Ministers supplementing salaries with rent from privately let property tenants, figures reveal

Cabinet members are supplementing their salaries by letting properties to tenants, figures show, leading to questions about how suited they are to represent the interests of millions of people locked out of the housing market by high prices.

Theresa MayPhilip Hammond and Liam Fox are among landlords benefiting by at least £10,000 a year, according to the parliamentary register of MPs’ interests.

Critics said it was unfair that people who could afford to invest in the housing market were able to earn from a second home while younger workers struggled to get a foot on the ladder after prices soared to unattainable levels.

Housing minister Sajid Javid and transport secretary Chris Grayling were among the Conservative MPs earning healthy incomes from property investments, a report in The Guardianhighlighted.

Labour MPs receiving more than £10,000 a year from second homes include Emily Thornberry and Keith Vaz.

The names emerged after Labour this week demanded an investigation into Jeremy Hunt’s “oversight” in failing to register an interest in a firm that bought seven luxury flats.

The health secretary blamed an “honest administrative mistake” but Labour said it would refer Mr Hunt to parliament’s standards watchdog.

The Register of Members’ Financial Interests shows that since last summer the prime minister and her husband let out a flat in central London, giving them an income of more than £10,000 – the threshold of declarable earnings.

Mr Hunt has a half-share of a holiday house in Italy and a half-share of an office building in Hammersmith as well as the interest in the seven apartments in Southampton.

Chancellor Mr Hammond rents out his house in London, earning above the threshold since February last year. He is also a beneficiary of a trust with a controlling interest in property development firm Castlemead.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson, trade secretary Mr Fox, Mr Grayling, Mr Javid and former attorney general Dominic Grieve also have tenants in London homes, according to the register.

But Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi appears to have the largest property interests, with 10 listings, which include a home and 31 acres of land in Warwickshire, with stables run as a livery yard by Zahawi and Zahawi Ltd; a residential buy-to-let property in London, divided into three flats and a house in London rented out since 2015. He has also declared a string of commercial property interests.

Shadow foreign secretary Ms Thornberry jointly owns with her family a flat in Guildford, Surrey, that provides an income of at least £10,000, and Keith Vaz rents out two flats in London, the register shows.

One critic tweeted: “Whilst this is not illegal, it does feel morally reproachable that cabinet members, intent on wrecking the economy and our prosperity through Brexit, should be feathering their nests so nicely for themselves.”

Another said: “I wonder why there’s a housing shortage and rising private rents.”

User @jo55adams attacked the “rich millionaires buying extra houses so young people can never buy”.

But other people said they saw nothing wrong. “Just investing intelligently, I would do same,” said another Twitter user.

The Independent has asked the Conservative Party to comment.

——————————– Article from #TheIndependent

3 Tips to Help You Get Your Property Let Quickly

If you are in a rush to let your property fast, either because you have just completed on your purchase, or in between tenancies on existing property, then the most crucial aspect is to have the property quickly occupied by a paying tenant. Some property may take longer to let, but that will most likely be down to the market place or the condition of the property.

Breaks om letting out a property can cause anxiety and disrupt the schedules and income of property investors. If it means dropping the rent a little to get a tenant in then proceed to lower the rent. 1 month break at £500 will cover almost a year at £50 less a month. It’s much better to get the tenants in and then increase the rent slowly over time. But 2-3 months break will eat ALL NET Cashflow and eradicate far more than the benefit you may get of an above market rent.

Whatever the reason may be, here are 7 simple steps to help you get your property let quickly:

1) Ensure the property is listed on all the major online portals

Getting the most exposure of your property is crucial if you want to let the property fast. These portals will help generate more views. Over 90% of tenants now start searching for their next property online. Getting the property on sites like www.propertypropertyproperty.co.uk and many other UK property portals will help generate as many tenant enquiries as possible, perfect for getting your rental property off to a good start. You will also be in a better position to drum up the competition on your group viewings, thereby increasing the rent & getting the unit let quicker.

2) Ensure the property is clean

This is probably one of the most simplest, yet most effective tips, but one of the quickest ways to let the property fast is to ensure it’s clean and tidy when potential tenants come to view it. A grimy property will only put off potential tenants, so it important to ensure your property is clean but also clutter-free. If there is any clutter, make sure you tidy this before you show any prospective tenants, as the property will otherwise look small and dingy. Any ‘stuff’ you have lying around won’t help tenants visualise themselves living there during the viewing and will put them off from making an offer.

 

The best advice is to keep things minimum and remove any offensive or personal belongings as it will entice fasters offers which will increase your bottom line. Presenting a property well will also help a lot, you need to make it feel as warm and homey as possible. If you need help with this bring someone in who knows how to get it looking right like I had to (different side of the brain!).

4) Get some professional photos done

Photos are vital if you need to find tenants. Too few might suggest you have something to hide, which can be off-putting. So always ensure you have clear and bright photographs taken of the rooms/property you want to show off. This can either make or break you letting your property. If potential tenants can’t get any idea of the property in the first place, they are unlikely to get in touch for viewings. Most letting agents will ensure their staff are trained to take attractive photographs of the exterior and interior rooms and display several on their website and all portals. But here are a few things to think about whether you’re instructing an agent or not:

  • Use a good-quality camera
  • Turn on the lights in any dark places
  • Take photos during the day in natural light
  • Remove distracting items from the shot, such as rubbish or building materials, and don’t show your reflection in any mirrors

Your listing should have around six-to-eight photos paying close attention to the kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, lounge & the outside.

5) Allow pets

Although this isn’t a popular option with property investors, your property will likely stand out from the majority of other properties which simply state ‘no-pets’. Although we have a growing population of pet owners, a recent study conducted found that nearly 50% of landlords would not take any tenants with pets. So how can you stand out & let your property quicker? You might suggest that although they can have a pet, they will need a bigger deposit and a clause in the AST stating the property must be professionally cleaned when they vacate to ensure all smells and any infestation is completely removed.

5) Redecorate between tenancies

Refreshing the decor between the incoming new tenants and the old ones leaving will make the place feel brand new. This relatively cheap and easy fix with powerful colour combinations will make a tremendous impact and improve the standards by securing higher rent and minimising breaks.

Other tips might include:

  • Having good floor plans
  • Having a thorough property description
  • Setting a competitive rent
  • Having a high speed internet provider
  • Being flexible with viewing times

 

Selling Your Home? 5 Tips To Make Your House Look Amazing In Photos

This week on propertypropertyproperty.co.uk/blog we have collaborated with Josie from the shoproomideas.com blog to provide you with 5 key tips that can help you to present your home in a better manner for photos.

Attracting the right home buyer is easier and faster when you have great photos that will have buyers drooling and running to your doorstep! Improve your home’s chance of a sale with these 5 tips to consider before you start staging your pre-sale photoshoot.

Take Down The Curtains

Trust me when I say this – we sold our last home $150,000 over asking price using this trick. We staged our home by actually removing the curtains completely out of our home. Why? It opens up the space to make it look wider, and the ceilings look much higher than they are. Not only that, it accentuates beautiful windows and invites natural light inside. If you have a beautiful yard, pool, or great views, then this trick will work for you. Buyers will have a great view of the outdoors from the moment they enter through the front door. Trust me, this works!

Research The Quality of An Agent’s Listings

Before you get on board with a real estate agent, make sure you thoroughly research the quality of their previous listings. Have a look at the photos they have listed of any homes they sold. If the photos look good, don’t be afraid to ask the agent these questions:

  • Do you have a professional photographer to take photos of my home?
  • Will the agent bring in additional lighting for the photoshoot?
  • What equipment do you use? A cell phone, professional camera, a tablet?

Clean Windows and Baseboards

Making your windows shiny and clean with giving buyers a great impression that your home is was well cared for. Use a store-bought glass cleaner and paper towel to get down and dirty from the inside and outside as well. To remove tough grime, soap scum, or hard water minerals from your glass, use a vinegar and water solution with a wet towel for best results.

Pro tip: Pay attention to your baseboards! Buyer will notice dirty, unkept baseboards while they walk through your home. Make sure you vacuum up the dust and wipe them down with a damp, sponge or cloth to remove dirt. Make sure they’re looking bright, white, and clean to give the illusion your home is well kept.

The Obvious – Remove Clutter and Toiletries

This is the simple trick of all professionals. Buyers want to envision themselves living in your home, so remove traces of any personal items, clutter, trinkets, and family photos off kitchen counters and shelves. You can store it away in boxes until the house is sold, later on. Buyers love seeing the amount of space a home has to offer, so removing clutter will show off the maximum your property has to propose.

Shine Up Those Wooden Floors

I

If your home boasts hardwood floors, you already have an advantage in the market as this is a really strong selling point. Make sure you dust them off and use a floor cleaner that is safe for hardwood. Double check to make sure the cleaner will leave the floors shiny. Buyers are attracted to shiny floors that look new and strongly maintained.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to buff your floors with a microfibre cloth while they’re drying. Failing to buff floors dry can result in streaks and unsightly residue marks. Some homeowners even swear by dry diapers to buff their floors to the perfect shine!

Check out the original article with the accompanying images on Josie’s blog now! http://bit.ly/2FdfGNd

What to look out for when purchasing home no. 2?

Dreaming of buying a second home? There are many pitfalls to take into consideration before taking the plunge of purchasing your 2nd home.

Many believe that buying and owning a second home is a piece of cake.

This can be the case if fortunate enough to find the right property which suits your lifestyle and needs. And of course within your price range

In reality, there is a whole load of obstacles just waiting to shatter your dreams.

Below are some points to consider before taking the plunge of purchasing your 2nd home:

Purpose

Buying a home can be very stressful time consuming and takes a lot of money,  so sit back evaluate why you are actually doing it.

If it’s a  home to retreat to on the coast or in the countryside then consider how often you will visit it. If realistically this only going to visit a few weekends during the summer then it might be an idea to looking into a timeshare or as simple as booking a place through a holiday company.

If you’re buying a property for rental purposes, you need to consider who is aiming to rent to and do extensive research on the local rental market.

Take notice are letting agents windows, full of the same properties they cant rent out?
Then possible the rental market is not as strong as the marketing people have you to believe.

Location

Parents buy student houses in the town where their offspring are going to university so they can provide them and their new friends with a place to stay and make some extra cash into the bargain. But need to consider if offspring is 200 miles away, and then having to maintain the property will start to become a stressful task with a mammoth commute.

And what if you need to hire a local tradesperson who you can trust to do a job properly without ripping you off? This is a whole lot more difficult if you don’t know an area at all.

student market is not to be scared of, just consider somewhere closer to a home where you can keep an eye on things in person, you know the area and hopefully have a network of local tradespeople who you trust and can tap into.

Professionals sometimes buy a smaller property close to work while their main residence is out of town which they only stay in over the weekends.

Make sure you have a good scout of the area and look for potential problem spots – are there student halls nearby? Is the area full of noisy bars and nightclubs? How far is it to the main train station for that quick getaway on a Friday night?

COST

Unfortunately, this is the part where major problems can start before you have even acquired your second property.

Have you found that dream second property but the budget is tantalisingly just out of reach unless you make some big sacrifices elsewhere in your life?

If you have the money to buy something outright but it’s not quite what you want, should you go down this route instead?

The key thing is to sit down with your calculator and be brutally honest with yourself about what you can and cannot afford.

If you are planning to take out a second mortgage then have a cap in mind as to what you can afford.

Factor in a buffer for unforeseen circumstances as items such as broken boilers can come with eye-watering bills.

There are tax implications to buying a second property too.

Since April 1, 2016 there has been a three per cent stamp duty surcharge in place on second homes.

It works on a tiered system so second homes with a price tag under £125,000 now attract a three per cent charge instead of zero per cent.

Properties between £125,000 and £250,000 now have a five per cent rate (up from two per cent).

For the super wealthy, second homes carrying a price tag of over £1.5 million will be attracting a 15 per cent charge, instead of 12 per cent.

Funding

Should you remortgage your first home or use it as a guarantee to finance the second property?

What type of mortgage can you get on a second property and will this be dictated by its use, e.g. buy-to-let?

Timing is a big thing to consider.

Maybe you’re due a big promotion at work so you would be able to double the size of your deposit by just waiting for a year or two before taking the plunge and buying that second property.

Condition

This is a difficult one as the old adage about ‘getting what you pay for’ applies just as much to property as it does everywhere else.

Sure, a cute but run-down, neglected cottage in the middle of the country may well look like the bargain of the century but, if it needs tens of thousands of pounds spending on it to make it inhabitable, then it could be a poisoned chalice.

If you are very practical and skilled then this could be the way forward but for those who don’t know one end of a chisel from the other, then the financial and mental costs of trying to spruce up an old property yourself can be both prohibitive and ultimately counter productive.

This is a tricky line to tread so think about how much budget you have to play with when it comes to renovating the property and that will dictate how run-down, and therefore cheap, your purchase can be.

Extras

Unfortunately, the cost of owning a second property doesn’t end once you have signed on the dotted line and taken delivery of the keys.

If you are using your second property yourself, as opposed to entering the rental market, then you will have to cover everything there as you would at your main residence.

This includes items such as house insurance, broadband, telephone and TV licence and that’s alongside general, day-to-day bills like electricity and water.

Sure, these shouldn’t be anywhere near as high as at your main abode, especially if you are only using your second home for a few weekends a year, but it will probably still need heating throughout the winter to stop the pipes freezing whether you are there or not.

This should form part of your budget planning when deciding how much cash you have to play with.

Shared ownership

One way to share the burden, stress and cost of buying a second property is to team up with some family members or close friends (but pick some you can trust).

Banks should be receptive to having multiple names on a mortgage contract provided you can prove that everyone has the financial means to keep up with the repayments.

 

 

German property investor buys UK fund manager Rockspring

Patrizia German property investors have purchased UK investor Rockspring in a deal that boosts Patrizia holdings across Europe to around €40bn (£35bn) and gives it an instant London presence.

Rockspring has been seeking a backer to ensure the future growth of the business in the middles of concerns of economic and political changes in the UK. Rockspring have invested in UK and European offices and retail properties since 1984. They will continue to trade as normal, but access to Patrizia’s client base will give it more scope to invest its existing funds across Europe.

“Earlier this year a number of factors combined to make us realise it was the right time to start considering our future and prepare Rockspring for the next phase of its growth.” said Robert Gilchrist, chief executive of Rockspring.

He said Brexit, an uncertain political environment and changing regulations, as well as a strong real estate investment market, had led the management team to its decision.

The company has recently committed to developing the next phase of its Cambridge Research Park, as well as securing a let to John Lewis at one of its warehouse sites. It has also invested in a number of European cities, including buying an office building in Amsterdam last month.

Patrizia meanwhile will be able to access new investors through Rockspring’s London office.

Wolfgang Egger, chief executive of Patrizia, said the deal would allow the firm to “strengthen its market position significantly in its core European markets”.

“This acquisition represents an important milestone for Patrizia in achieving our vision to become a global provider of European real estate assets for our clients,” he added.

There are signs that the slump is easing after prime London property going through a though year

The City of Westminster, Camden, and Kensington and Chelsea are capital’s three most expensive boroughs. According to a report from LSL Acadata published Monday, These three boroughs each saw sales jump by more than 20 percent in the third quarter.

This surge indicates that “momentum is returning” to prime central London after a year of tumbling property prices.

Acadata’s Peter Williams and John Tindale  said “Movement at the top end of the market helps to increase activity all the way down the housing chain,”

The report may also be a cause for optimism nationally. While November’s 0.9 percent annual gain in prices was the slowest since April 2012, and down from 6.3 percent a year ago, they increased from the previous month for the first time since March.The signs of improvement buck a trend of pessimistic reports on housing, particularly regarding London.

In the RICS survey, brokers flagged a range of reasons for the stagnation, including Brexit uncertainty, political instability and November’s interest-rate increase from the Bank of England.

Even in Acadata’s report, the picture isn’t entirely rosy. Prices in the Greater London area were down 3 percent from a year ago in October, with the City of Westminster leading losses with an 18.2 percent drop. London’s market also remains a drag on the UK.

The annual change in prices reported this month would have been 3.3 percent without the capital and the southeast.

 

Ipswich council borrowed more than £56 million in November to buy commercial property in the town

Ipswich council borrowed more than £56 million in November to buy commercial property in the town, buying buildings that are already occupied to get a regular rental income.

Public Works Loans Board revealed in the monthly report the details and shows how local authorities are able to borrow money at low-interest rates to invest in property. Many authorities use the PWLB to borrow money for capital investments at a low rate – enabling them to get a much higher return on rental income.

The borough borrowed just under £30m at 2.15% a year fixed for 20 years and £26.5m at 2.49% fixed for 20 years. Council leader David Ellesmere said this money was used to buy a particular commercial property in the town that is already occupied and would provide this income from day one of the purchase.

The purchase has not yet been concluded so Mr. Ellesmere could not say where it was. “But this kind of investment is vital for an authority like Ipswich that has had its funding cut by £12m over the last four years. Without this, we would be facing really serious cuts to core services.”

Mr. Ellesmere said the borough borrowed money to invest for two reasons – to secure an ongoing income (as in this case) or to invest in a new commercial opportunity that could take several years to mature as in the case of the sugar beet factory site investment at Sproughton.

However, the opposition Conservative group is worried about the authority’s level of borrowing – and has warned it could face losses if there was a fall in the property market. Opposition leader Ian Fisher said: “We realise why the council is doing this and that there is a need for some commercial confidentiality, but we are worried that they are gambling with public money to some extent.

“We do not know at this stage where the money is going and there is inevitably an element of risk with this kind of deal.“We feel it might be better to pause this for a couple of years until we know how the economy is going to be doing after Brexit – potentially the council could end up with large losses.”

Councils across the country – and of all political control – have been investing in major developments over the last few years.

Handy tips to keep your home safe this Christmas

The leading trade association for the locksmithing profession Master Locksmiths Association issues security advice on keeping your home secure this Christmas.They are encouraging homeowners to remain vigilant during the festive period.

Whilst Christmas is an exciting time with plenty of festive celebrations, presents. It is also a time when burglaries traditionally peak, with homes full of presents and families out and about enjoying the festivities, opportune criminals can be watching for the right moment to strike.

Over this festive period, homeowners are advised to:

1. Keep your Christmas lights on safely:

With 30% of burglaries occur via unlocked front doors and  26% occur via open or unlocked windows. So ensure you use or install outdoor electrical sockets for those Christmas lights and do not be tempted to run cables for outdoor lights through partially open windows or doors.

2. Keep gifts out of sight:

Even though it may be a tradition to keep gifts under the tree during the lead up to Christmas, this can also be an advertisement to potential thieves. Consider placing yours out of sight and away from the window, in particular away from those that look onto busy streets. And if you’re buying expensive presents that will be kept outdoors, such as bikes, why not include an appropriate lock that has been independently tested by a third party certification agency.

3. Don’t advertise an empty home:

While Christmas is a time for enjoying the occasion, if you do plan on spending the festive season away from your home, be careful not to shout about it on social media, you potentially could be advertising an empty home to strangers. Similarly think carefully about any message you add to your voicemail or answer phone. Adding a timer system to your lights requires very little effort and can work as an excellent deterrent against would-be-thieves especially when used upstairs or away from sight

4. Consider fitting a home security system:

Homes with security systems are 300% less likely to be burgled. So for further peace of mind, consider installing an alarm or CCTV system which will allow you to keep an eye on your property from wherever you are in the world via the internet, including your smartphone

5. Review your security regularly:

Check that all locks on doors and windows are correctly fitted and functioning and replace any that are broken. Don’t be tempted to take the DIY route. On average, the cost of fixing botched DIY security jobs is £323.A local expert locksmith, such as an MLA approved company, will be able to check your locks and advise on the best products to use. Plus, they can usually carry out an assessment of your home security free of charge

“Christmas should be a time of excitement, but we often see homes targeted by thieves at this time of year. By taking a few simple precautions, homeowners can do a lot to keep their homes safe and secure. For extra peace of mind, ask an MLA-approved locksmith to review your home security – they have the expertise and knowledge to advise you on appropriate security measures in line with your home insurance requirements and will often carry out home security assessments free of charge.” Said Dr. Steffan George, Managing Director of The Master Locksmiths Association (MLA)

The average bills will fall around 5% for water and waterwaste for customers across England and Wales.

The Water Services Regulation Authority Ofwat has finalised decisions that means the average bills for water and wastewater customers across England and Wales will fall by around 5%, before adjustments for inflation, between 2015 and 2020. This would see average bills fall by around £20 from £396 to £376.

Over the next five years, customers will benefit not only in lower water bills but also have improved levels of service. As companies are set to spend around £2000 for every household across England and Wales.

By 2020 customers will benefit from significant improvements in areas of service that really matter to them, such as by tackling leakage and promote water efficiency, there will be more than 370 million liters a day of water saved – enough water saved to serve all of the homes in Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds. With a reduction in the time lost to supply interruptions -down on average 32%. 4,700 fewer properties flooded by sewer water and cleaner water at more than 50 beaches.

With around 760,000 people benefit from some form of financial support from their water company this figure will more than double to around 1.8 million by 2020. Companies are putting in place measures, such as social tariffs, which are forecast to help an additional one million people over the next five years.

The announcement from Ofwat includes the decision to lower further the weighted average cost of capital (WACC), which is the minimum rate of return that lenders or investors require to support investment in the sector. Since its initial proposal of a WACC of 3.85%, Ofwat has updated its decision to reflect current market evidence on required returns, resulting in a WACC of 3.74%.

Jonson Cox, Chairman of Ofwat said:

“This is an important step in maintaining customers’ trust and confidence in the water sector. We set out to deliver a challenging but fair outcome. We are requiring companies to meet higher service standards and deliver on their promises to customers. We are bringing down bills so customers can expect value for money, while investors can earn a fair return. Companies will need to stretch themselves to deliver much more with the same level of funding as in previous years. We will achieve more resilient infrastructure and better service as a result.”

Cathryn Ross, Chief Executive of Ofwat said:

“With bills held down by five percent and service driven up over the next five years, customers will get more and pay less. Where companies stepped up to do the best they could for their customers we did not need to intervene. But where companies fell short we stepped in to make sure customers get a good deal. Now the hard work begins. Companies will only build trust and confidence with their customers if they deliver. Those who do can look forward to fair returns, while those that don’t will be hit in the pocket and face a tough five years ahead.”

These new charges will come into effect in April 2015. Companies have two months in which to accept Ofwat’s final determination or seek a referral to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Final determination: average bill changes (excluding inflation)

All figures are in 2014/15 prices. Figures may not add up due to rounding

Changes to average annual combined bill for water and sewerage companies

Ofwat’s final determination

Companies’
2013 December
request

2014-15

2019-20

5 year change

5 year change

National average bill (England and Wales)

£396

£376

-5%

-2%

Anglian

£431

£390

-10%

-8%

Dŵr Cymru

£440

£416

-5%

-4%

Northumbrian
(including Essex & Suffolk)

£388

£382

-1%

0%

Severn Trent

£333

£316

-5%

-4%

Southern

£437

£403

-8%

-2%

South West*

£545

£506

-7%

-4%

Thames**

£370

£353

-5%

3%

United Utilities

£410

£398

-3%

0%

Wessex

£485

£442

-9%

-4%

Yorkshire

£373

£361

-3%

-1%

 

Changes to average annual water bill for water only companies

Ofwat’s final determination

Companies’
2013 December
request

 

2014-15

2019-20

5 year change

5 year change

Affinity

£176

£163

-7%

-4%

Bristol

£202

£160

-21%

1%

Dee Valley

£152

£149

-2%

8%

Portsmouth

£97

£96

-1%

-1%

SembCorp Bournemouth

£153

£134

-12%

-6%

South East

£201

£194

-3%

3%

South Staffs
(including Cambridge)

£141

£135

-4%

2%

Sutton and East Surrey

£186

£180

-3%

-5%

* The average combined customer bill for South West does not reflect the £50 per customer Government contribution towards household bills. This addresses the significant investment needed in the infrastructure which was inherited by the company at privatisation to meet environmental and drinking water quality standards.

** Thames Water’s figures includes the costs for the preparatory works to build the Thames Tideway Tunnel – a 25km sewer to deal with the problem of too much sewage overflowing into the River Thames. However, it does not include costs for the construction of the tunnel. This is because the project will be financed and delivered by an independent infrastructure provider (IP). The IP is due to be appointed in 2015.

 

The UKs Top 10 Property Blogs

When it comes to the property market and tips on the property, we have curated a list of the UK’s top 10 Property blogs you can check out now!

  1. Home truths
  2. The rat and mouse
  3. Property owl
  4. Urban Splash
  5. Letting Focus
  6. Addicted to property.co.uk
  7. Property Hawk
  8. Property Industry eye
  9. My first home
  10. Land Lord Law