Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Spring Summit 2014

As a reseller of Landmark products for more years than I care to mention, I always look forward to getting together and socialising with the folks that provide my reports. It sadly doesn’t happen very often due to geography so to say that I leapt at the invitation to their Spring Summit is probably not an exaggeration.

Especially when it would bring me to the stunning Heythrop Park Resort in the Oxfordshire countryside, with amazing views, beautiful gardens and classic architecture. Not to mention an immediately warm welcome from the Landmark reps tastefully bedecked in matching corporate shirts, top brass included.

Any event that starts with lunch is a winner and after an informal sit-down buffet it was down to the meat of the day, the speakers.

The first talk by David Brammer of SGH Martineau on various aspects of planning law, while interesting, was not really aimed at my side of the business but I’m sure other delegates found plenty to take away from it.

Of more use to me was Andrew Wiseman’s insights into the working practices of solicitors and how we can target our services to their needs. Nothing earthshattering: they want things made easy for them and delivered cheaply. Who doesn’t? But sometimes it takes someone to spell out the bleeding obvious.

They also need products that will help them fulfill their due diligence commitments and chatting with the good people of Landmark reinforced to me that we’re in good hands on that score. They really have their finger on the pulse, delivering relevant information now but also looking to the future to ensure that the right reports will be available when needed. From Mr Wiseman’s presentation, not to mention headlines about fracking, it’s obvious that the Energy & Infrastructure reports will very soon become a vital part of the conveyancing process.

Rounding out the afternoon was a left field guest speaker in the form of a former SAS officer who gave us a fascinating personal insight into the special forces rescue of soldiers taken hostage in Sierra Leone.

If that was the meat of the day, there would be drink aplenty as the opulent, and decidedly less corporate, main part of Heythrop Park House played host to an informal evening reception. 

This was a particular highlight for me, meeting and mixing with fellow resellers - especially equally long standing companies like Jordans, STL, Geodesys and York Place - trading gossip and business cards and putting faces, not to mention personalities, to people either only known by name and reputation or usually only interact with via email.

The Landmark team certainly know the right balance between professionalism and friendliness. I left on Friday morning, with plenty to think about and new professional friendships to build on.

Since that was the Spring Summit, I postulated whether there’d be an Autumn Summit. Sadly sore heads were unable to give me a coherent answer.

Author: Philip Lawrence
L&A Agency Services Limited

Monday, 28 April 2014

After the Winter Floods

The Floods of December '13, January, February and March '14 seemed never ending.  The media extensively covered the relentless weather that battered our country, and day-by-day we learned of the devastation that floods from both the sea and rivers brought with them.

We saw graphic images of homes wrecked over the Christmas and New Year period and deep floodwater covering vast swathes of Somerset for weeks on end, cutting off communities from the outside world and ruining the livelihoods of so many in the farming community.  

We watched as the Thames wreaked havoc in Egham, Wraysbsury and Datchet, and the Severn rising to record breaking heights in the Midlands.

To many people, the floods of the Winter of ‘13/14 are now nothing more than a memory and a conversation topic. I ask you to spare a few moments to think about what those homeowners are going through now – at the end of April. Flooding is not just about when the media and ministers visit.

Being flooded can wreck your daily life for at least 9 months whilst your home is being dried out and restored back to ‘normal’  I want to share with you a few of the photos I’ve been sent via Twitter from people who were flooded. These are photos of their homes right now and are from homes in Tonbridge and Somerset.

These people, and so many like them, still face months out of their homes, along with the misery and hardship that brings with it.

This is why I am so passionate about raising awareness of flood risk; to enable individuals and communities to plan, prepare and militate against it. In many cases, flooding can be prevented and in others, by adapting homes to be more resilient to flooding, the impact can be significantly reduced.

For further information visit www.knowyourfloodrisk.co.uk and download a free copy of the Homeowners Guide to Flood Resilience.

Mary Dhonau OBE
Chief Executive, Know Your Flood Risk Campaign
Follow Mary on twitter @floodmary

Follow the campaign KYFR @flooduk

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Metropix sees uptake in customised floor plans

45% of all floor plans now upgraded to provide property agents with point of difference

Metropix, the leading supplier of floor plan based products to the residential property market, has identified an upswing in the number of property agents choosing enhanced floor plans when marketing properties for sale or rent.  Within the last 12-months, 45% of all agents now choose to enhance their plans, which includes the adoption of 3D or interactive plans, in addition to incorporating company branding or corporate colours.

Brian Farrell, Managing Director of Metropix said: “Today, 45% of all the plans produced on Metropix are being upgraded. This includes agents choosing to go from 2D plans to 3D, accessing interactive PicturePlus plans, which incorporate photos, or even personalising plans with their logo or branding. Agents like having the ability to customise their plans to align with their corporate branding and like being able to use our free interactive floor plans and colours to help differentiate themselves from the competition.”

In a recent study by Rightmove, it identified that consumers want to see floor plans when buying and selling properties; 78% of sellers rated the importance of having a floor plan when selling as 7/10 or higher.  In addition 42% of sellers and 37% of landlords would not invite an agent to value their home if they did not offer a floor plan.  In addition, 37% of buyers said they would be less likely to enquire about property without a floor plan.Concludes Brian Farrell: “Studies like Rightmove’s show the importance of floor plans when marketing properties – both for attracting potential buyers or tenants, but also in securing new instructions. Buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants all value them, therefore agents are now looking at ways of not only offering plans, but in enhancing these to help their services stand out from the competition.”

A free, no-obligation trial of the Metropix drawing service is available.  The trial provides free access to the Metropix system for a two-week period.  To access the free trial, contact Metropix via http://www.metropix.co.uk/  and click on the ‘try it now’ button or telephone 0845 838 5355.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Home of the Cadbury’s Creme Egg: Bournville factory – 'If the country is a good place to live in, why not to work in?’

By Mya Nolan & Daniel Lewis-Carter

The history of the Cadbury’s Creme Eggs current home - Bournville factory - goes as far back as 1879 when George and Richard Cadbury moved their chocolate factory from central Birmingham to Bournbrook Hall – 4 miles south of Birmingham.

The Cadbury’s story as detailed on their website describes a facility and philosophy which was unheard of in Victorian times.  The health and well-being of workers was of significant importance when the estate was developed.  Housing was provided for the workers and a field with a playground was developed to encourage sports.  George Cadbury’s philosophy behind his factory was: “If the country is a good place to live in, why not to work in?”

The estate expanded over the years.  By 1900, when control was formally handed over to the Bournville Village Trust, it included 313 cottages and houses set on 330 acres of land.  Today the estate contains 7,800 homes on 1,000 acres of land with 100 acres of parks and open spaces.

Chocolate production still continues in Bournville - amongst other well-known chocolates 1.2 million Cadbury Creme Eggs are made at the factory every day.

Did you know…
  • At Landmark our unique archive of historical maps first shows a cocoa factory in a prime greenfield location next to the newly opened Birmingham & West Suburban branch of the Midland Railway and the Worcester & Birmingham canal (1884 OS County Series maps for Worcestershire).
  • Subsequent historic maps show how the model village of Bournville expanded to accommodate the growing workforce, until by the post-war period it had been subsumed by the general urban spread from Birmingham.

At Landmark the unrivalled depth, breadth and range of our data enables us to identify and translate environmental and property risk into facts and insight.  Through our data, technology and team of experts we empower our customers to discover opportunities and make informed decisions - this is at the heart of what we do.

Information sourced from;
·         Express and Star – Article “Upgrade for Cadbury Bournville site” – January 23, 2014.
·         Cadburys – ‘The Story’ at cadburys.co.uk/the-story

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Know Your Flood Risk’s “Flood Recovery Guide”: a whirlwind account from concept to delivery

Having been flooded myself, I know only too well what an appalling situation it is. It can literally turn people’s lives upside down if they are affected. When I was flooded there was no information anywhere as to what to do and when. It has long been my ambition to create a downloadable Flood Recovery Guide that will help victims of flood through those first bleak weeks.

Sadly, never has the timing been so good…

Working with Carly Rose, our PHD campaign researcher, (yes, she has also been flooded),we put together a guide of all the best information we could find and added some practical hints and tips based on our own experiences.  Then the terrible the coastal surge happened in November. The talented team at the Know Your Flood Risk offices rushed through the design stage and within a matter of days hard copies had been produced and delivered to Boston in Lincolnshire, where the worst of the tidal flooding had occurred.

From that moment my feet did not touch the ground for several months, as the cruel winter floods of 2013/14 just didn’t stop coming. The guide was in great demand - we got a request for hard copies from Tonbridge and Yalding following the dreadful Christmas day floods there.  Also in demand were the media requests for me to talk about the guide and to give practical advice via TV, radio and in many national papers.  I became a regular guest on BBC breakfast and on ITV’s ‘Daybreak’. I went onto every news channel, appeared on The One Show Live Flood Special (where we managed to ship more free copies of our guide to residents in Wraysbury), spoke on the Today programme, videoed by the Sunday Telegraph and became a regular speaker on consumer programmes on Radio 5. I have even been in the Washington Post and spoken on Russia Today! My new (and I hope affectionate) nickname is now ‘Mary Queen of Floods’…

The guide not only covers the practicalities of recovering from a flood, including a section for those without insurance, but the emotional rollercoaster that everyone goes through for the weeks and months following a flood. It can be extremely stressful for everyone in the household, not just physically but emotionally too. Many people have described it as a ‘kind of bereavement’ – recent decorations, wedding photos, treasured family heirlooms or mementoes, school projects – all washed away forever and sometimes, in only a matter of minutes. One resident from Yalding said: "I thought it was a great guide with loads of useful information to help cope with the aftermath of flooding. I particularly appreciated the bit about The Emotional Roller-coaster. It helped me to realise how I am feeling is normal and understandable. Thank you."

What was apparent with the widespread flooding this time around was the power of social media.  In the past, floods surge in but once the media leave everyone forgets about the clean-up and recovery. Thanks to social media, people are now able to post live warnings, share tips and advice and keep the situation in the public eye which is important. Thanks to Twitter alone, our Flood Recovery Guide reached an audience of over ½ million people thanks to mentions and re-tweets from hundreds of sources including the Environment Agency, the media, local authorities and the Police. 

Being flooded is just awful but I’d like to think that the new guide helped those during their slow road to recovery and that afterwards, those at risk will also take full advantage of the Know Your Flood Risk campaigns ‘Homeowners Guide to Flood Resilience’ to help reduce the impact any future floods will bring.

Mary Dhonau OBE
Chief Executive KYFR
Follow Mary on twitter @floodmary and The Know Your Flood Risk Campaign @flooduk
Visit www.knowyourfloodrisk.co.uk for more practical guidance and advice.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Whose Responsibility Is It Anyway?

From 26 April, the Mortgage Market Review comes into force, and brings with it stricter affordability rules.  As such, it increases lenders’ obligation to determine affordability – both now and in the future.

Some worry however that the rule change may see mortgage application fraud rise, in avoidance of more rigorous checks.  For those with income verification worries, there is concern they may target alternative mortgage products.

With self-certification ended, we have been warning clients to ensure that they incorporate strict fraud alerts on unregulated loan business.   In fact, Buy-to-Let is increasingly being mooted as the potential ‘replacement’ to self-certified loans; a straw poll by a broker magazine asked its readers whether any clients have attempted to buy property for residential purposes via a buy-to-let mortgage.  Out of 275 responses, 52% had witnessed such attempts.

Systems are in place with many lenders to detect this activity, however it is important that the industry remains vigilant. But who in the property purchasing chain is actually responsible for policing or reporting related concerns?  Where does the responsibility truly lie?

Estate Agents
At the start of the process, Estate Agents are in an ideal position to gather information on the purchaser and the property, including its potential for rental, and to understand how the purchaser intends to use the property.  Once a purchase proceeds the agent is less likely to be involved in the financial transaction – unless the applicant happens to use their in-house financial advisor.  Perhaps there is scope to incorporate feedback from agents in the process, so their initial findings can be analysed?  As unregulated professionals this may be a long shot, but there’s no doubt that most agents will know the purpose of a given purchase.

Mortgage brokers are often considered to be in the ‘hot seat’ as it is their recommendations that will be adopted by the applicant in terms of which mortgage product they should opt for. It is therefore up to brokers to extract enough information on the applicant, their intentions and plans for the property plus their relevant financial history, to make an accurate judgement.  Brokers have a duty to report any suspicions they may have, whether related to falsified ID or income data.  We are seeing lenders tightening up their management of broker panels with some refusing to accept further business if fraudulent applications are submitted.   

We've spoken about the surveyor community as being the ‘eyes and ears’ of the industry, and believe they are in a strong position to identify any suspicious activities. Surveyors not only meet the current occupant during the valuation but also physically assess the property.   We believe this places surveyors at the heart of the risk management process and in a prime position to identify factors that may add up to a fraud referral when combined with other information sources.

As the last line of defence, legal conveyancers have a responsibility to ensure the transaction is fully transparent.  As ‘gatekeepers’ of the mortgage process, conveyancers undertake detailed identity verification checks, have a view of the source of funds, and also have an insight to the property, including a range of detailed property search information. 

There has been some interesting debate over whether the data available to conveyancers could be used earlier in the purchase process, with obvious benefits for instance if lenders were able to make use of Land Registry charge information when deciding how to value a property.

Lenders are of course at the heart of fraud detection and prevention with their profitability directly affected by bad lending, and now a strong focus from regulators not only on their processes and controls but also on capital requirements for different categories of lending.

Fraud teams walk a tightrope between ensuring that the customer journey for the majority remains smooth and trouble free, whilst at the same time investigating as many cases as possible, making it genuinely tough to gain approval for a mortgage when criteria are abused or significant suspicion persists.

The IT systems which today form a key part of lenders’ defences aid this process by analysing every potential loan at various stages, from the moment of application through valuation and even the conveyancer’s certificate of title process.

By analysing both applicant and property data – for example, looking at previous loan applications or the property’s transaction and listing history – risk systems can work together to issue alerts if the application meets specific criteria, as determined by the lender. Detailed investigations can then be undertaken by the lender’s fraud team before the application is allowed to proceed.

What this shows is that there isn't a definitive single body that is responsible for policing, detecting or reporting cases of fraud, and whilst lenders are clearly driving the process from the centre, each ‘link in the chain’ has the ability to influence the overall strength of the anti-fraud toolkit. 

Knowledge in this arena clearly equals power, and the provision of new data driven solutions that intelligently analyse all facets of the proposed transaction will enable the entire industry to make better informed decisions – first time, every time.

Richard Groom
Product Development Director
Financial Risk - Landmark Information Group

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Why I chose an apprenticeship with QA and Landmark

My journey started in the summer of 2013; I had just made what I felt to be one of the most important decisions of my life. I left university! It took a lot of time and thought before making my final decision. Bearing in mind I hadn’t got around to breaking the news to my parents, possibly one of the scariest things ever. I consulted with my elder brother and we came up with a plan of action. I have always had a clear vision of where I could see myself in the future; however the difficult part was choosing the best route to take.

I’ve always looked up to my brother and seen him as my first point call for information and advice, so we sought out to look at my various options. Full time work? Take a gap year? Both valid options but not necessarily the right for me. I was brought up to understand the value of education and its importance at any level, and I felt if I was learning whilst being given the opportunity to put in practice then I would benefit the most.  One of my main strengths is my ability to communicate and interact with different people especially as my previous role was working in Vodafone as a Sales Advisor. With my older brother working as a Business Development Manager, he works closely with sales professionals and says he can see similar attributes and urged me to pursue a career in sales.
That’s when I started to put some research into apprenticeships. Initially I wasn’t too keen on the idea, but after carefully weighing up the umpteen amount of pros vs cons it was a no brainer: no tuition fees, the support of a learning agency to search for a company on my behalf, the chance to earn whilst I learn, a qualification at the end and a vast array of different disciplines to choose from. I approached QA Apprenticeships with a positive attitude yearning to start my career in sales. They interviewed me and I passed the initial screening process, the next step was to find me an organisation to work in.

The first role that came up was in fact for Landmark Information Group and I attended the group interview welcomed by Greg Bryce, Commercial Director, Nicola Rogers and Rob Phillipson, Heads of Sales and representing the HR team Lynne Parker and Cristabel Noseda. We did a number of group activities throughout the day and was invited back for a formal one-to-one interview two weeks later. I managed to sell myself enough to be successful for the role as Account Executive.
My only qualm is I wish I was made aware sooner!

It’s safe to say I am thoroughly enjoying my first 6 months here at Landmark; welcomed with warm smiles every morning from the Customer Service team, challenged on daily basis to go above and beyond with the accounts that I manage and the constant requirement to remain up to date with industry activity. Zillah Goode, my line manager has also supported me greatly. Whether it be answering my constant barrage of question or coaching me on how to approach different clients.

I am incredibly proud to say that I work for Landmark Information Group, a company that is at the forefront of the property industry delivering intelligence and solutions that enable professionals to make informed decisions. . Nicola said something to me in my very first interview that has stuck with me ever since, because I feel exactly the same way: “When I first started, I didn’t think I would find maps SO interesting”.  . I believe having a genuine interest in your line of work with a clear vision of where it can take you is key in choosing your job, coupled with friendly staff and a good atmosphere you are destined for success; which has been pivotal in my first few months here at Landmark
Having so many role models within Landmark has also been a massive bonus. I have had the opportunity to sit and talk with different senior members of staff who I may not normally come into contact with. Discussing how they got into their roles and the kind of work they deal with. I even have a mentor – Mark Burnard, Senior Product Manager - who I regularly meet with to ask questions and to generally give me an insight into the other parts of the business.
I was also fortunate enough to attend Landmark’s flagship Risky Business conference at the Royal Institute of Civil Engineers back in November. I listened to key speakers discuss the current issues surrounding  environmental due diligence and witnessed the technology showcase where we debuted Envirocheck Analysis, Envirocheck Analysis Mobile and Augmented Reality. It was a real opportunity for me to network with both colleagues across the group as well as our customers.

Progression within my sales career is key and I feel joining Landmark has been a springboard start to my personal development and growth. I can certainly see myself staying with Landmark Information Group after my apprenticeship and I am excited to see what the future holds for me here. Watch out Account Managers…I’m coming for you!

Farouq Sulaiman
Account Executive

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

How to make the best bids to HCA

Webinar: Better HCA Bids with Inside Housing & Landmark Analytics

Friday 11 April – 11am – 12 noon

Inside Housing magazine is hosting a webinar that invites social housing providers to look at how to make the best possible bids for HCA funding. During the webinar, which is being run in conjunction with Landmark Analytics, speakers will also discuss how better information regarding a providers’ existing property portfolio can help underpin this process.

The rules to win HCA development funding have changed - landlords must now show they offer value for money.  During the webinar, delegates can hear from a senior HCA director on tips for great bids.  The webinar also provides an opportunity for delegates to learn how they can gather more intelligence about their existing homes and how this can ultimately help them better demonstrate their organisation’s value for money.

Speakers include:

  •         Fiona MacGregor - Head of Affordable Housing at Homes and Communities Agency
  •         Carole Oliver - Group Business Development Manager at Landmark Information Group
  •       Phil Stephens - Development and Commercial Director at Sovereign Housing

Chaired By:       
        Martin Hilditch Acting Editor, Inside Housing

For FREE access to the webinar go to: www.insidehousing.co.uk/hcawebinar