John FitzGerald, Commercial Director reveals when asked about his business Yourkeys, that a recent quote in Showhouse sums it up nicely: “Yourkeys are showing the world that buying a property will one day be as easy as one-click ordering on Amazon!” (Dec 2019: 10 Prop Tech companies to watch in 2020).

In essence, we are dragging the new build home purchase process well and truly into the 21st century by bringing it all online to:

  1. accelerate dramatically the time it takes to get to exchange of contracts
  2. track sales progress in real time and
  3. improve the customer journey for everyone involved

Who are your main customers?

Our main customers are House Builders, Developers, and Estate Agents.  These are the people who benefit most from Yourkeys, and these are the people who have been most interested in our platform as it can dramatically enhance their business. 

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

My main priority is developing strong and beneficial relationships with key strategic organisations, companies, and partners to drive the growth of the Yourkeys brand.

What is your biggest challenge?

The construction sector is pretty conservative so change is always hard especially when people are used to working in a certain way.  Having said that, we have met lots of innovators in the sector who are very motivated to move to a new way of working using the Yourkeys platform so change is already happening!

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

We sometimes describe ourselves as a pirate ship of merry mavericks who operate in the Property Tech start up space so it is an exhilarating ride.  We are all very motivated by the prospect of building something entirely new from scratch.  It’s not often you get the chance to really challenge the status quo in a sector and that’s exactly what we are doing!

What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?

Key challenges include 1) limited new housing supply, 2) sustainability across the industry, and 3) lack of investment in new technology to improve both ways of working and the customer journey.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) is an exciting trend.  In particular, modular housing growth is one to watch.  Why build houses outside when it can be done just as well (or better) in a factory, then moved to a site for a much quicker build phase?  Companies like Urban Splash are investing heavily in this area believing that this will be a major growth area in the future.  Given the ‘green’ credentials of this approach, it is likely to be a significant area of growth.

The rise of the customer is another trend worth watching.  Home buyers are now very tech savvy and we all expect a level of interactivity and customer service with our favourite brands so House Builders need to keep up or get left behind.  Amazon, Apple, and John Lewis are all brands that invest heavily in technology to bolster their brands and they set the standard for customer interactivity and personalization.  House Builders now have the opportunity to do the same and elevate the purchase experience for what is the biggest expense of your life!

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

It would be helpful to see an extension to the government’s Help To Buy scheme.  This has been a godsend for many first-time house buyers and it has been the most buoyant part of the new build market over the past few years.  If it were to continue (in one form or another), it would continue to help people get on the housing ladder far earlier than they normally would.

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

The average time to get to exchange of contracts in the UK is over 60 days. Yourkeys can do it in less than 21 days.  This has an immediate impact on cash flow and customer service levels especially for the small to medium House Builders and Developers where return on capital is hugely important following the most recent economic crisis.  As a result, we feel like we are doing our bit to help Developers sell their new homes faster, getting their buyers moved in more quickly with less stress – it’s a win-win situation.

How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

Confidence in the construction sector has improved following the most recent election and the emerging clarity that Brexit will now actually happen.  Regardless of what eventually transpires, people will still be buying new houses, people will still need to move, and new houses will still need to be built.  We are well placed to accelerate the entire purchase process, bring transparency to the whole transaction, and improve the customer journey along the way for everyone involved.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Success for us revolves around achieving what we call Product Market Fit.  Simply put, this means having a specific number of new homes listed on Yourkeys, with a high percentage of these transacting to exchange of contracts every month.  Onboarding new House Builders, Developers, and Estate Agents each month is also a key metric for us and we are well on our way! 

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

A colleague of mine gave me some really useful advice when I was working in the USA years ago.  He very politely told me to “get over yourself and focus on your team!”  It was candid, helpful, and I have never forgotten it. 

What’s next for your company?

We are laser focused on the new build sector right now and want to achieve Product Market Fit as soon as possible this year.  After that, we will shift our attention to the secondhand market adapting our tech platform for that section of the market.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

Well established with small, medium, and large House Builders, Developers, and Estate Agents who become champions for how the Yourkeys platform has made a major difference to their business!

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