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Average Greater London house price reaches half a million

Property prices have broken through the £500,000 mark across 51% of postcodes districts within Greater London, according to new analysis from Stirling Ackroyd.

In their latest London Hubs Tracker, it was revealed that average home prices across the whole of Greater London have already reached £540,000 as of Q3 2015, up 1.6% compared with Q2.

Out of 279 postcodes districts falling within Greater London, 142 are home to average local property prices of at least £500,000.

This means that locations such as Mile End, Peckham and Streatham now have average house prices of over half a million, which may come as a surprise to some. Mile End tipped the £500,000 mark in Q3 2015, up 2.5% compared to the previous quarter.

Contrastingly, homes for half a million persist as centrally as SE16; home to the Canada Water tube stop, with the average property price standing at £474,000.

Business activity is also growing fastest in these more affordable parts of the capital, led by the South East and East London.

Andrew Bridges, Managing Director of Stirling Ackroyd, comments: “London is increasingly another country. Within these borders, more and more territory is being claimed by home values only dreamed of by sellers in the past.  Meanwhile, for buyers and for businesses – the wave is building outwards and eastwards.”

“Travel four miles west of the West End and you’ll stand little chance as a first time buyer. But east of the cosier core of traditional London, there’s a riverside corridor of relative affordability,” Ackroyd added. 


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UK investors claim regulations will force them out of BTL in 2016

Nearly three quarters (72%) of buy-to-let investors have claimed that legal changes to the sector this year will have a negative impact on their investment.

A fifth of investors are not prepared to deal with the numerous new regulations, and have instead vowed to sell their buy-to-let properties in 2016, according to latest research from The House Crowd.

Property investors have become concerned that legal changes such as the Mortgage Credit Directive and the increase in stamp duty on buy-to-let properties, coming into force this March and April respectively, will hit investors hard.

The findings from a survey of property investors also revealed that half of their plans for retirement are now at risk, and over a third think landlords should look at newer, smarter ways of investing in property. 

The survey also unearthed that 43% of landlords feel that the government is trying to squeeze out small-time investors, instead protecting wealthier landlords with multiple properties.

Frazer Fearnhead, founder and CEO of The House Crowd, commented: “These new regulations are putting increasing pressure on those who own perhaps two or three properties, making it very difficult for smaller landlords to remain in the buy-to-let sector.”


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Can landlords protect their profits in 2016?

George Osborne’s recent tax reforms have sparked a surge in landlords buying property through a company in order to safeguard tax reliefs, according to new findings.

Mortgage applications via a limited company, made through the lender Kent Reliance, increased by 300% in September 2015, compared with the same month in 2014, representing the highest level on record.

Incorporation is one way landlords can avoid the cuts to tax relief on mortgage interest unveiled by the chancellor in last year's Summer Budget.

These will be phased in between 2017 and 2020 and will limit the relief available to 20% for individual buy-to-let owners, down from as high as 45%.

With the stamp duty changes coming on top of earlier tax reforms, there is likely to be a surge of acquisitions made by landlords through limited companies.

However, incorporation is just one of many options available, to help landlords protect their profits.

Landlords need to do a serious portfolio review and work out how the tax changes affect them and what options there are to save, or make more money.

For example, remortgaging to get a better deal; renovating some old stock – these costs will be tax deductible; selling some properties; or increasing the rent.

The traditional buy-to-let model of using leverage to buy a property and hold it for the long-term has taken a big knock and the market is definitely less attractive than it was this time last year.

I do believe, however, that the recent tax changes alone won’t have a massive impact on the property market as a whole. 

If you can buy either in cash or with far less leverage, then there will remain decent long-term money to be made.

Certainly the recent changes have made it a lot harder to make money in buy-to-let.

But where there are challenges, there are opportunities if you can think outside the box.

I have put together some options that landlords can consider to protect their profits:

       - Review your properties and see if you can get planning on an existing property to increase its value, by adding an extension, or converting the cellars

      - If you have a one-bedroom property, make it into a small two-bedroom property

      - If you lack building skills/knowledge, but have equity or cash, partnering with someone more skilled in building/renovation work would be profitable

      - Consider changing a house into a House in Multiple Occupation and increase the rental income

      - There is a real shortage of properties right now and prices are at a record high, so consider selling some stock

       - The tax changes don’t affect Limited Companies. Consider setting up a Limited Company and using this structure to hold your properties.

      - Are you an active or passive investor? Passive investors will be hit hardest by the changes. Active investors can find deals for other investors and create income streams there

      - It will become far more important to buy property below market value. You can’t just buy £1 of property for a £1 anymore. Buying with a built-in discount will help ensure your investment is just that

      - Consider other specialist areas of property investment which compliment traditional buy-to-let. For example, can you manage properties for other landlords and charge a fee for that service?

*This article was written by Peter Armistead, a property investor with over 80 properties in Manchester and managing director of Armistead Property


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Over 7,000 applicants for Spareroom founderís East London home

The founder of Spareroom.co.uk has received over 7,250 applications to his “pay what you can afford” room-sharing drive. A few weeks ago we wrote about Rupert Hunt’s plans to use his own site to source housemates for his Grade II listed homes in Spitalfields.

Just two weeks after placing his ad for up to three new housemates, Hunt has received 7,251 applications, from all age groups and demographics. The youngest applicant was 17 and the oldest 68, while more than 300 people submitted videos and ten wrote songs in an effort to stand out from the crowd.

Applicants included Alan Sugar’s cousin, three contestants from The Apprentice’s 2015 intake, Miss Universe GB 2014, three well-known YouTubers and the Guinness World Record holder for the most jokes told in an hour.

Some wrote songs and poems to try and win Hunt over, while three even took the drastic step of turning up at his home unannounced – bringing with them home-baked goods.

“I’ve been genuinely overwhelmed by the number of applications,” Hunt said. “I knew the response would be big but nowhere near this big.”

“I have no idea how I’m going to pick just two or three people from so many. There are bound to be dozens of people who’d make brilliant housemates so, whoever I end up with, I’ll still miss the chance to live with some great people.”

He added: “The whole process is about meeting interesting people who’ll enrich my life in some way, not making money. So we won’t even discuss rent till we’ve made the decision to live together. My previous housemates have paid between nothing and £600 a month though, so whoever ends up moving in will definitely be able to afford the rent.”


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Investment in buy-to-let will be discouraged by tax changes, research warns

Research carried out by Orchard & Shipman Group has revealed that a significant proportion of landlords (86%) believe that the government’s tax changes will deter investment in the buy-to-let sector. This will ultimately lead, they say, to a dearth of available rental homes.

Landlords think that that the government’s tax hikes on buy-to-let investments and second homes will simply mean higher rents and investors selling their properties. The research found that a quarter of landlords will be selling some or all of their properties, although only 18% of landlords said they would withdraw from the market completely.

Orchard & Shipman’s survey also found that more than 90% of landlords believe they should be permitted to deduct legitimate costs, just as any other business would. Over half of the landlords polled said they would be increasing rents in 2016 to cover the growing financial costs of letting out property. 

“The Government’s changes to the way buy-to-let investors are taxed will inevitably impact revenue,” Shane Spiers, CEO of Orchard & Shipman. “The shortage of housing, a growing rental market and rising property prices is driving increased demand for rental properties. With these market conditions at play, it’s no surprise that landlords will be putting up rents to supplement their income. Unfortunately, it is tenants that will feel the brunt of the tax changes.” 

He added: “The Government’s ambition to make buy-to-let look less appealing may yet be thwarted. Many landlords and property investors are committed and passionate and will do whatever it takes to protect their interests.” 


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RLA says government is failing landlords over Right to Rent

The government is failing landlords over the new Right to Rent immigration policy, research by the Residential Landlords Association suggests.

In their survey of over 1,500 landlords, more than 90% said they had received no correspondence from the government on their new legal duty to check the immigration status of their tenants. This comes in spite of the fact that the new law – which forces landlords to undertake checks on their tenants to make sure they have the right to live in the UK – came into force on Monday.

The scarcity of information from the government is causing confusion and worry over how landlords are expected to carry out these checks.

72% of landlords said they do not understand their obligations under the policy, while 44% said they will only rent to those with documents that are familiar to them.

As a result of this, the RLA is calling on the government to extend pilot versions of the policy before rolling it out across the country. The evaluation of the pilot scheme – which took place in the West Midlands – found that there was only “limited evidence” that it was deterring illegal immigrants from seeking to access rental housing.

“The Government argues that it’s ‘right to rent’ plans form part of a package to make the UK a more hostile environment for illegal immigrants,” Dr David Smith, Policy Director for the RLA, commented. “The evidence shows that it is creating a more hostile environment for good landlords and legitimate tenants.”

“Landlords are damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” he went on. “Fearful of a fine they face two difficult ways forward. They can play it safe, and take a restrictive view with prospective tenants, potentially causing difficulties for the 12 million UK citizens without a passport. Alternatively, they may target certain individuals to conduct the checks, opening themselves up to accusations of racism.”

He added: “The Government’s own evaluation of its pilot scheme noted that there was only limited evidence that the policy is achieving its objectives. Given the considerable problems it will create for tenant-landlord relations it’s time for the Government to think again.”


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Rogue letting agent jailed after £200,000 fraud against tenants and landlords

A former letting agent has been sentenced to two years and nine months in prison after admitting fraud against both tenants and landlords.

Trained accountant Harpreet Garcha, who ran lettings franchises for Belvoir in Kettering, Desborough and Corby, was investigated by Northamptonshire county council’s trading standards team after a landlord made a complaint about being overcharged for routine maintenance at her rented home in Kettering.

It turned out that the cost of safety checks by a contractor was actually £166.25 but she had been provided with fake invoices for £502.50. 

A court has heard how Garcha, 39, fraudulently generated significant profits at the expense of tenants and landlords, whose properties he marketed.

To disguise the practice, he set up a second (sole trader) business called Kettering Property Maintenance (KPM) which the contractors would invoice. KPM would then appear on the landlords’ monthly statement with the inflated cost.

The investigation found he had made around £200,000 by dishonestly increasing the cost of maintenance and safety work. This amounted to a mark-up of about 30%. 

Garcha, of Kettering, admitted two counts of fraudulent trading, two counts of money laundering, five counts of insurance fraud and one offence of VAT fraud, committed between 2008 and 2012. Two further counts of mortgage fraud were left to lie on file.

He was also convicted of providing false invoices to HMRC to reclaim VAT on business expenditure, making false statements in insurance claims on behalf of landlords which resulted in unjustified county court judgements against former tenants, and contempt of court for breaching a restraint order made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

His sentence includes two-and-a-half years for the fraud-related offences and three months for the contempt of court offence, to run consecutively. He has also been disqualified from acting as a director for nine years.

The council’s trading standards department is now conducting a financial investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act with a view to seeking a confiscation order. 
 


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Investors claims new rules will force them out of BTL in 2016

Research by property crowdfunding site The House Crowd shows that buy-to-let investors are predicting a stormy ride in 2016, with nearly three quarters (72%) reporting that legal changes to the sector this year will have a negative effect on their investments. A fifth of investors plan to sell their buy-to-let properties in 2016.  
 
Previously viewing their investments as a solid base for sensible financial plans for the future, property investors are concerned that they are being increasingly targeted by legal changes like the Mortgage Credit Directive and increase in stamp duty on buy-to-let properties, coming into force this March and April respectively.
 
The survey of property investors reveals:

  • Half say their plans for a secure retirement are now at risk.
  • A third say it will now be harder to support children and grandchildren to get on the property ladder, or to contribute to university fees.
  • More than a third (38%) think landlords should look at newer, smarter ways of investing in property.

It appears to be investors with a smaller number of properties that are feeling the pinch. Nearly half (43%) feel that the government is trying to squeeze out smaller landlords, protecting wealthy landlords with many properties.
 
Frazer Fearnhead, founder and CEO of The House Crowd, said: “Property investment has long been viewed as a sensible way for the shrewd small investor to save for the future, making life a bit more comfortable and paving the way for a financially secure retirement. However, these new regulations are putting increasing pressure on those who own perhaps two or three properties, making it very difficult for smaller landlords to remain in the buy-to-let sector.”

 


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London boiler cashback scheme launched

London Mayor Boris Johnson has just announced the capital’s first boiler replacement scheme. The London Boiler Cashback Scheme is providing 6,500 of the capital’s home owners and accredited private landlords each with £400 cashback when they replace an old, inefficient boiler.

The scheme is first-come, first-served so landlords are encouraged to put their applications in quickly.

Private landlords, or the agent that manages their property, must be accredited with the Mayor’s London Rental Standard. They can apply for cashback for more than one property, provided they meet the scheme’s requirements.

Replacing an old, inefficient boiler with a new, efficient one makes a big difference. A more efficient boiler could mean an average saving of £340 a year, as well as a warmer, more comfortable home. It also dramatically reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The scheme as a whole will substantially reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality across London.

Under the rules of the scheme:
• the current boiler must be 70% or less efficient (typically a G rated boiler that is either gas, LPG, solid fuel or oil fuelled), in working order and the main boiler used to heat the home
• the replacement must be a gas boiler that is A rated (at least 90% energy efficient) or a renewable/low carbon heating technology
• the installer must be a Gas Safe (formerly CORGI) registered installer, a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified installer or equivalent, or a member of a competent persons scheme (such as OFTEC or HETAS).

When applicants apply, they will need to provide details of the boiler to be replaced, along with those of the heating engineer. They will then receive a voucher, after which the boiler can be replaced. 

Vouchers are valid for 12 weeks from the date of issue, so the boiler must be fitted within this time. To receive their £400 cashback, they must then send back proof of installation along with the voucher no later than ten working days after the expiry date on their voucher.

For more information, including how to apply and the terms and conditions of the scheme, please go to: www.london.gov.uk/boilers
 


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Private renting "has grown by 17,000 households a month in England" claim

The government’s initiatives to try to increase house building and owner occupation will not stop demand for rented homes rising by over one million households by 2021 says high-end agency Savills. 

The company says the government target of building 400,000 new affordable homes for sale over the course of this parliament will mean the country would still require an additional 220,000 homes for rent a year. 

It says the growth of house price inflation ahead of wage growth has served to push home ownership further out of reach for many, at a time when stock in the social rented sector has shrunk by 2.8% in the past five years.

This has pushed more households into private renting, it says. 

According to the English Housing Survey, private renting has been growing by 17,500 households per month on average over the 10 years to 2014. 

Government housing policy, including Starter Homes, more Shared Ownership homes and access to larger equity loans through Help to Buy London, seeks to reverse this trend by helping people access the property ladder. 

“But demand for rented homes could still rise more sharply than we have forecast,” said Susan Emmett of Savills residential research. 

“We would question whether policies can accelerate housebuilding enough to see the government’s target of 400,000 affordable homes for sale reached in the timescale set. Given the overlap between different schemes, each focused at similar parts of the market, it is possible that one scheme could simply replace the other rather than providing additional homes,” she claimed.

“This analysis demonstrates that we still need to provide a substantial number of homes for rent. Government policy should focus on supporting the development of new homes to rent as well as to buy.”

Instead, Emmett claimed recent policy announcements are likely to constrain the supply of rental homes. 

The introduction of a 3% stamp duty surcharge on buy-to-let properties and the restriction on tax relief on mortgage interest payments are likely to limit the ability of private investors to expand their portfolios.

This presents a major opportunity for large scale institutional investors to step into the gap through Build To Rent, she claimed, with expectations that they will remain exempt from the tax changes. 


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