Reputation Insurance

When insurance companies get involved in something, you know that there’s likely to be a big market somewhere. Both Swiss Life and Axa have started selling e-reputation insurance products to protect your family’s image on the internet. AXA’s new product will protect you against identity theft, credit-card fraud, harm to your online reputation and e-commerce disputes. Both insurers use a dedicated e-reputation agency called the “Reputation Squad”, which will remove all problematic content, while providing psychological support and dealing with legal and administrative issues.

In days gone by, an uncharacteristic indiscretion or error of judgement was quickly forgotten. At worst it made the newspapers and was chip papers by this time tomorrow, Those days are gone, and today the evidence can linger for ever, unless something is done about it. And that’s just one way your reputation can suffer on line. It’s very difficult to control what people say about you – even if you’ve done nothing wrong.

Online reputation protection is a field which is going to grow and grow, if you have the appropriate IT skills, there could be a lot worse areas in which to specialise.

Streetwise Property Alert 6th August 2013

Welcome to today’s email…

Beware Of The Taxman

Off the back of recent news that buy-to-let investors paid £2.02 billion in BTL-related tax in 2010-11, up 13 per cent from 2009-2010, UHY Hacker Young warns that HMRC is taking a closer look at the sector. ‘Two dedicated HMRC taskforces (South East, Yorkshire) have been set up as what could be a precursor to a wider initiative.’

‘HMRC is now running a ‘property sales campaign,’ under which people who have not declared a property sale (other than their main residence) are urged to come clean. Once the deadline of 6 September 2013 has passed, we expect HMRC to become far more aggressive in pursuing undeclared rental income as well as property disposals.’

‘Buy-to-let investors need to be aware of HMRC’s increasing concern about tax evasion by landlords. Their actions to date show that they are quite capable of matching Land Registry records and data from letting agents with taxpayer files and picking out discrepancies. As buy-to-let increases in popularity, there is inevitably more for HMRC to investigate. Some might simply fail to understand what their liabilities are and how to calculate them properly; others might think that they will be below HMRC’s radar.’ Just so you know.


Spain – A Property Con

Catching up on some international property reading, we note that The Telegraph recently covered a hot topic from Spain – ‘Expats in Spain warned over property certificate scam.’ We’ve already covered the energy efficiency certificate story but note now that ‘Spain is rife with unqualified assessors offering cheap certificates while others are “guaranteeing’’ an A-rating which is illegal. Another scam involves issuing the certificate without visiting the premises.’

In brief, ‘A certificate must be issued by an architect, engineer or a qualified technician who is authorised to undertake building projects and thermal installations for buildings. Not all architects and engineers are certified.
The professional must belong to an official provincial association and have a membership number. The price should be between €200 and €300 euros per home (£170 and £260).’

‘Once a certificate has been issued it needs to be registered with the local Spanish authority. Procedures differ between regional governments with some requiring a fee of about €30 (£26). When the registration is approved, an energy label is issued which can then be made available to real estate agents, prospective buyers or tenants.’ More to come on this, and other overseas scams currently doing the rounds, very soon.


Student Housing News

According to recent analysis from Savills, UK student housing is ‘a resilient and stable investment.’ Savills predicts total returns of 9.3 per cent from this sector for 2013/2014 academic year; that’s net initial yields at 6.3 per cent and rental growth at 3 per cent.

‘We are confident that student housing will continue to prove a counter-cyclical investment but the market is not without its risks. Investors should consider investments on an institution by institution basis, remaining mindful of the city supply where there are multiple universities.’

‘Some cities will have reached maturation relative to student numbers while some universities will be more susceptible mid-term to fee increases. Over and above demand as defined by student numbers, university rankings are normally the first reference point for prospective students and a good indicator of investment risk.’ Good advice.

The Perfect Restaurant

A new restaurant in Brixham, Devon called Oscars has had diners flocking to its unique location in the hull of a disused fishing vessel in the harbour. They have been drawn there  by the rapturous reviews on Trip Advisor telling of the Michelin standard food, impeccable service and in house divers on hand to take raw ingredients fresh out of the sea.  Diners have struggled to find .the place though…the address has led them to some bins in an alley way and the fact that the restaurant is housed in a ‘phantom class vessel’ gives a clue to the reason why.

Oscars doesn’t exist. It is the creation of a local businessman who wanted to draw attention to how easily trip advisor can be manipulated. His motivation was the negative reviews received for a friends hotel which he suspects were placed by rivals. Oscars moved up into the top half of all reviews in Brixham in just a few weeks and all nine reviews were placed by the same businessman.

There are three lessons I think:

1. Be cautious how you treat information on online review sites
2. Be mindful of what competitors may be doing to your online reputation.
3. If you’re unscrupulous it’s very easy to create a positive image in the anonymous online world.

I’ve  written about this before and you can read the article here.