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Property portals "must be more consumer friendly"  19 Dec 14

Property expert and TV market commentator Kate Faulkner has told Estate Agent Today that all portals - existing and future - should be increasingly consumer-focussed, helping buyers and sellers and not just members of the industry. Faulkner - a businesswoman who set up a portal herself in the 1990s, launched the National Self Build and Renovation Centre, authored several books about property including guides for the Which? Consumer Association - now runs www.designsonproperty.co.uk website and says the challenger portal OnTheMarket must be outward-looking.   “In any other market you’d consider setting up a portal to rival two dominant portals to be a good thing. But here we have to wait and see. Will this actually help consumers” she asks.   Faulkner told Estate Agent Today that she understands the motivation of estate agents to have greater control of content, and is particularly critical of Zoopla’s valuation tools which she says “sounds useful to the consumer but actually can be misleading with valuations.”   Faulkner believes portals are well-placed to educate consumers to become more informed and to behave as discerning buyers and sellers - for example, to understand the reasons behind stock shortages and to understand what price indices do and do not tell the public.   She does not believe that the public having to look at three portals rather than two, in order to assess the full breadth of the market, will be off-putting, but nor will it be helpful if there is no significant information given to help buyers and sellers, rather than agents.   “All portals should use their profits or allocate some agents’ fees towards including features which are of benefit to consumers” she says.  PortalsKate FaulknerAgents’ Mutual]]>

Agents' videos - here are six of the best  19 Dec 14

We at EAT are keen to champion videos from agents and others in the agency industry, because we think they are a great way of firms publicising their efforts more creatively - and pushing themselves up the Google search ladder.  Thank you so much for your videos, sent to us in recent days. Keep them coming and we promise to help give them (and you) the attention they deserve in 2015.   In the meantime here are six of the best we’ve received this week.   The first is from ‘View It, Love It, Live It’ The Home Seller, a hybrid agency combining online techniques with feet on the ground in its home patch, Cornwall. This is the video.   The second is a hefty nine-and-a-half-minute video on buying and investing in London, produced by Palace Gate, a 25-year-old full service agency in Kensington & Chelsea.    Crucible sales and letting agency in Sheffield sent us our third video this week - just showing that you do not need to be down south to use modern marketing like this.   Back to London for the fourth video - Base Property Specialists in Shoreditch. The USP with this video is that there’s no voiceover, just the movie and music. (Very Shoreditch).   Video five is from The Property Recruitment Company and champions the interview technique - including a statement that there might be a crash in the sales market!   Finally, video six is from Propertyflock, a new tool designed specifically for agents and aiming to harness social media and online status as an innovative marketing idea.   We have chosen these videos independently on the basis of how interesting we find them, and how we hope they may inspire agents and others in the industry to follow suit.   We’re keen to show more early next year. Please let us know at press@estateagenttoday.co.uk.     Videoagentsmarketing]]>

London ends 2014 with rapid price slowdown  19 Dec 14

House price growth has slowed in 16 of the 20 cities analysed monthly by Hometrack, with London again performing particularly sluggishly after powering ahead early in 2014.    The rate of house price growth in London slowed by two-thirds in the last quarter compared to the 12 month average (0.5 per cent compared to 1.4 per cent) with Edinburgh, Glasgow, Southampton, Bristol and Birmingham now all registering higher inflation than the capital in the last three months.   House prices are above their 2007 peak in eight cities with London (30.5 per cent), Cambridge (28.7 per cent) and Oxford (21.9 per cent) leading the pack but these markets are starting to register the clearest slowdown as the year draws to a close.   This translated to an average annual increase in London property values of £57,000, which is nearly four times the national average of £15,200 and almost twice the UK’s average income. Liverpool recorded the lowest increase in values with just £3,000 added to house prices in the last year.   The Scottish cities of Edinburgh (1.8 per cent) and Glasgow (0.9 per cent) registered the fastest house price inflation in the last quarter, as demand fed back into the market post-referendum.    In a reversal of fortune, the former high growth cities of Cambridge and Aberdeen have seen the fastest slowdown with falls of 0.2 per cent and 0.4 per cent respectively.   “The Aberdeen economy is closely related to the health of the oil industry and a weakening oil price is impacting the housing market. The slowdown in London will act as a drag on the UK rate of house price growth over the next 12 months. The rate of growth in house prices is starting to lose momentum across other cities in southern England, while across the rest of the country modest levels of house price appreciation continue as prices rise off a low base” says Richard Donnell, Hometrack’s research director.       Hometrackhousing marketlondon]]>

Agents Do Charity - The Christmas Edition  19 Dec 14

This is our final Agents Do Charity feature this year - the weekly slot has been a tremendous success at showcasing exactly what good work our industry does, usually outside the glare of publicity.    Thanks and good wishes for the festive season to all those agents who have worked so hard to help those who cannot always help themselves. And thanks, too, for letting us know about your charitable activities.   Keep them coming in 2015 (send details to press@estateagenttoday.co.uk) but until then, here are the latest updates.     The Brambles Centre: More than 100 presents have been donated by Romans’ generous staff and placed under their Christmas tree - all destined for he Brambles Centre, which is run by Wokingham District Council and distributes the gifts to less fortunate children within the Wokingham borough this festive season.   It’s the sixth year that Romans has supported The Brambles Centre with a Just Giving tree and it has been the best year to date - well done everybody!     Port Talbot Food Bank: Staff at Payton Jewell Caines agency have ensured Christmas has come early for those in need of emergency support. As part of the agency's community campaign, employees have been encouraged to buy extra items in their weekly supermarket shop and contribute it to the local food bank.   The company then matched the amount donated by buying a further £200 worth of tinned and dried food.   Helen John, sales director at Payton Jewell Caines said: "This initiative is a first for Payton Jewell Caines. "We were really moved by recent stories of families suffering in Port Talbot and felt we could do our bit to help. Our staff wanted to help this fantastic charity. The food bank is a hugely worthwhile cause and we are delighted to be able to support the community in this way."     Mishon Mackay: The firm’s recent Charity Golf Day was the conclusion of a year of fund-raising activity. The golf event was the third of its kind held in recent years and was in honour of Glenn Mishon, the founding partner who passed away in 2012.    The firm is still awaiting confirmation on the of the funds raised from that event but it has been a successful year for its other events for good causes:   – Quiz night for Royal Sussex County Hospital Cancer Unit, raising £1,585.65   – Grand Hotel Abseil for Save The Children, raising £1,015.00   – Angela Farthing's Berlin Marathon for MS Society, raising £800   – Rockinghorse Dragonboat race, raising £720   – Tina Templeman Royal Parks Half Marathon for MS Society, raising £525   – Marc Cox's Bike Ride for the Prince's Trust, raising £475   – Macmillan Coffee Morning, raising £463.58   – Quiz Night held on Friday 28 November 2014, ‘Hetty Harvey's Helper’, raising £2,000 (awaiting final confirmation).   In addition to this, the company has also sponsored numerous events and organisations this year including the Lord Mayors Challenge Day, The Kevin Ogle Sarcoma Cancer Trust's ‘Dogs Night’ at Corals, the Queens Park Picnic, the inaugural ‘Funk the Family’ Festival in Hove Park, Moulsecoomb Boxing Club, the Hurstpierpoint branch of the RNLI as well as many events and fairs at schools across the city and Mid Sussex.   Alex Mackay comments; “I have been delighted by the enthusiasm staff have shown in terms of supporting our charity fundraising efforts. We never expected to achieve so much in 2012, and to then continue across 2013 and 2014 is a great testament to everyone here at Mishon Mackay. To have so many volunteer their free time and energy to raise money for such great causes is very humbling.”     Beat The Freeze campaign: Northern Ireland’s ABC Estate Agency has joined with NI Water to encourage local property owners and tenants to ‘Beat the Freeze’ and avoid festive fear should severe winter weather occur this year.   The ‘Beat the Freeze’ campaign, now in its fourth year, reinforces the call to check that homes and businesses are prepared for cold conditions in the event of severe winter weather. Customers can take simple steps to protect their properties by checking that all pipes have been lagged and ensuring that lagging is secure.   Graham Barton, an agent at the firm, says: “There is no guarantee that this winter will not see a major downturn in temperatures, leading to a loss of water supply. We encourage everyone to take steps to protect their water pipes, as any pipes inside a property boundary are the responsibility of the property owner.    agentsCharityChristmas]]>

Agents' Mutual: one founder drops Rightmove, another drops Zoopla  18 Dec 14

Chestertons, one of the founding agencies behind Agents’ Mutual, says it is going to drop Rightmove and remain advertising on Zoopla and Primelocation from next month.   The agency has 30 offices across London and a further 20 international branches spanning 11 countries and five continents.    Under rules set up by Chestertons and five other high-end agents who founded Agents’ Mutual, the new portal starting on January 26 - to be called OnTheMarket - requires any agency advertising with it to also advertise with no more than one other major portal.   For many, like Chestertons, that means dropping a portal.    A statement from Chestertons says that it is widely acknowledged amongst the industry that Zoopla and its premium PrimeLocation website has taken substantial market share and is now the strongest performer in London.    “We have looked carefully at data collated over the past 12 months and the numbers clearly show that our properties get more views and our clients get more leads from the Zoopla and PrimeLocation websites when compared to other property portals. Based on our analysis of the data, this was an easy choice for us” says Robert Bartlett, Chestertons’ chief executive.    “On top of this, we have all been impressed with the speed at which Zoopla Property Group has been able to grow over the past few years and, from working closely with them over recent months, know them to be an exciting and dynamic partner that is always looking for new ways to improve its website and service offering” he says, adding that the agency will work with Zoopla “in 2015 and beyond.”   Meanwhile Savills says it is dropping Zoopla and going for Rightmove, in addition to what it calls “the start-up agents' portal OnTheMarket.”   The firm’s spokesman, Paul Jarman, says: ‘We put our ability to deliver effectively for our clients at the forefront of everything we do and this is the basis of our marketing strategy.”   He says having analysed leads generated from portals, telephone calls and emails, plus conversions to sales and lettings, “the enquiries from Rightmove are of a higher level and quality than those from Zoopla.”   Last week Knight Frank also chose to ditch Zoopla.    So far there has been no announcement from the remaining three Agents’ Mutual founding agencies - the London firms Douglas & Gordon and Glentree Estates, and the national high-end brand Strutt & Parker.  ChestertonsPortalsSavills]]>

Rightmove offers real-time data feed spec to rivals - for free  18 Dec 14

In a dramatic latest chapter in the ‘portal wars’ Rightmove says it is offering the technical specifications for its Real Time Data Feed free of charge to other portals “to help agents and the industry.”  Rightmove is the only property portal that offers sales and lettings agents Real Time Data Feed, which enables details to be live to home-movers within minutes. The portal claims other data feed uploads can take several hours or overnight before details appear.   On Rightmove the feed works alongside new instant property alerts that home-hunters sign up to so they can find out about new properties first.   Rightmove claims research shows that 63 per cent of sellers would be more likely to choose an agent who could upload their property onto Rightmove immediately after details are prepared, rather than wait several hours or longer.   “It took us 6,500 man hours to develop, test and implement RTDF. Other portals will save some of that effort by taking up this offer, but will still have several months to get their own systems ready so it’s important they get cracking” says James Micklethwait, Rightmove’s head of product development.   Micklethwait describes this as “a helping hand from Rightmove as it means there is just one spec to deal with for the whole industry.”   There are numerous ways of interpreting the move, aside from being an unexpected expression of the apparent altruism of Rightmove.   One is that it may render the expenditure made on rival data feed systems to now be wasted, and another is that this is a bid by Rightmove to increase its apparent dominance as setting an ‘industry standard’ - including possibly getting its name associated with challenger portal OnTheMarket.    Rightmove's Miles Shipside says: “Research and experience of the thousands of branches who now benefit from real-time Rightmove feeds show that many landlords with a void looming and many sellers want to get full property exposure quickly. RTDF can get their property launched immediately, within minutes.”  rightmoveReal Time Data FeedPortals]]>

Mansion Tax: set to rise at 2% per year?  18 Dec 14

A senior fund manager at an asset management consultancy is warning that mansion tax, if it ever comes into effect, could become inflation-linked and so have wider impact than had previously been thought. Martin Cholwill of Royal London Asset Management says that although few details of the tax have yet emerged from the Labour Party - its most prominent advocate - the likelihood is that the tax will continue in perpetuity, perhaps irrespective of the government colour.   “Historically once a tax is introduced, it is there for good, e.g. income tax, VAT, capital gains tax and death duties in their different guises. Indeed, wealth taxes are busily being reintroduced into a number of European countries. If introduced, I think the working assumption will be that the tax is here to stay” he writes in Investment Week.   But the key effect is how it might rise over time. Using data from Zoopla and Knight Frank, Cholwill hypothesises that to maintain the real value of the tax take, it will need to go up in line with inflation. “Given the Bank of England target is two per cent that would seem a suitable assumption” he says.   Cholwill says with the tax for properties priced between £2m and £3m being initially set at £3,000 annually - a figure made public by shadow chancellor Ed Balls - and using Zoopla’s estimate that 55 per cent of properties over £2m in value are in that £2m to £3m range, it would mean that “the average mansion tax for properties over £3m is £21,000 per annum”.    Inflation linked at two per cent and extended over 30 years that might become “a staggering £2.1m” in total he suggests. Chilwill then considers how politicians changed personal pension fund caps. “Initially they were brought in at £1.8m and are now down to £1.25m. This begs the question, how long would it be before valuation threshold for ‘mansions' starts dropping below £2m?”  Mansion TaxLabourRoyal London Asset Management]]>

£1 house now worth £125,000 says agent  18 Dec 14

A derelict home sold to a taxi driver for £1 could fetch £125,000 on the market, according to Venmore estate agency in Liverpool. The four bedroom house in the troubled suburb of Toxteth - scene of widespread rioting in the 1980s and still regarded as one of the poorest parts of the city - was sold to driver Jayalal Madde as part of a radical council scheme aimed at trying to improve the area.   The house is now nearing completion and the Liverpool Echo newspaper asked Joanna Hudson, manager of Venmore estate agents, to undertake an appraisal.    “After an extensive tour she described the refurbished property as a fabulous family home and said she imagined it would attract a great deal of interest” the paper says. “I would have an estimate valuation for this property at £125,000, in its existing condition, based on the fact that the road is still looking to be finished and developed. But, when the property and the road is completely finished I would value it at £150,000” she says.  VenmoreLiverpoolhousing market]]>

Romans makes one more acquisition in 2014  18 Dec 14

Romans, one of the busiest agents this year in terms of acquisitions, has snapped up another firm - Drummonds in Caversham. Expanding its portfolio of estate and letting agencies has been high on the agenda for the Romans Group with seven successful acquisitions already under its belt since 2013 and a £12m finance facility from its bankers available for more business purchases.   John Grimes, founder of Drummonds, says Romans’ growth this year “made it clear to me that this would be a smooth move that would really benefit my clients”, accentuated by the fact that “everyone will value the state of the art facilities and extensive advertising campaigns Romans offer from their Caversham branch.”   Romans has been established in Caversham since 2009. As with most recent acquisitions, Drummonds will receive investment from Romans in IT, training, marketing and other services.  The Romans Group says it is actively looking to expand into new locations alongside its 22 existing branches in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Surrey.  RomansDrummondsAcquisitions]]>

TPO issues agency guidelines on Sale By Tender  17 Dec 14

The Property Ombudsman has released guidelines on how agents should handle the controversial Sale By Tender process, which has received criticism within the industry and from MPs and the media.  Sale By Tender is defined by TPO as the process where the buyer meets the liability for an agent’s fee when purchasing a property. TPO Christopher Hamer says he has no regulatory power to dictate whether this practice should be used or not, but he does see the need to produce best practice guidance to ensure consistency.    “The guidance places the emphasis firmly on transparency and disclosure to assist both buyers and sellers to fully understand the process and any fees or associated risks” says Hamer.   The full guidance runs to three tightly-packed pages of A4 and covers four main elements - transparency, disclosure, conflicts of interest and duty of care/fairness. There is also guidance over the tender pack’s contents, which must include - according to TPO - the sales particulars, agreement to submit by tender/pay agents commission, the bid form, FAQs, and a ‘key features’ document.   The full link to the guidance on the TPO website is http://www.tpos.co.uk/downloads/TPOE49%20Guidance%20for%20Agents%20-%20Sale%20by%20Tender.pdf    Key sentences include:   It must be clear to all parties through and from the outset of the transaction that the instruction to the agent to market the property is given by the seller and that the agent’s primary duty of care is therefore to that individual. Agents must ensure that any conflict of interest which might compromise that relationship is avoided.   The buyer must be advised that by paying the agent’s fee, that amount may be considered as part of the chargeable consideration for the property and be included in the calculation for stamp duty liability.   The level of fee charged to the buyer must be representative of the agent’s normal fee for residential property sales and should not be exploitative.   To ensure agents meet their obligations under the Code of Practice .... agents will need to use a script for dealing with the seller and a script for dealing with the buyers. Agents are allowed their own wording but the script needs to include certain principles notably: - who will have the liability for the fee - the options for marketing (ie, sales by tender or traditional sales approach to selling the property) should be explained - the risks, advantages and disadvantages about each approach - the precise costs for both buyer and seller.    sale by tenderhousing marketTPO]]>

 
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