Technology will drive the lettings and property management industry in the future.
There is already a plethora of various software and other services permeating the lettings and property management industry and seeing the wood from the trees is a challenge for many agents.
Much of the software and many of the services can handle component parts of the lettings, renewal and property management process very well but they are not as ‘joined up’ and ‘seamless’ as anyone would like. An agent has to work with many different systems which is costly in terms of productivity.
Until someone comes up with an all singing, all dancing end-to-end solution that handles everything, that position will remain and, even then, agents will be faced with moving their entire operation across to a new system and way of working. But does it have to be that way?
All of the major providers of services now have their own platforms that can, if the desire is there, be joined together via two-way APIs (application programme interfaces) so that the user (agent, landlord, tenant, guarantor) experience can be timely, fast, seamless and avoid duplication.
Unfortunately, there are players in the market who see this as a threat to their current operations and, despite making the right noises outwardly, are inwardly studiously avoiding change in order to try and hold onto their current client base and revenue streams.
This position will not last and is changing as recognition that meeting the needs of all of the parties involved takes precedence.
For an agent, maximising income, reducing cost and improving service are key to a successful future where the client and customer will become more demanding.
However, alongside upward pressure on standards and service delivery, there is downward pressure on fees.
How can an agency create a position where it can handle both of these threats and survive and thrive in the new order?
Handling property management should be a key objective for all agents as it produces higher revenue levels, helps secure long-term relationships with landlords and, the ongoing control and engagement, provides greater opportunities for selling additional services and products.
A decent property management portfolio is also the ‘crown jewel’ of a lettings business with every pound of revenue being worth the same or up to double in equity value.
Many letting agents do already generate some income from ancillary products and services but due to the lack of automation in their processes, the way in which this is done is often haphazard, not monitored and non-compliant. Not all products and services are proactively sold and service levels and revenues fall well short of optimum.
With many agents seeing a reduction in direct fee income of between 15% and 30% of their annual revenue following the tenant fee ban, this deficit could be wiping out the entire profits of a business.
The ability to justify higher fees from landlords and upsell services (from let-only to rent collect or fully managed) will be based around what services are being offered, the quality of service delivery and the ease of the client and customer in accessing and using those services.
The ability of an agent to deliver higher value services does not now have to depend entirely on employing greater quantities of high-quality staff with the associated fixed costs that arise.
Technology can make these roles more productive and affordable and, on a transactional based fee model, costs move up or down with usage.
The technological opportunities for delivering improved services and providing a greater range of products from which to generate revenue really hinge on seamless integration with providers in utility switching, referencing, insurance, document signing, merchant service, inventory suppliers, financing etc.
At teclet, quality organisations such as Fixflo, Moving Hub, HomeLet, DocuSign, Worldpay, Tenant Shop, First Data, Feefo, Sage Pay, Mortgage Advice Bureau, No Letting Go, to name just a few, are all integrated seamlessly into the platform with others joining week on week.
People are the highest cost in most businesses and so productivity is key. Automating as many tasks as possible enables individuals to add greater value to a business by being able to process more work – win more listings, let more property and manage more tenancies.
Automation that engages with end users such as landlords, tenants and guarantors can extend the effective opening hours of a business to 365/24/7. For example, over 30% of teclet’s current 250,000 consumer interactions every month, take place outside ‘normal’ office hours and this is steadily increasing.
Staff that were previously spending time chasing paperwork can now spend their time much more productively.
Anything that makes better use of time or effectively ‘extends’ time has to be a good thing.
Like agents, landlords and tenants are busy people and want to interact when convenient to them quickly, securely and efficiently. While personal contact is important in certain aspects of relationships, when it comes to transaction processing and much of the property management process, more and more people are much less concerned about the ‘human touch’ and, in fact would rather avoid it (providing they feel that their interests and both the tenancy and property are being looked after properly, and they are kept informed and updated at all stages).
The beauty of a platform like teclet is that you can choose the level of automation or personal involvement and so can better meet the needs of each individual client and customer.
The lettings and property management industry needs to embrace joined up technology to cope with the challenges it faces. While it will constantly be evolving, can you afford to wait until it’s too late or your competition has stolen a march and stolen your business?
*Ian Faulkner is Chief Technology Officer at teclet