The Alex Goldstein Property Show (Part 5)
Join property expert Alex Goldstein for this fast paced talkshow on StrayFM. This month we are getting the inside track from Nick Silcock – a highly experienced architect on what to look out for in this sector. Plus Ben Thornton – a professional photographer with various tips and tricks. We also have the “property hospital” and “alex’s top tips”. Listen in now to keep at the sharp end of the property market!
The Alex Goldstein Property Show (Part 5)
Full transcript below:
Alex: Welcome again to the Alex Goldstein Property Show, the only fast-paced property radio show on Stray FM which aims to give you up to the minute property expert advice from a wide range of related businesses, insider knowledge and know-how all jam packed in so you can make the best-informed decision when it comes to buying and selling your home. We’re available for podcast download on the first of every month so make sure you sign up to the Alex Goldstein social media accounts to get an early reminder of this and get great property advice whenever you need it. In this month’s show, we will be getting the inside track from Nick Silcock a specialist architect in Harrogate on the pitfalls to avoid in this sector. We also discuss how best to present your home with property photographer Ben Thornton. We of course also have the Alex Goldstein top tips. So much to cram in so let’s get straight on with it.
This month we are discussing the outcome of Brexit and to put the record straight. Now come on, let’s face it when we heard the UK was leaving the EU what happened? Panic set in. Whilst one half of the UK were revelling in their success the other half were going into meltdown. The stock exchange was all over the place, sterling fell off a cliff, political resignation went around like wildfire and let’s face it the doom-mongers had a field day. People then started buying into this psychological panic about the economy and they actually lost sight of what was going on. What we’ve got to remember is that leaving the EU is not an on/off switch type scenario. From the point the UK government invokes article 50, there are 2 years from that point of detailed renegotiations. So, in other words it’s going to be 2019 before we know the full extent of the detail. The key to all of this whether you are Brexit or Bremain is mindset. By staying positive and keeping calm you will start to see the new economic and property landscape in a brand-new light. Now, mortgage lending rates, they are at an all-time low and money’s never been cheaper to borrow. So therefore, if you’re thinking of moving home you can go up a couple of rungs on the ladder. The Bank of England have held the interest rates at half a percent, however there’s talk that that’s possibly going to come down. Again, good news if you’re borrowing. Supply and demand are kings when it comes to property. In Yorkshire supply’s always been weak but demand very high and this has led to prices holding firm in comparison to other parts of the country. So therefore, if you’re a homeowner looking to sell, demand remains good and as long as your guide price remains realistic there are answers out there for you as well. Investing and buying in property has rarely been about short term flipping, so therefore any changes in the house price index is likely to balance out over the length of ownership. That is why property has always historically proven to be the best investment over the medium to long term. International investors have also plagued on the current exchange rates and are increasingly keen to buy. So, the actual conclusion of Brexit is way down the line and everything in the media currently is on the most part, educated speculation. So, after all no country has ever been in this position before. What we do know is that the UK and the EU wants a clean break on the best terms for both sides. We need them and vice versa. So, when you look at the world in a positive frame of mind keep calm and always take a medium view point, the outlook is not so bad after all. Yes, of course there is some current short-term turbulence but that’s not a surprise, we knew this was going to be the case anyway. Here’s a parting thought for you, will we actually leave the EU in the end? Either way, all the white noise about going in, staying out, meeting in the middle, it’s all talk. Am I going to put my life on hold for a minimum of the next 2 years? No, of course I’m not and I suggest you may wish to do the same.
It’s great to have Nick Silcock here from Townscape Architects in Harrogate. Nick thanks very much indeed for sparing the time to come in.
Nick: No problem Alex, delighted to meet you.
Alex: Thanks very much and just talk us through, again there’s a lot of confusion out there, you hear all these job titles and job terms, just sort of steer everyone in the right direction here. I hear sort of there’s the architects, the technologists and there’s the planning consultants. What do these people do, how do they all fit together on the architectural side of things and what you do?
Nick: So, there is vast differences between the architects, the architectural technologists and the planning consultant. Generally, the architect will have studied at university for seven years and will be very design focussed, he will study a Bachelor of Arts qualification and he will be there to open up your vision for a property, a piece of land for a development you have in mind and he will be able to pick up an idea and run with it, deliver that vision.
Alex: So, he is mostly the artist, if you like?
Nick: The artist, he’s the creative guy, he will also probably have the skill set to take that vision through the planning process, through the technical design process and be able to provide all the services that you need to deliver a construction project from that initial conception through to the last nut and bolt and sweeping up on site.
Alex: And that’s you?
Nick: That’s me.
Alex: So then on the technologist side, who’s that?
Nick: Generally, they will study for around four years. They study a Bachelor of Science qualification. So, they are far more technical in their skill set. So, a successful architectural practice is likely to employ a technologist to be able to deliver the technical aspects, the technical drawings and provide the fire power behind the scenes to actually do the drawings. So, it’s very much less or generally less design orientated but they’re and they have a very strong skill set than in a technical understanding of how buildings go together.
Alex: Yeah, so to do the most of the engineering, the build of it and how it’s actually all going to come together, the jigsaw part?
Alex: And then the other bit as you said, was the planning consultant. What do they actually do?
Nick: Ok, so planning consultants, they’re often used, and we would work with a planning consultant on those sites where they are harder to achieve planning permission. Either that local residents are adverse to some kind of development or the site and so there’s lots of objections, or alternatively the site goes against planning policy as in the local council, the planning department will have a policy of saying how a piece of land should be used. If you then go against that policy, then a planning consultant can be used to interpret the policy and to out together a case to demonstrate that actually the proposal that is being put forward is fit for that site. So, an architect can often work with a planning consultant side by side, the architect would have the vision, the creativity and will do the drawings and designs, whereas the planning consultant is very much more policy driven, they are experts in the legal side of it absolutely. So, we work with a consultant to deliver on those more harder to achieve sites.
Alex: Great some great explanations there, thank you very much and finally there are a couple of architects in and around town. What do homeowners need to look for in a architect? I dare say it varies on the project type, that are the key differences, what are the pitfalls to avoid if you like?
Nick: Ok so when you’re picking your architect for your project bear in mind you’re going to be working with your architect for a year or two years depending on the nature of the project. So, the first thing is you need to make sure you get on with your architect, you need to trust him to deliver your vision to actually do what he says he’s going to do. So, first and foremost make sure you like the architect, make sure you get on with him, make sure he’s on your wave length. The next thing to do is to look at what the architect does, does he do a project like the one you want to undertake? So, for example if he only builds high rise apartments and you want a cosy extension on the back of your house, perhaps not the best match in terms of a architect so look at what the architect does, look at the types of projects he’s undertaken in the past. Does the style of how he designs meet your style, your vision of what you want to achieve on your project and then perhaps ask for references for the architect. A good architect will be willing to provide references from customers and clients they have worked with, speak to those references, check out this architect and also just check the architect’s qualification. Check they are registered with the necessary bodies. The architect registration board would hold details of that architect’s qualification to be called an architect, it’s a protected title and that architect will be registered on the ARB website.
Alex: Just talk through the process of getting planning and what it entails and surveys and costs. Just give people an idea of what to expect.
Nick: Ok, so in terms of the process, the process of design and the project would always start with the client brief. The brief is a vision of what you want to achieve, it can be a technical document, setting out a list of criteria of what you want to achieve on your project or it could be a series of images, a scrapbook almost of pictures of properties that you like, things you don’t like also because you want your architect to understand who you are and what you want to achieve. So, him the pictures of things you like and things you don’t like, and he can quite, he or she, can quite easily pick up on your style and your preferred choice of design.
Alex: So, then you get the drawings made up and then when it’s time to go to, in this instance Harrogate Borough Council, what’s the process and the timeline involved there?
Nick: So, the next step in the process is, once you’ve got the brief defined and it’s a working document with your architect, it’s a very important document, that sets out where you see the project going, the architect can then start his process of surveying the property, because your architect would need a set of plans to work from in the first instance, to then be able to develop and design ideas with you, to then move the project forward through the creative design phase. The creative design phase is the really interesting part of the project, this is where we churn out the ideas, we work with you, we use our expertise and the vision for your property to actually push design to the absolute limits, and with you will work with you to design and develop the optimum layout for your house. That will then be used to prepare a planning application, a planning application for a typical domestic project is eight weeks.
Alex: Than after that eight weeks all being well, the council say, yes happy to approve that and you can get on with the building works as soon as that comes through.
Nick: There are a few more milestones to achieve. The next stages after that are to prepare the more technical drawings that you will need, that a builder would need to build from. So, he’ll need to understand how is the house built, what type of materials, what type of products, what type of insulation for example. That is called the building regulations phase. So, your architect or technologist will prepare you technical drawings at that stage and they are submitted to the council or to a building inspector for an approval of those plans. At that point you can then start to obtain quotes from builders based upon those drawings and when you’re ready to start work it’s about informing building control that you’re commencing on site 48 hours in advance.
Alex: Crikey, so it’s a bit more complicated than I think everyone first thinks. As I said in the first sentence, it’s all well and good thinking to go and get planning for that extension but it’s quite a lot of steps to go through.
Nick: There are other steps after it to go through but a architect will be able to guide you through those steps to make your life simple.
Alex: I suppose just flipping it back the other way, we’ve obviously seen the rise of George Clarke on Amazing Spaces for example and I suppose the obvious question is, well look Nick, it’s all well and good talking through all of that, do I actually need a architect at the end of the day for an extension again, I hear on TV it must be so easy, George Clarke says oh you know what let’s go and build, let’s go and do something and it’s all within this, new permitted development rules, where does George stop and you guys take over?
Nick: Ok so you’re in the industry Alex, you know that a well-designed property is going to be worth more, it’s going to sell quicker, it’s going to get more enquiries. So, a well-designed property is worth the investment. So a architect will go above and beyond your property, he will achieve that next level, it will be designed, it will be executed to the highest of standards, the space will be utilised in every direction, it will be a space you get enjoyment from.
Alex: And where do you stand with the permitted development? I know it’s beyond a certain size that you then have to go through the full planning process, but up until that point you can get away with it and I suppose sneak it in if you like, a lot of people think that.
Nick: No, you can’t sneak it in. The permitted development is a set criteria basically and you have to keep within a certain height, certain size, certain distance from the boundary and you can generally build a small-scale extension under permitted development.
Alex: A conservatory type thing?
Nick: Generally, yeah, some houses have their permitted development rights removed so be very cautious of that in that doesn’t apply to every single house. And it doesn’t or can’t be applied sometimes to very bespoke houses, that are developed over a number of year and have been extended previously so always tread with caution. The permitted development rights are great, it does give you an excellent opportunity to extend a house without having to go through the planning process, so they can be a great opportunity, however tread with caution. Now seek advice before you actually start building.
Alex: Some great thoughts there thank you and again you get the planning permission for example, you now want to build it out again, it’s a split choice decision, some people say well I want my architect, yourself, just to project manager and sort of oversee it all and other people sort of say, thank Nick, thanks for doing that and then they chuck it out to the builders. What are the pros and cons of doing this? And I guess you guys drew the plans, you know what’s going on.
Nick: It goes down to your experience, if you have built something before, if we’ve prepared all the drawings and a competence test, the drawings could be passed to a competent builder to build from without a project management service. But, do you have that link with the builder? Do you have that relationship and trust with the builder that they’re going to do a great job for you? Are you going to be able to monitor the quality of the work on the site? Are you comfortable with what you’re getting from the builder? And are you comfortable that you’re paying them the right amount of money? So, your architect or your architectural practice will be able to guide you through the process in terms of the tender process, in terms of finding your builder, finding the right builder for that project and then to manage the payment so you’re never paying out more than you should be to the builder and also checking the quality of the work along the way.
Alex: So, it comes back to exactly what I’ve always been saying to people, it’s experience. You have the experience of what to look for, it’s exactly the same on the estate agency side, if you built up that time and experience within that and you know now what you’re doing, you’re fully able to advise clients because if you know, you know and if you don’t you’re going to be left out in the cold as they say. I suppose a lot of people think that architects, not particularly glamorous, you’re stuck in a back-office sort of thing. How would you counteract that?
Nick: Architecture is a wonderful business, we work with such a wide range of people, we get to meet a wide range of people, ranging from people who want to extend or renovate a house, up to we work with charities, and working with charities is great because they need a guiding hand through the projects and through the charity projects we’ve worked on we’ve then got to meet quite a few celebrities and Royals at openings.
Alex: Go on drop a few names.
Nick: Ok I’ll drop a few names, Princess Anne opened a building last June, which we designed, had a really interesting 5-10-minute conversation with her on tarmac and what specification of tarmac was being used in the car park. AP McCoy was at the opening as well along with the racing celebrities and Sophie Countess of Wessex also opened a project for us in Cookridge a few years ago. So, met some wonderful people along the way.
Alex: Well look at you. Well some fantastic tips and tricks there for architects and if you want to I suppose drop Nick a line and hand out with some his royal clientele, what is the best way to reach you?
Nick: Website is townscape-architects.co.uk phone number 01423 505924.
Alex: Nick fantastic, thanks so much for coming on.
Nick: Thank you Alex.
Alex: Every month I’m here to answer your questions, queries and quibbles when it comes to the property market, and this month we’ve got Beth and she’s got this for me.
Beth: Alex, the estate agent feels putting up a for sale board at my house will help the sale. I’m not so sure I feel they’re just using it for profile, plus I’m mindful that the neighbours may now look my house up as they’re not currently aware it’s for sale. What’s the best thing to do?
Alex: Great question there Beth and one actually very commonly asked. Now, for sale boards are a very useful tool in the range of marketing options at an agent’s disposal. Firstly, you never know who’s going to be driving or walking past the property and of course this is free to you because the agents pays for it. Secondly, for viewing purposes it clearly states where your property is and the last thing you ever want is a viewer running late due to traffic and then can’t find your house. You need to be waving from a distance where you are, so they can see it and start to relax before they come through the door. Now, regarding your neighbours, I would simply say that look everyone nowadays is actually connected online and therefore in fairness your neighbours probably already know about the sale, especially if they’ve got an automated website search set up. So, look overall, I would certainly say go for it initially and if you feel it’s been up long enough then just ask the agent to take it down but at least at that point you’ve been able to make an informed decision and I hope this helps.
Voiceover: The Property Hot Seat
Ben: Ben Thornton
Voiceover: Time in property?
Ben: 10 years.
Alex: Very exciting indeed to have Ben Thornton here in the studio with me. He really is a very experienced property photographer. Ben thanks very much for coming in. I suppose one of the main questions that you come across and certainly I come across, is why people feel that it’s necessary to use a professional photographer when at the end of the day, a lot of estate agents nowadays, they’ve got the, say professional looking digital camera kit, what’s the difference between an agent just doing a point and shoot camera versus someone like yourself at Planpics?
Ben: Well I think the most important point is an estate agent has got 101 things on their to-do list, whereas a property photographer has one thing and that’s to take images that will sell the house. Firstly, they’ve got the latest and the best kit, lighting, cameras, lenses, whereas the estate agent possibly won’t so just in most cases using their iPhone or point and shoot camera. The professional photographer will also advise on room layout, you know presentation, also revisit when the weather is better possibly.
Alex: You mentioned about sort of presentation of a room and I know this is a very much a hot topic. What do you feel are the key points you want to I suppose convey to people? Because often it’s something that they get het up about, they’re not quite sure what to do, with your experience what are the key points you need to look for?
Ben: The advice I usually give is to declutter everything, that’s the first bit if advice I’d give. For example, look at a sitting room, we’d normally pull all the sofas out as far as possible, to make the ground space look as big as possible. What we’re not trying to do is distort the truth by using fish eye lenses but by moving the furniture to the edges of the room will make it feel lighter, brighter, airier.
Alex: Is it true that you want to be taking internal photographs on a bright day or a rainy day or how do you actually fit that in?
Ben: In the ideal world, it would be brilliant if we could have sun throughout the whole year in England but, in the majority of cases an overcast day for internal photos is an advantage because with the lighting kit we use internally, we can control the lighting and create some really fabulous pictures.
Alex: I guess it’s a case of when you sometimes see that you’ve just got that big flash of white light against the windows, with what you use you can actually see straight through into the garden as your eyes would see it?
Ben: Yes, that’s right. It’s down to a number of things, it’s down to the actual cameras we’re using, the techniques we’re using and the lighting but getting all those things right makes the shots that we provide the agent essentially look like what you’re seeing, if anything better.
Alex: Yeah I know and I think it’s, correct me if I’m wrong, it’s a common misconception whereby people almost get confused because what your very sensitive eyes see versus lets face it, sadly a bit of plastic camera kit sees, then it’s got to be printed out, I think it’s two very, well I think extreme opposites and it’s how you sort of work the room and get the best presentation out of it.
Ben: Yeah exactly. I think it’s just getting the balance exactly right. Everything from the colours to the room presentation, the lighting. We put a lot of effort, I would say probably over half of the time is in the editing, which again is over and above what your agents would do with a point and press camera.
Alex: Again, it’s a real hot topic because I often see, again it’s two extremes, you often see these very heavily edited, evidently, it’s done through on photoshop, we’ve got the Mediterranean skyline that we’ve had today but hold on the original picture was taken in winter or it’s actually pouring with rain. Where’s that fine line for you?
Ben: As we talked about, the internal pictures it’s not always a beautiful day but with the external pictures and blue skies, for about 80% of the time we replace and add blue skies, but we do it in a very very subtle way so to the untrained eye it’s not noticeable.
Alex: I know there are alternatives such as mast photography and just talk everyone through that because I know again it’s a term widely thrown around but what does that actually entail?
Ben: So, we use portable elevated masts and basically what they do is they give us the camera sensor on a telescopic pole around 40-50 feet. In most cases we only use elevation probably about 20 or 30 feet max and what it is to straighten the perspective of the property rather than looking up at it. It worked just as well for a terraced house as it would do a £5 million country house. And the advantages of the ones we’ve got, they are portable, so rather than driving a van through somebody’s garden we can jump into the neighbouring field or tuck ourselves into a very tight space.
Alex: So, it’s handheld and goes where you go rather than if you like, there are a few of them in and around the area whereby its actually bolted on physically to a van or a car, you are restricted by where that vehicle can go at the end of the day.
Ben: Yes, exactly and the convenience is brilliant, we can go into the likes of neighbouring gardens and get the perfect shots.
Alex: Where does is stand once you’ve taken the images and you’ve finally given them to the estate agent, who actually I say owns those photographs? Is it done on a licence? Is it copyright? Does the agent own them? Does the actual homeowner own them? Where does the land lie with you?
Ben: Well usually the agreements that we have with the agent is that we own the photographs, the instructing agent can use that photograph for whatever purpose they see fit, whether it be for selling the house, for general presentation on their website, other marketing. If a homeowner instructs us directly, they’ve got full use of the pictures and if they swap instructing agents, they can take those pictures with them also.
Alex: So, if for example the agent instructs you but it’s the homeowner that’s effectively is paying you directly rather than the agent, what happens then? Do the photographs belong to the homeowner or do they belong to the agent?
Ben: Well in that case where the homeowner is paying us directly then yeah, the homeowner gets the full use of the pictures and they can do whatever they want with them. It’s only when the instructing agent pays that it’s for their use only.
Alex: It all comes back to effectively who’s paid you, whether it’s the agent, in which case its over to them or if it happened to be the homeowner albeit could be through the agent then they own it.
Ben: Yes, that’s right.
Alex: Got you. Just in summary what should people who are thinking of coming onto the market, what do they actually need to look for because again it’s a fairly competitive sector, property photography, there are quite a few people that do it. What are the key elements that homeowners need to look for in a professional photographer such as yourself?
Ben: Well firstly I think when looking for a photographer is to well for property, is to find somebody who only takes pictures of properties rather than moonlights as a wedding photographer, as a portrait photographer, you know someone whose speciality is property photography. And then secondly, looking at the experience, what they’ve done because anybody can buy a camera from Jessops and call themselves a professional photographer, but you need to see examples of what they’ve done. Whichever agent you ultimately go with they should be able to provide you with plenty examples of what they’ve done, you know internal / external pictures, elevated shots. Obviously with using a specialist property photographer they’ll be able to give you the time to you know discuss property presentation and you know if the weather is poor to revisit.
Alex: Now that’s really great Ben thanks very much indeed. Just tell everyone if they want to reach you just tell them the website and your contact number.
Ben: Yes, if you would like to contact me please go to www.planpics.com and my number is 07968445329.
Alex: Ben that’s great, thanks very much indeed for coming on.
When you come to buy or sell a property please always ensure you use a good quality conveyancing solicitor. People sometimes think this is a easy way to cut a corner and save a bit of money when actually it’s the very thing that will cost them personally down the line. So, one side of things, when you come to sell, a good quality solicitor will prepare everything in advance, remain proactive and most importantly will be the single point of contact throughout the process. Going through a mass volume, conveyor belt type solicitor is really not the way to go. I recently came across a situation, it was a small chain, it involved this very type of solicitor, and what happened was that it took just over three months to exchange contracts. By comparison the other solicitor would have seen it through in under two months. That’s the difference. When you come to buy a solicitor needs to check all the legal options on a property. Again, the number of situations I’ve come across where a mass volume, low experience solicitor was used, historically when they’ve bought, they’ve failed to see the right of way at the back or the worst one I’ve ever seen, it’s an historic footpath coming right the way up the driveway to the front door of the property. So, the lesson is pay only a smidge more but get a good quality solicitor as you have to personally live with the consequences if they forget about that historic footpath. If you’re unsure who to use just drop me a line.
What a show. That’s all from the Alex Goldstein property Show. More details, tips, tricks and industry insight can be found on the website alexgoldstein.co.uk and of course all my social media channels. Alternatively drop me a line on email. Make sure you look out for my new Saturday Yorkshire Post property column which is out in the next few weeks. The next episode is out on 1 September, when we have Harrogate’s answer to Phil Spencer plus lots more property tips and tricks. Until next time.