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Jan. 21, 2020, 4:52 p.m.

At LiFE, we are avid believers in the value that Proptech brings to our clients and the business, having set up our own investment arm, LiFE Ventures, which invests in Proptech companies and hosts our own Dragon’s Den style pitching event, TeqDen.

2019 has seen the growth of Proptech fatigue, says the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA). The flood of Proptech companies and start-ups with sometimes convoluted solutions to less important problems over the last couple of years has made it harder for many agents to decide which tech to adopt and what is best for their company and clients, hence the use of the term "fatigue".

In the midst of the Proptech fatigue, LiFE Residential prides itself on its experience in the property industry and managing residential properties in London. The experience and expertise our directors have gathered over the last 20 to 30 years in sales/lettings, even prior to LiFE’s founding, enables us to invest in those companies which we truly believe will bring value to our clients. Having started the company in 2000, in a world where digital transformation had only just begun, we have learned along the way what is beneficial and can improve processes for our clients.

“Agents are finding it difficult to decide what to use and what’s best, and a lot of them are financially restricted because of low fees to landlords. Spare money to invest in technology is lacking. The better and more successful property companies out there will have more realistic landlord fees, which allows the justification of investment in the tech of the future,” comments Jonathan Werth.

Despite the Proptech fatigue, 2019 has seen a spike in the adoption of Proptech across the UK property industry. We sat down with the LiFE Residential and LiFE Ventures Managing Director Jonathan Werth to take a look back at what the year gone has brought to the Proptech industry and LiFE as a business, and also consider what new trends, products and services tenants, buyers and property investors can expect to see in 2020.

What happened in the world of Proptech in 2019?

Property Technology, more commonly known as Proptech, encompasses the application of technology and innovation to address the digital needs in the property industry. Proptech can streamline processes and increase efficiency for clients and businesses alike.

After the major spike of 2018, which saw increasing numbers of Proptech startups coming to the fore and subsequent investment, 2019 has seen a major uplift in demand for Proptech in the UK as well. "People in the property sector are taking it more seriously than ever before,” says Werth.

Raconteur’s recent publication of the Future of Proptech report demonstrates how far Proptech has come in 2019, establishing its mark within the industry in terms of sustainability, revolutionising renting and the advent of smart buildings. Click here to download the Future of Proptech report free of charge.

"Proptech gained its popularity long after the advent of many other technologies in different sectors, such as Fintech. Not only has the real estate sector never been majorly innovative, but it is also a multi-faceted industry; it has taken a while for Proptech to get through to all sectors,” adds Werth.

A lack of knowledge and understanding of innovation, as well as delayed adoption by the various sectors has resulted in the more delayed rise of property technology, which we saw in 2019.

Proptech at LiFE Residential

Everyone has “begun to take Proptech seriously now, not just within the UK, but in Europe and globally,” states Werth. LiFE Residential’s mission has been and continues to be to improve and grow our Proptech partner services in order for our clients to see as much benefit as possible. That's why in 2014 we established LiFE Ventures, a micro fund, offering seed investment and an accelerator programme to early stage start-ups. 

2019 saw LiFE support and engage with the Proptech start-ups we have invested in more than ever before. Our partner services include FixFlow, Keynest, Goodlord, Blyng and Kamma (formerly GetRentr), which in various ways all share the aim to make our client’s lives easier.

Read more about our Proptech partners: 'PropTech: Investing in our customers'

Improving the user experience has also become ever more important in the last year within Proptech, but also with LiFE’s Proptech partners. We constantly have been working to improve the experience for our clients on the receiving end of these products, fine-tuning and tweaking services so that often stressful and complicated property processes are a bit more simple. 

The AI-powered LiFE Virtual Property Assistant chatbot, created by our partners at Blyng, is an example of how we use digital to improve the experience of our clients at the first touch-point with the business. Thanks to the 24/7 availability of the Blyng LiFE Virtual Property Assistant, our current and prospective clients are able to get in touch any time of the day or night. Clients can submit questions and viewing requests to us on our website or via Rightmove and Zoopla using the chatbot.

After investing in Blyng in 2019, we have seen our leads considerably rise, with a 461% increase between September 2018 and September 2019. Blyng’s ability to respond in natural language, as well as to pre-qualify property owners, buyers and tenants also means the sales/lettings process becomes more efficient for our clients, whilst supporting our business well.

Proptech in 2020

If anything, 2019 has confirmed that Proptech is far from a fad. It is the future, here to stay and continue to develop within the property industry. 2020 will likely see Proptech hit the construction sector, with the growth of construction site management software, predicts Werth.

Our developer partner City & Docklands has recently invested in such technology, VisiLean, a cloud-based construction management service that supports lean production planning and controlled workflow, and a direct integration with BIM (Building Information Model).

At LiFE, this year will see our continued engagement with and development of our Proptech start-ups’ software. More generally, technology for property agents will be tweaked, developed and improved across the industry, allowing for a better service to tenants, buyers and property investors. We also have a couple of TeqDen events in the pipeline, so sign up to our newsletter here and follow our social media channels for updates.

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