The UK’s letting agents must prepare for a rise in the number of tenants entering the private rental sector, urges members of the industry.
The message comes from payment management solution PayProp, which says that letting agents who use technology to streamline and automate their processes can dedicate more time to clients and scale more effectively, among other key benefits.
The proptech firm says that a recent report released by Knight Frank shows just how quickly the private rental sector is expanding.
According to the Multihousing Report, released in June, the proportion of households renting privately will increase to 24% by 2021.
Some 68% of 10,000 tenants surveyed for the study said that they expected to be renting in three years’ time.
Knight Frank’s findings reflect the results of the latest English Housing Survey for 2015-16, which placed the proportion of households renting privately at 20%, equating to around four million households.
Meanwhile, the rate of owner-occupation in England has dropped from a peak of 71% in 2003 to 63% last year.
The COO of PayProp, Neil Cobbold, says: “It’s clear to us that the private rental sector is set to experience more growth over the next few years, and those letting agents who prepare for a time when there are more landlords and tenants are likely to be the most successful.”
Cobbold claims that proptech offers several key benefits to letting agents preparing for and managing growth.
“A key advantage of incorporating efficient tech solutions is improved communication,” he explains. “With more tenancies, communications need to be improved and people are looking at apps and electronic forms to achieve this.”
He highlights Fixflo, which announced a partnership with PayProp recently, as an excellent example of a proptech solution that has improved communication, as it allows tenants to report maintenance problems 24/7.
“Streamlining and automation is also useful for arrears management,” he continues. “Another underplayed benefit of proptech is control. It’s far easier to monitor and record access and activity on a proptech system than relying on staff’s diligence in maintaining a paper trail.”
Above all, Cobbold says that streamlining and automating processes is a great way for letting agents to grow, while offering higher levels of customer service.
“Most agents started out because of their passion for helping tenants and landlords and providing a good service, but this might end up being a difficult promise to keep as you scale,” he notes. “One reason consumers like to use independent agents is due to the level of service they offer.
“Corporate agencies can sometimes be more difficult to get hold of and clients like to be able to interact directly with their agent. Proptech won’t take away that human interaction from small companies, and it will also give bigger companies a chance to reintroduce the human touch.”
He adds: “By streamlining all the other steps, you’ll free up the time to provide that warm, caring service.”
Agents, how are you preparing for a rise in tenants?