Have you asked yourself why technology is so important in letting agency today?
Just look around and you will know why. Almost at every instance, you are surrounded by technology.
From marketing properties to managing clients, almost all letting agents now use software solutions to improve their systems and workflows.
Technology is now among the most important elements in building a successful business.
Whether it is back office process, uploading listings online, managing your client database, marketing or outsourcing, working life as a letting agent has been made a lot easier thanks to various tech products, many of which can help your firm to stay ahead of the game.
Designed to help letting agents and property managers operate their business more smoothly, agency software generally deals with vast levels of complex and fast changing information, helping agents and property managers cut costs, replace paper processes and increase productivity; saving time and money by reducing overheads and being more efficient.
“The use of a letting software package is important for any letting agency business, adding speed, efficiency, business analysis and data sharing,” said Adam Feather, director of Robert Anthony Property.
Many of these systems now offer impressive features, enabling agents to automatically process, store and quickly access key information and effectively match applicants with properties, while also enabling agents to optimise their business to comply with regulations and industry best practice.
“The ability to automate processes, store and swiftly access crucial information and successfully match applicants with properties is useful,” added Feather. “Technology should be used to boost quality communication and reduce administration.”
Enhanced letting agent software has not just helped to improve communication, but also ensured that travel is fast, movement is simple, and action is swift, while interactions have sped up.
Things that once took hours to complete, can now be done in just a few seconds. But technology is changing rapidly so it is clear that agents need to keep up with the latest innovations.
Feather continued: “The fast-paced and extremely competitive nature of the letting industry means that it is imperative for agents to have an effective software solution in place, while also ensuring the highest levels of compliance.”
Generate more business
A software solution needs to deliver tangible business benefits, particularly among smaller to mid-range agencies where any level of expenditure can significantly impact on the bottom line.
“Efficiency, or rather avoiding wastage, is the biggest challenge for letting agents, especially smaller agencies simply because the affordability for wastage is much higher in larger businesses, and they can afford to let some leads go without much pain,” said Robert Csercse, general manager, houzen, a revenue generation service, designed to help agents win new instructions.
Houzen currently operates primarily in and around London, but has imminent plans to expand to other UK cities, including Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Liverpool.
The company specialises in working with Build to Rent operators and providing local and independent agents with fresh premium instructions.
Csercse commented: “There’s usually an excess of applicants on the books of letting agents however very few are able to find enough stock and close the deals for 100% of applicants.”
“Many applicant leads are simply wasted, even though money and time was already spent on attracting them through Rightmove and Zoopla. In this case, just by being more efficient and converting applicant leads that an agent already has can bring much greater revenue without spending more effort, time or money.”
Another example of wastage, according to Csercse, is the actual time the agent spends doing admin work like inputting the data into spreadsheets, manually looking for properties matching an applicant’s profile. This, in many cases, can be and should be automated.
The personal touch matters
Technology should help agents let or sell more quickly by automating once complex processes, stopping time being wasted by ensuring they send the right information to the people that are genuinely interested in it and getting new instructions live and in front of prospective customers easily.
However, Csercse insists that there is no point using technology for technology’s sake.
He continued: “I don’t believe the whole transaction process can be automated - if it was, online agencies would be winning the market already.”
“I believe a part of the lettings process which includes in-person meets and viewings can never be effectively done by machines.”
“Understanding the client, sending messages, customising the sales pitch - this can be all automated but at the end of the day the agent and their personality are the actual ‘deal boosters’”.
“If we could make the letting agent’s life easier by taking a chunk of their boring, repetitive tasks and automating them, we would allow them to truly shine and do what they are really good at - and that is, closing deals face to face.”
Neil Cobbold, chief operating officer of automated paying service PayProp and a strong proponent of greater technology throughout the lettings industry, firmly agrees that increased use of PropTech by lettings agencies should allow staff to be freed up to engage in all-important face-to-face contact with customers.
Cobbold said: “Effective automation for agents is all about putting processes in place to free up staff to do more front-end functions."
"For example, automating accountancy and payment tasks can increase accuracy and efficiency, while at the same time allowing staff to provide a more valuable output than just administration and data processing.”
Information gathered from automated processes can give agents more visibility of their business flows and control over back-end functions, thus producing better insights for clients and themselves.
“Implemented effectively, automating certain processes can close transparency gaps, open new doors and help agencies find new ways of doing things,” Cobbold added.
There are a number of firms that can automate many parts of the lettings process, including Roby.ai, a cloud-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistant system that can adapt to how agents work, depending on how much of the lettings process they want to automate, helping firms look after back office tasks by sitting in the middle of the whole rental process.
Tom Reiss, chief executive and co-founder of Roby.ai commented: “The philosophy of Roby is to provide agents and landlords alike with a holistic solution to their day-to-day management and processes. Roby is an easy-to-deploy solution which reduces manual tasks, streamlines workflow, improves compliance, and reduces costs.”
Running in the background carrying out administration tasks, Roby can connect to an agent's existing CRM or act as the agent's CRM. It also connects to accounting software, helping agents to manage all aspects of the rental process from the viewing and the tenant moving in, to collecting rent and managing maintenance issues.
The system enables agents to reduce the time spent on low-level administration tasks and focus on closing deals, increasing profitability and offering a more streamlined service.
He continued: “We are providing agents with AI assistant that will reduce their administration workload and automate as much or as little of the rental process according to their own choice.”
Among the various processes that Roby can manage on an agent's behalf include organising viewings in one-click, hybrid tenant referencing, automation of property advertising, digital signing of tenancy agreements, property inventory management, automated deposit protection and rent guarantees, management of property maintenance process, an automated rent collection.
Reiss added: “Menial tasks are being performed at a speed and scale that is unable to be matched by humans. Files, data, certificates, clients and so much more are all accessible from one location, no more bouncing in between systems. All of this coupled with the automation and the customisation, it will completely revolutionise the way in which agents work.”
Ramp up productivity
A number of product providers seek to innovate the way people rent property by ensuring the transaction is quick, easy and on-demand.
Inadash is among those firms. It operates through easy API integrations, ensuring that there is no time wasted on setup.
Whether using the app or the web portal, Inadash, which currently operates in London, offers a flexible approach to house hunting by providing easier access to property viewings.
Rather than wasting time with calls and emails, rental applicants can simply log in to the app, get searching and start viewing.
For agents, the company has designed Inadash Agent: a one-stop-shop for busy agents in need of new tenants. Inadash Agent is an all-in-one, digital companion designed with ease and efficiency in mind. It allows you to manage client relationships, schedule bookings, share your availability and track your performance all from one place.
Giovana Petry, chief marketing officer at Inadash, which is offering users a free trial until September 1, said: “Once the properties are live, agents are able to connect on our web portal or app and track their properties, sync calendars and also select times they will be available to show the properties to tenants."
"Instead of sending leads to agents like every other portal, we send pre-qualified viewing requests.”
“By using Inadash the agents will be able to benefit from on-demand viewings 24/7, as we deliver interests and offers at the click of a button.”
Given that agents generally receive a plethora of enquiries, the reality is that it is not always possible to respond to all of them, and that is why Inadash has built a new solution on demand, designed to provide more transparency in the entire process.
Petry added: “For agents, you will cut all the back-to-back emails and phone calls as well as all the pre-qualifying you have to do with the well-known lead generating platforms available.”
“For tenants what you see is what you get, the properties are real and available and you can see the times the agents will be able to show you around, without having to wait for them to get back to you.”
Aside from matching an applicant to a property, technology is also now being used to improve standards in property management, according to DJ Alexander Ltd, which recently launched Apropos; a bespoke property management portal.
Designed and built by the property management firm, Apropos provides 24-hour access for tenants and landlords to input data.
Both tenants and landlords can view all relevant information and monitor responses and actions directly, ensuring that all participants know exactly what is going on at any time.
David Alexander of DJ Alexander Ltd commented: “Our mission is to set a new standard in property management and to ensure that the rental experience is beneficial to all involved.
“Key to this is not simply the software, our service will be supported by our experienced head office staff and our growing network of apropos business partners.”
Major software and technology providers:
- Inadash – provides a flexible solution for pain-free property hunting in London.
- Roby.ai - a major AI assistant for letting agencies & property managers.
- Apropos - a property management online portal which aims to disrupt the letting industry.
- Houzen - a revenue enhancement partner for landlords and letting agents.
- Spec - a state of the art measurement system which can give millimetre accurate measurements and 3D imagining of all rooms and houses.
- Gnomen - a cloud-based system which provides the latest innovations to run every aspect of property management of agency business seamlessly.
- AgentPro - software which makes it easier for agents to manage all aspects of sales and lettings.
- Alto - cloud-based property software which allows agents to work on the move and connect with agency branches.
- Contego - a due diligence platform that checks people, companies and identity documents - all in real-time.
- Dezrez - provides agents with industry leading software and customer service.
- DocuSign - accelerates transactions with a fast and secure network for sending, signing, tracking, and storing documents in the cloud.
- Easymatch - cloud-based agency software aims to provide easier matching, more viewings, and faster deals.
- Everything Lettings - provides a simple solution to planned and emergency maintenance issues.
- Expert Agent - provides agency management software to over 2,300 branches across the UK.
- Fixflo - offers multi-award winning repairs software for letting agents and block managers.
- Goodlord - software which integrates various products and services at the optimal time, improves the renting process for agents, landlords and tenants alike.
- Jupix - cloud-based software that unifies your sales, lettings, property management, website and client accounts all in one place.
- MoveIt - offers a home-moving comparison tool.
- PayProp - an automated payment and reconciliation platform specific to the letting industry.
- Rentman - provides a well established residential letting and property management software.
- TechnicWeb - provides agents with fully responsive property websites.
- VTUK - used by over 1200 agents nationwide, offers specific software solutions for each distinct group of property professional, including letting and management agents.
*Marc Da Silva is Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today Features Editor and Editor of Landlord Today. You can follow him on Twitter @propertyjourno