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PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & Property News’: Society of Licensed Conveyancers | OnTheMarket (18/10)

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

Society of Licensed Conveyancers says 500,000 homes are potential death traps

On the 14th of October, The Society of Licensed Conveyancers wrote to the government to express their belief that little has been done since the Grenfell tragedy four years ago to address the safety of multi-family dwellings.

In a letter, John Clay said that as many as half a million flats are unsafe and that a great deal more residential and commercial buildings would now not meet the current construction codes that are required. 

It will be interesting to see if Michael Gove, the great leveller and the housing secretary, responds in any way to the pressure groups now forming who are looking to help people living in homes that are simply not fit for purpose.

Gove has just said £58 million will be available to councils for new homes on Brownfield sites, and there is potential for a multi-billion fund for making sure all of the sub-standard buildings that already exist would be a better spend. 

Here is John Clay’s correspondence in full:   

Dear Secretary of State

I write on behalf of The Society of Licensed Conveyancers in respect of the current crisis in high rise flats affected by safety issues following the Grenfell tragedy.

The Government must take action now:

Thousands of leaseholders are facing eviction and bankruptcy (many contemplating suicide).

The Government must step in and pay for all remedial costs to rectify the failures of past administrations to protect owners and leaseholders of high-rise apartments. The Government of the day failed to take action after having been warned when fire tests carried out for them in 2004 predicted a disaster. This warning came 13 years before the Grenfell tragedy (and again when a similar fatal fire broke out at Lakanal House in 2009). 

The London Fire Brigade also warned the Government in 2012 and 2013 in a series of letters to Brandon Lewis about the fire danger in high rise blocks, but he declined to introduce new legislation which may have prevented 72 unnecessary deaths.

The remedial costs from Government intervention, should it step in, could be claimed back from the developers who are responsible for the current mess.

At least 500,000 flats are considered too dangerous to live in and are unsaleable. Yet it is deemed acceptable to leave, what are often vulnerable people, to carry on living under these conditions.

The Government has committed to building 300,000 new homes every year – surely the priority must be to make existing homes safe?

I attach a more detailed analysis for your consideration, and there are many aspects to consider. The Society’s input is intended to be constructive and to find a way to provide a fair solution to those caught in a nightmare not of their making.

The Society would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further. It is a very complicated situation which we would suggest your department has not previously taken seriously enough in so far as those directly affected do not have any choice but to continue to live in apartments.

Many of which have no value whatsoever.

Yours sincerely

John Clay Soc.L.C.

Board member and past chairman
The Society of Licensed Conveyancers

Property News OnTheMarket

OnTheMarket CEO Jason Tebb leads profitability charge

Often it is the case that CEOs joining listed companies have time to work their way in. Jason Tebb, however, did not have that luxury when taking the reins of OnTheMarket in January 2021, following the departure of his predecessor Ian Springett, who left the post in March 2020.

Against a backdrop of the pandemic, lockdowns, and widespread uncertainty across the UK real estate sector, the appointment of Jason Tebb – who at 45 years old seemed a young pair of hands to take on the task – has turned out to be an extremely successful one.

Maybe it is his agency background and knowledge of how agents think, or his tireless agenda of roundhouses and listening to the agents. Whatever it is, OntheMarket has definitely benefitted, moving onwards and upwards in a very short period of time. 

It is clear that innovation and collaboration are very much on Mr Tebb’s agenda as he, unlike his predecessor, seems to listen and adapt his strategy.

When he was announced as the new CEO, Jason Tebb said that the business has “solid foundations with strong operational momentum, and there are clear opportunities for growth by working with the estate agent community to develop our differentiated portal offering; build a profitable, sustainable, and technology-led business; and deliver value for our stakeholders.”

It would seem with the half-year results in, he has managed to deliver on these words. The details of the interim half-year results are set out below, courtesy of the Vox Markets Podcast.  

· Revenue and ARPA up 46% and 52% respectively. Adjusting for COVID-19 H1 20/21 related customer support discounts of £1.8m, revenue and ARPA growth still strong at 24% and 28% respectively.

· Adjusted operating profit increased 163% to £2.1m, despite increases of 105% in marketing expenditure, to £4.5m, and 28% in staff costs, to £4.7m.

· Profit after tax of £0.5m, reduced by non-recurring costs arising from the Glanty acquisition, the repayment of government grants and an increase in non-cash share-based agent recruitment charges.

· Strong balance sheet retained with cash generated from operating activities of £2.6m after repaying CJRS loans of £0.4m (H1 20/21: £2.9m, after receiving CJRS loans of £0.3m). Period-end net cash was £9.9m, with no borrowings (31 January 2021: £10.7m before deferred creditor payments of £0.4m).

· Average monthly advertisers listed were down 5% period on period, reflecting a reduction in H2 20/21 as agents on long-term free of charge contracts were asked to migrate to paying contracts. Since 31 January 2021, agency branches listing have risen 5% and new homes developments listed by 6%.

· Increased branches listed underpaying contracts, up 3% since 31 January 2021 to 10,190 at 31 July 2021.

· Continued strong operational performance, with traffic and average monthly leads per advertiser up versus both H1 and H2 20/21.

· Significant progress in strategy to build a differentiated, technology-enabled property business, with the acquisition of Glanty, new commercial partnerships and new website functionality and lead types.

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Andrew Stanton Founder & Editor of 'PROPTECH-X' where his insights, connections, analysis and commentary on proptech and real estate are based on writing 1.3M words annually. Plus meeting 1,000 Proptech founders, critiquing 400 decks and having had 130 clients as CEO of 'PROPTECH-PR', a consultancy for Proptech founders seeking growth and exit strategies. He also acts as an advisory for major global real estate companies on sales, acquisitions, market positioning & operations. With 100K followers & readers, he is the 'Proptech Realestate Influencer.'