Monday, 11 December 2017

Aylesbury Property Market and Hammond’s Budget Promise to Build 300,000 more homes

I miss the days of George Osborne as Chancellor, with his hardhat and hi-vis jacket. He must have visited every new home building site in the UK with his trademark attire! For the last few years, Philip Hammond hasn’t come close to even donning a ‘Bob the Builder’ outfit. However, with what appears to be a change in focus by the Tories to try and ensure they get back in power in 2022, they appear to have fallen in love with house building again with the Chancellor’s promise to create 300,000 new households in a year.

Nationally, the number of new homes created has topped 217,344 in the last year, the highest since the financial crash of 2007/8. Looking closer to home: in total there were 1,323 ‘net additional dwellings’ in the last 12 months in the Aylesbury Vale District Council area, an increase of 106% on the 2010 figure.

The figures show that 91% of this additional housing was down to new build properties. In total, there were 1,208 new dwellings built over the last year in Aylesbury Vale. In addition, there were 131 additional dwellings created from converting commercial or office buildings into residential property and a further 3 dwellings were added as a result of converting houses into flats.


While these all added to the total housing stock in the Aylesbury Vale area, there were 19 demolitions to take into account.


I was encouraged to see some of the new households in the Aylesbury area had come from a change of use. The planning laws were changed a few years back so that, in certain circumstances, owners of properties didn’t need planning permission to change office space in to residential use.

With the scarcity of building land available locally (or the builders being very slow to build on what they have, for fear of flooding the market), it was pleasing to see the number of developers that had reutilised vacant office space into residential homes in the local council area. Converting offices and shops to residential use will be vital in helping to solve the Aylesbury housing crisis especially, as you can see on the graph, that the level of building has hardly been spectacular over the last seven years!


Now we have had the autumn budget, Theresa May and Philip Hammond have set out their stall with housing as their key focus. I was glad to see the Government introducing a variety of changes to improve housing, including more funding for the supply side and an injection of urgency into the planning system.

The biggest question is, just where are the Government going to build all these new houses? 

Back to the main point though and the focus on the housing market by the Tory’s is good news for all homeowners and buy to let landlords, as it should encourage more fluidity in the market in the longer term, sharing the wealth and benefits of homeownership for all. However, in the short term, demand still outstrips supply for homes and that will mean continued upward pressures on rents for tenants.






Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Aylesbury Rents Set to Rise to £955 pm in Next 5 Years

It’s now been a good 12/18 months since annual rental price inflation in Aylesbury peaked at 3.4%. Since then we have seen increasingly more humble rent increases. In fact, in certain parts of the Aylesbury rental market over the autumn, the rental market saw some slight falls in rents. So, could this be the earliest indication that the trend of high rent increases seen over the last few years, may now be starting to buck that trend?

Well, possibly in the short term, but in the coming few years, it is my opinion Aylesbury rents will regain their upward trend and continue to increase as demand for Aylesbury rental property will outstrip supply, and this is why.

The only counterbalance to that improved rental growth would be to meaningfully increase rental stock (i.e. the number of rental properties in Aylesbury). However, because of the Government’s new taxes on landlords being introduced between 2017 and 2021, that means buy-to-let has (and will) be less attractive in the short term for certain types of landlords (meaning less new properties will be bought to let out).

Interestingly, countless market experts assumed at the start of 2017, that the number of rental properties would in fact drop throughout the year. The assumption being as the new tax rules for landlords started to kick in, landlords looked to kick their tenants out, sell up and invest their capital elsewhere. (Although ironically that would lower supply of rental properties, decreasing the supply, meaning rents would increase again!).

Anecdotal evidence suggests, confirmed by my discussions with fellow property, accountancy and banking professionals in Aylesbury, that Aylesbury landlords are (instead of selling up on masse), actually either (1) re-mortgaging their Aylesbury buy-to-let properties instead or (2) converting their rental portfolios into limited companies to side step the new taxation rules.

The sentiment of many Aylesbury landlords is that property has always weathered the many stock market crashes and runs in the last 50 years. There is something inheritably understandable about bricks and mortar – compared to the voodoo magic of the stock market and other exotic investment vehicles like debentures and crypto-currency (e.g. BitCoin). 

Remarkably, there is some good news for tenants, as Tory’s recently published the draft Tenants’ Fee Bill, which is designed to prohibit the charging of tenants lettings fees on set up of the tenancy. However, looking at evidence in Scotland, I expect rents to rise to compensate landlords, thus hammering faithful tenants looking for long-term tenancy agreements the hardest. This growth will be on top of any usual organic rent growth.  It really is swings and roundabouts!

So, what does this all mean for landlords and tenants in Aylesbury? In my considered opinion,

Rents in Aylesbury over the next 5 years will rise by 9.2%, taking the average rent for an Aylesbury property from £875 per month to £955 per month.

To put all that into perspective though, rents in Aylesbury over the last 12 years have risen by 21.5%. In fact, that rise won’t be a straight-line growth either, because I have to take into account the national and local Aylesbury economy, demand and supply of rental property, interest rates, Brexit and other external factors. 




In the past, making money from Aylesbury buy-to-let property was as easy as falling off a log. But with these new tax rules, new rental regulations and the overall changing dynamics of the Aylesbury property market, as a Aylesbury landlord, you are going to need work smarter and have every piece of information, advice and opinion to hand on the Aylesbury, Regional and National property market’s, to enable you to continue to make money. 

Monday, 27 November 2017

Increase in Interest Rates to cost Aylesbury Home Owners £263.10 a year

Aylesbury homeowners will be among those affected by the latest rise in the Bank of England interest rates. The first increase in 10 years; they have just been raised from 0.25 percent to 0.5 per cent. This uplift comes as inflation hits a 51-month high of 2.9 per cent whilst the national unemployment rate is at an all-time low of 4.3 per cent.
    
Interestingly, the Governor of the Bank of England has indicated that the interest rate is likely to increase again over the next couple of years, but Mr Carney said mortgages and savings would not be affected in the short term. However, look at all the big banks and just about all of them have increased their standard variable mortgage rate..  

The average Aylesbury mortgage is £105,241

I have to ask by how much Aylesbury homeowners (on variable rate or tracker mortgages) will see their repayments increase?

In the HP20 postcode there are 2,145 homeowners with a mortgage, of which 921 have a variable rate mortgage (the remaining have fixed rate mortgages). The total amount owed by those HP20 homeowners with those variable rate mortgages is £96,978,458, meaning the average monthly mortgage payment for those home owners on variable rate mortgages before the interest rate rise was £820.59 per month and now its £842.51 per month … meaning

The interest rate rise will cost Aylesbury
homeowners on average an extra £263.10 per year

Whilst this is the first raise in interest rates in over 10 years, it must be noted it is at a significantly low level compared to figures in the 1970s and early 1990s. Many of my readers talk of interest rates at 17 per cent when Sir Geoffrey Howe increased them to try and combat the hyperinflation (from the fallout of the financial crisis that hit Britain in the 1970’s) and Norman Lamont in September 1992 with the infamous Black Wednesday crisis, when interest rates were raised from 10% to 15% in just one day.
So, what will this interest rate actually do to the Aylesbury housing market?
Well, if I’m being frank – not a great deal. The proportion of Aylesbury homeowners with variable rate mortgages (and thus directly affected by a Bank of England rate rise) will be smaller than in the past, in part because the vast majority of new mortgages in recent years were taken on fixed interest rates. The proportion of outstanding mortgages on variable rates has fallen to a record low of 42.3 per cent, down from a peak of 72.9 per cent in the autumn of 2011.
If more Aylesbury people are protected from interest rate rises, because they are on a fixed rate mortgage, then there is less chance of those Aylesbury people having to sell their Aylesbury properties because they can’t afford the monthly repayments or even worse case scenario, have them repossessed.
However, and this will be of interest to both Aylesbury homeowners and Aylesbury buy to let landlords …
.. for every 1% increase in the Bank of England interest rate, it will cost the average Aylesbury homeowner on a variable rate mortgage £87.70 per month

So, what next? Because UK inflation levels are at 2.9 per cent (the country’s highest rate since April 2012) and the Bank of England is tasked by HM Government to keep inflation at 2 per cent using various monetary tools (one of which is interest rates) – you can see why interest rate rises might be on the cards in the future as increasing interest rates tends to dampen inflation.

Now of course there is a certain amount of uncertainty with regard to Brexit and the negotiations thereof, but fundamentally the British economy is in decent shape. People will always need housing and as we aren’t building enough houses (as I have mentioned many times in the Aylesbury Property Blog), we might see a slight dip in prices in the short term, but in the medium to long term, the Aylesbury property market will always remain strong for both Aylesbury homeowners and Aylesbury landlords alike.


Monday, 20 November 2017

One in 16 rental properties in the Aylesbury area will be illegal in 2018

As the winter months draw in and the temperature starts to drop, keeping one’s home warm is vital. Yet, with the price of gas and electricity rising quicker than a Saturn V rocket and gas, oil and electricity taking on average 4.4% of a typical Brit’s pay packet (and for those Brit’s with the lowest 10% of incomes, that rockets to an eye watering 9.7%), whether you are a tenant or homeowner, keeping your energy costs as low as possible is vital for the household budget and the environment as a whole.

For the last 10 years, every private rental property must have an Energy-Performance-Certificate (EPC) rating.  The property is given an energy rating, very similar to those on washing machines and fridges with the rainbow coloured graph, of between A to G (A being the most efficient and G the least). New legislation comes in to force next spring (2018) for English and Welsh private landlords making it illegal to let a property that does not meet a certain energy rating. After the 1st of April next year, any new tenant moving into a private rented property or an existing tenant renewing their tenancy must have property with an energy performance rating of E or above on the property’s EPC and the new law will apply for all prevailing tenancies in the spring of 2020. After April 2018, if a landlord lets a property in the ‘F’ and ‘G’ ratings (i.e. those properties with the worst energy ratings) Trading Standards could fine the landlord up to £4,000.

Personally, I have grave apprehensions that many Aylesbury landlords may be totally unaware that their Aylesbury rental properties could fall below these new legal minimum requirements for energy efficiency benchmarks. Whilst some households may require substantial works to get their Aylesbury property from an F/G rating to an E rating or above, my experience is most properties may only need some minor work to lift them from illegal to legal. By planning and acting now, it will mitigate the need to find tradespeople in the spring when every other Aylesbury landlord will be panicking and paying top dollar for work to comply.

Whilst there is money and effort involved in upgrading the energy efficiency of rental property, a property that is energy efficient will have greater appeal to tenants and other buy-to-let landlords/investors and this will enable you to obtain higher rents and sale price (when you come to sell your investment).

So, how many properties are there in the area that are F and G rated .. well quite a few in fact. Looking at the whole of the Aylesbury Vale District Council area, of the 9,234 privately rented properties, there are ..

430 rental properties in the F banding
137 rental properties in the G banding

That means just over one in 16 rental properties in the Aylesbury and surrounding area has an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of F or G. From April next year it will be illegal to rent out those homes rated F and G homes with a new tenancy.


Talking with the Energy Assessors that carry out our EPC’s, they tell me most of a building’s heat is lost through draughty windows/doors or poor insulation in the roof and walls. So why not look at your EPC and see what the assessor suggested to improve the efficiency of your property? 

I can find the EPC of every rental property in Aylesbury, so irrespective of whether you are a client of mine or not, don’t hesitate to contact me via email (or phone) if you need some guidance on finding out the EPC rating or need a trustworthy contractor that can help you out? 

Monday, 13 November 2017

Aylesbury Homeowners Are Only Moving Every 13 Years (part 2)

In the credit crunch of 2008/9 the rate of home moving plunged to its lowest level ever. In 2009 the rate at which a typical house would change hands slumped to only once every 21 years. The biggest reason being that confidence was low and many homeowners didn’t want to sell their home as Aylesbury property prices plunged after the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. However, since 2009, the rate of home moving has increased (see the table and graph below), meaning today:

The average period of time between home moves in
Aylesbury is now 13 years.

This is an increase of 61.31 per cent between the credit crunch fallout year of 2009 and today, but still it is a 21.27 per cent drop in moves by homeowners, compared to 15 years ago (The Noughties).



So why aren’t Aylesbury homeowners moving as much as they did in the Noughties?

The causes of the current state of play are numerous. In last weeks article I talked about how ‘real’ incomes and savings had been dropping. Another issue is the long-term failure in the number of properties being built. Only a few weeks ago in the blog, I was discussing the draconian planning rules meaning house builders struggle to locate building land to actually build on.

Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, as a country, we were building on average 300,000 and 350,000 households a year. The Barker Review a few years ago said that for the UK to stand still and keep up with housing demand (through immigration, people living longer, a just under 50% increase in the number of households with a single person since the 1980’s and family makeup (i.e. divorce makes one household now two)) we needed to build 240,000 households a year. Over the last few years, we have only been building between 135,000 and 150,000 households a year.

Finally, as the UK Population gets older, there is no getting away from the fact that a maturing population is a less mobile one.

So, what does this mean for Aylesbury homeowners and landlords?

Well, if Aylesbury people are less inclined to move or find it hard to sell a property or acquire a new one, they are probably less likely to move to an improved job or a more prosperous part of the UK.

Many of the older generation in Aylesbury are stuck in property that is simply too big for their needs. The fact is that, in Aylesbury Vale, more than five out of every ten (or 51.2 per cent) owned houses has two or more spare bedrooms; or to be more exact ...

25,761 of the 50,302 owned households in the Aylesbury Vale
area have two or more spare bedrooms.

So, as their children and grandchildren struggle to move up the housing ladder, with those young families bursting at the seams in homes too small for them i.e. overcrowding, we have a severe case of under-occupation with the older generation - grandparents staying put in their bigger homes, with a profusion of spare bedrooms.

Regrettably, I cannot see how the rate of properties being sold will rise any time soon. Many commentators have suggested the Government should give tax breaks to allow the older generation to downsize, yet in a recent White Paper on housing published just weeks before the General Election, there was no reference of any thoughtful and detailed policies to inspire or support them to do so.

This means that there could be an opportunity for Aylesbury buy to let landlords to secure larger properties to rent out, as the demand for them will surely grow over the coming years. As for homeowners; well those in the lower and middle Aylesbury market will find it a balanced sellers/buyers market, but will find it slightly more a buyers market in the upper price bands.

Interesting times ahead!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Aylesbury Home Owners Are Only Moving Every 13 Years (part 1)

As I mentioned in a previous article, the average house price in Aylesbury is 9.87 times the average annual Aylesbury salary. This is higher than the last peak of 2008, when the ratio was 8.97. A number of City commentators anticipated that in the ambiguity that trailed the Brexit vote, UK (and hence Aylesbury) property prices might drop like a stone. The point is – they haven’t.

Now it’s true the market for Aylesbury’s high end properties looks a little fragile (although they are selling if they are realistically priced) and overall, Aylesbury property price growth has slowed, but the lower to middle Aylesbury property market appears to be quite strong.


Scratch under the surface though, and a different long-term picture is emerging away from what is happening to property prices. Aylesbury people are moving home less often than they once did. Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the number of properties sold in 2016 is again much lower than it was in the "Noughties". My statistics show …



Even though we are not anywhere near the post credit crunch (2008 and 2009) low levels of property sales, the torpor of the Aylesbury housing market following the 2016 Brexit vote has seen the number of property sales in Aylesbury and the surrounding local authority area level off to what appears to be the start of a new long term trend (compared the Noughties).

Interestingly, it was the 1980’s that saw the highest levels of people moving home. Nationally, everyone was moving on average every decade. Even though it was during the Labour administration of the late 1970’s where the right to buy one’s council house started, it was the Housing Act of 1980 that that really got council tenants moving, as Thatcher’s Tory government financially encouraged council tenants to buy their council-rented homes - for which countless then sold them on for a profit and moved elsewhere. The housing market was awash with money as banks were allowed to offer mortgages as well as the existing building societies, meaning it made it simpler for Brits to borrow even more money on mortgages and to climb up the housing ladder.

But coming back to today, looking at the property sales figures in the Aylesbury area since 2010/11, a new trend of number of property sales appears to have started. Interestingly, this has been mirrored nationally. The reasons behind this are complex, but a good place to start is the growth rate of real UK household disposable income, which has fallen from 5.01% a year in 2000 to 1.68% in 2016. Also, things have deteriorated since the country voted to leave the EU as consumer price inflation has risen to 2.7% per annum, meaning inflation has eaten away at the real value of wages (as they have only grown by 1.1% in the same time frame).

With meagre real income growth, it has become more difficult for homeowners to accumulate the savings needed to climb up the housing ladder as the level of saving has also dropped from 4.26% of household income to -1.11% (i.e. people are eating into their savings).

Next week I will be discussing how these (and other issues) has meant the level of Aylesbury people moving home has slumped to once every 13 years. 


Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Aylesbury House Prices Outstrip Wage Growth by 26.12% since 2007

I recently read a report by the Yorkshire Building Society that 54% of the country has seen wages (salaries) rise faster than property prices in the last 10 years. The report said that in the Midlands and North, salaries had outperformed property prices since 2007, whilst in other parts of the UK, especially in the South, the opposite has happened and property prices have outperformed salaries quite noticeably.


As regular readers of my blog know, I always like to find out what has actually happened locally in Aylesbury. To talk of North and South is not specific enough for me. Therefore, to start, I looked at what has happened to salaries locally since 2007. Looking at the Office of National Statistics (ONS) data for Aylesbury Vale District Council, some interesting figures came out...



Salaries in Aylesbury Vale have risen by 12.15% since 2007 (although it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride to get there!) - interesting when you compare that with what has happened to salaries regionally (an increase of 15.87%) and nationally, an increase of 17.61%.

Next, I needed to find what had happened to property prices locally over the same time frame of 2007 and today. Net property values in Aylesbury Vale are 38.27% higher than they were in late 2007 (not forgetting they did dip in 2008 and 2009). Therefore...

Property values in the Aylesbury area have increased at a higher rate than wages to the tune of 26.12% ... meaning, Aylesbury is in line with the regional trend 


All this is important, as the relationship between salaries and property values is the basis on how affordable property is to first (and second, third etc.) time buyers. It is also vitally relevant for Aylesbury landlords as they need to be aware of this when making their buy-to-let plans for the future. If more Aylesbury people are buying, then demand for Aylesbury rental properties will drop (and vice versa).

As I have discussed in a few articles in my blog recently, this issue of ‘property-affordability’ is a great bellwether to the future direction of the Aylesbury property market. Now of course, it isn’t as simple as comparing salaries and property prices, as that measurement disregards issues such as low mortgage rates and the diminishing proportion of disposable income that is spent on mortgage repayments.

On the face of it, the change between 2007 and 2017 in terms of the ‘property-affordability’ hasn’t been that great. However, look back another 10 years to 1997, and that tells a completely different story. Nationally, the affordability of property more than halved between 1997 and today. In 1997, house prices were on average 3.5 times workers’ annual wages, whereas in 2016 workers could typically expect to spend around 7.7 times annual wages on purchasing a home.

The issue of a lack of homeownership has its roots in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It’s quite hard as a tenant to pay your rent and save money for a deposit at the same time, meaning for many Aylesbury people, home ownership isn't a realistic goal. Earlier in the year, the Tories released proposals to combat the country’s 'broken' housing market, setting out plans to make renting more affordable, while increasing the security of rental deals and threatening to bring tougher legal action to cases involving bad landlords.

This is all great news for Aylesbury tenants and decent law-abiding Aylesbury landlords (and indirectly owner occupier homeowners).