Local independent agents have relied on their little black book of approved contractors for many years and so know all too well how tedious it is reaching available suppliers to carry out tasks on time.
Outsourcing has always been a favourable method that allows you to concentrate on your highest revenue-generating tasks while maintaining a profit margin on other tasks you don’t have time for, and the property management industry is no exception.
What’s interesting about today is that technology has evolved from being a middleman between business and consumer, to also being the critical infrastructure between business and supplier. We’ll take the previous decade’s most notable market entry as our primary example: The online agent.
Online agents are non-geographic, so need to provide a national presence without boots on the ground. Instead, they rely on contract service providers or consultants around the country to fulfil many of the primary tasks involved with listing new properties.
A property owner or landlord can log on to a website, enter their property address, pay a fee and then wait for the results. A multitude of tasks are then carried out by one or several service providers who each have an obligation to the online agent to fulfil their part of the service agreement. This is how they get paid...
Let’s strip down the processes that may be involved in service delivery with a new rental instruction and see what really happens (or is needed) behind the scenes…
- A new property enters the system
- Professional photography required, instruct this
- Floorplan required, instruct this
- EPC and Gas Safety Certificate required, instruct this
- A 3D tour, worthwhile for remote or overseas buyers or tenants, instruct this
- Branded For Sale or To Let sign needs to be put up at the property, instruct this
- Alert the local key holder or arrange transfer to local pickup point, instruct this
- Schedule viewings with the local provider, individually or in blocks, instruct these
- Tenant references, one or more reference are now required, instruct these
- Updated surveys, contracts or tenancy agreements required, instruct these
- Professional inventory report required, instruct this
- Tenancy agreement and contracts require signing, instruct this
- …Sign over the property to the new owner or tenant
- Mid-term inspections scheduled at regular intervals, instruct these
- Tenant-reported issues to be tracked and investigated, instruct these
Service providers make all these required steps easier and more time efficient for the agent who can now systemise these processes, underpinned by management software. This is where software suppliers like me have the chance to get really excited, having developed solutions from various sides of the chain.
Operational efficiency and competency are the most important aspects of helping both the service providers and property managers/agents succeed and grow and only one side can be built, the other demonstrates how important the relationship between supplier and systems are, without one the other is not effective.
Experience and competency is becoming a rare commodity as an employed resource. Many professionals swap to contract working where the benefits of flexible start and finish times, working practices and just better work/life balance overtake the need for a regular salary.
In the future...
All of the above steps in a sale or rental lifecycle will be instructed autonomously, via APIs, driving even further growth into contract working. Agreements will be made with suppliers and then become invisible to the consumer, while providing even more transparency to the process, and progress.
By simply paying online for a listing service, APIs will update calendars and work orders will be placed automatically across various vendors’ internal job management systems, instructing a series of tasks, grouping tasks together that can be performed by a single supplier, and listening for the deliverables.
Payments for services will be escrowed, or deferred until deliverables have been provided so there will be no need for chasing payments from agents or customers, as the disbursements are automatic once deliverables have been fulfilled.
For Sale or To Let signs will be automatically printed and made ready for collection by the contractor or service provider to put up at the property.
Keys or their collection point will be provided to one or many contractors at different times, requiring the previous key holder to hand over or return them to a collection point, like an Amazon Locker, ready for the next provider. Lock box orders may have already been placed and delivered if deemed necessary.
Professional photographers will be able to access and take great looking shots for marketing the home, recording video or 3D tours with a tool like Matterport, enabling potential buyers or tenants to walk around a property before they even need to take as step inside. Some cameras are now even capable of automatically producing a floorplan!
Professional inventory providers will visit the property on instruction to compile a detailed inventory using an app like InventoryBase to compile reports, including all the fixtures, fittings and contents of the property to safeguard against loss and damage throughout/at the end of a tenancy.
Inventory providers using InventoryBase can now bid on jobs that appear in their area, carry out the visit and return a digital report faster and in a more efficient and standardised way than ever before and getting ahead of the curve on digital transactions.
Viewings will be scheduled according to live diary availability across one or more consultants, taking in multiple sources of geographic and time-based availability. Our software even pulls in live traffic data from Waze ensuring that a property can be reached from the consultant’s last known location on the day for the required time.
This kind of technology allows the viewer to schedule, reschedule or cancel their viewings all from their phone and provide feedback that is automatically returned to the vendor/landlord once the viewing has taken place.
That’s if the viewing isn’t conducted online with tools like GoToView that provide an all-in-one conferencing, webcam and 3D tour solution to conduct a remote, guided viewing experience.
And this doesn’t stop once the property is rented out, this is where management services are most crucial, as happy tenants create no problems!
Rent collection and in-tenancy purchases will become systemised, automatically triggering letters or debt resolution services if falling in arrears. Regular mid-term inspections, health and safety checkups and maintenance will protect and safeguard the property.
When it’s time for the next move out, your inventory provider will return, original inventory in-hand, to conduct the check out. Once this process is complete, it will trigger other suppliers such as your cleaning company and maintenance people to make your property fit for the next tenant where the process, or at least part of the process will start again.
With technology underpinning the working relationships and enabling the seamless transacting of payments between all parties in the chain; service providers are the future workforce for property sales and lettings. To survive and flourish in this exciting new future, make sure you and your software systems are ready for this evolution.
*Steve Rad is the Managing Director of InventoryBase, a platform for producing professional property reports and streamlining property visits. InventoryBase Workstreams is a market-first in the transaction space for accessing professional inventory providers across the UK to conduct outsourced property visits.