The original stamp duty freeze, which started in July 2020, has already helped push house prices to a record high and sales to their highest level in 13 years. So, it is no surprise that the extension has been welcomed by agents across the UK.
As a result, the three months leading up to the new deadline of June are set to be busy, as those who were struggling to complete before the deadline now can, and new buyers start to come onto the market looking to take advantage of the extra three months.
And while busy is good, it can also be risky for those agents that do not have the right procedures in place to cope with the increased activity.
John Dobson, CEO at AML platform SmartSearch warns that many agents who have rushed to get their working practices online do not have the digital compliance structure to match, meaning they are opening the door for property crime.
“For agents who have traditionally taken a ‘face to face’ approach, the shift to online - forced by the pandemic - has been quite tough, and many have struggled to adapt their way of working to a remote model,” says John.
He continues: “Then when you add the pressure to take advantage of the influx of leads coming in as a result of the extension, things like compliance and ensuring proper AML checks are still being completed starts to fall down the priority list, and this is hugely dangerous.”
“The property market is already one of the most targeted sectors in terms of money laundering then when you combine this with the hasty move online and the fact that the stamp duty holiday extension will bring large numbers of people looking to complete before June 30, and you have a high-pressure situation where estate agents are being pushed to close deals quickly, and this is where compliance slips and vulnerabilities are exposed.”
“And that is where we come in. SmartSearch offers the only online AML platform that can onboard customers quickly, remotely and securely, performing all the required compliance checks in seconds.
“You don’t even need to see your customers in person, just access to their photo ID via phone or tablet, and for added security, a liveness video, so their photo ID can be compared to the real person to ensure they are who they say they are.
“With this information, SmartSearch can identify, verify and screen the customer against sanctions and PEPs lists, and deliver the result to your handheld device in seconds, ensuring that you remain fully compliant but are still able to onboard customers quickly to take advantage of the rush of new business you might get over the next few months.
“Every customer search you complete is then hosted on the system and monitored every night, meaning you just need one platform for checks, record keeping and monitoring, and you are always audit-ready.”