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An interview with Ben Ridgway, Managing Director of iamproperty

Ben Ridgway gives his views on the current market, material information and PropTech for agents.

What is your current view of the market?

I think there was an expectation that after the first stage of the Stamp Duty Holiday was wound down, there would have been a more significant dip. However, we’re still experiencing a booming market and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

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Buyers are still benefitting from the Stamp Duty Holiday on the first £250,000 of the price of a property. Whilst the average property price has gone up, this threshold is still very much within reach for buyers to take full advantage of in many areas of the UK.

Having said that, I don’t believe the Stamp Duty Holiday alone has specifically been what’s driving demand. Many people are being influenced to buy and sell by a change in working practices. People aren’t going back to the office full time – maybe ever again. Instead, people are choosing homeworking or hybrid working on a scale that hasn’t ever been seen. At iamproperty, we’re operating a hot-desking policy and hybrid working to help our colleagues get the benefits of both worlds.

How do you see things progressing?

This year will continue to still be strong for the volume of sales and price of increases, and  I think the demand will remain beyond the end of the Stamp Duty Holiday coming to an end. The next significant event that we’re expecting to impact the market would be an increase in interest rates – making property less affordable, however, I think we’ll be riding this wave for the rest of this year. Having said that, after the last 18 months, it’s always wise to expect the unexpected!

What has been a barrier to the market?

A buoyant market always highlights areas for improvement, one of which I believe is the gathering of material information. There’s a huge fall through rate because buyers don’t find out about the information that they need to be aware of until they instruct a solicitor, and they carry out their due diligence. Upon finding out that information, it could render that property unsuitable for that buyer and a huge waste of time for everyone involved. However, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a buyer out there. It’s about providing information so that buyers can make an informed choice but also so that agents can find the right buyer for the right property.

Without guidance or an industry standard, one experience or approach is very different to the next.  We welcomed the recent consultation held by the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agents (NTSELAT) on material information to look at how to set a standard for the industry without a solution that became overbearing because it needs to be a catch-all process.

What do you believe could support the industry?

It’s going to be a fine line between providing a set of standards that works for 90% of property sales but also allowing for those areas where agents need to use their own initiative to provide material information where something is out of the ordinary. Ideally, for that 90%, what’s required is a set of material facts that are mandated and an easier way for agents to interpret the information that’s available to them in order to provide that information. Right now, they need to read the title register which isn’t always accessible and easy to understand or gather this information from the client with an in-depth protocol form – something that isn’t widely used.

The current legal requirement is that if agents know something, they must disclose it, therefore if they don’t, they don’t have to disclose it. Gathering that information is difficult and I don’t believe that agents’ disclosure is the barrier – the barrier is getting the information in an efficient and accessible way in order to be able to disclose it.  

What support can you offer to agents to improve the gathering of material information?

The formation of the Home Buying and Selling Group is making real progress about sharing upfront information and our tech has been informed by many of their recommendations.  

BASPI is the new data set that will help get clients legally prepared but is also the information that solicitors need. Currently, clients answer the same 58 questions twice. movebutler uses BASPI and that information is logged digitally and available to the agent and Solicitor, removing that duplication. 

When we developed the movebutler platform, material information was a huge consideration, but so was reducing administrative burden. We wanted to make the collection of information easier so that there’s less reason not to do it! Gathering more information upfront using our pre-set legal packs support gets clients legally prepared upfront, reducing the chance of sales falling through and speeding up completion by 4 weeks*.

Our digital onboarding process has already saved agents 466 hours, or 62 days of admin time. Our vision for movebutler has always been to make efficiencies across the whole journey, and our sights are firmly set on improving legal preparation and supporting the conveyancing sector.

*Ben Ridgway is Managing Director of iamproperty

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