Average UK house price exceeded £300k in January

New data suggests that the average UK house price has, for the first time, exceeded £300,000.

According to estate agent Your Move’s latest House Price Index, property values grew by 0.3 per cent this January, pushing the cost of an average UK home up to £300,169 – almost £10,000 more than the average price of £291,165 recorded during the same month last year.

In London, house prices grew by 1.3 per cent and hit an average of £598,001, while Your Move’s data suggests that nationally, property prices have ‘doubled’ since November 2002.

Reports also suggest that market activity was ‘higher than usual’ last month, with 60,000 residential transactions recorded.

Oliver Blake, managing director at Your Move and Reeds Rains estate agents, said: “It’s been a confident start to the year for the housing market.

“Following a strong December, the performance in January shows a market whose resilience continues to defy the doubters”.

A separate study carried out by fellow estate agent Countrywide in recent weeks has revealed that an increasing number of buy-to-let investors are purchasing properties using cash.

According to their research, 61 per cent of all landlord purchases last month were cash transactions – the highest figure recorded since 2007.

New mortgage approvals peaked in December, says Bank of England

New mortgage approvals hit a nine-month high in December 2016 – while re-mortgaging hit its highest level for eight years in the same month.

The news follows the publication of the Bank of England’s latest market data, which has revealed that there were 67,998 new mortgage approvals for residential property purchases in December, up from just 61,335 in August – representative of a 10.7 per cent rise.

Meanwhile, there were 47,721 re-mortgage approvals in December – the highest figure recorded in eight years.

Overall, the month gave way to 129,823 mortgage approvals, to the tune of £21billion.

However, some economists, including Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight, have forecast that house price growth is likely to slow to around three per cent in 2017.

He said that although data has revealed a “pick-up” in mortgage approvals and market activity in recent months, the market itself is “hardly racing ahead”.

Despite this, Jeffrey Duncombe, of Legal & General, said that “The Bank of England’s figures clearly show a strong end to the year for the mortgage market”.

He said that the data was “encouraging,” while Robert Gardner, of Nationwide, added that UK house price growth appeared “stable”.

Property market remains ‘resilient’

New research suggests that there was a rise in property transactions towards the end of last year, while over the course of 2016 as a whole, the market remained ‘resilient’ in the face of turbulent tax changes and political developments.

According to new data from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), December gave way to 97,250 transactions – up by 220 from November.

Over the course of the year, the Revenue recorded 1,231,120 residential transactions in total, representative of a significant rise over figures recorded over the last two years.

In 2015, there were 1,225,970 transactions recorded in comparison, while 2014 saw 1,225,120 transactions.

HMRC’s data reveals that, in 2016, the highest number of transactions took place in March – ahead of important changes to Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) which took effect in April, and now see buy-to-let investors hit with a three per cent tax surcharge upon purchasing second properties.

However, figures also suggest that property transactions rose in December.

Brian Murphy, head of lending for the Mortgage Advice Bureau said that “consumer confidence in bricks and mortar remains consistent”.

He added: “Of course, we won’t have sight of the January transaction figures until the third week in February, so it’s a bit too early to tell in terms of this trend continuing into 2017.

“But given borrower activity in December, it’s possible to suggest that many would-be purchasers were getting their ducks in a row before Christmas, ready to transact in the New Year”.

Zahra Himani, of OGR Stock Denton’s property team, added:  “Our team has remained consistently busy of late, with the last quarter of 2016 being busier than the previous year, despite the changes to SDLT (however, it was early days still to really notice the effect).

“As time has passed, we are noticing a steady decline in buy to let purchases for first time investors and investors with smaller property portfolios, while serial investors are still very active.

“We look forward to seeing how the market moves over the coming months and are in regular talks with local agents to ensure that we are keeping up to date with any identifiable trends.”

“Snobby” restrictive covenant comes in for criticism

A man poised to buy a new home pulled out of the deal after discovering that he would be unable to park his van outside the property.

It was reported earlier this month that utility worker Oliver Smith had intended to purchase the address in Colchester.

But the 27-year-old was dissuaded from doing so after he learned of a clause in the contract which would have prohibited him from leaving his vehicle outside.

The restrictive covenant on the new homes, which form part of the town’s Oakwood Meadows development, is also understood to ban boats or caravans from being parked either on the kerb or the driveway.

Persimmon Homes, the developer behind the new dwellings, has faced criticism from local MP Will Quince.

“I am a former property solicitor and am well used to these kinds of covenants and there’s always a reason why they are included,” he told the BBC.

“The commercial vehicle one has always seemed unreasonable to me, particularly in a county like Essex which is an entrepreneurial county and many of those people will operate out of vans.

“They cannot always afford to own a car as well so effectively you’re saying van drivers are not welcome in Essex which is a particularly snobby attitude.”

The case serves as a useful reminder about the possible restrictions that covenants can place on people buying a home. Common clauses may ban erecting fences, keeping animals other than domestic pets, washing the car on the premises or pulling up grass verges.

If you need guidance on buying or selling your home, including the implications of restrictive covenants, 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.

Sharp rise in number of buy-to-let investors turning towards commercial property

A leading property consultancy claims that there has been a sharp rise the number of buy-to-let landlords investing in the commercial property market in recent years.

According to George Walker, of Allsop, the number of residential landlords turning towards commercial investment has tripled in the past three years.

The comments follow a series of tax and legislative changes affecting the residential buy-to-let market. In April 2016, former Chancellor George Osborne introduced a three per cent Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) surcharge payable upon purchase of second homes.

Meanwhile, a new reduction in tax relief on landlords’ finance costs will be phased in from April this year.

Commentators have predicted that the new tax relief rules will push 22 per cent of buy-to-let investors into a higher tax bracket, and Allsop believes that these changes are primarily responsible for the surge in the number of residential landlords eyeing up commercial investments.

George Walker, commercial auction Partner at Allsop, said: “We’re getting a lot of investors into our market because of the changes to buy-to-let.

“Once they have bought one, they can’t believe the simplicity – and they want to do it again,” he added.

How to avoid a neighbourly dispute this Christmas

One in five homeowners has been involved in a neighbourly dispute at some point in their life, a new study has revealed.

According to the research, conducted by Co-op Insurance, more than half (51 per cent) of those disputes are yet to be resolved, while one in 10 (11 per cent) have moved house to escape the dispute.

The report, titled A Portrait of the modern British community, presents valuable insight into the minds of disputing neighbours, and more importantly, how to avoid such incidents this Christmas.

Of those homeowners who have experienced disconcerting neighbours, excessive noise was by far the most reported cause of residential issues nationally. More than two-thirds of neighbours say that they have had to put up with stomping footsteps, loud arguments and late night parties.

Meanwhile, just less than one in four have suffered abuse or rude gestures from neighbours, while a further 21 per cent have had problems with barking dogs or inconsiderate parking, such as blocking access to a property or driveway.

Other reported issues include swearing and shouting outside the house (55 per cent), slamming doors (33 per cent), and for over a quarter (28 per cent) of those questioned, smoke from neighbouring BBQs, bonfires or chimeneas was an issue, especially when the washing is out.

Caroline Hunter, Head of Home Insurance at Co-op Insurance, said: “The research shows that playing loud music and making a lot of noise is a top bad neighbour trait, therefore it’s important to spare a thought for your neighbours this Christmas when hosting friends and family.

“This is the season for goodwill after all and by showing a little courtesy it can ensure that you and your neighbours leave 2016 harmoniously and as friends rather than enemies.”

On the rare occasion, however, a neighbourly dispute won’t just go away by itself. If you need help smoothing out problems with noisy or disrespectful neighbours, or need access to legal documents regarding your property, contact us today.

Property management firm fined following ‘several complaints from tenants and neighbours’

A property management company which received several complaints from tenants and neighbours has been fined thousands of pounds in Court.

South West England-based MB Estates Ltd, which manages several properties in and around Bristol, received “continual” complaints from tenants regarding leaks, floods and drainage issues.

A Court heard that one tenant suffered ‘a catalogue of problems’ for several months, including a broken toilet and no hot water.

Upon seeing the property, Richard Clark, of Bristol City Council, said: “It was a category two breach of the regulations concerning personal hygiene, drainage and sanitation.

“The toilet was continually broken and the bathroom had no working hot water tap, and the fire alarm was only partially installed with bare wires coming out”.

A Court heard that landlord and MB Estates Ltd manager, Mr Munjit Dulay, made empty promises to the tenant, insisting that contractors would fix the issues.

Between March and July, Mr Dulay failed to send anybody out to the property, despite ongoing complaints, formal letters and pressure from council officers.

“The property was occupied by a couple with a young daughter. They had not had any leaks in the shower room, and didn’t have any hot water to the hand basin in this shower room either. Mr Dulay did eventually do the work,” said Mr Clark.

At another property, a leaking shower which soaked through into a neighbouring home was left in a state of disrepair despite several complaints.

Many of the homes operated by MB Estates Ltd were Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), described in Court as small self-contained apartments with ‘a catalogue of problems’.

MB Estates Ltd were fined £1,500 with a £150 victim surcharge and were ordered to pay an additional £1,500 in costs.

Mr Dulay himself was fined a further £1,000 with a £100 victim surcharge – and also ordered to pay £1,623 in costs, making a total of £2,723.

Tenants failing to sign inventories risk deposit disputes, says study

A new survey has suggested that a sizeable percentage of UK tenants are failing to sign inventories – and putting themselves at risk of deposit deductions and disputes as a result.

Research carried out by money.co.uk found that 79 per cent of student tenants were not signing an inventory when they moved into a rented property, while 40 per cent of renters surveyed said that they had lost over one third of their initial deposit.

The worrying statistics have inspired the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) to speak up and call upon UK tenants to take greater care at the point of moving into a new rented property.

According to the AIIC, if more tenants begun checking and signing inventories, many less would suffer deductions from their initial deposits at the point of vacating a property.

Inventories are put in place to help landlords to make a fair comparison between the condition of their property at the beginning and end of a tenancy agreement. If a tenant thoroughly checks and signs an inventory upon moving into a rented property, that tenant is entitled to receive their deposit back in full assuming that the property is left in its requisite state when they move out.

“For these reasons, professional inventories which incorporate photo evidence can help to minimise the chances of a deposit dispute,” explains AIIC chair, Patricia Barber.

She says: “A signed and agreed complete inventory should be a minimum requirement at the beginning of a tenancy.

“Although these figures cover student tenancies, it would be no surprise to learn that a high proportion of regular renters enter into a contract without an inventory having been compiled.”

Government proposes ‘minimum bedroom size’ for HMOs

The Government has outlined plans to clamp down on ‘rogue landlords’ in the UK by introducing a new ‘minimum bedroom size’ for homes in multiple occupation (HMO).

The news follows a controversial case in December 2015, which saw a Tribunal rule against Oxford City Council in a dispute with a landlord who was seeking to renew a licence to let a property with a 5-square-metre bedroom.

A Tribunal heard that the disputed bedroom was smaller than minimum size standards specified in Oxford City Council’s HMO Standards – yet it was ruled that the room could be used as a bedroom providing that the landlord offered ‘additional storage space’ for his tenant ‘elsewhere in the property’.

A separate case in April 2015 saw a Tribunal rule that minimum space standards outlined in The Housing Act 1985 were to be considered ‘only as guidance’ as opposed to regulatory requirements.

But now, the Government has suggested that the introduction of a new law stipulating a minimum bedroom size for rented properties could help to crack down on the increasing number of ‘rogue landlords’ operating in the UK.

It has proposed a national minimum size of 6.52-square-metres for an HMO. This size would be applied for each individual or couple living in the property – disallowing landlords from ‘squeezing in’ bunkbeds, according to reports.

Housing and planning minister, Gavin Barwell, has said:  “These measures will give councils the powers they need to tackle poor-quality rental homes in their area. By driving out rogue landlords that flout the rules of business, we are raising standards and giving tenants the protection they need.”