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Regional report – Wokingham, St Helens and Walsall

Each month we visit three agents across the country to discover what is happening in their business and local markets. This month we meet members of The Guild of Professional Estate Agents in Wokingham, St Helens and Walsall.

The Negotiator
WOKINGHAM, BERKSHIRE

David Cliff imageGARY MACDONALD, HEAD OF NOIR BY DAVID CLIFF
David Cliff Estate Agents

The David Cliff Agency opened in 2009 and has become one of the most respected estate agents in the area with highly distinctive pink boards and marketing material. We have an office in the heart of Wokingham town centre, a village office in Mortimer and a city branch in London which are all managed by carefully selected teams of like-minded professionals. We are passionate about property and are perfectly placed to deliver a first-class service.

Wokingham property image

STATS: Average sale price: £500,000 Average rental price: £1600 per month Variable commission rates

We have an additional offering, Noir, which is specifically tailored towards grand, interesting, chic and unique properties across much of Berkshire and Hampshire. We cover all areas of property, including sales and lettings, land and new homes, financial services and conveyancing. We are proud to be the chosen member of The Guild of Professional Estate Agents for this area, which provides us with a nationwide network of 800 offices and a central base on Park Lane in London. We pride ourselves and are continually recommended for having customer relationship management that is second to none in this industry.

Wokingham has long been a highly sought after and incredibly affluent area. It is market town with fantastic commuter links into London whilst still being within reasonable distance of the Dorset and Hampshire coasts. There are a number of highly esteemed educational facilities serving this area including Eagle House, St. Neots, Wellington College and Redam House as well as the M3 and M4 Motorways making Wokingham readily accessible. The area has a diverse range of properties some dating as far back as the 1600s. There are several idyllic villages on the periphery with unique properties of all types, a good range of new and modern developments and a strong investment market. This has grown over recent years with the introduction of modern apartment developments in and around the town centre.

Wokingham’s mainline railway station has recently been completely refurbished and we believe the arrival of Crossrail in 2018 will have a further positive effect on the market in Wokingham and the direct surrounding area.

Prices in the area vary; a one or two-bed apartments can cost between £200,000 to £300,000 and similarly a two or three-bedroom houses can cost between £300,000 and £450,000. However, on the other end of the spectrum there is a very high density of houses with values between £800,000 and £2 million.

In the highly salubrious and prestige areas there are and have been prices surpassing £3 million.

ST HELENS, MERSEYSIDE

Mark Gilbertson imageMARK GILBERTSON
Mark Gilbertson Estate Agents

In 2009, I created Mark Gilbertson Estate Agents following many years working in the corporate world. I first worked in St. Helens in the early 1990s so I have seen first-hand and from a distance the changes the town has gone through. The business deals mainly with the sale and letting of residential properties, having become one of the leading agents in the area and has a reputation for cutting edge and thorough marketing.

St Helens property image

STATS: Average viewers per sale below £100k: 4 Average viewers per sale over £100k: 2 Typical rental yields : 8% Average rent: £525 pcm

St. Helens is situated between Liverpool and Manchester, with accessible motorway connections, the M62 and M6 and air travel, both Manchester International and Liverpool John Lennon have national and international flights daily.

Originally an industrial area, there are plenty of terraced-house streets which are attractive to investors from all over the country. A typical St. Helens terrace is priced from as low as £50,000, giving potential yields in double figures.

Given its commuter connections, the area has plenty of modern developments, with detached houses stretching through the £200,000s towards £400,000.

The current market benefits from a variety of stimuli; investors from outside the area buying rental properties certainly add fuel to the bottom end have made up for a lack of first time buyer activity in recent years. With rental yields between 8-10 per cent, it is likely that this will continue into 2017. The three per cent stamp duty rise had a small impact on this market in the Spring. However, this has improved, with most amounts being paid under £2,000.

In turn, the higher price property market benefits from investors starting off chains as well as families who see the town as somewhere that offers great value for money. A typical four-bedroom detached house built within the past 10-15 years can be acquired for roughly £250,000. This has certainly been the focus for the major house builders with an emphasis on family homes.

2017 looks optimistic for the St. Helens market and lets’ hope some of this rubs off on The Saints – the town’s world famous rugby league club.

WALSALL, WEST MIDLANDS

Matthew Moore imageMATTHEW MOORE
Edwards Moore

As the winter set in we saw a major slowdown in the number of properties coming to market, with levels of instruction reducing to 50 per cent from the summer. This has led to two distinct problems – properties on the market for some time are proving very difficult to generate fresh interest and properties new to the market which are realistically priced are generating an amazing amount of interest.

Walsall property image

STATS: Average sale price: £204,500 Average rental price: £635 pcm Average viewing to sale ratio: 12

I am dealing with the sale of a deceased estate property which requires modernisation. Valued by three agents, all of whom had a similar opinion of value, I was instructed and we duly went on at my recommendation. In two sessions, I have now conducted over 30 viewings, I have offers in excess of the highest valuation and this is before I have gone to best and final offers.

With another property which has been improved to a stunning standard, I marketed this at the price I suggested (as had another good quality agent in the area.) We had just two viewings in the first month, so reduced the price from £475,000 to £450,000 and the offers are coming in but still well below the levels expected.

All this, shows how price sensitive the market continues to be and how properties which require improvement are selling for a premium, while the finished article is almost a difficult sale.

The market in general remains sturdy with strong sales, it’s just that we seem to be surviving from hand to mouth, as we work with the least stock I have known in my 20 years in the industry. We always used to work on 2/3 to 1/3 available properties to SSTC’s, these are now equal levels, for a few months this year we have had bigger pipelines than available stock.

Our agency has Sales, Lettings and Auction Departments and all three are seeing similar issues of low stock levels, but strong turnover. Buy-to-let landlords appear to have stopped buying, but whether that is stamp duty or a lack of stock is difficult to judge.

Fees are under extreme pressure, but having seen the demise of a couple of bargain basement offerings, sales fees are stable. The recent announcement of the abolition of charges for tenants will have a significant bearing on the market. We have always believed that we charge the landlord primarily, but the market has forced us to spread more of the cost on to the tenant this will now have to be reversed. However, I believe we will be better placed to cope with the changes compared to the five per cent agents who will struggle if they can’t supplement their turnover with excessive tenant fees.

February 22, 2017

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