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Property Alert Service needs to go further, faster
COMMENT / Jonathan Rolande, NAPB: A free Government alert scheme aiming to combat fraud needs to “go further and faster” to combat property crime, a leading expert warns today.
Less than one-per cent of UK homeowners have signed up to HM Land Registry’s Property Alert Service, according to newly published figures.
The alert flags suspicious activity and has been heralded as a key tool in the ongoing war with property-fraudsters.
But Jonathan Rolande of the National Association of Property Buyers believes the service should be “scaled up” to have a greater chance of success.
He said: “Generally it’s an excellent service but one of the biggest issues our members find is that only 10 properties can be registered at a time. This excludes many medium sized buy to let owners.
“What also concerns me is that a large proportion of victims of property fraud are elderly people who at times can be quite vulnerable and might not be in a position to use such a service.
“We need to see more encouragement urging relatives of people within that demographic to register on their behalf.
“The fact that only one per cent of people are signing up will be music to the ears of property fraudsters, whose crimes cause misery for all of those affected.”
Mr Rolande said he believes letting agents should also be advising landlords to opt in to the potentially “lifeline service”.
“Used properly this can help reduce the chances of falling victim to fraud,” Mr Rolande added.
His comments come after Freedom of Information data illustrated how, in the past eight years, a total of just 275,537 people have signed up to the service.
The data emerged following FOI requests by the property and legal fintech group Thirdfort.
Under the rules of the alert, an owner is able to register up to 10 properties.
But with approximately 29 million homes in the UK, it is probable that fewer than around 1% of property owners have signed up to receive alerts on their property, despite the significant risks of title fraud.
The figures follow recent reports that a man in Luton returned home to discover that his house had been sold without his knowledge.
HM Land Registry launched its Property Alert service in 2014 to help tackle property fraud. Email alerts will be sent when HM Land Registry receives an application to change the register as well as for official searches. This enables property owners to judge whether the activity is suspicious and if they should seek further advice.
The Property Alerts are free to use, offering a quick and simple way for homeowners to protect themselves against property title fraud. They typically take around three minutes to sign up to and provide an early warning of suspicious activity, allowing property owners to take immediate action.
Federation of Independent Agents launches FIACON event in Milton Keynes
Graham Lock, CEO of the Federation of Independent Agents, will be hosting a conference of around 160 delegates in Milton Keynes. Knowing Graham and the tireless work he puts in this event, the first physical meetup for his membership since lockdown will be a showcase event with great insightful speakers, top innovative industry suppliers and of course lots of networking, advice, and content on the day.
Lock said: “It’s great to get our members back into a physical location following many months of Zoom meetings which have been a good temporary solution, but you can’t beat the real thing … We have a laser-focus on improving the perception of estate agency in the eyes of the general public and earning the respect that we deserve as an industry.
“FIACON generates so much positivity, sharing and networking opportunities between members which is only natural when top performers get together like this.
The Federation of Independent Agents is an invitation-only group, mainly utilised to ensure a high calibre of agent.
Lock added: “Our strict entry criteria and exclusivity policy has continued to strengthen our brand throughout 2021 and with the addition of several new initiatives ready for an exciting 2022 we’ll continue to attract the best independent agents from around the country to join our group.”
Women Aged 30-45 Leading the Charge for Sustainable Retrofits in UK Homes
PRESS RELEASE, houzen: When it comes to environmental change, sisters are doing it for themselves – and for future generations. Greta Thunberg inspired a global youth movement that has shamed governments around the world for their lack of commitment to the environment. Norway’s first female Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, coined the UN’s definition of sustainable development (“meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”). Kenya’s Wangari Maathai founded a movement that has led to over 51 million trees being planted.
Here in the UK, it was a group of women – The Nanas – who stopped fracking in the North of England. And now new data from proptech firm houzen has shown that women are driving change within the home as well, leading the country’s sustainability retrofits.
According to research undertaken by houzen co-founder Robert Csercse, women aged 30-45 are sharply focused on the issue of retrofitting home energy systems to deliver enhanced energy efficiency.
houzen helps people understand the impact of sustainable retrofitting on their home. Doing so can lead to growth in the property’s value (houzen has seen growth of 6-12% in value for sustainable retrofitted units when it comes to investor’s ROI). It also, of course, provides a quantifiable energy efficiency increase, delivering savings on energy bills and environmental benefits including the reduction of the home’s carbon emissions.
Through its sustainability reports, houzen helps owners get to grips with the full cost of sustainable retrofitting, as well as the timescales involved and the overall savings/return on investment that doing so can generate. Unlike EPC reports, which offer a one-time snapshot of the current situation and short-term issues, the sustainability reports support owners to prepare for the future, offering clear, actionable recommendations and quantifiable outputs for the medium- to long-term. They include a timeline, cost estimate, assessment of the availability of contractors and details of the availability and price fluctuations of materials (such as cement and plywood). The latter allows owners to optimize the price they pay for materials.
All of this makes it easy for homeowners to see precisely what is involved in making their property more sustainable, but houzen’s service doesn’t stop there. The company also advises on financing (including potential government grants) and can plan, execute and manage the retrofitting on the homeowner’s behalf.
“The lack of clarity around the cost of sustainable improvements is putting many people off. However, our research has found that women aged 30-45 are particularly conscious of energy efficiency issues. Both the environmental situation and recent energy price hikes are driving this, with women seeking to have greater control over the cost of their energy bills and hedge against inevitable future increases in energy costs, as well as to save the planet.”
Robert Csercse, Co-founder, houzen
Nor is it just homeowners who are focused on energy efficiency. houzen has found that the younger generation of renters seems to be much more conscious about the importance of net-zero to the environment. Many have advised that they would be willing to pay 15-20% more rent for a property with better sustainability credentials.
To find out more, please visit www.houzen.co.uk
Hybrid or not…What is the right model for estate agents in the 2022?
As we are about to end one year and start the other, it is now the time that companies and people start to contemplate their future and the way they will do business in the coming year.
In line with this, I recently caught up with Rollo Miles, the founder of a thriving London agency, who is still very much mixing it up as to how and where agency is best done.
To be clear, Agent & Homes is still defining what “hybrid agent” exactly means. The company recently opened a physical site in Ladbroke Grove to complement its Notting Hill Hub. The difference is that this new site is on the High Street, just like traditional estate agents are. So, what is Agent & Homes up to?
CEO Rollo Miles says: “Our fight is not with the High Street but with how agents are rewarded and paid. To date most of our 50 self-employed agents work off their little black book and keep between 70 % and 80% of any fees they generate.
So, to keep it simple, if they sell a house for £1m they can take home up to £8k – happy days! However, what we have found is that in order to be super-successful hybrid agents need to find a way of complementing their existing network of clients and gaining new ones, just like traditional agents do.”
As part of its growth plan, as it enters its fourth year of operations, Agent & Homes is rolling out physical hubs to support its self-employed agents. The idea is that where it has a cluster of their agents working, it will open a local hub to support them. This gives agents a physical location to work from and meet clients. It also reinforces local brand awareness and helps link agents to the brand in each area.
But the keyword is flexibility. “The plan is a bit like Pizza Hut, they have some restaurants they own and others which are franchises – and we are doing the same.”
Agent & Homes, therefore, plans to open at least ten local hubs in London to support their agents. These are basically estate agency offices with a twist.
“Gone are the rows of desks, the fishbowl look” says Miles, “instead, our hubs feel like a living room and are inviting. They match our marketing and branding, which is all about people and objects and the home, objects that we collect in common and bring us together, what advertisers refer to as the pebble bowl approach.
The public feel like they can pop in for a property conversation in a relaxing environment. The idea is to get away from estate agency by numbers and reintroduce localism to our profession, just as we say with our motto: Estate Agency Reinvented.”
With the introduction of local hubs, Agent & Homes now offers a clear growth path to agents who want to take the self-employed model to the next level, allowing them to open their own Agent & Homes franchise to complement what they have built up while remaining self-employed.
“What we are doing is staying ahead of the curve and recognising that some agents want more for themselves, but also from us, and the big challenge for all hybrid agents is to be able to deliver fresh valuation leads to their agents, which we are recognised champions at doing,” adds Miles.
If you want to get involved with the Agent & Homes revolution, perhaps start by having a chat with Rollo Miles, a really great traditional agent who has moved the estate agency business model so it fits high-achiever agents and, most importantly, their clients who want to sell and rent.
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.