What About The Children?

childrenShowing your home to prospective purchasers can be stressful enough, but children add an extra dimension and their needs should be considered.

Moving house might be logical and exciting for an adult, but the fear of the unknown can be upsetting for children. That room or corner of the garden that has been their special place for most of the child’s life is about to be taken away from them, as they are rocketed out of their comfort zone into unknown territory.

After you have made the decision to move, child psychologists usually advise telling the children as soon as you can. They are certain to find out one way or another and being up front with them will enable you to manage the process better and stay in control.

Parents nevertheless need to be sensitive when discussing the move, and make a point of highlighting the exciting aspects of a new home. Ask your child what they would like to find in their ideal home. They don’t have to have a major influence on your decision, but their apparent involvement in the process will pay dividends.

Likewise, if your children regard the move as a positive thing they are more likely to be co-operative when buyers come to view your property. A stress-related temper-tantrum as the buyer walks through your door is to be avoided at all costs! Indeed, no matter how sweet your children may be, they are more likely to be a distraction to a prospective buyer than an advantage. This is one of the many reasons why we always aim to accompany purchasers around our clients’ property. So our respectful advice is this: ideally, leave the viewing to the trained agent and take the children (and the dog) for a walk! Happy Selling!

For more advice on any aspect of your move, please feel free to contact either our Wellingborough, Irthlingborough or Rushden office.

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November 2016 Property Market Comment

novemberThe property market depends on fluidity and activity to be regarded as healthy. This year the number of transactions has been light, based on a dearth of supply. This has itself fed the problem with sellers being reluctant to put their property on the market if they only have a limited choice of onward purchase.

But this seems to be easing. Last month, HMRC reported a 1% increase in transactional volumes – a small but significant step in the right direction that compares very favourably with the 4.3% drop during the previous month (although still 8% down on the same time last year).

There is a feeling that with all the current woes of the world, the market might just be beginning to peak, with an imminent interest rate rise a distinct possibility. According to one national firm of estate agents, buyer demand is down 22% on the year (although we hadn’t noticed) and there are still nine buyers registered for every property available.

Rightmove tells us that the price of property coming to market is on average down 1.1% this month, which is lower than the 1.8% six year seasonal average. This may indicate a degree of resilience based on low volumes supporting prices. First time buyers (average age 33) are feeling the brunt of this, with a monthly rise of 1.7% for one or two bedroom flats. The pressure might be off FTBs slightly in the short term with the news that letting agency fees for tenants are to be abolished, although this may have the effect of pushing up rents in the medium to long term.

The announcement in the autumn statement by the Chancellor that the government is to inject £2.3billion into housing is certainly to be welcomed, although is unlikely to have any effect on actual supply for at least two to three years.

Annually, the Land Registry reports average house prices across the UK are up 7.7% at £217,888, reflecting some stability in the market during a politically turbulent year.

Stability and confidence, which are key to the security homeowners have in the UK property market, appear to be in abundance, making this as good a time as ever to consider a move. And, in view of the intense portal viewing activity over Christmas (about double that of other times of year), it might not be a bad idea to consider putting your property on the market the same day you start your Christmas shopping.

Why not call us for some well-considered, straight-talking advice? You might be pleasantly surprised!

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Richard James Wins Top Award At Prestigious Estate Agency Event

_80a2372We are celebrating being crowned the 2016 Relocation Agent Network Agent of the Year. We received our award at this year’s Relocation Agent Network Awards Dinner held on Friday 18 November at the Sofitel Hotel and Conference Centre, Heathrow.

The Agent of the Year Award is the most coveted prize Relocation Agent Network, the national network of selected estate agents, can give. Nominees are selected for the award because of the outstanding service that they have provided to their customers. They are judged on all aspects of estate agency, from marketing to customer care, professionalism to experience and reputation to commitment, which are all analysed in detail to decide the winner.

The black tie evening Awards Dinner was hosted by comedian and actor, Miles Jupp, who presented us with our award. In addition to collecting the night’s top prize, Richard James was also awarded two more accolades, the Best Agent Regional Award – Central and Customer Relocation Award.

The Best Agent Regional award recognises a member’s overall contribution to Relocation Agent Network, their ability to achieve customer satisfaction and a strong market share locally. The Customer Relocation Awards recognise members that have generated the greatest number of referrals over the past year.

Referrals are an important element of Relocation Agent Network: if a customer plans to relocate to another area of the country, their Network agent will recommend that the relocating area’s local member assist in their move to the new location.

We are absolutely thrilled to have been named Relocation Agent Network’s Agent of the Year. This is the Network’s top award, so the accolade really does highlight the true determination, hard work and professionalism of every member of the Richard James team. It’s a clear message to all of our buying and selling customers – the service that Richard James provides is the very highest in Wellingborough, Irthlingborough and Rushden and across Relocation Agent Network.”

Richard Tucker, Relocation Agent Network’s Managing Director said, “We are so proud to name Richard James as our 2016 Agent of the Year. The team’s commitment to outstanding customer service has been demonstrated time and time again and they truly are the Network’s leading estate agent. As the highest accolade that we can give, the Agent of the Year award shows that – in our opinion – Richard James Estate Agents is among the UK’s most accomplished estate agents.”

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A Winter’s Sale?

snowmanThere are many reasons why people put off selling their property at this time of year in the belief that there could be a better time to do it: it’s too cold, it’s too wet, it’s too dark, the house is not looking its best, school holidays, Christmas, New Year, etc. At this time of the year many people say they will wait until the spring before putting their home on the market, as that is supposedly the best time to sell.

Whilst properties certainly look more appealing in the spring, there are solid reasons for bringing your property to market during the winter. Firstly, whilst you can choose when you sell, a buyer’s timing is usually more likely to be determined by circumstances rather than the season. Serious buyers won’t let Christmas deter them.

Secondly, many properties come onto the market in the spring thereby increasing supply, meaning buyers have more choice which also puts them in a stronger bargaining position.

It also means that, by the time a buyer is found, you will be able to take advantage of this increase in supply yourself as you seek a new home. Having a buyer for your own property ahead of everyone else puts you in a strong position as a purchaser, with a selection of properties from which to choose in a market of buyers who have otherwise yet to sell.

This time of year usually produces a sharp increase in the supply of qualified buyers who want to conclude a sale by Christmas – and often at top prices too.

So why wait, when you can take advantage of today’s market? If you are contemplating moving, please phone us on 01933 224400 to discuss how our marketing plan could have you sold by Christmas. Your timing might just be perfect.

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Three Branches – Our Secret Weapon

three-offices

One could argue that the more offices an agent has, the more exposure your property will enjoy. But would you really benefit if your agent has a branch in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Cardiff and Southampton as well as East Northamptonshire? Highly unlikely! Don’t be impressed by the sheer size of an agency – the only buyers that matter to you are those who may be interested in buying your property in your area.

However, we find that one of our most effective “secret weapons” is the fact that we cover three adjacent areas each from its own dedicated but interconnected branch.

The way the offices work together is one of the reasons for our continued success in the area. This is because we recognise that buyers seldom actually buy the property about which they enquired. In practice they tend to buy a property which is often a compromise, falling slightly below the ideal criteria they initially hoped to achieve. Our research and experience suggest that the most common form of compromise is “location”. The effect of this is that we often register buyers who are initially attracted to one of our offices but end up buying a property offered to them via another.

At Richard James, we go to great lengths to understand our buyers’ wants, needs and aspirations. Our three offices can then liaise closely in order to find a way of delivering results for our sellers whilst expanding the possibilities for our buyers. So when you are next thinking about which agent to choose – think twice, as three heads are not only better than one, but usually also better than a hundred!

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Richard James Shortlisted For 2016 Best Agent In Central Region Award

miles-ranWe are pleased to announce we have been shortlisted by Relocation Agent Network, a national network of selected estate agents, for the 2016 Best Agent Central Region Award.

The winner will be announced at a black tie evening Awards Dinner held at the 5-star luxury Sofitel Hotel and Conference Centre, Heathrow on Friday 18 November. The Awards Dinner closes Relocation Agent Network’s annual National Conference, and this year is hosted by comedian and actor, Miles Jupp.

Relocation Agent Network’s Best Agent Central Region Award is an annual prize for the agent that has consistently made the best overall contribution to the Network throughout the year and offers nominees the chance to become the Network’s ‘Best Network Agent in the Central Region’. To reach this stage of the award programme, agents must demonstrate excellent customer service, innovative business initiatives and a commitment to the Relocation Agent Network principles.

We are thrilled to have been shortlisted by Relocation Agent Network in the Best Agent Regional Award category. The nomination recognises every member of the team and highlights our effort and commitment over the last 12 months.

Richard Tucker, Relocation Agent Network’s Managing Director commented, “Our Network is made up of specially selected estate agents from across England, Scotland and Wales. The annual Best Agent Central Region Award recognises the agent in the region that demonstrates outstanding customer service and innovations, on a daily basis. Congratulations to Richard James for their well deserved nomination.”

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The Critical Importance of Referencing

refencingIn an ideal world, once a tenant has been found, it would be good to think that you, as a landlord, can simply sit back and watch your investment deliver the anticipated return on investment without further involvement. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why some letting agents only offer a tenant finding service. Simple really – or is it?

Experience is a great teacher, and we have proven time and again that tenants must be fully referenced before signing, including a thoroughly researched rental history.

Unreliable tenants cause landlords the most sleepless nights according to research by the National Landlords Association, with 57% of NLA members saying that unreliable tenants are one of the most worrying aspects of being a landlord.

So what is a reliable tenant? Well obviously one who pays the rent, in full on time, and makes sure all the utility bills are also paid. But reliability goes beyond this. Will they turn out to be anti-social, perhaps making excessive noise, leading to complaints from neighbours? Good landlords are keen to make sure that their tenants behave as ‘good citizens’.

Damage to the premises, fixtures, fittings and contents, creates hassle for landlords as well as significant additional expense, especially when it goes beyond what is covered by the tenant’s deposit.”

Approximately 36% of landlords nationally (source NLA) have, at some point in the past, been obliged to resort to the courts to seek possession of a property from a troublesome tenant, although our own eviction rate low!

Our job as letting agents is to ensure that the right tenant is secured in the first place, and then managed well, so that the landlord can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing your investment is delivering a return on investment, not a headache.

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What’s Wrong With Rightmove & Zoopla?

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There’s no question about it, buyers visit Rightmove and Zoopla because they provide easily-searched access to properties currently available for sale. Or do they?

Certainly property portals are efficient and estate agents have embraced them for many years as being an important addition to their marketing toolbox. On the surface, people no longer apparently need to register with an estate agent when looking for a property. However, those buyers who do register directly, tend to find they are offered properties before they appear on the portals.

We find that an increasing proportion of property sellers engage us to market their home using more discrete marketing methods than overt portal or other advertising exposure. There are several reasons for this – maybe they want to test the market or they have not yet announced the move to their friends and family. Perhaps they simply don’t want to risk overexposing their property and want to keep it exclusive, available only to pre-qualified buyers that their estate agent has personally vetted.

As a buyer, by registering directly with an estate agent you therefore put yourself at an advantage in terms of access to unexpected properties that you might otherwise have missed. Additionally because so many buyers register through the portals, by registering directly with agent you are demonstrating your commitment to buying in a specific area and you are more likely to be regarded as a viable and legitimate purchaser. This puts you in pole position to hear about opportunities to view properties as soon as they become available, often ahead of other “run-of-the-mill” buyers.

Sometimes it’s the counterintuitive approach that pays off! So if you’re thinking of buying, why not register directly with us at www.richardjames.net and see how what it feels finally to enjoy “club membership” status! You might be pleasantly surprised!

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October 2016 Property Market Comment

RAFPowerful opposing forces seem to be keeping the property market in check this October, driven by the usual suspects. Demand remains high, but supply is still short. Interest rates are historically low, based on a bank rate of just 0.25%, so mortgages remain cheap, but are difficult to get, with 12% of self-employed applicants being turned down. House prices in the three months to September were 5.8% higher than the same time last year, but down 0.1% down on the previous three months.

The London market, which tends to lead the way for the rest of the country is similarly confused, with first time buyers now almost completely priced out as only 2% of sales in the capital are currently below £150,000. Yet the prime central London market has all but collapsed with just five transactions over £10million, against 35 transactions this time last year. This is despite the falling pound offering exceptional value for wealthy foreign investors.

This same weaker pound has had its effect on inflation, with the latest figures showing a leap to 1% and expected to rise further, based on higher fuel and import costs. Fortunately, wage inflation is currently around 2% but nevertheless, higher costs of living could possibly hit confidence levels going forward, especially when combined with a host of Brexit-related fears.

It’s tempting to over-analyse these things. Despite the above often-conflicting factors, the market remains steady and property, as ever, a reliable investment. The key thing is to ensure that your personal/family/career needs are met in your home. If you need or want to move, just do it! If everyone took this stance, then the supply issue would be addressed, buyers would have more choice and property might become a bit more affordable.

Nevertheless, despite the need for more affordable properties, our job remains very much in favour of helping our sellers secure the highest price the market will tolerate, and in that we excel. So if you’re thinking of moving, why not invite us to comment on your own potential sale – you might be pleasantly surprised!

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The Power Of Pre-Marketing

privateThere is a strong argument for creating maximum exposure for a property during its time on the market, and much of our effort and resources are spent achieving the right exposure in the right places.

However, one of the most powerful ways of securing a fast sale at a high price can actually result from minimal exposure – or rather exposure only to a select few!

It works by taking advantage of the fact that people enjoy being offered something on an exclusive basis, especially when it is a property that is “just about to come onto the market”. So we often offer our new instructions “off-market” to our pre-registered “hottest” buyers first, resulting in a number of recent sales that were never even advertised! Additionally, promoting to potential buyers that we also have properties that don’t appear on our website or any portals generates curiosity and a feeling that the buyer could be missing out on something good. This encourages buyers to register with us so they can then gain access to a potentially popular property with little or no competition.

The prices achieved using this method tend to be good as well, as buyers of such a property know that it is unlikely that the seller would consider anything below the asking price during these early days of marketing.

We find that many sellers like the idea of an initial period of quiet marketing, especially in instances of a marriage break up, a death in the family, a prominent house in a small village, financial difficulties or any other reason where people don’t yet want it to be publicly known that they are selling. The concept also reduces the risk of overexposure or of the property “going stale” on the market.

Of course, it does rely on a strong register of qualified buyers, but that’s never been a problem for us at Richard James Estate Agents!

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