Estate Agent Today
Here is this week's roundup of stories from Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, featuring stories on easyProperty, Lettings Redress and Ice Bucket Challenges.
House prices are almost static as the slowdown gathers pace according to Hometrack - but this is hotly disputed by the Nationwide today.
The Hometrack consultancy, which produces its monthly house price index based on data from 5,000 agents in 2,300 postcodes across England and Wales, says prices rose just 0.1 per cent for the second month.
A key characteristic of the past month is the rapid narrowing of the gap between supply and demand.
The market in London continues to under-perform the rest of England and Wales, it says.
Growth in the capital flat-lined once again in August and just 11 per cent of London postcodes registered month on month price increases. This compares to prices rising across 19 per cent of markets outside London.
Hometrack says the change of fortunes for the London market over the last six months has been stark. In February this year 87 per cent of London postcodes witnessed a price increase over the month compared to just 11 per cent now. The proportion of the asking price achieved has fallen from 98.8 to 96.4 per cent.
Meanwhile across all of England and Wales, key indicators show a stagnating market.
The average time a home is on the market is now 6.3 weeks - just three months ago it was 5.9 per cent. Even in August - a time that is traditionally quiet for new instructions - there was a 0.1 per cent increase in the volume of property listings. More than one in 25 postcodes are now showing average price falls whereas three months ago it was one in 60.
“The signs of a slowdown were starting to emerge back. Talk of a housing bubble and warning from the Bank of England have impacted sentiment while tougher affordability checks for mortgages and rumblings around interest rate rises is starting to make buyers think twice” says Hometrack research director Richard Donnell.
“Important lead indicators are pointing to a loss of momentum, in particular a widening gap between asking and achieved prices in the face of weaker demand and an increase in the time on the market. We expect a continued shift towards a seller’s market in the face of weaker, more price sensitive demand” he says.
But rival figures from Nationwide show that house prices moved up by an average of 0.8 per cent in August - the 16th successive monthly rise.
As a result, house price growth annually is still rising substantially - it's not 11 per cent a year, up from 10.6 per cent a month ago.
Nationwide's figures come from mortgage data, and while these rises are large, Nationwide insists they are not unsustainable.
"National housing affordability does not appear stretched by historic standards, in part due to the low level of mortgage rates" claims Nationwide chief economist Robert Gardner.
- housing market
- Richard Donnell
Strutt & Parker has become the first British agency to show its hand on the Scottish independence issue, claiming that a Yes vote would lead to higher mortgage rates and “dampened” house prices.
The agency - which is arguably best known primarily for its country houses, but which also has extensive land and estate management functions - says it backs the view of credit rating agencies in saying that an independent Scotland would have a financial status below the UK’s current rating.
The agency claims that rises in bank interest rates would occur should Scotland choose not to accept its share of the national debt, potentially leading to an increase of £5,200 per annum on the average mortgage - a more detailed version of the argument recently put forward by former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling on TV debates against the SNP leader Alex Salmond.
Strutts say the uncertainty over currency means that it is difficult to predict exactly what mortgage lenders would do with existing Scottish customers. It claims these uncertainties around currency and credit risk could deter buyers from entering the market and result in a significant effect on house prices, mostly likely driving them down north of the border.
Farmland and rural businesses will be affected if Scotland is no longer part of the EU.
Strutt & Parker says that according to DEFRA, Scotland receives about €600 million a year in CAP direct payments and rural development payments, and if lost this could have significant implication for Scottish farmers.
However, if under independence Scotland does become a member of the EU and receives CAP payments it could be better off with farmers receiving €196 per hectare compared to the €130 at present.
- strutt & Parker
- Scottish Referendum
- housing market
Here is the latest set of exploits undertaken by our industry in the name of charity.
We at EAT and LAT hugely admire the often-unsung work by agents who donate energy, time and money to charity. We want to shine a spotlight on this side of agency.
If you want to be mentioned, please let us know. Email email@example.com.
In the meantime, here are this week’s updates.
ALS Association - the Ice Bucket Challenge: More than a few traditional estate agents have no doubt wanted cold water poured over Adam Day, the controversial head of online agency Hatched. Well now he’s seen to that himself, and all in a good cause. Having been nominated by Russell Quirke of eMoov, Day has done the deed and raised funds in the process for the ALS Association - and here’s the video: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10154484573800551&id=896740550
The Northwood Foundation: Five Northwood agents are set to hike up Mount Kilimanjaro at the end of September to raise funds for the Northwood Foundation, set up in honour of Nick Cooper, the former managing director who died of pancreatic cancer last year.The firm wants to raise £20,000 by 2015. A Just Giving page has been set up and donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/Northwood-Charitable-Foundation/ or by texting either £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070 using the code TNCF99.
The Coastal Commando Cycle Challenge: A group of 12 cyclists including Steve Moir, partner of Hennings Moir in Saltash and chairman of the Property Sharing Experts network, have raised over £13,000 for wounded and homeless ex-services personnel by taking part in The Coastal Commando Cycle Challenge. Steve and his cycling colleagues completed the 350 mile journey over five days, starting in Kent with the route taking them through Hastings, Brighton, Bognor Regis, Southampton, Weymouth and Exmouth before finishing the road trip at the Royal Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, Devon.
Cancer Research UK: Hunters Property Group has helped a group of 11 year old boys get on their bikes for charity by sponsoring a five-strong Hunters Heroes team on a 127 mile ride along the route of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. They raised more than £7,000 in aid of Cancer Research UK and the route the boys took passed by each of the Hunters’ branches in the area.
The Octavia Appeal: On Sunday September 21 the single-office central London agency W A Ellis is going to undertake a half marathon paddle board down the Thames in aid of The Octavia Appeal, the paediatric arm of The Friends of Royal Brompton Hospital, a charity which raises funds for projects the UK’s largest heart and lung centre. Last year the agency raised almost £20,000 for Action Medical Research and now it’s hoping to do at least as well this year. The agency team can be sponsored at https://www.justgiving.com/waellisoctaviapaddleboard.
- Estate Agent Today
- Letting Agent Today
A not-for-profit organisation wants agents and other industry insiders to explore how water efficiency technology can add value to properties on sale and be used to attract more buyers.
Waterwise, which campaigns for water efficiency in public and private sectors, says it knows “water efficiency doesn't sell houses” but believes the issue could be turned into a positive draw for buyers.
“How do we make water efficient technologies in a property desirable? What needs to happen to make rainwater harvesting a must-have feature? Is it possible for water efficient technologies to viewed as cutting edge?” asks the organisation.
Now it is inviting agents to a half-day workshop on 7 October in central London - perhaps neither the format nor the location most appealing to agents - to discuss how the sale of a property can be a vehicle for publicising the importance of water efficiency.
“Whether people are buying a newly built home, or like the majority live in an older property, they have the choice of whether to install and use water efficient technologies” says the organisation.
More details about the event are available by contacting Waterwise on 02079 172 826.
- housing market
- Water Efficiency
The National Association of Estate Agents still insists only 20 per cent of sales are being done to first time buyers - repeating a controversial claim it made a month ago.
Its figures for July, just released, repeat the June claim and say that for the second month running just one deal in five involves a first timer. Back in June, the NAEA claim won it a front page mention on the Daily Mail as well as valuable column inches elsewhere.
However, the association’s reiteration of the 20 per cent figures, this time for July, appears once again to contrast sharply with recent data from other industry players.
LSL, for example, says the number of first-time buyers hit a seven-year high in July with 30,000 first time buyer sales, about a quarter above those seen in the same month a year earlier, and the largest number since August 2007.
The Halifax and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, too, have produced data showing significant surges in the numbers of first time buyers.
The NAEA has been sharply criticised for the earlier data, notably with a Savills researcher taking to Twitter to describe some of it as “bonkers.”
Association president Simon Gerrard told Estate Agent Today that the June figures, compiled from reports from around 500 agencies across the country, were accurate.
But he also suggested that in his own 11-office agency the number of first time buyers in July appeared to rise, which if true appears to be an experience at odds with the NAEA’s assessment.
This month, the claim about the 20 per cent first time buyer share was carried in the final paragraph of the NAEA press release announcing its view of the market.
- First Time Buyers
- housing market
PropertyMoose - a crowdfunding website that allows individuals to pool investment in property allowing individuals to spend smaller sums than usual - is to relaunch in the middle of next month.
Set up by James Cadbury, part of the chocolate-empire family, it has so far reportedly attracted a modest 70 investors allowing them to buy a share in a house or apartment for as little as £500.
New investment opportunities are temporarily unavailable prior to the site relaunch.
Investors enjoy income from rent: PropertyMoose promises a potential six per cent return. Investors could also ultimately receive capital appreciation earned prior to sale - the site promises 70 per cent of appreciation will go to crowdfunders.
When it relaunches the website will include a link with a not-for-profit property renovation service which will operate as a charity, assisting young women who have been the subject of domestic abuse or people trafficking.
Meanwhile CrowdProperty has been launched as a new peer-to-peer lending platform designed to facilitate loans between private individuals and property professionals.
CrowdProperty says it is aimed at two different groups of people. Firstly the ‘lender’; private individuals with £500 or more seeking to achieve returns of five to 11 per cent gross. Secondly ‘borrowers’ or property professionals, that wish to borrow money from the crowd of lenders to finance a new property project or re-finance an existing one. This includes development projects, project refinancing and buy-to-let investment refinancing.
CrowdProperty takes a one-off three to five per cent arrangement fee from property professionals and passes the full amount of the gross interest payable on the loan to the crowd of private individuals. Borrowers can apply for up to 100 per cent finance on new developments at between nine and 11 per cent per year, or up to 80 per cent loan to value for refinancing at five to six per cent per year.
An auctioneer which claims to have enjoyed property sales of £35m within just 9 months says it is now looking to identify “a strong agency partner”.
Swindells Auctioneers, which specialises in the Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire areas, says it has already enjoyed growth of 200 per cent over the last 12 months. It wants to build on its reputation and client base of buyers and investors in the UK and Ireland.
“We recently made an important strategic decision to divide our business from our previous partner as we are hoping to move forward by collaborating with a new or existing auction house focussed primarily on appealing to buyers and property investors” says owner Edward Swindells.
“We also plan to identify a partner who is able to support us in our aim to significantly expand our reach within central London and the M25 corridor over the next two to three years, as this is where we have identified the best possibilities for growth” he suggests.
The move follows Edward Swindells recent departure as auction director of MS Auctions.
- Auction Market
Slowdown? What slowdown? Against the trend of most recent market forecasts, one high-end agent has significantly increased its forecast for growth in the mainstream UK market claiming some areas will see up to 32 per cent price surges by the end of 2018.
Savills says average UK house price growth has exceeded all expectations over the past year. The firm now expects average annual UK house price growth to settle at 9.5 per cent this year, well ahead of the 6.5 per cent which it originally forecast.
This will be followed by 4.0 per cent growth in 2015 and 25.7 per cent overall in the five years to the end of 2018, fractionally higher than 25.2 per cent originally forecast.
Savills - which concentrates its house sales in the southern half of England and in Scotland - says house price growth in London, the south and east of England has significantly exceeded its original forecasts, with all expected to end the year well into double digits.
In the case of London this appears to go against the grain of what other agents are saying.
For example, south west London agency Douglas & Gordon has just claimed that price rises are “grinding to a halt” and “flat-lining” in its area. Sequence has also been significantly more downbeat; it says property registrations in the capital rose by 25 per cent year-on-year, while new buyer registrations increased by only seven per cent.
Savills, however, is in bullish mood. “House price growth in the mainstream market has been underpinned by record low interest rates, rising loan-to-income lending and pent up demand from buyers re-entering the market as the economy and consumer sentiment have improved,” says Lucian Cook, who heads Savills’ UK residential research.
“But these extraordinary rates of house price growth cannot continue in the current, more regulated mortgage environment, particularly in the face of likely interest rate rises” he concedes.
- housing market
Foxtons is paying another special dividend of £12.8m after revenues jumped up by £29m to £72.8m in the first half of this year.
The group will pay out £12.8m in interim and special dividends, more than half of the £23.1m pre-tax profits it generated in the six months to 30 June, a rise of 57 per cent on the same period last year.
It is its second special dividend payment since it went public last autumn.
Nic Budden, Foxtons’ new chief executive, describes the firm as “highly cash generative” with “no debt to service”.
Revenues rose 16.2 per cent to £72.8m, driven primarily by larger volumes of homes being sold, which grew by 20 per cent to 2,919.
The average price of homes sold by Foxtons rose from £475,000 to £545,000, reflecting its focus on what Budden calls “higher volume, higher value mid-market sector”.
But Foxtons is warning that MMR is cooling this sector of the London sales market.
However, the firm’s lettings revenue remained roughly static at £31.8m, and the number of homes let saw a marginal decline to dip below 10,000.
- housing market
Four out of 10 property sales now fail to reach exchange thanks to problems in the “antiquated” conveyancing process, says a London and Home Counties buying agency.
Property search firm The Buying Agents - which has seven offices handling high-end purchasers, investors and corporate clients across London and The Home Counties - says the industry norm in recent years has been 30 per cent but this has now risen markedly in recent months.
In some cases the firm agent has found that sales have fallen through as a result of vital information being withheld by the selling agent or vendor.
“In certain areas we’ve seen an increase of around 10 per cent in the number of properties returning to market which indicates there are still problems with this antiquated process. Now is the time to get industry leaders together to find the best possible solution for all parties” says Henry Sherwood, TBA’s managing director.
He says the much-hated Home Information Packs were, in theory, a solution to this problem.
“Buyers should always have access to detailed information about the property before they consider making an offer. Some of the things to be aware of include details of the lease and any relevant restrictions, physical issues such as damp and subsidence as well as whether or not the property has been on the market before and if so why it returned to market” he insists.
- Fall Throughs
- housing market
- The Buying Agents
The head of online agency Turtlehomes.co.uk has become the latest industry figure to join the ice-bucket challenge.
Richard Tuck - dressed appropriately enough in goggles and scuba diving gear, and using a head-cam to film proceedings - was doused enthusiastically by his children in a video later posted on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGOtbZjnk4M
His nominations announced before the soaking did not include rival agents.
There is still no news on whether Agents’ Mutual chief executive Ian Springett - nominated by a Scottish agent over the weekend - will accept the challenge, nor whether the controversial founder of online agency Hatched, Adam Day, will accept the multiple nomination requests for him to get icy in aid of charity.
If you or anyone in your agency is undertaking an ice-bucket soaking in aid of good causes, please let us know for our Agents Do Charity feature, every Friday here on Estate Agent Today.
- Ice Bucket Challenge
- Agents' Mutual
Once again Foxtons has become the subject of a campaign by those against it opening a new branch - and this time one of the chief opponents is another estate agent.
Some local residents and small businesses complain that the West Hampstead area already has 29 property-related offices including one - Dutch & Dutch - owned by the same family since the 1940s.
However Dutch & Dutch’s David Matthews, who is on the committee of the West Hampstead Business Association, says there are now too many agents in the locality.
He says the plethora of property firms leads to “decreasing local footfall and artificially inflating prices” and that Foxtons is “the wrong company for the area.”
A local clergyman and an online community forum have also come out against the application, with the latter - westhampsteadlife.com - saying that objectors have to hope that planners at Camden Council dismiss Foxtons’ application justifications as “nonsense” and instead realise that “another estate agent on a street that already has about a dozen instead contributes to the creeping homogenisation of the town centre and adds very little to what is already a crowded market.”
The planning documentation submitted on behalf of Foxtons by central London chartered surveyors Montago Evans, and seen by Estate Agent Today, includes the statement: “the occupation of the unit by Foxtons would contribute to the vitality and viability of the town centre as it would generate activity within the unit. Indeed, as opposed to some A2 uses (such as betting shops), Foxtons’ branch concept is to have a modern, café-style, open environment where people can see activity within the branch from outside.”
The statement is followed by a CGI of how the now-familiar Foxtons brightly-lit green and yellow office format would look on the site.
Consultation on the application, which would see Foxtons occupy the basement and ground floor of the site, runs until September 9.
- Dutch & Dutch
easyProperty has launched a second funding round targeting Ultra High Net Worth Individuals and key figures in the City of London, to augment £5m raised earlier this year.
The website - which as revealed exclusively on Estate Agent Today earlier this month will launch on September 15 - will open with a lettings service only, before starting a sales service from next spring.
A marketing campaign will be launched for the easyProperty rentals proposition within the next few days. Chief executive Robert Ellice says easyProperty already has 10,000 rental properties pre-registered and aims to let between 4,000 and 5,000 homes a month.
In true easyGroup fashion, its ambition knows no national boundaries - it plans to expand across Europe within three years.
The announcement about the second funding round was made by Ellice in a Financial Times article sub-titled ‘Death of the real estate agent’. In addition, the piece looked at the contrast between costs to customers of traditional estate agents and online agents.
The cast-list of interviewees will be familiar to readers of Estate Agent Today - in the ‘new school’ corner, Sarah Beeny, Adam Day of Hatched and Aidan Rushby and Logan Hall of Movebubble, while in the ‘old school’ corner was Ed Mead of Douglas & Gordon.
The article, by FT property correspondent Kate Allen, likened the economically-disruptive
model of online estate agency to disruptive forces in other business sectors - for example, app- and web-based taxi hire services such as Uber which have recently been criticised by London black cab drivers, and the Airbnb accommodation site which has recently become a popular alternative to traditional hotel-booking services.
The article says Rightmove and Zoopla have been the chief enablers allowing vendors an alternative - the online agent - to the traditional high street agent.
- Online Agents
- Robert Ellice
An online estate agent has taken the war of words with Agents’ Mutual to a new level by challenging AM chief executive Ian Springett to take the ice bucket challenge.
The challenge has become a global sensation over recent days as mere mortals, celebrities, UK politicians, Formula 1 drivers and even ex-US presidents have had buckets of iced water poured over their heads to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
It’s the tradition to post a short video of the soaking on social media, and then extend the challenge by nominating others to do the same - and thus raise more money.
Now Colin Bain, who runs Glasgow-based online agency ScotHouseMove.com, has taken the challenge, and is graciously extending the fund-raising by saying that he will offer £10 to the charity for any of his customers who do the same.
He has also nominated Ian Springett to do the challenge - “If you’re man enough, Ian” he says. This follows Agents’ Mutual’s decision not to allow any online agents to advertise on its portal, which is scheduled to launch in January.
If it’s any consolation to the AM boss, another online agent has himself been nominated three times to be soaked.
Adam Day, who runs hatched.co.uk, says on Twitter that he’s still considering whether to do the challenge or instead give money to the charity directly.
If he does, however, the challenge may run and run because he has tweeted the ominous warning: “Watch out all you agents who've given me grief recently...I might be nominating you!”
- Agents' Mutual
- Ice Bucket Challenge
The number of homeowners in Britain who can claim to be ‘property millionaires’ now stands at 484,081, almost 50 per cent higher than a year ago.
Zoopla’s Property Rich List 2014 shows that the 10 most expensive streets in Britain have seen property values grow 12.9 per cent over the last year, compared to the rest of the country where average values have risen by 6.6 per cent over the same period.
The growth in property values at the top end of the market has also helped increase the number of streets with an average property value of over one million pounds by almost a third over the last twelve months to 10,613.
Just under a third of the streets with average property values over £1m are located in London (3,744) and there are now 12 streets with average house prices over £10 million, - all of which, unsurprisingly, are in London.
The average property on Kensington Palace Gardens, the most expensive street, is now worth £42,730,706 – that’s a remarkable 162 times the value of the average British home currently valued at £263,705 according to Zoopla.
The Boltons in SW10 takes second place on this year’s property rich list with average house prices standing at £26,570,341 and Grosvenor Crescent in SW1 rounds out the top three with average property prices of £22,293,470.
Outside of the capital, the most expensive street in Britain is Sunninghill Road in Surrey, where the average home is currently worth £5,605,067. The two most expensive towns outside London are both in Surrey, with average house prices in Virginia Water at £1,186,262 and Cobham at £1,003,400.
W8 (Kensington) remains London’s most prestigious postcode, with average property prices in the area of £2.78m. Neighbouring SW7 (Knightsbridge), the next most expensive area in the capital, has average values of £2.48m, while property values in third-placed SW3 (Chelsea) stand at £2.37m.
- Property Millionaires
- housing market
Here is this week's roundup of stories from Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, featuring stories on Purplebricks, Openrent and House Prices.
Rightmove claims its asking prices show a North-South divide in the housing market that is even starker than many anticipated - and has even produced yet another index to show it.
New figures released this morning on a county-by-county basis show that while average national asking prices, buoyed by London and the south of England, are now 8.2 per cent higher than the May 2008 peak, many other areas are still struggling badly.
On average, counties in the north of England have reported a decline of six per cent or more on 2008 levels - a sharp contrast to central London and the City, for example, where the average price of a property has increased by almost £500,000 in that time, up 41.9 per cent to £1,512,555.
The figures come to mark the release of a new Rightmove index - yes, yet another house price index - called the House Price Trendometer. It allows people to see how asking prices in their county have fared since Rightmove’s house price index began in 2001.
North of the Midlands all counties except Cheshire and north Yorkshire have reported a decline, with the biggest decrease occurring in County Durham, down 13.4 per cent from May 2008 to £114,554.
The data shows that nearly all of the national house price growth has come from London and the south of England, with all areas of the capital up at least 30 per cent in the past six years. Outside London the highest riser is Cambridgeshire, up 21.9 per cent to £311,933.
Other areas of strong growth outside of the capital include Surrey (up 16.1 per cent) and Berkshire (up 16.4 per cent).
If you think this brings to an end the flurry of new price indices which we have to choose from, think again - Estate Agent Today has heard that Hometrack is shortly bringing out an index of city prices.
- housing market
The latest franchise holder for Estates Direct, set up by Poundland founder Steve Smith, has set up business in Cardiff.
Smith - one of five key figures behind the Estates Direct business - says he has 130 people ready to take local franchises of his largely-online agency.
Terrence Barrett, Cardiff representative for Estates Direct says: "We are the first hybrid estate agent to open in the area and we are proud to be able to help property sellers and landlords bridge the gap between online and high street estate agents, at a low fixed fee.”
He claims the service “gives homeowners the chance to benefit from access to websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla, whilst receiving support from our team of local experts."
Smith earlier this year raised some £494,000 via crowdfunding to finance the expansion programme for the agency, which was launched in 2012.
EstatesDirect operates with a website as its shop window but then has what it describes as “qualified regional agents” to value property, prepare details, and handle appointments, valuations and viewings.
Smith says his service will be the UK’s largest single-branded estate agency network within five years.
- Steve Smith
The mystery of what the new Chestertons logo means has been solved - apparently it symbolishes an open door on London.
Leahy Brand Design, the creative consultancy which came up with the logo, has taken to the pages of Design Week to explain what the new look symbolises. Agents in rival firms have been speculating on the meaning of the relatively simply logo, which has an extended thin line from the ‘N’ towards the end of the name.
“Our original motivation for the brandmark was to build on the idea of ‘opening’ London.
Inspired by the trusty door and door handle, we created a brandmark that references this through playing with the relationship between the O and N” explains LBD managing director Tim Leahy.
LBD apparently conducted “in-depth partner interviews and audit workshops” which came up with the concept.
The new identity has been rolling out across Chestertons’ London branches and its international offices over the past three months, since the de-merger with sister company Humberts.
Meanwhile, the design firm behind Humberts’ more floral Laura Ashley-style logo has not broken cover to explain its thinking...