Focus on Digitising Property Sales

Source: Housebuilder Magazine
Date: july/august 2019

Chris Windle steps into the relatively new world of proptech, discovering the companies with the systems anddata know-how to take housebuilders to the next digital level

Digital estate agents, property portals and virtual reality tours may spring to mind when
you mention proptech to the uninitiated. But the technological leaps that could really change
a housebuilding business are much less razzamatazz. And developers are already cottoning on to
That may come as a surprise. After all, housebuilders are hardly known for their enthusiasm for new
fangled ideas. But they have seen the potential of digital systems and data and are increasingly
integrating them into their businesses. Not as exciting as a crew of bricklaying robots, but the positive
impact such systems can have on profitability, are.
James Lavery, marketing director at MRI Software, which provides technology solutions for the
ongoing management of residential buildings, says: “Given the complex requirements involved in the
management of large scale property portfolios, developers and housebuilders generally appreciate
and understand the value of technology in their operations and continued strategic approach.”
MBU Capital signed up to Yourkeys’ platform in January 2019 with its Park Place scheme, Stevenage. Since
going live, Yourkeys says it has “dramatically reduced” MBU Capital’s time to exchange contracts, delivering a
“massive cash flow boost”
He adds: “Across real estate activity, where technology has previously been viewed as discretionary,
organisations are understanding that it has a fundamental role to play in a successful operation.”
This is the experience at COINS too, says business development manager Richard Vale. The
company provides services to many of the top 75 housebuilders. Services include centrally managing
leads and collecting and analysing detail about activity at each development.
The advantages of centrally held data, which everybody can access and which can be updated on
site, are clear: decisions can be made using up-to-date information, all involved can work off the most
recent designs, and progress reports and snagging issues can be logged and addressed rather than
lost in an inefficient paper trail. “Tech on site has really taken off,” says Vale.
The next great leap is the analysis of the huge amount of data developers have at their fingertips.
“We are just at the start of data analytics,” says Vale. “By using a system like ours you are creating
useful information, simply in the day-to-day process of managing your business. We can now provide
very powerful visual representations of that data. These show where you can make efficiency gains
and sometimes tell you things you didn’t know.” It is the kind of knowledge that can inform decisions in all areas of a business. One developer, Vale
explains, found that a large percentage of buyers lived between ten and 15 miles of the home they
bought. Once the developer knew that, they changed their marketing to focus on people living closer
to the development.
This prompted a more targeted marketing approach, reducing costs and increasing their chances of
success. And that came from one small piece of knowledge – replicating that kind of analysis
throughout a business could transform it.
Riccardo Iannucci-Dawson, co-founder of Yourkeys, agrees the potential of data is only just being
explored. “There are about 150 individual property related data sets across this country that could all
be aggregated, from the Land Registry to planning portals and sites such as Rightmove. Once that
data becomes digitised it becomes a very powerful tool.” A tool, he points out, that could play its part
in addressing the nation’s housing shortage.
He gives an example. “Say you’ve got £8million to buy some land and you want to target a certain
demographic. You want it connected to certain transport links and you want a certain rate per square
foot. An aggregator programme could tell you where in the country that land exists very quickly.”
Much of this data can be captured by platforms such as Yourkeys which Iannucci-Dawson describes
as “communications software for all stakeholders involved in buying and selling new homes.”
They pinpointed exactly what the platform should do by – as one might expect – collecting some data.
“We surveyed 1,000 property buyers and asked them what feature they’d like when buying a new
home. Overwhelmingly they said progress tracking. People are happy with the way you search for
property but once you’ve found one there’s nothing. We fill that gap.” The platform holds users’ hands
all the way through to legal completion.
So there are an increasing array of tech options for developers at all stages. But for many smaller
housebuilders, perhaps without the dedicated in-house tech expertise, understanding which tech is
right for them is the first barrier to taking advantage of it.
That’s where a company such as My Future Cloud (MFC) can really prove its worth, says commercial
and strategy director David Emuan. “We work collaboratively with clients to identify potential growth
opportunities, and to develop a wider digital strategy in line with their business goals.”
“People are happy with the way you search for property but once you’ve found one there’s nothing. We fill that
Riccardo Iannucci-Dawson, co-founder, Yourkeys the right fit
This includes identifying which software is the right fit for a business’ needs. MFC will then make sure
it is implemented correctly, both in terms of a company’s technological needs and its, often
overlooked, cultural ones, through change management and coaching.
You cannot just drop in a piece of tech and expect it to work smoothly immediately, says Emuan.
“Proptech covers a number of layers within the housebuilding sector and can be the answer tochallenges across a huge range of business areas. However, a shiny new software solution or
platform is not enough to address
these interconnected business areas and challenges.
It requires harnessing proptech in a way that is tailored to each client.”
What works for one company may not be right for another. On top of this, once digital systems are in
place other factors come into play, such as cyber security and regulations around privacy and the use
of data.
Lavery of MRI software adds that even once a technology has been adopted and mastered the job
is not done. “It is in the ongoing upkeep of these solutions that we sometimes see a challenge, in that
some businesses forget they need to keep systems in tune as people and processes change.”
That is the thing with technology, it never stops advancing. Which means the advantages to your
business will grow. But if you take your eyes off the proptech ball, you risk falling behind the
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