A ‘perfect storm’ of changing cultural attitudes, government intervention and broadening tech possibilities has resulted in the upheaval of quite a few industries – notably banking, transport and holiday travel – and it’s obvious to see it’s coming to renting, too.
But are estate agents going to disrupt their own industry?
Not likely, if you check the history. Examples of industries being shaken up from the inside are rare. It’s been tried, for sure - most big retailers have their own internal ‘startups’ who’ve been given a remit to break the mould and shake things up. But Amazon changed retail, not John Lewis or Debenhams.
You can look to property buying and selling for further evidence. Estate agents put their listings online, but they didn’t go any further than that. Now, tech companies are jumping in to exclude them from the process, giving the power back to homeowners and homebuyers to do it themselves.
Tech companies are arguably better-placed than estate agents to effect that same change on the rental side for a number of reasons. Let’s take a look at three of the biggest ones.
They’re not stuck in old ways of thinking about property
Nothing against estate agents – they do a good job! – but they’ve been trained to execute that job in a specific way and aren’t about to change. While tech companies aren’t perfect (and risk jumping in prematurely and getting things wrong), they can reimagine the relationship between landlord, agent and renter without any of the existing prejudices or baggage.
They can focus on what’s good for all parties long-term
Estate agents need to fill properties because that’s how they get paid. Tech companies, at least in the beginning, don’t have as much of a focus on short-term revenue. That means they can focus on making everyone sustainably happy without sacrificing a good experience for one side, which has traditionally been renters.
They’re more open to alternative revenue possibilities
Looking at renting from a new angle uncovers a few revenue opportunities that also make the experience better for both renters and landlords.
Maintenance, for example, is a hassle for both sides, who’d be happy to leave it to the agent for a small fee. We’re seeing this direction being taken by traditional estate agents too. But there’s more room to innovate in this area.
Tech-focused companies can automate the process of using rental properties as short-term inventory on online marketplaces (i.e. Airbnb) during lulls in tenancy. This provides a high-yield income stream which can allow the agency to guarantee a landlord’s rental income even while the property is empty.
Residently was born out of frustration that renting property was nowhere near as simple as it should be for both renters and landlords. Our founder, Tom, was a fed up renter and landlord; sick of hidden fees, shoddy service and the behind-the-times nature of most estate agents.
From the ground up, Residently is designed around renters. Flexible move-in and move-out dates form the basis of our ‘Happy Home Guarantee’, which also allows renters to move to another property in the Residently portfolio without charge if they’re not happy in their Residently home. Extra services, like furniture, art rental, and cleaning and ironing seal the deal.
Because of this, Residently attracts a desirable type of tenant: modern professionals who want their renting experience to match the rest of their lifestyle. Residently lets people live their lives the way they want, bring some personality to renting without taking up all of their time. It all comes back to servicing the needs of the modern renter.
And as the rental industry feels the disruption that’s hit banking, retail, travel and transport, customer service will be the main battleground.