House prices still rising but that could change soon
The current climate could be short lived
House price growth hit a five-month high in February, according to Land Registry data but there are warnings that this will be short-lived. The Land Registry’s latest House Price Index shows UK property values rose 10.9% annually in February 2022.
That is the highest growth figure since September 2021, which coincided with the end of the stamp duty holiday on purchases up to £250,000.
This puts the average UK property price at £276,755. Annual house price growth was strongest in Wales where prices increased by 14.2% in the year to February 2022.
The lowest annual growth was in London, where prices increased by 8.1% in the year to February 2022.
Overall, UK prices were up just 0.5% on a monthly basis though, which may reflect recent warns that growth is set to slow. Other data revealed in the index for December 2021 also showed a sharp drop in transactions. UK volume transactions decreased by 47.1% in the year to December 2021, according to Land Registry figures.
Sales in England decreased by 52.5% annually in England, by 18.1% in Scotland, 47.3% in Wales and by 16.9% in Northern Ireland.
“Soaring inflation, the rising cost of living, high energy bills and a lack of support from the government at last month’s Spring Statement mean many people are feeling the squeeze financially. The recent introduction of the new energy price cap and the national insurance increase has further heightened the pressure.
“With wages failing to keep up, the increased costs of moving home will likely put off prospective buyers and taking a first step onto the property ladder will be pushed out of reach for many. As a result, we could see house prices dip over the coming months.
“While house prices have remained robust for the time being, how the housing market truly reacts to the current circumstances is yet to be seen. However, it is unlikely that house prices will be able to continue rising at the same rate seen in recent times – particularly against the backdrop of an economy already trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
“If a slowdown does begin to materialise, a gradual fall in house prices is expected as opposed to a sudden drop. At present, there remains too much demand and too little stock, so house prices will likely remain high for some time yet.”
“The level of housing supply is 32% lower than before the pandemic and demand is up 134%.
“These latest figures suggest that the market continues to remain extremely competitive but the cost of living crisis may be a key contributor preventing home buyers and sellers coming onto the market due to financial uncertainty.
“However, slight growth in the number of properties coming to the market is being seen which is a positive shift in the right direction as a closing in the gap of supply and demand will enable house prices to start to stabilise.”
“These numbers show house prices continuing on their apparently inexorable upward path but that’s not quite what’s happening on the ground now.
“Demand is still well ahead of supply but concerns about the rising cost of living, squeezed pay packets and potentially further interest rate rises, are reducing price growth and transaction numbers.
“Looking forward, we expect activity to return to more ‘normal’ pre-pandemic conditions as supply picks up as part of the usual spring bounce.”
Whilst it is inevitable that the current growth cannot be sustained, the effect of debt erosion by inflation, combined with unprecedented demand, should prevent a drastic fall, but growth will certainly slow down towards the end of the year. It is vital that measures are taken to ensure that is is gradual slow-down and not a hard bump, otherwise we could experience a loss of confidence in the market not experienced since the early ninteies.
Buying agency Stacks Property Search is reporting g rising buyer demand for wrecks requiring significant levels of renovation.
The agency says that in the current market, where demand for property outstrips supply, more buyers struggling to find what they want, are instead seeking big refurbishment projects or a knock-down and rebuild.
James Law of Stacks says: “Property prices have increased significantly over the course of the pandemic, in some areas by as much as 30 per cent and when buyers do find something they want they’re shocked by the price.
“For example, reluctant to spend £1.2m on something that’s ready to move into that would have cost under £1m two years ago, they start seeking something for £800,000 that needs substantial work.
“The harsh reality is that this strategy is not a certainty. The cost of builders and building supplies have increased by as much as property, and everything is difficult to come by.
“Quotes are coming in at eye-watering levels, and there’s no guarantee that the price will be fixed over the course of the project as prices continue to rise due to a range of factors – Brexit, the pandemic, and energy prices to name the headliners.
“Add to that the fact that builders’ lead times are double or three times what they were two years ago, and the best ones are booked out for months or sometimes years in advance.”
His Stacks colleague Ed Jephson adds: “Buyers are constantly looking for higher quality, and sometimes the only way to achieve this is to do it yourself. Future-proofing from an eco point of view is becoming more important, and buyers are increasingly aware of running costs.
“Buying an old property that is perfect aesthetically but requires retro-fitting makes little sense, so in this respect taking on a project is more sensible in the long term.”
The number one portal is making a big marketing and research push to get reluctant owners to put up the For Sale boards next month.
It says its own research shows that March is the strongest month of the year to sell a home, having the highest number of buyer enquiries per property for sale on average over the last five years.
While new listings are also highest in March, strong demand from buyers in the month means March sees the highest competition for the homes available on average.
It says data currently suggests a build up of momentum as March nears: for example listings are up 11 per cent in the last three weeks compared to the same period last year, while buyer demand is up 32 per cent over the last three weeks compared to the same time last year.
Home-valuation requests to estate agents are up 27 per cent since the start of the year compared to the start of last year, while searches for gardens have jumped 70 per cent in two years, as more people continue to look for outdoor space.
Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s director of property data, comments: “For any sellers who might be conscious of coming to market at a time when the number of new listings has traditionally been high, the data shows us that the level of demand in March means sellers are likely to met with multiple potential buyers competing for their home.
“Those thinking of selling are also likely to be aiming to buy a new property, and may be tempted to begin the search for their new home before listing their current one on the market.
“Due to the speed and competitiveness of the market, agents are reporting that it continues to be of high importance for those actively looking to become ‘power buyers’, to give themselves the best chance of securing their dream home.
“This means making sure they have their current property on the market or preferably sold subject to contract before beginning the search for their next home.
“This spring is certainly shaping up to be a busy one, with buyer demand, new listings coming to market for sale, and valuation requests to estate agents from future sellers all continuing to increase compared to last year.”
Owners of second homes who abuse a tax loophole by claiming their often-empty properties are holiday lets will be forced to pay under new measures announced by the government today.
The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities says the changes will target people who take advantage of the system “to avoid paying their fair share” towards local services in popular destinations such as Cornwall, Devon, the Lake District, Suffolk, West Sussex and the Isles of Scilly.
Currently, owners of second homes in England can avoid paying council tax and access small business rates relief by declaring an intention to let the property out to holidaymakers.
However, concerns have been raised that many never actually let their homes and leave them empty and are therefore unfairly benefiting from the tax break.
Following a consultation, the government says it will now bring changes to the tax system, which will mean second homeowners must pay council tax if they are not genuine holiday lets.
From April 2023, second homeowners will have to prove holiday lets are being rented out for a minimum of 70 days a year to access small business rates relief, where they meet the criteria.
Holiday let owners will have to provide evidence such as the website or brochure used to advertise the property, letting details and receipts.
Properties will also have to be available to be rented out for 140 days a year to qualify for this relief.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove says: “The government backs small businesses, including responsible short-term letting, which attracts tourists and brings significant investment to local communities.
“However, we will not stand by and allow people in privileged positions to abuse the system by unfairly claiming tax relief and leaving local people counting the cost.
“The action we are taking will create a fairer system, ensuring that second homeowners are contributing their share to the local services they benefit from.”
Campaigners are calling for plans to charge landlords up to £10k to be scrapped
Plans are for all new rental homes to have an energy rating of C or above
Campaigners are urging the Government to scrap proposals to make landlords pay up to £10,000 to improve the energy efficiency of their rental homes.
The National Residential Landlords Association suggested that landlords could not reasonably be expected to pick up the tab in the way that the Government is suggesting for stringent new rules affecting buy-to-let properties.
In an official statement, NRLA said that the plans were based on the ‘misguided assumption that all landlords are property tycoons with deep pockets’.
In a consultation that closed in January, the Government proposed that from 2025 where a new tenancy agreement is signed, the property will need to have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of C or above.
From 2028, all rental properties will need to meet the new standard, even where it is not a new tenancy agreement.
The Government has suggested that, in meeting these targets, landlords should be expected to pay up to £10,000 to make the necessary improvements.
However, the NRLA said that this imposed cap fails to accept the realities of different property and rental values across the country.
It follows research from NRLA that showed private landlords making an average net income from property of less than £4,500 a year. (Scroll down for more information about how this figure was calculated.)
The National Residential Landlords Association is calling on the amount that landlords should be expected to contribute to be linked to average market rents in any given area – known as broad rental market areas – as calculated by the Valuation Office Agency.
Under the NRLA’s proposals, this would mean the amount a landlord would need to contribute would gradually taper from £5,000 to £10,000, taking into account different rental values – and by implication, property values – across the country.
VAT and council tax reductions
Alongside this, the NRLA is calling for a package of fiscal measures to support property investment.
It said these should include the development of a decarbonisation tax allowance, where VAT would no longer apply to energy efficiency and low carbon work.
And it said council tax should not be charged where energy improvements are being made to rental properties when they are empty.
Ben Beadle, of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: ‘We all want to see as many energy efficient rental properties in the sector as possible.
‘Besides being good for tenants, improvements made to rental properties ensure they become more attractive to prospective tenants when being marketed by landlords and agents.’
However, he added: ‘The Government’s proposals for the sector are not good enough.
‘They rely on a misguided assumption that landlords have unlimited sums of money and fail to accept the realities of different property and rental values across the country.
‘Ministers need a smarter approach with a proper financial package if they are to ensure their ambitious objectives are to be met.’
David Reed, of Richmond estate agents Antony Roberts, said: ‘We all want to see improvements to energy efficiency but If these proposals come to fruition, there’ll be a rush of landlords with property in vast swathes of suburbs – where older, less efficient properties make up a greater proportion of the stock – selling rather than incurring what could be considerable costs in retaining an investment in property.
‘With yields so low, returns barely meet costs as they are, especially as the latter have grown significantly in recent years either directly (Tenant Fees Act and electrical regulations) or indirectly (unable to offset mortgage interest).
‘Tenants love charming period conversion flats in good commuter territory and seldom is efficiency/an EPC rating at the forefront of the search criteria, whereas location and provision of attractive accommodation win hands down. There are simply not enough newer, in theory more efficient, properties being constructed to meet tenant demand.
‘The private rental sector vitally needs a healthy supply of good property and landlords who own one or maybe two rental properties make up a large sector of the market. Many are already disgruntled by recent changes and longer-term plans are under question. If they leave, the effect on tenants will be hard felt – a further restriction of supply giving more upward pressure on rental and lack of choice.
‘Hopefully consideration will be given to where there is no easy-fix or realistic programme of improvement to achieve grade C status or better.’
How much do landlords make?
Private landlords make an average net income from property of less than £4,500 a year, according to the The National Residential Landlords Association.
Here is how the NRLA reached that figure…
The English Private Landlord survey said that the average – median – gross rental income for a landlord before tax and other deductions is £15,000.
Average costs for landlords would be:
– Repair and replacement of furnishings – based on the previous tax exemption for 10% of annual rent (£1,500)
– Cost of a gas safety certificate (average £80 required annually – checkatrade average)
– Electrical safety check (average £265 performed every 5 years. £53 annually – checkatrade average)
– Interest-only mortgage for the average UK property (£250,000) with a 20% deposit (cheapest available £6,096 annual)
– Insurance (£531.15 for building and contents insurance from Hamilton Fraser using average floor space for PRS property https://www.statista.com/statistics/292206/average-floor-area-size-of-dwellings-in-england-by-tenure/)
– Agency fees (£1200 based on 8% agency fees)
The NRLA based its calculation on an average landlord of a house let to a couple with an interest-only mortgage, and assumed that tenants move annually.
Total gross rental income – £15,000
Repair and replacement costs – £1,500
Tenancy management costs – £726.15 (includes average cost of insurance, gas safety certificates, 1/5 of the EICR cost, deposit protection and tenant referencing)
Agency fees – £1,200
Total deductions before tax and mortgage costs – £11,573.85
Amount that can be taxed – £2,314.77 (£11,573.85 x 0.20)
Tax after mortgage interest relief accounted for – £1,095.57 (£2,314.77 – (£6,096.00 mortgage costs x 0.20)
Remaining balance after Tax – £10,478.28 (£11,573.85 – £1,095.57)
Mortgage costs – £6,096.00 (based on cheapest available 80% Loan to Value mortgage on the average property in the UK of £250,000)
Remaining balance after all average costs deducted – £4,382.28 (£10,478.28 – £6,096.00)
The new portal OpenBrix, which is powered by Blockchain, has revealed its fee structure ahead of its formal launch on September 1.
It’s going to charge £75 per branch per month, plus £1 per property upload fee. If agents then want to join a multi-listing system it will operate, they will be expected to pay another £55 per month on top.
“We think this is fair and transparent. Our pricing is sensible and affordable and provides justifiable value and, importantly, agent pricing won’t be hiked as we grow because the agent community controls that – not shareholders” claims chief executive Adam Pigott.
He continues: ”We are pioneering the UK’s first multi-listing service … This feature will be a significant hook to gain client instructions and will open up agents’ inventories to other agents as they so choose, and theirs to others, resulting in revenue opportunities that otherwise do not exist for smaller independent agents.”
Pigott – who boasts over 30 years in property and was the founder of CHK Mountford Letting Agents back in 1989 – goes on to say this makes OpenBrix “a great value platform that agents and consumers alike will love.”
It utilises blockchain to create a linked network of agents to upload listings, and to create a voting and decision-making structure so that all agents have a say in pricing and the direction of the portal.
Pigott believes this taps in to the current apparent dissatisfaction with ‘big’ portals.
OpenBrix has been operating a Beta version of its service since February and has now revealed that its services include “big tenant benefits” and access to tenant information including payment history and maintenance history, partnership commissions to give agents additional revenue, and branded property listings.
Some months ago it was announced that former Countrywide lettings veteran John Hards was joining the new portal’s board.
Government leaks to mainstream and building trade media suggest the controversial Help To Buy scheme will be extended beyond its end-of-2020 deadline.
An announcement is expected shortly.
Some suggestions say the extension could be just three months, to allow the clearance of as many as 18,000 H2B purchases delayed by Coronavirus, while other suggestions put the extension as considerably longer because of wider concerns about the economy and unemployment in the construction sector.
Either size extension would probably be controversial.
On the one hand, some agents and almost all housebuilders see the scheme as a means of improving their sales figures, especially to younger or first time buyers. Between its introduction in early 2013 and March this year – before the housing market was frozen – some 272,000 purchases had taken place via Help To Buy.
On the other hand, a slew of reports and analyses suggest that H2B does little to improve the quantity of housing stock and possibly increases prices – ironically making homes less affordable rather than more.
Last year a National Audit Office analysis revealed that 63 per cent of people buying a home under the scheme could have afforded to do so anyway; more households with incomes for £80,000 and above purchased via H2B than households with less than £30,000.
Bruce Burkitt, founder of the Property Experts consultancy, wrote last year in Estate Agent Today: “Developers are aware that Help to Buy is a closed market, and many properties are sold for premiums of 15 to 20 per cent, a surprising statistic that may come to harm first time buyers perhaps more than it is helping them.”
Recent figures suggest that the average price paid for a H2B property across the UK is some £307,000.
HM Land Registry is now accepting witnessed electronic signatures on documents for the transfer of ownership of property, the creation of leases, and on securing mortgages.
It says this should allow a substantial simplification and faster execution of conveyancing – although it warns that some electronic signature providers may need to make some minor changes to meet its security requirements.
It will work like this: a conveyancer must upload the deed to an online platform which sends a link to the signatories.
Once they have completed the necessary authentication checks, they would then ‘sign’ the document electronically in the physical presence of the witness who then also signs.
The conveyancer is then notified that the signing process has been concluded and, once they have effected completion of the deed, can submit the completed deed to HM Land Registry with their application for registration.
In every case the online platform would need to include two-factor authentication to authenticate the signatories and witness accessing the deed and provide assurance that unique individuals have signed.
A link to the document is emailed and then an authentication code sent to the individual’s mobile phone.
“What we have done today is remove the last strict requirement to print and sign a paper document in a home buying or other property transaction. This should help right now while lots of us are working at home, but it is also a keystone of a truly digital, secure and more efficient conveyancing process that we believe is well within reach” explains Simon Hayes, the Registry’s chief executive and chief land registrar.
“The more sophisticated qualified electronic signatures are a part of that vision and encouraging those is where our attention will be directed next” he adds.
Agents have almost unanimously been reporting a big surge in business since the reopening of the housing market, but new figures from HM Revenue & Customs suggest there is still some way to go before normal volumes are seen.
A total of 68,670 residential properties were sold in June according to HMRC data.
While this was predictably a huge 50 per cent up on May, it was still 31.5 per cent down on the same month a year ago.
The figures obviously pre-date the stamp duty holiday and other purchase tax changes in different parts of the UK, introduced only this month.
“Transactions, not more volatile house prices, are always a better indicator of market strength. These figures show activity is moving in the right direction but will clearly take time to be reflected in the figures as we emerge from lockdown and associated restrictions” notes former RICS residential chairman Jeremy Leaf, who also runs his own London estate agency.
“Nevertheless, we have noticed at street level that many buyers and sellers are bringing forward moving decisions to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday and continuing lower interest rates. There is still concern that improved conditions will be relatively short-lived as economic news deteriorates and furlough support falls away” he adds.
The chief analyst at online agency Yopa, Mike Scott, says it’s possible that these HMRC figures may be worse than reality.
“Note that these are provisional figures. Transaction data may be being processed more slowly than usual due to the effects of the pandemic, which means that there may still be more June sales to be reported and the true year-on-year fall may not be as bad as it is in this report” he suggests.
And Tomer Aboody, director of property lender MT Finance, says: “We are still below last year’s numbers, which in turn were down on the previous year, but confidence is creeping back up.
“If the government increases capital gains tax on principal home sales, it will push us back again so any progress made by the stamp duty reduction will be swiftly lost. We need more stimulus via reduced stamp duty to the upper end of the market and hope for this in the autumn Budget.”
The mortgage arm of a regional property portal has launched pre-approval software which it claims will significantly speed up the initial stages of the mortgage application process.
PropertyPal Mortgages says the software works “in a way never done before” and within minutes can complete an ID Check, credit check, affordability and eligibility checks across multiple lenders.
“With the added benefit of only leaving a soft footprint on the credit check, the outcome is essentially a multi-lender indication of acceptance” says the company, which works with the eKeeper PropTech firm to develop the product.
PropertyPal is a Northern Ireland-focussed property portal.
“We wanted to build software that would allow users to accurately establish how much they could borrow and at what Loan to Value band they will likely be accepted for a mortgage. Now we can essentially obtain a very accurate indication of pre-approval across multiple lenders within minutes” says the portal’s mortgage managing director, Owen Peden.
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