The days of window-shopping and face-to-face meetings in the UK property market could be numbered. Buyers, investors and agents are now looking for solutions in technology.
The number of people who hunt for property on Facebook is growing. In fact, as many as 12% of browsers now use this method compared to 8% last year. A small number (7%) even use Instagram to browse the market in today’s social-media obsessed world.
This is according to a survey from Zoopla, which honed in on the “tech effect” in the property market. It surveyed more than 6,000 renters and buyers, and 675 agents.
For estate agents, a third plan to increase their use of technology. A slightly higher number (35%) intend to increase their marketing, and digital marketing will be a key focus. The figures were similar for letting agents, with 37% planning more marketing and 29% upping technology use.
Top technology for future housing market
When asked which technology they plan to use more, two thirds (65%) of agents cited social media. More than half (53%) plan to increase their digital marketing, and 40% want to bring in e-signing functionalities. Such facilities remove the need for cumbersome paperwork and printing costs, as all signatures can be added electronically.
Specialist software is another avenue agents are keen to explore. This includes software to manage customer information and relationships, as well as property management software. Technology and apps already exist for these purposes, which can deal with things like new lettings and tenancy renewals, and the report shows a growing number of agents would like to take advantage of these.
More than a quarter of agents (27%) also plan to use WhatsApp more for their business. This is already hugely popular with many across the industry as a straightforward, instant way to keep in contact with clients and prospective clients. It is also less formal than email or post, which can help enhance the relationship between the business and its customers.
Investing in apps
“Property apps have matured to become an integral part of the property browsing experience,” says the report.
The survey found that a fifth of consumers have a property app installed on their phone, and they use them on average 4.8 times per week.
Landlords are the most likely demographic to have a property app installed on their phone (52%). Just less than half (44%) of “active buyers” and upsizers also use these apps, followed by 43% of active sellers. Property portals like Zoopla and Rightmove have dedicated apps, but there are plenty of others targeted at the housing market.
The report concludes: “People are spending increasing amounts of time in a variety of digital environments. And the property industry is reacting to this.”
The current climate
Technology will need to be embraced more than ever over the coming months. As the coronavirus – or COVID-19 – continues to tighten its grip on the UK, human contact could reduce to the lowest levels ever seen. At present, people are being encouraged to work from home, limit socialising, and only make trips that are necessary.
The NAEA and ARLA Propertymark have urged agents to offer virtual viewings going forward. It also recommends postponing property inspections, along with additional general hygiene measures.
Propertymark said: “Offer 360-degree viewings, or if you do not have the infrastructure in place, offer to show properties via video call or recorded film.”
They added: “The government is predicting that coronavirus will impact us for months so agencies need to plan for the long term and think carefully about business continuity.”
For those in the property industry, as for many other sectors, business cannot grind to a halt. Where processes or contact can be carried out remotely, via apps or technology mentioned above, this will be the way forward for many.
It is already possible for almost the entire buying, selling and even property management process to be carried out with minimal human contact. The current situation is likely to force more people to explore these avenues, and could lead to a boom and increased innovation coming to these areas in what could be a more permanent change.