To avoid disappointment, lower expectations.

On Friday night I spent 4 hours in Cardiff that were 4 hours that I will never get back and I could have been doing something really productive; like washing my hair.  The choir was great, the Band of the Welsh Guards as national-pride inducing as ever and the goat was simply outstanding doing its goat bit.  The match? Well, a win is a win, whether you win pretty or you win ugly, but you know that you are not worshipping at the altar of sporting prowess and finesse when the crowd start doing a Mexican wave…half-way through the first half or Fusilier Llywelyn (of the four hooves) moves across the try line better than either side’s Number 8.  Ah, well.  My wife chose to wear a blue scarf and was constantly greeted with, “Bonjour” in a Parisian via Pontypool accent.  A classic case of people assuming something whilst knowing nothing.  It was an evening of great expectations that sadly fell a long way short of the mark.  Speaking of expectations and poor performances, it is not just the sporting press who have felt short-changed.  As is our wont, Cheshire & Co have-on more than one occasion-blogged about something that is now making the property headlines; in this particular case, the demographic of potential house purchasers known as “second-steppers”.  According to Savills, who have conducted some sort of survey, the number of transactions for those looking to move on from their first starter home is down 25% on the 10 year pre-credit crash average (that just slips off the tongue, doesn’t it?).  This means-according to Savills-that there have been 5.26 million fewer transactions “than expected”.  Here is the rub or the $60,00 question: how on earth does one arrive at that comment supported by those figures? ‘ Less than’ or ’10 years ago’ I can work with, but “expected”?  Who was expecting what under what conditions?  Wiffly-waffly, or to use a well-worn phrase from my Army days, “Big hand, small map”.  When I thought about it, the Savills’ report is typical of certain parts of corporate estate agency.  By about July 2016, the various managers will be asked to begin preparing their forecast and budgets for 2017, with an agreed signing-off date of November 2016.  This is understandable due to size but what must also be understood is that it will not necessarily be realistic or accurate by the time that it is published for public consumption. Again, we have blogged before about the numerous assistance schemes that are available to help people get onto the first rung of the property ladder.  Is this to be seen as genuine help or a well-executed political move?  Does the end result differ if it is one or the other?  Whatever contributed to the Savills’s survey results differing from what the soothsayers had uttered, at no point in their report did they proffer the possibility that many of these ‘buy our next house’ possible purchasers who bought their first property pre-crash are quite happy to sit on their increasing-in-value asset rather than strap themselves up to the hilt in debt.  In life making assumptions can be a dangerous occupation or as my old CO would say, “Assumption is the mother of many a F$%^ up”.  Wise words.

Exit, brexit…

Or that should perhaps read,”I don’t really want to go there in the first place/I can’t get out of this godforsaken $%^&*”£ quick enough”.  Forget Boris ‘It is with a heavy heart (not)… I want to choose the carpet in Number 10’ Johnson, Dave ‘I’m adopting the American presidential approach where by my second term all I am doing is working my notice-what happens in Europe in ten years has sod all to do with me’ Cameron or Angela ‘If we’d made it to the other side of the Channel in 1940 (Hitler’s Directive No 16) this would never have happened’ Merkele pantomime of who wants to go, who wants to stay and who-whether or not they want to stay will be told in no uncertain terms at the next Cabinet meeting that they are going-the real brexit is about Cardiff.  Ronnie Sullivan got the hump and enraged ‘true’ sporting fans when refusing to go for the 147 maximum break at the Welsh Open as the £10k on offer was not sufficient.  Last time that I looked the debate was still raging as to whether snooker actually qualifies as a ‘sport’ or whether it remains a ‘parlour game’ (those of you who watched Steve Davis on ‘Superstars’ will appreciate that the athletic prowess associated with sporting endeavour and success was embarrassingly absent) and I don’t believe that it states anywhere in the rules that a player has to go for the maximum break.  It was left to Ding Jun Hui to pocket the money for which he was I am sure delighted.  It obviously didn’t bother Ronald too much as he still lifted the trophy for the fourth time yesterday evening.  Aside from doing a Linda Evangelista, what Ronnie was underwhelmed by was Cardiff itself.  Having had a haircut, a Chinese (meal, not opponent) and a coffee, Ronald announced that he was bored in Cardiff, as there wasn’t much to do.  Going on previous form and his liking for a punch up, Columbian marching powder and ladies who charge £150 an hour, I can assure him that Cardiff would be more than capable of easing the boredom, although the Welsh Tourist Board may not be quite so enamoured with such marketing.  The other celebrity looking to (and succeeding in) spending as short a time as possible in the Welsh capital was Rhianna.  Having announced her Cardiff tour date to much, “I can’t wait” fanfare, the gig is now cancelled due to “logistical reasons”.  Mmm. Would a ‘reason’ be insufficient ticket sales?

Elsewhere in the country, it was reported at the weekend that instead of looking for the exit, many people in the Salisbury Plain area are going to be looking for the keys to get into their new luxury apartment located in the historical setting of Shepton Mallet Prison.  This is possibly the first time that people will be actively looking to go to prison (even one that holds the record for having the highest walls of any of HMP’s establishments).  On the same page of the property news, Ross Clark, a “property expert” answered questions posed to him by members of the house owning/selling/buying public.  One gentleman wanted advice as to whether he should wait until the spring to sell his home, or-as his local estate agent advised-sell now as things may not be so good after the budget.  This did do a Ronnie on me: Firstly, estate agents make their money from volume of sales, not necessarily extracting the best possible price from one individual property (less it being Buckingham Palace in size).  Ross elaborates further when he stated that there is good reason to wonder whether the market will still be as strong in April.  True, but come on Ross, we are now in the last week of February, the chances of getting a completion before the 1 April are as likely as Ronnie O’ Sullivan being given the Freedom of the City of Cardiff.  The final piece of ‘expert’ advice was to ensure that the estate agent takes new pictures of the property as a photograph in wintry conditions would be a “clue” that the property was taking time to sell.  Of course a picture with snow on the ground and a ‘Santa Stop Here’ sign-for a property that is being marketed in June-will not help, but I think that an even bigger clue will be the line on the botom of the Rightmove listing that says ‘Date First Listed’.  Just a thought.

Does size matter?

Well they always say that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.  As I experienced this week when accompanying a prospective purchaser around a property. The said gentleman informed me that “Your details are 2 inches out in the kitchen”. Possibly.  “You can get fined for that under the Property Misdescriptions Act”.  Wrong; on two counts.  I invited him to sit down and discuss the subject. After looking at the ceiling and stroking my cheek in the manner of Marlon Brando in The Godfather (sadly I did not have any pussy on my lap to stroke-I mean the four-legged variety that eats Kittykins-what did you think that I meant?), I pointed out that his argument for my potentially receiving punitive measures had one major flaw.  The Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 was replaced on 1 October 2013 by Consumer Protection Laws. As a side bar, the old legislation gave estate agents a 10cm margin of error on all dimensions when marketing a property. Stepping away from Imperial to Metric, two inches is the equivalent to 5.08 cm; so if the measurements in the kitchen were “out” by 2 inches and the Property Misdescriptions Act was still in use, I  was not in breach as I still had 4.92 cm to play with. Stop laughing.

The recent legislation offers even greater protection to the buyer. As well as not misleading buyers with factually incorrect information, estate agents now have to take care to ensure that they don’t omit information that is clearly important, or that would affect the value or sale of the property.  Photo shopping out the abattoir next to the property or the railway line running past the garden would be good examples.  So a great piece of legislation, with potential purchasers feeling safe in the knowledge that the agent is giving  a complete picture of all the relevant information to allow someone to come to an informed decision.  But how does an agent glean all the necessary information.  Yes, we do our homework, but when asking a vendor to complete a property questionnaire provided by their solicitor, there are invariably more “Don’t know” boxes ticked than not and this is supposing that a vendor is always wholly honest when ticking the other boxes. In addition, vendors are asked to sign off the details as factually correct before they are published for public viewing. This piece of legislation does make sense and for most respectable agents it will likely mean to simply carry on as you were.

Speaking of protection and honourable behaviour, I asked the potential buyer why he was viewing a property that was on the market for £150,000 when he had a deposit of £10,000 and a mortgage in principle of £110,000. “I don’t want to tell you everything” was the reply. Ok. I wonder whether legislation is being contemplated to protect agents from $£&*)”s?

Back to my old mucker Gideon and his new rules on stamp duty.  Originally I understood that the rules would not apply if you owned more than 15 properties.  It now transpires that the exemption only applies if you are buying more than 15 properties in one transaction. This is real time, not Monopoly.  Further more, if you already own a property, (or lots of them) and declare that your next purchase is to be your “main private residence”, then you are also exempt. I wonder just how many people are considering ‘moving ‘ after April 1?



It’s all a matter of perspective…

This week has yet again shown that events and their effects can be viewed through the whole scale of human emotion; it all depends upon where the individual(s) observing sit in the world (both literally and figuratively).  It would seem that after the first caucus, Donald Trump does still have a chance of winning the nomination to run for the 45th presidency of the United States of America.  Is this a surprise?  However unpalatable some of his views may seem to various tranches of society, a lot of people are thinking about voting for a man who actually says in public what a lot of people are thinking and saying in private.

Frank Bruno is talking about making a comeback.  Come now; who-apart from Frank thinks that this is going to happen?  Not only will he never get a licence form the BBBC (British Boxing Board of Control) but who in the media world is going to risk putting him in a fight where there is a strong possibility that he could get killed? It brings a whole new meaning to Brad Pitt’s utterance, “The first rule of Fight Club.  You do not talk about Fight Club.”  Take heed, Frank.

The WHO (the World Health Organisation, not Roger Daltrey’s lot), now want films that show people smoking to be given an 18 certificate. So Breakfast At Tiffany’s, 101 Dalmatians and Disney’s animated version of Alice in Wonderland would all have the same classification as The Exorcist and those foreign language films featuring athletic-looking ladies from Sweden…In my time, I have seen many films where the characters smoked, but I have never felt compelled as a result to go and buy a packet of Marlboro.  I have though seen many works featuring our Scandinavian friends and as result, I have felt a need to… learn Swedish.

Oil prices have now returned to about $30 a barrel, which has led to many people in the oil business or with their money in oil producing countries to ‘get their money out’.  It has been reported that $250 billion (yes, you did read that correctly, billion), has been taken out of Saudi Arabia in the past 3 months and has found a new piggy bank in London, where -amongst other things-it has been invested in property.  Thus the lull in the London market (that would be viewed as a buying frenzy in every other postcode in the country), during late 2015 has been replaced with a rocketing trajectory as the oil money does its thing.  This has now resulted in a new London ‘help-to-buy’ scheme to enable people with smaller deposits to buy properties in the Capital.  Of course, a small deposit in London would buy in its entirety a rather nice house in Tonypandy.  The residents of North Pontypool are awaiting the launch of the ‘Varteg help-to-buy scheme’.

Plans can and should always be made.  Events then come along and put the kibosh on everything.  Trying to slow down the growth of the property market by increasing stamp duty on second homes will have an effect on those whom one could describe as ordinary people.  It will have absolutely no effect or prove to be any form of deterrent to the billionaire looking for a home for his money.  And if you own more than 15 properties, then you will be exempt from the changes to stamp duty.  It’s back to those billionaires again; it’s back to the man with an estimated net worth of $4 billion who is on course to be the first presidential candidate to make a profit from his campaigning, regardless of whether he gets to choose the new carpet for the Oval Office.  There is a lesson to be learnt there.