Meet our Graduate Building Surveyor – Alex Hooper

Hi Alex – what is your role at Davis Brown? I am a Graduate Building Surveyor at Davis Brown where my main role is to deal with party wall matters. I am also shadowing and assisting a couple of the directors in relation to contract administration, dilapidations, full building surveys and project management in order to broaden my skill set and obtain more experience.

What does a typical day entail at DB?  And what are you favourite and least favourite parts of the day?A combination of working in the office where I would typically liaise with clients, engineers, architects etc in order to produce documentation to facilitate building works, and going out to inspect properties/attend meetings with clients and construction professionals. 

Favourite Travelling around London and visiting a wide range of spectacular properties. Not only does this improve my knowledge of building pathology but I also get to meet interesting people from all walks of life in the process. 

Least Favourite I enjoy a good balance between being in and out of the office, so it would have to be when I am in the office for too long, sometimes it’s good to unleash some energy on an inspection!

What do you like best about working in Fitzrovia? I enjoy the diversity of different services Fitzrovia has to offer, it is a very mixed-use area which I think sets it apart from other central London districts.  Each road seems to have a unique defining feature. The large variety of different cuisines prevents sustenance from becoming tedious!

What is your favourite part of London, and why?My favourite part of London would have to be East London in general. I have only ever lived in East London and feel at home there now, there’s always something going on.

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt so far working at DB?As my previous experience in surveying was somewhat limited, I have learnt the extent of responsibilities required from each aspect of building surveying. This has helped my confidence when liaising with other professionals.

If you could be locked in a building overnight what would it be?St Bartholomew’ Church is a particularly impressive building I have visited recently, I could finally learn how to play the organ….

Thanks Alex!

Red Planet Dwelling

Feeling as though Planet Earth has gone a bit wayward in recent months?  Feeling like you just want to run away?  In around 20 years’ time you might be able to do just that (but by flying in a rocket – not running).   Mars could well be the next planet humans will be inhabiting, and a model of what the first human homes could look like have been created in London, using materials closely resembling those that would be found on Mars.   

There are many things to take into consideration when building a home on the Red Planet, (and here comes the science bit) the atmosphere is 100% thinner than it is on Earth and consists of approximately 96% carbon dioxide.   The model home is a pod-like building with a double air-locked entrance; a trap door leads downstairs where there are heaters to combat the average minus 80 degree F temperatures, and a machine to convert the carbon dioxide to oxygen.   Upstairs there is a small kitchen area – not that the food will be anything to write home about, with freeze dried food making up the most part, so a microwave will be an essential piece of kit.  Humans will have to grow around 20% of their food, so a place for plants to grow will also be essential.     

A survey was carried out about people living on Mars – and despite its unforgiving atmosphere a surprising amount of people were up for relocating quite a way away, a whopping 30% said they would consider going there to live, and a considerable 24% said they would definitely consider living there even if it was a one way ticket.  So, as David Bowie questioned “Is there life on Mars?” I think we can absolutely say yes there is (or will be in the not too distant future.).  Perhaps Davis Brown Estate Agents & Chartered Surveyors will be the first to market these homes on Mars; you’ll have to just watch this “space”…

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Selling Your Property With a Short Lease – the 80 Yr Rule

As Estate Agents and Chartered Surveyors in London, a city known for its wealth of leasehold properties, we have sold a fair few leasehold flats.  It is important to know the length of your lease when you are buying and selling your property as it could impact the sale price.

The basics – what is leasehold?

There are two legal states in which land can be owned.

  1. Freehold – where the land is owned outright
  2. Leasehold – where a lease is granted from a freeholder for a fixed period of time and the leaseholder has exclusive possession.

What are my rights to extend my lease as a leaseholder?

As a long leaseholder you have rights which apply to you under the Leasehold Reform Act (as amended) 1993 which entitles you to buy the Freehold of your house or if you own a flat, extend the lease by say, 90 years. It is important to understand the benefits of extending your lease in good time so that your asset’s value is not affected. The length of the lease will also affect the cost of extending the lease.

Under the Leasehold Reform Act (as amended) 1993 the freeholder is obligated to extend the lease or sell the freehold, provided the leaseholder and property qualify and a valid Notice has been served. To qualify for a lease extension you must be the owner of a long lease of at least 21 years and owned the property for a minimum of 2 years. If you are buying a property, the vendor can serve the Notice and this can be transferred to the purchaser.

Why is it important to extend your lease in good time?

Lease extensions involve complex calculations and we would always recommend you obtain professional advice as each individual case is different – there are many books written in this area of valuation and law. As an overview, here are some of the basics.

Compensation owed to the landlord for extending the lease is made up of several parts including, compensation for the loss of ground rent, compensation for the loss arising from granting a new lease and the marriage value. The most significant part of the compensation is made up of the marriage value. This is the value of the newly extended lease minus the value of the existing lease (of the landlords current interest), which is split equally between the freeholder and leaseholder. The leasehold Reform Act (as amended) 1993 states that this premium is only payable when there are 80 years or less unexpired on the lease.

If you own a leasehold flat, watch out for that 80 year mark and think about extending the lease before this. We can provide valuations for lease extension, enfranchisement or collective enfranchisement.

If you should need any further information please contact us on 020 7637 1066.

Foreign Ownership of Property in London

A closer look into the increasing foreign ownership of property in London post-Brexit

A few stats…

–          In London’s borough of Westminster 1 in 10 properties are owned by offshore companies1

–          Within the high-end ‘Prime London’ residential market, Savills estimate that 32% of buyers are international2

–          The UK’s tallest residential skyscraper is over 60% foreign-owned and is under-occupied2

Who is investing?

Data from Knight Frank indicates that the Chinese are the biggest buyers of new-build residential property internationally and Singaporeans follow in second. According to The Independent Newspaper, “Estate agents in the UK have been swamped with calls from Chinese, Middle Eastern, Italian and Spanish buyers looking for a bargain after the pound tumbled to more than 30-year lows”. This suggests that foreign investment in London property is coming from an increasingly wider pool of countries given the post-Brexit conditions – based on the average price of property in London; European investors received a £42,000 discount following the referendum result3.

Are there any regulations?

So long as tax is paid to the UK government in relation to the property, there are no restrictions on foreign ownership of residential property in the UK. With the increase of Stamp Duty Land Tax there are now significant costs when buying UK property (applying to all accept the cheapest properties); however this does not seem to be putting overseas investors off with such favourable exchange rates.

Key issues surrounding foreign ownership of property

Concerns centre on the affordability and availability of property for domestic buyers. Is overseas property investment causing housing prices to rise?

Another concern is that many foreign investors are simply buying the properties to let, sometimes leaving them vacant for many months at a time, which is essentially wasting valuable properties.

Some have argued that foreign property investment is positive and stimulates further house building and investment. For example, aside from London, Chinese enquiries into property in Manchester have jumped by over 50pc which will help with the growth of the Northern Powerhouse4.

However, the availability of affordable housing still remains a significant problem, especially in the capital where multiple affordable housing planning applications have recently been rejected.

Footnotes:

1: BBC news – Just who owns what in central London?

2: Parliament UK – Foreign investment in UK residential property

3: The Independent – London property snapped up by overseas investors as domestic buyers pull out after Brexit

4: The Telegraph – Chinese investment into Manchester property powers up

 

 

All Aboard The Great Party Wall Train…

The gripes are becoming more vocal and regular.

Party wall matters seem to be nothing but an expensive inconvenience for building owners wishing to carry out building works that fall within the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

Whether it be extortionate fees and/ costly delays, few people have much good to say about party wall surveyors.

Now, it is invariably true that there are a number of mauvais oeufs” who are ruining the reputation of the vast majority of party wall surveyors that take their responsibility to building owners, adjoining owners and the Act itself seriously and carry out their role in an ethical and equitable manner.

The good ones are at the front of the queue of victimisation at the hands of the tricks and sleights of hand that the bad ones use to frustrate the process and rack up fees.

So here my top six most annoying things bad party wall surveyors do:

  1. Send endless reams of unnecessary correspondence and charge for each item e.g. a surveyor once sent me an email, then another the next day referring to his email of yesterday and asking when he would receive a response. This was not an isolated incident and happened many times during this matter. Why charge for time spent sending one email when it’s so much more profitable to charge for two?
  2. Let’s make a banquet out of a picnic. Now method statements, engineering advice, legal advice and monitoring are all perfectly reasonable when the work is significant enough to warrant them but in every scenario, no matter what is proposed? Again, this seems to be with a view to expanding on the scope of the matter and invariably, the fee.
  3. Smart Alecs. This is not confined solely to the life of a party wall surveyor but to all but aren’t they just annoying? If you want someone to do something, be nice to them. Sarcasm and patronising behaviour is unlikely to make me want to bust a gut to help you out.
  4. Acting as an agent. Rumour has it that some surveyors are recommended by solicitors who promise to “make life difficult” for building owners wishing to carry out works; “They want to dig a basement you say? The Council didn’t listen to your objections? How very dare they? especially after they granted you permission for your basement…don’t worry Jim, I know just the chap. He’ll make their life absolute hell”.
  5. Very often this practice takes place in prime central London where neighbours can generally be less neighbourly than elsewhere.
  6. Playing the waiting game: those lovable rogues that see fit to charge for whatever they feel they can get away with do sometimes drag things on, not just to frustrate matters but with the added benefit that if the building owner becomes so desperate for his Award, he is less likely to challenge the Adjoining Owner’s surveyor’s fees. “Let’s just get it done” is a common phrase uttered by many a fraught Building Owner. These surveyors know this and take full advantage.

At Davis Brown, we have a number of party wall and neighbourly matters specialists. We pride ourselves on doing things the right way, no matter who we are acting for. If you would like to discuss any aspect of party walls please call Tony Guerguis on 020 7907 1808 or email at tguerguis@davis-brown.co.uk.

 

 

Xin Nian Kuai Le

And that’s “Happy New Year” in Mandarin!  This weekend sees in the Chinese New Year and it’s the Fire Rooster that rules 2017, this year’s sign signifies fidelity and punctuality.  In Chinese astrology each zodiac year is not just associated with an animal sign, but also with one of five elements – gold, wood, water, fire or earth, element sign combinations occur every 60 years.  Traditionally the year of one’s birth sign is said to be the most unlucky year in the 12 year cycle, however if you avoid the colour red, but get involved with the colours gold, brown and yellow you should be just fine!

Being such a cosmopolitan city, the West End of London is buzzing at this time of year where all sorts of celebrations will be taking place.  Sunday is New Year’s Day and things will be kicking off at 11am in Trafalgar Square where there will be speeches, ceremonies, dances, acrobats, martial arts and even some Chinese rock music!  In Shaftsbury Avenue at the Family Stage you’ll find all sorts of family shows and music, and on Charing Cross Road at the Hong Kong stage there will be more celebrations on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.  If you’re in the West End this weekend you really must pay a visit to the world famous China Town in Soho, where from 12-6pm you’ll be able to meet all the Chinese zodiac animals and the Lucky Money God (who doesn’t want to meet him/her?).  And of course there will be plenty of tasty festive treats on offer in the many restaurants.  I know it was only a month ago since we celebrated New Year, but who wouldn’t love the opportunity to do it all over again, but this time in the Chinese way!

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An Interview With A Graduate Surveyor – John Eden

Hi John – what is your role at Davis Brown?

My primary role is assisting the directors within the commercial team. This work explores a wide range of disciplines which includes valuations, agency, lease renewal and rent review negotiations, and has helped me develop a broad range of skills quickly, assisting me in passing my APC to become a chartered surveyor.

What does a typical day entail at DB?  And what are you favourite and least favourite parts of the day?

For me there isn’t really a typical day as it varies depending on what projects I am working on and what is required. Time out of the office is always going to be the most enjoyable whether I am inspecting a site for valuation work or showing people around a property for an agency instruction. The worst part of my day is always the early morning, however once I have had a strong coffee I am ready to go.

What do you like best about working in Fitzrovia?

Fitzrovia is a great place to be based as provides excellent places to go to lunch or to have fun in the evenings after work. The majority of my friends are based in the West End so being based at 1 Margaret Street puts me in a really central location with easy access to them.

What is your favourite part of London, and why?

Since I have moved to Westbourne Park I have become particularly fond of Notting Hill, especially around Portobello Road, during the weekend market, you can always pick up something unique! 

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt so far working at DB?

As the work within the commercial team is so varied I have learnt to expect anything. This is great for my training, but also one of the reasons why my life at Davis Brown is so enjoyable. 

If you could be locked in a building overnight what would it be?

The Tate Modern, so I can have fun in the enormous Turbine Hall. The views are pretty spectacular too!

Making The Most Of Tricky Spaces (in your home.)

Every home has its own design challenges. Small studios, narrow corridors, sloping ceilings, awkward corners… and the list goes on! But don’t despair – with a little spatial planning we can turn these spaces around. Here at Davis Brown Estate Agents we have put together a few ways in which to transform those neglected nooks and crannies.

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Awkward Spaces

If you are faced with odd angles, corners or slanted ceilings, then curved shapes such as round tables tend to fit better here – you could even consider a round bed like this contemporary one below! Custom built storage units are an ideal way of using every inch of space, but if you are on a tight budget it may be more realistic to max out on part of the space – for example by fitting a shelf to use as a desk.                

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Small Spaces

If you are short on space and cannot fit a desk, you could use wall-mounted shelves as an alternative storage area or a quirky fold out desk as seen below. Small-scale furniture is also a must – as comfy as a huge sofa might be, it’s probably not practical if it takes up the whole room! Glass furniture will create a visual effect of more space even in a small room and mirrors can do the same*.

We all get sentimental about certain ornaments but too many can make a space look cluttered and overcrowded – try to just have a few sleek pieces – minimalism can often be the way forward! Also don’t be afraid to buy multi-purpose items – coffee tables or ottoman storage boxes that double up as seating can be just the answer when you have friends and family over. Lastly, don’t let vertical space go to waste – remember a room has 8 corners not just 4 – so set your curtains high and embrace those tall storage units!

Windows

If you have a room that lacks windows it is worth investing in thin curtains which draw back beyond the window to maximise light – blinds can do this too. Lights are also important as poor lighting can make a room look much smaller than it is. If you are the other extreme and have too many windows/doors to place furniture on the edge of the room, you could pull your furniture forward and create a snug conversation area, using the space behind as a walkway.

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5 New Year’s Resolutions For Your Home

Do you ever have the feeling that you’re not making the most of your home? It’s easily done, neglecting the cleaning, ignoring the odd touch up jobs needed on the walls, cupboards full to the brim… we are all guilty!  Here at Davis Brown, our estate agents, chartered surveyors and property managers have discussed our worst home habits, and come up with a short list of Five Property New Year’s Resolutions.  Maybe we will stick to them this year!

  1. Keep up with the cleaning

We all know it’s a bore, and not something that any of us look forward to however as estate agents, Davis Brown know what a difference a regular clean can make.  In the short term, it keeps your place looking tidy and smelling fresh, and in the long term it avoids decolouration and build up.  Little and often is our motto!

  1. Fix things when they break

…instead of leaving them until you have a list as long as your arm!  It’s very easy to put something that’s broken to the side and promise yourself you’ll do it later.  However, these small bits of DIY soon add up, and before you know it that door knob that needs screwing back on, is followed by tightening a leaky tap…a touch up on the paint work in the hall…replacing a lightbulb.

  1. Clear out your cupboards twice a year

A clear space is a clear mind! There are few things more stressful than opening a cupboard and realising that the thing you need is right at the back, behind other precariously stacked items.  The way to avoid these spontaneous games of Jenga is to clear those overfilled cupboards out twice a year – once in the Spring and once in the Autumn.  Be ruthless and it’ll save you a lot of stress in the long run!

  1. Find a proper home for odd bits…or create a junk drawer!

This follows on from resolution 3 – put things back where they belong.  In a mission to keep our properties looking tidy, it’s very easy to shove things into the nearest cupboard or cubby hole, just to get them out of sight.  However, this is only a temporary solution! The realist is that in no time at all, you’ll be cursing yourself when you can’t find it, or kicking yourself when there’s no room left for the items that actually belong in your temporary hiding place!  Saving you more work in the long run, it’s much easier to put things back in their proper place each and every time you use them.

  1. Utilities – are you being cost effective?

After an expensive time over Christmas, January is a great time to take a good look at your utilities and work out what you’re paying, who to and whether it’s the right amount. Spend some time on comparison websites and seeing what deals are out there to be had.  A great way to try and reduce your energy bills is to sign up to The Big Community Switch.

New Year Resolutions (for your home!)

Do you ever have the feeling that you’re not making the most of your home? It’s easily done, neglecting the cleaning, ignoring the odd touch up jobs needed on the walls, cupboards full to the brim…the list goes on and we are all guilty!  Here at Davis Brown, our Estate Agents, Chartered Surveyors and Property Managers have discussed our worst home habits, and have come up with a short list of Five Property New Year’s Resolutions.  Maybe we will stick to them this year!

  1. Keep up with the cleaning

We all know it’s a bore, and not something that any of us look forward to however as Estate Agents, Davis Brown know what a difference a regular clean can make.  In the short term, it keeps your place looking tidy and smelling fresh, and in the long term it avoids decolouration and build up.  Little and often is our motto!

  1. Fix things when they break

…instead of leaving them until you have a list as long as your arm!  It’s very easy to put something that’s broken to the side and promise yourself you’ll do it later.  However, these small bits of DIY soon add up, and before you know it that door knob that needs screwing back on, is followed by tightening a leaky tap…a touch up on the paint work in the hall…replacing several lightbulbs.

  1. Clear out your cupboards twice a year

A clear space is a clear mind! There are few things more stressful than opening a cupboard and realising that the thing you need is right at the back, behind other precariously stacked items.  The way to avoid these spontaneous games of Jenga is to clear those overfilled cupboards out twice a year – once in the Spring and once in the Autumn.  Be ruthless and it’ll save you a lot of stress in the long run!

  1. Find a proper home for odd bits…or create a junk drawer!

This follows on from resolution 3 – put things back where they belong.  In a mission to keep our properties looking tidy, it’s very easy to shove things into the nearest cupboard or cubby hole, just to get them out of sight.  However, this is only a temporary solution! The reality is that in no time at all, you’ll be cursing yourself when you can’t find it, or kicking yourself when there’s no room left for the items that actually belong in your temporary hiding place!  Saving you more work in the long run, it’s much easier to put things back in their proper place each and every time you use them.

  1. Utilities – are you being cost effective?

After an expensive time over Christmas, January is a great time to take a good look at your utilities and work out what you’re paying, who to and whether it’s the correct amount. It’s often worth spending some time on comparison websites and seeing what deals are out there.  A great way to try and reduce your energy bills is to sign up to The Big Community Switch.   So if you haven’t made any resolutions so far, I hope these might inspire you!

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