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Knowing me, knowing you…

August 2019 Blog Estate Agency

I really wanted to use a title along the lines of “Back to Basics”, but the last person I remember using this phrase suffered public derision (Prime Minister John Major,…

Knowing me, knowing you…
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Knowing me, knowing you…

August 2019 Estate Agency

I really wanted to use a title along the lines of “Back to Basics”, but the last person I remember using this phrase suffered public derision (Prime Minister John Major, twenty-five years ago). So, I thought the Abba song title might strike a more positive note!

Knowing both sides of the buying and selling equation has never been more important than in today’s property market here in Keswick. My colleague in the Cockermouth office of PFK wrote in his blog about the robustness of the property market in Cumbria when compared to many other parts of the country. Keswick, though, has a number of special factors.

The most significant aspect of the property market here in Keswick is the very restricted number of properties coming to the market compared to the number of potential buyers. This is not a temporary feature, but a structural part of the housing scene.

To start with, there are only four and a half thousand chimney pots in the town and the CA12 postal area, in a condensed radius of less than ten miles. And of course, it goes without saying that the popularity of the wider area as a National Park and World Heritage Site remains undimmed.

To complicate matters further, a good number of properties being sold in Keswick never appear publicly on the open market. This can be for any number of reasons; the vendor may not want the hassle of dealing with several offers, or may need a quick process through to completion. Alternatively, the ‘Guide Price’ could be offered promptly or, on the other hand, vendors can be content to wait and see what offers transpire, without the burden of full marketing.

Consequently, in Keswick, the estate agency needs to know its sellers and its buyers, and match one to the other. It must be able to assess guide prices accurately, and know local contractors and professionals to enable the selling process to proceed smoothly.

Funnily enough, I’ve ended up wanting to use my original title for this blog after all! Isn’t it simply “Back to Basics” estate agency? Isn’t that what we all want when we decide to sell or buy? Today’s communications technology can only get us so far, and in Keswick personal local knowledge is key.

Eat your heart out, Abba. I’m going with John Major.

Hannah Sims – Manager of PFK Estate Agency, Keswick

So… How’s the market?

August 2019 News Estate Agency

It’s the question we get asked more than any other (apart from ‘what’s my house worth?’), especially in the current climate and with the dreaded B word! I…

So… How’s the market?
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So… How’s the market?

August 2019 Estate Agency

It’s the question we get asked more than any other (apart from ‘what’s my house worth?’), especially in the current climate and with the dreaded B word! I know we’re all fed up of talking about it, so I promise not to harp on.

If you read the national press, you’ll find that the market is 20% down on new properties coming to market, 20% down on sales, and house prices are down. Now, that may be the case for London and the South East, but is it really true for Cumbria?

Actually, no. The market across the county has remained surprisingly robust so far this year. It is true that there aren’t as many new houses coming up for sale (a comment we’ve all heard from prospective purchasers), however demand has remained high, with large numbers of properties selling across the CA postcodes this year. We’ve seen the usual seasonal blips, but on the whole the market remains very buoyant.

Many things work in favour of someone trying to sell right now; mortgages are still affordable due to the low interest rates and there are some great deals out there. Also the lower levels of new houses coming to market means it’s slightly less competitive for sellers than it was twelve months ago.

It is, however, quite a price sensitive market; buyers are thoroughly researching before they even view properties, and the current feeling is that if a buyer perceives the asking price to be 10% or more away from where they see the value, they’re staying away.

The old rules still apply in this new market; well-priced and well-presented properties which are expertly marketed by a skilled agent, are selling in short order and achieving great prices. There is very little to fear about selling your home in Cumbria right now.

Michael Hewitt – Manager of PFK Estate Agency, Cockermouth.

New Prime Minister

August 2019 News Estate Agency

Whether you are over the moon or underwhelmed, Boris Johnson is now Prime Minister of the UK, and Esther McVey has been appointed as our new Housing Minister. We are…

New Prime Minister
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New Prime Minister

August 2019 Estate Agency

Whether you are over the moon or underwhelmed, Boris Johnson is now Prime Minister of the UK, and Esther McVey has been appointed as our new Housing Minister.

We are in favour of anyone who is going to improve sentiment or confidence in the housing market. Current economic data is fairly strong and we are selling more properties than we did this time last year, but the uncertainty of Brexit has caused some stagnation in the market. Going forward with Boris as Prime Minister, I would welcome any positive move on stamp duty or the additional taxes on landlords. Prohibitive stamp duty charges have long been a challenge for those on all rungs of the property ladder, and so both buyers and sellers will now be eagerly awaiting confirmation from Boris and his party on how he decides to address this. Transactions could slow in the aftermath of his victory as buyers halt activity until the policy introduction, so he needs to move quickly.

We wholeheartedly support the government’s most recent proposals for regulating the industry, giving consumers greater confidence that whether buying (re-sale or a new home), selling, letting or renting a property, they are dealing with a professional agent and there is a clear route to redress in the event of a dispute.

The countdown to our Brexit due date is back on and we will see a confidence return to the market. We would urge Boris to do all he can to encourage buyers and sellers to the market during this time, and to make sure that the UK can maintain its status as a homeownership democracy.

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Are you a first time buyer looking to buy a property? Then please read on…..

July 2019 Blog Estate Agency

Buying a property for the first time, can be a daunting prospect, even second or third time buyers can find the process stressful. Being prepared is essential, as you will…

Are you a first time buyer looking to buy a property? Then please read on…..
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Are you a first time buyer looking to buy a property? Then please read on…..

July 2019 Estate Agency

Buying a property for the first time, can be a daunting prospect, even second or third time buyers can find the process stressful. Being prepared is essential, as you will need the help and advice from a number of professionals. Preparation and obtaining as much information upfront will make you feel more confident as well.

We have set out a few key considerations below. Every purchase is slightly different and our list won’t cover every eventuality, however, the list will assist with a framework of items to think about.

How much deposit will I need to pay, and when?

Usually a 10% deposit is required. Some sellers will accept a 5% deposit, however, if less than 10% this will need to be negotiated directly with the seller or agent before agreeing to buy the property.

You will pay your deposit directly to your lawyer, who will pay this sum to the seller’s lawyer upon exchange of contracts. Do not pay any monies directly to the seller and ensure you speak to your lawyer about this, if any direct payments are being requested.

Who are you buying the property with?

Prior to purchasing the property, consider as to how the property will be held on the legal title. You will need to speak to your lawyer in detail about this as your relationship with any co-owners will usually dictate whether the property will be held as joint tenants or tenants in common. You will receive an explanation of the difference from your lawyer at the beginning of the transaction.

Are any family members or friends contributing towards the purchase price?

There may be relatives or friends who will provide financial contributions to the purchase price to help you on to the first rung of the ladder. These individuals will not necessarily be on the legal title, and simply may wish to assist. You will need to be clear with your lawyer and your mortgage lender as to the exact amounts being provided and also whether they are being treated as outright gifts or whether they are actually loans. Being clear about this at the outset is important and will prevent any confusion or further questions at the point of exchange of contracts.

Is the property freehold or leasehold?

It is easy to assume that all houses will be freehold; however this is not the case. Houses can be held on long leasehold interests. If this is the case, then you will need to consider whether there is to be any ground rent payable or even service charges for any commonly used areas. Also, there may be restrictions in the leasehold as to relating to any alterations to the property and further regulations relating to the property’s use.

It is advisable to check with your lawyer at the outset of the purchase as to whether the property is freehold or leasehold.

 Remember to budget for other costs

Prior to making an offer on a property, it is advisable to make a list of the further costs which may need to be paid, and which can easily be forgotten:

  • Survey costs
  • Lawyer’s fees
  • Removal costs
  • Valuation fees
  • Buildings insurance
  • Furnishings and decoration costs

Affordable home-buyer schemes

There are a number of government-backed schemes to help people on to the property ladder, such as help to buy and shared ownership schemes. Check as to whether you qualify for the schemes prior to looking for a home to buy.

Stamp duty relief

Stamp duty relief is available for first time buyers purchasing properties within England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

First time buyers paying £300,000 or less for a residential property will pay no stamp duty land tax. First time buyers paying between £300,000 and £500,000 will pay stamp duty land tax at 5% on the purchase price above £300,000.

However, if you are a first time buyer purchasing for more than £500,000 you will not be entitled to any relief and will need to pay stamp duty at the normal rates.

Handle the heatwave with PFK Property Management

July 2019 News Estate Agency

Here’s a brief glimpse into some of the changes that have taken place since May 31 2019 With immediate effect, all letting agents and landlords must ensure they are…

Handle the heatwave with PFK Property Management
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Handle the heatwave with PFK Property Management

July 2019 Estate Agency

Here’s a brief glimpse into some of the changes that have taken place since May 31 2019

With immediate effect, all letting agents and landlords must ensure they are issuing the updated version of the ‘How to Rent: the checklist for renting in England’ when tenancies start or are renewed.

Landlords cannot use the Section 21 (no fault) eviction procedure unless an up to date version of this guide has been provided to the tenant.

Since October 2018, all landlords and letting agents that wish to serve their tenants with a Section 21, or ‘no fault’ eviction, must:

Ensure that they have issued a ‘How to rent: the checklist for renting in England’ guide, either digitally or as a hard copy

Provide tenants with an up to date Gas Safety Certificate

Issue the property’s Energy Performance Certificate. Give tenants the Prescribed Information relating to the protection of their deposit (which must be protected)

Where the property is licensed, provide a copy of the license to all of the property’s tenants.

All of these documents need to be the most up-to-date versions for the eviction notice to stand. A new version of Form 6a has been published in order to stipulate that a landlord cannot serve a Section 21 notice if they have taken a Prohibited Payment from a tenant and that payment has not been refunded in full.

The legislation is becoming more onerous by the day and some landlords may wish to look at a fully managed service, whereby an agent may take care of all the updates on your behalf.

If you wish to find out more, please call your local PFK office.

A new home for Gus

Our sponsored dog, Gus, has now found his forever home in West Cumbria and we couldn’t be more pleased. He is a very special boy and we’re thrilled to have helped him on his way to happiness.

PFK are now looking to sponsor another cute canine at Eden Animal Rescue whilst they look for a new home – we’ll keep you updated!

Summer Inspiration

Summer is a great time to be looking at the outside of your properties and giving the garden a makeover, checking gutters and flashing on the house etc. Whether you prefer pots or bedding plants, a splash of colour is always cheery and adds kerb appeal.

Alternatively, look at some of the high-quality artificial lawn if you prefer low maintenance. If anyone needs advice, PFK have a list of gardeners, all fully insured, on their books.

Don’t listen to the constant scaremongering; most landlords are good and most tenants are good. Like anything, planning and preparation prevents poor performance. If A landlord keeps their property in good order then generally they attract a good tenant. The landlords need to be proactive – do not let your property unless you can, for instance, afford a new boiler. This is a practicality; landlords should try and keep back at least three months’ rent in order to pay for the things that might go wrong.

Tenants “buy” the right to the property and should be able to live it in as their home, so courtesy is required on both sides.

Tenant Fee Ban

July 2019 News Estate Agency

As you will have heard on the news, there are quite a lot of legislation changes being brought into the rental sector in the near future, and we are here…

Tenant Fee Ban
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Tenant Fee Ban

July 2019 Estate Agency

As you will have heard on the news, there are quite a lot of legislation changes being brought into the rental sector in the near future, and we are here to ensure that any tenancies are kept up to date.

The Bill will ban tenants from being charged for an accompanied viewing, receiving an inventory, signing a contract, or renewing a tenancy.   It will allow letting agents and landlords to only charge fees relating to rent, security deposits, holding deposits, or when a tenant breaches a contract.

As a landlord, now could be the time to start looking for other properties to build up a portfolio and PFK are happy to help. There could be some properties coming to the market as private landlords struggle with the new regulations. However, dealing with the complicated business of renting is exactly what we do.

Here are a few pointers to help your tenancies in the coming months:

1. Existing tenancies are not affected by the ban until 1 June 2020. After this date any fee taken will be a Prohibited Payment.

2. Deposits are to be capped at the maximum of 5 weeks rent (unless the annual rent is over £50,000, in which case it is capped at 6 weeks).

3. You may not charge a tenant for a missed contractor’s visit, even if it is the tenant’s error. You would have to pay the costs and then, where there have been appropriate clauses in the agreement, claim from the deposit at a later date.

4. Should you try to charge the tenant a Prohibited Payment, the first breach is a £5,000 fine, and a further breach within 5 years can be up to £30,000.

This is a very brief overview of the Tenant Fee Ban; more information can be found on the Government website.

The Home Act

July 2019 News Estate Agency

The Home (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 finished its parliamentary journey in December 2018. Since the 20th March 2019 all social and private landlords, including letting agents, in England…

The Home Act
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The Home Act

July 2019 Estate Agency

The Home (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 finished its parliamentary journey in December 2018. Since the 20th March 2019 all social and private landlords, including letting agents, in England have been required to comply.

Known as the Homes Act, landlords and letting agents acting on their behalf will be required by law to ensure that a home is fit for human habitation from the beginning and throughout the duration of a tenancy.

In determining for the purposes of this Act whether a house or dwelling is unfit for human habitation, regard shall be had to its condition in respect of the following matters:

  • Repair
  • Stability
  • Freedom from damp
  • Internal arrangement
  • Natural lighting
  • Ventilation
  • Water supply
  • Drainage and sanitary conveniences
  • Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water

If a home is found to be hazardous, and the issue is not resolved, tenants will have the right to take direct legal action in the courts for breach of contract. Certain exemptions apply where the landlord or letting agent will not be held responsible.

All new or renewed domestic tenancies on or after 20 March 2019 will apply to the new rules. This includes any tenancies that are significantly changed, such as a Change of Sharer.

Existing Fixed-Term Tenancies will fall under the requirements of the Act when they are renewed or become Periodic. Existing Periodic Tenancies have twelve months until they will need to comply on 20 March 2020.

PFK are pleased that the Homes Act has come into force, to provide a better private rented sector for all. This new legislation gives renters greater protection and means they will now be able to take direct legal action if their agent or landlord does not comply.

 

Step by step guide to buying a property

July 2019 Blog Estate Agency

1. Decide if you should sell first. If you are already a homeowner, it can seem risky to sell first, but there are upsides. In particular, you will be able…

Step by step guide to buying a property
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Step by step guide to buying a property

July 2019 Estate Agency

1. Decide if you should sell first. If you are already a homeowner, it can seem risky to sell first, but there are upsides. In particular, you will be able to pounce quickly when you find the house of your dreams, and won’t be trapped in a chain.

2. Decide on your budget. This might be dependent on how much of a deposit you can get together. Don’t forget the variety of one-off and ongoing hidden costs, these can put an extra 15% on the cost of your home; more if you are doing serious building work.

3. Get your finances in place. Ask your agent for recommendations of financial advisors. A mortgage broker can be particularly helpful if you would like advice and to scan the full range of mortgages, or if you have special circumstances such as being self-employed. Work out how much of a deposit you would have. While you can’t get a mortgage before you buy, you can get a mortgage in principle, which will put you in a stronger position.

4. Choose a specific property. Research the area, and make yourselves familiar to ourselves and other estate agents. Visit as many properties as possible, ask questions, and make sure you understand whether the property is freehold or leasehold.

5. Make an offer – and get it accepted. Make sure you’re in the strongest possible position as previously mentioned. Decide how much you want to pay, make your offer, and it will be referred to the vendor straightaway.

6. Arrange a mortgage. Ideally you have your finances in place – see step 3. If so, you now need to go back to your mortgage company with the agreed offer and complete the process. You will need the lender to make you a formal mortgage offer before you can exchange contracts.

7. Hire a solicitor or conveyancer. They need to handle the legal work to transfer ownership of the property to you. Ask your estate agent for recommendations of reputable local firms, however your lender may require you to go with one that is on their panel. The solicitor or conveyancer will do the searches, such as with the local authority and Environment Agency, to ensure there are no major problems with the property. Please note that local searches are taking some time at present, and does not happen overnight.

8. Decide if you want a survey. Your mortgage lender will require a valuation by a surveyor. This is a simple survey. You can get the valuation upgraded to a full survey, or commission your own. Unless you are very experienced with property, it is worth getting a survey done.

9. Exchange contracts. When you exchange, you become legally committed to buying the property – and the sellers are legally committed to selling it to you. You can only exchange contracts after the solicitor/conveyancer is satisfied with the searches, a formal mortgage offer has been received (unless it is a cash purchase), and arrangements made for the deposit. You need to ensure you take out buildings insurance from the date of exchange, as you are responsible for it from then on.

10. Complete the sale. This is when you pay for the property and take ownership of it. It normally happens between 12pm – 2pm. The money is transferred and the deeds of the property are transferred, between each side’s conveyancer.

11. Pay stamp duty and solicitor/conveyancer. After completion, your solicitor will send you an account, covering all their costs, as well as the purchase price of the house and stamp duty. They will normally pay the stamp duty for you, and ensure that the change of ownership is registered with the land registry.

Whitehaven team resolve customer's challenging sale

October 2018 Case study Estate Agency

The owners initially chose a different agent to market their property as they had sold some similar properties nearby. They promised excellent communication, regular feedback and marketing meetings – in short,…

Whitehaven team resolve customer's challenging sale
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Whitehaven team resolve customer's challenging sale

October 2018 Estate Agency

The owners initially chose a different agent to market their property as they had sold some similar properties nearby. They promised excellent communication, regular feedback and marketing meetings – in short, all the things you would expect from an agent.

Dr A recalls, “They were absolutely dreadful. After two months I had to call up the owner of the company to come and see us because we had no communication from them at all, even after viewings. After the contractual tie-in period with them, we went straight away to get our property marketed with PFK”

Our Whitehaven team got everything up and running quickly, matching the property out to potential buyers by making phone calls and sending out emails to generate as much interest as possible in the first few days of marketing. After pro-active marketing online and in the local press the decision was made to reduce the price. A price reduction is always part of a wider discussion with the owners after our team has looked carefully at the market conditions and the likely demand. Unlike many agents, we don’t over-value to gain your business then spend the next 6 weeks asking you for a price reduction. All our valuations are put together by experienced, senior members of staff who use recent comparable sold prices, our internal database of potential buyers and their expert, local knowledge to recommend a sensible asking price.

“All the Whitehaven staff were excellent, however Lisa Murphy stood out. She took our property on and made it her personal mission to get it sold. We were constantly kept in the loop and informed about everything that was going on.”

Despite the complication of the buyer offering through the original estate agent (as they had originally viewed the property through them), Lisa worked incredibly hard to get the sale agreed and negotiated with the owner of the previous agent to reach an agreement where the offer could be accepted and the sale progressed. Unfortunately, on this occasion the progression of the sale was prolonged and difficult, with various issues which had to be resolved along the way. Finally, the buyer pulled out of the sale the day before exchange and completion after the owners had given most of their furniture to charity and arranged a rental property in a different area. In short, everything we don’t want to happen, happened, causing a lot of stress for our clients.

“Luckily this nightmare came to a resolution two weeks after we had moved out when the buyer came through, again helped greatly by Lisa continuing to work on our behalf. We cannot recommend them highly enough both on a personal and professional level and Lisa Murphy was definitely our hero.”

Amy McKinlay, Area Manager, comments, “When the progression of a sale becomes difficult, stress levels and emotions can run high – it’s absolutely crucial to have an agent who can negotiate this potentially rocky path on your behalf to ensure a good outcome. Many agents only offer the bare minimum of a sales progression service; often the ones with a temptingly low upfront fee have very little motivation to resolve issues at this stage as they have already been paid for the sale of your property. At PFK, we believe sales progression is a hugely important part of our service and we have a dedicated sales progression team to ensure your sale is seen through to completion – all included as part of our fee.”

At PFK, we believe in making property simple. Estate Agency is a people business and we put people at the heart of everything we do – not just our clients, but our people as well. We are proud to have people like Lisa, and we know all of our teams strive to go the extra mile for our clients. Buying and selling can be stressful, which is one of the reasons we think it’s important to have a physical office where you can talk to one of our knowledgeable local experts. Our small, friendly teams are made up of people you can get to know, and there’s not a call centre in sight.

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