Looking for a building plot

I remember in my estate agency days a buyer would register looking for a plot of land and I’d think “dream on”. Well as a property finder for Cheltenham Gloucestershire and The Cotswolds I now have Clients looking for just that – a plot of land in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire and it’s surprising that there are are a so many building plots with planning permission on the market – not exactly what we want I grant you, but we’ve come close. And I’m pretty sure, given a bit of time, we’ll find what we want. We’ve got a good budget (up to £500,000 for the “right” thing). Maybe we won’t find it in Cheltenham, The Cotswolds or Gloucestershire, but maybe more likely in Herefordshire – which my Clients like a lot and which is, after all, a most beautiful county for sure. Just got to keep on the hunt. Doggedness often pays off in the end. As they say inspiration plus plenty of perspiration!

Meeting of minds

I met with Jo Aldridge (a fellow property search agent) today at The Butchers Arms Sheepscombe – great place to meet for lunch. I’ve known Jo of  “Jo Aldridge Property Hound” fame for many years and helped her with client requirements when I had my estate agency business in Cheltenham. Jo is a property buying agent finding houses for clients in the South Cotswolds, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. We meet on a regular basis to exchange ideas and discuss the current state of the market – it’s great to have someone like Jo to compare notes with. 


What do buyers search for to find a property search agent?

Well it’s a constant quandary for me and I’m sure many other property search agents: how do I attract people to my website who may need the help of a property search agent in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and The Cotswolds? – my help that is. Do folk actually actively look for a property finder on the internet or do they just stumble upon one in the natural (or not-so-natural) course of their on-line property search. I guess it’s people who have trawled through Right Move, Zoopla, Prime Location and the like and are digging around a bit deeper. Then they perhaps type in property search Agents Cotswolds or property search agent Cheltenham. Or do they? But why would they type in something like Property finder Cotswolds and Gloucestershire or property finder Cheltenham if they had never thought to research the services of a property finder in the first place? It’s beyond me. A good friend of mine doubted that people would even carry out such a search in Google in the first place; but I’m not so sure.

I’ve spent many hours on good old Google (as has my web designer and other marketeers I have employed in the past) really ferreting around with all sorts of word searches – obvious and not so obvious – and there really isn’t a straight-forward solution. It’s slightly random I’d say. Maybe they are searching for estate agents and just come across us property search agents completely by accident. Believe me I’ve done my market research and spoken to many SEO “specialists” in my quest for the panacea to this quandary and there just really isn’t a simple solution. But then there rarely is.

So if anyone’s reading this and felt like giving me the benefit of their “threepennyworth” do ping me an email – I’d be eternally grateful.



Could an attractive, well-maintained garden add value to your home?

Cotswold property finder Peter Hampshire says: “I have no doubt in my mind that an attractive, well presented garden can help you achieve the optimum price for your house and may contribute a good deal in the buyer’s decision process when making a shortlist of suitable properties.
“Whilst a house with a drab, unkempt garden, and a tatty shed will still sell (at the right price) just a few hours work and a little simple planning (to both front and back gardens) can help you to get the best price you can. I say front and back gardens because often, although the back may be presentable, it’s the front garden that lets the side down. And what’s the first thing the buyer sees, either when they’re doing a drive – by with sales particulars in hand – or arriving at that critical first viewing? – It’s the front garden they see first; it’s those much coined buzz-words “kerb appeal”. So if the front garden is attractively presented it could well influence potential viewers making the call to the estate agents. (Also germane to putting a house on the market is having a nice smart front door – but that’s another topic altogether!)
“Having an “up-together” shed is a real plus too – rather than a tatty old thing that looks as if a strong gust of wind might blow it over any minute. It’s great on the day of the move to be able to move your accumulated garden tools from your old house straight into a shed. Easy. Job done.
“In my 30ish years in the home buying and selling business I’ve found almost without exception that buyers want a garden, not necessarily a large one but one that’s fairly easily maintained. And although a shed isn’t critical, it does tick a box – it’s one less thing for the buyers to think about when they move in.
“It’s a life-style thing too; the potential buyers need to picture themselves enjoying an early evening glass of wine sitting outside as the sun goes down; or with friends having a barbeque on the patio. If you have enjoyed your garden then others will too.
“So take a look outside and consider a low-cost make-over. It’ll work, trust me; before starting my property finding business I used to run an estate agency

Hiring a property search agent – a cost effective option?

Is it just for the super-rich or celebrities? or could hiring a property finder really be a serious alternative to doing the search yourself. Could it really be a cost effective option for many? If the cost was reasonable and justifiable well, yes it could be. And if it really did save you time and money . . . . . well then definitely, a resounding “yes”. And if the cost was an affordable flat – fee, fixed right at the beginning; whether you were looking at a house or flat at £300,000 or £1M +? After all, surely it would be the same amount of work for the property search agent looking on your behalf whatever the price you are looking in?

So, an affordable fixed fee for finding a house in Cheltenham, The Cotswolds or Gloucestershire? Wouldn’t that seem a serious option to the hours you may spend trolling through the property portals on the internet, arranging viewings with estate agents, travelling maybe 100 + miles to view a property that’s clearly not a runner in the first place. Or making arrangements to see a house which goes “under offer” the day before you’re due to see it. How frustrating is that!

Then hiring the services of a property search agent at an affordable fixed fee really is an option for the serious buyer. After all you’re taking on somebody locally based in the area you’re looking in. With a good deal of experience and knowledge of the local property market. Who is well connected locally and able to offer you expert advice.

Let the property search agent take the strain!

House selling advisory service

Although I no longer have an estate agency business per se, the telephone number of my property finding business remains the same as the estate agency  and I continue to get enquiries from past clients, friends and acquaintances,  and other general referrals -often from past clients – looking for assistance and wanting general advice on house selling. I’ve always offered an advisory-type service during my time as an estate agent (goes with the territory really)  and there are a lot of folk who could benefit from help in this direction.

I felt a tugging (which I confess I just couldn’t resist) to offer this unique service. It’s a part of the business I enjoy greatly; – advising people – better to give than to receive and all that. It can be a minefield out there – particularly for the older generation, widows and divorcees, all types of people really, who could, I’m confident, benefit from the sort of service I can provide. Interestingly no one else seems to provide such a service.

Whether it’s deciding timing and where to go to, how to go about getting an up-to-date price and which estate agent to use when selling, and how best to go about finding a new home to buy. And, critically, whether to sell at all. You have to have a clear reason to sell your property – it’s a hugely expensive and an emotional roller-coaster too. You have to have a really good, and I mean a REALLY GOOD reason to sell. As an old friend of mine once said to me “when in doubt, do nowt” – sage advice indeed.

The advisory service, run from my my Prestbury base, will compliment the the home finding business in Cheltenham and the Cotswolds, and draw upon the 30 plus years working in the estate agent business. Give me a ring, love to help if I can.

Use a property finder to find your perfect Cheltenham Home

I received an interesting enquiry at the end of last week – someone looking for a property in Cheltenham, living on the south coast (a hundred a fifty miles from Cheltenham by my reckoning), and just short of the time to keep coming up to Cheltenham to look for their ideal family home –  in this case a house with 6 bedrooms and a garden for their children “to roam in”. They didn’t want me carry out what a property finder or search agent would generally do, i.e. source houses for them, as most clients require, but they asked if I’d look at “potential” properties on their behalf and as they directed, as they spotted them on the various internet portals, and for me to make arrangements to view with the estate agents.  They wanted me to check out things like the area the house lay in and the local environment, and any history I could find out about the property and its environs, through my local knowledge and contacts. They wanted a simple report on each property and more importantly my opinion as to suitability. What they really wanted to find out was could they really find what they wanted within their budget and in the right area. They would then press the button on my “pro-actively” sourcing properties through my extensive network of local estate agents and contacts.

Interestingly they hadn’t sold their own house – acting as a property finder in Cheltenham I wouldn’t usually agree to work for someone who hadn’t sold their own house first. Actually they’d had two buyers previously who they’d lost because they’d nowhere to move to – thinks, maybe if they’d engaged my services at a much earlier stage they may have moved by now. As it happens I suggested they pay me an hourly rate for my services in the first instance. I haven’t heard back yet!

An aside: It’s like “chicken and egg” – do you start looking for a house before you sell, or get a buyer then start to look for a house. Problem is, that in a market where not much is coming up for sale many estate agents (and sellers for that matter) will  look favourably on someone who has a buyer for their own house; or better still has actually sold and has the cash in the bank. As many a property search agent would say “Cash is King”.

Finding the right house to buy in Cheltenham can be big “ask” from 150 miles away. It’s a long way to travel to see a house that I could tell you clearly just isn’t suitable. So it’s 150 miles here, an hour or so to see the house and have a bite to eat, and then drive the 150 miles home again – it’s a day of anybody’s life – a day of your life you can’t get back again. A property search agent can save you a huge amount of time, not to say effort. When a small shortlist or even that “absolute peach” of a house is viewed by the property finder, that’s the time to jump in your car and beetle up to Cheltenham; expecting to see a really good representation of what you want. Rest assured help is at hand!



Making a Property Finder work for you


So what can a property finder do for you ?

How can they “add value” to helping you find a house in Cheltenham and the Cotswolds? Perhaps I should clarify the fundamental difference in function between an estate agent and a property finder (or property search agent to give them their correct title). Well it’s simple. The estate agent acts on behalf of the person selling and the property finder works on behalf of the person buying. The estate agent is trying to get the best price for the person selling and the property search agent is trying to negotiate the best price for the buyer.

The property finder will first discover from the buyer exactly what it is they require – what they really “need” not what they “want”; two different things. (I say this because needs/wants can change during the search process). How many bedrooms? do they need a big garden? Remember, there will ALWAYS be compromise. Also to outline the geographical radius – this can change too. And to fix a budget, give or take a bit of room for negotiation and, of course, factoring in the cost of any work.

The search agent will then get to work, scouring the internet, papers and periodicals; but more importantly they will register (often in person) with estate agents, in the good old-fashioned way, with local and some not-so-local estate agents. You may say “well I can do all that” and you can. But here’s the nub of it: the property finder will have spent time fostering good relations with the estate agents; and their mission? to get tipped of with that real peach of a property before it comes onto the market, before the brochure is prepared and the ink only just dried on the letter to their client.

The search agent makes it his business to be the first one get to hear about a fresh property – and that’s added value.

Helping you find your perfect Cotswold home

Property search from a distance

The first two or three property search expeditions can be exciting – well fun at least – exploring a new area, staying a couple of nights in a nice boutique B & B or small hotel. But sadly you don’t find what you’re after; and yes, you’ll have to make the odd compromise, but three trips turn into five trips and it all gets to be a bit time consuming and, let’s face it, a bit heavy on your “hard-earned”, let alone the time spent hurtling up the motorway and getting lost down the odd country lane. What started out as fun turns into a chore and, more importantly becomes frustrating (and let’s face it, there’s plenty of other frustrations in life;  searching for cheap plane flights on Goggle for one). Then there’s the abortive journeys viewing houses that are clearly unsuitable – and someone could have told you this on the ‘phone. Viewing houses that you discover went “under offer” to a buyer living locally who saw it two days ago. Well sometimes that’s the way it goes, but need it be like this? It needn’t. You could hire a property finder, a locally based property expert, right at the outset (once you’ve figured out where you want to be). Yes, it’s an additional expense, but you could find it’s worth, that old cliché – its weight in gold.

Supposing, right at the outset, you sit down with your chosen Property Finder to discover your property criteria – by the way, many of them are really nice people, and most ex-estate agents (but don’t hold that against them); they really do know their “patch” and have a good handle on property prices. But most importantly they make it their business to have a good report with local estate agents, who will sometimes tip them off with a property “not-yet-on-the-market”, and believe me, these can often be the gems, one’s you may not get to see otherwise; but that’s another story altogether, and something I’ll write about another week.

The Cotswolds cover a vast swath of rolling countryside, villages and market towns. Cheltenham and its environ is bigger than you think; and Gloucestershire has an area of 3,150 km² – that’s 1,220 sq miles to you and me. It’s a big and diverse county.

So, hiring a property finder? Money well spent?

Trust me, I was an estate agent