News and Updates

Continued uncertainty for the London Property Market Posted by admin on October 26, 2017

While it looks like 2017 may deliver flat to declined property prices for London, many are optimistic that in 2018 property prices will start to increase again.  Challenges include too many high valued new builds coming to the market and relatively low housing stock, but on the other side many buyers seem to have accepted the increased stamp duty changes and now factor that into asking prices.

Overall, we believe that affordability is set to be one of the biggest issues facing buyers in the capital. The Bank of England has also made it quite clear that the interest rates will rise in the very near future.

It looks that buyers have adapted to the increase in stamp duty at the upper levels introduced in 2014 but domestic and global economic ambiguity is having an effect on sales levels. It is very clear that the number of motivated sellers in the market is limited and very few are looking to sell urgently.

But London still remains a magnet for international buyers, there has been nervousness in some quarters from those concerned about the outcome of the ongoing Brexit negotiations and the overall health of the London housing market. In general, however, the new build and off plan markets remain attractive to international buyers, especially those looking for second homes that offer state of the art modern amenities and those seeking buy to let investments. New build homes offer gross rental yields in the region of 4% to 5%, higher than the 2% to 3% commanded by secondary stock.

We expect house prices in prime central London to continue to soften. Assuming that the Brexit negotiations take on a clearer and firmer structure at the end of the two year negotiations, relieving uncertainty driven anxiety, we expect house prices in prime central London to strengthen by the end of 2018. And over the next five year period between 2017 and 2021 we expect prices to be on the up.


Why people are choosing property over pension for their retirement? Posted by admin on October 18, 2017

It may be an age-old question – property or pension – but bricks and mortar is increasingly the option of choice for retirement.

Current trends seem to indicate that growing numbers of people are favouring property as a means of providing themselves with a retirement income. Right now, you can hardly blame them for turning to bricks-and-mortar instead of banking on a pensions pot, where returns depend upon the uncertainty of the stock market performance of investments.

Most people, on retirement, buy an annuity with their pension savings in order to provide them with an income. However, because of low yields on gilts and increasing longevity, that is an option that can represent poor value.

Critics will argue that house prices rose only by 2.9 per cent this year to July and some predict that prices will not rise at all over 2017 as a whole. However, when you see that house prices have increased in the south-east England by 37 per cent during the last ten years (with London price rises averaging 70 per cent), you can certainly appreciate the enduring appeal of property.

The rise of the buy-to-let market has been nothing short of phenomenal over the same period, giving property owners the added bonus of making significant returns from rental yields.

We are certain that neither the changes in Stamp Duty Tax, nor Brexit, nor even the General Election will bring an end to the Buy-to-Let market. While London remains London people will always want to live here and there will always be demand for rented accommodation.

Who can say what will happen in the future?

Pensions are still generally regarded as a “safe bet” because, by and large, there’s usually very little chance of ending up with less than originally invested.

For the moment, even though prices aren’t rising everywhere, investing in property would appear to be a very appealing option. But be sure to do your research, being a landlord is not everyone’s cup of tea and requires some sector knowledge, well, unless you have a good managing agent to save all the hassle for you, of course.


Landlord Safety Obligations – things you must have in place before the start of the Tenancy Posted by admin on October 5, 2017

Being a landlord is not an easy game, especially with the ever-changing legislation and regulations. We have come up with a list of the most important safety regulations that you must comply with before you can let your property:

Gas Safety Certificate

Any gas central heating system or appliance will need to be certified as safe to use under The Gas Safety Regulations 1998. Inspections must be done prior to a tenant moving in and annually thereafter. If you are using a Lettings Agent to let your property, they usually would be able to help you arrange a gas safety inspection to be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer who will issue a Gas Safety Certificate. It is also a legal requirement that a copy of the certificate is given to the tenant within 30 days.

Smoke Alarms

Any property built after 1992 should be fitted with mains operated smoke detectors and alarms on each floor as required under building regulations. It is now also a legal requirement to install a smoke alarm on every floor of a rental property. These must be tested as in good working order at the start of every tenancy and you must keep a written record of what type of smoke alarms were present, their location and if they were working at the start of the tenancy. We recommend producing a simple tick list for you to complete and sign in front of the tenant.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless and tasteless poisonous gas. Best practice is to install a carbon monoxide alarm but these must be installed in any room with a solid fuel installation e.g. a wood burning stove. They should also be tested to ensure they are in good working order at the start of every tenancy – and just like with the smoke alarms, a record of the type of the alarm, location and working order should be recorded and kept on file for the duration of the tenancy.

Electrical Safety

The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 state that anything electrical within the property, or anything that you supply as part of the fixtures and fittings, should be up to current electrical safety standards and safe to use. Landlords must also make sure that the electrical system is safe e.g. sockets and light fittings. If you let your property as a HMO (three or more tenants who form two or more households) then you must also carry out safety checks on electrical installations every five years by a NICEIC accredited electrician. Your Lettings Agent should be able to help you can arrange for a qualified and vetted contractor to carry out a Portable Appliance Test (PAT) to ensure all appliances with plugs are safe to use.

Furniture and Furnishings

Furniture manufactured today must have a safety label stating it meets the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. It is a good idea to check that sofas, beds, bedheads, cushions, pillows and furniture covers still have the relevant fire safety tag attached. Furniture manufactured prior to 1950 is exempt but it is best practice to remove vintage, antique or sentimental items from a property.

Legionnaires and Safety Checks

Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1989 landlords who provide residential accommodation have a legal duty to consider, assess and control the risks of exposure to Legionella to their tenants. All water systems require an assessment of the risk and landlords can carry out this assessment themselves if they are competent, or employ somebody who is. In most residential settings a simple assessment may show that the risks are low and no further action may be necessary. For more information visit www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/faqs.htm#Landlord.

Blinds

European Standards for Safety of Internal Window Blinds affect any device used for internal blinds or curtain tracks. They apply to blinds which have cords or chains fitted with a hazardous loop that could create a hazard in premises where children aged between 0 and 42 months are likely to have access or be present. You should ensure that all cords and chains at the property are checked and any that could create a hazard are replaced or fitted with a snap connector.

If you are unsure about your safety obligations as a landlord or have any questions then please consult your Letting Agent, here at Austin Homes we are always happy to help!


No sign of usual autumn price bounce as London drag continues Posted by admin on September 28, 2017

It is usual to see a bounce in the price of property coming to market at the beginning of the autumn, but this year the falls in the top-end boroughs of London have instead led to a large average price fall of -2.9%.

Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst comments: “As we enter the autumn selling season we usually see estate agents advising new-to-the-market sellers to push up their asking prices. While this is still the case in half of London’s boroughs, the other half have seen the price of newly-marketed property fall. This is especially prevalent in the most expensive boroughs where five out of the top six have seen monthly price falls as their market continues to re adjust. Because of their predominance of more expensive properties, they also have a disproportionate effect on the average , meaning that a slump at the top-end exaggerates the overall London price fall.”

The large monthly fall has pushed the annual rate well into negative territory, down to -3.2%. This is the largest year-on-year decrease so far this decade. In contrast to the market travails in the most expensive prime boroughs, the cheaper boroughs are rising year-on-year. The most expensive seven boroughs are all down year-on-year, while the cheapest 12 are all up.

One of the few ways that Londoners can fight back against constantly stretched affordability is to seek out the most affordable housing. Their focus on this unfortunately pushes up demand and consequently fuels upwards price pressure. The top five fastest increasing boroughs have seen annual rises in the range of 5% to 10% in the price of newly-marketed property . These boroughs have average prices between £300,000 and £660,000 , so while not affordable by national standards, they are still relatively cheap for London . Hackney and Southwark are among the cheapest Central London boroughs, and these two have seen year – on – year increases of 7.2% and 9.5 % respectively.

Between 2009 and 2015, the large majority of property buyers were cash buyers, although currently not so much. In the current market sales volumes in Prime Central London have dropped, and the market has softened to some degree. We are finding that most homeowners are not in any hurry to sell their properties, which has resulted in fewer listings available to buyers and fewer sales. In 2009 until 2015 the Central London market was inundated with investors looking to purchase property as a way to invest their money in a safe financial environment. However, since the introduction of the 3% surcharge on stamp duty paid by investors, along with the uncertainty as to how Brexit will impact London’s property market, investors have been standing on the side lines. We are beginning to see more and more investors venturing back into the market, but we are still a long way from the volumes we saw pre-referendum.

Our advice to all sellers in many locations across London that the current market requires sensible and realistic pricing. Pockets of high demand still exist but tend to be concentrated around specific streets, schools and transport hubs. Transaction volumes are increasing and properties priced realistically continue to sell well, but those looking to enter the market should speak to a local agent who really knows their patch in order to get an understanding of local activity and demand.


Weekday Eco tips to help you go even Greener Posted by admin on September 10, 2017

We here at Austin Homes care deeply about the environment, and many people just like us make a conscious effort to help protect the planet. We have come up with a list of tips for every day of the working week to encourage you to keep up the good work and commit to even more small changes.

MONDAY

Reduce the Plastic Use

There has already been a partial ban on microbeads and pressure is mounting to secure a complete ban for all products. But until the government supports a ban on all plastic packaging that can’t be reused, recycled or composted we can all help by reducing the demand for plastic by using less of it. Try using a stainless-steel bottle, re-usable coffee cup and fabric bags to help protect our oceans and marine life.

TUESDAY

Eat Smart

By reducing the emissions of CO2 from the transportation and storing of food, you’ll continue to help save precious places like the Arctic. To start an eco-food revolution try buying sustainably sourced, fairly traded, organic produce whenever possible and sourcing it locally at farm shops or farmers’ markets when it’s in season.

WEDNESDAY

Shop for Recycled Products

Take your regular toilet paper, kitchen roll, notebooks and printing paper, to name a few, and try swapping them for ones that are made up of 100% recycled post-consumer waste material. Look for the recycled logo. Recycled paper not only uses less energy, water, and produces lower carbon emissions than the manufacturing of non-recycled paper but it also reduces the amount of waste to landfill – as paper can be recycled 4 to 5 times.

THURSDAY

Get Moving

Together more than 70,000 of you are putting pressure on Theresa May to create a bold action plan that cleans our air and saves lives. The simplest and most effective way to reduce our personal contribution to air pollution is to opt for greener methods of transport. By walking, cycling or using public transport instead of driving a car, you’ll help reduce the toxic air we all breathe.

FRIDAY

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The simplest and most effective step you can take is to repair and upcycle your clothes and other items into something that’s new to you before you consider swapping them, donating them to a charity shop or buying something second hand or new. Buying a second hand pair of jeans rather than new negates the need for the 7,000 litres of water and hazardous chemicals that could otherwise get into our waterways and rivers.