Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.

Posted on

8 Devon Gardens to Inspire this Spring

Devon is home to countless beautiful gardens and as estate agents we are very lucky to be able to visit new ones all the time.

As gardening season is upon us, we thought it would be good to list just a few local gardens open to visitors to enjoy. After all, it is the perfect time to start planning how you’ll make the most of the great outdoors.

From wildflower meadows to manicured lawns and everything in-between, these gardens  invite you to witness their displays and get inspiration for your own outdoor space.

Shobrooke Park Garden, Crediton

The 200 acre Shobrooke Park was laid out in the 1850s. The house was lost in a fire in 1946, but the grand garden remains with its Portland stone terracing and flowering shrubs under ancient oaks. All especially magnificent in the Spring.

Wandering through the oak woodland, on to the formal terracing and past the walled kitchen gardens to the American Grounds there are ever changing colours. See the way that clipped yew and laurel compliment the stonework. Enjoy the views out over Shobrooke Park with its cascade of ponds.

In May the spring flowers fade but the diversity of the shrubs continues in whites, blues, yellows and pinks. The scented azaleas in the American grounds are worth the walk.

In 2022 the gardens are open on Friday afternoons from 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm on 6th & 20th May and on Saturdays mornings from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm on 7th & 21st May.

The garden is rough and steep in places so unfortunately not suitable for people with mobility problems or wheelchairs. Stout boots and walking sticks are sensible for your visit.

Downes Estate, Crediton

Downes is the family home of the Buller and Parker Family.  It is still lived in by the current generation of the family – Henry and Susan Parker and their children.

The attraction of Downes is the way it brings together aspects of the history of our country (particularly as the home of the famous General Buller) and the history of a family home, still privately occupied and loved by its owners, some 300 years after it was first built.  It is hoped that visitors will appreciate the opportunity to share this special place.

The house is open to the public for guided tours at 2.15pm daily during the following weeks and if you are joining a tour the gardens are open between 1.30pm – 4.30pm:

2nd May – 8th May, 30th May – 5th June, 29th August – 4th September

Sherwood House, Newton St Cyres

Sherwood Garden is a hidden treasure; traditional gardens surround a beautiful, turn of the century Arts and Crafts home set in a landscape of 23 acres. Explore two deep ancient oak wooded valleys, surrounded by pastureland and further forest. Acers, magnolias, rhododendrons, azaleas and other woody plants are beautifully supported by banks of naturalised bulbs and wild flowers which thrive under careful low input management. Yew topiary surrounds the house and frames the more natural garden beyond.

If the weather is kind , there are plenty of benches and areas all over the garden for a picnic too – which means you can make a real day of it! Head to their Open Gardens with Tea and Cake in aid of Parkinsons UK on Saturday 28th May, near Crediton. There will be two sessions to view the gardens 11am to 1pm and from 2pm to 4pm. There are limited ticket sales for each to allow for parking restrictions.

Knighthayes Court National Trust

If you discovered ‘growing your own’ over lockdown (like millions of others) then look no further for inspiration than the nationally significant formal garden and working kitchen garden at Knightshayes.

This two-and-a-half-acre walled kitchen garden with fairytale turrets is home to a vast collection of crops which are now almost extinct – including 102 varieties of heritage tomatoes. The kitchen garden was finished in 1876, and was designed by Burges, at the same time as the house. The influence of Burges can be spotted from the turrets and the style of the walls, like a castle.

Sadly, the garden declined following the First World War, as most young men went off to fight, leaving a skeleton staff. By the Second World War, numbers had declined yet further, though the garden was still used to help produce supplies when the main house was used as a hospital during both world wars. Wider commercial availability of fruit and vegetables also meant the garden ceased to be cost effective, as more and more produce was brought into the estate. In the 1970’s, the garden had grown over and been abandoned due it becoming too expensive to run. The garden was put to bed for over 40 years and used as grazing and even an overflow carpark.

In 1999, a project was undertaken to restore the kitchen garden to its former glory and by 2003 it was fully productive again.

The lesson for us all is that it is never too late! So don’t be afraid to start growing fruit and veg no matter how tiny your plot. Plus, don’t forget that there are allotments around Crediton as well as the community allotment where you can get involved in growing without needing to own any land yourself.

Backswood Farm, Bickleigh, Tiverton

If you’re keen on finding out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, then this is one for you. This newly created two acre nature garden provides many uniquely designed homes for wildlife.

Wander through the flower meadow visiting individually designed areas, structures, water features and ponds. Seating areas afford stunning views towards Exmoor and Dartmoor. Both native and herbaceous plants have been chosen to benefit insect and bird life.

This garden opens by arrangement for groups of between 1 and 99. This means the garden welcomes visitors on pre-agreed dates. So don’t be afraid to get in contact with them and arrange a visit. You can gather knowledge, tips and ideas through chatting to them about their hard work and then come back inspired to do the same!

Lewis Cottage, Spreyton

This well-known garden and plant nursery on the way to Spreyton, near Crediton, has four acres of garden that really demonstrate how to make the most of the natural landscape. It has evolved primarily over last 30 years using informal planting and natural formal structures to create a garden that reflects the souls of those who garden there. There are often special open days and there are a couple coming up on the 28/29 May and 25/26 June. Lewis Cottage Plants is an online nursery selling plants that grow in the garden at Lewis Cottage. You can also visit the nursery in person when you book a visit and pick up some of your favourite plants that you’ve spotted in the garden.

Andrew’s Corner Belstone

A little further afield, this garden really helps inspire when you want to garden on the wild side! In 2022 they celebrate 51 years of opening through the National Gardening Scheme.

In early May the maples, rhododendrons and unusual shrubs provide interest, late May brings the flowering davidia, cornus, embothrium and the spectacular blue poppies. A perfect day out and you are certain to get some good ideas!

Fursdon, near Exeter

Venture into East Devon a little and you will find Fursdon, where rural hillside gardens blend seamlessly into rolling parkland and on into the countryside with views over the Exe valley and beyond to Dartmoor.

Take a leisurely stroll through approximately 4 acres of garden and grounds including terraces of roses, herbs and perennials in mixed traditional and contemporary planting. The Vine Pavilion and thatched Round House are great places to sit and admire the view and listen to the birds – and there are many strategically placed benches for resting and taking time to be peaceful. Throughout the gardens, there are some steep slopes with grass or gravel paths.

The Meadow Garden, originally planted nearly 200 years ago, in memory of Harriet Fursdon, is now a woodland walk leading to a pond.

This is by no means a finished garden and this is why it’s a great inspiration. Restoring and regenerating this area is an ongoing project. They are establishing wild flowers and have planted hundreds of bulbs to grow under the canopy of trees. It is a short walk from the main garden and visitors can wander and enjoy this peaceful natural space, while building up an appetite for tea in the Coach Hall.

They have created a pond in The Meadow Garden which attracts all sorts of wildlife and planted the banks and beds which lie next to the grassed walkways.

_________

We hope you enjoy visiting these gardens. If you want to recommend others, then head to our Facebook and Instagram pages and please add them into the comments!

Posted on

Crediton Rental Homes Nightmare

  • Crediton needs 32 additional private rented properties per year to keep up with current and future demand from Crediton tenants.
  • Yet over the last 5 years, Crediton has lost 41 private rented homes.
  • What are the 5 reasons the supply of private rental properties in Crediton are falling? What does this mean for tenants and landlords in Crediton?

There has been a rise in demand for rental properties and an 8.9% fall in the number of Crediton private rented properties, which has caused Crediton rents to rise by 9.2% in the last year, a new all-time high. 

The National Residential Landlords Association asked the respected economics think tank, Capital Economics, to carry out research on the UK rental market. It found that if the current trends in the property market in terms of growth of the population, Brits living longer, the lack of new homes building and the reduction in social housing (aka council housing) then demand for homes in the private rented sector needs to increase by 227,000 homes per year. 

So, based on those numbers, Crediton needs to have an additional 32 private rented properties per year.

The problem is the number of private rented properties in Crediton has reduced from 774 in 2017 to 733 in 2021, a net loss of 41.

So, why has supply of private rented homes in Crediton reduced?

  1. Section 24 Income Tax

Section 24 was introduced in 2017 to level the playing field on the taxation of property between homeowners and landlords. Section 24 stops landlords from offsetting their buy-to-let mortgage costs against the profits from their rental property. Interestingly, no other kind of UK business is affected by the Section 24 taxation. In other words, whatever other form of business you might be in, be it butcher, baker or candlestick maker, every other business can offset their finance costs against their profits, except buy-to-let.

The issue caused by Section 24 Tax is that some landlords ended up paying more income tax than they really made in profit after paying their buy-to-let mortgages. Meaning on the back of rising Crediton house prices in the last five years, some Crediton landlords have sold their buy-to-let investments.

  • 3% More Stamp Duty for Landlords

When someone buys a property, they normally must pay a tax to the Government for the privilege. This tax is called Stamp Duty. Yet landlords must pay an additional 3% stamp duty supplement on top of that when they purchase a Crediton buy-to-let property. Evidence suggests some Crediton landlords have decided to hold off or scale back buying additional buy-to-let properties for their portfolio because of the thousands of extra pounds that landlords have to pay to buy the rental property.

  • Holiday and AirBnb Lets

Some Crediton landlords are converting their long-term rental properties into short-term furnished holiday and AirBnB properties. Whilst the hassle, stress and service levels are much higher, these types of properties do tend to make more money and aren’t as heavily taxed as normal lets. When properties convert to short-term lets, it removes another Crediton property out of the general supply chain of long-term rental properties.

  • Greater Legislation for Rental Properties

With more than 150 pieces of legalisation, and new laws being added each year, the burden on landlords is huge. On the horizon is the Renters Reform Bill which will remove the no fault evictions. Also, all rental properties with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of below a ‘C’ will have to be improved (i.e. money spent on them) by the landlord. This could be more than £10,000 per property. Hence, why some Crediton landlords have been selling their rental properties with low EPC ratings in the last 18 months.

  • Accidental Landlords Selling Up

There are some Crediton landlords who are classed as ‘Accidental Landlords’. In 2008/9, with a slowing property market and house price values dropping in the order of 16% to 19%, (depending on the type of property) some Crediton homeowners decided to let their home out as opposed to selling it at a loss. Yet, with the price booms of the last 18 months, many decided to cash in on the higher property prices and sell – again taking another private rental property out of the system.

So, why is demand of private rented homes in Crediton increasing, even though more people own their home in Crediton than 5 years ago?

Even with better provision of affordable social housing and higher rates of owner occupation in Crediton (rising from 63.53% of homes in Crediton being owner occupied in 2017 to 65.86% in 2021), demand for private rental property continues to outstrip supply.

There are many reasons behind this including …

  1. People are living longer, meaning not so many properties are coming back into the mix to be recycled for the younger generation.
  • Net migration to the UK has continued at just over a quarter of a million people a year since 2017, meaning we need an additional 115,000 households to house them alone.
  • For the last two years, one in six of the owners of properties that have been sold have moved in to rented accommodation instead of buying on because of the lack of properties to buy.

So, what is the outcome of the imbalance between supply and demand on Crediton rental properties?

Quite simply – Crediton rents have rocketed. They are 9.2% higher today than the spring of 2020 … and that’s on the back of rents being 10.1% higher in spring 2020, compared to spring 2019.

The severe shortage of housing in the private rented sector is pushing up rents in Crediton as demand continues to grow. Many Crediton people are finding it hard work to find appropriate accommodation at a reasonable rent, and with mounting numbers of tenants predicted to continue, this situation will only get worse unless more houses are built.

My heart goes out to those Crediton tenants struggling with the cost-of-living crisis only to then be hit by higher rents.

Yet, these higher rents are now enticing new landlords back into the Crediton buy-to-let market because of the higher returns.

With higher inflation, property investment has been seen in the past a safe harbour to invest one’s money in. With the bonus of rising yields (because of the increase in rents) together with the nervousness of the Bank of England to increase interest rates too much because of the issues in Eastern Europe, this could be the start of a second renaissance in the Crediton buy-to-let market.

If you have concerns about the issues in legislation and taxation, then the advantage of employing a letting agent, with the choice of property, what you pay for it and how it’s managed, will go a long way to mitigate them.

If you are considering getting into the Crediton buy-to-let market for the first time or expanding your property portfolio (whether you are a client of mine or not) please do not hesitate to give me a call and we can discuss these matters further.

Posted on

831 Crediton Terraced Houses Why are they so popular?

The terraced house is one of the most familiar styles of home in Crediton (and the UK as a whole).

23.8% of Crediton people live in a terraced home, interesting when compared with the national average of 22.7%.

So, what is it about the humble terraced/townhouse us Brits love so much? In this article, I look at the history of the terraced house, how it relates to Crediton and what the future holds for terraced homes.

A terraced house is a property built as part of a continuous row of three (or more) properties in a similar and uniform style.

The reason the British call them ‘terraced houses’ and not ‘row houses’ came about because 18th century British architects borrowed the phrase ‘terrace’ from ‘terraced gardens’. Terraced gardens were known for their uniform nature (in looks, style and height etc.), so the architects decided to name them the same way as opposed to a ‘row house’. In fact, in most countries, they are called ‘row houses’.

The terraced house originated in the Low Countries of Europe in the late 1500s.

Terraced houses were first built en-masse in the UK after the Great Fire of 1666 with the rebuilding of London.

They became fashionable for the landed gentry in the early Georgian era with chic and stylish terraces appearing in London’s Mayfair and Bath with its Queen Square (the forerunner of the famous Royal Crescent) and were sometimes built around a garden square.

However, it wasn’t until the early 1800s that the terraced house turned out to be the solution to the increasing population of the towns as more and more people were attracted to towns and cities for work.

The terraced house fell out of favour with the upper-middle classes in the late Victorian age (1870s onwards) as they wanted more privacy and space. They moved to live in detached houses or semi-detached villas, as the terrace house had started to become associated with the lower-middle and working classes.

With all these terraced houses being built, their quality of construction and design dropped as builders tried to squeeze more profit. The biggest issue was that most of the terraced houses built in the early to mid-Victorian age (1840s to 1870s) were made back-to-back with no rear garden, causing unsanitary conditions. Therefore, the Public Health Act of 1875 was introduced to regulate the building of terraced houses with design and standards.

These new building standards in the Act improved the terraced house’s ventilation and, more importantly, required the house to have a toilet (frequently built outside). To meet these new building standards, the designs of these new houses created the well-known landscape of ‘grid’ streets lined with two-storey terraces serviced by a pedestrian path between them, the name of which is a hotly debated topic. The various names for the pathway include alleyway/jitty/cut/ginnel/snicket/passageway/ten foot/five foot/witchel/lonnin/vennel.

As a Crediton resident, why not say what you call them in the comments?

As we entered the 20th century, the terrace house continued to be popular, albeit with some new architectural additions.

The advent of Arts and Craft architecture with stain glass windows, Tudor style cladding, ornate porches, and elaborate chimney stacks.

After the First World War and the introduction of the Housing and Town Planning Act 1919 (which made local councils build council houses), the Victorian terraced rapidly became associated with overcrowding and slums (especially those back-to-back terraced houses built before 1875). Many of the back-to-back terraced houses were knocked down between 1930 and 1960 in what is known as the slum clearances.

Private builders started building the iconic suburban semi-detached houses with more extensive gardens, and local authorities decided to build high-rise blocks after World War II. Yet after the partial collapse of Ronan Point in 1968, the popularity of high-rise tower blocks waned.

Since the early 1990s though, the terraced house has steadily come back into favour as building land prices have increased by 322% in the last 30 years.

Many private builders have started to build modern three-storey townhouses in rows of five to seven. This terraced ‘townhouse-style’ allows three and four bedrooms on a land footprint that would have usually only accommodated a smaller two-bed property.

So, let’s look at some interesting stats on Crediton terraced houses:

  • There are 831 terraced houses in Crediton (broken down as 570 privately owned terraced houses, 102 terraced council houses and 159 in the private rented sector).
  • 19.1% of terraced houses in Crediton are in the private rented sector, which is equal to the national average of 19.1%.
  • The most expensive terraced house in Crediton ever sold was on Union Terrace, Crediton for £532,000 in 2016.
  • The cheapest Crediton terraced house sold in the last two years was on Kirton Drive, for £85,000.
  • Terraced houses in Crediton sell for an average of £196 per square foot.

I hope you found that thought-provoking?

So, why is the terraced house, be it a red brick Victorian house or a more modern three-storey townhouse, still popular today in Crediton?

They are typically well built, cheaper to maintain (especially the older terraced houses), comparatively spacious, and are in good locations. Many terraced houses have been improved and extended through the inventive use of rear gardens/yards and converted roof spaces; their unpretentious design remains adaptable enough for 21st century living; what isn’t there to like about them?

These are my thoughts; tell me your thoughts about the humble yet versatile Crediton terraced house.

Posted on

67% Drop in Crediton Council Houses in the Last 40 Years

  • In 1981, 26.1% of properties in Crediton (and the Mid Devon District as a whole) were council houses. Today, that figure stands at 8.7%, a proportional drop of 67%.
  • Why has the number of council houses dropped so much in those 40 years?
  • How has that changed the dynamics of the Crediton property market in those 40 years?

The ability of local authorities to build council houses came into law in July 1919 with the 1919 housing and Town Planning Act. It was one of the most important pieces of domestic legislature passed after WW1 and was the first time in the UK that a nationally public funded system of providing homes was made for the masses. It was paid for mostly by central government and provided by local authorities (councils) and public utility societies (which in later years became today’s housing associations). 

Between 1919 and 1979, 6.94 million council houses were built.

Just over 1 million council houses were built between 1920 and 1939, whilst 5,804,150 council houses were built between 1946 and 1979. This is compared to 4,533,440 private homes and 260,910 housing association properties in the same time frame (’46 to ’79).

So, between 1946 and 1979, the council house was the dominate force of British housing. But that all changed in 1979!

Many people believe it was Margaret Thatcher who was the architect of allowing the sitting tenant of a council house to buy their home. Interestingly, council house tenants have been able to buy their council house from as early as the mid 1930s, albeit with little or no discount. Also, as late as 1977, the Labour Housing Minster published a Green Paper extolling the virtues of homeownership and council tenants being able to buy their home at a discount.

But after the General Election of 1979, the new Tory government drafted the Housing Act 1980, which gave the Right to Buy, which became law in the autumn of 1980. Then things really took off!

This new law established a right for most council tenants who had been in their home for three years or more to a discount. The discount started at 33% and increased by 1% for each extra year, up to a maximum of 50%. If the tenant sold the house within the first five years of ownership, a prorated repayment of their discount was required.

Between 1980 and 1989, 970,558 council houses nationally were sold at a discount.

Yet the issue was, when a council house was sold, it took that house out of the council’s portfolio for future generations. From the start, there were limitations on local authorities’ use of monies from the council house sales as most of it had to be given to central government in London, meaning only 390,560 new council houses were built between 1980 and 1989. Looking at the numbers locally …

in 1981, there were 5,449 council houses in Mid Devon, today it’s 2,843.

No wonder the country has a housing crisis … yet as my regular readers know – the devil is in the detail … and that devil is the humble housing association. 

The Tory General Election Manifesto in 1979 had proposed the rights for both council house and housing association tenants to buy their own house under the Right to Buy scheme. The Conservatives argued housing associations, who obtained government funding, should be subject to the same Right to Buy proposals as councils. The Government won the vote in the Commons, yet lost the vote in the Lords, meaning housing association tenants could not buy their homes at a large discount.

At the time, there were only 400,000 housing association properties in the country, so the Government were not that worried. But the significance of housing associations developed in the 1980s and beyond as they were allowed to borrow money from the private sector.

Between 1949 and 1979, the average number of housing association properties built annually was 8,524. Since 1979 to today, it has been 25,062 per year (and 31,606 per year in the 2010s).

Also, the Government encouraged councils to transfer their remaining council houses to housing association schemes from 1986. The advantage to these ‘stock transfers’ was the Government allowed housing associations to access private funding to improve their existing properties and buy new ones (good news for existing tenants complaining that the local authority never upgraded their homes).

Moreover, the Tory Government liked stock transfers, as it allowed them to dismantle council housing from the inside. Interestingly, Labour expanded the ‘Stock Transfer’ process in 1997 and further reduced the eligibility for council tenants’ Right to Buy, meaning the number of council tenants exercising their Right to Buy declined considerably.

Meaning today, even though the provision of council housing has dropped like the proverbial

stone … 

the number of housing association properties in Mid Devon has increased from 362 in 1981 to 1,292.

So, how has this changed the dynamic of the Crediton property market in the last 40 years?

Would it surprise you to learn that the number of people who own their own Crediton home today is very similar to what it was 20 years ago before the property boom started? It’s just that even though we’ve had a large drop in the number of council houses and an increase in the number of housing association properties, the number of people owning their own home has remained relatively the same (in some areas of Crediton this has actually increased), the significant issue is the growth of the private rented sector.

It’s almost as if people who used to rent from the council now rent from a private landlord.

The question is, is it right for private individuals to make money from tenants who rent from them as opposed to the local authority? Or are private landlords providing better types, choices and quality of accommodation for these tenants, albeit at a higher rental rate than if they rented a council house?

I really do believe if it wasn’t for the growth of the buy-to-let landlord, which began in the early 2000s, we would have an even bigger housing crisis on our hands than the one we have currently.

Both local and central government have had their hands tied behind their backs since 2008 with a lack of funding, and it’s the humble private landlord who has stepped up and supplied in excess of 2.3million additional rental properties since 2001, housing nearly 5,520,000 Brits. These landlords have saved the day since the big council house sell off in the 1980s!

What are your thoughts on this matter?

Posted on

Why does it take 107 days to get the keys when you buy a Crediton house?

  • 208 properties have sold in the Crediton area in the last 12 months.
  • It only takes 42 days to sell a Crediton home, so why does it take 107 days from the sold board going up to the buyer getting the keys?
  • With a shortage of solicitors and a sub-standard conveyancing system, this article discusses what Crediton house sellers (and buyers) can do to speed up the house buying process.

Nationally, the average length of time it takes from agreeing the sale of a property to the keys being handed over is 111 days (down from 117 days last year), yet in Crediton, we are below the national average at 107 days.

So why does it take just over 15 weeks, when all that is required is the lawyers to look at some paperwork and get a mortgage? Also, what can Crediton homebuyers and sellers do to speed this up? 

The legal process to buy and sell a UK property is called conveyancing. The conveyancing system itself hasn’t really changed in hundreds of years. After the housing market was reopened after the first lockdown in the spring of 2020, the property market returned with a bang, helped on with the stamp duty holiday.

In 2021, the number of properties selling in Crediton in some months went up massively, e.g. by 96% in June 2021 and by 65% in March 2021. Many conveyancers and solicitors had to sort the legal paperwork out for upwards of 120 to 150 properties each at any one time.

This glut of sold properties caused by the pandemic that needed legal work to be sorted exacerbated a problem already present in the conveyancing industry.

For years, conveyancers have complained of overwork and underpay. Conveyancing is seen as the Cinderella of the legal profession. This workload was the straw that broke the camel’s back, making many conveyancers leave the profession and go into better paid legal work like corporate work.

Also, the legal process of conveyancing has built-in inefficiencies, and the conveyancing profession has been relatively slow to innovate. However, there are some excellent tech solutions that are being slowly rolled out across the industry to make the process more efficient and effective.

What can Crediton home buyers and sellers do to speed up their property sale?

If you are buying or selling your Crediton property as we speak, you won’t be able to wait for the conveyancing profession to be revamped, yet you can be as pre-emptive as possible to get your Crediton house sale through earlier.

In a nutshell, make sure you have all the paperwork sorted on your Crediton home before you put your home on the market. Next, get the ball rolling on your mortgage. If you receive some paperwork, read it, check it, sign it and send it back in a day, do not leave it a week; finally, always communicate frequently with your estate agent and conveyancer.

When you instruct a solicitor, most will request money to start the ball rolling for searches and disbursements. They won’t lift a finger until that is paid.

You will have to prove who you are in the conveyancing process, so your conveyancer will ask you to show them proof of ID and address. If you are buying, they will need to prove you have the funds/deposit to buy the home (and if your deposit is coming from family/friends, then they are required to write a letter to that effect).

How can the house buying and selling process be improved?

A couple of years ago, the Government set up the Home Buying and Selling Group to find the answer to this problem. Chaired by the well-known property guru Kate Faulkner, it is looking at an amalgamated Seller’s Information Pack (SIPs) and an IT-based single platform to share and communicate that SIP between buyers, sellers, their conveyancers, the estate agent, mortgage providers and brokers and finally surveyors.

The advantage of the SIP is that it can be created before the buyer has been found, meaning property buyers would be more knowledgeable when making an offer. Also, once the sale has been agreed upon, the SIP could be sent straightaway electronically to the buyers’ legal team (from the seller’s legal team) to start the procedure of asking for searches and raising inquiries.

The bottom line is the conveyancing process is not fit for purpose in the 21st century and change is on the horizon.

So, before the SIP becomes mandatory, there are things everyone can do to ensure they get the home of their dreams quicker.

At my agency, I recommend the seller, us as the agent and the conveyancer start to liaise with each other to get the key information on the property being sold as quickly as possible. Then once a buyer is found, I believe it is vital we, as the agent, regularly communicate with all the stakeholders in the chain to ensure everyone is playing their part to expedite the sale.

In the future, utilising technology and every agent/conveyancer preparing information upfront with the SIP will drastically reduce the time it takes between agreeing a sale and the keys/monies handed over.

The conveyancing process will have to change to meet the needs of the 21st century, but how long that will take is the big question.

If you would like to chat with me about how we do things differently to ensure your property not only gets the best price and how we do all we can, as agents, to expedite a smooth sale for your Crediton property, do not hesitate to pick up the phone to me or drop me a line at the office.

Posted on

1 in 6 Crediton Homeowners Unable to Sell

  • The average time to find a buyer for a Crediton property reduced from 89 days in 2020 to 42 days in 2021.
  • Yet still, just under 1 in 6 Crediton homeowners are on the market after 12 weeks.
  • Why are so many Crediton homes still on the market after all that time, and what does it mean for the Crediton property market?

You would have needed to have been living in a cave since the end of Lockdown No.1, not to realise the property market has been on fire in Crediton (and the UK as a whole) for the last 18/20 months.

It has been very much a seller’s market, especially in 2021. Yet as we enter the second quarter of 2022, I have noticed a slight rebalancing of the Crediton property market, more towards buyers, something that is good news for everyone (sellers and buyers) locally.

In 2020, it took on average 89 days from the average Crediton property appearing on the property portals (i.e. Rightmove, Zoopla etc.) to the property going sold (STC).

Interesting when compared to the national average of 72 days in 2020. Yet, last year, this was reduced to 42 days in Crediton (51 days nationally).

So, what’s the issue with the Crediton property market being on fire?

Well, that was last year, and things have changed slightly since.

Of the properties for sale in Crediton (EX17), 15.5% of houses have been on the market for more than 12 weeks.

That doesn’t sound a lot, yet that is an eternity in this market!

So, why are there so many properties on the market in Crediton still for sale after all this time … it usually comes down to one thing … the practice of ‘overvaluing’.

So before I explain what overvaluing is, let me give you some background.

Many agents (not just ourselves), in 2021, were achieving top prices for Crediton property with multiple offers becoming the standard. The property they were selling was only available to buy for days before the owner obtained multiple offers that were not only at a satisfactory level, yet more than they ever dreamed likely.

Although this was great news for Crediton homeowners, this caused fewer homes to come on to the market in the last six months in Crediton, as people were afraid to put their home on the market without having a property to buy.  

With fewer properties coming onto the market, some estate agents have become more and more desperate to get a larger slice of this smaller property market. It has seen an unwelcome side of the estate agency profession, the estate agency practice of ‘overvaluing’.

While ‘overvaluing’ is nothing new, the custom has been generally limited to a small number of estate agents. Yet now, it’s become more prevalent and creates uncountable distress and pressure for some Crediton homeowners.

Many Crediton homeowners want to sell quickly to get the property of their dreams. Yet, in many cases, when they do put their property on to the market, they don’t sell quickly enough because of this ‘overvaluing’ (even with the fantastic current property market conditions).

To give you an idea of the issue …

69% of Crediton homes put on the market in the last 30 days have not sold.

There are hundreds of Crediton families having their dreams dashed by ‘overvaluing.’

Therefore, let me look at exactly what overvaluing is, why it’s on the rise and most importantly, the harm overvaluing causes to homeowners like yourself.

You would think the most important thing in estate agency is all about finding the best buyer for your home, at the best price, who can make the move with the least amount of hassle.

To us it is, and to many other Crediton estate agents, it is as well. Yet, to some agents, sales aren’t the essential objective. Instead, it is having a vigorous catalogue of properties to sell to generate more future leads.

Deprived of an endless number of new properties for sale, the enquiries estate agents receive will significantly drop, leaving them high and dry without any buyer (or seller) leads, the lifeblood of estate agents.

Therefore, some (not all), but some estate agents will feed on a homeowner’s appetite to get the highest possible price for their Crediton home by giving them an over-inflated suggested asking price to market their property at (i.e. ‘overvaluing’).

If one estate agent can get you an extra £30,000 for your Crediton home, you will take it, won’t you?

The suggestion of pushing the asking price of your Crediton home for 10%, 15% even 20% could be seen by many as a temptation too good to miss. Yet once you are on the market, the agent is trained to slowly get you to reduce your asking price over a lengthy sole agency agreement.

The problem is that the home of your dreams might have sold by the time you reduced your price in 3 months. Also, Which reports in 2017 and 2019 proved you ended up getting less for your home when it did eventually sell (which means you lose money) and finally, the agents know homeowners perceive it’s a hassle to swap agents (which it isn’t).

But estate agents only get paid when they sell the house; why do they overvalue?

Would it surprise you that some estate agency chains pay their staff a commission when they put the property on to the market, not when it sells? So, their team overinflate their suggested asking prices to get that commission.

Over the last 18 months, with the rising property market, there has undoubtedly been a valid reason for pushing the envelope on the asking price. Yet, if every house like yours is on the market or sold subject to contract at £300,000 to £320,000, yours isn’t going to achieve £355,000, let alone £375,000 – even in this market.

With 69% of Crediton homes still for sale after a month, the market is starting to level out and if you are keen to sell, then let me give you some advice.

Research has shown that if the asking price is initially set too high, it will be ignored by people surfing Rightmove and Zoopla.

(Come on, be honest – you have done that yourself haven’t you?)

When the property is eventually reduced because it has the stigma of being on the property market too long (begging the question from potential buyers that there may be a problem with the property itself hence no interest?), often when it does eventually sell, it will sell for less than what it would have done if it were priced correctly from day one (as per the two reports from Which in 2017 and 2019).

Of course, on the other hand, setting the asking price below its market value means potentially leaving money on the table needlessly – hence the need for a good agent.

Putting your Crediton home or buy-to-let investment up for sale at the right price from the beginning is the key to selling within the best time frame and for the best price to a serious and motivated buyer.

Ask a handful of estate agents to value your home, ask them to back up any valuation of your Crediton home with cold hard comparables of similar properties to yours.

Find your comparables by searching ALL the property portals (i.e. Rightmove, Zoopla, Boomin, OnTheMarket).

If you only take away one thing from this article, when you search the portals for comparables, make sure you include under offer/sold STC properties, as that will triple the comparable evidence. 

Thus, by doing your homework and then working with a dependable, trustworthy and experienced Crediton estate agent, who will help to ensure that your Crediton property is put on the market to get you, the homeowner, the best price from day one without over cooking it so you don’t lose out, you will be just fine.

These are my thoughts, let me know if you have any yourself.

Posted on

How Will Rising Inflation Affect the Crediton Property Market in 2022?

The UK is currently experiencing its highest inflation rate since the early 1990s. This increase in prices has primarily come about by the combination of an increase in demand for goods and services from consumers following lockdown last year together with global supply chain disruptions.

Most economists weren’t too concerned about this increase in the inflation rate as the very same thing happened in the early 1990s following the Credit Crunch with a similar rise in demand and supply chain issues. Thankfully, back in the early 1990s, inflation returned to lower levels quite quickly. However, the situation in Eastern Europe now could change matters.

So, let me look at all the factors and what it means for the Crediton property market.

The crisis in Eastern Europe has sparked even further rises in crude oil (which diesel and petrol are made from), gas and grain prices as pressure on supply chains around the world increases.

In my previous articles, I suggested UK inflation would rise to around 7% in the spring and drop back to 5% in the autumn and as we entered 2023, be approximately 3% to 4%.

Yet, with these issues, inflation could rise to 8% to 9% by late spring and still be around 6% to 7% in autumn, well above the Bank of England’s target of 2%.

With Crediton wages rising at only 3% to 4% and inflation at 7%+, Crediton household incomes, in real terms, will fall.

This is because ‘real’ UK household incomes characteristically have been the most consistent lead indicator of growth (or a drop) in house prices. This is because growing inflation erodes the value of money you earn, which reduces its buying power. When the cash in your pocket has a lower spending power, people tend to spend less when they buy (and rent) a home (and vice versa).

Next month, Income Tax thresholds will be frozen, and National Insurance contributions are increasing. Collectively, all these issues will create a drop of around 2% to 2.5% in the real disposable income of Britain’s households in 2022 (real disposable income – somebody’s take-home wages after tax and then the effects of inflation are considered).

Will Crediton people be more anxious to spend their money?

With less money in people’s pockets, people’s inclination to spend the money they do have could also be curtailed. People’s savings are at an all-time high, yet many will decide to sit on the cash, instead of spending it, especially as consumer confidence has dropped to minus 26 on the GfK index (whatever that means – but in all seriousness though – more on that below).

All this can only mean there is going to be a house price crash.

It’s all doom and gloom! …Or is it?

My heart goes out to people caught up in the awful humanitarian crisis in Eastern Europe. Yet, I respectfully need to put that to one side for just a moment for the purpose of this article.

This blog is about the Crediton property market, and Crediton people want to know what will happen to the Crediton property market.

In the first half of the article, I looked at the impending fall in real disposable incomes of 2% to 2.5% in 2022. I appreciate it’s going to be tough for many families in Crediton. Yet, it is always important to consider what has happened in previous times.

1982 – a drop of 2.3% in real disposable income

1992 – a drop of 3.7% in real disposable income

2008 – a drop of 5.8% in real disposable income

Yes, it’s going to be tough, yet we got through 1982, 1992 and 2008 – and so we shall in 2022/23.

Next, the price of petrol is very high compared to a year ago.

The average price of unleaded petrol is £1.51/litre today, quite a jump from the £1.21/litre a year ago. But here is an interesting fact, petrol was a lot more expensive (in real terms) in 2011 than today. In TODAY’s money, a litre of unleaded petrol in 2011 would be the equivalent of £1.79/litre. We have some way to go before we get to those levels – and again, the Crediton economy (and property market) kicked on quite nicely after 2011.

What are Crediton people spending on their rent and mortgages?

Housing costs – owner occupiers were spending on average 17.3% of their household income on mortgages in 2015, yet in 2021 this had risen, albeit to 17.7% – not a huge increase.

Council house (social) tenants have seen a drop in their rent from 29.2% in 2015 to 26.7% in 2021, whilst private tenants from 36.4% in 2015 to 31.2% in 2021.

Posted on

1 in 50 homes are sitting empty in the Crediton area

  • 750 homes in the Mid Devon area are empty, which represents 1 in 50 homes.
  • 198 of those have been empty for more than six months and are worth £57million.
  • Why are those properties standing empty and deteriorating and why could that become an issue for the whole of Crediton?

A couple of weeks ago was National Empty Homes Week, so I thought I would find out how many homes are empty in the Crediton area – the numbers surprised me, so I wanted to share my thoughts about them with you.

The latest Government statistics show that 198 properties in Mid Devon have been empty for more than six months.

Homes that are left empty for an extended period can affect our locality and occasionally invite anti-social behaviour.

With a shortage of housing in the Crediton area, these empty homes must be brought back into use to generate much-needed housing for local people.

As you can see in the first bullet point, some homes are only empty for a short period of time. Yet, those local properties that stand empty for more than six months and then deteriorate become a problem for our local community.

I appreciate there can be many genuine explanations why a property may be left empty for a long time. However, with council house waiting lists at high levels and the shortage of both properties to buy and rent in Crediton, we must ask what is being done about this at Government level and how this could affect the Crediton property market?

The collective value of these 198 long-term (6 months or more) empty houses in Mid Devon are worth £57million.

This impacts the Crediton housing market with a lack of properties coming onto the market for sale and rent. This results in house prices being pushed up, making it less affordable for first-time buyers to get on the first step of the housing ladder.

It’s a real shame that many local properties are empty for over six months when there is an increasing demand for accommodation, at a time when there’s such a competitive housing market.

So, one might ask if this issue of long-term empty properties is a new problem? Well, not really.

There were 413 homes long-term empty in Mid Devon in 2010.

I know our local authority likes to work with property owners of empty homes to bring them back into housing stock as it helps with the housing shortage, even with the help of grants if improvement work is needed for the empty home. Yet, they could use enforcement action where a homeowner is incapable or unwilling to bring their property back into use.

So, what is the Government doing nationally? Homeowners are charged a 50% premium on top of their Council Tax if their home has been empty for two years or more. This can rise to a 300% premium if the property has been empty for ten years or more.

However, the bigger question is, why are all these homes in the Crediton and Mid Devon area being left empty?

The real answer is – they are not.

A handful of the properties belong to the local authority and are in poor condition because the tenant trashed the property. 

Probate (where the person’s estate is put in order and passed onto the beneficiaries of the will) takes between six and twelve months. Most of these long-term properties are being modernised and renovated, whilst other Crediton properties are part of a deceased estate. In other circumstances, some Crediton homes have been left empty after the owner has been placed into a care home, yet there is no Power of Attorney to put the home onto the market. 

There is no ‘one fix all’ to the empty home syndrome in Crediton.

Empty properties in Crediton is not an issue that will sort the housing crisis we are suffering from.

The simple fact is the population is growing faster than the number of houses being built. We need to build more homes.

Whether that means council properties, housing association homes, private landlords or even owner-occupation housing the masses – that’s a massive question we could all talk about, day in day out until the cows come home.

So, tell me, what are your thoughts on the matter?