Traditionally, the rental market has been driven by high street letting agents, but is technology destroying the future of their businesses?
High street letting agents conventionally advertise properties in their windows and prospective tenants are required to visit their office to sign tenancy agreements. However, technology is changing the norm and streamlining the process for tenants.
In recent years, the introduction of online portals has made it easier for tenants to discover available rental properties and information about them. People now have a wealth of information at their fingertips and can compare any UK property in one place. They have access to interior and exterior images of the property, floor plans and dimensions, and street maps to search the surrounding area.
As technology begins to change the property industry, removing geographical barriers and the need for high street letting agents, it’s no surprise that more and more landlords are signing up to online advertising platforms.
Integrated artificial intelligence (AI) has also become increasingly popular within the private rental sector, using robots to automatically respond to customer questions and queries, and performing tasks such as automated room bookings and finding the nearest travel routes. AIs can learn human behaviour and pick out keywords from customer queries to create instant, tailored and human-like responses.
Danielle Cullen, the Managing Director of StudentTenant.com, explains the changes to the sector: “Integrating an AI into StudentTenant.com has enhanced our user experience, dramatically streamlining the process for customers wanting to find out more information about a property. Our AI responds to around 50% of student property queries, using keywords and machine learning to answer customer questions.
“The system is able to share information about the closest train station or travel route, when the last EPC [Energy Performance Certificate] check was carried out and what the property scored, how many rooms are still available in the property, or work out the average costs for bills instantly and automatically. The implementation of AI on our site has taken away the need for our team to spend time responding to general enquiries, freeing up time for them to work on other tasks and enhancing the user experience significantly.”
The rental market is also seeing the gradual integration of live chat features for the remaining queries that cannot be answered by an AI, offering users the opportunity to chat with agents online, rather than picking up the phone. Live chat is becoming increasingly popular and, with screen-sharing capabilities, which can enable agents to control a customer’s mouse and screen to assist them using the website, it’s changing the way agents interact with tenants.
Cullen continues: “Our team has been working hard to implement the feature into our site, and we’re really excited for the release in the next couple of days. It’s really convenient for our customers, as they no longer have to navigate through a maze of numeric options on the phone. Instead, they can directly chat with someone from our team instantly who has access to a wide range of useful tools to help the user to the best of our ability.”
Innovation in the market has also caused huge changes in the way prospective tenants view a property. Customers no longer need to arrange property viewings with high street letting agents or visit the property at all, thanks to virtual tours. Users can navigate through a property with a full 360-degree view, from anywhere, at any time.
Cullen says: “Students now have the ability to view properties online, rather than having to organise travel and time to visit a property. Virtual property viewing is great for students who may live some distance away from their university town, or even international students looking for housing who are not even in the same country.
“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.”
What do you think of the way tech is changing the role of high street letting agents?
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