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Would you like access to the ‘grey’ market?

Not everybody wants their home advertised on websites or in an estate agents window. Some people will only sell if they get the right buyer. Agents see many more homes than they publicly promote and sometimes they can get buyers around homes they are not actively marketing. These are known as ‘off-market‘ deals and take place in what agents sometimes refer to as the ‘Grey’ market. There aren’t always sales particulars, photo’s or plans but a credible, genuine buyer sometimes gets access to these homes either via buying agents or by being on the right agents mailing list.

Some say that there may be up to 40% more homes that could be available than you might find on big websites like Rightmove or Zoopla. Many sellers and quite a few agents don’t like the idea of Google indexing a property for eternity, recording your personal effects and your aspirations on it’s worth.

Getting access to these ‘off-market’ homes is not easy but for £10.00 a week I’ll help ensure that you stand the best chance. I’ll notify the right agents who could know of suitable homes & I will forward details of suitable properties that people have specifically allowed me to mention.

You can continue to use the service for as long as it is helpful up to a maximum of 12 weeks after which you will need to renew. Just click the ‘subscribe’ button and set up the payment via PayPal or on a Credit or Debit card.

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Individual agents offer off-market services, many like slick Aylesfords in Chelsea make a feature of it and one of the original buying agents Garrington wrote a helpful explanation of what it all means. This new service doesn’t guarantee success but it will certainly put you ahead of the game. It is a must for those who are serious about finding their next home and want to do so quietly and efficiently.

There were 127m visits to Rightmove in January this year generating 4.9m email and phone enquires for agents who between them only sell around 100,000 properties a month. The industry bemoans a lack of stock so buyers need to broaden their search to find and then acquire their next home. A typical agency has 374 buyers registered but just 37 homes for sale. According to their own lobby group in December they sold just 7 properties.

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Building more homes may not be the answer.

A recent report in Estates Gazette wondered aloud what the impact of building 2m homes might have given the endless cries to build more homes to solve what we are told is a national housing crisis. In another article in The Economist the author questions the building bandwagon itself and points out that we don’t have the tradesmen or the raw materials to build 200,000 new homes even if we wanted to. It’s also worth remembering that whilst 75% of people think there is a housing crisis nearly half don’t actually think that there is a housing crisis where they live!

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The now famous Shelter chart (above) shows very clearly who stopped building and when and plugging that gap would be physically, economically and I submit morally possible. I suspect that the case for building more affordable housing – what used to be called Council Housing either by local authorities or Housing Associations is unarguable and as Evan Davis so susinctly put it (below) after the Greens tried to explain it last years Election, we could build 500,000 if we were minded to.  What seems harder to justify – unless you own shares in a building company or want to be elected to Parliament in 2020 perhaps is the case for building thousands of new private homes.

The Government clearly recognises the size and importance of the NiMBY vote and they have a strong if selfish case – who would willingly want the value of their house reduced or the view from it spoilt by lots of little boxes the present Government sees home ownership rather than home occupation via renting to be one way of gathering votes in 2020. People with a stake in the economy tend to be less reckless in the Polling both I suppose. One way of reducing demand in the South East and of letting a little steam out of prices is to try to shift the centre of gravity north. HS2, the Northern Powerhouse, these and other initiatives are designed to encourage people to think that life in the Black Country or on the edge of the Dales might actually be possible and that rather than buying a two bedroom flat in Zone 2 in the Capital they could get a four bedroom house with a quality of life to match.

Whatever the Tories say Help to Buy is clearly stoking prices but it has done it’s job of getting builders building and lenders lending. Brown-field land owned by Government is being fast tracked to provide space for new homes and the incentives to consider life the north are starting to pile up. HSBC is considering Birmingham for it’s new HQ for example. What’s not yet in place is genuine efforts to provide homes for those who can’t afford the current prices or rents. Since no government wants house prices to fall the only other real option is for the State to get back into building again but there seems little likelihood of this happening.

Will this Government do this? I doubt it. Will Labour espouse it? Perhaps. Will the public get the answer they want or will developers continue to make out like drunken sailors on shore leave? I suspect you can guess the answer to that one.

 

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Asset acquisition.

Much is made of the skill required to be a good ‘seller’ but I’ve spent the past six months working on a tv program looking at the flip side of any successful deal – the business of buying. Whilst much is made of how to be a great salesman little time is devoted to the talents of the equally important buyer. Hopefully the program will air in 2016 but the process gave me the inspiration to look at other things that people might want assistance with from buying companies and cars to private planes or yachts. Whether it’s fine art or bloodstock many people try and do it themselves but as with expensive houses are they really the best person to buy something if they have fallen for it? It’s not easy, however dispassionate you are to do the necessary research and due diligence, let alone go up against someone whose day job is selling such an asset and who is an expert at ‘closing the sale’ – even if they look like one of these rogues.

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I want to assemble a team of experts, of lawyers, accountants and specialists in the various fields that one might be asked to help with. If you or your firm are the best in your business then do please get in touch. Without giving too much away, the tv program explores assets from private planes to racehorses

Whatever your business, if people are at the core of what is being traded then I’d like to hear from you. I want to assemble the best team possible to advise private clients on what for many will be an expensive and for some a potentially life-changing purchase. If you might be willing to help then please let me know.

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Changes for landlords

In the Budget the Chancellor announced changes to the tax and allowances for landlords and in the Autumn Statement added a 3% additional Stamp Duty bill to anyone buying a second home. What are these changes?

Tax relief As things stand, people buying to let can claim tax relief on their mortgage interest payments at their marginal rate of tax – so 40% relief for higher rate taxpayers and 45% for the most well off. From April2017 this will gradually be reduced to a flat rate of 20%, phased in over four years. Nationwide building society estimates someone with a £150,000 buy-to-let mortgage earning a rental income of £9,600 a year will see their net profit fall from £2,160 to £960 a year. Once letting fees and voids are included, profits may disappear completely.

• Wear and tear allowance Barely noticed amid the furore of the cut in tax relief was the parallel cut in wear and tear allowances. Landlords will no longer automatically be able to deduct 10% of their rental profits as notional wear and tear, starting from April 2016. Previously, landlords could write off the 10% even if they had not spent any money repairing or replacing things for their tenants that year. From next April they will still be able to get tax relief, but only on costs they have actually incurred on replacing furnishings in their property.

Stamp duty In the autumn statement chancellor George Osborne announced an extra 3% in stamp duty on purchases of buy-to-let and second homes, starting from April 2016. While owner-occupiers do not pay the tax on purchases up to £125,000, second-homebuyers will face a 3% bill. At each tier of stamp duty – £250,001, £925,001 and £1.5m – investors will pay the additional 3%, until above the final threshold they will pay 15%. On average, a buy-to-let property cost £184,000 last year, and the change will mean a bill of £6,700 instead of the current £1,180.

It looks like it's 'open season' for buy-to-let investors as far as the Conservatives are concerned.

Further changes to Buy-to-let mortgages are to be proposed.

What might this mean for landlords, tenants and the wider market?

  • Landlords with significant gearing will need to review their borrowings to ensure that their sums add up especially if interest rates were to rise.
  • New landlords will try and pass on the additional Stamp Duty cost to sellers in the form of lower offers.
  • Many landlords will look at the merits of using a corporate structure as a vehicle although this has other costs and implications.
  • Landlords may try and hike rents but it is unlikely that enough will do so to move the market. Yields (the return on capital) will increase if rents stay the same but prices fall.
  • Capital values (prices) will be depressed but perhaps not enough to counter other influences.

Don’t forget that in February the new Right to Rent rules start with landlords and letting agents effectively promoted to part-time UK Boarder Agency staff. They must check that the tenant and any other adult occupying the property has a right to live in the UK. Failure could result in a fine of £3,000 but once passed into law, the Immigration Bill 2015 creates a criminal penalty of up to five years in prison!

Who’d want to be a landlord?

You can find out more here and there is a helpful(?) video about it here

93 radio & Tv appearances in 2015. So much to talk about.
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2015 review

A time for reflection and for some analysis. It’s been a busy year with property high up the media and political agenda. A General Election providing a majority Conservative Government perhaps the biggest surprise and has provided the backdrop for much of the debate. No feared Mansion Tax, instead war appears to have been declared on buy-to-let investors.

Changes made in the 2014 Autumn Statement (presented in December for some reason) have had a major impact on the market in London with transactions in some post codes down by as much as 30%. Agents have squealed about a need to look again at the higher Stamp Duty Land Tax rates for homes bought for over £1m but George Osborne was delivering two messages last Christmas – the first that he was serious about the rich paying their fair share and that he had lost control of the top end of the market many of whom were ambivalent about interest rates. He could no longer bring the market to heel when 40% of buyers weren’t taking out a mortgage!

What critics were keen to point out is that over 47% of SDLT receipts come from the purchase of high value homes. Most buyers (including most of my clients) simply passed the extra cost onto sellers in the form of lower offers but this meant some sellers decided to stay put. Prices have adjusted to the higher purchase tax but sellers have not – yet.

Then came the 2nd Home Tax Osborne announced in this years Autumn Statement. 3% more for anyone buying an additional home be they Gordon Ramsey spending £4.4m in Rock or an investor who has cashed in a part of his pension (as he can now do) and looking to re-invest it in property. In 2014 nearly 200,000 buyers would have been faced with this higher tax. It’s not perhaps as bad as some have suggested since SDLT is an allowable expense when it comes to ALL those effected calculating their Capital Gains Tax in due course. It can even be added to any loss which at present can be carried forward – indefinitely! It won’t (or shouldn’t) lead to a rush of purchases in the New Year. As with the earlier changes the extra cost is likely to be passed on to sellers in lower offers and this should benefit those first time buyers previously competing with 2nd home buyers.

However, the message is clear. This Government wants Generation Rent to become Generation Own and it has other measures that will certainly impact on investors. Changes made in the Budget to curb the allowable expenses landlords can claim against profits and removal of tax savings for mortgage interest to be phased in over the next few years will reduce returns. Will this lead to higher rents? I doubt it. Will new landlords pay less for properties? I expect so. This will push up yields from their woefully low rates today back towards the 6% historically earned on residential property. It will also weigh down on house price inflation which almost everyone will consider to be a good thing.

Energetic housing Minister Brandon Lewis is like the Duracell Bunny, he’s announcing new initiatives every week and new homes seemingly every day. It will take time but there is a chance that the rate of building is at last turning up. Many people will disagree with some of the changes – the move to build Starter Homes rather than homes to rent is particularly controversial but Britain’s builders are at least building.

Asking prices have ended the year up 6.2% over the year says Rightmove.

Sale prices as recorded by the Land Registry are up 5.6% over the year. (Embarrassingly I predicted 4%)

The Governments official barometer provided by ONS recorded average prices up 6.1%.

Average rents have risen 10.5% say Homelet.

2105 has been a busy year in the housing market with lots to talk about and much to try and understand. How the market will digest all this remains to be seen but what is clear is that we are still not building enough homes, that money for those who can get it is too cheap and these two facts will push prices up in the short term. What’s equally clear is that there there are too many people now paying far to much for their housing. Historically this rarely ends well.

Here are some useful graphs which may stimulate and inform.

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Average house prices. Pay your money, take your choice!

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The number of homes for sale has fallen but still only half those marketed actually sells.

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Each month less than 15% of homes for sale actually sells.

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