When Sohail Rashid first told me his software automatically tracked the conveyancing process without an agent or conveyancer needing to enter information manually, obviously I was sceptical.
So we duly asked for a demonstration to see whether Sohail’s claim was too good to be true. Here’s what we saw and learned.
According to Which?, three in ten property purchases fall through. It’s amazing to think in 2017 that not only have we been short-changed on jet-packs, flying cars and colonies on the moon, but buying and selling a home is still a woefully uncertain and stressful process.
We put the blame on the conveyancing process as a whole, but in truth there are many reasons and people that cause home sales to fall through.
Many people will tell you that’s just how it is; keep calm and carry on. But this becomes a problem when you don’t even know your sale or purchase has fallen, leaving you with no options to save the sale.
Amazingly, ViewMyChain monitors all the properties going through conveyancing and flags up situations where a property has gone back on the market or been advertised to let.
Sohail said their database has taken some time to get to the level where they can monitor listings, local authority searches and other points in the process to flag what stage a sale is at.
Not only does this remove the need for agents to chase conveyancers, buyers and vendors, but it gives them the ability to see what’s going on in the rest of the chain.
In my demo, I saw an on-page showing five inter-related transactions in a deal, each one with boxes showing key milestones.
Sohail explained that if an address matches, the box will go green and give a date for when that milestone was reached. But they wouldn’t flag “false positives”.
He said. “If we have an address with multiple flats, we’ll show there’s a potential match, rather than saying for definite it’s the property in question.”
It’s obvious a lot of thought and experience has gone into this product. This is genuinely one of the best pieces of innovation I’ve seen: it’s both simple to use and transformative to how agents work.
While Fixflo reduced management email and phone call volume massively with its simple picture-based triage for tenants to report issues, ViewMyChain removes almost all the uncertainty with the conveyancing process and where other properties are in the chain.
Most importantly, it gives agents confidence when speaking with their vendors on how the sale is progressing.
Sohail said the service costs £235 per month per brand.
Agencies using ViewMyChain saw completions in December 2016 take between 12 and 17 days less than the average time to completion of 94 days.
Personally, I think this could make your friendly neighbourhood estate agent a lot more trusted. In a world where reviews and ratings online count for a lot, clear communication on a stressful home sale makes all the difference to how happy a customer feels.
I can’t wait to see how the perception of agents changes as this excellent piece of software permeates the world of estate agency. Please do feed back to EYE on your experiences.
Automation is an opportunity and a threat
I tend to watch movies as I put my new-born daughter to sleep. The noise is comforting to her and it saves me from staring up at a dark ceiling while she struggles to find her way to dreamland.
Last night the following dialogue caught my imagination:
Scout: Major League Baseball and its fans, they’re going to be more than happy to throw you and Google boy under a bus if you keep doing what you’re doing here. You don’t put a team together with a computer, Billy.
Billy (General Manager): No?
Scout: No. Baseball isn’t just numbers. It’s not science, and if it was, then anyone could do what we do. But they can’t because they don’t know what we know. They don’t have our experience and they don’t have our intuition.
Scout: Billy, you’ve got a kid in there who’s got a degree in Economics from Yale. You got a scout here with 29 years of baseball experience. You’re listening to the wrong one. Now there are intangibles that only baseball people understand. You’re discounting what scouts have done for a hundred and fifty years, even yourself.
Billy: Adapt or die.
For movie buffs, this is Moneyball – the film about how data changed the world of baseball.
I couldn’t help but think of all the comments in EYE stories about how people need other people to sell their home. It’s all too complex to either DIY or leave to a machine. There’s so much more to selling property than listing on Rightmove.
And they’re right. But they’re also wrong. The world today needs a person to hold their hands through a home sale. But will the world of tomorrow need anything more than an app that can, say, automatically track where all the properties in your chain are at?
We live in a world where there are fewer information asymmetries. Will the information and knowledge that agents have soon be both common wisdom and easily augmented by simple and easy to access apps on the internet?
As Brad Pitt’s character, Billy Beane, said in Moneyball: If you try to play like the Yankees in here, you’re going to get beaten by the Yankees out there (on the field).
Proptech takes over MIPIM in Cannes
There was the usual chatter of lots of Proptech happenings at MIPIM, the massive property world conference on the French Riviera. But all reports are that this year marked a genuine change. So I asked two well-respected people to provide an account of their experience in Cannes.
First up is Rajeev Nayyar of Fixflo, whose software has changed residential property management and he’s now got a commercial property version to build a market for:
Having heard of the legendary MIPIM as my time as a property lawyer in the city, I was delighted to attend his year and it exceeded all expectation.
My opinion had been tainted by the view that MIPIM is just an excuse to drink by in the sun by the sea. While some of that happens, it’s the ultimate way to get in front of the key decision makers in the property world in Europe.
This was the first time that the conference was open to the idea that technology would play a role in the future of the industry. Reed MIDIM, the organisers, set aside an area for technology to be explored.
My key take away is if you have a technology business that is business to business, then attendance of MIPIM is a must.
Not just to interact with customers, who are there for the purpose of networking. But also multi-billion dollar tech companies to start-ups, because everyone is there for networking, they are open to happenstance conversations that occur on La Croisette, the main road outside the bunker – which is the main exhibition area.
What were our tangible outputs? Well, within two days of coming back I’ve secured five meetings with prospective clients across both resi and commercial property, and started conversations with two new prospective partners.
It was the mix of people that made the week worth it – put together highly motivated people in property and technology who are driven and open to new ideas and sharing ideas, and you end up with something absolutely wonderful.
That cross pollenisation of ideas will lead to wonderful stuff coming out of it. But that will only happen if you are willing to open up to have honest conversations from the starting point of helping others rather than being self-serving.
An example was when I introduced someone to a sports agency – they were a residential and commercial agency looking to get sports people into property. This wouldn’t have happened if I’d just been talking about my product.
A key tip for people thinking of going for the first time: aim for the ‘Goldilocks’ number of meetings – if that’s all that happens, then you’ve got good value, but not so fully booked that you still have time for those happenstance meetings to help others and be helped by others.
One 20-30 minute meeting per hour, rather than two 20-30 minute meetings per hour.
If you’re going to go, book early – we’re booking accommodation this week.
Future Proptech Conference
Next up is Gary Chimwa who runs the excellent Future Proptech conference, which has a theme of ‘Corporate Innovation and Digital Transformation in Real Estate’ in its next edition on May 4.
Guaranteed rent takes off in the US
Rezi – www.rentrezi.com – is a concept similar to Rentify in the UK and just graduated from the famous Y-Combinator accelerator programme.
The concept is simple: being a landlord is time-consuming and if you own single-family homes you don’t have the scale to provide a professional operation.
Rezi will rent from you and take care of everything, providing you with a guaranteed rent.
It’s a popular service with some landlords in the UK, who are largely of the ‘accidental’ kind.
We’ll see whether technology can help make the process scale so that there’s a large brand people trust.