Eddie Holmes is one of the UK's most regarded proptech experts and was recently named one of LendInvest's top 25 influencers on the subject. He spoke with PPW to offer a comprehensive analysis of the past, present and future of the sector.
With over a decade's worth of experience providing professional services to leading property businesses and portals including Zoopla, Countrywide and Connells, Holmes knows a thing or two about proptech.
When Holmes was starting out, he soon came to realise the power that technology could bring companies in terms of efficiencies and customer experience.
“It became apparent how slowly the property industry was adopting technology,” he says.
“This was the case throughout the value chain – builders, investors, agents, portals and others were continuing with a business-as-usual strategy when consumers were experiencing ever deeper and broader deployment of technology in all other areas of their lives.”
Holmes says technology appeared to offer either a threat or an opportunity to the companies he was working with - depending on their perspectives and strategies. Being an opportunist, he decided to embed himself in the industry and has established a career out of advising companies on proptech.
During the same year he also established Launch 22, a charity to support entrepreneurs. It was this venture that catapulted him to the forefront of the scene.
“One of our Launch22 trustees is Harry Hill - a former CEO of Countrywide and founder of Rightmove," Holmes explains.
"Our respective backgrounds mean that we get quite a few aspiring proptech entrepreneurs come to us, which further helps me to keep a detailed overview of what’s happening in the sector.”
Bearing this in mind, we’ve asked Eddie to give PPW a snapshot of the industry in his own words; how it’s evolved and what trends may emerge in the future.
The first wave was (is) consumer-facing sites like Rightmove & Zoopla Property Group, which provided the consumer with easy, unparalleled access to the supply side. This is now extending into online agents which are making markets at a lower cost. Ultimately, neither portals nor online agents represent “deep technology” so much as the digitization of offline processes, and neither serve to disintermediate the market. Online agents are still simply agents after all.
These businesses don’t necessarily revolutionise the way the property market works but do offer new opportunities for agents whilst also improving the customer experience of transacting or managing property.
Setting aside areas like virtual and augmented reality or smart homes, these businesses will be truly game changing. They will tackle fundamental problems such as:
Businesses in these areas require a longer term outlook, but by 2025 it will not be unusual to see property as a much more liquid asset with transfers done in days rather than months and financed through non-traditional methods.
For portals, the dynamic remains the same – view technology as an opportunity or a risk. A market-matching willing buyer and willing seller will always need to be made but, will portals ultimately serve that purpose? Or will the traditional high street agent continue to exist? Perhaps an online or hybrid agent will obtain enough market share to enable them to act as a de facto portal in their own right? The latter outcome is intriguing as they are building bespoke technology designed to delight the consumer where the typical traditional agent is simply not geared up to design, build or distribute technology.
However; the current wave of online agents have yet to crack a sustainable business model.
One thing is for sure - it will be fascinating to watch. And the winners are easy to predict: those businesses who are obsessive about building technology that delights the consumer.