Beware the Non Paying Tenant

In 2013, just under 40,000 tenants were evicted from their homes by court appointed bailiffs according to the Ministry of Justice. This is the highest number since records began and is exasperated in London where rents are rising faster than wages.

If people lose their jobs or their unsustainable lifestyles catch up with them when their credit supply stops, how can you protect against loss of rent?

The simple answer is landlord insurance. Before the tenants even sign a tenancy agreement, a comprehensive reference check should be carried out looking into their last tenancy to see if they paid on time and actually paid, employer check to see that they have a job with sufficient income to cover the rent and have enough to live on, copies of their bank statements to see that their wages actually come in and there are no large outgoings to raise an eyebrow but most important of all, a credit check to find out if they have money outstanding that has been claimed through the courts.

If all the above are satisfactory, this will most likely obtain you an insurance policy, but even that has its pitfalls. Insurance policies often take time to pay out and if you have a mortgage to pay, could you afford to go 2 months without any income?

At Homefinders we don’t need to know the answer as all our landlord’s rents are guaranteed for the first year of the tenancy free of charge. After the first year, with our rent on time management option, we will pay the rent the same time every month regardless of whether the tenant or insurance company has paid and we will continue to do so until the tenant is evicted. The only risk is…there is no risk!

Feel free to contact any of our offices to find out more.

London – Safe as Houses

With just under 8.2 million people squeezed into 606 square miles, London is one of the most populous places in the UK and 24th in the world. All these people need a place to live.

London is often in the top 5 of the world’s most expensive cities to buy property and in 2013 it was number 2 just behind Monaco. Why are London prices so expensive and tipped to continue rising?

The simple answer is that it is the financial capital of Europe and quite possibly the world. From the City of London to Canary Wharf, vast sums of money exchange hands each day with bankers, insurance brokers and lawyers taking vast salaries from the huge corporations that are situated here. Around 37% of global currency transactions go through London each year, or $1.85 trillion every day.

Couple the above with London having plenty of history, places to visit and the unique vibrant areas that change as you go from borough to borough; it becomes a highly desirable area to live, work and play. For this reason you have not only Londoners but foreign investment in the capital’s property market.

Currently, 1 in 4 homes bought for over £1 million is sold to a foreign investor with Russians leading the way, followed by Indians and then Italians. Chinese investors have also started to spend billions, reinvesting the wealth they have made from the goods we bought decades ago with the ‘made in China’ stickers on the bottom.

Of course, not everyone is a multi millionaire but these investors have a trickledown effect for the rest of us. As many native Londoners are priced out by foreign wealth, they go down a tier in properties they can afford, pushing the people on lower incomes down a tier and so on and so on.

Currently 283,000 extra homes are needed in the capital according to the government with a further 526,000 by 2021 to keep up with demand. As it is, only 250,000 are planned. Unless vast housing projects are started, prices will continue to rise.

London truly is ‘Safe as Houses’ to buy property!

Two Homefinders Estate Agency Branches Named Amongst Best in London

The London estate agent Homefinders has been named amongst the best in London by industry experts AllAgents.

The largest directory and review website for the property industry, AllAgents is a professional rating engine. It has named two of the Homefinders branches as being amongst the best in their area for 2013. The accolade comes as the family run company, which has a number of locations throughout East and North London, continues to garner five star reviews from clients.

The two branches recognised as being one of the top three in the area were the Homefinders Hackney office in the E8 postcode area and the Stratford office in the E15 postcode.  

Haydar Sehri, Managing Director said, “We’re really pleased that our Hackney and Stratford branches have been recognised for their customer service standards by the estate agent web directory, allagents.co.uk. This site is the TripAdvisor of the estate and letting agency world and we feel honoured to have received this recognition. They are both a reflection of the hard work and dedication the whole team has put in to get us to where we are today.

“The customer service standard is particularly appropriate for Homefinders as we have always prided ourselves on offering a personal and flexible service. As a family run business we endeavour to make the Homefinders experience as friendly and effortless as possible whilst maintaining high standards through every stage of buying, selling, renting and letting process. Unlike many agents, we have gone a step beyond in our mission to exceed expectations and guarantee a code of conduct by joining organisations such as the NAEA and ARLA. This means we keep our staff up to date on the property industry and adhere to a set of standards above and beyond the average agent.”

In addition to the Hackney and Stratford offices, Homefinders has a third branch in Bethnal Green. It helps those looking to buy, sell, rent and let and offers a comprehensive property management service. As a certified member of several industry bodies including the National Association of Estate Agents, Association of Residential Letting Agents and the London Landlords Accreditation Scheme, it follows strict codes of conduct and standards of customer care.

Homefinders’ commitment to professionalism is backed by a dedicated training programme and registration with the Property Ombudsmen. It has also made new technology and staff training an intrinsic part of its service offering, leading to its stellar reputation for customer care – it offers services such as wide angle photography and advanced property management software to ensure each stage of the customer journey is smooth, seamless and stress free.

To find out more about Homefinders, the award winning sales and letting agency, visit http://www.homefinders.net.

About Homefinders

Homefinders is primarily a family run company. With several offices over North and East London, Homefinders has rapidly expanded in its decade of property existence, but all the time it has kept hold of it core values that separates it from the rest.

With offices in Hackney, Stratford and Bethnal Green, We offer a personalised and specialised service to all our clients. Buying, Selling, Renting or letting, we appreciate it is you that pays our wages so we aim to offer you the best service we can and constantly tailor our service to adapt to the market and offer you what you want.

With our unique and innovative management style, our staff is extensively trained and well motivated so each morning when they come in to work, they look forward to their day ahead and do the job to the best of their ability.

Contact

Issued by Dakota Digital. Please direct press queries to Rebecca Appleton. Email: Rebecca@dakotadigital.co.uk or Tel: 01623 428996. 

London’s Hotspots Revealed

A property consultant called CBRE has recently published a report listing London’s property hotspots for investment. Factors such as population increase, new infrastructure projects and regeneration were taken into consideration to work out which areas would offer the best return.

Top of the list is our very own Hackney. Having seen house prices double in the past decade, it is home to many entrepreneurs, creatives and those priced out of the city. The area has seen vast regeneration across its borders with new transport links such as the east London line improving access to the rest of London.

House prices are estimated to rise 12.8% by 2015 in Hackney, up on the current house price average here of £539,203. That’s just under a £70,000 increase in value.

The neighbouring borough of Islington is also quite high up on the list. With many parts of the borough being affluent, Islington has long been a popular place to live for young professionals, families and students. Many have lived there for decades and with a growing population, housing supply is unlikely to keep up with demand. For this reason the report indicates there will be an 8.8% increase over the next year.

Other notable areas listed in the report are:

Camden: Average growth of 11% in 2013 anticipated to continue

Kensington and Chelsea: 7.5% price increase over the next year

Southwark: 9.8% price increase over the next year

Wandsworth: 11.2% price increase over the next year

Westminster: 3.8% price increase over the next year

If you are looking to see a strong return on your investment, click here to see what we have to offer in and around the top property hotspot.

Don’t Be Lazy With Your Mortgage

Not so long ago the governor of the bank of England, Mark Carney, said that interest rates would not rise until the unemployment rate hits 7%. At the last count it had gone down to 7.4% and all indicators point towards a continuing decrease.

When unemployment does hit 7%, this will not mean an instant hike in the bank base rate (currently 0.5%), but it will become an option. Many economists expect this to happen towards the end of this year or the start 2015.

If you were fortunate enough to come out of a fixed rate mortgage when the rates started to decline at the end of 2007, your mortgage would have decreased significantly. This has been good news for the past 5 years but that could be about to change so it’s time to prepare.

Having been on a standard variable myself for the past 2 years, I was happy paying less than the initial fixed rate period. I recently spoke to my mortgage broker and remortgaged on a fixed rate for the next 5 years. Not only am I now paying thousands less, I also don’t have to worry about rate increases in the near future and best of all, with the savings I have paid for this year’s family holiday!

If you are on a standard variable or even coming to the end of your current mortgage’s initial offer, now is the time to talk to someone. Homefinders’ mortgage broker has access to more mortgage products than your bank or current lender, so it is worth finding out if you could not only save money now, but in the future too. Mortgage lenders aren’t stupid, the closer we get to 2015, the higher their fixed rates will become.

Please contact us on 020 8534 8852 for Stratford and 020 8533 6461 for Hackney to arrange a mortgage consultation, it costs nothing but could save you thousands of pounds a year and who knows, maybe we could bump into each other on holiday!

 

Is the Green Deal Really a Green Deal?

A year ago the government launched an initiative for householders to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and hopefully save money through loans to install measures such as insulation, heating, draught proofing, double glazing and renewable energy such as solar panels. Has it been worth it?

No seems to be the overwhelming response for private homeowners but it is a different matter for landlords. The principle of the scheme is sound where you pay for an energy assessor to visit your property and based on recommendations, borrow the money to pay for energy and money saving works to be done through a loan that is paid off through your electricity bill. The problem is, from the assessor onwards the scheme is far too expensive.

The assessor costs around £150 as opposed to £65 that Homefinders charge. The loans that the government offer, although conveniently added to your electricity bill, cost around 10% over 25 years with all the extra fees and finance charges included as opposed to around 7% you can get on the high street.

If you’re a landlord it is a different matter. When you have the works done, it is the electricity bill payer that pays for the loan with a slightly higher payment amount. Couple this with legislation from 2016 that forces landlords to improve energy efficiency at a tenant’s request and by 2018 it will be illegal to let out a property with a low rating of F or G, it is something worth considering before costs of the scheme increase to meet demand and of course, utility bills increase even further.

To find out more click here or if you want a better value option, contact Homefinders for either your own home or your rental.  Improvement costs can range from as little as £50 upwards and make you significant savings in your energy bills.

Help to Buy

In March 2013, the government started the Help to Buy scheme which offers one of two options for new homebuyers or home owners looking to move. The first phase was a mortgage equity loan and the second phase rolled out in October 13 is a mortgage guarantee. Both require that the property value does not exceed £600,000, the property is to be your sole residence with no other properties owned and you must take a repayment mortgage.

Mortgage Equity Loan

  • This is only available for new build properties
  • You must provide 5% of the property price as a deposit
  • Government will provide 20% towards a deposit
  • You obtain a 75% mortgage
  • If you sell the property, the government will take a 20% cut of the sale price
  • After the 5th year of holding the loan, you will be charged 1.75% of the loan value and this will increase at 1% above the Retail Prices Index each year

Mortgage Guarantee

  • This is available for the purchase of a new or existing property
  • You pay 5% of the purchase price
  • Government provides a guarantee of 15% of the loan to the mortgage company
  • You will still be borrowing 95% of the property value.

Each has their pros and cons. The mortgage equity loan means for the first 5 years you pay no interest on the 20% the government has loaned, just on the 75% mortgage. You are however limited to new build homes and if you do sell for a profit, 20% of any uplift will go to the government and not yourself.

The mortgage guarantee has you paying interest on 95% of the loan from day one. It does allow you to buy existing houses as well as new builds and if house prices continue to rise annually (around 5% increase this year) then when you come to sell, 100% of the profits will be yours.

Dependent upon your circumstances, either could work out better for you. If you’d like further information, feel free to contact me for a list of lenders. If you’re curious about the figures, why not click here for our mortgage calculator. Generally, mortgages cost around 4.5% to 5.5% on these schemes.

Quick Response Property Marketing

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You may have noticed that we are among the first local estate agents actively to use QR (Quick Response) codes, and with good reason. A QR code is the increasingly familiar black and white square matrix you see alongside our property adverts and window displays.

As progressive estate agents we have always been keen to embrace technological innovation, but not for its own sake. QR codes are a great example of smart technology being used to the tremendous advantage of both our buyers and sellers.

QR codes are used by the people with smartphones such as iPhone, HTC, Samsung, Sony etc.  Smartphones are predicted to outnumber non-smartphones by the end of next year. You simply point your phone’s camera at the QR code (which can be the size of a bus or a button) and your phone’s web browser opens up immediately populated with full details of the property in question – just like a website. In fact a QR code bridges the gap between the real world and the digital one.

So anyone passing by our offices, or seeing an ad for your property in the paper can simply scan the code and immediately have access to the full range of photos, floorplans etc and even request their viewing via their phone within seconds. That’s why it’s called Quick Response and it’s just one of the ways we aim to make house buying/selling a pleasure. Some of the others that QR could stand for in our case are Quantifiable Results, Quality Reigns, Quietly Reassuring, and Quintessentially Residential.

Quite Radical? Why not call us for more information on 020 7033 0311.

The Power of Pre-Marketing

There is a strong argument for creating maximum exposure for a property during its time on the market, and much of our effort and resources are spent achieving the right exposure in the right places.

However, one of the most powerful ways of securing a fast sale at a high price can actually result from minimal exposure – or rather exposure only to a select few!

It works by taking advantage of the fact that people enjoy being offered something on an exclusive basis, especially when it is a property that is “just about to come onto the market”. So we often offer our new instructions “off-market” to our pre-registered “hottest” buyers first, resulting in a number of recent sales that were never even advertised! Additionally, promoting to potential buyers that we also have properties that don’t appear on our website or any portals creates a curiosity and a feeling that the buyer could be missing out on something good. This encourages them to register with us so they can then gain access to a potentially popular property with little or no competition.

The prices achieved using this method tend to be good as well, as buyers of such a property know that it is unlikely that the seller would consider anything other than the asking price during these early days of marketing.

We find that many sellers like the idea of an initial period of quiet marketing, especially in instances of a marriage break up, a death in the family, a prominent house in a small town, financial difficulties or any other reason where people don’t yet want it to be publicly known that they are selling. The concept also reduces the risk of overexposure or of the property “going stale” on the market.

Of course, it does rely on a strong register of qualified buyers, but that’s never been a problem for us at Homefinders!

Do I Accept the Offer?

When you are planning to move house it can be tempting to accept the first buyer who comes along with an attractive offer. However, buyers come in all shapes and sizes, and it is important to assess your purchaser’s ability to perform before accepting any offer, especially in this market.

We often receive offers from people who themselves have a property to sell that is not yet under offer. Depending on the circumstances, our advice is generally not to accept such an offer. The main reason is that by doing so, you would effectively be linking – and possibly reducing, the saleability of your own property to the saleability of theirs. Their property may not be as saleable as yours, so you would need to check this out first. Whilst they might tell you that it is likely to sell quickly because of its immaculate presentation, unique architecture or stunning views, these attributes do not necessarily make it a saleable proposition if the price is too high. If, of course, their property is regarded as being more saleable than yours, then it might well be worth accepting their offer.

What about your buyer’s financial ability? Do they have confirmation from a recognised lender confirming that they qualify for the right size of mortgage, subject only to your property being suitable for mortgage purposes? You could also ask for their solicitor to confirm that any other monies required are available.

By accepting an offer from someone who has a property to sell, you risk slowing down your move, and in doing so you also risk your property becoming an old chestnut should their offer subsequently fall through and the property has to be remarketed some time later.

There is more to selling your home than finding a buyer, so do take advantage of our skill and experience in qualifying anyone who makes an offer.