Buy to let

A retirement property should help you to do just that – retire. The main focus therefore should be making sure the property generates a positive cash flow. In order to do this, the property you purchase needs to Let extremely well and as such appeal to a wide rental market; that usually means it must be close to transport, be well presented, have a café culture close by with all the local shops and amenities on the doorstep. There is also a direct correlation between the number of bedrooms a property has and the amount of rent you can achieve. My advice, buy as many bedrooms as you can!

All you really need to know is, the bigger and the better the yield the more money you will receive in your pocket each month. The yield allows you to calculate what annual return you will see from your investment as a percentage. You can then easily compare each investment opportunity. To calculate the yield you need to work out what the total rental income for the year will be and then divide this by the price of the property. To turn this figure into a percentage you then multiply it by 100. Be warned, this will only give you the Gross yield and will not take into account any overheads associated with an investment property i.e. solicitors fees, surveyors costs, maintenance, lettings agents fees and depending on the purchase price stamp duty land tax.

Buy in an area that you know is within one hour’s drive from where you live. Research is imperative to successful property investments and if you are familiar with an area then you are already one step ahead. If the property is close by then you are on hand should anything go wrong with one of your properties. The type of return you focus on will depend entirely on what you want from the investment. If you are looking for long term capital appreciation, however are not reliant on a healthy rental return then you should be investing in an up and coming area with planned regeneration and new infrastructures. If you are just intent on maximising cash flow then you need to be investing in less expensive housing in convenient locations, ex local authority housing services suit this type of investor well. Whatever investment you decide to make, if it is close to transport and local amenities then you can’t go wrong.

TBS in Homes & Property > Five of the best villages to move to in the South Downs

Five of the best villages to move to in the South Downs: house prices are rising faster than the Cotswolds as Petersfield claims top spot.

New research reveals the South Downs National Park as a top property performer, with charming villages within striking distance of London.

Looking for an idyllic country life, good commuter transport links and investment potential? Then you should be concentrating your search south of London, according to new research from Savills.

The study shows that house prices in the South Downs have risen 20 per cent in the past five years, trouncing the sought-after Cotswolds on 10 per cent…

Read the full article for Katherine Watters and Bobby Hall‘s insights on the best spots in the South Downs:
Five of the best villages to move to in the South Downs | Homes & Property

Things to consider before buying a Listed Property

Listed building

While buying a house can be daunting and stressful at the best of times, what if your dream home purchase came with the responsibility of owning a piece of Britain’s history? For nearly half a million home owners in the UK this is a reality if they own a Listed Building, in other words a building that has been judged to be of national importance in terms of architectural or historic interest. Whether it’s a chocolate box cottage, a city town house or a sprawling country estate, the joys of owning a small part of our heritage can be immensely satisfying and rewarding. Listed homes are usually lovely to look at and are full of character and history and this is what attracts people to them in the first place. There can be downsides however. Below are some key points to consider before buying a Listed Building.

1. Make sure you really like what is there when you purchase as it may be what you are stuck with. If you are thinking of making changes after you purchase then make sure to consult a really good architect or planning advisor who is used to dealing with listed buildings and they have a good relationship with the Conservation Officer within the Council.

The law requires that Listed Building Consent be granted by the local planning authority in conjunction with English Heritage for any alterations which affect the character of the listed building. The controls don’t normally extend to replacing the bathroom suite or kitchen units but most other alterations will require consent. If in doubt, speak to the Listed Property Owners Club, your local planning authority or your dedicated buying agent.

2. Remember it is usually easier to make additions to listed houses than to demolish or change anything existing. So if you want to add an extension or indoor pool which doesn’t alter the main property it is likely to be easier than removing an original feature, however small, even if it’s a fireplace or internal wall. If a feature is specifically mentioned in the official Listing document you haven’t got much of a chance in changing it so check this very carefully (these can be found online at imagesofengland.org.uk).

Grade I and II* are the higher grades which represent only the top 7% of listed buildings. Most buildings are listed Grade II. The main difference is that if you apply for listed building consent to make alterations, greater weight will be given to preserving the architectural and historic significance of the more highly graded buildings. English Heritage will also be consulted on these applications. It is worth bearing in mind that all buildings are listed with a view to preserving their character, whatever the grade.

3. Check any works carried out by the current or previous owners have been done correctly and with appropriate Listed Building Consent. If the property on site does not correspond exactly with the plans on the Consents you, as the new owner, may be the one who has to reinstate any previous works. Beware of Enforcement action.

You need to be aware that there is no time limit to when a local planning authority can require unauthorised alterations to be reversed. Consequently new owners can be required to remedy alterations made by previous owners. It goes without saying that you need to be very cautious if you suspect alterations have been made without consent.

When a building is listed the whole building is protected, inside and outside. In fact statutory protection extends to the building itself, anything attached to the building and any building within the curtilage of the building.

If it transpires unauthorised changes have been made to the property by a previous owner, very few insurance companies will cover you for this. It is therefore important to have suitable cover in place when you purchase your listed property.

4. You will probably buy the house in the summer so make sure it is going to be warm enough in the winter! Old windows can often leak like sieves and gaining consent for double glazing is usually not possible.

5. Be prepared for larger insurance premiums if the property is listed similar to if it is thatched. When insuring a listed home, look out for the small print. With any insurance quotes you get, make sure you read the policy and check exactly what you will be insured for as many people make the mistake of being under insured – a policy obtained from an online comparison site is unlikely to be sufficient. Check that the provider will cover the full cost of a rebuild to the conservation officer’s standards should the situation arise.

The Listed Property Owners’ Club is Britain’s only advice service dedicated to helping members get the most from their homes by providing detailed guidance, information and support for just about every conceivable issue associated with ownership. A reputable buying agent will also have good knowledge of these issues and make introductions to appropriate experts to avoid clients inheriting these problems.

Qualities all buying agents should have

Door-Knock---Website

Boom or bust, successful buying agencies will always be dependent on great people. Customer loyalty and trust are won by talented, committed, motivated people and the best buying agents are enthusiastic, self-motivated, have the ability to get on with all sorts of people, are empathetic and decisive.

Enthusiasm is infectious and whilst all good agents are calm, especially during negotiations, there is always an underlying enthusiasm for both people and property. Personally I love property; I love how every house is different, and how apartments even in the same building bear no resemblance to each other. I find it completely fascinating. This desire for knowledge drives me to see everything I can and with that comes a catalogue of knowledge of property available and sold, allowing me to advise my clients accordingly.

Clients come from all walks of life and have made or inherited their money in various different ways. Buying agents need to have an intrinsic interest in people to really want to get to know them in order to understand what they want and why they want it. The buying process is often much longer than the selling process and as such the relationship between buying agent and client can often be very close. It is not a servile relationship but more of a trusted advisor role based on honesty, often resulting in friendships at the end of the process.

The best buying agents listen to their clients. They understand what and why their client wants to buy something and quickly learn their likes and dislikes. Empathy is extremely important and differentiates the good from the bad, or merely mediocre.

Being decisive is imperative to being a good buying agent and one must have the courage of that conviction. If a purchase doesn’t feel right or you discover something during your due diligence that is a worry, you have to be able to advise your client and if necessary, advise them to walk away no matter how much they like it. Clients won’t be disheartened and whilst we won’t find the same, we will find different. There is nothing worse than clients feeling like they are being shoehorned into something that doesn’t fit. The trust quickly gets broken and you lose them as your clients. In the end, if you advise them away from a property for good reason, they will thank you for it and trust you even more.

Most importantly a good buying agent must know why the purchase price should be a certain amount when the agent is asking for something different. In nearly every meeting with a prospective client they ask your opinion on the market and if you deliver a ‘wishy washy’ response you might as well not have turned up. Clients know when their buying agent has found them the perfect property as they trust their opinion and a good buying agent is not afraid to tell them to come and see it, no matter where they are in world.

TBS in Country Life > Rent Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire

Rent Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire.

It’s not often that a house of such scale as Cornbury Park is available for a long-term rent. Arabella Youens asks what sort of person might be in the market for it…

The 17th-century Cotswold country house of Cornbury Park, near Charlbury in Oxfordshire, home to the Rotherwick family for some 50 years, is now available to rent—all 35,000-plus sq ft of it. Launched onto the market at the beginning of May by Savills jointly with Bidwells, the house, a Grade I-listed former royal hunting lodge, is considered by many to occupy one of the finest settings in the Cotswolds, being adjacent to the former royal forest of Wychwood, one of the most ancient of its type in Great Britain.

Read the full article for Jonathan Bramwell‘s insight on renting a house such as Cornbury Park:
Rent Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire | Country Life

Seek and The Buying Solution shall find

When you are looking for your perfect home, finding the ‘right’ place can be a minefield in the current market. There are so many questions to be answered and so many worries to be conquered. Many of us already contract out aspects of our lives, whether it is for child care, or for tending to our finances, so it begs the question: why not employ someone to find our perfect home and save us the fuss?

Philip Eastwood, Head of London at The Buying Solution, observes “After having developed a solid relationship with our clients and after fully understanding their desires, we will do all the legwork. We find the property that fits not only their taste, but also their lifestyle choices, we’ll deal with the contract negotiations and where our service really kicks in is when the client is most exposed. We will deal with the necessary paperwork, push our client to be the preferred buyer and work 24/7 on securing their dream home. In addition, we will even provide a report on issues that may crop up in the future in their area, including new traffic routes, noise and light pollution or even planned wind turbines, to name a few.”

It is certainly true that a huge draw for using a buying agent, such as The Buying Solution (operating in both London and the country) is that they have access to the renowned “secret market” where the best properties are sold before being offered to the open market. Clients of these buying agents are getting the privilege of effectively, an almighty queue jump.

“In my opinion, the profile of a buying agent has changed with time,” Philip Eastwood goes on to say, “We used to be seen as the preserve of the super-rich but this has changed dramatically in the last 12 years that we have been in operation in the UK. We service a range of clientele, of all nationalities, with largely differing price ranges.”

A masterclass on negotiation tactics; how to get the best deal for your client

Jonathan Bramwell, Head of the Country Team for The Buying Solution, shares his step by step guide on negotiation tactics and how to get the best deal on your property, or for your client.


Step one: Research the Vendor’s Position

  • Ask or try to establish, what is driving the sale? Are the vendors motivated by getting the highest price for example, or do they place more value on getting a buyer who clearly shows they have the financial means to carry out the purchase, or do they want to sell to someone they like?
  • Make sure to research when the vendor wants to complete, as providing you are able to meet these requirements, it may put you in a stronger position than other interested parties.
  • Are the vendor’s lawyers prepared for the sale and if so, do they have a full legal pack with relevant local searches? This will enable a quick exchange of contracts.
  • Ask the selling agents if they or their clients are aware of any issues with the property.  This is a MUST as they may keep quiet unless asked, and it can avoid a lot of wasted time.

Step two: Ensure you are ready to transact quickly

  • Make contact with your solicitor when you begin your property search so they are ready to perform when you submit an offer.
  • If you need finance, make sure to get a Mortgage Offer in place before you offer so you can demonstrate that you are in a position to buy.

Step three: Only make an offer when you know the vendor is in a position to accept

  • Often in the case of probate sales the trustees will want the property to be fully exposed to the market. Therefore you do not want to make an offer during the early stages of marketing which will only be used to entice more competition.
  • Sales brought about by divorce can also mean that the vendors are unable to make a decision until they have agreed their own settlement.

Step four: Present yourself as the ‘Best Buyer’

  • Provide as much comfort to the vendor and their estate agent as you can, make sure they know that you are able to exchange with minimum fuss.
  • Make your offer in writing, as opposed to verbally, so it is clear what your offer is and what it includes.
  • Will making your bid subject to a survey set you at a disadvantage? Spending money on a survey before you bid often puts you in a better position as you can confirm you are happy with the condition of the property, as opposed to dealing with this at a later date and causing a delay to the transaction.
  • Always provide a financial reference to the vendor and estate agent so they can clearly see you are a cash buyer or have a mortgage offer in place. This gives them encouragement that you are likely to offer.

Step five: Research the Guide Price and Stamp Duty (SDLT) payable

  • By researching the price you can justify your offer with comparable sales.
  • If you are then forced to raise your offer then think about what additional items you might want included within the price such as curtains or white goods.
  • If you are trying to be predatory then be aware that you may risk turning yourself into the buyer that the seller will not want to sell to, particularly if the offer is very unrealistic.  In this situation, it is often better to wait and see how the sale develops, and bide your time.
  • There have been a number of increases to Stamp Duty in recent years so you need to check your liability on the purchase.

Step six: Ensure a realistic timetable is set for exchanging contracts

  • Make sure your solicitor and the vendor’s solicitor agree that they can exchange contracts within the suggested timeframe.
  • Keep to the timetable and if problems occur they are easier to resolve if the vendor and his agent see that you and your solicitor are doing everything else to get to an exchange.

Step seven: Protect your position once a sale is agreed

  • Agree an exclusivity period once your offer is accepted which will stop the vendor considering any other bids during this period and their estate agent from any further viewings or marketing. Ideally this would be include a Lock Agreement being signed by both parties.

Property market patterns – is there a good time to buy?

Keys---Website

In my experience the best time to buy property in prime central London tends to be when the market is at its quietist and competition is low, in other words either side of Christmas. The sentiment amongst sellers changes in the winter months. The weather is grim, the days are short, viewings are down and vendor’s expectations are lower all of which makes for an opportunity to secure a better deal for a buyer (and conversely a poor time to sell). In our experience approximately 20% more buyers register their interest for every property that comes on in spring when compared to the winter months.

However, despite the seasonal variations in the market that you would expect to witness year in year out, I think that one would be hard pressed to find a pattern in the market over recent years. There have been huge changes to taxation as well as other significant political events which have had an enormous impact on the property market in London. To name a few, we have had a General Election, two significant changes in Stamp Duty Land Tax, a Scottish Referendum and the EU Referendum to come this year. All of these events in some way shape or form have led to a “wait and see” approach from buyers and sellers alike which have in turn caused fluctuations in market activity that one would not have traditionally expected to see.

Announcements at the Chancellor’s Budgets and Autumn Statements over recent years have also often been followed by consultation periods during which proposed changes to property taxation are discussed. Again, this inevitably leaves the market in a state of flux with nobody willing to do anything until clarity has been restored. The most recent of these was the December 2015 Autumn Statement which announced an additional rate of 3% Stamp Duty levied on buy-to-let and second homes from 1 April 2016. The impact of this particular change was an enormous flurry of activity in the first quarter of 2016 as buyers rushed to complete purchases prior to this deadline. There has been a huge drop in the number of transactions seen following this deadline and prior to the EU Referendum which is inevitably causing a huge slow-down in activity in the property market.

The various changes discussed above have fallen throughout the year; Autumn Statements and Budgets in April and December annually; Scottish Referendum in September 2014; General Election in July 2015; EU Referendum in June 2016. In other words finding a pattern in the property market particularly in prime central London in the past three to four years would be very difficult.

The Tew effect – Great & Little Tew, Oxfordshire

Cotswolds property

Great and Little Tew are positioned close to Chipping Norton in classic, unspoilt north Oxfordshire countryside, most of which forms part of The Great Tew Estate. The area has always been popular for those who require easy access to both Oxford and London with the added bonus that it is within a 15 minute drive to Banbury station (which now has trains from 55 minutes to London Marylebone) and junction 10 on the M40. It is also within a 45 to 60 minute drive of Birmingham and Heathrow International airports.

Great Tew has a popular pub, The Falkland Arms, and there is also a village shop with a small café for those that would like sit and relax with a cup of coffee and a tasty treat. Most of the village forms part of The Great Tew Estate which is fast becoming the most talked about part of Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds due to the newly opened Soho Farmhouse on the edge of the estate. This has now become a major rival to Daylesford Organic Farm Shop which is about a 20 minute drive, and is fast becoming the centre of the new golden triangle (Banbury, Chipping Norton and Charlbury).

The Great Tew Primary School is rated Outstanding by Ofsted which makes the area a sought-after location amongst buyers. There is also plenty of choice for secondary schools including Winchester House prep school, Kitebrook House, Dragon School, Bloxham and Tudor Hall.

The opportunity to purchase a home is limited in Great Tew as most of the property is owned by the estate. This therefore makes it a popular destination for the renter looking to test the move into the country before committing to purchase, or even the trendy weekender now wanting to be close to Soho Farmhouse. There are more buying options in Little Tew, which is within walking distance from Great Tew, and is a little quieter because it has no village pub or shop. The surrounding villages tend to be small and unspoilt which include Ledwell, Heythrop and Sandford St Martin.

Great Tew is home to The Cornbury Music Festival in July which is held in its beautiful park.  Local residents get free tickets meaning parents and grandparents become very popular that weekend!

Local activities include the active Cricket Ground where youngsters can learn their skills whilst parents enjoy a drink in the pavilion. There is also a championship golf course at Heythrop Park. Enstone Airfield also has a flying club, a rally driving school and a clay pigeon shooting club.

Guide to house prices in the area:

  • 3 bedroom cottage – (approximately) in excess of £500,000.
  • 4/5 bedroom period house with a garden – (approximately) £1,000,000 to £2,500,000.
  • A substantial period country house with 5 plus acres and outbuildings – (approximately) in excess of £3,000,000.

London property – it’s not so much a ‘pop,’ but a slow puncture

Houses-of-Parliament

It is undeniable that the market has changed over the last 18 months with prices slipping and transaction levels down. Looking at actual sales, my opinion is that houses may have dropped in value by around 15% since the peak. June 2014 is widely considered as ‘the peak’ albeit it is more pronounced in some areas and at certain price points. What is particularly noticeable is the sharp drop in volume and this has negatively affected agents across the market. However, the doom-mongers must be sorely disappointed that there hasn’t been the widely anticipated crash. The bubble hasn’t popped, but it does have a slow puncture.

Land Registry data shows an average increase of 40% in Greater London prices over the past 3 years alone. This interest is mainly driven by low interest rates and an influx of foreign cash. Sky-high commodity prices have meant buyers from politically unstable regions have sought a safe haven in London, as have wealthy Eurozone investors. However in the past 12 months commodity prices have fallen and the Eurozone is making a slow recovery and so many of these investors are missing from the market. This has been exacerbated by various tax changes, from SDLT increases, to CGT liabilities on foreign nationals as well as making it much less attractive to buy in SPV and trusts. The shutting down of this very generous tax system leaves a large hole in the desirability of London property. According to an investigation by the Private Eye, using Land Registry data and the Freedom of Information Laws, they identified that in the last ten years, £170bn worth of property was bought in company or trust structures, much by foreign investors, although this figure is hard to quantify accurately as company purchases do not appear on the indices.

It is therefore a natural assumption that all these things would lead to a crash and as already stated the market has been altered to a large degree, but by no means is there a crash. This is partly because there are other elements at play in the market at the moment. The volatility of the stock market is playing its part; many investors are turning to property as a safe and tangible investment for their cash and this is on the rise. Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s Building Society’s chief economist recently stated that “38% of all transactions were bought with cash”. However one of the main things underpinning the market is the current currency play that many international purchasers are using to their advantage. The uncertainty around the EU Referendum is having a phenomenally negative effect on the strength of Sterling. According to Bloomberg, since November 2015 Sterling has fallen 11.93% and 10.7% against the Euro and the US Dollar, respectively. This combined with the falling property prices, is great news for many international buyers. The fall essentially reduces the home currency costs of moving Sterling to the UK or alternatively, it means they can increase their GBP budget as they receive more pounds for their international money. In my opinion some properties are looking approximately 15% lower in value than this time last year and a current drop of 10%, there are huge savings to be had and London property doesn’t look all that expensive.

Further volatility is likely as we approach 23rd June and the casting of votes for the EU Referendum, so the market should remain attractive to many purchasers. Whether Sterling rallies or collapses further, the result will determine how property fares for the remainder of the year and whether the puncture can be fixed.