A whole month has passed. Schools are back, but the summer is still here. I’ve spent the past week at a couple of completed projects, filming and talking to past clients about how much their new homes have transformed their lives. How they really love coming home and drinking Hambledon sparkling wine. We have little collaboration going on; Hambledon Vineyard supplies the fizz, and we have a party in one of our completed homes with clients and their friends. We will be doing this again over the next few months. It makes for an enjoyable evening, especially with this climate change thing improving the wine and the weather. I’m off out in my V8 this week to make the weather even better.
Over to Lisa for this week’s newsletter, where we hear from Neil Maxwell of estate agents, Fry & Kent, about the state of the property market and catch up with one of our builders, Mark Fitzgerald.
So over to Lisa this week with our aforementioned monthly newsletter and this week’s links. I hope you enjoy reading it. Sign up to receive our newsletters – no spam, promise!
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All the best
The UK housing market and predictions for the future
This week I spoke to Neil Maxwell, one of the directors at Southsea-based estate agents, Fry & Kent.
According to Reuters news, house prices in the UK hit an all-time low this week. Is this reflected in what you’re seeing?
We’ve definitely seen a softening of prices but there isn’t a collapse in the housing market. We are still selling properties, but they are mainly buyers and sellers who are making life changes.
What does this say about the housing market in the UK overall?
It is my belief that the huge under investment in housebuilding in previous years has created a large shortage of affordable homes across the country, and there is no short-term fix for this. In a supply and demand chain, when there is a shortage inevitably prices only go up.
With escalating mortgage costs this will create a hiatus for the moment but if and when rates drop, I expect the market to pick up again very quickly as all the people currently sat on the fence will come into the market.
What does this mean for people trying to sell their home right now?
It means they need to get the right advice from experienced professionals. Using online valuation tools is not a precise science, for example it won’t tell you how to make the best of your home, and if making improvements or alterations will increase the value.
And what about buyers? Given that sellers are usually also buying another home to move to.
It’s my belief that buyers are a lot savvier now than at any time in history. With the tools at their disposal, they are quick to spot fantasy prices and make up their own minds.
And sellers appear to be willing to adjust pricing on their onward purchases to make a deal work.
Fry & Kent are based in Southsea – is the market in Portsmouth/Hampshire different to other parts of the country? (And if so, how?)
The market differs in that getting on and off the island can be frustrating and difficult, so most people choose to live on the island if they work here. Add the geographical constraints of the island to a growing population, and the existing value of the housing stock is going to increase over time.
What are your predictions for the next 6–12 months? Don’t worry we won’t come back and challenge you next year (well we might!)
It’s my belief that as we head towards the spring, mortgage rates will come down and the market will come to life very quickly.
Is it a good time to invest in home improvements? I.e., might it increase the value of your home when the market picks up?
It can be. We dealt with a case recently where a £20k remodel on a house netted the owner an extra £100,000. But there’s a risk that if you overspend you may not reap the rewards, so striking a balance is very important.
Builder of the month – Mark Fitzgerald of MJF Builders Ltd
“When I run over the day’s work, I want to feel that I’ve done the best work possible.”
Meet Mark Fitzgerald, builder, boss and family man. Self-confessed tunnel-visioned perfectionist.
“I lie awake at night working out construction problems in my head. I’ve always been driven to do a job better than how I was taught to do it or shown by someone else. I suppose I’m a perfectionist. I just want everything to be right. I won’t rest until I’m happy with the construction.
“If the building regs say the minimum size of timber or thickness for something, I’ll probably want to use something bigger, better or stronger. I could increase my profit margins by doing the minimum but that’s not how I operate.”
In fact, he may well be the only builder I’ve met who says he refunds customers if materials cost less than he originally quoted and was paid for. Which isn’t often these days, he says, given the spiralling cost of materials. Still, it’s a refreshing approach.
With his passion for quality in everything he does and his open, likeable manner, it’s not difficult to see why he’s always in demand. Customer recommendations are plentiful, and he and the team are often invited back to people’s homes for barbeques and gatherings to mark the end of a project.
When you see Mark with his team together, it’s obvious that they’re his second family – not in the literal sense (although one of them is his uncle) but in the sense that they’re a close-knit bunch with a strong bond who work together in sync. His right-hand man, Neil, has worked with him for 17 years and they have an easy affinity. I suggest they are more like brothers, and Mark jokes that despite just a 10-year age gap it’s more like father and son because of all the advice he gives Neil.
“The whole crew have been with me for years and we look after each other. We know each other well and it just works. I think we enjoy coming to work because we get along and all love what we do.”
Mark started out learning how to lay patios and bricklaying over 25 years ago, so you could say he learned from the ground up. He rapidly developed his skills in all aspects of construction and confesses to being one of those annoying people who only need to see something done once to grasp it. He’s been running his own successful business, MJF Builders Ltd, for 17 years, loves his job can’t imagine doing anything else.
When he’s not building for other people, he’s usually working on his own home which he has been extending and perfecting for the last year or two. His other passion is his family, and he has two young daughters who keep him on his toes.
“I go to work, I do the best job I can, and I look after my family,” he says. “When I’m at work I’m the boss; when I’m at home not so much,” he laughs.
Mark’s other projects designed by Carl include:
- A dated bungalow reimagined
- Victorian home extension
- Side & rear extension creates a spacious family home
- Reconnecting a townhouse with the garden
Before and after
This month’s before and after photos come from a home on the river Hamble. The owners said: “We were absolutely delighted with how Carl turned our wish list into multiple realities.”
See more before and after photos.
What would you like to read about?
This is the second of our monthly newsletters and we hope the articles and tips are landing well with you. Tell us what you’d like to see more of and what you don’t like.
You can get me at email@example.com
This Week’s Links:
Semi-detached Edwardian home for sale in Southsea with Fry & Kent
An historic gem on the market for a cool £3.25m
Take a trip from London to Istanbul by train
Main image credit: Mike Cooter of Make Light Work