How could your agency benefit from the changing material information rules?
Tara Sparrow, Sales Director at Reapit, outlines how changing material information rules could be a good thing for estate and letting agents.
A guest blog by Tara Sparrow, Sales Director of Reapit.
Millions of people use online property portals every year to conduct their property search, whether for sales or lettings. One of the base requirements that consumers these days have is for information to be readily available, accurate, and up-front.
Time is valuable, and the relevancy of information is vital to support their search - and to mitigate any unnecessary questions or even withdrawn interest further down the line, that might lead to a big waste of agent time.
Public knowledge of regulatory change
There are a lot of regulatory activities happening behind the scenes that impact the property industry, yet go generally unnoticed by the wider public.
The first phase of three (Part A) of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT)’s long-term project to define what constitutes material information for property listings, announced back on 21 February, constitutes such a development that consumers experience first-hand but rarely hear about.
Industry support for change
The material information changes are definitely going to shake up the residential property industry, and it has certainly garnered significant support with industry leaders and major property portals
These include PropertyMark, The Lettings Industry Council, The Property Ombudsman, The Property Redress Scheme, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, The UK Association of Letting Agents, OnTheMarket, PropertyPal, Rightmove and Zoopla - demonstrating the wide-ranging collaborative effort.
CRMs facilitating the changes
The changes in Part A of the project will do their bit to provide more accurate property information to customers, as will the later phases to come. Agents may not be happy with the changes, as it will mean more work for them, but it is definitely good for consumers, and in the long run it is far more likely that agents will benefit.
Of course, considerable effort should be undertaken by the software companies that sit behind the portals, such as the CRM suppliers that so many agencies use, to update their systems to include the new data fields.
With CRM providers putting in back-end development to their own platforms to facilitate these changes, the extra work required from agents to ensure fields are populated should be minimal, allowing the changes to slide straight into normal workflows.
Advantages for the lettings industry
While adapting to change can be frustrating, the new material information rules do potentially bring multiple benefits for lettings agents. For starters, responsible and proactive agents will be able to demonstrate that they are conforming to the high standards the industry expects, saving them time and money and boosting their reputation among consumers in the long run.
It will also make it easier for agents to meet their legal requirements and mitigate the risk of any potential legal disputes that might arise, with a reduction in complaints, and as such fewer ombudsman interventions.
Time wasted on speculative enquiries should also be cut down as tenants have more upfront information. This also leads to more trust in the information provided at the early stages of the renting process which, over time, can lead to more traffic for agents.
A boost for customer relations
Overall, it should improve the relationship between tenants, landlords, and agents, creating a more efficient and fail-safe process all round as tenants can make increasingly well-informed decisions that lead to less wasted time and more business for agents.
A good CRM provider will likely also already feature pre-instruction checklists that will help users to ensure that all necessity fields are populated before a listing is pushed to live on a portal that will help users to ensure that all necessity fields are populated before a listing is pushed to live on a portal.
It's all about the consumer
Portals, love them or hate them, are widely utilised by consumers, with research from Zoopla conducted a couple of years ago finding that 77% of consumers use property portals to conduct their search.
Therefore, the more information that can be provided, the better to enrich their experience and hopefully only further build trust in the industry. In addition, recent research from the Conveyancing Association found that 98% of consumers are in favour of more upfront information.
What consumers want
Ultimately, consumers want consistency, and the single biggest drive of consumer “stickiness”, as a study in Harvard Business Review found, is the ease with which consumers can gather information on what they are searching for, and then confidently and efficiently sort through their available choices with as much information as possible.
For large-scale decisions, like buying properties, more upfront information can potentially boost property pipelines and support estate agencies’ bottom lines.
The industry works best when it's collaborative, and this project is a good example of what we’re all doing to support consumers with their decisions, even if they're unaware of the changes. But if you’re doing things right, people won’t know you’re doing anything at all.