The funny thing about innovation, is sometimes it’s not so innovative. Is a really technical solution more authentic or valuable than a non-technical one? If you ask me, the answer depends. What's the desired customer outcome? If the desire is to have a fully integrated digital interface then your innovation probably needs a considerable technical effort. In my mind, technology serves two specific purposes, (1) make the product better, (2) make delivery of the product less time consuming. What’s interesting about the times we live in today, is that technology is all around us and sometimes the innovation doesn't come from building software, but rather a change in view or approach.
Below are some of the innovations in property that have caught my eye recently. Some are genuine, others need to be debunked.
Buying / selling with cryptocurrency
like many around the world, I’ve watched the cryptocurrency market develop with fascination and intrigue. It’s certainly maturing and many goods and services are now being offered in Bitcoin, Ether, Ripple or whatever else. It’s taken almost a decade, but finally trickled down to real estate, with vendors in, Spain, Portugal, USA, Germany, Thailand and now Australia offering and accepting payment in cryptocurrency.
Naturally, agency and listing portal models are cropping up in an attempt to bring liquidity to cashed up crypto investors. Some of the players offer just listing exposure, others provide transaction capability too. Is it innovative? Well, from a listing perspective, there’s not a lot of value add. Listing for sale can be done almost anywhere online, the only difference being the price is stated in terms of Bitcoin, and the indication of the vendor’s willingness to accept Bitcoin as payment. Portal fees do seem to be lower under this model though, at roughly $20 per listing, so the cost of exposure might be worth it. Chances are however, if a Bitcoin holder wants to transact, they’ll exchange to a fiat currency (like Aussie dollars) first or contact the listing wherever it pops up, doesn't have to be a crypto portal. The value of cryptocurrency is mostly speculative too, selling your property for Bitcoin or whatever else will create unnecessary exposure to a volatile asset, if you don’t have a view on the future price of the asset, then it’s probably bad risk in your portfolio.
launching just last month, Canopy is a great example of innovating thinking. These guys have flipped the whole concept of a Bond on its head. Instead of putting up 4 weeks worth of rent as a bond, tenants are redirecting that cash into an insurance policy that provides £30,000 pounds worth of cover to the landlord for damages and loss of rent.
This is really clever, as ordinarily a Bond would be put forward as the insurance policy and anything above that amount would have to be recovered from a tenant via the tribunal process, a costly and time consuming exercise. Not a complicated solution, but certainly an innovative one.
Acasa, described as a ‘simple and straightforward way to set up and manage bills’, is straight up and down problem solving. Acasa is like the Venmo for sharing tenancy expenses. Any tenant related bills, can be shared amongst housemates seamlessly with the service.
Splitting bills is often a pain, but can be managed offline. The real value is in the workflow, the Acasa app provides. Add your recurring bills in less than 5 minutes, with each member of the household being able to pay their share of the bill directly to the service provider, meaning no one is out of pocket! There is a major flaw in the product however; it seems Acasa requires the tenant to use their own catalogue of service providers, which may or may not be the most competitive on price.