NAEA Propertymark president Michael Holden, who is also managing director of Holdens Chartered Surveyors and Building Consultancy, has taken time out of his busy schedule to talk exclusively to EYE about the state of play in the market, offer his expert advice, and explain why agents need to offer more upfront information.
So why do estate agents need to give more upfront property information to buyers?
Why? Currently, it can be like buying a car and being told the engine is fine and you drive it away and it blows up.
I do lots of building surveys and there is nothing worse than getting to a property and finding the garage which you thought was included in the sale, isn’t.
Why be lazy and draw a plan with a red line around this boundary when, in reality, a garage which is a really important feature of a property doesn’t form part of the title?
It’s about misdescribing properties – I surveyed another recently; the estate agent said this semi-detached house was a ‘great opportunity for a first-time buyer.’ It turns out it is of non-conventional construction and full of asbestos.
I have to point this out to my client and the sale stops.
Propertymark wants information up front so estate agents can start to give a clearer picture of the property and it doesn’t stop the necessity of having a survey.
I have fairly strong views – not necessarily Propertymark’s which I need to make clear – but I think we should return to something like the HIP, the Home Information Pack. I think it actually worked.
How can estate agents weather the winter slowdown?
Stand up and be counted, be bold, embrace your professionalism and don’t dumb down your fees. Go back to basics; people want to know they are being looked after properly, they don’t want any flannel, but good, sound advice.
You need to have a competitive advantage – I am a supporter of regulation because there are so many out there who come across as experts but aren’t.
Gaining professional qualifications takes time, graft and honesty and I encourage that.
Chasing down fees is definitely not the answer.
What impact will the ban on leaseholds for new houses, announced in the King’s Speech, have?
Up to now, people with an inventive idea of accountancy and profiteering have had an opportunity to escalate ground rents.
My Dad, Richard Holden who passed away earlier this year, bought a house to be close to my mum who was dying of Parkinson’s disease, she was in a nursing home. It was leasehold with an escalating ground rent on it.
My Dad paid £7,000 to buy the freehold reversion. He knew when he came to sell it, which he did, it would be a lot less complicated if he sold it freehold than subject to a 125-year lease.
With flats, the lease should be simple so the buyer knows the liability and is clear about the service charge.
There needs to be further tightening up of professional standards.
Why should agents join Propertymark?
People gravitate to you; it’s providing that reassurance to a client that you are an estate agent with local knowledge, professionally qualified, who’s put the time in.
My Dad was a member of Propertymark in 1972. My brother was a chartered surveyor. I think Propertymark genuinely is member facing, it’s well led with a good board who care about the small practices as well as the large ones.
We are passionate about representing estate agents. Instead of burying our head in the sand we are being bold, celebrating our profession, self-regulating and strengthening our support for our membership.
5 And finally, what makes you smile after a day in the office?
I love what I do, it’s the feeling that I am doing something positive. I don’t see myself as a boss.
You have to look after the people you work with and the overriding thing is kindness, being fair and reasonable. We are a small team of 11; I have three sons and my wife who all work in the practice.
My Dad would be proud. He was at the last State Opening of Parliament in 2022, he was there, sitting in his wheelchair as the future King and Queen walked past.
That meant everything to me.