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Friday, May 31, 2013

Property 31 percent too expensive

UK property prices are 31 percent too high according to data from the OECD.

The study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reports UK house prices as being 31 percent too high compared to rents and 21 percent over priced against incomes.

It makes me wonder, are rents too low?

Read more in the Telegraph

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

My biggest tip to landlords & why

I was recently asked by another landlord website about what would be my biggest tip to landlords and why....well it's simple:

"Get a good tenant"

Good tenants make your landlording life so much simpler and more pleasant & most importantly mean that defacto you haven't got a nightmare tenant.  A nightmare tenant can be costly, time consuming and totally draining.  With a good tenant you can work together to sort out problems, ensure that your buy-to-let property stays in good order and most importantly it means you can sleep at night.

So how do I get an ideal tenant

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What to Do If You Start to Feel Unsafe at Home

It can be a terrible feeling if you begin to feel unsafe in your own house. However, it is a more common sensation than you might think and there are some simple steps which you can do to make yourself feel more at ease at home.
Increase the Security
Your home security is something you should think about anyway, even if you feel pretty comfortable in your property. Despite this, many of us wait until we start to get nervous about the thought of burglars before we do anything about it. It is amazing how much better you will feel with better locks on your windows and doors and a modern burglar alarm fitted. It is easy and relatively inexpensive to make these changes and you will be left wondering why it took you so long to get round to it. Don’t forget to consider the potential areas of weakness in your property and eliminate them through the likes of outside lights, higher walls and pruned back trees. These are the things criminals look for, so you should think about them before they do.
Stay Alert
It used to be that the only way of keeping an eye out for suspicious behaviour was to stand behind your curtain and spy on the street. Then the idea of Neighbourhood Watch schemes came along and made life a lot easier for all of us. Now it is even simply to keep an eye on what is happening outside. All you need is a modest CCTV system and you will able to monitor your property at any time of day and in the way you prefer. These systems are easy to set up and are not at all expensive these days. If you want to check out the options then the likes of website is a fine example of where you could start. 
Invite People Over
If you live alone then having some company over to visit you can be a wonderful way of feeling more at ease. You could start to host dinner parties or games nights, or simply enjoy some company while you watch a film or drink a coffee. This step is more about increasing your sense of comfort, while the other two are to do with increasing the physical levels of security in your home. This means that you would be best considering doing all three of them, as carrying out just this one could lead you into feeling a false sense of security. 
Do you have some other simple tips for when you start to feel unsafe at home? 

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Most popular BTL mortgages

Max LTV Initial Rate Term Completion fee Booking fee Incentives Overall Cost for Comparison Lender
85% 4.99% Fixed 2 Years 2.5% £130.00 No 6.8% APR Kent Reliance Semi Exclusive
85% 5.99% Discount 2 Years 2.5% £130.00 No 7% APR Kent Reliance Multi Let & Ltd Co. Semi Exclusive
80% 4.99% Fixed Feb 28 2015 £1800 £199.00 Free valuation up to £335 for purchases and remortgages and free legals on remortgages only. 6.1% APR Leeds Exclusive
80% 4.47% Fixed May 31 2016 2% £0.00 No   Saffron BS Semi Exclusive
80% 4.59% Discount 2 Years 2.5% £130.00 No 6.7% APR Kent Reliance Semi Exclusive
75% 3.25% Discount 2 Years £995 £250.00 No 4.9% APR Melton Mowbray BS Exclusive
75% 3.35% Fixed May 31 2015 £995 £250.00 No 4.9% APR Melton Mowbray BS Exclusive
75% 4.75% Fixed Jun 30 2015 0% £150.00 Free valuation 5.4% APR Mortgage Trust ltd Edition Exclusive
75% 3.99% Variable 2 Years £1495 £250.00 No 5.1% APR Melton Mowbray HMO Exclusive
70% 4.25% Discount 2 Years 0% £199.00 Free valuation up to £335 for purchases and remortgages and free legals on remortgages only. 6% APR Leeds Exclusive

Tel: 01622 844187

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgages.  
The Financial Services Authority does not regulate some forms of mortgage.

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Hometrack record May jump in property prices

Another property price index has recorded a leap in values.

Hometrack's Index has recorded the fastest growth in six years. May saw an increase of 0.4 percent. Much of the increase were driven by increases in London at 0.9 percent.

This follows Rightmove's recent record leap.

Read Hometrack data here
Read comment in the Telegraph

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Better to rent than buy

The Telegraph have published an article that argues that the economy would benefit from an increase in a rental culture and a move away from the obsession to buy.

This flies in the face of the Government's current policy to bolster the housing market.

Read the Telegraph article here 

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What to Look For in a New Property

When you are looking for a new house it can be easy to get confused. One property might meet part of your criteria while another one meets the rest.
To avoid making the wrong decision a good idea is to list the main features you are interested in and then keep looking until you find a home which meets everything on your list. Here are some of the main points to consider.
Plenty of Space
If you have a big family – or plan to have one in the future – then you will want lots of space. However, the big question is how you want this space. Do you simply want a lot of bedrooms or would you want more common areas? A good plan is to look at homes with conservatories. These are lovely, warm rooms which are great as a dining room or hobby area. These are sometimes also known as orangeries, so don’t be put off by this name. If you aren’t sure what kind of model could suit you then check some out at the website first.  
Smaller Spaces
Of course, we all look for different things from our homes and it could be that you prefer the idea of a smaller, cosier place. This is ideal for a single person or a couple and will help keep your heating bills down in the winter as well as being easier to clean. If you go for a smaller house then be sure to look for features such as built in wardrobes, slide out kitchen appliances and bi-fold doors. These are all space saving ideas which will help you make the most of the place. 
The Great Outdoors
The simple question here is whether you want a garden or not. If you are in doubt then it is probably best to look for properties which have one rather than risk regretting the lack of one later on.  Even if you aren’t interested in gardening just now you can still put down a low maintenance approach until it appeals to you more.
A Great View
Too many people buy a property and then on their first day there realise that they don’t know what the view from each room is like. This can make a huge difference to your life, so it is well worth seeing whether you have a lovely, open view or the sight of someone else’s wall or fence in front of you. It might not seem a big deal at first but after a while you will be glad of having a great view from your home. 

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Have you fully complied with the Tenancy Deposit Regulations?

You should all be aware of the requirement to protect any tenancy deposit in a recognised tenancy deposit scheme.

However, there are two steps to the process - the first is to protect the deposit, the second is to give the tenant the prescribed information.  I am finding that many landlords are protecting the deposit but are not aware that there is a document called Prescribed Information that must be given to the tenant.

The Prescribed Information is a document that gives the tenant the details of where the deposit is registered, the procedures for the scheme and how to get the deposit at the end of the tenancy.   This must be given to the tenant within 30 days of receipt of the deposit.   The certificate from the Deposit scheme showing that the deposit has been protected is not sufficient.
The Prescribed Information can be found on the schemes websites.

Failure to give the Prescribed Information carries the same penalties as not protecting the deposit - those being that your tenant can apply to court and get compensation up to three times the amount of the deposit and you can not serve a section 21 notice.

If you have not given your tenant the prescribed information and need legal advice, or you require any other landlord legal advice please email me at

Fidler & Pepper

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5 Reasons for a written tenancy agreement

Many landlords don't realise it is perfectly possible to have a legally binding tenancy agreement that is created verbally between the landlord and tenant.  There is no legal requirement for the tenancy to be in writing at all.  However, we would never advise a landlord to rely on a just a verbal agreement.  Here are five reasons why a landlord should ensure that they have a tenancy agreement in writing before letting their buy-to-let property out:

1. It is actually a criminal offence not to provide your tenant with a written summary of the key terms of the tenancy within 6 months of the start of the tenancy or within 28 days of a request by the tenant for the info.  Given this a landlord may as well go the 'whole hog' and provide a full written tenancy agreement.
2. The advantage of a written tenancy agreement is that if the tenant disputes an aspect of the agreement at a later date the terms are clearly stated in the written agreement.
3. To use one of the statutory tenancy deposit schemes you will need to provide a written tenancy agreement.
4. The accelerated possession procedure is only available to landlords with a wrtitten tenancy agreement.
5. Banks and benefit offices often require a copy of the written tenancy agreement as do utility companies where a dispute arises between the landlord and tenant over when the the property was vacated.

Property Hawk strongly advises landlords to ensure they have a properly worded tenancy agreement from the outset.  Free tenancy agreements are available to download from the website.

Is it possible to sign a tenancy agreement digitally?

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rent check - stats

For all those landlords that like a good smattering of statistics this latest press release will provide some welcome relief.  Provided courtesy of a survey conducted by BDRC for Allsop LLP using data collected by interviewing over 1,500 landlords.  An accurate reflection?  The stats 'reveal':
  • 87% of landlords achieve their listed asking rent – or higher
  • 61% of landlords are confident in the prospects for their own letting business
  • 41% of all surveyed landlords have agreed higher rents over the past 12 months, compared to 7% who have agreed to lower their rents
  • Almost a quarter of landlords (23%) plan to purchase further property in the next 12 months
  • The average tenant stay in a rented property is now in excess of two and a half years.
 The private rental sector now has 3.8m homes within in it in England and the figure is rising.  Rents consume circa of 30% of tenants' income.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Just another bubble?

George Osbornes has set out to manipulate the property market through various new Government backed funding schemes. With property prices still in the realms of bubble scale multiples of income should he be encouraging people to risk more.

Will it all end in disaster? Will it all pop in our faces?

The Governments continued faith in the housing market to fuel economic growth comes under fire by Merryn Somerset Webb's article in the Spectator.

Something to chew over.

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Posh agents want to take on Rightmove

Let's get Rightmove
There are further property portal wars on the horizon.

Another batch of estate agents are wanting in on a slice of the internet pie and are launching a new property search portal to compete with the dominance of Rightmove.

The agents Savills, Knight Frank, Strutt and Parker, and Douglas and Gordon have banded together to form a company called Agents Mutual. Together, these 'posh agents' are hoping to make a challenge in what has been a tough market to crack. It may be they go down the USP of the 'posh agents portal', and just maybe, if they all take their properties off Rightmove and the other portals simultaneously, as well as splurging big with advertising campaign, they might just do it.

It will need to be a bold move to crack it.

It was only earlier in the year when the NAEA failed attempt, the portal Propertylive squandered all its money and got closed. The site has since been resuscitated for some unexplainable reason, and moved to an internet intensive care unit to slowly die.

There's more in the Financial Times

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How to save property tax

The latest edition of Taxcafe's guide to saving property tax has just launched.

Now in its 11th year of publication this guide is essential annual reading for landlords and property investors.  Essential because it contains all the latest tax changes and shows you how to claim every single pound of tax relief you are entitled to.

Topics covered include:

* All of the tax changes announced in the 2013 Budget and 2013 Finance Bill.
* How to claim a big home office tax deduction.
* Motoring costs you can claim, including changes to car capital allowances.
* How to get the taxman to pay your travel costs (flights, hotels, restaurants).
* How to write off new kitchens and bathrooms as repairs and get the taxman to pay 40% or more.
* How to make the mortgage on your private home tax deductible.
* The new tax relief cap and how it affects property investors.
* The new statutory residence test and how it affects property investors seeking to emigrate to save tax.
* New statutory flat rate deductions for use of home and vehicles.
* How your spouse can save you thousands in income tax and capital gains tax.
* How your children can help you slash your tax.
* How to delay paying tax on rental income by up to 2 years.
* How to transfer property and avoid capital gains tax.
* How to use a trust to get extra tax-free capital growth on residential property.
* How to pay capital gains tax at just 10%.
* The new Mansion Taxes.
* Plus lots and lots of additional tax saving ideas.

For more information on tax.
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Most popular BTL mortgages

Max LTVInitial RateTermCompletion feeBooking feeIncentivesOverall Cost for ComparisonLender
85%4.99% Fixed2 Years2.5%£130.00No6.8% APRKent Reliance Semi Exclusive
85%5.99% Discount2 Years2.5%£130.00No7% APRKent Reliance Multi Let & Ltd Co. Semi Exclusive
80%4.99% FixedFeb 28 2015 £1800£199.00Free valuation up to £335 for purchases and remortgages and free legals on remortgages only.6.1% APRLeeds Exclusive
80%4.47% FixedMay 31 2016 2%£0.00No Saffron BS Semi Exclusive
80%4.59% Discount2 Years2.5%£130.00No6.7% APRKent Reliance Semi Exclusive
75%3.25% Discount2 Years£995£250.00No4.9% APRMelton Mowbray BS Exclusive
75%3.35% FixedMay 31 2015 £995£250.00No4.9% APRMelton Mowbray BS Exclusive
75%4.75% FixedJun 30 2015 0%£150.00Free valuation5.4% APRMortgage Trust ltd Edition Exclusive
75%3.99% Variable2 Years£1495£250.00No5.1% APRMelton Mowbray HMO Exclusive
70%4.25% Discount2 Years0%£199.00Free valuation up to £335 for purchases and remortgages and free legals on remortgages only.6% APRLeeds Exclusive

Tel: 01622 844187

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgages.  
The Financial Services Authority does not regulate some forms of mortgage.

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Mixed use development opportunities

How things change. A decade or so property investors were buying mixed use developments with the primary rent generation coming from the commercial use such as a ground floor retail unit.  The space above these shops offered potential for residential conversion if a separate access could be found.

Now with the downturn in the economy and the problems on the high street many retail units remain unletabble and demand for commercial space remains low.  Looking at a mixed use development it is the residential use which become the key and guaranteed rental generator.  Residential landlords, just as commercial focused landlords did before may see opportunity in mixed use developments where little or no value is attributed to the commercial element.  Patience is the key if you believe that the high street will recover.  If it doesn't and there are many reasons to suggest that the high street thanks largely to the Internet may never return to where it was prior to the 'fall out'.  Optimists may contend that it will re-invent itself and landlords of mixed use property may gain from it's reincarnation.

Have a look at the forthcoming Allsop auction for some opportunities.

One that I've picked up is a mixed use development in Weston Super Mere:

Comprising Nine x Studio Flats and One x Two Bedroom Flat

•   Restaurant subject to a Commercial Lease

•   Six Flats subject to Assured Shorthold Tenancies

•   Four Flats Vacant

•   Total Current Rent Reserved

£39,622 per annum (equivalent) With Four Flats Vacant

A bargain at the current guide price of £225-275k?  Possibly if you believe the restaurant will stay let and not go under.

For more details have a look at the Allsop auction website

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

CLA warns over controls

The President of the Country Land Owners Association has warned the Government that any mandatory registration of landlords and rent controls could lead to a reduction in supply of rental property in rural areas.  The warning came as he gave evidence to housing inquiry for the influential Communities and Local Government Select Committee.

He went on to say :

"CLA members let more than one third of housing in rural areas, often choosing to let property at sub-market rents or on long-term tenancies to secure longer rental revenues and ensure community sustainability."

"Tax is a major barrier that stops more housing being made available on private land. The CLA also advocates a series of tax reliefs to encourage more private rental properties being brought to the market."

Property Hawk has been arguing for some time against any mandatory licensing or registration scheme.  We have also suggested that additional business based tax reliefs such as improvement costs to property should be off settable against rental profits and income tax to encourage landlords to invest and improve the quality of their rental accommodation.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Using buy to let mortgages with no early redemption charges

Buy to let mortgages are designed for people who want to invest in property, with a view to renting it out to a tenants. In recent years the rise in popularity of buy to let mortgages indicates how lucrative they can be, and many people have established a property portfolio on the back of the success and availability of buy to let mortgages.
The benefits of being a landlord, and of taking out a mortgage for a buy to let property, are numerous: the money repaid from your tenants’ rent goes someway to building up equity in a property, which can be used at a later date; it can provide a supplementary income if the rental repayments are higher than the repayments on the mortgage. But, like any potential investment, there are things to be wary of when taking out a buy to let mortgage.
One of the biggest things to consider, once you have decided to take out a buy to let mortgage, is the potential to be charged money in early redemption charges. These fees usually apply to fixed rate mortgage products but can be present on any mortgage type. Early redemption charges can vary and be complex in their criteria, but they often refer to a mortgage that is repaid whilst still in the incentive introduction period (2, 3 or 5 year fixed deals for instance) or if a certain percentage is repaid early; it prevents the lender earning the interest on the mortgage loan that they imagined they would when they agreed the mortgage with the borrower. 
Other times the early redemption charge can be payable is when the mortgage is paid off during the fixed or discounted term of the mortgage loan. The amount of time that the early redemption charge applies to the mortgage can vary, but often lasts until the mortgage term switches to a standard variable rate (SVR). However a number of lenders charge early redemption charges beyond the initial rate period – these are usually referred to as extended tie in periods.
In most circumstance once the initial rate is over this would be the time when it would be possible to re-mortgage the property with no financial penalty, however this may be after a 2,3,4 or 5 year term, but taking out to a buy to let mortgage with no early redemption charge can solve this problem and make remortgaging (or selling) within a shorter space of time without a financial penalty possible.
The benefit of securing a buy to let mortgage with no early redemption charges is particularly strong for people who are looking to buy a property at a price which may be lower than its true value. This usually applies to properties that are being sold at a cheaper rate in order to get a quick sale; this might apply to repossession or auction properties for example. By not having to pay an early redemption charge the true market value of the property can be achieved through re-mortgaging the property: for example, if the property is sold at a figure below its true market value, £50,000 for instance, but is worth £70,000 on the open market, there is a potential £20,000 amount of equity within the property which could lower the overall loan to value mortgage rate. This option is normally only available if the property has work done on it that warrants the substantial increase in value and there needs to be evidence of this; usually a term of six months between buying and selling or remortgaging the property is necessary in accordance with Lender criteria.
Nonetheless, there is potential to significantly increase the equity in the buy to rent property, so long as there are no early redemption charges. If the early redemption charge applies to the mortgage, then there is the potential to lose some of the future equity in the property because some of the price rise (in the example above, £20,000) would be lost in the early redemption charge, and it is not uncommon for these to be around 4% of the mortgage amount. 
These buy to let mortgages without early redemption charges are best designed for those investors who want to purchase, refurbish and either remortgage the property or resell the property within a short space of time. Whilst this is a fantastic opportunity to push some equity into the property, and is perfectly legal, lenders do not want this type of mortgage arrangement to be used as an alternative to a bridging loan. Using the buy to let mortgage with no early redemption charge for this purpose too often can mean that future lenders may refuse loans and so it should be used sensibly!
For information about the best buy to let mortgage options, including buy to let mortgages without early repayment charges, and all other types of buy to let mortgages, please contact Ascot Mortgages, the UK buy to let experts.

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Landlords looking to re-mortgage

According to CML data £5.5bn fixed and tracker rates will mature in May and a staggering £12bn in June. Could you save money by switching to a new mortgage?

The buy-to-let remortgage market has expanded over the last couple of years with more lenders and products for landlords to choose from. Increased competition has resulted in some excellent deals currently available.

If your buy-to-let mortgage is about to mature, this could be a good time for you to review your financial arrangements and save yourself money on your mortgage repayments. Property Hawk Mortgages has a free online buy-to-let mortgage finder which allows you to compare products from the whole of the market, including special deals that are not available on the high street.

We have a wide range of fixed and tracker rates available for landlords looking to remortgage an existing buy-to-let property, including some with great money-saving incentives such as free valuations and free legal fees!

Why not visit our website and see for yourself, or you can telephone one of our helpful Support Team to discuss your individual requirements.

Tel: 01622 844187

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgages.  
The Financial Services Authority does not regulate some forms of mortgage.

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Property prices record leap

Rightmoves May House Price Index  shows a 2.1% leap over the month in the average price of a property. The average price of a home in England and Wales is now £249,706, up from £244,706 at the end of April.

This means according to their data the last 12 months has seen a rise of 9.1% (£20,852) on the average home.

Although areas across the country have seen improvement, the upward trends are still strongest in London and the South East.

Miles Shipside of Rightmove commented "Despite a new national record, it’s not ‘green-shoots of recovery’ across the board, especially for the deposit-strapped mass-market. They must wait patiently until January when the Help to Buy scheme extends to the resale market, unless new homes developers can increase building dramatically this year.”

Read more opinion on the statistics

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Landlords expected to check IDs

The proposed legislation enlisting landlords as unofficial officers of the UK's border force has worrying implications.

The legislation might see landlords having to evaluate whether prospective tenants documents are legitimate or fakes. This kind of judgement call could see landlords getting sued for discrimination under the Race Relations Act.

The irony of the situation is that the fear of this might see an increase in landlords making racist decisions, with more landlords opting for the plainly British tenant.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Utility bills - who's responsible?

I moved out of my Nottingham address back in December and had employed a letting agent to take care of the tenant check in.  Given that I new they were an agent for the Utility Warehouse one thing that I felt confident on was that they would ensure that the new tenant were fully signed up for their utility bills.  No worries I thought about being left with an unpaid bill!

Then this morning my Friday morning stupor was shattered.  It was one of those annoying warning / panic letters informing me that failure to call their free phone number in 7 days would result in debt recovery proceeding being taken.  I phoned to be informed that the unpaid bill was indeed mine and that they hadn't been informed by the other utility company that I had moved out.

I know that some landlords have faced problems by water companies trying to collect outstanding water bills.  Surely the fact that there was another occupier in place along with another utility provider registered at the property this means I"m no longer responsible for paying the utility provider despite me not informing the company directly that I've moved out?  Other landlords experiences in dealing with utility companies would be appreciated.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Property goes boom, boom, boom

More talk of a property price boom in This is Money, just as we posted this weeks magazine article on the potential of a property price boom.

Maybe it's because the sun has finally peaked out from behind the rain clouds.
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Not such accidental landlords

Increasing numbers of homeowners are holding onto their previous property when moving to their next home. More people are swapping their existing property onto a BTL mortgage when moving on.

This trend was initially termed 'accidental landlords' following the property markets stagnation after the credit crunch. But it appears that more and more people are making this a deliberate exercise towards their long term financial investment goals. With many seeing their old home as a big part of their future investment / pension strategy.

Read more in This is Money

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Landlord fined for letting to pigeons

A Burnley landlord has been ordered to pay more than £6,000 after failing to carry out repair to an eighty year old's rental property.

The rental property was said to be damp throughout and had pigeons living in some rooms.

Read more 

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Average LTVs continue to rise

Average LTVs continue to rise as lenders offer higher levels of lending

During the early months of the year there have continued to be a good selection of products available at 80% LTV from a number of lenders including Kent Reliance, The Mortgage Works, Aldermore, Leeds Building Society, Kensington and Precise. Kent Reliance remains the only lender offering 85% LTV products, although we may see some others extend their thresholds later in the year.

Average LTVs on BTL mortgages

The 75% LTV bracket has been very competitive during the Q1 2013 with some excellent fixed and variable rates for investors to choose from. Landlords are clearly taking advantage of the improved market conditions to employ higher gearing in their properties, as the average LTV for mortgage offers processed by Property Hawk Mortgages in Q1 was up to 74.84% and the average loan size was £155,654.

Tel: 01622 844187

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgages.  
The Financial Services Authority does not regulate some forms of mortgage.
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Most trapped renters not looking to buy

42% of so called ‘trapped renters’ are currently saving for their deposit to buy a property according to Rightmove’s latest survey.

Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst comments:
“For those who haven’t started saving, home-ownership must seem so far away that many find themselves in a hopeless situation. On average, the monthly rent accounts for 37% of tenants’ take-home pay and even those that are able to save anything at all are only saving around 10% of what they bring in each month.”

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RICS feeling positive about property market

The RICS index on the UK housing market has flipped into a positive outlook.

Jumping from a depressed -2 up to a happy +1.

This is the first positive reading from the RICS index since June 2010.

The poll stems from the feedback of their member surveyors based on their perception of the property markets in their area.

Maybe what we are seeing is the feeding through of funds from the Help to Buy Scheme.

Read the other perspectives

Bloombergs perspective
Financial Times perspective
The Guardians perspective

Landlord insurance - expert trusted brokers

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How to lower estate agency fees

When it comes to selling or letting a property estate agency fees are just another pricey expense to factor into the overall costs of the whole operation. But do they really need to be? If you want to avoid paying them you could try for a private sale or let and see where a card in the post office window gets you, but in this day and age of the internet you will probably find it won’t get you very far at all! There is a middle of the road option available between a DIY approach that restricts your access to large property portals such as Zoopla and Rightmove and your high street estate agent who will give you good marketing exposure but at a pretty hefty price. So how can those dreaded estate agency fees be reduced without compromising on service?
The answer is to make use of one of the newly emerging internet estate agents. There is a huge variety of choice now available in this relatively new industry with companies listing property both for sale and to let for fixed fees with no commission to pay on completion, or a package price with another small fee to pay on completion. Either way there are huge savings to be had for the savvy shopper.
As with more traditional high street agents it is vital that sellers and landlords take the time to do a little research before they decide which internet agent they wish to instruct. You need to make sure your agent will provide the right service for your needs. The main things to look out for are...
Customer Service – The agent you instruct needs to be contactable and approachable so make a few calls to find out what your money will buy and be sure to consider the following questions.  Are you able to get through to a staff member without being put on hold and passed from pillar to post? Do the staff members seem friendly and knowledgeable about the products and services they provide? What are the opening hours? YOU need potential buyers and landlords to be able to get in touch easily so look for an agent open seven days a week, preferably with a free phone number to call.
Affiliations & Qualifications – As an industry estate agency within the UK is not regulated, therefore it is always advisable to instruct an agent that is well established, within internet estate agency look for five years plus. Also ensure your chosen agent is affiliated with the main professional bodies. So when you are doing your research logo spot for ARLA and NAEA to reassure you that your agent will be knowledgeable and well placed to deal with your sale or letting.  Also keep in mind your agent should be affiliated with both The Property Ombudsman and OFT or Office of Fair Trading just in case anything should go wrong.
Marketing Coverage – When it comes to internet marketing coverage is everything, your property needs to be seen in all the right places to grab attention. Think of the sites you look at yourself when you are searching for property and ensure your agent will list on them for you. The main UK property search engine sites are Rightmove and Zoopla who will only list property for estate agencies. There are hundreds of other smaller local sites which will be beneficial to your marketing strategy.
Price – The aim of the game here is to reduce the fees you pay your agent so price is of course a factor, but do keep in mind the old adage “you get what you pay for”.  For example you will pay more to a company with good marketing coverage and to those with extended opening hours but those aspects really are key so don’t be put off. Generally you will be looking at paying £60 to £100 to let your property and between £300 and £500 to sell.
So shop around, do your research and give an internet agent a go, you will be amazed at the amounts you can save in estate agency fees.
Written by Sarah Male, Urban Sales and Lettings

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