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Amazing 91% of public back estate agents  28 Apr 15

An overwhelming 91 per cent of the public have given their backing to the service of estate agents in a poll conducted by Agents Giving. The vast majority, 91 per cent, of home owners describe their experience with estate agents as ‘excellent’, ‘good’ or ‘average’ in the poll of 822 people conducted in November and December.   Only nine per cent had a ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ experience. Some 23 per cent of respondents said they believed agents acted in their own best interest - although this did not preclude giving good service.    The survey revealed that the prickly subject of commission charged by agents is also misconceived. Some 21 per cent of respondents believed agent commission to be 5.0 per cent when in fact it is on average 1.8 per cent, says Agents Giving.   When it comes to charitable giving, 92 per cent of people surveyed believed that agents donated less than £10m in 2013, where in reality the amount donated was over £13m. On average, people believed agents donated only £3.7m to charity in that year.   “Estate agents are pivotal figures in one of the most emotional and stressful times in a person’s life, moving house, so they are bound to come in for some stick. But it’s really encouraging to see that the public’s personal experience seems to be more positive than we are led to believe” says Peter Knight, chairman of Agents Giving.    “It’s not an easy job requiring a broad range of skills and as with all industries the ‘bad’ agents are the minority. In 2013 agents also gave over £13mto charity which is an amazing feat and a reflection of their close work with local communities” he says.   Every Friday Estate Agent Today has a page dedicated to the latest charitable efforts of those in our industry. To publicise your own good deeds, get in touch on press@estateagenttoday.co.uk.   Agents GivingEstate Agent IndustryAgents Do Charity]]>

NAEA backs Labour's first time buyer policy  28 Apr 15

To the surprise of some, the National Association of Estate Agents says Labour’s proposals to scrap stamp duty for first time buyers spending under £300,000 could be “a real vote swinger” which would “only mean good things” for young purchasers.  NAEA managing director Mark Hayward says: For many, hidden costs such as stamp duty can be the difference between being able to afford a home, and not being able to afford one. Our recent research showed that just under a third of house sales were made to first time buyers, and hopefully we’ll see this significantly increase over the next three years.”   He continues that: “This could be a real vote swinger for those looking to step on the housing ladder. Scrapping stamp duty for homes under the price of £300,000 would only mean good things for hopeful first time buyers.”   Not everyone in the industry has been so supportive.   Jeremy Blackburn of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, says that while it would help some first time buyers, the drawback is that it is tinkering with demand.    “Prices are already predicted to rise in the next parliament and this is only likely to make matters worse. The promise of one million homes by 2020 is an ambitious target, but Labour has not fully explained how they expect to remove obstacles to such a supply-side revolution. What we need is a drastic increase in supply.” he says.   Nick Leeming - chairman of Jackson-Stops & Staff and one of the few property industry figures to give strongly-worded support to the Conservatives’ extension of Right To Buy to housing association properties - says Labour is stirring up an intergenerational war.    “We want to avoid an intergenerational conflict where the young are pitched against the old over property ownership. We need policies that do not distort markets as this has a short-term effect, rather than delivering a long-term benefit” he says.    Meanwhile Naomi Heaton of London Central Portfolio, a residential fund manager, has described the Labour first time buyer initiative as “a load of old cobblers” and “rubbish”.   NAEAFirst Time BuyersLabourstamp duty]]>

Agency rescued out of administration  28 Apr 15

An estate agency has been rescued out of administration and restructured after being hit by financial difficulties thanks to an expansion programme, according to Insider Media.  North Yorkshire’s Sherringtons Estate Agents had been successfully operating from a Ripon office for a number of years before branching out into the spa town of Harrogate.   But the costs of the expansion coupled with the number of established rivals in the property hotspot led to financial difficulties at the estate agency, according to the online site.   DFW Associates was appointed as administrator on March 31 but has already restructured the business.    The Harrogate office has shut and the Ripon branch was acquired in a deal which has allowed it to continue trading with no loss of jobs at Ripon. There were two redundancies at Harrogate - all of that town’s property sales are now transferred to Ripon.    Director Julie Sherrington continues in post.   SherringtonsAdministrationyorkshire]]>

Housebuilders say politicians' targets "impossible"  28 Apr 15

There's bad news for Britain’s politicians who are using house-building targets as policy objectives in the election - over two thirds of UK housebuilders believe many of the  targets are simply undeliverable. A survey by high end agency Knight Frank says delivering more than 180,000 new homes a year is unachievable according to 67 per cent of builders. Only nine per cent say it is possible to build more than 200,000 residential units a year.     Although the Conservatives have not publically stated an official nationwide housebuilding target, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP have all pledged to build at least 200,000 new homes a year or more, recognising the need to address the shortfall in housebuilding across the country.    More than half of all developers and housebuilders in the Knight Frank survey say a rise in the delivery of affordable homes over the next year is unlikely, even if there there may be a rise in the number of total housing starts and completions.    In addition the survey shows that:   - some 78 per cent of housebuilders expect new-build prices to rise over the next 12 months, with many expecting rises of up to five per cent;   - no fewer than 91 per cent expect a rise in construction costs amidst the continued pressure on housebuilders;   - greenfield land prices will rise, according to two-thirds; and    - some 58 per cent claim the Community Infrastructure Levy is leading to a drop on development volumes.  HousebuildingConservativesLabourLiberal DemocratsUKIP]]>

Economist calm about 'anti-London' mansion tax  28 Apr 15

The Economist appears to have cut through the arguments over mansion tax - and its conclusion may upset those who think London is unfairly targeted by the measure. The publication says that between around 91,000 English and Welsh properties would incur the levy if the threshold were set at £2m, as suggested by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. This figure is slightly lower than the figures put out by some high-end estate agents and by Zoopla. About 74,000 or 81 per cent of these are in London, with a further 11,000 elsewhere in the south east. However, The Economist says there are fewer than 100 properties in the north east and just 12 in Wales which are valued at more than £2m.   The parliamentary constituency with the highest number of £2m-plus homes is Kensington, where almost one-third of households will pay the tax. Outside London, Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire—just outside the capital—has the most.    However, it says over half of English and Welsh constituencies—317 of 573—have no “mansions” at all, it says.   This is where the article turns on London.   “The uneven distribution of the tax hardly comes as a surprise. Incomes and hence income tax revenues are highest in the south-east; few label this an injustice. Similarly, the high price of London properties is down to their desirability and scarcity; economists measure wealth with prices, not floorspace” it says.    The Economist then addresses the argument suggesting that many long-standing owners are ‘accidental mansion owners’ by adding: “An occupant of a London house—whenever they bought it—is making use of one of society’s prized assets.”   The EconomistMansion Taxlondon]]>

Labour "scraps first time buyer stamp duty"  27 Apr 15

In a dramatic intervention in the sales market, Labour says it will scrap stamp duty for first time buyer purchases of properties valued up to £300,000. The announcement, made this morning in an exclusive story in the Financial Times, comes after a weekend when Labour set out plans for rent caps in line with inflation and longer private rental tenancies. Stamp duty is currently payable on homes with a value above £125,000. It is charged at two per cent for the first £125,000 after that, and the rate then goes up to five per cent. So a first-time-buyer purchasing a property for £150,000 would save £500. If the property was sold for £250,000, they would save £2,500.   Labour leader Ed Miliband will today say: “It is simply too expensive for so many young people to buy a home today, saving up for the deposit, paying the fees and having enough left over for the stamp duty. So we’re going to act so we can transform the opportunities for young working people in our country. For the first three years of the next Labour government, we will abolish stamp duty for all first time buyers of homes under £300,000.”   Labour will also insist that developers agree to give first-time-buyers a chance to purchase homes as a condition of the planning permission they need to build them.   “There’s nothing more British than the dream of home ownership. But for so many young people today that dream is fading with more people than ever renting when they want to buy, new properties being snapped up before local people get a look-in, young families wondering if this country will ever work for them. That is the condition of Britain today, a modern housing crisis which only a Labour government will tackle” Miliband will say.  stamp dutyLabourFirst Time Buyers]]>

Vandals trash Foxtons in anti-Yuppie protest  27 Apr 15

Vandals seeking to ‘reclaim Brixton’ have used a road sign to smash the windows of a Foxtons branch on the high street of the south London suburb, and have sprayed ‘Yuppies’ and ‘No Evictions’ on the walls of the office.  Riot police armed with CS spray canisters then guarded the office after the protest, which occured on Saturday afternoon, keeping watch until repair teams boarded up the ceiling-to-floor window cavities.   Foxtons has not made an official statement but it is believed the branch will reopen today with an enhanced security presence.   A spokeswoman for Reclaim Brixton, the campaign group which organised the 1,000-strong protest, says she is disappointed that violence occurred but adds: “Foxtons has a very poor reputation when it comes to expensive properties. I don't even think it's right to apologise for these individuals because every protest that you watch, there will be an obligatory that one idiot will smash a shop window.”   Not everyone was as critical as the organisers themselves, however - yesterday afternoon eMoov founder Russell Quirk raised a few eyebrows on Twitter when he tweeted: “A new window at Foxtons: £2,000. The symbolism of a greedy industry detested by the public? Priceless.”   Foxtons office on Brixton Road is midway between the police station - which protesters entered, and where CS gas was used on them - and Lambeth Town Hall, which was also the subject of a crowd invasion during the protest.    Foxtons is a magnet for protests against estate agents, high rents and gentrification, with protests often accompanying new branch openings. But the Brixton office has seen a particularly long-lasting spate of attacks.    A year ago a radical group in south London attacked Foxtons’ boards outside vendors’ homes. ‘We Love Social Housing’ messages were pasted over the agents’ details on boards outside homes in Clapham and Brixton.    The group which claimed responsibility on that occasion was Lambeth Housing Activists which described its actions as “improving” the boards.   FoxtonsVandalismBrixtonlondonProtest]]>

Property makes the rich richer, shows Rich List  27 Apr 15

There is one common denominator amongst the majority of those who dominate the latest Sunday Times Rich List, regarded as the best research and therefore most definitive tally of wealth amongst individuals in Britain - the ownership of expensive homes. Some, like Len Blavatnik (number one, an investment, music and media magnate worth £13.17 billion) merely own expensive homes - in his case, a £41m Kensington Palace Gardens property, part of a real estate portfolio which adds up to £440m.   Others make their money directly from residential property, either by itself or more typically as part of commercial and other property dealings.   Most entries in both of those classifications have seen their personal wealth - including their property ownership and dealings - boom in the past year.   Amongst the highest ranking property-related names are:   - The Duke of Westminster (number nine, worth £8.56 billion) who owns the Grosvenor family estate, dating from 1677 and forming some of what we now call Mayfair;   - Earl Cadogan (number 18, with £4.8 billion) who owns, you guessed it, the Cadogan estate in London;   - Sir James Dyson (number 22, £3.5 billion) who has now hoovered up 25,000 acres of land - more than the Queen;   - Baroness Howard de Walden (number 27, £3.23 billion) who owns 90 acres of central London, much of it around Marylebone, including much of the residential property on it;   - Mark Pears and family (number 35, £2.8 billion) who owns “thousands of London homes, flats and office blocks” according to the Sunday Times;   - Viscount Portman (number 55, £1.72 billion) who owns a London estate, plus 5,000 acres in the Home Counties;   - Jon Hunt (number 88, £1.186 billion) who is still best known as the former owner of Foxtons but now has a Suffolk estate and substantial commercial property;   - David Wilson and family (number 213, £515m) who have sold Wilson-Bowden housebuilders to Barratt for £727m;   - Tony Pidgley (number 454, £212m) owns Berkeley Group and is one of the biggest names amongst British housebuilders;   - Paul Rooney (number 856, £110m) owner of Arun Estates residential agency.    Rich ListSunday TimesJon Hunt]]>

Pre-election market 'squeezed' says agent  27 Apr 15

The housing market across the UK is in a pre-election ‘squeeze’ with several indicators used by agents suggesting a significant slump in transactions.  Research by Hamptons International - using data from Countrywide, the agency group selling one in 10 of all UK homes - says across Britain there are 18.1 per cent fewer homes on sale today than a year ago. Only London has more, thanks to a collapse in sales of expensive homes ahead of a possible mansion tax. Other regions have seen the stock of homes on sale plummet by up to 25 per cent.   Hamptons also says that homes are taking longer to sell. Nationally, it now takes 7.3 weeks for a sale to be agreed - that’s an average two days longer than a year ago. Again there are major regional differences, because in London and north east England it takes a full 10 days longer for a sale to happen than in spring 2014.      A third measure is the number of buyers registered with estate agents compared to the number of homes on sale. The bad news for sellers, says Hamptons, is that even with far fewer homes on the market, the number of buyers per property is lower than a year ago - 11.0 now against 11.3 in spring 2014.    “It’s a pre-election squeeze” says Johnny Morris, Hamptons’ head of research. “It’s normal for the market to slow down ahead of an election. There’s little effect on prices but potential purchasers put off decisions. Sales fall between 20 and 40 per cent” he says.    However Morris, who has analysed 35 years of general elections, says the three months after polling day typically see a sales surge 13 per cent above normal.   CountrywideHamptons International2015 General Election]]>

Watchdog winds up scam property fund  27 Apr 15

A scam property fund has been wound up on the recommendation of the Financial Conduct Authority after glaiming to offer guaranteed returns of up to 51.47 per cent. The FCA claims that Hermay Limited had been accepting deposits from consumers without the authority’s authorisation “and we suspect it has operated a scam property fund claiming to offer guaranteed returns of up to 51.47% from investments made tangible property funds after a one year investment.”   Now the High Court has wound up Hermay and a liquidator has been appointed to investigate Hermay’s activities. The liquidator will contact affected investors to confirm if any money can be returned to them once the investigation is complete.   “Our experience with this type of scheme is that consumers only receive back a small fraction of what they invested. Unfortunately, these consumers will not have access to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme if they suffer losses as Hermay is not an FCA-authorised firm” says a statement from the authority.   “We strongly advise you to only deal with financial firms that are authorised by us, and to check the [FCA’s] Financial Services Register to ensure they are. It has information on firms and individuals that are, or have been, regulated by us” it says.    FCAScamsHernay Limited]]>

 
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