There is a very interesting but easily-overlooked piece of information at the end of the National Trading Standards Estate Agent Team’s new draft compliance guidance – the document exclusively revealed by Estate Agent Today recently.
On the final page there is a list of the organisations thanked by NTSEAT for their help reviewing the draft.
There were the usual professional bodies like NFOPP, NAEA, RICS and INEA (and it was with the gratefully-received help of the latter that we got the story).
NTSEAT’s thanks also went to the three redress schemes and various council trading standards divisions.
But sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb – in a good way – was the listing of the HomeOwners‘ Alliance. This is an online body led, so its website suggests, by a random and small group of enthusiastic middle-class home owners.
Its mission, it says, is “to take the stress, uncertainty and unnecessary expense out of buying and owning a home” and to help would-be owners realise their ambition. It takes the view that existing and future owners are amateurs facing an array of mortgage and property people who are full-time professionals. That’s not always fair, it believes.
Whether we agree with that or not, the HOA was the only consumer-facing body (as opposed to complainant-facing) which, at this stage of the guidelines, appears to have been asked for input.
And it was this fact that struck me as being interesting.
NTSEAT had not asked, say, Which? - the organisation that for years has been described (usually by itself, to be honest) as the consumers’ champion.
And there were no comments requested from Shelter, which has shifted in recent years from being a homeless charity to a campaigning ginger group on housing-related matters.
The HOA’s rise to significance has been quiet but impressive, and built party on not being afraid to take on the often-intimidating property, estate agency and letting agency establishment (of which, I guess, I am a member – even as a property journalist).
On this website it gained some notoriety 18 months ago when it accused letting agents of being less-than-transparent with their fee structures.
It also won the ire of traditional agents by championing – or at least highlighting the potential – of online estate agents, with a very thorough roadtest of several, highlighting good and bad points.
And early this year it was outspoken in its warnings of the pitfalls of sellers instructing agents who were dropping one of the big two portals and using OnTheMarket.
It was also very thorough in its analyses of the political parties’ housing policies ahead of the May election.
All of these benefitted the organisation in numerous ways, not least of which was that the HOA was quoted extensively in national newspapers and online, and making them be regarded by opinion-formers as an authentic voice on property-related issues.
In other words the HOA consistently fights the housing market consumers’ corner in public.
It follows this through in less dramatic ways, by packing its website with consumer-facing information about buying, selling and advice.
As a journalist writing for a range of property media I have found the HOA straight to deal with and – despite lacking the funds to hire a public relations person – it still manages to be quicker at responding to requests for information than, say, the NAEA.
This is not meant as a special endorsement of this particular organisation more than of any other, but it is clear to me that by being consulted by NTSEAT, the HOA has ‘arrived’.
In an era of From Russia With Cash, when elements of our industry may not be covering themselves with glory, estate agents and the rest of us in this business could do worse than recognising that the HOA – and consumers it represents – may be worth engaging with.
See you next time.
*Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting all things property @PropertyJourn