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09May

With the average UK house price edging closer to £300,000, finding a £100,000 home is becoming more difficult every year. However, first-time buyers and buy-to-let investors can still find good-quality properties with the right research. 

An increase in first-time buyers has led to increased demand for properties at the low end of the market. With buy-to-let, these are properties that can be in high demand due to their attractive price. 

Guild Members share their insider tips to reveal the best places to get more house for your money. 


1. Wisbech, Cambridgeshire 


“Wisbech in Cambridgeshire is an area where yields of more than 8% can be achieved,” said Sharon Carter, Director at C Carters Estate Agents

“It is an agricultural and industrial area, so there is constant demand from tenants. £100,000 can still buy a two to three-bedroom property in the town, with rents ranging from £500 to £650 per month for a two-bedroom home to £650 to £750 for a three-bedroom house, which is a great return. 

“The area has had a lot of recent financial investment, so new restaurants and cinemas have opened and more businesses are heading this way as they get priced out of the science capital of Cambridge.  There are also talks of reintroducing the railway to the town, so a great potential for capital growth.  The good news is that it is still a small town so not everyone has heard of it, which means it offers a lot of potential. 

“Plus, two and three-bedroom terraced and semidetached houses sell swiftly to first-time buyers who have rented for some time and been saving to get their foot on the property ladder.”


2. West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire 


“West Bridgford is one of the most desirable place to live in Nottingham,” said Gina Burbidge, Senior Negotiator at Royston Lund Estate Agents. “The area was voted one of the top 10 best places to live in the UK by the Halifax in 2015. West Bridgford is a thriving town just south of Nottingham, over the Trent Bridge.”

“As well as being popular with families due to excellent local schooling, the numerous local amenities and its modern cafe culture are clearly the reason why young professionals are attracted to the area.

“We are currently marketing a two-bedroom ground floor apartment for £92,500 in a popular purpose-built development near to the River Trent. This style of property is very popular with buy-to-let investors given the rental yield and would be expected to attract a large amount of interest from young tenants due to the easy access to the centre of West Bridgford with its cafes and restaurants.” 


3. Birmingham, West Midlands 


“Birmingham City Centre is becoming increasingly difficult for the investor or owner occupier with £100,000 maximum in their budget,” said Philip Jackson, Director at Maguire Jackson

"Studio apartments located within easy walking distance of the new HSBC headquarters can be secured for £95,000 to £102,000, but demand is currently outstripping supply. 

“These smaller apartments are now being bought as a city pied-à-terre by increasing numbers of incoming professionals for the HS2 infrastructure work, or those who work for large banks, who are boosting Birmingham offices. These flats have proven to be great buys in recent years, showing price growth above the city centre average.” 


4. Wakefield, West Yorkshire 


“If you have £100,000 to spend, north and central Wakefield is a good option,” said Simon Miller, partner at Holroyd Miller

“Two-bedroom flats start at £75,000 with an expected yield on 7-8% return, or two-bedroom terraced houses are available from £85,000 at a 6% yield; the ROI is certainly worth looking at.

“We attract first-time buyers and investors because of the very close commuter links with Leeds. With a direct and regular rail network to Leeds and a major motorway network linking the country on the doorstep, Wakefield is a worth considering.”


5. St Neots, Cambridgeshire 


“Although a budget of £100,000 will mean limited purchase options, it is still possible to buy a studio or one-bed apartment in the town. The prices are slightly higher because it is such a great place to live. The town offers history and a wealth of amenities, plus excellent access into London for commuters by road and rail, as well as easy access to Cambridge, Birmingham, the north and the east coast ports.

“Most properties sell very quickly, being bought by locals and investors as well as people moving into the area to take advantage of the easy commute. Land Registry data released in February 2017 shows that the East of England has seen the highest annual house price rises in the UK, with an average increase of 11.3%.”


6. North Devon


“North Devon is a beautiful part of the UK, with lovely beaches, beautiful countryside, theatres, restaurants; shopping and culture all sit on our doorstep,” said Lawrence Williams, Head of Lettings at Webbers. “Demand for the quality of life here is huge and at Webbers, we talk to people from across the country who are looking to enjoy ‘the good life’.”

“For our experience, ideal investments here are two-bedroom houses which sell for around £180,000 and rent for approximately £700pcm. Properties of this size have the widest level of tenant appeal, ranging from single professionals, a retired couple, to a young couple moving into their first home. It also means that when these properties are sold, demand again is usually high.

“Convenient parking, en suite facilities and high energy efficiency standards are all a must for the discerning tenant.

“Nearly all demand locally is for unfurnished accommodation, which suits landlords well. High demand levels and local economic factors create favourable conditions for those who buy in North Devon. There is a high continuity of tenancies, which last for an average of four years.”


Contact your local Guild agent to request a free valuation or start your property search.

08May

Getting onto the first rung of the housing ladder takes a lot of saving and determination. To help aspiring homeowners get started, we have created a video to share some top tips. 

Still have questions? You can ask us on twitter @GuildProperty or get in touch with your local Guild estate agent here


08May

Slowing house prices combined with rock-bottom mortgage rates are making it more affordable for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder. 


Property prices fell by 0.4% last month according to Nationwide’s latest House Price Index, their second monthly decline this year. The building society said that annual house price growth has dipped to 2.6%, the weakest rate since June 2013. The average property price in the UK currently stands at £207,699.

Falling prices could be due to household budgets coming under pressure thanks to higher inflation and slow wage growth, according to Nationwide. However, it predicts that despite lower house prices in March and April, a small increase in house prices of around 2% is likely over the course of 2017 as a whole.  


First-time buyers driving mortgage activity

Separate figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) show that despite slowing property prices, mortgage lending was up 19% in March, reaching £21.4 billion, up from £17.9 billion in February.

The Council said that there has been a shift in mortgage lending towards first-time buyers and those looking to remortgage, and away from buy-to-let landlords and home movers. Low mortgage rates along with government housing schemes are helping those trying to purchase their first home. 

The number of first-time buyers over the past 12 months increased to 342,000, more than any other period over the past nine years. 


Mortgage price war drives rates lower

Recent weeks have seen the launch of the some of the lowest mortgage rates ever seen, as lenders battle to attract borrowers.

Deals have become even more competitive thanks to a fall in funding costs for lenders, and due to new providers entering the mortgage market. Swap rates, which are among the factors lenders look at to help them determine their fixed rates, have also fallen, prompting lenders to introduce record low fixed mortgage deals. 

Owning a home has, therefore, become less expensive for homebuyers, while those looking to remortgage may be able to slash the cost of their monthly mortgage payments.

However, the best mortgage deals tend to disappear fast, so homeowners and those looking to buy will need to act quickly if they see a deal they like. 

It’s important to factor in all the associated costs of any mortgage before applying, however, as many of the most competitive deals come with steep arrangement fees. Homebuyers or remortgagors who are unsure which deal is likely to be most cost-effective for them based on their individual circumstances should seek professional advice. 



04May

This month we launch our new series of property spotlights. Each week we will look at average house prices, the total number of sales and the size of the market around the country. Nine regions will be analysed, including the North East, South West, West Midlands, and London. 

But what are these figures based on? The latest data from the Land Registry House Price Index helps to show the makeup of the region’s housing markets. While there is no single measure which provides a complete picture of the market, below are 12 areas with statistics on the total value of all property transactions in the past year. This has been calculated by multiplying the average value of homes by the number of sales. 


This week, we look at the North East of England. 


* Average price in the year to January 2017 multiplied by the total number of transactions in the same period.

Market snapshot:

    • The district with the largest market is County Durham which saw £659m worth of transactions in the year to January 2017.
    • This was followed by Northumberland with £651m worth of sales over the same period.
    • The district with the highest overall average house price was Newcastle upon Tyne where prices sit at £161,000, which is 30% above the regional average.
    • The market with the highest number of transactions was County Durham with 6,736 sales occurring during the period.


Where have house prices increased the most? Here are five districts with the highest annual capital growth. 


“The North East property market is a collection of micro-markets, each with their own particular drivers and nuances. Some markets have higher levels of turnover than others and indeed some perform better than others when it comes to capital inflation,” said Iain McKenzie, CEO of the Guild of Property Professionals.


Whether you live in the North East or elsewhere in the UK, find your nearest Guild Member agent and start your property search today.

28Apr

The Guild of Property Professionals will hold their annual regional meetings in May. The meetings will be held at 10 sporting venues across the UK, inspired by the theme ‘Fit for the future’, and will focus on keeping members abreast of the latest market advancements. This will be a chance for members to meet the new CEO of The Guild of Property Professionals, Iain McKenzie.

McKenzie will introduce the event and present the latest news on the business, culminating in the launch of the Guild’s brand-new website.

The roadshow will start in early May in Newcastle, the home of the Falcons Rugby Club, with meetings following in Bournemouth, Bristol, Cambridge, Coventry, Exeter, Leeds, Manchester, Tunbridge Wells and London.

Stuart Penney, former Property Editor at The Telegraph turned digital strategist, and Jon Cooke, Executive Director of the Guild, will feature as key speakers at each meeting. They will be discussing advancements in digital property marketing, and how agents can stay up-to-date on the most effective marketing trends.

The Guild welcomes sponsors Reapit, Feefo, and Goodlord, who will be attending the meetings and speaking about their respective services.

Iain McKenzie, CEO of The Guild says, ‘’The regional meetings are a chance for members to gain in-depth knowledge of what to expect in the coming months and are a chance to network with other members. I look forward to seeing everyone for what’s sure to be an informative and innovative series of meetings.”


27Apr


Westminster remains abuzz with the news that Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a snap general election. But what does this mean for the housing market? Traditionally, the uncertainty surrounding an election causes an economic slowdown that the housing market feels keenly. However, Iain McKenzie, CEO of the Guild of Property Professionals, believes that calling an election in the current political climate combines genius with recklessness, and has every chance of positively impacting the housing market.

“The lack of anticipated political uncertainty that surrounds this election is reason for us to look at the housing market from a more positive viewpoint. Before this election, the housing market is a seller’s dream. There’s less on the market due to political uncertainty, but fewer homes means less competition for sellers and the opportunity to stand out more. Now is the time to put your home on the market. Conversely, after the election, the market will be buoyed by an influx of new homes, creating a buyer’s paradise for those who have been clever enough to sell before the election.

If you’re considering buying or selling a home, now is the time to take action by visiting our website for a free valuation.

I have every confidence that the housing market will see immediate and long-term benefits following the results of the general election.” 

25Apr

Putting your property on the market is an exciting time. The photos are taken, the floorplans completed, and the home is perfectly presented, so it’s time to start the viewings. But how many should you expect? What if viewings are not as regular as you hoped? We asked Guild agents to share their tips and advice. 


Check the price

One of the biggest deterrents for a viewing is the price. “How does your home compare to competing homes on the market?” asks Ian Southall from Chess Moves of Tewkesbury. “Query your agent if you think the price is set too high and consider talking to agents who quoted a more realistic price during the valuation.”

Martin Moore from Morris Marshall & Poole in Tywyn, Gwynedd agrees. “If a property is getting no viewing interest at all, then the first place to look for an answer is the asking price. Compare the property with others for sale around it and see if it compares favourably, if not you need to think about a reduction.”

The price needs to attract potential buyers, points out Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris in St Neots. “The housing market is now incredibly transparent, information on marketing and sale prices of similar properties is easily available on the web, so it is important that properties are marketed at a realistic price. Nothing turns a buyer off quicker than a house that is perceived to be over-priced.


Pick an estate agent well 

“There’s absolutely no point in appointing an agent who isn’t embedded in the community, you need an agent who knows all about the area, is connected and recommended, but also one that knows where your target audience is,” said Simon Miller, from Holroyd Miller in Wakefield.

Mark Noble from Castles Estate Agents in Swindon agrees. “Without a shadow of a doubt, if a property is well-prepared for the market, it will get a better response and potentially a higher offer. In reality, if you market the best-presented property with an estate agent who is not motivated, then the property can easily stagnate in the marketplace.

“There is a misconception that all agents are the same and that popping a property on a portal will do the trick. The more motivated the agent you choose, ideally a traditional agent who will fight for your price, in most cases achieve higher prices as well as selling more properties.”

The approach that an agent has can have a big impact too, says Linda Mortimer of Mortimers Estate Agents in Woodbridge. “If an agent bombards a potential buyer with lots of questions and insists they speak to their mortgage adviser before even handing out any details, you can be sure you will be missing out as an aggressive approach can send some people running for the door. 

“Buyers usually enter an agent’s office because something in their front window has drawn their attention. Greeting a potential buyer in a friendly way and then giving them details of what they are enquiring about is a better way to encourage them to discuss the property they have shown interest in. The agent can then proceed to offer their time to show them the property. This calm approach is far more likely to result in a viewing or even a sale.”




Spruce up the property 

“Aside of de-cluttering, attending to those long overdue maintenance jobs, and ensuring everything is visually appealing for the marketing materials, the best route to more viewings is to employ the right agent,” advises Simon Miller, Holroyd Miller, Wakefield. 

Vicki Field, Cooke & Co, Kent, always recommend for sellers to have a good clean and tidy throughout and to de-clutter. “Try not to de-personalise your property, as making it feel homely to viewers gives them a feeling of what it would be like when they are living there.” 

If you have already moved out, it may be a good idea to add furniture. Linda Mortimer, of Mortimers Estate Agents in Woodbridge, says: “If you are selling an empty property of a higher value, it's worth looking into getting it furnished. It makes a huge difference. Coincide the furnishing with an open house and you can be guaranteed viewers, maybe even an offer or two.”

Nicole Woolley, Goodwin Property, Stamford, said: “Be sure to tidy up, and not just inside the home, but outside too, even if you have an apartment. A lot of buyers won’t even step outside the car if the kerb appeal is not good enough. If there is paint peeling on the front door or windowsills have them repainted, fixing them is money well spent. Have a good clear out and declutter; if you have rooms full to the brim then buyers will need a good imagination to see the potential, and the same goes for the garden. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, weed the flower beds. Try to show a lifestyle in your home; properties sell much faster if a buyer can imagine themselves living there.”


Who is your likely buyer? 

“Consider targeting your market and draw attention to the benefits the property can offer a particular type of buyer,” suggests Martin Moore, Morris Marshall & Poole, based in Tywyn, Gwynedd. “For example, if you are selling a property that would suit a buy-to-let investor, think about offering an initial period of guaranteed rent. Even simple things like providing a list of schooling options with a family home or explaining the convenience of public transport in the commuter belt could help. You will, however, need to make it individual to the house rather than relying on the generic information provided by the internet portals.”




Invest in photography 

"Many people now judge properties through online platforms, so the better the picture, the more chance of your potential buyer investigating further,” said Ian Southall, Chess Moves of Tewkesbury. Stand back from your home and ask yourself what could be improved upon. Is the garden tidy? The décor is another key factor.”

Martin Moore from Morris Marshall & Poole in Tywyn is also keenly aware of the importance of high-quality photos. “Most people start their search on the Internet and this is a very visual medium, especially on mobile devices. People often skip over the text, so properties with good external and internal photographs and floor plans get noticed. Invest your time wisely in this area and use professional services where appropriate, ensure also that the property is well presented with the photographs as high-resolution images show great detail. Always have a good selection of photographs available and change them frequently so that the listing does not become stale.

Vicki Field from Cooke & Co in Kent had some alternative photography tips. “Ensure your agent makes the most out of your most valued asset by taking good photographs on a sunny day and remember to keep the toilet seat down! It always helps to make your home aesthetically pleasing from the outside, so maybe brighten it up with flowers and flower pots.”

Jennifer Butler, Trading Places in Leytonstone, London, said: “Before engaging in the photography, make sure your home is ready. Declutter, clean and pay attention to the front of your property and the rear garden. 

“Perhaps have the photography carried out over two days, allowing a couple of rooms to be used as temporary storage areas, whilst the rest of your property is being photographed. Afterwards, you can empty out those rooms and the photographer can return the next day to finish the job. Rushing the photography would be a big mistake.”

Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris in St Neots says that photos are a crucial first impression. “It is important not only that the photos show the property at its best, but also that the quantity of pictures right. Too few may lead to potential buyers either assuming that there is something wrong with the property or deciding not to view as they couldn’t get a reasonable impression of the property.”

“As an estate agent, I am particular about the weather for photos. A clear blue sky on a sunny day will show the natural warmth and brightness of the house,” says Jamie Fisher, Taylor Milburn, Essex. 


Best mix of exposure 

“It is crucial that the property is exposed to the maximum number of potential buyers to attract the maximum number of viewers. An attractive price and great photographs will mean little if they are kept a secret," said Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris in St Neots. 

“Many agents in recent years have focused all of their marketing on the internet through the myriad of property websites including major property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla and their own websites. This is incredibly important, but providing the widest possible exposure must include far more. Other areas of focus can include; advertising in newspapers, advertising in office windows, advertising across local, regional, national and even international branch networks, promotion on social media, marketing to known/registered buyers via phone and email, for sale boards and leaflet drops. A good agent will cover these areas and more.” 


How many viewings should you expect? 

“In the current busy market in Margate and the surrounding areas, we look to have a surge of viewings within the first week with offers coming in – if this isn’t the case then a price reduction or amendments to the details could certainly help,” said Vicki Field of Cooke & Co, based in Kent. 

“Check the demand,” suggests Jennifer Butler, Trading Places of Leytonstone in London. “As a proactive estate agent, we monitor internet click through rates and constantly review market activity for all types of property. Some property types will be more in demand than others so it’s important to know the current market and manage the seller’s expectations, especially when it comes to the number of viewings they should expect to receive.”

Could a lack of viewings just be one of those things? “Sometimes it's just a blip. Viewings can be like buses. None for ages then three at once,” says Linda Mortimer, Mortimers Estate Agents, Woodbridge. 

“There will be a week or two where things go quiet. This is when your agent needs to retake pictures and move things around on the websites and window displays. A refresh is always a good idea.”

Be prepared early, advises Nicole Woolley, Goodwin Property, Stamford. “Don’t forget you will see about five or six times as many people in the first couple of weeks as the subsequent weeks – make sure everything is ready and that your agent is fully briefed.”

How many people should you expect, though? “Viewing in the first month is important and if ten people are not through the door, things need to be changed,” advises Jamie Fisher from Taylor Milburn in Essex. 


Click here to contact your local Guild agent to ensure a professional service with honest and integrity to create results. 

21Apr

With a quarter-century of experience under their belts, there’s no better time to celebrate some of our most experienced agents. Buying or selling, whether it’s a seven-bedroom country home or a beach hut, these are the agents who have seen it all (and sold it, too). The past 25 years have been years of significant changes. Agents have had to learn, adapt, and grow to stay up to date on the trends of a constantly evolving property market, and continue to provide the highest levels of service to clients. They have plenty to say about what they discovered along the way.

About lessons…
Our agents strive to help customers find their ‘dream home’, and have learned never to let their own ideas of what the customer wants get in the way. This commitment drives their desire to constantly improve customer service and stay on top of the industry. 



“Every day is different, but the main lesson I have learnt is never take anything for granted. We must continue to deliver better and better service to our clients so that we remain the agent of choice on performance and likeability. It’s so important to evolve and embrace new ideas to keep ahead of the field."
- Ken Bird, Renton & Parr






“The top lesson I’ve learned is that the customer is right. They always have the final say... just because we think something is a good idea does not mean our customers do.
- Simon Badbury, Thomas Morris





“Always look to improve.”
- Henry Rowe and Kevin Moll,
Kevin Henry






About positive changes…
The past 25 years have seen their fair share of changes, particularly in the property industry. The experience our agents have gained has given them perspective, and they have seen first-hand the power of positive changes.

“The standards of competency and professionalism have improved massively over the past 30 years. The modern buyer and seller are much more commercially aware; they ask more questions, want more information and do not just base their decision about employing a firm just because of a previous experience. They will want to know that staff not only have great local knowledge, but they are able to guide them through the process.”
- Linda Thorne, Simmons and Sons



“Our success in trading for almost three decades has been down to always staying one step ahead of our competitors and introducing new innovative ways to market homes. We pride ourselves on being different from the other estate agents in our area. Our links with the Guild of Property Professionals makes us stand out because of our associated London office and our national referral connections.”
-Andrew Coulson,
Andrew Coulson Estate Agents



And about memorable clients…
Before anything else, our agents are committed to their clients. However, this kind of commitment extends far past finding them a home. Some of our agents have maintained lifelong relationships with their clients, and won’t soon forget the part that their clients have played in their success. 


“Perhaps I’ve had more exciting clients, or certainly ones that have been more stressful, but never one that I’ve dropped off at flower arranging class after a viewing. Mrs. B was a retired teacher and widow who decided to move after living in her home for nearly 40 years. We met at the property she wanted to buy, a little bungalow, but it took so long she worried about missing her class, so I battled traffic to get her there. She made it on time; I got the sale and she moved 25 yards away, into the little bungalow on the same cul-de-sac where she’s lived for over 40 years!”

- Simon Miller, Holroyd Miller





“Our most memorable clients were a couple who asked us to help sell their home within days of opening our fledgling business.  We prepared the property details and the following day we returned with a hammer and nails to put the board up ourselves. We eventually found a buyer and also managed to find a property for Nick and Rosemary to buy as well. The deal was agreed and everybody moved. Closing the sale ensured that our bank overdraft was paid off, and at the end of our first year trading we presented a profit to our accountants. I am pleased to say they still call in to see us every Christmas. We still owe them a huge debt of gratitude for believing in three 25-year-olds who had just started their own business.”
- Paul Eperon, James Anderson

12Apr

More than 4 million people are paying too much for their mortgages by relying on standard variable rates. This is according to L&C Mortgages, the UK’s largest fee-free mortgage broker.

Standard variable rates are typically higher than other mortgage rates on the market, which means homeowners could be overspending by an average of £216 a month, equivalent to nearly £2,600 a year. If interest rates rise in the future, which the Bank of England has hinted is a possibility, then homeowners could see their payment increase even further.

L&C examined a range of data to establish the type of mortgage deals homeowners are on, how much they owe, and the length of their mortgage terms. Using this information, they identified a potentially better rate and worked out the monthly mortgage savings that could be made. 

David Hollingworth of L&C Mortgages said: “Not only have we found that more than a third (36%) of homeowners are on their bank or building society’s standard variable rate, but 3.4m people don’t know their mortgage rate. They could potentially save hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year by re-mortgaging to a new deal’’.  

The research also looked regionally at how much homeowners are paying on their mortgages. It found households in the capital overspend by the most, typically paying £266 a month more than necessary. Those in the North pay £201 more than needed, while households in the Midlands and the south of England could save £222 a month if they were on a different deal.

Worryingly, the research revealed that a further 1.1m households are effectively throwing away a collective £2.78bn by sitting on the wrong mortgage deal. The average pre-tax income for households with a mortgage is £45,141, with households paying an average of £597 per month. Over a third of homeowners said they can’t imagine a time not having to pay their mortgage, yet over half of UK homeowners (58%) have never re-mortgaged to save money.

David Hollingworth added: “A mortgage is likely to be someone’s biggest monthly outgoing, and in only a few easy steps they could find a better deal. It’s crucial that homeowners regularly review their mortgage, to see how their rate stacks up against the record low rates that alternative deals currently offer”.

30Mar

The Prime Minister Teresa May has signed Article 50, starting the two-year process for the UK to withdraw for the EU. After uncertainty in the property market after the Brexit vote in June 2016, what will this new development mean for UK housing? The Guild’s CEO Iain McKenzie shares his thoughts. 


What changes do you expect to see with the housing market in the future? 

If there is to be a change after Article 50, it may be that the market will become more favourable for buyers. It may change the supply and demand of homes, making some properties longer to sell, giving buyers a greater choice. 


Will Article 50 and Brexit have a negative impact on home building? 

There is some fear in the industry that the 8% of construction workers who are EU Nationals could set back rates of property building. However, the Government White Paper set out clear plans for increased levels of home building and I am confident that the drive to meet house building targets should negate any downturn leading from this. 


Will Article 50 increase confidence in the housing market and encourage people to move? 

The market shock of Brexit is now over. All indicators are saying that it is business as usual, even in London. Confidence has already returned to the housing market, and I expect this to be maintained when Teresa May triggers Article 50. 

At a recent meeting of The Guild’s National Advisory Committee, 16 of the country’s top independent agents reported that there are already favourable trading conditions in the marketplace. When asked about invoking Article 50, they believed that sentiment and confidence are already high, and this will continue into the future. 

Interest rates on mortgages are low at the moment and lending is readily available, which will help more people onto the housing ladder. 


How will 2017 compare to the previous year in terms of sales? 

Early indications are showing a small increase in year-on-year instructions. It will be hard to compare actual completion levels in 2017 over 2016, as the market saw an increase in transactions in March 2016 with unprecedented levels of buy-to-let completions taking place ahead of the Stamp Duty changes which came into force. However, Guild Members are now reporting increases in instructions and sales. 


Is Brexit likely to overshadow the housing crisis over the next two years? 

I am concerned that the public and media’s focus on Brexit will lessen the attention given to the housing crisis during the period of leaving the EU. Housing charity Shelter said: “By 2008, the number of new homes being started had fallen to its lowest peacetime level since 1924 – and house building has barely recovered since then. At the moment, we're building around half the amount of homes we need a year. To solve the housing shortage we should be building 250,000 homes a year.”

The government has already started to support first-time buyers with Help To Buy and Shared Ownership. But I would like to see more done to get young people on the housing ladder. For example… Stamp Duty is geared to first-time buyers, which is good as we want to see more people buying their own home. 


What advice do you have for people looking to move? 

Always seek advice from a trusted independent established agent. Choosing a Guild Member will ensure that you receive honest, transparent advice that you can trust. The Guild has a strict code of conduct for its members, ensuring professionalism. We run two Associate Schemes where Guild agents undergo a rigorous training programme and are tested on their industry knowledge. More than 150 people have become Guild Associates in 2017. 

Contact the team in Park Lane for advice and assistance on how to join The Guild (020 7629 4141 or parklane@guildproperty.co.uk). 


27Mar

A new chapter has been unveiled for The Guild of Property Professionals, with Iain McKenzie as the newly appointed CEO. The enthusiastic and well-recognised leader in the property industry sets out his vision to expand The Guild into new areas.


Q1: What is your background?

A: The estate agency world has been my life for 30 years this year. I started at the tender age of 17 on a youth training scheme in Devon. I quickly progressed through the ranks and at the age of 26, I became a Regional Manager and moved to Hampshire. Three years later, I set up an independent estate agency called Complete Property Services and became a member of The Guild of Property Professionals. This was my first encounter with The Guild and I was extremely impressed with the services that were offered to me. In 2011, I joined Countrywide as Managing Director for the Solent subsidiary, which grew year-on-year to a business of 100 branches. Now, at the age of 47, I am starting a new adventure as the CEO of The Guild.

Q2: Tell us a bit about yourself? What are your interests? What have you been doing?

A: I have two fabulous daughters, who are apple of my eye. I am keen skier and I try to go as regularly as possible with my family and friends. Work life is priority but home life is an extremely important part of my life too.

Q3: What is your vision for The Guild?

A: My vision for The Guild is to be the leading voice of the industry to consumers. This includes representing independent agents, so they maintain and sustain their independent status while giving them the benefits of belonging to a nationwide organisation. But what does this mean? The Guild will offer help and advice at all times, giving a seal of approval of knowledge, integrity and results from the general public’s perspective. We will be the helping hand and safety net for our members with all compliance matters informing them of changes to important legislation which will help to keep them compliant and generally advising them on all relevant matters. 

Q4: How are you going to embrace digital?

A: Cleverly. The public seek modern methods but traditional values. The Guild will be at the forefront of this principal. I intend to work closely with the Media Centre at The Guild head office in Park Lane. It is key that there is transparency across the industry, whether this is through traditional estate agents or online platform. I’m very au fait with the current online offering from my experiences from my previous employer and I am confident about adapting this to suit to the independent sector. 

Q5: What are your core values?

A: Honesty, integrity, transparency – I think anybody who has met me would agree with this. I am a great believer of developing people, I am open to suggestions, have a can-do attitude and I’m an all-rounder. I never ask anybody to do something that I am not prepared to do myself. 

Q6: Where do you envision the Guild going in the next five years?

A: Growing from strength to strength, The Guild will become an authority in the estate agency sector from a consumer and independent perspective. The Guild will always be a pillar of support, expertise and vision for its members. I hope The Guild to be a publicly recognised kitemark of approval. 

Q7: What do you plan to achieve in the first 100 days?

A: Within the first 100 days, I intend to connect with every member through regional meetings. Where I will deliver my vision for The Guild. I plan to engage in open and honest conversation with the National Advisory Council (NAC) and to reinforce the value of The Guild to its members. 

Q8: What are the opportunities for estate agents? What does the future hold?

A: The sector is going through radical change with online disturbers having recently entered the marketplace. I strongly believe that ‘Cost is an issue, in the absence of value’. The opportunities are still the same as ever. Excellent customer care creates loyal raving fans, which in turn leads to repeat business recommendations. The leading agents are seamlessly incorporating technology into the traditional customer service model, and we want to do the same.  

Q9: How many members are there? How do you see The Guild expanding?

A: Currently, The Guild has around 800 members. My intention is to enhance The Guild’s offering and to expand to 1000 members in time for our 25th anniversary in May 2018. The Guild is one the best-kept secrets in the property world and I can speak from personal experience when I say that The Guild helped me to secure more instructions when I was an independent agent. It played a crucial part than any other tool in my toolbox. 

Q10: Why should people join The Guild?

A: There are very few unique selling points (USP) in the estate agency sector. However, the Guild is one of them. The four pillars of strength that The Guild is built on are: Trust and Confidence, IT and Intelligence, Marketing and Exposure and Additional Revenue Streams. We are exceptional in all of these areas. 

In addition, we also deliver full trading standards accredited training, compliance audits and free PI insurance to our Members. 

For more information about The Guild of Property Professionals, visit: www.guildproperty.co.uk or contact 020 7629 4141.


23Mar

Mortgages offering incentives like cashback are becoming increasingly popular to draw homebuyers in. Is this the right option? We take a look at the pros and cons.

More and more lenders now offer mortgage deals which come with incentives to attract borrowers and to differentiate themselves from the competition. Mortgage rates are currently extremely competitive, so an extra benefit or bonus is one of the only ways for a deal to stand out from the crowd.

Incentives can take several different forms. For example, lenders will require a valuation of a property to make sure it is security for the loan and worth as much as the homebuyer is paying for it. The cost of a valuation will depend on the size of the property, but typically starts from around £250, rising to about £2,500 or more for homebuyers purchasing high-end homes.

Some lenders will offer a free valuation as part of a mortgage deal, although this will usually only cover the cost of a basic valuation report rather than an extensive structural survey, which many people opt for when buying a home. Also, lenders may set a minimum purchase price and only offer free valuations on properties over that value.

Other lenders provide free legal work for those who are mortgaging, but remember to check the small print for any restrictions.

Cashback is becoming one of the most popular mortgage incentives. Lenders will pay borrowers a lump sum, typically starting from £250, when their mortgage deal completes.

The amount of cashback offered has crept up in size in recent years, with many lenders now providing cashback of around £500, although some payments can be as high as £2,500. This can be particularly appealing for first-time buyers who often put the money towards stamp duty or moving costs.

However, it’s important that homebuyers do not to base their mortgage decision on incentives alone. Deals which offer cashback or any other incentive may charge a higher interest rate than deals which don’t come with any added extras, making them more expensive overall.

It’s vital that homebuyers think carefully about how important up-front cash is compared to lower monthly payments. Could an interest rate saving outweigh any incentive in the longer term? If in doubt, homebuyers should seek professional advice on the best combination of rate, fees and incentives to suit their individual circumstances.


Need some mortgage advice? Get in touch with L&C Mortgages today.

15Mar

Are you thinking of getting on the property ladder this year? It is often a daunting task, but interest rates are currently low and there are government schemes that can help, too. We asked Guild agents across the country for their advice to help more people buy their first home sooner.


Philip Jackson - Maguire Jackson, Birmingham 

“Do research on how much finance you can secure based on your current salary.

Know what deposit you need and what Help to Buy schemes (www.helptobuy.gov.uk) are available in your area.

Determine how much deposit you actually need, taking into account your purchasing costs.

Research exactly what your purchasing costs might be to your lawyer, your bank, surveyor and HMRC in Stamp Duty.

Work out where you want to live or indeed be comfortable living in that location.

Work out the time frame. Buying a property often takes longer than people imagine. 

If your family is helping with a deposit, then make sure you give them plenty of warning as their capital may be tied up in a savings scheme that requires more notice than just one week or a one month. 

Finally, it is more important that the deposit is large enough to help secure the property in the location you like.” 


Jamie Bartholomew, Century Residential, London

“I often encourage people in rented accommodation to compromise on what they want in the short term to be able to purchase their own home. Once they buy a property, they can work on overpaying their mortgage, which will give them a larger deposit in the longer term. Often moving to a slightly more affordable area in the short term is the key.”


Katie Griffin, Sawde & Harris, Dartmoor

“We would like to see more pressure put on mortgage companies to offer products with higher loan to values which are specifically aimed at first-time buyers.  Personally, we do not see many new developments within Dartmoor or the Teign Valley, where we conduct a lot of our business. More targeted products to allow younger people to get on to the property ladder would be a massive boost for first-time buyers, too.”


Steve Thompson, Thomas Morris, St Neots

“In recent years, high property prices have made it difficult for first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder. Despite this, it is a good time to take the first step into property ownership. Mortgage interest rates are incredibly low at the moment and the government offer various schemes to enable first-time buyers to get on the ladder with a small deposit. These schemes include, Help to Buy options and shared ownership schemes. The advice of a good mortgage company is invaluable. Also first-time buyers will need a minimum deposit to get started aside from help from the “bank of Mum and Dad”. There really is no substitute for saving and starting early.”  


James Millard, James Millard Estate Agent, Westerham

“What is my advice for a first-time buyer? Find your ‘inner estate agent’. It is essential that your first step is the right one. So you need to make sure that you buy your home for the right price. If you research the market properly, this will give you a head start when making an offer.”


Robbie Ridgeway, Hamilton property Services, Surrey

“We seem to think that it is harder now for first-time buyers to purchase a property than it was for our parents and their parents. I always feel that it has always been hard, in fact with the various government schemes and banks offering 95% mortgages, it could be argued that it is easier now than it has been for a very long time.  It is easier said than done but my advice for first time buyers is to spend less and save more.”


Jo Ryan, Gibbs Gillespie, Middlesex

“Make sure you are on the voters roll, even if you don’t want to vote.

Check your credit file.

Get a credit card, spend a small amount each month and then repay it immediately, it helps you build up a credit file profile and shows lenders you can handle credit responsibly.

Shared Ownership is the best scheme in our opinion.”


Steve Barron, Drivers & Norris, London

“We recommend people bide their time, save like crazy and keep an open mind regarding the type and exact location of the property. When ready to buy, think value-for-money and learn to get handy using power tools. Before committing, we also advise our buyers to factor-in all the buying costs including legal, stamp duty, repairs and of course block service charges.  Lastly, strict monthly budgeting and maybe even taking in a lodger can help soften the load.”


Simon Miller, Holroyd Miller, London

 “There are a few things first-time buyers should attend to before taking that first step onto the property ladder. Although the Internet, parents and friends are probably the first sources of advice be aware the advice isn’t necessarily relevant or correct. The first and most important piece of advice you can take is from an independent mortgage advisor. You may find you can afford the property you didn’t think was in your league, or adversely you may find you really don’t have the budget for the property you wanted. It is also important to research the area you’re looking to buy in."


09Mar

Housing was not a focus of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s first Spring Budget on 8 March 2017. CEO of The Guild of Property Professionals, Iain McKenzie, shares his thoughts on what the government can still do to support the housing market.  


“It was disappointing that Chancellor Philip Hammond did not show an understanding of how crucial it is to support the housing market at this uncertain time. The lack of measures to support first-time buyers, investors, and homeowners could have a negative impact on the industry over the coming year. At the Guild, we hoped to see a clearer commitment from the government to ensure the success of the housing market both in 2017 and in years to come.”


Stamp Duty 

“The housing market has been impacted by the rise in Stamp Duty far more than anything else over the last 12 months, even more than Brexit. By ignoring calls from the industry, the Chancellor has set back the housing market, particularly with buy-to-let investors who are hit with an additional 3% of stamp duty when buying second properties. This could have a negative knock-on effect on the rental market.

“These measures were initially brought in to allow first-time buyers to get onto the housing ladder. Only time will tell if this will prove to be effective. As it stands, only 39% of adults under 40 own a property, compared with 61% from 20 years ago. 

“The lack of change means that the top end of the market could continue to move slowly, particularly with homes valued over £1,500,000.” 


New Homes 

“The government announced a new National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) to provide £23 billion of high-value investment between 2017-18 and 2021-22. One of the objectives for this fund is to accelerate housing supply. This is a good step for first-time buyers. An increase in home building could ensure that more affordable, good quality homes are available to help people onto the housing ladder.

“However, more needs to be done to ensure that enough new homes are built to fulfil an increasing demand. I think that the government needs to look again at planning regulation for councils to allow new building projects to be approved without delay. It is unpopular with some, but building on the Green Belt may be necessary to meet demand.” 


Rental Fees

“There was no update on the banning of rental fees in the lettings market. The government previously stated that the ban would come in ‘as soon as possible’, and there was no new guidance at the Budget as to when this could be. I agree that renting should be more fair for tenants and that there should be complete transparency around fees. However, there is a high chance that scrapping rental fees could lead to landlords charging higher rates for tenants, negating any monetary benefit for either party.”  


02Mar

It’s the last spring Budget. What does Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, have planned for homeowners? How will first-time buyers and landlords be affected? Guild Members share their wish lists ahead of the Budget on March 8th. 


First-time buyers 

“More money needs to be invested into helping first-time buyers,” said Ian Southall, Director of Chess Moves of Tewkesbury. “Incentivising parents or grandparents would be a good angle to explore.” 


Stamp duty 

“The most important thing the Government should do is look at Stamp Duty on higher priced properties,” said James Gibbs of Gibbs Gillespie

“I have heard that stamp revenue is down at present, caused by the stamp duty increases, especially to those homes valued over £1.5 million and the extra 3% on top for second homes. Generally speaking, few people are sympathetic to those affected by this situation. However, I think the extreme levels of tax should be lowered.”


“Taking a proper look at Stamp Duty would have a positive effect,” said Ian Southall, Director of Chess Moves of Tewkesbury


“No one wants to pay Stamp Duty, and every homebuyer would love to see it scrapped, but it is very unlikely to happen,” explains Simon Miller from Holroyd Miller. “I doubt there will be any amendments made to the Stamp Duty changes already made during 2016. However, if there has been significant pressure on the government to re-think their second home Stamp Duty charge, there may possibly be some respite for the investors and developers who were affected. Locally, my view is that Stamp Duty currently works, it is fair, and much improved from the old regime.”


"I would like to see a huge simplification of the Stamp Duty Land Tax because it would help the fluidity of the market," said Philip Jackson, Director of Maguire Jackson. "It would allow more transactions to take place and would encourage individuals into the market who might wish to move again within a short period of two to five years. At the moment, the high transaction costs of purchasing and selling mean that it may be cheaper for many to rent.

"The other feature I would like to change is an easing of the burden now placed on second home owners, particularly those who use the property's income as part of their pensions."



New homes 

“There may be an announcement concerning new-build homes, certainly in areas of the country where the population demands it,” said Simon Miller from Holroyd Miller. “In Wakefield, we have 4,500 new homes under construction within a two-mile radius of the city, and with the Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme, and Help to Buy ISA still supported and widely used, I’d be astounded if changes were made to slow this down.”


Industry regulation 

“To find possible solutions to the housing crisis, we must look internally to the professional practices of the industry and to the rental market,” suggests David Kutas from Victorstone in Camden. “In the UK, there is currently no formal licensing or government sponsored control over the thousands of agents currently operating. This is in stark contrast to many other countries, most notably the USA where all agents must pass multiple examinations in different areas of the industry before they are permitted to sit in an office and market a property for sale. 

“Punishable actions include practices which are considered everyday procedure in Britain, such as the over-valuation of property during market appraisals, as the valuing agent is legally liable to the value given and marketing of properties which have sold or have been withdrawn from market. The end result of this control has given the USA an extremely desirable industry with considerably less competition, which is carefully regulated in their practices, formally qualified agents come as a guarantee, sales fees are higher and the entire market is far more stable than our own. 

“Entry requirements in the UK do not exist; most job adverts for estate agency merely ask for GCSE level qualifications and no formal training. Introducing formal compulsory licencing to the industry would industry service standards, make buying a home easier, and prevent over-valued properties being brought to market and acting as comparable data for future valuations.”


Rental fees

In the Autumn Statement 2016, it was announced that lettings fees will soon be banned in England and Wales. Will this be discussed again in the Budget? 

“The ban intends to lower the cost of renting to the millennial generation, who are increasing unable to purchase their own home and forced to rent,” said David Kutas from Victorstone. “However, it was inherently flawed because the Housing White Paper approached the industry from the perspective of the tenant. Removing the fees will lower the initial move-in costs, but it will do nothing to slow the ever-increasing cost of property and the diminishing rental yields for landlords.”


Watch the Budget live on the BBC from 12.30pm on Wednesday 8th March. 

Click here to find your local Guild agent. 


01Mar

Choosing the right agent is key to selling your property. We have seen an increase in online estate agents in recent years and there has been discussion as to whether sellers should sell their home with an online agent or stick with an established high-street estate agent. Here Guild agents share their views on high-street and online agents.

Thomas Devlin-James from Essex Guild Homes talks us through why homeowners should choose a high-street agent for several reasons: 

"No sale, no fee. There is a genuine desire to achieve the best possible price from buyers in the best position.

No hidden costs. 

Local agents often chase those in a chain to progress the sale faster. They also know local solicitors, who are specialists in their area. But the most important point is experience in the local area, both working and living close to the properties they are selling. "  

Expertise is the key

William Taper from Willmotts explains that the traditional agent "has a wealth of experience within the geographical area and this can be put to good use for the client. Your agent only typically gets paid if the sale or letting goes through, so the incentive to complete the deal is significant. Your agent is also able to deal with any potential buyer and has the expertise to get the best possible price in a suitable time frame. The agent can also deal with solicitors and other mortgage lenders to facilitate the sale."


Full service

Simon Bradbury from Thomas Morris tells us that the high-street estate agent offers a full service. "The internet only estate agent does not normally offer the full range of essential services required by sellers and landlords without charging additional fees for those services. For example, conducting accompanied viewings."

"This full service includes substantial online marketing for each property via property portals and other internet based marketing channels. Additionally, it may also include significant promotion in newspapers and magazines, which consequently attract purchasers from different sources. Plus, they will have local property knowledge and will only get paid if the house sells at an acceptable figure."

Are you looking to buy, sell or let? Click here for you free instant evaluation or click here to find your local Guild agent. 


24Feb

The part of the Help to Buy scheme designed to help first-time buyers with only a 5% deposit to put down has now finished, but there are still deals available to help people with smaller deposits.

 

The mortgage guarantee element of Help to Buy was originally set up to boost 95% lending. As its name suggests, the scheme provided a government guarantee to lenders prepared to lend up to 95% of the property value.

 

The guarantee meant that the government would compensate lenders, to help reduce their risk.

 

The scheme proved successful, encouraging more lenders to offer mortgages to those with only a 5% deposit to put down. Some lenders introduced 95% mortgages even without the guarantee.

 

The impact for first-time buyers has therefore been positive, and has given them access to a much wider choice of 95% deals, with some major lenders maintaining the rates they offer even now the scheme has ended.

 

Average rates on 95% deals have also fallen, although buyers must meet affordability criteria to qualify.

 

Those who manage to save larger deposits will have far more mortgage options available to them, but broadly it is a healthier market for homebuyers, whatever size deposit they have.

24Feb

Halifax, one of Britain’s biggest lenders, has recently relaxed the criteria borrowers are required to meet if they want an interest-only mortgage.

With this type of mortgage, as the name suggests, you only repay the interest on the amount you’ve borrowed each month. The capital must be repaid when the mortgage term ends.

Homeowners used to need a minimum £1million pension pot to be eligible for an interest-only mortgage with Halifax.

Now they only need to prove they have a pension which will reach £400,000 by the time they retire.

They can also sell their home as a means of paying back what they owe. To be eligible, however, homeowners must have an income of £100,000 or more, or £150,000 if applying as a couple. They must also have at least £200,000 equity in the property.

Interest-only deals were very popular prior to the credit crunch, but lenders have since made it harder to qualify for this type of loan.

Most lenders do still offer interest-only mortgages, but may impose eligibility requirements. For example, Virgin Money will lend on an interest-only basis to borrowers with a joint income of £50,000, while NatWest requires a minimum income of £100,000.

Changes such as those made by Halifax show that lenders are re-assessing their approach to interest-only, although borrowers will still need to demonstrate a repayment plan to ensure it’s appropriate.

24Feb

First-time buyers aged between 23 and 40 may soon be able to buy a new home at a discount of a least 20% below market value, under the government’s ‘Starter Home’ initiative.

 

The properties will start being built this year, the housing minister Gavin Barwell confirmed at the beginning of the New Year, with an initial group of 30 local authority partnerships leading the schemes.

 

Funding will be supported by the government’s £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land fund, which was established last April.

 

The fund was set up to assist the aim of building 200,000 Starter Homes by 2020 on brownfield sites in England, such as those currently or previously used for commercial or industrial purposes.

 

However, critics of the scheme claim that as the maximum price after the discount has been applied will be £250,000 outside London and £450,000 in the capital, the new properties won’t be affordable for many first-time buyers.

 

It’s expected that they won’t be able to sell on or let their Starter Homes at their open market value for a period of at least five years after the initial sale.

24Feb

Increased competition between lenders has seen the number of fee-free fixed rate mortgages more than double over the past twelve months.

According to recent data from Moneyfacts, there were 556 fee-free deals just over a year ago, compared to 1,162 by the end of 2016.

Although the number of fee-free deals has increased, average fixed rate fees have gone up by £30 from £954 to £984 over the past year. The average two-year fixed rate, however, has fallen from 2.67% to 2.34% in the last 12 months, which suggests some lenders are introducing lower rates but with higher fees.

Fee-free mortgages usually have slightly higher rates than those which do charge a fee, but they often still work out to be more cost-effective overall once fees are factored in.

Calculations show that borrowers with a 25% deposit opting for the lowest two-year fixed rate deal with a fee could be more than £1,000 worse off than if they’d gone for a deal with no fee.

It’s important that when comparing deals, borrowers always look at the total cost, rather than just the headline rate of interest charged.