Any illusions that people had about purchase activity dropping back to pre-pandemic levels this year are swiftly being corrected.
Figures from HM Revenue & Customs have shown that in February t. were more than 96,000 residential transactions, and while this is down on the stamp duty holiday fuelled figures of last year, it remains strikingly higher than typical transaction levels for this time of year.
This is a pretty clear message – people are keen to get on with a house move, even if it does mean having to stump up for stamp duty.
However, the high levels of activity have been accompanied by a significant number of transactions collapsing. Recent industry figures have suggested that more than 50,000 potential property deals have fallen through in the first three months of this year already.
Sales falling through are inevitable to some degree within the property market, but the scale . is quite staggering.
That’s an awful lot of people whose property dreams have come grinding to a halt, not only having to deal with the stress and upset caused by a deal falling through, but also the financial implications. In many cases these buyers will have already invested by purchasing surveys and carried out their searches.
These failed transactions typify one of the many things wrong with our current system. Simply because a homebuyer managed to get their deal over the line in time and complete the purchase, doesn’t mean it was a straightforward or a pleasant experience. Just last month a study by Moneybox Mortgages found that almost four in 10 people stated that buying a house is the most stressful experience of their life, and given previous studies into the subject, that may well be a conservative figure.
Starting a movement
It doesn’t have to be like this. One of the drivers in our recent rebrand from ULS Technology to Smoove was my determination to do things differently, to strive to identify ways in which we can make the process of buying and selling a home better.
It should be an exciting time in your life, yet we allow the process to turn into something people put off until they simply cannot wait any longer.
Technology and transparency are key .. All too often the reason buyers and sellers are anxious is because they have absolutely no idea what’s going on. They are the ones in the middle of a vastly expensive transaction, and yet they are effectively cut out of the communication about how the move is progressing.
This leads to stressed phone calls and .s to the brokers, estate agents and conveyancers to try to get updates and clarity to determine what stage they’re at in the transaction.
In a fast-moving world, w. we have got used to living our life in a seamless and responsive fashion, why is one of life’s biggest events still so rigid, confusing, opaque and downright slow?
We need to start to bring the consumer into the loop so that they can see exactly what is happening with their purchase, and importantly, exactly what the conveyancer actually does. Ask most homebuyers what the role of a conveyancer is and they are likely entirely clueless, viewing it simply as yet another expense incurred in the process of buying a home.
Investing in the right technology, which can improve the experience of everyone involved – from buyers and brokers to lenders and lawyers – is at the heart of what we do at Smoove.
It’s also worth remembering that the stresses of moving don’t simply end when the buyer receives their new door key. T. can be simply so much to do with a new home that the new owner can feel overwhelmed.
Given the swathe of new providers and suppliers that you have to deal with – on top of cancelling arrangements at the old property – t. is a lot of the potential for wrong decisions to be made. Opting for the wrong broadband tariff can be a costly mistake at the best of times, but, given the cost of living crisis currently gripping the UK, such a move can be even more damaging.
This is another area we want to improve. We have already partnered with Just Move In, a home setup service that allows movers to essentially hand over all of the admin, from council tax to the TV Licence, allowing the customer to focus their energies on the house move itself. But t. is far more that we can do to provide consumers with a true, end-to-end experience.
Anyone who works in the industry will know that even when the transaction actually goes through, their customers have been through one of life’s most stressful experiences.
We can – and must – do better and at Smoove we are dedicated to developing the digital experiences and services that do just that.
Jesper With-Fogstrup is chief executive officer at Smoove