Rat and Mouse
Entries in December 2006
Fri
29
Dec

20061229Crystalball
This is what they're saying:

Assetz 8-10%
County Homesearch 7.5%
Savills 7%
CML 7%
RICS 7%
Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward 6-7%
Knight Frank 6%
FindAProperty 6%
Nationwide 5-8%
NAEA 5%
Hamptons 5%
Strutt & Parker 4.5%
John Charcol 4.5%
Haart 4-5%
HBOS 4%
Hometrack 4%
Capital Economics 3.5%
Cluttons 3%

Compared to last year - when all the talk was of a crash - it's a big bunch of bulls, many of them blowing egg from their hot snorting faces now that 2006 looks as if it's going to end with something like an 8-10% rise, rather than a catastrophic crash. (The Rat and Mouse isn't going to give a final 2006 figure quite yet, on the assumption that it's never over until the fat government department - which measures completion prices - sings.) Two things are notable about the above list. First, it flicks peas in the face of fears about interest rate rises. Rates may well be on the way up, but few commentators appear to believe the small increases predicted will have the firepower to dent the property market. Second, the list is pretty much meaningless, because 2007 is going to be a year of regional variation, in which London, the South East, Scotland and Northern Ireland lead prices.

Want to know what they were saying last year? Here's the 2006 list (or go here for the full Rat and Mouse entry):

John Charcol 5.5%
Knight Frank 5%
RICS 4%
Halifax 3%
Nationwide 3%
Hometrack 1%

Savills 0%

PropertyFinder.com -0.3%
Capital Economics -5%

Hey, if the market drops three quarters of a per cent in 2007, there's time for Capital Economics to recover for the two-year average...

More in this Category - House prices
Thu
28
Dec

Which leaves Hometrack's view of the national market up 5.7% on the year; or - for Londoners - a massive 12.1%. More here. Meanwhile, first-time buyers accounted for just 15% of all purchases in 2006, which is apparently the lowest figure since records began. More of that, here.

More in this Category - House prices
Wed
27
Dec

London: too expensive for New Yorkers [New York Times]
Bangladeshi property millionaire in London [Daily India]
Was your Christmas tree black? [Bloomberg]
Fixed-rate mortgages disappearing in interest rate panic [Sunday Times]
Merryn: forecasting markets "a mug's game". Irony [Sunday Times]
Property porn in Clapham [Telegraph]

The Rat and Mouse - catching up

More in this Category - Linkage
Fri
22
Dec

That's it until Wednesday. When we come back, we'll have a round-up of 2007 property price predictions, and a look back at what the experts were predicting for this year... plus, a little about what the Rat and Mouse has planned for 2007. Thanks for reading, thanks for subscribing, thanks for your emails. The Rat and Mouse wishes you all very Happy Holidays.

More in this Category - About

Zillow is an innovative American property power-search site that, since being launched at the beginning of the year by Expedia founders Lloyd Fink and Richard Barton, has gained astonishing momentum. New property development weblog Nubricks have made them the subject of their new podcast. Get it here.

More in this Category - _Other

20061222Spears
Matthew McConaughey's Sunset Strip hideaway, for sale at $3.3 million [LA Times]
Rumour: has Britney Spears bought this Beverley Hills villa [pictured] [Star Magazine]
Naomi Campbell finally offloads value-shedding New York apartment [NY Post]
Gwen Stefani's new Beverley Hills pad leaves everybody in awe [Sun]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about their house

More in this Category - Celebrity homes
Thu
21
Dec

I know, it's all so mid-2006, the US bubble-that-didn't-happen, the bubble-blogs... and now here's Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital (catchphrase: because there's a bull market somewhere), talking of a 70% crash in US property prices.

If a house has risen in value several times over in recent years, then it is ludicrous to think that it cannot fall by that amount, he says, drawing a comparison with the dot-com boom and bust in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
More in this Category - House prices

It's funny, I was just about to start trawling through the Rat and Mouse archives for the dumbest story of 2006, when this happened:

According to a study by Halifax Home Insurance, around 250,000 Britons - first time buyers or otherwise - damage their property every year while exercising.

I wonder how many cause damage by making chutney, cutting their toenails or blocking hats?

More in this Category - _Other

Persimmon, Wimpey and Wilson Bowden are all ending the year in jovial mood... completions up, profits up, and confident in a booming market next year.

More in this Category - _Other
Wed
20
Dec

The "sub-prime" mortgage sector (high-risk lending offset by higher interest rates) has been under some scrutiny in the UK, but here's a chance to see what happens to it when economic conditions take a turn for the worse. In America:

Nearly a fifth of consumers with bad credit who borrowed money to buy a house in the past two years will default on their mortgages and lose their homes, an industry survey projects.

The survey's by a non-profit organisation which researches "predatory lending tactics". This is how it works in the States:

Subprime mortgage lenders have little incentive to ensure the creditworthiness of borrowers, CRL said. Lenders pool home loans and sell them as mortgage-backed bonds, placing the risk of default with investors in the secondary market. Therefore, lenders' only incentive is to issue as many loans as possible.

I don't know whether this is how it works in the UK, too... or whether simply the combination of higher than normal interest rates and the opportunity to repossess homes in a competitive market is enough to make this sector attractive to lenders. I'll make some enquiries... and if you know, drop me a line.

Wednesday afternoon linkage - 200 lenders in trouble [November 29, 2006]
Tuesday afternoon linkage - when the music stop [November 28, 2006]
Mortgage broker world - where "sub-prime" includes "heavy adverse" [June 28, 2006]

More in this Category - _Other

I'm holding most of the 2007 property price predictions in a file marked "2007 property price predictions", and I'll list them in a post (probably headlined "2007 property price predictions") just before 2006 rolls into 2007. But this one's special. Lombard Street - who successfully pegged 2006's house price growth at what looked like an extraordinarily unlikely 10% - are saying house price inflation could equal, even outstrip, this next year. They're banking on a weaker global economy halting MPC interest rate hikes:

"We are, therefore, forecasting house price rises of between 10% and 15% in 2007," she added.

Holy smokes.

More in this Category - House prices

... the words of a Russian in Londongrad, in this look at the Russians-in-London phenomenon. It contains some fascinating facts and figures (did you know that 60% of London homes selling for more than $20 million are bought by Russians?). My favourite bit? Andrei Nekrasov (quoted in our headline) and his somewhat odd view of class definitions:

"A lot of them are upper middle class in Western terms," he said. "They can afford a $2 million apartment in cash."
More in this Category - _Other
Tue
19
Dec

Shareholders to sue Multiplex over Wembley cock-up fallout [IHT]
Empty nesters cash in [Scotsman]

The Rat and Mouse - because Londoners think about property every three seconds

More in this Category - Linkage

20061219Flag Here's an interesting look at the Moscow property market, courtesy of the Moscow Times. How do you value property in a market that's still relatively new and reliant on new buyers accepting the asking prices of developers? Supply and demand takes a little time to kick in and find it's mean... and even when it does... well... look at London. More interesting, perhaps, is that different Moscow neighbourhoods appear to be still in the process of discovering their status. Look at this:

Increasingly, pensioners and low-income families will trade in their apartments in prestigious regions for larger apartments farther from the center. She predicted that neighborhoods like London's Belgravia and New York's Upper East Side would emerge in Moscow as income and class begin to determine where people live. "There are still dilapidated buildings in the 'golden mile.' Old ladies living in 1960s concrete block buildings between Ostozhenka and Prechistenka on state pensions are overwhelmed when developers come offering $8,000 per square meter," Nadezhda Arkhipova from the KRT development group said.
More in this Category - _Other

Well, they could be more likely this morning, after the RICS report that the last rise has done nothing to dent optimism and rising prices, combined with recent reports of UK wages on the move. Meanwhile, for an example of just how it's possible to interpret these RICS reports in vastly different ways, compare this with this.

More in this Category - _Other
Mon
18
Dec

You'd have thought, wouldn't you, that a man with a previous criminal conviction, upset about being refused insurance by a major insurer and (I think) even more upset about the possibility of paying for insurance and then finding, upon a claim, that it's invalid, would find a better nom-de-plume than Knucklehead? He's been over at the Channel 4 4homes forum, making what is conceivably a point. What exactly it is, however...

More in this Category - _Other

Apparently, that's the thinking behind the new property investors who are buying starter homes and leaving them empty rather than risking wear, tear and damage by allowing tenants to actually, well, live in them.

Research by the magazine Inside Housing found that up to 50 per cent of new flats in Leeds were being left empty, 40 per cent in Salford and 10 to 15 per cent in East London. The trend extends across most English cities, with 24 per cent of new homes being left empty in Manchester, 16 per cent in Nottingham and a large proportion in Newcastle and Liverpool.

If these - as the Telegraph article claims - are buy-to-let properties... I'd like to know how the owners are funding the mortgages.

More in this Category - Letting

A friendly offer? [Patrick.net]
Mother in battle for deceased gay son's London property [Shropshire Star]
Prince Charles plans Scottish eco-castle [News24]
An eye on the capital's skyline [Guardian]
Office-to-home conversions [Times]
British homes, German engineering - and a good thing too, says McCloud [Times]
Free fire-arm with every property [Yahoo]

The Rat and Mouse - so you don't have to

More in this Category - Linkage

Hello Mr and Mrs Wilson, ex-maths teachers and Ashford, Kent's uber-landlords, with 700 houses, and a new one purchased every week. They were featured in Saturday's Guardian, in a piece that had to quote estate agents anonymously (they were fearful of annoying the powerful couple). The Wilsons buy blocks of property in new developments off-plan, and then rent them out, making life extremely difficult for first-time buyers. I wonder why, when it's the same buyers doing this it's hard to swallow. And yet - from the perspective the ftb - it doesn't matter whether it's one landlord or twenty, the effect is the same. Possibly because the Wilsons are approaching billionaire status. Anyway, read the piece here.

More in this Category - Letting
Fri
15
Dec

20061215Space

[with thanks to ksumunkee]

That's it from us until Monday. Have a great weekend.

More in this Category - Gallery

Research by Yorkshire Bank suggests a quarter of house-hunters could be potentially turned off making an offer by naff Christmas lights. What's more, 40% could be turned off by your neighbour's naff Christmas lights. In a way, though, that's more logical. When you buy a house, you can always sling the trash they leave behind, rip out the dishwasher-safe chandeliers, and paint over the Dulux. But there's nothing you can do about the neighbours.

More in this Category - Design

Research by Birmingham Midshires suggests that although being priced out of a purchase isn't the only reason why a renter rents, it remains the primary one. Nationally, 67% rent because they can't afford to buy. In London, the figure's 73%. Which suggests that home-owning is still seen as the most successful outcome. And yet 26% of UK residents are renting their homes.

[via Easier]

More in this Category - Letting

Sign up so you can read the subscription-only but very fine Building Design online magazine, and enjoy the story of how Adam Richards Architects helped Clerkenwell-based priest The Reverend Richard McLaren write sermons on his roof-terrace without getting blown away. Inspired by paintings of the Annunciation, the architects designed a wind-break comprising Cold War surplus Geiger counter which translates cosmic radiation into a pattern of 384 flashing LED lights. At this point, if anybody can think of a suitably pithy sign-off, email me; because I'm just enjoying my own state of open-mouthed disbelief. Catch the whole story here.

More in this Category - Design

20061215Nest The guys at Nestoria, one of the UK's most advanced property search engines, are long time Rat and Mouse readers. A few days ago, they contacted to me with a series of questions about the London property scene in general and property search in particular. Somewhat flattered, and always keen to talk houses... I answered them. Find the interview here.

More in this Category - About

20061215Ubs

Time for a bit of property porn: a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment on Mayfair's Upper Brook Street with five south-facing windows lighting up the reception room. The other walls are wood-paneled. It's in a block with lift and porter, and it's with Brompton, listed at £1.25 million. Particulars here.

20061215Ubsmap

More in this Category - W1
Thu
14
Dec

Hitman hired - for the love of... property [Times]
Is life getting too easy for British homeowners? [Channel 4 4homes forum]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

More in this Category - Linkage

It's a studio , on the 3rd floor of a 1930s mansion block (Basildon Court) on Devonshire Street, Marylebone. Good, central location, communal roof terrace, hall, big window, fold-down bed and storage. It's with Stern Studios, listed at £199,950. Viewings are by appointment, lunchtime Friday 15, or lunchtime or 5.45-6.30pm Monday 18

20061214W1
.

More in this Category - W1

20061214Balloon2

[via apartment therapy]

More in this Category - Design
Wed
13
Dec

Savills have taken over Chesterfield, another significant player in the prime central London market... more here.

More in this Category - Estate agents

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans is seeking UK residents frustrated by the general user-hostility of their residential street to get in touch. They're planning a DIY Streets campaign, based on a Dutch model, which will see residents becoming actively involved in the creation of more functional, more user-friendly street design.

More in this Category - Design

He was visiting a zero carbon home in Bow, accompanied by Ruth Kelly in a kind of Batman and Robin formation, when he spotted - amongst the insulation and woody-burners - a telly:

Mr Harris, from ZEDfactory, said just because someone lived in a zero carbon house, it did not mean they had to adhere to a certain lifestyle. "We are not saying you have to live without a car or have to eat local organic food - people are their own free agents," he said.

Mr Brown apparently then stroked his chin and mumbled, "It's a nice big telly", before Kelly croaked "Holy sustainable development, Vatman... say something sensible that might impress the Cameron clan but keep property developers onside." Find out if Brown and Kelly get out unscathed by reading the full instalment here.

More in this Category - E3

Next year: Northern Ireland will boom. Northern England won't. HIPs will piss vendors off. Stamp Duty will piss us off, too. We won't do so much moving. Average prices will rise nevertheless. Rents will rise. More here.

More in this Category - _Other

20061212Cowboy According to research by TrustMark - a Government-backed scheme designed to help us protect ourselves from rogue traders - the reason we're ripped off by cowboy builders is that we don't complain when they bodge. Apparently, around a fifth of us are just too shy to complain, and more of us don't know our rights. The more homes we've owned and work we've had done, the more likely we are to find it in us to be a little tetchy. My own experience goes like this... if your builder wants to keep talking to you about how good they are, what a good job they 're doing, how they take the time and have the skills other builders don't... be suspicious. There's a chance they've discovered - through some vague Darwinian process - that their seeming pride in the job might deter you from offending them with important questions, like: You know those sunken lights? Is there any way of changing dead bulbs other than ripping the ceiling out and starting again? Not that I'm still harbouring resentment...

[via Sky News]

More in this Category - _Other
Tue
12
Dec

3i (the giant private equity firm) have just agreed to buy Countrywide (the giant UK estate agency) for a giant £941 million. 3i has apparently been watching the UK property market, and fancies a piece. Let's hope they've got there in time. Countrywide owns 1,200 branches, and its MD is called Harry Hill. What are the chances of that, eh? More here.

More in this Category - Estate agents

About buying a house, that is. According to the results of a survey by the Council for Land Information Service (an organisation making land/property search information more accessible) 19% of us think that estate agents are conveyancers, and 8% think that vendors do it themselves. Few seem aware of the range of impending building plans a property search can throw up.

[via FindAProperty]

More in this Category - _Other

Ah, remember when life looked good for ftbs? [Times]
Royal girlfriends househunting in London [All Headline News, apparently]
Middle Englanders finally find reason to like immigrants [Times]
Inflation figures shock - bad news for interest rates [BBC]
US banks very bearish on sterling [Telegraph]

The Rat and Mouse - so you don't have to

More in this Category - Linkage

20061212Forbes

It's that time of year, when Forbes review the year of stupid property deals and put together their list of property-tastic American chart-toppers. Go here for a slide-show, revealing all that property excess in its bubble-bursting glory.

More in this Category - _Other
Mon
11
Dec

Estate agents dropping listings? Yes, if the price isn't right. Here's the tale of an agent who dropped 84% of her listings because they wouldn't drop their prices.

More in this Category - _Other

The Treasury's property portfolio [Telegraph]
Eamonn Holmes is so funny [People]
One in ten homeowners in debt for more than £150,000 [ThisIsLondon]
Future of the South-East: floods, droughts, gridlock [Environment Times]
London tornado bill: £20 million [Scotsman]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

More in this Category - Linkage

The DCLG house price report might not be the most exciting (it's always a month and half late) but it's the most important, since it deals in completion prices rather than asking prices or fairy dust. October's: year-on-year inflation up to 8.6% October-to-October, compared to 8% September-to-September. More here. (As of writing, the report hasn't appeared on the DCLG website, yet. But keep an eye on this.)

More in this Category - House prices

Flush property developers Bindi London have apparently paid £260,000 - more than twice the guide price - for a three-stall public toilet (ladies) in Hereford. Locals say the toilet block is steeped in local history, but clearly this is a case of redevelopment. Wonder if they'll retain any original features?

More in this Category - _Other
Despite getting up and going out to work every day, a typical full-time worker is paid just £23,500 - but loses about £6,000 to the tax man. But their home has 'earned' £25,570 and not a penny of the profit is lost to the tax man.

Unless it's a second home. Or it's being passed on to the kids. Or - after selling it - they intend to buy another one, and pay stamp duty. ThisIsLondon gets very excited by the latest report by Rightmove, which suggests that average property prices in the UK have jumped 13% in 12 months. In London, the figures are higher: 56% in Kensington & Chelsea, and 30% in another eight boroughs. It's the kind of report that irritates the bejeezus out of the skeptics. Partly because it's based on asking prices. And partly because it entirely fails to take into account houses are for living in, and trading up still costs extra... just more extra. Read it here.

More in this Category - House prices
Fri
08
Dec

A misguided wannabe estate agent over at the Channel 4 4homes forum asks, I am looking to set up a new estate agent business and i would like to know what really grates on people who are buying and selling houses through agents? I know, at first I wondered whether this was somebody looking to really, expertly piss us off. But no - he's just another well-meaning punter, wanting to know how to get his foot in the door, how to get his first listings, how to spell "commission" (two "s"s my man, and three less exclamation marks).

Amongst the answers, listing the usual tricks and deceptions, there's an interesting remark from a real living breathing estate agent, which chimes with a comment left recently at the Rat and Mouse. So, here are immy21's list of common tricks and deceptions... through the eyes of an estate agent:

20061208FallingdownBuyers that pull out of a purchase that don't have the courage to call the agent to tell them.
Buyers that lose their buyer but refuse to tell the chain above them that they no longer can proceed.
Sellers who withold information about major works undertaken.
Sellers who try to deliberately deceive buyers about noisy neighbours.
Buyers who are delusional about their income so that although they get an 'agreed in principle' from the lendor they fall down on references!
'No chain' buyers that insist they will not tie in the sale of their property so that things can move to a strict timescale, then do as soon as they get a buyer, subsequently delaying the process by weeks
All the tricks of the buying and selling public!
And you all thought it was ONLY EA's that pulled off these stunts because thats what the 'SUN' says and what they say must be true!
Hypocrisy gone nuclear!

Wow, if that isn't the Bill Foster of estate agents. But he has a point.

More in this Category - Estate agents

121208Simpsons
The Simpsons writers' beautiful (and I mean beautiful) Bel-Air home: $11.5 million [link to website, pic above]
Twenty acres of southern Californian ranch owned by Gap Band's Charlie Wilson: $5.275 million [link to particulars]
Linda Fiorentino's NY one-bedroom apartment: $1.225 million [link to particulars]
Ashlee Simpson's Endocino home with insanely big bedroom: sold for $5.7 million [LA Times]
Conan O'Brien: moving on up [Curbed]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about their house

More in this Category - Celebrity homes
The office building that housed the CBS London Bureau until a year ago has been knocked down and developers plan to sell 86 apartments in the new building for $50 million dollars each... that's right, $50 million dollars - each.

CBS's letter from "across the pond" looks at the London property market, and strikes an incredulous note.

Some mortgage companies are offering home loans of 5 times an individual or couple's salary, which is a lot of interest to pay. But even if you earn $50,000 a year, the quarter of a million they loan you is unlikely to buy more than a 1 bedroom flat in a fairly insalubrious area of the capital.
More in this Category - House prices

The dangers of fixed [Daily Mirror]
The first of the end-of-year house price predictions. (The Rat and Mouse will bring you it's traditional round-up of news and views in a few weeks) [Guardian]
International house prices [Economist]
House prices rising £50 a day [ThisIsLondon]
Barker's planning advice could lead to architects' windfall [Building Design, subscription only, free]

The Rat and Mouse - because Londoners think about property every three seconds

More in this Category - Linkage

Hammersmith & Fulham Council have started demanding estate agents gain planning permission before throwing up for sale boards on certain street in the borough, where large Victorian houses split into numerous flats are creating forests of notices. They appear to have (pdf warning) brought the boards into line with other advertising notices.

The affected streets are:

Baron's Court Road
Castletown Road
Charleville Road
Challenor Crescent
Comeragh Road
Fairholme Road
Perham Road
North End Road (nos 86-110 west side, nos 179-225 east side)
Addison Gardens
Hazlitt Road
Lakeside Road
Maclise Road
Sinclair Gardens
Sinclair Road

Agents who put up boards in these designated areas could face a £150 fine. I wonder if that will be enough to discourage an agent who could profit from being the only board in the village?

More in this Category - Estate agents

Citizen photojournalism - here, here and here.

More in this Category - _Other
Thu
07
Dec

She was staying at the Dorchester while filming "His Dark Materials" when she spotted it - a little £12 million townhouse around the back of the Mayfair hotel - and, well, you know, just had to have it.

More in this Category - Celebrity homes

... stay at 5%.

More in this Category - _Other
A quarter of adults - 11 million - expect property prices to plummet within 18 months.

Children, apparently, aren't that bothered; but babies were bullish. It's a new survey of homeowner confidence, by "debt solutions consultancy" Thomas Charles and YouGov, and it suggests that although creeping interest rates don't seem to have actually bitten into prices yet, they're gonna. More here.

More in this Category - House prices

(In case you didn't know, Paltrow was caught making some disparaging remarks about her homeland.)

But here's a news flash for you and the rest of your expatriate friends from the Hollywood community: The days of our unconditional love for all things celebrity are over. We ordinary Americans have the power to make or break a movie, a song, a TV show, an actor, a singer, a TV journalist, a radio announcer...

Holy shit. This really redefines stupid. Oh, he hasn't finished.

... and even a blogger.

Okay. It's "an open letter" to Paltrow, penned by Fox's Mike Straka, and I'm sure she likes America even more now. Read the whole ugly thing here.

More in this Category - Celebrity homes

Another 1.7% average rise for November, leaving house prices - in the three months to November - up 9.6% on the same three month period last year. More here. The key points, however, are contradictory:

* UK economy continues to grow
* Employment continues to rise
* RICS and House Builders' Association report falls in enquiries
* "Real" average earnings have slowed

Download the Halifax's actual, factual report as a pdf by clicking this.

More in this Category - House prices

20061207Chiswick2

Everybody wants to live in Chiswick right now. Have you ever wondered what one of those flats above the shops on the High Road is like? Here's a new conversion, on the market with Featherstone Leigh, comprising four bedrooms, one reception and two bathrooms... 1,948 square feet of space. It's listed at £595,000, and it's very convenient for Superdrug.

20061207Chiswick1

More in this Category - For sale
Wed
06
Dec

Okay, I'm paraphrasing, but that's the advice from Haarts estate agents, who predict a 10% rise in house prices in the first half of 2007, before the combination of interest rate rises and the HIPs trial in June bring the annual change for 2007 down to 4% to 5%. More here.

More in this Category - House prices
Community Secretary Ruth Kelly is to announce plans to ensure every new home is carbon zero within ten years. The vast majority of carbon zero homes will be exempt from stamp duty.

More from this lunchtime's Pre-Budget Report here.

More in this Category - _Other

Rosie Millard makes [even] more friends [Times]
Endowment claims firms - popular [Reuters]
Energy Performance Certificates - fraught with uncertainties [Independent]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

More in this Category - Linkage
Tue
05
Dec

Which? surveyed 1,568 people and found that 94% didn't trust estate agents and 70% accused them of inventing imaginary offers. Seventy per cent also thought estate agents make up false details about properties on their books... (not a technique with much of a future, surely). Anyway, a Which? spokesperson is quoted here, blithely suggesting DIY home sales websites are the way to go, and that eventually the estate agent will be extinct. Now, exactly how does this serve the consumer? The whole DIY sales process is fraught with complications and problems and dangers... from negotiation to viewings, and remember that estate agents spend some of that commission on expensive and ubiquitous property ads. Furthermore, just because 70% of people think something, it doesn't make it true. (Did you know that eighty-eight per cent of Americans believe in Creationism?) Which? is effectively telling people what they already think, which might make people feel good, but only serves to reinforce beliefs, without informing.

More in this Category - Estate agents

But I bet it's Tom Cruise who feels hunted.

More in this Category - Celebrity homes

20061205LeaningtowerOne of the elements of economist Kate Barker's much-talked about suggested planning law reforms is that it will be much easier for homeowners to make improvements to their properties, as long as they're not changing the footprint. To Londoners, that means one thing... loft conversions. The idea is that - with house prices doing that thing they do - homeowners looking for more space will get a better time. And councils will be able to focus on large developments, not roof gardens and decking. Ah, but trust a ThisIsLondon reader to get all cynical:

So let me get this straight - they're going to remove the need for planning permission and make it easier for us to improve our homes with one hand... and then using their new 'snooping' laws are going to gain access to our properties and charge us for any improvements which add value with the other! Don't be fooled, they wouldn't go out of their way to make our lives easier if there wasn't money in it for them somewhere along the line. Find out how much you'll be taxed each year for your home improvements before you take advantage of not needing planning permission.

Nice one.

Actually, the loft conversion is a subject of which I have a little experience and some crucial advice. Don't be fooled by glossy brochures and a handful of glowing testimonials. I know of one prominent west London conversion specialist who - despite being as crooked as a Russian politician and leaving a trail of angry, dissatisfied and litigious ex-customers in his wake - looks convincing online. Tread carefully... it's an expensive business.

More in this Category - Design

So, apparently, the story is that Johnny Depp is shooting at Pinewood (SWEENEY TODD). So is Vince Vaughn (FRED CLAUS). Vaughn bagged the south west London house that Depp had wanted to rent during the shoot. Which made him upset. So - he thought he'd show that a Depp doesn't come in second place to no Vaughn, by consulting his chum Keith Richards (presumably the only man who could be relied upon to offer really bad, really expensive advice) on the interior design of his trailer. Step up the £20,000 trailer... fitted out in Moorish chic, including "the best quality drapes" money can buy, pipes and a selection of flavoured tobacco. Oh yeah, and a coffee machine "that isn't complicated to use".

20061205Depp2 20061205Vince2

More in this Category - Celebrity homes
Mon
04
Dec

Specialising in the very top end of the residential property market is working for Knight Frank, who have just announced a 58% jump in profits, having sold 350 houses for more than £2 million each last financial year. The top end of the market, fueled by foreign money and City bonuses, continues to outperform the rest of the market, lining the coffers of up-market agents like Knight Frank and Savills (which reported a 27% rise in pre-tax profits early this year). The Knight Frank news will make some people very happy. A bonus pool of £31.7 million was shared amongst staff, with 32 partners doing particularly well, receiving an average amount of £752,000, while the highest paid partner won over £1 million. I wonder if he spent it on prime central London property... through Knight Frank, of course. More here.

More in this Category - Estate agents

Of course, Rat and Mouse readers know that American celebs come, American celebs talk a bunch of guff about the real London, American celebs get sick of the crap weather and angry people and go home again. But the Independent thinks London's on the verge of becoming the must-have property destination for the Hollywood set, with this round-up of residences, including Tom Cruise, Brangelina, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gillian Anderson, Kevin Spacey, Neve Campbell and others.

More in this Category - Celebrity homes

This is a mystery to me. Where's Bob Hoskins' s house anyway? Is it even for sale? According to this, ex-rocker Courtney Love has seen it, likes it, wants it. She apparently fell for London during her recent book tour.

More in this Category - Celebrity homes

Sultan's brother accuses UK property advisers of big rip-off [Independent]
The Richmond effect - off-street parking matters [Observer]
Fractional ownership in Mayfair [Telegraph]
Where else can you buy a flat-packed moosehead online? The Independent's guide to interiors shopping online [Independent]
One shed, quarter of a million pounds [Guardian]
Spacious three-bedroom home, could fall into mineshaft [Daily Mail]
CML: one in ten mortgages taken out by over 50s [Observer]

The Rat and Mouse - so you don't have to

More in this Category - Linkage

According to a disturbing story that appeared here over the weekend, estate agents' listings portal Rightmove has opened its database - which includes photographs and detailed descriptions and floorplans - to HM Revenue & Customs' Valuation Office Agency, giving them access to current and old records until 2008. Why? To enable them to gather information about recent home improvements, and possibly add to your council tax. Does it sound to you like a betrayal of trust? It does to us.

UK tops property tax league table [October 23, 2006]
Pervy councillors to photograph your underwear drawer [November 15, 2005]

More in this Category - _Other
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[with thanks to Lee Mac]

Rat and Mouse gallery 3: homes by hookers [November 22, 2006]

More in this Category - Gallery

How do you fund 8,000 new prison places? One way might be to invite private investment from the hobbyist property sector, and then rent out the prisons to private prison operators. More crime, less crime, we'd be winners either way. More here.

More in this Category - _Other

From Villeroy & Boch, it's like the 1980s all over again.

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[via Trendir]

More in this Category - Design

According to this over at the BBC website, there are plans to turn Bloomsbury back into the cultured, intellectual village it once was, and which some people who haven't visited believe it still is. Traffic will be limited around the British Museum and University College London, a number of squares will be pedestrianised and Tavistock Square will become "London's Peace Garden". (I might be wrong, but I thought TS was already known as "the peace park" - because of the Ghandi statue... although recent events have added a strange and unpleasant irony.)

More in this Category - WC1

 


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