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Written by rosalind renshaw

A council in Wales has set up its own residential estate agency, thought to be the first time that a local authority has done so.

Property Bay Wales, launched by Neath Port Talbot Council, attempts to undercut other local agents by charging a fixed fee of £899.

The agency, which advertises itself as offering an “affordable alternative option”, also offers financial and mortgage advice and incorporates a lettings and property management business.

A spokeswoman for the council said the agency is specifically designed to generate revenue at a time of public spending cuts.

Borough council leader Ali Thomas said: “Neath Port Talbot Council is leading the way during this current financial climate by launching Property Bay Properties.

“This commercial self-funding company will build on its current success in the property market by providing a professional, accessible sales and lettings agency. With Neath Port Talbot Council support and expertise, Property Bay Wales will provide an excellent, affordable customer-focused service for the community and further afield.”

But not all agents are impressed. One said: “This beggars belief. I cannot believe Eric Pickles would allow something like this to continue – so much for the Tory party supporting the free market and small businesses.

“Whatever next? Perhaps local councils should open their own petrol filling stations and supermarkets?”

Although at least one local authority – Westminster – currently runs a letting agency, this is aimed at providing a service for landlords who own ex-council houses.
Steve Kidwell, managing director of Property Bay Wales, said: “We understand that this is the first local authority venture of its type in Wales, and possibly the UK.

“At a difficult financial time for local government, this innovative approach will use existing staff to generate new income. Profits will then be recycled to support local and regional services.

“Our aim is to apply the core principles of local authority, a truly customer-centred approach, and value for money.

“To do this we will make best use of our experienced and highly trained staff. We recognise it is a very competitive market, but believe that house sales and lettings customers are looking for this type of service.”

Kidwell said that Property Bay Wales would hold all the relevant recognised professional accreditations and memberships. Although as yet there are no NAEA or ARLA logos on its website, it does display the Ombudsman logo on both its sales and lettings sections.

The agency is a spin-off from an EPC business, Home Inspection Services, which the council set up three years ago as its first commercial venture.



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    You have a good point.

    Don’t forget there is loads of odd balls out there doing daft things – you wont believe it but I heard about one lot that are charging £20 to rent your house out, I know, daft isn’t it?, they even say they cover London and the South East but have nothing in any main towns to offer so even at £20 a pop cant attract people.

    Funny old world


    • 04 January 2011 16:30 PM
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    Anyone remember Woolworths selling property? They came in at £99 paid up front fee and failed. This fixed fee crap just does not work and where are the profits coming from? If they charged proper fees they may be a threat but I dont think anyone should be concerned. Experience takes years to get and existing staff there just dont have it. I like your comment Jonnie sniff sniff there is a smell of pratt in the council office there. We all live in an elected dictatorship so a change in council colour may get rid of this white elephant.

    • 30 December 2010 13:16 PM
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    I don't see any reason why councils cannot do this role, however they are not undercutting by huge amounts - to do this use online agents there's a growing number of these, for lettings www.letpropertyrentproperty.co.uk charge a one off fee of £19.99 to find tenants - now that's the real inexpensive way to let property. Similar companies exist for buying and selling.

    • 28 December 2010 15:03 PM
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    "professionalism and business acumen" are you still talking about estate agents ? You are kidding us right ? lmao

    • 24 December 2010 12:09 PM
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    This is a guaranteed to fail business model. Councils are trying to diversify to protect jobs - however it is my view that they wil not be able to beat the professionalism and business acumen that true traditional Estate Agents have.

    • 23 December 2010 21:39 PM
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    The way NFoPP are going there won't be an NAEA much longer as our public profile has actually slipped. So far as Councils are concerned I am old enough to remember and regret the passing of Council mortgages which could be a way forward again. However estate agency done properly is a tad more complicated than most would understand so a public sector trained emplyee is really not likely to become a good estate agent. Don't panic it will all fizzle out.

    • 23 December 2010 17:18 PM
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    Sniff, sniff………………….yes I can smell prat.

    Fantasyvaluations, possibly an HPC nutter?? Not sure but definitely a bitter little soul. And as usual, ill informed unimaginative, nothing to add to any discussion and I suspect cross that they can’t buy a house. As always the question is what are you doing hanging around here you sad git?

    Anyway, it’s Pub, beer, bed, Christmas time (in that order) now so im off, Merry Christmas to you all!!


    • 23 December 2010 16:39 PM
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    £899 for doing next to nowt. That's good news for the tax payer. The more EAs go out of business in the New Year, the better.

    • 23 December 2010 14:54 PM
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    If the council can staff this with existing staff it surely means that they are over staffed currently if they are going to have so much
    'free time'. Why not just let the staff go and cost saving achieved with no risk. Also with so many estate agents that charge proper fees going bust how can a council with no experience and charging low fees do a better job?

    • 23 December 2010 10:36 AM
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    If they run their estate agency as efficiently as they run the council then there will be very little to worry about.

    • 23 December 2010 08:28 AM
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    I really don't see why this is such a bad thing, I would just see it as more competition and raise my game. As for price, there's 2 agents in my area that do a fixed price of £798 +VAT and the other at £799 +VAT.

    • 22 December 2010 20:12 PM
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    Dont worry about it, at these fees they wont make a profit and if the attitude of the average public sector worker is anything to go by they'll soon be closed!!!

    • 22 December 2010 19:22 PM
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    Oh god, ive come over all ‘local councillorish’

    Look this is daft on so many levels, if it was an agency to manage the portfolio of the council then that’s one thing but it seems not.

    Only a local council could sit down during the biggest economic downturn and cuts to their budgets and come out of the meeting with there own estate agency…………one of the councils round here cant even make a coffee shop turn a profit, and there was once a bar / club run by the council which needed subsidising every year.

    Anyway, to sum it up, let’s think of a simple test;

    When the head of children’s services in this area is told he / she cant have more funding for extra social workers / resource would the council having an estate agency seem like a good idea or not?

    Answers / views on that, although I think the answer is obvious.

    As I think the Welsh would say…………Rydych dwl idiots difeddwl ofer


    • 22 December 2010 17:56 PM
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    RICS & NAEA have got to get their arses in gear & kick Eric Pickles door in. This should not be allowed to happen.

    I can see every bone-brained braces-twanging councillor in the UK fancying a go at estate agency. What have the agents in Wales got to say? Melfyn Geliams - how did you allow this to happen?

    PS I thought Ocky had given up the 'film' industry & was now driving a taxi?

    • 22 December 2010 17:39 PM
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    Rick Deckard:
    I agree that a proper/good/effective but not too stifling economic licensing system is in the main desirable.
    However it could be that many long standing NAEA and ARLA thinking members would like the umbrella NFOPP to sort itself out first. Ask any of the general public about, NFOPP/NAEA/ARLA/NAVA/APIP/ICBA they don't know what you are talking about and most have never heard of the various divisions and know nothing about them or what they represent.
    Since the merging the whole thing is mixed up and confusing.

    • 22 December 2010 16:40 PM
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    Put this one in your cap..... as the council will be a Welsh Assembly Government recognised body they are exempt from most legislation on working practices .... lettings being the biggest one, while the private sector has to pay fees to the council to compete, HMO being a case in point and OFT/Money laundering etc. Are you telling me that no public money has helped them get to where they are today?

    It is a free world after all, or is for some FREE?

    • 22 December 2010 16:37 PM
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    Seems they let anyone just start up these days dont they. How come the majority of EA don't support the NAEA in licencing? and then have the audacity to moan and harp on about initiatives like this? Your industry really is its own worst enemy?

    • 22 December 2010 14:25 PM
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    If they deal with phone queries as quickly as normal, if they work their normal hours, if they speak to clients in the same manner, I'd say it will make most of look even better than we do now. Bring it on! Or better still, go and get a grip with what you should be doing!

    • 22 December 2010 14:06 PM
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    Mike Ockendon - Porn Star?
    Tell me more
    Will this Local Authority collect VAT on their services or claim illegal and anti-competitive immunity as they do on their search business to achieve an unfair advantage?

    • 22 December 2010 12:52 PM
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    So “.. this innovative approach will use existing staff to generate new income." I can spot a potential problem. I wonder how many tea breaks they're allowed, how high their absence rate will be and whether they will be allowed time off to attend meetings regarding their gold plated public sector pensions. Sod em. They could end up shooting themselves in the foot if they can't make a profit at £899 per sale. Christmas or not - sod em, lets start a fight.

    • 22 December 2010 12:33 PM
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    So this would be the Local Authority who are funded by the Business Rates paid by the local estate agents. How galling to be paying money to the opposition! That really sticks in the throat. Let me think for a moment: how would I feel if I had to write a cheque for the agent across the road every month???? Gutted!!!!

    • 22 December 2010 12:13 PM
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    Nick, Well, well, well. Remember Hips? Remember the stick you EA's gave personal search companies? Remember the vitriol you gave that porn star Mike Ockenden when he complained about the unfair competition personal search companies faced from councils delaying and charging for access? Well lie back and enjoy it.

    • 22 December 2010 12:05 PM
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    Are these people out of their minds, if they are not, I think the council should take over all estate agencies. There are many reasons why the council
    should not be involved in this kind of marketing and I hope correction is made before it is too late. I will expect legal action to be taken by local estate agent that is affected by this unfair competition.

    • 22 December 2010 12:02 PM
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    I cannot believe that a local authority would take on such an enterprise, don`t they realise that they are entering the REAL world !! My experience of councils are that they haven`t got a clue !!! Sounds like the makings of loss making disaster ! Par for the course I think !

    • 22 December 2010 12:02 PM
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    This company set up by the Council initially did resi epcs for its own properties, then commercial and now offers a wide associated range and now has expanded into sales, lettings mortgages etc

    What galls me is the public sector competiition combined with the fact that they are undercutting because it is a web based council backed business.

    We accept competition but this is a step too far.

    What is the best way to halt this use of public resources to save their jobs and put private jobs at risk

    • 22 December 2010 11:58 AM
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    I fully agree with Ian Wilson regarding the NAEA (NFoPP) and RICS

    Time for some real backbone......
    "We will fight them in the Hallways - we will fight them in the Rooms - we will fight them in the Gardens.........we will never surrender!"

    • 22 December 2010 11:54 AM
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    This beggers belief. Decent agents know that at those charges they cannot make a profit so what happens when they make a loss? And can it be deemed as fair competition - rate payers are paying for their premises!! This must be stopped. Come on NAEA RICS what are you there for if it is not to stand for professionalism. How can council workers offer a professional service? This is just brings estate agency down even further. We deserve all we get if we don't fight this.

    • 22 December 2010 11:33 AM
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    I wonder if I'd be allowed to set up an alternative local council?

    • 22 December 2010 11:22 AM
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    This is outrageous. What happens when a council is approached regarding say, a change of use to A2 to allow for an Estate Agency? Can they really be saying that there will be no conflict of interest. Will buyers using their agency get preferential treatment when applying for local authority searches which are undoubtedly going to take even longer due to staff shortages. For agentst o pay rates to fund the competition is just simply not acceptable.

    • 22 December 2010 11:07 AM
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    London Borough of Harrow has also started doing someting similar to this early this year so I guess thats no the first one in the country.

    • 22 December 2010 10:53 AM
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    • 22 December 2010 10:42 AM