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Pandemic providing push for proptech players

Offr co-founders
5 min read
Offr co-founders Niall Dawson (left), Robert Hoban and Philip Farrell.

Pandemic providing push for proptech players

COVID-19 has accelerated the digitisation of the property sector, prompting local technology group PropertyMe to move on an international expansion after signing the millionth rental property to its books, while Irish proptech Offr is preparing an Australian launch.

COVID-19 has accelerated the digitisation of the property sector, prompting local technology group PropertyMe to move on an international expansion after signing the millionth rental property to its books, while Irish proptech Offr is preparing an Australian launch.

Earlier this month, PropertyMe secured a four-bedroom home in the northern Sydney suburb of Riverview as the millionth property on its cloud based platform, which is designed to make rental management a seamless and transparent process for both renters and investors.

With around 2.3 million rental properties in Australia, PropertyMe is getting close to having 50 per cent market share, with the software assisting the processing of more than $1 billion in rental payments in each month.

PropertyMe director of customer success Lisa Pentland said the platform gave tenants greater visibility of the status of their accounts, with access to lease expiries, payment histories and maintenance requests all provided through a custom-built app.

For property investors, peace of mind is provided through the 24/7 visibility of the status of their investment.

Ms Pentland said the pandemic had accelerated the takeup of the platform from many agencies that had been considering it prior to the crisis.

“A lot of those businesses who possibly would have waited a little bit longer said ‘we have to go, we knew that we had to do it eventually but there has never been a better time or greater reason to move’,” Ms Pentland told Australian Property Investor Magazine.

“It’s all about the serviceability for the investor at the end of the day. They can see that their properties are being well managed and well looked after.”

Ms Pentland said property managers across Australia had been inundated with calls for help from tenants at the beginning of the crisis, a process that was smoothed by having access to PropertyMe.

“Imagine hundreds of tenants losing their jobs overnight within a portfolio, absolutely panicking and contacting property managers to work it out,” Ms Pentland said.

“For property managers were to manage that volume of enquiry, and similarly landlords were able to contact their property manager to ask whether their tenants will be able to pay the rent.

“Having PropertyMe meant that property managers could then have the conversations that they needed to have with their landlords, work out a payment program that everybody was happy with and was manageable.”

PropertyMe is gearing up to expand its operations to the United States and the United Kingdom, Ms Pentland said, with both markets having similarities to Australian property.

"The US is a huge market, we feel that our product would be very competitive in both the US and the UK markets, and with the cloud-based product, you can be anywhere 24/7, provided you have internet access, that’s all you need," Ms Pentland said.

"There are still server-based products that are predominant in those marketplaces so there is an opportunity for a really neat cloud-based package.

"The needs of propeerty managers in any of these other countries are not hugely different, the core function is very similar as far as receipting money, managing inspections and maintenance."

COVID-19 has also provided the impetus for Irish proptech group Offr to expedite the development of its digital platform, which digitises the buying, selling and leasing process for both sellers and buyers.

Offr has been in development for around 10 months and recently attracted $4.7 million in seed funding, with Barclays Bank leading the capital raising.

“COVID has changed the landscape completely, it closed off real-estate; we’re bringing it online,” co-founder Robert Hoban said.

“I expected we’d be where we are today in five years' time. 

“We built Offr with a clear and simple goal, to change the way property is bought and sold; to make it faster, more transparent and more enjoyable for real estate agents, buyers and everyone else involved in the process.

“The fact is, the stress, uncertainty and longevity of buying and selling property are just products of an outdated, yet somehow accepted system. We made it our goal to address these problems.”

Chief technology officer Niall Dawson said Offr’s technology was designed to sit on individual real estate agencies’ websites and provides end-to-end facilitation of property sales by auction or private treaty, as well as leasing.

“We allow users to request information from the agent, but we also have document download, so legal documents can be stored on a property by property basis and we also allow people to book viewings, do virtual viewings, 3D walkthroughs, and we do video content,” he said.

“But our main thing, and the hint is in the name of the company, is we allow people to place offers on the property.”

Mr Dawson said agents in Ireland had taken to the platform enthusiastically, with the fact that the technology can be integrated easily into an existing website, complete with branding and logos, a key attractor.

“The agents really like that because a lot of agents build their brand over the years and they like to reinforce their brand,” Mr Dawson said.

“We put a lot of effort into making it a fully white-label solution, and they appreciate being able to send their potential purchasers to their own website.”

Mr Dawson said Offr had initially planned to launch an expansion to Australia in 2021, but the pandemic had prompted them to move those plans forward.

He said discussions with three well-known property agencies regarding an Australian launch were underway, with South Africa and New Zealand also in the company’s plans.

“It’s been a good few months for us in terms of the opportunity that’s presented,” Mr Dawson said.

“We had plans to look to Australia in a year from now, but that actually came forward because a lot of Australian agents actually came knocking on our door.”

Mr Dawson said the Australian expansion originated through Irish government agency Enterprise Ireland, which helps develop and support start-up companies.

“They basically said: ‘there are companies over there that are crying out for what you guys do, do you want to talk to them?’,” he said.

“We had a few conversations, and off the back of those conversations we’ve decided to bring our plans forward a year.

“We are in discussions with a number of Australian agents at the moment to see what we can do for them. 

“Things are looking good, from an Irish point of view we have also been able to help Irish companies do transactions that they previously wouldn’t have been able to do because of lockdown.”

 

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