Estate agents continue to fear the future

A new house valuation app released by Rightmove this week could lead to “estate agents digging their own graves”, says KIS Lettings chief executive Ajay Jagota. His concerns stemmed from the fact that this new app had the potential to generate significantly inaccurate estimates on house prices. “Sometimes you have to ask yourself,” he says, “is this new technology serving me or am I serving it? There is no way a computer programme – even a very clever one – can ever match the local knowledge of the local market of a local estate agent.”

And while a local estate agent for local people is a nice enough idea, the mental and financial gymnastics required to navigate the related paperwork and fees are pushing more and more landlords and tenants towards disruptive platforms like Rentify. Jagota is justified in his assertion that an automated algorithm will never be able to deliver a fully satisfactory customer experience, but his insistence that this remains the remit of traditional estate agents is flawed. When was the last time you heard somebody raving about the positive experience they had with an agent?

Jagota is worried that allowing “robots” (his word) to take over sets an alarming precedent for the property world. He’s half right, of course; companies that shy away from innovation are bound to be left in the dust. But disrupting an entire industry is about more than simply creating an algorithm.

Rentify leverages technology, data, and most importantly people to market and manage properties in a timely and transparent fashion. When we established Rentify three years ago, we made the decision to think online-only as a way of staying agile and saving costs; savings we pass on to landlords with our capped rates. But being an innovative, online business doesn’t mean a thing without the personal touch. We’ve always believed that human talent is as crucial a resource as the latest technology; our dynamic team of property specialists oversees every stage of the lettings and property management process, and are on hand 24/7 to solve problems as they arise. We credit this dedication to personal service as a big part of the reason why over 150,000 landlords have signed up to Rentify since we began.

Maybe that’s why traditional estate agents are quick to deride and dismiss online alternatives. They have to pay for their high street shops and expensive advertising campaigns somehow, I suppose.

George Spencer is CEO of Rentify.