However, getting the right tech in place can help to transform, grow and enhance an agency business.
The big question is – how do you go about choosing the right products and services? Here, using my experience of being in the tech world for 30-plus years, I take a closer look.
Research, research, research
Like with holidays, restaurants and house buying, thorough research beforehand is crucial when it comes to sourcing the right tech. These days, you’re unlikely to go for a meal without checking the TripAdvisor or Google reviews first. And the same goes for holidays, theatre shows and a range of other activities.
It should be the same for PropTech companies. Nearly all will have a website and many will have reviews about them. While online reviews should always be taken with a pinch of salt, customer testimonials on a website can provide a great benchmark of how good a company is.
Look into what the company is offering, how long they’ve been going, how quickly they’ve grown, and who they’re run by, and make an educated, informed decision on whether the solution they are offering is something you really need.
If a tech company has been around for a while, this can be a very good sign as many tech startups don’t make it past the first year – such is the ruthless nature of the market.
What’s more, while experience in property is not a necessity, it might be put your mind at rest that the person selling you something has been in your shoes before and understands your major pain points.
Prioritise all-in-one solutions
If you can find a PropTech product that does a great deal all at once, or offers more than one solution catering to all manner of needs, all the better. The very best PropTech will be dynamic and multi-faceted, and be a go-to solution regardless of your specific needs.
It makes sense, from a cost-benefit point of view and a time management point of view, to seek solutions that answer more than one need, rather than signing up with many different PropTech providers.
If you can partner with a provider who has everything you need for every element of your property business, it’s inevitable that this will help your business grow. And such solutions are out there.
Lessen your staff’s load
One of the biggest advantages of PropTech that works well is that it reduces the administrative burden of your agency, allowing you get on with the things that really count in terms of growing your business. Automation can make this possible, stripping away the boring admin tasks and allowing your staff to build relationships, win instructions and expand your operations.
Make use of data
They say data is today’s gold or oil, such is its importance to the information and digital age we live. But you need to make sure it’s being used to its fullest to help your business to grow, and the very best PropTech will allow you do that.
You should be able to analyse your data communications easily and transparently to help you achieve your end goals. With GDPR in mind, it’s also more important than ever that data is securely protected and that your database works flexibly to allow your business to grow.
We are already very used to using apps these days – whether it’s to check social media, book a table in a restaurant, arrange dates or listen to music – and this is no different when it comes to PropTech.
Looking out for PropTech solutions which provide easy, user-friendly app facilities will help you in managing your business in an easy, fast and simple manner. This can be particularly important in the lettings sector where there are so many things to manage in a successful tenancy, and easy-to-use apps that our linked to a central database can be worth their weight in gold.
Word of mouth and recommendations can still play a key role, even in this increasingly digital age. If another agency in your area or a well-respected property professional recommends a particular company, it may pay to take note.
People don’t usually make business recommendations lightly, so there is likely to be a reason for a person doing so.
You should still do your research, but opting for well-respected, well-recommended PropTech solutions makes sense in giving you peace of mind that you’re using a firm which really does the business.
Focus on what you need
There may be a temptation to trial that latest shiny new bit of PropTech which promises to transform your company, but there is no point in doing so if it adds nothing to your business and doesn’t answer a need you have.
Before you partner with any PropTech company, or buy their products, it’s important to be clear on what your business needs to grow. You can then narrow down the products and services that will pique your interest and not spend out too much money on glitzy but ultimately toothless (for your business at least) tech solutions.
An agent which focuses on lettings or property management will, for example, have different needs to one operating in the sales field. Additionally, a large corporate agency will inevitably have different wants and desires to a one or two-branch independent which is dealing with less data and less clients.
PropTech can help to secure those marginal gains over your rivals, but only if it’s chosen wisely.
Set a budget for PropTech
To focus minds and ensure you’re getting the best possible products for your needs, it can be a good idea to have a budget in mind regarding how much you’re willing to spend on PropTech.
Within reason, if a PropTech solution is really excellent and is going to end up saving you considerable sums in the long-run, it might be worth a higher initial investment. Equally, there is a danger that you spend lots on a product promising plenty which ends up delivering little.
It’s very hard to know 100% for sure whether a service will be worth it or not – the proof of the pudding, as they, will always be in the eating, but recommendations, research and knowing what you want in advance can help you to navigate through what is a crowded market.
*Peter Grant is Chairman and Chief Executive of Openview – Powered by VTUK