UK Property

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The Coalition government began its term of office with a clear policy focus, clearly defined aims and clearly defined methods.  George Osborne will be judged as a success or as a failure by the UK’s ability to improve economic performance by reducing sovereign debt.  To this end, cuts to welfare, to pensions and to benefits have been made, over objections from MPs and campaigners.  To this end the major focus of the Osborne plan has been to reduce government spending so that the nation can pay its debts.  To this end money has been poured into banks, to encourage them to lend and stimulate business, while the UK has seen the deficit fall by a quarter even as the flow of credit has failed to restimulate an economy headed for a triple-dip.

The Bank of England and another building from the City

It’s no coincidence that the country’s woes remind those with long memories of the chaotic, strike-stricken and economically sluggish late 1970s.  The last time Moody’s withdrew its stamp of approval, the AAA credit rating, was then; Britain has held the highest credit rating possible since 1978.

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The high cost of rent and difficulties of getting onto the housing ladder have conspired to prevent many young people from getting their own places to live after graduation.  Instead they have returned to the family home, in record numbers, earning themselves the soubriquet’boomerang generation.’  According to a report published late last year by housing charity Shelter, 1.7m adults between 20 and 40 are living with their parents purely because they cannot afford a place of their own.

It’s a long term trend in itself – since 1997, the number of people between 20 and 34 living with their parents has risen by 20%, or half a million people, and now rests at 1.6 million.

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Craig McParlan

A Merseyside man was found guilty of claiming over £14,500 in benefits including Jobseekers’ Allowance and Housing Benefit, while he was co-owner of a holiday home and a block of flats.

Craig McParlan, 50, of Kestrel Court, Blundellsands, pleaded guilty to three counts of theft when he appeared before Sefton magistrates in Bootle. The court heard that McParlan had claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance and Housing Benefit despite being a co-director with his parents of a property company that owned a property on the Spanish Island of Majorca, as well as a block of flats in Crosby – one of which was occupied by Mr. McParlan.

Sue Cain, prosecuting on behalf of Sefton council, said the fraud began in September 2008, when Mr. McParlan began claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance.  He went on to claim housing and council tax benefits in January, 2010.  In total, Mr. McParlan dishonestly obtained £6,097.82 in Jobseekers’ Allowance and £7,482.42 in housing benefit and £1133.49 in council tax benefit, for a total of £14,713.73.

‘The claim was made on the basis he had no discernible capital and Jobseekers’ Allowance was his only form of income.  The applicant signed a statement that this information was complete,’ Ms. Cain explained.  In fact Mr. McParlan had seven undeclared bank accounts in addition to the properties.  ‘These matters were dishonest from the outset,’ Ms. Cain went on.

‘When he was interviewed, McParlan said he did have an apartment in Spain registered in his name but that he was not the owner and it belonged to his father.,’ Ms. Cain continues.  In fact, ‘he owned the property in Spain and had an interest in the apartment block where he was living along with the additional bank accounts.’

David Kielty, defending, said although the properties were in McParlan’s name he had not benefitted financially from them.

Sentencing was adjourned until November 22 for probation reports.

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David Cameron has finally decided to do something about Britain’s troubled housing market, but it’s not sitting pretty with analysts and investors alike. His radical new strategy (his words, not mine) includes: letting first-time buyers access mortgage funds after only putting up 5% in down payments; further pushes for the Right To Buy scheme targeted at social housing, and injecting a (deceivingly) sizable £400 million to resuscitate the country’s moribund construction sector. Also, in a bid to highlight how incredibly serious Mr. Cameron’s government is about resolving the current housing crisis, he even announced to insure lenders against any defaulting mortgages initiated under the said plan. No explanations, however, as to why none of this gloom was apparent last year while carrying out those brutal spending cuts, of which developmental housing bore the deepest gashes.

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UAE – Dubai

We already reported on how UAE’s thriving aviation industry is helping the region keep out of trouble, and now apparently it’s even flown in to revive those flat lining property markets. Rental specialists, Campaya, just cited Dubai as this holiday season’s go-to destination of choice, reporting a marked uptick in demand for rentals in the city. Thanks to the ongoing slump, prime realty is going for lowly prices. Other popular hotspots include, Egypt, the Caribbean, and Madeira so much for a white Christmas.

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We always talk about the special partnership between the UK and US, and we all know that it will scarcely ever be as “special” as it was between Bush and Blair, at least not until sufficient time to have past for us all to have forgotten the lies Blair told during the time that he was being operated from behind by Bush, but that is another article. But one special relationship that we have no such choice in is the special relationship between our economies and housing markets.

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No one was hit harder by the violent crash of the UK housing market than buy to let investors. Landlords went from having no difficulty getting credit to having no chance of getting credit in a very short space of time. The market was just too risky. But now they are having the last laugh, lenders are practically falling over themselves to keep buy to let investors in credit as the UK rental market booms.

There have been near constant reports of rising rental demand and rising rents since the second half of 2010. According to the reports rents rose across the entire UK in 2010, but the most notable rises were, and continue to be in London and the South West. According to Cluttons, rents in Central London rose by a record 19.1% in 2010.

And it hasn’t stopped this year. In RICS second quarter report in the buy to let market, a balance of 35% of surveyors reported rents rising rather than falling, and the also reported rents rising as well with a forecast for 8-10 percent rises in Central London this year.

The growth is hardly surprising. The UK house price correction was nowhere near as expected, or as it would have needed to be to make UK housing affordable — especially in London. And at the same time the crash in the banking system was exactly as bad as expected, or maybe even worse. The banks are barely lending, and even the few first time buyers with good enough credit to get a loan need at least a 10% deposit, which most just can’t raise in the current climate. So, would-be first time buyers are renting and getting used to it.

This is now fuelling record growth in rents according to the latest data from LSL Property Services. In the latest release of its buy to let index the firm reported a 1.2% month on month increase in August. This is the fastest rise recorded by the index in a year, and took the average rent in England and Wales to the record high of £713 per month.

So, the investors who can afford it are building their portfolios at record low interest rates, and with prices still subdued in most of the country (except London and the south). House-builder Barratt have just reported a 25% rise in sales to investors in the first six months of this year compared to last year. This growth is confirmed by the growing number of buy to let mortgage products being released by lenders to meet the growing demand.

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There is a question at the moment, like some sort of mystical force may be at play; over why the UK buy to let scene is currently thriving beyond belief. It is simple economics:

Hardly anyone is buying a home right now, for reasons to be explained below. And home builders are hardly building, primarily because no one is buying, but also because they (the builders) are still licking their metaphorical wounds from the financial strike they suffered, and remain fearful of the economic outlook that lies ahead.