Demystifying Proptech

by Isaac Coonan, Building 4.0 CRC Industry Lead

There is increasing hype around one of the world’s fastest growing technology clusters, PropTech. But is this hype simply just another passing fad, or can there be real value gained from PropTech for the building and construction industry?

PropTech, or Property Technology to name in full, relates to the application of information technology and platform economics to real estate markets, promising to reduce time, effort and cost, and increase security for real estate markets.

Earlier this month, I attended the FuturePlace Proptech NEXT conference, to find out if this emerging concept really could introduce long-term benefit to the sector.

I, and many others it seemed, felt what can only be described as overwhelmed by the various digital, innovative, and technological solutions being presented, all of which are seeking to bring the industry into the twenty-first century. For me, it highlighted the need to demystify PropTech and decipher if these expected benefits were, in fact, real or achievable.

While there are a few PropTech businesses out there tackling fundamental, deep technical issues within our sector, most of them have actually created simple, specific, and tangible products that are ready for industry adoption. Yet, the concept of a digitally enabled property and construction industry was still being referred to as a future ambition, something that will just happen within our industry over time.

Most notably, the solutions being presented as “futuristic” were, in fact, simple solutions with clearly articulated value propositions for the industry – solutions that could be applied today. The implications of this observation are complex, but at face-value: with so much interest and enthusiasm around PropTech, together with the industry’s existing capabilities, why are we not further along the journey of digital adoption within the property economy?

Drawing on my own experiences in the sector, I clearly believe there is real value to be gained from this initiative, but one of the key roadblocks in our desire for a more digitally enabled industry is the way our industry continues to perceive PropTech. We need to change the national narrative that convinces us this emerging technology cluster remains outside our grasp. There needs to be fewer pedestals on which we place start-ups servicing the building and construction industry and, instead, normalise these very tangible collaborations between industry and PropTech and, most importantly, we need to stop fearing change.

We need to ditch the ‘hype’ and start implementing.

For example, look at how digital solution DocuSign has dramatically sped up contract agreements by simply enabling digital signatures, or how PEXA has streamlined the settlement process for purchasing property. These solutions are simple tangible tools that can be adopted and deployed easily in our quest to transform the building and construction industry.

For this to occur more broadly, every organisation within the industry will need to change its own mindset around PropTech, and look to engage and purposefully collaborate with this emerging technology cluster to drive sectoral adoption.

The excitement of PropTech is set to continue into 2022, but let’s now stop the hype and boosterism and start the process of implementation of our existing solutions. Let’s take advantage of the real value that this cluster can offer, and let’s start to embrace the change. Because if we don’t, then our futuristic visions will remain just that.