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One day left to lobby MPs over stamp duty  03 Sep 14

There is only one day left to lobby MPs ahead of a debate on the future of stamp duty in the Commons tomorrow. It has come about from St Albans MP, Conservative Anne Main, who says stamp duty is causing ‘sclerosis’ in the housing market. She is backed by a cross-party group of MPs - perhaps predictably the group includes former Tory cabinet minister John Redwood but also Labour MP Steven Pound.    Recent average house price increases means a quarter of home movers now pay stamp duty of three per cent or more, up from 10 per cent a decade ago; the Treasury receives £1 billion a month as a result.    “Stamp duty enshrines inequality because people cannot afford to move to the house they need. It is causing a sclerosis in the market. Pensioners think they are going to make £50,000 by downsizing but then they find £10,000 is going to go in tax and are put off, which means those homes are not available for larger families” says Main.    “Even though we have got the Help To Buy scheme, the Government is handing money to those people with one hand, taking it back in tax in the other hand. All taxes on properties are a tax on aspiration but when it starts affecting everybody instead of only the wealthy, as it was intended to do, then actually we are taxing everybody’s’ aspiration” she says.   Main promises that the debate means “MPs will be able to speak freely on the impact the tax is having on the housing market. From my point of view, St Albans has some of the highest house prices in the country, and residents are writing to me with their concerns about the expense of simply moving to a more appropriately-sized home.”  Anne Main MPstamp dutyhousing market]]>

MP ends bid to curb second home numbers  03 Sep 14

A Liberal Democrat MP has dropped his bid to cap the number of second homes in key holiday areas of the UK because his proposals haven’t attracted the support of enough Conservative or Labour members of parliament. Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, wants new laws to make housing more affordable and was this week going to use his position as the first MP to be allowed to take forward a Private Members’ Bill in this parliamentary session.   The original draft of his Affordable Homes Bill included proposals to limit the so-called “bedroom tax” housing benefit crackdown and new planning restrictions on the number of holiday homes.   But ahead of the Bill being debated on Friday, George says he has scrapped the idea.    In Cornwall, where the MP has his constituency, the average house price is more than 12 times the average income. Some 14,000 of Cornwall's 260,000 homes are designated as second properties and in one area - St Minver Lowlands, close to Rock and Padstow - 42.9 per cent of properties are holiday homes.    His Private Members’ Bill also includes the creation of an Affordable Homes Investment Bank to fund shared equity or shared ownership housing and a limit on the application of the so-called bedroom tax to exclude those who have been living at an address for over three years and where disabled adaptations have been fitted - these elements of his Bill are believed to have been retained.    George came top of the Private Members’ Bill ballot - “a lifetime opportunity to create new legislation” he says - but historically PMBs rarely prove successful.   Second HomesAndrew George MPCornwall]]>

Help To Buy 'may be past its peak'  03 Sep 14

Some 48,393 people have bought a home through Help To Buy - but some industry insiders say the scheme may have peaked. Since the launch of the two parts of HTB - the equity loan and the mortgage guarantee parts - some 82 per cent of scheme completions have been made by first-time buyers at an average price of £187,800, significantly below the national average of £265,000.    While Help to Buy completions have been least-concentrated in areas where house price growth has been highest, the largest number of mortgage guarantee scheme completions has been in the north west of England and the highest number of equity loan scheme sales has been in the south east.   Overall, 94 per cent of the completions under the scheme have been made by households outside of London.   The government claims the equity loan scheme in particular is also helping to drive an increase in the number of homes that are being built in the UK. The DCLG claims the construction sector has been growing for 15 consecutive months, and is currently experiencing the sharpest rise in house building orders since 2003, while house building companies are taking on new workers at the fastest rate since 1997.   The trends in these figures are broadly supported by separate data from the bank Aldermore which says 68 per cent of its Help to Buy applicants are first-time buyers and 48 per cent earn less than £40,000 a year.    However, house-builder Redrow says the scheme may now be past its peak. "The summer months of 2013 saw Help to Buy activity at its peak, with reservations running at particularly high levels. This year the period from July to date has seen a more normal summer selling pattern” according to the firm’s chairman Steve Morgan.  Helpt To BuyDCLGhousing market]]>

Online or High Street? Agent becomes first to offer vendors a choice  02 Sep 14

Franchise agency Martin & Co has set up an online property sales service and becomes what is thought to be the first traditional agency to offer vendors a virtual alternative.  For an up-front fixed fee of £499, vendors will be able to advertise on Rightmove, Zoopla and other major portals, and get the benefit of traditional shop window advertising in local branches and advertising to a database of registered buyers.   As part of its online service, Martin & Co will handle the initial stages of the sales process, including advising vendors on valuation and how to achieve the best price for their property, completing photography and particulars for the customer and relaying enquiries from potential buyers.    Martin & Co will not charge commission on sales through its online service. If customers decide to switch within the first two weeks to Martin & Co’s traditional services their up-front fee will be deducted from the commission payable on sale completion.   “While we believe the traditional service will continue to be the norm, a growing number of people are choosing to personally manage the sale of their property through online platforms. Our new online offering will provide vendors with the highest quality service to market their property effectively and help them to achieve their desired valuation” says the firm’s chief executive Ian Wilson.    Last December the shares of MartinCo Plc, the holding company of Martin & Co, began trading on AIM, the small company market of the London Stock Exchange.  Martin & CoOnline AgentsTraditional Estate Agency]]>

No mortgage, no deposit, no estate agent - is this the future of house buying?  02 Sep 14

A developer-cum-finance house is marketing a deal which allows people to buy a home without a mortgage and without a deposit - and, so far at least, no estate agents. This so-called home payment plan has in fact existed in the north east of England for three years already and has several dozens of owners who have used it. But the firm behind it, the Gentoo Group - which describes itself as a ‘profits for purpose’ company - now wants to extend its reach across the country.    It works like this: Gentoo buys, builds or redevelops properties which it then sells at open market value. But instead of selling it via an agent in the conventional way, it sells via an in-house financial product called the ‘Genie home purchase plan’ which operates along similar lines to sharia mortgages.   Instead of putting down a deposit and instead of securing a mortgage involving interest payments, the purchaser pays monthly instalments on a 30-year plan. At the end of the 30 years, the home is fully-owned by the purchaser; along the way, the owner’s monthly payments gives him or her part-ownership, depending on the number of payments made.   Gentoo says over the course of 30 years the total paid by the purchaser would be the equivalent of a mortgage with a 6.8 per cent APR.   The product is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, customers are credit checked in the usual way, and the purchaser has the typical financial responsibilities associated with a mortgage - that is, to pay monthly and to be obliged to pay the full amount of the value of the property if it is sold prior to the end of the 30 year term, even if at the time of sale its value is lower than its original purchase price.   Gentoo has first refusal to buy should a client sell before the end of 30 years, but if the firm declines the owner can instruct an estate agent to sell on the open market.    The firm wants to spread beyond the relatively low-cost housing market of the north east of England, where it has won considerable praise from housing market analysts and politicians for offering at least an alternative for people to get on the housing ladder.   Would this work elsewhere? If so, is there a role for agents or is this best kept purely as a financial product? We would welcome your views.  GentooMortgagesGenie Home Payment Plan]]>

Portal woos agents with perks for staff  02 Sep 14

The latest move by one of the big two portals to retain loyalty in the face of the new Agents’ Mutual site takes an unlikely form - cut-price coffees, laptops and groceries. Zoopla is launching a members’ reward scheme giving perks to staff of its so-called ‘member’ agents and house builders. The scheme offers discounts and savings on brands including Morrisons, Asda, Dell, HP, Starbucks, Halfords, Sainsburys, Costa, CineWorld, Alton Towers and Fitness First.   The scheme is available as a free benefit to all employees of all Zoopla Property Group agent and developer members and is the equivalent of at least £99 per person per year, the portal claims.    “Typically these schemes are offered by large employers but our sector is made up of a large number of small businesses who often aren’t able to offer these types of benefits to staff” says Alex Chesterman, ZPG chief executive.    He claims the scheme has 2,000 members already.   zooplaAlex ChestermanAgents' Mutual]]>

Solid market encourages agency expansions  02 Sep 14

London agent Marsh & Parsons is opening two new offices this month and another in October as the buoyant market in the capital bolsters agency activity.  This month’s pair will be in Richmond and East Sheen. Both office sites have undergone a state-of-the-art refurbishment at a combined cost of £400,000, including the installation of a media wall at the Richmond branch.    To mark the occasion, Marsh & Parsons will be offering to sell homes in these areas for a special 0 per cent sales fee for the first three months following the launch - a discount from the firm’s standard 2 per cent commission. Both offices will handle sales and lettings.   Meanwhile Fox & Sons estate agency, part of Sequence UK’s national network, has set up its own apprenticeship programme for 16-22 year olds.   The programme involves 11 apprentices working as full time trainee negotiators; they will work in branches in south west England and will leave the programme after 12 months with NVQ qualifications.    Fox & Sons south west director Jason Bull says: “It’s extremely important the apprentices complete the educational side. The discipline and self motivation they will need to complete the qualification will set them up perfectly when working as negotiators in the branch, so we have highlighted this as a key area we hope for them all to learn from.”  Marsh & ParsonsFox & Sonshousing market]]>

Connells explains why house was a pig-sty  02 Sep 14

Connells has put its snout in the trough and explained why a picture of a house it has for sale in Suffolk has a large pig lying in a blanket in the living room. On sale for £120,000, the detached one-bedroom property sits on a private road in Ipswich. The particulars featured a picture of the living room of the house - which included a pig with its head resting on a settee.   A spokeswoman for Connells says the pig in the photo is the home owner's pet. "The photo was put up in error and has since been removed" she says.    In the property details Connells describes the former meeting house as a "unique one bedroom detached house". Although the agency has removed the image from its website, it still appears on hard copy material.   Unsurprisingly, Twitter became alive with speculation about the pig when it was spotted by a national paper. Some tweets suggested it would be an incentive to include the animal with the sale.  ConnellsPig In A PictureIpswich]]>

Agents' Mutual "will struggle to be noticed" - claim  01 Sep 14

The head of Property Portal Watch, which analyses portals around the world, is warning that Agents’ Mutual’s new On The Market website will struggle to be noticed when it launches early next year.  Simon Baker, the former head of leading Australian portal www.realestate.com.au and now the operator of Property Portal Watch, has told international real estate website opp-connect.com that OnTheMarket faces an uphill task.   “Why would I as a consumer look at an Agents’ Mutual site instead of Rightmove after, incidentally, I have had millions and millions of pounds of marketing thrown at me over the years? They need something in Agents’ Mutual that they don’t have in Rightmove, but what is that?” Baker asks.   He says it is “pointless” for individual agents to complain about portal fees generally.    “They put money on Rightmove because they get leads, but what’s the price per lead? How do those leads convert into sales? Perhaps they could just advertise on another site for a quarter of the price and get the same outcome. They need to systematically experiment” he says.   Baker claims the next big thing in the world of property portals will be international sales. “There is a lot of cross-border purchasing and as that becomes more and more obvious, there will be more access to listings in different languages and with more information around it that allows you to make a better decision” he says.    PPW is holding an international conference in Barcelona next month, buoyed by many of the world’s largest portals - notably the REA Group in Australia, Rightmove and Zoopla in the UK, the merging Trulia and Zillow in the US and Soufun in China - now being measured in billions of dollars.   Agents' MutualOnTheMarketProperty Portal Watch]]>

Don't cross your arms...or twitch...or wink  01 Sep 14

An estate agent has created a guide for sellers who have to conduct their own viewings on how to ‘read’ the body language of would-be buyers.  The guide is called The Art Of The Silent Sell and focuses on different types of non-verbal communication and body language including greetings, posture, body angles and touch.    House Network says it will equip sellers with a useful tool to help increase their chances of not only selling their home, but also to achieving the asking price.   The agency has commissioned a body language expert, Robert Phipps. Some of his (arguably less-than-amazing) tips include:   - "As you enter each room or point something out, keep an eye out for whether a small smile starts to appear on their face. Make a mental note of their reaction and try to point out similar features to continue their positive, happy smiles”;   - "Encourage them to touch things, sit down in the living room, feel the carpet (if you are leaving it), lay down on the bed etc. Touch is one of our basic five senses and how people feel about a particular area or space is important to them. The more they can try out things the more comfortable they feel, the easier it is for them to make up their mind”;   - "Make a list of your properties [sic] assets but only point out those that seem appropriate to each new viewing. Also notice how as you point out each of these things whether they are engaging with you by actually looking at them”.Online AgentsHouse NetworkBody Language]]>

 
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