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Education And Awareness Of The Role Of The Property Factor

Education and Awareness of the Role of the Property Factor

Education and Awareness of the Role of the Property Factor


The role of the property factor. It seems to be something that is a bit of a mystery for many flat owners particularly First Time Buyers, or downsizers. It’s a topic of conversation that creeped into most conversations during the start of our Blocktalk podcast episodes with industry leaders. It became such a hot topic, that we started a series of episodes focusing on how the industry is tackling the gap in information and understanding.


So far we’ve spoken to Derek Macdonald, David Doran, David Reid, Callum Bruce, Audrey Murphy, and Laura Bradley and in this article, we’ve pulled together a synopsis of their thoughts on education and awareness about the role of the property factor.


Derek McDonald, Newton Property Management

“…this question has plagued the industry for decades, really, but it’s being exacerbated now in this modern age of information streams, technology, and everything else as well. So from the property manager, from the factors point of view, the most empowering thing that we can give to our customers is knowledge. If they can even understand a fraction of what we do, it just makes our job so much easier. It makes our relationship with our customers so much better. And ultimately that manifests in better maintenance, better-maintained properties and higher asset values.”

“If you want to look at the bottom line, it is a challenge I think from Newton’s perspective, we’ve had a good hard look at ourselves in the mirror over the last couple of years. We’ve done a lot of work on this and we’ve come to the conclusion that we can certainly make improvements and we are making those improvements. So we’re approaching this in a number of ways, but principally through supporting our staff, educating our staff, and massively improving the way that we are communicating and the frequency of the communications. I think the tone of voice is really important because when working in a business and factors will convince themselves that this is a massively technical operation because we get into the detail of it. Every factor that you speak to, they’re really a closet solicitor.”

“So, yeah, it’s not a new challenge, but we really need to face up to our responsibilities here and not just do the same old thing that tractors do. We need to engage, we need to really find that sweet spot where customers will enjoy receiving the ‘here’s another letter from the factor’. Well, actually, here’s a letter and it might not be containing everything that the customer wants to hear, but it certainly is presented in a way that they feel comfortable with, and they feel comfortable with contacting us if they have any more questions.”


David Doran, Hacking & Paterson

“I think we’ve been doing something for 100 years, we celebrated this year and that’s trying to educate and advise your clients as they come into common ownership because I think that’s a big problem. There are a lot of people coming into common ownership models who don’t quite fully appreciate what they’re entering into or what they’re signing up to. So as an organization, we’ve always tried to give out to the industry and be part of the industry body PMAS to respond to consultations in the property industry and also to serve on governmental groups. As we’ve talked about before, I’ve served in the Cladding work groups. Predecessors have served on property-related governmental groups and given evidence to the Law Commission committees of the Scottish Government where and when it’s to do with bettering common maintenance. So we do that on a daily basis. That’s something we’re constantly kind of beating our drum about is to try and get what the relationship I suppose it’s better not what we do and what owners do. I think it’s more how that relationship needs to work together for the single benefit of the property that these people are living in. Because a lot of time that’s forgotten about is actually the purpose of why you have a property factor and why an owner has responsibilities for maintenance. And that is that these properties should ultimately outlive all of us if they’re properly maintained. So you’re not only looking at the past, you’re looking at the future and the future can be about the environment of Scotland.”


David Reid, James Gibb Residential

“So the main two words there, Brian, are education and communication. So, in terms of how you educate homeowners, we have certainly started adding to our quarterly newsletter Fact or Fiction, which basically highlights a lot of the different scenarios we get involved in, but more so to pinpoint to the homeowners that they are the duty holders, they are the collective duty holders. And I’ve always said it’s driven from again when you look at housing associations in Scotland and you look at leasehold down south, there’s always a landlord as such and they are in control. So when the property agent and the property factor come into play, first-time buyers or downsizers tend to think that they are the landlord and they’re the accountable and responsible person, when in actual fact they’re the agent working on behalf of the collective homeowners.”

“There are ways in which you put that education process out there. I’ve been talking to Property Manager’s Association Scotland for quite a while about whether all the industry members or the members of the Property Managers Association, industry leaders actually think about putting out radio adverts and TV adverts, not about advertising the association or advertising the companies, but about putting out an educational video that says it’s a common theme. We talked about it before in the last podcast, and it’s always going to be there because if you look at the demographic of it, it works out about 400,000 private flat owners and the housing association takes up to about 650. That demographic is across the number of property owners in Scotland. It’s a small number in comparison, but there’s a big education that has to go on. And as I’ve said in the past, without repeating myself, the first-time buyers and the downsizers are the ones who have no idea about factor. I was one of them. I was a first-time buyer in the West End of Glasgow that had no idea about factors. Ironically, that was a niche in the marketplace that drove me on to obviously build a business.”


Callum Bruce, MacFie & Co

“Yeah, it’s a tough one. It’s obviously you’re sometimes fighting a bit of a battle against people who have got preconceptions of what we do as an industry, I guess not even just our firm, but also you’ve got first-time buyers who rightfully are naive to what happens in the world of factoring and communal living. I think we try to tackle that head-on right from the very outset, with new owners trying to get it frequently, I don’t know what you do, what’s this money for? What do we do? And we have to explain it and try and educate them one at a time. So it is slow, but the point of entry writing to them, obviously trying to explain to them. It’s usually a younger generation as well, I feel. It’s usually that first enquiry. So you can usually build quite a rapport with them quite quickly, I feel. And you can set them on the right path of who we are and what we can do and how we’re here to help. We’re not here to hinder. You may be paying us a fee, but we’re here to work with you, not against you. We’re not here to dictate. So usually that’s something we can get across quite quickly, but like I say, that is on a small scale.”

“I mean, it is what, person by person, block by block, development by development, which some developments hit hundreds of people. Obviously it’s a big hit from one document, but if it’s a sale, like your son, for example, he’s been educated in that way, you’ve passed that along, but it’s just one person and it’s going to take an awful long time to turn over the entire country and have that document go to everybody. So it’ll take a long time.”


Audrey Murphy and Laura Bradley, Albyn Housing and Highland Residential

Laura: “Yeah. Thank you, Audrey. I think in our sort of daily engagements with our new existing and current owners and sharing owners, it’s our job to give the customers as much information as possible. Written statement of service welcome packs the compliance side of it. We’ve got information on our website, but we find customers will phone or email us about specific questions about their developments or queries and each call can be an opportunity for us to share the information. The team sort of share and log the information with each other and keep that information relevant so that we’ve got staff who know what they’re talking about. So qualified staff within the IRPM, we’ve got staff who’s recently been through the lettings qualification and we’ve got second staff who have an opportunity to upgrade or develop within their roles as well.”


Laura: “I think with what we do within so we also do the lift. So low income, first-time buyers and shared equity, we have a real connection within our department. So when it’s a property that is being sold within Highland Residential and it’s being factored by Highland Residential, there’s much more of an interlinking and team mentality to make sure that information sharing is there. Out with that. There’s only so much that you control within the factoring, making sure knowledge is power and sharing the information. But when it’s done in-house, so to speak, it’s much easier to control that sharing of information.”


Audrey: “I think for me the websites are great. The Property Factors website, the Under One Roof, Citizens Advice, and even the ScotGov website, all have great information for landlords and owners. And when you read these and if people had the time to go through all of them, they get great sources of information. And you would hope that owners in Scotland will be aware of the legislation and what they can expect from any sort of property management and stuff. But for me I think social media as a way to cut across that people want kind of instant answers, don’t they? So social media help podcasts like this one, I think, though sometimes the only thing I would say is that maybe the podcasts or social media, I think we aim them at the industry to make sure we are all aware and get up-to-date information. But maybe there’s some room in there to help our customers and do podcasts and things like that specifically for them. It was lovely to hear what you say about your son and him becoming an owner. My son’s 20 and he became a renter. And again, this is before he came into and he just didn’t have a clue. And I was thinking, how is that possible that he’s actually moved out and renting somewhere? And I don’t know how he’s going to manage, but I kind of always wonder about that developer or lawyer education. If you bought your first house, you couldn’t care less what the lawyer was saying. You just wanted your keys and you’re maybe not taking it in. So I do think that particularly the property factors, that legislation about having that welcome pack within that four weeks because maybe then you’ve calmed down and you would actually have a look at it. I know we have taught me and Lord has talked about doing something like a video that you get a real link and someone’s smartphone and they can look at a video about how useful that would be.”