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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Creating a new address and tenancy and creating a tenancy agreement - Software Video TIp

This video shows users how to create a new property address, add a tenancy to the property and how to start creating pre-populated forms such as Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements using the FREE property management software.

And who said property management wasn't fun.

Mark makes it feel like skipping through meadows.



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Empty Homes Campaign



It’s a week for banners, chanting and marching on the streets. Have you chirped up about anything yet this week?

The deadline for signatories to the Empty Homes Campaign is coming up soon, 21 April 2009. If the sight of boarded up houses makes you want to cry or it makes you want to roll up your sleeves, get quotes for repair, put an offer in, get a mortgage, rent it out, then go on to the next one .................................this is the petition for you. No need to get arrested.

Here is
the petition and there is lots of information from the Empty Homes Agency and on David Ireland's blog about unlocking the potential of vacant property. The campaign has three main aims: for VAT on refurbishment and renovation to be cut to 5%, grant aid for social landlords to buy and repair empty properties and clearer guidance to help councils to get Empty Dwelling Management Orders off the ground.

VAT on refurbishment cut to 5%? Maybe this will be in the budget.
Grant aid for social landlords will help ease the demand for affordable rented property and help bring some derelict properties into use.

The last aim in this campaign has already been agreed to and Councils should soon be better
able to make use of their powers to take on the management of residential property that has been empty for years. There are estimated to be over 1 million empty properties in the UK this year and, in theory, if more and more Empty Dwelling Management Orders are used rental demand in some areas will reduce as more properties come on the market to rent. But, anything that can help streets and neighbourhoods blighted by boarded up houses and neglect can surely help any local economy and the rental market reflect the true state of affairs in an area, once and for all.

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Financial times reports increase in Buy-to-Let


The Financial Times reported yesterday that for the first time in 2 years more landlords are buying than selling. This is based upon information reported to ARLA by estate agents and is despite reports of an over supply of rental properties in some areas.

Could this be the start of an upswing in property prices?

Click here to read the whole story.

Happy Tuesday from the Happy Piggybank at NSP Resources!

Landlord insurance - it's a pain!

For me Spring heralds many pleasant things. Birds chirping in the trees, buds blossom and a general feel of optimism. One aspect that's not so pleasurable is it also when my landlord insurance needs renewing.

Having a moderate sized portfolio of 8 buy-to-let properties this means to get quotes from a landlord insurance broker it can take for ever. I will have a look at this new landlord insurance site, which certainly makes finding landlord insurers easier.

I'm currently using Alan Boswell insurance who I've used for many years. But as always, I think that maybe If I shopped around I could get a cheaper landlord insurance quote.

What I really want is a button that I can press that automatically searches the landlord insurance market and gets me the cheapest quote. Anybody know if it exists?

Otherwise I guess it will be the usual phone around and a realisation that my renewal quote for my landlord insurance is not that bad and a case of better the devil you know.


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Landlords face potential competition from institutional investors

The latest potential headache for landlords is the potential that institutional money enters the buy-to-let market increasing the competition amongst landlords to secure tenants. This could be the case according to Property Week who have reported the plans of the newly formed Homes and Communities Agency looking to secure institutional backing for a push into private rental markets.

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The talks are thought to be only at a very early stage and are based on how a private rented sector fund model could be structured and what the costs associated with it would be. Cost assessments would include how rental streams are guaranteed and how void and management costs are handled.

This attempt by the Homes and Communities Agency is one of a long line of failed or shelved initiatives by various governments to secure greater involvement and funds from the private sector. The reality is that each time schemes have failed because governments were unprepared to take a long-term view or grant the institutions sufficiently attractive terms such as tax relief to make the investment an attractive one. This, combined with the fact that institutions perceive investment as 'messy' and with certain amount of political risk has meant that involvement by investing institutions has always been small scale and patchy.

Property Hawk comments
Property Hawk has no problems with government incentivising the private sector to provide rental housing. What we would say to government. Make sure that you don't discriminate against the small guys. After all much of private rental housing is provided by small scale landlords and the sector now contributes over 12% of the housing in the UK. That ain't to be sniffed at.


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Monday, March 30, 2009

Buy-to-let sector sees growth but some landlords continue to suffer.


ARLA's quarterly review is here again.

The first quarter of 2009 continues the 'tale of two landlords' narrative.

The report indicates that landlords are buying more property than they are selling. This you could argue puts the buy-to-let sector as a growth sector once again. This might partly be as a result of cash rich landlords picking up perceived bargain properties with heavily reduced price tags.

The other finding was that members have seen an increased level of landlord repossessions during the quarter. Reporting that 1 in 5 members had seen at least one property on their books being repossessed on a weekly basis. About 5 per cent of members said two properties were being repossessed weekly.

As Margo likes to point out remember that this always has a certain sniff of LDLS.


More description of the report in the FT

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Landlords Look to Take Advantage of Developers Desperation


Discounted new build apartments stand at a bargain price for cash rich, professional landlords.
Landlords and property investors are securing multiple properties in new build apartment blocks at up to 45% below the top of the market prices.
These direct from the developer discount will dry up over the next six months as supply diminishes.
Some discounted properties are providing yields of up to 10.5 per cent on sensibly priced properties in the capital’s peripheral areas.
Unlike many previous fraudulently, marketed discounted new build property from previous years, read my post from back in 2006, investors can see these as a genuine sale opportunity.
However, in a falling market, reduced, might not be reduced enough.
"How low can they go?"
Read more here

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Landlord Folk

'Landlord Folk'



A great version of Dylans 'Dear Landlord'

Love to landlords your darling margo

A tenant shares her experience of a rogue Scottish landlord who illegally evicted her

A tenant shares her experience of a rogue Scottish landlord who illegally evicted her from her flat. The video is produced by Shelter who are calling all Scottish landlords to register with their local council landlord accreditation scheme, that was implemented back in 2006. However many Scottish landlords have failed to register with the scheme.



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Friday, March 27, 2009

Landlords - Are you feeling the pinch? - woes and whinges lovingly accepted.


Remember the days when landlords would awaken every morning to good news.

"House prices are up another 2% this week.", blimey how much money have I made from this? We would ask. Anyway, awake! That is a distant dream.

Feel free to post your whinges, heart ache and upset here - we are a landlord friendly zone. Condemnation is not our style.

Now days landlords are been attacked on all fronts.

A flooded rental market, thanks to those pesky 'accidental landlords', and a harsh mortgage lending climate. "Don't panic Captain Mannering!"

This City Wire post comments on the reality for many landlords and but-to-let investors, been squeezed from both sides.

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Rents Stabilise after Recent Falls -


Hopefully the worrying downward trend in rental values has flattened out, and landlords can start to stabilise cashflows and re-evaluate their longer term business plans. (if they had one in the first place).

This Times article reflects on the current state of the rental market, and comments that ' The lower end of the market is beginning to bottom out, estate agents say, after a sharp decline in rents over the past year. '

The new Rent Index site shows that average rents took a dip in October 2008 through to January 2009 but seem to have flattened out over February and March. The average rent of rental property in England and Wales currently stands at 581.969 according to the Rent Index.

We will monitor the fluctuations in average rents to see if they will retain levels over the coming months.

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Tenants quitting their properties to avoid paying rent.

The Letting Protection Service (LPS), has reported a sharp rise in the number of tenants quitting their properties to avoid paying rent.

Claims for lost rent resulting from absconding tenants increased from 91 in October 2007, to 1,286 a year later.

The company that provides specialist insurance, referencing and protection products for UK landlords probably would say that, though. - 'Lies, damned lies and statistics'

Read more - here



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Fixed rate mortgages increase in 1st quarter


The fifth edition of Legal & General's's Mortgage Product Index throws some light on the take up by landlords of fixed-rate mortgage products .

It appears that landlords have been flocking to fixed rate buy-to-let mortgage products in Q1 of 09 with the percentage of fixed rate buy-to-let mortgage up from 43% in the previous quarter to 68 % in the first quarter of the year.

This jump may no be so significant as it first appears. Firstly with mortgage approvals hovering at historic low levels then a small sample size isn't the most reliant. Even more significant is the shortage of supply of variable rate products.

A quick search conducted through the buy-to-let mortgage search facility revealed only 19 variable rate products now available. Pleasingly, however were the appearance of several products below 5%. The cheapest of the bunch is a tracker provided by Lloyds TSB of 4.49% or 3.99% above base until end of June 2012. The reversion rate is a reasonable 2.5% above base.

More of the latest buy-to-let mortgage news provided by emoneyfacts:

  • Scottish BS
  • Buy-to-let STANDARD VARIABLE MORTGAGE RATE reduced by 0.20% to 5.04%, w.e.f. 26.3.09....more
  • 25 Mar 2009
  • Birmingham Midshires Solutions
  • END-DATES on Buy-to-let FIXED RATE MORTGAGES extended to 1 July. FIXED RATE of 5.29% to 1.4.12 withdrawn & replaced with new rate of 5.49% to 1.7.12. NEW FIXED RATES for house purchase only of 5.29% to 1.7.12, max 70% & 5.49% to 1.7.14, max 75%. NEW FIXED RATE for purchase & remortgage of 5.99% to 1.7.19, w.e.f. 21.3.09....more
  • 23 Mar 2009
  • The Mortgage Times
  • ALL FIXED RATE MORTGAGES funded by BM Solutions withdrawn & replaced with products of 5.29% to 1.7.11, 4.99% to 1.7.12 and 5.99% to 1.7.19 and for purchase only 5.49% to 1.7.14 and 5.29% to 1.7.12 and for remortgage only 5.69% to 1.7.14 and 5.49% to 1.7.12, w.e.f. 23.3.09....more
  • 23 Mar 2009
  • Bank of Scotland Mortgages
  • Buy-to-let FIXED RATES of 5.24% to 31.3.12 & 5.79% to 31.3.14 withdrawn & replaced with products of 5.29% & 5.69% to 30.6.12 and 5.89% to 30.6.14, w.e.f. 21.3.09....more
  • 23 Mar 2009
  • Clydesdale Bank
  • END-DATES on buy-to-let FIXED RATE MORTGAGES extended to 30 June, w.e.f. 23.3.09....more
  • 23 Mar 2009
  • Yorkshire Bank
  • END-DATES on Buy-to-let FIXED RATE MORTGAGES extended to 30 June, w.e.f. 23.3.09....more
  • 23 Mar 2009
  • Pink Home Loans
  • END-DATES on Buy-to-let FIXED RATE MORTGAGES funded by BM Solutions extended to 1st July, wef 21.3.09....more
  • 23 Mar 2009
  • Alliance & Leicester
  • END DATE on buy-to-let FIXED RATE extended by 2 months to 30 June, w.e.f. 23.3.09....more
  • 23 Mar 2009
  • Platform
  • NEW buy-to-let FIXED RATES with "Buy to Let" criteria of 6.99% & 7.49% to 1.6.12 and with "House Plus" criteria, 7.24% to 1.6.12 and MAXIMUM ADVANCE amended to £500K per property, w.e.f. 23.3.09. ...more
  • 23 Mar 2009
  • Platform
  • ALL BUY-TO-LET PRODUCTS withdrawn w.e.f. 5 p.m. 20.3.09....more
  • 20 Mar 2009
  • Astra from N & P - BTL
  • Buy-to-let STANDARD VARIABLE RATE reduced by 0.15% to 4.85%, w.e.f. 24.3.09. ...more
  • 20 Mar 2009
  • Norwich & Peterborough BS
  • Buy-to-let STANDARD VARIABLE RATE reduced by 0.15% to 4.85%, w.e.f. 24.3.09. ...more
  • 20 Mar 2009
  • Ecology BS
  • Buy-to-let MAXIMUM LOAN-TO-VALUE reduced from 80% to 70%, w.e.f. 19.3.09....more
  • 20 Mar 2009
  • NatWest Mortgage Services
  • END DATES on FIXED RATES extended by 2 months to 31 May, w.e.f. 19.3.09....more
  • 20 Mar 2009
  • Stafford Railway BS
  • Buy-to-let LENDING AREA restricted to local area only, w.e.f. 19.3.09....more
  • 20 Mar 2009
  • Royal Bk of Scot Mtges Direct
  • END DATES on buy-to-let FIXED RATES extended to 31 May, w.e.f. 19.3.09....more
  • 19 Mar 2009
  • Teachers BS
  • Buy-to-let STANDARD VARIABLE MORTGAGE RATE will be reduced by 0.20% to 4.99%, w.e.f. 1.4.09....more
  • 19 Mar 2009
  • Leeds BS
  • Buy-to-let FIXED RATE of 5.69% to 30.4.11 withdrawn & replaced with products of 5.69% & 5.99% to 30.6.11, w.e.f. 21.3.09....more
  • 19 Mar 2009
  • Nottingham BS
  • Buy-to-let MINIMUM RENTAL CALCULATION amended to 125% @ BBR + 6%, w.e.f. 19.3.09....more
  • 19 Mar 2009
  • Mansfield BS
  • Buy-to-let STANDARD VARIABLE RATE reduced by 0.25% to 5.24% w.e.f. 13.3.09. ...more
  • 18 Mar 2009
  • Loughborough BS
  • Buy-to-let FIXED RATE MORTGAGE of 4.99% for 3 years withdrawn, w.e.f.17.3.09....more
  • 18 Mar 2009



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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

£3 billion wasted on letting agents

According to one recent headline UK Landlords are wasting £3 Billion every year on Letting Agents. Thats the cumulative bill faced by UK landlords for managing their buy-to-let properties.

Figures show that 58% of the 3.2 million properties in the buy-to-let sector are managed by letting agents. Landlords can typically pay up to 15% of gross rents for a letting agent to manage their buy-to-let portfolio. Property Hawk has been advocating for some years that where possible a landlord should manage their own property to save on costs.

Landlords can do this by using our FREE property management software and potentially save thousand of pounds a year on letting fees.

We would be the first to point out that all letting agents are not bad. In fact having a good one who can get a landlords property let quickly and avoid the pain of an extended void is sometimes well worth paying out for their expertise. Letting agents too can also use the Property Hawk FREE property management software to manage and share information with landlords.



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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Scottish landlord review

The most extensive study of private landlords in Scotland has just been completed. Its showed a marked increase in demand for private lets from students, young professionals and migrant workers.

Landlords generally came out of it quite well with high levels of satisfaction being recorded amongst private tenants. Issues raised by tenants were about repairs and tenancy deposits. Landlords expressed concerns about the length and cost of legal action to seek possession and the administration of housing benefit. Sound familiar?





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Property Report Interview Re The IPD Annual Index of Commercial Property Returns from 2008

Phil Murray's , 'Propert Report' looks at the IPD Annual Index of Uk Commercial Property Funds in 2008.





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www.cantos.com
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London property rental values

James Davis, founder of online property rental site, www.upad.co.uk, disagrees with reports that London property rental prices have decreased by 15 percent over the last year.

Davis comments: “Over recent months, the city has seen a vast increase in the number of accidental landlords, due to the fact that they have been unable to sell their property. And the rules of supply and demand apply, meaning that property rental prices have levelled off. Overall I do not believe they are falling – there remains plenty of potential for many to make long-term gains.

“What this new breed of landlord needs to remember is that, today, tenants in London are looking for one- and two-bedroom properties, primarily in zones two and three. It is these types of property that are still commanding healthy rents.”

Davis believes that there is minimal likelihood of a return to 100 percent mortgages in the next five years. He adds: “It is this level of gearing that got the UK economy into recession in the first place.

“The affordability gap for becoming a homeowner has grown yet further. And, the situation is reinforced by the fact that there are a large number of social factors preventing tenants from becoming homeowners. There is now also real uncertainty in the job market, leading to rentals having become the preferred option.”

Davis considers that the UK (primarily London) is already seeing a shift towards a more European model of renting. As recently published in the English Housing 2007-8 report, 32% of people under 30 were buying with a mortgage against 45% who were renting. In 2001, those figures were 40% who purchased with a mortgage and who 33% rented.

Davis comments: “For Landlords wishing to increase portfolio, they should note that yields are much higher today than they were 12 months ago.

“Interest rates are at an all time low, which presents a real opportunity for residential property investors. They just need to get their proposition right, and to target the market effectively. However, it is important to remember that property is a long-term investment game – don't go into it expecting to get rich quick.”




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Guide to landlords spotting a cannabis factory

A police force has issued private landlords with guidance on how to spot if their rented properties are being turned into cannabis 'factories'according to the BBC.

Gwent Police said in the past five years the number of 'factories' it had uncovered has risen from five to 151.

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The force's drugs squad head Det Insp Paul Evans said five were found this year and 38 in the past 12 months.

He said: "When drug criminals operate out of rental properties neighbourhoods suffer."


CANNABIS 'FACTORY' CLUES

Strong smell of de-odourisers or air fresheners to disguise the smell of drug production
Lights being left on all day and night and curtains and blinds drawn
A sudden jump or fall in electricity bills
Possible rewiring
High humidity in the property
Source: Gwent Police

Det Insp Evans added: "Landlords are responsible for their property including costs if utilities are tapped into.

"Properties should be maintained and kept in good order and we advise landlords to check their premises on a regular basis to avoid becoming a victim."

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Rent Index site launches



Landlords who have been watching with increasing nervousness the headlines proclaiming that rents are falling will be interested by the launch of a new website called the Rent Index. The Rent Index is the first real time measure of UK private sector rents. The Rent Index measures the level of UK residential rents in real time and uses data from actual rents unlike other sites which use a much less accurate headline rents or a landlords asking price.

The latest figures from the Rent Index show that the average rent in the UK was £584 per calender month. This shows that rents have actually risen by just over 3.5% over the year. Rents have dropped slightly over the last 6 month falling just over 2.5% but have recently stabilised showing a very small move upwards of just over 0.5% over the last month.

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NEW Property Management software - multiple rents


Landlord using Property Hawk Property Manager 2 software may be interested to know that they can now add in more than a single rent against a single rent request in their digital rent book. We have been aware for some time that a number of landlords, particularly those letting to tenants on benifit have been frustrated by not being able to add more than a single rent.

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No longer. Landlords are free to add in a series of multiple rents against a single rent request. Please feel free to tell us what you think. Comments please should be sent to contact@propertyhawk.co.uk.

Silence will be taken as though you think we have done a cracking job. So if you think it can be improved - speak up!!





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Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Landlord Blues

The 'landlord blues' - take it away!



Your darling Margo

Glut of letting agents?


Landlords have often mixed feelings about using letting agents. Like using an estate agent to sell your house you feel that you are paying a lot of dosh out for not an awful lot. In recent years there have been an influx of new entrants into the letting agent market as many estate agents were attracted by potentially attractive fees and looked to diversify away from a rapidly stalling sales market.

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This sudden influx according to the Guardian has resulted in a glut of letting agents in some part of the country.

Will these extra competition lead to falling fees, we do hope so!




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New landlord insurance website launches

A new landlord insurance website has launched which allows landlords to search the most comprehensive list of landlord insurance brokers on the web.

Landlord insurance is essential to protect a lanldords investment but the choice of insurers is now overwhelming. Landlord insurance brokers allows landlords to jump to an extensive list of insurance brokers all through one website.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Risk Expert warns of gas danger in let properties

Landlords, lettings agents and tenants should all have been aware of the legal requirements to have each let property annually check by a CORGI register member but are they all aware of the change to the gas registration scheme from CORGI to Gas Safe Register that is effective from 1st April 2009?

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Chris Knight, General Manager of Risk Consultants Leaseguard who offer specialist insurance for landlords and tenants in the rental sector says “many people either involved in or using the letting industry are unaware of this change but it is most important that everyone understands what is happening”.

To help raise awareness within the letting industry Leaseguard have provided some useful information taken from the Gas Safe Register website.


“WHAT IS GAS SAFE REGISTER?™

Gas Safe Register is the new hallmark for gas safety in Great Britain. From April 1st 2009, Gas Safe Register replaces CORGI gas registration as the official gas safety body.
So, from 1st April, by law, only Gas Safe registered engineers should carry out work on gas appliances or installations in all property that is let to tenants.
Why is CORGI gas registration in Great Britain ending? The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) undertook a review of gas safety in 2006. This review concluded that there was a strong case for modernising the gas registration scheme to bring added benefits to gas consumers and gas engineers. The review called for a clearer focus on gas safety, and simple registration and competence requirements for gas engineers without compromising safety or service standards. It was an opportunity to build on the successes of the existing registration scheme, and at the same time introduce innovation and add value to gas consumer safety.
How do you check an engineer is Gas Safe registered? Always ask for the card. All Gas Safe registered engineers have an ID card with their licence number and a photograph. The licence number is easily verified on the website or by phone and Gas Safe Register will get back to you with confirmation of the engineer’s name.
If you think your engineer is not registered, just call 0800 408 5500 or let Gas Safe Register know via their website.

How do you find a Gas Safe registered engineer? To find a Gas Safe registered engineer in your area, just come back to the website www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk on 1 April or call them on 0800 408 5500.
If you are you a landlord or letting agent? Landlords are legally responsible for the safety of tenants. So, to make sure any tenanted property is safe, all appliances must have a safety check carried out every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer. The tenant must be given a record of that safety check within 28 days or if a new tenant before they move in. Remember a record must be kept of each safety check for two years.

All existing gas safety records will be valid until their expiry date (even if that date is later than 1st April 2009). Any gas safety record provided after 1st April 2009 will only be valid if the engineer is registered with Gas Safe Register.
Landlords and letting agents need to be sure of exactly who is managing the gas duties at all properties. If it’s contractually the responsibility of the letting agent, then the same conditions apply to them as that of the landlord.

If you are a tenant living in a rented property? As a tenant, it is important to always check the ID of any gas engineer that comes to do work at the property. From 1 April 2009, the engineer must be a Gas Safe registered engineer.
It’s in the tenant’s best interest to co-operate with the landlord or letting agent whenever a gas safety check or maintenance needs to be carried out by letting the engineer in to do the work. They should ensure the landlord or letting agent supplies them with a copy of the safety check within 28 days of it being carried out or before they move in.

If they think a gas appliance is faulty they should turn it off and let the landlord or letting agent know immediately.
In an emergency: If anyone smells gas or thinks there might be a gas leak, they should turn off the gas at the meter, extinguish naked flames, open windows and leave the area. Seek medical advice if anyone feels unwell. Call the Gas Emergency Freephone Number 0800 111 999.For more information on the Gas Safe Register please log onto www.gassaferegister.co.uk”







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Friday, March 20, 2009

How Landlords Can Make Money in a Falling Property Market

I don't know what landlords and property developers have been complaining about.

This five minute video explains how landlords can make loads of money in a falling market.

Easy. What was all the fuss about?



Investing:Recession: How To Profit From A Falling House Market




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Gotta love those trackers!

Yesterday I recieved the latest mortgage statements on two of my rental properties. I am in the fortunate position of having tracker products on both of these and knew that the latest Bank of England intrest rate cuts were very favourable for me. Even so, seeing the result of the latest change in black and white has a slightly surreal quality!


Just 6p interest and that is being treated as an overpayment because their systems can't cope with charging me nothing at all!

Happy Friday! from a very very Happy Piggybank :)







Landlords in trouble shouldn't just walk away!

The latest figures from the CML show that arrears in the buy-to-let sector which were below those in the owner occupier market for many years have now overtaken this sector.

David Ireland, chief executive of the Empty Homes Agency, recently highlighted that: "The proportion of buy-to-let properties being repossessed is far higher than owner occupied."

One financial adviser, recently told FTAdviser.com that he had recently come across two cases where people simply walked away from their property because they could not pay their mortgage.

Chris Horne, director of Property Hawk the UK's leading independent website for landlords warns landlords against simply abandoning properties. The his because the landlord could still be pursued by the lender.

He said: "In the US a foreclosure sees the mortgage company take back the house and sell it and keep the entire proceeds but they don’t pursue the individual for the outstanding balance.

"In these cases some householders have just left their properties, left the keys in the letterbox and walked away knowing the balance sheet is wiped clean."

In the UK its different. Landlords that walk away from their buy-to-let property will still be liable for their debts and just to walk away will not be the end of the problem for a landlord.

For more advice on dealing with your buy-to-let lender






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Thursday, March 19, 2009

A room with a view!


Landlords should make the most of their viewings say the experts at Belvoir Lettings…


There’s no doubt that first impressions of you and your property count when it comes to successful letting. From the moment a potential tenant pulls up outside your property for a viewing they will be assessing whether it’s the right home for them.

It’s likely that the tenant will already have decided that the property fits what they are looking for in terms of space and price etc before they commit to the viewing, so the good news is they’re already interested. But, don’t be complacent.

The viewing process is an ideal time for a landlord to ‘sell’ the idea of living in their property and the power of this meeting shouldn’t be underestimated – especially in the current climate of a buoyant, yet crowed rental market. In fact, many landlords have dozens of viewings without securing a tenant.

So, how do you do the perfect viewing and how can you maximise the potential of a tenant taking on your property during this meeting?

“The first few seconds are vital,” says proprietor of Belvoir Cheadle Sue Fitzsimmons. “These first impressions are the mental pictures a potential tenant will take away with them and use to judge against other properties, especially if they’ve got several viewings scheduled in one day.”

The property should look at its best throughout, with neutrally decorated, bright and clean rooms and attractive appliances in good working order. “Equally important is the outside space,” continues Sue. “Especially any front lawns or driveways - these should be immaculate - after all, they are going to be the first things a potential tenant sees. We even encourage landlords to dress the outside of the property with hanging baskets or potted shrubs etc.” Likewise, the front door should be in a good condition with clean modern door furniture to welcome the tenant to the property.

Make sure you arrive at the property at least half an hour before the tenant. You don’t want to keep them waiting, plus this is a valuable slot to do any last-minute preparations. “Air the property or put the heating on if necessary, and put the lights on too,” advises Sue. Also, check the bathroom is clean and remember to remove any stacked up post from behind the door – a potential tenant tripping over someone else’s bills won’t help let your property.

As well as liking the property the potential tenant has got to like you, or at least have confidence in you as a landlord. “Give out lots of positive information about the property and the local area and reassure the tenant that you will deal with problems swiftly and efficiently should they arise,” says Sue. “Build up a rapport with the potential tenant and ask lots of open-ended questions to get them talking too. Developing a good relationship with them quickly is extremely important.”

Don’t rush the tenant around the property or glance at your watch during their visit. “Taking on a rental property is a big decision and you need to let your tenant know that you realise this by giving them the courtesy of having plenty of time to look around and letting them have a second look if necessary,” says Sue. “If the property is currently empty and without a tenant you may want to let them have a look around on their own too.”

Obviously it would be ideal if the tenant was willing to commit to the property during the first viewing - but don’t be too pushy. “Pushy landlords can really put a tenant off,” says Sue. “Be helpful and informative but don’t try and force them into a quick decision.” Give the tenant a copy of the marketing details to take away with them and follow up their visit with a courtesy phone call to ask if they have any further questions.

Finally, save the best until last and point out the property’s most appealing feature at the end of the viewing – whether it be a good view from one of the windows, the lovely landscaped garden or the modern attractive kitchen. “Making sure the tenant leaves the property with a good final impression will maxmise the potential that the next time they pull up in the driveway they’ll be moving in,” concludes Sue.



20 top tips for the perfect viewing

1. Show off the property to its best potential by decorating neutrally throughout and supplying attractive modern appliances.
2. Don’t keep the tenant waiting – if you arrange to meet at 10.30am make sure you’re there at 10am to do the final few preparations to the property.
3. Remember that first impressions last so make them count.
4. Sell a lifestyle by giving out positive information about the local area and amenities.
5. Give the tenants plenty of time to look around the property and let them have a second look if necessary.
6. Don’t be too pushy.
7. Ask open-ended questions to help the conversation flow well.
8. Follow up the viewing with a courtesy phone call.
9. Maintain outside space to a good standard, including the driveway and front door.
10. Give the potential tenant confidence in you as a landlord.
11. Make sure the property doesn’t feel cold, even if it’s been empty for a while.
12. Reassure the tenant that you will deal with problems swiftly and efficiently should they arise. 13. Build up a rapport with the potential tenant.
14. Have the property marketing details handy for the tenant to take away with them.
15. Give out a list of local emergency numbers.
16. Encourage them to ask you questions… and make sure you have the answers (or promise you’ll find out and let them know).
17. Ensure that you’ve got the keys with you for everything the tenant may want to see, such as garages, sheds and workshops.
18. Tell the tenants about other successful tenancies at the property and make sure they don’t think the reason for the current tenant moving on is anything to do with you or the property.
19. Show the tenant the property’s best feature last so it leaves them with a good final impression.
20. Place your property with a good property management agency, such as Belvoir Lettings, and they will do the viewings for you. To find your nearest Belvoir office, visit their website at http://www.belvoirlettings.com/





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Room for improvement


The experts at Belvoir Lettings show you how to transform a renovation project into a successful buy-to-let investment



Renovating an un-modernised older property can be a financially effective solution for those looking to purchase a buy-to-let investment property.

As well as being able to secure the property at a reasonable price the investor is likely to add value to the property by undergoing the renovation too. Plus, upgrading the property could potentially push up the rental return and help minimise void periods.

Renovations can range from simple home improvements to complete re-designs, depending on the property you have chosen.

If you want to invest in a successful buy-to-let renovation project choosing the right property and knowing what’s needed in order to modernise it (plus how much it’s going to cost you) before you commit to the purchase is essential.

Here, the experts at Belvoir Lettings show you how...


• Question: Why would a buy-to-let investor want to buy a renovation project?

Answer: “Investors look at renovation projects for many different reasons,” says Carly Jaouadi, property manager at Belvoir Balham. “Primarily, it’s likely to be to make extra money. Doing up the property will often improve the rental return and renovation projects can often be bought cheaper than already modernised properties. This is particularly cost-effective if you know someone in the industry who could do the property up for you at a reasonable price or you could take on some of the work yourself.
“There’s no doubt that you get more for your money with an older property too,” continues Carly. “You get more space, more character and the property is more likely to hold its re-sale value than a new-build – we’ve seen new-builds in this area come down in value by as much as £70k in recent months.”

• Question: What kind of property would make a good renovation project?

Answer: “A renovation property should be bought with its letting potential in mind,” says Carly. “Research locally to make sure there is a rental demand in the area and the rental market isn’t already over-crowded. As with buying a property to live in yourself, location can make a big difference in desirability for tenants so make sure you invest in a property in a good location with adequate local amenities and transport links close by.
“ We usually advise that people invest in smaller houses, such as studios or one or two beds,” continues Carly. “These are going straight off the shelves at the moment whereas we’re finding the larger properties are taking longer to let – four-beds and over definitely seem to be sticking.
“It’s worth looking at the type of house you’re wanting to invest in too - Victorian houses, for example, often make good renovation projects as they can usually be converted into flats or houses of multiple occupation – this will probably give the property a higher overall rental return than if it was a single dwelling.”

• Question: Where can a potential investor find properties to renovate?

Answer: “If you’re looking for a renovation project it’s always worth looking at auction,” says Carly. “We have a few landlords who say they have secured good deals at auctions, with cheaper purchase values than if they had bought them from an estate agent. However, estate agents can also be a good source of properties for renovation projects so they’re certainly worth a look.” And don’t forget to search on the internet and look at the property portals too.

• Question: What are the financial benefits of modernising a property?

Answer: The financial benefits of renovating a property can be threefold. Carly explains: “If you renovate to a good standard you’re likely to achieve a higher rental yield – although in the current climate you’ve got to be realistic about what return you can expect,” she says. “Also, a good-quality renovation could mean that you could increase the property’s re-sale value (especially if you extend the property) and make the property more desirable to buyers when you’re ready to sell.”
And we mustn’t forget avoiding the dreaded void!
“Unfortunately, void periods are something that seem to be unavoidable for most landlords at the moment,” says Carly. “But you can maximise your chances of avoiding the void if the property is modernised to a good standard – the better the condition of the property the easier it is to let. There’s no doubt that the tired properties are the ones that we’re finding the hardest to let at the moment.”

• Question: What are the top five things an investor could do to modernise a property?

Answer: “In the current climate of a crowded rental market tenants are finding faults with properties quickly during viewings and moving on to the next property if they’re not instantly happy with what they see,” says Carly.
“A new kitchen and bathroom is probably going to be essential in a renovation project and you’re likely to need to decorate throughout plus lay new carpets too.
“Even the exterior of the building can make a big difference - we always advise our landlords to make sure the outside of the property is tidy and any front gardens and driveways are immaculate.
“At a time when tenants can afford to be picky you shouldn’t let anything put them off, especially before they even get through the front door for their viewing!”

• Question: Where can potential investors get advice about which property they should invest in?

Answer: “Any potential buy-to-let investor should speak to someone at their local property management agency before purchase,” says Carly. “At Belvoir Balham we will go with the buyer to look at the property. Plus, we’ll look at its potential re-sale value and rental yield. We will be able to give feedback about the property and, ultimately, we can advise whether or not the property would make a good buy-to-let investment.”

• To find your nearest Belvoir office, visit their website at http://www.belvoirlettings.com/


Renovation checklist
Be sure to ask yourself each of these questions before you invest in a renovation project:

• Is the property in a good location?
• What are the crime figures for the area?
• Are there good local amenities?
• Is the property close to good transport networks and links?
• What is the rental demand in the area? Is the market already over-crowded?
• Has the property got signs of damp? Does it need a damp-proof course?
• Can the floor-plan be redesigned to create extra space?
• Who are you going to commission to do the work? Can you do some of it yourself?
• Have you got enough budget to pay for the renovation and any unforeseen costs?
• Will renovating the property up the rental yield enough to give you a profit?
• Does the property need a new bathroom and kitchen?
• Is the plumbing system in good working order?
• Can the property be split into several separate dwellings?
• Does the property need new carpets throughout?
• Can the renovation be done in stages?
• Does the property need a central heating system installing?
• Is the roof in good condition and how many years will it be before it needs replacing?
• Does the property need re-wiring?
• How can the energy efficiency of the property be improved?
• If you’re planning to extend the property can you get planning permission?






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The top ten mistakes made by landlords – and how to avoid them!

The experts at Belvoir Lettings reveal the common mistakes landlords often make...




1.) Buying the wrong property in the wrong location at the wrong price!
The first, and one of the most important, decisions any investor has to make is which property to buy and where. Get this wrong and attracting tenants is going to be an uphill struggle.
“Investing in a buy-to-let is a big decision,” says proprietor of Belvoir Boston Donna Burrell. “But it needn’t be a hard one. Research the local area to find out about rental demand and make sure you invest in the right location – a property management agency, such as Belvoir, will be able to advise you on this plus on potential rental value before purchase.
“We recommend 2-3 beds as they are always in demand and are easy to let. We also advise potential investors to look at the long-term investment – the best investment properties are those that are going to go up in value so they can be sold for a profit.”

2.) Getting the ‘wrong’ tenant
Troublesome tenants can be a real headache for a landlord, so choose carefully before anyone signs on the dotted line. Late payers - or those who don’t pay at all - and tenants who don’t look after the property during their tenancy need to be avoided at all costs.
A ‘good’ tenant is someone who pays on time, preferably by standing order, is happy to commit to a six-month (or more) rental contract and is willing to look after the property to a good standard, including the garden.
Credit checking, contacting their employers plus seeking references from their previous landlords can help you determine if someone would make a ‘good’ tenant. Meet them in person too – instinct alone can often make alarm bells start ringing.
And, don’t be tempted to take a gamble with a potential undesirable tenant just to occupy the property quickly. If you hear alarm bells ringing – listen to them!

3.) Not making first impressions count
From the moment you first shake hands with a potential tenant at the initial viewing the decision process for them has begun. He or she will be judging you and your property and trying to decide whether they would enjoy living there and whether they can trust you to be a good landlord. Making the right impression in those first few seconds is vital. The property should look at its best from the approach and any front lawns or driveways should be immaculate. Give the potential tenant confidence in you as a landlord too. “Developing a good relationship with the potential tenant quickly is essential,” says proprietor of Belvoir Cheadle Sue Fitzsimmons. “You need to gain their confidence quickly so that they know you will be fair during their tenancy and will deal with problems swiftly and effectively if necessary.”

4.) Insufficient marketing
Shout about your property with a clever marketing campaign. No one’s going to rent your property if they don’t know it’s even available!
Be seen in as many places as possible, including web portals, local newspapers and on public bulletin boards. Be sure to have a ‘to let’ sign outside the property too. In any marketing material that you supply describe the property in full detail, including its unique selling points and attractive features. Use as many photographs as you can. And make sure these are taken when the property’s looking at its best (between tenants is often a good time). Also, think about using visual aids, such as floor plans and walk-through movies to give potential tenants as much information about the property as possible.
But, above all, remember to continually assess the success of your marketing campaign - and don’t be afraid to adjust it if it’s not working.

5.) Leaving your property vulnerable to the dreaded ‘void’
If you don’t plan ahead you could find yourself with an empty property and no tenant. Avoid the ‘void’ by marketing your property early and tying tenants into contracts with a three-month notice period if possible. Setting up long-term contracts of 12 months or more will also help to keep your property occupied - fewer change-over periods equal less opportunities for the ‘void’.
“Avoiding the void is essential if you want to be a successful landlord,” says Donna of Belvoir Boston. “At Belvoir we always market the property in the last month of the previous tenant’s notice period and we advise landlords to maintain the property to a good standard so that the property is easy to re-let too.”

6.) Poor maintenance and upkeep
Would you want to live in a property with crumbling paint, leaky taps and old-fashioned d├ęcor? No? Neither would your tenant!
Make sure your property is bright and clean with neutral decoration and modern fixtures and fittings. Similarly, any appliances you are supplying should be modern and in good working order too.
“It’s a lot easier to attract a tenant if the property is well-maintained throughout,” says Donna. “If the property’s a bit tired we always advise landlords to paint the walls magnolia (even over wallpaper if necessary) and lay new carpets too. None of this needs to be expensive.”
It needn’t cost a fortune to bring your property up to an attractive standard… but it may cost you a fortune in lost rental income if you don’t!

7.) Pricing the rent too high
In a flooded lettings market you need to be realistic about the rental return you can expect. Price yourself too high and you could well be pricing yourself out of the market! Check other rental prices of similar properties in the local area as a guide to what you should be charging. And, don’t be afraid to drop the price if a potential tenant falls in love with your property but can’t afford the price tag.
Think about long-term investment rather than short-term gain - losing £50 to £100 a month is preferable to the property remaining empty. Some savvy landlords are enticing tenants with special deals too. If your budget allows think about offering the first two weeks rent-free or letting the tenant have 13 months for the price of 12.

8.) Assuming the property will automatically let… and re-let
Just because you believe your property is the most attractive on the street or the cheapest deal in the local area do not assume that it will automatically be snapped up. Being a successful landlord requires work and commitment and you must prove to your tenant that you’re 100% committed to making their life as a tenant as comfortable as possible. Be up to speed with repairs and deal with tenant complaints swiftly and effectively. Complacency doesn’t win tenants and inaction positively loses them.

9.) Not looking after the current tenant
Word of mouth spreads quickly and if a tenant has a bad experience with you it’s guaranteed that it won’t be long before he or she is sharing their dissatisfaction with others. Gaining a reputation as a bad landlord is sure to have a negative impact on your tenant turnover.
Similarly, if a tenant is pleased with the property and the service you’ve given they will spread this news too. They may even be able to find another tenant for you themselves… or, better still, they may stay on for longer than the original contracted period. In the current competitive lettings market the power of tenant retention cannot, and should not, be underestimated.
“You really should be looking after the tenants you’ve already got,” says Donna. “You can do this by maintaining the property to a good standard throughout the tenancy and acting promptly if problems occur or anything is reported. It’s also useful to find out why a current tenant is giving notice – often it’s something that can be sorted out fairly easily and the tenant will then extend their tenancy.”

10.) Going it alone
Many landlords do go it alone but handing your property over to a property management agency, such as Belvoir, will make your life as a landlord much easier. Not only will they be able to source tenants for you, market the property on your behalf and organise all the paperwork, they will also be on hand to advise you and give you essential information about the current lettings climate and what you need to do to make your property more attractive in a competitive market place.
“Handing over your property to a property management agency can relieve a lot of pressure from the landlord,” says Donna. “As well as being a magnet for tenants looking for lettings a property management agency can part or fully-manage the property for you and deal with any issues that arise during the tenancy.”

• To find your nearest Belvoir office, visit their website at http://www.belvoirlettings.com/










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Buy-to-let mortgage - return of the cap

Landlords I can announce the return of the cap! No it's not some strange of landlord birth control.

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It actually refers to a type of buy-to-let mortgage which allows landlords to hedge against potentially rapidly rising interest rates whilst benefiting in the short term from a low pay rate. This type of buy to let mortgage rate had all but disappeared as mortgage rates over the last 5 years were relatively stable. However, with the introduction of quantitative easing in an attempt to drag us out of a deflationary hole we may all be facing a big inflationary bubble. This will need to be choked off in the next couple of years requiring the Bank of England to raise dramatically the base rate and therefore buy-to-let mortgage rates.

Landlords should think seriously about using a capped buy-to-let mortgage products to insure them against dramatic rate rises.

The capped rate announced are buy-to-let mortgages from the intermediary lending arm of Coventry BS - Godiva. The capped rate is set at 5.49% to 30.06.09 with a current pay rate of 3.99%.

For more of the latest relating to buy-to-let mortgages see below. This information has been bought to you courtesy of Emoneyfacts.

  • Loughborough BS
  • Buy-to-let FIXED RATE MORTGAGE of 4.99% for 3 years withdrawn, w.e.f.17.3.09....more
  • 18 Mar 2009
  • Stafford Railway BS
  • Buy-to-let STANDARD VARIABLE MORTGAGE RATE will be reduced by 0.25% to 4.50% & VARIABLE RATE for multiple occupancy by 0.26% to 4.99%, w.e.f. 1.4.09....more
  • 17 Mar 2009
  • The Mortgage Works
  • REVERT RATES on buy-to-let ONE YEAR PRODUCTS amended to 3.99% for term and NEW FIXED RATES of 4.99% & 5.34% to 30.4.11 launched, w.e.f. 17.3.09....more
  • 17 Mar 2009
  • The Mortgage Works
  • Lender advises that due to technical problems buy-to-let launch due 14 March is on hold....more
  • 16 Mar 2009
  • The Mortgage Works
  • REVERT RATES on buy-to-let ONE YEAR PRODUCTS amended to 3.99% for term and NEW FIXED RATES of 4.99% & 5.34% to 30.4.11 launched, w.e.f. 14.3.09....more
  • 14 Mar 2009
  • Coventry BS
  • MAXIMUM loan to value on FIXED RATE MORTGAGE of 5.40% to 30.6.14 and CAPPED RATE MORTGAGE of 5.49% to 30.6.12 reduced to 60%. FEE on FIXED RATE MORTGAGE of 5.40% to 30.6.14 increased to £1,999. All w.e.f. 13.3.09....more
  • 13 Mar 2009
  • Godiva Mortgages
  • MAXIMUM loan to value on FIXED RATE MORTGAGE of 5.40% to 30.6.14 and CAPPED RATE MORTGAGE of 5.49% to 30.6.12 reduced to 60%. FEE on FIXED RATE MORTGAGE of 5.40% to 30.6.14 increased to £1,999. All w.e.f. 13.3.09....more
  • 13 Mar 2009
  • Loughborough BS
  • Buy-to-let LENDING AREA restricted to within post codes of LE, NG and DE, w.e.f. 12.3.09....more
  • 13 Mar 2009
  • Newbury Mortgage Services
  • Buy-to-let FIXED RATE MORTGAGE of 5.99% to 30.9.13 withdrawn & replaced with FIXED RATE of 5.99% to 31.3.14, w.e.f. 11.3.09....more
  • 12 Mar 2009
  • RBS IP NatWest
  • END DATES on buy-to-let FIXED RATES extended to 30 June, w.e.f. 12.3.09....more
  • 12 Mar 2009
  • Standard Life Bank
  • END DATES on buy-to-let FIXED RATES extended to 29 June, w.e.f. 12.3.09....more
  • 12 Mar 2009
  • Leek United BS
  • Buy-to-let DISCOUNTED VARIABLE RATE MORTGAGE of 5.29% for 3 years withdrawn, w.e.f. 11.3.09....more
  • 11 Mar 2009
  • The Mortgage Works
  • ALL buy-to-let VARIABLE BASE RATE TRACKERS reduced by 0.50%, w.e.f. 11.3.09....more
  • 11 Mar 2009



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Removal of squatters - who pays?


I recently came across a question by a landlord in one of the advice sections of the FT. Apparently this poor chap had problems with squatters in his large flat in Kensington.
The squatters have very thoughtfully erected a sign announcing that they "now live in the property, intend to stay and it's a criminal offence to enter without their permission"

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How nice to be kept in the picture. Micheal Buckpitt a barrister at Tanfield Chambers explains that the squatters do not have any 'rights' as such to stay. However, the correct procedures are required to remove them. He recommends that the safest course of action is to issue court proceedings. However, only the person with an immediate right to possession - the tenant can bring such proceedings. although they could authorise you the landlord to bring the claim on their behalf.

Once the court order is obtained, it must be enforced by the County Court Baliff or the High Court Sheriff. Interestingly, the landlord is not liable for damage or costs incurred. Removal of the squatters and remedying any damage are the responsibility of the tenants. Well theres a relief your honour!


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