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By David Alexander

Joint Managing Director, Apropos


OTHER FEATURES

Technology and service are the future of the property market

The last five years have seen unprecedented changes to the property market and agents and their clients have never faced such enormous challenges.

The systems and methods which have prevailed for decades no longer work as effectively as they once did and the need for change is being driven by client demand.

The legislative and regulatory landscape continues to evolve with many property owners, landlords and tenants uncertain of where they stand in the present market and what they need to do next to maintain compliance.

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Simply keeping abreast of the major changes which have occurred recently and are planned for the coming years can seem like a full-time job in itself for clients.

Many of the historic manual processes, which everyone in the property market has used for years, now seem archaic in an increasingly automated digital world with clients increasingly demanding access to information directly from their phones, laptops and tablets.

The property market has been relatively slow to respond to the technological changes which we all take for granted in other areas of life such as online shopping, booking holidays, and personal banking.

None of us are afraid of using technology in these fundamental areas but many in the property market have remained resolutely behind the times with a high street model of delivery that seems outmoded.

Change is coming and, there is little doubt that the coronavirus outbreak has accelerated the pace of this change. Without the current crisis, the market would have had to adapt anyway but these last few weeks have ensured that when we emerge from this period there will be a radically altered marketplace with substantially different user demands and requiring new and innovative solutions.

Agents who are not prepared for this period of change potentially face a difficult year ahead. The market will be tight, with potentially unforeseen issues arising, and agents will need to be ready.

Two months ago, for example, who would have thought that virtual viewings would suddenly become widely available and utilised to showcase properties? Yet this technology has become normalised in a short time. Necessity is the mother of invention.

In our company we have had discussions with many thousands of landlords and tenants and have found growing demand for 24/7 access to data on properties with full transparency and consistency in all interactions.

For landlords, the requirement is access to property and tenancy information across their property portfolios; live notification of all transactions as they happen; instant notifications of all viewings and access to feedback from prospective tenants; the monitoring of property popularity; full tracking of tenant applications from submission to approval to check-in; and real-time listing of all income and expenditure ensuring complete transparency on the status of their account. In addition, notification of all property regulations must be available with full visibility of the required certification and expiry dates.

For tenants the demand is for transparent and stress-free renting. For all ages, but particularly those under 40, everything in their lives is conducted on their phones and they want their property rental delivered the same way.

Tenants want reduced waiting times; streamlined and faster applications for properties online and the tracking of application status; the easy uploading of relevant documents; and hassle-free reporting of maintenance issues to ensure quicker response times as well as the ability to view relevant certification.

Tenants also want to have their voice heard through a feedback service to ensure landlords and agents are immediately made aware of positive and negative comments and can act accordingly. Tenants must feel confident that they can have their opinions heard and acted upon.

A point of contention in the private rented sector (PRS) can be delays and disputes over repairs and maintenance of property. Landlords want to control costs while tenants need to know that repairs will be made quickly and effectively.

A system which offers landlords the choice of their preferred contractors coupled with full access to updates on the progress of repairs and maintenance is regarded as a high priority by all involved in property management. Fixing a broken boiler quickly can often cement strong relationships with tenants which is more conducive to efficient and profitable letting in the long-term.

What is clear is that landlords and tenants want a seamless system which is responsive, gives them access to comprehensive data, and is available on their mobile devices.

Technology is not the whole answer, of course, and service delivered locally is an essential component of support for landlords and tenants. But the traditional model of the high street agency, which has been experiencing stresses and strains over the last year is likely to be put under even greater pressure in the coming months.

Our experience and work in the sector inform us that the traditional methods of property management are changing. It is not just about appropriate and effective technology but a shift in attitudes has occurred and needs to continue to occur.

There has sometimes been an adversarial element in relationships between landlords and tenants which was unhelpful and detrimental to building and maintaining long-term relationships. Landlords and tenants are not enemies and greater cooperation is required on all sides and any system which facilitates this is to be welcomed.

I firmly believe that the sector requires a vastly improved level of service to reassure landlords that their investments are well protected, and their properties are being appropriately managed, and assurance to make tenants feel more comfortable and secure in their homes.

With tenants living for longer periods and older age groups increasing in the PRS, it has never been more important that all involved in the process understand that this business is about providing homes for people.

Quality of service, transparency, fairness and convenience provided by an automated, real-time renting experience is the future and agents will need to adapt quickly to the changing environment if they are to thrive.

*David Alexander is joint managing director of Apropos. a new property management solution designed to transform the rental experience.

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