Just two properties at the moment, courtesy of estate agent Martyn Gerrard, and while Foxtons have been conducting VR viewings from their Islington office for a while, and there have been pop-ups in Harrods, this is still a first for Rightmove, bringing 3D immersive virtual reality property tours to homebuyers with a smartphone and a Google Cardboard headset. More here.
The new mayor is quoted here, warning Middle Eastern investors that change might be imminent:
It is possible to build 50,000 homes a year… but there is no point if they are all bought by investors in the Middle East and Asia for use as second homes or they sit empty… Nobody is against people investing in London trying to get a good rate of return. The issue is using our homes as gold bricks for investment.
The plan is to channel the money in the direction of the new Homes for Londoners project, encouraging the super-wealthy to put their cash (together with cash from institutional investors) into affordable housing projects instead. So what is this? A profound misunderstanding of why the Middle Eastern and Asian elite buy penthouses and cutting-edge developments in prime Central London? Or a visionary scheme that will change the relationship between foreign investors and London’s working population forever?
He’s James Murray, currently Islington’s lead councillor for housing and development. Islington has the fifth highest rate of planning rejections in London, and is known for a rigid approach to development… 50% affordable housing or nothing gets built at all. It’s principled, but is it practical? Developers argue not, pointing to cases where Islington has chosen “nothing” when developers can’t make a 50% figure pay. More here and here.
That sub-heading, in case it’s too small to read, is “Low pollution is becoming a key criteria for Londoners choosing a new home”. The piece goes on to cite NAEA director Mark Hayward, who points out people are remaining in properties for longer and looking for a healthy place to raise kids. If Londoners were using air quality as a key criteria it really wouldn’t be surprising. What - perhaps - is surprising, is that they apparently aren’t.
Unsurprisingly, given the the current mood music coming from the Bank of England, they’re not unduly concerned by the effect of recent stamp duty measures to make buy-to-let more expensive and - according to a new report quoted here - still see the investment as attractive and competitive. They do, however, wonder whether landlords have fully “appreciated" the effects of tax relief cuts on mortgage interest payments from next year. The message is… no more squeezing of the industry at least until the Bank has been able to study the medium-term affects of tax changes. I don’t think landlords will gain a huge amount of confidence from this.
Following an unnamed Treasury minister’s comments about wanting to make landlords “squeal”, the LSE goes at least someway to explain to the Government that a private rental sector is a necessity, and when landlords squeal, rents go up. It’s a report called Taking Stock, and it emphasises the importance of the small-scale private landlord, warning that demand for private rented property will grow in the short and medium-terms and with British landlords already treated unfavourably compared to those in other European country any further anti-landlord measures could reduce the number of available properties and drive up rents. More here.
According to data from agents Stirling Ackroyd, London’s property price wobbles are almost entirely contained within the postcodes that were previously soaring and seemed unstoppable. Price falls have been the most dramatic in the Kensington High Street area, falling by more than 10% in a year. Notting Hill, Hampstead and South Kensington were also big losers. Stripping out prime postcodes, London prices were up 8.2% on the year. More here.
The data comes courtesy of RICS, and is based on the experience of its members, with more than 25% more agents reporting a decline in buyer registrations than a rise in April. Accompanying comment singles out uncertainty over the EU referendum as a major cause. But surely more likely is an inevitable lull following a rush to complete in the lead up to the introduction of the stamp duty surcharge on second homes. House prices have, however, stayed firm, largely due to a lack of supply.
According to Property Industry Eye, the Government is looking at possibly making property purchases legally binding at an earlier stage of the process, thus removing the temptation for vendors to accept higher offers late in the game in a hot market, or for buyers to drop their offer equally late in a cool one. Possible solutions might be forcing the party who breaks the contract to pay costs, or making buyers pay early deposits. That the system needs overhauling is obvious. However, go here for a counter-intuitive (and, in my opinion, flawed) defence of the gazunder.
A University of Warwick study has revealed a correlation between graffiti and house prices that might be counter-intuitive. By looking at photographs uploaded to Flickr, tagged with both a location and the word “art”, they have identified a relationship between the number of photographs and property price gains. The higher the number, the higher the gains over the last ten years. Interesting. But Flickr is something of an old social media platform representing a self-selecting sample of people who joined in the early days of Web2.0 (as it was once called) and have possibly since risen up the career ladder. Could the correlation actually be between Flickr users and house price gains? More here.