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Property Eye#13

These recent property news items caught our eye:-

Celebrity Watch

Property golf

Rory Moves On
The World’s number one golfer Rory McIlroy needs to move on from the disappointment of not winning last week’s US Open and seeing his current biggest rival Jordan Spieth take the crown. He’s also moving on in a more literal sense as the 15 acre five bedroom property he owned on the edge of Belfast is now on the market for £2.5million pounds.
Chance to buy Designer House
Fingest House an immaculate seven bedroom house nestling in Henley-on-Thames with a cosy cottage in the grounds features an elegant staircase surrounded by some of Frederick Wimsett’s impressive hand painted murals. Wimsett has been commissioned by the likes of Kate Moss, Victoria Grant, milliner to the stars, and Alice Temperley for her flagship store in London W1. The house is available for £7.5million.
Looking for that house with the special X factor
Alex Grimshaw the Radio 1 DJ and replacement for Louis Walsh in the next series of X Factor is house hunting in Islington. Grimshaw, 30, currently lives in Primrose Hill and is obviously looking to climb the property ladder as quickly as he’s scaling entertainment’s notorious greasy pole. He’s also just launched a menswear collection with Topman.

Property kensington

Kensington and Chelsea still most expensive

According to the Halifax, Kensington and Chelsea remains the UK’s most expensive area in which to live with an average price of £11,635 per square metre. The national average is around 6 times less at £2,033. Sixteen areas within greater London have an average price above £5,000. Outside of southern England Altrincham in Cheshire remains the most expensive town at £2,446 per square metre.

Not many bargains

Homebuyers are facing a hard job when haggling for a bargain.  Zoopla the property portal has reported that the proportion of properties for sale that have had their asking price dropped at least once now stands at 30.7%, down from 34.3% twelve months ago. This marks the third successive quarter where the proportion of reduced price properties has fallen and is the latest sign that confidence is returning to the housing market.
The reduction in asking prices is currently the smallest for five years at 6.05%.

Property London

Queen’s Property Value Soars

The Queen may be facing temporary eviction whist Buckingham Palace is re-wired and re-plumbed but soaring retail and office rents in London’s West End have helped the Crown Agents business established to manage the Crown’s other properties to another record year. Assets such as Regent Street in London and Ascot racecourse have enabled them to report a record return of £285.1 million and record asset values of £11.5 billion for the year to March. Rental income from West End retailers rose from £65million to £72.1million.
The Crown Estates was initiated in 1760 when George III surrendered Crown revenue to the Treasury as part of a deal to relieve him of his personal debts, the national debt and responsibility for the cost of the civil government. Its profits go to the Government and the Queen receives 15% of the returns.

UK rental costs are the highest in Europe

UK tenants typically spend 39.1% of their income on rent compared with a European average of 28% according to figures from the National Housing Federation (NHF) which represents housing associations. The NHF said that private tenants made up about 17% of all UK residents but were facing higher costs than their counterparts in Holland and Germany, for example, where private rents are about 50% cheaper than in the UK.
The Federation also said that renters were less secure in their homes, owing to short tenancies, whereas there is a culture of longer-term residency in rented properties on the continent.

 Mortgage Rate War Continues

At the same time the British Banker Association (BBS) said that there was “fierce competition” among lenders which meant that “great mortgage deals” were available to house owners.
A combination of low interest rates, a trend of owners sticking with long-term tracker deals, and a lack of properties on the market are all contributing to lenders lowering the cost of home loans to try to tempt owners to their mortgage products.
More of the banks and building societies are trying to encourage owners to switch to fixed-rate mortgage deals. With rates so cheap at the moment there can be savings to be made even for those on one of the super-low tracker mortgages.
Lenders are also so keen to attract the buy to let lender that there are now almost 700 buy-to-let mortgages available compared to only around 200 mortgages available for first time buyers. Those over 55s who are withdrawing cash from their pension pots under the recently introduced pensions regulations are a particular sector being targeted by the lenders.
The cheapest buy-to-let deal is now less than half the cost of the best two year flat rate first time buyer deal.
This vicious circle of strong demand from tenants, many of whom are the frustrated would be first time buyers, fuels the buy-to-let market, drives up rents and extends still further the time it takes to save up the deposit for that first time purchase.
These contrasting fortunes of renters and owners are a major concern for those who see little prospect of getting on the housing ladder in the short term.

Property map

Regional Differences

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) once again highlight the huge difference in average house prices in different neighbourhoods of England and Wales.
The area with the largest median house price last year was Kensington and Chelsea, in London, at £1.19m. The lowest median average property price was in Blaenau Gwent in Wales at £75,000. The 1,500% divide between the most and least expensive areas is now at its widest level in at least two decades.
Other key statistic released by the ONS are:-
The cost of an average home is £272,000
Typical home loan of a first-time buyer is 3.39 times income
The percentage of households occupied by someone living on their own is 28%
There are 1.37m households on the social housing waiting list in England
118,760 new homes were completed in England in 2014

Oxford House Prices Soar

The residential analyst Hometrack has reported that the highest average house price rise in the past 12 months occurred in Oxford up by £41,700, closely followed by London at £38,900 with Cambridge a more distant third at £23,900.
The average rise in the UK was £11,500.
According to the Mortgage Advice Bureau the average house purchase deposit has hit £72.302 and the size of the average mortgage has been driven up to £167,842.
High house prices in London (the average is now £425,700) is one reason why house buyers and particularly buy to let investors have targeted cities such as Oxford and Cambridge where there is a strong demand from students and employees of the burgeoning international technology and biotechnology sector.
Other cities witnessing a higher than average increase over the past year are Bristol (£22,400). Bournemouth (£15,300) and Portsmouth (£15,000).

Property Construction


New approaches to design, materials and energy, as well as advances in digital technology are creating a wave of innovation within the construction industry. A recent feature in the Raconteur section of The Times selected the following as amongst the most exciting developments.

Self-healing Concrete
Cracking is a major problem in concrete usually caused by exposure to water and chemicals. Researchers at Bath University are developing a self-healing solution using a mix containing bacteria which will germinate when water enters a crack to create limestone that will plug the crack before water and oxygen has a chance to corrode the steel reinforcement.
Thermal Bridging
To prevent heat loss an American company called Thermablok has adapted a technology developed by NASA as part of the space programme to develop a fibreglass matrix which can improve thermal resistance by 40%.

Kinetic Footfall

Pavegen uses kinetic energy to enable flooring to harness the energy of footsteps. It can be used indoors or out in high traffic areas and generates electricity using an electromagnetic induction process and flywheel energy storage. The largest deployment the company has done so far is in a football pitch in Rio de Janeiro to help power the floodlights around the pitch.
Kinetic Roads
Italian start up Underground Power is also exploring the potential of kinetic energy. They have developed a technology called Lybra, a tyre-like rubber that breaking cars dissipate to develop electricity and pass to the electric grid. In addition to generating power Lybra both improves road safety and promotes sustainability of road traffic.
Photovoltaic Glazing
Another way of generating electricity is through the use of building integrated photovoltaic glazing by turning the whole building envelope into a solar panel. Companies such as Polysolar provide transparent photovoltaic glass as a structural building material, forming windows, facades and roofs. Photovoltaic technology is efficient even in north facing vertical walls and its high performance at raised temperatures means it can be double-glazed or insulated directly. As well as saving on energy bills and earning feed in tariff revenues it costs only marginal more than conventional glass as cladding and shading system costs are replaced.
Modular Construction
Chinese Developer Broad Sustainable Building recently completed a 57 storey skyscraper in 19 working days using modular construction techniques. Modular construction whereby a building is constructed off-site designed to the same standards and materials as conventional on-site construction is becoming increasingly popular. It reduces environmental disruption, delivering components as and when needed and changing construction into a logistical exercise.
Predictive Software
Predictive software is helping civil engineers who have to integrate a vast number of pieces into a building’s design while complying with increasingly demanding safety and government regulations. The way those parts fit together and the materials used contribute to how the building performs under normal or extreme conditions. As an example Bennett Associates using ACNSYS software were able to simulate the stresses on the arch rotation brackets at the new Wembley Stadium before construction.
Cloud Collaboration
Basestone is a system allowing the remote sharing of data on a construction site in real time. Predominately a review tool for engineers and architects which digitises the drawing review process on construction projects it allows for better collaboration. The cloud based collaboration tool is focused on the installation of everything from steel beams to light fittings.
3D Modelling
Planning innovation is being driven by production of smart 3D building models to help the architectural, engineering and construction sector visualise and communicate design and data through proprietary software such as that developed by CyberCity3D (CC3D). The models integrate with 3D geographic information system platforms such as Autodesk and ESRI and can steam 3D urban building data to Cesium’s open architecture virtual 3D globe.
Asset Mapping
Asset mapping focuses on operational equipment including heating and air conditioning, lighting and security systems collecting data from serial numbers, firmware etc. and then notes when it was installed and by whom and stores all the information in one place. The system provides engineers with a real time map of where the equipment needs to be installed and once the assets are connected to the real time system they can be monitored via the and other remote devices and systems. The use of these systems enables customers to proactively maintain buildings and reduce procurement and insurance costs.

Property London

London Zone 2 – a good investment?

The Evening Standard recently featured some of the Zone 2 properties ringing central London’s most expensive areas. Zone 2 starts at the congestion charge boundary and embraces 126 Tube stations from Acton in the west, Archway in the north, Poplar in the east and Brixton in the south.
With Zone 2 properties averaging around half of the average Zone 1 price of £1.5million and with many at £300 to £400 hundred thousand there are potential bargains to be had.
The Evening Standard picked the following:-
New Cross in South East London
The cheapest Zone 2 address with an average price of £317,000. Excellent rail links (six minutes to London Bridge) plus one stop on the Jubilee Line interchange of Canada Water. Good range of period properties, Goldsmith College (where Damien Hirst studied fine art) landmark pubs and a town hall.
East London
Travelling time from Bethnal Green, where properties average £430,000. is only 8 minutes to the main employment centres. Coming soon is The Rex a sensitive redevelopment into 21 flats of the classic Art Deco former cinema in Bethnal Green Road one of the first “talkie” movie theatres. Whitechapel, Stepney Green and Mile End are all around 55% cheaper than the Zone 2 average.
Hackney Wick is another rising star, butting up to Stratford’s sporting and leisure facilities and is also close to gentrified Victoria Park.
North London
Holloway, Caledonian Road and Finsbury Park are up to 25% lower than the Zone 2 average and each has a range of new developments.
Each of these evolving areas has the potential to benefit from the inexorable movement of people, businesses, and development and infrastructure projects rippling out from central London.
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