In the ever-evolving landscape of the property industry, the fusion of technology and real estate has brought about a revolution known as Proptech. As the industry continues to undergo transformative changes, it becomes crucial to delve into the insights of experts who have a deep understanding of these advancements and their implications. We had the privilege to interact with Mr Peter Schravemade, a distinguished Board Member of Proptech Association Australia, who possesses an extensive background in property and technology spanning over 25 years.
Mr Schravemade's unique perspective and wealth of experience allow him to provide unparalleled insights into the impact of Proptech on property management, real estate transactions, customer experiences, sustainable building practices, and fostering innovation within the industry. From the significance of Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI) to enhancing transparency and security in real estate transactions, his analysis covers a wide spectrum of themes shaping the property industry's future.
Join us as we explore how Proptech is reshaping the property industry, what skills real estate professionals need to succeed in this new landscape, and how events like the London Proptech Show contribute to collaboration and innovation within the field. Get ready to gain valuable insights into the technologies and strategies driving the future of real estate, as we delve into a thought-provoking conversation with Mr. Peter Schravemade.
#PTS: What are some of the most significant technological advancements in the property industry that you've observed in recent years?
Mr Peter: Rather than quote multiples, I will deal with the one that is impacting all of them. Generative Artificial Intelligence has the potential to be the biggest advancement since the internet became mainstream (if not bigger). I don't believe the property communities' imagination to be big enough to fully understand the impact that this form of technology will have on the future. There are multiple ways in which generative AI is having an impact, but the most significant of those right now is "speed". Coders'/Developers are moving at least 30% faster, information is being produced instantaneously, solutions are yielded momentarily rather than discovered over the course of time, and concurrently more proptech is now making the market and arriving more viable than ever before and this is within the space of 7 months since the mainstream inception of Gen AI. Then you look toward the industry in general, overnight former proptech "influencers" have changed from being social media gurus to generative ai experts, with no previous background in understanding technology. And tellingly, previous buzzwords like "BlockChain, Crypto-Currency, Meta-verse et al... are all but absent from mainstream media.
#PTS: How can Proptech solutions help property managers streamline their operations and improve efficiency and how can it make real estate transactions more transparent and secure?
Mr Peter: I believe this is potentially three separate questions...
a) How can Proptech solutions help property managers streamline their operations and improve efficiency
In every single area. The role of the professional property manager is the most maligned employment role in the property industry right now. Your direct superior more than likely is concerned about the cash cow the rent roll is and therefore wants to see an uplift in new management brought on, or the overall value of rents (and in turn the % taken) lifted. The tenant hates you because of the difficulty in finding shelter at a reasonable cost. And the expectations of the landlord are of top dollar zero vacancy and no maintenance. Added to this is the fiscal scenario of most governments who are using property owners as a brake on their economies by lifting interest rates regularly to stave off recession and the cost of living across the globe rising. Property Managers are quitting the industry in droves and it is little wonder why, as the survivors battle to remain professional in a world of chaos. Enter PropTech. Nearly all parts of the property manager's role are repetitive in nature. The two options for a proactive PM are to either outsource what technology is unable to solve or find technology to replace the repetitive tasks. The sooner proptech can be developed to remove more repetitive tasks and free the property manager up to work on the relationships between the landlord, tenant and often the agency owner/broker/principal. The best PropTech solutions have recognized this and are moving to a model whereby they streamline operations and improve efficiencies. Already good PropTech can be found in administrative/document handling, marketing, inspections and even in the management of the facilities. More is welcome and needed.
b) How can Proptech solutions make real estate transactions more transparent?
PropTech solutions already exist to make real estate transactions more transparent. These forms of software are being constantly developed to be better. Three such solutions would be Market Buy, Openn, and Offrs. All make the transaction more transparent. The issue with this area is not in the realm of PropTech, moreso an issue needing to be discussed amongst franchise owners, regulators, or peak real estate bodies. Time is demonstrating that agents are unlikely to use the software because they fear the transparency software like this brings to the transaction or at the very least do not wish to pay for it. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that both the purchaser and seller not only want this functionality but rate it very highly. As an industry, the use of technology like this would undoubtedly improve the public perception of agents. Sometimes the technology for proptech exists, where the appetite for adoption does not.
c) How can Proptech solutions make real estate transactions more secure.
PropTech certainly has a role to play in this area, but it is important to note that even the most secure proptech in the world can still be compromised by human error. In the area of PropTech there exist companies that verify identity, use blockchain technology, encrypted messaging, transaction clearing facilities and of course we have had tools like multi-factor authentication for a long time. The reality is, we live in a world of immediacy, so the likelihood that we choose to utilise tools like multi-factor authentication, even though we know it well, is low. And so the concept of securing transactions is a multi-faceted issue. Principals/Brokers/Owners need to be educating their staff on best practices, systems and processes to identify and nullify transactional risk needs to be implemented, business owners need insurance, and all of these things need to be supported by industry-leading technological security.
#PTS: As the property industry evolves with Proptech, what skills and expertise do you believe real estate professionals will need to succeed in the future?
Mr Peter: If a Real Estate professional could wave a magic wand and wish for one key industry skill right now, it would be the ability to immediately understand the usefulness or otherwise of emerging property technology. New forms of proptech will come faster than they have ever done before over the next 5 years and the hardest part of operating within the industry will be understanding which forms of technology are useful quickly and consequently how to adopt that technology in a reasonable time frame. Property professionals who have a "wait and see" attitude to technology will lose successful businesses to those who are able to discern the usefulness of new proptech. Equally, some early adopters of technology will fall because they jumped too quickly on the wrong bandwagon. The onus on the property professional to understand new technology has never been more important than it is right now.
#PTS: How can Proptech contribute to sustainable and eco-friendly building practices within the construction and development sector?
Mr Peter: Government regulation or grants. I'll explain. PropTech is trying. I don't believe a week passes by that I don't have an ESG prop/con tech concept hit my desk. Very few of these concepts or ideas are commercially viable. As an industry, we need to accept the reality that they more than likely won't be commercially viable in the start-up phase. Anecdotally, I believe ESG concepts struggle to reach maturity as quickly as other proptech who are not directly targeted at an Eco-friend or sustainable con/dev issue. Compounding the dilemma is funding for these concepts or ideas is incredibly hard to find. Since the start of 2022, I have heard nearly every Venture Capital company say that they have a focus on ESG* or similar and some even state they wouldn't consider a technology investment without an ESG slant (whatever that is). None of these Venture Capital firms will own the fact that the * requires them to be fiscally solvent or in other languages sit somewhere between series A, B or C. I would estimate 90% of the proptech emerging in this area doesn't make series A funding. If we wish to see proptech contribute to sustainable and Eco-friendly building practices then we need either regulation to enforce its use or grants to give a leg-up to the concepts that are slipping through the cracks prematurely.
#PTS: How can events like the London PropTech Show help foster collaboration and innovation within the Proptech industry?
Mr Peter: I have attended nearly 2100 events across a 25yr property career (Approximately 100 per year), but as many as 250+ in 2017, 2018 and 2019. When I go looking for conferences to attend I use a checklist to identify the likelihood of success and return on investment. The best exhibitions/conferences have opportunities for; networking, knowledge sharing, innovation showcasing, forums for discussion, collaboration/problem-solving, global inflections, and the hardest is the creation of an environment where unexpected interactions can occur. Only a few events I have ever been to achieve that last point and those events find it very difficult to maintain this serendipitous aspect over a sustained period of time. Other elements I look for are pitch competitions or hackathons, but these two really need to be supported and run fluently to be successful so they don't form part of my check-list, more of an optional extra.
The conferences with the most innovation, generally have a low-cost barrier to entry for emerging technology, but serious sales prices for the attendees and are generally located in blue chip locations which can be expensive to attend for Vendors (New York, San Francisco, Munich, Paris, London, Singapore as examples). These locations will generally attract investors, franchise owners/scouts and peak real estate bodies. The conferences will generally have a way of introducing new technology at low cost (like a start-up alley), but involve other feature levels providing ROI for existing businesses in the scale-up and enterprise levels. Often awards are ways to highlight the innovation on the back of pitch battles or awards submissions. Importantly, innovation works best when the conference or expo finds a way to interface that innovation with the attendee without having them feel as though they are being sold to.
Conferences that foster collaboration are ones that have "cracked the code" for networking. Specifically, the attendees arrive at a place where their guard is no longer up and they trust the other attendees, speakers and exhibition vendors, to consider possibilities for their businesses. Collaboration happens faster and more easily in some countries over others. Because of the way the market works, the North American property industry has a long history of referring clients geographically all around the nation and even locally for financial rewards as a common practice. It is this element that makes Canadians and Americans are more likely to enter into a state of collaboration more quickly than "Commonwealth" Property Professionals, who immediately have a guard up to competitors who may also be attending the conference. And this is not just specific to commonwealth nations, but any market where there is a fiduciary interest to the seller alone. Conferences and Expos that cater for this clientele need to work much harder to induce a state of collaboration.