Category Archives: News

First-time buyer Tips

FTB1As the average age of first-time buyers continues to rise – the latest figures suggest this is now 37, so the market is less driven from below, but by a complex combination of personal, local and national factors.

Yet even if you are in your 30’s, buying your first property can seem pretty scary! “Am I making the right decision?”, “Can we really afford this?”, “What if the market falls?”, “Should we have offered less?” are understandable questions.

So here are few tips which we hope will help:

• You don’t have to see everything on the market. The national average is about 6 properties viewed before an offer is made. See enough to educate yourself as to what sort of property is typically available in your price range and ask yourself the question “Could I be happy here?”
• If you like a property, you can be sure that everybody else will as well! This is especially true of well-priced properties which are new on the market. So if you see something that seems right, go for it before someone else does.
• Get your mortgage agreed in principle. This puts you in a much stronger buying position.
• For the sake of what is often a relatively small amount of money, it is usually worth making an offer at or close to the asking price. This demonstrates commitment to the vendor and it’s just not worth losing the right home to someone else.
• Don’t quibble over minor points. Be flexible over fixtures and fittings and completion dates,
• Be nice to the vendor – if they like you they are more likely to accept your offer.

Homeownership is exciting and your new home is likely to provide you with long term security, comfort and stability. Enjoy!

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2017 Budget Comment – Government Ignores Property Crisis

nintchdbpict000307452753[1]Wednesday’s budget was noticeable for the absence of any mention of the housing market. This oversight was met with derision from almost ever organisation with an interest in the property sector. There has been a succession of housing ministers over recent years, each of which has introduced several, mostly ill-considered, policies which have effectively damaged the sector by tinkering with it, rather than by providing serious reform.

Of course, if you’re a regular homeowner you could be forgiven for asking “what’s the problem?” The British housing market has proven to be a secure and profitable investment that has withstood considerable economic stresses and has consistently outperformed many other investment sectors, whilst simultaneously providing a roof over our heads.

However, the problem lies in the very success of the market itself. As estate agents, we share our clients’ delight in securing another record price in a street; but how sustainable is this continual growth? And what are the social implications? The plight of the first time buyer, priced out of the market in many areas, must be addressed, but the government seems to be doing little to help. On the contrary, it’s banning of tenants’ referencing fees, combined with a massive hike in SDLT on buy-to-let investments, as well as the phased withdrawal of tax relief on mortgage interest for landlords, all conspire to disincentivise landlords from buying, thereby reducing stock and pushing up rents. What is being done to help the younger generation?

Nationally, transaction levels are already some 25% down on this time last year (fortunately at Richard James Estate Agents we have been able to buck this trend) and this will have a knock-on effect on the economy – not least from the home improvement spending that usually accompanies a purchase.

Despite this fall, the government’s SDLT revenues from residential sales in 2016/17 is expected to be some 13.6% higher than last year at a whopping £8.3 billion, due to the new way in which SDLT is charged. Could the government not have done something constructive in the sector from which it takes so much? And to apparently ignore the problem by not even acknowledging it mentioning it in the budget is an insult to a generation.

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Financial Clout

Financial CloutOne of the greatest frustrations in selling a property is delay. Delay not only causes anxiety, but also provides more time in which the buyer or seller can reconsider their position and withdraw from a purchase or sale.

As our objective is to help you move with minimal stress, it is essential that we are able to do everything in our power to speed up your sale.

Apart from keeping a keen eye on the progress of any related transactions, one of the most effective ways of speeding up a sale is for your estate agent to be involved in the financial arrangements, particularly with regard to your buyer’s mortgage. This is especially important now that mortgage finance has become more difficult to source.

We therefore use experienced, qualified and competent Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) who can help “pre-qualify” buyers. When a pre-qualified buyer makes an offer on one of our clients’ properties, it is reassuring to know that they should be able to proceed without hindrance. References, credit history and anything else needed to qualify that buyer’s mortgage will already have been approved in advance, subject only to mortgage valuation of the property.

Additionally, our IFAs use a mortgage sourcing system that gives instant access to hundreds of mortgage products from numerous sources, thereby making it easy to satisfy even the most challenging requirements. The IFA will then explain the details in a language that you can understand and at a time and pace to suit you. Offers can sometimes be generated surprisingly quickly and on impressive terms (even 0.9% interest-only mortgage at 6x income to certain buyers is possible)

Going further, we can also arrange mortgage protection, buildings and content insurance, legal and survey work during the same meeting, saving buyer and seller a great deal of time. And of course, you’ll be kept informed thereafter every step of the way by one of our empathetic team members who are as keen as you that your move is smooth.

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Catch 22 –Should I Sell First or Buy?

Buy FirstMany who receive a good offer for their home turn it down because they have not yet found “the right property” and worry that they will in effect become homeless should they sell first (although we have never known this to happen!)

Of course the problem would become a self-fulfilling prophecy if everyone were to take this stance, and the entire market would grind to a halt. But in really it isn’t that bad and, whilst we don’t have a magic wand, the closest thing we have to a miracle cure is to encourage sellers to have a little faith. Because as soon as you find a buyer, amazing things can happen!

First, the fact that you have a buyer in place positions you as a “red hot buyer” with estate agents. This means you will be offered new properties as soon as they come onto the market, often ahead of public marketing or portal exposure. Secondly, you are in a much stronger negotiating position when you do find a property you like, meaning that you are preferred to other buyers who may be in a weaker position. Thirdly, you may well find that once you are psychologically committed to your sale, you’ll have a clearer focus on which property will actually suit you best. It’s easy to “umm and ah” when there’s no pressure!

So, in essence, if you need help making a decision, find a buyer for yours first! And of course, we’d be happy to help on that front as well! Indeed, we pride ourselves on our ability to create and manage linked transactions.

Talk to us to find out how we might be able to help make you move – smooth!

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Slow Growth with Strong Demand

raf-small-bwEveryone knows that the balance of supply versus demand exerts the greatest influence over property values. Yet, as we approach the spring market we find ourselves in a situation where the annual rate of house price growth is at its lowest for four years. at 2.3% (HMLR), but demand remains strong. Could this be the tipping point where buyers are voting with their pockets in respect of overpriced properties?

Certainly pricing appears to be more sensitive than it has for some time. Indeed, properties coming to market are experiencing their smallest February price rise since 2009. According to Rightmove, you are 40% are more likely to sell your property for the best price if is priced correctly at the outset, so it’s important to avoid it going stale on the market. This is supported by data from the Home Owners Alliance, which reveals that just 12 days is the optimal length of time a property should be listed on the market until a buyer is found. Agents who price right and sell within this time also achieve an average 100.89% of their asking price!

It is therefore far better to prompt interest and multiple offers by attracting buyers with a reasonable price than to scare them off with an inflated one. Today’s buyers are too savvy to pay over the odds. So our advice is to be careful when interviewing estate agents who habitually “overvalue” to try to impress you!

Inflation has already started its predicted rise and is expected to hit 2% in the coming months when interest rates could possibly rise as well. Lending criteria remain tight and the uncertainties prompted by a very different political landscape to this time last year, both nationally (Brexit) and internationally (Trump) are not an ideal background for strong house price growth.

However, whilst anybody selling will of course want to secure the highest price the market will pay (and we’re quite good at that bit), for most people, the ability to actually move is even more important. It would be a shame if high house prices prevented people from moving due to a new job, a growing family, downsizing, etc – the stuff of life!

One thing is sure – at this time of year, if you are thinking about a move, it might be worth getting your property on the market now as there could well be a flood of competing homes entering the market this spring. Why not take advantage of this and get ready buy one of these from a position of strength yourself, having sold your own first? Please feel free to call us for an informal chat about the value and saleability of your property – you might be pleasantly surprised!

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Working In Partnership with your Estate Agent

PartnershipWhen the time comes to sell your home it is important to ensure that you entrust your sale to a reputable estate agent, if the stress of selling is to be minimised.

However, the most successful sales tend to be those where the seller and agent work hand in hand during the marketing process. Here are some pointers:

• Be open with your agent about any problems with the property. Even if these cannot be solved, awareness of an issue could save a sale.
• Ensure your agent is properly informed about which fixtures and fittings will be staying/going. (NB watch the terminology here: “staying with you” or “staying with the house”?)
• Tell your agent if you have any direct buyer enquiries – it can avoid confusion over commission.
• Ideally your agent should accompany all viewings, but if you show the buyers round yourself, immediately let your agent know how the viewing went, so he/she can follow-up appropriately.
• Keep the house and garden clean and tidy at all times – you never know when you might get a short-notice viewing, or interested parties peering over the fence.
• Aim to be as flexible as possible over viewing times and completion dates.
• Agree to listen constructively to your agent’s feedback and recommendations.

As your selling agent, we share your objectives – to achieve the fastest sale at the highest possible price with minimum disruption to your lifestyle. So help us to help you. After all – we’re on your side!

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Split Opinion on Whether Brexit is Impacting Local Markets – Says National Estate Agency Survey

BrexitAs the Government debates the intricacies of Britain leaving the European Union, widely known as ‘Brexit’, local estate agents across the UK are experiencing mixed trends with regards to its impact so far.

From the responses received, following a recent survey conducted by Relocation Agent Network amongst its members – including Richard James – there was a relatively even split between agents that have already begun to experience market trends that can be attributed to Brexit (46%), and those that have not (54%).

When looking at regional differences, the survey found that more respondents from the South (67%) and South East (65%) had experienced an impact from Brexit, compared with other regions in the UK. The regions with the least respondents experiencing an impact from Brexit were those in the East Midlands (12.5%) and Yorkshire (14%).

A similar divide emerged when member respondents were asked if they were expecting Brexit to impact their local market in the next six months. 58% anticipated that the UK deciding to leave the EU will have an impact in the first half of the year, with 42% believing it will not.

When it comes to specific trends experienced as a result of Brexit, a quarter of member respondents reported a decrease in sellers entering the market. Whilst a decline in the number of prospective home buyers was cited by respondents as the second most significant trend that may be attributed to Brexit.

The Relocation Agent Network survey tells us is that there are strong regional differences with regards to the impact that Brexit is having on local markets across the UK. In Wellingborough, Irthlingborough & Rushden, we’re currently seeing little change in the number of prospective buyers registering.

“Despite the wider implications of Brexit however, we are seeing plenty of motivated buyers searching for the right property. We encourage sellers to continue with their plans to move, as springtime is only weeks away and is traditionally a popular time to enter the housing market, with 2017 being no exception. So contact us today, as Relocation Agent Network’s appointed Local Expert for East Northants, we have exclusive access to out of town buyers moving into the area.”

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What Does Viewing Feedback Really Mean?

FeedbackSellers often approach us after an unsatisfactory experience with another agent, particularly in relation to poor levels of feedback following property viewings.

Surely prompt and constructive feedback should be a fundamental part of any estate agent’s service to their clients! Only when agents understand what buyers think of a property can they deliver practical advice that will enhance its sale prospects. The agent and the seller should be working hand-in-hand to achieve the desired outcome, based significantly on buyers’ comments.

We also understand the seller’s anguish in simply not knowing whether a sale is imminent following a viewing.

Sometimes, feedback is obviously positive: “When can you move out?” is clearly a strong buying signal; “What are the neighbours like?”, “Could I bring my partner round?” or “Will you be leaving that cupboard?” certainly indicate that the property is a distinct possibility, and a good agent should be able to move this interest towards a firm offer.

Some feedback can be helpful in confirming whether the asking price is positioned correctly in the market. Buyers buy by comparison, and sometimes a swift price adjustment can be imperative to avoid the house going stale on the market. For example, “The property is too small for us” usually means, “We have seen larger houses for the same price”. “The street is too busy” usually means “We’ve seen similarly priced properties in quieter streets”.

Of course, many people are just being polite when they say, “We’ll think about it”, or “I’m sure you’ll find a buyer easily”. The key to good estate agency is identifying which comments point to a sale, which point to a negotiation, and which point to a problem with the price. And we think sellers deserve to know, via prompt and supportive feedback.

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Market report – January 2017

Jan ReportWhilst many of us might have understandably had quite enough of Brexit/Trump inspired news, there is one aspect of these that is extremely reassuring in respect of the UK property market! Such tumultuous news, almost daily, with so many angles and such far-reaching political, economic and social consequences, might ordinarily cause such uncertainty as to put a dampener on the property market. People and markets generally don’t like uncertainty. And we probably live in the most uncertain times in a generation.

Yet the property market appears to have simply shrugged its shoulders, kept calm, and carried on, as if to spite the dire warnings of severe negative consequences issued by even the most respected of pundits. The exception is of course the prime central London market, which has dipped 6.9% since this time last year although this is more likely due to with the massive hike in SDLT last year. If anything, the lower value of sterling has attracted overseas buyers, preventing further falls, although sales volumes of £1m+ sales are nevertheless down by around 21% (Savills).

Whatever the future holds, it would seem that bricks and mortar, as ever, are the ultimate foundation of our security in the UK, and demand is predicted to continue to outstrip supply overwhelmingly for many years to come. Our current levels of GDP growth are impressive (0.7% last quarter, up from 0.6%) but are forecast to fall, with pressures on employment, inflation and ultimately interest rates. So there is only so much the market can take in terms of property values and equilibrium has to be found at some stage.

So if you are considering a move this year, right now might not be a bad time to do so – especially if you can put your property on the market ahead of the seasonal spring rush that can temporarily flood the market.

Please feel free to contact us if you’d like sincere, friendly, advice from your local property marketing experts and we’d be delighted to offer you our thoughts – you might be pleasantly surprised.

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Open House

open-houseThe keys to selling any property are price, location and exposure. You can’t change the location of your property, and the market determines the price. However, your agent can make significant inroads into how powerfully your property is exposed to the market.

One of the most effective methods is the “open house”. This is where the property is advertised as being open for anyone who wishes to view it at a certain time, usually during a weekend. Very common abroad, the open house is rapidly gaining popularity in the UK, and for good reason.

Firstly, one of the best sources of qualified buyers is via the neighbours. Everybody knows someone who is selling and people tend to buy in an area which is close to their existing network of friends and acquaintances. This is known as socio-demographic mirroring.

When a property goes on show, it is marketed intensely in the neighbourhood so that every neighbour is aware that the property is for sale. If they know anyone who is buying, they are highly likely to invite them round to see the property, or at least look at it on their behalf.

From the seller’s perspective, having an open house can concentrate the viewings around a fixed time. Go for a walk and leave it all to the agent if you want to reduce some of the stress of selling!

Open house days tend to be very relaxed, and they create an environment where buyers do not feel in any way under pressure, but can take their time to consider a property’s merits. Because of this, we find that more people register their interest during an open house than they would through the usual advertising channels.

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