Rat and Mouse
Entries in January 2011
Mon
31
Jan

... who continue their bid for world property search domination. Today, they're in India (in addition to Australia, Brazil, the UK, Germany, Spain, France and Italy).

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More in this Category - Property online

According to Land Registry data - as decent a way of measuring real house price movements as any - property prices ended the year 1.5% up, having fallen for the seventh successive month in December by 0.2%. As I said, the LR data's good, but it's only as good as national data covering low volume across a regionally variable market can be. So, in London, prices were up 6.2% across the year, while in the north east they dropped 3.3%. For the purposes of the 2010 predictions, we're interested in a national average. Here's what the predictions looked like:

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So it's with some pride and a little embarrassment that the Rat and Mouse announces this year's winner is... the Rat and Mouse. We pretty much nailed it, with Zoopla a close second. The drinks are on you.

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More in this Category - House prices

Jacqui Smith to profit from hilarious taxpayer-supplied porn debacle, with BBC presenting job [Telegraph]
Camden Council asks bonus bankers to chip on [Daily Mail]
Affordability... why having kids can limit your mortgage [Sunday Telegraph]
The negative equity mortgage [Sunday Express]
The rise of the prefab [BBC]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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More in this Category - Linkage
Fri
28
Jan

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Remember Christopher Farrell? Of course you can't... thirty-three seconds after the series has ended it's impossible to even remember who won. Farrell's this guy - the one who pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud. It's sentence time... nine-months (woo-hoo!) suspended for two years (doh!), plus 200 hours of community service (who cares?). Oh yeah, before you accuse me of being vindictive:

He admitted the two charges in September 2009 - before filming The Apprentice - after police found an extendable baton and a knuckleduster in his Mercedes.

And:

He tried to blame his colleagues for forging documents, but quickly admitted his guilt before magistrates in Plymouth.

Attractive.

 

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It's in Victoria, and if you've ever dropped your kids off at a trendy London nursery it'll be familiar... primary colours, big shapes, pee-soaked shorts... okay not the last one. The work was by Scott Brownrigg. They've got some great photos up over at Co.Design.

[via Curbed]

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Two bars and a karaoke machine... at home with Kate Moss [iol]
The financial magic that's the extension [Independent]
Moving house... hassle reduced [Independent]
Shout at your wife and you might end up homeless... it's the Daily Mail gone mad [Daily Mail]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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More in this Category - Linkage
Thu
27
Jan

We asked Ed Freyfogle, founder of innovative and fast-growing independent property search engine Nestoria, what he makes of Google's swift exit.

I give Google lots of credit for admitting it wasn't working. For us, this is yet another validaiton that the free to list model is exceptionally difficult (see also Globrix, who had all the backing of News Corp). The free model means you'll be spammed, get expired and fake listings, which are bad for users. And because you're not earning any money, it's hard to justify investing in the service.

I believe Google made things worst with the way they entered the market in Australia. First, they had no detail pages, then they suddenly added them. So it was unclear what the service was. A search engine? Or a portal? Likewise there was the typical Google lack of clarity on how deduplication would work. In short, it could have been executed better.

Nevertheless, I'm not sure portals should crack out the champagne just yet. Google will not give up on local services. They're investing in that space like crazy. More importantly, they will continue to target estate agent marketing budgets with Adwords. Increasingly there is a tension between portals (especially market leaders who push prices higher year after year) and estate agents who have over the last years invested in their own online presence. These agents want the user to visit their site, not the portal. Adwords is one tool these agents can use, Although we're also seeing several new players enter the market to address this discrepancy, Adwords is one tool these agents can use.

Visit the Nestoria blog here. Follow Ed on Twitter here.

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More in this Category - Property online

It's an interesting and unexpected development. After launching the property search facility as part of its maps offering in America in the summer of 2009 (and then expanding it to Australia, New Zealand, Japan and, of course, the UK), Google announced yesterday that it was throwing in the towel. This, from the Earth and Maps team blog:

In part due to low usage, the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites, and the infrastructure challenge posed by the impending retirement of the Google Base API (used by listing providers to submit listings), we’ve decided to discontinue the real estate feature within Google Maps on February 10, 2011.

When Google announced it's move into the property space, the fear - among UK property search business and portals - was tangible. What the search giant had given them (the mapping API so many of the business relied on), it could take away and use itself, along with the years-worth of innovation by both smaller startups and property portal giants. Its power, too, as the web's most significant controller of online advertising posed a threat to established businesses. So why the abrupt change of direction? Perhaps they've realised that providing a decent service is as much about property as it is about search, and that's an area in which they're just not that interested. Google's official statement seems to both point to conservative users reluctant to shift from brand name portals, and admit the web's master-innovator has been out-innovated by existing property search tools.

Google: are maps best for property search? [July 21, 2010]
Google Property just launched [June 16, 2010]

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More in this Category - Property online

The seventh consecutive monthly fall - according to housing data trackers Hometrack - taking the value of the average property down 0.5% in January, and 2.2% down on the year. The survey takes into account data from more than 5,000 agents, and also measures demand, which they say is down a dramatic 26% over the last six months, and 9.5% in January alone. Dodgy economic data, the fear of unemployment, the effects of inflation, concerns about rising interest rates... they're putting people off property.

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More in this Category - House prices
Wed
26
Jan

According to a survey by The Association of British Insurers the proportion of respondents choosing property over other investments as the best long-term investment dropped from 49% (end of September) to just 34%... the lowest level since the quarterly survey was launched in 2008. Before you get too excited (by an Association of British Insurers survey), property still remains the favoured investment by a long way, followed by savings accounts (18%, up from 11%) and equities (14%, up from 9%).

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On giant mortgages [Citywire]
Is it buy-to-let time? [Daily Mail]
Dodgy insider-job housing officer spared jail [Evening Standard]
Localism Bill... transit camps [Guardian]
Tory peer in expenses fraud could face jail [Independent]

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

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Tue
25
Jan

Sounds like a record-breaker. Six solicitors charged with falsely obtaining £50m of loans on £6m of property. How? They sold the properties to each other to push the prices up. They also had a friendly surveyor on the case. The money apparently disappeared abroad. All six deny obtaining money transfers by deception.

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HomeVestors (slogan "We buy ugly houses") is a major American homebuying business speclalising in the arse-ugly end of the business. (They buy properties with investment potential that nobody else will touch.) And they've announced their Ugliest Homes 2010... six blue ribbon properties with serious problems. Our favourite? This concrete bunker in Tucson. Coincidentally, here's a report just published by CNN about Homevestors and "Frankenhouses".

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Mon
24
Jan

The Rolfe Judd designs were given the go-ahead back at the start of 2009, and now everything's in place for 139,000 sq feet of office space with 23 apartments on top, replacing the old House of Fraser headquarters in Victoria. Estimated completion: autumn 2012. More here. And here.

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More in this Category - SW1

Blackpool star bankrupt after property scam [Sun]
Church-goers asked to pay for £820,000 house for cleric [Telegraph]
Kate Moss on the move [Daily Mail]
MPC's Adam Posen concerned over lack of lending [Telegraph]
Buying a home together bigger commitment than marriage [This Is Money]

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

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More in this Category - Linkage
Fri
21
Jan

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Nice to end the week on a high... so a big thanks to Simply Business for including the Rat and Mouse in its list of (deep breath) Simply Business Landlord & Property Website Award winners. It's a good list, with some very absorbing websites (if you're into the property thing), so I wholeheartedly urge you to go and check them out. Thanks again, Simply Business.

A bit of housekeeping... to those of you who've emailed, I'm aware there are comments waiting to be approved. I've spent much of the week working out of a hotel and in and out of meetings and I've managed to get a bit behind. The Rat and Mouse is unfortunately the target of entire supermarket shelves of comment spam, much of which - but not all - is filtered out. The problem is that the good comments are often filtered, too, so I have to dig through an awful lot of pill ads before I get to them. My project for the weekend.

Speaking of which. Have a mighty mighty one.

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One Hyde Park, some photos [Prime blog]
Rents begin to fall [Guardian]
Market paralysed as lending falls [Evening Standard]
Cashing in on your home without selling it [Independent]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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It comes from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and calls for a complete abolition to reduce barriers to entry, with the revenue replaced by a Council Tax-style annual charge based on the value of the property. The argument is it would get the market moving. We don't expect older homeowners, property-rich but struggling with increased cost-of-living, to be too keen. More here.

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Thu
20
Jan

According to data from the National Housing Federation's Home Truths survey:

The five most expensive (the first figure's the average price, the second's the average property price as a multiple of the average salary):

  1. Kensington & Chelsea £1,036,158 and 24.6
  2. Westminster £736,691 and 21.0
  3. Camden £601,094 and 18.7
  4. Hammersmith & Fulham £553,381 and 18.3
  5. Richmond-upon-Thames £509,330 and 15.7

And the five least expensive:

  1. Barking & Dagenham £167,053 and 7.2
  2. Bexley £209,495 and 8.3
  3. Waltham Forest £220,300 and 8.9
  4. Havering £224,545 and 8.9
  5. Croydon £234,332 and 9.1

The boroughs are positioned roughly where you'd expect. Interesting, though, that even the bargain boroughs have average house prices seven times the average salary and above.

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They like their guns in Wandsworth [This is Local London]
On the market for $28m; former owners: Elvis Presley, Zsa Zsa Gabor [Telegraph]
London property market shouldn't rely on City bonuses [Property Talk Live]
2011: it's all about lending [Property Showrooms]
Don't trust your tenants [Landlord-Law blog]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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And the Evening Standard celebrates by charting the history of the project, marveling at the luxury living buyers can expect, worrying about the congestion on its doorstep and providing a potted history of the Candy brothers' business, all of which is interesting and worth a read. Whether they were one of the 300 odd guests invited to the Heston Blumethal-catered launch isn't clear. A roving Rat and Mouse reporter did, however, manage to gain access way back in April 2010. Read that here.

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More in this Category - SW1
Wed
19
Jan

An interesting new site using data from property search engine Nestoria. It gives you graphs showing average prices, rents, yields and their movements, plus available properties, compared to the average and given thumbs up and down depending on asking price and perceived value. Obviously, it's something of a blunt instrument in terms of individual asking prices, but as a tool for quickly discovering micro-geographical price trends in different parts of London it's useful. Go here.

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A website where you can rate and review UK cities, towns, villages and suburbs, and where you can promote or talk about, well, just about anything related to your place.

It's in beta, it's not being promoted, but it could turn out to be a potentially interesting adjunct to the UK's biggest property portal. In some ways, it looks like a kind of Facebook for places, with locations getting their own noticeboards, walls. A fun feature... a house price game (a kind of The Price Is Right) for each location, in which you can vote higher or lower in competition with Miles Shipside. They're relying on you, though, because this type of web property is only ever as interesting as the content provided by its users.

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Eight years in Spanish prison for Brit developers [Daily Mail]
Bike stand or allotment? Which is best? [Ham & High]
RICS members less bearish... blame the snow [BBC]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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Tue
18
Jan

Government figures... but November's. We'll have to wait a month before we can call time on the 2010 market and see who's prediction won out. For November, though... a 0.1% fall, leaving the annual rate of inflation at 4%. Over the quarter to November, prices were 0.6% down.

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More in this Category - House prices

The Consumer Prices Index reaches 3.7%, up from 3.3% in November, and the Retail Prices Index hits 4.8% (from 4.7%). Importantly, these figures were formulated before the recent increase in VAT, so expect further significant moves in the coming months. How long can the MPC sit this out before having to look to interest rate rises? So far, notwithstanding longterm hawk Andrew Sentance, there doesn't seem to be much appetite for acting early. But that won't stop borrowers looking hard and longingly at the latest crop of fixed rate mortgages. Think - we say - hard about fees, relative to the size of your loan.

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On assignment for a Canadian publication, they discover a bit of eccentric, shabby  chic by all accounts.

Shabby chic, a magazine term coined originally by World Of Interiors in the 1980s, is a personal style that draws its strength from a composure of individual items assembled for their weathered, travelled or lived in provenance. Less about sharp corners and neatly cultivated lines, the maxim perfectly captures the essence of Treacy’s nest.

"Nest"? Read on... "raised on a poultry farm in Ireland"... "saw the feathers that surrounded him as more than simply plummage"... what the pluck? A chicken theme running right through the heart of his work. Who knew?

More in this Category - Celebrity homes
Mon
17
Jan

They made it into the papers earlier in the month when Latvian squatter Jason Ruddick painted a picture of Eastern European squatter tours... Latvians heading for the amazing city of London where mansions came rent-free. The right wing press loved it. They're in the papers again today, having been moved forcibly from their Highgate "home" by bailiffs, and pictured here cheekily scanning a London property magazine. Apparently, they're moving onto bigger and better things... nearer to The Bishops Avenue. Anyone know where they are now?

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More in this Category - N6

Rightmove records the first monthly rise in asking prices in three months, up 0.3% in January, after 3% and 3.2% falls in December and November. New Year optimism? A little correction after two significant falls? Shortage of supply? Take your pick.

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More in this Category - House prices
Fri
14
Jan

Estate agents at war [Estate Agent Today]
Fix now, laugh later [Citywire]
Welsh council establishes estate agency, undercuts competition [Globrix]
The award-winning sunken mansion that's yet to be built [Manchester Evening News]
Are tenants from hell headed for the private sector? [Estate Agent Today]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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More in this Category - Linkage

Seven days to remove all Let By, Managed By and Sold By signs... that's the message in Tower Hamlets Council's latest missive to estate agents. Over at Estate Agent Today, Jamie Blake of the council is quoted thus:

Tower Hamlets will soon be welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors as part of London 2012, and we want to ensure that the borough looks its best.

So covering it where possible isn't an option?

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More in this Category - E1
Thu
13
Jan

The over-45s hold 83% of the UK’s property wealth; the over-65s, 40%. Skip to the under-35s and the figure is just 5%. And it’s a trend that’s likely to continue.

Our publisher looks at some recent Savills research data and what it means for the property divide in 2011, in his guest column for Citywire.

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Base rates remain at their record low of 0.5%... unchanged since March 2009.

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Famously bearish on house prices, Capital Economics now turns its attention to the London lettings market, predicting an end to rising rents as tenant demand wanes. The pressures facing the property market - unemployment, frozen wages - won't, they argue, result in a booming rental market, but exactly the same difficulties, except they'll be about meeting rents rather than meeting mortgage payments. More here.

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More in this Category - Letting
Wed
12
Jan

An interesting piece, here, by Daniel Hare at the EstateAgencyAcademy blog, about Rightmove's decision to include a Facebook "Like" button on each property page. The idea is that if you, er, like the property, you click the button, and the property begins to accrue "Likes". Interestingly, Rightmove has opted for anonymous "Likes", so you can't see exactly who has expressed enthusiasm for some bricks and mortar. But will it sell houses? Hare draws on the example of a large country house currently marketed by Hamptons, which has garnered 651 "Likes".

If you work on the basis of an average of 150 friends per Facebook user, that means this property has probably been shown on Facebook nearly 100,000 times (Country Life's readership is estimated at 215,000). When you consider that there is no direct cost associated with this level of exposure on Facebook wheras even a small ad in Country Life is upwards of £400, you can start to understand the potential value here too.

Is the property being shown to the right people though? Hare points to the geographical connection between groups of Facebook friends (although my own are quite geographically disparate). But are they looking to buy houses?

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According to the Association of Residential Lettings Agents, 40% of landlords are reporting a rise in tenants who having difficulties meeting the rent in the last six months, up from 35.9% when the same measurement was taken three months ago. More here.

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More in this Category - Letting
Tue
11
Jan

Whilst the press continue their focus on unearthing any negative tit bit which supports their decade long prophecy that the Housing Market will imminently collapse, those who really count - we call them buyers - have other ideas. I can't speak for those in other parts of the country, but here in London, things are looking bright.

Bushells boss Eric Walker goes on to outline a busy Christmas (despite the weather and unusually long holiday) and continuing strong demand. The London rental market, in particular, he says, is characterised by a shortage of property.

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Dorset beach officially £1 [Yahoo]
Bears gather: warning house prices to deep below 2004 levels [Telegraph]
Could 2011 see 7% interest rates for low equity borrowers? [Daily Mail]
Location, location, location... property wealth gap widens [FT]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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More in this Category - Linkage
Mon
10
Jan

When housing minister Grant Shapps appeared in the Observer newspaper and then on Radio 4’s Today programme, calling for a saner property market, it meant about as much as the Pope calling for peace: a soft-headed, uncontroversial New Year profile boost. Like the Pope’s ‘peace’, the housing minister’s ambition is, of course, entirely reasonable. A ‘rational market’, in which young people wouldn’t need to live with their parents until middle age, rather than one in which the property-rich parental generation congratulate themselves on their excellent economic foresight while their thirty-five year-old-son plays with his toys on the lounge floor, is surely preferable. A couple of decades of soft house price inflation – of around 2% – while wages grow at about 4% would help see a cultural change, he argued, and an eventual end to the boom-and-repo-rollercoaster. Fair enough. But how?

Our publisher attracts a lot of comments in his guest column for Citywire.

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Okay, a lot will be made of this... HBOS's final house price report of 2010... but - as is our tradition - the Rat and Mouse won't declare bets off until the fat lady of completions data sings. And we'll have to wait for that. In the meantime, HBOS reports prices down 1.3% in December (a quickening after its 0.2% November drop), leaving the October-December 2010 average down 1.6% on its 2009 equivalent. December-to-December, the index was 3.4% in the red.

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More in this Category - House prices
Fri
07
Jan

Chaytor gets minimum [BBC]
The estate agent who conducted a viewing on Christmas Day [The Negotiator]
The middle-class home: an A to Z [Buying Agent Blogs]
House-builders wake up to life under Coalition [Evening Standard]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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It's in a few papers... the story of Jason Ruddick, the Latvian who hitchhiked to London after being told it was a city in which you didn't have to pay rent, and who now lives, rent-free, in a 10-bedroom Victorian house on Highgate's Broadlands Road.

He admitted that in Latvia, squatters were routinely arrested and hauled before the courts, but said Britain was an “easy touch”, adding: "It's really expensive to live in such a big house if you have to pay for it."

This should wipe the smile off his face. Seriously, is this interview for real? He sounds like a Daily Mail plant.

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It might seem like an odd time to do this, but Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has added 18 months to the time a property needs to be empty before it can be seized by a local council. You might remember Labour government introducing the controversial six month rule. Interestingly, the exception appears to be the presence of a squatter. Taking this together with Pickles' quashing of building targets, are we to assume that the only property the secretary likes more than an unbuilt one is an empty one?

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Thu
06
Jan

Australia, apparently.

Although not as hot as in previous years, Australia's housing market in 2010 was ranked No. 1 in the world by Toronto-based Scotiabank, an international financial organization that dates back to 1671.

It's slowing, though, apparently, ending the year 9.4% up (after being up 15.9% at the end of the first quarter). A shortage of supply, plus good rates of employment, were said to have underpinned property price growth.

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According to Spareroom.co.uk, 2010 saw a 21% rise in the number of UK households taking in lodgers, with London the epicentre of the trend. What's not clear, however, is whether SR's research extends beyond their own customers, or whether some of this is as a result of the website establishing itself as a brand. The tone of this suggests that 2011 may turn out to be lodger-year... as a result of rising interest rates, poor credit conditions, unemployed graduates.

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More in this Category - Letting
Wed
05
Jan

Compare your neighbourhood as it develops between 1896, 1899, 1915, 1920, 1938, 1949 and 1954 here. Plus scanned maps dating back to the 16th Century. Fascinating stuff.

[via Nestoria on Twitter]

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London's Golden Triangle [Evening Standard]
The builders' dilemma [FT]
Who wants a flat above an offy? [Guardian]
London's star homes [FindaProperty]

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More in this Category - Linkage
Tue
04
Jan

A poll by buy-to-let lenders Paragon Group suggests almost half (41%) are looking to increase rents this year, with just 4% considering a reduction... which is interesting in a climate of Housing Benefit reform and looming unemployment. The most popular estimated increase? Four to eight per cent, so this is possibly about more than reacting to inflation. More here.

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November figures from the Bank of England show remortgages up to 34,262 from 30,429 in October and above the 28,210 six-month average. New loan approvals were up slightly, too. The figures are thought to reflect a growing sense that interest rates will be on the rise shortly, as inflation shows every sign of continuing to overshoot its target.

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My contribution is one I have quietly nursed for many years without enthusiasm. Our French neighbours, among others, levy capital gains taxes on first homes, as we and the Americans do not. There is a taper designed to discourage speculation so that after owning your home for around 15 years you pay nothing. But such a tax might help dampen down the fires of ever-rising prices, resting on the assumption of a capital gain to offset silly-money outlays. It would raise much-needed money for the Treasury to lower the deficit and debt. It would claw back from the boomers some of the money they were lucky – more luck than judgment – to accumulate in the boom decades.

Anyway, "you can't take it with you", he concludes. What he doesn't take into account is how end-weighted the house-buying game is. It's true, most people count capital gains as pure profit when they move house, but only because they're not being rigorous enough about the costs of buying/selling (Stamp Duty, estate agency commission and other related expenditures) and servicing a mortgage (during any normal interest rate cycle people are spending as much on interest as they are on the value of the mortgaged property).

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