The rental market has benefited greatly from increased adoption of PropTech in recent years, but there is still progress to be made.
Innovative products and apps are allowing letting agents and landlords to manage the lettings process more efficiently, while tenants are able to carry out many parts of their rental transaction online.
But how far will the use of technology go in the rental market? One thing for sure is the need for agents and landlords to provide a personal service will remain.
Although many renters will want to manage their tenancy from their smartphone, they will expect someone to be on the other end of a phone when a serious problem arises.
The best PropTech is helping agents and landlords to offer a more personal service as it streamlines the time-consuming and clunkier parts of the process and frees up time spent on administration.
Below, we have put together six predictions for the future of PropTech in the private rental sector (PRS).
1. Contactless rentals to become more common
In the past, prospective renters were required to visit agents' office, provide various pieces of paperwork and be present for an inventory check-in before commencing their tenancy.
However, PropTech solutions are continuing to reduce contact in the pre-tenancy process. This means that in the near future, many more rentals may become 'contactless'.
In recent months, the issue has been pushed to the forefront of people's minds as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to social distance. The upshot is, however, that many agents, landlords and tenants will be keen to continue this process moving forward due to its speed, convenience and efficiency.
There are now many products available which allow inventory check-ins to be automated, document signing to be carried out online, viewings to be done remotely and comprehensive referencing to be carried out online using streamlined systems.
2. Rentals secured solely from virtual viewings
A key lesson the property market has learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is that virtual viewings are now an effective way to view properties thanks to advancements in technology.
For the majority of tenants, virtual viewings will be used as a way to whittle down their list of options before viewing their top choices in-person.
However, some renters - particularly those moving from far away or overseas - may be inclined to sign for a property after a high-quality virtual viewing.
In areas where the rental market is fast-moving and competition between tenants is high, it could become increasingly common to see properties let to tenants who are yet to visit the property in person.
Provided the renter is happy to take this approach and has passed a comprehensive screening process, there is no reason it can’t become an efficient and modern way for properties to be let.
3. A paperless rental process
Renting a property has traditionally been a process heavy on administration for tenants, while managing the paperwork has also been arduous for letting agents and landlords.
However, there is an increasing movement towards making the pre-tenancy process paperless. This means no endless printing and photocopying of the same documents as tenants can provide all their key information online.
Not only is this a quicker way to get tenancies signed, but the tenant's details can be kept securely and the information can be moved from tenancy to tenancy.
This approach is better for the environment and the quality of PropTech solutions has proven that the screening and sign-up process is no less thorough.
4. Increased adoption of Open Banking
After its success in the mortgage market, Open Banking is increasingly being used in the rental sector. Open Banking, which allows consumers and businesses to share their financial data with a range of apps, services and challenger banks, helps all sides of the rental transaction.
Letting agents and landlords can automate payments, reduce the margin for human error and offer a more streamlined referencing process. Paperwork is reduced, while there is also the benefit of being able to manage payments in real-time and avoid BACS.
All of this benefits tenants, who will also be able to use Open Banking to improve their credit scores and access the latest apps to help them compare banks, improve budgeting, search for credit or access a loan.
As Open Banking becomes more influential in all parts of our financial lives, there is no reason why it will not become the go-to way of managing finances and payments for renters, agents and landlords.
5. Online communication to become the norm
Another lesson learned from the pandemic relates to the use of online communication. Overnight, most people went from speaking on the phone or in person to having video calls.
Video calls are a great way for letting agents to build relationships with landlords and tenants, helping to provide that personal touch. Of course, meeting in person and speaking via the phone or email will still be common, but the way we communicate has changed forever this year.
Many agents, landlords and tenants already communicate via WhatsApp and this trend only looks set to continue. What's more, there are more apps for tenants to use - whether it's an agency's own app or a third-party app which helps them to book viewings or report property maintenance issues.
As the number of agency offices continues to reduce, so the adoption of online communication will grow. Communicating via video calls, texts and apps fits into people's daily habits and facilitates tasks being completed more efficiently.
6. A faster, stress-free lettings process
With adoption of PropTech continuing at a rapid rate, the rental process will continue to improve for consumers and will become easier to manage for property professionals.
Despite a slow technology uptake, the property industry has acknowledged its value in recent years and this change has been accelerated by Covid-19.
With less paperwork, more online communication, instant screening and automated processes, the rental process can become quicker than ever and much less stressful for all parties.
As we move towards 2021, next year's goal for the industry should be to continue to provide a more efficient and convenient service for consumers with the helping hand of the best PropTech products.