Why leading agents love a tougher market

dinnerreservationI booked a restaurant last week for my wife and I. Like all things nowadays I had the opportunity to book a table online and as I’d visited the restaurant before I knew the exact position and table I’d like. It wasn’t a special occasion like a birthday but was ‘special’, as like most people with children and a family, we were celebrating being able to actually do something on our own for a change!

I took the decision to phone and book. I got instant rapport with the waiter I spoke to and yes, on my arrival we were met by the same guy and shown to the table – he remembered our ‘you’ve managed to escape from the kids’ conversation. At the end of the meal he got my thanks and a modest but appreciative tip. 

This week whilst in the office I’ve been wondering about my choice of phoning versus booking online. I guess it’s a question over communication and connection with your potential customer. If I hadn’t spoken to anyone in the restaurant I may’ve got the same table but without making that personal connection it may’ve been given to someone else who did.

Making that ‘connection’ is just as important in estate agency. Over the last month or so I’ve seen more and more people visiting our two Plymouth branches. Some are Sold stc, yet many have not put their own properties onto the market – what they have in common however is that they all couldn’t find anything new that matches what they are looking for available online.

When the market gets a little tougher, simply thinking that placing your property onto the internet will get you moving is now not enough. You may get a buyer, but if you are buying onward and in the middle market (not a cheaper investment property with no chain or a much, much larger property where the owner is likely to have a second residence to move into), you’ll be like well over 80% of sellers who need to find a property to move into.

NOW is exactly when good high street agents earn their money. Putting a face and story to a name means that a good agent will start to chain build. Having a buyer in mind before you even visit a property to value and knowing that you also have a buyer in mind for their own. This comes with experience, knowledge of the industry and having the ability to be able to talk to people in a relaxed environment.

But what if I am going to go into rented? Unfortunately the rental market is just as lean as the sales market for quality property. You can see why some people stay put.

Like I’ve always said, marketing the property is the easy part but when the market gets a ‘little tougher’, that’s when your choice of agent could pay dividends or unfortunately leave you wanting.

It’s funny to think that being able to walk in to an office and speak to a professional and knowledgeable person is fast becoming a real point of difference when choosing who to market your home. But that is exactly what seems to be happening across the City.

This is and will continue to be a testing market, but likewise having been in the industry ourselves for over 4 decades, we have seen differing markets before. Good agency, chain building, clever and innovative ideas to sell houses and win instructions will be key. Being able to simply build rapport and a working relationship is just as important.

The upside for High Street agents like us here at Mansbridge Balment is exactly that…… buyers and sellers need a point of contact, a place to talk to an expert, discuss strategy and get an intelligent view from an Agent who thoroughly understands his or her patch.

Simply thinking that placing your property onto the internet will get you moving is now not enough. Talking to an agent face to face and explaining your requirements over a cup of tea could make all the difference.

Do you take sugar?

 

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What does the future hold for house prices in Plymouth?

There have probably never been more factors at play in the UK property market than there are right now. The national market is pausing for breath as it reaches the end of the cycle which started with the credit crunch. 2016 saw stamp duty changes as well as the Brexit vote, and the impact is very much still being felt. The result of the election has added to the uncertainty surrounding the economy.

Now that Brexit negotiations are getting properly underway, it will be interesting to see if it has any further direct effect on the market. Since the original vote, interest rates were dropped to 0.25 per cent to support the economy. This has resulted in property prices rising nationally by 7.2 per cent – and we expect them to grow by a further 6.6 per cent over the next 12 months. Locally, prices in Plymouth have increased slightly too due to the lack of property available and buyers competing to gain a purchase. This is of course good for sellers but not so good for buyers – especially if you are in a chain – as often properties are being sale agreed to those without a chain, thus presenting a lesser risk to the seller.

So why are we so bullish about the market in Plymouth? Well the data shows us that in the second half of 2016, sales levels were 1.6 per cent higher than the first half, which is even more impressive when we account for the stamp duty rise in April of that year. Based on market trends, we expect the price of the average home here to reach £173,300 by the end of 2018.

Projecting future price trends is never straightforward. The construction of new homes impacts on this heavily; residential developments will often increase the value of other properties in the area due to the way valuers use ‘comparables’. Other important aspects they consider when determining the future value of property are upgrades to travel networks and new businesses opening in the area. With several developments ongoing in the City it is generally good news for many resale properties in those areas.

The future looks bright for the local property market; now is the time to think about getting on it if you’re not already, especially while interest rates remain so low.

If you would like to sell your property, pop into one of our two Plymouth offices 7 days a week for a friendly, professional chat with one of our local experts. We’d love to help.

When is an ‘Estate Agent’ not an ‘Estate Agent’?

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I’m going to perhaps surprise you. Being an ‘Estate Agent’ is not just about advertising your property and getting someone to offer the right price.

Just 2 years after we opened in Plymouth in 2004, 7500 Estate Agents sold 1.8 million houses nationally. In 2015, the number of agents had boomed to 18000 ‘Agents’ selling the lower figure of 1.2 million houses. Out of those properties Sold in 2015, statistically 95% of houses were sold by a ‘FULL SERVICE HIGH STREET ESTATE AGENT’ like ourselves.

I was speaking to a one such agent the other day about emails coming through on the internet from websites such as Rightmove.co.uk. He had actually been able to drill down information to such an extent that he could state that well over 75% of people that emailed about a specific property – ended up buying a different property with his company.

This is not only a testament to having the right amount of trained staff to be able to ‘sell’ a better suited alternative property, but for me, yet another key indicator of the INCREASINGLY WIDER GAP that is happening within the Industry itself.

You can’t seem to go a couple of weeks without seeing another ‘Agent’ opening up in the City these days. Being established in Plymouth ourselves for almost 15 years, we know how hard it is to be a successful independent business and I don’t have a problem with a new company opening. My irk however is often in the majority of those new companies using the words ‘ESTATE AGENT’, when clearly ‘Sales Agent’ or ‘Advertising Agent’ would be a far clearer reflection of what many offer?

Of course, if you are not offering the FULL SERVICE you should not be paying FULL PRICE – so I understand people choosing to go with low-fee agents. But when they purport to be the same as every other offering it is totally mis-leading. Many have no experienced staff to answer the phone, no knowledge of the local market, no after-sales team in-house you can speak to or visit, No financial and chain checking, no care, no attention, no customer service – no clue..

Whilst many sellers will be happy with what they’ve got for a seemingly low fee (and acceptance that the customer service bar was set at a low level to start off with) – classing differing levels of service etc under the same ‘ESTATE AGENCY’ banner, causes confusion to the general public and dare I say, is a threat against those agents offering the FULL ESTATE AGENCY SERVICE – career ‘ESTATE AGENTS’ like ourselves here at Mansbridge Balment and others in the City.

So, let’s be honest about this. Advertising your property for sale and gaining interest, even an acceptable offer, does not make you an Estate Agent. It is about so much more and all ‘ESTATE AGENTS’ are not the same.

If you are thinking of moving make sure you really delve into the detail of what an agent does for the fee you pay. You’ll find out that not only are there are some strikingly different offerings out there – you’ll also find out that you get what you pay for too.

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).

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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?…