The importance of transparency and empowering the consumer.

The importance of transparency and empowering the consumer.

My name is Lorenzo and I am the Co-Founder of PropScore, a new online service providing homeowners and buyers with free, clear, and instant insight into the internal and external desirability of any given property.

One of the biggest and most common problems is that homebuyers fall in love with a new home before they know enough about it. Buying a home is driven far more by the heart than the head, and so we’re always willing to turn a blind eye to what we don’t know because, in our heart, we’ve already made the decision to make an offer.

I’m not saying this is wrong, but we do need to know the important information as to avoid any unnecessary emotion of fiscal pain.

The truth is, however, that this vital information is simply not available to buyers at the right time. Current conveyancing processes can take 6 weeks to bring back a full result. In markets where moving quickly is essential as to avoid being pipped to the post by another buyer (a practice we refer to as gazumping), 6 weeks is far too long to wait. There must be a better way…

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WHAT IS CONVEYANCING?

Conveyancing is a fancy way of describing the transfer of legal titles and ownership of property from one person to another.

The conveyancing process is usually split into two key phases:

1 - The exchange and completion of contracts

2 - The completion of comprehensive due diligence processes from flood risk to title registrations.

Conveyancing must be completed for every property transaction, can cost the buyer a lot of time and money to complete, and can throw up even more expenses along the way, depending on the current state of the property and land.

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That’s why our team have built Propscore - to offer instant and free insight into any property simply by entering the postcode. Straight away, Propscore returns various pieces of vital information that can influence the outcome of conveyancing, including title deeds, crime statistics, flood risk, the standard of local amenities, air quality and much more.

From this data, we produce an overall score for the property - we call it a Propscore. The higher the score, the better property in terms of desirability and health. Take a look at the picture below and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

As you can see - Sherlock Holmes’ famous address has a pretty good PropScore, 55/100. This means that, broadly speaking, this property is in a good condition, in a good area, and free from too many potential issues such as flooding or contaminated land.


What does my PropScore mean and why is it important to know?


The best way I’ve found to answer this question is to flip the perspective and ask, can you afford to not know your PropScore?

The number of things that contribute towards the quality of a property, both as a home and an investment, is vast. The average buyer is usually aware of a just handful of them. The rest come flooding in, if you’ll excuse the pun, during the conveyancing period when problems can be brought to light which, because they’ve been caught too late, are now unavoidable - you’ve already signed the paperwork, you’re stuck with them and you now have to pay to remedy them.

For decades, conveyancing has been a dark art which has removed all power from the homebuyer who simply has to sit back and wait for the results. The buyer has very little power, very little knowledge of the ongoing process, and no choice at the end of it but to cough up more cash or miss out on their dream home.

This needed to change!

Today, by sticking your postcode into the PropScore website, we locate your exact address and you can have complete, real-time insight into every single piece of relevant information about a property and its surrounding area. No more nasty surprises, no more blind corners, and no more imbalance of power between conveyancer and homebuyer.

Here are just a couple of examples of how PropScore is helping buyers avoid risk, extra expense, and bitter disappointment by giving them more control over the conveyancing process, and ultimately helping them get into their new home faster.


General Due Diligence

The number one motivation for discovering your PropScore should be simple due diligence.

This can be thought of much like credit cards and credit checks: You’re not going to be accepted for a loan if you have poor credit, and the failed act of applying for that loan only acts to decrease your credit score even further. Before you know it, you’re stuck in this cycle of bad credit.

But today there are services which allow you to check your credit score for free and without risking making it worse. This gives increased insight, and therefore power, to the customer rather than the big banks and finance companies.

PropScore provides a similar service for homebuyers before, during, and after the conveyancing process.

By checking PropScore, and thus acting with due diligence, homebuyers remove all of the unwelcome surprises and extra expenses that come with discovering the facts too late.

Let’s look at some specific examples:


Title Deed Checks

First and foremost, PropScore provides you with the property’s title deeds, vital pieces of legal and transactional information which prospective buyers simply must be aware of.

For example, how long is left on the current lease? Just because you’re buying the property, that doesn’t always mean you’ll own the land it stands on. In such cases, your access to this land will be dictated by a lease agreement, and while leases can last 100 years, there’s a chance you will be looking to buy the house lease agreement as it enters its last 10 years. That would mean that, in ten years, you will have to negotiate and pay for a new lease agreement from the land owner. This will not be cheap.

If you don’t know this information from the moment you feel yourself falling in love with a property, it can become an untimely surprise which puts an end to your dreams of becoming the home’s new owner.

Title deeds also hold vital information such as Chancel Liability Checks - is the property in a location which makes the owner liable to pay towards the upkeep of the local parish? Believe it or not, this is still a real thing in many parts of the UK and owners are having to pay monthly or annual fees to the church.

However, thanks to legal changes in the early 2000s, Chancel Liability details must now be included on the title deeds. If you don’t make sure to read the title deeds early on, you won’t be aware that, as the owner, you have to pay money to the church every month/year.


Flood Risk

The higher the chances of flooding, the more you should expect to pay in insurance premiums. Despite this being a piece of information that homebuyers need to know as soon as possible, the databases which currently hold the flood information only tend to be unlocked well into the conveyancing process, a point when, if the flood risk is high, and so too therefore is the insurance quote, the only option you have is to get over it and pay the extra money.

It’s also important to know this information yourself rather than relying on the insurance provider to tell you - it may sound pessimistic, but there’s a chance the provider will try and saddle you with a flood insurance above and beyond that which is actually required. You, the buyer, need to be armed with data yourself in order to know that they insurance quote you’re given is fair and honest.


Sinkholes

Similar to flood risk, if a property is built on or near a potential sinkhole, it could spell trouble for potential owners in both the short and long-term.

Sinkholes can be caused by a number of factors - a common cause is coal mining, but there have also been examples of ancient clay quarry sites, for example, resulting in sinkholes hundreds of years later.

It’s all about knowing what lies beneath the foundations. We have partnered with leading environmental information platform, Terrafirma, to grant PropScore customers insight into the land upon which their prospective home stands - that way, you needn’t worry about leaving the house one morning to find a giant hole in your driveway!


Air Quality

It’s a shame that Air Quality has become something so important to be aware of - in an ideal world, it wouldn’t be something we have to concern ourselves with, but it is.

Especially important for those with young children, poor air quality can have long-term effects on health and physical wellbeing - it’s increasingly important to check this before making any offers on a home, not least if you are buying in a densely population, urban area. PropScore can help you identify an area where you and your family can know you’re breathing the cleanest air possible.


Boundary Check

Imagine you’ve found a home with a beautiful, large back garden, beautiful enough to persuade you to finally make an offer.

Your offer is accepted and you’re over the moon and you start the ball rolling on legal and conveyancing processes only to discover that half of the back garden actually belongs to your neighbour. Your neighbour may not have even known it themselves because it was the previous owners before them who let the garden be split as it is, but now they know and they want it back. Suddenly, the big, beautiful garden that drove you to purchase the property is not really that big at all.


To conclude...

You wouldn’t buy a second-hand car without having completed an HPI check. And you wouldn’t obtain a loan or credit card without checking your credit score. So why would you ever think about buying a home, possibly the most expensive thing you will ever do, without knowing exactly what kind of state it is in? What extra expenses will you be required to spend? And how safe and secure you will feel living there for years to come? You need to know all of these things.

Can you afford to, risk the potential consequence of not knowing?