Hadley Taylor Blog

picture of nick compressedNick Taylor

Managing Director

At Hadley Taylor we like to keep our clients updated on the latest local property news and opinion.

December 2013

Reviewing the year


As we come to the quiet end of another year in our business it is always interesting to look back at the last 12 months and also to look to the future with, I have to say, a fair degree of optimism.

 

2013 has been a good year for us. We have agreed more sales this year than we did in 2012 or 2011. There are several reasons for this increase in sales. Firstly there have been more first time buyers in the market for their first home and secondly, private individuals with cash in the bank have been buying up lettable properties in good residential areas as part of their pension portfolio. Confidence has returned to the market even if transaction volumes nationally are still at a much lower level than they were at the peak of the market in 2007.

 

My first prediction for 2014 is that prices will rise modestly. However, we can’t expect anything like the price inflation seen in the London market in recent months because London can only be compared with a handful of international capital cities and as London increasingly establishes itself as the capital of the World of art, finance, music and fashion we will see the disparity in prices between London and the rest of the UK grow even further.

 

My second prediction is that the Government’s Help to Buy Scheme will bite the dust in 2014. This ill thought out scheme encourages buyers to borrow more than they should and places the liability for some of that debt onto the taxpayer. The Bank of England is anxious that a property price bubble is building, partly due to Help to Buy and the Governor of the Bank of England, if he has any sense, will kill off the scheme before the year is out.

 

My third prediction is that interest rates will start to rise before the end of next year. Rates have been at historically low levels since 2008 and while this rather drastic measure has saved many mortgage holders and small businesses from extinction, the time will soon come for rates to rise. Normalising the Bank of England base rate would mean raising it to 4 or 5 percent. The fragile economic recovery won’t stand that level just yet but we can expect a slow but steady rise in rates starting in the fourth quarter of 2014. Higher rates will be great news for savers but will also mean higher repayments for mortgage holders. This will result in much more housing stock coming onto the market as households try to downsize their outgoings. Many landlords will also want to divest into tamer investment vehicles once their yields start to look a bit thin. Inevitably higher rates will also serve to keep the lid on house price inflation and prevent the market from over-heating and this can only be a good thing for the next generation of home buyers.

 

Regardless of outside factors beyond our control it is reassuring to know that Norwich remains a vibrant place to live and work with low crime rates and a beautiful county to explore beyond the city boundaries. So whether you’re buying or selling, 2014 might be the year to do it.


April 2013

Property taxes – are they fair?


The political classes all like to talk about fairness. In fact it’s the new buzz word in Westminster but how fair are property taxes?

Government sees property as an easy target. Property is a physical asset. You can see it and keep a record of it very easily unlike income, gain or profit and that is why there are so many property taxes.

 

The one thing that is holding up the property market more than any other single factor is the amount of tax that the treasury want to take out of every property transaction. If you buy a house for £200,000 you will pay £2000 in tax, if you buy a house for £300,000 you will pay £9000 in tax and if you buy a house for £600,000 you will pay an eye watering £24,000 in tax. No wonder then that many homeowners would rather stay put than hand over their hard earned cash for the privilege of moving house. Expenses such as survey fees, estate agent fees, removal costs and solicitor’s fees seem like small beer when compared to stamp duty at 4% or even 5% in some cases.

 

Governments of all colours come up with all sorts of hair brained ideas to get the property market moving a little better. Most of these schemes involve some sort of shared ownership or some convoluted financial product or even more government borrowing which only adds to the national debt. Abolishing stamp duty would be a radical change to the tax system and would help us move to flatter and fairer taxes whilst giving the property market a shot in the arm.

Double taxation is unfair and in other more enlightened economies double taxes have been abolished. Double taxation is where people are taxed twice. For example we pay income tax on the money we earn to buy a house in the first place and then we pay tax on that money again when we complete the transaction. The other property tax that is an unfair double tax is of course inheritance tax. In fact inheritance tax is a triple tax because having paid tax on the money needed to buy a house we then pay stamp duty when we complete the transaction and our heirs pay inheritance tax on the same property when we die. Maybe Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Ed Milliband should consider how fair that is.

 

Council tax is another property tax levied against the size and value of your house. This is rather absurd because council tax pays for local services, therefore the charge should be levied against the services we use rather than the property we live in.

 

It is statistically proven that when taxes are seen to be fairer, fewer people try to avoid paying them and more tax is actually collected. Britain will eventually move to a fairer tax system whereby we are taxed only on income, gain, profit and purchases and against the services we use as is the case in other more developed economies. I fear though that these changes will be a little slow in coming given the level of unfairness coming out of Westminster.


May 2013

Why are there so many empty houses in this country?

 

At a time when there is enormous demand for housing, it is hard to believe that there are currently about 900,000 empty residential properties in the UK. Add to this several hundred thousand commercial properties and it’s easy to see that we have a problem. These are not second homes, these are unused, vacant properties and most of them have been vacant for several years or even decades.

So why do people own properties and keep them empty? I’ve never been able to work this one out because in my book property is for living in and if one doesn’t live in it you need to work in it or it needs to earn you an income by letting it. Otherwise owning vacant property is a fine way of wasting money. Council tax will increasingly be charged on vacant property in the future and then there are the other costs of ownership such as utilities, maintenance and insurance. Property in Norwich hasn’t seen much of an increase in value for about five years and is unlikely to rise in value very much for a few more years so there really isn’t any point in keeping properties that are surplus to requirements hoping that one day they’ll be worth a fortune.

Local authorities and Government departments are also guilty of sitting on hundreds of thousands of vacant properties up and down the country either because they’ve forgotten that they own them or because they are too incompetent to do anything about renovating,  letting or disposing of them.

Selling or letting vacant properties are the only two options. The market for selling or letting property is reasonably strong in Norwich at present so selling at a good price or letting to create income shouldn’t be a problem at all. Vacant properties can be transformed into desirable places for people to live or work.

Some vacant properties are, of course, on the market for sale but they don’t seem to sell in a hurry because they are nearly always overpriced. One thing I have learnt over the years is that there is no such thing as a property that won’t sell, only properties that are too expensive.


June 2013

Why do sales fall through?


Thankfully we don’t see many sales fall through but when they do it’s very irritating for us and often upsetting for our clients.

 

Sales rarely fall through as a consequence of issues raised in a survey report. If the buyer wants to buy and the seller wants to sell then most unforeseen structural problems that come to light in a survey report can be accommodated for within a re-negotiation of the selling price by an experienced estate agent. Down valuations are rare but these can usually be dealt with in the same way. Sales do fall through at this stage in the sale if the buyer is not sufficiently motivated to buy or if the seller is not realistic enough about the evidence presented to them about their property. Like most things in life buying and selling property requires compromise and this means grown up behaviour on both sides.

 

So if the survey is not the main reason for a fall through what is? Well human nature has a lot to do with it. Some buyers just get cold feet and believe it or not some sellers get cold feet. Also circumstances can change during the course of the sale. For example, buyers or sellers can lose their job, have an accident, pass away, become pregnant, fall in love or fall out of love and all of these life changing events can change the way people feel about their sale or purchase.

 

The golden rule is that a house isn’t sold until contracts have been exchanged so my advice is to get to exchange of contracts as soon as you can. This means you will have to chase your agent, your solicitor, your surveyor or your lender to get things done in a timely fashion but if you drive the process most properties can be bought in 4 weeks. If your solicitor can’t work to this time frame then find one that can but always go by recommendation from someone you trust.


July 2013

What effect have low interest rates had on the property market?

 

The Bank of England has pegged interest rates at historically low levels for several years now in an attempt to resuscitate the economy. This medicine has been hard to swallow for savers but it seems to have done the trick for the ailing patient with the economy growing again and a record number of people being in employment. Property prices have stabilised since the dark days of 2008 and 2009 and we now have stable prices in all markets with the exception of planet London.

 

Interest rates will of course have to rise. Not any time soon, and when they rise they will not rise fast, but as sure as night follows day, rise they will. When they do, some normality will return to the property market.

 

Low interest rates over such an extended period of time have had a distorting effect on the property market. Transactions fell off a cliff in 2008 and although we have seen modest increases in the number of transactions in the market since then, we are still well below peak levels. This is due in part to low interest rates. Few sellers have needed to sell in recent years because most home owners have been able to sustain mortgage repayments with rates at their low levels. Households may have seen increases in the cost of fuel and food but their mortgage costs have plummeted. In order to get a little more fluidity in the property market we need a little more motivation to sell and this will come with higher rates.

 

Time and time again agents, when presenting their clients with reasonable offers, hear the words “I don’t need to sell”. I for one would like to hear the words “I really do need to sell” a little more often and I’m sure I will, once we see higher interest rates.

 

Low rates have also spawned an army of amateur landlords who have got into buy to let because it has offered a far better return than savings rates. We’ve also seen a growth in accidental landlords who have been able to retain properties that are surplus to requirements because the mortgage payments have been sustainable. Being a landlord isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and it’s certainly not for the faint hearted. When interest rates rise, many of these amateur and accidental landlords will want to pay down their loans and move their cash into fixed rate savings and we will see more ex rental stock coming onto the market for sale.

 

So when the time comes for interest rates to rise we will see more stock on the market and this will mean more potential business for estate agents and more choice for house hunters. More stock also means stable prices rather than price inflation so this will be a good thing for younger people trying to make their first jump onto the property ladder.


August 2013

What’s hot and what’s not?


Supply and demand has always played a significant role in the property market. What is flavour of the month today may not be next year and supply of certain types of property can change from over supply to under supply in no time at all. Generally speaking we have under supply of good quality homes in Norwich at most price points.

 

Right now in Norwich we have high demand for investment properties in locations close to the city centre with good letting potential priced up to £125,000. Investing in property is becoming a very common component of pension planning as investors seek to spread their assets as widely as possible. Three bedroom family houses in mature residential areas priced up to the £250,000 stamp duty threshold are also in short supply and we never seem to have enough detached four bedroom family houses in established residential areas around the £400,000 mark.

Building plots of any size and at almost any price are like hens teeth in Norwich. As one moves out of the city into the villages there seem to be more single plot opportunities but even these are scarce.

 

New build homes are still very popular with a particular type of buyer who wants an easy life and is not overly concerned about location. New build is easy because there’s not much to think about. You just move in and start living. However, ten year old houses are not in such demand because there is always an identical brand new house on another estate just down the road where the developer is offering free carpets, free legal fees and cash back when you move in.

 

Properties in remote areas are becoming harder and harder to sell due the cost of travelling to and from work, school and play. Properties with oil fired central heating are becoming harder to sell because of the insane cost of heating oil and remote properties outside of catchment for good schooling are becoming harder to sell as the postcode lottery of our education system becomes an increasing issue for parents of school age children.

There has been much hype in the media about a pick-up in the housing market and while it would appear that there is more buyer activity this year than last, the rules of supply and demand still apply.


September 2013

What foundations is the property market built on?


The media and most estate agents are doing all they can to talk up the property market at the moment. In fact hardly a day goes by when I don’t hear or read some headline about the over-heating of the property market and a house price bubble. Most of these reports talk about house price inflation as if it were a good thing that our children will be priced out of the property market altogether in years to come. Reporting also makes reference to rises in average prices across the country which is not helpful because although there is a lot of price inflation in London at the moment, in some parts of the country prices are stable and in some they are still falling. Property portal rightmove.co.uk is over egging the pudding more than anyone, reporting that asking prices are rising faster than they have for years. This, of course, is completely irrelevant because asking prices mean nothing whereas selling prices mean everything. Not wishing to rain on everyone’s parade too much it is fair to say that Norwich has fared reasonably well since the dark days of 2009 and we are seeing some modest price inflation.

 

Property price inflation is only ever a good thing, however, if it is caused by economic growth, increases in productivity and increases in average earnings. Unfortunately even the most optimistic economist would struggle to say that all of these indicators are going in the right direction fast enough to justify the levels of price inflation in the London property market in recent months. Economic growth is modest, productivity is lower today that it has been for years and wages are stagnating. The economy is recovering but it will still take some time for productivity and wages to head in the right direction.

Instead, the foundations that are underpinning the property market are firstly the bizarre phenomenon of buy to let landlords being subsidised by housing benefit, the Government’s mad help to buy scheme which encourages sub-prime lending and historically low interest rates that give existing and new borrowers a false sense of security about their ability to meet their obligations in the future.

 

If the Government is ever to address the deficit it will have to first tackle the limitless housing benefit bill and this will result in reduced rental yields for landlords, the Government will also have to do an about turn on the help to buy scheme before it all ends in tears and the Governor of the Bank of England may have to raise interest rates rather earlier than he thinks to stave off inflation in the broader economy.

 

Another factor, in London at least, is foreign investors buying up anything they can lay their hands on. David Cameron was mocked earlier this month at the G20 summit by a Russian politician who boasted about Oligarchs buying up most of Kensington and Chelsea. The truth is that they’re investing in London because there’s nothing much worth investing in in Moscow. This foreign money, of course, won’t last forever as foreign investors find alternative safe havens for their laundered cash.

 

Once these drugs have been withdrawn from the patient the property market will have to deal with the cold turkey reality that price inflation is only ever a good thing if it’s the right sort of price inflation.


October 2013


Are estate agency awards all they appear to be?


One could be forgiven for thinking that awards for estate agents were dished out by independent panels of experienced industry professionals whose criteria for deciding winners reflected the views of consumers and industry peers. If this were the case I would be delighted to get involved, but I’m afraid this impression is far from reality.

 

Award ceremonies for many industries have become an industry in themselves. Specialist award ceremony companies organise these events, and they have become very sophisticated marketing machines. Some of the revenue for these businesses comes from sponsorship by providers of estate agency signage, property portals or estate agency software, and these providers use the event and the contact list it generates to hard sell their products and services once the hang overs have worn off the following day.  The remainder of the income comes from high end ticket prices for the ceremonies themselves. So yes, you’ve guessed it, if the agent doesn’t want to pay £299 for their ticket, they probably won’t win an award.

 

The panels of “expert” judges for these events often includes some TV celebrity with some tenuous link to the property sector, but there is a distinct lack of credibility or independence in the selection of these experts, and the awards tend to go to the companies making the biggest financial contribution, surprise, surprise!

 

So if you hear an estate agent bragging about their latest award, just take it with a huge pinch of salt, and remember how they got it. My advice is always the same when it comes to selecting an estate agent to sell your biggest asset, ask for a recommendation from someone you trust who has recently sold their house. If of course you don’t know anyone who has recently sold their house you won’t go far wrong by choosing a member of the Norwich and District Association of Estate Agents. Membership of this professional body does not depend on how much each business is prepared to pay. Instead, membership depends on whether the agent is prepared to run an ethical business, stick to a code of conduct and share best practice.


November 2013

Chanel 4 Despatches documentary is spot on

 

I watched with interest the Chanel Four documentary titled “The Property Market Uncovered” on Monday night. The program was both refreshingly accurate in its depiction of some estate agency practices and confirmed my own concerns about their behavior. If you missed it I thoroughly recommend you watch it on C4 catch up. The program focusses on the illegal practice of pressurising buyers to use in-house legal and financial services which is endemic in some corporate chains of estate agents and is the result of a relentlessly target-driven culture within these businesses. It is illegal to discriminate against a buyer who does not choose to use an agent’s in-house services over one that does.

 

Practices such as preferred buyers, prioritised offers, failure to put offers forward, misleading information about the Government’s help-to-buy scheme and miss-selling of buy to let mortgages were all highlighted in this excellent program.

 

So why am I writing about it? Well it is no surprise to me that all the culprits were corporate estate agents where these illegal practices are systematic. Independent agents can of course be dishonest too but only on a case by case basis and the crooked ones don’t last long before they are found out. In Norwich the best bet is to use an agent who is a member of the Norwich and District Association of Estate Agents. We have 30 member firms and we don’t let just any agent join our group. We’re picky about ethics and some agents don’t want to join our organisation because they shy away from scrutiny and codes of practice.

 

There are plenty of excellent estate agents to choose from. My advice is to go to a local firm, with a stake in the community you live in, that has been established for some time and that has been recommended to you by someone you trust.


November 2013

How to deal with an adverse survey report


In my experience sales very rarely fall through as a consequence of an adverse survey report. Some buyers identify an adverse survey as the reason they might want to pull out of a purchase but it is nearly always used as a smoke screen because the buyer is too embarrassed to admit that they have simply changed their mind about the property in question.

 

When an adverse survey report is genuinely an issue for the buyer but they are still motivated to proceed, then this is where your estate agent really starts to earn their fee and in my experience at this point I know there will probably be a sale at the end of the process. Of course this rather depends whether you’re using an agent in the first place, otherwise you will have to deal with this rather thorny issue yourself if selling privately, or if you’re using an internet service to sell your biggest asset. It also depends whether you’re using an experienced and skilled agent who has seen it all before. The cheapest agent is never the most skilled or experienced but then that goes without saying.

 

The first advice I give to buyers when they have a survey report done is to speak to the surveyor in person or by telephone once they have received the report. This is because the surveyor can translate building terminology into plain English and expand on issues raised in the survey in a rather more effective way than they can do within the narrow confines of the report. The surveyor can also give an opinion and even offer advice which is, after all, what you’re paying for.

 

Survey reports on older properties will always include a list of defects and repairs. This is entirely normal with any property of any age even if it appears to be well maintained because it is, after all, second hand. Surveyors will always recommend a series of specialist inspections such as gas appliance inspections or damp and timber inspections and this is also entirely normal. Buyers of properties in need of modernisation are always paying a discounted price which takes into account the investment they will need to make once they move in. Some inexperienced buyers then assume that there is a further discount to be had once the survey report is in hand. This is only ever the case if the surveyor down values the property in his report.

Most surveyors include a valuation section in their building surveys and this provides an independent opinion of the value of the property warts and all. Buyers and sellers should use this independent opinion as a guide for any further negotiation.

 

So, when selling your home, especially if it’s a period home, use an experienced agent who can guide you through the process and deliver a satisfactory outcome. When choosing a surveyor, always use one that is properly qualified and one who does not also sell houses as this may introduce a conflict of interest into the advice on offer.


March 2013

How affordable is property in Norwich?

 

Affordability in the property market is something the media like to bang on about a lot these days. We haven’t seen any house price inflation for five years, however property booms have made property increasingly expensive especially for first time buyers. Property booms are not a recent phenomenon though. We had property booms in the sixties, the seventies, the eighties and the nineties which made life equally difficult for previous generations of young people trying to get on the property ladder.

 

The statistics of course don’t always match up to the media spin either. For example Halifax claimed recently that “house price affordability was at its best level since 1999 and that a typical mortgage today required just 28% of household income to service it”, which is less than one might have expected.

The Nationwide claimed earlier this year that “first time buyer homes are more affordable than they have been since 2003 with a typical first time buyer’s mortgage requiring 34% of income to service it.”

 

So how does this work in real life? Well it is possible to buy a one bedroom flat in Norwich for about £80,000. In fact there are twelve such properties on the market in Norwich right now. With a 20% deposit this would require a mortgage of £64,000 which represents a multiple of two and a half times average earnings. On the face of it this tells us that property prices in Norwich are very affordable assuming that first time buyers can first save or borrow from mum and dad the 20% deposit.

 

What has changed since I bought my first one bedroom flat in 1983 is that the expectations of first time buyers have changed and what they really want is a three bedroom house and this is where the affordability issue raises its head. So when the media report unsustainable property prices for first time buyers what they really should be reporting are the changes in expectations of young people when buying their first home.

 

The good news is that property of all types hasn’t been as well priced since 2006 and prices are not likely to rise or fall very much at all for some considerable time. As for first time buyers, well they are definitely back in the market.


February 2013

Why are there more tenants than buyers?

 

One thing I have learned about the property market over the years is that things always change and if agents are to succeed we have to change with it. One trend in recent years is that there are an increasing number of people who want to rent a house rather than buy one. Now in the long run it is far cheaper to buy a house than to rent one but for many renting is the right solution to their housing needs at the time. There are many reasons for the increasing number of tenants.

First time buyers need bigger deposits today than they have for years so unless the bank of mum and dad is open for business a lot of first time buyers have to delay their first purchase until they have saved their deposit and they tend to rent while they are doing this. Mortgage lenders are also much stricter today with their lending criteria and self-certified mortgages are a thing of the past so not everyone will qualify for a mortgage. For example, self-employed people will need several years of accounts before a lender will consider their application and buyers who work on commission or bonuses will only have a proportion of these earnings taken into account by lenders. Some workers will have to rent in the short term and some may never meet lenders’ strict criteria so renting is the only answer.

 

Renting is a more flexible way to live for some who are on temporary work contracts or know that their work will take them to a different location in the near future. Renting is an easier way to live for some who don’t fancy the idea of repairs and maintenance. Tenants can simply call the landlord when something in the property needs replacing or fixing and this is an attractive option for busy people with better things to do with their time than get up a ladder or get the paint brush out.

Rents are at an all-time high and as demand increases rents will also increase giving landlords a competitive rate of return when compared with other long term investment vehicles.

 

So whether you wish to sell or let your property or whether you want to buy or rent, we can help you.


Janurary 2013

The New Year is often a good time to take stock of what has passed and look forward to what lies ahead.

 

2012 was a challenging year for anyone working in the property sector, but then again that’s nothing new seeing as how we’re five years into the worst economic slow-down in living memory. However, it would be unwise to be totally taken in by the doom mongers in the media and in the chattering classes.

 

So what about 2013? Well at Hadley Taylor we had a better year in 2012 than the previous year and we are forecasting another modest improvement this year. Property is selling just fine as long as sellers don’t think their homes are worth more than anyone else does. We continue to have more buyers than sellers contacting our business and most economic indicators are promising. For example inflation is not rising, interest rates will continue to be at their historically low level for some years to come, the deficit is reducing, consumer confidence in recent months has improved significantly, employment is at an all-time high and most importantly economic growth is positive and recession is behind us.

 

So will 2013 be a good time to buy or sell?  My answer to that question is that it will be as good a time as it’s been for years and as good a time as it will be for several more years to come. Generally speaking property prices in Norwich are lower today than they were in 2006 and are not likely to rise or fall very much at all for some considerable time. The reason I don’t think prices will rise much is because there simply isn’t enough wage inflation or liquidity to cause house price rises. I don’t think prices will fall much either because our rapidly increasing population will continue to stimulate demand. What we are left with are level prices.

This all adds up to house price stability which is what we all need in spades. So whether you’re a first time buyer, an investor, a downsizer or someone looking to trade up, we have a very stable market in which to make your move.

 


November 2012

Is it easier to sell a big house than a small one?

 

I was asked recently by the Eastern Daily Press property journalist whether it is easier to sell a larger property than a small one and here is my response which was printed in last week’s paper:

 

It is a myth that million pound houses always sell and are not as affected by peaks and troughs as much as lower value properties. It is also a myth that it is easier to sell an expensive house than a lower value house. It is true, however, to say that the seller of a big house is sometimes an easier client for an agent to work for because he or she is often a more mature and experienced individual and is therefore more likely to accept good advice when it is offered.

 

For a start only a hand full of properties sell for more than a million pounds in Norfolk each year. These myths about the saleability of posh houses are generated in the tabloid press and are reporting certain transactions in London which is a property market not to be compared with any other part of the planet let alone the rest of the UK. I believe that the more buoyant sectors of the property market in Norwich at the moment are sub £125K, sub £250K and sub £400K with stamp duty playing a major role in buyer behaviour.


October 2012

Time and time again I find that people spend more time selecting a new pair of shoes than they do selecting an estate agent to sell their most valuable asset.

 

Many sellers go for the cheapest agent thinking that the outcome of the sale will be the same regardless of the agent they choose.

 

Estate agents who offer cheap fees are doing so because they have nothing else to offer you. They don’t have enough experience, they don’t have enough local knowledge and they don’t have a track record of selling houses like yours. If they did they would charge you a little more wouldn’t they?

 

Hadley Taylor charges a fee that is not the cheapest but then it’s not the most expensive either. When we achieve the best in street price for our clients they are delighted to pay our fee because they are bright enough to realise that getting the best price for their biggest asset is more important than saving a few hundred pounds on the fee.

 

Also remember that we only earn our fee once we’ve done our job unlike some agents who want you to pay them some money up front, and we only charge a percentage of the selling price unlike some agents who charge a percentage of the asking price.

 

So always choose the right agent, not the cheapest agent and remember that not all agents are the same. If in doubt, ask for a recommendation from someone who’s successfully sold their house and you won’t go far wrong.


September 2012

Should the Government be doing more to stimulate the housing market?


I was asked recently by the Easter Daily Press to comment on the Government’s latest ideas to stimulate the housing market.

First of all I don’t think it’s the Governments job to encourage people to buy houses. Whenever this has been done in the past the results have not been good for individuals, the property market or the economy in general. People should buy their first home after careful consideration and once they have saved a substantial deposit.

 

Speeding up the planning process would be a very good thing even if the answer is still “no”. The same could be said of much of what goes on in local authorities.

 

Slashing red tape for a limited period on home extensions sounds like a good idea but it may result in thousands of oversized ugly carbuncles on the faces of otherwise good looking properties. If extensions and improvements aren’t well designed home owners may find they don’t recoup their investment when they come to sell.

 

This months announcements are the latest in a long line of measures designed to breathe life back into the housing market. David Cameron and Nick Clegg want more houses built because their Government insists that more and more people will live on this small island. The truth is that if developers had the confidence to build more houses they would get on and build on the 200,000 plots they already have permission for. The truth is that developers generally don’t have that confidence or finance to get started and unless the Government wants to get into the house building business, the situation isn’t going to change in a hurry.

 

Of course there are millions of vacant properties up and down the country that could be renovated and put into use. If you look above shops in Norwich you will see that many of the upper floors are vacant. People could live in this accommodation and be located close to schools and work. Most of the redundant housing stock in the UK is of course owned by the central Government or local authorities so maybe Mr. Cameron and Mr. Clegg should look a bit closer to home before they do anything else.


August 2012

Estate Agents don’t have to be irritating

 

If you’ve had your property on the market in recent years you’ve almost certainly had your door knocked by an estate agent other than the one you have appointed to sell your house. This agent will claim to have been in the area and thought they’d ask if they could offer their services. The culprit has been driven to this type of canvassing by a desperate attempt to meet corporate targets in what is a very challenging and competitive market. We, of course, don’t do this and, I hope, no member of the Norwich and District Association of Estate Agents would do this either. That’s because we work to a code of practice and we think that this sort of behaviour falls very definitely into the category of bad practice. In fact the Office of Fair Trading would certainly have something to say about it.

 

Having carefully decided which estate agent to employ to dispose of our most valuable asset the vast majority of us would find this sort of door step approach incredibly irritating and I for one don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as these snake oil salesmen in cheap suits.

What is more disturbing is the fact that some sellers are elderly, unwell or vulnerable and this may well be the reason they have decided to sell in the first place. This type of vendor should not be worried by unsolicited door stepping. So if your house is on the market and you are troubled in any way by this type of unscrupulous behaviour then speak to The Ombudsman for Property who will be very glad you called.


July 2012

To buy or to rent that is the question

 

The rental market has expanded enormously in recent years due in part to the fact that first time buyers are struggling to raise deposits to buy their first home. If the bank of mum and dad isn’t lending then renting is often the only option available.

Renting, though, is a very expensive business. According to Barclays Bank it costs about £200,000 more to rent a typical family house than it cost to buy one over a 50 year cycle. This figure takes into account all of the acquisition costs, mortgage payments and maintenance costs and does not factor in any capital appreciation.

 

So it is clearly cheaper to buy than to rent which leaves us with the affordability issue. My advice is to buy what you can afford in the best possible location. We all want as many bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms as possible and a few acres and a pool would be nice but a two bedroom terrace in a good area is really as good a start as we should hope for and buying it rather than renting it is the smartest thing to do.

The other benefit to buying over renting is that nobody can give you notice to quit at any time of their choosing.


June 2012

Changes in the rate of vat on listed buildings alterations

 

I was asked my opinion recently by the EDP property journalist about the Government’s proposed changes in the rate of vat on listed buildings alterations and how this would affect those undertaking such projects. My response was as follows:

 

I can see this from both sides of the fence

 

The increase in vat on listed buildings alterations will of course increase the cost of adding to and altering historic buildings and this is a big problem for charities, the church and voluntary organisations charged with the responsibility of undertaking such work and these organisations will have to decide whether the changes or alterations are absolutely neccessary. Private individuals will also have to decide whether such alterations are necessary although some owners of large listed properties may of course be able to afford the extra cost and will go ahead with alterations regardless.

 

I suspect Brian Berry of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors is right in his assumption that this change in vat is about raising more money, however, the Government is running out of ways of raising more tax revenue and in it’s attempts to balance the books after years of deplorable overspend there will be many more compromises to be made in all aspects of taxation and expenditure.

 

Perhaps RICS should propose another way of raising the money or maybe they think the state should go further into the red?


May 2012

Choosing The Right Agent

 

I was asked this week by the Eastern Daily Press journalist what sellers should do if they are unhappy with the service their estate agent is providing. I was pleased to answer her question which she then printed in the property supplement this week

 

If you’ve chosen the right agent to sell your home in the first place they should be able to sell it assuming the price is right.

 

Some folk of course don’t choose the right agent, they choose the cheapest agent or the agent who valued the property higher than anyone else and this means they have almost certainly chosen the wrong agent. If you’ve chosen the agent who sells more houses like yours, in your postcode, than anyone else then you’re on the right track and I would always go by personal recommendation when dealing with such an important transaction.

 

If you feel your agent is not doing a good enough job the first thing to do is speak to them and discover why the property hasn’t sold. The next thing to do is to act upon the advice they give you. The agent may advise changes to the marketing material, a change in the presentation of the property, a change to the advertising or a change in the price. Sellers who act upon advice tend to get a result whereas sellers who don’t, stay on the market for months complaining to all their friends and family how inept their agent is.

 

If you want to change agents it’s very easy. If you have an agency agreement with the agent, read it and observe the terms of the agreement with regards to termination. Some agent’s agreements don’t have termination conditions or notice periods, some agent’s agreements will run for 4 or 8 weeks and some agents, believe it or not, will tie you in for 3 or 4 months. The latter is probably not the sort of agent to select in the first place. Once you have come to the end of the contract period and given notice to the agent you can then appoint another agent who hopefully will have more success.

 

The good news is that the vast majority of the properties we are instructed to sell end up being sold.


April 2012

Don’t be caught out by agents’ small print

 

If you’ve ever employed an estate agent to sell a property you may well have seen an agent’s contract or agreement. Most estate agents use these contracts to confirm what has been agreed between agent and client and they are good practice and a good thing for all concerned.

 

However, some agents produce reams and reams of contract drawn up by some corporate lawyer back at corporate headquarters and these rather long winded tomes are designed that way to catch you out. The agent knows you are unlikely to read through it so you’re unlikely to discover the rather onerous terms of business concealed within it.

 

Believe it or not some of these corporate agent’s sole agency contracts tie the client in for 13, 16 or even 26 weeks. Imagine not being able to sack you agent if he does a bad job for 26 weeks! The next thing you’re unlikely to notice is that if you do want to part company with the agent at the end of the term some of these contracts require an astonishing 28 days notice of termination. When it comes to paying your agent if he does succeed in selling your house most agents charge a percentage of the selling price. Some corporate estate agents, however, think it’s perfectly alright to charge a percentage of the asking price regardless of the price they actually sell the house for.

 

My advice is to always read the contract in your own time before deciding whether to proceed. The Hadley Taylor contract is written in plain English, it takes up no more than one side of A4 and it is fair to both parties.

 

The other little scam that some corporate agents get up to is to measure up your house during their market appraisal before you’ve even decided which agent to appoint. They do this so that you feel more obliged to appoint them because they’ve taken some photographs, spent more time with you and drunk your tea.


March 2012

How is the Property Market?

 

The property market has been a challenging environment in which to work since 2008 when the wheels fell off the wagon. Estate agents who are still in business and who have made radical adjustments to their cost base have got used to the new world order and are making a living.

 

There is a shortage of stock which is due in part to a lack of financial mobility on the part of some home owners wanting to trade up. This low level of transactions is also due in part to sellers holding back in the hope of achieving a better price at some point in the future.

 

Broadly speaking prices have remained unchanged for the past three years and are likely to remain unchanged for another three years. I think this represents a stable property market in which to buy or sell. Of course to those who have been weaned on ever increasing property prices fuelled by ever increasing wage inflation this view will come as a bit of a shock. However as time goes by more and more people will come to a point of realisation about the economy, their financial position and the value of their property. This process is a slow one and the drug of delusion is hard to kick.

 

Some will be grateful that prices are not likely to fall either. This is due to historically low interest rates which seem likely to stay and the continued increase in population growth that this Government seems to favour as much as the last one.

 

In our business we have more trouble finding realistic sellers than we do finding realistic buyers. If we think a property should sell at £400,000 there really isn’t any point in putting it on the market for £450,000 although sellers will always find a less experienced agent who will take instructions to sell at almost any price. The problem here is that the property doesn’t sell and the agent spends a lot of time and money flogging a rather overpriced dead horse. Better to choose an agent who sells most of the houses like yours and then take their advice on price.

 

The other mistake sellers make is to choose the cheapest agent. This can prove in the end to be a very expensive exercise because the cheapest agent rarely achieves the optimum price for the asset. This is why they are the cheapest, because they have very little else to offer their client.

 

So to sum up, the market is stable, prices are not likely to rise significantly for some considerable time and sellers who take advice from an agent in the know are likely to have great success.


February 2012

TOP TEN TIPS TO BEST PRESENT YOUR HOME

 

1)      Kerb Appeal – first impressions are important. Put yourself in the shoes of the viewer. Make sure the garden gate, front door and window frames are looking their best. Timber doors and windows may need a touch of paint, plastic doors and windows may need wiping down. The footpath leading to the front door or the driveway may need weeding. Plant some cheerful bedding plants to make the front of the property more welcoming. Replace the door mat if necessary. If at all possible put wheelie bins out of sight.

 

2)      De-clutter – we want viewers to look at your property, not at the contents. So de-clutter as much as possible. Remove any items of furniture, children’s toys or personal effects that are surplus to requirements from the property and put them into storage.

 

3)      Décor – Avoid any overly bold or bright colours, avoid patterned carpets and floral wallpapers and curtains. Use neutral colours, plain carpets and contemporary textiles to set the right scene.

 

4)      Kitchens – Many buyers change the kitchen once they move in. Even old kitchens need to be clean so that viewers feel they can use them when they move in even if they change the kitchen eventually. If the kitchen flooring is dark or worn replace it with a light coloured vinyl. Replace spot light bulbs where necessary to give the right impression.

 

5)      Bathrooms – Bathrooms need to be clean and fresh. Replace tired shower curtains and re-lay vinyl flooring if need be. Tile grout can be cleaned up with bleach or specialist cleaning products and replace the seals around the bath if there’s any mould. Remove any mould from the walls or ceiling with bleach cleaner.

 

6)      Gardens – Lawns should be mowed, patios pressure washed, borders weeded and trees and shrubs pruned to give the right impression. Remove any garden toys or garden ornaments that are surplus to requirements and put them into storage.

 

7)      Presentation – Make sure your property is clean and tidy when people come around to view with toys put away or put in their designated room. Kitchens should be clear of the breakfast things and bathrooms clean and tidy.

 

8)      Paperwork – Is your paperwork in order? If your property has been altered or extended do you have the relevant building regulations and planning permissions? Changes to boilers and glazing may also require building regulations certificates or FENSA certificates. You will also need warranties for any fitted appliances, new windows, boilers or wood burners.

 

9)      Pets – Some viewers will enjoy finding pets in your house when they visit but some will find it off putting.  To be on the safe side remove cats and dogs from the property during viewing times and make sure the property is free of pet hairs and odours.

 

10)   Make sure every room has a designated function. Dining rooms should have dining tables, bedrooms should have beds and studies should be clearly where you study. If you need to borrow a few items of furniture to make each room look dressed then this might be worth the effort. Rooms that have no clear function are not valued as highly by viewers as rooms that do. In family houses it is also important for some rooms to be designated adult rooms and some designated children’s rooms.


January 2012

How to choose a surveyor


My advice to buyers is that they should always satisfy themselves that the house I’m selling them is what it appears to be and isn’t falling down or falling down a hole. The older the property the more important it is to have a full survey although sometimes a homebuyers report will suffice.

 

Surveyors come in all shapes and sizes. My advice is to always find a local surveyor who has been recommended by someone you trust. There’s no point in asking a surveyor from Cambridge to do a survey on a house in Norwich because they will be less familiar with the style and period of property in different areas, they will have more difficulty reaching the correct valuation and they will charge you more because they will have to travel further to do the job.

 

Never use a surveyor who is also an estate agent. Some estate agents who do provide surveying services have unwittingly introduced a conflict of interest into their business because they pass judgement on properties being sold by their competitors. Buyers should use a truly independent surveyor who is not also in the business of selling houses.

 

Most of all buyers and sellers should remember that very few sales actually fall through because of issues raised in a survey report as long as the seller is using a good estate agent.


December 2011

How did bricks and mortar really perform in 2011?

 

At the end of each year it is always interesting to see how property has fared compared to other popular investment vehicles. With inflation running at about 5% one needs to invest prudently just to stand still these days.

 

In East Anglia property prices rose by about half of one percent. Not much to write home about I know but let’s compare this with other investments. Gold was the front runner in 2011 increasing in value by 14% but gold is a very volatile commodity and who’s to say what will happen to gold prices next year.

If one had played it safe and gone for a bank savings account the return would have been about 3% at the very best which is safe but in reality, not even keeping up with inflation. If one had opted for a FTSE 100 based investment one would have fared very badly. The FTSE 100 lost 8% of its value in 2011 and investors are still licking their wounds.

 

The other benefit of property is that you can live in it unlike stocks, shares, gold or bank deposits. Property as an investment is where the shrewd investor should look. Terrace houses in the Golden Triangle return about 5% gross, one bedroom flats and garages up to 8% and with a buoyant rental market there is no shortage of tenants.

 

So whilst gold has been the clear winner in 2011, property has fared very favourably too.


November 2011

What is the future for new build?

 

With our population growing at about a quarter of a million people every year there is enormous pressure on housing in the UK and this is one factor that underpins and supports house prices. But how sustainable is it to keep building new houses in the way that we do?

 

Now there’s nothing wrong with modern houses – in fact we sell them all the time. What makes them so unsustainable is where and how they’re built. New houses tend to be on estates on green field sites on the outskirts of towns and cities. They are neither in town nor in the country. To live in them you need at least two cars per household in order to transport everybody to work, school and play. Each property has at least two flushing toilets and two power showers which have to be supplied by our dwindling water resource and there isn’t a doctor’s surgery, nursery school or shop for miles around. They tend to be built far too near low lying land and water courses because let’s face it the good sites have been developed already and this often makes them difficult to insure against flood.

 

One wonders who contrived this style of living in the first place and more to the point which bright spark in government gave it the seal of approval.

Very few new homes are built close to amenities within an established community because not only are brown field sites scarce, they are more costly to develop and seeing as profit is the key driver in new housing development that really wouldn’t do would it?

On this tiny island there really isn’t an easy solution to the problem other than the blindingly obvious which is for government to decide that we’re not going to increase our population by 250,000 every year and keep our land green and pleasant.


September 2011

Who’s holding up the purchase process?
The Norwich property market is in reasonable shape as we enter the autumn which is traditionally a good period for buyer activity. Unfortunately Norwich City Council seems to be the biggest impediment to the market at the moment with Local Authority searches taking up to six weeks to be returned.

This rather appalling state of affairs is not due to large volumes of sales but rather because the department responsible for turning around search results is “under resourced”. This is local government speak for “blame the government cuts” as if the microscopic reductions in public spending that we have seen thus far should make any difference at all.

 

Local Authorities and central government would do well to improve the search process and thus speed up house purchase rather than hinder it seeing as the housing market is such a huge revenue earner for the state.

August 2011

When it comes to choosing an Estate Agents is the cheapest the bestest?

 

Estate Agents come and go in Norwich and at the moment there are about 50 agents selling property in the Golden Triangle area of Norwich.

 

New agents come along from time to time and some of these are successful and some are not. New agents either offer something different, something better or something cheaper.In the absence of something better or something different most start-ups offer a cut rate deal when they open for business. So book early and you might be one of the lucky sellers to take advantage of a cut rate commission.

 

Now in life, as in business, I have learnt that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and one always gets what one pays for. In other words a cut rate deal usually means a cut rate service from a cut rate individual and whilst our commission rate at Hadley Taylor is very competitive our clients know that achieving the best possible price for one’s most valuable asset is far more important than using the cheapest estate agent in town.


January 2011

New Year – Same Market

 

The New Year has started very much as the old year ended in our office with more buyers than sellers. Stock levels are low but there are always serious buyers around for those few owners who decide to take the plunge and I’m sure as the weather improves we will see a few more for sale boards in our area.

 

The latest economic indicators have not been very encouraging with inflation rising and economic growth slipping back. The upshot of these rather depressing figures will mean a further delay in any increase in interest rates and little chance of wage inflation and consequently of house price inflation for the foreseeable future.

 

So is it a good time to make a move in the property market? Well if you’re buying the answer is definitely yes because house prices and mortgage rates haven’t been as low as this for years and if you’re selling the answer is also yes because delaying a sale for two or three years won’t necessarily mean you’ll get a better price. In other words prices in the better residential areas of Norwich have been stable for some time and will remain stable for some time to come and this represents a secure environment in which to make what is for most people their biggest financial commitment.


March 2011

Signs of house price inflation

 

I have commented recently about the lack of good quality housing stock coming onto the market of late and the impact this has on buyers wishing to move into the area. But what about the impact this lack of supply has on prices?

 

Well what we are seeing is rising prices during February according to the Nationwide. It stands to reason that if you limit the supply to any market the price will go up and that is exactly what will happen to UK house prices if this situation continues. I for one would like to see more stock coming onto the market and stable prices.

 

This is not the case for all sellers however. What we are also seeing is a two speed market starting to emerge. Let’s forget for a moment about London’s “super prime” market and split the remainder of the UK into “prime” and “sub prime”. The prime market comprises of good quality housing stock in desirable areas many of which can be found in Norwich. These properties are in short supply, they are in demand from the professional classes moving into the city and we are achieving excellent prices for them.

 

The sub prime market comprises smaller properties in less desirable areas or cities, the owner is more likely to be a distressed seller, these properties are in plentiful supply and therefore prices are under pressure. These properties are generally sold by volume agents and increasingly you will find them at auctions which have become the preferred last chance saloon for many sellers.

 

In London, which as a property market can only be compared with other landmark capital cities, there is an additional factor pushing up prices. The pound is weaker today than it was a year ago and this makes London property investments even more enticing to wealthy foreign buyers. The result of this is of course house price inflation in the better parts of the capital.

 

So what we need are sellers. So don’t be shy. We can introduce you to lots of buyers.


April 2011

Spring is in the air

 

At last we have seen some activity in the Norwich property market. This year has been slow to get started but in recent weeks we have seen more instructions to sell, more viewings, more offers and more sales agreed.

 

Many buyers and sellers are still a little reluctant to test the water. People are waiting but they’re not quite sure what they’re waiting for and I’m not sure either.

 

If buyers are waiting for prices to fall, I don’t think they will. With twice as many new households being formed as there are new homes built it stands to reason that supply and demand will remain the biggest driver in the UK housing market for some years to come and this will underpin house prices. This is because developers aren’t suddenly going to acquire additional funds, not to mention additional courage, to build many more new houses and development land in locations close to amenities yet far enough away from water courses is will increasingly be in very short supply. 

 

If sellers are waiting for prices to rise I don’t think they will in a hurry either. This is because the economy will grow very slowly for the next couple of years and wage inflation will be modest at best with workers in both the private and public sectors seeing wage increases only as productivity rises.

 

So what we have is a very stable market. In fact the sort of market that buyers and sellers should feel confident about dipping their toe into.


May 2011

How do Estate Agents work in other countries?

 

I’ve just got back from my annual holiday and many of you may also have been away over the Easter break or will be planning your holiday for later in the year.

 

When I’m on holiday abroad I can’t resist the temptation to check out the property prices in whichever country I’m in at the time. I guess it’s an obsession that goes with the territory when one is an estate agent. What I find is that property abroad is increasingly expensive compared to the UK due in part to the weakness of the pound and those destinations offering bargain homes in the sun are becoming increasingly few and far between.

 

What is also quite interesting is to see how estate agents in other countries work and to learn what they charge their clients. In fact I’m often quite envious at the rather eye watering commission rates estate agents enjoy in other countries. For example it will cost about twice as much to sell a house in the US or in Australia as it will here whilst in France agents charge about 4% and in South Africa agents charge up to 7%. In Italy they really have a laugh because agents charge both the seller and the buyer.

 

Here in the UK estate agents fees are often the subject of endless column inches and media spin but in reality the cost of selling a house here is less than in virtually any other country on the planet. Regulation of estate agents is also much more rigorous here than in most other countries where in many cases redress is non-existent.

 

So if you’re back from your Easter holiday and considering putting your house on the market you can expect great value for money from your local property professional and expect him or her to work within a strict code of conduct rather like the one we have within the Norwich and District Association of Estate Agents.


June 2011

How should I select my Estate Agent?

 

One question I am often asked by would be sellers is how should I decide which estate agent to use? Now I’m bound to say that sellers should choose me but if one is to be more objective let’s look at some more sensible selection criteria.

 

There are many good estate agents in Norwich and many of them can be found within the ranks of the Norwich and District Association of Estate Agents. What might be more useful is to point out reasons why you shouldn’t use a particular agent. Agents that follow poor practice will almost certainly do a poor job and fail to sell your house or sell it for less than it’s worth.

 

For example, sellers should never use estate agents who knock on your door asking if they can sell your house. This is a particularly nauseating practice that preys on the elderly, the infirm or the inexperienced. If it happens to you report it to the NAEA or the Ombudsman but most importantly don’t use that particular agent.

 

Never use an agent that asks for an up front fee. Good estate agents with the required expertise and local knowledge to sell your house at an advantageous price will charge you once they’ve done the job and not before. Volume agents who charge an up front fee rely on banking the income from hundreds of houses they don’t actually sell.

 

Don’t use an agent who values your house at a higher price that anyone else unless they can prove to your satisfaction how they will achieve the price quoted.

 

Don’t use an unlicensed agent. Most agents are members of the National Association of Estate Agents but not all of these meet the required criteria to be a licensed agent. Ask the agent if they are licensed when they call to do their market appraisal.

 

Beware of agents that want you to commit to a sole agency agreement for more than a few weeks. This is because if the agent is not successful at selling your house you need to be able to employ a different agent as easily as possible. Believe it or not some agent’s contracts tie you in for 13, 16 or even 22 weeks but you’ll only discover this when you read the small print in their contract.

 

Don’t use agents who also sell mortgages or conveyancing. These agents have unwittingly introduced a conflict of interest into their business for the sake of making more profit. These agents may be more focused on earning commissions from mortgage and conveyancing work than the job in hand which is to sell your house. Ethical estate agents have only one objective and that is to get you the best price for your most valuable asset.

 

Beware of estate agents who suggest selling your home at auction. Very few properties are suited to an auction sale. The vast majority of properties sold at auction are sold for less than their true value.

 

Most important of all do be assured that estate agents in this country are more ethical, more regulated and offer better value for money than realtors in virtually any other country on the planet.


September 2010

Reasons to be cheerful

 

If one were to take too much notice of the national press and broadcast media one might become rather depressed about the economic outlook and the housing market in particular. However, any decent psychologist will tell you that the national press and the broadcast media are past masters in the art of negative conditioning. In other words the worse the news, the more we read and watch. The EDP does, of course, take a rather more positive approach to local news I’m pleased to say.

 

There are plenty of good news stories about the economy that are buried in the small print. For example the economy is growing, the deficit is being addressed, unemployment is falling, there is stability in financial markets and the culture within government to buy now and pay later is being curbed. The last great period of austerity was in the 1950’s which is a period many regard as a golden era for this country. In fact the measures taken in the 1950’s to balance the books following the Second World War paved the way for prosperity during the following four decades. Rather than fear austerity measures we should embrace them and see them as a necessary medicine for a sick patient.

 

So when it comes to moves in the property market I would advise sellers to choose an agent who is not just hard working, local and well connected but realistic and objective and to be patient in selling because the desired outcome may take several weeks or months.

 

Although I think it would be foolish for any estate agent to use the word “buoyant” when describing the market at the moment, there are encouraging signs. At Hadley Taylor we have agreed three sales in the Golden Triangle each in excess of £600,000 in as many weeks. This is a sure sign that the market is not as depressed as the editors of national newspapers and producers of news programs would have us believe.

 

Times may be hard and confidence in property has been dented but the fundamentals that underpin the UK housing market haven’t changed. Our island doesn’t get any bigger but the population does, new housing development is running at way below the rate required to make up the difference and most importantly of all, Britons have a love affair with property and a burning desire to own their own home. For all these reasons the long term outlook for property is good.

 


October 2010

The things Estate Agents Say

 

If you’ve ever heard an estate agent say “I’ll only put your offer forward if you come into our office to see our mortgage adviser” or “I’ll make sure your offer is accepted as long as you use our legal service” then you have been in the presence of at best an incompetent or at worst a crook. This is because the agent doing the talking either doesn’t know his business or he knows it but chooses to flout the law. You see it’s not just an agent’s moral responsibility to put all offers before his client; it is also his legal obligation to do so.

 

Estate agents who run in house legal and mortgage services do so in order to make more profit although they will tell you they do it to provide a more comprehensive service. What they are doing is running the risk of introducing a conflict of interest into their business and although some agents successfully manage to walk the fine line between providing additional services and falling foul of the law some don’t. If an agent puts their sales people on commission to sell all these services across the board they could have a recipe for corruption.

 

So if you ever hear this sort of thing going on please report it to the Estate Agency Ombudsman who will be very pleased you called. You see not every estate agent wants to be the butt of dinner party jokes or tarred with the same brush as these types. Some of us run businesses following strict codes of conduct where conflicts of interest have been deliberately removed from our day to day activities. If buyers and sellers want advice as to which professionals to use for legal and financial services we tell them who to speak to but this is where the relationship ends. Selling houses is our business and we tend to do it quite well.


October 2010

How affordable is housing in the UK?

 

Call me simple but I don’t buy this line about lack of affordability in the UK property market. The media and particularly the dear old BBC never stop going on about how unaffordable property is in this country particularly for first time buyers.

 

Well let’s just look at the facts. Firstly house prices in East Anglia are about as low as they’ve been for about 5 years – already starting to sound affordable wouldn’t you say?

 

Interest rates are lower than they’ve ever been – sounds even more affordable.

 

Now let’s look at the average UK house price, which is £167,000 according to the land registry, and the average UK income, which is £40,000 according to the Office for National Statistics. Now I know we don’t earn quite as much as those clever folks in London so our average salary here in Norwich is a little less than the UK average but so too is the average house price.

 

So let’s look at the plight of first time buyers – a one bedroom flat in a decent part of Norwich can be acquired for about £90,000 and a person on average income in Norwich earns £30,000. So with a 20% deposit a first time buyer needs to borrow a multiple of 2.4 times their salary – sounds very affordable to me.

 

The issue here is not affordability at all. The issue is that first time buyers have changed the game. They don’t want to buy one bedroom flats which is what people of my generation did 25 years ago, instead they want a 3 bedroom house and that is why the BBC talk about there being a lack of affordability in the UK housing market.

 

The evidence of this trend is all too easy to spot from where I’m sitting. I sell 3 bedroom houses to first time buyers and I sell 1 and 2 bedroom flats to landlords who then let them out to young people who live in them until they can afford to buy their 3 bedroom house.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, first time buyers and indeed any type of buyer are entitled to buy whatever they want but what they shouldn’t do is complain about how unaffordable property is because in truth they haven’t had it so good for years.


November 2010

 

Why go to auction?

 

Auctions have become very fashionable of late, especially in Norfolk. Whilst I think there are some very good auctions to be found locally where you will find unique or quirky properties that are best marketed in this way I also feel that most of what goes to auction would achieve a better price if sold by private treaty. Auctions are also where you will find lenders off loading properties because they want their money quickly and they don’t give a hoot how much the property sells for as long as they recoup their losses.

 

It is well known in property circles that if you want to bag a bargain you go to auction. So why would sellers want to sell their property at a discount? What is even more of a mystery is why local authorities choose to sell their surplus property stock at auction. Why should the tax payer fund discounts to property speculators?

 

Auctions you see attract only a small section of the property buying public. If you go to auction you need to have cash or a mortgage offer and you need to have spent some money beforehand satisfying yourself that the house isn’t falling down and you need to have lots of courage. These prerequisites exclude most buyers and as any good salesman will tell you, if you want to achieve the best price for any product you market it to the widest audience not the narrowest.

 

So yes, auctions have their place but the quantity and frequency of auctions locally tells me that they occur not because they are an effective means of achieving the optimum price for the client but rather that they offer great profile to the agent concerned.


December 2010

What a year!

 

As we enter the quiet end of an eventful year it is time to reflect on the last 11 months and despite many agents describing market conditions as very difficult, with two firms closing their doors for good last week, I am delighted to report that we have seen a 35% increase in transactions on 2009. In fact we end the year with more buyers than sellers. This year has also been our best year ever selling properties around the half million pound mark which is a market sector where we are very clearly the leader.

 

The New Year will bring a welcome batch of new instructions and I believe more activity in the market. Buyer confidence will improve as the economy continues to grow and as many in the public sector realise that a spending review doesn’t necessarily mean redundancy.

 

Investment buyers will continue to see property as a much better revenue stream than savings accounts which will produce disappointing returns for some time to come. First time buyers with good deposits and proof of earnings will find borrowing easier as the year unfolds and we will continue to see a steady stream of professionals moving to the area to work at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, the University of East Anglia and Aviva.


July 2010

Will property out perform inflation?

 

Price Waterhouse Coopers have recently confirmed a view that I have held for some time, which is that property price inflation over the next few years will be modest at best. Their view is that property prices will struggle to keep pace with inflation. This will change the way many people view their property purchases from now on. For those of us simply wishing to buy a house to live in, nothing changes, but for those who see their home as an investment vehicle that will always increase in value and which can be borrowed against whenever the need arises, I’m afraid the game is up.

 

However, before we write off property as an investment vehicle completely let’s consider how other investments will do over the next ten years or so. Are we to assume that savings rates will out perform inflation? On current form I think not. Are we to hope that stocks and shares will out perform inflation? Maybe, but maybe not and only the bravest investors will be around to find out.

 

So compared with the alternatives perhaps good quality housing stock in good residential areas doesn’t seem like such a bad bet as some might think.


August 2010

Could property become a realistic alternative for investors?

 

Many people who rely on income from savings will be wondering what to do next with rates on deposit accounts struggling to get above 2%. Low savings rates are symptomatic of the state of the economy and are here to stay for the foreseeable future so could property prove to be a viable alternative?

 

Residential property investments haven’t looked very attractive in recent years due to falling property values but perhaps it’s time to look again now that we have more stable prices and very low rates of return for savers. Let’s ignore capital growth and look solely at yield. Residential investment property in Norwich is currently yielding up to 6.5% before costs and taxes. If investors have the stomach to take on a house in multiple occupancy the return could be as much as 7.5% gross and if investors are prepared to look at mixed residential and commercial properties the returns are even higher.

 

Of course there are many more things to consider with this type of investment and many more pitfalls than if one were to put one’s feet up and wait for the building society statement to come through the letter box but as we enter unchartered water for investments we will all have to make our money work harder than ever before.