How PropTech is transforming global real estate

Startups Magazine recently attended the London PropTech show which shined a light on the various developments happening within the realm of PropTech.

One topic of conversation was the impact PropTech was having on global real estate, which saw Ricardo Sousa, CEO of Century 21, Victoria Hills, Chief Executive at RTPIPlanners, Ami Kotecha, Board Chair at UK PropTech Association, and Sean Hooker, Head of Redress & Ombudsman Office at The Property Redress Scheme, sit down for a panel discussion on the matter.

Covering each core aspect of the PropTech world individually, the panel chat was well-balanced on approaches to the core topic, the key themes of technological impact, renter equity, planning, sustainability, problem-solving, and sector efficiency emerging.

The impact of emerging technologies

Despite Sousa being somewhat external to PropTech himself, focusing more on the real estate side over in his home of Portugal, he was more than excited to talk about his views to the emerging PropTech scene and the consequences emerging technologies are going to have on it. For him, technologies affecting the automation of processes were key to the industry and would have some of the more profound impacts, something that would be later echoed by Hooker’s and Hills’ discussions. AI was the key driver here, being able to automate a variety of processes or enhance others. Just a few of the examples Sousa pointed towards were:

  • Valuations and market analysis
  • Customer service
  • Property search
  • Improved financing
  • Property management
  • Risk management and compliance
  • Efficiency and sustainability

Renter equity

Kotecha was next to speak on the topic of renter equity and its importance, “renter equity is critical in the future, and technology is firmly enabling this.”

Renter equity provides a unique opportunity for renters to accumulate financial credits akin to equity through their lease agreements. This model, primarily aimed at low-income renters, rewards tenants for fulfilling specific lease commitments such as timely rent payment, active participation in community associations, and undertaking property maintenance tasks. Accumulated over time, these credits can significantly contribute to a renter's financial stability and investment in the community, offering a semblance of the asset-building benefits traditionally associated with homeownership. Unlike straightforward renting or owning, renter equity presents an intermediate housing form that balances the flexibility of renting with the financial and social incentives of ownership, thus fostering long-term residential stability and community engagement without the need for direct property purchase​​​​​​.

As more and more people are looking to rent their property for various reasons, giving them stability and peace of mind whilst doing so, through a sense of equity over where they rent, is critical. To Kotecha, current PropTech trends are allowing for more of this to take place.

Sustainable future

Kotecha was also eager to comment on how she thinks the advancements in PropTech will charge sustainability and decarbonisation within the real estate industry. “Sustainability and decarbonisation are particular pain points here in the UK. 29 million homes are old and new tech can bring these back up to date and to green standards once again,” she explained. PropTech can enable sustainability factors such as:

  • Energy efficiency analytics
  • Smart building/renovation techniques
  • Green building materials
  • Renewable energy integration
  • Sustainable property management
  • Carbon tracking and reduction tools

Concerns over planning

Planning is more integral to the PropTech and real estate industries than most people realise, so having the right people, and enough people to deal with the various planning processes that must be undertaken is critical to a smooth working order.

Hills, being in the thick of real-estate planning, had some key concerns that she hopes the PropTech rise can help resolve. “Planning is a vital part of erecting and updating properties.

“In the last seven years, 25% of planners have left local governments in favour of private planning or other ventures.” This is a problem given that the local government is typically the primary point of contact for planning within real estate.

Government action, to Hills, has only really worked to create more regulations and hurdles that need to be overcome to achieve the same outcome. Whilst they are needed in some cases, there are now  “12 different bills” with “not enough planners” to manage them. For Hills there is only one solution that comes to mind, “technology will be key to dealing with these problems.” In a similar way to the previous areas, automating needlessly mundane and cumbersome paperwork and retrievals will help free up time in one of the sector's most important and under stress areas.

Efficiency is key to problem-solving

Hooker was another advocate for the need for improved efficiency unlocked by technology being implemented within the sector. For Hooker, the need for improved communication across the many different bodies and data centres is key to unlocking this. He compared the likeness of a system to the DVLA method of sorting out vehicle-related problems. There’s a wide amount of data needed at once from various areas when checking a vehicle, yet they all already know where each segment stands at any given point, this sort of thing is desperately needed within the real-estate sector.

Hooker also strongly believes that “technology can also help with the problem-solving realm of real estate, in which many different problems from all sorts of people are trying to be solved at once. Integrally, advents in data management and data processes can bring to light more evidence and actually bring back a human approach as efficiency is unlocked.”