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Hometrack scraps old-style house price index  02 Oct 14

Hometrack’s monthly house price index for England and Wales, made up of data from between 2,000 and 3,000 agents, has been scrapped after 14 years. It now transpires that the index results issued last week for the month of September will be the last; instead, Hometrack will issue an index looking specifically at cities.   The old-style index was first published in the year 2000 and was initially criticised by some London-based high-end agents who claimed its data was flawed because of poor reliability and alleged dishonesty of contributing agents who would use it to talk up the market.    The perception of the index changed when Hometrack poached the then-head of Savills research, Richard Donnell, and when the firm decided to handle its media relations in-house.    The questionnaire on which the house price index was based was then refined to 11 standard questions which include the time to sell, changes in demand and supply, sales agreed, the proportion of the asking price being achieved and pricing levels.    The index became known for clever marketing - for example, Hometrack would embargo its December figures for Boxing Day, in the knowledge that newspapers and broadcasters would be short of news and that the rest of the property industry was on holiday.   But in recent years the Hometrack index has become lost in the noise of the dozens of other house price and sentiment indices which are issued by agents, consultancies, mortgage lenders and industry organisations.    The new City index, which will appear for the first time at the end of this month, will be an attempt to regain the initiative in data supplied to the residential market.   Hometrack’s new PR agents, Edelman, describes the index as “the only index of its kind and will for the first time unveil data specific to 20 UK cities. These localised indices are a key component of Hometrack’s automated valuation model, which has a 12 year pedigree and is utilised by four of the five top lenders in the UK. This series of highly granular indices has remained proprietary to Hometrack and unpublished to date.”     HometrackHouse Price IndicesRichard Donnell]]>

Bank slightly relaxes mortgages constraints  02 Oct 14

The Bank of England has slightly relaxed some of the mortgage constraints it discussed at the start of summer, in response to the cooling housing market. In June the Bank's Financial Policy Committee recommended that "as soon as practicable" no more than 15 percent of mortgages should be at, or greater than, 4.5 times a borrower's income. It went out to consultation with the mortgage industry on this proposal.   However, Reuters reports that the final regulations - issued yesterday - stated that the Bank’s Prudential Regulation Authority had proposed that firms which report less than £100m of new mortgage lending a year would escape the net.   This will avoid a "disproportionate" impact on "niche" lenders the PRA said.   The news has been greeted enthusiastically by the Council of Mortgage Lenders.    "We’re pleased that the PRA listened to the CML and other organisations who argued that the high loan-to-income lending limit was anomalous for niche lenders in the high net worth lending market. While it is not yet entirely clear how this approach will affect individual lenders, it’s a clear improvement on the original implementation proposal" says CML director general Paul Smee.  Bank of EnglandMortgagesCML]]>

JLL merges with prime central London agency  02 Oct 14

JLL, one of the world’s largest residential sector companies, has announced what it calls a ‘merger’ with the single office central London sales and lettings agency W A Ellis. Although well-known for sales in the new-build sector, including some developments in prime central London, this move now gives in a foothold in the high-fees sector of sales, re-sales and lettings.    W A Ellis currently specialises in Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Belgravia re-sales, lettings, property management and valuation. Five of the six equity partners will take up what JLL calls “key roles” within the larger company with a sixth moving his team into the existing residential valuation business.   The employees will integrate “with immediate effect” although W A Ellis will continue with its brand for what the announcement calls “a period of time.”   Andrew Frost, head of residential for JLL, will continue to lead the now-enlarged residential business within the UK. Guy Grainger, JLL CEO, says his firm is “marrying a well-established and highly respected agency business” which “fits with our wider strategy.”  JLLlondonW A Ellis]]>

Agency changes name to avoid 'Isis' slur  02 Oct 14

A business which prospered under the title Isis Estate Agents has now changed its name to avoid any connection with the terrorist group known as Isis.  Oxford businessman Rowan Waller has now changed the company’s name to Wallers of Oxford after a failed campaign to get national media outlets to change the name it applied to the terrorist group now active in Iraq and Syria.    Isis is also the name given by Oxford residents to that part of the River Thames which runs through the city north of Iffley Lock; the word also has long-standing connections with rowing activities on the river and with parts of Oxford University.   “I decided for the sake of my own sleep patterns I couldn’t risk waiting to see if it all blows over. I realised a couple of weeks ago that I could just see the news was likely to get worse and worse” Waller told the Oxford Mail newspaper.   “Like it or not Isis is going to be a name on people’s minds and lips for the wrong reason, and I think our sentimental name for the river will be a victim of that” he says.  OxfordIsis Estate AgentsWallers of Oxford]]>

Rebrand for London agency chain after 11 years  02 Oct 14

The eight-office Aspire estate agency in south west London has rebranded for the first time in 11 years to play on the aspirational theme of its name.  Director Matthew Dabell says since the launch of the agency in 2003 the company has expanded and its client demographic in south west London changing significantly.    “The property industry is a competitive market. There are a multitude of agencies out there all occupying the same ground – our rebrand gives us the opportunity to broadcast how we can really add value to the process” explains Dabell.    Like several other agencies in recent years, Aspire has used orange in a bid to make its For Sale boards stand out.    “We based the new brand around what the word Aspire means: to aim for, to desire, to want. The triangular symbols are used as a device to communicate this 'aspirational' theme while making a subtle nod to the A [in Aspire]” according to Chris Wigan of Ideas Factory, the firm behind the new design.   AspireMatthew Dabelllondon]]>

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]]>

 
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