We tend to think of property as very much a people business. However, with the growth of proptech, the umbrella term for technology products and solutions in this sector, is the people element at danger of disappearing?
Will this matter, or will proptech, on balance, bring more benefits to the property sector?
What Does PropTech Involve?
Technology serving the property sector includes virtual viewings, live chat, online valuations.
Virtual viewings are becoming increasingly popular, helping agents better engage with customers, and offering customers a streamlined means of getting a fuller picture of a property
It is becoming a key pillar in the digital strategies of letting businesses.
In the past, photographs have often proved an inadequate means of truly conveying a property’s qualities, while arranging viewings can involve a lot of arranging around people’s busy lives.
Virtual viewings address both these issues, offering agents the opportunity to present a property in more detail.
It is not designed as a substitute for physical viewings, but it can help refine people’s choices and shorten the entire process.
Live chat is making inroads into property simply because more and more customers are recognising its value, and have adopted it when accessing a range of online services and products
It provides the perfect technological solution for filling a gap between actual physical contact, communicating by phone and browsing online.
It is especially value for letting agents, where potential tenants are likely to have enquiries based on what they have seen.
Online valuations provide the opportunity for landlords to obtain instant, professional appraisals of property values
Typically, this digital service will give landlords an idea of how much they might earn on a monthly basis through letting their property.
It also means letting agents can upsell their services, with the landlord providing contact details in return for the online appraisal, and the agent offering to follow this up with a full market appraisal.
Can PropTech Damage Trust?
The element of trust is essential in all aspects of property, whether selling, buying or letting.
Trust is built on personal contact. Therefore, could the increased remoteness associated with digital aspects of the property business damage this personal element and erode trust?
There are two issues to consider here:
- People, generally, are far more attuned to using technology in their daily lives, and so are increasingly accustomed to digital transactions and communications
- Like other digital technology, proptech is a tool, and it requires human interaction and intervention to make it work effectively
Consequently, the human element remains critical to how the property sector operates.
The adoption of new technology is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and people are gradually adapting.
In some fields, take-up of tech is slower than in others, with a RICS survey reporting that 66% of surveyors were still using pen and paper to record data.
Ultimately, proptech will make significant inroads in all aspects of property. But people will always be central to this changing sector.