Home Truths: Will Clicks Replace Bricks?
James Davis, Upad CEO and Founder, explains how Upad works, how it is disrupting the industry sector and gives landlords the opportunity to join Upad in it’s continued expansion.
Upad is a nationwide online lettings agency. We harness Internet technology to deliver services previously only offered by high street agents, at a fraction of the cost. On average, landlords spend over half their annual net profit (£1,144) through traditional high street agents to find a tenant. By comparison, we offer an industry leading property marketing service from just £120.
We are also disrupting the fragmented £3bn rental market as an internet‐based supplier of services to residential landlords, where our platform simplifies the complexity of finding tenants and managing the tenancy thereafter. All delivered with an outstanding service of ARLA qualified, trained and insured account managers, 7 days a week.
We empower landlords to take control of their business- in the last 12 months we have let over 12,500 properties – representing the equivalent of a 60+ branch high street agency.
Here are some home truths, which suggest lettings will move from bricks to clicks:
- 92% tenants start their search online
- 56% do so on mobile devices (up 3x over the past 12 months)
- 39% tenants enquire outside of normal office hours
- Of the 150k properties coming onto the rental market every month (and rising), more landlords now choose not to employ a high-street agent, and would rather use online agents or similar businesses. They simply don’t trust a 3rd party to do a good job for them.
The reason I operate Upad as such is that I don’t believe lettings is an ecommerce platform at large. And it’s a mistake some of our direct competitors have made – offering a self-serve platform built by developers and coders, which will only gain traction from a niche pool of early adopter customers. They are unlikely to be true disrupters.
Education and empowerment
Most landlords need educating or empowering- as they are either fairly new to this (over half have been a landlord for sub 5 years), or operating as such in their spare time – and this leads into the need to offer superior customer service and support, which are key to succeeding.
Landlords need trusted guidance – as Rightmove have been promoting of recent from their own findings. I'd like to think we act as a ‘lighthouse’ for landlords, making them aware of potential pitfalls and how to get the most out of their rental business.
Getting a property onto Rightmove & Zoopla is an important part, but only a small part of what is needed to let a property. It’s less about the rental price today – ‘success’ is now driven by how much that property ‘stands out’ online – and that it doesn’t succumb to the ‘swipe effect’ when tenants scroll through property listings on their mobile device. The presentation aspect is crucial - our landlord team, including property performance managers, made up of actual humans, drive this heavily with our customers.
Particularly, tenancy agreements are a minefield for landlords. Requests of what customers want adding in and previous versions that are sent across from their previous high street agent, is an eye-watering area of concern; frequently they are out-dated and/ or un-enforceable clauses- or both!
Our systems and processes for delivering 1000s of bespoke tenancy agreements have been refined over the years; where we have ultimately put the customer at the heart of the Upad platform. Our daily customer reviews on Trustpliot – now at 9.6 out of 10 - and the length of the reviews customers leave further drives trust between the business and our customers. Sadly, this is very much lacking from the bricks model.
Drive for superior customer service
Whilst I am obviously immensely proud of our customer satisfaction – which drives new business to the degree that 60% of customers have referred a friend – customer surveys continuously tell us that Upad gives our landlords a faster time to let, 45% less rent arrears, happier tenants, longer tenancies and less costly mistakes. The fact that our customers, to date, have invested over £1m into the business, clearly demonstrates where this marketplace is heading.
Those offering superior customer service will drive change and win new business – across many sectors, not just in lettings.
- We all want stuff now.
- We don’t want to wait several days when ordering something online.
- We expect an answer when submitting a question online through live chat or email.
- We expect businesses to be open 24-7.
- We expect businesses to have a customer care team who understand what they are selling.
At Upad, we have a dedicated team, trained to understand the business to best serve our customers. Our Account Managers and administration staff our ARLA qualified to offer the best support of any online letting agent. We are making steps to ensure landlords are able to conduct their business outside of office hours by opening until late weekdays and at the weekends.
Upad’s next steps
It takes time to build the new platform the lettings sectors needs (which we have been working on for several years now) but it’s not about throwing cash at it, as some of direct competitors are starting to realise to their detriment.
Nor can this solution be achieved from making amendments to the traditional high street model. It’s imperative to empower landlords to self-serve and educating them on how to be digital property marketing gurus – throughout my business we have put the customer at the heart of all our operations – with a ‘new model’ which is totally customer focused throughout.
The high street at large is only surviving with its current market share because of customer inertia - landlords should be doing due diligence on their ‘partners’ as lettings is an increasing dynamic like many other areas of life – we should be rating our existing marketing channel or partner by their response times, servicing levels, their digital marketing skills and fees, for example- just as we do with insurance, utilities and mobile phones.
I see the lettings sector reaching a tipping point imminently, where PropTech will take root from its green shoots at present. I’m desperate for change to occur so we can all manage our rental properties far more effectively- I want Upad to be the platform that landlords can turn to. And it would appear Jefferies, the global banking investment firm, do too; as they said in October 2016 “The real prize for the residential market is within lettings. Upad play well in the faster moving urban centric lettings markets.”
Our customers have invested over £1m into the business, if you want to join them and support us in our successful journey, you can find out more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.