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Foxtons crazy valuations

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Tuesday 3 April 2007 8.30am
As I let property, I have regular contact with estate agents.

Foxtons, imho, have got a lot worse in the last three years. Before then they at least seemed to understand that in order to have a business, they needed to keep landlords on side. I often used them because they knew their markets, and were effective, if agressive, marketeers. An awful lot of agents are pretty dozy, whilst others are really untrustworthy.

I don't know if it is the volume of buy-to-let landlords. Many of whom are using property as a way of parking their money for the longer term and are therefore less interested in eaking out a small profit each year. But as of about three years ago, Foxtons started to push all sorts of expensive services (management, inventory etc) at landlords, not all of which have been particularly high quality. It is odd. They make money from my capital, so they have an interest in maintaining a relationship with me.

And I have picked up several instances where they may have been "economical" with the truth.
Includign the supposedly professional group of Aussie guys, one of whom when I first met them told me proudly that he had managed to get a job in the bar down the road. They acquired a huge square paddling pool that took over the whole of the back yard, and which had a tinnie holder in each corner. I sort of liked them but the neighbours didn't!

My own guess is that the current approach may be related to
a) the departure of the number 2 in the organisation about three years back
b) rumours about a year back that the chain was for sale - hence a desire to maximise short term profits.

As it happens, the new HMO legislation makes it difficult to let to sharers if the property is over 2 storeys high. So the demand for properties that can be let is rocketing. Foxtons are calling me every couple of months. Though I am sure that if I did give Foxtons an instruction they would be back to the old tricks. ("We have a wonderful tenant but they want a managed property, so you need to pay us an extra 6% plus VAT.")

Bermondsay Babe may be impressed to hear that I was once barred from one of Foxton's branches, by a temporary manager. (I normally find their managers fine and on the ball, the main problem is with new and "hungry" sales staff.) There was no question that I had a legitimate complaint about the repeated non-delivery of a promised service, but the guy lost the plot and was really nasty. The current manager denies that this happened, and says I am very welcome to let property through them. Hmmm.
Tuesday 3 April 2007 9.21am
Sarah2 do tell me what the regulations are regarding sharers. We in Metro Central Heights have innumerable flats let to students who are bunking up who-knows-how-many to a room, all of them paying 3 a week I guess. This makes the whole building into some kind of student doss house, windows of living rooms boarded up to keep them dark and so on, and although our leases say specifically that sub letting should be to one family only this is abused on a regular basis. I'd be most interested to know if there is legal redress in these cases.
Tuesday 3 April 2007 10.37am
Hi all, I'm new to the forum. I bought a property in bermondsey last year after seeing it in: www.propertybroker.co.uk (no connection). No agents involved at all, I dealt directly with the seller. A relief.
Tuesday 3 April 2007 11.27am
Now THAT's worth knowing. Thanks Frank A and welcome to our Forum, the like of which is unknown anywhere else and is unsurpassable.
Tuesday 3 April 2007 11.35am
I would have thought the most sensible thing to do would be to get a few agencies round to value the property and see what the average price range is. If people go with Foxton's just because they quote the highest value then that to me is pure greed and they deserve to not get a sale and have to drop their prices to a more realistic value.
Tuesday 3 April 2007 12.34pm
Jackie,

HMO = Housing in Multiple Occupation. The link for Southwark is

http://www.southwark.gov.uk/YourServices/HousingandHomes/LandlordInfo/HMORegistration.html

It should not apply to most flats in MCH as I assume they meet 1991 building regs. However if a single flat is rented out to 5 or more unrelated people, or perhaps on the third floor or above, it probably does. My understanding is that there is a certain level of confusin.

The problem will be proving over occupation if only one or two are on the tenency list. Or that people are not related.

Southwark are responsible for registering HMOs, so the people to speak to in the first instance. They might be prepared to pass on concerns to the agents seeking clarification of occupancy levels etc. Or to the flat owners. Each Council seems to be interpreting the legislation slightly differently and some are more pro-active than others.

Sarah
Tuesday 3 April 2007 2.01pm
In terms of the 2004 Housing Act, to be classified as a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) the individual property (ie the flat and not the building the flat is located in) must be:

1. Three or more floors AND
2. Occupied by five or more people comprising of more than one household AND
3. Share facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms

The number of floors include cellar and loft space if they are habitable. It also includes a hallway which is important as a number of flats have two floors above a shop, with access and a hallway at ground level - thus they have three floors.

A household is anyone related by birth, marriage or adoption fostering, and co-habiting couples. It also includes carers and domestic staff.

All occupants must be counted, regardless of their age.

In terms of HMOs, a group five students will form five separate households (unless they are related by birth, marriage or adoption) within the property and will therefore mean the property has to be licensed. It doesn't matter if they have a single Tenancy Agreement or not.

The Sarah raised a concern that "The problem will be proving over occupation if only one or two are on the tenency list. Or that people are not related."

Ways of dealing with this include:
a. Naming everybody on the tenancy agreement or
b. Naming as many as possible on the tenancy agreement and stipluating the maximum number of permitted occupants as a clause within the tenancy agreement. It is also possible to have an appendix to the tenancy agreement listing the names of all permitted occupants and their relationship to each other.


There is also a little catch in the 2004 Housing Act ..... (thanks to www.greenwich.gov.uk for making this clear). The following is copied straight from their website:

"At the moment you only need a licence for properties that are:

* 3 or more storeys high
* have five or more people in more than one household
* share facilities such as the bathroom, toilet or kitchen.

Other types of licence may be introduced later."

http://www.greenwich.gov.uk/Greenwich/Housing/PrivateHousing/HousesMultipleOccupation/DoINeedALicence.htm
Tuesday 3 April 2007 2.20pm
I think that the problem for Jackie is that MCH was marketed strongly in Hong Kong and that these flats may have a number of overseas students living there.

As a neighbour it is going to be hard to prove that 5 or more are living there, or that tenants are not related.

On the 3 or more storeys, I had thought that it was either 3 storeys or 5 or more people.
Tuesday 3 April 2007 3.03pm
This link may be of interest, I also think there was a piece of puffery about the owner in the weekend press.

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/construction_and_property/article1438173.ece
Tuesday 3 April 2007 4.49pm
THanks for the advice Sarah and Philip am passing this thread along to our Residents' Association.
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