Hunting down the perfect home is never easy but pity the poor buyers who are trying to wrestle their way into Harrogate at the moment.
The market there is red hot with prices rising, more buyers than sellers and the best properties snapped up before the For Sale board goes up. Sheree Foy tasted disappointment when trying to buy into Yorkshire’s most popular market town three years ago. She wanted a family-sized home with parking and a garden close to the town centre but nothing she viewed came close to her requirements. So she pinpointed exactly where she wanted to live and planned a letter drop.
“I decided to take a very strategic approach. I targeted the places I wanted to live and posted letters through 40 doors. I spent a long time on the wording and I hand-wrote them because that is much more personal. I got 10 responses, viewed five of the properties and bought one,” says Sheree, a former risk management and insurance professional who has just launched her own property finding service, Source Harrogate.
Her business skills and her personal experience of relocating six times with her husband’s job, has put her in the perfect position to help others searching in the £500,000-plus price bracket.
“It is surprisingly hard to find the right house in Harrogate, especially if you want something like a five-bedroom detached. I’ll be using my analytical skills to assess what kind of property buyers need and I’ll be using my negotiating skills and my contacts to help them secure it,” says Sheree, who charges a one per cent commission on the purchase price.
As buyers continue to compete, sellers in Harrogate appear to be on “easy street”. Not only is demand for property high, the cost of selling has fallen. The number of estate agents in the town has mushroomed in the last few years and competition for business is intense. That has pushed fees down to between 0.5 and one per cent of the sold price, compared to the usual 1.25 per cent.
It’s a crowded market place, which hasn’t prevented Carter Jonas adding to it.
The “top end” property agency has long been based on Albert Street, better known as “estate agents’ row”. It serves Harrogate and the surrounding villages from there but has just hired a new member of staff whose remit is to concentrate on the town centre. Harlan Pollitt, a chartered surveyor and a former portfolio manager at Land Securities, is now Carter Jonas’s head of town sales.
Tony Wright, partner and head of residential at Carter Jonas, explains the decision: “There is an ever-growing number of agents in the town but we feel we can offer a better, more streamlined service with one dedicated professional looking after clients.”
Harlan adds: “For some agents it is a numbers game but there is a clientele in Harrogate looking for a quality service and they are happy to pay for that. You might say that properties sell themselves here but it isn’t just about selling. It’s about getting the best price.”
An increasing number of people are happy to pay a premium to live in the cosmopolitan spa town. Carter Jonas says that about 70 per cent of prospective buyers come from Yorkshire, while 30 per cent are from the south of England. They are also widening their search area away from des res locations such as the “favoured south side” and the popular Duchy area.
“Anything between £400,000 and £700,000 with three bedrooms, a drive and a garden has been flying out. That’s what people want. They are less bothered about location now, which means that places like Bilton are becoming more desirable,” says Harlan.
The property market in Harrogate shows no sign of cooling down. The town was recently voted Britain’s happiest place to live for the third year running and offers great shopping and restaurants, excellent schools, The Stray and rail links to Leeds and York.
Sheree Foy speaks for many when she says: “What more could you want? It has everything.”
*Source Harrogate, www.sourceharrogate.co.uk; Carter Jonas, www.carterjonas.co.uk