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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Exclusive: new app allows agents to test interest in properties pre-sale

A new app is being launched which allows agents to gauge possible interest in a property before it is formally put on the market.

This would allow agents, or individuals who could use the app to sell their homes privately, to test the market and create a list of possible buyers, thus saving time in the transaction when the home is formally put on sale.

The app - called Houso - is the brainchild of Ben Johnston, a residential developer for the past 13 years. The idea for the app has come about as a result of Johnston’s personal experience selling his properties through agents on the open market.

Johnston says that despite his app being available to individuals it is not intended to disrupt the work of High Street estate agents, who he wants to work with to develop and extend the product. He says he will not work with online agents as they are often the root cause of delays in transactions whereas his product is aimed at speeding up the process.

“We work a lot with downsizers and second steppers and I believe that the current route to market for both of these demographics is flawed. Both normally need to sell their home before they can move, and the majority will undertake viewings on homes before their own homes are even listed” he says. 

He says that uncertainties over Brexit, the General Election and the future of stamp duty have combined to mean that millions of people may be interested in moving home, but are not satisfied with the current stock available on the portals. 

Therefore Houso allows buyers to see homes not formally for sale, but which may come on in the future, and whose owners can testing the market though exposure via the app.

Johnston admits that individuals could use the app to publicise their homes without using an agent, but he is now seeking to work with local independent agents across the country. 

“Initially we will allow this to agents for free to see if the concept is attractive to their clients, and we will then look to levy a small monthly fee of £50 to cover admin and hosting, and this will enable them access to the CMS system that we have built too” he has told Estate Agent Today. 

Properties submitted to the app would have conventional details, photographs and an asking price - undertaken via an agent if the property is not sold directly by the owner - but there would also be an Off-Market option in which some details including the price would be redacted.  

“All contact from a Buyer goes straight to the agent without any desensitization and can be picked up in the app, CMS or emailed to current CRM provider” explains Johnston. 

“We are not intending on working with online providers, as our self sale route with Viewber api could be more cost effective to those concerned with price point. The agent will still be working to their required commission to represent a vendor on Houso” he says. 

Within Houso there would be the opportunity for a seller or his agent or conveyancer to upload information for buyers into a ‘vault’. 

This would include the likes of TA8/TA10 Boundary enquiries, Property Information Questionnaire, Land Registry documents, NHBC home warranties and more - which would also speed a sale once the property was fully on the market.

“The entire pack can be pinged over to the buyer’s solicitors via the vendors solicitor and then released upon completion. The new owner would then become custodian of the vault and then add to it should any factors change with the home” explains Johnston. 

Other features of the app would include messaging and information for sellers relating to the potential buyers - this may include the numbers of offers received, whether any of the interested parties have withdrawn after making previous offers on other properties, and so on.

“This has been introduced to try to get a better understanding of who is interested in your home … this element should hopefully create a little more certainty within the chain. No agent, however good, knows what offers a potential purchaser might have tabled with other agents in or outside of their area unless they disclose them - Houso will remove this” promises Johnston.

There will also be functionality to arrange viewings and provide feedback, and to handle offers.

Johnston says he is convinced that with the three current leading portals offering what he calls “carbon copies of one giant” there is scope for a product that can give exposure to properties earlier on in the process - this would apply particularly to downsizers, he says. 

Houso - which you can see here - can be downloaded now on app or android store, and any agent interested in working with it can email ben@houso.co.uk.

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    I certainly won’t even give this a second thought whilst private sellers have access.

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    I had my reservations, as with any "new" technology, but signed up anyway as it's free and gave us a usp in my area. I understand it will not be for corporates either! It's taken us some time to get our heads round it. For me, it's simply an instruction getter. Maybe it's not for every area but we are a small, conservative city and we have taken 3 instructions in 3 weeks! That'll do me! Particularly now, when everyone is telling me they don't want to sell till next year, I can get my foot in the door. Next time you are on a valuation, why don't you ask the vendors what they think? I suspect you'll get very positive feedback.

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    Congrats on your first ever post here.

     
  • Simon Bradbury

    Interesting stuff - I assume that the sellers need to have signed an agency agreement and have the necessary EPC and AML stuff in place before posting on the app?
    If no "corporate"agents are allowed, how is that being defined? What about franchisees and or agents operating under a licence arrangement like Fine & Country?
    Are so called "online" agents allowed to advertise too?
    I think this idea is worth at least exploring.

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    Their website actually states in big letters; 'Sell your home with or without an estate agent'. Why on earth would any sensible estate agent promote this App?

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    In answer to PP, I have just had a client who has tried advertising herself on houso for 2 weeks and failed to make a sale (too much money) but she has now instructed me at the right price as she noticed I have most properties on the site. I feel houso are trying to promote agents as well as private sellers and I'm happy to ride the back of it. I would never have got to this client without houso and I suspect she would have gone down the internet route. I doubt that any seller trying to save money will instruct me initially anyway. Now 4 instructions in a month. If we continue like this we will have recovered the downturn this year and I will be very happy. Now I think about it, I'm not sure I should be telling anyone.......in answer to SB above, I get signed agreements and epc's.

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