It would be an understatement to say that the property sector — like many other industries — has struggled over the past year. The Coronavirus pandemic has placed the industry in a state of uncertainty, and it has had to shift and adapt in order to function and survive.
As ongoing ‘Stay at Home’ orders, first issued in March 2020, forced property professionals to switch to home working and rendered in-person viewings almost impossible, the property sector did its best to adapt to a new way of life.
When many people discuss the COVID-19 outbreak and the changes to our way of life around the world, they do so while praising the wonders of modern technology. Technical triumphs in the digital sectors have meant that businesses and individuals have been able to stay connected, despite not being able to physically meet face-to-face.
These triumphs have allowed various industries to continue to function and, in some cases, even flourish. The property sector is no exception to this.
The “revolution” of the property sector
Proptech innovations have helped soften the blow of COVID-19-related restrictions on the industry during the past year.
These solutions have been creative and varied, ranging from self-service check-ins to virtual viewings. In practice, they have revolutionised the property sector. Buyers and renters can now search without even having to set foot inside the property. While landlords can continue to manage their property without impeding the personal space of their tenants.
When the pandemic first hit the UK back in March, the property sector suffered significantly. Social distancing restrictions and ‘stay at home orders’ rendered each stage of the property process impossible to conduct. Both rental and sales demand plummeted (by 42% and 70% respectively) as both buyers and sellers quickly evacuated the market in a panic. The UK government made efforts to protect tenant rights, implementing an ‘eviction ban’ that has been extended a number of times. However, this did not soften the economic impact the pandemic was having on the property market itself.
After the first lockdown restrictions eased in the summer, house prices rocketed. Renters and buyers rushed forward with the moves they had been putting off during the spring., unleashing pent-up demand. Reports showed a huge spike in rentals across the UK. London alone recording 25% more new tenant applications in August 2020 than the previous year. Property sales also soared during the same period, with property professionals describing a 21 year high in several areas of the UK.
The use of technology enabled professionals and business owners in the property industry to adapt with more ease. From using social media platforms to negotiate deals to creating video tours for buyers and tenants to view. Digital, then, had a huge hand in helping the sector to adapt.
The power of ‘virtual’
As we begin 2021, the roll-out of three Coronavirus vaccines in Britain promises a more certain ‘return to normality’ than last year. However, the way in which people and businesses go about their daily lives may never be quite the same again.
For many professionals, working from home will remain the new norm, even once it is safe to return to an office. For many businesses, shifting to online processes has benefitted profits more than anticipated. The general expectation of many property businesses is that remote working will be a permanent aspect of the job.
While the property industry will benefit from returning to in-person procedures, there are several digital innovations that will aid the sector for many years.
Remote house viewings were a blessing during the national and regional lockdowns that took place in 2020. Virtual viewings have allowed tenants and buyers to view properties without visiting them. They have also improved the speed at which tenants and buyers have been able to liaise with agents and landlords. Pre-recorded virtual viewings allow agents to share property details with clients at a much faster rate. This process has saved professionals whole days of organising property viewings and travelling.
Virtual viewings have also enabled many long-distance tenants in their moves across/to the UK. This innovation will no doubt aid the lives of agents and landlords well into the future.
Proptech has also allowed for virtual property inspections to become a regular occurrence. Virtual inspections use similar technology to virtual viewings to allow inspectors to survey properties without having to attend them in person. This innovation has opened up long-term opportunities for landlords who own property that is not local to them. Virtual interim, check-in and check-out inspections involve more landlords in the management of their property. This makes renting and letting less complicated for both landlords and their tenants. This also frees up time for letting agents, that would be spent attending the property and then feeding information back to the owners.
What’s more, virtual viewings and inspections have also allowed for those who are vulnerable in all of these roles to be able to remain at home while still conducting their business effectively.
Many proptech solutions devised during the pandemic have been hugely successful. As the first lockdown hit in March, InventoryBase launched its self-service inspection template. This template allowed tenants and agents to streamline the property inspection process. This was used more than 20,000 times in the first three months after its release. By property managers, agents and landlords.
What’s more, live property inspections have also been undertaken by InventoryBase, using a range of digital methods and tech. This has allowed more landlords to remain connected with the running of their property. During national lockdowns, letting agents required to work at home have also been able to continue doing their jobs with ease.
As well as these innovations, the use of drones are becoming more commonplace in the industry. Drones have helped to inspect properties without the need for scaffolding or additional workers.
Looking to the future
These developments have done wonders for the growth and development of the UK’s property industry. In the short term, they have allowed professionals and individuals to continue on with their jobs and life plans. Without as many issues during what has been an unprecedented period of uncertainty. In the long-term, they have shed light on how the sector can continue to flourish after the pandemic is over and found ways to streamline and improve it for years to come.