When I looked around the room at the first ever RESI Trailblazers networking reception at last month’s RESI Convention, I was struck by the sheer diversity of businesses and organisations represented, from local authorities to proptech start-ups.

James_Gray Cluttons

The UK property sector is benefiting from bright new thinking and entrepreneurship – something I believe is hugely important if the sector is to continue to evolve and thrive. We can learn lessons from other sectors that have been on a similar journey to ours. For example, in the past decade the UK financial services industry has enjoyed an influx of expertise from outside the sector, from fast-moving consumer goods to automotive, helping to rejuvenate traditional brands.

Similarly, disruptive technologies have increased competition to the benefit of customers and made access to services such as wealth management available to all.

In my own business, we are aware of the way the world is changing and are always exploring new products and services for our clients that add value and make their experience of being our client as positive and profitable as possible.

One of the key themes throughout RESI 2018 was putting the customer first, an obvious point, but the truth is that our customers have higher expectations than ever before and the smart businesses are tapping into this desire to do things differently by challenging the norm.

For example, technology is digitising the viewing process, saving buyers wasted time travelling to unsuitable properties, but also speeding up the viewing process and leading to quicker sales. In this scenario, everyone benefits.

However, while technology makes property more accessible, it has yet to replace the need for deep expertise from people who know their markets inside out. This is particularly true where affordability is a challenge and people have to go out of their comfort zones to find a property that suits their requirements. Here, knowledge, hand-holding and advice still shine through.

On the rental side, we are seeing innovations that have the potential to transform how landlords manage their properties, from an improved vetting process through to tracking rental payments, maintenance reports and contractor invoices.

Technology also has the potential to build a more connected and constructive landlord-client relationship. This leads to better service and quicker resolution of problems – and our research shows that the better the service, the greater the tenant’s loyalty and its likelihood to renew a lease.

The final topic I found particularly interesting at RESI 2018 was the innovative thinking around buildings and properties. The shortage of affordable housing, particularly in London, is driving new models for living. There’s nothing new about groups of people living together but this is being cleverly commercialised to provide access to quality accommodation and networks of like-minded people.

We are also seeing more innovation in construction, with the rise of modular homes that provide local authorities, developers and housing associations with one answer to the housing crisis. Not only are they designed to be greener than most modern homes; they are built using innovative offsite techniques, then delivered and installed to sites with minimum disruption.

RESI Trailblazers has been a true representation of the talent and innovative thinking in our industry. It shows that we are challenging convention and reinventing the norm to ensure that the customer is at the heart of what we do. I am already looking forward to next year’s entries.

James Gray is a managing partner at Cluttons