Like the digitisation of all things, challenges will be faced and there are benefits to reap, but often such progress doesn’t take place because the correlation between the two isn’t a positive or favourable one. Below Gemma Young, CEO and Co-Founder of Settled, discusses with Finance Monthly the future of digital in the property sector.
Property is our most important asset class, it’s also our most emotional asset. Therefore, getting our home sale or purchase right is not just a big deal for consumers, it’s a big deal for the wider UK economy.
Unlike other industries (travel, music, taxi services to name but a few), the real estate model has clung to its traditional roots. Even with the advent of “online” estate agents now in existence for the majority of this past decade, the industry has been slow to adopt the opportunities a digital revolution presents. It’s therefore unsurprising that we’re still seeing the same issues; typical property transactions take over 3 months with 1 in 3 transactions breaking. This drives consumer losses in excess of £250m each year.
Looking forward, is 2018 going to be the year for true transformation? Will ‘proper’ property technology companies make a dent in the things that matter?
What drives transformation?
The emergence of truly disruptive technologies including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain and drones all hold their potential disruptive keys to a more progressive future. Not only are technologies proliferating, consumers also have easy access to them from their smartphones.
Tech-enabled consumers search for greater transparency, more control and ultimately more progressive solutions to age-old problems. Their quests for modern, digital solutions provide exciting opportunities for change.
2017 saw the most significant investment in ‘proper’ proptech to date, with a new and forward-focused collective attracting financial backing from VCs and traditional property players.
Central and regulatory initiatives represent a particularly exciting shift. The latest Government call for evidence “Improving the home buying and selling process” and the HM Land Registry’s Digital Street scheme look towards a future where technology (including blockchain) will make the transfer of property ownership much more fluid. Such initiatives shine a light on the underlying problems apparent in the UK property market and signal a commitment to a more open and less guarded future.
How does this future look?
As we see this convergence in consumer, regulatory and technology worlds, this more futuristic property market is well within reach. So who wins? The opportunity to embrace and adopt new technology is open to all, however, historically, traditional incumbents have been slow to move in many sectors. They, therefore, get left behind or quite simply, left out. We don’t have to look far to see examples; Blockbuster and HMV are businesses which didn’t, in time, connect to the opportunities of the next generation. As a result, nimble and forward-focused entrants Netflix and Spotify won the respective leading positions in the new world. Much like in the movie and music sectors, forward-focused businesses tend to win in other worlds.
Settled.co.uk is one example of a real estate business that is connecting across these converging elements at quite a unique time in real estate history. Settled’s unique technology has significantly increased the likelihood of completing on a home and has cut the time it takes to sell and buy in half. It presents the hope that, in the future, its technology will enable people to buy and sell properties in moments, not months. This is the kind transformation this sector needs.