Rat and Mouse
Entries in July 2011
Fri
29
Jul

Nigel Lewis is an experienced property journalist and head of content for the Digital Property Group (the owners of FindaProperty, Primelocation and Globrix). Read on for an interesting take on why Brits are obsessed with property, the future of home-ownership and Government confusion.


You began working, as a journalist, covering the property market right at the start of the most recent boom. Property prices were leading the news and everybody seemed to want to claim their stake in what appeared to be something of a gold rush. Did you “happen into” property journalism… or was the market something you were already interested in?

20110728Nigel_Lewis.jpgI had covered a variety of subjects before coming to property, including fishing, motoring and personal finance, but was then invited to join a property dotcom during the late 1990s called smove.com – now defunct – and I immediately warmed to bricks and mortar. But I was then offered a job at the Daily Mail working on its property pages. I love writing about bricks and mortar because it’s so wide ranging, covering personal stories, celebrity moves, government policy and construction, planning – I could go on. But I don’t remember readers and the media being quite so obsessed with house prices then as they are now.
Was anybody questioning the wisdom of house price gains of 20% in 12 months?
I am old enough to have witnessed and worked through two property downturns and during the run up to the current one, or the ‘gold rush’ you refer to, experiences from the previous downturn were ignored by both home owners and many in the industry, not to mention most property writers and that included, sometimes, me. When people’s homes are rising in value so fast, it’s hard to persuade national newspaper editors to calm down – it is a good story at the end of the day.
The period was also characterised by the rise of the popular property TV show, and of the powerful online property portal. You’ve worked for both… do you think television and technology have shaped or altered the British public’s relationship with property?

Read the rest of the interview by clicking here.

More in this Category - Interviews
Wed
27
Jul

A regular contributor to the Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, FT, Daily Mail, Independent, Guardian, Observer and others, Graham Norwood is without doubt the UK's most prolific property journalist. We're delighted he agreed to take part in this summer's Rat and Mouse interview series.


If nobody’s ever described you before as the James Brown of property journalism, arguably the hardest working writer in the business, then let me be the first. When and in what circumstances did you start writing about the residential property market?

20110726Graham_Norwood.jpgJames Brown huh? Nice compliment but way too flattering - any freelance journalist making a decent living out of writing has to work a lot these days. I began writing about property back in 1999 as I was leaving the BBC and just as the British love affair with home ownership was being consummated. Since then, it’s been full time residential journalism, with four books along the way.
What explains the British obsession with homeownership, compared to, say, the attitude of some of our European neighbours?
Britons are peculiarly individualistic. Owning a book and leaving it to gather dust after we read it is much more popular than borrowing one and passing it to others afterwards, hence the demise of some libraries. Likewise we prefer owning a home over renting one - even if in some circumstances (early and late adult life, in particular) the flexibility of renting makes more sense. But it’s changing, slowly.

Ironically Thatcher made home ownership a symbol of achievement, and then her political lovechild Blair tried to get us all to feel good about it. Now David Cameron’s term in office may see the rise of rental accommodation - if for no other reason than that he appears reluctant to get financial institutions to lend to younger buyers.


For the Rat and Mouse, the inherent contradictions and self-deception of the British relationship with property are fascinating and largely inspired the blog. Houses are both hugely emotional purchases and important personal investments… and the two don’t necessarily mix very well. I was wondering if you’ve seen any changes in the way Brits view their homes during the years you’ve been writing on the subject?

Read more from Graham after the jump.

More in this Category - Interviews
Mon
25
Jul

Apparently, "letting is the new sales", the Government missed a trick in 08 by failing to create "a more interesting bank" and the public need to get used to the idea of selling for less (and buying for less, too). Kicking off this year's Rat and Mouse interview series, somebody we've quoted many a time in the past but never before had the chance to chat with, so… so we've been exited about this. Douglas & Gordon's Ed Mead is one of the country's most outspoken and interesting estate agents, an expert on the London market, he's on the board of the Property Ombudsman and he's the man I'd want overseeing the sale of my house.

 

I love this, from your blog’s “About me” page: “I've been an agent for over 30 years now and have gained a good reputation for saying things as they are. This can occasionally commercially disadvantage me, but really I don't give a t*** as at least I can sleep at night.” The suggestion is that you’re a bit of a lone voice. Critics of the market have long accused journalists and agents of being co-conspirators in propping up the market. Any truth in that?

20110724ed_mead.jpgI know some journalists and some estate agents are arrogant but in the same way King Canute thought he could stop the tide anyone that seriously thinks they can affect the market is mad. Everyone is tired (and it’s partly why people think all estate agents are thick) of hearing agents talking the market up. What’s wrong with giving accurate up-to-date info?

What led you into estate agency?

I got chucked out of Bristol Uni and didn’t have a huge number of options. Luckily I have a brain so have done okay.

Is it a tough job if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to toe the line? Or are there circumstances in which standing out a little can be an advantage?

Read the rest of the Ed Mead interview, after the jump.

More in this Category - Interviews

Regular Rat and Mouse readers will know I've been doing this annually for a few years now... taking a couple of weeks off in the summer and running a series of interviews with the great, the good and the downright infuriating of the UK property scene. In the past, it's proved extremely popular, and so I'm hoping this year's series, kicking off very shortly, will be fun for everyone concerned. There won't be a new post every day (expect two or three new interviews a week), but I'll be back and covering the occasional breaking news story when I just can't help myself. See you soon... x

More in this Category - About
Fri
22
Jul

Home Bunch - a fun American interior design blog written by somebody who proves not all bloggers have to look like this - has featured a London property in its "Cool or Fool?" Friday feature (in which readers get to slug it out over an interior design "statement"). It's a remarkable home, and the way lovely Luciane found it leads to another interesting website. First off, the place looks like this:

20110722cool fool

There are a whole load more pictures over on her blog. Okay, to many of you I'm sure this looks like an unusual room; over at the Rat and Mouse HQ, we're just wondering where the rest of the restrain furniture's kept, because... one sexual ragdoll at a time? That's so 2010.

Luciane discovered the property at 1st-Option, a completely addictive site aimed at location scouts. It's packed with fascinating properties, many of them in London, and I suggest you head there right now if you've some time to waste.

Incidentally, the above property is "Wonderland", and it's in NW3.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - Design

It's a "campaign", no less, according to Rightmove's Miles Shipside, and it's aimed at...

... educating the millions of current and prospective sellers who visit Rightmove each month about the realities of the current property market.

In other words hoover your home, price it at a discount and employ an estate agent who knows what they're doing. The campaign follows figures showing that 70% of properties brought to the market in the first half of the year are still unsold. Here's a little film:

More here.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - Estate agents

Halifax says with a vendor offering a deposit as a gift, the true purchase price and valuation of the property may be distorted which results in the incorrect LTV being calculated, which in turn could result in customers being offered incorrect products.

It's hard to argue with that. But the practise has always been much rarer among private vendors, anyway, and the bank says it will continue to accept the practise from developers as long as there's full disclosure on the mortgage application. Another demonstration of the continuing uneasy relationship between lenders, developers and surveyors? More on vendor gifted deposits here.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other
Thu
21
Jul

20110721Seventies

The 70s colour palette... loving it [Apartment Therapy]
Letting agents warned by OFT on rental contracts [Independent]
Keep off the grass [Daily Mail]
House Historian Melanie Backe-Hansen has a book out [The House Historian]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - Linkage

Following publication of the most recent MPC meeting minutes, Capital Economics joins a host of other analysts to talk down any chatter about an imminent rate rise. Except Capital Economics - as usual - knows just how to grab the headlines:

“Our long-held view is that interest rates will remain on hold. We are not expecting interest rates to rise now until 2014 at the earliest.”

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other

If you're within twenty miles of Kate Middleton's new Kensington Palace Gardens home, then it's probably just the $1500 of air fresheners she's said to have purchased for the property. I like the way the Americans call it a "cottage".

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - W8
Wed
20
Jul

Double dip warnings [Estate Agent Today]
Richard Branson turns landlord, for £11,000 a night [Telegraph]
FTBs, ousted by BTLs [This is Money]
Docklands locations added to Monopoly board [The Docklands]

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

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - Linkage

20110720cheval place1

It's apparently had more than 40 viewings in a fortnight, and - we've got to admit - once we get over the £700,000 price tag and come to terms with the fact that its Cheval Place location and parking place make this guide price kind of inevitable... it's pretty cute. On the ground floor: a single garage, kitchen, toilet; above: living room/bedroom. It'll need work. There's no proper bathroom, although most are apparently attracted by the parking, and see the room above as a possible office. Particulars, here.

20110720cheval place2

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - For sale
Tue
19
Jul

He's awaiting a decision by Kensington & Chelsea council on plans to redevelop a former clothing warehouse in Chelsea, creating offices, home and courtyard. This isn't a purely personal project (he's already developing a property down the road, which he'll call home; this looks like a proper experiment in property development. The council have made encouraging noises; much to the chagrin of the Chelsea Society. More here.

20110719uverdale road

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - SW10

Wandsworth's three hotspots, according to the Telegraph:

These are the Nightingale Triangle, a trendy pocket of cottages and terraced houses near Balham and Clapham South tube stations; the so-called Toast Rack – a cluster of larger Victorian and Georgian houses located near the restaurant Chez Bruce, where a young Gordon Ramsay honed his skills; or The Tonsleys, an area of smaller houses close to Wandsworth Town train station. The last of these is where BBC One’s hit comedy Outnumbered is filmed.

And prices are - according to the piece - rising at particularly alarming rates, leaving anyone renting in the borough with the idea of swooping on a family home as soon as it hits the market  in a very expensive position.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - SW8
Mon
18
Jul

20110718Craig David1

It's in Hampstead (Inverforth House), it's already been the subject of a bit of a fuss over a roof terrace hot tub and on the market as a £6,000 a week let. Now, it's for sale, with a guide price of £3.95m. Four bedrooms, double garage, lots of terraces, some extravagant fittings and fixtures and the same bedspread it had two years ago. Go here for the particulars.

20110718Craig David2

Craig David's hot tub - what's he got on his mind? [August 30, 2005]
If these walls could talk... they'd say "re-wind" [October 21, 2009]

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - NW3

20110718boot

From the Monopoly board, that is. And replaced by Kensington Palace Gardens. Somebody from Foxtons is in favour:

Andrew Weir, central area director at estate agents Foxtons, believes this shift in property power is entirely warranted: "This street [Kensington Palace Gardens] boasts sensational period buildings, many with movie-like features such as underground swimming pools and marble pillars made from the same quarry as the Taj Mahal. "With the average price of a property fetching a staggering £19m, this street has become one of the most sought-after in the world."

Fair enough, but to lose Mayfair completely? When it's going through a period of residential revival (after so many properties turned commercial in the hands of the hedge funds)?

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - W1
Fri
15
Jul

Their latest Outlook for UK House Prices gives only a 12% chance of residential property prices returning to 2007 levels by 2015, with only a 53% chance by 2020. More here.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - House prices

Updown Court, five miles south of Ascot, was placed on the market in 2005, then the most expensive property in Britain. Six years – and numerous viewings – later, it has still not been sold. In a bizarre development at the weekend, it was reported that it is on the verge of being seized on behalf of the Irish taxpayers.

The Telegraph reveals the remarkable ups and downs of Updown Court, including fires, claims of money laundering, the Celtic Tiger, indoor shooting ranges and a Japanese report in a mink coat.

Examiner.com examines Updown Court [August 11, 2009]
Plans for London's most expensive home [July 19, 2007]

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other
Thu
14
Jul

Last summer, an 18-year-old Hungarian girl auctioned her virginity to help her parents pay off a mortgage taken out in Swiss francs. The value of the franc was rising. The same couldn’t be said of the sad Englishman who, for £200,000, ‘won’ the auction.

Our publisher looks at a growing crisis - not just in the former Eastern Bloc countries, but taking in some British investors, too - as the Swiss franc adds an exchange rate burden to mortgages... in his guest column for Citywire.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other

There were 85,104 property price cuts just last month, according to Home.co.uk, 15% more than during June 2010. The average time to sell a property? One hundred and thirteen. More here.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - House prices
Wed
13
Jul

Diana Lindsay, 85, launched a "fight to the death" to win a 93 per cent stake in her daughter's £3 million Chelsea home despite a judge's warning that the vastly expensive case could sever their family bond.

Nice.

At the heart of the row, Diana Lindsay's belief that her daughter's married a money-grabbing wastrel. Her argument is based on the fact that when the house was bought, she contributed over a quarter of a million pounds, her daughter put up... hmm... £19,000. Yes, the property's registered in the daughter's name, but - insists the mother - that's a mere technicality. It's an interesting and heartwarming story that's bound to fill the liquor cabinet on a lawyer's yacht.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other

20110713Google Real Estate

Remember how Google was at one point dabbling in the property search game? They've pretty much given up on that now, and so presumably took their eyes off the game long enough for one quick-thinking property blogger in the US to buy this.

[via Curbed]

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category -

20110713Clifton Mansions

Brixton's famous Clifton Mansions - home around 50 creative squatters with CVs in the arts for more than a decade - were cleared by police yesterday in a violent exercise that appears to have riled not just the squatters but, we're hearing, their neighbours, too. News that the council will now be paying "live-in guardians" to protect the flats before they can be redeveloped and sold on hasn't won them any fans. More here. According to this (which also features a photograph of what appears to be Superman, cleverly disguised as a squatter, flying above the heads of shocked policemen) the last day at the CM squat wasn't its most glorious, after a party, advertised on Facebook, degenerated into violence and theft.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - SW9
Tue
12
Jul

The Government's own index - late, but based on real transaction figures - shows prices down by 0.5% in May, leaving them down 1.6% over the year. Interestingly, new properties seemed to do better than "pre-owned", rising 7.8% over 12 months. Download your own copy, here.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - House prices

At home with Andy Coulson [Primelocation blog]
International house price indicators [Economist]
Transaction levels... where the crash is [This Is Money]
Mates' mortgages: "ludicrous" [Money Week]
Property market and the mini ice age [Daily Mail]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - Linkage

Every time Mervyn King rubbishes inflation (it's about temporary fuel price hikes, it's about VAT changes, it's about commodity prices), read it as a hint that interest rates are unlikely to be going anywhere fast in the near future. The latest:

"The most likely outcome is that these factors will not continue to push up the price level in the future," he wrote in the Bank's annual report.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other
Mon
11
Jul

You've until July 15... but, according to this, nominations have been flooding in. Interestingly, it's none other than One Hyde Park that's received most nominations to date.

20110711carbuncle cup

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - Design

Britain faces an "unprecedented and escalating" housing crisis, charities warned yesterday, with middle-class families at greater risk of homelessness than at any point in the past century.

The Independent on Sunday reports on rising applications for council housing (up 23% on last year), rising repossessions (up 17% in the first quarter), rising housing association rents, rising numbers of people (40,000 at the last count) facing homelessness as a result of the housing benefit cap. There are some interesting case studies.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other
Fri
08
Jul

Last week, the Government completed a consultation it promised in the Budget, to test out the principle of a major change in planning law that would throw out the idea of ‘zoning’ and allow developers and private individuals to recommission light industrial buildings, offices and storage units for residential use on a ‘permitted development’ (‘nod and a wink’) basis.

Currently, getting permission for a change of use is an expensive, complex and time-consuming process. The government estimates a potential bureaucratic saving of as much as £140 million over the next 10 years, as well as the potential for 250,000 new homes.

With building at a historic low and a lot of commercial property lying empty, there was an easy and elegant logic to the plan. But since when was the property market easy, elegant or logical?

Our publisher looks at some of the problems with living where other people work, in his guest column 'for Citywire.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other

Acadametrics and LSL Property Services produce an index based on Land Registry data (hence the delay) and other sources into a proprietary magic number, which they then publish. This month... property prices fall again (the third consecutive month), by 0.8% (in London, -1.4%) from May to June, leaving the index down 1.4% on the year and at its lowest point in 18 months. Transactions were up. Accompanying comment blames inflation and higher taxes.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - House prices
Thu
07
Jul

People aren't moving, we know that, so - according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors - they're "improving"... making their homes bigger, better, more comfortable. Now RICS warns homeowners to think hard before spending their cash. Renovation isn't necessarily going to add value. More here. But what if they're improving their properties for their own comfort, rather than a future buyer's? Ridiculous, I know, but just saying.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other

In the States, the Huffington Post has a reputation for digging deeper and rewarding readers with a reveal they won't find elsewhere. This - on house prices - isn't a great start for the UK version. Yes, the newspapers largely take a one-sided view of house prices; no, wildly inflating property prices that leave wages behind are not a good thing; yes, it's an iniquitous situation for a generation of first-time buyers. But to suggest these aren't issues most intelligent readers haven't already considered is patronising, and to suggest business/the economy would profit from a "crash" - hurling countless hard-working young families like the author's own into negative equity; leaving older people unable to cash in and pay for care/their old age - is silly. Nobody profits from a "crash". Except the author, perhaps.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - House prices
Wed
06
Jul

20110706basil street

It's this that's caused the fuss. A double space in an underground car park on Basil Street, Knightsbridge, with a guide price of £200,000 and currently under offer. The price of an average UK home? £163,049, according to the latest HBOS index, which actually surprised everybody by rising 1.2% on the month, still leaving the three month average down 3.5% on where it was a year ago.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - SW3

Don't annoy this man [Property Hawk]
A guide to rock star pads [Telegraph]
Former Inside Track members get legal [Daily Mail]
Your home and the Olympics [Citywire]

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

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - Linkage

20110706wall street

What? According to Wall Street & Technology Wall Street might be shrinking:

According to experts, the latest cuts are from jobs that might not be coming back at all -- or at least, not any time soon. Since the beginning of 2011, Goldman Sachs cut 5% of its staff, Credit Suisse shed 400-600 jobs and Barclays pink-slipped 700 people. More layoffs are in the pipeline.

But over here the streets are paved with gold:

In the UK, recruitment in the financial sector rose unexpectedly in the last three months, to its highest level since before the financial crisis began in September 2007, according to a report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers and CBI.

Estate agents, steel yourselves for some expert negotiators.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other
Tue
05
Jul

20110705peeing reveller

Grant Shapps urges "mates' mortgages" [Daily Mail]
But "partnership mortgage" means something else [Money Week]
Hoxton resident takes issue with peeing revellers [Asylum]
Persimmon builds fewer homes in first half of year [Guardian]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - Linkage

20110705gilston lodge

And they wonder why the Brits are obsessed with property investment. It's Gilston Lodge, last on the market in 1958 when it sold for £5,000. Now, this detached six-bedroom house with garage right in the heart of Chelsea is one of the area's hot property's, creating more than a little excitement and expected to fetch in excess of £8.5m. Whoever buys it will need even deeper pockets, though, as it will need a few more million spent on refurbishment. The house has received 50 viewings in three weeks, and will go to sealed bids. Particulars here.

20110704Gilston Lodge2

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - For sale

20110705mccloud

If we'd had our wits better about us we'd have brought you some news before the fact of Design Summit 11, a fascinating Design Council production that featured such names as Jonathan Ive and Kevin McCloud, talking about the role the UK design sector can and must play in restoring growth the economy . However what we can do is bring you this link to a rich library of films from the event.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - Design
Mon
04
Jul

Thanks to the Rat and Mouse reader who sent me this most unfortunate shot in a set of US particulars.

20110704particulars

A more revealing closer look of either the owner or a super-casual real estate agent:

20110704particulars2

Now that's just careless.

[via Prince of Petworth]

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other

According to research by EC Harris, here, there is luxury property worth £21bn in the form of 9,000 individual units due to reach the market by the end of the decade. Benefits claimants might be about to find it hard to settle anywhere within the M25, but it's surely good news that the scarcity of super-prime apartments for wealthy overseas buyers is at least being addresses, and no longer will we have to step over homeless oligarchs on our way to work.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other

Over 5,000 Westminster households will be affected by the changes and for the majority their current rents will be unaffordable. There are a significant range of variables around the impact of the changes including uncertainty about the response of the private rental market but it is likely that a sizeable proportion of these households will need to move with many of them leaving Westminster when the caps affect current claimants during 2012. Moving out of the borough is likely to be problematic for families with children at critical schooling points and elderly and disabled individuals.

The warning is from a council report, quoted by the Guardian here. According to the report, 81% of council tax recipients in the borough are receiving more than the proposed housing benefit cap. Are we about to see a huge change in central London's residential social profile?

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other
Fri
01
Jul

There is evidence that some house builders have been sitting on properties, deliberately holding back apartments to artificially drive up house prices. According to market researchers Dragonomics, despite a bumpy ride month-on-month, prices in China’s major cities rose 21.5% in 2010; 10% in 2009; but the April-to-April figure is 4.9%. As the market tilts in the opposite direction, there is the risk that all these properties could fall out of the developers’ pockets and drag property prices down at an even faster rate. Add in tighter lending controls and their effect on developers carrying unsold bricks and mortar, expectations of falling demand (the result of increased taxes and, again, tighter lending conditions), and an unwillingness among China’s cash-rich to risk their money on a falling market when there’s foreign property instead, and you have something like a perfect storm.

Our publisher asks whether the Chinese property bubble is finally about to burst, in his guest column for Citywire.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - _Other

20110701ugly

The Kirstie and Phil iPhone app... there's a delete button for that [Guardian]
Ugly real estate photos [illustrated, Main St] 
Over-cautious lenders slow market [Citywire]
Police not welcome at Wanstead Flats [The London News]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - Linkage

Upper-crust reality TV show Made In Chelsea may be over, but the party goes on in London’s good-looking postcode... A trust fund clearly offers an advantage when it comes to buying into the Chelsea lifestyle. However, says Nicholas Ayre of buying agent Home Fusion: ‘If you are prepared to compromise, a budget of £300,000 is realistic.’

So... a fifth-floor studio flat for £350,000 anyone? Or how about a two bedroom apartment for £250,000, with four years remaining on the lease? (Both properties are featured in the piece.) Don't all shout at once.

Technorati Tags: ,

More in this Category - SW3

 


POSTCODES
THANKS TO
ENTRIES BY MONTH
ABOUT
UK PROPERTY RESOURCES
US / INTERNATIONAL PROPERTY BLOGS
LONDON BLOGS
CREDITS
Publisher Editor Technical and Design Hosting Software