Sunday 20 October 2019

How this disruptive buying technology eases the pain of bidding during buying

Block of Stress: Recent added complications mean that the buying process has become even more frustrating
Block of Stress: Recent added complications mean that the buying process has become even more frustrating
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

To give you an idea just how stressful buying a home can be, consider a survey conducted last year in the USA by which showed that 30pc of the 2,000 home-buyers questioned were reduced to tears at some point in the process. Boo hoo!

A traumatised 40pc asserted it was the single most stressful event in their lives to date, with 38pc stating the whole process took much longer than they expected. There haven't been any "stress in buying a home" surveys here in Ireland these past few years, but we can safely assume the experience isn't too much different on this side of the pond.

The last decade has also seen a rake of additionally stressful complications adding to a process that was already nerve-jangling to begin with - for example, the Central Bank lending ratios and the exemptions system, which sets limits to the numbers of mortgages granted and to those granted at preferential rates.

So now buyers fret about approval expiry and losing exemptions as they home-hunt and wheely-deal with vendors. Since the property crash, instead of throwing mortgage loans around like confetti, banks have become renowned for long periods of indecision on each loan proposal which warrants lots of meetings in-house and extra checks of finances and buyer spending.And way more unexpected refusals.

The arrival of BER added a requirement from the vendor and property tax must also be cleared before the property can be passed on. Resulting extra workloads on lawyers doing the conveyancing have led to further stressful delays so that the sale process alone (after it's agreed) regularly exceeds nine weeks.

But most of the stress in this process comes from the waiting. You make a bid, you wait. You wait some more. Has anyone else bid since? So you start ringing the estate agent... endlessly. They eventually start avoiding you.

Estate agents too spend a lot of their day taking calls from wound-up would-be-buyers. And it could be argued that the recent arrival of online log-ins for live-access bidding has created a different kind of stress. Now buyers are afraid to put down their smart phones - checking that pesky display constantly to see if there's been any more bids.

And because estate agents (along with politicians and journalists!) are in the top three of professions we don't trust as far as we could throw, a good tranche of buyers will always tend to suspect the wool is being pulled over their eyes through false bidding or puffing (despite little evidence). Indeed, home buying is a process which allows punters to have dealings with most of their least loved professions - bankers and lawyers too.

So enter Offr, a new software package for estate agents which is opened up for use among parties who are bidding on or involved in the sale process on a home. It can also be opened up to the public at large if the estate agency using it so decides.

So whether you're the buyer, the vendor, the agent, the banker, the lawyer or the nosy mother-in-law (if the process is open to all log-ons), the software connects everyone, all the paperwork, and logs every new activity. Including the bids.

Its use dictates that all the necessary documentation required for a property's sale, including title deeds, are ready before the house goes on the market at all.

Placed on estate agents' websites, Offr accesses bidders' identities and proofs of funds in advance of the acceptance of any offers, in an effort to improve the transparency of the sale process. It will be up to the agents to decide whether the general public, or just those directly involved, can log in to check out the status, progress timeline and bids placed in any sale.

Would-be buyers can use their smartphone, tablet or laptop to book a viewing, to make an offer, to pay their deposit, to talk to solicitors and even to sign the final contracts. Vendors too can keep track of where everything is on the sale of their home.

Live bidders on any of the agent's properties will be notified electronically straight away of any new offers. For buyers, this means you don't have to keep phoning endlessly or sitting tight watching the bid display doing nothing.

The system means significantly less stress for the buyer, the vendor and the estate agent.

The brains behind Offr is Robert Hoban, formerly the public face of Allsop Space and previously a leading estate agent with Hamilton Osborne King. Most recently he was also involved with Bidx1, the online-only auction system set up by canny entrepreneur Stephen Conway, also the founder back in the day of Allsop Space.

Hoban has likely sold more property directly than any other Irish estate agent, on the basis that it was he who most often stood on the public podium during the famous Allsop 'Monster' auctions. Hundreds of properties were sold at these single-session events held four times a year over the five years between 2011 and 2016.

After the crash, at a time when no one trusted auction systems here and auctioneers had trouble valuing property because prices had collapsed by so much, the Allsop Space 'Monster' auctions helped anchor the market once again and establish new value markers across all property types and in almost all locations.

Hoban left Bidx1 almost two years ago to research his new venture. Joining him at Offr is Philip Farrell, another former estate agent who ran his own business in the midlands before becoming the CEO and driver of the Real Estate Alliance network. Also on board is the IT specialist Niall Dawson.

The Offr crew claims that the average length of the home-buying process in Ireland has stretched out in the capital to five months and in the regions to seven months. They pledge that Offr can reduce this to three months nationwide.

So the latest disruptive tech in home buying is set to be a good deal more soothing for all parties involved.

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