The Ability List

Ability List is a New York based service which offers people one place to list their disability related products and resources. According to founder Andrew Horn, Ability List will help the disabled who “live isolated lives unnecessarily, simply because they don’t know about the programs, resources, organisations and individuals that are available to help them.” The service is only available in New York at the moment, but there are plans to expand into other US cities.

I don’t know much about access to services for the disabled her in the UK, but I do know this is a field where people are no longer prepared to accept second best. Perhaps there’s a need for something similar here in the UK, and an ambitious entrepreneur might eventually be able to turn it into a profit making enterprise through the sale and promotion of disability related products and services.

Streetwise Property Alert 29th July 2013

Property Market 2020

A new National Housing Federation report suggests that property prices and rents in England will rise substantially by 2020. ‘By 2020, the price of a first-time buyer’s home will increase by 42 per cent to £245,165. Although wages for 22 to 29-year-olds will increase by 36 per cent by 2020, this poses a huge challenge for those wishing to be homeowners. Low-earning young people would have to spend 16 times their average wage just to buy a home.’

‘NHF research shows that private rents are likely to be broadly stable through 2013, but could increase sharply, by about 6 per cent a year, between 2015 and 2020 as interest rates and house prices rise. In 2020, rents are expected to be 46 per cent higher than today. But, when the new flood of young adults born in the noughties starts university or a new job, they could push rents even higher in a country already chronically short of decent housing.’ Food for thought.

Fee-Free Mortgage Report

Specialist buy-to-let lender Mortgage Trust has launched a new, two-year fixed rate mortgage product with a zero product fee. The buy-to-let product, fixed at 4.25 per cent, also comes with the added benefit of a free valuation and is available to private investor landlords purchasing or remortgaging a single, self-contained property. Talk to your broker, as ever.

Crossrail Bonus

Heads up! We are currently at work on a Crossrail report and notice that Homes & Garden makes a reference to this in the latest issue. ‘Woolwich: Crossrail boost brings hundreds of new homes and fast rail links. Get to Canary Wharf, the West End and Heathrow in record time from this south-east corner of London by 2018, says David Spittles.’

‘Some places remain “up and coming” for years — in Woolwich’s case for about a decade. But Crossrail promises to be a game changer. When the Woolwich Crossrail station opens in 2018, about a dozen trains an hour will link this corner of south-east London with the jobs of Canary Wharf and the fun of the West End, while providing speedy travel to Heathrow. The area already has a DLR link and there are good overland train connections to London Bridge.’ Some of you have bought here already – let us know how that is going – and we are planning a visit and a lookaround for members in late August. Fancy coming along?

Robotic Sex

Two New Zealand academics are predicting that brothels of the future will feature robot prostitutes. In a research paper on the sex industry, Ian Yeoman and Michelle Mars argue that by 2050, clients will pay for an evening that features everything from lap dances to intercourse with “a range of sexual gods and goddesses of different ethnicity, body shapes, ages, languages, and sexual features.”

Aside from being an entertaining diversion, the report  throws up a serious  point – if the ‘oldest profession’ in the world is set to succumb to the unstoppable march of technology, what jobs will be left for humans to do in the not too distant future? Surely there can be very few, and this will have huge implications for how people earn their living and spend their time.

Streetwise Property Alert 23rd July 2013

New Hotspots?

New figures from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, reveal where property prices are rising most within the EU. Estonia, at 7.7 per cent over the past year, and Latvia, at 7.2 per cent, lead the way. At the other end of the range, Spain (down 12.8 per cent), Hungary (-9.3 per cent), Portugal (-7.3 per cent) and the Netherlands (-7.2 per cent) saw the biggest falls.

Inevitably, these two emerging markets – Estonia and Latvia – are being pitched as hotspots…’Latvia…the 18th country to join and use the euro…financial stability improves’ etc. Are they good investments? I’d be wary if I were you.

The problem with these relatively small new countries is that much of the market is focused on the capital. That is driven often by foreign investors. It’s a smaller market within a small market and the ‘luxury sector’ (which is what most foreign investors buy into) is an ever smaller market within that. Much of that property is beyond the reach of the local population. Who will rent or buy? Where’s the exit strategy?

Turkey – What’s Hot?

Julian Walker, director at property specialists Spot Blue, has been saying, as mentioned last week, that land in Turkey is worth a look. He gives us a nudge as to what and where to look. ‘We’re seeing a consistent demand for land in 2013. Currently, we have a client in the process of buying an 800-square-metre plot in Belek for around €110,000 (£94,128 approximately), giving the option of building a desirable private villa or sitting on the plot and waiting to see if its value rises. Many Middle Eastern buyers have long-term investment interests in Turkey. They are seeking property in rapidly developing suburbs of Istanbul.’ Some of you – 15 to 20 – have expressed interest in buying land here and we are at work on a checklist for you; ready this weekend.

Quick Global Overview

Just been re-reading the latest Global Property Guide for the year ending Q1 2013. Let’s pick up some price risers that are worth a look, in our view anyway.

The US. The S&P/Case-Shiller index rose 8.31 per cent over the year; that’s the biggest year-on-year increase since Q1 2006. From what we can see, the various measures, construction levels, foreclosure rates etc, are all going the right way. Well done to those of you who bought in last year. Those who buy this year won’t do as well, but there is still plenty in the system for more cautious, ‘wait and see’ investors. Next year, we think, will be too late for the ‘wait and wait and wait’ investors.

Dubai. Have to say that property prices here are reported to have risen 28.02 per cent over the year to Q1 2013. Speculative investors keep telling me this is the place to be. Maybe – at least in places – but I don’t think it is for widows or orphans. There is still a lot of mass market supply out there and in the system. I think you need whatnots of steel.

We’re taking a closer look at different markets at present as we are re-packaging some of the services from the autumn. Do let us know where you are looking please. It helps us help you.

Streetwise Property Alert 18th July 2013

Brazil – Act Fast

Have to say that the ‘best’ introduction we’ve ever made – in that it has delivered absolutely spot-on in every way and every single investor is 100 per cent happy so far as I can see – is the Brazil social housing scheme. You invest in tranches of £23,000, they build houses, you get your money back plus 20 per cent in a year. Simple.

A new Savills report says that, if you are investing in Brazil, do it asap. ‘Brazilian residential property appears good value when compared to the top tier of the world cities. This suggests sound fundamental reasons for income investment in the country’s lead cities, Rio and São Paulo. The country’s relative accessibility to foreign investment is expected to make the country a target for international investors beyond North America.’

‘This, in turn, makes the country very appealing to international investors. It is relatively easy for foreigners to buy real estate in Brazil and overseas nationals can buy freehold without restriction except for very large farms and islands and coastal land tracts.’

‘We expect to see substantial, yet lower than recent, capital growth and sound income returns. Overseas investors will need to have an eye on exchange rates and beware the prospect of rising interest rates and, or inflation. However, they may well find Brail more rewarding than some of the other new world markets, especially in Asia. Assuming they can get to the product before the locals do.’

France – U Turn Update

Picking up on the French tax U turn we covered recently, Lindsay Kinnealy, head of international property at Pannone Solicitors in the UK says, ‘The move represents a tremendous potential benefit to individuals who might have owned second homes in France for some years but been looking to sell, either because they had become too old to visit regularly or because their children were not interested in taking them on.’

‘It could also have a considerable effect on when people inclined to dispose of such property actually sell up. Previously, they may have lost out because they did not feel prepared or able to wait until 30 years had passed in order to qualify for a full CGT exemption. Some might have reluctantly accepted having to pay the tax, and the impact which it would have on any profit. Even though they will still only be eligible after 22 years, that represents a significantly shorter period of time than before, and makes the value of hanging onto their French property far greater.’

Currencies – Pure FX Views

We can, courtesy of Pure FX, offer reviews of any currencies. So, if you are exchanging to buy into a deal, or vice versa, do get in touch. For example?

Brazilian real. High one second, low the next! Sterling spent most of June climbing against the real but, at the time of writing, is on its way back down. Why? Well because, up until halfway through the month, it looked like the US Federal Reserve would soon end its stimulus program, which has artificially lifted the real. But now, with the United States expanding less than forecast, the Fed is expected to continue to print money. This means money will continue to flow to Brazil which explains the resurgent real.

Turkish lira. Much like with the Brazilian real, sterling flew up against the lira across most of June, but then plunged at the month’s end. And much like with the real, this has less to do with either the UK or Turkey, than the US Federal Reserve. The pound climbed against the lira in June, thanks to the belief that the Fed would soon end its economic stimulus. However, with the US growing -0.6 per cent less than forecast in Q1, that stimulus could now extend. That’s led the Turkish lira to strengthen again.

If you are exchanging currencies soon, do drop us a line and we will ask Pure FX, free, no strings, to offer you an outlook so you can get the timing right.

Shovel Sellers Strike Again!

In the American gold rush, the people making the most money weren’t the ones panning for gold – they were the hardware retailers, selling picks, shovels and other tools that prospectors would need in what was usually a fruitless search. I’m not sure whether eBay could be classed as a modern day gold rush, but it does provide evidence that not much changes.

In 11 years of selling bubble wrap on eBay, Bubblefast has supplied over 3,000 square miles of the stuff and generated over £1 Million in revenues. The company also sells boxes and packing chips/peanuts and  is run by a husband and wife team without staff. Can you see the parallel with the goldrush shovel sellers here? They are selling the ‘tools’ which people need to go about the business of making some money.

Give some thought to this? What ‘shovels’ or ‘bubblewrap’ could you sell? The exciting thing with this is that your profits aren’t dependent on striking lucky. But those hoping to do so, need your product to go about their business.

Green Weddings

It’s no secret that ‘green’, eco friendly products and services are popular at the moment, and often command a premium price.  And it seems that weddings aren’t exempt from the trend.  Some recent research revealed that two thirds of brides-to-be are keen that some part of their wedding be green. So could this be a profitable niche within the lucrative wedding market?

In the United States, we found at least one website ( which caters for eco friendly couples, and I see no reason why this couldn’t be duplicated here in the UK. If you’re looking to get a slice of the huge £20,000+ spent on the average UK wedding, and want to avoid hordes of direct competition, this could be a good opportunity to do it.

Prime Market Review

The latest property report from Savills suggests that prime London saw 2.5 per cent growth in Q2 2013. The best for this quarter? Yes, but the prime regional markets are looking promising. Elmbridge – Esher to Weybridge way where I come from – leads the way with prices now back at 6.6 per cent above the 2007 peak.

In what we might loosely call the commuter zone for London – rather beyond the M25 – the market is doing well, at least in places. ‘Town markets’ are looking the strongest with Cambridge, Oxford, Winchester and Bishop’s Stortford all above 2007 peaks. Rule of thumb? Well-established locations within an hour of London by rail have seen 1.9 per cent growth so far this year.

‘At the beginning of the year we anticipated that 2013 would mark a turning point in the prime regional markets, with the gap between prices in the prime markets in the capital drawing demand out of London. This has been slow to materialise meaning the gap has widened further. With confidence in the economy and the wider housing market improving  against the backdrop of continued low interest rates, we believe that the next 12 months will see a return to more consistent house price growth in the prime markets beyond the capital, though the market is likely to remain highly seasonal.’

Section 21 Tip

It’s being reported by The Simple Team at, that seven out of 10 notices served under Section 21 are rejected by courts. Think mistakes! The team offers advice, ‘If you want to regain possession of your property, and your property is being rented under an assured shorthold tenancy (AST), you need to use Section 21. This allows landlords to evict tenants after the fixed term of the AST has expired without having to give a reason.’

‘The law states that a minimum two months’ notice must be given to tenants before possession of the property is retaken. This is dated from when the tenant receives the notice not when the notice is written or posted. A Section 21 notice can be given at any time provided any deposits paid have been placed, within 30 days of receipt, in a tenancy deposit scheme. While you can serve the Section 21 notice at any point during the tenancy, you cannot force your tenant to move out before the fixed term has expired. Make sure the date at which possession is required is at least one day after the fixed term‘s expiry. If you serve notice during the fixed period, you will want to use a Fixed Term Notice, which comes under section 21(1)b.’

‘After the expiration of the AST fixed term, the tenancy automatically becomes a periodic tenancy, unless a further fixed term is agreed. During the periodic term you can use Section 21, though instead of serving a fixed term notice (section 21(1)b) you should serve a periodic term notice, under section 21(4)a. This must give two months’ advance notice; this notice must end on the last day of a tenancy period, with the date of required possession being the day after this. Tenancy periods are defined by how frequently rent is paid. If tenants pay rent monthly, the tenancy period is one month; if they pay rent weekly, a tenancy period would last one week.’ The Simple Team provides landlord insurance, see

BTL Product News

The Mortgage Works has extended the maximum length of tenancy it allows landlord borrowers to offer from one year to three years.

Previously, TMW was aligned with virtually every other lender in allowing assured shorthold tenancies of no more than 12 months. It will now allow ASTs of 36 months.

TMW’s Henry Jordan says, ‘One in five families now rents rather than owns. Families are more likely to want longer-term tenancies to, for example, ensure continuity of schools, so giving our customers this option will bring greater stability to this growing market segment.’ As always, talk to a broker. You need, of course, to assess the whole package – rates, charges, criteria such as this – before making a decision.

All for now, other than to say that we have Bristol student accommodation material coming out shortly. We have another hush-hush student deal coming from Yorkshire; they won’t let me release details yet. And we have, as some of you know, a JV deal – profit as a developer! – now being introduced. Well worth a look.

The Strip Walker

Want to keep fit and make money at the same time? Here’s an opportunity for you, and contrary to the title, you won’t have to take your clothes off to do it.

StripWalker is the name of a business started by Dan Strong in Las Vegas. For three hours each day, Strong walks up and down the Las Vegas strip, wearing T shirts promoting the products and services of his advertisers, while tweeting and texting about his experiences.  Over 17,000 people per hour,  are out walking on the strip on average, with over 40,000 at peak times, so that’s a big audience. When fully booked, the business generates over $5,000 a month in advertising fees.

This is obviously an updated version of the sandwich board or A board with tweeting and texting bringing a modern twist. Google StripWalker and you’ll see that the idea has generated plenty of publicity. Could you copy the idea in London and other major cities with busy thoroughfares? Well it wouldn’t cost much to give it a try and find out!

John Harrison And The Vicar

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the theatre last week (no, really!) and it very briefly revealed the secret of how some people seem to do everything wrong – and yet make millions.

You can get the full story at my latest blog post by Clicking Here.

If you’re still wondering why you haven’t made a lucrative breakthrough (or just want a laugh) take a look now.

Hardly anyone seems to know about this, and yet it’s probably responsible for 97% of the success I’ve had.