TBS in The Times – Play to win the school catchment lottery

89% of The Buying Solution’s searches are education related. Jonathan Bramwell speaks to The Times today about the premiums associated and which state secondary schools in the Cotswolds are the most popular.

Jonathan Bramwell Head of The Buying Solution says; “The state schools in Cheltenham and the surrounding villages are a magnet for those moving from the UK’s bigger cities. Property prices in the catchment area for Balcarras, an outstanding secondary in the town centre, are reflective of its popularity in the area. Often family homes can achieve a 10+ % premium. The Cotswold School a language and science academy in Bourton-on-the-Water, one of the Cotswolds’ most picturesque villages and most visited tourist attractions outside of Cheltenham is rated Outstanding by Ofsted and has seen its leavers attending Russell Group universities double over the past five years. Set in 30 acres and with a catchment of around 10 miles it tends to attract those moving for a more rural way of life.”

To read the full article click here; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/bricks-mortar/play-to-win-the-school-catchment-lottery-9kpbpp868

TBS in The Times – Summer bargain hunting begins

Jonathan Bramwell offers The Times some market intelligence on this summer’s bargain hunting which is underway. Buyers are negotiating large reductions specifically on large country houses which don’t qualify as ‘mixed use’.

Jonathan Bramwell Head of The Buying Solution says; ‘To secure interest from a wider audience a price reduction needs to be at least 10 per cent. Larger country houses needing work in rural locations which don’t qualify as mixed use (generating the lower 5 per cent stamp duty charge) are the ones which have been most effected. Buyers are now more inclined to sit it out until the price is right for them, especially if they are purchasing a second home and there is an added 3% stamp duty liability. Sitting on the fence waiting for the price to go down however can be a dangerous tactic – for the high quality houses competition tends to build as the price goes down. This scenario can ironically result in uncomfortable bidding wars.”

Following a two year stand-off between buyers and sellers, the latest research from Knight Frank reveals that sellers are budging with 35 per cent of homes on the market undergoing a price reduction.

To read the full article click here; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six-days/2018-06-29/bricks-mortar/summer-bargain-hunting-begins-2p0vxr085

Property Lottery: How I’d spend my winnings!

Charlotte Dover, Associate of The Buying Solution covering the Cotswolds, Oxford, Cheltenham and Bath, reveals how she’d spend her lottery winnings

You’ve won the lottery! Your wealth advisor has recommended how much you should put away to pay for necessary and important elements such as pensions, investments and charitable donations. They have allocated £3m of the remaining pot to invest in property. What would you buy?

Having only relocated from south-west London to Charlbury, in Oxfordshire, within the last 12 months, I wouldn’t be looking to move again so soon. Charlbury currently suits us very well: we have access to lots of walks, all important pubs and local shops and our house is within walking distance of the station with a direct link to Oxford, for theatres and restaurants, and London, to catch up with friends.

I’d be inclined to put some of the £3m aside to help with a move in the future but the lion’s share I’d invest in some buy-to-let properties. Despite the additional 3% Stamp Duty Land Tax rate and the changes to tax reliefs for landlords, I still believe that sensible investments in the rental market are worth considering. I’d use the experience and knowledge gained as a lettings agent in London for 10 years, as well as my work for clients of TBS looking to rent, to make a few shrewd investments.

One place which always has a high demand for property from tenants is Oxford and I’d focus on finding a little house in Jericho first. The location is perfect. It’s an area that’s popular with students as well as families, it’s easily accessible from the train station and the city centre and there are lots of fun bars and restaurants locally on Walton Street.

I’d probably buy a two-bedroom house as it avoids having to apply for an HMO [houses in multiple occupation] licence. Oxford, due to its large student population, can be stricter than other cities, requiring all HMO properties to have a licence. Having said that, if I found a really good three-bedroom house, I’d be tempted to go for it and apply for a licence as demand is strong. Tenants could either be students, young professionals or even families who are basing themselves in Oxford but commuting to London for work. It would probably cost me between £600,000 and £700,000 for a two- to three-bedroom Victorian terrace with a small garden.

While it would be good to have foot on a rung of the Oxford property market, I don’t think it’s likely to increase substantially in value quickly as Oxford has already seen marked increases in property values over recent years. Where I do see opportunity when it comes to value is in Cheltenham. With all the investment going on in the town centre—and the likes of John Lewis and The Ivy opening up—Cheltenham is becoming a very viable, and better value, alternative to Oxford.

My second investment buy would most likely be a two- or three-bedroom apartment in a Regency or Regency-style building in Montpelier or Tivoli. It could suit young professionals or parents with children at school locally wanting a pied-a-terre or, with the fast road and rail connections, anyone who is working in Bristol, Bath or Birmingham. It would likely cost between £500,000 and £600,000 and if there happened to be gaps between tenancies, I’d like to use it as a base to take advantage of all the festivals that take place in Cheltenham throughout the year.

My final investment would be in a little house slightly outside prime Cheltenham in an area such as Leckhampton or Charlton Kings. The aim would be to let the house to the family market looking to get their children into some of the fantastic primary schools. It would probably be a three-bedroom semi-detached house with a garden, and likely to cost just over £500,000,

If there was anything left over in the pot, I’d keep it as a holiday fund; for warm weather, I’d head off to Franschhoek in South Africa whenever I could and would likely spend the rest on annual skiing holidays. Rather than sticking to the same resort year after year, I’d like to spend the next ten years exploring different ones all over Europe.

TBS in The Sunday Times – What’s hidden behind the door?

What’s the point of a property surveyor? Mark Lawson spoke to The Sunday Times about a recent purchase where the Buying Solution arranged a specialist survey. Due to the asbestos findings TBS were able to negotiate £150k off the sale price.

Mark Lawson Buying Agent at The Buying Solution says; “On the whole surveys read badly because they will only highlight the negatives. Surveys need to be read and understood in that context and often require an expert eye. Usually the negatives are not as bad as they sound on paper – sourcing costings to rectify  the issues from the word go is helpful and important and can ultimately impact on the purchase price.

 A recent survey that was undertaken on behalf of a client looking to buy a large country house flagged up asbestos, we got a specialist asbestos survey done and managed to negotiate £150k off the price. Another flagged that the building had not been built in accordance with the planning permission granted, our client was prepared to proceed with the purchase  but it enabled us to organise an insurance policy should there be any recourse in the future.

 A good tip for purchasers looking to buy country homes with outbuildings is to ask their surveyors to always produce a schedule detailing the correct amount all buildings at the property should be insured for should they need rebuilding in the event of a disaster. The existing policies of the vendors tend to be under insured  so this practice means buyers can start ownership of their new property in the knowledge they are fully covered in the event of a disaster.”

To read the whole article click here; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six-days/2018-06-24/home/whats-the-point-of-a-property-surveyor-7g9jwg5qp

TBS in The Gulf News

Why are some homes worth more than their neighbours? Philip Eastwood talks to The Gulf News about how design remains one of the biggest influences when buying a home in London. He says; “Prime purchasers in London tend to consider the design and layout of the entertaining spaces first when choosing a property, this is especially true of properties on many floors. Volume and light are crucial credentials as well extensive wardrobes in the master and other bedrooms. Now more than ever buyers at the top end like their London residences to have an exemplary  finish and a degree of individuality which separates their property from the large majority of homes that have been finished to a high standard but lack character. A number of high end buyers can also be dissuaded from residences with over complicated home automation such as overtly sophisticated lighting systems and high levels of flat screen TV’s on every wall!”

 To read the article in full please click on the link here; https://gulfnews.com/business/property/why-some-homes-are-worth-more-than-their-neighbours-1.2239844

Property Lottery: How I’d spend my winnings

You’ve won the lottery! Your wealth advisor has recommended how much you should put away to pay for necessary and important elements such as pensions, investments, charitable donations and children’s education. They have allocated £5m of the remaining pot to invest in property. What would you buy?

My first thought would be to allocate approximately £4m of the windfall to a country purchase and the remainder to something in London.

In terms of location I wouldn’t stray too far from where I live now. For more than three quarters of my life, I’ve lived in the beautiful part of the Wiltshire and West Berkshire countryside that stretches between Pewsey and Hungerford. Barring university and a short service commission in the Life Guards, when I served in Bosnia, and a stint of living and working in London for ten years, this patch has always been home.

My dream house would probably sit just to the west of Hungerford. The position is far outside the immediate commuter belt to be in proper, unflashy countryside and yet it’s still accessible for London. As a yardstick, I often think that a proper country town should be somewhere that you could do all your Christmas shopping and Hungerford, particularly at the north end of the High Street, ticks those boxes. Between Roxtons, clothing boutique Mojo & McCoy, the lingerie shop Angela Knight, and the jewellers Furr & Co among others, there’s plenty of choice and, for everything else, Marlborough is only a few miles down the A4.

With a budget of £4m, I’d expect to be able to find a good-sized, period family house with six or seven bedrooms, in excellent condition and recently renovated. These days more buyers are looking for houses that are of a manageable size and something that’s about 4,500 sq ft is ideal. It would have the all-important live-in kitchen, which we all love, and both a swimming pool and tennis court in the garden. I’d anticipate that there would be a few outbuildings one of which we could convert into ancillary accommodation, if it hadn’t already been done.

For this money I’d expect that the house would come with a substantial amount of land—approximately fifty to sixty acres. This would give me as much room as I need for equestrian activities: a pony for each of my children who ride and a team chaser for me. It’s lovely riding country with lots of hills to gallop the horses up and it’s pretty easy to piece together a good couple of hours of hacking without venturing near any main roads.

That acreage allows the potential to grow our own hay as well as room to breed a foal or two and train a point-to-pointer–something I’ve always been interested in doing. The cottage would be perfect for a couple who could help out in the house and the garden or with the horses on a part-time basis.

With what’s left of the lottery money I’d buy a two-bedroom flat in London—probably in Fulham—as an investment. Fortunately for me, I don’t need to spend a lot of time in the city so I don’t need a base there. But it would still be good to have a foothold in the London market. I’d rent it out to professionals for now and, when the children are older, it’s there for them to use.

TBS in The Field – Farms for work or just the weekend?

Regional farming may not be at the top of Theresa May’s Brexit to do list but Mark Lawson discusses in this month’s Field Magazine how it may impact the industry.

Mark says; “The most valuable regional farms lie in the golden counties of Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire attracting wealthy lifestyle buyers looking to convert the farm into a country retreat. The value of farms that fall outside of this hot zone -bare, arable fields that are typical of East Anglia or less accessible dairy farms in the West Country will already be less and with the looming changes to the way that subsidies are going to be paid as we leave the Common Agricultural Policy, values could fall significantly further.”

A high percentage of regional farming profit comes from subsidy payments but Mark questions whether these levels are going to be sustainable when competing against other government expenditure such as the NHS and Education.

Larger farms over 1000 acres will, to a degree, be protected from the political confusion but Mark’s belief is that it’s the farms of between 100 and 800 acres which will suffer the most.

To read more about Mark’s views pick up the July edition of The Field Magazine.

TBS interviews top trainer Charlie Hills ahead of Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot is a five-day race meeting like no other in that it has a presence on the global stage. With thirty races across five days, it’s generally considered to offer the best quality racing in the British Flat Racing calendar. It takes place next week from Tuesday June 19 to Saturday June 24 and, for the second year running, prize money will be worth more than £4 million. Here, Bobby Hall talks to his friend and leading racehorse trainer, Charlie Hills, about the meeting:

When do you start preparing for Royal Ascot?

Ascot is pretty much at the forefront of our minds as soon as the season starts. Most of the two-year-olds will need a couple of runs prior to the meeting to gear up to it and not all the horses we have in mind will make the grade. For the older horses, it’s not up to us. The handicaps are extremely competitive and they will need to have either have won or been placed in their last race to get a run at Ascot.

How do you decide which horse will run in which race?

It pretty much goes on their previous run and what distances they’ve covered. For the two-year-olds, it depends on how they are bred and whether we think they can cover five or six furlongs or even 7. We base the decision on which horse we think will suit which race.

Which has been your most successful meeting so far?

Back in 2015, I had a couple of Group 1 winners. That was probably my best year yet. As a trainer, you really want to come away with a win in a Group 1 or Group 2 race but it’s a really competitive—probably the most competitive meeting of the year. It attracts a massive global audience, too. These days, horses are coming from America, Australia and Japan which is making it even more challenging.

What makes Royal Ascot special for you?

It’s really about the tradition. I love the British summer season and this is one of the defining events in the calendar and a sporting highlight of the year. Ascot stands alongside other prestigious sporting and summer events such as Wimbledon, the Grand Prix and the Chelsea Flower Show and I enjoy being part of the history that’s made there each year.

What are you looking forward to this year in particular?

We’ve got three really strong horses running: Battaash [a four-year-old with 6 previous wins] who is running in the King’s Stand Stakes; Equilateral, who is due to run on Friday in the Commonwealth Cup; and Mutawaffer, who is running in the Windsor Castle Stakes at 3.40 on Saturday.

Which horses do you fancy for the week?

Wesley Ward has a few good runners—I’m looking forward to watching Chelsea Cloisters in the Queen Mary on Wednesday.  Cracksman [ridden by Frankie Dettori and trained by John Godsen] will also be one to watch in the Prince of Wales Stake. And another highlight will be the Godolphin-owned Harry Angel who will run on Saturday in the Diamond Jubilee at 4.20.

Charlie Hills (01488 71548; charleshills.com)

TBS in The Times – The lucrative locations for downsizers

Our baby boomers are sitting on £1.6 trillion pounds of property up and down the UK but with a lack of high quality stock many are staying put. There’s also the question as to whether it’s financially viable to downsize. Data specialists Hometrack have analysed the best locations to downsize from a three bedroom to a two bedroom property and we’re delighted to see that The Chilterns comes out top. According to Hometrack there is a £198,000 differential between an average three bed and two bed property across The Chilterns – a useful sum of money for retirement or to help support children or grandchildren on to the property ladder. Jonathan Bramwell, Head of The Buying Solution, highlights in today’s Times Bricks & Mortar how the trend is for many downsizers to look at market towns such as Marlborough, Cirencester or on a larger scale Cheltenham to find urban living in the Country.

The full article can be read here; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/bricks-mortar/the-lucrative-locations-for-downsizers-mgs7m7lcm

TBS appoints Maison Communications as its Global PR Agency

The Buying Solution is pleased to announce the appointment of Maison Communications to handle its global PR.  Maison will be generating awareness for The Buying Solution across UK and international channels to elevate the perception of the brand and its key team members.

Jonathan Bramwell Head of The Buying Solution says; “We’re delighted that Maison has come on board as an extension of our team to support us on the next stage of our journey. Over the next three years the vision for The Buying Solution is one of growth and innovationcommunication both in the traditional and social media arenas will be at the core of our strategy.”

Maison Communications was launched in 2017 by Tania Thomas (nee McNally) and Henrietta Harwood-Smith with the aim of providing an expert, senior level PR service to its clients who operate in the property, interiors and ‘living’ spheres. The Buying Solution will be included in Maison’s mix of agency, developer, interior designer and architect clients.

Tania Thomas Co-Founder of Maison Communications says; “It’s been an exciting year of growth at Maison – our aim has always been to run a tight ship with a select number of clients and for us The  Buying Solution is the perfect fit.

Henrietta Harwood-Smith Co-Founder of Maison Communications says; “Our main objective for The Buying Solution will be to ensure that their expertise both in London and across the UK shines through. With a heritage and knowledge base of over 150 years The Buying Solution is one of the UK’s most prestigious buying agency brands and we’re delighted to have them as part of our client line up.”

About Maison Communications

With a combined 24 years in the Property PR industry Maison Communications was launched to focus on and bring creativity to the main areas associated with ‘living’ – property, interiors and health & wellness. With guaranteed senior level PR support, the business has an impeccable list of media contacts both in the UK and overseas and has worked with both publicly listed and smaller start-ups across the world.