The 25th Annual Quiz Evening for the NSPCC Islington branch took place on the 25th March at Islington Town Hall and was a brilliant success, raising £10,000.

Currell have been dedicated sponsors of the event for 20 years and this year saw 190 guests walk through the door, the best attendance since 2012.

Clive Anderson, award-winning broadcaster and comedy writer hosted the event and kept guests entertained through seven difficult rounds.

With Easter in sight, it wasn’t a surprise that the chocolate round was deemed most popular. It was clearly thirsty work, as over the course of the evening they managed to drink the bar dry… twice!

Overall it was a wonderful evening for a fantastic cause.

To find out more about NSPCC Islington and their work please visit their website here 

Head of Research Nicola Almond says UK interest rates are not expected to rise despite yesterday’s increase in the US 

The US Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate yesterday by 0.25% to 1%, as inflation rose to 2.2% in February – above the target of 2%.

Although inflation is also rising in the UK, the Bank of England is not expected to follow suit with a rate rise, due to fears of an adverse impact on the economy and concerns over Brexit.

UK inflation is facing upward pressure due to post-Brexit sterling weakness, rising from 1.6% in January to 1.8% in February. This quarter it is forecast to be 2%, rising further to 2.7% in early 2018 before falling to 2.6% in early 2019.

This is the second US rate rise in three months, and the first of three interest rate rises expected this year. Whilst rates are expected to climb steadily thereafter, some commentators expect rates to stick at around 2%, whilst others see them returning in the longer term to pre-crash levels of 4%-5%.

The UK benchmark rate was cut from to 0.5% to 0.25% last August. This was the first rate change in over 7 years. Most commentators expect the rate to remain unchanged at 0.25% in 2017 and 2018. This may change however if inflation rises faster than expected and economic growth exceeds expectations.

The US rate rise may put some upward pressure on UK mortgage rates, which have recently seen some increases in long term 10 year fixed deals from historic lows.

 

Head of Research Nicola Almond comments on the lack of further action on housing in yesterday’s Spring Budget

As widely feared, Chancellor Philip Hammond did not announce any changes to Stamp Duty in yesterday’s budget. Nor did he announce any further incentives to fix what the government referred to less than a month ago as the ‘broken’ housing market.

Although It is widely accepted that changes to Stamp Duty since 2014 have dampened activity in the market, the government has given no indication that further changes will be made, despite increased lobbying from key players in the property sector. 

We now need to wait at least until November for any further measures. In the meantime expect the clamour for Stamp Duty reform to increase, with demands for help for first time buyers, small investors and downsizers, as well as a rationalisation and reduction of Stamp Duty bands and rates, which fall disproportionately on buyers in London due to the higher cost of properties. The average asking price in the capital is now close to £625,000, attracting a Stamp Duty payment of £21,250.

Currell supports these calls for reform. CEO Anne Currell says “Punitive levels of Stamp Duty act not only as a barrier to entry for first time buyers but also hinder those already on the property ladder who need to move to a larger or smaller home. This is not only frustrating for individuals but also means that we are not making the most efficient use of our housing stock.”

Head of Research Nicola Almond previews the Spring Budget and CEO Anne Currell voices support for stamp duty reform.

Next Wednesday’s spring budget will be Philip Hammond’s first and the UK’s last, as it will move to the autumn from this year.

Bumper tax receipts in January from self-assessment and capital gains tax have cut government borrowing to its lowest level in January for 17 years, giving the chancellor more room for manoeuvre than expected. There may be some modest giveaways, although these are likely to be limited as there is still much uncertainty around Brexit, with article 50 expected to be triggered around the 15th March.

The most likely move in the property sector is some mitigation of the impact of rising business rates. Business secretary Sajid Javid has already promised help worth ‘hundreds of millions’ for the many small businesses affected, many of which are facing rises in the region of 400%.

Lobbying continues to increase for reform of stamp duty, although the absence of any announcement in the Autumn Statement suggests this may be falling on deaf ears despite disappointing tax receipts following last April’s SDLT increases for buyers of additional properties. By November, these changes had brought in half as much money as the Treasury expected and were blamed for the steep fall in property sales volumes, costing the UK economy an estimated £1 billion.

With almost half of all SDLT raised in London and the South East, where just over a quarter of the population live, this tax falls disproportionately on areas with higher property prices. It represents not only a barrier to entry into the property market, but also an obstacle to those wishing or needing to move. Currell supports Property Week’s call to reform the SDLT system, which comprises five key demands:

1. Exempt first-time buyers from stamp duty
2. Exempt downsizers or give them a tax break to move home
3. Adjust the tax brackets to increase funding for affordable homes
4. Lower the top rates
5. Abolish the 3% surcharge on additional homes

CEO Anne Currell believes that if enacted, these bold moves would provide a welcome stimulus to the property market, commenting that

“Stamp duty reform has the potential to provide a much-needed boost to supply as well as improving affordability across the sector, especially for first time buyers in London”.

Head of Research Nicola Almond discusses increasing interest in Help to Buy London.

This week’s Homes and Property reports that an increasing number of developments in London are being registered for the Government’s Help to Buy initiative.

It’s just over a month since the Government increased the upper limit on this equity loan scheme from 20% to 40% for all London boroughs, and an increasing number of homes are being registered for the scheme, as developers face an uncertain market.

The new rules make it possible to buy a new build property for up to £600,000 with a minimum deposit of 5%, a Government equity loan of up to 40%, and a mortgage of 55%. No fees are charged on the loan for the first five years of owning the property.

The scheme is open to home movers as well as first time buyers, although the property you are buying must be the only property you own at the time of purchase, and homes can’t subsequently be sublet.

Martin Fillery, director and Head of Shared Ownership at Currell, believes the Government is putting pressure on developers to offer London Help to Buy more widely as it tries to increase the amount of affordable housing in the capital.

“If they have seen any sort of slowdown in their sales rates it is a great way to open things up to a different audience,” he says.

Developers appear to be overcoming their fear that registering eligible units for Help to Buy could detract either from the appeal of a scheme or from the more expensive units within a development.

Head of New Homes Adrian Plant welcomes the increase in the equity limit, saying,

“At Currell we encourage developers to register for Help to Buy, as this offers many buyers a route to purchase which would otherwise not be possible”

With the triggering of Article 50 looming there is an increasing awareness that the market may lack direction for some time. Affordability remains a pressing issue, and registering properties for Help to Buy optimises both the appeal and the number of potential buyers, so is an obvious choice for eligible properties.

Downsizer scheme, Quadra

Quadra, is a new Hackney development designed solely for the downsizer market over the age of 55

Currell are delighted to announce that we have been appointed as sole agent to sell Quadra – a unique, age-exclusive downsizer development in Hackney. The project is a joint venture between Hanover Housing Association and award-winning housebuilder Hill.

Comprising a collection of 29 spacious one and two bedroom apartments overlooking London Fields, Quadra is designed for over 55s who want to enjoy all that this vibrant and sought after pocket of east London has to offer. Carefully arranged around a landscaped courtyard, the architecturally striking development comprises two blocks, designed so that most lounge and dining areas have a view of the park.

Benjamin Hobart, Associate Director of New Homes, comments: “This is a highly unique project that Currell had been following closely for a number of years – and we are looking forward to the launch. This is a prime example of a meticulously planned development, which will give purchasers the opportunity to have one of east London’s most iconic open spaces on their doorstep and in many cases, visible from their own living rooms.”

Claire Anderson, Deputy Director of Development at Hanover, adds: “Quadra is the latest offering in our Downsizer Homes portfolio, creating a truly appealing, age exclusive development. We are delighted to be working with Currell as they have a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the Hackney area that will bring the creativity and experience needed to market this exclusive new development.”

Sales will officially launch in Q2, with prices to be confirmed.

Visit www.currell.com/new-homes for more information.

Make the ultimate romantic gesture and find the perfect love nest to share with your partner this Valentine’s Day. These small but perfectly formed properties are the perfect place to make a home together. Some even have an extra bedroom (just in case).

Clerkenwell

Wyclif Court

St John Street, EC1V, £435 per week (tenant fees apply)

This beautifully refurbished, one double bedroom apartment sits in the heart of Clerkenwell, close to Farringdon and Angel. The apartment features wood flooring throughout, has an open plan layout and is positioned on the fifth floor of the Wyclif Court development. The charming Exmouth Market, with its array of bars and restaurants, is just a short walk away. Date nights are all sorted.

Hackney

Gosse Court

Downham Road, N1, £525,000 Leasehold

Located on Kingsland Basin, close to Haggerston overground, this one double bedroom apartment is within a popular and secure block. The apartment has spectacular views over the Kingsland Basin and London skyline, which can be enjoyed from the south facing winter garden and balcony. A perfect setting for a romantic meal for two. Other perks include a communal roof terrace and bike storage.

Enfield Road

Enfield Road, N1 £565,000 Leasehold

This gated development is perfect for those who want their conveniences close at hand, with an on-site gym and concierge. Located on the first floor, the apartment has two double bedrooms (one en-suite) and bright, modern living space. Enfield Road is close to Haggerston station and a short stroll from Regent’s Canal. It’s also got growing room…just in case.

Shoreditch

Weymouth Court

Weymouth Terrace, E2 £450,000 Leasehold

A two bedroom, second floor ex-local authority apartment positioned within easy reach of buzzing areas such as Hoxton, Shoreditch and Hackney. The apartment has been refurbished to a high standard with high quality wooden flooring and underfloor heating keeping you cosy on the long winter nights. Both bedrooms are well-sized doubles and the living space has a south facing balcony. The nearby Columbia Road market is the perfect spot for a romantic Sunday stroll.

Islington

Mortimer Road

Mortimer Road, N1 £525,000 Leasehold

A charming one bedroom apartment set on the raised ground floor of a converted Victorian house in the heart of De Beauvoir. The property comprises a wonderful reception room with an impressive floor to ceiling window, separate kitchen and bathroom. The well proportioned double bedroom is situated to the rear of the property, providing some the perfect spot for a peaceful escape from city life.

 

homes

Head of Research, Nicola Almond, discusses yesterday’s White Paper

Yesterday’s housing White Paper signalled an acceptance of the reality that home ownership is not for everyone, and that the rental sector needs to play an increasingly important role. Building homes faster and providing more homes for rent appear to be the government’s main fixes for what it acknowledges is the ‘broken housing market’.

The government recognises that measures to boost supply are essential if the target of 250,000 additional homes per year is to be achieved, and the White Paper is looking mainly to planning reform to achieve this with a combination of higher local targets for numbers of homes and speedier construction. Although the government recognises a shortage of available land there are no plans to relax green belt rules, with the focus for land provision remaining on brownfield sites. The government repeated its commitment to releasing surplus public land with a capacity for 160,000 homes during this Parliament.

According to the government, 40% of local planning authorities do not have an up to date plan that meets projected needs, so councils will be forced to plan for more homes by producing ‘realistic’ and regularly updated Local Plans, with higher density developments (including mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets) where appropriate. Councils will also be helped to build more homes, although details of this are yet to be disclosed; many are hoping that the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing cap will be lifted.

Planning rules will be amended to allow more homes for rent, in both the private (BtR) and affordable sectors. The government is aiming to improve the quality of rental properties and lengthen tenancy terms by professionalising the private rented sector, encouraging institutional investment in Build to Rent (BtR) properties and in effect leaving the Buy-to-Let market to wither on the vine as increased taxes continue to take effect.

Once construction is underway developers will be forced to build faster, with completion notices imposing a deadline of two years rather than three between planning consent and completion.

The government is hoping to encourage more construction companies into the market, and the white Paper reiterated its commitment to use the £3bn Home Building Fund previously announced to encourage SMEs into the sector. Many of these exited the market during the last recession, and 60% of new homes are built by only 10 companies.

Measures to help home buyers at the bottom of the property ladder were announced, including Lifetime ISAs (helping first-time buyers save for a deposit) and further restrictions on the purchase of starter homes. These homes, currently sold at least 20% below market value to first time buyers aged 23-40, will be available only to households with combined incomes of less than £80,000 (or £90,000 in London) who are buying with a mortgage. The planned number of starter homes is likely to fall however, as the requirement for 20% of larger developments to be starter homes is to be dropped in favour of at least 10% of these schemes being ‘affordable home ownership units’.

Affordable housing initiatives announced previously were reiterated in the White Paper, such as the £1.4bn of extra funding for the Affordable Homes Programme, and the extension of Right to Buy to include housing association tenants.

The White Paper has generally had a lukewarm reception, with many seeing it as papering over the cracks of the ‘broken housing market’ rather than engendering the radical reform needed. Whilst the emergent Build to Rent sector undoubtedly has an important role to play, it is unlikely to prove a panacea, and there are increasing expectations that councils will have to start building again to rectify the ongoing imbalance between supply and demand.

Head of Research Nicola Almond considers tomorrow’s housing White Paper

Housing Minister Gavin Barwell is expected to announce several measures to speed up house building in tomorrow’s housing White Paper, which it is hoped will help the government meet its own objective of building 1 million new homes by 2020. This aim, announced in 2015, is already looking challenging, with the 167,920 completions in 2015/16 way short of the 250,000 annual target. Not surprisingly, the government is focusing instead on the figure for net additions to housing stock, which reached 190,000 in 2015/16.

The long awaited White Paper is expected to provide a package of measures to encourage the institutional investors into the Build to Rent (BtR) sector, including amending planning rules so more homes can be built specifically for rent. The government says it is not giving up on its dream of a property-owning democracy, but that it needs to provide for people who want to rent as well as those who want to buy. BtR homes can offer longer tenancies, which are especially important to young families.

Measures are also expected to encourage smaller developers back into the market to reduce what the government regards as the sector’s reliance on a small number of large developers.

Freeing up more land for development is expected to be a key objective. Currently only 3% of land on England is built on, with an estimated additional 0.5% of brownfield land potentially available. Compare to this the 13% designated as green belt, and it’s easy to understand the demands for new rules for building on this land. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has previously said that councils should not stand in the way of development provided all other options have been considered.

Land banking is also expected to be targeted, with the suggestions that developers may see planning permission withdrawn if they sit on parcels of land without building homes. The land around railway stations has been identified as a target for homes, and moves are expected to relocate station car parks underground to free up development land. Height restrictions on tall buildings are also expected to be relaxed, with the suggestion that home owners and developers may be allowed to build to the height of the ‘tallest building on the block’ without needing to seek planning permission.

Further measures are expected to include incentives for older people to downsize to smaller properties, thus releasing a supply of larger homes. This may include more housing for over 55s but is not expected to include the previously mooted idea of exempting older people from stamp duty to incentivise them to vacate under-used homes.

With 220,000 homes needed per year just to keep up with projected population growth, the government needs to find an answer to the question of how to increase house building. With the structural imbalance between supply and demand continuing to fuel price growth and challenge affordability for many, a range of effective measures is long overdue.

so team

Director of Shared Ownership at Currell, Martin Fillery, discusses how the industry is changing and how sales negotiators need to have more skills than ever before

Shared ownership has grown steadily over the last 25 years, as successive governments sought to facilitate home ownership in the face of rising property prices and deteriorating affordability.

The imbalance between supply and demand remains constant with many more homes sought than available, bringing a need to ration the opportunity to buy.

This meant that for negotiators selling shared ownership homes, there was not so much a need to ‘sell’ as to allocate to those most in need or comply with eligibility rules. These rules were designed to ensure the public purse was used wisely.

Tellingly, in the early days negotiators were often referred to as ‘sales coordinators’. The sales coordinator acted as a gatekeeper and form filler, assessing eligibility and ensuring correct processes were followed. There were similarities to dealing with a council waiting list, and many early shared ownership buyers were moving from social rental homes.

The sector has changed considerably; property prices have far outstripped wage growth, making shared ownership the only viable route to home ownership for many. In 1997 the average London house price was 3.7 times the average annual wage – today it is nine times average incomes.

To reflect this, income thresholds were increased (to £90k in London and £80k outside of London) and consequently, most shared ownership buyers today are young professionals exiting the private rental sector. The main target group is young professionals. Demand from this demographic is growing – driven by rising prices and increasing awareness of the shared ownership product.

On the supply side, there is more product and the market place has become competitive. HAs are increasingly commercially aware and constantly raising design and specification standards.

More HAs are developing shared ownership homes for sale, including developing larger sites in-house rather than relying on Section 106 supply. In addition to this increased supply and competition within the shared ownership sector, government initiatives such as Help to Buy are targeting the same purchaser pool.

Prospective buyers have a much wider range of homes to choose from, and the shared ownership sales negotiator needs to help them make an informed decision. This includes not only educating the buyer about shared ownership (still a necessity), but also having a thorough knowledge of the development they are selling and competing schemes.

Once committed to the scheme, the sales negotiator needs to manage the expectations of increasingly discerning and well-informed purchasers; this requires a complete understanding of the product they are offering (including detailed specifications such as heating, appliances and materials).

Consequently, the ability to sell the scheme and close the deal are becoming essential in a market where rising prices are restricting the number of potential purchasers, and supply is increasing. Whilst the supply/demand dynamics are different from the market for private sale new homes, the shift in shared ownership is narrowing this gap, and the difference between selling shared ownership or private sale new homes is being eroded.

The shared ownership sales negotiator increasingly needs to have a broad skill set, with a thorough understanding of the sector and product. This needs to be complemented by knowledge of the local market and competing schemes, plus a keen commercial awareness and the ability to ‘seal the deal’ and see it through to completion. Many now working in the sector have experienced this evolution, and are keen to embrace further change.

With HAs increasing their supply of properties for sale on the open market, and shared ownership homes increasingly seen as part of the continuum of property for purchase, the logical next step is for crossover, with negotiators selling both products, finding the best match for buyers and vendors.

‘I think the main change I have seen over the 17 years I have worked in this sector is the supply/demand of affordable home ownership. When I started out at Tower back in 2000 it was more a case of selection and eligibility as demand far outstripped supply of shared ownership homes. The role of the sales negotiator was to ensure the right person was prioritised according to LA and Government criteria. Now we have a more competitive market with shared ownership competing with Help to Buy. The role of the sales negotiator is now more about effective sales & marketing techniques and being able to close the deal with the buyer. There is still an element of selection and eligibility required, especially in rural locations where local parishes with restrictive covenants still apply, but overall the role is now identical to that of any sales negotiator in a property environment.

The buyer profile has also changed significantly. Whereas 17 years ago a high percentage of sales were to those releasing a social rented home, we have seen this reduce to almost zero and the young professional taking over as the main target group for shared ownership, especially in high value London locations.’ Debbie Small, Sales & Marketing Director, Hyde New Homes