15
Jul 19

Unfortunately, no matter how much landlords and property owners try to avoid them, void periods are a part of property cycle, and most landlords at some point will experience them, face losses of financial revenue.

While it’s somewhat inevitable that void periods will occur at some point, landlords must still try to reduce their duration and frequency as much as is possible.

Below are a set of easy and efficient tips to help keep properties occupied for the longest period possible.

Before a new tenancy starts

Set your priorities

Prior to the start of a tenancy, it is important to get the right tenants in to reduce the chances of void periods. A good choice of tenant can reduce void periods, and long- term tenants generally bring more security than short-term lets. If you are able to establish good communication with your tenants, you can strike up a long-term relationship with them. This not only brings you greater financial security, but also peace of mind that your property is being well-looked after, and can mean you can reduce the number of periodic inspections.

Offer the best deal

For many people, the amount of rent can often be the most important factor when deciding on whether to go with a particular property. In order to minimise void periods, make sure the rent you charge is fair and matches up with the average rate in your area. Research rent rates of letting agencies and the average rent in your area and adjust your rent accordingly. Setting your rent lower than the average will likely attract more applicants, as tenants are always looking for good value, whereas higher rent can make your deal less attractive and result in longer void periods. As a landlord, its about striking a balance between long-term and short-term gains, and sometimes holding out for more money may bring you higher returns, but that may be offset by the void periods.

Carry out an inspection after a tenant moves out

It is very important to make an impression during viewings, check the condition of your property after your previous tenants have moved out. Arrange a property inspection before they leave so you can make sure the property is in an acceptable state before giving back their deposit, and if there is damage, make any necessary repairs. You can do these yourself, but it highly recommended to hire a professional company to do an inventory check.

Once the tenant moves in

As previously mentioned, if you have secured a long-term tenancy it’s important to establish a good relationship with them. Communication is key to building and maintaining a good relationship. Your tenants should feel free to ask you questions and expect to get a reply. Communication should be positive, polite and respectful. You must also deal with their issues if they are reasonable, if something is broken, or there is a defect with the property, you should deal with the matters promptly.

Once the relationship has been established you might want to arrange a visit your tenants to show extra support, however, make sure that your tenants are okay with this and give them plenty of notice.

In case of a void period

Planning & budgeting

The best time to start planning for a void period is not at the end of a tenancy, but rather at the beginning. You should ensure that you make provisions for void periods, so you are in the best possible situation to be covered for the loss of income. On average, properties are rented for 11 out of 12 months, therefore as a landlord you need to make sure to budget for at least 1 month of potential void period.

By keeping your finances on track, you will be able to forecast when your finances will be tight and when you will have extra money. These steps will enable you to face void periods reducing financial risks involved.

When tenants announce that they will be moving out, here are some tips on how you should proceed:

1: If your tenants give you enough notice, start conducting viewings immediately. However, it’s vital to make sure your tenants are on board with this, and don’t forget to give your current tenants plenty of notice beforehand.

2: If you are not able to conduct viewings until the end of the tenancy, start marketing your property as soon as your previous tenants move out. Make sure you have professional property pictures ready to upload to your online marketing portals such as Zoopla and Rightmove.

3: Prepare all the necessary documents (e.g. energy performance certificates) and make sure that if there is damage to your outgoing tenants pay for any needed repairing.

Conclusion

Void periods happen to almost every landlord and, if not properly planned for, can cause setbacks in your financial forecasts. It is very important to have a plan of action before, during and after the tenancy. Keep your property in good shape and pleasant to live in before, during and after the tenancy, whilst also setting a reasonable and competitive rent. Provide high quality customer service to build strong relationships with your tenants, and you likely reap the benefits of long-term rentals.

Don’t forget to always have a plan and a budget that will prepare you for any unexpected events.

8
Jul 19

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6
Jul 19

New research from MT Finance has revealed that an overwhelming 97% of property investors do not think the Government is doing enough to support the UK property market.

When asked what changes the government could introduce to better support the UK property market, 50% of the 135 property investors surveyed said scrapping the 3% stamp duty surcharge would improve conditions in UK real estate.

Meanwhile, 33% of property investors called for a reversal on the changes to tax relief on buy-to-let mortgages. While 17% believed introducing a tiered tax system on buy-to-let property would better support the UK property market.

When asked who they would vote for if a general election were called today, half revealed they would back the Conservative Party. 18% said the Liberal Democrats, followed by the Brexit Party at 16%.

Only 3% of property investors revealed they would back the Labour Party in a general election.

Gareth Lewis, commercial director at MT Finance, said: “It is interesting that the Stamp Duty surcharge and removing it is more important to property investors than mortgage interest tax relief - it suggests this group of investors are the ones who are most likely to expand their portfolios.

The government has introduced a series of changes to slow down an overheated property market and reduce the number of buy-to-let investors over the years. Property investors have been dealt some serious setbacks, impacted by changes to stamp duty and changes to tax relief but despite the changes, many remain resilient and still see property investment as a key tool for retirement planning, and a good home for their monies while interest rates are low.”

5
Jul 19

Halifax have released their latest figures this morning and revealed that, despite a less than certain political and financial climate, the UK housing market remains steady.
According to the lender, on a monthly basis, house prices fell by just 0.3%, 5.7% higher than in the same three months a year earlier. Halifax says the average price for a home in the UK now stands at £237,110.
June’s annual change figure of 5.7% comes against the backdrop of a particularly low growth rate in the corresponding period in 2018, which has had an impact on year-on-year comparisons.
Russell Galley, Managing Director, Halifax, said: “Average house prices dipped marginally in June, falling by 0.3%, to stand at £237,110. This extends the largely flat trend we’ve seen over recent months.
More generally the housing market is displaying a reasonable degree of resilience in the face of political and economic uncertainty. Recent industry figures show demand looking slightly more stable, with mortgage approvals ticking along just above the long-term average.
One of the major restraining factors on the volume of transactions in the market continues to be the very low level of stock for sale. With the ongoing lack of clarity around Brexit, people will be looking for more certainty in the coming months, both to encourage them to list their property and to create the confidence needed to encourage buyers.
Of course, the likelihood of continued historically low mortgage rates will underpin prices in the near term.”
As ever, the property market was quick to react. Here's what they're saying:

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, says: "A steady mortgage market, despite the economic and political turbulence, is the best we could have hoped for. The ongoing uncertainty with regard to Brexit continues, resulting in many people putting decisions on hold and a lack of property coming to market. However, lenders remain keen to lend and subsequently mortgage rates are low, which is supporting property prices to an extent.'
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said: "The latest Halifax house price numbers, showing a monthly dip in values, are not going to encourage buyers to make a commitment while prices continue to soften. It paints a confusing picture with the annual house price increase actually greater than it was last month while comparative figures from 12 months ago are also unreliable.
In order to get a better feel for the market, it is always preferable to look at what is happening on the ground. We are finding that some buyers, including some investors, are looking beyond Brexit and political uncertainty and are prepared to go ahead if they can perceive value. Sellers please note."
Marc von Grundherr, Director of Benham and Reeves, commented: “While it may seem as if the UK property market is treading water on a month to month basis, this short-term metric can be erratic at best and the broader picture shows that we are in a considerably better position than this time last year, with a third consecutive month registering notable levels of annual price growth above 5%.
Much like the recent weather, we’re seeing a seasonally inspired heatwave returning to the market with many wider indicators suggesting a more stable outlook for the year ahead. While the political forecast remains uncertain it's unlikely to dampen this growing market momentum, as homeowners bask in the warmth of a robust property market that is yet to see any meaningful decline despite all that's been thrown at it."
Gareth Lewis, commercial director of property lender MT Finance, had this to say: "Unfortunately, the property market is stuck in a holding pattern, with prices not growing in real terms. Buyers and sellers are hedging their bets and demonstrating caution while they wait to see what happens on the political front.
One should be cautious as the Halifax figures only give part of the picture because they measure values but not the volume of transactions. Are we seeing a decrease in values because there are fewer transactions? It flatters to deceive as we don’t have all the facts.
In the buy-to-let space we are finding that investors are looking for bargains and will only buy at the right price."

4
Jul 19

The latest research by Zoopla analyses the average turnover of properties at local authority level across the UK to find the average number of years British people live in their homes before moving.

In addition to calculating the national frequency, Zoopla also reveals that when it comes to the least frequent movers, the capital dominates, with nine out of top 10 places being represented by London boroughs. In top spot is Kensington and Chelsea, home to some of the UK’s most expensive property, where homeowners stay on average 35.5 years in their properties - just under 15 years more than the national average. The only area outside of London in the top ten is Oxford, where people stay on average 31.2 years in their homes.

When it comes to those who are the most frequent movers, people in Dartford and South Derbyshire take the top spots, where homeowners in these areas stay on average 15 years - five years less than the national average. These two areas are followed closely by residents in Salford, Greater Manchester, who move on average once every 15.2 years.

Regionally, those in the East Midlands are the most frequent movers, changing properties on average once every 17.9 years, followed by homeowners north of the border in Scotland who tend to move once every 18.7 years. Meanwhile, those living in London tend to move the least on average (every 26.2 years). Londoners are followed by homeowners in the South East who tend to stay just under a year less (25.4 years).

According to the figures, British homeowners stay in their properties for just under 21 years (20.8) on average.

Laura Howard, spokesperson for Zoopla, comments: “These results contradict a common assumption that UK neighbourhoods are becoming more transient. They show that, once you’ve managed to buy a property to call home and set down roots in an area, there can be little motivation to move again.

However, this is not necessarily down to complacency or a sense of inertia. While we might love our city, town or village, most of us still want to ‘improve our lot’ with a move, which usually means climbing the property ladder. But house prices have risen exponentially in the last two decades and many people are unwilling or unable to take on the cost of the ‘next rung up’.

For agents the often-lengthy spells between homeowners moving underlines the importance of building a strong and enduring reputation in the community – for example, having excellent knowledge of the local property market and being reliable and transparent.

A solid local reputation coupled with consistent and relevant communication will put agents at front of mind when homeowners eventually do make that life-changing decision to sell up and move on.

Forward-looking agents will also ensure they provide current renters – often prospective first-time buyers – with an excellent customer experience, including offering information and guidance, with a view to securing their custom and loyalty further down the line.”

3
Jul 19

What an amazing surprise I had when opening a large white envelope today! Not only have we been awarded Gold for Estate Agent and Gold for Letting Agent in Ashford as well as Bronze for Letting Agent in Kent, we have now won a Best Estate Agent Guide Award!

We wait to find out in what category we have been placed, ceremony on the 10th October, but this really does cement the work that all of the team put in to the business and it makes me so proud and honoured to have them as my work colleagues as well as good friends!

We will keep you updated with our news and thank you to everyone who has helped us get to where we are today!

3
Jul 19

The Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association, has announced that the Government action on leasehold, including action to ban Help to Buy being used to purchase leasehold properties, has been welcomed.

The changes were recently announced by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, The Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP and include immediate action to prevent Help to Buy being used to purchase leasehold properties.

IMLA believes that the changes will help new buyers avoid becoming victims of unfair leasehold practices, such as high ground rent fees, and give them much more certainty around the home buying process.

Kate Davies, Executive Director of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association, also expressed hope that estate charges would be brought within the scope of the new proposals.

She had this to say: “IMLA supports a housing market that is fair for all buyers. These proposals from the Government, including immediate action to remove leasehold properties from Help to Buy, will protect consumers from some of the unjust practices we have seen in recent years regarding leasehold properties, such as high ground rent fees.

However, for the Government’s plans to truly be successful, it’s important that estate charges are also included within the scope of these changes. These fees are often levied on freehold property owners and include unfair and disproportionate charges for simple maintenance jobs. The addition of these only serve to increase the costs of owning a new build property, and ultimately stand against the work being done by the Government and the industry to help more potential buyers onto the housing ladder.”

1
Jul 19

The latest statistics from the Bank of England have revealed that, during May, house purchase mortgage approvals fell back to 65,400 after April's strong numbers.

According to the figures, the number of approvals for remortgaging also dipped in May, to 46,700. Net mortgage borrowing by households fell to £3.1 billion in May, the smallest increase since April 2017.

However the annual growth rate for mortgage lending remained stable at 3.2%, and has now been around 3% since late 2016.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, says: "The number of mortgage approvals for house purchase, which indicate at what level future lending will be, fell back slightly in May but remain broadly in line with the narrow range seen in previous years.

It shows that the mortgage market is trundling along quite steadily with no great shocks either way. This is reassuring as there is plenty of political and economic uncertainty, which is preying on people’s minds and creating a delay when it comes to making big decisions.

Lenders remain keen to lend and several have cut rates in recent weeks so mortgage rates are likely to remain low for a while yet, further supporting the market."

John Phillips, operations director at Just Mortgages and Spicerhaart said: “There is not a huge change here; net mortgage borrowing fell slightly, but the annual growth rate for mortgages has remained stable at 3.2%, which means it has now been steady at around 3% for almost three years. Approvals, however, were down for both house purchase and remortgaging, which could suggest that lending will fall over the next few months and growth may slow too.

There is no doubt that it has been a funny old few years for the mortgage market. Brexit has obviously had – and is still having – an impact, but I don’t think it is the only factor at play.

For many years now, borrowing costs have been very low, but wages have not been keeping pace with house prices, so while mortgages are affordable, deposits and stamp duty are not. Those who may have upsized in the past are now either remortgaging to borrow more and then extending, or just saving the money they would’ve used on stamp duty and investing it into their existing homes.

If the Government wants to get things moving again, they need to do something about the cost f moving. People are simply not prepared to throw thousands of pounds that could be sued to invest in a bigger home on stamp duty. Back in April, the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision recommended changes to stamp duty because, they said it is ‘seriously distorting the market’ and I think they’re right. Until something is done about the crippling cost of stamp duty, the market will continue to struggle.”

Kevin Roberts, Director, Legal & General Mortgage Club, comments: “The government’s Help to Buy scheme has improved affordability for first-time buyers, and with mortgage lenders increasingly offering 95% loan-to-value products, they have unparalleled access to the finance they need. The low interest rate environment has also encouraged existing homeowners to remortgage onto longer fixed-term products – giving them certainty over their future repayment costs.

However, a mortgage is usually the biggest financial commitment an individual has in their lifetime – and this process shouldn’t be rushed. Seeking professional advice is a practical first step and can help individuals choose whether it is the right decision for them. Independent mortgage advisers will not only help find the protection needed, but with access to almost six times more products than available direct from lenders, they can source a product that meets your financial needs, too.”

29
Jun 19

The latest report from ARLA Propertymark has revealed that the number of tenants experiencing rent rises increased to the highest figure on record in May, with 45 per cent of agents witnessing landlords increasing them.

Year-on-year, this figure is up 61 percentage points, from 27 per cent in May 2017, and 28 per cent in May 2018. In May, the number of tenants successfully negotiating rent reductions fell from 1.9 per cent in April to 1.6 per cent. This is the lowest figure seen since January 2016 when it stood at 1.5 per cent.

Supply of rental stock and demand from tenants

The number of properties available to rent dropped marginally to 201 per member branch in May, from 202 in April. Demand from prospective tenants increased in May, with the number of house hunters registered per branch rising to 69 on average3, compared to 64 in April. Year on year, demand is up 15 percentage points, from 60 house hunters registered per branch in May 2018.

Landlords selling their buy-to-let

In May, letting agents saw a slight decrease in the number of landlords selling their buy-to-let (BTL) properties. The number of landlords exiting the market fell from five per branch in April, to four in May.

David Cox, ARLA Propertymark Chief Executive, said: “As predicted, last month’s findings have shown an increase in rent prices in advance of the Tenant Fees Act coming into force. This rise in the number of tenants experiencing rent hikes is the highest we’ve ever had recorded, and rents will likely continue to rise as they must now cover the agent’s legitimate costs for setting up a tenancy.

Competition for properties will be increasing as the supply of properties available to rent falls, but the demand from prospective tenants grows. This ultimately pushes up rent prices on well-managed properties and leaves tenants feeling the pinch.”

28
Jun 19

Hurrah! It's finally summer. But don't panic, if you're planning to host a few BBQs over the next few months you still have time to get your garden into shape.

Garden parties and BBQ’s are British summer essentials and hosting one with a messy, un-preened garden could be disastrous. Almost a third (29%) of Brits say they will be hosting a party this summer, so for the 78% of us who have a private garden, it must be in tip top condition for entertaining guests.

Research from Tiger Sheds discovered that 47% of Brits update their gardens in June, July and August, so they have revealed some top tips to help and impress guests all summer long.

Lawn loving

Give your lawnmower a maintenance check and get the blades sharpened. When mowing the lawn, ensure that no more than one third of the grass length is removed and that each run up the lawn overlaps the other. A final perimeter of the garden will be sure to add a professional frame to your lawn.

Weed out the weeds

Take out both tall and short weeds with your hands and use a trowel to dig under the roots so they can be pulled out so they don’t grow back. No debris should be left anywhere in the garden as this will regenerate and spread so weeds will regrow.

Clear out and clean up

On a sunny day, declutter your shed and get rid of unwanted items by either selling them, scrapping them or donating them to charity. Additional storage can easily be added if a clear out doesn’t give you the space you need. Dust and clean your summer house and add fairy lights or other lighting to create a nice environment for friends and family to chill out on summer evenings.

Spruce up essentials

Giving a BBQ grill a good clean with a bit of elbow grease can make it look brand new, and if it’s on the way out consider a new one all together. Clean outdoor furniture with a pressure washer or hose and apply a layer of teak or linseed oil to protect and nourish wooden outdoor furniture. Use stylish tablecloths, seat covers and candles to make outdoor areas or summer houses look more homely and cosy.

Paint a new look

Paint touch ups are essential for fences, furniture, sheds and garden rooms as this easy task will make them look brand new. Or, to give the impression of completely new look, consider a new colour and repaint everything fresh. Creative stencils are cheap and can give the garden an artistic look.

Plant life

Keep plants and the garden hydrated to encourage flowering and don’t let the soil get too dry. Get ready for hosepipe bans and install some water butts as they are relatively cheap and will save you money in the long run - plants prefer rainwater too so they will love this. Add more hanging baskets and potted flowers to give a splash of colour and give the garden a professional feel.

Give flowers some TLC

De-head your flowers and plants by cutting or pinching off the flower stem or shearing them back completely. Make sure you cut back perennials but ensure they have finished blooming. Spread well-rotted compost over the soil surface, gently work it in, then level off the soil with a rake. Potted flowers can be re-potted in bigger planters, or separated and re-potted into hanging baskets.

Keep an eye on the wildlife

Look out for birds or any other wildlife that have visited your shed as they will have to make their way back out again before you shut them for the night.