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Estate Agents & Letting Agents in Leeds

Here you will find the latest Hudson Moody Wass and property news.

England and Wales development land values continue to rise

Development land values in England and Wales rose for the fifth consecutive quarter in Q1 2014, although the pace of growth was slower than that seen in the three preceding quarters, at 0.8% compared to a 2.4% increase between October and December last year. 
The direction of travel is still upwards however, with the annual rate of growth rising from 7.1% in 2013 to 7.3% in the 12 months to the end of March. Land prices are rising as the housing markets in many parts of the UK are gaining momentum for the first time since the financial crisis. 
The latest Knight Frank/Markit House Price Sentiment Index shows that households in every region of the UK felt that the value of their home rose in March. Transaction levels in February this year were nearly 32% higher than in February last year, and at levels not seen since 2007. The structural undersupply of homes in the UK is well documented. But demand was constrained in the years following the financial crisis because of a lack of mortgage finance.
This problem has been addressed through Funding for Lending, and since March last year, via the Help to Buy Equity Loan. Help to Buy broadened the scope for buyers to climb onto the property ladder, as well encouraging a step up in development activity. So far it has helped more than 16,000 buyers purchase a new home – the regional take-up of the loan is shown in figure 2. The Chancellor’s announcement last month that this scheme would be boosted by £6 billion and extended by 4 years to run to 2020 was broadly welcomed in the industry, as it will allow developers to commit to larger-scale projects which take longer to build out. 

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Strathspey Captial enhances Edinburgh residential factoring offering with new acquisition

Strathspey Capital has acquired the factoring business of Edinburgh based Aspect Residential Property Management, extending its footprint by 50% to cover in excess of 7,500 properties across the Scottish capital.
Strathspey Capital was formed in December 2011 as an acquisition vehicle for factoring businesses aimed at maximising the opportunity for consolidation in this specific area of the property market.
The Aspect deal compliments Strathspey’s existing factoring operation - James Gibb Residential Factors. After a brief transition period, the James Gibb and Aspect businesses will be merged and located at James Gibb’s office in Atholl Place, Edinburgh. The combined business will trade under the James Gibb banner.
Strathspey’s Chief Executive, Douglas Weir, commented: “This is a very exciting time for us. Since Strathspey’s acquisition of James Gibb Residential Factors two years ago we have achieved significant organic growth, principally the result of our passion and commitment to deliver exemplary customer service and value for money. Introducing the Aspect portfolio will now allow us to embark on the next stage of our journey whilst retaining and further improving our service package.”

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Fusion Students exchange on Cardiff’s Windsor House for £5 million

Fusion Students has exchanged on a deal to acquire Windsor House in Cardiff for a reported £5 million from a client of Aberdeen Asset Management. 
The city centre office block will be demolished, and a new 100,000 sq ft state of the art student accommodation block will be built, with CBRE advising Fusion Students on the transaction.
The new scheme will house 322 boutique hotel-style rooms, a gymnasium, game zone and private student lounge. Fusion Students already accommodate almost 1,000 students in Bristol and Hatfield, while work continues on similar student developments in Newcastle and Nottingham.
Cardiff currently hosts approximately 35,000 students, and the addition of purpose-built student accommodation such as Windsor House will ease the pressure on housing demand elsewhere in the city, taking the strain from traditional shared housing in the Roath and Cathays areas of the city and freeing up existing housing for families and professionals.
James Trant, Associate Director at CBRE, commented: “The purchase of Windsor House is a demonstration of the strength of appetite for regional development in the student accommodation sector. Towns and cities such as Cardiff, with a structural undersupply of student accommodation, can expect to see further multi-million pound investments.”
Warren Rosenberg, Co-Founder of Fusion Students, added: “Student accommodation is a vibrant and emerging market and Fusion Students aims to be in the vanguard regarding quantity and quality. We aim to give students more than a bed in a box room while they are studying at university. We create a real home from home environment, living spaces that are practical and competitively priced but boasting a very high spec and crammed full of luxuries.”

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Wilson to appeal against conviction

Landlord Fergus Wilson says he will appeal after a court found him guilty of assaulting an estate agent in Folkestone.

Wilson, 65, represented himself at a trial at Folkestone Magistrates Court last week after previously pleading not guilty to punching estate agent Daniel Wells in the face at the PLS Property Letting and Sales office in Folkestone on 19 January last year.

As reported on Landlord Today earlier this week, the court found Wilson guilty of assault and ordered him to pay a £500 fine, £150 compensation, a £50 victim surcharge and court costs of £950.

It’s the second time Wilson, who owns around 1,000 properties in Kent, has hit the headlines this year. In January he courted controversy when he announced he was evicting all his tenants on benefits in favour of Eastern Europeans.


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Government approves three property redress schemes

Three compulsory redress schemes have been approved by the Government to offer independent investigation of complaints in the lettings sector, bringing it into line with the world of residential sales.

The schemes are: The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services Property and The Property Redress Scheme.

The first two are already operational but little is known about the new Property Redress Scheme.

The three schemes will consider issues of hidden fees and poor service, and as with the sales system now where a complaint is upheld, tenants, landlords and leaseholders could receive compensation.

The majority of letting agents are already signed up with one of the three organisations but the remaining 3,000 agents – 40% of the entire industry – will now be encouraged to join ahead of membership becoming mandatory later this year.

The Property Ombudsman is arguably the more recognised of the two existing schemes.

“The Property Ombudsman experienced a 34.2% increase in consumer enquiries relating to letting agents not registered with TPO during 2013, which really underlines the importance of mandatory redress” said TPO Ombudsman Christopher Hamer.

“Whilst my role as Ombudsman means that I am not a regulator and I can only review complaints after a dispute has occurred, making redress a legal requirement for lettings is a positive move. Clearly it would be better if complaints did not arise in the first place and robust legislation to enforce controls was in place."

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said the new rules would strike the right balance between protecting tenants and not harming the industry with excessive red tape, and were just one part of the government’s efforts to secure a better deal for tenants in the private rented sector.

“All tenants and leaseholders have a right to fair and transparent treatment from their letting agent. Most are happy with the service they receive, but a small minority of agents are ripping people off, and giving the whole industry a bad name,” he said, “That’s why we will require all agents to belong to one of the official redress schemes. They will ensure tenants have a straightforward route to take action if they get a poor deal, while avoiding excessive red tape that would push up rents and reduce choice for tenants.”

George Spencer, chief executive officer of lettings agent Rentify, said: “It is excellent news that the Government is finally acting to clean up the lettings industry and it makes sense that agents who aren't members of redress schemes will have to join the Property Ombudsman, the Ombudsman Services or the Property Redress Scheme. There are many decent letting agents out there but also a substantial rogue contingent that lack transparency on fees and are fleecing both tenants and landlords alike. At the very least, tenants and landlords should ensure their agent is ARLA and UKALA-registered but many people simply don't know that they are leaving themselves exposed if this is not the case.”

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LHA landlords under attack

A trade union wants the Information Commissioners Office to instruct councils to reveal the names of the 20 individual landlords who between them have been paid over £14m in housing benefits in the 2012-13 financial year.

The call comes after a request by the GMB union to 380 local authorities across the country; most returns from councils have specified sums but have removed names of the recipients.

Now the union’s case for the landlords to be named has been taken up by Andrew Pakes, Labour & Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for Milton Keynes South, who says for the sake of transparency in the use of public money, the councils should name names.

So far it is believed that councils have told the GMB that £138.5m of public money has been paid in the year in question to individual landlords.

The delay in naming the individuals – if they are ever named at all – may be down to the ICO seeking to distinguish between personal and professional business; at least some of the landlords receiving housing benefit may not be full-time landlords, so may not be regarded as being professional business landlords.

Paying housing benefits to meet housing costs for rented accommodation for tenants on low incomes dates back to the 1980s but the cost has now ballooned to £23 billion per year. While over the past 30 years some £411 billion of taxpayer’s funds have been spent on housing benefit it is not clear in every case who the ultimate recipients are.

For 30% of tenants entitled to housing benefit the cash is paid direct to landlords.

To establish the identity of these landlords GMB and Daily Mirror carried out research at the Land Registry to establish the beneficial owners of properties and Freedom of Information requests were made to councils to establish the amounts paid to them.

Some 69 councils refused to disclose any information – so there could be high paid housing benefit landlords who escape the paper’s “name and shame” campaign.


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Landlords facing slimmer yields as house prices soar

Resent research shows that house prices are rising faster than rents, leaving buy-to-let investors with slimmer yields compared to previous years. With soaring house prices continuing in the first few months of this year, yields could fall further according to The Online Letting Agents.

Rents are not growing at the same speed as property prices resulting in slimmer potential yields for landlords increasing their portfolio. According to BM Solutions, the average rental yield fell slightly in the second half of 2013, from 5.6% to 5.5%.

The research also found the slimmest rental yields are found in London at an average of 4.8%. This is despite the average rent standing at £1,417 per month in the capital – 102% higher than the national average of £701. Properties in the North and Yorkshire and Humber provide the biggest chance of higher yields, with both regions offering a 6.6% return. Renters in these areas pay roughly £500 per month, nearly a third of the price of people in the capital.
But house prices are even further apart. Recent figures from the Land Registry revealed the average property value in London is £409,881, compared to £98,292 in the North East.

This means more investors may be turning to the buy-to-let market for capital growth rather than seeking income from rents.

Eleanor Carroll, director of The Online Letting Agents, said: “Yields have fallen as house values have risen. During the aftermath of the financial crisis, the reverse happened - as capital values plummeted, rents still went up.

“The figures show that landlord’s average yield has remained static, despite rent rises. This is a result of the fact that the average price of a typical buy-to-let property has grown marginally faster that average rents.

“Despite slimmer yields, buy-to-let has been booming over the last 12 months and rising house prices are good news for long term investors, who will reap the benefits of their investment in years to come.
“Landlords are currently benefiting from record low mortgage rates, with banks eager to snap up the less risky borrowers with rock-bottom deals. Transactions are growing by 28% to 46,430 in the second half of 2013 from 36,400 in the same period the year before.”


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Blogger caught out by sublet scam

A well-known property blogger has become caught up in a subletting scam.

Sam Collett writes a property blog called What Sam Saw Today and her latest blog entry details how a departing, non-paying tenant posed as the landlord and let the property to an unwitting victim.

In a post entitled “WTF? My tenant pretended to me be (the landlord) and sub-let my house,” Collett details what happened.
In short Collett was in the process of evicting a tenant in rent arrears. The tenant duly left but not before advertising the house for rent and signing up a new tenant on an AST and taking a deposit.

The new tenant apparently then twigged that something was amiss and looked up the rightful owner of the property on the Land Registry and contacted Collett.

Whether the new tenant is somehow in on the scam remains to be seen. The original tenant, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found.


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Entries invited for Strettons’ May auction

Strettons Chartered Surveyors is now inviting entries for its next national property auction. The sale will take place on Tuesday 20th May at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London, with the auction catalogue online in the week commencing 28th April.
The London-based auctioneer has enjoyed a strong start to 2014 and remains confident the May auction will build on this performance. The company, which was established in 1931, holds seven national property auctions each year. The two auctions held so far in 2014 have achieved an average success rate of 76% with a total takings approaching just under £20m.
Strettons’ most recent auction took place on 31st March and a busy room saw interesting prices achieved for several lots. Average commercial yields were at 9% and residential yields at 7%. Highlights of the sale include:
Philip Waterfield, Strettons’ Auction Director commented: “We are already seeing a great deal of interest in our May auction and properties already entered include commercial, residential and ground rents from regions across the UK. If market conditions remain favourable, we are confident that we can continue our strong start to the year and achieve excellent prices for many vacant/tenanted residential properties, including ASTs, regulated and ground rents, with similar results for commercial investments.” 

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Sutton Kersh post impressive April figures

Auctioneer Sutton Kersh of Merseyside sold over 86% of the 119 lots offered at its most recent property auction in April, generating proceeds in excess of £6.5 million. 
Thirty of the lots on offer sold prior to auction which contributed to the high levels of success and with enquiries still being received on the few remaining unsold lots, further sales are anticipated. 
The sale took place at the Liverpool City Centre Marriott Hotel, attracting a large crowd. Commercial highlights included a vacant industrial building on Kempston Street which sold for £62,500, almost double its guide price. Elsewhere, City Church Preston on North Road in Preston achieved £249,000.
Cathy Holt, Auction Manageress at Sutton Kersh, commented: “The amount of pre-sale activity suggested it would be a successful auction, and we were not disappointed. Our regular investors were out in force, as were a number of new faces, which is a very positive sign.”
“There was an appetite for stock in all categories with many lots attracting multiple bids, driving prices well beyond the advertised guides,” she added. 
Sutton Kersh is now inviting instructions for its next sale, taking place on June 4th. The catalogue closes on May 9th. 

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