Estate Agent Today
Hometrack’s monthly house price index for England and Wales, made up of data from between 2,000 and 3,000 agents, has been scrapped after 14 years.
It now transpires that the index results issued last week for the month of September will be the last; instead, Hometrack will issue an index looking specifically at cities.
The old-style index was first published in the year 2000 and was initially criticised by some London-based high-end agents who claimed its data was flawed because of poor reliability and alleged dishonesty of contributing agents who would use it to talk up the market.
The perception of the index changed when Hometrack poached the then-head of Savills research, Richard Donnell, and when the firm decided to handle its media relations in-house.
The questionnaire on which the house price index was based was then refined to 11 standard questions which include the time to sell, changes in demand and supply, sales agreed, the proportion of the asking price being achieved and pricing levels.
The index became known for clever marketing - for example, Hometrack would embargo its December figures for Boxing Day, in the knowledge that newspapers and broadcasters would be short of news and that the rest of the property industry was on holiday.
But in recent years the Hometrack index has become lost in the noise of the dozens of other house price and sentiment indices which are issued by agents, consultancies, mortgage lenders and industry organisations.
The new City index, which will appear for the first time at the end of this month, will be an attempt to regain the initiative in data supplied to the residential market.
Hometrack’s new PR agents, Edelman, describes the index as “the only index of its kind and will for the first time unveil data specific to 20 UK cities. These localised indices are a key component of Hometrack’s automated valuation model, which has a 12 year pedigree and is utilised by four of the five top lenders in the UK. This series of highly granular indices has remained proprietary to Hometrack and unpublished to date.”
- House Price Indices
- Richard Donnell
The Bank of England has slightly relaxed some of the mortgage constraints it discussed at the start of summer, in response to the cooling housing market.
In June the Bank's Financial Policy Committee recommended that "as soon as practicable" no more than 15 percent of mortgages should be at, or greater than, 4.5 times a borrower's income. It went out to consultation with the mortgage industry on this proposal.
However, Reuters reports that the final regulations - issued yesterday - stated that the Bank’s Prudential Regulation Authority had proposed that firms which report less than £100m of new mortgage lending a year would escape the net.
This will avoid a "disproportionate" impact on "niche" lenders the PRA said.
The news has been greeted enthusiastically by the Council of Mortgage Lenders.
"We’re pleased that the PRA listened to the CML and other organisations who argued that the high loan-to-income lending limit was anomalous for niche lenders in the high net worth lending market. While it is not yet entirely clear how this approach will affect individual lenders, it’s a clear improvement on the original implementation proposal" says CML director general Paul Smee.
- Bank of England
JLL, one of the world’s largest residential sector companies, has announced what it calls a ‘merger’ with the single office central London sales and lettings agency W A Ellis.
Although well-known for sales in the new-build sector, including some developments in prime central London, this move now gives in a foothold in the high-fees sector of sales, re-sales and lettings.
W A Ellis currently specialises in Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Belgravia re-sales, lettings, property management and valuation. Five of the six equity partners will take up what JLL calls “key roles” within the larger company with a sixth moving his team into the existing residential valuation business.
The employees will integrate “with immediate effect” although W A Ellis will continue with its brand for what the announcement calls “a period of time.”
Andrew Frost, head of residential for JLL, will continue to lead the now-enlarged residential business within the UK. Guy Grainger, JLL CEO, says his firm is “marrying a well-established and highly respected agency business” which “fits with our wider strategy.”
- W A Ellis
A business which prospered under the title Isis Estate Agents has now changed its name to avoid any connection with the terrorist group known as Isis.
Oxford businessman Rowan Waller has now changed the company’s name to Wallers of Oxford after a failed campaign to get national media outlets to change the name it applied to the terrorist group now active in Iraq and Syria.
Isis is also the name given by Oxford residents to that part of the River Thames which runs through the city north of Iffley Lock; the word also has long-standing connections with rowing activities on the river and with parts of Oxford University.
“I decided for the sake of my own sleep patterns I couldn’t risk waiting to see if it all blows over. I realised a couple of weeks ago that I could just see the news was likely to get worse and worse” Waller told the Oxford Mail newspaper.
“Like it or not Isis is going to be a name on people’s minds and lips for the wrong reason, and I think our sentimental name for the river will be a victim of that” he says.
- Isis Estate Agents
- Wallers of Oxford
The eight-office Aspire estate agency in south west London has rebranded for the first time in 11 years to play on the aspirational theme of its name.
Director Matthew Dabell says since the launch of the agency in 2003 the company has expanded and its client demographic in south west London changing significantly.
“The property industry is a competitive market. There are a multitude of agencies out there all occupying the same ground – our rebrand gives us the opportunity to broadcast how we can really add value to the process” explains Dabell.
Like several other agencies in recent years, Aspire has used orange in a bid to make its For Sale boards stand out.
“We based the new brand around what the word Aspire means: to aim for, to desire, to want. The triangular symbols are used as a device to communicate this 'aspirational' theme while making a subtle nod to the A [in Aspire]” according to Chris Wigan of Ideas Factory, the firm behind the new design.
- Matthew Dabell
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is the latest big-brand organisation to move into online property, with plans to acquire the US website giant Move for $950 million.
Move operates a network of US property sale, rental and services websites including Move.com, realtor.com, Moving.com, Newhomesource.com and SeniorHousingNet.com. Most of these involves sales and rentals but some include historic price and sales data.
Together they claim 20 million visitors monthly and ComScore, an internat consultancy, says consumers spend more than 410 million minutes a month on Move’s websites.
News Corp’s initiative will hold an 80 per cent stake in the business, with REA Group Limited - majority-owned by News Corp and already operating an Australian residential property website - will hold the other 20 per cent.
In excess of five million homes are bought and sold in the US each year. Estate agents and brokers are expected to spend approximately $14 billion this year on marketing homes, with a further US $11 billion to be spent by mortgage providers.
“This acquisition will accelerate News Corp’s digital and global expansion and contribute to the transformation of our company, making online real estate a powerful pillar of our portfolio,” Robert Thomson, News Corporation’s chief executive, said in a statement.
“We intend to use our media platforms and compelling content to turbocharge traffic growth and create the most successful real estate website in the US” he says. That is interpreted to mean that exchanges of databases and cross-referencing will go on between Move websites and other News Corp outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal.
This would be the equivalent of, for example, News Corp’s purchase of a major UK property portal or website and cross-referencing it with the Sun and/or The Times in a bid to maximise reach and impact.
News Corp’s move in the UK comes two months after Zillow, America’s giant online real-estate listings service, announced it was buying the rival Trulia service for $3.5 billion.
- News Corp
- Online Estate Agents
Cluttons has recruited one of Britain’s top international agents, Joanna Leverett, to be its head of international residential markets where she will lead UK and global sales.
Leverett joins from Savills, where she spent eight years, most recently as head of international new developments. Previously, she was also responsible for building and managing Savills’ network of global associates and preferred agents.
In her new role, Leverett will lead UK and international sales with a particular focus on linking with the Middle East, where Cluttons is already a major player.
She will also work with Cluttons branches across Asia Pacific, Europe, India and South Africa, and will lead the proposed expansion of Cluttons international residential network.
In a statement, Leverett said it was an exciting time to join Cluttons as it “continues to expand its international presence and client reach. The business is already market leading in London and the Middle East.”
- Joanna Leverett
The missing US estate agent Beverly Carter has been found dead, buried in a shallow grave in Arkansas.
The search for Mrs Carter had been going on since last Thursday when she did not return home from an appointment to show a home to a potential buyer.
On Monday police arrested Arron Lewis on suspicion of kidnapping Mrs Carter; it is expected that this charge will now be amended to murder.
Lewis is reported to have admitted abducting the realtor but he did not reveal her wherabouts. Police said they then received information leading them to the address where her body was found.
Mrs Carter’s car was found abandoned but without her personal belongings having been removed.
Her family then received a series of text messages purporting to be from her, but appearing out of character.
The first was just one word: "Yes." The next said: "My phone's low. The battery's down, and I'll call you whenever I get signal." The final message read: "Oh, I'm out drinking with some friends" although Mrs Carter was not a drinker.
American agents have been urged by the National Association of Realtors to uphold the memory of Beverly Carter by keeping safe and watching out for each other.
In this country the Suzy Lamplugh Trust was set up after the disappearance of 25-year-old agent Suzy Lamplugh. She has been presumed murdered and was legally declared dead in 1993. To date her body has not been found.
The trust now campaigns for general personal safety, not solely for agents. It has recently called for rethinks on cutbacks on street lighting by local authorities, and on the potential dangers of illegal minicabs.
Average house prices in England increased by 1.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2014 and were up 12.8 per cent year-on-year according to the Nationwide - but the society emphasises that the rate of growth is slowing in most areas.
However the gap between the North and South persists. Prices in the south of England were up 15.3 per cent year-on-year while in the north prices rose just 6.7%. Price growth in the south has now exceeded that of the north for 22 consecutive quarters.
London was once again the best performing region with prices up 21.0 per cent over the last 12 months. The north of England was the weakest performing English region, with annual growth of 4.3 per cent.
Amongst England’s other major towns and cities, St. Albans was the top performer, with prices up 24 per cent year-on-year. Newcastle was the worst performing city, up a mere four per cent.
London saw a softening in annual price growth from 25.8 per cent in Q2 to 21.0 per cent in Q3. Average prices remain in excess of £400,000 and are now 31 per cent above their 2007 pre-downturn peak.
But Nationwide says the annual pace of growth in the capital will probably continue to slow in the quarters ahead, given the high base for comparison in the next few quarters and also anecdotal evidence from surveyors and estate agents that activity may be starting to moderate.
Amongst London’s boroughs, Camden saw the strongest growth, with a remarkable 42 per cent year-on-year increase in average prices.
Wales was one of only two regions to see a quarter-on-quarter fall in house prices in Q3, with a 0.8 per cent decline and with the annual rate of growth softening to just 5.0 per cent.
Annual price growth in Scotland remained relatively stable at 5.2 per cent. Aberdeen City was the best performing area, with prices up 12 per cent on the previous year.
House prices in Northern Ireland were up 10.2 per cent in the past three months compared with Q3 2013. However, average prices are still nearly 50 per cent below their 2007 peak.
Belfast remains the most expensive area and says the biggest growth in the past year -= up 21 per cent.
- NorthSouth Divide
- housing market
The UKIP candidate who was challenging Tory housing minister Brandon Lewis at next year’s general election is standing down to fight allegations of electoral fraud.
Matthew Smith - who is already a UKIP county councillor in Norfolk - is to go on trial in January in a case relating to the county council elections in May of last year.
Smith, who describes himself on his Twitter profile as “a handsome devil”, used to be a senior Conservative activist in the Great Yarmouth constituency and worked with Brandon Lewis in the 2010 general election, when Lewis took the seat from Labour.,
Smith was himself selected in May 2013 by UKIP to fight the seat in the 2015 poll and told the local press “I do fancy my chances. Victory is not beyond the realms of possibility.”
But in his speech standing down, Smith said: “I will continue to fight this case knowing that I am innocent of all charges and I have been thankful for the continuing support given by you....I believe that I owe it to the branch to step down to ensure we can democratically select a local branch candidate in due course, who is free from such distractions and to best ensure our victory.”
However, the demise of Smith’s campaign does not mean victory will be plain sailing for the housing minister next year. UKIP holds the balance of power on Great Yarmouth council and the seat is one of eight held by Tories and believed to be targeted by UKIP.
- Brandon Lewis
- Great Yarmouth
The National Association of Estate Agents is sticking to its guns insisting that first time buyers represent only 20 per cent of recorded sales.
Indeed in its latest figures - just released but applying to sales in August - the association claims the number of buyers aged between 18 and 30 remains is just three per cent. Implicitly, this suggests its other first time buyers are aged above 30.
“It’s evident that first time buyers are indeed getting older with the majority of home buyers this month aged 31 to 40. If interest rates do rise, the majority of NAEA members agreed that this will affect the demand for property” according to Mark Hayward, NAEA managing director.
The average number of house hunters registering with NAEA agents increased slightly, from an average of 368 house hunters in July to 372 in August.
Mark Hayward says this yet again emphasises “the need for the government to take action and ensure measures are in place for more new homes to be built to address the housing shortage.”
Last month the NAEA robustly defended its first time buyer data after a Twitterstorm during which an analyst from Savills described the association’s figures as “bonkers” and agents were sharply critical of the validity of the data.
Only yesterday Estate Agent Today reported figures from LSL Property Services showing that the number of first-time buyer completions across the UK rose by just over seven per cent in the 12 months to the end of August.
There were 28,300 first-time buyer completions in August itself, 7.2 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier. It was the third consecutive month in which first-time buyer completions topped 28,000 according to LSL.
At the time NAEA president Simon Gerrard told Estate Agent Today some of the criticism from agents was based on envy that the association had secured so much publicity from its FTB claims.
- First Time Buyers
- housing market
Knight Frank is to open seven new offices in London and the south east of England in time for next spring’s prime selling season.
The high-end international agency - owned by its partners and operating 335 offices in 52 countries - made the expansion announcement on the back of a dramatic 33 per cent leap in profits in 2013/14 to £136.6m, up from £102.7m the previous year.
Sales in the year increased by 12 per cent to £392.7m. The agency has net cash balances of £141.7m, up from £105.1m in 2012. Knight Frank’s group chairman and senior partner, Alistair Elliott, said it benefitted from acting on several high profile residential and commercial property deals abroad and in the UK.
Like the handful of companies selling homes in the ultra-prime sector, Knight Frank sees itself increasingly as a global operating. Earlier this month it announced a strategic alliance with Douglas Elliman, a New York high-end realty business specialising in selling homes priced at $1.5m and above.
Meanwhile Foxtons has just opened a new office in Tooting - its 50th in London under the Foxtons brand - and will this coming weekend open in Wapping. Nic Budden, chief operating officer, says the firm has been operating in both areas for some years, albeit from neighbouring offices.
Finally Haus Properties - the agency operated by former Apprentice star Jamie Lester - is set to open its third West London office early next year. Its first office opened in Fulham in November 2011, followed by Chiswick in May 2012. Its third office will be in Shepherd’s Bush. The agency claims to be doubling its revenue each year.
- knight frank
- housing market
A range of media reports suggest that Labour is in disarray over the mansion tax, with some senior figures within the party being critical of the proposal.
A former Labour housing minister, Nick Raynsford, the MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, is quoted as saying the proposal outlined at last week’s Labour conference is “good politics but bad policy". Instead, he wants a revaluation of council tax bands - they have remained unchanged for 23 years now - to create extra bands for the highest-value properties.
He claims the current system, under which people in properties worth just over £320,000 pay the same council tax as those in homes worth tens of millions, was "grossly unfair."
Margaret Hodge, now best known for her chairing of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, is reported to have described the mansion tax as “a punishment tax” for those who live in London and have seen the values of their properties grow in recent years.
Tessa Jowell, a possible candidate for the Labour nomination for the 2016 Mayor’s election, says: "Take one of the many elderly couples living in my constituency in Dulwich, who might have bought a house 30 years ago and are now living on pensions and are asset rich but income poor. No mansion tax should drive them from their homes."
Meanwhile David Lammy, another London Labour MP and another candidate to win the party’s nomination for the next Mayor’s election, says council tax revaluation is his preferred way of raising revenue through property taxation.
- Mansion Tax
- Nick Raynsford
Agents’ Mutual has dismissed speculation that there is private equity involvement in the firm, after questions were raised about the ownership of the domain names for its new OnTheMarket website.
In recent months the comments sections of Estate Agent Today and other online industry news services have included entries raising questions about the ownership of names and domain names OnTheMarket, OnTheMarket.co.uk, OnTheMarket.uk and
These names were registered as being owned by Vespa Capital Partners Ltd and the Agents’ Mutual chief executive Ian Springett was named as the 'Intellectual Property Office representative name'.
One of the comments on Estate Agent Today asked: “Is it fair to consider there are some discretionary funders behind this venture other than the participating agents?”
However, the challenger portal has batted off the suggestion, saying the Agents’ Mutual title was not used at first to avoid the firm showing its hand.
Ian Springett told Estate Agent Today: “We did not want the trading name applications or domain acquisitions associated with Agents’ Mutual in the pre-announcement period so applied/acquired using a variety of vehicles available to us. All OnTheMarket brand assets will be transferred to and owned by Agents Mutual Ltd in due course.”
In fact Vespa Capital Partners - the name and address of which appears on the Intellectual Property Office certificate for the website names and domains - is a business support company owned by the Vespa Capital private equity firm, but separate from it.
There is no overlap of staff, and Partners split from Vespa Capital in 2007.
A spokeswoman for Vespa Capital has told Estate Agent Today that "we absolutely have no financial involvement with, nor financial stake in, Agents Mutual whatsoever, nor have we in the past."
Vespa Capital Partners offers business support and has several clients with no financial or other connection with Vespa Capital.
- Agents’ Mutual
- Private Equity
- Ian Springett
The Help To Buy equity loan scheme has generated 32,268 sales since its launch in April last year, latest government figures show.
This is the version of HTB where the government lends up to 20 per cent of the value of a property in the form of an equity loan; buyers have to find a five per cent deposit and secure a mortgage to cover the other 75 per cent of the cost. It applies only to new-builds costing under £600,000 but is open to existing home owners as well as first time buyers.
The total number is up from the 29,829 sales recorded to the end of July.
DCLG's latest figures cover the period from April 1 2013 to August 31 this year, and show once again that the majority of the sales were actually to first time buyers at 84 per cent of total transactions. The average purchase price was £210,269.
The top six local authorities for equity loan legal completions were Wiltshire at 557, Leeds (539), Central Bedfordshire (504), Peterborough (447), Milton Keynes (425) and Bedford (388).
- First Time Buyers
- help to buy
Strutt & Parker, which next month stages a national Open House Day, says there has been a 28 per cent increase in vendors agreeing to take part and a 41 per cent rise in viewers since the firm first used this sales technique five years ago.
Converted into offers received as a direct result from the event, the figure has grown from £42m in 2009 to £81m this year.
The technique gained notoriety early this year when some London agents were accused of unfairly exerting pressure on purchasers with short-notice mass-viewings, sometimes for as little as one hour and with only one day’s advance warning.
Strutts’ version is more sedate and involves all their participating properties across the country being ‘open’ from 10am to 3pm on the same day, October 11 - a date fixed some weeks ahead.
At its last event, on April 5, it had over 650 properties taking part resulting in collective offers worth over £81 million from buyers across the UK.
- strutt & Parker
- Open House
- housing market
A solicitor who stole nearly £1m in tax by falsifying property conveyancing documents and lying to his clients has been sentenced to 10 years jail after an investigation by HMRC.
Shameer Sacranie, 40, from Leicester, fled the country after his arrest in December 2011.
HMRC’s investigations revealed that he had altered legal documents to reduce the amount of stamp duty due on 139 properties bought by his clients. Sacranie then charged his clients for stamp duty in excess of the fraudulently reduced amounts and pocketed the difference.
Stuart Taylor, assistant director in the criminal investigation division of the HMRC, says Sacranie knew only too well what the consequences of his actions would be.
“To abuse the trust of his clients was a despicable act, stealing money that had been paid by them in good faith to meet their tax liabilities. [The] sentence should serve as a reminder to those who hold positions of trust that the justice system takes a firm line on those who fall foul of the law.”
Sacranie had been due to appear at Nottingham Crown Court but absconded and was sentenced in his absence. A bench warrant has been issued for his arrest.
- Rogue Solicitor
The number of first-time buyer completions across the UK rose by just over seven per cent in the 12 months to the end of August according to data from LSL Property Services.
There were 28,300 first-time buyer completions in August itself, 7.2 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier. It was the third consecutive month in which first-time buyer completions topped 28,000.
The average purchase price for a first-time buyer property was £151,942 in August, some 3.5 per cent higher than twelve months ago.
Over the same period, the average first-time buyer mortgage climbed 5.9 per cent to £124,828 helped by an increase in higher LTV lending. The average first-time buyer deposit was £27,114 in August, 6.2 per cent lower than in August 2013.
The latest e.surv Mortgage Monitor shows higher LTV lending continues growing in strength. There were 11,300 loans to borrowers with a deposit worth 15 per cent or less of the total value of their property in August 2014 accounting for around one in six of all house purchase lending – the highest proportion since October 2008.
- LSL Property Services
- First Time Buyers
The Conveyancing Association almost scored a clean sweep at the Law Firm Services Conveyancing Awards, taking five of the six top gongs.
Ramsdens received the gold award in the Overall Conveyancer of the Year, with Stephensons and Convey Law receiving silver and bronze.
Thomas Legal Group were presented with the award for best Estate Agency Conveyancing Firm and the award was presented by Nat Daniels of Angels Media, publisher of Estate Agency Today and Letting Agent Today.
Napthens was the winner of the Regional Conveyancing Firm for the North West while Emily Eldrige from Conveyancing Direct was chosen as the winner of Young Conveyancer 2014.
The sell-out dinner and ceremony - the sixth event of its kind - took place at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry following a day-long conference including a Question Time debate with four of the major lenders plus several other high profile speakers.
- Law Firm Services
- Conveyancing Association
Watch the latest weekly video roundup of news from Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, featuring stories on the Labour's Mansion Tax, the Wilson's BTL portfolio and Scottish rents.
- Estate Agent Today
- Weekly Round Up