There is an unstoppable force at play in the world of property. An evolution or, some would say, a revolution of technology that is enabling the creation and development of completely new services, but it has also had a transformative effect on some very old and established industries as well.
In today’s property market, not only has technology delivered significant efficiencies to the conveyancing process but property technology – or proptech – has transformed the practises of estate agents, letting agents, landlords and inventory clerks.
The humble pen and paper, once the only method of compiling a property report, has been replaced by the all-encompassing inspection or reporting app. But in this fast-paced, digital age, where vast amounts of evidence is gathered, reports created at speed and information shared seamlessly, has this rapid transformation actually evolved property reports?
What do we know?
Digital technology has largely replaced the analogue infrastructure. It’s hard to remember how we even managed before the likes of Apple and Android. Try explaining to Generation Z’ers that within our own living memory there were only 3 television channels and if you missed a programme, there was no recording, YouTube or iPlayer to click on to catch up. If you weren’t sitting there ready to view your favourite programme, you missed it!
If memory serves correct, some families even used to rent TV’s that came with their own little metal money box. You would need to ‘feed it’ 50p every few hours to see the dot appear and the screen flicker into life.
Reading a book meant having to heave massive encyclopaedias off the shelf to look anything up. And computers were not the small hand held devices or ultra modern and super sleek PC’s and laptops we know today. Often one ‘device’ would fill the entire table or even the room!
Business documents were typed, often with carbon paper for instant copies and Tipex was the holy grail for many clerks and admin staff.
Today, even email is seen as old hat.
The evolution of technology has enabled the creation and development of completely new business sectors, but it has also had a transformative impact on some very old industries as well. In today’s property market, not only has technology delivered significant efficiencies to the conveyancing process but specific property technology – or proptech – has revolutionised the practises of estate agents, letting agents, landlords and inventory clerks.
In the comparative dark ages of the 20th-century, administrative work involved painstaking processes of manual entry and reporting.
Fortunately, the quill pens of Dickensian clerks, huddled near single lit candles whilst trying to write, had been replaced by typewriters in the 1880s, but for decades in all industry sectors, the only way to gather and record information instantly and on the spot was with pen and paper.
After the Second World War, the invention of memo recorders and dictation machines represented the first significant step away from this, but the practice of manual note taking remained deeply ingrained in the business process and psyche.
For inventory clerks, whose vital role in inventory property management has long been established, preparing a property inspection report was a laborious process.
With a clipboard or notebook in hand, they would move from room to room making longhand notes of everything they found. Having completed that task, they were then obliged to convert pages and pages of notes into a written report. One assignment could easily consume the best part of a day.
Fortunately, those methods are firmly in the past.
New tools and reporting options have led to vastly increased capabilities. The use of digital technology is not just an alternative to hand-written methods, any more than emails simply replicated the role of letters, as many sceptics once believed.
In 1997, a built-in version of the basic arcade game “Snake,” was released as part of the Nokia 6110 device – many consider the first mobile app.
Fast forward to 2021 and property inspections apps are an integral part of the inventory and property reporting process.
For inventory clerks, the use of a property inspection app and a suite of property inventory software has reinvented, reinvigorated and revitalised both the conduct of and focus of their service.
The dedicated people who carry out the check-ins, check-outs and interim reports on which landlords depend are a largely invisible group and yet they perform a function that goes far beyond the simply clerical.
What an inventory clerk contributes to the private rental market has a direct and often decisive impact on financial and legal issues. In a sense, they are professional witnesses whose thoroughness of observation is frequently the only thing that allows the just settlement of disputes between landlord and tenant.
The private rental market is buoyant.
Reckoned to be worth £86 billion in 2020 and comprising nearly 4.5 million households, it is of crucial importance to the economy, to landlords and of course to the tenants who rely on it for the simplest of human needs: a home.
By anyone’s judgement, that is a vast number of houses and flats, all of which are too valuable to be left solely to the vagaries of trust and mutual respect between landlord and tenant. Inventory clerks are in constant demand, often called on to make several visits every day.
Gathering, distilling and conveying all the information required could be extremely time-consuming.
Proptech is now very accessible and easily available from developers and specialists
At Inventory Base we make it possible to combine inspecting with reporting, effectively reducing the two layers of process into one, seamless process.
Our property inspection app has the facility to take notes either by keypad or a speech-to-text function, accompanied by photos taken with a smartphone camera using the inbuilt software option of hardware provided by the devices manufacturer.
There is no need to worry about slow or non-existent internet connection because the app will simply store all the information until it can be synced, at leisure, later in the day.
You can make any adjustments or amendments at that stage if you wish, but the bulk of the report has already been created and in many instances, it can be sent directly to the landlord, letting agents or tenant while you are still at the property.
Another time-saving feature and benefit, which was never an option for inventory clerks in the days before proptech, is the ability to share your findings with the tenant and capture a digital signature whilst still on site.
Even if the tenant is not present, you no longer need to arrange a separate visit for them to sign or use a third-party service – electronic signatures captured easily by clicking on the email and being seamlessly swept into the report are all part of the app’s functionality.
Has the rapid transformation actually evolved property reports and apps?
The fact that we can capture pictures using our in-built camera software with rapid fire capability, that our app includes features such as in-built and custom dictionaries, the ability to share reports at the touch of a button.
That tenants can comment and upload pictures against the fields within the reports and clerks and property managers can use the Inventory Base app on a iPhone or smart device, sync data with ease and compile reports in a fraction of the time all points to a transformational process that is benefiting the entire property industry.
Are we done yet?
Innovation—any new idea—by definition will not be accepted at first. It takes repeated attempts, endless demonstrations, monotonous rehearsals before innovation can be accepted and internalized by an organization. This requires courageous patience.” – Warren Bennis
It’s an evolving process and one that will never stop if you seek to improve processes, increase efficiencies and help users to maximise the benefits that proptech and apps bring to the industry.
Not only does the use of technology make the process of inspecting and reporting much faster and more efficient, it also simplifies the ongoing process.
When your next visit is due, you can compile your report even more quickly by using the previous one as the template and simply noting any changes and additions. You can set a whole variety of flags and reminders to help you compile the report and in much less time.
In the pre-digital age, inventory clerks were no less dedicated and professional, but they could not have dreamed of how the job would change. In those days, dictation machines were cutting edge technology.
The toolkit of the modern inventory clerk would be unrecognisable to them but I bet they would be first to the table to swap their pen for a shiney new app!