Politicians must vote for housing

Principal of Paul Carr Estate Agents, Paul Carr, looks ahead to the 2017 General Election and an often ignored – but vitally important – area of policy.

No doubt Brexit, the economy and the NHS will dominate the 2017 General Election. Energy, education and defence should also get a strong look-in while the devolved governments will be trying to get as much air time as possible.

But do spare a thought for housing, as, on the evidence of the recent past, it doesn’t look as if any political party will.

Over the past nineteen hearts, and during the tenure of four Prime Ministers – Blair, Brown, Cameron and May – there have been no fewer than fourteen housing ministers.

This post seems to have become a stepping-stone for ministers who are either on an upwardly mobile career path or heading in the opposite direction into the political wilderness. That such an important part of our daily lives can be dealt with in such a perfunctory way seems short sighted and negative to most outside Westminster.

Property is a national obsession yet the politicians seem to treat it as a short stop to somewhere else. Property also provides important jobs and revenue through allied industries such as furniture, flooring, lighting and decorating, and in the service sector – finance, legal, surveying, etc.

We need more housing in the UK and we need better housing. Yet successive governments have failed to plan, have failed to act and have failed to build the 250,000 new homes that we are estimated to need each year. They have failed to establish any sort of meaningful housing policy – indeed how could there be a meaningful one with so many different housing ministers? By contrast, in the same nineteen-year period, there have been only seven Home Secretary’s.

Too few new homes being built creates greater demand for the properties that are already part of the ageing national estate. Strong demand and insufficient supply inevitably means rising property prices. The lack of any cohesive housing policies over two decades has not just added to the housing problem but has helped create it.

No market likes uncertainty and for the fourth year in succession, we have an important election which will bring fresh uncertainty. Brexit will rumble on for several years yet, adding to this uneasiness. But we hope that whichever party prevails on June 8th, the new Prime Minister will take his or her housing ministry more seriously.

We need a committed housing minister prepared to stay in the job for more than sixteen months. We also hope that the new housing minister will not use housing as another easy way to create revenue without first thinking through the implications a higher rate of tax will have on the property market as a whole, and our lives as citizens – after all, we all have to live somewhere.

What if ‘Friends’ had been set in Birmingham?

What if ‘Friends’ had been set in Birmingham …

1. The opening credits would be set in Victoria Square
2. Central Perk would just be another Costa branch
3. Or more likely, just a pub.
4. They’d all live in unaffordable flats in The Mailbox
5. Except Phoebe, who’d live in Nechells.
6. Instead of “How you doin’?”, Joey would say “Alright bab?”.
7. And he’d be more into balti than pizza
8. He’d be a regular cast member on Doctors!
9. Which would lead to him being nominated for an award by The Midlands Royal Television Society. He’d lose, ungracefully.
10. He’d then volunteer to host the BBC’s Children in Need, where he’d end up making a small appearance reading out a couple of local donations from Birmingham.
11. Rachel would work in Selfridges
12. Where she’s take up vaping to try and get close to her boss
13. Monica would work at Adam’s or Purnell’s
14. Or anywhere that was impossible to book a table or find parking
15. Monica’s homeware obsession would be fuelled by PROVIDE
16. Paul the Wine Guy’s nickname would be explained by him having worked at Loki
17. And Pete would have joined Birmingham Wrestling Club
18. Ross would work in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

The cast of TV series Friends
19. And lecture at BCU
20. Where he’d get into a relationship with a fresher
21. His sandwich rage would have been justified because it was a Philpotts special
22. Ross’ sofa would be from the neverending DFS sale
23. Ross would start dating someone from Coventry but fall asleep on the train and end up in London
24. Chandler and Joey would lose Ben on the Number 11 Bus
25. And still no one would know what Chandler did for a living
26. Ross, Chandler, and Joey would be frequent visitors to Villa park, where Ross would be smacked in the face by a stray football.
27. Phoebe would drive an Uber by night
28. And work at the spa in the Cube during the day
29. Phoebe would apply for Britain’s Got Talent when they’re auditioning in Birmingham
30. Which would result in “Smelly Cat” becoming a viral hit on YouTube
31. Phoebe’s wedding wouldn’t have taken place in the snow because it never snows in Birmingham
32. There would be a lot more swearing
33. Instead of taking a trip to Barbados, the group would travel to Magaluf.
34. Monica and Chandler would eventually buy a big house in Sutton Coldfield
35. Ross would be able to stop Rachel getting on the plane because there’s only one airport in Birmingham
36. But in reality he’d get horribly lost in the confusing car park and she’d end up in Paris after all

Thanks to BuzzFeed for the laughs!

Tenant happiness on the rise due to longer rentals

A study of over 3,000 tenants has found that an increasing number of renters are very happy with their living situation.

The LSL Corporate Client Department’s 2017 Tenant Survey found that 32% of renters claim to be very happy, which is up from 28% last year.

A further 37% claimed that they are happy, up slightly from 36% in 2016.

The survey claims that the increase in satisfaction amongst tenant is due to a reduction in frustrations with maintenance, fees and restrictions.

The report also highlighted growth in the long-term rental market with 33% of tenants having rented for six years or longer, which is up from 29% in 2016.

Renters were split into four groups in the survey, namely, Younger Independents, Struggling Savers, Moving Up and Reconciled with Renting.

The Struggling Savers and Moving Up groups are more likely to be renting due to having a lack of deposit or have difficulty in getting a mortgage. This means they are less inclined to see renting as a lifestyle choice.

The Young Independents and Reconciled with Renting groups are, on the other hand, more likely to appreciate the flexibility that renting offers them.

Conditions of the rental property and value for money were the two most important deal breakers for the tenants surveyed. These were followed by good communication with landlords/letting agents and the overall quality of the landlord.

If you are thinking of becoming a landlord, 28% of tenants said that they would pay more rent if they were allowed to keep pets and 21% said they would pay more for high speed internet. Points to think over!

Ian Fletcher, director of policy (Real Estate) at the British Property Federation said:

“The results show that the vast majority of the sector’s customers are happy but there is no room for complacency. The rental sector’s customer base is changing, for example with far more families, and what customers want is changing too.”

He continued:

“The private rented sector can’t divorce itself from these wider social, economic and technological changes and the impact that is having on how people want to lead their lives.”

If you are looking to rent a property or are looking to become a landlord, please contact our Residential Lettings team to find out about our with you every step of the way personal service.

When you find out your landlord is …

Landlords come in all shapes and disguises but in the shape of a former Prime Minister? Now we have seen everything!

If you were looking to rent a property, would you want to find out that your landlord is former Prime Minister Tony Blair?

A company has been set up to handle the ownership and management of buy to let properties and the main shareholder of the company is none other than Tony Blair.

Now, we will have all read the stories in the past about the Blair family and their property investments. In fact, Tony, his wife Cherie and their eldest son Euan, already own 38 properties worth an estimated £33m, according to the Daily Mail.

Their portfolio already includes a series of flats in North West England which are let our via an existing company, Oldbury Residential Ltd.

A new company called Harcourt Ventures Ltd has now been set up to help them manage their growing portfolio. The Daily Mail claim that Tony Blair owns 50% of the shares, although Cherie Blair is the company’s sole director.

It is no surprise that the former Prime Minister should be involved with buy to let via a company. His wife, and the law firm she leads – Omnia Strategy LLP, represented two landlords in last year’s unsuccessful bid to secure a judicial review of Section 24 of the Finance (No.2) Act 2015.

This act came into effect in April 2017 and started reducing landlords’ mortgage interest tax relief.

At the time of the failed attempt Cherie Blair said:

The court’s decision that our clients’ legal challenge should not proceed is very disappointing. Steve and Chris, and many others, have dedicated a lot of time and energy into putting forward the best case possible. We know the case has been supported and followed with interest by a large number of individual landlords.  Many of these landlords now face challenging times ahead.

She continued:

From the outset, the legal process was just one aspect of our clients’ fight against this unfair measure. Together with their impressive and growing coalition, they will continue to engage with the government, and the legal team wishes them every success.

So next time you do a double-take at your landlord, just have a look and see if it is him!

Property Jargon A-Z: Final Part

The property world is full of words and expressions that may be unfamiliar to anyone who is not regularly buying, selling, letting or renting a home.

In the fifth and final part of an occasional series, this guide will help to shed light on what they all mean.

Searches
These are conducted by your lawyer to check if there is anything that might affect the current or future value of the property. It is compulsory to have a local authority search before exchanging contracts.

Share of Freehold
This is when the freehold of the property is owned by a limited company and the shareholders are the owners of the property, usually the owners of flats within that building.

Sole Agent
Where only one estate or letting agency firm is instructed by a seller or landlord to offer a property for sale or to rent.

Sole Selling Rights
Where an estate agency or person is granted sole selling rights by the seller of a property, they will be able to claim an agreed fee regardless of who actually introduces the buyer.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)
The tax paid to the government by the purchaser of a property. Rates of SDLT can vary. Changes in December 2014 mean that the tax rates are banded progressively in the same way as income tax. Nothing is payable on the first £125,000 of the purchase price. From £125,001 to £250,000 2% is payable and from £250,001 to £925,000 the rate is 5%. £925,001 to £1.5 million is 10% and over £1.5 million it is 12%.

Subject To Contract
Where contracts are still not exchanged and nothing is yet legally binding on either seller or buyer.

Survey
This is a report prepared by a qualified building surveyor to check the structure for any faults. Home owners can choose from three main types of structural survey, depending on how much information they want.

Tenancy
Possession of a property by a tenant under the terms of a lease.

Tenancy Agreement
The legal agreement governing the occupation of a property by a tenant.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)
An insurance-based scheme run by The Dispute Service Ltd. for the protection of tenancy deposits and the resolution of disputes between landlords, agents and tenants concerning the return of deposits at the end of a tenancy. It is one of three schemes approved for tenancy deposit protection.

Tenant
The person who has temporary possession of a property under a lease or tenancy agreement.

Tenure
The mode of holding ownership of a property, for example, leasehold or freehold.

Title Deeds
Documents detailing and confirming the legal ownership of a property.

Transfer Document
The final legally binding document that transfers the property and all its rights from the seller to the buyer.

Under Offer
A property becomes under offer when a seller accepts an offer from a buyer and the legal processes of the transaction begin.

Valuation or Market Appraisal
A term often used by estate agents to cover the process of them giving an opinion of the open market value of a property.

Vendor
The person selling a property.

Property Jargon A-Z: Part Four

The property world is full of words and expressions that may be unfamiliar to anyone who is not regularly buying, selling, letting or renting a home.

In the fourth part of an occasional series, this guide will help to shed light on what they all mean.

NAEA Propertymark
The National Association of Estate Agents, the UK’s leading professional body for estate agency.

Negative Equity
Where the sale value of a property is less than the amount outstanding on the mortgage.

Open House or Open Viewing
A process, normally managed by an estate agent, where several house hunters are given a time of a few hours when they can all go and view a property for sale instead of separate, private viewings.

Open Market Value
The likely sale price of a property assuming a willing seller and a willing buyer, with a reasonable period of publicity and marketing and no special factors affecting the property.

Peppercorn Rent
A very low sum of rent or ground rent. In the past it was, literally, a peppercorn.

Preliminary Enquiries
When a sale is agreed, the buyer’s conveyancer will send the seller’s conveyancer a standard list of questions about the property.

Property Auctions
A sale conducted at a certain time by an auctioneer, either online or at a physical location, where competing buyers bid openly for a property and the highest bid wins. The purchase is binding on the fall of the hammer.

The Property Ombudsman
The Property Ombudsman offers a free and independent service for resolving disputes between sales and letting agents, which are members of The Property Ombudsman, and buyers/sellers of residential property in the UK.

Purchaser
The person buying a property.

Repossession
If a mortgage is not paid over a period of time, the lender may ultimately take ownership of the property by the process of repossession.

Landlords – EPC minimum ratings are coming soon

If you are a landlord, you need to make sure you know all about the changes to the EPC minimum ratings coming into effect soon. Read on for more information.

Energy Performance Certificate chart
From 1st April 2018, it will be unlawful to rent a property that breaches the minimum requirement of an E rating on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), unless there is an applicable exemption.

A recent survey by E.ON found out that 49% of landlords did not feel adequately informed about how to improve the energy efficiency of their properties.

This means that they may struggle to get their property compliant to the minimum EPC rating regulations and they could also be missing out on other benefits available for making a property more energy efficient.

Mike Feely from E.ON provides the following tips for landlords looking to improve their EPC ratings:

  • Don’t  underestimate the importance of insulation in making a property more energy efficient. If the property was built before or around 1920, it most likely has solid walls. Solid wall insulation can be installed from either the inside or the outside. If the property was built after 1920 it’s likely to have cavity walls. These have a double external wall with a small gap between which can be filled with insulation.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of insulation in making a property more energy efficient. If the property was built before or around 1920, it most likely has solid walls. Solid wall insulation can be installed from either the inside or the outside. If the property was built after 1920 it’s likely to have cavity walls. These have a double external wall with a small gap between which can be filled with insulation.
  • Make a play of your energy savings standards – don’t just think of improving energy efficiency as something for meeting regulations, it’s a commercial decision too. Given most tenants are responsible for paying energy bills, some may be willing to pay more for properties that are energy efficient, so make sure you’re making the most of this as a selling point.
  • Without properly insulated windows, the property could be losing up to 10% of its heat. Double glazed windows make a big difference when it comes to lowering energy bills as well as reducing condensation and noise. Instead of double glazing you could install secondary glazing which involves fitting a pane of plastic or glass inside the existing window recess to create an insulating layer of air. Though not as effective as double glazing, secondary glazing still saves a significant amount of energy and allows you to maintain good kerb appeal by keeping original features such as sash windows.
  • EPC ratings look only at permanent improvements to the fabric of the building so think about long-term upgrades that will help to reduce heat and energy use. Simple things – sausage dog draught excluders and the like – will help keep heat in, but for the EPC you need to find permanent ways to fill the gaps to stop heat escaping through windows, doors, letterboxes and even keyholes.
  • For those looking to bring their properties completely up to date, consider renewable technologies such as solar panels with an at-home battery to store electricity for use even when the sun goes down. Be aware these will
    contribute to your rating only if they’re helping to heat the house, rather than providing electricity for other uses.

If you are a landlord and would like to discuss the changes in the EPC rating regulations, please contact our Residential Lettings team.

Property Jargon A-Z: Part Three

The property world is full of words and expressions that may be unfamiliar to anyone who is not regularly buying, selling, letting or renting a home.

In the third part of an occasional series, this guide will help to shed light on what they all mean.

Inventory
A list of the contents of a rental property. The inventory will note the condition of items and will form the basis of a dilapidation report at the end of the tenancy. It often includes photographs of specific items and existing damage/defects.

Land Registry
A government office which is responsible for holding records of land ownership and any charges, including mortgages, against the property.

Land Registry Fee
A fee charged by the Land Registry to record the change of ownership of a property.

Lease
The legal document governing the occupation by the tenant of a premises for a specific length of time. At the end of the period the property reverts to the owner.

Leasehold
The use and occupation of a property by way of a lease agreement for a certain period of time. A lease is frequently applicable to flats but can also apply to houses. The term of a lease varies but is commonly 99, 125 or 999 years.

Listed Building
Buildings of special architectural or historic interest. A listed building may carry certain obligations and restrictions governing its use, repair, and maintenance.

Local Authority Search
A buyer’s conveyancer makes a formal enquiry to the local authority to find out if there are any matters affecting the property that is being purchased.

Maintenance Charge or Service Charge
Many leasehold properties (especially flats) are subject to such a charge which pays for items such as the insurance and maintenance of the building.

Maisonette
A flat with its own private entrance.

Mortgage Valuation
Very commonly and incorrectly referred to as a mortgage survey, the mortgage valuation is carried out by a surveyor acting on behalf of a lender to provide them with a professional report stating the value of the property. The purchaser usually pays the fee for this valuation.

Multiple Agent Instructions
Where more than one estate or letting agency firm is instructed by a seller or landlord to offer a property for sale or to rent.

Property Jargon A-Z: Part Two

The property world is full of words and expressions that may be unfamiliar to anyone who is not regularly buying, selling, letting or renting a home.

In the second part of an occasional series, this guide will help to shed light on what they all mean.

Easement
A right that affects a property – such as the right of neighbours to pass over an access path or the right of the water company to have their pipes and drains running under the property.

Enquiries
Questions which are raised by the buyer’s conveyancer, often about survey or property information forms.

EPC
The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) shows the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of a property and gives an indication of the fuel bills. It is displayed as two graphs – the energy efficiency and environmental impact of the property. Each is graded from A (the best) to G (the worst).

Equity
Your equity in your property is how much of it you own. It is the difference between the value of your home and the mortgage you still owe. Negative equity occurs when you owe more to your lender than the sale price of the property.

Exchange of Contracts
The buyer and seller both sign the contract for sale and at a certain time and date the conveyancers action the exchange. At this point, the sale is binding and no terms may be altered.

Fixtures and Fittings
When buying: Fixtures are items that have become part of a building or land and are therefore included in the sale. Fittings are not attached to the building or land and so are not included in the sale unless otherwise agreed. The seller will complete a fixtures and fittings form that will confirm what is included in the sale, what isn’t included, and what is for sale separately.

When renting: Items usually provided in a letting that may include curtains, carpets, blinds, light fittings, kitchen units and appliances. In some cases it may also include furniture. It is advisable to check what is provided and not to assume that items will be provided.

Freehold
The broadest form of property tenure guaranteeing that occupation continues for an indeterminate period of time. This contrasts with leasehold, which is always subject to a specified period of occupation.

Gas Safety Record
A certificate that states all gas appliances, pipework and flues are safe. It is a legal requirement for all landlords and must be provided every year by a Gas Safe registered engineer after a safety check.

Gazumping
Where a sale is agreed to a buyer at a certain price and then the seller accepts a higher offer from another buyer. Note that until contracts are exchanged, estate agents are bound by law to tell a seller about any offer they receive for a property.

Gazundering
Where a buyer reduces their offer just on the point of exchanging contracts.

Ground Rent
The annual charge levied by the freeholder on the leaseholder of a property.

Home Buyer Survey/Report
A report designed in a standard and easily read format that tells a buyer about the physical condition of a property. Lists defects and grades their seriousness and need for attention. Not as detailed as a structural survey. Not to be confused with a mortgage valuation.

Easter Facebook competition winner announced

The winner of our fantastic Easter Facebook competition, Anne-Marie Pearce, popped into our Great Wyrley branch last week to pick up her prize.

Anne-Marie correctly guessed that our naughty bunny was hiding three eggs in his basket. She liked our Facebook page and tagged someone else into the post so got extra entries into the draw too!

Winner Anne-Marie Pearce picking up her prize from Great Wyrley Branch Manager Karen Tew

Pictured above is Anne-Marie receiving her prize of garden centre vouchers from Karen, our Great Wyrley Branch Manager. Also pictured are Suzanne and Julie from the branch.

Congratulations to Anne-Marie and thank you to everyone else for taking part.

Check out our Facebook page for future competitions – you never know – you could be the winner of the next one!