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Stories of the week – and what you made of them

April 30, 2016

It’s been another hectic week for the industry with portal juggling getting more attention and trading updates from some of the big names First, portal juggling started to go mainstream Portal juggling has been a key area of concern for EYE readers for months, and finally the mainstream press is taking notice. The Financial Times […]

The X Factor: How will Boris’s successor influence London housing market?

Londoners will go to the polls next Thursday to decide on a new Mayor of London. Whoever replaces Boris Johnson could have an influence on the way London agents run your business. All candidates agree 50,000 extra homes are needed each year, but there are some policy differences when it comes to regulation in the […]

Hunters reports big increases in revenues and profits

April 29, 2016

Hunters, which floated on the Alternative Investment Market last July, has issued a strong set of maiden results to the City. Network income was up 42% on the previous year at £30.2m, turnover up by 31% to stand at £12m, and pre-tax profits up 59%. Earnings before costs (EBITDA) were up 46% to £1.57m. Hunters, […]

Negative Twitter comments represent only ‘tiny fraction’ of business, says Purplebricks

Purplebricks has emphasised that negative comments on Twitter represent only a very tiny handful of customers. PDFs of some Twitter comments are said to be circulating and EYE received copies, which we showed to Purplebricks. A spokesperson told us: “Purplebricks is proud of the exceptional level of customer service that we offer to our customers […]

Rise in private rental stock more than triples increase in owner-occupier homes

The latest official estimates on housing stock in England have been published by the Government. As of March 31 last year, there were 23.5m homes – up by 171,000 on March 31, 2014. Of that number, 14.7m were owner occupied, 4.7m were in the private rented sector and 4m were social rented homes. Between March […]

Countrywide snaps up single-office letting agency – and want more

Countrywide has acquired a single-branch letting business – and made it clear that it is still on the hunt for further acquisitions of any size almost anywhere in the UK. Its latest purchase is of the Letting Bureau in Colne, Lancashire. It will be rebranded as Entwistle Green from May 9. All staff are being […]

More first-time buyers climbing on to the housing ladder

Life may be getting tougher for buy-to-let landlords but first-time buyers could finally be catching a break. Data from Your Move and Reeds Rains’ latest First-Time Buyer Tracker show that the highest number of first-time buyers since June 2014 climbed on to the ladder in March. The total number of completed first-time buyer transactions last […]

NEWS FLASH: Industry regulator investigating almost 50 cases against agents

April 28, 2016

The industry regulator has received 248 complaints about estate agents since it came into being just over two years ago and is currently investigating 48 live cases. However, the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team has been unable to state how many cases it has proactively initiated in its role as a result of its […]

First the surge – now comes the slowdown, says Foxtons

Sales at Foxtons were up 28.5% in the first quarter of this year compared with the first three months of 2015. The rise in sales pushed revenue up 16.2% in the quarter, as purchasers of second homes and buy-to-let properties rushed to beat the 3% Stamp Duty surcharge. Because a “large number” of completions were […]

Purplebricks shares soar to new heights

Purplebricks shares hit their highest-ever price yesterday, touching 180p. Although they suffered a sharp fall shortly before the close and ended at 166p, it still meant that the shares rose 4.75p on the day, giving it a market capitalisation just shy of £400m. Purplebricks floated on the stock market in mid-December at 100p. Canny investors […]

Petition against letting agent fees gathers over 250,000 signatures

A petition against letting agent fees has now gathered some 250,000 signatures. It has been organised by Vicky Spratt, from young women’s online publication the Debrief. Earlier this week, Spratt appeared on The BBC’s Daily Politics show, presenting a a two-minute film explaining why she thinks the rental market is broken, and calling for people […]

Many landlords ‘will stop renting to tenants on Universal Credit’

The Government’s new Universal Credit payments could have a disastrous impact on the private rented sector, with more and more landlords refusing to let to tenants on benefits. The warning comes from the Residential Landlords Association. It says landlords are frustrated with the new system, which sees benefits paid directly to claimants, who are then […]

Thanks George! Landlords’ confidence at its lowest ebb for a decade

Buy-to-let tax changes have pushed landlord confidence down to its lowest level for ten years, a consultancy has claimed. BDRC Continental has run a quarterly landlord panel, based on more than 1,000 National Landlord Association members, since 2006 and has found just 41% are feeling positive of the sector. This is the lowest level of […]

Agent speaks of horror after woman viewer falls down well

April 27, 2016

An estate agent boss has told of his shock after a woman fell 30 feet down a disused well during a viewing. The 39-year-old fell at around noon on Saturday, with her ordeal lasting until 3.30pm when she was pulled out. Miraculously, she was able to walk to the ambulance which took her to hospital. […]

Tumbleweed as property investors desert the market

Property investors are deserting the market, with estate agents haart reporting a 55% monthly drop in buy-to-let sales during the first two weeks of April. Haart reports that in March sales were flying – up 19% across its network on a monthly basis and 17% on March last year. The firm says its average selling […]

Mortgage lending up 64% in a year, say banks

The rush to beat the buy-to-let Stamp Duty deadline sent mortgage lending to an eight-year high in March, according to the British Bankers’ Association. Gross mortgage borrowing was at £17.1bn in March, up 64% year-on-year, the trade body said. The figures represent the highest borrowing since April 2008. The number of mortgage approvals in March […]

Average-income households ‘would take 22 years’ to save for a deposit

The acceleration of housing costs compared to the rise in incomes means potential buyers take longer to save for a deposit, creating a nation of renters, according to research by the Resolution Foundation. It found that the average low to middle income (LMI) household would take 22 years to save the typical deposit paid on […]

Cash is king for four in ten London buyers

Almost six in ten property purchases in London during the first quarter of this year were by buy-to-let investors or buyers of second homes – and many bought with cash. London agent Marsh & Parsons says buy-to-let investors completed 36% of all its sales from January to March, up from 26% in the previous quarter, […]

NEWS FLASH: Countrywide announces house sales up nearly one third

April 26, 2016

Countrywide has announced that sales were up by almost one third in the run-up to the Stamp Duty reform. In a remarkably thin trading update, consisting of just 396 words, this morning, Countrywide also made a veiled reference to last year’s cull of senior people. It said it had started 2016 with “real momentum following […]

Henry Pryor hits out at agents that list properties but don’t really market them

Property buying agent and pundit Henry Pryor has hit out at agents who he says simply list rather than actively market properties. In a blog, he says: “Ever since the dawn of the net, I have implored agents to maintain their mailing lists or they will end up as glorified listing agents. “They will cease […]

Major agency win for embattled OTM as 25-office firm joins up

A prominent regional estate agency chain, Goadsby, which has 25 offices across Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire, has joined OnTheMarket. The news comes as OTM has had to deal with the PR fall-out from last week’s open letter to estate agents from the Competition and Markets Authority. While the letter specifically said that it currently has […]

Springett hits back at ‘predictably opportunistic attacks’ by detractors

OnTheMarket boss Ian Springett has hit back at detractors in an article on the online publication City AM. His article follows the Competition and Markets Authority’s open letter to estate agents warning them against colluding when making portal choices. In the piece, he says: “The letter from the CMA triggered some predictably opportunistic attacks on […]

US property franchise firm promises ‘super offices’ in UK

An American franchise company says it is aiming to recruit 3,000 to 5,000 estate agents in the UK who will work in ‘super offices’. Keller Williams launched in this country 18 months ago. Visiting London at the weekend, Bill Soteroff, president of KW Worldwide, said that by agent numbers, Keller Williams is now the biggest […]

OnTheMarket speaks out: Stakes are high in the battle of the portals

April 25, 2016

Last night, OnTheMarket issued a statement on the rising stakes in the property portal wars. It did so after a rallying letter was sent out by Iain White to agents regarding a meeting next month. See next story. White – an industry consultant whose clients include Choices, whose chairman is Simon Shinerock – is calling […]

OTM opponents call for NAEA chief Mark Hayward to quit board

Two long-standing opponents of OnTheMarket, Russell Quirk and Trevor Mealham – the pair opposed to OTM’s ‘one other portal rule’ and its ban of online agents – have publicly called for the NAEA to quit the board, following the Competition and Markets Authority’s ‘cartel’ warning last week. NAEA managing director Hayward was appointed a director […]

Letting agents jailed for total of seven years after £400,000 thefts

A couple who ran a lettings agency have been jailed for a total of seven years after stealing over £400,000. The case begs the question as to how much more evidence the Government needs in order to make Client Money Protection insurance mandatory. The agency, Williams & Young, in Sutton Coldfield, is said on one […]

Adrian Gill to join Romans and Leaders as group managing director – but when?

Adrian Gill, whose departure from LSL was announced last week, is to join Romans and Leaders as group managing director. Gill is currently the executive director in charge of estate agency at LSL, the parent company of Your Move, Reeds Rains and Marsh Parsons and the LSLi companies. As things stand, Gill will not be […]

The ‘portal juggling’ story goes mainstream in Financial Times report

A property search engine which advises investors and other buyers on prices says it has found frequently re-listed properties in parts of London. Propcision says that the re-listings “give rise to concerns that average asking prices on Battersea/Nine Elms are potentially being inflated and could possibly lead to a false impression of market activity in […]

Some of our top stories of the week – and what you thought

April 23, 2016

It’s been another hectic week for the industry with acquisitions and potential regulatory changes. First, CMP is back on the table This government seems to love U-turns but for a change this one potentially benefits the industry. Baroness Hayter has successfully got an amendment in the Housing and Planning Bill to provide powers to make […]

Taxing times: Is it worthwhile for landlords to work out whether to incorporate?

The recent ‘Panama papers’ data leak has put the issue of tax avoidance firmly back in the public spotlight The Government has now said it is planning on introducing rules that would hold companies criminally responsible if their staff facilitate tax evasion, and this could influence the way estate agents and the lettings industry works. […]

OnTheMarket comes out fighting and declares ‘We are here to stay’

April 22, 2016

OnTheMarket has come out fighting after coverage of the open letter to agents yesterday published by the Competition and Markets Authority. It said some of the response had been ‘sensational and preposterous’ and that the reality is that it has consistently given agents exactly the same advice as in the CMA letter – that agents […]

CMA followed up on my complaint about OTM, claims Russell Quirk

Online agent Russell Quirk submitted a complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority about Agents’ Mutual well over a year ago. Quirk says he is certain it led to yesterday’s warning letter from the CMA. In Quirk’s complaint, which EYE has seen and which was made before OnTheMarket launched, he made two allegations. First, he […]

Zoopla shares in rapid rise after CMA’s open letter to agents

Zoopla shares shot up yesterday on the publication of the open letter to estate agents by the Competition and Markets Authority. The letter warned agents that they must not collude with each other when making portal choices, including which one to drop. The story went mainstream, with the Telegraph quick to run the story under […]

Countrywide set to lose market share to hybrid agents, predicts City broker

The UK’s largest estate agent will lose market share to hybrid competitors, a City analyst has said. However, the risk is not confined just to Countrywide but is industry-wide. Scott Fulton, of brokers Whitman Howard, said in a preview of next week’s trading update from Countrywide: “Competition in UK estate agency is both changing and […]

Dodgy home buyers will have to explain how they got their wealth

Suspected money launderers could have their money and properties seized if they cannot prove that their wealth is legitimate. Home Secretary Theresa May is to consult on new ‘unexplained wealth’ orders, which would give extra responsibilities to estate agents and lawyers. Mark Hayward, managing director of the NAEA, said: “We welcome the aggressive powers that […]

NEWS FLASH: CMA writes open letter to agents warning them about portal collusion

April 21, 2016

The Competition and Market Authority has this morning published an open letter to estate agents on choosing property portals. OnTheMarket has responded by saying that the CMA’s advice “accords entirely with the advice consistently given over time” by OTM itself. The letter warns that agents must not collude with other agents about their decisions. It […]

Surprise as LSL estate agency boss decides to quit after just over a year

Adrian Gill, executive director in charge of estate agency at LSL Property Services – which owns Your Move, Reeds Rains and Marsh &Parsons – has resigned after just 16 months. However, he will remain in his role until next January. While there is speculation as to what he will do next, his contract is said […]

Purplebricks getting closer to profit as CEO reveals new listings of 3,000 a month

Purplebricks is getting closer to being profitable, chief executive Michael Bruce said yesterday on national radio. He told listeners of Radio 4′s You and Yours programme that his firm has 62% market share of the “non-traditional” agents – in other words, has the lion’s share of the online estate agency market – and that it […]

At last! Client Money Protection could be made mandatory

Client Money Protection has finally made it into the Housing and Planning Bill yesterday after an amendment from Baroness Hayter and Lord Palmer was approved. The amendment, banning letting agents from taking money from tenants unless they hold separate client money accounts, was added to the Bill during the report stage in the House of […]

SAFEagent calls on industry bodies to come clean about CMP claims

SAFEagent is calling on the industry bodies that operate Client Money Protection and all the tenancy deposit schemes to reveal how much they pay out in claims when client money is stolen. At this month’s ARLA conference, housing minister Brandon Lewis made it clear that he will not support mandatory CMP. His stance appeared to […]

Team agents express worry over Zoopla purchase of software group

Agency network Team has said that even before Zoopla’s acquisition of the Property Software Group there was growing concern over the “gradual concentration of power in the hands of one big software supplier”. Meanwhile Rightmove said it has no problems with the acquisition by its competitor. A spokesman said: “We have a happy relationship with […]

OTM acts to reassure members as it becomes Zoopla customer

April 20, 2016

Property Software Group, the supplier of software systems to thousands of agents and whose sale to Zoopla was announced yesterday, is just over one year into a five-year contract with OnTheMarket. It means that OTM effectively becomes a customer of its arch rival Zoopla Property Group. The ongoing contract includes PSG delivering the functionality whereby […]

City in two minds about Zoopla’s acquisition of PSG

Zoopla shares jumped in early trading trading yesterday after announcing its £75m purchase of the Property Software Group, but finished the day only marginally up. Included in Zoopla’s announcement yesterday was the statement that its full-year results would be at the top end of market expectations. Analyst Jefferies, which advised Zoopla on its stock market […]

PSG agents will not be forced to sign up to Zoopla

Agents who are customers of the Property Software Group but do not use Zoopla will not be forced to adopt the portal. City analysts were told this at a presentation yesterday morning following the announcement that Zoopla is acquiring PSG. They were told that that there 5,000 “incremental” PSG customers with a 3,000 overlap with […]

Zoopla software deal: How will independent agents react?

Mike Griffiths, founder of cloud software firm Expert Agent, last night said that many independent agents will want to stay with an independent software supplier. Griffiths also said he has had first-hand experience of this type of deal. In 2000 he sold GMW Systems, his estate agency software business, to Norwich Union’s Assertahome portal. Griffiths […]

Generation Rent beefs up calls to have letting agent fees abolished

Generation Rent is strengthening its calls for letting agent fees charged to tenants to be abolished in their entirety. After researching 718 agents, it says it could not find any fees published anywhere for 99 of them, and that one third did not publish fees on their websites – as required by law. Generation Rent’s […]

News Flash: Zoopla acquiring Property Software Group

April 19, 2016

Zoopla is to acquire Property Software Group, the major suppliers of software systems such as Vebra, Alto, Jupix, Core and CFP, to agents. PSG’s systems are used in over 8,000 UK agency branches. The software is used on a daily basis by over 40,000 agents. It has long been speculated that one of the big […]

Agent reveals ‘magic formula’ for what a property is really worth

How should a buyer know what the ‘right’ price for a property is – as opposed to the asking price? Stacks Property Search, which works for buyers and not sellers, made public its “magic formula” yesterday. The firm said there is currently “lots” of property on the market that is over-priced. Nick Wooldridge of Stacks […]

New lettings review site set to go mainstream this summer

An online platform which currently operates as a review site in the student accommodation sector is to move into the mainstream shortly. http://movem.co.uk/ currently publishes reviews of student accommodation, landlords and letting agents. When it operates across the entire industry later his year, any tenant will be able to post reviews of their accommodation, landlord […]

Online agent insists it must accompany all viewings

An online agent is said to have insisted that it will accompany all viewings, and to have told viewers that they must not even approach the property on their own. The agent is named as ‘abode’ in the thread, a link to which was posted up on EYE yesterday after it appeared on the Money […]