Who will shape the property industry in the next decade?
Negotiators. An office manager. A receptionist. These are the baseline requirements for an Estate Agency.
Then, as you go up the scale in terms of company size, you will generally see more specialisation along the lines of asset type or location. Residential agents specialise in postcodes, or New Homes, or Fine Houses. Commercial teams are divided by use type: retail, office, hospitality, industrial. In both cases, there may be a dedicated lettings team. Support functions like Finance, IT and Marketing will join the team as the business expands.
This is how real estate firms have traditionally chosen to channel their growth and invest their resources.
But what kind of team is required to become a best-in-class property company in a digital era?
Who will shape the real estate industry in the next decade?
Meet the new faces of the property industry.
The Data Scientists
There are few industries that would benefit more from the efficient collection and aggregation of data than ours, so why are we so far behind? Even big firms, which have a lot of data, don’t manage it very well, or put it to good use.
This is also the reason that property remains so local, relying on agents whose deep knowledge of an area, built over a number of years, allows them to ‘eyeball’ a property fairly accurately, with the help of some recent ‘comparables.’
How can firms tackle this lacklustre approach to data optimisation? Enter an unlikely hero; the Real Estate Data Scientist.
Niall Keogh, Head of Data Analytics at BidX1, explains why he was so keen to get involved in the industry:
“Property Advisers have not moved with the times in terms of analytics. There are so many variables at play when it comes to property decisions. A rigorous and comprehensive approach to data management and predictive analysis makes for unrivalled business intelligence.
‘Eyeballing’ can work, with in-depth knowledge and long experience behind it, but it’s neither scalable, fully accurate, or even best practice at this point. Data-driven decisions should be the norm for real estate businesses as they value, price and market assets.”
Large real estate firms complete thousands of transactions annually, creating a rich dataset to draw from. In the case of a PropTech company like BidX1, with a digital platform, that dataset is enhanced by thousands more data-points provided by bidder profiles and buyer preferences. This treasure trove of in-house data is overlaid with other datasets, from price registers to flood maps, rental yields and local amenities. The result is a property advisor armed with instantly available facts, who can immediately tell you that you’ll get an average of 8% ROI over 10 years.
And data isn’t just about advisory on the pricing side. It should feed directly into our Marketing strategies as well. Asset marketing should be a form of matchmaking, accurately connecting the right buyers with relevant properties.
The UX Designers
Why, when consumers have come to expect online experiences which are seamless, personalised and beautifully designed, do property websites often provide such a poor user experience (UX)?
The popularity of aggregators or property portals mean that most people’s first experience of finding a property is through a site like Rightmove in the UK, Idealista in Spain or Daft in Ireland.
These portals already feature the bulk of relevant property information so a potential buyer’s next move may often be a direct call to the agent. If they do visit the agent’s website to view the property, they are already motivated by their interest in that particular property. Perhaps this is why agents have been slow to prioritise UX on their own platforms or sites.
Or maybe there is another explanation: the industry continues to rely on a tired consensus that with a purchase so important, potential buyers will put up with any amount of inconvenience or frustration?
UX designers create products that make sense, but that are also a delight to use. They consider the structure of a website, app or online process to ensure a seamless user-journey, but also the interactions, animations, and media that might make that journey significantly more enjoyable. Good UX is already vitally important for most businesses; the property industry should take note.
Sara Bresee, UX Designer at BidX1, sees UX as a tool for shaking things up:
“I love UX because it is naturally adaptive. If something isn’t working for a user, whether that’s a step in a longer process or something as simple as the size of a button, it can be changed and improved, exploring new avenues until the kinks are ironed out. And these changes aren’t haphazard, ad hoc experiments; they are data-backed hypotheses, based on research and user feedback. This means that regardless of how “normal” or “traditional” a process is, good UX will force a change in favour of the user."
“Many PropTech companies, the digital pioneers of the real estate industry, intrinsically understand the importance of beautiful UX. Ultimately, the UX team are customer champions; they will always push for what is best and better over what is ‘just fine’ or ‘acceptable'."
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