We talk to a few local estate agents about the year ahead and its effect on the property market
How do you see the future of the traditional independent estate agent, when we notice the increase of online estate agents offering to sell a house at the fraction of the cost?
“We see the future of the local estate agency with local knowledge and property experience absolutely key in a changing marketplace. As the market hardens, simply putting your property on the internet and hoping that it will sell itself will prove to be a difficult and potentially stressful process”, says Richard Prynne from Pewleys, who are based in Bramley. “The need for careful and proactive sale chain management has never been more essential than right now. There is an unbelievable amount of hard work, phone calls, emails and negotiating required not only to agree a sale but as importantly to ensure the transaction which often will consist of numerous properties, progresses to an exchange of contracts”.
This view is echoed by Scott Wishart, from Hills Clements in Guildford. “We consider that the traditional independent estate will always be required because of their intimate knowledge of their town and surrounding villages, the local property values and their history of sales that will have been racked up over their many years of trading. No other agent will know the area and the values better and many buyers and sellers will want to tap into that in depth knowledge.”
Doing all the work yourself is very onerous and often ends in disappointment, according to Stephen Jenkins, from Andrew Lodge in Farnham. “If sellers are happy to carry out their own viewings, financially qualify potential buyers, liaise with solicitors, other agents, mortgage brokers, surveyors and deal with often complex problems in chains, then maybe online agents are for them. However, the regular instructions we receive from clients who have already unsuccessfully tried selling through an online agent tells me this level of service and diligence simply doesn’t exist when a fee only amounts to a few hundred pounds.”
Stephen adds that “It’s a known fact, you get what you pay for. Sourcing a buyer is only a small part of what we do. Nurturing a deal through to completion involves a huge amount of effort, time and resources if dealt with in a professional manner”.
How do you see the residential property market transitioning through 2017?
“2017 will surely bring more properties to the market, which will increase transactions, but we do not see a change in values”, thinks Scott Wishart. “Hopefully the London property market will rise from its slumber, which always fuels our market here in Guildford. We are 38 minutes from Waterloo, 40 minutes from each airport, and we have the very best schooling, which drives families down the main line to our lovely area.”
Stephen Jenkins is not quite so positive however. “This area is sought after for many reasons and I don’t see this changing but market forecasters are predicting a slowdown in 2017 as uncertainty over Britain’s departure from the EU continues. London property prices are expected to remain flat next year, which potentially will have a knock-on effect in the home counties. However, weak stock levels in the local market should help soften any slowdown but sensible pricing, in line with comparable evidence will definitely be the key to achieving consistent results for clients.”
Matthew Burns agrees that predictions for next year are not certain. “The backdrop of Brexit and an ever changing world political scene will make it an unusual year to predict. However, history has shown that regardless of outside influences, Guildford and surrounding villages always perform well through these periods, due to excellent schooling and communications all on our doorstep, combined with some of the most stunning countryside within immediate access. For these reasons we see the market continuing to flow well, but with a shortage of high quality property being available, there will be demand outstripping supply within certain locations and prices within these areas will see greater rises than general.”
The term ‘Hybrid Estate Agent’ keeps popping up, is this the future of estate agency?
Graham Faulkner, from EweMove in Dorking suggests “The term hybrid in estate agency was actually created when an interviewer didn’t really know how else to term it. Hybrid estate agency has been created by taking the full traditional sales offering, with truly local representatives, but without the need for the expense of high street offices. Making it harder for brand awareness can mean less properties being on a hybrid agent’s books, but that then allows a very high level of customer service, as a client isn’t just lost in the numbers”.
His own agency is one such agency. “A great example of an agency who started life as the hybrid model is EweMove, who have been sitting at the top of customer review site Trustpilot since they started using that site for customer reviews, and have a score of 9.9 out of 10. Such is the growth of the hybrid agent that 3 year old EweMove was acquired at the beginning of September by the Property Franchise Group as they realised the importance of getting into the hybrid agent market space and paid £15m to do so.”
According to Scott Wishart, “the Hybrid Agent is a new term which has cropped up recently, but quite frankly it is a concept that we have been running for absolutely years now! We are a smaller hands-on agency with exactly the same marketing tools as all the larger corporate agents, yet without all the expensive backroom staff, higher officials and bosses dictating the show, and the high running costs that go with all of that. The term hybrid agency really means – part hands-on, part internet and this exactly summarises what Hill Clements have been doing for years. We own our business, we own our office, we advertise on all the same portals as the big boys, but our overheads are so much lower, we can make a profit without charging the huge fees that others have to. This is what hybrid agents are now claiming that they do!”
What single change in legislation would bring the biggest boost to the property market?
A complete change in stamp duty for the residential market is one that Scott Wishart and others would wish to see. For the lettings market, things are a little different, given there have been many legislative changes in the last 18 months that have been brought in seemingly to either quash the buy-to-let sector, or make landlords and letting agents police it.
“Phasing out mortgage interest relief, right-to-rent immigration checks, the need to have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms at the beginning of any new tenancy, the need to supply current gas safety records, the energy performance certificate, and a Government guide on how to rent are some of the many of the changes brought in”, says Graham Faulkener. “And now the banning of tenant fees, which means agents will have to charge the landlord higher fees instead, which means that the landlords will increase rents, which they would be doing anyway to try and offset higher tax bills, and that means some benefits tenants will be evicted to make way for people who can pay more rent – it all makes you wonder if the Government look far enough into these things they bring in to be able to assess the true impact on the market.”
So what is the single change in legislation that would boost the rental property market?
According to Graham, “it would have to be a reversal or at least a tidy up of some of the above. The private rented sector is an important place, especially as the UK starts to become more generation rent, and yet the government seem hell bent on making it a tough place for landlords to thrive”.
Richard Prynne and Matthew Burns
Tel: 01483 304344 www.pewleys.co.uk
Andrew Lodge Estate Agents, Farnham Stephen Jenkins
Tel: 01252 717705 www.andrewlodge.net
Hill Clements, Guildford
Tel: 01483 300300 www.hillclements.com
Tel: 01306 406506 www.ewemove.com