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Rosalind Renshaw says ...

So you think it's bad in estate agency across England and Wales?

Well, spare a thought for your colleagues in Northern Ireland, the biggest casualty so far of the UK house price crash.

After a runaway boom (Northern Ireland house prices shot up 37% in 2006 alone, as a result of the peace dividend) the party is well and truly over.
House prices have now dropped by over 18% year on year. Sales have stopped in their tracks, estate agents are being laid off and offices are closing.
The talk really is of doom and gloom, says Daniel Somers, estate agency trainer who has relocated to Northern Ireland.

Nor can anyone blame Home Information Packs - they don't have them over there, although Energy Performance Certificates have just been introduced and are mandatory for all properties put up for sale.
Somers, founder of Whinpark Training, says most agents seem oblivious to the requirement, even though they could face fines. He himself has qualified as a Domestic Energy Assessor, although he is clearly not expecting to make a fortune out of it with the current state of the market.

But why no HIPs? According to Somers, it is a simple oversight by the Government.
"A few years ago, I was at a meeting in the Midlands that was to do with HIPs and I asked a member of John Prescott's team why Northern Ireland had not been included in the legislation. She replied, 'Oh, is that right?'

"My impression was they had simply forgotten, even though other legislation such as the Property Misdescriptions Act and other estate agency law applies equally in Northern Ireland."
Somers says that sellers are now being more sensible about asking prices. Bricklayers can be hired for half their normal rates, construction has come to a halt and he says that all that is missing is that people aren't - yet - walking the streets with placards saying THE END IS NIGH.

Somers also raises another interesting point. The Government will require all agents, including those in Northern Ireland, to belong to a redress scheme by this autumn. At the moment, the Ombudsman for Estate Agents is the only approved scheme and its code bans agents from revealing offers to third parties.
However, in Northern Ireland, it's common practice for agents to disclose all bids. One wonders how the Ombudsman will resolve this.

P.S. It's not just England, Wales and Northern Ireland feeling the pinch. In Auckland, New Zealand, an estimated 10% of agents have gone out of business, with many not having achieved sales for months. There are similar stories from all around the world, just in case you think you are alone.

Editorial Director
01252 843566