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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Irish BTL Evaluated

Is this the right time for Irish investors to get back on the BTL property gravy train?

The Irish Times advises investors to look hard before they leap.

Read full article in the Irish Times


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East london transport improvements

I recently had a look at the prospects for landlords looking to gain from the regeneration benefits of the London Olympics in 2012.

My conclusion was don't believe the hype. Yes, London is a good place to invest & yes gentrification does happen. Landlords that are looking at profiting from this effect though should concentrate on established areas, adjoining high value areas that are set to benefit from improved transport links into central London.

This recent article highlights some of the interesting transport improvements that could bring about an uplift in value in areas within the capital.

Landlords looking at dipping their toes into the London market should go down there and get to know the area they are thinking of investing in first. Don't buy off plan. As anybody who really knows property will tell you. Its location location location. That can often mean a huge difference for the investment prospects of a property bought on one side of a street compared to the other. So landlords remember the motto 'research research research'. Then there is a good chance you wont go wrong by investing in the big smoke.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Tenants 'braced' for increases

Although recent reports have suggested that as many as nearly half of all tenants are expecting rent rises in the next 12 months, Caroline Kavanagh, Group Lettings Director of Badger Holdings, parent company to Townends estate agents, still urges tenants to brace themselves as conditions in the market indicate further rises as demand for rental accommodation continues to grow.

Caroline comments: “Currently, tenants are either renewing their tenancy agreement or finding another property to rent whilst they keep saving to buy their dream home or are finding it difficult to attain the right mortgage to suit their needs. This continued predicament has caused a significant uplift in demand, a movement that will always have an impact on rental prices. This, coupled with the fact that there are not enough properties on the market to satisfy the growing demand has already pushed rents up in most regions, particularly in areas where properties are centrally located, or simply in excellent condition. This trend is set to continue and tenants need to be prepared to pay market value for a property that fits their criteria.

It is important however, to acknowledge that at the end of 2008 and during the course of 2009 we did see rents dip when an increase in reluctant landlords meant the market experienced an influx of properties. The rental market is always shifting to balance itself out and we are now simply in a situation of realignment to current conditions. Average rent prices are also still below what they were five years ago.”

At the beginning of 2009, Townends were recording a high percentage of tenants renewing their agreement at the same rent. However, Caroline says that this has switched the other way now. “We recently had a tenant in Putney who served their notice to try and look for another property. They couldn’t find what they were looking for and came back saying they wanted to stay where they were and would pay market value, so they had to increase the rent to stay in the property.

Tenants who have been in a similar situation have already accepted the price adjustment. However, anyone who has an agreement coming to an end or is looking to enter the market needs to factor this change in and recognise it immediately. If tenants are unsure about what to expect in their area specifically then they need to speak us, their local estate agent, for advice.”

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

London minimum house sizes

Boris Johnson the London Mayor is showing his Russian and German pedigree with his new authoritarian guide on minimum sizes for new house building in the capital.

However, this is nothing new.

Any of us old enough to remember a time before the internet ruled the world will recall the Parker Morris Standards which existed in the 60s, 70s and was abolished in the early 80s by the Thatcher government. The Parker Morris standards laid out minimum standards for all new public housing developments and was also adopted by most private developers too. It was the reason why many houses built in the 60s & 70s have palatial sized rooms compared to many modern rabbit hutch developments.

I'm not a great fan of regulation as many of you know. But actually having a bedroom where you can get a bed in seems to be quite sensible. I've seen too many examples of new flats where the rooms have been cut down to nonsensical sizes, all for the sake of saving a couple of hundred quid on the development costs. These new builds have then been sold to idiot investors in the boom times who expect to rent out a one bed flat & broom cubhoard as a two bed apartment.

The reality is that landlords and tenants are all the poorer for being left with unattractive and unusable spaces.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rents are up..again!

Landlords have increased rents for the sixth consecutive month, hiking them by an average of 0.5 per cent in July.

The average UK rent is now £676 per calender month, which is 2.3 per cent higher than a year ago, data from the monthly buy-to-let index from LSL Property Services has shown.

LSL said that rents in July were just £12 shy of their peak two years ago. With the increase in rent, a landlord’s average yield stood at 4.9%.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Student landlord posts rises

The specialist student landlord company Unite posted an 8% rise in adjusted fully diluted NAV per share yesterday. It also reported a pre-tax profit of £12.1m compared with a loss of £29.4m a year earlier.

Revenue during the six-month period increased to £48.6m from £41.4m before. The student rental market has been one of the few property sectors to escape the 'property crash' with student property being perceived by many investors of having good stable cashflows and rising rents.

Unite reported rental growth for the first 6 months of 2.3% with rental growth of 3-4% expected for the full year. They expect similar growth levels in the year 2011/12.

"The student accommodation market continues to benefit from strong and growing underlying tenant demand coupled with a shortage of supply, which underpins it's strong fundamentals," the group said in a statement.

The demand/supply gap will widen in 2010/11, the group added.

The student landlord did concede that its prospects will be influenced by the higher education cuts although it maintains that demand in the student accommodation market still outstrips supply.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Property price twitter ..

In case you're interested........

UK house price growth at a steady 6.1 percent - Propertytalk
Property price prediction from Ft Advisor
Scottish mortgage slump - Scotsman
Subdued mortgage market continues - BBC

Housing market fragile says builder - Press Association

See all the property price tweets


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Letting agents - lower voids

One of the approved Tenancy Deposit Schemes (TDS) the Deposit Protection Service (DPS) has examined the different void periods experienced by landlords who market their property directly compared to those that use a letting agent.

The findings are interesting. The DPS found that 63% of buy-to-let properties that used an agent kept void periods to within 2 weeks compared to only 38% for those landlords that marketed their buy-to-let properties directly.

Two of the worst area for voids were in Lancashire but their research also highlighted parts of Surrey, Hampshire and Essex showing higher than average void rates.

In some parts of the country the DPS found that over 50% of properties had been empty for over 3 months.

The reality is that in the current market of high rental demand there is no excuse for a pre-longed rental void period. If a landlords property is empty they are not marketing their property effectively or it could be time for a property makeover.

Landlords should remember they are running a business & they need to be proactive in getting their investment property let, whether they employ a letting agent or market their buy-to-let independently. Cashflow is king and avoiding a void is critical to any successful rental business.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two London landlords fined

Two London landlords who illegally evicted tenants from their homes have both been fined.

Zahid Malik and Ram Mahendran were convicted in separate court cases of unlawfully evicting tenants who had properly paid their rents and obeyed the terms of their tenancies.

Landlord Malik was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £750 costs at Kingston Crown Court last month.

Mahendran was fined £2,500 and ordered to pay £4,274 towards Wandsworth Council housing department's prosecution costs.

Read full article here


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Shrinking high streets

Any ideas as to what to do with all those empty Woolworths and for that matter all those empty retail outlets on our high streets?

Is it time that planners recognised that many town high streets will need to shrink in size over the coming years and will this mean the change of use to more residential?

Town centre living in converted shops will be a niche trend over the coming decades.

Read more on why many Woolworths will never be shops again in the Independent.



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Same day remortgage 'hangover'

In this recent article in the FT it seems that buy-to-let companies are getting tough on the solicitors that 'supposedly' represented them when they advanced loans on overvalued buy-to-lets at the height of the boom.

Bradford & Bingley now nationalised is alleging that the law firms that were advising them and in theory protecting their security; actually failed in following the anti fraud guidelines relating to same day remortgaging.

The result is that many of these lenders are now facing huge losses on their buy-to-let portfolios if the properties were sold at their current values.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Best University Towns

"I love it when a plan comes together."

Having moved to Bath in September 2009 I felt wonderfully smug to see that Bath was top of the University Town house price performance league over the past 12 months seeing a 13% growth in values between August 2009 to August 2010 according to Zooplas research.

But as with all gamblers and speculators you wont hear of my many less successful investment decisions.

Any ill thought out investment or misplaced risk tends to be put at the back of your thoughts as a protection of your confidence and self esteem.......swings and roundabouts.

See the full Zoopla University town values table


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New university towns boom

New university towns out perform the property market.

For example Aberdeen, home to 29,300 students, saw a house price gain of almost 40% compared to 14% price growth across Scotland. This is coupled with a 54% increase in the student population, the research shows.

In Winchester, prices rose by 30% in comparison to 2.5% in the South East as student numbers in the town were boosted by 78%. The average house price of £385,713 is 114% above the UK average of £180,501.

Keep your ears out for expanding universities.

Read more on Propertywire


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Landlord confidence down

42 per cent of landlords think now is a good time to invest, a fall of positivity from the 48 per cent three months ago, according to data from the quarterly landlord sentiment survey.

The survey claims that the introduction of a higher capital gains tax (CGT) is a driving factor behind this fall in landlord confidence.

What do you think?

Read more in FT Advisor

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Cannabis farms use kids


Lincolnshire police have reported that some drugs gangs use children to help convince landlords to let houses to 'families' - only to see their properties turned in to cannabis factories.

"The crime group wants to present the impression of a respectable middle class couple renting a house and they may send around a man and a woman, often with a child, to the initial viewing with the landlord – they'll give off a happy family vibe."

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'Get rich quick' costs


BTL get rich quick schemes could lead to £2 billion in problem loans at the government owned Bradford and Bingley.

The result of 'Get Rich Schemes' and BMV property clubs many of he loans were created using the Mortgage Express same day mortgage option.

Bradford and Bingleys solicitors alleges that solicitors were "in breach" of their professional duty by not reporting that borrowers were remortaging property within six months of ownership, as stipulated in the Council of Mortgage Lenders handbook. It has also alleged that the Law Society's guidance on property fraud was ignored, reports the Investors Chronicle.

Read the full article here

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BTL mortgages - most popular

Looking for a buy-to-let mortgage? Visit our BTL mortgage search and save time and money!

Our free online buy-to-let mortgage service aims to provide you with the most competitive buy-to-let mortgages in the market, whilst helping you choose a product to suit your individual requirements. You can use the free buy-to-let mortgage finder to get an instant personalised quote and apply for your mortgage online. There are no broker fees charged for this service so you could save yourself considerable time and money when arranging your next buy-to-let mortgage.

Below is a selection of the most popular buy-to-let mortgages currently available. If you would like to discuss your requirements with a member of the support team please telephone 029 2069 5446.

Most popular buy-to-let mortgages
Interest RateOverall Cost for ComparisonMax LTVProduct DetailCompletion FeeEarly Repayment Charges
3.64% Tracker5.2% APR60%Variable tracker rate of BBR + 3.14% until 30/09/2012 then reverting to the lender's standard variable rate which is currently 4.99% for the remainder of the term. This product is available up to 60% LTV and the rental calculation is 125% at payrate. An application fee will apply.3.5%4% of original balance being repaid until 30/09/2012
3.79% Tracker5.3% APR60%Variable tracker rate of BBR + 3.29% until 30/09/2012 then reverting to the lender's standard variable rate which is currently 4.99% for the remainder of the term. This product is available up to 60% LTV and there is a rental calculation of 125% at a notional rate of 4.99%. An application fee will apply.3.5% (min £595)3% of amount being repaid until 30/09/2012
3.88% Tracker4.1% APR65%Variable tracker rate of BBR + 3.38% for the lifetime of the loan. This product is available up to 65% LTV and there is a rental calculation of 100% at a notional rate of 8.5%. An application fee will apply. Available on a repayment basis only and for loans up to £150,000. The completion fee is payable at offer stage.£16951% of original balance being repaid for 1 year
4.35% Tracker5.1% APR75%Variable tracker rate of BBR + 3.85% for 1 year then reverting to a variable rate of BBR + 4.19% to give a current rate of 4.69% for the remainder of the term. This product is available up to 75% LTV and the rental calculation is 125% at payrate. An application fee will apply.3%3% of amount being repaid for 1 year
4.89% Fixed5.1% APR60%Fixed rate of 4.89% until 30/09/2012 then reverting to the lender's standard variable rate which is currently 4.74% for the remainder of the term. There is a free valuation up to £680 for purchases and remortgages and free legals for remortgages only. This product is available up to 60% LTV and the rental calculation is 125% at payrate. There is a £250 booking fee and an application fee will apply.£14994% of amount being repaid until 30/09/2012
4.94% Tracker4.6% APR70%Limited company product. Variable tracker rate of BBR + 3.84% until 30/09/2011 then reverting to a variable rate of BBR + 3.49% to give a current rate of 3.99% for the remainder of the term. This product is available up to 70% LTV and the rental calculation is 125% at a notional rate of 4.99%. An application fee will apply.3.5% (min £595)3% of amount being repaid until 30/09/2011
4.99% Fixed5.5% APR80%Fixed rate of 4.99% until 30/09/2011 then reverting the the lender's standard variable rate which is currently 4.99% for the remainder of the term. This product is available up to 80% LTV and there is a rental calculation of 125% at payrate. An application fee will apply.3% (min £595)5% of amount being repaid until 30/09/2011
5.4% Fixed5.3% APR75%Fixed rate of 5.40% until 01/10/2012 reverting to a variable rate of BBR + 4.24% to give a current rate of 4.74% for the remainder of the term. This product is available up to 75% LTV and there is a rental calculation is 125% at payrate. An application fee will apply.2.5%3% of amount being repaid until 01/10/2012
5.45% Fixed5.7% APR75%Fixed rate of 5.45% until 31/10/2012 then reverting to the lender's standard variable rate which is currently 5.39% for the remainder of the term. There is a refund of valuation (up to £500) and free legals for remortgages. This product is available up to 75% LTV and the rental calculation is 125% at payrate. An application fee will apply.1.25%2% of amount being repaid until 31/10/2012
5.49% Fixed5.1% APR60%Fixed rate of 5.49% until 01/11/2012 then reverting to the lenderĂ¢€™s standard variable rate which is currently 4.79% for the remainder of the term. This product is available up to 60% LTV and the rental calculation is 120% at payrate. An application fee will apply.£19954% of the outstanding balance as of 1st January until 01/11/2012

IMPORTANT! Due to current market conditions, lenders are withdrawing and replacing products with little or no notice.
Please check our website regularly to see the most up-to-date products available.

Looking for a buy-to-let mortgage? Visit our BTL mortgage search and save time and money!

Email: info@propertyhawkbtlmortgages.co.uk

Tel: 029 2069 5446

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgages. The Financial Services Authority does not regulate some forms of mortgage.

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All let again


Property Sparrow has let her flat - the one she has been troubled about for months and where the roof was leaking.


It's been over a month now since the new tenant moved in and, touch wood, nothing has gone wrong. Scaffolding is still up because there's some painting being done but there's no bill yet for that or for the roofing work.


The new tenant is paying £75 per month more than the previous tenant and so that's something in lieu of the long void period.


Property Sparrow feels relieved. Relieved that all of her flats are let again; it's as if she'd forgotten what that feels like. It feels strange not to be constantly phoning about it.


Don't worry, she'll soon find something else to fret about.


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Rental arrears down

LSL the property services company that owns the likes of Intercounty and Reeds Rains has seen rental arrears at their lowest level ever according to their latest release.

In July they dropped to 9.2% of all rent across the UK, a fall from 11.2 % at the start of this year.

July saw the total unpaid rental coming in at £212.9m, compared to £361m in August 2008.

Cynics might just say that these figures just highlight that LSL are just being more effective at what they are paid to do anyway - to collect their landlords rents.

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Lessons from old property hand

There is a lot we can learn from our elders. The voice of experience has much to give us and this rings true with landlords.

Tom Entwistle has been a landlord for many decades and has also founded the well respected website landlordzone.

His recent interview on landlordlaw gave a couple of useful bits of advice:

" Know and follow the law to the letter – generally as a landlord you will be supported by the authorities if you do. Plan for the worst but expect the best. You cannot trust everyone, so do your tenant selection very carefully."

Interestingly he like Property Hawk advises landlord to shun the instant riches route instead he advises that landlords should

"Work hard, save hard and put your resources into long-term solid investments. That way your wealth will build gradually and safely."

Nothing revolutionary; but non the less very sound advice. Oh just some thoughts for you Tom. If you are going to launch yourself as a media landlord star. It might be worth investing in a few new photos for your Facebook profile.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Tips On Tenancy Deposit Disputes 10: Burden Of Proof


Tip 10: The Burden of Proof (It’s your problem)
The deposit protection schemes ADR departments employ legal principles in deciding disputes, including the concept of burden of proof. The phrase ‘burden of proof’ is legalese for whose problem it is to convince the court, or adjudicator, that they are right.
The schemes take the view that, as the the deposit money is provided by the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy, unless there is evidence to show that the landlord is entitled to keep some or all of it, the deposit should be returned to the tenant. This places the burden of proof on the landlord. If the landlord cannot provide evidence to show why he or she is entitled to the money, it will be returned to the tenant.
Some landlords that I speak to feel this is unfair, particularly if they are used to the old system, where return of the deposit was more or less at the discretion of the landlord, however, deciding claims in this way is in-keeping with how legal disputes are determined by the courts and is perfectly proper. When making a claim, keep in mind that it is up to you to prove your case, and that if you don’t submit sufficient evidence, you will lose.



Tom Derrett is the Principal of Deposit Claim, an ex-adjudicator and an expert on the Deposit Protection Schemes.

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Buy-to-let total returns

Property services company LSL has claimed that as a result of the recent declines in house prices, the total return from investing in buy-to-let over the last year dropped slightly to 10.1 per cent in July.

The average landlord would have made a total return of £15,961 in the last year, £8,706 in capital gains and £7,255 in rental income.

An investor buying property now could expect a total annual return of 3.5 per cent, the equivalent of £5,838.

However, these figures are likely to underestimate the real return made by many landlords. This is because landlords frequently target higher yielding properties where the ratio of rent to capital value is higher than for the average property.

What has also been seen over the last 12 months is the exodus of many of the accidental landlords who decided to rent their property out rather than sell into a depressed and falling market. Many of these landlords are now attempting to sell their property; resulting in the disappearance of the glut of properties and thereby forcing rents higher.

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Tenancy agreement health check

Just like it's always wise to have your health checked over regularly to make sure that you are fit and there are no nasties lurking. Property Hawk likes to do the same with our tenancy agreement.

Property Hawk's tenancy agreement is the most widely used assured shorthold tenancy agreement used by landlords. To date over 100,000 tenancy agreements have been downloaded since Property Hawk first started back in 2006. We do however regularly ensure that our tenancy agreement is checked over by tenancy experts to make sure that it complies with any legislative changes.

Therefore landlords that choose to use Property Hawk's free tenancy agreement can be assured that our FREE tenancy agreement is fully up to date.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cape Verde landlord

I came across this stunning picture of Cape Verde by accident the other day. For anybody who's not heard of the place; it's an archipelago of 10 islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa.

The reason I mention it is that one of Property Hawks most loyal and longest running Property users; Julie from Bournemouth is having a villa built out there. I just wondered how it was coming on. I know the last time I spoke to her it had been several years in the planning.

If it's finished it be great to a picture of the completed project on the site, just to show what Property Hawk users can really achieve.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Landlord love cheat

A landlord in Derbyshire has been caught with his trousers down. OOOh misses!

This time its the tenant not the landlord who gets punished for their misdemeanors. It was the tenant that fraudulently claimed benefit.

Landlord & tenant relationships are more common than many of us want to admit.

I know at one time in my early twenties I had a 'massive crush' on one of my live in tenants. It' drove me to distraction...there is nothing worst than unrequited love.

I also no of a previous landlord who used to use an HMO property as his knocking shop, bringing his 'bit on the side' back in the evenings. I presume she wasn't there as a prospective tenant. If so I think she was paying undue attention to the state of the ceiling!

Now, I know there is always temptation for landlords and tenants to get together. I had a gorgeous air hostess renting the upstairs flat several years ago. Boy was I tempted.....I was single at the time so it was OK. I hesitated because I didn't want to mix business and pleasure.

Was I right. Is it alright to date your tenant or is it a recipe for personal and business disaster?

Over to you guys.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

FREE tenant manual

Landlords looking at managing their property more effectively by laying down the law clearly to their tenants should check out the tenant manual written by Property Hawk landlord Kevin Wade.

The document that has been downloaded by hundreds of landlords since being made available can now be downloaded from the Property Manager.

Just go to the FORMS section and landlords can download the full tenants manual.

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Rental sector up up & away

A well respected surveying practice Savills predicts that the percentage of British households in the private rental sector could increase to 20% or one fifth of UK households by 2020. This would be up from 15% today.

This comes as increasing numbers of middle ranking earners; those on £15,000 to £25,000 struggle to find sufficient money to make house purchase an option. The latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) reveals that the average first time buyer deposit is now running at £35,000.

This projection comes as rents continue to rise strongly this year with the Rentindex showing rents have risen by 3% in the last 3 months and 1.7% in just the last month alone.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Too friendly with tenants?


You know what they say: never mix business with pleasure. What’s the right balance for landlords and how friendly should you become with your tenants? When you’re a landlord, perhaps with tenants who live nearby, or who have been living in your property for some time, you’ll naturally start to get to know them.

Upad CEO James Davis thinks keeping a positive relationship going with tenants has real benefits. “It’s primarily a business decision. But I think having a good relationship with tenants makes business sense,” he says. “But it is more than that. With the properties I own and let I do take pride in being a decent and honest landlord.”

But there’s a real difference between having a good relationship with your tenant and being too matey. “I’m not talking about popping round on a Saturday evening and asking them out for a pint. But keeping communication open and being seen as someone approachable and trustworthy can bring real benefits. For instance, if they know me personally and not just as a bank account number and a sort code, then I’m a human being too. They’re less likely to do a runner or smash the place up. I want them to feel they can come to me if there’s a problem. It’s a useful early warning system because they can alert me to any problems at the property before they become a real problem.”

It’s also useful for managing arrears and other tenant problems, according to James. “If I know that there might be a risk of one of my tenants losing their job or experiencing other personal problems,” he adds, “I want to know about that as early as possible because it helps me plan.”
But how far does it go? “I have bought easter eggs for tenants with children and that goes down well. It’s also a pretty small price to pay for keeping the lines of communication open.”

10 percent discounted rate on Upad


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