The proptech revolution is driving unprecedented change in the property industry, especially in residential lettings.
Demand for rentals is skyrocketing in the UK. Around 5 million households, or 21% of the total population, are in private rented accommodation and this is set to rise to 5.79m (or 24%) over the next five years, according to Knight Frank. Generation Rent is here to stay.
Finding a property to rent has always been time-consuming, frustrating and expensive, but it doesn’t need to be that way. People are becoming increasingly open-minded about adopting new technologies that make their lives easier. They have come to expect seamless digital experiences when ordering takeaways, watching movies or even paying their utility bills. So why shouldn’t this apply to renting a home, too?
Sure, the advent of listings platforms such as Rightmove and Zoopla have made it easier for tenants to search for property and shortlist possibilities, but the process after remains antiquated and suboptimal. The lettings market itself hasn’t changed in decades, despite the fact that tech offers estate agents an opportunity to adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace and remain competitive. Fresh ideas and some technological wizardry can help to upgrade the sector.
The property industry has been slow to adapt to technology, far slower than other sectors like finance and retail. But slowly, releasing they’ve missed a trick, lettings agents are becoming more open to digitising the lettings process. Once feared, technology is now being embraced.
After all, the lettings process itself is ripe for an overhaul, with multiple moving parts executed by different parties at different times. By hosting key processes and paperwork on an online platform, agents can expedite the elements that tended to hold things up and help tenants and landlords to achieve successful outcomes much quicker.
A number of creative and ambitious startups are actively seeking to upgrade the customer experience. Goodlord is one of them. This London based startup streamlines the lettings process for agents, landlords and tenants. By digitising the pre-tenancy process, the platform eliminates complications, paperwork and inefficiencies. Its secure cloud-based platform covers everything from contract generation, e-signing and referencing, to insurance. It’s a neat solution to a messy problem, and one that’s seeing rapid growth.
Another startup that’s growing strongly is Dwellease. Rather than aiming their offering at estate agents, the company cuts out the need for agents all together. Dwellease is a property rental platform for landlords and tenants to meet, negotiate and transact with each other directly, without the need for a middleman. This saves everyone time and money.
Based in Singapore, the platform provides a curated list of properties that have been verified by the Dwellease team. That means accurate images and no duplicate listings, avoiding issues where inaccurate or misleading images and descriptions lead to fruitless viewings and wasted time. As well as improving the property discovery process, Dwellease takes care of execution, too, helping tenants and landlords come together via on-platform contracts.
For expats, when relocating to a new country, finding somewhere to live can be complicated and stressful. This is especially true of Dwellease’s home city, Singapore. Property transactions tend to include multiple agents acting on behalf of both tenant and landlord. Dwellease removes agents from the process entirely, connecting tenants and landlords directly.
This is a smart approach. Building marketplaces is hard. Rather than trying to disrupt the entire property market by bringing tenants and landlords together globally, Dwellease is building a business around a specific location and a community of customers with unique needs. This means it can guarantee a good volume of inventory and a rich experience for customers.
Proptech promises great things for residential lettings, and there isn’t one right approach. The industry is large, diverse and fluid. It’s great to see startups taking different approaches to change things up and improving the lettings experience for customers.
At Shieldpay, we're proud to be part of this movement, having recently powered the UK's first fully digital real estate transaction. It's our mission to make payments secure, fast and transparent, and we're looking support the prop tech startups and incumbents alike.
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