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Labour considers call for Financial Conduct Authority to regulate estate agents  23 Sep 14

The Labour conference is to consider a proposal for estate agents to “be brought under the ambit of the Financial Conduct Authority.”   The proposal comes from the Labour Housing Group, led by former St Albans MP Kerry Pollard. It is one of 50 “key policies” put forward by the group, which describes itself as assisting the party create its housing policy for its next period in government.   “Some of the points in our plan are already party policy, others are up for debate. Many do not require legislation; others are the basis of a Housing Act early in the life of the next Labour Government” says Pollard.   The suggestion that agents must be regulated by the FCA is not yet official party policy but should it ever become law, it would have seismic repurcussions for the industry.   The FCA undertakes what it calls “continuous conduct assessment” of large firms and “regular assessment” for smaller firms - for obvious financial companies currently under the ambit of the FCA, this requires substantial overheads in terms of compliance and transparency departments, of a kind not operated by any estate agency currently.   The FCA also monitors products, which may well have repurcussions for agents and portals which offer or operate pricing tools.    There would also be a clash between the FCA’s powers to enforce compensation to consumers who are ‘wronged’ by FCA-regulated firms, and the apparently similar powers of the three ombudsman-style services which currently exist within the estate agency industry.   LabourFCArogue agents]]>

Balls adds mansion tax pledge to speech  23 Sep 14

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls added to the pre-released text of his speech at the Labour conference yesterday by reiterating the party’s pledge to introduce a mansion tax on homes valued at £2m and above. “We will levy a tax on the highest value properties over £2m - a mansion tax. We’ll do it in a fair, sensible and proportionate way, raising the limit each year in line with average house prices and putting in place protections for those who are asset-rich and cash poor” he said.    “We’ll make sure that properties worth tens of millions of pounds make significantly bigger contributions than those houses that are just above the [£2m] limit.   “Because how can it be right that a billionaire overseas buyer this year of a £140m penthouse in Westminster will pay just £26 a week in property tax - the same as the average property tax in that area. We will make different choices” he told the party’s conference in Manchester.   There will be four levels of mansion tax if Labour wins power next year, used to raise revenue to boost funding for the NHS.   The lowest of the four bands would be for homes valued at £2m to £5m. In a bid to deflect criticism  that this would include modest homes owned by people who were not rich - but who had just lived in the same home for a long period, during which it appreciated extensively - Balls says some ‘asset rich, cash poor’ may be able to defer payment of the mansion tax until they sell the property, while others may possibly be eligible for tax relief.    Ed BallsMansion TaxLabour]]>

Online agent v Savills, Lidl v Waitrose  23 Sep 14

Just to prove that there’s nothing new when it comes to property PR, an online agent has taken a leaf out of the public relations book of high-end agency Savills by trying to link house prices with supermarkets - but in true online style it’s gone for a no-frills option. Research by online agency Housesimple.co.uk claims that living close to a discount store such as Lidl can increase the price of your property by almost £30,000. The agency looked at the location of Lidl supermarkets in major towns and cities across the UK and found that, in 80 per cent of cases, the average property price in the same post-code was higher by around £29,000 than similar properties in neighbouring non-Lidl postcodes.   Some 18 months ago Savills suggested a similar effect on house prices, this time from close proximity to posh supermarket Waitrose. “Our analysis identifies a very clear house price premium in Waitrose store locations. It is difficult to state with certainty that a Waitrose opening will boost prices. But it is clear that buyers should expect to pay significantly more for their home if they wish to have a store on their doorstep” the Savills research team was reported as claiming at the time.   The high-end agent rather gave the game away at a dinner marking 25 years of Savills research department earlier this year when one of its team hinted that the Waitrose survey was perhaps not the greatest analytical exercise the firm had undertaken - but was certainly one of the most lapped-up by journalists when it came to easy publicity.   In the low-cost version of similar research Alex Gosling, the managing director of Housesimple.co.uk, says: “There’s no longer a stigma attached to shopping at budget supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi, and that is clearly reflected in average house prices.”  HousesimpleLidlhousing market]]>

Big names slug it out for agency awards  23 Sep 14

Four high-end agencies are slugging it out for the title of Residential Property Adviser of the Year at the Estates Gazette annual awards. CBRE, Deloitte Real Estate, JLL and Savills have been shortlisted, with the winner to be announced at the EG prize-giving in December. Each of the contenders has had to submit a 1,000-word pitch, backed up with figures, case studies and testimonials, to explain how and why they outstripped their rivals.   There is also a Residential Property Company of the Year category, aimed at house builders, with the five short-listed contenders being Berkeley Group, Countryside, Grainger, Linden Homes and Mount Anvil.   There are 18 other categories in the awards, mostly aimed at commercial property firms. The winners will be announced on Thursday December 11 at the Park lane Hilton in London.  AwardsEstate AgencyEstates Gazette]]>

Famous estate agency goes down franchise route  22 Sep 14

One of the most famous names in agency in the north of England, Dacre Son & Hartley, is seeking to expand through offering franchises. Dacres operates now from 21 offices, has 120 staff and an annual turnover of around seven million pounds*.   It aims to offer at least six sales and lettings licences within the next 12 months. In addition to residential sales and lettings, survey and financial services, the company also offers land development, planning, commercial property management, commercial agency and specialist professional services via Dacres Commercial.   The franchise fee starts from £12,500 plus VAT, 10 per cent of monthly turnover and a monthly management charge. For that franchisees will receive a five-year renewable licence - with no renewal fees - plus use of the corporate software, website and brand in a specific territory, bespoke induction and training, payroll and accounts preparation, access to the corporate marketing department and inclusion in the annual business review.    The firm says it is happy to discuss franchising anywhere in the county but is looking specifically at Wakefield, Selby, Northallerton, Thirsk and Easingwold, Clitheroe, Halifax and Huddersfield.     “The recent improvements in the economy and the property market make this the ideal time to bring our franchise offering to the market. We have a very successful business model that has stood the test of time and continued to thrive despite challenging economic conditions. We are keen to grow the business and franchising is the next logical step” says Patrick McCutcheon, head of residential sales and franchise director.   The firm says ultimately it may expand further south - but that is in the long-term.   *This corrects an earlier version of this story which gave an incorrect turnover figure.                                            Dacre Son & HartleyFranchisingyorkshire]]>

Surrey estate agent dies on honeymoon  22 Sep 14

A Surrey estate agent - who married someone else in the industry just two days earlier - has died following a jet-ski accident.  Jeremy Hope, a partner at Saxon Kings estate agency in Kingston-upon-Thames, was on honeymoon at Santorini in Greece with new wife Sarah Greaves, another partner in the business.    He was using a jet-ski and was in collision with a male friend; Hope then continued sunbathing but complained he was feeling ill. It was then discovered that he had internal bleeding; he died in an air ambulance on his way to hospital.   The friend, Pete Hudson, also from Surrey, was later arrested at Athens airport and appeared in court; he has been told he will have to appear in court again at a later and unspecified date.    A local newspaper in Surrey says Hudson may be charged with negligent homicide; another report suggests the owner of the jetski rental company has also been arrested.    The case is being investigated by the Greek Hellenic Coastguard authorities.  SurreyEstate AgentSaxon Kings]]>

Agent will meet clients in cafes (and pay for coffee)  22 Sep 14

A new agency which will promote its properties online and in social media is marking itself out from the crowd by committing to put all of its profits into community projects - and by buying coffee for clients when they meet in cafes, inside or outside traditional office hours. Property Cat does not operate from a physical office but restricts its activities to Cardiff and the South Wales Valleys and describes itself as a “community-friendly and eco-friendly estate agent.”   The website www.lovepropertycat.com carries properties for a fee of £575 upwards. It does on-site market appraisals, write EPCs for clients, and will use Zoopla and social media (@ecoestateagent on Twitter, for example) to promote properties, in addition to its own website.    Property Cat says it will “turn your photographs into a virtual tour video as standard” and will handle all viewing enquiries, provide a memorandum of sale and monitor the process through to completion.   Each vendor or landlord using the service to advertise a property will have a tree planted in their name and meetings take place with clients at a time of their convenience - outside of office hours, if required, with the suggestion that they be held in cafes.    The service is run by Catherine Wood, who has managed her own property portfolio for over 17 years.     Property CatOnline MarketingCardiff]]>

Council wants homes named 'Millionaires Row'  22 Sep 14

A town council is at war with the man building six waterfront apartments in one of Britain’s best-known sailing locations. He wants the scheme to be called Sails - but the council is insisting it should be named Millionaires Row.  The development of six homes, under construction by the developer, Environ, overlooks Dartmouth quay in south Devon. It is a short walk from the Britannia Royal Naval College where the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York served as cadets.   Two bedroom apartments start at £640,000 with the penthouse at £1.35m. Most of the properties enjoy views of the River Dart and eco-friendly features including low energy lighting and a heat-recovery ventilation system. There is no affordable housing included in the scheme, which is being marketed by Jackson-Stops & Staff.   The Sunday Times reports that when details of the scheme were put to planners at the strategic South Hams district council - which includes the Dartmouth area plus several nearby towns and villages -  the Dartmouth councillors supported the application. But now they want the controversial name although the developer has voluntary paid £23,000 to fund a range of local activities.   Environ’s chairman, Tony Dowse, says the change is “childish and irresponsible” and insists he will sue Dartmouth council if the new name goes ahead and damages the sales prospects of the properties, which are scheduled for completion next March.    “Who wants to live in a scheme called Millionaires Row? Everyone’s concerned about the lack of affordable housing but that’s for politicians to decide upon. It’s completely wrong to endanger the viability of a scheme with a gesture that’s just a political point” says Dowse.   Dartmouth’s mayor, Councillor Robert Lyon, says the scheme has fallen victim to worries about young people moving away. “Dartmouth prices are high and have risen a good deal in the past year so emotions are running high that we need affordable housing” he says.  JacksonStops & StaffMillionairesAffordable Homes]]>

Agents happy with 'No' but want certainty about future  19 Sep 14

While most estate agents are breathing a sigh of relief at the Scottish referendum No vote, some say more clarity is needed over what happens next and how it will impact the market. Mark Hayward, managing director of the National Association of Estate Agents says the decision is positive but "does not necessarily guarantee clarity for the market" while Alastair Hart of Hunters says "after a year of good growth and good sales we were concerned that a yes vote would have brought this to a halt." But Strutt & Parker says the Westminster government must provide details on the tax-raising and legislative powers which will be devolved in the near future, so vendors and purchasers can plan accordingly. Strutt's senior partner, Andy Martin, says: “I expect today’s vote to give a boost to the Scottish property market, although we do need certainty from Westminster on further devolution in order to confidently resume normality. However, it is a stepping stone; we can now return to work and continue furthering our economic recovery together.”  Smiths Gore, an agency which sells substantial numbers of estates and farms, says land reform may become another political hot potato until there is clarity over future devolution. Knight Frank's Ran Morgan says that the decisiveness of the majority (55 per cent to 45 per cent) means a rush of business is likely as buyers and sellers deterred ahead of the vote will now return to the market.  “The fundamentals are in place to ensure a full recovery, led by the key cities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow and rural counties within commuting distance of large employment hubs. Improving economic activity levels in the UK, better consumer sentiment and higher bank lending will all help to kick-start the market. We expect to see an increase in the number of transactions at all levels" he says.  Savills has even put a figure on its expectations for market growth in Scotland. Its spokesman Charles Dudgeon says: “We expect Scottish prime residential market values to grow by 23 per cent in the five years to end 2018, in line with the rest of the UK, and for mainstream values to grow by 19 per cent in the same period." Several firms which operate across both England and Scotland - LSL Property Services, for example, with Your Move outlets in both countries - would have faced corporate disruption had there been a Yes vote. Likewise Century 21, the franchise operation with many offices across England but with its UK headquarters in Scotland, may have had to restructure some of its activities.  Some agencies such as Savills, with branches and staff on both sides of the border, had key staff at their desks by 6.30 this morning in case the result had been Yes and the companies had to begin work on restructuring strategies.    Scottish Referendumestate agentshousing market]]>

Agents' salaries not at top of residential ladder  19 Sep 14

Estate agents have enjoyed an average 5.2 per cent increase in salary over the past year but their total income is eclipsed by some other groups within the residential sector. New figures released by specialist recruitment service Deverell Smith shows that the average basic salary for agents is a very modest £23,848 - actually the lowest of 18 job groups analysed within the residential jobs market.    However, agents’ average bonus was £58,643 - the highest of any residential job group with the exception of property investment specialists.   Here is Deverell Smith’s full list:   Architect/Designer - salary £46,062, bonus £7,000, unchanged on last year   Auctioneer - salary £37,559, bonus £12,238, unchanged   Building Surveyor - salary £35,666, bonus £9,000, unchanged   Business Development - salary £45,380, bonus £16,050, up 9.9% on last year   Estate Agency - salary £23,848, bonus £58,643, up 5.2%   Estate Management - salary £45,763, bonus £9,607, up 6.6%   Facilities Management - salary £38,185, bonus £9,500, up 2.3%   Investment - salary £49,103, bonus £60,833, up 5.3%   Land and Development Agency - salary £55,888, bonus £71,600, up 3.3%   Marketing - salary £41,068, bonus £7,100, up 2.4%   New Homes Sales and Marketing - salary £29,654, bonus £46,424, up 4.2%    Project Management - salary £50,818, bonus £13,833, up 3.13%   Property Management - salary £38,830, bonus £8,409, up 2.6%   Quantity Surveying - salary £37,560, bonus £8,588, up 3.29%   Residential Development - salary £67,013, bonus £40,250, up 5.25%   Retirement Housing - salary £33,075, bonus £5,600, unchanged   Social Housing - salary £31,595, bonus £4,896, up 1.6%   Valuation - salary £37,450, bonus £8,650, up 1.2%    estate agentsSalariesResidential Sector]]>

 
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