Now available – Finch 2022.9.1

Our September 2022 release is available right now. Here’s what’s new:


  • A file can now be reissued if corrections are required that dictate the recipient(s) need to sign an updated agreement, data previously entered by the recipient will be retained. 
  • Users with the correct access are now able to create and edit folders and brands via “Options” from within the Vault 
  • Vault filters now have a “select all” option to improve usability.

Staying on the right side of the Property Ombudsman

Yesterday the Property Ombudsman released their annual report covering the 2020 calendar year, the full report can be found here, the headlines are as follows.

  • Enquiries increased year-on-year with a record 39,285 reported, up 29% on 2019
  • 5122 of the enquiries received were accepted as complaints, up from 5106 the previous year 
  • 2473 complaints resulted in a financial reward  
  • Agents were instructed to settle total claims of £1.9 million
  • Highest award paid by a sales agent £24,139
  • Highest award paid by a lettings agent £20,838   
The above represents just a fraction of the amounts being paid out by agents due to non-compliance or poor practice. Agents are regularly falling foul of the AML & KYC regulations resulting in four figure fines  or in some cases much higher as this article highlights. 
So why are agents hard earned fees being eroded in this way?

Whilst the larger independent and corporate agents will have dedicated compliance departments a large proportion of the 25,000 plus estate agency businesses in the UK do not. Small business owners ware many hats and even with the best of intentions compliance is sometimes overlooked. It’s easy to understand due to the sheer volume of regulation. A recent study identified that lettings agents alone collect in the region of 110 data points just to get a property on the market, much of which falls under regulation ranging from KYC to the consumer protection act. If the agent then goes on to let the property and manage it as well the compliance burden continues to grow. The following is a list of the legislation (not exhaustive) that agents need to be aware of .

  • Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
  • Estate Agents Act 1979 + Regulations
  • Money Laundering Regulations 2017
  • Consumer Contracts (Info, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regs
  • The Property Ombudsman Code of Practice
  • Companies Act/Business Names Act 1985
  • The Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) Regs
  • Data Protection Act 1998
  • Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002
  • Town & Country Planning (Control of Advertising) Regulations
  • Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999
So where are agents falling down?

It seems many agents are getting into trouble right at the start of their relationships, with complaints relating to instructions/terms of business featuring second on the list for sales agents and third for lettings agents, with poor communication and record keeping coming in first and second respectively.

The importance of ensuring that T&C’s are clear and relate specifically to the customer and their specific circumstances can not be overstated. In addition gaining approval for agent produced marketing collateral is a must, it’s sometimes seen as an irritation and a delay to getting a property on the market but it is certainly best practice and a requirement for those agents who are Property Ombudsman members.

Is Tech the answer?

Tech can certainly help, there are a variety of great solutions available that can assist the agent / client relationship right from onboarding through to end of tenancy or sale completion. The key is ensuring you know your obligations and then choosing the most suitable solutions for your business.

Best Practice

An array of compliance tech will help but will not keep an agent safe if used poorly. 

More and more agents are now looking to protect their position by not only making sure their teams receive the required training, but also ensuring they provide adequate instructions to ensure their team knows what to do, how to do it and when to do it.

To do this correctly, professionally and provide the required due diligence audit trail, agents need written instructions and this is best done by means of a Compliance Manual. This will combine a list of the legal obligations with the what, how, when. When creating such a document a review of the following items is recommended. 

  • Registrations
  • Terms of Business
  • Standard Letters & Documents
  • In-house Procedures
  • Websites
  • Advertising
  • Auditing property files

This may sound daunting especially for those smaller businesses without dedicated compliance teams but as the fines show the regulators have teeth, so it’s probably a false economy not to have a formal compliance regime in place.  

Getting Help

Staying compliant is a considerable task and one that is only set to grow. For those that have the time there are plenty of resources on line, Propertymark and The Property Ombudsman also offer comprehensive compliance services to their members.

For those who are perhaps looking for something more interactive consultancies such as EA Compliance can provide a bespoke service ranging from answers to a specific question to a complete compliance heath check.

Finch attendance confirmed at EA Masters 2021

Having been unable to attend any physical events in the past 12 months due to Covid restrictions we are delighted to be exhibiting at EA Masters later this year.

The physical show takes place on the 3rd November in Battersea at Evolution London with a series of virtual events during the preceding months as follows.

Online Event – 30th September

Online Event – 14th October

Physical Event – 3rd November 

Portal Wars – Do the public really have the appetite?

It’s just over four month’s since three became four and Boomin joined the ongoing struggle for agent and consumer market share. Having worked for a major Proptech CRM supplier for the majority of the 2010’s I saw up close and personal the battle between the big two Zoopla and Rightmove and the emergence of the third player, On The Market. 

As Managing Director at Finch I’m focused on improving the quality of data collected by agents. Some of that data collected from landlords and vendors goes on to feed the property portals – and so the quality of the property listings on websites like Rightmove is directly correlated to the original quality of the data supplied. As we build our latest workflow “marketing collateral approvals”, I put myself in the place of an applicant looking to buy or rent and went online.

The first question that crossed my mind was “do the public really have the appetite for a forth portal and will it improve their experience?”

I’ve summarised what I found and provided my conclusions and I’d be interested in your view, if you would like to leave a comment you can find me over on LinkedIn

As the table above shows Zoopla provides the best overall experience but of course Rightmove still carries the most properties which is the main reason the consumer is there in the first place. As the most mature platform it’s surprising Rightmove’s offering is still much the same as it was five years ago. Why? 

One of the challenges faced by all the portals is getting the data they require from the agents. In its infancy Rightmove created a data feed specification (ADF) which soon became the de-facto standard for third party systems needing to upload data to property portals. Zoopla did eventually release their own data feed specification but to all intents and purposes the data collected by the portals from agents is the same and hasn’t changed dramatically year on year. One of the reasons for this is the costs involved in changing the data feed contents. Once agreed Proptech CRM suppliers then need to update their software to 1) hold the data and 2) include it in their feeds. One of the most high profile changes to portal data feeds in recent years were the alterations required to cater for the Tenant Fee ban which came into force in June 2019. As can be seen by this article in Property Industry Eye some agents are still getting into hot water two years on.

The key point here is that portals will be reluctant to force feed changes on agents because of the potential disruption and cost and rarely do unless required to by legislation. It’s a risk for the portal especially the newer entrants who don’t want to put obstacles in the way of an agent joining or staying with them. 

So the portals are generally speaking working with similar data, how are they performing?

I found my self frustrated with the lack of uniformity in where data was displayed and how it could be filtered, not just across the different portals which is to be expected but within the same portal. This in a lot of cases is because there are not always specific locations for a data point, so the agent will just use a general text field such as property description or bullet points. 

As an example if I wanted to restrict my search to Freehold properties the only way to achieve this was via a keyword search which returned sketchy results at best. Whist on the subject of tenure I found no formality in the way remaining lease lengths were communicated. To me this is an important data point especially when evaluating the price being asked for a property. Some would simply state lease = 99 years, others lease remaining 99 years. Without knowing when the lease commenced both statements are meaningless. Tenure is just one example, generally I came away underwhelmed with the searching experience.  

Basics not Gimmicks. With the arrival of Boomin we now have the option of signing up for “Secret Property” alerts. This feature provides access to properties that are being valued but are not yet on the market. Personally I’d rather spend by time looking at properties that have actually been instructed rather than those that might come to market or of course might not!  

For the consumer the ideal scenario would be a single portal being feed all available property. Portal aggregators such as have attempted to provide something similar but of course do not carry stock from all the major portals so in essence it’s yet another portal for the consumer to register with showing very few unique properties.


Do the public really have the appetite for a fourth portal? In my view no.

Whist the consumer utopia of a single portal is unrealistic perhaps the best we can hope for is a merger between OTM and Boomin. If the combined millions they are currently spending on competing platforms were combined they should be in a position to provide a real third choice. This in turn should drive up standards and innovation providing real competition for Rightmove and Zoopla.