By Richard Hinton, Business Development Director, Decision Insight Information Group (Europe)
The property market is usually a good leading indicator of how UK plc is faring. In periods of economic growth, activity in the property market has usually been rising for some time and so have prices. And in bad times, activity has usually become sluggish and prices may even have fallen.
At the moment the UK economy has slipped back into recession, which suggests the property market will also be in the doldrums. But the good news is that, while not growing, the property market is generally now more stable than it has been in recent years.
Nevertheless, at the moment we are facing an uphill climb to get back to growth levels of five years ago. A recent report from PWC said it expects the market to pick up in the short term due to the shortage in supply, but it does not expect nominal prices to exceed 2007 levels in real terms until the mid-2020s. So while stability has been gradually returning and prices are not expected to fall, confidence in the property market remains brittle.
A sustained return to growth in the coming years is what we all hope for, and for conveyancers this will hopefully mean that business levels will increase.. But as market activity returns conveyancers are coming face to face with other pressures: pressures from lender panels, legal changes, and clients demanding faster service and a wider range of searches are all important factors.
In a market such as this speed and flexibility are the greatest weapons in a conveyancer’s carmoury. And it is in this market where property search provider SearchFlow is concentrating its efforts and providing a one-stop shop for legal professionals in the residential and commercial markets who conduct property and other financial transactions.
SearchFlow is the market leading property search business. It offers a flexible, electronic conveyancing search service with direct connections to every Local Authority in England and Wales, and offers over 80 due diligence searches straight to the desktop. It also provides a range of insurance services from the country’s most respected providers.
In order to continue to meet the needs of legal professionals SearchFlow recently carried out an extensive consultation with conveyancers as to their key requirements. The responses came back loud and clear to say that a simpler and smoother search ordering process would be most welcome. And the feedback from this went directly into the development of a brand new website that went live at the beginning of July.
The SearchFlow website has been completely overhauled, and the state of the art business to business interface has been developed with usability as its guiding principle. The website has been designed with busy conveyancers firmly in mind and takes the SearchFlow offering to a new level of operational efficiency.
It takes a common-sense approach to cut out any unnecessary delays and streamline the search process, and the end product is the result of SearchFlow’s deep understanding of the search ordering process. The new site also offers greater flexibility for different categories of searches and for the first time conveyancing professionals are able to select multiple ‘favourite’ search options which means users can choose templates for different categories of property.
SearchFlow made a preview version of the new site available to its customers and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with responses praising the new features and the improvements it brings to speed and efficiency when ordering property searches.
Two typical examples of feedback came from Beaumont Legal and Brookes & Partners Solicitors.
Nicholas Masheder, Partner, Beaumont Legal said: “We are impressed with the increased flexibility and search options on the new SearchFlow site. This interface is faster, more functional and incredibly useable. Our search processes have become more efficient because of it.”
And Simon Brooks, Head of Residential Conveyancing, Brookes & Partners Solicitors said: “The new site has been put together by people who really understand the needs of conveyancers and the overhaul has been a great success. Faster more efficient searching is the welcome result.”
Following on directly from the successful launch of the new website SearchFlow has had to expand its sales effort substantially to cope with the increased number of enquiries it has seen. This has seen the company make four new appointments that bring with them a wealth of experience and knowledge of the property industry.
But this is not simply a case of SearchFlow flexing some marketing muscle in the wake of business growth – this should also serve to demonstrate just how serious it is about pushing the company forward. SearchFlow remains committed to ensuring best practice in the property transaction industry and these new hires signal its commitment to providing the best possible service to its customers.
The new hires include Jennifer Searle who joins as an account executive serving the South West. Jennifer has over 11 years of sales experience having spent the last three years in the property portal industry. She is joined by Tracey Lodge who will work as an account executive for the South East region. Tracey has been working in the property sector for the past eight years and has previously worked for HomeLet, and Rightmove. Completing the line-up is Sonia Kaye, who has been appointed as the account executive for the Central Region. Sonia has spent the last five years working for a number of leading online property portals, including Rightmove, Zoopla and Find a Property.
And these three regional account executives are joined by Jon Marsh, who will work as an account executive on the Commercial Property commercial side of the business.
To remain competitive and to meet the expectations of their clients, conveyancers need to be able to deliver the results of an increasingly wide range of searches faster and more efficiently than ever before. In an increasingly complex working environment, flexibility is key and using technology solutions which can work with them and deliver the results quickly are now vital.