Questions, questions…

Well, the past week has thrown up a number of ‘let me tell you’ pub bore points for discussion (you know who you are). In no particular order:

  • Who would have thought that a former Rhodes Scholar and one-time candidate for leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition would seek repatriation into public ‘affection’ (not here he didn’t), through the medium of dance?
  • Did the Strictly Come Prancing (SCP) team have their own version of The Schlieffen Plan to get rid of him had the viewing public through some masochistic tendency voted to keep him again?
  • Can the SCP team be anymore blatant in their desperation to get a Clifton (home-grown from Grimsby, no bloody foreigners) into the final?
  • Why was Danny wearing a pair of Len’s old trousers-circa 1980-for his samba?
  • When will politicians and their support teams learn not to wander around in public-knowing that a 1000 eyes (technological and literal) are going to be watching them-whilst carrying highly sensitive documents. Have they never heard of a satchel?
  • How many people long for the return of Chancellor Gideon?
  • What odds the said former incumbent of No 11 was thinking ‘thank f^&$ it’s not me, I get £120k per speech now’ whilst observing his successor deliver his Autumn statement?

Chancellor Hammond’s headline-grabbing announcement of landlord fees being scrapped furrowed many a brow in the property world. First up, it referred to England, not Wales. So those who never have any attention of venturing east of Pontypool can look away now. Secondly, it sure opened up a can of worms as agents became increasingly emotive about what they actually do to earn their fee.  In some cases, this ranges from bugger all to the bare minimum. This is unprofessional. May I offer that there are many agents out in the wilds of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Newbury, Varteg and Cwmbran who do not mug off their tenants. Our job at Cheshire and Co is to find the landlord the most suitable tenant not the one who can move in the quickest. As a result, we also have a duty of care to the tenant, because sometimes we just know the the landlord/tenant mix will be wrong. An example of allocating the right person to the right landlord was when we were recently informed by a nervous tenant that she had had the supplier cut off the gas because on the first day in her new house, she had smelt carbon monoxide gas. What is the obvious mistake there science buffs? So we called out the plumber ASAP who reported back that in fact the smell was oil-based gloss paint as the landlord had fully redecorated the property and had only finished the day before she moved in. The landlord was very sanguine and said not to worry, that these things happen. The point is that we knew that this particular tenant was somewhat emotionally fragile due to recent events in her personal life so would require a compassionate landlord. Whom we found. How did we know this? Let us return to the issue of fees.

When a potential tenant has viewed a property and wants to proceed and make an application we get them into the office and help them complete a 6 page application form, fully explaining what will happen next. This takes as long as the wannabee tenant requires. The form is then sent to an outsourced referencing company who will complete in depth checks. We will receive any number of calls from the referencing company asking for help because the applicant’s employer has not answered any phone calls, emails and has ignored the small plane trailing a banner saying, ‘Answer your phone’. This can also apply to the landlord. We then get involved and chase all the the necessary information-that we have already paid for to be chased down. Once we have all the referencing back we prepare a case to put to the landlord as to why the applicant will, in our opinion, make a good tenant. We then prepare the 10 page contract and include all the relevant additions that either the tenant or landlord has requested.

We then get the tenant back to the office to go through the signing-up procedure. After 5 minutes, most tenant’s eyes glaze over as all they want is the keys, but we make sure that we go through everything in the contract that applies to them. We then get a total of 4 contracts signed, not copied, go through the EPC  and the gas safety and ensure that the tenants sign to confirm that we have done this. No proof of this on file and we cannot issue a Section 21 notice at the end of the contract. This all takes time. We then go to the property with the tenant to explain how everything works. In total, a conservative estimate would be that we have spent 5 hours just getting the tenant through the front door. Once we have deducted the outsourced referencing fees there is very little of the £180 fee left.

What this scrapping of fees does ask is who is going to pay for the work carried out by the agent? No prize for answering the tenants in some way, shape or form. Watch this space.

Incidentally, what of the lady who mistook gloss paint for carbon monoxide? Even though the contract quite clearly stated that the emgency call-out fee for the plumber was to be paid for by the tenant, the landlord said, “Give the girl a chance” and settled the bill. Lucky girl.

“Prediction is very difficult…

…especially about the future” As a Nobel prize winning physicist, who amongst other things developed quantum theory and furthered the world’s understanding of atomic structure, Niels Bohr was probably better qualified than most to offer such an opinion. That said, very few people are immune from embracing their inner Nostradamus or the more bargain basement Mystic Meg. As history demonstrates, if we got it right more often than not, the human race would not be in the state that it is today. As we sit here watching the slow motion car crash that is the American presidential election, who would have predicted that the most powerful person in the world would be selected from those two? As one pundit put it, if the bar were set any lower, they would trip over it. Who predicts who will be choosing the new decor for the Oval Office? Closer to home who envisaged a certain N Clegg crawling back out of the post-election/party obliteration abyss to try and challenge Brexit? Actually, as someone whose whole career has been gifted to him courtesy of the EU, this perhaps shouldn’t come as the greatest surprise. Similarly, would anyone have predicted Great Britain having the Number 1 ranked tennis player in the world, or the 5th in line to the throne having a girlfriend who can be found not in Country Life or Debrett’s Peerage, but on the adult entertainment site, Pornhub (I am told that it is very informative..)? As the summer ends, so the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and forecasting arrives. Throughout November, various experts and professional organisations release their forecasts for the housing market in 2017. Give me strength. Savills, one of the big boys, was first out of the traps by releasing a five year forecast. That’s right, five years working with the Gregorian Calendar, not indulging in some kind of Dr Who-esque time travel. I must admit that I have not read the Savill’s exposition. I far prefer reading the old ones and I do wonder just where the authors are and what they are doing. If they are sitting poolside on their Caribbean island being waited on by one of a posse of pneumatic blondes, I doff my cap and will become an avid disciple of property market predictions. If they are still within the land of the rest of us mere mortals, I shall stick with reading the tea leaves and trying not to run over any black cats.

This week also gave us the news that Channel 4 are launching a new property programme called Coast v Country. The aim of the programme is to ‘persuade’ buyers who want out of city living to buy their next property either in the country or on the coast. In presenting them with potential homes in the differing locations, they will be ‘forced’to choose. Ground breaking stuff, I think you will agree. Forgive my being ever so slightly pedantic, but if you are someone who no longer wants to live in a city, then not living in a city means living in the country, or by the sea, (or on the moon, or possibly at Her Majesty’s Pleasure). Joking aside, this time next week we may all be considering a move. Depending upon who is chosen by our friends across the pond to put their finger on the red button, we may all be finding that a bunker thirty foot under ground is a very attractive proposition. I will be intrigued to see how the Savill’s forecasters describe this new concept in the housing market.