Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Budget 2009 - measures for the property market and housing industry

The measures and a summary according to the Owl (good work from FindaProperty reporting so quickly on the Budget)

1. Stamp Duty Holiday for homes valued at up to £175,000 to be extended to the end of the year

For those first time buyers wanting to live in most capital cities (especially London) this will not make a blind bit of difference as one cannot buy a property for under £175,000. Oh well, I don't like cities and see that local authorities are being given funds to build eco friendly houses (see below). Good move chancellor, encourage me to move to the countryside.

2. £500m to kick start stalled housing projects - including £100m for local authorities to build energy efficient homes.

We all know what £x million to a local authority means. Yep, they will spend it all on planning, printing and photocopying the new guidelines for developers. I would wager all of my carbon footprint that if I am a developer seeking funds I won't be able to get it unless I am using a rare clay cement from the Moors that actually costs more than the house I am building.

3. Scheme to guarantee mortgage backed securities in an attempt to boost lending.

Oh what joy, a 'scheme', we are all saved! Who knows what a 'scheme' means?! I do. It means a token gesture to let the banks know that the government wants them to start lending again, please..... pretty please. I am sure the banks will all treat such a weak lily livered scheme as nothing more than paperwork and will not change thier current policy one iota. So if you don't have a 20% deposit, are under 35, don't have rich parents near death, are happy to agree to a five year fixed rate at 4% you still won't get a mortgage.

4. An additional £80m for shared equity mortgage scheme.

Another scheme, wahooo! No doubt the details of these schemes will be released later, i.e. after they have realised that it can't work.

5. £50m to upgrade armed forces' housing

I couldn't agree more and let's hope they give the troops more in the way of funding for weapons, radios and stuff they need so they can actually come home. That said, I suspect that most soldiers won't qualify for this fund in any event as some busy body will decide that it can only go to a soldier who has served in 18 campaigns, is on active service now, has no children and is over the age of 55, basically ruling out everyone!

Well, good news then and I am glad they have really put some thought into this Budget for the housing market.

Anyway, I am off to join the the Army in an eco friendly controlled local authority.

Cheers - Private Cynic

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


We mentioned a while back that we had incorporated Google streetview for a couple of clients and our good friends at Earthware were kind enough to comment on JRA about mapping in general and I have taken the following as it is useful to note:

'... we [Earthware] have seen how agents have effectively used this technology on and offline and won industry awards as well as business as a result of it, and we're not the only ones who believe mapping is the next 'big thing'. predicted at the start of the year that one of the top 10 defining consumer trends of 2009 will be ‘Mapmania’ (everything mapping related) and commented that a map interface is a universally familiar method of organizing, finding and tracking relevant information on objects, events and people (and property!). It really does look like mapping is set to be the expected norm on all property websites in the very near future...'

So more calls for agents to get their web sites organised.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Ebay joins property portals

Another property portal – but this one is Ebay!

In a reported deal with Property Index, ebay is listing properties from portal feeds.

Great I say, about time and well done to Lee if it is Property Index who have brokered this deal.

The usual negative comments appear on Estate Agent Today, but I seem to recall similar people saying ebay would never work and you would never sell a car or a boat on ebay. Well think again you doubting Thomas’ stick you fingers in the holes and believe!

There will of course be the same old moans about listing private sellers alongside agents (already on EAT) but is it not about time to overcome this issue. I could write pages on this issue and surely the bottom line is that private selling is such a small market and the more resistance and obstacles put forward by agents will only drive more people to explore the private selling route. Embrace it and promote the reasons sellers need to use agents!

Sadly, I note that AHIPP are still banging the drum and calling for government intervention for the Zoopla tempt me tool. Good luck with that guys and I must state the obvious and ask whether this is a huge waste of time when the government will not even address the issue of HIPS and now they are going to ask them to intervene to look at an online widget!! A quick rant - why don't AHIPP and others stop moaning and be constructive and do a deal with Ebay. Would it not be better if AHIPP said, we could make money from this, let's pick up the phone and broker a deal with PI and Ebay! One of their competitors will and they will be left moaning at the government that 'it is not fair'! Sorry, needed to get that off the chest.

Personally, I believe Ebay offers an excellent vehicle to sell a house and with the future integration of video, there is a ready made platform for displaying property, selling property and other subsidiary products, i.e. HIPS (see above).

Others will follow suit, but Ebay is a coup for PI, or whoever has brokered the deal.

I should point out that I am currently using one of those super fast mobile broadband sticks and guess what? It is about as fast as an overweight tortoise. The mobile broadband promised to me in my area is no better than by mobile telephone. I am sending it back and it also means I can’t really explore Ebay and find the properties to which the EAT refers.

Anyway, I am off to bid on a house (if I can access the Internet and find it on Ebay).

Friday, 10 April 2009

Google streetview for real estate agents

A discussion on JRA was mooting the applicability (and value thereof) of Google Streetview to real estate agent websites.

Some of our clients had already been asking for streetview so we incorporated it and we believe the results are impressive. See for yourself:

Destinations London
1st Avenue

Indeed, as a potential punter, I think this is extremely helpful. I click on the property I like the look off and there in the space next to the map is the location view. Moreover, I can click on the surrounding streets and get a real feel for the immediate vicinity.

The feedback we are getting from the agents is that they love it and see it as a real marketing tool (not just a gimmick). This is agents embracing technology, which is great to see and needs to be encouraged. Have a look at how street view can work for agents.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

HIPS and Cancellation of Contracts Legislation

HIPS - Go and get one, it is the law.

There is a good article on estate agency news about the new HIP regulations. Hang on a second, they are not new, everyone has known for some time they are coming so why a big song and dance now. Partly because of the economy as one could argue that a further hurdle to selling/buying property was the last thing the industry required. That said, it is not an overnight occurrence and on the other hand one can argue may just encourage those in the house buying/selling process to commit to the transaction.

As for agents, well it is the law, so comply with it as you ought to have been prepared for some time now. Indeed, you can make money from it! Take note of the 7 day cooling off period in contracts. Again, it is the law so comply with it. Yes it is a pain, but not the agent’s, punter's or seller's fault, blame the government if you must, but it is straightforward, wait seven days, get a HIP, market property – be professional, honest and open.

The 7 day cooling off period is pursuant to the Cancellation of Contracts Made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work Etc Regulations 2008. In a nutshell, this says whenever a consumer signs any contract with a trader or professional firm they must be informed of the statutory cooling off period, during which time they can change their minds without incurring any cost or obligation.

There are a few ifs, buts, maybes and ways around the legislation (such as ensuring all contracts are signed in your office), but have a read of the article mentioned above and you will conclude that it is far easier to just comply with the legislation and ensure your firm is presenting a professional image. Indeed, I would not want to do business with a firm that arrogantly admitted to flouting legislation. I have spoken before of the importance of being open and honest in this industry and here is a situation where you should be just that.

By the way, breach of HIP legislation carries a fixed penalty fine of £200, which can rise and as a criminal offence could lead to you being taken to the Tower of London. I haven’t heard of a fixed fine or beheading yet, but if anyone has please let me know.

Anyway, I am off to my local agents under the guise of an office of fair trading official checking HIPS :)

Monday, 6 April 2009

Not enough property to go around

There are apparently now around 11,000 real estate agents in the UK, which has a population of 60 million odd. That is roughly 5,454 people for each agent. Not bad, but then consider the following:

Land registry data shows only 30,000 odd properties were sold in January 2009 within the UK. That is an average of 2 properties per agent for January and is just 0.05% of the population selling.

Just a bit of fun with stats, but it makes one sit back and think just how dire the market may be and why lettings is an attractive alternative, which of course I don't have the stats for.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Win a Flip Digital Camera on Juicy Red Apple

Juicy Red Apple has a great competition running and they are giving away another fantastic Flip Digital camcorder to one lucky member. Apparently, they may even throw in the active mount so you can film yourself flying down a mountain!

The rules: invite as many people to JRA as possible (agents would be good!). Simply click on the 'invite' tab and then enter the email addresses and follow the instructions. All very easy. You cannot include people you have already invited and the person with the most sign ups/conversions (so you have to encourage them to sign up) will win.

Competition will end on 22 April 2009.

Yes we have a vested interest to promote this competition, but we think all agents should have a Flip!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Social media for the real estate industry

An excellent post about social media and business networking appears on Geek Estate and is worthy of a read. Some of my thoughts based on their comments:

Many agents and real estate professionals in this country have yet to even consider the jump to the social space, but if one looks at it as business networking it is even more perplexing why they haven’t started to embrace this space. Consider the old school of business networking, local business groups, chamber of commerce, institute of directors, sponsoring local events, the Masonic Lodge etc you find agents and industry professionals all pressing the flesh in these areas, helping the local community and all realise that eventually this assists in generating future business.

So why can’t they apply this tried and tested theory to social spaces on the Internet, it is exactly the same, but with a far wider audience and greater reach. This is an important point as the old school of networking I would say is hyper local, which is great for listings, but what about the buying audience, they are more widespread and need to know who you are.

Geek Estate looks at Facebook and Linkedin for starters and how these sites can drive traffic to your business. Taking their bullet points:

‘...You place your personal and business profile up on these sites for all of the world to view. Accomplishments, awards, education, specialized training, and your business goals are all there if you want them to be. Visibility.

In a few minutes time online, you can ask or answer questions, interacting with people from all parts of the country and the world. Your direct contacts have their own direct contacts, creating a possible sphere of influence far greater than any you could develop locally via personal interaction.

A referral or recommendation is much easier, thus you can get more of them. Your direct contacts can recommend you to someone else with a few keystrokes, no letter or personal meeting required. They’ll be far more likely to do so. LinkedIn formalizes this process more than Facebook. On LinkedIn, there are formalized recommendation formats that can be keyed to your specific areas of expertise. What? Let’s say that you work both residential and commercial real estate. You can have those two segments of your profile, each with recommendations specific to that expertise.

Both sites allow the sending of questions, but again, LinkeIn has formalized the process more. A question, once answered by all who are interested, can be closed out, and a Best Answer and Good Answer selected. The person who supplied that answer builds “expertise credit” in the category. In other words, if you are answering real estate related questions, Best and Good Answers get you more visibility in that category. That’s possible future business.

While listings are all local, as that’s where the homes are that you service, buyers are world-wide. You can network locally for listings, but people moving into your area from afar have no way to know who you are unless they find you somehow. With almost 90% now using the Internet to search for real estate, these networks are one way in which they can locate you...’

I will of course suggest joining a more focused networking group such as Juicy Red Apple where agents and all professionals share information and refer business. Indeed, yet to happen in the UK is business referral, but what better place to conduct such business.

Geek Estate concludes that sites such as JRA ‘... are powerful exposure tools, and you simply can’t overlook them in planning for the future. In all of your entries and interactions on these sites, you’re placing links back to your website, and when you can, to specific pages or posts that answer specific questions. This builds credibility, but also site traffic. And, it’s coming from sources that are real estate related, as that’s the way you’ve set up your profiles...’