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TPO wants updated version of HIP  18 Apr 14

The Property Ombudsman is calling for the introduction of a new version of the much-derided Home Information Pack, abandoned by the coalition government four years ago. Christopher Hamer says “consumers would be better protected by a specific requirement that relevant information about all aspects relating to a property was disclosed in a formal document prepared by the seller.” He says that unlike the HIP, such a document should include a home condition report with information such as when the heating was installed, if the property has been subject of a flood and how often, to what depth, proximity of flood plains, subsistence issues, proximity to schools, prisons or graveyards and so on. “In my view it is right that the seller provides that and it is right that the buyer has everything that they need to know readily presented to them. For agents, it would not relieve them of their responsibilities under CPRs but such a document would certainly assist in them being aware of whether they need to draw any extra information to the buyer’s attention,” says Hamer.  Despite housing having become a significantly higher profile subject than in recent years, and with a general election only a year away, so far no political party has suggested a return of the Home Information Pack or any version of it.  Estate AgentTPOHIP]]>

EstatesDirect gets £600k crowd-funding cash  18 Apr 14

The organisation that calls itself the UK’s first ‘hybrid’ agency, chaired by Poundland founder Steve Smith, has received £660,000 of crowdfunding investment. EstatesDirect.com listed on CrowdCube in March with an initial target of £250,000. Within 10 days of the pitch going live the company hit the target and extended its pitch.  The firm, which currently has 14 franchises across the UK, has also received more than 125 requests to become a franchisee or licensee since listing on CrowdCube. EstatesDirect was founded by online dating entrepreneur Darren Richards along with businessman Ben Grove. It describes itself as combining an online estate agency model with regional property experts who meet customers face-to-face.  The business launched in 2012 as a regional pilot and now says it wants to become “the UK’s largest, single branded, personal estate agency network.” “The reason so many people have invested is because EstatesDirect is not just another online agency. We have franchised businesses, licensees and local agents, who provide the expertise and personalised service of a high-street estate agent,” says Smith.  EstatesDirect uses the traditional portals to market properties for sale from £195 and to advertise homes to let from £45. The firm says it has marketed, sold and let more than 450 properties in the Midlands during the past two years.    Estate AgentEstatesDirectCrowdfundingOnline Agents]]>

North-south repo divide alive and well  18 Apr 14

The north-south divide is alive and well with the rate of home repossessions in 2013 being 44 per cent higher in northern England than in the south. Research from e.surv chartered surveyors - analysing court-ordered repossessions in England and Wales in 2013 broken down by post code - shows that there were 5.6 repossessions per 1,000 households in the north.  This is 44 per cent higher than the 3.9 repossessions per 1,000 households in the south. However, both figures show a significant improvement on 2012 levels which were 6.3 repossessions per 1,000 households in the north and 4.4 in the south. The south west of England historically has the lowest number of court-ordered repossessions, accounted for by its generally older and more affluent population.    The worst five repossession postcodes in 2013 were: Oldham 8.6 per 1,000 households (747 in total) Romford 7.8 (754) Bradford 7.4 (835) Wigan 7.4 (460) Blackpool 7.0 (477)   The most ‘improved’ postcodes in 2013 - not necessarily the absolute lowest but those showing the biggest improvements on 2012 - were: EC London 1.0 per 1,000 households Carlisle 3.0 Harrogate 2.3 Telford 5.2 Hull 4.9 “At some point soon the Bank of England may choose to raise the base rate. A higher base rate will translate into higher repayments for many, which could tip a whole host of borrowers into the red. The base rate rise may cause repossessions to temporarily bounce back,” warns e.surv director Richard Sexton.  Estate Agentrepossessionsesurv]]>

Agents told: Stand by for MMR delays  18 Apr 14

A specialist property law firm is warning agents that they should expect delays to be caused by the Mortgage Market Review, which comes into effect in 10 days time.  DC Law says that while lenders update their systems and train their staff to reflect the new MMR requirements, estate agents and would-be buyers will suffer slower processes.  “Solicitors are already experiencing high volumes of transactions caused by the steep upturn of demand. The implementation of MMR is adding to this workload. Where mortgage offers have already been issued, any change in circumstances could create further delays while the borrower goes through the new processes,” says Beth Rudolf, DC Law’s managing director.  “There is also the added risk that the longer the home purchase takes, the more likely the chances of the seller or the buyer pulling out,” she warns. It’s hard to under-estimate the change that lenders will undergo thanks to MMR.  For the first time they will be regarded as fully responsible for assessing whether the customer can afford the loan, and they will have to verify the customer's income. They can still choose to use intermediaries in this process, but lenders will remain responsible. Lenders will still be allowed to grant interest-only loans, but only where there is a credible strategy for repaying the capital. There are transitional provisions in the MMR that allow lenders to provide a new mortgage or deal to customers with existing loans who may not meet the new MMR requirements. In these cases the borrowing will not be able to exceed the amount of their current loan, unless funding is required for essential repairs.   The decision on whether or not to lend in these cases will remain with the lender. On the basis of trials undertaken so far, this may mean two interviews for some borrowers - who of course may then be turned down anyway - so agents are gearing themselves up for slower completions from next month onwards. Whether these more complicated processes will speed up over time remains to be seen.  Estate AgentMMRDC Law]]>

Is this the end of the property ladder?  18 Apr 14

Agents may want to emphasise the merits of home ownership to young people this Easter, as a fifth of those aged 23 to 27 have no desire to own a property, according to an attitudes survey by the Halifax. The first Halifax Generation Report back in 2011 described young people who wanted to buy but couldn’t afford to; three years on the latest survey, out today, shows that the love affair with ownership appears to be on the wane. The 2014 report, produced for Halifax by the National Centre for Social Research and involving responses from 32,000 people, reveals that: 20 per cent of 23-27 year olds have no desire to own a home; 48 per cent believe Britain will become a nation of renters within the next generation; 46 per cent agree Britain is becoming more like Europe, where renting is more common; 86 per cent of renters refuse to sacrifice the quality of accommodation they currently live in to reduce the rent they pay in order to save for a deposit 57 per cent of would-be first time buyers would like to save but claim to not have any spare cash that they could save. “We may be heading towards the point where the aspiration to own a nice home will be replaced by the aspiration simply to live in one. People are now beginning to accept a lifetime of renting and this would not only change the way the property ladder looks in the future, it could even bring into question whether or not it will exist at all for some people,” says Halifax spokesman Craig McKinlay.   Estate Agenthouse priceHalifax]]>

The £500k London home is here soon  18 Apr 14

If agents in London have witnessed big price rises so far, they’ve seen nothing yet according to consultancy PwC - the £500,000 average home will be here by Christmas. PwC has extrapolated data released earlier this week by the Office for National Statistics which shows that average house prices in the UK grew by 9.1 per cent between February 2013 and February 2014.  In London the growth rates were almost double that level - growing by 17.7 per cent in the same period.  Now the consultancy says by the end of 2014 the average property in the UK could be worth around £270,000 and in London it will be an eye-watering £510,000.  The good news for prices outside of London is that PwC thinks such increases are sustainable. This is because the rises are in line with a normal cyclical recovery after a period of subdued housing markety activity. Other recent data such as increases in house building backs up the consultancy’s finding.  But PwC senior economist William Zimmern warns that the London picture is more mixed.  “Concerns of overheating in London may grow if house price to earnings ratios and mortgage repayments as a portion of income continue to rise rapidly and diverge from the rest of the UK."  Estate AgentlondonPwCHouse Prices]]>

Agent defends Open House system against critics  16 Apr 14

The Townends agency, which says there are 12 buyers registering for every one new property that comes to the market, has defended the controversial Open House system.  “Open houses are a reaction to the sheer volume of people trying to view a particular property. Organisationally, they are the best way of trying to control and condense a significant amount of viewers, offering an equal chance to everyone” says Douglas Sleaper, Townends’ managing director. At a recent Open House held by the agency, over 70 applicants viewed a home in Streatham, south London, in just one day. It sold for £75,000 over the asking price. “As an agent, we understand buyers’ frustration at this catalyst for competing offers, particularly if they have been unsuccessful at securing several properties previously. From a vendor’s point of view, particularly those with young families, having a two hour window that will enable a high number of applicants to view the property at once, can be much more appealing than preparing for constant viewings over a number of weeks” he says.  Not every agent is as keen. “It looks good for the client but buyers dislike it. Buying is an emotional process and there’s little positive emotion in being herded and pressured” says Ed Mead of Douglas & Gordon, another London agent. Some commentators have suggested that the Open House technique, which is now used increasingly often in London where the excess of demand over supply is at its greatest, is contributing to an increase in sale prices as would-be purchasers panic when seeing rival bidders viewing at the same time.  Estate AgentTownendsOpen HouseDouglas & Gordon]]>

Government announces three redress schemes  16 Apr 14

Three compulsory redress schemes have been approved by the government to offer independent investigation of complaints in the lettings sector, bringing it into line with the world of residential sales. The schemes – The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and The Property Redress Scheme – will consider issues of hidden fees and poor service, and as with the sales system now where a complaint is upheld, tenants and leaseholders could receive compensation. The majority of letting agents are already signed up with one of the three organisations but the remaining 3,000 agents - 40 per cent of the entire industry - will now be encouraged to join ahead of membership becoming mandatory later this year. Two of the schemes have commented on the formal approval. “The Property Ombudsman experienced a 34.2 per cent increase in consumer enquiries relating to letting agents not registered with TPO during 2013, which really underlines the importance of mandatory redress” says TPO Ombudsman Christopher Hamer. “Whilst my role as Ombudsman means that I am not a regulator and I can only review complaints after a dispute has occurred, making redress a legal requirement for lettings is a positive move. Clearly it would be better if complaints did not arise in the first place and robust legislation to enforce controls was in place” says Hamer. Ombudsman Services Property is perhaps less well known. Like TPO it operates on a not-for-profit basis; it already provides dispute resolution services for the energy, communications and copyright licensing sectors. It claims that it resolved 19,639 complaints across all of these sectors in 2012-13, with 90 per cent of them being settled within six weeks. The government says the lettings redress schemes must follow the current sales model - it must be free for complainants to use, should be easy to access, and provide full data about complaints in their annual reports.    Estate AgentLetting AgentOmbudsmanregulationRedress]]>

Interest rate rise speculation mounts  16 Apr 14

Economists say that interest rate rises and other tools to deter house price rises are increasingly likely to be used in the short term, possibly as soon as next month. Some 68 percent of respondents to monthly survey of economists by financial wire service Bloomberg have suggested that new so-called ‘macro-prudential tools’ could be used by the Bank of England to stop what it sees as excessive house price rises. This is finance-world jargon for the ability of the BoE to allow its officials to stipulate higher interest rates for lenders to apply in the new Mortgage Market Review affordability tests.  The tests come into effect at the end of April and the BoE’s Financial Policy Committee, which meets in June, could in theory trigger the higher rates specifically for some borrowers. Concern has been fuelled by the latest house price figures from the Office for National Statistics which shows the average cost of a home increased by 9.1 per cent during the year to the end of February. This is the highest year-on-year growth since June 2010, pushing the UK-wide average up to £253,000 – a £20,000 increase compared with the same month of 2013. London hogged the limelight again with prices 17.7 per cent higher than a year earlier. Not every economist is pessimistic, however.  Ernst & Young’s Item Club says it is “sceptical about the likelihood of an unsustainable house-price boom” despite the fact that “market indicators point to further acceleration in activity and prices this year.” Its latest report, out this week, says that caution on the part of lenders, the new MMR rules  and the BoE’s macro-prudential tool “should deter rapid credit growth, the precursor to past episodes of excessive rises in property values.”   Estate AgentInterest RatesBank of England]]>

FSBO group boss says business is booming  16 Apr 14

The head of a new organisation called the National Private House Sales Association - also the owner of a For Sale By Owner website - claims business is booming for home owners trying to sell their properties themselves. “Buyers are experiencing a lack of choice between the major portals. Buyers are increasingly aware that to see the whole market they need to see homes listed directly for sale by owner. This is helping the entire FSBO sector in the UK grow” claims Nick Marr, founder of the NPHSA. In a press release that is conspicuously short on data, Marr says that his own FSBO firm - The Little House Company - has seen a 34 per cent increase in buyer enquiries compared to March 2013. However, it does not give any idea what the base or increased figures were, nor does the release state any figures about the size of the FSBO sector overall.  “Owners that are considering the sale of a home need to try a private sale. The risk is low and the likelihood of a private sale by owner is increasing as demand from property buyers goes up” Marr claims.  It has proven difficult to contact the group for further information as the press release concludes: “For more information, please contact Nick Marr on [insert number] or at [insert email].”  ]]>

 
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