The Advertising Myth

AdvertisingIt would not be unreasonable to assume that as a property comes onto the market, the instructed estate agent will post the property details on various property portals and wait for the enquiries to roll in.

However, this approach is somewhat simplistic! We take a much more strategic and proactive approach to handling new buyer enquiries. There is a fallacy surrounding adverts in that many people think that a property sells as a direct result of the publication of its corresponding advertisement. This is simply not true in most cases.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of buyers who enquire about a specific property do not go on to buy it – they buy something else instead. This is because only limited information can be conveyed in an advertisement, such as price, location, accommodation and condition. Yet the decision to buy is usually much more complex, and is something that cannot adequately be assimilated until the buyer actually visits the property.

So while it is important to choose an agent that advertises extensively (eg, we feature our clients’ properties on a number of portals including Rightmove, Zoopla, etc), it is more important to choose an agent who knows what to do with an enquiry than simply putting the buyer on a mailing list!

A good agent will use good ads to attract buyers, and then use their skill, training and judgement to help the buyer identify the right property – which in all probability will not turn out to be the one about which they enquired. This effective method is one of the reasons why we enjoy such an excellent ratio of new applicants to sales agreed, which is of course to our clients’ substantial advantage.

Why not join them? Please feel free to call 01933 224400 now to arrange a confidential appraisal so that we might provide you with highly relevant strategic marketing proposal.

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February Market Comment

FEBIt’s a funny old thing, the British housing market. Just when you might expect the political uncertainty prompted by the “B” word to dull the market further, it leaps! That’s the way things look from where we’re standing anyway! Not only have we experienced an extremely strong start to the year, both in terms of new instructions and offers agreed, but this appears to be supported across the board.

For example, a founder of MyHomeMove, a major conveyancing firm, reported that they had received (and processed) some 1,400 conveyancing enquiries last weekend alone! Surely this is an indication of a market that has decided to keep calm and carry on moving! This is mirrored by a 5.3% increase in mortgage approvals complimenting a 5.8% decrease in remortgaging (source UK Finance Data). In other words, people are once more moving rather than improving.

Along with the inevitably optimistic perspectives of your average estate agent (although nobody has ever accused us of being average) these are front-end figures that take a snapshot of how the market is right now – not Building Society completions or Land Registry figures (often four to six months months out of date), nor ONS figures (based on the Land Registry). Our instruction levels are up, our offers are up and our sales arranged are up. Even some prices are up too!

According to the NAEA, the stock of properties overall is also on the rise – by 20% on last year and the highest it has been for four years. However, we do not expect this to negatively impact on house prices, as there is still a lot of pent-up demand, especially from people who thought the choice of properties to buy was limited; so they sat tight. But now they are moving again with the NAEA reporting that overall demand is up 13% on this time last year.

The confusion and uncertainty of Brexit has effectively lasted two years. People are now tiring of it, and are clearly refocusing on getting on with their lives. As ever, the economists missed this one, so if your intention is to consider a move this year – you might just want to bring that forward a bit and take advantage of what appears to be an early spring to kick-start your plans. And when you’re ready, we’ll be here to help. It’s what we do!

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January Market Comment

January Maket CommentThe media would have us believe that the property market is nursing a New Year’s party hangover. Certainly the issues that influenced the market during 2018 remain, such as Brexit-related confusion, lack of supply and affordability problems for first time buyers. And whilst the media does love to scaremonger, they tend to ignore, the perhaps rather boring reality, that the UK property market is actually surprisingly resilient.

Property has always been generally low-risk and any annual capital appreciation over 3% can be regarded as a bonus. For most people, property is a home more than an investment – albeit a tax efficient one. Most homeowners are quite satisfied if the value of their property more or less keeps up with or exceeds inflation, which, even over the turbulent year of 2018, it has. The latest ONS figures suggest that the average UK house price has risen by 2.7% over the last year, compared with inflation of around 2.2%pa.

But what’s in store for 2019? As far as we’re concerned it’s very much business as usual and we’d even go so far as to say that all forecasts that quote projected figures can be ignored, as even the “experts” cannot agree – nobody knows what will happen with the Brexit mess, let alone any effect on the property market. Just look at the spread of 2019 house price forecasts from the following authorities, who are no better informed over the outcome of Brexit than the man down the pub:

Capital Economics: 1% up
Halifax: 2%-4% up
Hamptons/Countrywide: 0.5% down
Hometrack: 2% up
JLL: 0.5% up
Office for Budget Responsibility: 3.1% up
PWC: 2.8% up
RICS: 0% : 1% down
Rightmove: 0%
Savills: 0.5% up

History tells us that it is confidence levels that tend to exert the greatest influence on supply, demand and prices in the property sector. If the confusion over the past 18 months has not had a significantly detrimental effect on the market, then this surely proves that the market is reassuringly robust, and buyers and sellers alike need not worry about making a wrong move, as the market is unlikely to either rocket or crash.

Perhaps of more interest to home-movers over the past year has been the failure of internet-only estate agencies, with around a third of the top names no longer trading. According to Which?, over 92% of sellers prefer to use a “traditional” estate agent than any online alternative. The lure of apparently cheap fees turns out to be a classic false economy, not least because these low-value agencies have no incentive to proactively sell a property for the highest price. Additionally, in a low-volume market, chain management becomes paramount and it seems somewhat ridiculous that sellers should entrust the sale of their greatest asset to a DIY platform. Most people realise that it’s not just about finding a buyer!

Here at Richard James Estate Agents, we are very much looking forward to the year ahead. We thrive on challenge and delivering creative, results-driven, solutions for local homemovers. A final word of caution though; this year, if you’re thinking of moving, don’t wait until the Spring, as you may find yourself competing with too many other sellers jumping on the bandwagon, thereby suppressing prices. Just a thought – and please feel free to call us for our personal attention and an accountable service on 01933 224400. Happy New Year!

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Buyers Warm To a Real Fire

FireThe fireplace was traditionally the heart of every home, but changing lifestyles over the past four decades have relegated many of them to the scrap heap, with many families choosing to huddle around the TV instead.

However, the fireplace has seen a huge resurgence in popularity as a design feature among buyers, so if you are considering selling, it might be worthwhile investing in a fireplace or revamping your old one before going on the market. There’s a huge choice.

If you are replacing a bricked-up chimney breast with a fireplace, here are a few things you may wish to consider:

• Check that the chimney actually works. Many have been capped, and in some cases the chimneybreast on the upper floors has actually been removed altogether.
• If you don’t have a chimney-breast, a solid fuel stove can sometimes be installed, even using a horizontal flue through a ground floor wall.
• If you live in a smoke-free zone, make sure you buy the appropriate fuel.
• Don’t feel you necessarily have to find an old fireplace for an old house. Many people feel that contemporary fireplaces can complement traditional surroundings.
• A fireplace in a large bathroom is a particularly luxurious selling point.
• An instant and more practical alternative to solid fuel is a real-flame gas fire using ceramic coals. Note that you may need to line your chimney and have the emission levels professionally checked.
• How about a gel fire? This recent innovation using bio-fuel can usually be burned safely in a fireplace even if the chimney itself is sealed as there are no toxic fumes.

So why not embrace the pleasures of a real fire that gives warmth and comfort and is a more sociable alternative to the TV as the focal point of any room? It could help you sell your home!

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December Market Comment

December Market CommentAs we approach the end of the year we find ourselves in politically turbulent times, with the Brexit debate continuing to undermine confidence, but only slightly. Certainly there are some scary concepts being tabled, not least the Governor of the Bank of England suggesting that a no-deal Brexit could trigger property price falls of up to 35%.

Far be it for us to argue with the Governor, but this rather dramatic suggestion relies on a) a no Brexit deal and, b) drastic falls in transaction volumes which are already relatively low as there are very few speculative sellers in the market. Most current sellers have a genuine reason to move – marriage jobs, divorce, children, debt, etc, and these situations are unlikely to be especially affected by any Brexit outcome. In fact, anyone likely to be affected by the long-running Brexit confusion already has been. There are still far more prospective buyers than sellers (especially as it is generally cheaper to buy than to rent) and this is unlikely to change unless money supply were to dry up. This is very unlikely as banks are becoming increasingly competitive to secure any potential fall in mortgage business. Remember, prices only fall when there is an over supply of stock in relation to demand.

Sales to first time buyers, especially, continue to rise and now represent over 23% of the market.

In terms of house prices, whilst Prime Central London may have already dipped by nearly 15% in the past four years, these properties are being sold by extremely wealthy individuals for whom a dramatic price reduction that enables a quick sale is hardly painful, but gets the job done! For everyone else, it’s business as usual, although potential wobbles in market confidence suggest that sellers would be well advised to listen to the advice of a trusted agent – not one who seeks to flatter with an over-optimistic asking price.

Certainly this is the wrong market to be sitting on a property that goes stale on the market, as buyers seek to take advantage of negative media reports, whether of not they turn out to be true! We always find that those properties that sell first tend to achieve the best price too. It is also essential to ensure that your agent is particularly strong in their buyer qualification and sales progression activities; glitches down the chain in a nervous market must be avoided at all costs.

Confusing times? Maybe. But hey, Christmas is round the corner and we look forward to helping our clients take advantage of the traditional spike in buyer activity over the festive season. Happy Christmas to buyer and seller alike!

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Winter Checklist

Winter ChecklistHousehold emergencies generally occur during the depths of winter, but we recommend that homeowners undertake a pre-winter checklist now to prevent unforeseen property headaches in the months to come, especially remembering last year’s weather! Here are some pointers:

• Don’t wait until the really cold weather arrives to discover that the central heating is not working. Time your central heating to click on for one minute a day throughout the year to avoid it seizing.

• A sudden cold snap can burst water pipes, causing flooding. Make sure you know the location of the stop-cock. Ensure your pipes and tank are properly lagged but do not insulate underneath your tank. If you are going away, leave the heating on low and leave your loft hatch open.

• Storms can bring down branches causing damage to roofs, so it’s worth doing some pruning now rather than having to call out the tree-surgeon, roofer and insurance assessor in an emergency.

• Check your gutters are clear, as the weight of waterlogged and frozen leaves can cause them to leak or collapse.

• Assess your roof for loose tiles that can easily become dislodged during high winds, causing damage to property, cars and possibly injury to people.

• Avoid getting smoked out as you light the first fire of winter by checking that birds have not made a nest in the chimney.

• Outside lighting not only enhances safety but also deters burglars, who are more active during the winter.

• Ensure your garden furniture, barbeque, toys, etc are securely stored as they can be stolen if left outside, and damaged or prove hazardous in bad weather.

All the above can usually be done over a weekend, which is time well spent if the stress and expense of a winter emergency are to be avoided.

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Richard James Wins Top Award At Prestigious Estate Agency Event

TIDE & ISE 2018

Richard James – 2018 Award Winners

We are celebrating after being crowned the 2018 Relocation Agent Network Agent of the Year. We received the award at this year’s 25th Relocation Agent Network Awards Dinner held on Friday 23 November at London’s Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel.

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.

Two Additional Awards Won

The black tie evening Awards Dinner was hosted by well-known comedian and TV presenter, Katherine Ryan, who presented us with the 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.

Platinum League Members

The Customer Relocation Awards recognise members that have generated the greatest number of referrals over the past year. The accolade means that Richard James become inaugural members of the newly created Relocation Agent Network Platinum League. The League demonstrates that members like, Richard James are one of Relocation Agent Network’s most successful agents when it comes to helping their customers relocate into and out of the local area. Every Platinum member needs to maintain their high quality performance throughout the next 12 months, to ensure they remain in the league the following 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 so proud to have won Relocation Agent Network’s Agent of the Year. This is the Network’s top award and we never would have won it without the dedication, 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 we provide is the very highest in the Central region and across Relocation Agent Network.”

Richard Tucker, Relocation Agent Network’s Managing Director said, “We were so pleased to crown Richard James as this year’s Relocation Agent Network Agent of the Year. In our opinion they are among the UK’s most accomplished estate agents. As our most coveted award, the Agent of the Year can only be won by an agent that delivers outstanding customer service day in, day out, and that’s exactly what Richard James does.”

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Autumn Selling Tips

AutumnAs the evenings begin to draw in, sellers should take stock of their property if they are to maximise their chances of securing an early sale. Buyer activity is traditionally very good at this time of year, but your property still needs to compete well if it is to sell readily. Here are some tips, with our compliments:

• Kerb appeal. You only get one chance to make a first impression – so make it count, as buyers make instant judgements. Make sure lawns are neat and pathways swept.

• How about a coat of fresh paint for the front door, and a new doormat?

• Make sure gutters are free from debris and are draining properly. There are few things worse than waiting outside a house with a torrent of water threatening the back of your neck!

• People in coats are bulkier, so make sure your entrance hall is clear of bicycles, toys and wellies.

• Many people cruise past a property before making an appointment to view. So, on dark evenings, make it look like a home from the outside. Table lamps and soft lighting give an impression of cosiness and should be turned on mid afternoon. A “For Sale” board will also make the house easier to find.

• Ensure your windows are sparkling clean, as recent rain may have left them dirty, and maximise available daytime light by ensuring that curtains are fully open.

• Make sure the house feels warm and cosy inside. You are selling a home after all, not just four walls and a roof.
If you’re keen to move this side of Christmas, why not take advantage of our property marketing advice service? It’s free, and will give you a good opportunity to gauge whether we could be the right agent for you!

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Relative Values

Relative ValuesEven the most credible authorities tend to disagree on the rate of price change in the property market, leaving the humble consumer somewhat baffled!

The problem is the source of data that is used to make assumptions about the market is fickle. For example, you could look at the latest Land Registry figures. These record the volumes and prices of sales that completed potentially several months after the sale was arranged. But a lot can happen in that time – tax, economic data, political confusion, interest rate changes and media influence can make a vast difference to buyer sentiment! HMLR figures also include the sale of small tranches of land in their figures, which can skew the average downwards.

You could look at the figures supplied by property portals such as Rightmove or Zoopla which interpret the relationship between the monthly change in the average asking price of properties new to market during the preceding month. Of course, average asking prices are not necessarily a reflection of specific sale prices and theses figures do not take account of any asking price reductions, thereby skewing the average upwards! (Although at Richard James Estate Agents we are proud of how often we achieve or even exceed our clients’ original asking price!)

As your local estate agent, we are acutely aware of what’s happening in the East Northants market at a given point in time. We have a huge responsibility to get it right for our clients first time, and we take that responsibility very seriously. Ultimately, we find that the most reliable indicators lie in our ability to interpret the needs and comments of our buyers at local level. After all, it is today’s buyers who determine the current value of your property.

We’re currently experiencing a healthy level of buyer enquiries, which inevitably results in some great prices being achieved. So why not contact us for an informal chat about the value of your property and suggested marketing plans over a cup of coffee? You might be pleasantly surprised!

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We Can’t Wait Wait For National Estate Agency Conference

ConferenceWe’re looking forward to attending this year’s Relocation Agent Network National Conference and Exhibition. On 23 November, estate agents from across England, Scotland and Wales will be travelling to London for the business Conference and evening Awards Dinner. The event is exclusively for Relocation Agent Network members (including us!) and is a great day of networking with fellow members and learning all about the very latest industry innovations.

Taking place at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel, the Conference welcomes some of the UK’s top keynote speakers including; David Meade, a world-class international corporate speaker and performer, who will discuss how to find and retain the best employees and how to achieve results in the toughest of climates; learning and development guru Malcolm Smith will help delegates understand how to maintain value during a negotiation; and mathematician and ex-Funds Manager, Darren Shirlaw will provide an economic forecast for the next five years, including how Brexit will impact the housing market.

The event culminates in a black tie evening Awards Dinner, hosted by well-known comedian and TV presenter, Katherine Ryan. We can’t wait to meet up with our fellow members to celebrate the successes of 2018.

How does OUR Network membership help YOU?
Relocation Agent Network has chosen Richard James to represent them in the Wellingborough, Irthlingborough & Rushden areas. Our membership means that we’ve been specially selected to be the area’s Local Expert, based on the quality of service that we provide, our local knowledge and professionalism.

Through its affiliation with Cartus, the premier provider of global relocation services, Relocation Agent Network members help Cartus move relocating families in and out of areas across England, Scotland and Wales. This offers Richard James customers an additional channel of buyer when selling their property. Network members can also help their customers through the ‘Referral Network’, which helps those relocating, by referring them to a fellow Relocation Agent Network member in the area they are moving to.

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