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How Estate Agents Are Regulated And Who Regulates Them

Currently estate agency as a profession is self-regulated. The Office of Fair Trading has previously stated that it believes self-regulation within the industry serves to relieve unnecessary regulatory burdens. However, research carried out by the Guardian newspaper regarding the consumers view on estate agency shows that;

  • Just one in ten people asked thought that estate agents were trustworthy.
  • 70% of people interviewed were of the opinion that estate agents were prone to giving misleading advice.
  • 41% were under the false impression that estate agents need certain qualifications to enable them to practise.

Despite consumer bodies campaigning against self regulation, estate agents are not currently legally obliged to belong to an industry regulatory scheme. Just one third of estate agents in the United Kingdom currently belong to an industry regulatory scheme, according to the Guardian. This can be disconcerting for consumers as taking action against an agency which is guilty of miscode of conduct  that does not belong to such a scheme is not as straightforward; the complaint must be logged directly to the Office of Fair Trading. Even though estate agents are not legally obliged to belong to a scheme, legally they must abide by the rules set down by the Estate Agency Act 1979, amended for undesirable practices.

Within the confines of this Act a complaint may be registered by a consumer if they believe that the estate agent they have instructed has breached their duty of care; this could mean providing misleading information such as presenting a developer as a first time buyer with no chain or not displaying their terms and conditions clearly. If the estate agent concerned is a member of an approved scheme the complaint may be taken to the Property Ombudsman. They will subsequently  look at the case individually and compensation may be awarded to the affected consumer, compensation can be up to a maximum of £25,000. If the agency is not listed with an approved scheme however, the complaint may only be registered with the Office of Fair Trading; in this case the investigation will not look at the individual complaint, but at the agency as a whole, no compensation will be offered despite the conclusion of the investigation.

The most well-known scheme within the estate agency industry is the National Association of Estate Agents; this was founded in 1962 by estate agent Raymond Andrews. The scheme is only available to agents who pass the necessary exams and must abide by the NAEA code of practice. This practice includes protecting clients from fraud, misrepresentation and malpractice; Noncompliance of these rules can result in a fine of up to £5000 per branch and membership will be revoked. Another approved scheme is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, founded in 1968. It is an independent scheme which regulates property professionals and surveyors; it is suited mainly to agents working with commercial property transactions.

From October 1st 2008, estate agents were legally required to register with an Estate Agents Redress Scheme. This was an Order made under the Estate Agents Act 1979 by the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Each of these redress schemes must be approved by the Office of Fair Trading for the registration to be legally binding, one of the approved schemes includes the Property Ombudsman. This was created on May 1st 2009 and was formerly the Ombudsman for Estate Agents created in 1998. The title was changed to reflect the broadening of authority in relation to complaints including commercial and overseas property. The scheme is only available to companies whose director or partner is a member of the National Association of Estate Agents or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The Property Ombudsman provides impartial assistance to any customer who feels they have been treated unfairly. For the complaint to be considered by the Property Ombudsman the agent must have either infringed the legal rights of the consumer, breached the terms of any practice that they are working under or be guilty of maladministration. Although this scheme is voluntary, it is recommended to instruct an agent who is registered with The Property Ombudsman, any complaint about an agency which does not belong to the scheme should be submitted to the Office of Fair Trading.

When selling a property, it is recommended that research is carried out before instructing an estate agent. By choosing an agent who is a member of the National Association of Estate Agents the property vendor can be assured that the necessary qualifications will have been obtained.

If in doubt consumers may verify an agency’s NAEA membership by calling 0844 387 0555.

Written by Urban Sales and Lettings Nationwide Online Estate Agents

What’s in store for the UK residential property market in 2013?

What's In Store For The UK Property Market In 2013?

What’s In Store For The UK Property Market In 2013?

Many of the predictions made by property analysts have so far been reasonably positive in that the state of the UK property market can’t really get much worse.

2012 was a rollercoaster kind of year with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games having an effect on the market.

But overall UK residential property prices and property sales have been fairly stable, probably ending the year just higher than where they started, although by how much depends on whose figures you look at.

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Residential Property Values Fall Again

UK Property Market Still Recovering From 2007 Financial Meltdown

UK Property Market Still Recovering From 2007 Financial Meltdown

UK property values fell faster than expected in November 2012, attracting many more first time and new buyers according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

In its latest analysis of the UK residential property market, RICS reportedthat 9% more surveyors reported property price falls rather than rises, as enquiries from potential buyers has picked up steadily across the country since the end of the summer.

Meanwhile the number of mortgages taken out by first time buyers increased by 14% in October, following a quiet September, according to figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

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Rent Guarantee Insurance Protects UK Landlords Income

Rent Guarantee Insurance Protects UK Landlords Income

The latest news from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) made great reading for landlords with the report that PRS rents had risen over the past year. However, the report could be really bad news for tenants and their finances as rental rates are set to increase again over the next 12 months.

Tenants without Rent Guarantee Insurance could face having their finances stretched even further as PRS rental rates are predicted to rise by almost 4% over the next 12 months, according to the latest RICS residential lettings survey.

The latest RICS survey revealed that Private Rented Sector (PRS) rental prices had risen by 4.3% over the last 12 months and that the upward trend appears to be somewhat sustainable due to the lack of realistic mortgage finance and high deposits required for First Time Buyers (FTBs) and a lack of suitable residential properties available for rent by tenants on the market.

The RICS residential lettings survey predicts that, over the next year, UK PRS rents could be set for an average rise of 3.9% across the whole country.

Tenants in the North West of England saw the biggest increase over the last 12 months, with rents rising by an average of 6.9%, while PRS rents in Wales failed to increase during the same period.

Landlords are urged to protect their income and provide their tenants with a little peace of mind using Rent Guarantee Insurance. A simple and affordable insurance policy that can make a great deal of difference, for both tenant and landlord finances.

Statistics from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) have also shown that in the UK, over the last 12 months, Buy-To-Let mortgage lending increased by almost 20%.

Professional landlords and property investors, who are able to obtain finance, are snapping up as many suitable residential properties that they can afford, in order to profit from some of the best rental yields earned from UK rental property for a good few years.

Latest UK Residential Property News From The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

Latest UK Residential Property News From The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

Interest from potential buyers in UK residential property dropped off slightly during June 2012, with 10% more surveyors reporting a fall in new enquiries, according to the latest RICS survey.

This was also compounded by an insignificant proportion of new build residential homes hitting the market as new instructions dropped for a second successive month.

Overall activity in the UK residential property market has struggled to see any noticeable improvement since the end of the stamp duty holiday in March.

According to the latest Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) report, residential property supply and demand failed to turn a corner in June with newly agreed sales slowing for three consecutive months.

12% more chartered surveyors who responded to the survey across the UK reported falls rather than rises in newly agreed sales, while the average number of completed sales per surveyor over the previous three months fell fractionally to 15.5.

Residential property prices across the UK continued to fall last month, with 22% more surveyors reporting price falls rather than raises, the weakest reading since October 2011.

Regionally, London was once again the only part of the UK to report rising prices, although the pace of increase has slowed significantly since the start of the year.

Expectations for future residential property prices showed little change as a net balance of 19% more surveyors expect prices to continue to fall. However, there is optimism surrounding property transaction levels, with 11% of respondents predicting property sales to increase rather than decline.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS Chief Economist said: “The housing market didn’t manage to turn a corner last month and activity remained in the doldrums. Fewer vendors looked to test the market and levels of buyer interest seem to have fallen back since the expiry of the stamp duty deadline earlier in the year. Although there is some positivity that the amount of sales going through is going to see an increase, it is unlikely that we will see any real movement until purchasing a property is more affordable and accessible for the likes of first time buyers.”

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have delivered a stinging attack on the coalition Government’s NewBuy mortgage scheme, suggesting it could wreck the entire housing market.

RICS are also calling for the regulation of all letting and property management agents, and the introduction of a single, UK regulation and redress scheme to be set up within 3 years.

The RICS says that NewBuy, which offers purchasers of new-build property 95% mortgages underwritten by taxpayers and developers, could reduce demand for ‘second-hand’ property and play havoc with lenders’ affordability calculations.

The RICS says that the NewBuy scheme may not even help first-time buyers when they come to buy second-hand properties because without stimulating the second-hand market as well as new-build, purchasing chains and overall transaction levels will begin to stagnate.

The institute is to include specific guidance to the valuers of new homes, to ensure that they understand the impact of NewBuy and make sure it ‘does not adversely impact the market’.

But while the RICS is calling on the Government to help local authorities introduce more Lend a Hand schemes, where buyers put down deposits of at least 5% and local authorities provide an indemnity of up to 20%, the organisation says the ‘dire state’ of local government finances makes this unlikely.

The RICS are also calling on the Government to amend the Estate Agents Act to bring all property letting and management agents within its scope, in terms of the need to have client money protection professional indemnity insurance and redress mechanisms.

The RICS says it will work with other bodies to establish by 2015 a single industry-wide regulation and independent redress scheme for the whole sector.

It also wants to see the Government encourage more investment in the private rented sector, including encouragement of ‘build to rent’ schemes, and for private tenants to be offered longer tenancies.

Elsewhere in its new housing policy, the RICS calls for VAT on all home repair, maintenance and improvement work to be cut to 5%, and for Stamp Duty to be reformed.

The RICS produced its new housing policy after consulting its members and will now lobby the Government.

Peter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said: “To deliver real influence in the corridors of power, RICS needs to have clear residential policy. In putting this landmark work together, we met with our members and firms of all sizes from right across the country. What came across loud and clear is the desperate need to reform sections of the market and generate growth right across the UK. We will now take these recommendations to the Government with the aim of helping them to improve the residential property sector for those operating within the industry and the public as a whole. Change needs to happen if we are to see an economically viable and professionally driven residential sector, and I stand ready to work with members, government, other industry bodies and consumer organisations to achieve this.”

According to the report, 13% of chartered surveyors reported rent rises rather than falls in the three months to April 2012. This growth was largely driven by increasing demand as a net balance of 15% more respondents reported rises in prospective tenants, with houses in greater demand than flats.

Rental values in the UK have now grown consistently since 2009 as the problem of unaffordable mortgage finance and large deposits required by lenders remain a barrier to home ownership, with many potential buyers forced to turn to the rental market.

Significantly, supply of property to the market continues to grow, albeit at a slower pace, with 7% more surveyors reporting increases rather than decreases in landlords looking to let their properties.

Unsurprisingly, with rental values steadily increasing, landlords’ gross yields also continued to grow during the early part of the year, although the pace of growth has begun to slow. This was the case in every part of the UK with the exception of London where tenant demand also saw a slight downturn.

Looking ahead, surveyors remain positive that the market will remain buoyant over the next three months, with 13% more predicting rents will rise rather than fall.

Across the UK, all areas expect rents to continue to increase with the exception of Scotland where expectations entered negative territory for the first time since October 2009.

Peter Bolton King, RICS Global Residential Director, says, “The rental market is still fairly buoyant and this looks likely to continue, given the challenges facing the sales market. Indeed, mortgage finance may become even harder to access particularly for first-time buyers if the euro crisis continues to deepen. This points to tenant demand continuing to outpace supply. As a result, rents will remain on an upward trajectory, adding to the pressure on many households whose incomes are already being squeezed.”

Buy-To-Let Boom Continues !

Buy-To-Let Boom Continues!

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, (RICS), latest Residential Lettings Survey, the UK Private Rented Sector (PRS) experienced sustained growth between February and April 2012, with houses in greater demand than flats.

13% of chartered surveyors reported that PRS rents had increased with tenant demand largely responsible for the growth.

15% of chartered surveyors also reported rises in the numbers of prospective tenants seeking rental properties.

Landlords with Comprehensively Referenced Tenants and Rent Guarantee insurance witnessed an increase in their gross rental yields during the first few months of the year, although the pace has now begun to slow slightly.

Unaffordable mortgage finance, high deposits and stricter lending criteria has also forced many potential home buyers to instead turn to the UK rental market.

PRS rental prices have been rising steadily in the UK since 2009 due to the high demand for suitable rental accommodation available to rent.

An increase in the supply of properties to the rental market has also been cited as a contributing factor of the success of Buy To Let, with 7% of surveyors revealing increases in the numbers of landlords looking to let their properties to private tenants.

Residential property prices across the UK slumped in April, according to the latest Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) housing market survey.

Across the UK, 19% more chartered surveyors reported property valuation falls rather than rises in house prices.

Expectations for future residential property prices also reached their lowest point with a net balance of 17% more respondents predicting further drops.

Demand from potential buyers was relatively flat during April 2012 as 5% more surveyors reported increases rather than decreases in new buyer enquiries (from +10% in March).

Meanwhile new instructions were stable as 1% more respondents reported falls rather than rises in new residential properties coming up for sale. Whilst the trend may appear flat, the level of supply has not seen any significant drops since July 2011.

April’s property transaction levels entered negative territory for the first time since September 2011, as 6% more RICS surveyors across the UK reported decreases rather than increases in transaction levels.

London was the only part of the UK to observe a residential property prices rise, while the West Midlands and Wales saw the most significant declines.

Whilst the RICS predictions for future property prices saw a notable dip, expectations for transaction levels once again remained positive with a net balance of +15% more respondents expecting sales to rise over the coming three months.

Global Director for Residential Property at RICS, Peter Bolton King, says: “With the recent surge in activity brought on by March’s stamp duty holiday coming to an end, it is unsurprising to see that prices across much of the country are continuing to fall. Renewed concerns over the economy and talk of a double dip recession dominating the headlines in recent weeks may well have served to undermine consumer confidence. What’s more, the continuing lack of affordable mortgage finance is still hindering many first time buyers who cannot afford to get a foot on the property ladder.”

UK Residential Property Prices Slip Again

UK Residential Property Prices Slip Again

New research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has revealed that the revival of the UK residential property market has apparently run out of steam following the end of the stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers in March this year.

The RICS report found that 19% more chartered surveyors observed residential property price decreases than increases in April 2012 and 17% of them predicted further slippage of UK residential property prices in the near future.

6% of chartered surveyors also reported a drop in residential property sales as opposed to a rise, the first time this has happened since September 2011.

Peter Bolton King, Housing spokesman for RICS, stated that the results of the research are far from surprising: “With the recent surge in activity brought on by March’s stamp duty holiday coming to an end, it is unsurprising to see that prices across much of the country are continuing to fall”.

Many of the negative forecasts for UK residential property in the near future are based on the fact that many of property sales would ordinarily have happened throughout the year, but the scramble to push through deals and invest in property before the end of the stamp duty holiday in March has seriously affected the annual pattern of residential property sales.

With UK residential property prices on the slide once again it is time for property investors to keep the market afloat whilst snapping up property bargains across the country. Wales and the West Midlands have experience the largest drops in residential property values, so these areas could see heavy interest from investors.

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