Both estate agents and letting agents are reportedly concerned about the potentially disruptive impact of new property technology, or “proptech” on the sector. Their concerns centre on online delivery of property lettings and sales, with the introduction of brands such as Upad and PurpleBricks making waves and rapid advancements in the way that business is conducted.
As evidenced by the likes of estate agents such as Foxtons and Countrywide, whose share prices have rapidly dropped this year, proptech could be one of the major factors behind their downfall. So could proptech save the the global property market or damage it by removing any personal contact that clients value today? Could it potentially devalue the service that professional agents strive for, by creating a cut-price race for clients? A leading authority in the field of proptech, Professor Andrew Baum, has suggested that technology may in fact revolutionise and save the property business.
However, traditional estate agents may find themselves not tech savvy enough to readjust to the challenges of the current property market before it is too late. It is vital to harness new technology to our advantage to allow our businesses to succeed and adapt, in order to gain the best of both worlds. Technology allows businesses to enhance their current offering, where an efficient hybrid model could be implemented which allows companies to add a personal touch, separating them from the faceless interactions of new proptech businesses. As CEO of Intel, Andrew Gove, once commented, it is only the paranoid who survive.
However, many businesses are still falling behind the current demand for proptech. A recent survey of 200 surveyors found that only a third had heard of proptech, with even less understanding what proptech actually is. This would mean that around 66 per cent of those questioned are still collecting data using a pen and paper.
It is thought, nevertheless, that the we could be about to experience another tech revolution, with a new technology born from the cryptocurrency trend, known as blockchain, entering the market. Blockchain is an open access, dependable ledger which lends itself perfectly to contracts and money transactions. Thousands of industry experts in the tech world are working on these systems, which have billions of pounds of backing and investment, and they will transform the way in which property is managed and traded.
Blockchain is a permanent and constantly growing list of records, known as blocks, which are chained together and secured by cryptography. Each block contains full transaction information and a timestamp, as well as a cryptographic hash on the previous block. Together, these blocks create an openly distributed, permanent, online peer-to-peer ledger of records which can be shared between different parties.
The Oxford research initiative plans to bring property experts and academics from across the world together to understand and research the innovation drivers and technology of change for the property sector. A published report on the research findings will be made widely available. CEO at Redevco, one of the companies involved with the research, Andrew Vaughan, has explained that there are huge structural changes occurring within the sector, which he believes will be both disruptive and positive, arriving at astonishing speed to significantly impact businesses.
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