PFK, the multi-disciplinary professional practice and property business has announced pre-tax profit of £60k in its interim results for the 6 months ended 30th June 2020. The housing…
PFK, the multi-disciplinary professional practice and property business has announced pre-tax profit of £60k in its interim results for the 6 months ended 30th June 2020.
The housing market started the year positively but, of course, the group’s performance was impacted significantly by the truly unprecedented implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, PFK traded profitably during the first half of the year and is in a strong financial and operational position to deal with any more adverse pandemic effects. The benefits of PFK’s multi-disciplinary practice have also been apparent as Land Agency and Planning were able to operate “normally” with no staff or small numbers of staff furloughed and both traded very well.
The national lockdown on 23rd March saw PFK’s group Estate Agency network close temporarily for 2 months and the housing market come to a standstill overnight. With virtually no transactional business during lockdown, house sales (exchanges) for the half year were significantly below the comparative period in 2019.
There were also a number of board changes as previous Managing Director, Stephen Lancaster, resigned in March and previous Head of Planning, Rachel Lightfoot left in July 2020. Andrew Green was appointed as Managing Director and PFK’s Heads of Finance and Estate Agency also strengthened the board, respectively Joseph Webb and Lynne Lancaster. Chair, John Rowlands, stepped into an executive role for a time and other non-executive directors all stepped in extensively to help the business through this period.
During lockdown PFK furloughed the majority of estate agency workers under Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and immediately transitioned its remaining workforce to full remote working. Whilst already operating digitally, the new methods of working (including virtual viewings, more videos of properties etc) utilise technology to an even greater extent. PFK also rapidly began planning for recovery to ensure a swift and safe return to operations as soon as the housing market restarted ensuring stringent health and safety protocols were in place and all branches and corporate office made Covid-19 secure.
Managing Director, Andrew Green said:
“The majority of our management team have been with us for many years with exposure to all types of markets in the past, but this unexpected public health crisis is incomparable to anything else. However, swift and decisive action and the implementation of cost saving measures has meant that we have so far navigated effectively through the crisis and I think are well positioned for the future.”
Head of Estate Agency, Lynne Lancaster adds:
“We prioritise people at all times be it our colleagues, customers, suppliers ensuring their health, safety and wellbeing minimising impact on them and delivering continuity of service. We are incredibly proud of how our people have dealt with this changing and fast paced situation demonstrating their resilience, professionalism and fortitude in the face of adversity and the quality of our response.”
After lockdown ended, PFK saw a very significant recovery in the housing market and this has continued through the summer. Compared with the same period last year recent trading in July shows new applicant registrations are up with significant interest from out of area buyers. Home owners continue to show desire to re-enter the market with market appraisal activity increasing and new instructions the highest the market has seen in recent years. The Chancellor’s stamp duty land tax holiday has also provided further impetus to the market.
PFK has also reviewed the operating model and has decided to close the physical offices in Whitehaven and Kirkby Stephen which are now digitally serviced from centres in Cockermouth (covering all of West Cumbria) and Penrith (covering Penrith and the Eden Valley) respectively.
In line with national trends footfall into our high street premises has reduced significantly in recent years with customers preferring to access our services digitally. With this in mind PFK are also taking the opportunity to relocate the City centre Carlisle estate agency branch into the Rosehill offices later this year, where access on the edge of the City and near the motorway is easier and there is plentiful car parking for customers.
Land Agency and Planning departments have also traded well during this period with staff operating remotely. David Stout, Head of Land Agency adds:
“We were quickly able to adapt our ways of working to deal with the pandemic and so able continue to look after our clients’ affairs and properties without interruption. It has been a difficult, but also very busy, period for the rural economy which has generally speaking managed to adapt to operate relatively normally.”
Unfortunately, PFK’s Auction Saleroom had undoubtedly suffered as a result of the pandemic in terms of how it operates. In order to concentrate on our core property professional businesses, we have decided to close this non-property business with the result being that the Saleroom has completed its final auction of our customers’ antiques. Sadly, this has led to a number of staff having to be made redundant and we’d like to thank departing colleagues for their input. They will be missed.
“Going into the second half of the year residential property market conditions are much better than we could have hoped for. Additionally, our Land Agency, Surveying and Planning teams are all doing well and, whilst we are mindful of the economic and other risks which the pandemic holds, we are also financially sound, and we think well placed to meet the challenges and take the opportunities which lie ahead. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our fantastic staff who have seen us through this unprecedented period.”
Before and After
I’ve been mulling over this Blog for weeks. Before and After. What? The film starring Meryl Streep? Sadly if today you Google “Before and After” you get dreadful pictures…
Before and After
I’ve been mulling over this Blog for weeks. Before and After. What? The film starring Meryl Streep? Sadly if today you Google “Before and After” you get dreadful pictures of Beirut and the devastating ammonium nitrate explosion. No, not that either. Before and After Covid-19 would be far too ambitious – I can just remember a time before, but I’m sure there’s a long way to go before we can say “after” Covid. I wanted to write about something much nearer to home in more than one sense of that phrase: about a local property which has been sympathetically improved, enhancing life for the occupiers and fully in keeping with this beautiful part of the world. Unfortunately, we are neither “before” or “after” but still “during” Covid restrictions, and so the work is still awaiting the attention of skilled craftsmen. Well, now you know what I’ll be writing about at some point in the future!
We might not have reached “after” Covid yet but there have certainly been changes in the property market. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has raised the threshold at which stamp duty kicks in to £500,000, to help people move home, save them up to £15,000 in tax, and boost the economy. This will last until the end of March next year. The surcharge for non-owner-occupied properties remains in place but whichever way you look at it, there are savings of up to £15,000 on house purchases in and around Keswick.
My office has recently been insanely busy and we’ve undertaken more valuations in a week than in a typical pre-Covid month. Perhaps I shouldn’t use the word “insanely” because there seem to be a number of good and sane reasons for this upsurge. Obviously people who have been thinking of moving are now motivated by the Chancellor’s generosity, which is exactly what he’d hoped for. And for the first time in my years managing this office we have sufficient numbers of properties coming onto the books to meet demand – for the moment. Perhaps the attractions of living in a more rural and outdoors environment as opposed to urban or suburban locations have also become more apparent during the Covid period. If so, either as a main home or as a holiday home, where better than Keswick to enjoy fell views, good food and drink, wonderful walking and water sports.
On the investment side, bricks and mortar can be viewed as again offering a safer bet than the Stock Market with its high profile Fund Management problems and the FTSE-100 index currently labouring at mid-1990’s level. These are just random reflections of mine so please take professional advice before investing. But, whatever the reasons for the current level of interest in properties in and around Keswick, I’m most certainly busy!
If you are thinking of buying or selling property in this area, the sooner I hear from you, the better. And please stay safe!
Hannah Sims – Manager at PFK Estate Agency, Keswick
Busy, maxi boom market
As we head for late summer, Lynne Lancaster, Head of Estate Agency assesses the property market. Covid19 hasn’t been the only outbreak this year. There has also been an…
Busy, maxi boom market
As we head for late summer, Lynne Lancaster, Head of Estate Agency assesses the property market.
Covid19 hasn’t been the only outbreak this year. There has also been an outbreak of property sales and lettings since lockdown. The press has called the current property market a mini boom but we would call it a maxi boom.
Mini booms occur when there is above average activity. Maxi booms happen when buyers are queueing up, there are multiple offers for most properties on the market, and deals regularly go to best and final offers only to exceed the original guide prices. This is what we are currently experiencing.
The lettings sector has not been left out of this frenzy as there also continues to be enormous demand for rental properties.
Our phones have been ringing off the hook, emails have doubled, WhatsApp also and the numbers of visitors to our website and social media pages have skyrocketed.
Many things have changed since the pandemic and one of these changes is in the attitude many of us have in relation to how and where we want to live. The demand continues for more spacious, greener living with the opportunity to have a working space at home. The temporary reduction in stamp duty has not only helped many second and third time buyers, but it has also helped holiday home and buy-to-let purchasers.
As we head towards late summer our phones continue to ring and there is no let up in demand. We don’t know how long this demand for property will last, but for buyers and sellers right now it is a boom market. So our advice is; strike now whilst the iron is hot.
Arrange your free valuation today by contacting your local PFK office below…