Estate Agent Today
Rightmove shares have had their ‘buy’ rating reiterated by investment analysts at Nomura which suggests there could be a potential one-third growth from the company’s current price.
Nomura has put a potential top value of about 3,000 on the stock, which is currently trading at around 2,200.
This latest status is one of 11 ‘buy’ assessments made by investment analysts on Rightmove in recent weeks. However, Jefferies Group, another analyst, has put a less enthusiastic ‘hold’ status on Rightmove - one of four analysts with that recommendation.
Some six weeks ago analysts at Barclays gave an ‘overweight’ rating on Rightmove’s shares; to date, no other analyst has endorsed that position, although Rightmove’s share price has been volatile in the past 12 months with a low of 2,046.9999 and a high of 2,814.
Analyses of this kind are of interest because of the large size of Rightmove’s market cap - approaching £2.2 billion - and because market observers want to see if it is affected by moves from next year’s challenger OnTheMarket.
The new portal, formerly Agents’ Mutual, is encouraging agents to de-list from Rightmove or its current rival portal, Zoopla.
An estate agent has been told he may face jail for defrauding clients of £40,000.
Paul Onslow, 45, ran Paul Onslow Estate Agency in Harlow, Essex. He pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court to one offence of fraudulently abusing his position as the proprietor of an estate agency business.
The fraud allegedly took place between 22 April 2008 and 22 April 2013 and involved approximately £40,000 of clients’ money which Onslow used for his own purposes.
Local press reports say the agent - who lives in Hertfordshire - has pleaded guilty to the charge, which relates to the financial affairs of 14 clients.
Judge Charles Gratwicke adjourned sentencing for reports until next month and remanded Onslow, who is of previous good character, on bail. He warned him that a jail sentence could not be ruled out saying: “All options remain open. It’s a large sum of money.”
- Paul Onslow Estate Agency
The head of an online agency has mocked the “old men” running the forthcoming OnTheMarket portal for banning online agents while allowing what he calls high-charging traditional agents some of which have “dire” customer service.
The chief executive of OnTheMarket, Ian Springett, has said he will not allow online agents’ properties to be listed on the new portal - formerly known as Agents’ Mutual - and has accused them of being “a bit of a con” and “parasitic”.
Now Adam Day, director of online service Hatched, says there is not the fundamental difference between online and traditional agents that Springett makes out.
“We have fully trained employees that visit and meet with clients at their properties, face to face. They measure up and take photos at every single property we market. We arrange the viewings, we get feedback, we negotiate to get the best price for the client and we see the sale through to the end. We just charge in a different way, which allows us to save clients around 80 per cent compared to a traditional estate agency” claims Day.
“We are members of the National Association of Estate Agents .... We are also recognised as estate agents according to the Estate Agents Act” he continues in an open letter.
Day concludes by saying: “It’s about time the estate agency market had a shake-up. And it’s about time the old men in their shiny suits, flash company cars and fat tie knots step aside. There’s a new, modern, 21st century wave of estate agents around.”
- Online Agents
Savills says values of homes in prime central London have plateaued after growing just 0.4 per cent in the second quarter of the year.
The agency’s research department says established prime central locations such as Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Belgravia and Chelsea, where average values are in the region of £2,100 to £2,400 per square foot, have all recorded quarterly growth below one per cent.
But relatively lower-priced areas such as Marylebone, where prices average £1,600 per square foot, rose 3.5 per cent in the same quarter.
Meanwhile at the very top end of the market, homes worth over £10 million fell by an average 1.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2014, meaning that London’s highest value homes on average saw zero growth on an annual basis in the 12 months to July.
However, values in these areas remain 48 per cent above their 2007 levels - a remarkable increase while most of the rest of the UK say property values plummet.
There may be worse to come, however. Savills says there will be a small one per cent fall on average in prices in prime central London in 2015 thanks to uncertainty over the result of next spring’s general election, and speculation over possible new property taxes for the wealthy.
- housing market
In his first major act as housing and planning minister, Brandon Lewis has promised 165,000 new houses and apartments will be constructed in the three years from 2015 in a programme which will “change the way homes are built in Britain.”
A fifth of the homes will be built with what Lewis calls “advanced housing manufacture” - pre-fabricated elements made in factories before being assembled on site. This technique is widely used elsewhere in Europe but only rarely in Britain, says Lewis.
A total of 214 affordable housing providers - mostly housing associations - have been earmarked to receive government funding for the new homes, a third of which will be in London. There will also be a £23 billion private financing programme.
“Housebuilding is an essential part of this government’s long-term economic plan. That’s why we have designed an ambitious new scheme to build affordable homes at the fastest rate for 20 years, which will support 165,000 jobs in construction and sustain thousands of small businesses” says Lewis.
Family estate agency David James says it is over the moon at winning naming rights for The Kop Stand at Notts County’s League One football ground.
“As ardent fans and local businessmen, it’s something that we’re very proud of and it means a lot to us" says the agency director, James Roys.
Local and national businesses pitched for the chance to take over the naming rights of The Kop Stand for the 2014-15 season. Representatives from each company placed their logo on the pitch and club manager Shaun Derry kicked a ball that decided the winner.
It landed closest to the David James Estate Agents logo. “As season ticket holders, we really wanted to do something that could associate our company with the club. We’re very proud of and it means a lot to us - it’s not just a commercial opportunity” says Roys.
Notts County commercial advisor Damian Irvine says the choice of a local family business “typifies the club’s focus on promoting and supporting local Nottinghamshire commerce and community.”
- David James Estate Agency
- Notts County
Rightmove is looking both ways over property values.
Its index of asking prices in July has shown the first fall of the year yet the portal believes price rises by the end of 2014 will be higher than expected, at an average of eight per cent.
Asking prices have fallen in the past month by 0.8 per cent, or an average of £2,116 it says.
“A fall in July is not unexpected as prospective buyers turn their attention to the summer holidays. Buyer confidence may also have taken a knock with suggestions that mortgages are becoming harder to get and repayments may get more costly sooner than originally anticipated should the rumours of an interest rate rise before the next election come true“ according to Rightmove housing analyst Miles Shipside.
The portal also reports speedier sales - the average time to sell has fallen to 65 days from 75 in same period last year. And the ripple effect is spreading, especially in southern regions, which have performed more strongly in terms of asking prices than areas further from the capital.
Yet despite this month’s dip in asking prices, Rightmove has upgraded its 2014 forecast. What it calls ‘new seller asking prices’ will now see an eight per cent annual increase despite MMR and occasional gloomy forecasts from Bank of England governor Mark Carney, according to Shipside.
“Market conditions still compare favourably with this time last year, with growth in both the economy and employment. The ‘year to move’ window looks likely to be open for a while longer yet, though we expect market activity will slow down in the run-up to the election in May next year” he says.
Estate agents appear to agree. Rightmove cites several backing the portal’s prediction on price rises.
Mark Manning of Manning Stainton in Yorkshire says that during the first half of the year “instructions were up by around seven per cent in our area, but sold volumes increased by 25 per cent, creating an imbalance in supply and demand. Mortgage Market Review has meant that on average sales are taking around three to four weeks longer to go through.”
Daren Haysom, a Foxtons rirector in east London, says: “We’re still experiencing quick sales times though and it’s not uncommon to see great properties going under offer within a day or two of coming to the market. Following annual trends in the market though we expect to see a full return in strength, from September onwards.”
- housing market
- Miles Shipside
A Surbiton estate agent has apologised for an email, apparently erroneously sent to a prospective tenant, describing her as “a tart” who may “bend over.“
Zoe Butler, 25, had asked KT Residential to view a property in the town with her boyfriend.
A Surbiton newspaper reports that KT Residential agent Daniel Grove replied by email, offering a viewing time. But beneath the message was another email, allegedly sent from a director of the company, stating: “Boss, want to do a l8 [late] viewing with this tart? She may bend over for you!”
Zoe Butler replied, asking: “Do you generally talk about your potential tenants like this?”
Grove responded with: “Not at all, it was an extremely immature and inappropriate comment made by my colleague on our internal system.”
No one from KT Residential was available to comment to Estate Agent Today but the newspaper article quotes the firm’s director, Daniel Dow, as saying: “I will have to deny I wrote the email. I guess I could have been hacked. It could be someone trying to frame me. There are people out there who might want to tarnish my name. I think the best thing to do is apologise if anything has come out that has upset someone.”
Zoe Butler said the statements in the email made her feel “very small and upset.”
- KT Residential
A London estate agent says he is worried at the prospect of a possible law change in the autumn removing the need for planning consent before letting out a residential property for less than 90 days.
The government is considering the move in September and central London agency Martin Bikhit of Kay & Co says that although the initiative may benefit the market across much of the country, it does not take account of the capital’s needs.
“It will cause a severe lack of longer term permanent residential accommodation. The number of people prepared to pay very high rents for short term lets will tend to push out would-be long term tenants and owner occupiers. Permitting short term rents will effectively blight properties, turning blocks into badly managed hotels and resulting in long term residents having to put up with anti-social noise, lack of security and loss of neighbourliness” he says.
Bikhit also warns that the move may create potential issues with prostitutes and housing benefit fraudsters, and an increase in unauthorised rubbish dumping.
Westminster council has recently written to the government saying that it wants local planning controls over this issue to be retained. It says the major impacts of short term letting will be felt in central London’s apartment blocks, flats, and estates, even if it may benefit rental markets outside of the capital.
- Kay & Co
- Short Lets
Newton Fallowell has merged with Hartleys to become the largest independent agency across the East Midlands with a combined network of 25 offices.
Now stretching across Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, the two firms will nonetheless remain trading under their existing, different, brand names and will retain all staff at existing branches for the time being.
Under the deal, Gary Hartley - the former England rugby international who founded the four-branch Hartley chain in 1995 - will become an executive director of Newton Fallowell. Meanwhile Newton Fallowell, founded by chief executive Mark
Newton in 1999, has 21 branches and 150 staff.
The merger has grown out of a long standing friendship between Hartley and Newton, who worked together as chartered surveyors in the 1980s, before each setting up their respective businesses.
The Hartleys lettings business is not included in the agreement, and will continue to trade as a stand-alone business, with Gary Hartley remaining as senior partner.
- Newton Fallowell
- east midlands
The Guardian - a national newspaper perhaps best-known for spelling errors - has taken a swipe at agents’ details and language in a column giving seven tips to “how to talk like an estate agent”.
It claims agents communicate in a dialect renowned for its “strangulated syntax, peculiar vocabulary and breathtaking insouciance, dancing on a rhetorical knife-edge between salesmanship and fraudulence.”
Its seven tips are:
1. Euphemise relentlessly - “compact” instead of tiny, “in an imposing building” for a brutalist tower block, and “an opportunity to put your own stamp on" meaning a disgusting wreck.
2. Use the magic get-out clause - the paper says frequent use of “in our opinion" insulates agents from subsequent legal complaint.
3. Accentuate the positive - especially by using the words “benefits from...”
4. Try to sound formal - using pompous phrases like in the case of a flat that "offers ample space to maximise your lifestyle requirements".
5. If in doubt, add "-ed" - as in, a two-bedroomed flat, which to The Guardian sounds better than a plain old two-bedroom flat.
6 Be geographically optimistic - the paper claims this means cases where homes in locations termed as Muswell Hill actually extend way beyond the M25.
7. Finally, employ cliches that no one can possibly contradict - well, maybe the paper has a point here with the use of "ever popular" and "light and airy".
- estate agents
- The Guardian
The market may be slowing now but the number of first-time buyers in the first six months of the year reached their highest level since 2007.
There were an estimated 144,500 first-time buyers in the first six months of 2014, an increase of 25 per cent on the same period last year. For the third successive year the number of first-time buyers, in the first half of the year, has been over 100,000, representing the strongest performance, for this period, since the start of the downturn.
Figures from the Halifax show that almost two-thirds of all first-time buyer purchases since the New Year have been above the £125,000 stamp duty threshold - unsurprisingly, given recent house price increases, this is up from 51 per cent a year earlier.
The average first-time buyer’s deposit is now £31,129, up nine per cent on a year ago; in Greater London that typical FTB deposit soars to £76,435 whereas in the north west it is just £16,532.
The average deposit, as a proportion of the purchase price, has almost doubled from 10 per cent in 2007 to 19 per cent now.
The average age of a first-time buyer is 30, up from 28 in 2009. Regionally, the average age of a first-time buyer is highest in London, at 32. In northern England and Wales it is slightly lower at 28.
- housing market
- firsttime buyers
The Property Redress Scheme, a firm currently acting as one of three approved redress bodies for the lettings sector, has been given the go-ahead to serve as an ombudsman-style scheme for sales agents as well.
“The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team in Powys has given us approval and will be making a formal announcement in the next day or so” explains Sean Hooker, who is the ombudsman working at the company. The NTSEAT declined to make any official comment when approached by Estate Agent Today.
Property Redress Scheme is operated by insurance company Hamilton Fraser, which also runs Mydeposits on behalf of the National Landlords Association.
Hooker says the PRS will operate the same two-tier fee structure for estate agents as it currently does for lettings agents starting with an ‘entry’ service at £95 per branch.
In the event of a complaint, the member agent will be given 10 working days to resolve the issue before Property Redress Scheme intervenes. But the PRS company will then charge the member agent a flat fee of £60 or £90 for the resulting investigation.
The second tier - called the ‘enhanced’ service - will be a £199 per branch flat fee, for which there would be no additional charges in the event of complaints.
The firm says it has the right “as a very last resort” to move a member agent from ‘enhanced’ back to ‘entry’ if there are too many complaints to handle for the flat fee.
The Property Ombudsman and Ombudsman Services are the two existing redress bodies for estate agents; now Property Redress Scheme is the third.
- Property Redress Scheme
- The Property Ombudsman
- National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team
The remains of Humberts, which de-merged from high-profile Chestertons earlier this year and sold its lettings operation to Hamptons International just two weeks ago, finally relaunches tomorrow.
Humberts now consists of only 24 branch offices in locations such as Honiton and Bridport.
Humberts’ 800-unit residential rental and management portfolio was sold to Hamptons for an undisclosed sum, while the solo Chestertons brand now operates 29 offices in the lucrative market within the M25 as well as 20 international offices around the world.
Humberts has 230 staff left in place and a new managing director, Ian Westerling. His predecessor - Stephen Kendall - held the position for a matter of weeks during the split from Chestertons, but still remains on the Humberts board.
Westerling says the new pastel-coloured branding, unveiled on the firm's website yesterday evening, “reflects our 172 year heritage.” A formal ceremony launching the rebrand takes place tomorrow at the CLA Game Fair.
Meanwhile Chestertons is itself on the market. The firm has hired advisers from Cavendish Corporate Finance to manage the disposal, with the firm believed to be valued at about £50m. Chestertons is majority-owned by the investment firm Mercantile Group.
- Hamptons International
Zoopla’s near-£1 billion float and the high-end agents who have created OnTheMarket may be just poor relations compared to the wealth tapped by a hard-to-access online private house sales service called Posh.
Operated by financial information service Bloomberg, Posh is a classified ads service for the super-rich. There are 12 sections, four of which are given to real estate - one section is dedicated solely to London property, with others dedicated to homes in Tokyo or New York.
It is hard to access because it requires users to have subscribed - at a reported $20,000 a year - to Bloomberg’s data services, which then gives consent to view the classified screens.
Presentation of the details of properties on sale is poor, with screen displays resembling the old Ceefax teletext pages instead of featuring hi-res images and floorplans.
But the contents are aimed at ultra high net worth users, almost exclusively working in the world’s major financial centres. And whisper it quietly, but any successful private sales will mean no commission will have been paid to agents.
Bloomberg will shortly be launched additional online classified services including Dine, Fly and Hotel.
- Online Marketing
Steve Smith, the entrepreneur who founded Poundland, says he now has 130 people ready to take local franchises of his EstatesDirect.com online agency.
Smith, who set up Poundland with a £50,000 loan before selling it over a decade later for £50m, is turning his existing local agency into a national company, using cash raised earlier this year via crowdfunding to finance the process.
Some £494,000 was raised in April, including one investment of over £200,000.
EstatesDirect first launched online in some parts of the UK in 2012 and has had mixed fortunes, letting and selling only 450 properties since that time, but now it aims to become a nationwide service with a fixed fee. It says it will “bridge the gap between online and high street agents.”
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.
“We know that homeowners and landlords still value the knowledge and service they receive from experts in the field” Smith says.
Smith says his service will be the UK’s largest single-branded estate agency network within five years.
- Online Agents
- Steve Smith
A lobby group claims London buyers could face a 36 per cent leap in stamp duty later this year if capital appreciation means the average price of a home in the capital tops the £500,001 mark.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance claims that, based on Office of National Statistics figures, the average house price in London will shortly enter the four per cent stamp duty category.
The capital’s prices have risen 20 per cent in the year to May according to the ONS, taking a typical home to £492,000. Even at that level, a buyer would have to fork out £14,760 in tax.
But the group claims that if prices rise just another 1.7 per cent to £500,364 the stamp duty bill, breaking the four per cent threshold, will rocket to £20,014, an increase of 36 per cent.
Property consultancy JLL claims that the Treasury will pocket an extra £85m in taxes over the next year if average-priced London properties rise to above the £500,001 level.
- housing market
- stamp duty
It just doesn’t stop. Each Friday we give a brief round-up of agents' charity work, and summer sunshine has only encouraged more of you, it seems.
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.
Macmillan Cancer Support: For the past six months staff at Country Properties in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire have been busy raising over £13,000 for the charity. It will fund 481 hours of care by a Macmillan Nurse – allowing cancer patients to be pain free for this amount of time.
The main form of fundraising has been to donate £10 per sale/let board erected which has raised over £10,000 so far. Each board that goes up has a Macmillan sign attached so not only are Country Properties raising money but also raising vital awareness for the charity.
The Baldock and Royston offices recently took part in local events to raise money, the Stevenage office raised £1,100 by organising a quiz night, staff from Welwyn Garden City are driving an old banger to Monte Carlo. The Stotfold office is organising a fun day, the Ampthill office is staging a tug of war, and most other offices are hosting music events, curry nights and go karting events. Fantastic work!
Agents Giving: Reeds Rains has just completed a series of corporate roadshows across the UK for staff, each featuring a raffle competition which collectively raised £2,500 for Agents Giving.
Tickets were sold at each regional event, in Bexley, Ashton-Under-Lyne, Warrington and Harrogate, up and down the high-street, to local people, clients as well as the Reeds Rains agents. The raffle prizes were donated by local retailers and included champagne and luxury hampers as well as meals at local restaurants.
Peter Knight, chairman of Agents Giving, says “it’s such a simple idea, but effective – coupling your roadshow events with other activities, right at the heart of the community.”
The Friends of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment: Nick Goble of Winkworth in Battersea has asked us to publicise this fine charity, set up to raise funds and provide support for the soldiers of The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, one of the most decorated Infantry Regiments in the British Army.
Between the tidal window of July 19 and 27 a team of six swimmers and one on standby from the regiment - including both regular soldiers and reservists - will be swimming the English Channel to raise funds for the Friends and other local charities.
It’s not for the feint hearted, with intense cold and sometimes hourly tidal changes as well as over 600 commercial ship movements and 80 to 100 ferry crossings between Dover and Calais every day. This makes it one of the world’s hardest swims.
The goal is to raise £10,000 or more. If you wish to contribute, visit www.justgiving.com/teams/PWRR-Tiger-Sharks
- estate agents
- Estate Agent Today
The Agents Mutual portal has announced that it is to be called On The Market when it launches in 2015.
Although the Agents’ Mutual website this morning still bears the old name, the announcement by the firm - made online - also says the portal has purchased both the .co.uk and .com internet domain names.
As is the norm for a new site launch, it has also purchased ‘type-alike’ names - misspelt versions of the title.
Chief executive Ian Springett says an announcement will be made shortly on who will handle the portal’s public relations; they are currently managed in an ad hoc fashion by agents and staff from two of its six founding companies, Knight Frank and Douglas & Gordon. No details have been given of the new portal's advertising budget or programme.
On The Market will seek to challenge the existing portals, Zoopla and Rightmove, when it launches in January 2015.
- agents mutual
- On The Market
Breathe a sigh of relief - Bank of England governor Mark Carney says there are no new measures which he has left to intervene in the housing market.
Carney, speaking to MPs at the Treasury Select Committee in the Commons yesterday, said it was necessary for the Bank’s Financial Policy Committee to cap mortgages last month because it was not sustainable for house prices to continue rising faster than wages.
The governor explained that the 15 per cent cap on risky loans could be raised and the current cap on loans above 4.5 times income could be modified, but that “we are not currently looking at additional measures”.
However, he did reveal that the Bank is currently analysing individual banks and building societies to see if they could cope with a worst case scenario of a 35 per cent drop in house prices, sharply deteriorating unemployment levels, and a three year recession.
Carney spoke also about buy-to-let in response to one MP’s query about whether there were sufficient constraints on mortgages in that sector of the market. Carney replied: “We are well aware that buy-to-let is a safety value that may need to be released.”
He told members that buy-to-let represented around 15 per cent of all mortgages, in line with long-term averages. He said there had been no shift in underwriting standards with most borrowers making deposits of around 25 per cent, again in line with historic averages.
- housing market
- Bank of England
- Mark Carney