The Halifax and Nationwide Banks both form part of ‘The Big Six’ mortgage lenders, who are said to account for most of the UK’s mortgage lending (source). They report that whilst house prices increased by around 6 or 7% last year, taking into account the slow start followed by the boom in the second half of the year, the trend isn’t expected to continue throughout 2021. Russell Galley, managing director at the Halifax believes the latest lockdown and job losses are likely to impact house prices in a downward direction throughout 2021. See the article here.

On 7th January Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced reforms to the laws around leasehold, said to be the biggest reforms to English property law in 40 years. There has been much attention on the matter in recent years and the difficulties leaseholders face with ground rents and lease extensions. New reforms mean millions of leaseholders will be given a new right to extend their lease by 990 years at zero ground rent. These changes could save households from thousands to tens of thousands of pounds. The elderly will also be protected by reducing ground rents to zero for all new retirement properties. This announcement will be welcome news for many. 

You can read the full press release here

This article predicts the top three trends for the housing market in 2021 following the events of 2020. Although the article relates to the US, it is a similar situation here in the UK too.  

As the vaccine is rolled out this year, it is hoped that housing stock (or inventory, as Americans call it) increases and more properties are put on the market as people will feel more comfortable having people come and view their home.

To continue the 2020 trend, city living may become less appealing for those who continue to work remotely post-pandemic as they will no longer need to live near their place of work and people appear to be looking for more space in rural locations. This demand is predicted to drive-up prices in rural locations and for prices in the city to drop as there will be less demand. This article from Rightmove describes how the quaint Somerset town of Bruton saw the biggest increase in buyers searching for places to move to in 2020.

Rightmove’s Director of Property Data Tim Bannister said: “This year we’ve seen an uplift in the number of home-movers escaping to the country and we think this trend will continue for now as people show their willingness to make significant life changes. The data highlights just how influential the unexpected events of this year have been in shaping the nation’s housing priorities, with many buyers determined to swap city streets for rural and coastal retreats.”

It will be interesting to see how the market unfolds later in the year, but it should not come as a surprise if these trends continue.

To read our December update, please click here.

This edition includes articles on: 

- Flipped properties increase in 2020
- SDLT deadline gives rise for concern
- 84% of homeowners plan "green" improvements
- The latest English Housing Survey
- Powering our Net Zero Future (energy white paper)
- Ikea's tiny eco-house
- An early Christms present from Banksy

The latest EHS has been published for the year 2019 to 2020. The findings show that owner-occupation rates did not increase between 2018-19 and 2019-20, but rates are 2% higher than in 2016-17, with owner-occupation sitting at 65%. Of those, 35% of households were outright owners while 30% were buying with a mortgage. There have been more outright owners than mortgagors since 2013-14. The proportion of households in the private rented sector have decreased since 2016-17 but did not change between 2018-19 and 2019-20. To read the whole report, click here.

A survey from City Plumbing has found that 84% of homeowners are planning to make energy improvements to their home in the coming year, with the key motivation being reduced energy bills.

Steve Alldritt, technical director of City Plumbing’s Energy Efficiency Team, said: “For homeowners, making energy efficient changes saves money in the long run, reduces environmental impact and can even make a property more appealing to future buyers. It really is a ‘win-win’ situation.

“The research shows that demand for ‘green’ upgrades is high, whether it is low carbon heating, biomass boilers or heating controls. The opportunity is there for tradespeople to benefit from.

“We are supporting tradespeople who are interesting in signing up for the Green Homes Grant scheme, with impartial advice, indemnified designs, project solutions and fast quotation turnaround.”

This follows the extension of the Green Homes Grant until 2022. Read more here.

There was great disappointment across the property industry last week when Chancellor Rishi Sunak stopped short of extending the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), despite growing calls from the industry to extend it or at least taper it off. Due to the backlog of work from the first lockdown and subsequent boom, the average property transaction is taking 20 weeks to complete, up from 12 weeks on average. Conveyancers are concerned some transactions may not complete before the 31st March deadline, leaving thousands of homeowners with an unexpected SDLT bill and in further debt. Today’s Conveyancer goes on to report that nearly two million homebuyers have already had to arrange additional finance to cover the extra costs of SDLT. HMRC figures indicate around 105,630 transactions in October made it the busiest of Octobers in the last ten years and up by almost 10% on September transactions. Lloyd Davies, Operations Director of the Conveyancing Association said “…We at the CA have been involved in discussions with Treasury around the current situation, the likelihood of large numbers of transactions not completing before the deadline, and what this might mean for the overall housing market. Plus, no-one wants a cliff-edge situation should the holiday come to an abrupt end on the 31st March next year. There are strong arguments to be made for an extension, not least the overall benefit a healthy and buoyant housing market can deliver for UK plc…” Find the article here.

The 2020 lockdown saw a pause in house sales and a subsequent boost as homeowners looked to move to properties that suited the home-working lifestyle. Houses are now in higher demand compared to flats because more people are looking for larger properties. This has been no different for developers who have been actively purchasing properties to renovate and sell on quickly. Any property that goes through this process within 12 months is known as a "flipped" property. Land Registry and Hamptons International data project that by the end of the year, a record number of properties will have been flipped. The data suggests around 23,000 properties will fall into this category by year-end and, with developers purchasing more homes rather than flats to meet the change in demand, they have seen an average increase in profit of £10,000 per property. Hampton's head of research Aneisha Beveridge said “…. Flippers play an important role in the housing market by improving housing stock and taking on projects other buyers often won’t touch.” Read more in the article here.

The latest Technical Bulletin for residential surveyors is now available here. Please note; to download and view the full bulletin, you will need to be logged in to Sava EDGE. If you are not already logged in, please click here to log in. If you do not yet have an account, please click here to register. This bulletin aims to bring you quality technical information that will help you in your day to day work and includes articles on the following:

Ash -v- Powell – A lesson for surveyors
In this article Hilary Grayson, Director of Surveying Services at Sava, and Nik Carle, Partner at Browne Jacobson, review the recent case of Ash -v- Powell and what would have been the case if a surveyor had been instructed and the RICS Home Survey Standard were in force.
Read the article here.

The draft Building Safety Bill and higher-risk buildings
Professor of Land Law at Oxford University, Susan Bright, focuses on the provisions that relate to the occupation phase of residential buildings contained in Part 4 of the draft Building Safety Bill and sets out her initial, tentative, understandings of how they will work.
Read the article here.

Radiators – what you can check for during a survey
Radiators are the most common heat emitter in residential dwellings and they play an important role in heating our homes yet generally, radiators are not reported on in surveys. Older, unmaintained radiators can be inefficient, and this article explains the reasons why and simple checks you can make during a survey to provide clients with useful information with regards to the often-overlooked radiator.
Read the article here.

Corporate governance -v- leasehold management
In this article, solicitor and residential leasehold specialist Cassandra Zanelli considers the recent case of Houldsworth Village Management Co v Barton which explored when a leaseholder is also a shareholder and the correct approach to requests made to lessee-owned property management companies under s.116 Companies Act 2006.
Read the article here.

The government published a press release on Saturday explaining they have stepped in to help those caught up in the EWS1 form process. Many people were in limbo and unable to sell their property due to the requirements to have a form and long delays in obtaining one due to a shortage of trained assessors. The government, RICS, UK Finance, and the Building Societies Association have agreed that the form is not required on buildings that do not have cladding. Around 450,000 people will potentially benefit from this and be able to progress with selling or re-mortgaging their property. 

Also, almost £700,000 of funding will be provided to train more industry professionals to carry out the EWS1 assessment. RICS CEO, Sean Tompkins said "...we recognise the acute market shortage of fire engineers to carry out EWS1 assessments and welcome the Government’s support on working with us to upskill other regulated professions, such as Chartered Building Surveyors, to create additional capacity in the market." 

The government will also explore ways to address the concerns on the availability of professional indemnity insurance. 

Read the press release here.

The government has published a consultation on setting requirements for lenders which will help householders improve the energy performance of their homes. This consultation builds on feedback from the Call for Evidence on "Building a Market for Energy Efficiency" which was published in 2017. This new consultation explains that "mortgage lenders could play a vital role in driving the home energy performance improvements required to meet our Carbon Budgets and net zero target. They are uniquely placed to influence mortgagors at critical trigger points, such as home purchase, renovation or re-mortgage."

The proposals in the consultation are based on the use of EPC data which is publically available and include annual reporting of average EPC ratings by mortgage lenders. This could be accompanied by setting improvement targets which lenders could meet through measures such as energy performance awareness campaigns, cashback incentives or free energy assessments if carrying out energy improvements, or even offering to lend a higher mortgage at a lower cost for those carrying out improvements.
The consultation ends on 12 February 2021 and those in the industry or anyone affected by the proposals is invited to respond. You can read the consultation and respond here.

Boris Johnson has announced a ten-point plan for what he is calling a "Green Industrial Revolution". The blueprint covers clean energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies in order to "forge ahead" with eradicating the UK contribution to climate change by 2050. 

The first point is the ambitious target to produce enough offshore wind to power every home, which will be four times what we are currently producing. Point 7 covers homes and public buildings and says "Making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028."

It goes on to say "Homes and public buildings: £1 billion next year into making new and existing homes and public buildings more efficient, extending the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme by a year and making public sector buildings greener and cutting bills for hospitals and schools, as part of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme."

Other plans include working with industry on low carbon hydrogen production to develop the first hydrogen heated town, an end to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, and planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year.

Whilst there is not much detail included on how these points will be achieved, the press release confirms that further plans will follow over the next year.

Read the Press Release here.

We have reported in the past that only around 20% of homebuyers have a survey completed for a property purchase, which remains surprising when two-thirds of those choosing to get a report used it to either negotiate a lower purchase price or get defects addressed. A survey conducted by Insulation Express found that searches relating to asbestos went up by 82% in the last two years. Houses built before the mid-1980s may have asbestos materials and if in good condition and undisturbed it shouldn’t cause any problems. However, anyone needing to have it removed can be looking at stumping up a few thousand pounds to get a specialist in. Searches relating to structural movement and damp were also up by 82% in the same period. Whilst Japanese knotweed and invasive plants have been pretty high profile over recent years, those searches increased by 45%, but the actual average number of monthly searches is an eye-watering 110,000. The public seems to be warming up to the benefits of insulation as enquiries for cavity wall, loft and floor insulation are up 55%. The survey also highlights how a number of small defects can end up being costly from say a replacement roof tile at an average of just under £200, to around £4,00 for a rewire and an average of £13,500 to deal with movement and settlement. Read the results here.

The government are currently reviewing the results from the Planning for the Future consultation, published in August this year. Its focus was on design, sustainability and the availability of suitable land for development in England. On the back of this, the government announced a further review on ‘Right to Build’ day (30 October each year) which is when local councils should have granted enough planning permissions for self-build properties to meet demand. This review intends to find ways to improve the process for people wishing to build their own home. Whilst self-builds have increased in number by 50% in the last couple of years, it equates to 15,000 per year, and government plans to increase this, offering more support for the industry, said to be worth around £4.5 billion. CEO of the National Custom & Self Build Association, Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, said: “England has the lowest known rate of self-commissioned homes in the developed world. Our new homes market is crying out for the greener and higher quality build that goes hand-in-hand with more consumer choice. Housing diversification is key to the government’s housing strategy. 

“This excellent announcement today by the government should help many more people achieve the dream of living in better and more beautiful homes.” 

Read more here.

Image: The Guardian

On Monday evening, two terraced houses in Chelsea, West London, collapsed resulting in the evacuation of around forty people in nearby homes. One of the properties in question was reportedly undergoing development works according to this article from The Guardian. It reports that "Planning permission submitted by the Seabrook Properties was granted by Kensington and Chelsea council in August.

"A council document detailed the works to be carried out as a rear extension to the lower-ground floor with a terrace on the upper level, which was an amendment to a previous application granted in July 2018."

However, the Evening Standard reported that a spokesman for a company which is carrying out the basement dig said the firm’s work had nothing to do with the collapse.

The Health and Safety Executive will be investigating the cause of the collapse. 

In June of this year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published guidance to ensure people who were impacted by coronavirus received support from their lenders. This included 3-month payment holidays and a hold on repossessions, regardless of what stage proceedings have reached. The previous guidance expired on 31 October and the FCA has announced what the next steps will be for mortgage borrowers. This most recent approach encourages lenders to take a bespoke approach to meet the needs of their customers who are in financial difficulty due to coronavirus. The FCA’s Interim Chief Executive Chris Woolard said: “Some consumers will continue to be impacted by coronavirus in the coming months, or be impacted for the first time. Consumers in these situations will benefit from firms providing them with tailored support. “However, it is very important that consumers who can afford to resume mortgage payments should do so for their own long-term interests and so that help can be targeted at those most in need.” You can find out more and download a copy of the FCA's guidance here.

The implementation date for the RICS Home Survey Standard is now 1 March 2021. RICS has confirmed the date has changed from 1 December 2020 to March next year because of the upheaval from Covid-19. Ana Bajri, RICS Global Property Standards Associate Director, said “We’re listening and responding to what our professionals are telling us on the ground.

“A cocktail of changing Covid-19 measures requiring changes to business practices, alongside a busy marketplace after the stamp duty holiday, mean more time is needed to make sure these changes are included in members’ current survey standards and processes.”
Read more here.

John Lewis and Partners have confirmed that they have identified 20 of their sites which they plan to use to benefit local communities through the ‘build to rent’ market while providing a stable income for the Partnership. A statement outlining how they propose to reach more customers said “The nature of the Partnership model allows us to invest with a longer-term perspective than a conventional business, even in challenging times and amidst a very uncertain economic outlook. With this in mind, our five-year plan is self-funding and takes into account uncertain trading.”

Their goal is for 40% of their profits to come from new areas by 2030.  As well as rented housing, other new areas include financial services, outdoor living and rental/resale/recycle.

Sharon White, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “We’ve seen five years of change in the past five months and Waitrose and John Lewis have responded with great agility. Our plan means the John Lewis Partnership will thrive for the next century, as it has the last.”

Read more here.

During the lockdown earlier in the year, we saw pollution levels drop significantly as the majority of people were no longer driving into work. The weather was warm and we didn’t need to have the heating on, but as we move into winter, those of us working from home will no doubt have the heating on at home more often than usual, and those offices that are open for those who still need to be at work will also have their heating on. This means that more pollution than normal is expected throughout the winter months. A report from think tank ECIU (Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit) advises that a spike in nitrogen oxides (NOx), emitted from gas heating systems, could compromise meeting the country’s legally binding air quality targets. Their modelling predicts there will be a 56% rise in boiler use this winter due to changing working patterns. 

The report also highlights the implications of higher pollution levels to our health, explaining “Air pollution in the UK is a major issue. It contributes to about 40,000 early deaths and costs the economy more than £20bnper year. This is rising –respiratory disease now affects one in five people and is the third-largest cause of death in England. Hospital admissions are on the increase too, as admissions for lung disease have risen at three times the rate of all admissions generally over the last seven years.”

The government are expected to publish their 'Heat and Buildings Decarbonisation Strategy' in November, which should lay out the plans to switch homes to cleaner sources of energy. Read more from the BBC here, or find the report from ECIU here.  

The Nationwide Bank recently highlighted how unnecessary enquiries from conveyancing solicitors causes delays in the homebuying process. This article in Today’s Conveyancer suggests these delays can be avoided if the conveyancing solicitors were to refer to the UK Finance Mortgage Lenders’ Handbook in the first instance. Robert Stevens, head of property risk operations, data and strategy at Nationwide, provided a few examples at the Law Society’s National Property Conference and you can read more here.
On a slightly lighter note, conveyancing professionals recently shared some of the strange enquiries they have received. Whilst some were shocked that such queries were even raised, they couldn’t help but find them amusing. Read more here.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has recently confirmed that new homes delivered through Permitted Development Rights (PDR), where a full planning application is not required, must meet the following space requirements:

“The space standard begins at 37m² of floor space for a new one-bed flat with a shower room (39m² with a bathroom), ensuring proper living space for a single occupier.”

The press release describes how permitted development (PD) homes make an important contribution to delivering the housing the country needs. It also says: “While homes delivered through Permitted Development Rights have little difference in quality compared to homes following a planning application, a minority of developers have been delivering small homes without justification. The changes announced today will put an end to this.” 

However, a report published in July 2020 following research into the quality standard of homes delivered through change of use permitted development rights said: “…we would conclude that permitted development conversions do seem to create worse quality residential environments than planning permission conversions in relation to a number of factors widely linked to the health, wellbeing and quality of life of future occupiers.”

This report also confirmed that “Overall, only 22.1% of dwelling units created through PD would meet the nationally described space standards (NDSS), compared to 73.4% of units created through full planning permission. In many cases, the planning permission units were only slightly below the suggested standard, whereas the PD units were significantly below (for example, studio flats of just 16m² each were found in a number of different PD schemes). 68.9% of the units created through PD were studios or one-bedroom compared to 44.1% of the planning permission units.”

Of course, size is just one aspect and other factors impact quality. Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction to improving residential homes delivered via Permitted Development Rights.  

Read more here.  

We reported recently that the volume of mortgage products available on the market has dropped significantly, particularly for those with a low deposit. First-time buyers may therefore be looking to shared ownership or the Help to Buy schemes to get onto the housing ladder. Yet, despite rising house prices, Which? reported earlier this year that around 5,000 homes in England were sold at a loss having been originally purchased under Help to Buy, read here

The Help to Buy scheme varies around the UK, for example in Wales home-movers and first-time buyers can obtain a 20% equity loan from the government and in Scotland, buyers can benefit from an interest-free loan of up to 15%. Northern Ireland hasn’t had a Help to Buy scheme since the end of December 2016 and have focused more on shared ownership and the Rent to Own Scheme. Scotland and Wales have extended their schemes until 2022, whilst in England, no further extension has been announced. Read more about what is planned for Help to Buy in the UK here.

Trade bodies who wish to follow the recommendations made after the Grenfell fire will be imposing stricter rules on existing and new members to ensure they meet required standards. David Frise, chief executive of the Building Services Engineering Association said: "We've changed our technical competence standard for membership. If you want to join BESA you can't just pay your money and sign up, you have technical competence standard…This assesses your commercial viability and your competence operationally, but also your technical standards." Read more on this story here

To improve standards in the built environment, the Competence Steering Group was set up in 2017 at the request of the Industry Response Group. Having published their interim ‘Raising the Bar’ report in August 2019, the final ‘Setting the Bar’ report is available here.

This article from Future Net Zero explains that research recently published by UK100 suggests the urgency to meet our net-zero goal by 2050 could generate 455,076 jobs in the construction and property sectors alone. UK100 is a network of local government leaders who have pledged to secure the future for their communities by shifting to 100% clean energy by 2050. The article confirms that at least three million jobs will be in demand or created by moving to a green economy across a range of sectors. It is suggested that a £5 billion investment by the government could unlock £100 billion of private sector investment towards meeting the net-zero by 2050 goal.

Polly Billington, Director of UK100 said: “From Essex to Edinburgh, the move to a greener economy will create thousands of new jobs. By unlocking private sector investment through a Net Zero Development Bank, we can reduce the taxpayer burden and ensure the money is spent prudently by disciplined allocators of capital.” Read more here.

The government recently announced an expansion of education for adults. Those over the age of 18 who do not hold an A-Level qualification (or equivalent), will be offered a free, fully funded college course. The objective is to provide more skills and training to help the country 'build back better'. The offer will be available from April and courses included in the offer will be set out shortly. Hopefully, this could help contribute towards building a ‘retrofit army’ as described in the article from Future Net Zero, above. Read the press release here.

The NHBC Foundation has issued a publication called The Future for Home Heating - a life without fossil fuels. The guide, written and researched by Cutland Consulting Ltd, follows the reports published in 2019 by the Committee on Climate Change which stated from 2025, all new houses being built should not be connected to the gas grid. This guide explores the implications of designing and building low-energy homes without gas boilers, explains the key technical issues, and discusses the choices facing housebuilders and their designers/architects when specifying alternative heating systems. To download the guide, click here.

In a recent announcement, Cabinet Minister Lord Agnew outlines how the government will provide a £30m boost to the Land Release Fund (LRF) and One Public Estate (OPE) programme. 

Councils will be able to bid for £20m which can be used for infrastructure and remediation works. 73 councils are on track to free up land for 6,000 homes early next year using the LRF, while the OPE will be supporting early stages of development with an additional £10m. 

Housing Minister Christopher Pincher says “….This new funding will help councils right across England to turn unloved, unused land into new homes and communities where they are needed most. It is an important part of how we are working with local government and the housing industry at every level to support our recovery from the impact of the pandemic."  This is in addition to the £400m Brownfield Fund designed to protect greenfield sites and provide over 25,000 new homes. Read more about this here.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched enforcement action involving four leading housing developers: Barratt Developments, Countryside Properties, Persimmon Homes and Taylor Wimpey. It is believed the developers may have broken consumer protection law relating to ground rents in leasehold contracts. This article from Today’s Conveyancer explains that the CMA has written to the developers outlining the concerns and request further information, the evidence will then be assessed. If necessary, the CMA could take the firms to court. Read more here.
You may also find our article on escalating ground rents useful, here.

In July, we reported on the announcement from Chancellor Rishi Sunnak about the Green Homes Grant Scheme intended to cover up to £5,000 per household for energy improvements to the home. At the time, further details of the measures and eligibility for the scheme were yet to be published. The government has now released guidance explaining that measures will fall into one of two categories: ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’. Before any secondary measures are installed, the home must have had one of the primary improvements completed using the voucher. Funding for any secondary improvements will be capped at the same amount the household received for the primary measure. Vouchers can be applied for from the end of September and improvements must be completed by 31 March 2021. Aiming to improve over 600,000 homes across England, the government suggests each household could cut energy bills by around £200 and reduce CO2 emissions by 700kg annually. Primary measures include improvements such as wall, floor and loft insulation and low carbon heating. Secondary improvements include draught proofing and upgrading windows, doors and heating controls. HomeOwners Alliance has summarised the details here.

Low deposit mortgage products have been hit hard since the pandemic struck the UK earlier in the year. According to Mortgage Solutions, in March borrowers looking for a mortgage with a 10% deposit had a range of 779 products to choose from. Fast forward 6 months to September and the impact of COVID-19 on the market has reduced the range of choice down to just 62 products. The mortgage market has undoubtedly been impacted amid all the financial uncertainty this year and even the amount of higher value deposit products have dropped by almost 30%.
House prices have weathered well despite all the turmoil and strong demand means it’s not all bad news for those already on the property ladder. David Thomas, chief executive of Barratt Developments says “Covid-19 had a significant impact on our results. But we are seeing very strong consumer demand, and our robust financial position means we enter the new financial year with cautious optimism." Read more here.

BEIS has published analysis carried out in conjunction with the University of Cambridge on the relationship between the SAP rating on the EPC and house prices. The study found that there was a statistically significant relationship between the energy performance rating and sale price. Their results found that there was a 5% premium for properties in EPC bands B/C and a 9-11% discount on F/G properties when compared to Band D properties. This is good news for the UK's energy efficiency targets and would indicate that buyers are becoming more aware of the EPC and its contents.

You can read the full report here.

The PCA (Property Care Association) has jointly authored a new academic paper on diagnosing the causes of moisture in buildings. The paper is called "Building moisture diagnosis: Processing, assessing and representation of environmental data for root cause analysis of mould growth”. The research focuses on the development of a diagnostic tool that helps to streamline root cause analysis. Read the paper here.

The government recently opened the consultation 'Planning for the Future’ in which Robert Jenrick highlights that whilst many people have enjoyed time at home due to COVID-19, for others, it has brought to the forefront of their minds that their home may be sub-standard, doesn’t meet their needs or that the local infrastructure or outdoor space is inadequate. The government is keen to emphasise the proposal is intended to cut red tape and not standards, as well as bring the planning system into the 21st century.

The building industry welcomes the proposal acknowledging reform is long overdue and appear optimistic this could lead to a more efficient approach to meeting England’s housing needs. Melanie Leach of the British Property Federation cautions against bottlenecking the system at the front end and comments that the English planning system has seen spending cuts of over 50% over the last 10 years, whereas in the same period housing targets have increased by 50%. Read more here.

Throughout June there was a 126% rise in enquiries on homes in a village location, according to Rightmove. As average asking prices in villages are often more expensive than cities, it seems the motivation is not money, but rather a quieter lifestyle, especially given the recent shift in working from home. A separate research study by Barclays Mortgages found that the South West of England is a desirable location for those currently living in Birmingham, Nottingham, London and Manchester.

Miles Shipside of Rightmove said: "The lure of a new lifestyle, one that is quieter and has an abundance of beautiful countryside and more outdoor space, has led to more city dwellers choosing to become rural residents.

"The most popular village moves are still within the same region the home hunters are currently in, as it's likely they'll keep their current job but may have the flexibility to commute less often and set up their working space at home."
Read more here.

RICS has released a new policy paper advising the government to look holistically at long-term improvements to the housing market as the harsh economic reality sets in.

Medium-term recommendations for the housing market, some of which will also help the market recover from COVID-19, include:

  • Further investment in MMC (Modern Methods of Construction) with incentives for the construction of MMC factories in areas of high unemployment.
  • Offer financial incentives and support to local authorities and housing associations to meet housing need through MMC.
  • Prioritise work around new build standards, as research has found the quality to be significantly reduced in permitted development schemes.
  • Bring all elements of planning including residential, high streets, transport and commercial into one holistic policy of placemaking.
  • Thoroughly assess Government home ownership offerings to ensure they actually achieve what was intended.
  • Implement Lord Best’s Regulation of Property Agents (RoPA) recommendations.

    Long-term recommendations include:
  • A program of consumer education on MMC to promote greener, better quality homes.
  • The introduction of Amberfield as a new land classification – creating a pipeline of ‘ready to go’ land for housing.
  • The creation of a new housing court to simplify the dispute resolution process.

Read the full press release here.

The government has announced a two-month extension for new homes being built under the Help to Buy equity scheme. The previous deadline new homes would need to have been finished by was the end of December 2020, however, the deadline is now 28 February 2021. This allows for delays in construction due to the coronavirus pandemic meaning homebuyers will not miss out. The deadline for completion of the sale is still 31 March 2021, which hasn't changed.
Read more here.

The Government have released a draft Building Safety Bill following the Building a Safer Future consultation response in April 2020. The Bill sets out the measures intended to remedy the systematic issues identified by Dame Judith Hackitt in her review published in 2018 and introduces a new era of accountability. Among other measures, there will be a new Building Safety Regulator to oversee the new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings; more responsibility for Building Safety Managers and tougher sanctions for those who fail to meet their obligations; and improvements in the building control sector, such as a register for building inspectors and changes to titles. Read the draft Building Safety Bill here. 

The latest Technical Bulletin for residential surveyors is now available here. To download and view the full bulletin, you will need to be logged in to Sava EDGE. If you are not already logged in, please click here to log in. If you do not yet have an account, please click here to register. This issue of the bulletin is a crime special and aims to bring you quality technical information that will help you in your day to day work and includes articles on the following: 

Cannabis cultivations
In this article, serving police officer and Sava student, Chris Moran, explains the signs that suggest a property may have been used to grow cannabis. Chris has provided a helpful case study of a property he inspected with his mentor too.
Read the article here.

Modern day slavery & human trafficking
Human trafficking coordinators Marsha Humphreys and Jana Sherrin have shed light on the modern-day slavery and human trafficking crimes taking place under our very noses. This interesting and unsettling article describes the indicators that may suggest signs of sexual exploitation, forced criminality and domestic servitude within residential property. You can also find useful contact numbers and helplines should you ever encounter such activity.
Read the article here.

Customer service v customer experience
Matt Nally from SurveyBooker has written another article for the Technical Bulletin, but this time focusing on the differences between customer 'service' and customer 'experience'. Matt has broken down his helpful tips which are useful for professionals looking to provide an excellent experience for their customers, without an increase in workload.
Read the article here. 

Valuing new-build property
A hot topic in the valuation world is how to approach valuing newly built properties. This article written by Anne Hinds and Hilary Grayson lays out the considerations needed when valuing newly built property.
Read the article here. 

Permitted development rights
Chris Pipe, Director of Planning House, has helpfully summarised the basics you should know about permitted development rights and use classes. The article describes some of the conditions and limitations that may apply for various developments and includes a useful reference table.
Read the article here. 

Giant hogweed
Dr Dan Jones, Managing Director of Advanced Invasives and a regular contributor to the Technical Bulletin has written an article on the topic of emerging liability of Giant hogweed. Find out more about the plant that has been making the headlines in recent times, and understandably so.
Read the article here. 

Japanese knotweed case law
In this article, principal lecturer at Harper Adams University, Carrie de Silva, has provided a brief overview of case law relating to Japanese knotweed claims on valuations in recent years and provides the takeaways for surveyors.
Read the article here. 

Initial thoughts on Hart v Large
An important High Court judgment was handed down in recent months and in this article, Carrie de Silva provides her initial thoughts on the case.

Read more here. 

Campaigners are calling for the new Green Homes Grant scheme, due to launch in September, to guarantee ‘high-quality work’. Under previous government schemes many houses suffered from poor quality work and some homeowners are still living with the consequences such as damp homes from poorly installed cavity wall insulation. Many of the companies who installed the insulation are no longer in business meaning those affected have had difficulty rectifying the problems caused. Now another government scheme has been announced, campaigners and MPs have said the government must ensure people are protected from poor installations, adding that CIGA (the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency) is not fit for purpose. Read more here.

Earlier this week the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in the summer statement a temporary cut on stamp duty and a new £3bn green jobs package.

In England and Northern Ireland, the stamp duty tax threshold was previously £125,000 but it has now increased to £500,000; this means homebuyers will not have to pay any stamp duty tax on properties that cost less than this amount. This temporary change will take effect immediately and run until 31 March 2021. By potentially saving homebuyers thousands of pounds it is hoped this will help to “capitalise the housing market” and “boost confidence”. This article explains how the stamp duty cut will work and includes more details.  

The new Green Home Grant Scheme is intended to improve the energy efficiency of the English housing stock, on the road to zero carbon, as well as create new jobs in the green sector. From September, homeowners and landlords in England will be able to apply for vouchers for energy efficiency improvements in their home. Mr Sunak said, “The grants will cover at least two-thirds of the costs, up to £5,000 per household” adding that low-income households can apply for “vouchers covering the full cost, up to £10,000”. This forms part of the new £2bn Green Homes Grant and the vouchers can be used by eligible homeowners to help pay towards loft, wall and floor insulation or double glazing, although the complete list of measures and eligibility criteria has yet to be published.

The remaining £1bn of the package will be spent on improving the energy efficiency of public sector buildings, with £50m going towards retrofitting social housing with insulation, double glazing and heat pumps. Read more about this new scheme from Homes & Property here.  

Read the full government policy paper here, and the press release here.

The Government have announced a 12-month extension to the domestic RHI, which will run until 31 March 2022. It was announced in today’s response following the “Changes to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) schemes” consultation. The extension to the domestic scheme will prevent 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 from polluting the atmosphere over the lifetime of these smaller-scale projects, through converting 18,000 households onto low-carbon heating.

The consultation “Future support for low carbon heat”, where the Gov’t is seeking views on options beyond the Renewable Heat Incentive is still open and closes on  7th July.

Read the full consultation response here.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) have launched a campaign to call for a once-in-a-generation investment in social housing. The ‘Homes at the Heart’ campaign has been produced in partnership with the CIH[1], National Federation of ALMOs[2], Association of Retained Council Housing, and Crisis and already has over 50 supporters. It is highlighted that during the coronavirus crisis, whilst home has been a sanctuary for some, it has been a prison for others and investment in social housing will give more people a safe, secure and comfortable place to call home.

In a blog post Kate Henderson, chief executive of the NHF, said: “We’ll develop this campaign throughout the summer and autumn, with a particular focus around the spending review, and will run media stories, social media activities and targeted engagement with politicians. We can’t do this without our members, and over the summer we will be sharing more resources and asking you to help amplify this message with your local MPs, councillors and stakeholders.”

In a letter to the Chancellor, the campaign partners and supporters ask that good quality, affordable housing is put at the heart of the recovery plans as a driver of economic and social prosperity, and an anchor for strong communities.

Read more about the campaign briefing here.

[1] Chartered Institute of Housing

[2] Arm’s-length management organisations

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have published COVID-19 guidance for landlords and tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England.

It includes information on:

  • Measures relating to notices seeking possession as amended by the Coronavirus Act 2020.
  • Court action on possession cases during the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • Health and safety obligations, repairs, and inspections in the context of Coronavirus. 

Read the guidance here. 

A section of cliff has fallen away in a neighbourhood in Eastchurch, Kent, resulting in one home to be partially unsupported and hanging over the cliff edge. It’s been reported there were two collapses of ground, one last Friday and a further collapse on Sunday morning.  

This article on the matter describes how Swale Borough Council are opposed to the Environment Agency’s existing shoreline management plan, which does not include any ‘active intervention’ to defend the area concerned. However, the Environment Agency say that the plan was written in full consultation with Swale Borough Council. Read more on this story here.   

RICS have released a net zero policy position paper on retrofitting to decarbonise UK existing housing stock. The paper explores the current landscape of retrofitting policy drivers, regulations, technical processes and fiscal levers, identifying both gaps and opportunities and aims to identify where industry standards and tools can overcome barriers and enhance the value of retrofitting in both achieving Government targets and in encouraging consumers to invest in their property.

Read the paper here.

CABE members can now access the Building Engineer journal online at The new site contains all of the content from the relaunched Building Engineer journal including technical articles, industry insights and news. To view an article, members just need to enter their membership number for full access. 

Non-members can view some areas, including news, but will need to sign up for a subscription if they would like to have full access to all Building Engineer content.

Read more here. 

Professional organisations in the residential sector have collaboratively produced an important guide for the industry on re-opening the housing market. It contains information to enable professionals to work safely as restrictions begin to ease within the sector, and is relevant to property agents, lenders, mortgage advisors, property lawyers/conveyancers, surveyors, energy assessors, property managers, home removal and associated professionals such as contractors involved in the property development, management and the home moving process. The guidance focuses on physical contact points in the home moving process and consumer guidance is expected to be released soon, so that all parties involved have a clear understanding on how to stay safe during these difficult times. As the situation and guidance in this area is constantly evolving, we intend for this information to be updated regularly.  To download the guide, click here.

Last night’s announcement from Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has caused a surge in enquiries to estate agents today. It was explained that the temporary freeze on home moving would be lifted immediately and those who are not shielding or self-isolating are able to move home. This article from Homes & Property confirms that Rightmove has already reported a 45% increase in viewings this morning and now those 450,000 buyers and renters who were mid-transaction can now progress with their move. While things are certainly not as they were, the ‘new normal’ requires everyone to continue practicing social distancing and new practices shall be put in place with the goal of keeping everyone involved safe. Read more here.

Read the Housing Secretary's statement here. 

Figures released by Halifax indicate what impact COVID-19 has had on house prices since March. Whilst house prices in April fell by 0.6% compared to March, average house prices in April were 2.7% higher compared to April 2019 and 0.7% higher than in the preceding three months. 

Managing director of Halifax, Russell Galley, said: “With market activity currently almost at a complete standstill, the limited number of transactions available means that calculating average house prices has inevitably become more challenging. This will lead to a great deal of volatility until more data becomes available.

“It will not be until after lockdown restrictions are eased that we will get a sense of the new temporary normal conditions for the housing market. Social distancing raises new challenges for home viewings and valuations and this will require the industry to adapt to build and maintain consumer confidence. More immediately, we are likely to see some considerable movement in activity levels as buyers and sellers seek to kick-start previously agreed transactions which are likely to have stalled or been delayed.

“The future remains uncertain and based on our current forecasting we expect short-term headwinds to house prices, although we maintain our underlying confidence in the health of the housing market in the longer term.”

Read the full story from property reporter here

Taylor Wimpey has set a timetable for reopening sites in England & Wales on a phased roll out. Starting on 4 May, management teams are expected to get ready for the new operating protocols to meet social distancing requirements. Sub-contractors can return to work on site from 11 May and will be required to sign up to Taylor Wimpey’s COVID-19 Code of Conduct in order to do so. Pete Redfern, chief executive said: 

“…We will be regularly monitoring and enforcing these behaviours on our sites and will require all staff, subcontractors and suppliers to sign up to this Code of Conduct in advance of starting on site.”…“This has been based on the CLC guidance document which we have positively adapted and enhanced for a house building setting.”…“We welcome the news that, going forward, the Health and Safety Executive will be monitoring safe processes in response to COVID-19 on site.”. 

You can read more about this story reported by Construction Enquirer here.