Covid-19 has heightened the need for business to review how it operates, forcing the change that has generally been met with hesitation.
The biggest challenge South African PropTech faces is a fear of change. It boils down to viewing PropTech from a value perspective and while the inspection industry has done things in a certain way for a long time by incorporating systems and traditional paper methods that have worked, the pandemic has birthed the inevitable – for businesses in the property industry to survive, change needs to be embraced.
PropTech needs to solve a problem and its evolution falls on companies like internationally developed, award-winning inspection software, Property Inspect, to continue the conversation on how best the property industry can move ‘over the line’.
While inspection technology is great for streamlining businesses, the future for PropTech, like Property Inspect, lies in integration says David Hutchison, Sales Director for Property Inspect.
“The post-Covid-19 PropTech world is going to be smarter. I do not believe that it is about having one system that does everything for your business but rather having smart integrations that work”.
By businesses integrating their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems with PropTech like Property Inspect, they can utilize this as a business central system, essentially running their entire business from one platform. For example, integrating an inspection system with an invoicing system like accounting software, Xero or, connecting systems to the workflow automation system, Zapier – which Property Inspect has successfully done.
In turn, this will create an online marketplace within the inspection industry, linking service providers for all types of inspections – transactional, compliance, rental, or building inspections. While this type of marketplace is up and running in other countries, it has not taken off in South Africa – yet – and this is where Property Inspect sees the future of local PropTech going.
“We are busy working on this integration by building on a supplier database which needs to be met with a demand base. Imagine a world where an estate agent needs a pre-sale inspection and there is a single marketplace where you can view vetted suppliers, book, and pay for this service? It will make it easier for real estate professionals within the local inspection industry” says David.
Creating a digital circular economy
Partnerships are equally important in integration. Not only will partnering with leading industry players allow services providers within an online marketplace to add value to each other’s customer base but partnerships through education and training will play a crucial role too.
Property Inspect has partnered with the South African Home Inspection Training Academy (SAHITA) which grew out of commercial home inspection company House Check which was launched in 2008.
In discovering that there was no training for building inspectors in South Africa, SAHITA was invited by the Quality Council of Trades and Occupations (QCTO) – which forms part of the Department of Education – to develop an occupational qualification called ‘Building Inspector’ which embraces all aspects of the inspection industry.
To date, SAHITA has trained and certified 260 inspectors mainly through online training courses and three-day workshops in government, local government, and the private sector.
The demand for PropTech is significant, not only as a trained inspector using a data collection tool but as the number of qualified inspectors grows, it is necessary to have an inspection tool that serves as a central checklist, reminding inspectors on site of what they should be looking for.
“Our motivation at SAHITA is to grow the inspection industry and to raise the standards within the built environment,” says SAHITA Principal, John Graham. “We partnered with Property Inspect to provide internal training templates to assist inspectors with the tools they require to communicate the data collected, on building sites or in buildings, effectively and efficiently”.
The template developed between Property Inspect and SAHITA has some 1 500 different items which are segmented in a logical sequence so that SAHITA graduates can follow the correct course through an inspection site.
“There is a huge need within the built environment to recognise the importance of data gathering for decision-makers but also to level the playing field for standards and quality,” says John.
“PropTech provides training and a tool for relevant problems to be identified and effectively communicated but developing PropTech within the inspection industry requires an understanding of the built environment. I believe that what SAHITA and Property Inspect have developed is a success”.
Through the launch of Property Inspect’s specific accounts for SAHITA’s graduates, the mindset that the partnership has developed will work just as well with an electrician who issues an electrical Certificate of Compliance (COC) or an electric fence installation – understanding what the client needs, what the law requires, how to train an inspector and giving him the tool to get the job done, will prove invaluable.
“Property Inspect offers value to SAHITA and their academy is vital to our growth,” says David. “It is a circle. We receive feedback from them in terms of what they need from our software. Their users are equally important to Property Inspect, in terms of getting our product right in that it offers value”.
Post-Covid-19, many South Africans have been hit hard with retrenchment and the property industry, which has always been viewed as offering entry positions, has become flooded. However, the inspections industry is fast emerging, with growing room to specialize in different types of inspections.
A wide range of skills is required in the property sector and by filling in the gaps for all the niche services in the middle, PropTech can create opportunities for employment and for people to become specialists through the creation of an outsourced model at a low entry cost.
“Through outsourcing the specific jobs that you are not so good at, workstreams come into play. This is our future at Property Inspect – linking all service providers to a single marketplace through partnerships and different technology around South Africa” concludes David.