Estate Agent Today
Agents and even the mainstream press have been continuing to give mostly-favourable reactions to Under Offer, a six-part reality TV show which launched on BBC Two this week.
“It was a pretty cool bit of TV, showcasing all sorts work in the property industry. Lewis cares which is what most of us want. Nice” was the response of Haus Properties’ Jamie Lester.
The ‘Lewis’ in question was Lewis Rossiter, who is based in Exeter and has worked for Bradleys for two years. His personable style made him very much the star of the first show; he has already appeared on BBC’s The One Show.
Alan Page, author of the popular online renovation blog Doerupperdiary says: “The young agent from Exeter is in danger of giving estate agency a good name.”
James Wyatt of Barton Wyatt in Virginia told his Twitter followers that “Estate agents on Under Offer were given a comfy ride. Gary Hersham managed a decent impression of a St Bernard.”
But some agents were more cautious in their welcome and a few were even critical of their colleagues.
“It was a bit OTT in parts. Really can’t understand why people make our job out to be stressful. It’s not” tweeted Michelle Wilden of JDG, an agency in Lancashire.
Some TV reviewers liked it too.
“It simply followed a diverse bunch of agents from a range of economic areas, and showed us what they do (apart from calling you every eight minutes)” wrote Will Dean in The Independent, adding: “It's surprising, given our infatuation with homes and the buying of them, that there have not been more estate agents on TV. It's another surprise to see the kind side of (some of) them.
Zoe Williams in The Guardian saw it more harshly. “When it becomes clear that a programme fails to offer any real insight into the human condition – as was the case here, roughly four minutes in – you start to ask, what did they think they were trying to achieve? .... Gems were proffered from the agents themselves, such as ‘any time they start referring to the house as theirs, that can only be a good thing.’ It's part look at the crook, part rehabilitate him. That agenda is so 80s I didn't know where to look; nobody thinks of estate agents as the people in control of this runaway train.”
Christopher Howse in the Daily Telegraph said he had to constantly ask whether it was worth continuing watching or putting on the kettle:
“The best lines were delivered by Kuki, long-suffering driver for the flamboyant Gary Hersham of Beauchamp who likes to sell a London house with 13 bathrooms at £39.5m. Kuki had to be ready at all times. ‘Going to little boys’ room difficult. You have to hold,’ Kuki explained, as he waited for Hersham outside a house. ‘You have to hold because Gary could come out any minute.’ It seemed a sort of parable for always being ready to jump at the best offer on a property.”
Under Offer continues next Wednesday on BBC Two.
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- BBC Two
- Under Offer
The launch of new Diplomas in Residential Surveying and Valuation take place at the Residential Property Surveyors Association annual conference next week.
These new qualifications, formally recognised by RICS, will “set new standards for residential surveyors and valuers and provide both a pathway into the SAVA Scheme and a pathway into the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors as an associate member” according to the RPSA.
The primary aim of the new qualifications is to bring consistency and clarity to home buying consumers: currently only 20 per cent of them choose to commission a condition-based survey when buying homes.
The conference, which takes place on Tuesday at the Building Research Establishment in Watford, will hear from housing market commentator Kate Faulkner, Paul Broadhead of the Building Societies Association and Peter Bolton King, Global Residential Director of RICS.
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A bulk house buying and selling firm says 27 per cent of transactions in the wider market are falling through despite the recovery.
Quick Move Now says the fall-through rate - which shows a 60 per cent rise in a year - is mostly because buyers drop earlier offers in favour of more recent higher offers, or have problems in the chains of their own onward purchases
“As buyers are rushing to make purchases before prices increase further, a higher proportion of those sales are falling through” says Donna Houguez, Quick Move Now analyst.
“Since the property market crash in 2007, although the fall through rate changed, the main reason had remained solid - the inability to secure mortgage finance. Now that’s changed. The majority of sales falling through do so because of issues on the buyers’ side – they either receive a better offer or they experience problems within their own chain” she says.
Quick Move Now sells hundreds of properties each year and its fall through statistics are calculated month-on-month using a six-month average.
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- Quick Move Now
- Fall Throughs
More estate agents have been in touch with EAT about their bid to raise thousands of pounds for charity in Sunday’s London Marathon.
Amie Unwin, an agent at Sarah Mains Residential in Gosforth is running to raise cash for Get Kids Going, which helps disabled youngsters. “I’ve completed the Great North run on three occasions to raise money for this charity. It’s a really amazing cause and the work they do to enable disabled youngsters to take part in sport is truly inspirational.”
Amie’s donation page is http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/runningduck.
Jennie Roberts is a negotiators at Force and Sons in Teignmouth, Devon, and aims to run the 26 mile course in a maximum of four and a half hours. She’s running for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and her donation page is http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Jenniewren.
Miranda Pearce, a partner at Cornish agency Clive Pearce Property is running for the same charity and her donation page is http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MirandaPearce.
Jason Messingham, the digital marketing manager at Romans, is running for the Children With Cancer charity and is looking forward to finishing in four and a half hours - quite an achievement for a rookie.
“This is the first marathon I’ve ever run and training is going really well. I’ve clocked up over 440 miles so far. I’ve already hit my target of £1,600 and I’m now challenging myself to raise an extra £1,000,” he says.
What are you waiting for? His donation page is http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JasonMessingham.
- Estate Agent
- Sarah Mains Residential
- Clive Pearce Property
The boss of the eMoov online estate agency has renewed his attack on what he calls “dyed in the wool property patriarchs” who defend the traditional estate agency business model of high street offices and a percentage commission structure.
Using his website blog, eMoov founder Russell Quirk - who ran traditional branch offices himself between 1999 and 2009 - says arguments of defenders of the offline sales system invoke claims that only having physical offices provide the local knowledge and expertise which allow sellers to secure higher prices for their homes.
“Zoopla say they have around 900,000 buyers registered for instant property alerts that ping an email to house hunters the second something meeting their requirements is listed with one of their 12,000 UK agent partners. It’s no more relevant for an agent to be ‘local’ than it is to book your holiday via a rep that has visited every hotel on the Expedia travel site” he says.
“Personal customer service, assistance with offer negotiation, oversight of your sale through to completion, valuations…..the bits of the estate agency role that are important are not, you might be surprised to learn, just exclusive to a funky Main Street office” he goes on.
“Because a decent online estate agent does all of this too. All of it. Despite the ever more desperate shouts from the old school that attempt to say otherwise” Quirk writes.
The online v traditional agency debate has been fuelled in recent weeks by announcements from heavily-funded players such as easyProperty and Purplebricks that they are setting up internet sales and letting services in the near future.
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- Russell Quirk
- Traditional Estate Agency
Agents will soon be able to analyse whether buyers find it easier or harder to borrow to buy in different postcodes - with the prospect that house prices may vary as a result.
The Council for Mortgage Lenders is now issuing data from major lenders broken down by around 9,000 postcode sectors.
The data is compiled by the CML and covers Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide Building Society, Santander UK, RBS and the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank, which together represent about 73 per cent of the total mortgage market.
The British Bankers' Association is simultaneously publishing a similar postcode-based update on lending to small and medium sized enterprises and personal loans.
There has been an increase in postcode-based data supplied to the public recently, which could help or hinder property sales - for example, MoneySupermarket.com recently compiled burglary figures using this breakdown.
In recent weeks there have been disputes as residents on the boundaries of different postcodes have discovered alleged house price differences.
For example, a petition asking Royal Mail to change postcode boundaries has been set up by residents currently classified as living in Deptford, south London, but who instead want to be regarded as living in adjacent Greenwich, where house prices are higher.
It’s the same story in Whitton, a town in affluent Richmond-Upon-Thames, west London, where residents claim their TW3 postcode puts them on databases as being in the neighbouring and more deprived borough of Hounslow. This allegedly means their house prices are lower and insurance premiums higher.
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- House Prices
High-end agency Savills has awarded is group chief executive, Jeremy Helsby, a 44 per cent pay rise as his earnings in pay and perks reached £2.6m in 2013.
Helsby, who joined the firm in 1980, earned £1.8m in 2012. His basic salary in 2013 remained unchanged at £225,000 but the increase in income is down to a £610,000 windfall in shares, available from next month, as well as £363,000 in cash and shares under the firm’s existing profits-sharing scheme.
The firm, which has recently labelled itself as an “international real estate advisor” and has scheduled its AGM for May 12, says in its annual report that it enjoyed "an exceptionally strong finish to the year including a record performance in the UK", where revenues rose 16 per cent and underlying profits soared to £55m.
The firm's 26,000 staff will enjoy a collective bonus pot of £169m (an average of £6,500 each, although there will be wide discrepancies between different levels within the firm). This compares with £138m last year.
Savills has 500 offices worldwide, 850 of them in the firm’s London West End headquarters which has seen the commercial and residential wings joined for the first tim
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- Jeremy Helsby
- Agents' pay
The central London agency W A Ellis has tried to defuse speculation over high numbers of foreign buyers and rising prices in the capital by describing the sales market as “sobering” - even though it says sales below £2m have surged ahead.
Richard Barber, a partner at the firm, says statistics across several prime central London postcodes actually show a 10 per cent drop in transaction levels for existing homes.
“Amidst the hyperbole surrounding the market and the endless speculation regarding a property bubble, there is a rather more realistic and sobering story emerging” he claims.
“Undoubtedly the market beneath £2 million has surged ahead, fuelled in some part by foreign investment. However, if one looks at the transaction levels within the prime central London postcodes - SW1, SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10, W1K, W8 - one can actually see a diminution in overall transaction levels” he says.
The firm suggests that sales above £2 million are “exceptionally low.”
Barber says that within SW10 there have been 58 transactions under £2m in the last three months but only four above £2m. Within SW7 there have been 35 transactions under £2m in the first quarter of this year and only 17 transactions above £2m in the first three months of 2013 and 2014 combined.
W A Ellis has long been an outspoken critic of the Coalition government’s stamp duty regime which Barber says “continues to penalise transactions at even marginally higher values” over £2m.
He also rails against the prospect of a mansion tax and councils objecting to homes which are extended into “much maligned basement space,” saying they threaten transaction levels at the top of the market.
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- Richard Barber
- Mansion Tax
- stamp duty
The HomeOwners Alliance - the lobby group which last month strongly criticised estate agents over an alleged failure to display fees - says its latest survey shows concern growing across the country over rising house prices.
“Despite talk about the London bubble, worries about high house prices and the shortage of housing has become a national issue,” said Paula Higgins, the HOA chief executive.
“Talk about the housing crisis has spread across the UK, as homeowners everywhere have become worried that housing is becoming unaffordable and owning their own home is becoming an impossible dream for young people. This is the true ‘cost of living’ fear – people can’t afford the roof over their head” claims Higgins.
The group - which says it “champions the interests of Britain’s homeowners and aspiring homeowners” by “lobbying for the interests of homeowners and aspiring homeowners in government and campaigning against bad practices in industry” - conducted its latest survey by contacting 2,527 adults in mid-March.
Other key findings from the survey include:
- Ability for first-time buyers to get onto the property ladder and saving for a deposit topping the list of housing concerns with over 85 per cent saying they were serious problems;
- The housing crisis is most acute in London, with more Londoners saying house prices (55 per cent) and housing availability (44 per cent) are very serious problems;
- But nonetheless the appetite to own a home is on the rise (68 per cent of non-owners indicate they would like to own in the future up from 65 per cent in January 2013);
- Nearly two thirds say that stamp duty rates are a problem;
- More than half of homeowners say that gazumping is a problem.
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- House Prices
- Homeowners' Alliance
Although agents in areas of the UK severely hit by the winter storms are reporting that interest from prospective buyers has not been affected, chartered surveyors claim that existing owners whose homes suffered may be in for a nasty bill of £30,000 to £45,000.
RICS says the average cost of restoring a flood-hit three bedroom house to its former condition could be on average £30,000 with flood proofing costing an additional £15,000.
The £30,000 cost includes repairs or replacements for timber floors, plasterboard, kitchen units and cavity wall insulation; it warns that home owners without comprehensive cover could have to foot the entire cost themselves.
RICS says additional flood prevention measures including adding non-return valves to drains, raising power points and laying tiled floors, would cvost an additional £15,000.
“While clearly a substantial extra cost, those who have fallen victim to the recent floods should seriously consider flood proofing as a means of both protecting their home and ensuring that they don’t have their lives turned upside down to the same extent in the future” says a RICS report.
The surveyors’ findings may make uneasy reading for agents in areas of the country which are still drying out, and who say they are keen to allay the fears of prospective buyers considering homes in coastal and flood-prone locations.
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The first review of the new BBC Two fly-on-the-branch-wall series called Under Offer: Estate Agents On The Job suggests agents may not come out of it as well as many hoped.
The six programmes are promoted by the BBC as giving viewers behind-the-scenes access to 11 agents across the UK working in all sections of the market.
The first episode is typical. It shows an agent working for Bradleys in Exeter as he copes with what is one of the most stressful sales of his career as well as preparing to be a father. Meanwhile in Mayfair another agent is selling a £39m town house complete with with private gym and cinema. Some distance away, in every sense of the term, an agent in County Durham is taking houses to auction at knock-down prices.
But a review of that first episode on the online version of Radio Times claims that there is an underlying ‘edge’.
"It would have been easy to make this series a lot less kind. A different production company or a different channel might have gone for the jugular and made the world of estate agents look naff – it wouldn’t be hard to play to our preconceptions of divs in tight suits making a fast buck" says the review.
Then it goes on: "So because the series empathises with its characters, rather than stitching them up, we care. Well, you may find you care rather less for Mayfair-based Gary, who comes across as a grandiose creep – but he’s documentary gold."
The Gary in question is Gary Hersham of Beauchamp Estates, who is described in the show’s marketing material as “estate agent to the super-rich”.
The first episode is on Wednesday at 8pm.
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- Gary Hersham
- Beauchamp Estates
- Radio Times
- BBC Two
Three agents have been fined by magistrates after pleading guilty to displaying ‘illegal advertisements’.
Boyce Thornton, Aston Mead Estate Agents and APW Management (Cobham) admitted the offence following enforcement action by Elmbridge council.
Boyce Thornton Ltd was fined £1,000 for illegal advertising and ordered to pay £100 as a victim surcharge. It was also ordered to pay the council's costs of £225.45.
Aston Mead Estate Agents Ltd had previously been found guilty of similar offences and was fined for a further offence of illegal advertising. On this occasion it was fined £1,500 plus £120 as a victim surcharge and was ordered to pay the council's costs of £206.01.
APW Management (Cobham) Ltd was fined £750 for illegal advertising, £75 as a victim surcharge and ordered to pay the council's costs of £204.30.
The council had sent letters to the three companies reminding them of their responsibilities and said prosecution proceedings would follow for unauthorised signs. The estate agents continued to display signs “on common land, highway verges and on street signs” according to the council, and after complaints from residents, proceedings were launched against the companies.
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- Illegal Advertisements
Agents selling new homes for developers are being issued with a consumer code created by a collection of agency and housebuilding organisations.
It seeks to ensure that buyers of new homes “are treated fairly and are fully informed about their purchase before and after they sign the contract”. It applies to buyers who reserve to buy a new or newly converted home built by a home builder registered with NHBC, Premier Guarantee or LABC warranty companies.
The code is the product of collaboration between the National House Building Council, the Construction Employers’ Federation, the House Builders Association, the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the Federation of Master Builders, the Home Builders’ Federation and several warranty insurance companies.
The code covers a wide range of points, most of which are undertaken already by the best agents.
This includes point-of-sale requirements such as having clear sales and advertising material; pre-contract information such as written explanations of warranty cover and a clear description of management charges; plus the availability of a plan showing the layout, appearance and plot position of any properties for sale but not yet completed.
The code also covers exchange of contact terms and conditions, making clear to buyers what cancellation rights exist, and issues such as extra work which may be required by a purchaser at additional cost.
Construction, completion and handover processes are also set out in the code, along with the requirement for an agent to explain a clear complaints and disputes procedure and the need for agency staff to cooperate with other professional advisors in the event of a dispute being raised by a customer.
The documents explaining the code and its repurcussions for agents, customers and house builders themselves are lengthy and available online from www.consumercodeforhomebuilders.com.
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- Newbuild homes
- Consumer Code
Cotswolds specialist Butler Sherborn is expanding into the lucrative Oxford city market.
The firm, which currently has offices in Cirencester, Burford and Stow-on-the-Wold, is joining forces with Kemp & Kemp Residential to create a business that will offer residential sales, lettings and management services as well as land and new homes investment plus consultancies in renewable energy, equestrian and farms and estates.
The enlarged network will operate under the Butler Sherborn brand.
“Given its status as an internationally renowned city, Oxford is hugely strategic for us, and under the Butler Sherborn brand we will be able to build both a significant urban and rural presence” says Sam Butler, senior partner and founder of Butler Sherborn.
Gavin West, managing director of the former Kemp & Kemp Residential, says: “This will help transform our previous business into a much more sophisticated and broad-based organisation. Both firms have long established reputations and [are] noted for providing a ‘local’ and serious alternative to the national agency brands. This is a rare and exciting opportunity to create something with such potential.”
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- Butler Sherborn
- Kemp & Kemp
HM Revenue and Customs has set out new guidelines on money laundering regulations now it has taken over supervision of estate agents from the defunct Office of Fair Trading.
The guidance will come as little surprise to most agents but it reiterates that agents must register with HMRC if they conduct work under section one of the Estate Agents Act 1979.
This type of work includes, for example:
- sending out property particulars and arranging viewings;
- offering personal advice to potential sellers or buyers;
- receiving and fielding queries from potential sellers or buyers and passing on details to customers;
- providing an energy performance certificate or arranging for it to be provided;
- providing a property valuation;
- providing a plan of a property and taking photographs;
- providing clients with a ‘For Sale’ board which contains agency contact details.
You don’t need to register if you’re a letting agent, an auctioneer already listed with the HMRC as a so-called High Value Dealer or - interestingly - if you are a solicitor carrying on estate agency work as part of that practice as a solicitor but not as a separate business.
If you qualify to register but fail to do so it is an offence. The full guidelines are on www.gov.uk/registration-guide-for-estate-agency-businesses?
You can get further information by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 0300 200 3700 or by post at:
HMRC Anti Money Laundering Supervision, Alexander House, 21 Victoria Avenue, Southend on Sea, SS99 1AG
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- Estate Agent
Three agents have joined Network Auctions, bringing the network to 50.
The newbies are Goodchilds in the Midlands, which has a network of 16 offices, Haigh & Sons in Bristol, along with Hill & Clark which has offices in the Lincolnshire towns of Boston, Spalding and Holbeach.
Goodchilds managing director David Warke says: “We've been looking at offering an auction service for some time but it was very important to us to join forces with a like-minded organisation where the strength of our brand could be maintained and built upon.”
Haigh & Sons owner Martin Haigh is adding auctions to his existing sales and lettings business. “We feel that with auctions growing in popularity as a method of sale that the time is right for us to join" he says.
Hill & Clark local director Jill Kirby comments that “being Network Auctions’ partner complements our established sales, lettings, block management and commercial activities.”
The latest recruits are the results of a bid by Network Auctions to develop a national network of estate agents keen to have an additional income stream through auctions.
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- Auction Network
- Haigh & Sons
- Hill & Clark