When people think of technology, thoughts of the Terminator and the Great Robot Takeover come to mind. While the fantasy elements of technology’s capabilities are fun to conjure up, no renter wants to deal with the letting agent equivalent to T1000.
Fortunately, we’re not at that stage yet (and hopefully never will be). Instead, technology’s rise in a business sense - and more importantly, in the lettings sector - has been far less scary and much more impressive.
Looking at how the letting industry has changed from the boom in the 1980s, the fundamentals might not be drastically different, but the digital impact has enabled agents to work smarter. It’s the small nuances that have led to better and more efficient user experience for both you, the agents, and your customers.
But how has the process really changed between then and now? Let’s take a look.
You Used to Call Me On My Landline
Back in the 80s and early 90s, an interaction between a letting agent and renter only took place via the phone - and it was usually a landline number. If you saw a property that you liked (in the shop window or local paper), waiting until office hours to make a telephone enquiry was necessary.
Fast forward to the mid-to-late 90s, and email became a more frequent channel for communication. These days, however, technology has paved the way for a number of instant communication channels that make evolve the process for everyone involved.
Phone, email, mobile, texts, WhatsApp, social media messages, apps - there is a plethora of way for renters to get in touch with letting agents and express their interest in a property. The world of lettings has become a 24/7 one, where renters can get the information they need and quick responses to the questions they have.
I’ll Take It... Do You Have It In Beige?
The fundamentals of viewings haven’t changed: renter contacts agent about a property they like, arrange a time to see said property, agent shows them around. There are extra layers involved in the process now, however.
For those moving to the city for the first time, technology has allowed agents to conduct video viewings, which has become a huge time saver and let some people view and offer on properties in minutes - something that would typically take days to do if you’re not already in London.
Apps like Movebubble free renters to make instantaneous offers through the app, no longer needing to go through what can sometimes seem a long, drawn-out process over offering on a property. Overall, technology has changed the speed at which people can view, submit offers and rent properties.
Remember when all that an agent could do to market their business was to take an ad out in a newspaper, do some canvas cards and perhaps pay for an expensive billboard? Fortunately, those days of limited advertising have long gone.
While traditional advertising still has a part to play, the channels for promoting your agency, as well as the properties on your books, have grown considerably. Now, you can market online for minimal costs. Social media has offered a way to connect with your audience, while content creation has given many smaller agents leverage.
It’s a more connected world now, and agents can use that to their advantage in ways that weren’t possible before. Larger agents are no longer guaranteed success by merely shouting louder and flexing their financial weight. The quality of content prevails.
I Want It, Like, Yesterday
Ease of communication is perhaps the biggest win in the modern-day lettings processes. We already touched on the many different ways to get in touch these days, but most important is the speed of response. Agents can make or break their reputation with their approach to customer service.
While nobody sets unfair expectations on when agents should respond (we understand that you need days off, too), messaging services don’t shackle communication times to a 9-5 slot. The modern-day renter has many items on their plate and can’t always make themselves available during 9-5 work hours.
So it’s great to know that they can fire off a quick text or use an in-app messaging service if they need to ping an agent. Most queries don’t take lots of effort to respond to, and being on the ball provides the renter with more confidence in the service they are using, equating to a happy customer and A-Star reviews.
The Impact of Generation Rent and Their Expectations
Modern-day renters have been labeled with the tag “Generation Rent”, and by 2021, a quarter of the UK will be using the private rental sector (PRS) to live in their home. The impact of this group on the UK property market is massive.
They are becoming more influential, something we are seeing with the announcement of the Tenant Fee Ban, which comes into effect in 2019. Renters are fundamental to the future of the market, and their expectations are growing daily.
“The times, they are a changin'", Bob Dylan once sang about the shifting landscape (albeit not in the lettings market. But, you know, it still works). Agents that tap into the modern tools at their disposal, becoming even more tech-savvy in the process, will get ahead in a congested crowd of businesses and boost the profile of their agency.