Show me the money….

Direct, but there is a reason behind us asking someone who rings up requesting to view a property whether they are ‘proceedable’. By this, I mean that they either have the money to purchase the said property, or can get the money via a mortgage, a house sale or winning the lottery but not from the money fairy who lives with the mortgage gnome under the toadstool at the bottom of the garden.  As an estate agent, we have a contract with the vendor;  we therefore are disposed to act in the best interests of the vendor.  This includes not taking bus loads of people to view the property who do not have the financial ability to even make an offer on the property.  Last weekend I had a phone call from someone who wanted to view two properties: one on the market at £100,00 and one that was being marketed at £225,000.  Acknowledging the difference in price, I asked what exactly they were looking for and how they planned to fund the purchase. All reasonable enquiries.  Actually, no.  Having digested the torrent of abuse that came down the ‘phone line including amongst others,  the origins of my parentage, I realised that the question that I should have posed, was, “What time did matron say that you had to be back?”

In all seriousness, viewing a property with the possible option of purchasing it, is not the same as going into town to wander round the shops because you don’t have anything better to do with your time.  More often than not, the property being marketed is somebody’s home; they live there with their family and although they have chosen to put their property forward for public viewing it should not turn into a free-for-all with people turning up at all hours as an alternative leisure activity.  It is the responsibility of the agent, in looking after his or her client – the vendor – to establish the credibility of potential viewers.  If you are a prospective purchaser, be prepared to answer some straight forward and wholly reasonable questions.

“No man but feels more of a man in the world if he have a bit of ground that he can call his own…”

So penned Charles Dudley Warner, best friend and fellow essayist of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (and his pen name was? Again, answers on a postcard to the usual address). Over a century on, the sentiment remains extant, but at the risk of sounding old before my time, I have to admit that in recent months I have begun to wonder what exactly it is that potential first time buyers are looking for in a property.  Is it a house in which to live and with any luck enjoy residing within or is it merely an investment opportunity?  Hopefully –  and if your chosen estate agent is doing his or her job –  there is some common ground, but the two are not necessarily wholly compatible.  The slight hint indicating the experience of those looking to buy is alluded to when they comment that this is their first step on the property ladder.  Now I am not knocking enthusiasm or the expedient of using one’s money wisely but a property that a first time buyer can afford – invariably with a mortgage – does not necessarily mean that it will triple in value in the next 5 years, thus allowing the now second time buyer to buy a BMW on the aforementioned mortgage money.  It can happen but people –  as always –  need to be realistic.  The property that will triple in value from its original sale price may well not be a property that someone wishes to live in, either solely or with their family . There is a reason why estate agents have a variety of additional tags to put on their ‘For Sale’ signs; ‘investment opportunity’ is not always the bedfellow of  ‘ideal first time buyer property’ or ”family home’. 

Meet the landlords….

I would like to think that having grown out of short trousers some time ago and having been around the block several times since, that it take alot to make me stand aghast and ask, “Is this for real?”  However, last night’s BBC One ‘Meet the Landlords’ did succeed in making me do a double-take and grab the week’s TV listings to confirm what it was that I was watching.  It featured a restricted view of landlords in city centre areas and the trials and tribulations of both landlord and tenant.  The main protagonist was the self-appointed, ‘HMO Daddy’, who uttered golden phrases such as, “You just need a few smoke detectors and locks on doors,” and “what do you want apart from a TV, a few cans of Special Brew and a box of tissues?” One has to think, that with this attitude, one gets the tenants that one deserves.  That said, he is addressing a gap in the market and is profiting from meeting these needs; and before any of us come over too holier than thou and put ourselves forward for the next UNICEF humanitarian award, we are all in business to make money.  Nowhere was this better illustrated than in the predicament of another landlord (landlady for all those ardent feminists reading this) featured, who having made her first venture into the property market a year ago was owed a year’s rent and was only now taking any legal action by employing the services of an ‘eviction specialist’.  Incidentally, I was never offered the option of becoming an eviction specialist when I sat in front of the careers teacher at school…astronaut, special forces soldier, style guru, on the sausage… possibly.  The blindingly obvious question that I – and probably most people watching – wanted to ask, was, “Why has she waited this long?”.  Once the tenant  was two months in arrears she should have issued a Section 8 notice and commenced court proceedings 14 days after service.  As we watched the ensuing drama unfold, including tears, snot, hair straighteners, neon nails and a dog that unbeknownst to the poor canine was up for sale on Gumtree for £1500, the one glaring omission was the absence of any agent.  Why do people think that they can it themselves?  Of course, some are more than capable of running a successful property empire, more so than many an oleaginous agent who wears a shiny suit two sizes too small (you know who you are…) but the world of pain that this lady found herself in, was wholly avoidable.  At the other end of the spectrum, a north-eastern lettings agency was visited where the manager had the patience of Job and went above and beyond the call of duty to look after her tenants and therefore by definition, her landlords.  Ninety per cent of this agency’s tenants were in receipt of some form of benefits and her role appeared to be that of both lettings agency manager and surrogate social worker. But what was very evident was that her style of management of her properties and professional approach did not result in the same soap opera featured earlier. The editing suite at the BBC must have been working overtime before this programme was ready to air and as I said at the beginning of this blog, it was a narrow view of the rental world but I cannot emphasise enough that if you are contemplating becoming a landlord , you must seek professional advice.  Unless of course you want to have your Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame weeping and wailing on national TV.

Forget the three feathers or the shamrock, you need a maple leaf…

 According to figures published this week and several articles in national newspapers this morning, for the first time since the meltdown of 2008 that left the property market (amongst others) in a state of apocalyptic devastation, all regions throughout the country have seen an increase in house prices. The cost of the average home rose by £2000 a month between April and June – up 2.6% – in some areas this equates to £65 a day. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – a body frequently mentioned in this blog – initially predicted house prices to rise by 2 per cent this year but now believes that this figure could be closer to 4 per cent.  When the first signs of confidence were reported to be coming back to the property market, we commented that interest rates should stay low until 2016, this was despite the markets feverishly speculating that they would rise.   I am encouraged that my fellow Canadian ( you didn’t know that, did you?), Mark Carney, the new Governor of The Bank of England, has in his first week in the job stated that they will indeed stay low until 2016 with base rates remaining at 0.5 per cent.  This has been described as ‘bonanza’ time for the property market with lenders far more willing to assist.  In such a vein, the Leeds Building Society yesterday launched a mortgage with a ‘zero’ interest rate for the first 6 months.  That would have appealed to Adam Cartwright and his father (‘don’t marry me, you’ll end up in an early grave’), Ben.  Speaking of Canadians, Lorne Green the actor who played Ben Cartwright was a Canadian by birth.  And you thought that you came to this blog for an insight into the machinations of the property market; you did, but as well as base rates you are now in a position to answer a pub quiz question on the second longest running western series…

How quick can you get the board up…?

Yet again I feel privileged to know that I move in such exalted circles; surrounded by a cohort of individuals who as well as being experts in their respective fields of brain surgery, investment banking, refuse collection and the intricate workings of the current benefits system are also experts on the nuances of the local property market.  One of the continuing points of discussion is the use of a ‘For Sale’ board.  To many non-property ‘experts’, the issue of a board is a non-issue in that it is a no-brainer: somebody who is hoping to sell their property puts a board up to indicate that this is the location of the property that someone may have found when searching on the internet or indeed someone driving or walking past may have their interest aroused by the aforementioned board and subsequently views the property on Rightmove (other property portals are available). Simple? Yes? Most definitely, no.  The emotion generated by the decision to have a board, or not to have board is on occasions quite unbelievable and does make one ask whether an individual is really committed to selling their property.  Make no mistake, a board does not serve the same purpose as it did 20 years ago, before the advent of the internet and all associated technology.  To be brutally honest, board counting is the estate agents’ way of comparing the size of their genitalia, “I’ve got more boards than him….”, grownup, I know.  But they do serve a purpose as part of the arsenal of tools available to agents in the 21st century. When a vendor says that they don’t want a board put up because, “I don’t want the neighbours to know what I am doing”, I smile through gritted teeth; as we are currently getting half a million hits a month on Rightmove, I think that it would be reasonable to suggest that somebody is going to work out that it is for sale.  Added to this, when an estate agent – who is doing their job properly and working for the vendor – starts turning up to show groups of people around the property, I think that the most naïve neighbour may be able to work out that something is going on.  On the other hand, people need to be aware that putting the board up needs to coincide with listing the property on Rightmove, as more people will search on the internet than will drive past the property. A board alone will not bring hoards of people to the door requesting a viewing. I recently had to explain to a vendor – who had rung every day of the first four days of marketing demanding to know where his board was – that the viewings already generated in that short period were as a result of people searching on the internet.  This had added piquancy when I politely pointed out that he lived at the end of a long lane where passing traffic was an elderly gentleman walking his dog, 2 lads bunking off double detention, assorted wildlife and Kylie Anne-Marie and Dwayne from the accounts department of a local engineering company who were looking for somewhere to park their car…. My point is that to achieve the best possible result, i.e. the sale of their property, quickly and at a decent price, it is advisable for vendors to listen to their chosen agent and be prepared to use all the marketing tools that are available.