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Video round up 24.10.14 - Watch the weekly news from Estate Agent Today  24 Oct 14

Watch the latest weekly video roundup of news from Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, featuring stories on the continued debate around OnTheMarket, a number of agency's concerns over next year's General Election and a possible baptism of fire for Leicestershire landlords.Weekly Round UpVideoEstate Agent Today]]>

Nervous London market after Foxtons shares tumble  24 Oct 14

Foxtons has been the stock market whipping-boy for a flailing central London housing market, losing up to 20 per cent of its share value at the worst of trading yesterday as new figures consolidated the gloom in prime areas of the capital.   The agency, which has over 50 branches across the capital so is unusually vulnerable to concern about London housing issues, has issued a profits warning saying it has endured a "sharp and recent" slowdown in sales.   It said that while it had performed exceptionally well in the nine-months to June, the market had cooled dramatically more recently with quarterly sales commissions down 7.8 per cent on the same period last year as reduced sale volumes offset price increases.   Foxtons’ chief executive Nic Budden insisted: “Despite the impact that market uncertainty is having on transaction volumes, we are continuing with our clear strategy, centralised business model and steady roll-out programme which is delivering higher market share.”   This comes only 48 hours after a stark briefing from high-end agency Strutt & Parker after figures showed that its Q3 figures for 2014 in prime central London revealed a 20.8 per cent decrease in the number of homes sold below £2m, compared to the same quarter last year.   Even worse were its figures for homes in the £2m to £5m range - down 27.1 per cent.   The agency has sugared the pill by saying that when looked at over the longer-term these figures are not as drastic as they appear - the volume of transactions is actually up by 3.1 per cent compared to Strutts’ rolling five year quarterly average.    Meanwhile data for the rest of the UK showed that mortgage activity dropped in September compared with a year ago - another sign of a cooling market.    The number of mortgages approved for house purchases was down 10 per cent compared with a year ago according to the British Bankers' Association. Approvals had been relatively high at the start of the year but have slowed since June. There were 39,271 approvals for house purchases in September, the BBA says.  londonFoxtonshousing market]]>

Agency pioneers Twitter-tour for sale property  24 Oct 14

A central London estate agency has undertaken what it calls Britain’s - and possibly the world’s - first Twitter-tour of a property, using images conveyed by social media to would-be buyers who are unable to view the accommodation in person. York Estates in Marylebone this week used Twitter photograph attachments and the #YEtwittertours hashtag to show different rooms and views of the property.   “It was an experiment and we’re very pleased with the results. We’re going to repeat the exercise again in mid-November, this time with a rental property” York Estate’s founding partner Julia Lilley told Estate Agent Today.   “Many of our clientele are extremely busy. They can’t always escape the office to conduct viewings and as we’re selling in central London, a lot of clients aren’t even in the country. This is a test to see if we can use social media to help sell properties” she says.   The impetus for the experiment came from a recent experience with one of York’s overseas clients, based in Africa. Julia Lilley used her mobile telephone to take shots of the view from windows and of rooms of a property on sale last month; she emailed them to her client, who went on to make an offer on the apartment.   “He had been in London in the past and knew where the building was. But this was an indication of how technology can be used” she says.   York Estates sells and lets properties in London’s W1, W2 & NW1 postcodes.   TwitterYork Estateslondon]]>

Hometrack abandons agents' data for new index  24 Oct 14

Hometrack’s new index, which now confines itself to looking at average house prices in 20 cities in the UK rather than all of England and Wales, will not be using estate agents’ index. Hometrack’s old monthly house price index was based on data provided by around 3,000 agency offices but the small print for the new index - the first edition of which is out today - says the data sources will be the Land Registry and Registers of Scotland.   “This new Hometrack UK Cities House Price Index is very different to our historic monthly housing survey which was an aggregation of the views of a large sample of agents and surveyors on key market trends in their local area. The survey has been dis-continued” says the consultancy.   The new index has been two years in the making. Its first public findings, just released, show that average house prices in London and Cambridge have increased by over £60,000 and £53,000 respectively over the last 12 months - the highest hikes from the 20 cities analysed.    HometrackUK Citieslondon]]>

Agents worldwide say: The only way is ethics  24 Oct 14

Estate agents and other property professionals from around the world - or at least those with time to spend away from their desks - are today ending a four-day event in New York discussing the creation of an international code of ethics for the real estate industry. Britain’s RICS appears to be at the forefront of this initiative and is represented in the Big Apple by Peter Bolton-King, the institution’s global residential director.    RICS has worked on related issues in recent months, including the so-called International Property Measurement Standards - a bid to make uniform and more transparent the measurement of homes and indirectly their valuations, too.    Now in New York - at the United Nations building, no less - real estate experts are trying to consider a set of consistent standards covering areas such as description, measurement, valuation and codes of practice government how agents, surveyors and brokers will operate. It’s a tall order perhaps but arguably very important given the internationalisation of house sales. In the UK for example, international interest does not extend merely to London - Savills is claiming that over the past two and a half years in Cambridge, 23 per cent of its sales have been to overseas purchasers.  Estate Agent IndustryRICSInternational]]>

HOA launches guide to online agents  24 Oct 14

The Home Owners’ Alliance, which appears to be turning itself into a Which?-style consumer champion, has published a guide to competing online estate agents. The HOA, launched two years ago, says it “champions the interests of Britain’s homeowners and aspiring homeowners, and provides services they can trust....acting as the voice of homeowners in the media, lobbying for the interests of homeowners and aspiring homeowners in government, and campaigning against bad practices in industry.”   It has previously criticised high street estate and letting agents for their alleged lack of transparency in charges, and its analysis of online agencies covers charging and what-the-vendor-gets in considerable detail.   It looks at Tepilo, Hatched, Purplebricks, House Simple, House Network and eMoov, contrasting the packages and prices they offer, and with an exhaustive ticklist of whether the different packages include or exclude floorplans, photographs, valuations, the arrangement and conducting of viewings, the provision of For Sale boards, creating an EPC and listing properties for sale on Rightmove and Zoopla.   The HOA offers arguably subjective but nonetheless well-informed comments on the different sites, too, usually from a ‘consumer-rights’ perspective.   For example about one Tepilo package it says: “We are surprised they charge extra for photos and floorplans which in our view should be included.”    On House Simple it says: “While House Simple claim ‘viewings organisation’, in the majority of cases where enquiries come via a property portal, the viewers’ details are simply passed to you to arrange the meeting direct. Other online agents provide a secretarial service, managing your viewing diary.”   It also has a sharp comment about Purplebricks: “Prices went up this September from £599 inc VAT to £665 exc VAT. Looks like they’ve got wise to this common estate agent trait of excluding VAT to appear cheaper…”   This is one of its comments on Hatched: “We like the fact Hatched use Trustpilot to show customer reviews. We didn’t like that the list of optional extras on the site doesn’t include prices so you’ll need to track down the costs of any extras you want.” And about eMoov it says: “No online area (although one is coming soon) but viewing appointments and feedback are confirmed by email. The call centre is helpful and open seven days a week.”   Home Owners' AllianceOnline AgentsCompare Online Agents]]>

Agents do charity - overseas as well as at home...  24 Oct 14

The days are getting shorter and the nights seem darker than ever, yet agents still find time to raise money for good causes.  We raise a special cheer to the Chas Everitt agency in South Africa which kindly got in touch with information set out below, pointing out that there are many Brits retired and settled in SA who may be interested. We’re happy to oblige!   We’re also very happy to publicise every agent’s efforts and pay tribute to your fine work, especially in the build-up to Christmas. If you want to be mentioned, please let us know. Email press@estateagenttoday.co.uk.   In the meantime, here are this week’s updates.   Sunnyside Lodge, Cape Town: Chas Everitt agents in Cape Town's Southern areas are arranging 625 hampers to benefit elderly residents in need living at the Sunnyside Lodge (Plumstead) and the Communicare Musgrave Park (Diep River) old age homes, together with some strategic partners.    These ‘Pamper Hampers’ will be delivered early in December in time for Christmas and will include gifts from local residents of the community. There’s a campaign website to check out here: www.Neighbour2Neighbour.co.za. --    Retrak: Hatched is to sponsor Katherine Key who is travelling with 11 colleagues from the Greater Manchester Police and Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service to Ethiopia. The team will be heading to the country to work with Retrak, which offers support to vulnerable children. Hatched’s sponsorship will go towards Katherine’s efforts to raise £2,000 for Retrak. To sponsor Katherine or to nominate for next month’s charity recipient from this agent, visit www.hatched.co.uk/about/the-blog.asp. --   MacMillan: The marketing team of Leaders is running 1,000 miles over six months to raise money for Macmillan. The challenge by the team of nine began on July 1 and ends on December 31 and by the end the team will have covered a distance equivalent of more than 38 marathons and will cover all 18 counties where Leaders has a branch. Marketing manager Alison Guyton says the team is hoping to raise £25,000.    She says: “If anyone would like to sponsor our challenge we will be grateful for any amount, no matter how large or small. Please visit our fundraising page at  www.justgiving.com/Marketing1000Miles” --   Breast Cancer Campaign: Builders and site staff working for homebuilder David Wilson Homes Mercia are today wearing pink hi-visibility vests to help raise awareness of breast cancer. Last year, £2.1 million was raised by wear it pink supporters funding lifesaving research across the UK and Ireland, and this year campaigners hope to raise even more through businesses, schools and individuals by wearing it pink. For more information on getting involved in wear it pink please visit the website at http://www.wearitpink.org. --   The Cure Parkinson’s Trust: The founder of Hatched online agency, Adam Day, is next month joining Ricky Rayment of The Only Way Is Essex on a charity skydive in support of this charity. The event takes place on November 16 and for more details see www.hatched.co.uk/about/the-blog.asp.    CharityEstate AgencyAgents Giving]]>

Agent lodges complaint about OnTheMarket with Competition & Markets Authority  23 Oct 14

In the latest battle in the war of words between Agents’ Mutual and online estate agents, eMoov has lodged a complaint with the CMA accusing the new portal provider of running “an illegal cartel.” The CMA has taken over from the now-defunct Office of Fair Trading and part of its work involves providing guidance on competitions legislation and the operation of cartels.   eMoov chief executive Russell Quirk has told Estate Agent Today: ”My complaint against AM is that a) it is an illegal cartel being run by 10 estate agency directors to form a protective entity, and b) that [it] works to the detriment of the consumer with regard to excluding online estate agents together with the anti-competitive nature of its approach to singling out which portals a member is ‘permitted’ to list on.”    Quirk insists Agents’ Mutual, which is scheduled to launch its OnTheMarket portal in just over two months’ time, “is engaging in anti-competitive practices.”   The CMA has issued a response to Quirk, including these two paragraphs:   The CMA will review and retain the information you have sent us to support any future work that the CMA may choose to carry out. Your report may contribute to our investigations and if it does we may get in touch with you. However, we are unable to enter into correspondence about every individual complaint.   We have noted your complaint and brought it to the attention of our pipeline/intelligence teams. We use the intelligence we gather, alongside our Prioritisation Principles to develop our pipeline of new projects and programmes of work and make the best use of CMA resources in terms of real outcomes for UK consumers.   A spokesman for the CMA told Estate Agent Today that a complaint does not automatically trigger an investigation - although if it is judged to be serious enough, it may do so.  CMAOnTheMarketeMoov]]>

Poacher turns gamekeeper - Spicerhaart wins ASA ruling  23 Oct 14

Spicerhaart, which has been rapped over the knuckles by the Advertising Standards Authority in the past, has turned the tables by successfully complaining about an advert from a rival agency in Essex.  A regional press ad for Essex Countryside, stated: "£99 Introducing the cheapest way to sell your home. It sounds too good to be true, but it isn't! From 17th July 2014, we are introducing a brand new way to buy and sell property. It guarantees you will receive the highest offer possible and cost you no more than £99. This fixed price includes your EPC, property details and floor plan […] It is set to be the biggest innovation in buying and selling property in Essex in decades".   Spicerhaart complained to the ASA, challenging the assertion "Introducing the cheapest way to sell your home" and the statement "It guarantees you will receive the highest offer possible and cost you no more than £99".   Spicerhaart said the statements were misleading and could not be substantiated.   Essex Countryside told the ASA that it believed no other agent in the area was offering a cheaper way to sell a vendor's property than its own Sale By Tender system. It said that the SBT was a four-week tender process, whereby all bids were collected by a specific date. The highest bid therefore guaranteed the highest price possible for the vendor.   However, the ASA upheld Spicerhaart’s complaint saying that while Essex Countryside may have believed it was the cheapest agent in the area but it did not provide “any documentary evidence to substantiate the claim.”   The ASA says: “We noted that Essex Countryside offered consumers an SBT service when selling their properties and guaranteed that consumers would receive the highest offer made on their property. However, we considered that the claim ‘It guarantees you will receive the highest offer possible’ suggested that there was no way that vendors could obtain a higher offer than through the use of the advertiser's service.    “Therefore, because we had not seen any documentary evidence illustrating that Essex Countryside were the cheapest agents in their area, and that they could guarantee the highest offer possible for a vendor's property, we concluded that the claims were misleading.”   Essex Countryside has been told the ad must not appear again in its current form.     SpicerHaartEssex CountrysideASA]]>

Online agent rapped by ASA over 'competition'  23 Oct 14

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint about a competition run by online estate agent HarrisonCole, saying it “had not seen evidence to demonstrate that the prizes were awarded to genuine winners.” A complaint was lodged with the ASA about the Bolton-based agency after the HarrisonCole Twitter feed promoted prize draws.     The first tweet stated "Enjoy Nandos on us!! We've 2 x £20 gift cards to giveaway! RT & Follow to #win winner on the day our websites goes live".    A further tweet stated "#COMPETITION TIME!! #WIN a WHITE #iPhone Power Case #RT & #FOLLOW to #WIN winner selected 1st August! X5 to giveaway! ... ".    An additional tweet stated "#COMPETITION TIME!! #WIN this WHITE #iPad Mini simply #RT & #FOLLOW to #WIN winner selected 1st August! ... ". The tweet included an image of the prize.    A further tweet stated "Good morning everyone still time to RT and FOLLOW!  We'll be announcing ALL #WINNERS @9pm tonight!! ... ".   In its judgement, the ASA says the complainant believed a number of the winners were closely connected to the agent and challenged whether the promotions had been administered fairly, whether the winners had been selected by an independent person and whether the prizes “had been awarded in accordance with the laws of chance.”   HarrisonCole told the ASA that the prize draws were genuine, that the agency was not connected to any of the prize winners and that the winners had been selected by an independent person external to HarrisonCole.   However, the ASA upheld the complaint saying that although the agency commented that the draws were genuine “we had not seen evidence to demonstrate that the prizes were awarded to genuine winners in accordance with the laws of chance and by an independent person or under the supervision of an independent person.”     The authority’s statement continued: “In the absence of such evidence, we considered HarrisonCole had not demonstrated that the promotion had been administered fairly and therefore concluded that it breached the Code. The promotion breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 8.2 and 8.14 (Sales promotions) and 8.24 (Prize promotions).”   The ASA has now told HarrisonCole to ensure future promotions are administered fairly.     HarrisonColeASATwitter]]>

 
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