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Shortage of conveyancers may hit sales  23 Apr 14

A “lack of available talent” in the conveyancing sector could lead to delays in completions of London property sales and could even curtail growth in transaction numbers. That’s the warning from property recruitment company Venn Group, which says London’s vacancy rate for residential and commercial conveyancing jobs has risen 34 per cent between October and March.  A rush by overseas investors to snap up London’s commercial property, coupled with reports that confidence in the housing market reached a three year high this month, has sparked a boom in demand for conveyancing locums in the capital, the group says. The firm says the early stages of a skills shortage can be spotted now and is down to not only the boom in conveyancing demand today but also an already-limited talent pool following the housing downturn in 2008. This is a sentiment mirrored in a recent report by the Law Society Gazette which reveals that the sector is already facing a skills gap following such a long period of retrenchment during the recession.  “Whilst law practices have increasingly used locums to plug permanent skills gaps, it is becoming more challenging to find qualified candidates” according to Jodie Finn, Venn Group’s associate director. The group also believes that the introduction of the Mortgage Market Review next week - which will place additional demands on legal firms in terms of fulfilling banks’ anti-fraud criteria – may further exacerbate delays in the residential market.  “Our concern is that once the MMR kicks off, firms simply won’t be able to source the required manpower which could seriously impact the growth of the capital’s property market as we progress through 2014” says Finn.   Estate AgentConveyancersVenn Group]]>

Northwood's 2014 expansion plans hit the road  23 Apr 14

A new franchise branch of Northwood has opened in Shropshire, with another five or six new offices elsewhere in the country expected to be launched later this year. Northwood has expanded from a pure lettings agency in 1995 - when it was called Residential Lettings - but has now become an agency handling sales and rentals plus financial services. The company has more than 80 offices from Aberdeen to Truro, employs around 350 staff and says it has some 20,000 clients on its books. The latest branch is in Wellington, Shropshire, where franchise owner Andy Campbell secured funding from the Royal Bank of Scotland via two government-backed projects - the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme and the Funding for Lending Scheme. Northwood says all of its franchisees undergo a 10 year FCA-approved screening process prior to being granted a franchise.   Estate AgentNorthwoodShropshire]]>

One-in-five homes sells over asking price - NAEA  23 Apr 14

Some 19 per cent of buyers pay above the asking price according to the National Association of Estate Agents.  It says the supply of housing on the market has fallen for the sixth consecutive month from an average of 57 properties in September 2013 to 42 in March 2014, almost a 10 year low.  NAEA member agents also reported an increase in the average number of sales agreed per branch, up from nine in February to 10 in March. It points out that although those looking to buy are serious purchasers, the average number of house hunters registering with NAEA agents dropped by five per cent in March, down from an average of 331 house hunters in February to 313 last month. As the buyers face the realities of dwindling housing stock, the percentage of first time buyers purchasing a property fell from a four year high of 29 per cent in February to 25 per cent in March. Buyers looking to upsize from an existing home accounted for 50 per cent. “The supply crisis continues to deepen and government must act now to offer house hunters hope in an increasingly congested market. Current conditions mean that in just a few months we’ve seen a large increase in the amount of people willing to offer over market price” says Jan Hÿtch, president of National Association of Estate Agents. “Overall property sales may be up but the proportion of first timers purchasing a property is down and with the significant changes that the Mortgage Market Review will bring, we’ll be watching closely to see what kind of an impact is felt” she adds.  Estate AgentNAEAhousing market]]>

Agents' fees and stamp duty 'fuel moving costs'  23 Apr 14

The typical cost of moving house now stands at an average of £8,248 in total, with the share credited to agents’ fees showing an increase of seven per cent on a year ago according to Lloyds Bank, which commissioned the survey.  It says the total amount spent on moving has grown sharply by 27 per cent in 2013, from £5.2 billion to £6.61 billion, chiefly thanks to the rise in property sales after the downturn. The rising cost of moving is driven by increases in stamp duty, estate agency fees and legal fees, which are all up by seven per cent - in the case of all of these, the increase is largely reflecting the higher sale prices and not increased charges.  The average spend on stamp duty and estate agency fees now stands at £2,001 and £3,601 respectively but there has been no change in removal costs and surveyors fees.  In the 10 years since 2003 the total cost of moving has increased by 22 per cent compared to house price rises of 31%.  In the same period, average gross annual earnings have increased by 29 per cent, meaning the total cost of moving as a percentage of earnings has actually fallen from 26 per cent to 25 per cent. There are of course huge regional variations. Moving in London, for example, costs nearly five times more than in Northern Ireland In London and the south east the cost is £20,825 and £16,187 respectively. Higher house prices drive these increases: the average home mover in London pays £10,850 in stamp duty and £6,510 in estate agency fees. The south east has seen the highest rise in the cost of moving over the last decade, with an 85 per cent increase from £8,773 to £16,187. This is substantially higher than any other region and stands at 42 per cent of the average gross full time earnings for the region. A huge rise in the average stamp duty payment as a result of higher house prices, from £2,250 to £8,157, has driven this increase. The most affordable place to move house is in Northern Ireland, where the average cost is £4,253, equivalent to 15 per cent of average gross earnings. Since 2003, the cost of moving in Northern Ireland has reduced 15 per cent, too, as the average house price has dropped below the level at which stamp duty is paid, significantly reducing the total cost.  estate agentsFeesLloyds BankCost of Moving]]>

New Foxtons office causes rumpus - again  23 Apr 14

Another new Foxtons office, another local campaign against it. The agency that some Londoners appear to love-to-hate is in the middle of another neighbourhood row. This time the location is Stoke Newington, where an office is scheduled to open next week. Residents say they are concerned about the company’s legendary all-evening “lights on” appearance, which locals say would spoil the look of the conservation area in which the branch will be located.  Liz Vater, director of a Hackney literature festival, is quoted in a local paper as saying: “It was probably inevitable that Stoke Newington was next on Foxtons’ rampaging expansion plan” while another opponent - Nick Perry - is quoted as describing the firm as having a “brash, aggressive approach, and a shop design to match” which “couldn’t have been less welcome” in the area. The official statement from Nic Budden, chief operating officer at Foxtons, says: “We have enjoyed operating in these areas for a number of years from our neighbouring offices, but now with a new office on their doorstep we look forward to playing an even more active role in the local community.” When planning consent was sought for the Stoke Newington office, opponents claimed it would be the 10th agent on the half-mile strip between Stoke Newington High Street to the east and Albion Road to the west.   Estate AgentFoxtonsStoke NewingtonAgents' Offices]]>

RAN hits £1.2 billion sales mark  23 Apr 14

Relocation Agent Network, the national network of independent estate agents across England, Scotland and Wales, has marked its 20th by announcing that it has sold over £1.2 billion worth of properties since it was set up in 1994. The Network was launched by relocation firm Cartus with the aim of creating a UK network of ‘Local Experts’ helping relocating employees and families to buy and sell. Only one estate agent in any given post code area is selected to join to enhance the ‘expert’ status. In addition to passing the £1.2 billion mark the network’s member agents have helped over 110,000 people move home and through its charitable arm the network has raised over £51,500 for the NSPCC, ChildLine, Help for Heroes and Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as other charities.   The Network team hosts 52 regional meetings annually, and has held 20 national estate agency conferences across the UK, every year since its inception.   Estate AgentRelocation Agent NetworkCartus]]>

TPO wants updated version of HIP  18 Apr 14

The Property Ombudsman is calling for the introduction of a new version of the much-derided Home Information Pack, abandoned by the coalition government four years ago. Christopher Hamer says “consumers would be better protected by a specific requirement that relevant information about all aspects relating to a property was disclosed in a formal document prepared by the seller.” He says that unlike the HIP, such a document should include a home condition report with information such as when the heating was installed, if the property has been subject of a flood and how often, to what depth, proximity of flood plains, subsistence issues, proximity to schools, prisons or graveyards and so on. “In my view it is right that the seller provides that and it is right that the buyer has everything that they need to know readily presented to them. For agents, it would not relieve them of their responsibilities under CPRs but such a document would certainly assist in them being aware of whether they need to draw any extra information to the buyer’s attention,” says Hamer.  Despite housing having become a significantly higher profile subject than in recent years, and with a general election only a year away, so far no political party has suggested a return of the Home Information Pack or any version of it.  Estate AgentTPOHIP]]>

EstatesDirect gets £600k crowd-funding cash  18 Apr 14

The organisation that calls itself the UK’s first ‘hybrid’ agency, chaired by Poundland founder Steve Smith, has received £660,000 of crowdfunding investment. EstatesDirect.com listed on CrowdCube in March with an initial target of £250,000. Within 10 days of the pitch going live the company hit the target and extended its pitch.  The firm, which currently has 14 franchises across the UK, has also received more than 125 requests to become a franchisee or licensee since listing on CrowdCube. EstatesDirect was founded by online dating entrepreneur Darren Richards along with businessman Ben Grove. It describes itself as combining an online estate agency model with regional property experts who meet customers face-to-face.  The business launched in 2012 as a regional pilot and now says it wants to become “the UK’s largest, single branded, personal estate agency network.” “The reason so many people have invested is because EstatesDirect is not just another online agency. We have franchised businesses, licensees and local agents, who provide the expertise and personalised service of a high-street estate agent,” says Smith.  EstatesDirect uses the traditional portals to market properties for sale from £195 and to advertise homes to let from £45. The firm says it has marketed, sold and let more than 450 properties in the Midlands during the past two years.    Estate AgentEstatesDirectCrowdfundingOnline Agents]]>

North-south repo divide alive and well  18 Apr 14

The north-south divide is alive and well with the rate of home repossessions in 2013 being 44 per cent higher in northern England than in the south. Research from e.surv chartered surveyors - analysing court-ordered repossessions in England and Wales in 2013 broken down by post code - shows that there were 5.6 repossessions per 1,000 households in the north.  This is 44 per cent higher than the 3.9 repossessions per 1,000 households in the south. However, both figures show a significant improvement on 2012 levels which were 6.3 repossessions per 1,000 households in the north and 4.4 in the south. The south west of England historically has the lowest number of court-ordered repossessions, accounted for by its generally older and more affluent population.    The worst five repossession postcodes in 2013 were: Oldham 8.6 per 1,000 households (747 in total) Romford 7.8 (754) Bradford 7.4 (835) Wigan 7.4 (460) Blackpool 7.0 (477)   The most ‘improved’ postcodes in 2013 - not necessarily the absolute lowest but those showing the biggest improvements on 2012 - were: EC London 1.0 per 1,000 households Carlisle 3.0 Harrogate 2.3 Telford 5.2 Hull 4.9 “At some point soon the Bank of England may choose to raise the base rate. A higher base rate will translate into higher repayments for many, which could tip a whole host of borrowers into the red. The base rate rise may cause repossessions to temporarily bounce back,” warns e.surv director Richard Sexton.  Estate Agentrepossessionsesurv]]>

Agents told: Stand by for MMR delays  18 Apr 14

A specialist property law firm is warning agents that they should expect delays to be caused by the Mortgage Market Review, which comes into effect in 10 days time.  DC Law says that while lenders update their systems and train their staff to reflect the new MMR requirements, estate agents and would-be buyers will suffer slower processes.  “Solicitors are already experiencing high volumes of transactions caused by the steep upturn of demand. The implementation of MMR is adding to this workload. Where mortgage offers have already been issued, any change in circumstances could create further delays while the borrower goes through the new processes,” says Beth Rudolf, DC Law’s managing director.  “There is also the added risk that the longer the home purchase takes, the more likely the chances of the seller or the buyer pulling out,” she warns. It’s hard to under-estimate the change that lenders will undergo thanks to MMR.  For the first time they will be regarded as fully responsible for assessing whether the customer can afford the loan, and they will have to verify the customer's income. They can still choose to use intermediaries in this process, but lenders will remain responsible. Lenders will still be allowed to grant interest-only loans, but only where there is a credible strategy for repaying the capital. There are transitional provisions in the MMR that allow lenders to provide a new mortgage or deal to customers with existing loans who may not meet the new MMR requirements. In these cases the borrowing will not be able to exceed the amount of their current loan, unless funding is required for essential repairs.   The decision on whether or not to lend in these cases will remain with the lender. On the basis of trials undertaken so far, this may mean two interviews for some borrowers - who of course may then be turned down anyway - so agents are gearing themselves up for slower completions from next month onwards. Whether these more complicated processes will speed up over time remains to be seen.  Estate AgentMMRDC Law]]>

 
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