The experience to listen


There is a real difference between ‘getting a sale’ and ‘negotiating a sale’.


Last week I met a couple in their late twenties who were planning for the next exciting period in their life. Before I talked about their own property I listened patiently, answering when needed and finding out all about their plans and how their next move needed to fit around timescales and exacting requirements. A day later I heard from them that they wanted us to market their home because we were the only company that they had out to value who they felt genuinely listened to what they wanted to buy and what type of purchaser they wanted themselves.


I’ve spoken recently in the Plymouth Property News about the difference between estate agents who list and those who actually want to move people. Yesterday I read a quote which typified why on this occasion I believe I was successful.


‘Most people think selling is the same as talking. But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job.’


The main objective of an estate agent is a simple one – you have to achieve the best price for your vendor. This is ONLY done by; 1) thoroughly testing the market. This means all avenues are covered through extensive marketing and 2) An understanding that you need a high level of SKILL in order to negotiate the best value for your client, and not just ‘make a sale’.


Often the most important people in an estate agency are not the ‘Directors’, ‘Managers’ or ‘Valuers’ but the people who create opportunities – the ‘Sales Negotiators’. When this position is not suitably filled with an experienced member of staff, I witness ‘negotiators’ who cannot negotiate, deals that cannot be made and most importantly the vendor and buyer not being listened to.


Speaking from my own viewpoint, I’ve witnessed many opportunities being created by our own ‘Negotiators’ out on viewings and in the office, simply by having the experience to listen, ask the right questions and build trust.

Coupled with giving the right marketing advice to the vendors from the outset, listening and understanding sellers and buyers needs in particular, are so important and key to achieving the best result and sale price.

So far this year we have seen real success with ‘old fashioned estate agency’. Simply having enough staff to get on the phone, to actually talk to people about vendors property (often before it is even advertised) and listen to buyer’s needs. It has enabled companies like Mansbridge Balment Plymouth to get the right price from the right buyers, time and time again.


Unfortunately as an industry, both locally and nationally, there are more and more people leaving the Estate Agency world. This is a by-product of the amount of properties selling falling year on year nationally, and salary levels made substantially from commission not being achievable for many agents. With this in mind, experience at the important introductory level of ‘Negotiator’ is lost and often filled with people with little or no experience of the industry and the art of negotiation itself.


There is a real difference between ‘getting a sale’ and ‘negotiating a sale’ – make sure you choose the experienced estate agent who listens enough to know what the difference is.


How many new homes have been built in the local area?

New housing is a hotly debated subject in the UK. Despite the recent uptick in building rates, demand continues to outstrip supply and more affordable homes need to be built. The situation has improved over the last few years; the number of new homes started and finished in the UK is at a nine-year high. However, forecasts show that England alone needs to build 50 per cent more homes to keep up with demand, so the issue is far from resolved. The pressure is mounting on the government to find a solution.

156,140 new homes were registered for construction in 2015, the highest it has been in eight years. This was half a per cent higher than the previous year and 45 per cent higher than 2009.


From 2014 to 2015, private sector starts increased by seven per cent, while Housing Association starts rose by five per cent. That means that since the credit crunch in 2008, the UK housing stock has grown by around five percent, which is no small feat.

We estimate there have been 62 new build starts in PL6 in 2015–16. Over the same period, there have been an estimated 57 new properties completed. To reach these figures, we’ve applied a proportional amount of the government’s district-level house building figures to PL6 to estimate levels of new stock in the local area.

Despite all this building, the issue facing aspiring home owners is that demand for housing is still far greater than the current supply. When new build properties come on to the market they tend to be for a premium. However, there are several schemes to help buyers purchase new build homes at discounted prices. One of these is Discounted Sales, a scheme available from some councils that allows you to buy a new home at a reduced rate.

The low homes to people ratio is good news for buy-to-let landlords. With 28.6 per cent of residents in PL6 renting property, potential investors can be optimistic at their chances of finding tenants if they decide to purchase a rental property. Rental demand is high, which means void periods should be minimal.

With several new developments already underway in the North of the City and the exciting new Eco Village Development ‘Roborough Park’ in Bickleigh due to launch this Summer, there really isn’t a better time than now to obtain a free valuation from Mansbridge Balment and plan for your future new home purchase.

If you would like to have a chat about new build possibilities, any other property that has taken your fancy, or you would like to sell your home, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you.

RAMMU0059-02Flat and house prices in PL6

With increasing clarity from the government, the housing market is returning to its usual stride. Looking at quarter-on-quarter price data in PL6, we can see that the average sold prices of flats is up 11.7 per cent since the third quarter of 2016.

Promising sales levels in PL6

The weather may still be warming up outside, but it’s already a hot time of year for the property market. The expected uptick in sales has materialised as you can see from the chart. Particularly notable are sales levels of detached properties, which have increased 36.9 per cent since the last quarter of 2015.

Occupancy levels in PL6

Want to know how in demand properties in a given area are? Occupancy is a useful indicator for demand, as well as illustrating how spacious or cosy properties are in the local area. In PL6, 52.4 per cent of properties have two or more extra rooms and 24.6 per cent have one extra room.

How many second home owners are there in PL6?

The number of second homes registered in a local area can really give you a feel of if the area is right for you. In PL6, the mix is as follows:

No 2nd address 95.2%
2nd address within the UK 3.8%
2nd address outside the UK 1.1%

(Dated May 2017)

Is your estate agent an Advertiser or a Mover?

I had an interesting chat this morning with a seller on with another agent in the City about the changing state of Estate Agency and their own property sale. As well as agreeing that I needed to visit his own home to get his sale on the right track, he ended our conversation with the acceptance that before he started to sell his home he didn’t know that there were companies who just ‘advertise’ and companies who want to work together with the owner to enable them to ‘move’.

It got me thinking. Just yesterday I visited a property where the previous agent called in to value had left some lovely graphs and pie charts based on who had gained the most instructions in that postcode throughout 2016. On first glance it made good reading for that particular company as they had by far and away the market share of listings in the area. They very kindly left on all the instruction numbers from other agents too. Because of our own particularly wide area coverage, Mansbridge Balment Plymouth were about number 5 on the list.

When you delved into the figures a bit deeper however and looked at percentages of properties Sold against properties listed, it was clearly evident that actually we were at the very top in selling 85% of properties that we had taken on – whereas the other agent had listed 3 times as many but only sold 40%.

This begs the question…Who would you choose? An agent who lists the most or an agent who sells more of what it lists?

The industry is changing. I’ve thought for a long time that there is becoming a much clearer difference and split in the industry than simply ‘online’ v ‘traditional’.

For many years there have been companies who have paid a valuer for every property they list (advertise) and for many ‘corporate owned’ businesses they do this because they take a view that the industry is based on numbers and it forms a key part of their business model. Others like ourselves (typically Independent Estate Agents) do not pay our valuers per listing. It is important to get property onto the market but it is more important to get the property at the right price and offer the correct route to market for the seller to enable them to move.

One of the reasons for choosing an Independent Estate Agency is, that our main reason is to get you moved. It’s how we make our money. It’s what pays our staff and running costs. It’s what makes business viable.

I believe that the choice in estate agency is not now ‘online’ versus ‘traditional’ but between choosing a company who will just advertise your property and those who want to move you and your property.

The ‘Advertising’ Estate Agency will make more from the associated ‘add-ons’ of mortgages, solicitors and insurance from new buyers and sellers etc than they ever do from selling property. In my experience, valuers who are paid to List (Advertise) a property are more likely to recommend an over optimistic price and sometimes an incorrect route to market to win the listing. Because of this it could be argued that the Estate agency itself has a focus that isn’t simply on moving people but on advertising the property – selling is often a welcome by-product but not its main focus.

The Estate Agency who is not paid per listing typically thinks about every aspect of the Moving Process, giving the best advice and route to market and also in my experience giving a more accurate price because moving the seller is its number 1 focus.

Will you choose the Retail model or the Moving model? The agent who lists the most properties or the agent who sells more of the properties it lists?

I know who I’d choose.

How best to increase the value of your home

When it comes to selling your home, the goal is to achieve more than the initial price you paid when you bought it. A significant amount of your home’s resale value will be affected by the appreciation of house prices in Plymouth, where average sales values have risen by 13.7% over the last 10 years. However, if you want to achieve the maximum sale price for your property, there are several home improvements you can make that will add to the overall value.

Creating an extra bedroom, especially with a loft conversion, offers the best return for your money. Although initial costs are not inconsiderable, a double bedroom could add 11 per cent to the value of your home, a gain of £18,800 on average Plymouth properties. Budget carefully according to your house size and current market value, and you could be onto a winner.

Space commands a premium, so you should create more of it in your property if the opportunity arises. Extra space can transform the whole look and feel of your home, adding value and making it more desirable to house hunters. By adding extra square footage, you can increase your property’s overall value by as much as nine per cent. That would be an extra £15,400 if we go by the average property price in Plymouth which is £170,900.

Kerb appeal is often overlooked by sellers when they put their house on the market, yet it is one of the most important aspects to not only adding value to your home but making it look appealing to the first-time viewer. The outside of your property is the first thing any potential buyer will see, so you want to give it the ‘wow’ factor. A £300-400 spend on the exterior and front garden/driveway could add up to four times the initial outlay to the overall value of your home and cut down the length of time it takes to sell the property.

Buy-to-let landlords will want to make sure their rental property is in the best condition to achieve maximum yields. Furnished properties can often rent faster than those that are unfurnished (but do check with us as it depends on the type and location). It is also a good idea to update the interior and exterior of your property every three years by painting the walls, cleaning the outside space and replacing furniture to stop it looking dated. A fresher looking property will increase its chances of renting more quickly and nullifying potential long void periods.

Weighing up the potential cost of any home refurbishments is important. But even an increase of around 10% to the overall value of your property can be the difference between buying your dream home or having to compromise on something you’re not so keen on. If you want to find out more about how much value you can add to your home, pop into our office and have a chat with us. We are always happy to help.

Total housing market value in Plymouth

The total housing market value is a combination of the number of transactions and the average property price in a given quarter. It can give a real idea of the buoyancy of the market in Plymouth. The first quarter of 2016 was the largest quarter (27.5%), closely followed by the final quarter of 2015 (27.0%).

Promising sales levels

Increasing clarity in the UK’s economic future has increased confidence in the property market. A look at sales levels in Plymouth over the last 15 months seems to indicate this too. Since May 2016 sales levels for flats are up 27 points and houses are up 11 points since April 2016.

Household size mix in Plymouth

From individuals to large families, the spread of household size can indicate the likely availability of appropriately sized properties. The most common size of household in Plymouth is two occupants, and makes up 34.3% of the total households in the area.


What is the property tenure composition in Plymouth?

One of the real tests to see if an area is suited to your tastes is to look at the composition of the household tenure types. In Plymouth, the mix of different household tenure types is as follows:

Owned outright 24.0%
Owned with a mortgage 30.1%
Shared ownership 0.8%
Social rented 22.7%
Private rented 22.4%
(Dated April 2017)
Disclaimer: This report is produced for general information only. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, ResiAnalytics Ltd accepts no liability for any loss or damage of any nature arising from its use. At all times the content remains the property of ResiAnalytics Ltd under copyright and reproduction of all or part of it in any form is prohibited without written permission from ResiAnalytics Ltd.

The most expensive of ‘Cheapest fees’

coinsThose of you who regularly read Plymouthpropertynews will not be surprised when I say that it’s that time of year again when I get onto my soap box. Why would you need to I hear you ask? The market is great, despite a lack of stock and as I write this, the sun is shining and property is selling! My issue is a simple one – FEES and the perceived value of service.

Let’s not beat around the bush here – there are many who wouldn’t pay for something if they didn’t have to. The issue of what fees you will pay to an agent is always a hot topic and you can’t blame the general public in choosing the agent with the lowest fee if there aren’t other points of difference to make their own choice easier?

The problem with using an estate agency is that you never really know if the commission you pay for an agent’s service is expensive or good value until you’re at the point of exchanging contracts. This often means that the lowest fee at the start of the sale often looks to be the most expensive by the end!

Maybe a better estate agency business model would be that at the end of the sale you actually pay for what you think the service was worth? Based on a percentage of the original sales fee quoted?

Research shows that if you receive great service consumers will pay for it. Jo Causon, Chief Exec at the Institute of Customer Service undertook a recent study and its findings rang true – “Customer priorities are changing. They are more concerned with employee attitude, behaviour and competence than they are with price – and they want to reward great service properly.”

Paying for great service (tipping) has been widely used in service industries for years and for many people this aspect of payment forms a strong part of their wage. Estate Agency is no different with often up to 50% of an estate agents wage being made up by commission from selling houses. This begs the question why is the practice of paying for great service any different in estate agency? It shouldn’t be and I’ll be transparent when I speak on behalf of Mansbridge Balment Plymouth when I say that we expect to work very hard for our commission – and in the end we expect to be paid fairly in relation to that hard work.

I know it’s always difficult gauging worth in relation to a service industry. After all, our product is the quality of service and years of experience that we provide, the friendly knowledgeable staff that are there 7 days a week for your convenience and the guile to get you the right price from the right buyer, to the right timescales.

In a world now seemingly consumed by extreme degrees, be it businesses like the Pound shop or the other end of the spectrum with places like Flannels in the City Centre – the bland and average business offering is getting lost. This leaves extreme choices for many (dare I mention Trump and Brexit here?) where the only choice is to go for ‘something not the same as the rest’.

As in the retail sector the difference in estate agency should be in the customer service and attention to individual detail given to you the consumer.

There are people who make a living out of ‘not paying for anything’ but there are also those who will pay extra for great service on top of doing the expected.

Do you tip for good service already? Or are you the type of person who would flag up when a drink was not charged for? Or would you try and get away with it because of the poor quality service you received?

If you received the very basics you were promised from an estate agent (i.e. the property sale was agreed) but you also received great service and individual attention too, in the cold light of day, would you be more concerned with employee attitude, behaviour and competence than you are with price – and would you reward the great service you received?

When is the best time of year to sell your PL3 property?

Possibly one of the most frequently asked questions for an estate agent is: when is the best time of year to sell my home? While there is no absolute optimum time to put your property on the market, seasonal patterns can affect buying and selling habits. PL3, is no different with certain times of the year proving to be more fruitful than others.


For PL3 especially, schools and their timetables have an impact on the amount of buyers actively looking to move.


Spring is often considered the season when the market picks up and hits its stride. The warmer weather and lighter evenings give people extra motivation to go on viewings, while the bright daylight can help your home look that bit lovelier. Your garden (if you have one) will seem much more appealing in the spring months and it is also the time when families wanting to move to the area for a particular school may start to look in order to be in a new home before the new school year starts in September. It turns out that of the properties sold in 2016 in PL3, 25.7% of properties sold during the months of spring.


August and early September can typically be a quieter time for the property market. The schools have broken up for the summer and lots of people go on holiday around this time of year. That means there are fewer people around for viewings — especially families. It is a different story in June and July though, which can be the busiest months for estate agents with the volume of viewings increasing and then the market tends to peak before the schools break up. The summer months saw 25.6% of properties sold in PL3.


With mild weather and light evenings, the early part of autumn can still prove buoyant for property sales. Children are back at school which gives parents more time to concentrate on buying a new home, and most of the people looking on the market in the autumn will hope to find their perfect property in time for Christmas. Towards the end of autumn, the colder weather and the shorter days can lead to a slight dip in the market. PL3 sold 24.4% of properties in the autumn months.


Winter can be a trickier time of the year to sell a property as the market slows down and everyone’s thoughts turn to Christmas. However, there can still be positive movement in the colder months; buyers who are searching for property at this time of year will be more determined about purchasing a new home therefore you tend to get less viewings of a better quality. The winter months in PL3 saw 24.4% of properties sold.


As you’ll see from the graph below the housing market is now all-year round and the peaks and troughs are a bit of a myth! So far in 2017 the sales have been at high levels with the only problem being a lack of stock to be able to sell. If you are holding back your property for sale later in the year then my message to you is – why wait? The buyers are there now so contact us today!



Property transactions levels holding steady all year round.


The Brexit vote and the falling value of the pound have led some to think sales levels might have dipped in the market. However, as the chart shows, sales levels have remained steady throughout the year in PL3, contrary to the perceived negativity in the market. We expect steady sales levels in the coming 12 months.



Year of ‘Optimism’ ahead?

I was fortunate enough to witness Plymouth Argyle play so admirably against the mighty Liverpool FC last Wednesday night in the FA cup replay. Over 17,000 fans were willing the Green Army to level the cup tie and take the game into extra time – but alas it wasn’t to be. But what a great spectacle and event for the city. I came away from the match proud of what my City had done on the pitch and optimistic that the good showing against a stronger team can push Argyle onto promotion.

I like Optimism. I’d say personally I am typically an optimistic person and Mansbridge Balment are ambassadors of ‘Optimism’ if you like. We are also realists and will tell it how it is when needed to of course and 2017 is fraught with possible dangers for the housing market. Possible interest rate rises, ‘Brexit’ hanging around the corner looking to strike, but regardless of whether you voted to stay in or out in the last referendum, if you look for problems or potential reasons not to do something, you will find something.

There are those that could state that Liverpool only put out a ‘youth side’ albeit a few exceptions and Argyle couldn’t even beat them – but I’ve never been a person to listen to ‘nay-sayers’ and I always sail on the coat-tails of optimism. Having the right mind-set can get you a long way in life and it’s amazing how a change in mood can affect people’s attitude towards things.

Estate agency is no different. The appetite to move is typically enhanced when jobs and the economy are secure and people are at a good place in their life (a successful football team further enhances the feeling too of course!) The optimism of an exciting ‘new chapter’ can be a beautiful thing to be involved in.

We’re just waiting for the final property price data to come through from 2016 but our estimates still show strong numbers. Stats show that the market in Plymouth is changing compared to previous years. Based on Land Registry, Office of National Statistics and Resi-analytics trend information we estimate that 801 flats, 1815 terraces, 742 semi-detached and 290 detached properties were sold in Plymouth during 2016. Taking a longer-term property view against the last decade, sale levels in the City paint a promising picture moving ahead (see graph below).


I’ve spent long enough in Estate Agency to know that there is no point worrying about things that are out of your control. The market is moving well. Although we’d always like more, our offices have a healthy stack of new properties and a list of eager new applicants have registered looking to purchase. Whatever the impending Brexit and the knock-on effect it brings, let’s be mindful of it and other things that may happen in the near future when making decisions, but not let it rule our life choices.

Now back to football and the prospect of Plymouth Argyle playing in the Premier League in 3 years time? Too optimistic? There were those who said they’d never get a draw against Liverpool in the first leg weren’t there?…