Usually we raise a glass at the stroke of midnight on 31st December, looking back wistfully at the 12 months just passed before staring into a New Year with eyes wide full of optimism. We all know it’s different this year but this shouldn’t stop agents planning for a positive future.
Suppliers to the property industry are often one step ahead of agents in terms of tech and new practices. Therefore, their predictions for 2021 ring with a resounding sense of validity, especially when it comes to the adoption of proptech and remote operations. Here are six predictions for agents to mull over with a mince pie.
#1 Agents will do more, with less
Whether resourcing remains a problem due to illness and isolation, or becomes an issue as a result of budget cuts, 2021 is the year agents are predicted to streamline and still achieve great things. Simon Whale at Kerfuffle agrees that the normal way of doing things will be challenged in a bid to become more economical. “Agents will be able to improve efficiencies, even with less staff. Utilising streaming video technology has the potential to massively improve the time management of employees, as will deploying the best CRM software and automating anything that’s repetitive.”
More automation is a prediction echoed by Ross Nichols at Just Move In:
“In a period where agents are under pressure to do more – with increasingly less resources – a move towards software that saves people time and money is obvious.” Ross Nichols, Just Move In.
#2 The digitalisation process will continue at pace
Although we won’t throw away pens and paper just yet, the complete digitalisation of the transactional process will accelerate, expedited by social distancing. “Although full e-conveyancing is still some way off, we are closer to this than ever before, especially now the Land Registry has said it will accept witnessed electronic signatures,” says David Jabbari at Muve.
Although full e-conveyancing is still some way off, we are closer to this than ever before, now the Land Registry has said it will accept witnessed electronic signatures. David Jabbari, Muve.
Offr’s Peter Everett agrees that we’re on the cusp of a big digital development, this time when it comes to ID – although it may not come to complete fruition in 2021: “I think it may take longer than 12 months for a 100 per cent digital ID rollout but the demands of strict compliance with HMRC rules will ensure it happens quickly. Onboarding home movers with fast, electronic KYC/AML using a smartphones will soon become the norm.”
I think it may take longer than 12 months for a 100 per cent digital ID rollout but the demands of strict compliance with HMRC rules will ensure it happens quickly. Peter Everett, Offr.
Simon Cox at Embrace Financial Services is already seeing an increased use of e-signatures, and expects digital ID to follow – although he still sees the need for additional non-digital checks. “As ID is often required after any initial appointment, it makes sense to obtain it digitally. That said, additional measures to protect against identify theft must be considered, so we expect validation by post or landline to be more widely adopted in 2021.”
#3Online valuations will become more accurate
Obtaining an online valuation has always been easy but it’s not always been precise. The immediate future, however, holds to potential for digital appraisals to almost equal those given in person. Would-be vendors will be encouraged to submit property photos, videos and even their own virtual tours online, via apps including iVal, while Mick Silver at Moovshack says AVM’s (Automated Valuation Models) will also improve.
Online valuations will never replace people, but the tech will be there in 2021 that allows movers to harvest multiple ‘distanced’ valuations from agents. Mick Silver, Moovshack.
Another voice championing the increasing accuracy of online valuations is Sam Hunter from Homesearch: “Data will play a huge part in refining and tightening valuation estimates, aiding both consumers and professionals”.
In most cases an AVM from a reputable supplier will suffi ce. If someone was thinking about selling on the open market, a physical valuation will remain crucial. Sam Hunter, Homesearch.
But this prediction carries a note of caution: “Circumstances should also be considered,” adds Sam. “If someone needs a valuation for insurance purposes or perhaps to remortgage and no material changes to the property has been made, in most cases an AVM from a reputable supplier will suffice. If someone was thinking about selling on the open market, a physical valuation will remain crucial.”
Mick concludes: “Online valuations will never replace people but the tech will be there in 2021 that allows movers to harvest multiple ‘distanced’ valuations from agents and achieve the most accurate appraisal of their property.”
#4Home movers will stay at arm’s length
With social distancing and staying at home commonplace, many consumers have discovered they can make big decisions remotely – a trend predicted to stick around. “People have discovered new ways to do things via digital channels and it is unlikely to go back to how it was,” says Andy Soloman at Yomdel. “In 2021, consumers will need all-encompassing digital options and immediate gratification. They need to be able to book appointments online, make contact 24/7 via intelligent and human live chat on websites and via social media, and do everything without speaking with an agent until absolutely necessary.”
Consumers will need allencompassing digital options and immediate gratifi cation…. and do everything without speaking with an agent until absolutely necessary. Andy Soloman, Yomdel.
This sentiment is shared over at Iamproperty Group, with Ben Ridgway predicting a post-Covid shift towards virtual property moves: “I expect to see a change in consumer behaviour, with movers more open to doing things virtually. There’ll be increased reliance on video tours, images and floor plans, with prospective buyers viewing fewer properties in person and an increasing requirement for virtual viewings. The demand for auction properties will continue, with one of the main factors being a need for fast and secure transactions.”
Auctions and buying blind are reoccurring themes when analysing predictions for 2021, with Justin Beckwith at auctioneers Pattinson expanding on the points of bidding ‘in the room’ – even if it is a virtual one. “We feel more people will buy ‘blind’ or perhaps after viewing only a video. Those who aren’t that brave will make property shortlists at home without going to see multiple properties in person, with those physical viewings that do take place often resulting in sales as they’ll be conducted exclusively by serious buyers.”
We feel more people will buy ‘blind’ … _ ose who aren’t that brave will make property shortlists at home without going to see properties in person. Justin Beckwith, Pattinson Auction.
And it could be more than just movers pulling away from in-person dealings. While High Street agents have, in the past, traded on their personal touch, Montana Hassan at Gnomen thinks 2021 will see the gap between High Street and online agents close further. “High Street agents will be pushed to use new, digital channels to enhance their workflow, provide a better service and expand their reach. We already predicted 2021’s ‘new norm’ back in late 2019 – now the pandemic has accelerated the use of these tools and the next 12 months will see a mainstream adoption.
High Street agents will be pushed to use new, digital channels to enhance their workflow, provide a better service and expand their reach. Montana Hussain, Gnomen.
While there is the potential for armchair moves to take over in 2021, Emma Yoxall at U-see Homes forecasts a blend of remote and in-person interactions, playing up the importance of face-to-face connections in 2021. “There are some sections within the property market that do warrant online communications and video calling completely replacing in-branch interactions or telephone calls. We do, however, feel it’s the blend of both digital and in-person that provides the best outcome.”
Suppliers to the industry are often one step ahead of agents in terms of tech. Their predictions for 2021 ring with a resounding sense of validity.
#5 Our High Streets will change
While the demise of Debenhams and The Arcadia Group has stolen most of the High Street headlines, we could be about to lose a number of property brands if the forecast of Christopher May at Residential People comes true. While there is no suggestion that a mass of agencies will go out of business, there is speculation that more will centralise to nondescript back offices or decentralise totally to operate across home working hubs.
The penny has dropped that consumers don’t really need to walk into a branch anymore, plus many agents who have been working from home have not missed the office. Chris May, Residential People.
“The penny has dropped that consumers don’t really need to walk into a branch anymore, plus many agents who have been working from home have not missed the office.”
Christopher also expects agents to adapt to a digital world where consumers are more likely to see an agent’s brand online. “We have already seen many companies warming to the idea that they can reduce a significant amount of their overheads by consolidating and even getting rid of their offices, plus the growing number of self-employed models, such as Keller Williams, may alter the High Street presence forever,” he adds.
William Reeve from Goodlord agrees that 2021 will present a crossroads for many agents when it comes to where staff will work. He says it’s a case of ‘follow Foxtons or head home’. “Agents could choose to use branches in the way Foxtons do – as highly prominent brand ambassadors, in visible locations with attractive window space and a modern ‘get-things-done’ professional look. Or if their branches are not in customers’ faces – but are merely somewhere to print and process documents – they could put desks in employees’ homes, cut overheads and eliminate paper from their operations.”
Agents could choose to use branches in the way Foxtons do – as highly prominent brand ambassadors, in visible locations with attractive window space. William Reeve, Goodlord.
#6 Lead generation will move into new realms
We know agents love traditional marketing methods, such as canvassing and door drops, but the future holds more ether-based ways of populating pipelines. “Data is going to play an enormous role in lead generation in 2021,” says Heather Staff at Spectre. “It’s already possible to analyse large amounts of data to identify who should be targeted and when, with the ability to personalise marketing material and tailor the content to each recipient.”
Data is going to play an enormous role in lead generation in 2021. It’s already possible to identify who should be targeted and when, with the ability to tailor content. Heather Staff, Spectre.
Heather adds that next year will also see a shift towards a much more open and connected relationship between proptech suppliers and CRMs. “Platforms such as Street.co.uk and its open API will talk to lead generation software, such as Spectre, to leverage the power of an agent’s own data, combined with the power of third party tools.” Perhaps the boldest, but expected, of 2021 predictions comes from Kenny Bruce at Boomin, with speculation that portals will step up a gear to deliver more leads. “The entire property industry is going to witness a major change in the portal space for the first time in years. There will be new competition and new propositions – all powered by the latest technology and innovation.”
Some industry insiders estimate that over 50 per cent of portal leads are of poor quality and never get contacted – 2021 will be the year this changes. Kenny Bruce, Boomin.
Kenny feels the challenging economic backdrop will only ‘turbo-charge’ the questions agents have already begun to ask themselves. “Some industry insiders estimate that over 50 per cent of portal leads are of poor quality and never get contacted – 2021 will be the year this changes. New and improved communication tools to better the vital link between agents and consumers are coming. These will address the current fault line in the lead delivery system, not to mention the offering of much better use of data and automation to verify lead quality. We know 2021 will be a seminal year for everyone in property.”