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Company Update

September 2020 Group

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…

Company Update
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Company Update

September 2020 Group

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.

Andrew concludes:

“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

August 2020 Blog Estate Agency

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
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Before and After

August 2020 Estate Agency

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

August 2020 Blog Estate Agency

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
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Busy, maxi boom market

August 2020 Estate Agency

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… 

Contact

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Need help managing your estate?

PFK Land Agency has helped with a broad range of land and estate management requirements. You name it, we’ve got the experience.

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Need help managing your estate?

PFK Land & Development is here

PFK Land and Development offers integrated professional property services by bringing together our specialists.

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PFK Land & Development is here

Free, no obligation consultation

PFK Surveys have an expert team of chartered surveyors who offer free, no obligation consultations.

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Free, no obligation consultation

Make Hay While The Sun Shines 

July 2020 News Estate Agency

Lynne Lancaster, head of estate agency, assesses the Chancellor’s stamp duty changes, designed to stimulate the property market. With demand for property at a welcome high level, one thing…

Make Hay While The Sun Shines 
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Make Hay While The Sun Shines 

July 2020 Estate Agency

Lynne Lancaster, head of estate agency, assesses the Chancellor’s stamp duty changes, designed to stimulate the property market.

With demand for property at a welcome high level, one thing was needed to help create what could be the most active market since the great recession and that was greater affordability.

The Chancellor has gone a long way to help through his mini-budget. From 8th July 2020 until 31st March 2021 there will be a temporary stamp duty holiday on the first £500,000 of all property sales in England and Northern Ireland. This does not affect Scotland and Wales, which have their own property transaction tax regimes.

Under Sunak’s change buyers of second homes and buy-to-let properties will also benefit, but they will still have to pay the existing 3% extra duty due on the entire price. During this tax holiday, the average stamp duty bill will fall by £4,500, and almost nine out of ten people buying a main home this year will pay no stamp duty at all. Anyone buying a home for around £475,000 will save almost £14,000 in tax.

We in the property industry have long called for the government to review this tax as it has become a serious hindrance to buyers. Although seen as unfair by many, the government’s annual return from stamp duty is around £12bn – roughly equivalent to 2% of the Treasury’s total tax income. However the Prime Minister has said in the past that he wanted to review duty up to £500,000 and reduce the top rate – on homes costing more than £1.5 million at a suggested reduction from 12% to 7%.

The new stamp duty level and the increased desire by many to make a lifestyle change mean this is the best time for years to buy a property and as any farmer will tell you, make hay while the sun shines.

If you would like any further information, please contact your local PFK office. https://estates.pfk.co.uk/contact/

PFK Open The Doors

June 2020 News Group

PFK are pleased to be re-opening to the public their Estate Agency offices in Carlisle, Penrith and Cockermouth from 10 am Monday 1st June, strictly adhering to current Government…

PFK Open The Doors
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PFK Open The Doors

June 2020 Group

PFK are pleased to be re-opening to the public their Estate Agency offices in Carlisle, Penrith and Cockermouth from 10 am Monday 1st June, strictly adhering to current Government guidelines. The Estate Agencies worked remotely throughout lockdown and more recently have been assisting clients and buyers with safe physical viewings when these recommenced.

Lynne Lancaster, Head of Estate Agency said:

“We feel the time is right to re-open these offices and, of course, we are doing so with safety as our number one concern. We have taken a little time to re-design our offices to deal with Covid-19 operating requirements and, of course, we are using PPE as safely as possible.”

The property market is now very active with Rightmove reporting its busiest ever day on 27th May, with six million visits to its listings.

Lynne adds:

“We are seeing a lot of interest in the market and our staff have been extremely busy both with new listings and dealing with existing properties. As you might expect we have been working extremely hard on our digital offerings and virtual viewing tours have been very popular. It really is now a case of, From Mouse to House!”

During the pandemic a core team of professionals operated the Estate Agencies remotely and staff have been brought back from Furlough as the business restrictions have been eased.

Andrew Green, Director, comments:

“Our Estate Agency staff have done a sterling job during lockdown and, whilst our virtual viewings and tours have been very well received, we are looking forward to seeing a little more of our clients as the “new normal” begins.”

PFK’s other departments have adapted well to the new working regime. PFK’s Land Agency (which advises mainly farmers and landowners) has worked remotely “as normal” throughout the pandemic. PFK Land and Development (which assists clients with property deals and planning) has been operational throughout with staff operating remotely, as has Surveys.

PFK Auction House and Saleroom has been operational throughout carrying out extremely successful and widely acclaimed Virtual Auction Sales to an international net of buyers on-line via the Web.

For more information contact Lynne Lancaster on 07503 636555/lynnelancaster@pfk.co.uk or Andrew Green on 07711 912019/andrewgreen@pfk.co.uk

Mortgage Lending Tips – FAQ’s

May 2020 Blog Estate Agency

PFK refer customers to Pollard Scott for mortgage advice and they have answered some of the frequently asked questions below.  If you would like to speak to them regarding any…

Mortgage Lending Tips – FAQ’s
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Mortgage Lending Tips – FAQ’s

May 2020 Estate Agency

PFK refer customers to Pollard Scott for mortgage advice and they have answered some of the frequently asked questions below.  If you would like to speak to them regarding any mortgage advice you require, then please contact the relevant PFK  branch via estates.pfk.co.uk/contact/

Surveys/Valuations
Surveyors are back at work and booking appointments, there may however be a slight delay due to the back-log created over the last couple of months.  Where possible lenders are trying to do what is called a Desk-Top Valuation, however this is not always possible.

Can you BUY a house if you are furloughed? – YES
Lender criteria varies, however all will want to assess affordability based on current income, which if you are furloughed is more than likely to be 20% lower than usual; unless of course if your employer is making it up and then there are some lenders who will accept your full pay as long as written confirmation can be obtained from the applicants employer.  HOWEVER, the maximum mortgage loan to value at this time is 90%, therefore an applicant will have to put at least a 10% deposit down.

Standard evidence would still be required regarding Payslips, Bank Statements, ID, Proof of Address and Existing Lenders Mortgage Statement 

Can you re-mortgage if you are furloughed ?– YES
Lender criteria varies, however all will want to assess affordability as mentioned above.

Standard evidence would still be required regarding Payslips, Bank Statements, ID, Proof of Address and Existing Lenders Mortgage Statement 

Can I re-mortgage or look at buying a new property if I have taken a Payment Holiday? – YES

Taking a payment holiday should not affect a person’s credit record and therefore there should be no problem in sourcing a new deal.

I am a First Time Buyer, will it be difficult for me to get a mortgage? 

Whether you are a First Time Buyer or Mover all lenders will assess affordability and the applicants credit record, so being a First Time Buyer won’t stop you getting a mortgage.

FTB will need at least 10% deposit and be able to meet the lenders criteria and credit scoring.

Is the Market Moving?

May 2020 Blog Estate Agency

Within a day of the government announcement that the home buying and renting process could re-start, the telephone calls and emails began – and we have not stopped since. People…

Is the Market Moving?
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Is the Market Moving?

May 2020 Estate Agency

Within a day of the government announcement that the home buying and renting process could re-start, the telephone calls and emails began – and we have not stopped since.

People who, have decided in lockdown to make life changes have now joined those who were already on the house moving path earlier in the year. In the new year we saw a Brexit bounce and now it seems we have a double bounce.

We are speaking to dozens of buyers keen to escape city & town environments or in need of a lovely outside space. Then there are those looking for properties with room for a dedicated workspace. We have heard from people who have re-evaluated their relationship with their home and now want something different.

Our commitment to those who have suffered during this period with ill-health or other issues is steadfast. Our team’s years of experience and in-depth local knowledge are already aiding those who need the support and commitment of sympathetic but practical property professionals. Those who are in difficulty with property matters are not alone in this. We are here to help and we know how to help.

We are taking all the precautions recommended to keep customers and our colleagues safe.  If you need to make a move safely and wisely please contact your nearest PFK office.

Paul Doyle, Carlisle Branch Manager.

A personal account of a Great-Grandfather's bravery during the Second World War

May 2020 Group

This year the 8th May marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. For the vast majority of us, this day is predominantly symbolic as we have no…

A personal account of a Great-Grandfather's bravery during the Second World War
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A personal account of a Great-Grandfather's bravery during the Second World War

May 2020 Group

This year the 8th May marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. For the vast majority of us, this day is predominantly symbolic as we have no personal experience of the Second World War (WW2). But we are able to gain a greater significance from those who were there and are willing to share their stories and experiences of WW2.

I was asked by PFK to share a story of my family connection to WW2. I am Harriet Simpson, and I am the Manager of the Penrith office at PFK. My great-grandfather was Sir Robert Heatlie Scott, and he endured experiences I could not even begin to comprehend. He was a great public servant and a legendary figure of the Second World War in Singapore, where he was working with the Consular Service. At the beginning of the Second World War he was conducting British propaganda in Japan but in 1941 was transferred to Singapore to set up a branch of Ministry of Information. As the crisis deepened in Singapore he became a member of the Governor’s War Council. When Singapore fell in 1941 he attempted to get away on the last boat to leave. His wife, my great-grandmother, had gone on ahead to Australia. They had no idea then, that they were not to see each other again for four years. But his ship was intercepted by a Japanese destroyer, and there were few survivors. Robert succeeded in reaching Sumatra where he was briefly in hiding until he was returned as a prisoner to Singapore. After a period in solitary confinement he was put in Changi jail, where for weeks he was terribly beaten and tortured (he was always regarded with suspicion by the Japanese who equated the Ministry of Information with intelligence and spying).

In the summer of 1943, the Japanese became apprehensive about activities within the camp and were planning a dawn raid, but in late September matters came to a head when a commando reached Singapore from Australia undetected and blew up tankers in the harbour. The Japanese mistakenly thought that the raiders had accomplices in the camp. Robert was assumed to be the ring leader and he was found to have a radio. For weeks he was yet again beaten and tortured but no confession was ever obtained. He was put on trial by the Japanese and eventually sentenced to six years in prison.

During part of his time in Changi, he was held in solitary confinement at the top of the prison tower where from time to time he could be seen by his fellow prisoners below. He became known as the ‘man in the tower’ and was a symbol to the British and Chinese of defiance and resistance.

All this time, my great-grandmother was unaware of his fate and drew a widow’s pension, although she never believed he was dead, and each year on his birthday she made a cake and sang happy birthday with her children.

When the Japanese surrendered, the prisoners in Changi made their own way to the harbour as best they could. After his release he returned to the UK, and was at last reunited with his wife. He went on to work in the Foreign Office, and was sent back to Singapore as Commissioner General for the UK in South East Asia – a regional post with civil and military responsibilities. By a cruel trick of fate his only son, a Royal Marine Officer, was drowned in a training accident on the day of his investiture.

His unusual experience of both civilian and service affairs persuaded the Government to appoint him in 1960 the first civilian head of the Imperial Defence College. He was highly successful and moved on naturally to the Ministry of Defence in 1962 as Permanent Under-Secretary.

While Robert was not part of VE day, he would have been part of VJ day (Victory in Japan) at the end of WW2 had he been well enough to know, but he was so ill with disease and the lasting effects of malnutrition and torture, he wouldn’t have even known. Millions of families had someone like Robert in their lives. Not all of them were lucky enough to have them return home safely. Through telling our relative’s stories, not only do we gain some understanding of the true cost of war, but we see the greatness and courage in others. Robert was and forever will be a hero to his loving family.

Getting in Gear

May 2020 Blog Estate Agency

Seven weeks into lockdown, Lynne Lancaster, Head of Estate Agency, looks at how coronavirus has affected life in the property market. Throughout the lockdown, our team have been working remotely.…

Getting in Gear
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Getting in Gear

May 2020 Estate Agency

Seven weeks into lockdown, Lynne Lancaster, Head of Estate Agency, looks at how coronavirus has affected life in the property market.

Throughout the lockdown, our team have been working remotely. At first we thought there would be little to do. How wrong we were.

The past few weeks have been frantic. First there were all the property sales we had to get past the finishing post. Even in lockdown we have been able to do this within strict government guidelines. Then there are the deals that we had only just tied up when the lockdown began. It is astonishing how many buyers and sellers have been keen to keep to their plans – even though they will have to add weeks to transaction times.

But now we are also busy working with those who are already planning new lives beyond the pandemic. We are advising on marketing and pricing through virtual valuations – subject to final inspection. We also have many keen buyers who have pencilled in viewing appointments for when the lockdown is over.

Of course, it isn’t fun. None of this is for anyone. The virus has changed our lives and the lives of everyone with whom we work. But despite working remotely our team is working together. We are working with our clients, our buyers, our central London marketing team and working together is what sets us apart.

Working through the pandemic is like riding a bike up a very steep hill. We have had to change gear. We will probably change gear again before this crisis is over. But one thing is very certain; we will be in the right gear when it’s all over.

Lynne Lancaster – Head of Estate Agency.

Looking ahead

April 2020 Blog Estate Agency

Lesley Waugh, of the Whitehaven branch of PFK, looks ahead to a time when we can all move freely from our homes. In houses and apartments all over the country…

Looking ahead
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Looking ahead

April 2020 Estate Agency

Lesley Waugh, of the Whitehaven branch of PFK, looks ahead to a time when we can all move freely from our homes.

In houses and apartments all over the country those in lockdown are thinking about life after release. Even now, at the height of the pandemic, people are dreaming of post-virus life. We know they are because they are telling us so.

If this period of isolation from our families, friends and familiar routines has taught us anything, it has taught us about the value of home. No matter how small – and for those in tiny properties without outside space the lockdown has been much harder than for most – our homes have kept us safe.

But that is what homes do and have always done, it is what they are designed to do. They keep unwanted intruders out. Over the past few decades this side of home ownership seems to have taken a back seat to investment and capital growth. That thinking will change. Security, affordability in crisis, comfort in lockdown and space appropriate to need will jump into the driver’s seat – with location, location, location in the passenger seat.

This time in lockdown has given many of us the opportunity to re-evaluate where and how we live. Our shopping habits will have changed further, and so will our methods of communicating and streaming entertainment. In future lots more of us will work from home, having realised that many can be just as effective without a daily commute. Some will want more substantial homes, and some will have decided to downsize or rightsize. Many will elect a lifestyle change, choosing to move to a more rural location, to the coast or to a bustling and lively city centre close to all amenities.

Our needs for what a home gives us will change, but it will not alter the local property market.  Coronavirus is a health issue: it is not a property issue. This virus has reminded us what a wonderful and helpful community we inhabit and the true value of living here.

When we are over this emergency, PFK will be here to understand your property needs and offer suitable and attractive solutions, because if there is one thing we do know a great deal about, it is the value of home.

Lesley Waugh – Manager of PFK Estate Agency, Whitehaven.

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