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Smooth moves

Utility switching and home moving assistants can help lift agents out of their purely property role, improving their image and income in the process, says Lisa Isaacs.

Lisa Isaacs

Link to Utilities feature

Buyers camping outside an estate agents’ office, over 2.7 million people signed up to receive instant property alerts on Rightmove and rising tenant demand all point to one thing: more home moves ahead.

While the temptation is to think about fee opportunities, there is a subtle shift within property – one where the sector is focused on genuine customer service; whether that’s helping movers save time, money or the environment.

The good news is, assisting with utilities and moving administration is a natural complement to agency –and it doesn’t have to come at the expense of income or feel like a hard sell.

Here to help

Link to Utilities feature“It’s a dated idea to think of utility switching and home moving assistance as a purely fee-generating activity,” comments Scott Homes at Tili. “Movers are beginning to choose agents because of the level of support they offer. It helps if you have a compelling customer journey that goes above and beyond. Utility set up and home moving assistance really saves time, especially for frequent movers, such as renters.”

Movers are beginning to choose agents because of the level of support they offer. It helps if you have a compelling customer journey that goes above and beyond. Scott Holmes, Tili from Ovo.

Link to Utilities featureHomeHero’s founder, Kenny Alegbe, is also coming from the ‘solutions rather than problems’ side of the equation. His proposition takes home moving assistants into new realms – over and above utility supplies and billing setup – and proves commission can be earned in a variety of ways. “We’re launching a marketplace of services later this year,” says Kenny.” It will allow removals to be booked, insurance to be bought and a deep clean ordered by the tenant at the tap of a screen – all of which could earn an agent commission,” says Kenny. “Until then, The HomeHero app has been developed to create a smooth-running tenancy for all involved. Maintenance and repair requests can be logged via the app, and there’s live chat too, ending awkward exchanges between renters and property managers, and preventing unanswered requests.”

Maintenance and repair requests can be logged via the app, and there’s live chat too, ending awkward exchanges between renters and property managers. Kenny Alegbe, Homehero.

The forthcoming marketplace of services will create additional revenue streams for property managers but not at the expense of functionality. As standard with the HomeHero service is utility set up and an internet connection that is live from day one – offered in tandem with council tax and water notifications.

Earning commission via referrals isn’t a new concept but as HomeHero is showing with its future cleaning, gardening and removal company partnerships, agents can look beyond utilities. Another examples comes via Vouch’s Home Move Assistant, which now allows movers to be introduced to the Hello Fresh meal kit subscription service – a logical addition to the usual stable of suppliers and an exciting way to top up income.

Get connected for commission

Link to Utilities featureJack Ray at Billing Better also feels that agents can expand their commission prospects outside of standard utilities. “When a consumer thinks of switching, they are most aware of energy,” comments Jack. “But switching broadband and even switching mobile SIM providers is becoming more prominent. Promisingly, there are scenarios where more commission is available on a household basis for referring a mover to a TV/broadband supplier or swapping them to a new entertainment bundle.”

More commission is available on a household basis for referring a mover to a TV/broadband supplier or swapping them to a new entertainment bundle. Jack Ray ,Billing Better.

Jack also believes that as technology, particularly 5G, becomes more available across the UK, there will be further opportunity for agents to offer an improved moving experience. “Because no engineer or line activation is required for 5G, agents could provide a tenant with a router that allows renters to get online immediately.”

Not just for lettings

Link to Utilities featureThe turnover of tenants has always meant utility switching and home moving assistants lend themselves to the lettings sector but Simon Tillyer at Vouch says sales agents have two exciting options that are underutilised.

With one piece of research indicating people move as infrequently as once every 23 years, Simon says that offering a switching service can provide a valid reason to stay in touch with past clients and is a latent way to top up income. “Sales do lag behind lettings in terms of earning income from utility referrals, but the suggestion of cheaper or greener energy supplies is a great communication point for dormant clients. There’s no obligation, no fee and nothing to lose – only referral fees to gain. Agents can send their database an email, post a utilities message out on social media and add the service to its website a great reason for staying in contact.”

The suggestion of cheaper or greener energy supplies is a great communication point for dormant clients – there’s no obligation, no fee and nothing to lose – only fees to gain. Simon Tillyer, Vouch.

Link to Utilities featureAfter establishing that home moving and utility switching services are beneficial to agents and movers, the challenge is making the offering a seamless part of everyday agency operations. PJ Darling at change-of-tenancy company, Ittria, believes that integration with the major property management software companies is crucial, allowing agents to sidestep volumes of data entry and quickly form a new habit.

It’s definitely in the interests of the tenant, agent and landlord for the services to become a standard part of an agent’s offering. We’ve made the process very simple. PJ Darling, Ittria.

“It’s definitely in the interests of the tenant, agent and landlord for the services to become a standard part of an agent’s offering. We’ve made the process very simple to the point where agents can sign up online with us in about five minutes with no contract. If agents use one of our integration partners, the data will start coming to us the next day, along with their guaranteed income,” adds PJ.

Link to Utilities featureHeidi Shackell of The Lettings Hub, explains their approach. “Our utilities service is integrated into our pre-tenancy platform, BOX, which means that as soon as referencing is complete, the letting agent just logs in to confirm if the tenancy is going ahead and we get on with notifying the council, water company and energy providers of the change in tenants.”

Utilities is a win-win for everyone involved, saving clients hundreds of pounds, whilst allowing the agent to operate more efficiently and earn more for doing less. Heidi Shackell ,The Lettings Hub.

Encourage eco friendly lifestyles

Link to Utilities featureWe all know that switching utilities is a great way to save movers money but how about saving the planet at the same time? “Agents are in a fantastic position to help people live more sustainable lives,” says Ross Nichols at Just Move In – a certified B Corporation company with outstanding eco credentials.

“In fact, this was our founding concept. We realised we could help customers switch to renewable energy and other sustainable service providers when they were moving home – it’s the ideal time for people to make environmentally-conscious consumer decisions.” Customers looked after by Just Move In have the option of transferring onto a 100 per cent renewable energy plan and they will also get a mangrove tree planted in their name.

Like Just Move In, Tili – itself pledging to be net carbon zero by 2030 – is also offering green incentives in addition to helping agents reach their own sustainable goals. “Many agents are actively asking us to include green tariffs and suppliers to our list of options so they too can meet their own eco agenda,” adds Scott, “so we decided to apply 100 per cent green electricity to every single void period.” Movers coming through Tili are encouraged to keep up with the eco efforts by choosing Ovo’s ‘Go Green’ bolt-on product, which guarantees 100 per cent green electricity and sees five trees per year planted on their behalf.

UTILITY SWITCHING AND HOME MOVE ASSISTANT COMPANIES

Better Billing

Link to Utilities featureBetter Billing offers movers a free utility comparison site, enabling a renter to search through the whole of the energy and broadband market, whilst also having visibility and access to their water and council tax suppliers. They can also get an instant quote for all household bills, wrapped into one monthly payment. Agents earn a one-off commission when a tenant chooses a service from its comparison site, and they get a share of the monthly management fee that’s charged to movers using the ‘bills package’ service.

Better Billing automates a number of tasks for agents, including change of occupancy notifications, void period management and service switching. Meter readings, are automatically sent to the correct providers for the property.

HomeHero

Link to Utilities featureHomeHero helps agents onboard and manage let properties seamlessly by streamlining communication and increasing efficiencies. The property manager platform is built around a dashboard where agents have full visibility of their property portfolios. The technology integrates with existing CRMs to avoid manual implementation or additional steps, while the AI-powered chat provides answers to over 50% of tenant questions, saving agents valuable time.

In most cases, HomeHero also picks up the energy tab during void periods of up to 28 days, eliminating fiddly interim bills. When it comes to commission, agents earn with every electric, gas and internet sign up, as well as receive anniversary payments for each year a customer stays with HomeHero. Commission from its marketplace of services will follow later in 2021.

Ittria

Link to Utility Management featureIttria lets tenants know who their utility and water suppliers are, along with the details of their local council, plus they’re introduced to its price comparison website, www.switch-it.co.uk. Coming soon is a new Tenant Hub, with added contents and liability insurance options, and a move management facility. Agents can earn commission through Ittria’s Void Switching service, Tenant Switching service and also via broadband sales.

Financial perks for agents include free comprehensive tenant referencing and a Profit Guarantee that takes the guesswork out of choosing who to partner with for the best commission rates. Void Bill Auditing, which saves agents the demoralising task of double-checking notoriously inaccurate void period bills, as well as utility and council tax notifications, are also free perks.

Just Move In 

Link to Utility Management featureJust Move In’s free-to-use Home Setup service includes council tax set up, Royal Mail redirection, arranging storage, meter readings, sourcing TV and broadband deals, and a new digital referencing facility. As a result, home movers sidestep 8 hours of admin and enjoy a saving of up to £600. Just Move In agents earn commission when the customers they refer take up paid services. Agents can choose the managed donation service too, which allows agents to nominate a charity to receive their referral fees, with Just Move In taking care of associated donation admin.

One Utility Bill

Home movers can choose one of One Utility Bill’s unlimited energy packages, using as much energy they need for one fixed monthly payment, or they can opt for a capped package – ideal for HMOs and house shares. Continuing the ‘all in one’ theme, movers can manage their gas, electricity, broadband, TV, water bills and meter readings using a single online portal.

Agents earn commission by letting One Utility Bill know about upcoming tenancy changes via its notify service. They can also add to the commission pot with void cover. Additionally, ubundle agencies can tailor their ‘bills inclusive’ packages according to the needs of their tenants. As a projection example, agencies can make £25,000 a year on a typical portfolio of 50 properties.

The Lettings Hub

Link to Utilities featureFor tenants, The Lettings Hub offers a personalised service to help them prepare for their tenancy. They explain their legal obligations regarding utilities, advise which providers are currently supplying energy to the property and, if required, they will compare the existing tariff with others available in the market.

The Lettings Hub is not tied to one supplier, so tenants have a full range of choice whether their priority is low cost, green energy or best customer service. They can help them with broadband and TV services set up, with special offers from leading suppliers including Sky and Virgin Media The Lettings Hub claims an average saving per tenant of over £500.

Tili

Tili is a digital home move assistant aimed at the lettings market, broken into two parts. For agents, there’s a simple handover service when a tenant moves out, with Tili taking on utilities management during void periods. This can include changing prepayment meter properties over to ‘monthly bill’ and the installation of smart energy meters. The Tili service also includes local council and water authority notifications, plus support and marketing packages to help agents with cross-selling and up-selling. For tenants, Tili aims to ensure the property is fully connected on move-in day by starting the connection process as soon as an agreement is signed. Tenants can choose telephone, broadband and entertainment deals from the whole of market, which also includes exclusive rates from Ovo.

Vouch

Link to Utilities featureVouch’s Home Move Assistant is available to both sales and letting agents. They can cherry pick which suppliers they’d like to work with, to avoid conflict with any existing relationships, and there’s the option for the platform to be duel branded with the agent’s name as well as Vouch.

Agents using Vouch are finding the commission earned from Home Move Assistant covers the cost of tenant referencing, with surplus profit too, although agents do not have to be in receipt of Vouch’s referencing service to benefit. Tenants enjoy an Amazon-style instant purchase ‘click and buy’ experience, without being redirected to several web pages or call centres before they can actually sign up to a service.

 

July 19, 2021

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