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Hundreds of empty homes on the Isle of Wight, figures show

Official figures show that hundreds of houses and flats on the Isle of Wight have been standing empty for at least half a year. The charity, Empty Homes Agency, said it was concerned official statistics might underestimate the scale of the problem.

Hundreds of houses and flats on the Isle of Wight have been standing empty for at least half a year, official figures have shown.

The council reported 679 long-term vacant homes in October last year, which is roughly the same as the 2016 figure. The data was published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and is based on council tax records.

Improvements on the Island

Pressure on the government to act on empty homes has been mounting in recent years, as the UK’s housing shortage has led to a decline in home ownership and rising house prices.

If an area has a significant number of empty homes it is more likely to see an increase in vandalism, the collapse of local businesses, and experience a sense of neglect, according to research by the House of Commons Library.

The number of empty homes on the Isle of Wight has been falling in the last few years, down 11% since 2014.

Privately owned empty homes

The latest figures show that the vast majority of empty properties were privately owned. But some of those left vacant were homes for social or affordable rent managed by the housing associations.

On the Isle of Wight, there were 28 empty homes owned by housing associations, a figure which includes those that had been empty for less than six months.

More can be done towards additional housing supply 

The Empty Homes Agency, a charity which campaigns for empty properties to be brought back into use. Their 2018 report found,

“Our research found that local authorities with higher levels of long-term empty homes tend to have lower house prices and more households on lower incomes than the rest of England.

“The government has talked of the need to build 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. We believe more could be done to generate that additional housing supply through homes that have sat empty over the long-term.”

Scale of the problem underestimated

The charity also said it was concerned that the official statistics might underestimate the scale of the problem.

If a home is unoccupied, its owner will generally still have to pay council tax. Until 2013, owners of homes which had been empty for up to 12 months were automatically exempt if the property was undergoing major building work, but councils are now entitled to set their own discount and may still ask owners to pay the full rate.

On the Isle of Wight, the council voted last year (Jan 2017) to remove the empty home discount, creating extra income for the council budget.

There is a 50% discount for properties empty and unoccupied for two years or more.

Source: On the Wight

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Mortgage approvals remain ‘volatile’ – Bank of England

The mortgage market remained volatile in February, according to the Bank of England, as its latest lending data showed a drop in approvals.

Encouragingly, lending value continued its annual growth of 3.3% last month with total volumes hitting £22.2bn – slightly below January’s figure of £22.8bn.

However, the Bank of England recognised that the current mortgage market was jittery. It said: “Mortgage approvals continue to be volatile and have fallen below their previous six-month average for both house purchase and remortgaging in February, to 63,910 and 46,622 respectively.”

The dip in remortgaging approvals may be particularly noteworthy, as it is this sector which has been driving mortgage market activity over the last few months. But despite 2,000 fewer remortgages being approved in February, the value borrowed held steady at £8.2bn – perhaps suggesting that homeowners are again deciding to take equity out of their properties.

Up one month, down next

Former Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors residential chairman Jeremy Leaf agreed with the Bank of England’s analysis. “This is another survey demonstrating the relatively volatile nature of the present housing market – up one month, down the next – as buyers and sellers come to terms with new market realities,” he said.

“Clearly prices are softening in some areas more than others and people are moving much less often because it is so expensive to do so. It is only those who are recognising the change in market conditions who are getting on with moving.

“Prices continue to be supported by low interest rates and shortage of supply, although we have found signs of improvement in listings as we approach the traditionally busier spring selling season.”

Strong position

Legal & General Mortgage Club head of lender relationships Danny Belton took a slightly more upbeat view of the data. “Despite being traditionally quieter months of the year, the mortgage market is clearly in a strong position,” he said. “Lending is still on the rise as borrowers continue to take advantage of low mortgage rates, while first-time buyers benefit from more sustainable house price growth and ongoing support from schemes such as Help to Buy and Shared Ownership.

“However, we also must recognise that there are still issues which make getting onto the property ladder a challenge. Housing supply remains an issue that can’t be ignored, and though the mortgage market’s strong position is to be welcomed, it’s still vital that the government makes good on its promise to build thousands of new homes for the next generation of homebuyers,” he added.

Source: Your Money

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London Postcodes See Property Prices Fall

42 per cent of London’s postcodes are seeing house prices fall, according to new figures from Hometrack.

Prices are anticipated to fall further by summer, with the capital retaining a modest annual house price growth of 1 per cent. This marks the smallest rise in London in nearly seven years. Two fifths of the capital’s postcodes are recording record falls. Hometrack attributed the declines to a mix of Brexit uncertainty and tax changes for property investors leading to stretched affordability following a series of boom years.

However, other cities in the Midlands and the North are experiencing a mild property boom. House price inflation across the UK’s top cities rose to to 5.2 per cent from 4 per cent a year ago, driven by strong growth in regional cities outside southern England. According to Hometrack, postcodes in Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leicester, Birmingham and Manchester all recorded price inflation of over 7 per cent.

Ten cities saw prices grow more quickly than last year, while the other 10 saw house price inflation ease.

Southern cities also fared less well, with Bristol recording house price growth of 4.1 per cent, compared to 7.7 per cent in February last year. Southampton also saw decline, slowing from 5.8 per cent to 2.8 per cent. Cambridge and Aberdeen were the only two cities to see prices fall.

Insight director at Hometrack, Richard Donnell, said: ‘We expect the balance of markets registering price falls to increase over 2018 as prices continue to adjust to what buyers are prepared to pay. The weakness in London’s housing market has been building since 2015 on the back of numerous tax changes aimed at overseas and UK investors and growing affordability pressures facing home owners. Sales volumes are first to be hit when demand weakens and housing turnover across London is down 17 per cent since 2014. Sales prices are next to follow but with few forced sellers the level of price falls remains low.’

The slowdown in London is driven by price falls across inner London postcodes. Fifteen of the 46 local authorities that make up the London index saw prices fall, with the largest declines registered in the City of London, where prices fell 7.9 per cent, followed by Camden, where prices fell 1.9 per cent in the year to February. Hometrack said this was the highest proportion since the financial crisis.

Source: Residential Landlord

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Bank of England Sees Wages Picking Up but Economists Diverge on Interest Rate Question

– Wages picked up in first quarter due to tightening labour market.

– Producer and consumer price inflation seen diminishing in 2018. 

– Economists divided over how many times BoE will raise rates in 2018. 

UK economy watchers were given reasons for cheer Wednesday after a key survey by the Bank of England showed wages picking up during the first quarter, although the implications for interest rates may be less straightforward than the headline numbers appear to suggest.

The BoE’s survey of eight regional agents showed average pay settlements across the UK increasing by some 2.5% to 3.5%, due mainly to improved profitability among exporters, a rise in the national living wage and higher levels of consumer price inflation. Respondents to the survey cited difficulties in recruiting and retaining key staff as being behind decisions to raise pay.

“Often employers and staff considered the broader reward package, including non‑pay elements, such as flexible working and healthcare, which allowed some companies to limit pay increases. Growth in total labour costs was expected to be boosted this year by an increase in the minimum auto‑enrolment pension contribution,” the Bank of England added.

Wage pressures are important for the economy and Pound Sterling because of their influence over demand growth and inflation. Higher wages leads to growth in consumer spending and can mean higher inflation further down the line. Inflation is what the BoE seeks to contain when it raises interest rates, which are themselves the predominant driver of exchange rates.

“Although a May move is well price in, the GBP could potential draw further support from expectations of a persistent series of rate hikes, though this would necessitate firm evidence that wage inflation was gathering pace,” says Jane Foley, Senior FX Strategist with Rabobank.

Above: BoE graphs showing changes in total labour costs.

“Recruitment difficulties had remained elevated and were one of the primary concerns raised by many contacts. In a small but growing number of cases, the inability to fill positions was constraining growth. The list of regularly reported skill shortages was broadening out from construction, engineering, software development, professional services and logistics to hospitality, warehousing, agriculture and food,” says the Bank of England.

That said, tightening labour markets come against a backdrop where businesses are increasingly anticipating that other cost pressures will wane over the course of 2018, which could put downward pressure on inflation in the short term.

The recovery of the Pound against the US Dollar and Euro over the last six months means imported goods are set to become cheaper. Sterling had fallen by 19% and 13% respectively against the Dollar and Euro following the 2016 referendum but has risen by 13.9% against the US currency in the last 12 months. Against the Euro, it is relatively unchanged over the same period.

“A survey on corporate pricing by the Agents showed that firms expected output price inflation to fall back this year as import price inflation eased,” the BoE says. “Consumer goods price inflation had eased but remained elevated, though contacts expected it to abate over the coming year, especially for imported goods such as clothing and cars, as the effect of sterling’s depreciation wanes.”

While the March survey would appear to present a mixed outlook for inflation, it was unambiguously more positive on the outlook for investment. Bank of England representatives found business investment intentions had improved during the first quarter, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

Above: BoE graph showing changes in investment intentions.

Manufacturers are now expected to increase investment in order to improve production capacity, which is necessary for them to cope with rising export demand. They are also seen plowing further funding into automation in order to cope with recruitment difficulties and improve productivity.

“With [last] week’s inflation and labour market figures revealing that the real pay squeeze has essentially come to an end, the biggest constraint on consumer spending is abating a bit earlier than expected,” says Paul Hollingsworth, a senior UK economist at Capital Economics, in a recent note.

Independent economists, as well as Bank officials, have been flagging the trend of rising wages for some time now. This is while markets see pay growth giving the Bank of England cause to raise interest rates again this year, likely in May, despite the fact that consumer price inflation has fallen and is expected to fall further in the coming months.

“Ee think that the MPC will take advantage of fairly solid growth over the next few years to increase interest rates a bit quicker than markets currently expect. We are sticking with our view – made back in September 2017 – that the MPC will hike again in May, and by a further four times before the end of 2019, taking Bank Rate to 1.75% by the end of that year,” Hollingsworth adds.

Not everybody agrees that the BoE will raise rates faster than financial market currently expect. In fact, some say the BoE will end up raising interest rates at a slower pace than even the Monetary Policy Committee has suggested.

“What really matters for the MPC, however, is how stronger wage growth feeds through to demand and inflation. We note three limiting factors,” says Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Tombs notes that post-tax income growth has risen notably in recent years, due mainly to changes in tax rates and relief thresholds, to such an extent that the 3% increase anticipated this April will be the smallest increase in take home pay for Britons since 2010. This means that, after taking into account rising salary levels, post-tax income growth will only be a little stronger in 2018 than it was in the prior period.

In addition, the Pantheon team flag that take-home pay may be squeezed further during the looming financial year by changes to pensions rules that will require employees to contribute a larger share of salaries to their savings pots if they want to qualify for employer contributions. These rules take effect at the same time as households are, according to Pantheon, preparing to save an even larger share of their monthly incomes to replenish diminished savings pots.

“For all these reasons, then, the MPC need not meet a modest recovery in wage growth with an aggressive policy response. We still look for just one 25bp increase in Bank Rate this year, and two hikes next year,” Tombs concludes.

Source: Pound Sterling Live

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Brexit and the City: Tracking the fortunes of London’s financial districts

Is London’s position as the largest international center of finance slipping as a result of Brexit?

London has been a critical artery for the flow of money around the world for centuries. The financial services sector accounts for about 12 percent of Britain’s economic output, employs about 1.1 million people and pays more taxes than any other industry.

From its traditional City heartland to the brash Canary Wharf skyscrapers and plush Mayfair townhouses, London represents one of the greatest concentrations of financial wealth on earth.

Its only rival, New York, is centred on American markets, while London has more banks than any other hub, dominates markets such as global foreign exchange and commercial insurance and is home to international bond trading and fund management.

But about a third of the transactions on its exchanges and in its trading rooms involve clients in the European Union. These may be jeopardized after Brexit unless Britain manages to maintain similar levels of access to the trading bloc.

The French finance minister predicts Paris will overtake London as Europe’s most important financial center in a few years, although supporters of leaving the EU say Britain will benefit over the long term by setting its own rules.

London remained top of the rankings in the annual Global Financial Centers Index released this week by Z/Yen Partners and the China Development Institute, although the gap between it and New York in second closed to one point on a scale of 1,000 and its rating rose by less than the other four top centers.

Reuters is publishing its second Brexit tracker, monitoring six indicators to help assess the City’s fortunes, taking a regular check on its pulse through public transport usage, bar and restaurant openings, commercial property prices and jobs.

Almost a year before Britain is due to leave the EU, the tracker suggests London’s financial districts have been held back, but there is no evidence of a mass exodus.

“London has not come close to taking a mortal blow or anything like it … The increasing uncertainty though over London’s future has led to a stall in its growth,” Michael Mainelli, Executive Chairman of Z/Yen, told Reuters.

Jobs leaving London?

Firms employing the bulk of UK-based workers in international finance told Reuters that the number of finance jobs they plan to shift out of Britain or create overseas by March 2019 due to Brexit has dropped to 5,000, half the figure six months ago.

This comes amid more conciliatory signals from British Prime Minister Theresa May, while progress in talks with the EU have prompted some companies to delay large staff moves.

The findings suggest that the first wave of job losses may be at the lower end of initial industry estimates, meaning London will keep its place as the continent’s top finance center in the short term.

London’s finance industry should emerge largely unscathed from Brexit even if thousands of jobs move, the City of London’s political leader Catherine McGuinness says, adding that it could take years to feel the full impact of Brexit.

“All the signs are that companies are just making plans to move the minimum necessary,” she told Reuters, adding “just because you can’t see a massive change suddenly happening you can’t assume everything is okay.”

Hiring numbers

The number of available jobs in London’s financial services industry fell the most in six years in 2017, said recruitment agency Morgan McKinley which hires staff in finance.

It bases its number on the overall volume of mandates it receives to find jobs and applies a multiplier based on its market share of London’s finance industry.

The recruiter found 82,147 new financial services jobs were created last year, a 12.45 percent drop on a year earlier. This is the lowest number of jobs available since 2011.

“Brexit has stalled the growth of jobs. Companies are reluctant to make major investment decisions at the moment,” said Hakan Enver, operations director at Morgan McKinley Financial Services, which carried out the survey.

Commercial property

Reuters obtained property data from Savills and Knight Frank, two of the biggest real estate firms in Britain. Savills calculates the value from all-known property deals within the City of London area.

Savills says commercial property prices in the City of London are now at the highest level since the third quarter of 2016, three months after the Brexit vote, driven by a surge in office purchasing and leasing in the final quarter of 2017.

The price of renting real estate in the City of London district rose 9.5 percent in the last three months of the year, climbing to 78 pounds ($107) per square foot, from 71.21 pounds in the third quarter of 2017, Savills says.

“There has been a lot of exaggeration about the demise of the City,” Philip Pearce, a director at Savills, said. “The expectation post-Brexit was the world would start draining away from the City, whereas the reverse has happened.”

In Canary Wharf, prices were also unchanged in 2017 compared with the year before, Knight Frank, whose data comes from landlords, developers and agents, says.

Going Underground

Some 400,000 journeys are recorded every day at the three main underground stations that serve the City and Canary Wharf.

Reuters filed Freedom of Information Act requests to Transport for London, to get this data which shows that the number of people using Bank and Monument stations is on course for its first fall since the final year of the financial crisis.

Travelers going in and out of Bank and Monument fell by a fifth in 2017 compared with 2016, the data shows. This follows an annual increase each year since 2009.

In Canary Wharf, the number of people using the station fell by 10 percent, while the number of people using London’s underground network fell about 2 percent overall last year.

Mike Brown, the commissioner for Transport for London, said it is struggling to explain the drop in passenger numbers.

“Is it an element of economic uncertainty? Is it a handful of jobs here or there maybe not being there this year, compared to last year, or is it actually just that people are working from home?” he said. “It is a bit difficult to be categoric.”

Canary Wharf’s owners did not respond to requests for comment.

City Airport

The number of passengers using London City Airport, a popular gateway for finance executives, fell for the first time since the final year of the 2007-2009 global financial crisis in 2017, its publicly available figures show.

The number of passengers at the airport, close to Canary Wharf’s financial district, fell 0.2 percent last year. That compares with an average annual 8.8 percent increase in the previous six years.

London City Airport said the stagnating numbers were partly caused by some airlines cutting routes.

“We are very confident about the long term future prospect of London City Airport and aviation in the UK, with passenger growth expected to resume in 2018,” a spokesman said.

Bar and restaurant openings

Reuters filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the City of London Corporation to find the number of new premises which have applied for license to sell alcohol and license renewals.

The number of venues, such as bars and restaurants, with license to sell alcohol in the City of London in 2017 fell 1.6 percent, data from the municipal local authority shows.

The number of venues applying for new licenses was flat compared with 2016, the data shows, although the City of London Corporation said such fluctuations were normal.

“As some establishments close and others open, it is inevitable that licensing renewal figures will fall and rise but overall, the number of licensed premises in the City has steadily increased in recent years,” it said in a statement.

Source: Business Insider

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House purchases fall as remortgaging drives lending growth

Mortgage lending grew 4.9% in February to £19bn year-on-year, however this appears to have been driven by a rise in remortgaging to replace a collapse in house purchase approvals.

The £19bn total last month was also down almost £3bn on January and below the monthly average of £21.4bn for 2017.

According to the data from UK Finance, 33,110 house purchase mortgages were approved by just the high street banks in February, down by 10.8% compared to the same month last year. In contrast, 25,999 remortgages were approved by the same lenders, up 9.7% compared to February 2017.

Other secured lending was also hit, with 8, 615 transactions completed in February, down 3.9% on the same month last year. The trade body’s latest monthly lending update also appears to show that much of the growth may be coming from smaller lenders. While the £19bn February figure was a 4.9% overall increase, the high street lenders accounted for just a 1.8% rise in lending to £11.3bn.

Lock-in to rates

UK Finance managing director of personal finance data Eric Leenders said: “There has been an increase in remortgage approvals compared to last year, as borrowers look to lock-in to attractive deals amid speculation of further interest rate rises later this year.

“We are also seeing a continuing rise in credit card spending, reflecting the growing number of transactions carried out using cards, while other forms of borrowing such as overdrafts continue to fall.”

He added: “Meanwhile real wages continue to be squeezed by inflation, impacting on consumer confidence and retail sales. This pressure on household incomes should ease in the coming months, as the effect of the fall in sterling begins to fade and the strong labour market leads to a better outlook for wage growth.”

Lower lending in March?

IRESS principal mortgage consultant Henry Woodcock noted that the year had begun with some positive market indicators and although buy-to-let activity remained subdued, the number of first-time buyers and small deposit borrowers has been on the increase.

“With over 20 lenders increasing their rates in the last few weeks, house prices rising slowly, and the Bank of England signalling a May rate rise, we could see borrowers scramble to secure the best mortgage deals before the anticipated rise,” he said.

“We should also note the latest Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) housing market data, which shows the average number of properties on estate agent’s books hit new lows in February and newly agreed sales also dipped.

“So, it will be interesting to see if this leads to lower lending in March,” he added.

Buy-to-let activity

Just Mortgages and Spicerhaart group operations director John Phillips, agreed that the more significant news was remortgage approvals rising more than 9% in number and value compared to a year ago.

“This will most likely be because there is speculation of further rate rises, so borrowers are looking to lock in low rates now,” he said.

“It could also be to do with buy-to-let changes. Two years on, many of those who acted at that time will be coming to the end of their mortgage deals which could also explain some of the rise in remortgages.

“I think we will also see more activity in buy-to-let sector borrowing in the next week or so, because from April 1, the amount landlords can offset when calculating their tax bill drops from 75% to 50%,” he added.

Source: Your Money

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Government urged to do more to boost housing supply for all types of buyers

The Government is being urged to tackle “structural” difficulties in the housing market that are stopping second steppers moving up the property ladder.

A report by the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA), which represents banks and building societies working through financial advisers, found there is plenty of support for first-time buyer borrowing, but those looking to make subsequent moves are hit by an illiquid market.

The reported, titled The New Normal, found that despite 377,200 ‘steppers’ borrowing for a mortgage in 2017, this overall number is down 42% since 2007, as many struggle to meet stricter mortgage affordability criteria on larger homes, despite any price appreciation on their first home.

IMLA said: “Increasing concentration of home ownership among older people – many of whom have paid off their mortgages – has translated into a historic low level of housing turnover. The average UK household now moves once every 19.2 years, compared to once every 7.4 years when housing transactions peaked back in 1988.”

Despite the lack of liquidity described in the market, IMLA is predicting gross mortgage lending will rise for the eighth year in a row during 2018 to reach its highest level since 2007.

It is forecasting gross lending of £265bn this year, buoyed by remortgage activities.

Its annual market forecast took an assessment from the Office for Budget Responsibility that inflation would fall below 2% over 2018 and 2019 and wages would grow, as an indicator that there could be enough economic confidence to boost mortgage lending. IMLA also dismissed any Brexit impact over the short term that its forecast covers.

The trade body is predicting that lending for house purchase should continue to grow to £158bn in 2018, up 2%, and £163bn 2019, up another 2%. It is forecasting remortgage lending to grow by around 4% in each year.

It is also expecting buy-to-let lending to recover this year after falling by 12% in 2017, predicting that remortgage activity as well as some landlords selling to others due to tax changes will boost activity, with gross lending predicted to increased 2.6% this year and 2.9% in 2019.

Kate Davies, executive director of IMLA, said: “Despite the recovery of the housing market and the availability of mortgage finance since the last recession, stricter affordability rules are limiting activity by those who would otherwise be highly leveraged. Transaction levels have fallen and there is evidence of more cash being injected into home purchase. People are moving less often – whether by choice or constraint.

“Increased housing wealth can benefit older homeowners relying on a buoyant property market to help fund their retirements, along with first-time buyers who can access the Bank of Mum and Dad for help towards a deposit.

“But a chronic housing supply shortage is contributing to an increasingly illiquid market. Home movers, or ‘steppers’, in particular face a number of hurdles including high house prices relative to earnings, stricter mortgage affordability criteria and a lack of suitable homes – holding back housing turnover and transaction volumes.

“It’s important that Government now recognises the demographic and socio-economic changes that have influenced the direction and make-up of the housing market. Whilst home ownership remains the ultimate goal for many, there will be significant numbers of people who will choose or need to rent at some point in their lives.

“The market needs to work for everyone and we all – Government, lenders and housing industry – should work together to adopt new approaches that can increase the supply of homes suitable for all ages and tenures.”

Source: Property Industry Eye

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Colchester is top area for buy-to-let

Colchester in Essex is the top area to invest in buy-to-let based on capital growth, transaction volumes, rental yield and rental price growth, LendInvest research shows.

In Colchester prices are rising by 9.98% per year, rental growth is increasing by 3.41%, transaction volumes are rising by 2.79% and yields stand at 3.71%.

Despite topping LendInvest’s list Colchester is far from the best in terms of yield, with Manchester offering returns of 5.42%.

Ian Boden, sales director at LendInvest, said: “We don’t subscribe to the idea of a mass house price growth slowdown throughout the country. Instead we wanted the Index to show us where the slowdown is hitting hardest, and where the opportunities continue to abound for UK landlords and property investors alike.

“Predictions for the overall growth of the housing market remain positive for the year ahead but this quarter’s Index indicates that house price growth slowdown is impacting on different regions to different degrees.

“There are reasons to be cheerful in many places around the country. Looking at the South West and the Midlands in particular, we can see modest slowdown occuring that’ll keep market activity buoyant.”

Other top areas to invest in buy-to-let are Northampton, Leicester, Luton, Birmingham, Manchester, Ipswich, Brighton, Rochester and Norwick.

Boden added: “Striking the right balance when it comes to making property investment decisions is crucial; however, the current limitations in house price growth mean fewer opportunities in the market to perform a traditional “flip” of a property to get a return.

“We can expect to see investors taking longer-term positions in property as they look to yields and rental price growth as valuable metrics in the short-term to determine the profitability of an asset.

“The best way for investors to take advantage of the volatility in the rental market is to seek out buy-to-let opportunities.”

The worst area to invest is in East Central London, where capital gains are falling by 3.76%, rental price growth is sliding by 1.1% and transaction volume growth is down 1.73% year-on-year. Despite all of these factors landlords in that area still make a yield of 2.9%.

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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Regional cities warm as London house prices cool

London house price growth is lagging behind other UK cities, with negative growth in almost half of London postcodes.

This is according to figures from Hometrack, which showed that while UK city house price inflation is running at 5.2 per cent in the 12 months to February 2018, in London it is just 1 per cent a year.

Five cities, including Edinburgh and Liverpool recorded house price inflation of more than 7 per cent.

Russell Quirk, chief executive of estate agents Emoov, said the figures showed that city living is still appealing but unfortunately for the capital, the much higher price of getting on the ladder plus the greater degree of buyer uncertainty as a result, has seen London remain one of the ugly ducklings of city living where market performance is concerned.

But Mr Quirk said we have seen over the years, the popularity of the London market is cyclical and while it may have fallen out of favour for the time being, this cool in price growth is unlikely to prevail as the year plays out.

He added it was highly unlikely we will see a market crash in London in any shape or form.

Danny Belton, head of lender relationships at Legal & General Mortgage Club, said despite the naysayers who talk of a slowdown in the housing market, we need to remember that property prices are still on the rise and importantly at a more sustainable rate that benefits the new generation of first time buyers looking to get onto the property ladder.

He said: “We are no longer seeing the stratospheric rises in property prices of recent years that have locked many new buyers out of the housing market, and that should be welcomed.

“At the same time, the mortgage market remains in a strong position, with thousands of buyers remortgaging and taking advantage of near-record low mortgage rates.”

Source: FT Adviser

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Landlords and tenants unaware of new EPC law

Many landlords and tenants are not aware of the EPC rating on their homes and with new legislation starting in April, this could result in a large number of fines being handed out to landlords.

From 1 April, new lets and relets with an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of ‘F’ or ’G’ cannot be rented out, and existing tenancies have until 1 April 2020 to upgrade their EPCs. Any landlord letting a property that fails to meet the standard required could face a penalty of up to £4,000.

The  research, commissioned by insurance agency Just Landlords, was conducted with those involved in the UK private rental market.

It found that almost three-quarters (73%) of landlords and tenants are not aware of their property’s EPC rating. Two-thirds (65%) aren’t aware that improving their rating could save them money and 95% have not measured their EPC rating.

Nearly half (48%) of those asked did not know that upgrading their insulation would improve their EPC rating. Four out of five (80%) didn’t know an EPC rating could be an indication of how environmentally friendly a house is and 30% did not know that an upgraded boiler would improve their rating.

But 58% did know that the condition of windows had an effect on a property’s EPC rating.

Rose Jinks, on behalf of Just Landlords, said: “It’s not only essential that landlords understand all new legislation in order to avoid hefty fines, but also that their properties are safe and comfortable for their tenants. This law is designed to improve the energy efficiency of rental properties, which could vastly reduce bills for tenants.

“In addition, landlords will be pleased to know that an energy efficient property will be more appealing to prospective tenants when it comes to marketing the property, so it’s a win-win.”

Source: Mortgage Finance Gazette