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Sentiment remains high for conveyancing profession

A survey of over 5,000 people who have recently completed a property purchase or sale transaction has revealed high levels of satisfaction of the property conveyancing process provided by their property lawyer.

When asked how satisfied they were with the overall service from their conveyancing firm, 90.6% scored them as ‘excellent’, while 86% rated their solicitor as ‘excellent’ for keeping to deadlines.

The high satisfaction scores were recorded by The ESTAS Group, which runs the national customer feedback and award scheme for the conveyancing sector. The ESTAS feedback platform enables firms to send out a service review invite via email or text asking clients to rate the customer service they received during the conveyancing process.  The ratings and feedback are sent back confidentially to each firm enabling them to track and benchmark their service performance.

The annual ESTAS Conveyancer Awards, which take place in October, are sponsored

by leading property search specialist, SearchFlow.  

Over 8 out of 10 respondents also rated their conveyancer as ‘excellent’ in dealing with any problems that arose, liaising with other parties in the process and in their overall speed and efficiency. 

While still impressive in its response, the ‘lowest’ score focused on how well conveyancers explained legal terminology, with an ‘excellent’ score of 75%, although 19.5% scored them as ‘good’ and a minority of just 2.2% suggesting that they were ‘average’ in this field. 

Simon Brown, The ESTAS director, had this to say: “By the very nature of The ESTAS Conveyancer Awards, we do attract firms who already prioritise service delivery so the scores we received from their clients for each question are high.  We are able to spot areas where property solicitors can improve however, with the explanation of costs and legal terminology at the lower end of the scale – hopefully this is a useful barometer that conveyancers can take on board – and also be assured that by and large they are doing a great job for their clients.” 

Carole Marsden, UK Sales Director for SearchFlow, said: “To receive such high praise from over 5,000 clients really is impressive.  The conveyancing industry as a whole should be very proud of such positive feedback. When people are conducting what is one of the largest purchase or sale transactions they are ever likely to handle, it’s clear that they value the support and professionalism of their legal practitioner in taking the transaction to completion. Yes, there’s room for improvement in areas, but it’s great to see such praise.”

On the cusp of the general election the UK property market is showing signs of improvement

Recent data has shown that seller’s asking prices reached a record peak in April with sales agreed reaching their highest point since 2007.

According to figures from Rightmove, the average price of property across England and Wales grew to £313,655, a monthly rise of 1.1%.

The property website – who’s figures date back to 2002 – stated that April’s average asking prices overtook June 2016’s previous peak of £310,471.

They also said that house prices have stayed strong due to the number of agreed sales remaining robust.

The last time sales agreed reached this level for this time of year was 2007, according to Director of Rightmove, Miles Shipside,

The “strong spring market”, he stated, would help to keep any uncertainty at bay in the run-up to the general election on 8 June.

Year on year, asking prices in the first-time buyer market have grown by 6.5%, with the price of a starter home rising to £194,881.

Across England and Wales, asking prices in all sectors have increased by a yearly 2.2%.  Generally speaking, however, Rightmove stated that the pace of asking price growth had reduced, falling to a low last hit in April 2013.

The strongest increase in average property prices was seen in Eastern England, with prices growing to £349,269 – a rise of 5.3%.

Following this was the West Midlands, with average prices rising to £215,784, having grown by 5%.

A year’s notice was given to those who invest in buy-to-let regarding the gradual reduction in tax benefits. As the changes have deterred buy-to-let investors, first-time buyers seem to have been the main market to benefit as the competition for similar homes has weakened slightly.

Commenting on the figures, Miles Shipside stated: “High buyer demand in most parts of the country has helped to propel the price of newly marketed property to record highs. There are signs of a strong spring market with the number of sales agreed achieved at this time of year being the highest since 2007.

“Increasingly stretched buyer affordability will continue to be a price moderator for sellers who are over-ambitious with their pricing, tempering the pace of price rises. Strong buyer activity this month has led to 10% higher numbers of sales agreed than in the same period in 2016. This large year-on-year disparity should be viewed cautiously as the comparable timespan in 2016 saw a drop in buy-to-let activity with the additional second home stamp duty. However, they are also up by 3.8% when compared to 2015.

“With the growth in household numbers and new-build supply struggling to keep pace, demand is strong and has led to the highest sales agreed numbers at this time of year since the heady pre-credit-crunch levels.”

The latest report from ARLA Propertymark has revealed that there has been a rise in the number of landlords selling up and quitting the PRS.

According to the report, during March, agents reported a rise in the number of landlords selling their buy-to-let (BTL) properties, with an average of four selling up per branch, compared to three in February. The last time the number of landlords selling their BTL rose above three per branch was in November last year, when the letting agent fees ban was announced.
ARLA Propertymark also reported that the number of tenants negotiating rent reductions rose month on month in March. In February, 2.2 per cent of agents witnessed successful rent reductions, whereas in March, 3.6 per cent reported this happening.

On the other hand, a quarter (25 per cent) of letting agents saw landlords increasing rents in March – a figure which has not changed since January. Year on year, this is down by seven percentage points. In March 2016 almost a third (32 per cent) of agents were seeing rent increases.
Supply of rental stock

The number of properties managed per member branch remained the same as the previous month, with agents managing 183 on average. Last March this figure stood at 169, meaning the supply of rental stock has increased by eight per cent over the last 12 months.

Local authorities gain new powers to crackdown on rogue landlords

Demand from tenants

In March, ARLA Propertymark members had 36 prospective tenants registered per branch, an increase from 34 in February.
David Cox, ARLA Propertymark Chief Executive, said: “It’s concerning that, despite supply increasing over last year, stock failed to return to the market after dipping in February. When we also consider that this is coupled with a rise in the number of landlords selling their BTL properties, this is bad news for those searching for a rental property. The introduction of mortgage interest relief means the market is becoming less and less attractive to investors and it appears some landlords are, as we predicted, choosing to exit the market rather than pay the higher taxes.

What’s more, two thirds (66 per cent) of our members are concerned the Government will introduce even more landlord taxes in 2017, which will only further dampen supply. Following the announcement of the ban on letting agent fees, we expect the situation to only get worse for tenants when inevitably the costs are passed onto tenants through higher rents. However, it’s positive that more tenants are taking action and negotiating rent reductions before the consultation ends and they see their rents increase.”

North East house prices have started 2016 with a bump after falling by 3.1% over the first four weeks of the year.

According to the latest data, prices fell almost across the board, wiping £4742 from the cost of an average North East home.

A typical North East home will currently cost you £158,755 – 8.8% higher and £13,883 more than the £144,872 recorded in January 2015. North Shields and Whitley Bay alone saw values rise, with property prices going up by 2.7% and 2.5% respectively.

Prices fell at their fastest rate since December 2014 – which saw a fall of 2.2% - and there were particularly striking falls in Cramlington (-6.8%) Killingworth (-5.5%) and Morpeth (-5.1%) Whitley Bay is the fastest-riser over the past 12 months, rising by £17,159 since January 2015 – closely followed by neighbour Tynemouth, where prices are £15,049 up year-on-year. Prices in Peterlee, however, are £2306 down on this time last year.

Cramlington’s striking price fall and the comparative strength of property prices to the North of the Tyne see it named this month’s “Best Buy”. 39% of properties in Cramlington are semi-detached (equal to the regional average), with a further 28% terraced (slightly below the regional average of 30%)

72% of homes are owner-occupied out-right, or with a mortgage – significantly above the regional average of 61%. 18% of homes are rented from registered social landlords or local authorities, 4% below the regional average. 9% of properties are rented privately, well below the regional average of 13%.

North East rents fell by  £4 in January, with the typical property in the region now costing £551 per calendar month to rent. Prices are £18 a month lower than in January 2015.

Falling house prices nonetheless contributed to an average rise in rental yields – with property investors getting a 0.1% stronger return on their investment, as average North East yields rise to 4.2%.

Easington (£409pcm) remains the cheapest place to rent in the North East out of the areas surveyed, while Durham City (£842pcm) remains the most expensive.

Gateshead remains the region’s Buy to Let Capital, with an average return of 6.6% for investors. Other strong performers for rental yield include Peterlee (5.1%) and Seaham (4.7%)

Energy efficiency legislation countdown begins for landlords

Recently, new legislation has been passed that will make it easier for tenants to rent more energy efficient properties.

Called the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015, the regulation introduces measures to improve the energy efficiency of rented properties in England and Wales.  Both domestic and non-domestic private rented property is included in this legislation.

The regulations are the first instruments to be made using the powers conferred by the Energy Act 2011. The Act places a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to make regulations implementing the tenants’ energy efficiency improvements provisions by 1st April 2016.

The property industry will need to review the legislation carefully and take the regulations into account now, with start and enforcement dates beginning in the autumn of next year.  The dates are phased in stages.

What are the regulations?

The new regulation states that from 1 October 2016, all private rented properties must have a minimum energy performance certificate of band ‘E’.  Landlords will not be able to take on new tenancies after this date without making energy improvements.  Then, after 1 October 2018, for any domestic property below an E rating, these regulations will apply to all existing tenancies.  This date is 1 October 2023 for non-domestic properties.

By making the regulations clear well ahead of their application date, and by phasing in requirements over time, all participants will have time to take voluntary action, reduce their costs of complying, and decrease the need for enforcement of the legislation.

Who must comply?

All buildings requiring an EPC will be part of the legislation.  Therefore, buildings due to be demolished, used as a place of worship, listed buildings, or other exemptions do not have to comply.  However, these are the minor exceptions to the rule.

Currently, around 20% of non-domestic property with an EPC is rated ‘F’ or ‘G’.  Those landlords in possession of such buildings will need to take into account financial and reputational loss when their non-compliant property is valued.  Lenders will most likely have greater focus on the energy rating of a building when the legislation is implemented, and they may require borrowers to bring properties up to standards before any money is released.  

What happens if I don’t?

It makes sense to begin upgrading your property now if you fall into the ‘F’ or ‘G’ ratings.  You will save money in energy bills in the long term, thereby making your property more attractive to lease.  There are many Green Deal options out there to help your business become more energy efficient without costing you a fortune up front.  

Local Authorities will enforce the regulations for domestic properties, while non-domestic properties will most likely be enforced by Trading Standards.  The penalties for a breach of compliance are civil, not criminal.  There could be a financial penalty, a publication penalty, or both.  Penalties will range from £1,000 for giving false or misleading information on a domestic property, up to 20% of the value of a non-domestic property for failure to comply.  

Domestic tenants will benefit, too

This legislation will be a boon for domestic tenants who are so often overlooked by legislation.  From 1 April 2016, domestic tenants will have the power to request the landlord’s consent to energy efficiency improvements which require no up-front or net cost to the landlord.  It even places a duty on the landlord not to unreasonably withhold consent.

This is great news for all tenants, in that poorly performing buildings won’t put such a strain on tenant’s energy bills going forward.  It is especially good for the domestic market.  Tenants often have very little choice around their energy usage in older or less-well-maintained properties, and landlords have been slow to respond to the voluntary approaches to energy savings in the past.

However, in practice this means that landlords still can wait for another three years before making any improvements.  Also, while an ‘E’ rating is acceptable, the legislation doesn’t go far enough in ensuring that buildings are as energy efficient as possible.  The UK has commitments under the Climate Change Act 2008 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Domestic and non-domestic buildings account for around 37% of the UK’s total carbon emissions (as at 2009 figures) – landlords could play a huge part in this reduction.

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What is a HomeBuyer Report?

The HomeBuyer Report, previously known as the Homebuyers Survey and Valuation (HSV) and often still referred to as a Homebuyers Survey, was introduced in 2009 and is completed within a standard format as laid down by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The HomeBuyer Report is recommended for conventional, newer homes, which are in reasonable condition. It is the most frequently undertaken survey which provides a more in depth report of the condition of the property and will give you professional advice to allow you to make an informed decision of whether to go ahead with buying a property.

The HomeBuyer Report will not detail every single aspect of the building, but it does spotlight urgent matters that have a substantial effect on the value of the property and need attending to or further investigation. It will include all major sections of a property that are visible to the surveyor, so they will not lift up floors or carpets and wiring will not be included.

HomeBuyer Reports are completed by RICS Chartered Surveyors. To get the expert and independent advice a Chartered Surveyor can offer, you can compare quotes from professional and experienced surveyors here at Abbey Broadway.
If you have a property that is in need of renovation or that you intend to alter, we recommend you commission the more comprehensive Building Survey from a RICS Chartered Surveyor.

What is included in a HomeBuyer Report?

The HomeBuyer Report includes details of:

  • A current valuation of the property as for the open market.

  • Background information on the property and location.

  • An estimate for the cost of re-building the property for insurance purpose.

  • An assessment of any damp-proofing, drainage or insulation in the building. Drains are not tested.

  • Condition of the building’s timbers and checking woodworm or rot.

  • Damp test results taken from the walls.

  • Details of urgent problems which should receive specialist attention before signing a contract.

  • Details of major faults in easy to get to parts of the property that may affect its value.

Although a summary of the survey will be present at the front of the report and a reminder of the urgent repairs will be at the end, it is always worth reading the report in full. The HomeBuyer Report is easily understood - written in plain English rather than technical jargon.

Condition Ratings

The RICS HomeBuyer Report has 3 condition ratings to evaluate and describe the condition of the property and how urgently it needs repairing. The conditions are defined by RICS as:

  • Condition Rating 1 – no repair currently needed.

  • Condition Rating 2 – defects that need repairing or replacing but are not considered to be serious or urgent.

  • Condition Rating 3 – defects that are serious and/or need to be repaired, replaced or investigated urgently.

If a surveyor reports findings that may be costly to remedy it can allow for the reopening of negotiations with the house seller on the price or you may wish to rethink your purchase of that property.

By comparing quotes from surveyors for a HomeBuyer Report you can get a professional inspection at a cost-effective price, as the trained eye of a surveyor will spot those potential issues that you would not be aware of. All of the surveyors on are regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Top Tips for a better EPC rating

1. Try and make sure as many of your fixed light fittings as possible have low energy lamps fitted.

2. If you have a hot water tank, make sure there is plenty of insulation around it. Good insulation can make a significant difference to the rating.

3. Loft insulation. If we cannot see the loft is insulated because either we cannot gain loft access or because the loft is boarded over please have any paperwork available to prove loft insulation is fitted.

4. If you have cavity wall insulation which is not visible due to rendering etc, make sure you have the paperwork available.

5. If your double glazed windows were fitted after 2002 and the date is not visible in the units, please have paperwork available to show the installation date.

6. Boiler information: We will try to establish the exact make and model of the gas or oil heating boiler. Where this is possible, the exact efficiency of the boiler can be established. This is likely to be higher than the software default setting for that type of boiler. Establishing the boilers details from visual inspection can be difficult, so please have any information manuals or service history available.

Finally, when booking an EPC on your property make sure that you use a fully qualified and accredited EPC Man by using our web site. All of our members have passed the relevant examination and are fully accredited and qualified to undertake your EPC. Each assessor also has a full insurance policy in place to cover this work.


Our Conveyancing Quotes Comparison Service Welcome to our cost effective, online, Conveyancing fees comparison website. Comparison of conveyancing quotes is an important first step towards successful conveyancing.

For the first time consumers can now compare and select a Conveyancing expert of their choice by simply searching our site online, making it even easier to appoint a Conveyancing expert best suited to you to handle the important purchase of your next home.

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Simply use our quick quote system and in 30 seconds, you will be able to see the best possible price for your conveyancing needs. It couldn’t be simpler! And the whole process literally takes only a matter of minutes once you’ve decided to place your instruction.




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