Property complaints surge in 2014: Property news update

Plus, property downsizing, and house price expectations

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The Independent Online

Complaints made to Ombudsman Services: Property hit record levels in the first half of 2014, up 40 per cent compared to the same period in 2013.

The independent dispute resolution provider handles complaints made against surveyors, estate agents, residential management firms, letting agents and valuers.

Just over 500 cases were reviewed in the first six months of the year compared to 369 in the same period in 2013.

There was a particular jump in complaints related to the process of buying a house, with surveys and valuations accounting for 42 per cent of all grievances recorded by Ombudsman Services. Many of these complaints concerned building defects, while bad experiences with residential managing agents also ranked highly, particularly in terms of customer service.

From 1 October, new legislation will mean that all agents in England must be signed up with an approved scheme or risked being fined £5,000.

"With rising housing and rental costs hitting people’s pockets, it’s little surprise that people want value and quality service for their money," said Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith. "Buying a house is one of the biggest purchases most people will make during their lifetime so it’s understandable that they want the process to be as trouble-free as possible, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen.

Property downsizing

Retirement income specialists MGM Advantage estimate that around 12 per cent of retirees in the UK are planning to downsize their homes in the next five years to help fund their retirement. Its research suggests 18 per cent of retired people have already downsized.

On average MGM calculates that from moving from a detached home to a bungalow, retirees could make £102,000, compared to £85,000 a year ago. However this varies regionally - those in Wales making this move would make on average £54,000, those in Yorkshire £65,000 and retirees in London around £295,000.

"People often refer to their property as their pension, and these numbers show that many are considering downsizing to provide an income boost in retirement," said Andrew Tully, MGM Advantage. "However, the downsizing dream could turn into a retirement nightmare, as some areas of the country fare much better than others. This is simply a reflection of the housing market in the UK."

Expectations for house price growth

Knight Frank's latest 'sentiment index' - which charts how people think house prices will change - shows that people in all regions felt that prices rose in September, but also that their expectations for future price growth dropped to their lowest level since August 2013.

Gráinne Gilmore, head of UK residential research at Knight Frank, said: "House prices are rising across the UK, but our index signals a continuing slowdown in the pace of growth. The index started to ease in June and the trend is continuing. Some 46 per cent of respondents expect the price of their home to rise over the next year, the first time this proportion has been under 50 per cent this year.

"The strengthening economy, job creation and low base rates are helping underpin property values, but there are signs that households across the board are becoming more circumspect about the scale of price growth they expect."