In the week that review service, allAgents.co.uk announced they were suspending Purple Bricks' account due to repeated threats of legal action to remove negative reviews, we asked a number of clients past and present, just how important are online reviews?
Since 2006 with 300,000 reviews, allAgents.co.uk is the UK’s largest independent customer review website for estate agents, letting agents and suppliers to the industry.They offer customers the chance to search for Estate Agents up and down the country with an unbiased view of what their previous clients have said about them. From here, you can also compare selling fees and view league tables but how much of an impact does reviews have on making your decision?
In a world, completely dedicated and besotted by social media, whether it be Facebook, Google or Youtube, you usually can't breathe without someone taking a selfie, tagging you into a comment or tweeting a review of the restaurant they frequented a few weeks back. Just ten years ago, recommendations were from friends and family whom may have had a positive experience but in this day and age, you can search for independent reviews by complete strangers.
As the younger generation enter the property market, estate agents will be increasingly judged through online reviews. Yet trust in the reviews themselves is evidently very important to these savvy consumers. Estate agents should therefore consider ways to guarantee that legitimate and transparent reviews are readily available to potential customers.
Trust is a major factor for 28% of consumers when choosing an estate agent, with knowledge of the local market seen as the dominant factor by 42% of consumers when they have their properties valued. The value of trust is reflected strongly in the younger consumers’ preference of selecting an agent through its reviews, with 70% of 25-34-year-old clients relying on reviews when selecting an agent.
The research also reveals that consumers have more positive attitudes towards estate agents than commonly supposed, with 88% of consumers saying they were satisfied with the service they received from the last agent they used. However, paperwork was identified as a grievance that the largest proportion of customers (46%) would love to see technology sort out for them. Next on the list was reference-checking (36%), followed by booking appointments (34%).
When arranging a valuation or booking a viewing from ourselves, we always ask 'why us? How do you know about Space4Living? What's the reason for using us over a competitor?' Just this week, we have had a client arrange a valuation, and practically decide there and then that they will be using us. I asked the reason for this and he said he had a look at our reviews on both Google, Facebook and the Space4Living site and made a collective decision that we were the agents for him.
At Space4Living, we pride ourselves on reviews, both positive and negative. A positive review usually means a pat on the back, keep up the good work but a negative review is equally important - how can you improve otherwise?
At recent market appraisals in and around Tameside, homeowners have one question they all ask in common. What is the market like?
In what has been a trying year for Brits and Mancunians in particular with the Manchester bombings, the challenges of successfully negotiating Brexit talks and the looming threat of North Korea all at the back of our minds, Manchester has remained as resilient as ever witnessing the biggest house price increases of anywhere in the country this year - and it’s fast becoming a sellers’ market.
The surge in growth in Manchester has seen prices up 8.8% on last year - the fastest rise in the UK according to Hometrack, which tracks house price movements across the UK’s 20 biggest cities.
Saying that, it really isn't as simple as putting up your own makeshift 'for sale' board and crossing your fingers and toes. Don't get me wrong, this has worked in the past and you may drop lucky once again but ask yourself: Am I getting my house out there to the whole market and ultimately achieving the best price? Below I have compiled a couple of helpful tips to get you though it!
1) Choose the right estate agent
Selling a house can be a stressful business and in this age, there are a number of options to choose from. Whether it be hybrid, online, high street or traditional - you've a number of preferences to get you going. You’ll want an agent with proven and up-to-date marketing techniques, who can pull in maximum viewings – all the while remaining good value for money. Look online and research various agents in your local area by asking for recommendations. Have a look at a companies testimonial page, their Google Reviews and of course social media; Facebook and Twitter is a good place to find independent reviews.
The fee you are charged will either be a percentage of the sale price or a flat fee. Either way, don’t be afraid to negotiate and let agents know what you’ve been offered elsewhere. There are a number of agents who will charge extra for additional services. Do you really want to pay extra for accompanied viewings or a replacement board? In my experience as a valuing agent, I like to be transparent. What you see is what you get - a fixed price fee with nothing upfront and nothing hidden.
If you want multiple agents to take the property on, it’s important to note that you may end up paying more than one fee, regardless of who sells the property. Therefore always read the conditions of the contract before you instruct an agent.
2) Increase your property's kerb appeal
A potential buyer could be put off even before they have set foot inside your front door if they are given a bad first impression. You want them to walk up the drive or path already feeling impressed and excited to see more.
So do what it takes to create that lasting first impression. Make sure the exterior of your home is up to scratch and if your front door or fence is looking tired, brighten it up with a lick of paint. Put up hanging baskets to add colour and if you have a garden plant some bedding flowers. Move bins out of view and clear away anything unsightly.
3) Have a clear out and polish!
Making your home attractive to a buyer needn’t mean an expensive décor overhaul. Chances are it won’t be to the buyer’s taste anyway and will be replaced as soon as they move in. But you should freshen up rooms with a neutral lick of paint in warm tones.
Make sure your rooms are clutter-free and as light and airy as possible. A mirror hung in the hall can give the illusion of space and a few vases of flowers or some plants can freshen up the house. Get in touch with us at S4L for a 'Home Staging Guide'.
A kitchen is a big selling point, so make sure all the worktops are clear and that it smells fresh and clean. If you do have pets, ask a relative or friend to look after them while viewings are taking place. While you love your furry friend, chances are your buyer won’t – or worse still, they may be allergic.
4) Get that screwdriver out!
Don’t forget the detail either. Chances are the buyer will be nit-picking as they will be looking at a number of properties and weighing everything up. So get around now to those annoying little maintenance jobs such as a long overdue light bulb change.
5) Most importantly, stay out of the way!
When potential buyers come to view your property, let them wander freely around the house with the agent. You want them to feel comfortable and as though they can spend time looking at each room freely. Be ready also to answer any questions after the viewing.
It really isn't rocket science selling your house but having the right team behind you, holding your hand every step of the way can make a massive difference. Get in touch with Space4Living on 0161 336 3030 to give you the upper hand.
Good luck with it! - David
Sources include: Manchester Evening News, MoneySupermarket.com
UK rents to rocket 20% in the next five years...
UK rents to rocket 20% in the next five years...
UK Rents To Rocket By 20% Over Next 5 Years
Rents are forecast to rise by more than 20% over the next five years as the falling number of new landlord instructions persists, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
The surveyors’ latest monthly residential property market survey found that the number of landlord instructions dropped by 10%, the weakest reading in over two years.
RICS estimate that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future as changes to mortgage interest tax relief from next month have an adverse impact on investment levels in the buy-to-let sector.
But while new housing supply in the private rented sector falls, demand for rental accommodation looks set to increase further and it is this widening supply-demand imbalance that is likely to place upward pressure on rental values.
Rental prices look set to increase faster than house prices over the next five years, RICS said.
When it comes to home prices, chartered surveyors said that they anticipate an increase of about 18% over the next five years.
Reflecting on RICS’ survey, Stephen Wasserman, managing director of West One Loans, said: “The persistent supply versus demand challenge plagues the property market, with landlords looking to capitalise on strong demand having to overcome sustained supply-side issues.
“The changes to buy-to-let taxation are likely encouraging some to put the brakes on their investments but, with many hungry renters, landlords shouldn’t walk away completely.”
Perseverance in the buy-to-let market is likely to “deliver results” for landlords, according to Wasserman, who reports that a growing number of professional landlords are switching to buying through limited companies and other methods to mitigate the tax changes.
“The government and private sector are working to rectify the supply issue, but this will take time and there are opportunities for investors in the interim too,” he added.
Mark Burns, managing director of property investment firm Hopwood House, spoke to Property Investor Today and said Manchester was the one to watch for investors.
He identified the city as “on the up”, and bucked the trend for investors normally focusing on London.
Manchester consistently appears in top ten places for rental growth in the UK, and Mark revealed rental yields in the are have reached “almost nine per cent year-on-year”.
Focusing in on the different areas in Manchester, Mark explained where he thought investors should be looking.
He said: “If it is high rental yields you are looking for, it seems areas such as Pendleton, Claremont, Langworthy and Salford top the charts at 8.84 per cent.
“Their typical monthly rents come in at £1,034 thanks to their proximity to the centre of Manchester and the University of Salford.”
He also highlighted eight per cent yields in Moss Side, Rusholme and Followfield.
Discussing why Manchester has enjoyed such a boom, Mark said: “A major regeneration of Manchester has played a significant part in turning it into an investment hotspot.
“With affordability and rental yields both doing better than those in the capital, many investors are now setting their sights in a northerly direction, particularly thanks to the number of students and young professionals moving to Manchester.”
He continued: “Property investment has often been fuelled by many factors, but it seems to currently be driven by retirement needs, a desire for a second income, the need to start a property portfolio or inheritance purposes.
“City centres will always attract a high number of people, and a shortage of property keeps rental demand high, giving great scope for capital growth.
“A growing population and the construction of nearly 20,000 new homes around the city means the potential for investment will continue to grow for some time to come.”
The government is ‘wiping out the buy-to-let econom...
The government is ‘wiping out the buy-to-let econom...
The Government Is ‘Wiping Out The Buy-To-Let Economy’
Philip Hammond’s failure to reverse the previous chancellor George Osborne’s deeply unpopular tax reforms will have far-reaching implications for the buy-to-let industry, it has been predicted.
Government plans to strip buy-to-let landlords of mortgage interest tax relief will have a “detrimental impact” on households up and down and the country, according to David Hannah, principal consultant, Cornerstone Tax.
From next month, landlords will start to lose the right to tax deduct their mortgage interest costs at the rate they pay income tax - currently up to 45%. Instead, they will see this fall over the next three years and replaced with a 20% tax credit.
Hannah has criticised the move, claiming it will result in rent increases for tenants across the UK.
Responding to yesterday’s spring statement, the tax expert said: “With real estate representing 21% of the UK economy, it is a mystery as to why the government persists in hindering a crucial sector, by creating an unnecessary burden on tenants, landlords and homeowners.”
He insisted that the “double blow effect wiping out the buy-to-let economy”, namely the restricted mortgage interest relief for landlords from April 2017 to the basic rate of income tax, and the 3% stamp duty surcharge on additional properties, “doesn’t chime with the current socio-economic needs of the UK”.
The principal consultant continued: “The demand for rental accommodation is set to rise by one million households in the next five years - a combination of restricted access to mortgage finance, unaffordability created through eyewatering SDLT rates, and a shift in labour market trends towards a more mobile workforce.
“Yet the government continues to breakdown the very sector that has absorbed change and provided homes for those who simply either cannot afford or do not wish to commit to homeownership.
“With the sector currently in its fourth consecutive quarter of decline, paired with a fall in homeownership rates, we are fast approaching a new type of housing crisis."
Hannah is urging the government to stop “their obsession with homeownership” and “think carefully” about what our country really needs – “an accessible, flexible and affordable housing supply”.
“The private rental sector, where buy-to-let landlords are a major contributor, provides just that,” he added.
As for future challenges, the growing popularity of zero hour contracts where it is near impossible to obtain a mortgage, will impose further pressure on the rental market, according to Hannah.
He continued: “Interestingly as the UK government is the widest user of these contracts, it remains to be seen where they anticipate our public-sector workers will be able to live.”