Over the last 12 months we have seen a lot of changes come about, both to the industry and to our own company here at Mackenzie Smith. It has been a year of growth, new team members, weddings, proposals and much more.
Going back all the way to January, we had a great month for lettings, seeing more homes in Hartley Wintney coming on to rent with us than ever before, but it was our land department that really got off the starting blocks. Katherine Gray, our Land Manager, embarked on a marathon mission, a four day run around Disney Orlando, Florida. Day 1 saw her run a 5k, followed by a 10k, a half marathon and a full marathon to close it off. Having run 7 marathons in the past this wasn’t completely out of the ordinary for Katherine but was still a massive challenge nonetheless. Katherine also sealed the deal on an 84 house appeal in Woking in January. A great month for the land team, with Fleet also welcoming our Senior Client Manager, James Harris.
February saw some changes internally and within the industry. Here at Mackenzie Smith, we introduced the Trustpilot scheme to allow for a third party to manage our reviews; offering impartiality and transparency for our buyers, vendors, tenants and landlords. With regards to the industry, there was a certain amount of enthusiasm with growth in the market. The Lettings team also saw a stir up with the introduction of the Right to rent checks, requiring landlords to check the right of prospective tenants to be in the country to avoid being hit with a penalty. This required our lettings team to advise our landlords appropriately.
New homes saw a surge in March, with the launch of our Hook development, Providence House in addition to the Bellway scheme over in Ash and The Convent in Farnborough. These provided a range of properties, from studio apartments to family homes across the area. We also saw a new arrival in our Farnborough branch as our Senior Client Manager, Pedro Barros, joined the team.
April was once again all about changes to legislation regarding landlords, a bit of a running theme throughout the year really. The highly controversial stamp duty rise meant that from 1st April, landlords were required to pay an additional 3% surcharge on additional properties to their primary residence. This was seen at the time as a potential threat to the buy-to-let market, however, with the consistently increasing demand for rental properties throughout the area, we have not seen any real impact from this new legislation. In addition to this, the Landlord new energy efficiency legislation came into play, allowing tenants to request consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements to privately rented properties, for which the landlord will not be able to unreasonable refuse consent. This wasn’t a huge game changer in the world of lettings, but did require our team to be adequately informed of yet another change to legislation, in order to effectively inform our clients.
May brought about some changes to our branch staff; with Farnborough saying goodbye to Jon Lacey and hello to the new Branch Manager, Steve Panther. Jon moved over to manage our Fleet Branch, where he continues to captain a successful team. The ‘My Property File’ app was also launched in May, allowing landlords to view reports, statements, necessary dates and also allows tenants to report maintenance issues; streamlining property management.
I’m sure we can all recall June of this year, where Britain elected to exit the European Union by a majority vote. Many of us feared uncertainty in the market in the months following, however, effects were short lived, with some of our best months in recent years to follow.
The summer months are always an interesting one, with many away on holidays and the children home from school. In July we introduced Hawthorns, a new development from Taylor Wimpey available through our Fleet branch, yet another new homes site for our portfolio, whereas August saw the arrival of our new Marketing Manager, Vicky Jarman, as we said goodbye to Tara who left us to pursue a career in teaching. Our August was most certainly a successful one, as we were up 14% on our previous August, a clear sign that Brexit was no longer a worry for home movers. Considering the changes in the Buy To Let market, there were some promising statistics here also, with a 12.7% increase, proving that the market was certainly weathering the storm that new legislation had brought their way.
As we slipped into September, we once again saw some new homes projects coming to life and some internal changes. Our Sales Director Steve Tetlow was officially appointed and relocated to our Fleet management office, we finally managed to get him out of Hartley Wintney, whilst our Hook Branch welcomed Pierce Gunbie-Browne as our new Client Manager. Fleet saw the introduction of some new build properties just off the high street from local developer, Sewrey Homes, which were subsequently sold and have now been moved into, whilst Providence House and Taylor Wimpey offered an Autumn launch; Providence House presenting the next phase of development and Taylor Wimpey including the novel benefit of paid stamp duty on a selection of new homes.
Again in October, we reported that there were simply not enough lettings properties to meet demand, the market is continuously growing so we are always on the look out for new properties for our expanding base of searching tenants. In Fleet, our Sales team sold 2 neighbouring properties in under 24 hours, showing the demand for well positioned property in the Fleet area. We also showcased National Security Month in association with Sainsbury’s to provide some top tips to keep homes secure throughout the darkening winter months ahead. Love was in the air in October with our Farnborough Branch Manager, Steve Panther, getting down on one knee to ask a big question, to which his lovely wife-to-be said “yes”.
November was all about the people involved with Mackenzie Smith. We were fortunate to be listed in the top 10 agents nationwide on Trustpilot (we’ve continued to retain our title), which was a great reflection of the continued hard work from our team which has been recognized by our clients to be exemplary. With that in mind, we also launched our “Spotlight on…” feature, to introduce you to our team, including those you might not always see or hear. To carry on the theme of 2016, November saw the announcement that Tenant’s fees were to be abolished as soon as possible. This was a decision that had been threatened for some months, it’s certainly an interesting development that will divide the lettings market, clearly appeasing tenants who are consistently growing in numbers, but in turn adding another concern to the growing list for agents and landlords alike. This has yet to be introduced, but when the time comes, we will of course be in a position to expertly advise on the matter. On a sales note, we had a phenomenal month, seeing a 70% increase on our November 2015, we won’t mention the presidential news from November, best not.
Coming full circle to December, we’ve been making the most of the festive season; sponsoring the first Farnborough frost festival, the Hook Christmas Cracker and offering a drinks reception for clients at our Hartley Wintney office on the evening of their annual Christmas market. Our local area benefits from some wonderful events during December which we are always keen to support. We also launched our colouring competition earlier this month, offering local children the opportunity to win a £50 Toy’s R Us gift card and a chance to be featured in our branch windows by colouring in a festive scene. There is still time to enter this competition, further details can be found here.
All in all we’ve seen some challenges and successes, we’ve made some new acquaintances, introduced plenty of new homes and had another brilliant year of business.
We look forward to what 2017 will bring, we already have a few tricks up our sleeves which we cannot wait to share with you all.
From all the team at Mackenzie Smith, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Ash Vale – firstname.lastname@example.org – 01252 353030
Farnborough – email@example.com – 01252 375999
Fleet – firstname.lastname@example.org – 01252 812121
Hook – email@example.com – 01256 764666
Hartley Wintney – firstname.lastname@example.org – 01252 844015
Lettings – email@example.com – 01252 514000