The Alex Goldstein Property Show (Part 2)
The fast paced property radio show with StrayFM. This month we discuss Brexit and it’s possible impact on the market, how much should you spend prior to putting your home on the market, plus we get an insight in to the world of Berwins conveyancing solicitors and specialist carehome finder Fiona Gilbert. We also answer the age old question, of whether homeowners should conduct their own viewings.
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The Alex Goldstein Property Show (Part 2)
Full transcript below:
Alex: Welcome again to the Alex Goldstein Property Show. I am Alex Goldstein of Alex Goldstein Property Consultants in Harrogate, and this is the brand new fast-paced property show aimed at giving you the latest insider tips, tricks and industry expert advice so you can make the best-informed decision when it comes to buying and selling your home. If you have an interest in the local or national property market and the associated professions in the sector, then this is the show for you. Whether you’re a first-time buyer, experienced developer or have an established property portfolio I guarantee there is something for you. I will be speaking with and getting insider knowledge from some of the most successful property related businesses and professionals that Yorkshire and indeed the UK has to offer, ranging from regional solicitors all the way through to some of the UK’s top multi-national firms. We are available for podcast download on the first day of every month, so make sure you sign up to Alex Goldstein and the Stray FM Twitter and social media accounts to get an early reminder of this and get great property tips whenever you need. Now, in this months show we will be getting the inside track from Fiona Gilbert a specialist care home finder for the elderly. This of course is an increasing issue and if you need to find the right care home for a relative where do you actually turn? We will also be answering the age-old question whether homeowners should actually conduct their own viewings as part of our property hospital section. Plus, we will be putting Jo Randall from Berwins Solicitors in Harrogate in the hot seat to get a full understanding of what residential conveyancing actually is. And we will finish the show with the Alex Goldstein top tips.
The news this month following the budget is that everyone’s focus now moved towards Brexit and whether the UK stays part of the European Union. Admittedly there are more views on this currently than there are Starbucks coffee shops. However, as I see it in terms of general activity in the property market it will be much like the general election when activity levels will drop for several weeks to either side of the 23 June whilst purchasers and sellers concentrate on this and much like the budget homeowners and investors just want piece of mind and to know what is going to happen. And if we look at a bit of history and it should be bared in mind that I am politically neutral on this show but to try and dispel some of the myths and scaremongering out there, in 2013 it was reported by one of the major UK estate agencies that 49% of prime Central London property was owned by international purchasers either for investment or occasional use. Was this down to the European Union that they bought here – question mark. When the Euro currency was launched in 1999 many said that a lot of businesses would relocate if the UK did not sign up and despite the UK retaining Stirling many businesses stayed. We need to remember that it is the political and economic stability that drives UK property investment both domestically and internationally and it’s the fear of the unknown which puts the brakes on this investment. Much of this stability comes from the UK itself and should we leave our trade deals will need to be renegotiated over a 2-year period. Does our trade with other states directly impact the property market I question? Of course, if we stay then people know it’s business as normal.
It’s great to Welcome to the show Fiona Gilbert actually of Care Home Finder, a really specialist and a company of great interest, a real sort of growing concern I think within the UK at the moment. Fiona sort of tell everyone a bit about the business and your involvement.
Fiona: I’ve been involved in the property sector now for over 35 years and more recently since about 1995, I’ve been involved with the elderly care home sector. And a few years ago, my husband’s mother needed to go into a care home and we found it very difficult to find the right place for her but at least we had the experience and we knew what sort of questions to ask. What we’re finding now is that fewer people have that experience and it’s a very daunting prospect, if you’re looking for a care home for an elderly relative perhaps or just a parent, so we felt that there was a gap in the market there and people needed help.
Alex: I really think they do, even more so at a time when they really need some handholding and I think everyone is sort of aware this is a growing concern. We’ve got an aging population, I mean is that sort of a fair comment?
Fiona: Absolutely, I think people are living longer, they’re generally healthier as they get older but then we found out this week that over 200,000 people per year are diagnosed with dementia and it’s probably that stage where a lot of elderly people feel they can’t cope at home, even with carers coming in.
Alex: And how do you go about the process because obviously if you’re living at the other end of the country to your relative and they’re looking at possibly contemplating going into care, what can you actually do because I think this is actually a really important point because I don’t know anyone else that does what you do.
Fiona: We help people who maybe have the long distances to cover because it’s very time consuming if you’re looking for a care home for somebody who’s at the other end of the country or even overseas. A lot of our clients have children who are abroad and so it’s very difficult, it’s costly, they’ve got to come over to the particular region they’re looking for the care home, they need their hands holding really and we can do that research for them, we can provide reports for them, we can take the relative into a care home to have a look round when they might not be available to do so.
Alex: How does this sort of all work into fees? I mean everyone sort of talks about care homes and costs involved. What does it actually equate to in sort of real terms and how do you look at financing of it if that’s an option?
Fiona: Well the vast majority of people will be self-funding because they’ll probably have assets in excess of £23,250 which is the current threshold. So, if they own a house then obviously they’re going to have to self-fund their care. The care home fee rates are going up all the time. The average is probably around the £600-700 per week and that can go up depending on what type of care is required to £1,200 a week if they’re needing nursing care and potential dementia care. And it does vary around the country, down south around London you could be talking over £2,000 a week.
Alex: I mean that’s some serious expenditure and I guess on the back of that, are you able to provide financial and legal advice or do you know the right people, how does that side of things work?
Fiona: We know the right people to signpost our clients in their direction, so we have a panel of reputable IFA’s and solicitors who specialise in the elderly care sector.
Alex: Great, so ok it’s all part of the service of holding the clients hand. I personally don’t know of anyone else, is there anyone else out there that offers this sort of service? I can’t believe that there is.
Fiona: There aren’t any in the Yorkshire area that I’m aware of. There are one or two people that do a similar sort of service elsewhere around the country, they’re quite difficult to find. We offer a national service to shortlist and analyse care homes all around the UK and carry out research and it’s up-to-date and it’s unbiased. You’ll find that a lot of websites actually take advertising from the care homes so inevitably those care homes are going to feature closer to the top of their recommendation list. We don’t recommend we just provide the information for people to make an educated decision.
Alex: I’m assuming if you’ve got a specialist requirement, onset dementia to name one of them, I guess there are specific types of care homes that one should and should not look at, and you’re able to sort of guide people and differentiate between the pros and cons of that.
Fiona: Yes, in the main you’ve got residential care, you’ve got nursing care and then you’ve got both of those with dementia as well. There might be other homes that offer facilities for people with Parkinson’s disease or other requirements to that person, so we can make sure that the homes that we look at and shortlist for the clients are relevant to their particular needs.
Alex: And you’re able to help with I’m assuming again access to these. I know there’s sometimes waiting lists for some of the better ones, is that something you can work on that side or is it providing the information, how does that work?
Fiona: Because we are familiar with the system we can very often speed the process up, which means that obviously if there are waiting lists, then we don’t jump the queue but obviously we can perhaps pull a few strings in the right area. And the other aspect that we can help people with is to potentially negotiate a reduction in the fee rates because they’re not always set in stone.
Alex: That’s a very valid point, I thought it was a set rate, most people assume that it is what it is. I didn’t appreciate that it was a game like buying a house and you can negotiate. I thought it was a set thing.
Fiona: No, if you know how to negotiate as we do then you can save quite a lot of money and you know when you’re talking about £1,000 or there abouts it’s good even if you can get 5% off.
Alex: It makes all the difference on that sort of scale. Obviously, I’m assuming that’s one of the pitfalls but what are the other sort of possible areas that you need to be mindful of when looking at a care home?
Fiona: Well a little bit like yourself when you’re looking for properties and you see the glossy brochures, you know what to look for behind the scenes and care homes in the main have lovely glossy brochures with happy smiling faces but behind the scenes there could be all sorts of things hidden and we know what to look for. We also when we go round the homes we actually see how the carers engage with the clients, it’s not just about the surroundings, you know you might have a beautiful home with a nice large bedroom with a lovely en suite, but you might find there are elderly people dotted around with no engagement with the staff at all and leads to depression and ill health.
Alex: And that’s the error that always get into the news and as you said it’s looking beyond that glossy brochure as on my side with property and seeing what’s happening behind the scenes. Obviously very very similar that you’re under a lot of pressure because obviously you’re trying to source the right care home and sometimes you come across as quite blinkered in your approach, you always need a third party like yourself to see through all of that and guide you in the right direction.
Fiona: I mean the Care Quality Commission provide reports but sometimes they might only happen once a year and things change. So, because our information is bang up to date then we know that home on that particular day might be better or worse than it appeared in the report.
Alex: Absolutely, and I suppose the obvious question is how much your services cost?
Fiona: We have a free service initially for the shortlisting of up to 30 care homes or nursing homes in a specific area. Thereafter it’s really now a question of bespoke service but put it this way it’s actually a lot cheaper than the weekly fees.
Alex: Thank you and how can people get hold of you if they needed to run anything past you and touch base, what do they need to do?
Fiona: Well they can look at the website which is carehomefinder.org or by telephone on 0345 8530300.
Alex: I really appreciate your time on the show and thank you for sharing your knowledge, yeah, I’m sure we’ll be in touch.
Fiona: Ok great.
Alex: In the property hospital I get to answer your property problems. This month I’ve got a great question from Nathan. Over to him.
Nathan; Alex, I’m in a real dilemma. Many of the property television programmes out there seem to portray that it’s best for homeowners to conduct their viewings. After all I know the property best and all its details and quirks. On the other hand, should I let the estate agent do it as they’re the professionals. What do you think?
Alex: Nathan, thanks very much, a great question and one very often asked indeed. Now, on the face of it this does actually seem a bit of a no brainer. Of course, you know the property best, you should do the viewings, makes sense. However, in this instance knowledge isn’t necessarily power, let me explain. Firstly, you need to remember that on first viewings purchasers just want a brisk guided tour around the property and giving them details about where you sourced your terracotta kitchen tiles or where the water stopcock is, that’s almost information overload and you could well end up putting that viewer off. Second point is that because as a homeowner you are naturally and understandably emotionally connected with the property. However, your enthusiasm could sometimes be misconstrued as over selling or indeed at worst, come across as desperation to sell, which is certainly not the right impression. Now we’ve got to remember an estate agent is not connected to the property and therefore they can have an open dialogue with the viewer. They can recommend works that could add value for example and they’re more likely to get a true reflection from the viewer about their thoughts. Now, for example, how many times have we actually heard stories about the homeowners spending over an hour with a charming couple, showing them around the house, loved it and they’re going to be putting in an offer tomorrow, however, the next day they call the agent and absolutely slate it. This is what I call being British, as the viewer didn’t want to hurt the homeowner’s feelings. An estate agent doing the viewing avoids all of this happening. The final thing is that an estate agent is trained to pick up on what matters to the viewer and reinforce that point to them. So, the viewer loves the open-plan kitchen then the agent can spend more time in that room, refer back to it during the visit and finish the appointment there. So overall, I feel it’s best to leave the first viewings to the agents. This is what they’re trained to do, they’ve got a business position rather than a personal emotional one and it means they can get more out of the viewing than you potentially can. However, for second or third viewings you as the homeowner may wish to be in the background to answer some of the more detailed questions and when the viewer is starting to show more interest. Do remember, a purchaser is of course investing in the property, but they are also investing in you and if they meet you, they get to see that you’re a great affable person then this installs confidence in the whole situation. Getting under offer is only step one, getting to exchange of course requires patience and understanding and if the purchaser sees this in you, it again helps the whole process come together. I hope that’s been of some help Nathan.
Voiceover: The Property Hot Seat
Jo: Jo Randall
Jo: Associate Director at Berwin Solicitors.
Voiceover: Time in property?
Jo: 25 years.
Alex: Jo, great to have you here and thanks very much indeed for coming along. I have to say Berwins have got a good name locally and what I’ve sort of felt is the solicitors at large are very much misunderstood, certainly when it comes to the conveyancing process and how one actually goes about behind the scenes buying and indeed selling a property. There’s a lot of jargon gets thrown around. Just explain to our listeners briefly for example, searches, it’s one of those jargon words, what does it mean, what does it actually entail and why do I need it as a buyer of a property, or indeed if I’m selling?
Jo: Ok Alex, well we will carry out typically three kinds of searches for a buyer. These searches are sent of to the water company, the local authority and they will give us vital information about the property that you’re buying. For example, the drainage search, it might tell you if the property’s connected to the mains drains and if indeed there’s a drain or sewer running through your garden. You might have plans to extend and so you’ll need to know where that drain is. A local search will tell you if the roads are maintained by the local authority, they also tell you if that large extension has correct planning permission, if the property is listed or in a conservation area as these kind of things will affect your use of the property.
Alex: So, it’s a case of doing a background check, say when you buy a car for example you get the full finance check and it hasn’t been in a crash, you’re almost doing exactly the same but from a property perspective, so you’re not effectively sort of buying the wrong property or buying it under the wrong pretences.
Jo: That’s a really good way of putting it, background check on the property.
Alex: And what is the best point? When should one actually look to get you on board and appointed?
Jo: Well particularly with the sale we’re very welcome to talk to a client as soon as they out a property on the market. We can give you a quote based on your asking price and we’ll chat to you, particularly if the property is lease hold and you have a flat, we can start talking to the landlord, get your lease ready, get any documentation that’s required, because it’s often those sort of things that can cause delays later in the chain.
Alex: Yeah, no, and it’s also from your perspective it’s client ID and signing all of that off as well, so I suppose it’s getting the whole file.
Jo: Yes, that’s a real bug bear these days, we do need to take further checks under the money laundering regulations etc, so we need to see clients ID and if you’re buying we need to see evidence of source of funds, so if we can sort all those things out early on in the transaction that will mean it will run much more smoothly.
Alex: There’s a lot of paperwork to get through, you might as well do it right up in advance, you’ve got the paperwork ready, the files open and you’re ready to go and there’s no surprises so then everyone wins, great point, thank you. I have to say from my perspective the timescale from going under offer on a property through to exchange seems to be creeping upward and upwards and upwards. I remember back in the heyday it used to be three to four weeks from under offer to exchange.
Jo: Well it is a complicated transaction, freehold houses take four to six weeks, and we’d say six to eight weeks for a leasehold. Searches are still taking a few weeks to be returned from the local authority. If the property is leasehold then obviously we’ve got the get the information back from the landlord and management company which is beyond our control, which is why it’s a really good idea to come to us as soon as possible so we can get that kind of thing sorted out straight away.
Alex: And if I’m thinking of selling my property, would do I need to do to line everything up in advance?
Jo: Well come and talk to us, we’ll let you have the property information form and you can go away and work through that rather large questionnaire. It will ask you for things like planning permissions, building regulations if you did an extension, if you had a new boiler you’ll need a gas safe certificate, so you can be digging that out at the same time.
Alex: Certainly, on my travels Jo in a lot of years in the industry, I’m sure you’ve come across it. How does the land lie for example, a homeowner extends their property, but they “accidentally” forget to tell the local authority, building regs haven’t actually been around and signed it off. What impact will that have when they come to sell or indeed if you come to look to buy that property? How on earth do you work through a sort of complication like that?
Jo: These kind of problems can be sorted out. One possibility is you approach the local council and seek retrospective consent. A buyer’s solicitor could ask for what’s called indemnity insurance which would be a one-off insurance policy which would insure against the risk of the local authority taking action. We would really urge you to talk to us about this before going to approach the local council because this could affect future indemnity insurance.
Alex: It’s an interesting sort of conundrum I suppose this Jo, is why people should go to a local solicitor as with a lot of industry’s nowadays you just go online, you can find a cheap as chips solicitors. What’s the difference, why would people actually come to you guys in town?
Jo: Well absolutely, it is tempting just to type in conveyancers and then find that you can get the job done for £195. But I’ve worked for both kinds of firms, conveyancers that rely on referral work. My point of view it’s amazing how quickly potentially a problem can be resolved if you have a local solicitor. If you’ve got a 50-minute appointment with your solicitor face-to-face we can get all sorts of things sorted out. Also, your local solicitor will know the local agents, local financial advisors, and other solicitors. We’re all here to get the job done as quickly as possible and smoothly as possible and we all help each other. Having these personal relationships with these agencies makes it much easier to communicate and get things done. You’ll have a dedicated solicitor if you come to Berwins who will know your file, you won’t have the file outsourced to a centre for title checking, you won’t have to deal with a call centre and you’ll know who your lawyer is. Also, we’re not beholden to agents, is we are recommended by a agent it’s because they know that we’ll do a good job, not because they’ve got a financial contract with the panel management firm to farm out that case.
Alex: Yeah quite, I think it’s a very valid point, it’s just having a single point of call, you don’t want to be lost in a call centre, especially as you said on something as important as a piece of legal work and you’re going to be with this asset for a good few years, you don’t want to get it wrong. I suppose the other sort of final point, I suppose with your lengthy career, 25 years in the industry, you must have come across a few amusing situations, does anything I suppose come to mind at all?
Jo: Well, one of my top tips is always go and check your property. This incident wouldn’t happen now it happened many years ago, I had a client who was a developer, he was working on several houses at the same time and instructed me that one of them was ready and we completed the sale. The buyers were a young family with a dog, they turned up at the house to discover that their new home actually didn’t have a roof on. The developer had finished the wrong house. So, I advise clients, view the property just before exchange and before completion so that if there are any issues we’ve got time to sort them out.
Alex: Indeed, no great advice indeed and obviously it would be incredibly rare nowadays, but I bet they weren’t particularly amused when they turned up with no roof on.
Jo: It was an interesting Friday afternoon.
Alex: Jo just remind everyone; how can everyone reach you if they’ve got any questions or queries?
Jo: Well I’m at Berwins Solicitors you can reach me on 01423 543134 or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex: That’s great Jo, really appreciate your time and thank you very much indeed for an insight into your world.
Jo: Thank you.
Alex: This month we are focussing on how far do you go and how much do you spend on presentation prior to selling. The key to this as I see it is put in the minimum, to get the maximum. So, for example do not go to the huge expense of putting in new kitchens or bathrooms when these are highly personal areas on the house, which let’s face it the incoming purchaser may not like anyway. Concentrate on wall colours instead at a fraction of the cost. It really is true that a fresh coat of paint can make all the difference and gives a room a whole lease of life. So, in advance of selling, and if you’re anything like me, book your decorator in to paint your main principal rooms and to touch up areas around the house. We’re not of course talking about a full house redecoration but the key areas only. You’ll find that with some great lighting and combined photography the rooms will really sing off the page and put you ahead of competitors out there. Instruct the decorator in advance of the sale. You don’t want viewers to smell it when they walk through the front door of course and heaven forbid they actually get wet paint on their clothes as they look around. The decorators also know that magnolia colour is not necessarily the way forward. They know what colours work for a room and how to make it stand out, and more importantly which tones are fashionable at the time. They, like me, have equally been around a lot of properties so their knowledge and expertise is vital. It’s a modest cost but you really will reap the reward when you come to sell.
That’s all from the Alex Goldstein Property Show. More details can be found on the website alexgoldstein.co.uk or of course strayfm.com together with all our social media channels. The next episode is out on 1 June where I’m hoping to have a specialist joiner who uses a wood product with a 50, five-zero-year guarantee, you did hear that correctly. Plus, global heavyweights in the accountancy and professional services sector Price Waterhouse Cooper will be here. In the meantime, for more great property tips check out my website or indeed drop me a line at email@example.com Until next time.