In the year of our Lord 2013, I have realised that it is is vital to follow some basic principles when running a business. During my time working alongside our Armed Forces that included a gentleman who went by the nom-de-plume of ‘Velvet’ (so smooth – you can work out the rest), I was once told by a general that a good ADC or staff officer should always wear out his or her shoes. Why? Because nobody has ever complained about too much communication, particularly when it is personally delivered. At Cheshire and Co where we have embraced the technology available – and no estate agent nor indeed any business can afford not to use computers, emails and the like – we constantly remind ourselves that personal communication with our clients can never be replaced by a simple text or email. The latter are a wonder of the modern era but they are to be used for confirmation not affirmation. We all know the feeling of irritation when asking someone, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ (with the emphasis being on ‘tell’), when they reply, ‘Didn’t you get my email/text?’ Electronic communication should be used fully, but as an addition and never as a replacement for somone making the effort to speak to another individual, person to person.
Figures released this week by the Office of National Statistics reported a national rise in house prices in 2012 of on average 3.3%. As anyone who paid attention in their maths class at school will know, the average is calculated from the sum of the whole divided by the number of parts. Transposing this to house prices does not mean that every area went up 3.3%. For those of us in Wales, it was actually 2.4%. At least it is an increase as opposed to the previous five years but if one chooses to get mathematical it is nearly 1% or close to a 1/3 lower than the national average. Before Welsh homeowners get too depressesd and reach for the happy pills they should console themselves with the plight of their fellow homeowners in the north east who were the only region to suffer a fall in house prices. As always, the right house, in the right location, at the right price will sell, even in Middlesborough.
Last week’s tragic story about a gentleman whose skeletal remains were discovered behind the armchair in the flat that he had rented for many years, raises one very obvious question: where in the name of God was the agent during this period? The landlord and the bailiffs only attempted to take possession of the property after the monthly rental payments had stopped. This was from an individual who has since been described as, “a model tenant”, who never once missed his rent. One has to ask during the period that the poor gentleman was lying dead on the floor, how did the agents justify missing two gas safety certificate renewals, resigning a new tenancy agreement and not inspecting the property every two months? Whilst various parties offered the usual rent-a-quote such as, “he was a lovely chap who kept himself to himself” and “they were particularly saddened that he had passed away”, I am not sure what is more depressing: a society where no one cares to check on a neighbour or an unprofessional agent who only chooses to get involved when the money runs out.
If ever there was a time to get your house valued with the idea of selling it, I would suggest that it is now. In the past I have made my feelings clear about the numerous amounts of surveys or opinions that have been published by either housing organisations, parties with a self-interest, or self-imposed experts who once viewed a property in the last millenium. So it it is pleasing to note that official figures comparing like for like periods show an increase in mortgage lending (as I commented on in last week’s blog). These figures clearly show that the number of first time buyers is on the increase and that the Government’s multi-billion funding for lending scheme launched in August is having a positive effect. Although many of us – of which I was first in the queue – were somewhat sceptical, the scheme which is commonly known as FLS isn’t going to be the panacea to all our problems, but it will lead to increased activity throughout the year. Spring is in the air, love is in the air (we are approaching Valentine’s Day) and now would be the time to start taking the steps required to get that ‘SOLD’ board up in the air outside your property.