Since its inception three years ago, there have been ten EG Tech Live events focused on the hype and execution of technology in the property sector. Having attended the latest morning meeting filled with discussion about the relationship between property and technology, we heard how far the union has come and the distance it has to go
Proptech is one of the most exciting areas of technology at the moment and has seen huge amounts of investment in recent years. Disruptive startups, such as Habito in the mortgage space, Hubble in office rental and even Airbnb in the short-term rental market, have led to a real estate revolution. However, the relationship between technology and the property industry has not been as smooth as in other markets – like financial, for example. So how can technology and property come together now as they perhaps haven’t before?
Last week I attended an EG Tech Live event, organised by property news and data outlet Estates Gazette. One of the most notable discussions that took place was specifically on the digital transformation of real estate and featured Legal & General Investment Management head of platform technology & change Jonathan Avery, Goldacre MD Fionnuala Hogan, Travtus founder and CEO Tripty Arya and Concrete VC founder Taylor Wescoatt. With talk about what the space is currently doing at the moment and where it hopes to go, it was clear to me that the proptech industry is at a crossroads.
We’re currently at a point at which there’s a lot of technology available to property companies – and that’s before we even get to more advanced technology like AI – but there’s still a lack of knowledge among real estate businesses about how to best deploy these digital advancements, opined Jonathan Avery. Once the usual business day-to-day activities have been taken care of, companies can then look at ways of innovating those processes to optimise their systems for the longer term, he suggested.
Part of the problem preventing this is that property and technology companies often don’t work together very well, according to Tripty Arya. She claimed that many real estate operations keep their technology partners on the fringes of the operation – instead of internalising them into the business fabric like many fintech businesses have successfully done – treating them warily because many in the property industry are still traditionalists.
Taylor Westcoatt, however, disagreed, as did others on the panel, declaring there is a real eagerness to explore change in the property industry and steps have been taken to better integrate technology. But property and technology companies alike often approach it from the wrong angle. Often technology is put in simply for the sake of it, rather than first understanding what people want and how technology can make it better.
What the real estate industry must ultimately realise is that they’re not the right people to bring technology into their companies. Arya explained that this is because what many property professionals know about tech is around ten years old already and, after an implementation period of three years or so, you’re looking at being 13 to 15 years behind some of your competitors. And as the property space, by its very nature, is risk averse, more speculative technology investments are rarely backed.
That isn’t to say that all property insiders are against the implementation of technology. Some companies have been introducing technology to better solve customer problems, optimise revenues and increase the value of the business. The lesson that can be taken away from these forward-thinking innovators is to introduce a translator, someone who has experience in both the technology and the property sectors. Alternatively, property professionals should really commit to educate themselves in the use of technology, but this can’t be done half-heartedly
The final thoughts of the panel were unanimous in that the future of proptech is set to be very exciting. We’re finding new solutions for problems that have been plaguing consumers for years. Even looking further down the line in five to ten years’ time, Fionnuala Hogan explained her great optimism that the adoption of technology in the property sector across the board will see a similar revolution to that of the fintech scene. However, to do this, real estate companies and technology companies need to see their relationship as equal, rather than vying to be the dominant partner.