Trevor Youens, Managing Director of our specialist residential sales and lettings software brand Aspasia, features in a feature article in this month’s edition of Propertydrum magazine.
The article appeared in this month’s copy of the industry leading magazine and specifically examines the development of software in the residential sales sector recent years. Full responses from Trevor (who is pictured above speaking at our customer conference last month) to Propertydrum’s questions are outlined below.
Propertydrum: When did you launch your first software product and what was its USP at that time?
Trevor: We launched the product in 2001 and we actually were the first multi-office sales and lettings solution to run in a web based environment. The product had to cope with line speeds as low as 56K dial-up – the only way to do this was to write it “from the ground up” in an Oracle environment. Oracle remains the most robust and scalable database engine in the world – any business requiring huge amounts of data to be stored (eg. Amazon etc) has to use it as its back end. So the short answer would be scalability and uniqueness back in 2000. However, many solutions are now jumping on the whole web/cloud bandwagon now that it’s trendy, even if all they are actually doing is allowing their application to be accessed over a VPN, which is invariably slower.
Propertydrum: What has been the most important leap forward in the benefits offered by the evolution of estate agency software in the last 20 years?
Trevor: We are, of course, bound to say that movement to the Cloud has been the biggest innovation over this time but it remains the case that, had the ability to access your software from any device, anywhere at any time existed even ten years ago, many more agents would now run their systems in this way. Unfortunately, even as recently as ten years ago, many agents were taking the step of investing vast sums of money into “in house” infrastructure (in terms of both database / email solutions and file management). This infrastructure cannot simply now be thrown away. Were some of these companies in a position now to rethink their strategies, given how the web and cloud have developed these past five years even, then different choices may have been made.
Propertydrum: Why do agencies change software suppliers?
Trevor: The reasons are numerous, ranging from cost, look and feel, functionality through to feeling unloved by their existing supplier. Cost is always a major consideration obviously but most agents are happy to pay for something if they can see the benefit to their business. Look and feel and ease of use is also a key factor, particularly for sales agents buying software. There are some very “pretty” solutions in the market which are intuitive and easy to use but ultimately aren’t as strong from a functionality perspective. Unfortunately, firms often don’t realise this until it’s too late and they have installed the software. Early adopters of cloud-based solutions were seen as quite maverick but now they’re more common this isn’t the case so much any more.
For Aspasia, clients liked the fact that they did not have to invest huge sums in infrastructure in order to be up and running. The Software as a Service (SAAS) model ensures that our users are always able to take advantage of having the latest version without having to pay for upgrades to be installed every couple of years. The most interesting client we have in terms of their back story had experienced a break in at their head office over the weekend – sadly, much of their kit had been stolen, not least their main server equipment holding their data for their existing systems. It was more cost effective to move across to a Cloud based solution with us than to re-invest in technology in house. That was 11 years ago and the company is still with us today.
Propertydrum: What would agents like to have in their software that they don’t/cannot have right now?
Trevor: For sales we would say better email integration and more powerful marketing material like video tours. This, together with more customer focused login area for vendors and buyers, would probably tick some boxes. User interfaces have to become much better as well. Most software suffers from not being user friendly across all platforms and this is an area we all need to focus on as agents become more and more mobile.
Propertydrum: What do you see as the next major leap forward in software provision for estate agents?
Trevor: The key word here is integration. Either improved existing integrations with instant listings on the portals without the need for overnight uploads, or new ones which provide additional tools for agents to use. These could be marketing, conveyancing, v-tours, floorplans to name a few. By far the best integration we have written recently is with Docusign and more collaborations are on the way to make the software the centre of all the additional services the agents wants to offer.