One of London’s most experienced estate agents says there has been a very significant surge in foreclosure sales in part of the capital’s housing market – even before the Coronavirus outbreak began.
Marc Schneiderman is the director of Arlington Residential, an independent agency that offers sales and lettings at the middle to top end of the market in central and north west London.
He says that clearly during the lockdown period that will be almost no new business, although he notes that predatory buyers are already on the prowl for casualties of the crisis – forced to sell at significant discounts.
However, Schneiderman believes there have been significant weaknesses in the market even before the Covid-19 calamity.
“Notwithstanding this current crisis, never before in my 35 years as an agent can I recall so many sales on behalf of banks and mortgagees in possession” he says.
“The property market has always been a barometer of the business world and reflected how well industry and retail is performing. For some time now bank foreclosures and mortgagee possession sales have been prevalent at the top end of the market.
“At the end of 2019 my firm acted on behalf of receivers on the sale of one of London’s largest flats. This penthouse apartment had an impressive 8,342 square feet of space and a further 4,125 square feet of terraces. It overlooked Regent’s Park, had underground parking for seven cars and an asking price of circa £10m.
“This is one of many receivership sales that have taken place in recent months at the top end of the London property market and it is no longer unusual for us to be contacted by a bank who are foreclosing on a £10m, £20m or even £30m property.
“Sadly it is just indicative of the wider depressed economic environment in which we find ourselves as a country”.
Separately, Savills has issued its routine quarterly figures for Prime London – unusually ending them not at the end of the quarter, but at mid-March to reflect the situation before the Coronavirus outbreak.
Nonetheless, in an introduction to the figures, the agency admits that the virus has impacted the market and Lucian Cook – the agency’s head of residential research – says: “It seems inevitable that there will be a period of low transactional activity over the spring and summer months, so it will probably be autumn before we can understand what this will mean for future price growth.”
Two property portals insist they’re going to launch this spring despite the Coronavirus chaos effectively closing down much of the housing market.
OpenBrix has been 18 months in the making and says it’s finally launching at an unspecified date in early April.
It says it’s seeking to address what it describes as agents’ frustrations with the current leading portals – lack of control, price hikes and “the uncomfortable feeling that the agents hard acquired and costly data is being sold without benefit to the agent.”
It says its structure is reliant on a database shared across a Blockchain network of agents, rather than located at one central point.
Its structure is similarly devolved – it says each agency brand, irrespective of size, will have one vote in determining strategy and policy. It describes this as “community control” and pledges that “all price increases will have to agreed and voted on by the community.”
And it adds: “If the UK agents want control of a portal for the first time, then this is the solution.”
Meanwhile Homesearch, a relatively new supplier to the industry that has until now specialised in data for agents, says it too is to launch a portal – this time on May 25.
The company says it has information on Britain’s entire 29m housing stock and pledges to be not just another portal but “the future of the industry”.
Creators Giles Ellwood and Sam Hunter say on their website: “We have self-funded the business since 2017 and have reinvested over £3m in data and engineering. Last year alone our software delivered over a billion pounds worth of market appraisals to the agents using our services. Over the past few days, with help and honest truths from agents closest to us, we believe we have engineered a long term solution. Not just another portal, but the future of the industry. A platform that networks you, the agent, with every home and client in the country.”
Calling itself a truly agent-first platform it describes itself as: “A network where consumers can interact with your agency and your instructions, as well as placing your agency in front of them for every other property they search for in your market. Everything will lead back to your website and the phone numbers and links will be yours, not ours.”
It promises agents will “not ever pay to list instructions” but property developers and house builders will; half of those charges will go to homeless and social housing projects.