Sunday morning apoplexy…

For the second occasion in less time than it takes Katie Price to fall in love, get married, get pregnant and get divorced (not necessarily in that order), I have been compelled to write another blog further to my preceding Friday offering.  Whilst tuning into yesterday’s Andrew Marr Show, I almost choked on my cup of tea when Ed Miliband started trumpeting about rent caps.  It was said many years ago that Britain was a nation of shop keepers  and as Ms Lagarde of the IMF observed last week, we are now a nation that is obsessed with property ownership, in particular, the buy-to-let market.  Honk nose himself whilst looking beseechingly to camera (euggggh..) said that he wanted to help those, “trapped in short term often insecure agreements”.  For anyone who has had any involvement in the rental market, it is the word ‘insecure’ that jumps straight out to smack one about the chops.  I wonder whether Ed has ever tried to remove a tenant from a property for let’s say a minor transgression, such as growing cannabis or assaulting the next door neighbour?  Indeed, forget flagrant breaking of the law, how about when the tenancy has come to an end as per the initial contract and the landlord wants his/her house back? ‘Insecure’ is not a word that springs to mind.

He further stated that he would, on grabbing the keys to Number 10, ban estate agents from requiring fees from tenants before they move in.  Does this mean that having sourced and purchased a property he would be content for a tenant to move in without any background checks? These checks cost money; funding that is taken from the initial fee that the prospective tenant pays because they are wanting to live in the aforementioned property. A professional letting agency who has the interest of their clients at heart-that is the landlord-work hard to get the best tenants, not necessarily the quickest tenants into the property.  This is done through comprehensive background checks, carried out for Cheshire & Co by a professional, fully indemnified outsource company. I assume that EM expects agencies to bear the cost?  Professional referencing costs and someone has to pay for it.

Another part of his arms around the world stance was for tenants to have a legal right to know what the previous tenant paid in rent. FFS! Why? And what exactly doe s he hope to achieve by making this statute?  Just as in real life, I have no idea whether my wife’s first husband was a….wonderful cook. Even if I did, what good would it do me, our relationship, or the next Sunday roast?

His next ‘Earth calling Ed’ moment was that tenants should have 2 months notice to move.  Er, that would be what it is at the moment and of course the landlord should only give notice with “a good reason”. O.K.  So the individual who does not in any way, shape or form have any ownership of the property can hold the legal owner to ransom?  I (not so) respectfully suggest that Ed does not know his Section 8 or Section 21 from his arse.  For those of us who have been to court for a possession hearing on the grounds of the tenants not having paid the rent for three months, trashed the house, terrorised the neighbours or the rather mundane-the legal contract has ended-will know from rueful experience that the listed reasons are often not deemed sufficient by the learned judge.

I accept that letting agents-as in any profession (see, the clue is in the title)-want to earn money from the rental market.  Some of us do a good job, some are utter rogues.  But from his wide-eyed utterance of yesterday, I have to conclude that Ed and his minions have empirical evidence to show that none of the landlords within in the UK vote Labour, so there is absolutely no problem in upsetting them and that the 4.5 million private tenants  must vote Conservative so will automatically jump ship to big-hearted Ed’s team.

Monday morning rant over people.  As you were.





Cheshire & Co charge a range of fees for our lettings service. Our standard fees are as follows

Tenant application fee £215. 00

Guarantor application fee £60.00

Managed set up fee 3.5 weeks rent

Management fee 10% per month

Inventory fee £175.00





“Simply the best…”

Not the chart topper by Annie Mae Bullock, but a statement made by those sitting in betting shops across the country, pundits both professional and self-appointed and many of those that regularly frequent racecourses about the-as I type this over an hour after he weighed in for the final time-now retired 20 times champion jockey, AP McCoy. I must modestly claim some part in his emergence to dominate a sport for a quite unbelievable two decades; when starting his career as a spotty faced apprentice, he rode two winners for me. AP, ‘Wee Anthony” or “Champ” (as I am reliably informed by those who have walked around with him at the start of many a handicap hurdle/novice chase), is demonstrably and unequivocally the most successful ever National Hunt jockey thus far and most probably for eternity. But is he the best ever? Good question and on which will be deemed nigh on sacrilegious to those delivering a panegyric to the man. The most driven and determined? The jockey to whom you would entrust the last £20 of your child’s savings? The jockey who will ride as hard in a selling hurdle at Plumpton on a wet Monday as the Champion Hurdle at the Festival? All answered unhesitatingly in the affirmative. The best ever jockey in terms of if you had the choice of any jockey to ride your horse in the Champion Hurdle or any other Premier League race? Maybe not. Top five; yes. Top of the top five for delivering on the biggest of occasions; not always.
What does this have to do with estate agency, (aside from my own crucial role in his embryonic career)? Well if one reads the descriptions of some of my fellow estate agents, “The biggest in Wales”, “First in Wales”, “More offices than any other in Wales”, does it actually make them the best and what exactly are the criteria for qualifying as ‘the best’? It does not make an iota of difference to a vendor that you have 200 houses on your books and your last 20 clients think that the sun shines out of your every orifice. It is how you deal with their property and their experience of your professional conduct that colours their opinion of you. Just as it is how McCoy rode an owner’s horse on a specific day that determines whether they think he is the best. He was great on the two winners that he brought home for me, but so were all the other members of the weighing room who managed to get my pony into the coveted Number 1 spot (having been ahead on Mr McCoy at the only point in a race where it matters: the winning post). I remember once in my corporate days holding court in the pub on a Friday night, recounting to the masses how I had sold ‘x’ number of houses that month, when someone from the other side of the room shouted, “Well you haven’t sold my f”£$*$%”. At that point, the 20 properties that I had sold meant absolutely zero to the pub audience, the vendor and me. They illustrated my productivity and ability to sell a house-to the 20 successful vendors-but not to the gentleman whose house still sported a ‘For Sale’ sign. Hard-working, busy, charming, good-looking, James Bond stunt double; all true. The best? Not quite so easy to define. As Brian Clough once replied if asked if he was the best manager in the league, “No, but I am top of a list of one”…

Bonjour Madame…

In June 2014, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, praised the handling and performance of Britain’s economy. She reiterated the sentiment this week in Washington when she was quoted as saying, ” It’s obvious what’s happening in the UK has worked”. Ten months ago she did though voice concern that the housing market in the UK, in particular the help-to-buy scheme had the potential to derail our economic recovery. This was seized upon with glee by Ed, Ed and Vince. In fact, quite the opposite has happened; so brownie points to George and his nom-dom friend Mark. The acknowledgement from Madame Lagarde and her team was greeted rather sniffily by the Shadow Chancellor who commented, “…it is not the IMF’s job to arbitrate…between a country’s political parties”. I wasn’t aware that anyone had asked for arbitration…
As we have long trumpeted here at Cheshire and Co, nobody wants to go back to the days of 125% loan to value and 18 x income that were the norm pre-crash, (when it must be noted, Ed and Ed had their fingers on the button of the nation’s calculator). I was intrigued by a headline on Friday that proclaimed the “Best Fixed Mortgage Rate Ever” Daily Mail Friday 18 April 2015 As always, the headline is not wholly candid; it is possibly the best fixed rate mortgage rate for those people that meet the qualifying criteria. As I continually remind my adoring fanbase, ‘the large print giveth and the small print taketh away’. If a potential purchaser can afford the 40% deposit and £1500 set-up fee, (both of which are wholly reasonable), then yes, the HSBC mortgage that launched on Monday is a very attractive proposition and will be a superb deal for some people. I would also bet a not insubstantial amount that when someone applies for one of these loans and gets rejected, there will be a host of “not so competitive deals” available, by which stage the prospective borrower will be half committed to that lender away. In conclusion, the article stated that the HSBC rate offer was likely to be on the market for, “at least a week…depending on demand”. Well aint that the truth. If there is a £100 million available to lend, it will be gone when it has gone; I don’t see HSBC refilling the coffers. So a week where optimism is justified but reality should not be kicked out of bed just yet.

Mid-week interruption…

As our regular followers will know, here at Cheshire & Co we usually blog once a week, but this morning, whilst training for the Cwmbran marathon (no, me neither..), a local newsstand caught my attention. Our Prime Minister-not the underling who is very much the lesser party in the bro-mance (remember the puppy dog eyes and man hugs in the garden at 10 Downing Street five years ago?)-has announced that the current Government, if re-elected (it did not state whether it included our saffron-wearing friends), will extend the right to buy scheme to 1.3 million households currently living in housing association properties. This has thrown up some interesting questions:
1. How many housing association tenants will actually qualify for a mortgage? Hence the reason that they are in an association property. The recently introduced mortgage stress tests (designed to give reason as to why no institution has any reason to loan anything to anybody…), will not so much be stressed as have a complete nervous breakdown.
2. Once all the housing association properties have been sold, will all the staff at these non-profit organisations be made redundant? Will they feel so charitable then?
3. As is constantly howled from the ramparts, will the acute housing shortage only increase in size and will more social housing be built, thus knocking thousands off the market value of any property in close proximity? Harsh, but true.
4. How will first time buyers feel, who have recently bought a non-housing association property, having saved hard for a deposit? I would imagine that it rhymes with ‘missed’.
5. Will ardent non-Conservative or anti-Conservative voters take advantage of the scheme if the Conservatives get in?

There are many people all over the country, covering the entire political colour spectrum, who are living in substantial properties, thanks to Mrs Thatcher giving them the opportunity thirty years ago to get a foot on the first rung of the housing ladder. There are also many who would rather have their eyes poked out than give an iota of ‘thanks’ to the aforementioned “witch” as I have had heard her called several times in these parts, who still live in the former council house that they bought thirty years ago when right to buy was in its infancy. I have yet to meet anyone who in an anti-capitalist stance has given back the keys to their property in order to realise some long-held desire to help society. As has often been commented upon,’An Englishman’s home is his castle’. In the interests of fairness and probity, one should replace ‘Englishman’ with Scotsman or Welshman. And in case Clare Balding is reading this, it could/should replace ‘man’ with ‘woman’.
I just wonder whether as integral a part of the manifesto and as headline grabbing as it is, it will get the ‘blue collar’ voters to tick the blue box? If in doubt, the undecided could always pick green as their colour of choice; after all, a key point of their manifesto is to ban the Grand National. Something that immediately springs to mind when one is struggling to pay the mortgage or is praying to every god that exists that having broken your leg, you are close enough to the border to be taken to hospital in England not Wales.
Nick Robinson moment over, continue as you were..

Love thy neighbour…

…or for those practising endogamists, someone whose genetic make up isn’t too dissimilar to your own. Think deepest, darkest Louisiana, remote islands in the Pacific Ocean and Aberbargoed. Ok, ok, before disgruntled from Cwmtillery writes in (using the eight fingers on his one hand), endogamy does not mean that you have to marry your sister. It just means-as all sociologists will tell you-the practice of marrying within a specific ethnic group, class, or social group, rejecting others on such a basis as being unsuitable for marriage or for other close personal relationships; as exemplified by the British (German/Austrian/Greek) Royal Family. This sudden interest in social demographics was sparked this week as I listened to Vanessa Feltz on Radio 2 who was discussing both endogamy and exdogamy (think the headstrong Grantham offspring in Downton Abbey who took off with the Republican supporting Irish chauffeur). The subject of blackbirds flying with blackbirds or estate agents using the same pub on a Friday night to discuss business/wave their genitalia about is particularly apposite as May 7 looms into view and the representatives of the various political parties put on their cabaret act that invariably runs true to their political colour. In a week of sound bites and utterances that left nobody overly surprised; please do not tell me that it never crossed your mind that Barry Manilow might possible be more Liberace than Tom Jones?, the one big reveal that did have me spitting nails was Nick-my-wife-has-me-by-the-castanets-Clegg. Should they be given the opportunity to redecorate No 10, Clegg & Co will lend up to £2000 to anyone wanting to rent a house if they do not have the money for the initial deposit and the first month’s rent. A poor man’s version of Help to Buy? No, because with the Help to Buy scheme, the buyer has to contribute themselves and a charge is taken over the property. In true hand-wringing, corduroy and socks with sandals-wearing fashion, the Lib Dems are proposing to ‘help’ society. Help which part exactly? The part that can’t/won’t get off their backsides to help themselves whilst those who do drag themselves in to the coalface pay for the privilege? Having screamed at the radio and then forced myself to take several deep breaths, I then asked what I would do if someone came into the office looking to rent a property and had the deposit in their hand. Would I-or any agent-query where the money came from and on a political principle-not take their application fee? Of course I wouldn’t. Perhaps the Liberal Democrats-when not hugging trees, mothers who breast feed in public and campaigning for a utopian world could launch a new campaign slogan; “Nick Clegg, the estate agents’ friend”. Fear not, the men in white coats are just arriving…


With 28 minutes to go as I write this, I would hazard a guess that the 7-up gang for tonight’s televised debate are starting to feel just a little nervous. Dave, Ed, Nick, Nige, Nicola (she of the helmet hair), Natalie and Leanne, (go on, a fiver if you can give their surname and political party without a second thought… a fiver my money is safe…) all get to prance and do their own version of Britain’s Got (Limited) Talent this evening. I don’t wish to pin my political colours to the mast, but I do predict that all those taking part will try their hardest not to answer a direct question with a direct answer. I predict that the line, “That is indeed a very serious issue, but first, let me say this…” will be used (or a variant of), with such frequency that by the end of the debate viewers will be willing someone to answer with, “Will you just %^&* off”. For those of us who watched the Jeremy Paxman, “I’m still alive, my…is bigger than yours” Show, that was masquerading under the pretence of being a serious question and answer session allowing the public to make an informed decision come 7 May, I don’t think that I was the only person who longed for the Prime Minister to tell Paxo what a stupid question it was to ask him if he could live on a zero hours contract. No sane person, what ever their political pedigree would choose to do so. Interestingly, the same question was not put to the fratricidal-leaning, honk-nosed one. Incidentally, for all our younger readers, zero hours contracts are not an invention of the current millennium, they are what used to be called casual labour. The main contender for the keys to Number 10 seem to run scared of even possibly causing upset to any fraction of the franchised masses.
What has this got to do with estate agency? Well aside from my forthcoming peerage-Lord Cheshire of Cwmbran- The Big C to those who have known me some time, I remember the days when there were only ever two parties that could be named by the man, woman, child or dog in the street. This was about the same time that there were only three estate agents in Cwmbran. Now we have as many parties as Snow White had Dwarves and there are nine estate agents in Cwmbran. All competing for the same public vote, be it to elect them as leader of a G8 country, or to sell their house. I empathise with our political colleagues because in the beauty parade of estate agents that all vendors are entitled to carry out, no agent really wants to tell the home owner that their property is not worth as much as they thought, and if telling the truth, running the very probable risk of not getting the instruction. Fortune does favour the brave, but as the gang who will have the studio lights blazing down on them as I finish typing this, it is one hell of a gamble to take.