The Future of Property Management – REALABS focus towards the 2020s

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I have just celebrated being part of the team at realestate.com.au for 6 years. As a social scientist (and now Chief Inventor), I am always on the lookout for new research on the emotional hotspots in our industry – because where there’s heat, there’s opportunity to solve burning problems for our customers and consumers.

Nothing in my 6 years experience matches the consistently vexed tribes in Australia’s residential rental ecosystem. Nothing else seems to be quite as stressed – and thus ripe for radical competition to leap in from every side – from the ‘high service’ segment of the Australian market controlled by AirBnB; or the low-end being tackled by :Different with their $100/mth management fee and high profile TV campaign.

Let’s start with a quick Google Search shall we? Google data is fascinating – seeing what is autosuggested in the dropdown search list gives you a quick snapshot of what Australians are seeking in real-time related to a topic – that is how Google’s indexing system works to deliver fast results. There’s a great book on this quirky topic, Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz – worth reading. What do Australians know (or want to know) about Landlords?

Yowser! Not much love there.

Well, maybe there’ll be more goodwill towards tenants? After all, they are kind of the customer right?

No? Then, surely the Property Managers, who do a great diplomatic job joining the dots between tenants, tradies, and landlords, are all good on Google?

See what I’m getting at? Dig a little deeper and ask Siri (Apple’s AI – and it’s no joke, 30% of search in the USA is now done by voice!) about some of the rental agencies in Melbourne. And risk dredging up so much Yelp-hate it hurts to read … in fact, just examine your own history as Property Manager or Principal of an agency – have you got a horror story or two you need to vent about?

Now, we’re not the first to figure this out. You can be sure there is an active global startup community setting out to solve this same problem, like the couple of Aussies who moved to London, saw how terrible the renting experience was there, and started Yabonza  – a software platform managed on razor-thin margins with a 3.9% fee to Landlords. They moved the business back to Sydney in October last year.

The thinking in REALABS is that realestate.com.au, with the high levels of consumer trust in our brand, and extensive Property Manager relationships, might be uniquely poised as an organisation to work on this problem.

We have a long-standing investment in the rental business with the Rent teams in realestate.com.au; a solid and repeat audience of property investors; most of the rental listings (up to 900,000 a year on realestate.com.au); Flatmates as a business; 1Form as a business (where we hold hundreds of thousands of consumer profiles, and get 2m rental applications a year); a partnership with Launch Housing catering to people looking desperately for a rental as they escape domestic violence (I’m not just talking about rich folk renting here!); a partnership with Inspect Real Estate (IRE); and an industry expert in our Chief Economist Nerida Conisbee.

We also have a keen organisational eye for research and discovery, so even if the solutions aren’t obvious, we can be good business anthropologists and dig deep to discover the real issues at stake here.

However, for all that technology, research, data, consumer-love, and volume of eyeballs on realestate.com.au, 1Form and Flatmates, the rental and property investment industry lives and dies on the last mile of customer service –delivered by Australia’s Property Managers working tirelessly to get the job done. So in REALABS, we’re focused on creating the non-technological currencies of time, trust and transparency for that last mile, to support an industry entering a whole new era in the 2020s.

Nigel Dalton will speak at the REIQ RealTech Conference, October 10. This event sold out last year so get your tickets here.