sherlock-holmes
If you think the title of this blog is so blindingly obvious as to deem the article pointless, we encourage you to think again.

Yes, we have indeed been the recipients of an attempted dupe from somebody who instructed us to sell a property – after showing us around it themselves, no less – but who turns out not to be the owner, nor even be known to the people who are.

We discovered the news after receiving an ‘interesting’ phone call from lawyers acting for an owner who had discovered our photographers inside their property. What makes it even more interesting is that the building where all this happened has a concierge who not only gave the the keys to the person pretending to be the owner when showing us round, but also on a second occasion to our photographers. So it’s possible – although certainly not proven – that the imposter had an accomplice.

To anyone contemplating a similar move, we thought it might be nice to save you some time and to illuminate you on some procedural matters that prevent you simply selling any property you fancy and receiving the money from the sale.

1) Estate agents are now required to see proof of ownership and proof of identity (i.e. your passport) before commencing the marketing of a property. If you can’t show us that, we can’t market the property.

2) Conveyancers are also required to see proof of ownership and proof of identity in order to act for the owner in a sale. So your name will need to be on the title deeds at the land registry in order for the conveyancer to proceed. And if you say you are acting on the owner’s behalf, your conveyancer will require proof of power of attorney, alongside proof of identity of the actual owner. The conveyancer acting for the buyer will also want to see that.

3) You will need to look like the person on the passport. Better still, to be that person.

4), You will need to apply supply a bank account for the money to be transferred to and banks also require proof of identity to open accounts. You can’t just go into the solicitor’s office on completion with a couple of large suitcases and fill them with hard cash.

5) If your plan is to have the money paid into another person’s account, the conveyancer will also need proof of identity for that person in order to comply with money laundering regulations.

So you see, it is not like nicking someone’s shoes and selling them on eBay. And you will get found out.

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UMM-July-2016
It looks like the property market has woken up again after a brief Brexit power nap. To say this is welcome news would be something of an understatement as, in the first half of July, we found ourselves wondering whether it was curtains for the rest of the year.

But now the dust has settled on the Conservative party election and that it’s pretty clear that our withdrawal from the EU isn’t going to happen overnight or be a rushed affair, it appears that life is getting back to normal.

Of course the interest rate cut to 0.25% was a massive to boon to buyers, particularly in London where property is so expensive that any reduction in interest rates becomes even more meaningful than in most other parts of the country. We’d say there is a real opportunity there to borrow at a ridiculously low rate, particularly if that can be locked in for a number of years. Certainly savings are beginning to look like a wasted use of cash for the foreseeable future.

So life at Unique has been particularly busy in the last couple of weeks. We’ve been out to see much more property than we have in a while, and arranged far more viewings. The mood is very different to the end of June.

There are some hurdles. A lot of homeowners lost their buyer after the Brexit vote and many people registering with us to buy are at the same time trying to get a new sale on their existing property. And we’re likely going to have an undulating experience of reported property prices. With the figures always released a month after the fact, the news of price increases and falls is always behind the times, but often sparks a reaction.

For us, if prices were to come off slightly we’d see nothing wrong in that. The property market has been very favourable to owners over the last few years so a few percent off pre-Brexit values won’t make much of a dent in the equity built while prices were continually on the up.

We finally launched our new website in July to a universal chorus of approval. The user experience has been greatly improved, properties are better presented and the whole thing has a crisper, fresher feel. Do take a look.

That’s it for this month – see you at the end of August.

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New-Unique-website-photo
It’s been many months in the making with more tweaks and twists than we care to mention, but we can finally announce the launch of the brand new Unique Property Company website.

We’ve been working with the very talented MDS Group to bring about a sharp, fresh and modern transformation with massively improved user-friendliness, a beautiful slideshow of homepage imagery and greatly enhanced showcasing of the properties we handle.

Functional, simple and sexy is what we wanted and we think we’ve got it. We invite you to have a look around the site and we hope you like it as much as we do.

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UMM-trees-June-2016
So, in the short term, almost everything that was described by the Leave camp as the Remain camp’s scare-mongering in the EU referendum appears to be coming true: a falling pound, a falling stock market, property funds suspended, property sales falling through and general all-round chaos. But is it bad?

Well, that depends on your point of view. London buyers can finally smell the chance of a bargain after years of a seller’s market, and are making some rather cheeky offers. That doesn’t mean they’re being accepted, but there is definitely a change of attitude.

However, the falling pound has given foreign buyers something of a bonus. Anyone who was already buying a property and sending their money from abroad will have saved upwards of 10% on the purchase price because of the exchange rate. Imagine if your money was held in US Dollars and you were buying a property for £800,000 cash; not particularly extravagant for London. Since the referendum your dollar requirement will have dropped from about $1,175,000 to around $1,035,000 – a saving of $140,000, or £107,000; not bad for doing nothing.

This has massively increased interest from foreign purchasers wanting to buy into London. The city retains a certain snobbery value and is still seen as a fairly safe haven (despite the occasional wobble). So it’s possible that domestic buyers could well end up shooting themselves in the foot by making offers too low to secure the property they want, while foreign buyers snap up all the goodies and bask in the warm rays of a favourable exchange rate.

It’s funny how those complaints from domestic buyers about new build properties being marketed first to foreign buyers have been superseded by domestic buyers allowing those very same foreign buyers into the resale market by driving too hard a bargain. We suspect the current aggressive offering by London buyers will soften into something more realistic once they get tired of viewings and of having their offers refused on the properties they love. We shall see.

Elsewhere, it’s all guesswork. Will corporation tax be cut? Will interest rates go down even further? And will stamp duty be reduced to stimulate the market amid all the drama? Only time will tell. Or maybe it won’t.

The market above £2million was already quiet long before Brexit, although the result of the referendum may give that particular price bracket the stimulus it needs from overseas purchasers, negating the need for stamp duty intervention from the chancellor. But the bottom to middle range, say £700,000 to £1,500,000, could certainly do with an encouraging tickle.

More next month!

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dinosaur-bones
High street estate agency has taken a long time to feel the pinch of online competition, but the world of property is moving away from traditional firms.

There have been countless arguments about why high street agency will survive, but one by one, year by year, those arguments have fallen away as online and specialist estate agents have eroded the monopoly of conventional businesses.

The strongest argument was always that online agencies didn’t offer local expertise, as though they were located somewhere in outer space, rather than at a desk. This was the sell; how can a digital operation in a cloud sell your house in Clapham? It worked for a while, until people worked out that online agents could also be working locally.

The rise of the specialist agent has also had an effect, with owners of unusual, unique or architecturally interesting properties preferring to use someone with a true understanding of their home. In this market, no one cares about your office: it’s your online presence, your brand and your knowledge that count.

The most recent nail in the coffin has been in the suburbs, always the last places to leap into the future and those most concerned with being able to pop in for a chat, see their picture in the window and tell their friends about it. But the suburbs are also where people want the lowest fees. In a land where all the houses are the same, estate agents are seen that way too. Why pay a higher fee when all the agents are in the same location, share the same audience, and do the same marketing? There’s not much call for difference.

Large corporate agencies are taking more than their share in these suburban districts, waging fee wars on the competition and using their buying power with newspapers and magazines to woo vendors with impressive double page spreads in local publications (a total waste of time in terms of selling property, but an effective way to seduce homeowners into using their services). With no property to sell, you can’t do any business, no matter how good an agent you are.

This leaves little room for anything but the most ground-breaking and driven of local agents – something they’re not really known for. Squeezed on fees for their bread and butter business by the bigger firms, and squeezed out of the more interesting properties by specialist agents, it’s likely that most small independent chains will consolidate their operation into one larger office covering several districts, while those with just the one branch will, in the main, simply disappear.

We have proved for well over 20 years that specialist expertise trumps a high street presence every day. If we had a shop front, our expenses would go up, our business would immediately become associated with the postcode where it sat, and we’d lose countless clients in other parts of London and the UK.

In short, high street agency as we know it is breathing its last breath.

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