Being a tech enthusiast, and working as a commercial acquisitions surveyor helping businesses with their workspace requirements and strategy, it is clear to me that we are entering a new and exciting era for commercial property. The tide has been changing for some time but it feels like in the last year the industry is finally standing to attention, realising that adopting commercial prop-tech is no longer an idea, but a necessity!
In my opinion, this evolution can be mainly attributed to two things; rapid Improvement in technology and a new generational mindset coming to power. The residential property sector has seen the most significant technology advancements with the rise of online-based estate agents, and now I feel it is the commercial sector’s turn. Although, I get the impression that innovators and tech companies are beginning to realise that it is a much harder nut to crack!
I thought I would start my first article by attempting to answer three fundamental questions which I am hearing on the topic of commercial prop-tech when attending events, speaking to other surveyors, professionals and prop-tech companies.
Will tech put us out of a job?
Let me deflect the concern that technology will displace the need for professionals with the rise of the surveying machines – technology acts only as a supporting tool. The majority of proposed and existing commercial prop-tech are data aggregation systems. How much of a surveyor’s time is wasted on archaic, inefficient and unnecessarily complicated portals? Tech is the solution. Ultimately, there will always be a need for professionals to interpret this data for clients and relate it to current legislation. I really don’t think any type of algorithm could tackle the plethora of different situations a surveyor has to advise on, so I think we can sleep easy for now.
Will the industry actually use this new technology?
Competition is always high and in this modern world, if you don’t embrace technology, you are not operating optimally and will ultimately not be serving your client efficiently. Commercial prop-tech is nothing new. For instance, CoStar and Egi have been around for many years and are used widely throughout the industry. The difference is that there are now several new innovators coming into the scene asking “do these platforms really offer the best solution utilising modern technology?” Certain generations might be reluctant to fully support these innovators by having the “if it’s not broke why fix it” attitude. I think all surveyors will agree there are elements of their job, normally administration, which are extremely inefficient and dated, so why not improve that by embracing technology? Realistically, I think full adoption of the new commercial prop-tech systems will be client-led and these new systems are possibly still in their infancy, so until they are robust enough in terms of data, they will not be fully implemented across the industry.
What does the future have in store for the commercial property industry?
In my opinion, I think that tech will advance in this field much more rapidly due to the increased interest from tech companies and investors. We are in a time reminiscent of when technology started disrupting the financial sector and now fin-tech is huge, but arguably saturated and at its limit, whereas commercial property is ripe for evolution. I think the first big breakthroughs are going to be the growth of new platforms like SPD and Datcha which aggregates big property data. I think we are going to see a more transparent and free movement of accurate information which will not only save time but also enable us to serve clients better by using accurate and credible data rather than the historic old boys’ network which can sometimes be as accurate as Wikipedia! There is no doubt that prop-tech is a rapidly growing side to property, and I for one, endorse the movement to a more technology integrated commercial property industry.
I also invite any surveyors to comment, as it seems our opinions are often ignored by tech companies with the focus being on the tech, but ultimately it is us who are at the front line and the main users of the technology. We at Based Hub are excited about the evolution of commercial real-estate, you can find out more about us at www.basedhub.com/about-us
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Written by Matt Perkins MRICS (Founder of Based Hub)