The future of the lettings industry will be tech-driven says one of the industry’s leading consultants, who is now also director of a PropTech platform working with agents.
However Michael Day - managing director of Integra Property Services and director of lettings platform teclet - says only PropTech that provides tangible and immediate benefits to both business and end users will be most successful.
“We have all heard the stories about technology finding solutions for problems that don’t really exist and there are undoubtedly examples of that although they often don’t exist for very long” he says.
“More crucially, there’s been a lot of noise recently around ‘joining up’ the many and various software and other services that permeate the lettings industry, rather than agents and others having to spend time (and therefore cost) in inputting the same data into various systems and platforms” he adds.
Day says that while this is clearly a desired position there are many players who see this as a threat to their current operations and who are avoiding change despite suggesting otherwise.
He says there are three key areas where the ““we’ve always done it like this” approach needs to change.
1. Maximising income: Day says many agents already generate income from a range of products and services but due to the lack of automation in their processes, the execution is often haphazard and possibly non-compliant, especially on aspects such as GDPR and Consumer Protection Regulations.
“Following the Tenant Fee Act that came into effect on June 1 many agents will see a reduction in direct fee income of around 15 per cent or more of their annual revenue. This deficit could be wiping out the profits of a business and finding new ways of generating revenue easily, compliantly and cost effectively will be key” suggests Day.
“The ability to justify higher fees from landlords will be largely based round what services are being offered, the quality of that service delivery and the ease of the client and customer in accessing and using those services.
“The opportunities for delivering improved services and providing a greater range of products from which to generate revenue really hinges on seamless integration with providers in utility switching, referencing, insurance, document signing, merchant service, inventory suppliers etc.”
He cites Moving Hub, HomeLet, Docusign, Worldly and No Letting Go as examples integrated into the teclet platform.
2. Reducing Costs: Day says automating as many tasks as possible enables each individual in the industry to add greater value to a business by being able to process more work.
“Automation that engages with end users such as landlords, tenants and guarantors effectively extends the opening hours of a business to 24/7. teclet finds that over 30 per cent of its consumer interactions take place outside ‘normal’ office hours and this is steadily increasing” he says.
“Staff that were previously spending half their days chasing the return of documents or booking appointments can now spend their time much more productively. Anecdotally the average length of time spent on an outgoing phone call in an agency office is less than one minute - basically just enough time to leave a message and ask someone to call back.”
Day insists that different supplier accounts integrated in one place allows more time spent on business generation or other activities.
3. Improving Service: “Like agents, landlords and tenants are busy people and want to interact when convenient to them quickly, securely and efficiently. Whilst personal contact is important, when it comes to transaction processing, more and more people are much less concerned about the human touch and in fact would rather avoid it - providing they feel their interests and transaction are being looked after properly and they are kept informed and updated at all stages.”
He says a platform allowing agents and other users to choose the level of automation or personal involvement better meets the needs of each individual client and customer.
Day says: “As far back as 500 ago, Machiavelli said ‘There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.’”
And he adds: “Change may seem slightly daunting but standing still is, in reality, going backwards. Don’t get left behind. Bring a little ‘joined up’ thinking to your business.”