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Property Natter: here’s why crowdfunding is the future

Crowdfunding is nothing new. As I pointed out in a previous Natter, it dates back centuries, playing a part in the construction of medieval cathedrals and, later, the Statue of Liberty. But its modern, online form has really started to thrive in recent years as we increasingly live our lives in a digital world.

Where, not so long ago, a fledgling company, start-up or entrepreneur would turn to the bank, their savings or friends and family for financial assistance, they are now turning to crowdfunding. 

The diminishing importance of Dragons’ Den in recent years – it was once one of the BBC’s flagship shows – could also be a sign that budding entrepreneurs are turning to other avenues for the investment they need to make their ideas a reality.

Property, arguably more than any other industry, is at the forefront of this crowdfunding boom. The latest example of a company being propelled by new funding was seen just this week, when estate agent Nested announced that it had raised £36 million

Nested, which allows people to buy a new home before they’ve sold their old one, only launched in January of this year but has now secured nearly £50 million in funding – across three separate rounds – in the last 18 months alone. 

The latest cash injection also represents Europe’s largest PropTech investment so far this year, a further sign of the burgeoning development of that sector in particular. 

Nested, co-founded by entrepreneur and GoCardless co-founder Matt Robinson, has a unique sales pitch: it offers home sellers up to 97% of their property’s value when they need it, then the rest when it sells. Consequently, a seller can use the funds advanced by Nested to purchase their new home before selling their old one. 

The aim is to break up long-winded, complicated property chains and hand over the same market power to sellers that cash-buyers currently enjoy. 

The funding its received so far would suggest it’s doing something right, but it is also part of a wider trend for the easy melding of property and crowd (or group) funding. 

Elsewhere, Property Partner recently completed the UK’s largest ever property crowdfund. Using Property Partner – which acts as a stock exchange for the property market – individual investors raised close to £3 million to buy a prime, state-of-the-art student accommodation block in the heart of Newcastle. 

It’s not the first time Property Partner has broken new ground – back in November 2015 it smashed the world record for the quickest ever crowdfund of a single property, helping to fund some 42 flats in a converted mill in only 643 seconds, with investors pumping in a total of £843,100 at a rate of £1,311 per second!  

Consultation upon consultation

In recent times the government’s favourite activity has been to call for consultations on everything, from the proposed lettings fees ban and the home selling and buying process to fracking, air pollution and energy efficiency. They even went to the public to ask their opinion on Britain’s membership of the EU – a consultation of sorts.

If you look at the government’s page on consultations, there are a staggering number of consultations either recently completed or still open. While consulting a broad range of people and experts on key matters is wise, governing by committee brings its own set of possible complications. Namely: nothing ever gets done.

And what is the point of these consultations? Is the government changing its mind or amending legislation as a result of consultation outcomes? Or it simply a way of saying “we hear you, we’re taking what you say on board, but we’re going to go ahead and do what we planned for in the first place”?

Soon, the government will be calling for consultations about consultations. It’s right and proper, of course, to consult with those who have the best knowledge of a given issue – as it the case with the Improving the home buying and selling process: call for evidence consultation launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government in recent days – but is anything actually gained from this?

Top tips for smooth email management

In this day and age, it can often feel like you are swamped by endless emails, many of which need your full attention straightaway. The temptation is to respond to them immediately to ensure unanswered emails aren’t clogging up your inbox, but is this to the detriment of your productivity? Could this be affecting the quality and thoroughness of your response?

A handy tip I’ve picked up when it comes to ‘cc’d’ emails is to set up a CC rule, where these mails are sent into a separate folder. This means you can set aside some time in the day – maybe pre or post lunch – when you can go through them all with a different attitude, a time when you have no other distractions or tasks other than responding to emails. You can read, digest and bin accordingly.

If cc’d emails are mixed in with the emails directly sent to YOU, you’ll give them as much credence when this shouldn’t be the case. While cc’d emails can be very important, they are unlikely – on the whole – to be as important as emails sent direct to you. 

You should also do the same with newsletters. Set up a rule to divert the newsletters you receive into another folder so you can fully concentrate on them at a later date.

On a similar note, another top tip is to turn your emails off periodically during the day so you’re not tempted to answer them immediately. This will give you time to make calls, carry out a key project or win another instruction without the distraction of emails flashing up in your face.  

Out on my travels

In the last week or so I’ve met up with Jon Cooke, chief executive of easyProperty.com and executive director of both Fine & Country and GPEA Ltd, and Justin Morris from estate agency software firm Dezrez. 

While they operate in different areas of the market, both are eager to change the property industry for the better with innovation, hard work and a commitment to their clients.

In the case of Dezrez, it has recently spent a significant sum of money on a new system to further aid estate agents. “The modern estate agent demands more integration and flexibility - to stave off threats and meet exciting opportunities,” Justin told me. 

“Prescriptive conventional software can’t deliver this. That’s why we’ve spent £7 million developing Rezi which through its API technology really changes the way agents work and the things they are able to do.”

Meanwhile, easyProperty appear to have done well when it comes to selling licenses. There are still a few more up for grabs, but these could be gone by the end of the year – so Guild members are being advised to act fast if they don’t want to miss out. 

That’s that from me. Until next time… 

*Nat Daniels is the Chief Executive Officer of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.

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