Britain’s First Property ASBO…

This week’s headline grabbing news of Britain’s first property rental ASBO being issued to a landlord in Plymouth highlights to potential landlords and tenants that the days of Dickensian slum landlords are numbered.  Mr David McCabe recently appeared before Plymouth Magistrates’ Court after Plymouth City Council launched pioneering legal action against him.  Having ‘specialised’ in slum accommodation to the vulnerable in society for thirty years, Mr McCabe had repeatedly failed to comply with housing regulations and improvement notices issued by the council.  A lawyer for the council said, “Mr McCabe’s property did not meet modern housing standards and were let to vulnerable tenants.  The council tried to work with him for many years and he is brought before court as a last resort.”

This appalling case highlights how careful we all have to be when dealing in the rental market.  There are three golden questions that prospective tenants should always ask before moving into a property:

Is ths property managed by an agent or looked after by the landlord?

What is the usual period of time to get repairs done?

Can I see the gas safety certificate and the EPC?

Remember, if an agent or landlord says ‘don’t worry we will get that done after you move in’, don’t move in!


Viewing more than they anticipated….!

As we enter the festive period of merriment, eating, drinking, dancing and carousing (and being immortalised on somebody’s mobile phone in a compromising position with the new girl from Accounts), I am led to reminisce about various experiences that I have had over the years in the property business. From the mundane; people not turning up for their viewings, people cancelling sales because the cat has died, through the rather odd; having to go to their grandmother’s funeral and establishing that this is internment number 7… to the truly bizarre, all of which could be in a Carry on Film.  I will never forget the day that I went to measure a house as part of a divorce proceeding only to find the wife in bed with her new …. girlfriend.  At least I was not on a viewing with potential buyers.

If you are serious about selling your property, you have to make sure that you maximise every opportunity to display the house to best possible effect.  There is no accounting for taste, but most people would probably agree that naked bodies in the bedroom might detract from the overall viewing experience.  As a seasoned professional who always accompanies the viewings I always ensure that I am at the property ten minutes before the appointment, to ensure that all the lights are working, everything is in working order and all people are fully clothed.

After all these years I still cannot understand why some agents think that it is perfectly acceptable to send someone – who nobody knows – to view your property and thereby enter your home unaccompanied.  Any professional, respectable estate agent prides himself on working closely with his client  – who is the vendor.  In my opinion, not bothering to accompany a viewing means that they aren’t bothered about selling your house.  And further more, if they do send a member of staff to accompany a viewing, let’s hope that they are not the modern day equivalent of Del Trotter who spends all their time on their iPhone after opening the door and saying, “Help yourself”.

Now that I have got all that off my chest, Happy Christmas!


Choosing the right agent…

Whether you are selling or letting a property, choosing the right agent is vital. So, bypass the glossy brochures, look past the glib, slick presentation and in the famous words of Janet Jackson ask, “What have you done for me lately?”.  You must be prepared to ask the difficult questions; because it isn’t what they say that is important, it is what they don’t say.  As a rough guide, try asking these questions:

“Will you be personally attending every viewing?”

“Are you prepared to attend viewings outside your normal working hours?”

“Will you fully qualify all potential viewers?”

Most agents tend to ‘blanket market’ property to their magical mailing list, which more often than not is not kept up to date with hot buyers real-time requirements.  Often properties that could be sold sit on agents’ books for months simply because they are not targeting the right buyers or the right decision makers.

And finally; never be afraid to ask the estate agent how many properties they have on their books and how many members of staff they have to look after them. Then as they say in America, “You do the math”.

No one ever complains about too much communication…

In the current property market, agents have to face the uncomfortable reality that they need to take steps in order to keep thier good tenants who can no longer be viewed as a predictable cash cow who can be left alone to keep producing.  The steps that agents need to take to keep tenants are often blindingly obvious.

Ths most important step is good communication.  The agent should keep regular contact with all tenants and should endeavour to understand the issues that concern them-both those issues that directly relate to the property – and also the wider issues that affect the agent’s business.  Communication, if handled properly, will identify if the tenant is facing difficulties and the agent will find out in good time whether there are steps that can be taken to assist the tenant.  Just as in life, don’t you hate it when someone says, “Ah, I was just about to ring you…”.

When the first step is verbal, it should always be followed by something in writing, whether it be text, email or the old-fashioned snail mail.  Nobody wants to get involved in a ‘he said, she said’ type of argument.  Written confirmation protects all parties and particularly impresses your friendly judge!