Simon Bath is the CEO of When You Move, a modern property law firm which aims to reinvent the home buying process.
Backed by ten years of management and operational experience, Simon helps to ensure that both partners, as well as clients, receive a ‘white glove service’. In this interview, he tells Today’s Conveyancer about the success of When You Move as well as his property market predictions for the year ahead.
So Simon, what made you decide to go into property law?
“Myself and my co-founder, Peter Goodman, both felt that the property buying and selling process lacked a lot of the transparencies seen in other industries, when it could be easily improved thanks to technology to assist the legal team and the end client. But instead of licensing the technology to others, we decided that more of an impact would be possible if we controlled the end-to-end solution. So, we went about building technology and gaining a licence to practice conveyancing law.”
Having developed the new system, at what point was When You Move founded?
“We launched in October 2015, so celebrated our first anniversary towards the end of last year . It’s been a busy couple of years but amazing to see the company grow the way it has.”
Although the company is relatively new, it must have faced challenges given the current market climate. Since the launch, how have the past couple of years been and what achievements has the company had?
“We’ve built a great client base and have fantastic relationships with our roster of estate agents and mortgage brokers that we work with. Following our early success in our Watford office, we opened a second office in Sawbridgeworth and expanded the team. It’s not been an easy year in the industry, but month-on-month we are seeing record instruction volumes and clients are now giving us an average satisfaction score of 9.5/10 in our Sawbridgeworth office.
“We’ve also gained lots of recognition in the industry and are the most followed conveyancer on Twitter. We even won an award for our marketing launch!”
You’ve recently written about the Conveyancing Association’s (CA) white paper – could you let us know some of your thoughts on this?
“It’s a really interesting piece of literature covering some of the industry’s and our own concerns, with one of the big ones being security. Fraud and money laundering are still a problem in the property industry and it’s not uncommon for people to have their emails hacked and be duped into sending their deposit or payment on a house to a fraudster’s bank account. It’s something that could easily be prevented by using secure technology and anti-money laundering checks, which we already do at When You Move.
“Local authority searches are another problem raised in the white paper, as this process remains slow and can hold up the whole legal process. We integrate searches into our platform using API technology to speed up the process and eliminate human error. The Conveyancing Association recommends appointing a formal body to monitor local authorities so that they can flag any that are consistently slow and appoint them help to make their processes more efficient.
“Whilst we wait for an industry-wide secure portal to be launched, When You Move uses communication technology to keep the client’s and other parties’ data secure through our mobile and web app.
“It’s good to see that the CA are taking steps to address these problems and recognise that this antiquated process needs modernising. Most people buy a property at least once every seven years, so the process should adopt technology to make it quicker, safer and easier to understand.
Are you witnessing any common trends or misconceptions in the market at the moment?
“There is very little transparency out there in the quoting of fees and disbursements to clients. This is actually something that we have looked to address at When You Move. Since our launch, we have promised to be open and clear to our clients about our pricing strategy.”
The Government’s housing white paper was also released a month ago (February 2017) – how effective do you think it will be in solving the problems it intends to?
“There is certainly a deficit in housing that needs to be addressed. More affordable housing needs to be built so that ‘generation rent’ can afford to get onto the property ladder. The Government also needs to honour its commitment to build more houses, but 87% of local authorities say they won’t meet the Government’s targets due to budget cuts.
“There is a concern that not enough of the scheduled new builds will be ‘Starter Homes’; the Government pledged that 20% of all new homes would be for first-time buyers, but the requirement has now dropped to 10%. Adjustments in stamp duty may also help to even out the market.”
Do you have any property market predictions for 2017?
“We definitely expect there to be a slowing of the property market, with London being an early beacon to that. However, should the Government meet their new build targets of 300,000 new homes per year (in England) and if retail banks keep interest rates low, the number of first-time buyers should continue to grow in line with last year when we saw a nine-year high for first-time homeowners.”
For more information about When You Move and Simon’s thoughts on the latest in the property market, please visit WhenYouMove.com.