Without further ado…
You’re active in the Home Buying and Selling Group - what is the latest progress on this?
The Home Buying & Selling Group (HBSG) aims to make the process of buying and selling a home simpler, faster and less stressful. Earlier this year, we launched BASPI (Buying and Selling Property Information), a one stop, single source of ‘property truth’ that provides total transparency around a property, allowing buyers to make informed decisions while also facilitating more efficient completions for conveyancers.
To me, though, the best thing about the HBSG is that so many great people from all areas in the industry are working together to achieve the same ends. For example, since the launch of the BASPI dataset, the Law Society have announced their support for the provision of upfront information and will be beta testing a new material facts disclosure form, TA6 Part 1, to make more information available to buyers up front.
Another group is working on Digital ID; another on Property Logbooks; and in the Technology Group software providers are examining what they can do to help. There are many more initiatives, all of which are to help improve the home-buying experience for consumers and stakeholders. When everyone works together, it is amazing what can be achieved!
Hunters is now part of The Property Franchise Group - how difficult or otherwise is it to keep the brand distinct and separate within a larger group?
Brands matter and always have done. Obviously, we are very proud of our Hunters brand and maintaining brand identity is vital for us. Ultimately, it is always about the customer and that starts with strong internal communication, clearly explaining to our teams that it is business as usual.
As you would expect, I am a tad biased about our Hunters brand, however it is great to work alongside the other MDs within TPFG who are equally passionate about their brands too! That’s great and because each one has a different identity, we don’t see much crossover at all.
In summary, we still have the same excellent Hunters brand and service, but now we have the added firepower and reach of TPFG where it’s needed.
Hunters has always emphasised its technology - what areas of the house buying process still need improvement when it comes to technology?
The entire conveyancing process needs to be simplified. BASPI is one part of this – it is intended to replace the myriad of forms currently required with a single web access which can also be integrated seamlessly with other technology and software platforms.
Transparency is also key. Covid has taught us that increasingly customers will interact online and want to do so at various times of the day and indeed night in some cases! One of the areas that provides the most stress when home moving is communication. That constant flow of updating where we are now in the transaction and what needs to happen next can be a challenge.
Technology can help here with the flow of information from Agent CRM to conveyancer to customer and back again. Person to person contact will always be important without doubt, but technology used well, facilitates transparency very quickly.
Technology could help in sharing ID across all the stakeholders; in facilitating mortgage applications and sharing of the required information and data. Ultimately it would be a real winner if the entire process from initial marketing to completion could be facilitated through technology because if the customer wants transparency and speed then we should make sure that’s what they receive.
If you had a magic wand which you could wave to solve one enduring problem in the property market, what would it be and why?
Personally, I just wish that we could bring HIPS back, but this time make sure it was executed better!
One of the reasons the sale process is taking so much longer is because there are so many more new rules than there used to be. A HIP for every “For Sale” property would go a long way to cover many of those rules, in the form of a sale-ready pack that the vendor prepares with the estate agent and is available for the buyer.
Both parties instruct a solicitor when starting the selling or viewing process, both have a pack and the buyer’s pack includes: AML checks, ability to purchase (MIP), etc, and then they instruct a solicitor and lodge £50 (which can be refundable) to open a file.
In terms of gender diversity, the upper ranks of the agency industry remains stubbornly male - why is that and what can be done to change it?
Property historically is a male-dominated industry and while we are seeing great progress being made, ultimately we are still living through the previous ‘cycle’ and its associated mindset (for some businesses, not all). I think that in a generation’s time, things will have shifted considerably; you only have to look at how much more aware and socially conscious this current generation is.
As a business, we are extremely proud of our diversity figures, with many females in senior roles – this alone helps as it provides role models for more junior women starting their careers. As an industry, we must also work harder with school, college and university engagement – aiming to educate and inspire women from a young age to show them that “I can!”
Mental health has become an increasingly important issue in the estate agency sector - what is Hunters doing to ensure the welfare of its staff and partners?
We take mental health extremely seriously and encourage all our staff to speak up. We like to think we have the kind of company culture where a colleague can tell their line manager about such issues and would feel safe doing so.
In addition, we have ramped up our internal support sessions for colleagues and all our employed Hunters staff have free access to help@hand with UNUM, which provides both mental and physical health support should they need it.
Where do you see estate agency going post-Covid? More hubs, more hybrid working, or more of a return to branches?
Without question high street branches will remain important. However, I think the impact of the pandemic and the renewed focus on lifestyle is here to stay. Hybrid working will increase as people seek to balance work and home life. Aligned to this, we have just unveiled our Personal Agent model which allows agents to effectively run their own business, working on their own flexible terms.