Saturday, 26 August 2017

OnTheMarket flotation MUST succeed in order to compete at highest level, says major regional agent

The managing partner of a regional independent has said that an IPO is the best chance that OnTheMarket has of succeeding and competing at the highest level. He said the IPO must succeed in order to stop Rightmove and Zoopla’s pricing strategies seeing agents’ costs escalate out of control.
Alan Williams of Fenn Wright, an expanding firm in East Anglia with currently eight branches, said he recognised that some OTM members are angry and upset – but that balance is needed in the debate.
He went on: “We are Gold members who invested in the Agents Mutual property portal idea from the outset.
“The membership has grown and the portal stats are good in the circumstances but there is no doubt that without a radical change of strategy it will not gain the momentum necessary to compete with Zoopla and Rightmove.
“The IPO offers an opportunity for the business to raise significant capital to bring the key benefit of the OnTheMarket portal to the attention of homebuyers and sellers and significantly grow the membership base.
“It would also end the original ‘one other portal’ requirement as well as opening up the site to online-only competition. It also provides the possibility of a significant return for original Agents Mutual investors.
“For me it’s about keeping focused on the key objective. The portal must succeed and compete at the highest level.
“This would offer agents (whether full service or online) an opportunity to invest in a portal that they collectively contribute to in terms of content and traffic. This would mean agents could access the market and compete at a reasonable monthly portal cost.
“Without the competition of a significant third portal, there is a risk that pricing strategy for RM and Zoopla could see agents’ costs escalate out of proportion to general running costs.”
Williams told EYE that the key USP – that of being able to list “new and exclusive” properties ahead of other portals – would continue to be important, and be attractive to both vendors and buyers.
He said: “Motivated buyers have a very good reason to register if they can ‘see it first’ at OnTheMarket and this is therefore a useful strategic option to be able to discuss with vendor clients.”
Williams said: “The IPO has to succeed. It is in the interests of agents, including online agents, and all of us who make our livings from estate agency.”
He added that the 10% discount available to OTM agents who continue to list with only one other portal after a flotation would be an attractive discount.
Williams said: “We dropped Zoopla to join OTM, and we have no plans to go back to Zoopla, even after the One Other Portal Rule is technically dropped.”

Friday, 25 August 2017

Airbnb tenants who decide against staying can now leave bad reviews

Airbnb customers who take one look at their accommodation and decide against it, or who leave early after finding it unacceptable, will now be able to leave bad reviews.
Currently, Airbnb’s online reviews system does not allow guests to rate accommodation which they have chosen not to stay at or which they have left early.
However, the Competition and Markets Authority has ruled that this is wrong, and told Airbnb to change its rating system.
Guests will be able to leave feedback including why they chose not to stay or cut short their stay.
Gordon Ashworth, CMA project director, said: “Airbnb is a popular platform used by people searching for accommodation, and the online reviews and opinions left by other guests are an important source of information.
“It’s therefore imperative that customers are able to access the complete picture about a property they are considering booking.
“We were concerned that, if someone cut short their stay, it was too hard for them to leave a review under Airbnb’s existing reviews system and so we are pleased that Airbnb engaged constructively with us and committed to making the necessary changes.”
An Airbnb spokesman said: “Ensuring that all of our hosts and guests can leave a review, regardless of whether the reservation was completed in full or not, will continue to strengthen our mutual review system.”

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Landlords urged to remortgage ahead of tougher BTL regulations

If the existing mortgage deal on your buy-to-let property is about to come to an end, you may want to change to a new deal sooner rather than later, especially if you are planning to move your existing home loan from one provider to another in order to take advantage of record-low interest rates, because lending criteria is about to get tougher.
With just over a month before the second phase of the bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority’s underwriting standards is due to be implemented on 30 September, as part of its efforts to cool the buy-to-let market, the National Landlords Association (NLA) is urging any landlord thinking about remortgaging not to wait any longer.
The call comes as the proportion of buy-to-let remortgage transactions, as a share of the total lending market, has risen over the last few months, as more landlords look to limit their exposure to the new buy-to-let tax regime.
With demand for new buy-to-let loans falling, several lenders have made significant cuts to their rates in a tug-of-war for new mortgage business, presenting landlords with an opportunity to reduce their monthly mortgage payments.
The NLA’s most recent quarterly research shows that landlords are already finding it harder to arrange mortgages, with 43% of those surveyed saying the process of obtaining finance has become more difficult since the beginning of the year.
Furthermore, more than half – 53% - of landlords report that they have had to provide additional evidence to support recent mortgage applications, including tax returns, cash flow forecasts, and business plans.
Chris Norris, head of policy at the NLA, commented: “Since the PRA regulations were introduced in January, the marketplace is looking considerably more complex. It was always likely that lenders would start to demand more evidence from applicants, and landlords are already feeling they have to go further to prove that they can afford finance.
“Changes to buy-to-let taxation will eat away at many landlords’ profits and make it more challenging for them to manage their businesses. As a result, many are looking to limit their exposure to the changes, which is why we’ve seen a rise in re-mortgaging.
“However, the situation is due to worsen from September and while it may not be financially advantageous for everyone, if you’re considering re-mortgaging or expanding your portfolio then do so now to avoid any further difficulties”.

A growing number of BTL landlords turn to short term holiday let market

More than 130,000 homes have potentially been taken out of the long term private rented sector as more buy-to-let landlords list properties on short-term holiday home websites such as Airbnb instead, fresh research shows.
The biggest jump in the number of individuals advertising property on Airbnb has been recorded in London, where there has been a 75% rise in the volume of multi-listings on Airbnb between February 2016 and March 2017, according to new analysis by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
A UK wide survey by the RLA of almost 1,500 landlords also found that the number of whole properties and rooms advertised on Airbnb in London available for more than 90 nights a year increased by almost a quarter - 23% - between February 2016 and March 2017, despite planning permission being required in such circumstances and Airbnb launching a crackdown to better enforce this rule earlier this year.
Some 7% of those surveyed said that they had now started to offer properties as holiday/short term lets through Airbnb or a similar platform.
Given that many of these properties would have previously been let longer term in the private rented sector, it is estimated that if this trend was reflected across the whole sector, this would mean a minimum of 134,400 private rented homes moving from the traditional private rental market to holiday or short let accommodation. 
Of those who have moved over to short-term letting, 36% reported this was because of the changes to mortgage interest relief.
One landlord who has made the move to holiday lets commented: “I didn't want to do this, but the tax changes have forced me down this route. Selling is not an option due to capital gain tax, and this iniquitous tax which is effectively retrospective is unjust in that my buy to lets are a business, just like any other. There will be less properties available to rent as a result of this tax.”
The RLA is calling on the government to end the perverse incentive landlords have to move to holiday lets by scrapping the mortgage interest relief changes.
RLA policy director, David Smith, commented: “With London and the country as a whole in desperate need of new homes to rent in the long term, it is crazy that recent tax changes encourage landlords to move to the short term holiday let market.
“What we need is a tax system that encourages investment in homes to rent for the long term by good landlords.
“By skewing the market government policy will serve only to hit the hardest those young people and families who most need a growing private rented sector to meet their needs.”

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Tax changes mean a third of landlords plan to hike rents

A significant number of private landlords are planning to increase rents to help cope with changes to the way they are taxed, new research has suggested.
A study by Cover4LetProperty found that 32.5% of landlords are planning to increase their rent in the next 12 months in order to keep up with increased tax liabilities and costs as a result of legislation changes, including the scrapping of interest relief on mortgage payments.

While rents may be increasing, the research suggests that most buy-to-let landlords do not plan to change the size of their portfolios, with 83% of buy-to-let investors not looking to increase or decrease their property portfolio in the next 12 months.
In fact, just 14% of private landlords are looking to expand their portfolio within the next year.
When asked how happy they were with their tenants, 93% of landlords said that they were happy, 6% said they are “50/50”, and just 1% said they are unhappy.
Around half of the respondents also revealed that they are property investors, with the other half typically becoming accidental landlords due to inheritance, remarriage, or moving abroad and letting their home out.
Looking forward, many landlords are worried about the impact that “government meddling” will have on the private rented sector, along with increased tax liabilities and possible changes because of Brexit.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Stamp duty is holding up the housing market in England and Wales

Stamp duty, the property tax paid by buyers in England and Wales, is making the current housing crisis worse by causing a bottleneck in the residential real estate market, according to a new report.

It is deterring older buyers from downsizing and therefore freeing up homes for those further down the housing ladder and moving would rise by 27% if the tax was abolished, says the research from the London School of Economics and the VATT Institute for Economic Research.

The cost of the tax, which is zero up to £125,000, then rising in increments to 10% for properties worth over £925,000, is affecting buyers at many levels, meaning that they are staying put rather than moving, it suggests.

First time buyers, particularly those in London where prices are much higher than the rest of the UK, face paying stamp duty in many parts of the country. Second steppers looking for family homes are put off by the level of tax.

In addition, many pensioners in larger homes in more expensive areas are unable to move because buyers are put off by stamp duty, which costs £20,000 on a £600,000 home and £143,000 on a £2 million property.

‘The key message is that stamp duty hampers mobility significantly, it create a mismatch and distortions in the housing market. Our analysis suggests that mobility would be 27% higher if stamp duty was abolished or replaced with an annual tax on the value of property,’ said professor Christian Hilber, co-author of the report.

‘If you are a young family and you have an additional child, you’ll need an additional room, but the stamp duty is discouraging this kind of move because of the additional cost and lack of available homes to move into,’ he added.

‘Almost 90% of people want to own a home, but only 63% do. We reformed property taxes including stamp duty to help more people get onto the property ladder,’ said a UK Treasure spokesman.

‘In addition, we are helping people, including young families, to buy their first homes through policies such as Help to Buy and the Lifetime Isa, and the recent £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund which will free up over 100,000 properties in high demand areas,’ he added.

However, the report points out that economists have long criticised stamp duty as being inefficient. It concludes that this is indeed the case.

Interview Liam Ryan of Assets for Life

Serial entrepeneur Liam Ryan describes his setbacks after owning two successful businesses and then bouncing back to form Assets for Life with his partner, Jay Munoz . They can be contacted via . This interview took place just before their flagship event "The Ultimate Property Experience" in Stratford, London.

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NatWest overhauls buy to let mortgage offer ahead of rules change

By Graham Norwood

NatWest Intermediary Solutions has announced a major overhaul of its buy to let mortgage offer, but it is bucking the trend of some other lenders.

As with other mortgage companies, portfolio applicants with four or more BTL properties will have to produce additional information on their other properties (residential and buy to let) to enable a full affordability assessment.

Additional information will also be asked for in relation to landlords’ experience, use of letting agents and future plans to expand or reduce their portfolio, while the same ‘higher’ stress rate will be applied to all other mortgages as well as the current application.

NatWest’s valuation service will assess rental demand and income for all other properties being let. By the end of this year it will introduce a revised interest coverage ratio calculation of 5.5 per cent x 135 per cent; in all cases expected rent will have to meet a minimum rental cover calculation of 5.5 per cent x 125 per cent.

However, unlike some other lenders NatWest is also increasing the total number of buy to let properties it will allow a landlord customer to own from four to 10, including unencumbered properties and properties mortgaged with another lender.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

House price slowdown is excellent news – even if estate agents disagree

By Nits Pratley

The expense of property relative to earnings will probably keep UK house price inflation low this year. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA
Take your pick. House prices in the UK are rising at their slowest annual rate for four years, according to the Halifax’s index. Alternatively, June’s increase was the strongest monthly increase this year.

As ever with house prices, it’s best to prefer the longer perspective. On this occasion, that means ignoring the June’s very modest month-on-month pick-up of 0.4% and concentrating on the underlying trend. The mood is best captured by the fact that the May-July period recorded the fourth quarterly fall in a row, the first time that has happened since November 2012. In short, the market has slowed significantly this year. The annual rate of increase was 5.7% in January; now it is 2.1%.

This should be seen as excellent news, even if estate agents and those seeking a quick sale of their property may disagree. Back in March last year, house prices were rising at an annual rate of 10%, which was completely unsustainable given how slowly wages are increasing. Indeed, the position was becoming dangerous, especially from the Bank of England’s viewpoint. Double-digit house price inflation and rock-bottom interest rates make an unhealthy cocktail.

It’s too glib to say the referendum results turned the market. The vote for Brexit has been a factor, especially in London, but other forces are at work. The biggest is the sheer expense of houses relative to earnings. Average house prices remain about six times average earnings, a level last seen in 2007, just before the banking crash and recession.

“Affordability concerns”, as the Halifax coyly puts it, are the reason why the current tepid conditions will probably continue for a while. The only obvious countering pressure is the shortage of homes on the market, which is at all-time low according to the lender. Overall, economists predict house price inflation of 2% this year, a forecast that may even prove to be on the high side.

Paddy Power Betfair takes a punt outside the industry
Breon Corcoran, chief executive of Paddy Power Betfair, is 46, which is young to choose to quit as a successful boss of a FTSE 100 company. Shareholders may also feel it’s a bit early. Paddy Power and Betfair merged only 18 months ago and, after the initial enthusiastic applause, the share price has faded.

If Corcoran longs for fresh adventures, which seems to be the case, it would be understandable. He’s done 16 years in total at the two halves of the company. He quit as chief operating officer of Paddy Power in 2011 to lead a successful rehabilitation of Betfair. He then masterminded the £5bn merger with his old shop.

“There is never a good time to leave,” he says now. Shareholders would agree. From £98 last August, the shares are £75.50, down 370p on Monday, so he can’t be said to be going out at the top in stock market terms. He, and the company, could argue that operations have been integrated faster than planned and profit forecasts this year look solid. Even so, the owners would probably prefer the full £50m of promised savings to reach the bottom line before the architect of the deal departs.

The replacement is Peter Jackson, 41, who, after a “rigorous and extensive” global search, has found within the boardroom. He is one of the non-executive directors. Jackson fits the bill from the important technology angle. His background is in banking and currency exchange, plus a six-month stint as UK boss of Worldpay, the payments firm. But Jackson’s experience in the gambling industry is confined to four years as a non-executive.

Maybe that’s sufficient training and there is, after all, no golden rule that bookies must appoint hardened bookmakers. All the same, you can understand why investors took fright. Paddy Power Betfair is the biggest online gambling firm in the world on some measures and its new jockey is a merely a promising newcomer.

Energy big six flowing against Ofgem current

The costs of supplying electricity are soaring, British Gas told us last week when it lifted prices by 12.5% – equivalent to £76 on an average dual fuel bill. But what’s this? Regulator Ofgem is moving in the opposite direction. It is cutting up to £19 off bills for 3 million customers with pre-payment meters. Ofgem says costs have fallen since its “safeguard” tariff was introduced in February.

In the tangled world of energy prices, half an explanation is possible. British Gas was looking back a few years, rather than a few months, when it was talking about costs. The company may also buy energy two years in advance, whereas Ofgem uses shorter horizons when doing its sums.

All the same, the gap between the regulator’s dual-fuel pre-payment tariff, which works out at £1,048 for a typical customer, and the standard variable prices of the big six is starting to look wide. British Gas put its own dual-fuel prices at £1,120, for example.

Like-for-like comparisons may be imperfect, but we can say this: a widening gap can only increase the political pressure for intervention.

More BTL landlords needed to meet demand from a growing population

By Marc Da Silva

Supply and demand are perhaps the most fundamental concepts of economics, and it is the main reason why UK house prices have increased so much in recent years, and why Britain’s growing population will almost certainly push property prices even higher in the medium- to long-term.

The latest forecast from the Office for National Statistics that predicts a 8.4 million rise in the UK’s population over the next 22 years from last year’s 65.6 million, eventually reaching 74 million in 2039, spells bad news for young people trying to get a foot and the housing ladder, and underlines the urgent need for more private rented homes.

That is why the government needs to reverse many of its recently introduced anti-landlord policies, such as the scrapping of the ‘wear and tear’ allowance, phasing out of mortgage interest relief and the 3% stamp duty surcharge.

Jonathan Stephens, managing director of Surrenden Invest, said: “Whilst it’s wonderful that we can all enjoy a longer life and a larger population can positivity impact the size and capability of those of working age, it does also increase pressures on basic requirements such as housing – namely, where will we all live?!

“Successive governments’ record of building enough homes to meet demand we know has and remains woeful with the creation of new homes, especially within the private rented sector which is growing rapidly, being funded more and more by individuals and private institutions.

“With population forecasts such as these, it would seem wise for landlord investors to be encouraged, not penalised through stamp duty reforms and tax hikes as we have seen over the past 18 months.”

Monday, 7 August 2017

Have your say on the ‘state of PRS’

By Marc Da Silva

But-to-let landlords are being invited to take part in the Residential Landlords Association’s (RLA) latest quarter survey, designed to improve conditions in the private rented sector (PRS).

Part of the RLA’s strategy to ‘make renting better’ is to undertake a regular review of the PRS, and that includes conducting quarterly surveys to assess the state of the PRS.

The short survey will take around 10 minutes to complete and includes questions on issues related to licensing, tenancy deposits, letting agent fees and more.

The findings will help the RLA better understand the key issues affecting private landlords right now – as well as informing its future policy work.

Involvement in the research project is entirely voluntary, anonymous and participants are free to withdraw at any point and all information will be kept confidential. Only anonymous aggregated data will be presented in the report.

You have until 5pm on Friday 11th August to take the survey, which you can find by clicking here.

House price growth continues to ease, but prices are still 2.1pc higher than last year

By Sophie Christie

The average house price in the UK was £219,266 in July
Property prices are still rising - but at a considerably slower pace, the latest data from Halifax has revealed.

Prices in the second quarter of the year were 0.2pc lower than in the first quarter, according to the Halifax house price index.

But in the three months to July, prices were 2.1pc higher than in the same three months a year earlier, and prices rose by 0.4pc between June and July.

The latest data shows that prices have been falling successively for the past four quarters, the first time this has happened in almost five years.

However buyers are still having to fork out more for their bricks and mortar than they did last year.

The average house price in the UK last month was £219,266 − 10pc above the August 2007 peak and 42pc higher than the low point of £154,663 in April 2009, towards the end of the recession.

Russell Galley of Halifax said: “House prices continue to remain broadly flat, as they have since the start of the year.

"Prices in the three months to July were marginally lower than in the preceding three months, while the annual rate of growth has edged down from 5.7pc in January to 2.1pc in July; the lowest rate since April 2013."

Mr Galley said the squeeze on spending power, together with the impact on property transactions of stamp duty changes in 2016, along with affordability concerns, appear to have contributed to weaker housing demand.

“However, a continued low mortgage rate environment, combined with an ongoing shortage of properties for sale, should help continue to support house prices over the coming months,” he said.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said that while lenders were still keen to lend and mortgage rates were staying extremely low as a result, buyers were now facing the issue of finding a property they wish to buy, with a lack of supply in the market.

The average stock of homes for sale per surveyor - the housing market is experiencing a lack of supply CREDIT: RICS

Recent Halifax data also showed that London continues to dominate the country's list of the most expensive property locations on a per-square-metre basis.

The average price per square metre across the UK has increased by 236pc over the past 20 years; in Greater London prices have increased by 402pc.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Renting becomes cheaper than buying, particularly in the South East

By Marc Burns

For many years, rent has been called “dead money” and young people have been urged to “get on the housing ladder” so that they can put their money to good use buying an asset for themselves instead of paying their landlord’s mortgage.

Over recent years, however, attitudes to housing have been changing and so have the dynamics of the housing market, with renting becoming cheaper than buying in some of the UK’s key cities, particularly in the South East of England.

Renting is now cheaper than buying in over half of UK cities

The property website Zoopla tracks the cost of renting a two-bedroom home compared with the cost of servicing a mortgage on an equivalent property in the same area. The research assumes that buyers opt for a median-priced home and have a 90% mortgage with a 25-year term. Based on the data collected by Zoopla, renting is now cheaper than buying in 27 of the 50 cities they survey, this is a 14% increase from October 2016 when renting was cheaper than buying in only 20 of the same cities.

Not only is renting now more affordable than buying in 54% of UK cities, but in some cases the difference can be significant. In seven of the 27 cities, the differential was 20% or higher, in Cambridge it was almost a third and in London it was nearly half. By contrast, in the cities where renting was more expensive than buying, there were only four cities where the difference was a fifth or more.

The reason for the change

An extended period of low interest rates has helped to increase the effective affordability of mortgages, which play a hugely important role in the housing market.

In addition to this, over recent years, there have been various government initiatives aimed at helping home-buyers, particularly first-time buyers, which again have helped to improve affordability. This has stimulated demand in a market which has long suffered from chronic issues on the supply side, with the entirely predictable result of increased house prices.

Is this trend sustainable?

It’s hard to see how this situation can continue for much longer. Even if landlords own property outright and can therefore ignore the cost of servicing a mortgage, high home prices coupled with the government’s current approach to the private buy-to-let sector could well prove a strong incentive for landlords to sell up.

Private landlords with mortgages are facing tax and regulatory changes which could feasibly combine to give them less income with more risk, which again could be strong motivation for them to sell. Landlords disposing of properties would, of course, alter the dynamics of the housing market, potentially lowering purchase prices, or at least stabilizing them, and leading to upward pressure on rental prices due to the reduction in the number of available homes for rent. In addition to all of this, the direction of interest rates remains the elephant in the room.

Even though there has yet to be any obvious indication of rate rises in the near future, the fact that both residential and BTL mortgage applications are being reviewed in the light of potential rises clearly indicates that, at the very least, the Bank of England has the option on the cards.

Mark Burns is the managing director of property investment firm, Hopwood House.

Almost 81,000 Build To Rent units in England completed or planned

By Graham Norwood

New government figures reveal that there are 80,855 Built To Rent homes either completed or planned.

It says investment in this element of private rented sector could grow to £70 billion and could help create 15,000 homes specifically to rent each year by 2022. It also has the potential to reach a total of at least 240,000 homes built for private rent by 2030.

The figures were revealed during the announcement of a £65m boost from the government to - in the words of the government statement - “help unlock” over 7,600 new homes at Wembley in Brent, north London, with at least 6,800 of them for rent.

The Build To Rent sector has also won the backing of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the British Property Federation.

A joint statement says proposals under consideration with government include changing planning rules so councils have to initiate more forward planning of rental need and locations for developments, as well as tenancies of three years or more - considered more family-friendly than the traditional six months tenancy commonly found in buy to let.

The BPF says 35,000 tenants have been offered tenancies of three years or longer in recent years, since more emphasis was put on longer tenancies and since the first Build To Rent schemes have completed.

“We fully support the introduction of affordable private rent, and the inclusion of build to rent and affordable private rent within the National Planning and Policy Framework and Planning Practice Guidance - a multi-tenure approach where all housing sectors receive the right policy support is critical to fixing the UK’s broken housing market” says BPF chief executive Melanie Leech.

Meanwhile RICS head of UK external affairs Geoff White says: “The government’s proposals to boost supply across all tenures is a welcome acknowledgement of the extent of the housing challenges and the scale of the response required.”

Housing and planning minister Alok Sharma says: “Whether renting or owning all families should have the security they need to be able to plan for the future. That’s why as part of our plan to fix the broken housing market we’ve been taking action to create a bigger and better private rental market, supporting new Build To Rent developments so that tenants can have greater choice.”

Thursday, 3 August 2017

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11 million people to downsize their homes within 20 years

By Kate Hughes

Half of all pensioners are considering moving to smaller properties in a mass ‘exodus'

Do not pass go: downsizing could solve the housing crisis, experts say, but only if older owners have somewhere to go Getty
The UK could be on the brink of a huge property shift as 5.7 million people consider moving to smaller homes, new research suggests – but they could find few suitable homes to move to.

Half of those aged 65 and over would be tempted to downsize, an increase of 300,000 people in the past 12 months, according to the latest data.

About 38 per cent of the age group would consider downsizing now, with an additional 10 per cent encouraged to move with a stamp duty exemption, says housebuilder McCarthy & Stone as part of its annual Retirement Confidence Index.

With owners aged 65 and older expected to release an average of £80,000 each, and currently owning property worth around £1.5 trillion, this could equate to £450bn of equity to be spent on retirement funding or other expenditure at a time when the nation’s social care funding is under increasing pressure.

Roughly £720bn worth of property, including about 2.8 million bedrooms currently empty in older owners’ properties could be freed up for other buyers on the property market, McCarthy & Stone says.

But with long-standing suggestions that government could actively encourage downsizing through a series of measures including such tax exemptions, that figure could increase to more 11 million within 20 years.

This, the housebuilder – which constructs specialist retirement homes – says, would release around £877bn worth of equity.

“The rise in the number of those who want to downsize is an inevitable consequence of the UK’s rapidly ageing population,” says Clive Fenton, chief executive at McCarthy & Stone.

“Within the next 20 years, those aged 65 and over are expected to grow by almost 50 per cent, which will expose the UK’s grossly inadequate level of suitable housing for older people if we maintain the current status quo.”

As things stand, he warns, they are put off moving to smaller property due to the lack of suitable housing and the cost, he believes. “The Government needs to put specialist retirement housing and other forms of accommodation for older people higher up the agenda or we will simply lack the necessary infrastructure and support services, particularly from a health and social care perspective, to deal with such a huge demographic shift.

“The Government must build on the positive wording in the Housing White Paper and consider how it can influence market supply. The Government’s Help-to-Buy scheme and other initiatives aimed at first time buyers have spurred market supply of homes at that end of the spectrum but has done nothing to help the housing choices of those in later life.”

And this isn’t simply a case of a retirement home builder pushing for a bigger market. Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, says: “Every study about downsizing seems to confirm that there is huge untapped demand from retirees looking to move to smaller homes but the lack of suitable options is proving a deterrent.”

Knight Frank recently reported that there are now only 715,000 homes or 2.6 per cent of total stock in this country classed as “retirement housing” ranging from age-restricted developments to care housing, and the numbers are only rising very slowly.

It found that 25 per cent of over-55s would consider moving into purpose-built retirement homes in future – a potential pool of demand of nearly two million homeowners.

“If more over-65s downsized then the housing shortage could be eased bearing in mind the amount of existing accommodation, which is substantially under occupied,” Mr Leaf adds.

“Many retirees would like to sell in order to fund their retirement by moving down the ladder or help children or grandchildren move up the ladder.

“One radical solution, rather than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, could be for downsizing or all vendors, rather than purchasers, paying stamp duty as an incentive to help unblock the market.”

His suggestion comes as Lloyds Bank calculated this week that homebuyers in England and Wales paid £8.3bn in stamp duty in 2016 compared with £7.1bn in 2015 – a 17 per cent increase despite reforms to the tax that came into effect in 2014.

The average home owner now pays £12,693 in stamp duty over their lifetime as they move up the housing ladder.

“Alternatively, older people could share larger houses with their grandchildren, possibly converting their family homes to flats rather than being isolated and dependent on outside care while younger people pay high rents for sub-standard accommodation,” says Mr Leaf.

“Whatever happens, the Office for National Statistics said the number of over-65s is projected to grow twice as fast as the working-age population over the next 10 years so the problem needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.”

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Lack of supply keeping house prices high – Nationwide

By Marc Shoffman

House prices grew on a monthly basis for the first time in two months as average prices reached £211,671 in July, Nationwide says.

The latest Nationwide House Price Index shows prices were up 0.3% on a monthly basis, reversing falls of 0.2% in May and 0.1% in June.

The figures were also up 2.9% annually, which is a slight dip on the 3.1% growth recorded in June.

Robert Gardner, chief economist for Nationwide, said: “Ultimately, housing market developments will depend on wider economic performance.

“The UK economy slowed noticeably in the first half of the year and there has been little to suggest a significant departure from recent trends in the quarters ahead.

“While employment growth has remained relatively robust, household budgets are coming under pressure as wage growth is failing to keep up with the rising cost of living.

“This suggests that housing market activity is likely to remain subdued, with the balance in the market shifting a little further towards buyers in the quarters ahead.

“Nevertheless, constrained supply is likely to continue to provide support for house prices and, as a result, we continue to expect prices to rise by around 2% over 2017 as a whole – only modestly lower than the levels recorded in recent months.”

Lucy Pendleton, director of estate agents James Pendleton, said: “Market conditions just beneath the surface are keeping this ball in the air despite much talk recently of the market starting to roll over.

“The big question is where is support for house price growth coming from?

“Supply and demand is always a supportive factor but this kind of market behaviour shows just how imbalanced it has become. Prices seem to be finding any excuse to hold their ground and exploiting it.

“The cause has to be lack of supply, placing a squeeze on the number of homes coming to market, helped in June by mortgage approvals slumping to a nine-month low with transactions levels also depressed.”

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, agreed that supply was an issue.

He said: “Although these figures on the face of it look quite encouraging when one considers the fall in transactions, it is clear that prices are being supported by a lack of property on the market.

“We would have expected transactions in particular to be higher compared with last year bearing in mind how much quieter the market was 12 months ago following the introduction of the stamp duty surcharge.

“On the plus side, activity could be much lower considering current political uncertainty and fortunately there does seem an enthusiasm among serious buyers and sellers to get on with the job in hand.

“The current climate is also providing an opportunity for first-time buyers at least to better compete for smaller properties.”

The most affordable cities in the UK for first-time buyers

By Sophie Christie

Only 2pc of properties in Brighton are affordable for first-time buyers CREDIT: LUKE MACGREGOR
Virtually all first-time buyers in Brighton are being priced out of their own city, with new data revealing that only 2pc of properties in the seaside resort are affordable for new buyers.

While most would assume that London is the least affordable place for first-time buyers, it's Brighton that takes the dubious title, with average property prices at £352,303 and a minuscule percentage of properties considered affordable.

Bristolians also struggle to get a foot on the property ladder, with only 29pc of properties in the region – carrying an average asking price of £268,070 – affordable for FTBs.

The research by Post Office Money, which focused on the affordability of 14 of the UK's largest cities, shows that just 30pc of London homes are reasonably priced for new buyers, as they face average asking prices of £534,272.

The affordability of each city was calculated by seeing what proportion of each geographical area had a median house price lower than 4.5 times the average income of first-time buyers in that region.

The most affordable area is Southampton, where the average property price is £199,074 and 98 per cent of properties are accessible to FTBs. Norwich and Nottingham are also among the UK’s affordable hotspots, with 93pc and 89pc of properties in these areas costing less than 4.5 times the income of first-time buyers.

With average house price growth having increased by 15pc since 2011, compared with an increase to the average first-time buyer's income of 13pc over the same period, the UK housing market remains a challenging environment for many.

Owen Woodley of Post Office Money said: “Our data shows that almost two-thirds (62pc) of home sales are still in areas across the country that remain within reach for those looking to take their first steps on the property ladder, and first-time buyers can really benefit from thinking outside the box to realise their property aspirations."

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Buyers in England and Wales paid 17% more in stamp duty tax in 2016

Home buyers in England and Wales paid £8.3 billion in stamp duty in 2016 compared with £7.1 billion in 2015, a 17% increase which is contributing to the cost of moving home, a new analysis shows.

The average home owner pays £12,693 in stamp duty over their lifetime as they move up the housing ladder and those in London who bought for the first time in 2001 will have spent an average of £40,576 in stamp duty.

The research from Lloyds Bank shows that a typical first time buyer would have paid an average stamp duty of £758 in March 2001, £1,989 for their second home in March 2009 and £9,946 for their final step in March 2017.

The rise in 2016 reversed the £571 million decline between 2014 and 2015, which resulted from the stamp duty reforms that came into place in December 2014, the data also shows.

‘Rising house prices have caused stamp duty payments to continue to increase despite the reforms that came into effect from December 2014. As a result, the £8.3 billion raised in stamp duty in 2016 was more than £2 billion higher than at the peak of the last housing boom in 2007,’ said Andrew Mason, Lloyds Bank mortgage products director.

‘The average home buyer pays £12,693 in stamp duty in total as they move up the housing ladder. This average, however, disguises substantial regional differences with home movers, with those in Greater London paying over £40,000. Escalating stamp duty payments have contributed to significant increases in moving costs in recent years,’ he added.

The highest overall stamp duty bills are paid by buyers in London and the South East. In London they pay a total of £40,576 or 320% more than the average for England and Wales. In the South East, the overall bill is £20,133 while the lowest bills are in the North at £4,212 and Wales at £4,489.

Other research findings show that the proportion of first time buyers paying stamp duty has risen in the past 16 years from 47% in 2001 to 78% in 2017. In Greater London, 100% of first time buyers face paying stamp duty with 98% of first time buyers paying the tax in the South East. The only region where fewer than half of first time buyers pay stamp duty is the North 41%.

In the southern regions, nearly all home movers now face paying stamp duty with the data showing it is 100% in London, 99% in the South East, 97% in the South West and East Anglia. By comparison, 72% of home movers in the North and 78% in Wales pay stamp duty.

Prime London tenants 'seek smaller rental units with better amenities'

By Graham Norwood

Prime central London is seeing the rise of the micro-apartment, according to new research, as squeezed accommodation budgets have seen singles and couples opting for location and convenience over size.

According to data analysed by London Central Portfolio there is increasing demand for smaller properties which offer an affordable option for tenants who wish to be centrally located near their place of employment or study. 

In a similar dynamic to prime London’s sales market - where luxury properties have suffered most in the face of the changing tax landscape and Brexit uncertainty - LCP says prime London’s rental market is also notably fragmenting by size and price band.

Over the last 12 months, 42 per cent of properties let have been studios or one bedrooms by tenants prioritising lifestyle and transport links over square footage. On the other hand, demand has been notably slower for larger rental properties as families consider less central options, offering greater value and more space. 

“Tenants are now looking for more affordable options, choosing central locations and an easy commute to work or university. This is reinforcing the new trend for the globally mobile to seek highly specified micro-apartments, with well optimised space, whilst families tend to opt for more suburban locations where smaller budgets can stretch to larger homes and ideally the possibility of outside space. Indeed, significant discounts to asking rent of over 10 per cent for the most expensive, luxury rentals are now being reported” explains Naomi Heaton, LCP’s chief executive.

It is also taking much less time to find tenants for smaller micro-apartments. 

Over the last year, the average marketing times for two-bedroom properties has reached 85 days, increasing to 98 days for three bedroom and a significant 119 days for three-plus bedroom units. 

This is 42 per cent longer on average than for one-bedroom or studio units, which are seeing a much greater level of demand from the single tenant and couples that the PCL market attracts. For LCP’s portfolio, 63.9 per cent of tenants are now single dwellers.

Another indication of the trend in prime London towards micro-apartments is the number of properties being rented by price band. 

Over 1/3 of properties let have rents under £500 per week whilst only 3.2 per cent of units have been rented over £2,000 per week. Some 70 per cent of units being let now have rents of under £750 per week.