Trevor Youens, Managing Director of our specialist residential sales and lettings software solution Aspasia, has featured in an article exploring software development in the residential lettings market with leading industry magazine, Propertydrum.
In a follow up to last month’s feature on software development in the residential sales sector, the magazine interviewed Trevor (pictured above speaking at our customer conference). A full transcript of Propertydrum’s Q&A is reproduced below.
Propertydrum: When did you first offer lettings software and was that before your sales offering?
Trevor: We began development of the products as early as 1998 but they were commercially available from early 2001. Although it’s a single database solution catering for sales and lettings, we didn’t just write a sales software solution and then try and bolt lettings, management and accounts onto it. We are extremely proud of the fact that our product has always been lettings focused and specifically strong in the areas of accounting and property management. Our earliest client adopters were very clear in terms of their requirements – they needed software to deal with the complexities of the “back end” of lettings, with the “front end” marketing piece being less important. But this is something which is changing now and is very much our focus.
Propertydrum: Was there a sudden increase in demand in 2008-9 or was there a gradual rise in interest levels? And was that interest national or just in some areas?
Trevor: There was no sudden increase in demand, it has been a gradual uplift in interest. The interest is national although does seem stronger in the South. It’s important to note that changing software is a particularly big decision for a lettings operation to make – they have to deliver data transfer and staff training while continuing to ensure rents are being paid to landlords so it’s an extremely complex operation. Often, these complexities and issues are the main barriers preventing agents from deciding to change suppliers.
Propertydrum: What has been your greatest development in lettings software?
Trevor: Many of the traditional products in the market were perfectly acceptable for the way the market was structured at the time – i.e. individual offices running their own standalone databases. But as lettings evolved, it became clear that the software providers would have to enhance their offering to accommodate growth. It’s probably fair to say that some have been able to do this but others have not.
Many products struggle to cope with large amounts of data and we find agents struggle when there are any more than 500-600 complex tenancies running on some of the more traditional platforms, especially across multiple offices. Being a Cloud-based solution running in an Oracle database, we don’t experience many of the issues encountered by agents running more traditional client server based products. As the size of portfolios grow, it becomes increasingly difficult to have an Access database (for example) deliver the speed of process and accuracy users require.
Propertydrum: Do your clients have different software for sales and lettings or do they prefer a single system to manage all their clients?
Trevor: Both really, we have clients who use us for sales and lettings, lettings only and sales only. The clients using us for both do see clear synergies across their businesses by running all of their data in a single database. We would always recommend that we be installed for both sales and lettings to ensure that the business enjoys the benefit of these synergies.
Propertydrum: What is coming next in lettings software development?
Trevor: We really need to be thinking about how we can deliver added value to our clients. Better integration with other products for services which are traditionally quite labour intensive will help to ensure that property managers and accounts staff can deal with more tenancies than they currently do. Part of this will include the use of better technology in terms of landlord and tenant logins, information capture (inventories etc integrated with software providers), e-signing and use of mobile devices.
In addition we need to consider the rise of institutional investors and how software will need to evolve to cope with their requirements. We are seeing large residential developments being acquired by huge investor clients and the units being let on an individual basis to tenants. The next generation feel less of a need to get on the home ownership ladder and there is no stigma attached to renting – quite the opposite in fact. Many institutions are taking advantage of this. The requirements of these institutional investors are very different to the needs of traditional individual landlords and the software used by the investors or their agents needs to accommodate those requirements.