Category Archives: News

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/

Alison Richards of West Wales Properties looks ahead to the March Budget.

The year has started well in the property market, but what could the Chancellor do to really get things moving?

On the 11th of March, Budget Day, all eyes will be on our new Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP.

One group of English taxpayers will be especially interested in what, if any, changes there are to Stamp Duty. This tax is payable by those buying property over £125,000 – although first-time buyers aren’t liable for stamp duty on homes up to £300,000. The taxation for Scottish and Welsh homebuyers is slightly different.

With the average house price in the UK now £134,742, this stamp duty affects a great many homebuyers. So much so, that over the 2018/19 tax period, the government collected almost £12 billion in stamp duty revenue. A cynic might think, small wonder the government is actively persuading the population to buy homes.

But the problem with high stamp duty is that it does the opposite. It deters people from moving – prevents people in larger homes, they don’t need, from downsizing and selling to people who do need them. It stalls the market and prevents a natural flow of discretionary buying and selling.

A previous Tory plan was to overhaul stamp duty by raising the threshold from £125,000 to £500,000 and lower the top rate – which applies above £1.5m – from 12% to 7%. But this was dropped from the last election manifesto. Could the Chancellor resuscitate this policy? It would greatly help the housing market if he did.

Although the introduction of a mansion tax is looking unlikely, overseas buyers will worry that the Chancellor will introduce a 3% stamp duty surcharge. This tax would include ex-pats wanting to move back home – after Brexit, more likely than for many years. This levy would be on top of stamp duty already payable, including the 3% surcharge on second homes and buy-to-let properties.

Successive chancellors might not have been precisely helpful to the housing market. Now that this government seems keen to build infrastructure, perhaps they will be inclined to treat housing – and flood defences – with the same importance the population does. Railway lines may be necessary but aren’t good homes and a buoyant property market more so?

Residential property sales jump up to hit a three-year high for January

HMRC has recorded the highest number of transactions for the month of January for three years.

The taxman’s provisional UK property transaction data for January, based on Stamp Duty returns, records 102,810 sales for the first month of the year on a seasonally adjusted basis.

This is up 5.2% annually and the highest level for the month since 102,880 were recorded in January 2017.

The figure is up 12.7% annually on a non-adjusted or ‘actual’ basis to 88,850.

Sales volumes were up annually across all regions, increasing 13.2% in Northern Ireland, 12.3% in Wales and 12.7% in both England and Scotland.

Stamp Duty returns must now be sent to HMRC 14 days after a property sale completes and the taxman takes a snapshot of the data two weeks into a month.

This means that many of these sales will have been completed around the time of the General Election in December, although some may have been through the exchange and completion process before then.

HMRC has warned that its latest figures need to be treated with caution because of the element of estimation.

Commenting on the data, Andy Sommerville, director of conveyancing software provider Search Acumen, said: “The start of the year saw a slight uplift in the property market as the backlog of transactions that were put on hold at the end of 2019 start to be unleashed, given the improved political climate at the very end of last year.

“As the market picks up, we need to look at one of the chief impediments to the transaction process, namely the length and complexity of the conveyancing process.

“Smart solutions and better use of data can help. With the right technology, property lawyers can process more orders faster and with greater accuracy.

“We can’t just hope for better days. We need to capitalise on the technology available now and shake up the sector.”

Source: Property Industry Eye – https://propertyindustryeye.com/january-property-sales-hit-a-three-year-high-hmrc/

Surge in buyer demand outstripping new instructions means more price rises on the way

There are buyers galore – but new seller numbers are failing to keep up with demand, Rightmove is reporting this morning.

It says that the boom in buyer activity which is outstripping the number of new listings is pushing up asking prices to near record levels.

The price of property new to the market over the last month is up by 0.8%, equating to an average of £2,589, which is just £40 short of a new all-time high.

Rightmove puts the current new asking price at an average of £306,810, with first-time buyer properties averaging £193,768.

The record for the highest new asking prices was set in June 2018.

The portal, which has been recording a 7.2% rise in traffic, says that the scene is set for new price records this coming spring.

Rightmove also says that while new listings lag demand, they are starting to recover, up by 2.1% in the last month compared with the same period last year.

There were over 110,000 properties coming to the market in the latest reporting period, January 12 to February 8 – a period which for the purposes of its monthly house price index, Rightmove calls ‘February’.

Average stock per branch, including properties SSTC, is 45.6, up fractionally from 44.8 a year ago.

The uplift in new instructions is the first year-on-year rise for 13 months.

Rightmove director Miles Shipside said: “There is a boom in buyer activity outstripping the rise in the number of new sellers, which we expect to lead to a series of new price records starting next month.”

Source: Property Industry Eye – https://propertyindustryeye.com/surge-in-buyer-demand-outstripping-new-instructions-means-more-price-rises-on-the-way/

Welsh Government unveils plans to give tenants 12 months’ protection from eviction

Tenants renting in Wales could be given a minimum of 12 months’ protection from eviction under a new Bill introduced yesterday.

The Welsh Government has put forward the Renting Homes (Amendment) (Wales) Bill, which makes landlords unable to serve notice during the first six months of new tenancies and also stipulates that the notice period be increased from the current two months to six.

Landlords would still be able to repossess the property if a tenant breaches the contract and the notice period for this has been reduced from two months to one.

If passed by members of the Welsh Assembly, it is anticipated the new law will come into force in the spring of 2021.

Housing minister Julie James said: “The new Bill I am unveiling will add further significant protections for those who rent their home in Wales to those already included in our landmark Renting Homes legislation.

“These include ensuring that a possession notice where there is no breach of contract cannot be served for the first six months of occupation, and where possession is sought, giving the contract holder six months’ notice.

“This will provide valuable time for individuals and families faced with possession under section 173, and the organisations and agencies that support them, to find a new home that is right for them and make all necessary arrangements for a smooth transition to their new home.

“I believe the Renting Homes (Wales) Act, as amended, will provide a sound basis for renting in Wales, balancing the needs and rights of both tenants and landlords and helping ensure our private rental sector is a well-managed option for households.”

The law would create a different eviction system in Wales to England – which is planning to scrap Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notices – and Scotland where they have already been abolished.

A memorandum with the Bill said: “This contrasts with the arrangements in place in Scotland and those previously proposed in England, under which contract-holders not at fault can still be faced with a two-month notice to leave – or even less in some circumstances.”

Source: Property Industry Eyehttps://propertyindustryeye.com/welsh-government-unveils-plans-to-give-tenants-12-months-protection-from-eviction/

West Wales Properties responds to the dramatic start to the new property year and looks at the green shoots of improvement.

Like early snowdrops, property buyers have begun poking their heads above ground after a long period of slumber. In fact, in some parts of the UK, there are significant and spectacular drifts of these ‘snowdrops’ appearing. Is this because of the time of year? Partly: but more likely because we are emerging from an extended and dark period of lifelessness in the property market.

Call it the Boris or Brexit Bounce if you like, but whatever term you give it there is a definite surge in the market with markedly more interest and activity. All over the country numbers of registrations, viewings, offers and sales are up on the previous two or three years – and it’s only February.

Confidence should be the name given to the first physical brick laid in any house construction or metaphorical brick laid in the re-building of the property market. It is confidence that is driving this newfound interest, and it comes at a perfect time of the year.

There was concern that a December election would be harmful in multiple ways. Well, in the case of the property market, it was perfect. With the will-we/won’t-we Brexit issue settled a large cloud of uncertainty was lifted and those who were sitting on their hands have, post-New Year, suddenly jumped into action.

Behind this energy is several years of pent up demand. Those who could wait to make a move or who were nervous did wait. But now the waiting is over. In all sectors of the market and across all regions demand is higher than it has been for years.

This is all exciting stuff, but we should not get too carried away. In property confidence can soon give way to over-confidence, with sellers often eager to set higher asking prices. We don’t want to see all those snowdrops droop under an ill-considered layer of expectation. 

So prudence and guidance are critical factors in sustaining this excellent start to 2020. As always, before embarking on selling and or buying a property, we advise seeking the wisdom and counsel of a mature and experienced local independent estate agent before you join the fray.  We’d love to help and advise you – do please call us now on 01437 762626 or visit www.westwalesproperties.co.uk.

Why independent agents are in a different league from corporates in so many places

When it comes to corporates versus independents, the easy winners are independents, with the corporates performing “really poorly”.

A new article by Russell Quirk, founder of Emoov and who now runs a property PR company, claims that in any town it is an “absolute exception for a corporate giant to be the number one agent” based on their SSTC performance.

Quirk analysed ten towns and cities (Brentwood, Hastings, Lowestoft, Maidenhead, Huddersfield, Lincoln, Bedford, Exeter, Salisbury and Darlington), evaluating every agent in each.

If you ask why these places were chosen, Brentwood made the cut because it’s Quirk’s home town. The others were chosen by Lilly, his ten-year old daughter, sticking nine pins randomly into a map.

In every single case bar one independent agents came not just first, but second and third. The single exception was Maidenhead, where Roger Platt (part of Connells Group) led the way.

Quirk asks: “Why are the big boys (and girls) so, so lacklustre? Why are they wholeheartedly trounced by the little guy?

“Why, pound for pound, is the local entrepreneur smashing the grey suits in their Milton Keynes office blocks?”

He speculates that independents have a greater need for survival and keep grafting because they have to – unlike the 9-5 corporate salary takers.

They’re also closer to the local ground, care about the competition, and want to prove they’re the best.

They also want to earn more than the £20,000 corporate basic plus 5% office commission – and they like the freedom. Plus better cars than a corporate fleet offers.

Quirk concludes: “Am I saying that managers and negs that work for Reeds Rains, William H Brown and Abbotts are terrible people, lazy and uninspired? No. I’ve met a few and most are fine people.

“What I am saying is that there is a particular type of person that starts, owns and runs an independent estate agency business and they… well, they are just in a different league altogether. And the data proves it.”

Source: Property Industry Eye