Compare The Coffin

This is another of those things that I thought might be a joke, but apparently is real! The premise behind the business may have wider applications.

It’s fairly clear that people are not in the most rational frame of mind when they have to choose a coffin. Not only that, it’s not something they (fortunately) have to do very often. As a result, they don’t really know anything about the market, and there’s a widely held belief that some funeral directors take advantage of the situation. Compare the coffin enables people to either choose a coffin in advance of  needing it, or choose one at a discounted price and have it delivered to their funeral director.

I’m not sure how successful the business is, but it caused me to wonder what other specialist markets might benefit from the same treatment? Do you know of any other irregular/infrequent purchases people make, where consumers might be short on information and overpay as a result. If so, there could be an opportunity there.

Streetwise Property Alert 31st October 2013

Has everyone read the UK and international property newsletters for October? Last call! Email back.


Australia – More News

There is something of a recovery taking place in the property market in Australia; some, with vested interests, are talking it up as a boom but more cautious pundits are suggesting it is a recovery and, arguably, a fragile one at that. Moody’s, the investors service, goes further and says a correction ‘cannot be ruled out.’

‘There is some risk of a correction in the housing market that would be a potential problem for the banking system. We don’t think we’re seeing any kind of cliff where you’d suddenly have a big problem for banks and the government and banks are well placed to cope with a sudden weakening in the housing market.’ Pause for thought though?

Turkey – A Warning

Tolga Han, international vice-president of Projebeyaz International offers a note of caution on investing in Turkey; in essence, there are good investment opportunities but investors also run the risk of being scammed. ‘Whatever they want to buy, they must consult (i.e. take advice).’

‘The Istanbul property market averages 12 to 15 per cent (price growth) annually. It is also cheap. The average price was $2,500/square metre. Of course there are many high-quality projects right now with $10,000/sqm, $15,000/sqm.’

‘The returns on off-plan projects could double in two years in the right deal. However, the minimum gain was 15-20 per cent over the same timeframe for established projects. Rental returns average about seven to eight per cent annually. But all the GCC investors are looking for 10, 12, 15 per cent. It’s not possible in Turkey right now.’

HMRC Reminder

We’ve been talking to various members about the new HMRC campaign – in short, declare your rentals before HMRC comes to get you. One member sent me a clipping from a blog by an accountant which reveals a common theme. ‘Not every landlord with untaxed rental income is deliberately evading tax of course. I spoke to a client in the south of England in the last few days who was planning to rent out her home whilst she was out of the country for a short while. Apparently, the estate agent had told her that she would not have to pay any tax on the rents. That was simply not correct.’

‘Bad advice can often lead people into making bad decisions. Rented property, whether in the UK or abroad, has to be declared to HMRC in nearly every situation and the taxman will not regard bad advice as an excuse. If you are a landlord who has not paid tax on your rents then you should take steps to put your affairs in order.’ Good advice.

New Zealand Update

If ‘supply and demand’ and ‘a strong home market’ are part of your overseas investing criteria you will be interested in New Zealand. The largest real estate group there, Harcourts, draws attention to the rising population – 30,000+ a year – and the need for ‘rapid construction’.

‘Prices have only risen sharply in Auckland and Christchurch. Construction simply has not kept up with demand. We need the government to make the consent process easier and more attractive to developers to build in our two largest cities. Our population is growing and we need more houses. Adjusting LVR restrictions and interest rates won’t change that.’

‘It also impacts on parts of the country where the property market is not strong. Provincial New Zealand, Wellington, Dunedin and Hamilton do not have an issue with housing affordability, but as of 1 October things have got a lot harder for people wanting to purchase in these areas.’

‘We have reached this housing shortage in Auckland and Christchurch when population growth is comparatively low. When growth speeds up again, as it inevitably will, we need to have the housing and infrastructure in place to cope. This is what the Government should be focusing on.’

That’s it other than to say that if you want to read the latest currencies review from Peter at Pure FX, please email back for it.

Making Jewellery

If you’re looking for a fun activity you can turn into a part time business, you could do a lot worse than make jewellery from home. You’ll find plenty of resources online for both raw materials and manufacturing instruction.

There are many different styles and types of jewellery to choose from – bead designs, moulds for silver, goldsmithing and stainless steel items are just a few of them. The key to long term profits is to settle on your own unique style and design principles. Why? Well repeat business will be critical to long term success, and once you’ve sold a piece to someone, you want to have other similar items to offer them later.

Marketing opportunities are numerous. You can sell face to face, from craft fairs, via party plan or online through outlets such as eBay and You’re unlikely to get rich doing this, but that’s hardly the point with this one.

Streetwise Property Alert 30th October 2013

Welcome to today’s email and some words on student accommodation investing from our friends at Vita. These are the questions to ask…

Does It Only Have One Year’s Rental Guarantee?

If so, it is likely the developer has just built your alleged ‘return’ into the sales price. Apartments that are sure to generate strong rental returns will have at least two years rental assurances, because the developer can be certain the properties will rent out. Anything that offers less than two years rental assurance will have a developer who is not confident the property will rent out and therefore is not willing to take the risk of assuring the returns.

Why Is It So Cheap?

If it’s cheap it’s for a reason. Cheaper student properties have significantly lower specifications, are much smaller and don’t have access to good facilities. These factors will ensure they receive minimal rental demand. More expensive units can be more than double the size, have access to great facilities and are finished to an extremely high specification. These properties will rent out easily and require less maintenance so, before you make a hasty mistake and go for the cheapest thing you can find, evaluate the value for money and return on investment.

Is It A Self-Contained Student Apartment?

If not, what is your exit strategy? Do you expect any capital appreciation at all? Student pods (non-self contained apartments) are not considered to be individual properties and therefore cannot be bought using a mortgage. Buying a standard student room will significantly narrow your unit’s potential resale market later down the line. However if you buy a fully self-contained student apartment, a bank will lend money to allow people to buy your property once the mortgage market opens back up. This considerably increases your options to a wider resale market should you decide to realise your investment in the future.

Are You Swimming With The Masses Or Are You Targeting A Growing Market?

Although students carry a certain stereotype, there are a number of different segments within the UK’s student property market. Does your student property investment target a segment that’s on the rise or, like the majority, focus on the stagnant domestic market? Foreign student numbers in the UK are growing faster than ever before and are forecast to expand significantly over the next decade. With higher budgets available, overseas students will only live in the highest standard accommodation. While many agents sell what they call ‘boutique’ property, the reality is the majority of rooms are extremely small, have poor facilities and low grade finishes. With very little high quality student property available there is a huge, growing demand and therefore very high returns available for savvy investors.

Is It Fully Managed?

If so, by whom? Ensure your student property investment is managed by a credible company opposed to just anyone. The leading management companies will only take on the best products that are sure to attract consistently high rental demand.

Location, Location, Location!

Many student developments claim to be situated in prime locations but actually are on the outskirts of major towns and cities. Anything other than city centre is not worth your time. Students want central locations therefore properties located in city centres always rent out first. Make sure your student property has a city centre location otherwise you will struggle to rent it out, and ultimately exit later down the line.

Look At The Developer’s Reputation

Who are the developers? Who are the construction company? Are they award winning? What else have they built? Make a point of looking at the people who have created your student property investment to avoid disappointment and low occupancy rates.

All for now. See you tomorrow. Plus, coming up soon, find out why the government thinks (almost) all of you are stupid and is going to ban you from investing in property in 2014!

The Laundry Princess

I’m sure you’ve probably heard successful people saying they were once so poor that their mother had to take in laundry. Well people are still taking in laundry, and why not? Where there’s a job which someone doesn’t want to do for themselves, there’s a business opportunity.

Allison Plant is a young mother who runs Laundry Princess, a home based laundry service. There’s not a lot to say really. She takes in laundry from local people which is either then picked up or dropped off at a time to suit. The business allows Allison to spend time with her growing family, and to work when it suits.

This is hardly the most glamorous business in the world but it’s one where there is a steady and ongoing demand. Might it work in your area? I can see no reason why not. If you have a reliable washing machine, you’re in business.

I can even see an opportunity for someone to start this business and then sub-contract all the washing work to third parties. I was going to say that you’d clean up, but that would be a particularly awful joke, even by my very low standards.

Amazon Secrets Revealed!

Believe it or not, its 15 years since Amazon was launched. In that time, the company has offered literally millions of products, but out of all of them, which have been the best sellers? Interestingly, the company recently released a list of their top ten best sellers. Here it is in alphabetical order:

–  Call of Duty franchise.

–  Fifty Shades Trilogy.

– Harry Potter books.

–  HDMI gold plated connectors.

–  Hunger Games Trilogy.

–  Just Dance franchise (Wii).

–  Kindle devices.

–  Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo etc).

–  Sandisk 8 GB Memory Card.

– Twilight saga.

So what insight can we take from this list? Well the key to making serious money in publishing (whether it be books, games or films) is to create a related series of products to sell to people who enjoy the first one.  It’s no coincidence that many of the highest grossing products here are parts of a series, franchise or trilogy. The greatest sales and profits are usually to be had through repeat business and that’s certainly backed up by this list.

If you have developed a product, always give thought to how you can multiply your profits by creating or sourcing another related item to sell to the people who bought the first one. The big profits rarely go to a ‘one hit wonder’.

Streetwise Property Alert 29th October 2013

Another surge of interest in Brazil! Details are coming out in the next 24 hours. The availability at the 21 November seminar is becoming rather limited – if you want to come, especially with a partner, do reply asap please.

Turkey – Ever Popular

According to Knight Frank, Turkey remains a hotspot property market – property values rose 12.2 per cent in the year to the end of Q2 2013.

Foreign investment in property is expected to top $5bn in 2013.  According to Tolga Han of Projebeyaz International, major GCC investors are driving the market.

‘With the majority of mainland Europe facing difficulties, Gulf investors are actively redirecting sovereign wealth funds, investment funds and private equity funds into Turkish real estate, which offers a great investment proposition and high capital growth. This is further boosted by the close proximity to many Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, offering an opportunity for purchases of second homes outside of the MENA region.’

‘“Recent reports estimate that following the regulation of reciprocity that passed in 2012, between 10,000 and 12,000 housing units will be sold to foreigners valued at $2.5-3 billion during the initial years and $4-5 billion annually for later years.’ Those of you who registered for Istanbul feedback, by the by, should have received this from Malcolm over the weekend. Email back if you missed it.

Greece – Bottom Fishing Time?

Whenever a market falls, there are investors who take a closer look, reckoning that there is money to be made if they can buy at the bottom as, they believe, prices have only one way to go from there – upwards.

And so Greece, which has seen price falls of 11.5 per cent between Q2 2012 and Q2 2013 (Knight Frank figures), is the latest target for these investors.

The holiday home market seems to be attracting the most attention off the back of news that tourism numbers are on the rise. It’s being said that next year will see a record 18 million visitors to Greece; TUI, the travel group, is expected to bring in two million visitors, up 300,000 on this year. At present, peak to trough property price falls are said to exceed 30 per cent; food for thought. Would you like a four-page report?

Down Under Update

’We have a small, but hardcore, group of members who want regular updates from the Australian property market; we can provide those courtesy of Nick with occasional comments for the general membership.

Recently, it’s being reported that ‘capital city house prices are up 1.6 per cent in September, according to the latest RP Data-Riskmark figures.’

There is talk of overheating. RP Data-Rismark’s index tracks median house prices across the major cities; the index is up 5.5 per cent on one year ago. The most recent 1.6 per cent rise is attributed to Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney prices were up 2.5 per cent from August and 8.0 per cent from one year ago. Melbourne figures for the same periods are 2.4 per cent and 5.4 per cent respectively.

Tim Lawless at RP Data says, ‘Sydney’s price growth is extraordinary.

We haven’t seen market conditions this strong since April 2009 for Sydney and May 2010 for Melbourne. Maintaining such a rate of growth is unlikely. The current rate is starting to erode yield for investors.

Any debate about unsustainable growth in housing markets should be very much focused on Sydney and Melbourne. Most other capital city housing markets are in fact showing only a modest growth trend.’ More to come on these cities soon.

All for now. We should have Peter’s currencies review for you tomorrow.

Email back for that.

Streetwise Property Alert 28th October 2013

Lots of replies to the weekend introductions – we are sending out information today. Have you read our UK and international property newsletters for October? Email back for those if you have missed them.



This HMRC tax amnesty, of sorts, for BTL investors, applies to ‘accidental’ landlords as well as professional landlords. HMRC says that all sorts of BTL investors are responsible for underpaying almost £500 million in tax a year. ‘Whether through misunderstanding of tax rules or deliberate evasion, both novices and specialist landlords who have not declared all their rental income have to come forward and settle up.’

The Let Property Campaign runs to February 2015. ‘Any penalty they (BTL investors)pay by coming forward voluntarily will be lower than if HMRC comes to them first – which can be up to 100 per cent of the tax due and a possible criminal prosecution. Any landlord who may not have declared all their rental income may be contacted by HMRC. They will not then be able to make use of the opportunity offered as part of this campaign.’

BTL Tips & Tactics

The Happy Tenant Company works on behalf of landlords to manage their properties and improve their yields and has put together this list of 10 top tips for buy-to-let landlords.

Leave it to the professionals – Whether a tenant or landlord, choose a letting agent that is a member of a recognised professional body, such as Association of Residential letting Agents (ARLA) or National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS).

Check the agency fees – Typically, agents charge around 8 per cent for finding a tenant but many charge considerably more. Most agents will charge a renewal fee, often at the same level as the prior year’s fees.

The Happy Tenant Company believes you should not pay renewal fees as it is effectively charging again and again for finding the tenant.

Take one year at a time – Agents may manipulate the situation so that the landlord and tenant both think the other wants a long term tenancy of, say three years, enabling them to charge huge fees on commencement of the tenancy. This places the landlord at great risk should the tenant leave prematurely.

Shop around – Find a company that represents a large number of landlords so is able to negotiate ratings with reputable letting agents, whereas most landlords generally have a single investment property and have little negotiation power. That said, shopping around may lead to savings on the letting and renewal fees.

Safety first – Ensure you are compliant with current letting legislation and safety regulations. Non-compliance in most areas can result in hefty fines and in some cases imprisonment. Consider using a reputable property management company that is independent of a letting agent.

Check for mark-ups and secret commissions – Many agents mark up by asmuch as 300 per cent for tenant referencing, cleaning, inventory andtenancy agreements. The Happy Tenant Company charges at cost, supplying landlords directly with the contractor’s invoice.

Confirm who is paying for what – Before signing-up get the costs confirmed in writing, as some rogue lettings agents double charge the tenant and landlord for the same service, such as for inventory when a tenant moves in, referencing and setting up a tenancy agreement.

Understand who will be managing the property – If you contract your agent to manage the property as well as find the tenant then it is important to ensure you meet the relevant property manager, as many agents simply outsource the work to third party companies and simply
make a margin on the fees you pay them. Even if they do have in house managers, make sure they have the relevant experience and the capacity to manage your asset.

Seek transparency – Most agents take commissions from contractors they engage to undertake the property management services such as maintenance, cleaning and inventory and it is generally without the knowledge or consent of the landlord, who ultimately foots the bill.

Deal fairly with your tenant – A happy tenant is simply good for business and is far more likely to pay their rent on time and stay longer, thereby, reducing void periods. Equally, if they are on side, they will act as your eyes and ears and report issues at the early stage, preventing the small things becoming big problems.

Want to know more. Google The Happy Tenant Company!

Student Investing Advice

According to recent research from Zoopla, Glasgow tops the student buy-to-let investment league table. It offers an average gross yield of 4.95 per cent on a typical four-bedroom student property. Next? Hull (4.80 per cent), Manchester (4.59 per cent), Cambridge (4.54 per cent) and Bristol (4.29 per cent).

Lawrence Hall of comments, ‘The largest number of students or most prestigious university clearly isn’t necessarily best for investment returns. Landlords need to do their research and take into account the student demand, property supply, average property values and average monthly rents. There is no apparent North/South divide when it comes to student buy-to-let investments and a number of towns in the North are showing higher gross yields than the South as a result of property values having remained lower over the past few years whilst rental demand has increased.’

All for now. I am meeting some of you at the cemetery in Kent later today and look forward to seeing you then. A report will follow for those who wanted to come but could not make it today.

All for now, see you tomorrow.

Selling Your Invention

So you’ve created a new product, but now you face a problem – how do you go about selling it? Getting a product into retail stores is far from easy, and can be risky if the product doesn’t take off. Marketing direct to consumers is another approach which has its advantages, but writing effective sales copy isn’t something that everyone can do. One alternative is to sell via a catalogue.

Catalogue owners need new products to sell and are therefore open to approaches from inventors. It’s easy to find catalogues that are a fit with your product, and the owners won’t care that you are a small operation or even a one product company. They will usually create an advertisement for your product and bear all the cost and risk of the promotion. All you need do as the product owner is sit back and wait for the orders to come in.

The downside is that you can expect some pretty tight profit margins, but it may be a price worth paying for the simplicity and risk free nature of this kind of deal.

Streetwise Property Alert 25th October 2013

Welcome to today’s email…

Buying Signals

Some property investors just keep investing, boom or bust, whilst others wait for signs that a market has bottomed out and is rising…then they wait for more signs to be absolutely sure…and a few more to be absolutely certain and then, damn, it’s too late as they’ve missed the growth. Better wait for next time!

If you want a sign that the UK property market is back and on the rise, it comes with the news this week that more and more investment trusts are buying into property. JP Morgan’s Mercantile Investment Trust has six UK housebuilders amongst their top ten holdings – Persimmon (PSN), Bovis Homes (BVS), Barratt Developments (BDEV), Taylor Wimpey (TW.), Berkeley (BKG) and Bellway (BWY).

Neil Hermon, manager of the Henderson Smaller Companies Investment Trust, is another enthusiast. ‘It’s an attractive investment proposition; you certainly would not have thought so in 2009 – how things have changed. If you own a house, the 2 per cent rise in prices since last year and the currently low mortgage rates allow you to sleep at night and dream how you will redo the bathroom.’ Mr Hermon draws attention to Taylor Wimpey and Bellway and LSL Property Services (LSL).

New Bridging Products

Precise Mortgages, the intermediary lender, has a new set of limited edition bridging products. Quoting the press release, the products are available to all registered brokers and the lender’s Premier Panel of packagers and have rates starting from as little as 0.65 per cent per month.

Highlights are: All standard and light refurbishment rates have been cut; Minimum loan £250,000; Maximum £1m; Available until end of December; Some rates cut by as much as 0.30 per cent per month; Standard procuration fees apply. As ever, talk to your broker.

Council Tax Reminder

We’ve been sent a newspaper clipping which reminds us that we have not issued the council tax valuation reminder lately. The clipping is from Stroud and reads, ‘Another wave of a council tax rebates scam has prompted a second warning (from the local council). Householders should be wary of companies offering to gain them council tax refunds.’

‘In April, residents were first alerted about paying a fee to someone who said they would help them cut their tax. Genuine council tax reductions could be obtained free through the Valuation Office, the council said. “Over the past week we have been made aware of a company which is writing to residents in the district, quoting incorrect information on property bands and implying that neighbours have already benefited from a change in their council tax band and a large refund.” It’s easy to do it yourself – the article reminds us that ‘Householders can contact the Valuation Office on 03000 501501.’

London News

Estate agents Craysons offers a market intelligence report for various London W postcodes; we are arranging for members looking at these postcodes to receive the report early next week. Meantime, the agents offer a heads-up on what is happening there. ‘To avoid the potential cost of purchasing and owning an investment property at above £2 million, many are instead choosing to make multiple investments at below the £2 million stamp duty threshold.’

‘With agents keen to get stock on to their books, over valuing of properties continues to be a problem. Some 29 per cent of properties currently for sale in our area have been reduced in price since initial marketing. At Crayson we have reduced the price on only two of the properties we have sold so far this year. The vast majority of properties sold by us have been agreed at or above the original guide price.’ Food for thought if you see a property just coming up for sale for the first time.

All for now, see you soon.