News/26 Mar 2020

From pet-free to 3D

The residential property letting and management sector has changed significantly since ALM formed in 1999.

Later this year, Allsop Letting and Management (ALM) turns 20. Although not quite old enough to crack open the champagne, over the years the company has seen the letting and property management sector change significantly to reflect innovations in technology and our changing lifestyles.

ALM was formed in 1999 as a dedicated asset management service for the residential property sector. Today its clients range from PLCs, institutional funds and REITs to receivers, private investors and charities. With an average instruction length of 13 years and an average tenancy tenure of 3.5 years for private sector rents, ALM manages more than £1.5bn of residential property across 7,000 units over 100+ buildings throughout the UK.

ALM has gone from strength to strength in its relatively short history and over the years has made significant investment in technology to adapt to trends and the changing nature of the operating environment in order to serve its clients and customers best.

Advances in technology and the security of on-line platforms has had significant impact on consumer services, business efficiency and sectors, like renting, where the consumer votes with their feet. Thanks to the internet and smart tech, instant service is expected, and ALM has moved to a world where residential occupiers have apps and web-based technology as an integral part of their living experience.

In response to a changing market, ALM invested heavily in the development of its own software product, Virtual Agency (VA), to streamline the customer journey online via 3D virtual tours, booking viewings, reserving an apartment, referencing, signing contracts and paying online. This secure, GDPR-compliant portal retains all documents, contacts, contracts and information in one place. In use at Moorfield’s The Forge and The Trilogy, VA is integrated with Building Link for a seamless journey to the resident’s portal, providing residents and staff with convenience, efficiency and the ability to serve customers 24/7 on a central platform for all service and management needs.

Residents enjoy the 24/7 flexibility to manage communications and tenancy matters at their convenience. This might be as simple as asking for an extra key, accessing their inventory, arranging a washing machine repair, picking up a parcel or scheduling a dry-cleaning service. Conversations about service related matters, rental or service charge payments, maintenance and other general property related functions are made easier and faster, thanks to advances in technology.

With the demand for instant service, technology has also enhanced ALM’s back-office business systems, freeing up staff and allowing them to offer a more personalised client and customer services. Indeed, ‘service’ is the current buzz word in residential property. Whether for serviced luxury apartments, new, build to rent blocks or traditional rental sector portfolios, residents are rightly demanding quicker responses and heightened efficiency from their property managers.

Technology has also facilitated a forward leap in the monitoring and management of a building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and other services such as fire safety systems, lighting and lifts. The Internet of Things allows real-time monitoring with, for example, moisture sensors picking up leaks or other system malfunctions, so that action can be taken before residents even become aware of an issue. Now, systems can be interrogated, faults diagnosed, and action can be taken before breakdown. These advancements mirror and support the regulation changes seen in the last two decades, including the introduction of Energy Performance Certificate (ECP) ratings, which measure a building’s energy performance, as well as improved health and safety regulations.

The demand for high-quality service has forced landlords and operators to up their game. For investors and property managers alike, quality and breadth of service for residents is essential. Unhappy residents move, resulting in more voids and disrupted rental revenue. Now, where landlords were once reluctant to allow pets, many more now recognise that happy, good tenants who see their asset as their home are likely to stay for longer. In this way, the built to rent sector in particular has brought the resident sharply into focus.

The pace of the letting and management sector in 2019 is far cry from what it was in 1999. In terms of service, the industry has come on leaps and bounds and it is exciting to imagine what the sector and ALM will look like in another two decades. Regardless of such transformation, IT investment and evolution, ALM maintains, at its core, a culture with a strong focus on quality of service to clients and customers alike, and will always welcome a good ‘ol chat, just as it was 20 years ago. Some things have stayed the same, as they should.