Well here we are then. Mid to late April 2020 – the sun is shining and the Country is on lockdown. The only businesses operating are those selling/producing essentialproducts. And although it’s been suggested that estate agents are likely to be one of the first businesses to re-open, at the moment we are still a few weeks away from even a semblance of normality.

The reason for having estate agents open before the majority of businesses is to help kick-start the floundering economy. It remains unclear whether the UK will be in a ‘recession’; ‘depression’ or ‘something-worse-with-no-name’ once the virus finally disappears (if indeed if ever does). Properties are, however, still being sold and rented at the height of this outbreak.

 selling house coronavirus lockdown

At Howick and Brooker we have introduced virtual tours, for example, allowing prospective buyers to ‘view’ your property from the comfort of their own tablet. Keys are literally being passed through windows as the health of the public and individuals is of course, the highest priority. But even considering social distancing, transactions can still take place. The reasons for moving will not have disappeared during lockdown – indeed for many people spending all this time at home will have exacerbated the desire for change.

 

Mortgage Offers

According to The Independent many lenders are now snowed under with mortgage holiday and term renegotiation applications. On March 30th  The Nationwide announced that it has removed all fixed rate and tracker mortgages above 75 per cent LTV from sale until further notice. The move doesn’t impact existing applications.

 

Moving? 

Government guidance (from 26 March) stipulates that work in people’s properties can continue as long as the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms or a confirmed case of Covid-19. This means that is it is still possible (although extremely difficult) to move into a new property. The government has directed removals firms to push for delays to house moves, but acknowledges that a small number may need to go ahead.

 

covid 19 property market

These really are unprecedented times (to use a phrase that is becoming hackneyed) and moves are very unlikely, but there is no reason not to be as prepared as possible - meaning that you can move fast when restrictions are finally lifted. Many sellers and landlords are concentrating on getting their properties ready for that time, carrying out essential repairs and decorating. Jeremy Leaf, a London estate agent and former residential chairman for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said: “With lettings you need to be more fleet-footed for when the restrictions are lifted, landlords (can be) getting certificates lined up and agreements ready. It’s worth having a checklist so you can ensure everything is covered.”

Guidelines for those moving, purchasing and selling a home during this crisis are available from the Government website.

 

The Howick & Brooker Partnership - is the leading and longest-established estate agency in Harlow. Howick and Brooker are members of the https://www.guildproperty.co.uk.

 

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I am writing this at the end of March 2020. We are effectively on lockdown – allowed out only for exercise (once a day), medical emergencies and to purchase essential provisions. From our base at the top of Old Harlow we can witness people queuing patiently outside the Co-op, respectfully 2 metres apart. Or at least we could, for the offices have been closed for a week now and, like many others across the country, we are working ‘remotely’ from home….more on that in a bit…

We mentioned on social media earlier this week of our admiration for the staff in out local shops who are keeping the community moving. Naturally, like all of us at ‘this difficult time’ (Oh, how many times have we heard or read that ghastly phrase), my colleagues and I are astounded by the efforts of the emergency and social services, as well as those caring for relatives and continuing other crucial roles – but the staff in local shops are also putting themselves at risk, and for that we thank them.

Old Harlow co-op 

The community spirit has been quite a revelation and rather touching. Apart from the 8pm ‘clap celebration’ for our NHS staff, there have been numerous ‘COVID-19’ groups set up allowing healthy folks to look after those at risk or ‘permanently’ locked down because of ‘underlying health conditions’ (another hideously over-used phrase). And the Old Town seems to have been retuned to the 1950s! Apart from the lack of traffic and incessant background noise, strangers out taking their daily exercise seem to have re-developed that charming habit of saying ‘Good Afternoon’ to each other as they pass by (‘social distancing’, naturally). Rather endearing.

Of course it’s Spring with all that that entails and we’ve just had a week of the most glorious sunshine. It’s become commonplace to wake up to bird song. And who knew there were quite so many woodpeckers in Harlow? Noisy little buggers.

Now, this is not to trivialise the enormity and severity of the situation, far from it, but we all carry on don’t we? For estate agents such as H&B work continues. People are still buying and selling their houses, solicitors are still working, enquiries are still coming in. We’ve had to make a number of changes, of course – viewings are now impossible so we’ve introduced video tours of our properties (like the one below), keys are being exchanged through windows etc to avoid contact between the clients and ourselves, and as I said we’re all ‘working from home’.

properties for sale in Old Harlow

This does introduce a numberof small issues for a Gentleman of my age – and to be fair the tech team have earned their retainers this week. Of more concern is the fact that I’m low on claret and even the endless re-runs of Cricket World Cup are becoming a little tedious!

Stay safe out their friends, stay indoors and I’ll see you all again when we get the all clear!

 

-Alan

 

Alan Howick is a Director of the Howick & Brooker Partnership - the leading and longest-established estate agency in Harlow. Howick and Brooker are members of the Guild of Professional Estate Agents.

 

If you are interested in moving into the Harlow area pleas get in touch.

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I have just experienced a wonderful moment!

Not like that…get your minds out of the gutter.

I sometimes feel that people get the wrong impression of me. One might get the idea from my previous posts that I’m permanently curmudgeonly, grumpy, over-dressed, pernickety and living in the 1960s. Well, I AMall of those things as it happens but I do have a lighter side and still take great pleasure in unexpected meetings. One of the joys of being an estate agent is having the opportunity of meeting interesting people. I meet a lot of uninterestingpeople too, of course but everyone has a story to tell and the other day I had the privilege of touching history and meeting a hero.

 best estate agents in Harlow

A lovely mature couple drove up from Sussex (God’s own county!) for me to show them round a house here in the Old Town. It started well, the gentleman (mid 70’s I guess) loved cricket and supported Sussex, my county as well! Good start, I thought.

I left him to wonder around and take notes while I sat down in the lounge with his wife. The following 15 minutes chat was a history lesson of life’s challenges and opportunities against a frightening young life.

So it seems that this lady had been born 1932 in Dresden, lived in a small village just outside and suffered first, under the dreadful Nazi’s and their propaganda, the British bombing in 1945, and then suffered under the stringent Russian regime in Eastern Germany.

 

estate agents stories

At the tender age of 13 (immediately after the war) she was escorted by the Russians around the local concentration camp with her school friends to witness the Nazi atrocities. At 17 she was smuggled out (at a considerable financial cost to her father) and escaped to freedom in West Germany.

She had travelled around Europe and lived in Switzerland. In the early 1950’s arrived in Oxford as an au pair and met her now husband.

Our brief conversation only scratched the surface of her story. Apparently a book has been written and I have been promised a copy. I do hope she remembers to send me one.

 A great day and a great privilege to meet someone special who had lived such an amazing life.

 

- Alan.

 

Alan Howick is a Director of the Howick & Brooker Partnership - the leading and longest-established estate agency in Harlow. Howick and Brooker are members of the Guild of Professional Estate Agents.

If you are interested in moving into the Harlow area pleas get in touch.

T: 01279 418888

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Post the December 12thelection there was a collective sigh of relief amongst estate agents across the Country. Nor necessarily because estate agents are pro Leave per se, but the majority won in the House marked an end to the political stalemate that has stymied the last Parliament.

 In the short term this had a beneficial effect of house prices, with the Halifax house price index indicating a rise of 1.7% in December compared to November, suggesting that this political clarity has boosted the market. But what are the implications of Brexit moving forward?

 estate agents in Harlow

According to Homes and Property although, “January is steady in the property industry as sellers often hang on until spring to launch their homes. However, this month developers reported levels of enquiries and forward well up on the end of last year.” Which obviously bodes well, but how much of this is a reflection of a post-election ‘bounce’?

Well to be frank, nothing has actually changed. Sure we will be leaving the EU on January 31st, but there will be no ‘agreement’ in place until 12 months after that – so It’s almost impossible to speculate. Property group JLL’s new head of residential research, Nick Whitten says:” We don’t know what life will be like after Brexit.”A recent study by JLL  predicts house price growth across Greater London at one per cent this year and 2.5 per cent next year, before it jumps to 4.5 per cent in 2022. Which is pretty much identical to forecasts should the Brexit vote never have happened in the first place.

selling my house in essex

However, interests rates seem likely to rise which could mean the end of ‘ultra-low’ mortgages. Predictions by the Bank of England and others have also suggested that Brexit could mean an average drop of GDP of up to 8%. Meaning that the average Brittan would be effectively one twelfth worseoff than they were before. Of course such calculations are speculation without the details of any final trade details, due at the beginning of next year. The Housing Market is also particularly resilient and at the moment remains optimistic.

 

As indeed so should we. For the time being at least….

 

The Howick & Brooker Partnership is the leading and longest-established estate agency in Harlow. Howick and Brooker are members of the Guild of Professional Estate Agents

If you are interested in moving into the Harlow area pleas get in touch.

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(with acknowledgement and inspiration from “The Oldie’ magazine)

 

I guess it’s an age thing but I doget annoyed when a complete stranger rings and
calls me by my first name.  And then has the audacity to follow up by enquiring about my health in a chirpy, happy voice: “How are you?”

Likewise, the other day a young estate agent asked after my health twice within an hour! Do they really know that they’re doing it? Have they heard something about my health that I wasn’t previously aware of? I know I’m getting on a little bit, so far, according to my doctors I’m doing remarkably well for my age!

The sands of time haven’t bloody run out yet, and I’m certainly not shuffling off!

growing old disgracefully

And another irritation, which I find almost mind-shatteringly annoying, is when people say: “No Problem” at the end of a conversation! I know there isn’t a problem; well there wasn’t when the conversation started. So I asked politely “What Problem?” followed by a stony silence or, possibly confusion at the other end of the telephone line caused by my question.

I assume that when the young person (always someone young isn’t it?) says: ‘No
Problem,‘ they are suggesting that they have resolved a very demanding task or life -threatening issue? Not sure. Why can’t they say: “Thank you, good bye”?

 estate agents in Old Harlow and Essex

Or what about that American phase (albeit used less frequently now): “You’re welcome and have a nice day!” Aaaaaah. Nature cries out.

‘No problem’ is pointless. It means nothing, not even a ‘Goodbye’. I would even
prefer a: ‘You’re welcome’ but: ‘No problem’ is a question isn’t it?  Or perhaps it’s one-upmanship from the other side – the young people?

I recall recently, I did ‘have a problem’ on chain of sales and needed to talk to another agent for the best part of an hour attempting to resolve it at his end. The conversation ended with him saying: ‘No problem.’

I had had it by then: “There is a bloodyproblem that’s why I rang you!!!”

 

Good-bye. I’m going to have a lie down.

 

Alan Howick is a Director of the Howick & Brooker Partnership  - the leading and longest-established estate agency in Harlow. Howick and Brooker are members of the Guild of Professional Estate Agents  

 

 

If you are interested in moving into the Harlow area pleas get in touch.

T: 01279 418888

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