Technology, technology, technology

I don’t usually use this blog to promote my firm’s initiatives, however, I am particularly excited about the launch of our new web-based client interaction area.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, I’m confident that technology will play an increasingly important role in the marketing of a property, and the data that can be obtained will be a tremendous sales tool. 

We have invested heavily in our website and we continue to do so to keep it at the cutting edge of the property market.  The client interaction area means that from the moment you contact Blackadders and arrange a time for a Sales Valuer to come out and visit your property you will be e-mailed your unique user name and password which will enable you to view the progress of your sale online at your own convenience – from checking appointment dates and times to ascertaining viewer feedback and checking whether or not price changes have been made.  All in all I think this is a fantastic initiative.

A seasonal property market?

Is the property market as seasonal as it once was?  My answer to that question is ‘no’ – it has been much flatter and steadier during the past 12 months.  However, there are still some key points in the year which may be of interest to you.

At the end of January/beginning of February there tends to be a rush of people putting their property on the market as the festive period comes to an end and people decide to get moving with their plans for the year.  This causes a marked increase in activity of viewers and sales/purchases in March and April.  The Easter break does tend to cause a slight slow down but the market usually continues to rise until the end of June/beginning of July, marking the start of the school holidays.  At this time there tends to be a drop off in both new houses coming on to the market and also potential purchasers until mid August, picking up again when the schools resume.

In November the market begins to quieten down again, however, there does tend to be a rush of people wanting to get their transactions settled before the end of the year.  This was particularly noticeable in 2009 with an apparent rush to avoid the changes in Stamp Duty and VAT.  December is one of my busiest months as far as property settlements are concerned.

The above is useful to remember, however, it is not something that should be used to dissuade general plans.  People who are looking to buy should not stop looking in the summer.  While there may be less properties coming on there is always the chance of picking up a bargain as the number of viewers are down.  People who are looking to sell should be aware that general activity levels will be slightly lower in the month of July to middle of August; this means that there is less competition and it can be a good time to get a property on the market to meet the autumn rush.  Likewise getting the property on as early as possible in January does mean that you can hopefully take advantage of the spring rise in activity. 

Again, as has been a constant theme through many of these blogs, my recommendation is to speak to a property expert who will give you the correct advice and keep you right regarding timing and marketing strategy.

Where there’s a Will, there’s a way – Part 2

I watched with interest the BBC Panorama investigation in respect of private Will writing companies which has also lead a Scottish Government Minister to call for protection throughout the whole of the UK.  The Scottish Government is legislating to offer greater protection to the consumer in respect of Wills which will come into effect next year. 

As I mentioned in a previous blog it is very important that everyone should have a Will, and although I admit I am biased I would recommend taking advice regarding your Will and estate planning from a Solicitor who is regulated by the Law Society and has the appropriate professional indemnity insurance.

Using technology to sell your property

Following a recent discussion with a client who was selling his property,  I was reminded of how much technical information and data is available to selling agents and how useful this can be when planning a marketing campaign for a property.

The client’s property had been on the market for some time but had generated little interest.  I had a meeting with our Estate Agent who was responsible for the transaction and we conducted a full investigation into trends, prices and the typical purchaser of this type of property.  We also looked at other available data – hits on the Tayside Solicitors Property Centre website, hits on our own website, the number of people accessing the Home Report, the number of people requesting schedules and we reviewed the feedback from a few people who had viewed the property. This enabled us to put in place a detailed strategy for the client which involved a slight price change.  The reduction in price enabled us to refresh the mailing list and also send the updated information to all the people who had previously viewed the property or accessed the Home Report. We continued to monitor the data and it was interesting to note a spike in the activity around the property as soon as the price had been altered.

I am pleased to say that after two weeks an offer was received and negotiated to an acceptable level. Whilst there is no replacement for experience, enthusiasm and the skill of a trained property sales consultant,  it brought home to me the importance of  analysing all the technical data available.

When choosing a selling agent, vendors should explore the technology and data that is available to the estate agent.

House Prices: How long is a piece of string?

One of the questions that I am frequently asked is how much prices have gone up or gone down in the last couple of years. My trite response is “how long is a piece of string?”. Each property needs to be dealt with on its own merits and that’s where getting proper advice comes in.

To give you a couple of examples, I was recently involved in a transaction in St Andrews where the property was on at offers over £275,000 and valued at £295,000, at the closing date it went for in excess of £355,000. Conversely, I was recently involved in negotiations for a property over on the West Coast of Scotland where we managed to get the property not only considerably less than the asking price but also the valuation. These two extreme examples show the importance of getting proper advice from an experienced property solicitor.

My first port of call is always to note interest and it is amazing how much information can be teased out of a selling agent at that stage – the property has been empty for a long time, the seller is desperate, the seller has found somewhere else to go – all actual examples of information that has been passed. I would thereafter carry out an investigation into the area including recent transactions and that coupled with my own knowledge and experience, as far as negotiations are concerned, would then lead me to put together a proposal for my client.

In a non-competitive situation I can never guarantee success but my aim is always to smoke out the lowest possible price that the seller would be prepared to accept.

In conclusion, there is no formula as far as house prices are concerned but it is very important to get advice at the earliest opportunity. My recommendation would be that before you start looking you take advice as the adviser will be able to give you a rough generalisation in respect of your type of property and area and give you an indication of what sort of price range you should be looking at.

To quote an old Law Society campaign, “It’s never too early to call your solicitor”.

The future of estate agency: part 2

The previous post on the future of estate agency has caused a few people to ask me what I would recommend that they look for when choosing an estate agent.  The first thing I would stress is that cheapest is not always best.  Make sure that you get a written estimate of fees and outlays so that you are able to make sure that you are comparing apples with apples.  Once you have had a written estimate I would then recommend that you get three agents out to your property and ask them what price you are likely to achieve for your property and their overview of the property market. 

Find out about their available marketing options, and ask to see samples of schedules and photographs.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs I do think that technology plays an important part in selling and when speaking to the agent you should ask them about the technical data that they can provide you with (for example, the number of times a property has been viewed online).  Before making your final decision, have a look at the agent’s website whilst imagining yourself as a prospective purchaser, a site which is clear and easy to use is vital.

It is always good to take recommendations from friends and acquaintances and if it is a solicitor based estate agency and you have already had dealings with a solicitor in the practice then it is always a good idea to be introduced to the solicitor that would be looking after you.

Whilst I would always recommend Blackadders Property Services, I think that if the above rules are followed then you should manage to ensure that you achieve the maximum price for your property – which is ultimately what you are hoping to do!

There is no such thing as a ‘bad market’ – only a ‘different market’

A frequent frustration of mine is the lack of advice given to buyers and sellers in the property market. I regularly hear that we are in a difficult or bad market and I am concerned that because of a lack of advice not all opportunities are being fully explored and investigated. To combat this Blackadders has launched a Home Buyer Service. This is part of the service that we offer anyway but I felt that by giving it more focus and clarity more people will take advantage of this service which will hopefully increase the activity in the property market. In general it would entail discussing with a potential purchaser (who also has a property to sell) the other options that may be open to them if they cannot get their property sold or they have in fact received a lower price than anticipated for their own property. We feel that with a combination of our property market experience, access to the whole of the mortgage market and our negotiating skills that we can perhaps open other avenues for you that would be worth exploring.

I recently dealt with a case where we managed to convert the client’s existing house into a buy to let mortgage, raising enough money to pay off the current mortgage on this property and have a deposit for the new mortgage. This gave the client breathing space to purchase their new house. And because we were able to move quickly they were able to purchase at 20% less than the anticipated valuation – thus more than covering any extra cost and securing the client’s dream home. They subsequently managed to get their old house sold earlier than expected and for a higher price than anticipated – winning at both ends!

Whilst every case will not work out as well as this, it does show that it is well worth exploring all the options.

Lindsay Darroch
Head of Property Services