Asa Bentley is the Managing Director at award-winning, PropTech driven, online real estate agency, MakeUrMove. Leading the pace of technological innovation in the Property sector, MakeUrMove has recently launched Credit Ladder, a groundbreaking new scheme aimed at helping tenants build up their credit score through making consistent on-time rental payments. The company has also been instrumental in bringing estate agency, particularly in terms of lettings and property management, fully online, streamlining and bringing new levels of efficiency to the industry.
With PropTech firmly at its heart, MakeUrMove is, most definitely, one of the leading companies in the industry to watch out for over the next few years. So, I had a chat with Asa, to pick his brains about how he sees the future of PropTech.
What are your feelings on your PropTech sector at the minute and how do you fit into it all?
Excitement! I’ve been involved in property technology since the first raft of online agents entered the property market in 2008. There was a passion to make the property experience better for all, and I believe this passion has drawn more people into the industry, resulting in a cumulative effect.
This tipping point is set to come, it’s just a question of when.
Personally, I have run the online agency, MakeUrMove, for nearly 4 years now, dealing with tens of thousands of landlords and tenants. More recently, we have developed an online property management property sales solution. We’ve become very efficient and our customers love us. I’m proud of what we have achieved so far, and am looking forward to the future.
How important is the tech side of your business at MakeUrMove, and do you see this evolving with upcoming developments. If so, where do you see the move?
My people come first. If I look after them they look after our customers. The technology allows my staff to spend less time on administration and more time helping people.
We’ve always looked to maximise a self-service approach. If our website gives a customer all they need, with a requirement to contact us only if they want advice, then I know we’ve nailed it.
We’ll also extend our services to become an all-encompassing property company, reaching more customers through further process reconciliation and efficiency gains. The barriers to entry for more commercial activities are lowering all of the time. I am confident that technology, combined with value and service, will cause some seismic shifts across the board.
You recently released Credit Ladder. How will this change the industry, and how does it fit in with your model?
My CTO George and I discovered that UK tenants receive no credit benefit for making on-time rental payments. We spoke to Experian, and they were addressing this in the social housing sector, working in partnership with Big Issue Invest. We partnered with them, and they have been a dream to work with.
We developed Credit Ladder as a website that allows tenants to pay their rent through our service. We then report their rent payments to Experian, and they will receive a credit benefit over time. The service is free to both landlords and tenants, whilst we look to monetize the service through home-moving affiliates.
There is a stigma that is attached to millennials that they will not be able to own a home in the future. My personal view is that home ownership is achievable for all, but only by choosing the correct financial path. I have a passion to help people achieve their dream of home ownership. I want our site to be the go-to for those seeking improved personal finance performance.
We don’t want tenants wasting their good rental payment history. We want tenants to get the same credit benefit for rental payments the same way that mortgage payers do. We want people to be able to have the security of an owned home.
What excites you most about the next 5 years in the PropTech sector?
The adoption of new technologies is very exciting, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these new developments in the property industry will impact the experience for all parties.
The rise of IOT (the Internet of Things), which incorporates the physical world with the digital one, means that our homes will very soon be ‘smart’. This will revolutionise the property process. In terms of the rental market, for example, smart homes will be able to tell when tenants will be out, securely allowing prospective new tenants access for viewings, removing the requirement for accompanied viewings and thus efficiently streamlining the whole process.
AI and Machine Learning is also set to play an enormous part in PropTech. AI-led customer service will allow people to get the information that they need through speaking to their agent on an instant messenger platform. With bots able to immediately and accurately reply through the utilisation of machine learning, this will alter back offices significantly.
According to research by Dr Aderin-Pocock in 2015, 2,000 people were polled about which jobs would be taken over by machines. 40 per cent said estate agents.
I’m not sold on this personally, but I may come to eat my words. To provide access for viewings, maybe, but the bulk of the property experience is advice, communication and administration. We can look to make this efficient to an nth degree with technology, but I believe that the human aspect will always be necessarily involved. We will always need an advisor’s tacit knowledge to meet a specific customer needs. Technology, for me, cannot go the distance alone, and that’s why we maintain a focus on hiring the best individuals, and continuing to innovate in a structured way.
There are a lot of people trying to break into the PropTech sector. What are your tips for any start-ups trying to get going?
Firstly, pick and niche and do it well. Secondly, join an accelerator.
I’m seeing some really exciting entrants from accelerators such as Ignite and Seedcamp. Some examples include Trussle, an online mortgage service. Then there’s Reposit, who are replacing deposits with an admin fee for those who don’t want their cash tied up. Finally, there is a company called Homeshift, who inform all your suppliers quickly and efficiently when you move, thus cutting out all the manual work involved in switching to a new address.
As with any successful business, you should seek to solve a real and unique problem in the industry you’re breaking into. What the previous examples do well is they take one problem and solve it in a smart way, and keep things simple.
They also build their tech from an integration point of view, which allows them to develop a large user base without the traditional marketing spend. They also work very hard on securing strategic partnerships to leverage their resources for growth, so collaboration is key.
Find out more about MakeUrMove, and how their work is driving the future of real estate, on their website.
I’m always looking to interview innovators, influencers and thinkers in the PropTech space. If you’d like to be featured, please do drop me an email.