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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Agency chief - 'I wish we could bring HIPs back, but just better executed!'

In this week’s In Conversation Today, we have another industry big-hitter and one of the most high-profile female leaders in property on board.

Glynis Frew is CEO of Hunters and a familiar name to many. She has been at the agency since 1999 and before that worked for United Biscuits and PepsiCo. In recent times, she has been a regular voice in the trade news as a result of the merger between Hunters and The Property Franchise Group.

Here, she talks to me about that, breaking male dominance in property, the work of the Home Buying and Selling Group and the role tech has to play in making our industry better.

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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.

  • Richard Copus

    I always find it bizarre that exchange ready packs have been available for yonks for auction sales, yet solicitors seem totally unable to prepare exactly the same thing for private treaty sales. On the average auction that most of us do, the seller's solicitor only takes a couple of weeks at the most to prepare everything a buyer and their solicitor needs to exchange contracts and it is very rare for the buyer's solicitor to query anything except the smallest details because the conveyancer makes sure that the contract is oven ready. Of course the seller must pay something up front, although this is only a fraction of the full cost which is normally payable on completion in the usual way and there is a slightly higher, but not hugely, fall through rate for private treaty sales. Why we keep agonising over this problem is strange. The answer is with us already.

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    • N W
    • 22 July 2021 10:12 AM

    alas most customers still refuse to pay anything up front if they can avoid it (even after much persuasion as to the benefits of doing so) and also most solicitors then advise their clients not to do this anyway.......

     
  • Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    We have been getting vendors legally prepared, including all protocol forms and Searches for over year now. Transaction timescales are far shorter and clients are less stressed. If anyone actually 'wants' to deliver a better service, it is there for the taking.

    Far too many people talking about it and overcomplicating the matter to actually get around to implementing it.

    Agents should not wait for a conveyancer to get clients legally prepared, they should be focussing on live files. Agents can ask clients to effectively do it themselves by following some simple steps.

    For some agents this is old hat and not on a wish list any more.

  • Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    NW the process of getting legally prepared costs £0 and does not need to involve a conveyancer initially.
    If they want to get their Searches ordered too, that does come at an initial cost, but is 100% refunded when a buyer is found and pays for them. It shows just how committed as a vendor they are and put real focus on the marketing price and strategy.
    Get in touch and my team will be very happy to help you to help your clients at £0 to be better prepared for their sales.

  • Richard Copus

    Daniel, I'm not sure what you mean by agents not waiting for conveyancers to get clients legally prepared. This makes the pack warm but not oven ready. With a fortnight only needed to prepare a legal pack which is done immediately before the house is put onto the market - and only the cost of the searches and a few disbursements up front NW - getting a legally binding exchange ready pack ready in the first place surely has to be the better option.

    Daniel Hamilton-Charlton

    Indeed. The point I was making rather badly is that IF clients are not willing to pay anything up front, they don't have to.
    I agree that getting all of the paperwork and search in hand and delivering them oven ready for a conveyancer to get contract ready is the way to go and exactly what we enable agents clients to do.
    However, clients do not need to be in touch with a conveyancer to get everything they need to be better prepared to instruct a conveyancer is my point.....but they should as soon as they are in a position to do so.
    Clients can get a lot done themselves in the early stages, without distracting a conveyancer.

     
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