Author Archives: Chris Wood

PDQ ESTATES LTD HAS CEASED TRADING

2018 sees my 30th year of estate agency and my 18th as PDQ Estates Ltd. I had always planned and hoped to pass on the baton of my business to a new person who shares my passions for customer service, honesty and integrity, who would be able to continue the reputation I’ve built and drive it forward in their own way. Unfortunately, whilst there is an outstanding person who fits that description, events have meant that they are unable to commit at present and so, sadly, that is not to be.

Whilst I will continue to look after my clients who have accepted offers subject to contract, on their homes, through to completion I am recommending that all of my remaining and any new customers contact Theresa James at PRH in Penzance, one of the few agents I hold in the highest respect in the area and who I have known since school as an honest hard worker and excellent agent.

As with any major decision, there are a multitude of reasons behind this one. My other business, Ocean3D, has been doing rather well of late and is likely to take up more of my time with, hopefully, some major contracts in the pipeline and I do not feel that it is fair to my current or new customers to reduce my focus on them for my own gain. I also want to spend some time working with the charity that helped me and hundreds of service personnel affected by operations like me, Turn To Starboard

Additionally, I have made no secret of my depression and PTSD, and estate agency is possibly one of the least conducive careers for anyone who needs a relatively stable, lower stress form of employment. The current market conditions and thirty years of fighting with lazy solicitors, ‘computer says no’ call-centre lenders, over-zealous surveyors, incompetent estate agents in chains and a small, but significant, number of buyers and sellers who believe they can lie through their teeth or change their minds with impunity despite causing incredible distress and cost to everyone around them have taken their toll. My family and friends have been urging me to get off the roller coaster for some considerable time and it is high time I acted on their wise and well-meaning advice.

A HUGE thank you to my colleagues over the years, with very few exceptions, you have been great to work with, hard-working, incredibly loyal and incredibly tolerant. We shared good and bad times and it was great to know you all.

I would also like to thank all my customers who have invited me into their homes, trusted me with what is usually their largest asset, more importantly, their family home and gone on to recommend me to so many other people. Thanks also go to the many buyers of my clients’ homes who have been such a joy to meet and share a few weeks or months of trials and tribulations with as they move home and, despite having negotiated hard with, have still gone on to recommend me and my colleagues to others. It has been a privilege and an honour to have been able to work for you at what is often one of lifes’ most stressful times.

I have also worked with some superb lawyers, surveyors, mortgage advisors, mining and structural engineers, surveyors, estate agents, journalists and many other service suppliers who have put up with my unconventional approach, ‘humour’, been excellent at their jobs, occasionally sought my views and opinions and, many of whom I regard as close friends. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a privilege and an honour.

Whilst PDQ Estates Ltd is ceasing trading, as an individual, I am not going away from the property industry entirely. Most of my 30 years in agency has been spent both within the NAEA/ NFoPP and without, working for a change in the way we convey property in England and Wales and the enforcement of laws designed to protect consumers and law-abiding agents. I’ve racked up a few small successes in that time, but there is more to do and some big fish to fry!

Thank you

Chris Wood CertREA, CPEA (i,ii)

Director

PDQ Estates Ltd

What is going on in Cornwalls’ housing market?

sales volumes CornwallAccording to the latest data from HM Land Registry and the ONS, the numbers of homes selling continues to fall (12% down October 2016 to October 2018) whilst selling prices have stabilised/ risen modestly at around 1.7 percentage points above annual inflation (to the end of 2018).

Nationally, there is a great deal of talk and circumstantial evidence that the numbers of properties coming to the market are also continuing to fall and, that selling prices are beginning to level off. There are many discussions by industry experts and suppliers that buyers are also biding their time as we get closer to Brexit and the political parties appear to be tearing themselves apart. Whatever your view on Brexit (and I am firmly in the pro’ camp) a lack of clear vision and deliverable plan/ timescale by the two main party leaders is almost certainly a factor.

How does this affect you if you are selling?

I do not believe for one second that we are about to enter a market crash (despite what the doomsayers have been saying since well before the 2016 vote) nor do I believe we are likely to see a sudden surge in prices post March the 29th (if it happens). Assuming a Brexit (with or without a deal), I believe there will be a release of pent-up demand and the market will experience a brief surge in both sales and property listings; the latter most likely cancelling out any major price effects of the former.

If you are already up for sale: Whichever agent you are with, talk to them! If they are keeping in touch with you, talking sense and inspire you with confidence in their knowledge and abilities, stick with them; they probably deserve your trust. If you never hear from them, they spin you yarns and you have little confidence in their abilities or experience; now is THE best time to change! Changing to a new agent, who talks honestly, with market insights, can provide hard evidence rather than glossy hype and inspires confidence will deliver results.

For more information on whether you should change agents, read this article 

If you are thinking of selling in the next few weeks: The next few weeks could be a smart time to sell, with little competition from other properties and the potential of a buyer surge after we exit the EU, you may just sell for a little more than you were expecting

Do your research on which agents are right for you and what you want to achieve (a quick sale, the best price, excellent service or a good balance of all of these factors). Despite what folklore or the ‘bloke down the pub’ might have you believe, not all estate agents are the same and there are some excellent ones out there, as well as some seriously dodgy businesses. Ask to see evidence of how they arrived at the price they want to list your home at. Was it based on selling prices of similar properties or, just impressive looking asking prices and a smooth patter? Will they accompany all viewings? Do they passively just list your home on a property portal or, do they actually ring up potential buyers and sell your home (do some secret shopping by posing as a potential buyer).

Did you know that the majority of buyers move just a few miles from their existing home? Having a national/ international presence is important when you employ an agent but, choosing one who uses social media and has an excellent local marketing reputation is, for the majority of properties (but not all) more important.

Chris Wood

Director

02.03.19

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There’s more to life than the high street

I’ve always been a bit of a Marmite character and todays’ trade press news has brought responses on both sides of the spectrum in the usual ratios.  I’ve been blessed to receive some wonderful phone calls, emails and DMs’ on social media wishing me the best of luck. Also, haters are always going to hate. They can only hurt you if you place a value in their opinion.

Like most new stories, you only get to see the tip of what is usually a much larger event and the factors leading to that event. This often leads to an understandable mix of responses based on the publicly available information, rather than the wider back story of the people or organisations involved.

Typical of some of the comments is from anonymous Property Industry Eye poster ‘IndAgent’. The questions and statements it contains be taken a number of ways and I felt that it was only fair that I gave a more reasoned explanation and a little more background to my decision. My answer to this question is repeated below.

Readers will know from a previous blog that I have a couple of health issues and these have lead to a number of events and decisions over the past few years and to my announcement last week.

I love estate agency with a passion but I also need to re-prioritise, down-size a little, be kinder to myself and reduce the number of properties I deal with to facilitate other needs and dreams whilst ensuring my clients receive the same high standards I have always espoused.

My other business Ocean3D.co.uk is growing quickly with some highly notable clients already on our books but, equally requiring more of my time and resources. At some point, when the time is right or, I feel that I can no longer look after my estate agency clients to the standards I set due to other business, time or health considerations I will stop listing and selling peoples’ homes. Until then, my clients’ needs remain “number one, not just one of a number.”

IndAgent

Morning Chris. Interesting move. Couple of questions…. What percentage fee/or average £ fee would you be aiming to charge clients?

If you aim to charge more than your local, High Street competitors, what are your justifications for charging more, whilst on the surface ‘doing less’ in the eyes of the general public.

As agents are marketing firms, selling a product, a house, if a client was to ask, ‘where are you advertising my property?’  What would your response be?

My reply:

Our fee is typically 0.25 to 0.5 % above our competitors. On a typical house sale in my area that’s a reasonable sum for a job well done (people still recommend us widely locally and on social media despite costing a little more than some but, equally less than others).

I’m happy to spend some time with you at your premises on how to raise fees if you want to employ me. My industry knowledge has been used quietly over the years by a number of firms and individuals including a good number with far higher profits and turnover than, I suspect, every poster on this forum.

I employ a number of USPs’ including 3D tours, magazine cover style main photograph, excellent social media presence etc. but, most importantly, a more personalised, experienced and friendly service that has a reputation for honesty, integrity and transparency. Heck, our sole agency contract even has a badge to prove it! http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/services/honesty-mark/honesty-mark-holders.html

As for advertising your home, we advertise on our website and the portal that we receive the most leads from, that is cost effective and value for money. We’re not on Rightmove any more because it was no longer a cost-effective way to market clients homes.

If all people are employing you/ your firm for is the fact you can say you advertise on Rightmove, you are simply holding yourself hostage of going with the lowest common denominator.

I’m not in a race to the bottom on fees or service, never have been and never will. We’ll lose some business and some of it will, no doubt, good business but, I’m looking forward to having a little more free time on my hands, developing my 3D tour business, not being beholden to a number of fixed costs and, moving towards my goal of buggering off to the Med’/ Caribbean with my partner as charter and private yacht skippers and hosts in a few years time. After 30 years of working in agency and a few health concerns, I need to reprioritise and re-focus.

Commisery for Purplebricks customers overpaying for tied solicitors by hundreds of pounds?

How much ‘commisery'(tm) might you feel if you had been encouraged or even required to use a specific firm of solicitors by your estate agent, only to find that over £380 was going straight into your agents pocket as a backhander from the solicitor in question? All perfectly legally of course.

In a written quotation from late 2018 recently sent to the author (see below) on conditions of strict anonymity, the firm quotes the fees for its professional services as £599 plus VAT (excluding disbursements). However, £382.85 plus VAT of this is paid straight back to Purplebricks PLC as a referral fee. So, exactly the same service that the firm of solicitors are charging customers £718.80 for, could be literally hundreds of pounds less expensive if they weren’t paying a huge introducer fee to Purplebricks.

Like many, but by no means all, estate agents Purplebricks PLC (stock market ticker #PURP ) make much of their income from referring people who buy and sell through them to a solicitor. It’s a perfectly legal practice as long as it is declared to the customer at the outset. The Property Ombudsman scheme

also requires that an agent informs the clients (the person selling) of any commission they make in this manner (see screenshot).

The quotation sent to the author makes it clear that this eyewatering sum has been correctly declared to the person being quoted. However, I have no knowledge of whether sellers are informed of how much Purplebricks might earn from a buyer who also uses the same firm, neither do I have any evidence to suggest that Purplebricks are not complying with the law.

Given that Purplebricks customers who choose to defer the typical upfront payment of around £1,100 are effectively required to use this firm of solicitors or pay an additional fee to ‘not’ use them, there may be some readers who might question whether a Publicly Listed Company that champions itself as a cheap way of selling your home but, who charge a fee even if they don’t sell* PLUS earn hefty backhanders from closely associated companies is very cheap at all.

*according to Jefferies, 49% of Purplebricks customers don’t actually sell. This has been strongly disputed by Purplebricks but the firm, who are notoriously litigious, have never supplied evidence to disprove the claim. Readers must draw their own conclusions.

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“Best and final offers” – What does it mean at PDQ?

new board 1a soldWhen there is strong interest on a property and a number of offers are received in quick succession, at PDQ (as at many other agents), we often advise the owners to use a process called ‘best and final’ offers to decide which potential buyers offer to accept; effectively a blind auction. We have found is the fairest and least pressured way to agree a sale because everyone is bidding equally. We also find it helps prevent gazumping.

Experience and evidence shows this ensures the best price is obtained for our customers, unlike the alternative ‘open-bid’ system used  by some agents which often results in a lower sale price and bad feelings

For example, a bidder who has been told the other bidder has offered, say, £500,000, may only offer £501,000 despite being prepared to go much higher to secure the property. When bidding blind, all interested parties reasonably expect the other bidders to value the property as highly as they do and, to be able to afford to bid to that level. Consequently, bidders will offer their genuinely best price rather than the lowest price they believe they can get away with.

Note: If you are a buyer reading this, all agents have a legal and contractual obligation to negotiate the best price for their customer, the seller.

At PDQ, we ensure that all offers remain confidential to us, the person who has offered and the owner I.e. no-one else who has offered is given the level or substance of any other persons offer unless instructed to do so by the owner.

Once initial offers have been received and the owner has agreed to the best and final process, we ask everyone who has offered for their ‘best and final’ offer. At this point, we also explain that no-one is under any obligation or pressure to increase however, we inform that everyone else who has offered also this opportunity and, if they wish to make a higher offer, this is the time to make it.

Once we have all of the best and final offers, we put them to the owner along with every buyers position and any proof we have of that position* (buying with a mortgage, cash, subject to the sale of another property, and any chain details we have been able to confirm). The owner then makes a decision and the successful bidder is informed.

NB – Under English law; any offer received by an estate agent must be passed on to an owner (and confirmed in writing) up to the point of exchange of contracts unless, the agent has a written letter from the owner instructing them not to consider further offers. So, whilst best and final offers may have been agreed, offers must still be put forward by all agents. However, at PDQ, we generally advise owners to honour agreements made under best and final unless there are very good reasons to change buyers (often known as gazumping) such as the buyers position has changed from cash, to requiring to sell a property before being able to purchase.

Discover what PDQ can do for your property or business here

*Agents have an obligation under Property Ombudsman rules to make reasonable attempts to ascertain the ability of a buyer to fund the purchase. However, it is illegal for an agent to insist you use their financial advisor or, to state or imply that an offer will not be put forward or, may be less favourably considered, if a buyer refuses to use an agents preferred supplier.

A solution to the housing crisis that doesn’t cost councils a penny?

The housing market is in crisis with many first time buyers locked out of owning and, in many areas, being able to rent property at affordable levels. As a country, we also have a homeless problem with a shocking lack of care for the mentally ill and, our military veterans.chris matterport me

Various solutions have been tried over the years and charities have also played a vital role in alleviating some of the need. For years there has been much hand wringing and blame-gaming by politicians for who is at fault but, the problem stubbornly remains.

Owning a home of ones’ own is not a human right but, having a secure place to call home is.

I believe there is a solution that has been staring us as all in the face for many years and it does not require any additional spending.

Local government (councils) currently sit on, and annually invests in, billions of pounds worth of investments, predominantly in stocks and shares for their pension funds. This is almost always invested in major companies who have little to no local connections or interest in the well-being or growth of the area and people whose money they have invested in them. Neither is there any guarantee that these investments will provide any return and, may even lose money.

However, if local and national government were required to use a minimum of 50% of existing pension funds and new contributions to invest in their own local housing needs, this would have immediate, medium and long term benefits. This investment would be in the form of, but not limited to

  • Making means-tested local authority buyer property deposits available

  • Building new, and refurbishing existing vacant property stock, means-tested, short to medium term social housing

  • Building flats and help centres for the homeless to be leased to and run by homeless charities at nominal rates

Making means-tested local authority buyer property deposits available. This would operate by offering qualifying local residents secured loans for private property purchase to be used as deposits. Deposits would be up to ten percent of the purchase price and would be based over a ten-year period. The homeowners would make affordable capital repayments with no interest over the first 10 years (e.g. £20,000 loan = £83.33 per month for 10 years) guaranteeing local government a minimum return on their investments and a source of income.

Any remaining initial loan amount plus interest would be repaid in whole or in part on the sale of the property (most buyers move home 2 to 4 times in their lifetimes though this figure varies) or, become due after ten years. The interest rate would be calculated as a percentage rate of the median house price inflation over the term of the loan for the Council area as a whole as using ONS or HM Land Registry figures. Homeowners who did not need or want to move after the ten year period would have a commercial interest rate calculation made for the previous ten year period (set against Bank of England rates) which ould be payable as a lump sum or, spread over a further ten year period at a variable current rate of interest.

To protect the homeowners and facilitate the flow and turnover of housing stock, the maximum chargeable interest would be capped at a set amount of any house price inflation. To ensure council pension investments were assured of a return (unlike at present), the minimum interest payable would be at an agreed minimum percentage; (for example, this could be set at 1% below Bank of England Base rates over the period.

Building new, and refurbishing existing vacant property stock, means-tested, short to medium term social housing. Self-explanatory. Councils would again have funds available to invest in their local housing needs to bring back derelict and unused housing stock into use and, to build new housing stock for social rent.

Building flats and help centres for the homeless to be leased to and run by homeless charities at nominal rates. Not only is looking after this countrys’ homeless a moral imperative, there are also sound financial reasons to help people back into society and a secure home. By utilising existing pension funds and contributions to invest in these buildings, existing expenditure on policing and emergency accommodation can be utilised elsewhere or, saved.

If implemented, I believe the above innovations would build happier communities and good, better-maintained cities, towns and villages. The positive consequential advantages would be many. A happier society tends to be healthier, crime drops, jobs are created and wages increase.

From purely a cold investment point of view, the above paragraph outlines how I believe this will help ensure local property prices remain stable and grow, bringing in good returns for the pension funds who have invested in them. The greatest returns though are for our society.

My partner mustn’t know you’ve been here…

The Christmas period is a happy time for many and for making new friends and entering into new relationships. Sadly, it is also (and not entirely unrelated in some cases) a catalyst for the end of relationships too.

shutterstock_397156225If you are going through a break-up (or are planning to), for whatever reason, and there is property involved (and always if you have children), try to aim to keep it as civil as possible. It will cost you a great deal less in stress and money in the long run (and your children will thank you at some point too)! This is advice born out of both painful personal and extensive business experience.

As agents, we are often asked to discreetly give an opinion on price prior to the other partner even knowing the relationship is about to end.

A good agent will always be discreet but, the chances are your neighbours will spot a stranger coming to your door and will drop you in it, usually at THE most inappropriate time. “Morning you two, I saw you had a friend popping in this morning. Is it family?”

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awkward

If we are invited in once the split is advanced, we often find that one partner will always angle towards the lowest valuation possible and the other, the highest; dependent on who hopes to buy out the other/ stay in the home.

This often causes even more pain and anguish as you now both have a new cause of tension: whose agent/ valuation is right?

That said, divorce lawyers will often suggest that each party obtains their own valuation. The cynics amongst us, may believe that this is designed to stir up more angst and expensive legal work but that is pure speculation. Cough.

If lawyers are involved, from experience, it is better for both people to ask for their respective lawyers to commission an RICS surveyor to give an opinion on value and any obvious defects in the property with both people agreeing to abide by that surveyors value but, to set the marketing price at a set figure above the surveyors valuation (e.g. 5% – 10% to allow for negotiation and surveyors being, occasionally, cautious). The cost of the surveyor split two ways will be FAR cheaper than the cost of one or two letters between lawyers as each side battles it out to try to win the ‘whose value is right argument’.

Once you have a mutually acceptable figure, we would advise you choose a good agent, who will accompany every appointment. Both people agree to ensure the home is in a presentable condition and that they leave the house empty while viewings are taking place (so no one can accuse the other of trying to affect the viewers’ decisions about a property).

wigradiusimagesAll agents must, by law, check to see if anyone else has a financial interest in a property and, must also treat each person equally. If you have a court order giving you control over the process, the agent will need to take a copy of this.

It’s also vital before you put your home on the market, that you both agree who is taking what in terms of curtains/ carpets etc. and anything from the garden etc. and that this is given to the agent. At PDQ, we ask all of our clients to complete a legal Property Information Questionnaire and the Law societies Fixtures and Fittings list to give to potential buyers to a) eliminate confusion and potential arguments over what is being sold/ left with the property and, b) to speed up the sale process once a sale has been agreed.

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