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|Bitterne Park property: what's the real picture?|
|Thursday, 23 May 2013 14:25|
Thurman Rye has closed its Triangle branch, and Carringtons is "in the process of coming away from the office". Nonetheless Bitterne Park remains a highly sought-after area of Southampton, with property sales remaining buoyant. We spoke to Carringtons, Thurman Rye and Enfields to find out more – and heard how the estate agency business is changing.
But now things are changing.
“We’re in the process of coming away from the office and have decided to close down the sales side of it, and concentrate on lettings and mortgages,” says Simon Rushbrooke of Carringtons (pictured right). “The advertising side of it on that main road is absolutely fantastic, but as far as footfall goes, it’s non-existent. The whole Triangle is suffering from that too.”
Simon goes on to say that he thinks the days of the high street agent could soon be over in some places, especially with other national players like Tesco moving into the online estate agency market.
'High street agents' days numbered'
“The next five to ten years will tell, but the days of the high street agent are numbered in major towns. London Road will disappear, Bitterne will disappear as regards ‘estate agency alley’, and it will go primarily online.”
But he thinks that traditional agencies in smaller places, like Botley and Hedge End, where visitors wander into the estate agents while they’re visiting, will remain. He also suggests that in smaller towns people prefer dealing with independents, whereas in a city they prefer nationals, regardless of prices or service levels.
Whatever’s happening to the estate agency business and however people are choosing to search and buy properties, it seems sales in Bitterne Park are nonetheless still very strong.
“People want to live in Bitterne Park – it’s still a highly sought-after area with the schools, the park – it’s very family orientated,” says Simon Rushbrooke.
It’s a view apparently shared by both Enfields and Thurman Rye – despite the fact that the latter agency has just closed its Bitterne Park Triangle and Oxford Street branches, and is now operating from its Netley Abbey base.
Thurman Rye’s Ruth Pearce says the property market in Bitterne Park is in fact “booming”, but confirms that “everything is now digital.”
“You don’t get the footfall, so it was ridiculous running three offices when the majority of our leads were coming from the internet,” she says. “The market’s better than it has been for a very long time – since the 2008 crash. All the time in a good school catchment property will sell.”
Record April sales
Up the hill in Bitterne, Enfields director Kevin Ashley says April saw the company’s highest sales month since the downturn.
And he confirms Bitterne Park property is still “very, very sellable”.
“It’s the most desirable area we cover by a large distance,” says Kevin, whose patch extends from the river to the motorway, and includes St Denys, Bitterne, Sholing, Woolston, Thornhill, Merryoak, Itchen and Weston.
When it comes to the estate agency business itself, he says none of the agencies in Bitterne has shut since the financial downturn, despite the fact that the advertising and marketing of properties is now all online.
“I remember when I first started, the phone lines on a Thursday night used to have to stay open until 8pm the day that the paper [Property Advertiser] was delivered, to take all the calls. We used to have to alternate in the office every Thursday, and then the calls would be diverted to someone’s mobile for the rest of the evening: you’d sit at home and take a huge number of bookings and enquiries.
'Most home owners want to be able to walk into
“That just doesn’t happen now because it’s all online. But I still think there’s a need to have an office on the high street: most home owners want to be able to walk into the estate agent and have a chat with them, rather than dealing with some remote online service somewhere.”
Of course one irony of this shift online is that yet more Triangle properties could perhaps be left empty – and a slew of empty shops adds nothing to the Bitterne Park 'village within a city' sales promise.