A few years ago it occurred to me that if every other commodity was rapidly moving to an online transaction basis, then why not property? It seemed an obvious missing piece in the transactional process. How could I enable a buyer to legally transact online by private treaty and thereby create a faster, easier and more efficient as well as accountable process? How could I remove the frustrations and uncertainties of selling property and at the same time attract buyers to an accountable process, one without gazumping or price chipping?
After considerable effort and time, working with solicitors, designers and programmers, we created our technology – Clicktopurchase®. This enables for the first time the private treaty exchange online of a property contract, a process to be agent-operated. At the same time we developed online legally binding “best offers” and a real time live auction feature, emulating the traditional ballroom auction but over a web interface. Importantly, property minds were used to create the process-flow, not IT minds.
In February 2015 the total value of properties sold/purchased by an online Clicktopurchase® exchange, by private treaty, “best offers” or real time auction, surpassed £100m in nearly 100 transactions. Volumes increased by 150% in 2014 compared to 2013. The success rate stands at 100%. Clicktopurchase® has been used by leading banks, institutions, receivers and property companies such as Lloyds Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Life, Deloitte, BNP Paribas, Moorfields, CBRE Investors, etc.
It has been the first such technology to offer the property industry speed, certainty, transparency, accountability and flexibility on a sale. A potential buyer is able to submit an online offer. In doing so, a draft electronic contract note is generated which attaches a signature in a form legally binding to meet the requirements of statute. If the agent is instructed to accept the offer, by the click of a mouse he attaches a digitally encrypted signature on behalf of the seller and the contract is instantly formed online.
Since offers submitted online are legal offers to treat, this leads to certainty. The full process generates an electronic history ensuring accountability and transparency. The ability to switch between sale modes at the click of a mouse delivers powerful flexibility for the vendor and their agent to maximise price, and a similar mouse click enables a distant as well as local buyer to purchase with ease. An online “best offers” or real time auction can be called at any time, without cost. Bidders at auction can be coaxed by the live auctioneer and bid in anonymity. It validates and strengthens the agent’s role as a tool to help deliver a modern and superior service to their clients. In doing so it justifies an agent’s fee at a time when fees are under severe pressure.
So why is there no other online system and why have agents been slow to embrace when their clients clearly are enthused?
There may be a number of reasons. Perhaps a fear of technology? Perhaps a mistaken belief that it undermines their role? Perhaps laziness? Whatever the reason, in my opinion there is little doubt that all property transactions will be concluded online far faster than people realise. “How can you be so sure?” you may ask. The answer is that there is no logical reason to think otherwise.
Parts of the property press in recent months has been focusing on the battle of the portals and new online agencies seeking to charge a fraction of the traditional agency fee. The portals all do the same job of listing; the traditional agents and online agents undertake the same traditional process although maybe in different fashions and with different levels of direct involvement. However, there is no other focus on solving the transactional issues and the associated frustrations and uncertainties when buying/selling property. Clicktopurchase® shows how technology can change the agency role. Others will emerge.