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17Jun

Currently, the broadcast media are awash with new models that claim to sell your house for a fraction of the costs that you might pay using a more established route to market – such as an independent, bricks and mortar, high street estate agent. Calculations of the potential savings are being distributed with abandon – but the current statistics are that over 95% of current residential sales still use the tried and tested model. So are the new kids in town just starting to attract smarter consumers, or is the enticement of a potentially cheaper fee covering over ‘potholes in the road’ that carry potentially serious consequences for the vendor?

Putting aside that almost all estate agents are already online, and also that in many parts of the country the so-called modern, efficient models can actually cost more than the existing competition; Marcus Whewell, CEO of The Guild of Professional Estate Agents, explores some of the more important aspects of the debate – and ultimately who is more likely to deliver the best result for the client?

The first, crucial point is one of motivation. With a physical estate agent, you only pay a fee when they successfully sell your property; and the agent will usually earn more commission for achieving a higher price. Therefore, there is a key, mutual interest in securing the best possible commercial result according your preferences (such as your timescale for moving). With many of the new models, you pay a significant, up-front, non-refundable amount whatever happens – for example, even if you never receive a single offer on your home!

Secondly, selling a property is much more than just putting it on the internet. Markets are constantly changing, and a really good agent will be constantly evaluating the price and marketing it in the light of the latest conditions, such as what else is available to buy locally, and the mood of the market. He/she will also be utilising a wide variety of personalised tools, such as contacting their extensive database, distributing leaflets, communicating via social networking, and facilitating ‘open house’ events. These elements can be crucial in getting best offers, and yet very few, if any of the new models to date offer such services to their clients.

The next key stage in selling your home is qualifying the offer. Almost a third of agreed sales fail to complete, and one key reason is that the buyer may struggle to access the necessary finance. A local professional agent will have established the motivations and financial status of the applicant, thereby reducing the likelihood of disappointment and further delays and, therefore, also of losing other potential buyers who would have completed the purchase.

Negotiating for the sale of your own home can be a tricky business. This is a very important and emotive subject, and normally the intercession of a professional can turn an ‘insulting offer’ into an acceptable compromise. Again, you need the help of someone who can use local knowledge and experience, together with insights into the relative situations and of the parties involved, to craft a mutually acceptable position. 

Currently, one of the biggest difficulties in moving is managing complicated chains, which require the involvement and sometimes coercion of many separate parties, such as other estate agents and their solicitors. Many leading agents now assign their most talented employees to progressing pending sales, even on behalf of the other agents in the chain who may not be so diligent. This can literally make or break a sale and again, it makes sense to seek out an estate agent who knows all the parties involved - and who is strongly financially motivated to complete the sale as quickly and efficiently as possible, not just move on to the next listing.

Selling and renting property has become increasingly regulated, and trust and confidence flows from dealing with an individual who can offer expert and appropriate advice. The best local agents will employ staff who have proven expertise and who have achieved recognised qualifications in their particular specialisms. They are, therefore, better able to manage the myriad of problems that normally accompany any potential sale or purchase – increasing the likelihood of success. Some of the newer models employ so-called local experts who are in truth, neither of the two, and so may fall short on offering the help when you most need it. Only a local expert could advise confidently on local schools and catchment areas, dentists and hospitals, commuting times, potential new developments in the area, or seasonal factors such as tourism and special events.

When it comes to the move itself, there are many other services that the purchaser or investor may require; the more obvious are a solicitor, a removals company, and maybe a mortgage provider, but you may also want specialist tax advice, the name of a trustworthy builder, plumber of electrician, gardener, or interior designer…or just a key holding service and a locksmith! The best agents will know just such local professionals who are proven and trustworthy. Their business is to a large part dependent on their local reputation, and so will have built up a network of similar experts who can work together to help their clients.

Many local agents will also be part of a national network such as the Guild of Professional Estate Agents, offering joint marketing for your property across up to a thousand other similar offices. Almost 10% of buyers come from out of area, and agents will have established this as part of their conversations and can, therefore, put together purchasers and sellers who otherwise may not have connected.

So the true points of difference are actually not technology or enticements of low fees, but a proven network of local professionals who are connected into their local communities, and are financially committed to successfully selling your property.

You won’t find this on the TV adverts, but the really smart money will look for strong personal commitment, experience and expertise, great levels of service, and consistent positive outcomes for clients.

‘He who serves best will profit most’.


You can achieve a far better result by choosing a member of The Guild of Professional Estate Agents.


Liked this post? Read more on the topic here

15Jun

We all think that we have the Best Dad for hundreds of different reasons, from picking us up in Dad's Taxi at silly o'clock in the morning, to standing in the rain cheering us on when we're trying our hardest to get that elusive equaliser. It’s safe to say that our dads will always be there for us just when we need them. With Father's Day fast approaching, now is our chance to make sure they know how much we love and appreciate them and so, we'd like to wish our Great British Dads a Very Happy Father's Day on Sunday 19th June 2016.  


In honour of this special day, we've selected some of our favourite properties currently for sale within a short distance of The Good Pub Guide's 'Best British Pubs and Dining Pubs 2016'.

Pub of the Year 
Horse & Groom, Bourton-on-the-Hill


This stunning four-bedroom detached house is occupying a completely unique environment with a predominantly walled 470 square yard garden to the rear.



New Pub of the Year 
Porch House, Stow-on-the-Wold


A beautifully presented three-bedroom semi-detached property located in a popular residential area.


Beer Pub of the Year 
Fat Cat, Norwich


Four-bedroom detached residence in a leafy location close to the city, with delightful and far reaching views over the Yare Valley.  



Own-Brew Pub of the Year 
Grainstore, Oakham


Well presented six-bedroom Grade II Listed town house, including original Victorian floor tiles within the entrance hall. 


Wine Pub of the Year 
Woods, Dulverton 


Nestled within a lightly wooded valley, this four-bedroom detached residence boasts stunning views to the surrounding hillside and gardens.



Unspoilt Pub of the Year 
White Lion, Barthomley 


A fabulous and spacious five-bedroom family home located on the desirable Wychwood Park, set around a PGA European standard golf course.


Town Pub of the Year
The Wykeham Arms, Winchester


Overlooking beautiful open countryside, this five-bedroom property is a detached home of impressive proportions and exquisite finish quality.


Country Pub of the Year 
The Fleece, Bretforton 


An immaculately presented four-bedroom detached house.


Inn of the Year 
Luttrell Arms, Dunster


A fine four-bedroom Grade II Listed detached "Gentleman's Residence" built in 1925, occupying a magnificent setting within the Exmoor National Park.


Dining Pub of the Year 
Bunch of Grapes, Pontypridd


This three-bedroom house was originally built for the local mine manager and to this day still retains many original features.



Landlady of the Year 
Kathryn Horton, The Ostrich in Newland


Four-bedroom Grade II listed barn conversion with a lovely outlook towards the turrets of Clearwell Castle.


Value Pub of the Year 
Crown & Trumpet, Broadway


This three-bedroom semi-detached property is occupying a corner location within an exclusive country estate.



Dining Pub
The Pheasant, Keyston 


A six-bedroom fabulous period home is believed to date back in parts to around 1640s.


Dining Pub
Punch Bowl, Crosthwaite


A three-bedroom Grade II Listed, 18th century barn conversion refurbished in recent years with plenty of original character. 


Dining Pub
Lord Poulett Arms, Hinton St George, Somerset


A charming detached, three-bedroom cottage which dates back to the 18th Century.



*All properties are on sale at the time of publication

13Jun

The Government has recently announced details of a consultation, which plans to make switching bank accounts, utilities, and even mortgages easier for consumers, by forcing providers to improve their procedures. L&C, the UK's award-winning fee-free mortgage and insurance expert, helps us understand the switching process within the mortgage industry. 

Part of the consultation will involve gathering information to allow a better understanding of the switching process throughout different sectors – including broadband services and mobile phone contracts.

Within the mortgage industry however, experts have suggested that a 7-day turnaround is not currently a realistic target. Regulation requires that all borrowers are subject to affordability and credit checks, which must be established through the provision of documents such as banks statements and payslips. 

More of this information is likely to become available digitally, which will speed up the process, however, the recent Mortgage Credit Directive introduced a 7-day reflection period for consumers, and the requirement for lenders to offer this is an immovable object.

A property must then be valued to ensure it can provide adequate security for the loan, and the timing of this can be dependent on the surveyor. There is also a certain amount of legal work required, and again the timing of this is down to the solicitor.

Mortgage deals often come with incentives such as a free valuation or legal fees, which help to reduce the actual cost of switching, and technological advances have also already improved the process considerably. For example, in most cases applications can be submitted on-line, and automated valuations have become more commonplace. 



The process itself is not a difficult one, but homeowners are still encouraged to allow around 3 months before the end of their current deal to ensure a smooth transfer takes place. Getting all of this work done within 7 days is a difficult task, and possibly an impractical one. 

The aim of the consultation, according to Business Secretary Sajid Javid, is to ‘give consumers more power over switching providers for the services they rely on, to make sure they are getting the best deals’.

Clearly, any improvements that can be made to the switching process and any barriers that can be removed for borrowers to prevent them from becoming ‘mortgage prisoners’ are always welcome. However, it is imperative that these important checks are not abandoned, and as a result, a 7-day turnaround is likely to be some way off yet.

If you are confused about your remortgage options or simply need mortgage advice, then please speak to the Guild Mortgage Service provided by Fee free L&C Mortgages.

You can contact L&C mortgages on: 0800 073 1945


10Jun

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II reached her milestone 90th birthday in April this year, which has been marked with a number of high profile celebrations. With the final events, including Trooping the Colour and The Patrons Lunch for 10,000 guests, taking place this weekend, royal fans all over the country will be marking the occasion with fun-filled festivities too. So what better time is there for us to take a look at some of our favourite properties currently for sale within Britain's historic towns and boroughs with a royal connection?  


Royal Wootton Bassett - £595,000

Royal Wootton Bassett was the first town in over 100 years to be awarded the Royal title. If you would like to live here, this splendid four-bedroom detached residence is situated in one of the area’s most sought after tranquil cul-de-sac.


Other Royal towns include Leamington Spa and Tunbridge Wells, awarded by Queen Victoria (1838) and King Edward VII (1909) respectively, due to the recognition of their history and royal patronage of their facilities.

Leamington Spa - £650,000
This six-bedroom semi-detached property retains a wealth of original features and has the potential to become a wonderful family home.  


Set within some 2½ acres of attractive gardens, paddocks and orchard area is this truly magnificent and characterful twin Oast house conversion.



Alongside the country’s royal towns, there’s also a number of royal boroughs in the UK, including Kensington and Chelsea, Windsor and Maidenhead and Kingston upon Thames. Here’s a selection of our favourite properties situated within these royal boroughs.

An elegant, six-bedroom Grade II Listed house benefits from a large south-facing garden with separate guest annexe. The house is located within close proximity of cafes and restaurants on the famous Abbey Road.



With panoramic views of the River Thames, this three-bedroom detached townhouse aoffers a very peaceful and tranquil setting as well as a 45ft private mooring.


Subject to planning permission, this home could double in size and offers a unique opportunity to acquire and develop a three-bedroom bungalow occupying a large plot. 




As well as the royal towns and boroughs, the town of Bognor was awarded the honour of adding Regis to its name in 1929 (meaning "of the King" or "belonging to a King"), after King George V stayed in the town whilst convalescing. 


Enjoy the village lifestyle with this three/four-bedroom detached cottage style house. It's historic, cosy and quirky. 


Her Royal Majesty has a number of royal residences which she occupies throughout the year, one of them being Sandringham. Live like a Queen and take a look at this beautiful property currently for sale in Norfolk.

Set in grounds extending to nearly six acres, The Manor House comprises a delightful country house in a prestigious location on the North West Norfolk coast, within the popular village of Holme-next-the-Sea.



*All properties are on sale at the time of publication

07Jun


06Jun

Time wasters.  Carpet-traders.  Voyeurs.  Serial house-viewers with no intention of buying. It's a rising trend and so it's always a good idea to check the sincerity of potential buyers. We've put together 10 tell-tale signs you could be wasting your time with viewers that will never make an offer. Don't forget to ask questions, listen carefully and watch their body language.


1. Your best prospects will go through the house slowly, visualising themselves in each room. Listen to their comments carefully as they will imply if they can see themselves settling into your home.



2. Close study of family photographs or bookcases is simply voyeurism! Unfortunately, they're more interested in you, not your property.



3. Ask if they’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage that works with your asking price. Serious buyers would have already met with their lender and will be able to answer your question.



4. Over-complimenting the decor could mean a guilty conscience and subsequently, no offer.  

 

5. Asking about the property's utility bills and council tax is an optimistic sign. The prospective buyer will be doing the maths, trying to find out how much will they have left once they have paid the mortgage and bills.



6. Requesting to arrange a second viewing before they leave is clearly a positive indicator.


7. Look out for signs of buyer attachment. 'Possessive comments' such as debating if their sofa will fit into an existing space implies that they feel like they already own the property.



8. Learning more about local amenities including parks or dog walking opportunities is a good sign. They're looking to see if the surrounding community meets their requirements too.




9. Try to get some background about why they're interested in your property. Working within the area or having family nearby supports their reasoning for buying locally.



10. It's safe to assume that your time has been wasted when it becomes apparent that they haven't studied your property details and make comments like: "It doesn't have enough bedrooms".







 


25May

First time buyers still struggling


Rising rents are making it even harder for first time buyers to get on the property ladder these days.

Those who manage to buy their first home this year can have spent nearly £53,000 in rent, according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents. The costs vary in different parts of the country, of course, and Londoners buying this year can have paid £68,000 in rent.

It's the shortage of housing that is pushing up rents so the problem will only get worse.

Anyone who is starting to rent now, with the intention of saving for their own home, might pay out over £64,000 in rent before they have been able to get a deposit together.

Clearly finding the deposit is still the biggest hurdle for first time buyers though fortunately there is more help available for them these days. 

With the Help to Buy Isa, savers earn an extra 25% paid for by the government - that's an extra £50 for every £200 they save, to a maximum bonus of £3,000.

There are other Help to Buy schemes for people who have saved just a 5% deposit - the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the Help to Buy equity loan, and, the most recent addition, the London Help to Buy scheme.

The equity loan is only for people buying new-build property. The government lends 20% of the cost of the house so buyers need a mortgage for the remaining 75%, after paying their deposit. The London Help to Buy scheme extends the help for Londoners to 40% of the house price.

The mortgage guarantee is for people buying both new-build homes and existing properties. With the government guarantee, lenders have more confidence to give them mortgages requiring only a small deposit.

It is clear lenders are responding and today there are plenty of 95% loan to value deals around to help people with only a 5% deposit. Mortgage rates have also come down recently, making this area of the market more competitive for borrowers.


Guild Mortgage Service, Provided by London & Country Mortgages

25May

ECONOMIC NEWS MAY 2016

Newly released figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that industry in the UK has fallen back into recession. It shrank for the second quarter in a row from 0.6 per cent in the last three months of 2015 to 0.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2016. The ONS say that together, manufacturing and construction are the major components causing the overall slowdown in economic growth. Manufacturing production fell by 1.9 per cent in the first quarter compared to a year ago and is the largest fall since 2013, while construction output fell by 1.9 per cent over the same period and by 1.1 per cent from quarter four of 2015.

The ONS has also reported that the trade gap has widened to £13.3 billion in the first quarter of 2016, the deficit having increased by £1.1 billion from £12.2 billion the last three months of 2015. This was due to imports of mechanical machinery, cars, clothing, jewellery and footwear rising by £1.9 billion, while exports rose by only £500 million, led by chemical products. Analysts say that UK exports have been hampered by only moderate global demand, while sterling has been strong, particularly against the euro.

At its most recent meeting, the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted to maintain interest rates at their historic low of 0.5 per cent. In the Committee’s assessment of the health of the UK economy, it opined that a vote to leave the European Union (EU) would pose a significant risk. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said that in the light of the Bank’s responsibility for the UK’s financial stability, it would be wrong for the Bank not to give its considered view.  

Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry lobby group has cut its economic forecasts. It now says that the economy will grow by 2 per cent in 2016 and 2017, down from its previous forecast of 2.3 per cent and 2.1 per cent respectively. The cuts are a reaction to uncertainty over global growth and the outcome of the EU vote but the revised figures reflect an assumption that the UK will stay in the EU.

According to data from the website Rightmove, April saw an increase of 11.5 per cent in the number of rental properties being listed. This marked rise is believed to be due to the large number of landlords who scrambled to buy homes to let before the Stamp Duty deadline at the end of March. Research conducted by investment firm Property Partner, which looked at 90 towns and cities across the UK, showed that the supply of properties to let went up in 82 per cent of them, Worcester seeing a surge in rental properties of nearly 50 per cent.  

25May

Tracker mortgages

Until recently, financial commentators had predicted that the UK was likely to see an increase in the Bank of England Base Rate this year. A combination of factors however (including weaker economic growth and some turbulent activity in the stock market) has resulted in a re-evaluation of the forecast, and expectations for the first hike have now been pushed back out.

This has provided some scope for fixed rate mortgages to come down a little further. For those that feel rates will stay low, or are looking for a greater degree of flexibility, it could also lead to more interest in tracker mortgages. 

A tracker mortgage is a type of variable rate that follow the movements of another rate (usually the Bank of England Base Rate), typically for an initial period of 2-3 years, or even for the lifetime of the mortgage. The variable nature of the payable interest rate also means that monthly payments can go up and down, so it is not suitable for everyone. 

Some analysts have even raised the question of a potential cut in the Bank of England Base Rate, but over recent years several lenders have applied a collar to their variable deals, so borrowers need to be aware that their payments might not fall if rates do come down any further.

Our client contacted the mortgage service for the Guild of Professional Estate Agents looking for advice when purchasing a new family home. Feeling that interest rates were unlikely to increase significantly over the next couple of years, but comfortable that he could afford the monthly payments if they did begin to rise, the client was interested in the most cost-effective tracker mortgage. 

In addition to a competitive rate, flexibility was key, as the client intended to pay a lump sum off the mortgage in approximately 12 months time. After discussing these requirements, his mortgage adviser recommended a 2 year tracker deal with a major high street lender, which had no Early Repayment Charges at any time. This meant no restrictions on overpayments, and the freedom to move to a new deal if the client’s circumstances changed or rates began to increase.


Guild Mortgage Service, Provided by London & Country Mortgages


25May

Is the 100% mortgage back?

One of the big challenges for first time buyers has been in pulling together a deposit, especially when facing rising house prices in many areas.  

The credit crunch led to significant tightening in lending and as a result the number of deals on offer to those with a small deposit dropped dramatically.  There was barely a handful available at one stage but that has improved in recent years, especially after the introduction of the Help to Buy guarantee.

As a result the range of options for those with a deposit of only 5% has improved but lenders have shown little appetite to offer 100% mortgages again.

Barclays caught the headlines recently with the launch of its new version of the Family Springboard mortgage.  This extended the potential borrowing to as much as 100% of the purchase price but carries a crucial difference to the 100% mortgages (and even beyond 100%) of the peak of 2007.

The Barclays rate requires the parent or family member of the person buying the property to put 10% of the purchase price away in a separate savings account.  

The savings will earn interest and importantly remain in the parent’s name rather than having to be gifted to the child.  That could be of benefit to those that want to use the cash again at a later stage, perhaps to help a second child buy their first property.

However the savings act as additional security for the lender and the parents cannot draw on the funds for at least 3 years.  In a worst case scenario the lender could use the parental savings to cover any loss it suffered, so there is a risk to the cash.

Other deals work in a similar way but can use spare equity in the parental property as the added security that the lender requires.  That’s helpful where there isn’t a cash lump sum but does ultimately put the parental property at risk if things did go badly wrong.

Talk of a return to 100% lending is perhaps not quite the full story but these products do certainly show that lenders are trying to innovate in a competitive market. That can result in useful mortgage options as long as everyone understands the potential implications for them.


Guild Mortgage Service, Provided by London & Country Mortgages


25May

LAND REGISTRY DATA: MARCH 2016 (released 28 April 2016)

The March 2016 Land Registry data showed a fall in average house prices across England and Wales for the second month in a row with a drop of minus 0.5 per cent. Regionally, while London and the East saw prices rise by 0.2 per cent over the monthly period, all other regions experienced falls ranging from minus 0.1 per cent in the North West to minus 2.6 per cent in Yorkshire & the Humber.

On an annual basis, house prices have risen by 6.7 per cent across England and Wales, bringing the average house price to £189,901. London saw the highest annual increase in prices at 13.9 per cent and the average house price in the capital now stands at £534,785. The East and the South East also saw an annual rise in double figures at 10.7 and 10.3 per cent respectively, while the North East saw a fall of minus 0.7 per cent. In terms of property type, flats and maisonettes showed the highest annual increase at 7.5 per cent and the lowest increase was seen in semi-detached properties at 6.1 per cent.

By county and unitary authority, the strongest monthly growth was experienced in Slough with an increase of 3.1 per cent, while the most significant monthly drop occurred in Redcar & Cleveland at minus 3.5 per cent. In total, 33 counties and unitary authorities showed a fall in prices over the month. On an annual basis, Slough also had the greatest increase in prices with a movement of 22.1 per cent, while ten counties and unitary authorities experienced a fall, the greatest being Neath Port Talbot at minus 4.3 per cent.

Of the 36 metropolitan districts, Sunderland saw the highest monthly price increase at 1.6 per cent, while 22 districts experienced a fall, the greatest being Liverpool and St Helens each with a movement of minus 1.7 per cent. Coventry saw the largest annual price increase at 8.5 per cent, while three districts experienced a fall, the greatest being North Tyneside at minus 2.3 per cent. 

Of the London boroughs, Brent showed the highest monthly price increase at 2.8 per cent, while Hammersmith & Fulham saw the greatest monthly fall at minus 1.3 per cent. Lewisham had the highest annual price rise at 19.9 per cent, while Kensington & Chelsea experienced the smallest annual increase at 4.2 per cent.

The volume of properties sold in January 2016 was 5 per cent lower than a year earlier in England and Wales and 14 per cent lower in London. Over the same period, the number of properties sold for more than £1 million across England and Wales as a whole and in London rose by 2 per cent. 

Month on month, the total number of properties sold across England and Wales fell from 73,326 in December 2015 to 54,254 in January 2016 – a drop of 26 per cent. However, the number of property transactions from October 2015 to January 2016 averaged 74,374 per month, compared to 73,744 over the same period a year earlier.


25May

Good news for older borrowers

For older borrowers, securing a mortgage from a high street lender has become something of a challenge in recent years, following the Mortgage Market Review and subsequent tougher underwriting criteria. 

With the population living longer however, and our working habits evolving as a result, there have been widespread calls for the mortgage industry to adapt their policies and do more to help what is considered to be a neglected area of the market. 

Rising house prices have meant that First Time Buyers are buying later in life, often in their thirties, and taking longer mortgage terms of 30 years or more to make their loans more affordable, so the requirement for lending into retirement is set to continue.

The good news is that mainstream lenders have now begun to respond to the growing demand for change. In recent weeks Halifax has announced a lift in the maximum age at the end of the mortgage term from 75 to 80, a move which was followed by Nationwide, which plans to increase its limit by 10 years to 85. 

There will of course be restrictions on lending – borrowers will have to prove that they have adequate income into retirement, and Nationwide has put a maximum loan of £150,000 in place, with equity of at least 40% required. 

Changes like this could open up options for many borrowers who are considered to be ‘mortgage prisoners’ – for example homeowners with interest only mortgages who wish to switch to repayment and require a longer mortgage term to make their loan affordable. 

Smaller building societies, such as National Counties – who can lend up to the age of 89, have had a more individual approach to lending for some time, but these most recent changes are being viewed by the industry as a step in the right direction for mainstream lending.


Guild Mortgage Service, Provided by London & Country Mortgages


20May

The colours you choose for your home will play a large role in determining the feel of each room. When planning an interior makeover you should always choose a specific colour scheme and incorporate this into your design concept. Some people have an eye for colour and instinctively know which colours look good together. However, if you’re not sure what colours work well together, it is a good idea to use a colour wheel to help understand how different colours interact with each other.


Firstly, decide what look you would like to create in your home. Modern? Vintage? Earthy? Think about what best reflects your personality and fits with the things you own. Terracotta and ocher are perfect for an earthy scheme while muted shades will help you achieve that vintage feel. Contemporary look can be achieved by opting for intense palette of colours like violet or lime green. 



If you are aiming to create a relaxing space, select a harmonious or tonal colour scheme. If you are using a colour wheel, opt for colours that are adjacent to each other. 



If you would like to add drama, opt for a complementary scheme, where you choose two colours that sit opposite each other on the
colour wheel.



Colour can also help to optically enlarge small space. One way you can do this is by using a single neutral shade for walls and floors throughout. You can change the colour in each room of the house but make sure you choose tones that naturally complement each other. Start with the hallway when selecting colours in order to create a flow throughout the space.



You can also use colour to draw attention away from any architectural flaws. Unappealing items such as heaters can be camouflaged by painting them the same colour as the walls. Hang a large painting or use a dramatic colour to create a central point of the room and divert attention from unwanted features. 


Once you have made your decision, stick with it. There’s no point undoing all of your good work with a wrongly coloured impulse purchase. Take a picture of your furniture or samples of fabrics you need to match when you go shopping for paint colours or interior items. As you settle into your colour scheme, you’ll soon find it easy to pick pieces that work within your colours and keep the harmony of your home.

13May

If you are after a home with a difference, there are plenty of unusual properties on sale across the country. From a family-run zoo, to historic grand manors and individually designed houses with rare architectural features, there’s something for everyone. We’ve selected our favourite ten unusual properties currently on the market in the UK. 


Previously an imposing castle manor, the building is currently being used as an HMO but could also make a wonderful family home. It comes with a recently renovated detached annexe, and is conveniently located for transport links to Manchester. It also boosts large gardens and beautiful views over the surrounding countryside.




Lisvane, Cardiff - £1,195,000

If you’re looking for a completely bespoke, one-of property, then look no further! This individually designed luxury house features a rotunda turret with a dome, five bedrooms, including a grand reception hall, and spreads over 3,000 ft of land. 





Now this is what we call a property with a twist! Animalarium is a family owned ZOO in a Welsh coastal location within a walking distance of the beach. The property stands in approximately 12 acres of grounds and gardens and comes with a two-bedroom detached bungalow, animal enclosures, children play area and all the equipment, including a quad bike and a trailer. 



Living in a converted mill? Why not! This stunning duplex apartment is situated in a desirable location with access to the University town of Loughborough. Featuring high ceilings, en-suite master bedroom and a large, open-plan kitchen, it will make a perfect home for someone with a flair for a bit of luxury.



Woolwich, London - £448,000

This two-bedroom flat is set within a brand new development in central Woolwich. The building itself is an architectural spectacle with its unusual shape and modern features. Its prime location is ideal for young professionals commuting into London, who will appreciate the close proximity of rail links, restaurants, bars and shops. 




This impressive manor house dates back as far as AD 945 and has enjoyed the visits of many royal guests over the years. It has recently been refurbished to a very high standard, including both exterior and interior work. As a result, the property has the features of a brand new house, yet retains all of its old charm and history. 



If you’ve always dreamed of running your own hospitality business, now is your chance. The Bulls Head Hotel is situated in a fantastic trading position within the busy town of Hawes, a popular tourist destination. The property retains a wealth of character and comes with seven letting rooms plus an excellent owners’ accommodation. 




The four-bedroom and four-reception room townhouse comes with a breath-taking piece of land of approximately 2301 sq ft. While only a few minutes from the town centre, the property is located on the peripheries of the historic town Lewes and the future owners will enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding South Downs countryside.



Originally a choir house of a historic chapel, this stunning 1880’s Grade II Listed period building has now been converted into a spectacular triplex apartment. Vast array of late Victorian hallmarks, beautiful stone masonry and the original chapel doors are complemented by number of modern features, including contemporary kitchen, ceiling speakers and iPod integration. 



This charming, Grade II Listed period cottage will make an ideal home for those looking to live the country life with the advantages of convenient city commute. Situated at the heart of the village, the location offers easy transport links to Oxford and London. The cottage dates back to 1680s and has wonderful character features, such as exposed beams and fireplaces.  




*All properties on sale at the time of publication

10May

One of the burning questions in the property market is whether the new ‘online’ models are a passing fancy, or a fundamental disruptor to an industry which has seen little major change in the last 10 years. Marcus Whewell, CEO of The Guild of Professional Estate Agents, discusses what impact they will have on the estate agency industry. 

Whisper it quietly, but my provocation is that this is only a sideshow; the future battle for the hearts and minds of estate agency will be over the customer experience, not technology or cost. The former is only a means to an end, and the latter is what marketers resort to when they have no significant points of differentiation.

Agents are paid to sell houses / let properties, not to market them; in truth, many people now believe that the major portals can deliver the latter just fine on their own. 

There is, in general, a broad lack of understanding of what agents really do. Add to this a fragmented market which often publishes inconsistent and confusing data, plus a shortage of residential stock, and it is no surprise that vendors and landlords expect more for less. But employing a so-called professional (however technically advanced) to fail to sell your property is not a sustainable or compelling proposition. 

So the real revolution may not be ‘online’ (almost every so-called agent is already in this space), but great marketing and consistent delivery of high levels of service. Because real differentiators are hard to find, agents have almost halved their (percentage) commission rates in the last decade, yet the biggest opportunity of all may be right in front of us.

Great service is not just convenient opening hours and polite and timely communications (although there is also work to do here); true professionals provide local, timely and appropriate advice throughout the transactions process to help secure a better result than would have been achieved otherwise. This can’t be aggregated and distilled, but needs local expertise and commitment. However, harness this to useful and clever technology (such as 24/7 online booking of appointments), and we may have a change of gear.

Some agencies seem to have taken this to heart, and are attempting to transform themselves by adopting a large retailer approach. Unfortunately, supermarkets have never proven to be good estate agents.

The smart money will focus on customer engagement, positive relationships, and consistent achievement; the other end of the service scale (minimum fees, irregular contact, and constant disappointment) will become the graveyard for the resistant, stubborn, sickly and obsolescent. 

‘He will profit most who serves best’.


05May

We all know that Spring is generally the best time to sell your house. The bright daylight will make your home look lovely and people tend to have clear schedules. But what about an exact month? We’ve dug a little deeper than just seasons and have searched out the best month for all different kinds of properties.

To sell a home successfully (for the most amount of money in the shortest possible time), it’s essential that you find the right buyers. This is, after all, what it comes down to – finding those people who are keen to move into your house and are willing to put an offer in straight away for its full value (not to be confused with asking price). Timing is everything when it comes to finding these buyers. They’re out there, but if they aren’t looking for a home when you market yours, there’s little hope in them finding it. This is why it’s difficult to pin down an exact month that’s best for selling houses; because different houses appeal to different buyers who are all looking at various times of the year. Therefore, it’s often best to think about the best month in relation to each various type of property. Here’s a good overview of what’s typically on the market in the UK.

One/two-bedroom flat

These types of properties tend to appeal to young professionals. Depending on the asking price, it might also appeal to first-time buyers. With Christmas out of the way, lots of young professionals start looking in February. They also tend to start searching in September, when they’re no longer busy with summer holidays and weekends away, and would like to get moving before Christmas.

Three-bedroom house
As classic family homes, these tend to attract second-steppers who are climbing up the ladder and either have children or are planning to have a family in the near future. Try to avoid selling this kind of house in school holidays when your target buyers may be busy trying to find childcare or running around after the children themselves. April is a good month to sell three-bedroom houses as the target buyers are likely to be looking now, thanks to Easter being out of the way and with the summer holidays a couple of months away.

Four-bedroom house
Likewise, these properties tend to appeal to families and are usually afforded by people who are moving onto their third or fourth property. You could go for April, as you would if you were selling a three-bedroom house. However, February might be even more effective, as you’ll avoid the masses of houses that are coming to market at this time. This is important as you need yours to stand out because your buyers are likely to be experienced in viewing houses and more selective in what they choose.

Five-bedroom house +
Larger houses and luxury properties are typically more difficult to sell, simply because there are fewer buyers out there and they are searching for something truly special. The best month to sell a luxury house is typically in April, just like the family houses. This is because it’s a busy time in the property market, and you need to get yours out there when the optimum number of buyers are searching. But be careful, lots of other properties will be coming to market at this time, so make sure yours is marketed efficiently and has superb photos.

Conclusion
So what do we think? Is it February or April? Well, we would say April for most houses. It’s usually free of school holidays, often has sunny days and it’s popular – and when lots of people selling, lots of people are buying, too.

04May


28Apr

Award winning beaches, a 2,500-year-old castle and a number of attractions make Scarborough very popular with families. In fact, people have been flocking to the historic coastal town since the 1600s when the spa waters were discovered, and today it’s still as popular as ever. Thanks to the thriving town centre, community events and close proximity to the beautiful North York Moor National Park, no wonder that so many families choose to live in this coastal town.

Pubs and places to eat
The Plough in Scalby is just three miles from Scarborough and is the ideal spot for a tasty lunch, dinner with friends or a quiet pint by a roaring fire. It’s on the edge of the North York Moors, so you can stop here for a plate of yummy food after a brisk walk in the national park.

Lanterna Ristorante has been serving up plates of Italian delicacies for some 40 years. Bringing a taste of Piedmont in Northern Italy to North Yorkshire, they specialise in game, risotto, and pasta. Chocolate lovers won’t be disappointed – homemade truffles are their ultimate speciality!

If you’re a fan of Chinese, you can indulge at Kam Sang and either eat in or order a takeaway. Or, if Indian is more your thing, there are plenty of places that you can grab a yummy meal, and The Scarborough Tandoori is a popular choice amongst the locals.

Green spaces and leisure
There are three gorgeous parks in which to while your afternoon away in Scarborough. Peasholm Park has a central island with a Japanese Pagoda that’s surrounded by a lake. South Cliff Gardens stretch from an area of The Spa Bridge across to the Holbeck Landslip and is home to beautifully manicured flowerbeds, elegant ponds and pretty woodland. In Royal Albert Park, you’ll find gorgeous views across the bay as well as a skate park and a BMX park.

Keen surfers can enjoy riding the waves at a number of locations along the coast, and the little ones will never tire of building sandcastles at the three most well-known beaches; North Bay Beach, Cayton Bay Beach and Cornelian Bay Beach.

Transport links
Scarborough Rail station connects locals to a number of northern cities, such as Leeds, York and Manchester. The A64 is the main road into Scarborough and from here you can get to the A1 to travel further afield.

Schools
Scalby School, Graham School and St Augustine’s Catholic School are three of the main secondary schools in the area. Scarborough College is an independent school, covering ages 13 to 18, and Bramcote Junior School is the independent school for children aged 4 to 13. 

Types of property
RJS Estates, the local Guild Member, praises Scarborough for its wonderful range in property; ‘Here in Scarborough we are fortunate to have such a diversity of property. We have period cottage homes in rural villages, smart Victorian and Edwardian terraces, handsome semi-detached houses, built during the 1930’s, as well as a modern mix of bungalows and purpose built apartments. We have sea views, picturesque countryside vistas and harbour side fisherman’s cottages. There is something for everyone.’

Property market
RJS Estates provides a great insight into the current local property market to give us an idea of which properties are proving popular and tells us which regeneration projects the town is enjoying. 

‘We have seen an upsurge in popularity for properties over the £250,000 price range with bungalows still proving very popular. Flats and apartments, especially those close to the sea also receive interest from the second home market.’

Recent and continuous investment in the town has brought us an Open Air Theatre, popular with many big name artists, and the upgrading of North Bay now provides a lovely walk to town. In South Bay, our eagerly awaited water park is well on its way to being built. We will also soon be the proud recipients of a brand new purpose built multi complex sports centre. This is being developed just outside the town centre which will offer facilities for almost every sport.’

27Apr

When it comes to choosing which estate agent to sell your home, it can often feel like you’re splitting hairs. They all claim to offer the best solution by getting you the best price for your property. But is this all that moving home is about? Good estate agents will take the stress of moving home out of your hands. So how do you find one that you can trust to look after everything for you, while still achieving the best possible price? The answer is simple, look for The Guild badge! Here’s an insight on why your local Guild Member can help you secure the best result.

Marketing & Exposure

National & local exposure
Finding a buyer for your home isn’t just about listing it on a search portal and getting loads of buyers through the door for viewings. You want to find committed buyers who are actively looking for properties like yours in your area, and this takes the work of a local agent who really gets to know their buyers. As independent estate agents, Guild Members have the best of both worlds: local expertise and national exposure. Did you know that 15% of buyers are actually looking to move away? Guild Agents are able to find buyers who are looking to move to the area by working with their fellow Members to gain leads and insights. They also share syndicated websites featuring a national search, which means that your property would be visible on hundreds of estate agents’ websites across the UK.

Property magazines
Lifestyle and regional magazines promote properties of all Guild Members located in a specific region alongside engaging lifestyle content. Distributed through Members in the region, your property details will be in the hands of potential buyers living within 50-mile radius of your home. 

National Property Centre – Park Lane
The National Property Centre on Park Lane, Mayfair, is another very lucrative marketing resource, and your local Guild Agent can promote your home on the external touchscreens 24/7 to target the London investor market.

Professional marketing
Marketing your home professionally is very important for attracting the right buyer for your home. Guild Members can work directly with an expert Graphic Design Studio to create eye-catching material that will wow-buyers and encourage them to arrange a viewing.

Trust & Confidence

Training schemes
A surprising number of estate agents in the UK are not professionally trained, and The Guild is turning this around. Through our training schemes, your local Guild Agent can train their staff so they are all up-do-date with the latest changes in legislation and ‘best practice’. This means that our Members can ensure they are equipped to offer guidance to help you the make right decisions during your move.

Redress schemes
All Guild Agents must be members of The Ombudsman or RICS, the leading industry redress schemes, so you can rest assured that any problems will be dealt with efficiently.

IT & Intelligence

Videos
By choosing a Guild Member, you will have an access to highly professional videos that can be produced for your property to give buyers a virtual tour of your home, providing a more detailed impression of your property.

Electronic magazines
Your property can be promoted within your Guild Members’ electronic magazines, which are sent directly to buyers who are actively looking in your area.

Responsive websites
Guild Agents can have responsive websites designed and created, meaning your property details will be easy to view on laptops, tablets and mobile devices.

Additional Services

Conveyancing, removals and mortgages
Taking the stress out of moving home comes down to more than just selling your property. Guild Agents can help their clients to choose a suitable mortgage and find an expert conveyancer. They also have access to a number of local removal companies that can help pack and unpack your belongings to get you settled in your new home.

To find your local Guild Member, please visit the website.

25Apr

In recent years, buying a house and getting the keys has reportedly been increasingly difficult. Marcus Whewell, CEO of The Guild of Professional Estate Agents, asks why and considers if the UK needs a new approach how property transactions are governed.

One of the more remarkable statistics about the UK residential property market is that almost a third of sales agreed never actually complete. I can’t think of any other business which has such a high fall out ratio, and no other developed country can report such an unenviable statistic.

Some sales collapse for exemplary reasons, where for example a vendor’s or buyer’s circumstances change unexpectedly. However, a significant part of this is due to the time taken – currently an average of 12-14 weeks (but can be much longer for a long chain), which introduces many more variables into the process. This not only means wasted costs, but lives are put on hold and valuable opportunities are missed.

Don’t say it too loudly, but almost every good estate agent can secure some sort of offer in a market where instructions are in such short supply – maybe even the ‘DIY portals’. However, this is where the hard work begins and professionals earn their fees. This may be news to the general public, which highlights how ineffectively the industry markets its expertise and value (as opposed to cheap fees).

So given that transaction numbers have been relatively predictable for some years, where are the pinch points?

Searches can take up to 12 weeks* because some processes are still manual as opposed to automated. Such a low level of service should be unacceptable, and maybe SLAs should now be introduced with fines and compensation for poor performance.

Solicitors normally undertake much of the legal work, but conveyancing capacity in the UK has shrunk by approximately 5% in the last two years. Consequently, surges in demand, as seen recently prior to the additional stamp duty for ‘buy to let properties’, can cause significant problems. Solicitors are loath to turn business away and so another blockage is created. Buyers and vendors do not always understand the process and agents are often left to try to explain, and in some cases, also take the blame. Maybe solicitors’ fees could be flexed, so that they are rewarded for service and encouraged to invest in more capacity?

Securing a mortgage is normally relatively straightforward (as long as the buyer has a good credit score and a suitable deposit); but the process of checking individuals’ creditworthiness is not very rigorous and needs overhauling. In fact, some people can get a higher score for having been in debt compared to those who have not, and scores can even be affected by another family member, such a child not paying their mobile phone bill.

Most buyers will require a survey to secure a mortgage. As the number of surveyors in the UK falls and their own insurance liabilities increase, there is a natural tendency for them to undervalue, thereby delaying or risking the loan application. Also, to reduce fees, so-called panel surveyors are employed from out of area and paid relatively low sums to value the property, often with little local knowledge or experience, again risking under valuations.

In a market of perceived changing prices (fed by the popular media), such delays can lead to frustration and reassessments - and buyers and vendors may decide to pull out if they think the deal is no longer the best on offer, or try to renegotiate. Some estate agents will even whisper in their ear that ‘you can now do even better by remarketing your property’, but who pays the costs incurred? This is wasted money on aborted transactions that could be invested in higher levels of marketing and service. Why not ask for a bond from both sides to demonstrate commitment, subject to survey, returnable on completion?

In 2007 the Government attempted to improve the house buying process with mandatory HIPs (Home Improvement Packs), but these were withdrawn in 2010 after widespread opposition (mainly around cost, implementation, and lack of substance). The idea was not all bad, but poorly executed, with the various problems flagged by leading estate agents before the launch. Some even blame the 2008-9 housing crisis on this initiative by unnecessarily deterring vendors from marketing their properties.

So the market process is remarkably agricultural, and wastes literally hundreds of millions of pounds a year of the public’s and private businesses’ money. Good estate agents will find the best local partners and try to shave time off the process, but this is not a structural, long-term solution.

The fundamental question is whether the industry and Government want ‘cheap and cheerful’, with public perception of excessive competition driving lower costs, but with relatively high levels of frustration and failure – or a more professional approach where the transactions process is undertaken in a timely and proper way. Not all markets work better with minimal regulation.

If the Housing Minister wants to make a real difference, can I suggest that he only needs to focus on two areas:

•    Release more brownfield land for housing development (the Government has the largest stockpile).
•    Review the residential buying and selling process via an open consultation with the experts who suffer from its various fault lines, and probably know more than anyone else how to make substantial improvements.

*Observed in Estate Agent Today on 25.6.16