It was a pleasure to speak last week at the 16th annual Home Sale Network Conference where I presented ‘Social Media So What’ (Slides and notes here)
The day began with Richard Tucker, HSN managing director, giving a brief welcome and introduction to the day. The standout comment for me was that during the recession HSN have had to adjust to the changing demographic of their clients and the focus on it being a people business. By doing so they now stand at 915 members, most of which are regarded as the top estate agents in their region.
Peter Brodnicki led the first of the main sessions with a panel of experts from three UK lenders (Lloyds, L&G and Nationwide). The aspect of this session that interested me most was the lack of FTB mortgage products available through intermediaries. Most of the lenders are keeping back their best products for clients to go to them direct and this is clearly having an impact on mortgage brokers and IFA’s based in agencies. An example of this:-
A FTB looking to buy at £15ok at 95% LTV currently has only 8 products to choose from and of those 8 products there are only two of them available on a regional basis from intermediaries. The top intermediary product out of the 8 available is the 6th best product.
This issue improves at the LTV decreases, but even at 250k 75% LTV the best intermediary product is the 26th best product. Peter explained how MAB have been pretty clever in helping buyers submit direct to lenders which is something unheard of previously and I can only assume this is to hold on to other opportunities such as insurances.
The closing aspect from the panels was the usual question of where are house prices going next year, to which they all responded as follows:-
Lloyds – Gradual uplift mainly due to base rate remaining low for another 12+ months
L&G – Slow recovery with likely regional blips mainly linked to unemployment
Nationwide – Slight drop over the year
Grant Shapps, shadow housing minister, was next up with a typically well spun speech about his plans should the conservatives be in power next yr. He confirmed his stance to remove HIPs and was asked how long it would take to remove them once they were in office to which he replied 100 days. There was one agent in the room (let’s call him Billy) who was against the full removal of HIPs and was pushing for a vote to back up his point that it was worth keeping certain aspects of the HIP. Eventually Grant agreed to do so in order to keep Billy happy and of the 450+ people in the room I think only three (including Billy) wanted to keep any elements of the HIP.
Grant also announced their proposed plan for FTB’s to be exempt from stamp duty payment, which I think is a positive step to help FTB’s who look for the foreseeable future as needing their savings to go towards large deposits.
The next session was the session I was involved in called ‘technology toolkit’ and I was presenting alongside Nick Leeming of Zoopla and Silvia Eldawi from Northfields estate agents. After our three presentations we had a Q&A around current technology advances in property such as Google property search and the growth in web searching on mobiles.
In the afternoon there was an excellent session by Julian and Peter from TM training where they ran through 20 tips for Sales and 20 tips for letting agents to significantly improve their businesses. One that stood out for me was regarding building tenant loyalty and they spoke about keeping in regular contact, getting them to become your advocates, understand who they are and communicate with them on their terms. There are some great ways to do this nowadays and I am itching to work with a dedicated lettings agent to show them how.
In terms of landlords they gave a really good reminder to work with them as B2B clients and talk their language about their equity levels, yields, tenant retention etc. There were some really great tips from these guys.
The final workstream of the day involved Kevin Hollinrake from Hunters Estate Agents and Stuart Barr from Miles and Barr. These are two companies that have ventured into the world of remote/personal agents, using new business models to enable their businesses to survive the downturn and to extend their reach without the cost of opening new offices. These models I know are being tested by a number of agents and as both Kevin and Stuart admitted, whilst they have both seen some great results in 2009 the test will be a more long term view of their success.
The day ended with a black tie event to celebrate the year and award the winning agents. The most coveted prize is the highly acclaimed Cartus Cup, whose past winners include Newman Estate Agents, Chancellors and last year Pygot and Crone. I was lucky enough to be sharing a table with this year’s winners Hilbery Chaplin who I could tell had made a huge effort and were very worthy winners.
All in all it was a fantastic event and one that the team at Home Sale Network and Cartus should be extremely proud of. I certainly hope I get the chance to attend again in the future.