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In this week’s article, I talk about the recent Government permanent relaxation of the planning permission regulations with regard to extensions and how it could affect the Luton property market.  I also talk about how office blocks and shops are being converted into homes and the possible effect on landlords and homeowners in Luton

The need for more homes has always been one of the biggest issues with regard to the Country’s housing crisis.  One of the main reasons for families wanting to move home is the need for more accommodation as their families grow and so in 2013 and 2015, the planning permission rules were relaxed to try an alleviate this issue.

 Initially in 2013, Nick Clegg, as Deputy Prime Mister, brought in temporary planning rules to allow larger single storey rear extensions without the requirement of a full planning application.  The temporary rules allowed terraced and semi-detached homes to be extended by just over 19ft, whilst detached houses were able to add even bigger extensions of up to 24ft.  Since those rules were relaxed six years ago, 109,320 people have taken advantage of the temporary rules (aka “permitted development size guidelines”).

Homeowners wanting to extend within these permitted development guidelines, must still inform the local authority of the extension beforehand, and local authority officials still need to then notify the neighbours.  If the neighbours object, the local authority could still stop the extension being built, but only if it is likely to damage the character or enjoyment of the neighbourhood.  The planning process exists for a reason and whilst these relaxed planning rules are popular with property owners, it does mean local authorities have little chance to deliberate the impact of these extensions on their locality.  However, 22,779 permitted developments had been refused in the same time frame meaning, 17.2% of permitted development planning applications have been refused since 2013.

Now these temporary rules have been made permanent recently as the Government believe these measures will help households extend their properties without fighting through the time-consuming red tape of obtaining planning permission.  The government believes this is part of a package of planning reforms to build more households, build them better, quicker and make the housing market work, meaning families can grow without being forced to sell and move… or does it?

 

The average size of a property

in Luton is 796 sq.ft

 

.. internally (911 sq.ft  externally), whilst to the national average 929 sq.ft internally (1,081 sq.ft externally).  Interesting when compared to the average size of a new homes built nationally which is 12.1% lower at 818 sq.ft internally (927 sq.ft externally).

 

These relaxed rules are only for single-storey extensions though, when most growing families don’t need an extra downstairs reception room, they need an additional upstairs bedroom.  This means if families do want an extra bedroom upstairs, they will still have to go through the rigmarole of submitting a full planning permission.  Although, many Luton people have used these rules in the last 6 years to build a decent size granny-annex – there are other options less explored out there.

 

There was a second (less advertised) temporary change the Government made to planning rules in 2015, that has also been made permanent recently, many may have missed it, yet it has a bigger potential impact on the housing market.  The new rules make permanent the removal of planning rules to allow office blocks and shops to be converted into residential homes without a full planning application being made.  Since 2013, 11,090 office blocks and 1,750 shops have been converted into residential households.  This doesn’t sound a lot, but in 2017 alone, converted shops and office blocks provided 37,000 new households alone in the Country (or 17% of the new household created in 2017).

 

Over the next decade, more and more office blocks and shops will be converted into residential properties … and this will slowly change the dynamic of the housing market and the high street … and I’m not sure whether that will be for the good or bad ... only time will tell?

In this weeks’ article on the Luton property market I talk about the stressfulness of moving home and what Luton homeowners, Luton landlords, Luton tenants and Luton buyers can do to mitigate and lower their stress levels when moving home in Luton. I then look at the last 36 months Luton property sales and see which streets and roads in Luton have moved to the most.

Lots of people say moving home is one of the top ten most stressful events in your life. Fortunately, there is a way to mitigate your stress. In a nutshell, start as early as you can, plan ahead and do everything you can to make it easy on yourself, your family and even the family pet. As an agent in Luton, my team and myself have been helping homeowners, landlords, buyers and tenants move, sell and let their Luton homes for many years. So I thought I would share some top tips for making your move as stress free as possible – then find out which streets in Luton have moved the most in the last 3 years.

The first tip is to plan ahead and write a list; because whilst it is taking between 15 and 20 weeks at the moment from finding a buyer to moving, those few weeks will fly by in no time as day to day life carries on. Next, get yourself a decent home removal company as they are worth their weight in gold on moving day – and if you need to know a good one in Luton - drop me a line and I will let you know who my clients are raving about.

Next, a cluttered Luton home doesn’t sell or let well, so maybe consider decluttering before you market the property. It will sell/let better and when it comes to the move – the job will be so much easier. Know where you plan to put all your important documents (like Passports and Bank PIN etc). Tell your utility providers and it is a good idea to create electronic copies of significant documents by scanning and saving them onto a USB stick and don’t forget to get your mail redirected.

On the day of moving home stress levels will be high and I know you will want to get everything packed away and have the tea on by 5.30pm! Those who have moved many times know that isn’t the case. Be realistic, as it’s doubtful you are going to unpack all your boxes in your new home by the end of the first day.

Make sure to keep your ‘Moving Day Survival Equipment’ close by, change of clothes, wash equipment, cold bottles of water, biscuits, kettle, tea/coffee/milk, crisps (even G&T??) to keep your spirits, morale and energy up – you will be fine.. but it will take a few days to completely unpack and get your new Luton home the way you would like it to be. As long as you have your bed set up and made by the end of moving day - you can have the rest of the weekend to get ship shape. 

So, which street or road in Luton (LU2 to be more precise) has put themselves through one of the most stressful moments in their life over the last 3 years? Which street has seen the most home moves and experienced the trials of moving home.

Hitchin Road comes in at the top spot, with 65 home movers in the last 36 months with a total property value of £14,552,000 sold, interestingly there are 696 properties on the road … so have a look at the top 20 and see if your street is in the Top 20!

… but before you go, if you do need any help or guidance about moving home or advice about the current state of the Luton property market, then feel free to drop me a line or read the other articles in my blog on the Luton Property market.

In this week’s article on the Luton property market we talk about the affordability of buying a home in Luton since 1997 and how these changes have meant the demand for private rental properties in Luton will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Looking back at the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landing a few months ago, it reminded me of the huge changes that have happened to Luton and more specifically the Luton property market since WW2. Back in 1946, the average wage in Luton was just over £5 a week and to buy an average car would cost you just under £600, yet this is a property blog, so...

The average value of a Luton property in 1946 was £1,002

In fact, in those 75 years, the average Luton house had doubled in price by 1961, then again in 1971, 1975, 1980, 1988, 2000 and 2006. Now a lot of those increases (especially in the 1970’s) were caused by hyperinflation, yet since the start of the 21st Century inflation has been kept low and since the Credit Crunch (2008/9), whilst property values have been rising, they haven’t been at the rates experienced in the latter half of the 20th Century.

Now what a property sells for is irrelevant, its whether someone can afford it.

Increases in Luton property values have produced huge increases in equity for many Luton homeowners and Luton buy to let landlords, yet on the other side of the coin also making housing unaffordable for other people. The best measure of the affordability of housing is the ratio of Luton property values to Luton average earnings (i.e. salary/wages). The ratio works on the basis the higher the ratio, the less affordable properties are.

In 1997, the average value of a Luton property was 2.5 times higher than the average annual wage in Luton, in 2007 it peaked at 6.5, yet two years later it had dropped to 5.3 and since then has slowly risen to 8.4 times higher!

It can be seen that even though property in Luton became more affordable after the 2007/8 property crash (i.e. the ratio dropped), in subsequent years, with house values rising but earnings/salaries not keeping up, the ratio started to rise. This has meant there has been a decline in affordability of property in Luton over the last five years - so for those on particularly low incomes or with little capital, it unfortunately means that buying a Luton home will never become an option.

Therefore, the demand for private rented properties in Luton will continue to grow as many young Luton people are deciding to rent instead of buy their own house (knowing when their parents pass away, the equity built up in their parents property will be passed down - and then they can buy in their 50’s and 60’s - just like it happens in Germany).

Yet, that is many decades away and with fewer Luton people wanting or able to save up the 5% deposit required by mortgage lenders, more and more people are looking to rent. Tie this in with the subtle shift in attitudes towards renting since the Millennium and less people jumping the on the bottom rung of the property ladder, this has driven rents and demand up in Luton over the last few years. Yet (and it’s an important proviso) the type, location and demands of Luton tenants has changed over that same time frame meaning you can’t just make money from buy to let as easily as falling off a log like you did in the early 2000’s.

If you are an existing landlord with us (or even another agent in Luton) or someone thinking of becoming a first time Luton landlord looking for advice and opinion and what (or not to buy in Luton), one source of information is the Luton Property Blog  https://www.venture-residential.co.uk/blog - or drop me an email or phone call and let’s start a conversation - I don’t bite and I don’t do hard sell ... and maybe, just maybe, I could help you get better returns from your property portfolio.

In this week’s articles we look at the top 20 most valuable streets in Luton and give it a Monopoly twist for fun!

Board games seem a thing of the past for youngsters nowadays with their consoles and mobile phones yet a family favourite in our household that will bring young and old together is Monopoly.

 

Mayfair is the square everyone wants to buy and whilst it is the most expensive to buy – it offers the greatest returns. Mayfair was the must have London address when the Monopoly board game was made in 1935 when, at the time, it was the most expensive street to buy houses at £400 each. A member of my family asked me what a property today would be worth in Mayfair and how much it would cost to buy them all. Readers will know I like a challenge. My research shows that a typical house in Mayfair today costs on average £2.8m - whilst the total value of all the property in the Mayfair area currently stands at £11.8bn.

 

The fun part of Monopoly was to build more houses and ultimately a hotel to extract the maximum rent from the other players who landed on the square. That made me think, instead of looking at the average value of a property on the street, what if we looked at the total value of property on the whole street. So, I carried out some research on all the 494 streets in LU2 and calculated the top 20 streets in terms of their total value of all properties on the street..  and just for fun, colour coded them as if they were on a Monopoly board  …

 

Mayfair and Park Lane are represented by Old Bedford Road and Hitchin Road. Surprises in the mix include High Town Road and Handcross Road. They are rightly in the list because of the sheer size of those streets; because whilst the value of those homes are much lower than the posher streets, the total value of the whole street means they make the top 20 list.

Now of course whilst drawing a comparison between a 1935 board game and the actual total house values on those Luton streets and roads provides a light hearted point of view of the Luton property market, it does present a credible picture of Luton’s most popular streets. Next time I will get back to writing an article with a little more seriousness and deeper issues on the Luton housing market … but this week, I hope you enjoyed my little bit of fun!

In this article, I look at how green and eco-friendly the households in Luton are and the potential effect of making them greener in the coming years.

Improving the energy efficiency of Britain’s 27.2 million homes, which are responsible for more than a quarter of the country’s CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, is seen as key to tackling the issues of climate change, fuel poverty and our country’s energy security. This is particularly important as in June the Government announced they were going to make the country carbon neutral by 2050, meaning Britain’s homes need some enormous retro-fitting to meet these ambitious climate targets.

 

Researchers at Nottingham Trent University said it would cost on average £17,000 per property to retrofit an average UK home to make it carbon neutral with renewable energy and insulation (if done en masse and not piece meal). That would cost the Country £462.4bn (interesting when the NHS costs £154bn per year). Now of course 22.7m homes are privately owned so that would be the responsibility of the owners, but if we look at publicly owned council housing, that would cost the Government in excess of £76.5bn - HS2 is ‘only’ £56bn!

 

The benefits of making homes carbon neutral go further than saving the planet, as occupants would have much lower gas and electric bills (which total £31.824bn per year), warmer households and a much-lower strain on the NHS, which currently spends about £848m a year treating conditions that arise from cold housing. Also, local authorities would have to spend a lot less than the £5.2bn a year for ongoing property maintenance by the installation of extra insulation and renewable energy such as ground source heating, wind or solar panels.

 

To improve efficiency ratings, last year the Government banned landlords from renting property with an energy performance rating of F and G (the lowest ratings), yet I don’t think there is an appetite to force private homeowners to do this work (although you never know in the future??). Homeowners would be unenthusiastic to take on the bother and cost of such building works, yet the Government could offer incentives and grants, which along with the funds saved on their energy bills could make the plan more appealing?

 

So, what about eco credentials of the properties of Luton homeowners and landlords?

 

Every home that has been built, rented out or put on to the market in Luton since 2007 has had to have an Energy Performance Certificate (E.P.C), giving it a rating between A and G (rather like those stickers you see on fridges and washing machines). A is highest rating (i.e. most efficient and greener) and G is the worst energy performance rating. So, looking at Luton first, then comparing us to the rest of the UK, this is the result...

So, 32.1% of Luton homes are in that eco-friendly A to C energy performance banding ratings, which is proportionally 13.68% lower than the national average.

So, what next? Well the Government will endeavour to make the green revolution as painless as possible with technology developments like LED light bulbs, for example, saving greenhouse gases without people noticing. In the future we might have hydrogen central heating instead of mains gas, all have solar panels for electricity, all triple glazed windows and even ground sourced heating ... sounds pie-in-the-sky? Well who would have thought some of the most wanted cars would be electric and hybrid 10 years ago, built by the likes of Tesla?

There is no doubt that the energy efficiency of a property will rise in the coming years as the cost of fuel and people’s opinion on going green changes. You don’t need to spend £17,000 to find out what you can do to make your property greener. Look at your E.P.C and it will tell you what small changes you can make to improve your Luton home’s energy efficiency rating and ultimately save yourself money.

 

If you want to find your E.P.C rating of your Luton home, go to www.epcregsiter.com

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