PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & Property News’: iamsold | OnTheMarket | Agent & Homes

A roundup of the week’s top property and proptech news featured on Proptech-X, in association with Estate Agent Networking.

iamsold’s modern method of auction thrives during 2021

Jamie Cooke, CEO of iamsold, has had a very good year. Whilst he is probably the first to admit that the pandemic was a factor, the fact that the selling price of property transacted through his auction solution increased by over 50%. This means that agents and vendors have grasped the value proposition of the company. 

Figures show that property totalling over £800 million in capital value went under the hammer with iamsold last year, generating in excess of £17 million of fees for agents, and of course, those fees came to agents in a quicker timeframe than the usual sale by private treaty route that can often take five or six months for a sale to get to completion. 

Last year by chance I had an hour-long call with Jamie, and what struck me was that he was not looking to take over the world, which is often the case when talking to CEOs. Instead, Cooke said that the point of difference was that he just wanted to give agents and vendors a clear, fast and efficient alternative to other routes of selling property.

As we drilled down into the business model, and with both my estate agency head and my property technology hats on, it made complete sense that the “we’re tech savvy and we want it now” generation of vendors would be up for the iamsold solution, as well as property asset companies looking to transparently achieve the best price.  

More recently Jamie Cooke put it another way. He said: “Consumers are being offered more options to match their circumstances and to help sellers maximise the value of their home through competitive bidding in a clear and transparent way. This goes a long way in cementing the fact that auction in the residential sector has a key role to play in all market conditions.”

OnTheMarket adds crystal clarity through its Autoenhance tie-up

Jason Tebb CEO of OnTheMarket, has just announced yet another commercial tie up with a supplier that will enhance the quality of inventory placed on the portal., as the name suggests, enhances property images at lightning speed, giving agents and vendors the edge over photography that is not so eye-catching, an important gambit in the fast-moving digital age buyers and renters live in.

I know only too well that potential tenants or buyers look at the property first, and the face and interior and garden photography can excite or dismay a potential buyer, so the ability to digitally airbrush a poorly shot image can mean the difference of thousands of pounds and weeks more on the market not being sold.

Before Autoenhance
After Autoenhance

With 50% of all viewings taking place on a property in the first 14 days of its life on the market, it is essential that images are the very best, and if they are not, Adrian Gill and Jamie McInally’s tool will rectify that. 

For a period, to allow agents to see how good the service actually is, member agents of OnTheMarket will be able to use Autoenhance for free and utilise it for numerous images per property listed. 

As Jason Tebb comments, the service saves agents time and money, making them more efficient and able to focus on core agency activities. 

He said: “Professional quality imagery is both time consuming and expensive to produce, yet of course is essential for all property marketing activities, not just on portal listings but on their own websites and on social media.

“Agents who want to take their own images have had a choice of outsourcing to professional photo editing companies or relying on a member of their team who was well-versed with specialist editing software and who had hours free to spend editing images, as well as doing their day job.

“Now, the Autoenhance team has harnessed AI technology to provide a platform that provides property professionals with results instantly, saving them both money and time.”

According to the company website, Autoenhance is all about giving agents a material edge. It explains that “Jamie McInally (CEO) is a data scientist who grew up using AI to manipulate photographs. Adrian Gill (Chairman) is a residential property veteran. Together they founded Autoenhance to deliver instant photo enhancements for marketing businesses with an initial focus on property photos.“We recognise that commercial marketeers want better quality enhancements, and they want them as fast as possible. Not only can Autoenhance.AI deliver these, but they will also be cheaper than manual enhancements.”

Agent & Homes opens second London hub to support its agents  

Just three months after opening its first high street hub in Ladbroke Grove, Agent & Homes has opened a second hub in Islington. 

Rollo Miles, the founder of the ground-breaking platform for agents, says the idea is simple: “Where we already have strong self-employed Agents on the ground working and gaining market share, we then parachute a local hub into their patch to support them. This gives them extra presence, and helps them gain more market share by tapping into potential clients who do not know them personally. They also get increased marketing and brand presence by having a local branded hub in which to welcome clients.”

Founder of Agent & Homes, Rollo Miles

However, the company is clear that these local hubs are not traditional high street offices, the design of them is all about the home and the welcome, creating links with local vendors and landlords. 

The new hubs are an addition to the company’s growing online presence, intended to add a new dimension to the platform and take advantage of the changes in local habits.

“It’s about attracting localized people seeking to do property,” says Nathan Kinder, the principal of the new Islington Hub.

“Not only do we have boards up, or our branded classic cars zooming about, but we also have a local presence to welcome residents in, so they get a better and clearer idea of what we are about. This local bespoke service, with all the added benefits of the best tech tools and modern thinking, which is our twist – we are traditional agents but also very tech savvy and above all consumer-service focused.”

Miles adds: “As we come out of Covid and the economy starts to open-up, what we all want to do is work in the new world in which we find ourselves. Increasingly many of us are working from home, so our local high streets have been re-discovered by their inhabitants.

“Who now get to spend more time in the local coffee shops or delis, and therefore having that extra local presence and being able to invite a client for a coffee and a property catch up is more important than ever. 

“What is crucial is cementing ourselves as true local agents – our agents live and work in their patch and are therefore the best people to introduce the area to new tenants or buyers.’

“The company is also looking to expand, Agent and Homes is also currently looking for new sites all over London to support their agents, to add brand visibility and credibility and build on all the challenging work to date. 

“This new initiative will also give the company’s self-employed agents a clear career path of growth, for those who want to take their business to the next level.”

Will government intervention be the only way to mend the housing market?

On average, it takes 28 weeks for a property to go from sale to completion. But why? Why is there such a long bumpy journey?

Well, it’s a complex process with many stakeholders involved and there are a lot of variable elements. Add in the need for finance and legal, and you have a lot going on.

But, if for decades we’ve had over one million completions on property and land over £40,000 (according to HMLR) can we not use this ‘groundhog’ knowledge and digitally transform the whole process? 

Has agency really changed since the 80s? / Source: Hinckley Times

Yes, it is complex, but with artificial intelligence and machine learning by 2017, software was better at looking at x-rays and predicting who was ill and who was not at a higher rate than clinical practitioners. So, if it can do that, then I am pretty sure it can leverage its digital neurological self to sort out the grindingly slow process of moving.   

One way forward would be if we did digitally transform the whole process, mandated by the government. 

Whilst I hate government intervention (e.g. Chancellors putting the housing market on steroids with stamp duty plays and creating boom and bust problems) the really sensible approach would be for all land or property to be disposed of to have a digitally available oversight pack. 

With all the legals, plus all the data sets on the property or land, from survey (condition not price as a variable) to having finance available too – much like buying a car. 

We are getting closer to this position. Lenders and banks are still in the stone age, but software is leap-frogging their old ways, and with the ability through the highly detailed data sets now common, it is possible to assess the property asset and the buyer through open banking, providing same day finance. Though it’s just not common practice yet. 

The legal sector needs to realise its consumers are digital natives wanting to buy, sell and rent 24/7, so the typical 37.5 hours of legal practices are already often only open 22% of the time. A huge mismatch there.

However, as we move towards 2030 and commerce that thinks digital transformation is not going to eat their shorts needs to try and pay a cheque into a local bank which, as it happens, probably closed three years ago.

“Alexa, order a three-bedroom semi in Milton Keynes.” / Source: Amazon

If you can buy a car online for £150,000 in the next hour, why does it take 28-weeks to buy a two-bed terrace in Newcastle for £56,000? 

Because, to quote Simon Whale, “We have always done it this way.”

Take it from me, the 67% of the world’s population who are under 35 are doing it very much their way, and anyone who is slow, or digitally not in the game, will not be getting their money. 

Agile businesses who understand the user experience will. There is a reason Amazon has a market cap of $1.7 trillion, it sells things digitally fast. Will it move into the real estate space? If it does, that next day delivery method will prove to be extremely popular, take it from me.

The Weekly Debrief in partnership with Estate Agent Networking

Andrew Stanton is the founder and CEO 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 and editor of Proptech-X Proptech & Property News, where his insights, connections and detailed analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are second to none.

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