Cridland and Co shortlisted for the Best Estate Agency Newcomer award!
Cridland and Co chosen as industry pundits!
Estate agents have an annoying habit of talking about themselves. We find that a distinctly tiresome subject, our clients and properties are far more interesting! Hence when Gill Oliver, the Property Editor, asked James to write a blog for the Oxford Times he was a little nervous...
But in fact it has given us a direct conduit out to the wider public, not just our clients. The first article makes a light-hearted attempt to offer sensible advice on selling a property, the second is planned to be a little more contentious...
If you have a subject you think James should write about please email him -
I sometimes chuckle inwardly about the fact that just before Easter the whole of my world smells of paint with every house I see being prepared for the "selling season", and around about now most potential buyers and sellers are writing off this year in preparation for the next.
Let's be clear about this. The traditional seasonal expectations ARE GONE! Today's buyer is far less driven by seasons, they have a clear and definite reason for buying. So as I write this (26th November) our agency is negotiating offers on quite a number of properties and, if anything, our current predicament is a lack of stock not a lack of buyers.
If you are wondering when to sell or rent your property come and talk to us as soon as you think of it. We can give you chapter and verse on the market as it stands, what you can do to get the best outcome, and plan with you how to make the process as fruitful and painless as possible.
Summer time and the market is... split right down the middle
It has felt like a great Summer despite the weather - how often do we get to shout about being British with some genuine reasons? Consequently most country agents reported a downturn in activity, and we were similar although pleasingly as our stock is mostly a "heart" not a "head" purchase we found our activity was quality not quantity and sales levels remained quite good.
However, a few revealing snippets of information have come to light: Miles Shipside of Rightmove points out average guide prices are pretty much the same as 2007, yet in 2007 1.6 million properties sold in the UK whereas in 2011 that dropped to 600,000; a look at the average agent's stock in rural Oxfordshire locations sees only between 20 and 30% of stock showing as sold; most new email alerts from the major portals are not new at all, they're old stock being reduced (as much as 80&).
In stark contrast, our Summer sales in Oxford have shown that investors will always love a top University town. We secured a deal of 25% over what one vendor had paid for his property as recently as 2010; another has achieved about 7% more than any property in their development has ever sold for; and a third sold in 4 days with 27 calls from the Oxford Times - before it hit the internet...
The same Spring story emerging again! As buyers arrive vendors start to worry about what they might be able to buy. Naturally we all want the ideal, but looking for that "forever house" may not be possible. Obstinate and unhelpful mortgage companies combined with the ideal rung of the ladder being financially out of reach make it hard for many of us to see how the move will work.
Our advice is if you can't buy what you think you want, try to focus on what you actually need. Many pedestrian properties could become the dream home with the right advice and attention to detail - the phrase "making a silk purse out of a sow's ear" could be made for some of them! If you need help visualising how a property might work for you talk to us, you might be surprised what can be done...
Family buyers driving the market again, with character properties still the most desirable. Having said that we sold one delightful post-war house in Oxford for clearly £35-40,000 (15%) more than the average for the road, and it only took two weeks.
This is proof that the best of its type carries a premium. If you're considering selling please ask us to assess your property, with the right specification it could be worth more than you might think.
A fast moving month with a little more stock coming to the market. But many buyers are still cautious and feel they can afford to be. We have seen the emergence of a new phrase - "my forever house" - showing buyers really are looking to invest their entire future in the next property.
On the flip side sellers are finding it hard to secure the house that completes their chain. One particular client has seen more than 50 properties and lost out on the only one they would have gladly taken on.
February. "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow"
All those childhood images of snowmen and sledges are as pretty as ever, but the reality is it's not much fun trying to get to appointments! Many buyers could get to the town viewings but the villages were much harder so a number of appointments were cancelled. This is the time when stock levels should traditionally build as we run towards Spring but we are surprised to see how many of those coming up as "new listings" were marketed at the same price in 2011.
CAN YOU GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL SELL THIS YEAR? Amazingly the answer is "YES". Our advice is make your house the best in the road/ area. How?
Price - If you're just starting out on selling, don't "test the market" unless that is all you want to do. If you want to sell, price to be competitive. And if you're on the market already look at what else is for sale, compare them to yours, and be honest - would you buy your house at this price or one of the others???
Condition - a scuffed skirting board or a grubby lightswitch isn't the greatest sin. But someone recently, very wisely, likened it to "arriving at a lovely hotel to find the soap is dirty". Give viewers as many reasons to love the property, and as few to divert their attention from the overall attraction, as humanly possible. It will benefit you in the end and you'll be glad you spent the time.
Be accommodating - you can't put your life on hold while selling a house, but you can make sure that whenever a viewer wants to look round they can. If you say "no, Saturday's no good for us" the viewer who might otherwise have bought your house might find another that day....
January - where did all these buyers come from???
We expected to spend all of January calling potential buyers only to find that credit card bill/ new school terms/ January blues made the calls pretty unproductive. But to our surprise we didn't get the chance in many cases! Saturdays were booked solid a week in advance for viewings, we often had to double up with several people looking simultaneously, several properties sold within hours of hitting the market and one didn't even reach the market before our first viewer snapped it up.
60% of our properties sold in one month? If that's a trend, roll on January 2013....
2011, a good year in many ways....
With the benefit of hindsight we can now see that the well priced properties sold quickly and at very close to the guide price. Those hanging on in the hope of finding "the right buyer" have found the wait is often frustrating, and the longer their property sits unsold often the harder that right buyer haggles the price down. Heart-driven sales are still the norm with the archetypal village house but unless your buyers' pockets are limitless they are still looking for value for money.
Having said that we have had some wonderful successes. Case study: A property in Lower Heyford which has been on the market on and off for several years with another agent was sold by us just before Christmas, our FIRST viewing on the property. We knew the viewer would object to the road on the grounds of noise, but we also knew that once inside the house noise is never an issue. Knowing us quite well by now the viewer trusted us to show them the "right house for you" and, lo and behold, the sale exchanged mid February - the end of a very long chapter for the owners.
But the headlines from us? Our sold properties averaged 97.9% of their guide prices, proving we know our market.
Winter approaching we look back at the last three months and can now see our predictions were right - increasingly picky buyers. Buyer numbers reduce as we end the Autumn, but this is not all bad news. Those buyers currently looking are more motivated, job moves/ school catchments and the like become strong drivers so most who are viewing are pretty serious about it. Now is the time for agents to refresh the marketing with new photos and descriptions, and for sellers to adjust their prices to tempt a Winter buyer.
And most importantly DO NOT WITHDRAW YOUR HOUSE FROM THE MARKET OVER WINTER!!! If they can't view it they can't buy it! Instead make arrangements with your agent to give greater notice before viewings so you suffer less disruption, and if necessary be prepared to make sure the property is in pristine order for just a few days per week and ask the agent to view only on those days.
Summer round up
What a mixed bag! Some unlikely properties selling instantly whereas others that, on the face of it, look perfectly priced and presented are taking time. The headline is there appears to be one "best" buyer for each property and that buyer is looking to make a deal today. If you receive an offer haggle hard until the buyer digs their heels in then accept their offer - another may not be forthcoming for some months. The good news is once you have a buyer for your own property you can haggle hard on the next and will probably find a deal with a similar percentage reduction against the list price.
Indications are that the market is becoming more "picky". A unique property in the right location will still find strong money with the right buyer. However as supply has increased so the market has swayed in favour of buyers as they are more relaxed about finding the right property - they feel that with so much available something will turn up. With a number to choose from some buyers are now telling us they haven't "found anything perfect yet", meaning they feel they can look to tick all the boxes before making a decision. So our advice is price it right, fix any obvious problems, and ensure you choose the right agent...
...And we're expanding!
We are delighted to announce that just three months' into trading Lucy Antony (nee Harker) has joined us. Lucy has a stunning reputation within estate agency as a caring, "can-do" person who handles the needs of buyers and sellers with both knowledge and sensitivity. She has great experience in Central and North Oxfordshire and if you are looking for a really human agent to work with you Lucy has few peers in this industry. We would like to welcome her to the business, we are sure she will be a great and enduring asset to our service and your success.
Still less than three months' old we have found an exceptionally warm response to our service! Our first sales are exchanging contracts shortly, some above their guide prices, and our register is expanding to cover a broad range of property in both Oxford and the more rural towns and villages. Sales are strong if the property is priced sensibly with regard to today's market, and we have been very busy indeed this month!
Cridland and Co.