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Interview of Ben Robinson
Written by the Letting Agent Today team
Ben Robinson, Director of Agency Services at Landmark

Who are you and what does it say on your business card?

Ben Robinson, Director of Agency Services at Landmark

What is Landmark and what does it do?

Landmark is a really interesting company to be involved with. There’s a good chance most property practitioners will have come into contact with us without even knowing it! Through different business units we are involved in the property transaction from spade in the ground through to the buyer walking in through the front door through planning, historical land usage and risk reports; providing data for lenders surveys; enabling RICS surveyors to do all their reporting digitally; conveyancing risk reports; loss-modelling for household insurance… the list goes on.

What services do you offer and in what ways do you work with estate and letting agents?

I head up the Estate Agency Services division of Landmark, which supports some well known agency products and services including the floor plan software Metropix; anti-money laundering solution Compliance in a Box; and our property intelligence reports, Landmark Analytics.

As estate agencies grapples with increasing regulation it needs to ensure that it does not lose sight of what it is being paid to do... sell houses! In the same way a house seller is utilising the expertise of agents because they are not experts in selling houses, so should agents seek to build strategic partnerships with businesses who are expert in the things they are not.

As a strategic partner we help agents maintain focus on their core revenue generating activities; whether it be releasing valuers and negotiators from chasing clients for ID and enabling them to use that time to chase up leads and win more listings; or providing tools to produce a floor plan and have it signed off right there and then at the property.

What makes your product different and how does it benefit agents?

The big differentiator in any business is its people… and Landmark are no different. Floor plans, anti-money laundering checks and property intelligence reports are all available from other providers. Landmark bring it all under one roof with an unparalleled breadth of expertise.

Our products and services have been recognised by our industry peers in Property Academy’s Best EA Supplier Guide 2018 (Metropix: Excellent, Compliance in a Box: Highly Rated) and by the ESTAS with our 4th  “Best in Sector - Floor Plans” floor plans award in 2018!

What do you enjoy about your role?

I think in any role you have to get on with and trust the people you work with. Landmark are a great organization to work for… there are some fantastic people here, not just in the Estate Agency Services division, but across the product and service portfolio… and there’s some really positive cross-pollination of ideas and opportunities.

I am excited by the vision we have not just in Estate Agency Services, but across the group… to bring together a very diverse range of products and services and find ways of uniting them to provide a streamlined customer journey.

I’m passionate about business growth and we’ve done just that… Metropix lead the way in the floor plan market and our Compliance in a Box product has established itself as a leading provider of anti-money laundering and CPR compliance guidance and solutions.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing estate and letting agents at the moment?

At the risk of sounding flippant, selling houses! There are just so many barriers to the core objective.

From a business point of view there are more estate agents now than during the boom years in the early 2000s and there is less fluidity of housing stock. The statistics are stark. The average home owner now moves every c.16 years, up from 7 not so long ago. Just 4.5% of the UKs housing stock changed hands last year.

There’s a generation of young people who largely can’t afford to get on the housing ladder and the aspirational “second-steppers” market has fallen through the floor as people opt to extend/do home improvements/go on holiday/buy a new car rather than stretch themselves and go for a bigger home because of the strain it puts on finances.

From a process point of view there are still too many pitfalls between offer and completion and conveyancing still takes anywhere from 4-20 weeks.

And then there’s regulation… I was speaking to an agent no so long ago who was saying they have to do “x”, and make sure they demonstrate they’re doing “y”, and then comply with “this” and ensure they’re doing “that”… and then flog a few houses! I think a lot of agents will empathise.

What is your property prediction for the remainder of 2018?

It’s not all doom and gloom! Transaction levels are difficult to predict… Brexit has gone quiet again despite now being half way through the 2 year notice period and interest rate rises are on the horizon which have the potential to damage the mini-revival we have seen in mortgage approvals.

In my opinion the best thing agents can be doing is ensuring they are the best at what they do in their area.

What is your reaction to the reforms recently proposed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government?

It seems property is on a mission. The announcement has been well received and I applaud the government’s proactivity on improving the home moving process.

The proposals are not rocket science… we’ve been talking about the benefits of better preparation up front, getting a head start on the transaction, and instructing solicitors earlier in the process since we launched our Compliance Packs in 2014 in the wake of the implementation of the CPRs.

Ultimately more information up front means better quality viewings, less chance fall throughs, greater surety in chains, and more confidence in the process.

I am heartened to see greater resources for NTSEAT; I think improved implementation of transparency in fees, greater focus on CPRs to enable better decisions to be made at an earlier stage in the transaction, and wider enforcement of poor practice will drive service levels up across the sector.

Country house or city apartment?

City House

Trendy roof terrace or traditional English garden?

English Garden

Would you rather be a free-moving tenant or settled owner occupier?

Owner Occupier

What is your favourite room in your home?

Living room

Homes under the Hammer or Location, Location, Location?

Homes under the hammer

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