The price is right
ESTATE agents are often accused of talking up the market but the local offices of Fox and Sons can produce statistics that back up their claim that there are definite signs of recovery.
Recent figures show sales are up by 12 per cent, instructions are up by nine per cent and the number of mortgages taken out is up by 34 per cent compared with the same period last year.
The company has branches in Mutley, Plympton, St Budeaux and Saltash and the improvement in business is not something they take for granted, with managers emphasising how hard they work to research the market in order to produce that crucial accurate pricing.
"If you price a house properly you get viewings and you get sales," says Stuart Sealey, manager at St Budeaux. "I don't see why people add £10,000 to the price they want and are then prepared to negotiate downwards. What is the point?
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"We have achieved an average of over 96 per cent of our guide prices recently which is evidence that we are doing our job properly and getting the prices right. It's an average so in some cases we are securing 100 per cent of the guide price.
"If someone is looking at properties on the internet and something doesn't sit right with them because they know the house is overvalued they won't bother to look at it properly. Accurate pricing leads to more viewings which in turn leads to a sale more quickly."
There are reports from across the city that properties which had been languishing on the market for some time are now finding buyers. Sometimes that is because the price has been modified but Andy Hampton, manager at the Plympton office, says that he has also recently shifted properties that fall into this category simply by refreshing the details, and presenting them more attractively with new photographs.
Which underlines the second most crucial point in securing those all important viewings – making sure the house looks at its best, is presented attractively and marketed in every possible away from the newest internet methods to more traditional advertising.
"There is confidence coming back to the market," said Mr Hampton. "And if you price properly and market well you will get response.
"As we get further into March with the lighter evenings there are more people out there buying. Properties which have been hanging around for a while have been getting viewings and offers and we have also taken on a few properties which have sold to the first people walking through the door.
"People are getting more confident about the market and the government is coming up with more initiatives to help first-time buyers get onto the housing ladder which is also helping the market a bit. But we still aren't seeing lots of first-time buyers… what we are seeing are loads of investment buyers with cash. While interest rates are low and they are getting a poor return on their income from the traditional investment institutions they are putting their money into buy-to-let property.
"People in this age group are making money from the market but there is a massive shortage of first-time buyers and if it wasn't for the investors it would probably be a different story.
"In our area we continue to see a strong demand for the three- or four-bedroom family homes, especially in the established residential areas of Woodford, Merrafield and Chaddlewood. These areas have good schools with good reputations and that helps to keep them popular with the family market.
"We have noticed that some first-time buyers have decided to save that bit more for their deposit and enter the market at this level rather than buy the smaller, cheaper house and have to move again in a couple of years' time when the children come along."
Over at St Budeaux it has been a similar story with some excellent results. Stuart Sealey says: "In the current market there is a definite air of overvaluation as agents fight to get instructions but when you price accurately you end up with clients moving house not sitting around waiting for someone to come and view their property.
"If you have a strong accurate price, and the best presentation and marketing you can then you will sell your home. When you place your property on the market your agent should be able to prove evidence of good thorough research on all the properties in your area."
The one problem that both agents say is hindering the market at the moment, however, is a lack of property coming to the market with people often being deterred by negative headlines. Their message for those contemplating a move is to seek out a reputable agent and test the market.