Yesterday marked a year that first-time buyers have benefited from the stamp duty tax relief.
The money-saving tax relief, which is known as First Time Buyer Relief (FTBR), was introduced on 22 November 2017. The Treasury announced that since the inception of the scheme, more than 180,500 first-time buyers have benefited, saving a total of £426 million pounds.
Iain McKenzie, CEO of The Guild of Property Professionals, said: “The government’s effort to assist first-time buyers to get into the market is seeing fruit with the number of first-time buyers at a 12-year high and climbing. Provided they have access to finances to meet deposit requirements, either through savings or their parents, first-time buyers will have an even greater impact in the market during 2019.”
The scheme is available to any first-time buyer purchasing a property in England or Northern Ireland with a purchase price of no more than £500,000, in the budget last month the relief was extended to first-time buyers purchasing a property through an approved shared ownership scheme. According to the Treasury, the relief was claimed in over 58,800 transactions between July and September this year, an increase of 12% compared with the previous quarter.
“While factors such as Brexit are still having a major impact on the housing market, the stamp duty relief will continue to increase the number of motivated buyers looking to purchase their first property,” adds McKenzie.
Finding your dream home can be a challenge. You might need a larger property if your family is growing, or if your children have left home, you might be looking to downsize. There are advantages of both upsizing and downsizing in 2018. We asked our Guild agents for their opinions and advice on what is happening in the market that makes it good for either upsizing or downsizing.
“In Wakefield, we are seeing the £500,000-plus market booming in sales. A lot of this movement is due to downsizing. Many of the larger properties in more select suburbs rarely come on to the market, but when they do there is always considerable interest.
“Currently, Wakefield is a great opportunity for downsizing purely because of the interest to buy. Likewise, it’s an incredibly good place to upsize, with more property on the market and many more new build developments, both in the luxury and mainstream market. The choice has never been so abundant.
“There are pros and cons. Upsizing may be a dream but think of the practicalities. Your utility bills, council tax, and maintenance bills will be higher. General upkeep will be a much larger task; from gardening to cleaning, it will all take more time and resource. Downsizing might be more practical, but how will the lack of space impact on you? Your utility bills might be cheaper but will you be compromising? Maybe you hadn’t considered the need for a spare bedroom or a utility space, what about the outside space? Or simply the fact you’ll be much closer to your neighbours. For many, the realisation can sometimes be quite an adjustment.
“Ultimately, the best time to upsize or downsize depends on personal circumstances. You have to be fully aware of market conditions, your budget, and be honest about your needs and requirements, otherwise you could stand to lose out financially and emotionally.”
“In the London area over the past two/three years, we have seen prices softening, but this offers a fantastic opportunity to trade up to that dream house. When people sell, there is much focus on ‘what will I get for my house?’ It is an important question, but if you are planning to trade up to a more expensive property, is that actually the right question?
“For instance, if you have a property ‘worth’ say £1,000,000 and prices have dropped by 10%, this is now ‘worth £900,000 but you wish to buy a property that had a value of £1,750,000, and this too has dropped 10%, so is now available at £1,575,000. The gap between the 2 properties is £675,000. Had the prices been more stable, the gap would have been £750,000, so the saving now is £100,000.
“Equally, if prices are rising, again using 10%, we see the values being £1,100,000 and £1,925,000 respectively, a gap now of £825,000.
“This example shows how using a ‘poor market’ can be a great opportunity. Sometimes focusing on ‘how much can I get?’ is not the right question, when it should be, what is the difference I have to pay?”
“Strong buyer demand, affordable lending, and stable house prices make this a perfect market for both up-sizers and down-sizers here in the South West.
“Whether looking to move to a larger property or seeking to move to a smaller, easier to manage home, stable prices make it easier to plan and healthy demand from buyers who can afford to borrow help make the current market fluid. Moving up or down the market, actual and purchase prices are less important than the price differential between the two.
“Across the country, it seems that stock is an issue and whilst this may mean that new homes developers are taking a larger share of the market, competition between them is keeping prices steady.
“This doesn’t mean that upsizers and down-sizers are so limited in choice though – it simply means that if they can’t find what they’re looking for, they need to work with an experienced local agent that provides a search and acquisition service.
“With over twenty years experience, dealing with thousands of homeowners, at any one time, we have hundreds of local people on our database who are looking to move – even though they are not on the market and advertised for sale.
“Over the last 12 months, we have seen an increase in property prices and therefore increased equity for homeowners. This can make it an ideal time to downsize and cash in on your investment. Recently, I valued a four-bedroom detached property. The owners bought their home in 2015 for £266,000 and would now expect it to achieve £300,000. There are not many investments that will give you a return of £34,000 in 2 years. They were looking to sell and downsize to go mortgage free.
“The main reasons we find people choosing to downsize is to release equity, go mortgage free, or the property they are in may be bigger than what they need. I believe downsizing is one of the hardest moves a person can make as comprise is needed. Therefore, our advice would be to think about what you are prepared to comprise on. If you only want a specific location, you may have to comprise on the size of the property or if off road parking is a must for you, you may have to give up that extra bedroom.
“The market offers advantages at the moment for those looking to upsize or downsize. Since November 2017, first-time buyers have not needed to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) on properties priced up to £300,000, which will speed up the time it takes them to save for their first home. Mortgage rates are still at a historic low, making a bigger mortgage more affordable for many people.
“You might be looking to upsize to accommodate a growing family or to downsize to release capital, reduce outgoings or if your children have left home. Whatever the reason, I would advise you to book a professional valuation and speak to a mortgage advisor before selling your home.
“If you’d like to upsize; plan ahead. Perhaps you’d like to relocate to be closer to catchment areas for schools. Consider the timing of the school year when planning your move and allow for any delays in the chain.
“Those looking to downsize should be realistic about the amount of space you need. Ask yourself: are you using all the space you’ve got or have you simply expanded to fill it? You’ll also need to consider the factors which are important to you, such as public transport, facilities and the local community.”
“As the market cools off, opportunities can arise for those looking to up-size as larger properties come down in value more quickly than the lower end of the market, which is propped up by both first-time buyers and buy-to-let investors. This can create an opportunity for buyers to procure a large property at a lower price while still achieving a good price for their own.
“As the cost of living rises, down-sizing offers an opportunity to lower the running costs of your home and free up capital to spend on the refurbishment of a new, smaller property. The market has been rising for a number of years and, since 2016, has begun to cool, making this a good time to down-size, release large assets, cash in, and invest in a lower-value property, lowering your exposure to the market. With the cost-of-living rising, lowering your mortgage out-goings is always a wise move, too.”
Waiting for an offer to come through on your home can be a tense time. Offers do not always follow viewings, and it can be frustrating to feel like you can’t do anything to help. However, this isn’t the case. There are plenty of things you can do if your house isn’t getting as many offers as you’d hoped. If your property sale seems like it’s stuck, Guild agents have some advice for you.
1. Changing the price
Changing the price was the number one recommendation from Guild estate agents.
“We always encourage a vendor to put their property on the market at a price we know it will sell at, taking location, demand, and physical attributes into consideration,” says Simon Miller of Holroyd Miller.
If you are thinking of not following your agent’s advice with pricing, this is something to consider.
“The housing market is price sensitive and studies have shown that most buyers will choose not to view a property if they think it is overpriced. It is difficult to be completely accurate, but the price should be based on evidence from the sale of similar properties,” said Steve Thompson of Thomas Morris.
Peter McHugh from Webbers says: “The price should be backed up and confirmed by established market evidence. An agent’s job is to secure the best price in a time frame that suits the client. The price should maximise the potential; too low and a quick sale could damage the agent’s reputation, too high and marketing may be in vain. It should be as high as possible whilst still attracting viewers.”
If there is something that may put off some buyers, such as traffic noise or poor parking availability, make sure the house is priced to reflect that.
“Excuses can be that the property is not big enough, has too much traffic noise, that there’s not enough bathrooms, or even the wrong parking, but these are all other ways to say that a property is too much money. If priced correctly to allow for any downside, it will sell,” said Nicola Cox from Wye Country.
So, when should you think about a price change?
“Under prevailing market conditions, if a property has been on the market for 12 – 15 weeks and/or has had 12 – 15 viewings and has not sold, then something is the matter,” advises Mike Coles from Debbie Fortune.
2. Condition and presentation
Well-presented homes in a good quality condition tend to sell the fastest. The viewer can imagine themselves moving in right away, making it more attractive. Our agents have some tips.
Simon Miller from Holroyd Miller says: “After price, the next most common reason that a house isn’t selling quickly is that it looks like too much work for a potential purchaser. A lot of people do not have the extra cash required to completely facelift a property.
“If the price reflects the condition of the property then this shouldn’t be an issue, but if the condition is poor and the property is marketed at a premium price, the opportunities for a sale are limited. People either want to be able to visualise moving straight in, or are looking to take on a project – but at the right price.”
First impressions are vital, according to Gina Burbidge from Royston & Lund. “The garden will be the first thing your buyer sees so make sure it looks presentable and ensure you have cleaned your front door and external window sills.”
Zoe Hayle from Marshalls Hayle says: “A good idea is to stand outside your home as though you are viewing it for the first time, this will help you notice if anything is off-putting as a first impression. Good housekeeping is essential now, so keep everything clean and clutter-free. If your home feels welcoming, you will be half way to achieving a sale.”
Make sure you pay attention to the whole property, advises Abby Wheeler from Keats Estate Agents. “Most people focus on the interior of their property, however, first impressions count and the first thing that people see is the exterior. Ensure your bins are not overflowing and your pathway is weed free, pop a lick of paint on the front door and add a pot plant (or two). Do whatever you can to make your home feel inviting from the outset. Don’t forget that viewers have probably already driven past before making the appointment.”
There is more to think about during the viewings, too.
“Sellers need to maintain the property whilst it is on the market. Cut the grass, clean the windows, and pull out the weeds. They also need to allow the agent to work freely in the property whilst showing potential clients around, and be able to answer any questions,” recommends Ken Morton from Apple Homes.
3. Have the right estate agent for you
Has your agent been putting in a lot of work? If yours clearly isn’t, it may be time to consider going to a different company.
“Good agents work hard to proactively sell a home,” says Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris. “They spend time phoning out to talk about a property rather than waiting for buyers to phone in, they take time and care over the presentation of the property with quality photographs and informative details and they update the presentation in response to feedback from the market.
“A good agent will value properties correctly, attain detailed knowledge of the property, and know the area and the buyers. They are able to use this knowledge to put the property together with the right buyer. A poor agent could be the reason a home is not selling.”
Peter McHugh agrees that it is best to have an agent who knows the area inside and out. “Choose a good agent with a recognised reputation. Make sure the promotional material, including photographs, brochures, advertising and web coverage are all excellent to make a good first impression. Pick an agent who really knows the marketplace.”
Mike Coles from Debbie Fortune advises buyers to check that they are getting the service they should. “Ask yourself: what is your agent doing for you? What does your marketing literature look like? Does the photography or video show it at its best? Are they advertising the property? Are they keeping in touch? Adequate feedback is vital as it may highlight actions which need to be carried out.”
Kevin Parson from Marsh & Parsons advises sellers to check that their agent is giving clear information across all platforms to avoid confusing any interested parties. “Make sure every advertising medium you use is consistent in its message. The brochure should have the same photographs as the online advert. The wording should be the same on both. Don’t confuse your potential buyers by adding and omitting important information.”
4. Market conditions
Before making big decisions, consider the state of the market.
“The housing market is a changing and evolving thing,” points out Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris. “Prices can go down as well as up for any number of reasons including economics, time of year and market sentiment amongst others. A property may not be selling due to changes in the market and the price and marketing made need adjusting to react to market changes.”
5. Listen to feedback
Agents should be able to get an impression from a potential buyer who decides against making an offer. Ask to hear all feedback and act upon it to achieve the sale.
Steve Barron, Drivers & Norris, advises: “Use applicants’ feedback to work out if there’s a common theme as to why people are not interested in the property and then remedy this, if possible.”
If you’re unsure, ask your agent to ask more questions of the viewers next time. “Sellers often get little price opinionated feedback, so asking a potential purchaser what they would be willing to pay is a very important question,” says Daniel McGowran from Gibbs Gillespie.
Are you having a hard time selling your property? We can help. Find a Guild agent near you today.
Looking for your perfect property can be an exciting experience. Once you’ve searched online and spoken to your local Guild Member about what you’re looking for, it’s time to start the viewings. But how many should you do before you make an offer? What if your first property seems perfect? Should you keep looking? Guild agents share their top tips.
Finding the perfect house on the first viewing – what do you do?
Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris said: “There are difficulties involved in finding what appears to be the perfect property very early in a search; many buyers will be concerned about taking the plunge when they haven’t had the opportunity to shop around and see how other properties compare.
“Not securing the perfect property however, could come back and haunt you if someone else secures it before you make a decision. So, if you fell its right – go for it! Getting out and viewing a range of properties early on will help to avoid this as it will help to ensure that the perfect property can be identified if it stands out from the crowd.”
“Trust your judgement – if it ticks all your boxes, why not go for it?” he asks. “What more are you hoping to find elsewhere? The rest might not match up. Go back for a second visit immediately with a friend or relative for another opinion and if it still excites, make an offer.”
Remember to do your homework before a viewing, says Zoe Hayle from Marshall’s, and there should be no doubt when you find the right home. “If you have done your homework and know the area you want to settle in, then when you find the perfect home you really should offer on it. There is a lack of properties coming to the market now, with many people trying to find one. If you don’t offer, someone else might and if you have missed your favourite then no other property will match up.”
How many viewing should you do per day?
Brian Carlisle from J R Hopper & Co has a recommended number of properties to view per day.
“View at least two or three homes, preferably with the same agent, on the same day. This allows you to compare and rank properties in terms of ticking the boxes and value. Don’t view more than five or six in a day. You will get exhausted and will not make rational decisions after too many viewings,” he advises.
“I do think it’s important that people get out and view a number of properties rather than trying to do their property shopping predominantly on the internet,” he said. “Properties and locations can look and feel very different in the flesh, and there is a risk of passing up an ideal home by discounting it without a visit.”
Make an offer
Brian Carlisle from J R Hopper & Co points out that it is acceptable to put an offer in on multiple properties.
“It is perfectly possible to place an offer on more than one property, providing you are happy to go ahead if any of those offers are accepted. Look at your very short list of properties you would buy at the right price. Decide what you are prepared to offer on each and make the offers. Make sure the agents know you are offering on other properties.”
Can you view too many homes?
Gina Burbidge from Royston & Lund says: “Before making an offer on a property, it is advisable to view as many as possible. Try and view a range of properties in the areas you are considering buying to compare as much as possible. Although you can’t view too many properties, if you see something you are interested in in a fast-moving market, it would be advisable to make an offer as soon as you could to ensure you don’t miss out.”
Kevan Wimborne from GBP Estates personally prefers to view fewer properties, but he understands that everyone is different. “By the time you have seen 20 – 30 properties, they begin to all seem similar. Then you possibly decide to ‘settle’ for a property which really wasn’t as good as the first one or second one you saw, but you now need to find something whilst you still have the will,” he jokes.
“The amount of properties you choose to look at really depends on yourself. You could look at hundreds of properties online on the properties portals, view loads through your local agents, but never find the one you have in your mind’s eye. Then again, you could get lucky when you find your dream home at your local Guild agent’s window, and it’s perfect when you view it. “Don’t be afraid to look into things and ask loads of questions because it will be the largest purchase you might ever make. Remember it’s down to you and listen to the advice given to you by your agent.”