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The scrutiny of the internet world inhabited by hotels , airlines & restaurants is rapidly coming into the lives of estate agents ,surveyors & other property professionals. Whilst Trip Advisor & similar review sites have been part of the going out scene for some time, the demand for client reviews is now moving to another level.
Google Plus are now seeking reviews to help them measure companies as they fight to seize page one of their site. Reviews are rated higher than the testimonials left elsewhere in company facebook & company websites. The aim is to grade property professionals verses their competitors through the eyes of their clients.
Whether this grading by consenting individuals who have time to write reviews is good for vendors, landlords and applicants alike, I am unsure. Can the reviews be manipulated, as they famously are with restaurants? Will bigger firms be able to compete head on with the smaller firms who might offer more time to applicants but less property to offer ? Presumably we all have to learn from the travel trade but I do know that, from here on, everyone buying a service will be increasingly asked to write down their thoughts on the experience they received. I can only guess that service standards overall across the industry will inevitably improve, which has to be a positive. In turn those firms setting the standards & benchmarks too must reap the benefit.
Interesting times. Good for business… or just for Google)?
The recent announcement of the Government-backed mortgage guarantee which allows lenders to offer 95% finance to potential buyers has caused more than ripples across the chattering media .The press want to talk about bubbles but agents want to talk about affordability. Providing income multiples for mortgages remain affordable there will not be a bubble...ie 4-4.5 x income rather than 8 or more seen in times past ! Those of us in the business know there have been increasing numbers of mortgage products offering up to this level. This new proposal though gives further comfort especially to the larger lenders who dominate the UK market - many of whom have significant Government shareholdings.
Our take on this proposal is that it will undoubtedly oil the wheels of the house-buying and selling process which had already started and will further build buyers’ confidence. This will undoubtedly help first timers but also those wanting to move into larger premises but are currently held back not by their income but by the size of their existing deposit. In Birmingham City Centre we are already seeing more first time buyers as well as increasing numbers of vendors now looking to seize the opportunity - some stepping up into larger city apartments and others stepping out into Birmingham’s suburbs.
On a twenty year average, the number of residential transactions since the beginning of the recession up until the beginning of this year has been running only at 60-70% . We are expecting this new assistance will bring the market over the next year back in line with the long-term trend.
Purchasers want to know they can readily sell or let.The latter is certainly almost always possible as Birmingham’s popularity has jumped forward in recent years.The new move by Deutsche Bank into Brindley Place will prompt a big wave of new tenants into the City.
The Help to Buy assistance will now bring back sales into a reasonable time frame for vendors ensuring City living forms part of their lives and not just there long-term pension portfolios.
Sometimes people feel the City centres lack the envelope of 'community' with its associated values so often cited with pictures alongside of rural villages & country pubs full of hearty folk. It is therefore perhaps surprising to some that when there is a local calls to arms the buy in within the City centre area can be greater than that seen in the rural idyll.
We highlighted at a recent Jewellery Quarter Association breakfast that the charity Macmillan Cancer were hosting their annual coffee morning fund raiser on friday 27th September The notion was that wouldnt it be fun if not only we as a local firm hosted an event but as many firms as possible hosted events on the day & then one payment was made to Macmillan from the Jewellery Quarter community as a whole.
The take up was terrific & this event is now firmly implanted in the calender of events for ther area. From the florist offering a bunch of flowers alongside the gift of ballet tickets . Big firms , small firms local colleges & the School were selling coffee & cakes to their staff & to their clients and guests. One firm even held a coffee morning 'in the cloud'.
In the next week we & the local community expect to present Macmillan with a cheque in excess of £7500
Encouraging times I feel for Birmingham City Centre going forward.
Birmingham City Centre is increasingly popular for tenants & purchasers alike but more fragmented for living than most people think. We have always acknowledged this & have had high profile 'community' offices located in the Convention Quarter & Jewellery Quarter for many years. We have also listened to clients & landlords who ask if we could have an office which sits closer to The Mailbox & City Core , both areas readily covered to date by the existing offices however..
This autumn we will open a new very visable Maguire Jackson agency office on Waterfront Walk B1. This is a not only just below Canal Wharf but a stones throw from The Mailbox , The Cube & Washington Wharf plus within a very easy walk of both Friday Bridge & Berkley Court.The blocks off Commercial Street including The Postbox & the increasingly popular location just off Holloway Head are also close at hand. All these apartment buildings will benefit from our service & marketing profile which will assist landlords & vendors alike
If you have a property in these locations & want your property in our new windows this autumn please do not hesitate to call this office on 0121 634 1520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You know when the ripple of London’s booming property sector reaches out when several serious London based Residential Funds start arriving & expressing interest in acquiring good sized numbers of City Centre flats for long term investment. To the surprise of the South East based analysts there aren’t large blocks of vacant stock available nor queues of vendors aching to sell for below market values. They don’t need to. Birmingham City Centre is increasingly a positive story. Notwithstanding the overbuilding of apartments in some other cities in the peak building years of the mid noughties Birmingham’s City Centre flats have always been popular for renters, professionals & post graduates alike, from the depths of the recession to today. Rents are rising, the yields are attractive & the void periods between rentals can be days not weeks.
There is no doubt there is now scope for more apartments here in the City along with townhouses and the real question is whether the bank funders are now prepared to properly assist those developers looking to build. I expect the attraction of secured off plan sales will undoubtedly oil the wheels of development . Importantly it is probably the only way these investors are going to be able to acquire the properties they want.
Do expect to see tower cranes later this autumn !
Maguire Jackson has decided to focus all our annual charitable efforts on one chosen charity. We have partnered with Macmillan Cancer for fundraising plus charitable giving. We want to do all that we can to help support their team of nurses which do such a valuable job. Many of us here know of friends and colleagues who have or have had cancer so it’s a deeply personal choice for us and one that we believe also appeals to our customers.
Our first focus is to take part in the Macmillan World’s Greatest Coffee Morning fundraising event on Friday September 27th.
Rather than just host coffee mornings in each of our offices on that day, we are working with the Jewellery Quarter Association and Jewellery Quarter Development Trust to encourage each firm and residence in the niche Jewellery Quarter to host coffee and cake events on that day. This will then form part of the Jewellery Quarter single cheque to Macmillan Cancer. Everyone taking part will be acknowledged on the cheque and no one contribution will be judged any better or any worse than another. In this way, we hope to expand the impact we will have by bringing together as much of neighbourhood. As we have so many customers – vendors, landlords, buyers and tenants – we are best-placed to engage many in our appeal.
There are many planned events and ideas – lots of ways you could get involved if Macmillan means something to you too. If you are interested in helping please can I ask you register your interest to this office email@example.com or laura@barquespr,co.uk. We are looking for mugs (get it!) within each firm and home who we then assist with both cake recipes, coffee fundraising ideas for the day plus Macmillan cups and goodies to help each event go with a bang.
If you are outside of the Jewellery Quarter and want to be involved please do register too.
Watch this space..Eight weeks to go!
The MJ Direct agency service has been running successfully for three months, enabling vendors to keep a closer eye on expenditure through the fixed-fee structure whilst taking greater control over certain aspects of the house sale.
Primarily aimed at Birmingham’s suburban vendors who have properties in sought-after locations, the service is tailored to those who know roughly what their house or apartment is worth plus the neighbouring homes are selling relatively quickly when they hit the market.
The question is: Should you pay a local agent big fees to sell?
MJ Direct primarily markets your property over a six-month period - should you need if for that long - and whilst we make no promises on a sale in this time, we provide a high profile internet-based advertising campaign plus a sale board.
Viewings will be your responsibility but then this is probably what you prefer. Offers and follow-ups will come through our office managers along with the invariable tracking once terms are agreed.
Local papers won’t let us talk about costs but the service starts at £799 (plus VAT) payable from the outset in one or two payments – great value for money.
Suburban vendors have a real choice but the question remains – do you want to pay commission on a sale which will move quickly or pay a one-off cost knowing you get the support of a professional agent should you encounter any problems?
MJ Direct is a cost-effective way of selling your home.
Not every vendor wants a photo with our SOLD by board. Thank you Mark in Erdington
As an agent for over thirty years I have witnessed Stamp Duty, which you pay on property acquisition rise, rise & rise again. From 1% on all sales over £15000 in 1972 to the current regime of 1-7%, with the highest rate now applicable on all transactions over £2m.
With UK national average house prices now over £250k all average transactions occur SDLT of 3% .You therefore on average pay over £7500 tax just to move.
When average incomes & house prices were rapidly rising this easy to collect tax was as annoying as a summer midge. However when average household incomes are falling, house prices too being suppressed from the 2007 peak & mortgages requiring greater deposits this tax to move takes on a greater significance. When you also add in all the associated costs of moving, agents fees, lawyers fees, removal costs there is a compelling case that some vendors are now being held back & cannot actually afford to move.
I am increasingly of the opinion, like many others in this profession, that the tax bands need to catch up with the times & move up OR that the current rates are brought back to the easy to understand levels we saw in previous times, which made the market much more fluid. In the past every time you relocated you bought & sold, you therefore moved up & down the property ladder with ease & the burden of finding considerable amounts of cash to move was just not the major issue it has now become.
I hope HMRC can see the straight jacket this tax is becoming!
This year as with previous years we have sold several Birmingham City Centre apartments this spring to older singletons & couples coming into the City core from the suburbs & beyond.The reasons are wide ranging from wanting to travel extensively & not have the burdon of an empty house, the children have left & they want to downsize or that they want to live in an enviroment where they are not continually paying out big sums for the upkeep of their home.
A Sutton resident I recently heard saying that his house was marvellous but you did need to provision £3-4k each year for the upkeep of just the garden !
Birmingham Blocks of apartments invariably have managing agents who act on behalf of the long lessees, looking after the maintainance of the building & plan for the future work needed. With many City Centre blocks fast approaching or being just over there ten year birthdays when the construction warrenties expire, the service charges are now more than ever worthy of focus.
Good managing agents steadily build sinking funds through the annual service charges to ensure there is a contingency available for unexpected larger bills plus build up funds for larger planned for expensive repairs & renewals. If you see apartment buildings which on the surface have cheaper annual service charges you may find they aren't being properly contingent about future repairs, favouring larger one off charges in the future when work is required.
Landlords & residents must in our opinion take real interest in their block resident groups , which are now growing in number throughout the City,to both ensure the service charges are both being properly controlled but also to ensure future larger costs are now being planned for.
The market’s looking up.
Unique visitors to the MJ website are over 50% up on the past twelve months reflecting a steadily improving market for residential property in and around Birmingham.
Also interesting that an increasing number of searches come from mobile phones (more than tablets) so good job we’re optimised for that. Our website more than ever is providing a highly successful platform for vendors & landlords alike
For vendors the key ingredients are of ensuring their property presents its very best, de cluttering at the outset then maintaining that fresh & squeaky clean home . We all know its uncomfortable, especially when you live a busy urban life ,but decisions are made in those first four steps as potential purchasers walk in. As a vendor try & do the walk in ..through the eyes of a potential buyer.. It’s enlightening! The results invariably highlight light bulbs that need to be replaced, boxes of things that need moving to wardrobes and interior doors that would benefit from being permanently wedged open, to let in more natural light.
Ask yourself, “could this be the dream home a potential buyer’s looking for?”
We are encouraged by the statistics so far this year, with many sales & lets coming from those already living in the City, trading up or renting.
Birmingham, as the UK’s second City is also continuing to attract many firms to open or to expand there current local operations and we guide newcomers relocating into this City. It’s all about listening because it’s hard to think of an area of Birmingham – if not in the city centre, in the suburbs – that wouldn’t fit their needs spot on. We’ve such a wealth of community, facilities, cultural attractions – its no surprise Birmingham is increasingly the City of choice
One of the interesting anomalies of Birmingham City Centre has been the complete lack of housing stock for those who don’t enjoy apartment or loft-style living. When I first came to work in the city, I was fed by agents ‘the convenience of Edgbaston’ if you wanted a house. But, in reality, Edgbaston - along with its realty - isn’t that close to, say, Birmingham Town Hall. Certainly not that walkable. And it's quite pricey.
After years of waiting (and frustration), we finally have several new niche developments of houses to bring to the market this Spring. All the schemes are in the Jewellery Quarter, an urban village on the doorstep of Birmingham's city core, which continues to attract creative businesses & residents. Each development is being created by a different builder, and each has distinctly different characteristics.
i) The Badgeworks in Tenby Street is a very clever conversion of a former badge factory in Tenby Street, designed by award-winning architects Sjolander da Cruz. There are seven houses, each with off street parking and benefitting from a Live/Work planning use without any designated work area. This makes them really flexible for workers and owner occupiers alike. Freehold prices are at £275,000. Completion is this autumn and one unit has already been reserved by another leading Birmingham architect; a clear acknowledgement of pedigree!
ii) Regent Place, just off Caroline Street, is a new terrace of four three-storey 1350sq ft loft-style houses, from niche developer CRG Ashby Ltd. This scheme is located adjacent to a very handsome brick & terracotta-fronted former paper warehouse at No 53, built in 1906. These are again live/work, with the ground floors designed as self-contained offices with two bedrooms above. We feel the overall design of these units will appeal again to owner occupiers wanting to put down long-term roots in the Jewellery Quarter. Prices are shortly to be announced, but are expected to be in the region of £300,000.
iii) Regents Parade, again located just off Caroline Street, is a niche scheme of fourteen freehold houses being developed by One Property Group. Phase One - launching next month - consists of four two-storey houses that were built in the 19th century and are now Grade II Listed: they became absorbed into jewellery manufacturing later in life and are now are being refurbished and returning as homes. Phase Two - ten newly built 2 & 3 bedroom houses - will follow later in the summer. Prices are yet to be announced, but strong interest is already being registered.
If you want to be kept up date, you can like our Facebook page at facebook.com/mjBRUM, or keep an eye on the website. But more importantly, do advise us of your interest!
One of the features of mature City centres across the globe is the variety of its citizens; a healthy mix from young families to mature senior folk is the hallmark every City strives towards for balance and continuity. Birmingham's City core is still surprisingly recent, with the bulk of its 15000 properties built & occupied within the last fifteen years. Over sixty per cent of the properties are let out and held as Buy to Let investments, or by landlords who couldnt sell (particularly in the past three years).
There have always been some properties held by owner occupiers & downsizers from the many bigger suburban properties that ring Birmingham's many suburbs. For the combination of lifestyle and convenience, the city centre blocks can offer a level of privacy and security which is hard to beat. The 24 hour porterage in some cases being just one benefit.
Certain blocks like Symphony Court & King Edwards Wharf on Sheepcote street in the Convention Quarter have always attracted downsizers. The combination of larger canal-fronting apartments located close to Brindley Place and good block management have made them a natural choice. In recent weeks the offer of new houses in the Jewellery Quarter has also attracted many enquires from this older audience.The certainty of the freehold - plus parking - being the draw.
As agents we like this segment of Birmingham's property market because of the benefits it brings. These long term residents invariably get involved with block management, block resident groups, and neighbourhood resident groups, that constantly apply pressure to the City for improvement. This can help blighted buildings dont become something better (and sooner), and keeps aspects like street lighting constantly addressed.
Developers, too, are increasingly realising that their audience for new schemes is expanding, and are making design changes that reflect the aspirations of buyers seeing themselves living in the City Centre for the long term. This in turn improves standards of new-build property.
It's very good news all round
The latest Maguire Jackson Brum mini magazine goes out in the coming days to 19000 targeted City centre & near centre addresses, highlighting our properties, services, and some of the people that make Birmingham tick. This spring, as Maguire Jackson passes its ninth birthday, we have even more innovative plans to roll out in the months ahead, keeping ourselves ahead of the competition and firmly entrenched with the very best properties in the heart of Birmingham.
We have advertised our MJ Direct fixed fee service for the first time alongside our mainstream services, acknowledging the growth of the internet sector. With MJ Direct the discounted, upfront fixed fee allows the costs and risks of selling to be shared by both sides, with a huge upside to those successful motivated vendors whose properties catch the attention of the marketplace by price & location. This new service, we feel, will have great appeal throughout Birmingham and beyond as sellers research the real costs of moving.
Our overall turnover increased by 18.5% over the past twelve months and we anticipate further strong growth this year, helped by our increasingly successful residential lettings team, our undoubted expertise in City Centre and City Fringe mixed use/residential development sites, and of course new homes, for which enquiry levels have gone through the roof with the release of such cutting-edge developments at Sterling House http://www.sterlinghouse.co/ and Badge Works http://www.badgeworks.info/
Our lettings team in particular continue to look for high-quality apartments to meet continuous demand, and to any prospective or active property developers sitting on dusty planning permissions since the collapse of 2008, we invite you to get in touch to discuss the massively improving prospects for your future development.
We are quietly encouraged by the lifting in overall property confidence so far this year and feel Birmingham is very well placed for the coming months ahead.
The launch of our Maguire Jackson Direct fixed fee estate agency marketing service last week - to sit alongside our usual service - is encouraging a wide range of debate both within & outside of our industry. For some agents, particularly in the South East, it is a ’why are you doing this' but to vendors in the wider Midlands it's more a case of ‘this cost saver could really help us move !'
We were somewhat taken aback by the Birmingham Mail, who wouldn’t allow our initial advertisement this week which displayed the price of our service, being from £595 + vat. They were also reluctant to talk about the matter of property searches now starting 95% online. Whilst they finally let us include the line in our advertisment, they cut the copy out of the press release (!)
The growth of the internet cannot be ignored by the newspapers and neither can the rising costs of moving home. When you look at where average housing prices have gone in the last five years, it is quite easy to see the people today who are sitting on negative equity - or indeed those whose equity has been considerably hit by the downturn in prices - especially those who bought with big mortgages from 2005-2008. There are now many ‘accidental landlords’ throughout the West Midlands who are caught by static house prices at values below the level they bought or remortgaged at.
Now, when you factor in that the average West Midland seller is taking a hit on their price, (compared with the height of the housing market in 2007) and footing the bills of Government stamp duty, lawyers' transaction fees, removal costs and estate agency sales commissions, you realise how expensive it is to move these days.
If you are moving in a rising market, you invariably move with some lift in your existing capital and factor in further rising equity from your new home over time. If you are moving in a market like today - which is relatively flat in prices - you really have to find the cash to move. At £250k these costs can easily add up to £14-15k, which has to be found in a bigger mortgage or savings.
The MJ Direct concept for the motivated seller (who, we add, has to do some of the work) is a bold initiative, but does give the house vendor the opportunity of saving up to 80% in estate agency costs.
And while some estate agents' reactions might be to turn their noses up, those are savings that are not to be sniffed at.
We have over the past six months looked seriously at our Maguire Jackson residential sales service and what is sought from some of our clients. We have decided to launch a new service alongside our existing agency service which will we feel will have great appeal to many motivated modern vendors throughout the City & beyond.
Maguire Jackson Direct is an estate agency service which acknowledges the increasing power of the internet. The facts are that 95% of buyers now start their searches on the internet & through the major internet portals rather than registering initially with a High Street agent. We also acknowledge that not every vendor needs or demands the high level of service which is built into every current standard Sole or Multiple agency agreement we offer
The Maguire Jackson Direct deal is simple; A flat fee… No commission.... but the marketing is paid at the outset (in one or two easy payments). The Maguire Jackson sales advisors are still motivated to sell because Sold signs are the signs of their success
£595 + vat* buys you a Maguire Jackson inspection & trusted valuation ,an Energy Performance Certificate , a full set of Maguire Jackson details with photographs, six months of marketing including advertising on Britain’s highest profile search engines Rightmove & Zoopla, the convenience of viewings to suit yourself ,regular sales & marketing advice with a dedicated Maguire Jackson sales advisor + a dedicated phone number
Each contract is for six months marketing
We will not accompany viewings for these instructions but will liaise each time with the vendor & the potential buyer
If the vendor requires the full service with us accompanying each viewing & reporting daily we do recommend the full service , likewise if the property is vacant & the vendor cannot attend the viewings we will charge our standard commission fee however for many ,particularly those in the Birmingham inner & outer suburbs, the Maguire Jackson Direct service gives vendors the marketing confidence & coverage of the quality plus the fixed price they need to help them move.
We think the concept is bold but very today. It acknowledges the increasing power of the internet & the way it increasingly empowers vendors & applicants alike with market knowledge. The service also acknowledges the rising costs involved with moving, particularly with Stamp Duty by bringing down the sales agency costs.
If you would like to talk to the Maguire Jackson Direct team please call Lee Astle on 0121 285 3111 firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent affordability study highlighted Birmingham sitting very highly on a list of other leading UK cities when salaries & house prices are compared . Whilst the local prices from the local perspective sometimes seem high it is only when placed in context to the rest of the UK that the real value can be spotted.
There is already evidence that some South East based investors are already starting to look at Birmingham & the region for future income & capital growth. The facts of a solid resilient residential lettings market with low voids throughout the City and an improving house & flat buying market alongside the PR benefits of the HS2 fast train can only help push Birmingham forward.
Our increasing agency presence across the City for new homes, residential lettings, our backbone of City Centre residential sales plus City Centre & Jewellery Quarter commercial brokerage puts us in an almost unique position to advise vendors & landlords on the options they have available when considering their property.
Armed with our highly optimised web site and broad internet advertising in the key websites plus the wide ranging mailing of our successful Brum mini magazine..soon to be increasing in size and volume further to 18500 copies vendors & landlords can be assured that we make every effort to find the buyers & tenants looking.
If you are considering your Birmingham property options please do not hesitate to call our offices.
I was asked between Christmas & New Year to comment for BBC WM on the just published Halifax Building Society statistics which highlighted an increase in the national rise of first time buyers coming into the housing market. We like many other agents have witnessed this, building particularly since the late summer along with a general rise in overall activity & confidence in property across the board.
Before being interviewed I looked on line at UK housing statistics overall which have highlighted a number of interesting facts, not least the skew of prices across the country rising towards the South East & London in particular. Here in the West Midlands, according to Rightmove ,the typical average price is £174,098 yet in Greater London it is now £464,398 ! Whilst there are pockets of higher values locally such as Solihull (Av asking price £363051) & Sutton Coldfield (Av asking price £319112) there are also areas of lower prices particularly towards the ‘black country’ such as Walsall (Av asking price £144710)
If we glance over our shoulder at average prices paid at the height of the residential boom in June 2007 when West Midland prices averaged £205663 & Greater London £387898 we can instantly see how Greater London has successfully climbed back from an immediate dip after the crash & then stepped ahead with several years of year on year growth fuelled by international & local confidence. The West Midlands slid back & then has remained remarkably stable.
Historically there is a rebalance that occurs as London growth slows , which it is now doing,& investors start looking outside of the Capital for better yields & the potential for greater growth.
With Greater London prices now averaging over two & a half times of that being paid locally my instinct says the West Midlands currently looks very good value
As we see out the remaining days of 2012, we have looked back at the progress we have made through this past year, particularly in improved marketing, our own branding and the growth in activity for both our New Homes and Lettings departments. The market overall since the late summer is continuing to show positive signs, with increased numbers of applicants looking to buy and the lettings market continuing to be resilient. In commercial too there is some uplift in activity which we feel beckons well for the New Year.
We are now five years on from the top of the residential bubble and it has - amazingly - taken this long for many vendors, both landlords and owner-occupiers, to adjust to the new values and a very different, slower marketplace. The hangover - thank goodness! - is well and truly over and we are seeing people now moving on with their lives. They are looking for different locations, larger premises, or indeed smaller ones. They are also realising that, long term, it has to be better than to buy than rent, especially if they see themselves putting down career roots in one location. Birmingham continues to be a city on the up and that is undoubtedly boosting confidence.
So into 2013 we go, Mayan predictions notwithstanding… We expect to see more new homes starting to come out of the ground in the City Centre than for many years. We expect to see the residential lettings market showing no holding back in demand, but becoming more discerning toward location and interior finishes. We see residential sales overall lifting a little in volume, with prices stable but firming up, particularly in the key blocks with a high percentage of owner-occupiers. Finally, we see commercial prices continuing to be weak with the exception of where there is the potential to obtain a change of use to residential; this applies throughout the City Core & City Fringe.
Have a great Christmas and New Year. We look forward to helping you next year.
The recent Prince of Wales Foundation study of the current Jewellery Quarter planning zones has highlighted an issue of blight in several areas, yet I feel it has failed to properly grasp the nettle of planning restriction in this popular Birmingham City fringe location. There are fringe districts across the leading UK cities. Once heartlands of manufacturing, they are now are the heartbeat of the arts, innovative thinking, vibrant nightlife and homes for thousands. Birmingham has indeed encouraged its marketing department to talk up the Jewellery Quarter as a comparable to London's Islington & Shoreditch: a place for excellence in design, a place live and work, a place to find cosy bars and good independent restaurants, a location on the doorstep of the City and in tune with everything good about it. Yet it isn’t…
Successive developers are being turned away by the overly-restrictive planning policies and bigoted zealots who have watched the area decline. These individuals, with little or no knowledge of comparable city locations both in and out of the UK, are seemingly scared by the possibility of real change and the economic benefits that can come quickly as the area improves. Planning policies set up to protect manufacturing jewellers have become millstones as the jewellery industry declined and large scale manufacturing moved abroad. Individual planning officers have become as rigid as the policies they enforce, hounded by a noisily protective heritage lobby whose voice has been too loud for too long, with no mainstream democratic local support. The policies now in place have been too restrictive for officers to have any waiver. Buildings in the very heart of the area which my colleagues & I inspected ten or more years ago have stayed empty are now too dangerous to view. It is only a question of months before some of the listed buildings highlighted by English Heritage in its superb report of 2002 become condemned by structural engineers.
There is now yet another consultation - commissioned in the wake of the Foundation study - which might allow from next year, a two year planning change window to occur in perhaps two streets close to The Quarter's main shopping streets, as if this will prove to be the panacea for opening up change elsewhere in the area. There isn’t a wave of investment about to roll in, but there are lots of individuals and businesses who we see daily who want to live, work and bring back some pride into the Jewellery Quarter and buildings therein. They want change to happen quickly and they want to have supportive planning officers who acknowledge the positive change they can make by bringing 24 hour life back into the area. They want a Jewellery Quarter Development Trust body that is really pushing the area forward, fighting for change and wanting to outshine the near neighbour business improvement district on Colmore Row ,which is now making terrific and noticeable strides forward.
Why isn’t there a planning officer or a Birmingham Councillor who wants to have the mantle of being the one who brought the Jewellery Quarter quickly into the 21st century ?
Last week I met the visionary energetic head teacher Liam Nolan & his colleagues at the new Perry Beeches School II. They very recently acquired the former vacant Severn Trent offices on Newhall Street, close to St Pauls Square. The property was well known in recent years for its ‘No Rent’ commercial agency sign which hung forlornly from its wall. Now with Kier, the building contractors, working around them they have managed to start the academic year confined initially to one part of the building with 130 uniformed polite students & with a vision of another 600 pupils in the coming year or two.
The Academy School has already proven itself in the Birmingham suburb of Perry Barr by turning around a former failing comprehensive. Now having very good Ofsted results… plus moving local house prices in the process.. Perry Beeches II is part following a US model & is being used to regenerate life in the inner City away from the modern campus style schools so sought after over the last twenty years. This Jewellery Quarter based school will hopefully one of several now planned throughout Central Birmingham.
A sought after good School in the inner City has the potential to do a lot. It’s a long way from the ‘Waterloo Road’ vision immediately flagged by the local community when the planning application was first listed .One of the weaknesses of City living has been what happens to the children which invariably follow young aspiring couples who decide to live in the heart of the City. Too often we find couples sell & step out into the immediate suburbs the moment the pitter patter of little feet arrive. You only have to walk into Harborne High Street or Kings Heath High Street to see buggies bouncing along the pavements. Part of the desire to move out is space & the other part is schooling. Mr Nolan is at the forefront of a movement to offer real high standard state education in the heart of the City.
Town houses increasingly are becoming part of the Birmingham development mix. As we look over the coming twelve/twenty four months we are going to be able to offer new three & four storey accommodation for sale to those who often against their will are now currently looking into commuter land to find their next residence.
The Birmingham City Centre apartment market is predominantly less than fifteen years old..The bulk of apartments were built from 1998 to 2008. Symphony Court the sought after Crosby Homes built canalside block continues to sit as the older teenager, but that is only seventeen years old .
Things however change over time and you only need to look inside at your own wardrobe to see this. Things you once wore & now wont ever see daylight (!). Styles and colours change, living habits change and apartments like there suburban house cousins do need regular makeovers . Those looking to buy and rent in the City Centre want to see modern fresh interiors and vendors plus landlords can really benefit by making often simple changes to reflect current styles.We know slight internal remodelling too can make huge diferences .Look at opening up the kitchen & reception room , or enlarging the entrance hall. These changes can radically change the numbers of viewers who firstly will want to make appointments to inspect , then crucially to reinspect & offer.
In the older blocks, say over ten years we are now seeing new kitchens being installed and bathrooms modernised. As agents we encourage this. Likely buyers of City apartments invariably have busy lives & particularly unlike there Country cottage cousins have little or no appetite for wholesale updating and are invariable looking for oven-ready to go flats to live in.
If you have been on the market for over six months you have two options... Firstly reduce your price until the market bites because there are buyers out there looking, particularly for bargains OR Secondly look at your property through the eyes of your buyers & with the latter take advice where necessary because a little investment can sometimes easily give you the sale you now require.
At this time of year we are fully immersed in the annual peak of the residential lettings market, as the overseas students, post grad students plus relocating professionals fight for securing accommodation in the City Centre before the month end.
Our current quarterly letting statistics show a 25% increase in lettings deals secured by our experienced team, which itself was a new benchmark. Clearly we are securing better instructions in line with the market looking but more importantly we are clearly accessing increasing numbers of good creditworthy applicants looking for well located accommodation in the City ,through our targeted mailings, highly optimised web site & the very successful ‘Brum’ mini magazine. The latter we are soon increasing in size & mailing through the Post Office to 16500 residences , up from the current 13000.
The New homes division is also showing some success. The St Pauls Place & recently launched City Walk apartment schemes are attracting real interest & buyers from experienced Buy to Let investors & first time buyers alike. We are encouraged by the demand for new build but as agents we continue to be concerned about the lack of new build projects coming forward in the City Centre for private use. We can report several smaller projects soon to be breaking ground and ask interested parties to register with us if they are looking for a new home. Buying from a finished show home is going to be the way forward we feel!
We are now five years on from the peak & collapse in the residential market in the summer of 2007. Since then its been a bumpy ride for both developers, agents & vendors of City Centre apartments & houses. However especially for the last twelve months or so we have seen a steady confidence returning, helped by stable prices , a strong residential rental market plus an increasingly competitive mortgage market which is encouraging investors in particular to see value & now re enter the market.
For those looking for new build today the choice is increasingly scarce. Almost all the properties available have roots back to a construction start on or before the property peak. For some the apartments could have been let for several years before coming for sale, for others they might have been vacant for several years whilst administrators combed over the complex titles of other assets & therefore couldn’t bring the property to the market. Either way if you want something new there aren’t many options which I believe may lead to a hardening of new build prices over the coming months.
Notwithstanding some developers ambitions to build again the funding difficulties particularly for apartment builders has been the reason we do not see tower cranes working hard for private developers. One result which is really encouraging for the City is that we will soon see some house building. The reason is partly demand & also development funding. You can phase a house construction site whereas apartments cant be built five or ten at a time. I suggest those who like the City life but feel Harborne is there only option to find a house to sit tight,,,More houses are on the way!
There is increasing buyer confidence in Birmingham City Centre & we feel really well presented resale apartments will now start competing head on with the limited new build options to those purchasers searching.
With the residential letting market here in the City Centre at its annual busiest time ,there is no reason why any good well located & presented apartment shouldnt readily find an immediate tenant for the next six to twelve months. Most incoming tenants realise they need to be in place from late august/early september and therefore will make almost immediate decisions from the stock they view .
However some units are sticking . Sometimes it can be explained through presentation...of the apartment or indeed the common parts of the block .Other times & more likely it will be down to price.My check of B18 on Rightmove this morning highlighted forty x one bed flats listed as being available to let in the Jewellery Quarter. Ok so there is a chunk of new development one beds just launched but all landlords need to spot this competition & realise that they cannot sit out for prices when an immediate market adjustment of £25-£50 per month should fill the property. It sometimes surprises us that landlords will hold out for a rental figure & seemingly ignore the loss of income per week they incur every week the property sits unlet plus of course those hidden Council tax & utility bills which arrive on their door mats the moment the last tenant leaves.
On managed tenancies my team have access to view in the last month of the tenancy. Sometimes we can secure new tenants during this time so the void empty time between the tenancies can be a matter of hours rather than weeks . The latter quickly roll up .
It is the management & controlling of this void time that makes the difference between a good buy to let investment and an excellent buy to let investment.
Rightmove have just produced a very interesting little blue book armed with recorded housing statistics which run from 1986.Some of these are illuminating not least those of overall transaction levels in England & Wales.
For the last four years the number of transactions recorded have hovered at the 800,000pa level. Alarmingly this is only 55% of the 2007 level (1.43m) and less than 50% of the 2004 level (1.628m).Even in the recessionary years of the early nineties transaction levels were averaging 1.1m yet today we seem stuck at 70% of this.
The early 2012 stats show a 14% improvement on that recorded two years previous yet this year is still predicted to be of similar sales numbers overall. Vendors I sense are beginning to recognise this new reality and acknowledge that the correct asking price is therefore critical from the outset to secure a sale.
At the height of the recent market in 2007 there were 1.8m properties listed for sale yet in 2011 this had dropped to 1.2m .Interestingly this figure was 24% above that of 2009. The facts that more stock is coming back to the market in turn will I suspect attract more sales. The key though is a better mortgage market. In the City Centre 60% of our recent sales have been to Buy to Let investors. These buyers are attracted to Birmingham and are coming into a vibrant City Centre lettings market. I am expecting the competitive lending now seen in that sector will steadily extend to the rest of the market.
Interesting times indeed……
Unlike many locations in the UK which have little seasonality to the residential lettings year Birmingham City Centre features a high tide of enquires which run from early July to late September. The tide is rising fast as I write this and our previous year records show volumes of move ins three times or more the level of the quietest months, typically being November & January
It is this combination of the large student market ,55000 and rising each year, with its increasing numbers of international students, over 10% being Chinese, plus larger numbers of post graduate students who invariably look for good accommodation away from the Campuses. This audience combines with the junior accountants & lawyers who relocate into the City to the larger firms as well as the junior doctors & dentists who come into the City to the larger training hospitals. This audience swells further with those other professionals being relocated into City during what are typically quieter business months elsewhere plus of course the normal churn of accommodation for those already living the City, moving to larger or perhaps smaller apartments as their individual leases end.
The continued mortgage funding difficulties have led to the latter audience now staying longer beyond their initial lease lengths which have coincidently have further boosted the investment potential of apartments here in the City Centre. 60 % of all our recent sales have been to investor buyers who have the certainty of letting statistics showing minimal voids if they buy well planned apartments in the good locations.
We feel the imminent launch of the 65 City Walk one & two bedroom apartments, located within a stones throw of The Raddisson hotel, will be quickly absorbed by this investment audience plus those first time buyers wanting to enjoy the benefits of city living.
Anyone interested should contact Kathryn Molloy in New Homes email@example.com
The three principle sectors which we sit as a firm, namely City centre prime residential lettings, City Centre prime residential sales & City Fringe commercial feed market data back daily about the appetite for property, whose looking and what the bigger picture trends are.
The impact of the Euro hiatus in recent days hasn’t touched those looking to rent or buy residential. Birmingham continues on an upward trajectory for those wanting to work or learn. Whilst applicants , invariably professional & discerning when they have choice as is now in both markets ,we find those well located & well presented apartments / houses are readily finding buyers & tenants ,and the latter group extending their tenancies once they are comfortable and settled.
However the importance of pricing correctly is not to be overlooked. Applicants are just not viewing properties perceived to be overpriced and therefore managing vendor & landlord expectation at the outset is so very important. We are aware of particular agencies, in an effort to flatter their own egos & online market analysis sites ,are giving advice unsupported by market evidence to secure instructions. Consequently the time of their clients is wasted as weeks later they try to claw the headline prices back to those being achieved locally after little or no activity, more likely losing their instruction in the process. For Buy to Let landlords every week of vacancy costs money which invariably cannot be recovered. For vendors especially those with eyes on particular houses to buy in the suburbs & beyond the security of the sale process going through today often means future security which will not happen if their own apartment languishes with a price beyond that attainable.
There continue to be particularly commercial vendors with minds stuck in 2007 and with expectations way beyond those current buyers or indeed their banks surveyors. It is a shame that unless commercial rents and values can recover considerably that various dilapidated sites & buildings often in key locations throughout the City will continue to blight the landscape as a result .We believe commercial property is starting to look excellent value in places
The second Maguire Jackson auction is being held Monday May 28th at 6.30 at the National Motorcycle museum. Building on the success of the March Auction+ sale in collaboration with our fellow West Midland agents , Hunters, Taylors Oulsnams .John Payne plus Knight & Rennie this next trip to Solihull promises much.
We are submitting two properties, both large commercial premises in Hockley & both offering exceptional value to join the numerous residential lots offered by our Auction Agent partners www.theauctionagents.com.
We already have received interest from investors based in London who acknowledge the value these properties offer compared to similar properties in the South East and it is this market outside the West Midlands we feel which will push prices for those wanting to sell. Our next sale on July 24th promises even more & we do ask potential vendors wanting the security of a definitive sale through the Auction+ route to contact us.
Our latest sixteen page Brum mini magazine http://agentmags.guildmembers.co.uk/genericturner.asp?uid=maguirebrum starts being delivered by the Post Office to 13000 individual private addresses in the City Centre in the coming days. Our ability to communicate the best property the City has to offer alongside real facts about Birmingham City life raises the bar & hopefully confines the endless stream of ‘Wanted’ mailers from mainstream national & other agents mailers into the filling bins that these days sit alongside the mail boxes.
We have listened to city residents complaining about their letter boxes filling every day with shoddy ‘Landlords wanted’ & Vendors wanted’ mailshots from our competitors that we put our first mini magazine together six weeks ago which has been a total triumph. This new one ,twice the size, offers both more apartments to buy & let alongside photos & detail of very recent deals, plus City based editorial which is of real interest & not about Property !.
Our recent success selling over 75% of The Minories house & apartment scheme in the Jewellery Quarter which has now sold out (despite some six other agents having the same instruction ) also highlighted how residents are now both grading up within the City & also switching from renting to buying within the City centre when they see good quality product. Brum is another tool for our Clients to reach this City audience when we market their apartments for sale or rent, particularly alongside our very successful Maguire Jackson website which increasingly optimises highly on the front pages of most search terms . Of course our advertising in the mainstream property sites plus our own database widens coverage even further!
A stable property market often shows itself in different ways. Notwithstanding the huge amount of RICS & other housing statistics fed to consumers & professionals alike monthly they rarely show the immediate local picture when you are wanting to buy. The exception to this is probably that of core Central London, which increasingly seems to reflect another world! Here in Central Birmingham stability shows itself with more applicants looking ,more decisions being made and larger deals being agreed and proceeding. Locally larger deals in our eyes are those apartments over £225k.
There hasn’t been an apartment sale over £500k in the City centre for five years. Last week this price barrier was broken through as a 3000ft penthouse sold through our Sheepcote Street office, listing at £1.2m, with several other larger deals following closely behind. This type of sale data will help give confidence & support to mortgage valuers looking in the area for market evidence which in turn will help other buyers now looking. It has been as much the lack of turnover in the better prices which has held the market back because the professional valuers couldn’t easily base sales on recent nearby evidence & thereby give confidence to those wanting to make decisions. Prices aren’t climbing upwards but importantly they now haven’t fallen back for well over twelve months.
Another recent residential investment sale in the City ,over £6m by the George Street team again suggest others increasingly see value in this City.
This time the money was from London where increasingly I expect to see investors coming from Birmingham City Centre is without doubt starting to look good value to those outside of the City.
When is the best time to build new City Centre accommodation? Is it when there is very little available and every one is out looking , or is it when the shoots of recovery show the current new build stock being absorbed and therefore one can anticipate there will be nothing available for buyers in the twelve or more months it takes to plan & build ?
The lack of construction cranes around the City currently worries me when the demand for rented accommodation in the City Centre continues at a high level & shows no sign of abating. There are also some signs of increasing residential sales confidence .Discerning buyers currently looking in the market are making decisions on new apartments ,where the location is special such as St Pauls Place on St Pauls Square or where the location offers great convenience and future potential growth, such as The Hive in the heart of Eastside.Other buyers are being attracted to the prime locations or where the property offers unique character.
I know the issues are about funding however if you can overcome this I think there is a development opportunity today.
Encouragingly there is now more than just one town house scheme being planned in the City Centre which beckons well for the future & for those who want to find a freehold or larger property without having to move out into the suburbs. Watch this space for future opportunities.
Geoffrey Dicks ,chief economist at Novus Capital Markets reported in the recent Sunday Times that ‘Doom & gloom stories will always make headlines .Britain ,in particular has overdone the gloom. My confident prediction for 2012 is that from here on the trend in the economy and in the forecasts will be upwards’ . The economist reported October last year being a particularly dreadful month for the real economy with very weak exports, rising unemployment, industrial production down and service sector production similarly falling then November seeing the beginnings of a turnaround.
The initial combination of the European Bank without warning announcing new three year cheap finance for banks eased the risk of another credit crunch plus the growing realisation by UK exporters that the American economy was on the mend as unemployment statistics there reported real signs of improvement .On going the January CBI trend survey reported that they expect to see manufacturers increasing output over this first quarter…a 26 point recovery from October..a sluggish start with a stronger second half year. The Recruitment & Employment Confederation January report highlighted a small net improvement for the first time since September with increased numbers of permanent staff recruited. The FTSE too has reflected this improvement by rebounding strongly with values up 20% up since October. The British Retail Consortium also reflect high street improvement described the Christmas & early January stats as ‘dazzling’. Inflation seemed to have peaked at 5.2% last September and is now on line to fall to 2% . Nationwide also keen to get in the act have reported that consumer confidence in January was at a five month high.
What are we finding here in the City so far. Firstly increased numbers of residential sales applicants are registering & want to be kept informed of new instructions for sale. Interestingly the number of mortgages given out in January throughout the UK was an increase of 30 per cent on last January, according to chartered surveyors E.serv and clearly our Sales report mirrors this. The residential lettings market continues to be busy as Birmingham becomes more popular & acts as a magnet for professionals .Landlords need to keep their properties looking good as the applicants are discerning as always ! New landlords are welcome in the market particularly in the prime Convention & Jewellery Quarter locations. Over time we expect to see rents & growth weaken in the secondary areas which benefitted when shortages of rental properties available pushed values. Commercially things overall are poorer with values continuing to weaken as tenants realise they are in short supply so have a strong hand in negotiating rent & terms. This is meaning that some commercial properties inevitably are looking very good value for owner occupiers and likely tenants.
The year of the Dragon has just started and our Consultant Yifeng Li was leading the way again at the Maguire Jackson sponsored Chinese Students New Year Festival held at Birminghams Aston University Guild Hall on Sunday 5th February. Speeches were made and prizes were handed out as the New Year was celebrated.
Under graduate & Post graduate Chinese students increasingly feature as a large part of the student population who elect to stay out of Campus housing and seek City Centre apartments during their term of study. There are signs that many starting as tenants often go on to become landlords themselves. Yifeng who has just returned from Beijing is hoping he can encourage some of the larger high net worth investors & institutions to consider investing or funding larger schemes /developments in the West Midlands . Watch this space
Strong start to 2012 in terms of enquiries, is at least partly due to the fact that homeowners are enjoying the cheapest mortgages on record, thanks to historically low interest rates. We feel People are fast realising that this current mortgage opportunity is indeed very good.
For potential buyers, this represents a valuable window of opportunity to secure highly favourable mortgage deals which may look good value in the years ahead. A number of lenders cut their interest rates in 2011 as they battled for share in an increasingly competitive market, but this we feel will not last forever.
The average mortgage payment is currently £494 per month, which compares to £601 at the height of the credit crunch some 4 years ago. In terms of affordability, the current figure represents 15.4% of average take home pay compared to 20.5% in 2008.
The number of first time buyers also increased markedly last year compared to 2010 as banks relaxed some of their lending restrictions; there were 57,301 loans of 85% or more, up from 43,379 in the previous 12 months.
It is expected that interest rates will remain at 0.5% (now 34 consecutive months) for some time to come, as the Government attempts to help support the economy via quantitative easing and other financial instruments.
A significant minimum deposit, and a good personal credit history remain key to securing the best deals. But for those that can pass these hurdles, the offers are extremely attractive by any financial measure.
There is never an ideal time to move & juggling the wait for the perfect property, at the ideal price, with the lowest possible financing costs and when the economic outlook is favourable –is a call difficult to make. There are a number of factors currently in play which make this an easier decision than over the past four years
The average time ,according to the website Home.co.uk, for a property to be on the market in the UK before being sold is currently 241 days..
There is however a way forward this year for those vendors of mainstream properties & that is the route of Auctions & Auction+. We have linked up with the leading West Midland agents including Hunters, Oulsnams & Taylors to offer local monthly auctions from March 20th ,which will include the Auction+ auctions which are proving to be enormously popular elsewhere in the UK
Through the format of monthly auctions we can now offer vendors the opportunity of securing sales within specific time periods. For buyers, particularly through the Auction+ format ,we can give certainty ,alleviating any concern about possible gazumping from other likely buyers or vendors changing their minds after lawyers have been instructed. The Auction+ sales route has sometimes been called the ‘soft’ auction because it allows the buyer to commit in the room to a binding contract with insured title details on a small non refundable deposit of £4k. The buyer then instructs the lawyer & has 28 days to put down the balance of the deposit & then completes a month later. This is quite some way from the typical property auction room which is often intimidating & full of savvy investors vying for awkward secondary located commercial & residential buildings.
Our first residential auction kicks off in the National Motorcycle Museum near Solihull from 6pm March 20th
If you want your property to be included please call the office & we will arrange for Charles Robinson our auctioneer to call you