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'Ethical' estate agency prepares to launch  25 Jul 14

Estate Agent Today has discovered that a so-called ‘ethical’ estate agency is launching in London.  It makes eight 'public pledges' to mark it apart from rival agents, including fixed fees and no individual commissions for negotiators.  Brickworks - which has a ‘work in progress’ website on www.brickworkslondon.com - is undergoing a ‘soft launch’ now and gathering a portfolio of properties for sale ahead of its official launch in September. Ellie Rees, who set up the agency with her partner and former Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward and Winkworth agent Rex Siney, has told Estate Agent Today that the aim of the agency is to be “anti-corporate” and “an alternative to what’s out there at the moment.”  “We want to sell the way we sell rather than be known for one type of property or operating in just one area” explains Rees. It is based in north London but has no high street office. However, Brickworks is not calling itself an online agency, because of the strong industry background of Simey and the promise that “there has to be a better way of doing things” with an emphasis on personal service that is not available through some online agencies.   Brickworks says it is committed to an ethical approach to business and sets out eight pledges including some on environmental responsibility, attention to photographic and descriptive detail in brochures and website displays, and using plain language throughout. But there are three particular pledges which mark out the firm as quite different to rival London agencies. Fair fees - “Everyone pays the same fixed one per cent to sell their property irrespective of value. It’s just fairer that way and there’s no haggling at any time” says Rees. No individual sales commission - Its website says: “We work as a team on your behalf and reward our staff on the quality of their customer care, not their sales record.” No cold calling - “Never. Like EVER” proclaims the website. Ahead of its formal launch, Brickworks currently lists only one property on Rightmove.  It is, according to the legal declaration, a garden flat “owned by one of our creative team.” But if the details are indicative of Brickworks’ approach, the offer to the public will be different from most of its London rivals. Details include ‘Brickworks says...’ (leading on to the classic estate agent description) and then ‘The owners say...’ (a more general descriptive and anecdotal section). There is also the painfully honest ‘Points to consider’ (which in the case of its one Rightmove listing, includes “trains run close by at the back of the property - the noise is something to consider but the kids love it!” and other candid comments). There are also 27 pictures of the property and local area for this one listing. Is this just going to be a one-off innovative agency or the template for more transparent fixed-cost agency in the capital in the future?   BrickworksAgents' FeesAgents' Commission]]>

World's first all-online auction this autumn  25 Jul 14

The first-ever all-online property auction - where a contract is emailed and digitally signed by sellers and buyers, so the entire procedure happens via email and the internet - is now likely to be held in the autumn.  The event, staged in Dublin by Irish auction house Allsop Space, had to be postponed earlier this month because the IT system could not cope with the huge number of late bids. The object of holding the event online is to attract international bidders; at least one UK residential auction house has told Estate Agent Today - off the record - that it is interested in staging a similar event based in London.  Robert Hoban, Allsop Space’s director of auctions, says: “Everything was going smoothly, but we started to get word in from some bidders that they couldn’t get their bids in.” Around 70 potential buyers had registered to take part in the 24-hour auction, including Irish expats based in the United States, Australia and France. The idea of buying a home via an online bid is not, in itself, particularly new. Back in 2000 a company called Homes4Living sold two new apartments in a marina at Eastbourne by placing floor plans and 360-degree 'virtual tours' of the flats on a website. The auction allowed only online bids over a two-week period, and people had to provide evidence that they had the funds and legal go-ahead before being registered as bidders. The site had 150,000 - quite something as long ago as the year 2000 - and of those about 300 registered to bid, and both flats reached their reserve price. Another firm, Thepropertylot, made an attempt to set up a similar service on a larger scale in 2001.  However, this autumn’s Allsop Space auction is believed to be the first ever where all transactions will be completed online.  AuctionsOnline Agentsireland]]>

Agent tries abstract twist for board design  25 Jul 14

Newcastle-based agency Heywoods is trying a new twist to make its signs stand out from the forest of For Sale and To Let boards on the streets - with the help of local artists.   Although the firm has commissioned advertising and design agency Lesniak Swann to help with the fresh look for the boards, the result is not a variation on the familiar text-based image but something rather more unexpected.  The new boards feature bold artwork incorporating the company’s colours, but in an abstract style which aims to be both eye-catching and memorable.  The first of a series of new designs is just being commissioned and now the agency wants more local artists to step forward with additional ideas. The first board carries the words ‘for sale’ and Heywoods’ telephone number in a relatively small font, although the Heywoods logo and name is forefront over an abstract multi-coloured design.  “We wanted to differentiate ourselves and demonstrate to both buyers and sellers that using Heywoods isn’t like working with other agents. We’re proud of the difference our high levels of service make. Our new boards look fantastic and we’re really pleased” says Heywoods director Chris Stops. Each original will be displayed at the agency’s Newcastle office. Any artist wanting to try their hand should contact Lesniak Swann via its website.  HeywoodsAgents' BoardsNewcastle]]>

House price confidence goes into reverse  25 Jul 14

For the first time in two years there has been a sustained dent in the confidence of home owners that the value of their property is rising.    A survey by YouGov for the economics consultancy CEBR shows that for the second month in a row there has been an increase in the number of existing owners that prices will dip - the first two-month decline since 2012.  "The surge in consumer confidence over the past 18 months has largely been built on home owners' faith in property prices increasing. Now we are seeing a distinct cooling off in these expectations and, as a result, overall consumer confidence has stalled" claims YouGov researcher Stephen Harmston. This morning’s survey comes hot on the heels of a warning by the Bank of England that there are signs of the economy slowing slightly - throwing into stark relief the potential problem for affordability if house prices continue to rise. This in turn has prompted Bank governor Mark Carney to make another of his veiled warnings of an imminent interest base rate increase. "A prolonged period of historically low interest rates could encourage other risks to develop. In the UK, the biggest risks are associated with the housing market. History shows that the British people do everything they can to pay their mortgages. That means cutting back deeply on expenditures when the unexpected happens. If a lot of people are highly indebted, that could tip the economy into recession" Carney warns. The governor has repeated his message from earlier this year that when rates do start to rise from their current all-time low of 0.5 per cent, increases will be “gradual and limited.”  CBREhousing marketBank of England]]>

Yes, agents really ARE worth their fees  25 Jul 14

Agent Chris Penfold has taken to print to put up a stalwart defence of traditional estate agency after being spurred into action by a social media attack on agents’ fees.   Chris, senior partner at Moore & Partners in Crawley, West Sussex, took to the columns of his local newspaper to defend the services of agents against those seeking low cost online or private house sales.  He says he was motivated to do so by seeing a social media query asking: ‘how do I sell my house cheaply, without having to pay for an estate agent?’ He article states that “the process of successfully selling a house has been an art since the 1800's and is one that has kept us employed ever since – and there's a reason for that.”    “Experienced agents are trained to use photographic equipment to its very best and the results are clear....Experienced agents will accompany (where physically possible) and deal with every single viewing which in most peoples opinion's is the worst part of the process....Sales chasing is an art form in itself. Initially, all finances, chains, timescales and any other variables must all be agreed, through us, between the buyer and seller....On more occasions than I can remember have I sorted out problems quickly which left to solicitors would not have been resolved and the sale would have fallen through.”   And he concludes: “Would I think I could rewire my house and not use a qualified electrician? No I wouldn't. So in the same context why would somebody try to sell their property themselves? We are the professionals in what we do, and we do it extremely well.”    Moore & PartnersEstate Agency FeesOnline Agents]]>

Agents Do Charity - and we applaud you  25 Jul 14

We’re well into the second half of July and the holiday season shows no sign of stemming agents’ enthusiasm for helping those who cannot help themselves. We at EAT and LAT hugely admire the often-unsung work by agents who donate energy, time and money to charity. We want to shine a spotlight on this side of agency.  If you want to be mentioned, please let us know. Email press@estateagenttoday.co.uk. --- LandAid: This property industry charity has launched its pro bono campaign to encourage its supporter network to give vital time and expertise to help disadvantaged young people in the UK. LandAid is asking for companies to commit at least 10 days of free professional advice in 2014-15, making the link between social objectives and the resources of businesses to drive change. The overall aim is to get 40 companies to donate time with an estimated value of £200,000. With over 75 corporate partners LandAid has the connections to successfully relationships between pro bono providers and charities to make a difference to vulnerable children and young people in the UK. A specialist team has been set up within LandAid that will work to match available expertise with the right projects. So far 16 companies have already committed over 160 days in total, equating to 1,350 hours and more than £120,000 of pro bono property advice to LandAid’s charity partners. Many of these lack the time, expertise and experience to cope with some of the issues that inevitably arise with their buildings. The campaign has already been backed by Chancerygate, Cushman & Wakefield, Gerald Eve, one5two, Grosvenor, GVA, Hawkins\Brown, Irwin Mitchell, JLL, John Robertson Architects, Knight Frank, Land Securities, LDA Design, Mace, MAKE and Telereal Trillium. Want to help? Contact Alex Williamson on alex.williamson@landaid.org. --- Eurolink Foundation: Software and services provider Eurolink is pleased to announce its donation of £4,000 to Agents Giving from its Eurolink Foundation donations fund. Agents Giving, previously The Estate Agents Foundation, is the industry charity for estate agents, lettings agents and suppliers to the industry. Nigel Poole, Eurolink MD, says: “This award is made from the Eurolink Foundation charitable donations fund which was launched in November 2011 and is made up by setting aside a percentage of the value of every sales invoice raised by Eurolink over our financial year ending June 30.” --- Cancer Research: Agency telecoms supplier 4Com Telecommunications it to sponsor ‘Benali’s Big Run’ being undertaken by Francis Benali, the former Southampton FC defender. He’s going to run almost 1,000 miles between all 20 Premiership football clubs in 21 days. He will start his epic challenge on August 24 at Newcastle United and finish at Southampton FC on September 13, aiming to arrive during the Southampton vs Newcastle game. Franny aims to raise £1m for Cancer Research UK. --- Race For Life: Charles Derby Estates may be synonymous with speed of service, but that has now transferred to the running track. One of their number, Sarah Tippey, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had the operation, endured the chemo and radiation treatment and has now returned to her day job in top form. A Charles Derby team took part in a Park Run (more details on www.parkrun.org.uk) to raise money for Race For Life, a breast cancer charity. You can still contribute - just follow the link on the Just Giving page and enter Sarah-Jane Tippey. --- Teddy Bears’ Picnic: Prospect agency has always been known for its commitment to local causes and its Warfield branch sponsored this year’s Teddy Bears Picnic in Bracknell, which was hosted on behalf of the Pre-School Learning Alliance. The branch donated a £50 cash raffle prize, printed marketing materials and placed boards around Bracknell showcasing the event, which went on to attract 1,100 paying visitors as well as the hundreds of pushchairs with children under 18 months who attended free of charge.  Funds raised from the day are to be used for the Help a Pre-school Child Appeal to fund children with special and social needs attend pre-school in Bracknell Forest.   estate agentsCharityEstate Agent Today]]>

Analyst endorses 'Buy Rightmove' shares status  23 Jul 14

Rightmove shares have had their ‘buy’ rating reiterated by investment analysts at Nomura which suggests there could be a potential one-third growth from the company’s current price. Nomura has put a potential top value of about 3,000 on the stock, which is currently trading at around 2,200.    This latest status is one of 11 ‘buy’ assessments made by investment analysts on Rightmove in recent weeks. However, Jefferies Group, another analyst, has put a less enthusiastic ‘hold’ status on Rightmove - one of four analysts with that recommendation.   Some six weeks ago analysts at Barclays gave an ‘overweight’ rating on Rightmove’s shares; to date, no other analyst has endorsed that position, although Rightmove’s share price has been volatile in the past 12 months with a low of 2,046.9999 and a high of 2,814.   Analyses of this kind are of interest because of the large size of Rightmove’s market cap - approaching £2.2 billion - and because market observers want to see if it is affected by moves from next year’s challenger OnTheMarket.    The new portal, formerly Agents’ Mutual, is encouraging agents to de-list from Rightmove or its current rival portal, Zoopla.  rightmoveOnTheMarketNomura]]>

Agent may be jailed for £40,000 fraud  23 Jul 14

An estate agent has been told he may face jail for defrauding clients of £40,000. Paul Onslow, 45, ran Paul Onslow Estate Agency in Harlow, Essex. He pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court to one offence of fraudulently abusing his position as the proprietor of an estate agency business.   The fraud allegedly took place between 22 April 2008 and 22 April 2013 and involved approximately £40,000 of clients’ money which Onslow used for his own purposes.   Local press reports say the agent - who lives in Hertfordshire - has pleaded guilty to the charge, which relates to the financial affairs of 14 clients.   Judge Charles Gratwicke adjourned sentencing for reports until next month and remanded Onslow, who is of previous good character, on bail. He warned him that a jail sentence could not be ruled out saying: “All options remain open. It’s a large sum of money.”  Paul Onslow Estate AgencyessexCrime]]>

Online head's "old men" jibe at OnTheMarket  23 Jul 14

The head of an online agency has mocked the “old men” running the forthcoming OnTheMarket portal for banning online agents while allowing what he calls high-charging traditional agents some of which have “dire” customer service. The chief executive of OnTheMarket, Ian Springett, has said he will not allow online agents’ properties to be listed on the new portal - formerly known as Agents’ Mutual - and has accused them of being “a bit of a con” and “parasitic”.   Now Adam Day, director of online service Hatched, says there is not the fundamental difference between online and traditional agents that Springett makes out.   “We have fully trained employees that visit and meet with clients at their properties, face to face. They measure up and take photos at every single property we market. We arrange the viewings, we get feedback, we negotiate to get the best price for the client and we see the sale through to the end. We just charge in a different way, which allows us to save clients around 80 per cent compared to a traditional estate agency” claims Day.   “We are members of the National Association of Estate Agents .... We are also recognised as estate agents according to the Estate Agents Act” he continues in an open letter.   Day concludes by saying: “It’s about time the estate agency market had a shake-up. And it’s about time the old men in their shiny suits, flash company cars and fat tie knots step aside. There’s a new, modern, 21st century wave of estate agents around.”  HatchedOnTheMarketOnline Agents]]>

Savills says prime London prices "plateaued"  23 Jul 14

Savills says values of homes in prime central London have plateaued after growing just 0.4 per cent in the second quarter of the year.  The agency’s research department says established prime central locations such as Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Belgravia and Chelsea, where average values are in the region of £2,100 to £2,400 per square foot, have all recorded quarterly growth below one per cent.    But relatively lower-priced areas such as Marylebone, where prices average £1,600 per square foot, rose 3.5 per cent in the same quarter.   Meanwhile at the very top end of the market, homes worth over £10 million fell by an average 1.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2014, meaning that London’s highest value homes on average saw zero growth on an annual basis in the 12 months to July.   However, values in these areas remain 48 per cent above their 2007 levels - a remarkable increase while most of the rest of the UK say property values plummet.   There may be worse to come, however. Savills says there will be a small one per cent fall on average in prices in prime central London in 2015 thanks to uncertainty over the result of next spring’s general election, and speculation over possible new property taxes for the wealthy.  Savillshousing marketlondon]]>

 
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