Pity the first-time seller

Although much publicity and various financial initiatives are focused on the first-time buyers in the housing arena, a Norwich estate agent thinks it is first-time sellers who face even greater financial difficulty, particularly if there is not a great deal of equity in the property to be sold.

Although much publicity and various financial initiatives are focused on the first-time buyers in the housing arena, a Norwich estate agent thinks it is first-time sellers who face even greater financial difficulty, particularly if there is not a great deal of equity in the property to be sold.

“First-time sellers have to pay the estate agent's costs as well as Stamp Duty on the property they are buying since, if it is a step up the ladder, it is likely to be above £125,000,” says Stephen Thorogood, manager of the haart agency in Queen Street and a relatively new face on the Norwich residential property scene.

He took over this central city office about three months ago after several years as manager for haart in Thetford, a smaller town with far less variety in its housing stock. But, despite a much wider choice in house style, age and price he is finding a great deal of interest concentrated in just one sector - the north Norwich terrace.

“I wish there were more of them to sell, particularly at £125,000 or under, because this is what the majority of people want. I estimate the demand for property beneath the new Stamp Duty limit is about 10 for every one available. And since the Government raised the threshold to £125,000 from £120,000, prices have increased by as much as £5,000, but only in this sector and not on properties above the Stamp Duty limit.”


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Recent research from the Halifax shows that first-time buyers now have to save for an average five years for a deposit, compared to three in 2001 and just two a decade ago.

While last year's figures suggest only 320,000 new buyers in the market - the lowest figure since 1980 - Mr Thorogood thinks many of those will have had parental help with the deposit or mortgage.

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He says the haart chain helps in all ways it can financially, including tailored mortgage products and independent financial advice.

The haart agency manager started his career in estate agency in north London in the mid-1980s, so he felt very much at home in Thetford, since many people from London and the Home Counties have moved to the area since the 1960s.

He says Norwich is rather like a small London, with a buoyant housing market and a wide range of properties. He is still coming to terms with the traffic congestion and the one-way system, but is enjoying getting to know his new market place as a valuer as well as branch manager.

Generally stable prices mean affordability is less of an issue than it was, he says. “We are finding that the smaller Norwich homes and flats in which we specialise are selling very quickly. Those priced up to or around the Stamp Duty threshold are going within a week or two weeks.

“My personal feeling is that the local market will remain buoyant during the course of this year, with slight price rises, but nothing dramatic.

“However, the early months of next year will probably see more properties coming on to the market before the introduction of the Home Information Packs, but I don't believe it will be saturated.

“We hope to be one of the biggest providers of the packs, and our hips.co.uk website is one of the largest around.”

Mr Thorogood feels generally confident about the future of the residential sector and the undoubted attractions of Norwich and Norfolk to outside buyers.

“I reckon that generally, across the board, we have three to four times more buyers than properties on the books. This level of general buyer interest reinforces the underlying strength of the marketplace.”

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