Agents get set to launch new platform which they say will cut ‘thankless’ workload

Two letting agents are about to launch a platform which they say will hugely cut down on the amount of time branches spend processing the end of tenancies.

Kristjan Byfield and An Deckers, co-founders of Base Property Specialists in east London, say they have spent three years developing The Depositary.

The service deals with the problems and workload agents face at the end of tenancies.

Byfield – a well-known personality in the industry and a regular at agency events – said: “The conclusion of a tenancy is probably the most stressful and demanding part of a let for an agency – and yet, it is probably the most thankless.

“As agents, you have a ton of compliance to adhere to.

“You have to tread the fine line of protecting clients whilst being fair to tenants.

“You spend the vast majority of your time chasing people and the rest of the time answering questions like: ‘When will I get my money back?’

“Research has shown that the average agent spends 4-5 hours per tenancy on this process – that’s over 800 man hours per branch.”

In pre-launch testing, he says that The Depositary cut the average end-of-tenancy admin down to under 30 minutes.

Tenants also expressed their satisfaction with the system, as it shows them where they are in the process and the way deductions are evidenced and negotiated.

Some 92% of tenants in the pre-testing phase have accepted the proposals.

At launch next week, the platform will be only available to agents who are members of the TDS insured scheme. However, it is hoped to roll it out to all the deposit schemes and deposit alternatives.

There are no plans to make it direct to private landlords, other than large-scale organisations with in-house operations, such as build-to-rent firms.

The service will be available on subscriptions, likely to be around £50 per branch per month.

Byfield said: “The average branch will pay around £600 per annum to save some 600 man hours – a pretty amazing return on investment for an operations platform.”

http://www.thedepositary.com

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12 Comments

  1. surrey1

    When I read the headline I’d hoped it was going to cover valuations for people extending their homes with no intention of moving.

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  2. DarrelKwong43

    is that a problem for agents?

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    1. KByfield04

      Hi Darrel- there is one psychology that says ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ which is awesome if you want to live in a world where we still only have landlines, cars are the same as they were 30 years ago and we are all happy to do the same job, the same way, every day until retirement. This approach faired brilliantly for the likes of Blockbuster, Woolworths and more recently Thomas Cook.

      Then there are those business owners & managers who constantly review their business model and operational structure and ask ‘can this be done a better way?’. Whether your reason for this is operational efficiency, improved job satisfaction, enhanced consumer experience or improved profitability (or a blend of these).

      Our research showed that the average letting agents spend 4-5 hours concluding each tenancy- our platform reduces that workload to around 30 minutes. With the average lettings branch processing around 250 lets a year thats a potential saving of as much as 1000 hours per year per branch. All for just £600. What would you do in your agency with that 1,000 hours? How many instructions could that generate? How much more of a personal, hands-on service could you give to delight and amaze your landlords and tenants alike?

      Of course, no product is right for every agent. From the agents we have spoken to over the phase of our development of the platform and who have had demos either online or face to face, they have virtually all instantly understood the huge value this could deliver to their operation.

      From testing the platform for around a year within our East London agency, and as the platform has developed over that time, our staff have loved how this transforms their workload and manner of interaction with tenants and tenants have absolutely loved how this finally gives them transparency to this process- understanding fully (often for the first time) the exact process involved with concluding a tenancy, where there are in that process at any given time and (top of their list) when they can expect to receive their funds back.

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  3. smile please

    Is this a solution to a problem that does not exist?

     

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    1. KByfield04

      Morning Smile Please- I had optimistically hoped that, by being an agent myself, some of this knee-jerk negativity to anything involving tech might have received a somewhat more considered view. Maybe your posts are generated by a bot with settings configured to ‘negative only’ and you therefore have no choice in the matter- it’s just the way you’re programmed. I sometimes wonder what sort of product/launch/announcement on here could secure a positive comment from you- but then get distracted by things that need doing. If you’d like to reach out to me in a DM on twitter, as you have done before, I will gladly line up a demo after our launch to show you more about what we’ve built.
      However, the fact we have received over 30 agency enquiries this morning already suggests that this is, in fact, a solution to a very real problem for agents- there just wasn’t a solution for it before now.
      BTW- no need to ask me to smile- I’m beaming from ear to ear atm (and am generally pretty happy chappy/viking)

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      1. smile please

        Glad its working for you and genuinely mean that, from what i see you have the industry’s best interests at heart if what sometimes a little naive.

        I just think in our industry too many people look to automate process that just do not need automating. As for ‘Tech’ that i feel is warranted there is a fairly long list

        Dataloft

        Spectre

        Homesearch

        Cost effective CRM’s

        Mailchimp

        BombBomb

        Moneypenny

        Voip phones with reporting

        Portal Referencing

        This is not an exhaustive list just some that i feel have added true value and helped business move forward without the need to just ‘automate’

        I personally do not do the checkouts, my staff do but i have never heard they find it time consuming and never had a tenant moan about timescales that deposits get sent back.

        Maybe for some agents its the silver bullet they have been after, but i frankly do not see the point. Happy to eat my words if you get the 400 branches you said in your video you expect on in the first year, that will definitely tell me different.

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        1. KByfield04

          Hi Smile- the reality is no person (or product for that matter) is going to align with the whole industry. We are a broad-ranging bunch with a myriad of models, approaches and objectives. I think this is a more accurate description of any differences as opposed to my ‘naivety’ (after 17 years as an agent and 15 of those running my own agency I’d like to think I’m passed the naive stage……maybe).

          Out of interest, before you adopted the great tech products you’ve listed- did any of your staff complain they couldn’t leverage & promote your data effectively? Did they rant and rave about the functionality of RM/Zoopla appraisal reports? etc.

          The likely answer to this is ‘no’- because when agents have always done things one way because that was the only way to do them until a new product came along- why would they complain? There wasn’t another option. That’s how we see the ‘end of tenancy’ process- until we came along, there wasn’t another way to do it unless you outsourced it. Some agents will love to do things the way they always have- it suits them, their clients and their business. Others will look to evolve as often as they can in the search of being better (however you interpret that).

          As agents ourselves, we have taken a long and painstaking journey to deliver a product that delivers from day 1. We know how letting agents operate is part of their identity and DNA. For that reason, we have built a platform that can be completely customised to work the way an agency does now- but in a digital landscape. We have built a platform that is easy to set up, easy to use and is insanely good value. For any agent processing over 100 checkouts a year, we think our product is a no brainer- but I would say that- I’ve built it!

          We’ve had amazing feedback from agents we’ve shown the platform to over the course of our development. However, I am a realist and know words are cheap. I too will believe the ‘hype’ we’ve had so far when agents start readily signing up and paying for what we’ve built. However, the enquiries we have already received today along with the agents we are already in talks with suggest this is a real issue- agents just didn’t have a solution for it…..until now.

          The proof will be in the pudding as they say! We’re very excited to see what the agents at the EA Masters make of what we’ve built and to see how many we can onboard by year end and we will go from there.

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  4. McLovinLets

    Thumbs up! Looking forward to seeing this in action.

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  5. GPL

    Viking?
     
    Pretty bad historically.
     
    Never mind….
     
    New Product, New Viking!  
     
       

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    1. KByfield04

      Vikings weren’t that bad- they just didn’t have a good PR agent back then! We massively advanced shipbuilding & navigation, helped develop languages, founded Dublin, invented skis & combs and wrote the sagas. Oh and established the first known parliament (in Iceland).

      In a similar vein, this viking is trying to reinvent some of the most demanding and frustrating lettings processes for agents- making them easily, largely automated and easy for tenants too.

      See- vikings really aren’t as bad as people think!

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  6. Woodentop

    “Research has shown that the average agent spends 4-5 hours per tenancy on this process – that’s over 800 man hours per branch.”  
     
    Blimey sign me up … on seconds thoughts, no, all our sign off’s ‘ever’ have taken less than 30 minutes to process. What are agents doing for 4-5 hours?????
     
    If its a deposit claim, the extra workload then we spend again under an hour, often 30 minutes admin. But that isn’t normal average workload to include in the claim. Next you will be telling me the check-out at the property, is 4 hours. Next we will hear someone has a drone doing checks-outs for us.

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    1. KByfield04

      Hey woodentop! Our research covers the entire process agents do from notice to refund. So helping tenants prepare for check out day, arranging the clean & check out, proposing & negotiating deductions to the landlord (when managed), then proposing & negotiating deductions with tenants, finally gathering his funds are to be split between tenants & their bank details. We consider ourselves an efficient agent and we estimate this takes us 3 hours- but research with other agents & consultants advised us many will be 4-5. On top of this (and we don’t focus on this as we know this accounts for around 1.5% of tenancies) if disputed we facilitate an almost 1-click dispute submission.

      We won’t be for every agent & by the sound of it you already have an amazing end of tenancy process- but for many this is a messy & burdensome process. Larger operations in particular have no oversight as to where each concluding tenancy is at any given time without pulling out files or talking to staff- our dashboard gives complete oversight. What’s more we deliver rigid consistency and the ability for a file to be easily progressed by a different person when staff fall ill, go on holiday or leave a business.

      The staff in my agency love it and so do the tenants so I’m sure there are Agents who will agree. Only time will tell I suppose!

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