The property market was expected to struggle to recover after the first lockdown, but, thanks to the stamp duty holiday and the launch of a new mortgage guarantee scheme, sales are up 45% on 2020 and expected to exceed 1.5 million by the end of the year.
The next few days, leading up to the extended stamp duty deadline of June 30, are set to be extremely busy, as those who struggled to meet the original deadline of March 31 try to ensure they don’t miss this one, while thousands of others - who have come onto the market since the latest extension announcement - look to take advantage of the extra time.
And even after June 30, the market is likely to remain busy for some time, both thanks to the fact there will be a level of stamp duty relief available until September, and the fact we are moving into the summer months - traditionally, the busiest time of the year for the property market.
With everything up in the air, it is understandable that estate agents want to make the most of this healthy market, in case it all changes, but for those agents that do not have the right procedures in place to cope with the increased activity, there is also an increased risk.
Estate agents who rushed last year to get their working practices online have barely had time to come up for air, so many do not have the digital compliance structure to match, meaning they are opening the door for property crime.
Combine this unreliable compliance with the pressure of getting sales through before the stamp duty deadline ends, and many are letting their anti-money laundering and compliance fall down the priority list, and this is very risky.
The property market is already one of the most targeted sectors in terms of money laundering and fraud, but as a result of the pandemic, these types of crimes have increased significantly, so those estate agents that do not have robust AML systems are more at risk than ever.
SmartSearch offers the only online AML platform that can onboard customers quickly, remotely and securely, performing all the required compliance checks in seconds.
Estate agents do not even need to see their vendors face to face - they just need to have access to their photo ID via phone or tablet. For added security, SmartSearch also uses liveness technology.
Our system also gives you peace of mind that your record-keeping is up to date and compliant because every search you complete - whether you do it from the office or remotely - is automatically hosted on the platform and checked every night against sanctions and watchlists.
What this means for estate agents on a day to day basis is that they can onboard customers quickly and efficiently so that they can spend more time on selling houses and less time worrying about compliance.
*John Dobson is the Chief Executive Officer at AML platform SmartSearch.