The property industry has faced turbulent waters throughout the last year. The Coronavirus pandemic caused the industry to shut down in the initial lockdown period before entering a series of ups and downs thanks to further lockdowns and schemes like the stamp duty holiday. As most property professionals switched to home working and viewings were restricted, there was an urgent need for ways to continue working in a way that served clients while also keeping all parties safe.
From virtual viewings to self-service check-ins, proptech solutions have enabled people to buy properties without ever setting foot in them and agents and landlords to take care of their properties without disturbing the personal space of their tenants. These technologies have been essential during the last year to prioritise safety but they will continue to serve an important purpose far into the future.
The initial market shut-down and how digital helped the industry keep going
When the pandemic first pushed the UK into lockdown in March 2020, demand for rentals fell by 42% and sales by 70%, as buyers and sellers alike pulled out of the market. The government also implemented an eviction ban to protect people from losing their homes during this uncertain time.
The pent-up demand for the property once the first lockdown lifted saw prices rocket, with rentals in the UK excluding London climbing 2.2% and asking prices reaching a 21-year high in October. From having no work to managing some of their largest caseloads, all while limited to single-household viewings and navigating the UK’s tier system of restrictions, agents have needed to react quickly and serve their client’s needs as much as possible.
The industry has had to adapt quickly, with everything from video call viewings to property deals being carried out on Instagram DMs. Technology has ensured that property has still been trading hands all the way through the pandemic.
The value of long-distance viewings and inspections
While virtual viewings are not as successful in securing deals as in-person viewings, they have been essential for initial property reviews, allowing interested parties to view a property before making the commitment to view them in-person.
For property already being rented out, self-service and live inspections have been effective at monitoring the condition of a property during check-in, interim and check-out inspections. This technology has allowed tenants to complete inspections themselves so that property managers can still provide a good level of service and keep an eye on their assets without disturbing their tenants.
Virtual inspections and viewings have also allowed agents to continue working from home, which has been especially essential for any who are clinically vulnerable or in high-risk groups. With Covid-19 still posing a threat early in 2021, expanding this technology to allow property professionals who would be considered vulnerable to keep working as much as possible will help maintain employment levels while also protecting public health.
Remote & virtual inspections
A whole swathe of proptech innovations has been introduced thanks to the pandemic. InventoryBase launched its self-service inspection template in March 2020. This template was used over 20,000 times in the first three months as managers and landlords looked for ways to keep their day-to-day obligations going despite the major disruptions.
Drone inspections also mean the grounds of a property can be surveyed in much smaller time frames with fewer workers needed to complete them. This means scaffolding workers aren’t required unless issues are identified by the drone survey first.
Live virtual inspections are also now being carried out through InventoryBase, allowing property inspectors to continue working despite lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, distance from the property, or limited time available. These remote inspections will continue to show value long after the pandemic as they will allow property managers to work with trusted inspectors no matter the distance from their properties. They will also save inspectors time they would have spent travelling between each site.
How proptech innovations will help the industry thrive
In addition to all the ways proptech has allowed agents and managers to maintain a safe distance from others during high-risk periods of the pandemic, proptech processes will help streamline work throughout the industry. Virtual processes will also create more complete historic records of property throughout its lifetime, providing more value for customers during each sale or letting.
As some professionals believe Covid-19 will continue to disrupt life until as late as December 2021, remote working will be a common occurrence in the property industry for a long time to come and proptech will help keep ‘business as usual’ going as long as possible.