Category: (11)

Villages on the up!

The world might seem focused on urbanisation, but according to new research, there is the emergence of a new creeping desire to move back to amenity-rich rural locations.

The latest survey identifies four factors that are shaping this village revival:

1. 21% of survey respondents who are moving home said that they wanted to live in a village, making it easily the most popular type of location, compared to 14% for a market town and only 12% for either a big city or a suburb.

2. Broadband and mobile connections are essential to rural life. Access to broadband was a key factor for 49% of those intending to move to a village, while 38% highlighted mobile connectivity.

3. A significant increase in respondents looking for rental accommodation. 10% of those wanting to move to a village would live in a professionally managed private rental unit, up from 1% in 2013.

4. Ease of access is an important issue for respondents intending to move to a village, with 60% wanting to be able to walk to shops, 48% to local transport and 45% to medical facilities.

Ralph Wyrley-Birch, Managing Partner at Mount & Minster, said: “The UK might seem to be focused on urbanisation but we believe a new, overlooked trend is set to shape Britain’s housing market over the coming decades – the desire to move back to rural.”

Mount and Minster LincolnshireMount & Minster estate agents in Lincoln have calved out a niche in the Lincolnshire rural countryside by successfully selling some of the most attractive and unique country cottages in villages throughout Lincolnshire.

Existing research would suggest cities have the upper hand over villages – by the mid-century there will be approximately 65 million people living in Britain’s cities, compared to just 8 million in rural areas. However, as the urban trend has gathered pace in the UK, a number of negative traits have begun to appear such as a rise in inadequate housing provision, urban sprawl and increased pollution.

21% of respondents who are moving home said they wanted to live in a village. The shift away from cities is being driven by people looking for neighbourhood safety (86%), and space between neighbours (58%), as well as for a strong community feel (48%).

According to DEFRA, in 2013/14, the UK saw net internal migration of 60,000 people to predominantly rural areas in England. It is a trend that has been positive every year since 2001. But this reverse migration is not to a traditional rural environment. The influence that technology is having on shopping, communications and working habits is helping to transform villages and the type of people who want to live in them.

Mr Wyrley-Birch continued: “Technology is helping to change the rural economy, which plays a key role in creating jobs and prosperity. England’s rural economy now accounts for £210 billion of economic output and hosts over 25% of all registered businesses, according to DEFRA. New companies are thriving in rural locations, including hi-tech manufacturing, food processing, the service sector, retail and power supply (in the form of renewables). The expansion of broadband and mobile communications has seen a greater uptake of working from home in rural locations compared to urban areas. It seems that the same factors that once drove urbanisation – improving economic and social conditions – are now inspiring the village revival.”

Landlords are increasingly becoming more and more exposed from the likes of Airbnb and similar models.

Over the last 12 months, Lincolnshire has seen a huge increase in cases where tenants have sub-let properties without their landlord’s permission. Aside from breach of tenancy agreement and additional wear and tear to the property, landlords are left exposed to being in breach of their mortgage terms and buildings insurance.

2000px-Airbnb_Logo_Bélo.svgThe share economy is a growing phenomenon, with models such as airbnb giving people a platform to view themselves as a business. Unfortunately, it is also enabling those who do not have the right to do so, from profiting from someone else’s asset. The problem is due to be highlighted by one landlord’s ordeal on the Channel Five programme ‘Nightmare Tenants, Slum Landlords’, on Wednesday 20th April at 9pm.

The episode will show Joy Philips, a landlord who decided to let out her home so she could afford to take time out to volunteer at an orphanage in Africa. Joy thought she had found the perfect tenant in a young doctor who wanted her home for a three year lease. It all seemed very promising until she started receiving emails and calls from her neighbours complaining about the volume of people coming and going at her house.

Joy was shocked to discover that her house was not being used as a home for the young doctor, but being rented out room by room as a boutique hotel on the airbnb website. Making thousands over the rent being paid to Joy, her tenant was breaking the no sub-letting clause in her contract. By having so many people in the house, Joy’s home insurance was also at risk of being void. Joy was forced to give up her volunteer work in Africa to return to the UK and seek advice from professionals similar to Mount & Minster in the hope of getting her property back.

James Ward, Partner at Mount & Minster, states: “This is a growing trend which needs to be stamped out as soon as possible. It’s extremely important that if landlords start to receive complaints, especially if they have never had any such trouble in the past, that they carry out an inspection of the property to ensure it is not being used in this way without permission. An even better solution would be to ensure an RICS regulated firm, such as Mount & Minster, is instructed to manage your rental property from start to finish. That way you have the protection and acknowledgement that it is being managed by some of the best agents in Lincolnshire.”

New figures have revealed that prime country house prices Nationally have been rising for 13 consecutive quarters and have been further boosted by the recent changes to stamp duty, says James ward, Partner at Mount & Minster.

According to the report, prime country house prices rose by 0.3% in Q1 2016 with annual growth easing to 2.4%, down from a high of 5.2% in 2014. Sub-£1m homes have outperformed, rising by over 4% annually.

Mr Ward, comments: “Generally sales volumes have risen nationwide but in particular there has been a significant rise in activity in Lincolnshire especially with exceptional country properties as buyers rush to avoid the additional 3% tax on second homes. In other parts of the county we have seen vendors exchange and complete simultaneously prior to the end of March but grant a licence or tenancy to the vendor to enable them to move out/find another home. At 3% on a £550,000 house, £16,500 is quite a saving!”

Mount & MinsterMount & Minster are currently projecting forward and believe purchasers may find an excuse to put plans to buy on hold whilst the referendum is debated, but this will only have the effect of making a later market with activity expected to increase significantly once the result in late June is known. Added to which the additional stamp duty charges will have been factored in. However, the traditional selling time of May and June will still be the best time to launch a house to the market to take advantage of the leaves on the trees, the gardens looking at their best and buyers wanting to get on and into their new houses for the summer or beginning of the new school year.

Mount & Minster Move to the Country ShowThe tenth Move to the Country Show will be held in Chelsea Old Town Hall, King’s Road, London on 28th April 2016. Mount & Minster are pleased to announce that they will be in attendance to represent Lincolnshire and to promote some of the county’s finest properties to prominent buyers actively seeking a new life in the country.

Mount & Minster are distinct from other similar estate agencies in Lincoln due to their dedicated London team based in their high profile London office on St James’ Place. This allows their clients’ properties to be more pro-actively seen by southern buyers, many of which are looking to move out of the Capital.

The Move To The Country Show (in association with Country Life magazine) is an excellent opportunity to showcase Lincolnshire property to London buyers. Mount & Minster’s Lincolnshire staff will be working alongside the London team at the show in order to maximise their clients’ opportunity to not only sell their property, but sell well.

Ralph Wyrley-Birch, Managing Partner at Mount & Minster, comments: “It is a great privilege to be invited to such an event and humbling recognition as to the success of the firm over the last 12 months. We have seen a huge amount of buyers from London making offers on a wide range of properties in Lincolnshire, often in excess of the guide prices. The emphasis is on these affluent individuals taking advantage of the price differential between London and Lincolnshire in order to afford a better quality of life for their families.”

He goes on to say: “Hundreds of attendees will be visiting the Show seeking balanced advice on local schools, sporting facilities, rental income, commuting times, pubs, etc. From the response to the initial marketing, we expect a high attendance. Mount & Minster will be displaying our clients’ properties, taking details of applicants seeking to move to our increasingly popular region, and arranging viewings with an aim to getting some good offers in.”Country Life Mount & Minster

The event will also have buying agents and other property related professionals in attendance to give advice on the day. In addition, to keep the children occupied, there will be the ‘Country Corner’ including a face painter, balloon artist, together with samples of local produce on the regional stands.

“It really is a fantastic way for those looking to sell their Lincolnshire home to get their property pro-actively pushed under the noses of affluent buyers,” says Mr Wyrley-Birch. “Furthermore, as a firm, it allows us to engage with new prominent applicants so that, even if their perfect property isn’t there at the Show on the day, we can keep them up to date with new properties coming onto the market in the weeks and months to come.”countylife-logo


Mount & Minster Managing Partner, Ralph Wyrley-Birch, has kindly offered his top tips on how to ensure your planning application goes through.

1. Find the right aGENT

Hire a good local agent who knows the policies and culture of the local planning department. Have a look at recent approvals on the council’s website too to see which architects, another key professional, appear regularly and get positive results.

2. Plan carefully

Think about what you really want and need. Once an application is approved, you must complete the development exactly as shown on the plans. Even enlarging a window or moving a door can prove surprisingly tricky. Similarly, don’t necessarily apply for the largest extension you think you can get away with. Building costs increase with every square metre of extra space and smaller spaces, cleverly designed, are often the best option. Bigger isn’t always better – or affordable.

3. Talk to your neighboursMount & Minster

Take around a copy of your plans to your neighbours and explain what you want to do, so that they aren’t startled by the council’s ‘neighbour notification’ letter and send in an objection. Councils are paying closer attention to the views of adjoining occupiers, in line with the government’s ‘localism’ agenda.

4. Think ‘permitted development’

Some types of works don’t require planning permission, subject to certain restrictions. Large loft conversions and deep ground floor extensions may be obtained relatively hassle free. It is usually worth seeking a certificate (‘of lawfulness’) before starting works. The government has a helpful animated overview of permitted development rights on its planning website (

5. appeal if NECESSARY

Don’t be afraid to appeal a planning refusal. Council planning officers are a conservative bunch, hopelessly overworked and often working from dated policies.

A new study by Nottingham Trent University has found that although widely thought to help stem an unsustainable growth of house prices, the supply of new-build properties could actually make owning a home in the UK more unaffordable.

A market behaviour study by Dr Alla Koblyakova, of the university’s Real Estate Economics and Investment Research Group, shows that for every one per cent growth in the supply of new homes, mortgage payment to income ratios in the UK worsen by nine per cent.

Dr Koblyakova, from the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, had this to say: “The Government thinks that by increasing the supply of new homes, the overall cost of owning a property will come down.

But this research shows us that the mortgage market behaves differently. When new housing comes on to the market, lenders relax their conditions and lend more money. And when consumers are more able to buy a property for a higher price, the price of property doesn’t come down. This is a significant finding and is the opposite of what’s generally expected. It’s important, therefore, that future affordability programmes focus not only on the supply of affordable housing, but also on the supply of housing finance.”

The study – based on a sample of more than 1,700 mortgage holders between 2010 and 2014 – was taken from a range of sources including the Understanding Society Survey, Bank of England Data Archive, Land Registry data and European Mortgage Federation publications.

Mount & Minster New HomesAccording to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey (2016), homes in the UK demonstrated a ‘seriously unaffordable’ rating category last year. The house price to income ratio nationally was 4.6 nationally and 8.5 in Greater London. Affordable housing is graded as 3.0 or less.

Ralph Wyrley-Birch, Managing Partner at Mount & Minster, states “The main issue is that property values in the UK go up faster than wages. It’s not possible for the Government to control house prices. But it is possible for politicians to motivate lenders to offer longer mortgage contracts to reduce the size of monthly mortgage payments. By increasing the duration of a mortgage to 30 years, for instance, it’s possible to make owning a property more affordable for those on average incomes.”

Surprisingly it’s often the small things that can make a big difference. Here are Mount & Minster’s 20 top tips for being a better landlord:

1. Clean sweep

Before the tenancy starts, a thorough cleaning of the property is essential. This sets the standard you expect when they leave.

2. Critical condition

The better the property looks, the better quality of tenant it will attract. Good presentation is crucial and lightly dressing a property really helps, for example with curtains, blinds and lightshades.

Ralph Wyrley-Birch, Managing Partner at Mount & Minster, says: “The best presented properties get the best tenants. Ensure you present your property to its full potential – this should help secure a longer tenancy, good tenants and a good price.”

3. Key communication

Good communication is key. Regular communication between the landlord or agent and tenant will help any issues that arise during the tenancy to be dealt with proactively.

4. Essential information

Ensure your tenant is given all the essential paperwork when they move in, including all the necessary paperwork, such as the EPC, Gas safety certificate, tenancy agreement and copies of appliance manuals etc.

5. Service skills

Don’t forget that tenants are essentially paying your mortgage for you, or giving you an income if you’re lucky enough not to have a mortgage, so treat them well and keep them in.

6. Be prepared

A good landlord should ensure they have thought of all eventualities and have plans in place should problems arise. Sometimes things can go wrong, so thinking ahead is likely to save money in the long run.

7. Dress to impress

Maximise the impact of first impressions at a viewing by addressing the finer details. Even items such as window dressings, curtain poles and door handles can indicate the level of wear and tear on a property. First impressions count for everything and improving or updating the look of your rental property will not only help attract a tenant more quickly, but could also help increase the rental value.

8. Tenancy trouble-shooting

If any problems occur, starting a dialogue early with your tenant can help prevent any issues escalating. Landlords should be firm but fair. They should foster good positive communication with their tenants, plus remember that accidents do happen and therefore not overreact when they occur.

Mr Wyrley-Birch continues: “We appreciate the majority of Landlords have better things to be doing with their time than dealing with time-consuming, complicated issues. Mount & Minster take care of the management of our clients’ properties from start to finish.”

9. Good timing

Timing of rental payments should be established before the tenant moves in. When will the payment leave the tenants account to show in the landlords account? This needs to be clear from the outset to avoid any misunderstandings.Valuation

10. Visiting rights

It’s important that the landlord visits the property regularly. At Mount & Minster we always visit every three months or six months as a minimum. Always write to the tenant and give them as much notice as possible, plus phone the day before the visit to check they received the letter. This personal contact and chatting to the tenant helps maintain a good relationship.

11. In the bank

Be aware of hidden costs. Plus, ensure you are financially covered for unforeseen eventualities, such as a void period and/or maintenance.

12. Realistic returns

Landlords should recognise that rents go down as well as up and they should be realistic. Occupancy is key. Just because a property let for a certain figure last time, it doesn’t mean that it will next time. Always assess the market and ask a specialist agent.

13. Payment problems

If the rent is late, talk to your tenant as soon as possible. Don’t assume they are deliberately not paying. It could simply be a bank error and they will want to be told so this can be corrected.

14. Business plan

Being a landlord should be treated as a business, and it’s important that you don’t get too attached to the property. Landlords should view tenants as customers and treat them as such. Bear in mind that it costs less to retain good customers than it does to recruit new ones.

15. Market research

Before investing, know your market. Talk to your local letting specialist to determine your tenant requirements. Families have different expectations to young professionals, for example.

16. Rental review

To ensure your investment keeps pace with market values make sure your rent is reviewed at least annually. If you decide not to increase it in order to reward/keep a good tenant, then it’s important that you let them know. This will build goodwill and loyalty and may encourage your tenant to stay longer and take extra care of the property.

17. Important insurance

Take out Rent and Legal Insurance. In this current climate circumstances can change and insurance is there as a precautionary measure. The cost of the policy is likely to be far lower than the estimated costs if the tenant falls into arrears.

18. Long-term relationships

Don’t take long-term tenants for granted. When you visit, consider if furnishings/decor need updating. Are these things which would be done if the tenants moved out? If so, you may retain that tenant for much longer by doing them now.

19. Maintenance matters

Landlords should be mindful of their legal obligation to repair and to act quickly when something needs fixing. Respond quickly to any maintenance issues and keep the tenant informed if there are any delays in getting work done – tenants are more likely to stay longer and treat the property well if the landlord looks after them in this way.

20. Agent help

Put your trust in a good agent. Delegate the authority and let them get on with doing their professional work.

Mr Wyrley-Birch agrees, concluding, “An agent’s help can be invaluable in finding a tenant, managing the tenancy and retaining the tenant. Ensure you use a regulated agent like Mount & Minster who has a proper re-dress scheme and protects deposits.”

As the property market continually improves and house prices increase annually against a backdrop of Government initiatives encouraging people onto the housing ladder, buying off-plan is becoming an appealing option to many house hunters.

James Ward, Partner at Mount & Minster in Lincoln, says: “Bricks and mortar continue to prove a sound financial investment in today’s economic climate. Although people may have concerns about the future of the housing market, the reality is that there has never been a better time to buy off-plan. By reserving early in the build process the value of your property may have increased by the time you move in, saving you money and making for a sound investment in the future.”

Top five tips for purchasing off-plan:
1. Get in early

As the saying goes, ‘the early bird catches the worm’ and this is certainly true with buying a brand new home. Not only are the best deals usually offered at early stages of the build, but purchasers will also be able to ensure that they secure their pick of the plots.

2. Do your homework

Make sure you study the drawings and plans carefully. Check the dimensions to make sure your existing furniture is appropriate. Regularly visit the site with the agent as build work progresses to ensure nothing has been added or left off the plans.

3. Make your house a home

One of the major advantages to buying off-plan is the ability to choose some of your own fixtures, fittings and finishes before you move in. These could include aspects such as kitchen units, flooring and fitted wardrobes, giving you the chance to really personalise your home. What’s more, it will all be professionally fitted before you move in.

4. Bide your time

Whoever said you can’t buy time? Once you’ve bought off plan and paid the reservation fee, use your time wisely to ensure everything is in place for your move; arrange your mortgage, book the removal van and inform people of your new address to save you a job once you’ve moved in.

5. Think ahead

Try to imagine what the area will be like when it’s finished. Will there be any more phases to the development or are there any new amenities planned in the local vicinity? Continued investment is a good indication that an area is on the up and that your property is therefore likely to experience capital growth.

Mount & Minster Off-PlanMr Ward continues: “We understand that buying off-plan is to some extent a leap of faith, and many purchasers may find it hard to envisage what the home will be like once completed, but rest assured, our clients build to an extremely high standard and will keep you informed of progress every step of the way.”

Mount & Minster offer extensive service and expertise to help you visualise the finished product, and most our clients have extensive warranties lasting 7 years or more, giving you added peace of mind.

If you’re still unsure, we encourage you to come and visit us to talk to our experienced staff about the options available to you, because right now, buying off-plan is certainly a good one!

New research has found that a home located near a racecourse can outperform properties in the wider local area by up to 44%.

With this week’s Grand National sure to see some big wins for punters, racegoers in the black come Saturday evening may be interested to know where they will get the best property bang for their buck near the UK’s greatest racecourses.

House prices around ten top racecourses across the UK were subject to the research to investigate if close proximity to a racecourse increases the value of a home compared with the wider local area. Of the ten racecourses featured, there is generally a positive impact on house prices, with seven of the ten showing higher house prices in the vicinity of the racecourse compared with the wider local area.

Properties close to Ascot Racecourse enjoy average prices of over 35% higher than the £497,431 average in the Windsor & Maidenhead area, whilst another of the Queen’s favourite racecourses, Epsom, shows house prices on the fringes of the venue over 32% higher than the £428,448 average in the wider area.

Racecourse Mount & MinsterThe dark horse of this study was Haydock, which enjoys average property prices 44% higher than the wider St. Helen’s area average of £131,050.

At the other end of the scale was Chester, where average home prices were 44% lower near the racecourse, compared with the Chester area as a whole. Aintree (17% lower) and Doncaster (11% lower) were the other racecourses found to be detrimental to a home’s value, revealing a North-South divide only bucked by Haydock and York.

When looking at price changes over the past five years the Grand National’s venue, Aintree (-5%) and close-by Haydock (-7%), are the only racecourses to see local property prices fall, far outstripping the average price changes for the wider Seaton (-1%) and St. Helen’s (+1%) areas respectively.

Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the property hotspots of Ascot (+41%) and Epsom (+41%) vastly outperformed the local areas Windsor & Maidenhead (32%) and Epsom (33%).

Newmarket (+28%) too, saw significant price rises in comparison with the wider Forest Heath (+21%) average and interestingly, Cheltenham, with price rises of just 0.25% over the past five years, could be the first of the southern racecourses to see property prices decrease following the controversy of this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Ralph Wyrley-Birch, Managing Partner at Mount & Minster, said: “As well as providing a reflection of the nationwide property market, here is a great example that the more upmarket and select a racecourse, the higher the property prices and rises, as the case has been with Ascot, Epsom and Newmarket. Haydock, Aintree and Cheltenham, more renowned for their drinking culture and risqué outfits, are where prices have struggled to keep up with either local averages or rises. Local homeowners will want to encourage those particular racecourses to keep their standards high in future years.”

As of April 2016, tenants have the right to request consent from their landlords to make energy-saving improvements for the properties they rent.

Landlords will not be able to refuse their consent without good reason, but tenants will need to ensure that they have a way of funding improvements at no cost to the landlord, unless otherwise agreed. This may prove difficult, as it was originally expected that the Green Deal, which was closed down in July last year, would provide much of the funding for this initiative.

Making these improvements can be beneficial to both tenants and landlords, saving on costs and having a positive impact on the environment.

A property that is energy efficient can also be an attractive prospect for potential tenants. According to a recent survey by the National Landlords Association (NLA), 35% of tenants said they considered the energy efficiency of a property to be an important factor when choosing a place to live.Mount and Minster Energy

Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer at the National Landlords Association, said: “We encourage all landlords to think about how they may benefit from making energy efficiency improvements, as many can be made with little or no upfront cost, and can have a positive impact on the lives of tenants, their lettings businesses, and the environment in general.

Lower fuel bills and more comfort mean that tenants may be inclined to stay for longer, thus reducing void periods.”

Ralph Wyrley-Birch, Managing Partner at Mount & Minster in Lincoln commented: “Currently, as from the 1st April 2018 there will be a requirement for any properties rented out in the private rented sector to normally have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The regulations will come into force for new lets and renewals of tenancies with effect from 1st April 2018 and for all existing tenancies on 1st April 2020. It will be unlawful to rent a property which breaches the requirement for a minimum E rating, unless there is an applicable exemption.

We would highly recommend all Landlords to seriously consider any tenant who approaches them seeking to work together and share the cost of energy improvements. Quite simply, failure to do so could mean the Landlord will have to make significant improvements in the not too distance future, entirely at their own cost or alternatively face a civil penalty of up to £4,000.”