Your home is your castle, like never before, writes CPS Property Managing Director Art O’Hagan.
We have all been asked to stay at home for all the right reasons.
To protect society during these unprecedented times we are now looking at our most treasured possession in a very different light.
Our homes are the fixed abode for our family first and foremost. To keep us warm, comfortable and safe in times of need.
In all my years as Managing Director of CPS I can categorically state I have never witnessed anything like this before.
The recessions of 1990 and 2008 were very different times as these were financially lead due to the property market overheating, simply the mathematics of “supply and demand”, high street lenders in the market place alongside employment rates are key factors of stability of the property market. I want to clarify they are still in favourable positions ie, lenders with liquidity will still be there without question at incredibly low interest rates, the levels on unemployment will remain low, government subsidies has shielded SME’s in a very protective manner and the demand for buying your home by far outweighs renting where possible.
There is unlikely to be an increase in Social Housing, therefore the “Buy To Let” market will remain strong.
Bringing all these factor into the equation the stability of the residential market will bounce back after this pregnant pause.
In CPS the database of buyers has increased by 9% over the past three weeks due to demand to acquire or rent a home, this confirms to us that the market place is stable although we are witnessing a pause as a result of recommended lockdown.
The turmoil of this health pandemic has had incredible impact on so many in so many ways. My sincere sympathies is with those who have lost so much due to Covid 19, also to those who have lost loved ones who have not been able to grieve with the warmth of the traditional wake & funeral service.
Our community spirit here in Armagh has been inspiring, the dedication shown by all front line workers from the NHS workers to the many caring professions, to the shop assistants and pharmacists; they deserve the utmost respect at this very delicate time, we are very fortunate to have a very focused Mayor, who is reaching out the hand of friendship and support daily.
The least we all can do is support our local high street trader, those who offer the essential services at this time and those who will be opening their doors shortly who will all need your trade plus your encouragement to recreate our community retail hub.
Armagh City Centre needs you like never before. ABC Council in conjunction with Armagh City Centre Management will be launching various initiatives shortly to this effect.
Although I am property focused I am here to assist our community, the retail sector or the public private partnership as chair of Armagh City Centre management, as an Armaghian, I am proud of our City and here to support you at this time of need, look after your family first, your neighbours and the vulnerable, together we can do so much for each other, its natural and its easy. Communication is key.
In final: Stay at home, maximise the much publicised hygiene recommendations and show respect to all those in need at this time.
1. Get your documents in order
Start by establishing where the deeds to the property are, says Art O’Hagan MD of CPS. Talk to the bank to try to locate them, she says. “This will avoid any pitfalls to closing the sale and getting contracts signed.”
If construction, electrical or gas works has been done to the house, you need to be able to provide certificates of compliance for said works, she says. “If these are not in your possession then chase the builder or architect for them.”
If you can’t find the documents then you’re going to need an architect, structural engineer or building surveyor to come view the works and, hopefully, sign off saying they comply. You will also need to get an up-to-date (EPC) Energy Performance certificate. This can be achieved by emailing Ryan@cps-property.com.
2. Tackle the house
With so much time to examine the four walls of every room, many of us have already made mental lists of jobs that need doing. You can make a start by de-cluttering every room and surface, spring cleaning the house and repainting walls, ceilings and woodwork said Matthew Gilpin (CPS Branch Manager Portadown). Cull, cull, cull, is Matthews mantra, store then dump post Covid – 19.
“Go through each room, one at a time, and clear out drawers, wardrobes and presses so that when you move you will have already discarded all your rubbish. Make a pile for charity shops, for recycling and for the bin.”
Wash windows and make sure blinds or curtains are hanging correctly. If not, take them down.
3. Spruce up the garden
Now, more than ever, the garden is a major selling point, says Aron Luff, sales negotiator CPS Belfast “Buyers have realised the value of an outside space, however small.”
Incentivise children to help with the jobs. Weed flower beds, rake up leaves, trim hedges, prune trees and power wash fencing, boundary walls, patios and cobblelock drives and even the exterior of the house. If you don’t own a power washer, you can buy online through Woodies or ask that nice neighbour if you could borrow theirs. Many of the garden centres are shut but some, are selling online and doing home deliveries.
And it’s still possible to order a skip. Recycling skip hire companies has seen a 35 per cent spike in its online skip orders, and a 42 per cent increase in phone orders in the last month. Just don’t fill with hazardous waste such as paints, fridges, fridge-freezers or food waste.
4. Create a To Do List
As you declutter both house and garden, branch Manager CPS Dungannon George Kingston suggests compile a snag list of all the jobs that need professional attention, like painting the exterior, doing the gutters, sweeping the chimney. Start ringing around and booking these in now. This will put you at the top of the queue once restrictions lift and allow you to reschedule if the restrictions extend beyond the May deadlines currently set.
5. Get the house close-up ready
While agents can’t arrange photography or videography under the current lockdown, it is worth noting that all larger agents are offering virtual viewings – a method that shows the property in a more real condition than much of the still photography we’re more used to looking at. Still shots can introduce light and Photoshop out minor flaws, such as telephone cables, electricity wires etc, making rooms more visually appealing suggested Ryan Molloy branch manager CPS Armagh
“With virtual viewing there is no hiding,” “You have to show everything from inside the hot press to other storage spaces and all bedrooms, so all beds have to be dressed whereas in stills photography we might only photograph the best of the accommodation.”
In the period from March 15th – when schools closed – to April 23rd, CPS has had 232 parties attended private and open virtual viewings and received 89 offers on properties, says residential director Eoin, having agreed the sale of 9 new builds & 17 private sales. The most successful have been the one-to-one virtual viewing, he explains.
“The human connection and additional background information is still what home owners are looking for.”
The new prestigious development of Stonebridge Mews is the prime example of forward planning during this time when potential buyers have time to ponder over their future home moves. https://cps-property.com/
6. Check your mortgage eligibility
If you have an income you can apply for a mortgage, says Aoidhan Mc Guinness of CPS Financial Services. “Your income level will dictate lending. Lenders are lending but applying for a loan has an extra layer of observation of income levels such as payslips or a letter/email from your employer that income hasn’t been affected by coronavirus or if it has how it has been affected and for how long.”
If a mortgage is about to be issued, lenders will want to see the same confirmation of ability to make repayments.
If you’re in a job that is as protected as it can be, Aoidhan says it makes sense to use this time to find out how much you can borrow and see if you can get mortgage approval. He says it normally takes about four weeks for those completing mortgage applications to get all the necessary documentation together. Under the lock-down, he has seen this period halved to a fortnight.
Underwriting the self-employed is less straightforward. The sector that you work in will come into play and how your earnings have been affected will also impact the decision-making process, he says.
There are buyers out there, with agents citing an increase in registered buyers since the lockdown came into effect.
7. Sorting life assurance during Covid-19
How will the virus affect your ability to get life assurance (mortgage protection insurance required in the event of an untimely death)?
“Some life assurance companies are now asking would-be clients if they have had symptoms of Covid-19 or have had coronavirus, with some companies deferring underwriting for three months,” says Eoin O’Hagan, director of CPS Financial Services, a personal financial planning firm that deals with life assurance policies that relate to mortgages. “If you can’t get a life assurance policy, it means you can’t draw down a mortgage.”
8. Is it possible to get a deal over the line?
Yes, but expect delays. “Conveyancying is not an essential service but is still happening,” The stumbling block is “land registry” is closed, we in CPS are awaiting some meat on the bone from this department via the Law Society how they proposed to make this an efficient service again, even remotely during these times. “CPS branches are open for business but generally working remotely but delivering every bit as effectively. Documents rarely need a wet signature, this service for leases we have all digitally operational for the past 12 months ”
We have clients coming to the office but observing social distance for handover of keys.
9. Can we pay our rent or an outstanding invoice during these times
Electronic payments has been part of the CPS make up for the past 2 years, all monies are receipted via are possible “pay on line” via the CPS website www.cps-property.com.
We are cashless organisation since Jan 2018. Land Direct is also useful to check whether a property is freehold or leasehold.
10. Watch stock levels
Keep abreast of what is coming to the market, “Stock levels remain low but there will always be parties that need to buy or sell” says Cary Loughlin MRics Head of Surveyor dept CPS Belfast. Some motivated vendors, such as those of some executor sales that have been in the pipeline, may be willing to take a lower price for a cash buyer or someone with proof of funds.” Funds, that is, that will adhere to the new, more stringent Covid-19 requirements. CPS have 3 new developments about to be launched, please register for updates.
11. Any deals to be had?
People who don’t have to sell won’t – and most vendors don’t have to sell says Art. I am not expecting any panic sellers as we to return to the market unless lenders change the goal posts. In the meantime, he anticipates that buyers will be extremely cautious and may not find deals to be had. There may be a window of opportunity over the next six to nine months in certain circumstances but we feel this will be minimal “Buyers and sellers looking to trade up or down should keep in regular contact with their our in-house mortgage broker to make sure that they still have the funds originally available to them.”
Property once again is more stable than the stock market and a better yield return than deposits investments in banks and building Societies.