Friday, 28 December 2007


Do signs work?

Well, have a look at this picture of just outside our office. We put up this sign to stop people smoking (sad authoritarians we are). Does it work? Have a look at the next picture below this one!!

our office mendip court chatfield road sw11 3uz

No smoking outside the office.

smoking sign not working

An effective sign!!!

But does this mean that all signs are ignored or is just those that prohibit an action? Indeed, do punters ignore agents’ boards? Boards have been around for decades and they are still ruthlessly staple gunned, cable tied, cemented in to a property before the punter has even left the agents! Do users take any notice, how does a board stand out, get noticed? Given people are normally looking for property and thus looking for signs it is reasonable to assume they will get noticed, but what then.

We are offering all our agents a text board service to tie to their boards. Basically a picture of a phone with a text number (we don’t get a choice on the cut out - I would have had a four foot bright yellow kangaroo if we did) and users simply text the code and receive the price, the description and a few pics. Although mobile is coming at pace, there may still be a place for boards, just different information being displayed on the old faithfuls?

GPS, information sent to you as you wander the streets and other exciting stuff all to follow as reported by Joel Burslem on the future of real estate marketing on 12 November 2007

Audio tours

We were looking (sorry listening) to Foxtons audio tours with a computer generated speech tour the other day. The initial comments were that the computer generated voice was too monotonous and didn’t really ‘sell’ any of the features of the property. If this was a tour then the guide was missing and if it was a sales pitch, which ultimately is what it ought to be, then how does hearing a list of features help the punter? It also sounded remarkably like Stephen Hawkins. Has he secured these rights by any chance?

So is this just a gimmick or does it have a real place in the marketing mix? The office straw poll was that perhaps the text fed to the computer was too bland in the first place, but the lack of tone variance (we said lack of passion) was a huge hindrance. Naturally this is extremely difficult for a computer to reproduce, but it led to the conclusion that whilst this could be a useful gimmick, the computer voice didn’t do it any favours. Indeed, we could see punters being put off buying after hearing such a drab sales pitch. Perhaps a more genuine and sultry voice would appeal?!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Money Laundering Checks - More stealth taxes?

On 15 December 2007, the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 come into effect in so far as they extend to estate agents. So what!? Agents have always identified customers before, haven’t they?

Well, all estate agents are required to put in place anti-money laundering controls ‘…in order to anticipate and prevent your business being used by criminals to launder money and fund terrorism…’

To prevent the next axis of evil training camp from forming in your back yard, the government states that estate agents must comply with a number of mundane tasks. Simply put, agents will need to confirm their customer’s identity, which means in practice, we suspect, looking at a driving licence and crumpled utility bill. There are other requirements such as appointing an office member to head up your office MI5 unit and training your staff in counter surveillance, but all this is really just a revenue spinner for the OFT :

Quote of the day “…Yes, businesses will be required to pay fees to the OFT. However, we have not yet calculated final fees due from business. No fees are currently payable but that will change in coming months…”. taken from the OFT publication

Lettings agents will not be able to enter this exciting world of espionage unless they engage in estate agency work, which of course has a lengthy definition, but effectively means if you are also selling.

The list of obligations if you can bear to read:

• confirm your customer's identity before entering into a business relationship or occasional transaction with them and obtain information on the purpose or nature of the business relationship

• conduct ongoing monitoring of the business relationship as appropriate to ensure that transactions are consistent with your knowledge of the customer and the customer's business

• keep records obtained in establishing your customers' identity and of business relationships for five years

• put in place checks, controls and procedures in order to anticipate and prevent money laundering or terrorist financing

• train your staff in those procedures and in the law relating to money laundering and terrorist financing

• appoint a nominated officer or money laundering reporting officer (MLRO). The MLRO should receive and consider internal disclosures of suspicious activity from within your business and make suspicious activity reports to the Serious Organised Crime Agency

We will be providing some more information within our Agent area and withing this blog in the coming months.

A number of companies are providing credit checking systems for estate agents, which come at a huge premium. Rightmove for one are charging per search through a third party system. Is this level of credit checking really necessary to meet the requirements of the regulations?

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Search Survey

We are currently conducting a survey on our 'coming soon' home page of how users prefer to search for property. We kept it simple and offered five options: google search style, advanced, quick, directory, map, quick, other. We used a drag and drop survey tool (not sure how many were put off by the drag and drop, but would be interested to hear any feedback.) and the results are currently as below.

So what does this mean, predictable response maybe, everyone is used to google search so obvious answer is google style search. But dig a little deeper – well ask a few people around town - and we found that many people want an advanced/detailed search, but made simple.

We are all trying to put more options on the map search and I have to say that some are looking cluttered.

Many years ago, I used to draw a circle on a map to cover an area I would consider living within. This was normally from a central point, such as a train station for access to London or similar. To this end, the draw and search option provided by Zoomf is a great step in the right direction. We were already developing a tool along these lines and you will see a similar facility on the site soon.

What search is the best, who knows, maybe ditch everything and just have a clever map search, nothing else. There are now many features and opportunities available to improve map search and what we shall be aiming towards is a simplistic search that just makes life easier for our users.

We have continued the survey on the blog, so please take the time to vote.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007


We know logos are close to some of your hearts so we took on board your comments and came up with the current offering. We have had good feedback so far and with this in mind we dressed it up as our Christmas greeting to all.

We would love to know what you think.

Happy Christmas.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Twit Twoo

Welcome to the Property Owl Blog! The aim of this blog is to humbly try and add additional knowledge and discussion to some of the great blogs that already appear from the property industry.

We also hope to keep you updated with our ideas and experiments as we strive to contribute to this space.

If you are involved within the industry, want to be, have been or are simply just turned on by such chat come on in. Please feel free to contribute and add us to your reader/feed.

Sorry about the title, it is an office thing!