Why is adapting to new technology a must for the rental sector?

Published on 11th July 2018 by Laura West

There has been a recent surge in the use of property technology for back-office processes in the housing industry, but it has been discovered that a surprisingly high number of landlords and letting agents are still using paper and spreadsheets to manage their properties.

A recent report outlined just how vast the divide is between how the property rental sector actually operates and what tenants expect in property management. 219 property professionals from companies of various sizes were asked to take part in the survey by a software firm, where 56 per cent of respondents were in the residential sector, 30 per cent in the office property rental industry, 21 per cent in retail property and the remaining 26 per cent in various other property rental markets.

One of the first findings that emerged from the survey concerned the types of technology that tenants find the most important in renting property. Across the board, digital services such as electronic billing and digital payments were seen as the most valued conveniences, as well as broadband internet. For commercial property, other top-ranked amenities indicated that proximity to public transportation, kitchen facilities and flexible leasing were the most valuable features.

In the residential rental market, there seemed to be an age divide on what tenants found the most important. Established professional working tenants desired features such as plumbed-in white goods such as washing machines and private garages, whereas students and younger millennial tenants wanted strong mobile phone coverage and high-speed internet connections, as well as proximity to services, shops and gyms.

The results become more revealing when compared to the technologies that letting agents and landlords planned to adopt. Commercial letting agents were split almost evenly between introducing online payments (12 per cent), SEO (13 per cent) and management software (13 per cent). Their residential letting peers were planning to adopt technology such as mobile inspections (17 per cent), lead tracking (17 per cent) and virtual tours (21 per cent).

It appears that priority has been given to operating efficiency and marketing within the rental sector, which are crucial aspects within any property business. This can often, however, come at the expense of user experience. While accounting software and virtual tours can make executives happy in the short term, they do little to provide a better service to the tenants actually renting the property. This could be partially due to the fact that occupancy rates are somewhat low for some areas across the country, but as the market starts to shift and properties become profitable, then the priority should hopefully switch to user experience.

Whilst the market may be partially to blame, the structure of the industry certainly does not help. One of the most important findings in the survey was that 42 per cent of landlords and lettings agents still rely on spreadsheets, which gives credence to the observation that the private rental sector is often stuck in its ways.

With an adoption of technology for managing tenant services, inspections and inventory, many everyday systems and processes could be streamlined and could save countless hours of administrative tasks.

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