News & views... 

SDLT relief for first time buyer’s ends 24th March 2012

First-time buyers’ stamp duty land tax (SDLT) relief expires on 24 March 2012. There are no transitional provisions.  Currently first time buyers do not pay any stamp duty on property purchased for less than £250,000*  When the relief ends stamp duty will be payable on properties you buy for £125,000 and over.  So if you are thinking of buying your first property now please contact your solicitor to avoid payment before the deadline in March.

Transactions with an effective completion date of 25 March 2012 or later cannot benefit from SDLT relief, irrespective of the date of any contract or agreement.  Please contact the Colnpark Team for further advice on Stamp Duty Land Tax: +44 (0)1285 640 840 or via email:



Transaction levels hold up as more houses come onto the market

Published January 2012

Sales activity remained relatively firm during December and an increasing amount of new stock came onto the housing market, says the latest RICS UK Housing Market survey (09 January 2012).

The average number of completed sales per surveyor* in the three months to December was 15.2.  While slightly down on November’s figure, this remains close to its best level since autumn 2010.  However, sales expectations for the coming three months dipped to a net balance of 0% (from +4%).  Surveyors report that unrealistic price expectations on the part of some vendors may be hindering transaction levels.

Elsewhere, new instructions edged up for the third consecutive month during December.  12% more respondents reported rises rather than falls in new homes coming onto the market, suggesting that sellers may gradually be returning in time for the new year.  Significantly, the capital saw the greatest increase in supply with surveyors reporting a net balance of +38% – the highest figure since January 2005.

Prices across much of the country continued to fall during December, albeit at the slowest rate since June 2010, with 16% more surveyors reporting price falls rather than rises (from -17%).  Regionally, London was the only area to see price increases (net balance +46) while the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside reported the biggest drops with net balance readings of -47 and -43 respectively.

Alongside this, demand remained fairly steady with 2% more respondents reporting new buyer enquiries increasing rather than decreasing.  Whilst marginally down on November’s figure of +7%, it seems that interest from potential buyers across the UK is remaining relatively steady.  However, respondents continue to report that a lack of mortgage finance is hindering many, with the cash-rich best placed to take advantage of the current market.

Looking ahead, along with surveyors’ flat predictions for transaction levels, price expectations remain low with a net balance of -21% of respondents expecting prices to continue falling over the coming three months.

"While it’s encouraging that sales activity held up relatively well towards the end of the year, continuing problems with the economy and the ongoing instability in the eurozone seem to be weighing heavily on the UK housing market and expectations for the coming months are fairly subdued.

The increasing number of prospective sellers who placed their homes on the market in December is a positive development as a lack of stock has been a big issue in some parts of the country, but with sales expectations remaining flat, it is important that vendors are realistic in their pricing if they wish the sale to go through in good time."

Ian Perry, RICS housing spokesperson

*Sales per surveyor recorded per branch



Property investors rush into new-builds

Property investors are returning to the London new-build market in droves, tempted by a sharp rise in rents and an expanding buy-to-let loan market.

Sales of new developments to investors have been in decline since 2007, when the buy-to-let boom turned to bust. But Barratt Developments said this week that in London, in particular, the downward trend has reversed.

It revealed that unit sales of new-build properties between January and September have been 179 per cent higher than in the same period last year, as investors seek opportunities for higher returns in a period of prolonged low interest rates.

"Rental returns and the potential for capital gain in the London property market have been convincing motivators for both domestic and international investors to add new-build homes to their portfolios," says Gary Patrick, regional sales director, Barratt London.

He reports that the most popular London new-build sites with investors are in Dalston, Pontoon Docks in Docklands, Deptford, Lewisham and Putney Square.

"Docklands is one of the hottest areas for buy-to-lets," confirms Tony Gambrill, area director at estate agent Chesterton Humberts. "The yields have increased due to the strong increase in rents and the lenders have become a little less stringent in lending criteria – which has made for a healthier environment for the buy-to-let investor. While international investors remain the bedrock for central London sales, UK investors are the mainstay in the Docklands."

Property analysts say the buy-to-let sector as a whole is experiencing a revival, as investors are attracted by rising rental demand, which has seen average UK rental income rise for seven consecutive months – reaching a new high of £713 per month in August.

Investment activity is also being fuelled by a wider choice of loans for buy-to-let investors.

Research from the National Landlords Association (NLA) found that the number of buy-to-let mortgages provided during the second quarter of 2011 grew by 25 per cent, compared with the first three months of the year. Average loan sizes also increased by £2,166, to £138,525, representing a growth of 6.4 per cent since January.

"Wider choice and better products for landlords mean that the overall buy-to-let market is improving," says Paul Rockett, managing director of NLA Mortgages. "Although demand for finance still outstrips supply, the level of buy-to-let lending is gradually increasing – giving property investors a reason to be optimistic."

This week, State Bank of India became the latest provider to enter the UK buy-to-let mortgage market. The lender, which is owned by the Indian government and authorised by the Financial Services Authority in the UK, is set to offer a lifetime tracker deal at 3.99 percentage points above the Bank of England base. It will be available to borrowers with a deposit of 40 per cent or more, and carry a £1,990 arrangement fee. It will compete with the current market leading rate of 3.48 per cent from Woolwich with a £1,999.

Chesterton Humberts says that demand from international students is helping to drive competition for new-build buy-to-let properties in the areas immediately surrounding some of the London’s top universities. Its report, published this weekend, Home away from Home, the impact of foreign students on London’s residential property market, reveals that these areas have significantly outperformed other areas over the past decade.

"Property prices in the areas immediately surrounding these institutions have, on average increased 1.6 times more than properties in the wider borough over the past ten years," says Nick Barnes, head of research at Chesterton Humberts. "Rental accommodation in the same areas command an average premium of 27 per cent over the borough average."

For example, property around the UCL campus in Euston showed the most dramatic differential, with average price growth of 246 per cent, compared to 104 per cent in the wider Camden borough area, closely followed by the accommodation around University of Westminster, which increased 247 per cent compared to the 116 per cent throughout the City of Westminster.



Draw on our experience

Colnpark Properties featured in Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, Thursday 14th July, 2011:

Chartered Surveyors and Property Consultants for London and the South West.  As highly experienced independent chartered surveyors and property consultants, we are aware of the considerable factors involved in ensuring astute selling, buying and renting of property.

We make sure that our clients always make sound investments and the right decisions, which is why we offer a wide range of professional surveying and property consultancy services.

As chartered surveyors and property consultants, our extensive sector expertise, in-depth local knowledge, wide-ranging capabilities and special brand of personal service add up to exactly what our clients want - a reliable full service resource under one roof.

Central Surveying are starting a new service for property sellers and buyers with Colnpark Properties Ltd which is a web-based Agency specialising in the sale and acquisition of a select range of properties which are Listed, Period or otherwise unusual.

We aim to provide a better service for the Estate Agents and owners or purchasers of houses that require specialist marketing or survey report prior to sale.  Each house for sale will have the benefit of a full Professional Survey Report carried out by Central Surveying thereby attaching to the property a valuable information document in the same way that an engineer's report, works or full service record adds value to the sale of a car.



The importance of a home survey

For many people, buying a home is one of the biggest decisions they will ever make.  However, by failing to commission a survey before purchase, home buyers are risking potential bills running into thousands of pounds.

According to RICS ( Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors ) research, a quarter of all homebuyers who fail to have a survey are forced to make unplanned building works to their property after purchase*.

The average bill for these works, such as damp proofing or repairing a roof, is over £1,800 – but the cost can be much higher.

A common misconception is that a mortgage lender’s valuation report represents a survey.  In fact, it is merely a valuation carried out on the mortgage lender’s behalf and is not designed to highlight any potential problems with the property.  By commissioning a home survey, any structural problems or urgent defects are highlighted, enabling the buyer to make an informed decision before committing to the property.

The RICS Condition Report which is offered by Collier Stevens is a new home survey which is both simple and affordable.  Designed for newer properties and conventional homes, it provides a clear report on the condition of the property, plus details of urgent faults and advice for legal advisers.  It does not provide an additional valuation, but sits alongside a mortgage valuation.

Alongside the Condition Report, RICS members also offer additional surveys, tailored to the type and age of a property:

• RICS Condition Report: A clear, concise picture of the property with ‘traffic light’ ratings. It shows the condition of the property, offers advice to legal advisers and highlights details of any urgent defects. The lowest priced of the surveys; it is aimed at conventional properties and newer homes.

• RICS HomeBuyer Report: Contains all the features of the Condition Report, plus a market valuation and insurance rebuild costs. It also includes advice on defects that may affect the value of the property with repairs and ongoing maintenance advice.

• Full building survey: The most comprehensive report includes defects, repair and maintenance options. Essential for larger or older properties, or if you’re planning major works.

In difficult economic times it pays to be prepared.  Nobody wants to be left with a home that needs extensive repairs or one they can’t sell on. By having a survey you’ll be armed with information on the condition of the property which puts you in a stronger position to decide whether to proceed with the purchase, or negotiate a better deal.

Interestingly, other parts of the housing market are also using surveys to their benefit.  For landlords this can be to assess their investments, while we are also seeing sellers turning to surveys in order to prepare for the sale of property.  These highlight any problems that may potentially delay the sale or impact on the price later in the process.



Homeowners improve rather than move

Increasing numbers of homeowners are deciding to improve rather than move home, according to new research from RICS.

Overall, 48 per cent of chartered surveyor estate agents revealed the slow sales market is prompting people to improve their properties rather than move. Across the UK, this was most prevalent in areas where the property market is more depressed, such as Northern Ireland, where 75 per cent were improving rather than moving and the West Midlands (71 per cent). However, even in more buoyant areas such as London, buyers are facing high property prices which are also prompting them to stay in their homes.

For those undertaking work to their homes, 44 per cent of surveyors reported additional bedrooms were the improvement which added the most value. Traditional improvements such as adding a new bathroom or kitchen were the next most valuable, at 18 per cent. Adding a conservatory, or reinstating period features were seen as desirable optional extras but not ones which add value.

Surveyors also noted that costs incurred for improvements will not always be covered by the potential increase in a property’s value, as this also depends on the quality of work and other features of the property, such as its style and location.

Respondents added that external factors were most likely to detract from a property’s price. 40 per cent of surveyors found a property’s proximity to a noisy road or a railway decreased value, while known subsidence was seen as the next most likely to affect value.

RICS chartered surveyors advise homeowners on how to get the most out of property improvements:

• Don’t be tempted to over value an improvement and expect high instant returns irrespective of market conditions

• If extending, make sure that the accommodation provided (i.e. property size) is balanced with the size of the plot; bigger is not always better

• When undertaking a loft extension or basement conversion try to keep the style of the new rooms in sympathy with the style of the rest of the property. A modern extension on a traditional property may look odd and lose appeal

• If you are trying to sell, bear in mind most areas have a ceiling price, i.e., a maximum sale price you can expect to achieve. Improving a poor property in a good location is better than improving a good property in a poor location

• Don’t bite off more than you can chew - stick to a budget and ask the experts for advice.

Most properties provide some potential for expansion and improvement, but we would advise people to think about how much they are investing and their key motivator before undertaking major projects. It is important to think about the style and age of the property before undertaking any works - remember, what appeals to some people may not appeal to others. Costly disappointments can be avoided by prior planning and research. RICS advise that whatever you decide to do with your home you should seek professional advice and ensure all works are carried out by qualified contractors."

David Dalby, Professional Groups Director, RICS



Inspecting the roof – our top ten tips for homebuyers

Our top ten roof inspection tips for those buying a house…

When you go house hunting you need to be able to see beyond the decorations, garden, games room or whatever eye candy has been laid on the entice you to make a second viewing or, even better to make an offer.

Whilst we would not suggest that you do your own building survey there are some roofing defects and problems that you can look out for yourself when you are viewing – after checking whether the house has a flat roof or a pitched [sloping] our top ten tips for looking at a pitched roof are:

1. Look in the roof, easy if there is a loft ladder, harder without. Take a torch. Is the attic insulated with 200mm of insulation? If not this work may well be required

2. When you are in the roof look at the timbers, are there woodworm holes or signs of any decay or water penetration? If there are ask the vendor if any timber treatment has been carried out?

3. Are all the timbers there, look particularly for missing struts (sloping timbers between the middle of the pitch and the floor) and collars – horizontal ties between the pitches. These are often removed to "make more space". They are critical to a roofs structural stability.

4. Is there underfelt beneath the tiles or slates? If not the roof coverings are likely to be at least 50 years old, this gives a clue as to how long they are likely to last.

5. What is the condition of the chimney breasts in the attic are the cracked or worse do they have bricks missing? Are they damp where they pass through the roof coverings, if so they flashings might have failed externally.

6. Outside have a look at the tiles or slates, have they been replaced? Modern concrete tiles are much heavier than the slates they replace and often extra strengthening is needed to the structure, if it’s not there you might need to install some.

7. If the roof covering looks to be original see how many neighbouring properties have had their roofs replaced, if it’s a lot then you can expect that the roof will need replacing soon.

8. Have another look at the roof covering, how many tiles have slipped, broken or have a deteriorating surface? On a slate roof are there lots of tingles or lead hooks holding slates in place? Any of these symptoms and the roof may be reaching the end of it’s life?

9. Have a look at the gutters, what are they made of? Cast iron work is may be be old and rusting and need to be replaced whilst asbestos cement gutters or downpipes may be a health and safety risk. Have a look at the gutter joints, are they showing signs of leaking?

10. Finally the look at the timber boards the gutters are fitted to and the other trims at he edge of a roof like barge boards and soffits. Are they poorly decorated, of so they may well have decayed and need replacing, these bits are often left off when decoration is carried out because they are awkward together to and decorate properly. If they are of replacement upvc ask the vendor if there is a warranty

There is, of course, no substitute for a proper building survey or homebuyer report carried out by a chartered surveyor, each of these will cover the above and give a proper professional assessment of the seriousness of any defect and the cost and timing of any replacement or remedial works that may be required.

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