I find the technology space fascinating. I am so intrigued how technology has driven change around the world, across every single industry since humans have existed. From striking flint to make fires, to creating the Hadron Collider and discovering ‘Dark Matter’ I think that we can all agree we have come a very long way indeed. I don’t doubt that we have a very long way to go, but I feel that we are inquisitive enough and motivated enough to solve the problems that currently face us as a species. Call me a rational optimist if you will.
In property specifically, technology has revolutionized the ability for people to rent homes over and over again. From the printing press helping people advertise available spaces for rent using adverts to the Internet we have democratized the information available about properties. Rightmove, Zoopla and Gumtree have battled it over this space for almost a decade now if not longer, and are continuously hungry for new property to feed the machine. The thing is that these websites are no more than great ad-revenue funded platforms, charging to connect buyers with sellers and nothing else.
I am not sure that this approach is enough anymore. As the Internet has developed and the plethora of devices and people that are attached to it continues to grow, the one thing that we are doing more of than ever in human history is creating data and sharing information. We are hungry for it; it helps us make decisions that are right for us. It gives us the inside edge, a competitive advantage if you will. So I think that information about the property is now almost seen as a commodity. It’s expected in some way, and without this it’s pretty hard to achieve anything. However, as bankers, lettings/estate agents and landlords continue to take a battering in the press due to a few ‘rogues’ I think that the end consumers are looking for more information about the people they are dealing with. They are really asking themselves the question, “Can I trust this person, and therefore this business that they represent?”
This started years ago when EBay enabled seller and buyer ratings and has now moved into what is dubbed the “sharing economy”, where people trade on their own personal online reputation. From short-term rentals to taxi rides we are seeing people take real ownership of their reputations, because without them they are unable to make a living.Airbnb andUber are 2 fantastic examples of such platforms that have educated its users of their importance, and now are seen as leaders in their industries.
“So why is this important to me?” I hear you ask?
Tenants have been asked for many years to provide references that are ultimately designed to make your life as a property owner or agent easier when it comes to making that all-important decision about who do you let sign the rental agreement. But do they really achieve that? Do they really help you make the right decision? We hear horror stories of landlords letting the wrong renters into their properties all the time, and I don’t believe the aims of the individual agent are actually aligned with being thorough when doing referencing. It is a cut-throat, low margin business and so it’s about the quantity of deals that an agent can push through the door. Failing a tenant in referencing after the landlord has said, “I am happy with this tenant, subject to referencing” just does not work. So unfortunately the underlying dynamics of the current status quo in the rental market are just fundamentally broken. There is no incentive for agents to get the best tenant for that property. They simply have neither the time, nor the tools to do so.
But by passing a tenant through referencing an agent can negate any legal claim from a landlord if that tenancy goes sour once they have signed on the dotted line.
The problem is that these referencing processes are just not that thorough, there is no social proof. It’s actually quite hard to fail a tenant reference unless something glaringly obvious pops up like a CCJ or a bankruptcy.
For the renters the referencing process is a laborious and repetitive one, especially over someone’s entire rental life. We are now beginning to see renters take an online approach to this much like the professional CV has gone online withLinkedIn. This approach enables these tech savvy renters to curate and share their rental reputations over their lifetimes helping them get the better rental properties, saving them time and money in the long term. As this space continues to develop you will of course see more functionality added to websites, such asMovebubble, that facilitate this kind of rental reputation building.
Now I think that there is a perfect storm forming on the horizon, with social collaborative technologies such as social media converging with a growth in the rental market. Two things are going to happen. The first is the number of renters is going to grow, and the second is that the voice of those renters is going to grow too. It will be loud and it will move fast, being shared and (on occasion) going viral. A real life example of this is a recent post I read talking about ‘The Worst Landlord in the UK’. A young renter was effectively ripped off by a live in landlord and so decided to create a wholewebsite, and share it. It turned out that a number of other renters had been ripped off by the very same landlord, in the very same way. Yep, you got it; it went viral. The website has now been viewed by over 70,000 people and it has appeared on over 200,000 Facebook timelines…! I am not sure that this landlord is going to be doing much more ‘landlord’ing’!
We are entering a period where tenants now hold real consumer power where previously they have been less well heard. These individuals are loud and online, some with many thousands of followers on social media, blogs. They have seen the proliferation of reputations in other industries using websites such as Airbnb and are now beginning to ask “Hey, why don’t we have this in long term rentals?”
We already know that 92% of renters would prefer to see landlord references; and that those agent and property owner users with a better, more complete profile on Movebubble are getting most of the renter enquiries. It’s not that you have to manage your profile, but that if you don’t you are going to miss all the best, professional, well paid renters that you all want to find and place in rental homes. Those are the ones that deliver sustained rental income, the dream for landlords and agents alike.
We see the clever landlords and agents being acutely aware of their own business reputations with some businesses already using business review systems such as Revoo, Google Reviews and TrustPilot and most attempting to manage their reputations via social media. The point is that this is broad and faceless and we are moving into the peer-to-peer mindset, where renters will decide whether to engage with you based your past quality of work and customer service as individuals. Your personal reputation (that you can carry around the world, from property to property and agency to agency) will become ever more important. I can even see it getting to a point where agents will get hired or fired based on their rental reputations over the coming years, and businesses will pay premiums to have a team of only the best agents with great rental reputations.
And once you have that rental reputation you have to maintain it, engaging to comments and remarks, answering questions when asked and adding value to the renter communities with valuable insights.
As my mum always told me, “it takes a lifetime to build a reputation but only a moment to ruin it”. The moral of the story, start building yours today.
Article Courtesy of: Logan Hall, co-founder Movebubble