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

New BTL mortgage rates from Coventry and Skipton

Both Coventry and Skipton building societies have refreshed their BTL mortgage ranges.

The highlights of Coventry’s range include:
• 3.19% fixed rate until 31.10.16, 75% LTV, £250 booking fee, £1,749 arrangement fee, Early Repayment Charges (ERCs) payable to 31.10.16.
• 3.49% fixed rate until 31.10.16, 75% LTV, £250 booking fee, £749 arrangement fee ERCs payable to 31.10.16.
• 2.99% Flexx for Term, variable rate, 75% LTV, £250 booking fee, £1,749 arrangement fee and ERCs.

Colin Franklin, deputy chief executive of Coventry building society, said:” Hot on the heels of our new residential range, we are launching some great mortgages for BTL investors. We have competitive two-year fixed rate mortgages with a range of fees, and for those looking for the flexibility of unlimited overpayments and no ERCs, our Flexx for Term range is ideal.”

Meanwhile Skipton building society claims its “breaking new ground” by launching longer term BTL offerings.

The society’s new five and seven-year deals offer long-term peace of mind for landlords in an uncertain interest rate environment.

The new range includes high fee options to 75% over each fixed term 2, 3, 5 and 7-year and new 7-year fixed rate buy-to-let mortgages, including low rates at 60%, 70% and 75% LTV.

Rates include:
• 2.99% two-year fix at 60% LTV, £995 fees
• 3.99% five-year fix at 60% LTV, £995 fees
• 5% seven-year fix at 75%, £1,995 fees

Paul Darwin, head of intermediary sales at Skipton, said: “This new range of buy-to-lets really is breaking new ground and certainly offers something for everyone. In particular it’s great for landlords who, thanks to the longer term deals, want to secure their future in terms of buy-to-let commitments.

“We’re also really pleased to announce an increase in buy-to-let proc fees for brokers. In doing so we’re able to share the benefit of having longer term relationships with customers, thanks to this new range. We continually review our position against competitors and we have seen encouraging growth in the buy-to-let arena. So with all of this in mind, I am thrilled to announce an increase in proc fees to 50bps across the buy-to-let range, from tomorrow, 17 September.”



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Five tenants now chasing each rental property, says Countrywide

Demand for rental accommodation across Britain has grown over the past 12 months on the back of a housing market which is beginning to show signs of cooling. There are now five tenants chasing each rental property, up from 4.2 tenants in August 2013, according to Countrywide Residential Lettings.

This increased demand is being reflected in rental values. 15% of properties let for more than advertised in August, a figure which rises to 19% in London amid greater tenant competition, the highest level for 13 months. In August, landlords achieved an average of 99.6% of the asking rent.

Despite the increase in demand over the past three months, these figures remain well below 2012 levels. The upturn in the sales market in the summer of 2013, alongside the introduction of both parts of the Help to Buy scheme, transferred some of the demand out of the rental market. During the first half of 2013, landlords had to be increasingly flexible when negotiating rents with tenants. Between July and September 2013, even in the context of continued rental growth, the proportion of deals agreed in excess of the asking price fell from 23% to 13%.

The average rent in the UK passed the £900pcm barrier for the first time in August 2014, up £13pcm from July. Over the past 12 months average rents have increased 5.1%, rising twice as quickly as the same time last year. As has been the case over 2014, it has been London and those areas in zones 2-6 in particular, which have led this growth. While the number of properties coming onto the market has remained broadly stable, in the Capital, rental growth is a product of strong growth in tenant numbers up 12% over the past 12 months. Outside of London, particularly outside the South East, the level of demand has remained much closer to the number of properties available.

In a sign that landlords are responding to demand, tenants are signing up to increasingly longer tenancies with record numbers choosing to remain in their property by renewing their contract. Every region of the UK, with the exception of Central London, saw the length of the average tenancy rise to stand at an average of just over 16 months.

Commenting on the findings Nick Dunning, group commercial director, said: “The significant level of mobility between the sale and rental markets means changes to the level of demand in the sales market will have a knock on effect in the rental market. With over half of those using the Help to Buy scheme coming from the private rented sector, and the large rise in the number of first time buyers over the last year, rental growth has been subdued.

“The gradual cooling of the sales market over the past 1-2 months means we have begun to see upward pressure on rents, driven by a rise in demand from tenants with fewer leaving the sector. An increasing number of landlords have been able to re-let their property at a higher rate with tenants willing to meet and in some cases surpass rising asking prices.

“With the number of households in the private rented sector having risen 50% between 2007 and 2013, this structural tenure shift will continue to drive rental growth for the foreseeable future unless a significant number of new homes are delivered.”

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Cardiff Council prosecute landlord three times in two years

Cardiff Council has successfully prosecuted a private landlord on three occasions over a period of two years, for breaches of the Housing Act 2004 and failures to comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Wales) Regulations 2006.

Gary Samuel is the owner and landlord of a property in Corporation Road, Grangetown, which comprises ground floor commercial premises and three bedsits, with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities.

Following an inspection by Cardiff Council officers in 2012, an improvement notice under Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 was served on Samuel requiring works of improvement and repair to be carried out. Failure to comply with this notice and failures to comply with the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Wales) Regulations 2006, led to the council taking legal action and Mr Samuel being convicted in October 2012 at Cardiff Magistrates Court and fined £1,200.

In spite of correspondence advising  Samuel of the requirement to comply with the legislation, his failure to do so led the council to prosecute him again in June 2014. At this further hearing, the Magistrates Court fined him £3,000 and he was ordered to pay costs of £200.

Samuel was served with a notice in April 2014 under Section 235, Housing Act, requiring him to submit documentation to the Council to evidence that systems were in place to protect the health, safety and welfare of his tenants.

The documents requested were:
• The current and immediately previous gas certificates for this property
• A current electrical installation condition report for the property
• A current energy performance certificate for the property.
• The current fire alarm commissioning or test and inspection certificate for the property.
• All current tenancy agreements.
• The last 3 years certified accounts for the property.

The council initiated legal action after Samuel failed to comply with the notice and a hearing was held at Cardiff Magistrates Court on 28 August.  Samuel failed to attend the hearing and in his absence was convicted and fined a further £200 for the offences. In addition, he was ordered to pay £200 towards the council’s costs as well as a £20 victim surcharge.

Councillor Bob Derbyshire, cabinet member with responsibility for regulatory services said: “This was a particularly serious case where a rogue private landlord thought it acceptable to ignore the legislation that is in place to protect tenants. The council will continue to pursue this minority of landlords in the private sector in order to ensure that people are housed in conditions which do not pose a risk to their health or safety.”

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Croydon Council invited to justify 'tenant tax'

The National Landlords Association (NLA) has invited Croydon Borough Council to a meeting to justify proposals that could increase rents and diminish the availability of housing in the area.

The invitation comes after the council began consulting on proposals to extend its property licensing scheme to all private rented homes in the borough. Currently only landlords of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) require a license to let in Croydon.

If agreed, the measures would see all landlords in Croydon required to obtain a license to let out property. The NLA says the changes, which could increase the cost of renting by £500 - £1000 per property, will deter investment in housing in the area and be transferred on to tenants as higher rents.

Croydon Borough Council’s proposal will also make landlords responsible for controlling visitors to their properties as well as managing anti-social behaviour of tenants, which the NLA argues is unfair and unworkable.

The NLA has invited the council to address landlords and tenants at a meeting to discuss the proposals on 25 September, but the council has yet to respond. Local Croydon MP Gavin Barwell, who backs the campaign against the scheme and will speak out against the proposals at the meeting, is urging landlords and tenants in Croydon to attend the meeting and to put a stop to the proposals:

“It doesn’t take a genius to work out what will happen if this scheme goes ahead - landlords will simply pass the additional cost on to their tenants. It is a classic Labour stealth tax that is predicted to raise over £4.5 million for the council, lifted straight from the pockets of hardworking residents.

“Introducing a stealth tax, which will lead to some of the most vulnerable people in society facing even higher rents, is beneath contempt.”

Gavin Dick, NLA policy officer, agrees that the proposals amount to little more than a tax on renters:

“These proposals will simply mean higher rents as the increased costs will be passed through to tenants in the area. The changes would also make investing in properties in Croydon a less attractive prospect for landlords and will only serve to decrease the availability of affordable housing.

“There is clearly a strong desire to push through these proposals but Croydon Borough Council has yet to respond to our invitation to justify the proposals, and has done little to make landlords or tenants aware that the consultation is live.

“The NLA’s meeting will discuss how the people of Croydon can influence the decision and find out how to have their say in order to stop the council’s costly proposals.”

The meeting is being held at Imperial Conference Centre, Hampton by Hilton Croydon beginning at 7pm on 25 September.

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easyProperty launches

New online letting agent was officially launched this week at a glitzy party at the Natural History Museum in London.

Sir Stelios and easyProperty CEO Rob Ellice took to the stage to explain to attendees why “now is the right time to bring the traditional estate agency model into the digital age.” will initially focus on the lettings market, offering a ‘pick and mix’ range of services such as photography, viewings, deposit handling and tenancy agreements. This unbundled pricing model, which has been pioneered by the easyGroup, offers landlords complete choice and control and will allow them to create a bespoke package to suit their individual requirements, and at a fraction of the cost of traditional estate agents.

easyProperty will charge 0% commission and claims to already have 10,000 homes pre-registered by landlords. Its target is to let between 4,000 and 5,000 homes each month with most income being generated by selling additional services.

The site will ultimately expand to handle room rentals as well as its current lettings offering.
Ellice says in a video released on social media that his service will significantly expand its activity from residential lettings.
Early next year the service will start handling online residential sales, followed then by commercial property. Online room rentals and property auctions will then follow. And if that is not enough, Ellice promises to expand with a similar offer for the property markets of France, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands.
The room rental pledge is particularly interesting, as this market is tipped to expand in London in particular as planning restrictions are eased on the short-term letting of properties and rooms by non-professional landlords. This particular online market is now dominated by Airbnb, which handles room rentals in no fewer than 190 countries.
Ellice’s video also reiterates what he sees as the advantage of the known brand of easyGroup “well known for choice and no frills”.
Ellice also specifies that his business model - which allows landlords to advertise for free on his site only or for a fee if the properties are to be listed on Zoopla and Rightmove - works by securing “a small margin” on additional services offered to landlords.
Aidan Rushby, CEO of online community platform for property rental Movebubble, dismissed easyProperty as “just another online lettings agent”.
“With a small management team, Stelios only as branding support and more established players in the online lettings agency game, this isn’t the future of property rental as far as we’re concerned,” he said, “easyProperty markets itself as offering more for less, but it just offers more of the same. Unlike Movebubble it’s another online agent in a race to the bottom; this time dressed up in orange. easyProperty isn’t cheap for renters and it certainly won’t be cheerful. It’s simply more agents and telesales focussed on closing the deal, with no real focus on the end user. We know the ‘easy’ business model; make things as cheap as possible, but an uncomfortable short flight is very different to an uncomfortable 12 month tenancy.

“Viewings with up to eight tenants at a time (probably by someone in a shiny suit who knows nothing about the property) is going to make searching for a home even more pressured and stressful. What renters want is direct contact with a friendly landlord, not another middle man looking to skim money from the transaction.”

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Yes vote could lead to fall in Scottish house prices

A Yes victory in today’s Scottish referendum could slash house prices north of the border, property portal Zoopla claims.
According to Zoopla, Scottish house prices over the last two years have grown on average by 8.3%, with the average value now standing at £177,599.
However, if the economic impact of independence is as stark as has been recently suggested, a market shock like the one seen during the recent financial crisis (when house prices in Scotland fell by 17.5%) could potentially come about if a Yes vote materialises.    
Assuming the same thing happened, it would wipe over £31,000 off the value of the average Scottish home and £85 billion off the value of the total housing stock in Scotland. 
With several large businesses and employers in Scotland threatening to move south of the border if a Yes vote happens, and uncertainties regarding currency, tax and interest rates if Scotland breaks away, Zoopla predicts that all this would impact negatively on house prices north of the border. 
Additionally, with a more limited pool of lenders, mortgages could become harder to obtain and higher interest rates could come into play. As well as this, homeowners could be earning wages in a new currency but remain stuck with a sterling-based mortgage. This could leave people open to currency fluctuations, meaning they struggle to pay their mortgage and end up in negative equity.
According to property search company The Buying Agents, the uncertainty of the upcoming referendum has seen several foreign investors deliberately delaying their purchases as they wait to see how the outcome of the vote affects them. Japan’s largest bank, Nomura, recently claimed that sterling would drop by 15% in the event of a ‘YES’ vote, and overseas buyers are currently erring on the side of caution.   
“There is an awful lot riding on Thursday, with serious consequences for homebuyers and investors alike,” Henry Sherwood, Managing Director of the Buying Agents, said. “It will be interesting to see how the vote swings and no doubt we shall be holding our breath in anticipation”. 

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Rents ease to record high, according to LSL figures

Average rents have reached an all-time record high as the rental market approaches its autumn peak, according to the latest Buy-to-Let Index from LSL property services (parent company to large lettings networks Your Move and Reeds Rains).
The average residential rent across England and Wales is now £761 per month. This is £3 higher than the previous record £758 which was set in October 2013.
On a monthly basis, August rents were on average 1.1% higher than was seen in July – or an increase of £8.
This leaves monthly rents 2.4% higher than a year ago, when in August 2013 average monthly rents previously stood at £743. In absolute terms this annual growth represents an increase of £15.
“Autumn is when more people move to take up new opportunities, to build new careers and to start new chapters.  That is what the rental market is all about for many people by providing flexibility and it’s what it does well – at a cost that’s risen in line with inflation for at least half a decade,” said David Brown, LSL’s Commercial Director.
“No year is the same, and already 2014 has been like no other.  The reawakening of mortgage lending startled the property market into a new spring of life earlier in the year.  The benefits have been felt across the board, not just for first-time buyers but for tenants too.  Investment means rents are now only 1% higher in real terms than at the start of 2010,” he added.
According to the Buy-to-Let Index, August gross yields on the typical rental property in England and Wales stand at 5.1%, despite a monthly increase (0.1), this figure represents a fall of 0.2 percentage points from one year ago, down from 5.3% in August 2013.
Taking into account price growth and void periods between tenants (but before costs such as mortgage repayments or maintenance), total annual returns on an average rental property stand at 12.7% over the twelve months to August. This is up from 6.4% in the year to August 2013, and an increase of 0.6 percentage points since July, when returns were 12.1%.
Commenting on the Buy-to-Let figures, David Brown concluded: “Landlords have benefitted from higher property prices, which is helping portfolios to expand and more homes become available to let.  Gross rental yields are still in line with long-run averages, and rental income is more reliable as personal finances gradually leave the great recession behind them.

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Annual landlord revenue tops 32 billion

English landlords are making the most of a booming rental market as rental payment earnings have eclipsed £32 billion a year, equivalent to £2.7 billion a month.
Landlord with properties in the capital collect the largest proportion of rental income, almost half of the total figure at £14 billion, according to the research carried out by Direct Line for Business (DL4B). 
Figures show that in total, 44 per cent of the entire country's rent is paid in London. Meanwhile, outside of the capital, Leeds pays the greatest amount of any city, with annual private rent totalling £565 million, followed by Birmingham (£521 million) and Manchester (£401 million).
Despite this dominance, landlords outside of London can also make a healthy rental income. Many areas outside the London commuter belt are commanding high rental costs, including Bath, North Somerset, and the Cotswolds all commanding annual rental incomes of more than £11,000 per year. 
In terms of the number of properties privately rented, outside of London, Bournemouth leads the line with 30 per cent of all households privately rented. The isles of Scilly (29.7 per cent) and Brighton and Hove (29.6 per cent) follow in second and third place respectively. Across the country, Inner London has the highest proportion of private renters, at 30.7 per cent. 
“Buy-to-Let is becoming an increasingly attractive option for people as property prices continue to soar,” said Jazz Gakhal head of DL4B.
“Landlords and potential landlords looking to take advantage of this should also appreciate the risks involved. Bad payers and potential damage to property are but just a few of the costs that can lead to landlords paying out 25 per cent of the revenues they receive in rental payments annually. Taking the necessary precautions such as letting through an agency and taking out landlord insurance can help to alleviate concerns and ease the rental process,” he added.


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Sager and Cain Hoy join together on 400m Islington Square scheme

Sager Group and Cain Hoy have announced a joint venture to develop Islington Square, a 4.5 acre mixed-use regeneration and development scheme in the heart of Islington, North London.
Originally established in 1904 as the North London Mail Centre, the Islington Square site development will consist of a 500,000 square foot mixed-use shopping, leisure and residential district in one of the capital’s most up and coming areas.
Giris Rabinovitch, CEO of Sager, said of the joint project: “Sager is delighted to have joined with Cain Hoy as its partner to create this landmark destination. Sager acquired the original site more than a decade ago – we are delighted that our vision will now become a reality and are pleased to be Cain Hoy’s first investment in London.”
The size and scale of the new development will offer leading retailers, for the first time, the chance to procure modern regular shaped units in Islington of the scale that most require. Furthermore, it will create residential apartments, serviced apartments, leisure and restaurant outlets. 
Islington Square’s architecture will keep many of the important heritage features of the original Post Office site, designed around the concept of arcades, as well as remaining sympathetic to the local architecture.
Planning permission for the scheme has been granted, and work has already commenced on the site itself. The completion date is scheduled for early 2017.
“Islington is a thriving area of London close to Kings Cross, the City and Tech City,” Jonathan Goldstein, Cain Hoy’s Head of European Investments, added. “We look forward to working with our partner, Sager, to bring this iconic development to life.”
Letting agents for the retail and leisure outlets are Cushman & Wakefield, Orme Retail and Shelly Sandzer, whilst Savills, Fraser and Co and Beauchamp Estates have been instructed on the residential space.

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Latest auction takes Sutton Kersh yearly proceeds to 27million

Liverpool-based auctioneer Sutton Kersh’s latest property auction generated proceeds of over £4.7 million taking the firm’s annual proceeds to £27million after selling almost 400 lots so far in 2014.
One of the highlights of the September auction, where 70% of lots sold, was a residential investment in the Sefton Park area of Liverpool. The three bedroom double fronted semi on Livingston Drive sold for £173,000, off a guide of £150,000 plus. 
Meanwhile, a vacant three storey semi in the Fairfield area of Liverpool - converted into six flats - sold for £165,000 off a guide of £150,000.   
Elsewhere, a two storey commercial property on Freeman Street in Birkenhead which includes an advertising hoarding producing £2,200 per annum and an adjacent parcel of land, sold for £100,000.
“It was good to be back in the auction room after the summer break and it was encouraging to see investors turning out in large numbers,” said Cathy Holt, the firm’s Auction Manageress.
“However buyers were slightly more cautious and risk averse, which meant there wasn’t the frenetic bidding we have seen in recent sales. This suggests there is still some lack of confidence in the economy, coupled with the possibility of interest rate rises in the medium term. It is important for vendors to understand this when considering reserve prices,” she added. 
The auction house is now inviting instructions for its next sale which takes place on October 30th, with entries for the catalogue closing on October 3rd.

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