The property sector lacks innovation and entrepreneurialism - for instance, I still get asked what my fax number is.
The private rented sector (PRS), although clearly showing huge potential, has yet to be fully defined. This presents a ripe opportunity for the introduction of tech and innovation. The sector is catering largely to a generation of ‘tech junkies’, so, frankly, PRS operators have no choice but to embrace the ‘tech revolution’.
Where tech really has the opportunity to disrupt is in the user experience. Renting in London has always had a ‘rogue landlord’ stigma. Yet look at other industries and you’ll see a shift in favour of receiving something as a service rather than owning it: the Boris bike, Netflix… so why not have your living space as a service, or, as we in the industry call it - rent.
Renting gives consumers flexibility, reduces upfront costs, and forces developers to offer a lot more for a lot less, helped in part by the growth of a shared economy. Only by delivering a great user experience will people choose renting as a lifestyle.
Technology provides an end-to-end management platform behind the scenes. Information about maintenance, deliveries and social events is at tenants’ fingertips. Paying rent, bills and utilities is hassle-free (gone are the days of Npower call centres).
Hub, Premier Inn’s younger brand, allows auto check-in via geotagging and everything in the room is controlled via an app. Gimmicky, one might argue, but it shows an understanding of what their consumer has come to expect.
Don’t overlook the power of data - it’s the best form of consumer insight and will only get easier as we introduce smart appliances. Think fridges that detect a lack of milk and inform the landlord, so that by the time you’re home and ready for your cup of tea, it’s replenished.
‘Generation rent’ expects quick and efficient service, but are used to sharing - yes, they demand that their private driver pick them up from whichever street corner they’re on, but they’re happy in the knowledge that this driver serves everyone else in London through Uber’s phenomenal technology.
PRS’ commodity is space and it must offer more for less. At The Collective we provide gyms, spas, private dining rooms, lounges and libraries. Technology is essential to ensure these spaces are properly managed and shared.
At a macro level, perhaps PRS could be the standard bearer for another way of solving the lack of space. If people are happy to share, then let’s apply technology to optimise the inherent redundancy in our buildings and ensure all our space is used all the time.
James Scott is chief operating officer of property development and management company The Collective