Estate Agents

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High-profile husband-and-wife agents move to rival company

High-profile husband-and-wife agents move to rival company

Rupert and Annabel Wakley – both long-time stalwarts of Knight Frank’s country department – have moved over to the rival Jackson-Stops agency.

Rupert is to head up the Chipping Campden branch of Jackson-Stops, following 15 years at Knight Frank where he was most recently partner and office head of the Stow-on-the-Wold office in Gloucestershire.

Prior to that he spent eight years at the Knight Frank Stratford-upon-Avon office.

Meanwhile Annabel will be heading the Chipping Campden lettings operation for Jackson-Stops, having left her role as head of lettings for Knight Frank’s Stratford-upon-Avon office.

“We’re delighted to welcome Rupert Wakley to Jackson-Stops. His commitment and expertise in growing and developing offices within this region is impressive and we are looking forward to seeing Rupert, Annabel and the team continue to build on Jackson-Stops’ high-quality service in the area” says Jackson-Stops chairman Nick Leeming.

“Although a lot has changed in the last few months since Covid-19, I am looking forward to embracing our ‘new normal’ with Annabel and the team, building on our strong links with the local community, and continuing to share our knowledge and love of the Cotswolds with our clients and buyers alike” says Rupert Wakley.

Before establishing his career in the estate agency industry, Rupert Wakley was a professional jump jockey for 10 years, riding some 250 winners including Wandering Light, which he took to victory at the Cheltenham Festival.

Rightmove to enhance online viewing features in roll-out to agents

 Rightmove to enhance online viewing features in roll-out to agents

Rightmove has contacted all member agents saying it has enhanced its automated online viewing feature first introduced in April.

As part of the government recommendations when re-opening the housing market, it urged the industry to maximise the use of virtual viewings.

Rightmove is now telling agents they can give vendors the opportunity to request an online viewing when they send a lead.

This option can in turn be used by the agent to send a link to a video hosted on their own website, or to have a video walkthrough using a video calling app.

A message to agents from Dave Anderson, agency and new homes director at the portal, says:

“We’ll be releasing this new feature over the next week. We’ll let you know as soon as it’s ready to use and we’ll give you a step by step guide on how to do it.

“We’re telling you in advance that this improved feature, included as part of your Rightmove membership, is coming soon so you can arrange to get new video content in whatever way you think will work best for you, your customers and the current government coronavirus guidance in your area.”

He says the initiative is part of Rightmove’s 10 point plan, released a fortnight ago.

Anderson adds in his note to agents: “We know that you have a lot on your plate at the moment – we hope that you’re able to make use of the improved Online Viewing features to cut down on the number of physical viewings you need to carry out and better prioritise your hottest leads.”

There was no reference to the long-term fees issue which has been a focus of agency anger in recent months, prompting the creating of the Say No To Rightmove campaign.

Sales progression app now used by 1,000 agency branches

Sales progression app now used by 1,000 agency branches

PropTech supplier mio says it now has over 1,000 agency branches using its sales progression platform – and it’s recruited Countrywide to issue a testimonial for the service.

The mio app provides a picture of the property chain, with each milestone being checked off as it is completed.

“We empower agents to quickly understand the status of each transaction in a chain by deploying updates from conveyancers, mortgage brokers and surveyors. Our sales progression process is really simple to follow, and the integrated consumer app ensures that it’s easy to manage communication with buyers and sellers. These features are all designed to make sales progression easier and faster so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing a strong increase in interest in mio as businesses plan for the future” according to Emma Vigus, mio’s managing director.

She says future enhancements to the service will focus on additional data on the platform to reduce re-keying by agents and improving connectivity between agents, mortgage brokers and conveyancers.

In testimonials issued by the company the managing director of Countrywide’s south west region, Stuart Lobb, says: “We have found the system of great benefit during these challenging times and we will continue to expand usage of mio as we emerge from lockdown”

Rightmove says key market indicator already better than last year

Rightmove says key market indicator already better than last year

The number of full property details viewed on Rightmove – a key indicator of market health – is already stronger than a year ago.

The portal says this measure indicates serious buyers looking at pictures, descriptions, videos and floorplans; the figure has recovered from a 35 per cent drop as the housing market closed to now being up two per cent on this time last year.

Separately a survey by Rightmove during lockdown found that 94 per cent of first-time buyers were determined to continue with their plans to get on the housing ladder when they were allowed to do so.

This new analysis, based on properties that typically appeal to first-time buyers – those with two bedrooms or fewer – shows the additional amounts first-time buyers may need to save up for or hope to borrow from family, if they need a 15 per cent deposit to comfortably afford the mortgage repayments.

The study of 20 cities in England reveals an average difference of over £12,000 between a 10 per cent and 15 per cent first-time buyer deposit based on the current average asking price of £241,891.

There is a difference of over £58,000 between the biggest and smallest 15 per cent deposits required in cities in England, with the biggest needed in London and the smallest needed in Bradford.

Despite the seven week pause in the market, asking prices of all typical first-timer buyer property currently listed have generally held up, and are two per cent higher in England than this time last year in this sector.

There is currently £60 billion worth of property in this first-time buyer sector on Rightmove, including those that currently have a sale agreed and now hope to continue through the conveyancing process to completion.

In five out of the 20 cities asking prices are slightly cheaper than in 2019.

“Many first-time buyers looking to grab a bargain right now may find they’re disappointed, as on the whole asking prices of all first-time buyer properties up for sale have been holding up. There will of course be some sellers who need to sell quickly and may be willing to negotiate on price so it’s worth asking your local agent if there’s any with this predicament if you do now need to lower your budget. However, where demand is outstripping supply and it’s an attractive property in a desirable location then an offer closer to the asking price will have a better chance of being accepted” says Rightmove’s commercial director and housing market analyst Miles Shipside.

“If a property is over-priced it’s usually pretty obvious by looking at similar properties up for sale on Rightmove in the same area, or by using sold prices to find out how much properties nearby sold for recently, so this should help prospective buyers feel more confident that they know how much they should be offering” he continues.

“If lenders are able to offer more attractive lower deposit mortgages it would help sustain the recovery in activity. If it can be done responsibly, with strict affordability criteria, then a return to more mortgage offers of 90 per cent loan-to-value, or even 95 per cent could make a huge difference to someone having enough money now for a deposit or having to save up for another few years. First-time-buyers will be keeping a close eye on how lenders deals unfold.”

Rightmove off the hook? Much-hyped new portal delays launch

Rightmove off the hook? Much-hyped new portal delays launch

Homesearch – the new property portal which describes itself as “the future of the property industry” – has delayed its launch.

It was scheduled to go live on May 25; just days ago it reported to Estate Agent Today that it had recruited 14 new staff.

However chief executive Giles Ellwood is now reported to have told a webinar: “We wanted to achieve something radical in two months. Unfortunately it’s going to take us three. Pushing the public release back by four to five weeks will allow us more time to properly onboard agents, more time to integrate further with CRM providers and more time to test.”

The new launch date is reported to be July 1.

Towards the end of last year Homesearch launched a ‘live market’ features to its property data service, which it was running ahead of the portal starting. That feature, too, was delayed in its arrival.

In the past Homesearch has said it invested over £3m in the service and has called itself a truly agent-first platform.

It has said it aims to be: “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.”

Homesearch says around 6,000 branches have registered an interest in its services – it says this is some 32 per cent of the industry.

On May 10 the service stated on its website: “Just six weeks since we announced the plans and started documenting our progress, some 5,600+ branches have become part of the movement. Your contribution to our webinars, emails and messages of support keep us energised and working hard.

“What has become clear from the new conversations we’ve had since we announced the Network, is that the industry does want change. In most cases, and for most agents, their current portal and prospecting costs are a burden to growth and long-term success.

“This letter is a call to action to join the 32 per cent of the industry who have already shown their support.”

Unsafe to return to work: Most agents are worried, polls show

Unsafe to return to work: Most agents are worried, polls show

A series of polls taken by Estate Agent Today suggest substantial numbers of agents remain uncomfortable about returning to trading even with safety measures in place.

A poll earlier this week – just before lockdown was lifted on the house sales and lettings sector – asked: Is it right to re-open a High Street branch now?

The response, on over 800 individual votes, was a clear 66 per cent against opening now and only 34 per cent in favour.

EAT also undertook a poll yesterday (24 hours after the industry lockdown was lifted, but effectively the first day of trading for most agents that chose to open).

This poll related to Dexters estate agency chain in London, which had its branches open but felt obliged to let people know that local managers were taking the temperatures of staff in a bid to ensure the workforce and customers alike felt safe.

The poll asked: “If an agency has to check staff temperatures, is it right it should be open at all?”

Some 57 per cent voted for the option: “No, it’s too early to open”.

Once lockdown was lifted, many agents took to EAT to comment that they were concerned at the move.

Gavin Scott-Brooker of Cheshire surveyors’ firm Brooker and Co wrote: “We are surveyors…. we are deeply concerned about the release of the market…. it’s just too soon, and there is insufficient data to prove it is safe to operate. A number of our colleagues share the same view. We have elected to stay closed until June at the very earliest.”

Removals operator Matthew Lock commented: “Removals companies and estate agent share the feeling if not safe to see own family, then it’s not safe to go and see someone else’s. Councils still not open. So why should removals firms and estate agents be the guinea pigs?”

One agent said: “I’ve been emailing and calling clients and asking if they are OK to take viewings and the overwhelming majority are saying no. We’ve been working from home mostly and will continue to do so with only opening a couple of hours a day and then only because we are responding to what others in the town are doing.”

Notwithstanding the reservations of some agents, there appears a strong appetite amongst the public for a resumption of business.

Dominic Agace, chief executive of Winkworth estate agents – which has 60 offices in London as part of a 100-branch nationwide network – reported a significant uplift in interest on Wednesday, when the industry was allowed to return to trading.

Compared to the same day the previous week sales instructions were up 255 per cent, sales applicants up by 73 per cent, lettings applications were 61 per cent up, and valuations were 244 per cent up.

“Offices had lawyers getting in touch to pick up on frozen transactions to move them forward again. It was our second highest day for valuations so far this year.  We also had a 35 per cent increase in traffic to the Winkworth website on the previous day” says Agace.

On Wednesday OnTheMarket saw traffic and leads up as much as 30 per cent against the previous day; these reached levels not seen since before the COVID-19 restrictions.

Meanwhile Carter Jonas says it saw email enquiries surge 116 per cent, telephone enquiries rise 72 per cent and viewing requests increase 40 per cent.

Volume of portal listings carrying virtual viewings surges during pandemic

Volume of portal listings carrying virtual viewings surges during pandemic

There’s been a very significant increase in the number of listings carrying virtual viewings, accelerating during the period of the Coronavirus crisis and lockdown.

An analysis of Rightmove listings conducted by virtual tour provider Made Snappy shows that the pandemic has expedited agents’ uptake of visual aids in portal listings.

Between mid-November 2019 and mid-May 2020 the number of lettings adverts on Rightmove with virtual tours increased by 179 per cent. Meanwhile, the number of lettings listings with videos increased by 280 per cent during the same period.

Between mid-April (when lockdown measures were at their most severe) and mid-May (when market activity started to resume) the number of lettings listings with virtual tours increased by 44 per cent, rising by 63 per cent when it comes to listings with videos.

On the sales side, the number of property listings on Rightmove with virtual tours increased by 77 per cent between mid-November and mid-May, while the number of adverts with videos increased by 50 per cent over this six-month period.

Over the past four weeks the number of sales adverts with virtual tours has increased by 19 per cent alongside those with videos increasing by 26 per cent.

“The lockdown has understandably forced more agents to embrace virtual tours, particularly on the lettings side. Our analysis also reflects the quicker restart of the lettings market compared to sales, which will be much slower to get started” says Mark McCorrie, software director at Made Snappy.

“With the market now up and running, we expect the number of portal listings with virtual tours to increase even further as more agents will be operating at full capacity over the coming weeks.”

The government, in its official guidance on the resumption of the housing market, says: “We encourage people to do the majority of their property searching online … To support this agents may ask home occupiers to conduct virtual viewings.”

And in relation to new-build property sales it advises: “Where possible, developers should promote virtual viewings.”

Made Snappy says it anticipates a 75 per cent reduction in physical lettings viewings while social distance measures remain in place.

“We know of letting agents who have used virtual tours to filter down applicants, subsequently achieving a 100 per cent success rate on the physical viewings – we expect this trend to become the norm” says McCorrie.

Coup for London agency selected to provide Bank of England data

Coup for London agency selected to provide Bank of England data

High end London agency Beauchamp Estates has been selected to join the Bank of England’s advisory panel of companies and senior directors, and to provide property sector data to assist with economic forecasting.

In addition, Beauchamp Estates’ managing director Jeremy Gee will become a member of the bank’s Decision Maker Panel.

The DMP provides a monthly survey of small, medium and large UK businesses, used by the Bank to monitor developments in the economy and to track businesses’ views.

Property Week reports that Gee and Beauchamp Estates will provide the Bank with data on how business conditions are evolving and changing in the London and UK residential property market, covering transaction volumes, prices, deals, employment and investment.

The data will be used specifically for the Bank’s review of the implications of the Brexit referendum on corporate decision making and property sector performance.

“Beauchamp Estates is pleased to be joining one of the Bank of England’s advisory panels, providing the bank with ongoing data on our performance, property industry outlook and trends within the property market” says Gee.

A month ago Beauchamp warned that it could take until spring 2021 for the luxury market in areas such as prime central London to resume – but when it does come back, there’s likely to be a mini-boom.

PPE for estate agents being marketed by food packaging firm

PPE for estate agents being marketed by food packaging firm

A food packaging manufacturer is re-shaping its production line to make PPE equipment which it is selling to estate and letting agents, amongst others.

Rapid Action Packaging says it can produce a total of seven to 10 million face shields a week.

The visor is laminated to a carton board frame which, the company claims, provides “a rigid head frame with adjustable strap.”

“In a world after lockdown, the shield will help people adjust confidently to a gradual return to normality” according to the company’s chief executive, Graham Williams.

He says his product – which is manufactured in the Republic of Ireland – conforms to the EU Regulation 2016:425 Category 1 technical PPE specifications.

The company normally provides packaging for sandwiches, hot products, chilled meats and ready meals at retailers including Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Morrisons, ASDA, M&S, Pret A Manger and LEON.

Volume of portal listings carrying virtual viewings surges during pandemic

Volume of portal listings carrying virtual viewings surges during pandemic

There’s been a very significant increase in the number of listings carrying virtual viewings, accelerating during the period of the Coronavirus crisis and lockdown.

An analysis of Rightmove listings conducted by virtual tour provider Made Snappy shows that the pandemic has expedited agents’ uptake of visual aids in portal listings.

Between mid-November 2019 and mid-May 2020 the number of lettings adverts on Rightmove with virtual tours increased by 179 per cent. Meanwhile, the number of lettings listings with videos increased by 280 per cent during the same period.

Between mid-April (when lockdown measures were at their most severe) and mid-May (when market activity started to resume) the number of lettings listings with virtual tours increased by 44 per cent, rising by 63 per cent when it comes to listings with videos.

On the sales side, the number of property listings on Rightmove with virtual tours increased by 77 per cent between mid-November and mid-May, while the number of adverts with videos increased by 50 per cent over this six-month period.

Over the past four weeks the number of sales adverts with virtual tours has increased by 19 per cent alongside those with videos increasing by 26 per cent.

“The lockdown has understandably forced more agents to embrace virtual tours, particularly on the lettings side. Our analysis also reflects the quicker restart of the lettings market compared to sales, which will be much slower to get started” says Mark McCorrie, software director at Made Snappy.

“With the market now up and running, we expect the number of portal listings with virtual tours to increase even further as more agents will be operating at full capacity over the coming weeks.”

The government, in its official guidance on the resumption of the housing market, says: “We encourage people to do the majority of their property searching online … To support this agents may ask home occupiers to conduct virtual viewings.”

And in relation to new-build property sales it advises: “Where possible, developers should promote virtual viewings.”

Made Snappy says it anticipates a 75 per cent reduction in physical lettings viewings while social distance measures remain in place.

“We know of letting agents who have used virtual tours to filter down applicants, subsequently achieving a 100 per cent success rate on the physical viewings – we expect this trend to become the norm” says McCorrie.

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