PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & Property News’: OnTheMarket | Sprift | Gove’s Warning Shot

Andrew Stanton’s daily Property News Briefing in association with Estate Agent Networking.

OnTheMarket deepens partnership with Sprift prospecting tool SmartMail

At present, there is an instructions drought, with the average amount of properties listed for sale per agency branch in the UK at an all-time low. This is about one third less than normal for a January market. 

Responding to this huge problem, OnTheMarket, the third-largest property portal, will give its agents an exclusive tool to prospect new stock, both on and off the market. 

The tool is called SmartMail, and it will be leveraged through its existing tie-up with Sprift. OTM’s agents can now utilise the service, automating their prospecting journey, for a fee. The advanced software developed by Sprift, a company founded by veteran Matt Gilpin, acts in many ways like a heat-seeking missile, with a targeted approach that finds property for agents who need to replenish their stock levels. 

Matt Gilpin is clearly proud of the even closer business ties that the new service brings. 

“We’re pleased to be offering SmartMail to OnTheMarket agents, as we truly believe this is the natural next step in us continuing to empower agents and their businesses using property-centric data through our partnership with OnTheMarket.”

The value of Smartmail is that it does not just tell agents what is available and presently being offered by other agents and build a campaign to capture it, but it can also be used to communicate with potential vendors who have not yet decided to list. It achieves this through algorithms that can focus precisely on specific geographic areas, house types, etc. This means that agents can target their ‘type’ of inventory – a very hyper-specific way to win instructions. 

Since Jason Tebb has taken over the helm of CEO at OTM, it is clear that his agent-centric approach is winning on many levels. Not only has he personally engaged with OTM’s agent membership, by having a listening and open-door policy, but he now is ardently supplying agent members with the digital hand tools that modern agents in the 2020s need to move forward and prosper. 

Jason Tebb, commenting on the deeper tie-up with Sprift, said: “In a market where demand is still very much outweighing supply in many instances, now more than ever it really is all about inventory, and with the addition of the SmartMail prospecting tool we’re ensuring our agents are well-equipped to win more listings.”

From my point of view, having worked in the estate agency sector and opened cold start branches with zero stock…had SmartMail been around as an automated solution to powering the number of properties those branches had to sell, I would definitely have been an advocate. 

The profitability of a residential agency rests solely on its flow of instructions, a mantra that big corporates like Connells understand only too well. “The agent with the most properties sells the most properties”, or so the saying goes. This is especially true in 2022, where the number of registered buyers far exceeds the number of properties that have a For Sale board wedged in the proverbial front garden. 

The pandemic has made all of the property portals reconsider their role, with property technology SMEs increasingly seeing their best route to market being strategic alliances with forward-thinking CEOs like Jason Tebb.

OnTheMarket’s CEO, Jason Tebb

In some ways it is a simple equation. Most agents have an analogue, extrovert mindset, with little time to work out the best tech to power their business. If the big architecture is sourced for them like this exclusive deal between OTM and Sprift, agents can get on with the day job, relaxing in the knowledge that their best interests are being looked after.

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Gove the Leveller looks to bang developers’ heads together over cladding 

It might just be my suspicious mind, but the ever-opportunistic Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove has taken a swing at the developers caught up in the cladding scandal, just at the point there might be an opening for a new Prime Minister. 

He certainly is scoring high on soundbites, regarding the need to be tough on new home builders who have possibly built shoddily put together properties, and he now wants to pull low-level homes into a compensation category, so those faultless leaseholders are not left to foot all of the bills. 

This all sounds great, apart from the amount that Gove is seeking to ‘voluntarily’ extract from builders. They have until March to comply, and it is only a fraction of the estimated £50 billion that will be required to sort out the sub-standard and potential lethal building problems.

Whilst it might score great political points for Gove, and any hopes he has of becoming PM one day, when he is not stuck in the BBC lift his flawed solution will do little to help the suffering homeowners living in properties they cannot sell, lease or re-mortgage.

The comeback from the building industry has been quick, and falls into the following categories:

The build specifications were fine at the time of construction, so no need for compensation, as it was only after the Grenfell disaster (2017) new fire and other building regulations came into play.

The component parts that were put into new builds were not of the correct standard and that is a supply chain issue and those who produced these materials are the culprits.

If new home developers are faced with multi-billion-pound tax liabilities, it will act as a deterrent to build further properties. It might damage any prospect of the 300,000 new homes being delivered by 2025, another soundbite from a previous Housing Secretary, now long forgotten. 

For me, there are many questions and huge amounts of stakeholders who potentially are sitting with substantial liabilities. Where for example do the lenders and the surveyors stand in all of this? And the solicitors? The poor homeowners utilise the services of professional bodies to help them buy property, and these professionals are their eyes and ears, effectively greenlighting sales. 

If a RICS surveyor has said that a flat is worth £400,000, and six months later it is found not to be up to standard and the owner cannot re-sell it or lease it, and then has to pay for a fire watch service as the fire regulations are not being met, where is the surveyor, solicitor, and original lender in all of this? Not to mention the builder who built the unsafe property in the first place.

Disco Gove may well dance in and then dance out of being the Housing Secretary just as he did holding other high-up government posts, where he made high impact decisions and then safely parachuted out to another job.

But the ones left behind, the families in homes not fit for purpose, do not have the luxury of being able to move anywhere. And, as the Grenfell inquiry grinds into yet another year with all the barristers saying that it was not their clients’ fault, it was someone else in the supply chain, will anyone including the London local authority be held to account?I feel not. It is likely to end with the usual lessons will be learned and a pulling down of the main structure.

By Andrew Stanton

Andrew Stanton is the founder and CEO of Proptech-PR, a consultancy for Founders of Proptechs looking to grow and exit, using his influence from decades of industry experience. Separately he is a consultant to some of the biggest names in global real estate, advising on sales and acquisitions, market positioning, and operations. He is also the founder and editor of Proptech-X Proptech & Property News, where his insights, connections and detailed analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are second to none.

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