Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Uncovering Unexploded Ordnance

Today we woke up to reports of a huge unexploded World War II bomb being identified at a building site in Southwark, south London.

With households within the vicinity evacuated while the Army manages the safe removal of the device, it highlights the importance of undertaking Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) assessments at the outset of any building development works, as the probability of identifying UXO originating from the Second World War might not be as uncommon as you think.  

According to the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA), between 2006 and 2009, approximately 15,000 devices were removed from construction sites – of which 5% were live.

Add to this, it has been reported that during WWII over 17,000 tonnes of explosive fell on London alone, with figures suggesting that approximately 10% did not detonate on impact. 

Site Assessments:

Help is available to the construction industry: the first port of call is a desktop tool called a Preliminary UXO Risk Assessment. It quickly provides a 'yes/no' answer as to whether there is any risk of encountering a bomb. It has been developed in line with guidance from CIRIA and endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive.

If a positive ‘yes’ output is identified, the next stage of assessment is to conduct a Detailed UXO Risk Assessment. This will detail the type of threat, the size, origin and also takes into account the proposed construction method and how that would impact on risk of detonation.  Risk mitigation measures are then provided to allow construction to proceed.

The ‘Bomb Search’ assessments are available from Envirocheck, part of Landmark Information Group, and are provided by renowned experts in the field of UXO, 6 Alpha Associates.
 Envirocheck Bombsearch - 6 Alpha Associates

Talking about the potential risks, Simon Cooke, Managing Director at 6 Alpha Associates, in partnership with Landmark Information Group, said:

“Encountering an unexploded bomb on a construction site is a low probability but extremely high consequence event, particularly when you take into account potential loss of life. Not to mention shock waves which could spread underground for some distance, causing damage to foundations and other underground works.   As we see it, it is the potential consequence, rather than the probability, which really drives the importance of undertaking detailed risk assessments before any work starts.”

Ultimately, at the start of any new ground works project, the first stage Preliminary search is a must. While the potential risk may be considered small, it is clear it should not be overlooked for the ultimate safety of all concerned.

More details regarding Envirocheck Bomb Search can be found here:

More details regarding 6 Alpha can be found here:

Related News Link:

Monday, 16 March 2015

Flood Defences: what will feature in the Chancellor’s Budget?

Here at Landmark, as members of the Know Your Flood Risk campaign, we are fully behind the latest announcement from the ‘Flood Free Homes’ campaign, which urges the Chancellor to think ahead in terms of increasing spending on flood defences and maintenance, in this week’s Budget.

The Flood Free Homes campaign was launched by the Association of British Insurers, and is supported by Friends of the Earth, National Flood Forum, the Property Care Association’s Flood Protection Group, the BRE Centre for Resilience and, of course, the Know Your Flood Risk campaign.

Its aim is to raise the issue of long-term flood defence investment and land and water management, and so the campaign believes that the Budget needs to “set the tone” for future Spending Reviews so that protection against future flooding is seen as a national priority.

Commenting on the news, Mary Dhonau OBE, who is Chief Executive of the Know Your Flood Risk Campaign said: “Having been flooded myself, I know only too well how devastating it can be! It is essential that spending on flood risk and climate change is prioritised by the next Government. Our infrastructure is woefully inadequate and needs urgent investment to make it fit for purpose for both now and in the future!
Mary Dhonau OBE
Continues Mary: “We set up the Know Your Flood Risk Campaign several years ago to help people understand their current and future flood risk.  We not only provide free guidance on how to work out your potential risk, but offer access to a wealth of guides and reports on how to prepare, prevent or recover from incidences of flooding.   As well as an interactive website and free mobile app, visitors can also purchase a property-specific flood risk assessment that provides a clear picture on current risks related to a property or its wider locality.”


Thursday, 12 March 2015

Bristol playtime is restored thanks to 300+ Landmarkers

Southmead and St Pauls Adventure Playgrounds are situated in some of the city’s most densely urbanised areas, and much of the playground equipment was old, worn-out and in desperate need of replacement. 

So over two cold days in November a 300+ strong team of Landmarkers took to work on repairing the grounds, as well as restoring and installing new play equipment, creating fun and safe environments for children and families to play.

Splash and Learning Partnership West coordinated the project and briefed Landmark on what needed to be achieved over the 48hrs. Landmarkers and Splash Projects split into teams focussing on improving every inch of the grounds and joined forces to dig, paint, build and refurbish the existing facilities.
It was hard work and there was a fantastic atmosphere of camaraderie, and while it might have been a bit slippery and muddy underfoot, it was great to see that the weather didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.

The handover was completed on the evening of Thursday, 27th November with Landmark’s CEO Mark Milner, along with Ashley Ward Councillors Rob Telford & Gus Hoyt, Nicola Burcham (CEO LPW), and Colin Robertson (Project Director, Splash Projects).

Mark Milner, CEO of Landmark commented: “We wanted to help LPW completely renovate and provide new activities at the St Pauls and Southmead sites. Our staff travelled from across the country to make this happen; from London, Brighton, Reading, Godalming, Exeter, the North East and North West. They were all given time off from their day jobs to put on their overalls and get stuck in, from painting and cleaning through to general repairs. It really was a fantastic effort from all involved.”

Watch the full video of the project here

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Selling Your Property in 2015?

Spoilt for choice.

When searching for a route to sale you will come across various “private-sale” sites who will charge a small fee to promote your property on their website, and any other partnered websites or property portals. Their entry-level services will be limited with a simple photograph of the property stock; some headline text, and not much more. Any partnered sites that are included will offer a small amount of extra buyer-attention individually, but when combined can command notable traffic volumes.

A growing number of estate agents have taken to the digital marketplace and there are quite a few offering to market your property at a much lower fee than the traditional high street agent. They can afford to pass on this saving because they enjoy the low overheads of a digital shop front. These digital agents are likely to charge you around £400-£500 for the privilege of their expertise. 

You could also consider advertising direct to property portals whom, for a fee will upload your property to their site; however the top portals will depend on agents as their core customer base and refuse individual property owners without an agent’s involvement. It may seem that agents are ‘getting in the way’ of you directly advertising your property to potential buyers but don’t forget the reason they are in business in the first place; the benefit of using an estate agent is that you get access to their knowledge of the market. They already understand the types of properties selling, at what price, and why.  

Presentation, presentation, presentation.

To sell your property independently you will need to do some homework. Get to studying on sites like Mouseprice and obtain some working knowledge of your local property market. You’ll need to comb through sold prices in your local newspapers, Mouseprice and Landmark Analytics for similar Properties, which are close to where you live.  Property portals will give you an idea of where agents are positioning their property stock in the market, but keep in mind that these aren't the actual final sale prices achieved; which are commonly 5-10% lower.

You will need to take bright and descriptive images of your property, inside and out. Cutting corners in this area could mean your property remains unsold for weeks or months, as it is all a potential buyer has to judge your properties worth and first impressions are key. Research simple composition in photography or advice from market leaders on how to photograph your home. Applying simple research tips to this initial presentation of your property will really pay off as the enquiries start to flow in thick and fast.

Also, prepare a full description of your property for uploading onto websites and portals. Include every detail of each room, from the number of electrical sockets to the styling of the window sill; and measurements of each space.

Be Safe. Be Smart

If you present your property well you will have people contacting you to see more, so be prepared. Be flexible with viewing arrangements to accommodate potential buyers who will be viewing

multiple properties and are likely to lose interest in yours if it’s too much hassle for them. Remember buyers often need to cancel their viewing appointments so it’s best to arrange group viewings so that cancellations don’t pose much of a problem.

Obtain full details of everyone wanting to view your property and don’t allow viewings when you’re on your own, this is vitally important to your safety as you’re inviting strangers into your home. During the viewing be aware of what the buyer is looking for, the kitchen and lounge are the key rooms for most buyers and will greatly influence a buyers decision; show these rooms first. 

If you want to be really strategic you can ask for honest feedback about your property to understand how you can improve things and get a better chance of a sale. After a few successful 
viewings, be prepared for the ensuing offers; preparation is 
important as offers will come in via email and over the phone. 

When receiving a telephone offer, preparation will prevent your knee-jerk reaction sounding like “In your dreams mate” to a particularly low sounding offer. Don’t accept or reject an offer immediately, instead give yourself time to make an informed decision. Put together a checklist of information that you will require, such as Personal Details, Offer Price, Mortgage details, solicitor details, and timescales for moving. 

Around 30% of sales agreed never reach completion for various reasons, so keeping a keen eye on progress will help to make sure that you are not in that category. You should be contacting solicitors, estate agents and your seller at least weekly to ensure the sale is progressing. This is the time to get pushy and ensure none of the relevant parties slack off from securing your dream!

The Home-Straight.

Final Checklist
  1. Seller Instructs their Solicitor
  2. Seller mortgage application submitted
  3. Survey on your property completed
  4. Seller mortgage offer issued
  5. Exchange date agreed
  6. Completion date agreed
The benefits of selling through an estate agent is that they only receive payment once the sale is complete, whereas selling independently online will demand your time, attention and upfront costs to be recouped. The choice is yours; happy selling!

Connells Survey and Valuation extends digital footprint through new surveying team

We are pleased to announce that Connells Survey & Valuation Ltd., now has more than 300 surveyors using the Landmark Quest 'Q-Mobile' property data capture solution to generate major efficiencies with valuation service delivery to mortgage lenders.

In July 2014 Connells Survey & Valuation was awarded the exclusive contract to deliver valuation panel management services to Principality Building Society.  Under the contract, Principality Chartered Surveyors also joined Connells Survey & Valuation business.

Q-Mobile, used in conjunction with Panasonic Toughbooks, improves workflow, standardises surveyors’ site notes and allows Connells’ surveyors to access supporting data for each valuation report while they are on site.  

The mobile software provides a seamless process from the receipt of a valuation instruction, scheduling the appointment, undertaking research and the inspection, through to transmission of the valuation report to the client. Connells have been pioneers in developing and using Landmark Quest’s Q-Mobile, which has supported their surveyors being more efficient in responding to increasingly complex service requirements and improving the customer journey.

Matthew Morgan, Area Director, Connells Survey & Valuation (former Chief Surveyor at Principality Surveyors), comments: “At Principality Surveyors we were researching the best mobile technology system on the market.  Connells Survey & Valuation has an unparalleled reputation for quality service delivery and had already made a major investment in its service involving Landmark Q-Mobile and tablet PCs. This was taken into consideration during the tender process.”

Ross Bowen, Managing Director of Connells Survey & Valuation, adds, “Using Q-Mobile has delivered tangible benefits to our clients and superior customer outcomes. We are now even better placed to manage our surveyors’ workloads and work patterns during the course of the day. Within the space of just a few weeks of rolling out Q-Mobile, it has become the established platform underpinning the delivery of our professional valuation services.”

Ross Bowen explains that introducing the new surveying team to Q-Mobile and the latest mobile working methods required three days’ initial training, but has paid dividends in efficient working practices and time saved when responding to queries: “When a query is raised by an underwriter or solicitor, we can push this out to surveyors in the field and they can respond immediately and effectively. Information such as site plans, photos and post valuation queries are all in one place, so it is much easier to access at the surveyor’s fingertips, speeding response times to clients and their time to mortgage offer. Using Q-Mobile in the field has also more than halved the time taken to respond to post valuation queries from two days to under one day.”

Whilst highlighting the benefits, Ross Bowen emphasises that Connells’ investment in Q-Mobile and tablet PCs was part of implementing its next generation service delivery model. “Being able to access data from mobile devices in real time is a major change for our industry and it’s helping to evolve the working patterns of the profession.”

Rachel Brookes, Product Manager at Landmark Quest comments, “We are delighted to be able to support the integration of the former Principality Chartered Surveyors into Connells Survey & Valuation, by using our mobile data capture software to standardise reports and improve validation, efficiency and quality for all surveyors. We will continue to work with Connells to further develop Q-Mobile to incorporate datasets, such as the homebuyer report.”

More details: 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Landmark’s Marathon Man supports MapAction

We’re extremely proud of our Business Development Manager, Colin Blears, who is joining the MapAction London Marathon team in April.  Here is Colin’s inspirational Journey so far...

...I received an email from Jacki Norbury at 12:22 on 15th December 2014 and by 14:41 I had responded with..

“If we don't set goals we will never achieve anything.  A marathon has been on my list for many years so I guess I have no excuses now.” 

At this point I thought there was nothing else required other than sitting back and enjoying my Christmas leave.

Returning in the New Year all refreshed I opened my email from Jacki confirming I had been accepted in the 2015 Virgin London Marathon.  At this point I was in a state of shock with only 16 weeks until race day and I had not even started my training.  I started internet searches for training programmes and decided I can’t be a beginner so selected the Intermediate 17 Week Training Plan and what harm would it do to start on week 2.

Week 2
So I dusted off my gym membership, found my running shoes at the back of a cupboard and dragged myself down to the gym.  In this first week I did a combination of swimming, running and at the weekend some cycling to build up a general all round fitness. During my first long run I hit an issue that I was not even aware existed called hyponatremia (Over-Hydration).  This is not a fun experience and you can read more about it here: The Truth Behind Dehydration and Performance 

Week 3
I had heard a few people mention how they found the Strava app really useful for running and cycling so I downloaded the APP and decided to do my first road run.  I was quite impressed that in within 1 week I was able to run 12.1 miles in 1:51:34 with a pace of 9:15/miles.  The following day however I could barely walk.

Week 4
After further internet research I found that it is really important to have the correctly fitting shoes to avoid injury and socks to ensure you don’t get blisters.  I was recommended to look at Footbalance which can be fitted by any sweatshop store.  Since having these new insoles I have found that the hip and knee joint pain has eased and I am finding I get less blisters.

Jacki started to raise the awareness of our support by announcing Landmark joins MapAction Marathon Team to help save lives and minimise suffering in humanitarian crises.

Probably not the best plan knowing how my last snowboard holiday ended in crutches with a broken ankle I still decided to go to St.Anton with some friends.  After snowboarding from 10am to 4pm each day I sacrificed the Apre ski for time on the running machine.  One day I felt it was a shame to be indoors so I took the bus to a local (summer) alpine run route and decided to run 11.6 miles in the snow. I seem to remember that when Rocky was preparing for a fight he would train in extreme conditions so if it’s in a Hollywood movie it must be true.

Overall I covered 2,889ft in elevation over a period of 2hrs37mins with a slower pace time of 13:33/mile. 

Week 5
Back in the UK feeling exhausted after my holiday, Chloe Browitt from MapAction contacted me to confirm I had been accepted to attend a training day on 1st February at Twickenham Rugby Stadium.  The day consisted of group sessions:-
 Training, training plans and injury prevention from Barney Kenny (England Rugby Head Physiotherapist
  1.       Nutrition & Hydration from Matt Lovell (England Rugby Team nutritionist) 
  2.      Fundraising tips
  3.      Fitness session around the stadium with the British Army Fitness Instructors                           
The day was then rounded off with a visit from the charities patron Prince Harry.  This was very unexpected but inspiring to see that he takes such an active role in supporting charities and is not just a name in the background.

Week 6 – Week 7
After a few intensive weeks of training it was important to let my body come to terms with the changes I had been making, no achohol since 1st January, cutting out the junk or what some would say comfort food.  During these weeks I cut the running down, organised to get some sports massages booked in for the tough training schedule ahead and reviewed what new gadget I could buy.

After a several discussions with Ian Clarke our CTO and many hours of internet research on the Jawbone and Fitbit products, I decided the new wearable technology for me was the Fitbit Charge HR.  The great thing about this device is being able to monitor your heart-rate whilst training and also monitor your sleep patterns to ensure you are getting enough recovery time as part of your training schedule. 

Week 8
I had spent several weeks focusing on training but had not really investigated my diet so after ordering my DNAFIT report before Christmas I thought it would be a good time to reflect on it.  Jacki arranged for me to get a DNAFit report review with Craig Pickering ex-professional athlete and now a Professional Sport & Sport Science Consultant.  The good news is I am suited to endurance training and events.

At first I was very sceptical about this service when but still felt it was worth the money to understand more about myself.  I have been following the recommendations in the report about the type of exercise suited to your genetic make-up, the diet and vitamins you need and I have seen a significant change in the energy and focus within day to day activities.  I would recommend you explore getting a report done for yourself www.dnafit.com

Week 9 - 10
Over these weeks I was doing a combination of interval training to build speed and also trying to test my hydration strategy using High 5 Sports Nutrition products.  It was key during this period to avoid injury and get my body used to drinking and eating whilst running, this is a very uncomfortable feeling and takes some skill to avoid choking. 

Week 11
This week was focusing on the final preparation for my first ever half marathon which I completed in 1:51.33, you can see my race progress in the Surrey Half Marathon on Strava 

Congratulations!! to my team MapAction teammates on getting their personal best times.

Race day results

I was really pleased with my first event but it really hit home that this is only half the distance and the training is going to get tougher over the next 5 weeks.  The support from friends, family and work colleagues has been amazing and I am looking forward to the main event on 26th April 2015.  Click on the logo below for spectator information.

Over the last 11 weeks I have managed to get my 13.1 miles distance completed in the same time it took to do 12.1 miles which is an 8 minute reduction in my time and I have lost over a stone in weight going from 12st 6lbs to 11st 4lbs.  It is really amazing what you are able to achieve with focus and support good people around you.  

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and I look forward to providing part 2.  It would be great if you could spare a few minutes to read about MapAction and support them by making a donation here: 

Colin Blears
Business Development Manager 

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Green Factor

Peter Stimson, Managing Director of Landmark Quest, features in the March edition of industry publication, Mortgage Finance Gazette, discussing the topic of the importance of understanding environmental risks in making mortgage lending decisions.  

Peter suggests that  the use of environmental data in the mortgage application process can be used in one of two definitive ways to help lenders understand any potential risks: as a means of providing some certainty to other checks lenders conduct, such as Automated Valuation Models, in addition to providing surveyors with additional support and direction in the valuation process: 

The Green Factor

"Those of you who have worked in the mortgage market like me, for a number of years, will have noticed how much things have changed over the last 20 years. Mortgages have gone from a local relationship with a branch where cases where manually underwritten to a large centralised administration unit, where the bulk of cases will barely be seen by an underwriter.

Whilst some may pine for the days of being able to talk through cases locally and get those ‘exception’ cases through, the stark reality is that, from a bank’s perspective, all the automation and centralisation has resulted in two clear outcomes.

Firstly, it needs less people and hence less money to process cases. Secondly, the standardisation of risk and criteria and the use of technology, in particular credit scoring, has had a dramatic output on default rates. Whilst an exception case may turn out to be an exception and perform well, they are generally never the rule.

In my view, the game changer in risk occurred in the early 1990s with the advent of credit reporting. Rather than relying on an applicant’s honesty (or otherwise) and a few paper checks, it becomes apparent (to some lenders much later than others…) that you could tell an awful lot about an applicant and particularly his propensity to repay simply by looking at his previous history.

Whilst the mortgage process has changed, one aspect however remains very much the same as it ever was: the property risk assessment. In over 95 per cent of instances there is still a reliance on a physical inspection and the same pressures on a surveyor to get it right or ultimately down the line, risk being sued.

This reliance on a surveyor does put pressure on the whole process and ultimately is often the reason why mortgage offers take as long as they do. Whilst surveyors are putting in place processes to address some of the issues that occurred in the market last year, particularly in and around London, the fact remains that a lot more could be done with the available data in the market, either to reduce surveyor pressure at peak times of demand or, to assist the surveyor in getting the job done right."

To read the full article - visit the Mortgage Finance Gazette website.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Metropix named among top ten firms in ESTAS Supplier of the Year Award 2015

We are proud to confirm that Metropix has been named a finalist in the 2015 ESTAS Supplier of the Year category: the biggest award of its kind in the residential property industry. 
The ESTAS determines the best agents and suppliers in the industry by asking customers a series of questions about the service they have received from their agent or supplier.  This years’ competition saw 25,000 surveys completed.
The ‘Best in Sector’ winners and the Supplier of the Year will be announced by TV property expert, Phil Spencer, at the 12th annual ESTAS ceremony at the Hilton Park Lane on 17th April.  
Phil Spencer said “I think these awards help us all to focus on customer service for the greater good of our own businesses as well as the wider industry.  We must all drive standards higher, raising the bar in terms of the quality of advice we offer and the level of customer care we deliver”. 
Simon Brown, who owns and runs The ESTAS added: There are a huge number of suppliers to our industry and our aim is to highlight those that provide the best service and the most value to the agents they work withVoting for this category is based on the same formula as that used for rating agents, namely feedback from customers.” 
Brian Farrell, Managing Director of Metropix said: “We are delighted to be named as a finalist, particularly as 2015 marks our tenth anniversary since introducing 2D floorplan technology to assist estate and letting agents in marketing residential properties. Our business is founded on providing our customers with the highest levels of service so we greatly value the ESTAS as a way of gaining feedback from our customers to enable us to continue improving our floor plan products and services.”
For more information, visit http://www.metropix.co.uk/  or telephone 0845 838 5355.