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The Five Questions you MUST Ask an Estate Agent When Selling in Fife!

Life is a relentless stream of decisions.

What to wear?

What to have for breakfast?

Where to go on holiday?

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Some are trivial choices. Some are life-changing ones.

And deciding to sell your house is right up there towards the top of the decisions pyramid.

Choosing to sell is an important step but selecting the right estate agent to market your property is a crucial one. It is often the difference between a successful sale or a stress fuelled nightmare.

A key point to remember is that not all estate agents are the same.

To sieve out the good from the bad, the exceptional from the average, ask any estate agent you call in for a valuation, these five questions.

 

  • Show don’t tell. Any old agent can tell you how good they are. But you need to dig a little deeper and ask them to show you testimonials and reviews. An agent worth their fee won’t have an issue with answering this.

 

  • What’s your plan for my property? A well organised, efficient agency will have already know how they will market your property to give you the best chance of selling success. Ask them to outline the steps and marketing actions they’ll take to put your home on the road to success.

 

  • How long is the contract? This is a VERY important question to ask. A good agency won’t tie you in to a contract as they should be confident on doing an outstanding job. Less scrupulous agencies insist on people signing long contracts which works in their interest NOT the home sellers. Ask to see a copy of their standard contract upfront.

 

  • Ask for valuation evidence. When an agent tells you what they think the current market value of your home is it’s not rude to ask them how they arrived at that figure. This is a commonly asked question, and good agencies have plenty of data and comparable evidence to support the valuation.

 

  • How Much? Perhaps counter-intuitively this is one of the least important questions and should never be the first you ask. Why? Well, there is a difference between cost and value. Consider this. Agent A charges a 0.5 % commission to sell your home. They value it at £200,000. But only secure a sale at £190,000. Meaning you end up with £189,050 after their £950 commission.

But – Agent B charges a 1.5 % service fee to sell your home and thanks to better marketing, superior skilled staff and negotiation nous they achieve the asking price of £200,000. Meaning you end up with £197,000 after their £3000 fee.  This scenario makes it clearer that cost and value are very different things. (Fees are often subject to VAT).

 

Ultimately the best agents are the ones you feel so comfortable with that you can ask them anything.

 

Because after all, they’ll be working on your behalf.

 

And they need to be on hand to help, advise and support you with decisions such as how to present your property, what sales strategy to take and which offer to accept.

 

For more information about how we help homeowners in FIFE give us a call at any of our offices.

How Renovation Can Affect Property Prices

More than 9 out of 10 UK homeowners believe that renovations and decoration can increase the value of a property, according to the results of a recent survey.

The study conducted by Co-Op Insurance found that 91% of those asked thought the price of their home had gone up. It was also discovered that they believe renovation and decoration work were accountable for a £14,900 rise in the value of a property.

Continue reading How Renovation Can Affect Property Prices

Fife Buy to Let – Past, Present and Future

Investing in a Fife buy to let property has become a very different sport over the last few years.

In the glory days of the five years after the turn of the Millennium, where we had double-digit house price growth, mortgage companies (notably Northern Rock, HBOS and their ilk) desperate to get on the buy to let mortgage bandwagon with rates so low it would make the belly of a snake seem high and an open mildness to give loans away with not so much more than a note from your Mum and with hardly any regulatory intervention… anyone could make money from investing in property – in fact it was easier to make money than fall off a log! Then we had the unexpected flourish of the property market, with the post credit crunch jump in the property market after 2010, when everything seemed rosy in the garden.

Yet, over the past five years, the thumbscrews on the buy to let market for British (and de facto) Fife investors have slowly turned with new barriers and challenges for buy to let investors. With the change in taxation rules on mortgage relief starting to bite plus a swathe of new rules and regulations for landlords and mortgage companies, it cannot be denied some Fife landlords are leaving the buy to let sector, whilst others are putting a pause on their portfolio expansion.

With the London centric newspapers talking about a massive reduction in house prices (mainly in Mayfair and Prime London – not little old Fife) together with the red-tape that Westminster just keeps adding to the burden of landlords’ profit, it’s no wonder it appears to be dome and gloom for Fife landlords … or is it?

One shouldn’t always believe what one reads in the newspaper. It’s true, investing in the Fife buy to let property market has become a very different ballgame in the last five years thanks to all the changes and a few are panicking and selling up.

Fife landlords can no longer presume to buy a property, sit on it and automatically make a profit

Fife landlords need to see their buy to let investments in these tremulous times in a different light. Before landlords kill their fatted calves (i.e. sell up) because values are, and pardon the metaphor, not growing beyond expectation (i.e. fattening up), let’s not forget that properties produce income in the form of rent and yield. The focus on Fife buy to let property in these times should be on maximising your rents and not being preoccupied with just house price growth.

 

Rents in Fife’s private rental sector increased

by 1.96% in the past 12 months

 

Rents in Fife since 2008 have not kept up with inflation, it is cheaper today in REAL TERMS than it was 11 years ago and some landlords are beginning to realise that fact with our help.

Looking at the last few years, it can be seen that there is still a modest margin to increase rents to maximise your investment (and it can be seen some Fife landlords have already caught on), yet still protect your tenants by keeping the rents below those ‘real spending power terms’ of the 2008 levels.

Buy to let must be seen as a medium and long-term investment ….

Rents in Fife are 10.28% higher than they were 3 years ago and property values are 11.04% higher than Jan 2016

…and for the long term, even with the barriers and challenges that the Government is putting in your way – the future couldn’t be brighter if you know what you are doing.

Investment is the key word here… In the old days, anything with a front door and roof made money – yet now it doesn’t. Tenants will pay top dollar for the right property but in the right condition. Do you know where the hot spots are in Fife, whether demand is greater for 2 beds in Fife or 3 beds? Whether town centre terraced houses offer better ROI than suburban semis? With all the regulations many Fife landlords are employing us to guide them by not only managing their properties, taking on the worries of property maintenance, the care of property and their tenants’ behaviour but also advising them on the future of their portfolio. We can give you specialist support (with ourselves or people we trust) on the future direction of the portfolio to meet your investment needs (by judging your circumstances and need between capital growth and yields), specialist finance and even put your property empire into a limited company.

 

If you are reading this and you know someone who is a Fife buy to let landlord, do them a favour and share this article with them – it could save them a lot of worry, heartache, money and time.

What Has Happened to the Fife Property Market Since the Crash?

A handful of Fife landlords and homeowners have been asking me what would happen if we had another property crash like we did in 2008/9?

The UK property crash in 2008/9 caused property prices in the UK to drop by an average of 18.37% in a period of 16 months.

Continue reading What Has Happened to the Fife Property Market Since the Crash?

Design trends to look out for in 2020

We’re moving into a new decade, and so the last thing that you want is for your home to look dated. Throughout 2019 we have seen some extreme trends in interior design; from the embracing of industrial elements to the resurgence of entirely neutral spaces. We have taken a look at what to expect this year and how to get ahead with your design aesthetic, whatever your budget.

  1. Colour makes a comeback

One of the key trends this decade has been that of neutral spaces with a few accent pieces to liven up the décor, however this year one of the main inclinations in design will be towards colour; bolder, brighter and braver! Rebecca Breslin, Wayfair Professional design manager, is calling for an end of “Greige, grey and all neutral everything without texture or visual interest” and therefore if you are looking for a change this year then start by adding colour into your home – burnt oranges and deep blues are set to be en vogue throughout the whole year.

  1. Paper set to tear up the market

A feature wall has been the mainstay of every makeover show and glossy magazine before-and-after shoot since the early naughties, however 2020 is set to end this fad. Rather than a singular wall that is adorned with wallpaper, we are going to see all four walls covered with paper – in line with the brighter aesthetic of 2020. Wallpaper has seen something of a renaissance over the past decade, with designs from Gucci and Dior all the way through to stick-and-peel examples flooding the marketplace, and this isn’t set to end this year. If you want to experiment, then start with smaller spaces such as studies, toilets and guest bedrooms where patterns will seem less overwhelming.

  1. Cabinet shake-up

The crisp, white kitchens that have been an enduring design staple over the last decade are set to move into retirement in 2020, with colour making its way back into the heart of the home. Kitchen cabinets, more specifically, are to become a real focus in kitchen design – therefore if you are looking to stay on-trend then think about rejuvenating your cabinets. Navy blue matte cabinets with vintage gold handles will transform your aesthetic immediately and mixes the traditional and vintage visuals that are set to be all the rage this year.

  1. Give art a start

In these modern days of mass production and consumerism, vintage art and antiques are making a huge comeback due to the perceived one-of-a-kind nature of the objects and that they possess their own unique story. If you are looking to make small changes to your home that make it chic, then adding some select pieces of art is a great start – adding pieces to your kitchen walls will add particular interest to an otherwise utilitarian space.

  1. Soften the edges

Throughout the 2010s, chicness has often been related to strong lines, sharp edges and minimalism, however as we move into the next decade this is set to be turned on its head for an altogether softer look. As well as a nod to 30s glamour (think metallics such as silver and gold, as well as scalloped seating) curves and fluid shapes are set to be popular this year; from circular side tables to rounded-edge sofas.

The £3.6 billion mortgage debt of Fife homeowners

Irrespective of the shenanigans and political goings on in Westminster recently, the housing market (for the time being anyway) shows a striking resilience, fostered by the on-going wide-ranging monetary policy by the Bank of England. With interest rates and unemployment low, UK plc is heading into 2020 in reasonable condition.  Additionally, despite the UK’s new homes industry Continue reading The £3.6 billion mortgage debt of Fife homeowners

It takes just eight minutes to decide on a house

As any estate agent can tell you, a successful sale hinges on a good first impression. Prospective buyers possess a sixth sense when it comes to viewing a property and if things aren’t up to scratch – inside and out – you can guarantee they will spot it.

In fact, a recent study has revealed that the average house hunter only needs eight minutes to decide if a property is for them or not and six in ten adults will also choose not to buy a property based on the condition of the exterior of the property, without even needing to view the inside.

In comparison, 18% of buyers admitted to buying the very first property they view and 15% said they decided to buy the property before they had even viewed it in person.

This decisiveness extends online, with the average buyer spending eight minutes deciding whether or not to visit a property – highlighting the importance of a good online advert. This comes back to making sure you have a professional photographer to take stunning photos, a professional copywriter to describe and measure the property, emotive descriptions to catch the buyers attention, a correct and not over-inflated valuation for the home report and most of all an agent that’s going to jump on an enquiry regardless of when and what time it comes in. Proactive rather than reactive.

75% also confessed to being irritated upon finding that an advert or online listing does not accurately represent a property when visiting in person.

The study also revealed which aspects of a viewing signalled an early exit for many prospective buyers. The main offender was an obvious damp patch, which 60% of buyers said would put a stop to any future transaction, whilst a house on a main road or cracks in the wall would also put an end to the viewing.

For the buyers who are good at seeking out the problematic finer details of the property, there were some decisive reasons for buyers backing out of the viewing, such as dirty toilet pipes, overflowing bins, wheelie bins left in front of the property and faded or yellowed paintwork.

Some viewers take issue with a sellers lack of preparation for the viewing such as untidy rooms, poor DIY and ashtrays left around the house.

Other reasons included logistical problems such as the size of the rooms being too small for the buyer’s furniture or issues with the natural lighting of the property. The current owner’s furniture cluttering up the layout of a room which preventing the buyer’s imagination from running wild led to over a third of buyers to back out of a purchase.

The list showcases the importance of sprucing up your home, both before putting it on the market and before every viewing. A prospective buyer needs to weigh up the additional costs and work involved in buying a property, so ensure you give your home the most generic makeover possible and organise your possessions and furniture in a way that won’t distract the prospective buyer.

Some of these issues might seem very minor to you but it highlights the need to have an experienced agent that can overcome what you see as minor objections so the buyer does not walk away over something that could be trivial in hindsight.

Will There Be a ‘Boris Bounce’ For the Fife Property Market?

The Halifax announced in early January that there was a Boris Bounce in the national property market as they stated national property values soared 1.7% in December 2019 – the biggest rise since the 1.9% month on month rise in February 2007 (a few months before the Global Financial Crisis aka the Credit Crunch).

Get the flags out – all hail Boris as the Conservatives gain their landslide general election triumph – the Boris Bounce is here … or is it?

Continue reading Will There Be a ‘Boris Bounce’ For the Fife Property Market?

Tips for Buyers and Sellers looking to move

It’s the start of a brand new year in the market, with buyers and sellers alike preparing to fulfil their New Year’s Resolutions and make their move. Market conditions appear to have stabilised after December’s general election brought with it a majority Conservative Government, but what can you do to give yourself the best chance of a successful transaction? Read our top tips for Buyers and Sellers below.

BUYERS TIPS

Research, Research, Research

As clichéd as it sounds, buyers who prepare sufficiently are more likely to end up with a better deal for the home they’re looking for. Once you’ve made the decision to begin house hunting, look into sale and listing prices for properties in the local areas that you’re interested in; this will give you a rough guide as to how much you can expect to spend.

Prepare your mortgage

If you’re house-hunting in a competitive area where properties are quickly snapped up, then getting a mortgage agreement in principle will give you an advantage when you find the property that you want. Having your finances in order and prepared can save time and prove invaluable if the home you want is likely to generate significant local interest.

Check the Home Report

Make sure you check the home report (Scotland) and the surveyor’s comments before you offer. This survey flags up any major issues or elements of the property that require attention, such as urgent defects or structural concerns. Depending on the age of the building, you could find yourself a wildly fluctuating amount of work to carry out, especially if previous owners have neglected its upkeep. Either way, this is an invaluable belts and braces report of the property and will provide peace of mind in any outcome. If it’s more than 3 months old once you have had an offer accepted, insist on the seller getting a refresh so it’s up to date. If a long time has passed since it was first listed it could be there is other issues you need to be aware of that could affect your initial offer price.

SELLERS TIPS

Research, Research, Research

Preparation is key for sellers, too! Make sure you know your property’s true value before it’s listed; carry out a full appraisal of your home with a trusted agent and not just an instant valuation to get a clear idea of what your property is worth. Inviting valuers into your home can also provide you with a fresh set of eyes which can be useful in flagging up any existing issues or reminding you of a few flaws that could require attention before going to market, too. Some even provide more specialist knowledge than just a valuation.

Find ways to add more value

If you’re looking for ways to add more worth to your property, then carrying out home improvement projects will certainly aid you. These can be relatively simple tasks, such as installing double glazing or adding extra insulation to your loft, or bigger jobs such as renovating your kitchen. Whilst the cost associated with these projects may be off-putting, it may pay off when it comes to increasing your home’s value. But ask the professionals first if it’s worth doing before doing it.

Declutter and organise

Take a look at each room in your house and you’ll likely find a few easy ways of decluttering and making extra space. This is vital for the viewing process as potential buyers need to be able to picture themselves living in this space, and in some rooms, it’s as easy as clearing a few worktops or mantlepieces.

In today’s market, preparation really is key whether you’re buying or selling. Carry out your market research, get your finances and paperwork and make sure you utilise a knowledgeable and local agent to help you through the process. One that has a consistent track record, years of experience and is an expert in their field. One that embraces and uses new technology and media marketing to hit specific target markets for your property rather than one that will put it on a few big websites and hope for the best. Proactive rather than reactive.

OK ‘St Andrews’ Boomer it’s all your fault

St Andrews House Prices Have Risen by 176% as a Proportion of Household Income Since 1980

Have the Baby Boomers (people between the ages of 55yrs to 75yrs) messed things up for the Millennials in terms of getting on the St Andrews property ladder? They bought their own council houses in the 80’s and 90’s, meaning there are no affordable homes for today’s youngsters, thus driving up the demand for rental homes and the price of homes (making them unaffordable). So, I decided to look at the figures, which do not make for good reading.

In 1980, the average St Andrews household income was just under £6,000 per annum and the average St Andrews house price was £25,933; whilst today, the average St Andrews household income is £27,544 per annum, yet the average household value is £328,700, meaning…

the average value of a St Andrews home was 4.32 times more than the average household income in 1980 compared to today, where it is 11.93 times a St Andrews household income

… it’s no wonder then that Millennials are pointing the finger at Baby Boomers!

And the problems don’t just stop there. Not only do the newspapers state there is a housing crisis of affordability, but also a crisis of the availability of homes for people to live in. The political parties using housing as a ‘vote getter’ mentioned stats such as in 1981 there were 5.1 million council houses and today that stands at 1.6 million. This is important because, as a substantial number of people will never be able to afford to buy, social housing plays a significant role in homing them.

It all looks rather damning and the phrase ‘OK Boomer’ looks quite apt.

(The phrase ‘OK Boomer’ become fashionable as it started as a way of showing Baby Boomers that things were “easier in the past”, yet now it has become just a way for younger people to discredit the views of older people).

Well, checking the stats, the political parties seemed to forget the number of housing associations homes (which are also social housing) has risen from 0.4m to 2.6m homes in that time, therefore, whilst there is a drop in social housing, it’s a net figure of 2.3m fewer social-rented houses, instead of the 3.5m in the paragraph above.

Baby Boomers simply did the best they could with the circumstances given – it’s not like that these older generations have been conspiring in the food aisles of Waitrose or M&S on how to mess things up for the next generation. There are fundamental underlying problems in British society that means things are difficult for our younger people – it’s everyone’s responsibility to solve those underlying problems – we can’t just blame the Baby Boomers. Millennials aren’t morally superior to Baby Boomers just because they didn’t grow up in the same era of economic growth and house price inflation.

What some people seem to forget is whilst St Andrews property values were lower, so were salaries. The true cost of affordability is the mortgage payments. Assuming an average property was purchased in 1980 and again in 2019, using a 95% mortgage at the prevailing mortgage rate of 17.8% in 1980 and the current 1.65%, today in St Andrews the mortgage accounts for 55% of the household income (assuming a single income) compared to 74% in 1980. This has to be one of the main reasons why many families became two wage households in the late 70’s/early 80’s as housing affordability was diminished with these eye watering high interest rates.

Things were tougher for homeowners in 1980….

The issue here is something much deeper. Baby Boomers say it is the Millennials’ own fault they can’t afford to buy their own home because they spend all their money on three holidays, avocado on toast, going out down the pub 3 times a week and buying the latest iPhone or suchlike whilst Millennials accuse the Baby Boomer generation for ruining the housing market ‘per se’ by being selfish. Both are right and both are wrong.

In my own involvement with friends and family, many St Andrews Baby Boomers are trying their best to help out their now grown up children with a deposit. They are fully aware of current St Andrews house prices compared to when they bought their own homes.

I am not a fan of attaching labels, be it Millennials, Baby Boomer or Gen-X. It’s really a point of attitude and behaviour and circumstance rather than the date of your birth. Every generation has had its fair share of feast and famine and whilst I appreciate the irony of the title of this article, let’s stop labelling people and making assumptions, everyone needs to understand each generation’s issues and be more ungrudging to each other.

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