The lettings arena is a whole new market for the digital world. Following years of processes being carried out in the same manner, day-to-day tasks have become menial and repetitive, differing only slightly with a name here or a change in date there.
All of which leave us exposed for a greater chance of human error and the possibility of skipping a newly implemented document required by the government, making it all too easy to fall foul of the law and as a result, paying the penalty.
Following the most recent industry regulation - the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act - there is an added pressure for agents to become more efficient, to maximise the use of their time and to complete rental processes all within a limited period.
The issue that agents are now faced with is that this time is no longer legally chargeable to tenants, and the alternative of diverting the charges to landlords is not a favoured option in what is an already competitive market.
Attempting to shift this cost to landlords could result in them choosing to not instruct a letting agency for future work. As a result, agencies on the whole will be bringing in smaller profit margins. The reduction of such revenue streams will make it no longer feasible to hold as many members of staff in any one agency.
The result: fewer agents, doing double the amount of work for less income.
Taking this into account, the potential for the lettings process to become fully digitised and digitalised and to adopt the use of AI technology, would provide agents with all the tools and more to deliver a far more efficient service. It will also aid them in staying relevant in an otherwise turbulent market.
Implementing products and services that would digitise and digitalise the process would assist in streamlining the work activity, giving agents exactly what they need: time.
There are many factors as to why we should be in favour of the lettings process embracing this latest generation of PropTech. Even if we were to just scratch the surface, we are already faced with a few obvious issues that could easily be resolved.
These include; the use of multiple software at any one time, the fact that these solutions do not integrate with one another and that up until now, most solutions are very paper-heavy due to the multiple documents required.
The first two come hand in hand, and consist of the issue that agents are currently using multiple software products to assist them, none of which integrate with one another. In addition to this, they are over-complicated and impossible to customise.
Over the years, many different industries across the board have been provided with various software that claim to replace the manual processes, and yes, granted the lettings industry has too.
Unfortunately, many of the current usable software systems are not only dated, but have their own processes and require the agents to work for them, rather than the other way round.
Not only that, but such a small portion of these systems are being used, very few, if any at all are being maximised to their full potential. Today, there is no single software system that streamlines your workflow and acts as a holistic solution, providing both digitalisation and AI technology.
The only way to properly impact the market is with a system that not only reduces costs and assists us, but also provides a real fundamental insight into the full process.
A system that, for example, is able to foresee repeatable maintenance issues that need attention, provide solutions and even match them to be tended to when a certificate is due for renewal, thereby saving operational costs by automatically arranging for them both to be taken care of at the same time.
Just a small and simple illustration of what AI insight can bring to the market and how it can assist agents in becoming more efficient and profitable.
To do this, the system requires a full analysis from point A all the way to Z. By doing so, the AI has a wider set of data points rather than focusing on one niche issue that could crop up. It is able to criss-cross the datasets and provide a true picture of the before, the during and the after of any one particular property and/or portfolio. The true AI insights come from evaluating the whole process.
The fact that there is currently no single software on the market that provides the full package causes extra conflict for agents, as they need to choreograph between more than one system/solution at the same time.
While one software is assisting the agent in one task, another software is conducting a separate process; there is no integration. Somewhere along the lines, the agent is required to intervene and merge the work together, probably using yet another software.
The agent is now not only juggling their workload but bouncing between software to complete the work.
Lastly, digitising what is normally a very paper-heavy process and incorporating it into one single software would give agents easy access to all documentation required throughout the rental process.
There is an added benefit to digitising the documentation. The benefit of being faced with the opportunity to build a wealth of data and in turn allow for data mining. In doing so, we allow these insights to come into play and we can be exposed to greater possibilities that we as humans are unable to foresee.
A prime example of this is the data mining that was conducted by Walmart. The retailer essentially put all its data information into a computer, the technology analysed it and popped out a rather bizarre correlation between the sale of ‘diapers’ and beers.
It turned out that on a Friday afternoon, men who would be in the store, would purchase diapers as well as beers. So what did Walmart do? It placed both items in the same aisle and lo and behold, sales on both accounts skyrocketed! All with a little AI insight...
There is of course talk that the Walmart, diapers and beers story is merely a fictitious tale, but whether it is or not, the moral of the story stands true…
The former director of the digital unit at Amdocs and our current CTO at Roby.ai, Elad Ben-Ami, can already envision the potential of data mining in the lettings world..
“By allowing technology to assist humans in areas of business, and exploiting its uses in both the company and the client’s favour, the possibilities that stem from this new technology are endless and unimaginable.”
“When we discuss this sort of technology, we do not just mean software rather than paper. We mean the hardcore RPA and AI, the technology that is continuously learning, maintaining constant observation and analysis of all properties and everything they entail.”
“Allowing the AI to discover the problems in advance that we as humans will not even have thought of, resolving them and finding the solutions and in turn freeing us up to focus on higher value problem solving.”
We are now on the verge of the next PropTech revolution and there is no question that those who do not consume the new technology available and integrate with these smart solutions will be out of the game, as competition within the rental market is increasing by the day.
The only way forward for agencies to successfully navigate their way through this fierce market, is to digitise, digitalise and immerse themselves into and integrate with the next revolution of PropTech.
*Tom Reiss is CEO of Roby.ai, an Artificial Intelligence solution for letting agencies and property managers