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PropTech roundup: tehnology that’s changing the property game

PUBLISHED: 07:30 10 April 2017 | UPDATED: 14:24 10 April 2017

Startups like Floored are developing state of the art three dimentional rendering for virtual reality property tours

Startups like Floored are developing state of the art three dimentional rendering for virtual reality property tours

Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Meet the gadgets, bots and apps changing the way we buy, sell, rent and stay in 2017

Online lettings agencies are integrating AI to help answer customer queriesOnline lettings agencies are integrating AI to help answer customer queries

We might still be a few years off robot butlers for the masses and picking out our future home location via a Buzzfeed-quiz style algorithm, but PropTech is booming and already a big part of the property landscape. From 3D virtual reality tours to drone photography, here are five pieces of technology that are part of the new tech-enhanced property landscape:

Bold and Reeves will take care of all your prime property maintenance needsBold and Reeves will take care of all your prime property maintenance needs

Log it

If you’ve been doing your Property magazine homework, you’ll know we’re currently in a buyers market here in Hampstead and Highgate. Stamp duty has well and truly slammed the breaks on the micro market, meaning that if homeowners want to sell they need their home to be at the right price for the market and in tip top condition. Little maintenance niggles won’t cut it any more; properties need to be in top condition to shift. If you’ve got a super prime property in your portfolio you’re unlikely to have time or inclination to keep track of maintenance work yourself. Enter Bold and Reeves. The super smart property management service has bought in an electronic log book for their clients. “People continue to service their cars regularly, whilst neglecting the more significant investment of their homes,” says Bill Shipton, the managing director of Bold and Reeves. “The electronic log book is a crucial tool in making it easy for homeowners to stay on top of all the fixes, large and small. It gives them and potential buyers peace of mind that the property is being properly run.”

The e-logbook allows for the easy and centralised documentation of things such as lease documents, gas safety and electrical assets. The data is then used to produce things like reports on expenses so you know just how much you’re spending on running your property. They can also provide an audit trail so insurers and purchasers can have a shufti, much like with an MOT.

New dimensions

Virtual Reality tech is helping developers sell homes in new towers before they are even builtVirtual Reality tech is helping developers sell homes in new towers before they are even built

London seems like one giant building site these days. That’s not hyperbole; last week New London Architecture’s (NLA) London Tall Building Survey 2017 reported that there are 455 tall buildings in the ‘pipeline’ for the city, which means they are anywhere between the pre-application stage to being under construction right this second. These new skyscrapers aren’t all going to be glossy glass temples to banking, either. The burgeoning Financial Technology (FinTech) sector means that trading floors are rapidly becoming obsolete and remote working is increasingly part of the financial sector landscape.

A vast amount of these towers are residential. The NLA estimates that 30 per cent of homes currently under construction are in tall buildings, and estimates 100,000 new homes will be created across the pipeline.It’s fair to say a lot of those homes will be bought off plan i.e. before they are built. Traditionally developers and agents would be able to show potential buyers a few CGI pictures and floorplans, but one startup has upped the game.

Floored is a New York City based company creating software that models interactive 3D graphics for commercial and residential real estate. Their custom-built graphic engine Luna is the ‘world’s most advanced physically-based WebGL-renderer’, allowing cutting edge photo-realistic virtual reality tours of yet-to-be-built buildings can be beamed straight to a client’s mobile phone.

Floored was acquired by CBRE, the world’s largest commercial property real estate company, in January, so watch this space.

The Hostmaker app promises to take the stress out of renting your home on AirbnbThe Hostmaker app promises to take the stress out of renting your home on Airbnb

Hosting helpmate

Like it or not, Airbnb is the app that’s here to stay, and Hostmaker is here to help London’s casual holiday home-from-home hosts get serious.

Airbnb, for those who have been living under a stoneage rock, is a peer-to-peer platform that allows users to rent out spare rooms or entire homes to guests for a fee that’s cheaper than a hotel. Guests get to live like a local, and the locals get to monetise unused space.

The Hostmaker app promises to take the stress out of renting your home on AirbnbThe Hostmaker app promises to take the stress out of renting your home on Airbnb

There’s plenty of debate over whether this slice of the sharing economy is a good thing (at best encouraging cultural exchange whist allowing cash strapped city dwellers to make the most of their homes) or a bad thing (at worst disrupting the local property market, messing with the makeup of neighbourhoods and avoiding tax), but there’s no doubt it’s currently a 21st century tech success story.

For those who want to get in on the hosting game, the competition today is fierce and being a part-time hotel tycoon has its unglamorous downsides. The nitty gritty of managing bookings, sorting the keys and cleaning in between guests is enough to make anyone think twice about bothering to get bookings. This is where Hostmaker fills in the gap. Complete with cute pigeon motif the ‘team who give a flock’ behind the website want to help make Londoners the hosts with the most. For a fee they’ll manage your bookings and get a cleaning crew in between guests to scrub the toilets and change the bed linens. They’ll even set up your profile on the site, so you don’t have to lift a finger.

They’re more than a glorified maid service, however. Hostmaker will also crunch the numbers and spank the algorithms to work out how to get the maximum yield from your listing. Heard the horror stories where ‘guests’ turn out to be 200 partygoers hell bent on trashing the joint? There’s a vetting service to weed out the tourists from those getting turnt. They can even get an interior designer in to zhuzh everything up and get guests clamouring to stay.

Drone zone

St Tropez House uses video footage shot by drones to better advertise their luxury holiday rentalsSt Tropez House uses video footage shot by drones to better advertise their luxury holiday rentals

Drone technology is going from strength, but recently they’ve made some sinister headlines. Fears about their being used for snooping, smuggling and generally being an airspace safety nightmare aren’t unfounded. For pure uncanny valley horror I dare you to Google videos of Hungarian scientists demonstrating their entire flock of flying robots programmed with the ability to autonomously swarm. Nightmare fuel.

Tech anxiety is par for the course in the uncharted waters of innovation, and the cute little copters have less sinister applications.

Don’t judge a book by its cover is good advice for choosing friends and fast food, but when it comes to booking a holiday rental perfect pictures of a picture perfect getaway are vital to secure those credit card details. It’s unsurprising that purveyors of high end holidays are turning to drones to get the moneyshot when it comes to showing off their wares to their full advantage. That signature drone-movie zoom out is perfect for getting the kind of panorama you used to have to get a helicopter in to shoot. Planning your perfect getaway in the south of France? Francophiles looking for luxe digs for their summer jaunts should scroll over to St Tropez House, not so much for their stable to top of the range villas, but for the eye popping drone footage of the holiday home estates. Even if you’re too broke to book browsing the videos of slo-mo swimming pool fly-bys is strangely compelling.

Ask a robot

Artificial Intelligence chatbots are helping students with their rental enquiriesArtificial Intelligence chatbots are helping students with their rental enquiries

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, isn’t just the stuff of sci-fi dreams. Online lettings agents are integrating ever more sophisticated pieces of AI into their portals to enhance user experience and streamline their services.

“Our AI responds to around 50 per cent of student property queries, using keywords and machine learning to answer customer questions,” explains Danielle Cullen, managing director at StudentTenant.com.

“We’re really seeing the benefits of using tech in the student rental market. With the use of these innovative features, we no longer need to hire lots of staff members, which means we can keep costs low and can afford to pass over the savings to our clients,” she adds.

But don’t freak out over robots taking all our jobs quite yet. Whilst students tend to be young and tech literate and perhaps best suited to chatting away with robots about whether there are rooms still available, there are limits to what the chatbots can do. StudentTenant.com also has a livechat service, so customers can chat to an IRL (In Real Life) human or even – gasp – pick up the phone.

If students are too lazy to get off their laptops to view the property in person they can also take advantage of StudentTenant.com’s virtual tours, which allow you to click through a 360 degree viewing of the property without ever leaving the house. It’s a particularly useful feature for international students or those living far from their uni of choice.

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