All posts by Mark Walmsley

Coventry – Euston – Sales Express!

Although I can’t see Coventry becoming North Londonshire any time soon it is worth bearing in mind that local government development agencies have come up with such bizarre  concepts in London’s more popular commuter towns in recent years.

With a travel duration of 60 minutes from Coventry Station and annual costs being in the region of £7500 it is no wonder we are finding more and more buyers visiting from the Big Smoke. This annual cost of travel is as little as 1% of the average price difference between  houses in London’s Zone 1 and 2 and Coventry itself.

With Nationwide showing a 26% growth in central London and a steady but not so spectacular increase circumnavigating its core, the ability to commute can offer both a healthier lifestyle and a happier wallet as well. With the opportunity to own more substantial property at a fraction of the cost, the once traditional lure of towns such as Reading, Hatfield and Luton can be bettered at even lower cost by travelling just a few miles further.

Kettering, Peterborough, Luton and Basildon are in the top five most cost-effective towns within a 70-minute commute to central London. Coventry sits even closer if we use the Coventry – Euston line.

We have seen tremendous interest in properties within easy access to Coventry Station. Styvechale, Cheylesmore and Earlsdon are all appealing to Londoncentric buyers wishing to spread their wings.

What with the new FriarGate development dramatically improving the entire Station area we could soon see Coventry and its surrounding Villages become a genuine commuter hub. Seemingly this city is certainly becoming one to to invest in and one that should see more families making it there own. Now that can’t be bad for anyone can it.

Come on Down! The Price is Right!

I’d like to think that Leslie Crowther and I have little to nothing in common. I was alive in the 1980’s but I didn’t present any game shows.  The famous “Come On Down, the Price is Right” catchphrase did though come to mind  after 4 new instructions were under offer within 24 hours of being launched to the market this week. We did not offer these house for sale less than others had valued them. In fact two of them were higher valuations than any other agent. The properties  were not being given away by any means. One of them was actually valued over 30% higher than our competition!

Research, market analysis and a working  knowledge of remedial and installation costs from Lighting to Lofts, enable us, we believe, to price sensibly for both the seller and the buyer. After all, however long the process of selling a property, the  reality is that the price will be justified by external forces anyway! The Mortgage Survey, The Home Buyers Report and The Building Survey will all aid (or band aid, pardon the pun) the correct and actual sale price.

A market leading trainer whose course we attended showed how vital the “asking price” was within the first few weeks of marketing. To achieve the highest “actual” price, the volume of viewings is no accident. If the “asking price” is incorrect the viewings will not occur. If it’s correct they will. In fact if the “asking price” is less than the “market price” then for goodness sake don’t panic. The house will simply attract a greater volume of viewings and the price will rise to it’s “correct” value. Remember if you are the seller then the property for sale is yours. No one can steal it from you. If the offers that come in aren’t to your liking then don’t accept them. If they continue to come in without much variance then rethink. A house on the market for a long time very rarely gets sold for what it could at the beginning.

Regulation, Regulation or Simple Integrity

No sooner had your local regulated Estate Agent amended all of their promotional material to include the new Ombudsman Logo (as requested by them because the Logo was immensely important to the service the Estate Agent delivered) do we now have a new regulatory body which has superseded the Office of Fair Trading for all property sale compliance. Clients and Customers alike are now advised to visit the Citizens Advice Bureau if they believe they have been unfairly treated or even mis-sold property under new regulations. From last month the OFT and Competition Commission merged to form the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). This body now enforces, by law, consumer protection regulations governing house sales.

The most interesting part of this regulation would be the disclosure of information by the agent to a buyer regarding any information that is known that may affect a buyers decision. No more Caveat Emptor for the agents to rely on then! No more painting over the cracks or only attending viewings when the neighbours dog’s are asleep! Let’s be realistic about this…

It’s simple common sense and integrity that needs to be applied by the seller, the agent and the buyer.

What matters to one buyer doesn’t necessarily matter to another. Maybe our buyer owns a noisier dog. Maybe our buyer wants to buy a dilapidated property. As long as the price reflects it and the survey is agreeable then we are all aware and understanding. The protection is for the consumer against those individuals and agents hiding serious issues that the buyer should have been  made aware of. If a survey reveals serious detrimental information and a sale falls through then of course, surely, any further sale must account for this knowledge. That’s common sense and a lack of themis what these regulations should be applied to.

 

Are We On a Bus Driven By London?

Once again that omnipresent threat to the UK’s perception of Estate Agency is our Capital City. It drives a progressing market to the extreme and whilst the counties beyond do not rejoice in its’ ascendency they suffer when it eats itself. David Cameron, backed by Nick Clegg (what?) have suggested curbs on the second phase of the Help to Buy Scheme. However both agree with Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, that we do need to build more new homes. This cannot be denied. But if we do and the Help to Buy is restructured or even phased out then whose buying? More investors?

Undoubtedly the Bank of England’s uncertain management of  the rapid increase in house prices has been fuelled by London. A 17% rise within the last year has been experienced in London with an average outside the area of 9%. Coventry has seen a equivalent growth of 4.5%. If this growth was experienced throughout the UK then no such redress of Help to Buy would surely occur. The lack of available property generates increased prices and in London, with a constant fuel of overseas investors, overpricing  is clearly not a concern.

If there are more buyers than property and asking prices become “Guide Prices”  then the BBC decided to scare the nation with the fact that “Estate Agents” were now charging the buyer and not the seller. I’ve seen this happen with one agent in Chelsea charging a £6000 administration fee  just to place an offer with the Vendor. This sounds horrendous but don’t think that this is transferable to the Midlands because it isn’t.  That’s a bus none of us would ever want to ride on.

 

Joint Agency or Double Trouble?

Last week we placed a prestigious property onto the market in a coordinated effort to achieve the very best price possible. Both ourselves and another Estate Agent met the client independently before sharing information in a considered meeting. We had contrasting opinions to the other agent about a few different aspects of the potential sale but the vendor, prior to the instruction had heard both viewpoints and wanted maximum exposure. Sometimes, if Estate Agents work together honestly, the client can benefit from a “Joint Agency” instruction. The problem is not many do because not many Estate Agents work well together.

This is very much a contrasting story to other “Multiple Agency” experiences we have witnessed. Thankfully due to our speed of sale, we have not seen others agent instructed after ourselves, but we have begun marketing at the tail end of another’s agency period and this has led to complications for our sellers.

Despite instructions from their clients to the contrary, these Agents have not removed the properties from their own websites, Rightmove or shop windows. The result of these practices in Coventry are that “Multiple Agency” simply confuses potential buyers and leads to unsympathetic and reduced offers at best.  At worst the buyers look elsewhere entirely. What the client should remember is that if their home has been on the market without offers then something is wrong. When this is the case, a fresh pair of  eyes and ears can be the start of a successful new beginning rather than a prolonged sense of disappointment.

Continuing to employ the Agent who hasn’t achieved what they promised to achieve really does does not solve anything.  Thankfully the quality of our brochures, photography and I.T systems have allowed us to continue our number one ranking for Speed of Sale and Click Through rates during these “multiple agency” excursions and have seen properties that have sat unloved for many months sell for asking prices after multiple viewings.

“On The Job” Hits The Right Buttons!

Quite often the last thing an Estate Agent would choose to do in their own spare time would be to watch a television series about Estate Agents but “Under Offer: Estate Agents On The Job” was a different beast. I suppose the voyeuristic nature of the docudrama spiked a sense of  impending dread. I better watch it so I know what  I’m faced with tomorrow! Would we Estate Agents be further tarnished? Would we be mocked? I was pretty confident that the show wouldn’t instigate a surge of job applications but I hoped for the best and I think we got it.

First and foremost it was fun. We are great fun you once you get to know us.

Secondly the show was littered with classic quotations that that Messrs Scorcese and Tarantino would have been proud of. “Mass Murderers would be greeted with a better response”, “If you want to be an Estate Agent, you just open a shop”, “Most Estate Agents are Posh and Blond and I’m Irish and a Redhead”. It was great. The show on a more serious note clearly highlighted the canyon between London and the rest of the country something that we certainly have written about before. What clearly works in one region won’t  necessarily work in another but certainly what shone through is that energy and enthusiasm go along way. Together with a moral compass pointing North, Estate Agents should come out of this smelling of roses rather than manure! Still, we are only on  Episode Two!

Extraordinary Practice Does Not Make Perfect

What a week that was!

A record level of instructions and a record level of sales agreed. It seems that the Coventry buyer really has grown in confidence and together with Mortgage lending we are seeing sensible purchases facilitated by sensible lending. Let’s hope it stays that way. Last week three quarters of the new stock was sold with either asking price offers or above. Most importantly this completely satisfied our clients but it also reinforced the mentality that ” if you don’t overprice a house it will have enough interest to reach it’s own natural level”. That natural level will always be above the asking price (or as the London market now exemplifies,” The Guide Price”!).

From satisfied clients to the shocked and offended . “All fair in Love and War” and “We’ve all got mouths to feed” are just not justifiable hyperbole for ignorance and misleading information.

A potential seller requests multiple valuations or appraisals. Each agent presents their research, their service, the costs and the figure they would like to market the property for. This is how the process works. If you do the job correctly then in far more cases than not you receive the instruction to sell your clients home. We have been witness this week to our clients being approached by agents they haven’t instructed to a) “Dual Market” from day one, b) dis-instruct the chosen agent and c) be told they have made the wrong choice. These same clients have all sold through us within a few days of instruction, we have achieved a superb volume of viewings and the offers have been asking price or above. With our Click Through Rate consistently number 1 in the region and our speed of sale equal to it, I would suggest that some of these “established agents” get their own ships in order to avoid this sort of embarrassment being launched upon them. Extraordinary Practices like this only enhance the poor reputation that many Estate Agents have and that others are, unfairly, often tarnished with.

Nothing is Unsellable if Presented Properly.

Every House Will Sell. Put quite simply, every property has a market value and can be sold in a matter of days or weeks. This may sound incredible, especially if you have been on the market for months (or even years) but it is absolutely true.

On Saturday this week we agreed a sale on another property that had been unsuccessfully marketed for many months with another agent. It was a lovely home. Definitely a property worth more than the square footage it presented, the house was certainly a difficult one to value.  Many are. If they are then the key is to not let them “sit” on the agents books. The agent can’t be allowed to forget your property and just wait for interest. That interest won’t come. Proactive agents have the ability to engage new interest and they need to be on the ball to do this. We sold the house  for a price the owners were happy with and the buyers were also delighted.

If a property is stuck on the market then it is for one of three reasons. Firstly, the vendor is not motivated to sell, secondly the property has not been marketed correctly (i.e poor marketing, brochures, presentation, lack of information etc) or thirdly the property is not being advertised at the right price. There is no other reason why a home will not sell.

Bad neighbours, busy roads, railway lines through the garden, poor decoration, old fashioned kitchens, not enough bedrooms, pink bathroom suites, unfinished extensions, holes in roofs, lack of parking, too many bedrooms, no heating system, poor location……………………….. THESE ARE NOT VALID REASONS FOR A PROPERTY TO BE STUCK ON THE MARKET. They are simply factors that negatively affect the value of a property.

So if you have a property that has been stuck on sale for a long time and you think it’s not selling because of the motorway at the bottom of the garden, think again. Look at the three reasons and work through them. Your property will sell with an agent who cares.

Let Your Purchase Be Crystal Clear!

Sometimes when you meet the right people opportunities arise that enable your business to move in a direction quicker than you anticipated! George and I met Ian Shaw, an experienced financial consultant and we got on even before he explained the full capacity and opportunities his business offered. Ian has the ability to independently search over 5000 mortgage products for potential clients, many of which, due to his companies partnership with Legal and General are unique to their company.

Crystal Clear Financial Planning can meet our customers and those we introduce, at our clients convenience, whatever the time or location. The research and proposal of a suitable mortgage for our clients will cost nothing. Ian, together with Graeme Lewis and the director Darren Burdis all follow our companies “Client and Customer First” ethos. Buying a house is not about us and it’s not about them. Buying a house is about the customer and selling a house is about our client. We don’t want to push a mortgage in front of our customers.

We are Estate Agents (I tried to think of another title but I suppose I can’t completely reinvent the wheel!) and we have no interest in which mortgage product you choose. We simply want what is best for you. The way to do that is to offer you the ability to discuss financial matters with a truly independent expert who can listen, advise and satisfy your needs.

Don’t Get Bored! Get Boards!

A common discussion with absolutely no rights or wrongs is the value of a “For Sale” or “To Let Board” at your home. “To Let” Boards are more straightforward as the emotional factor of telling your neighbours and the passing public that your house or a house you own is “available” is far less relevant. The percentage of owner occupiers renting there own home is obviously less than the number of  investment properties on the market. The issue regarding security though may still be a relevant one. If the property you own is empty then does a board signal “Empty! Easy Opportunity”. Well, Ne’er-do-wells don’t burgle empty houses.  So a Board does not a burglary make. These security issues are the most common negatives that a seller or buyer will concerned about, and quite fairly too.

The positives though can of course can be great. Desirable areas will lead potential buyers to drive around and research where they hope to live. If there is no “For Sale” board then they may not see your house. No matter how impressive the brochures and web details, no one should buy a home without seeing it in the light of day. A “For Sale” Board isn’t just helpful for the seller of course. It’s an immensely powerful marketing tool for the Estate Agent too.  If your agents For Sale boards are faded, in bad repair  or remain fallen down or broken, what does this say about them as well?