HomeOwners Alliance rejects accusation about lack of impartiality because of link with Yopa

The HomeOwners Alliance has rejected an accusation that it is not impartial.

A tweet asked it: “How can you say you’re impartial when you have ‘partners’, actually just the one partner – Yopa? This isn’t impartial.”

The full tweet is below.

A spokesperson for the HomeOwners Alliance, which says on its home page that it promotes the interests of the home owner in the media and government, told EYE: “We have lots of partners, not one, but they don’t and can’t influence our advice.

“Our Find an Estate Agent tool provides free to the consumer independent data on the performance of estate agents.

“This tool showcases 18,000 estate agents for free and the results cannot be influenced.

“To use the tool, users that say they are interested in selling in the near future give their permission to be contacted by Yopa, an online estate agent, who will contact them to ask if they have considered an online estate agent model.

“We continue to be open to considering other agents (high street or online) and letting them have this marketing opportunity as well.”

A number of partners are listed on this page, see link below, and include ULS Technology, a conveyancing firm with a one-third stake in HomeOwners Alliance.

The Find an Estate Agent Tool (EstateAgent4Me) enables people to find “local estate agents”.

The Alliance says on its funding page: “We receive a referral fee for completed enquiries.”

The Alliance says that the money raised from its partners in referral fees enables it to produce free guides and consumer reports, enabling it to champion the interests of home owners and those who aspire to own homes.

How we are funded

Countrywide shares edge up as Purplebricks plunge almost 13% as vote postponed on Brexit

Countrywide shares went up some 7% by lunchtime yesterday, while Purplebricks went down by about the same amount as the City scented a possible fall-out from Emoov’s collapse.

However, the effect of that had nothing on the fall-out from the cancellation of the Commons vote on Brexit.

With the debate still under way when the markets closed, Countrywide gains retreated to a rise of 2.55%, finishing at just over 10p.

Purplebricks’ collapse widened further, with a fall of 12.74% over the day, with the share price finishing at 150.7p.

The FTSE 250 index fell  to its lowest level for two years, while sterling slumped against the dollar.

Countrywide’s shares have been bobbing around at under 10p for much of the last month.

Notably, it has not yet issued a trading update for the third quarter of this year.

Last year, Countrywide issued this on November 9, and in 2016 issued it on November 24.

We have approached Countrywide for comment as to whether it will be issuing the usual quarter three trading update, or if this is simply delayed.

Zoopla brings in new chief marketing officer to help portal become ‘destination of choice’ for agents and consumers

Zoopla has a new chief marketing officer as the business continues the restructure of its senior management team.

He is Gary Bramall, whose brief is to drive marketing strategy across the whole group following its £2.2bn acquisition in July by US equity firm Silver Lake Partners.

Bramall has an impressive track record, having held senior roles at mytaxi, Microsoft, Skype, Apple and Orange.

He was most recently CMO of mytaxi, where he led the rapid rebrand following the merger with British taxi app Hailo, whilst overseeing international expansion into over 14 countries across four brands, and processing over 180m journeys.

Bramall said: “This is an enormously exciting opportunity to work with a well-known and trusted household brand within an industry which is undergoing transformative change.

“Buying, selling or renting property are among the biggest decisions we make in our lives.

“To work with a data-rich tech-led business which has huge potential to improve and add value to that process for both consumers and estate agents, is a marketeer’s dream.

“I want people to understand why Zoopla provides an offering unlike anything out there and to be the destination of choice for consumers and agents.”

The previous chief marketing officer at Zoopla was Gareth Helm, responsible for the crabs television advertising, and who is now leaving the company.

A statement on Friday said: “Gareth Helm is leaving ZPG after nearly four years as CMO, where he worked across the group’s consumer and B2B brands.

“Since SilverLake acquired ZPG in July, Gareth has been working with the new leadership team to reorganise the marketing teams and review business priorities.

“This piece of work will be completed by January and will lead to the creation of two separate marketing teams, covering property and, secondly, the comparison side of the business.

“Gary Bramall has taken over as CMO of the property side of the business. Given these changes, Gareth has decided it is an appropriate time to move on.”

Charlie Bryant, managing director of Zoopla, added: “Gareth has been a vital contributor to the strong growth of ZPG. We thank him for his support over the last four years and wish him all the best of luck in whatever he does next.”

Meanwhile, in the current wave of senior departures, Lawrence Hall, the director of communications at Zoopla for ten years, has now left the business.

We have no news of his successor, but Zoopla is now advertising for a PR manager specialising in business to business on the property side.

Essential skills include being able to spot a story and experience of working with the trade press – but it is the benefits of working at Zoopla that really stand out.

They include free breakfasts and afternoon snacks, Friday night drinks, and in-house massage and nail treatments – not to mention a generous bonus and a variety of other perks.


Hot topics: Property Ombudsman advises on how agents should advertise price on Help to Buy properties

Over the last six weeks, my attention has been drawn to two separate incidents reported on EYE where Rightmove has asked agents to amend their listings because the initial price included a Help to Buy discount.

In the first instance a property was advertised on Rightmove as being £228,000 when in fact its true price was £285,000.

In the second case, a two-bedroom home was first advertised at £220,000, and although the description made it clear that the full asking price was actually £275,000, advertising the lower price could be considered misleading.

So, if a property is available as part of ‘Help to Buy’, at what price can it be advertised?

Taking into consideration Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) and the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team’s guidance on property sales, I want to draw agents’ attention to the following issued Primary Authority Assured Advice.

It states that where a property is available to be purchased outright, then the price advertised should be the actual selling price.

However, if ‘Help to Buy shared ownership’ or a similar shared ownership scheme applies to the property then the reduced price can be displayed alongside a clear explanation of the shared scheme.

This reduced price should be the actual price payable under the scheme. An explanation of this scheme should appear in the particulars.

If a property can only be purchased as part of a shared ownership scheme, then the reduced price can appear as the headline price, providing that it is clearly marked as a shared ownership property.

An explanation of the scheme should appear in the particulars.

Where prospective buyers may be eligible for an approved loan scheme, for example a Help to Buy equity loan, the headline price should still be the full selling price. This is because the property can still be purchased outright, without assistance, so potential buyers must be shown an accurate price.

Other questions, such as which price can be advertised when a property’s price is variable dependent on the length of lease, are also addressed in the same Assured Advice and can be read in full here:


The advice provided by Warwickshire Trading Standards service will come with an assurance that it will be respected by all local regulators preventing inconsistent interpretation of regulations and applies regardless of where TPO members are based.

Katrine Sporle is the Property Ombudsman

Agent pens charity single in latest EYE Christmas video competition

Gibbins Richards, which won EYE’s Christmas video competition in 2017, has penned its own charity song for this year’s entry.

Nick Girone-Maddocks, branch manager for the Wellington office of Gibbins Richards, has written and filmed a charity song that has already proved popular on Facebook with almost 50,000 views.

For every post share on the social network, the agency will donate £1 to ArcInspire, the homeless charity for Taunton.

The single will also be available for download on the agency’s website at www.gibbinsrichards.co.uk where half the proceeds will also go to ArcInspire.


A charity song, written by Nick Girone-Maddocks and performed by many of his colleagues at Gibbins Richards.For every post share, we will donate £1 to ArcInspire, the homeless charity for Taunton.The track will be available on Spotify and others next week, and downloadable from our website www.gibbinsrichards.co.uk where half the proceeds will also go to ArcInspire#justwhatineededtodayMerry Christmas everyone!

Posted by Gibbins Richards Sales and Lettings on Thursday, 6 December 2018

Could you do better? Enter our Christmas video competition.

What would an estate agent Christmas video advert look like? Can you recreate a classic video advert in your office from a well-loved brand?

The winner will receive a Hotel Chocolat Classic Chocolate Cabinet to share with staff.

Entries must be received by December 17 and submitted via our video page.


Almost four in ten agents anticipate revenue drop as tenant fee ban approaches

Almost four in ten agents are expecting a drop in lettings revenue next year, Zoopla claims.

The figures come as agents face the prospect of the tenant fee ban being introduced during 2019.

Zoopla found that 38% of the 600 agents polled are anticipating a drop in lettings revenue, in part because of the fee ban but also over concerns about the number of rental properties coming to market.

Despite the concerns among agents, demand from tenants appears to be strong.

Zoopla’s State of the Property Nation report found that the number of tenants saying they are using letting agents to find a place to live has increased by 12 percentage points in the past year.

Almost half, 48% of tenants, used a letting agent to source accommodation this year, up from the 36% recorded in the 2017 edition of the report.

Of the 6,000 people surveyed for the report, 62% said they expect to rent for at least the next three years. Of these, 23% said they are likely to rent indefinitely.

Meanwhile, the proportion of home owners letting out properties rose from 2.4% in 2016 to 4.2% this year.

Charlie Bryant, managing director of Zoopla’s property division, said: “It’s certainly a challenging time for lettings agents with the ban on lettings fees looming. However, our research shows that demand for agents’ services and rented accommodation are strong, and that should come as a welcome boost.

“As the market becomes more regulated and complex, the lettings agents that adopt a more consultative approach with both their landlord and their tenant clients to help navigate them through will gain an advantage.”


Annual growth slows as just two regions have rents rising above the rate of inflation

Just three regions now have average rents that are either level with or rising above the rate of inflation, research suggests.

Data from tenant referencing provider HomeLet for November showed that average rents on new tenancies in London, Northern Ireland and Scotland were up annually by 4.4%, 2.9% and 2.4% respectively.

In contrast, the current inflation rate is 2.4%.

Across the country, average rents on new tenancies have fallen for the third month in a row as annual growth also slows.

Average rents fell 1.1% on a monthly basis to £918 between October and November, continuing a fall that started in September.

The figures are still up annually for November by 1.5%, a slower rate than the 2% recorded in October.

When London is excluded, the average rent in the UK is now £760, up by 0.9% on last year.

Average rents in London are now £1,597, up by 4.4% on last year, the biggest increase this month.

The largest year-on-year decrease this month was the north-east showing a 3% drop between November 2017 and November 2018 to £533.

Martin Totty, chief executive at HomeLet, said: “Although on the increase, on average UK rents are rising slower than inflation at just 1.5%.

“However, there are some areas of the country showing more extreme variance. It’s no surprise that London rents are continuing to rise at nearly double the rate of inflation, having seen a 4.4% increase since November 2017.

“Meanwhile the north-east has seen the greatest decrease in the last 12 months. Despite a modest 0.4% rise since October, the region is down 3% annually.”

Crowdfunding investors who backed Emoov ‘threatening to take legal action’

Investors who backed Emoov to the tune of almost £2m in its last crowdfunding campaign are threatening to take legal action.

The Times reported at the weekend that the investors are claiming that they were misled over the financial position of Emoov, which had said it was planning a flotation early next year.

Instead, Emoov went into administration a week ago, saying it had run out of money because funds promised during its merger with Tepilo and Urban had not materialised.

Emoov raised £1.84m – way over the original target of £1m – on Crowdcube this summer from 1,067 investors. They had been told that the merger had “attracted an additional £6m from existing shareholders”.

Emoov founder Russell Quirk told The Times that the funding that had not come through was separate from the £6m referred to in the crowdfunding campaign.

The Times quotes one backer who put £5,000 into Emoov who said that it had not been made clear that the company was “at risk of failure in a matter of months if it did not immediately raise further finance”.

Crowdcube told The Times that it has received over 20 complaints.

The crowdfunding sector has come under fire because of claims of poor due diligence before campaigns are allowed to launch, and because crowdfunding is generally not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.

However, Quirk said that while he sympathised with investors, everything had been done “in absolute good faith”.

The Times also says that the value of Emoov was cut by over half after the crowdfunding round was meant to have closed.

The value was downgraded from £104m to £51m. Investors were then given four days to decide whether or not to go ahead.

Quirk said that the lower valuation reflected concerns about the slowing property market.

This summer’s campaign was the second on Crowdcube for Emoov. In 2015, it raised some £2.62m.

Crowdfunding has also proved popular with other online/hybrid players.

This autumn Doorsteps returned to Crowdcube for the second time in just over a year, raising a total of around £1.1m.

Also this autumn, 99home raised £313,100 from 191 investors, valuing itself pre-money at £9.8m. Its original target was £295,000.

Crowdcube told The Times: “As we underline on our platform, investing in start-ups and growth companies is high-risk.”

The FCA warns potential crowdfunding investors: “You should only invest money you can afford to lose.”

Tenant who moved out after ten days sues letting agent ‘for mis-selling him noisy flat’

A tenant who says he moved into a noisy flat is suing both his landlord and letting agent.

Nick Hatter is claiming thousands of pounds in damages from agents Marsh & Parsons and the landlord, Mariana Visintin, over ‘excessive noise’ at the flat in Notting Hill, west London.

The case could potentially raise concerns for letting agents as to what they have to disclose to prospective tenants under Consumer Protection Regulations.

Sales agents have clear duties under CPR to proactively point out at the earliest opportunity ‘material information’ including possible drawbacks to properties to prevent consumers making transactional decisions – for example, whether to arrange a viewing – that they might not otherwise have done.

Consultancy Compliance Matters tells us: “Material information is a very subjective topic but both sales and lettings agents are held to the same standard under the Regulations.  Material information will differ slightly from sales to lettings scenarios but the obligation to provide material information applies to both areas.”

Hatter’s claim is that he was mis-sold the rented flat, according to a story in the Telegraph at the weekend.

He moved into the property earlier this year but found that there were noisy neighbours in the flat above.

He said that as he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, he had specifically requested a quiet property.

He said: “Marsh & Parsons showed me this really nice ground-floor flat but I said I was concerned that noise from above would be a problem.

“The agent assured me that noise wouldn’t be an issue but from the day I moved in it was quite loud. Within the first week I was being woken up at 2am by the neighbours.”

He said he could hear people walking around and talking, and could also hear the London Underground, and said that he could neither live in nor work from the flat.

He moved out after ten days.

Hatter, a life coach, is now demanding that all fees and moving costs be refunded by Marsh & Parsons.

Altogether he is seeking over £9,000 in damages from Marsh & Parsons and his former landlord. This includes all the money and fees that he paid, plus £5,000 in lost earnings.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for Marsh & Parsons told EYE:  “An agent cannot be held responsible for the tenant’s decision to rent a property nor guarantee the level of noise that will be experienced by a tenant and whether this is deemed acceptable or not to the tenant.

“Marsh & Parsons and the landlord have, however, been sympathetic to Mr Hatter’s situation – waiving all contractual fees that would be payable for early withdrawal from the tenancy agreement whilst continuing to operate in accordance with their legal obligations.

“As a result of the ongoing litigation, we are unable to comment any further.”

Zoopla announces agency trials of new Property Valuation Report ahead of full roll-out

Zoopla is trialling a new Property Valuation Report using data from Hometrack. It is currently separate from the valuation tool on Zoopla’s website, but could influence it in future.

The trials are currently in nine locations across the UK, but Zoopla says that high early interest means the trials will be widened to a further 72 places.

The reports will be rolled out across the UK next year, and will be available both to Zoopla agents and directly to consumers.

The design of the new reports has been driven in large part by feedback from estate agents and property vendors, to increase their relevance and usefulness.

In the trials so far, Zoopla says the reports have helped reduce uncertainty and ambiguity for sellers, and as a result have been very effective for estate agents in both prospecting and winning instructions.

In addition to providing valuation estimates and confidence levels, each report offers vendors hyper-local insights relating to their home including average time to sell, price changes over time and Zoopla search data.

This is information that has previously been reserved for banks, surveyors and industry professionals.

Agents in the trial areas can download the reports for free via ZooplaPro.

The reports are co-branded at branch level, and include the agent’s logo, profile and contact details. They are also available directly to vendors not using a Zoopla agent, at a cost of £19.95 per report on hometrack.com

The new Property Valuation Report is powered by Hometrack’s automated valuation methodology, which is used by 13 of the top 15 mortgage lenders in underwriting decisions.

The current trial offers free Property Valuation Report access to Zoopla agents located in Bath, Brighton, Cardiff, Chester, Exeter, Nottingham, Tunbridge Wells and parts of London.

However, with growing interest and demand already stronger than anticipated, Zoopla is now looking to widen the trial to a further 72 locations this month, supported by local marketing campaigns aimed at home owners in those areas.

Charlie Bryant, managing director of Zoopla’s property division, said: “Zoopla is at the forefront of innovation in the world of property portals, investing for agents and helping consumers to discover the right property for them.

“Our latest Property Valuation Report is another example of that and delivers exclusive insights in a consumer-friendly format.

“Our hope is that it will enable agents to demonstrate their local expertise with accurate, reliable and independent data, and is one of many new agent-focused innovations which we have currently in development.

“Our aim is to become the number one property destination in the UK. To achieve that we are highly focused on delivering what matters most to consumers and our agent partners.

“In tougher market conditions, agents need to see value for money in their portal fees, and Zoopla is leading the way on that front.

“Combined, our quality leads, value for money, and breadth of products and services go further than anyone else.

“We’re 100% agent-focused, and it matters to us that every agent performs.”

Eye asked whether the new valuation reports will make a difference to the existing – and often controversial – valuation tool on Zoopla.

Bryant told us: “At the moment the Property Valuation Report and the valuation tool on Zoopla are two separate products.

“The Product Valuation Report leverages richer property data from Hometrack, Zoopla’s leading UK automated valuation provider.

“As we continue to roll out the report and gather feedback from agents and consumers, we’ll evolve the richness and depth of the valuation data we provide.”