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29 October 2014

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    Over our Heads
    An Englishman's home is.. his pension?
    George Hrstic
    George Hrstic, 21, manages an Estate Agent in the south St Albans area. But when an Estate Agent can't get on the property ladder - what hope is there for everyone else! He told us all about the current housing market.

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    1. Thoroughly research the area where you want to buy, and definitely get a good grasp of what is actually selling.

    2. Register with as many agents as possible.

    3. Try and find an agent you can befriend and take to the pub so he can find you a nice flat!

    get in contact

    Collinsons have been Estate Agents in the St Albans area for over 30 years, during which time they have experienced many changes in the housing market and currently operate four divisions.

    In response to the increased demand for property in the so called South St Albans area they opened premises in London Colney in 2002.

    George Hrstic is the man in charge and he told us all about the current housing market in the area.

    How is business going?
    Very well. We've been here for 18 months and I think the change of perspective of there being another agent here in the village, some new faces and a different level of customer service has been received very well.

    What brought Collinsons to London Colney?
    I think the amount of registrations we were getting from people who wanted south side, more affordable housing in any adjacent villages to St Albans were so large that we tried to get in here as the demand increased.

    How has the housing market changed in recent years?
    Over the last two years it has gone up quite a bit and it's come back down again and at the moment I think we are at the cooling off stage.

    Everyone is about to start going off on holiday, so it is a good time of year to see how much interest you are going to get. Summer is the prime selling time. Up until the end of August, there are a lot of local buyers around making the market very buoyant.

    What types of clients are looking for property in this area?
    Local people are obviously our first priority. There are a lot of inter-village moves, people that have been brought up here and want to buy their first flat, then their second home, then their three bed semi, and get their kids into local schools.

    We also have people coming in from Watford, Borehamwood and some areas of North London. It's not a vast amount of buyers from those places but they're the usual stepping stones in to St Albans.

    What types of clients are actually buying property in this area?
    People that are selling their flats in St Albans are getting a bit more house over here for their money. Also people from Watford and Borehamwood, and local people that are selling their houses here and want to step up.

    Do you feel this area reflects the true value of property or are people just scrambling for what they can get?
    No, I wouldn't have thought so. London Colney isn't a large place, and I think if you are driving through you can see that we have a lot of local amenities and good local schools.

    So it is attracting the first time buyers which kick start the whole chains. Then you have some larger properties which people are moving into and getting their kids in the local schools.

    How do you see the recent and expected increases in Interest Rates affecting the market?
    Well they stayed the same recently and the phones coincidently started ringing again after that announcement - it sometimes does have an instant affect.

    My friend started his mortgage two months ago and it has already risen by £132! But these rises don't really start to affect the market until you start getting up to £500K plus, but that is something I don't deal with, I can only speak for my division.

    What advice would you offer to a first time buyer?
    Thoroughly research the area where you want to buy, and definitely get a good grasp of what is actually selling.

    Also register with as many agents as possible and try and find an agent you can befriend and take to the pub so he can find you a nice flat!

    I'm afraid I can't inspire much faith for first time buyers. I'm a first time buyer myself at the moment and it is getting increasingly difficult to find a place, because a lot of people from outside the area who do have the money are coming in.

    And there aren't a lot of people putting their flats on the market at the moment either.

    Something that has always been a problem in St Albans is buy-to-let investors. They are buying the flats to put them on the rental market and therefore taking them off the first time buyers hands.

    We've seen days of mammoth price rises before but that ended in disaster for millions with negative equity. What is so different this time or are we heading for a disaster?
    No, things can only fall by however much they have gone up by, and they haven't gone up by too much.

    Go back to last December, when prices were starting to rise on the eve of New Year. The Iraq conflict had finished, September 11th was well gone, the economy was stabilised, the prices went up and the interest rates went up to combat that. They are now sticking and the prices have begun to cool.

    Your advert in the paper actively states that more property is needed and that you have buyers with cash waiting - is this really true?
    Yes, if we searched our books for cash buyers between £100K and £140K.

    A cash buyer can be determined in different ways - they can be unencumbered or have nothing to sell. Cash in some agent's terms doesn't mean they have shopping bags full of money! But there are plenty of people ready to go, who have had their mortgages and have been looking for two years and have got a healthy deposit from their parents. They literally have the money and are ready.

    If so, how often does property get sold the day it is put on the market?
    Not amazingly often, due to the way in which we market the company. We have a huge mailing list and we like to use it. Details will always be mailed out to everyone matching that criteria and everyone will have a fair crack of the whip.

    But if we do get a super four bedroom detached property for under £300K - which is good for round here - it can sometimes go at the first viewing. It's happened before, but it usually gets marketed.

    In an ideal world how would you alter the entire housing market?
    I don't like the legal process whereby you can spend an awful lot of money on solicitor's fees, conveyance costs, survey fees, and even on paying a financial advisor just to talk to you - and then someone can just pull out.

    I think we need to have a more Scottish structure where there is a sealed bid system and you are legally and contractually bound from the minute you offer. This would save a lot of time on everyone's part.

    Now find out about the housing market in Luton >>

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