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Flats smaller than a parking space the result of relaxed planning rules

Open Space 3 - 1st July 2010 -09- parking space

Plans for flats that would be smaller than a London cab could be given the go-ahead around the capital.

A report in The Times said developers are taking advantage of a relaxation in planning rules that allows offices to be converted into residential property.

Warehouse conversion

The report outlines how one project in Purley in south London was approved by council officials in Croydon. It involved turning a ground-floor office into two flats, one of 8.3 square metres (89 square feet) and the other of 9 square metres (97 square feet).

According to The Times, the minimum standard required for a parking space is 11.7 square metres.

The latest development is to convert warehouse and offices in Barnet, north London, into 107 flats with more than half of those not having any external windows. Instead 56 of the flats would look out on to an internal “atrium garden” with natural light coming from seven skylights in the roof.

Lacking basic necessities

The Times quoted Julia Park, head of housing research at Levitt Bernstein architects, describing the Barnet development as “more like a battery farm than a housing development”.

She said: “Space, daylight and ventilation are basic necessities and this is lacking in all three.”

The relaxation in planning rules mean that a typical studio apartment can be less than London’s legal minimum of 37 square metres where residents share amenities.

The Barnet scheme has not yet been given the green light. A local residents group has objected to the plan, calling it a “cynical exploitation of planning loopholes”.

Number of new homes registered in London on rise

The number of new homes registered in London has more than doubled this year.

New figures from the NHBC, which provides warranties and insurance for new homes across the UK, have revealed that more than 7,000 new homes were registered with it in London between March and May, a rise of 125 percent on the same period last year.

Increase in developments

Across the UK, more than 16,000 new homes were registered to be built in May, up 11 percent on 2018.

The NHBC said there has been new house building growth in eight out of 12 UK regions. London in particular is standing because a large number of new developments have started in 2019.

Encouraged by figures

Steve Wood, chief executive of the NHBC, said: “It is encouraging to see such strong figures in May.

“This has been helped by the increase in the private rental sector and the upturn in London, fuelled by inward investors as well as new developments from established players.

“Of course, we will be working with developers to maintain and improve the quality of the new homes.”

Leaseholders burdened by costs and worry

The cost of leasehold is more than simply financial for many homeowners, according to new research.

A survey by the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) has revealed that homeowners who own a leasehold property pay on average £319 every year on ground rent.

That means the domestic leasehold market in England and Wales amounts to some £447 million every year.

Affects quality of life

However, the financial costs are only one element of leasehold. One in 10 of those quizzed by the NAEA said paying for leasehold and worrying about rising costs affects their quality of life.

One in 10 had also seen their ground rent rising since they had moved into their home, usually within seven years of taking possession. One in five (19 percent) didn’t understand from their leasehold contract by how much their ground rent would rise.

And almost half (46 percent) told the survey they might not have bought their home if they had had any idea of the true costs of leasehold.

Investigation into mis-selling

The Government has promised to reform the leasehold system in England and Wales. Leasehold means a homeowner must pay rent on the land on which their property stands for a specific period of time to the landlord or freeholder.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched its own investigation into alleged mis-selling of leasehold properties with buyers claiming they face escalating ground rent charges and expensive fees that combine to make their property unsellable.

The investigation aims to discover if people are fully informed of how leasehold works and their obligations under the system, while also investigating claims of excessive fees and unfair contracts.

Emotional investment

Mark Hayward, chief executive of the NAEA, said: “Buying a home is one of the biggest financial and emotional investments we make in our lifetime, and once we’ve completed and moved in, we should be able to enjoy the property.

“But, unfortunately for those buying leasehold houses, the financial burdens continue, with ground rent payments to the freehold every year.

“Even though many leasehold contracts include a 10-year ground rent freeze, most developers sell the freehold on to a third party within a few years of completion, and those terms go out the window, meaning homeowners are faced with unexpected and escalating costs.

“It’s positive to see action being taken, with the recent announcement that the CMA will be investigating the mis-selling of leasehold properties, as for too long house builders and developers have not been transparent enough about what it actually means to buy a leasehold property.”

7 up-and-coming spots for London buyers

Paddington Basin, Grand Union Canal, London
Paddington Basin

Home buyers keen to find their ideal spot in London should be looking to areas already pinpointed for regeneration.

In its Homes and Property section, the Evening Standard has identified seven neighbourhoods that are ripe for investment and new developments.

Plans include the construction of new homes, redevelopment of existing retail areas and improved transport links.

Regeneration across boroughs

The Standard looked across the capital from east to west, north to south, to pick out the seven spots where savvy home buyers should be focusing their attention.

Their picks include Walthamstow, which is at the centre of a £200 million regeneration that includes 450 new homes and the transformation of the Mall shopping centre. Walthamstow Central Station is also being given a makeover while Walthamstow Gateway, close to the station, will have shops, cafes and flats.

The transformation of Tottenham is not confined to Spurs’ football ground. A £1 billion project will see a major redevelopment of the area between the stadium and the London Overground station, delivering 2,500 new homes, parks, shops and restaurants.

The station itself has been tipped to be renamed as Tottenham Hotspur, says the Standard.

Ideal for FTBs

Acton is pinpointed as the ideal location for first-time buyers, thanks to the regeneration of local council estates that will bring 3,300 homes and the creation of an urban village combining retail and offices.

Go west to Hayes where the former Nestle factor is being transformed into Hayes Village with more than 1,300 new homes. Nearby the former EMI building is also being redeveloped to create 642 new flats, restaurants, a cinema and a live music venue.

Bromley offers good value for both first-time buyers and those looking to move up the housing ladder.

There will be 400 new homes off the High Street with a third of those affordably priced for first-time buyers and renters. The plan also includes new shops and eateries, while 200 new houses and flats will be completed in St Mark’s Square later this year.

Go west – or north

A new train station is the first part of a regeneration of Meridian Water in north London where a 210-acre zone will be the centre of 10,000 new homes along with office space.

Back in west London, a 42-storey skyscraper will help complete the Paddington Basin redevelopment, the last project providing more than 400 new homes and shops.

A total of £500 million will have been spent on the Paddington Basin project, providing hundreds of homes, cafes and restaurants.

London rooftop developments looking up

Over the rooftops

Building on London’s rooftops could provide 180,000 homes and house a potential 720,000 people.

A recent relaxation of planning rules in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will allow homeowners and developers to build in the airspace above existing residential homes and commercial properties.

Airspace developments

With a £10 million investment from London Mayor Sadiq Khan already in the bag for airspace developers, the new planning rules could extend the creation of rooftop homes and deal with the chronic housing shortage in the capital.

In a recent blog, building supplies expert Insulation Express analysed the number of people who share a square metre of space in UK cities.

Brighton and Hove packs the most people into that space with 10 individuals sharing every square metre in the seaside resort. In London, seven people jostle for space in a single square metre.

With developers tending to look at green belt and brownfield land as the places to build new homes, the potential to look to the sky for greater development is immense.

Easing demand

Insulation Express’ blog noted: “The shortage of available properties has long been recognised as an issue affecting our society, but building upwards could ease the demand in areas with less space and at a faster pace.

“In dense urban areas where there is a lack of development sites, rather than forcing people out of the city, upward extensions could allow people to live and work in city centres.”

Environmental bonus

Upwards extensions are also a more environmentally friendly way to build, says Insulation Express, because many developers use modular homes in this type of construction.

Its blog claimed: “Modular homes use marginally less materials than traditional construction, which makes them quicker to build and less damaging to the environment.”

City Hall funds record number of affordable homes in London

A record number of affordable homes have been started in London in the last year, thanks to the financial help of City Hall.

New figures from the London authority have revealed that 14,544 affordable homes were started in the year 2018-19, exceeding the target of 14,000 agreed with the Government and the most in any year since City Hall began controlling housing investment in the capital in 2012.

Appeal for greater resources

The figures include the most council homes built in more than 30 years in London.

Housing has been a priority for Mayor Sadiq Khan since he took office three years. He has urged the Government to give him greater powers and resources to deal with the housing situation in the capital.

Mr Khan said: “Not only do these figures beat our own records from last year, but this is more than double the number the previous mayor started in the final year of his term.

“National Government needs to match our ambition and determination to deliver the homes Londoners so urgently need.”

Prime London property selling but at a discount

Enfield Conveyancing Solicitors
Image courtesy of: Geograph.org

The average prime property in London takes six months to sell, according to the latest data. And sellers are offering an average discount of 12.7 percent on the asking price of those prime homes.

The private bank Coutts analysed the current status of the prime property market in the capital to note that sales are at their lowest level since 2013.

Prime properties are those valued between £1 and £10 million with Coutts noting that prices of in that bracket have fallen since the first quarter of 2018.

Willing to negotiate

Those keen to sell are willing to negotiate on price, too, with the biggest discounts offered on the most expensive homes. Those worth upwards of £10 million are being sold with an average fifth off the asking price at 21 percent.

Katherine O’Shea, of Coutts Real Estate Investment Service, says overseas buyers keen on a London home are quids in.

She said: “The current status of the pound means for that dollar-denominated buyers, prime London property is about 40 percent cheaper than it was in 2014, and for those using euros to make a purchase, it’s about 30 percent cheaper.”

Prime London prices are up by 0.4 percent in the first quarter of 2019 but 17 percent lower than their peak in 2014.

8 new sites released for small developers in London

Eight new sites for affordable homes in London have been released to small developers.

The sites are part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Small Sites, Small Builders programme. The mayor has set a target of delivering 50 percent affordable housing across the city.

The latest eight sites – at Richmond, Ealing, Newham, Bexley, Hounslow, Lambeth and Waltham Forest – are on Transport for London (TfL) land, and they will deliver a total of 90 homes.

Affordable homes promised

The development at Bexley is expected only to deliver affordable homes, while 50 percent of the homes built at Newham and Lambeth will be affordable.

The project was launched as a pilot last year with 10 TfL sites in seven different boroughs, with a great deal of interest from small builders in the capital who wanted to take part.

An £11.2 million partnership between the London Economic Action Partnership and the Mayor of London, Small Sites, Small Builders matches developers with TfL sites across all London boroughs.

Popular programme

James Murray, deputy mayor for housing and residential development, said: “When we launched it last year, the mayor’s Small Sites, Small Builders programme proved very popular with small and medium-sized homebuilders and community-led housing groups.

“In recent years, London has become over-reliant on large developers, and so we are pleased to be able to help more small builders play their part too through this latest batch of TfL sites.”

Capital Conveyancing’s openness on costs a contrast to misleading industry quotes

How to avoid hidden costs in your conveyancing

More than a third of conveyancing solicitors are misleading clients about the costs involved in their property sale or purchase.

A review by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) revealed that initial low quotes for conveyancing services fail to include essential fees and charges that the client must pay to complete their transaction.

Clients who choose to instruct a conveyancing solicitor through Capital Conveyancing will not, unlike those unfortunate buyers and sellers revealed by the SRA, have to pay any unexpected fees because of all our pricing is completely transparent.

We are always up front about the fees and charges involved in conveyancing services, ensuring clients stay informed and on top of their costs at all times.

Initial quote failed to include essential fees

That is not always the case as the SRA Residential Conveyancing Thematic Review has found. The industry watchdog visited a representative sample of 40 conveyancing firms to analyse 80 property transactions in detail.

The findings reveal that a third (34 percent) of initial quotes failed to include fees for the likes of bank transfers, mortgage administration fees and electronic ID checks.

All of these services are essential to complete a conveyancing transaction successfully, and so their omission from initial quotes was considered misleading by the SRA.

Imposed own charges

In some cases, the conveyancing solicitors imposed their own fee on top of the bank fee for transferring mortgage funds, in some cases 10 times the bank fee.

The SRA will now monitor how conveyancing solicitors publish their fees to ensure they offer best practice.

UK homeowners say most housing not fit for purpose

Hounslow

Two-thirds of UK homeowners say that much of Britain’s housing is not fit for purpose.

And they worry that their own home will become stuck in negative equity.

The results of the annual Homeowners’ Survey from the Homeowners’ Alliance (HOA) revealed that 63 percent of homeowners are concerned about the quality of the UK’s housing stock, while a massive 85 percent put house prices and the stress of saving for a deposit as the biggest issues in housing.

Quality of property a pressing concern

The survey was carried out by YouGov on behalf of the HOA, BLP Insurance and architects resi.co.uk.

According to 63 percent of those quizzed by YouGov, the quality of the homes we live in is a pressing concern. In last year’s survey, 57 percent of people were worried about the quality of our housing stock.

The survey revealed the other issues that keep homeowners awake at night. The leasehold system that operates in England and Wales is a particular concern with 60 percent indicating leasehold is a serious problem, up from 42 percent in 2015.

A recent Commons committee report has called on the Government to implement urgent reform of leasehold, which affects around 4.2 million properties in England alone.

Leaseholders worry about high charges

More than a quarter (26 percent) of leaseholders said the high cost of works and management fees were a problem, while 22 percent objected to unfair service charges with 23 percent upset about the lack of control over which major works are done.

Almost half (45 percent) of homeowners, up from 40 percent last year, were worried about the practice of gazundering. This is where a buyer reduces their offer for a property just before contracts are due to be exchanged, leaving sellers either out of pocket or having to find a new buyer at the last minute.

Negative equity, where the value of a property is less than the value of its outstanding mortgage, is also a rising concern for 45 percent of those quizzed for the survey.

Kim Vernau, CEO of BLP Insurance, said: “To restore confidence in a faltering sector, more emphasis needs to be placed on improving quality of build and resisting short-term populist solutions to our deepening housing crisis.”