Thursday, April 28, 2005

Nationwide Reports A Price Rise

Nationwide Reports A Price Rise

House prices were up by 0.9 per cent in April, says the Nationwide's latest house price report...
After a disappointing fall of 0.6 per cent in March, the 0.9 per cent upturn this month is a positive sign for the property market, although Nationwide believes there has been an overall trend of broadly flat price rises since last summer. The average house price now stands at £156,128 compared to £153,876 in March.
Monthly inflation over the last three months has averaged around 0.3 per cent, substantially lower than the two per cent during the same period of 2004. The annual rate of house price growth also slowed in April, falling to seven per cent from March's 7.9 per cent, says the report.

Suffolk Estate agent Bychoice reports increased activity in the market since the 1st April.

Code of practice for buying overseas

A common code of practice and charter for estate agents selling overseas property has been agreed upon by the National Association of Estate Agents and the Federation of Overseas Property Developers Agents and Consultants.
Setting out basic rules for member agents of both organisations, the new charter will allow the public to buy or sell overseas property with confidence, knowing that their affairs will be handled ethically and professionally, say the NAEA.
Ian Tonge, chairman of the NAEA International Division, said, "With overseas property an increasingly popular part of our members’ portfolios, this Common Code gives the public an easy way to find a high quality service that’s more than just fine words."
As a further boost, subject to ratification at forthcoming meetings, both FIABCI (the International Real Estate Federation) with members in 70 countries world-wide and the CEI (Confédération Européenne de l'Immobilier) with members across 13 European countries will also sign up to the Common Code. This will create a massive world-wide network of independent specialists who deal ethically and professionally with every aspect of clients’ needs related to residential and commercial property abroad.
Ian Tonge added, "This is a huge plus for those clients and investors seeking sound advice information and other services before buying property abroad. At the same time our aim is that those who give poor service, mislead clients, are negligent or reckless will either be forced to mend their ways or driven out of the industry."
Members of the public are advised to look for the NAEA and FOPDAC logos on adverts, websites or at exhibitions, and always ask for proof of membership.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

RICS for fairer council tax banding

RICS Calls For Fairer Council Tax Rebanding

Tax bands must be readjusted in line with house price inflation, says a report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors...
Council Tax revaluation in England will lead to unduly large increases in council tax bills unless the tax bands are readjusted in line with house price inflation, according to research published by RICS.
Examining the process in Wales, the RICS work shows how re-banding was not carried out in line with Welsh house price inflation - house prices have risen an average 129 per cent in Wales since 1991.
This has resulted in more homes automatically entering higher bands and costing Welsh council tax payers £53 million over and above local council tax rate rises, says the report.
Two Billion Increase This cuts across assurances that the total revenue collected from council tax in Wales would not change because of the revaluation and re-banding. If the same model is adopted in England, average council tax bills (and revenues) will rise when the revaluation kicks-in in 2007. RICS estimates this would mean a £2.04 billion increase in council tax revenue collected.
Welsh council tax revenues are set to rise by around 10 per cent in 2005/6. Of this increase, four per cent is accounted for by bill increases in each band to fund local services (the lowest increase in council tax since its introduction) but six per cent is due to the impact of more houses moving into higher bands.
RICS Economist David Stubbs, said: "It has been publicly stated that council tax revaluation is a revenue neutral exercise. It's not about increasing the overall tax take.
"If the Welsh model is adopted in England we will see a disproportionate number of houses moving up into higher bands in Southern regions where house prices have risen above the national average since 1991.
"Since the last revaluation in 1991 house prices in England have risen by an average 162 per cent. To remain tax neutral any re-banding exercise must take account of this."
The value of houses in England on April 1 st this year will affect how much council tax people pay. The first revaluation of English homes since 1991 is being carried out by the Valuation Office Agency under the 2003 Local Government Act.
Five Yearly RevaluationsRICS believes that five yearly council tax revaluations, timed so as not to conflict with the regular business rate revaluations, would be the most realistic period of time for Council Tax revaluation in England.
More localised banding would remove some of the perceived unfairness of council tax by achieving a more accurate local tax base, says RICS.
The Lyons independent inquiry into local government, which is considering council tax reform, will report by the end of this year.

Election Agenda Bychoice

Election Agenda For Estate Agents

Estate agents BYchoice evaluate what would secure their vote in next month's election...
The National Association of Estate Agents surveyed its members to find out what would be their vote winners in terms of the housing market. Stamp duty threshold, first-time buyers and licensing of estate agents were the top three issues.
Despite the Chancellor's increase to the stamp duty threshold in the last Budget, 78 per cent of estate agents said they still believed that further rises are necessary to improve the housing market.
Less than one in five agents thought that the present government has helped the property industry in recent years, and 45 per cent believe that it has actually hindered it.
Licensed To Sell Almost two thirds of estate agents felt that licensing their profession is a priority, something which the NAEA has been campaigning for. All members must currently abide by a strict code of practice and rules of conduct or face expulsion from the Association, but there are limited powers to stop rogue agents from practising, and the NAEA would like to see an effective regulatory scheme put into place.
Scrap The Packs Another key issue for agents was that of Home Information Packs (due to become compulsory in 2007 for people selling their house) with almost half wanting to see them scrapped. A further 15 per cent of agents felt that a voluntary scheme would be more effective. At the recent NAEA National Congress, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats pledged to abandon HIPs should they come to power.
Chief Executive of the NAEA, Peter Bolton King, commented: "These results reflect the feelings of some 10,000 estate agents across the country.
"The political parties should not ignore the strength of feeling on some of these aspects, and the extent of change they could bring about to the thousands of people buying or selling a home each year.
"Whatever the outcome of the election, the NAEA will continue to lobby the Government on licensing, HIPs, stamp duty and the other issues which have the potential to seriously affect the housing market and the British public."
Results of the NAEA Poll:
What could a future Government do to benefit the UK housing market, buyers & sellers?
Increase stamp duty thresholds - 78.9%
More schemes to help first-time buyers - 81.8%
License estate agents - 60.2%
Scrap HIPs - 48.2%
More affordable housing - 32.3%
Control inflation - 27.9%
Increase supply of new homes through planning reforms - 20.3%
Introduce incentives for regeneration schemes - 18.7%
Make HIPs voluntary - 15.1%
Introduce REITs - 10.4%
Other - 10.4%
Limit second home ownership - 4.0%

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

House prices down again

House Prices Down Again In April

House prices have fallen for the tenth consecutive month, according to Hometrack's survey for April...
It's not all bad news, however, as the drop in prices in April was only -0.1 per cent, and the last four months have seen reducing price falls, which Hometrack interprets as a suggestion that the market is stabilising.
The average house price is now £162,100, down from a peak of £167,700 in June last year.
Buyers BackIn contrast to lacklustre price changes, activity increased again this month, with sales agreed up by 9.4 per cent !16.5 per cent in March's survey).
This, says Hometrack, is partly due to ongoing increase in the number of buyers registering with estate agents, which has risen since the beginning of the year by 27.3 per cent.
However, even though buyers have been returning to the market, there is still a backlog of properties on agents' books and this means that buyers are still in a strong position: as a consequence, April's average sales price as a percentage of asking price decreased slightly to 93.3 per cent (93.4 per cent in March's survey).
The length of time it takes to sell a property was unchanged, staying stable at 7.4 weeks. The average number of viewings per sale was down to 12.4 (13.2 in March), suggesting that buyers are not holding back as they had done previously, according to Hometrack.
27 counties have seen price rises or remained stable in April, with 31 having seen a decline. At the top end of the scale were Central London & City and West Midlands (0.6 per cent), Dorset (0.5 per cent), London-North and Wiltshire (0.3 per cent).
The largest falls were in Bedfordshire (-0.7 per cent), Gloucestershire (-0.5 per cent), and Surrey, Oxfordshire and London-East (all at -0.4 per cent).
Election JittersJohn Wriglesworth, Hometrack's Housing Economist, comments: "The forthcoming election, a change of pope and a newly married heir to the throne have done nothing to improve the housing market which remains in the doldrums. Despite buyers returning to the market, there continues to be an excess supply of unsold properties.
"Election jitters are not helping, but this is only temporary. Post election, whichever party wins, there is likely to be a bounce back in the market, as the economic and political prospects become more certain, thus encouraging consumer confidence to return.
"Interest rates, which may rise after the election, are expected to remain historically low, as with unemployment, despite Rover's collapse. Mortgages are still very affordable, and incomes are continually rising.
"There are no fundamental reasons why the market should not recover, confidence is the key. We continue to predict three per cent house price inflation for the year.
"The Conservative party's announcement of their intention to scrap stamp duty below £250,000 is helpful but not significant. It will only take one per cent off house prices, which in the context of rises of nearly 100 per cent over the last five years, is akin to taking a snowflake off an iceberg. However, for first-time buyers particularly, it is a good psychological boost so is to be commended."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Moving To Improve ?

Are you leaving behind your old life to literally rebuild a new one somewhere else? If so, would you like to star in a TV show?...
A leading television company is looking for people who are about to start a major property renovation in a beautiful location. It could be a Suffolk cottage, a bungalow by the beach, or maybe a village mansion; whatever your revamp plans, they want to hear them.
Considering that moving house is way up there on the Most Stressful Things list, moving away to a property that's not yet completed would be a move too far for most people.
Anyone ambitious enough to undertake this sort of adventure surely wouldn't object to the added excitement of being followed by a camera crew?
If you'd be willing to have your renovation project recorded for posterity and have already found your dream dwelling and destination, give Katie a call on 0207 985 7045 or email her at
Suffolk is one of the uk's favoured locations for second home owners in Europe.

But It's not just Brits who buy second homes abroad: the trend is a European phenomenon, says the RICS...
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' European Housing Review, published yesterday, says that buying a second home has become more and more popular in many European countries, with many of them being bought for leisure purposes. They will probably be rented out, but are usually owned directly and used by one family.
In countries with a high proportion of rental property like France, Germany and the Netherlands, it's not unusual for people to rent their primary home but own their second, according to the report.

If the price is right

Overpriced Properties Won't Sell
"There are a lot of historically overpriced properties on the market which will remain so, but where a vendor is willing and the purchaser is keen, deals are being readily done. If agents are overvaluing homes to get instructions they are doing their sellers no favours at all.
"However the very best houses in suffolk are in such demand that they sell immediately, providing of course that they are of the right price and quality and in the right location.
"This survey shows that the market is a little sluggish as people mistakenly believe that house prices are going to fall.
"However if history dictates, the months following an election usually enjoy much higher levels of activities than the months before, regardless of which party gets elected, and this is sure to boost the market."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Suffolk Estate Agent opens Long Melford office Bychoice

Suffolk Estate Agent Bychoice of Sudbury, which opened there first office in King Street Sudbury last October, is defying the market by opening there 2nd office in the Famous village of Long Melford.
Todd Lewis, a director of BYchoice said "It's such an exciting opportunity, and a wonderfull challenge."
The office which opened on Tuesday 19th April 2005, is located on Hall street, Long Melford, Suffolk, tel 01787 315065

Bank votes 7-2 against interest rise

MPC Votes 7-2 Against Rate Rise

Suffolk home owners were releived to hear the MPC vote these are the bones....
It wasn't too much of a surprise earlier this month when the MPC announced not to increase interest rates, so with only two members still voting in favour of a hike, can we expect rates to stay frozen? ...
MPCThe Minutes of this month's Monetary Policy Committee were released today, giving an insight into how they reached their decision.
In regards to housing, the Committee felt confident that athough house price inflation had fallen off sharply and housing market activity had declined from its peak, recent data had suggested that the market might be stabilising.
According to the averages of the Halifax and Nationwide house price indices, said the Committee, the three month on three month rate of house price inflation had changed little between February and March, and remained positive; net reservations and mortgage approvals were no longer declining month-on-month.
Consumer SpendingThe Committee had been concerned about a persistent decrease in consumption in the first quarter of 2005. However, they believed that this could have been brought about by temporary factors, for example uncertainty about how quickly the housing market would stabilise, or whether or not interest rates would rise again.
They felt that the slowdown may have reflected the recent low level of housing turnover, affecting purchases of the durable goods associated with moving house, although it was also evident in spending on other items too, such as vehicles.
The Committee believed that there were plausible explanations for the above, however: the fall in house price inflation having a bigger impact on consumer spending than expected; the increase of interest rates up to last August may have impacted only recently; or households becoming more concerned about the inadequacy of their arrangements for income in retirement, although they could not explain why that would have led to a rise in saving at this particular time.
In light of these factors combined with other elements such as the international economy and financial markets, the Committee voted as to whether or not to increase interest rates.
Pro And Con
There had been a split vote of seven to two in last month's meeting: this month, the same two members, Paul Tucker and Andrew Large, retained their stance and again voted to increase rates.
Their viewpoint, according to the Minutes, was that there had not been much change over the month, and they continued to prefer an immediate rise to pre-empt inflationary pressures.
For the majority of the Committee, the main question was whether, after a month's data, the balance of risks to the inflation forecast was sufficiently on the downside to justify leaving the rate unchanged again.
Those who voted for no change concluded that the overall risk was on the downside, and therefore it was unnecessary to change their votes, leaving the interest rate at 4.75 per cent for at least another month

Home buyers borrowing on the up

Borrowing On The Up, Suffolk homes on the up....

Confidence creeps back into the housing market as lending for property purchase and remortgaging moves up in March...
Gross lending in March totalled £20.1 billion, 13 per cent higher than February's £17.8 billion, according to the latest data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders. However, this figure remains 19 per cent lower than last March's total of £24.7 billion.
Lending for house purchase in March rose to £8 billion, an increase of 14 per cent on February's £7 billion. Remortgaging went up by six per cent, from £8.7 billion in February to £9.2 billion in March.
First-Time Buyer IncreaseThe proportion the total lending figure for house price purchase was a low but steady 40 per cent, having been at 39 per cent in February and 40 per cent in January.

Figures from the BBAThe British Banking Association also released figures for March today showing that there was an increase in mortgage lending in March of £4.5 billion.Although this was down by £0.2 billion from February's total, it is still in keeping with the average increase of £4.6 billion over the last six months, according to the report.

Director of Statistics at the BBA, David Dooks, commented: "Whilst the trend in monthly mortgage growth has moderated gradually over the last year, it now appears to be stabilising and it is worth noting that monthly rises of around £4.5 billion are higher than at any time prior to April 2002, showing us that the market clearly has some inherent strength which is underpinning demand."

Buyers call the shots

RICS Report Says Buyers Can Call The Shots

Another slide in house prices means a continued buyers' market, says RICS' latest report...
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors housing report, out today, shows there was a fall in house prices in March with 37 per cent of surveyors noting a dip compared to 34 per cent the previous month.
RICS says that property sales for March have been affected by an early Easter and fears of another rise in interest rates. Continued uncertainty also affected new purchase enquiries which stayed stagnant, as did newly agreed sales. Surveyors believed that some sellers have unrealistically priced properties which is also affecting sales activity.
Household Confidence UpWith restrained market conditions, surveyors are envisaging further falls in house prices but they remain optimistic that sales will increase, as the underlying economy and job prospects are still strong. RICS reported that household confidence levels in the early months of 2005 were at their highest in more than six years.
Prices remain weak across much of the UK, the reports says, having fallen in the Midlands, Southern England and, more moderately, in the Northern regions. In London, prices have been stable, and there are still strong increases in Scotland.
The number of properties on surveyors' books was also slightly down in March, from 73 per surveyor compared to 76 in February, but are still up 26 per cent for the past year.
"Sellers Must Be More Realistic"RICS national housing market spokesman, Jeremy Leaf, comments: "While there are no signs of a collapse, housing market activity showed little change in March, but we expect good job prospects and stable interest rates to lead to improved sales as the year progresses.
"Getting on to the property ladder is currently easier for first-time buyers as buyers increasingly call the shots. Sellers must be more realistic if they want to secure a sale."
What The Surveyors Said:
Epsom, Surrey"Very quiet Easter period and no recovery since. We are now suffering from a shortgage of new instructions and valuation levels have fallen.
"Vendors seem happy to wait and see, while buyers become increasingly disillusioned. Prices are steady - What are they waiting for?"Mark Everett Esq. BSc FRICS, Hove, East Sussex"Constant flow of applicants, a lot of viewings but a low percentage converted to acceptable offers."Geoffrey Holden Esq. FRICS ,
Battersea, London"After a positive start to the year, the market seemed to slow down in terms of sales agreed, enquiries and instructions.
"However, this has reversed in the last two weeks, which have been much busier. More confidence seems to be returning to the market."Tim Le Blanc-Smith Esq. MRICS, Belgravia, London"Vendors are not selling as they are not confident of finding a suitable replacement property. Many are loathed to sell for less or the same amount if they have bought in the last few years.
"There is a shortage of property, and sadly some agents are overvaluing to try and obtain dwindling market share. Purchasers are prepared to wait until there is a greater choice."Tim Le Blanc-Smith Esq. MRICS,

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Property and Prime Ministers

Property And Prime Ministers18 Apr 2005 News Item

Did house prices do better under Wilson or Callaghan, Thatcher or Blair? New research reveals all...
The average house in the UK has risen by more than 35 times since 1970, from an average of £4,874 to £172,788, but which prime minister presided over the largest increase?
You might think Thatcher - who made such an issue of creating a conservative home-owning democracy - or Blair - who has presided over the largest boom since the dawn of time would be the front runners.
But no. Ted Heath, whose Conservative Government reigned from 1970 to 1974, topped the poll. In Ted's time house prices rose by an average of over 13 per cent per year in real terms (i.e.: after adjusting for retail price inflation).
The current government came in second place, with a real annual increase in house prices since 1997 of just over 10 per cent. The slowest annual real rate of increase was during Harold Wilsons Labour government between 1974 and 1976. Annual house prices actually fell in real terms by 13 per cent during this time.
London Does BestThe biggest winners since 1970 have been London homeowners, who have seen the value of their properties increase by over 40 times, from an average of £6,337 to £257,266.
The smallest rate of growth was in Scotland, where homes have increased in value by 23 times, from £4,723 to £110,266. Nationally, home ownership has risen from 45 per cent in 1964 to 70 per cent in 2005.
Commenting on the figures, Martin Ellis, Chief Economist at Halifax, said: "Homeowners have seen good rates of house price increases under both main political parties, just as they have seen real house price falls under both governments.
"What is very clear, however, is that home ownership has been a tremendous success over the past few decades. The majority of people in the UK want to own a home of their own."
Prime Ministers Since 1964
Harold WilsonIn office from October 1964 to June 1970Price of Home at start of term - £3,360Price of Home at end of term - £4,874Real average annual per cent increase within term - +1 per cent
Edward HeathIn office from June 1970 to March 1974Price of Home at start of term - £4, 874Price of Home at end of term - £10,766Real average annual per cent increase within term - +13 per cent
Harold WilsonIn office from March 1974 April 1976Price of Home at start of term - £10,766Price of Home at end of term - £12,415Real average annual per cent increase within term - -13 per cent
James CallaghanIn office from April 1976 to May 1979Price of Home at start of term - £12,415Price of Home at end of term - £20,004Real average annual per cent increase within term - +4 per cent
Margaret ThatcherIn office from May 1979 to November 1990Price of Home at start of term - £20,004Price of Home at end of term - £69,478Real average annual per cent increase within term - +4 per cent
John MajorIn office from November 1990 to May 1997Price of Home at start of term - £69,478Price of Home at end of term - £77,531Real average annual per cent increase within term - -2 per cent
Tony BlairIn office from May 1997 to DatePrice of Home at start of term - £77,531Price of Home at end of 2004 - £172,788Real average annual per cent increase within term - +10 per cent
(Based on average house prices).

Double the amount of first time buyers

The number of first-time buyers entering the property marker doubled last month, claims the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).
Back in February the NAEA said the proportion of new entrants to the housing market stood at a low of 10.1%, but over March this figure jumped to 22.3%.
The NAEA linked this rise directly to the Chancellor's decision to raise the threshold at which a buyer is forced to pay stamp duty from £60,000 to £120,000 in March’s Budget.
But despite the increase in FTBs, prices remained on hold, with the NAEA reporting that house prices remain less than 0.5% higher than they were at the start of the year.
This market stagnation, coupled with the increase in the number of available properties, has meant that buyers remain in a stronger position than sellers, said the estate agents’ group.
Over the last year the number of properties on the market has doubled, the NAEA said, while at the same time the average number of buyers on estate agents' books has fallen by a fifth.
This has led to the average buyer receiving a 4.5% discount from asking prices, compared with last year when "sellers were able to almost 'name their price' in many areas", the NAEA said.
Richard Hair, president of the NAEA, commented: "Buyers remain the dominant force and are discovering they often have a wide choice of properties to choose from. However, with vendors starting to include realism in their asking prices, sales are back on the up."

Friday, April 15, 2005

The key to 10 Downing Street

Property: The Key To 10 Downing Street?

The next resident of 10 Downing Street may find that a convincing housing policy was the key to electoral victory...
Pic Source: 10 Downing StreetThat, at any rate, is the view of the Council of Mortgage Lenders. In a new report they argue that the party most likely to help frustrated buyers get a first foot on the housing ladder will do best in the forthcoming election.
The three main parties all know this, of course, and will be insisting that they are the true guardians of Britain's home-owning democracy. But what are they offering the hard-pressed would-be owner? Here's a run through what they say they'll do.
Labour announced their future housing aims even before the announcement of the election, a sure sign of how central they view the issue to their bid for re-election.
What will they do? First and foremost, extend HomeBuy, an existing shared equity scheme which allows buyers to own a proportion of their home.
HomeBuy has been around since April 1999, the CML notes, its aim being to assist low-income households, namely social sector tenants and those on a local authority housing waiting list, into home ownership. Funding comes from the government and also, in some cases, from local authorities.
Labour's new suggestion is an expansion of the current HomeBuy scheme; in brief, they propose that people would buy a minimum of 50 per cent of the market value of the property (in some cases 75 per cent) and the rest would be made up through a combination of funding from mortgage lenders and the government.
They also plan to open up the scheme to three types of HomeBuy category:
Social HomeBuy - existing housing tenants would be able to buy 50 per cent of their home's discounted value, the rest would be funded by the local authority or housing association.
New-Build HomeBuy - aimed at key workers, existing social tenants, those on the housing register, and first-time buyers considered to be a priority by regional housing boards. Fifty per cent would be held by a housing association.
Open Market HomeBuy - aimed at the same groups as New Build, but a minimum of 75 per cent of the property's value must be purchased. The remaining 25 per cent would be funded by the government and the mortgage lender.
The Tories also aim to expand HomeBuy. Their plan is to extend it to newly built homes, recognising, says the CML, that a flaw in the present scheme is that it can only be used to buy existing properties. Extending it to new homes should help alleviate the shortage of affordable housing.
The CML believes that the Conservative policy document shares their own view of "the full potential of flexible shared equity" which could offer people the chance both to increase and decrease their share in a property - this is known as "staircasing" - depending on their circumstances.
The Conservatives are arguing that it costs half as much to subsidise a bought home as it does to provide social rented accommodation. They are pledging to give a "much greater priority" to shared equity within the housing budget to ensure its potential can be reached.
In regards to the current HomeBuy scheme, the Tories say that it needs to be "more affordable and more flexible". They suggest that "for the first five years the occupier could benefit from a larger equity loan consisting of two parts but with no initial interest charge for either.
"This would be charged at a low rate, possibly index-linked, and would be designed to break even over the life of the loan, after prudently allowing for equity growth."
Liberal Democrats
The Lib Dems' housing proposals are based on a "mutual homes" model. The premise for this is that, instead of paying rent to a landlord, "tenant/owners" buy shares in a Mutual Home Ownership Trust (MHOT). When they want to move house they sell back their shares, thus providing equity for their new home.
The way in which this would work, say the Liberal Democrats, is that the Home Ownership Trusts would be formed by either housing associations, local people or councils, and these trusts would build, own and manage the homes.
The land on which the homes are built would be owned by a Community Land Trust (CLT). This would hold the public land subsidy which would make the homes affordable, and it would offer the land on long leases at low rates.People wanting to occupy a mutual home would pay a deposit, or small equity share, which would be around five per cent of the cost of building it, and would then make a monthly payment of around 30 per cent of their salary.
Although this payment would be rent, say the Lib Dems, it would contribute to the repayment of the communal mortgage, as well as a sinking fund and other costs. It would also earn shares in the Home Ownership Trust.
When householders wanted to move, they would sell back their equity based on an "agreed resale formula" which would be linked to the local housing market, allowing people to see their equity stake rise in line with local house prices.
Householders would have the option of selling their shares to either a new or an existing "tenant/owner" or back to the trust.
CML's Conclusion
"The widespread consensus on encouraging the growth of shared equity is a welcome acknowledgement by all the main political parties that more needs to be done to help would-be first-time buyers surmount affordability problems and bridge the gap into home-ownership.
"Lenders welcome this, and the work that has been done so far by each of the parties to develop policy initiatives addressing the issues. Mortgage lenders look forward to continuing to explore innovative ways of providing funding for shared equity."

Good schools add value to your property

Today's lesson teaches us that living near a top school doesn't only benefit the kids, says a report from Halifax...
Indeed, the average premium on house prices in an area with good schools is 12 per cent, according to the survey. For those not blessed with a good grasp of maths, on today's average house prices, that equates to £25,100.
The research was conducted to see whether or not there was a link between GCSE results and house prices. Halifax looked at Local Education Authorities in England and Wales with the best exam results and discovered that in eight out of ten cases, house prices did trade at a premium to the regional average.
Top MarksTop of the class with the highest proportion of students achieving good GCSE results (68 per cent) was Rebridge (Greater London). However, this was one of the two areas from the top ten to have an average house price trading at a discount on the regional price (-£27,637). Could do better.
The other area where the house price was lower than the region's average was Gateshead (North East), a discount of -£58,388. However, according to the report, Gateshead has the lowest house prices in the top twenty LEAs (average price £127,619) and, therefore, potentially the best value housing. It is also the area to have seen the biggest improvement in house price terms: a gold-star-earning 142 per cent since 2000.
Geography LessonThe other eight areas featuring in the Top Ten list all recorded house prices trading at a premium on the regional average. These were, in order, Sutton, Buckinghamshire, Kingston upon Thames, Trafford, Havering, The Vale of Glamorgan, Poole and Wokingham.
Out of the Top Twenty LEAs, the highest house prices were in Barnet (Greater London), at an average of £336,178. The area with the highest premium compared to the regional average was Solihull (West Midlands) at £71,441.
On a general Local Education Authority basis, Kensington & Chelsea in London had the steepest house prices at an average of £603,406. Highest outside of the South of England was Rutland (East Midlands) at £269,917 while the most reasonable average house price was found in Kingston-upon-Hull (Yorkshire & the Humber) at £82,999.
Tim Crawford, Group Economist at Halifax commented: "Good local schooling clearly matters to families and also to investors when they purchase a property.
"This link can be hard to quantify given the multitude of factors affecting the housing market but high standards of education and high house prices do seem to go hand in hand."

We'll scrap HIPs, Claim Conservatives

We'll Scrap HIPs, Claim Conservatives

14 Apr 2005 News Item

The Tory party have vowed to do away with controversial Home Information Packs (HIPs) if they win the General Election this year...
The promise was made by John Hayes MP, Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning, at the National Association of Estate Agents' National Congress last week.
Mr Hayes said: "A Conservative government would scrap this scheme immediately. We would cut red tape for people wanting to sell their homes, and we would put to rest once and for all the idea of Home information Packs.
Chief Executive of the NAEA, Peter Bolton King, comments: "The Conservative party has made a bold srep in promising to scrap the unsatisfactory proposals for HIPs.
"This promise will strike a chord with many estate agents who, whilst accepting that there is a need to improve the system, are unhappy at the way the government is planning to reform the house buying and selling process.
"Tony Blair and his colleagues should not underestimate the strength of feeling amongst many UK estate agents on these plans."
Under the Labour government HIPs are set to become mandatory from 2007, meaning that anyone selling their home will have to put an information pack together before they can open their doors to potential buyers.
Property professionals have previously raised all sorts of doubts over the packs - about their cost, the impact they'll have on the market, and the inclusion of a controversial new survey, the Home Condition Report (HCR).

House prices dip as election looms

Hosue prices in London have dipped in the run-up to the general election

In the run-up to the general election house prices in London have dipped.While uncertainty reigns over who will win, and what their plans for taxes are, residents of the capital are sitting on their hands and not buying, according to haart estate agents.The latest data from the property firm has shown that over March home values dipped three per cent, while vendors cut asking prices an average of 4.5 per cent to achieve a sale.But while it is currently a buyers market, the uncertainty is unlikely to extend far beyond polling day on May 5."Impending general elections fuel uncertainty. Homebuyers are anxious about purchasing properties as they are wary of electoral outcomes and the looming tax rises that will further dent their budget," said Russell Jervis, managing director of haart estate agents."However this is in fact a great time for buyers to purchase a property as historic data tells us that property prices will bounce back post election," he added.The average house price in London fell to £221,256 in March from £228,150 in February, haart revealed. But this was predicted to be a "temporary glitch" with the market forecast to bounce back post election."We are still seeing the re-adjustment of prices from last year. Sales that are being agreed today are on properties where the vendors are sensible about prices. It is very common for market confidence to dip pre-election but it is often a very temporary dip that swiftly picks up once the dust settles post election. We therefore predict a much more buoyant market in the next quarter," Mr Jervis explained.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

RICS say the market is sluggish

The housing market is in "a state of torpor" according to the latest economic survey from The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)...
Surveyors reported a drop in house prices during February, although the pace of decline eased to its slowest since last September. Prospective buyers remained cautious amid fears of a future rise in interest rates, a contrast from last year when it was believed that rates had already reached their peak, according to the report.
Newly agreed property sales rose slightly for the second month in a row, which was the first consecutive increase since last spring, but at the completion stage, sales slipped back, said the survey. New enquiries from would-be purchasers stayed static, although this was an improvement from the falls reported in the second half of 2004.
More Sellers Than BuyersWhereas buyer activity was less than buoyant, the number of sellers showed slight but sustained rises, leading to an increase in the number of unsold properties on surveyors' books. This is at its highest level since May 2003, and up 32 per cent over the last year.
RICS' report believes that with this extra choice of properties available, the climate for prices is likely to stay subdued. There could, however, be a spurt of buyer activity at the lower end of the market, where buyers have been assisted by a rise in the stamp duty threshold from £60,000 to £120,000.
However, because average UK house prices are still more than 50 per cent higher than the new threshold, this is hardly likely to be a key issue for would-be buyers - instead they will be keeping their focus on prospects for employment, incomes and interest rates.
Don't Rule out A Rate RiseOther findings from the RICS economic report were that consumer spending has "shifted to a lower gear of growth in response to rising interest rates". Business investment is holding up, they said, and a firmer global economy is giving some impetus to exports.
RICS believes that the outlook for 2005 will be dependent on how the industrial and service economy evolves throughout the year. They said that another interest rate rise later in the year cannot be ruled out, particularly if business investment and exports continue to strengthen.
Jocelyn Beattie

10 tips for your garden when selli n

Summer is on its way and thoughts inevitably turn to hazy evenings spent outdoors, dining al fresco and contentedly sipping a Pimms...
Those people fortunate enough to posses a garden no doubt know that now is the time to get all the weeding, trimming and pruning out of the way, leaving maximum time to reap the benefits when summer comes kicking in.
More application and preparation now, less sweat-inducing effort in the sweltering heat of July and August. (Well, there's no harm in a bit of optimism!)
Garden owners appreciate their outdoor havens so much, that 94 per cent are planning to spend money sprucing them up this year, with 13 per cent intending to plough in up to £4,000 - such are the findings of Standard Life's survey into the habits of Britain's garden owners.
Overall, they say, Brits will spend an average of eight days toiling in the garden, with many of them enlisting the help of friends and family - hopefully with the intention of repaying them with a sumptuous barbeque in the hallowed grounds once the work is complete.
In addition to introducing new plants, ambitions for the Garden of 2005 range from completely re-landscaping (38 per cent) to creating an outdoor entertainment space (37 per cent, with 24 per cent aspiring to include seating areas). Shakespeare in the garden, anyone?
Fruit and vegetable gardens are very du-jour, says Standard Life, with 39 per cent following the example of The Good Life by growing their own. Water features are still popular with 13 per cent of garden owners - thank you, Charlie Dimmock. But the most desirable addition to this year's garden is that of lighting and musical features, especially so with those under 25 (62 per cent).
The desire to spruce up the garden is not only for the undoubted pleasures that it can bring of a summer's day, but also because of the financial benefits that can ensue. Fifty per cent of gardeners surveyed admitted that the possibility of adding value to their property was the main motivation for their horticultural ambitions.
Andrew Boddie, Head of Marketing at Standard Life Bank, believed that the introduction of flexible mortgages such as their own Freestyle version had allowed homeowners to fund projects such as doing up their gardens. "It is fantastic to see so many people wanting to add money to their properties," he said.
Celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin has put together a list of Top Ten Tips to assist anyone planning to create their own little outdoor haven this year:
Diarmuid's Horticultural Hints1. The garden will always do well with a good feeding of humus material like well rotted farmyard manure.
2. Sometimes we get the aspect wrong. A smaller patio midway down or towards the end of the garden to catch the evening sun when you get home from work will increase your enjoyment of the plot.
3. Occasionally try repeat planting in the garden rather than having billions of species which confuse the eye. Try groups of the same recurring in parts of the garden to let your eye travel through the plot.
4. Packets of seeds can achieve miracles especially at this time of the year. Get all the seed catalogues - Unwins, Fothergills and Suttons - and look at the incredible range of annual plants that can be sown directly into the ground as the soil warms up during April, which will produce stunning displays this year.
5. The occasional oversized pot with trees in them can create dramatic impact.
6. The colour purple…a really deep purple. Go to the greengrocers, get an aubergine and get it colour matched. This is the best colour to paint background walls or other features in the garden as both foliage and flower look simply stunning against it.
7. Green up your lawn with liquid manure for that golf club look from May.
8. Reuse and recycle - the most fun you will have is making compost using all your organic kitchen and garden waste. To a non-gardener this can sound boring but when you get hooked the pride in compost and the compost snobbery in your area is something to be wholly enjoyed.
9. Organic is always better - our gardens are increasingly becoming a haven and in many cases the only haven for wildlife, so cut down or even better cut out the use of pesticides and fungicides.
10. Take time to relax with a gin and tonic - enjoy the garden.

Monday, April 11, 2005

An Ombudsman For Property

07 Apr 2005 News Item

A review of regulation in the property sector has called for the appointment of an Ombudsman to deal with consumer problems...
The review, carried out by former Office of Fair Trade (OFT) director general Sir Bryan Carsberg, was commissioned by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) commissioned following recent government sponsored investigations of several other UK professions: medical, legal and actuarial.
Among its main recommendations is that consumers should be provided with a single route of redress. Carsberg examined a RICS pilot scheme, the Surveyors' Ombudsman Scheme (SOS), currently in operation in Scotland, and recommends that this be extended to the whole of the UK as soon as possible, "subject to a review of funding requirements and the creation of a properly costed business plan".
This scheme, said Carsberg, deals with consumer redress issues in "an investigative, non-adversarial manner", and so far has been greeted almost entirely with enthusiasm north of the border.
Carsberg also believes that the scope of the Ombudsman should be extended to cover small businesses that often lack resources and expertise, and therefore may need protecting in the same way that individuals do.
Another key recommendation for the Institution is that chartered surveyors should continue to be governed by RICS but with a clearer division between regulatory and representative functions.
Steven Gould, Head of RICS regulation said: "When something goes wrong in the house buying or letting process the options open to consumers are currently fragmented and confusing.
"Carsberg's approach offers a clear route to follow for people who have problems with what is likely to be the biggest purchases of their lives."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

First time buyers upbeat

08 Apr 2005 News Item

First-Time Buyers remain despondent about their chances of getting on the property ladder this year...
Abbey's quarterly first-time buyers report shows that in the three month period since their last survey, the number who believe they'll actually own their first home this year has fallen from 18 per cent to just five per cent.
Of the would-be buyers surveyed, 37 per cent say that there are just not enough properties on the market. Twenty-nine percent are playing the waiting game, although this figure has dropped from 42 per cent three months ago; with some recent reports of moderate price rises, it seems that many first-timers have accepted that the market is not about to crash.
The Chancellor's decision to raise the stamp-duty threshold to £120,000 may see a more positive outlook for first-time buyers' confidence levels in the next quarterly report, says Abbey.
However, that increase will assist buyers outside of London and the South of England more than those living in these regions, where the vast majority of properties are above the new-improved stamp duty threshold.
Make Me An OfferFaced with that reality, many first-time buyers are becoming more adept in the art of negotiating. Forty-five per cent think that the time is right to do this, while it's still considered a buyers' market, and of that number, 77 per cent say they'd be prepared to put in an offer at the outset.
Fifteen per cent are willing to resort to gazundering (putting in a lower offer very late in the buying process), though 43 per cent of wannabe buyers wouldn't offer under the asking price for fear of missing out on the property.
A morally upright 12 per cent, meanwhile, just think it's wrong to gazunder. Mind you, one in ten didn't even know that offering less was an option, which makes you wonder how they'll cope with the financial responsibility of owning a home!
Eager to maximise their value for money and keen to avoid extra expenses once having procured a property, first-time buyers are very likely to ask for certain things to be included in the price. 59 per cent would want to have lights included, 54 per cent curtains/blinds, 50 per cent a cooker, 35 per cent a dishwasher, 34 per cent a washing machine and 33 per cent a fridge freezer.
Pay More, Share Or Buy a Houseboat?But despite this desire to cut costs, those who can buy seem willing to pay more. Compared with Abbey's last first-time buyers report in January 2005, the amount people are willing to pay for their first home has increased. Fourteen per cent say they are willing to pay over £250,000 compared to three per cent in January.
Eighteen per cent of buyers aim to spend up to £100,000 on their house, 17 per cent between £100,000 - £125,000, 15 per cent between £126,000 - £150,000, 11 per cent between £151,000 - £175,000, nine per cent between £176,00 - £200,000 and seven percent would pay between £ 201,000 - £250,000.
How are they managing to find the money? Fifty-four per cent save for their own deposit, three per cent will receive a helping hand from their family and eight per cent opt for a 100 per cent mortgage, says the report. Of those saving for their deposit, 25 per cent aim to have at least ten per cent to put down on their desired property, and an impressive 28 per cent say they would save 20 per cent or more. This figure has increased from 12 per cent in January to 28 per cent in March.
Those with generous relatives seem to have given up on owning a property of their own: Abbey's figures show that 21 per cent would consider buying through a housing association or with friends/family. Twenty-three per cent would purchase a wreck as a cheaper method of getting a foot on the ladder, and five per cent say they would abandon the notion of bricks and mortar to own their own houseboat or caravan.
Abbey's Chief Economist, Barry Naisbitt, said: "In the lead-up to the most popular season for house buying, it's worrying that there has been such a drop in confidence.
"Our report shows just how tough it is to get on to the property ladder, but we hope that the recent increase in the stamp duty threshold will have a positive effect on first-time buyers' confidence and affordability over the next quarter."

No Rise In Rates

7 Apr 2005 News Item

As the election looms, interest rates are frozen for the eighth month in a row...
Bank of EnglandAt today's monthly meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee it was decided that interest would remain at the base rate of 4.75 per cent.
With the general election less than a month away, this announcement is not particularly surprising; no doubt the Committee, along with the rest of us, will want to wait and see what happens on 5 May before making any decisions.
The announcement follows the recent Nationwide Consumer Confidence report, which recorded a drop in consumers' confidence across six out of seven indicators. A rise in rates from the MPC now would have damaged this already-dented confidence even further.
Responses to The AnnouncementTUCChief economist Ian Brinkley said: "Steady as she goes is the right approach. With house prices stable, retail sales cooling and manufacturing still in need of as much help as it can get an increase would have been a mistake."
Skipton Building SocietyChief executive, John Goodfellow, commented: "It is next month, when the inflation report is due - which has previously had a great influence on the MPC's discussions - where the chance of a rate increase will be higher."
Lloyds TSB Financial MarketsTrevor Williams, chief economist, said: "This decision to keep the Bank of England's repo rate on hold at 4.75 per cent comes as no surprise. Growth in the housing market and consumer spending have slowed in the past month - a combination which raises concern that any rate rise now would slow economic growth unnecessarily.
"However, a further rate rise still looks possible over the next few months, and possibly in May despite it being an election period."
CBIChief Economic Advisor, Ian McCafferty commented: "The bank has recognised that stability is serving the UK economy well, holding rates for the eighth consecutive month.
"The state of the economy into the Spring is not yet clear so a rate rise would have been both risky and premature.
"The independence of the Bank from the political process is critical to its continued success in keeping inflation low and stable. The delay in next month's decision to avoid election day reflects this."
Minutes of this month's MPC meeting will be published on April 20. The next meeting will finish on the morning of 9 May, with the decision on interest rates announced at midday.

How Much Did They Get?

08 Apr 2005 News Item

A number of websites allow you to spy on your neighbour's selling price, but none are as in-depth as the new site from Hometrack...
Why do properties differ so much in terms of selling price, length of time on the market and number of viewings before a sale? If you've been perplexed by such puzzles, Hometrack's new consumer website promises to give you the answers.Granted, in many cases it's blatantly obvious: a well-maintained, well-presented façade will be instantly more appealing to buyers than a shabby, faded exterior, and this goes for interior décor as well. But is there more to the selling price than aesthetics?
Hometrack's new site aims to provide answers to frequently asked questions which so far haven't been answered in other, similar websites. Visitors to the site will not only be able to verify a property's value but will have access to more detailed information such as the key drivers of that value eg number of bedrooms.
The website will also highlight specific market trends such as the asking/selling price ratio, how long properties are taking to sell in local areas, and will give an in-depth socio-economic breakdown of an area. None of these, according to Hometrack, are available on the growing number of sites that rely on Land Registry data.
"A Revolutionary Product"Mark Witherspoon, Hometrack's chief executive, says: "This product is revolutionary in terms of the detail of information our customers can access.
"We are confident it will become an important resource for people wishing to sell, buy or simply find out more about an area."
The estimated valuations of property are calculated by tracking other properties in the area at a similar price which have either been sold or valued recently, and this information is then aggregated by the Hometrack index.The database will then use comparables from sales and valuations on properties to provide information on sales price achieved and asking price, time taken to sell, number of viewings before an offer is made, supply (instructions registered) and demand (number of buyers) per month, and overall market activity in the area.
Known as the Area Report, this will be available at a charge of £4.95 which gives access to the information for a three month duration. There is also a more detailed Property Report costing £14.95 which includes the Area Report.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Get on the ladder with Share to Buy!

Share To Buy: "Free Legals"

As Gordon Bown pledges the introduction of various schemes to assist people onto the property ladder, the initiative is already helping people to own their home...
The company specialises in organising mortgages for 2, 3 or 4 people who have chosen to cobble together their finances in order to afford a home.
While this is a perfectly viable solution to getting that all-important first step onto the property ladder, it is also a huge undertaking and therefore it is only common sense to have a legal agreement drawn up that will cover key issues and prevent friends becoming foes. have offered a free legal agreement as part of their mortgage package since the get-go, but they have now expanded this service to include free legal advice on the agreement.
They have recently teamed up with Convex conveyancers, who will offer sharetobuy customers advice on the legal aspects of sharing a mortgage, and will also finalise the drafting of the legal agreement to the customers' requirements at no extra cost.
"A sophisticated system"Stephen Dwelley, Director of said: "While all our customers can receive a free copy of the share to buy legal agreement, we are obviously aware that receiving advice on the agreement could involve additional cost. Thus, we now provide the option of standard advice on the agreement at no extra cost.
"Of course, this is conditional on using Convex for conveyancing and customers are under no obligation to instruct Convex, but we are confident that they offer a quality and competitively priced service.
"Indeed, it is precisely because Convex have developed a sophisticated system targeted at busy professional people that we believe they are an appropriate partner in the share to buy scheme."
"A Legal Minefield"Duncan Samuel, Managing Director of Convex said: "People purchasing property together is a fact of modern life, but it can be a legal minefield. If joint purchasers want to be advised on their legal position they each have to go to different solicitors and get very expensive traditional private client advice charged for by the hour.
"However, people usually purchase property together because money is tight, so the very people who most need this advice cannot afford it and go without, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
"What this market needs is a packaged service that performs the basic functions that covers the need of 99 per cent of these purchasers' requirements, and it is this gap that this agreement between Convex and sharetobuy aims to fill.
"We at Convex deal with a large number of first-time buyers and we are very excited that this agreement will allow us to better serve their needs."

Women Make Sheds Chic

Add value with a shed.

It’s often been portrayed as man's last bastion and retreat, but the garden shed is now being infiltrated by women looking for a bolthole, says new research...
Sheds are no longer where men keep their wheelbarrows and while away the hours engaging in strange hobbies and blokeish pursuits; now they're a woman's domain as well, and women are putting them to all sorts of unusual uses.
Apparently, down there at the end of many a suburban garden youll find baroque entertainment dens, meditation rooms, home offices and even, lord what would your granddad think, miniature spas.
Forty per cent of women now use a shed for just such activities, a trend thats part of a wider redefining of the humble garden structure - the current trendy terminology is timber mini-building - to create more living space for us all.
As we move away from the open-plan living so popular in the 90s towards the new trend of re-compartmentalism, its the lowly garden sheds turn for a makeover and in the process of being made over its adding to five per cent onto the value of our property.
So says a report from Standard Life bank/The Future Laboratory, who note that the beauty in redesigning your former toolbox is that you dont need any planning permission, and if your garden size permits, you could have a whole host of timber mini-buildings for your pleasure and leisure.
Work and playGiving his perspective on this movement, Phil Spencer from Channel 4's 'Location, Location, Location' comments: "In the 90s the trend was to remove walls, open out rooms and create big spaces.
"Nowadays, we spend increased amounts of our work time as well as our leisure time at home and the ability to compartmentalise rooms or areas into particular uses, for particular people, at particular times of day is an increasing benefit.
"People have become more interested in having intimate nooks and crannies. I always like to see flexible accommodation that can be adapted to the various requirements of the people living there.
"That could be sitting quietly meditating just as it could be playing a musical instrument, painting a picture or conducting a meeting. Each to their own - but in their own environment."
What Adds Value?The research also looked into what homeowners value and what they perceive to add value to their property, and found that:
37.9 per cent of people believe that a home office adds value to their house, followed by a home spa (29.3 per cent), a home gym (11.4 per cent) and a wine cellar (9.9 per cent).
61 per cent of respondents say their bathroom has evolved into a 'wellness' room packed with de-stressing aids like mood lighting and essential oils. Those in the north-east are most likely to concur with this (67.2 per cent) as well as those in the 25-34 year age bracket (65.3 per cent).
68 per cent of respondents believe that houses are morphing into offices - Londoners (73.2 per cent) and Midlanders (70 per cent) are most likely to agree.
Over three-quarters of men (78.6 per cent) and women (78.2 per cent) say that no home should be without the internet compared to 20 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women who say a home isn't complete without a home cinema.
65.7 per cent say they are buying more designer furniture than five years ago. Household spend in arts and craft has risen from £400 million a decade ago to £826 million today.
54 per cent say the sitting room is the most important part of the house with the dining room being the least important at 1.2 per cent. Dining room tables are now defunct and instead are being used as impromptu desks.

East Anglia House prices drop 0.9%

House prices fail to pick up, says Halifax Sandra Haurant and agenciesTuesday April 5, 2005 UK house prices have hardly changed over the past six months, according to the Halifax monthly report, published today.
House prices rose by 0.5% in March, offsetting February's fall of 0.5%, the lender said. The annual rate of house price inflation dropped below 10% in March for the first time since November 2001, to 9.7%.

The figures follow a report published last week by Nationwide building society, which said that the housing market had seen the slowest rate of annual inflation since 2001, at just 7.9%. In its report, Nationwide said prices had risen by 0.6%.

The Halifax report showed that prices fell by 1.2% in the south-west of England,, while in East Anglia they were down by 0.9%, and in the north prices fell by 0.6% in March 2005.
Property prices increased slightly in the first part of the year in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, rising 6.1%, 3.1% and 2.4% respectively. The biggest increase in England was just 1.7%, in the region of Yorkshire and the Humber.
The increase in Scotland pushed average house prices through the £100,000 barrier for the first time, to reach £105,397, making Scotland the last part of the UK to reach this landmark.
Prices in London have increased very slightly, by just 0.1% since the start of 2005, following two successive quarters in which property values fell. Halifax said the slight increase could be a sign that the capital's market may be stabilising.
Recent strong growth in the market in the north has continued to narrow the north-south divide, with prices in the south now just £83,000 higher - a drop of 16% from two years ago when the difference peaked at £99,000.
Martin Ellis, chief economist at Halifax, said: "The picture on a month-to-month basis remains mixed with four rises and four falls in the past eight months. Overall, however, there has been virtually no change in UK house prices since last September."
"The increase in interest rates between November 2003 and August 2004, and the difficulties facing potential first-time buyers in purchasing a property, has caused the housing market to slow since mid 2004."
"The ongoing good health of the UK economy and the associated strength of the labour market, together with historically low interest rates and a shortage of housing supply, however, appear to be limiting the extent of the downturn. There are increasing signs that activity levels are now stabilising and house prices are broadly static at a national level," he added.
Howard Archer, economist at investment firm Global Insight, said the market was showing signs of "stabilisation", and in some cases "modest improvement" compared with the second half of 2004, "when higher interest rates and stretched affordability ratios increasingly weighed down on the market".
"This suggests that while house prices will remain soft in the near term at least, they are unlikely to plunge," said Mr Archer.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Don't know your Art Deco from your Art Nouveau, your Shaker from your Shabby Chic? Our handy style guides will ensure that you won't be branded a desi

Exhibition chair, The Millinery WorksAs industrialisation and mass production gathered pace in the latter part of the 1860s, Arts & Crafts emerged as an elite, design-and-crafts-based antidote to the new production methods analysed so carefully by Marx. Devoted to the continuation and recovery of ancient crafts skills, the movement clung to maxims of design such as seeing simplicity as beauty, and working honestly and authentically in excellent materials.
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful: the famous words of the great William Morris became something of a golden rule for aficionados of the movement, which peaked in the decade 1895-1905. With something of the Luddite about it and its distaste for mass production, the Arts and Crafts movement was also characterised by its interest not only in the beauty and utility lauded in that quote, but in the working conditions, dignity and satisfaction of its craftsmen and women.
As much a social as an aesthetic movement - at least in its intentions - it achieved an unmistakeably stripped-down style that harked back to country cottages and farmhouses, eschewing excessive ornament and clutter for the simplicity and authenticity of thoughtful design, well executed.
How to spot it: Motifs
Liberty & Co.vanity set, Millinery WorksArum lilies; the Glasgow Rose; medievalesque floral and botanical motifs, minimally stylised. The Tree of Life - a growing tree; sailing ships, representing life's journey into the unknown.
Heart-shaped cut-outs in furniture and other pieces: a signature feature of the works of Charles Voysey, but visible in the works of many other Arts & Crafts practitioners
Simple forms and plainness; visible, skilled artisanal techniques such as dovetail and tenon-and-mortise joints, unconcealed and indeed celebrated as integral to the aesthetic.
How to spot it: Materials
Baillie Scott dressing table, Paul ReevesWood, wood and more wood. Oak was a great favourite, but the emphasis was often more on the use of local, indigenous materials than on specific species. Richly-toned pieces of furniture were complemented by wood panelling on walls, and wooden floors set off by rugs.
Silver, with visible planishing marks, or inset with amber, coral, bone and mother-of-pearl. Decorated tiles, especially in blue and white; intricate, ornate wallpapers; woven carpets, rugs and tapestries; the famous printed chintzes.
Natural plant dyes. William Morris once attended a dinner, seated beside the wife of the composer Richard Wagner, with his hands stained deep blue from the indigo with which he, along with madder red, was absorbed in experimenting.
Movers & shakers:
"Fruit" by William Morris, SandersonThe prodigiously talented William Morris - prolific designer, craftsman, writer and socialist - whose ideas formed the philosophical soul of the movement alongside those of John Ruskin and other progressive thinkers.
Architect-designers Charles Voysey, C.R. Ashbee, M.H. Baillie Scott and Ernest Gimson; Frank Lloyd Wright, who made his mark on Chicago and Californian design and architecture, in an Arts & Crafts style. Katherine Adams of the Guild of Women [Book] Binders.
The silversmith W.A.S. Benson; Kate Harris, working exquisitely in silver making highly original pieces for Hutton & Sons; the poet and evangelical sandal-wearer (and -maker) Edward Carpenter.
Iconic objects:
C.R.Ashbee's glass decanter, Hart SilversmithsC.F.A. Voysey's 'The House That Jack Built' children's wallpaper; C.R. Ashbee's green glass decanter with silver neck, graceful handle and stopper; Morris's Strawberry Thief chintz print, and Trellis, his first wallpaper design - to which the birds were added by Phillip Webb.
Delightfully curved teapots and kettles in copper, brass and silver, and Archibald Knox's magnificent Cymric pitcher for the Liberty range; Alfred and Louise Powell's painted pottery for Wedgewood.
And handcrafted and anonymous furniture - valued, at the time, almost as much for the satisfying and skilled work it provided as for its simplicity and beauty.
Bluff the look:
"Trellis" by William Morris, SandersonWith light-coloured walls and light and breezy chintzes and muslins on beds and at windows, rather than heavier draperies.
Although built-in wardrobes and snug joinery in the kitchen, for integral dressers and cabinets, is a part of the Arts and Crafts legacy, freestanding furniture was often preferred in bedrooms and living areas, for ease of dusting and cleaning.
Paper a wall or an alcove with one of the style's famously intricate, flowery wallpapers, or paint on a stencilled border. Try to resist going all the way and doing a whole room: it's a style that might perhaps come back into usage one day - when the style-setters wake up and realise how much we all miss the feeling of the walls, ceilings and floors closing in all around us - but until then, just leave it.
Go all the way:
Stained Glass StudioWith wood panelling and wooden, polished floors, and stained glass windows and skylights, complementing the colourful, jewel-like glass of Tiffany-style lamps.
Look out for original wooden furniture like an Arts and Crafts writing desk, with a magnificent façade, simple yet ornate, and cunning sets of drawers and cubbyholes.
Seek out a mica lampshade in yellow, for a rich golden glow cast on wooden panels; or buy a whole, original Arts and Crafts house: see Related Story:'The Truth About Arts and Crafts Properties'. (bottom of page)
Where to buy - original:
Teacaddy by Archibald Knox, Van den BoschFireplaces and all manner of original items can be found at Arts and Crafts Home;<.A> and they can also arrange the reproduction of any arts and crafts window in stained glass.
Van den Bosch specialise in jewellery and fabulous silver artefacts from the period: tea sets, cups and candlesticks still carry an unmistakeable flavour of the time; and check out their hammered boxes and clocks in silver, by Kate Harris, Archibald Knox, C.R. Ashbee and others.
The Millinery Works has a fantastic range of antique pieces from the era, from Heal & Son and Liberty & Co amongst others; and Paul Reeves is an expert supplier of some of the finest and most beautiful original Arts and Crafts furniture available.
Where to buy - repro:
"Skye" Panel lace curtain, Rose's Mill Rose's Mill for glorious window panels and fine 'net' curtains, in Nottingham Lace and Scottish Cotton Madras, including Voysey's The Stag, and the exquisite 'Skye Panel'.
Sanderson is still producing Morris's wallpaper and fabric designs, including Rose & Thistle, Cray and Blackthorn, and has many of the original wood blocks used to make the first batches.
Reproduction fireplaces and mantels are available at C20 Fires, many of them carved in wood, faithfully reproducing styles of the time; or take a look at their stunning arts and crafts mantel in dolomite verde - a green limestone.
They said: "I never feel myself apart from my own times by harking back to the past, to be complete we must live in all the tenses, past, future as well as present." Ernest Gimson (1864-1919)
The critics said: "There is no obvious Arts & Crafts style for kitchens as there is with the living room and dining room. True period kitchens were, to be honest, ugly and utilitarian. Typical kitchens were extremely small and the focus was on cleanliness and efficiency. Little thought was given to style. White walls, tile, sinks and appliances showed dirt and crumbs easily so they could be cleaned up before they attracted germs and vermin." Ken Lonsinger, Craftsman Perspective.
Strange but true: The Arts & Crafts style spread to Japan, where it was adapted into what was called the Mingei 'folkcraft') movement. Flourishing between 1926 and 1945, much later then the European and US versions of the style, Mingei was a radical, modern movement that also contained elements of the mildly nationalist aspect of the Arts & Crafts movement's interest in local and national pasts.
Worth a visit: Red House at Bexleyheath, designed by Phillip Webb for the Morris family; Ditchling Museum; the William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow - Morris's family home from 1848 to 1856; Blackwell, the house designed by Baillie Scott at Windermere.
Links for places to visit:
The International Arts and Crafts exhibition at the V&A,17 March - 24 July 2005
Red House
Ditchling Museum
William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow
Bluffers Beware:
Despite its social reformist ideals, the Arts & Crafts movement didn't really succeed in its aim to bring simple, excellent design to the masses; the age of mass production and automation was already upon us, and the fine works produced by the movement were out of the reach of all but the wealthy middle classes.
Claire Rigby

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Last Chance to show off your property

The Evening Standard homes and property takes place next week on 8th - 10th April, to exhibit your property call Todd Lewis at 0800 028 2300

HIPs Debate Rumbles On

The Government and estate agents continue to trade blows over the merits of the forthcoming Home Information Packs...
The packs (HIPs) are set to become mandatory from 2007, meaning that anyone selling their home will have to put an information pack together before they can open their doors and tell prospective buyers that the fireplace is an antique, and yes, the shower unit is brand new.
Property professionals have raised all sorts of doubts over the packs - about their cost, the impact they'll have on the market, and the inclusion of a controversial new survey, the Home Condition Report (HCR).
But the Government, convinced that this is in the interest of consumers, has just published new figures which, in their view, demonstrate that the public fully back their plans to reform the house buying process.

Property Ladder features Suffolk property

Programmes such as 'Property Ladder' have given us the dubious delights of watching a multitude of clowns steadfastly refusing to pay attention to the experts' advice, certain in the mistaken belief that they know it all despite being utterly devoid of any building, planning or design knowledge. Why don't they listen, we scream at the TV - haven't they watched the programme??
Watch out for the new series with the excellent Sarah Beeney.

Soft Landing for Housing market

The latest figures may not be the best news for the housing market, but at least there's no suggestion of a crash, says Nationwide's March report...
The latest figures may not be the best news for the housing market, but at least theres no suggestion of a crash, says Nationwides report for March.
Their report for March shows the biggest monthly fall since June 1995, as the average house price slipped by a seasonally adjusted -0.6 per cent.
Annual house inflation was also down in March, from 10.2 per cent in February to 7.9 per cent. This is the first slide into single figures since June 2001, and another indication of a slowing down in the market. The price of a typical property is now £153,876 which is just over £11,000 more than in March 2004, says the report.

Brown Promises One Million New Homeowners

Brown Promises One Million New Homeowners

The housing market took centre stage in the election campaign today when the Government promised to help one million people get a first foot on the property ladder...
Over the next five years, said Gordon Brown, the Government will launch a raft of initiatives designed to "move Britain closer than ever to a home owning, wealth owning, asset owning democracy."
The new initiatives, said Brown, would push up home ownership rates from 70 per cent to 75 per cent and would allow more people to share in and have a stake in the wealth of our country. "Homes are not just places to live. They are also assets - and for many people their most important asset - and with more and more people owning their homes - homes now account for over 40 per cent of wealth."
The policies that will achieve this include:
A new shared equity offer for thousands of new homebuyers;
Initiatives to help more key workers to acquire homes;
New land for housing development, including the use of 100 redundant NHS sites to build 15,000 houses, including 5,000 affordable homes.
Brown said his raising the zero-rate threshold for stamp duty to £120,000 would also be a boon for first-time buyers and would exempt an extra 300,000 home buyers from the tax every year. He added that the Governments economic policies had kept interest rates low, while under the Tories rates had spiralled and led to the painful housing crash of the early Nineties:
"In the eighteen years from 1979 to 1997 interest rates averaged 10.4 per cent. In the last eight years interest rates have averaged 5.3 per cent - half as much," he said.
"And one fact tells the story of progress since the days of mortgage repossessions and negative equity: in the eighteen years to 1997, mortgages rates averaged 11.5 per cent, in the last eight years just 6.1 per cent - half as much."
Responses:Responding to the announcements, the CML's deputy director general Peter Williams said: "While the proposed expansion of shared equity through Homebuy is relatively modest, it shows a welcome commitment to expanding home-ownership that the Government and lenders can build on in future.
Home-ownership will clearly be a key issue in the forthcoming general election, and encouraging the sustainable expansion of owner-occupation is a policy area that each of main political parties will need to address."
Duncan Pownall, mortgage development manager Bradford & Bingley, was also positive about the proposals but added that "the devil is certainly in the detail:
"Labour can be applauded for its efforts to increase homeownership, however, it is if, when and how these plans are put into practice that will boost the publics confidence in both the Government and its plans to help solve the housing problem.
"Revising the stamp duty threshold in the Budget, designing a £60,000 home for first-time buyers and earmarking public land for development may win votes, but there has to be real commitment and careful planning to ensure these initiatives reach the right people. Indeed it is essential that homes be built in areas that are in desperate need of housing and at a price that is affordable.
"In order for these plans to succeed the Government needs to ensure that the correct infrastructure is in place to support increased levels of growth. Roads, parks, schools and local amenities such as doctors surgeries, dentists surgeries, shops and libraries must be in place to ensure communities are created rather than simply developing a vast urban sprawl.
"House builders have already been heavily involved in planning how these new affordable properties will be built. Now the mortgage industry needs to be consulted to ensure that these home purchases can be financed with innovative and flexible products that will ease more people into homeownership. It is only then that we will begin to move closer to solving the housing problem."