Proptech, Science-Fiction for Estate Agents
I first wrote this article over a year ago, the pandemic if anything has made it even more relevant than in November 2019.
Back in the mid 1980’s, I became an estate agent (broker) and was at that time an avid reader of science fiction. My favourite book was ‘Machines that think’ a compendium of short sci-fi stories, about future worlds, with a forward by the famous author Isaac Asimov.
Though it was published in 1984, many of the stories had been written in the 1940’s and 1950’s and described future utopian or dystopian worlds full of new technology and the role of artificial intelligence, robots, and data.
Fast forward to nearly 2020, and I am still in the estate agency or property industry, and many of the advances that the sci-fi writers had predicted 70-plus years ago are now part of this world. And within the property sector there is now Proptech – or as I call it science fiction for agents.
Let me explain, Proptech is a vast sprawling vista of different new technologies operating within the sphere of property, it is not just digitization, it is re-imagining and interconnecting all the strands within the sector.
It covers property, its design, planning, build, sales, renting, asset management, and the way in which humans interact with property. Where the customer or end user’s experience can be analysed, distilled, and digitized into a solution which enhances service levels and the experience of the consumer, hopefully driving a profitable outcome for the owner of the technology.
It could be smart cities, properties with sensors – a talking house. Or providing seamless systems to replace archaic systems within estate agency, in fact a big problem is seeing the wood for the trees and knowing which technology will succeed and which will not.
Proptech is many things including – Deep Learning, Artificial intelligence, Big Data, Intelligence Augmentation, The Internet of things, Machine Learning and Blockchain. The driver is to use data to streamline processes and deliver maximum revenues. (Note that many of these terms would not look out of place in one of Isaac Asimov’s books, I Robot.)
Online agents are Proptech, so too is Fixflo in the rental sector, or Offr a new way to buy and sell property quickly and transparently in the residential property sector, the arena is vast, but it is not too important to try to define Proptech, better to see the financial advantages that it is bringing.
Just as FinTech exploded onto the scene in the past 15-years, where massive amounts of money were invested into Financial technology, Proptech is now starting to have the same levels of investment, in both the UK and the rest of the world. Ask Dharmesh Mistry.
The big problem is that many UK estate agents still see Proptech as Sci-fi. Agents are very conservative, and slow moving to make changes to their businesses, they fear change.
They feel bamboozled by the terminology and the complexities of Proptech, with many agents say it all sounds a bit costly, and it is not too certain which bit works and produces profit.
Which is a shame because many property agents, residential and lettings, would benefit from automating the dull boring administrative type parts of their businesses, their property management systems.
In the mid-1990’s, I was an advocate of early Proptech using a bespoke software package which was the forerunner of many operating systems now. I realised that a salesperson using the system was worth two ‘pen and paper’ salespeople, because a lot of the repetitive work was taken out, and databases allowed quick matching of buyers to properties, and speed in commerce is always vital.
Proptech…is not just digitisation, it is re-imagining and interconnecting all the strands within the sector.
For me, the Proptech revolution which spans much more than the annual £6.5 billion residential sales market in the UK, is on the move. Offering its hand in partnership to ‘forward thinking’ estate agency companies. Creating a way of trading akin to Amazon where the customer experience is put front and centre. Some companies have fully grasped that outstretched hand, others sit and wait.
And I wonder why? As now estate agency can be based on captured data and analytics which provide a clear narrative of what the customer likes and wants. So, a personalized service, with connection across digital platforms and smart phones, plus the important face to face engagement with salespeople can be provided.
Another good reason to investigate and adopt Proptech is the rise of the Millennials and the rise of Gen-Z the generation born just after.
These will soon be the volume property industry clients, and they form the digital technology generation, which Wikipedia ominously states are ‘comfortable with Internet and Social media.’
That I feel is an understatement, and whilst Gen-Z may seem a great name for a sci-fi novel, it might be prudent to start connecting with influencers/proptech real estate analysts such as myself who can help you to navigate the new landscape of the 2020’s and beyond.
If you have a view – please let us all know by emailing me at [email protected] – Andrew Stanton Executive Editor – moving property and proptech forward.