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Can PropTech solve the UK’s housing crisis?

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We ask a lot of technology. 

I am no exception. I want to order groceries without leaving the comfort of my sofa. I want a customised playlist to spur me on my morning run. I want to turn the oven on when I’m 15 minutes away from home. In this crazy, connected world of ours, technology can provide all of this and more.  

 

But can it solve the UK housing crisis? 

In many ways, no. Technology can’t alter physics and create buildable land where there is none. It can’t encourage construction companies to sell only to buyers who will make the property their primary residence. It won’t force politicians to change renting legislation and open up more possibilities to temporary tenants. It can’t alter planning laws or designate green-belt land for development. 

However, “every little helps”, as the saying goes, and here is where technology is making its bid – in providing solutions that leave more money in the pockets of tenants and buyers.

 

Cutting out estate agents

Many start-ups are addressing prohibitive costs by offering reduced commissions and enabling potential buyers and tenants to connect directly with sellers and landlords.

For sales, HouseSimple, an online estate agent, works on a fixed-fee model, charging sellers a flat rate of £595. Its average client, it claims, is 40% more likely to sell than with a high street agent and achieve sums closer to the asking price. Similarly, Settled claims to save customers an average of £5,000 per sale by abolishing fees.  

For rentals, Ezylet is a property portal where landlords can advertise directly to tenants for as little as £29 per property. Propoly is a similar platform that connects landlords and tenants; landlords pay a flat fee to list their property, creating a maximum 99% saving. GoodLord, a platform that brings together letting agents, tenants and landlords via a single platform, is part of Tech City UK's Upscale programme.

 

Mortgages

The process of selecting and applying for a mortgage is notoriously laborious and start-ups are aiming to help buyers find and apply for them more quickly. Trussle is an online adviser with a database of thousands of mortgage products; once a mortgage has been selected, Trussle secures the mortgage for the buyer.

MortgageGym, an FCA-authorised mortgage robo-adviser, offers mortgage eligibility matching within 60 seconds and allows homebuyers to complete their mortgage applications online in 15 minutes. 

 

The AirBnb effect

AirBnB has revolutionised how homeowners can accrue income via temporary lets. It has also spawned a set of start-ups helping these homeowners generate more income. Your Welcome enables people letting out their homes and flats to provide a more formal hospitality service via a concierge tablet designed for the property. AirSorted aims to help owners outsource these lettings and provides an AirBnB management service.

 

“PropTech is here to stay”

According to Tech City News, nine PropTech firms raised a combined £38m in funding. Eyal Malinger, investment director at Beringea, said: “Even ‘old school’ real estate players are realising they need to wake up to reality – PropTech is here to stay.”

 

But will this make any difference to the housing crisis?

As I said, no. But finding a place to live in the UK is difficult and expensive, from start to finish. Any savings that can be made, any processes that can be streamlined – in short, anything that can take some the financial and emotional sting out of house buying and letting – can account for a lot. 

  

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Tagged: Points of view

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Gayle O’Brien

Written by Gayle O’Brien

Gayle O’Brien started her writing career during Web 1.0 and still appears to be standing. After multiple stints in-house and agency side, her writing now focuses on start-ups, technology, and innovation. A dual citizen of the US and UK, Gayle divides her time between Massachusetts and south-east England.