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Construction firm tipped for major London property development (iStock)

Construction firm McClaren has been tipped to win the race to build a £100 million development in north London, which will comprise two high-rise buildings offering more than 250 homes. 

The Hale Wharf Project will be based in Tottenham, located on a strip of land between the River Lea navigation channel and the natural river. 

Construction Enquirer stated it had spoken to a source close to the situation, who revealed the firm was close to beating off competition for the contract from Bouygues and Galliford Try.

It quoted the unnamed individual as saying: “It is now looking like McLaren will secure the project.”

The property scheme is being developed by Muse and the Canal and River Trust. Built in two storeys, the project will feature blocks of 21 and 16 storeys respectively. 

It is a part of a wider redevelopment of the Hale Wharf area, with plans for 505 homes to be built. Outline planning permission already exists for more apartments, over a third of them available at an affordable rent. The development will also include a new pedestrian access bridge from nearby Ferry Lane.

The scheme is part of a wider trend for apartment developments and high-rise schemes to be built outside of central London. Although Tottenham Hale is not particularly suburban, the area around the river is a comparative oasis, with reservoirs, canal and river channels and several parks. 

Indeed, New London Architecture's Tall Buildings Survey recently revealed the capital had 510 buildings of more than 20 storeys in the pipeline by the end of 2017, up from 455 a year earlier. Of the 2017 towers, 458 were for residential use, comprising 106,000 units.

As well as the London-wide number increasing, the survey emphasised the widening geographical spread of taller buildings. Indeed, not only have more of these appeared in outer London boroughs, but in some cases - such as Bromley and Waltham Forest - this is now happening for the first time. Overall, a third of of tall buildings in the pipeline are in outer London. 
This clearly indicates that property investors in London will be increasingly looking at hitherto unfamiliar parts of the capital in years to come as high-density developments become an increasingly common feature of the suburbs. 


Developer expands Birmingham rental developments (iStock)

The growth of private rental scheme (PRS) developments outside London is continuing at a growing pace, with the acquisition of a site in the centre of Birmingham by the High Street Group of Companies.

It has just completed the £120 million acquisition of a site in the heart of Birmingham, where it plans to build 500 one, two and three-bedroom apartments. 

Located near the Mailbox development on the west side of the city centre, the site is centrally located within short walking distance of New Street station, with the future HS2 hub at Curzon street also within easy walking distance. 

The Midland Metro tram system is also easily accessed, a situation that will be enhanced further when the lines running through the city centre are extended westward out towards Edgbaston. 

Group chairman Gary Forrest commented: "Birmingham is a dynamic city currently undergoing significant regeneration and therefore it represents a great place to invest. Almost 17 per cent of the UK population is renting privately and this figure is expected to grow significantly.

"In response, we are creating high-quality living spaces in town and city centres, future proofed through the use of the latest SMART technologies." 

For this reason, he noted, the company will be investing around £200 million in its projects around Britain for the foreseeable future.

Indeed, the company is already eyeing up two other Birmingham sites, all of which is happening at a time when a plethora of apartment developments are taking place in the city. Among the factors driving this is the growth of the city itself, its population is now likely to have surpassed the historic record 1.1 million recorded in the 1961 census. 

The High Street Group, which is based in Newcastle, is already developing that city's tallest building, a tower featuring 162 PRS apartments. It also has extensive interests in the north west, the largest hotbed of PRS development outside London, with schemes in Salford and Trafford in Greater manchester and another in Warrington.


Stamp duty break for first-time buyers 'helps 69,000' (iStock)

The stamp duty exemption announced for first-time buyers in the November Budget has already benefited 69,000 people, according to new official figures. 

Chancellor Philip Hammond's announcement meant that any home worth up to £300,000 could be purchased stamp duty-free by first-time buyers, while the first £300,000 would be free on any home above that price, up to a maximum of £500,000. The government estimated at the time that 80 per cent of first-time buyers would end up paying no stamp duty at all. 

Official figures that have just been released show that up to the end of March, 69,000 first-time buyers have made the most of this exemption. It is now estimated that over the next five years a million more buyers will have benefitted from this scheme. 

The measure is just one of several the government has introduced in a bid to help first-time buyers get out of renting and into home ownership. Others include Help to Buy and Lifetime Isas, the later aimed at helping raise funds for deposits.
Official figures have shown 387,000 people have benefited from Help to Buy and 1.1.million Lifetime ISAs have been opened. 

Financial secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride said: "I’m proud that the cut to stamp duty for first-time buyers is helping to realise the dream of home ownership for a new generation, alongside building more homes in the right areas, and generous schemes such as the Lifetime ISA and Help to Buy."

Commenting on the data, Aldermore Bank's commercial director Charles McDowell said the news was "encouraging" and backed up the bank's own research that predicted 30 per cent of first-time buyers would speed up their initiate purchases if stamp duty was axed. 

However, he cautioned, the lack of affordable housing remains a key issue to be resolved, concluding that the projection of a million beneficiaries over five years "won’t become a reality for those taking their first step on the property ladder if they are priced out of the market".


Thinktank paper seeks 'capitalist' solution to rental shortage (iStock)

Britain's housing crisis - including the challenges faced by the private rented sector - can best be solved by a good old-fashioned dose of free market capitalism, according to a new paper by the Adam Smith Institute. 

The thinktank - named after the famous free market economist - published a paper authored by top architect Patrik Schumacher. He argued that, far from helping matters as intended, restrictive regulations over planning and construction and stipulations concerning the number of 'affordable' properties developments should have are actually making matters worse. 

As an example, he said London mayor Sadiq Khan's imposition of a rule that 50 per cent of homes in developments in the capital must be classed as 'affordable' is deterring development and leading to higher prices elsewhere. 

Focusing in particular on the capital, he said that the lack of new homes in the metropolis has led to the typical property price rising from four times the average salary in the early years of this century to ten times earnings now. 

Rising prices have also spilled over into rental costs, with the rent-to-income ratio climbing from 1:5 to 1:3. 

As well as curbing restrictive practices in planning and development, the government should also avoid the temptation to introduce mandatory long-term tenancies or rent controls, Mr Schumacher argued, claiming these will cut the supply of properties and reduce labour mobility. 

Such ideas have been widely advocated recently; the Scottish Labour Party is seeking to introduce a new 'Mary Barbour law' - named after the 1915 Glasgow rent strike activist - as a means of controlling rents. Meanwhile, a Resolution Foundation Report published this month argued that millennials who have less chance of buying a home than the previous generation would be given more security through a system of long-term or indefinite rents, similar to the situation in Germany. 

Commenting on the report, research associate at the Adam Smith Institute Sophie Jarvis said: “Millennials already know that they are at a massive disadvantage to their parents in terms of getting on the housing ladder. What they don’t know is that rent caps and restrictive planning laws are holding them back, not helping them out.


Government seeks tougher penalties for empty homes (Laura young for Adfero)

The government is seeking to give local councils the right to impose double the normal rate of council tax on homes deliberately left empty by their owners. 

In a legislative move that will have significant implications for property investors in London and throughout England, the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill will enable local authorities to slap 200 per cent council tax charges on any home that has been left empty for more than two years. 

Moreover, the funds raised can be used to keep council tax rates down for everyone else, providing a direct incentive to local authorities to take a firm line on empty properties. 

Local government minister Rishi Sunak said: "While we should celebrate the number of long-term empty homes dropping by a third since 2010, there are still 200,000 vacant properties across the country.

"This bill hands councils further tools to bring much-needed homes back into use and provide thousands of families with a place to call home."

The actual tally of empty homes peaked in 2004 at 318,000, with the coalition government making extensive efforts to reduce this number from 2010. This included legislation in 2013 to allow councils to impose a 50 per cent council tax surcharge on empty properties, a power the new law will beef up. 

While the number of empty homes fell to 200,000 by October 2016, it rose again to 205,000 a year later. 

The legislation may place more pressure on landlords with empty properties who have not made a decision on what to do with them to act swiftly. That could mean renting them out, while the alternative is to sell them on - a move that will in turn provide investment opportunities for others. 

Under the legislative timetable set out for the bill, the new council powers should pass into law next year.


High rise 'providing the solution' to London's housing issues (iStock)

The mass construction of high-rise towers for residential use appears to be gaining increasing acceptance as a viable means of solving London's housing shortages, a new survey has suggested. 

New London Architecture's Tall Buildings Survey found that by the end of 2017, there were 510 buildings of more than 20 storeys in the pipeline. Of these, 115 were under construction. 

These numbers were up on 2016, when 455 towers were in the pipeline and 91 were being built. 

Significantly, 458 of the new tall buildings were for residential purposes, with the potential to deliver 106,000 new homes. The organisation said this was evidence that high-rise living, once regarded as a highly unfashionable existence, is now becoming mainstream. 

Chairman of New London Architecture Peter Murray said: "We continue to see a steady increase in the number of tall buildings coming forward and with London’s population continuing to increase and the demand for new homes only getting higher, our view remains that well designed tall buildings, in the right place, are part of the solution."

Landlords involved in the London property sector may increasingly make properties in high-rise buildings part of their portfolios, for a range of reasons. 

Among these is the fact that tall buildings are now increasingly being constructed in outlying boroughs. Indeed, the 2017 list includes high-rises in Bromley and Waltham Forest for the first time. 

Moreover, the high population density of the capital means space is already at a premium. Quite simply, the amount of available land to build on is increasingly limited, not least as parks and other open spaces will become increasingly vital as green lungs in a more crowded metropolis. As such, the only way to go in much of the capital will be up. 
While London continues to rise ever higher as its population soars, the same thing is happening on a smaller scale in other cities with rapidly growing populations. 

Manchester is a prime example, with a plethora of tall buildings currently under construction or planned in the city centre. 

Later this year, the 658 ft South Tower at Deansgate Square will overtake the nearby Beetham Tower as the tallest skyscraper in the UK outside London.  


London popular student accommodation city

London has come top in a new survey of popular worldwide student destinations.

Research from Student.com examined 426 popular destinations and discovered demand is highest in the UK’s capital.

Other cities that proved popular for students included a number in the UK - Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield, Birmingham and Glasgow.

“Our data indicates that there is still significant interest in the UK as a destination for international students, particularly from Asia and Europe. However, this is not an excuse to become complacent,” said Luke Nolan, chief executive officer of Student.com.

“With global competition for international students increasing year after year, the UK should do everything it can to support the internationalisation objectives of its universities and maintain its attractiveness as a study destination,” he added.

The study also looked at how far students travel for their accommodation and last year, they combined a total of more than 95 million kilometres to study.


UK’s most expensive flats all in London (Image credit-iStock)

The country’s most expensive one-bedroom flats are all for sale in the capital, reveals new research.

HouseSimple concluded the UK’s most costly apartment has a price tag of almost £5 million - making it 22 times the average price of a UK property.

There is a total of 585 one-bedroom flats for sale in London valued in excess of £1 million, with the smallest measuring just 416 square feet.

Examining the Zoopla property listings, 27 per cent of these £1 million plus flats are located in the borough of Lambeth, with 23 per cent in the City of Westminster, and 22 per cent in the Kensington and Chelsea.

It was also discovered there are four studio flats on offer in the city with an asking price of more than £1 million.

Sam Mitchell, chief executive officer of HouseSimple, explained: “Though prices in London have stalled for the time being, and foreign buyers are more cautious about investing here, the average price of property in the capital still means it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world to buy.

“These one bed flats sourced in our research aren’t ever going to be on the radar of the typical first-time buyer. They are more likely to be purchased by wealthy business travellers commuting to the capital,” he added.


Tenants resent not being able to buy (Image credit: iStock)

Many renters would love to own their own home and resent having to be tenants, claims new research.

A total of 44 per cent of those involved in a new survey admitted they were unhappy renting but are not in a financial position to buy their own property.

The poll commissioned by home interior firm Hillarys concluded the main reason for disliking being a tenant was having to ask permission to make basic changes, such as putting up shelves.

Other concerns included the landlord being slow to get things fixed or showing up unannounced, while some felt uncomfortable with the idea the landlord could sell their home with little notice.

However, five per cent expressed pleasure with renting and said they preferred being a tenant rather than having the responsibility of owning their own home.

“When you’re renting, a good relationship with your landlord is what everyone’s hoping for. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case and some landlords can be difficult,” said spokesperson Tara Hall.

“The results here are clear, landlords need to be easier to work with for the sake and tenants and harmony on both parts,” she added.


Landlords facing new energy standards

Landlords are being reminded that by next month they will have to ensure their properties meet minimum energy efficiency guidelines.

From the start of April, new tenancies arranged in England and Wales will have to be supported by a certificate showing the property has a minimum EPC rating of E.

The government hopes the rules will see tenants paying lower energy bills, as well as generally improving the quality of residential rental properties on offer.

Some properties are exempt from the initiative, including listed buildings, and those classed as “hard to treat” because of structural issues.

However, the government believes landlords will not have to spend more than £2,500 to ensure their properties achieve the minimum rating, with some homes qualifying for grants for certain improvements, such as cavity wall insulation.

Figures show the average annual energy bills for a property in band G are £2,860, compared to £1,710 for a property classed in band E - resulting in significant savings for tenants if improvements are made.

David Cox, chief executive of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), believes the majority of landlords have already made improvements to their portfolios, but there may be some who are unaware of the new standards.

He added: “After the deadline passes at the end of this month, landlords face fines of up to £4,000 for flouting the law or losing money on empty properties which can’t be let until they meet the standards.”

ARLA is advising landlords to find out more about Green Deal finance plans or seek advice from Propertymark’s industry supplier ECO-Energi to find out what changes need to be made.



First-time buyers “forced” to live with parents - Image Credit - Highwaystarz - via iStock.

There has been a rise in the number of potential first-time buyers who are moving in with their parents to save for a deposit, reveal new figures.

According to research from Which? Mortgage Advisers, around 250,000 people purchased their first property last year, but 22 per cent had to live with family in order to do so.

In addition, many worked overtime to save more money for a deposit, with 37 per cent putting in extra hours at work to add to their savings pot.

Some wannabe property owners also sold their personal belongings to help afford their first property.

The average property price in the UK now stands at £234,794, which often requires a deposit of around ten per cent or more, as well as the other costs needed to purchase a home.

“For many, the prospect of saving a deposit for a first home can be daunting, unrealistic and even downright depressing,” said David Blake, principal mortgage adviser at Which? Mortgage Advisers.

“However, there are various options out there for first-time buyers, from Help to Buy ISAs to equity loans, and even shared ownership. Consider speaking to an independent expert who can offer advice tailored specifically for you,” he added.

Data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows over the last two decades there has been a sharp fall in homeownership among young people in the UK.


Practical help may benefit first-time buyers

First-time buyers could benefit from a number of practical initiatives to enable them to take their first steps on to the property ladder, claims a key industry body.

The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) believes the introduction of longer fixed-rate mortgages, increased affordable housing stock and more relaxed mortgage criteria could play a key role in transforming the UK property market.

According to the NAEA, many first-time buyers often delay purchasing a home because they want to ensure they have the largest budget possible, especially following the recent stamp duty changes.

However, the association is recommending a number of other options that could provide the practical help needed to convince first-time buyers to make an offer to secure a home.

It is estimated first-time buyers need to save £33,000 for a deposit on their first property.

The NAEA suggests the introduction of longer fixed-rate mortgages with lower monthly commitments could help reduce the need for such a large cash boost upfront.

“The government’s announcement to abolish stamp duty for first time buyers has helped buyers feel like the process is more affordable. They are struggling, particularly when it comes to saving for a deposit, and this needs to be addressed,” said Mark Hayward, NAEA’s chief executive.

In addition, the association has called for more affordable housing to be made available, with 58 per cent of NAEA members believing the government needs to do more to increase house building activity across the UK.



London sees increase in “super prime” tenancies

More people are renting “super prime” properties within the capital, according to a new report.

Data shows a total of 137 homes in London were rented out at over £5,000 per week in 2017 - an increase of 34 per cent on 2016 levels.

The LonRes report, produced by Knight Frank, also revealed during the three months from July to September a record number of 49 properties were rented out - the highest number in a quarter for more than a decade.

Tom Smith, Knight Frank’s head of super prime lettings, explained there has been a number of factors which have encouraged people to move away from buying and opt for renting instead. In addition, more homeowners are looking to become landlords rather than sell up.

“Demand is resilient due to higher rates of stamp duty and the associated uncertainty over the short-term prospects for price growth in the sales market. A lack of clarity regarding Brexit has also been a factor,” said Mr Smith.

Data also showed the super prime letting market is seeing long-term tenancies being arranged, with the average length in 2017 standing at 589 days, compared to 548 in 2016 and 528 in 2015.

In addition, the research found there has been a rise in the number of tenants adding a contract clause allowing them to be given first refusal to buy at the end of the tenancy.

“Many landlords have nothing to lose with this try before you buy route,” explained Mr Smith.


London set to be home to innovative property (Image credit - iStock)

The Croydon area of London is set to see an innovative 21-storey modular block of homes.

Constructed off-site, the building will be dropped into place and could help to speed up delivery of much needed homes in the capital.

A total of 153 homes will be provided by the scheme being developed by Pocket Living and the project could be replicated elsewhere in the capital to meet the growing demand.

“Tackling London’s housing crisis requires bold new approaches. We know turning things round will take time, but offsite construction is an innovative way to speed up building the affordable homes our city needs. I invested in Pocket Living to help them build genuinely affordable homes that are sold to local people first,” said London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The project in Addiscombe Grove will deliver homes that can only be purchased by those who live or work in the borough.

Richard Brown, research director at the Centre for London, explained the body is researching the benefits of modular off-site construction methods.

He added: “Manufactured homes are often more talked about than built, so it is positive to see how they can contribute to taller buildings on complex urban sites. We hope this announcement will help to shift preconceptions about off-site construction.”


Landlords express reservations over pets

Landlords have reacted with caution over potential plans to allow all tenants to have a pet, according to industry bodies.

The Labour Party is set to introduce a new draft policy document that would allow people renting to be able to have a pet by default, as long as it does not cause a nuisance.

At present, many landlords do not allow tenants to keep animals because of concerns about damage to property and the potential cost of repairs. In some cases, tenants can appeal to landlords about keeping a pet, often offering to pay a larger deposit to cover any additional expenses.

“Recognising that currently for the majority of people under 30, buying a home is sadly less and less of an affordable option, Labour would seek to improve the rights of renters to own pets that do not cause a nuisance,” explained MP Sue Hayman.

However, the National Landlords Association (NLA) believes landlords should be given the right to prevent tenants from keeping pets if they so wish, as well as the ability to draw up their own tenancy agreements if they do want to allow renters to keep animals.

Richard Lambert of the NLA explained: “For example, common properties such as high-rise flats or those without gardens, may simply not be suitable for keeping some animals nor beneficial to their welfare.

“However, tenants who keep pets do tend to stay for longer periods of time, and there are a few simple steps that landlords can take in order to mitigate the perceived increased risks, such as by inserting specific clauses and policies into their tenancy agreements.”

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has also expressed concern that landlords could find by allowing tenants to keep pets their insurance policies may be invalidated or they could struggle to balance the needs of all their tenants, especially in shared accommodation. 


Rise in people making a property move

There was an increase in the number of people moving home in 2017 compared to the previous 12 months.

Figures from the Lloyds Bank Home Mover Review show there was a two per cent rise in home moves during 2017 – up to 320,300 people – the highest level since 2007.

Experts believe the increase in movers is due to relatively low mortgage rates and high demand for homes which is allowing existing homeowners move up the property ladder.

“We’ve seen a slight increase in the number of home movers following a weak 2016. This could be down to low mortgage rates, rising house prices and high employment levels. House price increases will have boosted equity levels for many home owners, enabling movement along the housing ladder,” said Andrew Mason, Lloyds Bank mortgage products director.

He added there has been an increase in home movers paying more than £100,000 in a deposit - with those in London paying almost double this to secure their next home.

The region with the highest number of house movers was the south east, followed by the south west. Northern Ireland saw the lowest people choosing to move in 2017. 


Govt moves towards digital property process

The government is moving towards digital land registration with new changes coming in April.

In a few months, a new rule will come in to force that will allow the land registry to introduce fully digital conveyancing documents such as mortgages and transfers.

It is hoped the changes will allow the buying and selling process to be quicker and more efficient and follows a public consultation.

Chief land registrar Graham Farrant believes the move will also reduce costs, but there have been significant safeguards put in place to tackle the issues of cyber-attacks and digital fraud.

“Our customers are central to everything we do and we want to make dealing with us quicker and simpler by providing more services through digital technology. These changes are an important enabler for our digital transformation and I want to thank our customers for their positive responses to the consultation,” Mr Farrant explained.


RLA warns about viewing scams

Potential tenants are being warned about fraudsters who are pretending to be landlords and charging for viewings.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has raised concerns unsuspecting people are paying a significant amount of money to view a property that is apparently available to rent at a very attractive price.

A number of advertisements have appeared in recent months on websites such as Gumtree describing appealing properties in key areas.  These listings often feature various official logs, making it seem the landlords are above board.

However, when replying to such ads, prospective tenants are being encouraged to pay a deposit to secure the right to view - in some cases, this amount is around £1,500.

However, once the deposit has been paid, the so-called landlords do not reply to any further contact and disappear with the money.

“We would like to make it clear that no genuine landlord will ever ask for money to secure a viewing. Often the victims in this type of fraud are young foreign students, who have limited knowledge of how the rental market works in the UK,’ said Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the RLA.

He added: “The fact that our DepositGuard logo is being used in this manner is something we are taking extremely seriously and we have approached Gumtree asking for clear warnings about scams of this type to be included on its website.”


Govt plans new anti-rogue landlord measures

Rogue landlords could face further measures to ensure they provide tenants with appropriate living conditions.

MP Karen Buck is leading a Private Members Bill to introduce new rights for renters to allow them to take legal action if they are forced to reside in homes unfit for human habitation.

The new powers could work alongside existing powers granted to local authorities to crack down on the small number of landlords who lease unsafe properties. At present, landlords can be fined up to £30,000 and from April, councils will be able to issue banning orders to repeat offenders.

“Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live. Councils already have wide ranging powers to crack down on the minority of landlords who rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation,” said housing secretary Sajid Javid.

He added public safety is “paramount” and it is vital to protect tenants by giving them the right to take legal action.

The bill aims to ensure landlords must only rent out properties that are in an acceptable condition at the beginning of a tenancy and throughout. If they fail to do so, then they can be sued for breach of contract.

In the coming months, the government’s plans to compile a database of rogue landlords and property agents will go online, allowing potential tenants to check their landlord out before committing to a tenancy agreement.



Government does not plan downsizing stamp duty relief

The government has confirmed it does nor plan to offer stamp duty holidays to encourage downsizing.

It had been suggested that offering older people the option to take a stamp duty holiday could encourage them to move to smaller homes and therefore, free up larger family homes on the market.

However, the Treasury has confirmed that it will not offer a tax break for those who are already generally a wealthy group of society.

“The financial gain that property owners are likely to receive from downsizing will likely outweigh the costs of doing so, particularly as there is no Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on someone’s main residence. Introducing a stamp duty relief for those looking to downsize would likely incentivise few genuinely new transactions, and would incur large deadweight cost,” said the government department.

A recent survey conducted by the International Longevity Centre revealed the most common reason for not downsizing was that the owners could still manage the maintenance of their home with 49 per cent citing this factor while 13 per cent stated the financial implications of moving.


Mortgage market not impacted by rate rise

The decision by the Bank of England to increase the base rate of interest does not appear to have had a significant impact on the mortgage market, reveals new data.

Figures compiled by residential surveyors e.surv conclude the mortgage market saw a 2.5 per cent rise in approvals between October and November.

This increase may partly be a result of homeowners making the decision to switch from variable rate loans to lower fixed rate deals to offset the impact of any future rate rises, but the central bank’s move does not seem to have dampened short-term demand.

However, mortgage approvals remain one per cent lower than the same point in 2016 and there are fewer first-time buyers with small deposits being approved - they accounted for just 16.1 per cent of the loan sector, compared to 20.3 per cent in August.

“After months of speculation, the Bank of England base rate increased to 0.5 per cent and this prompted many people to switch their mortgage and lock in a low rate,” explained , e.surv director Richard Sexton.

He added: “Overall approvals have increased month on month and we expect this to continue as those on variable rate mortgages see their monthly payments increase. Many will be able to switch elsewhere and save.”



London launches rogue landlord database

A new database has been launched in the capital that will name and shame rogue landlords and letting agents.

The Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker has been backed by London’s mayor and could help to protect more tenants.

The database is available on the City Hall website and will allow prospective tenants to check out a landlord or letting agent before signing up to a tenancy agreement.

So far, the database will include records provided by a number of London boroughs - Camden, Greenwich, Islington, Kingston, Newham, Southwark, Sutton, Waltham Forest, Westminster and the London Fire Brigade.

It is expected more data will be added over the coming weeks to include the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Croydon, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Lewisham, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets.

Tenants will be able to view prosecutions and enforcement action, as well as being given advice on how to report landlords who may be breaking the law.

“The housing market in London is difficult enough for Londoners to navigate, without those landlords and letting agents who behave unscrupulously leaving tenants living in appalling conditions, despite often paying sky high rents. I promised to do everything within my powers to help Londoners facing this problem. I will not stand by while they are exploited,” explained the mayor.

“Many landlords and agents across London offer a great service but sadly some don’t. My new database is about empowering Londoners to make informed choices about where they rent, and sending rogue operators a clear message: you have nowhere to hide.”


Young people struggle to rent

Many young people are struggling to get on the rental ladder in the UK, claims new research.

A survey from credit report provider Noddle suggests there are a number of reasons 700,000 people aged between 18 and 34 can not secure a rental property.

With average rents now standing at £927 per month and £1,593 in London, many people are unable to secure their first rental property because of financial reasons. In addition, poor credit histories and landlords being wary of letting to young tenants means many are struggling to move out of their parents’ homes.

The average property is now attracting four interested tenants - meaning landlords often opt to rent to professionals or older renters.

Jacqueline Dewey, managing director of Noddle, explained: “Our latest research suggests that it’s not just buying property that’s become increasingly difficult for young people today as renting is also out of reach for many. As demand for rentals becomes greater, especially in the big cities, landlords can pick and choose who they want in their properties.”

Young people are advised to start saving to ensure they can comfortably afford a deposit and ensure they have a good credit rating, so they present a more attractive tenant. 


More properties selling below asking price

The UK has seen a record number of homes being sold for less than their asking price as demand falls at the end of 2017.

Traditionally, the UK property market slows down as the end of the year approaches and November saw 85 per cent of homes being sold for less than their asking price.

A survey from the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) revealed this is the highest percentage since records began and is up on the 78 per cent recorded in the previous month.

Supply of properties also fall by 19 per cent, with the average estate agent having 34 homes on their books, compared to 42 in October.

This was matched with a fall in demand with a five per cent drop in the number of those registering to look at properties.

“A record number of properties sold for less than the original asking price last month, but despite this, demand for housing and the number of homes available decreased,” said Mark Hayward, NAEA chief executive.

“We usually see a slowdown in the property market around Christmas time but our November data shows this happened much earlier this year. It’s clear that more and more potential buyers and sellers have put their plans on hold early so they can start afresh next year,” he added.


Average deposit rises above £50k

Average first-time buyers need to put down a deposit of more than £50,000 to secure a home, claims new research.

Figures from mortgage advisor L&C Mortgages show the average deposit is now £51,821, which could rise to £65,930 in five years and £81,468 in a decade.

London buyers are also expected to need to increase their deposit substantially to around £250,000 within the next ten years.

However, the study also revealed 25 per cent of first-time buyers have not yet saved anything towards a deposit and are not optimistic about stepping on the property ladder in the near future.

“With this research predicting that the size of deposits required could rise considerably across the country, first-time buyers could be forgiven for giving up hope on owning their first home,” said David Hollingworth from L&C.

He added it makes sense for buyers to save as big a deposit as possible because of the more favourable mortgage deals for those with a larger down payment – although Mr Hollingworth saving is “easier said than done in today’s current climate”. 


Interest rate rise deterring young homeowners

Many young homeowners are being put off moving up the property ladder because of concerns over future interest rate rises.

eMoov found 56 per cent of those aged 25 to 34 are worried about the financial impact of making monthly mortgage payments.

The recent decision by the Bank of England has seen the base rate of interest rise from 0.25 per cent to 0.5 per cent - the first increase in a decade.

However, a number of property owners have not been deterred by making a purchase, although 60 per cent of London owners said they do not plan to move in the future.

Russell Quirk, chief executive officer of eMoov, explained there are some young property owners who have fears about the interest rate hikes, but he added the “majority have weathered the financial implications and the marginal hike has made it easy enough to do so”.


Govt announces new fund for homes

A new £25 million fund has been created to encourage the building of high-quality and well-designed homes.

Housing minister Alok Sharma revealed local authorities can now benefit from the Planning Delivery Fund which will support developments aimed at creating new properties in areas where supply is limited, but demand is high.

The fund is part of the government’s overall plan to create 300,000 new housing each year by the mid-2020s. Other initiatives include the creation of 14 garden villages to provide areas of attractive housing, strong infrastructure and accessible transport links.

“Locally led developments have enormous potential to deliver the scale and quality of housing growth that we need. By supporting our local authorities, we will be able to unlock more homes where people want to live,” said Mr Sharma.

It is expected the first allocation of the funds will total £11 million and cover the financial years 2017/2018 to 2018/2019.


Buyers fail to get their dream home

Many house buyers realise within three months of moving that their new home is not their dream home.

New research from home interior company Hillarys concluded one in three buyers have regret after buying a property - with five per cent then seriously considering selling up and moving again.

A number of issues were the reason for turning a dream property into a nightmare home, including noisy neighbours, poor condition and heavy traffic.

 “There’s nothing more exciting that finding your dream home, but then there’s nothing worse than moving into your dream home and realising it’s not as much of a dream as you had hoped,” said Tanya Irons, spokesperson for Hillarys.

She added: “Whether your neighbours are unbearable, the house is falling down around you or the traffic outside is loud and constant, the smallest thing can make the dream come crashing down. It’s always worth being realistic as nothing’s ever perfect and you need to make the most of the situation.”


Longer tenancies could bring benefits.

Incentives to encourage landlords to offer longer tenancies could play a key role in boasting the UK rental market.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced plans for a consultation to assess the impact of encouraging more landlords to offer long-term tenancy agreements, as well as whether it will support the Build to Rent sector.

David Cox, chief executive of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) believes more support for secured tenancies could be a possible move for the industry.

“We are pleased that the government will consult on longer term and more secured tenancies, this feels to be in line with the holistic approach they are taking towards the rental market,” said Mr Cox.

Fareed Nabir, chief executive officer of online lettings app LetBritain, believes may landlords could be tempted by tax incentives and it could offer stability for the country’s long-term renters, especially younger people who feel they are unlikely to become homeowners. 


First-time buyers underestimate buying costs

Many first-time buyers do not accurately estimate the cost of buying a home, according to a new study.

Research from Aldermore revealed often those stepping on to the property ladder underestimate the cost of buying and the associated costs of become a homeowner.

The deposit remains the top obstacle for first-time buyers, with many underestimating the amount needed by 31 per cent.

Other unexpected costs come in the form on solicitors and home surveys, with 40 per cent spending an additional £2,334 on such services.

The time it takes to save a suitable deposit was also underestimated by potential homeowners, with 58 per cent believing they would reach their goal within five years, with just 51 per cent achieving this and 16 per cent taking more than eight years.

 “It is clear there is a divergence between perception and reality when it comes to the house buying process. This often means those looking to buy are under estimating the associated costs as well as the time it could take to complete, especially with first time buyers expecting it to take four years on average to save for a deposit,’ said Charles McDowell, commercial director of mortgages at Aldermore.

“This lack of understanding clearly has financial implications but it can also take its toll emotionally.”


Fall in landlords accepting Universal Credit tenants

There has been a fall in the number of landlords willing to let to tenants who are claiming housing benefit or universal credit, shows new research.

Figures from the National Landlords Association (NLA) reveal just two in ten landlords will let properties to those in receipt of benefits – down from 34 per cent in 2013 to 20 per cent.

The NLA’s study also showed two in three landlords who did let to housing benefit recipients say tenants have fallen behind in rent payments over the past year.

Landlords represented by the NLA have already expressed concern about having to deal with the Universal Credit administration system, as well as the time it takes to secure direct payment of the housing part of the Universal Credit.

Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the NLA, said: “Underlying all the problems with Universal Credit is the freeze on housing benefit rates, which means that the housing element of Universal Credit is simply insufficient for many tenants to be able to cover their rent.

“The decline in social housing means that some of the most vulnerable in society can only turn to the private rented sector. We have long called for the freeze to be scrapped as it creates a barrier that prevents claimants from securing the housing they need.

“If the government is serious about helping then it needs to press pause on the roll out of Universal Credit, and fix its underlying problems. Otherwise more and more people will find themselves homeless as the proportion of landlords who consider themselves able to house those who need it most will keep on falling.”


Get your home show ready

If you plan to start 2018 with the prospective of selling your property and moving, then it may be worth thinking about the changes you need to make now to make your home attractive to buyers.

With the market remaining competitive, it is key to make sure your house is looking its best to ensure it attracts those purchasers who are motivated to buy.

Be honest

While you may think your home is perfect, it does pay to take an objective look at the property. Maybe the wallpaper has seen better days or is the lawn looking a little overgrown? Just smarting up a few things can have a real positive impact on buyers’ first impressions.

Small little DIY or touch-up projects can undermine a home and often buyers do not want a whole host of tasks to tackle when buying a property.

It is a good idea to ask yourself what sorts of things you'd want to see in a prospective home and compare how your property measures up.

Neutralise the decor

The perfect home for a potential buyer is a blank canvas, so make sure you take steps to neutralise the property, so it appeals to the most buyers.

Decluttering and removing anything that makes your home seem too quirky is a good start. While beige walls may be boring, it could make it easier for people to imagine themselves living there.

Also remember to make sure your home is tidy - buyers can often take a negative view of homes that are untidy and may perceive it as being smaller than it is.

Finishing touches

It could be those little extras that convince a buyer to put in an offer. Invest in some new cushions or replace those tired curtains. Popping a bunch of nice fresh flowers in a vase can also be a good way to add an extra welcoming detail to those looking for their next home. 


How do tenancy deposit schemes work? [Photo: -Oxford- via iStock]

Tenancy deposits have become something that tenants simply see as part of the reality of renting a home over the last few years, particularly since they have become a legal requirement of the private rented sector. However, despite the fact that all new tenants are having to pay a deposit before they move in - normally amounting to around six-weeks worth of rent - the majority of people are still not all that clued up on how the schemeswork. 

For example, did you know that landlords have a legal obligation to have the money secured throughout the tenancy, or that there is an official route for disputing any deductions from your deposit at the end of your tenancy?

Here, we take a look at the deposit protection schemes, and all that tenants need to know before they pay a deposit on a new rental property. 

Deposit protection

In 2007, the government brought in a new change to the rental market that meant all deposits paid by tenants in the private sector had to be protected under a government-approved scheme. In England and Wales, if you are renting a property, your deposit should be protected under one of three schemes;  the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, MyDeposits and Deposit Protection Service.

Your landlord or letting agent should also let you know which of these schemes they are using. If you have not received details within 30 days of your payment being made, get in touch with the landlord to make sure your deposit has been correctly protected. It is a legal requirement that they let you know. 

Where is your deposit?

As well as knowing what scheme is being used to protect your tenancy deposit, it's important that you know how it is being held. In England and Wales, there are two methods of protection, known as custodial and insurance schemes. 

Insurance schemes are the rarer of the two, and see the landlord pay a fee to make sure the deposit is protected. They keep the money in their own account throughout, allowing them to accrue any interest, and deal with the tenant directly when it comes time to move out. 

The more common method of protection is known as custodial. In these schemes, landlords and letting agents see the money from a tenant held in a secure account. This means that neither landlord nor tenant has access to the money at any time until the tenancy comes to an end, at which point the landlord can authorise the payment be released to the tenant, minus any deductions. 

Deposit deductions

For any number of reasons, there are times when a tenant moving out will not receive all of the money they put down as a tenancy deposit. In these cases, deductions are often made for things like damage, loss of property, unpaid bills or professional cleaning. 

However, tenants should know that they have the right to dispute these deductions under the deposit protection schemes. If a landlord says they are taking money off for damage to something the tenant knows they didn't damage, they can provide evidence to a third-party mediator, who decides whether or not the deduction is fair. 

Arguing against a deduction can increase the time it takes to get any of your money back from your tenancy deposit, but it's important for tenants to know that they do have a vehicle for challenging rulings to protect their money.


How to avoid common pitfalls when marketing a property [Photo: adempercem via iStock]

When it comes to selling a property, it's more important than ever that you get your marketing messages, and your ability to carry out viewings, absolutely spot on. Low supply means that sellers are in competition more than they've ever been in the past, and to get ahead, you need to make sure you have the best strategy in place. 

One way to undo all your hard work, however, is to fall into some of the most common pitfalls that can emerge in property sales. Here, we take a look at a few of these and how falling victim can negatively affect your ability to sell your home this year. 

Be realistic

If you've lived in your home for any time at all, chances are you'll have developed a bit of an emotional attachment to the place. But it's important not to let this get the better of you when you are looking to sell. 

Do your homework to work out what properties in your area, and similar houses, have been selling for in recent times, as well as taking into account the current state of the market. And don't let your heart lead your head. At the end of the day, you want to make that sale, and overpriced properties tend to hang around on the market for far longer. 

Be honest

You might be a little nervous about issues that have affected your home. Damp and other forms of damage can often put off a seller, so it's understandable that divulging such information can be difficult, but it's important not to get caught up in hiding stuff. At the end of the day, the information will still come out in the buyer's survey, so it's best to be honest from the off. 

The same applies to any descriptions you write about your house. There's no point, for example, marketing your home as having three spacious bedrooms if the first person to come to a viewing is going to see straight away that one is a cramped box room. Be more honest from the off, and your chances of finding success will be much higher in the end. 

Don't let the camera lie

The ease of taking pictures and uploading them has made it easier than ever to advertise what your home has to offer, so it's important to take advantage of this. If you don't have images of your house in your listing, or not enough, then chances are that your potential buyer will click on a listing that does. 

However, it's also important to remember not to misrepresent your home in the pictures you use. Some people might be tempted to take a photo from a flattering angle to make the room look bigger, or even to stretch a photo to enhance this illusion. But at the end of the day, the buyer is going to find out eventually what the home looks like in the end, so you need to be honest from the off. 

Don't get complacent

Another common pitfall when it comes to selling a home is to get a bit too complacent with how the place looks before someone comes around to see it. It's especially easy to fall into this trap if you've had a property on the market for some time, and despite lots of people coming to see it, no one has made an offer yet. 

It's always advisable to do your best to make your home look as presentable as it can. Buyers will expect a little "lived in" atmosphere to be present, but remember, you want to impress them, so you need to make sure that before any viewings, you clean up, put away any clean washing and give the place a quick once over, including using an air freshener, to make it look and smell perfect. 


Why are more young people renting than ever before? [Photo: iStock/fizkes]

In recent years, the number of people who choose to rent homes rather than buying them has been rising consistently. One of the main drivers behind this has been young people, who are by far the largest demographic in the private rented sector these days. 

According to recent Savills data, the number of tenants in the UK private market at present is around 5.3 million. Of that number, 1.5 million are aged between 25 and 34-years old, making this demographic the most prominent. But what is the reason for this, and why do young people increasingly choose to rent rather than buying properties? Here, we take a look at a few of the most common reasons. 

Cost and saving

While there are many young people who prefer to rent rather than buy homes, there are also those who simply cannot afford to buy, or who see the cost as a challenge to overcome. One of the main reasons for this is that the typical buyer needs to be coming to market with a ten per cent deposit, which means needing around £20,000 before being able to buy. 

For many, this is simply unaffordable, while for others renting offers them the chance to get their own place, while also being able to afford to save up to become homeowners further down the line. 

Convenience and freedom

Another huge reason many people of millennial age choose to rent rather than buy is because they want the convenience that comes with being a tenant. More than ever before, young people are coming out of school and university with their eyes on building a career, and for many, this is the single most important aspect of their life. 

Being a tenant rather than a homeowner allows them the freedom to do this, as they can make career choices they could not make if they were tied to an area by their house purchase. When it comes to moving home, it's far easier to move from one rented property to another than waiting to sell a house, which can prohibit the ability to further their career. 


Young people are probably more financially savvy at the moment than they have been at any time in the past, and for this reason, many are adopting something of a wait-and-see attitude to the market, which means renting rather than owning property.

Whether it's the implications of Brexit on the housing market, the potential for interest rates to rise - taking mortgage payments up with them - or the uncertainty around capital gains, many young people are seeing the next couple of years in the housing market as a period that needs to be waited out. As a result, many are choosing to rent rather than buy, allowing them to make a measured decision in the future regarding when would be the best time to get on to the property ladder.


How to prepare your house for a sale in the busiest months of the year [Photo: BrianAJackson via iStock]

Autumn, and in particular October and November, has become the traditional busiest period of the year for the property market. While many would probably expect the summer months to be busier, it's autumn, and its placement between the school summer holidays and Christmas, that sees more people looking to buy homes than at any other time of year. 

This reality, however, means that sellers, as well as buyers, come out in force throughout the autumn period, and as a result, it's vital that anyone looking to bring their home to market stands out from the crowd. In a world of easy-access property portals hosting thousands of adverts, it's important that your home stands out, and this starts with properly preparing your home for being shown. 

Here, we take a look at a few quick things you can do to make your home stand out and prepare it for the busiest time of year. 

A lick of paint

The first thing anyone will see when they are looking at your home, either online or in person, is the exterior, so you need to make sure it shines and grabs the attention. This means ensuring that your garden fence and front door have had a quick lick of paint. It's an easy job, but it can make all the difference, giving the exterior of your home the ability to make the all-important first impression a good one. 

Tone it down 

You may well think that your unique sense of style makes your property highly desirable, but when it comes to the time to sell, it's important to be pragmatic about things. Take a step back and look at your decor, and ask if it's something that's likely to appeal to everyone. If you have a colourful home, it can be a good idea to tone it down a little to appeal to a higher number of people. White, beige and other neutral colours on the wall are easy ways to give your property the ability to wow everyone. 

Natural light

The photos that the estate agent takes of your home will make or break your property listing, so you need to make sure they are as attractive as possible. The best way to do this is to bring as much natural light into the rooms as possible. It makes them look more spacious and bright, which is a huge bonus in the eyes of buyers. To make this a reality, you can take out curtains and blinds from rooms that don't necessarily need them, maximising the light exposure in each room. 

No clutter

Another top tip for making your home stand out in images online is to ensure that you keep clutter throughout to an absolute minimum. You may have a lot of stuff at home that you treasure, but this means nothing to your buyer, and if you've got a lot of stuff sitting around, it really can make your home look cluttered. Space is the number one concern for buyers these days, and taking out any unneeded items is key to highlighting the space that your home does have to entice buyers.


Strong communities at the heart of Britain's happiest places to live [Photo: iStock]

The south of England has been shown to be the happiest place to live in the UK, as part of a new survey that highlights community spirit and access to fantastic amenities as the drivers of a content resident. 

Rightmove this week published the results of its latest Happiest Place to Live survey for 2017, which surveyed 17,000 people, asking them how pleased they are with the place they live. It was discovered that Leamington Spa in the West Midlands is currently the happiest town in the country, narrowly taking the lead from last year's winner, Leigh-On-Sea in the south-east. 

Overall, the south of England was found to be the happiest part of the country, with six of the top ten towns and cities located in London and the south. Tunbridge Wells, Epsom and Richmond upon Thames all featured in the top ten. 

The drivers of happiness in these towns was found to primarily be the sense of community that they manage to foster, while access to amenities is also an important factor. Things such as having good schools nearby and access to a doctor tend to be what people want most from their towns. 

Rightmove’s Research Manager Abiola Oni comments: “We’ve looked at the connection between each of the factors and what contributes to how happy people say they are overall, and it’s the people in an area and how someone feels about living there that makes the biggest difference.  

"So the strength of community spirit, people feeling like they belong and that they can be themselves are all more important than the services and money that they have, though these do still contribute to overall happiness.”

Other factors that can make people feel happy about their town include the fact that people feel like they belong in the town, which goes a long way to making sure they feel settled and at home. 


Average asking price rises 1.1% as seller confidence grows [Photo: bjeayes via iStock]

The average seller in the UK property market is getting more confident, and is now asking for a higher price when putting  their home on the market as a result, new data shows. 

According to the latest report released by Rightmove this week, the average asking price across England and Wales in October stands at £313,435. This is 1.1 per cent, or more than £3,000, higher than recorded in September, indicating growing confidence. 

The asking price across England and Wales is also up by 1.4 per cent when compared to October last year, and the monthly and annual growth are both very positive, coming after September experienced a 1.2 per cent fall in asking prices. 

October is typically one of the busiest months of the year in terms of the number of homes sold, and this is reflected in the fact that there is a consistent trend of rising asking prices in this month. It's the 16th consecutive year in which Rightmove has recorded a climb in asking prices in October, but 2017 marks the highest monthly growth recorded since 2014. 

However, while confidence is high in the market at the moment, Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst, pointed out that it could well be misplaced. Even though sellers feel like they can get a good price for their home, the number of agreed sales is falling. 

This could be an indicator that there are fewer buyers around than there typically are at this time of the year, which could potentially mean that sellers are not able to command the prices they expect for their homes. 

In the north of England, the data shows, the number of agreed sales has dropped three per cent since September, while in the south, there has been a fall in the same time of some 7.9 per cent.


North-south property market divide continues to show large discrepancies [Photo: Rawpixel Ltd via iStock]

London and the rest of the south of the UK may not have had its most impressive year in terms of the property market, but the north-south divide that has been evident in the sector for some times is continuing to show. 

According to official data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), analysed by eMoov, London continues to be home to the nation's most expensive properties, while the cheapest are found in Wales. 

One trend that eMoov has identified is the large gap that exists between the average price per square metre in these two opposing regions. 

The average cost per square metre of a flat in London now sits at £6,500, which is double the price that was seen in 2004. Across England and Wales as a whole, the price per square metre of properties has increased by just 2.7 per cent in that same time. 

It means that the gap between the lowest price per square metre recorded and the highest is a staggering £18,000 at present. In Kensington in Chelsea, the average price per square metre is £19,400. However, in Blaenau Gwent in Wales, the price is less than five per cent of this at just £777.

Russell Quirk, chief executive of eMoov, said: "Of course, it is no surprise that an over-inflated London market leads the way in terms of highest price, despite a slowdown in price growth in recent times, and while £2,305 a square metre is a high price to pay to get on the housing ladder, this research also shows that across England and Wales there are many far more affordable options."

He said it is the affordability of certain parts of the UK that has helped to keep the property market growing in uncertain times, such as the last year, when places like London have been starting to slow in activity.


London likely to reclaim its property market dominance in 2021 [Photo: iStock/johnkellerman]

London's property market has experienced one of its weakest years in recent memory in 2017, seeing slower rates of house price increases, and even the occasional slump in values. However, this is only a temporary reality likely to right itself in the next few years. 

According to the latest report released by KPMG Economics, one of the biggest factors that has been holding back the capital in the last few months is the political uncertainty, particularly that surrounding Brexit, that people continuously have to deal with. 

This turbulence leads to buyers waiting to see what will happen before they make a move, and sellers lowering prices when they perceive demand to be dropping. However, the good news from KPMG is that this is only a temporary problem for London. 

The city has long been well known for its thriving property market and the fact it can come through problematic situations - such as the economic crisis of 2007 - relatively unscathed, and it seems that this will be the case once again after the Brexit dust settles. 

KPMG predicts that for this year, house prices in London are likely to increase by just one per cent. It said that the situation will worsen a little in 2018 as well, when prices could fall by one per cent. 

However, in the year that the UK leaves the European Union officially (2019), prices are going to start gaining pace once again, and should climb in the capital by 2.5 per cent. This is a trend that will continue for a few years after as well, with 2020 and 2021 seeing values rising by 3.9 per cent and 4.4 per cent respectively, allowing London to take back its position as the fastest growing property market in the UK. 

"London's property market isn't just made up of people's homes. Foreign investors plough money into property in the capital as it is seen as a safe haven asset, and they will continue to do so after Brexit, especially if sterling remains weak," said KPMG's chief economist Yael Selfin.

"If the UK's exit from the EU is done in a positive way, we're likely to see demand for property in the capital rise as it will remain one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in Europe," he added.


Average rental prices rise 2.1% in the space of a year [Photo: iStock/fizkes]

The average price of renting a home in the UK has risen markedly in the last 12 months, according to the latest property market index. 

Data released by HomeLet in its September publication shows that the average tenant in the UK's private rented sector is now having to spend £927 per calendar month to get themselves a property. It said this marks an impressive 2.1 per cent rise when compared to the same month a year ago. 

It's a similar story in the capital, where the price of renting a home has climbed to £1,593 per calendar month. This was a 1.9 per cent rise when compared to September 2016. The good news for London is that this is a continuation of the trend reversal seen last month. 

London had experienced four consecutive months of rental prices falling earlier in the year, but in both August and September, the average price paid by tenants has climbed compared to 2016. This indicates that the capital could well be seeing the stability it has craved in 2017 at long last. 

Overall, HomeLet said, over the past year, the average rental price paid by tenants has climbed in 11 of the 12 regions, with only the south-east having seen a drop compared to 2016 (0.1 per cent). 

HomeLet’s chief executive officer Martin Totty said this latest data shows the market returning to a period of rises, and speculated that additional costs for landlords could be driving this change. 

"It wouldn’t be surprising if landlords, seeing their own current and anticipated cost increases, seek to pass these costs on to tenants to preserve the returns from capital they have invested in residential property assets," he said, adding that landlords nationwide have had to contend with a "deluge of higher costs" in recent times.


House prices not hugely impacted by Brexit process in Q3 [Photo: iStock/narvikk]

Brexit has always been a word to fear in the property market, if forecasts and predictions are to be believed. But according to a new report, the start of the Brexit process and negotiations has actually had very little impact on the market at all. 

In fact, the data published by Halifax Bank shows that the average property price is actually rising at its fastest rate across the UK since the triggering of Article 50 by the government earlier this year. 

Halifax Bank said that in the three months to the end of September this year, the average price of property across the UK rose to a new high of £225,109. This represented a 0.8 per cent rise in September, as well as a 1.4 per cent increase when compared to the end of the quarter before. 

However, perhaps most significant is the fact that house prices are now four per cent higher than they were at this time a year ago, indicating that Brexit, and the start of the process for real in 2017, has not had the impact that many would have expected it to have before the referendum.

While prices are rising at a promising rate, however, experts are warning that it may be a little too early to start celebrating just yet. Russell Galley, managing director of the Halifax Community Bank, said that even though prices have risen well, the rate of growth remains slower than at the start of 2017. 

On top of this, Jonathan Hopper, managing director of Garrington Property, said rises are still not as consistent as the market would be hoping for. He said momentum remains "patchy" and that even though prices are heading in the right direction, there is too much in the way of wavering to suggest any long-term trends have started. 


More than a third of buyers make a snap decision after one viewing [Photo: monkeybusinessimages via iStock]

A growing number of people in the UK property market are making "six-figure decisions" on the back of just 30 minutes of time spent viewing properties, a new study has found. 

According to First Direct, people are now spending an average of more than £226,000 on properties, and many are doing so on the back of just one visit to the property. 

It said that 36 per cent of people will conduct just one viewing of a home, lasting 30 minutes or less, before they decide to take the plunge and make an offer. This is a quickly increasing number, and indicative of a continuously more competitive market, where buyers have to make snap decisions to stay ahead of the competition. 

The number of people who only view a property once now outnumbers those who take a more traditional approach to buying. The survey shows that only 26 per cent of buyers nationwide will now undertake three viewings of a prospective home before they make the decision whether to buy or not to buy. 

First Direct says that the new trend for a shorter decision-making period for buyers means that a growing number of people - those who only view a home once - are spending an average of some £7,530 for every minute they have visited the property pre-purchase. 

Joe Gordon, head of First Direct, said: "Every week thousands of home buyers are making six-figure decisions based on one quick tour of a property. Unfortunately, a lot of buyers then find they’re faced with expensive repair and renovation bills because they hadn’t done thorough checks beforehand."

He added that while the pace of the market at the moment means it's understandable that buyers feel like they have to make a snap decision, the fact remains that buying a home is the biggest financial commitment the majority of people will ever make. For that reason, it's always vital to make a reasoned decision when it comes to making an offer.


First timer mortgages on the rise as approvals grow [Photo: Courtney Keating/iStock]

The mortgage market has enjoyed huge improvement over the last year, and first-time buyers have been some of the biggest beneficiaries of this growth, according to new data published this week. 

Research from e.surv shows that in the past 12 months, the number of mortgages approved for house purchases has grown by a significant 7.8 per cent. 

This is likely due to the slowing of the market in the aftermath of Brexit throughout summer 2016, but it shows that there has been a real improvement since then, and that the sector has bounced back well from a difficult challenge it faced last year. 

However, while the market has grown in general over the past 12 months, it is those who come to market with a small deposit - primarily first-time buyers - who are seeing the best improvements in lending conditions. The e.surv data shows that the proportion of all loans being approved for first timers is a rather impressive 20.3 per cent, up from the 19.6 per cent seen in August 2016.

It also marks a large growth in activity from small deposit buyers when compared to the tail end of last year. As recently as December 2016, the proportion of mortgage lending being afforded to these buyers was as low as 16 per cent. 

Richard Sexton, director of e.surv, said: "The UK mortgage market is in a much healthier position than a year ago. Approval rates are 7.8 per cent higher year on year and first-time buyers are taking more of the overall market. 

"A year ago the market was dealing with reverberations of the Brexit vote, but the past 12 months have seen a strong recovery for the mortgage industry and the outlook for the future looks more settled," he added.


Top reasons renting is a better option than buying for skilled young professionals [Photo: iStock/Oko_Swan0murphy]

For years, we've been told that young people simply cannot afford to get onto the property ladder. With the average age of first-time buyers edging ever closer to 35, and the number of people who own their own home falling below two-thirds for the first time, it would appear on the surface that youngsters are being forced out of the market. 

However, this is not the case for everyone. There are five million or so people currently living in privately rented properties across the UK, and while there are, of course, some who are doing so because they cannot afford to buy, for others, it's a lifestyle choice. 

Skilled young professionals, who value the career ladder above the property ladder, are increasingly choosing to rent rather than buy when they come out of university and embark on their quest to find their dream job. So if you're a young professional thinking of your own next step, what are the benefits of doing this, and why should you consider renting over buying a home?

It's more accessible

For young people who are straight out of university, London is often the dream. Many young people see the capital as the perfect place to kick off their career and work towards the high-flying roles they've always wanted. But moving to London as a youngster is incredibly difficult. To buy a home, you're looking at having to get a mortgage of at least half a million pounds, and you'll probably need about £50,000 in savings for a deposit, which makes it a costly venture. 

However, if you choose to rent, you can move to your desired area much sooner, and it also allows you the chance to save up for that mortgage in years to come without having to compromise on where you live now. 

It's flexible

For career driven young professionals, one of the big fears around buying a house is the lack of mobility that comes with being an owner. Not only is it hard to sell your house in the current market, the chain that comes with doing so can often hold you up, which is not ideal if you've been offered a new role elsewhere and need to move fast to further your career. 

This is the reason many young people choose to rent when they are building themselves their dream career. Being a tenant means they can move at much shorter notice than they could as an owner, which is a big plus point when it comes to moving up the jobs ladder. 


Young professionals are busy people. Straight out of university, many people just want to throw themselves at work and immerse themselves completely in their new industry. But owning a house can add different stresses that take you away from this, and for many, this is the reason they choose to rent rather than buy their own home. 

For example, if your boiler happens to break down as a homeowner, not only is it costly to get the repairs done, it can also be a long and stressful process. You need to find someone who can fix it, book appointments, take time off work and go through the whole process of getting it repaired yourself. However, as a tenant, maintenance and repairs is something that is dealt with fully by the letting agent, meaning young people are free to get on with their life and their career, as well as not having to worry about the price associated with getting things fixed. 


Image credit: PRImageFactory via iStock

Purchasing a second property is an exciting time for any homeowner, as it shows they are moving up the property ladder and potentially putting themselves in a position to trade their current accommodation for something better.

However, it can come with a number of organisational challenges, not least of which is the question of what to do with your first home. For many, the initial instinct will be to sell up, whereas others might prefer to keep hold of the property in order to rent it out. Both approaches have notable pros and cons, so it's well worth taking the time to consider all of them before coming to a decision.

The benefits of renting
Property owners who choose to let out their first property rather than selling it on usually do so due to the considerable potential for long-term financial gains associated with this approach.

By turning your first home into a rental asset, you'll be able to guarantee yourself a regular source of income, with the property generating profits from rent even after taking into account any mortgage fees you might still owe. Moreover, it allows you to hang on to a potentially valuable asset and build up a property portfolio over time.

If the property is in an area where prices are on the rise, you stand to benefit from considerable capital gains over time as the asset becomes more and more valuable; what's more, it offers the additional flexibility of knowing you still have a place to return to if you're expecting to come back to that area at some point in future.

Why selling might be better
For some, selling their first home when they buy their second will be a no-brainer, because they will want to use the proceeds from the sale to finance the new purchase. However, there are other reasons why selling might be better than renting.

Notably, the gains associated with being a landlord are offset by the fact that it requires a considerable amount of work, as you'll still be financially responsible for the property and will need to carry on looking after it as part your legal duties to your tenant. If you find that you're having trouble finding reliable tenants, it's also possible that it could become a financial drain, rather than a generator of profit.

It's also worth remembering that generally, it's easier to avoid having to pay capital gains tax when you only own one property; as such, you should bear in mind that if you choose to sell the home some time after purchasing a second, it's much more likely that you'll be hit with a hefty tax bill.

Which approach is right for you?
Ultimately, this is a question you'll have to answer for yourself, based on your individual circumstances, goals and needs. The important thing is that you make sure you take the time to do the necessary research and seek professional guidance, whichever option you ultimately choose.


Renewed calls for Stamp Duty reform that would see sellers pay [Photo: designer491 via iStock]

Calls for Stamp Duty to be changed in a way that would greatly assist first-time buyers have been renewed ahead of the government's upcoming Autumn Budget speech. 

Some have called for ministers to scrap the property tax altogether in order to encourage more people to buy homes, but the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) said it would be a far better solution to simply have sellers, rather than buyers, pay Stamp Duty on homes. 

If this was done, the organisation said, then the £11 billion that is raised by the property tax every year would still be going into the public purse. However, it would ease the burden on particular on first-time buyers and encourage them to get onto the ladder when they might have previously seen it as being too expensive. 

"It’s widely accepted that stamp duty adds a burden to any home owners seeking to move, especially first-time buyers, because they must pay the tax as an immediate upfront cost together with finding a deposit and paying surveyors and solicitors fees and so on," said Phil Hall, AAT head of public affairs and public policy.

He added that the way the tax works at the moment "stunts mobility" and halts the building of more homes, which only makes house prices rise even higher. He said that the move towards owners, rather than buyers, paying Stamp Duty instead would be a "relatively simple way of solving these problems". 

The main problem that many newcomers to the market face is that Stamp Duty is usually an upfront fee costing them multiple thousands of pounds. And when this is coupled with a mortgage deposit and estate agent and solicitor fees, it's something that many cannot see themselves being able to afford.


Buy-to-let mortgage brokers still not aware of new landlord lending criteria [Photo: Courtney Keating via iStock]

New rules for lending to landlords who have larger property portfolios are due to come into effect later this year, changing the checks that brokers need to undertake when it comes to lending for the purposes of buying rental homes. 

However, in spite of the fact the rules were first announced in 2016, nearly half of all specialist buy-to-let brokers understand what the new criteria are and what it will mean for their own business practices after October. 

According to a study by OneSavings Bank, only 54 per cent of those brokers surveyed said they fully understand what the new rules will entail, both for portfolio holding landlords and themselves. But 46 per cent remain in the dark, with 31 per cent saying they do not know what the new criteria are, and 13 per cent even saying they had no idea about when they will come into play. 

Shockingly, two per cent of brokers have not heard anything about the change to the rules at all. 

Under the new rules, landlords who have a portfolio of more than four properties will face even more scrutiny when they try to obtain further buy-to-let mortgages. Brokers will have to provide detailed data about each of the properties in their portfolio, including cash flow information and the associated costs of running multiple tenancies. 

"Brokers have had to get to grips a with a huge amount of regulatory change over the past 18 months including seismic changes to mortgage tax relief and stamp duty, so it’s understandable that some are still playing catch up, but with the deadline looming, now is the time to buff up on the new rules and make sure clients are ready to comply," said Adrian Moloney, sales director at OneSavings Bank.

Those who are aware of the implications of the changes are foreseeing big changes for their operation, including more administrative work. However, they also say there is a much better chance that it will mean a greater number of opportunities.


Falling London asking prices pull down the nationwide average [Photo: iStock/johnkellerman]

The average asking price for property sales in the UK experienced its first fall at this time of year since 2013, new data shows, but September has also seen a rise in sales as a direct result.

According to findings from property portal Rightmove, the average asking price nationwide fell by some 1.2 per cent, or £3,660, this month. This is the first time in four years that it's dropped at all in September, with London at the forefront of this decline. 

In the capital, asking prices have fallen as the city continues to adapt and readjust to changing market conditions. In Kensington and Chelsea, asking prices fell by as much as 14.3 per cent month on month, while in Camden they are down by seven per cent compared to August. 

The extent of the drops in asking price in London can be seen clearly when it's excluded from overall data. The average fall without London across England and Wales is only 0.5 per cent, and although this is still heading in the wrong direction in the eyes of sellers, it paints a clearer picture of the market nationwide. 

The good news is that although those looking to sell are having to temper their expectations, the fact that asking prices have experienced a dip has encouraged more buyers to come to market. The average asking price now stands at £310,003, and this has helped to swell demand in all regions. 

Compared to last year, there are now 4.8 per cent more transactions for house sales taking place, showing that when the prices drop, the market experiences a surge in the number of buyers who find it more affordable. 

Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst, said: "With competition among lenders to lend, increasing wages and the lowest level of unemployment since 1975, buyers are still keen to buy if the property is worth the money and well presented. 

"If more sellers appreciate that sensible pricing is the best way forward, then this will help to maintain good levels of buyer activity despite the uncertain political outlook."