Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Niche property portals

In the current climate, it is surprising to see more portals entering the market, but could the answer perhaps lie in niche portals? Not quite vertical search, but the new uklandandfarms web site is already reporting 141 agents on the books and traffic of 2,000 uniques per day.

Run by Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (AMC) (part of the Lloyds TSB group) uklandandfarms is a portal for nationwide land search for anyone wanting to find and buy farmland and rural business property in the UK.

Apparently, there is an unprecedented demand for agricultural land and uklandandfarms (uklaf as they like to call it) say they will only list properties with three acres of more.

Jim Bryant, head of Rural Agency at Bidwells, said: "UKLAF provides a new and exciting way for potential buyers to search for rural, equestrian property and farmland. There are other established portals out there but AMC’s strong association with land agents make it uniquely placed to develop what will be a fantastic tool as a nationwide dedicated property portal just for the rural sector. We think it is just what is needed in the market place and so look forward to sharing in that future success."

The rising demand is apparently being fuelled by the rising commodity prices. Indeed, not a week passes without chefs and restaurants moaning that the price of wheat has gone up so you now have to be £30 for your steak (not sure about the link), but as a result land is now in demand and commanding higher prices. Milk has also risen by 40% I am reliably informed.

Niche markets are just that of course and one wonders how the model will develop. It would appear they charge the land agent (no costs on the site) and with growing traffic they ought to generate a steady revenue from advertising. Becoming the number one vertical/niche for land will lead to more and it is no surprise to see a bank behind it, but there is, one imagines, only so much land. There may of course be cynics out there that see the banks as simply tapping into the next market now that they have well and truly crippled the residential markets. If that is true I am off to get a huge mortgage for a chunk of land I can’t afford. On to the next bubble !

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Lousia Fletcher tips on Globrix

Lousia Fletcher sends me an email and posts on her Globrix page her top tips to sell your property. These are all hugely common sense and have been said a thousand times, but we all know how some clients will not do half of what is mentioned so I guess it is worth Louisa regurgitating.

That said, we think Louisa should really be telling punters what they should be asking agents and what they should be checking agents are doing. Louisa says 'trust your agent to present your house'. Well, yes it is their job, but as a punter you need to ensure your agent is doing all they can. So here is a more helpful list. By all means clean the cooker and bake fresh bread but these are no use if your property doesn't look inviting enough from the outset.

What is the outset? 90% of the house buying public begin their search for property online, so your property has to look good online FIRST!

Make sure your agent has undertaken the following and if not do it yourself:

- taken as many high quality pics as possible. That means more than 5! And high quality means from a good camera using the basic principles of photography. Take pics of every room, the street, the views, the neighbours!

- take a video tour. Do your own and make sure the agent uploads it to their site and any others he can feed it to. Some agents are already producing podcasts.

- a blog for your property. You will probably have to do this as agents are not yet catching on. Provide information you think would be helpful if you were looking, i.e. What is the local area like. Blogs are easy to create and free!

- check the description. Be honest!!! Don't let the agent BS the particulars, it doesn't work! Make sure the agent writes more than a sentence.

- ensure your agent is uploading your property to all the portals possible. Remember that the agent has to pay for some of these so check to see which ones they subscribe to. There are many free ones so no excuse for not showing off your property through many channels.

- why doesn't your agent's website have recently instructed properties on the home page? You want to be in this space when first instructed, not buried in the listings.

If your agent is doing most of the above, the chances are that they are good enough to then convert a looker into a booker. Providing would be buyers with as much useful information as possible is the future and the old school mentality of just covering up the cracks should be avoided.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Asda Pods and Property Portal

You may recall I posted on the Asda property portal a while back regarding their introduction of in store Pods. I asked if anyone had seen a pod and emailed Asda for some assistance.

Well, almost two months later I received a reply along with a pdf brochure. Apparently pods are rife and can be found at the following stores Kent and East Sussex Asda stores; Ashford, Brighton, Brighton Marina, Broadstairs, Canterbury, Chatham, Crawley, Eastbourne, Folkstone, Gravesend, Kingshill West Malling and Sittingbourne. (Essex Asda Branches hosting the pods are the Basildon, Chelmsford, Colchester, Eastgate Basildon, Harlow, Ipswich, Rayleigh, Romford, Shoebury Southend, South Woodham Ferrers and Tilbury Asda Stores). The pods are also in Asda branches in the North of England; Ashington, Benton, Billingham, Bishop Auckland, Blyth, Boldon, Carlisle, Cramlington, Darlington, Gateshead, Gosforth, Hartlepool, Middlesborough, Peterlee, South Shields, Spennymoor, Stanley, Stockton, Sunderland, Thornaby and Washington.

The email also helpful pointed out that:

'... Only estate or lettings agents will be invited to advertise properties on these pods, and no estate agent will be allowed to take more than two columns on the same pod. This is a really sensibly priced high footfall scheme with prices starting at £100.00 per calendar month...'

There are some amazing stats in the brochure such as 4million hits per month for the property portal. The pdf states encouragingly that '... Currently the Pods use a Window Card system; however a technology solution that includes a touch screen database search facility for all types of property and several flatscreens showing the entire portal database in-store will be implemented in ’09...'

It goes on to say that you are permitted between 5 and 20 window cards for £100 per month. If anyone wants a copy of the brochure, please email us at and we will send you a copy.

I am fascinated by these pods and I want a picture. I know some of you are down in Brighton which is apparently looking after a pod so let me have a picture please.

Monday, 18 August 2008 Blog join the blogging world with their new blog, winging it.

Well, I received an email saying please have a look at our new blog. Although, I don't recall a Finda blog there are a number of posts from way back, but not as far back as the Isle of Wight Homes blog as recently mentioned by Zoomf.

Anyway, welcome to the space.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Google insights for search tool

Google have released a new tool called Google Insights for Search where you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames.

I haven't yet figured out all this tool can do, but i have just spent 15 minutes comparing all sorts of search terms, including brand names. Search terms for last 30 days in UK market is very interesting. As much as we bemoan rightmove, if these terms are correct their brand presence is stronger than ever amongst the public.

Anyway, I found this on FOREM and then read the the post at Agentgenius.

I am hoping someone with more time and a better brain than me can expand upon the benefits to the UK agent and online market. In the meantime, I will keep playing and see what I uncover.


Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The rain in Spain - Spanish housing market worse than the UK

You think the property market here is bad, take a look at Spain. The Motley Fool runs an article that states house prices in Spain have crashed 35% over the past 12 months, ‘… four times faster than in the UK, and haven't stopped plunging yet. This spells disaster for an economy where investment in housing is worth 10% of GDP and employs 13% of people in the private sector…’.

I suspect the same is happening in Bulgaria and probably other popular UK second home/investment locations. Indeed, I know a man who purchased a number of properties in Bulgaria during what appeared to be a crazed building site bonanza. He remarked at the time that ‘it was just like Spain many years ago’ and his eyes had those pound note signs. Well it maybe like Spain sooner than he thinks.

Anyway, bargains to be had and I share the motley fool comments that whilst not for me, there may be some bargains, but remember their tips:

* Don't buy off-plan. As things stand, your home could never be finished, but your deposit might be.

* Buy in the centre. By choosing an established location, you're slightly less likely to fall foul of planning disputes (although no guarantees...).

* Seek out an independent lawyer, one who will check your property is legal, and won't be torn down next month. I would add to this that property contracts abroad (especially Bulgaria) are not worth the paper they are written on. In other words approach on the basis that you probably won’t have any legal recourse should it all go wrong so be very sure!

• Wait. This market has much further to fall, which means time is on your side. Then wait some more.

Action today, innovation tomorrow

The government released a paper in July to address the housing market decline and provided it with a punchy title, action today innovation tomorrow.

There is no explanation within the introductory text as to what this means. Innovation tomorrow, what innovation, there is no mention of innovation anywhere in the document. Perhaps as it will be tomorrow they did not feel the need to mention it. Can there be any worse example of the misuse of the word 'innovate'. Oh well, so what action can we expect to see?

Ummmmmm, well, yes, sifting through the waffle it would appear to conclude that the answer lies in building more houses and then offer schemes for the growing armies of lazy non workers (a norker - a new term to go viral) so they can afford nice apartments on the riverside. Brilliant!!

If the government's objective was to drive house prices down so we can all afford them then they are on the way to achieving the first part of that objective, but I suspect the current climate wasn't quite what the they had in mind.

As always this document is just another waste of tax payers money, typical government hype and a smokescreen to avoid the real issues, such as Stamp Duty!

I eagerly await the innovation report...... tomorrow.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Rightmove share price

I know we have some city analysts on board so perhaps someone can explain what is going on with the rightmove stock. It has steadily decreased for the past 12 months from highs of £6.30 in 2007 down to £2.20 odd the other week and then miraculously it has jumped back up by over 55% this month to £3.44 today. I say miraculously for as far as I can tell there was no news, no announcement, so what happened? It certainly isn't down to positive news from estate agents and/or the housing market.


Image - from the FT

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Landlord advice from Belvoir Lettings

Our friends at Belvoir Lettings asked if they could post on our blog.

We said we would be delighted and proprietor of Belvoir Bolton, Mike Stuttard, identifies the top five things that can go wrong for landlords, plus explains what they can do when the worst happens…

What can landlords do when things go wrong?

Even the most straight-forward of lettings agreements aren’t without their potential problems. Plan early for pitfalls to minimise financial risk and maximise long-term gain.

1. Evicting bad tenants


When a good tenant turns bad, what are a landlord’s options and how can they evict them?


It is important not to let matters drag on once rent becomes late. Obviously legal action cannot be taken until the rent becomes two months in arrears, however, all necessary steps should be taken beforehand to contact the tenant and find out what the situation is.

Make sure that all the correct notices are issued if the landlord wishes the tenant to leave. It is recommended that Rent and Legal insurance protection is taken out at the outset and this will cover the rent and legal costs should an eviction become necessary.

2. Avoiding the ‘void’


How can landlords minimise the potential for long ‘void’ periods on their properties?


Nobody has a crystal ball but there are ways to reduce the possibility of void periods. It is important to make sure that the property is in a good condition. First impressions are extremely important in the lettings market and a property that looks good on entering will get the tenant interested. Avoid poor decor and damp, keeping the interior neutral wherever possible. Also, make sure that the property is competitively priced. The price may change depending upon market conditions - be prepared to be flexible.

Consider offering incentives, too - for instance 50% off the first month rent. And, always consider offers from prospective tenants. Don't just stick to the advertised price - the market can be a buyer’s market for tenants who have many properties to choose from.

3. Dealing with rent arrears


How can landlords deal with rent arrears and what systems can they put in place to minimise the risk?


There are several things a landlord can do to help avoid rent arrears. Make sure that steps are taken sooner rather than later if a tenant is late with rental payment and make telephone calls if the rent is more than five days late – never let the matter drag on until the rent is more than one month late.

Ensuring that rent is collected by standing order, rather than waiting for the tenant to pay by cash or cheque, is also a good way to help guarantee regular payment - and remember to take out good Rent and Legal protection insurance before your tenant moves in too.

4. Money management


What can landlords do to help manage their outgoings and deal with fluctuating interest rates?


Fixing the interest rate on their mortgage is an obvious way to reduce fluctuations, plus keeping void periods to a minimum is also recommended. If you keep tenants happy they probably won’t want to leave in a hurry!

Look to review the rent each anniversary. Nevertheless, it is not always the case that rent increases annually - this may make tenants look elsewhere for alternative accommodation.

5. Dealing with damage


How can landlords deal with damage to their property and minimise their financial loss?


It is always recommended that landlords have sufficient buildings’ insurance cover in place. This should include malicious damage cover as well as cover while empty for longer than 30 days.

Landlords are also recommended to have some contents cover to include items such as floor covering and appliances.

Having a dilapidation bond is also important, together with a robust inventory/statement of condition for the property in case there is a dispute at the end of the tenancy. A good lettings agent will be able to provide insurance cover and prepare inventories for you.

Thanks Mike

Buyers need information - Agents need to tell the truth

1000watt have an excellent post that emphasises the point of agents being open and not hiding information. It comes down to asking whether 'you' would want this information before buying a house and the answer is always going to be yes. Hiding information from buyers is akin to a second hand car salesman not mentioning that the car is in fact two crashed cars glued together.

1000watt make the point that the Internet can provide a plethora of information that is useful when buying a house, but it is even easier than that. Simply taking 50+ pictures of all rooms (not just the one the agent thinks looks nice) is easy. Take pictures of outside space, local amenities, anything that may be of interest. I may visit a property because I have seen a picture of a lovely little deli in the village, or it is explained to me that the house is next door to a football stadium, I may love football or may hate it. Either way, I want to know.

I have been banging on about a blog for every property for some time and this is a perfect example of where agents can easily make a difference.

In this current climate, you need to stand out, so stand out for telling the truth and providing information that the buyer actually needs.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Poll results - who is to blame for housing slowdown

The votes are in and with equal resentment you say the banks and George Bush are responsible for the slowdown in the housing market.

With a massive 60% of the vote each the bankers and George Bush were well ahead of estate agents and the government with only 20% of the vote.

New Poll - are HIPs a waste of time?

Need we say more.

This month we ask whether HIPs are a waste of time, yes or no?

Estate Agents breaking the law on HIPS

Various people are carrying the report that the Law Society has indicated many estate agents are breaking the law and not conforming with the HIPs process.

Law Society president, Mr Marsh told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, "The evidence is that these Hips are being ordered and not being processed. They are being suspended until such time as a buyer is found."

"I don't think it is within the spirit of the regulations. Actually, I don't think it is within the regulations."

The NAEA, not unsurprisingly, stated that "there probably are some estate agents who are flouting the law, but it is understandable in this absolutely catastrophically bad market."

"We don't condone flouting the law, but I can certainly understand why they are doing it, especially as the pack is completely useless to buyer and seller,"

Useless, uncessary and unwelcome appears to be the feedback and during bleak times this has shades of the Poll Tax. I don't foresee riots, but perhaps Milliband will use this as a weapon to bring down Brown. The Tories have already indicated they would scrap HIPS so not good news for the HIP providers either way.