Transactions across England and Wales in September dropped 7.6 per cent year on year while Prime Central London now sees fewer than 70 sales a week – and one investment guru puts it all down to the ongoing political and economy uncertainty gripping the country.
London Central Portfolio, a property investment consultancy, pulls no punches when it comes to saying where the blame lies for these figures, which are roughly the same as they were at the worst point in the global financial crisis of 2008 to 2013.
“Market sentiment has not been restored by the government’s policies or handling of the Brexit negotiations. In what is already a heavily taxed landscape the government believes there is still room to add further taxes directed at the overseas investor. This does not seem to be the right message for the government to be sending to the outside world with Brexit looming” claims Naomi Heaton, LCP’s chief executive.
“Undoubtedly it flies in the face of the ‘open for business’ slogan the Prime Minister previously used at the G20 summit in 2016” she adds.
“It’s hard to see how this decline in transactions can be reversed until there is an agreed outline plan for Brexit. International buyers, already affected by successive tax increases and now exposed to negative coverage of the current political situation, are holding back” she warns.
Nevertheless, she says the high value sector is seeing a better performance now than in some recent times, with the weakness of sterling and the high absolute levels of discounts encouraging homeowners, in particular, to enter the market.
“On the other hand, rental investors, who underpin the lower value end of the market are biding their time. It is likely that when sentiment improves, prices in this sector will harden quickly” Heaton believes.
She warns that there is little cause for optimism.
“Growth has been stifled by the government’s failure to give a clearer picture of what a post-Brexit landscape will entail for homeowners and investors alike. Those who have been sitting tight will have seen very little to encourage them to take the plunge in the current climate, particularly as the growth in the value of their own property has been nominal.”
By contrast estate agency chain Haart gives a very different view of the market claiming that prices have increased by nine per cent since the June 2016 EU Referendum and claiming the company is now recording transactions “at their highest for two years”.
“EU or no-EU the need to move home will always be there…Brits move for a whole host of reasons including good schools, new jobs and better transport links … Brexit is not a word our branches are hearing on the ground anymore, but instead, customers are much more focused on what is happening with interest rates and stamp duty, and for investors, the recent tax changes” claims Paul Smith, Haart’s chief executive.
Over the weekend a prominent London buying agent – Caroline Takla, managing partner of buying agency The Collection – called for a second EU referendum saying: “The Brexit negotiations are going extremely badly and we are hurtling towards a no deal, which would hinder the property market significantly.”
Property portal OnTheMarket has announced that it now has listing agreements with over 8,500 estate and letting agency branches.
It says that since launching on the stock market in February, it has added more than 3,000 branches to its total – representing growth of more than 50%.
The firm estimates that it now has a listing agreement with approximately 45% of UK residential estate and letting agency branches.
In a statement issued to the London Stock Exchange yesterday, the portal said its current advertising campaign – which focuses on its ‘new and exclusive’ feature – has led to increased consumer engagement with the brand. It reports growth in the number of property alerts set up by users to more than one million active alerts.
Last month, traffic to the website increased to reach 13.7 million visits – up from 12 million in March and significantly higher than the figures recorded in February 2018 and March last year.
“We are extremely pleased to be continuing to exceed our own expectations of the overall number of agents signing up, and to have achieved this latest milestone of 8,500 offices just two weeks after reaching 8,000 offices,” says Ian Springett, chief executive officer of OnTheMarket.
“In sustaining this pace of expansion, we are very strongly encouraged by the growing agent support and feedback to our proposition. We remain committed to creating an agent-backed, full scale challenger portal that injects some much-needed competition into the property portals landscape by disrupting what has for too long been effectively a cosy duopoly.”
OnTheMarket launched on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange on February 9 with a share price of 165p after raising £30 million of its £50 million investment target.
Nobody who uses the internet and email to any significant extent will not have heard of the General Data Protection Regulation – or GDPR – which has been drawn up to regulate how personal data is stored and used. After all, personal email accounts will have been filled with messages from organisations seeking the consent of those they email to go on doing so.
It is important for landlords and agencies to be aware of GDPR, which is an EU regulation but will apply in the UK from May 25th despite the approach of Brexit, as it is supported by the government.
The National Landlords’ Association (NLA) has welcomed the development, advising its members that GDPR is “a hugely positive step for data protection, both for you as a citizen, and as a landlord”.
It added that, at the same time, tenants will also get more control over their data as well.
Explaining why this matters, the NLA stated: “As a landlord you handle your tenants’ data. By law, this classifies you as a data controller, and as such you have a responsibility to handle your tenants’ personal information in an appropriate and lawful manner and are obliged to comply with GDPR.”
Among the ways this will change the usage, dissemination and reproduction of data will be in the use of documents like tenants’ forms, which can no longer be filled in electronically and then stored by the NLA, due to the personal data on tenants they contain. Instead, they will have to be downloaded, printed off and filled in manually.
The NLA has provided its members with much information about GDPR and so too has the Residential Landlords’ Association. The latter organisation has published a list of frequently asked questions, such as whether an agent who only has the name and number of the tenant should still have to register these with the Information Commissioner’s Office (the answer is yes).
With new and existing tenants also needing to be given privacy notices under the new rules, it is clearly very important for landlords and agents to check that they are doing all the right things.
That may take a little getting used to, but if the NLA is right that everyone will benefit, then the effort will have been worth it.
Article By: Gary Whitaker
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee has decided to keep the base rate unchanged at 0.5 per cent this month.
The vote amongst the nine members was 7-2 – unchanged from the previous month. It said that the weak economic growth at the start of the year may have been influenced by the weather, but it wanted more substantial evidence of economic activity before any future increase.
The decision has been greeted with a sigh of relief amongst estate agents following a slew of disappointing figures suggesting the housing market has failed to take off this spring.
“You only need to look at the fact that the real economy remains challenging and it becomes self-evident that the price of property is a stretch for many consumers. Moreover, the property market is naturally self-regulating thanks to the balance between supply and demand and affordability. In reality, “Weare now seeing more properties coming to market which is giving buyers more choice. Asking prices are consequently being reviewed and this mechanism in effect controls housing inflation without the requirement to change the base rate” says David Westgate, chief executive of Andrews Property Group.
The latest RICS Residential Market Survey for April has shown a stock average of 42.2 properties per branch – scarcely ahead of the record low of 41.8.
New buyer enquiries were broadly unchanged during April, meaning it has now been 13 months since this measure was last in positive territory. Only eight per cent more surveyors said they expect sales activity to increase rather than decrease over the next 12 months.
This has not been the only indicator of a tough housing market that is likely to have influenced the Bank of England today.
Savills says London land prices have fallen two per cent in the first quarter of 2018 and by 12 per cent over the past three years, while Strutt & Parker has predicted that in a worst-case scenario house prices in prime central London may drop another five per cent this year.
The Halifax earlier this week reported that house prices fell by 3.1 per cent in April, although tried to soften the blow by saying that just one month’s figures would be open to more volatility than longer-term data.
On top of all that, to emphasise affordability issues, a survey of 3,000 people by MyJobQuote has shown that more than one in three current home owners wouldn’t be able to afford their property if it were listed on the market at today’s value.
They said their properties were on average some £50,000 more than their original purchase price, taking them out of their price range now.
Residential property investment is well-known as a safe way to get a good return on your outlay. Higher yields than a bank savings account, less risky than most other investment schemes, buying property to rent out is a great way to make your money work for you. When investing in residential property, the three familiar factors apply: location, location, location. But which location?
London is an obvious UK property hotspot, due to its extremely dense population. However, finding the initial investment sum for that market can be difficult – London prices are the extreme end. So, how can you find out if your location choice will give you the best return on your investment?
Hotspots vs Notspots! Or, how to size up your prospective location
Our industry insiders have identified three major questions to ask yourself:
1. What are the comfort versus risk levels? Every investment has certain levels of each. You need to balance these out. If there is no risk, there is likely little to no reward. But you need some sense that there will be a return on your investment.
2. What’s your exit strategy? Buy property that will sell quickly if you need it to. You might need to suddenly change your investment strategy at short notice – will you be stuck with an unsellable house or flat? That golden opportunity can soon become a lead weight around your neck.
3. What is your budget? If you can’t afford a location that will return the yields you need, it may well be worth holding off until you have saved enough!
A good rule of thumb for the novice investor is, “go with what you know”. If you have lived in an area yourself, you’re more likely to understand whether the population in that area rents or buys, what facilities can serve them, and whether or not the local economy will support your investment.
Getting more specific
Look in more detail into the following areas to assess the potential of your chosen location:
1. Number and size of businesses in the area
A large economy is supported by a large workforce. Ask if your location is a business hub, are there many national or international headquarters here? What are the industries? Insurance, banking, and IT are all good indicators.
2. Are there universities?
Having property within a mile or two of elite further education establishments on a portfolio is a great way for the new investor to find rental income. However this can also add to your own pricetag.
3. Local government investment
Are the local council putting money back into the infrastructure of the community? You can usually find these numbers on their website. A city or town that invests in itself is more attractive to incoming people, and helps drive the local property market.
A location which draws people to visit will also draw people to stay. Although you may or may not be interested in holiday rental investments, a place popular with tourists usually has a healthier economy.
5. Green spaces
Having plentiful parks and trees makes a happier residential environment and encourages families to settle there.
A bustling life in the location outside of work is a good draw to people to live there. Nightlife, shopping, entertainment, activities – all these will contribute to becoming a ‘place to be’.
7. Transport and connectedness
Is your location well served by public transport? Airports? Motorways? These conduits act like a funnel, bringing more life to the location.
If in doubt, ask!
A local letting agent who specialises in property investments knows the rental market inside and out, and can advise on the different yields in locations down to street level.
Article by: Natalia Gombalova
Being a landlord can be lucrative but there are many challenges and hurdles for landlords to overcome. The government has been layering an ever increasing burden on landlords in particular with excessive levels of compliance and legislation.
I have been working closely with many landlords operating in the local area, and I know the difficulties that professionals in the industry face. Rising costs and increasing demands cause problems but for many landlords, it is the number of regulations impacting on their business which leaves them wondering if they should continue to operate in the market.
Electrical safety is being placed under the same level of scrutiny as gas!
In 2018, landlords will likely have to contend with an increased level of focus on electrical safety. There has been a focus on gas safety in the industry for some time, but it is only now that electrical safety is being placed under the same level of scrutiny as gas. With many landlords feeling that they are already at their limit with respect to time, money and effort dealing with regulations, it is only natural that there are concerns about these latest changes and what will happen in the buy-to-let market.
Landlords will have to review their property
It is believed that these changes will require landlords to carry out electrical installation safety checks on their property every five years. Given that some landlords have a considerable amount of property in their portfolio, this could become an expensive and time-consuming issue for many professional in the buy-to-let sector.
This style of regulation is already in place in Scotland, which means that anyone looking for guidance on what could happen should consider this market. While there is an expectation that the guidelines in England and Wales will not be as strict as what is stated in Scotland, there are still issues for local landlords to be aware of. The range of punishments that are set to be imposed on landlords who fail to comply with the regulations are of note. This is because the fines are tipped to range between £5,000 and £30,000; so strong penalties can be imposed. The scale of these penalties will provide a natural incentive for landlords to comply with the regulations.
Landlords may find that their rights are restricted
Another issue that landlords should be aware of is that if they don’t comply with the regulations, they could lose the ability to issue a Section 21 Notice to evict tenants. This is currently in place with gas safety regulations, and it is unlikely to be a surprise if it is implemented with respect to electrical safety too.
It is fair to say that many landlords find themselves under severe pressure thanks to the level of regulations they must adhere to. While there is an acceptance that a larger focus on electrical safety will be of benefit in the industry, complying with every regulation can be tough, and we know that many landlords benefit from assistance.
Article by: Natalia Gombalova
It’s been a long cold winter and the unexpected heat wave of last week was very welcome indeed. Much like the weather, the UK property market has seen a cold snap which rolled in with the dark clouds of the Brexit vote and has persisted pretty much ever since.
There is no denying that Brexit brought with it a large degree of market uncertainty. Foreign interest and investment dried up, and many sellers decided to ‘wait and see’ before listing their home for sale. As a result, stock levels dwindled and whilelower stock levels often mean higher prices paid, buyers also remained on the fence, unwilling to commit such a large sum of money in the face of a potential market crash.
The media was rife with prophecies of a property market Armageddon which caused further panic and soon enough, industry reports started to show a decline in the rate of price growth which then continued for month after month. But as is often the case, the storm rarely lives up to the hype of the forecast and many buyers and sellers are starting to poke their head out of the door and realise that the outlook is a lot brighter than they were led to believe. While the rate of house price growth has been in decline on a monthly basis, the decline has been very marginal, often less half a percent, with prices still climbing when compared to this time last year.
As we move further from the Brexit vote and closer to an exit from the EU, the market is building momentum as both buyer and seller interest returns to the market.
Of course, the varied nature of the UK market means that more inflated areas, such as London, are seeing a much slower recovery and others have remained unfazed. That said, the latest market insight from TwentyCI has found that property exchanges are up 8% on last year, with over 100,000 more properties listed on the market in 2018 than the same time in 2017, with London also seeing an 8% uplift in sales despite prices still trailing 4% year on year.
So, a seasonally inspired buoyancy has returned to the market where buyer and seller activity is concerned and as a result, it would seem prices are also shaking off the winter chill to once again increase positively. The latest Halifax House Price Index recorded a 1.5% monthly increase in house prices, which is a monumental increase given previous market trends and yet more proof that spring has sprung for the UK property market.
For those still unsure as to whether now is the time to sell, test the water. Value your house realistically, not emotionally and opt with an agent that offers a pay only when sold option. You might well be surprised by the health of the market and how quickly you find a buyer at the right price.
Article by: Natalia Gombalova
Recent changes made from 6th April 2018, mean a new MOT style check is now available which allows landlords the flexibility to carry out their Landlords Gas Safety check up to two months before the due date but keep the same annual check date.
As many of you will know, if a property is supplied with gas, a landlord has the responsibility to ensure the gas appliances are safe and checked by a qualified GasSafe registered engineer every year with fixed annual expiry dates.
The amended regulations now mean the renewal date is known as the ‘deadline date’ and as such, if a gas safety record is done no more than 2 months before the 12 months deadline date, it’s treated as though it were done on the deadline date (although both dates should be recorded so an audit trail can be shown).
The regulations state:
Determination of date when next safety check is due under regulation 36(3)
36A.- (1) Where a safety check of an appliance or a flue … is or was completed within the period of 2 months ending with the deadline date, that check is to be treated … as having been made on the deadline date.
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 are not aimed at reducing or relaxing safety standards, but to allow greater flexibility over when regular checks are carried out. The aim is to avoid last minute checks, landlord not being able to gain access with tenants, or having to shorten the annual cycle check to comply with the law.
Another interesting change:
Changes have also been made if an individual appliance is replaced in a property where there are other gas appliances. The new rules state that the gas safety record for the new appliance may be done up to 2 months after the deadline date but this discretion may be exercised only in order to align the deadline date of different appliances in relation to the next safety check.
Its much easier to explain this with an example:
A boiler breaks and is replaced on 25 June 2018. The deadline date for the boiler to have its first annual check is 25 June 2019 (the installation report will cover it for the first 12 months). However, there happens to be a gas hob in the property on which the next check due is on 15 August 2018. A gas safety record is completed for the hob only on 15 August 2018 and so the new deadline date is 15 August 2019.
There are now two deadline dates for the two appliances – Boiler – 25 June 2019 and Hob – 15 August 2019.
The changes to legislation mean that in order to align the deadline date to just one date, an engineer can attend the property once on 15 August 2019 and do both appliances at this time. This is despite the boiler being overdue however, this overdue completion can only be done once for the boiler.
As always, get in touch if you have any questions.
Article By: Natalia Gombalova
The sun has finally returned to ours skies and you’re on the lookout for a little bit of summer reading. As keen follower of the property market, you’ve naturally signed up for all the daily newsletters charting the goings on in the market to make yourself a property whizz by autumn.
But after reading all the different articles and opinions, you soon become confused. Very, very confused!
One day you read that property prices are slowing, that the time to secure a sale is getting longer and that purchaser demand is in decline.
The next day you see there’s been a surprise rise in mortgage applications; that asking prices are on the up and that more properties are being placed on the market than in recent times. It doesn’t exactly lead to a clear view of reality, does it?
In the industry, we’re coming into contact with Joe Public each and every day and for a great many ‘normal people’, news headlines can lead to a huge amount of confusion and it’s our job, I believe, to instil some clarity and honesty.
But what is that reality?
Well, in my view it’s that things are all pretty positive. Rightmove recently reported that prices are at an all-time high, whilst Property Week highlighted that the number of properties being marketed across the UK’s top towns and cities is significantly up compared to last year.
At its most basic, that means that average prices are up at the same time as transactions are increasing – that’s surely a win, win situation and I believe it demonstrates that green shoots really are out there.
Of course, reports and indices are all well and good, but they’re often measured using different criteria in different places at different times and, therefore, don’t provide useful points of comparison.
And indeed, ‘the’ property market probably isn’t, in all honesty, a single entity in any case. The market is more likely a combined mixture of many micro markets, not just based on regions but on localised need, suburban nuances and individual circumstance. For a business such as Andrews, however, we do gain a pretty good insight into what’s happening out there. Our branch network extends across a diverse geographical landscape and while that is, admittedly, just across the South of the UK, there’s no denying the stark differences that can be seen between South London suburbia and rural Gloucestershire – no-one would expect a one-bedroom flat in Stroud, Gloucestershire to command a similar value to its counterpart in South West London, would they?
Naturally, there has been some cooling off in recent times and the speed of recovery varies from one area to another. What appears consistent, however, is that demand is encouragingly high across the board, albeit with purchasers and renters alike being increasingly discerning.
In London (where some would lead you to believe the market is in freefall), our sales teams report a cooler market but one which remains encouragingly active. Similarly, sales demand in the South West remains high and the teams there anticipate price increases during the remainder of this year, albeit at a slower pace than they’ve witnessed before.
And it’s a positive message in the lettings sector too where all our key markets are reporting an increasingly buoyant market where quality property stock is letting faster than ever.
These aren’t areas that we’re comparing against one another. They’re simply places where confidence in property is buoyant and as an industry, it’s that which we need to remain focused on.
I honestly believe that confidence is key and right now, there’s little reason not to be confident… unless you allow yourself to be too swayed by some headlines, of course!
Article By: David Westgate is Group Chief Executive of Andrews Property Group
The private rental sector has been a crucial provider of residential accommodation in recent years as so many people have struggled to get on the housing ladder, and it is likely to remain so for some time yet.
Nonetheless, the nature of the property market and wider housing scene in the UK is changing – and is sure to go on doing so.
The main reason this is certain to be the case is the huge number of new measures being brought to bear by the government on all manner of aspects of the property market, both for the rental and owner-occupancy sectors.
If there was any doubt about this, one only needs to consider the speech made this week by communities secretary Sajid Javid to a conference of local government planners, where he formally launched the National Planning Policy Framework.
He noted that the changes to the planning system did not just include the raft of reforms announced in last year’s housing white paper, but also those arising from the ‘Planning for the right homes in the right places’ consultation in September, further measures announced in the Budget in November and, just for good measure, “some further reforms”.
Much of what has been done to date concerns the rental sector, with Mr Javid noting government initiatives aimed at curbing the activities of rogue landlords and encouraging longer tenancies.
However, much interest will focus on the detail of the reforms, as these will impact on the nature and quality of property for both owner-occupancy and rental.
For example, Mr Javid noted how at present some developers have failed to fulfil pledges to contribute to infrastructure near new housing schemes, having initially committed to a contribution ony to “claim they can’t afford them” at a later date. New regulations will make such commitments clearer and more enforceable, which should be good news for landlords of rental homes in such areas. These will become more attractive to live in because getting around will be easier.
Ultimately, it is all about building more homes, which may help more people buy in the longer run and perhaps reduce rental demand. But it may be some years yet before such effects are strongly felt.
Article by: Gary Whittaker