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PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & Property News’: IMMO commits £1bn to retrofitting in the PRS | Gary Barker joins BetterHome Group

Gary Barker accepts key position with South Africa’s BetterHome Group

Talking with Iain McKenzie, CEO of The Guild of Property Professionals on the podcast The Home Stretch, Gary Barker, Non-Executive Director at nurtur.group announced that he will be taking on a new role this August as CEO Real Estate Proptech with BetterHome Group in South Africa.

While he will continue in his role as a Non-Executive Director at nurtur.group, Barker will be transferring to South Africa to focus on developing technology across the business and the group, as well as delivering technology to the wider South African market.

“I met Rudi Botha, CEO of BetterHome Group, and Charl Bruyns, Deputy CEO of BetterHome Group, while working with a nurtur.group client whose South African business is owned by BetterHome Group. I was immediately drawn to the vision that both leaders have for the South African proptech industry and to their focus on the power it has to help change people’s lives for the better – something that is integral to why the BetterHome Group does what it does. My new role will be to drive the development of valuable solutions designed to help real estate professionals serve their customers better and enable them to help more South Africans realise their dreams of homeownership,” says Barker.

Speaking about his decision to take the role abroad, Barker says: “The proptech market in South Africa is amazing. There are some strong players creating incredible solutions and I’m excited about the opportunity to grow this sector with the backing of a group that is comparable to Connells or Countrywide in the UK. There are clear similarities between the South African market and those in the UK and Australia, with the market in South Africa being on par with, and in some respects ahead of, the others. I look forward to taking my learnings from the UK market, and what we see happening in Australia, and embedding them in the South African context. Applying this knowledge will create immediate value for the real estate industry by enabling property professionals to be more effective than ever before. And ultimately, this will result in more people being able to enjoy the benefits of homeownership. There is also a fantastic pool of talent when to comes to developers, platform and product architects as well as operational and service heads who I look forward to working with to create and develop outstanding products that will meet customers’ ever-evolving digital needs.”

Apart from the announcement regarding his new role, Barker spoke to McKenzie about his journey into the proptech sector as well as his past role as CEO of ReapIt.

While he is a well-known within proptech circles, some might be surprised to know that Barker initially started working as an accountant with Countywide Financial Services before moving into the financial centre of Taylors on the estate agency side. This is where he got to know the estate agency business, progressing, and moving through the ranks to become an IT Director within Countrywide.

“Around 2000 technology really started evolving and CRM systems were born, one of which was the ReapIt system. After reviewing several systems, we selected ReapIt and deployed it through the entire Countrywide network at the time. We customised the software and designed it to be integrated into different types of platforms, which was integration before people even really had a word for it. This was the start of my journey with proptech. After I had decided it was time for me to change and do something different, I was offered a job at ReapIt in 2005 and have never looked back,” says Barker.

He continues, “I remember joining ReapIt when they had just bought a platform called Matchmaker, which is how I met Simon Whale, who is now the Founder of Kerfuffle. Those first three years we worked together we were able to develop so many ideas on how the software should work, what it should deliver, what agents needed to do to create more leads, manage more leads and opportunities, and progress sales quickly and more easily. It was a great experience and part of how ReapIt become such a large CRM system within the sector.”

After becoming the CEO of ReapIt, Barker admits it took some time for him to find his stride in the new role. “I was a terrible CEO for the first six months because I mimicked what the previous CEO had done, rather than making the role my mine. He had become the Chairman of the company and called me aside to say I needed to me, not another him. That is the advice I give when coaching now – be your own CEO. Companies hire new people in the role because they are looking for change and someone who will do things differently to insight progress. After hearing that, I took it in and become the CEO I wanted to be and from that moment on I really enjoyed the role,” he adds. 

Throughout Barker’s tenure as the CEO of ReapIt his focus was retaining customers and ensuring the technology the business provided gave agents what they actually needed. As a result, the business grew exponentially, a pattern he plans to repeat in his new role with BetterHome Group.




IMMO announces its £1billion plan to retrofit 3,000 homes

IMMO, the innovative technology-led real estate investment platform, has committed £1 billion to buying and retrofitting 3,000 residential properties in the UK. The company has said it will bring the homes up to standard, with a minimum EPC C rating to match the government’s minimum energy performance of homes bill, before it rents them out.

The organisation uses its own technology, driven by artificial intelligence, to target and buy properties for retrofitting. 

The news follows a $75million raise in April, which was Europe’s largest series B funding round for a proptech company. All told, IMMO has scooped investment to the tune of $2.5billion, which it will invest in single-family rental accommodation across Europe.

Anna Clare Harper, IMMO’s head of sustainability, said: “Britain has some of Europe’s oldest and least efficient housing stock. The scale of the retrofitting challenge is huge, with a potential price tag running into the billions.

“The built environment is one of the worst offenders when it comes to carbon emissions. Without a programme of mass retrofitting, the UK will not be able to meet its net-zero targets. 

“Public investment and regulations play an important role in bringing Britain’s housing up to modern energy efficiency standards. The private sector also plays an important role. Institutional investors such as pension funds and insurers are increasingly on the hunt for assets that produce reliable, long-term income streams to match their liabilities in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible.

”As a result, we have an historic opportunity to harness the power of technology and data to match long-term investments with the challenge of greening Britain’s housing stock to provide socially and environmentally responsible homes.”

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Andrew Stanton Founder & Editor of 'PROPTECH-X' where his insights, connections, analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are based on writing 1.3M words annually. Plus meeting 1,000 Proptech founders, critiquing 400 decks and having had 130 clients as CEO of 'PROPTECH-PR', a consultancy for Proptech founders seeking growth and exit strategies. He also acts as an advisory for major global real estate companies on sales, acquisitions, market positioning & operations. With 100K followers & readers, he is the 'Proptech Realestate Influencer.'

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