Hire A Mountain

If you’ve ever felt the need for a bit more space to fully express yourself on the ski slopes, than you’ll like part of the service offered by ski ticket discount company Liftopia. Because along with regular tickets, they’re now giving people the opportunity to hire the entire mountain. Depending on the resort, prices start at $3,000.

It’s further proof, that no matter what the product or service, there’s always scope for someone to offer a high priced premium version. Perhaps  Liftopia won’t sell too many full mountain packages, but if they do, I dare say they’ll be very profitable. And if they don’t…well it’s not bad free publicity for the core business, is it?

So…is anyone offering a ‘full mountain package’ in your market?

Become An Online Expert

If you’re an expert in something…and most of us are an expert in something or other…you can offer your advice online and turn it into profit. Small business owners are particularly well placed to cash in on this opportunity because they tend to know their field very well. Michele Gorham, owner of Cookie Central Bakery, is one small business owner who has turned her expertise into online profits

She has created hundreds of blog entries about how to build a business, run a bakery, and other helpful topics, and she answers customers’ direct questions through various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Yelp.    Because of Gorham’s content contributions, her listings on various sites are highly trafficked and are regularly found by search engines — generating more sales for her business.

Is this a strategy you could emulate in your own field?  Give it some thought. You may have a great deal more to offer than you at first realise.

The Perfect Restaurant

A new restaurant in Brixham, Devon called Oscars has had diners flocking to its unique location in the hull of a disused fishing vessel in the harbour. They have been drawn there  by the rapturous reviews on Trip Advisor telling of the Michelin standard food, impeccable service and in house divers on hand to take raw ingredients fresh out of the sea.  Diners have struggled to find .the place though…the address has led them to some bins in an alley way and the fact that the restaurant is housed in a ‘phantom class vessel’ gives a clue to the reason why.

Oscars doesn’t exist. It is the creation of a local businessman who wanted to draw attention to how easily trip advisor can be manipulated. His motivation was the negative reviews received for a friends hotel which he suspects were placed by rivals. Oscars moved up into the top half of all reviews in Brixham in just a few weeks and all nine reviews were placed by the same businessman.

There are three lessons I think:

1. Be cautious how you treat information on online review sites
2. Be mindful of what competitors may be doing to your online reputation.
3. If you’re unscrupulous it’s very easy to create a positive image in the anonymous online world.

I’ve  written about this before and you can read the article here.


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 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.

Streetwise Property Alert 11th July 2013

House Prices – Latest News

According to recent figures from the Nationwide House Price Index, prices are rising at their fastest rate in three years; a 0.4 per cent rise in May was followed by a 0.3 per cent rise in June and the year-on-year rise is 1.9 per cent.

Brian Murphy of the Mortgage Advice Bureau (MAB) offers a good summary, ‘Homeowners will be delighted to see a third month of house price increases in Nationwide’s figures. Potential buyers will be comforted by the fact that mortgage rates are still heading in the opposite direction. As property becomes more desirable by the week, falling fixed rates mean they can still enjoy exceptionally low interest on their loans for increasingly long periods of time.’

‘This golden age of rate reductions is coaxing more borrowers through the door and, with the guidance of specialist brokers, there are plenty of favourable deals to help them contend with rising prices – especially as  lenders are playing their part with some offering low-product fees. The onus is now on the government to put more faith in property and act now to increase housing supply.’

Land Registry Update

The Land Registry is providing its historical ‘price paid’ data records available free-of-charge. ‘The downloadable information will give users access to one of the world’s largest property datasets, consisting of prices paid in over 17 million residential cash and mortgage sales in England and Wales.’

‘The first phase, released on Friday, includes records of sales at full market value lodged for registration between January 2009 and January 2012. The remainder of the data covering the period January 1995 to December 2008 will be released by November. Collectively, this represents over 17 years worth of ‘actual’ information on the country’s housing market.’ Visit LandRegistry.gov.uk to find out more.


Mortgage Product News

Aldermore’s 75 per cent loan-to-value, two-year fixed rate BTL mortgage product is now available at 3.98 per cent. The 80 per cent LTV product is available at 4.48 per cent.  Limited edition term variable rates are also available as part of the buy-to-let range at 3.98 per cent for up to 65 per cent LTV and 4.28 per cent up to 75 per cent LTV.

Saffron For Intermediaries has reduced the rates on its Buy to Let Light Refurbishment mortgages. For landlords buying or remortgaging a property which requires refurbishment work to be undertaken before being let, highlights include: rate cut from 5.89 per cent to 5.23 per cent (SVR minus 0.16 per cent), for two years from completion: available to 75 per cent LTV of the end value of the property, up to £500,000: for purchase or remortgage: 2.5 per cent arrangement fee and 2 per cent ERC in the first two years. As always, talk to your broker.

Florida Update

We’d make an educated guess that for every 100 Brits buying in the US, some 60 to 80 of what we’d call amateur investors (i.e. they buy one or two starter units) go to Florida, and, as often as not, Orlando. According to data from Florida Realtors, the market is on the move.

‘Home sales continue to increase, it’s taking less time for sales to close, and median sales prices are on the rise. This (June) is the seventeenth month in a row that we’ve seen the statewide median sales prices increase year-over-year for both single-family homes and for townhome-condo properties.’

‘The numbers continue to move in the right direction. We remain concerned about the rise in the percentage of sales accounted for by all cash buyers. These numbers understate the true condition of the market in that a great many sales are conducted directly with the financial institution holding the property and thus do not appear in the Multiple Listing Service. But those crying doom-and-gloom who read this growth in investor activity as the sign of a new bubble are far off-base and simply don’t understand the texture of the current market.’ More to come.

Beware Rule Changes

We say it time and again; when investing overseas, do think ahead, looking at as many ‘what if?’ scenarios etc as you can think of. Take Singapore as an example – very popular with some members. Its central bank has set new rules so that (local) borrowers can use only 60 per cent of their monthly incomes to service borrowings.

So what? Doris Tan, Head of International Residential Sales at Jones Lang LaSalle says, ‘The impact (on the local property market) will be great as there is a large number of people who want to be owners of private residential property. However, with the introduction of a lower overall quantum and more difficulty to qualify for a loan, it will definitely affect sales of both local and overseas properties.’ Food for thought? Will local buyers be pulling out of those ‘luxury’ two bed apartments that overseas buyers go for? Which way for prices then? Who will buy from you when you want to exit the market?

What About ‘The Extras’?

Have to say we have lost count over the past decade of the number of investors who have pulled out of a deal at a late stage because their budget did not extend to cover closing costs. Checking should be part of your early-stage due diligence.

Knight Frank’s latest Buying Costs report sets out the purchase costs and annual charges for a non-resident buyer purchasing a new-build property above US$3m (£2m) in 15 global cities. Okay, it’s not in the ballpark range of most IPA buyers but it makes interesting reading nonetheless. Non-residents can expect to pay 25 per cent on top of their purchase price when buying a $3m home in Hong Kong, for example. Check before progressing!


The Alternative Limb Project

When I was a kid, spectacles were horrible things, and the range of choice was virtually zero. Today they’re fashion items and you can have pretty much anything you want. Now we’re seeing the same range of choice moving into other areas of ‘disability’.

Last summers Paralympics really brought the whole subject of disability to the fore. We’ve been saying here for some time now, that people, who need equipment or devices to help them with a physical problem, are no longer prepared to accept second best. The Alternative Limb project is a private enterprise, set up to satisfy the demand for fashionable, unconventional prosthetics.

The company aims to help amputees customise the prosthetic limbs they use. Customers can have a limb made to their own design, reflecting their fashion sense and personality. So far the company has built a ‘stereo leg’ with built in speakers for a songwriter, a modular anatomical design for a former soldier and a floral prosthetic for a young mum, amongst others.

So what’s next? What other category of health or wellness product might be ripe for a fashionable makeover? Utilitarian products simply don’t cut the mustard any more.

If Carling Did Weddings…

A friend of our Operations Manager Julia Briscoe, organised something a little bit different for one of her other friends wedding. I won’t spoil the surprise, but you can take a look by clicking here.

In less than a week, the video has had more than 345,000 views on Youtube and been featured in local and National news media. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see total views exceed the one million mark over the coming weeks.

It shows what can be achieved with a little imagination. There was no commercial element to this, but imagine if there was. Getting your name/product/company/face out to so many people in such a short time –and for free – is something that has only recently become possible. How might you capitalise on the opportunity?

Local Video Reviews

Here’s an idea which combines two trends…people love to access reviews and they love to watch videos on Youtube. It seems like these are perfect conditions for online video reviews becoming a viable business opportunity. But what do you review?

It could be anything, but my thought here is that a Youtube channel featuring reviews of businesses in a specific locality could build up a regular audience, while being something that a lone entrepreneur could run. Your channel could be called something really imaginative like ‘Rotherham Reviews’ and feature video reviews of restaurants, café’s, pubs take-aways, shop and service providers. Revenue would eventually come from advertisements on the channel.

Whilst I wouldn’t expect one local review site to make a fortune, it could be great fun, combining business with pleasure. And there’s excellent expansion potential. If you can make the ‘Rotherham Reviews’ channel work, why not extend the idea out to ‘Sheffield Reviews’, ‘Doncaster Reviews and so on.

Teaching Online

It doesn’t seem so long ago that if you wanted to make your living as a teacher, you needed to get a job in a school, a college or give private lessons at home, or at the home of your students. The advent of online services like Skype and Youtube has literally opened up the world to tutors and teachers. Just about anything that could previously only be taught in a face to face situation, can now be taught online.

Not only does this mean that your students can come from anywhere in the world, but it also opens up myriad new viable subjects and courses. If you live in Rochdale, the chances of finding enough students locally, who are interested in learning ancient Peruvian, for example,  are not high. But when you can garner your ‘class’ from the entire world, it becomes a much more viable proposition.

So is there something you could teach online – it could be a language, a skill or something else?  If so, there could be people from the four corners of the globe, just waiting for your PC based class to start enrolling students.