How Will the Housing Industry Use Technology This Year?

Technology has been rapidly changing the way we do business. Everything from taxis to groceries to train tickets and pizza deliveries are being ordered from laptops and smart-phones. Since the coronavirus epidemic began even more people conduct even more business on the net. It is the new normal.

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Size is not an impediment. Car manufacturers have portals where you can choose the trim of your next motorcar. Estate agents, social housing providers, home builders, mortgage brokers and conveyancing solicitors are up there too.

Key benefits include the ability to reach more customers while (ironically) cutting the capital intensive overheads of bricks and mortar shops.

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The Challenge of New Technology

Of course, you can use a browser and build a website. The real challenge is that the latest tech isn’t the latest tech for long. There are already signs that places like Amazon and eBay have run out of steam. Prospects are now hunting for deals and ideas on Facebook and Instagram. Tomorrow those too will fade and something new will take their place.

Adapting to this brave new world isn’t something we undertake once. It is something we will be doing constantly for years to come. The times they are a‘ changing.

According to a home buyers survey from online estate agent Yopa, almost 98% of property purchases begin with an internet search. At the moment this leads most people to Zoopla, Rightmove and Primelocation, but that is changing.

The number of pages, posts and adverts on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram is increasing rapidly. More than 12% of house hunters now report using Facebook to look for property, and about 7% say they’ve used Instagram. Despite the limitations of social media platforms, by focusing mostly on pictures and short video tours they are in tune with modern habits.

If the property market follows the same trends set by other commodities, the shift to social media will accelerate sharply. Many internet users no longer even use a desktop or laptop but spend more time on social media than they do on the World Wide Web.

Is the Industry Ready for the New Markets?

Despite this rapid evolution of the market, a PropTech survey conducted by KPMG last year reported that 42% of property industry firms still have no digital strategy. On the other hand, another home buyers survey conducted by Zoopla tells us that 35% of estate agents and 37% of letting agents plan to increase their internet presence in the coming year.

Looking into those figures more closely reveals that almost all are talking about digital marketing on established channels. Few are exploring the newest social media platforms, and fewer still have considered digitising actual business transactions like contracts and conveyancing landmarks or upgrading their communication channels with clients (such as providing property video tours).

Conveyancers appear to be ahead of agents in the transition to digital media. Many now conduct their entire service process online, from initial quotation to home buyers survey, land registry checks, local searches, fees and payments – all the way through to final completion.

Property Management Apps

One very positive consequence of the GDPR is that it forced the majority of businesses to upgrade their digital security. As a result, they now have an infrastructure that is suitable for enacting the contractual and confidential elements that already existed in any property deal. One problem remained for many businesses – how to sign a legally binding document.

Posting documents to clients and waiting for them to come back completed and signed typically adds a week’s delay to a process that most participants are eager to see completed quickly. Fortunately, there are now e-signing tools available. In future, e-signing along with blockchains will enable complex business processes to be conducted almost instantly between any locations in the world.

If business relationships aren’t just about advertising, they aren’t just about exchanging documents either. Long-term success in the industry will depend on maintaining close relationships with partners and clients. A new generation of property management apps helps to connect landlords, clients and agents – making it easy to report property issues, track tenancy renewal dates and schedule gas safety inspections.

When the entire process of buying and selling property can be enacted without face-to-face contact, some people are unnerved. However, coronavirus has helped accustom everyone to doing many things in new ways. Instead of treating them as advertising venues, social media and enhanced digital communications have the potential to bridge the human void.

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