Skype did it to phone calls; Amazon did it to bookshops; Napster did it to music. The internet takes industries and turns them on their head - saving the consumer time and money. At long last, this is happening in the international property market.
Here are five ways it's happening - according to the money-moving website, transferwise.com
1. Searching for a property...
Property portals now combine market data with local information, and Zoopla was at the forefront of this. Of course A Place in the Sun's revamped website offers all sorts of advice, ideas and property listings, but if you are looking in Spain specifically, idealista.com has specialist information about the region for Brits and a few extra features such as a size selection and number of bathrooms.
-Hours looking at two-bed properties with an estate agent who knows you're only interested in three-beds.
-Several trips abroad to visit potential homes.
2. When you're renovating...
An overseas property that needs a bit of work can be a great investment - even in this economic climate, but banks can make the process difficult. Instead of dealing with their laborious processes, why not check out a few peer-to-peer lenders?
Ratesetter.com and Zopa.com are good places to start for personal loans. You can borrow anything between £1,000 to £25,000 for between six and 60 months through these guys. They work much faster than the bank - you usually can get a decision on the day you apply.
Peer-to-peer is a simple as it sounds - it brings people who want to lend money together with those who want to borrow it, cutting out all the bank bureaucracy and hidden fees that lurk in between. They also vet everyone to make sure that the lenders and borrowers aren't shady characters that'll go bust. Zopa claims a default rate of less than 1 per cent.
If you're operating as business, you have even more options. Check out Fundingcircle.com: those keen to offer loans compete to lend you money in an online auction, and the lowest bids win. So, you get the lowest rates possible.
- 20 per cent on your loan.
- Hours of paperwork at the bank.
3. When you're buying to rent...
The internet has also taken some of the pain and expense out of advertising your rental property.
You only have to look at the success of companies such as HomeAway.co.uk who list thousands of holiday homes for an annual fee.
Airbnb.com and Housetrip.com operate slightly differently: they do not charge for listing, instead taking a cut of the money the guest sends you for their stay - this ranges between 6-20 per cent.
Then there's www.propertyportalfeeder.com that allows you to advertise multiple properties across multiple portals from £9.99 per month - something to keep in mind if your long-term plan is to build a portfolio of properties to develop and sell.
-Awkward conversations with tenants about rules and expectations.
-Fallow periods where your property doesn't generate any profit.
4. Managing your bills and security...
It can be hard to manage a property when you aren't in the country, but apps like Alertme.com give you remote control to turn on the hot water and lights before guests arrive. It also helps you control costs: its smart data insights give you a breakdown of what is used per appliance, letting you know when usage is above average for any of them.
Security is also a concern, but apps like Alarm.com allow you to manage your security system while you're away. It'll even let you switch your lights on and off intermittently to give the impression that you're at home when you're not.
- Money on your energy bills.
- Time spent stressing about your home's security.
5. Avoiding bank charges...
And, of course, you'll need to pay for the property, its maintenance and manage any rental income it generates. This can cost a fortune if you're not careful. Did you know that the bank charges you an extra 5 per cent when you send money overseas? They make money not only on the flat fee they charge for the transaction, but also on the exchange rate.
Further more, currency brokers can hide their fees in the gap between the mid-market exchange rate (the one you'll see quoted in the papers) and the rate they offer. That can results in fees of over £10,000 on a £300,000 villa.
Then there's TransferWise, an online money transfer service, is turning the industry on its head.
"Using peer-to-peer technology, it bypasses traditional banking fees altogether. It charges only a tiny, transparent 0.5 per cent on any sum sent," says Donata Huggins.
-85 per cent of the fee you'd pay a bank.
-The stress of dealing with slow bank processes.
Find out more at transferwise.com.