15 October 2015

Yes estate agents add value, but only a good one!

This is the opinion of Colby Short, the charismatic CEO of Getagent.co.uk, the estate agent comparison website launched a few months ago and gaining traction ever since. Getagent recently completed a significant 6 figure funding round lead by Ascension Ventures and Seedcamp.
The company now intends to aggressively expand across the UK as a mass market service; with the expectation to launch a national media campaign and the ramping up of their business development team to take advantage of new opportunities.
In our exclusive interview, Colby discuss the future role of Getagent vis-a-vis the estate agent/consumer relationship and also shares his thoughts on the overall industry especially in regards to advantages and disadvantages with online vs traditional agency.
Feel free to share your thoughts on Colby's interview, in the comments section or via email. Also if you are a proptech company and want some exposure on Renthusiast, feel free to get in touch via twitter or email.  

23 September 2015

How safe are connected home devices?

Research from Towergate, an insurance intermediary firm indicates that insurers are now preparing to offer lower premiums to consumers who have homes connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). Towergate claims that insurers believe that consumers who install connected home devices are more likely to be safety conscious and present lower risk. But connected home safety is a primary concern and HP research indicates that there are huge vulnerabilities with most connected home devices currently on the market.
With many devices collecting personal information including name, address, date of birth, credit card details and even health information, vulnerabilities are multiplied in the cloud and on mobile apps that work alongside the home device. Many devices are also transmitting information unencrypted, so users are "one network misconfiguration away from exposing this data to the world via wireless networks" according to HP.

Fool.com notes that in 2013 a tech journalist was legally able to hack into eight homes of people using Insteon home-automation products through an online flaw in the company's software. In some cases, she found out the physical address of the homeowners, names of their kids, and other personal information. HP's data shows that companies still have a long way to go in making make security in a connected home device a to priority. 70% of the most popular connected devices on the market contain major vulnerabilities according to HP.
But in spite of these vulnerabilities security is not "an on-off binary property" according to Harvard professor Bruce Schneierer. Schneier teaches that security is "relative and situational":
I feel secure in my home, even though it’s vulnerable. I feel secure on airplanes, even though they occasionally crash ... in general, Internet security is pretty good. The Internet is surprisingly safe. We’re able to work and play on the Internet without many problems. Of course there’s a lot of cybercrime, but it’s minor.
Towergate predicts that the connected home market will be worth £40bn in 2018 and that UK insurers are likely to pick up on the trend creating tailored packages for consumers with connected homes. This may work particularly well for buy-to-let landlord insurance and Towergate lists a number of products such as motion sensors, security cameras, smart bulbs, smart locks and even smart appliances that are currently IoT enabled and may lead landlords to a cheaper insurance premium.

7 September 2015

Rwanda: the world's newest success story

Rwanda is now a shining example of a 'top reformer' according to the World Bank’s report how easy it is for entrepreneurs to set up and run a company. In fact, reports are suggesting that it takes less than a few hours for business to be registered up and running in Kigali, Rwanda's capital city. This growth rate is reminiscent of Singapore, which suffered similar economic stagnation as Rwandan suffered after the 1994 genocide that left up to a million dead.
Right now, with the world economy in a state of 'wobble', Rwanda does appear like a safe place to invest, with many investors (especially Chinese) already looking at ways to park their money there.
Regarding property investment, we can be sure that the Rwandan government is looking at ways to attract investors like they did with their first dollar bond, that received bids worth more than eight times the offer. In other words the Rwanda government pays less to borrow in international markets than some 'investment grade economies'
Rwanda now has one of the fastest-growing economies on the continent, despite the fact that it doesn’t have significant mineral deposits and is landlocked, deep in the green heart of Africa, hundreds of miles from the sea. Granted, Rwanda will never be a Singapore-like industrial hub — it simply costs too much to bring in raw materials, and ...  hopes to make more money from coffee, tea and gorillas — Rwanda is home to some of the last remaining mountain gorillas, and each year throngs of Western tourists pay thousands of dollars to see them.

18 August 2015

Almost time for London Design Festival

With less than a month to go, it is time to begin planning your visit to the London Design Festival. The official guide will be available during the Festival at all participating venues, so in the meantime head to the website and start to build your personalised itinerary with the My Festival tool.
You can also register now for the Global Design Forum 2015 - the thought leadership component of the Festival - returning for the fourth year with a series of six Masterclasses by a star alliance of design luminaries.
This year Somerset House, one of London’s most important centres for arts and culture, becomes a major new destination for the London Design Festival, showcasing an exciting programme of events during the Festival. Within the historic setting of Somerset House will be exhibitions showcasing collaborations between internationally renowned designers and brands, a presentation of the winning entries from a competition with Twitter, an exploration of how an ancient tree can continue to have a function even after being felled and a display showing the work of the four winners of the British Land Celebration of Design awards, allowing visitors to experience a diversity of design excellence and innovation.

22 July 2015

The 'joke' of Greek home-ownership

With over a third of households unable to meet tax obligations, four out of 10 Greeks recently said they would "willingly hand over properties to the state to fulfill future payments". One in three Greek households are unable to keep up mortgage repayments, with the situation so dire that Greek home ownership is now jokingly regarded as punishment for your child, threaten to pass on property.
Given that the tax burden increased sevenfold in the past two years, The Hellenic Property Federation reckons more than 500,000 property owners want to sell. Across Greece, about 300,000 residences are believed to be empty.

Last year Canada's Fairfax Financial invested $244 million to become the largest shareholder of one of Greece’s top real estate companies.
Along with Fairfax, other 'contraian investment' players gambled heavily on Greece property including Colony Capital in the US; Invel Real Estate Partners from the UK and Jermyn Street, an Arab-Turkish property fund.  In 2014 investments totaling €1.2 billion entered the Greek commercial-property market via foreign investors. That compares to a total investment of €900 million between 2008 to 2012 according to data from the Wall Street Journal.

 Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa describes his Greece property exposure as "very manageable ... We don’t see this as being too much of a concern.”  Watsa is famous for his 2011 bet on a Bank of Ireland turnaround which paid off handsomely.
Watsa said he conveyed to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras the "message" about getting a deal done and removing uncertainty in a private meeting a few weeks ago. He claims Tsipras was "receptive" and encouraged Fairfax’s continued investments in Greece. Fairfax is exposed in several ways to Greek property, it owns: a 41% stake in Greek REIT Grivalia as well as a majority stake in construction company Mytilineos. They also own Greece’s Eurobank.
Two years ago, private equity firms like Blackstone and KKR were seduced, not just by the weather but because of a certain Central Bank's promise to do whatever necessary to shore up the euro zone. But now, investors say Greece's messy political outlook has sealed off a vital source of capital. Levels of foreign mergers and acquisitions activity into Greece have fallen to their lowest since 1997 according to Reuters:

KKR's first Greek deal since at least 2005 has collapsed and a company Blackstone invested in has lost more than 14 percent in value. And the longer bellwethers like these lick their wounds over bad Greek bets, the longer mainstream investors such as pension funds will keep the country on the blacklist. "The macro risks are too great and the likely timeframe for recovery is too long for most of the players in our space to view Greece as being worth the effort at this early stage," said Marc Mogull, managing partner of real estate private equity firm Benson Elliot Capital Management. Blackstone bought a 10 percent stake in property developer Lamda for 20 million euros in July 2014. Lamda had signed an agreement to develop the site of the former Hellenikon airport but Syriza halted the plan, branding the sale of prime coastal property to Lamda as "scandalous". Lamda's stock has fallen 14.3 percent since Blackstone invested in July 2014 but losses could mount when trading on the Athens bourse, shut since June 26, finally resumes. "The asset class that continues to attract interest, despite the confusion at the moment, is tourism-related property and hotels," 

Notwithstanding foreigners are said to be "keenly eyeing Greek property"; they just aren’t buying anything.  The debt crisis has created much too much uncertainty, even if a Greek exit from the eurozone is unlikely there’s still the risk of a Greek property investment becoming illiquid in badly suffering economy.
Also Greece doesn’t have a national land registry system so, property is often sold without clear boundaries in terms of precise lot size or zoning. Plus there is "sky-high taxation" unacceptably high level of property tax which is "unsustainable."
The market is not functioning because of "unbearable taxation" and if a property owner makes income from property, that is also taxed. If Tsipras' government falls, there may be "a boom in real estate” according to economist Theodore Pelagidis at the University of Piraeus.

22 million visitors came to Greece in 2014, a record number according to the Bank of Greece.
The average price of a five-room villa with a sea view in Rhodes is roughly €1.5 million, compared with a similar sized property in Ibiza which costs around €4 million or Miami for €10 million.  Mykonos attracts the same ilk of buyers as the French Riviera or the Swiss Alps. But when you see an attractive price in Greece, "be aware of how much you need to pay to the Greek state."
Bank of Greece Apartment Prices Index - http://www.bankofgreece.gr/Pages/en/Statistics/realestate/default.aspx

14 July 2015

40% of private tenants are unsure what they’re responsible for

New research from MakeItCheaper.com shows that 43% of tenants renting from private landlords are unsure with whom responsibility lies for a number of aspects of their tenancy – either with their landlord or  with themselves. The findings, also suggest that only 11% of tenants think they know more about division of responsibilities than their landlords, while 48% say landlords know better. This perhaps suggests that a number of the disputes that do arise between private landlords and tenants could be caused by a lack of knowledge on the tenant’s part.
The most common areas in which responsibility has been disputed within the past year were:
1.    Furniture and Appliances = 14%
2.    Fixtures and Fittings = 13%
3.    Mould = 12%
4.    Energy Efficiency = 6%
5.    Utility Bills = 2%
The distinction between ‘damage’ and ‘fair wear & tear’ was voted one of the most ambiguous issues, with 25% of renters saying they would welcome clarification on this topic. However, different age groups are concerned about different aspects of tenancy:
•    18-24 year olds are most unsure of the rules around internal d├ęcor
•    25-34 year olds are most confused about whether they should pay for insurance or not
•    Over 35s particularly want clarification around rights of access
Those seeking information around division of responsibilities can find it in this ‘Landlord vs Tenant’ tool.
When questioned about the most important qualities for a landlord to have, over 65% say they most value honest landlords who fix the issues they’re responsible for. It would seem that many landlords do in fact display these qualities, as over 85% of tenants rate their landlord’s management of their tenancy as ‘average’ or better – with 60% giving a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ rating.
This – combined with the fact that only 15% of respondents saying they have had an unresolved dispute in the past 12 months – indicates that tenants’ attitudes towards private landlords are largely positive – contrary to popular belief. This is further supported by the fact that less than 1:5 tenants asked admitted that they have been too afraid to bring up issues with their landlord in the past.
Based in Central London with 190 staff and 38,000 customers, Make It Cheaper has been the No.1 destination for businesses to get a better deal on their utilities since it launched in 2007. Following its acquisition of Ofgem Confidence Code-accredited www.UKPower.co.uk in 2012, Make It Cheaper also provides competitive energy prices and free expert advice for households – online and over the
Further information: Nick Heath 020 7654 0730 / 07720 297972 / nick.heath@makeitcheaper.com