Hello again everyone and welcome to the second instalment of my guide to different aspects of life in Plymouth. As we head nearer to Christmas and start wearing woolly jumpers and big coats, we start to organise ourselves in readiness for the festive season. This is why I thought I would have a chat about how great it is to live in our ocean side city. My last blog concentrated on areas and activities around our waterfront and coastline, this time, I thought I would talk about city life and all the benefits that it can bring.
I moved to Plymouth from, what is in comparison, the small county town of Taunton to join the Royal Navy in 1993, I still cannot believe that this was 30 years ago. When I got here, I was a little overwhelmed by all the amenities that were on offer and the size of the city itself. I wouldn’t consider myself a country boy, but I guess at this time in my life I really was and I found the transition exhilarating.
There were restaurants, shops, cinemas, pubs, clubs, parks, and lots of traffic. It is true that I used to walk miles to the bus stop to get a bus to school as a kid, here every area had its own school, sometimes two or three all within a few minutes’ walk away, but the biggest change for me was the socializing aspect of the city.
The Barbican was, is and will always be a mecca for socializing, especially in the summer and even more so on bank holidays, as it is the place where so many people congregate for meeting with friends and having a drink or three. Many people start a good afternoon out closer to their houses and most seem to end up following a well-trodden trail to the Barbican where you can sit, chat, eat or dance until the sun sets and further in to the evening. There is something for everyone, from cocktail bars, pubs, clubs and some really great restaurants as well.
For me, I do love a wander around the cobbled streets of The Barbican looking around the antique and curiosity shops and the odd charity shop as well. If you wander off the beaten track, there are some real gems there waiting to be explored like artists’ studios, tea rooms and the odd psychic to tell you your destiny.
The one thing that I have noticed since living in Plymouth for over three decades now is how much things really do change. What was Bretonside Bus Depot is now The Barcode, a large complex for people to go and enjoy themselves. There are burger bars, restaurants, cocktails and drinks, cinema, childrens’ activity centre and parking all in one place, what could be simpler or easier.
Drake Circus is the largest shopping complex for Plymouth and has retail and food outlets over three floors. I do feel that this facility could benefit from having some bigger named brands in there but for what it is, you can find most of what you need. Clothes, books, food, toiletries, eateries, jewellers, foot wear or just coffees, you can find all here as well as the added benefit of onsite parking.
Mutley and North Hill have a younger / student vibe with lots of bars and coffee shops to suit all wallets with the addition of one of the city’s newest attractions – The Box. This is Plymouth’s biggest art gallery and cultural centre, which is now home to thousands of fascinating objects from all around the world and includes many local exhibits spotlighting Plymouth’s heritage and achievements. Plymouth prides itself on its arts and culture and regularly hosts many exhibitions and events throughout the year. This is the second time I have mentioned The Box, but I still have no favourites or prejudices for places to go or things to do in Plymouth.
It is around this time of year that Plymouth sets up the Christmas Market on the city centres piazza. Plymouth Christmas Market will run from 30th November to 17th December this year and will be sure to have lots of festive treats on offer. The last Christmassy thing is the panto, oh no it’s not, oh yes, it is! Every year it keeps audiences enthralled right through to the new year, but not many people realise that there is usually another panto / Christmas show at the Barbican Theatre or you might want to go to one of the many other Christmas shows that are put on by local am-dram societies.
This year Cross Keys Estates are proudly sponsoring Zak the Zombie and the Christmas Repair Shop, a production by the very talented Theatre of Boom. I can’t wait to see this as some of my closest friends have not only written it but also taken starring roles in the performances and before you say anything, YES, I am being a little bias, but what else do you expect when you come to realise just what a friendly and sociable lot of people Plymothians truly are.
I hope you have all enjoyed reading this and look forward to writing part 3 for you.
Take care everyone and have a very Merry Christmas.
Hello again folks and welcome to autumn. Did you know that according to researchers, autumn is the least liked season of the year, colour goes from the garden, days get shorter, wetter and the temperature goes down. Well, the current housing market is just the same as autumn, it gets harder to get good photographs of properties due to the changing weather conditions, any vacant properties that do not have electricity on have reduced hours to view them due to the darker evening creeping in, and the prices, like the temperature, are going down.
I have been keeping a close eye on the available properties either already on the market or the new ones that are coming to the market over the last six weeks, it seems to me that there is a clear downward trend in the prices that the properties are coming on at but what is more concerning is the number of properties that other agents are having to do “Price Reductions” on. Some agents that are so proud of having hundreds of properties on their website are now having to slash the prices of their available stock.
Could this be because they over valued in the first place, probably. When choosing an agent to sell your property, remember that if an agent has more that 100 properties on its own website, then it obviously cannot be selling many at all. If an agent claims to have multiple offices selling your property for you, if it is a corporate agent, why would the lead office allow another office to claim a selling fee? I used to work for a corporate and this was never allowed to happen, as the offices are all in competition with each other but they still use this tactic to try and win your business.
When you see the properties appearing at the top of Rightmove listings, look carefully to see if it is actually a new listing or whether it has had a price reduction instead. The reason I say this is more than 50% of the top properties on Rightmove searches that I have done in recent weeks have all been price reductions and not new properties coming to the market.
When reading this blog, you may think it is coming across as negative, I would disagree. The market will always change, sometimes daily, but one thing remains the same and that is experience. An experience, and dare I say, a qualified estate agent will be used to these changing times and will be able to advise you accordingly to suit both your expectations and the reality of selling in a downward facing market.
This week, Cross Keys Estates had two enquiries from potential vendors both with differing needs. One family that did not live in Plymouth but had an older relation based in Ivybridge that needed to move into an assisted living property, as she was about to come out of hospital and her own property would no longer be suitable. We attended the property to value it, spoke in great detail on the phone and came up with a bespoke marketing plan. The property was placed on the market and enquiries came in straight away, a viewing was carried out within 24 hours of the property going live which led to the property being sold immediately towards the top of the guide price, meaning that the assisted living property was able to be secured for them.
The other vendor had been on the market with another (corporate) agent and tried their “Modern Auction” experience, they had tight timescale needs as they are moving abroad and had a date set for this move. The auction was a complete failure and didn’t generate nearly enough interest needed to gain offers on the property. A good neighbour of theirs recommended that they come to see us for a much more traditional and proven way to sell their house, after they popped in to our office and talked everything through in detail, we came up with a marketing plan, placed the property on the market and sold it within 5 days of the initial meeting in the office and at a price that exceeded the original agreed bottom line price.
There is a simple truth to this blog, if you have a need to sell your property, you also need to see a fully qualified and time served experienced agent. As the property market gets tougher, this experience will be what get you the results that you need. If you are unsure about which agent to choose, look them up on www.allagents.co.uk or if you want to be a bit more thorough, you could also look them up via PropertyMark to see if they are qualified, you can put your postcode in to their website and this will tell you if an agent is qualified or not.
In this day of scam artist and rogue traders, you could also try Companies House to see if the company that you are thinking of using is legitimate or not, you might be surprised at what information you can find on this website. When all is said and done, you cannot beat a good referral from someone who has been or is in the same situation as yourself and has been through the entire process.
I would also like to point out that as it stands with the current interest rate, properties that are currently on the market for prices over £300,000, are being affected by the higher cost of borrowing. If buyers are putting down a 10% deposit on £300,000 (£30,000), for a 2-year fixed rate 25-year term mortgage, the cost of borrowing £270,000 is now roughly at £1,500 per month. I got these figures from Compare the Market website. I am also sure that we will see more interest rate rises before Christmas which will push the property market prices down further.
The last thing that I wanted to point out is this, if you are selling and buying on in the same market conditions then your sales price is always going to be relative to your purchase price. In other words, if you are having to sell for a few thousand pounds less than you could have got a year ago, it does not matter, as the property that you are buying will also be a few thousand pounds cheaper as well.
Please feel free to call me, pop in to our office, or email me with any questions you may have or any advice that you may need with regards to your property buying or selling journey, as I am always only to happy to help.
Hello again folks, as we well and truly leave summer behind us, I thought I would take a moment to inform as many people as possible about what a great summer we had here in Plymouth.
Plymouth residents actually originate from lots of different areas, mostly due to the naval personnel that relocate here and bring their families down here to live with them but also the student population that come down here to study and find that they love the place so much that they decide to make it their home.
It is said that Plymouth has the most beautiful natural harbour in the world, so let’s start with our coastline and waterways. There is something on offer for everyone, whether it is coastal path walks, horse riding on beaches, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, motor sports, sea swimming, scuba diving, fossil hunting or just plain sitting down and looking out to sea, there is more than enough to take your fancy.
How about taking an afternoon on Plymouth Boat Trips? Did you know that you can hire a boat for a river cruise, corporate event, birthdays, anniversaries, romantic sunset cruises or even if you want to scatter a loved one’s ashes at sea. I have personally used them on multiple occasions for entertaining family friends and clients alike and every time, it has been a huge success. I have also hired Plymouth Rib Rides for a birthday treat for a member of the family, it was brilliant exhilarating fun.
Another favourite of mine is a bit more relaxed, take a trip on the historic foot passenger ferry from Stonehouse to The Rame Peninsula, loved for centuries by all who have travelled on her, the Cremyll Ferry is one of Plymouth’s true gems even if the crossing only takes eight minutes, the stunning backdrop of Royal William Yard and Plymouth Sound are definitely going to be a memory that you will treasure.
Being on the coastline of Devon, Plymouth has a number of marinas with incredible views and some offering an array of places to eat and attractions to give you that sense of a real coastal holiday experience. The surrounding towns and villages of Plymouth have some of the most spectacular sandy beaches, perfect for basking in the sun, water sports or crab fishing.
Keeping to the water theme, what about a day at the aquarium? The National Marine Aquarium, to give it its full title, was opened in May 1998. It is the largest aquarium in the UK and is home to over 5,000 marine animals. It acts as an educational institution by teaching visitors about the marine environment but is so much more and really good fun for all the family. Located in Sutton Harbour beside Plymouth Fish Market. If you cross the foot bridge over to the historic Barbican, there are lots of interesting and varied attractions from antique shops, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, tourist shops and of course the famous 15th Century Mayflower Steps where the Pilgrims set off for America in 1620.
Plymouth has 37 ancient monuments including boundary stone, milestones and other key markers which add a huge amount of interest to any budding history buffs looking in to the local landscape heritage. There is a Plymouth Trails app that you can download to make this an interesting and fun day for the family.
For those of you who like the arts, then Plymouth is definitely the place for you to come and visit. One of my personal favourite places is the Theatre Royal, located on Royal Parade. Such an obviously identifiable building with its striking architecture and the iconic statue of Messenger looming tall to the front of the building at 7 meters tall. This beautiful work of art was created by a Cornish artist, Joseph Hillier, and depicts an actress in a crouching position about to run on to a stage.
This installation was commissioned by the theatre and was unveiled to the public in 2019 as part of Plymouth City’s Mayflower 400 celebrations. We are very lucky to have such a fantastic theatre in our city as we are often privileged to have productions debut here before they go on national tours as we also have TR2 (Theatre Royal 2). This is a Production and Learning Centre on the bank of the River Plym. It contains set, costume, prop-making and rehearsal facilities for new productions as well as being one of the biggest education and outreach programmes for a regional venue in the UK.
One of the city’s newest attractions is The Box. Plymouth’s biggest art gallery and cultural centre which is now home to thousands of fascinating objects from all around the world and includes many local exhibits spotlighting Plymouth’s heritage and achievements. Plymouth prides itself on its arts and culture and regularly hosts many exhibitions and events throughout the year.
If you are happy to drive just a few minutes north of the city you’ll find one of the finest and largest national parks in Britain – Dartmoor! What a fantastical mesmerizing place this is, so much so, I will keep this one for my next blog about our fabulous City of Plymouth…
Hello again folks, and thank you in advance for reading my blog. Sometimes I need to say things that may not be so positive or easy to hear, but they must be told. Speaking the truth is not always easy, and truth speakers are sometimes not the bearer of good news. This is indeed the case now. This blog covers what you should expect from the property market in the next few months.
Last week most of the high street banks pulled their lower rates mortgage deals from the table, and before the Bank of England announced a general interest rate rise to 5%, the lenders had already put their borrowing rates up to over 6% now, with the average (75% loan to value, 25% deposit) being at 6.44%.
If you are looking at a house purchase of around £250,000 with a deposit of £50,000 (20%), the average variable repayment is now well over £1,500 a month. This, of course, is harming the housing market already. Buyers are getting cold feet on properties that they agreed to purchase a few months ago and are already re-evaluating the cost implications and how much of their income will now be swallowed up by mortgage payments, let alone the fact that we are still in a cost-of-living crisis with inflation hovering just below 9%.
The more mature people out there (no, I am not being ageist) that have been through this process before will not necessarily be the ones that are worrying about mortgages as they may well have either paid them off or have a lot less borrowed. Still, younger buyers or first-time buyers will be reconsidering their options.
When the property market finds itself in this position, we find ourselves in shark-infested waters. This is when some of the less scrupulous agents out there start resorting to less respectable methods to keep their available stock levels high.
Now, this is where other agents will protest, but we have been here before, and we’ve seen it before, and we know the warning signs to look out for.
- Has an agent given you a surprisingly high valuation that you weren’t expecting – This is what we in the trade call buying an instruction; the agent knows full well that your property has no chance of achieving this price but also knows that if they can persuade you that they can achieve the impossible than they stand more of a chance of gaining your business.
- Has the agent offered you a generous low fee – again, any proper business person knows full well that all companies are facing increased costs for absolutely everything that they pay for, from electricity to phone calls, petrol, paper, envelopes, websites, staff wages, photocopiers, membership to recognised bodies to the tea boat in the office, so if they are offering meagre fees, you know that they are not anticipating selling your property, just using you to make their property stock look better than their competitions and make other potential sellers want to use them.
- How quickly do they ask you to reduce your price after coming to the market – On one of the property portals that we use, there is a tab that shows us which agents are bringing the asking prices of their properties down (Price Reductions), here in Plymouth there are the usual suspects. Still, there is always that special one that must rely on price reductions consistently to try and gain any credible interest in their stock of properties; quite often, though, this has the opposite effect and will deter potential buyers from putting in offers as it can come across as negative marketing. If you keep seeing properties that are dropping in price, do you ask the same question as me? What is wrong with it that it needs to keep coming down in price?
- Multiple Agent Listing – This is where you feel you have no choice but to list your house with more than one estate agent. If your agent recommends listing your property jointly with a specific agent, maybe this is not the right thing to do. As with the previous point, buyers will question the necessity for your property to be advertised with more than one agent when if you chose the right agent, then your property could have gone under offer already.
There are obviously some exceptions to these general guidelines, but any good, proper, qualified agent should have already factored in these shifts in the market; they should also know what is expected in the coming months and have worked out and planned around this for selling your house.
If the agent reacts to the market, they must be more proactive.
The last thing that any seller wants to be is chasing a down-turning market, as this usually leads them to achieve a much lower selling price than they could have if they planned the marketing price by the changing state of the market. This is a clear case of age and experience, combined with qualified and regulated service, winning against youth and enthusiasm, usually married with the more corporate companies (or companies who try to emulate corporates) who rarely keep / pay for their more experienced staff, as this invariably cost them much more in staff wages.
As usual, I will end this blog positively; last week, we achieved marvellous sales levels across all different market price ranges. We regularly call our clients and let them know what is happening to the property market so that we can change/amend their marketing ahead of the competition and still achieve the best possible outcomes. Cross Keys Estates prides itself on the honesty and integrity of the advice given to our clients by all of our staff, and this is why we are a multi-award winning company with over 1,500 5 star ***** reviews on www.allagents.co.uk from our clients, making us the best estate agent and the best-letting agent in Plymouth for many years in a row now.
If you would like to pop into our friendly office for a chat or call us on the phone (01752 500018) for any help or advice or to book a valuation on your property, please rest assured that you will be in the best possible hands in this industry.
Hello again folks and thank you in advance for continuing to read my blogs. I always try to find topics that are of general interest to everyone but it does get difficult sometimes to write about some of the topics as they are not always the most riveting of subjects. That being said, let’s talk about insulation (yawn, yawn and another yawn).
We have all seen the adverts on the television with regards to all forms of property insulation. They all claim to be great investments in your property that will, in the end, save you money and add value to your property, THIS IS NOT ALWAYS TRUE, in fact quite the opposite, some forms of insulation can in fact damage your property, down value your property and quite possibly make you property un-mortgageable.
The first form of insulation is the external type that is attached to the outside of your property. If your property is listed this will not be an option for you. There are some forms of this external insulation that are subject to EWS1.
An EWS1 certificate is an External Wall System Fire Review certificate. They come into play when a leaseholder is buying or selling or re-mortgaging an apartment in a multi-storey multi-occupied residential building. It is not a building safety certificate or a legal requirement. It is a mortgage valuation tool – An EWS1 survey is only required if: buildings over 6-storeys where there is cladding, curtain wall glazing or vertically stacked balconies. buildings of 5 or 6-storeys where there is a significant amount of cladding (25% plus of the whole of one elevation).
As with anything in life, these issues are here for the greater good, but seem to have a huge negative impact for home owners that fall into this category, as their properties are either un-mortgageable or they usually have to bare a huge cost to have this cladding removed. Not all forms of insulation are covered by this “Lenders Law” but there really is a large amount out there that fall prey to this new condition for lending.
The other adverts that are becoming increasingly irritating are the ones for “Spray Foam” loft insulation. The claims that they can add value to your home by reducing your heating bills are FALSE, they might well indeed reduce your heating bill whilst you are living at the property but the negatives far outweigh the small financial gain.
The installation process for this spray foam seems to be very easy but even if your roof has a physical membrane between the rafters and the roof tiles, spraying this expanding foam shifts and lifts the tiles and allows for water ingress as the foam itself is not waterproof.
Secondly, again we look at mortgage lenders, applying this spray foam insulation renders your property un-mortgageable. The foam itself also forms a barrier to the roof timbers and has led to some of these timbers beginning to rot due to the moisture that either comes in through the newly formed gaps in the tiles or comes from the foam solution itself. Currently, there are many hundreds of cases going through the law courts for these very reasons and also now include cases where it has been proven that the fumes given off by some types of this foam insulation materials can be seriously hazardous to your health.
A claims management company (CMC) is in the process of helping with more than 500 claims from homeowners to get refunds for inappropriately installed spray foam installation. This law firm, which helps recover money paid for mis-sold home improvements, said it is helping people on a no-win-no-fee basis who have had mortgage offers withdrawn and lost sales after surveyors spotted spray foam insulation.
The chief executive of this law firm said homeowners think they have done the right thing by opting for spray foam insulation in the roof, as it is often sold as saving more energy than traditional ways to insulate the home. He also said “Spray foam insulation is the cancer of home improvements”.
There are several hundred claims for homeowners who have been refused equity release, mortgages or that have had mortgage offers (AIP, Agreement In Principle) retracted after the surveyors spotted spray foam insulation in the loft areas.
There may be as many as 250,000 homes with spray foam insulation in the loft, and the guidance being offered is to adopt a highly cautious approach. The final recommendation is the removal of the spray foam in almost every case.
Now I am guessing that after reading this you may be feeling very conflicted about how to insulate your property but if you ask me, the original, tried and tested, way is to use the rolls of insulation that you can buy from your local DIY stores. Loft insulation is typically sold in batts or rolls, made from mineral wool, fibreglass, or sheep’s wool. All three of these products are non-flammable, requiring a high temperature to melt. Mineral wool, sometimes sold as rock wool, will only melt at temperatures hotter than a house fire, making it safe to use.
The only reason that I am writing this blog is because, here, at Cross Keys Estates, we have had a few properties that have fallen foul to this new negative and we just want to bring it to our clients’ and friends’ attention alike.
Hello everyone, it’s been a few months since my last blog and lots of things have changed. I finally got married and luckily just before I turned fifty. We won the “Best Estates Agent & the Best Letting Agent” in Plymouth again for the fifth year on the run. We’ve refurbished our Stoke Office to a brilliant standard that puts us right at the forefront of our industry and back in the heart of Stoke Village, but probably the best change for everyone is the change of seasons since spring is here again, banishing the long, cold and dark evening to history for another year at least.
Looking at spring makes me want to be back out in my garden again, which is where I find my solace and calm, pottering around, seeing the shoots of new growth on the plants that I have planted over the last two years, primroses coming up, daffodils in flower, camellias budding and colours beginning to come through all the greenery and also looking forward to getting back to the garden centres to see what I can buy for the garden this year.
People often think that being an estate agent is either boring or very exciting and not much in between, but let me tell you this, there is nothing that we love more than being right in the middle of this and right in the middle of the community. I bet you didn’t know that Cross Keys Estates sponsor a community garden in Stoke. We are extremely proud to be the sponsor of The Rectory Community Garden and love seeing the locals finally get to enjoy this piece of ground that has been overgrown for so many years.
Jill & Rob moved to the area after Cross Keys Estates sold their previous property over 10 years ago. Since becoming residents, Jill & Rob have helped sort out lots of community events and now enjoy looking after the community garden along with other resident volunteers. Jill has also joined “The Gardening Club” a Facebook page that I set up during the second Covid 19 lockdown as I got frustrated with all the other pages that were online, my thoughts were, people simply can’t get angry when looking at fabulous gardens and beautiful plants and I was right. We now have nearly 1,500 members, not only from Plymouth but now from all around the world.
Now that we have our fantastic new shop front in our Stoke office, it seems that refreshing the village is catching on. The old toilet block that was by the entrance to Mount Pleasant Recreation Ground (The Blockhouse) have finally been demolished. It has been a very long time in the making as the toilets were due to be demolished nearly 20 years ago. In their place will be a spanking new garden. I must admit that I am more than a little excited that we will finally have something beautiful to look out on to instead of an old toilet block that was never used, just simply abused or used as a fly tipping area.
So, with gardens and gardening as my theme to this blog, I want to move on to the importance of all outside spaces when it comes to your properties and putting it on the market.
If the Covid pandemic taught us anything, it taught us the value of outside spaces and how much we really do need them. I think a lot of people underestimated how much we love our parks and green spaces until we were not allowed to use them. Now they have become more important than ever, and every spare inch of outside space should be cherished and used.
I have been out valuing so many properties since the new year, some apartments, some terraced houses and some magnificent, detached properties, the one thing that was in common with nearly all of them was how fantastic their outdoor spaces were. Balconies with pots and baskets, waterfront properties with terraces brimming over with coastal climbing plants, terraced houses with stunning courtyards and even some growing their own veg in raised boxes to detached residences with wrap around gardens and beautiful floral borders. No matter what size property or what size outside space you have, there is no reason not to make it beautiful with plants, this will definitely add to the saleability and also, it’s desirability to more buyers.
If you are looking to sell your property and want to know if now is the right time to consider putting it on the market, give Cross Keys Estates a call and see if our truly professional, premier service and competitive fees are what you have been looking for.