Property Descriptions – Not To Be Ignored!

July 28th, 2023

Property Descriptions – Are they there to A) pad out the listing or B) provide useful and essential information?

In case you’re wondering – IT’S B!!!!

I love putting listings together but the hardest part for me is getting the description just right.  My photographer spends hours editing the video and photographs and I spend the same writing my descriptions.  So why then, do some buyers choose to have a brief flick through the photos and go to book a viewing, without reading the VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION or even watching the video?!

We live in a fast paced world and we’re all so damned busy and I get that, however… Is it better to spend 10 minutes researching a property before booking a viewing or spending an hour or more of your time (and mine) viewing a property that is clearly not meeting the criteria you have set for yourself.

Here are just a few of the reasons why it is crucial to read the property description beforehand:

  1. Filtering and Prioritising: Property descriptions contain key details about the property’s features, amenities, and location. By reading the description, you can quickly filter out properties that do not meet your criteria or preferences. This allows you to prioritise and focus on the listings that align with your needs, saving you from visiting properties that are not suitable.
  • Managing Expectations: The property description provides a comprehensive overview of the property’s attributes and condition. It gives you an idea of what to expect during the viewing. By managing your expectations based on the description, you can avoid potential disappointment if the property does not match what you had in mind.
  • Planning and Preparation: Reading the property description helps you plan and prepare for the viewing effectively. Knowing the property’s details in advance allows you to come prepared with relevant questions for the seller or real estate agent.
  • Avoiding Surprises: A well-written property description should highlight all aspects of the property such as condition and the level of work required.  Admittedly this is subjective so when you speak to the agent to book the viewing, ask questions before committing.  If there are any potential issues or drawbacks, they may be mentioned in the description. Being aware of such aspects beforehand can help you decide whether the property is worth considering or if it’s better to explore other options.
  • Time Efficiency: House-hunting can be a time-consuming process. By reading property descriptions first, you can quickly assess if a property aligns with your requirements. This saves you from unnecessary viewings and allows you to focus on properties that have a higher chance of meeting your criteria.
  • Clarifying Doubts: If you have specific questions about the property, the description might address some of them. It can provide essential information, such as the property’s age, recent renovations, or any included furnishings. This can give you a clearer picture before the viewing.

A good listing is an advertisement for the property and should include:

Photographs: The number may vary depending on the property but as a rule 8-16 works well.  Not 99 as I saw on one listing!

Video tour: Some agentsuse 360 degree virtual tours which pan around each room.  I like a video tour which give more information than the photographs – particularly good for awkwardly shaped rooms or showing gardens off to their full potential.

Floorplan: including room dimensions and total floor area.  If you’re upsizing or downsizing, wouldn’t you want to know the room dimensions?

Property description: A brief introduction paragraph with an overview of the property – this might mention it’s condition, location or size – it’s designed to grab your attention. Detail of the property internally (the rooms, their features and the benefit of those attributes (this is advertising) and externally (parking, gardens, views etc).

Additionally: Tenure (if leasehold – any associated charges), council tax band, energy performance rating, catchment schools, transport links and area information.

Having information up front empowers you to make informed decisions, ensuring that your time and efforts are well-utilized during the property search.

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What Is Your House Worth?

July 28th, 2023

We learn this on day one of Estate Agency School* – the short and the sweet of it is that it’s worth what someone is prepared to pay for it.

So, how do you find out what it’s worth without having to put it on the market?

Firstly, take a look at the property portals – Rightmove & Zoopla – to see what properties are on the market, that are like yours. Remember to consider both properties that are ‘SOLD or UNDER OFFER’ and those that are ‘For Sale’.  Those that are for sale and have been for more than 6 weeks are generally considered to be overpriced.

Secondly, you can ask an estate agent to come and value the property. Bear in mind that estate agents can’t ‘value’ properties (in fact no one can as it’s only worth what someone is prepared to pay), however, they can give you a guide as to what they think it might achieve and what you should put the property on the market for.  They should be able to provide you with information to support their figures rather than dazzling you with a figure you cannot refuse.

The third way is to use an instant valuation tool. This is where you can input your postcode & address, the number of bedrooms you have and other such information, and the ‘automated valuation model’ (AVM) will come back to you with a ‘valuation’ of the property. These are often not that accurate as the instant valuation tool is unable to work out what improvements you have made to the property, or look at hyper local events that may have an effect the valuation.
 
They’re useful as a guide, but we wouldn’t rely on them as gospel. If you’re thinking of selling or just curious about what the instant valuation tool will say your house is worth, then feel free to have a play around with my instant valuation tool.

The last way to find out what your house is worth is to get a qualified surveyor out to the property. In theory, a surveyor is the only qualified person to ‘value’ a property.

A surveyor will compile a list of comparable evidence of similar properties that sold in the vicinity and, some might say, ironically, will often consult estate agents(!), as well as look at historic data through the remortgage database. They also have access to a more powerful AVM that looks at numerous data points to help them come up with a ‘true valuation’. These valuations are based on evidence and science.

However, that can never account for the buyer who will pay £10k or £20k or even £50k more than the surveyor’s valuation because they want to get their child into the nearby school, or they love the countryside views that someone might have. 

So in all honesty, we’re back to where we started, the only way to find how much your house is truly worth at any point in time, is to put it on the market, and see what someone is prepared to pay for it…

By the way, re agency school *there is no such thing but some of us do have formally recognised industry qualifications…

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Are you in a position to proceed?

July 18th, 2023

“Are you in a position to proceed”, is a phrase you will more than likely hear when you enquire about a property, but some people aren’t sure what this means. So, here’s a simple explanation of what ‘position to proceed’ means and why it’s important for estate agents to know what position you’re in.

Position to proceed is simply a term to find out if you can move ahead with purchasing a property straight away. 

Typically, those that are able to proceed are First Time Buyers, cash buyers, those in rented or temporary accommodation or those that have a property which is ‘sold, stc.’
 
If you need to find a buyer for your own home in order the buy the next one, and it is not on the market, or it is still For Sale, then you’re not in a position to proceed. 

Now some clients will state that they are in a position to proceed, because even though they haven’t sold their own property, they are happy to proceed to get a survey done and order land registry searches but this isn’t strictly correct.  Why?  Because there is going to be a point in proceedings that the solicitor or the lender will put a stop to this because you usually need to have sold your own home in order to get the next mortgage, or exchange contracts. So, although you might be willing to proceed, you’re still not in a position to proceed.

For estate agents, it’s crucial to get this information for the seller so that they know who they are showing round and what the likelihood is of an offer that can proceed and it’s something sellers expect to have information on.  It’s a part of the service.

I’ve had a number of selling clients in the past refuse viewings from those that are not in a position to proceed and as their agent, I have to act upon their instructions. I will however take each situation on its own merit.  Where someone is on the market or about to go on the market but hasn’t yet sold, it is quite possible they could agree a sale on theirs and become proceedable quickly and so it makes sense to show them around.  However, someone calling up to book a viewing based on a whim, it’s probably going to be a no from me. My advice is always to get yourself into a position to proceed to give yourself the best chance of securing your next home. 

The concern is always that you could end up agreeing a sale on your own property and then have nowhere to go and while these are genuine concerns, in my view, this is better than missing out on your dream home when it does eventually come on the market…

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Spotlight on Marple, Stockport

July 9th, 2023

As a local resident, I can hand on heart say that Marple is truly one of those ‘best of both worlds’ locations – close enough to the hustle and bustle of the city centre and yet you can be in the countryside in just a few minutes.

Since the pandemic, I’ve seen more and more buyers coming in from south Manchester, keen to explore the area and all it has to offer. Although we’re not quite up there with Didsbury or Chorlton, Marple is still a less expensive proposition and here’s a few great reasons to set up home here:

• Two railway stations serve Marple with regular train services into Piccadilly in under 30 mins

• Regular bus services into Stockport, Hayfield, Mellor and Glossop plus a circular service covering Romiley, Marple and Bredbury

• A good number of independent retailers, cafes and bars have opened in recent years

• The Regent cinema is one of the few remaining family run traditional independent cinemas in the UK.

• Great choice of good primary schools and activities available for children and adults including tennis, golf, football, cricket and running clubs

• Plenty of green space – Memorial Park, Brabyns Park, the Roman Lakes, and a bit further out is Etherow Country Park in Compstall and Lyme Park, owned by the National Trust, in Disley.

• It’s a walker’s paradise with walks to suit all ages and abilities and the Peak District is on the doorstep.

• The Middlewood Way is a cycle path, popular with runners and walkers which follows the former Macclesfield, Bollington and Marple Railway line south from Rose Hill to Macclesfield.

• The Peak Forest Canal runs for 15 miles between Ashton under Lyne and Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire, passing through Marple through the famed flight of 16 locks, separating the ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ parts of the canal. Follow the canal path and take in the breathtaking views of the nearby Peak District; you are never far away from some outstanding walks.

• There is a real sense of community and a number of local events are organised including Marple Carnival and the Food and Drink Festival.

If you’d like to know more about life in Marple, get in touch today.

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Photo of Nikki standing on a bridge in Marple
Should I sell my house?

June 18th, 2023

There are a myriad of reasons why people decide to move and we’re going to run through just a few of them which may help you to decide if it’s the right decision for you.

Children arriving, or to get more space – more commonly known in estate agency as ‘upsizing’

When it comes to upsizing, if you’re struggling with space, you either have to extend, or sell your house.

But if you decide you need to sell your house, then you also need to take a few more things into account…

– What is the balance of your mortgage?
– What equity do you have in your house?
– Do you have any redemption penalties?
– What are you (and your partner) earning?
– What is the maximum mortgage you can get?
– What sort of house will that buy you, in the location that you would like to live?

If everything fits, then, in my opinion, you should sell your house. Typically, people want to be in their ‘forever’ home by the time they are aged 40-45. To achieve this, in our view, if you have the equity and you have the salary to get the mortgage, then upsize rather than extend.

Release equity or the house is too big for you, more commonly known in estate agency as ‘downsizing’ 

If you’re downsizing, it probably means the kids have grown up and you’re looking to release equity from the house to spend on yourself! And why not?!

The difficulty usually, is to find a property that you are prepared to downsize too, because when you have become used to a certain type of property with a certain amount of space both inside and out, it becomes difficult to find something that offers the equivalent. In fact, it is pretty much impossible! But that’s the trade off – a smaller house, with less space, in exchange for a few hundred thousand pounds in the bank so you can go travelling and live the life you have worked so hard for.

I do see it a lot where people who are thinking of downsizing, decide not too, because they can’t find anywhere to go because they don’t want to compromise, but in turn sacrifice all the dreams they had when they were 45 about travelling the world when they retire…but I get it, it’s not easy, especially when there is an emotional attachment to your ‘forever house.’

The key word above is ‘compromise’, and if you are prepared to compromise for a few hundred thousand quid in your pocket, then you should sell…

But you do also need to consider the following:

– What is your house worth?
– What do you want to be left with once you have moved?
– What sort of house can you afford with the amount you want to be left with?
– Will you be happy in a smaller house?
– What are you going to do with the money once you move – make a list – travel the world, save a bit, buy a Rolls Royce, treat the grandchildren.

Getting children into a new school or a job move, more commonly known in estate agency as a ‘change in circumstances’

A change in circumstances usually means you should sell your home. It’s usually a job move, or wanting to get children into a different school or because you’ve fallen in love with someone who’s in a different area to you. Or perhaps it’s moving to be nearer your grown up children & grandchildren or moving abroad for a different way of life. But inevitably, a change in circumstances like this, often means you have to sell your home.

In most instances, there is the potential to let your property. Again, you have to do a fair bit of homework on what your property is worth both from a sales point of view, and also how much rent you would get for it, then a financial advisor will have to do some number crunching to determine what someone will lend to you if you keep the house you’re in, and all that other magic stuff! Coupled with the mountains of legislation around letting – it is not a decision to be taken without thoroughly educating yourself first.

Still not sure? I’d be happy to explore all your options with you and come to a sensible decision that’s best for you.

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Can I Offer On A Property If I Haven’t Sold Mine?

May 12th, 2023

In short, yes you can. You can offer on any property, on with any agent and the agent is obliged to put the offer forward to the owner of the property.

However, offering on a property when you haven’t sold yours is unlikely to lead to securing the property and getting the owner to take it off the market.

This is because the agent is acting for the seller and as the agent working on behalf of the seller, our job is to mitigate any risk for the owner. This is why agents ask for proof of finances and ‘check chains’ with other estate agents. This is all part of our due diligence so that we can give the seller the whole story and advise where necessary.

So, if you offer on a house and your house hasn’t sold, the agent will put the offer forward, but will often advise the seller not to accept the offer formally. They will instead advise to ‘indicate’ that they would accept this offer should you sell your property. This is the ‘right’ way to do estate agency.

People often question whether this is the right advice or not, but imagine if the agent advised the seller to accept the offer and take their house off the market? 

The worst case scenario is that the person who has made the offer never sells their house. It’s not uncommon for houses not to sell. And if someone has their offer accepted where they haven’t sold their own property, it could well happen. If this were the case, then the seller of the property has taken their house off the market and stopped other potential buyers from perhaps buying the property, halting their own onward move. Not advice that acts in the best interests of the seller.

Any questions, get in touch with me today.

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Rightmove House Price Index Report – April 2023

April 24th, 2023

Rightmove-HPI-24th-April-2023-Final

Rightmove have published their latest report – a copy of the full report is appended. 

” Agents are reporting that many sellers have transitioned out of the frenzied multi-bid market mindset of recent years and understand the new need to tempt Spring buyers with a competitive price. The current unexpectedly stable conditions may tempt more sellers to enter the market who had been considering a move in the last few years but had been put off by its frenetic pace.”  Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s Director of Property Science.

Is now a good time to sell or buy for you personally?  Get in touch today and let’s talk things through over a cuppa (Yorkshire Tea for me please!).

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Getting the BEST price for your property

April 12th, 2023

One of the most important things when you sell your home is to get the best price possible for your home. But how do you make sure you get the best price?

There are 4 contributing factors to getting the best price for your home. The one thing to remember in all this, is that it’s the buyer who is going to give you the best price – the agent, presentation and the marketing will contribute to that, but it is the buyer that will pay it. Getting a buyer to pay more than they want too, needs competition. So, to get more buyers, the first thing you need is eyeballs:

More Eyeballs = more clicks = more enquiries = more viewings = competition = more offers = the highest price.

Property Condition

To maximise the price for your house it needs to be in immaculate condition – I’m talking new kitchens, new bathrooms, new carpets – a show home basically…But ‘immaculate condition’ is not usually possible, so don’t panic…

If you haven’t got the time or money to make your property ‘immaculate’ with new kitchens, bathrooms, carpets and everything else, then make sure it is presentable, clean & tidy when people view. 

Get rid of the kids & dog, but present it as it should be presented. Don’t hide all the toys when you are selling a 4 bed detached family home – that is what creates emotion from the buyer. And when a buyer becomes emotionally attached to your property and can see themselves living there, they will pay what it takes to realise their visualisation!

Portals & Online Presentation

Make sure your property is on Rightmove AND Zoopla. Zoopla have claimed in the past that 32% of their buyers don’t visit Rightmove, so by listing your house with an agent that only advertises on one of these sites, you are losing eyeballs.

The basic premise of selling your house nowadays (and before the internet came along), was the more eyeballs you got on the property, the more viewers you would get and the more competition you would create, which would force the price up.

It hasn’t changed much since the internet, because the more eyeballs you get, the more clicks your advert will get and the more viewers your agent will be able to arrange, which will lead to more competition.

And don’t forget social media. Social media is a bit like the newspaper back in the ‘good old days’ where someone who isn’t actively looking to buy a property spots yours on Facebook or wherever and that entices them to enquire – impulse buyers!

Choose the right agent

Make sure you choose an agent who has an incentive to sell your property. But don’t choose someone who is ‘desperate’ to sell your property.

An agent who is giving their own fees away is clearly not the best negotiator, so would you trust them with negotiating the best price on your house? And be careful about when the fee is paid – if they are charging you all up front, or regardless of sale (which some of the agents who advertise on the telly do), then they have absolutely no incentive to sell your house, which sort of defeats the object of trying to sell your house and move!

Choose the right marketing strategy

This is so important and is part of choosing the right estate agent, but the marketing strategy is different for every property. For example, don’t choose an agent that tells you the highest asking price – this could actually lead you to achieving less than had you asked a ‘medium’ asking price because of the length of time the property could end up sitting on the market for.

Similarly, don’t use open days if they’re not appropriate. Use a strategy that’s going to help you achieve the absolute best price – that might be an informal tender, it might be a lower asking price because there could be lots of competition in your area, it might just be selling in the ‘usual’ way. A good estate agent should come up with an entire plan for you and your property, which suits your circumstances.

Getting the best price for your home is ultimately a good mix of all of the above points, but it does all come down to the estate agent that you choose – where they advertise, what advice they give you and how good they are at negotiating!

To find out more, contact Nikki Davies, Powered by eXp.

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Buying a leasehold property

March 18th, 2023

Buying a leasehold property in the UK can be a complex process and in my experience, many buyers are wary of buying a leasehold property. 

However, it doesn’t have to be that way.  This basic guide will give you an overview of the steps involved in buying a leasehold property and help you understand the key terms and legal obligations that come with it.  Obtaining this information at the outset can give you the assurance you need or help you make the decision to move on before incurring costs of not only your money but yours and your chain’s valuable time.  And don’t panic, this is for your solicitor to investigate – not you.

What is a leasehold property?

A leasehold property is a type of property where the buyer purchases the right to use the property for a fixed period of time, known as the lease term. The property is owned by the freeholder or landlord who grants the lease to the buyer. The buyer of a leasehold property will be required to pay ground rent, service charges and other fees to the landlord or management company.

Understand the lease

The lease is a legal document that sets out the terms and conditions of the leasehold property. It is important to read and understand the lease before buying the property. The lease will specify the lease term, ground rent, service charges, repair obligations, and other important details.

Get legal advice

It is important to seek legal advice from a solicitor who is experienced in leasehold property transactions. Your solicitor will review the lease and advise you on any potential issues or concerns.

Check the lease term

The length of the lease is an important consideration when buying a leasehold property. A short lease can affect the property’s value and may make it difficult to sell in the future. It is recommended that you aim to buy a property with a lease term of at least 90 years.

Check the ground rent

Ground rent is a fee paid by the leaseholder to the landlord for the use of the land on which the property is built. It is important to check the amount of ground rent and how it will be reviewed over time. Some leases have clauses that allow the landlord to increase the ground rent significantly over the term of the lease and you will need this information from the outset.

Check the service charges

Service charges are fees paid by the leaseholder to the landlord or management company for the maintenance and upkeep of the building and common areas. It is important to check the amount of service charges and what they cover.  You will also want to find out whether these are subject to increases, how much they could potentially increase by and how often.  You should also ask to see the service charge accounts to ensure that they are being managed correctly.

Check for any restrictions

Some leases may contain restrictions on what the leaseholder can do with the property. For example, there may be restrictions on keeping pets, making alterations to the property or subletting. It is important to check the lease for any such restrictions.

Check the management company

If the property is managed by a management company, it is important to check their reputation and track record. You should ask to see the management company’s accounts and check that they are managing the property correctly.

Consider enfranchisement

Enfranchisement is the process of buying the freehold of a leasehold property. If the lease term is less than 80 years, it may be worth considering enfranchisement as this can increase the property’s value and reduce future costs.

Get a survey

It is important to get a survey of the property before buying a leasehold property. This will identify any potential issues or defects with the property that may not be obvious from a visual inspection.

Check the insurance

The landlord or management company will be responsible for insuring the building, but the leaseholder may be required to pay a share of the insurance premium. It is important to check the insurance policy and ensure that it provides adequate cover for the property.

Completion

Once all the necessary checks have been carried out, you can exchange contracts and complete the purchase of the property. You will be required to pay the purchase price and any associated fees and charges.

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A man looking at a large pile of papers
Buying a property in today’s market

March 18th, 2023

Buying a house in England and Wales is a significant investment and a big decision that requires careful planning and consideration.  With so many factors to take into account, it can be a daunting prospect, but with the right preparation, you can make the process much smoother.

Below, I have set out the basic steps involved in buying a house here in the UK.

Determine Your Budget

The very first step is to determine your budget.  This will help you identify properties that you can realistically afford.  You can work out your budget by considering your income, savings, and any other financial commitments you have, such as debts and bills. You can also use online mortgage calculators to estimate how much you can borrow from lenders but the best route is to use a mortgage broker who can source the very best deals appropriate for your circumstances.  Whilst they may charge for their services, they often have access to rates not available on the open market. 

Get a Mortgage Agreement in Principle

This is a conditional offer from a lender stating how much they would be willing to lend you based on your financial circumstances. Having this agreement in place will put you in a stronger position when making an offer on a property.

Select Your Area

Once you have a budget in mind, the next step is to identify suitable areas where you would like to buy a house.  You can use online property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla to search for properties in your desired locations.  I would strongly advise you spend some time in the areas to get a feel for them and see if it suits your needs – think about the amenities you want and need on your doorstep.  Do you have to commute?  By train? Bus? Road network?  Rent a room for a couple of nights and test your commute.  Get this right and narrow this down from the start.  A scattergun approach seldom works and you’ll end up viewing tens of properties with no clear aim.

View Properties

Once you have identified suitable areas and have a mortgage agreement in principle, the next step is to start viewing properties.  Make sure you view several properties and take note of their condition, location, and price.  If you find a property you like, it’s worth arranging a second viewing to get a better sense of the property’s condition and suitability. 

Make an Offer

If you find a property that you would like to buy, the next step is to make an offer.  Your offer should be based on the property’s value and your budget.  Once you make an offer, the seller will either accept, reject or make a counteroffer.  If your offer is accepted, the next step is to instruct a solicitor to start the conveyancing process and, if you want some reassurance on the condition of the property you are buying, instruct a survey – at the outset, so there are no nasty surprises later on.

Mortgage Application

Once your offer is accepted, if you require a mortgage, you will need to formally apply.  Your broker will help you with this and ensure the lender you approach is likely to accept your application – multiple applications can be detrimental to your credit rating.  In most cases, the lender will instruct a Chartered Surveyor to carry out a valuation to ensure the property is suitable security for lending purposes – this is not the same as the condition survey you instruct for yourself.  Once the valuation is agreed (there can sometimes be a difference of opinion here, especially if you have bid over the asking price so be aware of this), the underwriters will look at the application in greater depth and give you a decision – if agreed, your mortgage offer will be issued.

Conveyancing

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer.  Your solicitor will handle the conveyancing process, which involves an in depth look at the property you are intending to purchase including searches (which should be ordered from the outset) and they will also advise you on any legal issues and make sure that the property’s title is free from any restrictions or problems.

The process can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months depending on the complexity of the matter and time taken to source the information. 

Exchange Contracts and Complete the Purchase

Once the conveyancing process is complete, you will exchange contracts with the seller.  At this stage, you are legally committed to the purchase and you will need to pay a deposit, usually 10% of the purchase price.  The completion date will also be agreed upon, which is when you will pay the remaining balance (when your mortgage comes into effect) and take ownership of the property.

The process is hard to navigate and you need a good team around you:

  • A proactive and straight talking estate agent
  • An independent mortgage consultant
  • A communicative, responsive and proactive solicitor who asks the right questions from the outset.

Remember to take your time, do your research, and seek professional advice at every stage of the process.  Contact me to talk further about making your move.

 

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A house in a shopping trolley