All posts by Frances Traynor

leasehold reform

Reform would make leasehold simpler and cheaper

Reforming the leasehold system is essential to make it easier and cheaper for homeowners to buy the freehold on their property or extend their lease.

However, the Law Commission insists that any changes to the system of property tenure in England and Wales must be fair to both leaseholders and freeholders.

Around four million properties are leasehold, meaning the homeowners do not own the land on which their property stands.

Instead the land is leased from the freeholder or landowner for a specific period of time, usually decades or hundreds of years.

Demand for higher price

The issue of expense arises when the length of time the lease has left to run falls below 80 years. At this point lenders are unlikely to offer a mortgage on the property.

And the freeholder, to whom ownership of the property reverts when the lease runs out, can demand a higher premium to extend the lease or sell the land.

Many leasehold properties, particularly in London, are former local authority homes sold under Right to Buy. The freeholder in those cases is the local authority.

Campaign on leasehold reform

Campaigners have been demanding leasehold reform for years. In 2018, the Government asked the Law Commission to explore potential reforms and consult with interested parties.

In its most recent report, the Law Commission has set out three alternative options for reforming how leaseholders can extend their lease or buy the freehold.

It also suggests capping ground rents. These are paid annually to the freeholder and were pinpointed as an issue for new-build home buyers in 2018.

At the time it was revealed that developers were selling new-builds as leasehold, then selling the leaseholds on to independent management companies.

The leases included clauses that allowed for ground rents to double every year, adding a significant financial burden to homeowners and making some properties unsellable.

Options for reform

Professor Nick Hopkins, the property law commissioner, said: “We were asked to provide options for reform that save leaseholders money when buying their freehold or extending their lease, while ensuring that sufficient compensation is paid to landlords.

“This is what we’ve done. We are ready to help the government in implementing whichever options for reform they choose.”

The Government is to consider the proposals before responding.

property affordability

Improvement in London property affordability

Falling house prices in London may not be music to the ears of home sellers, but they are making the capital’s property more affordable for buyers.

The latest analysis of the UK’s property market in the Hometrack Cities House Price Index says the gap between earnings and property prices has narrowed in London.

The Office for National Statistics works out affordability ratios by dividing house prices by gross annual earnings.

Affordability back at 2015 levels

In 2017, the price to earnings ratio was at a high of 14x. It’s now fallen to 12.7x today, which means an average property will cost a buyer 12.7 x their annual salary.

Hometrack says this 10 percent improvement in the price to earnings ratio takes property affordability in London back to a level last seen in June 2015.

The university cities of Oxford and Cambridge saw a similar drop in the price to earnings ratio, although Hometrack said house price growth elsewhere in the UK has remained broadly stable.

One big exception is Aberdeen where the price to earnings ratio has dropped by 30 percent since 2015.

More realistic pricing

Hometrack’s monthly report is predicting slow growth in house prices in 2020.

It noted: “While there are signs of firmer pricing in cities across southern England, we expect affordability pressures to limit the scale of price growth over 2020 across southern cities.

“We believe the headline, annual price growth in London will be 2 percent on the back of constrained supply and more realistic pricing.”

home buyers

Try-before-you-buy concept for home buyers

Try before you buy is a concept we’re all familiar with when choosing a car or finding a new outfit. But could it work for property?

A new online platform is aiming to give potential home buyers the chance to stay in a property before they commit to buying it.

Potential Pads will arrange for a buyer to “test-drive” the property to ensure they like it enough to go through with a purchase.

Staying overnight or for a weekend lets them check out the fixtures and fittings, scope out the neighbours, neighbourhood and schools and find out any pros and cons of the home itself.

Test-drive potential new home

The Daily Mail reports that Potential Pads works like a property-selling AirBnB, bringing together the sellers of high-value properties and those in the market for such a home.

Lynne Maplanka is the founder and director of Potential Pads. She told the Mail: “I thought to myself ‘if home buyers can pay to stay in a hotel, why wouldn’t they pay to test drive their future home?’.

“It is a platform that helps weed out the time-wasters and is an incentive that speeds up the selling process of a property, all the while making money for the seller before the property has to be sold.”

Future of property selling

She added: “We try on a dress before we buy it, test drive a car and even get to sample wine before purchasing the whole bottle at a restaurant.

“So why not try before you buy that future property? Most individuals will be parting with a lot of money.

“The concept may not be ideal for everyone, but we hope it will be the future of buying and selling property.”

festive opening

Festive opening times at Capital Conveyancing

The sprouts are peeled. The turkey has been well and truly stuffed. There’s just one more thing you need to do and that’s to call Capital Conveyancing to get your property purchase or sale conveyancing underway.

We know that the property market stops for no one, not even Father Christmas. So our expert team will be on duty over the festive period, tinsel and all, ready to help you.

Open for business

Capital Conveyancing’s holiday opening hours are:

  • Monday, December 23, 9 am until 6 pm
  • Christmas Eve, closed
  • Christmas Day, closed
  • Boxing Day, closed
  • Friday, December 27, 10 am until 6 pm
  • Saturday, December 28, 10 am until 4 pm
  • Sunday, December 29, 10 am until 4 pm
  • Monday, December 30, 10 am until 6 pm
  • New Year’s Eve, 10 am until 4 pm
  • New Year’s Day, closed
  • Thursday, January 2, 9 am until 8 pm (normal opening hours resume)
most viewed

Rightmove reveals its most-viewed properties of 2019

It’s the time of year to dream big and wish for better things. What better way to indulge your dreams than to browse through some of the most amazing properties for sale?

Rightmove has revealed the five homes that notched up the most clicks from would-be buyers and wishful thinkers in 2019.

Most people browsing through the listings on Rightmove likely have no intention of ever making an offer on the most expensive properties in there.

But everyone can dream of owning a Scottish castle or a footballer’s mansion, right?

Big property personalities

Miles Shipside, of Rightmove, said: “It’s great to see such a brilliantly diverse variety of homes available on Rightmove.

“And it’s no surprise to see these five properties at the top of our list.

“Each Christmas, I’m always curious to see which homes have sparked the most interest across Great Britain throughout the year.

“Suffice to say, the properties with the biggest personalities or quirkiest features are usually the most popular.

“Whether you’re seeking interior inspiration or just want to peek inside truly remarkable homes, Rightmove is the place to satisfy all your property desires.”

Top 5 most-viewed

Here’s the Rightmove top five most-clicked properties:

  • 1. Mansion in Chigwell, Essex, £4,999,995. Visitors to this nine-bedroom contemporary home will be greeted by a replica Angel of the North sculpture in the driveway. Other luxurious touches include a home cinema, annexe games room, two dressing rooms and an enormous garden.
  • 2. Glenborrodale Castle, Ardnamurchan, West Highlands, £3,750,000. There’s more than a touch of Monarch of the Glen about this baronial mansion, which was built in 1902 from red Dumfriesshire sandstone. Its five storeys overlook Loch Sunart on the picturesque Ardnamurchan peninsula with views to the islands of Risga, Carna and Oronsay. Along with 16 bedrooms, the property sits in 132 acres and has a detached coach house, gym, boathouse and jetty. Whoever buys Glenborrodale will also end up owning the private islands of Rigga and Eilean an Feidh.
  • 3. Penthouse apartment, Manchester, £3,500,000. The only apartment in the top five most-viewed properties of 2019, this four-bed flat boasts spectacular views across the city. Situated on the 45th floor of Beetham Tower on Dean Street, a luxurious, curved reception hall leads to a triple-level home with floor-to-ceiling windows, cinema room and multiple terraces.
  • 4. Family home in Cheshire, £3,950,000. Located in Prestbury, this seven-bedroom family home is the ultimate in luxury living. With its own spa, indoor swimming pool and hot tub, the mansion is the ideal place to kick back and enjoy life. There’s also a games room and cinema room, with the interior laid out to maximise open-plan living.
  • 5. Country manor, Exeter, £3,950,000. A 400-year-old country manor, Canonteign Manor has centuries of character, history and charm to recommend it, but its interior also boasts the very best of modern convenience. With 10 bedrooms, this property is also Grade 1-listed and comes with 10 acres of private land and an outdoor swimming pool. 
happiest place

Richmond crowned as one of UK’s happiest places to live

London’s happiest place to live has been revealed. And for the fifth year on the spin, Richmond-upon-Thames tops the list of the capital’s happiest places.

Rightmove’s Happy at Home Index asks 22,000 homeowners across the UK to rate the place where they live.

There’s a national index and a specific one for London.

Top for sports facilities

As the home to England’s national rugby stadium of Twickenham, Richmond naturally came top of the index for its top-class sports facilities.

Kingston upon Thames and Kensington & Chelsea were the next boroughs to feature in the happiest places to live list.

Fourth and fifth spots go to Camden and Wandsworth, respectively, with Bromley and Hackney also placing in the top 10.

Hexham claims national title

In the national index, Hexham in Northumberland takes the No.1 spot with Richmond placed third.

Richmond’s placing is the first time a London borough has made the top 10 of happiest places to live in the UK.

Those taking part in the polling are asked about 12 specific factors that make their place a happy spot to live. These include a sense of belonging, cultural scene and green space.

general election

What’s on offer on housing in the general election

The issue of housing affordability has never been more pressing for Londoners. And it’s an issue many voters want to see addressed by political parties in next week’s general election.

The UK goes to the polls on Thursday, December 12 to elect a new government.

Much of the public debate has been around Brexit and when or if the UK eventually does leave the European Union.

Housing, however, is an issue affecting people of all ages and incomes. The matter is particularly acute in London where house prices have risen faster and more steeply than anywhere else in the UK. Rents are also much more expensive while average salaries have stagnated or fallen back.

So, what solutions are the major parties offering in the 2019 general election?

We took a look through the manifestos of the three main parties – Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat – to find out what they intend to do about housing and the property market in England.

Conservatives: Expanding Help to Buy

Having been in government since 2010 in coalition and alone, the Conservatives have already implemented housing policies such as Help to Buy and first-time buyer exemptions on stamp duty.

Their 2019 general election manifesto also promises:

  • To build 29k new homes with market rate discounts of 30 percent for local people who can’t afford to buy in their own neighbourhood.
  • Encouraging more long-term, fixed-rate mortgages that require only a 5 percent deposit.
  • Imposing an extra 3 percent stamp duty on overseas buyers.
  • More leasehold reform, including a ban on the sale of new-builds as leasehold and peppercorn ground rents.
  • Change planning rules to ensure infrastructure such as roads, schools and GP surgeries are built before new homes.

Labour: Change the property market

The 2019 Labour general election manifesto focuses more on private renters than on homeowners, first-time buyers and social renters.

However, the party does promise changes in how the property market operates. Its manifesto pledges include:

  • Building 50,000 homes for key workers aged 45 and under to be sold at a discount of 20-50 percent on market prices compared to local incomes.
  • Changing the focus of Help to Buy to favour first-time buyers on ordinary incomes and impose a higher threshold of earnings for those eligible for the scheme.
  • Impose higher taxers on homes bought by overseas companies and homes deliberately left empty.
  • Spent £250 billion on energy efficiency upgrades to almost 27 million homes by the 2030s.
  • Reform leasehold by stopping the sale of new-builds as leasehold, abolishing unfair fees and conditions.
  • Give leaseholders the right to buy their freehold at an affordable price.

Liberal Democrats: Focus on energy

There is no commitment in the Liberal Democrats‘ 2019 general election manifesto to any change to Help to Buy or reform of leasehold.

Instead the party’s commitments are on improving the energy efficiency of existing properties and ensuring new-builds are zero carbon.

The LibDems have also promised to:

  • Build 300k new homes a year by 2024, including 100k council and housing association homes.
  • Introduce a Rent to Own scheme so social tenants can increase their stake in a property until they own it outright.
  • Allow councils to raise council tax up to 500 percent on second homes.
  • Impose extra stamp duty on overseas buyers purchasing property in England.

Polling opens in the general election at 7 am on Thursday, December 12 and closes at 10 pm.

Gasometer to be centre of new London development

A landmark construction in south London is to be the centrepiece of a new development.

The Old Kent Road gasholder will become an architectural installation as part of developer Avanton’s £230 million project.

The gasholder is one of the few remaining Victorian gasworks in London. Now a Grade II-listed structure, it was the biggest in the world when it was completed in 1881.

Centrepiece of development

Known as a gasometer, this type of construction was once a common site in UK cities and is a massive container that stores thousands of cubic metres of gas.

Avanton intends to build hundreds of homes and offices on the four-acre site. The gasholder will become the centrepiece, potentially including a pavilion, water features and gardens.

The developer has also bought two other sites on Old Kent Road. In total, the company will invest £800 million across the three sites, providing more than 2,100 new homes.

Spearhead transformation

Omer Weinberger, managing director of Avanton, told the Evening Standard: “The £230 million scheme will result in a significant contribution to the local community through the provision of homes, a substantial commercial offering and public open space.

“Our trio of projects will help to spearhead the transformation of Old Kent Road into a new town centre for London.

“Along this, there is the planned extension of the Bakerloo line with two new stations on Old Kent Road.”

norht-south house price gap

Slowing house price growth could return London affordability

The gap in property prices between the north and south is expected to narrow in the next five years, thanks to a rapid rise in values in the north-west.

Leading estate agency Savills has analysed the current property market and made its forecast for  the next half-decade.

Savills predicts that average house prices will rise across the UK by 15.3 percent but those prices will be widely varied across the regions.

For example, the north is expected to benefit from greater rises than areas in the south.

Higher growth in north

Savills has picked out Scotland, Wales and all areas north of the Midlands as the places where prices will grow by 18 percent or more.

However, all areas in the Midlands and further south will see much lower growth.

The Savills research suggests house price growth in London will be 4.0 percent in the next five years.

While that’s much lower than previous rises, it will mean the capital’s property may return to affordability for many buyers and home movers.

Underperforming south

Lucian Cook, head of Savills residential research, said: “We anticipate a continuation of trends seen historically, where London and the south-east underperform markets in the Midlands and north.

“This appears to have begun in 2016, coinciding with the referendum when London hit up against the limits of affordability.

“Markets further from the capital, such as Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield, were much slower to recover post-financial crisis. They have much greater capacity for house price growth relative to incomes, even as interest rates rise.”

Tate Modern

£1bn refit for London’s South Bank neighbour

A £1 billion scheme will create a bustling new community close to London’s South Bank.

The gap between South Bank and Tate Modern is to be transformed when the ambitious new project gets underway.

The current vibrant South Bank ends at Blackfriars Bridge, where pedestrians then have to use an underpass to reach the Tate Modern gallery and its environs.

Eventually pedestrians will be able to walk from the London Eye right along the Thames to the Tate Modern.

1st phase underway

The huge new project will extend the dynamism of the South Bank to include the area on the other side of Blackfriars Bridge.

A report in the Evening Standard notes that the first phase of the project, at Bankside Yards, has already started.

This initial stage will involve 240 homes and an office building in a 49-storey tower. Shops and restaurants will be houses in a row of railway arches that are to be renovated.

The next phase of the project, devised by developer Native Land, will include more homes and a hotel alongside open space.

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