The property industry definitely has a murky under-belly.
Prior to the credit crunch, a whole industry of “get rich quick” and “wealth creation through property” companies and “gurus” preyed on unwary and gullible novice investors with promises of easy riches.
The financial crisis killed many of them off, but there are still a few out there who have jumped on new band-wagons such as lease options, JV’s, expensive seminars and portfolio building programmes, and other “creative financing” gimmicks.
In the lettings industry, a significant number of companies have gone bust, taking Landlords and tenants monies with them. Hardly a week goes by without news of another agency that has closed its doors …
The need for transparency in the property industry was one of the many reasons myself and Nick started our forum, Property Tribes.
Transparency implies openness, communication, & accountability . Transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed.
Transparency in our industry is healthy and should not be feared. Products and services that reveal instead of conceal will gain traction while those that hide and control will fail. The web rewards transparency too, but that’s for another blog.
I therefore thought I would share a few of my favourite products & services in my “Top 6 in the property transparency league”:
Property Tribes - My husband Nick and I wanted to create a professional and respectful environment that promotes transparency and where people could share and learn, without hidden agendas. Impartial and independent, Property Tribes, continues to lead the way in discussing method and sharing insights, supporting novice investors and Landlords in building and managing sustainable portfolios. Our “non commercial” stance ensures that discussions are always authentic.
Imfuna* – this digital property inspections app provides transparency and protects all parties involved in the tenancy agreement – the Landlord, the tenant, and the property. With date, time, and geo-tagged photographs, and reports share-able via the cloud, there can be no doubt about the contents and condition of the property when the tenant moved in. This can be compared to the contents and condition of the property when the tenant moves out. Good landlords and good tenants will welcome a transparent inventory, bad landlords and delinquent tenants will fear it and may even shy away from it.
Meet My Agent – is an independent platform which helps homeowners research and request valuations with the best local estate agents based on customer feedback from previous sellers and landlords. All agents list voluntarily on the site, demonstrating a commitment to customer service and transparency. People looking for an estate agent can search for reviews from previous clients.
Bearing in mind that, statistically, only 14% of people trust advertisements, but 78% of people trust peer, friend, or community review, this site is all about building trust for agents who provide excellent customer service and satisfaction. Again, good agents have nothing to fear and will be rewarded through the building of trust & social proof.
SAFEagent * – is government-backed scheme and a mark denoting firms that protect landlords and tenants money through client money protection schemes. There are several schemes in the sector operated by ARLA/NFOPP, the Law Society, NALS and RICS to which agents voluntarily belong. Tenants and Landlords should check that their agent is a paid up member and has current SAFEagent membership. SAFEagent protects the Landlord and the tenant and is consumer-facing and seeks to educate.
Landlord Referencing - is a nationwide community made up of thousands of proactive landlords and letting agents who have joined forces to stop undeserving tenants ruining their property, defaulting on their rent and making their lives and the lives of their good tenants hell. It is the ultimate neighbourhood watch for competent and honest landlords and letting agents who want dependable and decent tenants who, in turn, want quiet enjoyment and a comfortable and stable home.
Their service is completely compliant with the data protection act and they are regulated by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The great thing about Landlord Referencing is that it also provides references for good tenants, as well as bad … as there are some tenants who may struggle to get good references through no fault of their own, such as being new to the U.K.
Gumtree – I recently advertised a room to rent on Gumtree and was pleased to find that they showed me how many people had clicked on my advertisement. I valued that transparency as I was able to review my stats every day and see if my advertisement was getting views and this helped me determine whether to drop the price, or not.
* In the interests of transparency, I would like to make it known that I have some form of commercial relationship with these companies. However, I only ever advocate products/services/people I trust & believe in and only work with ethical and transparent companies.
Transparency starts with the individual. If you are lying to yourself, that is arguably worse than lying to other people. The same can be said for companies, products, and services. Embrace transparency and your business with thrive.
“There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy.”
― Joseph Pulitzer
Thank you for reading my blog and please share other good property companies, products, and services who embrace transparency in their business model.
Follow me on Twitter: @4_walls
Vanessa Warwick is a former TV presenter, turned professional Landlord, consultant, and speaker. Along with her husband Nick Tadd, she founded Property Tribes, which is now the U.K.’s busiest on-line Landlord and investor community. Nick and Vanessa have just launched their new tech product, Yulpa, an on-line “property office/filo-fax” that helps you organise and manage your entire property life in one place. It comes with an iPhone app that does auto due diligence on any property being considered for purchase.
Vanessa and Nick advocate the use of technology and digital and social communications in property, and speak at events all over the U.K. as well as consulting for the BBC on property. They invest mainly in flats London and family houses in the South East and are also big advocates of holiday lets, having two upmarket holiday lets on the South Coast that achieve above-average occupancy thanks to the couple’s web efforts and vertical marketing strategies.