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.