Monday, December 26, 2011

2012: What lays ahead for homes and property?

I’m writing this on 26th December which some might say is a bad time for predictions as the stomach is still churning and digesting yesterday’s Turkey dinner and copious mounts of alcoholic beverages. On the other hand it may focus my mind on whether the next 12 months are going to give any of us that ‘full’ feeling.

The danger with property market predictions is that they are generalisations.  When the Halifax or Nationwide make their comments they are talking about the UK as a whole. When I make a prediction I’m talking about our particular little area of the country - incidentally East Cambridgeshire made it to No.4 in the ten best places to live in the UK (according to Simon Ward of  using Halifax Quality of Life survey data, and who am I to doubt him!)

The London market is buoyant with foreign investors buying and some reports will say that prices moved up even in the closing months of 2011.  The north of the country has over the years lost many traditional industries and now the government cutbacks are going to hit those areas again where devolved departments have been relocated. So, the north is down, London is up and we, in the East of the country where we are not as reliant on Public Sector employment, are in a sort of Goldilocks kind of way ‘not too bad’.

The recent Eurozone bust up could cause us some property market grief because of its implications for our mortgage lenders borrowing funds to lend to us. The EU problem is not resolved yet so it is impossible for me to tell where this is all going to lead.

So, where are we headed? My gut-feel is that 2012 will be a very similar year for Ely and district as 2011. Sales levels will be reasonably good at realistic asking prices with over-priced, poorly located and badly presented properties losing out. But these factors have always been an issue, even in more robust times. It’s just even more important to balance and deal with them now.

The lack of reasonable loan-to-value mortgage funding (90-95%) will continue to hold back the volume of first time buyers and push many of them into renting. In a perverse way this is good news for buy-to-let investors and is one area of the market that I can see continuing to grow.

The volume of houses for sale will continue to be an issue and generally helps hold up prices. The table below shows data for July - September 2011 from the BBC:

The price fall for the year appears to be -4.9% . This should make our area an even more affordable place to live and coupled with all the excellent factors detailed in the Halifax survey who wouldn’t want to live around here?

Enough of predictions - let’s start the year as positively as possible, deal with whatever it throws at us as skillfully and effectively as possible and do what we do best - carry on!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Haddenham Pantomime 2012

This year's (2012) pantomime in Haddenham near Ely is Robin Hood.

It's Panto Time in Haddenham

Oh no it isn't! Oh yes it is!

HAmDramS are resting over the Winter, before putting on a new production in the Spring.
In the meantime, the village is in panto mode once more.

  • This year the Arkenstall Centre presents
            • Robin Hood
  • written and directed by HAmDramS member Robert Bush
  • Featuring a familiar cast of HAmDramS regulars and a cast of fantastic children,
  • this is a show you won't want to miss!
            • Wednesday 11th - Saturday 14th January 2012
  • Evening Performances start at 7.30pm - - Saturday Matinee Performance at 2.30pm
            • Tickets go on sale on Saturday 3rd December at the Arkenstall Centre in Haddenham
  • Afterwards, from Haddenham Galleries - 01353 749188
  • Block bookings for 10 or more (except Sat eve) telephone 01353 740680
  • Licensed bar and charity raffle in aid of the Arkenstall Centre (registered charity, no. 300394)
David Clark and Company are providing a raffle prize and have an advert in the programme:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Heavy Handed Lenders

This week we heard about someone who had received their 3rd letter from the Cheltenham & Gloucester (subsidiary of that public/tax payer bailed out phenomenon known as Lloyds TSB) asking them how they proposed to pay off the balance of their mortgage in 5 years time when it reached the end of it's term. They had dismissed the first letter as an error and replied to the second letter giving as much detail as possible. I add here that the outstanding loan is interest-only so there is no capital being repaid. They have never missed a repayment – even though their business has been through and is possibly still going through the worst period in it's 25 year existence. They recently virtually paid off one mortgage account with a £25,000 cash payment and continue to overpay the balance of their loan. Not good enough for the C&G – they want details of exactly how the balance will be cleared in 5 years time! With documentary proof of the value of endowment policies that they have already been told will only cover 5% of the outstanding balance.

Could it be that the loan is on a very low rate that would not be available today? Would it be better for them if the borrower remortgaged elsewhere giving them cash to lend again at a rate that's better for them? Would it be better for them if the borrower decided to opt for a capital/repayment loan that was more expensive?

Perhaps it would be fair if the borrower wrote back to C&G and asked them for a detailed plan with proof of how the payments will be made on the £40 Billion of direct so-called 'Government Aid', otherwise know as Joe Public's money, that kept their business afloat?

Anyone else heard similar stories of bullying by state owned banks, who are probably hiding behind a facade of proposing responsible lending, hassling customers who are making their payments and doing their best to survive the recession? The person in our example has a 48% loan to property value, is in their early 50's. Is the C & G at risk of not getting their money? I think not.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

PhotoSynth - A new 'tool' for estate agents?

This Sunday I was scanning the Gadgets supplement in the Sunday Times on my iPAD and came across this latest photographic offering from Microsoft. A free download of Photosynth to your iPhone and away you go creating panoramas and 'Synths'. The product reminds me of something we dabbled with in the early '90's called iPIX. This involved a fish eye lens attached to a digital camera and you took 2 hemispherical photos of a room (imagine standing at the centre of a tennis ball). The 2 photos were then stitched together using some software which you could then upload to the web. I eventually grasped how to add it to a web page but it wasn't easy - or quick. This came to an end when the original iPIX company went bust. The simplicity of Photosynth and the ability to upload to your Facebook page as well as it being hosted on means this could be a winner - certainly when compared with iPIX! I'm going to have a go and report back on my next blog post

Monday, August 1, 2011

Newsletter Now Out, plus Facebook Page

We have just made a major investment in reaching out to homebuyers and sellers by launching our 'intelligent' newsletter which recipients can tailor to their own interests by choosing the subject areas that they want to read about. The company we have partnered with to produce this is BriefYourMarket who have a highly effective relationship with our estate agency software provider, ExpertAgent, who enabled  data from the last 5 years to be available. Obviously the initial 'test' send out whittled numbers down from over 5,000+ e-mail addresses to more manageable numbers to actually receive the newsletter. The last thing we want to do is upset people by sending them e-mails that could be construed as 'spam' and from hereon only people who subscribe or remain subscribed will receive it.

I'm interested to learn if anyone has a particular subject that they would like one of our contributing writers to talk about. Send your requests to and we'll see what we can do.

We have had a presence on Facebook for quite a while now but the original company page has now been dismantled in favour of the new professionally created page that incorporates a 'property search' function. We'd like to get everyone switched over to this page. A search for 'David Clark and Co' will find it. As we list new properties for sale or to rent we'll be featuring some of them here. Anyone who is really keen to buy or rent should sign up to make sure they find out about properties as early as possible. Don't worry, we'll still be phoning you, e-mailing and texting too!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Sellers and Buyers!

I just had to display this for everyone to see! Yvonne has been very stressed during this transaction so conveyancing solicitors will need to bear with her...

Sent: 16 June 2011 18:15
To: Barbara Harding
Subject: re our exchange

Thank you to you and David for the little extra support you gave me
latterly in the process it was much appreciated.  We were afflicted
with just about very problem you can get in a conveyance..except
someone dropping down dead !  I dont know that everybody knows
everything which gummed up the works along the way but certainly I
now have a very clear idea of what is good and bad in legal and
estate business.  YOU and Barbara Brooker were great and even a
Hertford estate agent I met on the way called Senel Ibrahim (of
Lanes) rang me up at intervals to ask how we were getting on..we were
hoping to buy in Hertford initially but the properties went up too
much in price.
In theory every property should have its own  one to one manager 24/7
but in practice I suppose this is not possible a lot of the time
especially in larger agencies.  It certainly would improve things
though if solicitors all informed their clients more often and
truthfully...there again buyers dont always play the game either as I
have seen.
 I have been in an advantaged position of  being able to access all
parties (with perseverance) without the restrictions of law and
ethical practice imposed upon the professionals.  I fully realise
this and am aware that your role is somewhat more
must be very frustrating for you doing this stuff sometimes if nobody
will tell you anything or the buyers are thick.

I hope you have an increasingly successful year and that the property
market goes back to its usual buzzing self very soon.  I am also so
glad you sold my friend Mary's house in Beresford Road..relatively
quickly too...she has been very unwell and needs an easier place to
maintain.  I tried to chemically burn out the bamboo in her garden
and it was a difficult job..did the developers think it was a
resettlement area for pandas?  Nobody plants that stuff anywhere but
in pots or the garden is lost.  I think solicitors and developers
need solicitor is better than most though even she was
getting ratty towards the end- perhaps we all were.

Best Wishes


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fwd: HomeLet launches most comprehensive report on rental market

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: "HomeLet" <>
Date: 9 June 2011 18:15:46 GMT+01:00
To: <>
Subject: HomeLet  launches most comprehensive report on rental market
Reply-To: "HomeLet" <>


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  • Monthly change in rental prices
  • Change of regional rental prices

The data has been gathered from over 3,000 of HomeLet’s letting agents nationwide â€" far more robust than any other RPI currently on the market â€" and also generates statistics based on actual rental price, rather than the advertised cost.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

£10 Billion of Public Land up For Grabs to Combat Housing Shortage

In a report in today’s Times it was reported that 1000’s of acres of public sector land that is deemed surplus near hospitals, schools and military bases must be identified by the autumn of this year to enable a potential sell-off.
Part of the proposal is a ‘Build Now, Buy Later’ plan whereby developers can pay for land once homes are completed. It is not clear in the article whether this means physical build completion or legal sales completion. The only way it would help developer/builders with a cash-flow problem is if it were the legal sales completion where money changes hands from buyer to seller.
Let’s just look at the ‘headers’ again:
·         Housing Shortage
·         Surplus Land
·         Developers/Builders with cash flow problems.

There is a housing shortage that is true. It was talked about before the more recent implosion of the financial system that helped create the current recession that has in turn caused a house price correction. House builders will not build at a loss. It’s not their ‘raison d’être’! So if it is not worthwhile building houses then you won’t. This situation has led to an increase in an already apparent shortage. It is worth examining where the ‘shortage’ actually is. Do we have a shortage of 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom, detached homes with triple garages and a pool? No. Do we have a shortage of 2/3 bedroom terrace and semi-detached homes? Probably Yes! I say probably because we are selling these homes that come to the market at prices that are affordable. So the key is price or affordability and it is primarily a social housing shortage.
If you have a shortage of any commodity, be it houses, flour, sugar or oranges then the price naturally rises if there is demand for it. It rises until it reaches a point where the buyers/consumers able to afford it drop off in numbers sufficient to halt further price increases (lack of sales) and the commodity remains on the shelf.
So the only way developers will buy surplus land to build homes on is if there is a market for the properties they build.  The tightening of mortgage lending, by increasing deposit requirements to levels unheard of before, means that the demand for these homes is there (the shortage) but the ability to buy is not. How is this equation solved? Simplistically you sell the land very cheaply so that when the build cost and profit requirement are added you have a total price that is within the grasp of these buyers. Why would any seller sell at the bottom of a cycle? If the land is surplus it was surplus some time ago!
Unfortunately, and I’m thinking out loud here, what happens to the value of similar second hand property in the vicinity of these new homes?
The other way is to create homes built by Government (our money) on surplus land (our land) to provide for the shortage. I think they used to call them Council Houses but today’s term is Social Housing!
Just to address the last point ‘Developers/Builders with cash flow problems’. Why is this the case? Probably because they can’t sell the homes they’ve already built, on land that they paid a lot more money for, at a profit and in sufficient numbers to create that cash flow.
I’m not proposing any answers here because I’m not certain there is any totally correct answer. If you think you might have then give Grant Shapps the Housing Minister  a call!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

House builders discuss 95% mortgages with lenders

So the house builders and the lenders have had a meeting to discuss how they can create 95% mortgages. Basically a good thing, as you would imagine most estate agents would say. But what proportion of the housing Market is represented by new homes sales to first time buyers? Also any first time buyer who purchases a new home is then a cost to the second hand Market of who knows how many sales!

If I think back 30 years my wife and I as first time buyers were providing a deposit of 10%. To do this we sold her car, saved up by not going out as much and generally committed ourselves to the task of buying our first home together. Ah, you might say, but house prices were so much cheaper then. True but my salary was just under £2,000 per annum with the prospect of perhaps another £1,000 in commission from selling at lease 6 houses per month personally. The first 4 didn't count towards commission but were to cover my costs to my employer!

I personally don't think 95% mortgages are what it's about. 90% is OK but today's first time buyers have to seriously want to do it! If that makes me sound old-fashioned then so be it. At least today's FTB's are not contending with galloping house price inflation. Qualifying for the mortgage is another can of worms. Freely available credit has enabled lots of youngsters the opportunity to get themselves a bad credit rating. The first whiff of this sort of problem and an application is rejected. Broadly this is seen as reigning in 'bad lending' but we have seen the extremes where minor misdemeanours create the same rejection.

The only way the Market as a whole will be motivated again is for reasonable lending to be restored - not just to to the new homes Market!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Britain's housing market is an unexploded economic bomb - MoneyWeek

Britain's housing market is an unexploded economic bomb - MoneyWeek

By all means read this thoroughly depressing article but bear in mind that for our part we have had the best 3 month run in terms of sales, new instructions and contract exchanges since 2007 when we agree that the 'top' of the market was reached. As a broad brush generalisation estate agents are not interested in rising or falling house prices - they earn their living from actual sales so it is the volume (number) of transactions that is the real issue. Our view is that volumes are up! Home owners can only put off a move up or down the market for so long before other pressures come to bear and they simply have to do it.

If you still feel like you need to be reassured that the only way is down then take out a subscription for a regular copy of the Daily Mail!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Check out Speed-Up Conveyancing

Check out this application on the App Store:

Cover Art

Speed-Up Conveyancing

PD Mobile Media Limited

Category: Business

Updated: 08 Feb 2011

iTunes for Mac and Windows
Please note that you have not been added to any email lists.
Copyright © 2011 iTunes S.à r.l. All rights reserved

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moving On: Top 10 Moving Blogs

I've just been e-mailed this link by Joseph Morris which is worth checking out if you need some assistance in the business of moving house! It's USA biased but there are some useful threads there.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Help For First Timers??

Councils to help first-time buyers on to housing ladder

Extracted from BBC online news

Councils are to help first-time buyers get on the housing ladder by topping up their deposits.
Five councils are pioneering a scheme aimed at buyers who can afford the monthly mortgage repayments but do not have a lump sum saved up.
Many first-time buyers find it difficult to purchase a home because lenders are asking for hefty deposits.
The councils will put 20% of the price in a Lloyds TSB account, with the lender asking for a 5% deposit.
The funds will not go to the buyer and the mortgage rate will be lower.
The councils risk losing money if a buyer defaults, but they get a generous interest rate themselves.
The scheme could benefit up to 300 first-time buyers in each area, but if other councils join, thousands could potentially benefit.
Another 10 councils are waiting to join the scheme.

The scheme is called Local Lend a Hand.
"We know that a lot of young people turn to the Bank of Mum and Dad to get their foot on the ladder, but that is not a solution for everyone," said Stephen Noakes, of Lloyds TSB.

"By developing Local Lend a Hand and working with local authorities across the UK, we're broadening the prospect of home ownership to even more first-time buyers.
"Helping people to buy their first home is crucial in achieving and maintaining a sustainable housing market," he added.
The councils involved so far are Warrington, Northumberland, East Lothian, Blackpool and Newcastle-under-Lyme.
The scheme was welcomed by Housing Minister Grant Shapps, who encouraged the industry to offer greater help for first-time buyers at a recent summit.
"I am delighted to see that those on the front line of building homes and providing mortgages are stepping up their efforts to help aspiring first-time buyers get a foot on the ladder," he said.

But estate agent and property market commentator Henry Pryor said that councils should not be risking money during a time when their budgets were being squeezed.
"It is not the job of the local authority to spend council tax money propping up an over-heated housing market. If prices have to fall back so that first-time buyers can afford to buy then that is what is what should happen," he said.

Figures from the Financial Services Authority (FSA), published earlier this week, showed that only just over 2% of new mortgage lending in the final three months of 2010 was to those who could offer a deposit of less than 10% of a home's value.

David Clark and Company comment: Our local authority have just spent £500,000 on planning and design for an out of town sports venue that may never be built in the foreseeable future. If councils budgets are squeezed then we think £500,000 spent on helping local first time buyers is a better bet for the continuing economic growth of the area than providing income to architects, consultants and planning fees. If Henry Pryor (see quote above) were to see a housing market fall by the 20% needed then the days of his being in a position to make a comment as an 'estate agent and property market commentator' would be well and truly over!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mary 'Queen of Shops' Portas Does Estate Agents

Mary Portas 'Queen of Shops' does Estate Agents

Well done Mary! You succeeded in finding the rare dinosaur firm of estate agents that choose to use cliches to describe property and whose sales staff know nothing about the property they are selling! How have they managed to get away with it for so long? Especially with Trading Standards having the power of the Misdescriptions Act to defend the public from agents not telling it like it is.

We try to be factual, clear and honest and I believe over the last 20 years in business in Ely we have never stretched the truth. Having staff who don't know anything about a property they're selling or showing someone round, is counter productive. Several people and Ms Portas herself banged on about how much they were paying an agent to sell the property. Exactly, we only get paid if we sell it, no upfront fees, no abortive fees, no withdrawal fees. So we don't send people on viewings who know nothing about the property as we are very unlikely to make a sale - just increase our costs!

Our sales particulars are factual , but I will admit to not going into extreme detail about minor negatives as our vendor clients would not be impressed. So a property has no garden - would you not mention this? Just so you could conduct dozens of viewings to no purpose? I think not.

We sometimes produce digital video which we host on YouTube and link to our website. Last year we had a 3 bed semi at a keen price but needing lots of work. Rather than show dozens of people round we got them to view the video first then arranged viewings with those who felt they could cope. It took 6 viewings to agree a sale!

Mary used the tour guides to 'teach' the agents how to conduct a viewing. I suppose it illustrated a point but the tour guides were showing one property, 5 days a week and all day! I'd hope they did know their subject in depth. You would expect the seller to have the best knowledge of their own home but many are guilty of overselling a feature or benefit to a prospective buyer and it is not always possible to give the seller a complete 'brief' on the person(s) coming to view their home.

The business owner made a valid point that it is not just agreeing a sale that you pay your agent for but their ability to oil the wheels of the sales process as it trundles towards exchange of contracts. That's a different type of knowledge and skill and one that comes with experience and the ability to liaise with local legal and mortgage professionals to keep it on track. We have a low fall through rate which we believe is testimony to our proficiency in this area.

We'd like to value and Market your home, we'd like to show you round a property that will meet your needs. Give us a try and bring Mary with you if you like!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Interesting Rental Market Research report on the Changing Face of Britain’s Landlords as Young Entrepreneurs enter the Market

Analysis from has indicated a significant change in both the age and gender of private landlords in the UK. The traditional face of the archetypal British landlord is changing according to the study which shows there is a new, younger breed of landlord entering the private rental market; which would indicate that when it comes to property, many still think that there’s money to be made.

Comparative data of landlord insurance policies sold by in 2006 (versus 2010) shows a marked increase in landlords aged 18-34.

Likewise the gender gap is beginning to close as 39% of landlords insured via are female, versus 36% in 2006.

Interestingly, when comparing the types of property being insured, there hasn’t been a statistically significant change since 2006 with terraced housing still accounting for the largest proportion of private rented accommodation.

Julian Watson, landlord insurance product manager for says:
“There is a great opportunity within the rental market at the moment, as the ongoing financial instability sees first time buyers struggling to get a foot on the property ladder and remaining in rental properties for much longer than planned. However, landlords also need to be aware of the impending housing benefit cuts which may present a challenge, as well as an opportunity to the savvy property investor.”

For those who are thinking about becoming private landlords, would recommend thinking about the following:
1. Budget - Establish your budget beforehand. Make sure the figures stack up and that you can make money out of renting out your chosen property. Don’t forget that you’ll need to consider not only the costs for the purchase of the property but also for those you’ll be facing annually; and those maintenance costs which may occur every two to three years.
2. Save - Save for a ‘rainy day’; you might need to fund the mortgage payments yourself if your property is unoccupied; or pay for maintenance, redecoration etc.
3. Regulation - Do your research on the challenges that future regulation may bring to you as a landlord.
4. Finance - Choose the right mortgage. It’s still going to have to be paid whether you’ve got a tenant in the property or not.
5. Tenants – Decide what sort of tenants you are looking to attract, and make sure your property works for them. Additionally, make sure you select your tenants carefully, and seek references

All data is sourced from the 19,851 Landlord Insurance policies sold by SimplyBusiness in 2010; versus the 6,234 policies sold by Simply Business in 2006.

Relevant Links

For further information relating to this report, please contact:
Hannah Smith, Distilled or call 020 7183 0767