Last week I met (virtually) with the Brisbane based software development start-up, Hutly (formerly known as Igloo) responsible for the development of a system called One Touch for RealWorks. They gave me a pre-launch preview of One Touch to discuss its suitability for our onsite managers. I was impressed and excited by what I saw, and am convinced this will rapidly become the industry standard for tenancy agreements.
In an Australian first, this incredible system allows, at no cost, tenancy agreements to be issued and signed digitally. Once a lease agreement has been completed by the onsite manager in RealWorks, they send this to the tenant as a digital link directly to their mobile phone. The tenant can open, and view the lease agreement exactly as they would see a paper-based agreement. However when it comes to signing, they simply press a button and a code is issued to their mobile via text message. If they agree to the lease, they simply enter the code into the form, and it’s a done deal. The 2-factor verification serves as the digital equivalent of a legally binding signature, and proof of identity.
Better still it means tenancy agreements can be securely and rapidly generated, issued, signed returned and stored, all in a matter of seconds (literally), rather than hours or days as with paper based versions and from anywhere on earth. No downloading to a computer and trying to print; hunting around for a pen that works; scratching squiggle onto the form; scanning it back in; sending it back to your phone; and sending back to the agent. It’s all done in seconds with a couple of key strokes directly from the phone. It’s such a simple concept, but the best ones always are.
The current pandemic has already had a profound impact on the way we manage rentals. Already our managers are beginning to demand virtual tour services and videos so they can showcase rentals to tenants from their homes, no longer being able to run open homes, and social distancing making it undesirable to bring people through units in general. Even this week, I noticed tenants were hesitant to touch my business cards, choosing instead to take a photo of them on their phone. Even handing paper based documentation to tenants can be a sticking point, so a concept such as One Touch, which is entirely digital and requires no face-to-face engagement, is going to be absolutely vital for onsite managers moving forward in the current landscape.
The thing that amazes me most about the One Touch system is the fact that the entire process is then encoded and stored on the Etherium blockchain. This was a fact the development team mentioned rather idly in passing, but I consider it an incredibly exciting innovation, the importance of which should not be overlooked. Blockchains (the most famous of which is Bitcoin) are a series of blocks (digital information) that store data in them in a continuous and unbroken chain, the first block in the blockchain, know as the ‘Genesis Block’ is the start of the chain and as more information is added to newly created blocks it builds upon the chain, the blocks are linked one after the other chronologically. Each new block also contains a hash of the previous blocks, meaning there is no possible way to alter the previous data in the blockchain without breaking the chain. This ensures all data on the blockchain serves as a continuous and verifiable record over time that is impossible to alter retrospectively. It makes these One Touch lease agreements very secure and impossible to alter after they have been agreed to. No arguments can arise over terms, etc, being added in after-the-fact. Blockchains are an amazing innovation that arose from the GFC and the desire by renegade programmers to create a decentralized peer-to-peer digital currency system that could function in a trustless environment. No central bank to keep track of people’s account balances or transactions, instead everyone with a copy of the blockchain has a provable record of such data that can’t be altered by any single entity. Bitcoin is, of course, the proof-of-concept for this idea, Etherium builds upon this with more ‘smarts’ built into their blockchain including the ability to utilize the blockchain for application development, smart contracts, resource allocations; things other than just digital currency transactions (as per Bitcoin), making Etherium an ideal choice for lease agreement verification. Despite being around for over a decade now, there still aren’t that many examples of blockchains being used to solve real world problems so I was thrilled and very proud to see this team of software developers from Brisbane working with the REIQ to utilize Ethereum in this way. I believe One Touch will rapidly alter the landscape of tenancy agreements and become not just common place, but the industry standard for lease agreements (and in future, probably other forms too such as sales contracts, offer documents, etc).
We will be rolling out the One Touch solution to all of our FULL plan onsite managers this week. We’ll be running some demonstration video content to our managers explaining how to use the service also, so watch this space.