Sally Fraser of Stacks Property Search offers advice on how to extract the most information from online property search.
Some inside knowledge is useful when browsing property portals. You can glean a lot more than the agents would generally like you to know from drilling down, looking at what isn’t included as well as what is, and knowing what the jargon means.
Stacks guide to reading the internet includes:
The element of the property brochure that often holds the most information is the floor plan. From it you can see whether the layout works for you in its current form, whether it has the potential to be improved or adapted, and how it interacts with the outside space. Pay attention to windows and doors, and restricted head heights.
Which portals to use:
When property portals were shiny and new, it was easy, there were only a couple to keep on top of. Now there are so many more. My advice would be to spend some time setting up customised property alerts on Rightmove, Onthemarket and Zoopla at the least – time spent drawing your own search criteria is time well spent. As soon as anything new comes on it will appear in your inbox.
But remember, portals are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to property search. It doesn’t completely replace traditional methods, and if you’re serious about buying, you will need to have good relationships with all the agents in the area. Or by using a search agent you can be sure you won’t miss anything, and you’ll also get to hear about property before it comes onto the market, or property that is never advertised in the press or on the portals.
We have just put a young family into a great new family home in Gloucestershire. Mark works needs access to London, and Fran is looking to continue to work part-time while raising two children.
They came to us about 6 months ago at one of our regular London surgeries and we had a good chat about why they were thinking of moving. There were also the obvious questions of when?, what could they get for their money? timing etc? Timing is very important and we advised them to get on with their search as schooling needed to be planned and next academic year is always ‘tomorrow’ in property terms. Their property in London was a lovely family home, but 3 bed and they were growing out of it. It was clear that they going to benefit from the disparity in prices between London and the Country if we got on with the move. We have great estate agents in the UK, and their house was quickly appraised and made ready for the market.
The Stacks team got busy in the Country – we threw the net wide initially looking around a number of different commuting points and showing a variety of properties so that Mark and Fran got their eye into the market, while Stacks firmed up the brief, so that we could really start focussing.
The local agents, as ever, could not have been more helpful and gave us good advance warning of what was coming to the market, and what was happening with properties that had been on the market for a while and, even, those that had been withdrawn the market. It was the latter category that gave us gold. Judy in one of the Gloucestershire offices dragged back up a property that hadn’t sold in 2014 – surprise, surprise, it had been overvalued, failed to find a buyer despite plenty of interest and taken off the market. To be frank, the vendors hadn’t been in a rush to move – but a new grand-child had been born over the winter and they wanted to be closer to their own young family.
Through their agents, the vendors were contacted and agreed to a viewing. Fran came on the first viewing and they both came on the second. The vendors and their agent rediscussed price between themselves, and with our local office – and a price was agreed. Mark and Fran’s London property had gone on the market when we had started looking and they had been offered a very reasonable price.
The conveyancing and surveying were relatively straight forward – there are always issues, but nothing that we couldn’t sort out.
Mark rang this morning asking where was the best place to buy a lawnmower!
Jo Aldridge offers her advice to those seeking the perfect but elusive equestrian property
There are three fairly distinct categories of equestrian property searcher – those simply wanting a cottage/house with a paddock for a pony or two; those wanting a family home with yard, paddocks, and possibly an all-weather arena; and finally the professional yards that need lots of land, specialist facilities, and accommodation for staff.
The modest house with adjacent paddock land, space for a pony or two, will always generate interest, and often attracts purchasers who don’t actually want to keep horses, but want land for other recreational purposes, or simply to provide a shield from surrounding property.
Larger equestrian properties and professional yards have held their value well; there’s a constant demand, albeit a relatively small one as they appeal to a limited audience. So while values remain robust, properties of this kind can be slow to sell.
But by far the highest demand is for a good family period property with around 20 acres, and a small stable block, manege, tack room, and other essential equestrian related outbuildings. Supply is restricted so buyers will often find themselves in competition for properties of this kind.
Location in relation to competitions and activities has a significant effect on value. But the holy grail of equestrian properties is having good outriding on the doorstep. As country lanes become more populated by drivers ensconced in expensive and speedy German metal, unaware of the likelihood of rounding corners to find four legged traffic, the ability to access bridle paths direct from the property is incredibly valuable.
Buyers should be aware of the competition for equestrian property and not be in a rush to buy. Finding a property in exactly the right location may be challenging, so some compromise may be required. Many buyers consider the location, the land and its suitability of much more importance than the human accommodation and are prepared to compromise on the property.
Buyers who aren’t prepared to compromise on location sometimes choose to create their own equestrian package, finding the property that suits their requirements perfectly, with outbuildings that can be converted, and maybe a small amount of land, then renting or buying land adjacent or nearby. Buying land is of course by far the most secure method, but my advice would be to research the market very carefully, and secure the land and the property deal simultaneously.
A good awareness of local land values is crucial for this exercise. In broad terms, an acre of prime pastureland now costs well in excess of £7,000. If you’re a homeowner wanting to add some land to your property, or a buyer seeking to simultaneously buy some adjacent land, don’t expect the land owner you’re approaching to be ignorant of the lifestyle premium. Anything under £30,000 an acre for land that’s well positioned for the property is a bargain. The smaller the package of land you’re buying, the higher the cost per acre will be.
Jo Aldridge’s advice for equestrian purchasers:
Don’t expect to create a state-of-the-art equestrian property with immaculate facilities and expect to see a premium when you sell. There’s a tendency to over-individualise equestrian property, and there’s a fair chance that when you sell it will be to someone who wants something different!”
George Barkes of Stacks Property Search says that buyers are fleeing urban lifestyles are seeking a gentle change, and turning to small towns in preference over rural isolation. The market town has come of age and it seems can do no wrong.
Property price increases in popular market towns are surging ahead of more rural neighbours. But what makes a town a market town; and what makes a market town a good market town?
What makes the market town attractive is that it still has the sense of community that a lot of bigger towns have lost, that it remains in tune with the surrounding countryside, and that it has more and better facilities than a village.
A good market town should have good pubs, schools, social clubs, health facilities, cultural entertainment; it should be small enough so that its residents recognise each other when they pop out to buy a loaf of bread; it should have a good cross-section of residents; it should have excellent healthcare facilities, a public library, a hardware shop, a clothes shop, butcher, baker, delicatessen, greengrocers, a leisure centre and/or gym, not too many antique shops, some great cafes and restaurants, a good bus service, preferably a river (and good flood defences), it should be no more than ten miles from a large town, there should be a Big Issue seller – oh, and a proper market square that continues to hold a regular ‘destination’ market.
The best way to establish whether a particular market town is right for you is to go and immerse yourself in the community – preferably by living like a local for a couple of days. Your best source of information is the residents, so hang out in pubs and cafes, and be prepared to chat. Buy the local papers and magazines to find out what’s going on and what the local issues are. And have a look at the Town Plan, generally available on the Internet to see what direction the town’s going in.
“Stacks’ list of top market towns:
We’re proud that a wide variety of journalists and bloggers seek out our opinion on everything from market movements and trends to buying and negotiating techniques.
Recently our directors have been quoted in publications as diverse as the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, Cotswold Life, Country & Townhouse Magazine, The English Home, Independent on Sunday and the Daily Mail. All these articles, and many others, can be found here.
We’re always willing and happy to share our expertise, so if you have a blog or a newsletter that you’d like us to contribute to, please do get in touch with our PR department.
Call us on +44 (0) 1594 842880 or complete the form below
When making probably the most important financial decision of your life, it pays to have the right advisors at your side.
Retirement or semi-retirement is an exciting stage in life. Finding the right home to live in and enjoy it to the full is important. We know that and will do all that we can to understand what you’re looking for… before starting to search. And search we will, until we find the house of your dreams.
Relocating is time consuming and stressful. We regularly work with clients who live abroad. We hunt, short-list, prepare your viewings, and make the search process as easy as possible. We oversee the negotiations, manage the conveyancing, and deal with the headaches, so you can concentrate on other aspects of your move.
A holiday home is often an interesting mix of investment and heartfelt connection. You want to use it, but you may well also be keen for others to use it too. We can advise you on what factors to consider in making your decision. And we can then find the perfect holiday home for you to enjoy.
Others say, ‘location, location, location’. We say, ‘location, purpose, price, capital growth, rental returns’… the list goes on. Knowing the market is critical. Local knowledge is key. We ensure all aspects of your investment decision are addressed. Finding, analysing, negotiating, and completing… it’s what we do.
“You showed fantastic attention to detail, anticipated all eventualities, and provided timely and practical help and guidance every step of the way. Above all, you supported me in making my own considered decisions, and I am so grateful to you for all your help in getting me to where I am now!”
“We firmly believe that without Rachel and her skilled negotiation we would not have secured the property.”
“We felt they genuinely wanted to help.”
“Stacks’ performance on this assignment has been absolutely outstanding and more than met my expectations. Her understanding of the brief and the ‘after-find’ service set a standard of professionalism that I have not met before.”
“It is not often that one is pleased to part with money but I can truthfully say that I am on this occasion. You have earned every penny of this cheque and what is more, you have done it with great courtesy and good humour. It has been very pleasant working with you. You really did take most of the stress out of our house hunting.”
“Encouraging me to think creatively about what could work for me.”
“Finding a plot not yet on the market and persuading the developer to enter into an exclusive contract with me to build to my specification.“
“I was impressed by the efficient, kind and courteous service provided by Stacks”
“Stacks were a tremendous help and we would never have found our home without them. She is a lovely person with a great sense of humour which was essential during some of our tricky negotiations“
“You gave a much-valued ‘younger’ perspective on our situation, which was a real asset”
“We found the service extremely helpful and professional at all times”
“I have been delighted with the service I have received from Stacks and will not hesitate to recommend Stacks in the future.”