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Daily bite-sized proptech and property news in partnership with Estate Agent Networking.
Is the “caveman” estate agent finally emerging from the cave?
Writing in The Negotiator, the CEO of Propertymark, Nathan Emerson, has roundly endorsed the proptech vertical.
In my dealings with Emerson, who cut his teeth as a ‘traditional’ agent, it has become apparent that he has a great working knowledge of the new property technology revolution that is digitally transforming how property is done.
Emerson said: “Having transitioned and adapted our businesses from the beginning of the pandemic in so many ways, it is easy to forget where we originally came from.
“Looking back over the notes and recordings I had of webinars and mentoring sessions at the beginning of the pandemic, the one thing that was apparent to me was the abject shock that was registered on everyone’s faces as they contemplated how they were going to carry on and afraid the property market would shut down.
“Luckily for us, along came a hero of sorts in the guise of proptech and video. Having been a proptech advocate for years, it was for me the first time proptech had come to the fore and really showed its worth.
“Not just a bit of time saving, not just a bit of efficiency but the ability to literally save businesses and allow them to function.”
In the article, Emerson then goes on to reflect on the end of the lockdown, and how many agents are now looking to regress to their ‘normal’ analogue approach.
In my view, there will now be a great divide; the tech-enabled agent who can give consumers a heightened user experience at speed, 24/7, and the 9-5 agency approach, where the consumer has to wait for service during prescribed hours.
From my perspective, the lettings vertical seems to fully understand the importance of automating its services as these are by their very nature repetitive, making them ideal cases for software adoption.
Your more extrovert estate agent tends to be less process-driven and more sales-driven, swerving CRMs and smart technology to favour things like WhatsApp or legacy and analogue ways.
The big change I am now seeing is that for the longest time agents have put off engaging with tech. Perhaps they felt it would replace them and the way they are doing things. But in reality, proptech has proven that it is not replacing agents at all, it is augmenting them. As a result, those quick to adopt proptechs are scaling and increasing efficiencies.
I fully understand why many agents are taking this approach, as many of the seniors are in the 50s and technology is maybe not their strong point, but given that the average age of a frontline agent is 23 years of age, and given that the property transacting public utilise their mobile to do most things, something is going to give.
The traditional agency service can still be offered, it just needs to be delivered in a manner more akin to Amazon – quick, easy and always on. In other words, an approach that says ‘I am digitally reading your mind and providing what you want immediately’.
Has Generation Rent lost the plot?
I am all for a fair and equitable society, but the PRS is at breaking point. Now we have a new initiative being pushed forward by Generation Rent, the pro-tenant pressure group whose vocal cheerleader Baroness Alicia Kennedy is now banging the gong, saying tenants should be compensated if a landlord wants to up and sell their property.
In her words, each year through no fault of their own tenants have to move, “shelling out millions to pay for house moves that they have no choice but to make. Not only is moving home expensive, it can force renters to move away from essential support networks, family, and friends, and can disrupt children’s education.
“Renters deserve secure and stable homes where they can put down roots in their communities and thrive. With tenancies so short and evictions so common, this right is out of reach for millions of private renters.
“Generation Rent is calling on the government to commit to open ended tenancies in the upcoming Renters Reform White Paper, and to make landlords contribute to renters’ moving costs in the event of an unplanned and unavoidable move.”
Having been both a landlord and a tenant, I can see both sides to the argument. Having a move forced upon you is unwelcome if you are a tenant, but a landlord missing out if a tenant decides to leave is also not great.
Given that 70% of tenants eventually buy property, it could be argued that their exiting the PRS actually aggrieves and financially punishes landlords.
Maybe there is space for Generation Landlord.
Latest Bank of England figures show mortgage lending drop in July
According to the most recent analytics from the Bank of England, July saw only 75,152 approvals for mortgages, the lowest monthly figure for over a year. Approvals, in this case, are lenders seeking house finance on a property, rather than re-mortgage lending, which is actually booming as many seek to capitalise on the extremely low lending rates.
One raindrop does not equal a downpour, but off the back of house completions being down by over 60% in July, grey clouds are forming on the horizon.
Housing sentiment may be riding high and a scarcity of property may be engendering high listing prices for properties, but if the skills and labour shortages start to creep into the inflation index and the 0.1% base rate moves a notch or two, then the last third of 2021 might give rise to a very different property market.
Andrew Stanton is the founder of Proptech-PR, a consultancy for Founders of Proptechs looking to grow and exit, using his influence from decades of industry experience. Separately he is a consultant to some of the biggest names in global real estate, advising on sales and acquisitions, market positioning, and operations. He is also the founder of Proptech-X Proptech & Property News, where his insights, connections and detailed analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are second to none.