A note from Esther McVey: Remote Working and Robots are on their way...
Buying a house is easy. Said no one. Ever. If the old adage is to be believed, the most stressful things you will do in your life are getting married and buying a house. True or not, I don't often hear anyone disagree!
From saving for the deposit required, finding the 'perfect pad' and getting a mortgage, to instructing solicitors, reviewing surveys, and, hopefully, completing on the purchase, the road to owning your own home in the UK can be long and winding.
The real-estate industry, like so many other industries, has pretty much ground to a halt because of COVID-19. The rules on social distancing mean it's almost impossible to list a property for sale, let alone make it available for prospective buyers to view. As a result, and, again, like so many other sectors in the economy, the sector is having to pivot and accelerate its digital transformation to remain operational in lockdown and prosper in the future.
The prop-tech sector includes companies like online estate agents, Purple Bricks, and property search-sites, Rightmove and Zoopla. It also includes companies that are planning to digitise the entire process of building, buying, and selling property in the UK. In time, this should not only speed up the process of purchasing a home, it should also make it easier, and dare I say it, less stressful. Hurrah! I hear you cry.
“We’re cautiously optimistic about a post-COVID world for the real estate industry and the prop-tech industry”, says Faisal (insert surname and company name), who I talk to in episode 6 of the Blue Collar Conversations podcast. Faisal and I discuss how the real estate industry, which had been slow to digitise, is now embracing new, digital, collaborative tools to reflect current challenges and the likely changes in the buying habits of property purchasers in the future.
The prop-tech industry, like the home-buyers and renters it hopes to help, requires the Government to make the necessary investment in the right, digital, infrastructure. “There needs to be a level playing field between those in the office and in the cities and those working in their homes in a more rural setting”, says Faisal. And he's right. The Government must invest in the infrastructure that will impact on the lives of every single person in the country, and not, for example, just those that might one day choose to board a high-speed train from London to Birmingham.
And, what about robots? As the acceleration of investment in AI and robotics begins to deliver practical robot-based alternatives to what are, today, perceived as every day trades and services, responding to this potentially revolutionary change will require careful thought. As Faisal highlights, it’s not impossible that, before too many years are out, we could see robots painting buildings, inside and out, with, potentially, little of the present Health and Safety requirements having to apply.
Eventually, we all have to hope that life will eventually return to normal. But, the new normal will be different to the last. COVID-19 has taught us that working from home is a viable option for many employers and employees and as for robots, where will that all take us? The new reality must not be underestimated. The Government must at the very least, prepare, and provide the infrastructure, for a world where a proportion of the workforce is working remotely, guaranteeing a commonality of superb digital connectivity for every community, wherever it might be, in the country.