House Prices Up 8% in Year to March
ONS reveals latest House Price Index
20th May 2014: Data from the Office for National Statistics has shown a further annual rise in house prices, but the first month-on-month drop for over a year. Prices in the UK rose by 8% in the year to March, a slight drop from the year-on-year rise to February, but dropped by 0.5% from the previous month.
As ever, there are huge regional differences, making it hard to generalise from averages. Prices in London rose by 17%, whereas in Scotland the increase was 0.8% and in Northern Ireland just 0.3%. Taking London and the South-East out of the equation, the average annual rise across the UK was a more modest 4.7%, showing once again how London and the South East distort the national picture.
Russell Bennett from Houses.co.uk gave his thoughts on the news: “The slight drop from February’s figures suggest that the market may be starting to cool slightly, which is hardly surprising given the levels of increases we’ve seen recently. Demand remains high but from our experience properties are starting to take longer to sell and the market, particularly in London, is starting to plateau.
“Some agents and vendors are getting greedy and asking for 30% – 40% more than they would’ve done last year, but that’s not realistic and, in the main, buyers won’t pay that much. The current market suggests that asking prices should be more like 15-20% higher than last year in the most popular hotspots, but as ever, the situation in London is not representative of the rest of the country where rises have been more moderate,” he added.
Could Baby Boomers Cash in on Generation Rent?
Houses.co.uk comments on changes to pensions
14th May 2014: Following the new rules on pensions that were announced in the Chancellor’s Budget, many commentators believe that retirees may be tempted into spending their pension pots on buy-to-let property.
The changes will allow people to withdraw their entire pension at the age of 55, rather than having to take out an annuity. They will have the freedom to use this money how they want and, given the current state of the housing market,many will consider investing in property.
With house prices rising in every region of the country, Baby Boomers could cash in on younger generations who are struggling to get onto the property ladder and are tied to renting. Buy-to-let is already a popular source of retirement income, and increasing numbers of lenders are reconsidering their upper age limits in light of this.
This could all spell further bad news for would-be first-time buyers as it will reduce the number of properties available to them, and wealthy retirees with large deposits who are targeting the lower end of the market would be the preferred choice for most sellers and mortgage lenders.
For pensioners, though, investing in property now could prove to be a smart move. Rising prices plus a housing shortage, a growing population and low interest rates: it’s no wonder there’s a buy-to-let boom.
Open House could be an open invitation to crime
Online estate agent, Houses.co.uk, cautions home sellers on the risks of open house viewings
23rd April 2014: Houses.co.uk has advised sellers about the potential risks of holding an open house viewing.
With house prices surging and large numbers of buyers competing for each property, open house viewings are becoming increasingly common, with such events sometimes attracting more than a hundred hopeful buyers in parts of London and the South East.
In a strong sellers’ market, having an open house can be a good way of generating interest in your property and quickly getting offers, often above the asking price. They’re more convenient for people who don’t have the time to host or attend lots individual viewings.
However, sellers should be wary of the potential dangers of holding open house viewings. There are obvious security risks when you’re opening your home to a load of strangers.
Houses.co.uk has offered the following tips to those looking to hold an open house viewing:
1. Don’t be alone – have at least one other person on hand to keep an eye on viewers and help you with answering questions.
2. Put your small valuables – jewellery, tech etc. out of site in places that aren’t easy to access.
3. Make sure that your estate agent has captured people’s details – this is for follow-up as well as a low level of security.
4. Don’t offer any personal information to viewers such as when the property is empty and keep any bank statements or personal correspondence out of sight.
5. The vast majority of viewers will be genuine – so get your home in the best state for viewing as possible. Declutter, clean, don’t have children or pets around – think about presenting your property as a show home.
Advice on choosing the best buyer
Houses.co.uk tells sellers to consider factors other than price
17th April 2014: Telling people not to always sell to the highest bidder might sound strange coming from an estate agent, but that’s the advice from Houses.co.uk. In a sellers’ market, assessing which offer to accept isn’t just about looking for the highest price, as there are a number of factors which determine which offer will be the strongest.
In the current market properties are selling quickly, often with multiple offers from buyers keen to quickly secure a sale. However, choosing the strongest offer isn’t always about the highest price. Vendors need to consider the situation of each potential buyer (when they can move in, size of their deposit etc.) and their own circumstances in order to weigh up which offer stacks up best and minimise the risk of a deal collapsing.
The chain that buyers are involved in is also a major consideration when deciding on offers. Generally those with no chain, such as buy-to-let and first time buyers, are in a strong position and it may be worth accepting a slightly lower offer as these buyers are less likely to drop out at the last minute. Cash buyers are also a good bet as they can move quickly and don’t have the red tape that involving a mortgage company brings.
Your estate agent should give you a summary of each bidder’s circumstances, including their timescales, state of the chain that they are in and their level of interest. If you really can’t decide between buyers with similar offers consider going to ‘final offers’. Your estate agent should be honest with the potential buyers and let them know that a small increase will put their offer in front and secure the sale.
New Mortgage Rules Could Set Housing Market Back
15th April 2014: Russell Bennett, co-founder of Houses.co.uk, has criticised the new regulations on mortgage lending that have recently come into force.
The Mortgage Market Review (MMR) will see mortgage applicants face tougher interrogation about their lifestyle, spending habits and future plans. The move is designed to prevent the irresponsible lending that contributed to the financial crisis, and to make sure that borrowers can comfortably afford their mortgage payments and would be able to endure a future interest rates rise.
However, Russell believes that these changes are mistimed.
“The current recovery in the housing market is fragile and these tougher restrictions could set it back. They could also damage the UK economy in general, which is heavily influenced by the housing market,” said Russell.
“MMR will lead to longer application periods and potentially fewer approvals, slowing down sales and the overall market. The government is meant to be encouraging first-time buyers. I believe that it would be better to implement these changes later in the year, when the market is on a more solid footing and will be able to better deal with the effects of MMR,” he added.
Houses.co.uk Urges Home Sellers to Ditch the High Street Estate Agent ‘Comfort Blanket’
Online Estate Agent calls for home sellers to be more confident in listing online
27th March 2014: New online estate agency Houses.co.uk is calling on home sellers to ditch the ‘comfort blanket’ nature of using a high street estate agent and cut out layers of necessary cost. The website, which launched last month, is encouraging sellers to compare the services offered by online and high street estate agents and think carefully about whether the thousands of pounds difference in price is warranted.
“Some people are a bit nervous about listing their home online, which is understandable because it’s one of the most important decisions in life and involves such large sums of money,” said Russell Bennett, co-founder of Houses.co.uk.
“However, the service offered by online estate agents is pretty much the same as what you get on the high street, only a lot cheaper”, he added. “The internet has opened up new layers of transparency, and valuing and listing homes is very straightforward with the tools and information now available.
“In fact with a shortage of houses on the market just now, it really is a sellers’ market and with properties quickly being snapped up there is the argument that most homes don’t need a ‘hard sale’.”
Bennett recommends that sellers looking to list online choose a reputable company, and do some upfront research on sites like Rightmove to see what house prices are like in their area.
“The way that we go about buying and selling our homes has completely shifted over the last five years and is now all about online search. The key to getting a good price is to present your property to its best advantage. Make sure that your estate agent – online or high street – lists you on all of the main property sites and that they proactively follow up with prospective buyers.”
The online estate agency market is growing, fuelled by consumer confidence, a growing housing market and more choice.
Houses.co.uk will Save Home Sellers Thousands on Estate Agency Fees
New on-line estate agent challenges the high street with new service
19th February 2014: Houses.co.uk has today launched its new website, becoming the latest entrant to the online estate agency market. Founded by estate agent Russell Bennett and Internet entrepreneur Peter Thornton, the site will save house sellers thousands of pounds compared to the cost of using a high street agent.
The shift in sales from the high street to the Internet has permeated all areas of retail, including the property market, with buyers and sellers keen to quickly access information using property portals such as Rightmove.
Russell Bennett from Houses.co.uk said: “We offer everything that you would get from a high street agent such as photography, floor plans and liaison with potential purchasers, but at a much lower fee that will save the average seller over £3000. We are bringing a credible and trustworthy alternative to the way that the UK has been buying and selling property for the last 50 years.”
Houses.co.uk offers all of the services found in high street estate agents, but their centralised UK call centre and Internet based service reduce costs significantly and enable people to sell their home for a low fee starting at £395.
Peter Thornton added: “We are taking the online experience that we have accumulated over the last ten years and applying it to our knowledge of the housing market. There is no leap of faith here, we have a great service as well as the skills and tools to help people buy and sell homes quickly and for thousands of pounds less than they would do when using a high street agent.”
The website is live now at Houses.co.uk and the online estate agent is a member of the Property Ombudsman.
One of the latest and most innovative entrants to the UK housing market, Houses.co.uk aims to make buying and selling houses easy and affordable with a fixed price listing rate that saves sellers thousands and brings buyers a wide choice of properties and the best level of service. A member of the Property Ombudsman, Houses.co.uk is as safe as, well houses, when it comes to buying or selling any property in the UK.