Monday, December 19, 2005

So, you want to be an Estate Agent? check with the OFT first

What constitutes estate agency work? The OFT has come up with some new guidelines to clarify the situation...
In the olden days before the advent of the internet, the role of an estate agent was fairly obvious - selling a property on behalf of the vendor.
But since the arrival of the information super highway, matters have become a bit more complicated - so much so that the Office of Fair Trading has had to step in.
There are around 200 internet property retailers currently trading in the UK, which is where controversy can arise.
Some of these companies claim not to be involved in estate agency work when many of them do seem to fall within the legal definition, says the OFT.
In the view of the internet companies, customers who are already signed up to sole agency agreements with traditional high street estate agents are not breaking that agreement when they sign up with them.
But agents disagree and the end result is consumers pay twice - the agent and the internet property retailer, even though the latter had advertised itself as not being an estate agent and told the client they wouldn't have to pay a fee to their original agent.
No Frills? To prevent this from happening, the OFT has collaborated with the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) and the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) to produce new guidance which aims to clarify the estate agent situation for both consumers and businesses.
The OFT says that the guidance provide examples of the types of activities carried out by property retailers that are likely to fall within the definition of estate agency work as set out in the Estate Agents Act of 1979. These include:
Providing clients with a "For Sale" board and/or putting it up outside their property, particularly where the board contains the property retailer's contact details
Receiving and fielding queries from potential sellers or buyers and passing on details to their clients
Sending out property particulars and arranging viewings
Trevor Kent, former president of the National Association of Estate Agents, explains:
"In a nutshell what this means is that if a seller gives an estate agent a sole agency to sell their home and then calls a '£99 no frills internet firm' in who finds a buyer they still have to pay the agent their fee."
Full details of the new guidance can be found on the Office of Fair Trading website Estate Agents Act - internet property retailers
Christine Ward, OFT Director of Consumer Regulation Enforcement, added: "All those involved in estate agency work owe duties to their clients and must not mislead consumers.
"Today's guidance, produced in agreement with our regulatory partners, provides clarity in an important and growing sector within this market."

Bank's Chief Economist hints at rate cut's for the New Year

INTEREST RATES could be cut early in the new year by the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee (MPC), says the Bank’s chief economist.

Charles Bean, a member of the committee, told The Sunday Times that the recent drop in inflation from 2.5% to 2.1% had removed one uncertainty from the Bank’s projections.
He challenged the view that a rate move before the spring was highly unlikely because of the MPC’s desire to see how the winter pay round develops.

“I don’t think it’s a case of saying we are just going to sit here until the springtime doing nothing,” he said. “It will be very much responding to the news coming in.”
Many money-market analysts had assumed that rates would be on hold for months after comments by various MPC members. But recent figures on inflation and pay have been encouraging. Official statistics last week showed average earnings growth, including bonuses, dropping from 4.1% to 3.6%.

The unemployment claimant count rose in November for the 10th consecutive month, hitting 902,000. The Labour Force Survey measure of unemployment rose from 4.7% to 4.9%.
Bean voted for a rate cut three times last year, in June, July and August. Only on the third occasion was there an MPC majority for a cut and base rate dropped from 4.75% to 4.5%.
“I didn’t find any difficulty voting against the governor or other Bank members,” he said.

The crunch for the MPC will come in February, when it prepares forecasts for the quarterly inflation report. If inflation is continuing to fall and prospects for growth appear weaker than the Bank expects, that could pave the way for a reduction in rates. Andrew Smith, chief economist at KPMG, said: “I think rates are going to have to come down. The slowdown in real income growth is not going to be easily reversed and inflation is coming down nicely towards the target.”
This week the Bank will publish the minutes of the MPC’s December meeting, which are expected to show a 9-0 vote in favour of unchanged rates.
Consumer spending and housing market prospects are also an uncertainty for the Bank. This week Capital Economics, one of the most bearish forecasters, is expected to drop its prediction of a 20% crash in house prices., the financial research consultancy, expects a 4% rise for next year.

Local Estate Agent is part of one of the fastest growing UK firms

BYchoice joins forces with "move with us" to reach top 20 as growth rate soars.

A local estate agent was celebrating last night the success of there national property Network on Sunday, as they reached the top 20 in the annual Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 survey - the annual league table which ranks the uk's one hundred unquoted companies with the fastest-growing sales and tracks the top performing private companies and entrepreneurs.

Bychoice joined the network "movewithus" Network in 2004 to take advantage of the wide range of services and business benefits, including the links to over 1000 other independent estate agents across the UK. Over 15,000 homebuyers have been introduced through movewithus last year, making it the most successful referral system in the UK.

Todd Lewis, Director of BYchoice said " We are delighted.To be part of such a successful national team is tremendous and to be recognised as one of the fastest growing organisations in the UK is something we are all very proud of."

For further information

Todd Lewis
01787 468400

Friday, December 16, 2005

Suffolk set for mini house boom

HOUSE prices in East Anglia could rise by as much as 6% next year and in 2007, with some experts predicting a “mini boom”.
A survey published by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) forecasts a 4% rise nationally in house prices in 2006 and 2007.But RICS regional spokesman Stuart Harris said East Anglia could outperform large parts of the country and see increases closer to 6%.

The reason has been put down to the fact the region experienced the national slowdown in growth much quicker than in other areas and is already picking up.“The latter half of 2005 has been rather encouraging and we could in fact see house prices being a little firmer than the 4% when you get into this time next year,” said Mr Harris.“It's difficult to be too definitive - but it could be more like a 5% or 6% increase by this time next year.“We do have very stable interest rates and we have a situation where mortgage payments as a percentage of household income is still low compared to the historic average.“The slow down gripped this area a little bit before and what we are probably seeing is the market already rebounding a little bit more noticeably in this area.”
Colin Girling, Suffolk spokesman for the National Association of Estate Agents, said the region was likely to experience a “mini boom” next year if the Government remained on target to introduce the new home information packs.Home information packs become compulsory in 18 months and are part of a huge shake-up of the way people buy and sell houses.As well as home condition reports, the pack will contain the results of searches, copies of deeds and the terms of sale. The Government estimates the whole package will cost a seller around £600 plus VAT. Mr Girling said: “If the Government keep to their schedule and bring them in 2007, the market is going to have a mini boom because people wanting to sell will put their property on the market before the packs come into force because it will cost money.“Yes, I can see the market going up next year. At the present moment, movement is minimal but if the market does buck up then I can see 4%-5% is quite possible.

Planning applications rise may have peaked

The increase in planning applications in England appears to have peaked, according to the latest statistics compiled by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Figures just released by the ODPM have shown that during the third quarter of 2005, district planning authorities in England received 161,000 applications for planning permission and other related consents. This was eight per cent points lower than in the corresponding period last year.
The ODPM has made it clear that these figures appear to reflect a change from the long-term trend of growth in planning applications received.
The number of applications decreased in all regions compared with the same quarter a year ago. The largest decreases were in the North-West (13 per cent fewer) and the North-East (down 12 per cent). The smallest fall was in the West Midlands (there applications fell by four per cent).
In respect of planning decisions during the third quarter of this year, some 159,000 were made, some 10 per cent lower than a year ago. Again, the decrease occurred in all regions.
The biggest falls were in the North-West (15 per cent), East of England (13 per cent) and the East Midlands (12 per cent). The smallest decreases were in the South-East and London, where the figures were down eight per cent.
Householder decisions decreased by 15 per cent - down to 81,200 from 95,700 – but still accounted for 51 per cent of all decisions.
The proportion of applications granted permission remained the same, at 83 per cent.
The figures showed that decisions were made quickest in the North-West and London (84 per cent within eight weeks). Decisions were slowest in Yorkshire and the Humber (74 per cent within eight weeks). The best improvements in performance were the North-East and East of England, up six percentage points on last year.
Authorities made 91 per cent of all decisions within 13 weeks in July to September 2005, one per cent higher than in the same quarter last year.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Primelocation, SOLD for £48m

The property website which attracts 850,000 visitors a month was today set to be bought by the owner of the Daily Mail for £48m (€71m).

The offer for, which advertises 200,000 residential and commercial properties in the UK and abroad, has been backed by three-quarters of shareholders of the website’s parent company.

Daily Mail & General Trust said the deal was part of its strategy to boost its position in “key areas” of the online advertising market. The offer comes just days after rival Trinity Mirror bought the Friends Reunited website for £120m (€177m).

Primelocation was launched in 2001 with an £11m (€16.2m) investment from a consortium of around 200 estate agents. They included Hamptons and Savills.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Rates frozen expected

Any hopes of a pre-Christmas interest rate cut have been dashed following the MPC's announcement that the base rate would remain at 4.5 per cent...
"A resiliant property market, strong mortgage lending figures for the last three months and better than expected retail figures could have been a strong influence, but christmas figures will be a pointer for January and February" commented Todd Lewis of Suffolk estate agents BYchoice also adding "early New Year would seem the ideal time to cut base rates, the minutes of this meeting will published in a fortnight and could provide a clue."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sipps U Turn

Savers who have planned to use self-invested personnal pensions to buy properties in Suffolk will be hit by a "shocking" climbdown by the Chancellor. Two years ago Mr brown said that self-invested personal pensions (Sipps) would be able to gain tax releif on residential property bought after April 2006.
The chancellors pre -budget report said "Sipps will be prohibited from obtaining tax advantages wheninvesting in residential property and other assets, such as fine wines.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Traditional farm buildings under threat warns heritage body

Traditional farm buildings, regarded as fundamental to the character of the English countryside, are fast disappearing, according to the latest annual audit of the state of England's historic environment.
That warning has been spelled out by English Heritage (EH) in a new report, Heritage counts, compiled by the conservation body on the back of research carried out by EH, the Countryside Agency and other interested parties.
This research revealed that of more than 30,000 listed working farm buildings in England, some 2,420 (over seven per cent) are in a severe state of disrepair while nearly one in three has already been converted to other uses.
The report pointed out that thousands of barns, wagon sheds, byres, dovecotes, outhouses, stables and oast houses face disuse and dereliction.
The report also highlighted the fact that agricultural buildings now form the biggest category on local authority building at risk registers.
The report also discovered that 57 per cent of listed farms have been subject to a planning application since 1980 and that 80 per cent of the proposals were approved.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Home information packs mandatory June 1st 2007

Home Information Packs, which are being introduced by Government to reform the home buying and selling process, will become mandatory from 1 June 2007.
Currently, one million pounds a day is wasted on failed transactions as buyers often spend hundreds of pounds on valuations, legal advice and searches on transactions that ultimately break down. By providing key information at the beginning of the process, Home Information Packs will prevent waste and significantly cut the number of sales that fall through. The Packs are expected to cost around £600 +VAT for the average home. Most of those costs are currently paid by the buyer.
Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper said,
“Too many sales fall through because of delays and late information, wasting money and causing great stress for buyers and sellers, that’s why we are introducing the Packs. We have been working with all parts of industry on the detail and this timetable will give them time to fully prepare”.
The Government expects that confirmation of an implementation date will act as a trigger to others who are waiting to begin their training as Home Inspectors as well as provide certainty to organisations who are already preparing to offer Home Information Packs to consumers on a voluntary basis.
To date, seven assessment centres have been established and 1700 people from the surveying and property industry and from other professions are undergoing training for the Home Inspector qualification, with hundreds in the pipeline, waiting for the implementation date to be announced. Research shortly to be published by ODPM will confirm the number of home inspectors expected to be required for June 2007 is between 5000 and 7400. The next steps for the programme is to establish a certification scheme which is required to provide quality assurance and manage the Home Condition Report and Home Inspector registers. It is expected this scheme will be operating by the summer of 2006. A ‘dry run’ will follow later in the year designed to provide assurance to the industry and the public in advance of mandatory introduction on 1June 2007.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Smart investors benefit from buoyoant Suffolk rental market

There's extrodianary demand for rental properties with new instructions being snapped up. "The latest rental property left 3 clients without" said Todd Lewis Director of Bychoice. "Sudbury is an area of rising growth and high house prices are driving buyers into rental properties.
For advice please contact Todd Lewis in Sudbury or Clare Steadman in Long Melford on 0800 028 2300

New pension changes could boost property market

Billions of pounds are expected to be invested in the property market when next year's pension changes come into effect...

Pound HouseThat's the forecast from experts at The Property Investor Show which takes place on 23-25 September at London's ExCel. As from 5 April 2006 - known as A-Day - changes to the pension law will allow people to invest in residential property in the UK and overseas.

Huge numbers of investors are expected to take advantage of the changes, which will allow people to plan for their old age and give a major boost to UK pension funds.

Rightmove survey shows East Anglia price drop

Rightmove's latest report shows prices in East Anglia still slowing with the average house in August o5 being £185,671 compared with July 05 £186,607 a -0.5% fall.

However annually the survey shows a 0.6% rise.

Click here for the full report

Monday, August 15, 2005

Tv Company seeks budding restauranteur?


Are you opening a new restaurant? KEO Films are looking for people with little or no experience who are planning to open a new restaurant in spring or summer next year. Participants will be filmed for a new documentary series on Channel Five.

prospective chefs might like to look at Peppermill a restaurant for sale in Clare Suffolk

If you have an appetite for success and aren't worried that you've bitten off more than you can chew, contact Paul at KEO Films. Alternatively, commercial property estate agents, if you have a client who fits the bill, please pass on the following details:

Phone Paul on 0207 490 3580 or by email at

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Bank rate cut boosts Suffolk property market

Interest cut boosts Suffolk market

The Bank of England cut interest rates for the first time in two years Today, by a quarter percentage point to 4.5 percent, as growth slows in the world's fourth largest economy.
Todd Lewis said "It's a timely boost to what has been a sluggish market"

The cut also means good news for mortgage holders. The Halifax dropped its standard variable rate to 6.5% immediately after the news - leaving customers with an average mortgage of £80,000 £12 better off a month

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Property seeks budding Jamies Oliver

“Add a New Twist to Life at the Peppermill”

ANYONE tired out by the daily grind, and longing to share their culinary craft with a wider audience than just their partner and a pampered pooch, could add a new twist to life at the Peppermill, a popular little restaurant for sale in beautiful Clare, Suffolk.

Occupying a portion of an historic building dating back to 1325, part of the former Moot Hall in Well Lane, this 18-seater tasty little gem was founded almost 25 years ago by its current owners, Roger and Julene Steele, and is a popular haunt for locals as well as for some passing celebrities.

Former diners have included Martin Jarvis, who became quite a regular when in the area, and the pop group Katrina and the Waves, who used to bring the entire crew in for breakfast when they were recording at a studio nearby.

In recent years, the Steeles have mostly only opened for teas and lunches five days a week. But the restaurant, which currently has a liquor licence, has permission to function between 9.30 and midnight, so there is plenty of scope to expand the business for someone with the energy and ambition to succeed, says Roger.

The Peppermill now requires some modernisation. Two upper rooms, which could provide owners’ accommodation with a bathroom created from one of the two customer’s cloakrooms, are now “pretty derelict”, according to Roger, and the kitchen could also use some updating. But the restaurant, over 22ft long and partially divided by open studwork, is delightful, with its heavy timbering and inglenook fireplace. There is a bar area to one side, and a pretty garden outside to the rear. There is a right of access across a neighbouring property, particularly useful for removal of dustbins.

The freehold is offered at £170,000 through agents BYchoice (0800 028 2300), a price acknowledging that more expenditure will be necessary. Roger believes an additional £50,000 should cover the work required.

Suffolk market awaits rate cut

Suffolk home owners are expecting the Bank of England to make a 1/4 % cut in interest rates when they announce there decision at midday on Thursday.
"The market is now expecting and ready for a cut" says Todd Lewis, of BYchoice in Sudbury Suffolk.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Dry run for Home Inspection Packs next year

Plans to force homeowners to provide detailed information about their homes to potential buyers came a step closer yesterday, as the government outlined plans for a "dry run" for the scheme next year.
Home information packs (Hips), previously referred to as "sellers' packs", are designed to give buyers upfront information on a property before they put in an offer.
Rules to make the provision of the packs compulsory in England and Wales are scheduled to come into force in early 2007.

Speculation about house prices

Britain's biggest mortgage lender, the Halifax, yesterday repeated that house prices will fall by 2pc this year, while Morgan Stanley, the investment bank, said they would drop by 5pc.
Suffolk house prices are remaining steady but buyers are cautious with there offers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Home Inspection packs get nearer

With first day marketing still to be resolved, home inspection packs will come into force on 1st January 2007.
The goverment have delayed a reading until the Autumn, but it seem inevitable that they will go ahead.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Is your property your pension?

Only three per cent of investors are willing to rely on their pension for security, instead favouring their property to provide future wealth...
Despite what Nationwide recently described as a flat housing market, buy-to-let investors' confidence is high with 75 per cent intending to gain their financial security from their investments and 12 per cent relying on their own home.
When questioned about the property market, almost 50 per cent of serious investors said they believed it would remain stable over the next twelve months, with 22 per cent predicting a moderate rise.
Encouraging news for anyone interested in buying-to-let, especially with next year's legal changes regarding Self-Invested Personal Pensions, which will make it possible to invest pension funds in buy-to-let property both here and overseas.
The above research was commissioned by The Property Investor and Homebuyer Show North which is taking place at G-MEX in Manchester from the 24 - 26 June, and will feature exhibitors specialising in buy-to-let.
Nick Clark, Managing Director of the show, says: "The results may surprise many who have recently heard negative stories regarding residential buy-to-let.
"However it highlights how serious investors still strongly believe in the future returns of property both commercial and residential, compared with other forms of investments."
A Surge AheadStuart Law, Managing Director of property investment specialists Assetz who will be exhibiting at the show, comments: "Bricks and mortar is seen by the majority as a favourable alternative to pensions and shares, which have proved a risky option in recent years when heavy losses have been suffered on the stock market.
"Freedom to purchase residential property as part of a self-invest pension is likely to have a direct effect on the property market in advance of 'A' Day. We expect to see a surge in buy-to-let investments, and are already witnessing an increase in investment in commercial property which is ripe for conversion to residential, in time for the rule changes."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Suffolk property market holds firm

The Suffolk property market received a boost today when the Bank of England announced interest rates would be held once more, adding more fuel to the lower interest rates by the end of the year suggestions.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Lending for House Purchase Up; Consumer Credit Down

The Bank of England's figures for April reveal that overall lending to individuals was weaker than in March, although net lending on dwellings was stronger...
The total increase in net lending for April was £8.6 billion, less than March's £8.8 billion, and down from the previous six month average (also £8.8 billion).
Within this total, however, there was a potential indication of a strengthening in the housing market. The increase in net lending secured on dwellings was £7.3 billion, greater than in March and the previous six month average which were both £7.0 billion, although the annual growth rate slid from 11.7 per cent in March to 11.3 per cent in April.
In terms of approvals secured on dwellings, the Bank of England's figures also showed a rise, both in value and in number. The value jumped from March's £10.8 billion to £12.1 billion and the amount increased from 92,000 to 95,000. the previous six month averages were £9.8 billion and 85,000.
So, some good news on the housing front, but consumer credit simultaneously decreased. The increase, £1.3 billion (0.7 per cent), was the lowest since December 2003 when it stood at £1.1 billion.
Within this figure, net credit card lending, at £316 billion, was at its weakest since June 2001's total of £272 billion. Net other loans, meanwhile, remained broadly in line with the previous six month average.

Inconsiderate hedge owners to be cut down to size under new legislation

Homeowners will no longer need to suffer the misery caused by high hedges under new government legislation which came into effect on 1 June.
The new powers mean neighbours who cannot resolve their disputes over high hedges can now ask local authorities to intervene. Local authorities, who have previously been powerless to act in such disputes, can step in to decide if the height of the hedge is unreasonable and spell out exactly what action must be taken.
Welcoming the new powers, Jim Fitzpatrick, minister at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, said: "This legislation offers a light at the end of the tunnel for people whose lives have been made a misery from high hedges. Out of control hedges can block out the daylight from neighbours' homes and gardens, becoming a real drain on their quality of life.
"This new legislation is yet another example that the government will take action against those who continually show a lack of consideration for others.
"Involving the local authority should only be a last resort and I urge people to talk to one another to resolve disputes before it goes too far. However, when all other avenues have failed, it is good news that people will now have somewhere to turn for a fair decision."
Under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, local authorities have the power to intervene in disputes once a complaint has been made. The authority will decide whether the hedge is stopping someone's reasonable enjoyment of their home or garden, striking a balance between the complainant's and hedge owner's interests.
Where it is needed, the local authority will be able to serve a remedial notice to the hedge owner to identify what they must do to sort the problem out. If they fail to comply with the notice, they could be fined up to £1000.
The complainant must show they have tried to resolve the matter with the hedge owner. Complaints will only be considered where the hedge is evergreen, over two metres high and blocking out light, access or reasonable enjoyment of neighbours' property. If this is the case, local authorities will take a range of factors into account to reach a balanced decision on whether the hedge is a problem.
A fee to cover the costs will be charged by the council to the complainant at their discretion.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

First time buyers get TV opportunity

BBC Needs First-Time Buyers

A new BBC series is set to become the Blind Date of the Property Market by matching people and properties...
Due to the soaring house prices of the last few years, it's become much harder for young people to get a foot onto the property ladder; so much so that the current average age for a first-time buyer is 34.
As more and more people struggle to afford their first home, mortgage lenders have had to come up with some innovative ways to assist. One of the most popular is sharing to buy, where up to four people club together in order to buy a house.
That's where the BBC comes in, with a new, peak-time series called "Come Buy With Me" which plans to examine this phenomena and add a little spin on the top: they're aiming to set up potential co-owners, and then match them to their ideal home.
It's a fabulous opportunity for anyone who's willing to share to buy, but hasn't yet found their perfect partner. Ideally, the BBC are looking for people that have a decent salary and their own deposit, or first-time buyers who are eligible for the key workers scheme.
North London, Birmingham and Cambridge Most of the ten slots have already been filled by suitable buyers across the country. The last few spaces are in North London market, Birmingham and Cambridge, so if any of those are your area of choice, why not give the Beeb a call? The number is 0207 013 4586, or you can email
What's InvolvedThe show will select and match up suitable property partners and properties in the North London area. The main buyer who cannot afford to buy on his/her own will meet three potential co-buyers, all of who will have been carefully selected.
The main buyer will meet all three people who are in financially similar situations, (looking to buy in the same area, similar property and style ideas,) for a day each and then choose their preferred co-buyer.
Finally, property finder Sarah Van der Noot will find and shortlist a range of properties based upon the personal specifications of each of the co-buyers. From this shortlist the co-buyers will choose which property they wish to purchase.
Once they move in they will have the chance to put their own stamp of style on their new home. The programme will then ask them to renovate and make over one of their communal spaces (sitting room, kitchen, bathroom or hall).
What The BBC Will Give You:
(The actual process of purchasing a property is made much easier by a team of experts at hand to cover the buying costs and to guide them through the un-chartered territory of the property market!)
An expert property finder to help you find the property that is right for you
A financial expert who will find the best deal on a mortgage for each individual co-buying purchase
A solicitor to carry out the conveyancing and draw up a deed of trust between the co-buyers
They will also cover the cost of the surveyor's fees - an integral part of buying a property
For further details, call Lulu on 0207 013 4586 or email her at

Thursday, May 26, 2005

All about Murcia Spain

Murcia: The Facts
murcia9Where is it?: Located at the South-East corner of the Iberian Peninsula, between the regions of Andalucia, Castile-La Mancha and Valencia, the region of Murcia borders the province of Albacete in the North, the province of Alicante in the East, the provinces of Granada, Albacete and Almería in the West, and the Mediterranean in the South-East.

In terms of surface area the region of Murcia is the ninth largest of the Spanish autonomous communities.

Capital: Murcia City

Landscape: Murcia has just over 170 km of coastline. La Manga, a coastal strip of land, completely closes off the Mar Menor from the Mediterranean creating a natural lagoon.

murcia6Inland the region is divided into two distinct areas, the Huerta, which spreads along the banks of the river Segura, and the dry countryside in the Northwest, Northeast and South of the region.

Forty-five per cent of the region is situated between the altitudes of 200 - 600 metres; 23 per cent is less than 200 metres above sea level, and the remaining 32 per cent lies at altitudes of over 600 metres.

Weather: Murcia has an average annual temperature of 18ºC, with hot summers (registering absolute maximum temperatures of 40ºC) and mild winters (an average temperature of 11ºC in the winter months of December and January). The number of days per year with clear skies is 120-150, with approximately 2,800 sun-hours per annum.

Population: Murcia has an official population of 1,190,378 inhabitants

Getting there: Two hours flight from the UK. San Javier Airport is located on the northern shore of Mar Menor, and is served by Ryanair, Jet2, British Airways and MyTravelLite. Easyjet will soon be flying there as well.

You can also use the Alicante (El Altet) Airport, 68 km from Murcia, 45 minutes away by motorway. Murcia can then be reached by taxi or using the regular bus service. A new regional airport is under construction.

Top Tips for buying abroad

1. Do your research. Attend exhibitions organised and attended by companies based in your area of interest, and pick up some expert advice. Read up on the buying process and the area.

2. Visit the area and talk to people who already own property there. You'll get a better understanding of the lifestyle and general practicalities.

3. Find an established, reputable agent recommended by friends or people who know the market.

4. Ask questions: any good agent will be happy to answer them. You need to be sure that all your concerns are laid to rest before making an important decision.

5. Be clear about what you want. Make a list of what you would like from your property and be clear on what your requirements are.

6. Trust your instincts. You'll know when someone is trying to push you into something but you'll also know when you've found the right place.

7. Don't rush into anything, but don't hesitate when you find somewhere you like. You don't want to lose out to someone who is willing to make the decision.

8. Take good financial advice as soon as possible. Any decent agent will have independent partners that they can recommend to you.

9. Look for an agent with after-care service. Setting up home abroad can be stressful, especially if you don't speak the language, and they should be available after the sale to help you with anything you need.

10. Enjoy the process! Forget your experiences of house-hunting in the UK - property viewing trips Hot Weekends and exhibitions like the Best of Southern Spain can be a really fun experience!

Don't forget the Bychoice Spanish property Exhibition at Sudbury and Long Melford from 11am-4pm on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday.

Murcia Spains property hotspot.

It's the hottest spot in Spain's sizzling property market, but Murcia is still a good bet for buyers in search of an affordable place in the sun...

spain mapThe rise and rise of the Spanish property market has been something to behold. According to a recent report in The Economist, house prices in the country soared by a staggering 149 per cent between 1997 and 2004, the second highest increase in the EU after Ireland.

Despite booming prices, however, Spain remains número uno for British buyers. Since 1999 the number of British owners has increased by 460 per cent and there are now over a million of us happy to swap (permanently or occasionally) damp and drizzly Blighty for sangria, sunshine and clear blue skies.
You can view a range of properties at a spanish property exhibition at Bychoice Esate agents offices in Sudbury and Long melford Suffolk over the Bank Holiday weekend from 11-4pm Sunday and Monday.

The Costa del Sol remains a huge attraction but with prices there rising, buyers have started to look further afield. Nearby Murcia, east of Andalucia, is clearly benefiting from the ripple effect: prices there soared by 26 per cent between June 2003-June 2004, the largest increase in the whole country.

Savings in the Sun

Does the thought of investing in a home overseas while boosting your pension fund seem like an appealing idea? It's set to become a very viable option...

sunAs from "A-day", 6 April 2006, there will be a change in the rules regarding Self-Invested Personal Pensions, commonly known as SIPPs. Currently available only for investing in commercial property, next year's new regulations will make it possible to invest pension funds in residential, buy-to-let and overseas property.

With overseas property prices still languishing behind sky-high prices in the UK, it is likely that many people will take advantage of this and choose to invest in a holiday home that they will be able to enjoy themselves, while also having the option of renting it out.

Property Investment specialist, Assetz, believes that Spain would be an ideal country for UK investors, with capital growth still high and forecast to grow at ten per cent a year for the next five years at least.

Bychoice estate agents will be exhibiting Spanish propertties over the bank holiday weekend at there offices in Long melford and Sudbury Suffolk between 11am and 4pm

Year-round sunshine, beautiful surroundings and high numbers of world-class golf-courses would make a 30 weeks or more annual rent a feasible target, with, according to Assetz, potential gross yields of ten per cent plus. This rental income would be immediately reinvested back into the SIPP and used to pay off the mortgage.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

BYchoice opens 7 days a week

Innovative Estate agents BYchoice of Sudbury and Long Melford have extended there opening hours to 7 days a week.
Both offices will be open from 11am - 4pm
The first weekend they are open will feature an exhibtion of Spanish property comprising new build and resale properties.

Sudbury the the best place to buy ahome in Spain Bychoice.

Buyers looking for a home in Spain will no longer have to travel there to buy a house reports Todd Lewis of Bychoice estate agents.
The new Mayor Leslie Ford-Platt gave her blessing to the In Sun properties Spanish exhibition on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday at Bychoice's offices in Sudbury and Long Melford.
Buyers will be able to browse new build and existing properties between 11am-4pm each and every Sunday.
They will also be able to get advice on how and where to buy your dream spanish home.

Suffolk house prices on the move

Suffolk house prices are going througha correction period, where over priced properties are now being brought to a more realistic level, says Todd Lewis of Bychoice, Sudbury.

Hometrack say they're confident about the market despite almost a year of decreasing house prices...
According to the latest survey from Hometrack, May is the eleventh consecutive month that house prices have dropped, and the third month in a row where the fall was -0.1 per cent. Hardly a vast slide, but nonetheless it's down instead of up.
Hometrack aren't worried about this downward trend, however; with the last three price falls a mere -0.1 per cent, they argue that the market is stabilising. The average house price now stands at £161,900 compared to last month's £162,100, and down 2.3 per cent from May last year.
Housing market transactions have seen another marked improvement, according to the report, with sales agreed up by 7.6 per cent this month, only slightly less than April's increase of 9.4 per cent.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Home owners must look after there own Title deeds.

Two major mortgage lenders are returning vital documents to homeowners about the properties they have lent money on.
C&G, part of Lloyds TSB, started returning documents this month and will send them back to a million mortgage customers in England and Wales by the end of the year.
Nationwide is returning documents to all customers who have borrowed money since 1999.

Lenders no longer need to keep the title deeds for properties in England and Wales.
Legal ownership in those countries now depends only on the information held by the Land Registry electronically.

There are some title deeds that don't have their contents put onto the land register
Philip Freedman, solicitorBut Philip Freedman, a property partner with solicitors Mishcon de Reya, told BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme the documents can contain vital information:

"Information at the Land Registry is sufficient to show that you own the property and that they have a mortgage over the property.

"But there are some title deeds that don't have their contents put onto the land register.
"So for example you might have agreed when you bought the property to pay something towards drainage or to maintain fences, and not all of those obligations are put onto the land register."

The documents can relate to works, searches and guarantees Mr Freedman also warned that many other documents which lenders are now returning must be kept, such as guarantees from builders, details of building regulation, or planning approval for alterations.

Government offers help first time buyers

The government's announcement to help first time buyers get on the housing ladder doesn't go far enough says Suffolk estate agent Todd Lewis.
"Whilst sharing the equity will help many first time buyers, it doesn't solve the real problem, the genuine lack of new housing stock. Whilst allowing buyers to purchase just 50% of the value is fair, charging rent on the other 50% is pushing the cost upto the original 100%.
If the scheme where to be a success it would only increase demand on an all ready short supply, hence increasing prices!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Suffolk Estate Agent Declares Price War on Tesco

Todd Lewis, founder of Bychoice Estate Agents in Suffolk, is facing up to Tesco’s decision to sell houses for £50 by declaring a price war on the super market leaders.
From tomorrow, Mr Lewis is selling baked beans from his shop on 6 King Street, Sudbury for just 3p a tin.

Mr Lewis denies he’s lost his sense of proportion and says he’s just making a point, “You don’t go to an estate agent to buy beans, that’s not what we’re good at – why would you go to a supermarket to sell you home?”

“Tesco’s have presented this new offer as if they were going to replace estate agents – but it doesn’t take long to realise that homeowners rely on much more than simply an advertising service.”

“Good estate agents help you to price your property in the market at the right level, they polish the presentation of your property, advise you on how to make it more welcoming to visitors, produce regular advertising in the local papers and these days on the internet and then on top of all that, they help to mediate between the buyer’s offer and the seller’s aspirations.”

“Tesco is not going to that for you – and we’re probably not going to make any money selling beans,” says Mr Lewis. “In fact, we’re only going to sell our present stock at this ridiculous price and then we’ll give the money we make away to charity. I challenge Tesco’s to do that – they might as well for what service they’re going to offer!”

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Why sellers should allways get 3 valuations

Home sellers in Suffolk could find their property has been overvalued.Consumer group Which? has said estate agents could be overvaluing properties to get business.Researchers for the group posed as sellers and invited four different estate agents to view a three-bedroom bungalow in Suffolk.There was a difference of almost £30,000, or 14 per cent, between the highest and lowest valuations - £220,000 and £249,950.
Todd Lewis said "It's not uncommon to find such a variance, that's whay it's allways advisable to get 3 opinions. Some agents will value high to get the instruction, and then tie clients up on along contract, gradually bringing down the price to a sensible level over 16 weeks."

Saturday, May 14, 2005

AFC Sudbury's big day in the FA Vase Final

BYchoice will be cheering on AFC Sudbury today when they take on Didcot Town in the FA Vase Final at White Hart Lane 2pm.
It's Sudbury's third attempt to win the prestigous trophy.

RICS call for overhaul

Suffolk Estate Agent Todd lewis of Bychoice Sudbury, is calling on the goverment to licence all Estate Agents.

At present, absolutely anyone can set themselves up as an estate agent, regardless of qualifications or experience, according to The Royal Instituton of Chartered Surveyors...
What a sobering thought, given the vast amount of money involved in property these days. Last year, in response to an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report, RICS said that they had called for "enforceable minimum standards and effective licensing of agents".
This position, they said, was shared by consumer rights group Which?, the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OAE) - a number of heavy players in the property industry.
RICS believed that these minimum standards should include appropriate knowledge and qualifications as well as an effective independent redress mechanism. At that time, however, the government rejected this approach arguing that competition would resolve any problems in the marketplace.
Now, nearly halfway through 2005, RICS feels that the public is confused about property valuations, and therefore greater control needs to be implemented in this aspect of the market.
At the moment it's quite feasibe that a market appraisal could be carried out by someone who isn't necessarily qualified, as opposed to a valuation provided by a qualified surveyor.
Chartered surveyors' valuations, says RICS, are supported by years of education, technical training, professional qualification and independent redress . All RICS members must work to a strict code of conduct and are regulated by their professional body.
RICS believes the public has a right to expect a high level of professional competence and ethical standards from those they use in what is often the most expensive purchase of their lives, and promises to continue pressing the government to introduce effective controls into the property industry.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Bank rate remains unchanged

At BYchoice we aim to proved the most uptodate information for home buyers.

The Bank of England today announced that the Bank base rate will remain unchanged at 4.75%
The Committee's latest inflation and output projections will appear in the Inflation Report to be published on Wednesday 11 May.
The minutes of the meeting will be published at 9.30am on Wednesday 18 May.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Mortgage compliance

Mortgage Regulation A Success

The Financial Services Authority today reported that its investigation into the level of unauthorised mortgage brokers has been largely successful, with most brokers complying with FSA regulations...
The aptly named Mortgage Day commenced on 31st October last year, and gave the FSA regulatory powers to investigate mortgage brokers countrywide, including the authority to close down businesses not playing by their rules, or to advise them on how to rectify mistakes so that they would be within the agreed guidelines.
Clive Briault, FSA Managing Director, said: "Our findings based on contact with more than 600 firms including 450 visits around the country are very encouraging.
"The vast majority of mortgage brokers are well informed about the need for them to be authorised by the FSA if they undertake regulated activities. We found only 11 brokers who should have been authorised, but were not. Seven of these have now applied for authorisation, and four are no longer undertaking regulated activities.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Check your agent before your tennants

Vet Before You Let

Landlords wanting to ensure they minimise the chance of any problems should vet letting agents as vigilantly as they do tenants,
As rental demand continues to grow across the South-East of England, some letting agents are resorting to somewhat underhand tactics to make sure they have the requisite number of properties on their books, the UK's largest independent letting specialist.
For the very best advice when you need it most speak to Suffolks favourite letting agent BYchoice

How confident are you?

Consumer Confidence Steady In April

The Nationwide Consumer Confidence report for April shows a slight rise in confidence levels, as people adopt a "wait and see" approach regarding the imminent election...
Confidence was up across a range of indicators, according to Nationwide, and down in only one - household income. These were:
Current UK Economic Situation: confidence rose by 3 percentage points
Economic outlook in 6 months: confidence rose by 2 percentage points
Current employment situation: confidence rose by 6 percentage points
Employment prospects in 6 months: confidence rose by 4 percentage points
Spending confidence - major purchase (eg house/car): confidence rose by 5 percentage points
Spending confidence - household purchase (eg white/brown goods): confidence rose by 1 percentage point
Household income in 6 months: confidence fell by 3 percentage points
Confidence Stable

Monday, May 02, 2005

Goodbye to the Cowboys

Farewell To The Cowboys

It seems that the dodgy tradesmen who struck fear into the hearts of homeowners countrywide could be becoming a thing of the past...
We've all seen undercover programmes like Rogue Traders on TV and watched aghast as reprobate builders purposefully damaged peoples' properties in order to demand extra money to fix them, or charged exorbitant sums of money for completely botched jobs.
Another common tale of woe featured the workman who spent more time on tea breaks than on repairs, or whose idea of a full day's work was turning up at some unearthly hour, only to finish his labour by eleven in the morning, thereby necessitating his return for a second or third day.
Gone for Good?These horror stories may turn out to be a yarn of yesteryear, however, if survey results from Skipton Building Society are to be believed. They recently compiled a Tradesman Index and found that 63 per cent of Britons who had used a tradesman in the last three years were very satisfied with the work carried out, giving their hired help the highest score on the satisfaction scale.
Fifty-nine per cent of people reported that their tradesman always cleaned up after themselves and 68 per cent claimed that their home improvement project was a stress free experience.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Nationwide Reports A Price Rise

Nationwide Reports A Price Rise

House prices were up by 0.9 per cent in April, says the Nationwide's latest house price report...
After a disappointing fall of 0.6 per cent in March, the 0.9 per cent upturn this month is a positive sign for the property market, although Nationwide believes there has been an overall trend of broadly flat price rises since last summer. The average house price now stands at £156,128 compared to £153,876 in March.
Monthly inflation over the last three months has averaged around 0.3 per cent, substantially lower than the two per cent during the same period of 2004. The annual rate of house price growth also slowed in April, falling to seven per cent from March's 7.9 per cent, says the report.

Suffolk Estate agent Bychoice reports increased activity in the market since the 1st April.

Code of practice for buying overseas

A common code of practice and charter for estate agents selling overseas property has been agreed upon by the National Association of Estate Agents and the Federation of Overseas Property Developers Agents and Consultants.
Setting out basic rules for member agents of both organisations, the new charter will allow the public to buy or sell overseas property with confidence, knowing that their affairs will be handled ethically and professionally, say the NAEA.
Ian Tonge, chairman of the NAEA International Division, said, "With overseas property an increasingly popular part of our members’ portfolios, this Common Code gives the public an easy way to find a high quality service that’s more than just fine words."
As a further boost, subject to ratification at forthcoming meetings, both FIABCI (the International Real Estate Federation) with members in 70 countries world-wide and the CEI (Confédération Européenne de l'Immobilier) with members across 13 European countries will also sign up to the Common Code. This will create a massive world-wide network of independent specialists who deal ethically and professionally with every aspect of clients’ needs related to residential and commercial property abroad.
Ian Tonge added, "This is a huge plus for those clients and investors seeking sound advice information and other services before buying property abroad. At the same time our aim is that those who give poor service, mislead clients, are negligent or reckless will either be forced to mend their ways or driven out of the industry."
Members of the public are advised to look for the NAEA and FOPDAC logos on adverts, websites or at exhibitions, and always ask for proof of membership.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

RICS for fairer council tax banding

RICS Calls For Fairer Council Tax Rebanding

Tax bands must be readjusted in line with house price inflation, says a report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors...
Council Tax revaluation in England will lead to unduly large increases in council tax bills unless the tax bands are readjusted in line with house price inflation, according to research published by RICS.
Examining the process in Wales, the RICS work shows how re-banding was not carried out in line with Welsh house price inflation - house prices have risen an average 129 per cent in Wales since 1991.
This has resulted in more homes automatically entering higher bands and costing Welsh council tax payers £53 million over and above local council tax rate rises, says the report.
Two Billion Increase This cuts across assurances that the total revenue collected from council tax in Wales would not change because of the revaluation and re-banding. If the same model is adopted in England, average council tax bills (and revenues) will rise when the revaluation kicks-in in 2007. RICS estimates this would mean a £2.04 billion increase in council tax revenue collected.
Welsh council tax revenues are set to rise by around 10 per cent in 2005/6. Of this increase, four per cent is accounted for by bill increases in each band to fund local services (the lowest increase in council tax since its introduction) but six per cent is due to the impact of more houses moving into higher bands.
RICS Economist David Stubbs, said: "It has been publicly stated that council tax revaluation is a revenue neutral exercise. It's not about increasing the overall tax take.
"If the Welsh model is adopted in England we will see a disproportionate number of houses moving up into higher bands in Southern regions where house prices have risen above the national average since 1991.
"Since the last revaluation in 1991 house prices in England have risen by an average 162 per cent. To remain tax neutral any re-banding exercise must take account of this."
The value of houses in England on April 1 st this year will affect how much council tax people pay. The first revaluation of English homes since 1991 is being carried out by the Valuation Office Agency under the 2003 Local Government Act.
Five Yearly RevaluationsRICS believes that five yearly council tax revaluations, timed so as not to conflict with the regular business rate revaluations, would be the most realistic period of time for Council Tax revaluation in England.
More localised banding would remove some of the perceived unfairness of council tax by achieving a more accurate local tax base, says RICS.
The Lyons independent inquiry into local government, which is considering council tax reform, will report by the end of this year.

Election Agenda Bychoice

Election Agenda For Estate Agents

Estate agents BYchoice evaluate what would secure their vote in next month's election...
The National Association of Estate Agents surveyed its members to find out what would be their vote winners in terms of the housing market. Stamp duty threshold, first-time buyers and licensing of estate agents were the top three issues.
Despite the Chancellor's increase to the stamp duty threshold in the last Budget, 78 per cent of estate agents said they still believed that further rises are necessary to improve the housing market.
Less than one in five agents thought that the present government has helped the property industry in recent years, and 45 per cent believe that it has actually hindered it.
Licensed To Sell Almost two thirds of estate agents felt that licensing their profession is a priority, something which the NAEA has been campaigning for. All members must currently abide by a strict code of practice and rules of conduct or face expulsion from the Association, but there are limited powers to stop rogue agents from practising, and the NAEA would like to see an effective regulatory scheme put into place.
Scrap The Packs Another key issue for agents was that of Home Information Packs (due to become compulsory in 2007 for people selling their house) with almost half wanting to see them scrapped. A further 15 per cent of agents felt that a voluntary scheme would be more effective. At the recent NAEA National Congress, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats pledged to abandon HIPs should they come to power.
Chief Executive of the NAEA, Peter Bolton King, commented: "These results reflect the feelings of some 10,000 estate agents across the country.
"The political parties should not ignore the strength of feeling on some of these aspects, and the extent of change they could bring about to the thousands of people buying or selling a home each year.
"Whatever the outcome of the election, the NAEA will continue to lobby the Government on licensing, HIPs, stamp duty and the other issues which have the potential to seriously affect the housing market and the British public."
Results of the NAEA Poll:
What could a future Government do to benefit the UK housing market, buyers & sellers?
Increase stamp duty thresholds - 78.9%
More schemes to help first-time buyers - 81.8%
License estate agents - 60.2%
Scrap HIPs - 48.2%
More affordable housing - 32.3%
Control inflation - 27.9%
Increase supply of new homes through planning reforms - 20.3%
Introduce incentives for regeneration schemes - 18.7%
Make HIPs voluntary - 15.1%
Introduce REITs - 10.4%
Other - 10.4%
Limit second home ownership - 4.0%

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

House prices down again

House Prices Down Again In April

House prices have fallen for the tenth consecutive month, according to Hometrack's survey for April...
It's not all bad news, however, as the drop in prices in April was only -0.1 per cent, and the last four months have seen reducing price falls, which Hometrack interprets as a suggestion that the market is stabilising.
The average house price is now £162,100, down from a peak of £167,700 in June last year.
Buyers BackIn contrast to lacklustre price changes, activity increased again this month, with sales agreed up by 9.4 per cent !16.5 per cent in March's survey).
This, says Hometrack, is partly due to ongoing increase in the number of buyers registering with estate agents, which has risen since the beginning of the year by 27.3 per cent.
However, even though buyers have been returning to the market, there is still a backlog of properties on agents' books and this means that buyers are still in a strong position: as a consequence, April's average sales price as a percentage of asking price decreased slightly to 93.3 per cent (93.4 per cent in March's survey).
The length of time it takes to sell a property was unchanged, staying stable at 7.4 weeks. The average number of viewings per sale was down to 12.4 (13.2 in March), suggesting that buyers are not holding back as they had done previously, according to Hometrack.
27 counties have seen price rises or remained stable in April, with 31 having seen a decline. At the top end of the scale were Central London & City and West Midlands (0.6 per cent), Dorset (0.5 per cent), London-North and Wiltshire (0.3 per cent).
The largest falls were in Bedfordshire (-0.7 per cent), Gloucestershire (-0.5 per cent), and Surrey, Oxfordshire and London-East (all at -0.4 per cent).
Election JittersJohn Wriglesworth, Hometrack's Housing Economist, comments: "The forthcoming election, a change of pope and a newly married heir to the throne have done nothing to improve the housing market which remains in the doldrums. Despite buyers returning to the market, there continues to be an excess supply of unsold properties.
"Election jitters are not helping, but this is only temporary. Post election, whichever party wins, there is likely to be a bounce back in the market, as the economic and political prospects become more certain, thus encouraging consumer confidence to return.
"Interest rates, which may rise after the election, are expected to remain historically low, as with unemployment, despite Rover's collapse. Mortgages are still very affordable, and incomes are continually rising.
"There are no fundamental reasons why the market should not recover, confidence is the key. We continue to predict three per cent house price inflation for the year.
"The Conservative party's announcement of their intention to scrap stamp duty below £250,000 is helpful but not significant. It will only take one per cent off house prices, which in the context of rises of nearly 100 per cent over the last five years, is akin to taking a snowflake off an iceberg. However, for first-time buyers particularly, it is a good psychological boost so is to be commended."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Moving To Improve ?

Are you leaving behind your old life to literally rebuild a new one somewhere else? If so, would you like to star in a TV show?...
A leading television company is looking for people who are about to start a major property renovation in a beautiful location. It could be a Suffolk cottage, a bungalow by the beach, or maybe a village mansion; whatever your revamp plans, they want to hear them.
Considering that moving house is way up there on the Most Stressful Things list, moving away to a property that's not yet completed would be a move too far for most people.
Anyone ambitious enough to undertake this sort of adventure surely wouldn't object to the added excitement of being followed by a camera crew?
If you'd be willing to have your renovation project recorded for posterity and have already found your dream dwelling and destination, give Katie a call on 0207 985 7045 or email her at
Suffolk is one of the uk's favoured locations for second home owners in Europe.

But It's not just Brits who buy second homes abroad: the trend is a European phenomenon, says the RICS...
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' European Housing Review, published yesterday, says that buying a second home has become more and more popular in many European countries, with many of them being bought for leisure purposes. They will probably be rented out, but are usually owned directly and used by one family.
In countries with a high proportion of rental property like France, Germany and the Netherlands, it's not unusual for people to rent their primary home but own their second, according to the report.

If the price is right

Overpriced Properties Won't Sell
"There are a lot of historically overpriced properties on the market which will remain so, but where a vendor is willing and the purchaser is keen, deals are being readily done. If agents are overvaluing homes to get instructions they are doing their sellers no favours at all.
"However the very best houses in suffolk are in such demand that they sell immediately, providing of course that they are of the right price and quality and in the right location.
"This survey shows that the market is a little sluggish as people mistakenly believe that house prices are going to fall.
"However if history dictates, the months following an election usually enjoy much higher levels of activities than the months before, regardless of which party gets elected, and this is sure to boost the market."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Suffolk Estate Agent opens Long Melford office Bychoice

Suffolk Estate Agent Bychoice of Sudbury, which opened there first office in King Street Sudbury last October, is defying the market by opening there 2nd office in the Famous village of Long Melford.
Todd Lewis, a director of BYchoice said "It's such an exciting opportunity, and a wonderfull challenge."
The office which opened on Tuesday 19th April 2005, is located on Hall street, Long Melford, Suffolk, tel 01787 315065

Bank votes 7-2 against interest rise

MPC Votes 7-2 Against Rate Rise

Suffolk home owners were releived to hear the MPC vote these are the bones....
It wasn't too much of a surprise earlier this month when the MPC announced not to increase interest rates, so with only two members still voting in favour of a hike, can we expect rates to stay frozen? ...
MPCThe Minutes of this month's Monetary Policy Committee were released today, giving an insight into how they reached their decision.
In regards to housing, the Committee felt confident that athough house price inflation had fallen off sharply and housing market activity had declined from its peak, recent data had suggested that the market might be stabilising.
According to the averages of the Halifax and Nationwide house price indices, said the Committee, the three month on three month rate of house price inflation had changed little between February and March, and remained positive; net reservations and mortgage approvals were no longer declining month-on-month.
Consumer SpendingThe Committee had been concerned about a persistent decrease in consumption in the first quarter of 2005. However, they believed that this could have been brought about by temporary factors, for example uncertainty about how quickly the housing market would stabilise, or whether or not interest rates would rise again.
They felt that the slowdown may have reflected the recent low level of housing turnover, affecting purchases of the durable goods associated with moving house, although it was also evident in spending on other items too, such as vehicles.
The Committee believed that there were plausible explanations for the above, however: the fall in house price inflation having a bigger impact on consumer spending than expected; the increase of interest rates up to last August may have impacted only recently; or households becoming more concerned about the inadequacy of their arrangements for income in retirement, although they could not explain why that would have led to a rise in saving at this particular time.
In light of these factors combined with other elements such as the international economy and financial markets, the Committee voted as to whether or not to increase interest rates.
Pro And Con
There had been a split vote of seven to two in last month's meeting: this month, the same two members, Paul Tucker and Andrew Large, retained their stance and again voted to increase rates.
Their viewpoint, according to the Minutes, was that there had not been much change over the month, and they continued to prefer an immediate rise to pre-empt inflationary pressures.
For the majority of the Committee, the main question was whether, after a month's data, the balance of risks to the inflation forecast was sufficiently on the downside to justify leaving the rate unchanged again.
Those who voted for no change concluded that the overall risk was on the downside, and therefore it was unnecessary to change their votes, leaving the interest rate at 4.75 per cent for at least another month

Home buyers borrowing on the up

Borrowing On The Up, Suffolk homes on the up....

Confidence creeps back into the housing market as lending for property purchase and remortgaging moves up in March...
Gross lending in March totalled £20.1 billion, 13 per cent higher than February's £17.8 billion, according to the latest data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders. However, this figure remains 19 per cent lower than last March's total of £24.7 billion.
Lending for house purchase in March rose to £8 billion, an increase of 14 per cent on February's £7 billion. Remortgaging went up by six per cent, from £8.7 billion in February to £9.2 billion in March.
First-Time Buyer IncreaseThe proportion the total lending figure for house price purchase was a low but steady 40 per cent, having been at 39 per cent in February and 40 per cent in January.

Figures from the BBAThe British Banking Association also released figures for March today showing that there was an increase in mortgage lending in March of £4.5 billion.Although this was down by £0.2 billion from February's total, it is still in keeping with the average increase of £4.6 billion over the last six months, according to the report.

Director of Statistics at the BBA, David Dooks, commented: "Whilst the trend in monthly mortgage growth has moderated gradually over the last year, it now appears to be stabilising and it is worth noting that monthly rises of around £4.5 billion are higher than at any time prior to April 2002, showing us that the market clearly has some inherent strength which is underpinning demand."

Buyers call the shots

RICS Report Says Buyers Can Call The Shots

Another slide in house prices means a continued buyers' market, says RICS' latest report...
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors housing report, out today, shows there was a fall in house prices in March with 37 per cent of surveyors noting a dip compared to 34 per cent the previous month.
RICS says that property sales for March have been affected by an early Easter and fears of another rise in interest rates. Continued uncertainty also affected new purchase enquiries which stayed stagnant, as did newly agreed sales. Surveyors believed that some sellers have unrealistically priced properties which is also affecting sales activity.
Household Confidence UpWith restrained market conditions, surveyors are envisaging further falls in house prices but they remain optimistic that sales will increase, as the underlying economy and job prospects are still strong. RICS reported that household confidence levels in the early months of 2005 were at their highest in more than six years.
Prices remain weak across much of the UK, the reports says, having fallen in the Midlands, Southern England and, more moderately, in the Northern regions. In London, prices have been stable, and there are still strong increases in Scotland.
The number of properties on surveyors' books was also slightly down in March, from 73 per surveyor compared to 76 in February, but are still up 26 per cent for the past year.
"Sellers Must Be More Realistic"RICS national housing market spokesman, Jeremy Leaf, comments: "While there are no signs of a collapse, housing market activity showed little change in March, but we expect good job prospects and stable interest rates to lead to improved sales as the year progresses.
"Getting on to the property ladder is currently easier for first-time buyers as buyers increasingly call the shots. Sellers must be more realistic if they want to secure a sale."
What The Surveyors Said:
Epsom, Surrey"Very quiet Easter period and no recovery since. We are now suffering from a shortgage of new instructions and valuation levels have fallen.
"Vendors seem happy to wait and see, while buyers become increasingly disillusioned. Prices are steady - What are they waiting for?"Mark Everett Esq. BSc FRICS, Hove, East Sussex"Constant flow of applicants, a lot of viewings but a low percentage converted to acceptable offers."Geoffrey Holden Esq. FRICS ,
Battersea, London"After a positive start to the year, the market seemed to slow down in terms of sales agreed, enquiries and instructions.
"However, this has reversed in the last two weeks, which have been much busier. More confidence seems to be returning to the market."Tim Le Blanc-Smith Esq. MRICS, Belgravia, London"Vendors are not selling as they are not confident of finding a suitable replacement property. Many are loathed to sell for less or the same amount if they have bought in the last few years.
"There is a shortage of property, and sadly some agents are overvaluing to try and obtain dwindling market share. Purchasers are prepared to wait until there is a greater choice."Tim Le Blanc-Smith Esq. MRICS,

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Property and Prime Ministers

Property And Prime Ministers18 Apr 2005 News Item

Did house prices do better under Wilson or Callaghan, Thatcher or Blair? New research reveals all...
The average house in the UK has risen by more than 35 times since 1970, from an average of £4,874 to £172,788, but which prime minister presided over the largest increase?
You might think Thatcher - who made such an issue of creating a conservative home-owning democracy - or Blair - who has presided over the largest boom since the dawn of time would be the front runners.
But no. Ted Heath, whose Conservative Government reigned from 1970 to 1974, topped the poll. In Ted's time house prices rose by an average of over 13 per cent per year in real terms (i.e.: after adjusting for retail price inflation).
The current government came in second place, with a real annual increase in house prices since 1997 of just over 10 per cent. The slowest annual real rate of increase was during Harold Wilsons Labour government between 1974 and 1976. Annual house prices actually fell in real terms by 13 per cent during this time.
London Does BestThe biggest winners since 1970 have been London homeowners, who have seen the value of their properties increase by over 40 times, from an average of £6,337 to £257,266.
The smallest rate of growth was in Scotland, where homes have increased in value by 23 times, from £4,723 to £110,266. Nationally, home ownership has risen from 45 per cent in 1964 to 70 per cent in 2005.
Commenting on the figures, Martin Ellis, Chief Economist at Halifax, said: "Homeowners have seen good rates of house price increases under both main political parties, just as they have seen real house price falls under both governments.
"What is very clear, however, is that home ownership has been a tremendous success over the past few decades. The majority of people in the UK want to own a home of their own."
Prime Ministers Since 1964
Harold WilsonIn office from October 1964 to June 1970Price of Home at start of term - £3,360Price of Home at end of term - £4,874Real average annual per cent increase within term - +1 per cent
Edward HeathIn office from June 1970 to March 1974Price of Home at start of term - £4, 874Price of Home at end of term - £10,766Real average annual per cent increase within term - +13 per cent
Harold WilsonIn office from March 1974 April 1976Price of Home at start of term - £10,766Price of Home at end of term - £12,415Real average annual per cent increase within term - -13 per cent
James CallaghanIn office from April 1976 to May 1979Price of Home at start of term - £12,415Price of Home at end of term - £20,004Real average annual per cent increase within term - +4 per cent
Margaret ThatcherIn office from May 1979 to November 1990Price of Home at start of term - £20,004Price of Home at end of term - £69,478Real average annual per cent increase within term - +4 per cent
John MajorIn office from November 1990 to May 1997Price of Home at start of term - £69,478Price of Home at end of term - £77,531Real average annual per cent increase within term - -2 per cent
Tony BlairIn office from May 1997 to DatePrice of Home at start of term - £77,531Price of Home at end of 2004 - £172,788Real average annual per cent increase within term - +10 per cent
(Based on average house prices).

Double the amount of first time buyers

The number of first-time buyers entering the property marker doubled last month, claims the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).
Back in February the NAEA said the proportion of new entrants to the housing market stood at a low of 10.1%, but over March this figure jumped to 22.3%.
The NAEA linked this rise directly to the Chancellor's decision to raise the threshold at which a buyer is forced to pay stamp duty from £60,000 to £120,000 in March’s Budget.
But despite the increase in FTBs, prices remained on hold, with the NAEA reporting that house prices remain less than 0.5% higher than they were at the start of the year.
This market stagnation, coupled with the increase in the number of available properties, has meant that buyers remain in a stronger position than sellers, said the estate agents’ group.
Over the last year the number of properties on the market has doubled, the NAEA said, while at the same time the average number of buyers on estate agents' books has fallen by a fifth.
This has led to the average buyer receiving a 4.5% discount from asking prices, compared with last year when "sellers were able to almost 'name their price' in many areas", the NAEA said.
Richard Hair, president of the NAEA, commented: "Buyers remain the dominant force and are discovering they often have a wide choice of properties to choose from. However, with vendors starting to include realism in their asking prices, sales are back on the up."

Friday, April 15, 2005

The key to 10 Downing Street

Property: The Key To 10 Downing Street?

The next resident of 10 Downing Street may find that a convincing housing policy was the key to electoral victory...
Pic Source: 10 Downing StreetThat, at any rate, is the view of the Council of Mortgage Lenders. In a new report they argue that the party most likely to help frustrated buyers get a first foot on the housing ladder will do best in the forthcoming election.
The three main parties all know this, of course, and will be insisting that they are the true guardians of Britain's home-owning democracy. But what are they offering the hard-pressed would-be owner? Here's a run through what they say they'll do.
Labour announced their future housing aims even before the announcement of the election, a sure sign of how central they view the issue to their bid for re-election.
What will they do? First and foremost, extend HomeBuy, an existing shared equity scheme which allows buyers to own a proportion of their home.
HomeBuy has been around since April 1999, the CML notes, its aim being to assist low-income households, namely social sector tenants and those on a local authority housing waiting list, into home ownership. Funding comes from the government and also, in some cases, from local authorities.
Labour's new suggestion is an expansion of the current HomeBuy scheme; in brief, they propose that people would buy a minimum of 50 per cent of the market value of the property (in some cases 75 per cent) and the rest would be made up through a combination of funding from mortgage lenders and the government.
They also plan to open up the scheme to three types of HomeBuy category:
Social HomeBuy - existing housing tenants would be able to buy 50 per cent of their home's discounted value, the rest would be funded by the local authority or housing association.
New-Build HomeBuy - aimed at key workers, existing social tenants, those on the housing register, and first-time buyers considered to be a priority by regional housing boards. Fifty per cent would be held by a housing association.
Open Market HomeBuy - aimed at the same groups as New Build, but a minimum of 75 per cent of the property's value must be purchased. The remaining 25 per cent would be funded by the government and the mortgage lender.
The Tories also aim to expand HomeBuy. Their plan is to extend it to newly built homes, recognising, says the CML, that a flaw in the present scheme is that it can only be used to buy existing properties. Extending it to new homes should help alleviate the shortage of affordable housing.
The CML believes that the Conservative policy document shares their own view of "the full potential of flexible shared equity" which could offer people the chance both to increase and decrease their share in a property - this is known as "staircasing" - depending on their circumstances.
The Conservatives are arguing that it costs half as much to subsidise a bought home as it does to provide social rented accommodation. They are pledging to give a "much greater priority" to shared equity within the housing budget to ensure its potential can be reached.
In regards to the current HomeBuy scheme, the Tories say that it needs to be "more affordable and more flexible". They suggest that "for the first five years the occupier could benefit from a larger equity loan consisting of two parts but with no initial interest charge for either.
"This would be charged at a low rate, possibly index-linked, and would be designed to break even over the life of the loan, after prudently allowing for equity growth."
Liberal Democrats
The Lib Dems' housing proposals are based on a "mutual homes" model. The premise for this is that, instead of paying rent to a landlord, "tenant/owners" buy shares in a Mutual Home Ownership Trust (MHOT). When they want to move house they sell back their shares, thus providing equity for their new home.
The way in which this would work, say the Liberal Democrats, is that the Home Ownership Trusts would be formed by either housing associations, local people or councils, and these trusts would build, own and manage the homes.
The land on which the homes are built would be owned by a Community Land Trust (CLT). This would hold the public land subsidy which would make the homes affordable, and it would offer the land on long leases at low rates.People wanting to occupy a mutual home would pay a deposit, or small equity share, which would be around five per cent of the cost of building it, and would then make a monthly payment of around 30 per cent of their salary.
Although this payment would be rent, say the Lib Dems, it would contribute to the repayment of the communal mortgage, as well as a sinking fund and other costs. It would also earn shares in the Home Ownership Trust.
When householders wanted to move, they would sell back their equity based on an "agreed resale formula" which would be linked to the local housing market, allowing people to see their equity stake rise in line with local house prices.
Householders would have the option of selling their shares to either a new or an existing "tenant/owner" or back to the trust.
CML's Conclusion
"The widespread consensus on encouraging the growth of shared equity is a welcome acknowledgement by all the main political parties that more needs to be done to help would-be first-time buyers surmount affordability problems and bridge the gap into home-ownership.
"Lenders welcome this, and the work that has been done so far by each of the parties to develop policy initiatives addressing the issues. Mortgage lenders look forward to continuing to explore innovative ways of providing funding for shared equity."

Good schools add value to your property

Today's lesson teaches us that living near a top school doesn't only benefit the kids, says a report from Halifax...
Indeed, the average premium on house prices in an area with good schools is 12 per cent, according to the survey. For those not blessed with a good grasp of maths, on today's average house prices, that equates to £25,100.
The research was conducted to see whether or not there was a link between GCSE results and house prices. Halifax looked at Local Education Authorities in England and Wales with the best exam results and discovered that in eight out of ten cases, house prices did trade at a premium to the regional average.
Top MarksTop of the class with the highest proportion of students achieving good GCSE results (68 per cent) was Rebridge (Greater London). However, this was one of the two areas from the top ten to have an average house price trading at a discount on the regional price (-£27,637). Could do better.
The other area where the house price was lower than the region's average was Gateshead (North East), a discount of -£58,388. However, according to the report, Gateshead has the lowest house prices in the top twenty LEAs (average price £127,619) and, therefore, potentially the best value housing. It is also the area to have seen the biggest improvement in house price terms: a gold-star-earning 142 per cent since 2000.
Geography LessonThe other eight areas featuring in the Top Ten list all recorded house prices trading at a premium on the regional average. These were, in order, Sutton, Buckinghamshire, Kingston upon Thames, Trafford, Havering, The Vale of Glamorgan, Poole and Wokingham.
Out of the Top Twenty LEAs, the highest house prices were in Barnet (Greater London), at an average of £336,178. The area with the highest premium compared to the regional average was Solihull (West Midlands) at £71,441.
On a general Local Education Authority basis, Kensington & Chelsea in London had the steepest house prices at an average of £603,406. Highest outside of the South of England was Rutland (East Midlands) at £269,917 while the most reasonable average house price was found in Kingston-upon-Hull (Yorkshire & the Humber) at £82,999.
Tim Crawford, Group Economist at Halifax commented: "Good local schooling clearly matters to families and also to investors when they purchase a property.
"This link can be hard to quantify given the multitude of factors affecting the housing market but high standards of education and high house prices do seem to go hand in hand."

We'll scrap HIPs, Claim Conservatives

We'll Scrap HIPs, Claim Conservatives

14 Apr 2005 News Item

The Tory party have vowed to do away with controversial Home Information Packs (HIPs) if they win the General Election this year...
The promise was made by John Hayes MP, Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning, at the National Association of Estate Agents' National Congress last week.
Mr Hayes said: "A Conservative government would scrap this scheme immediately. We would cut red tape for people wanting to sell their homes, and we would put to rest once and for all the idea of Home information Packs.
Chief Executive of the NAEA, Peter Bolton King, comments: "The Conservative party has made a bold srep in promising to scrap the unsatisfactory proposals for HIPs.
"This promise will strike a chord with many estate agents who, whilst accepting that there is a need to improve the system, are unhappy at the way the government is planning to reform the house buying and selling process.
"Tony Blair and his colleagues should not underestimate the strength of feeling amongst many UK estate agents on these plans."
Under the Labour government HIPs are set to become mandatory from 2007, meaning that anyone selling their home will have to put an information pack together before they can open their doors to potential buyers.
Property professionals have previously raised all sorts of doubts over the packs - about their cost, the impact they'll have on the market, and the inclusion of a controversial new survey, the Home Condition Report (HCR).

House prices dip as election looms

Hosue prices in London have dipped in the run-up to the general election

In the run-up to the general election house prices in London have dipped.While uncertainty reigns over who will win, and what their plans for taxes are, residents of the capital are sitting on their hands and not buying, according to haart estate agents.The latest data from the property firm has shown that over March home values dipped three per cent, while vendors cut asking prices an average of 4.5 per cent to achieve a sale.But while it is currently a buyers market, the uncertainty is unlikely to extend far beyond polling day on May 5."Impending general elections fuel uncertainty. Homebuyers are anxious about purchasing properties as they are wary of electoral outcomes and the looming tax rises that will further dent their budget," said Russell Jervis, managing director of haart estate agents."However this is in fact a great time for buyers to purchase a property as historic data tells us that property prices will bounce back post election," he added.The average house price in London fell to £221,256 in March from £228,150 in February, haart revealed. But this was predicted to be a "temporary glitch" with the market forecast to bounce back post election."We are still seeing the re-adjustment of prices from last year. Sales that are being agreed today are on properties where the vendors are sensible about prices. It is very common for market confidence to dip pre-election but it is often a very temporary dip that swiftly picks up once the dust settles post election. We therefore predict a much more buoyant market in the next quarter," Mr Jervis explained.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

RICS say the market is sluggish

The housing market is in "a state of torpor" according to the latest economic survey from The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)...
Surveyors reported a drop in house prices during February, although the pace of decline eased to its slowest since last September. Prospective buyers remained cautious amid fears of a future rise in interest rates, a contrast from last year when it was believed that rates had already reached their peak, according to the report.
Newly agreed property sales rose slightly for the second month in a row, which was the first consecutive increase since last spring, but at the completion stage, sales slipped back, said the survey. New enquiries from would-be purchasers stayed static, although this was an improvement from the falls reported in the second half of 2004.
More Sellers Than BuyersWhereas buyer activity was less than buoyant, the number of sellers showed slight but sustained rises, leading to an increase in the number of unsold properties on surveyors' books. This is at its highest level since May 2003, and up 32 per cent over the last year.
RICS' report believes that with this extra choice of properties available, the climate for prices is likely to stay subdued. There could, however, be a spurt of buyer activity at the lower end of the market, where buyers have been assisted by a rise in the stamp duty threshold from £60,000 to £120,000.
However, because average UK house prices are still more than 50 per cent higher than the new threshold, this is hardly likely to be a key issue for would-be buyers - instead they will be keeping their focus on prospects for employment, incomes and interest rates.
Don't Rule out A Rate RiseOther findings from the RICS economic report were that consumer spending has "shifted to a lower gear of growth in response to rising interest rates". Business investment is holding up, they said, and a firmer global economy is giving some impetus to exports.
RICS believes that the outlook for 2005 will be dependent on how the industrial and service economy evolves throughout the year. They said that another interest rate rise later in the year cannot be ruled out, particularly if business investment and exports continue to strengthen.
Jocelyn Beattie