At home in England

By Christine Davis:

So, the Italian castle wasn’t for you, nor were you interested in a home in the islands. How about a Georgian country residence and cottage in England?

When I asked Nick Churton  with Mayfair International Realty for a luxury over-the-top property there,  here’s what he sent:

Rowington Hall, Old Warwick Road, near Rowington village

Drawing Room

And here’s what he said:

We Brits are a conservative lot in the main, so I have not anything that is really over-the-top.  But we do have a lovely house standing on land that was given by King Henry VIII firstly to his fifth wife, Kathryn Howard, and then after he had her beheaded, to his sixth wife, Katherine Parr.  So, at least, that is a bit of over-the-top royal behaviour!

Clients of the Jupiter real estate brokerage, Waterfront Properties and Club Communities, who are interested in buying in England would be put in touch with Churton, who said that it’s a good time to buy right now. “UK is a little like Miami,” Churton said. “The hot spots are on fire.

“Post 9/11, traffic stalled from the United States to the United Kingdom quite dramatically, but that has lessened over the years.” Most Americans, he said,  will buy in specific enclaves in central London: Wentworth and Sunningdale and they like Surrey, south of London. “These areas have high United States population counts.

“These are discretionary purchases, and buyers from the United States are buying their fourth or fifth home.”

By the way, coming the other way, he notes that Florida is a popular spot for English buyers, who are interested in a second home for vacations. Ninety percent in that category choose Florida, and in particular, Orlando, he said. “We help them understand what a location has for them, and we point them to the right real estate person in the United States.

“Our real estate culture is very different, and the average Brit would not understand, but we can harmonize those things quite well.”

For us going there, he sent along some UK real estate facts:

• Realtors are known as Estate Agents
• Agents are not licensed (taxi drivers are).
• Most sales people are employed rather than self-employed contractors.
• An Estate Agent’s office is run by an owner or manager with staff consisting of negotiators, as Agents are called. There could be Senor, Junior, or Trainee negotiators, depending on the size of the office or brokerage.

The Sales Process:

The Estate Agent markets the property, finds the buyer, negotiates the terms of the sale between the buyer and seller, and then hands the transaction over to a solicitor (lawyer) who handles the legal aspects. The Estate Agent stays involved to iron out differences and negotiate on issues.

In the meantime, the property is surveyed by a qualified surveyor to check on the structural condition, and he reports back to the bank. At this stage, the price is often re-negotiated or either party can withdraw.

Once the legal work is complete and the finance is agreed upon, the lawyers exchange contracts. At this point, a deposit is paid (usually 10 percent, and a completion date is set.

Once contracts are exchanged, it is rare for the deal to go wrong. If it does, the defaulting party has to pay the other 10 percent of the agreed sale price plus the injured party’s costs.

The time period between exchange and completion varies, but it’s usually under four weeks.

What’s it like for buyers?

This is probably the biggest difference between the UK and US, as buyers in the UK are most often unrepresented as the Agent acts for the seller.

“An Englishman’s home is his castle” is a familiar phrase. Most people in the UK prefer to own their own home rather than rent. Many people, age 40 or more will have started out as homeowners in their 20s. In the past five years, the average age of first-time buyers has changed from 27 to 37 due to high ratios of house prices to wages and restricted lending since the bank crisis.

There are some buyers agents, but they charge the buyer a fee based on the purchase price so tend to be used only by cash rich / time poor buyers or by firms relocating several staff.

In the UK, there is no MLS, so a buyer has to go from agent to agent to see what’s for sale in an area. It’s not unusual in a large town for there to be more than 30 estate agency firms.

There is no referral concept in the UK. With fees as low as they are, there is not enough money to share.

Over the years, several firms (Century 21 in particular), have tried to establish US style MLS and referral systems, but sellers’ obsessions with paying as little as possible in fees have caused these to fail.

Also, in the UK, until very recently, information about prices achieved, past sales, etc., have been very private and simply not public knowledge as they are in the US. It’s probably for these reasons that buyers don’t work with agents as they do in the US as they have to buy from whoever has the house they wish to buy and know that agents cannot be seen to be working for anyone but the seller, so the relationship simply isn’t there.

Here’s a link to the brochure: Rowington Hall sm













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Christine Davis

About Christine Davis

Christine Davis is a freelance writer who covers real estate, homes, health and science.