Support, Advice and Experience within the Property Market

Technology & the Future of Lettings and Estate Agency business.

From Robert Ulph on March 21, 2016

Anyone who knows me recognises that I am a real ‘gadget geek’ always looking at the latest technology to buy and to see what I can use in everyday life and work.

This week I thought I would share with you the way I see the future of the Lettings and Estate Agency business and what I am looking to do, and doing now, to assist in my job and what the industry might be doing in the future.

To start planning for this article I read a very interesting research paper by Dr Michael Osbourne & Dr Carl Frey. It was titled “The future of employment: How susceptible jobs are to computerisation.” In the study it examined how susceptible jobs are to computerisation by implementing a novel methodology to estimate the probability of computerisation for 702 detailed occupations. Based on these estimates, they examined expected impacts of future computerisation on US labour market outcomes, with the primary objective of analysing the number of jobs at risk and the relationship between an occupation’s probability of computerisation, wages and educational attainment. According to these studies about 47% of total employment is at risk of being computerised/ robotised.

The bad news is that they said in the research paper that Estate Agents had a 97% probability of being replaced by robots – and I just hope that I retire before this happens! Anyway this was just a research paper and while it was a fascinating read and worth looking up, do I believe it to be likely to happen? I don’t think that complete automation will be socially acceptable, but some aspects will be the norm in the future.

This brings me on to what technology adoption we’re seeing in the industry today and first, the use of smartphones has massively changed the way people search for property and make appointments. Just a few years ago customers saw To Let boards or adverts in the paper and called the agents to find out more. This is not the case so much now, with the popularity of the smartphone. They will call as soon as they see the board or will go online and request to view it, which has all made the process far quicker. For example, we often have a response within seconds of putting homes on our website from prospective tenants wanting to view.

I have completely embraced that people use this tech as the main way to engage with Estate Agents and have made Penningtons’ web site completely responsive to the new way customers view data. It goes further with my Invest & Let scheme, where as a local expert in property I assist my clients find the best investment properties on the local market. I embrace the smartphone in completing this job by preparing a short video virtual tour of the properties that I prepare and send to my clients wherever they are in the world. Some of my clients have purchased properties without even physically viewing the property and has opened up overseas markets where previously I had no way of effectively communicating with them.

So, what is there to look forward to in the future? Here are my thoughts of what will be happening in the not so distance future.

Virtual reality tours will become the norm. Applicants will view a property from the comfort of their homes or the Agent’s office by donning virtual reality headsets whilst the agent goes to the property and shows them around using a 360 degree video camera or smartphone. It may not be for everybody, but for those looking for properties remotely, wanting to do follow up visits without needing to travel or for those in a hurry to sort properties out, it will become more common as the technology improves. I can see in the future applicants not needing to leave home to find their new home as they would view, offer, apply and sign for a property without leaving their home. It will happen and is not that far away.