London leaseholders face spiralling costs as landmark court ruling favours freeholders

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Thousands of London homeowners will continue to face spiralling costs when extending the lease on their property or attempting to buy the freehold because of a landmark court ruling.

Campaigners had brought a case to the Court of Appeal to have the current valuation system thrown out and replaced by a new “fairer” system after a Chelsea-based property company demanded £420,000 from a leaseholder to renew a less with only 23 years remaining.

However, the court dismissed the appeal and said the current system – first developed by surveyors working for Britain’s richest man, the Duke of Grosvenor on his Grosvenor Estate – should stay in place at least until the Law Commission reports on its own review of valuations under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993.

In Mundy v Sloane Stanley Estate, surveyor James Wyatt of Parthenia Valuation had argued that the valuation model used by property surveyors to judge what a new lease is worth was out of date. A new statistical model, known as the Parthenia model, was proposed that would reduce leasehold extension and freehold purchases by up to 50 percent.

'Fight goes on'

Leasehold reform campaigners vowed to fight on. Mr Wyatt said after the judgment had been delivered: “Now we need the government to act.” And Paula Higgins, chief executive of the Homeowners Alliance, described the ruling as “deeply disappointing”.

She added: “This ruling means leaseholders will continue to hand over huge amounts to their freeholders for very little in return. The method of lease valuation currently employed is over two decades old and is no longer appropriate.

“The Government must now act to ensure there is a fairer way to calculate leasehold extensions that is not subjective and favours the freeholders over leaseholders. The fight must go on.”

Louie Burns, managing director Leasehold Solutions, said the ruling was “devastating” and he said leaseholders are being overcharged all over England, adding: “The valuations model at the heart of this case estimates that leaseholders are currently being overcharged by £480 million a year. Over the past two decades that’s a staggering £9.6 billion that has been taken from householders due to flawed valuation methods that have favoured freeholders at the expense of leaseholders.”

Get the right advice from the start

There are around 4.1 million leasehold properties in England and Wales with around 2.1 million with less than 80 years left on the lease. Of those, around 500,000 are in London.

Leaseholders don’t own the land on which their property stands. Instead it’s owned by the freeholder who charges an annual ground rent and offers a long-term lease, usually decades long. It is when those long leases get close to expiring that householders face increasingly punitive renewal costs.

If you’re buying a leasehold property, you need the right legal advice from the start. Capital Conveyancing’s solicitors panel are experts in the property field and can provide clear, informative advice on leasehold, length of leases and the costs associated with such properties, including ground rent, maintenance fees and service charges.

Call Capital Conveyancing now on 0207 406 5880.

Land Registry introduces digital conveyancing and e-signatures to replace paper deeds

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A digital revolution in conveyancing could be on the way, starting at the Land Registry after changes to its rules were announced this week.

The organisation, which holds the title of ownership of all land, property and mortgaged property in England and Wales, is to introduce fully digital conveyancing documents with e-signatures. This will eliminate the need to use paper deeds and could potentially speed up the conveyancing process, where land and property is bought and sold.

The Land Registry is a statutory body and anyone buying or selling land and property, or taking out a mortgage, must have that transaction recorded by them. At the moment the Land Registry holds information relating to more than £4 trillion worth of property and land ownership in England and Wales, a figure that includes some £1 trillion worth of mortgages.

New regime starts in April

There was a public consultation on the proposed changes last year and now the organisation will introduce its digital registration from April 6, 2018. The digital package will speed up the registration process but place a strong focus on ensuring the registry stays safe from cyber-attackers and digital fraud.

Graham Farrant, the chief executive and Chief Land Registrar, said: “Our customers are central to everything we do, and we want to make dealing with us quicker and simpler by providing more services through digital technology.

“These changes are an important enabler for our digital transformation, and I want to thank our customers for their positive responses to the consultation.”

Low interest rates prompt steady increase in mortgage approvals

First-time buyers and home movers are securing mortgage approvals in increasing numbers as they seek to take advantage of still-low interest rates. Figures from UK Finance, the trade association that represents the lending industry, showed steady increases in mortgage lending in its analysis of mortgage trends for November 2017.

A report in The Times said housing market activity could be on the up after a difficult 2017, which saw the first rise in the Bank of England base rate in a decade and a slowdown in properties for sale.

The report added: “The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors had reported previously a sharp dip in the number of people looking to move house and the number of agreed sales over the past year, while the Land Registry said there had been a 15 per cent fall in housing transactions in England in September compared with the same month a year ago.”

In July 2017, estate agents across the UK also reported the lowest level of stocks on their books in four decades.

However, the data from UK Finance is more positive. It compared figures with the previous month and also for November 2016. With £5.6 billion agreed lending for 34,800 new first-time buyer mortgages in the month, November 2017 showed an increase of 15.2 percent in mortgage numbers and 16.7 percent in mortgage funds year-on year.

According to the figures, the average first-time buyer is aged 30 and has an income of £40,000.

Buy-to-let slows down

Meanwhile, there were 36,200 new home mover mortgages in the month, up 16.8 percent on a year earlier at a funding level of £7.5bn also up 19 percent in the same period. The average home mover is 39 years old with an income of £54,000.

Remortgaging continued to prove popular as 38,4000 homeowners reworked their finances to the tune of £6.5bn.

There was a fall in the number of buy-to-let (BTL) mortgages agreed, with 6,600 new mortgages financed by £0.9bn of lending and 13,5000 new BTL mortgages, valued at £2.1bn.

Paul Smee, head of mortgages at UK Finance, said: “The data shows housing market activity remains buoyant, despite November’s rise in the base rate. Steady increases in lending for house purchases, together with increases in homeowner remortgages, reflect a keenness among consumers to benefit from still historically low interest rates and a highly competitive marketplace.

“In contrast, declines in buy-to-let lending reflect the changing regulatory and fiscal environment for landlord businesses, where some landlords might be inclined to reappraise the viability of their portfolios.”

Access top-class conveyancing services

If you’re a first-time buyer, a home mover or a homeowner looking to remortgage, Capital Conveyancing is your link to fast and comprehensive conveyancing services tailored to the London property market.

Get an instant quote or request a callback and we’ll be in touch immediately.

London Mayor rips up planning rules to increase number of affordable homes being built

 

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London’s planning rules are being ripped up to increase the number of affordable homes built in the capital. Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced the density limits will be removed to help meet ambitious targets for more housing in the city.

The rule changes aim to boost the number of homes built near borough centres and transport hubs, with more small sites being developed while the greenbelt remains untouched.

Mr Khan’s draft London Plan was launched on November 29. Abandoning the current planning rules in place for residential development, Mr Khan aims to encourage house builders t develop small sites across London’s 32 boroughs in the belief that up to 24,500 new, affordable homes can be created on those smaller projects. The London Plan aims to build 65,000 new homes in London every year.

Higher-density developments will be encouraged close to rail, Tube and bus links.

'Ineffective constraints' removed

Mr Khan said: “With London’s population expected to increase by 70,000 every year, reaching 10.8 million in 2041, it’s vital we properly plan for growth with new affordable homes in every area of the capital.

“I am using all of the powers at my disposal in my first draft London Plan to tackle the housing crisis head on, removing ineffective constraints on home builders so we can make the most of precious land in the capital to build more homes in areas with the best transport links.

“My London Plan sets out how we are planning for the challenges our great city faces but crucially focuses on my vision of a London that welcomes growth, celebrates its diversity and ensures every Londoner gets the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”

Councils will consider planning applications for the smaller sites on a case-by-case basis, weighing up the value of the development to their area based on the existing infrastructure. That will allow an increase in the number of homes built, typically between one and 25 houses.

Smarter choices on building

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of business group, London First, said: “London’s success comes from the people who live and work here and we’ve been failing to build the homes they need for too long. By being smart about how and where we build, making better use of land and setting targets that councils can and must hit, the Mayor will help open a door for the countless people priced out of a place to call home.”

And Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders said: “Making better use of the many existing small sites that are scattered over the capital is essential if we are to build the number of new homes Londoners need.”

1st-time buyers boosted by abolition of Stamp Duty on properties worth up to £300,000

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First-time buyers attempting to get on the housing ladder in London have been given a boost with the abolition of Stamp Duty on properties worth up to £300,000.

Those buying a home for the first time that’s worth up to £500,000 in London and other expensive areas across England won’t have to pay a penny of Stamp Duty on the first £300,000 of that transaction.

Chancellor Philip Hammond made the announcement on the Stamp Duty changes in the Budget today, telling the House of Commons that 80 percent of first-time buyers will now avoid paying the land tax.

He said: “I want to take action to help young people saving to own a home. With effect from today, for all first-time buyers up to £300,000, I am abolishing Stamp Duty altogether.

To ensure that this relief also helps first time buyers in very high price areas like London, it will also be available on the first £300,000 of the purchase price of properties up to £500,000.”

Updated SDLT tax bands for 1st-time buyers

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Example of stamp duty for 1st-time buyers

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Tax levied on a sliding scale

Stamp Duty reform had been discussed at length before the Budget with property and financial experts united on viewing the tax as a barrier to social mobility and an increased burden on younger buyers.

Stamp Duty Land Tax is paid on all residential property worth £125,000 or more and on commercial properties sold at more than £150,000. It is levied on a sliding scale and raises around £11 billion a year for the Treasury.

There were other measures that focused on the housing market, too. Mr Hammond set a target of 300,000 new homes being built every year in England by the mid-2020s, more than double the average number currently being built. An extra £44 billion will also be spent over the next five years to improve construction skills, encourage small builders to return to the house-building market and free up land for building.

Urban areas, in particular cities and large towns, will be targeted to provide high-quality, high-density housing, while councils and London boroughs will be able to impose the full council tax on empty properties to encourage owners not to leave them vacant.

As property prices fall, the time is right to become a London homeowner

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After what seemed like years of unrelenting growth, it appears that London house prices are finally falling. And while that’s potentially bad news for sellers, it offers a ray of hope to buyers desperate to get on to the property ladder in the capital.

A recent report in the Sunday Times suggested 40 percent of homes on sale in London have had their asking price cut and, based on the latest report from the Hometrack UK Cities House Price Index, the newspaper says the capital is performing the worst of all areas in the UK property market.

Hometrack’s September 2017 report says the annual rate of price inflation in London is 2.3 percent, and with inflation now running at 3 percent, that means a fall in real terms in 85 percent of London areas.

The worst areas for price growth are in inner London, including the City, Kensington and Chelsea, Tower Hamlets, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Richmond upon Thames. Price growth was best on the outskirts, led by Epping Forest, Gravesham, Runnymede and Waltham Forest.

Further reductions are ‘inevitable’

Hometrack’s figures were confirmed by the latest data from Acadata and LSL Property Services, the research practice that analyses house price indices and trends across the UK.

According to its monthly report, the “traditional North-South divide has been upended” with price growth slowing in the south while the north is proving more resilient. Its figures suggest that prices in Greater London fell by 0.8 percent in August but individual boroughs showed fluctuations.

The Hometrack report said further price falls are “inevitable” because sellers will have to readjust their expectations in line with what buyers are willing to spend.

What that adds up to is greater power in the hands of the buyer who can expect to drive a hard bargain when they find the home they want. Meanwhile, sellers keen to make a fast sale are having to accept the new reality of fewer potential buyers and reduced offers.

We can help you make your move

If you are ready to make your move in the London property market, Capital Conveyancing is your first port of call. Our team of specialist conveyancers know the London scene inside out and offer fast and comprehensive conveyancing services to buyers, sellers and investors. Get an instant quote or request a callback and we’ll be in touch immediately.

London site will be 1st to offer only affordable housing

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A site in east London will be the first development in the capital to offer only affordable housing. The 330 new homes in Waltham Forest, Walthamstow, will be aimed at first-time buyers. The former Webbs industrial estate, which had lain derelict for seven years, was bought by the Greater London Authority last year and the tender to develop affordable homes was put out to tender.

Catalyst Housing Association won the right to be preferred bidders and they will now work with architects CF Moller and other housing associations to create the development. Along with a variety of homes, the site will also house creative workspaces, artist studios and retail units.

The homes will all be affordable and also eligible for shared ownership to widen as far as possible the net of potential owner-occupiers.

Long-term strategy to increase investment

London mayor Sadiq Khan pushed through the purchase of the land, which lies in Waltham Forest borough, after a proposal to build a free school there fell through.

Mr Khan said: “I’m doing all I can to help fix London’s housing crisis, but it will take time to turn things round. We’ve already taken big steps forward – my new planning rules will help raise affordable housing levels in new developments, and my £3.15 billion funding deal with government will help to build an extra 90,000 genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy.

“I’m working hard to identify more brownfield sites across London that we can use to build the thousands of affordable homes London so desperately needs.”

The mayor has put aside an initial £250 million to buy and prepare land for new and affordable housing, outlined in his draft Housing Strategy for London. Any profit made from selling land to developers will be reinvested in buying more land across the capital.

The Housing Strategy aims to build 90,000 affordable homes by 2021 and encourage the building of more; get a better deal for private renters; support community builders and other new housing providers; and help tackle homelessness.

The street art that adds value to property

Image courtesy of Affordable Art Fair

Image courtesy of Affordable Art Fair

In less enlightened times, we might have referred to it as graffiti. But street art – from gable-end murals to foot-high slogans and forest sculptures – is fast becoming one of the best ways to add value to both property and communities.

Popularised by Banksy, the anonymous artist whose work now fetches six figures, street art has grown from spray painting on subway trains to a multi-million pound industry that appeals to critics and consumers alike.

A research team from Warwick Business School found a link between art and house prices in 2016, using Flickr images to discover higher property prices were tied to more arty images. They identified London boroughs such as Shoreditch and Hackney as particularly enjoying the positive effects of art-led economic development.

Now further research, carried out for the Affordable Art Fair, confirms that property hunters in the UK are influenced in where they want to buy and how much they’re willing to pay by the street art on display.

Bright mural more important than a coffee shop

The survey – carried out by flyresearch.com – quizzed more than 1,000 adults across the UK on their attitudes towards street art. The findings show that up to 32 percent of those who participated would be willing to pay up to £50,000 more for a home in an area with colourful street art; that 42 percent of us would rather have a bright mural or interesting sculpture to look at than a local coffee shop; and that almost a third of Brits would happily commission an artist to paint a mural on the outside of their own home.

The latest Affordable Art Fair takes place from September 8-10 in Bristol, acknowledged as the UK’s birthplace of not only Banksy but street art itself.

The artist-in-residence for the fair is mural artist Alex Lucas, who said: “I’ve been creating murals across Bristol for 10 years now, starting with my own house, and I always love seeing the reactions of homeowners and the local community when they see the finished pieces.

“Many of my works start out as small projects and grow organically with the owner of the space, and even little pieces can make an impact.”

Impressionist master tops list of desired artists

While Banksy is now famous across the globe for his extravagant murals and pavement pieces, he didn’t top the top 10 list of artists Brits would like to wield a paintbrush on their homes.

The honour of the No. 1 spot went to French impressionist master Claude Monet, followed by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, with contemporary artists Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin further down the list.

For details of galleries exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair in Bristol, visit www.affordableartfair.com/fairs/bristol

Forecast of record rainfall every winter makes Residential Flood Search priority for home buyers

Flooded streets such as this one in York in December 2015 are becoming a more common sight in the UK

Flooded streets such as this one in York in December 2015 are becoming a more common sight in the UK

The grim sight of homes and communities destroyed by flood waters has sadly become all-too familiar in the UK in recent years. The severe storms of 2013-14 and 2015 caused destruction across the country and caused billions of pounds worth of damage, along with untold upset for families who lost everything.

Now the Met Office is predicting record rainfall could strike every winter from now on, putting the entire country on high alert.

Its researchers have suggested there is an increased risk of “unprecedented” winter storms of the type that ravaged parts of England and Wales in recent years. There is now a one in three chance of record monthly rainfalls in at least one part of the UK every winter.

Using a supercomputer to model future weather events, the team from the Met Office suggests there is a 7 percent risk of record monthly rain in the south-east of England, rising to 34 percent when the rest of England and Wales is taken into account.

Risk of flash flood not confined to winter

As the events of early July in the Cornish village of Coverack showed, the risk of flash flooding is not confined to winter. When a summer storm hit the region, some residents had to be airlifted to safety by helicopter as torrents of water raced through the village.

It’s obvious from these recent extreme weather events that it is not only those areas of the country that are consistently flooded during heavy rain that are at risk; few places can now consider themselves safe.

That means those looking to buy a home have to consider seriously the risk of flooding when choosing where to live. Mortgage lenders demand that any property they lend on be covered by buildings insurance that includes flood risk. If you can’t insure a house, you will not be successful in securing a mortgage.

Extensive detail from environmental search

A Residential Flood Search, instructed by your solicitor or conveyancer, is one of the environmental searches that can provide extensive information about surface water, ground water and other flood risks around your intended purchase.

Talk to the expert sales team at Capital Conveyancing today to get the lowdown on the essential searches that are carried out during the conveyancing process, from the extent of the searches to their cost. Call now on 0207 406 5880 or get a no-obligation quote instantly.

London mayor announces 50,000 more affordable homes for capital

St Paul's Cathedral, Monument and construction cranes in London

London mayor Sadiq Khan has announced a deal to build 50,000 new more affordable homes for sale and rent in the city. These homes are in addition to the 90,000 houses Mr Khan has pledged to build in the capital by 2020-21.

Involving all 32 boroughs and the City of London, the £1.7billion plan will bring local authorities and housing associations together with private developers to build 50,000 homes for shared ownership and the Mayor’s living rent over the next four years, the latter aimed squarely at middle-income earners who want to progress from rented accommodation to shared ownership.

The living rent scheme means rent is charged as a third of average local incomes, allowing those who cannot afford to buy in London the opportunity to save for a deposit while paying an affordable monthly rent.

Work is expected to start quickly on the first homes to be built under the scheme with sites bought in Newham, Lambeth, Southwark, Barnet and Ealing. Funding will come from the £3.15bn pledged by the government to London’s housing last year.

Committed to building more affordable homes

Announcing the project, Mr Khan said: “We know that solving the housing crisis is not going to happen overnight, but I very much welcome so many housing associations and councils matching my ambition by committing to build the new and genuinely affordable homes Londoners so desperately need.

“I am delighted that we have set a City Hall record for the number of homes allocated funding, but I am clear that we have got much more to do to secure the land we need to build homes and ensure we have sufficient capacity in the construction industry.”

And Paul Hackett, chair of the G15, which represents London’s largest housing associations, added: “The partnership with the Mayor is the biggest London’s housing associations have ever committed to, reflecting the urgency of the housing crisis and our strong relationship with City Hall.”

Thinktank backs National Housing Fund

Meanwhile, an independent thinktank has proposed establishing a National Housing Fund to deal with increasing the housing supply across the UK. ResPublica’s proposal has cross-party support and aims to encourage the government to use historically low interest rates to set up the fund with housing associations across the UK.

Its report – A National Housing Fund to Build Homes We Need – suggests such a fund could ensure up to 40,000 homes are built every year while boosting public finances by £3.4bn and creating 180,000 new jobs in construction.

The report’s author, Philip Callan, said: “Our report focuses on the practical steps that government can take to deliver many more homes. All of our proposed actions are in their control. What is needed now is the political will and leadership to make it happen.”