Category Archives: News

Coronavirus: Welsh ‘frustration’ as England’s property market restarts

House buyers and sellers in Wales may “feel frustrated” the property market in England has restarted amid the coronavirus crisis, but not in Wales.

Estate agents claim it is damaging to the Welsh economy that English sales can now progress due to updated lockdown regulations but sales in Wales remain “on pause”.

They want a “cohesive UK message”.

The Welsh Government said people must stay at home and can move house only where it “cannot be postponed”.

But estate agents want to be able to reopen if they observe social distancing rules.

When Dean Bridle and his family found the “perfect” property in February, they imagined they would be living in their new home in Baglan, Port Talbot, by now.

But the 34-year-old father-of-three wants “fairness” and is calling for the Welsh Government to reconsider its house removal lockdown policy.

“Having learnt that restrictions are being relaxed in England leaves myself and many others in Wales frustrated we’re playing to different rules,” he said.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s any difference between moving homes if you’re in London, Birmingham, Manchester – or in Cardiff, Swansea or Baglan.

“It doesn’t seem fair and I think the Welsh Government need to rethink the blanket policy of lockdown on everything and look to get some advice in the housing sector to say ‘yes, it’s OK to make the baby steps in the housing sector that they are doing in England’.”

Dean’s was one of an estimated 400,000 property transactions that stalled in the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to property website Zoopla.

Research suggests the market has seen a 60% drop in demand since early March – and as much as 80% in Cardiff.

Lawyers have called for the Welsh Government to consider “creative” ways for the property market rules to be modified while still adhering to social distancing rules.

“There are things that could be done, like allowing appropriate viewings under certain circumstances,” said Helen Barry, head of residential property at Hugh James.

“Estate agents could, for example, let people into empty homes, while remaining at an appropriate distance.

“The Welsh Government might also look into allowing surveyors into properties or facilitating removals.

“Its not the ideal situation but unfortunately there are going to have to be creative ways of thinking to make things smoother for people.”

Agents have been able to offer buyers virtual viewings in Wales while conveyancing solicitors carry out remote valuations – often called desktop valuations.

“But after that, the transaction is essentially paused and we’ve had to wait until market in Wales reopens,” said estate agent Nathan Reeks, who deals with “cross border” English and Welsh transactions from his business in Caldicot, Monmouthshire.

Buyers and renters had previously been urged to delay moving in England while the “stay at home” advice was in place – a message that still operates in Wales.

“I think estate agents struggle to see how I can stand in my local supermarket with hundreds of people, play golf or go to the garden centre,” added Mr Reeks.

“But think ‘why can’t I do a socially-distant house viewing’, particularly in an empty house.

“More than 40% of our 47 current sales transactions have either a buyer or seller from either side of the border. I’ve been inundated with calls from clients in England today hoping to restart their process and they are struggling to understand why its one rule for Wales and one for England.

“What I fear is that people wanting to move to Wales and strengthen our local economy will just remain in England – or people from Wales buying properties England will be kicked out of the process in favour of people buying from England.

“So there is a danger that people from Wales may feel penalised.”

Source: BBC NEWS ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-52647208 )

Virtual Viewing Checklist

With or without the Coronavirus pandemic, we are rapidly moving towards a more digitally focused age; a world where people can buy, sell and negotiate without leaving the comfort of their own home.

We recognize the importance of this, and so we have introduced the Virtual Viewing Platform to provide clients with an insight look at our amazing properties. To help you shoot the perfect property video here’s a checklist to get the most out of your video to market your property.

Adding £££s

Neil Evans from West Wales Properties takes a look at what home sellers can do during the lockdown period to attract the highest sale price for their property once restrictions are lifted.

So, you have spruced up the front of your property – having the exterior looking at its best is vital, as it persuades people to look at the interior. But now you don’t want to let viewers down when they choose to look inside.

Most sellers have busy lives and invariably don’t have much time to prepare their homes for the market. In this unique period of lockdown we have been given the perfect opportunity to put this right.

Pre-market prep is so important. It can make thousands of pounds’ worth of difference to the sale price, and can sometimes even be the deciding factor between attracting a buyer or not. So now is the time to get things ship-shape.

This doesn’t always have to mean painting and decorating, but it does mean attention to some important details. Here are some things to remember when prepping a property in readiness for viewers:

Make sure the hall is inviting and clear of clutter – hats, coats, shoes, children’s school bags, etc. That first impression is important. You need your viewer to want to see more of your home – not the back of your home.

Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. Make sure yours are sparking clean and clear of clutter – in fact getting rid of clutter is a recurring theme in preparing your home for sale.

Is the living room inviting? Will one want to eat at the dining room table? Can one actually see the dining room table?

Have the beds been made? Are the cupboards neat? Overflowing cupboards send the message that a property is short on storage space.

Remember that luxury hotel room that made you feel like a million dollars? Your property should make viewers feel like that. It is not that difficult. But it does take discipline, and it does take time – time that you might well now have.

The TV home “experts” say that you should take the personality out of your home and make it bland to sell it well. You really don’t need to go that far – a good estate agent will help the property sell well. But it is up to you to maximise the value of your asset.

Making your house or apartment fit for the market is an art. Start with the basics – clear, dust and shine. Then take a good look at the stuff you have left and de-clutter as though your sale depends on it – because it does.

If you need advice, then West Wales Properties are masters in the art of pre-sale preparation. Do call us on 0345 094 3004 or email us at sales@westwalesproperties.co.uk and we will be happy to run though some dos and do nots so that you are ready for the market once the pandemic has safely passed.

Agencies still getting leads and completing deals despite lockdown

It may seem a long time since normal trading took place but many agencies are now finding they are picking up leads and some deals despite the lockdown.

Midlands agency Centrick says it’s seen positive results in recent weeks thanks to what it calls its ‘digital-first’.

Since the lockdown began on March 23 it has edited and uploaded over 140 virtual viewings. All the viewings were filmed before restrictions were put in place and the agency says that it has since had the time to edit and release them.

The agency has also devised a contactless handover so that tenants can sign contracts digitally and collect keys without having to meet face-to-face.

“Despite lockdown restrictions prohibiting people from moving home unless it’s absolutely essential, we are still seeing leads pour in thanks to the marketing campaigns we have in place. By providing services which allow consumers to engage with us while following social distancing rules – such as virtual viewings and instant online valuations – we have been able to find opportunities and keep the business ticking over” explains Andy Butts, Centrick’s group sales and lettings director.

The firm says its commitment to digital marketing has allowed it to continue generating leads, even though a large proportion of the market has been on hold for a number of weeks now.

For example, Centrick generated over 200 rental property leads over the Easter weekend alone. The agency has also continued to generate vendor and landlord leads through its ValPal instant online valuation tool. Many of these leads have come directly from Facebook ad campaigns, while it has also been promoting its hugely successful virtual viewings across social media platforms.

“Centrick is a model agency. It is adapting to a challenging market and still managing to interact with consumers while adhering to the government’s lockdown rules,” says Craig Vile, Director of The ValPal Network.

“The agency’s results show that the market is still active and demonstrate why committing to digital marketing during this tricky period can be hugely beneficial. Encouraging consumers to carry out instant online valuations of their properties can help agents to keep consumers engaged in the moving process now and fill their sales funnel so they can hit the ground running when the market becomes more active in the coming months” says Vile.

Source: https://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2020/4/agencies-still-getting-leads-and-completing-deals-despite-lockdown

The Importance of Screen Appeal

Alison Richards of West Wales Properties explains a vital step a seller can make now to help achieve a successful property sale once the coronavirus danger has passed.

The daffodils have bloomed and the bluebells are about to, and it should be a perfect time to sell your property. Except it isn’t. Instead our thoughts are of saving lives through sheltering at home.

It might seem counterintuitive, but this might be the ideal time to at least start planning your next move – and particularly the sale of your home. As the country deals with Covid19, there are positive moves you can make to prepare your property for the market – when the threat is well and truly over.

So why not use these weeks ahead to take a step back and try to see your property through a future buyer’s eyes.

Estate agents have always talked about kerb appeal – how well a property looks to a passer-by. This impression is still important. But more so at the moment, is screen appeal.  Most potential buyers will see your property via a mobile or desktop device, not by walking or driving past.

This provides sellers with a great marketing opportunity. On screen you have the chance to present your property at its very best, all the time – regardless of weather and other detrimental factors. With the benefit of extra time, photographs of your property can be taken on a lovely bright day with the sun in just the right direction – and with the windows sparkling clean. Your garden can look its best with no cars in the drive or bins in the way. In other words, you have control of what people see on screen in a way that you can’t always when someone is randomly driving past at any time of day or night.

So, why not make full use of this opportunity? Remember, if a buyer doesn’t think you are proud of your property they probably won’t be interested in buying it. Your property deserves to look its best. You need to make a great impression.  

At West Wales Properties we can advise you how to make your property look the best it can on screen for when that critical buyer comes calling online. We understand how vital it is to create an excellent first impression – after all, you will never have a second chance.

Buying and selling property during Covid-19: Things you can do during lockdown to prepare for your next home move

While we may all be locked away in our homes at the moment it’s important to remember that this is only temporary and before long we’ll all be back to business as usual. We are currently still operational with the majority of our team working remotely and so we are continuing to service our managed properties as well as being able to work on the backroom paper work involved in sales transactions.

Many people made the decision to sell their home before the Coronavirus lock down but are waiting for it to be over before going to market with their property. While this is probably a sensible move, you could use this time to get the ball moving on your house sale. When the lock down is over, we’re expecting an almighty boom so be sure to get your property ready for sale.

You may be confined to your house but that doesn’t mean you can’t make good use of this time you have at home. We’ve put together a few ideas you can do at home to make sure your property is ready to hit the market as soon as possible.

HOME IMPROVEMENTS

There are plenty of things you can be doing while you’re at home this spring. Whether you’ve been putting off the spring cleaning or decorating, now there are very few excuses for procrastination.

Outside areas – The weather has been kind so far this spring, so make sure you take some time to beautify your outside seating area and gardens.

  • Give your patio a jet wash and scrub your old pots, you’ll be amazed at the results
  • if you have an old bench, why not give it a lick of paint or sand and wax it to give it a new lease of life
  • If you’re going to be spending more time outside, make sure it’s an enjoyable space.

Garden – It’s time to turn those fingers green! You don’t have to have a gigantic garden for it to be attractive to prospective buyers. If your garden is well kept, tidy and beautiful in bloom it can add value to your property

  • Tend to flower beds and hanging baskets
  • Trim shrubs and hedges
  • Weed lawn and patio
  • Mow the lawn regularly; maybe even try your hand at stripes!

Wardrobes – Spend some time on one of life’s necessary evils. Wardrobes are one of those places where out of sight, really is out of mind. It’ll feel so satisfying to have room in your wardrobe for new clothes for the summer.

  • Make three categories of clothing: Charity, Trash and Keep
  • Be ruthless, if you’ve not worn it for a year and it’s perfectly fine; send it to the charity shop, if it’s seen better days; trash it.

Kitchen appliances and white goods – Contrary to popular belief, these items are not self-cleansing. You can buy specialist products to do this or go ‘au natural’ some good solutions are only a Google search away!

  • Thoroughly clean the microwave, stove and oven a thorough clean
  • Descale your washing machine and dishwasher. Build-up of lime scale can have a huge effect on their efficiency and safety – even if you are taking them with you when you move, give them a little love.

Clear out shed and garages – The chances are, your local amenity site is closed, take some time to organise what you will be clearing out from your outdoor storage spaces out. Use the same rules as you did with your wardrobes. You’ll be staggered at how much space you have once you’ve cleared the junk.

  • If it works but you don’t need it, sell it on e-bay or advertise for free – charity shops don’t tend to take electrical goods
  • Remember, if you’ve not used it for a year (or two) put it in your “to take to the tip” pile.

Streamline your kitchen – This is a two phase attack – declutter your kitchen making it more spacious and organised.

  • Pantry – go through your pantry goods and get rid of anything which has passed its use by date. That old jar of mustard which was open at a bbq last summer and has been at the back of the fridge for a year could probably be thrown away now.
  • Kitchen Cupboards – how many pots and pans do you actually use on a regular basis? Do they all need to be to hand? Perhaps you could store some of the lesser used ones elsewhere.

Make sure you get a head start during the lock down and get your property ready to go once the quarantine is lifted.

Source: Barton Wyatt

Announcement from West Wales Properties

For many years,through good times and bad, West Wales Properties has been an integral part of the local community. Many of our partners/directors and personnel have been born, brought up, schooled and married hereabouts.

Over the decades, we have provided level headed and astute property advice to thousands of local people through storms, floods, droughts, market booms and busts, the 2008 banking crisis and all the good times. Now we will do the same through the most unprecedented event in modern history.

While we don’t know what the next few months will bring, we do understand that the emotional and economic impact of the virus will be profound and far-reaching.

For many, this crisis may turn longed-for lifestyle certainties into unwanted longer-term uncertainties, especially for those who had planned to move home this year.

Over the coming weeks and months, hundreds of thousands of people, sheltering in their homes, may not be able to take direct action, but they will be making plans. 

After this viral storm has passed, many will have re-evaluated their housing needs. Some will dream of their first home. Others with growing families will need more space. Still more, in not fully utilised larger homes, may have accepted the need or desire to downsize or rightsize.

Whatever your stage in life, West Wales Properties is here to help with free property advice and information.

During the shutdown, our office doors may not open but we are very much open. Our phone lines are open to those who would like to call and discuss their plans. Our website is open for information, and our Facebook page is providing news and ideas.

We may not be able to visit you for a valuation. But because we have lived and worked in the area for so long, and have so much local knowledge, we are more than able to discuss prices and marketing. So when we have seen the back of this global pandemic, you will be ready to press ahead.

In these uncertain times we are sure of two things: we know how strong, supportive, and resilient our community is, and we are as confident about the property market now, as we were before we ever heard of COVID-19. Everyone needs somewhere to live, and our area is still the most wonderful place to reside, work and play.

It CAN be done – sales agreed totally thanks to virtual viewing

An estate agency in Portsmouth has sold a house subject to contract after nothing more than a video tour filmed by the owners. 

A team from the city’s Pink Street agency was scheduled to meet the owner at the property for photos, floorplan and description but the lockdown was put in place.

Instead the owners prepared a video tour of their own.

The agency sent this to prospective buyers and started generating interest. One of them made an offer and after Pink Street’s due diligence was completed, the owners happily accepted the offer. 

The vendor – Colleen – says: “We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to sell because of the Coronavirus but we thought we’d give it a go. I must say, I’m very impressed”.

Pink Street’s Matt Wilson adds: “This proves that where there’s a will, there’s a way. The lockdown has affected everyone and we’ve all got to do what we can for our clients. I’m so pleased this worked”.

Pink Street was founded in 2012 and operates in Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport.

Meanwhile there’s been similar success for two Fine & Country agents.

Karl Rusk from Fine & Country Staffordshire says: “Last Friday, we were contacted by a buyer and we set up a virtual viewing with the vendor the next day at 10am, after we had registered and qualified the buyer. 

“Around 15 minutes before the viewing, we gave the vendor’s number to the buyer who contacted the vendor via FaceTime and was shown around the property. The buyer was very keen on the property and wanted to make an offer. At this stage, I got involved and we were able to negotiate and come to an agreement.” 

Rusk continues: “While it is in the early stages of the process and there is a proviso that the buyer will be able to view the property in person when the government restrictions are lifted before the sale goes through, it is good news that we are still able to market properties in this way.” 

Another agent who recently agreed a sale on a property through a video viewing, Jo Parker from Fine & Country South West Sussex, says that in her situation the interested buyer was someone who had been classified as vulnerable and at risk. 

“Before the official lockdown, the interested buyer was already self-isolating and, adding to that, the vendor’s son was unwell, so a video viewing was the only option. The vendor was able to give the buyer a video tour of the property, which they loved and wanted to make an offer on” she says.

Source: https://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2020/4/it-can-be-done–home-sells-purely-down-to-virtual-viewing

Definitive government guidance on buying and selling during the COVID-19 Lockdown

The government has at last issued extensive advice on home moving and the activities of estate agents during the continuing Coronavirus crisis.

This came last evening after days of debate on how much marketing, valuing, viewing and conveyancing could be done during the lockdown.

Here is the guidance in full: 

There is no need to pull out of transactions, but we all need to ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority.

Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance in this document on home removals. Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place.

In the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed.

Recognising parties will need to alter common practice, we have sought to ease this process for all involved by:

  1. Issuing this guidance, developed with Public Health England, to home buyers and those involved in the selling and moving process;
  2. Agreeing with banks that mortgage offers should be extended where delay to completions takes place in order to prioritise safety; and,
  3. Working with Conveyancers to develop a standard legal process for moving completion dates.

Advice to the public

What does this mean for my property move which is scheduled whilst the stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus (COIVD-19) apply?

  • Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Our advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter.
  • If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.
  • In line with Government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group, or where someone in a chain is in this group.

What if an extension goes beyond the terms of a mortgage agreement?

UK Finance have today confirmed that, to support customers who have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.

If a customer’s circumstances change during this three month period or the terms of the house purchase change significantly and continuing with the mortgage would cause house buyers to face financial hardship, lenders will work with customers to help them manage their finances as a matter of urgency.

If your home is not yet on the market

Getting your home onto the market may be more challenging than usual in this period.There should be no visitors to your home. You can speak to Estate Agents over the phone and they will be able to give you general advice about the local property market and handle certain matters remotely but they will not be able to start actively marketing your home in the usual manner.

  • If you are thinking about selling, you can use this time to start gathering together all of the information you will need to provide to potential purchasers.
  • Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite unnecessary visitors into your home, including: Property Agents to carry out a market appraisal or take internal photographs prior to marketing your home; and Energy Performance Certificate assessors.

Viewings

If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it as being for sale but you should not allow people in to view your property.

  • There should not be any visitors into your home, and you should therefore not let people visit your property for viewings. Your agent may be able to conduct virtual viewings and you could speak to them about this possibility.

Accepting offers

The buying and selling process can continue during this period but you should be aware that the process is likely to take longer than normal.

  • You are free to continue to accept offers on your property, however the selling process may take longer.
  • Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite visitors into your home, including prospective buyers or advisors.

Exchanging contracts

Once you have exchanged contracts, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase that home.

  • If the property you are purchasing in unoccupied you can continue with the transaction.
  • If the property you are purchasing is currently occupied, we recommend that all parties should work either delay the exchange of contracts until after the period where stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus (COVID-19) are in place, or include explicit contractual provisions to take account of the risks presented by the virus.

Source: https://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2020/3/new-advice-on-home-moving-and-agents-released-by-government

Coronavirus: Don’t panic – but do plan for the impact it could have on your business

Sadly it looks as if coronavirus may bring tragedy to some UK  families, but its financial impact could be very serious for many more, so what can you do to prepare your business for it?

Twenty-five years of consultancy experience has taught me that when extraordinary events occur it is the businesses that prepare most thoroughly that are least affected, so what has your business done so far to prepare for this very serious threat?

Well, here is what some of my most successful clients have been doing.

One client spent two whole days last week writing a detailed coronavirus strategy paper which he has circulated to all his staff. They now all know what their roles will be and how things will change.

Another has carried out a detailed audit of all his staff’s home IT facilities and has bought a laptop for everyone who does not have access to one. He has also made changes to his intranet and software system to facilitate home working. On Friday, half of the staff will work from home to test how well the new systems work.

Another large client has asked their HR department to prepare a detailed paper about temporary changes to sick pay rules and absence policy  so that the staff do not have to worry that they will not be paid.

Several clients have prepared detailed cash flow forecasts that look at a range of different scenarios so that they can talk to their bank or their investors to ensure that they do not run out of working capital if there is a temporary slowdown in the housing market.

Another big area of concern for many of my clients is legal and compliance matters.

What will happen for example if all the gas safety inspectors get sick and gas safety certificates cannot be issued or renewed on time?

Should tenants be told that they cannot move into their new properties on the agreed date and will landlords be told that they cannot issue a Section 21 notice in the future because there was a period when the property did not have a gas safety certificate?

How about the new minimum energy efficiency standards that are due to come in for existing tenancies on April 1. Will landlords be given a period of grace because the energy assessor could not do the EPC due to sickness or will they be hit with a huge fine regardless?

On a more practical level, how will viewings be conducted when buyers, sellers and staff are all terrified of infecting each other, and what impact does health and safety at work legislation have on this? What precautions should be taken and what will you do if customers or staff fail to follow them?

I could write another 50 pages on this huge and complex subject but the purpose of this article is not to write your coronavirus policy for you. My objective is only to stress how vital it is that you sit down and write one today.

My most successful clients all planned for the impact of the tenant fees ban last year the moment it was announced and as a consequence they have not lost one penny of revenue.

Less successful agents did not think about this until June 1 and as a consequence they have lost up to 25% of their turnover. My most successful clients made a decent profit in 2009 because they sat down and planned how to cope with a downturn in the housing market the week after Northern Rock closed its doors.

Many estate agency businesses that failed to plan were forced to close their own doors during the following year.

It will be the same with coronavirus.

The impact that it will have on your business will be determined by the quality of the planning that you do now. I know that in a few months’ time I will be asked to sell estate agency and letting businesses that failed due to the impact of coronavirus, but there is absolutely no need for  your business to be one of them provided that you work out your strategy today.

In the face of a threat of this magnitude, you do not have a moment to lose.

Source: Property Industry Eye / Adam Walker: https://propertyindustryeye.com/coronavirus-dont-panic-but-do-plan-for-the-impact-it-could-have-on-your-business/