Oct 19

When looking to sell a property finding the right estate agent can feel like a real mine field.

As a London based property developer with over 30 years of industry experience, being able to identify effective estate agents to sell my completed units has been vital to ensuring that premium prices are achieved. As someone who started their career as an estate agent, I have seen both sides of the coin and consider myself well- placed to advise on how to recognise a competent estate agent.

For many people, a property is their largest asset, so it is imperative to take time in instructing an estate agent and consider a variety of options

First impressions count so check out your potential agent‘s website. How are their properties marketed and what are their online images like? They should be of a professional quality, not substandard smartphone shots, and ensure that their property write-ups are informative. With the majority of homebuyers searching online make sure that your favoured agent is signed up to one of the major online portals including Rightmove, Zoopla or OnTheMarket.

Try registering as a buyer on their website and see if and how quickly they call you back. Don’t be afraid to test them through this process and find out if the person who makes contact with you is knowledgeable about the area. An effective estate agent should encourage you to go and view properties. It may be worthwhile attending a viewing to sample their customer service and sales technique. Equally, a good agent should conduct the viewing themselves and not leave it to the seller to essentially market their own home.

When it comes to having a property valued many sellers are tempted to instruct the agent that provides the highest valuation. A good estate agent should be able to provide comparable sales evidence from the past three to four months of what they have sold in the area, including how close to asking price they achieved.

Look for an agent with a strong success record, sold boards in the area are a good indication of this. It’s important that your agent is a strong negotiator, so if they are easily talked into dropping their fee, this doesn’t bode well for them negotiating the best sale price with a buyer on your behalf.

Following the above tips will help ensure that you select the best agent to sell your home efficiently and for the best price.

Oct 19

Brexit is responsible for a great deal of misery, not least in the property market.

Vast numbers of people who have a desire or need to move are reluctant to make big buying decisions while we are beset by the uncertainty that Brexit has brought. As a result there’s a shortage of stock in all sectors, so even those who are pushing on through despite the Brexit drama are having to work hard to find what they want.

The problem with the seemingly endless wait for political issues to resolve themselves is that life can rarely be put on hold. Three years is a long time in life – children arrive and start growing up, jobs change, relationships move on, lifestyles adapt to new ages. For some, moving is non-essential, but for those whose lives aren’t static, waiting is a painful process.

So why shouldn’t you wait any longer? James Greenwood of Stacks Property Search explains:

1. On the face of it, the market looks thin with a seemingly limited choice of property available, but if you look hard and are determined you’ll find the right property, and you should be able to negotiate a good deal, especially as some vendors are determined to make a sale before Brexit happens, so you can put the boot in on price. The advantage is that you shouldn’t have too much competition.

2. Prices have remained relatively stable, so it’s an excellent time to both buy and sell. An unpredictable market with big price moves in either direction makes moving tricky, this is an excellent opportunity to transact without having to contend with difficult fluctuations.

3. Interest rates are at an all-time low, so there’s really only one way for them to change, and that’s up! While we don’t expect any dramatic rises in the short term, it’s sensible not to overstretch yourself, and to fix at a good rate if you can. Great fixed deals are available, and as long as you build in plenty of contingency, it’s a good time to obtain finance. Current levels of Stamp Duty are, in our opinion, here to stay, so don’t hold your breath waiting for any improvements.

4. There will always be something to prevent you buying and selling, we have had over ten years of political and economic uncertainty, but if you wait for a perfect blue sky, you could wait for ever, there’s always something around the corner. But not making a move that is required has a big impact on personal and family life and can cause tensions and unhappiness. It’s better to take the bull by the horns, make the move, and enjoy getting on with your new life in your new home.

5. The costs of moving continue to rise, and that’s a trend that’s unlikely to change. The sooner you do it, the lower the costs are likely to be.

6. By not moving, you are potentially restricting your life choices whether they’re about jobs, schools, partners, or lifestyle. Don’t put your life on hold. There are numerous examples of people who haven’t waited, they’ve taken a deep breath and got on with it. We can honestly say that of the many people we have helped move over the course of the last three years, none have regretted it.

We’ve helped people move out of London. While others have been waiting to sell at the top of the market, those who have moved out of the capital have settled children into schools, made new friends, and started enjoying their new lives, feeling the financial advantage of trading into the country market.

Downsizers have started to enjoy the benefits of the freedom that downsizing brings, whether that’s financial or practical, allowing them to help offspring with their own purchases, lock up and leave and travel, move nearer families and start enjoying grandchildren, and generally enjoy their lives unburdened by excess property.

Second home buyers have enjoyed several years of high demand from those seeking UK holiday rentals. The number of UK residents taking holidays at home is rising steadily – factors such as very weak Sterling, better summers, and uncertainty about the changing face of European travel are all very relevant.

Returning expats have found themselves in an enviable position due to the drop in Sterling. In particular, buyers who are paid in Dollars have been patting themselves on the back.

Buy to let investors have been able to find excellent bargains in the new build sector, and rents have been buoyant. We expect to see further rises in rents.

Whether we wind up with a hard Brexit, a soft one, or none at all, we are unlikely to see any dramatic effect on the property market. In either of the first two scenarios activity is likely to increase, but big fluctuations in price are unlikely, so there really is no sensible reason to wait.”

Sep 19

The latest research by estate agent comparison site, GetAgent, has looked at where across the UK is home to the highest demand for retirement properties and where offers the largest number as a proportion of all homes for sale.

GetAgent looked at the number of retirement homes for sales across major UK cities and which was home to the highest proportion of retirement property stock, as well as the highest demand for these properties based on the ratio of stock listed on the major property portals, to that which was already sold subject to contract.

The highest level of retirement property stock available as a proportion of all stock is currently found in Portsmouth, with 5.4% of properties listed in the city falling within the retirement category.

Bournemouth ranked second with 3.8% of all stock listed as retirement properties, closely followed by Oxford (3.4%), Bristol (3,3%) and Cambridge (3.1%). Sutton was the London borough home to the highest level of retirement stock in London at 5.9%, with Redbridge, Bexley and Bromley also home to 4% or more of the total stock listed for silver homebuyers.

While stock levels are one thing, GetAgent also looked at where the highest demand for this stock was across the UK based on the number of properties sold to those listed for sale.

Edinburgh topped the table as the most in-demand town for silver homebuyers with 57.8% of all retirement stock listed already under offer or sold subject to contract. Newport in Wales came second with a demand score of 55%, with Glasgow (46.8%), Manchester (43.8%) and Sheffield (41.5%) also ranking high.

In London, Haringey is the most in-demand borough for retirees with 66.7% of retirement stock already being snapped up. Southwark and Tower Hamlets also scored high with a demand score of 54.2% and 50% respectively.

Founder and CEO of GetAgent, Colby Short, commented: “We tend to focus on those taking that first step on the ladder but there is, of course, a whole other segment of buyers at the other end of the property life-cycle.

"Although silver homebuyers account for a more marginal share of the market, it’s interesting to see where they are opting for when it comes to investing in their golden years and how this demand has shifted from the perhaps more traditional areas.

"Previously, the trend was to move to the coast and while these areas are still home to some of the highest level of retirement properties as a result, it would seem that Edinburgh is now the most in-demand amongst buyers and in need of more retirement focussed developments.”

Sep 19

Estate agent comparison website, GetAgent.co.uk, has been crunching the numbers and looked at the seasonal impact on property transactions, sold prices and the premium carried by seasonally influenced road names.

The firm looked at the change in transactions and sold prices across each season last year, as well as the current sold prices for road names with a seasonal twist to have sold so far this year.

According to the figures, last year the average price for property transactions was at its highest during the summer months at £265,546, up 20.5% from the spring average of £220,366.

While Brexit uncertainty has seen property prices stutter for much of the nation, there could be more bad news on the horizon and more than a cold snap in the weather as we head into Autumn. Last year, the average sold price dropped -7.7% between the summer and autumn months to £244,984 and the market froze further during the winter months with a -17.4% fall in sold prices. Transactions also dropped -1.8% between summer and autumn and -1.1% between autumn and winter.

With Brexit still a factor, it looks as if things may get worse before they get better for UK home sellers.

The bright side?

While the autumn and winter months aren’t great for the market as a whole, they could see home sellers with seasonal road names quids in. So far this year, road names containing winter in them have seen property sell for an average of £284,741, considerably higher than the national average. Autumn ranks second with an average sold price of £281,380, closely followed by summer at £280,576, with spring ranking the lowest but still at a notable £263,146.

Colby Short, Founder and CEO of GetAgent.co.uk, commented: “While the dark clouds of political uncertainty continue to overshadow the health of the UK property market, seasonal trends show that prices and transactions are due to dip even further.

Seasonal swings are a factor that influences many different areas of business, not just property, however, when coupled with an already uncertain landscape, they can make mediocre market conditions seem a lot worse than they really are.

While home sellers won’t welcome an even tougher time to sell and for the price that they would like, those with the Brexit silver bullet of a winter of autumn related road name should be able to defy the doom and gloom to secure a good price for their home.”

Sep 19

Buy-to-let focussed marketplace lender, Landbay, has been crunching the numbers and found that just 42% of tenants are interested in buying in the near future.

According to a study of 2,000 private renters in the UK, older renters are the least interested in buying a home. Only 13% of over 55s are interested in buying a home in the near future. Less than half (46%) of those 35-44 are interested, whilst millennials (aged 25-34) are leading the charge for home ownership, with almost two thirds (64%) keen to buy in the near future.

There is also a notable gender discrepancy. 47% of women are keen to buy a home, compared to just 34% of men. Women who want to buy are more likely than men to want to invest their money rather than pay rent (48% vs 39%) and make decorating decisions (20% vs 14%), while male would-be buyers are keen to have a connection to the local area (8% vs 4%) and have more space (25% vs 24%).

The number of people planning to buy is highest in London, at 48%, and Northern Ireland at 47%. Those in the South West and Wales are least likely, both coming in at 37%. This is especially surprising given the relatively low house prices in these areas.

For those who aren’t interested in buying, the flexibility of renting shines through as a positive. A quarter (25%) of renters without home ownership aspirations say the flexibility of renting proves too tempting to resist. 6% attribute their plan to move to a new country, and 5% plan to move to a new city or a new job.

John Goodall, CEO, Landbay comments: “This research suggests the UK’s enthusiasm for homeownership may be waning. Conversations around the private rental sector often assume the bulk of renters are simply biding their time until they can buy a house. However, the changing face of employment and a thirst for flexible living mean renting is more attractive than ever, and landlords should reflect this in their interactions with tenants.

It’s crucial that investment in the private rental sector becomes a priority. What use is Labour’s ‘right to buy’ policy if renters have no interest in doing so? Instead the government must focus on encouraging purpose-built rental properties and cease its penalisation of landlords.”

Sep 19

The latest research carried out by One And Only Pro has identified the best places in England and Wales to find a buy to let property for under £65,000.

The site’s unique algorithm identifies the 'Diamond' properties most likely to increase in value, which means that even the most inexperienced investors are guaranteed a healthy return whatever their budget.

Darlington takes the top spot where 22% of properties with a price tag under £65k have been awarded Diamond status. The average price of a Diamond property in this market town is £56,468. In second place is Burnley, with 21% of properties within this price bracket achieving the highest score, and the average Diamond property costing just £37,210.

Bootle and Grimsby, where buyers can secure properties with top marks for investment potential for an average price of £53,278 and £56,188 respectively, made third and fourth places. Fifth place went to Bradford with an average Diamond property price of £64,681.

The North East continues to dominate the remainder of the table, with Sunderland, Middlesbrough, South Shields and Hartlepool, securing the next four spots. Keighley, where the average price of a Diamond property is £64,268, took the final place in the top ten.

Henri Sant-Cassia, CEO at One and Only Pro, shares his advice for property buyers with a budget: "When looking for real market bargains, patience is key. In some circumstances, sellers will be looking for a quick sale and much more open to negotiation. In these cases it may be possible to secure a 25% discount.

Empty properties can make perfect buy-to-let investments and there are deals to be made if they aren't generating an income for the current owner and have become a burden. If the property requires refurbishment, vendors will also need to price competitively to reflect this. Fixer uppers are often portrayed as an instant win but tread carefully here.

These can be time-consuming projects and this will be reflected in the building costs involved. Calculate the additional investment required and know the ceiling price of the property. Arrange a survey to uncover any hidden problems and factor in any further costs that this may incur. Another drawback attached to a fixer upper is that many mortgage companies will not give a mortgage on a property that requires a substantial amount of work and ones without an existing kitchen or bathroom are often deemed inhabitable. In these cases, it may be worth seeking a specialist mortgage or bridging loan to finance any work.

Buyers able to quickly finance a deal could find a bargain at an auction and this is certainly worth exploring when it becomes a buyers' market.

For any deal, don't forget to take into consideration the market. External factors, such as Brexit, could help you find a perfect property at the best price. Never feel pressurised to increase your offer if you aren't comfortable with the figure. Sit tight and wait for another opportunity to arise.

Finally, as the results from our recent study show, always remember location, location, location!"

Sep 19

A new study of 2,000 private renters across the UK has revealed the most and least popular attributes for rental properties, offering insight to landlords on the wants and needs of their tenants.

According to the research from buy-to-let focussed marketplace lender, Landbay, a home being pet-friendly is the most desirable attribute in a rental property with 14% of renters rating ‘pets being allowed in the property’ as their most important requirement.

That figure nearly doubles in the North East (27%) but shrinks to just 3% of renters in London. Women are more than twice as likely (18%) as men (8%) to prioritise a pet-friendly property.

A home which is unfurnished comes second, with 12% of renters saying this is the most desirable attribute. Perhaps tellingly, renters aged 55 and above (22%) are five times more likely to consider an unfurnished property as crucially important than those aged between 18 and 34 (4%.)

A garden was third, with 11% of renters rating outdoor space as their most important attribute. Parents (15%) are more than twice as likely to prioritise a garden compared to non-parents (7%.) Off-street parking and the quality of a property’s décor came fourth and fifth respectively.

Having a dryer came bottom of the list of most desirable attributes with just 1% of renters considering it key to their home. A king-sized bed, a balcony, and a dishwasher also polled just 1%. Just 2% of private renters consider a new build property as a priority.

Top Five Attributes

1: Pets allowed 14%
2: Unfurnished 12%
3: Garden 11%
4: Off-Street parking 9%
5: Quality of décor 7%

Bottom Five Attributes

1: Dryer 1%
2: King sized bed 1%
3: Balcony 1%
4: Dishwasher 1%
5: New build

Deborah Mudway, Director, Landbay comments: “This will make interesting reading for landlords, who could be forgiven for believing little luxuries like a dishwasher, dryer and even a king-sized bed make all the difference for tenants. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Landbay is investing in a research series to help landlords understand tenants and opportunities within the private rental sector. This edition shows renters value two key attributes above all others that are fundamentally free to bring in. In short, they want to make their property feel like home by bringing both pets and their own furniture with them. The reality is, aside from a deeper clean at the end of a tenancy, this really isn’t hard for landlords to implement.

Essentially, landlords knowing what renters want can make for a happier, more prosperous relationship which benefits both parties in the long run.”

Sep 19

Traditionally, Spring is the season to give your home a much needed refresh and time to complete all the jobs left over from the winter.

However, there are many essential jobs that can be done come Autumn to prepare you home for the cooler months. That’s why Hoppy.co.uk have decided to share some top tips on how to refresh your home and help to save you money as the nights get colder.

Seal the windows and doors

Checking all your windows and doors for even the tiniest cracks can not only keep your house warm but save you money on your energy bills. Look at every door and window and simply use Polyfilla to cover those cracks and limit any areas where heat can escape your home. Investing in thick curtains can also help keep your home warm. The curtains act as a barrier that prevents the heat escaping out the window helping to keep your home warm whilst also saving you money. Making sure that all the heat is trapped in your house can be relatively low cost and effort and can have a positive effect on your energy bills.

Freshen up your home

A lick of paint will not only give your home a refresh before the arrival of Autumn but a change in colour scheme may also be able to save on your energy bills! While cooler shades like magnolia and pale grey are perfect for creating a cool living space in the summer months, decorating your home with darker tones will absorb the heat in your home, resulting in a warmer space.

Choice of lighting can also have a vast impact on the look and feel of a room. Not only can your choice of lighting effect the aesthetic of a room but the bulbs you choose can also have a huge impact on your energy bills too. Simply changing the bulbs in your home to LED bulbs, can save households on average £7 a year on energy usage and the bulbs can last for two whole decades, saving the additional cost of rebuying.

Clear out those gutters

Forgetting to unblock drains and guttering can leave your home in danger of suffering water damage which can be a costly repair.

Insulate your pipes

Having exposed pipes through your house may be costing you money as the heat escaping is simply lost in your home. By wrapping some insulating foam tubes around your pipes, the heat will be contained to the pipes resulted in less heat wasted. Another benefit of insulation is its ability to stop pipes from freezing and avoiding another costly repair come winter

Time your heating

If you are away from the house during the day make sure you can put a timer on your heater and set for the heating to come one hour before you wake up and one hour before you return home. This will ensure your home is warm during the busiest times but also helps to keep your energy costs down.

Swap and shop

Before the colder months draw in, take a look at your gas, electricity and water contracts – all utilities that surge in use during winter months, to see if you could be paying less. Use online home management tools such as Hoppy.co.uk to compare all publicly available energy deals to provide you with the best deal for your household.

Aug 19

There were 95,126 mortgages approved by the main high street banks in July, the highest monthly total since July 2009, according to the latest data from UK Finance.

Its figures show that mortgage approvals for home purchase were 16.4% higher, remortgage approvals were 19.4% higher and approvals for other secured borrowing were 12.7% higher than the same month last year.

Gross mortgage lending across the residential market was £26.1 billion in July, 2.9% higher than the same month in 2018 and the highest since March 2016.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, commented: "Finally, some positive news for the housing market with mortgage approvals at the highest monthly level since July 2009. These give an indicator of lending activity in coming months so it looks as though many borrowers are shaking off their indecision and getting on with things.

"Lenders continue to offer cheap mortgage rates, so for those borrowers ready to take the plunge there are many excellent deals to tempt them."

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and former RICS residential chairman, added: "House purchase mortgage approvals are always a good lead indicator of market activity and although on their own don’t represent a summer bounce, they do show once again resilience among serious buyers and sellers and a determination to put Brexit concerns to one side.

"Looking forward, we are certainly seeing a little more optimism which will undoubtedly improve if the prospects for a deal pick up or even if negotiations are concluded one way or the other."

Aug 19

Since April 2018 there have been no less than 15 hopeful homeowners opting to go down the house competition route in order to sell their home and maximise their financial return while doing so.

However, research by Winmydreamhome (WMDH) has revealed that just one of these has resulted in a lucky winner actually receiving the property in questions, with just a further six resulting in a cash payout and the remaining either refunding their ticket sales or the result still remaining a mystery.

Using information from the UK competition authority portal, Loquax, WMDH has looked at the chequered past of house competitions, how they have turned out and provided their tips on what to look for when entering to ensure it is a legitimate outfit.

The Good

As mentioned, just one house competition has seen the actual property given as a reward. Win a Feckin House launched in April 2018 offering the prize of a four-bed, semi-detached house in the village of Termonfeckin in the Republic of Ireland.

Valued at £280,000 it had by far the highest ticket entry price at £100 and sold just 8,000 tickets with those entering needing only to join the local G.A.A club in order to qualify for entry.

However, the gamble paid off for Vicky Hanratty from Drogheda who won the house once the competition closed in December 2018.

The Not So Good

Of the other 14 competitions, six struggled to sell the required number of tickets and instead gave the winner a cash prize, although the amount given and the basis of this amount were less than transparent. Win Fred’s Home in Bolton gifted just £7,000 to the winner having sold just 1,000 tickets at £10 a pop, while Cadivus, who offered a luxury flat in Kensington, gifted just £53,500 with the competition marred by transparency issues.

Win a Maida Vale Home ran for eight months selling 4,200 tickets at £25 each before gifting £79,350 of the £105,000 generated by these sales instead of the home.

Millionaire’s Mansion gave away £100,000 in cash after extending the competition for a year. While the number of ticket sales remains unknown £100,000 isn’t a bad prize, but it’s a far cry from the £2.3m house originally offered, with the competition winner also supposed to receive a Rolls Royce and £50k in cash.

Win a Mega Home gave away just £110,070 of the £750,000 generated via ticket sales after failing to gift the £3m home and also pulling their charitable donation and most recently, Raffle House gave away £173,013 after failing to sell enough tickets for the £650,000 home despite a string of extensions to their timeline.

The Bad

The bad include Win a House Club in Edinburgh who claim to have picked a winner but whose website has now vanished, much like House Prize Competition in Cheshire who have done the same. 2 Pound Home in Bristol who claim to have chosen a winner but are still taking money via an unsecured website and finally Win the Home that Jo Made in Scotland who announced a winner but it also remains unknown as to what was awarded.

The Ugly

Win Barns Farm Life and Win a Yorkshire Home are amongst the ugliest with the competitions closing down and the outcome either unknown or refunds given.

And despite a celebrity face fronting them, the one and only Mr Motivator and his Golden Ticket competition for a mansion in Jamaica and Win a Property Now, organised by F1 legend Eddie Jordan’s son but using his name, also closed down with Golden Ticket refunding those that entered and the outcome of Win a Property Now still unknown.

Top tips when entering a house competition

1. Do your research: Check out the company or person running the competition. Have they tried and failed before? Do they have any experience with property sales or house competitions? Is there any other information you can find to validate them or their company?

2. Deadline extensions: A hard one to know upon launch but a sure sign of troubled waters is if a competition continues to extend their closing deadline. This means they aren’t selling enough tickets and more often than not are just maximising ticket sales before closing without gifting the house.

3. The skill test: There is a whole host of legalities surrounding a house competition in order to avoid it being classed as an illegal raffle by the Gambling Commission. One vital one is that those entering must pass a skill test that a proportionate percentage of the population will fail. Many opt for a spot the ball competition or multiple choice. Anything that can be Googled in time to answer could see the competition find themselves in hot water. While ‘spot the ball’ does pass, this isn’t a skill test and is picked by a judge after you enter. This means it is actually complete luck whether you’re guess is right and isn’t the most legitimate or transparent method for those running the competition.

4. Ticket sales: House competitions are designed to make a profit and there’s nothing to be ashamed of in admitting this. However, if a competition refuses to reveal the number of tickets they’ve sold by the end or any other financial details, then this would suggest something isn’t quite right.

5. Terms and Conditions: Check the terms and conditions, they should be easily accessible and if they aren’t, again something isn’t quite right. When a house competition promises to ‘gift’ a sum of money if the required number of tickets aren’t sold they usually cover themselves by this sum coming after the running costs are removed. This means the competition can keep as much of the profit as they want to ‘cover’ costs without having to justify this sum, and so the winner not only loses out on the house but their fair share of the money. Make sure the alternative cash prize does not have “costs” taken out of it.

6. Third part financial controller: A legitimate house competition will use a third-party company to hold all finances during the competition. This ensures that the winner is paid their due first, then the chosen charity, before those running the competition are finally paid their share.

7. Charity Donations: Are the company making a significant donation to charity? some give just a tiny fraction to make it seem like they are supporting a good cause. Check just how much they are giving in the small print.

Marc Gershon of Win my Dream Home commented: “When you look back at previous house competitions in the UK and abroad, it’s clear to see why the public perception of the format is a negative one, with just one house awarded and a small handful gifting a cash prize.

"These competitions are a business venture at the end of the day and if not enough tickets are sold, a cash prize is an acceptable substitute. However, when it is done in a less than transparent manner with the financial details or ticket sales being withheld, you can see why those that do win still feel hard done by.

"A lack of understanding is the driving factor behind the poor running of these competitions and due to dodgy T&Cs, extensions to closing dates and inadequate skills test like spot the ball, there’s a lot to do to raise the bar in the house competition sector and get the public back on side.”