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Property thoughts

Spring is in the Air

The spring and summer are without doubt the best time of year to be marketing residential and rural properties. Everything is starting to look at its best with the grass growing and leaves returning to the trees.  It is also the time that the most determined buyers start looking in order that they can purchase though the summer and complete before the start of the school year in September.

With this in mind estate agent particulars need to be showing the properties in the very best light.

The importance of photography when selling a house

Photography is, of course, the best 1000 words anyone can write.  We believe the need for bright sunny photographs with a blue sky background and neatly mown lawns all add to the aesthetic value of the property.  Outside paint work and a good sweep of paths and drives give prospective buyers the feeling of a well cared for and well maintained property, ensuring it will photograph even better.

Sometimes there is the need to think more laterally.  Recently we marketed a small farm with a bungalow that was rather hemmed in by trees and bushes.  The solution was to arrange an aerial photograph which presented the overall size, beauty of the location and quality of the garden more that the traditional front aspect would have done.

Internal photography requires some consideration and again the need to dress the rooms to shown them in their best light.  Curtains open, fire lit, cushions puffed up all create a homely feeling. Whilst a photo can be a great selling point, poor photos will let the property down.

Floor plans are becoming more popular and allow potential buyers the opportunity to sketch alteration and extensions.

The quality of the brochure is also a reflection of the house.  We believe in professionally printed particulars on good quality paper bring about a quality feel.  This will set the right expectations to the buyer before they even get to the property.  It is all about first impressions and starting on the right foot.

Of course the particulars are designed to attract potential viewers to the property.  After that it is down to the agent to facilitate the sale.  Again we believe in the need for the estate agent to conduct the viewing, pointing the exceptional features of the property, highlighting the benefits of living in such a lovely house, giving you the best opportunity of a successful conclusion.

The Art of Buy to Let

Once again the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee has opted to hold interest rates at 0.5%.  This has been the case since March 2009 or to put it another way the interested rate have remained at this level for the last 32 months.

There has been further commentary to the effect that interest rates are likely to remain at this level for another 12 months and in fact the money markets, through SWAP rates seem to anticipate this as well.

This is all good news for borrowers.  However the opposite is the case for savers. With inflation officially at 5.2% then cash held in the bank is not only providing very little return but also going backward due to the effect of inflation.

Buy to let – an attractive alternative

Buy to let property investments do provide an alternative that is attractive to many savers.  Yields can be achieved of 3 – 5% on residential property and there is the added advantage of some capital growth for the future.

We have advised a number of investors over the last few years and believe that there are good buying opportunities in the current market.  Any investment will need to be tailored to the individual circumstances but one thing for sure is that property investors take satisfaction from the fact that they can see and feel their investment.

Market Harborough is an affluent town with a large employed and wealthy population.  This means that tenants are in good supply.  The housing stock is generally in good order and there is a healthy balance between flats, starter homes and family properties.  The town has the benefit of a London main line railway connection as well as a wide range of industries and employers.

But to lets that we have sold have included flats and 2 bedroom houses up to the £150,000 level.  Rents range for £400 pcm plus for a one bedroom to £500 to £700 pcm for a two bed house or flat.  New build will have little or no repairing issues.  It is even possible to buy properties with tenants already in residence.  This not only means that rent is received straight away but also there is a track record of how the tenants perform.

With the prediction that interest rates will remain low for the foreseeable future is it the time to review your savings plans.  If so property might just be the foundations to build on.


House Price Statistics

Any reader of the newspapers will have come across a range of property statistics and surveys which indicate a wide range of different trends. We are faced on a monthly basis with surveys and analysis from the Land Registry, RICS, Rightmove, Halifax and the Nationwide.  Often these surveys tell differing stories and indicate different trends.  The simple reason is that the all measure different aspects of the housing make.  But who do we believe in trying to establish what is happening in the market.

The report that is perceived to be the most actuate is the Land Registry as this looks at all transactions that actually take place.  The disadvantage is that it is historic and more likely to be at least 3 months out of date. In contrasting the house price in the Spring with the Autumn we are going to see differences in the yearly trends.

In many ways the opposite is true and the most up to date is that of the Rightmove survey.  This looks at guide prices of properties on the market at that very moment.  Very helpful but a sale cannot be considered a fact until a buyer and sell have agreement and completion has taken place.  This survey looks at expectation in many respects.

The middle ground is filled with the likes of the RICS which looks at Surveyors expectations and confidence in the housing market. This is a large survey of 250 estate agents and surveyors but is of course subjective in its outlook.  The better know are that of the Halifax and the Nationwide.  These look at their sales and mortgage advances and the expectations but only though their own businesses.

The reality is that the surveys all fill their own specific role and to comment fully the estate agent has to consider the surveys all together.

The use of national and regional statistic does not hide though the need for good local knowledge.  As estate agents at the coal face we can comment on what has been selling well, where there is the exclusivity and which types of properties have struggle.  There is no better comparable than having your feet on the ground.

House price variance

We also know that there can be considerable variance in street or village. The best houses can be double that of the worst house in certain areas.  Once again it is the skill of the estate agent to know first hand of comparable sales in order to provide an acuate valuation.

We are often asked to comment on the latest house price survey by buyers or seller and so when we say it all depends we is more that just hedging our bets.  The values of individual houses are more that just trends.



Driving a Hard Bargain

It has been well documented in this column over the last few months that the market is extremely difficult and that buyers are fewer in number and are determined to drive a hard bargain.

As the market conditions are likely to stay this way over the next few winter months something that all sellers should be looking at is the presentation of their properties.  When there are viewing its important that the property is presented to its best ability in order to excite the viewers.

How to best present your property

The first consideration is decluttering rooms to allow viewers to see the scope and potential.  Remove excess furniture and efforts.  People should be able to walk around the room looking out of windows and imagining were their furniture would go.

More substantial improvement has to be redecorating and in this respect a fresh coat of paint will do wonders to lift a room.  Also perhaps a new carpet, neutral in colour and design, will brighten up the room and give the home a more modern and spacious feeling.  Don’t forget the external painting as well as this is often overlooked and provides the most important first impressions.

We believe that allowing agents to accompany viewers is more likely to generate a sale.  Buyers can relax in our company, we might well have met them already and there is the ability to talk freely and encourage that second viewing or offer.

Garden improvements are difficult in winter but might it be time to refresh the photos to show a more seasonal outlook.  A brown lawn will imply that the property has been on the market for some time.  On the subject of particulars might the addition of floor plans or location plans help?  Can the wording be improved?

First impressions count when viewing a property for sale

As an estate agent we carry out hundreds of viewings every year and it is though those experience that we who know how crucial the first 5 minutes of every viewing is.  Certainly a cheery smile to welcome the viewers, a polite welcome, a tour that will show the best features of the property first, general comments that will help such as how the sun moves around the garden or kitchen.  We know also that silence is golden and that it means that the viewers are considering the property and not just making small talk.  Perhaps a bit of improvement advice of where to install the ensuite or conservatory.

The market is difficult which means that every possible lead has to be worked and maximised.  That way not only will you be proud of your home but you might be negotiating on your new home some that you though. Happy house hunting.



New Year Property Resolution

Perhaps the new year is a time for some predictions as to how the residential property markets are going to perform during 2010.

The residential sales markets I believe are going to continue to experience low volumes of sales and listings.  We are in fact already seeing that the number of available stock is at it lowest level for 3 years.  The time of year will obviously reduce the new properties coming to the market however we have seen a slide of choice over the last few years.  In these times of uncertainty we are experiencing few speculative house sellers. The addition of up front marketing costs in the form of the Home Information Packs is also hindering the release of stock to the market.

Other issue particular this year will be the general election which we know needs to be call before the end of May 2010.  We have no knowledge yet when this will be but experience shows that, for a month whilst the election takes place and the politician clamber for our votes, the housing market stagnates.

The lack of sellers then come full circle as the homeowner that can not find a suitable replacement is not willing to put their property on the market.  The result less property choice and availability.

House prices in 2010

On the issue of house prices we have seen economist and property consultants suggest anything for a 7% drop to a 5 % gain.  These analyses are considering a wide range of factors many of which are just too unpredictable.

One major influence will be the continued low level of interest rates.  Should these stay at the 0.5% they are currently then things bode well for the year.  The worry, for the housing industry and of course the general economy, is that rises in interest rates with erode confidence.

From our point of view I think we will see great variety in the market.  The best properties, in good order, best locations and without blemishes will sell very well and even at price close to the peak of the market.  It’s the secondary locations or properties with problems that will find the going harder.




Winter in front of us all

We will all have changed our clocks last weekend and are now getting use to the nights drawing in.   There is also the change in the weather and the sense that winter is now on it ways.  We have even started to experience the first frosts.

How does this changing of the seasons relate to the marketing of property?

Selling rural properties

Rural properties look their best in the Spring and Summer and so that time of year is always going to producing the feel good factor.  The leaf on the tree and the grass growing will make the properties and the countryside look it’s best.  The market for rural and village properties is therefore getting harder as well approach Christmas.

I believe though that town properties are not so influenced by the seasons and that there is still an active market whatever the time of year.  There are of course distractions like the commencement of the Christmas festivities but town properties sell all year around.

With our accompanied viewing we always try and arrange them before twilight, so that prospective purchasers get to see the property in full.  We also believe in having the heating on.  People are confident, with a house that is too hot, that they can always turn off the heating or open the window.  Properties that are cold can create the feeling that they will never warm up.

Now that we are in November we have experiences a lowering in the number of viewings that we are conducting.  This is the result of many factors and seasonality is just one of them.

However as I have highlighted in this column previously, there are some good reasons to act sharpish.  Certainly the government has shown no inclination to retain the £175,000 stamp duty threshold for the 1% stamp duty.  At present this will revert to the lower rate of £125,000 in January.  It also worth highlighting that VAT could return to 17.5% in January .  VAT is applicable to the sales commission and legal fees and so there will be small increase in them.

Good reasons to buy a house now

This time of year does also produce some good reasons to buy property.  Owners with empty property are never keen to pay for heating and insurance through the winter with the risks of frost of weather damage. Next year will bring a fresh crop of exciting new house to the market.  The existing stock will be that little older and more stagnant to the craftily buyer and market watcher.

All the more reason to go out viewing and buying.

William Naylor is a Chartered Surveyor and Estate Agent with Naylors based at 12 The Square, Market Harborough.


How can I make my property stand out?

There have been between 700 and 1000 properties on the market for sale at any one moment through the Market Harborough estate agents over the last few years.  With this sort of completion what can you do the make your property standout?

The importance of making your property stand out is obvious and will result in a quick smooth sale and quite possibly a higher sale price.  Presentation is crucial.

There are main aspects to consider on how to fulfil that potential.

Making your property look its best

Photographs will all be colour now on the brochures and the internet, but in order to present you home best it is important to consider the aspect and sunlight.  East facing houses should be photographed in the morning and west in the evening.  It might be necessary for the agent to return to take an extra shot in order to get the front aspect and garden at its best.  Blue sky will add a feel good factor and the right weather should be waited for if possible.  I certain know how frustration this summer has been waiting for an hour to get some blue sky.

Snow or frost will indicate that the property has been on the market for some time and such photos should be updated. Cars should be removed if possible as they distract the eye and after all you’re trying to sell the house and not the car.

It goes without saying that cleanliness in next to godliness and therefore tiding up before the photographer arrives is a must.

A lot of visitors to the area and potential house buyers drive the villages and streets to establish which areas they want to be in.  Signboards do of course work in your favour in drawing their attention to your property.  There are however occasions when a sale board might not be suitable for isolated or empty property.  Sale boards can also result in unannounced viewers which can be unwanted.

Starting point for potential buyers

The internet remains the most popular starting point for most buyers.  The ease to search by price, location and size makes it an ideal tool.  Here photographs and strap lines are crucial to encourage viewers to click through to more details and tempt them to arrange a viewing. is the most popular site and all the agents in Harborough are members.

Local newspapers again retain a strong marketing purpose particularly to the older generation as well as to the local speculative market.  That dream home or village that you might always have wanted to move too can be found here before people realise that they are in the market.

The reality is that through some small steps the presentation of your property can be improved and this can only be to you benefit in terms of a sale and the price achieved.


Energy assessments – are they worth the fuss?

Anyone marketing or renting a property in the last few months should have been visited by a DEA, not a drug enforcement agent, but a Domestic Energy Assessor.  What it all about and is it worth it you might well have thought.

The starting point to this issue is the crazy situation that there are some properties out there that seem to be intent on heating half of Market Harborough.  The poorer your property is insulated the worst you are going to be as the heat escapes through the walls, windows and loft.  This is a crazy waste of your money as well as a rather reckless use of the world’s resources as well as contributing to “global warming”.

An assessor is now required to visit all residential properties that are to be marketed for sale or rent.  Indeed there are further rules for industrial and commercial property and the need for them to be assessed.  However here I will concentrate on residential property.

The assessor will need to inspect and measure many of the components of the house including the boiler, loft insulation, windows, walls and roof construction, light bulbs and electric meters.  In addition the age of the property has to be established as this has a crucial effect on the rating.

All this data is then fed in to the software which will produce the rating and the standard recommendations.  The most energy efficient are Grade A and the worst Grade G.  The average for England is Grade E.  Recommendations include cavity wall insulation, double glazing, extra loft insulation, a more efficient boiler, more low energy light bulbs, internal insulation, wind turbines and solar panels.  The report also predicted what you current energy cost are and what they could be after those improvements.

What’s all the fuss about then?

On the negative side there are criticism that this is more regulation and cost to be paid for by the estate agent and homeowner or landlord.  There is a frustration with interference for European and the nanny state.  A reality that with such a diverse housing stock there can never be a one size fits all solution.  Will the purchaser of a £Million property be put off because there were solid walls in the 18th Century Rectory. Fair points.

On the other hand wasting money by heating up your street rather than your home is not sensible.

William Naylor practise at Naylors at 12 The Square and is an estate agent and domestic energy assessor.