A CUP OF TEA WITH: ESTATE AGENTS FOUNDER PAUL O'SHEA
I went through the first time buyer process last year and I know that a lot of you guys are going through it now or in the near future too. I sat down with Croydon based estate agent Paul O'Shea, director and owner of Paul O'Shea estate agents get the nitty gritty on why the market is going crazy, what first time buyers can do to be in with the best chance of securing a property and to find out if estate agents are really out to rip buyers off off like everyone believes!
The property market seems to going crazy right now. Why has it suddenly got all exciting again?
First time buyers, investment buyers, people down and up-sizing all seem to have decided to move at once. This is because everything you read or hear relating to the housing market talks about how the market is going up, so there is a feeling of confidence for all buyers that now is a good time. We're based in Croydon and I still feel Croydon is undervalued. It seems buyers feel the same. It feels like there is room for people to realise some growth in the value of their homes and at the same time people get to live in an area which is attracting lots of investment in transport, shopping centres (with Westfield on the horizon) and housing. Everybody seems to have a feeling that Croydon is a good place to be invested in and living in right now.
Well that's a bonus for me! (I live in Croydon). Are you seeing any trends in certain types of properties or features?
Small two and three bed houses are particularly popular at the moment. Lots of second time buyers are swapping perhaps a 1 bedroom apartment worth around £300,000 in Clapham or Balham for a two or three bed house in Croydon with a garden and parking. Those same properties are good for investors too who like the thought of not paying the maintenance charges you incur when buying leasehold properties.
I'm seeing a lot of first time buyers getting gazumped or priced out of buying. Why is this happening?
This is all to do with market sentiment. Everyone 'feels' the market will increase, and people always want what somebody else wants. If you walk past a restaurant and its empty you're less inclined to enter, if you see one that is full of people you feel more comfortable about going in. Most buyers feel the market is going up, by lets say for example, 5% this year. So if you buy today for £200,000 soon that property will be worth £210,000.
What would your advice be to a first time buyer in this market?
Do not panic buy. Physically view at least 10 to 15 properties before you offer, looking online is fine and good for research purposes, but until you get out and have a good look at properties you'll never know what they are really like. Also have a good look at every property online, lots of agents market properties really poorly and you may miss a hidden gem by flicking past a property that doesn't immediately catch your eye.
Be confident in your choice, once you have viewed 10-15 properties you will have spent a lot of hours looking and done a lot of research so its unlikely that you will over pay for a property, you then have the back up of a surveyor that will look at it on your behalf through the mortgage lender and he or she will confirm you are paying the right price, and a solicitor to check that all of the legal side is in order.
What would your advice be to anyone buying?
Take your time. If you're unsure about an area, don't pre-judge it, go and drive around at different times of day. Do your commute to work from there if possible, and checking out the neighbours garden tells you a lot about who you're going to be living next door to!
How can a first time buyer make sure that they buy a property that has room to grow in value over time?
As a first time buyer I'd steer clear of a new build if you're looking to grow the value of your home, unless the developer is offering good incentives like stamp duty paid. In my experience over the years you need an ever increasing marketing to make good returns on new build. I know investors do quite well from new builds but they are generally getting a better purchase price than you or I. Stylish furnishings can make a massive difference to the price of your property and its saleability. As an agent you can see people falling in love with other people's 'stuff' and not focusing on the size of the rooms.
Estate agents get a bad rep. A lot of people seem to think you are out to rip people off and can't be trusted. What is your response to this?
I can't speak for every agent out there but what we aim to do is keep our clients happy by providing a good service, we try to keep it simple, we do our very best to be polite, helpful and informative and we feel that helps people trust us. I've had a lot of buyers thank us for the way we conduct viewings. We let people have a good look at a property without barking in their ear every 10 seconds with useless sales lines.
There are lots of really good agents striving to provide a good service, but like all industries there are good and bad. If you have a bad bus driver, you think he or she was bad and then you just get off the bus and forget about it. If you have a bad estate agent you may have no choice but to suffer them if you want the house they are selling, on top of that its an incredibly emotional time, so dealing with a bad estate agent is going to make it 10 times worse.
What do Paul O'Shea do to help first time buyers?
We do our very best to treat every buyer with respect, not just first time buyers. It 's a stressful time and the last thing a buyer needs is to be pressured into making a decision. Agents that force a buyer to make an offer are sure to have a higher fall through rate than those that give them space to make the right decision. We don't want to take an offer from a buyer today, only for them to sleep on it and pull out tomorrow, the result of that is a very unhappy seller.
Got more questions? Tweet paul himself! @POSheaHomes
Thanks so much to Paul and the team at Paul O'Shea for taking the time to answer my questions and give some straightforward advice for first time buyers. Looking back I think this advice would have been so useful to me and my husband, especially driving around at different time of day and checking out the neighbours garden!
If you're trying to buy at the moment, how have you found your estate agents to be?