Tag Archives: PDQ

“Domestic abuse. It affects everyone”

In my Twitter feed this morning, I received the following link and excellent article about domestic abuse which I share below, along with some thoughts and advice of my own.

Domestic abuse: not just a tenant issue From Inside Housing @insidehousing ABUSE-MIN

The above article is a powerful and pertinent piece that is, statistically, almost certain to affect or have affected everyone at some point in their careers (even if they may be unaware of it) either directly or, via a family member, colleague or friend.

“Domestic abuse will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime.”

Every victims’ experience will be unique but there are some common factors they may well experience. It is a deeply humiliating, often terrifying and usually dis-empowering act/ pattern of behaviour perpetrated on the victim that often leaves long-lasting emotional and physical wounds. It happens to men and women almost equally and people in same-sex relationships.

If you recognise the behaviours listed below either as someone on the receiving end of abuse or, as a perpetrator, seek help. It is out there.

Some facts surrounding abuse in the UK

Source ‘Living Without Abuse lwa.org.uk

Domestic abuse:

“Will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime

Leads to, on average, two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year

Accounts for 16% of all violent crime (Source: Crime in England and Wales 04/05 report), however it is still the violent crime least likely to be reported to the police

Has more repeat victims than any other crime (on average there will have been 35 assaults before a victim calls the police)

Is the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless (Shelter, 2002)

In 2010 the Forced Marriage Unit responded to 1735 reports of possible Forced Marriages.

In addition, approximately 400 people commit suicide each year who have attended hospital for domestic abuse injuries in the previous six months, 200 of these attend hospital on the day they go on to commit suicide”

What is abuse?

Official UK government definition:

Domestic abuse in a relationship: recognise it

There are different kinds of abuse, but it’s always about having power and control over you.

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you might be in an abusive relationship.

Emotional abuse

Does your partner ever:

  • belittle you, or put you down?
  • blame you for the abuse or arguments?
  • deny that abuse is happening, or play it down?
  • isolate you from your family and friends?
  • stop you going to college or work?
  • make unreasonable demands for your attention?
  • accuse you of flirting or having affairs?
  • tell you what to wear, who to see, where to go, and what to think?
  • control your money, or not give you enough to buy food or other essential things?

Threats and intimidation

Does your partner ever:

  • threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • destroy things that belong to you?
  • stand over you, invade your personal space?
  • threaten to kill themselves or the children?
  • read your emails, texts or letters?
  • harass or follow you?

Physical abuse

The person abusing you may hurt you in a number of ways.

Does your partner ever:

  • slap, hit or punch you?
  • push or shove you?
  • bite or kick you?
  • burn you?
  • choke you or hold you down?
  • throw things?

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can happen to anyone, whether they’re male or female.

Does your partner ever:

  • touch you in a way you don’t want to be touched?
  • make unwanted sexual demands?
  • hurt you during sex?
  • pressure you to have unsafe sex – for example, not using a condom?
  • pressure you to have sex?
  • If your partner has sex with you when you don’t want to, this is rape.

Have you ever felt afraid of your partner?

Have you ever changed your behaviour because you’re afraid of what your partner might do?

If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, there is help available.

English National Domestic Violence Helpline

0808 2000 247

Do I need listed building consent to erect a timber garden shed/ studio?

An interesting discussion/ training session in the office today.

 
A potential buyer wants to erect a wooden studio (large shed) on a property we are selling.
10049121189918
 
The property itself is Grade 2 listed which would normally mean planning permission would be required* however, the land the shed would sit on is not attached to the property or its immediate surroundings but, is accessed via a shared path and a 30 yard/ meter or so walk.
The legal definition of curtilage** suggests to us that the land does not form part of the curtilage of the main property. Accordingly, it does not form part of the listing in our opinion and, so, the shed/ studio will not need planning permission as long as it complies with the other permitted developments. Outbuildings are considered to be permitted development, not needing planning permission, subject to the following limits and conditions:
Please note: PDQ are not lawyers and we have advised the buyer to consult with their legal advisors to verify this opinion and would advise readers in a similar situation to take independent legal advice before proceeding with any actions that may incur cost or time.
If you need advice on a property you are thinking of selling or developing property in Mid or West Cornwall, give us a call or drop us a line below. Before employing any agent, always ask to see their CV. Here’s mine
Director
PDQ Estates Ltd

*References:

Planning Portal

Local Government Lawyer

Purplebricks – What is really going on?

Laurel and hardy sad gifPurplebricks is one of a raft of new-breed estate agency companies making some bold and questionable claims in the property market at present but how many of these claims stand close scrutiny and are they even trading within the law?

(This post has been updated on a number of occasions and these are all located at the bottom of the page – Last updated – update 01.02.18). Given the amount and length of some updates, this post may be split at some point to make for easier reading. CW

See latest related posts

Attempted intimidation by a PLC or fair comment?
PURPLEBRICKS – WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON?
IS MY AGENT, LOCAL, AN EXPERT OR EVEN LEGAL?! HOW DO I CHECK?
Purplebricks and the case of the regulators who won’t

BREAKING – 01.02.18 As I’ve long maintained, Mr Bruces’ claim that they sell 88% or so of all of their listings and do so better than all other UK agents doesn’t appear to stand up to close scrutiny. First, there was data from GetAgent.co.uk and now further independent analysis by one of the worlds most respected City analysts in this field. Read more here

03.08.17 UPDATE: Purplebricks has now been subject to an in-depth investigation by BBC Radio4s’ ‘You and Yours‘ consumer program, as well as BBC Watchdog, forcing Michael Bruce, the CEO of Purplebricks, onto the defensive. Further complaints have been aired by consumers on Social Media and more is likely to break on this story over the coming weeks.

Over the years there have been many businesses who have seen what they believed to be an opportunity to change the property market in the UK (more specifically England and Wales) but, despite making bold claims to the press and investors, have failed spectacularly. Remember The Prudential?

In the late eighties, it was the insurance companies wanting to sell endowment policies on the back of mortgages with cross-selling opportunities (remember endowment policies?).

More latterly, a new raft of entrants have leapt onto the scene throwing the current corporate buzzwords of ‘disruption’ and ‘proptech’. These companies are the online* agents, promising allegedly huge savings for consumers with the same or even better service than the traditional full-service estate agents and big profits for investors.

In this post, I focus mainly on Purplebricks as the largest of these firms, however I also refer to other firms and the model in general too. In 2014, Purplebricks promised investors it would have made £25 Million profit by the end of 2016 (though these figures were subsequently challenged by PB . However, Hardman & Co predicted more modest profits of £8 Million EBITDA by this financial year-end).

Fast forward to December 2016 and PB issued a statement claiming that they had made just £300,000 profit using the EBIDTA method of calculation for the half-year results, some way short of the previous figure. Their full year-end figures are due out on the 29th of June for their financial year-end April the 30th but many industry experts believe PB will have to work hard to have grown their income in a property market where instruction volumes have fallen so significantly and the market share of the online sector as a whole has shrunk from a claimed (but unverified) 6% in mid 2016 to a verified 4% in March 2017. Readers may also wish to see the sector claims in light of other predictions from EasyProperty and eMoov of market dominance by 2017-18 with 20% or higher market share by sector.

Are Purplebricks and the call-centre agents heading for a tougher time in the press and with the authorities?

Those who have read my blog or Twitter feed will know I have called out a number of call-centre agents over their claims on many occasions resulting in a number of rulings made against them by the ASA. Whilst it is bad enough that this sector appears to have more than its fair share of complaints upheld about misleading the public and, by extension, investors, there are other, potentially more serious issues that may yet play out.

In the case of Purplebricks, there is an ongoing issue of whether their self-described LPEs (Local Property Experts) are classed in law as local or, indeed, as ‘experts’. Purplebricks have since removed this claim but were only recently advertising for new LPEs’ to join the firm with an immediate start but with “no experience required”

Certainly, pre-IPO, PB had publicly claimed that all of their LPEs’ were “qualified estate agents”. It would be reasonable that the public or investors may make a transactional decision on the assumption that such a statement would mean that the LPEs’ all held formal industry specific qualifications such as these NVQs‘.  However CEO Mr Bruce, himself a qualified solicitor, knew full well that this was not the case at all (extracts of the correspondence between the author and Mr Bruce at the time have been lodged with Purplebricks solicitors, Schillings).

Then there is the matter of whether Purplebricks and their LPEs’ have been trading legally. Purplebricks maintains that all of their LPEs’ are self-employed franchisees (PBs’ service agreement refers to utilising the British Franchise associations code of conduct in the determination of any disputes. See also HMRC update below) .

However prior to June 2016, none of these LPEs’ were individually registered with a property redress scheme, the Information Commissioner’s Office or HMRC for money laundering; all of which are legal requirements under the 1979 Estate agents Act. The author is currently awaiting a formal response on the LPEs’ legal employment status but believes that whether they are classed as formally employed or self-employed, it will leave Purplebricks looking at a possible investigation into their legal status surrounding trading, redress, money laundering, the sale of loans, VAT and associated employment and tax issues.

The claimed savings the public can make are also worthy of closer scrutiny, with PB seemingly very clear to muddy the waters and avoid using their own conveyancing partners firms data in its comparisons whose published estate agency commission figures** are considerably lower than the figures used by PB to estimate the alleged savings made by consumers.

Not only is the savings comparison flawed in its methodology (it is not a like for like comparison) PB claims savings on sold properties but steadfastly refuses to make figures available for how many consumers pay to sell but fail to do so – estimated to be circa £24 Million PA. Consumer and property journalists are now taking this seriously with many asking PB to shed light on their figures.

#PortalJuggling In a recent report on this activity, a number of well-known high street names including Purplebricks were mentioned as having very large numbers of property listings that were apparently anomalous. The author wishes to make it clear that he is not claiming or implying that any of those firms mentioned were deliberately undertaking such an activity merely that there were a large number of anomalous properties highlighted which bear closer inspection.

More disturbing is the use of heavyweight lawyers to silence critics or negative reviews. Purplebricks claims over 5,000 positive reviews yet a very high number of these are from unverified customers. Negative reports from un-verified customers however, are often removed within the hour.  Purplebricks recently removed their entire Facebook review page which certainly did NOT reflect five-star rating on Trustpilot and other review sites posters are not so complimentary about the PLC.

The author has been contacted by a number of customers who allege they were threatened with legal action for making negative posts on Social Media and on review sites and has screenshot evidence of these claims. There are also screenshots of reviews (since removed) by un-verified customers that allege they were not informed that by deferring payment of the Purplebricks fee, they would be signed up to a loan agreement with Close Brothers.

Furthermore, the author himself received a strongly worded email from heavyweight law firm Schillings threatening legal action for raising inconvenient facts and asking reasonable questions. All of the points raised by Schillings were rebutted with no further correspondence being received.

LPE numbers. LPEs’ were and continued to be recruited in large numbers however, what is not clear is how many of these are replacements for other LPEs’ who haven’t made the cut. Whilst the author does not have empirical evidence, there is strong circumstantial evidence echoed by other analysts that the turnover of LPEs’ is very high, suggesting that the promised rewards have not been forthcoming. Certainly, a cursory look at companies house suggests that there are not many who could be regarded as ‘long-term’ franchisees.

With Purplebricks year-end due within the next couple of weeks, there are many more questions unanswered than settled. Why, having made a categorical statement on BBCs’ money box that Purplebricks completes on 88% of all instructions, has Mr Bruce failed to provide any evidence for these figures?

A simple question Purplebricks. For every 100 customers who listed with you in the last financial year (your fee earning event) how many went on to sell (legally complete, not just sold stc) having had the buyer found via Purplebricks?  (There are a great many properties listed as under offer and sold by Purplebricks which are also listed as sold by other agents with a later listing date, suggesting that a significant number of sellers pay up front for Purplebricks, who fail to sell and then switch to high street agents who go on to successfully sell the property (legally complete).

This means 68 customers paid at least £57,732 at a minimum of £849 per listing (excluding any additional services such as viewings/ deferred payment charges etc.) but did not sell. What was their average ‘saving’? Purplebricks do not seem to factor these customers losses into their heavily advertised ‘savings’.

With Purplebricks aiming for 3,000 property listings per month nationally, this means (if these figures were repeated across the UK evenly) that 75% of these customers would pay in the hope of selling but fail to actually sell within a 12 month period. That equates to those customers paying a whopping £24,165,000 without selling.

The difference in price between the original quoted average asking price on listing (£295,514) and the average final price quoted when the property was marked as exchanged (£228,145) is a whopping £ 67,368* – 23% below the listing figure.

And the news doesn’t appear to be much better for those that did go on to exchange. Of the 25% who did exchange contracts, the difference between the average prices from all of the original listings and of all of the exchanged properties is £67,368* per property. A total difference in price of £1,549,464. Repeated nationally (using the same average figures as in West Cornwall) this could equate to a £606,312,000 difference between asking and selling figures for the 25% of customers who were successful in selling.
*A misnomer as all agents are online. A more accurate description of these firms is ‘call-centre’ estate agents as they work from a centralised or regionalised office with no public access.

Update 17.4.17

Not the only example I’ve recently been sent/ seen but, this persons linkedin profile also suggests they went from zero estate agency experience to being a “local property expert” within a few hours.

UPDATE 21.4.17

Using publicly available data from Zoopla and Rightmove for the period Apr 21, 2016 – Apr 20, 2017 inclusive (the last 12 months) in the following postcode areas*** there were a total of 3,947 new instructions, of which, Purplebricks listed 91 (a 2.3% market share).

The average price quoted on listing by Purplebricks was £295,514

Purplebricks exchanged on just 23 properties during this time (giving a sale success rating of 25% or, a 75% failure rate. Take your pick)

UPDATE 24.4.17 For transparency and fairness, I have been asked to include the figures for all other agents success/ failure ratio during the same period. Between the same dates and exactly the same criteria, the complete dataset (including Purplebricks) exchanged on a total of 2,441 properties, a 62% instruction to sales ratio. Please note, the 38% of those customers who did not sell would, in the vast majority of cases, have not paid a penny to an estate agent.

So, using this data set, paying to list your home with Purplebricks suggests you have a 25% chance of selling. Whereas if you opt for the no-sale,no-fee model you have an average 62% chance of selling.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, when those who fail to sells’ costs are factored in to the lucky 25% who do, the cost to the average consumer who lists their home is almost identical between full-service agents and Purplebricks.

UPDATE: 28/04/2017 – I have now received a response from HMRC Money Laundering Team. At present, I can say no more until I have received further responses from other organisations.

In the meantime, if you wish to personally check whether an agent needs to be registered individually for money laundering as a franchisee (and by extension, individual redress scheme membership) HMRC Money Laundering Team can be contacted on 03000591009 mlrcit@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

UPDATE 15/05/2017 – HMRC have now confirmed that all agents operating as a franchise who are sole traders or limited companies in their own rights ARE classed as separate businesses under HMRC classification and, as such, must be registered for Money Laundering with HMRC. I believe that this classification confirms previous assertions that such firms/ sole traders (‘LPEs”) who were not registered were doing so in contravention of a legal requirement.

I also believe that this clarification strongly suggests that all of these businesses were required to have had individual membership of an approved redress scheme such as The Property Ombudsman Scheme (TPOS). I have been informed by TPOS that many of these firms are now registered however, that they were not until recently. Again, this adds weight to the argument that these firms and their parent firm had been trading in contravention of the law.

At the recent #PROPTECH conference in London, property data company GetAgent.co.uk claimed that it had researched Purplebricks figures and found  that over 40% of all Purplebricks customers failed to sell with that company despite having paid over £1,000 up-front, on average, in that expectation (Source: estateagenttoday.co.uk – https://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2017/5/purplebricks-blasted-by-rivals-at-industry-technology-conference ) The author estimates that this figures represents over £12 Million is lost by consumers who paid in the expectation selling their homes but did not.

Data protection – Purplebricks franchisees (LPEs’) are predominantly individual companies registered at Companies House or sole traders. It follows (but I have no evidence to substantiate this assertion) that they take, hold, process and share information with sub-franchisees, other companies, the franchisor (Purplebricks PLC) and, separately, Close Brothers PLC and, MyHomeMoveConveyancing/ Premier Property Lawyers etc.

Of the fifteen LPEs’ and head territory owners (has sub-franchisees under them) I checked today (and have done so previously), not one is registered with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

The ICO process to see if you need to register is quite clear and simple https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/register/ as is their warning: “Failure to register is a criminal offence”. Below are two screenshots of the process I followed prior to posting this update.

ICO ‘do you need to register’ process


ICO register of data controllers


*The difference in asking prices and selling prices may not be a true reflection of the price difference between asking and selling prices of the few properties that sold and could be explained by more highly priced homes simply not selling.
**Purplebricks conveyancing partner is the largest property conveyancer by volume in the UK. Accordingly, it has arguably the most accurate database of fees paid by agents in the UK. In 2015 Stephen Hayter Sales Director of My Home Move, published two articles which appear at odds with Purplebricks recently claimed average agents rates. The average percentage rates in 2015 were reported to be under downward pressure at that point and there is every reason to suppose that the average fee charged for a successful sale by a full-service agent in the England and Wales is now closer to 1% than the 1.8% or more claimed in many adverts.
***TR12 TR12 6 TR12 7 TR13 TR13 0 TR13 3 TR13 8 TR13 9 TR14 TR14 0 TR14 7 TR14 8 TR14 9 TR17 TR17 0 TR18 TR18 2 TR18 3 TR18 4 TR18 5 TR18 9 TR19 TR19 6 TR19 7 TR20 TR20 8 TR20 9 TR26 TR26 1 TR26 2 TR26 3 TR26 9 TR27 TR27 4 TR27 5 TR27 6 TR27 9

IMG_0071


List to sold 01.01.14 to 04.05.18

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About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience. His business, PDQ Estates Ltd is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall and was included in the Daily Telegraphs’ list of the UK’s top 20 best small estate agents “who go above and beyond to help their customers” in 2013. He is currently championing the fight against #PortalJuggling in the media along with a number of other agents, journalists and agency suppliers.

He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco.

A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards for estate agents in the UK.
No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on KloutLinkedIn Ecademy Facebook and Twitter
Chris has previously competed in the National Laser sailing championships and, as a Sabreur with a top 300 UK ranking in fencing. A long-standing member of the Territorial Army; in 2010 he mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade but was medically evacuated back to the UK before deploying to his forward base with his unit and is now medically discharged from the army.

Cheap agents could cost UK consumers half a £Billion in wasted fees (see update notes)

Cheap agents could cost UK consumers up to half a £Billion in wasted fees (see update below)

UPDATE – 12.7.2018 (edited 04/09/2018) Please read this post in conjunction with recent ASA decisions and my response to that decision posted yesterday 11.7.2018. Please note, I voluntarily asked Cornwall Trading Standards to assess a complaint made about this blog post several weeks ago as I believe the data I used was reliable at the time of posting and that the ASA had potentially misinterpreted the law.

Note to journalists: the ASA is not a statutory or government body and has no statutory powers.

The Company whose data I had paid for and relied upon, Zoopla Property Group PLC, has since stated to the ASA that the headings they used in their data may not reflect the actual true final status of a property. E.g. clear headings used in the data by ZPG PLC included “withdrawn”, “sold”, “for sale” and “sold subject to contract”. Whereas, the ASA state that ZPG PLC informed them that a property marked as “withdrawn” might, in fact, be “sold” or still for sale.

Having independenltly cross referenced this data with HMLR, The EPC register etc, it is clear that the data I had relied upon was not robust. However, the post was written in good faith based on the reasonable assumption that commercial data from a PLC should be reliable (and believed to be relied upon and accepted by the ASA in other cases).

Whilst the figures used in my post are for West Cornwall only and may not reflect the whole of the UK, the final (verified and cross-referenced) figures still show that if the listing to conversion ratio of West Cornwall were extrapolated to National figures, they would be very similar (but rather worse for consumers) to the £1,000 “coin toss” National listing to sold ratio assessed by Jefferies in February 2018 Source BBC


The 60 to 70% of customers who didn’t go on to sell (based on the West Cornwall figures extrapolated nationally) would have paid almost half a billion pounds to these firms for nothing/ no completed sale as advertised (to the end of the sample date in May 2016 from January 2014).

NB: Taking the Jefferies report of 51% listing to sold Nationally, this equates to tens of millions of pounds paid out up-front (or via a deferred loan agreement) by consumers who were invited to “sell your home” and “save thousands” but who have not as yet sold and have not saved thousands. Allowing Purplebricks customers a notional and reasonable 6 months to sell before giving up and using another agent, this equates to millions of pounds lost rather than saved.

As the attached image of the spreadsheet data shows, this further demonstrates that

  • Zoopla data is not checked before publishing/ sold to business users (so its reliability must be questioned)
  • Purplebricks were misrepresenting the legal status of properties to Zoopla and, by extension, consumers and investors
  • There are a number of ‘anomalies’ which may suggest portal juggling or, at least, are worthy of further investigation
  • The data that was cross-checked, shows that Purplebricks are reporting different property status’ to different portals for whatever reason. Whether as a result of technical problems or, a deliberate policy, there are a number of civil and criminal laws that may be broken by such actions if proven.

Confused girlAlso see “Online agents – Big savings or, paying up-front for failure?”

There has been a great deal of press coverage of the savings that owners might be able to make with an on-line agent as opposed to the more traditional agents. However, notwithstanding, recent ASA rulings that some of these claims are misleading; the hidden costs of putting your home up for sale with an on-line agent do not appear to have been calculated by many journalists or consumer champions and, has been conveniently left-out of these agents ‘savings’ calculations in their advertising literature.

the hidden costs of putting your home up for sale with an online agent does not appear to have been calculated by many journalists or consumer champions and, has been conveniently left-out of these agents ‘savings’ calculations in their advertising literature.

Put simply, if on-line agents had every property currently up for sale on Rightmove (1.2 Million homes) and sold a typical percentage of that stock (average industry norm’ for online agents is estimated to be circa 30% to 40% of stock) then the 60% to 70% of customers who didn’t go on to sell would have paid between £468,000,000 and£500,000,000* (half a billion pounds) to these firms for nothing. Not much of a saving for the vast majority of their customers in my view.

The traditional high-street agent, however, would have charged all those unsuccessful customers a cumulative total of around £0.00

The difference between the cost of selling with an online agent and a traditional one when all of the successful and unsuccessful fees are added in? Around £650 per sold property (assuming the current average UK sale price of £177,377 using HM Land Registry figures). A far cry from the thousands of pounds in savings that online agents would have the public believe and, all of which without the expert negotiating, valuation skills and local knowledge a good agent can bring to the table for sellers.

Journalists and consumer champions, please do your sums before singing the virtues of these allegedly cheaper agents.

* Assuming an up-front fee of £600

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Chris Wood of PDQ Estates Ltd

Chris Wood

About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience and is a leading campaigner against #PortalJuggling

His business PDQ Estates Ltd based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards forestate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on KloutLinkedIn Ecademy Facebook and Twitter

He lives in in Penzance in his beloved West Cornwall and I n his spare time; Chris likes to keep fit and is a former long-standing member of the Territorial Army. In 2010 he mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.

Online agents – Big savings or, paying up-front for failure?

Confused girlOnline agents – Big savings or, paying up-front for failure?

See also “Cheap agents could cost UK consumers half a £Billion in wasted fees”

As an agent who has always embraced new technology and working practices, I have no problem with on-line agents, in fact, PDQ now has an on-line only hybrid model in addition to our traditional estate agency service. However; what I do find unsettling, is when agents of any camp (on-line or high-street), make bold claims about being better than anyone else, or saving the consumer money etc, without giving a full account of the facts.

Having had some spirited debates on social -media with one or two online agents and, being a bit of a pedantic statistics nerd, I thought I would take a look at some of their claims and the facts behind them. If you are thinking of selling your home using an online agent*, the results make for interesting reading.

For my research, I’ve used data from ZooplaPro* in the West Cornwall area and the data for one online agent who has the largest market share of online agents in that area. To save blushes (and law-suits if I have got my maths wrong), I have invented a fictitious trading name of ‘Hapless’ (please see note below) estate agents; no inference of any actual estate agent trading with that name is implied or should be inferred. Here are the facts for the area surveyed*

  • Zoopla shows an area total of 5,105 new instructions since Jan the 1st 2014

  • Of which, 7 were Hapless instructions– a market share of new-instructions of 0.14%

  • Hapless currently have a total of 11 properties available for sale with an average time of 22 weeks on the market against an area average of 27 weeks.

  • Of the 11 properties on with Hapless, 18% have been up for sale for over 40 weeks and 64% have been up for sale for 20 weeks or more

  • Since January the 1st, Hapless have sold 2 properties (a 29% success rate against their new instructions YTD but a 18% success rate compared to their current total register)

  • In comparison the average instruction to sold rate in the area is 60%, with PDQ’s average being 79%)

  • Of the 2 properties that Hapless sold, one sold at £175,000 after a £15,000 drop and 10 months on the market – an almost identical property next door, however, sold at £200,000 3 months previously after 5 months on the market; a potential £25,000 loss for the sellers of the agents using Hapless?

With a market share of 0.14%, you can see why I don’t spend sleepless nights worrying about on-line agents (at least, not at the moment). However, as a consumer, what do these figures really tell you?

Almost without exception, on-line agents say how much they can save sellers and that they are just as effective (or more  effective in some cases) at selling as high street agents. Without doubt, if you sell your home with a typical on-line agent, you will pay less than with a high street agent but that, in itself, is not a real saving. (UPDATE –  Some of these claims have now been proven to be misleading by the ASA )

What do I mean by this?

Firstly, all online agents that I am aware of, charge an up-front fee of several hundred pounds. This is payable whether you sell or not. So if you don’t sell, you haven’t saved. Quite the opposite to most high-street agents where you have a no-sale-no-fee guarantee. If you don’t sell with my firm, we won’t charge you a penny; a saving of around £600 compared to a few on-line agents.

In the case of Hapless estate agents, they have only sold two properties this year out of seven new instructions and four existing ones that have been up for sale since 2013. Even using the most favourable instruction to sale ratio, this means that (based on 2014 figures) 71% of all of Hapless’ customers in the area we surveyed will pay for a service (selling their home) that they won’t actually receive. For Hapless’ (and other on-line agents) press claims about saving customers money to be accurate, they should, in my opinion, factor in the amount of customers who do not sell through them but, who have still paid for a service.

But what if they DO sell your home?

Again, to fully check the claim of any real savings, we have to compare the whole price including sale price of any property sold. By that I mean that if you have sold your home at a lower price than you might have with another agent, even if you have paid less for the privilege of doing so, you have not saved. Hapless have only sold two customers homes this year but one of these sold for £25,000 less than a very similar** neighbouring property. No doubt, this seller ‘saved’ on agents fees but, by my calculations, were potentially worse off by around £21,000. The other property sold at the asking price however, it is not possible to compare like for like with that property as other properties in the same road vary in price and style dramatically (by several hundred thousand pounds in two cases we found).

To be even-handed, assuming the property actually sold at its full market value (unlike the other Hapless sale), the owner of that property probably saved in the region of £8,526 including VAT. However, viewed as a whole, the other 9 Hapless customers who haven’t/ didn’t sell have lost a total of around £5,400 between them with, of course, the other seller having a potential loss of £21,000

No doubt, this seller ‘saved’ on agents fees but, by my calculations, were potentially worse off by around £21,000.

What are the chances of you actually selling with Hapless?

Not all agents are the same as our monthly property market report for Cornwall clearly shows (link is a PDF download). From the data we have analysed, there appears to be a possible inverse correlation between the size of an agents register (how many homes they have for sale) and the percentage chance they have of actually achieving a sale, I.e. The more properties an agent has up for sale, the less likely it appears are your chances are of actually selling. In the case of Hapless agents, the size of their market share is statistically insignificant in our dataset area but, they may have a larger share nationally. However, what is clear from the data is that if you choose to sell through Hapless, you are more likely NOT to sell, than sell – only 18% – 29% at best, of their customers homes have achieved a sale. Put another way, Hapless have failed to sell between 71% and 82% of every customers’ home they have taken money from this year.

So how does this compare to high street agents?

As you see from the table above, the average agent in the West Cornwall area, has sold 60% of all they have taken on this year with (forgive the plug) my own company, PDQ, selling 79%. Again, these claims need to be looked at in the whole – how much have each of these homes sold for, were they correctly priced etc but, I’m afraid, I simply don’t have the time or resources to analyse over 2,000 housing transactions in the west Cornwall area. Whichever way you look at it, the High Street Agent offers a statistically far greater chance of actually selling than Hapless do in the West Cornwall area.

Put another way, Hapless have failed to sell between 71% and 82% of every customers’ home they have taken money from this year.

 How about the speed of selling/ time on the market?

Unfortunately, extrapolating figures for the “speed of selling” is not as easy as finding out the average “time on the market”. Although these two concepts sound the same, they are not. As we have already seen, not all properties sell and many of these are taken off the market or, try another agent. Consequently, the portals tend to show only how long a property was up for sale and not, how long the properties that actually sold were up for sale for. A subtle difference but, an important one. For this comparison, I am using ‘time on the market’.

Using time on the market as a heading, as can be seen in the table above, Hapless agents do quite well against the average of 27 weeks for all agents, with an average of 20 weeks. However, consumers thinking of using Hapless might again, want to view this in the light of three very recent instructions bringing that average down quite dramatically and, the fact that, as I have shown above, 71-82% of all of their customers homes have failed to sell.

Conclusions

On the face of it, using an on-line agent seems like a bit of a no-brainer; the savings and speed of sale that many boast of sound like a great deal and, no doubt, in some parts of the UK and in certain niche markets, they may well live up to those claims. However, in the sample I have looked at, they fail on every count and, on every claim I have debated with them, at length, on Twitter. Not only do Hapless agents not have a large and growing sector of the market as they claim, they don’t even have a 1% share in the area I looked at. More importantly, their claims to save people money simply do not stack up as the majority of their customers have already paid for a service they are statistically very unlikely to receive, hardly a saving or, in my opinion, a fair and legitimate claim.

As for real ‘savings’, this needs to be seen in the whole and, based on the evidence I have shown; of the two houses they have sold this year in my area one appears, on the face of it, to have been undersold by a significant sum of money and the other is impossible to check accurately. As with all things, you pay your money (up-front in the case of on-line agents) and you takes your choice. My advice. Don’t just look for an agent with the biggest claims, the cheapest fees or, the most for sale boards. Do your research before you choose an agent and always look deeper into agents claims. Challenge your agent to prove why they are worth your business; good agents will be happy to answer your questions.

Chris Wood 05.11.14 

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Fictitious agents name change – An explanation. We have been asked to change the name of the fictitious firm we invented as it contained the same four letters of part a much longer trade name used by another online property business and the owners of that business believed it was damaging their brand. We are happy make it clear that, whilst we do not believe that any reasonable person would have drawn the conclusion that the name we used was in any way related to another company that does not even deal in online property sales at the moment or even any online properties in the area we mentioned in this post, we intended no confusion or slur on our part. We would also like to point out that when and if that business secures enough market share in the area under review for us to make a reasonable comparable analysis we will, however, be happy to run a similar exercise using the same data sets and their full trade name alongside our own trading data in order for a fair comparison to be drawn by consumers.

*The data was taken from West Cornwall only. Success and failure results of online and traditional agents are likely to (and do) vary significantly in other parts of the UK.

*Journalists: On request, I will provide all of my working data and remote screen access to online data  used in this post for verification to a panel of independent property journalists for verification and checking.

All data taken from Zoopla Pro

Using postcodes TR3, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20 (West Cornwall)

All new instructions and ‘sold’ data taken from Jan the 1st 2014 to date

Whilst I am not a qualified or trained statistician, I am aware that the sample above may be regarded as statistically insignificant and, therefore, possibly unsafe to base any firm conclusions on but, given the claims of massively increased market share by some online agents, I believe they are worth publishing to open up debate and give a transparent picture of the reality of online agents in one small part of the UK.

**I have not visited the two properties but have seen their on-line details/ photographs on Zoopla. Both are on the same estate, are two door numbers apart, are both detached 3 bedroom homes and both sold within a few months of each other in a stable price market (low, single digit house price increases over a 12 month period – Data HM Land Registry)


I welcome feedback so please feel free to leave constructive criticisms or ask questions below. If you could also take a second to rate my blog and pass it on to others who you think may find it interesting that would be great. Thanks.

Chris Wood of PDQ Estates Ltd

PDQ Estate Agents website

About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience and a leading campaigner against PortalJuggling.

His business, PDQ Estates Ltd is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards forestate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers.

Chris is on KloutLinkedIn Ecademy Facebook and Twitter and lives in his beloved Penzance with his two spaniels. In his spare time; Chris likes to sail and is a former long-standing member of the Territorial Army. In 2010 he mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.

Since when did being able to afford to buy a home where you want become a ‘right’?

Since when did being able to afford to buy a home where you want become a ‘right’?

I ask this following on from a few comments on our social media posts recently where some posters have made usually benign, but occasionally unpleasant, comments about the price of property and its general affordability. A number of comments seem to imply that affordable housing for purchase (not rent) is, or should be, a right.

Rather than ignore this thorny subject, I thought it would be good to open it up for debate as an issue that faces many people across the UK, not just in West Cornwall.

In modern-day Britain everyone should, and does in fact, have the right to a place they can call home but, mass home-ownership (as opposed to rented accommodation) is a very new phenomenon (see pic 1.) and its current reversal of popularity may not just be the obvious one; as more younger people are choosing to rent giving them, as it does, greater flexibility with job movement and lower financial responsibilities and commitments if the property develops problems.

So should everyone have a ‘right’ to be able to afford to buy a home where they choose or, happen to have been born by accident of birth?

A century of HomeOwnership Pic Credit ONS

A century of HomeOwnership Pic Credit ONS

Of course, everyone does have a right to buy property at a price they can afford. What is not always possible is affording what they want to buy, where they want to buy it.

A flippant answer would be to say that if someone were to be offered a low paid job in Mayfair, London, that housing should be supplied at an affordable price to buy in that area with, the immediate massive hike in value its new owner would currently enjoy. Cash-in on the price hike, quit the job and move on to the next property hot-spot. Easy money! A lovely thought but life, sadly, doesn’t usually work out like that for most of us

Interestingly, one of the most recent commentators on our posts who complained about the lack of affordable housing to buy in West Cornwall, chooses to work outside of the Duchy. Thanks to social media and having a lifelong friend in the same industry as the poster, we can see our poster works in what I know to be a relatively well paid job in an area of the UK that, until the big industry that he works in arrived, had very affordable housing for the local population. However, ask a second or third generation local in that city who doesn’t work in that major industry and they will tell you that they cannot afford to buy where they were born due to outsiders coming in and pushing up prices. My irony meter has just exploded.

Those locals in that area have very similar choices and opportunities to that which our poster enjoys. He chose to work away from his town of birth and move to an area where work paid more and offered more remuneration for his skills. In doing so, it could be argued, he prevented local people in that area from taking well paid employment and, pushed up property prices out of their reach.

Should our poster have been forced to stay in the area of his birth and denied the opportunity to travel to a university city (thus pushing up property prices massively in that locale) to further his education and opportunities? Of course not but, many people who post heated rants against local house prices, often forget that their argument works both ways…

Should our poster be denied the right to better himself and earn a reasonable living by travelling around the UK and abroad to work for major employers? Not many people would deny him that; I for one certainly don’t.

Having been educated and employed out of his local area, is it fair that his local area is required to provide him with subsidised housing to buy and, presumably, profit from in the long-term when he decides to return? Over to you on that one.

But even if we take someone like me, who left school at 16 to, initially, work as a fisherman, who didn’t leave the Duchy to go to University and, who has worked long hours and had countless sleepless nights to build up a business that now provides employment for seven local people; should I simply be provided with a home I can afford to buy in my home town? If so, how do we define what is ‘affordable’?

What was affordable for me today following an injury whilst training for deployment to Afghanistan with 3 Commando Brigade is quite different from what was affordable for me when I was acting as the sole consultant to Tesco & RBS a few years ago and, why should I be ‘given’ an affordable home in any case?

Where should this affordable home be? Where I want it to be, with a nice sea view, good-sized gardens and close to all amenities or, will it be where some local committee or bureaucrat decrees my affordable home must be? If so, if I don’t have a say in where it is or what it looks like; it’s not really ‘my’ home. I might as well rent. It’s not much of a ‘right’.

Related: See my blog affordable on affordable housing


 

Chris Wood

I welcome feedback so please feel free to leave constructive criticisms or ask questions below. If you could also take a second to rate my blog and pass it on to others who you think may find it interesting that would be great. Thanks.

Chris Wood of PDQ Estates Ltd

PDQ Estate Agents website

About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience and a leading campaigner against PortalJuggling  His business, PDQ Estates Ltd is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards forestate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on KloutLinkedIn Ecademy Facebook and Twitter

Chris was born and lives in his beloved Penzance with his two spaniels, likes to keep fit and is a former member of the Territorial Army. In 2010 he mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.

LATEST OFFICIAL HOUSE PRICES FOR CORNWALL – APRIL 2014

LATEST OFFICIAL HOUSE PRICES FOR CORNWALL

Chart showing House Price Index for Cornwall in April 2014

Cornwall HPI 2014

The figures for Cornwall back up what we have been saying for some time:
That there is a fragile recovery going on in the local market with sensibly priced, well marketed homes selling quickly.

* Choose a good agent with local market knowledge who backs up their valuation with hard written evidence of actual sale prices, not asking prices
* Talk to your agent about why your home hasn’t sold yet, they should be sending you weekly reports about interest levels and discussing solutions with you
* Have a realistic expectation of sale times. The median time on the market for ALL agents in the area is currently 26 weeks. Yes, 6 months! (Data from Rightmove)
* Looking for MORE TOP TIPS?

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and visit our website here 

All Data from HM Land Registry (unless otherwise stated)


 

I welcome feedback so please feel free to leave constructive criticisms or ask questions below. If you could also take a second to rate my blog and pass it on to others who you think may find it interesting that would be great. Thanks.

Chris Wood of PDQ Estates Ltd

PDQ Estate Agents website

About Chris Wood: Chris is an estate agent with over 25 years of property experience. His business, PDQ Estates Ltd is based in Penzance and Helston, West Cornwall. He has worked with all sizes and types of businesses from single office independents to the management team and board of RBS and Tesco. A former President Elect of the NAEA and board member of NFoPP until he resigned in 2009, Chris has always championed the highest professional standards forestate agents in the UK. No stranger to the media, he has appeared on various programs including BBC, News 24, ITV, independent and BBC radio and is a regular contributor to trade journals, local and national Newspapers. Chris is on KloutLinkedIn Ecademy Facebook and Twitter Married to Amanda, they live in Penzance with their children who are slowly flying the nest, along with their three spaniels. In his spare time; Chris likes to keep fit and is a long-standing member of the Territorial Army. In 2010 he mobilised for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with 1 Rifles as part of 3 Commando Brigade.

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