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Connells buys Peter Alan agency for £16.4m  31 Jul 14

Connells has acquired the 26-branch Welsh agency Peter Alan for £16.4m.    This morning’s announcement, which involves the purchase of Peter Alan from its current owner the Principality Building Society, will also see the Connells Survey & Valuation awarded an exclusive long-term contract to deliver valuation panel management services to Principality Building Society.    This will include the Principality’s existing chartered surveyors and associated staff joining Connells Survey & Valuation’s existing 400-strong workforce.    Peter Alan will continue to trade under its existing brand with the existing Managing Director Andrew Barry reporting to Connells Group Estate Agency Chief Executive David Plumtree.   This morning’s announcement marks the latest step in the Connells Group’s growth strategy - it has already acquired five local lettings and estate agencies since the start of the year.    Connells already has a presence in south Wales through its Allen & Harris estate agency branches, plus subsidiaries Vibrant Energy Matters and Conveyancing Direct.    “We remain very open to approaches from owners of existing sales or lettings businesses looking to further their growth as part of a wider group,” says Plumtree.  ConnellsPeter AlanWales]]>

UK take note: US 'for sale by owner' slumps  30 Jul 14

The proportion of so-called For Sale By Owner private house sales in the US has slumped from 13 per cent of all transactions in 2000 to just nine per cent last year - a sign that estate agents’ work is recognised as invaluable for most deals.   This may come as a blow to those in the UK who want alternatives to estate agents, whether through truly private sales directly between sellers and buyers, or through the increased use of online services which in some cases claim to be anti-estate agent.   Another surprising statistic just released from the US is that while there were an estimated 140,000 real estate brokers and agents working in that country back in 2000 there are no fewer than 198,000 now according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.    This information has emerged as part of the fall-out over the possible impact in the US of the acquisition of the Trulia property sales portal by the Zillow portal - roughly equivalent to Rightmove buying Zoopla in the UK.   Zillow firmly denies that the $3.5 billion acquisition of Trulia - which has still to be agreed by competition regulators - will lead to what US realtors fear most, that is the setting up of a national online agency service which by-passes traditional agents.   "We started Zillow as a media property, not a real-estate brokerage. We sell ads, not houses. In real estate, there will always be a practitioner in the middle of a transaction, helping consumers with an infrequent, complex and emotional transaction" according to Zillow’s chief executive, Spencer Rascoff.    As in the UK, the desire of sellers to use estate agents - despite a downturn squeezing household budgets and despite the proliferaton of online alternatives - may ensure that Zillow and Trulia never go down the direct house sales route.  For Sale By OwnerOnline Estate AgentsZillowPortals]]>

IMF alarm bells ring over UK house prices  30 Jul 14

The Bank of England should be prepared to introduce even stricter mortgage controls if the housing market looks to be over-heating, warns the International Monetary Fund.    “Accommodative monetary policy is appropriate for now, given weak inflation pressures, but policy might need to be adjusted quickly if inflation takes off. Interest-rate increases may also need to be considered if macro-prudential tools are in insufficient to deal with financial-stability risks from the housing market” says a jargon-filled IMF note - the Fund’s usual method for releasing its analysis of one country’s economy.   The warning comes less than a week after the IMF raised its UK growth forecast for the fourth time in nine months.    The note says that a “steady increase in high-loan-to-income mortgages implies that households are gradually becoming more vulnerable to falls in income and interest-rate shocks” suggesting that the BoE should “stand ready to tighten these limits should current settings prove ineffective in reining in those risks.”     The IMF dismisses the recent slowdown in mortgage approvals and consequent dip in house price growth as purely temporary. It says it notes “some recent signs of deceleration in house prices, but these might only reflect a temporary slowdown as lenders learn new loan-approval procedures” and adds that “historical experience of the U.K.’s relatively large house price swings suggests caution.”   The IMF also says the UK should ensure more new homes to provide a lasting solution to its housing market risks.  IMFBank of Englandhousing market]]>

Hunters' big week goes on - now a merger  30 Jul 14

Hunters Property Group is merging with Hunters Group Limited to form a 112-branch agency conducting around 10,000 sales and lettings transactions annually - with the promise of substantial new acquisitions later this year.   A joint statement by Kevin Hollinrake, managing director and co-founder of Hunters Property Group, and John Ozwell, founder and chairman of Hunters Group Limited, says “we’ve been friends and admirers of each other’s businesses for many years and are very excited about the potential that Hunters has to become a huge brand across the UK.”   The expanded network promises to have over over 140 offices by the end of the year - so will have at least 28  new branded branches within just over four months - with a plan for further growth to around 500 offices in five years’ time.   The news comes just a few days after the announcement that Hollinrake, a millionaire Yorkshireman reported to have once lived in a castle, has become the Conservative candidate for the local parliamentary seat of Thirsk and Malton. This means he will almost certainly become an MP at next spring’s general election.   He started Hunters from just one branch in York in 1992. It then expanded in the so-called Golden Triangle area around Leeds, Harrogate, York and Wetherby, reaching 49 branches. Then in 2011 Hunters purchased the franchised branches of Countrywide’s Bairstow Eves, taking the company name across wider parts of the UK, including London for the first time.    No announcement has yet been made on the future senior management of Hunters if Hollinrake makes it to Westminster.  HuntersKevin HollinrakeMerger]]>

Owners' price confidence starts to waver  30 Jul 14

Home owners expect house prices to rise further but are becoming increasingly concerned about mortgage constraints according to research by Zoopla.   Some 92 per cent of the 7,810 owners who took part in the portal’s latest sentiment survey expect house values to rise further over the next six months, with the average prediction for price growth over the remainder of the year currently stands at 7.6%.   The Mortgage Market Review and associated new lending rules have both slowed down the mortgage application process and made securing finance more difficult with 40 per cent of those surveyed acknowledging that securing a mortgage is now harder than it was three months ago.    For the first time in well over a year, London homeowners are not the most confident across the country about house price rises in their area.    South east England, the south west, the east of England and the west Midlands have all overtaken the capital in terms of homeowner confidence. With London prices having moved up so far and fast, the proportion of homeowners in the capital who expect prices to rise over the next six months has fallen from 98 to 92 per cent over the last three months.  zooplaOwner Occupiershousing market]]>

Welsh Help To Buy scheme simplified  30 Jul 14

The Welsh version of Help To Buy has been given a boost by the announcement that participating housebuilders no longer have to hold a consumer credit licence.   Until now, builders had to hold a specific consumer credit Type C Credit Brokerage licence; even if the builder was part of a larger parent company with that licence, the builder had to obtain its own separate licence.    This had to be obtained, and shown to the Welsh government, before the builder could advertise any of its units as being available under the Welsh Help To Buy system.   But the cost and delay involved in obtaining that licence has become a "significant deterrent" to the success of Help To Buy in the principality according to a Welsh government spokesman. So the requirement has now been scrapped.   Figures produced by the UK Treasury six weeks ago - the latest data available - show that only 369 homes in Wales have been sold under the Help To Buy mortgage guarantee scheme. This is the equivalent of only five per cent of the HTB completions across the UK.   First-time buyers accounted for most of the sales in Wales - a total of 309. The average value of Welsh properties bought under this guarantee scheme is about £114,800 while the average value of all homes across Wales is just below £164,000.  help to buyWalesNew Build Homes]]>

Gender twist to first time buyers' problems  30 Jul 14

There’s a new twist to the story about how tough it is for first time buyers to get a mortgage - it turns out it may be harder to borrow money from someone of the opposite sex.   Research shows that those borrowing for the first time often get smaller loans or have tougher restrictions imposed if they deal with staff of the opposite sex.   A 10-year study conducted through London's Cass Business School analysing 5,000 loans granted through one overseas bank suggests the process is worsened when the application is online or by telephone, because little may be known about the individual borrower apart from the obvious fact of their gender.    “For consumers, this has negative repercussions in the form of higher interest rates, smaller loans and lower demand. For credit providers, it means lower profits in the long-run due to fewer returning customers” says a Cass spokesman.   The authors established that gender bias was strongest when the competition from other lending institutions was weaker or where the branch size was smaller.   First Time BuyersMortgagesCass Business School]]>

MP triggers debate on future of stamp duty  28 Jul 14

An MP is to stage a special all-party parliamentary debate on the future of stamp duty on homes and the way in which, she says, it distorts the housing market.   Anne Main, Conservative MP for St Albans, has persuaded the Backbench Business Committee of the House of Commons to give consent for the debate. Because it is not part of a new law, it will not be debated in the Commons chamber but in Westminster Hall on Thursday September 4. As an indication of the all-party nature of the discussion, Main has won support for the debate not only from fellow Tory MPs Dominic Raab and John Redwood but also from Labour MP Steven Pound. Main has told EAT that “this matter has resonance not only in St Albans, but throughout the country as more and more people are being dragged into paying an absurd amount to the Exchequer just to move home.” She promises that the debate means “MPs will be able to speak freely on the impact the tax is having on the housing market. From my point of view, St Albans has some of the highest house prices in the country, and residents are writing to me with their concerns about the expense of simply moving to a more appropriately-sized home.”   stamp dutyhousing marketAnne Main]]>

Stamp duty revenues hit £10 billion  28 Jul 14

HMRC has raised £10 billion through stamp duty on property transactions in the year to the start of July.    This includes commercial property too but the surge in revenue to the Exchequer is largely down to sharply rising transaction volumes and prices on residential properties in many areas of the country. This total means more stamp duty has been paid on property in the past 12 months than in any comparable period since the start of the downturn in 2007/8, when a roughly similar amount was collected. HMRC’s release of these figures comes as a calculation by estate agent Haart shows that the average house will incur an extra £5,000 in stamp duty within two years if prices continue to grow at their current pace. It claims the average house price in England is currently £204,429 and the current rate of growth is 10 per cent a year - rather more optimistic than most agents report and much higher than many housing indices indicate.  But if that double digit house price growth occured for the next two year, it would push the average house into the three per cent stamp duty category by 2016.  Haart chief executive Paul Smith says policymakers should consider reforming the current duty thresholds. “The government and the Bank of England need to be careful not to over cool the market and by raising the threshold could help keep the market fluid” he says.  stamp dutyhousing marketHMRC]]>

Hunters boss Hollinrake wins safe Tory seat  28 Jul 14

The millionaire leader of Hunters franchise agency, Kevin Hollinrake, has been selected to stand as the Conservative candidate in the safe seat of Thirsk and Malton.   This means he will almost certainly become an MP at next spring’s general election.   Hunters has over 100 branches, mostly handling sales and lettings. Each franchise is run by the local owner who is also a partner in the overall business.    If Hollinrake gives up his role at Hunters upon election - and no announcement has yet been made on this - he will be a hard act to follow.    He started Hunters from just one branch in York in 1992. It then expanded in the so-called Golden Triangle area around Leeds, Harrogate, York and Wetherby, reaching 49 branches. Then in 2011 Hunters purchased the franchised branches of Countrywide’s Bairstow Eves, taking the company name across wider parts of the UK, including London for the first time.    Hollinrake has long made it public that he wants to be an MP. He was selected as Tory candidate for Dewsbury in 2007 but stood down in 2008 because of concerns over how the property slump would affect Hunters: his successes as Conservative candidate went on to win that seat in the 2010 election.   But his new seat is considered to be safer. It includes Pickering, Filey, Thirsk, Malton and Easingwold - where Hollinrake lives and is a school governor.   However, Hollinrake may require all of his business and agency acumen to succeed in what has become an acrimonious and divided local Conservative party. It has embroiled in a long-running dispute with its current Tory MP, Anne McIntosh.   McIntosh - who at 60 is 10 years older than Hollinrake - is a former MEP and has been an active member of the Westminster parliament but she was deselected by her local party early this year. Some political analysts say this came after years of so-called dirty tricks against her by local party members; others say McIntosh herself was “deeply divisive.”   Hollinrake may just be jumping from the frying pan into the fire...  HuntersKevin HollinrakeConservatives]]>

 
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