Rat and Mouse
Entries in June 2011
Thu
30
Jun

20110630BrandPerry

Has One Hyde Park become the world's most expensive ghost town? [Telegraph]
At home with Russell Brand and Katy Perry in LA [pictured above, Curbed]
Senior surveyor guilty of mortgage fraud [BBC]
Land Registry: London still bucking the trend [Guardian]
Rachel Weisz gives London home a makeover [Mirror]
The town hall listed on Ebay [pictured below, Planet Property]

20110630ebay

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More in this Category - Linkage

Nationwide's latest index shows a modest 1.1% fall in house prices June-to-June. On the month, there was no change at all. The accompanying commentary is all about low demand, improved employment figures doing little to encourage people to buy houses, and just low interest rates and low levels of building supporting prices.

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More in this Category - House prices

New research by Templeton LPA (a receiver acting on behalf of lenders whose landlords have defaulted), shows severe tenants' arrears rising (up 13% in the last 12 months, 4% on the previous quarter) and evictions up too (9% in the last 12 months). Interestingly, landlords appear to have, so far, largely absorbed the difficulties, with buy-to-let mortgage arrears down 12% on the year. A spokesman for Templeton expects that to change, though, if landlords continue to push up rents while public sector job losses take effect. More here.

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More in this Category - Letting
Wed
29
Jun

The Bank [of England] said mortgage approvals numbered 45,940 in May, up from 45,447 in April. Analysts had forecast a reading of 46,100.

The figure's actually on the low end of the scale for the last 18 months and suggests a market that's at best treading water and at worst weakening.

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More in this Category - _Other

The Office of Fair Trading action on rip-off credit card charges (in the news yesterday and today with the emphasis on the travel sector) has an estate agent component we weren't aware of.

The investigation was launched  after a so-called super-complaint from independent consumer body Which?, which also revealed how lettings agent Foxtons charged a customer £25 to pay a £5,000 deposit to rent a flat.

Wonder how common this is?

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More in this Category - Letting
Tue
28
Jun

What happens when the shared house you visit turns out to be different to the one you move into?

When moving in I was told that it was a professional, non smoking household… But… it was very clear that smoking was going on inside of the house and the the two girls who live here have just finished university and do not have jobs.

Now, they're partying like it's nobody's business. Drunk, reckless, partying 20-something girls... sounds like hell, doesn't it?

Regardless of your personal preferences, the disgruntled flat-sharer quoted has written to The Landlord Law blog to ask about her position. She's concerned about being arrested along with her housemates. She also wants to know whether she can break her tenancy agreement. Read more here.

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More in this Category - Letting
Mon
27
Jun

Ringo Starr's Kenwood Park former home bulldozed [Primelocation blog]
South west London - hottest property market in UK [Evening Standard]
Witanhurst: a modern-day Xanadu [Daily Mail]
Don't let benefits shake-up turn London into a ghetto for the rich [Evening Standard]

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

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More in this Category - Linkage

On the face of it, not so good. House prices down 0.1% in June, pushing them the furthest into the red on a year-to-year basis (at -3.9%) than they've been since October 2009. But...

Hometrack's director of research, Richard Donnell, said that the property market had been less weak so far this year than he had expected. "Low transaction volumes, low mortgage rates and forbearance by lenders limiting the number of forced sales have all played their part. While average prices have slipped back by 1 percent, sales volumes have increased off the back of higher demand and greater realism over achievable prices," he said.

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More in this Category - House prices
Fri
24
Jun

1,300 jobs are at risk at the home improvement firm behind Moben Kitchens, Dolphin Bathrooms, Sharps Bedrooms and KitchensDirect, as it prepares to appoint administrators.

The company's Homeform, and it's Manchester-based.

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More in this Category - _Other
Thu
23
Jun

Some of you (one of you?) might remember the interesting Scullion vs Colleys case in the Court of Appeal, in which a buy-to-let investor was attempting to sue a surveyor for over-representing the potential rental income of a property. There were concerns that a ruling in the landlord's failure might open the floodgates to similar claims by disappointed buy-to-let amateurs. There's now a judgement:

The decision is good news for surveyors. The Court of Appeal has made a strong statement that it was wrong in principle to extend the duty of the lender’s valuation surveyor to purchasers in commercial cases. Domestic owner-occupier cases are seen as a justified by consumer protection principles, with buy-to-let investors less deserving of protection and more likely to obtain and to be able to afford their own valuation. Following this decision it is difficult to envisage a commercial case in which the court might be willing to find an implied duty owed by a valuer.

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More in this Category - Letting

Unsurprisingly, tip number eight in the Residential Landlords Association "10 Tips for Landlords" has got someone's goat over at HousePriceCrash.

Serve a S21(1)B notice at the start of the tenancy. That is the day they move in. They will usually sign a copy of the notice at that time thereby providing all the evidence you need to prove the notice has been served. This should be done AFTER the deposit has been lodged in one of the authorised deposit schemes.

An unorthodox way of saying "welcome to your new home".

The reasoning is... it's hard to serve such an order on an uncooperative tenant further down the line, so landlords get their papers in order hoping they won't ever need to use them. If they do, they're there. But are they? Over at the Landlordzone forum, there's some doubt over S21(1)B notices and sell-by dates. Perhaps a lawyer could comment? And how common a practise is this?

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More in this Category - Letting
Wed
22
Jun

On the subject of future profits, remember this is a shared equity scheme, with all the associated pitfalls. Twenty per cent of the market value of the property will have to be paid back (either when the property’s sold or after 25 years, whichever is sooner). In the meantime, first-time buyers will be paying 100% of whatever it costs to add value to the property. Finally, as in the old Jewish joke - 'The food in this place is terrible.' 'I know, and such small portions' - the number of buyers likely to be helped by the scheme really is tiny.

Our publisher is less than impressed with FirstBuy, in his guest column for Citywire.

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The Which? research reveals that 95% of lenders failed to pass on cuts to standard variable rate customers in full when the Bank of England reduced interest rates. Since then 20% of of lenders have actually put their rates up, while the Bank's rate has stayed at a rock bottom 0.5%.

Of course, the relationship between mortgage interest rates and the BoE base rate is more complex, which the banks are keen to point out. But let's hear them point that out when the MPC starts pushing base rates up, too.

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According to research by Zoopla, 80% of properties purchased since 2006 (that's some 3.5 million homes) are worth less than their purchase price. The north east appears to be the worst affected. And - as one might expect - London's been relatively resilient, but there are still 46% of London homes under water.

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More in this Category - House prices
Tue
21
Jun

North Kensington residents furious at White City tower block plans [Evening Standard]
Sales "subdued" in May [BBC]
SOE spy flat comes to the market [Daily Mail]
London rough sleepers up 8% [BBC]
In the States: little homes [Curbed]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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More in this Category - Linkage

The Rightmove asking price index is up for the sixth consecutive month and by 0.6%. Remarkably, that leaves asking prices up 8.1% on the 12 months. More here. Nobody's expecting this to continue.

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More in this Category - House prices
Mon
20
Jun

McLaren and Shanbhogue settled on the simple search term ‘estate agents’, and found a very distinct correlation to both transaction volumes and, most markedly, house prices. From this, they concluded that most of the searches were from buyers rather than vendors, and noted that the search results provided a more accurate picture than two notable and oft-quoted house prices indices.

Our publisher looks at a data-experiment by the Bank of England and asks if it's really sensible... in his guest column for Citywire.

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More in this Category - _Other

Yes, according overseas property portal HomesGoFast's director Nick Marr, who points to rapid rises in property prices in California's Silicon Valley and draws comparisons with the London Tech City initiative, occupying...

... the area of East End between Old Street and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. Companies that are committed to investing into the area include Cisco Systems, Facebook, Google, Intel Corporation, McKinsey & Company and Vodafone.

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More in this Category - EC1

It's referenced here and here... and in both cases it's utterly confusing. So, investors  buy fixed-term stakes and are rewarded with 150% of whatever increase the HBOS index has shown at the end of the term? Borrowers (mortgagees) can borrow a 20% deposit on a home, but have to repay 40% of any profit (on the overall HBOS index, not on their specific house, which may have risen less or not at all) at a later date? And this, in a climate of static-to-falling house prices and the brink of possible repo-inducing interest rate rises; and a general consensus that clarity rather than opacity is the way to avoid future debt bubbles.

The plan is yet to receive FSA approval.

Really? Wait on, thougn, one of the directors is an ex-deputy chair of the FSA.

Non-homeowners "do not have independence" [June 16, 2011]

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More in this Category - _Other
Fri
17
Jun

... a City banker living in a Victorian council house in Islington, his rent subsidised by the taxpayer. It is enough to turn Lord Tebbit into a raving Marxist.

But is it a real issue? According to the Telegraph, it is, with as many as 6,000 people living in social housing and earning six-figure salaries. When they applied for social housing, they deserved it. But in the intervening years they've struck salary gold, but there's no system for automatic removal. It's an interesting story.

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As rents in England and Wales reach a record high (up 4.4% on the year according to LSL Property Services, 7.8% in London), "rental gazumping" is apparently a factor, with tenants outbidding their rivals to secure accommodation. More here.

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More in this Category - Letting
Thu
16
Jun

Speaking at the AMI annual dinner last night [former Conservative MP and chairman of the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries] said home ownership has been one of the main strengths of Britain.He told the audience: “Home ownership is the basis of freedom, people who do not own their own home do not have independence.”

What an appallingly retrograde assertion in the face of an unsustainable property market, impossible mortgage market and unstable economy. It gets worse:

Gummer claimed people who dealt with him throughout his time in parliament could be much tougher with him if they owned their own home.

Or did tenants - whose vote, incidentally, was equal to anyone else's in the election that gave him his seat in Parliament - just sense an inherent disdain or lack of respect on his part? We thought this myth, that huge debt to a bank somehow brought respect, had been put to bed.

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More in this Category - _Other
Wed
15
Jun

The cost of renting a typical first-time buyer property is 9.7 per cent more than buying a similar home, based on an interest-only mortgage charging a rate of five per cent, according to property website Zoopla.co.uk.

The disparity is at its highest in Milton Keynes, where it's 43% more expensive to rent, followed by Birmingham (37%). In London? It's 16% more expensive to rent.

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More in this Category - Letting

It's the Government's own index, lagging but accurate, and dating back to April. The month shows a 1.1% fall, leaving the annual figure down 0.3%. Interestingly, most of the losses were outside England (where prices remain steady over 12 months). In Scotland, they're down 1.2%, in Wales, they're down 1.4% and in Northern Ireland they're down an enormous 15.2%. Read the actual report in PDF format by clicking this.

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More in this Category - House prices
Tue
14
Jun

In commercial, for sale: Hard-on Park [Reuters]
And in New York, for sale: Chagall's apartment [Curbed]
In France... plans to tax holiday homes [Independent]
Estate agents shift one property a week [Daily Mail] 
Does UK inflation emergency spell trouble for interest rates? [Money Marketing]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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More in this Category - Linkage

Following the shameful shenanigans of 2009, when Prince Charles used his international influence to enforce his vision of traditionalist architecture and scupper plans for a Lord Rogers-designed development of the Chelsea Barracks site, things appear to be moving forward. A design by Michael Squire (more about him here) and Dixon Jones has been recommended for approval, meaning it's highly likely to go ahead. What will it mean for the prime 13-acre site? Four hundred and forty-eight houses and flats, a sports centre, shops and health centre. And nothing to make the Prince's heart sink.

Chelsea Barracks case - Prince Charles' knuckles rapped, no cigar for Candies [June 25, 2010]
Prince Charles on Chelsea Barracks... the Prince Charles letter [June 25, 2010]
Chelsea Barracks and the case of the missing emails [June 16, 2010]

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More in this Category - Design
Mon
13
Jun

Ye olde Highgate Fair [New York Times]
At home with Phil [Telegraph]
Britons leave London as foreign rich move in [Reuters]
William Pears Group and London property [Telegraph]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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More in this Category - Linkage

In a survey of 2,045 people in May...

... 28 per cent of people [stated] that interest rates have gone up over the last 12 months and 17 per cent [believed] they have fallen. Interest rates have stayed the same for over two years now.

With that in mind, respondents' advice on whether the MPC should raise rates in the next 12 months for the sake of the economy should probably be treated cautiously. But, for the record:

22 per cent felt they should go up, 19 per cent that they should fall and 35 per cent felt that it would be best for the economy if they stayed the same.

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More in this Category - _Other
Fri
10
Jun

An interesting obituary here for the late Keith Irvine, an extraordinary interior designer who specialised in the so-called "English country house look", a kind of proto-Ralph Lauren for many of the post-war stars of stage and screen both here and in America. Read it here.

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More in this Category - Design

20110610stjohnswood

It's St John's Wood Barracks, due to go on the open market next week and suitable for 117 new homes in one of central London's most sought-after neighbourhoods.

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More in this Category - NW8
Thu
09
Jun

As widely expected, no change... and the 27th straight month at 0.5%. More here.

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More in this Category - _Other

Cluttons is predicting central London rent rises of 10% this year, with the biggest rises expected in the £250 to £650 a week sector, where there's more competition for fewer properties. More here.

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More in this Category - Letting

20110609wimbledon

"The magazines were left behind in various different rooms. Luckily my children are four and one so they didn't register them. My husband thought it was really funny. They weren't English ones."

Because foreign porn's hilarious?

It's an interesting piece, actually, about the experience of moving out of your Wimbledon house during the tennis so that a player can move in. There's even a specialist letting agency - Tennis London - arranging short-term lets between locals and tennis players. Residents close enough to the club and prepared to move out for the duration of the tournament can expect to earn as much as £10,000 a week.

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More in this Category - SW19

Moving into your garden [Telegraph]
And wouldn't you if there were four crocs living in your semi? [Daily Mail]
The magic of anamorphic typography [Laughing Squid]
Those long-term fixes, the cost of certainty [Telegraph]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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More in this Category - Linkage
Wed
08
Jun

New Covent Market, a 57-acre site in Wandsworth's Nine Elms Opportunity Area is - according to the BBC - among a number of public areas due to be handed to developers in a build-now, pay-later deal by the Government, aimed at meeting housing need. More here.

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More in this Category - SW8

Buyers from Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia led the surge, Mr Bailey [Knight Frank's Liam Bailey] said. The volume of buyers from the region increased by 100 per cent from January to May compared with the same period last year, he said.

They're apparently buying homes rather than simply investment properties, driven here as much by insecurity at home as favourable exchange rates.

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More in this Category - _Other

In the US, dead cool: funeral chapel for rent [Chicago Curbed]
In the US, again, borrowers walk away from mortgages [CNN]
Controversial comparisons between UK property market and Spanish [Money Week]
The truth about inflation [Telegraph]
Thames houseboats [Homes & Property]
Estate agents... how to screw up your business using social networking [Simply Buiness Coaching]

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

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More in this Category - Linkage
Tue
07
Jun

An interesting one in the courts... a surveyor accused of taking bribes (including expensive cars) in exchange for over-valuations. Amazingly, it involves some conspicuous London property, including flats in Belgravia and Chelsea, and a Chester Mews property behind Buckingham Palace. Her husband - an officer with the traffic unit - has a Bentley Continental and a Range Rover Sport registered in his name (and they complain about pay and conditions). More here.

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This dates back to the middle of last month... I don't know how we missed it, but we did, so there's a chance our readers missed it too.

It's the tale of Jonathan Dunne, a London landlord who'd been overcharged £43,535 in interest by Lloyd's banking group. They agreed there'd been an error, promised to refund the money, and then... nothing, for two months. Dunne took matters in hand by staging a seven hour lie-in in the reception of Lloyd's banking headquarters. He eventually received a cheque for £20,000, and plans to return with a tent to claim the rest. More here.

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More in this Category - _Other

But nothing substantial... a monthly rise in residential property prices of 0.1% (following a fall of 1.4% in April), bringing the quarterly change to -1.2%, and leaving the annual figure in the red at -4.2%. Download a PDF of the report by clicking this.

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More in this Category - House prices
Mon
06
Jun

20110506Titmuss

It's a four-storey house in Sidney Grove, Islington, with four bedrooms and a decent roof terrace, and the vendor's none other than fun-loving model and actress A.T. Titmuss chose Foxtons, and the property's listed here, with a guide price of £850,000. Judging by the photos, Titmuss hasn't been living there for a while, but has been renting to a tidy and minimalist small brown bear pictured below.

20110506

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More in this Category - Celebrity homes

Central London - invaded [Primelocation blog]
Buy-to-let - it's a bonanza [Daily Mail]
William and Kate - on the move [Telegraph]
Britain's hippest street - not in London [Guardian]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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More in this Category - Linkage
Fri
03
Jun

With hindsight it is easy to see that all property journalism got a little carried away with some trends five years ago. The extensive and expensive PR employed to promote problematic Spanish developments, and the estate agency spin that led to ‘city centre living’ stories about apartments that even today lie empty in Leeds are two cases in point. In retrospect, I regret not showing more scepticism to both.

PropertyNewshound doesn't mind admitting a few regrets when it comes to getting caught up in the property-hype. But, when push comes to repo, investors have got to be treated like grown-ups. It's an interesting piece.

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The U.K.'s housing bubble put the U.S.'s in the shade. At their peak, U.K. house prices were at around 5.8 times average earnings, against a normal ratio outside of bubbles of around 3.4 times. They're currently around 4.4 times. By contrast, the U.S.'s ratio of house prices to median income peaked at around 4.8 times, against a trend rate, like the U.K.'s, of around 3.4 times.

Indeed, the U.K. property bubble was more akin to that seen in Japan in the late 1980s. This is a comparison to chill British homeowners' blood, because Japanese property prices have slid for the best part of 20 years.

According to WSJ's Alen Mattich, it's only a matter of time - with international money, which has supported the London market, slowing, taxes rising, and the prospects of rising interest rates - before the UK market is hit by a property bust that could take decades to reverse.

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More in this Category - House prices
Thu
02
Jun

Astonishingly, it's taken until now for the Lloyds group to demand proof of a suitable plan to pay off the the capital of their loans before granting interest only mortgages. interestingly, some commentators are saying the new self-imposed rules go too far, punishing higher rate earners by not allowing them to use interest-only mortgages for financial planning, paying off their capital in lump sums with bonuses and share sales. Lloyds  - according to a recent report by Morgan Stanley - continues to have the most worrying bad debt exposure. More here.

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More in this Category - _Other

It’s amazing that the Emperor’s Clothes reveal of 2007/8 has managed to do so little to reduce the sense that there’s something socially superior about owning, despite all the debt, deceit and uncertainty associated. Renting worked, here, until relatively recently and in some European countries it continues to work.

Our publisher looks at the recent fall-out from a National Centre for Social Research/Halifax survey and asks whether it isn't time to re-think our attitudes to renting, in his guest column for Citywire.

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More in this Category - Letting
Wed
01
Jun

Apparently, a Morgan Stanley research note to clients went out this morning predicting a 10% fall in the value of residential property by the end of 2012. The prediction is based on a sharp rise in interest rates. Banks (and their vulnerability to falling asset values) are a concern, and the note singles out Lloyds as particularly vulnerable.

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More in this Category - House prices

Zoopla's 2011 Property Rich List reveals almost 6,000 streets where the average value of a home is in excess of £1m. London - obviously - had the most, with 2,290, followed by Guildford and Cobham. The UK's most expensive? Kensington, where homes cost an average of £1.75m, almost half a million more than its closest rival, Chelsea. More of this nonsense, here.

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More in this Category - House prices

 


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