Monthly Archives: February 2020

Rightmove loses agents as latest figures show huge rise in fees and profits

Rightmove loses agents as latest figures show huge rise in fees and profits

Rightmove has released another stonking set of results – but there are signs that some agents are defecting from the ever-more-expensive portal.

Figures released to shareholders this morning relating to the full year of 2019 show revenue, underlying profit and operating profit all up eight per cent – and earnings per share up no less than 10 per cent.

The key Average Revenue Per Advertiser or ARPA – how much each branch or developer pays per month – is up £83 to £1,088.

However for the first time there is a drop in membership numbers over the year.

There’s been a three per cent fall from 20,454 in December 2018 to 19,809 a few weeks ago at the end of 2019.

The breakdown shows that the portal listed 16,347 estate agency branches last year, down from 17,328 in 2018; developer numbers rose from 3,126 in 2018 to 3,462 last year.

Rightmove tells shareholders this is “reflecting a decline in mainly low-stock agency branches offset by strong growth in New Homes development numbers.”

In a statement accompanying the figures, chief executive Peter Brooks-Johnson says: “Rightmove is synonymous with home moving, with 2019 being the ninth year in a row more people searched on Google for Rightmove than for property.

“We continue to innovate, not only for home hunters, but also to help property professionals become more efficient and more resilient to a rapidly changing environment.

“Our culture of restlessness has led to the development of a number of innovative solutions which allow our professional customers to market to by far the largest audience in the UK.

“January 2020 was our busiest month ever with more than 152m visits and that trend has continued as we’ve recorded our five busiest days ever in February.

“I’m pleased that many of our customers who are seeing opportunity are choosing to invest in our digital solutions to grow their businesses.

“By working with our customers, 2019 has yet again demonstrated that Rightmove is a business which can continue to grow in uncertain times.”

In a section of this morning’s report, issued on the London Stock Exchange RNS system, it says of agents:

“Winning the right to an instruction to sell or let a property is critical to an agent’s success. 

“Our premium packages, Enhanced and Optimiser, help our customers to generate more opportunities to win instructions cost effectively. The packages include branding and property promotion solutions to boost agents’ performance in the ‘awareness’ stage of the marketing funnel, while our popular Local Valuation Alert and Rightmove Discover products fast-track agents to the ‘consideration’ stage. 

“We continue to enhance the performance of these products to keep them at the forefront of digital marketing for our customers. Following a number of enhancements, Local Valuation Alert and Rightmove Discover delivered over 20 per cent more leads from people asking for a valuation on their home in 2019 over last year.

“Against the backdrop of a cautious housing marketplace estate agents continue to recognise the value of our additional marketing products and packages with penetration of the Enhanced and Optimiser packages reaching 38 per cent of independent estate agency customers up from 27 per cent in December 2018.”

6 Bedroom Detached House for Sale in Hatton Park Road, Wellingborough

 

Vendor Comments

“We have lived in our bespoke home since we built it in 2010, which was a labour of love. Our aim was to create a loving family home which was spacious, functional, adaptable and warm. The interiors of our property have been fitted and furnished to an immaculate standard, making it an effortless home to live in which is full of charm.

One of our favourite rooms is the kitchen-diner which we designed with versatility in mind. It offers a practical working and dining space as well as a hub for social gatherings. French doors from the kitchen open up into a conservatory creating a larger communal area. From this, a second set of French doors open up into the garden to create the perfect social space.

The garden is well maintained by ourselves and we have spent a lot of time ensuring that it looks beautiful in all seasons. Our ambition was to create an additional room in the garden which has been achieved.

We imagine the new owners of the property will have as many happy memories as we have, if not more!”

 

Location

The property is situated in the prestigious Hatton Park Road, a smart leafy avenue, just north of the centre of Wellingborough, in Northamptonshire. Wellingborough has a range of supermarkets, shops and amenities including Rushden Lakes which is just a short drive away. There are a variety of Primary and Secondary schools within the area and the property is in the catchment for Sir Christopher Hatton Academy, rated outstanding by OFSTED. Public schooling is available in Wellingborough, Oundle, Uppingham and Northampton. Train services are available from Wellingborough station which is less than two miles away. The rail service to St Pancras takes approximately 50 minutes, which is at present being upgraded to ensure the journey takes 40 minutes. Communication links are very good, with easy access to the A45 which also provides access to the M1 motorway at junctions 15 and 16.

There are some attractive walks and bridleways in the area including Glamis Woods which is located just off of Hatton Park Road, as well as the beautiful Irchester Country Park close by.

There are a number of sporting facilities around the area including a Cricket Club and bowling green located on Hatton Park Road itself.

 

Accommodation

Entering the hall, the first impression is one of light and space, due to ample daylight and the high ceilings and the high quality Berg & Berg Oak flooring that is fitted throughout the house, excluding the bathrooms, presenting an elegance befitting the house. There is also white wooden wall panelling, further enhancing the first impressions of the house.

To the left there are two bedrooms and a fully fitted bathroom either of which could be used for other purposes, the smaller of the two is currently used as an office. French doors to the lounge, which is spacious, with a window and Patio doors to the rear, there is also a log burner, creating a warm family atmosphere. Door to the snug/dining room which also has a door to the kitchen. The door to the kitchen, which is the stunning heart of the house and family area with very high quality bespoke fitted cabinets, an island unit which is 3 meters long and could comfortably seat eight people.

The kitchen is finished to a very high standard, with fitted appliances and a range cooker, spotlights and beautiful feature lighting with lots of cupboards and storage space. To the rear of the kitchen is a large conservatory accessed through French doors, with views to the garden, there is also a door to the side of the house. To the rear of the kitchen is a door to the utility room and from there, a door to the garage.

 

First Floor

At the top of the stairs, the wide landing is bright and spacious with Velux windows allowing plenty of light in and provides access to first floor rooms including an airing cupboard. The master bedroom, which has views to the rear, there is an en-suite with enclosed power shower, vanity wash basin and WC. The family bathroom has a Velux window, enclosed shower unit, deluxe vanity wash basin and Jacuzzi bath. There are three further large double bedrooms.

 

Outside

To the front of the property which is accessed by locking double gates, there is an extensive sweeping driveway, with parking for 5/6 cars and access to the double garage. There is ample space to the side and the rear garden which is surrounded by mature trees, has a large patio area, a Pergola with the remainder of the garden laid to lawn as well as flower and shrubs.

Double Garage

With a large insulated double door, power, heat and lighting connected and personal doors to the house, the garage can easily accommodate two large cars.

 Directions

From the A45, enter Wellingborough along the Northampton road, at the mini roundabout, take the left on to Westfield road, then turn left on to Hardwick road and then right in to Hatton Park road, the property is located towards the end on the left.

Services

Mains water, drainage, electricity and gas are connected. Heating is provided by gas fired boiler.

Local Authority

Wellingborough Council Council tax band G

Property Features

*Detached House *Exceptionally Versatile Living Space *Stunning Kitchen with Fitted Appliances, plenty of space for both informal dining and seating *Six Bedrooms *Two Family Bathrooms and an En-Suite Bathroom *Conservatory *Private Landscaped Gardens *Plenty of Parking and Turning *Heated Insulate Double Garage *No Upper Chain.

EPC Rating D

View Full Details HERE

For further information, valuations, marketing, help finding your next home, or if you would like further information on BUYING, SELLING, INVESTING, OR RENOVATING, please feel free to contact us directly.

Fine & Country Northampton
9 George Row
Northampton
NN1 1DF
Office: +44(0)1604 309030
northampton@fineandcountry.com
https://www.fineandcountry.com/uk/northampton

Social Media: Agent sells home off-market via Instagram teaser images

Social Media: Agent sells home off-market via Instagram teaser images

An estate agent has sold a home off-market by posting teaser photographs on Instagram.

The buyer – who was in the French Alps on holiday when she saw the social media posts for the property in the Warwickshire village of Lapworth – was attracted by a series of teaser photographs.

These were not of the property itself, nor even a general view of its interior, but were instead so-called ‘teaser shots’ – in this case, the first images were of goldfish in an antique watering can sitting on wooden decking. The caption said the photos were from a property going on sale soon in Lapworth.

The buyer has told local media that it was these posts that triggered her interest; she has now completed on the property.

“I liked their pictures and I follow hashtags like #victorianterrace and #darkdecor. I’d also started following the #Lapworth hashtag too as I knew that was the village we wanted to be in. I wasn’t desperate to move but it felt too good an opportunity to miss. The post on Instagram for me was the deciding factor” she says.

The agency behind the Instagram posts is Mr and Mrs Clarke – a hybrid with the business model of using self-employed or freelance agents operating under the same brand. It’s six years old and has featured frequently on Estate Agent Today, most recently here.

Paul Clarke, the agency’s founder, says 50 per cent of the houses which are pictured on Instagram attract enquires.

He’s told Birmingham  Live: “Agents have done this sort of off-market selling for ages but through databases and email lists. With Instagram, you can make it more aesthetically pleasing and interesting.

“There was a picture we put on Instagram that featured a cockapoo running through a living room. Within hours, a lady in her early seventies had sent a message. She viewed it and offered the asking price before the house hit the market.”

Amongst the tips he has suggested for publicising homes for sale via Instagram is to use hashtags.

“People follow hashtags and you can create a buzz around a picture by using relevant and popular hashtags. It might be a roaring fire in the winter, some flowers popping out of the ground in spring or it could be an architectural feature of the home. For these images use useful, descriptive hashtags like #springgarden #featurefireplace #interiordesign.”

And he urges the photographs to be taken and selected with a view to making prospective buyers smile. He suggests: “Homes are places to be enjoyed and Instagram is a great place to share light hearted moments. If something about your home brings a smile to your face then it’s likely to do the same for your viewer, so have fun with it. You’re more likely to get engagement with something that draws a smile.”

Agents asked to confess if their firm has been price-fixing

Agents asked to confess if their firm has been price-fixing

A new call has been issued this morning by the Competition and Markets Authority for estate agents to confess if their business has been involved in a price fixing cartel.

In a statement released this morning the CMA says: “If you think your business has been involved in illegal activity, you should notify the CMA as soon as possible – you may benefit from lenient treatment by being the first to come forward to the CMA.

“We also recommend that you seek independent, legal advice.

“If you have information on other companies in your industry that may have been involved in an anti-competitive arrangement, report it to us.”

The CMA’s announcement this morning makes the call after expressing concern that there have been three cartel issues in the estate agency industry in recent years.

The latest was in December 2019 when four estate agents were found to have broken competition law by agreeing to fix and maintain a minimum level of commission fees to be charged for the sale of residential properties over a period of almost seven years.

The agents were fined a total of £605,519.

This morning’s statement from the CMA says: “Competition law exists to ensure businesses compete fairly and customers are protected from getting ripped off. Price fixing cartels are among the most serious kinds of anti-competitive behaviour as they cheat customers by forcing up prices and reducing quality and choice.”

And referring to the most recent case it says: ”By fixing minimum levels of commission rates, the estate agents denied local people selling their homes the chance of getting the best possible deal.”

And the statement goes on to issue advice to agents, saying:

– Do not discuss what you or your competitors intend to charge;

– Just receiving or sharing sensitive commercial information is likely to be illegal;

– Make it very clear you will not participate in illegal arrangements or discussions about them and take active steps to distance yourself from the outset;

– All anti-competitive arrangements – written or verbal, formal or informal – are equally illegal, and the CMA has sophisticated means of tracking down evidence;

– There are no excuses for illegal anti-competitive activity – ignorance of the law is not one either;

– If two competitors participate in an anti-competitive arrangement, this is sufficient to make it illegal – it doesn’t matter if not all competitors in the market participate;

– If you are a small business competition law still applies to you.

Rightmove charges blamed for helping some agents going bust

Rightmove charges blamed for helping some agents go bust

A free-to-list portal says the costs of listing on the established sites – especially Rightmove – are contributing to estate agencies going bust.

“Property portals make money by charging to list on their site, regardless of a sale or let being made. Depending on the quality of listings, brand notoriety, area of operation, and a whole host of other factors, you could end up paying a fortune to a portal before you even generate your first lead” says Christopher May, director of Residential People.

And he says those portal costs are contributing to as many as 10 agencies goes bust each week, with Rightmove named as the chief culprit.

May says the number one portal has been accused by agents of charging crippling fees and putting the squeeze on independent firms, many of which are now beginning to voice concern about their situation.

“Property portals are undoubtedly a main driving force for the industry and are here to stay, but what good is a portal without the agents supplying the properties?” asks May.

“In theory, portals should work for the agent not against them, yet in practice this rarely is the case,” he says.

He says the major portals justify their charges by suggesting the cost is a trade-off against leads generated and the profit an agent makes from successful leads.

But May says that with more agents suffering narrow margins, and some being required to pay additional costs to hire digital marketing experts, many now seek alternative ways to market and increase exposure of their inventory.

In November Estate Agent Today reported a claim by the property management firm Apropos by DJ Alexander that around 10 agencies had gone bust every week in Britain during 2019.

The firm analysed official data and found that 371 businesses dedicated chiefly to the selling of homes had entered formal insolvency proceedings in the first nine months of the year – 348 in England and Wales and 23 in Scotland. Apropos returned to the same theme last month, claiming more agencies would go bust this year.

Residential People lists some 950,000 properties from a number of countries, and does not charge agents.

“While Residential People is a free-to-list platform, we have other means of deriving income through optional features. In the long run, our business model allows us to develop our proposition into other areas, much in the same vein as Amazon has done at the other end of the scale.”

UK House Prices Surge to Near-Record Levels

Every region seeing house price rises for first time in two years

 

Average house prices in the UK grew by 2.9% in February compared to last year, according to Rightmove.

The latest figures from the online property website revealed that average house prices have risen by £2,589 over the past month, a 0.8% monthly rise. It means the average price of a home in the UK was £309,399 in February, just £40 less than the all-time record average UK house price that was set in June 2018.

Rightmove said this latest surge to near-record prices was helped by another record 152 million visits on its site in January, with 12% more agreed sales last month compared to January 2019. Rightmove’s data was based on the asking prices of more than 108,000 properties, or around 95% of the current UK housing market.

“There is a boom in buyer activity outstripping the rise in the number of new sellers, which we expect to lead to a series of new price records starting next month,” said Miles Shipside, director and housing market analyst at Rightmove. “This means that spring buyers are likely to be faced with the highest average asking prices ever seen in Britain.

“Buyers who had been hesitating and waiting for the greater political certainty following the election outcome may be paying a higher price, but they can now jump into the spring market with renewed confidence.

“After three years of Brexit uncertainty, dither and delay, many now seem to have the 2020 vision that this is the year to satisfy their pent-up housing needs. Owners coming to market this spring face the best selling prospects for several years, with good demand for the right properties at the right prices.

“It’s the first time for over a year that we have seen any sign of a return of seller confidence, albeit lagging behind the surge in numbers of early-bird buyers. Owners coming to market this spring face the best selling prospects for several years, with good demand for the right properties at the right prices.

“However, sellers should be careful not to get carried away with their pricing, as this is still a price-sensitive market with stretched buyer affordability. Those who over-price risk missing out on the window of increased activity that could run at least until we approach the next Brexit deadline at the end of the year.

“Now could be an excellent time to get on the market and sell, seizing the opportunity of achieving a quick sale at a decent price.”

Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, said: “Since the election, we’ve certainly seen a significant uptick in new buyer demand in the prime market which creates a real opportunity for sellers while stock for sale remains relatively low.

“Increased confidence is translating into increased activity, both in the prime market and across the wider market as a whole. It is clear that the market remains largely dictated by sentiment. Our own agents are reporting that the vast majority of buyers remain unwilling to increase their budgets.

“Accordingly, our advice remains that sellers need to remain pragmatic on price, particularly given some of the uncertainty around an impending budget, the first of the new government.”

Death of buy to let has been greatly exaggerated, new figures show

Death of buy to let has been greatly exaggerated, new figures show

Predictions that landlords are not buying properties to let out because of tougher rental taxes and regulations appear to be short of the mark according to new mortgage data.

Statistics for December from UK Finance, the mortgage lenders’ trade body, suggest that there were 5,700 new buy to let home purchase mortgages completed in December – that’s 3.6 per cent more than this time last year.

There was also a small rise in first time buyer mortgages completed in December – 29,490 which was 0.3 per cent up on the same month a year earlier.

There were also 29,400 ‘home mover’ mortgages completed in December 2019, 3.2 per cent more than in December 2018.

“These figures reflect what was happening in the months leading up to the election so only show a more solid resilience in activity in what was still quite a turbulent period” notes Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman.

But he adds: “Of just as much interest is the strong increase in buy to let home purchases, which we also noticed on the ground as aspiring first-time buyers squeezed by strict lending criteria continued to rent. This has encouraged more landlords to expand their portfolios or join the sector.”

And Mike Scott, chief property analyst at online agency Yopa, says: “It takes a long time for an increase in buyer interest to feed through into mortgage completions … so this December figure demonstrates that the upturn in market activity must have started much earlier in the year.”

Cash is king – but does it really mean lower sale prices?

Cash is king - but does it really mean lower sale prices?

A new study suggests cash buyers secure lower sale prices than mortgaged purchasers – but is that really the case?

The survey by comparison site GetAgent looked at the average price paid by cash buyers over the last 12 months and compared it to buyers with mortgages.

The data shows that across the UK the average paid by cash buyers over the last year was £220,100 – nine per cent cheaper than the average  paid by buyers with a mortgage,  £240,758.

“Cash buyers are preferable to many sellers because they provide a much simpler transaction with fewer hoops to jump through and often come without a complicated chain. The flip side of this convenience is that cash buyers have a far stronger position when it comes to negotiations and often sellers will accept a more sizeable reduction for the speed and convenience of a cash sale” says GetAgent founder and chief executive Colby Short.

However, what isn’t clear from the research is whether the homes bought with cash were smaller or in less desirable locations – thus contributing to the lower price.

Downsizers, for example, typically make cash purchases of smaller homes using the proceeds from the sale of larger properties; younger buyers seek larger and dearer properties as their families grow and statistically are more likely to have mortgages.

Colby says cash has become more significant in recent years for a variety of reasons.

“Brexit uncertainty left many on the fence and so those looking to sell have had to do so with a lower price expectation due to a dwindling level of buyer interest. Therefore, finding the golden ticket of a cash buyer with honest intentions in a market slowdown has prompted an even greater tendency to sell with a greater cash discount in order to get a sale over the line” he believes.

“At the other end of the transaction scale, the continued affordability of borrowing money due to low interest rates has seen many aspirational buyers commit to a greater sum than they may have otherwise.”

In the GetAgent analysis, the gap between cash and mortgaged purchases was highest in the North East and North West, where properties bought with cash go for 12 per cent less, while London is the only region where cash will cost you more – six per cent more than the average price paid by a mortgage buyer.

Young and minted: 50% of Mayfair residents aged 21 to 44

Young and minted: 50% of Mayfair residents aged 21 to 44

A high profile and widely-respected estate agent is predicting a huge demographic change to one of the country’s wealthiest enclaves – Mayfair.

Peter Wetherell, whose agency Wetherell entered into a partnership with London chain Dexters at the end of last year, says Mayfair is about to see its largest demographic and property change of profile for 100 years.

For example, Wetherell says the area’s attraction to Middle Eastern buyers – especially interested in new-builds – is now changing as more buyers come from mainland China and Hong Kong.

In addition, Mayfair is appealing to a younger demographic, with international buyers often being Millennials or even younger. “For example a one bedroom apartment at Clarges Mayfair [was] … let last year for £30,000 per month to a young Millennial with the deal agreed in less than 24 hours” says a statement from the agency.

He says by just next year almost 50 per cent of all residents in Mayfair will be 21 to 44 and by 2030 almost one third of all residents will be Digital Natives – that is, those born since 1995.

On more everyday matters such as the state of the market now, Wetherell says the Boris Bounce has been seen even in the rarified atmosphere of Mayfair.

Following three years of political uncertainty, the average pound per square foot values for second-hand stock are now at levels comparable to the end of 2013.

Some 51 per cent of sales last year exceeded £2,000 per sq. ft. compared to 18 per cent reaching that price threshold across the rest of Prime Central London.

Wetherell predicts that sales volumes of second-hand properties could increase by up to 50% over the coming year, prompted by limited stock and pent-up demand.

Currently, up to 75 per cent of the second hand market in Mayfair is priced up to £5m with a fifth of sales last year registered above £5m.

Wetherell says that in the last decade new landmark developments offering luxury apartments and state-of-the-art residents’ amenities have achieved between £5,000 and £7,000 per square foot.

“Additionally, these new modern developments can sell at values over double that of average Mayfair prices, leading to a comparative value uplift for properties in close proximity to the new developments. Demand for these homes is set to rise as new planning policies will restrict future developments, creating a very exclusive buying opportunity” says the agency.

“Mayfair residents are increasingly younger and seeking a high-performance lifestyle, with leading developers and global brands reacting to this to further enhance Mayfair’s amenities and lifestyle offerings. Whether you are looking to buy or rent, it is clear that people want to live in Mayfair and its appeal will continue to grow this exciting decade.”

Homes bought after 14 days listing achieve best sale price – claim

Homes bought after 14 days listing achieve best sale price - claim

A prominent consumer group says homes sold precisely 14 days after first being listed typically achieve the best price – closest to asking.

Homes selling in this short period typically get 99.4 per cent of their asking price.

Those that sell after one month achieve an a average of 98 per cent of their asking price while those which take two months to find a buyer drop to an a average 91 per cent.

Then after 12 weeks on the market a typical sale price slips to 90 per cent.

The analysis has been undertaken by the HomeOwners Alliance, using data from over 6,500 estate agent branches across Britain.

The HOA says that based on the average property price across the UK of £235,000, a 14-day sale will mean the vendor would be only £1,400 below their asking price.

However, the amount by which they fall short of their asking price increases over time and the alliance says after one month the price drop is more than £5,000 and then over £20,000 after two months on the market.

“Draw up a short list based on their track record, not their sales pitch. If you’re selling a home which has been languishing on the market speak to your agent and review the asking price. You may also want to switch estate agent to one that has a better success rate in your local market.”