Proptech & Property News in Brief: HMRC, Peak AI, Property Ombudsman (25/08)

In today’s news, Andrew Stanton discusses the UK housing market, an AI service that helps the boardroom make decisions, and the Property Ombudsman’s complaints onslaught

Daily bite-sized proptech and property news in partnership with Estate Agent Networking.


HMRC: UK housing market falls off a cliff in July

Yesterday the Resolution Foundation told the world that the SDLT holiday had not stimulated the housing market. Now, thankfully, HMRC has provided good old-fashioned data, showing that the seasonally adjusted number of sales that completed in the UK in July was 63% lower than in June.

Only 73,740 properties were moved into this July, down from a whopping 198,400 properties just the month before, and nearly half the average amount of properties that completed each month up to July.

What could be the reason for the housing market falling off the proverbial cliff? The answer is simple, the last day of June was the last day that buyers could get a maximum of £15,000 stamp duty knocked off their moving costs.

Resolution Foundation might not think that this was a market driver, but it appears that common sense, and now the HMRC, are telling us it was.

At the end of September, property over £125,000 up to the value of £250,000 will incur standard SDLT charges. Presently there is a three-month staggered advantage for properties in this price range, so we could see a further dip in house transactions in October.

With furlough wrapping up and the fact that 25% of homeowners have missed at least one mortgage payment during the pandemic, plus Brexit coming back into focus, the autumn housing market may well become a buyers’ market with prices stagnating or even dipping.

What will the Chancellor do then?

SoftBank’s Vision Fund II buys into Peak

SoftBank, through its acquisition arm, has been reported as having acquired a stake in UK-based AI start-up Peak, a service that helps C-level business level governance and strategy, in what has been described as a £35 million-plus move.

Essentially, artificial intelligence gives enterprises oversight at speed, and in micro and macro ways it can create huge efficiencies which immediately hit the bottom line. Loss-making strategies and understanding areas where capital and expenditure can better be utilised is where modern business is going, with software replacing the sometimes unreliable business acumen of humans in the board room.

In some ways it is the rise of the machines who operate dispassionately 24/7, providing corporate oversight and de-risking businesses. As Richard Potter, one of the co-founders said: “It’s becoming impossible to run a business without AI. Modern businesses are complex and operate in an ever-changing world.”

Property Ombudsman: Complaint levels are up 29%

It’s true that statistics can be used to prove anything. In this case, the Property Ombudsman has stated that in 2020 the number of disgruntled people showed their disdain by making more complaints than ever before, 29% up on 2019.

But could it be that people had more time on their hands or the fact that the Property Ombudsman had a brand new portal, making it easier for the public to lodge their complaints?

It comes as no surprise that nearly 70% of complaints were from sellers, who stood to gain if their case was proved. 30% of the complaints were made by buyers.

As ever it was lack of communication and perceived indifference that were the key levers in many of the disputes, and in total over 39,000 people thought to complain. 

Interestingly, the Property Ombudsman sided with the general public two-thirds of the time, but typically financial awards to those who had suffered poor service were reasonably minor.


Andrew Stanton is the founder 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 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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