There is nothing sexy about the conveyancing market, it’s as dull as it gets,” says Rightmove founder Harry Hill. But he is still intent on shaking it up – again
“There is nothing sexy about the conveyancing market, it’s as dull as it gets,” says Rightmove founder Harry Hill. Fortunately Hill’s just made it a little spicier with his new venture In-Deed Online. It’s a new concept in conveyancing, offering an online service in which a team of lawyers help home-buyers and sellers to complete the legal process from start to finish.
Hill’s staggering success with Countrywide and then Rightmove means the whole industry is fascinated by his new venture. And he’s cranked up interest further by listing In-Deed Online on AIM.
“We decided that even if one in 20 people are ready to pay a reasonable fee to make the process of buying a house not even remotely close to nightmare, we want to work with them”
-Harry Hill, Founder of In-Deed Online
Valued at £8.6m when it was listed on AIM, the firm first raised £2.9m in a pre-initial public offering placement. It later went onto raise another £1.6m by selling up to 3.7m shares at 42p to institutional and other investors.
Cutting out the mumbo-jumbo
Hill originally made his name turning around estate agent empire Countrywide, which he bought for £1 in 1994. He knows the property market inside out. Why, then is he sticking with this “dull” trade?
“Buying a house is one of the most frustrating experiences with lawyers throwing all sorts of property mumbo-jumbo at your face. I identified this gap in the market and saw it as a fantastic business opportunity. I made Rightmove and Countrywide click with the people and am confident that In-Deed Online will follow suit,” Hill explains.
Hill’s co-founder is Peter Gordon, a former partner at private equity group 3i. Former Nationwide chief executive Philip Williamson and former Wall Street trader Boris Zhilin are non-executive directors.
The investors are equally high-profile. They include Andrew Black, the co-founder of Betfair, Octopus Investments and fund manager Henderson. Hill and Gordon will keep a stake of 10 per cent each.
Aiming for publicity
So, with heavyweights backing the venture, why was there a need to list the company on AIM?
“Both Peter and I have a reputation where we can talk to sound investors over a cup of coffee to get capital and we won’t get no for an answer. However, we decided to list In-Deed Online on AIM to get a strong interest from public companies and spread the word around. Not to mention, that we did generate a lot of interest and the issue was over-subscribed,” says Hill.
Gordon agrees. “Listing the venture on AIM gave us access to capital and the stature and position that augmented our position to own the market in the next three to five years.”
“You don’t have some fusty old lawyer speaking to you about laws that seem rocket science. You’ve got a team of erudite lawyers who are ready to explain why two plus two equals four”
– Peter Gordon, founder of In-Deed Online
Hill explains that a business like Rightmove was evidence that people have started to acknowledge that cheapest is not always best.
Cost of conveyance
So, how deep would you have to dig your pockets for In-Deed Online’s services? The website charges £450 in legal costs, plus £90 VAT and £716 in other costs for a freehold purchase of £250,000.
Speaking about prices, Hill says, “We decided that even if one in 20 people are ready to pay a reasonable fee to make the process of buying a house not even remotely close to nightmare, we want to work with them.”
The company has signed up law firms like O’Neill Patient, Breeze & Wyles and Grindeys to carry out the conveyancing work. Each client will have your lawyer’s direct telephone number – “no menus and no call centres to deal with”.
“You don’t have some fusty old lawyer speaking to you about laws that seem rocket science. You’ve got a team of erudite lawyers who are ready to explain why two plus two equals four,” Gordon points out.
In-Deed Online offers an ambitious price guarantee of no completion–no fee basis. A bit too ambitious maybe?
“Isn’t that the name of the game really? The market anywhere is about first proving its worth and then demanding remuneration. We are following the same market norm,” fizzes Hill.
With sound investment and investors In-Deed Online has made its first step to capture an untapped market. And to reach out to its potential clients the firm has recently appointed M&C Saatchi to oversee its £5m multimedia advertising campaign.
“The big idea around our 360 degree campaign is to create brand recall among people. M&C Saatchi has creative juices flowing which would help us show the conveyancing market in an interesting and entertaining light,” says Gordon.
Hill and Gordon have an awesome track record, a huge marketing budget and a genuinely original product. Not hard to see why investors think this business is anything but dull.