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Monday, August 31, 2009

Do's and don'ts of being a landlord and buy-to-let investor

Are you thinking of becoming a landlord and buy-to-let investor.

If so the Times has released the 10 commandments for potential buy-to-let investors.

We still like our three pillars of buy-to-let as a nice stable footing to base a landlords property empire.

However, if anyone has any other numbered advice guides we would be happy to hear from you. I'm particularly keen to see if we can unearth a 13 point tip sheet. Any takers?

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Resident buy-to-let broker - latest deals

Buy to Let Product Update

So talking of remortgages lets look at a few:

1. BM Solutions - remortgage product
Interest rate: 4.9%
LTV: 75%
Product Detail: 2 year tracker at 125% rental calculation (base rate + 4.4%)
Arrangement Fee: 3%
Early Redemption Penalties: 3% in first 2 years.
Our thoughts: The lowest rental cover for 75% loan to value remortgages.

2. BM Solutions

Interest rate: 4.1%
LTV: 60%
2 year tracker at 125% rental calculation (base rate + 4.4%)
Arrangement Fee: 3%
Early Redemption Penalties: 3% in first 2 years.
Our thoughts: The lowest rental cover for 60% loan to value remortgages

Buy to let adverse credit – Ignore all defaults.

Beacon Homeloans have a number of products suitable for people that have had previous defaults. For example:

3. Beacon Homeloans 

Interest rate: 7.25%
LTV: 70%
Rental: 110% at pay rate
Product Detail: 2 or 3 year fixed
Arrangement Fee: 2%
Early Redemption Penalties: 7% for first 2 years for the 2 year fixed and 7% for 3 years on the 3 year fixed.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Resident buy-to-let broker - latest news

Our Resident Broker gives us his weekly take on the residential investment market and what's happening in the world of buy-to-let mortgages.

Interest rates could be at 0.5% till 2013

A report by a chief economist from Standard Chartered bank (which basically means the report will be wrong, sorry couldn’t resist) forecast that interest rates could stay at 0.5% until 2013.

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On the face of it that is great news for the property investor sitting on existing tracker rates – and it’s also better news for those of you looking to remortgage.

Lenders have been slow to reduce buy to let rates over the last few months and the margin between swap rates and fixed rates are almost at a record high.

So it seems unlikely that lenders will reduce the rates on their new mortgage products much more. So for those of you looking to remortgage, for example to release further capital to invest or to pay off a lender that offers you a discount, then there is no time like the present.

Buy to let lending to increase

One of our main buy to let lenders has informally told us that they were going to increase their lending target by 50% next month. Don’t get too excited though as the credit scoring system isn’t going to change!

London Calling

Is it me or is the London property market getting excitable again? Bizarrely we had one client last week that had agreed with a new build developer a month ago a purchase price of £250,000 only to be told last week that he had measured the apartment wrong and therefore the purchase price was increasing to £290,000.

It doesn’t take long does it!

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mobile technology for property investors

It appears that their are increasing opportunities for landlords and property investors to go mobile.

Rightmove have recently launched a new application for the iPhone that allows landlords and investors to search their database of properties whilst on the move.

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This means that landlords that are out and about and spot an interesting investment opportunity can flick to their iPhone to download all the info.

According to a recent review on the recently demised Property Secrets website the mobile application seems to work pretty well. One for iPhone loving landlords to trial perhaps.

Inventory on the move

Another mobile application that landlords can make use of is the inventory manager which can be assessed using a PDA device. The inventory is prepared on the PDA and then uploaded to a client account. It costs each time the completed inventory is downloaded.

Property Hawk mobile?

We have received several comments from users asking us if there is a mobile version of Property Hawks property manager 2.0 software. Well the answer is not yet. Would anybody be interested in it?

As always your views and comments are welcome.

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Resident buy-to-let broker - tips of the week

Tip of the week 1 - Don’t let Gordon take 40%

We’re now making it our mission to make sure you have the right cover in place to protect your buy to let properties. We look at your current circumstances from a property investor’s viewpoint and in almost every case we have found ways to improve your cover.

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What does this really mean?

* Well if you died today do you have things in place to cover your portfolio?
* Would your partner struggle to remortgage your properties should the lenders call the loan in?
* Are you paying money every month from a standing order and not even know what it covers you for?

In most cases the answer is really simple - consider putting your life cover in trust.

1. Quicker payment of claims. If someone dies and their plan is not in a trust, their representatives will have to obtain Grant of Representation before they can deal with the plan. This can take several months.

2. The plan proceeds may be free of inheritance tax.

3. At the moment, inheritance tax is payable at 40% on any part of an estate valued over £325,000 (2009/2010). But you can use a trust to gift some (or all) of the benefits on the plan to other people. The gifted benefits would no longer be part of your client’s estate if they die, which means these benefits would not be subject to inheritance tax.

If you do have life cover remember this - every month a payment is coming out of your bank account - make sure it counts!

Tip of the week 2: Reduce your tax bills by setting up a property management company

Back by popular demand Stephen Fay ACA, our specialist property accountant, has come up with another fantastic tax tip. Please do read these carefully because they really will save you money (also please feel free to contact Stephen who is on hand to answer any more detailed questions – his email is

Historically low interest rates means that many property investors are now making substantial rental profits – meaning potentially substantial income tax bills. One option to reduce income tax liabilities is to set up your own ‘property management company’ – without needing to sell your properties to the company.

This can mean paying tax at 21% rather than 40% - and enable a non-working spouse or family member to draw a £6k salary from the company and use up their personal allowance. Typically, tax bills can be legitimately cut by around 30%. As you would expect, there are some ‘rules’ to be followed:

*The arrangement has to be a genuine commercial arrangement – this means that the company really must be providing the investor with management services (managing tenants, arranging insurance, managing mortgage payments etc). However the company may ‘outsource’ tenant-management to a Letting Agent.

*A normal commercial charge should be made for services provided.

*Ideally, to avoid any hint that this is purely a tax-saving set-up, the company would provide management services, at the same rate, to other investors as well as the owner – even just a couple of properties (tenant-management can be outsourced to a Letting Agent).

For investors with substantial rental profits, operating a property management company can produce substantial income tax savings. And, the costs of running the company are also fully tax-deductible.

Again wise words from Stephen.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Governments confusion on mandatory landlord licensing is underlined

The Governments confusion on mandatory landlord licensing is underlined by each of the four states of the union walking off in different directions.

How can we waste further tax payer monies on pointless form filling exercises?

At least the NLA is starting to realise that it is questionable as to whether the current Government is capable of carrying out any coherent, worthwhile change on housing policy.

Read this post from the NLA on the divergence of landlord mandatory licences across dear old blighty.

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The new property show smash to take over from Kirsty and Phil

How has this program not been an internet smash?

It describes itself as - "a magazine style show aimed at Landlords and Tenants with an interest in rental property in the North East of the UK". .........Quite a niche then.
Almost up there with the first series of 'The Office'.

I like the scene when Helen discovered there was a built in dishwasher - gripping.

Stay tuned for the next episode of NEL tv.

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Landlords will be relieved to hear rents rising as tenant demand increases

Landlords will be pleased to here that rents are rising and property prices are rising.

Research by letting agent LSL Property Services show that rents rose by 0.5% in July.

The belief is that the demand and supply ratio is finally tipping in a positive direction for landlords. The supply is reducing, with many of that mythical creature ' the reluctant landlord' exiting the rental market after disposing of their unwanted properties, set against an increase in supply as tenants stay in the rental sector for longer because of the inability, or the lack of desire to buy.

Indicators show a small increase in rental amounts been obtained by landlords and shorter rental void periods when re-letting.

The rent index shows an average rental figure for property in England and Wales of £586.96.

Read full Times article

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Government proposes end of tenants £15 a week from low rents

The Government are looking to make further changes in Housing Benefit payments.

At the moment 300,000 people on low incomes are allowed to keep up to £780 a year of their housing allowance if they find accommodation that costs less than the maximum benefit.

The Government is proposing a stop to this - read more in the Times

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Property price twitter - more tweets on the streets

It's like discussing the weather, but in pounds and pence.

House prices cant defy gravity forever - Guardian

London buyers rush in - Times

House prices highest 5 year rise - BBC

UK House prices not tracking unemployment no. - Market Oracle

House price rise 5 year high - Telegraph

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Mini property boom - 'shake, shake the room'.

Further evidence of a stabilisation in the housing market came today as official data showed that property prices jumped at the fastest rate in years in July.

The 1.7 per cent increase in the prices paid for properties in England and Wales last month was the biggest monthly jump since May 2004, and takes the annual decline to 11.7 per cent, the smallest decrease since October last year.

Read full article in the Times

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Importance of sticking to DPS RULES.

Any landlord that is tempted to disregard the Deposit Protection Scheme on the basis that they are a good person and will treat their tenants properly and that the law and justice will prevail should read this recent post.

It is a tale of how a landlord suffered from being owed three months of rent and having their apartment trashed still ended up out of pocket despite the court accepting that the tenants actions were wrong!

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This is because the tenants counter sued and used the provisions of the DPS legislation to claim that they had not been notified correctly under the provisions of section 213 of the 2004 Housing Act.

Make sure you donwload your FREE section 213 Notice when taking a tenancy deposit.

Those landlords that still haven't provided their tenant with a section 213 notice should do it immediately even if they failed to provide the required information at the time of the tenancy. Some recent court cases have shown that if the landlord has provided the tenant with the section 213 information to the tenant by the time the case gets to court the judge is reluctant to award the claim of 3 months rent against the landlord for failure to comply with the legislation.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Listen to your gut feeling when making an investment.

We never usually post about anything other than UK property investing, but I just wanted to raise this thought.

We all know when our 'gut feeling' is telling us something.

I have always looked at the wierd world of Dubai property investing and thought ... why?

Why would you? Why would you ever think that this would be a good place to live, holiday, visit ... spend any time ... and more importantly, invest.

But having never been, I was no expert, however my gut feeling was pretty clear.

Why? It's a desert... nice. It has endless incidents of human rights violations. It's too hot already with the inevitibility of getting hotter.

Why? ..... well the emperors new clothes are well and truly down to his ankles, with property prices and rents dropping like a 'slimmers club' crossing a desert at midday.

Another case of don't believe the hype, your gut feeling is usually right.

Read more on the current state of Dubai property, but my gut feeling is that things will get a lot worse.

Next time you look at any kind of investment, listen to your gut instinct and not the sales agent sitting opposite you.

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London landlord show - 2 weeks to go

Apparently over 2,500 landlords and letting professionals have already booked to attend London Landlords' Show at Olympia Conference Centre, 9-10 September. If landlords want to take advantage of the range of information the show has to offer, you are FREE to join them!

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Oliver Romain, managing director of organisers Accession said: "the show has a proven track record in attracting thousands of landlords who want to keep themselves up-to-date. What's more, this year we've extended the offering, so visitors now benefit from 48 free seminars!"

So don't miss out! Click here to book your free tickets* now or call 0800 321 3028

* On the day entry is just £10 per person. (Under 18s free)

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

House Price twitter - tweet on the street

Recent house price rises may not be sustained - FT Advisor

House Prices Haven't Bottomed Yet - Love Money

Mortgage approvals up - Telegraph

A third of sellers not prepared to drop their house price - Telegraph

Strong housing data weakens pound - Telegraph

Foreign buyers boost prime London property prices - Telegraph

House price rise for fourth month in a row - Telegraph

Alternative tweeting below ........................................................

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Portfolio landlords now guaranteed to save on their landlord insurance

Most portfolio landlords dread the time that their landlord insurance is due.

Firstly, it's a big expense. But more than that it's the guilt.

What do I mean by that?

Well as a responsible landlord you want to keep your costs to a minimum. You know that that means shopping around for your landlord insurance. If you've got say 15 or more properties then going to several landlord insurance brokers and going through the quote process could take you all day by which time you have lost the will to live let alone go through the purchase of deciding who to get your landlord insurance cover with.

Property Hawk has recognised this tedium faced by many portfolio landlords in finding the best deal on their portfolio landlord insurance. We have teamed up with Alan Boswell to guarantee that we will save portfolio landlords at least 5% on their insurance.

Thank goodness for that!

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Derivatives open opportunities for landlords

According to the latest reports from the FT there are opportunities for buy-to-let investors to increase their exposure to the housing market without having to pay high taxes and fees or go through the process of investing in a property. It is even possible to make money in a falling housing market.

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According to the article a number of private banks are offering clients the chance to trade property derivatives – investments that allow them to speculate on rising or falling house prices without having to purchase a house. In another development, CityOdds, a financial betting service, has started providing bets on UK house prices for retail customers from as little as £5.

Richard White, head of derivatives at Knight Frank, said demand for residential property derivatives is growing fast.

“Demand has increased exponentially as the market has grown in size, from around £300m in 2005 to £2bn in 2008,”.

While the residential property derivatives market is less developed than the commercial equivalent, it is set to play an increasingly important role in portfolios.

White said that derivatives offer property exposure without the burden of stamp duty and management and maintenance fees, and for smaller sums. These investments are also quite liquid – investors can buy and sell them easily – and they can offer protection against falling house prices.

The derivatives market is based on the Halifax House Price Index, which showed a 1.1 per cent increase in average house prices in July, the second rise in three months.

White said that, at the beginning of 2009, the futures market was anticipating a further 32.5 per cent fall in prices. However, the 2010 price is now trading at an average house price of £161,606, a 2 per cent increase from the December 2008 level.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More tweet on the street - the bird song on house prices

More tweet on the street.

The bird song on house prices continues to drift through the branches of tomorrows chip papers............

House prices in for a bumpy rise ... The Times

UK House Prices will drop further 13% .... Bloomberg

Bovis sees housing market stabilising - FT

Should I stay or should I go?

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Planning controls could provide double whammy for HMO landlords

The latest government proposals by government to regulate houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) would represent a double whammy for landlords already reeling from the cost of having to obtain a landlord licence from their respective local authority.

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This is because as well as a licence landlords in certain areas may have to also apply for planning permission with all the attendant fees of drawing up plans and planning application costs.

Planners have welcomed government proposals to regulate houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), despite widespread opposition from the property industry.

Consultation closed last week on legislation to deal with problems caused by high densities of HMOs. Such properties are typically occupied by students.

The British Property Federation described the proposals as a "nimbies charter". Chief executive Liz Peace said: "You cannot use the planning system to tackle antisocial behaviour. Taking a broad-brush approach makes no sense."

Both the RTPI and the Planning Officers Society have expressed their support for the proposals.

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Guaranteed rental schemes have some merit....but

It sounds great. Buy-to-let without the hassle of finding tenants or doing any of the day to day maintenance.

All you have to do as a landlord is sit back and hopefully watch the value of your investment go up, once the property market has recovered it's nerve that is.

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However, it's not all as simple as that. Any guaranteed rental scheme comes at a cost. That can be as much as 20-25% in the rent that you as the landlord receive. This may be fine if you are lowly geared and have purchased your buy-to-let as a long-term investment concentrating on capital appreciation.

If income is important though this reduction in net rent could be critical to the economics of your investment. Also if you do consider using such a guaranteed rent scheme make sure you find out as much as you can about the schemes provider and ensure that they have a good track record. You don't want to find that the scheme is run by dodgy Russian gangsters who fill your property with a load of crack heads.

That would somewhat defeat the object of the whole scheme!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Landlords need to protect themselves from the risk of their letting agent going bust.

Letting agents are struggling, many are teetering on the edge of collapse.

There are a number of factors that may cause landlords to be concerned about the stability of their letting agent. (financially, not mentally - that's another post)

For one, many are estate agents who have turned to letting as a way of supporting themselves whilst they don't sell any properties, they are already teetering on the edge of collapse.

As landlords struggle to balance the books, they have been forced to self-manage properties that they once handed over to letting agents.

There are a lot more letting agents around now, making competition extreme. Thanks to landlords evolving into letting agents, estate agents evolving into letting agents, Tom, Dick and Harry evolving into letting agents, there are way too many letting agents to make many viable businesses, as they undercut each other on fees.

Tessa Shepperson of Landlord Law shares her tips on how landlords can protect themselves from the dangers of their letting agents going bust.

How should you choose a letting agent?
Should landlords use a letting agent or self manage?

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Buy-to-let mortgage update - Resident Broker

Hot on the heels of BM Solutions product change, I thought I would detail them again below – the 4.7% is still there by the way.

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1. BM Solutions 
Interest rate: 4.7%
LTV: 75%
Product Detail: 2 year tracker at 125% rental calculation (base rate + 4.2%)
Arrangement Fee: 3%
Early Redemption Penalties: 3% in first 2 years.
Our thoughts: The lowest rental cover for 75% loan to value mortgages therefore good for low rental properties, and BM are still the most efficient and quickest. Remember, you can only have a total of 9 properties within the Lloyds Group.
Please note: Not for the faint hearted – should Bank of England base rate significantly increase, then so will your rate.

2. BM Solutions 
Interest rate: 5.7%
LTV: 75%
Rental: 125% at pay rate
Product Detail: 2 year fixed
Arrangement Fee: 2.5%
Early Redemption Penalties: 3% until 01/12/2011
Our thoughts: Alternative to the tracker above.

3. BM Solutions 
Interest rate: 5.95%
LTV: 75%
Rental: 125% at pay rate
Product Detail: 3 year fixed
Arrangement Fee: 2.5%
Early Redemption Penalties: 3% until 01/12/2012

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

No fee Property Sales - Online Property Marketing Without Agents

The online world is trying to kill off the estate agent again, ... poor unloved creatures they are.

Ever since the early days of the internet ( about 6 years then ) there has been attempts at launching sites that will market residential property at a low commission rate or even with zero .

These have largely all failed, and we are still left with the 'Mr 1 percents' cluttering up our high streets. Estate agents are very much alive and kicking, in fact we have seen an increase in their numbers since the internet launched it predictions of their demise.

Most of the online attempts so far have simply shouted a lot, spent a lot on advertising, and then curled up and died.

Landlords even had their own low cost online property sales site for tenanted property, 'Landlord Trader', who made a valiant effort, but is now dead. RIP

So the estate agents have won then?

Well maybe not, the online community is either a resilient one, or a very stupid one. (the juries out on that)

They have launched their next barrage of attack, and this time it's 'fronted' by a celebrity.

The queen of property development and a 'Beenie Baby' walking factory has launched a new property marketing site that purports to help sellers "maintain 100% control and pay 0% commission when you sell!"

Well good luck to Sarah Beeny and her new venture, Tepilo, which is looking to crack those highly resilient cockroaches, the Estate Agent's.

I will keep a look out for some others that I've noticed recently, but have now forgotten what they were called.

Ah - the wonders of the internet.

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Zoopla is looking to take on Rightmove

Zoopla are aiming to take over from Rightmove as the number one property listings site.

They have bought out property listing sites Thinkproperty and Propertyfinder to absorb the estate agents that are already listing on those sites.

Let the battle begin.

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Resident Broker - latest news

BM Solutions reduce buy to let rates

Something of a rarity these days is news that a lender has reduced their rates. And at the weekend BM Solutions did just that (What, didn’t you see our rate alert?).

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The actual reason for this rate reduction is a little confusing - well it is for me anyway. BM are one of the few 75% buy to let lenders around and therefore do not need to try for market share at the moment. Dropping their rates will hardly affect their volumes (their credit scoring will make sure of that); however, it is a good sign that they are still committed to the buy to let market.

Mortgage Lending still increasing

Even more good news from the Council of Mortgage Lenders that gross lending was 26% higher in July than in June. Keep it coming.

New lenders? Rumours emerge

Over the last couple of weeks there have been rumours in the mortgage trade press of 3 big lenders considering a return to the UK mortgage market. Kensington is one of the names being written about. Let’s hope its sooner rather than later, as we definitely need some competition in the market – although I wouldn’t expect a Kensington 90% buy to let mortgage returning quite yet! The significance of any new mainstream lender would have very positive effect on the confidence of both buyers and sellers, and crucially it could lead the way for others. Watch this space.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Landlord attacked by tenant with a drill

A tenant drilled into his landlords head after the landlord had asked him to move out of his property.

The tenant, Raymond Douglas, 44, allegedly attacked his landlord Lee Woodford's with the power tool fracturing his skull and drilling into his chest.

The landlord, Lee Woodford recounted how his former tenant literally flipped out.

Raymond Douglas has denied trying to murder Mr Woodford in Herne Hill, South London.

The case is currently been heard at the Old Bailey.

Read more on the horrific attack on a landlord

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Landlord Action warns investors about rogue property sourcing companies

Landlord Action warns investors about rogue property sourcing companies

Landlord Action, a company specialising in tenant eviction and troubleshooting throughout the UK, has recently reported that their debt recovery department has never been busier due to pursuing rogue property sourcing and investment companies. Worryingly there are an increasing number of companies who have been asking for upfront fees to source below market value deals and marketing property deals that, once surveyed for mortgage purposes, are figures far short of the original claim. Companies then refuse to refund fees so investors employ the services of Landlord Action to help recover their monies.

Paul Shamplina, Director of Landlord Action comments: “As the market climate has changed some companies are struggling financially and are using investor deposits to fund their business operations rather than holding funds on deposits to be returned if deals do not happen. Therefore, we are seeing an increase in the number of instructions for individuals and companies who it seems have been ripping off investors by supplying ‘bogus discount deals’. The industry needs to be governed to include a code of conduct in regards to these companies, working closely with the FSA.”

One such company, one that Landlord Action have issued a number of legal proceedings against, the Ahuja Group, are certainly one of these firms where clients have discovered that many of the deals they promoted were an illusion. One private investor found herself the victim of the Ahuja Group when she brought a deal at £3,000 that she thought fitted her investment criteria. The value of the property was supposed to be £100,000 with a monthly rental income of £1,541. Once the survey had been completed the valuation came in at £72,000 and the rental figure at just £375, a figure far off what had been originally claimed. Landlord Action was instructed and a claim for £4,816 including legal costs was proceeded with via the Small Claims Court. This was ignored so, eventually, the court appointed sheriffs to place ‘notice to remove’ on three cars at the directors home address. With no payment still received they returned and seized one of the cars. The investor in question has now received payment in full.

Shamplina says: “These rogue sourcing companies are often unwilling to release many details on the property so investors need to research themselves into the property values, rental prices and the level of demand in the area. As well as this I would highly recommend that investors research the sourcing company itself via its trading record and look at its auditing history. Also, although not guaranteed, listen to other investor’s recommendations. There is a good chance the company is reputable if others have received a good level of service. My final advice, when going through with a deal, is to double check the terms and conditions and keep in regular contact with the company in question.”

Landlord Action

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Property Dreams Collapse for North West Landlords

The glittering dream of property investment continues to tarnish for many of the hopeful 'dream catchers' who were blinded by the never ending upward surge of the property market.

Guaranteed rental income lured hundreds of wannabe property investors into new developments in the North West that have never been built.

One such dream provider, Dylan Harvey Residential Ltd (DHR), which is part of the Dylan Harvey Group, went into administration two weeks ago with debts of £100 million.

This has left 500 property investors without a property and without their cash deposits, of up to £20,000. Nightmare!

Many are uncertain as to whether they will be refunded any money after the collapse.

Dreams can come true, but often they don't..... Life hurts,.. I'm off for a snooze.

Read the full article in the Times

Buying off-plan development tips

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Tips of the week - Resident broker

Here's a couple of tips from our Resident Broker. He's more than a pretty face....I particularly like Tip 2, relevant for any landlord looking at selling at the moment.

Tip of the week 1: Estate Agents overcharging for HIPs

BBC’s Watchdog has revealed that many vendors are being charged excessive amounts for Home Information Packs. In some instances up to £500 when a competitive cost would have been nearer to £200. So, the moral of the story is - don’t use an estate agents HIP, but go to low cost providers like and save yourself some money. There are many others if you would like us to point you in the right direction.

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Tip of the week 2: Selling a property? Then consider this a gift

Many investors are still buying and then selling in this current environment, so here’s a tip for them. If your target market are primarily first time buyers, then consider offering them a 5% gifted deposit as part of the sale. Most of the major lenders are happy with this, and it means the first time buyer doesn’t have to save as much deposit – which is certainly one of the big issues for them at the moment. Consider this, a £100,000 property being offered at £100,000 with a 5% gifted deposit is much more favourable that just reducing the price to £95,000 as they can effectively buy the house for half the initial outlay.

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