Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Living In A Food Mixer

It's a long time since I blogged on Property - much has happened in that time and life took an unexpected twist or two.

Today I've felt compelled to blog about one of those twists which has little to do with Property, unless living in a Food Mixer is your idea of a dream property! It might just resonate with some people and that's what blogging is about - connecting with people.  I'm also hoping it will be my springboard back into blogging about Property.

Living in a Food Mixer

If your partner has had Cancer you will know what it’s like.  If you want to know what it’s like I can tell you my own version – it’s like living in a food mixer.  Sometimes you’re mixed with sweet things, sometimes bitter, occasionally both and that’s when you don’t know how it will turn out.

The medics are amazing but they don’t help much.  There were two that really mattered, the one who was determined to find out which bit of my husband’s body had let him down and the one who had the courage and skill to remove the knackered Kidney.  The rest are just clever, nice people trained to do the impossible – make your life easier, but it doesn’t work.  Pills to stop the cancer returning – but you never know;  pills to reduce the blood pressure, the rash, the painful hands and feet, all caused by the pills to stop the cancer returning; pills to stop the insomnia caused by the pills to reduce the blood pressure … all into the mixer. 
All the pills to make life sweeter do just that – on one day, but on the next they make life bitter.  Some days start sweet then end bitter.  Some days start bitter then end sweet.

What you want is to go on holiday, to Italy or Spain - to the sun – for a month or two.  That would make life sweeter.  But no, your husband might be poorly, he might find himself in Italy or Spain with no blood pressure pills or even worse his remaining kidney might fail.  These things probably won’t happen, at least when you stay at home you’re told they won’t.  But if you don’t go outside you won’t get run over by a bus either.  

There’s nothing wrong with you until you say you want to go somewhere exciting and enjoy yourself.  Far better to stay safely at home waiting for the next phone call, blood test or pill top up.  Better to slide into a depression staring out of the window at home than risk watching fire flies dancing under warm stars,  better to sleep the boring afternoons away than overdo things playing Archery,  better to go to Tesco in the rain than swim in warm waters or cycle along the beautiful shores of Lake Trasimeno.

It helps to be at home where they can ring and check how you feel, take more blood and tick their boxes.  That way they feel good when they go home because they’ve been caring and considerate – they really do care which makes it taste so bitter sweet.  They’re happy your blood is OK and you will live another day.  But are you alive?  Were you not dreaming of azure skies, warm seas, great food and the sun warming your tired body when they rang to remind you what it is to feel poorly?

So you postponed your holiday, it will be easier to go later in the year, fewer boxes to tick and you’ll be healed then, you don’t have cancer so there’s nothing to stop you.   You postponed it six months to September, reduced it to one month instead of two.  You rang everyone to check and double check, to organise dates to suit all.   The mixer has produced a fine sweet after all.

Then the phone rings again. “We must change your appointment Mr King, the consultant can’t see you in August, it must be September.”  You sigh, you feel depressed and you tell them so.  They have something for that.   You return to the mixer and consider your plight.  But you won’t be beaten this time.  You won’t accept bitter, you want sweet.  So you beg, plead and make a nuisance of yourself.  The administrator is unhappy, she grumbles but reluctantly this time she gives in.  The sweet has been rescued once more.
Then the phone rings again. “You’re depressed.  Would you like to come on an anxiety course?”

“Yes, please.”
“It starts in September.”

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Do you really want to sell your Property?

If the answer to this is yes then please read on.

I’ve been through a journey the last few months, looking for the right Estate Agent to sell a property and learning how best to achieve a successful sale.  Being the largest single asset in our portfolio we need to get it right.  We should maximise this asset as we won’t get a second chance.

We’re currently improving the property and plan to market it soon.  We will then find out just how successful our efforts have been. 

In the meantime I thought I’d share with you some tips I’ve learned so far:-

  1. Emotions – detach yourself emotionally from your property.  If you let your emotions get involved it will make everyone’s job more difficult and put off a potential Buyer who will be hoping to find their own bond with your property.  They really won’t want to know about yours.
  2. De-clutter – clear it or hide it.  Don’t kid yourself that viewers will be ok with your clothes, washing, dog baskets, ash trays, rubbish, washing up, last night’s take-away or any other clutter on display.  It’s difficult for anyone to imagine themselves living in a house that looks a mess.
  3. Neutralise – neutralise colour and smells.  Don’t inflict your likes, passions or bad habits on potential buyers, they won’t appreciate it.  Take time to do a deep clean and unless you have some precious period colours then redecorate throughout with a fresh coat of neutral colour paint – it won’t cost much and can make so much difference.
  4. Maintenance – fix that dripping tap, re-grout tiles, re-seal baths, showers and basins, replace dud light bulbs, fix loose, broken or tarnished door handles, loose or missing roof tiles, clear out gutters and downpipes. Service and test heating and electrical installations.  Consider asking a handyman to walk round with you looking for anything that needs attention – you’d be surprised how you get used to living with things that really need sorting.  An independent eye can help head off reasons for a potential buyer to reduce their offer.
  5. Outside – yes Kerb Appeal matters.  So many buyers say they fell in love with the property in the first few minutes – don’t let this opportunity slip away.  Put some nice pots and plants outside, clean up, hide bins and tidy the garden, pressure wash patios and driveways, put your garden furniture out.  Decorate the outside with neutral colours if necessary.  Above all your front door should look so inviting.
  6. Consider asking a Property Stylist to help you present your property at its best – it will give it that extra something to make it stand out from other properties and give yours the edge.  Don’t forget you’re selling a home and lifestyle, not just a property – a Stylist will know how to do this.
  7. Find the right agent and get the right valuation – I found this the hardest of all and it was worthy of a separate blog here
  8. Paperwork – don’t give potential Buyers any reason to delay or re-negotiate price.  Get your paperwork in order before you put your house on the market.  My paperwork pack includes the following:-
a)  Deeds showing boundaries, rights of way and proof of ownership
b)  Listed Building Consents
c)  Building Regs completion certificate
d)  Building Regs drawings and approval for works to unconverted adjacent barn
e)  Structural Warranty Inspection Reports
f)  Wildlife surveys
g)  Consent to discharge for Septic Tank
h)      Council Tax Bill
i)        Electric Bill
j)        Water Bill showing no mains sewerage charge
k)      Test certificates for Electrical Installation
l)        Boiler and Aga service Certificates
m)    Warranties for appliances and works carried out – where applicable.

If you can’t be bothered with these things then are you sure you really want to sell?  

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Finding the right Estate Agent

A few months ago I set out to find the best way to market a large Barn Conversion I built and hope to sell.

With over 30 years experience in all aspects of residential property I felt I’m best placed to do viewings and negotiations with potential buyers.

Understanding the need to maximise presentation and appeal to the widest market I located a good Property Stylist, Helen Silver  to help me. I just needed to find the right Estate Agent to get exposure to the market via Zoopla, FindaProperty, RightMove and possibly Primelocation.

I asked friends, family, colleagues and contacts through Social Media and I talked to local and online Estate Agents.  What I discovered was not what I expected.

There was a gap in the market in Exeter, my area – no Agent really fulfilled my very demanding requirements so I wrote a blog  here This triggered a chain reaction and in no time I had a short list of potential Agents to work with – those who cared passionately enough to embrace the challenges and take time out to talk about it.  Two of them were Online Agents and two were High Street Agents with an Online presence.  All were persuasive and impressive and offered varying levels of service.

In the end I not only opted for a small High Street Agency in the best location of Exeter City with an Online presence but also started negotiations about working for them in 2011 to help introduce some of my suggestions.
These are a few of the reasons for my choice:-

1.  I learned that some Buyers don’t really want to meet the Vendor let alone negotiate with them. Others are happy to meet the Vendor but prefer to have preliminary discussions at viewing and negotiations with the Agent.  Vendors can be very emotional and defensive about their properties.

2. The Agent must be able to reassure people about any observations or issues raised in a viewing or survey – a Vendor doesn’t carry as much weight in the eyes of a Buyer and they might be suspicious of the advice and information supplied.

I have experience of this when a Surveyor incorrectly reported on a property I was selling. The Buyer wouldn’t listen to me even though I knew every nut & bolt of the building, they did listen to the Agent who came out to view the problem and report back that it was the Surveyor’s error. The sale proceeded and all was well.

3. The high street Agents had a network of contacts in the area (other Sales and Letting Agents, Solicitors, Accountants, Financial Advisors, Investors, Builders, Developers etc) and seemed better placed to know who is around looking for properties like mine. 

4. The smaller high street Agent was very ‘HUNGRY’ for my business, having more overheads to cover than the ‘pay upfront’ fee takers.  He also demonstrated a passion, enthusiasm and energy that I didn’t find in the larger Corporate Agencies.

5. An Estate Agent is under an obligation to promptly deal with any ‘emergencies’ that might crop up eg burst pipes, break-ins etc – even if you’re not contactable, if neighbours report something your Agent will have to respond.  I found the local Agent was better placed to deal with situations like this quickly.

6. Some Buyers still like to see the face of the Agent they’re dealing with and some prefer to work with certain agents they and/or their families know and trust.

7. I chose an Agent that has both Lettings and Sales offices as they can refer people from one side of the business to the other. If an Agent has a database of tenants they have a pool of potential buyers too.

I may still use one of the Online Agents alongside my chosen High Street Agent as I believe both have merit and the costs are not prohibitive, but the latter has my biggest vote right now.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

A Lesson learned on Twitter about giving Professional Advice freely

I have read a few blogs and forum posts recently about the benefits of using Twitter, Facebook and Forums to help promote your business.

The general consensus is that you can use all of them to some extent but each in slightly different ways.  I'm not a Social Media Guru so I'm not going to try and advise or educate you in any way.  I am learning more each day about the benefits and if I were to sum it up so far it would be thus:-

The forums are specialist areas for debating, learning and sharing. Sometimes including members who don't want to identify themselves for whatever reason and discussions can become heated, argumentative and controversial.   Those that get themselves into deepest water on forums often don't care as they hide behind a false identity.

Linked-In seems to be more of a directory of 'real' business people to build connections with and I'm yet to explore it further.

Facebook is a great place for gossip, socialising, sharing photos and connecting with anyone in your life from friends and family to business people.  You can try to seperate the business from the more private side of your lives but so far my experience with Facebook is the two become very blurred.

To date my experiences on Twitter have been positive.  I have met many intelligent people who have become friends.  I've connected with high profile, like-minded professionals mostly friendly, supportive and informative.  I've learned who to follow for the best quality information and discussions and continually add to my list of valuable business contacts and like-minded friends.

But this week I made an observation that rang out warning bells.  I watched as a regular 'Twit' who has built a network of professional followers asked for advice about something important to her.  Some of her followers chipped in with the Facebook Style 'love & hugs' sort of advice whilst others gave more practical advice.

The alarming bit for me was when a well known and well thought of Professional Twit with relevant expertise gave some private advice - apparently it was not what the person asking for advice had wanted to hear.  She reacted in a bizarre manner by openly Tweeting that she'd received advice and continued to Tweet arguments against the advice she'd been given by Tweeting/Retweeting negative comments about the advice and Profession in general.  Whilst she didn't actually state who had given her the advice it was fairly obvious to many of us regular Twits who it was.

The issue for me is how quickly Twitter took the 'Facebook' style bully approach towards a professional person who had freely offered advice that this ungrateful Twit would normally have had to pay for.  It also brought in to question for me how far people might take something just to get a few controversial tweets out there to promote themselves - was this an attempt to get attention by being the Protagonist?

Maybe this situation is rare and in the minority but maybe we should all be careful about who we give advice to freely on Social Media. If people come to you and ask about your service maybe they should demonstrate that they are seriously in 'buying mode' before you share your expertise.  The commitment should perhaps be two-way.

Friday, 31 December 2010

The Best Things About Estate Agents

As we leave 2010 and after much gloom in the Property Sector what better way to start the new year than with a brand new positive look at the long suffering Estate Agents’ industry?

Love them or hate them we just can’t do without them so let’s look at what we like most about them, for the purposes of this blog and to avoid sexual stereotypes our ideal agent is called Wallace:-

  1. Wallace will take time to understand your reasons for selling and timescales. 
  2. Wallace will give you three different valuations:-
i)                    One that ensures your property is under offer within four weeks
ii)                   One that may be possible in a lively market when there are plenty of buyers about but which might need some effort on Wallace’s part to pull off and
iii)                 One which is probably not achievable and will have your property and Wallace’s ‘For Sale’ sign hanging around for a year or two waiting for the market to catch up
 – Wallace should advise you against this last valuation which really won’t do either of you any favours but will warn you that other Agents are likely to wave this temptation under your nose.
  1. Wallace will advise you on any improvements you could and should make to maximise its’saleability and value.  Wallace will provide you with details of people who can help you with these improvements in a swift and cost-effective way.
  2. Wallace will take plenty of bright, clear and smart photographs and/or videos highlighting the best your property has to offer - ensuring clutter and unsightly objects are removed before taking photographs.  Wallace will not take photos of washing, lifted toilet seats, unmade beds, open cupboards, piles of clothing, pet food dishes, pet beds or ash trays.
  3. Wallace will keep up to date with all marketing methods available to ensure your property is found by any potential buyer.  Wallace will embrace new technology, Social Media, online and offline networking leaving no stone unturned in promoting your property. 
  4. Wallace will charge the appropriate fee that ensures your property gets maximum and appropriate exposure. Wallace will not cut corners and avoid costs which are necessary.
  5. Wallace and well trained colleagues will update you and advise you regularly.
  6. Wallace and aforementioned colleagues will answer the phone, arrange and attend viewings during early evenings, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.  This, after all is when most Buyers wish to view is it not?
  7. Wallace will understand the nuts and bolts of property and conveyancing. When the survey and legal process throws up the unexpected, causing panic and adverse reactions from potential Buyers, Wallace will respond proactively and swiftly to smooth over the bumps along the way.  Wallace will not allow ‘ransom’ situations to arise at ‘Exchange’.
  8. Wallace will consider the Buyer’s needs throughout – the Buyer is after all the Vendor’s customer.
  9. Wallace will co-ordinate the communication process between all parties keeping the ‘cogs’ well-oiled and moving.
  10. Wallace will not take a day off or go on holiday at Exchange or Completion without delegating efficiently to well trained and informed colleague(s).

I’m looking forward to meeting Wallace in 2011!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Will next year be a year of Dreams or Goals for you?

A discussion thread on the Property Tribes Forum was started a few days ago entitled 'What are your Goals for Next Year?' and the subject of Greed came up. There seems to be a growing number of so-called 'Property Gurus' successfully extracting £'000's by sharing their so-called 'Property Millionaire Secrets' even though they rarely achieved this sort of success themselves  - below is a post which I contributed to the discussion, I thought it worthy of repeating here:-

The 'Greed' thing is fascinating.

There are many of us on this forum who have made a good living from their property and built up portfolios steadily over a number of years in a sustainable and achievable way but I wonder how many of you have people knocking at your doors to ask you the secret and pay you even a sensible amount of money for your expertise?

I'd hazard a guess - not many. I often get asked for help and advice but generally on a 'freebie' basis - if I were to mention that my advice comes at £1000 an hour they'd run a mile, I doubt if any would even pay 10% of that - they don't want to hear that it will take them 10 years or more to make a living from their property.

But if I told them they could become a Millionaire in 18mths - even though it almost certainly can't be achieved except in the rarest and most exceptional cases - then I'm sure I'd get a response. Presentation is everything of course and if you can stand up in front of people and give them a good show they'll be taken in - that's a fact, people love the dream and the drama.

I really wish people would see it for what it is - a glittering show designed to appeal to their dreams.

Goals should be realistic. Dreams are Dreams born out of Greed. Goals must be achievable and bring satisfaction and joy.

So will next year be a year of Dreams or a year of Goals for you? 
Link to discussion thread on Property Tribes Forum 

Friday, 19 November 2010

Will You Be Able To Refinance Your Buy-To-Let In Two Years Time?

This week has seen the launch of a new range of Buy To Let Mortgage products which was generally met with a warm welcome on Twitter by Property People.

The fanfare launch focussed on the Two-Year Fixed Rate product of 4.59% with fixed fee of £1995 but little reference was made to the margins above Base Rate these products refer to at the end of the initial promotional period – in the range of 3.5-3.99%.

With Base Rate currently at 0.5% margins of around 4% may seem quite manageable, even reasonable.  But should we believe 0.5% is ‘normal’?  Do Property People really think that Base Rate will be at this level in Two to Three years time? 

If we expect the Base Rate to rise then at what point does this product become difficult for the average Buy To Let Investor to manage?  Whilst rental returns might be good at the moment, returns of 7-10% are rare and this is the sort of return an Investor would need to cover a mortgage of say 6% when taking account of all other costs.

Assuming Base Rate in two years’ time is going to be higher than it is right now, even a 0.5% increase will take that mortgage to over 5%. For a £200k mortgage, every 0.5% increase will cost the Investor another £1k per annum. Will Investors be reaching for the phone to refinance?

This is where we return to the subject heading:-

Will you be able to refinance your buy to let in two years’ time? 

Much depends on what property prices are going to do in the next two years, the Loan To Value you opted for and whether you still meet all the tough criteria that banks have now set out for their Buy To Let products such as
·        minimum salary required
·        good credit rating maintained
·        number of properties owned
·        rental cover requirements

Many Investors found themselves unable to refinance their Portfolios during the downturn as property prices fell and Lenders reduced the % Loan To Value that they were prepared to offer.  Many withdrew from the market altogether, leaving some Investors with nowhere suitable to refinance.

Do Investors believe that Property Prices are not going to fall again and that Lenders are not going to start closing doors again?