Make Technology Work For You!

Would you like letting and investment transactions to be done more easily, faster, more secure and cheaper to execute? Rent payments to be done automatically by tenants? Would you like property to become more liquid? Do you believe that making property more transparent would increase its attractiveness to even more investors? How about more efficient ways of construction? If you, like me, believe these to be desirable for property, please read on.

The fields of Big Data, Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence are three of some of the biggest technological innovation drivers in business today. I predict that these plus the so-called industry disruptors will change the property landscape in the foreseeable future. Technology is currently one of the biggest growth sectors in the UK, and drives much of office lettings in London. The technology sector can be much more than just a tenant. It can be a driver.

The property industry is not typically one to embrace change. Unknown makes unloved. So let’s change that. Real Estate is well-placed to benefit from the latest technological improvements. People are waking up to the potential benefits.

Technology has the tendency to evoke either fear or excitement. The younger generations tend to embrace change and technology, the older generations tend to dislike change. They also prefer the status-quo of an inefficient market enabling them to charge the fees they do.

This blog post will try to convince you to see how technology can help make things better, more interesting and more efficient for you. If you, like me, am glad we have long left the era of typewriters, carbon paper and correction fluid behind us in exchange for ever faster computers, I think I can convince you to embrace technology-driven change.

What I have noticed is that people wary of change merely become late adopters. But adopt, they do. Despite their initial reservations, the older generation mostly happily tap away on their PCs, smartphones and tablets, on What’s App or Facebook, sending emails or placing orders on-line. They do not want to do without them anymore. I believe the latest technological changes will also be happily integrated into the lives of property professionals.

People fear for their jobs. The introduction of personal computers did also mean that some jobs were lost. You see fewer secretaries and archivists. Yet remember that more and better jobs were created because of it. Let technology make life better for you. Less boring. The jobs most at risk of disappearing are the most repetitive, least-exciting jobs. Back office jobs risk automation, but front-office jobs offering lots of value-add and creativity will remain.

We currently have low unemployment and over the decades the value-add per person has grown with help of the rise of computers and the internet. This growth has stalled since the GFC, but can the adoption of new technology boost our productivity levels once more? With the working-age population declining over the next few decades we badly need that productivity boost.

Technology can go far very quickly, and it is changing at an ever faster pace. It is hard to believe that it is only 10 years ago this June that Apple released the first iPhone in the US. Now people shop on it, stream films, find the best route, socialise and sometimes even place a call on it. Can you imagine that the latest developments driven by a younger, tech-savvy generation technology can slowly but surely seep into the industry in the same way as smartphones did into our lives? What seems far-fetched now slowly becomes possible and normal. I expect a similar revolution within the next 3-5 years in the property industry.

Some of the larger agents have decided to jump on the band wagon early, hoping for a business advantage. The best way forward is often to embrace change.

So what does disruption and new technological applications within the property industry mean for the products and services coming to market? It will mean to start off with more products aimed at their peers, the so-called ‘Millennials’, who are more comfortable with technology-only solutions. A wider variety of products and services will come to the market. Over time products and processes will become more uniform, helping to accelerate change. It will mean increased efficiency, transparency and growth.

Taking out the middleman might sound rather worrying to brokers, banks and lawyers as their services will be required less. Yet I firmly believe we need to let the machines do the boring work for us whilst we go on to do the most value-add, not so mundane work. Like the computers and the smart phones have done so for us already, we need to technology let the boring work for us. Isn’t that a good thing?

Cleo Folkes