Should property professionals still be using Twitter? – GWlegal
That’s a question I’ve asked myself often lately – especially after reading the words of my colleague Gavin who, in his recent article for MS ‘How property professionals can use LinkedIn effectively’, spoke so passionately about how LinkedIn is the single most important social media platform for those in the property game – and I will attempt to answer it in this month’s column.
First, however, let’s look at the evidence. I always love some good stats.
Is Twitter a platform in decline?
The past few years haven’t exactly painted a pretty picture as far as the future of the major social network platform goes. Since 2015, Twitter’s user base has remained fairly stagnant. From 2015 to ‘17, the platform gained just 28 million new users. This may sound like a lot, but compared to LinkedIn, which has gained 123 million new users over the past three years, it’s not so flash.
Despite the poor user figures though, Twitter is making a profit.
The company actually turned a profit for the first time ever in 2017 and then again last year, so clearly, the platform’s not in fact as rotten as its user stats would imply.
So what’s going on?
According to Social Media Today, there are many factors that could go towards explaining at least some of Twitter’s stagnant stats, including a crackdown by the platform on spam (it’s apparently identifying almost 10 million spammy accounts per week) as well as inactive accounts.
It’s possible then that the content being posted, while not reaching as many users, will actually be consumed by more authentic ones.
Here at GWlegal, we believe in utilising all major social media platforms to increase the reach and engagement of our promotional messages. As such, I would say yes, you should continue to do so – as long as you are analysing your results (using analytics) and allocating your resources accordingly.
Given its slow growth in recent times, it could be worth taking a ‘less is more’ approach to the likes of Twitter and focusing instead on savvier modern platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram.
That’s not to say that Twitter doesn’t have a number of unique benefits for property professionals. A few that come to mind include:
- It’s a fantastic tool for reaching out to journalists. Tweeting your news stories to carefully targeted trade reporters can be more effective these days than sending an email to the press desk;
- It has fun features that users tend to actually engage with, like polls. They can be a great way to gauge what your clients and others in the industry are thinking;
- It reins supreme for social listening. Using Twitter to stay up-to-date with trending topics (hashtag #GoT, for example!) can help inform your other marketing efforts.
- It’s the place 74% of Twitter users go first for their news fix. Formatting promotional messages in a more subtle news-like format could be the key to engaging meaningfully with your audience.
So, is Twitter going anywhere? I doubt it. At least not for now.
Conveyancing could benefit from the support of brokers – Hickey
In a Mortgage Solutions’ article by John Phillips, national operations director of Just Mortgages, he concluded there is no point in a 24-hour mortgage when conveyancing takes weeks.
The biggest problem is the huge variability of conveyancing providers. Many buyers still use generalist high street lawyers. As Mr Phillips correctly points out, many of these still prefer snail mail to communicate, and almost none will have a portal for clients to access case progress, which does add many days to the process.
One factor is that, mortgage lending and broking may lag a little behind, but many traditional high street conveyancers have invested even less in technology and innovation.
Specialisation brings consolidation
The good news is that specialist conveyancing is evolving and as a result the industry is consolidating. In the last five years, the number of firms handling fewer than 25 cases a month fell by 10% from 3,662 to 3,278. And, the number handling over 50 cases a month rose by 31%, from 268 to 353.
While ‘big’ is certainly not always ‘best’, it can be a useful guide to the sophistication of the systems and processes that a conveyancer might have. And, as brokers are likely to be engaged by the home buyer before a conveyancing firm is instructed, they can advise clients what to ask and outline the arguments that conveyancers will use to attract the buyer’s business.
One of the key misconceptions that many buyers have, and one that is propagated by local law firms, is that in some way their local knowledge provides extra surety. Many will also argue that they are able to offer a personal touch, which ironically is what too few do.
Local knowledge less important
As most of the information that a conveyancer needs to process a case is now online, which in itself should dramatically speed up the process, the need for local knowledge is almost irrelevant.
The larger firms employ both technology and people to ensure that cases are processed expediently, but the reality being a phone call is much harder to ignore than an email.
The new ‘Transparency Rules’ for conveyancer pricing may also eventually help buyers to make more informed choices on costs, although this currently seems some way off.
Phillips’ conclusion that the buying process is only as quick as the slowest transaction in the chain is true, but if brokers, who do after all advise on circa 70% of mortgages, can help direct their clients towards conveyancing firms who they know do an efficient and timely job, then the whole industry would improve.
All the winners of the 2019 British Mortgage Awards
If you were there, thanks for joining us – if you missed it, there’s always next year.
Congratulations again to all our worthy winners.
Broker: Rising Star – Distributor
Sponsored by Landbay
Jake Williams, Mortgage Advice Bureau
Broker: New Build
Sponsored by Legal & General Mortgage Club
David Aitken, Mortgage Advice Bureau
Broker: Large Loans
Sponsored by PMS
Adam O’Callaghan, SPF Private Clients
Broker: Later Life Lending
Sponsored by Hodge
Paul Saroya, Viva Retirement Solutions
Broker: Buy to Let
Sponsored by Paragon Bank
Howard Levy, SPF Private Clients
Broker: First-time Buyer
Sponsored by Accord Mortgages
Tara Panayi, Just Mortgages
Broker: Complex Credit
Sponsored by Pepper Money
Jodi Spreadbury, The Mortgage Broker
Sponsored by Vitality Life
Scott Fallon, L&C Mortgages
Broker: General Insurance
Sponsored by Legal & General Insurance Intermediary
Jarrad Combellack, Just Mortgages
Sponsored by Virgin Money
Lee McKelvie, Mortgage Advice Bureau
Sponsored by Post Office for Intermediaries
Katie Paterson, John Charcol
Development & Innovation Advocate
Sponsored by Market Harborough Building Society
David Bedlow, Mortgage Advice Bureau
Lender: Rising Star – Product Provider
Sponsored by Primis Mortgage Network
Christopher Blewitt, Darlington Building Society
Lender: Operations/Credit Risk
Sponsored by Countrywide
Hannah Moody, Kensington
Lender: Telephony Relationship Manager
Sponsored by Openwork
Richard Kirchel, Nationwide Building Society
Lender: Business Development
Sponsored by Alexander Hall Associates
Alan Green, BM Solutions
Lender: Head of Sales & National Accounts
Sponsored by SPF Private Clients
Richard Beardshaw, HSBC UK for Intermediaries
Business Leader: Specialist Distribution
Sponsored by Precise Mortgages
Matthew Arena, Brilliant Solutions
Business Leader: Surveyor
Sponsored by Mortgage Brain
Kevin Webb, Legal & General Surveying Services
Business Leader: Conveyancer
Sponsored by Tenet Group
Steve Goodall, ULS technology
Business Leader: Protection or General Insurance Provider
Sponsored by Auxilium Partnership
Steve Bryan, The Exeter
Business Leader: Broker (fewer than 10 advisers)
Sponsored by HSBC UK for Intermediaries
Lea Karasavvas, Prolific Mortgage Finance
Business Leader: Broker (11 to 50 advisers)
Sponsored by NatWest Intermediary Solutions
Dominic Scott, Alexander Hall Associates
Business Leader: Broker (over 51 advisers)
Sponsored by Barclays
Peter Brodnicki, Mortgage Advice Bureau
Business Leader: Mortgage Club
Sponsored by BM Solutions
Jane Benjamin, PMS
Business Leader: Network
Sponsored by Halifax Intermediaries
Sally Laker, Mortgage Intelligence
Business Leader: Intermediary Lender (less than £5bn gross lending p.a)
Sponsored by Paradigm Mortgage Services
Alan Cleary, Precise Mortgages
Business Leader: Intermediary Lender (£5bn or more gross lending p.a)
Sponsored by Mortgage Advice Bureau
Esther Dijkstra, Lloyds Banking Group
Sponsored by Legal & General Surveying Services
Richard Adams, Stonebridge Group
Conveyancer jailed after facilitating 80 mortgage frauds for criminal network
Ross McKay from Handforth in Greater Manchester was found guilty of three offences of money laundering.
McKay was responsible for conveyancing in more than 80 property transactions for several criminals, all of whom were subsequently convicted of serious offences including money laundering and fraud.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said he was the gang’s go-to solicitor as they knew he would carry out the transactions without asking too many questions about the nature of their business, sources of deposits or connections between parties to the transactions.
He was sentenced at Manchester Crown Square on Friday.
Illegal funds disguised
Deposits were put down on houses where the true illegal source of the funds was disguised from the lenders, mortgage applications used nominees instead of the names of the legitimate purchasers, and claims about income were wildly exaggerated in order to secure the loans.
McKay’s offending came to light through an investigation run by GMP’s Economic Crime Unit into the activities of an organised group who had been laundering the proceeds of their criminal enterprise, including drug-dealing, tax evasion and mortgage and property fraud.
Economic Crime Unit senior financial investigator Adrian Ladkin said: “McKay was fully aware that the purpose of the transactions was to launder criminal proceeds and he was deliberately dishonest in facilitating them.
“As a solicitor, McKay was in a position of trust, but he spectacularly failed in his legal duties through his corrupt and unlawful actions.
“It is thanks to the meticulous work of the officers in this case that today he has been brought to account for his deceitful actions.”
£10m property empire
One of McKay’s clients in the frauds has been told he must repay more than £3.5m or be sentenced to a further spell in jail.
The Manchester Evening News reported that Scott Rowbotham of Stalybridge, who amassed a property empire worth more than £10m, must pay back £3,522,459 to avoid jail.
The proceeds of crime case is the largest ever undertaken by Greater Manchester Police and will see his portfolio sold off to meet the sum.
Rowbotham was given three months to pay back the cash, although this may be extended to six months.
Equity release advisers must pre-empt and debunk scare-mongering tactics – Barker
With many within the industry predicting that lending levels could reach, or even breach, £4bn in 2018 there is a growing sense of euphoria throughout the sector.
Yet, perhaps inevitably, dissenting voices remain.
In October, for example, the LBC radio presenter Andrew Castle raised concerns as to the ‘complexity’ of equity release products, asserting that they were ‘slickly sold and packaged’ and arguing that many customers did not ‘really understand the full implications’ of taking out the loans – a bold claim.
Now, of course, Mr Castle is no stranger when it comes to criticising these products, having previously described compound interest rates as ‘not human’ and condemning the industry for taking advantage of ‘elderly and vulnerable people’.
Yet as a celebrity there is little doubt that his opinions carry a degree of weight or influence with some consumers that requires the sternest form of rebuttal.
For example, any life-changing financial decision will always involve a measure of complexity and risk – this is entirely unavoidable.
But suggesting the 30,000 or so new customers who have taken out equity loans over the first nine months of this year did so without the least understanding of the consequences of their actions, or that these products are any more complex or dangerous than perhaps a conventional mortgage is a startlingly distorted, and not to mention insulting, claim.
This is especially so given that each and every one of these customers would have been required to take professional advice and independent legal guidance before they were allowed to proceed and that ERC members are expected to adhere to strict codes of conduct.
Pre-empt and debunk
Nevertheless, outbursts such as Mr Castle’s place a growing onus on brokers to continue educating people about equity release and to explain underlying concepts in a manner which is entirely understandable.
Because with ER steadily growing in stature and popularity, it’s as well to pre-empt or to debunk high profile scare-mongering tactics such as these and do everything we can to maintain our reputation as the premier post-retirement finance option – a product which has changed thousands of peoples’ lives for the better.
Adviser recommendations may lead to more conveyancers giving ‘a straight answer’ – Star Letter 02/11/2018
This week’s letter comes from Derek Compton in response to the article: Brokers should pressure conveyancers to smooth completion process – Beth Rudolf
He said: “To say that we have any say in what conveyancers will do is naive.
Unless we have used them for some time, conveyancers generally have an attitude of arrogance when speaking to advisers, with the assumption that they cannot possibly be wrong.
Constantly blaming everyone except themselves, it comes as quite a shock to them if you can point out the time taken from receipt of a document to acting on it or the lack of note keeping and such.
Conveyancers seem to think that if they have been engaged directly by the client, they can blame inefficiency and slow practice on everything from the other side’s solicitor to crop circles as the client will just say ‘ok then, as long as you are doing your bit right’.
When it comes to free conveyancing through the lender, they have a captive client and can get away with murder as no one really chases them.
At least when an adviser recommends a conveyancer they can ensure that they select the most efficient they have experience of and can at least get a straight answer when they call them.”
‘Holding lenders to account only way to improve conveyancer service’ – Star Letter 26/10/2018
This week’s letter comes from Arron Bardoe in response to the article UK Finance rejects calls for mortgage lenders to help inform consumers about conveyancer quality.
He disagreed with the argument that it’s not the lender’s role to provide customers with information about the quality of service offered by conveyancers.
Bardoe added: “Judging by the poor service consistently provided by some of these firms, it seems highly likely some lenders are not monitoring the service at all.
“Holding the lenders to account seems to be the only way to improve matters and perhaps requiring them to publish service data.
“As for suggesting ‘the independent schemes for solicitor accreditation would be sufficient’ demonstrates a complete lack of awareness on the part of UK Finance.
“[Conveyancing Quality Scheme accreditation] does not ensure good administrative standards and does not provide recourse for complainants to hold the solicitor to account for poor service for fees free work.
“My constant push for all lenders is to offer all their remortgage products with a cashback option.
“This enables the lenders’ in-house advisers to offer the fees free service and for brokers to provide a choice based on their experience.
“If the large panel firms are not competing on service, they will see fewer brokers recommend them and choose the cashback option.
“Either the large panel firms will improve or they will shrink.
“It will also ensure a more even distribution of business.
“With a cashback option, the lender is no longer responsible for the complaint as it passes to the solicitor who acts for both borrower and lender.
“Brokers will then more actively monitor the solicitors they recommend ensuring a smoother process for borrowers and fewer complaints.”
UK Finance rejects calls for mortgage lenders to help inform consumers about conveyancer quality
The trade body, which represents around 300 financial services institutions including the vast majority of mortgage providers, has rejected calls from a conveyancing regulator to help better inform consumers when they are choosing their solicitor.
From December, conveyancers will need to offer greater transparency of prices, services and quality to prospective customers following a recommendation by the competition regulator.
Speaking last week, the Council of Licenced Conveyancers (CLC) called on lenders and brokers to help it improve consumer understanding of the sector.
CLC director of strategy and external relations Stephen Ward said: “No matter how information is provided to a potential client about price, service and quality of a particular conveyancer, we expect that information to be available.
“So if it is available through a portal that the lender or broker or whoever operates, we would expect that information to be available then, so that can inform the consumer’s choice.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is also backing the push for customers to have a more informed decision about the conveyancer they use.
Not lenders’ role
However UK Finance said it did not expect lenders to be informing customers when they choose to use a lender’s panel firm.
A UK Finance spokesperson told Mortgage Solutions: “It is not the role of the lender to provide information on conveyancer quality.
“Independent schemes for conveyancer accreditation already exist through legal regulators; we believe this is the appropriate mechanism.”
Mortgage lenders and brokers expected to offer clients a view on solicitor quality
The conveyancing regulator noted that with more data being made available, customers should be given more choice in the firm they want to conduct their legal services when completing a mortgage.
Following guidance from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to encourage consumer choice, conveyancing firms will be more open about the price, type and quality of services they provide.
And the CLC expects mortgage lenders and brokers to play their part in the process.
Speaking at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum seminar, The future for the home buying process, CLC director of strategy and external relations Stephen Ward said: “No matter how information is provided to a potential client about price, service and quality of a particular conveyancer, we expect that information to be available.
“So if it is available through a portal that the lender or broker or whoever operates, we would expect that information to be available then, so that can inform the consumer’s choice.”
Better informed customers
Discussing the transparency changes, Ward explained that better conveyancer information was going to change the home buying experience.
“We talk about it as people being better informed on the price, service and quality of conveyancing so they can better inform the choice of their conveyancer,” he said.
“It is difficult for law firms to set out what they do differently, what the client can expect to experience, how they will be serviced, what people will be like.
“[So] the service element is really important in helping the consumer understand what they are getting for their money.
“There are lots of services out there, like Trustpilot, which are available that can give customers a sense of what they can expect from a firm and what others have experienced and we’re encouraging firms to use those services,” he added.
Reasons for choosing
Matt Prior from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government echoed that improving the transparency of conveyancing services was critical.
“It is difficult for conveyancers to describe in a pithy small number of data points what a good service looks like, but that’s absolutely what they should be striving for,” he said.
“So consumers don’t say ‘I should go with them because they cost £250’, but choose the firm because they’ve got some really good reviews and they specialise in the type of property going to be bought.”
Conveyancing activity bounces back at start of 2018
The number of cases increased by 12% in the first quarter from the end of 2017, and 11% compared to the same time last year.
Total transaction volumes over the three-month period reached 271,546, the highest number recorded the second quarter of 2016.
Firm’s processed an average 64 cases in the first Q1, up from 59 at the end of last year.
First registrations were up 40% on last year’s figures, while transfer of part transactions were up 25%.
Andrew Lloyd, managing director of Search Acumen, said:“It’s great to see that despite a reportedly stagnant housing market and headlines predicting a housing bust, conveyancers have bounced back from a disappointing end to 2017.
“Regardless of a strong start to the year, we are still of the opinion that 2018 will be full of challenges for conveyancers while the housing market continues to stumble along.
“We all look to the government to find ways to free up the housing market and create more stock, but it’s down to us to ensure the conveyancing market effectively adapts to the future landscape of property transactions.”