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Flaming June – why midsummer brought hot weather but wasn’t so hot for UK property.

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The media prefers to focus instead on the fact that property values are not rising as fast as they once were.

June has been a pretty good month at Esale Towers. We’ve taken instruction on a record number of properties – at least for us – and we’ve sold quite a few too.

But, like many things, it would be wrong to use our experience as a snapshot of the industry as a whole. If we’re honest, the last few weeks have actually been pretty gloomy for the property market in the UK.

For a start, there’s has been a little bit of despondency about house prices. It’s not that the bottom’s dropped out of the market or anything; it’s just that homes are not selling at the same speed or for as much money as they might have done a little while back.

A General Election and the Brexit negotiations have had something to do with that of course. But then so has the fact that houses are becoming so expensive, they’re beginning to edge out of most first time buyers’ budgets. Despite some great mortgage deals, it’s not easy raising that deposit anymore

Some folk no doubt will have been hoping George Osborne was right when, just 12 months ago as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he forecast an 18% drop in property values if we voted Britain out of the EU. Today, with property values up over 3% on June 2016, those predictions are looking a bit silly. You might think then that there would be cause for celebration in that – but no. The media prefers to focus instead on the fact that property values are not rising as fast as they once were.

But, for us, the disappointment comes not from our obsession with house prices but in the Government’s failure, once again, to take the lead on housing.

Six months ago, it looked like we might have made some progress, with Theresa May and new Chancellor Phillip Hammond pledging to do something about the plight of the “Just-About-Managings”, giving priority to initiatives to accelerate the construction of more affordable homes and to make home ownership something our kids can aspire to once again.

But, in the Queen’s Speech though, there was about as much substance as there was pomp and circumstance in one of the most low-key affairs Westminster has seen for decades. There was mention of a Housing Bill but it seemed its focus will largely be on more controls on the private rented sector. Other than the announcement that the HS2 link would continue between Birmingham and Manchester, there wasn’t much for developers to get excited about.

So, as we’ve said before – and will no doubt say again – now could be the time for a new Housing Commission to take strategy out of the hands of the political parties who can only really plan five years at a time. If we’re going to get ourselves out of the mess created by decades of under-investment and neglect, the UK desperately needs a long-term housing strategy set aside from the machinations of Westminster.

Will we get it? Probably not in the short-term as it’s hard to see senior party figures looking any further than Brexit at the moment. But, in the long term, if there’s enough pressure or enough momentum, who knows?

A word in your ear about fixed-fee estate agents

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We offer a full, no-quibble money-back guarantee after 30 days should you not be happy with the services we provide. So where’s the risk now …?

Before the internet age, it used to be that, if you appointed a trusted estate agent to help with the sale of your property, then it was almost a given that you would settle their fee once your home sold.

It was taken on trust that they would provide all the necessary services – the marketing, the communication with the other parties involved and the negotiation with potential buyers – and you would in turn pay a percentage of the eventual sale price in commission.

Naturally, it was in the agent’s interests as much as the sellers’ to get the best possible price; a few extra thousand on the selling price would mean that little bit more in commission.

But, today, there’s a new breed of estate agent offering services for a fixed fee agreed up-front – and, often, that fee is considerably less than the commission high street agents charged in the past. A 3% commission back in the early ‘90s before things were done online, for example, could net an estate agent a fee of a few thousand pounds per property. These days, there are fixed-fee online estate agents offering their services for a few hundred pounds.

Naturally, their arrival hasn’t been universally welcomed by the traditional estate agents. You’ll hear many claim that these so-called fixed-price estate agents don’t have the depth of knowledge when it comes to the property market and a fixed fee paid up-front shifts all the risk onto the seller.

But the reality is a little different. Many fixed-price estate agents – ourselves included – do offer pay-on-completion terms too; indeed, with our own up-front package, we offer a full, no-quibble money-back guarantee after 30 days should you not be happy with the services we provide. So where’s the risk now …?

So how do we manage to offer great customer service and results for a much lower price? The answer is simple. New communications technology means the process of selling a home is no longer as cumbersome or expensive.

Smart phones and email mean we don’t have to wait until we get back to the office to make calls or send letters. All those brochures and press adverts don’t need to be compiled by hand when marketing can also be done via the online portals which we can all see on our laptops and phones whenever we like. We don’t need to pay high street rents for our offices anymore and we don’t even need a fleet of branded cars to get about.

In other words, the average estate agent’s overheads have shrunk considerably – but, for some, the fees haven’t. Some want to cling to the old-fashioned business model because it’s what they’ve always done; put simply, change is scary and many are unwilling to embrace it.

Of course, there will always be folk uncomfortable with the concept of completing such a large transaction as selling their home on the internet – or at least there will be for the foreseeable future. There will be people who want to see the whites of their agent’s eyes, which is perfectly understandable.

But, in a modern, fast-moving world, there are others who are going to put speed and convenience above face-to-face negotiations and that’s where we – and others like us – fit in.

 

It may still feel a little new and a little daring for those more used to the simple days of no sale no fee estate agents but we suspect that will fade in time. Just like Ebay, Amazon, Google, Facebook and all the other internet industries, we’re here to stay. We genuinely believe in offering sellers a genuine choice when it comes to estate agency service and have every intention of ensuring they continue to have one.

Estate agency in the online age

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The only real difference between the old-style high street firms and the new online only estate agents is the use of new technology for communication.

 

If you’re selling your home, these days, you have a little more choice than you did in the stream-driven age of the 1980s.

Back then, you really only had the option of making a trip down to the high street estate agents, who would come round to put a board up outside your property and advertise your home in a brochure, in their office window and in the local and regional media.

The online estate agent

These days, of course, it’s a little different. There’s a new breed of online only estate agents out there on the internet and you can almost do the whole thing from your armchair at home.

For some, of course, that’s a terrifying prospect. Such a huge and significant transaction being completed entirely by internet estate agents simply doesn’t compute. Some facetime feels essential to many struggling with the impersonal or remote digital age and there will still be plenty of folk who are happier paying a bit more to avoid it.

But online only property agents are real people too. They may not have a high street office or a fleet of branded cars but there are still no robots capable of managing the sale of a property on automatic pilot.

Selling your home online

Managing a house sale is still very much a human process – right down to dealing with solicitors, conveyancers, viewings and potential buyers. The only real difference between the old-style high street firms and the new internet only estate agents is the use of new technology for communication.

There are plenty of online estate agents about offering different packages. If you do a Google search for terms such as “estate agents on line”, “online house agents” or “estate agents online only”, you’ll probably find yourself with a choice of at least a dozen. Some you’ll no doubt have heard of and some you probably won’t. Some will offer a service for an up-front fee, some for fees on completion – some will offer both.

Who are the good guys?

But one thing you’ll probably want from any online estate agents is results and good customer service. If you have a look on property portal Rightmove, you can search for agents who have sold homes in your area recently. A quick search on independent review website Trustpilot will give you a good idea of what sort of customer feedback they’ve been getting.

But, although we’re delighted to say we’re currently the UK’s No2 in our category when it comes to the latter, we hope there are a couple of other things which set us apart when it comes to online property agents.

First of all, we offer a unique no-quibble money-back guarantee. If you’re not happy with our service for any reason after 30 days, we’ll refund any fees you may have paid us.

We are also part of the international ProperStar network so, if we take instruction on your home, the details are visible not just on Rightmove, Zoopla and PrimeLocation in the UK but in 51 other countries and on 80 other websites around the world.

Like to know more? We’d love to hear from you … Just drop us a line or give us a call and we promise you’ll get to speak to a real person.

Low cost estate agents

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Not all cheap online estate agents are the same

There’s no doubt the internet has changed how we live – from shopping on line to staying in touch with family and friends.

Estate agency is no different and, these days, you can even sell your house online – particularly if you’re on a tight budget.

High street agents still have a place of course. There will always be folk who are going to more comfortable dealing with an agent face-to-face. But, with average commission at around 1.5%, you will be paying thousands of pounds rather than hundreds charged by the cheapest online estate agent. Low cost estate agents are not hard to find. Indeed, using search terms like sell house cheap or sell my house cheap will more than likely throw up a list of dozens to choose from. But, before you make a choice about which one to contact, we’d certainly counsel a little research.

Do you know anyone who has sold their home online for example? What sort of experience did they have? If you don’t, why not have a look on independent review website Trustpilot, where you can search either for a specific company of just browse comments on who has done a great job – and who hasn’t.

Just like in any other line of business, not all cheap online estate agents are the same. Some offer more options than others – like our own 100% no-quibble money-back guarantee for example. Some, like us, will also offer you the option of paying up front or one completion. But why not start with a check-list, pick three who best match your budget and see who ticks the most boxes? You may even be able to haggle a little if one comes close to matching all your criteria. But, remember at all times you are the customer. It may be that you’re on the lookout for cheap estate agents but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer second best when it comes to customer service.

As you’re on our page, you’re only a click away from finding out more about us. We’re here if you need us – perhaps with a valuation, if that’s all you need for now. But one thing we will promise is sound, professional, no-nonsense advice. After all, what more would you expect from a company with its roots in Yorkshire.

One step forward two steps back

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So now we know.

After eight weeks of campaigning, seemingly endless soundbites and strident newspaper headlines, the UK is back where it was in 2010. We have a hung Parliament and today there’s some frantic activity going on behind the scenes as the parties jockey for position, each proclaiming victory for themselves.

So Who Are The Winners?

But, if truth be told, no one has won today. The only cold fact we have is that we face months of uncertainty – possibly even longer if Theresa May stands by her vow to stay on. That might seem like a bit of an oxymoron but today – far from offering the strength and stability the Tories promised – May looks to have become a lame duck Prime Minister on borrowed time.

So what does the 2017 general election mean for the Uk property market?

The Impact On The Property Market

The answer is probably not a lot. House prices have been bumping along for a year now since the Brexit vote a year ago. The good news is that they haven’t plummeted like many commentators suggested – but they haven’t exactly soared either.

Until today, predictions were that there would be nothing more than moderate rise in 2017; perhaps a percentage point or two. By 2020, the accepted wisdom seems to be that they might be as much as 5% higher than they are today. It’s unlikely a hung Parliament is going to change that.

Why? Well, in short, with more political uncertainty ahead, some sellers – particularly those with a weather eye on the price their home may fetch – are likely to stay put, at least for now. Less stock coming onto the market tends to drive prices up but as many buyers will also be unwilling to take significant financial risks right now, the two factors tend to balance each other out. The result is likely to be a modest rise in property values – but not a massive one.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I’ve gone on record before to say, if we still want our kids to aspire to owning their own homes in future, what the UK needs is a housing policy divorced from politics. Perhaps a commission to lead the way, delivering long-term objectives which avoid the boom and bust nature of the market in the past and perhaps even influence future Chancellors when it comes to setting Budgets, ensuring family incomes don’t fall so far behind property prices, a home of your own becomes a pipe dream.

In my view, nothing which happened overnight has changed my mind.

Mrs May may have promised us a bold step forward. In reality, it feels like we’ve taken two steps back

Fast – but who ends up furious?

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How MUCH below market value are you prepared to go?

There’s been quite a bit of change in the estate agency game over the last decade and, until recently, companies like us were the new kids on the block. We’ve been among those shaking the tree and upsetting the establishment with our low fees and new technology while estate agency in general has given itself a hard time coming to terms with the internet and a different way of doing business.

But, suddenly, online estate agents are not the latest thing any more. There are other new players in the property game – and they’re already all over the TV offering deals even the new-tech, cut-price online agencies are going to struggle to keep pace with.

We buy any property

You’ll have no doubt have heard of WeBuyAnyCar.com? Well, now there are companies out there offering to do the same with property. If you want to sell your home, they’ll buy it, regardless of size or condition. What’s more, if they don’t complete within a set deadline, they’ll even pay your mortgage until the deal is done. Simples, as a certain meerkat might say.

It sounds great doesn’t it? No more hanging around wringing your hands waiting for a viewing. No more breaking chains or flaky buyers to worry about. They tell you what they think your home is worth, you accept and – bingo! You can look forward to a pile of cash and a completion date.

So, where’s the catch?

If the truth be told, if you’re the sort of seller who just wants a quick deal and you’re quite happy to pay a bit extra to avoid the hassle, there probably isn’t any. The value placed on your property might be a tad below the market value but then that’s a price you’re happy to pay for a quick sale guaranteed, right?

The thing is, how MUCH below market value are you prepared to go?

How low can you go?

If it’s more than £500, then you’ve already paid more than you’d be paying us to sell your home online. If it’s more than £3,000, then it’s costing you more than an average high street estate agent’s commission. If you’re happy paying that in return for a speedy house sale, fine. But, if not – or if it’s much more than that – then it might be time to think again.

The thing is, companies like this will need to rely on a swift turnover to keep the cash flowing. If it ends up with a stock of properties it can’t sell on, then the price it’s willing to pay you for your home is likely to come down even more.

As the saying goes, you pays your money and takes your choice. Our advice though is to be sure you’ve looked into them all first rather than being suckered by a catchphrase or a nifty little advertising jingle.

What the politicians aren’t telling you.

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There’s been precious little airtime given to what any of the parties will do to make home-ownership something our kids can aspire to once more.

Have you noticed anything missing as the political parties enter the final week of campaigning in the run up to the general election next week?

The usual posturing and finger-pointing is all there of course along with the battle buses, the placards, the slogans …

But it’s more the policies we’re worried about – or should we say the lack of one in particular. Yes, we’ve heard about education, child care, policing, nationalisation of the railways and the water industry. There have been new policies and even U-turns on taxation too.

But one thing we haven’t heard very much about at all is one issue all the parties were keen to emphasise was a priority for them a few short months ago. What has happened to the determination to sort of the mess we’re in when it comes to the housing crisis?

What About The Housing “Crisis”?

Last autumn, the Conservatives were promising billions of pounds for projects which would unlock investment in new housing stock. Before that targets were set to build a million new homes by 2020. Fresh initiatives were mentioned which would help to get first-time buyers on the property ladder.

In the lettings market, agents were warned they wouldn’t be able to charge tenants fees any more while the Tories rejected calls for a rethink over recent taxation and ramped up the war on buy-to-let.

But, almost since the election was announced, there’s been precious little airtime given to what any of the parties will do to make home-ownership something our kids can aspire to once more – a silence we find both perplexing and a little ominous.

Maybe the parties believe it’s not a vote-winner; maybe they think most of us are more interested in the NHS, the privatised industries, public services and even a few extra bank holidays.

Perhaps our political leaders are resigned to a more European approach when it comes to property in the UK. Could it be that they’ve already reached the conclusion that, no matter what they do, the industry is doomed to eat itself anyway.

The Big Issue

If not, they’re leaving it late to address what surely must be one of the most significant social issues of the 21st century so far. After all, if left unattended, the current trends in housing are more likely to affect how all of us live, regardless of who owns our trains, our hospitals or our water pipes.

If it bothers you too, why not ask your candidates? Who knows; if enough of us demand answers, maybe there’s still time to have property in the UK move up the list a little. If it doesn’t, then there’s a chance, even in our own lifetime, we could see a one-bedroom apartment beyond the budget of most who can’t draw from the Bank of Mum & Dad – and what sort of society is that to leave to our children?

That was then, this is now…

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AFTER ALL IT IS 2017

Way back in the 1980s when Del Boy and Rodders were making us laugh, there was big hair and a yuppie was what we aspired to, estate agents had to work a lot harder for their fees.

Email wasn’t here yet so letters had to be written and sent by post to clients, solicitors and all the other people involved in the buying and selling of a property. There were no digital images so photographs had to be printed and sometimes even stuck into brochures by hand.

Marketing a property

Without the internet, there was no Rightmove or Zoopla so marketing a property was harder.  Agents relied on mailing lists, shop windows and newspaper advertising to attract buyers and  viewings were far more vital – an opportunity to encapsulate all of a property’s selling points in a short space of time. A good agent had the patter down to a tee every time while a poor one would fumble his lines.

It’s true that overheads like offices, cars, phones and newspaper advertising also had to be covered so charging 2% of the selling price was probably justifiable.

But that was then – and this is now…

Now, we have email so there’s no postage to pay; now we have cell phones so we can call or message anyone from just about anywhere so there’s no waiting until we get back to the office to keep the buying and selling process in motion.

Now we have digital photography, which means we can take and send a reasonable image in minutes; now, there are a number of software options available which make brochures so much less of a Pritt Stick challenge.

A potential buyer can do much of the research on any given property themselves; they can arrive at a viewing already knowing what’s nearby – even if they’ve travelled from the other end of the country. Even at the “point of sale” the agent’s job is simply not what it was.

So how come, if you engage a traditional high street agent, you’re still paying much the same as you would have 35 years ago? Even though modern technology has taken away so many aspects of the job, the fee just hasn’t dropped.

Of course, a traditional high street agent will point to the costs associated with their office and a fleet of branded cars and bluster about how they “know” the market so much better than these Jonny Come Lately online agents who are just internet cowboys with their eye on the main chance and a fast buck. They’ll suck their teeth and mutter darkly about poor customer service and spout uninformed conjecture about the risks, including paying up-front fees.

But, quietly behind the scenes in that same high street office, there’s more than likely rapid movement towards the online business model going on – in fact so much of it that, somewhat ironically, a new company has been formed recently just to help traditional agents make the conversion so they can offer something closer to their online rivals.

Of course, some buyers and sellers will always be uncomfortable with the concept of such a significant and sizable transaction being online. Just like many prefer proper books to e-readers and others prefer to browse the supermarket aisles rather than having the weekly shop delivered, there will be folk who prefer inspecting images of homes in shop windows and dealing with their estate agent face-to-face so they can see the whites of their eyes while they guide them through the house-buying process.

But for others, paying £5,000 for the privilege when you could receive much the same service for £500 doesn’t make sense any more. They know times have changed – whether the traditional agents like it or not – and they don’t like being told they’re some sort of heretic simply because they don’t see the sense in paying over the odds.

After all, this is 2017. It’s just a shame there are so many in our industry who would rather it wasn’t.

 

Here we go again.

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PROPERTY AND ANOTHER ELECTION – IS IT TIME FOR A CHANGE?

Theresa May’s announcement this week that the Government intends going to the polls on June 8 will have taken many by surprise. No doubt there’s a political strategy behind the decision – one the Conservatives are probably hoping will suit them best – but, for the rest of us, it’s another lurch into the unknown and that is bound to have repercussions. The property market is as likely as any other to be affected and, for some, that might be a good thing and, for others maybe not.

First of all, let’s not forget it’s already a sellers’ market. World events such as Brexit and The Donald’s succession to power in America mean there are homeowners who might otherwise have considered moving adopting a wait-and-see approach instead. Fewer homes available inevitably exacerbates demand which tends to lead to an upward trend in asking prices. With an election now scheduled for June, that situation isn’t going to get any better.

However, although there may be fewer sellers around, the irony is that those who do decide to take their property to market may actually do better now than they would if world events move on apace and the artificial bottlenecks applied by political considerations ease.

For first-time buyers though, an election isn’t good news – at least not for the next seven weeks. If the number of homes on the market falls further as sellers await a result, not only does it get even harder to find the right home for you, there could even be a short-term spike in prices – and they won’t necessarily fall again either, at least not in the short-term.

But perhaps the biggest threat another election poses to the housing market depends on who wins. If it’s the Tories, emboldened by a mandate, we could see more radical policy reforms but, equally, if it’s Labour – or any other party come to that – we could see the slate wiped clean and a whole new tranche of new measures introduced which, however well-meaning, could result in slowing the pace of the change in the property market we so desperately need.

Of course, right now, it’s all if, buts and maybes – and there’s the rub. With no long-term strategy insulated against the ever-changing landscape of politics, we simply don’t know what to expect.

Is it time for an independent body or a commission to set long-term strategies for something as vital to the economy as the property market rather than leaving it to the whim of Westminster which, after all, faces change and upheaval every five years? Is it time for someone or something other than the Government to lead the way on building, address the skills shortage in the construction industry, work with local government on issues which stop us keeping up with housing demand and to ensure there are homes which our children will be able to afford in a few years time?

It’s not for us to say, but it’s a thought. Would you vote for that…?

…and now it’s time to deliver!

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READY OR NOT, HERE WE COME

If there was a soundtrack to our lives at Esale at the moment, it would probably be the theme tune from Rocky…

We said we were ready to take on the big guys, we said we were ready for the challenge of the national stage – and now it’s time to deliver.

If you’re one of our regular readers, you’ll know 2017 has already been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. We started it by announcing a crowd-funding drive to raise the capital we needed to help us with the marketing which will make us a household name. It’s a grand dream, we know, and reaching the target looked a little touch-and-go at times. But, suddenly, we’ve done it – and now we have to live up to the promises we have made and give it our best shot.

It’s not going to happen overnight. First we need to run a rule over our options, take professional advice and then think long and hard about how best to use it. We have to come up with a detailed strategy which best suits our brand, decide how to launch it and then how to keep up the momentum over the next 12 months.

We need to be sure we’re consistent, coherent and competitive. In short, we need to convince people that we can be trusted with one of the most important financial transactions of their lives – in fact that we can perform so professionally that they would have no hesitation about recommending us to family and friends.

We’re working on it right now and, if we’re honest, the signs are already pretty good. We’ve already seen a surge in instructions over the last few weeks and we have more properties on our books from across England and Wales now than we’ve ever had before.

But that doesn’t mean we’re complacent. Far from it. We are also very much aware of the trust our investors have placed in us and we are conscious of the fact this opportunity is down to each and every one of the individuals who have decided to be part of our development.

But, at the moment, we would happily admit every day also feels like an adventure. We know we’re heading into a fiercely competitive market and few of our competitors will be happy to see us. We know no one is going to be giving us an easy ride.

But, to be honest, we’re itching to get started. Cue that music … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvEnIkz82A0

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About esale

esale  Estate Agents, founded in 2010, bringing a fresh, clear and easy approach to online estate agency in England and Wales. We are a group of professionals with years of experience in helping people sell and buy property.

We have the skills to ensure the correct price is set for your property and we can negotiate the right sale price between buyer and seller.

Additionally, we can arrange accompanied viewings and also see the sale through to completion.

Your property will feature on Rightmove , Zoopla  and Primelocation esale have a wide advertising network, come and join our approach to selling a property, no matter what your property value is.