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Rightmove and Zoopla will see off rival says Credit Suisse  22 Oct 14

Financial services giant Credit Suisse says Agents’ Mutual’s new portal will hit its target of 5,000 members by its January launch date but that funding for the project is “insufficient” - meaning that Rightmove and Zoopla are at “attractive entry points” to investors. In recent weeks Credit Suisse discounted its target price for Rightmove from 3,100p to 2,655p and for Zoopla from 290p to 270p but it has now given both predicted 'outperform' ratings.    "We conclude that Agents' Mutual membership is growing, the risks are real and will impact Rightmove and Zoopla 2015 numbers, but that with the stocks down 13 per cent and 17 per cent respectively over the last month the risks are priced in," Credit Suisse said.   But the bank says it fears funding for Agents' Mutual - estimated to be £9.4m this year and £22m in 2015 - may be "insufficient" when compared with Rightmove’s and Zoopla's anticipated annual spend of between £42m and £46m each.    The bank says that while sentiment may be negative towards Rightmove and Zoopla in the short term as Agents' Mutual membership continues to grow, this will improve over time.    "Around launch, newsflow [coverage] will likely shift as the [Agents’ Mutual] venture actually has to deliver on the promises made to agents. We flag launch delays, poor site usage, weak early traffic and a lack of leads as potential issues" warns Credit Suisse.    rightmovezooplaCredit Suisse]]>

Banks told to help over house-move delay costs  22 Oct 14

The Bank of England has said those whose house moves were delayed on Monday or yesterday by a temporary shut-down of the CHAPS electronic money-moving service should approach their own bank for help in covering additional bills. Although CHAPS, the Clearing House Automated Payment System, operated as normal yesterday it is thought there were some hiccups with those moving house, following a nine-hour suspension of the system on Monday.   The Bank of England’s Real-Time Gross Settlement System - of which CHAPS is a part - was suspended for most of Monday after a technical fault.   It is thought that the Monday problem may have led some agents into delaying deals that were to complete early this week and may have caused a small number of movers to incur additional costs, such as those for removal firms which were delayed.    RBS is reported to have used an alternative system - the Faster Payments System - to ensure that property purchases went through, but other banks may have had delays in transferring monies.    Mark Hayward of the National Association of Estate Agents said that the failure of the payments system “will have a cascading effect and it is likely any payments will now be held up for a day or more as money takes time to transfer.”    Bank of England governor Mark Carney has launched an Investigation into the glitch.   CHAPSBank of EnglandNAEA]]>

Agents sceptical of OTM's 'one other portal' u-turn  22 Oct 14

There has been a broadly sceptical response from agents to the announcement by Agents’ Mutual’s portal OnTheMarket that it has started making exceptions to its controversial ‘one other portal’ rule for existing and potential members. A range of comments were posted online by agents yesterday after OTM announced that Scottish letting agents would be able to list on Citylets plus OnTheMarket and one other competing portal.   As with many online activities, most posters were anonymous (and several produced plenty of spelling and grammatical errors) but the significant majority expressed disappointment with the decision.   One post reads: “It's either a one other portal rule or not and the fact that this has already been loosened will inevitably lead to agents running all three next year with AM either powerless or without the will to stop them.”   Another reads: “There is a very simple word for this; cartel. It is no wonder to me that Rightmove are sitting back and remaining silent. They know that ultimately if the thing gets any traction a simple letter to the competition authorities will mire the AM team in litigation and the whole thing will come tumbling down.”   Another post asks specifically of the situation in Scotland: “Where does this leave S1 Homes?.....all sorts of difficult decisions........but cannot see the logic in allowing CityLets if you wont allow S1. How does it work for solicitors of Property Centres, does that count as one portal? Therefore cannot go RM or Z if they go OTM.”    On Twitter, prominent social media user Chris Wood of PDQ Property in Cornwall tweeted: “an exception that #AgentsMutual may well live to regret. #thinendofthewedge”   There were supportive comments from a minority, including those who said this u-turn was a shrewd way of ensuring Zoopla was the most significant loser in Scotland, and another who said “there won't be 1 agent at the otm launch that is only on 2 portals....just as long as they only carry Rightmove OR Zoopla....any others ...it's fine with me.”  Agents’ MutualOnTheMarketscotland]]>

Prime London prices "inflated and correcting" - agent  22 Oct 14

Strutt & Parker has compared its latest figures for the value of property transacted in prime London with those achieved by the firm in the third quarter of last year - with startling results.  Properties below £2m saw a decrease of 20.8 per cent, while homes priced between £2m and £5m homes went down by 27.1 per cent. £5m+ homes saw a decline of 15.2 per cent.    The agency says that when looked at over the longer-term these figures are not as drastic as they appear - in fact, the volume of transactions is actually up by 3.1 per cent compared to Strutts’ rolling 5 year quarterly average.    “We must have a sense of perspective and accept 2013 was an exceptional year.  Sales volumes are also showing a slowdown and two quarters of data suggest a trend of decline. This is as we predicted. We have seen these conditions before in the run up to a General Election when speculation mounts” says the firm’s research head, Stephanie McMahon.    Lulu Egerton, perhaps the best-known agent at Strutt & Parker, says: “There is no doubt that PCL property is in the midst of a price correction. Asking prices had become inflated and they are now in a period of correction where prices are being adjusted down by around 5 per cent to 10 per cent as buyers become far more price sensitive.”  strutt & ParkerlondonPrice Falls]]>

Agency quizzes NAEA over Agents' Mutual role  21 Oct 14

Online estate agency eMoov is asking the National Association of Estate Agents for clarification about the organisation’s membership of the board of Agents’ Mutual in the light of the new portal’s ban on online agencies - some of which are NAEA members. eMoov chief executive Russell Quirk has written to NAEA managing director Mark Hayward.   Quirk wants to know “how it is equitable in any way for the NAEA/NFoPP to formally sponsor and manage the Agents’ Mutual organisation when it blatantly seeks to exclude a part of the estate agency industry that the NAEA itself is apparently committed to fully representing”?   The full text of the email is reprinted below; it was sent to the NAEA by Quirk on October 8 and although Hayward sent a holding response within 10 minutes, asking to be given time “to consider your comments” no further reply has been received since.   Dear Mr Hayward   I wonder if you would be kind enough to clarify the position of the NAEA/NFoPP for me in respect of the forthcoming Agents Mutual/OnTheMarket portal?   As an industry trade body, your published ethos on membership of your organisation is as follows:   ‘Membership is open to individuals who accept the Association's aims and rules. To be eligible for membership of the National Association of Estate Agents your firm must be actively involved in the sale of residential property. If this is not the case you are not eligible for membership’.   Further, that with regard to ‘online estate agencies':   'Currently if you can meet the normal criteria then you are able to apply….’    My firm, emoov.co.uk, is an estate agency. We visit each home that we list for sale and compile appropriate media in full. Just like a high street estate agent.   We arrange viewings and provide vendor feedback. Just like a high street agent.   We negotiate offers on behalf of our selling clients. Just like a high street agent.   And we oversee each transaction from offer acceptance through to completion, liaising with buyer, seller, mortgage intermediaries and lawyers. Just like a high street agent.   We are estate agents. Indeed, a number of our sector are members of the NAEA, e.g House Network and Hatched. I have been an estate agent for 17 years, as was my father before me and his before him. I am an estate agent.   Your association is very clearly a professional body that represents all estate agency firms and as your website narrative clearly states, multiple times.   But…. the NAEA/NFoPP has chosen to accredit the forthcoming Agents Mutual portal with it’s formal approval and support. And, moreover, an NAEA/NFoPP representative sits on the Agents Mutual board.    Your press release of October 2013 is clear in that respect and in that the NAEA will be providing a governance role to Agents Mutual:   'NFoPP will also take an immediate seat on the Board of Agents’ Mutual Ltd and play a full role in its governance, representing the interests of those NFoPP members who have, or will, choose to join Agents’ Mutual’.   The thing is Mr Hayward, I’ve been told adamantly by Agents Mutual that they won’t allow me to become a member of their portal or to advertise my clients’ homes on their website because I am a so called online estate agents. My company was labelled as ‘parasitical’  by Ian Springett, the Chief Executive of Agents Mutual.    Parasitical to whom, one wonders? The consumer? Certainly not. The estate agency establishment? Well, that’s more questionable.   I don’t understand why Agents Mutual are excluding what they term ‘cheaper’ estate agents when we are clearly to the consumer’s benefit in that regard. The Government have of course supported new ways of delivering estate agency services as per their OFT 2010 report into home selling. And so it’s hard to reconcile how it’s acceptable on any level to exclude us as online estate agents. Indeed, do Agents Mutual have a fee threshold in pounds that is acceptable and, as it appears they do, what is that exactly I wonder?  £4000? £2000? Because whatever it is, it’s bound to exclude ‘old fashioned bricks and mortar’ agents here and there I suspect.   The question of service levels has been raised by Mr Springett as ‘reason’ that an internet based estate agent should not be allowed to join Agents Mutual. Yet over 200 independent reviews at AllAgents.co.uk place emoov.co.uk as the 45th best estate agent in the UK for customer service, out of over 12,000. So one wonders why an agent that is do demonstrably within the top 1% of ALL UK estate agents, should be prohibited from listing on a website that holds itself up as being for ‘the benefit of the consumer’?   It’s hard to fathom.   Harder still though is how the NAEA/NFoPP can possibly be aligned with the Agents Mutual ethos as I’ve set out above.   Could you please clarify for me how it is equitable in any way for the NAEA/NFoPP to formally sponsor and manage the Agents Mutual organisation when it blatantly seeks to exclude a part of the estate agency industry that the NAEA itself is apparently committed to fully representing as a professional body?   I’d welcome your explanation.   Thanks in anticipation.    Online AgentseMoovNAEAagents]]>

CHAPS crash will delay deals this week  21 Oct 14

The Bank of England’s problems with the CHAPS system of electronic money payments, including those transferring monies at the end of the house-buying process, will almost certainly lead to problems in house completions during this week.   On Sunday an additional payee was added to CHAPS, the Clearing House Automated Payment System. This triggered a problem when the system was started yesterday morning, meaning some previously-automated payments had to be handled manually.    The Bank said its payment system of which CHAPS is a part, known officially as Real-Time Gross Settlement, was suspended for most of Monday, being restarted around 4pm.   “Whilst Monday is not the busiest day in terms of completions, the failure of the payments system forhouse purchases will have a cascading effect and it is likely any payments will now be held up for a day or more as money takes time to transfer” warns Mark Hayward, managing director of the National Association of Estate Agents.    “The one part of a sale which is fixed is the completion date - with payments not being able to be processed today, this will not only have an effect in terms of the completion date moving, but also accompanying arrangements which may have been scheduled, such as moving support or van hire and the transfer of utilities to the new address” he says.   The full effect of the problem is unlikely to be known until at least Thursday.   The CHAPS system moves billions of pounds every day between financial institutions with an average daily total of 138,000 payments with a combined value of £277 billion.    Bank of EnglandCHAPSElectronic Payments]]>

Review: Sarah Beeny's How To Sell Your Home  21 Oct 14

For those EAT readers who missed it, Sarah Beeny’s How To Sell Your Home on Channel 4 last evening was probably what one would have expected from a person who, in her own words, owns “an established online estate agency.”   It was, to put it mildly, bullish about the online revolution, suggesting that by 2020 some 50 per cent of all homes in the UK will be sold this way, referring to vendors who opted to sell online as “pioneers” and revelling in the prospect of eating into the £5 billion of traditional estate agents’ fees which are paid every year by sellers in this country.   Interestingly, the show’s two case studies had radically different outcomes.   In Nottingham, the Watsons sold their four bed semi for £220,000, some £10,000 more than a high street agent valued it at. They had 27 viewers and a generally positive experience.    In East Sussex, Terri Measures defied the high street agent’s advice - and that of Sarah Beeny herself - and put her listed country cottage on sale at £400,000 to £450,000 instead of something like £300,000 to £320,000. Surprise, surprise - no viewings and no sale.   Beeny’s interpretation of this failure to sell did not for one second consider that perhaps the online method was at fault, or that a high street agent may have got nearer to asking price - or at least a viewing or two.   In Sarah’s outlook, the fault was entirely the price not the medium.   And the show, despite being about online sales, was also laced with some classic Beeny practical tips about how a lick of paint here or a new kitchen cupboard door there could improve the asking price and chance of a sale - sensible enough.   The show did illustrate some challenges inherent in the online system. Even the successful sellers felt that handling so many viewings made them (at least temporarily) resolve never to sell their own home again; and the practicalities of rushing back from the school run to tidy a property and then appear ‘on stage’ for prospective buyers made entertaining TV.   What remains to be seen is how the traditional agency industry responds to the show, and the five remaining programmes in this series, each featuring two online sales case studies.   Last night Twitter was disappointingly tame during the show, at least on the official #howtosellyourhome hastag.   Online agents plugged their own services mercilessly and only a few traditional agents waged their traditional arguments.    One came from Jamie Lester of London’s Haus Properties, a well-known critic of online agency, who tweeted:  “Sarah Beeny has yet to mention that estate agents tend to work on a no sale, no fee basis.”    The next edition of Beeny’s programme is on Channel 4 next Monday at 8.30pm.   Sarah BeenyOnline AgentsChannel 4]]>

Property firm wants 12 drones in London  21 Oct 14

London-based property management company Aspect says it wants to have up to 12 unmanned drones operating across the capital by the end of 2016. They will do everything from delivering keys for viewings to delivering small parts for developers or repairs.    Aspect’s property manager Paul Rowland is to meet with the Civil Aviation Authority to discuss the proposal.    Drones are rapidly becoming increasingly popular in the residential industry. Helmores, a small Devon estate agency which has its own drone and claims that it may have been the first agency in the UK to do so, says it has had to secure permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to use footage, which cannot be shot from over 400 feet.   "Effectively we are using the same airspace as civil and military aircraft which meant we had to produce our own operations manual and learn a great deal of general aviation knowledge as well as health and safety” says one of Helmores’ owners, Rob Stoyle.   "An aircraft like this can see a lot more and so it is important that we are sensitive to the flying path and how close I get to livestock, home owners and other unrelated properties. I am incredibly careful to use this footage where appropriate and assess the suitability of a property for this marketing tool” he says.   EAT has previously explained how any agent using a drone must have CAA consent in order to secure the appropriate insurance.  DroneslondonCAA]]>

Agency says interest rate and election jitters will hurt market  20 Oct 14

Strutt & Parker says the political uncertainty over the upcoming election is likely to sharply curb market activity next year - although there will still be some price growth. The agency says prices will rise by an average of five per cent across the UK and around three per cent in prime central London.   That is actually more optimistic than some other agencies which have previewed next year’s market. But even so, Strutts’ forecasts are a stark contrast to 2010 and 2011 when prime London prices surged by over 13 per cent year-on-year.   In addition to election jitters, Strutts says the prospect of interest rate rises and the continuing effects of the Mortgage Market Review are creating what head of research Stephanie McMahon calls ”potential headwinds” to batter the market next year.    If supply improves significantly thanks to the gradually strengthening house building figures, prices will be dampened, she warns.   “The government are continuing to boost house building across the country, and recent output figures from the construction sector reflect this. House prices tend to rise when stock is low and with more houses being built, particularly in the lower end of the market, this could also have an effect on prices over the next few months” explains McMahon.    strutt & ParkerStephanie McMahonlondon]]>

Purplebricks reported to be considering Stock Market floatation  20 Oct 14

Online agency Purplebricks, which launched just a few months ago in April, is already considering floating on the stock exchange next year according to one report. Launched by brothers Michael and Kenny Bruce, who ran the traditional high street agency Burchell Edwards in the Midlands, Purplebricks is backed by Paul Pindar, the former chief executive of outsourcing and business management firm Capita. Martin Bolland, Capita’s non-executive chairman, also has a financial stake in the business.   In August the so-called ‘star’ fund manager Neil Woodford invested £7m in the new firm, describing it as “a highly disruptive business model in the world of estate agency” with ”the vision, the technology and an experienced management team.”   The agency, which uses a network of local brokers to handle transactions, has told the Daily Telegraph that is has so far been instructed on 1,000 properties and sold more than 400; it claims to have saved vendors more than £1m in fees in its first three months.   This is some way off its eventual target business, however.   Over the summer the financial news service Citywire claimed that Purplebricks’ target for the financial year ending July 31 2015 is 85,413 instructions and for the following year 100,849 - if met, that would represent 10 per cent of all sales.  PurplebricksStock MarketOnline Estate Agents]]>

 
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