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Yes, that number is staggering isn’t it ….
In this week’s article on the Luton property market, I consider what effect the lack of bungalows and affordable sheltered accommodation is having on the older homeowners in Luton, how it’s affecting everyone in the housing ladder and where opportunities might lay for savvy Luton property investors to make some money due to the imbalance of supply and demand.
Of the 16,145 households in Luton where the head of the household is 65 years or older, an astounding 12,403 (or 76.8%) of those are owned, which is just above the national average of 74.1%, which sounds great – yet nothing could be further from the truth.
I chat with many Luton pensioners who would like to move but cannot, as there is a scarcity of such properties for Luton mature people to downsize into. Due to their scarcity and high demand, Luton bungalows on average get a 12% to 22% premium per square metre premium over two storey properties. To add insult to injury, a recent NHBC reported that only 1% of new builds in the Country were single storey bungalows (compared to 7% in the mid 1990’s).
Luton OAP’s are sitting on £3,211.1m of equity in these Luton homes
In a survey conducted a couple of years ago by YouGov, they established that just over one third of homeowning people aged 65 and over in the Country were looking to downsize into a smaller home. Yet, the Tory’s over the last nine years have appeared to target all their attention on first-time buyers with stratagems such as Starter Homes to safeguard the youngsters of the UK not becoming perpetual members of ‘Generation Rent’. Equally though, this doesn’t address the long-lasting under-supply of suitable retirement housing essential to the needs of the Luton’s hastily ageing population. Lamentably, the Luton’s housing stock is tragically unprepared for this demographic shift to the 'overextended middle age’, and this has created a new 'Generation Confined’ quandary where older people cannot move.
Also, those older Luton retirees’ who do live in the limited number of Luton bungalows are finding it difficult to live on their own, as they are unable to leave their bungalow because of a lack of sheltered housing and ‘affordable’ care home places.
Meaning those older Luton retirees can't leave their Luton bungalows, younger Luton retirees in their larger 2 storey family houses can't buy those Luton bungalows (occupied by the older retirees) and those Luton people in the 30’s and 40’s can't buy those larger 2 storey family houses (occupied by the younger retirees) they need to for their growing families ... it’s like everyone is waiting for everyone because of the bottleneck at the top.
For those wanting to see the complete stats for Luton as whole …
Luton’s (and the rest of the UK’s) property prices have soared over the last 50 years because the number of properties built has not kept up with demand. With restrictive planning regulations, migration, people living longer and excessive divorce rates (meaning one family becomes two) we need, as a Country, 240,000 properties to be built a year since the Millennium to just stand still.
At the turn of the Millennium, the Country was constructing on average 180,000 to 190,000 households a year, that figure dropped in the five years after the Credit Crunch to 135,000 and 145,000 households a year. Although we built 217,000 last year, we still have all those 19 years to make up for.
The answer …. allow more land for starter homes, bungalows and sheltered accommodation because land prices are stifling the property market as the large building firms are more likely to focus on traditional houses and apartments than bungalows (because they make more money from them).
My thoughts for the savvy Luton property investors – until the Government change the planning rules and allow more land to be built on – Bungalows, especially ones that need some TLC after someone has passed away bungalows are a great bet for flipping and even potential rental returns for future property investment as more and more OAP’s will be renting in the decades to come?
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In the late Spring, the Government announced that they were planning to end no-fault evictions for tenants living in private rented accommodation. In this article we look at the impact for Luton homeowners, Luton tenants and Luton buy-to-let landlords.
In the late spring, the Government announced that they were planning to end no-fault evictions for tenants living in private rented accommodation.
I have had a number of Luton landlords contact me anxious that removing a tenant from their Luton buy-to-let property in the future had possibly become a lot more problematic. Yet, at the launch of the consultation on the changes to the piece of legislation relating to no-fault evictions (called the Section 21 amendments), the Government wanted to assure British landlords that they would be protected by the bolstering of the existing Section 8 legislation. The current Section 8 allows landlords grounds for recovery of their properties for reoccupation of the landlord, non-payment of rent and other legitimate factors.
17,203 Luton landlords are affected by this
potential change in the law
Yet, it is comforting for Luton landlords and tenants in the fact that most competent letting agents very rarely have to evict a tenant. In the worst-case scenarios the tenant needs evicting (normally because rent hasn’t been paid) or because the landlord is either selling their buy-to-let investment or moving back into their property. Look at the consultation - it has been indicated that those grounds will not be removed from section 8 powers during the government’s consultation and the talk is they will be bolstered and improved. To put the removal of Section 21 notices into some context…
Only 22,527 section 21 notices made it to Court last year, out the 4.5million private rented households
Scotland banned no fault evictions (i.e. their own version of a Section 21) two years ago, and the model suggested by Westminster is similar to that of the new Scottish system. Landlords, tenants and agents have had to adapt north of the border, and there hasn’t been the mass exodus of landlords from the market since then.
Yet the call in the lettings and legal profession is … if the Government is intent on making these changes, we need well-funded courts which specialise in housing and tenancy matters (like there are for family law and children). Especially when the landlord manages the property themselves (without an agent), the issue of eviction comes about from a breakdown in communication between landlord and tenant. The courts could use their mediation skills to make it simpler and faster for tenants and landlords to obtain quick and available justice instead of the existing drawn out procedures under Section 8, which helps no one (not even tenants). This is important as the demand for Luton rental properties is growing and people need a home to live in – fact.
Luton needs an additional 819 buy-to-let properties per year
for the next decade to meet the demand from Luton tenants
As an agent in Luton, I know most Luton landlords consider buy-to-let in Luton as a long-term investment, with the average landlord looking to retain their buy-to-let property for at least 10 years and beyond. Talking to other agents around the country, over 90% of Section 21 notices are made by the tenant, not the landlord. Removing the Section 21 notice could affect tenants more than landlords.
Replacing Section 21 with a process that requires a landlord to firstly have a good reason, and secondly go through due process, will likely remove the more unprincipled landlords from the property market. That is great news as those unprincipled landlords will either sell their properties to new buy-to-let Luton landlords, or to tenants who want to buy them. So, it could be a small win for people looking for a new Luton home, and a disappointment for unprincipled landlords simply looking for a cash cow ‘have no care about the property or tenant’ investment vehicle.
If you are a Luton landlord and want to know more about this, whether you are a landlord of ours, a Luton landlord with another Luton agent or a self-managing landlord, feel free to drop me a line or pick up the phone (I don’t bite) to chat about the implications of this and other legislative changes that are on the horizon.
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In this week’s article on the Luton property market, we look at the number of properties on sale today compared to 12 months ago and also how long Luton properties are remaining on the market over the same timeframe. This makes interesting reading for both Luton house sellers and Luton buyers.
If you are either selling or buying a property in Luton, there are a few reasons why it may be taking some time to sell your Luton home or find that perfect place to call your new home. It may be taking longer than you thought to find a buyer for your home because of the current state of the property market or finding that perfect Luton home may be taking too long because of a lack of properties to buy.
So, taking everything into consideration, all of these factors invite an obvious question; how long is too long to persist in the Luton property market?
If you are looking to sell your Luton property, it may have become infuriating when your home has been on the market for longer than you anticipated. Perhaps the property market is purely in a position where it's challenging to get a property sold quickly, or sold at the price you want to achieve for it. If you do live in a Luton home that is towards the upper reaches of the price band, you have to be open to the idea that because it's worth so much more than the average property in Luton and so more than most individuals can afford, you will have to wait longer to get it sold.
Your Luton home might be taking longer to sell because your asking price is simply too high. Even if you are prepared to take a realistic offer, if you have an unrealistic asking price your overpriced Luton property will undoubtedly turn off potential buyers from even being inclined to book a viewing.
Looking at the market in Luton compared to a year ago makes very interesting reading…
When it comes to the average length of time on the market, all the property types in Luton appear to be taking longer to sell.
The overall average length of time a Luton property remains on the market has risen by 22.6%, from 74 days a year to 91 days today
The question that remains is, if you are having no luck selling should you leave your Luton property on the market or not? This is basically down to your personal circumstances - a big decider has to be if you are moving up market or downsizing.
Buyers will compare your Luton property to all the other homes on the market using the portals such as Rightmove, On the Market and Zoopla and even if your asking price is realistic, if your marketing (brochures, pictures, even video walk through) isn’t top dollar, they will dismiss your property.
Remember, the average buyer only views 4.5 properties before they buy and on average, each buyer will only spend just over 25 minutes viewing each home …
The more properties that are on the market, the greater the choice for buyers (yet more competition for house sellers), so we wanted to look at how many homes were for sale in Luton now, compared to 12 months ago.
As you can see, there are hardly any differences between the property types in Luton.
As for buying a Luton property, searching for that dream house can take time as you have to consider the needs of your spouse, children, schooling, etc., what you can realistically afford and whether your current location can accommodate you until you find that perfect Luton home.
Don’t forget that upwards of 10% of homes do not make it to the portals (the portals are Rightmove, Zoopla and On the Market), so don’t just rely on the portals to let you know what is coming on the market. The number of times I speak to disappointed buyers who missed out because other buyers registered directly with the agent for property, whilst they relied on the portals.
When it comes to buying a Luton home, and so you do not make any decisions you will regret later on, taking your time is always the more practical option. The amount of money that is involved in buying a home and all the costs connected with it means that you should not rush into buying or selling without due consideration.
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In 1979, Margaret Thatcher was voted in on a Tory landslide with the ‘right to buy your own council house’ being a mainstay of Conservative policy. She encouraged people to buy their own their own council flats and houses, although it might interest you to know, that the council tenant right to buy idea was first proposed in the late 1950s and formed part of the manifesto of the Labour party. Yet Maggie’s version was based on massive discounts for tenants and 100% mortgages (i.e. no deposit). However, the real bugbear was that half the monies raised form the house sales went to central Government and the other half to the local authorities … but that money had to be used to reduce the local authorities debt rather than building new houses - so houses were being sold and not replaced.
6,155 council homes in the Luton area have been
bought in the last 40 years (an average 154 per year)
Interestingly, the Tories relaxed the rules in 2012 for right to buy and raised the highest discount on a property to £75,000 (it has subsequently increased further, to £100,000, in some parts of the UK) meaning 364 council houses have been sold locally since the rule change, raising £37,402,091 since 2012 alone.
The issue, stated by many existing council house tenants, is that those tenants turned homeowners subsequently sell on their ex-council homes at a huge a huge profit, meaning the demographics of those areas has become ever more transient, more specifically, properties that were once council homes are now owned by buy-to-let landlords who rent them out on a short-term basis.
Yet up to this point in time, nothing has been said about ‘other’ type of social housing - housing association properties. Whilst council houses are properties owned by the local authority providing low cost social housing, housing associations also provide lower-cost social housing for people in need of a home, yet they are private, non-profit making organisations.
The Tory’s state one of the biggest divides in our British society is between those who can and cannot afford their own home, so plan to establish a new national model for shared ownership which allows people in new housing association properties to buy a proportion of their home while paying a lower/subsidised rent on the remain part - helping thousands of lower income earners get a step onto the housing ladder.
So, what for the tenants of the existing 3,819 housing association households in Luton? The Conservatives have said they will work with housing associations on a voluntary basis to determine what right to buy offer could be made to those Luton tenants, although there are already existing rules which give most housing association tenants the right to buy their home, yet with only modest discounts of £9,000 to £16,000 depending on where you live. So, what does all this mean for the current homeowners and landlords of Luton properties?
The Tory’s sold off 4,313 council houses in Luton whilst in power between 1979 and 1997
This really created waves in the housing market in the 1980’s and was a contributary factor to the housing crash of 1987 when Dual-MIRAS tax relief was removed by Nigel Lawson. By the selling off of council housing in those years they were accused of selling off the family silver cheaply, thus created the foundation of the buy-to-let boom of the early to mid 2000’s, because of major shortage of affordable housing being sold in the previous two decades.
Yet this time round, note the Tory’s state it is just for new housing association properties, not existing. Also, that tenants will have the right to go into shared ownership - NOT OUTRIGHT OWNERSHIP. This means this policy will have hardly any effect … unlike the Thatcher policies of 1979.
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Well, with the General Election just over the horizon and having been asked by a number of Luton homeowners and Luton buy to let landlords what the different main parties would do to the local property market, in this week’s article we focus on Labour’s contentious Right to Buy proposal for private tenants. Launched in September, the plan was designed to force landlords to sell their buy to let investments to their tenants who wished to buy them…. at a substantial discount.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told the FT in September that, under a new Labour government, tenants would be given the Right to Buy their tenanted home with a hefty discount - just like the Tory Right to Buy policy for Council house renters that came into force after the 1979 General Election.
Yet it was not certain who would have been expected to pay for discounts on buy to let homes sold to tenants. Four years ago, Jeremy Corbyn advocated using the £14bn of tax allowances that UK landlords had at the time to pay for these discounts, allowing tenants to buy their tenanted home at the same discount as they would a local authority home without leaving the landlord out of pocket.
However, these tax allowances have been substantially reduced with the changes in the way mortgage interest relief on landlords’ mortgages is calculated, meaning that this method of funding would no longer be feasible. In fact, bankrolling a project at a modest 20% discount for the whole of the UK would cost £177.84bn; a lot more than the £14billion quoted by Mr Corbyn. So, what would that policy cost Luton landlords?
Labours policy of 20% Right to Buy discount could
cost Luton landlords £912,880,640
… and if Luton tenants got the maximum discount of 35% that Council tenants have with the Right to Buy scheme that would cost Luton landlords £1,597,541,110.
However, it appears Mr McDonnell has re-considered the original suggestion and done a (slight) U-turn, stating it should apply only to the richest landlords and not those who only own a couple of rental properties. He was quoted in The Times as saying, “There’s a large number of individuals or families who have bought another property as an asset for the future and we wouldn’t want to endanger that”.
Yet, even this somewhat watered-down account still creates threats to the private rental sector and Luton’s overall stock of private rented homes. John McDonnell seems to have altered his initial thought to permit all private tenants the right to buy from their landlords to apply only to those with more than a couple of buy to let properties. The shift appears to be aimed at pacifying middle England small time landlords who are probably swing voters with smaller property investments and instead, Labour’s focus is on the larger scale buy to let investors. Looking at the stats, and being generous that we are only looking at landlords with 6 or more (not the couple that Mr McConnell suggested) ……
Of the 17,203 rental properties in Luton, 4,696 are owned by Luton landlords with 6 or more properties in their portfolio
To target these larger scale landlords, who would unquestionably leave the property market in their hordes if their buy to let investments could be so easily destabilised. There would be mass sell offs before the legislation became law, thus making the tenants homeless (and who would house them??) ..and even if that didn’t happen, it would be very damaging and someone (probably landlords) would have to stump up the £48.54bn national bill (£249,194,180 in Luton alone).
If Labour want to fix the property market, it needs long term certainty and confidence, yet even these revised policies would instantly challenge this
And don’t think I am just Labour bashing here as the Tory 2014 Help to Buy scheme hasn’t really helped either as their scheme which gave first time buyers (FTB) a 20% interest free loan, if they put down a 5% deposit, has been a boon for new home builders.
The Tory’s announced recently another £10bn of taxpayer’s money will be pumped into a scheme which, quite frankly, wasn’t needed to boost an already decent property market. The banks were already giving 95% first time buyer (FTB) mortgages from 2010 and the Help to Buy scheme was only allowed on new homes purchases, meaning it didn’t help the larger second-hand market. That £10bn could have been better spent building Council houses, not helping the large plc builders line their pockets with Government cash.