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 (www.planningportal.gov.uk).

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.”

Her Majesty the Queen will be 90 years old on 21st April this year. Since her birth in 1926, average UK house prices have risen from a modest £619 to £291,504. This represents an incredible 471 fold increase over 90 years – implying a 47,021% rise in average UK house prices.

When HRH Prince Charles reaches 90 in 23 years’ time (Nov 2038), the UK average house price will be £1.3 million – assuming house prices rise at the same rate as in the last 23 years.

On the same basis when HRH Prince William reaches 90 in in 2072 the average UK house price will be £11.3 million

It is not the fact that property has outperformed over the last 90 years that is surprising, but the sheer scale of it. The reason for the phenomenal growth is that we are an overcrowded island with a growing, wealthy population who have an ingrained desire for homeownership. This growth in demand then meets a rigid wall of fixed supply that compounds the pressure on house prices to rise. Lack of new build homes continues to be a pivotal issue and until more homes are built more house price rises are inevitable.

The Queen Mount & MinsterThere is no doubt that average UK property prices over the Queen’s long 90 years of life have risen significantly, making residential property purchases a top performing investment. If the £619 invested in an averagely priced UK property in 1926 was instead invested in UK equities, it would have risen to £72,952 by the beginning of 2016. A 118-fold increase, equivalent to an 11,685% rise.

If invested in gold, it would have risen to £127,051. A 205-fold increase, equivalent to a 20,425% rise (gold was £4.25 an ounce in 1926, and is at time of writing £876 per ounce).

Over the period the UK’s cost of living index rose by 5,413% implying that £619 cash in 1926 would be now worth £34,105.

With house prices having risen by 47,021% over the last 90 years, what does the future hold?

Most would agree that another 471 fold increase in house prices is exceedingly unlikely.

His Royal Highness Prince Charles is 67 years old. He will be 90 in 23 years’ time (November 2038). Assuming house prices rise over the next 23 years at the same rate as in the last 23 years (6.7% per annum), UK average house prices will reach £1,284,416 in 2038, 3.5 times more than the present £291,504. On the same basis, when His Royal Highness Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, reaches 90 years old, house prices will be £11.3million and when His Royal Highness Prince George reaches 90 in 2103, a typical UK house will be £86.8million.

In London house prices have risen even faster. Again assuming that in the next 23 years house prices rise at the same rate as in the last 23 years (8.5% per annum), then when Prince Charles reaches 90 in 2038, the average London house price will be £3.5million. On the same basis when William reaches 90 years, London house prices will be £52.4million. When Prince George reaches 90 in 2103, London house prices will average £667million!

Sheds of Cash!

New research conducted on behalf of online garden building retailer, Waltons.co.uk, has found that Britain’s 18-24 year olds are five times more likely to use their sheds for recreational activities than their parents and grandparents.

The survey revealed that Britain’s 18-24 year olds are nine times more likely to use their shed as a summerhouse than their parents, (those aged 45-54) who were more likely to use their garden building for it’s primary purpose.

Aaron Ketland, a spokesperson for Waltons, said: “It’s surprising to see that more and more young people are choosing to use their garden buildings for leisure activities. When you think of a summerhouse, you think of your granddad spending time in the garden, using the space for his plants or for somewhere to get away from it all”

The study also shows that Britain’s over 55s are investing the least amount of money into their sheds (£306), compared with young adults, aged 18-24, who spend on average £420.Mount & Minster

“Its clear to see that young people are becoming more aspirational when it comes to their homes and gardens. You could say they’re enjoying the finer things in life a lot earlier on,” adds Ketland.

Looking at the regions, those living in London are willing to fork out, on average, £403 to renovate their potting sheds. On the other hand, Geordies are investing the least money of all regions, £279.

Mr Ketland, comments: “The study also shows that Londoners are investing the most money into their sheds and garden buildings. The reason behind this might be that properties in London are getting smaller and smaller, and people want to create new space alongside their homes. These are spaces to relax or focus on hobbies, whilst not spending too much money changing their immediate environment.”

According to a new survey from Yorkshire Building Society, nearly half of all first-time buyers in London claimed that spiraling house prices are preventing them from buying a property.

The data revealed that 43% said they would be willing to move to a more affordable part of the UK if it meant they were able to own their first property.

Alarmingly, 26% of London residents said they would even consider moving to another country to buy their own home.

Meanwhile, one in five aspiring first-time buyers in the capital claim they have moved to lower quality or shared accommodation in order to save money for their deposit.

Ralph Wyrley-Birch, Managing Partner at Mount & Minster, said: “The London housing market continues to be very challenging for young people looking to get on to the property ladder, due to prices which are amongst the highest of any city in the world. Even taking into account the typically higher salaries earned in this part of the UK, many young people are finding themselves priced out of the city.

It means that many Londoners at the start of their working lives are finding they have little hope of putting down roots in the capital. Although the willingness to relocate demonstrates the importance with which young people regard homeownership – as well as the lengths they are willing to go to achieve it – there are clearly acute problems facing first time buyers in London.”

Mount & MinsterLondon’s property market recovered strongly from the financial downturn of 2008 and in recent year’s property prices have risen sharply. House prices in the capital are more than 46% above their pre-crisis peak, at an average of £525,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Mr Wyrley-Birch goes on to comment: “We have seen a huge increase in applicants from within the M25 looking for a Lincolnshire home. Our region is very affordable and the scale of house one can buy for less than a 2 bedroom flat in London is extremely attractive to cash-rich buyers. Anything in excess of £375,000 locally has seen high interest from those down south. The London office is a great asset to Mount & Minster and we are going one step further by taking all our regional properties here in Lincolnshire to the ‘Move to the Country Show’ in Chelsea in April to really promote and sell our clients properties”.

 

13 years of savings!

Recent research revealed it takes 13 years for an average single first-time buyer in England and Wales to save for a deposit, while it takes a Londoner 46 years.

It also found that the Lifetime ISA, which was announced in the Budget, will help first-time buyers in London save for a deposit 19 years faster.

Slightly softened lending criteria, and the addition of Help to Buy, a government-backed scheme that requires just a 5pc deposit, have contributed to the shorter time time taken to save for a home.

Ralph Wyrley-Birch, Managing Partner of Mount & Minster in Lincolnshire, said: “Affordability is still difficult for first-time buyers, but things did get better in 2015. House price growth slowed in England and Wales while wages increased, making it easier for first-time buyers to save up a deposit to buy their home. Conditions are hardest down south where house prices have surged since the crash.”

chartHe went on to say: “More first-time buyers and would-be trader-uppers are finding themselves ill-equipped to cope with current house prices given the tighter lending criteria and average earnings lagging well behind house price growth. However, stronger growth in average earnings would not have helped the situation as it would simply have enabled buyers to bid prices up even higher, chasing the limited supply of suitable housing stock.”

This comes as a survey commissioned by Shelter showed that three-quarters of Britons said they worry that future generations will never be able to find a “forever home” that they can settle down in. The research, which was carried out as part of the housing charity’s 50th anniversary and as part of their Great Home Debate, also found that people aged 25-34 move once every five years of their lives compared to once every 12 years among pensioners.