Friday, 30 June 2017

Zoopla acquisition of Expert Agent is cleared by Competition and Markets Authority

By Rosalind Renshaw

ZPG’s acquisition of software firm Expert Agent has been cleared by the Competition and Markets Authority.

ZPG, which also operates a number of other estate agency software brands after its acquisition of the Property Software Group for £75m last year, completed on the purchase of Expert Agent in March.

However, later that month the purchase was ‘called in’ by the CMA.

ZPG was told to ‘hold separate’ Expert Agent pending the outcome of the review.

Yesterday the transaction received the green light, and ZPG said it is now able to progress with its integration plans for the business, although it indicated at the time of its acquisition that it intends to continue to operate Expert Agent as a stand-alone brand and platform.

Mark Goddard, managing director of ZPG’s Property division, said: “We are delighted but not surprised by the outcome of this review by the CMA.

“We always felt that the UK property software sector is well served by numerous players who offer strong, effective competition, and are pleased that the CMA has come to the same conclusion.

“With this matter now concluded, we will be progressing our plans to integrate Expert Agent into the wider ZPG business and to deliver the related benefits for our partners.”

We were unable to reach Expert Agent founder Mike Griffiths for comment. He and his staff were on an away day to Weymouth and said to be enjoying ice creams and donkey rides.

New bidding software available to letting agents for first time

By Graham Norwood

Bidding software that provides a new revenue stream for letting agents has been unveiled by a start up called Letsbid4lets.

The bidding software allows tenants to bid for rents, and was launched last evening at The Shard in London.

“We believe LetsBid4Lets is a game changer that provides agents with a whole new revenue stream and tenants with a level playing field. Three billion pounds worth of residential property was sold by auction last year and 10m people regularly use online auction sites” explains Spencer Rose, chief executive and founder of the firm.

“Our logic with this business is that auctions are a tried a tested way of selling property and people understand it, but no one has applied it to the lettings process yet. We believe LetsBid4Lets can provide transparency to both landlords and tenants” he adds.

He says Letsbid4lets can assist agents to let properties and can be used as a stand-alone marketing tool or in conjunction with traditional marketing.

All tenants that use the site will be pre-referenced before bidding, by FCC Paragon.

These references will last for 60 days so if a tenant doesn’t win on one property then they will be able to use the same reference to bid on another; tenants can also be prevented from bidding without first having viewed the property with the instructed letting agent.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Research suggests rise in demand for advice on interest only and lifetime mortgages

Estate agents in the UK are regularly asked advice about mortgages but they have noticed a rise recently in demand for potential solutions to interest only loans repayments and lifetime mortgages.

New research from equity release referral service Key Partnership has found that 43% say that the number of customers forced to sell to pay off interest only mortgage debts has increased over the past two years.

The research also found that mortgage debt issues are particularly affecting older customers trying to downsize to less expensive houses to release cash and 73% of would be downsizers paying off home loans.

Overall the survey found that some 58% of estate agents say clients want support on mortgages but just 50% of estate agents believe that they know enough about such issues and 52% would be more likely to suggest equity release as a solution if they had a partnership with an independent expert adviser.

Data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders shows the number of outstanding interest only mortgages has fallen by more than a third since 2012 but what is not evident for maturing loans is how they are actually being repaid. The evidence points to the fact that far too many are having to sell their homes to clear the outstanding debt.

Industry data shows around 10,000 borrowers a year between now and 2020 will come to the end of interest only loans, with either a projected shortfall from their repayment strategy or no strategy at all, and many will see equity release as a solution to their capital repayment deadline.

‘Selling up to pay off an interest only mortgage can make financial sense but it is worrying if older home owners are being forced to sell and are not aware of all their options. Equity release enables people to stay in their home and not have to downsize, or even in extreme cases lose their house. Some lenders are engaging with equity release as a solution and we would urge others to follow,’ said Will Hale, director at Key Partnerships.

‘Estate agents are valued as a source of financial guidance and it is clear that those who can discuss equity release as an alternative to selling will be able to benefit from an additional revenue stream by referring potential clients to a specialist,’ he added.

Landlords with limited companies may earn £1,000 less a year

By Marc Da Silva

Buy-to-let investors who acquire properties via a limited company could be £1,000 a year worse off due to higher mortgage rates, fresh analysis from Private Finance shows.

The research found that a borrower with a limited company could expect to pay 3.41% for a two-year fixed 75% loan-to-vale mortgage deal, compared to 1.92% for personal borrowers.

A growing number of landlords are opting to acquire property through a limited company as a means of combating recent buy-to-let tax changes, including the current phasing out of mortgage interest relief.

But according to Private Finance, the high cost of mortgage borrowing for a limited company will outweigh any tax advantages for landlords who have a portfolio of containing less than four properties.

It says that a landlord earning £46,010 annually (£35,000 base salary plus £11,010 in rental income – the average for a two bedroom house in the UK) will have £36,194 in take home income if purchasing as an individual, after tax and mortgage costs have been deducted.

But if the same landlord purchased through a limited company, they would earn £34,825 in take home income, which is £1,369 or 4% less, mainly because limited company borrowers pay higher rates on mortgage borrowing, which reduces net income.

Private Finance also suggests that repurchasing into a limited company structure could also prove too costly, even for larger landlords.

For landlords who already have a number of buy-to-let properties, one option is to repurchase into a limited company structure. However, this incurs two major tax bills: capital gains and stamp duty, making it an inadvisable move for landlords with a small number of properties who do not have much to gain from being in a limited company.

The calculations suggest even larger landlords could be better off remaining as personal investors.  A landlord with five rental properties, earning £90,050 in total income (a £35,000 salary and £55,050 in rental income) would have £53,768 in take home pay once mortgage and tax costs are deducted when acting as an individual.

If the same landlord was to repurchase their homes under a limited company, they would have £54,584 in take home pay. However, once capital gains and stamp duty costs are taken into account they would be left with just £5,374. Spreading these one-off payments across ten years, take home pay would be £49,663: more than £4,000 less per year than operating as an individual.

Shaun Church, director of Private Finance, said: “The option to invest through a limited company has come under the spotlight recently as landlords look for ways to offset recent tax changes.  But landlords shouldn’t rush into this assuming it’s a safe bet for saving money. Limited company mortgage products are available through a handful of smaller lenders, resulting in higher rates compared to personal borrowing. Investors need to drive down mortgage costs as much as possible to prevent this from eating into their profits.

“Larger landlords might find the tax benefits associated with limited company ownership outweigh the higher cost of mortgage borrowing. Each investor is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Landlords should ensure they seek professional advice on how best to maximise their profits: an independent mortgage broker can help explain the range of options available to limited company and personal BTL borrowers.”

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

UK house price growth regains momentum, with prices up 1.1pc in June

By Sohpie Christie

The annual rate of house price growth continues to point to modest price gains CREDIT: JASON ALDEN/BLOOMBERG
UK house prices were up 1.1pc in June, the first rise in four months, thanks to strengthening demand on the back of healthy gains in employment and continued low mortgage rates.

According to Nationwide's house price index, the increase brought the annual growth rate up to 3.1pc - from 2.1pc in May.

Despite an uptick in house prices, growth in the south-east of England and London continued to slow compared to the rest of the country.

London saw a particularly marked slowdown, with annual price growth moderating to just 1.2pc - the weakest pace of growth in the capital since 2012.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist, said: “The emerging squeeze on household incomes appears to be exerting a drag on housing market activity in recent months. The number of mortgages approved for house purchase has slowed a little in recent months and surveyors report that new buyer enquiries have softened.

“At this point it is unclear whether the increase in house price growth in June reflects strengthening demand conditions on the back of healthy gains in employment and continued low mortgage rates, or whether the lack of homes on the market is the more important factor."

While prices rebounded in June, Nationwide's data shows that quarterly price growth slowed significantly. Average prices in the three months to June were 2.8pc higher than the same period last year, compared to 4.1pc growth in the first quarter.

Lucy Pendleton, founder of independent estate agents James Pendleton, said: “The housing market has come up for air, which is incredible in a month that saw one of the least conclusive general elections ever.

“London had a bad day in the office in June but it always bounces back.

“Thanks to its stellar performance stretching back years, we’ve been confidently relying on London to shrug off any slowdown seen nationwide, but the tables have turned, if only briefly. If this trend continues in July, then that is going to turn some heads."

Agents sought by firm offering possible way around future deposits cap

By Graham Norwood

An alternative to traditional deposits, already tested in the German rental market, is now being introduced into the UK - and claims it may offer a way around future restrictions on deposits hinted at in the government’s Queen’s Speech last week.

Flatfair is a system under which tenants pay it a so-called ‘flatbond’ – just one week’s worth of rent – ahead of the tenancy. In return, landlords are covered for 12 weeks of rent.

Tenants, as with a traditional deposit, remain liable for up to six weeks of rent in case of damages. Should there be a dispute at checkout, the case is decided by an independent government authorised dispute resolution provider. There are no yearly renewal fees.

The company is now looking for agents to join the Flatfair network, using the platform for free and entering a revenue-sharing agreement.

“The revolutionary approach introduces more choice to tenants, offering more than double the usual protection to landlords, improved payout terms and access to a larger pool of reputable tenants” according to the founder of Flatfair, Franz Doerr.

“Furthermore, Flatfair streamlines and digitizes the entire deposit and flatbond registration process, including change of sharer, claims and payments, providing transparency and penalizing tenants for unscrupulous disputes - all of which will significantly reduce letting agents’ and landlords’ operational headaches” says Doerr.

The flatbond is not an insurance product and was developed together with the support of the Financial Conduct Authority’s innovation hub.

Doerr says the status of his service, which is insured by European insurers for debt collection and contract disputes, makes it easier to transact “micro-claims” such as covering the costs of cleaning, which may not be covered by traditional insurance.

“Insurance policies can only be distributed by a regulated representative or broker - most letting agents therefore cannot advise on an insurance policy but [they can advise] on the flatbond” he adds.

Doerr says Flatfair has just achieved what he calls “critical mass” and is establishing a UK-wide distribution network of partnered letting agents; he also pledges that it will soon offer free tenant referencing and inventory checks and discounts on some services for agents, landlords and tenants.

The service comes to the UK just as the government has announced a possible extension to its proposed letting agents’ fee ban, to also cap rental deposits paid by tenants.

Doerr’s background is in finance and consultancy, most recently at Deutsche Bank; chief operating officer of Flatfair is a former Google marketeer, Daniel Jeczmien.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Frustrated homebuyers in a fight to the finish with Bovis

By Julia Kollewe
Housebuilder has admitted it let buyers down on quality and service but six months on, some are still battling to get problems fixed

Bovis has admitted it built homes too quickly. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images
At the Bovis annual meeting in May the chairman, Ian Tyler, apologised to homebuyers for “letting them down” and admitted the company had been cutting corners to reach ambitious targets. Quality and customer service had suffered in the past two years, he said. Tyler indicated that hundreds of homebuyers had suffered. “We absolutely got it wrong. We have compromised along the way ... We built too quickly. We started sites too early and handed over too early.”

Bovis had used subcontractors that “may not have been of the highest quality”, he said, but added that most customer complaints had been resolved.

This was news to Rob Elmes and his wife who moved into a £320,000 three-bed Bovis property in Inkberrow, Worcestershire, in February. He turned down a £3,000 cheque from Bovis to complete by 23 December because, he said, the property was riddled with problems. Five months on the couple were still battling to get them fixed.

“The main issue is the speed at which things are being fixed and the lack of communication. It is a case of one step forward, several steps back. This shouldn’t happen with a brand-new house,” Elmes says, though after Money intervened his problems were resolved.

Stung by such accusations, Bovis has retrained 90% of its 1,100 staff and appointed a new customer experience director. The firm also set aside £7m to rectify build issues and, in a few cases, pay compensation after it emerged homeowners were pressured to move into incomplete homes before Christmas. It issued a profit warning in late December and its then-chief executive, David Ritchie, quit not long after.

The new chief executive, the ex-Galliford Try boss Greg Fitzgerald, will unveil changes to the business in September.

Tyler said Bovis had slowed down production by adding a three-week “noncompressible” period between final inspections and handover to customers to iron out any issues. The firm is aiming to build 1,500 homes between January and June, which means output this year will be 10%-15% lower than in 2016. It will issue a trading update on 6 July.

There are reports on the 2,200-strong Bovis Homes Victims group on Facebook that buyers are again being pressured to complete on unfinished homes. Bovis denies this. Some allege they are not being allowed to have a “snagging” survey before moving in. Bovis says it will “accommodate inspection requests where it is practicable to do so”.


The National House Building Council, the standard-setting body and main home construction warranty provider for new-builds in the UK, carries out spot checks at key stages of the build process but has been criticised for signing off homes riddled with “snags”. It says its inspections significantly reduce the number of defects: “Our inspectors are not on site at all times and it is ultimately the builder’s responsibility to ensure that homes conform to the building regulations and NHBC technical standards.”

Other allegations on the Facebook group include shoddy painting or plastering, faulty plumbing, cracks in tiles or brickwork, the wrong fittings being installed, creaking and moving floors and more serious structural issues.

Dave Howard and his wife, Ann, set up the group in January 2016. They say it took them two-and-a-half years to resolve all the issues at their home in Bicester, Oxfordshire. “We are working constructively with Bovis, having resolved all the problems to our satisfaction with our property,” Howard says. He is one of five members from the Facebook group who are joining the company’s 12-member homebuyers panel, which will have an advisory role.

While things may have improved for some new buyers, Howard says “existing owners with problems are still being given the runaround and are not being treated with the respect they should be as customers”. He says the carelessness displayed by contractors sent by Bovis to fix defects was shocking.

A couple in Norwich were among more than a dozen Bovis homebuyers who have contacted the Eastern Daily Press. James and Rachel Hipperson told the local paper that there were holes in the wall, fittings and parts of the conservatory missing, cracks in the floor and problems with drainage.

Industry experts have called for closer supervision, especially at bigger sites, and a change to work practices.

A recent customer satisfaction survey from industry body the Home Builders Federation showed Bovis dropped down a notch from last year to a two-star rating, putting it at the bottom of the league table of 34 builders. Rival Persimmon was stuck at a three-star rating, and of the major housebuilders only Barratt and Bellway boasted a five-star rating.

A survey conducted by homelessness charity Shelter found homebuyers’ satisfaction with the condition of their new homes on moving in has declined by 10%, to 78%, over the past five years. It found 38% experienced more problems than expected, up from 27% in 2012, and 69% reported six or more issues to the builder, up from 56%.

Confidence in buy-to-let market slips due to tax hikes

By Marc Da Silva

Recent changes to tax for buy-to-let property has dented confidence among landlords with new research showing many are set to revise their situation and implement new strategies, with some consolidation expected among smaller investors.

The sixth edition of the Kent Reliance Buy to Let Britain report has launched revealing that just 41% of buy-to-let landlords currently hold a positive outlook for their portfolios, down from 67% three years ago, as investors face the prospect of higher tax costs and weakening property prices.

Higher costs are leaving many landlords with little alternative but to increase rents, which now stand at an average of £889 per month across Britain, up 1.9% year-on-year, according to the research.

Kent Reliance forecast that rents will rise further as the mortgage tax changes bite, with one third of landlords expecting to increase rents in the next six months, compared to just 3% who expect them to fall.

With rents rising, and house prices falling in the past two quarters, yields have edged up to 4.5%.  Across the PRS, steady growth in the number of households and monthly rents means landlords are collecting a record £4.9bn per month in rent.

 Overall, the value of the sector has risen by £68bn in the last year, climbing to a record of £1.3trn, up 5.5% on annual basis, although this is just half the level seen a year ago, owed in part to the slowdown in house price inflation.

 In total, there are now 5.5 million households in the PRS, but annual growth of 2.3% is now only a third of the level seen three years ago.

Tenant demand is still growing, albeit more slowly, with 27% of landlords seeing tenant demand increase in the last quarter, more than saw it decrease, but this was down from 39% a year ago, as first-time buyer numbers continue to recover.

On the supply side, there is a noticeable change too. In the first quarter of this year, the number of landlords expanding portfolios only slightly outnumbered those reducing them.

Some 19% of landlords now expect to reduce their portfolios, compared to 13% increasing, as amateur landlords leave the market in response to the new tax rules affecting higher rate taxpayers.

Additional pressure on supply has come from the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority’s new underwriting standards, introduced in January, with 24% of landlords who have sought mortgage finance this year have found doing so more difficult, with a further 6% seeing their application rejected altogether.

While there is likely to be consolidation in the market as tax costs rise, many landlords have  unsurprisingly reacted to tax changes and rising costs through not just rent rises, but also incorporation.

Running properties via limited companies means landlords are taxed as a company, rather than an individual, and can continue to offset all finance costs against rental profits.

Kent Reliance’s data shows six in ten applications for buy-to-let mortgages were via limited companies in 2016. Demand for limited company lending has not yet hit the heights seen last year, but limited company applications have still accounted for more than four in ten loans so far in 2017.  With 24% of landlords considering transferring their portfolio to a limited company or a partner or spouse, demand will strengthen in the long-term.

Andy Golding, chief executive of OneSavings Bank, which trades under the Kent Reliance and InterBay brands in buy-to-let, said: “A perfect storm of weakening house prices, higher taxes and lending restrictions have knocked investors’ confidence. On top of this, investors are now being buffeted by the winds of political uncertainty following the election, and its impact on the economy.

“Uncertainty will pass, but the impact of changes to mortgage tax relief and underwriting standards will leave a more indelible mark on the sector. We believe these changes will alter the mix of landlords, creating a more professional and stable sector in the long-term. There are already some signs of consolidation, with highly geared amateur landlords most likely to leave, and we are also seeing investors take action to protect their margins.

“The fundamentals supporting the PRS have not drastically changed. Yes, first-time buyer numbers have been recovering, but there is still an underlying supply and demand gap across the country. Given the inability of any party to win a clear majority in the election, the implementation of a strategy to create a necessary housing boom seems unlikely. Affordability issues will therefore remain, and rental accommodation will retain its importance to those unable to take their first step onto the property ladder.”

Friday, 23 June 2017

Homes at Battersea Power Station:blow for first time buyers as affordable housing target at luxury development quietly slashed

By Ruth Bloomfield
636 homes were earmarked originally for first-time buyers and renters but the Battersea Power Station Development Company now wants to offer only 386 affordable homes.

Disappointment: the Battersea Power Station Development Company wants to offer 250 fewer affordable homes than originally proposed
Hundreds of first-time buyers promised cut-price homes at Battersea Power Station will no longer be able to buy into London’s most-hyped regeneration zone, we can reveal.

Originally, 636 homes were earmarked by the Battersea Power Station Development Company for first time-buyers and renters unable to afford the mega prices asked for the 4,239 luxury homes on the power station site.

Now the development company says the entire project may become financially unviable if it is forced to stick to the 2011 promise to include so many affordable homes. It says it made the undertaking when London’s new-build market was booming and construction costs were lower.

Instead it wants to offer 386 affordable homes — or nine per cent of the total. The remaining 250 affordable homes would only be provided following an “end of scheme review”, a complex financial assessment of the profits the development company will make.

Exactly how much profit the development needs to be deemed “viable” has yet to be decided, but a report by council planning officer Dan Taylor, to be considered by Wandsworth’s planning committee, suggests between 15 and 20 per cent. The proposals are expected to be rubber stamped by the council.

“The applicant considers that the introduction of a review mechanism would ensure that the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing is determined at a point in the project when actual costs and values are known, and many of the uncertainties currently facing the project have been settled,” explains Taylor.


Because the change has not been submitted as a new planning application but as a “deed of variation” to the existing planning consent, there has been no public consultation on the proposal – though “notices were put up around the site”.

Wandsworth council alerted the Greater London Authority to the proposal. The GLA chose not to intervene.

If the housing market improves the homes could be saved, and possibly extra funding offered towards more affordable housing elsewhere in London. However, financial advice given to the council by consultants BNP Paribas warns that it is “very unlikely” the 250 homes will be provided, let alone added to.


Recommending the changes be allowed, planning officer Dan Taylor points out that the power station scheme will have benefits for the borough beyond affordable housing.

“Officers appreciate the level of stress a scheme of this size and complexity has,” he says. “The main priorities of the scheme have been the conservation and redevelopment of the listed power station building, the delivery of the Northern line extension and new Underground station and the jobs to be created as part of the new town centre.”

Reuben Young, head of policy & communications at PricedOut, the campaign for affordable house prices, says: “Just because there is a stall in house price inflation does not mean that developers should be allowed to scale back the affordable housing commitments they negotiated during planning.”

A spokeswoman for Battersea Power Station says “technical issues” around renovating the Grade II* building and the weakening pound have pushed building costs up on the site, adding that sales of commercial property remain strong, and the company is hopeful that the 250 homes will still be provided later in the project.

Government policy allows for “flexibility”, she says. “Policy requires developers to provide the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing. This is what the Battersea Power Station scheme is delivering, as well as restoring a decaying national monument … contributing £211 million to the Northern line extension, opening up 18 acres of public realm, creating 20,000 new jobs and enabling £20 billion of investment into the UK economy.”

easyProperty and Guild deal ‘driven by desperation’ and ‘unlikely to succeed’, claim

By Rosalind Renshaw

The ‘merger’ between easyProperty and the Guild of Property Professionals and its sister brand Fine & Country has been described as either “an unholy alliance or a godsend”.

The deal, touted as being worth £60m, is set to finalise next month and has now been scrutinised by proptech experts Eddie Holmes and James Dearsley.

The pair claim the deal “could eventually be seen as one of the worst knee-jerk responses by a traditional firm to the threat of digital transformation”.

Looking at easyProperty, when it launched it promised “big things”, say the pair.

It promised a profit in the year to last September of £2.9m based on a turnover of almost £24m. However, it recently announced a loss of £11.3m on a turnover of £875,000 in that period.

The company had expected to be listing 4,000 to 5,000 properties each month by 2016: “Two years later, the reality is around 80 properties per month.”

Then there was the ‘funeral’ parade stunt in London, marking the ‘death’ of high street agents.

But what of the deal itself?

Holmes and Dearsley allege: “We have it on good authority that the deal rests on the release of approximately £15m cash by Tosca Fund (one of the main backers of easyProperty).

“Of this, we are told that the vast majority has been used to buy out Guild shareholders, leaving a smaller proportion available for operational or marketing costs associated with easyProperty

“This begs the question – why is the transaction being described as a merger if it is in effect a purchase of the Guild by easyProperty’s main funders?

“The organisation structure put forward by the Guild certainly shows this to be the case.”

The pair also say that when Tosca invested, easyProperty was valued at £78m: “Therefore this deal has slashed 70% from its ‘value’. Astonishing.”

Holmes and Dearsley say that for Rob Ellice, founder of easyProperty, the deal is a salvage operation; for Tosca, they claim it is a “Hail Mary” salvation attempt to rescue some of their initial investment.

And for the Guild, they say it is seen as a defensive move against the rise of online agents, as opposed to the option of standing back and doing nothing.

Holmes and Dearsley describe the rationale for the deal as “driven by desperation”.

Describing the disparity in brand values, they say that easyProperty’s are about value, volume and taking on the big boys.

Fine & Country – currently promoting polo events – is about prestige, money and lifestyle.

Holmes and Dearsley say it is “unfathomable” how the difference can be turned into a workable strategy for Fine & Country agents.

The pair conclude: “All things considered, we therefore doubt that this transaction is likely to deliver either outcomes of a successful digital transformation for the Guild or help easyProperty find a sustainable business model.

“One rider, however. The project is under the stewardship of a well respected and experienced agent, Jon Cooke. It will take someone of exceptional ability to pull this project off.”

This is a fascinating analysis, with more here:

Coming soon, second part of my interview with Martin Skinner

Coming soon, second part of my interview with Martin Skinner, as he describes his journey from bankruptcy to one of the most successful developers in the country

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

New Housing Minister urged to reform residential leasehold system

The Legal Sector Group, which represents conveyancers in the UK, has written to new Housing Minister Alok Sharma to push forward with a programme of change to improve the current situation for owners of leasehold properties.

Concerns have been voiced that home owners have been left unaware of what they are buying. In particular, thousands who bought new build leasehold homes have been left with properties that are virtually unsalable as the result of bad ground rent terms attached to their lease, many of which see ground rents double every 10 years.

This has led numerous leaseholders to conclude that the only option is to buy the freehold of their home to remove the onerous ground rent clauses, but many are confused about how to acquire their freehold and unaware of the dangers and pitfalls involved.

Earlier this month the Nationwide Building Society announced that it will no longer provide mortgages on homes with onerous ground rent clauses. According to Louie Burns, managing director of leasehold enfranchisement specialists Leasehold Solutions, other major lenders are likely to announce similar policies over the coming months.

In recent months the LSG has been consulting with a wide range of interested parties to put together proposals to make the sector more transparent. It is calling for the Housing Minister to work with the Law Commission and others to put reforms in place.

‘We are now urging the powers that be to put in place a programme of change in order to provide both sellers and buyers of leasehold property with certainty, peace of mind, reasonable costs and a much greater degree of clarity in terms of what they are signing up to, and the responsibilities that are shared amongst those involved in their leasehold property,’ said Beth Rudolf, director of delivery as the Conveyancing Association.

According to Martin Callan, president of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the proposals will ensure fairness to consumers, speed up the sale and purchase of residential leasehold properties and lead to less abortive transactions and loss of fees.

Burns explained that problems can arise when owners of leasehold properties get involved in so-called ‘informal’ deals which are negotiated directly with freeholders. ‘Leaseholders have the legal right to buy their freehold under the Leasehold Reform Act (1967). Here there is a legal process to follow, with a statutory valuation method set down by law,’ he said.

‘If the freeholder will not agree to negotiate fairly, home owners have a legal right to force them to and are offered legal protection on the terms of the freehold purchase. To many people this process may seem daunting and uncertain, and understandably people shy away from it,’ he pointed out.

They can end up seeking an informal deal which he believes is the worst thing to do as they have no legal protection whatsoever under statutory legislation. ‘We regularly see freeholders asking for up to 50 times the current ground rent on the property, which can be double or sometimes even triple what the valuation would be using the statutory method. We regularly see people who have bought their freeholds informally and paid up to £25,000 more than they should have done, simply because they accepted an informal agreement,’ he said.

‘In addition, an informal deal often won’t remove some of the costly terms that can be included in the lease, meaning home owners will continue to pay fees to the freeholder for permission to alter their own homes, even after they have purchased the freehold,’ he added.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Why Britain has turned into a nation of storage keepers

By Rhiannon Bury

Britain is now home to almost half of all of Europe’s self-storage units CREDIT: CUSHMAN & WAKEFIELD
UK residents rent four times more self-storage space than the French, and nine times more than people in Germany, causing a boom in Britain’s storage sector.

Britain is now home to almost half of all of Europe’s self-storage units with almost 42.2m sq ft of space in total, according to a report from property advisory company Cushman & Wakefield, while growth in demand is continuing to outstrip supply.

Last year, 24 new self storage sites opened in the UK in 2016 – the greatest number in any European country. Occupancy increased by almost three percentage points in the last 12 months, to 75.8pc, despite more units being built.

Cushman & Wakefield’s report found that large self storage brands in particular have been expanding rapidly in recent years to ensure a larger chunk of the £540m UK market.

Safestore said last week that record enquiries for its space continued to boost its profits, while Big Yellow has spoken of expansion across the South East in particular.

81pc of self-storage users are between 35 and 70 years old CREDIT: CUSHMAN & WAKEFIELD
Two thirds of self-storage customers are aged between 40 and 65 years old, and 81pc are between 35 and 70, showing that younger people are the least likely to use storage facilities. This fits with the general trend among so-called millennials to settle down later in life.

Divorced or separated people are also more than twice as likely to use self storage as a single person.

Rents in London, which sit at £29.45, are almost twice that in the East Midlands and the North. Scotland, however, has shown the greatest increase, rising 23pc from £18.29 to £22.49 in the year, whilst the South East, East Midlands and the North all experienced a decline.

Rennie Shafer, chief executive of the UK Self Storage Association, said: “The longest standing customer in the survey began renting their unit in 1987. While that’s exceptional, 44pc of business customers have stayed for three years or more, compared with 31pc for personal customers.”

PropTech firm claims tool will ease agents' maintenance record-keeping

By Graham Norwood

A PropTech company claims its new software platform will make it easier for letting agents and property managers to co-ordinate maintenance reports and inspections.

The platform haas been created by former Dezrez director Richard Wilson and former contractor Brooke Williams; they have recruited Kevin Hughes, ex-marketing and finance director of GoCompare, as a non-executive director.

The platform, called Sorbet, handles transparency, accuracy and audit trails for the rental market; agents, landlords, tenants and contractors are able to raise and monitor maintenance requests and jobs through the platform.

It can automatically book contractors when reports and inspections are due, or deal with tenant maintenance requests without the agent having to intervene.

Tenants use a dedicated app to report issues and the software automatically chooses one an agent’s approved contractors to do the work. When a contractor has completed an inspection, they can use a separate app to let the agent and the tenant know.

Sorbet also keeps an audit trail of all communications between an agent’s team, contractors and tenant. When a house is sold, the landlord can pass all inspection reports over in one data transfer.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Wealth gap rises as home ownership falls, says study

By Michael Savage
Resolution Foundation finds that half the nation’s wealth belongs to a tenth of adults as property ownership declines
Falling homeownership is behind growing wealth inequality in Britain. Photograph: Getty Images
A fall in home ownership is fuelling the return of rising wealth inequality across Britain, it has emerged.

Booming house prices in the run-up to the financial crisis had led to a decade-long fall in the uneven distribution of the country’s wealth. However, comprehensive new analysis of the UK’s wealth divisions has now found that the trend has gone into reverse.

The study by the Resolution Foundation thinktank found that just a tenth of adults own around half of the nation’s wealth. The top 1% own 14% of the total. It warned that even this figure may be an underestimate because of the difficulties in calculating the assets of the super-rich.

By contrast, 15% of adults in Britain have either no share of the nation’s record £11.1 trillion of wealth, or have negative wealth. The study found that wealth is distributed far less evenly than earnings or household income.

The thinktank measured wealth inequality using the “Gini coefficient”, with 0 being perfect wealth equality and 1 representing a society where a single person has it all. Wealth inequality was almost twice as high as earnings inequality. Despite the perception that wealth inequality has been rising for decades, the research found that the inequality of net financial and property wealth fell steadily between 1995 and 2005, with the Gini coefficient falling from 0.71 to 0.64.

The fall was driven by high and rising home ownership, with more households benefiting from the pre-crisis property price boom. As a result, the proportion of property wealth owned by the bottom four-fifths of adults grew from 35% in 1995 to 40% in 2005.

However, home ownership has been falling steadily since the mid-2000s, with the wealth held by the bottom four-fifths of the population dipping as a result. Since the financial crisis, home ownership among the least wealthy 50% of the population has fallen by about 12%. Meanwhile, it has risen by 1% for the wealthiest tenth.

The shift in property ownership further towards the richest has contributed to the widening of wealth inequality. Including private pensions, the Gini coefficient rose from 0.67 to 0.69 from 2006-08 to 2012-14.

Total wealth across Britain, which includes private pensions, property, financial and physical wealth, rose in the wake of the financial crisis from £9.9tn in 2006-08 to £11.1tn in 2012-14. This has been fuelled by rising pension wealth.

While Britain as a whole has become wealthier, the wealth of a typical adult has fallen since the financial crisis from £99,000 in 2006-08 to £84,000 in 2012-14.

Private pensions account for 40% of the wealth total – the largest share at £4.5tn. The report forms part of the Resolution Foundation’s intergenerational commission. Conor D’Arcy, policy analyst at the foundation, said: “The accumulation of wealth over the course of our lives is arguably the most important driver of lifetime living standards, and yet it has been largely ignored in the public debate. Given the hugely unequal distribution of wealth across Britain, it’s time we looked into how the nation’s wealth is divided up and what the consequences are for those who never build up assets of any significance.

“With wealth inequality now rising again, the progress of the pre-crisis period has gone into reverse.

“At £11.1tn and growing, Britain has a lot of wealth to share around. It’s vital that policy makers ensure that the key drivers of wealth in Britain today – property and pensions – are accessible to as many people as possible, young and old.”

Where can landlords find the best mix of affordability and rental return?

By Marc Da Silva

Fresh research using a combination of house prices, salaries and rental prices suggest that Stoke-on-Trent is the best destination to invest in buy-to-let property.

The study, which ranked Britain’s 100 major towns and cities, taking into account the average income, average property price and average rent in each area, has unsurprisingly unveiled a stark north-south divide in efficiency of local buy-to-let investments, with every one of the UK’s top 10 so-called ‘buy-to-let sweet spots’ located in the north and 10 least efficient places to be a landlord entirely dominated by the south.

Stoke-on-Trent in first place was followed by Oldham in second position and Liverpool in third, with the rest of the 10 made up of Leeds, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Stockton-on-Tees, Gateshead, Rotherham and Rochdale.

Investors can enter the buy-to-let market more easily if their income is relatively high compared to local property prices, and will earn a stronger rate of income return if those properties command high levels of rent relative to their price.

An investor would need a deposit of £29,397 to secure the average buy-to-let purchase in top performer Stoke-on-Trent on a loan-to-value of 75%. Average property prices there have reached just £117,586.

Dan Gandesha, founder of property investment marketplace Property Partner which conducted the research, said: “What our research reveals is a clear North-South divide in the investment opportunities facing buy-to-let landlords.

“We have always been at pains to point out to investors that prime locations such as Kensington and Chelsea can offer some of the lowest yields available, because prices have raced ahead while rents have failed to keep pace.

“It just goes to show, you shouldn’t always follow the crowd and the right investment could be on your doorstep where there is far less overall demand.”

Source: ONS income data for 2016 and rental and property prices (collated 17/05/17).
The table below shows how the south dominates the bottom of the rankings thanks to high demand pushing up prices, resulting in high capital requirements to enter the market and weaker rental yields.

Potential landlords in Poole face the most challenging investment in buy-to-let followed by Central London, and then Sevenoaks. Fourth from bottom came Bournemouth, followed by Cambridge, Oxford, Winchester, St Albans, Chelmsford and Brighton.

Source: ONS income data for 2016 and rental and property prices (collated 17/05/17).

Friday, 16 June 2017

Will Britain ever build enough homes? More uncertainty as UK needs its FIFTEENTH housing minister since 2000 - after Gavin Barwell is voted out

By Myra Butterworth

  • Gavin Barwell loses his Conservative seat in Croydon Central to Labour 
  • Plans to build more homes expected to be delayed as the new housing minister gets to grips with the property agenda

Concerns abound over the future of Britain's homebuilding as Britain faces enlisting a new housing minister - the fifteenth since 2000 - after voters ditched Gavin Barwell in the General Election.
Housing minister Mr Barwell lost his Croydon Central seat after getting just 24,221 votes compared to Labour's 29,873.

It means the country's housebuilding policy faces further delays, as a new housing minister is appointed and gets to grips with challenges in the property market.
Mr Barwell was only appointed last year and published a housing white paper earlier this year

Housing experts warned that transactions in the property market may stay 'anaesthetised' as Britain faces getting a new housing minister.

Russell Quirk, the chief executive of estate agent eMoov, said: 'As we awake today to the opposite of a strong and stable administration, but to a rather unexpected hung parliament, I fear that the property market's post-election return to normality that I'd hoped for may be rather further away still.

'Political instability breeds procrastination on the part of homebuyers and sellers and for over a year now we have seen the effects of that on volumes, if not so much prices, as a consequence of the EU vote and then the snap general election.

'So while the UK voter may understandably develop electoral fatigue, transactions in the property market may also stay somewhat anaesthetised until it's re-awoken by something more politically and economically decisive than we have seen over the past 24 hours.'

He added: 'I suspect that the housing brief will take a back seat now, despite politicians' promises in recent weeks, given the combined weight of negotiating Brexit, stabilising our economy, button-holing political support across the aisle on every vote and, inevitably, campaigning again for the next poll.'

As housing minister since last year, Gavin Barwell was at the helm for a housing white paper, which had been expected to lay out bold plans to build more homes for Britain but was criticised for being a damp squib.

However, industry experts praised Mr Barwell himself for his determination in the role as housing minister.

Buying expert Henry Pryor said: 'If we could build homes like the Governments of all political persuasions can appoint new housing ministers then we wouldn't have a housing crisis.

'Gavin Barwell was, to his credit one of the most proactive and successful.He faced up to the vested interest groups, challenged house builders to actually build, and told letting agents to their faces that he was going to scrap tenant fees. I for one will miss his determination to get things done.'

The result in Mr Barwell's constituency saw him lose his seat to Labour's Sarah Jones
North London estate agent and former RICs boss, Jeremy Leaf, said: 'A hung parliament will result in an extended period of uncertainty with decision-making kicked into the long grass.

'Theresa May is correct - we need a period of stability as that will quash uncertainty which is bad for the housing market - but it is not clear at the moment whether she can deliver it. Stability is crucial in enabling people to make big decisions such as buying and selling property.'

Mr Barwell was only appointed minister of state for housing and planning last year.
During his tenure he published a housing white paper that aimed to fix the 'broken housing market' and boost housebuilding.

The paper examined issues such as cutting red tape on planning and encouraging smaller builders.

BTL index: Nothing to choose between Tory and Labour-voting regions

By Conor Shilling

The top ten buy-to-let postcodes in England and Wales are evenly split between locations that voted for the Conservatives or Labour.

Luton has been identified as the best buy-to-let investment location across England and Wales, with an average yield of 4.54% and rental price growth of 7.37%.

According to LendInvest, which analyses data from Zoopla and the Land Registry to compile its Buy-to-Let Index, Stevenage is the best performing buy-to-let postcode out of areas that voted Conservative last week.

The Hertfordshire town has recorded capital gains of 11.64% and rental price growth of 7.5% over the last quarter.

Luton is the top performing Labour-voting postcode.

According to the report, there is a clear correlation between Conservative-voting regions having high capital gains and regions with the highest rental yields voting Labour.

LendInvest's quarterly Buy-to-Let Index is calculated by analysing a combination of four critical metrics: capital value growth, transaction volumes, and rental price growth.

Romford, which has topped the ranking in previous editions, has fallen to tenth thanks to falling rental yields and capital gains.

Manchester, meanwhile, has broken into the top ten for the first time due to impressive rental price growth.

“Against a backdrop of all the political upheaval the country has endured in the last quarter, it isn’t surprising to see some significant changes in the performance of postcodes against one another," says Christian Faes, co-founder and chief executive of LendInvest.

“These shifts, however, are more isolated than systemic and the fact that there has not been a greater shakeup in the Top 10 buy-to-let postcodes signals the durability and resilience of the UK property market.”

The full data tables for the Buy-to-Let Index are below:

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Tenants actively reviewing letting agents across Britain on new website with plans for monetisation

By Rosalind Renshaw

Tenants are actively reviewing and rating local letting agents across Britain on a new website.

Marks out of Tenancy was launched in March by Bristol-based entrepreneurs Ben Yarrow and Tom Dickinson.

Renters can score agents, landlords and properties out of ten, and leave reviews.

Tenants can review agents overall, and also evaluate them on six different themes: communication, attitude, speed, value for money, quality of repairs, and check in/out.

Many of the reviews cover Bristol, but clearly tenants in other locations, from Aldershot and Guildford to Cardiff and Ormskirk, are becoming increasingly aware of the site.

Yarrow told EYE: “The site isn’t just being used to leave bad reviews – it’s a really useful tool for landlords, letting agents and tenants.”

He also said that new features will be launched shortly.

A letting agency product called House will enable agencies to customise their profile page, display their score on their website, and use an email marketing campaign tool to invite tenants, and have access to market statistics and analytics.

Yarrow said: “Agencies will be able to track changes in scores, reply to reviews, compare themselves against their competitors and make improvements based on that information.

“The cost for that will be £75 per month per branch.”

A cheaper product for landlords called Home will similarly allow landlords to reply to comments.

Yarrow said that the site had been well received by landlord associations.

He said checks are in place to ensure reviews are legitimate, and that new features will include allowing agents and landlords to respond to reviews.

Yesterday, reviews of letting agents were mixed. The Letting Game in Bristol had ten-star ratings and Moginie James in Cardiff had nine. Some agents got just one star.

EYE said back in March that this could be one for agents to watch: three months later, it looks as though that remains the case.

Marks out of Tenancy is now set to be rolled out overseas to Ireland and the United States in the next few weeks. are actively reviewing and rating local letting agents across Britain on a new website.

Marks out of Tenancy was launched in March by Bristol-based entrepreneurs Ben Yarrow and Tom Dickinson.

Renters can score agents, landlords and properties out of ten, and leave reviews.

Tenants can review agents overall, and also evaluate them on six different themes: communication, attitude, speed, value for money, quality of repairs, and check in/out.

Many of the reviews cover Bristol, but clearly tenants in other locations, from Aldershot and Guildford to Cardiff and Ormskirk, are becoming increasingly aware of the site.

Yarrow told EYE: “The site isn’t just being used to leave bad reviews – it’s a really useful tool for landlords, letting agents and tenants.”

He also said that new features will be launched shortly.

A letting agency product called House will enable agencies to customise their profile page, display their score on their website, and use an email marketing campaign tool to invite tenants, and have access to market statistics and analytics.

Yarrow said: “Agencies will be able to track changes in scores, reply to reviews, compare themselves against their competitors and make improvements based on that information.

“The cost for that will be £75 per month per branch.”

A cheaper product for landlords called Home will similarly allow landlords to reply to comments.

Yarrow said that the site had been well received by landlord associations.

He said checks are in place to ensure reviews are legitimate, and that new features will include allowing agents and landlords to respond to reviews.

Yesterday, reviews of letting agents were mixed. The Letting Game in Bristol had ten-star ratings and Moginie James in Cardiff had nine. Some agents got just one star.

EYE said back in March that this could be one for agents to watch: three months later, it looks as though that remains the case.

Marks out of Tenancy is now set to be rolled out overseas to Ireland and the United States in the next few weeks.  (

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Rented sector in Scotland has sound outlook despite political uncertainty in UK

The private rental sector in Scotland will continue to offer sound investment opportunities despite current political uncertainties and recent industry legislation, it is suggested.

Prices remain competitive in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK and the rental sector in continues to show signs of growth at a time of low interest rates and volatile stock markets, according to the latest report from property consultancy Galbraith.

Bob Cherry, head of lettings and partner at Galbraith, believes the rental market is still an attractive investment alternative with yield levels remaining strong at around 4% to 5%.

The latest Registers of Scotland monthly house price statistics publication shows that the average price of residential property in Scotland rose by 2.6% in April 2017 compared to last year.

Cherry said that this increase could spell good news for landlords seeking capital appreciation on their investment. With rents remaining high Galbraith believe now is an optimum time for buy to let investors to consider the Scottish private rental market.

Galbraith has experienced an 11% increase in tenant demand for rental property in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same quarter in 2016. The firm has also brought 28% more properties to the rental market throughout the last three months compared to the previous quarter.

The number of applicants registering to let a property was up 79% from January to March this year in comparison to the previous three months and the firm also witnessed a surge in viewings from interested tenants, with agents conducting twice as many rental viewings over the same period.

The figures also show that the firm-wide average rental achieved was £658 per calendar month, some 15% higher than the national average.

‘Both UK and foreign investors are looking at property opportunities outside of the over inflated property markets of London as well as other prosperous cities south of the border, and Scotland is an attractive option due to the affordability aspect combined with the level of demand from across all rental segments including families, professionals and retiree couples,’ said Cherry.

‘Landlords have been impacted by a range of legislative changes over the past couple of years, not least the introduction of a 3% tax on buy to let properties and the new tenancy act passed last year,’ he explained.

‘However, rents are continuing to perform well with improvements in tenant finances meaning fewer incidences of late or non-payment of rent therefore we have experienced a 50% drop in rent arrears over the past 12 months,’ he added.

‘Market conditions including landlord supply and tenant demand, determine rental prices and this must be carefully considered but with property prices in Scotland currently on the up, I believe the buy to let property market is proving a viable investment option for those looking to invest in bricks and mortar, as well as offering exciting potential for landlords wishing to grow their portfolio,’ he concluded.

NLA surveying landlords to 'inform future policy decisions'

By Conor Shilling

The National Landlords Association (NLA) has launched its Quarter Two Landlords Survey.

The research study has been launched hot on the heels of last week's General Election and the association says it is hoping the results will help inform future policy decisions.

"[We want] to make sure that we are armed with up to the minute views, experience and opinions of real working landlords ahead of meeting new ministers in Westminster," says the NLA.

Due to political uncertainty and increasing regulation in the rental sector, the NLA says it is has never been more important the needs of private landlords are fully represented.

The survey, which covers the second quarter of 2017, takes around ten minutes to complete, and the NLA says all responses are treated in the utmost confidence.

All participants will be entered into a prize draw to win a Fortnum & Mason hamper worth £150.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Quarter of households in UK will rent privately by end of 2021, says report

By Julia Kollewe
Almost 5.8m households expected to be in private rentals as home ownership and social renting continue to fall, says Knight Frank report

An estate agent’s board advertising a property for rent. Renters tend to spend more than half their income on rent. Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

Almost one in four households in Britain will be renting privately by the end of 2021 as soaring house prices and stagnant wages put home ownership out of the reach of growing numbers of people.

Around 5m households, or 21% of the total, are in private rented accommodation, a quarter of whom are families with children. This is set to rise to 5.79m (or 24%) over the next five years, alongside 14.3 million owner occupiers and 4.3 million social tenants, according to an annual report from estate agency Knight Frank. It commissioned a YouGov survey of more than 10,000 tenants and spoke to 26 major investors.

The report says that while at least three-quarters of UK renters are living in homes owned by private landlords, they will increasingly rent from large-scale corporate landlords such as City firms and property companies.

The proportion of households living in the private rented sector has doubled over the last decade, as rising house prices coupled with stagnating wages have put the dream of owning a home out of reach for many, especially the young.

Dubbed “iGens” by Knight Frank, the early twentysomethings have joined “nesters” – couples ranging from millennials to forty-somethings – and 25 to 49-year-old “soloists” and “sharers”, as those who are renting while saving for a deposit to buy a home.

However, renting families, along with 50- to 64-year-old soloists and couples and retired people over 65, tend to spend more than half their incomes on rent. Overall, 40% of renters pay more than 50% of their incomes on rent, the report found.

Not surprisingly, 68% of renters still expect to be living in rented accommodation in three years’ time. The most common reason for renting was saving for a deposit to buy a property, cited by 30%; followed by 21% who said renting allowed them to live in an area where they could not afford to buy; and 18% who said renting was more affordable than paying a mortgage.

Guardian graphic | Source: Knight Frank Tenure Distribution Model, EHS, DCLG
Just 8% said they were renting because they did not want the responsibility of owning a home; 6% need the flexibility because of work; 6% are downsizing; another 6% cannot find an appropriate property to buy; and 5% do not want to be stuck in one location.

Young professionals aged 25 to 34 make up the largest proportion of private renters and this is expected to remain the same in 2021 – but they will be renting for longer than now while trying to save enough to buy a home, said Diana Babacic of PRS Research Consultancy, one of the authors of the Knight Frank report. She is also predicting slightly faster growth in the number of renters under 25, as well as an increase in older renters, especially the baby boomers.

With rents rising rapidly in recent years, the key concern for tenants when looking at a rental property is affordability, the report says, although other surveys now indicate that rents are flatlining or even falling. Tenants also pay hundreds of pounds in letting fees every time they move.

Buy-to-let landlords have dominated the market in recent years, but in the past year the introduction of extra stamp duty on second homes and the curbing of mortgage interest reliefs have prompted a number of private landlords to sell up.

Big City investors such as pensions and insurance firm Legal & General have started building thousands of flats for rent around the country in recent years. The first purpose-built rental blocks, constructed by Essential Living, in Archway and Bethnal Green in London are filling up quickly, with rents starting at £375 a week for a studio including utilities, wifi and furniture (there are no service charges or agents’ fees).

The burgeoning “build to rent” sector – professionally managed rental accommodation in purpose-built blocks – is worth £25bn today. Knight Frank reckons this will soar to £70bn by 2021. Just last week, the UK housebuilder Telford Homes teamed up with US residential landlord Greystar to build 894 flats for rent in Battersea in London.

Amid calls for more regulation to protect tenants, City firms L&G, Hermes and M&G, along with property firms Greystar and Grainger, are among those that have pledged to offer three-year tenancies.

Vida launches expat buy-to-let mortgage range

By Marc Da Silva

Vida Homeloans has launched a new expat buy-to-let mortgage range aimed at existing UK property owners living overseas who wish to invest in the UK’s private rented sector, with borrowing rates start from 3.89% for a two-year tracker and 3.99% for a two-year fixed rate deal.

According to the lending criteria for the new mortgage range, which has been designed in partnership with buy-to-let brokers and networks working in this specialist sector, expats can borrow up to £1m at a maximum loan-to-value of 75%, with no minimum income requirement or employment restrictions, which means that pensioners can also apply for a loan.

Louisa Sedgwick, director of mortgage sales at Vida Homeloans, said: “We listen to our distribution partners and our new Vida Expat proposition is the latest evidence of our partnership approach to product design. We continue to commit to offer intermediaries innovation and flexibility in securing the best mortgage deal for their client’s needs.”

Vida allows capital raising remortgages for any purpose and will lend on HMOs up to eight bedrooms and Multi Unit Blocks (MUBs) up to five units. Applicants can reside in any country worldwide as long as it is a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) member country.

“We’ve been impressed by Vida’s responsiveness to market demand and this latest product launch certainly gives them some of the most flexible criteria in the expat sector right now,” said Stuart Marshall, managing director of Liquid Expat Mortgages.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Leeds BS introduces new buy-to-let tracker with no early repayments charge

By Marc Da Silva

Leeds Building Society has added to its buy-to-let range by launching a new buy-to-let five-year tracker with no early redemption charges.

The 1.65% five year tracker, available for purchase or remortgage at up to 60% loan-to-value (LTV), comes with a free valuation, as well as fees assisted legal services for standard remortgages.

The lender has also cut rates across its range of buy-to-let mortgages at 60% LTV by 0.1%, which includes a remortgage-only five-year fixed rate deal now starting at 2.39%, with free valuation, fees assisted legal services and a £999 fee.

“We’re seeing more customers moving towards longer-term products, with five year deals the most popular,” said Jaedon Green, Leeds Building Society’s director of product and distribution.

He added: “Our five-year tracker comes with no early redemption charges, so the borrower has no penalty charges if they decide to redeem their mortgage within the term, for example if they sell their property.

“This flexibility is useful to landlords, who may be reviewing their portfolios as the new buy-to-let tax legislation eases in.”

Leaders agent appointed as ARLA’s Midlands board member

By Conor Shilling

A letting agent working for Leaders has been appointed as the new ARLA Propertymark board member for the Midlands.

Duncan Chambers, who is a lettings manager at Leaders Leamington Spa, will take up the post on June 16.

Chambers will represent all ARLA Propertymark members in the Midlands at regular meetings and conferences.

Other key responsibilities include liaising with members and regional reps, being a media spokesperson, acting at board level and reporting on key developments in the Midlands.

“I am thrilled to be appointed as the new ARLA board member for the Midlands and I am incredibly excited about the challenge that lies ahead,” says Chambers.

The agent has been an ARLA Propertymark member for several years and was regional representative for Lincolnshire before moving to the West Midlands.

“In an industry where anybody is free to set up a letting agents business, it is vital that landlords and tenants protect themselves by using only properly qualified agents,” adds Chambers.

In a press statement announcing Chambers’ appointment, his firm Leaders states that it has long called for increased regulation of the lettings industry.

“I would urge everybody to avoid unprofessional agents and work towards driving them out of the industry,” says Chambers.

ARLA was co-founded by Neville Lee OBE, who also set up Leaders in 1983.