Analogue Parking

We’ve recently seen some complicated app based crowd sourcing systems which help people to find parking spaces in busy city centres. We don’t tend to bring you ideas like that though. Let’s be honest, few of us have the time, skills or resources to capitalize on things like this. And that’s the problem with a lot of ideas these days – they’re incredibly technical. It’s good then, to see that the same thing (and probably better) can be achieved by old fashioned methods.

The ‘Here’ campaign was created by  an advertising agency in South Korea to promote S-Oil, one of the countries biggest oil companies. Imagine a car park and in each bay is a helium filled balloon, tethered to the ground by a piece of string around ten feet long. The balloon has an arrow pointing downwards with the word ‘Here’ printed on it. When a car drives into a space, it runs over the string and lowers the balloon. When it leaves the space, the balloon pops back up, alerting other drivers to the availability of a space.

I mention this for two reasons:

  1. It’s an idea which could easily be copied in any UK car park. Perhaps you could persuade a local company of the promotional potential of the idea.
  2. As evidence that sometimes we can get too technical for our own good. We don’t need an ‘app for that’. Some string and balloons work equally well.

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.

Streetwise Property Alert 27th August 2013

Welcome to today’s email of news and views…

BTL Mortgage Update

Teachers Building Society has made changes to the criteria on its buy-to-let products. The rental calculation has been changed to 125 per cent of the mortgage payment at 4.99 per cent. It was previously 125 per cent at 5.74 per cent.

The restriction on the maximum number of mortgaged properties in a landlord’s portfolio has been moved from three to eight.

There is also a reduction to minimum earned income requirements for buy-to-let products to just £15,000 per annum. As always, do talk to a broker first. We can introduce you to brokers if you do not have one at the moment.

Best BTL Locations?

New research by Move with Us and reveals their top 10 BTL locations – based on those locations that deliver the highest gross yields.

B7 (Birmingham), 10.6 per cent

TN28 (Kent), 10.5 per cent

L14 (Merseyside), 9.6 per cent

GU6 (Surrey), 9.5 per cent

TS1 (Middlesbrough), 9.2 per cent

B35 (Birmingham), 9.2 per cent

L4 (Liverpool), 9.1 per cent

RH4 (Surrey), 9.1 per cent

B18 (Birmingham), 8.7 per cent

EN8 (Hertfordshire), 8.7 per cent

Worth mentioning, of course, is that yield is only one criterion for savvy BTL investors. And a generic gross figure can be quite different from a specific net figure. The only yield figure that is is of any relevance is your own. Still, food for thought…

Wind Farm Impact

Had a pizza with my wife in a restaurant last night. At the end, the waiter presented us with two coffees. He then hurried back with a look of alarm on his face. He had forgotten to warn us they were hot drinks which, apparently, he has to do every time he serves ‘anything hot’. (‘That pizza is hot’, the garlic bread is hot…’ etc). Madness.

I thought of that this morning when I read that the government has commissioned a report to assess whether wind farms affect local property prices or not. It’s really stating the obvious – would you buy a property near a wind farm? No? Then there’s the answer – it affects property prices.

Frontier Economics is to examine the impact of a range of technologies, including onshore and offshore wind farms, shale gas, anaerobic digestion plants, overhead power lines, coal, gas, nuclear and biomass power stations and coal mines on local property markets. Clearly, these will all impact although, to be fair, it will be interesting to see by how much in hard cash terms. More to follow.

All for now – see you again soon.

Streetwise Property Alert 15th August 2013

Welcome to today’s email…

Risk-Reward Alert

Our friend David Burgess at The Hotel Investment Company makes some interesting comments about risks and rewards. Here’s what he says, ‘Many investors want the biggest possible yield; 15 per cent, 20 per cent or more. Fewer want the 5 per cents and 6 per cents that are often offered in the UK; from buy-to-let, student accommodation and hotels etc. It’s just not enough!’

‘The problem is that, to generate yields of close to 20 per cent or more, the investments – however well they are dressed up and presented as safe and secure – have to have an element of higher-risk about them. Perhaps developers are paying over-the-top for seed capital. Maybe a ‘guarantee’ is added to make the deal even more attractive.’

‘You need to look closely at these higher figures, do your due diligence and take professional advice before investing and accept that, by and large, these are speculative investments where you might lose all of your money. That’s what higher-risk means!’ More to come.

Insurance Cover Reminder

Make certain you have sufficient contents insurance cover – do a room-by-room survey for yourself. According to Sainsbury Home Insurance’s analysis of loss adjusters’ data, the cost of replacing the contents of the average British home, in the event of a fire or other major disaster, is £44,500.

Sainsbury Home Insurance advises totting up, on a room-by-room basis, what it would cost to replace belongings. Always consider accidental damage cover and make sure it extends to soft furnishings. Note: not all polices cover damage made by pets – it’s important to check you are covered if relevant.

Flat screen televisions, DVD players, computers and laptops are high-risk items that are easy targets for thieves. Mark them with your name and postcode using an invisible ink pen that shows up under ultra-violet light. Reminder: one of the most common causes of disappointment with insurance is to find that you’re not covered for something you thought was in your policy. Check. Not all policies provide accidental cover for soft furnishings, including carpets, as standard.

Council Tax Tip

This one’s worth an occasional mention given the steady-ish stream of emails received on the topic. Check whether your property is in the correct council tax band – go to (or in Scotland). It’s a little-known fact that some neighbouring properties are often in different bands. It’s worth checking as you could get repayments for as long as you have owned the property.

In 1991, properties were given ‘drive-by’ valuations – i.e. valuers just drove by in a car – and, as such, some properties have ended up in the wrong bands and home-owners may be paying more than they should. (But note, there is a vice versa too – you may be paying less).

You can compare your property’s banding with neighbouring properties via the council tax list at the Valuation Office Agency’s website at or, for Scotland, the Scottish Assessors Association on Just enter your postcode and house number for the banding; then do the same with neighbouring property numbers. See what the properties were worth 1991; go to and use the house price calculator. If relevant, then contact the Valuation Office etc.

All for now, see you tomorrow.

The Convenient Dog Wash

I live right by the woods and often get ‘attacked’ by dogs that look like they’ve been bathing in mud. As mucky as their paw marks make my clothes, I can’t help wondering what kind of mess they make once they get home. Perhaps their owners would appreciate a German idea I recently came across.

Lars Schutze has located Germany’s first Dog Wash right next to the car wash he already owns. For less than five euros, owners can foam, shower and dry their pets while they’re waiting for their car to be cleaned. Given that bathing a dog usually involves a huge amount of mess and inconvenience that seems like a good deal.

I can see no reason why something like this wouldn’t work here. Taking the dog for a walk and then arriving back home with a pristine car and a spotless dog seems a pretty good combination to me. Time for someone to reach a mutually beneficial deal with a car wash owner.

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.

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!

Persistence Pays

It’s easy to assume that the huge enterprises that make it big were lucky, or had it easy from the start. This is rarely the case.

In a recent TV interview, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos told how the company almost failed to get off the ground. Bezos says it took over 60 meetings to raise the million dollars the company needed to launch. In the end, the money came from 22 people who contributed $50,000 each.

How many people would have given up after 5, 10, 20, or 30 meetings? The truth is that the vast majority would. Bezos persisted and the result is there for all to see.

No matter how good your idea, it will only come to fruition with persistence. The world is rarely hanging around waiting for what you’re about to offer it, no matter how good that thing might be.