appointments and even the schedules of services like cleaning and removals at the end of the journey.
I also really liked the fact that the digital products can be white labelled or are also available through an API, enabling agents to design a completely unique interface if they want and to pick and choose the functionality and features they want going forward.
Reapit Digital is part of the Reapit offering and is included as part of the standard Reapit product subscription.
It is great to see, at long last, various parties from conveyancers to start-ups and major software providers all looking to tackle the well-known frustrations and demands that a sales transaction creates.
If I was to pick a ‘winner’ from a PropTech perspective, I would probably side with eWay as I think it is the most beautifully designed (UI), user friendly (UX) and pro-active tool of the four, not to mention the fact it is part of a service offering integral to the sale.
The Zoopla & Reapit offerings have different pros and cons but again show that the digital transformation of agency is far from lost on these giants and both are ploughing ahead to deliver the tools agents need to embrace an effective, digitally enhanced, full-service offering.
While ‘View My Chain’ boasts some very cool functionality, my two biggest concerns with any platform like this are that a, this is a platform operating outside of the established processes that agents and/or conveyancers already use (meaning anything not automated has to be updated manually) and b, in comparison to the other three options, VMC is by far and away the most expensive.
The good news is that the process is evolving and agents willing to adopt one of these, or a similar offering, can deliver a greatly enhanced digital consumer experience, increasing transparency, boosting communications and, hopefully, reducing transaction times along the way.
As always, keen to hear people thoughts, ideas and other product and software features out there delivering similar improvements and evolutions.
Next time round, I will be turning my attention to offerings that tackle the property maintenance cycle within the lettings and management environment.
Until next time, and as Spock once reportedly said, live long and PropTech!
*Kristjan Byfield is company director and co-founder of base property specialists