Remember when technology first grabbed you

Posted on 11 Jan

I remember the first time technology really grabbed me.

My son was travelling India alone and after a month in Goa was starting an ad hoc train tour of India.

He asked if he could spend his first night’s late arrival in a hotel close to the train station in Pune. I agreed.

At 10.30 that night I got a call from him, knackered and outside the station being bombarded by tuk tuk drivers offering to take him to the hotel – which he thought was next to the station.

I got out an iPad, Google Mapped the hotel in satellite mode, and asked whether he was standing outside the station.

I asked if he could see a footbridge over the railway to the right of the entrance and as he was walking over it told him to turn right and then first left and asked if he could see the hotel. He could.

We all know technology is out there, but too often it’s technology for its own sake.

It’s easy to feel that we should (whenever using this word I stop and ask myself why) be using more technology and that not doing so renders us inadequate, or behind the times.

Tech has been a buzzword this year, particularly in property, but there seem to be some who view estate agents as gullible consumers.

Tech company investments are ‘sold’ with over-priced visions of huge IPOs, often arrived at by venture capital or crowdfunding, then worked back to what an agent needs to pay to extract that value.

Well, agents will not adopt something new unless they see a commercial advantage – or they have a Pune railway station moment.

At the centre of this is the dichotomy, not always grasped by those wedded to tech, that the selling and buying of property is an emotional process, and luckily, as of now, proptech hasn’t replaced that most defining of human characteristics.

Having recently seen some of the country’s leading agents I can confirm that there is sane development in the industry, designed to see how sellers and buyers can be better served – which is exactly how it should be.

The lettings sector is perhaps ahead of the game insofar as most lettings processes are fast and poorly served even by the internet.

It is also the most open to abuse and so tech that helps people find, see and reserve a property to rent is clearly a worthwhile development, and letting agents have no trouble seeing that.

Sadly, sales is still struggling out of the 20th century.

Anyone criticising legal practices is deemed an iconoclast, while getting a mortgage is more difficult, esoteric and fraught than at any time I can remember.

Portals are simply a better form of advertising and arguably present buyers with too much choice. Email inboxes create a daunting workload and the best communication is still via a tool invented in 1876.

If there’s a lesson here it’s that anyone with a great idea for the property industry should run it past an agent first.

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