Rat and Mouse
Entries in June 2009
Tue
30
Jun

Some details here.

[via Curbed]

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That's right, since January the Government's £200m initiative has helped a total of six families, up from two in just an entire month. Your domestic economy is safe in their hands. More here.

Tories jump on Mortgage Rescue Scheme failure: load guns, aim into barrel of fish... [June 1, 2009]
New Government housing policy cock-up, news breaking [May 18, 2009]
Mortgage Rescue Scheme - insult to injury, or the other way around? [May 11, 2009]

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That's a headline I never thought I'd type. But, according to the Sun, in a piece that quotes Spencer closely, he'd been employed by Michael Jackson to find a home for the singer and family while he played his forthcoming UK dates. He was close to getting the star to sign... after persuading some wealthy individuals to clear off and vacate their own pukka pads, but - alas - it wasn't to be. Spencer missed out on his fee. Ticket holders miss out on what would have been some historic gigs. We all miss Michael.

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More in this Category - Celebrity homes

It's the Nationwide index's second monthly rise, bringing the average house price up 0.9% and leaving it just 9.3% down on June 2008. At last, the keepers of the index risk a little bullishness.

House prices have risen in three of the last four months, suggesting that the improvement that began to show up in March represents more than just statistical noise.

However, wait - they say - and see what happens when more vendors appear, chucking their properties onto the market to time with what they see as an upturn. The current stabalisation of prices comes at a time of extremely constricted supply. Read the actual release here.

20090630Nationwide

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Mon
29
Jun

Labour MPs Ann and Alan Keen have a main home and an expenses-aided second home less than ten miles apart. They don't seem to have been spending much time in their Brentford main home, however. If they had, they might have noticed the squatters have moved in.

A bed sheet is hanging out of the window of their main home. In big, black writing the banner says: "Reclaiming Your Taxes." Serg, Joe, Andy and Bob are local. They moved in after an angry resident told them the house was empty.

And these must be the most popular squatters in London.

Joe's back now - he has just popped into a neighbour's house to use the internet and download details of Ann Keen's expenses. He is not impressed. Another neighbour knocks on the door with some milk. "Good on you," he shouts.

Exactly. Good on them.

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It's cheap to be a homeowner [Guardian]
London's super-prime on a march [Bloomberg]
Daily Mail miffed at Boveys [Daily Mail]
But the house price crash is over [Daily Mail]
Telegraphed miffed at £147,000 house benefit bill [Telegraph]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog, since 2005

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London’s economy is set to lose millions of pounds as it faces the prospect of a “dark house” at the O2 from the cancellation of Michael Jackson’s 50 shows. The performances were an international tourist attraction, luring ticket-buyers from Dubai and Japan, boosting the hotel and aviation trade.

Recession digression 19 - return of the spud [June 23, 2009]

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Hard to believe? Well that's the figure according to Hometrack. Asking prices are down 8.7% annually, after slowing for three consecutive months, with agreed sales rising, new stock falling.

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More in this Category - House prices
Fri
26
Jun

Before we go... a big thanks to our sponsors for continuing to support the Rat and Mouse. Remember, Primelocation.com isn't just about searching properties listed by 4,000 leading estate agents, the website's a mine of useful advice, information and links. An example? Go here to search up-to-date real life completion prices for UK property. Snoop on your neighbours. Do the maths before making an offer. It's useful, it's free... you need to register, but it's quick and easy. If you've feedback, let us know and we'll pass it on with pleasure.

If you want to know more about advertising opportunities on the Rat and Mouse, drop me a line. Or if you just want to chat with the Rat, we're on Twitter here, or email us tips here.

That's all the housekeeping for now. Be yourself this weekend.

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Angry in Lambeth [Your Local Guardian]
Hot in Acton [Time Out]

The Rat and Mouse - chat with the Rat on Twitter

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A survey by Spicerhaart, the country’s biggest independent estate agency firm, in the following five weeks found a HIP was only available and completed in 48 per cent of cases.

According to the survey, local councils are failing to enforce the HIPs law, because it simply doesn't make financial sense. The Tories - we're reminded by the Daily Mail, while scrap HIPs.

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A man visits a local repo and finds the fruit ripe for picking.

It turns out that our national real estate bubble has a fruit filled silver lining. I imagine that all across America there are abandoned fruit trees yielding their bounty for a new generation of gleaners.

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20090626Dilbert

[Dilbert]

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The May report shows house prices falling 0.2%, leaving the annual rate of decline at 15.9%, a light steadying on the 16.2% annual drop showed in April and March. Four English regions (including the south east) showed slight gains on the month, however transactions over the first quarter were still less than half where they'd been the year before... begging the question whether that upturn in enquiries reported by many agents in the new year has been translating into sales. Watch this space.

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More in this Category - House prices

That's handy... an iPhone app that lets you phone home, chat with the tub and instruct it to fill itself to a certain temperature. Of course, not any old tub is capable of picking up the phone, this Tomorrow's World development comes courtesy of the Bath-o-Matic, putting the science into your appliance.

20090626Bathomatic

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20090626Willow Road1

From £4.25m to £2.95m in less than a year, this architect-converted Victorian Hampstead Village house (with garage and self-contained flat) is flailing around trying to find its value. In the current market - not as slow as it has been, but slow none-the-less, and deeply paranoid about claims it still has further to drop - unusual properties have extra work to do to prove their position in the market. But there's no denying the appeal of this home... one that - in different times - wouldn't have stayed around for long. Five bedrooms, three reception rooms, a south facing garden, a sunny glass extension and a village location... particulars here.

20090626Willow Road2

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More in this Category - For sale
Thu
25
Jun

... another big crash prediction from MoneyWeek.

House prices could fall another 40% from here.

The argument is both compelling and an old-chestnut. It's about affordability.

Today, the ratio, based on an assumed average household income of £31,200 and an average HBOS house price of £160,869 is still a very high 5.16 times. To give you an idea of just how high that is, it's still above the 1989 peak ratio of 5.02 times.

Remember, though, that homeownership is a relatively recent trend... comparatively rare until the post-war period. There's no reason to assume our current view of affordability - taken by averaging this limited data - will prove to be the long-term one. It's a good read, though, and recommended.

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More in this Category - House prices
Owning a house is not a prerequisite for economic maturity: many Germans never buy a property. And the idea that an Englishman's home is his castle has everything to do with his legal rights and nothing to do with owning the blasted place.

Edmund Conway has an entertaining rant in the Telegraph about the unsustainability of the British home-buying culture. The conclusions? 1) The Bank of England should control maximum loan-to-value ratios when it comes to mortgage lending. (But wouldn't that place more power into the hands of the cash-rich landlord class?) 2) Harsher home taxation, either in the form of a land tax, or by imposing capital gains tax to first homes. (What's the difference between Council Tax and a land tax? When would CG be payable? How wouldn't it stop people moving... and so damage the economy?) 3) Remove the stigma associated with renting. (Absolutely.)

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More in this Category - House prices

Here's a strange one... 1980s right-to-buy legislation including a covenant excluding selling a property on to anybody who doesn't have ties to the region... in this case, Dorset.

Mr Collins said: "That creates an exceedingly restricted market for us in a time when the housing market is already at one of [its] lowest points. "There is no date by which we can sell it outside the covenant. "This property could be on the market for 40 years and we would still only be able to sell it to Dorset people."

There's been chatter, in recent years, of similar covenants returning, in a bid to stop second home buyers pricing locals out of rural beauty spots. While this former council property languishes on the market, its value diminishing, I'm sure the Collins's will be keen to tell all just what good such a covenant does for the local community.

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Wed
24
Jun

Madonna plans Wiltshire mansion duplicate in NY... yeah, that'll work [The London News]
The PM's Top Ten Financial Blunders [Times]
Up-and-coming... Dalston [Independent]
Thank God, it's business as usual in Prime London [Forbes]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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HM Revenue and Customs report a 7% rise in the number of residential properties sold in May, bringing the monthly total to its highest since October. This follows yesterday's report by the British Bankers' Association, claiming a steady six-month rise in mortgage approvals.

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A little-known regional index (no, not house prices) was published by the Communities and Local Government Department a couple of days ago. It's the happiness index... how happy are you living where you do. The City came out tops, with a 92.4% swellness rating, narrowly beating Richmond upon Thames into second place. Richmond - clearly taking this kind of crap far too seriously - has fought back... calling the City "statistically insignificant" because of its sub-10,000 population, and proclaiming itself the swellest place in the country. Incidentally, the least swell place in the country was also in London... sorry, Barking and Dagenham (56.6%).

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More in this Category - EC1
Tue
23
Jun

20090623Ennishouse2

The apparently recession-proof Luxist blog points out that Frank Lloyd Wright's 1924 Ennis House - a cult LA building - is currently for sale. Until now, it's been owned by a non-profit foundation... it apparently needs a wealthier steward. The Ennis House is a proper classic... an early concrete masterpiece studied by architects and loved by anyone who loves 20th Century design.

You may have seen this one in the movies including "House on Haunted Hill," "Grand Canyon" and "Blade Runner." The home is not exactly in move in condition. The LA Times article states that the new owner is also facing a projected repair bill of $5 million to $7 million. But whoever does take on the project will be getting an incredible one-of-kind home that is a California State Landmark.

Official website, here. Price tag, $15m.

20090623Ennishouse

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One in five threatened by negative equity [ITN News]
Buy the Stig's house... maybe [Daily Mail]
Victorian Society v Lewisham Borough Council [Culture 24]
Bargain hunting or profiteering? [UPAD blog]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog, since 2005

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By contrast, more affordable root crops such as carrots and turnips have enjoyed a surge of 8.8per cent in value and 5.8per cent in volume with the sector now worth £702 million. Potato volumes are also up by 2.1per cent.

Recession digression 18 - Brit banker auctions his entire life [June 18, 2009]
Recession digression 17 - shrinking confectionary [June 3, 2009]

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More in this Category - Recession digression
Mon
22
Jun

Don't be offended if every day isn't Valentine's Day between you and your lender. You're in good company. According to an interesting piece in the Daily Mail, some lenders are paying borrowers as much as £25,000 to get rid of them.

The offer is being made by some of Britain's biggest mortgage firms who are willing to take a hit of as much as £25,000 to get the loans off their balance sheets to see them through the credit crunch.

Ah yes... paid to be somebody else's customer... the sign of a healthy mortgage sector. You're most likely to be made the offer if you're in negative equity (obviously); in which case... jump at it.

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Incoming celebrity alert - Pixie Lott [ContactMusic]
Beckhams to sell French property [LittleAbout]
And house-hunt in London [Sun]
Andy Murray buys Surrey mansion... no tennis court [PropertyTalkLive]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog since 2005

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Rightmove's June snapshot of asking prices shows a drop of 0.4%, with accompanying comment blaming an unhelpful mortgage market for failing to support a property recovery. There's also evidence of a very polarised market, driven by the equity rich, hunting well-located homes that are short in supply, at one end, properties requiring a lot of work at the other. There's evidence of some regional polarisation, too, with prices in the north west (England) rising by 4.5%.

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More in this Category - House prices
Fri
19
Jun

Could be:

Developers working on major building schemes routinely run their plans past the Prince of Wales rather than risk facing private interventions later on, it has been reported.

This is a scandal.

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Property prices will rise by an average of 1.4% over the next year according to respondents to the BSA's Property Tracker survey, as cautious optimism returns to the housing market.

Hmm. A lot has happened since March, clearly, when the same people forecast a 6.1% fall. Accompanying comment correctly pinpoints job security as the most likely issue to pop this bubble.

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A terrific piece in Citywire... about how purchasers of £500,000 plus properties can avoid paying Stamp Duty. There are a number of systems, but what they share is a nominal "middle man"... a company that pays "85% of the purchase price", leases the property to the buyer with an option to transfer the freehold. Because, technically, the property hasn't actually changed hands, no Stamp Duty is payable. It's complex, involves lawyers who'll take up to 50% of the duty saved, but it's real and according to Citywire, it's happening.

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Nestoria's Ed Freyfogle chats to Renthusiast on third b'day (Nestoria's, not Freyfogle's, or Renthusiast's) [Renthusiast]
Disappointing lending figures [BBC]
Yorkshire Tea box cottage for sale [Telegraph]
Exclusion in the housing market [Times]
Job done on London architecture, Prince turns to rural house prices [Google]
Loving garages [Daily Mail]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog since 2005

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Thu
18
Jun

Call to house MPs in 2012 Olympic "barracks" [Times]
PropertyHawk calls for register of tenants [PropertyHawk]
Your guide to Blackheath [Primelocation blog]
NAEA: four buyers to every vendor [Wall Street Journal]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog, since 2005

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20090617Millionaire

Home, Aston Martin, boat... it could be yours. The man's divorced, and wants to sever all ties with his former self. APPARENTLY.

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Manhattan's East 5th Street residents, caught up in an ongoing feud with Cooper Square Hotel (a trendy white media palace encroaching on the vanishing NY keep-it-real grit of the 5th Street tenements), have decided to air their dirty washing.... hanging soiled pants on a washing line mere inches from the noses of the hotel's residents. According to experts, the brown stains "were not authentic", but message was clear.

[via Curbed]

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This one almost sneaked by... on Monday, the Office of Fair Trading launched an online register of disgraced estate agents and agencies.

The register, which can be browsed alphabetically or by date, provides a crucial tool allowing consumers to search whether the OFT has taken action against estate agents. It also provides information that can be used in order to report to the OFT suspected breaches by an estate agent of an existing warning or prohibition order.

Actually, it makes for pretty grim reading... page upon page of "offences involving fraud and other dishonesty within the meaning of section 3(1)(a)(i) of the Estate Agents Act 1979 (the Act)"; one agent was even - grab your braces - "convicted on 22 March 1989 at Norwich Crown Court of Murder, this being an offence involving violence within the meaning of section 3(1) (a) (i) of the Estate Agents Act 1979 (the Act)". That's taking your job a bit seriously, isn't it?

It's compulsive reading, and it's yours, here. But rememer, do sleep well and don't have nightmares, the number of agents scarlet lettered by OFT is small in the context of the number working on a single high street near you. I think that's comforting.

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Wed
17
Jun

A road in Herne Hill becomes famous today... seven properties sold in seven weeks. Meet a vendor and a buyer.

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Adam Posen, who will become a Bank of England policy maker in September, said he is planning to buy a home in the U.K. when he relocates to start his new job.

He'll be replacing the righteous David Blanchflower.

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The Architects’ Journal selects the most important buildings from a galaxy far, far away.

The Second Death Star wins, Jabba the Hutt's palace, Tatooine, a close second. Must have been a quiet day at the office.

[via Curbed]

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Tue
16
Jun

First off, a celebrity price-drop: Dawn French and Lenny Henry's Berkshire house sheds £650,000 from its £3m price-tag, after failing to sell in almost a year. Particulars, here. Meanwhile, not too many tears shed, I'm betting, at news that Cristiano Ronaldo is likely to take a financial kicking when he sells his Cheshire mansion to move to Madrid. Could lose as much as £600,000, apparently. He's unlikely to notice. The most bizarre sleb property story of the day, however, must be this:

Kate Moss' home could be dubbed as a smoker's paradise after the supermodel was reported to have up to 200 cigarettes on display at all time.

Mmm, a pack of Marlboro Lights on every coffee table... classy.

The 35-year-old further reportedly had a special tennis ball with holes for cigarettes to stick out from to oblige visitors looking for a smoke.

What?!

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A big thanks to our sponsors for continuing to support the Rat and Mouse. Remember, Primelocation.com isn't just about searching properties listed by 4,000 leading estate agents, the website's a mine of useful advice, information and links.

For instance: this - on the winner of Channel 4's I Own Britain's Best Home - or, more to the point, I Used To Own Britain's Best Home, because, as Primelocation has discovered, the Norfolk eco-mansion is for sale.

If you want to know more about advertising opportunities on the Rat and Mouse, drop me a line. Or if you just want to chat with the Rat, we're on Twitter here, or email us tips here.

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How will the reserved British public take to Silkstream, Colindale's apartment development aimed at sociable first-time buyers? The flats are reasonably priced... £175,000 for a one-bedroom start home (plus a deferred equity/interest-free loan scheme to get residents in quicker), but it's the development's layout that's most interesting... an outdoor gym, and amenity areas on every floor, including table football, a sewing room, ironing areas (below), message areas with chalkboards aimed at getting the community to, well, commune. We like it. But will it feel a bit too college campus for homebuyers?

20090616Ironing

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Today, Richard Rogers demands a public enquiry into the constitutional issues surrounding Prince Charles' scuppering of his Chelsea Barracks plans. For those who don't know... the site of Kensington's old Chelsea Barracks has been a development battle ground for a number of years - with skirmishes over a listed chapel, finances coming and going as the economic crisis hit. Things have recently looked more positive... a Richard Rogers design, funding by the Qatari royals... until Prince Charles apparently used his influence to persuade his Qatari pals to remove their support for the Rogers plans. Prince Charles famously despises modern architecture; and this is the third time he's intervened in a project by Rogers (Paternoster Square; Royal Opera House). We can forgive Rogers for feeling sore, and we should lend our support in his campaign to stop this unconstitutional architectural bullying. Unless, of course, we want London to look like Trumpton.

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More in this Category - Design
Mon
15
Jun

Turn up to a viewing at an expensive house in your best togs, boasting about your homes in Jamaica and Barbados, make a cash offer, ask if you can rent in the period up until completion because you've sold your previous property, and then move in claiming squatters' rights. Hmmm, crafty. But who could pull that off?

A couple in their 60s called Richard and Hazel Jerome, apparently.

The elaborate scam left their victims - including a top criminal barrister - unable to sell their homes until the couple had been evicted following lengthy court proceedings. One victim, Janet Jarvis, of Milton Keynes, Beds., and another of Mrs Jerome's former colleagues at a primary school where they both worked, died of cancer before the trial took place.

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Upmarket estate agent Winkworth is planning to list in London, possibly this autumn, despite the ongoing turmoil in the housing market.

They'll be looking to float on AIM.

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A prime, Mayfair freehold at 14 Charles Street (plus 12A Hays Mews) goes under the hammer on July 22 in what's described as "a residential receivership sale". Unusual? Yes, for the quality of the property, which has a guide price of £22m. The property's over six floors, with a lift, an underground (under the garden) swimming pool, linking the house to the mews. The house itself has been completely refurbished, the mews is yet to be worked on... but there's planning consent for a mixed office/residential use building. We can't find a listing yet, but when we do, we'll post it. Hamptons and Sothebys are dealing with the auction.

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Sienna Miller's painful price-drop [ContactMusic]
Prince Charles' blow against creative architecture [Guardian]
Buy-to-let and the cannabis farmer tenants [Guardian]
House prices and the north/south divide [Times]
London flats on a (£175,000) shoestring [Telegraph]
Vendors feel they have the whip hand [Times]
The best ftb mortgages [Citywire]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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Fri
12
Jun

20090612Architect Glasses

A quick reminder... Architect In the House 2009, the scheme that gives you expert architectural advice in return for a £40 donation to Shelter, is open to registration. Each year, the Rat and Mouse bangs on about what a great idea it is... but now you can see for yourself. There are a few examples on the AITH website, here, and check out this interesting piece over at FindaProperty.

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After a period of shrinkage, spring is bringing increasing numbers of estate agents to London and the south east, according to EstateAgentToday.

London agents known to be recruiting include Marsh & Parsons, whilst software firm ExpertAgent recently reported a rise in the number of users per branch.

It's always nice, watching the young fledglings learning to tie their big tie knots, steering their Minis into the big bad property world for the first time...

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To 1.1m homes, according to the Bank of England, and between 7% and 11% of UK homeowners. The Bank's research is based on a 20% fall from the peak of the market, leaving average prices at mid-1990s levels... so if you took out a proportionately large mortgage in the years since then, it might mean you. More here.

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More in this Category - House prices
Thu
11
Jun

Millionaire landlords now worth nothing [PropertyHawk]
More on that murder (see below) story... now add a hooker [Independent]
KFH report on the London property buzz [FT Advisor]
How to buy an island [Telegraph]
Decline easing, says Chesterton Poll of Polls [FindaProperty]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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Council of Mortgage Lenders figures show a 16% increase in lending for new homes in April, bringing the figure to its highest since October (although still 28% lower than this time 2008). Interestingly, affordability among first-time buyers also continues to improve. The average ftb loan is now 2.96 times income... but includes a hefty 25% deposit.

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"I got a call from a property finder asking if I'd meet one of his clients at the Lanesborough hotel to discuss my house. I had a riding lesson that afternoon, so I tipped up at the hotel at 7.30pm wearing my jodhpurs, and was taken to the seventh floor where, unbeknown to me, Nicole Kidman was waiting."

I don't know about you, but I bloody hate it when that happens. Six years ago, it was Jennifer Aniston demanding a look inside my Hammersmith terrace house... and I was still in my clown outfit. Before that, imagine the look on Teri Hatcher's face when she wanted to talk Putney apartment, and got a glimpse of my Richard Nixon mask.

Anyway, the Telegraph's interviewee learnt the hard way that you can't deal with the stars. Unlike Aniston and Hatcher, Kidman didn't call security, but she did strike a deal and then walk away from it when she got pregnant. Apparently. So, the (seriously special) £12m Belgravia mews house, which might have belonged to Kidman, is for sale. For details, go here, and follow the links to 12 Grosvenor Crescent Mews.

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More in this Category - Celebrity homes
Wed
10
Jun

20090610Macpherson1

It hit the market last summer at £9.5m. Now the six-bedroom, five-bathroom, Ladbroke Gardens Grade II-listed townhouse is with a new agent, and marketed at £7.5m. A 20%-ish drop since the top of the market... sounds about right. All-important particulars, here.

20090610Macpherson2

If these walls could talk... London gangster edition [May 22, 2009]
If these walls could talk... Beckham house redux [April 28, 2009]

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Remember the case of Thanos Papalexis, the property tycoon accused of arranging the murder of an unwanted tenant getting in the way of a property deal? The trial's just started.

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Mortgaged-up landlords seemed to be getting away with it during the first months of the crash... with repo-figures looking modest compared to domestic properties. Not any more. The latest Council of Mortgage Lenders figures show 1,700 buy-to-let properties repossessed in the first quarter of 2009. But factor in instances where the lender opts for appointing a receiver and continuing to collect rent and the figure leaps to 4,100. Part of the story is about a trend... lenders opting to hold onto and rent out properties rather than simply repossess them and chuck them onto the market at diminishing returns. Very sensible. The other part of the story is about the market finally catching up with landlords. Using the figures that include the appointment of a receiver of rent, and three times as many landlords were repossessed than private owners across the period.

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Developer in hot water for bulldozing historic Wanstead building [This Is London]
Glenda Jackson: Social housing policy can beat the Fascists [Independent]
Tweetlister: tweets your property [Tweetlister]
Footballers who lose on property [Realestateweb]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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Tue
09
Jun

The Department of Communities and Local Government house prices figures come out late, but represent completion figures, so they mean something. And they're showing a 1.1% monthly rise in April, bringing the annual rate of house price decline down 0.6% to 13%. Following the RICS figures, the recent Nationwide survey and reports by agents of increased enquiry levels, there's little doubt there's been some kind of bump in market activity in recent months. However, during most market downturns there are occasional months that buck the trend. Furthermore lending's still too tight to mention, and a shortage of supply is helping to prop up prices. If too many potential vendors respond by chucking their homes on the market, all this could change.

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Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors data shows new buyer enquiries growing by their fastest rate since 1999, and up for the seventh consecutive month in May. The number of new vendors, however continues to fall... increasing demand, falling supply, possibly stabilising prices. More here.

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Check out the photographs of fake queues outside a leading Belfast estate agency and marvel at the ingenuity. The fake first-time buyers were placed there by a building firm, to create interest in a new development.

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More in this Category - Estate agents
Mon
08
Jun

Nationwide and the 95% mortgage [Telegraph]
Beware the lazy lettings agent [Scotsman]
Neverland, UK [NME]
Renting in London, a value prospect [Times]
London house price party, you're all invited [Telegraph]
Bricks and mortar, pros and cons [Times]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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Quite frequently, according to Property Portfolio Rescue (one of those cash-for-your-home companies). Here, they claim chains are falling apart left, right and centre, due to offers being withdrawn for no apparent reason at the very last minute. The idea, they argue, that it's becoming easier to get a home loan is illusory.

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A survey by PropertyLive - the National Association of Estate Agents' property portal - suggests one in five will take a viewing simply for a snoop... with neither the intention nor the means to purchase a property. More here.

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Following her interview last week, EstateAgentToday editor Rosalind Renshaw has another crack at the estate agent joke business.

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Fri
05
Jun

Before we go... a big thanks to our sponsors for continuing to support the Rat and Mouse. Remember, Primelocation.com isn't just about searching properties listed by 4,000 leading estate agents, the website's a mine of useful advice, information and links. An example? Go here to search up-to-date real life completion prices for UK property. Snoop on your neighbours. Do the maths before making an offer. It's useful, it's free... you need to register, but it's quick and easy. If you've feedback, let us know and we'll pass it on with pleasure.

If you want to know more about advertising opportunities on the Rat and Mouse, drop me a line. Or if you just want to chat with the Rat, we're on Twitter here, or email us tips here.

That's all the housekeeping for now. Get out and cut loose this weekend.

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The Rat and Mouse watched Kirstie Allsopp tweet lightheartedly yesterday about being mildly frustrated by having to mind her (normally foul) language when filming for Channel 4. Holy Smokes. Now look.

Kirstie Allsopp S Anger After She S Ordered To Re-Shoot Scenes Where She Said  Christ Almighty  | Mail Online

You've really got to watch that Twitter.

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Two weeks ago, Douglas & Gordon, Battersea, went up in smoke after somebody poured petrol through the letter box and dropped in a match. After consulting with an expert, the Met deduced it might have been a case of arson. Two nights ago, Grey & Co., Wembley, also went up in smoke in another act of arson. Coincidence? Hope so.

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He's Marsh and Parsons MD - Peter Rollings - the latest to take the screen.

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Thu
04
Jun

Five building societies could go within the year [Telegraph]
How to make your home a movie star [Telegraph]
Time to get in a fix? [Mirror]
This man will pay you £100,000 if you can find a buyer for his £2m home [BBC]
The HSBC rate matcher mortgage [Telegraph]
London agent shifts home for record £50m [PropertyTalk Live]
Construction industry wants women [BBC]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog, since 2005

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They remain at their current 0.5% all-time low.

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A rise of 2.6% in May, leaving the annual rate of decline at 16.3%. The three month average - a more reliable manner of reading the figures - shows a big cut in the rate of decline, from 6%-ish to 3.1%. Following a host of other positive data releases in recent weeks, the report's bound to be read as a sign of stabilisation in the market. We say, watch unemployment figures closely.

Positive data crunching continues [June 3, 2009]

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20090604Rosalindrenshaw Estate Agent Today... it may sound like the start of Have I Got News For You missing word round, but everybody who reads it - including the entire Rat and Mouse staff, religiously - knows that it's one of the most incisive and interesting property publications anywhere. Which is due, largely, to its experienced and talented editorial director Rosalind Renshaw. We were delighted when she agreed to talk with us.

So, you’re at a party, and somebody asks you what you do for a living. Does your answer tend to result in an anti-agent tirade? How do you deal with this?

Yes, I do often get anti-agent tirades, and not necessarily at parties. A few years ago, a journalist on the Daily Mail, who was at that time covering property, literally turned on his heels when I mounted a defence for agents. It is very difficult to persuade people that there are honest, nice and professional agents out there – and that they’re in the majority.

Could you tell me a bit about the background to EAT? Were you its launch editor?

Yes, I was the launch editor and never has there been such a rapid launch. I attended just one planning meeting where we all agreed we’d go for it – which we duly did about three weeks later – and threw around some ideas. It was partly driven by the fact that two weeks or even a month was too long to deliver news, and partly by the feeling that suppliers o the industry, struggling in the recession, might perhaps be interested in a fresh and much more cost-effective environment.Other than Rat and Mouse, which is largely London-oriented, there was not at that time a purely online national news service for estate agents. Yet the print magazines were clearly having a hard time, with advertising revenues plunging and production costs remaining high. Having experienced the recession of the early nineties, when I was working as a property editor and saw four of my five titles fold within the same week, I knew that traditional trade print mag
azines, which are wholly reliant on advertising revenue, were in for a prolonged and very savage ride. The launch was very exciting, as it rapidly became clear we had a winner. We made all the mistakes we would have made in a soft launch in public. We also played around with frequency, trying it daily, once a week and twice a week, before settling into a three-day week format (although the website can be accessed daily, and there is usually something new on it).

And this was after a long period at The Negotiator? What encouraged you to make the move?

The credit crunch and the desire to break new ground.

Who owns EAT? How does it make money?

EAT is owned by a tiny publishing group called Angels who are young and entrepreneurial, and busy bringing out other ‘Today’ titles. The idea is that they make (or at least, will make) money by offering a range of online marketing and advertising solutions. We don’t ever plan to charge subscriptions and we will always keep the editorial side of the site totally independent from advertising.

How many people write for the website?

I have as many staff as I did when I was at The Negotiator – me!

The rest of the interview, including Rosalind's favourite estate agency joke, here.

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Wed
03
Jun

20090603Kingsroad

Down from £700,000 to £500,000 since it hit the market in March... a modern and refurbished first-floor studio on the King's Road. Particulars, here.

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Five per cent of Bradford & Bingley's mortgagees are in arrears. The bank's chairman has pointed the finger at buy--to-let landlords - traditionally served by the nationalised bank - for the worsening situation, which he expects will escalate through 2009

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The maker of Mars and Snickers has shrunk the size of the bestselling chocolate bars in what amounts to an under the counter price rise. While the bars have been reduced by 7.2 per cent from 62.5g to 58g, their prices have remained the same.

Mars UK claimed the decision was a gesture toward the battle against obesity.

Recession digression 16 - free Viagra for the unemployed [May 15, 2009]
Recession digression 15 - austerity pants [April 28, 2009]

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In six of the ten areas of England and Wales average house prices during April increased, with London prices climbing by about £4,200 during the month to £302,411.

That's according to this week's Land Registry data, based on actual completions. Furthermore:

The Knight Frank Prime Central London Index recorded positive growth for £1m+ house prices for the second month running in May.

Remember, though, how dramatically this index has fallen, down 22.3% from its peak. Mayfair, however, led May's charge, with a monthly increase of 2.9%. The sub-£1m sector has led the "recovery", the more expensive the properties, the less well they've been faring.

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Tue
02
Jun

Another day, another drip of positive data. Mortgage approvals are at a 12-month high, after April showed a third consecutive monthly rise, according to the Bank of England. April showed an 8% rise on March, 27% up on the six month average.

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The BBC is reporting that Jacqui Smith is about to announce her resignation (as Home Secretary)... the highest profile casualty of the expenses scandal.

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Isn't this one of the perks of being an estate agent? You've taken your exciting new girlfriend out to dinner, and just got the cheque (okay, in the current climate, you've split it), or you've been out on the razz with a few mates and the pub's kicked you out... where now? Back to your own flat? Or off to an expensive, nicely "staged" for selling, party pad, the owners abroad, the keys in your pocket? Hmmm. Joseph Young, of Vickery and Co estate agents (apparently, he had already handed in his notice), chose to party.

Once inside, the trainee estate agent and friend Bradley Conway, 23, ripped out door frames and smashed chairs, statues and picture frames. They poured Tipp-Ex fluid over duvets and damaged a vintage car in the garage.

You can appreciate why he didn't want to bring his mates home. They went on to "borrow" the vendor's car, which they smashed into a tree, writing it off. The agency did - however - manage to sell the house two months later. Result.

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Before you get carried away with all the sunshine and birdsong and rumours of a house price recovery... here's the Land Registry, with its monthly glance at actual, factual completions. April showed a fall, of 0.3%, leaving the annual rate of decline at 16.2%, exactly the same as where it stood a month ago. Yes... that's possibly part of a decline in the rate of fall, but it's neither recovery, nor cigar.

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Mon
01
Jun

Hah, so what now pesky profits of gloom? [Times]
Hello gazumping [Express]
House prices, consumer confidence, car sales, everything's up! [Reuters]
House prices rises boost builders in London [Irish Times]
Green shoots and sunshine [Express]
Pound leads UK out of recession [Bloomberg]
Shafts of light in housing market [Independent on Sunday]
Builders work around wagtail... aaaah! [BBC]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog, since 2005

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Cost of initiative: £285m. Number of families helped: 2.

“Ministers promised (the Mortgage Rescue Scheme) would offer ‘real help now’ to homeowners living with the threat of repossession. Gordon Brown should now try telling that to the thousands of families being frozen out of this scheme and losing their homes as a result.”

New Government housing policy cock-up, news breaking [May 18, 2009]
Mortgage Rescue Scheme - insult to injury, or the other way around? [May 11, 2009]
Householder helped by mortgage rescue scheme, electorate lick Govt's face [May 1, 2009]

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Days after the Nationwide index's modest rise, Hometrack's stops declining for the first time in 20 months, showing zero change for May. On the year, prices are down 9.6%. Also like the Nationwide's report, the accompanying commentary isn't as positive as the raw data, and warns against ruling out further falls. All eyes in the Rat and Mouse office - from here on in - on employment data.

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