Buying or selling a property? How do you choose the right solicitor?

Type the phrase “UK solicitor” into Google and you will be given over 30 million search results and a great multitude of choices. How do you go about picking the right solicitor to carry out the “conveyancing” for your property transaction?

Here is our mini-guide to help ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible.

* Phone a friend

Get recommendations from people you know. People are often very happy to suggest a good solicitor and just as ready to steer you away from one who caused them problems.

* Find a solicitor that’s CQS-accredited

What’s CQS? It’s the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme, a register of solicitors who are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority when it comes to conveyancing (i.e. the buying and selling of houses). Read up on it at the Law Society website, www.lawsociety.org.uk, 020 7320 5650.

* Is there a full list of solicitors?

Yes. Visit the Law Society’s free-to-use Find a Solicitor search facility, atwww.lawsociety.org.uk/for-the-public/using-a-solicitor/find-a-solicitor. However, at the last count, there were 145,781 names on the official Law Society database of legal professionals.

* Shop locally

Yes, you are free to choose a solicitor who is in the Outer Hebrides but it will be easier to choose a nearby firm, so you can drop into their offices and deal face-to-face if the need arises. Solicitors in the area will also have a good grasp on local issues and potential problems. Your estate agent might be able to point you in the right direction (if they recommend only one, you can always ask if they earn commission for referrals). This is an added benefit of using a traditional, locally based estate agency firm over an internet-only agent. The main thing is to check in advance that the firm you choose is experienced in handling conveyancing and has a clearly-identifiable conveyancer.

* Avoid relatives

Even if your cousin is a solicitor and giving you “mates’ rates,” don’t give in to family pressure. Conveyancing is not a social engagement, it’s a business. And when you’re in a contract race, you need a solicitor who is on the ball and not doing your conveyancing in between more lucrative jobs.

* Ask how much it will cost

A crucial question. If a firm is vague about its charges, don’t hesitate to get quotes from other solicitors. Some solicitors have their own in-house conveyancing departments, which charge lower fees than the firm’s senior partner. There’s nothing worse than, at the end of the process, getting a surprisingly large bill for “disbursements”, i.e. expenses the solicitor has incurred making enquiries on your behalf. Sometimes this is inevitable if problems arise, but at least get a written quote that will give you an upper and a lower figure.

* Ring round two or three firms

When you are getting quotes, listen if one firm sounds more helpful, or keener on getting your business than the others.

* Keep nagging

Silence from your solicitor isn’t always a good sign. It might mean a rival bid is being pushed through, without your knowledge. Keep in constant contact – by email and by phone. Before exchanging contracts, check that any agreed remedial works have been done. And once you’ve exchanged contracts, get buildings insurance straight away.

* There are winners and losers

By no fault of your solicitor’s, you could lose out to a rival bid (perhaps they put in a higher offer). At the same time, though, you will have to pay your solicitor for their work.

* Chapter and verse

The Government website www.gov.uk/buy-sell-your-home/transferring-ownership-conveyancing makes it very clear what the vendor and the buyer is each responsible for.

* Don’t delay

If you find a house you like, put in your offer, insisting on exclusivity and requesting that the property be taken off the market. Make sure you have your finance in place beforehand.

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Is your property undervalued?

According to various market reports, rents as well as property prices are on a definite rise in the UK. After marginally declining at the end of 2014, rental prices began to soar during the first half of 2015. Whilst the average rent in the increasingly stagnated London property market only grew by approximately 1% within the first three months of this year the North West clearly outperformed the rest of the country: here the upsurge was as high as 2.2%, more than twice as much as in the capital itself.

It is therefore not surprising that the UK’s Private Rented Sector (PRS) is thriving. According to various sources, its success is due to a number of factors, such as ever-growing house prices (caused by demand far outpacing available supply), tighter mortgage lending regulations, and a rather moderate growth of wages. The country is now faced with a phenomenon known as “Generation Rent”, as less people are able to afford a deposit on a property, causing a large proportion of the UK’s overall population to continue renting accommodation owned by a private landlord.

Research shows that the average tenant in 2014 spent as much as 46% of their gross income on rent (with Londoners spending an even higher 55%), making it even more difficult for people to step foot on the property ladder. It is said that by the end of 2025 over 50% of people under the age of 40 will be living in privately rented accommodation. A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) backs up this fact by stating that in ten years’ time every fourth British household will be living in the PRS, with those between the age of 20 and 39 years forming the clear majority.

However, even though the market is constantly evolving and shifting (especially in regards to its prices), many will find that the rental prices charged on their properties are not developing in line with market conditions. Many estate agencies tend to simply keep rents at the same level, particularly when no one new is moving into the property as tenants choose to extend their leases.

This is a rather shocking fact, as it is estimated that the average amount of time that tenants actually live in a privately rented home is approximately 3 and a half years. Almost four years is a long period of time for rental prices not to be adjusted, as it is known that in that duration, property values will have increased notably. If rental prices do not reflect such an increase, you as a landlord will potentially end up losing out on money over the longer term.

To make the most out of your buy-to-let properties, it is absolutely pivotal that you manage them properly or get a letting expert to do it for you. Intus Lettings, a nationwide lettings agency, is fully aware of the current market and its trends. At Intus, their dedicated staff are up-to-date with regional rental growth and increases in property values, and know how to make the most out of them for each and every landlord.

Nick Gill, lettings manager at Intus Lettings, commented on the issue of undervalued homes: “Valuating your property correctly is absolutely key for your success, as an evaluation determines your personal NET returns – your own personal income as a landlord. Many landlords nowadays will find that their properties are undermanaged and more importantly undervalued. Particularly at the end of existing leases when the tenant chooses to renew their contract, many agents simply do not consider adjusting the price of rent accordingly to what’s happening in the market, meaning that you as a landlord lose out on what can potentially be a lot of money.”

This is not the case at Intus Lettings – they ensure that your property is valued correctly before the start of a tenancy agreement and for the duration of the contract. Since its establishment, Intus Lettings has increased the value of its marketed properties on average by a huge 11%, which was made possible thanks to the business acumen and expertise of its employees.

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Bashing buy-to-let landlords will push up rents and hit the UK economy hard

Buy-to-let landlords have a huge advantage in the market as they can offset their mortgage interest payments against their income, whereas homebuyers cannot.” That’s how the chancellor explained his decision in the Budget to require that landlords, unlike other businesses, effectively pay tax on their borrowings – their buy-to-let mortgage. But the chancellor has made a significant blunder: his ill-advised move will push up rents and hit the economy.

The problem is that the chancellor’s comparison with homeowners is not correct. The day after the Budget, the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ Paul Johnson correctly said that “rental property is taxed more heavily than owner occupied property.” Even the Tories’ favoured think tank Policy Exchange has concluded that the tax system “massively favours home ownership.”

Unlike homeowners, landlords are taxed on rental income and capital gains. And the VAT system works against building new homes to rent by preferring home owner properties over rented housing.

In the Budget red book, ministers also argued that the policy would save £665m by 2020-21. It is curious how they come to this figure given that, in June, ministers admitted in answer to a parliamentary question that the government had made no assessment of the total tax take from individual residential landlords.

In its impact assessment, HMRC has argued that one in five private sector landlords will be affected by the decision. Such figures completely miss the point, since what matters is not the number of landlords affected, but the number of properties. Properties are mortgaged, not landlords.

Why also, since the policy will not begin to be rolled out until 2017, has no assessment been made of its likely impact when interest rates inevitably rise? As PwC has observed, “if interest rates increase over the coming years, and rental yields don’t keep pace, investors could be paying tax on a loss.”

Why does any of this matter?

For the economy, it would be a disaster. Between 1986 and 2012, 57 per cent of all new dwellings created were private homes to rent, the majority of which were by individual landlords providing vital houses for those requiring accommodation, especially those needing to move for work or study. These homes were not “taken” from those who wished to buy. As financial secretary to the Treasury David Gauke has argued, rented housing provides an important boost to the economy “through improved labour market flexibility”. Rented property offers a flexible accommodation option for those who do not want the geographical tie of ownership.

For tenants, it would be a disaster too, with landlords inevitably looking to hike rents to cover the financial hit they now face. As Liam O’Doherty, director in PwC’s real estate tax team, has concluded, the proposal “could see buy-to-let investors feeling the squeeze and putting up rents.” As a landlord myself, “could” is sadly an understatement.

What of the likely impact on Treasury revenues? Professor Michael Ball of Reading University has previously calculated that each tenancy in the private sector makes a net contribution to the Treasury of around £1,000. With the possibility of many landlords withdrawing from the market altogether, the savings ministers anticipate could end up being on the optimistic side.

In short, the Budget fundamentally missed the point on the provision of private rental housing.

Rather than walking the populist path of bashing landlords, ministers should have avoided comparing apples with pears. Amounting to almost 90 per cent of the country’s landlords, dedicated individuals, providing much-needed homes to live in while seeking an income for themselves, should not be compared to home owners but with other businesses involved in property, such as commercial property landlords.

If the government had done so, it would have fast become clear that, despite the support that individual landlords provide to local economies, they are not given the same encouragement to build provided to commercial landlords. This is an anomaly that needs to end.

 

By recognising individual landlords as businesses within the tax system, they could better contribute towards the government’s housing ambitions. For example, roll-over capital gains tax relief could be allowed where the sale is to a first-time buyer of a property for rent, with suitable controls to prevent abuse, such as an upper limit on price.

The chancellor had an opportunity. Free from the compromises required by coalition, he could have heralded in a new era for the private rental market, one that supported efforts to professionalise it by putting it on a proper business footing.

What we got instead was a Budget that will do little to boost the supply of new housing and everything to drive up costs for tenants.

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UK House Prices creep up

UK house prices increased by 0.4% in July and annual property price growth edged up to 3.5%, according to the latest residential index from the Nationwide building society.

The monthly rise follows a slight dip of 0.2% that was recorded in June and takes the average price of a home to £195,621. While annual growth has increased from the 3.2% recorded the previous month.

According to Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, after moderating over the past 12 months, there are tentative signs that annual house price growth may be stabilising close to the pace of earnings growth, which has historically been around 4%.

‘This would bode well for a sustainable increase in housing market activity, though whether this will be maintained will depend on whether building activity can keep pace with increasing demand,’ he said.

He pointed out that the outlook on the demand side remains encouraging. ‘Employment growth has remained relatively robust in recent quarters, and, after a prolonged period of subdued growth, wage growth is also edging up. With consumer confidence buoyant and mortgage rates still close to all-time lows, demand for housing is likely to firm up in the quarters ahead,’ he explained.

But he added that it remains unclear whether activity on the supply side will catch up with demand. ‘The number of new homes under construction has started to pick up, albeit from historically low levels, and further increases are required if a sustainable recovery in the housing market is to be maintained over the longer term,’ said Gardner.

The July index report also reveals the effect of significant changes to the stamp duty paid on sales which were introduced six months ago, resulting in bunching relating to the new tax thresholds.

Gardener explained that the old slab structure used to result in significant distortions with a clustering of transactions at the tax thresholds. Under that system, paying £1 more would result in significant additional stamp duty being due. For example, paying £1 over the £250,000 or the £500,000 threshold used to trigger an additional £5,000 of tax.

‘Even though the change to SDLT only came into effect six months ago, the impact on the pattern of transactions is already evident, with much less bunching of transactions around the £125,000, £500,000 and in particular the £250,000 price points,’ he said.

‘Moreover, based on the first six months of transactions data from the Land Registry, nearly 235,000 purchasers in England and Wales have paid less tax under the new regime, with an average benefit of around £1,800,’ he added.

He pointed out that the benefits are greatest in the South of England where average house prices are higher. ‘We estimate that around 85% of transactions in London, the South West and South East have benefited from the changes, compared with around 55% in the North, Yorkshire and Humberside, and the North West of England,’ said Gardner.

‘However, we estimate that around 5,000 or 2% of purchasers paid more, two thirds of whom were in London, with an average of £28,000 more tax being paid compared with the old system. On balance, considering the net effect of those paying more and those paying less, we estimate that the changes have resulted in around £275 million less tax being paid than would have been the case under the old stamp duty regime,’ he concluded.

Alex Gosling, chief executive officer of online estate agents HouseSimple, believes that prices will keep rising as demand continues to outstrip supply.  ‘With strong employment, a rise in wage growth, and mortgage rates sticking at a record low, prices look like they’ll edge up further in the coming months,’ he said.

‘The market desperately needs a boost in new homes if supply is ever to come close to catching up with demand. But the spectre of an interest rate rise looms ever closer with expectations that the Bank of England will start raising them by the year end,’ he pointed out.

‘The property market has been in an interest rate paradise for a number of years now but very soon, it seems, that will be a paradise lost. The extent of the impact of a rate rise on the market is a huge unknown,’ he added.Rob Weaver, director of property, residential investment platform Property Partner, said that weak supply continues to hamper the property market. ‘Although demand is likely to drop off a little over the summer, easing house price growth, it is shaping up to be a solid Autumn, with prices set to rise more sharply as of September,’ he predicted.

‘Sellers are likely to be in an increasingly strong position as the autumn progresses, although a cloud looms overhead in the form of a possible interest rate rise before the end of the year. Buyer demand and confidence remains strong right now, but an interest rate rise as early as December could see buyer confidence in the market ebb away very quickly. Even a quarter percent rise in the base rate could have a material effect on demand,’ he explained.

‘On a more positive note, it’s encouraging to see that buyers overall are paying less stamp duty and are shifting away from the traditional thresholds. The clustering of old made for an artificial and ultimately restrictive market,’ he added.

 

Jonathan Hopper, managing director of the buying agents Garrington Property Finders, pointed out that the cost of the average home is now within touching distance of the symbolic £200,000 mark, but he believes that while buyer demand and confidence are strong, much of the rise in prices is being driven by constrained supply.

‘The exception is the prime property market, which is still reeling from the rise in the top rate of stamp duty. While the Nationwide’s calculations show that the stamp duty changes have reduced price bunching, and that most buyers are paying less of the tax, the top 2% are paying an average of £28,000 more per purchase,’ he said.

‘With nearly half of all the stamp duty paid in England and Wales collected in London, this is having a substantial chilling effect on the capital’s prime property market. The stamp duty hike was supposed to gently apply the brakes to stop the prime property market racing away. But in the event its effect has been more of an emergency stop,’ he explained.

‘Even though both GDP and real wages are growing strongly, buyer sentiment is about more than just economics and there is a growing sense among buyers that the current bargain basement interest rates won’t last much longer with some mortgage rates creeping up already. With many predicting that the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee will this week signal an imminent interest rate rise, the cost of borrowing is likely to increase by the end of the year,’ he added.

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Buy-to-let returns set to rise

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A new survey has shown The Buy2Let Shop that landlords who generate revenue by investing in the buy-to-let residential property sector are set to see their returns rise throughout 2015.

A range of statistics indicate that buy-to-let can serve as a lucrative revenue generator for potential investors. The Buy2Let Shop recently reported that buy-to-let landlords earned £112 billion in 2014. Meanwhile, according to the Guardian, a study commissioned by lender Landbay showed that every £1,000 invested in the buy-to-let sector in 1996 appreciated to a value of £14,987 by the close of last year.

A new study by Paragon Mortgages has shown that buy-to-let may become a more profitable venture for landlords across the UK. The research found that 43% of investors and landlords said that they’d seen an increase in the number of tenants looking at their properties in the second quarter of 2015.

Select Property wrote that the study suggested that the increase in tenant demand has been sparked primarily by the large volumes of families and young people who are looking for homes. Furthermore, the research illustrated that more than half of investors questioned believe that tenant demand will continue to soar in the next 12 months.

John Heron, the managing director of Paragon Mortgages, explained investors believe that tenant demand will increase in the coming year. He commented:

“With continued stress on the housing stock driving prices up, tough affordability hurdles for would-be buyers and a social rented sector under pressure as a result of renewed interest in right-to-buy, a steady increase in rental demand was practically inevitable. It is important that landlords continue to expand the supply of rented property in order to maintain balance and so avoid unsustainable increases in rents.”

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Are houses worth more if they are near a new housing development?

A new study has shown that new house building in the UK has little discernible and consistent impact on local house price patterns.

The report by LSE London at the London School of Economics and Political Science and jointly commissioned by Barratt Developments, the largest house builder in the UK, and the NHBC Foundation, examined whether a new development will always reduce prices or reduce the rate of increase in prices in the immediately surrounding area.

Examining the impacts of eight recent residential Barratt developments on their local areas, the research concluded that prices did not decline as a result of development, although sometimes there may be some limited impact during construction. Once the developments were completed, the local areas generally moved with the market.

One of the most common concerns of home owners across the UK is that a new build residential development nearby will reduce property values in the local area. For many people their new home is their largest single investment.

The selected sites all involved fewer than 300 units and were substantially completed within the last five years. Spread across the South and Midlands these sites are typical of housing development outside city centres or wholly rural areas.

The aim was to exemplify ‘ordinary’ developments mainly on sites where there had been objections, some significant, at planning permission stage prior to development. Five sites were built on land with previously higher amenity value, and three were built on land that previously had lower amenity value including derelict industrial land.

Specifically, the research found that house price changes in the surrounding streets and the broader three or four digit postcode districts suggest that new developments may stabilise or even increase prices in the immediate areas once development is complete where the market is generally stable and rising. They also suggest that there is almost no evidence of Longer term negative impacts.

For sites where a high level of opposition was experienced throughout the planning and construction processes, this opposition tended to decrease once the development is completed. In one case where there were high levels of opposition, at least half of all eventual purchasers of the new homes previously lived within five miles of the development.

‘Few would argue that the UK needs to build substantially more homes to avoid a housing crisis, but despite this, local opposition remains one of the main obstacles to achieving this,’ said Neil Smith, head of research and innovation at NHBC.

‘It is understandable that home owners will be anxious to protect their investment in their homes, and concerns about the negative effects of new developments have compounded the issue,’ he explained.

‘While there are clearly a number of factors affecting property values in specific areas, this research challenges the assumption that new build developments will adversely affect local house prices,’ he added.

Philip Barnes, group land and planning director at Barratt Developments Plc, acknowledged that one of the understandable fears of new development is that it might adversely affect existing house prices in a local area.

‘We were keen to understand this potential impact and with the NHBC Foundation jointly commissioned research by the London School of Economics. Whilst this is a small sample it is reassuring that new housing developments appear to have little discernible impact on local house price patterns, indeed in some areas can boost local market confidence,’ he added.

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Would you invest in property through a crowd-sourcing website?

As crowdfunding becomes more common in all forms of business, two updates from residential property fundraising platforms have highlighted its burgeoning popularity among property investors.

Property Partner, a residential crowdfunding platform which launched in the New Year, has reported a string of successes since opening its doors with the latest coming just last week.

The firm reported that its latest property, a two-bed Tower Bridge flat, sold out in just five minutes as investors from all over the UK snapped up shares in the property, fundraising a total of £509,600.

Property Partner says  investors pledged an average of £1,582.

The site enables users to invest in individual residential properties as they can in company stocks.

Investors are  entitled to a monthly rental income — and benefit from any capital growth — in direct proportion to their ownership.

The website claims that more than 40,000 people have signed up since its launch. There has been total investment of over £5 million, with individual investments ranging from £50 to over £100,000.

Meanwhile another fledgling residential investment platform, CrowdLords, has reported that over 1,500 investors have pledged more than half a million pounds through its website.

The site, which claims to be the UK’s first two-sided equity based residential crowdfunding platform, says that over a hundred prospective landlords and developers have also recently joined.

CrowdLords recently launched its second round of funding on Seedrs – set to end later this month. It is aiming to raise £200,000 to improve its platform and attract more investors, landlords and developers.

“One of our primary objectives is to offer choice and diversification,” says  CrowdLords co-founder Richard Bush.

“We achieve that by working with different types of landlords and developers across the country with different types of properties and investment structures, essentially letting the crowd decide, as opposed to other platforms that dictate the investment guidelines. We feel this has the effect of giving investor’s peace of mind that they are truly in control of their investments.”

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How to sell your properties quickly

Preparing your home for viewers, or “staging” as it’s called, is important. It will not only ensure your property is sold faster, but can potentially add thousands of pounds to its value

Declutter – but don’t depersonalize

Get rid of all the excess stuff that has accumulated in every nook and cranny. Put it in storage or give it to a friend

People need to be able to envisage what the property would look like if they were living there. People often find this difficult, so make it easy for them to see all the fantastic living space you’re offering them

Don’t make it look like a generic hotel; leave some personality. Apart from anything else it gives unimaginative buyers suggestions as to what they might do

People are often buying into a lifestyle as much as a property. Show them the attractive side of your lifestyle

Consider removing any bulky furniture that makes the room feel small and replacing it with smaller furniture

A fresh lick of paint

Giving your walls a fresh lick of paint, neutral paint will make your home seem lighter and bigger

It will enable the viewers to more easily imagine how they would adapt the rooms to their needs

It will be easier for the buyers to move in and use the rooms immediately than if the walls were still bright purple or lime green

Create a good first impression – give the front door a new coat of brightly coloured paint

Fix and clean

Make any minor repairs necessary – holes in walls, broken door knobs, cracked tiles, torn or threadbare carpets. Many buyers want to move in without making changes, so allow for this

Clean everything until it sparkles. Get rid of limescale, clean and repair tile grout, wax wooden floors, get rid of all odors, hang up fresh towels. This will make the place more appealing and allow viewers to imagine living there

Tidy up the garden: cut bushes back, clean the patio and furniture of lichen and dirt, and cut the grass. While this doesn’t add much value to your home it makes it more likely to sell as people visualize themselves using the garden

Update the kitchen

The kitchen is the most valuable room in a house. It is worth the most per square foot and can make the difference when buyers are unsure

Consider refacing your kitchen cabinetry. This is much cheaper than installing new cabinetry and often as effective

Upgrading kitchen counter tops is expensive, but can add serious value

Declutter the surfaces and just leave a bowl of fruit out. Take out any bulky appliances

Consider upgrading the plumbing fixtures and white goods, but keep in mind that while that could make your property sell faster, you will be unlikely to recoup their full value

Light and airy

Wall mirrors make a room look much bigger and lighter. Consider putting some up, especially in smaller rooms or hallways

Clean windows inside and out, and replace any broken light bulbs. Making the place feel light and airy makes rooms feel bigger and the property more attractive

Ensure that you have lamps on in any dark corners

Putting a soft lamp in the bathroom can create a warm glow

Light a fire

If it’s a cold evening, or even chilly day, light your fire. Consider burning some pinecones for the delicious smell. This will make your home feel warm and inviting. If you don’t have a fire then ensure the fireplace is clean

Make it look pretty

Make sure the windows are properly dressed with blinds or curtains as naked windows make a place feel impersonal and run down. Buy some cheap ones (eg from Ikea) if necessary

Plants and flowers bring colour, life and light to a room and also smell delicious. So does that fruit bowl on your kitchen counter

 Get the right smells

Bad smells are the single biggest turn off for prospective buyers. Don’t just cover them up, fix the source of the smell. Clear drains, wash bins, open windows, air the kitchen from old cooking smells, get rid of furniture that is embedded with cigarette smoke, and wash any grimy bed sheets

If you are a smoker, place bowls of vinegar around the house and leave out for three days. Though the vinegar will smell when you open the windows it will disappear quickly taking a most of the stale cigarette smell out with it

Conversely, good smells can make a property feel like an alluring home. While it might be impractical to bake fresh bread, cakes or brownies for every viewer that visits your home, you could perhaps brew some fresh coffee

Showing the property

You’ll have chosen a good estate agent (see How should I choose an estate agent? ), so let them show the property

It’s their job to know what things to say, what to highlight and what to downplay

They are also effective at answering those tricky questions about the noisy neighbours

Obvious conversions

If there are any obvious conversions – adapting the garage into extra rooms, or going up into the loft – and you have some spare cash, why not take advantage of this cash cow rather than letting the new owners make easy money out of improvements. You should usually recoup your money

If you don’t have enough spare cash to make the conversion, consider getting planning permission anyway.

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New legislation makes landlords lives easier

As I’ve often spent hours filling out forms to protect tenants’ deposits, and hours more repeating the process each time they renewed their tenancy, I’m mightily relieved that from now on this will be simpler.

The first thing to point out is that landlords with tenants on Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST) are still required to protect deposits with one of three government-approved schemes. Landlords must also issue tenants with paperwork relating to their deposit protection, known collectively as the Prescribed Information, within 30 days of the start of the tenancy.

However, landlords are no longer required by law to re-protect tenants’ deposits or to re-issue all the paperwork when they renew their tenancy or if they roll on to a statutory periodic tenancy, assuming the landlord, tenant and premises remain the same and providing the landlord correctly protected the deposit and issued all the Prescribed Information at the outset.

This is a relief for landlords because it reverses the ruling in the Superstrike v Rodriguez court case two years ago, which decided that deposits for new periodic tenancies must be re-protected, and left many of those who had failed to do so in fear of prosecution.

As the penalty for failing to correctly protect deposits is up to three times the value, paid to the tenant, several no win, no fee firms have been encouraging tenants to sue their landlords on a technicality following the ruling in 2013.

Thankfully now the Deregulation Act has removed this threat for landlords who didn’t re-protect deposits.

However, if a landlord chooses to move the deposit to a different scheme, however, he will have to re-issue the tenant with all the Prescribed Information.

Also, some deposit protection schemes might still require landlords to pay to re-protect the deposit when renewing a fixed term tenancy agreement, you’ll need to check the rules with the scheme you are using, but you won’t have to re-send tenants any of the paperwork.

The Deregulation Act has also made it clear that deposits taken before 6 April 2007 don’t need to be protected unless the tenancy became a statutory periodic after 6 April 2007, in which case landlords have until June 23 at the latest to protect them without incurring any financial penalty.

However, if a landlord whose tenancies started before 6 April 2007 wants to regain possession of their property by issuing a Section 21 notice will have to first protect any deposit and sent the tenant the Prescribed Information, but they no longer risk a fine for late protection.

The Act has also confirmed that where an agent has protected a deposit on behalf of a landlord, the agent’s contact details may be provided instead of the landlord’s.

Finally, a piece of legislation that makes landlords’ lives easier, not harder.

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More million-pound houses than ever before

The number of homeowners in Britain whose property is worth £1 million or more – making them “property millionaires” – has exceeded half a million for the first time, new data shows.

The number of property millionaires has increased to 524,306, fuelled largely by growth in property prices over the past 12 months, particularly at the high-end of the market, ensuring that there are now more streets with average property values of £1 million-plus than ever before.

There are now 10,958 streets in Britain with average property prices over £1 million located in the capital. Outside of London, the highest proportion of £1 million-plus streets are all situated in Surrey, with Guildford, Leatherhead and Richmond housing 158, 154 and 144 respectively.

Incredibly, there are now 13 streets in the country where the average property price is more than £10 million – all of which are in London, led by Kensington Palace Gardens in W8, where the average price of a property is £42,591,972 – more than 150 times the average national property value.

Britain’s 10 most expensive streets (average price)

1. Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8, £42,591,972

2. The Boltons, London, SW10, £30,288,586

3. Grosvenor Crescent, London, SW1X, £22,752,425

4. Courtenay Avenue, London, N6, £19,609,231

5. Ilchester Place, London, W14, £13,718,746

6. Compton Avenue, London, N6, £12,049,363

7. Manresa Road, London, SW3, £11,600,920

8. Grosvenor Gardens, London, SW1W, £11,321,413

9. Cottesmore Gardens, London, W8, £11,037,133

10. Frognal Way, London, NW3, £10,702,421

Britain’s most expensive towns (average price)

1. Virginia Water, Surrey, £1,208,638

2. Cobham, Surrey, £1,037,825

3. Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, £982,660

4. Keston, London, £976,354

5. Esher, Surrey, £969,337

6. Richmond, Surrey, £939,652

7. Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, £920,797

8. Radlett, Hertfordshire, £843,814

9. Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, £828,974

10. Weybridge, Surrey, £799,828

Numbers of streets where average price is £1m +

1. London, 4,735

2. South East England, 3,697

3. East of England, 1,350

4. South West England, 398

5. North West England, 234

6. West Midlands, 146

7. Scotland, 121

8. East Midlands, 104

9. Yorkshire and the Humber, 99

10. North East England, 53

11. Wales, 17

12. Northern Ireland, 4

Total

10,958

London’s Top 10 Postcodes by Average Property Value

1/ W8 (Kensington) – £2,771,223

2/ SW7 (Knightsbridge) – £2,428,203

3/ SW3 (Chelsea) – £2,235,824

4/ W11 (Notting Hill) – £1,870,687

5/ SW10 (West Brompton) – £1,739,806

SW1 (Westminster) – £1,659,792

7/ W1 (West End) – £1,541,632

8/ NW3 (Hampstead) – £1,452,099

9/ SW13 (Barnes) – £1,426,357

10/ NW8 (St John’s Wood) – £1,395,999

Source