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LANDLORD LEGAL ERRORS: HOW TO STAY ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LETTINGS LAWS

Every landlord needs to follow around 170 different pieces of lettings legislation, so you’re not alone if you’re feeling flummoxed by so many rules and regulations. So, how do you stay on the right side of the lettings laws?

Even though we let and manage rental homes every day, we still need to set aside time to keep track of changes to the law and landlords’ responsibilities to ensure we stay on the right side of the lettings laws. And to make sure we get everything right and done on time, we need watertight systems, reminders and checks.

Does this mean that being a landlord is difficult or unprofitable? No, but it can be time-consuming when there’s so much to know and do. You can also be fined or taken to court if you get things wrong.

Some of the biggest misunderstandings we see among landlords and tenants are also some of the most important. So our blog this week covers what you can, can’t, must and mustn’t do, to keep you on the right side of the law for smooth and successful tenancies.

BLANKET BANS ON CHILDREN AND PETS

Contrary to popular belief, you can decline tenants with children or pets. However, they’re often the tenants who stay the longest, which means fewer changeovers, void periods and fees for you.

But that doesn’t mean you should accept just anyone, and there are times when it’s right to refuse politely, including when:

  • a pet is unsuitable due to its size or the amenities of your property (for instance, large dogs aren’t suitable for small homes with no outside space)
  • a tenant’s work or lifestyle arrangements mean their pet(s) being left alone for overly long periods, which could lead to damage to your property or noise disturbance
  • a family is too large for the accommodation (i.e. two parents with two children are clearly not a good fit for a one-bedroom home).

We find that asking the right questions and using our experience and intuition weeds out the best tenants. Then we add clauses to tenancy agreements that cover children and pets to clarify how tenants should return a property, which protects our landlords and gives them peace of mind.

REFERENCING, FEES AND DEPOSITS

The Tenant Fees Act made landlords responsible for the costs of referencing, credit checks, creating tenancy agreements and preparing inventories. However, there is still some confusion among landlords and tenants over any exceptions and what is mandatory or optional. So let’s clear that up.

  • There’s no legal requirement for references and credit checks, but skimping on them is a false economy. They’re essential to gauge a tenant’s stability and ability to pay the rent, and you’ll need them to qualify for rent guarantee insurance (a sensible precaution right now).
  • Holding deposits up to 1 week’s rent can be held for 15 days. They must be returned as either payment towards the rent or security deposit, or refunded if the tenancy doesn’t proceed (unless the tenant withdraws or gives misleading information, which makes them unsuitable).
  • You can take a security deposit of up to 5 weeks’ rent (6 weeks for rents over £50,000 a year) which you must protect in a tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days, and tell your tenants where. If you don’t, you could be ordered to return it and even repay up to 3 times the original amount. You could also limit your ability to regain possession of your property.
  • You can charge your tenant up to £50 each time (unless you can prove your expenses were higher) for adding a pet or new name to the agreement during the tenancy, but not for any additional referencing and credit checks.
  • You’re also allowed to charge your tenants for lost keys, and to add interest at 3% plus the Bank of England base rate to rent payments over two weeks late.

Crucially, you can only charge any of these costs if you set them out clearly in the tenancy agreement. Penalties for illegally charging tenants start at £5,000 for a first offence, rising to £30,000 and possible criminal prosecution if the offence is repeated within five years.

MAINTENANCE & MID-TERM INSPECTIONS

Inspecting your rental property during a tenancy and keeping on top of maintenance is an essential part of having an excellent relationship with your tenant and keeping your repair costs down. However, there are some rules to remember and boxes to tick.

  • Unless it’s an emergency, you cannot enter your rental property without your tenant’s permission, even if you’ve given 24 hours’ notice.
  • Keep an eye on the expiry dates of safety checks and certificates for electricity, gas, smoke alarms and energy performance – make sure they’re renewed on time to avoid a hefty penalty.
  • You are legally responsible for maintaining the structure of your property, so check for damp, mould, blocked gutters, slipped roof tiles, cracked render, rotting woodwork and tell-tale signs of leaks on ceilings, under sinks and next to boilers and water tanks.

It’s really worth getting all of these right, because the knock-on effects of getting them wrong can be substantial, from deteriorating relations with your tenant, to large repair bills that could have been avoided by spotting problems early on, to legal costs, financial penalties and even prison.

HANDLING ARREARS & DISPUTES

At some point in your life as a landlord, you’ll probably have to deal with missed rent payments or some sort of disagreement. It pains us to say it, but most landlords lose disputes because they didn’t set their tenancies up correctly in the first place, or because they handled things in the wrong way.

Here’s how to do it right.

  • Stay calm. Although the situation may be frustrating, letting your temper get the better of you rarely gets the result you want. And it’s illegal to threaten or harass your tenant.
  • Get onto arrears right away, in a firm but fair manner. If your tenant can’t pay everything back at once but wants to stay, agree a payment plan they can stick to.
  • Make sure you start the tenancy with a professionally prepared and signed inventory with photographs – without one, you’re almost guaranteed to lose any dispute or claim.

A big reason why landlords use managing agents is to keep a degree of separation and perspective in the event of arrears and disputes. Give us a call on 01363 777 999 if you’d like us to manage your rental property for you, or take a look at our article on deposit disputes to find out more about winning them.

GETTING YOUR PROPERTY BACK

Different rules for different parts of the UK affect the way landlords can regain possession of their properties. The law is broadly similar for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not for Scotland, so it’s essential to understand the rules wherever you own rental homes.

There are lengthy government pages covering tenancy law in Scotland and the rest of the UK, but here are some of the main points for regaining possession of your property:

  • Don’t be tempted to change the locks, no matter how difficult or behind with the rent your tenants are. This is a serious offence, and you must go through the correct legal channels.
  • You can service a Section 21 notice in England, Northern Ireland and Wales without giving a reason, subject to at least four months of the tenancy having run, and not before the minimum fixed period ends.
  • If you haven’t protected the tenant’s security deposit, or if the local authority has served notice on you for repairs, you’re not allowed to serve a Section 21 notice.

  • In Scotland, Section 21 notices have been abolished, and you can’t serve notice without reason if your tenants aren’t at fault. However, you can regain possession if you wish to refurbish the property, move in, or sell.

  • Where your tenants are seriously behind with their rent, engaging in anti-social behaviour, or otherwise breaching their agreement, you can serve a Section 8 Notice (known as a Notice to Leave in Scotland), even during the initial fixed term.

On a final note, regardless of whether any eviction bans are in place, going through the courts to regain pattern possession of your property is a lengthy process. The onus is very much on landlords to supply perfect paperwork, and the courts tend to side with tenants when notice is incorrectly served.

Are you on the right side of lettings law?

With so much to know and ever-changing rules, even the most knowledgeable landlords can still make mistakes. So if you’re a landlord in Mid Devon and you want to be sure you’re on the right side of lettings law, why not get in touch?

Give us a call on 01363 777 999 or email us at [email protected] – we’re here to help and to keep your rental homes legal, let and loved.

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SELLING PROPERTY OFF-MARKET: CAN YOU STILL GET THE BEST PRICE?

If 2022 is anything to go by, 2023 could be the year that selling property off-market hits the mainstream. 

About 10% of property sales in the UK in 2022 have been off-market homes. That’s more than ever before, and for a number of reasons.

Off-market sales began to increase because of the shortage of property for sale over the last year. Estate agents have had to get more creative by putting chains together from the top down, finding homes that weren’t on the market for ever-growing lists of increasingly desperate buyers.

More recently, the ill-fated mini-budget and mixed messages around the property market have led some sellers to test the waters first with an off-market launch.

But, if you don’t tell every buyer that your home is for sale, are you at risk of selling for less than you could? 

A lot depends on the type of property you own and when you need to move. So with that in mind, our blog this week includes all you need to know about selling your home off-market and whether it’s the right move for you.

WHY DO PEOPLE CONSIDER SELLING PROPERTY OFF-MARKET?

SELLING PROPERTY OFF-MARKET

Historically, off-market selling was exclusively for homes at the very top of the market, or public figures and celebrities who wanted discretion. But there are other reasons why people make their homes available off-market, including: 

  • a preference for neighbours, colleagues or business associates not to know just yet for personal reasons
  • uncertainty over the exact value of a home and trying a test price to gauge response without leaving a digital trail on the property portals
  • owning a home that has a unique design, a prime location, or is unusual for the neighbourhood.

These are all valid reasons, but they only apply to a minority of homes. When most people decide to move, they usually want to get an offer and get going as soon as possible. And if you live in a prime example of homes for sale in Mid Devon, you’re likely to get the best result by making sure that every buyer knows about it.

WILL YOU GET THE HIGHEST PRICE BY SELLING YOUR PROPERTY OFF-MARKET?

Your selling price influences your entire move, from your budget for your next home to how much you can spend on upgrades and furniture. Usually, the best way to get the highest price is to reach as many buyers as possible, but there are some homes where a different approach can pay off, because:

  • Exclusivity sells, and some buyers will pay what you want without negotiating to avoid the scrum of the open market.
  • You can use the fear of missing out on a one-time opportunity to bolster your selling price and create a sense of urgency.
  • Even a small selection of hand-picked buyers can result in stiff competition and multiple offers for an exceptional property.

Of course, it’s impossible to know whether another buyer would have come along a week or month later and paid more, but that’s the same for everyone selling a home. What’s important is that your agent gets you a price that stacks up against other local sales, from a buyer who can proceed to your timeframe.


HOW CAN YOU CHOOSE THE RIGHT AGENT TO SELL YOUR PROPERTY OFF-MARKET?

For an estate agent to sell your property off-market, they need access to a pool of ready, willing and able buyers. Otherwise, given that your home will be invisible to the public, you’re unlikely to have much interest. So use the following steps to identify the most suitable agents to call.

  1. Check local sold signs and online listings to see who sells similar homes to yours, as they’re more likely to have suitable buyers.
  1. Contact each agent on your shortlist to see if they’re willing to list your home off-market (not all are) and whether they’ve done it before.
  2. Invite your chosen agents into your home to get their thoughts on price, strategy, how many potential buyers they have registered now and how they can generate more enquiries discreetly.

Bear in mind that one or more of the agents you speak to may feel that selling your home off-market is not the best move for you, and they may have a point. It isn’t right for everyone, so be open to any comments and advice before making your final decision.

ARE THERE ENOUGH BUYERS TO SELL YOUR PROPERTY OFF-MARKET?

The vast majority of buyers search for a home through portals like Rightmove and Zoopla, and many never even contact an estate agent unless they get a property alert. The only way to reach them is to advertise your home. However, there are various other sources of buyers that agents have access to, including: 

  • people who lost out on a property an agent recently sold and are waiting desperately for something similar to come up
  • other local sellers who want to stay in the neighbourhood but haven’t put their homes on the market yet
  • previous customers whose stories we already know and who told us about their love of a particular location or who might need to trade up or downsize soon
  • local business owners, landlords and other contacts built up over time
  • buying agents tasked with finding a dream home for their extra-busy clients.

One thing about being an estate agent is that people talk to us about property all the time, and not just when we’re at work. We often hear about someone’s plans to move very early on, and we lose count of the times we’ve been asked to give them a call if something ever comes up in their dream location.

WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS OF  SELLING YOUR HOME OFF-MARKET?

If you remove all the tools and channels that estate agents use to give you the widest exposure, you’ll be reliant on someone from a smaller group of buyers falling in love with your home.

That’s not to say they won’t, but it’s worth considering what selling on the open market gives you:

  • Property portals are by far the largest source of enquiries for estate agents, with around 90% of buyers starting their searches there.
  • Agents’ websites and social media channels are a handy source of local followers who either know or become buyers.
  • For-sale signs alert neighbours, visitors, and anyone passing by that your home is available, including those waiting for homes to come up in your location, either for themselves or friends.

Ultimately, the way you choose to market your home should give you the best chance of success. If you want or need to move by a specific date, there’s little point in keeping your home a secret.

Could selling your home off-market be right for you? 

Now that you know how selling off-market works, perhaps it’s time for a chat about your plans.

For some friendly and expert advice on the best strategy for selling your home Mid Devon, call us on 01363 777 999 or email us at [email protected] – we’d love to help you get your move underway. 

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THINKING OF INVESTING? WHY BEING A LANDLORD IS A SOLID PLAN FOR YOUR FUTURE

How do you feel about becoming a landlord?

If you’re planning your long-term financial security, you have plenty of options to choose from. Savings, shares, pensions, property… they all have their pros and cons, and people choose one or more for multiple reasons.

We have many different types of landlords as clients. Some of them own just one property, while some have large portfolios. But regardless of whether they’re private individuals or limited companies, they share some common motivations for owning rental homes.

Freedom, stability, feeling in charge, retirement planning and financial security for their families are all in there, and so is the feelgood factor in nurturing their passion for property and providing comfortable homes that people to live in for many years.

So in this week’s blog, we’re diving deeper into how our clients choose to become landlords and why they enjoy it, so you can decide if you’d like to start and grow your own lettings portfolio.

A PHYSICAL, VISIBLE ASSET

For many of our landlords, the fact that property is something they can see and touch is enough to make it their investment of choice. As well as taking comfort in that physical quality, they also feel that being a landlord is one of the safest investment options, for a number of reasons:

  • Homes can’t be wiped out overnight like companies can – buildings stay where they are.
  • House prices aren’t as prone to wild fluctuations like the stock market and crypto.
  • Having a home is everyone’s top priority and will never go out of fashion.

With more rental homes needed and never enough being built, it’s hard to see the private rented sector and landlords having anything other than a very assured future.

THE JOY OF FEELING IN CHARGE

When many of our landlords bought their first investment property, they already had an existing career, often working for someone else. For them, buying a rental home was a first-step in feeling in charge of their own destiny without being answerable to anyone else.

Some of the things they recommend about being a landlord include:

  • having a business that’s all about their passion for property, which makes it genuinely interesting and rewarding
  • getting all the legwork and legalwork done by a managing agent to find the best tenants, keep their property in line with the law, and deal with maintenance and repairs
  • being able to start landlord life as a non-time-consuming side hustle, then having the choice of turning it into an active role or simply receiving a passive income.

There are very few investment strategies that give you such direct control over how your assets are managed and perform, and it’s this freedom that appeals so much to our clients. 

FINANCIAL & FUTURE FLEXIBILITY

Unless you’re a substantial shareholder, you don’t have much immediate sway over how a company operates. As a landlord it’s a very different story, and you can future-proof your income by follwing market trends and putting the equity in your rental homes to work.

Among the many ways our landlords leverage their properties, you can:

  • seek out homes with future potential to convert a loft space or extend the building
  • reconfigure or renovate an interior to take advantage of changing local demographics
  • refinance to get a more competitive mortgage deal or to release equity for improvements, business expansion or lifestyle purchases.

If you’d like to make the most of the rental market in Mid Devon, we’re here to help you stay on top of changing tenant demand so you can create popular and profitable lettings.

INCOME & SECURITY INTO RETIREMENT

There are no two ways about it: later life is coming for us all, and even a small lettings portfolio can give you a valuable feeling of security in retirement. For our clients, being a landlord has some of the following advantages to build financial security after they stop working:

  • A buy-to-let business can still run, expand and produce income into your retirement with very little work or managing of people.
  • Rental homes can become a source of pure income long before you stop working, unlike private pensions.
  • Property prices and rents consistently out-perform savings accounts and ISAs, and you can build substantial equity to release even after you retire while the capital value continues to increase.

According to the English Private Landlord Survey 2021, planning for retirement is the main reason why people become landlords, with more than half saying that owning rental property was mainly about a pension investment. So why not join them?

A LEGACY FOR YOUR FAMILY

Like many of our landlord clients, you might want to ensure a solid financial future, increased opportunities and an easier life for your children when they become adults.

There are many ways that owning rental homes can help you provide your family with financial security and give your children a head start, including:

  • buying property as a limited company, then making family members shareholders so they’re not faced with a huge inheritance tax bill later on
  • giving your children or other family members a valuable vocation and useful business experience to set them up for life
  • having ready-made properties for your children to move into when they leave home.

What’s your next step?

If you’d like to know more about becoming a landlord or you’d like to buy a rental home in Mid Devon, why not get in touch?

We’d love to help get off to a flying start and build a successful portfolio, so call us on 01363 777 999 or [email protected]. Everything starts with a friendly chat!

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EVENING VIEWINGS: WOW YOUR BUYERS WITH A WARM WELCOME WHEN IT’S DARK AND COLD

After the clocks go back and the nights start earlier, viewings at your home happen in a whole new light.

Most buyers will come for their first look in the evening on their way home from work, so instead of letting the sunshine in to make your rooms feel bright, autumn and winter are all about turning up the cosy.

It might surprise you, but longer evenings are one of the advantages of selling at this time of year. Buyers get to feel just how snug your home is after dark – something they rarely experience if they’re looking in spring or summer.

With that in mind, this week’s blog is all about turning shivery cold and bleak into snuggly warm and chic.

From irresistible first impressions to captivating interiors and night-time garden magic, you’ll find all you need to set the stage for perfect evening viewings.

THE FIRST SENSE OF ARRIVAL

The outside of your home is often where buyers linger the most, from meeting your agent as they arrive to looking back up the path when they leave. Get them excited about stepping inside with our handy checklist:

  • Scrutinise your windows and front door for any paintwork that needs a brush-up.
  • Have a porch lamp and hall light timed to come on at dusk, and ensure that any paths and driveways are lit (solar-powered stake lights still work in the darker months).

  • Clear paths of slippery moss and any obstructions that people may not see when it’s dark.

  • Always have some plant life by the front door – you can get pre-planted pots and baskets of blooming winter flowers at any garden centre.

  • Ensure your agent has a for sale sign outside to let viewers know they’re in the right place, especially if your door number isn’t clear from the road or your home has a name.

You’ve only got one shot at a first impression when buyers arrive at your home, so it’s really worth investing in making that moment count.

THE FEELING OF COMING HOME


Everyone’s glad to get home when it’s chilly and cold, and evening viewings are all about giving your buyers the same heartwarming sensation you feel when you step inside your front door. For a successful start to every viewing, make sure you’ve covered these three essential elements:

  • Consciously or unconsciously, we all breathe in to smell the air when we walk into someone’s home. To create an aromatic heaven, update any reed diffusers or candles to natural scents of autumn and winter, like cedar, spruce and pine.

  • Although we’re all mindful of rising energy costs, your home should ooze a welcoming warmth to give your buyers an enjoyable viewing experience – go for a minimum of 19°C throughout.

  • Make your viewers feel right at home by leaving space on your hooks to hang their coats, and a spot for shoes in case they’re stepping out of the rain.

Many buyers make up their minds about a property before they’ve seen it all, and some within seconds of stepping inside. Once they’ve made that choice, it can be tough to turn it around, so it’s a wise move to capture their hearts at the start.


THE SEDUCTIVE POWER OF LIGHT

We hardly ever turn a light switch on during summer viewings, but lighting truly comes into its own during autumn and winter. The way your home is lit can transform how it feels, and even a quick change to softer-tone bulbs can elevate any room.

  • Lamps are much cosier than overhead lights, so have them on a timer for when it gets dark to give your viewers a warm welcome to each room.

  • Instruct your agent thoroughly on any specialist lighting to avoid them fumbling around in the dark or making it look complicated.

  • Firelight has a unique and unmistakable quality, so if you have an open fireplace and you’ll be home before the viewing, get it crackling in time for when your viewers arrive.

  • Talk to your estate agent about twilight photography to give your online listing an eye-catching and memorable injection of evening magic.

Finally, keep all the curtains open to show off your windows and extend the view beyond your rooms into the dusk or moonlight.

THE WARM TASTE OF TOASTINESS

Every room in your home can be a cosy haven for evening viewings, whether you use it every day or only occasionally. Try the following tips for upping the snuggle factor wherever your viewers roam:

  • Layer up on textiles like cushions, blankets and throws on armchairs, sofas and beds.

  • Add rugs to bare floors for warmer acoustics and atmosphere.

  • Display winter root vegetables like pumpkins and squashes on the kitchen counter.
  • Swap out threadbare towels and bathmats for fluffy, plush, soft replacements.

  • Give your agent access to your smart speakers for a background of warm and sultry music.

  • Give cold and empty corners an instant lift with plants in stylish pots.

As a final tip, put your Christmas decorations up as late as possible. If you can’t hold off entirely, start small with candle bridges in windows and cute Danish Nisse figures, then go full-on over the festive break when viewings tend to pause.

THE MAGIC OF NIGHT GARDENS

Gardens and balconies can get left in the dark on autumn and winter nights, but they’re one of the most valuable assets of any home. Fortunately, you don’t need bright blue skies, glistening grass or summer sunshine to create a glorious space that buyers highly prize.

  • Use lighting to add some evening sparkle, from bulb chains strung overhead, to solar-powered lanterns and stakes, to permanent fittings with soft-tone bulbs.

  • If your garden furniture is in a sheltered spot, leave it on show and dressed with weatherproof blankets and cushions to create a cosy and comfortable room outdoors.
  • Rake or sweep any fallen leaves once a week to keep your decking or pavers visible.

If your garden or balcony is an absolute summer stunner, leave some photos on a table or pinned to the fridge so your viewers can see how wonderful it looks.

What’s your next step?

Staging your home for perfect evening viewings helps you capture the hearts of buyers when they step inside from the cold and dark, so they can’t wait to come back when it’s light.

For a friendly chat and expert advice on setting your home up to sell, call us on 01363 777 999 or email us at [email protected] – we’d love to help you move.

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According to the media, Crediton house prices ought to be falling – here are the reasons they are not

Looking at the newspapers with their doom and gloom headlines, you would think that the Crediton property market (and the British property market) would be on its knees.

Yet ring an estate agent for a viewing or free valuation, and if you can get an appointment within a week you are doing well!

British properties continue to sell in good numbers.

In July and August 2022, sales have been agreed on an average of 25,476 UK properties per week.

Interesting when compared to the averages of 27,351 sales agreed per week in 2021 and 26,382 sales agreed per week, year to date in 2022.

So why is the Crediton property market defying all expectations?

It is because there is an absolute shortage of properties to buy on the books of Crediton estate agents, meaning Crediton house prices are being kept buoyant (as demand exceeds supply).

Today, there are 29 properties available to buy in Crediton. Roll the clock back to October 2007, the month before the last house price crash, and it was 109.

That’s 73% fewer properties to buy today in Crediton than the month before the property crash.

Notwithstanding suggestions that the Bank of England’s higher interest rates would peter out British house price growth, the continued limited supply of properties coming onto the market has helped Crediton house prices climb.

Crediton house prices are 13.7% higher today than a year ago.

Nevertheless, there is evidence that the insane demand for property has started to ease, and supply is increasing, which means that the direction of the Crediton housing market will begin to change in the coming months.

This can be seen in several ways.

Back in January and February (2022), 8,094 UK properties per week were reducing their asking prices, whilst this July and August that had risen to an average of 13,115 UK properties per week. This is significant as some ‘optimistic’ homeowners who placed their properties on the market in the spring and early summer have had to reduce their ‘optimistic’ asking prices to attract buyers.

Also, the number of UK house sales falling through (i.e., when the sale is agreed yet the sale falls through before the legal paperwork is completed) is starting to creep upwards from an average of 5,558 properties a week in the spring of 2022 to 6,854 per week in July and August 2022.

Crediton house prices have risen over recent times; the latest figures are based on what was selling in the late winter/early spring of this year and subsequently completing the sale in the early summer.

The prices obtained by the estate agents on properties achieving a sale in Crediton today (i.e., in the autumn of 2022) are slightly lower than what was obtained nine months ago. This means the house statistics published in early spring 2023 will slightly reduce. Nothing to worry about – I want to give you a heads up and not to be concerned. The simple fact is…

We are returning to a more normal Crediton housing market this Autumn, compared to the crazy last 30 months since the end of lockdown one.

With UK inflation standing at 9.9%, this brings an interesting scenario for Crediton property values.

Reducing ‘real’ wages will hit first-time buyers and existing homeowners’ disposable income, while the same high inflation will make the Bank of England increase interest rates.

These things will significantly reduce homebuyers’ capacity to afford their mortgages as the fewer people who can take out a mortgage the fewer people will buy homes.

Today, the Bank of England raised it’s base rate half a percent to 2.25%, with forecasts suggesting it could end the year between 2.75% and 3%. Yet let us not forget the long-term average over the last 50 years has been between 7.1% and 7.2%, and many mature Crediton homeowners will remember Bank of England Base Rates of 17% in 1979, so these sorts of increases are still off a low base.

During these autumn months though, the lack of properties on the market and available to buy still support Crediton house prices. The newspapers compete for attention and use clickbait titles to generate more interest in the publications.

The simple fact is that unless something seismically happens in the world to change things materially, the Crediton and British property markets will continue to harden slowly and will face some different challenges compared to the last 30 months, but fundamentally Crediton house prices will remain broadly neutral over the next 12 to 18 months.

These are my thoughts – what are yours? Comment below – I’d love to hear from you!

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What’s the Difference Between a Flat and an Apartment?

“An apartment is over £100 grand and a flat under £100k!”, said my friend.

Joking aside, there is no difference, call it what you will, the humble apartment/flat has served Crediton well over the years. The average sale price of an apartment in the town in 2021 was £154,020, making it an excellent first-time buyer purchase and buy-to-let investment.

In this article, I want to look at the apartment/flat in Crediton and how it could solve the county’s housing crisis.

The word ‘Apartment’ derives from the French word ‘Appartement’, which comes from the Italian form of the word, ‘Appartamento’. The core of that Italian word ‘appartare’ means ‘to separate’, as in ‘separate a building’.

The word comes from Roman times when housing costs were so expensive within the city walls in Rome. Savvy property owners split (or separated) their houses into what we know as apartments or flats today.

The word flat is derived from the Old Scottish/Old English word ‘flet’. The flet is the interior of the home. Some also think the phrase stuck as most flats are on one floor, and so by definition, the accommodation is on the flat (i.e. no stairs inside).

The country has an enduring housing shortage. Not enough homes are being built, and even though the Government is aspiring to build 300,000 new homes annually to match demand and keep costs of housing affordable, less than 250,000 were built in 2019, the best rate in the last decade.

And that is why some say the simple solution to Britain’s housing problem is building more apartments/flats.

The British population has been growing by more than half a million every year, for the last twenty years. Yet just over 175,000 homes have been built annually.
One solution is building more apartments – and on the face of it, the facts stack up as they are cheaper to heat, the views are often unique and they use less land.
To look at what we do as a country with our apartments, it’s important to look at Europe to see how they live so that we can compare the percentages of flats/apartments lived in:

  • Spain 66.1%
  • Switzerland 63.1%
  • Greece 59.2%
  • Germany 56.3%
  • Italy 53.1%
  • EU average 46.2%
  • Sweden 46.7%
  • France 34.0%
  • The United Kingdom 14.8%

Quite a stark difference, isn’t it! Now let’s look at Crediton itself.

Of the 3,589 households in Crediton, 20.3% of them (729) are apartments/flats

Even though only 1.2% of the country has residential property built on it (and an additional 3.5% are gardens), building houses is low-density land use. Is it sustainable in the long term to continue to build that way in Britain, a country with a similar population to France yet having less than half its landmass?
If we continue to build just over 5 in 6 new households as houses, surely sooner or later, the precious green belt around our towns and cities will have to go. And I know many of you will say use brownfield sites. Of course, there are brownfield sites, yet…

In the whole of the Mid Devon area, there are only 15 brownfield sites, totalling only 18.9 acres, which would only provide 267 houses – so not many!

The country needs a decent supply of homes for its growing and ageing population. Many of you will frown when it has been suggested, even if it’s for environmental reasons alone, most of these should be apartments/flats.

Don’t get me wrong, the love/hate relationship with the apartment/flat and the British is well-founded. Many apartments/flats in Britain are not suitable for happy family living. The high-rise ghetto council blocks built in the 1960s didn’t help with their poor communal areas, lack of maintenance and lifts that didn’t work.

Why do so many more Europeans live in apartments?

In mainland Europe, the apartments are larger. For example, in Germany, they are 974 sq ft; in Denmark, they are 1,452 sq. ft; in the UK, they are only 793 sq ft. Also, European apartment/flat owners have more storage areas, higher ceilings and better communal areas.

It is a vicious cycle. Poorly made small apartments make families side-step them, which makes new home builders construct apartments unsuitable for families, which means the situation worsens. This results in the British property market trying to expand our towns and cities outwards into the countryside with houses, rather than upwards into the sky.

I am not suggesting 20-storey high-rise tower blocks in Crediton for one second. Looking deeper into the information from Europe, most people live in low-rise three and four-storey purpose-built apartment blocks.

To begin with, these new apartments/flats need to be justly desirable for Crediton families and be seen as such by the local population. The building materials used, communal spaces, the building’s functionality, and design specifications must not only meet but exceed current building specs on houses, or planning permission should withhold.

Maybe the Government could incentivise builders to build apartments/flats instead of houses to improve the supply of quality apartments/flats with tax breaks?

Things will take decades to change, yet I thought it was appropriate to discuss the matter in such an environment as this.

These are my thoughts, what are yours?

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Crediton’s Millennials to Inherit £696,453 Each From Their Baby Boomer Parents

The total value of homes owned by Baby Boomers in Crediton alone is £443,165,800 – and two-thirds of the Crediton Millennials are set to inherit all that in the next few decades!

Could this be the answer to the housing crisis?

Could Crediton Millennials live it up for the next few decades, safe in the knowledge they will get a huge lump sum to pay off their debts and buy a house with what is left?

Before I look at that, which set of people in Crediton exactly are the Crediton Millennials or Crediton Baby Boomers?

Come to that, who are Generation Z, the Silent Generation or Generation X?

All these are phrases used for the different groups of people in their various life stages of our society.

So, splitting the groups down:

Silent Generation: Born 1945 and before (77 years old and above)

Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964 (58 years old to 76 years old)

Generation X: Born 1965 to 1980 (42 years old to 55 years old)

Millennials: Born 1981 to 1995 (27 years old to 41 years old)

Generation Z: Born after 1996 (everyone under 26 years old)

Using data from the Census, my research shows there are …

1,225 households in Crediton owned by Crediton Baby Boomers and they are worth a combined value of £443,165,800.

The generation that will inherit those Crediton properties will be the millennials.

There are 954 millennials in Crediton.

After looking at the local demographics, homeownership statistics and current life expectancy, around two-thirds of those Crediton Millennials have parents who own those 1,225 Crediton properties, meaning each is in line for an inheritance of £696,453.35.

Yet what about Crediton’s Silent Generation?

There are 1,248 homes in Crediton owned by the ‘Silent Generation’ and they are worth £451,486,464.

The issue for those who will inherit their parents’ homes is that there are far more Generation X people in Crediton than millennials.

Two thirds of the 1,397 Crediton Generation X will inherit £489,671.01 – still nothing to sniff at yet not as much as the millennials!

So, whilst the Crediton Millennials are less likely to own their own home compared to Generation X and so have done not as well in amassing their assets and savings, they are more likely to benefit from an inheritance boom in the years to come.

This is likely to be very comforting information for those Crediton Millennials, including some from humbler upbringings who historically would have been unlikely to receive an inheritance.

Nevertheless, inheritance is not the silver bullet that will get the millennials onto the Crediton housing ladder.

Nor will it deal with the increasing wealth inequalities in British society, as the inheritance they are likely to receive won’t be accessible when they are trying to buy their first Crediton home.

So before all you Crediton Millennials start running up your credit card bills, safe in the knowledge they will be paid for when your parents pass away in 20/30 years, over half of the females and around a third of men are going to have to pay for their nursing home fees.

Remarkably, I recently read 25% of people who must pay for their nursing home fees run out of money, and therefore have to rely on funding from the local authority

Therefore, if you are a Crediton Millennial, no inheritance will be left for you. It goes without saying, most Crediton parents want to give some inheritance to their children.  

Yet if waiting until you pass away to help your children or even grandchildren with your legacy could be seen as too late, so what are the options?

One solution to help and fix the housing crisis in Crediton (and the UK as a whole) is if parents and grandparents, where they can, help financially with the deposit for a house whilst their children/grandchildren are in, say, their 20’s and early 30’s.

Buying a Crediton property is much cheaper than renting – I have shown it many times in these articles.

It’s not a case of not being able to afford the mortgage; the problem is raising the mortgage deposit (of 5% to 10%) for these Crediton Millennials.

Maybe families should be discussing the distribution of family wealth whilst everyone is alive (in the form of helping the family with house deposits) as opposed to waiting until the end, as it will make a massive difference to everyone in the short and long run.

And a final thought, your legacy will have a more significant impact, and you will be here to see it with your own eyes.

A win-win for everyone.

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Crediton Property Prices Have Risen by 385% Since 1995

“Tell me what is happening to the Crediton property market”, asked the friend of a friend at a recent do I went to in Crediton (after finding out I was an agent in Crediton).

I always reply, “It depends if you are buying, selling or both”.

The Crediton property market is like a seesaw. For the last two years, it has been quite firmly in the realms of a 90% seller’s/10% buyer’s market.

However, unless you are a Crediton buy-to-let landlord, Crediton first-time buyer, or executors selling a deceased person’s estate, most home movers are both (i.e. they are both sellers and buyers).

So, what determines where we are on the seesaw of a seller’s market or a buyer’s market?

It comes down to simple supply and demand economics. i.e. the number of properties on the market versus the number of buyers in the market.

Like when someone sells goods or services, it’s the same with property. So, when we have a low supply of properties on the market and high demand for properties to move into (like we have had for the last two years since the end of lockdown one), house prices go up.

Crediton house prices are 17.6% higher than a year ago.

The other side of the coin was seen in the Credit Crunch years of 2008/9. Many people wanted to sell their houses in Crediton, yet the banks weren’t lending, so people couldn’t buy. This meant the supply of property on the market exceeded demand; hence Crediton house prices dropped by 16% to 19% in 18 months (depending on what type of property you were selling) as we had a 20% seller’s market / 80% buyer’s market.

Whilst demand and supply are the key driving force on the balance of the buyer/seller’s market seesaw, it is not the only influencer of the property market. The price band is also an essential determiner of house prices, albeit over the longer term.

To show this, initially, I will go back to 1995 to ascertain what has happened to average house prices over the long term in Crediton.

The average Crediton house price has risen from £65,433 in 1995 to £317,429 in 2021, a growth of 385.1%.

Interesting, when you compare that against the national figure of 407.2%. Also, looking at where our local authority stands against other areas, we are 192nd out of 331 local authorities in England & Wales for house price growth.

It’s called the property ladder for an excellent reason, and the health of the whole Crediton property market is very dependent on those bottom rungs of that ladder.

Therefore, looking at the data for our local authority, paying particular attention to the lower end (in terms of price), some intriguing data comes to light. It is crucial as the lower end of the property market (in terms of price) is a good bellwether for the whole Crediton property market.

So, I looked at the following …

  • Lower 10th Percentile of the Crediton housing market – i.e., the bottom 10% in terms of the value of properties sold – e.g., small apartments and ex-local authority properties in the less popular areas, which mainly attract buy-to-let landlords.
  • Lower Quartile of the Crediton housing market – i.e., the bottom 25% of Crediton property in terms of their value, e.g., first-time buyer homes and mid-market buy-to-let property.

… and if one looks at our figures for Crediton and the whole local authority, you can see the three parts (lowest 10% / lowest 25% and overall average) have performed quite differently.

  • The average value of a Crediton property sold in 1995 in the lower 10th percentile (i.e., the bottom 10% of the Crediton property market) was £31,500, and in 2021, it was £162,500, a growth of 415.9% (compared to the national average of 428.4%).
  • The average value of a Crediton property sold in 1995 in the lower quartile (i.e., the bottom 25% of the Crediton property market) was £41,000, and in 2021, it was £205,000, a growth of 400% (compared to the national average of 417.7%).

Some of you might be asking yourself, what do all these different figures mean to Crediton homeowners, first-time buyers and landlords? 

As the overall average is below the lower 10th percentile and lower quartile growth figures, the middle to upper market in Crediton has performed worse than the lower end in terms of house price growth since 1995.

The thought I am trying to get across to every Crediton homeowner/buy-to-let landlord is that there isn’t just ‘one’ Crediton property market.

There are markets within markets – almost like a fly’s eye. It is essential not to look at just the headlines but delve deeper when considering what is really happening and not to just look at the overall averages.

As we enter the height of the summer, the Crediton property market seesaw has started to change ever so slightly, changing from the 90% seller’s/10% buyer’s market we have had in the last two years to more of a 70% seller’s/30% buyer’s market.

With that in mind, if you can spot trends before anyone else is aware of them you could find yourself some potential Crediton property bargains.

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How to Attract Birds to your Garden

One of the beautiful things about Devon is the abundance of wildlife, including the songbirds that we have in our gardens. Schemes like #NoMowMay have helped in recent years to give our native birds a chance to thrive on the insects that untouched grass and meadowland supplies.

But it’s not just the birds, as part of Plantlife’s annual No Mow May campaign, research found that simple changes in mowing can result in enough nectar for ten times more bees and other pollinators. In fact, their study discovered over 200 species were found flowering on lawns in 2021 including rarities such as meadow saxifrage, knotted clover and eyebright. Don’t forget to log your own findings on their website.

Attracting birds to your garden is a delightful experience. You learn a lot and experience many new things about birds’ habitats and your environment.

In February this year more than 1,900 farmers and land managers took part in the 2022 GWCT (Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust) Big Farmland Bird Count. Over 420,000 individual birds were counted in the survey. An impressive 26 red-listed species were recorded, with seven among the 25 most frequently seen species. Of these, starlings, lapwings, fieldfares, and linnets were the four most abundant red-listed species to be spotted, with over 125,000 counted, which equates to 29% of all species recorded.

More than 63% saw robins, carrion crows and pheasants. The five most abundant birds seen were woodpigeons, starlings, lapwings, fieldfares and rooks, with a total of 204,398 spotted in total, which equates to 48% of all the birds counted.

So if you want to be someone that makes a difference, you need to attract the birds into your garden in the first place. Here are few tips to help get you started.

Grow native plants

A bird-friendly landscape offers different layers of plants for different birds to use. From tall trees to ground cover – you need a little of everything. You also need to grow different types of plants for different birds. When choosing plants, consider the season during which each plant is most valuable. Early flowering shrubs provide nectar during the spring, while trees and bushes give fruits in the late summer and fall. Therefore, think broad and grow that engage different birds round the year in your garden.

Make a little pond 

If you have the space then this will attract water-loving birds. Birds drink clean and fresh water from the pond especially on hot days. At the same time, they have a safe and accessible place to take a bath. If you have a small space, then they also love a bird bath – just ensure you keep it clean and refreshed.

Provide food

Supplementary feeding can ensure that your garden supports many different birds.

According to the RSPB during the summer months, birds require high protein foods, especially while they are moulting. These food include black sunflower seeds, pinhead oatmeal, soaked sultanas, raisins and currants, mild grated cheese, mealworms, waxworms, mixes for insectivorous birds, good seed mixtures without loose peanuts. Avoid using peanuts, fat and bread at this time, since these can be harmful if adult birds feed them to their nestlings.       

Temporary food shortage can occur at almost any time of the year, and if this happens during the breeding season, extra food on your bird table can make a big difference to the survival of young. Birds time their breeding period to exploit the availability of natural foods: earthworms in the case of blackbirds and song thrushes, and caterpillars in the case of tits and chaffinches. It is now known that if the weather turns cold or wet during spring or summer, severe shortage of insect food can occur, and if the weather is exceptionally dry, earthworms will be unavailable to ground feeding birds because of the hard soil. In order to help with this, buggy nibbles and mealworms can be provided during these times to prevent starvation.

You can find more information on feeding the birds in this great guide from the RSPB.

Avoid Pesticides

Attracting birds to your garden also gives a huge responsibility to safeguard them. Many bird populations are endangered due to harmful pesticides. Avoid using anything that can prove dangerous for birds as they can mistakenly consume it – this includes slug pellets and leaving salted slugs where birds might pick them up and feed them to their young.

Stop your cat (and dog) from catching birds!

55 million birds are killed by cats each year! Cats are natural hunters and sadly they will hunt and kill wildlife for fun. Responsible cat owners can try to curb their natural instinct using a few simple tactics.

The RSPB have a number of suggestions and these include putting a bell on your cat’s collar. Feeders should be placed about 2m from dense vegetation, preventing surprise attacks from cats but giving birds easy access to cover. Place nest boxes where cats cannot get close, as they might prevent parent birds from getting to the box.

Help track birds

At this time of year you can assist the experts by logging the birds you see in your garden. For example, Swifts pair for life and meet up at the same nest site in the UK each spring – usually in gaps under roof tiles and in the eaves of buildings. But as more and more old buildings are demolished or renovated, many swifts are returning to discover their nest site is gone.

By telling the RSPB where you see nesting swifts you’ll help to build a picture of where swift nest sites need to be protected and where it would be best to provide new nest sites.

With fun accessible schemes such as Give Nature a Home and the Big Garden Birdwatch, the RSPB will continue to transform gardens across the country into mini nature reserves. Building a movement and weaving the UK’s landscape into a tapestry of connected wild spaces. You can be a part of it too – and don’t forget to share your sightings with us, we’d love to know if this blog has helped you transform the birdlife in your garden.

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What Was The Average Crediton House Price in 1952?

Well, what a weekend that was. Street parties, gatherings in the park, the purple bunting, egg and cress sandwiches, union jack flags, cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks, and let’s not forget the trifle – the Platinum Jubilee Party. And no decent party is worth its salt without a game or a quiz.

So, if you have post-Jubilee blues, let me ask you, how much was the average Crediton house worth in 1952?

To start with, let me look at what a property is worth today in Crediton.

The average price paid for a property in the Crediton area in the last 12 months was £302,900.

Now, let’s go back to 1952. Sir Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister, Newcastle won the FA Cup, London was covered in the Great Smog, free prescriptions on the NHS ended (it cost 1 shilling or 5p in new money), and King George IV, at the age of 56 passed away on the 6th February, meaning Princess Elizabeth became the Queen – as for housing …

The average price of a Crediton home in 1952 was £2,473.

This means Crediton house prices are 121 times higher since 1952.

Yet over the last 70 years, the country has been subjected to 4.5% per annum inflation.

The 1952 Crediton home is equivalent to £47,562 today when adjusted for inflation.

This means Crediton house prices have increased by 504.8% in real terms since 1952.

So, does that mean house prices are more expensive today compared to 1952?

In 1952, the average annual male wage was £452, 8 shillings and 1 pence, meaning the average Crediton house was 5.47 times the average value of a wage. Today the average home is 8.85 times the average wage.

Yet let us not forget the average mortgage payment in 1952 was £11 per month. The average Brit earned £34 per month, meaning 32.3% of the household income was going on mortgage payments, whilst nationally today, according to the Nationwide, it stands at 28%.

It’s cheaper, in real terms, to buy a property in 2022 than in 1952.

And that’s the point, something things in ‘real terms’ (real terms being true spending power of the money after taking into account wages, costs and inflation) were more expensive and some cheaper 70 years ago. For example, in 1952, petrol was equivalent (in today’s inflation-adjusted prices) to £1.02 per litre, a pint of beer £2, half a dozen eggs £2.20, cheddar cheese £2.40 per 500g, a basic radio £430, a Hoover £530 and a 12-inch TV £1,600.

So back to property, the Queen’s reign has seen some amazing house price rises in the UK, yet that growth hasn’t always been in a constant upward direction, as we have had a couple of dips along the way.

We had a house price crash in 1990, when the average value of a Crediton property dropped from £74,427 to £61,640 in 1996, only for them to start rising again.

Crediton saw another house price crash between 2008 and 2009, and the average house price dropped from £222,642 to £189,805 in a year.

So, what else has changed about property and housing since the Queen came onto the throne?

In 1952, only 32% of people owned their own home, whilst 50% of people rented from a private landlord and 18% rented a council house.

By the time of the Silver Jubilee in 1977, 56% of people owned their own home, with 12% of people privately renting and 32% rented from the council.

Come the Golden Jubilee in 2002, 70% of people owned their own home, with 11% of people privately renting and 19% rented from the council.

Today, 63% of people own their own home, 20% of people privately rent and 17% rent from the council.

So to conclude, as we look forward into the 21st century, I am sure the property market will be totally different again in 70 years.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and do share it with your friends if you find it interesting.

P.S. for all you Rightmove fans, the average Crediton terraced home in 1952 was worth £1,846, and a semi in Crediton could be bought for, on average, £2,145.