Property Photographer

As you probably know, I have a property business and so spend a fair amount of time looking at property ad’s. Here’s something I’ve found. On the whole, the photography is appalling. It’s really quite amazing that an agent can be selling a property valued at hundreds of thousands of pounds, and yet they think it acceptable to present it via a few blurry iphone photographs, with no attempt to tidy up or find the best angles.

I’m not the world’s best photographer but always seem to be able to take attractive photographs of the properties we have for rent. It really isn’t hard, but you wouldn’t know it judged by the ‘it’ll do’ approach of many agents. There has to be an opening for someone to offer a photographic service to agents. You wouldn’t need expensive equipment – just a decent camera with a wide angle lens and some basic software to clean up your images.

If I was starting this business I’d contact a few agents and offer to re-photograph some of the properties they already had on their books, for free. From there, it should be fairly easy to sell them on the benefits of having better quality photo’s pf what is the biggest purchase which most people will ever make.

Streetwise Property Alert 16th September 2013

The recent student accommodation introduction has proven very popular but we are still taking replies; until further notice anyway!

Student Accommodation News

We note Money Observer offers some words of advice on student accommodation in its latest issue. Let’s quote, ‘Demand for student accommodation remains on the up, undimmed by recent tuition fee hikes.

In its latest annual report on the student accommodation market, property consultant Savills asserts: ‘The student housing market has been a resilient and stable investment during the downturn and that is forecast to continue.’ The report, UK Student Housing, forecasts a total return of 9.3 per cent for the 2013/14 academic year.’

‘As well as offering healthy rental yields, student  accommodation has a number of other features that can make it an attractive investment. For starters, it has a low correlation to more traditional asset classes.

Adam Davis, director of fund distribution at property investment firm The Mansion Group, explains: ‘While most other asset classes struggled during the downturn in 2007/08, the fundamentals remained solid for student accommodation. Constant demand means it can deliver a predictable income stream.’

Indeed, the supply/demand ratio is the key strength of the student accommodation market. Although student numbers dropped off in 2012 when tuition fees were increased to up to £9,000 a year, intake rates have returned to the levels seen in 2010 (with 2011 discounted, as it was a bumper year with undergraduates looking to beat the tuition fee hike). While student numbers are stable, there is a continuing shortage of property.’ More to follow.

Home Mortgage? Hurry!

Fixed rate mortgage deals look set to rise soon as money market rates have been climbing. As such, lenders are expected to push up rates shortly. How much? Put it this way, over the past week or two, five year swaps have risen by about 0.25 to 0.3 per cent.

Andrew Hagger at Moneycomms is in the media saying, ‘Money market swap rates increased significantly last week with a massive spike on Thursday. We must now wait to see whether these higher rates hold but already lenders are starting to increase mortgage rates.’

BTL Licensing

We’ve long been saying that blanket licensing of BTL properties is coming and that, between now and then, you need to check with the relevant local council to see what they are doing regarding BTL in your locality.

Newham Council in London has led the way with a scheme that has been enforced for this year. Figures released by the council show 30,000 licence applications were received, 22,000 licences were issued, 67 prosecutions and 43 cautions were enforced and 2,320 properties have received warning letters.

Newham’s Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, says, ‘It is clear from our consultation that our residents, including tenants in private sector homes, massively back our plans. This scheme shows that Newham is leading the country when it comes to tackling bad landlords who flout the law. One in five unlicensed properties in the borough have been found to harbour suspected criminals.’ I rather think that BTL landlords may resent the implication that many of us are rogues and scoundrels but across-the-board licensing is certainly on its way. Food for thought.

Have you read the UK September newsletter? Please feel free to send it on to anyone who may be interested in UK property.

Dampened Dragons

Watching the latest series of Dragons Den, you have to wonder whether it’s past its ‘sell by’ date. In last Sunday’s  episode nobody invested anything, and the way one or two of the Dragon’s are behaving, gives cause to wonder whether they actually have any money at all! Add in the fact that the excellent Theo Paphitis has been replaced by Piers Linney, a man who gives the impression that he’s not even confident of his own shoe size (let alone the potential of a business) and it has all the hallmarks of a show on its last legs.

I have a friend who’s quite a long way down the line of developing a rival show for both UK and US TV, but if you have an idea or business  which needs funding in the meantime, why not bring it to us. We have personal funds to invest as well as access to dozens of  ‘angel’ investors on the lookout for the right opportunity. The worst we can say is no!

Streetwise Property Alert 12th September 2013

Welcome to today’s email of overseas news and views. Have you, by the by, seen this week’s currencies review from Pure FX? Email if you’d like to read it. Meantime…

Istanbul – New Hotspots

Julian Walker of Spot Blue is in the media this week drawing attention to Istanbul and a new trigger – a rail line from the east to the west of the city. ‘The Marmaray Project will be a real shot in the arm for Istanbul as a whole but a number of districts will really benefit. It will not only provide an east to west transport corridor between the European and Asian sides of the city but there will also be a connection at Yenkapi to the north-south metro line, completing a very effective and convenient transport system.’

‘Turks will find it much easier to commute from the city’s suburban areas and developments close to stations should be very appealing to foreign buyers, including buy-to-let investors. Halkali is already a busy hub, thanks to its excellent connections, and the Marmaray Project will enhance this.’ More to come – our contacts are visiting soon.

Spain – Upcoming Guides Reminder

Our friend, international property lawyer Peter Esders tells us that he will soon have a series of guides that we can introduce to members. These will include ‘Buying a property in Spain’, ‘Spanish Timeshare’, ‘Spanish Golden Visas’ and ‘Litigation in Spain’. We’ll keep you posted.

Murcia – One To Watch

The Move Channel reports that Murcia is seeing ‘a mini-boom as tourist numbers and property sales both increase way above the national average…buyer interest is on the up too with Murcia now accounting for one in four Spanish enquiries on The Move Channel.’

Mercers, the agents in Murcia, confirm, ‘Positivity extends from the real estate industry to the tourist industry. Not only has Murcia enjoyed a bumper year but Spain as a whole received 34 million foreign visitors – up 2.9 per cent on 2012 and officially a new Spanish record. What’s more, they’re spending more money – 6 per cent higher than 2012. Incredibly good news for a country that relies heavily on tourism to fuel its economy.’ Again, we have a visit here soon and a report will follow.

Spain Property Sourcing

We have a new property sourcing agent. He writes, ‘I will say that we will check all complexes and properties out thoroughly before offering them to you, especially the prices, values and locations to make sure there is an immediate equity of at least 25 per cent on current prices and good rental potential.’

If you want to buy in Spain, do let us have your requirements –  type of property, price range and area/location etc. Let us have as much information as you can so that we can make sure we only offer you what you are interested in. Please note, serious replies only please.

Turkey – Think ‘Exit’

One of the most common themes that just comes round and round all the time – and has done for the 10 years we’ve been running this service – is the exit strategy for ‘luxury’ apartments and homes. Fact is, Brits, wherever they buy, always seem to go for the ‘luxury’ property which is all fine and dandy until it comes to selling on into the home market.

We’re reminded of that when we read a report that starts, ‘With domestic buyers unable to afford Turkey’s high-end housing stock, the government is looking to foreigners to soak up the supply…There is an intense interest from Middle East countries and former Soviet socialist republics in Turkey.’

Bottom line when buying a second home overseas? Before buying in, at least ask yourself who your end-buyer is. Better still, do plenty of due diligence and take professional advice. If it’s not from within the local market, you may have sell-on issues further down the line.

All for today, see you again on Friday.

Grooming Is Booming

Speaking as someone whose personal grooming routine consists of a shower and a shave, this isn’t something I can empathise with, but the market for men’s grooming tools and products is booming. A recent report found double digit growth in some segments of the market.

Of all the advantages you can have when starting a new business, one of the most critical is a ‘following wind’. Yes, you can succeed in a mature market or even one that’s declining, but you’ll make it so much easier for yourself if you start out with the advantage of rapid growth of the market as a whole.

If you’re looking to go into a business with ‘real products’ you could do far worse than do some research into the market for men’s cosmetics. Research suggests that the market is set to continue to grow for some time yet. It might even get to me one day!

Streetwise Property Alert 10th September 2013

Thank you for your interest in the Florida properties; I have to say that, if you are looking at properties here, we really do have the contacts to source the right property for you. Go on, let us know what you are looking for – put us to the test!

Dubai – Market Update

The latest Middle East Market Outlook from Cluttons suggests that Dubai’s residential property market continues its recovery. Prices have risen by more than 30 per cent in H1 2013. Rental values over the same period are up by 11.3 per cent.

‘The increased level of job creation is translating into upward pressure on house prices and rental values,which is illustrated by the fact that capital values have risen by close to a third during the first six months of 2013. However these still remain 31 per cent below the Q3 2008 market peak.’

‘Dubai has benefited tremendously from the Arab Spring and its perception as a safe haven for refugee funds from the broader Middle East region. Furthermore, there has been a rise in domestic demand, fuelled in part by favourable lending rates, which are encouraging a greater number of buyers to step into the market and also by the soaring rents, which are driving some tenants to consider the option of home ownership as a way to avoid being caught out by rising accommodation costs.’

‘The resounding success of Dubai residential so far this year should not come as a surprise given the magnitude of the correction recorded during the bottom of the market. We are still far off the previous peak, when growth was far more unsustainable. The acceleration in residential capital values this year has been underpinned by robust levels of job creation and a rising population, rather than being fuelled by fly buy dealers, as was the case in the past. We are yet to see a definite solution on the matter, although this is less concerning than in 2008, given the increased number of end users in the market.’

New Airport – Take Note

A new airport almost invariably has a positive impact on holiday lettings and property prices in the area – ballpark figure, within a 45 minute drive. And so it seems the regional airport at Gazipasa in Turkey has been a trigger for the resort of Alanya.

It’s being reported, ‘tourist numbers and demand for property in the southern Turkish resort of Alanya are expected to record a rise during 2013 thanks to a rise in the number of international flights at Gazipasa. By the end of 2013 air traffic was expected to show a 100 to 110 per cent year-on-year increase.’

Julian Walker, director at Spot Blue, says, ‘There are now direct flights to Gazipasa from twelve destinations in eight countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland, Poland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. When you think the first scheduled internal flight only arrived there in December 2010 and the inaugural international flight touched down in spring 2011, this ramping up of options is encouraging for tourism and property owners in Alanya which is just 30 minutes from Gazipasa Airport.’

USA – The FT Speaks

We note, catching up on our reading, that the FT offers positive news of the US housing market. ‘We have been noting positive price movements in the US for over a year now and the latest Standard & Poors Case-Shiller Home Index confirms that twenty key cities from San Francisco and Seattle in the west, through to Washington and New York in the east, are all showing positive results.’

‘Dallas and Denver are already showing that prices are now above their peak achieved before the financial crisis. The strongest year-on-year gains were to be seen in San Francisco, up 24.5 per cent, with the weakest gains in New York (3.3 per cent) and Washington (6.5 per cent).’

‘There now seems to be consensus that the recovery in the US housing market is now nationwide and not limited to a particular area. Mortgage interest rates in America have increased in recent months however they still remain at very competitive levels for foreign investors, with 15 year fixed rates deals available from just 3.87 per cent. Finance is available to investors of any age up to 75 per cent of the property purchase price, but a minimum loan restriction of 50,000 USD does apply.’ More soon.

All for now other than to say we have a weekly currencies review in from Peter at Pure FX; email back for it.

Streetwise Property Alert 9th September 2013

Welcome to today’s email of UK property news and views…

EPC Anyone?

Do your rented properties have EPCs, Energy Performance Certificates? By law, anyone renting a property must have an Energy Performance Certificate which ranks the property from A to G. A recent Freedom of Information request submitted by campaigners 10:10 to the government reveals that only one in four landlords actually comply.

Dave Timms, acting executive director of 10:10, which aims to encourage people to save energy, says, ‘Having a basic picture of the performance of the housing stock seems to be just about the first step we need to take, yet we are still not getting it right. Government has consistently done the minimum needed to meet the legislation. They are doing as little as possible, as slowly as possible.’ Are you too?

Best-Buy Universities

Interesting article on investing in student properties in the Telegraph! Let’s quote one or two key points. ‘In some of the newest private halls in London, it is not uncommon to see weekly rents of £300 for a room, says Mark Hutchinson, director of the flat and house share site Luxury high-end accommodation aimed at overseas students with money to spend is a very popular market at the moment. That £300 figure may scare students, but it will whet the appetite of would-be landlords.’

‘The more renowned the university, as a rule, the stronger the buy-to-let market. Cambridge students, for example, are not just brainy, but make formidable cash cows. The university is continually expanding, and the population of the city is expected to increase by more than 20 per cent in the next 10 years. As a consequence, the student rental sector is booming.’

‘Rental values in Cambridge city centre have risen by an average of four to five per cent over the past seven years, while house prices have remained all but static, says Andrew Tucker, lettings manager at Bidwells. Investors have been quick to identify the growth potential in a market where the demand for rental properties is constantly rising.’ More to come.

News From Scotland

Keystone Buy to Let Mortgages are now targeting landlords investing in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, according to a new press release in front of me. ‘Specialist mortgage intermediary Keystone Buy to Let Mortgages is extending its lending criteria to now include Scotland. The Kent-based firm said it is targeting landlords looking to invest in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen.’

David Whittaker, managing director of Keystone says, ‘There is an enormous opportunity to help landlords north of the border where demand for rental properties remains strong, especially in the main cities and that’s where we’ll be focusing our efforts.’ Let us know if you are interested in these markets; we can extend our coverage too.

All for now other than to say that the September newsletters are out. Do please have a read and get back to us if you would like further information about anything you read.

Email Finder

If you ever find yourself desperate to get hold of an elusive email address to make an important contact, then a service from called Email Guesser, may provide the answer. From basic information input, it works out possible email addresses and then checks to see whether there is a photograph on line to match.

I gave it a try and it found my email address easily enough (although it’s not a secret!) so it could be a useful tool you can use  to help get in touch with a breakthrough contact.

No Magic Here

For reasons I don’t understand, eBay are becoming increasingly picky about what can be sold on the site.  If you make money selling magic, spells, crafts and incantations your goods and services are no longer allowed on the auction site. The following items are also being added to the prohibited items list: advice; spells; curses; hexing; conjuring; magic; prayers; blessing services; magic potions and healing sessions.

I can perhaps see why some of those have been banned, but not others (Not sure what harm conjuring tricks ever did!) However, the point I want to make is this – purveyors of all these things now need somewhere else to sell their wares. Might there be an opening for ‘magicBay’, an auction/sales site dealing exclusively in this ‘banned’ sector.

Not one for someone looking for a quick profit or an easy life, but perhaps something for an ambitious entrepreneur to research a bit further.

Streetwise Property Alert 6th September 2013

Welcome to today’s email…

UK Property Overview

According to the Nationwide building society, UK property prices are up by 3.5 per August-to-August. The average price of a home in the UK is now £170,514. Growth is slowing from July-to-July’s 3.9 per cent growth. Where next? ‘The risk is that if demand continues to run ahead of supply, affordability may become stretched. While house prices are still elevated compared with incomes, affordability is being supported by the ultra-low level of interest rates. A typical mortgage payment for a first time buyer is currently equal to around 29 per cent of disposable income, in line with the long-term average.’ More to come on a region-by-region basis.

Wakey, Wakey Sellers

Remember the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) campaign aimed at those investors who have sold second homes in the UK or abroad without paying capital gains tax (CGT)? The deadline is 6 September and HMRC are about to make a move after that date. Marian Wilson, head of HMRC campaigns, says, ‘Hundreds of people have come forward to take advantage of this campaign. It is not too late to contact us. If you have sold a second home you might not know it could attract CGT. Telling HMRC about your tax liabilities is straightforward and help, advice and support are available.’ For more details on the campaign, taxpayers can visit HMRC’s website: Help is also available from HMRC by calling 0845 601 8819.

Let To Buy Latest

What Mortgage? Has an interesting article, When is ‘let-to-buy’ right for you? Let’s quote one or two key paragraphs. ‘A let-to-buy is where an owner-occupier of a residential property wishes to move to a different property but cannot or does not wish to sell that property. Essentially, the first property becomes a buy-to-let with the rental income covering the mortgage on that property, allowing them to fund a new mortgage on the property being purchased.’

‘What is the difference between let-to-buy and buy-to-let? Nothing in reality. They are both buy-to-let mortgages, but the different phrases explain the customer journey better. A let-to-buy is where an existing residential home owner is wishing to let out their existing home to enable them to buy a new residence. A buy-to-let is where an applicant is seeking to buy a property to let it out. Let-to-buy mortgages are currently available at rates between 2.49 and 3.99 per cent.’ Interested in let-to-buy? We are updating our most recent article for next Wednesday.

All for now, see you soon.