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Now News Corp moves into online property  01 Oct 14

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is the latest big-brand organisation to move into online property, with plans to acquire the US website giant Move for $950 million. Move operates a network of US property sale, rental and services websites including Move.com, realtor.com, Moving.com, Newhomesource.com and SeniorHousingNet.com. Most of these involves sales and rentals but some include historic price and sales data.    Together they claim 20 million visitors monthly and ComScore, an internat consultancy, says consumers spend more than 410 million minutes a month on Move’s websites.   News Corp’s initiative will hold an 80 per cent stake in the business, with REA Group Limited - majority-owned by News Corp and already operating an Australian residential property website - will hold the other 20 per cent.   In excess of five million homes are bought and sold in the US each year. Estate agents and brokers are expected to spend approximately $14 billion this year on marketing homes,  with a further US $11 billion to be spent by mortgage providers.    “This acquisition will accelerate News Corp’s digital and global expansion and contribute to the transformation of our company, making online real estate a powerful pillar of our portfolio,” Robert Thomson, News Corporation’s chief executive, said in a statement.    “We intend to use our media platforms and compelling content to turbocharge traffic growth and create the most successful real estate website in the US” he says. That is interpreted to mean that exchanges of databases and cross-referencing will go on between Move websites and other News Corp outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal.   This would be the equivalent of, for example, News Corp’s purchase of a major UK property portal or website and cross-referencing it with the Sun and/or The Times in a bid to maximise reach and impact.   News Corp’s move in the UK comes two months after Zillow, America’s giant online real-estate listings service, announced it was buying the rival Trulia service for $3.5 billion.  News CorpMoveOnline Estate Agents]]>

Coup for Cluttons as it lures senior Savills agent  01 Oct 14

Cluttons has recruited one of Britain’s top international agents, Joanna Leverett, to be its head of international residential markets where she will lead UK and global sales. Leverett joins from Savills, where she spent eight years, most recently as head of international new developments. Previously, she was also responsible for building and managing Savills’ network of global associates and preferred agents.   In her new role, Leverett will lead UK and international sales with a particular focus on linking with the Middle East, where Cluttons is already a major player.    She will also work with Cluttons branches across Asia Pacific, Europe, India and South Africa, and will lead the proposed expansion of Cluttons international residential network.   In a statement, Leverett said it was an exciting time to join Cluttons as it “continues to expand its international presence and client reach. The business is already market leading in London and the Middle East.”  CluttonsSavillsJoanna Leverett]]>

Missing estate agent found dead  01 Oct 14

The missing US estate agent Beverly Carter has been found dead, buried in a shallow grave in Arkansas.  The search for Mrs Carter had been going on since last Thursday when she did not return home from an appointment to show a home to a potential buyer.   On Monday police arrested Arron Lewis on suspicion of kidnapping Mrs Carter; it is expected that this charge will now be amended to murder.   Lewis is reported to have admitted abducting the realtor but he did not reveal her wherabouts. Police said they then received information leading them to the address where her body was found.   Mrs Carter’s car was found abandoned but without her personal belongings having been removed.    Her family then received a series of text messages purporting to be from her, but appearing out of character.    The first was just one word: "Yes." The next said: "My phone's low. The battery's down, and I'll call you whenever I get signal." The final message read: "Oh, I'm out drinking with some friends" although Mrs Carter was not a drinker.    American agents have been urged by the National Association of Realtors to uphold the memory of  Beverly Carter by keeping safe and watching out for each other.   In this country the Suzy Lamplugh Trust was set up after the disappearance of 25-year-old agent Suzy Lamplugh. She has been presumed murdered and was legally declared dead in 1993. To date her body has not been found.    The trust now campaigns for general personal safety, not solely for agents. It has recently called for rethinks on cutbacks on street lighting by local authorities, and on the potential dangers of illegal minicabs.    MurderUSRealtor]]>

Nationwide: price growth slows but divide remains  01 Oct 14

Average house prices in England increased by 1.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2014 and were up 12.8 per cent year-on-year according to the Nationwide - but the society emphasises that the rate of growth is slowing in most areas. However the gap between the North and South persists. Prices in the south of England were up 15.3 per cent year-on-year while in the north prices rose just 6.7%. Price growth in the south has now exceeded that of the north for 22 consecutive quarters.   London was once again the best performing region with prices up 21.0 per cent over the last 12 months. The north of England was the weakest performing English region, with annual growth of 4.3 per cent.   Amongst England’s other major towns and cities, St. Albans was the top performer, with prices up 24 per cent year-on-year. Newcastle was the worst performing city, up a mere four per cent.    London saw a softening in annual price growth from 25.8 per cent in Q2 to 21.0 per cent in Q3. Average prices remain in excess of £400,000 and are now 31 per cent above their 2007 pre-downturn peak.   But Nationwide says the annual pace of growth in the capital will probably continue to slow in the quarters ahead, given the high base for comparison in the next few quarters and also anecdotal evidence from surveyors and estate agents that activity may be starting to moderate.   Amongst London’s boroughs, Camden saw the strongest growth, with a remarkable 42 per cent year-on-year increase in average prices.   Wales was one of only two regions to see a quarter-on-quarter fall in house prices in Q3, with a 0.8 per cent decline and with the annual rate of growth softening to just 5.0 per cent.   Annual price growth in Scotland remained relatively stable at 5.2 per cent. Aberdeen City was the best performing area, with prices up 12 per cent on the previous year.   House prices in Northern Ireland were up 10.2 per cent in the past three months compared with Q3 2013. However, average prices are still nearly 50 per cent below their 2007 peak.   Belfast remains the most expensive area and says the biggest growth in the past year -= up 21 per cent.   nationwideNorthSouth Dividehousing market]]>

Housing minister's UKIP challenger on fraud charges  01 Oct 14

The UKIP candidate who was challenging Tory housing minister Brandon Lewis at next year’s general election is standing down to fight allegations of electoral fraud. Matthew Smith - who is already a UKIP county councillor in Norfolk - is to go on trial in January in a case relating to the county council elections in May of last year.   Smith, who describes himself on his Twitter profile as “a handsome devil”, used to be a senior Conservative activist in the Great Yarmouth constituency and worked with Brandon Lewis in the 2010 general election, when Lewis took the seat from Labour.,   Smith was himself selected in May 2013 by UKIP to fight the seat in the 2015 poll and told the local press “I do fancy my chances. Victory is not beyond the realms of possibility.”   But in his speech standing down, Smith said: “I will continue to fight this case knowing that I am innocent of all charges and I have been thankful for the continuing support given by you....I believe that I owe it to the branch to step down to ensure we can democratically select a local branch candidate in due course, who is free from such distractions and to best ensure our victory.”   However, the demise of Smith’s campaign does not mean victory will be plain sailing for the housing minister next year. UKIP holds the balance of power on Great Yarmouth council and the seat is one of eight held by Tories and believed to be targeted by UKIP.   UKIPBrandon LewisGreat Yarmouth]]>

NAEA insists first time buyers still at record low  30 Sep 14

The National Association of Estate Agents is sticking to its guns insisting that first time buyers represent only 20 per cent of recorded sales. Indeed in its latest figures - just released but applying to sales in August - the association claims the number of buyers aged between 18 and 30 remains is just three per cent. Implicitly, this suggests its other first time buyers are aged above 30.   “It’s evident that first time buyers are indeed getting older with the majority of home buyers this month aged 31 to 40. If interest rates do rise, the majority of NAEA members agreed that this will affect the demand for property” according to Mark Hayward, NAEA managing director.    The average number of house hunters registering with NAEA agents increased slightly, from an average of 368 house hunters in July to 372 in August.   Mark Hayward says this yet again emphasises “the need for the government to take action and ensure measures are in place for more new homes to be built to address the housing shortage.”   Last month the NAEA robustly defended its first time buyer data after a Twitterstorm during which an analyst from Savills described the association’s figures as “bonkers” and agents were sharply critical of the validity of the data.   Only yesterday Estate Agent Today reported figures from LSL Property Services showing that the number of first-time buyer completions across the UK rose by just over seven per cent in the 12 months to the end of August.     There were 28,300 first-time buyer completions in August itself, 7.2 per cent more than in the same month a year earlier. It was the third consecutive month in which first-time buyer completions topped 28,000 according to LSL.   At the time NAEA president Simon Gerrard told Estate Agent Today some of the criticism from agents was based on envy that the association had secured so much publicity from its FTB claims.   NAEAFirst Time Buyershousing market]]>

Trio of agencies expanding in London  30 Sep 14

Knight Frank is to open seven new offices in London and the south east of England in time for next spring’s prime selling season.    The high-end international agency - owned by its partners and operating 335 offices in 52 countries - made the expansion announcement on the back of a dramatic 33 per cent leap in profits in 2013/14 to £136.6m, up from £102.7m the previous year.   Sales in the year increased by 12 per cent to £392.7m. The agency has net cash balances of £141.7m, up from £105.1m in 2012. Knight Frank’s group chairman and senior partner, Alistair Elliott, said it benefitted from acting on several high profile residential and commercial property deals abroad and in the UK.   Like the handful of companies selling homes in the ultra-prime sector, Knight Frank sees itself increasingly as a global operating. Earlier this month it announced a strategic alliance with Douglas Elliman, a New York high-end realty business specialising in selling homes priced at $1.5m and above.   Meanwhile Foxtons has just opened a new office in Tooting - its 50th in London under the Foxtons brand - and will this coming weekend open in Wapping. Nic Budden, chief operating officer, says the firm has been operating in both areas for some years, albeit from neighbouring offices.   Finally Haus Properties - the agency operated by former Apprentice star Jamie Lester - is set to open its third West London office early next year. Its first office opened in Fulham in November 2011, followed by Chiswick in May 2012. Its third office will be in Shepherd’s Bush. The agency claims to be doubling its revenue each year.   knight franklondonhousing market]]>

Is Labour imploding over mansion tax?  30 Sep 14

A range of media reports suggest that Labour is in disarray over the mansion tax, with some senior figures within the party being critical of the proposal. A former Labour housing minister, Nick Raynsford, the MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, is quoted as saying the proposal outlined at last week’s Labour conference is “good politics but bad policy". Instead, he wants a revaluation of council tax bands - they have remained unchanged for 23 years now - to create extra bands for the highest-value properties.    He claims the current system, under which people in properties worth just over £320,000 pay the same council tax as those in homes worth tens of millions, was "grossly unfair."  Margaret Hodge, now best known for her chairing of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, is reported to have described the mansion tax as “a punishment tax” for those who live in London and have seen the values of their properties grow in recent years.   Tessa Jowell, a possible candidate for the Labour nomination for the 2016 Mayor’s election, says: "Take one of the many elderly couples living in my constituency in Dulwich, who might have bought a house 30 years ago and are now living on pensions and are asset rich but income poor. No mansion tax should drive them from their homes."   Meanwhile David Lammy, another London Labour MP and another candidate to win the party’s nomination for the next Mayor’s election, says council tax revaluation is his preferred way of raising revenue through property taxation.    LabourMansion TaxNick Raynsford]]>

Agents' Mutual dismisses private equity speculation  29 Sep 14

Agents’ Mutual has dismissed speculation that there is private equity involvement in the firm, after questions were raised about the ownership of the domain names for its new OnTheMarket website. In recent months the comments sections of Estate Agent Today and other online industry news services have included entries raising questions about the ownership of names and domain names OnTheMarket, OnTheMarket.co.uk, OnTheMarket.uk and OnTheMarket.com.   These names were registered as being owned by Vespa Capital Partners Ltd and the Agents’ Mutual chief executive Ian Springett was named as the 'Intellectual Property Office representative name'.    One of the comments on Estate Agent Today asked: “Is it fair to consider there are some discretionary funders behind this venture other than the participating agents?”   However, the challenger portal has batted off the suggestion, saying the Agents’ Mutual title was not used at first to avoid the firm showing its hand.   Ian Springett told Estate Agent Today: “We did not want the trading name applications or domain acquisitions associated with Agents’ Mutual in the pre-announcement period so applied/acquired using a variety of vehicles available to us. All OnTheMarket brand assets will be transferred to and owned by Agents Mutual Ltd in due course.”   In fact Vespa Capital Partners - the name and address of which appears on the Intellectual Property Office certificate for the website names and domains - is a business support company owned by the Vespa Capital private equity firm, but separate from it.    There is no overlap of staff, and Partners split from Vespa Capital in 2007.   A spokeswoman for Vespa Capital has told Estate Agent Today that "we absolutely have no financial involvement with, nor financial stake in, Agents Mutual whatsoever, nor have we in the past."     Vespa Capital Partners offers business support and has several clients with no financial or other connection with Vespa Capital.   Agents’ MutualPrivate EquityIan Springett]]>

First Time Buyers still dominate Help To Buy  29 Sep 14

The Help To Buy equity loan scheme has generated 32,268 sales since its launch in April last year, latest government figures show. This is the version of HTB where the government lends up to 20 per cent of the value of a property in the form of an equity loan; buyers have to find a five per cent deposit and secure a mortgage to cover the other 75 per cent of the cost. It applies only to new-builds costing under £600,000 but is open to existing home owners as well as first time buyers.    The total number is up from the 29,829 sales recorded to the end of July.    DCLG's latest figures cover the period from April 1 2013 to August 31 this year, and show once again that the majority of the sales were actually to first time buyers at 84 per cent of total transactions. The average purchase price was £210,269.   The top six local authorities for equity loan legal completions were Wiltshire at 557, Leeds (539), Central Bedfordshire (504), Peterborough (447), Milton Keynes (425) and Bedford (388).    First Time BuyersDCLGhelp to buy]]>

 
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