Guide to buying a house in probate
Property search agents are often in the rare position of being alerted to local houses which may be offered for sale once probate is granted. However, high quality houses in probate can generate a sense of urgency among potential buyers who may need a steadying hand to guide them through the purchase of a probate property.
For those looking to buy a house in probate here is a guide from West Sussex property search agent Jennie Hancock on how probate works and the key points to be aware of.
What is probate?
Probate describes the administration of a deceased person’s estate following their death. Broadly speaking, it is the process that ensures the terms of their will are executed as written. If there is no will, a legal process is instigated to decide who benefits from the deceased‘s estate.
Applying for the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’) after their death is called “applying for probate”.
The difference between grant of probate and letters of administration
If the deceased left a will, a ‘grant of probate’ will be issued to the named executors of the will. Whereas if the deceased left no will, this is called “intestacy” and ‘letters of administration’ are received by the persons entitled under the laws of intestacy. The assets of a deceased person frequently include property. It is often the disposal of a probate property that gives the executors of the will the most work.
When is probate required?
Usually probate is required when a property forms part of the deceased’s estate but may not be required if it is jointly owned by a living spouse or partner who would automatically inherit the property.
Can I apply for probate myself?
Individuals can apply for probate themselves if they are an executor or an administrator and are in possession of the original death certificate. Alternatively, they can appoint a solicitor or probate expert to do so on their behalf. There is a probate application form PA1P to complete and there is a government Inheritance tax helpline to help you with the forms.
How long does it take for probate to be granted?
The grant of probate is usually issued within 4 weeks of receipt of the application documents. The entire probate process can take up to 6 months to complete but can be longer depending on the circumstances and complexity of the estate. The Inland Revenue can take as long as five months to process capital gains tax and inheritance tax so plans to dispose of assets should only be put in place once this has been calculated.
Can you clear a property before probate is granted?
It is possible to clear a property of possessions before probate is granted particularly if the property falls well below the inheritance tax threshold of £325,00. However, this is often a contentious issue with families where there is more than one beneficiary and legal advice should always be sought before commencing a house clearance.
Can I buy a house before probate is granted?
In certain circumstances a property may be sold before probate is granted. For example, if a surviving spouse or partner of the deceased is a joint owner and wishes to sell the property it can be sold in the usual way. However, if the deceased is the only name on the title deeds of the property, probate will be required before the property can be sold.
The property may of course be marketed, and a property purchase may proceed even as far as exchange in rare circumstances although the property purchase can only be completed once probate is secured.
Can I put a house on the market before probate is granted?
If a person dies without leaving a will, the executors will be unable to market any property until letters of administration have been issued.
However, some estate agents do not take the time to check the distinction between letters of administration and probate and will be willing to market the property if requested. But a sale will not be allowed to take place until letters of administration have been granted.
In order to avoid any complications arising during the sale, it is usually advisable to obtain probate before making any decisions regarding the marketing and sale of any property included in the estate. However, given the length of time it can take to secure probate it is often a good idea to obtain valuations and begin marketing the property beforehand, to allow the sale to take place quickly after probate has been granted.
How to buy a house in probate
The points above are only a guide to what to be aware of when buying a house in probate. The complex issues of probate require specialist legal knowledge and acute attention to detail. We recommend engaging the services of a specialist solicitor who is experienced in the field of probate and letters of administration.
Jennie Hancock of Property Acquisitions is often in an auspicious position to be alerted to probate property, having spent a lifetime dealing with property in the Chichester area. Jennie deals with local solicitors and agents handling estates on behalf of families as well as chartered accountants, and surveyors. She has an impressive network of valuable contacts with local professionals and agents that keep her well informed prior to houses coming onto the market, or probate being granted.
For Property Acquisitions’ clients it can be a great opportunity to learn about quality or rare homes ‘prior to probate’. A further advantage is that there is more time to consider a property, compared to the usual situation when a special house which may not have changed hands for 30 years is offered on the open market. Being at the front of the queue prior to probate is a huge advantage.
If you have any questions or would like advice on buying a probate property, please do not hesitate to telephone Jennie Hancock at Property Acquisitions on 07776 452128 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
How Property Finders help Last Time Buyers to Downsize
There has been much government emphasis on first time buyers in recent years with Help to Buy and the Bank of Mum and Dad helping millennials whose salaries have not kept up with house prices. However, a report earlier this year for the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, “The Last Time Buyer: housing and finance for an ageing society” highlighted the increasing importance of incentives for last time buyers to downsize if the whole property market is to start moving again.
The importance of the last time buyer market
The report looked at ways of enabling older people to release the substantial wealth that is tied up in larger properties to free up housing stock for younger families. Some 65% of the national housing wealth (estimates vary between £2.6 - £4.5 trillion) is thought to be in the hands of homeowners over the age of 55. Not only would downsizing help to ease the lack of housing supply, it would also free up funds to support older people with the cost of care in their later years.
Who are the last time buyers?
Typically couples with children having flown the nest, or people living alone. Reports refer to last time buyers in their 50’s and 60’s, but you could argue it’s even older than this. Many 50-year old property owners are still working with school age or newly graduated children at home. With mortgages now available for octogenarians, the last time buyer is certainly not confined to the 50 – 60-year old demographic.
Help for people downsizing
With an ageing population estimated to reach 17.4 million people reaching retirement age by 2040, how do you encourage this sector of the market to downsize and make way for the next generation of home buyers? Jennie Hancock, a leading independent West Sussex property search agent based in Chichester believes the answer is in working through common fears about downsizing and focusing on the many upsides:
Fears of downsizing:
• Costs (stamp duty, selling fees and removal costs)
• Lack of suitable properties and a lack of space
• Reluctance to dispose of family heirlooms.
• Not ready for the retirement development format
• No space for visiting children with grandchildren
• No tax incentive to do so.
• Hard to move on your own.
Benefits of downsizing
• New mortgages for over 55’s and even for over 80s’ making it easier
• Less maintenance in a smaller property
• Improved accessibility for those with restricted mobility
• More energy efficient, warmer and save on bills.
• Release equity which can be invested to fund care costs later in life
• Find housing in an area which better suits a new “retired but active” lifestyle
• Ability to move closer to where children have settled to start families.
Jennie also agrees that greater choice is needed for the last time buyer in terms of design, practicality, energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs. The call to abolish stamp duty for last time buyers has increasing support and could unlock this sector of the property market with benefits further down the housing ladder.
Property search agents help downsizers
An independent property search agent is best placed to help you make your downsizing move. Not only are they likely to have a list of buyers interested in your property, but they will also have an unrivalled knowledge of the most suitable properties for downsizing in the area. So, a property finder can facilitate both ends of the transaction, helping you sell and find your ideal home for the next stage of your life.
Downsizing in West Sussex
Jennie Hancock of Property Acquisitions, the leading property search agent in West Sussex, has over 30 years’ experience in the local property market. With her previous background as a West Sussex estate agent before taking up the mantle of a search agent, clients she has sold property to in the past are now turning to her to find their perfect downsizing home. Jennie offers an efficient, discreet home buying service for buyers whether downsizing or looking for a larger home. To get in touch please call Jennie on 07776 452128 or email her on email@example.com.
The Secret World of an Independent Property Search Agent
We offer an insight into the secret world where property is bought and sold “off-market” bypassing the traditional estate agent middle-man. It used to be that only the super-rich and famous would employ an independent property search agent but there is a new breed of seller who favours discretion over attracting a huge buying audience and an easy transaction over a protracted process handled from start to finish by a local expert.
Why do people sell off-market?”
Most sellers of premium properties know the value of their home will be in its rarity and no longer see the need to have it mass marketed online so that everyone can speculate on their reasons for selling and have a window into the interior of their home. It is estimated that outside London at least 1 in 5 properties over the £1 million mark are sold off market. This number has doubled in the last 10 years.
At times of market unrest, when certain properties take longer to sell, private vendors are increasingly opting for a more discreet selling model. They understand that if they market through a well-known high street estate agent, half the county will know within days that they are selling and more importantly remember how long the property has remained on the market.
How to uncover the “secret” properties
So how to access these properties? Enter the independent property search agent. They don’t have big shouty websites as they rely almost exclusively on word of mouth recommendations and their local networks include solicitors and often well-established estate agents that may have access to properties which they have sold in the past.
Many buyers think that if they are diligent enough about keeping up to date with all their alerts on the major property portals they will see all there is to see. Not so, says West Sussex independent search agent Jennie Hancock. In most of the home searches she has conducted, the properties exchange hands without ever hitting the property portals.
Discreet rather than secretive
Jennie Hancock is well known locally as West Sussex’s best-connected property search agent, having grown up in the area and worked in property for over 30 years. If you need a West Sussex home search, look no further than Jennie’s website at Property Acquisitions. Amazingly Jennie doesn’t just rely on her little black book, such is her encyclopaedic knowledge of the premium property market in and around Chichester. And she’s been around long enough to have an unrivalled network of contacts in the area, ensuring she is the first to hear when someone is considering selling even before the decision is made. Discretion is a property search agent’s guiding mantra. Just because you have heard a snippet of property gossip at a social get-together or local networking event, it doesn’t mean you have to repeat it, but you can most certainly act on it.
Benefits of using a West Sussex home search agent
The other benefit of using an independent property search agent is the speed with which transactions can take place. Everyone knows the painstaking pace of local searches and conveyancing, but Jennie simply taps into her local network to get the information requested far quicker than the average estate agent. Jennie understands the potential sticking points between buyer and seller and navigates her way smoothly through these with the diplomacy of an experienced overseas attaché.
All this doesn’t mean that the role of the estate agent is redundant, but it certainly pays a buyer to have someone onside who knows all the local estate agent teams well enough to have an honest, if “off the record” discussion about a particular seller’s motivations. And estate agents treat buyers who have engaged an independent property search agent far more seriously because they know there is serious intent to buy rather than just an idle enquiry. This relationship takes years to build and the rapport with agents and solicitors are key.
So, what is the secret of an independent property search agent?
In a crowded confused market where estate agents spend much of their time fighting for ever diminishing instructions, the property search agent works solely for the buyer and discreetly taps into their local network to uncover the hidden gems, the properties which remain secret until the deal is done. For Jennie it’s not a job, it’s a lifelong passion and the networking is part of everyday life rather than a 9-5 activity.
To uncover the hidden West Sussex properties, speak to Chichester’s best kept “secret” independent property search agent, Jennie Hancock on 07776 452128. Or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Six principles for negotiating a reduction in the price of a property
In a housing market where uncertainty is fuelling some of the biggest spreads between initial asking prices and prices actually paid, it’s more important than ever to understand the fundamentals of negotiating the price of a house down while remaining attractive as a buyer.
When you do find a property that you want to call home, remember these six negotiating principles to help guide you on how to talk down a sale price in a way which will reinforce your buyer credentials.
1. Secure finances ahead of any negotiation
Have your finances in place and be prepared to move quickly when you find a house you want to buy. You wouldn’t go high street shopping without cash or a credit card so similarly don’t make an offer without cash in the bank or a mortgage offer in place. Most buying agents will only take on clients who are in a position to proceed so it’s important to be realistic. If you offer on a house and need to sell yours first, it doesn’t put you in a strong negotiating position and a low offer won’t be taken seriously. Buying agents often advise clients to take a chance by selling their property first and renting if necessary when a sale is needed prior to purchase.
2. Investigate the circumstances of the sale
A good buying agent will usually know the seller’s circumstances. For example, ask whether it is a forced sale due to a divorce or redundancy? This is where a smaller, more local buying agent comes into their own. Unlike bigger regional property search agencies, they generally know the houses and who owns them long before they come to market. This is especially true of the larger more interesting country and coastal houses which have been in families for years. If you’re really lucky, a local buying agent may have previously worked in estate agency and have sold that property in the past.
3. Don’t underestimate the power of local networks
Your network can be your most powerful tool in uncovering the hidden gems which rarely come to market before selling. Most experienced buying agents have relationships going back years and also keep an eye on the obituaries to predict when a good property may be coming to market. If you have school age children, the parent network at the school gate is particularly useful. Outside London there are far less than 6 degrees of separation and local news about divorce, death and employment status are inevitable subjects for discussion at dinner party tables! If you don’t have this network or are relatively new to an area, work with a local buying agent who will ideally have grown up in the area, put their children through local schools and will not only have their own network but can access that of their parents’ generation too.
4. What should you compromise on when buying a house?
Keep your head when you set out to find your dream house. The perfect house which ticks all of the boxes rarely exists even when money is no object. Accept that an 8 out of 10 house can be the right home and don’t chase the impossible. If buying with a partner be prepared for tough discussions about what you are both prepared to compromise on. For example, you might find a beautiful house in a fabulous setting, but it may be within earshot of a major A road and you can hear the traffic noise from the garden. Consider how these issues might impact you on a day to day basis and whether the traffic is likely to become something you no longer hear or whether it will become a constant reminder that you should have bought a house in a quieter spot. The most common compromise is on the size of a house versus its location.
5. Investigate previous offers and current interest
If a property is brought to your attention by an estate agent, it is important to establish the history of the house. Has it been on the market in the recent past and then removed? If there was a previous offer, why did it fall through? This is where a buying agent who has long standing relationships with all local estate agents can be of real value. Relationships built over years result in honest information about a property which is unlikely to be revealed to a buyer, who is new to the area. Do remember that estate agents are acting on behalf of vendors and while they need to match buyers appropriately, they will only reveal as much information as they are legally obliged to. Valuable more detailed information can usually be uncovered by a search agent.
6. Don’t get hung up on facts and figures
While there is a need to understand at what price similar houses have sold for in the area or the same road, there are no absolute values when it comes to the upper end of the market. Price per square foot is irrelevant if that property happens to have a unique selling point. How can you possibly put a metric on a view over the sea or a downland valley?
Ready, Steady, Negotiate
Once you have established these six areas you will be armed with the tools you need to negotiate the best price for your desired property. Above all, it is essential to be personally prepared both financially and emotionally before entering any property negotiation. Buying agents are usually best placed to negotiate your offer and frequently cover their finder’s fee by the saving they manage to secure.
How Successful Search Agents Find Off-Market Properties
Successful search agents rely on a depth of local knowledge which can only be learned over many years of working in property in a particular area. Since the property business is as much about ‘who you know as what you know’, this detailed knowledge of the area combined with a powerful network is why Jennie Hancock is such a pioneering, successful search agent in West Sussex. Jennie reveals how her deep understanding of the local area and her exclusive network uncovered a hidden gem for a fortunate client.
The Client’s Brief
Jennie’s client, who had been registered for approximately 6 months gave a detailed brief for their desired property. Primarily, a unique location within a 5-mile range of local schools as the client emphasised the importance of an easy school run. Compared to the location, the client noted that the square footage of the property was not of equivalent importance.
“Patience is key for both search agent and client. If you are prepared to wait you can be rewarded with a wonderful property.” - Jennie Hancock
Acquiring Off-Market Property
A chance conversation with an acquaintance alerted Jennie to the imminent sale of a particular property she had first encountered in 1997. Initially owned by the Goodwood estate, the original cottage burned down in 1992, leading to the owners employing prestigious Sussex architect Neil Holland to help lead the reconstruction. Neil designed a versatile, beautiful, Georgian house; the aesthetics honouring the style of the era the house originated from.
The Rubbing house is built from brick and flint, with a separate coach house, terrace, and gardens, boasting beautiful views of The Trundle, The South Downs, Goodwood Race Course, Chichester Harbour, and The Isle of Wight.
The Work of a Search Agent
Acting immediately on the conversation regarding the imminent sale, Jennie initiated the process of acquiring this property based on the similarity between the features of this house and the client’s brief. Her concrete network led her to leading estate agent Savills’ offices in London and Petworth, who assisted her in the property evaluation. Jennie then swiftly organised a viewing for her client, leading to the acquisition of this exclusive property before the house was listed publicly. The beauty of the transaction was that it worked perfectly for both buyer and seller as the seller avoided a barrage of viewings with Jennie’s introduction of one strong committed buyer.
All parties were delighted, not least the new owner of this remarkable house: “Jennie provided a first-class service throughout the transaction and crucially, using her wealth of contacts established over 30 years in the property industry, managed to source a unique, dream house completely off market”.
If you would like to work with Jennie to uncover your ideal property, please contact Property Acquisitions on 01243 531133, or email email@example.com
The Best Villages for London commuters near Chichester
Top Villages close to Chichester
I am often asked by my London clients what I consider to be the best villages near Chichester in West Susssex and it is a question which always sparks lively debate at local dinner parties! We are lucky to be spoilt for choice in the area and it is hard to highlight some while omitting others but putting my Property finder hat firmly on my head, I am going to risk controversy and pick my top villages close to Chichester, which provide relatively easy access for a London commute.
1. Bosham best waterside village
For a waterside setting close to Chichester, there are few who would dispute Bosham as the best village in West Sussex. Right in the heart of Chichester Harbour, an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Bosham has long captured the hearts of homebuyers looking for a perfect sailing destination in a picture-perfect setting. But it is not only Bosham Sailing Club right on the quay which attracts homebuyers; Bosham has a thriving community with a post office and shop, several pubs including the Anchor Bleu, a good state primary school and a first-rate Arts and Crafts centre. Waterfront properties come on the market rarely and fetch record-breaking prices. In fact, Bosham was the first village near Chichester to achieve £1000 per square foot, a record for house sales in Chichester, where the average for City centre properties is between £400 and £500 per square foot. It’s a slightly longer rail commute than from other villages, but you do have the choice of travelling via Chichester to London Victoria or via Havant to London Waterloo.
2. Funtington best for Coast and Country access
Funtington Parish includes East Ashling, West Ashling, West Stoke and Kingley Vale, and makes the list for its relative proximity to the coast and its position in the South Downs National Park. But Funtington, 4.5 miles west of Chichester, has far more to offer than just an idyllic rural location. The village has an excellent primary school in West Ashling rated Good by Ofsted, a post office, Grange Farm Shop in Funtington itself voted one of the top 30 farm shops in Britain by The Times, and a perfect country pub in the Fox and Hounds offering great food after a long walk in the beautiful Kingley Vale Nature Reserve. And for those interested in local wildlife, Dunreyth Alpacas offers a unique alpaca walking experience designed to please families with young children!
3. Compton and West Marden best for South Downs views
The Parish of Compton also includes the villages of West Marden and Up Marden and for property search purposes you could just as easily include North Marden and East Marden with this group of delightful hamlets and villages. In the heart of the South Downs National Park on the West Sussex/Hampshire border, about 6 miles from Petersfield and 8 miles from Chichester, Compton has a small close-knit community with a local primary school, a cricket club, film club and a tennis court. The village tea-rooms and Coach and Horses Pub provide refreshment for locals and visitors alike. For those who enjoy rural living but need to be able to get to London swiftly, this group of villages is perfectly located to access the Petersfield – London Waterloo rail line.
4. Lavant best village closest to Chichester
Just a couple of miles north of Chichester, the first sign that you are entering the village of Lavant is your arrival at the locally renowned Earl of March pub, favourite with the Goodwood crowd, local walkers and anyone who enjoys good food in a wonderful setting. Taking its name from the River Lavant which runs from nearby East Dean to Chichester, the parish includes the three villages of Mid, East and West Lavant. Apart from the attractions of the pubs, including the Royal Oak at East Lavant, the village has two well-attended churches, Lavant CE Primary school, and for the equestrian minded, Lavant House Stables. Lavant is easily reached from Chichester or Petersfield for a choice of routes to London.
5. West Dean, (Chilgrove and Singleton) best locations for Goodwood
The parish of West Dean includes the hamlet of Chilgrove and both enjoy relatively easy access to Petersfield via the B2141 and back to Chichester on the A286. Singleton is a little further north but deserves mention as it is such a pretty village with a real community feel centred around the village CE Primary school and The Partridge pub with its glorious garden. West Dean, Chilgrove and Singleton are fantastic locations to put down roots in the South Downs with Goodwood racecourse right on your doorstep, the fantastic Weald and Downland Museum and West Dean House and Gardens, host to many horticultural and Arts events throughout the year.
The best of Chichester's villages
There are of course many other villages to tempt those looking for the unique West Sussex lifestyle – very few places in the country offer both coast and countryside from your doorstep for those lucky enough to live here. This is also why good houses are so difficult to secure and those moving from outside the area really should employ the services of a property search agent for two reasons: to access the best properties before they are openly marketed and to avoid paying the wrong price. A good property search agent will often secure a saving which more than covers their finder’s fee.
If you are tempted to discover more of the best villages near Chichester, please get in touch with me, Jennie Hancock at Property Acquisitions at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01243 531133 for a no-obligation chat.
How to Define your Property Search Area
When people move to a new area of the country they are unfamiliar with, it can be difficult to define a specific search area when looking for a house to buy. Draw it too wide on the property search portals like Rightmove and you will be overwhelmed with properties and may struggle to shortlist areas where you actually want to live. Draw your search area too narrow and you may be missing out on your dream house. Property Search agents can be instrumental in helping you determine the areas you can live, which will support your lifestyle rather than hinder it.
Defining your search area around work needs
Many families move to West Sussex lured by the country lifestyle within commuting distance from London. Whether you are making the move while still working in London or lucky enough to have made a job move locally, this will be a critical factor in defining your search area. If still a regular commuter to London you will need to have access to either public transport (the fastest rail link is Havant to Waterloo which has 5 trains an hour during rush hour stopping at Clapham Junction) or fast roads (the A3 can have you in London within an hour if you are driving at the right time of day). Therefore, consider your weekly commuting needs as the first priority and actually test the journey time, don’t take an estate agent’s word for it!
Defining your search area around school choices
Many families move to West Sussex tempted by the opportunity to escape the ruthlessly competitive education system in London and take advantage of the huge choice of excellent schools in the county, which often have much reduced wait lists for places or are even able to offer a place immediately, which would be nothing short of a miracle in London!
The majority of these schools like Westbourne House Prep School and Seaford College are successfully combining academic rigour with an extensive extra curricula programme in an environment befitting a stately home offering acres of green space. Children benefit from the additional space to breathe and the opportunity to try new sports at weekends like horse-riding and sailing which would be impossible in London for all but the most committed parents.
Defining your search area around lifestyle choices
Although work and school are decisions made primarily with your head, the heart will rule the reasons families are probably making a move in the first place. So many families who move permanently to West Sussex and the Chichester area have first holidayed locally to take advantage of the beaches and watersports on offer or the equestrian activities in abundance in the South Downs.
For those who don’t already participate in these activities, they simply enjoy the relaxing effect of the superb countryside and can be a spectator at the world-famous Goodwood Races throughout the summer while taking advantage of the huge choice of country walks and pub lunches in winter.
Many people making the move out of London to the country assume they will have to sacrifice their enjoyment of cultural pursuits but this is not the case in West Sussex. Culturally blessed with stately homes, castles, racecourses, art galleries, West End standard theatres and sporting events, it is not surprising that West Sussex is one of the most popular areas to buy property.
How a property search agent can help you define your search area
Work, school and lifestyle choice have all played a part in helping you define your search area. But how to combine these requirements and find the perfect house ? This is where a property search agent comes into their own and can really help you define a search area which will combine all three, while offering the type of house you actually want to live in.
Jennie Hancock of Property Acquisitions advises against being too rigid in drawing up the initial search area; “In truth there are many parts of West Sussex, which are not as well known as Bosham, Petworth and Midhurst and my job is to introduce these lesser known areas, which often have superb properties at a lower price than the better known locations.”
Spoilt for choice of location but a lack of property
If you are considering moving to West Sussex, you will be spoilt for choice in terms of lovely cities like Chichester and Arundel as well as an abundance of gorgeous villages either in the glorious rolling South Downs or in the coastal Chichester Harbour AONB. However, you may not be spoilt for choice in terms of available properties. This is where a property search agent is essential to uncover the hidden gems which may not even be on the property portals. Call Jennie at Property Acquisitions on +44 (0)1243 531133 for a no obligation chat about how to define your search area in West Sussex and find the house for sale, which you may not find on your own.
Property Acquisitions and finding houses off market
Trying to find a home with land and a view in West Sussex proves that money can’t buy you everything as highlighted in the recent Financial Times article entitled “Chichester: where house hunting isn’t plain sailing” which underlined the difficulty of finding good properties in Chichester due to the limited development potential around the City. One property finder took even took to the airs in his client’s private helicopter to prove that the house and land specification they were after simply did not exist. This is no surprise to Chichester’s property search expert Jennie Hancock of local search agency Property Acquisitions, who is renowned for her encyclopedic knowledge of property in the Chichester and surrounding areas.
“The locations where my clients desire property, such as the South Downs National Park or Chichester Harbour, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, do not allow new development due to their protected status. We therefore rely on existing properties coming up for sale, and the best homes often stay in families for generations. This is why finding properties “off-market” is often so critical to a successful search”, explains Jennie.
What is an off-market house sale?
An off-market house sale is one where the sale goes through without any public advertising. The sale will often still go through an estate agent but the agent will not have employed their traditional advertising methods in securing a buyer. The agent relies on their network of registered buyers and sometimes only needs to identify one buyer for whom they know the property fits the bill. Some London and countrywide estate agents claim they are selling up to 30% of their properties off market, particularly at the very premium end of the market where a property with land may be changing hands for between £5-10 million.
Developers are increasingly in on the action too, relying on word of mouth tip-offs from members of the public to spot derelict houses which might be ripe for development. One London property development company pays in vouchers for a tip-off and a percentage fee to the finder if it progresses to a successful transaction.
Why do people sell “off-market”?
If vendors know they have a unique property and they don’t want their house sale carried out in the public eye, a discreet estate agent with a large database of registered buyers can prove an effective route to a quick sale at a premium price. The off-market route is more often employed when a vendor is selling a large, expensive or exclusive property. Often these client vendors are extremely wealthy or in the public eye and don’t want their private business transactions in the public domain for everyone to see. They simply don’t want the attention which a premium property sale always attracts. They desire the attention even less if the buyer of their property happens to be a well-known, wealthy celebrity. There is always a huge amount of press interest once it is known that a celebrity is purchasing a local property as witnessed when Kate Winslet bought her private beachfront home in West Wittering in 2014 having found her home near Petersfield too accessible to the public.
The advantages of selling off-market
Selling off-market allows vendors to test the market and quietly see whether their property will command the price they are hoping to achieve. It means they don’t have to commit publicly to a price at which they are willing to sell. At the same time, when the agent discreetly tests the water with an asking price and it is not achieved, the property portals don’t register the subsequent drop in price which often de-values a property in a buyer’s mind.
Anyone who has spent any time house hunting on property portals will know that the best properties have gone before they even hit the websites. In addition, any property which has been marketed online for more than a month may be presumed to have “issues” which have prevented a sale, reducing buyer interest.
Conversely, the buyers “chosen” by the agents to view the off-market property feel they have exclusive and prior access and will be more inclined to offer a premium price to secure something not readily available to the general public.
Buyers themselves are often driven by privacy, exclusivity and even an element of snobbery. If they have several million to spend, they want to feel they are spending it on something rarely available.
How to find off-market properties in Chichester and West Sussex
The shortage of premium properties in Chichester in the most desirable villages and waterfront locations means that finding one is nigh on impossible without the insider knowledge of a local search agent. Chichester search agent, Property Acquisitions invests a huge amount of time in finding out not only what is desired in property terms but what makes the client tick in terms of lifestyle. It is not just a box ticking exercise – it is knowing the hearts and minds of the buyer client.
Once the search agent has that in-depth knowledge of the buyer, the search begins in earnest pulling in all the local contacts – solicitors who are dealing with Probate, developers, local landowners, and of course the estate agents who are quietly marketing on behalf of the vendors. Excellent relationships with local estate agents is paramount to a successful search. Estate agents know that the search agents’ reputation is built on absolute discretion. A buyer coming through a search agent is a committed buyer with funds and although the search agent may drive a hard bargain based on their knowledge of local property prices, the deal can often be agreed much faster due to the long-standing relationship between search agent and estate agent. Mutual trust in the agent and the property finder is key to success.
How Property Acquisitions found not one, but two off-market properties
Property Acquisitions specialises in this discreet world of property selling under the radar. Director Jennie Hancock uses all her local contacts built up over a lifetime in Chichester, keeping her ear to the ground at social functions too. Jennie managed to not only find an off-market property for a client buyer looking for a family home in Westgate, but simultaneously find an off-market home for the vendors in Walderton. The vendors were not actively marketing through an estate agent but Jennie happened to know the property and its owners and more importantly have the right buyer at the right time.
If you would like to take advantage of Jennie’s genuinely unique local contacts to find your home in West Sussex, please call Jennie on 01243 531133 or email her at email@example.com
Why Londoners use local search agent Jennie Hancock when they move to West Sussex
When Louise Cameron and her family relocated from rural Oxfordshire to Chichester, she knew with absolute certainty that she wanted to live within the City walls after years of making a 22-mile round trip to the nearest supermarket! At the time, there was only one suitable house on the market in central Chichester, so she bought it without another thought. Now with the benefit of hindsight, Louise rather wishes she had employed the services of local Property Search agent Jennie Hancock of Property Acquisitions.
We find out why Louise is recommending Jennie’s expertise to friends and family, who are making the move to West Sussex.
If you were so sure of where you wanted to live, why do you wish you’d used Property Acquisitions?
We bought the first suitable house in the location I thought would be the most convenient, but it is a Grade II listed building and we could have benefitted from a larger kitchen and better outside space. I wish now I could have dicussed all the options with Jennie. Jennie was subsequently recommended by many local friends, who had been unsuccessful when trying to find their homes on their own, but for whom Jennie had managed to undertake hugely successful home searches. Jennie’s near perfect success rate would have made it an easy decision to employ her.
What do you think Jennie can do for buyers?
When people are moving from another country, county or, as is often the case, from London to West Sussex, they will simply not have the contextual knowledge to make an optimal decision on where to live. No matter how well they may be placed financially, agents can sometimes fail to bring suitable properties to individual buyers’ attention. Jennie makes it her business to get to know her clients so well, their lifestyle, the cars they drive, the art they like - even the time they go to bed(!), that sometimes properties that may at first glance not appear suitable, have potential that Jennie is able to highlight and this has resulted in purchases which have gone on to become wonderful family homes - such was the case for my friend, Tinka.
Jennie’s business, Property Acquisitions, also provides a unique benefit for those moving from the local area and wishing to remain local, as in our case. Jennie is so well known by local and indeed London agents, that they bring local properties to her first. They know her clients are serious and in funds and this makes their job easier and therefore their sellers happy. A win-win situation
So, you think sellers also benefit from the buyers using Property Acquisitions?
Yes, indeed. Many local owners don’t want people knowing they are selling and they certainly don’t want, if it can be avoided, the general public traipsing through their home. They are often selling for reasons such as a death in the family, a divorce, or financial difficulties. It is very likely that they will either know Jennie, or have heard about her reputation and know she is likely to have a client, who would love to buy their house. Both parties will achieve what they are looking for in terms of price and timing - about as hassle-free as these circumstances can be.
What makes the Property Acquisitions service so valued in the Chichester area?
The key thing that Jennie offers is being Chichester born and bred. With 30 years inside market knowledge, there isn’t a single property in Chichester and the surrounding areas in West Sussex that she doesn’t know. With Jennie’s network of local contacts, she seems to know which properties will come on the market almost before the owners themselves do! Jennie somehow manages to get her clients first through the door of outstanding properties, guiding them to see a property’s long-term potential even if it does not immediately tick every box for them.
An important advantage for Jennie’s clients is pricing. It is so easy to to offer too much when you fall in love with a property, unless you know what it is worth in these parts - very difficult if you are coming from London or elsewhere. Estate agents want to achieve the highest price for their clients, whereas Jennie will know what other houses have sold for and ensure you remain cool headed and not pay more than the market value, always confident that she can and will find you another property!
We hear that you have recommended Property Acquisitions to other family members?
Absolutely! My brother and his wife live in a compact mews house in Notting Hill, London. They want to buy a country home with land for weekend getaways close to family in West Sussex and to indulge my brother’s passion for farming. Their lives are so busy they have no time for house hunting nor do they have the specialist local knowledge. This makes them perfect candidates for Jennie and they are utterly dependent on all the skills she brings to the table.
She is working on their search right now, knows what she has to find and I am absolutely confident that she will find the property they want, if it exists.They certainly won’t find it without her!
Would you recommend Jennie’s Property Search service to others?
If you’re serious about finding your dream property, you need someone with specialist local knowledge to find it – you won’t do it on your own. Jennie’s business and social contacts locally and in London make her the nucleus of property searches in Chichester and West Sussex.
When Jennie finds you the perfect property, it’s the difference between getting on with your life or not, having your dream home or not. It’s that simple. A fantastic service and one well worth investing in. After all, what is more important in our lives than hearth and home!
If, like Louise’s brother, you are struggling to find your perfect home in West Sussex, and think you might like to work with a local expert, please call Jennie on 01243 531133 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Choose a Property Search Agent
Having made the decision that you need help with your property search and acquisition, the big question is how to choose your property search and buying agent. As it is one of the biggest investments you will ever make, your selection is critical to achieving your property dream. It is not just about buying into a company’s skill and expertise, it is also about the relationship you will have with your agent. This is not merely a transactional relationship, there has to be trust, good communication and compatibility.
Here is a guide to choosing your property search agent with confidence:
Make a short-list of property search agents in the area you are looking to purchase. Rate them according to the criteria below:
• Does the agent have people on the ground covering your entire search area?
• How long has the buying agent been established in the area? This will be an indication of the extent of their local knowledge and local contacts.
• Ask how many properties they have secured and request references. Do call prior clients and ask whether there was any aspect of the buying service they were unhappy with.
• Ask for proof that they find properties “off market”. Most of the good properties at the top end of the market never see an estate agent’s window or make it onto the property portals.
• Ask for evidence of their relationship with property developers as well as estate agents
• Are they aware of council planning applications and other issues affecting the area?
• Can they recommend local architects, builders, surveyors and conveyancing firms?
Remember that a good buying agent must be able to assess a property’s value, know the seller’s situation, negotiate with minimum stress and also spot the “under the radar” properties whose particulars don’t do them justice.
Clarify the service
• Does the agent visit you in your current home to fine-tune the property brief? This is an important element in their understanding of you and your lifestyle.
• How long is the contract valid? For example, most agents will charge an initial retainer fee for a period of up to 6 months. What happens after this initial period?
• How are the fees structured? For example is the fee calculated according to a percentage of the buying price or is there an option to pay a percentage of the saving on the asking price?
• How many properties does the agent expect to view on your behalf and how many will they shortlist to view with you?
• How will they provide feedback on shortlisted properties?
• Is it a complete end-to-end service? Does the service include the all-important negotiation on price and all elements of the buying process through to completion?
• Are they truly independent? This is essential to be sure they are acting in your best interests.
Is it a good match?
• What type of properties have they secured? Some agents have a particular expertise in city centre town houses while others will specialise in rural properties. If they are specialists at finding retirement cottages in the countryside and you want a family townhouse, clearly this is a mis-match!
• What budget are they used to working with? They need experience in securing properties within your price range.
• Look for evidence of good relationships with previous clients and local agents and developers.
• Is there a conflict of interest – i.e. are they instructed on a similar property brief with another client?
• Will they make the effort to get to know you and go the extra mile to secure your ideal property?
And finally don’t underestimate the importance of this last point:
• Do you like the property search agent? Rapport is essential if they are to fully understand what motivates you as a buyer.
Once you are confident that you have satisfactory answers to the above, congratulations, you are ready to instruct your property search agent!
With confidence levels high you should enjoy a harmonious relationship built on trust, understanding and good communication leading to the successful purchase of your dream property.
For an informal chat about your property search, please contact the author of this article, Jennie Hancock on email@example.com or call her on 01243 531133.