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How can ‘proptech’ help landlords?

Posted 27/07/2022 by Reeds Rains
Categories: Landlords/Lettings
Person looking at their laptop

‘Proptech’ is the snappy term that covers all aspects of technology relating to the property industry. Although letting agents and the wider sector have been using technology to help run and administer our businesses for more than twenty years – ever since Rightmove burst onto the scene in 2000 – ongoing innovation and the advent of ‘smart’ tech have led to a huge boom in digital offerings.

For professional landlords, whose property portfolio is their only or main business, there are various property management software options that help track all their lettings information and tasks. While that may be a very useful tool, you still need to devote time to all the practical elements, such as carrying out viewings and inspections, arranging for maintenance, handling tenant queries, and, of course, making sure you and your properties remain compliant with the latest regulations. And so a great many landlords still rely on the professional services provided by agents.

So what are some of the key tech tools in the property sphere, and which can be particularly useful to you as a landlord?

Property valuation tools

As a landlord, it’s important to track the value of your investment and rental returns so you can make sure it continues to deliver what you need and is always financed in the best way. For instance, if you know how much equity you have in the property, you’ll be able to judge whether you could switch to a different mortgage product with a lower LTV and a better interest rate, or even remortgage and release some equity to reinvest.

You’re probably already aware that sites like Zoopla will give you an estimated current value – and there are other companies that offer online calculators. However, be aware that some of these simply take the last recorded sale price for the property and apply the average increase in value for that area, which is never going to be accurate. You can search quite specifically for ‘price paid’ data via the Land Registry website but, again, that won’t give you an accurate value for your unique property.

What these online valuation and sold price data tools are more useful for is tracking price trends in an area or for a particular type of property. But to get a reliable value, you really need a market appraisal from someone with local knowledge, such as a local surveyor or estate agent.

However, because rents tend to fluctuate far less than capital values and depend more on the property size and type than its individual features, you can certainly use online adverts as a guide to whether you’re charging your tenant the right amount – particularly because properties tend to let at the advertised price. If you search for similar properties every 6-12 months to find current rents, that should help you judge what your next annual increase should be and is a useful starting point for a discussion with your agent.

Agent portals for landlords

As letting agents are increasingly using property management software systems to help run their business, more and more of them are also introducing landlord portals. Our own new and improved Reeds Rains portal coming soon allows landlords to log in at any time and see information about every aspect of their let. This is particularly useful when it comes to completing tax returns, as all the rental income and expenditure relating to each property is recorded in one place.

Making Tax Digital (MTD) software

For many landlords, getting everything together to complete their self-assessment tax return is an annual headache! Not only that, but government estimates are that mistakes cost the Exchequer around £8.5 billion in tax revenue in the 2018-19 year alone.  

So, to help avoid errors and make the process more straightforward, HMRC is moving to a digital-only solution. From 6th April 2024, all self-employed businesses and landlords with annual income of more than £10,000 will need to follow the rules for Making Tax Digital for Income Tax. It’s out with the Excel spreadsheet and in with MTD compatible software that will enable you to keep records digitally and send the required quarterly updates to HMRC.

Although the rules don’t come into force until 2024, a live pilot is already underway and we’d suggest it might be worth starting the transition process now so you can get used to it. Check if you’re eligible, find compatible software and sign up for MTD via the GOV.UK website.

Smart home devices

Smart gas and electric meters can help your tenant monitor and control their energy usage – which has never been more important than in the current climate of rising prices. A happy tenant is likely to stay longer in your property, so it’s worth looking into other smart home devices that can also help them keep an eye on their costs, such as smart thermostats that tenants can control remotely, smart plugs, water-saving shower heads and eco-friendly white goods.

And there is also smart tech for the home that can help you as a landlord. One of the most useful inventions is smart water sensors that let you monitor water temperatures remotely so you can see whether there’s a danger of pipes freezing or legionella forming. Some will also notify you via your phone if a leak is identified, so you’re alerted at the earliest possible stage and aren’t relying on tenants to report issues. 

Databases of competent contractors

As a landlord, you have an obligation to provide a safe and secure home for your tenants and that means ensuring all works and installations are completed by competent and professional contractors. In days gone by, you had to rely on contractors proving they were qualified themselves, and if you weren’t able to find someone via recommendation, it could be a bit hit and miss scrolling through adverts.

But thanks to tech, there are now websites for every trade where you can search for registered, accredited and suitably qualified contractors in your area, such as Gas Safe engineers, electricians registered with a government-approved body, members of the Glass and Glazing Federation and insulation installers registered with the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency.

Trustmark and Checkatrade are also great resources to find local tradespeople, giving you assurances that they have been vetted and their work is guaranteed – plus you can read reviews from past customers.

Legal update resources

There are various industry websites where you can register to receive news updates – although if you have a letting or manging agent, they should be keeping you informed directly about any upcoming legal changes, as we do. There are also specific legal resources that you can pay for, such as COMPLYLEX, a legal compliance app that has detailed guidance and topics on legislation relating to the property sector and sends email updates.

Of course, if you have our Fully Managed service, we’ll take care of most of these things for you and you can always see exactly what’s going on with your rental via our landlord portal. But if you have any questions or you’d like to discuss whether there are any tech upgrades you could make to your property that would increase its appeal to tenants just get in touch with your local branch and have a chat with one of the team.

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