Robert Williams Estate Agents, Exeter

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Coronavirus Preparations – Robert Williams Estate Agents

17th March 2020


In these unprecedented and constantly changing circumstances we are trying to stay up to date and respond to the latest advice from Government, Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer. Wherever possible we aim to continue to offer services, and support our clients needs. In order to achieve this we are incorporating the following measures:


Office coverage – We aim to keep our usual office hours and the office staffed during this time, but with staff members working from home as much as possible. All of our systems and phones are internet based allowing us to operate fully via remote working. This means we will be contactable in the normal way through our office numbers or by email.  We have already adopted the recommended measures to reduce risk within our office:

  1. Ensure that staff understand their individual responsibilities and are not afraid to alert us to any developments in their personal circumstances.
  2. Remind staff to wash hands in accordance with NHS Guidelines and use alcohol wipes to clean desks, keyboards, equipment and other surfaces regularly.
  3. Keep alcohol gel on desks and promote regular hand washing.
  4. Prevent staff from sharing phones and clean them with alcohol wipes regularly.
  5. Wipe down office door handles, handrails and communal areas regularly.
  6. Remain up to date on the latest guidance on sickness pay and Government support for financial disruption.
  7. Where staff have an overseas holiday booked, ensure they are following the latest travel advice from the Foreign Office:

Valuations – As it stands we are still able to visit properties to conduct valuations. If this situation changes or a client is unwilling for us to visit the property in person, we are able to offer valuations via video calling.


Marketing of properties for sale or to let – The majority of advertising of properties is online so we do not envisage this being affected.


Viewings —  At this stage it is impossible to predict but it might well be the case that it proves inappropriate or against Government instruction to be visiting homes for viewing.  We are currently continuing viewings upon agreement by the viewer and property occupants. If circumstances arise where we are unable to undertake viewings, we will look to mitigate by producing video walk rounds of properties we currently have on the market.

Sales progression — We will be able to continue in the normal manner and by remote working. The extent of operation of other parties (solicitors, mortgage companies etc.) will remain to be seen and we will keep our clients regularly updated with developments.


Rent collection – From a rent processing point of view we are able to operate from our office and remotely and do not envisage any difficulties in collecting and passing rents to landlords as normal. However, we may experience a higher than normal issue with tenants being unable to pay their rent due to being unable to work. We will deal with this on a per case basis and keep you informed as to the situation but expect we will need to take into account the exceptional circumstances.


Property inspections / move in / checkouts – As the situation develops it may become clear that we are unable to do visits to tenanted properties as normal. We have taken the decision to delay routine property inspections as they are non-essential. We will continue to undertake tenant move ins and checkouts wherever possible and will keep the Landlord informed of any situations arising with their property.


Property repairs – Our ability to undertake our normal service levels on repairs may well be affected by contractors being unable or unwilling to visit our tenanted properties. Reporting and recording of issues will not be affected as our staff are contactable if working from home. Non urgent repairs may be delayed, with more urgent ones we will do our best to resolve given the resources we have access to and government guidelines as to the health of our staff, contractors and tenants at the time.


Conclusion – At this time its difficult to tell exactly how our business will be affected but we hope that the above details provides some reassurance that we are well prepared. Please contact us if you any queries or concerns.


We wish everyone good health and look forward to getting back to normal as soon as possible.

Tenements in Edinburgh. The average house price in Scotland rose 2.2% to £152,000.

House prices have increased in every region in the UK for the first time in two years, as the Conservative party’s election victory and a more settled economic outlook calmed buyers’ nerves.

House price data compiled by the Land Registry showed average annual house prices increased by 2.2% in December, up from 1.7% in November.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the pattern of falling house price growth since the 2016 EU referendum was reversed last summer in some regions in the north and east of England.

December was the first month since February 2018 that prices increased in all regions and countries.


The average UK house price hit £235,000, £5,000 higher than in December 2018.

David Westgate, the chief executive at Andrews Property Group, said: “For all regions to have delivered positive annual growth for the first time in nearly two years highlights just how resilient the UK property market has been against a backdrop of extreme political uncertainty.”

London prices rose 2.3% year on year in December, which was the strongest rise since October 2017 and a second successive annual increase.

Figures last month revealed that prices increased after a surge in the sales of expensive homes in London’s most sought-after districts. In the past year 185 £5m-plus mortgages were taken out by purchasers, according to figures from the Financial Conduct Authority.

The value of those mortgages was £9.7m on average and the total was £1.8bn, an increase of £200m on the previous year.

The ONS said: “Increased London house price growth may reflect a larger shift in the type of properties being sold than usual, with more sales of very high value properties.”

Westgate said: “While the London figure may have been skewed slightly by sales of extremely high value properties, the capital as a whole appears to have rediscovered its mojo.

“There’s every chance the rebound in sentiment in the capital will cause a ripple effect across the regions.”

Howard Archer, the chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said the latest sales data from the Halifax and the Nationwide pointed to a further firming in house prices in January.

“Recent data and surveys suggest that the housing market is changing up a gear after a largely lacklustre 2019,” he said.

“There is certainly a fair degree of evidence that the housing market has got an initial leg-up from increased optimism and reduced uncertainties following the decisive general election result as well as greater near-term clarity on Brexit, with the UK leaving the EU on 31 January with a deal.”

The latest Bank of England data showed mortgage approvals for house purchases rose markedly in December to 67,241, the highest monthly level since July 2017.

Mortgage approvals in December were also most probably lifted by increased confidence and reduced uncertainty among buyers and sellers after the decisive general election result, said Archer.

Average house prices increased over the year in England to £252,000, up 2.2%, and increased by the same amount in Wales to £166,000. Average prices in Scotland were up 2.2%, to £152,000, and 2.5% in Northern Ireland.

In England, Yorkshire and the Humber registered the highest annual house price growth, increasing by 3.9% in the year to December. This was followed by the East Midlands, with a 2.8% increase.

The lowest annual growth was in the south-east, where prices rose by 1.2% over the same period. This was followed by the West Midlands, where prices increased by 1.4%.



Q:  I’m confused – what’s the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer? I’m buying and selling, so which should I use?


Seeing as the legal process of buying and selling property is called conveyancing, it would make sense that it should be more appropriate to appoint a conveyancer, but there actually isn’t all that much difference between a Conveyancing Solicitor and a Licensed Conveyancer, in that they are both regulated professionals specialising in the conveyancing process.


The main point of difference is that solicitors are qualified to degree level and will have spent a total of seven to eight years training in a variety of legal fields. Once qualified, they can choose to specialise in a specific area of law, for example property law, or they can practice in a wider range of areas. Licensed Conveyancers, however, are specialised in the conveyancing process and will have undergone a series of rigorous examinations to obtain their conveyancing qualifications.


So, a Licensed Conveyancer provides legal services related solely to property or land transactions, whereas a Conveyancing Solicitor specialises in conveyancing and property law, but could offer advice on a broader range of law matters and would be a more suitable choice of there are related issues, such as probate or divorce. If there are no related legal matters, then both have all the necessary legal expertise to handle your move.


It is worth mentioning that Licensed Conveyancers can act on both sides of a transaction, representing both the buyer and the seller, whereas a Conveyancing Solicitor isn’t allowed – this is a controversial difference as a conflict of interests between parties is not uncommon so it is argued that one conveyancer cannot fairly represent both opposing sides.


One last point (one that makes no difference to you and I) is that they have different regulating bodies, both, however, with a similar Code of Conduct. Solicitors must be registered with the Law Society and are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), whereas Licensed Conveyancers are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).


So, if there are no other legal matters related to your transaction, I recommend asking friends and family for their recommendations. If you can, try to get a no sale-no fee, fixed price deal as very often property transactions aren’t simple and at least you’ll know what you’ll be paying, however much work is involved.


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What does 2020 have in store for the UK property market?

As we enter a new year (and decade), the opening weeks of 2020 are an appropriate time to reflect on the state of the UK economy and map out the key political and economic events likely to shape the real estate market.

While it is difficult to predict exactly what lies on the horizon, evidence suggests 2020 could be more eventful than 2019. The Conservative manifesto has some clues, with greater investment in public services and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU featuring as two primary aims for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. For business leaders, and those involved in property, the latter will be vital in encouraging investment into bricks and mortar. 

A recovering property market

We have already witnessed first-hand how Brexit uncertainty has affected the wider economy. For example, The Guardian reported last September that the pound sterling dropped to its lowest point in three years.

However, it is not just the value of the pound that has been affected by uncertainty. Nationwide estimates that by October of last year, prices had grown by under 1% for 11 consecutive months. Analysis suggests that since April 2019, uncertainty has reduced the cumulative worth of London property by more than £2 billion.

Thankfully, things are looking positive over the coming months. Whatever your political persuasion, a majority government is in power, thereby reducing the likelihood of an election and making it easier for new policy to be passed without undue delays. With political tension and fatigue reaching fever pitch over the festive period, this reprieve is likely a good thing for the country.

Investors turn to real estate in 2020

Whilst claiming a “Boris Bounce” may be going too far, there is a sense that 2020 will be smoother sailing for the property sector; Savills has predicted that the prime central London (PCL) market could be set to grow as much as 3% in the coming year. Indeed, such growth can be attributed to investor demand.

In 2019, Butterfield Mortgages Limited (BML) surveyed a sample of investors to uncover their sentiment towards property. The BML research revealed that some 61% of investors believe traditional assets like property are best positioned to deliver stable and secure returns during the current political uncertainty. A fifth (20%) said they plan to increase the amount of money they have invested in real estate in 2020.

Growth such as this would be excellent news, and not just for those in London. More transactions taking place at the top of the market should be complimented by the modest growth that the rest of the country enjoyed last year, with the upshot being improved market liquidity. In turn, this ensures there are more real estate opportunities available for domestic and international investors alike.

Managing foreign investment into the UK

The weakened pound has meant that non-UK residents are enjoying greater purchasing power than might have been the case pre-referendum. Many of those looking to purchase a UK-based property may be looking to take advantage of this current climate.

The aforementioned BML survey revealed that 57% of UK-based investors believe that foreign buyers investing in the country’s real estate are vital to the economy, but want restrictions on their activity. This requires delicate and balanced policy, something we could see as part of the upcoming budget. During the election campaign, Prime Minister Boris Johnson touted a new 3% surcharge on foreign nationals purchasing property. It remains to be seen how and when such a policy will be implemented. 

It would be naïve to be purely optimistic about 2020; risks still exist for the UK property market. Firstly, Brexit is still ongoing. The process is long and amounts to one of the largest diplomatic tasks ever undertaken. Understanding that setbacks are still possible, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s majority, is important. Similarly, there is no guarantee that a disorderly, no-deal Brexit is completely off the table.

However, at this point, it appears highly unlikely.

A cause for optimism

2020 looks set to be a strong year for the property sector, with renewed healthy growth forecasts already creating a buoyant narrative. As ever, there are risks, but with a majority government in power providing consistency, these seem to be less concerning than the cliff-edges of 2019. I now look forward to seeing the government addressing the challenges facing the property market, ensuring that investors and homebuyers are in a position to readily access new opportunities, in turn encouraging the growth of the sector.



Boris Johnson and UK property

UK PROPERTY: With the General Election now behind us, asking prices for homes being listed for sale are predicted to rise as we head into the new year, according to latest figures

Pent-up demand from buyers who have been holding off making any major financial decisions until such times as there was more certainty around Brexit are now more likely to commit in the coming months, particularly as mortgage product rates remain low due to the current competition between lenders.

Certainly, there are early indicators that the UK property market may pick up pace as we move into 2020.

According to Rightmove’s data, the decrease in asking prices of 0.9 per cent in December is the lowest at this time of year since 2006.

The report also suggests that so far in 2019, overall buyer levels have remained robust, with the number of sales agreed only 3 per cent lower than in 2018.

However, as the number of properties being listed for sale has been down overall by 8 per cent when compared to the previous year, this would indicate that overall supply hasn’t kept up with the number of buyers who have been active, regardless of what’s been going on at Westminster.

Rightmove director Miles Shipside comments on the data, “The greater certainty afforded by a majority government gives an opportunity for a more active spring moving season, with some release of several years of pent-up demand.

“Given the Brexit track record to date, further political twists and turns should not be ruled out, though with a large majority there is a higher possibility of an end to the series of Brexit deadlines, and the prospect of an orderly resolution.”

Miles continues: “With much of the political uncertainty removed, we expect that the number of properties for sale will recover as more new sellers come to market, making up some of this year’s lost ground.

However, property supply is still limited, with estate agents having the lowest proportion of properties available for sale in two years, and this will fuel modest gains in the national average asking price of property coming to market.”

Former RICS residential chairman, Jeremy Leaf, cautions that as far as the impact of Brexit on the

housing market is concerned, we’re still not quite out of the woods as yet and suggests that: “The

strength of any post-election ‘bounce’ will largely be determined by early clarification of the Brexit timetable.”

This is of course a factor that is still unresolved. With the UK’s final deal with the EU and trade deals with many other countries still to be negotiated, and a no-deal Brexit still not fully off the table, there may be some who decide to hold back for just another few months, until there is more clarity before moving home.

The question is though, might these buyers miss out and end up paying more for their next property if they wait until mid-2020?

Jeremy suggests, “It would be surprising if there is a significant increase in values over the next few months. Prices have been underpinned for some time by a shortage of supply, so any rise is likely to be more than outweighed by the usual increase in stock covering most price ranges at this time of year.”

Vouch Tenancy Deposit Scheme The Property Ombudsman RICS Rightmove Zoopla OnTheMarket