PropTech will power greater residential engagement and more actionable business insights in 2020

Property management has traditionally been about the nuts and bolts. But that’s all changed now – with industry players taking a much more holistic view across business strategy, operations, communication and brand development. 2020 is going to be all about relationships for businesses and professionals operating in sector, and technology is going to play a key role in fostering those ties. In the coming year, digital innovations will help property owners and operators to drive resident engagement, keep occupancy rates high and build stronger bonds with the communities they serve.
 
Here are seven major trends that will help shape the landscape of the UK property market:
 
The voice of the resident
Driven by technological advancements, cultural shifts and regulatory initiatives, organisations delivering sub-standard customer service will come under greater scrutiny than ever before in the coming year. The latter part of the 2010s has seen an increased shift from a lease and asset focus to a customer-centric approach in UK residential property management. Proptech has enabled landlords and block managers to offer unprecedented levels of service – and deliver digital-first experiences that modern residents, tenants and leaseholders have come to expect. This will continue to be the case. But, post-Grenfell, this is no longer just ‘nice-to-have’. The independent review into the tragedy specifically calls out the need for renewed focus on better interaction and communication with residents across all types of developments. Online solutions will play a critical role, and forward-thinking operators will be tapping into the full array of technologies available to empower better engagement, and to track the results.
 
Build-to-Rent is here to stay
At MRI, we’re seeing more and more of our block management clients expand into the BTR market. With a potentially more stable economic environment in which to operate, we’ll see more players make the same move in 2020. Tech will be at the heart of this shift – not just enabling better service and engagement, but providing more efficient management, deeper strategic analysis and increased opportunity for revenue generation.
 
Retail to residential
The changing face of the UK high street has been well documented. The talk has been that vacated retail space could transition into residential and mixed-use space – fuelled by growth in the Private Rented Sector including Build-to-Rent, student housing and retirement living. We’ve seen some initial signs of this in 2019, and you can expect such activity to ramp up significantly next year.
 
A pure, end-to-end digital experience
Digital services and amenities will remain a crucial area of focus and investment in 2020. Increasingly, property owners and operators will see digital interactions carry through the entire residential life cycle – for everything from taking a virtual tour and providing references online, to signing the lease and making digital rent payments, to booking amenities and tracking repairs, to giving notice and completing an online checklist before moving out. Going digital is an essential component for servicing today’s tech-savvy renters and leaseholders – particularly millennials and generation Z – accustomed to constant connectivity and convenience. Having to pick up the phone or fill out a paper form is no longer an acceptable option. Landlords and property managers that embrace this trend will have a distinct advantage over those that don’t.
 
Big data will become smart data
With the right technology, big data becomes smart data. The wider property industry, residential included, has been discussing the value of data for a while – particularly when it comes to  generating business insights. Adoption of PropTech has become the norm and it’s being deployed in evermore sophisticated ways by users. Next year, those users will be utilising software to extract deeper levels of insight and analysis than have ever been possible. In turn, that information can be harnessed to help property owners and operators understand how to create better customer experiences and increase occupancy.
 
The AI revolution gets real
There has been a lot of talk about artificial intelligence (AI) in the property sector in the last couple of years, but few examples of it actually being used. That is changing fast and things will get a lot more real in 2020, as AI will be one of the most effective tools for making big data into smart data. 
 
Indeed, the industry will see AI move out of its initial hype cycle into a more practical phase that will include an increasing number of widely implemented solutions that help property businesses get more out of their data, faster and with more accuracy. AI will empower property businesses to transform tasks that were predominantly manual exercises, such as lease abstraction and contract analysis, into automated processes – enabling them to turn unstructured information in leases and other corporate and legal documents into data sets that can be mined for actionable insights. The result will be better business decisions and improved operational efficiencies.
 
PropTech will be a fundamental
Too many people still see PropTech as a buzzword for standalone niche applications, launched by start-ups, that can be employed to help a property business solve a problem or boost efficiency in specific area. Increasingly, as the market matures and established software providers offer a platform for innovative new solutions, property organisations will have an even broader array of technology tools to choose from in 2020. And it’ll be the year those applications can be connected to work hand-in-hand.

 

Trevor Youens, Managing Director of Residential Solutions at MRI Software

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