A Day in the Life of a West End Lettings Negotiator

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Josh Webber – Lettings Negotiator at Davis Brown.

Hi Josh – what is your role at Davis Brown?

My main dealings at Davis Brown are predominately within the lettings department. From valuations to arranging & carrying out viewings, handling negotiations and obtaining references, to signing of the contracts – I do it all really. Having experience within the sales field as well, I assist my manager where required to ensure the smooth running of the residential department.

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

There is no typical day! Once I’ve had a coffee or two, I’m usually running around London from viewings to meetings – by far being my favourite part of the day, as I get to see the true beauty of London as a city on a daily/weekly basis and its luxury homes. Alternatively, I can be in the office doing paperwork in order to get a pending deal over the line. It gives me the opportunity not to be stuck behind a desk all day, so the more I’m out and about, the better (as long as it’s not raining – which it usually is)!

What do you like best about working in Fitzrovia?

Fitzrovia is like a little village, everyone knows everyone! When popping out for lunch, being able to know both residence and workers in the area makes you feel at home, or how I like to say home away from home.  It’s a beautifully quiet residential area filled with gorgeous bars, restaurants and café. And let’s not forget Fitzrovia Square in the summer, it turns into a sun bathing, lunch driven paradise between the hours of 12-2.

What is your favourite part of London, and why?

That’s a very difficult question! London is comprised of so many different micro markets each uniquely tailored and offering its own special features! Working all across the capital in my time and seeing so many different places it’s hard to choose – I guess that’s what makes London so special.

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

Working as a team, which in turn allows us to achieve the best results. 

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

Buckingham Palace, although I don’t think I would get very far without security stopping me.

SPRING BUDGET & THE LONDON PROPERTY MARKET

Prior to the Budget being announced property landlords, tenants and surveyors in London were hoping that both the Stamp Duty and Business Rates taxes would be addressed. London has taken a significant hit in both accounts, as a high number of properties are subject to high Stamp Duty charges, and commercial property across the board is subject to severe Business Rates increases in April. The question was how would the Chancellor address these issues in the Spring Budget?

The Business Rate revaluations in April have hit London to extreme levels, even after accounting for any form of relief. Some businesses could potentially see a 45% increase in rates payable in 2017 alone, so unsurprisingly many are concerned that such dramatic tax increases could result in companies facing insolvency. To make things worse if one wished to challenge their Rateable Value with Valuation Office the appeal process has been adjusted in a manner so that it could take 2-3 years before reaching a Valuation Tribunal, and even then, things will not be adjusted unless there is a ‘glaring’ error! In simple terms if you feel that your property has been over valued and you are now paying an excessive level of tax, it is going to be a long drawn-out process, with a limited chance of success.

As there is a level of economic uncertainty, many surveyors in London expected the Chancellor to address the problem in order to protect the many companies and organisations throughout London.

Sadly however this appears not to be the case, apart from a number of pubs that could see a £1,000 reduction, little support has been provided for the rest of the occupiers of any commercial property.

The Chancellor did accept the rating system needed to be addressed and reviewed before the next revaluation in 2022.  This however, provides no support to the many that are being affected by the sudden increases this time round.

When George Osborne made amendments to Stamp Duty, putting additional surcharges on buy-to-let and second homes, the number of transactions in the London property market slowed down almost immediately. Many Estate Agents in London thought that a Budget coming from a new Chancellor would automatically see a change in Stamp Duty, even if only slightly, just to get London sales market running again. It turns out the Chancellor disagrees for now, therefore the London property market won’t get the boost everyone was hoping for.

Overall the Spring Budget was disappointing regarding property market. Property surveyors are now hoping that the Chancellor sees things differently in August 2017 to give London a boost that it needs and protects the companies that have been hit badly by the upcoming Business Rate hikes.

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London’s Turning Emerald!

This weekend the capital will be putting on celebrations to remember the Emerald Isle’s patron saint – St Patrick.  He was believed to have died on 17th March in the year 493, hence the celebrations at this time of year.  He was brought up in Roman Britain but travelled to Ireland in the 5th Century as a young adult to convince Irish pagans that Christianity was the way forward.  Have you ever wondered why the shamrock was synonymous with Ireland? Well it was St Patrick who made the shamrock famous when he used the 3 leaved-clover to describe the Holy Trinity to as many non-believers that would listen to him.  I bet you didn’t know that!  

If you’re in London and want to join in the craic then you really are spoilt for choice as to what to do.  On Saturday Camden Market will be playing host to the London St Patricks Day Festival where you’ll find plenty of live shows and performances from music to acrobats, and a whole lot of activities to keep the kids amused too. 

For those of you interested in the more historical side of the Irish, you can explore the Irish history in London on one of the many free walking tours taking place, from St Pauls Cathedral to Covent Garden.  

St Patricks Film Festival London is putting on a few free (hurrah!) screenings at the Regent Street Cinema as well as at the London Film School in Covent Garden.    

Make sure you save some energy for the big one though!  Celebrations will come to a crescendo on the Sunday when the St Patricks Day Parade takes place.  Floats representing the 32 counties of Ireland will be taking part with all sorts from Irish dancers to marching bands to the dancing leprechauns!  Things kick off at Hyde Park Corner at midday and end up at Trafalgar Square, where you’ll be endlessly entertained by Irish food (champ and potato, beef and Guinness pie, corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew – to name but a few) Irish music, Irish booze and Irish people!

PADPIC!   

Generation Rent

We English love to think of ourselves as Kings and Queens of our castle, no-one else in Europe feels quite the same way as we do about our beloved patch! Margaret Thatcher’s controversial right to buy policy from 1980 gave the aspirational working class the opportunity to buy their council homes at a much discounted price, which lead to a steep rise in home ownership over the following 2 decades.  Today, however things are changing.  So why has the market slowed?  Since the turn of the century, high house prices and weak income growth has brought about a steady decline in home ownership, it’s increasingly difficult to get a foot on the property ladder – despite low interest rates and government subsidies for first time buyers.  Between 2000 and 2014 average earnings rose by 51% but house prices rose by a whopping 132% !  The younger generation – or Generation Rent, is now expected to pay far more than their parents did to get a mortgage, and salaries are just not allowing for it.

In London private renters outnumber homeowners for the first time in over a decade.  It’s not uncommon to see young families being priced out of the housing market, but this isn’t necessarily all doom and gloom.  Maybe we need to take a leaf out of Germany’s book, they have the greatest proportion of renters in Europe where only 39% own their own homes, compared with around 60% of Brits.   Why?  Well having a large mortgage is a huge commitment and people just can’t be bothered!  But isn’t home ownership a crucial cog in any healthy economy?  Well, in Spain around 80% of people own their own homes but unemployment is around 27%, and 39% own in Germany with unemployment at 5.2%, so I think that answers that question!   The housing market is clearly evolving and rather than panic perhaps we should be embracing the change.

Ref:  Quartz Media, The Independent, The Guardian

 

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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