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Exclusive: allAgents secures six-figure investment, recruiting 40 staff  27 Nov 14

Estate Agent Today can exclusively reveal that allAgents has secured what is described as a “six figure sum” of new investment, which will involve an expansion of the site including the recruitment of 40 new staff. allAgents describes itself as “an independent directory and review site allowing consumers to search for and write reviews about estate and letting agents in the UK.” It carries reviews of agents, operates a performance league table based on those reviews, and gives agents the right of reply online in the event of complaints.    Now Vincent Friel, director of Glasgow and Edinburgh letting agency and property management firm 1-2-Let, says he is injecting a six figure sum into allAgents - which already operates from Friel’s business centre - and will become one of its directors.    “This is an excellent opportunity for me to play an active role in developing the business in order to achieve its objective of becoming the UK's number one provider of vendor & landlord leads” says Friel.   allAgents spokesman Martin McKenzie has told EAT that the site is now looking to recruit 40 new staff within the next six months and that it has “embarked initially on a recruitment drive for in-house web developers.”    allAgents also claims that it has been approached directly by both Rightmove and Zoopla - although it would not reveal what the approaches concerned.  allAgents12LetsVincent Friel]]>

High-end estate agency let off the hook by ASA  27 Nov 14

The Advertising Standards Authority has let high-end agency Chestertons off the hook after a complainant suggested an advertisement may have been misleading because it did not state the length of the property’s lease. When the ASA investigated, Chestertons’ parent company Chesterton Global Ltd claimed it was aware of its obligation to make marketing material “clear and unambiguous.”    The agency says the duration of the lease on the property concerned is 101 years and 11 months - a fact that would be communicated to any consumer who made contact with the firm. However, the ASA also says Chestertons claims “any member of the public reading their ad would generally know that all flats in England were leasehold rather than freehold, and would then have contacted their sales branch for more information.”   The ASA’s judgement, rejecting the complaint, says that it understands the importance of lease length being made public because of its relevance in securing a mortgage.    However the ASA says it “considered that omitting that information from the ad would only be misleading if it was likely to affect a buyer's decision to enquire further about the purchase of the property. We considered that the number of years remaining on the lease in this case was sufficient to ensure that it would not affect a buyer's ability to obtain a mortgage.”  ChestertonsASALeaseholdlondon]]>

Teenage mother "tried to defraud Winkworth"  27 Nov 14

A teenage mother who attempted to defraud Winkworth of £4,200 must undertake 200 hours of unpaid community work. Alleyah Cottle, 18, of Walthamstow, has pleaded guilty to fraud at Thames Magistrates Court, admitting that between March 12 and March 28 this year she paid company cheques into her personal bank account.   This Is Local London reports that Cottle, who was then an administrator for Winkworth’s Walthamstow branch, had also used the agency’s credit card to pay for McDonalds meals and shopping at Budgens supermarket.   There were five cheques which Cottle paid into her account, but only one, for £700, was cleared by the bank.   He defence told the court: “She is only 18-years-old and in a difficult position. She has a young child of  three months and lives with her mother. It was not a very sophisticated and well-planned offence. Alleyah admits she has done wrong and because of this she is going to struggle to find employment of any kind.”   Judge Jane McIvor ordered her to complete 200 hours of unpaid community work within 12 months and pay Winkworth £700.   WinkworthCrimelondon]]>

Property portal chiefs to meet … on January 26  27 Nov 14

The only international conference for major property portal owners and operators is meeting in New York on January 26 - the day that Agents’ Mutual’s OnTheMarket portal launches in the UK. The Property Portal Conference says it will meet on January 26 and 27 in the light of what it calls “a momentous 2014 for the property portal industry.”   It says the highlights were the merger in the US or Trulia and Zillow, the decision by News Corp to buy Move, and the valuations of portals “taking a breather and coming off by up to 40 per cent” as well as the arrival of first or new portals in emerging markets such as India, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates.    “There is nothing to say that 2015 will not be even more momentous” says a spokesman for the conference.     “There will be more mergers, more capital raising, greater competition on all fronts, agent lead portals, some market leaders being attacked and losing their leadership, and much much more.”    Property PortalsProperty Portal Conference2015 Preview]]>

Zoopla Property Group grows audience to record levels  26 Nov 14

Zoopla has announced its full year results and KPIs for the year ended 30 September 2014. It announced a 35% rise in full-year earnings and 24% rise in revenue. It said traffic to its Zoopla and PrimeLocation websites had increased by a third to 513.5 million visits in the year to the end of September. The results also reported an increased take up of members buying additional premium products and a continued focus on mobile which now accounts for 57% of the Group’s traffic. Following Zoopla’s IPO in June this year a final dividend of 1.1p per share was proposed. Alex Chesterman, founder & CEO of Zoopla Property Group, said: “I am pleased to present such a strong set of full year results following our successful IPO in June. 2014 has been a landmark year for Zoopla Property Group with record audience levels and strong revenue growth across all areas of the business as consumers continue to recognise the importance of the Group's services for searching and researching the property market at work, at home and on the move. “We continue to deliver enhanced transparency and efficiency to the market and to develop a world-class consumer proposition designed to aid our users with their property search, increase engagement and drive value for our members. We enjoyed record levels of traffic to our websites and mobile applications with 42.8m average monthly visitors generating over 29 million leads during the year providing an excellent value proposition for our members and resulting in increased take-up of our additional premium products. “We remain committed to our mission of building our brands and business to provide the most useful property resources to consumers along with being the most effective partner for property professionals across the UK.” Chesterton downplayed the launch of Agents' Mutual in January, saying it “may have some short-term impact on our agency membership numbers but we have seen numerous launches into our market before and taken effective action to compete with them.” The next Zoopla trading update is scheduled for Thursday 12 February 2015.  zooplaZoopla Property GroupresultsAgents’ Mutual]]>

Labour defeated in House of Lords  26 Nov 14

Peers failed to back Labour’s amendments to the Consumer Rights Bill in the House of Lords on Monday evening. The opposition was calling for two amendments to the bill relating to estate and letting agents. Firstly to ban “sale by tender” transactions, and secondly to ban letting agents charging tenants fees. Emma Reynolds MP, Labour’s shadow housing minister, said: "It’s very disappointing that Lib Dem and Tory Peers failed to back Labour’s measures to tackle rip-off letting and estate agents. "Tonight Labour stood up for consumers who want a fairer housing market but the Lib Dems and Tories failed to do the same. "The next Labour Government will ban letting agent fees on tenants, end the practice of double charging and improve consumer protection." Stella Creasy MP, Labour’s shadow consumer affairs minister, said: "There is a clear conflict of interest when an agent can charge two people for the same service- Labour has a clear plan for addressing these problems. "By their opposition to these proposals this Government has shown it has no understanding of the impact of the rip off fees estate agents and letting agents charge and it is consumers who end up paying an extortionate price for their failure to act."    Labourhouse of Lordsconsumer rights billStella Creasyletting agent feessale by tender]]>

eMoov “on fire in cooling property market”  26 Nov 14

Online estate agent eMoov claims it is “leading the estate agency industry” in terms of selling performance. eMoov has published its latest sales data and says this is evidence of how it is outperforming the average traditional estate agent.  During the month of October 2014, eMoov reported a record month of sales, with property sold equating to £45 million.  Looking at 2014 as a whole, it has already sold property worth £322 million and in early 2015 it will top the £1 billion milestone since launch. eMoov claims it continues to secure 99% the asking price for its listed properties, 3% higher than the industry average (which Hometrack reported to be 96% in September).  Russell Quirk, founder & CEO of eMoov.co.uk, said: “We are ecstatic with the company’s performance to date and being at the top of the industry is testament to the hard work of the eMoov team. In the early days there was a lot of talk from traditional estate agents about how selling houses online wouldn’t work and in 2010 they claimed I was mad to sell my estate agency business. Funnily enough, I haven’t heard from many of those people recently, probably because they can now see the performance and momentum of my business.  “With online agents such as eMoov launching TV campaigns, securing consumer media coverage, attracting high-profile investors and even becoming the focus of the Channel 4 television show online estate agency is very much in the national spotlight. If you add in the fact that the vast majority of buyers now visit just Rightmove and Zoopla consumers are fast realising they don’t have to pay extortionate estate agent fees.“    eMoovRussell QuirkOnline estate agency]]>

Portal wars hot up  25 Nov 14

The ongoing battle between Rightmove, Zoopla and Agents’ Mutual has taken a new turn after a story in a national newspaper. The Daily Telegraph ran an article entitled “Estate agent wars could make it harder to sell your home”. The article claimed that Agents’ Mutual, which will launch OntheMarket on 26 January, is trying to persuade its members to hold back housing stock from its rivals. Agents report receiving an email from a software provider that delivers the listing tools for agents. It said: "OnTheMarket are very keen on persuading their members to hold back instructions for a while from whichever other portal is used (one of OnTheMarket's rules is that their members can only use Rightmove or Zoopla - not both). "...Many members see merit in deferring new listings everywhere except their own websites," and then directed the branch manager to a button next to each portal's name where they can change the "send after" date.” Agents' Mutual chief executive Ian Springett told the Telegraph: "Many of our estate and letting agent members have indicated a wish to prioritise our portal when they bring new properties to market and we have been exploring ways to facilitate this. "It is up to our members when they begin advertising a property with each of their chosen media and we have no contractual arrangements with them about this.”  On The Marketagents mutualzooplarightmoveIan Springett]]>

Creasy: “Buyers and sellers are being ripped off by agents”  25 Nov 14

Labour MP Stella Creasy has explained why she’s calling on the House of Lords to vote in favour of amending the Consumer Rights Bill to ban “sale by tender.” Writing a guest post on MoneySavingExpert.com, Creasy, who is the MP for Walthamstow and Shadow Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs, explains why she wants estate agents to be prevented from charging fees to both buyers and sellers in the same transaction. She wrote: “An Englishman's home may be his castle, but the price tag for owning or renting in our current housing market is enough to make anyone weep. While a lack of supply of homes in Britain means property is always going to be a costly business, other factors are also helping to further push up rents and house prices. “In particular, the behaviour of middlemen – letting agents and estate agents – is fanning the flames of property hotspots. Consequently consumers are paying overheated prices for services which act against their own interests. “The average home now costs eight times the average wage. Rightmove recently predicted house prices would rise by 30% in the next five years, to an average of £318,000 in England and Wales and nearly £715,000 in London. Property prices and rents are not separate but interconnected. “As house prices rise, landlords feel pressure to maximise their income, whether through selling or increasing the rent they charge. So tenants face little prospect of being able to buy their own homes, with estimates it can take over 20 years for the average family to save for a deposit. So these people find themselves stuck in the private rented sector. “In these testing circumstances, those who negotiate the deals are often the real winners. In estate agencies a new form of contract is becoming more and more popular. The 'sale by informal tender' contract, which involves using sealed bids to make offers on properties. “Increasingly, agents are then charging the successful bidder an 'introductory' fee – in some cases of 2%-2.5% of the property price, plus VAT. “For many buyers these fees run into several thousand pounds – money which the owner of the property never sees. The sellers are also charged a fee to market their property, meaning they are paying for the privilege of being ripped off.”  sale by tenderStella Creasyconsumer rights billparliamentbuyerssellers]]>

Brighton “gazumping capital of the UK”  25 Nov 14

Seaside town Brighton has been declared the “gazumping capital of the UK” after research by online estate agent eMoov.co.uk. It found that on average across the UK a fifth of the nation (22%) have experienced the turmoil of being gazumped. Popular property hotspot Brighton topped the pole with 34.9% of people having been previously gazumped when buying a property closely followed by 31.9% in London. The tactic of sealed bidding, particularly rife in the capital, provides the ideal environment for potential gazumpers. Having an offer rejected, only to return at a later date to outbid the original buyer. Outside of the South East the average drops from 22% to 18%. Birmingham figures show 27% of property buyers in the area have been gazumped with Sheffield at 22%, Bristol at 21%, Leeds and Nottingham at 20%. Although gazumping is not a new concept it has become a more regular occurrence across the country. The research also found that the higher the price of the property, the more likely you are to be gazumped. Of those that had been previously gazumped 27% were over properties of £500,000 or above. This dropped to 25% for properties valued between £200,000 and £500,000 and a further 6% for properties under £200,000. Russell Quirk, CEO of online estate agent eMoov.co.uk, said: “It is one of those things in the current structure of property purchasing unfortunately. Buyers that have displayed honest interest in a property only to be let down by owners with pound signs in their eyes, often encouraged by traditional estate agent looking to increase his fee percentage.” Liverpool was the least affected area of England for gazumping at just 13%, however this doesn’t necessarily put an end to unethical behaviour during the buying process. “If these markets cool off too much, we could see gazundering coming back in. This is a tactic in areas with little demand where the buyer calls up just before the exchange of contracts and demands to pay less,” said Quirk.  BrightongazumpingeMoovRussell Quirk]]>

 
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