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Property Eye #8

 These recent property news items caught our eye:-

Celebrity Watch


Bake Off

Mary Berry has put her four-bedroom family holiday home in the resort of Salcombe, Devon, up for sale. Keen bakers and cake makers should be able to indulge their hobby in the open-plan kitchen that’s kitted with a traditional two-oven Aga as well as a double electric oven.

Wow Factor

On the market is The Albert in Primrose Hill which is a favorite pub for soon to be ex X Factor host Dermot O’Leary. With all that extra time on his hands he might be tempted to follow the likes of other stars, such as Sir Ian McKellen and become a pub landlord.

Market Stampede

The predicted surge in activity in the property market following the Conservatives election victory appears to be happening.

On the supply side analysts are predicting an increase of up to 20% in the number of properties coming to market over the next 3 months as agents reported a deluge of properties being put up for sale in the wake of the election result.

On the demand side many higher end properties sold within hours of the result once the threat of a “mansion tax” had been removed. In London one Marylebone agent reported £150 million of offers within the first 24 hours whilst a central London agent received £250 million of offers during the same period.

One of the biggest deals was the purchase by the Qatari Royal Family of a 6 storey Victorian town house in Mayfair for £40 million (triggering a stamp duty payment of over £4.7 million). It is a further piece in a jigsaw of properties bought by the family in the area around their flagship residence, the £200 million Dudley House in Park Lane which the Queen reportedly complained “makes Buckingham Palace look drab”.

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Royal Estates adopts Living Wage

Talking of the Queen the organisation that administers her property empire (Crown Estates) is the first national landlord to make a commitment to pay all staff a minimum of the hourly Living Wage (£7.85 nationally and £9.15 in London) compared to the national minimum wage of £6.50.

Shrinking Number of London Home Owners

As London property prices continue to surge there are predictions from Labour mayoral candidate Tessa Jowell that in 10 years’ time just 1 in 5 Londoners will hold a mortgage. If this prediction is realised it will add a further 600,000 households to the private rental sector bringing the number up to over 1.6 million. Over the past 10 years there has been a fall of 31% in the number of mortgage holders in London according to figures released by the government.

Ms Jowell is proposing to set up a new body called Homes for Londoners to address the issue.

Shopping Centre Sale?

The 1m sq ft Festival Place Shopping Centre in Basingstoke may be sold.

Owners TIAA Henderson Real Estate which acquired the centre from the Grosvenor Festival Place Fund in September 2012 for around £285m, has appointed agents to draw up options for the Centre with a potential sale of the property valued at around £300m.

The shopping centre was redeveloped by Grosvenor in 2002 and has more than 180 retail and food units, a multiscreen Vue cinema, and a sports centre. It is anchored by Debenhams, BHS and Marks & Spencer.

Decrease in the number of Mortgages in Serious Arrears

The number of UK mortgages in serious arrears has fallen to the lowest level since 2008. Only 0.22% (24,400) of all mortgages were in the most “severe arrears” band in quarter 1 of 2015. The number of repossessions of 3,100 was down from 4,200 in the final quarter of 2014 and from 6,400 a year ago. Record low interest and mortgage rates are the main reason that more borrowers are managing to keep up with repayments.


An Italian House for the price of a cappuccino

Several Italian districts have launched schemes to sell derelict homes for 1 euro to buyers who promise to renovate them and to spend at least 35,000 euros with local tradesmen. See here for our report of a similar French scheme.

Potential buyers would do well to carefully check the location before taking the plunge as many are rumoured to be situated in mafia strongholds and others subject to geological hazards such as landslides.

A Slice of the Wild West up for Sale

One of the last links with the frontier days is up for sale in Texas. America’s largest ranch (bigger than Greater London) plus 7,500 cows, 500 horses and 20 cowboy camps has been put on the market bringing to an end 160 years of continuous ownership by the same family. The price is around £460 million.

Architect of New Town Passes Away

Derek Walker who from 1970 to 76 was the chief architect of the “new” town of Milton Keynes died this week. Milton Keynes is built on a grid system where the roads form squares around groups of mainly square buildings (many filled with glass). Traffic flow is controlled by many, many roundabouts but there is also a 120 mile network of paths which Walker planned in a way that enables pedestrians to reach their destination without ever needing to cross a road. There are 22 million trees and over 20% of the city is parkland whilst the town centre shopping complex, one of the first covered shopping centres in Britain, was recently listed as a Grade II building.

Get more from your staff with a roof garden

Research undertaken at Melbourne University in Australia, shows that workers flagging concentration is improved and revived if they spend 40 seconds looking at a roof covered in flowers, shrubs and grass. The research performed a “sustained attention“ test on two groups – one was shown pictures of concrete roofs and the other pictures of a “green” roof each for 40 seconds. The latter group performed “significantly” better.

Reprieve for Strand Buildings?

Our recent Property Eye report about the planned demolishment of 4 Georgian and Victorian properties in the Strand London took a double twist this week. First Greg Clark the newly appointed communities and local government secretary issued a “holding directive” suspending permission for Kings College to proceed with the planned development whilst ministers consider whether to hold a public enquiry. Then Historic England reversed their earlier advice that any harm caused by the demolition would be offset by the public good. They now say that the degree of harm would be “substantial”. The surprise about turn has angered the College and Westminster Council whose decision to allow the original plans was substantially based on Historic England’s previous advice.

Another University causes anger

Whilst Kings College may find that its plans will be stymied another University – Royal Holloway College in Egham, Surrey stands accused of deliberately allowing an historic building to deteriorate so it can win approval for its demolition.

The building in question is a bungalow within the grounds of the College which was built as the residence of the Victorian architect William Crossland whilst he supervised the construction of the Grade 1 listed Founder’s Building at the College.

Protesters consider the building to be of significant historical importance as it is an unusual survival of an architect’s home on site whilst the College (with support from Historic England) claims that it is of little architectural interest.

If demolished the bungalow will make way for a new library.

Average Home in London to cost £1 million by 2030

Oxford Economics forecasts that residential property prices in the capital could double over the next 15 years from the current average of £499,000. It also expects that the number of people living in London will be around 11 million by 2036 roughly 2 ½ million more than now.

London is already the most expensive city in the world for companies to base their employees, according to research from Savills who report that, based on the cost of renting residential and commercial space, the cost for an employee to live and work in London is $118,085 (£76,184) a year just ahead of Hong Kong at $113,019. Of the 12 urban centres studied, Chicago and Shanghai were found to be most economical, recording an annual live/work cost of just $46,588 and $43,729 per employee.

VAT Spat

A bit of a row has broken out amongst some of the online estate agency firms about whether quoted prices should include VAT or not.

Adam Day, the managing director of Hatched online agency has written to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) accusing competitor online agencies Purplebricks, eMoov, Tepilo and House Network of excluding VAT from their advertised rates. He claims that this is contrary to the Committee of Advertising Practice’s guidance to include the tax. The ASA has told its compliance team to investigate the matter.


Overseas Watch


There are 20 arrondissements (administrative districts) in Paris and each has its own very distinct atmosphere. Amongst the most popular areas for international buyers are Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Left Bank but because the city is so compact with a comprehensive transport system it is possible to live almost anywhere in the capital and still be within touching distance of the centre.

The property market which dipped following the 2012 elections is beginning to pick up again with lots of interest from US and British investors taking advantage of the strong dollar and pound respectively.

Examples of properties currently available in the prime areas include a large studio on the top floor of an elegant 17th-century building in Saint-Germain-des-Prés for £616,200 (rental value around £2000 per month); an airy one-bedroom apartment over two floors on the Left Bank for £287,000 and right in the centre alongside the Champs-Élysées are an elegant one-bedroom, eighth-floor apartment on Avenue Foch for £895,000 and a three-bedroom, furnished and renovated Art Deco apartment off Rue Christophe-Colomb for £2.5 million.

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