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The Spanner in the Works of Moving

Richard Ashton - Director

Richard Ashton – Director

When I ask anyone who is thinking about moving how long they think the legal side of things could take once they find a buyer, most will say ‘a couple of months’. Oh, that it were only eight weeks! Today the national average time period it takes to get from acceptance of an offer to exchange of contracts is almost twenty weeks. It is a national disgrace, a bit harsh maybe, but it’s definitely the spanner in the works of most property transactions.

When I began in the industry over twenty years ago, a property transaction would take about twenty-eight days to exchange and another fourteen to complete. That was with typewriters, faxing, the telephone and the Royal Mail. Today, with all our modern technology, it takes about a quarter of a year just to get to exchange – and that’s even after a buyer has been found. Of course, the longer it takes to get to exchange the more can go wrong, statistically the longer a sale takes to exchange the greater the chance of it failing. This all adds to the uncertainty about moving home and inevitably increases the cost.

Why does it take so long? Well, there is little money in conveyancing, compared to other legal areas, so fewer solicitors are taking on the role. Plus the checks and scrutiny have become more and more time consuming, and in our litigious society, where everyone is scared of being sued, it means everyone is scared of their own shadow and so tries to pass the onus onto someone else. The days of taking pragmatic views over minor points seem long gone.

With more checks and fewer conveyancers it is hardly surprising that deals take longer than ever to go through. But it is not just the contract. In some parts of the country local authority searches can take up to ten weeks while in other areas they only take a week or so, and the national average is six to eight weeks, a more common timeframe for ourselves locally. So there is a postcode lottery in searches that can hamper and even threaten proceedings.

The latest minister of housing is called Kit Malthouse, having taken over from Dominic Raab, who was himself only in the post for seven months. I wonder if any of us will remember his name in a few years’ time, any more than we can remember the names of the seventeen housing ministers who have served under our last four serving prime ministers – that’s an average tenure in the housing post of about sixteen months. Mr Malthouse already has his time cut out with building safety, planning and house building. But if the government wants a truly mobile and flexible workforce, who can adapt to and grasp new employment opportunities around the country, then bogging down house sellers in legal and local government bureaucracy for months is not going to help.

If Mr Malthouse wants to be remembered fondly or even at all, then he could get to grips with the dire state of property transaction process, speed it up and do us all and the economy a big favour. Sadly, it seems the position is generally used as just a staging ground for ministerial practice rather than something that is taken seriously.

There are however things that we as agents do to help, we work very closely with both vendors, buyers and solicitors to ensure that the process is as swift and pain free as possible. The ability to find you the best buyer for your home, probably now takes up less than half of our time. The rest of it we are making sure we get your buyer into your home as swiftly as possible! If we don’t, you don’t pay us, its as simple as that!

If you would like to find out any more about how we can help you get moved, or you would like to have a chat about anything discussed here, please feel free to give us a call on 01684 561411 or email me


Decisions, Decisions, Decisions 

Richard Ashton - Director

Richard Ashton – Director

Richard Ashton of Allan Morris looks at how important making the right choice of agent is when planning your next property move.

The housing market is forever changing. That is its nature. So our handling of it must be flexible too.

In a fruit and vegetable market we can buy the freshest produce early in the morning at the full price, or at the end of the day we can purchase what no one else has bought at a cheaper rate. The stock market is no different, you can buy, hold or sell depending on what the market is doing.

The property market moves in the same way. There are occasions when there is a lot of property to choose from and buyers have so much choice they can take their time and sometimes be successful with cheeky offers.

But this is not the market we are in now. In the Three Counties it is quite the opposite. Figures show that there are up to half as many properties on the market as there were this time last year – and 2017 wasn’t particularly good for stock. As a country, we still worry about the effects of Brexit and what the future may bring. Many potential sellers are therefore waiting to see what the future holds. So, at present, there is much less choice. Also, with more people chasing each of the fewer properties, there is not so much time to ponder the important buying decisions that need to be made.

So if you are serious about moving, forget a leisurely, late evening, glass-in-hand, browse through your property portal. It is not going to help very much. Because by the time a good property gets onto a portal nowadays you may already have been beaten to it.

Serious buyers behave differently in this market. They know that they need to find a property before it ever reaches a portal – and that the best way to do this is to get to know their local independent estate agent so they can be first in the queue for the pick of the properties.

You see, the local experienced agents know the local market best. They know local people. They know when someone is about to make a move. Then they match who they know wants to sell with who they know wants to buy. Property portals don’t do that. Nor do most of the so-called, on-line ‘local property experts’, who, sadly, often don’t even live and/or work in the same town, never mind the same locality.

So, if you are serious about buying, give us a call and get to know us, your local, well-established, estate agent. You will find our knowledge and experience provide the very best value in professional advice – because it won’t cost you a thing.  And if you are selling it’s good value too because unless we do our job and get you moved we won’t charge you a penny. That is our incentive for us to work together towards the same goal.

If you are thinking of moving, give us a call on 01684 561411. In todays market you never know what your home may be worth, and if finding out costs nothing what do you have to lose.

The Art of Negotiation Part 3

Richard Ashton - Director

Richard Ashton – Director

Richard Ashton of Allan Morris explains the all-important third phase in a property negotiation.

Most negotiations run on similar lines. The first phase is the easy, posturing part. Both sides get to set out their stalls, dig their heels in, complain how unreasonable the other side is being, bang the table and generally try to show who is boss – who is the least likely to give way.

But all good things come to an end and if both parties want to go forward, someone will have to get serious and make a positive move. This should come in the form of a reasonable proposal.

If the other side is behaving they, while not necessarily agreeing, should make a reasonable counter proposal. This is constructive behaviour that shows goodwill and intent.

The good negotiator can facilitate this for both parties, then get down to the real business of creating a deal between buyer and seller.

Keen Brexit watchers will understand that is exactly where the European Union and the United Kingdom negotiations stand as we enter 2018. Both parties spent most of last year in an unseemly slanging match supported by ever more damaging leaks to the press.

Then suddenly, at the eleventh hour, a proposal was made by one party and responded to encouragingly by the other. This was followed by another proposal that was received with an agreement of sorts. And so the negotiation inched forward and has entered its next phase which will no doubt be preceded by another, but perhaps less aggressive, slanging match.

It is a bit like a property negotiation where, having established the sale price, there can still be lots of details to agree upon such as after-survey findings, moving dates, etc.

Despite all the posturing, both sides in the Brexit negotiations understand that they really should come to an agreement. The ramifications are too great if they don’t. While property negotiations don’t have such national significance as Brexit they are as seriously important to the lives of families and individuals caught up in them.

Property negotiating is a serious business with serious implications. You could negotiate your own deal, or you could enlist the help of those whose job it is to get the best deal for you and are too experienced to be swayed or affected by the antics and tactics of another party. Where do you find such a skilled negotiator? Just instruct a good estate agent.

With over 175 years experience amongst our directors alone, if you are interested in discovering what your home is worth, would like a chat on how to best maximise your property’s value, or just want to gain an understanding on the current market, contact us on 01684 561411 or email me

A Happy New Year From The Chancellor!

Richard Ashton - Director

Richard Ashton – Director

Richard Ashton of Allan Morris comments on the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s autumn budget and whether it means a happy 2018 for the housing market.

Well the 2017 autumn budget arrived and the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond made a series of changes designed to help the housing sector.

Abolishing stamp duty for first time buyers – including those purchasing properties up to £300,000 outside London – is a huge step in the right direction in helping thousands of people afford their first homes, and an early present for those already in the process of purchasing!

The Chancellor had listened to the property industry and made this important change. I can’t imagine my letter sent to him published previously was the only reason, but it may have helped!! He has also started on a path to create more new homes by easing planning obstructions and questioning those developers who may hoard land.

All this is good news, and gives some positives for the housing market this year. But governments often refer to housing as a catch-all subject when it is really several different topics: specifically- new home construction, the rental sector and the pre-owned property sales.

Building new homes is crucial to help ease demand. But so too is making the process of buying and selling homes further up the market chain easier and cheaper as this will stimulate activity and create movement.

A workforce made inflexible because of property market inertia cannot be helpful to lift the economy. Taking the stamp duty away from first time buyers brings welcome opportunities and advantages in that sector. But that doesn’t help second, third or fourth time buyers. At some stage first time buyers usually want to step up. If they are then prevented from doing so through the disincentive of high stamp duty this will create a logjam that will affect the entire market.

So perhaps in the next budget the rest of the market could be given a kick-start too through lower stamp duty.

This also seems a good opportunity to wish all those who follow us and all those we have helped to move in 2017, a happy New Year and a hope for a positive 2018!

To any who are thinking of making a move this year or even just want to chat property, if you would like a valuation or to discuss options please give us a call on 01684 561411 or email me


Post for Mr Hammond

Richard Ashton - Director

Richard Ashton – Director

Richard Ashton from Allan Morris writes an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of the autumn budget.

Dear Mr Hammond,

The government and opposition parties are now scrambling to put their houses in order over inappropriate behavior. It is not before time.

But neither is it before time to put other houses in order – our houses, the homes of the voters. The house buying process isn’t totally broken but it is moribund and fast becoming unfit for purpose. In a world that is speeding up through technology, house transaction times, in contrast, seem to be slowing down. This is off-putting to buyers and sellers who may already be deterred by the uncertainty of Brexit, the high cost of stamp duty and now the first interest rate rise in a decade.

Clearly this can’t go on. The voting public no longer wish to be hidebound by an arcane and anachronistic system. They want a modern process that allows them spontaneity, speed and assurance without the feeling that they are being exploited and overly taxed.

There may be nothing that can be done about the lumbering Brexit process. Whether one likes it or not that will unfold in its own time. And all the other factors are not going to be a quick fix either. We understand that it’s complicated. But steps could and should be taken now to help what is an important part of the economy. Of course you will have become used to the vast sums of money the government are making through a tax that was originally designed not to affect first and second time buyers – but now does because of steeply rising house prices.

But an active housing market has a knock-on financial benefit to many other areas of commercial and taxable activity. So the government, in taking small but positive steps, could help us all by creating a positive environment for house buyers and sellers. Yes, in time the government can do something about the conveyancing process. But right now, Mr Hammond, you could do something to change stamp duty in the upcoming budget on 22nd November. You could take your foot off the brake.

Fortunately there is a silver lining to this current cloud. This market is primarily made up of motivated buyers and sellers. These are the people who have to move for a variety of life decisions rather than purely aspirational ones. And as any good estate agent will tell you there is never a better time to be in the market than when everyone is motivated to make things happen. Let’s hope, Mr Hammond, you feel the same.

Yours sincerely
Richard Ashton MNAEA
Allan Morris Estate Agents

The Art of Negotiation Part 2

Richard Ashton - Director

Richard Ashton – Director

Richard Ashton of Allan Morris sees yet more similarities between the Brexit talks and property negotiation.

Every negotiation begins with conflict of some sort – different points of view where both sides have strong and seemingly set opinions about what each wants. This is the argument stage.

But negotiations can’t proceed if both parties don’t move from those entrenched positions. Deadlock has to be broken otherwise neither party can proceed to any sort of end, never mind an agreeable one. This means one side has to take the plunge and be the first to make a proposal – to show that they are prepared to soften on their original stated position. This is not weakness. It is strength. It is clever. It is part of the negotiating process, for without a proposal there is stand off.

Theresa May has just made this first move in the Brexit negotiations. After months of squabbling and posturing on both sides of the channel the British prime minister made a proposal during a speech given in Florence. Any decent negotiator knows that they should reward a reasonable proposal with, at least, a reasonable counter proposal. What will the European Union negotiators do? Will they stay in the argue stage and stall the negotiation further? Or will they do the smart thing and signal that, they too, are ready to make reasonable concessions which will help kick start the constructive stage of the process?

Property negotiation is just the same. Without concessions there is no progress. Skilled and experienced negotiators understand this. They understand how to read the negotiation road map. Which is why employing an experienced negotiator in the form of a talented estate agent is so important.

The secret to good negotiating is in understanding when to argue and when to make a proposal. For house buyers the final quarter of 2017 may be precisely the right time to make a strong proposal. So far the property market has had a slow year. This we can really put down to higher property taxs, the general election and Brexit. We certainly can’t put it down to employment and mortgage interest rates.

It may be too soon to call, but there are certain signs that we are approaching, or may even have reached, the bottom of the market cycle. Knowing when to make a move is always difficult. But one thing is certain those people who think they will wait until after the Brexit negotiations are over may well be too late – all the good deals will have been done by people who understand that making a reasonable proposal early is better than reacting when it is too late. The Brexit negotiators should also bear this in mind as they enter the next round of talks this autumn.

If you are thinking of moving and would like any assistance please give us a call on 01684 561411 and we’ll find the perfect match for you.

The Dating Game 

Richard Ashton - Director

Richard Ashton – Director

Richard Ashton of Allan Morris considers some similarities between Love and Property when searching online.

Going back into the singles market after a period of life spent in a relationship can be difficult, troublesome and unnerving. Dating in 2017 is a lot different from ten years ago – never mind twenty! Society, expectations and even the rules of the game have changed. Those entering this arena after some time have to learn these new rules and quickly.

Moving home is very similar. The way we buy property has changed a great deal over the past decade or two. The internet for instance has altered how we search for property, and it has had a similar effect on the dating business. Most people nowadays use a dating site or their smart phone to find a partner, much as they use technology to find a new home.

Then there is the first date. Perhaps there are fewer blind dates nowadays because 21st century technology provides the opportunity to communicate in all sorts of ways before the initial personal encounter even takes place. Home buying is similar. Now, before one visits a property for the first time there is the opportunity to look around it in the anonymity of one’s own home. Through the internet one can see photographs, floorplans, and perhaps drone footage too. Google’s Street View will show the location, position, outlook and the condition of the neighbouring properties. Through Google Earth one can even see what it all looks like from outer space!

Once upon a time estate agents had to know all the local details. Now the internet can provide the entire lowdown on property values, schools, transport, communications, security, crime rates and much more. In the same way a dating site will know the details of its applicants and from that information it will try and find a perfect match.

But like dating, home finding can be a highly personal business. You can try to find an idea partner online but it is not exactly personal and often can be a rather hit and miss affair. So despite the march of time, the change in rules and the advance in technology many still rely on an age-old, tried and tested, highly successful means of finding their perfect partner – a matchmaker. Down the centuries, in cultures all over the world matchmakers have made couples happy.

Well, consider us as your matchmaker. You can do all sorts of research online but being good agent we will understand what your heart wants in the way a machine never can, with empathy, understanding and knowledge. We will also know what is not yet on the market but soon will be – and of course you will want to be the first in line.

If you are thinking of moving and would like any assistance please give us a call on 01684 561411 and we’ll find the perfect match for you.