Signs that the city’s property market is cooling off

Official figures suggest that London’s property market is cooling off after many years of growth.

The average price of a home in the capital fell to £471,742 last month, a drop of 1.5 per cent.

It is worth remembering that at the turn of the Millennium, annual increases in asking prices had peaked at 28.3 per cent. And until relatively recently house prices were still climbing by 15 per cent each year.

The trend in London is reflected across the wider country, with stagnant wage growth, uncertainty arising from Brexit and currency fluctuations having played their part in the slowdown.

Samuel Tombs, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: “It’s now abundantly clear that the [UK] housing market is in its softest patch for several years.”

If you need guidance on buying or selling your home, our experienced conveyancers can provide support at every stage of the process. For further advice please contact the head of the Property team Michael Stock or visit our website.

Property register could prompt frantic sales

News that the Government is planning to set up a register of property owned by foreign nationals in a bid to clamp down on tax evasion and money laundering has apparently led to a number of Nigerian property owners trying to sell.

An African source claims that many of Nigeria’s politically exposed elite, including former civil servants and serving (or former) elected office holders are either trying to sell property they own in the UK outright, or are transferring their ownership to others.

Negotiations are currently being held between Nigeria and the UK to unmask individuals who “impoverish their people by corruption” and a list of all the houses bought by public officials will help in this.

One unnamed Nigerian former civil servant who owns a property in the UK said that he was already making plans to sell it but, following the announcement about the register earlier this month, will now “fast track and complete the process” before the proposal becomes law.

He said he did not wish to be called upon to explain how he acquired the property, so would prefer to sell it before “they say it was acquired with stolen funds”. However he declined to say if the property was bought while he was in service.

According to the source, many other politicians are also making frantic attempts to sell their estates in the UK and have been in touch with estate agents in a bid to make quick sales.

Baroness Trafford, minister of state at the Home Office, has confirmed that the register, which was first proposed at last year’s anti-corruption summit, will go ahead. She said that the since the summit, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been bringing together complex legal areas of international land law in a bid to set out the policy proposals as soon as possible.

Landlord fined for bombarding tenant with text messages

A landlord who repeatedly harassed his tenant and flouted fire safety rules has been fined more than £2,400.

The Court heard how Nilendu Das, a 49- year-old from Sheffield, would bombard the tenant with text messages and unsolicited visits.

On one occasion he sent 10 text messages in just three minutes to the tenant.

He also disturbed the tenant at night and while he was working, reportedly leaving the tenant “fearful that he would get the sack”.

Mr Das also pleaded guilty to four separate health and safety breaches relating to another residence, where damaged fire doors and faulty fire alarm systems were found.

The Magistrates’ Court ordered the landlord to pay £2,412 in fines and compensation, as well as undertake 180 hours of unpaid community work.

Jayne Dunn, Sheffield Council’s housing chief, said: “I am determined to carry on clamping down on the very small minority of bad landlords in Sheffield that treat their tenants badly and tarnish the private rented sector.”

Take advantage of low interest rates now, say experts

Homes now cost 7.6 times more than the average individual’s annual income, a new study has revealed.

The research, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), demonstrates the impact of inflation on affordability for the average worker.

The 7.6 figure has jumped from 7.2 times annual earnings in 2007, and 7.4 times annual earnings in 2015.

However, in light of Brexit and rock-bottom interest rates, experts suggest that now more than ever is the time to purchase a property.

This month the Bank of England confirmed that interest rates would remain at 0.25 per cent, but gave notice that they may rise in the near future.

David Hollingworth, of mortgage broker London & Country, said longer-term fixed mortgages to take advantage of low rates are becoming more common.

“Most people go for between two and five years, but the gap between five and 10-year rates has narrowed and that brings more people in for longer deals. Of course, that ties you in and that’s harder for people to come to terms with.”

“But rates won’t stay this low forever. With higher inflation, locking into a rate looks like the right thing to do. Can Bank Rate really go any lower? There’s very little upside in having a variable rate.”

Mortgage approvals soared to ‘12-month high’ in January, says BBA

New data from the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) has revealed that UK mortgage approvals hit a 12-month high in January.

A total of 44,657 loans were approved last month, up from 43,581 in December – representative of the highest level of mortgage approvals since January 2016, and surpassing market analysts’ predictions of 41,900.

According to the BBA, gross mortgage borrowing was up 6.3 per cent year-on-year, totalling £13.8bn, while re-mortgage approvals rose 15.7 per cent year-on-year.

Eric Leenders, BBA managing director for Retail Banking, said: “The new year saw homeowners make the most of historically low interest rates by taking advantage of competitive re-mortgage offers.

“Nearly 29,000 of these deals were approved last month – 16 per cent higher than January last year”.

Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Markit, added: “Housing market activity has been helped off the lows seen around August by the resilience of the economy since June’s Brexit vote and the Bank of England cutting interest rates in August and launching the Term Funding Scheme”.

However, he suggested that “increasing economic uncertainty” was likely to “weigh down on consumer confidence and willingness to engage in major transactions” such as home-buying in coming months.

Landlord ordered to pay hefty sum over unlawful property conversion

A UK landlord who converted a semi-detached house into smaller flats despite being refused planning consent has been ordered to either pay a £108,000 confiscation order within three months, or face a four month prison sentence.

According to reports, Mr Mohamed Omar Hassibi, who was refused consent to convert his Uxbridge, West London home into a series of flats, unlawfully proceeded with the conversion and subsequently let out each flat as an individual property.

An investigation led by Hillingdon Council revealed that Mr Hassibi was bringing in a regular rental income of around £2,000 per month from the unlawfully converted homes.

Following Court proceedings at Isleworth Crown Court, he was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay the Council’s costs of £7,000.

But the Court also imposed a hefty confiscation order on the landlord – stipulating that Mr Hassibi must pay a £100,000 sum within three months, or face four months’ imprisonment.

Commenting on the case, Councillor Ray Puddifoot, of Hillingdon Council, said: “We are committed to ensuring that crime does not pay in Hillingdon.

“Mr Hassibi was generating a large rental income from unwitting tenants, and it’s only right that he should hand over the money he earned from his illegal activity”.