Table of Contents Hide
- Who are you and what is your story?
- Could you tell us about Mutual?
- Could you tell us about the idea and the technology behind Mutual?
- How do your users benefit from Mutual?
- What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far, personally and as a company?
- What excites you about the space you operate in?
- Where do you see the company in, one, three, and five years?
- What motivates you to make Mutual succeed?
- What makes now the right time to be in your industry, or launch your service?
- If there’s one thing you could change about your industry, what would it be?
- How do you plan to scale further?
- Do you have a favourite quote that sticks with you?
- If you had to give advice to a new entrant into your field, what would it be?
Who are you and what is your story?
I’m Max Fuller, the founder of Mutual Off-Market. I started my working life at sixteen, straight out of school into Midland Bank before progressing into financial services. This led to specialising as a mortgage broker. I was always interested in property, so I then decided to concentrate on becoming a property landlord as I saw this as a good way to build future financial security.
I have always been ambitious and creative, but little did I know back in 1979, I outlined my ideas of the future of banking in an essay for my Business studies coursework. The two themes were that banks and building societies would step into each others’ business activities and the idea that a mortgage should be an all-encompassing financial product where you could overpay, use a revolving credit facility linked to a credit card and an additional personal loan facility. The off-set mortgage!
An interesting fact about me, in 1989 following a 3-month road trip in Europe, a friend and I created a board game with possibly the worlds first Euro banknote!
Could you tell us about Mutual?
The concept behind Mutual is a mindset. Whenever I look at any situation, I always look at it from the perspective of how I can help and then how I can be helped. Mutual was the coming together of looking at a buyer-seller-estate agent relationship and applying the mindset of how each can help the other and be helped in return. This is why I chose the name Mutual.
Could you tell us about the idea and the technology behind Mutual?
The idea grew from the ethos and mindset of a mutual benefit for each stakeholder. As the company develops further, those principles will always apply. The technology behind Mutual is not ground-breaking, but how it has been applied and where Mutual is positioned as the focal point between buyers, sellers and estate agents is the difference.
How do your users benefit from Mutual?
Mutual caters for three stakeholders; the seller, the buyer, and the estate agent. Buyers benefit in three distinct ways. Firstly, they can see properties at the earliest possible moment, before they’re officially for sale. Registering their interest anonymously via a like, which acts like a watch list, or a super like, which passes contact details to an agent only when a property has been made available to purchase. Secondly, they can see properties from ll the member estate agencies coming to market. And lastly, they are in control of their own registered buyer experience.
All too often buyers register with one or more local agencies, and will initially be contacted about or sent details of properties that probably don’t match their criteria…or sent nothing at all! Then those buyers are finally forgotten about a few months later.
I personally registered with many agencies during my time as a property developer and landlord, and this was the case every single time. To add insult to injury, it was often the case that I would come across a property that fitted my criteria, but was “sold subject to contract” by an agent I had registered with.
Sellers benefit in three distinctive ways, too. Firstly, they can add their home to the platform and check out the level of buyer interest for themselves ahead of engaging with estate agents once an agent has been asked to provide a valuation, or more technically correct, a market appraisal. Estate agents will understandably want to sign-up the prospective client there and then or re-contact them regularly in order to do so, something many people dislike until they decide they are ready.
Secondly, the prospective seller’s home is not fully identified and the property details can only be viewed by registered buyers, providing would be sellers an opportunity for discreet marketing and potentially a discreet sale with the help of a member estate agent, thereby avoiding nosey neighbours and family members. This can be a real benefit in situations of divorce, partnership split, family disputes, probate, etc.
Also, the seller can see buyer interest in real-time, as this is recorded for them to see as a like or super like. If they decide they do want to sell, they can organise up to three market appraisals with member agencies at the touch of a button. If they go on to instruct one of the agencies, the agency will receive the contact details of the super liked buyers.
Estate Agents benefit in a number of ways, too. At a market appraisal stage they can offer their prospective client the advantage of discreet marketing ahead of deciding to instruct. Showing the prospective client the level of actual real-time buyer interest will prompt more instructions and often sooner than normal.
Pre-marketing can enable them to test the market price, especially if a client is insistent upon using their own valuation. This functionality can save agents from aborted marketing costs whilst protecting their instruction from competitor poaching activity. In addition to this, an estate agent has the ability to potentially achieve a discreet off-market sale or, if necessary, revert to a full open-market listing later. This gives the agent and seller two opportunities at launching the property, saving the property from becoming stale on a traditional portal.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far, personally and as a company?
Personally, as an innovator and founder, when you set off on the journey there is so much that you don’t know and so much more of you don’t know what you don’t know. This inevitably leads to pain as money and time are spent exploring dead ends, making mistakes only revealed in retrospect.
As a company, the biggest challenge is establishing a foothold in a fragmented marketplace that has been rushed off its feet for the past 12 months.
What excites you about the space you operate in?
What excites me most is the pace and diversity of change within the industry. There is fluidity at every level, which creates a dynamic environment. How the industry will evolve will not depend on just one thing but on many. It is not only about tech, it is about the economy, legislation, and differing business models, to name but a few. Fortunately, we are positioned in such that, in time, we can take advantage of many of the new innovations coming along and can adapt to the other factors where and when necessary.
Where do you see the company in, one, three, and five years?
In short, an established, profitable, and nationally recognised consumer brand.
What motivates you to make Mutual succeed?
The idea itself! Jordan Peterson wrote in his book 12 Rules for Life about how an idea takes you over and you become the avatar for the idea. That aside, personal determination and the belief that Mutual represents a transformational change in an industry that for many years has only undergone many progressive changes.
What makes now the right time to be in your industry, or launch your service?
When I developed the idea, I was ahead of the curve. Now the curve has caught up. Some industry players have introduced elements of what we do at Mutual. This validates what we are doing. The pandemic has had a massive impact on our mindset and it has enabled a reset of thinking for many different industries. Suddenly everyone is much more aware and open to new possibilities, and that is exciting.
If there’s one thing you could change about your industry, what would it be?
I’d reduce the level of scepticism. I am not saying remove it altogether, but I think in estate agency, scepticism is at an unhealthily high level. This really impacts the level of openness to receive new ideas. Hopefully, the pandemic will in some measure have achieved this for me.
How do you plan to scale further?
Our business model enables us to scale through several different routes simultaneously. Our initial focus is to develop local areas of use. We have targeted Birmingham and Croydon/SW London and we anticipate developing and growing organically. We will move towards a national campaign once we have secured additional investment.
Do you have a favourite quote that sticks with you?
My father said “If you always try to do your best, no one can ever knock you.” Well, of course, people can still knock you externally, but internally it has no effect.
If you had to give advice to a new entrant into your field, what would it be?
Prepare for a marathon, not a sprint.
To learn more about Max Fuller and Mutual Off-Market, visit www.mutualoffmarket.com
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.