Estate Agent Today
Savills has topped the real estate category in the UK Business Superbrand chart for the sixth consecutive year.
This time it beat off competition from BNP Paribas Real Estate, Jones Lang LaSalle, Knight Frank and Strutt & Parker. In addition, the firm was ranked 119 in the overall league table of the top 500 business Superbrands across all sectors, jumping 32 places from its position last year.
The Business Superbrands survey is run by The Centre for Brand Analysis, involving 2,000 business professionals selecting brands which most effectively promote three elements - high quality, reliability and trust, and distinctive services.
Meanwhile Savills, which in its latest press release has refined its description of itself to “ a leading global real estate service provider” has announced a new team called London Development Consultancy and Sales.
Headed by Paul McGowan, formerly of West Register, the team will concentrate on residential development consultancy and new homes sales in London regeneration projects.
There has been a dramatic rise in planning permissions for new homes across England in another indicator that the housing market is strengthening.
Figures from the House Builders’ Federation show that planning permission was granted for 52,534 new homes in the final quarter of last year, the highest quarterly total since the first quarter of 2008, after which housebuilders reined in because of the downturn.
In detail the figures show:
- Q4 permissions were up 19 per cent on the previous quarter;
- full-year 2013 permissions were up 24 per cent on 2012 and 51 per cent on 2011;
- 885 sites were granted approval, the highest quarterly total since Q1 2008;
- 51 per cent more permissions were granted in 2013 than at the ‘trough’ in 2011.
But the HBF admits that much of this recent surge is down confidence based on the success of Help To Buy, and the organisation strikes a warning note to the government.
The HBF says Help To Buy is delivering 2,500 reservations a month but “its success demonstrates clearly why Government needs to start planning now to ensure it phases out the scheme is a way that is sensitive to the prevailing economic climate, doesn’t damage the market and threaten momentum” says a federation spokesman.
The government plans to end Help To Buy in April 2016.
- help to buy
- Planning Consent
A Sussex estate agent is the latest to call for a ban on For Sale and To Let signs - in this case he wants them outlawed across Brighton and Hove.
“This is a contentious issue with some agents who want them and a large percentage of the public who don’t. But there are plenty of other ways to advertise properties these days” explains Marc Cox, sales director at the Mishon Mackay agency’s Hove office.
“You don’t need to spoil the look of a street in order to find a buyer. Too many boards have a negative effect on a neighbourhood and can make it look shabby and rundown” he says.
The local council already bans boards within conservation areas but Cox’s call is for this to be extended throughout larger parts of the town.
“My parents would drive around looking for the boards and then they got in touch with the agents, but these days you can go to our website or one of the many other agents or specialist property websites” says Cox.
Most councils have guidelines on what size boards are permitted - a fairly typical example is Basingstone local authority, which says an agent’s board must not exceed 0.5 square metres in area, or 0.6 square metres for two joined boards.
Some councils go much further. Reading, for example, has this month invited agents to a meeting - taking place in late March - to consider the future of boards in that town.
The invitation says measures under discussion include enforcement action including prosecution where signs are left in place for too long, the removal of illegal signs and the council issuing a direction under regulation 7 of the Advertisement Regulations which would remove the right to display agents’ boards in designated areas of the town.
“High levels of student accommodation and shared properties make certain parts of Reading a hotspot for unscrupulous estate or lettings agents who flood streets with 'to let' or 'for sale' boards. Some are left in place far longer than necessary. Both of these have the effect of spoiling the appearance of some of the town's streets and conservation areas, much to the annoyance of local residents” a council spokesman told EAT.
Last week, as reported by EAT, Gideon Gold, director of Hunters’ branch in West Hampstead, said he would no longer erect boards in his area. Nearby locations such as Belsize Park and West Hampstead have already declared large board-free areas.
- Estate Agent
- Estate agency signs
- Public Consultation
There may be trouble ahead - the consumer body Which? is asking the public’s views on estate agents.
It is not an official Which? enquiry of any kind but an online request by researcher Marie Kemplay for readers of the consumer organisation’s website to give feedback.
Kemplay’s balanced request on the one hand reminds readers that agents can bend the truth (she cites Channel 4’s recent Dispatches programme’s revelations over how some agents inaccurately promoted Help To Buy and the fees which some agents charge).
But on the other she says “estate agents are performing a valuable service” by offering an understanding of local housing markets, helping sellers make the most of their properties, and dealing with enquiries from would-be buyers.
She concludes with a request. “We’re interested in hearing your experiences of using an estate agent – either as a buyer or a seller. Have you felt pressured into using their in-house services? Have you felt the sharp end of other poor practice from estate agents?”
If you want to respond, you’ll find the blog on: conversation.which.co.uk/money/estate-agent-fees-nightmares-buying-a-house/?
- Estate Agent
- Public Consultation
With exactly three weeks to go before Chancellor George Osborne’s 2014 Budget statement the property sector is ramping up calls for stamp duty reform.
The RICS says the tax is unfair because it “stops people easily moving around the country and makes the market inefficient” according to director Peter Bolton-King. It instead wants the tax to be levied in a more graduated way than the current steep thresholds, particularly those at £125,000, £250,000 and £500,000.
HowToHomeBuy.co.uk says this year some 31,000 first-time buyers around the country will purchase homes made more expensive because they involve paying at least £125,000 stamp duty. Some FTBs in Greater London, where the average first time home now costs £276,000, will pay three per cent duty.
Meanwhile the Chartered Institute of Housing says stamp duty reform could be the key to persuading older owner occupiers to sell, freeing homes for younger buyers.
The CIH wants the removal of stamp duty when older owners in receipt of Pension Credit down-size to smaller properties. This would create an affordable option for pensioners, free up larger homes for purchase, promoting more efficient use of the housing stock.
Calling for stamp duty reform has become something of a pre-Budget ritual - the RICS made a very similar call for reform as long ago as early 2008, for example - but there continues to be one obstacle to change. That is, the Treasury made £4.9bn from stamp duty in the 2012/13 financial year, so is unlikely to heed calls which cut this tax-take.
Defenders of current levels also say that some 70 per cent of all residential transactions are at the relatively low one per cent level, levied on homes priced below £250,000.
- Estate Agent
- stamp duty
A 33 year old accountant working at an estate agent’s office near Durham has been given an eight week prison sentence, suspended for a year, after making 11 payments to her own accounts for sums totalling over £10,000.
Louise Nelson had worked for five years at Placenorth Ltd, a family-owned agency at Meadowfield near Durham. Her salary had been reduced from £20,000 to £16,000 in 2010.
Her lawyer, Thomas Laffey, said: “The whole basis of her outgoings and financial commitments was based on a salary suddenly reduced by £4,000. She took out credit cards to pay bills, but it became a vicious circle as she struggled to keep her head above water.”
Nelson was arrested last September and told police she started offending when she faced eviction from her home following a divorce.
She will be supervised by the Probation Service over the next year.
- Estate Agent
- Placenorth Ltd
The UK housing market is “biploar” and the north-south divide is getting worse, according to sales website Home.co.uk.
The site claims that over the last five years, home prices in Greater London have risen by 27.8 per cent to an average of £424,965 while prices in the north east England have fallen 5.8 per cent to just £152,050. The typical time on the market for a property in Greater London stands at just 67 days compared to 189 days in the north east.
“The greatest danger lies in the fact that London and the south east represent more than half the value of the English private housing stock. The Greater London property bubble is now spreading out into the south east and East Anglia. Should these property markets crash, they will take down the rest of the country with them” says Home’s director, Doug Shephard.
He says that in addition to the north east, regions including the north west, Yorkshire & Humberside, Wales and Scotland all still register negative price growth over the last five years. “Help to Buy may well do some good in these regions, but more jobs would be much better for the regional economies” says Shephard.
- Estate Agent
- NorthSouth Divide
- house price growth
A house buying company claims that despite the upturn in the market some 29 per cent of deals still fall through with most problems being down to buyers unable to secure mortgage finance.
“This index is a measure of misplaced confidence. The return of 95 per cent mortgages driven by Help to Buy seems to have made many buyers over-confident, leading to offers being made before an in-principle mortgage agreement is agreed” says Donna Houguez, market analyst at Quick Move Now.
The firm, which purchases homes via part-exchange schemes and direct cash buying, says it calculates fall-throughs each month based on half-yearly averages, and provides data to market analysts and the Bank of England.
- Fall Throughs
- House Buying
- Quick Move Now
Construction on up to 3,000 mothballed self-build homes is expected to get underway shortly as the government attempts to resuscitate the self-build industry.
Ahead of the 2010 general election Grant Shapps - Conservative opposition housing spokesman and then minister in the coalition government - promised house build would be a major part of the new administration’s solution to the national housing shortage.
However, in the second quarter of 2013 (the latest figures available) the number of self build homes completed across the UK was a measly 2,505. This was one per cent lower than the previous quarter. In the year to June 30 2013 the completed self-build total was 10,635, down 10.5 per cent on the preceding 12 months.
Now the Department of Communities and Local Government says self-builders will be exempt from paying the complex Community Infrastructure Levy which varies from area to area and applies to larger self-build projects.
So for example someone building their own four-bedroom house of 150 square metres were liable to pay £15,000 CIL if the local council was charging £100 per square metre for residential development in that area.
The National Self-Build Association calculates that one in eight self build projects had been mothballed over the past two years because of the CIL. It claims up to 3,000 projects may be resumed thanks to the levy being lifted.
Extensions and family annexes over a certain size will now also be exempt from CIL, while the DCLG says it is consulting on the removal of Section 106 charges from some self-build properties.
- Self Build
- Grant Shapps
A Scottish estate agency is staging an international property roadshow to attract Asian buyers to three cities, despite growing concern about the effects of overseas purchasers on house prices and availability.
Three executives from Rettie & Co next week visit Singapore and Hong Kong to hold two seminars, a business breakfast and a drinks party. They aim to emphasise the attractiveness of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen to Asian buyers.
The Rettie roadshow - which emulates the kind of events undertaken by high-end estate agents attempting to sell prime central London property - comes just as the development firm turning Battersea Power Station into apartments has announced that it will offer units in its second phase to Britons before marketing them overseas.
Late last year, 11 house builders in the UK signed a commitment to give priority to selling homes in new schemes in Britain before, or at the same time, as selling them overseas; many top-end schemes, however, still make a point of selling abroad first.
Recent data from Douglas & Gordon agency shows 50 per cent of purchases in central London in 2013 were by overseas buyers; other agents have been known to market new-builds in expensive provincial cities such as Cambridge and Bath at overseas roadshows.
However, there has been widespread concern from groups outside the industry about growing numbers of foreign investors effectively pricing-out British owner occupier and landlord buyers.
Rettie claims that with London's market now over-heating "many investors are hunting for better returns elsewhere". Its team visiting the Far East includes research and strategy director John Boyle, who has previously advised the governments of Ireland and Bahrain on property issues.
The firm will no doubt be emphasising new figures released about the rude health of the Scottish housing market. LSL/Acadata says the average price of a Scottish home is now £146,696, up 3.6 per cent in the past year. It claims only London and south east England saw higher average increases.
- Estate Agent
- Rettie & Co
- foreign buyers
The British Property Federation wants the Government and insurance companies to end what it calls “uncertainty and lack of fairness” in the Flood Re proposals.
Flood Re - a scheme which means annual insurance premiums will be capped and payouts for flood damage will come from a central pot of money - was meant to add a level of stability to the property industry as well as home owners.
But the BPF is worried that the Government currently wants to exclude leasehold and private rented properties from the measure because these categories are formally classified as commercial.
The Federation says the authorities cannot pick and choose which areas of the residential market they want to help. Without Flood Re, many agents fear that homes close to or within recently-flooded areas will be hard to sell as buyers investigate potential premiums.
Data from the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership shows there are at least 800,000 leasehold properties in England in flood risk areas, with 70,000 of those designated as being at high risk.
“Floods do not discriminate, nor should the insurance industry. There’s no justifiable reason to exclude leaseholders from Flood Re simply because they own a flat rather than a house. And it isn’t fair to exclude almost four million PRS properties” insists BPF policy director Ian Fletcher.
An app called Pingit, created by Barclays bank, has been used to pay the £23,000 deposit on a south London home sold at auction. It's thought to be the first property transaction of its kind in the UK.
Pingit, which launched in 2012 and can be downloaded from the Apple app store, allows users aged 18 or above to receive and send money free of charge.
Transfers can be to anyone with a UK current account (in all mainstream banks, not just Barclays) so long as they have a UK-registered mobile phone number.
The funds are transferred instantaneously and the sender does not need to know the recipient's bank details - just his or her mobile phone number.
Savills and Barclays worked together to modify the app so it could scan a Savills QR code which then displays the full transaction details; the buyer needs only to click on the 'OK' option for the funds to be transferred.
If only there was a similar app to make conveyancing work that quickly...
- Estate Agent
The much-vaunted rebranding of Cluttons has finally broken cover on the firm's central London offices.
The firm has ditched its old red and white colour theme for a more fashionable cyan (or pale blue as most of us would call it). The scheme is appearing on Cluttons' nine central London residential offices, each of which will be refurbished this year; new branches will be opening in the summer at Blackheath and Camden.
The firm already operates in 50 countries - mostly offering property management and consultancy services - and senior partner Bill Siegle says its future success lies in "our international growth." He promises the firm will enter new markets, although does not specify which.
Like Savills, Cluttons has dropped the term 'estate agent' even from some statements restricted entirely to residential issues; instead, it refers to itself as an "international real estate services company".
- Estate Agent
Housing market analyst Henry Pryor says house prices could fall by as much as 25 per cent in 2016.
Pryor, a familiar face and voice analysing housing market trends on BBC TV and radio programmes, says the Government is "determined to ramp house prices" until the May 2015 general election. They will then plateau before falling, he forecasts.
He says the Government believes that "voters are forgiving of politicians' financial mismanagement of the economy if you let them feel good about the value of their home."
Pryor feels there are two underlying threats to the housing market.
The first is what he calls "political interference" - measures ranging from Help To Buy, to a review of mortgage availability to a threatened mansion tax - which he believes distort the market. It's the removal of "stimulants" like Help To Buy which could deter buyers and help contribute to price falls, he says.
The second threat is public disorder. He says there is growing resentment at the perceived inequality of housing wealth in the UK. "Hopefully people will solve this politically but you've got to admit there is little evidence of this" he says.
A full version of Pryor's views are on his blog on www.henrypryor.com/blog
- Henry Pryor
- Price Falls
- Housing Analyst
- General Election
New research shows precisely why people want to move house, providing perfect raw material for agents trying to pitch advertising and individual property details to catch the right buyer.
Strutt & Parker has asked 1,000 buyers - across all ages, demographic groups and areas of the country - to list a range of reasons why they want to move.
Many peoples' favourites like being closer to work or getting in to the catchment areas of better schools score surprisingly lowly, while lifestyle and convenience are the biggest reasons.
The league table is as follows (and remember each buyer cited several reasons):
1. Change of lifestyle (51.7 per cent)
2. Easier access to shops and amenities (35.3 per cent)
3. Being closer to family and friends (32.5 per cent)
4. Cutting running costs (31.2 per cent)
5. Needing more space (30.3 per cent)
6. Being closer to public transport (24.7 per cent)
7. Having a smaller home (24.7 per cent)
8. Being closer to work (14.8 per cent)
9. Releasing equity for later life (13.6 per cent)
10. Better schools (10.5 per cent)
11. To top up an existing pension (9.6 per cent)
12. To release funds to help children or other relatives (7.8 per cent)
- strutt & Parker
- Property Details
Over 65-year-olds who own their homes have seen an average capital appreciation of £7,100 per property in the past year - the equivalent of almost £600 per month.
In addition, there is a record 4.69 million homes owned outright by over-65 year olds who have paid off their mortgages.
This property affluence may explain why down-sizing pensioners made up a large chunk of the housing market activity during the 'downturn years' of 2007 to 2013; in some areas, 30 per cent of transactions were over-65 year olds selling up.
In total, pensioners now own £801.1 billion of property equity. But there are big regional variations in the proportions of property equity belonging to the over 65s.
In London, for example, 18.45 per cent of all residential equity is owned by pensioners - in the north east of England, despite homes being much cheaper, the proportion of equity held by over 65s is a mere 3.35 per cent.
The research has been undertaken by Key Retirement Solutions, using data from a range of Government sources.
- Retirement housing
- Capital Appreciation
You have to hand it to online estate agents - they at least do things differently.
Sarah Beeny's troubled Tepilo website, which underwent a relaunch at the end of last year, has now added an unexpected feature - a "children's opinion section."
This is a space where the children of sellers are encouraged to describe their parents' homes, including an opportunity for kids' drawings of properties to be uploaded.
Beeny says the idea came to her after two children from Somerset popped hand-written leaflets about their parents' home into letterboxes of potential buyers. The result, apparently, was two offers for the property.
"Honest reviews from the offspring who grew up there could also give potential buyers the kick they need to make the deal" says Beeny.
- Sarah Beeny
- Online Agents
For an increasing number of people, buying a property is becoming unrealistic. In many parts of the UK millions will never be able to afford their own home even if they are working because property prices are so detached from what people get paid.
Shelter revealed that average earners in England need to more than double their annual salary just to keep up with house prices.
Not surprisingly the situation is most acute in London where the average annual salary would need to increase four-fold to more than £100,000 in the borough of Hackney alone.
In Watford and Brighton & Hove an extra £47,000 each year is needed to keep up with local house price inflation, while in Manchester £34,000 more is required.
Worryingly for agents in terms of attracting first-time buyers, even the cheapest areas have not seen wage and house price inflation remain aligned.
Shelter Chief Executive Campbell Robb said: "When you’d need to more than double your salary just to keep up with rising house prices, it is no surprise that the dream of a home of their own is slipping further out of reach for a generation.
"Politicians need to start meeting people halfway by committing to bold solutions that will get more affordable homes built. Otherwise future generations will find themselves priced out of a stable home, however hard they work or save.
"The only solution is to build more affordable homes."
- Property buyers
- Property prices