What is PropTech? A primer for buy-to-let landlords

If you’ve had your ear to the ground in the property sector lately, you’ve probably come across the phrase PropTech. But what exactly is it, and how will it affect landlords?

What is PropTech?

In short, PropTech just stands for property technology, the way FinTech stands for financial technology - but there’s a whole host of ideas and innovations which fall under that name.

Lending and investment, property management, conveyancing, and even letting agencies are being disrupted by what’s emerging from the PropTech sector. Technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and though the property industry has been particularly resilient when it comes to change, innovators are now making use of new technological methods to shake things up.

“There has been massive resistance within sectors of the property industry to the emerging technologies designed specifically for this industry,” says property author Carol Tallon. “But resisting change is no longer an option; property technology, or #PropTech, is revolutionising the marketplace.”

How will PropTech impact buy-to-let landlords?

PropTech is a very broad term. There are more and more companies out there looking to cater to the digital property sector, some of which may impact landlords directly, and some whose effects may seem less obvious at first.

One of the big changes landlords may see is among letting and estate agents. Research shows that traditional property companies are in decline - a number of letting agents, including Foxtons and Countrywide, saw their share prices fall sharply last year.

While this might seem alarming if you’re a landlord who uses such companies, this is one area where PropTech is popping up to fill the gap.

Purplebricks, for example, is an online estate agent. Unlike their high street peers, their share price increased across 2016, and they now control 65 per cent of the online market.

PropTech trends to watch out for

It’s very early days for PropTech, so predicting how it will grow and what that will mean for landlords can be quite tricky. However, Zach Aarons, a PropTech angel investor, has some theories about which technologies we should keep our eye on over the coming year.

Would you trust a computer to manage your assets? Aarons thinks we’ll be seeing a rise of artificial intelligence in the property sector, with virtual asset and property managers. And could your next investment property be a 3D printed house? You might be imagining a plastic igloo, but 3D printing is already transforming the construction industry, with printers able to create concrete hi-rise buildings.

Somewhat less off the wall is the idea that virtual reality could change the way we carry out property viewings. With VR headsets, prospective tenants may not even have to visit the property in order to view it. And autonomous vehicles could transform the way people travel, meaning that ever important ‘close to local transport links’ may no longer apply.

We might not yet know which technologies will take off and which will flop, but it’s clear that change is coming to the property market. Keep an eye on our Knowledge Centre for the latest landlord news.

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