In an attempt to ease the financial burden caused by the coronavirus, on 17th March lenders reported they would offer a mortgage payment holiday to those whose income had been affected in this difficult time. UK Finance reports that around 392,000 payment holidays were granted at this time. Then in the fortnight following 25th March, the number of mortgage holidays trebled, growing to a whopping 1.2 million. This equates to around 61,000 payment holidays granted on a daily basis and is a stark indicator of the significant economic impact this pandemic is having in the UK.

Commenting, Stephen Jones, UK Finance CEO, said: “Mortgage lenders have been working tirelessly to help homeowners get through this challenging period. The industry has pulled out all the stops in recent weeks to give an unprecedented number of customers a payment holiday, and we stand ready to help more over the coming months…. We understand that the current crisis is having a significant impact on household finances for people across the country. Lenders have a number of options available to help, and payment holidays aren’t always the right solution for everyone. We would therefore encourage any mortgage customers concerned about their financial situation to check with their lender so they can find out more information on the support available and how to apply.”

Read more about this story from UK Finance here.

The RICS  (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) and the NFB (National Federation of Builders) have called for stamp duty to be removed when the current lockdown ends. House prices are expected to fall over the coming 12 months but their hopes are that if stamp duty was removed, it would help to improve the housing market again. This article from Property Wire reports with a quote from Hew Edgar, head of government relations at RICS who said: “RICS is not an organisation that would call for a stamp duty holiday on a whim.

“As we start to emerge from this crisis, however, it is likely that the finances of potential homebuyers will be under strain, and the burden of stamp duty could put buyers off.

“For those who can afford to move they may lack confidence in the market, adding to the slow down.

“A stamp duty holiday could be one of the ways to reactivate the housing market quickly as a short term measure.”

To read more, click here.  

The results of research carried out by the BRE (Building Research Establishment) on the burning behaviours of a range of non-ACM cladding materials has been published. 

The tests were carried out on advice from the Expert Panel set up following the Grenfell Tower disaster, and found that no other materials tested performed the same, or even similarly, to the ACM PE (aluminium composite material with an unmodified polyethylene core) panels that were used on Grenfell Tower. 

The green and blue lines on the graph below represent the aluminium composite cladding with an unmodified polyethylene core and it is very clear they have a higher heat release rate compared with the other materials tested, among which were Classes B and D high pressure laminate, brick slips, zinc and copper composite materials and timber.

The Expert Panel said:

"We welcome the research carried out by the BRE. This research shows that ACM PE presents an unparalleled risk of fire in external cladding. Building owners should act to remove and remediate this cladding type on any building. This important research also confirms the advice previously issued regarding other cladding materials."

Read more here.   

According to the National Residential Landlords Association, it seems that during this crisis some renters are presuming they can stop paying their rent without any agreement between them and their landlord.  

While tenant support groups such as The London Renters’ Union are calling on complete suspensions of rent, it is said this could potentially put some landlords in financial difficulty, leading to possible implications further down the line.

Landlords should be flexible if tenants are struggling financially and should offer a three-month rent holiday for those in real need. Landlords may be able to agree a repayment holiday with their mortgage lender too. Only once agreements have been made can a rent or repayment holiday begin and until such time, rent and mortgage payments should be made as usual. 

Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA said "This is not a green light to tenants everywhere to stop paying their rent,"

Meanwhile, homeowners are also being urged not to cancel their mortgage payments unless an agreement had been made with their lender. Bank representative UK Finance said some people have simply cancelled their direct debits, which could result in potential problems remortgaging in the future. 

Read the full article here. 

The government has announced the biggest changes to building safety in a generation. In a letter to all MPs in England, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick explained the government’s plan to reform the building safety system.

The new measures include the provision of sprinkler systems and consistent wayfinding signage in all new high-rise blocks of flats over 11 metres tall, delivering on a recommendation picked up from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

The letter also confirms that £1 billion will be provided in 2020/21 to support the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding materials on high-rise buildings. As work to remove unsafe cladding from buildings is viewed as critical for public safety, it remains a top priority, even during the current COVID-19 outbreak, and therefore, work continues where it is safe to do so.   

Jenrick explains that surveyors, lenders, insurers and other parts of industry working with building owners, must ensure that the new ‘EWS1’ form is shared appropriately; adding there will soon be a data-sharing portal to enable easy access to information so sales and remortgages can proceed.

There will be a roundtable for mortgage lenders in the coming months so that lenders can agree a rational approach to valuing properties in buildings under 18 metres.

To read the letter, click here.

To read the government's response to the ‘Building a Safer Future’ consultation, click here.

Amidst concerns about the impact of the coronavirus on the building industry and ultimately the country’s economy, Andy Mitchell, Co-Chair of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has written to the Prime Minister with the Council’s plan to sustain the industry and accelerate recovery of the economy. The letter confirms that regular virtual meetings with construction industry bodies has resulted in the publishing and adoption of the following documents:

  • The Site Operating Procedures
  • The Safe Shutdown Process
  • Minimum Essential Works List
  • Covid19 Essential Worker Authorisation Letter
  • Appeal for surplus PPE to be donated to the NHS

The letter includes an appeal to the government to suspend PAYE and CIS tax payments and to defer Apprenticeship Levy payments. Indicating that as part of usual business practice, around £4.5 bn is held in retention and the CLC is urging the government to consider releasing these monies to free up cash at all levels of the construction supply chain. Read the letter in full here.

To support RICS members during this unprecedented and challenging time, the effective date for the RICS Home Survey Standard, which was previously 1st June 2020, has been deferred for 6 months and the Standards will now become effective on 1st December 2020.

The RICS are also offering a selection of online CPD for RICS members free of charge, until the end of July, including the Surveys in Practice Roadshow which accounts for 6 hours of formal CPD.

In addition, the RICS are also inviting members to join their digital community which will enable you to connect with other members in the field and acts as a channel for advice, tips and guidelines.

To read more, click here.

We often hear about the energy efficiency of new homes compared to old and the numbers we need to build to keep up with demand, but it isn’t often we hear about the loss of the embodied carbon in existing homes through demolition. This article from Historic England compared refurbishing a Victorian house to a new build and found the new build produced up to  thirteen times more embodied carbon.

With around 200,000 empty homes in England and many underused buildings such as old textile mills, there seems to be a lot of wasted potential. Unfortunately, the 0% VAT rates for new build are not applicable to refurbishments where the VAT rate is  20%, and this provides a financial incentive for developers to demolish existing buildings and build new.  Many, including Historic England, are calling for VAT rates to match those of new builds, to incentivise both developers and home owners to refurbish old buildings.

Historic England state that we cannot meet our 2050 carbon targets without improving the energy efficiency of our existing buildings, 20% of which are Pre-1919. Their research demonstrates that adapting an old building could reduce its emissions by 60%.

As well as the impact on carbon emissions, refurbishment reduces the  amount of waste produced as a third of all the waste produced in the UK comes from construction and demolition. 

Read the full article here.

So many businesses are being impacted by the coronavirus and indeed surveyors and valuers are no exception. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) whilst not a regulator, refer to themselves as ‘the voice of the UK’s world-leading insurance and long-term savings industry’. They have a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Hub that you may find of interest or useful in the current climate. You can find their guide about business insurance here.

The Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) has written to the government as they fear surveyors will be at danger of contracting the coronavirus due to unclear advice. RPSA are stating that  ‘the only sensible option is for Government to pause the progress of property transactions until Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, and for tailored support packages to be put in place for Independent surveyors and other professionals in a similar plight.’ Whilst the government say it might be possible to carry out surveys on empty properties or if the occupants are out, RPSA are concerned that the surveyor is likely to have no idea how long the property has been empty or even if someone who has been in the property has been infected by the virus. 

RPSA Chairman, Alan Milstein says:

“Government Advice for home moving specifically highlights that urgent surveys can be carried out by surveyors, on empty properties or where the occupants are out and free of coronavirus. However, the Advice also suggests that going into occupied homes to carry out surveys can still be considered safe. So, which advice do surveyors follow? And how would one of our members reliably determine if a house has been recently occupied by an infected person?”

You can read more about the story here.

The government has urged parties involved in home moving to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes, advising if the property is occupied, all parties should do all they can to amicably agree alternative moving dates to a time when it's likely the stay-at-home measures will no longer be in pace. 

The advice does confirm there is no need to pull out of property transactions.

This article from the BBC also reports that banks are worried about granting mortgages and lenders are concerned about the effects on valuations. 

Zoopla reported demand in the week starting 16 March fell 40% from the week before, adding that the predictions for housing transactions would drop by up to 60% over the next three months. 

Read the guidance here

Go Report, RICS, Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland and The Survey Association have put together a survey about the role in Surveying. The results will help shape the future support, training and information that will be available to members to help them be better placed to maximise the opportunities PropTech presents. If you have not yet responded, they would appreciate if you could spare less than 5 minutes to complete the survey here: 

The survey closes today (Friday 27th March) so please submit your responses before the end of the day - Thank you. 

The National Landlords Association (NLA) and Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has issued further guidance regarding the recent package of measures announced by the government to protect renters. They explain that although the announcement originally suggested there would be a ban on repossessions, the actual legislation that has been brought forward advises notice periods will be extended instead. The extension on notice periods is currently expected to last until 20th September 2020. 

The NLA/RLA have concerns that these measures will have an impact on neighbours suffering from anti-social or criminal tenants. Their position is that if landlords cannot take action to protect neighbours, the local authorities must be ‘properly resourced and committed’ to take action against any anti-social behaviour.

To read more click here.

House Beautiful have shared findings from Rated People who found that trends such as white metro tiles with dark grouting in a bathroom can be off-putting to potential buyers. As part of working on their new Home Improvement Trends Report 2020, the research team analysed almost one million jobs posted on their website, and conducted a 51-question survey to over 1000 homeowners and 600 tradespeople around the country to establish what people looked for in a new home. They found that current trends, such as dark blue rooms are most likely to put off potential buyers from putting down an offer. Understandably, practical aspects such as having a shower and no bath could put people off, but are you surprised at some of the others on the list?
 Read here.

It will come as no surprise that since the sudden and drastic drop in travel due to the current pandemic, some cities and regions have seen a huge drop in CO2 levels (story from BBC).

Research carried out by Columbia University found that for a few days last week Carbon Monoxide levels in New York (mostly from cars) almost halved compared to the same time last year. By May, scientists predict the levels might be at their lowest since the financial crisis over a decade ago.

Carbon Brief also carried out research and found that there had been a 25% drop in energy use and emissions in China during a two-week period.

While governments around the world have a lot to consider, Professor Le Quéré from the university of East Anglia says "Governments now have to be really cautious on how they re-stimulate their economies, mindful of not locking in fossil fuels again,"

"They should focus those things that are ready to go that would lower emissions, like renovating buildings, putting in heat pumps and electric chargers. These are not complicated and can be done straight away, they are just waiting for financial incentives."

Read the full story here.  

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has unveiled proposals to update the planning system in an attempt to get Britain building again. The government is putting aside £400 million for Mayoral Combined Authorities and local areas so that brownfield land can be developed and will establish a register of brownfield sites in April this year. Calling for a more inventive approach to meeting the country’s need for more housing, developers will be encouraged to redevelop high streets and build upwards and above stations; making quicker and better use of unused land and demolish disused buildings. In addition the government has announced that in order to meet the target of 300,000 homes a year, there will be more help for self-builds and £12 billion for affordable homes, the highest injection of funds in the last 10 years. A ‘bold and ambitious’ Planning White Paper is set to be published in Spring which will propose measures to accelerate planning, including a reform on the planning fee structure. 

Speaking about this latest announcement Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “I want everyone, no matter where they live, to have access to affordable, safe, quality housing and live in communities with a real sense of place – as part of our mission to level up, unite and unleash the potential of this country. We must think boldly and creatively about the planning system to make it fit for the future, and this is just the first step, so we can deliver the homes communities need and help more young people onto the ladder”. You can find the government’s announcement here

Emergency legislation will protect renters and landlords affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. New evictions from social or private rented accommodation will be suspended and no new possession proceedings through applications to the court will start during the crisis. Landlords will also be protected as 3-month mortgage payment holiday is extended to Buy to Let mortgages.   

“The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts. These are extraordinary times and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage. Which is why we are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started. These changes will protect all renters and private landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they need at this very difficult time.”

Read more here.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) recently issued a notice for RICS regulated members conducting valuations and the affect the COVID-19 outbreak will have on the work carried out.

“RICS reminds Regulated Members that - in addition to following the directions of Government authorities - they should act in a transparent and professional manner.  Where there are changes to the way RICS Regulated Members normally proceed with instructions, this must be agreed with the client and any agreed changes must be recorded. RICS Regulated Members should make detailed file notes to support the rationale that underpinned the changes.”

Ben Elder, RICS International Director for Valuation said: “The current unprecedented circumstances are challenging for everyone.  RICS expects its members and firms to act professionally and transparently at all times and this is particularly important when market conditions are changing rapidly.

“The effects of the COVID-19 Virus will affect the work carried out by RICS Regulated Members and firms in a variety of ways, with varying impacts. Inspecting property may be difficult and access to evidential data such as comparables, less freely available.

“RICS Regulated Members and firms may therefore be considering whether a material uncertainty declaration is now appropriate using the Red Book Process.  If material uncertainty is declared, this should be explicitly stated, and RICS has suggested today, a form of wording that can be used.

“These are to assist where a valuer feels that the unknowns are so significant that the valuation produced would be less reliable than in normal circumstances.”

You can find the full notice here

If you live on a road full of painted houses, your home could be worth an average of 20% more than a nearby plain house. Using average valuation figures, Home Owners Alliance (HOA) research found that the painted homes came in at between 2%-65% higher than their unpainted counterparts. In Norwich a painted 3-bedroom house was worth 65% more than a similar property just a couple of streets away. Where a seller might now be considering lobbying all the neighbours to get painting, buyers may make shrewd savings by buying that plain house just around the corner from the painted street. An earlier survey conducted by HOA found that nearly 70% of buyers thought kerb appeal was important, including an attractive front garden. Read the story from HOA here.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry Panel have confirmed there will be no further hearings for the time being given the latest advice from the Government regarding COVID-19. They will be giving careful consideration to whether it is possible to continue hearings using electronic means but regardless, the work of the Inquiry will continue and hopefully it isn’t too long until they can continue taking evidence. Read the statement from Martin Moore-Bick here.  

It may not come as a surprise given the coronavirus pandemic and the potential for major disruption to the country, that concerns have been raised by property professionals about its impact on the property market. Whilst new home sales are up for a third consecutive month in February, estate agents have noticed a drop off in viewings this month.

This article from Mortgage Solutions quotes Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman: “The usually reliable RICS survey suggests that house-price inflation, demand and new listings have been increasing for the past few months, which is good news, even though it is based largely on pre-virus responses.

“It confirms what many of our buyers and sellers are telling us – that the impact will be serious but short term. Our viewings are about 25 per cent lower than we might have expected at this time of year but sales are not being cancelled so far and we have even seen exchanges of contract immediately post-Budget.”

You can also read the press release from RICS here.

It’s a Budget we will certainly not forget, but what is the reaction of those in the construction industry? Housebuilder and Developer report that Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), Brian Berry, said:

“Understandably, the Chancellor has delivered a ‘first aid Budget’ to overcome the short-term crisis caused by COVID-19. But he has missed an important opportunity to announce interventions that would support the sustainable, long-term recovery construction needs. The autumn Budget must include measures to cut VAT on repair and renovation, and a National Retrofit Strategy to promote decarbonisation and create jobs and growth.

“Builders are increasingly concerned about the impact COVID-19 will have on their businesses. Today’s package of measures to support SMEs through refunding Statutory Sick Pay, making temporary loans and grants available, and support for the self-employed will provide welcome relief to small building businesses and their workers alike.”

To read more thoughts from those in the industry, such as Melanie Leech, Chief Executive of British Property Federation and Charles Bettes, managing director of architects gpad London, click here.  

According to the ‘Home and Dry’ report  completed by the ‘Centre for Ageing Better and Care and Repair England’, the number of non-decent homes, i.e., those that do not meet basic standards of decency, stands at an eye watering 4.3 million. The health and wellness of 10 million occupants could be affected by ‘serious hazards’, such as excess cold or a fall hazard. Over 75% of these homes contain at least one vulnerable adult and nearly 50% occupied by the over 55’s also included a child in the home. The report found that the over 65’s occupied 2 million homes that were hard to heat and contained serious hazards. Over 75’s are disproportionately likely to live in a non-decent home and over the course of 5 years (2012-2017) this figure rose from 533,000 to a shocking 701,000. Homes with a person aged 85 and over is the fastest growing household type, it’s also estimated that over 65’s will increase by 30% to 16 million by 2043. It is estimated the cost of non-decent homes in England costs the NHS approx. £1.4 billion and that £4.3 billion could cover the repairs in all of these homes which would be paid back in around 8 years. You can download a copy of the full report outlining the need for decent homes later in life here.

The gap between the cost of renting and buying a home has narrowed to its smallest size in the last decade according to the latest Halifax Buying vs. Renting Review. By comparing mortgage related costs on a three bedroom home against the average rental for the same property type, the research identified homeowners saved an average of 3% (£227 annually). Five years ago, homeowners were saving an average of 17% ( £1476 annually), a substantial change from 2009 when it was renters who saved an average of £209 per year. As with all things property related, the regional swings are staggeringly different with London homeowners making annual savings of 18% (£3727) and in the Yorkshire & the Humber area savings are 3% (£235). You can find a copy of the report 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:

Grenfell Tower – what have we learnt from the Phase 1 Inquiry?
Hilary Grayson BSc EST MAN (Hons), Sava

In October 2019 Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower report was published by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and this article focuses on the building, it’s construction and management, and the learnings the surveying and property management professions can take from the tragedy at this stage.

Read the article here.

External wall fire review – an update from RICS
John Baguley BSc (Hons) MRICS, RICS

In December 2019, RICS introduced a new industry-wide initiative with the aim of helping people living in high-rise property who had been left in limbo as a result of the fall-out from the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The intention of the new certificate is to help buyers, sellers and re-mortgagers of homes in buildings above 18 metres (six storeys), where there has been uncertainty about the cladding, and get the market moving again.

In this article we look at the development of the new certificate and how it will work in practice.

Read the article here.

Local Authority landlords – when can leaseholders be charged for fire safety remediation?
Susan Bright, Oxford University

This article looks at whether the costs of fixing and making safe local authority blocks can be recovered from leaseholders. The things that need fixing can include replacement cladding; fire breaks; replacing fire doors etc. but there may also be additional services, such as the provision of a waking watch.

Read the article here.

An introduction to listed buildings – what you should know
Ian Bullock, Carpenter Surveyors

When carrying out pre purchase surveys and valuations, the law of averages suggests you are likely to encounter historic buildings at some stage, some of which may well be listed. It’s important to consider what to look out for and what considerations are important when advising your client.

Read the article here.

Radon gas – how to test and mitigate
Robert Owen, propertECO

In this article, Robert Owen from propertECO explains how radon testing is carried out and how high levels of radon can be mitigated. This information may be useful for clients if a property is found to be in an area where radon levels may be higher than average.

Read the article here.

SAP 10 – battery storage and PV diverters
Dr Lisa Blake, Sava

Following on from our previous articles about the changes expected in SAP 10, in this article we cover the addition of diverters and battery storage for PV systems in the next version of SAP.

Read the article here.

Big data – challenges for housing providers
Andy Flook, Sava

This article discusses the challenges housing providers face with respect to the data and legislative changes and addresses the journey of overcoming the issues presented.

Read the article here.

The requirement to increase the rate at which new homes are being built to accommodate the growing population is well known. But where are the most new homes being built?

Whilst the government set a target of 300,000 new homes to be built in England every year, the current figures tell us there are actually 247,000 more houses built than demolished each year. The vast majority of these newly built homes are within large towns and cities where numbers have increased by 803,000 since 2011. It won’t come as a surprise to hear that proportionally, more homes have been built in London, most being in the Tower Hamlets area.  Percentage wise, the largest growth has been seen in Cambridge, where numbers have increased by 15% (7,000 homes). This is followed by Telford at 12% (8,400 homes) and Milton Keynes by 11% (11,700 homes). The lowest growth area is York at 3% (1,025 homes). The perception has been that newer homes are getting smaller, however a new home has averaged 92sqm during this period, slightly larger than the average 89sqm of an existing home. It goes without saying the smaller homes averaging 64sqm are found within city centres, outside the city they average 101 sqm. The largest homes can be found in Blackpool (101sqm) and the smallest in Luton (62sqm). When posing the question of whether these houses are being built in the right places, one asks whether the local economy should be considered. For example in Oxford where a home will cost approx. 17 times the average 2019 salary and Burnley 4 times the average salary, both areas have had similar numbers of new homes. Read the full story here.

Despite the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy investing £6 billion in the upgrade of homes to an energy rating of C by 2035, results are falling short with over 65% of UK homes still rated between D-G. 

Schemes such as ECO and Green Deal were introduced to provide affordable or government funded improvements to homes, but these came with their own problems. It can be complicated for a tenant or owner to work out their eligibility under ECOwhich is dependent on the measures required, savings that could be achieved and receipt of certain benefits. Whilst such schemes were intended to assist those experiencing fuel poverty, as well as contribute to the carbon reduction of the housing stock, it is the latest version of ECO (ECO3) that has increased the eligible benefits. The Green Deal Scheme was short-lived, covering just 3 years, closing down after a lack of take up, which was blamed was on its over complicated process.

The government recognises it needs to make changes to improve homes in the UK and if it’s to achieve the net zero carbon target by 2050. Homes built prior to 1990 will likely need some level of improvement and modern building regulations mean newly built homes must meet a certain standard, but should the developers also be considering the resulting running costs of these homes? See the story by Rob Halden-Pratt here.

Having just experienced the wettest February since 1862, a recent study by Cardiff University’s Understanding Risk Group indicates that the percentage of people concerned about climate change has doubled since 2016. 

Whilst Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the National Climate Information Centre, says that three exceptional rainfall events in the same month are extremely rare, he goes on to say "Met Office ground-breaking research has contributed to a growing body of evidence that [suggests] extreme rainfall is a significant risk factor for the UK, and that climate change has increased the likelihood of extreme rainfall events." Storm Dennis alone gave us the second highest UK average daily rainfall since 1891. The UK also had Storms Ciara and Jorge to contend with, once again flooding homes and businesses, disrupting travel and causing distress and loss to those affected. Read the BBC’s story here:

The government has announced that an independent ‘New Homes Ombudsman’ will protect homebuyers from rogue developers. New rules will mean that homebuilders must join the Ombudsman and will need to pay out compensation for ‘shoddy’ work, such as sloppy brickwork and faulty wiring. Not only will the new ombudsman have the powers to make builders pay compensation, but they will also be able to order developers to fix poor building work and even ban rogue developers from building. They also advise that new measures have been confirmed to ensure all homes sold under the future Help to Buy scheme meet higher standards and developers put quality first. These rules form part of the work the government are doing to raise the standards of new homes across the country. You can read more here.

We reported earlier this month that Rightmove saw such an increase in traffic on their website, that enquiries reached record numbers in January. This initial sign of more interest in the housing market is substantiated by sales agreed between 13 Dec 2109 and 15 Jan 2020 rising by 7.5% compared with the same period the previous year. (Source). Rightmove report that sales agreed across the UK are up by 12.3% year-on-year and in London it’s increased by 26.4%. Buyer demand is high and the number of new sellers coming to market is up 2.1% on last year, 110,000 homes were introduced to the market between 12 Jan and 8 Feb this year. Despite this rise, buyer numbers currently outstrip sellers which usually has the effect of increasing house prices. Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst said “…Owners coming to market this spring face the best selling prospects for several years, with good demand for the right properties at the right prices. However, sellers should be careful not to get carried away with their pricing, as this is still a price-sensitive market with stretched buyer affordability.” You can find the Rightmove House Price Index for February 2020 here.

Private landlords in the UK have needed to keep up to date with several changes over the last year or so. There has been the introduction of The Tenant Fees Act 2019, which effectively banned them from charging for inventories, references, phone calls etc., to the reduction in the amount of mortgage interest they could use to offset income tax, effectively increasing the amount of tax landlords have to pay. Now it seems further tax changes are on the horizon, which will hit landlords in the pocket at the point they sell the property. The tax overhaul of Private Residential Relief phases out the capital gains tax relief on properties the landlord has formerly lived in (£40,000 for sole owners and £80,00 for joint owners). Whether this results in landlords rushing to sell these properties prior to the 6th April cut-off date remains to be seen. You can read what Gary Priest, a partner at MFG Solicitors has to say here.

Other sources: 

This article from the Office of National Statistics looking at changes in housing tenure over time makes an interesting read. Following the current trend of an increasing private rental sector, it is likely that in the future more people will be private renting into their retirement. Looking at the current 45-54 age group, the proportion of in the private rental sector has doubled over the last 10 years, and these are the population approaching retirement. The problem with this situation is that a market rent that is affordable to someone of working age may cease to be affordable after retirement.  Research by insurer Royal London found that the pension pot required for homeowners of £260,000 would nearly double for private renters to £445,000.

Last year the UK saw the number of new homes registered to be built rise by 1%, although this meant it actually reached its highest level in the last 13 years. With 161,022 registrations last year, the last 10 year period totals 1.4 million registrations. All builders should register details of the homes they will build with a warranty provider and it’s understood there is an average period of around 15 months between registration and build completion. 

The NHBC statistical highlights for 2019 are:

  • 161,022 new homes registered, up 1%
  • 112,086 new homes registered in the private sector (up 3%)
  • 48,936 new homes registered in the affordable & rental sector (up 13%)
  • 21,726 new homes were registered in London in 2019 (up 37%)

NHBC Chief Executive Steve Wood said: “It is great to see the resilience of house builders over the 2019 year.  This momentum needs to be maintained as we enter a new decade, with the industry ever-more focused on quality and fire safety…. At NHBC we remain committed to our purpose of giving homeowners confidence in the quality of the nation’s new homes and working with house builders as the industry faces into the skills, supply chain and environmental challenges in front of us.”

You can download a full copy of the NHBC report here.

According to the Met Office, in 2019 England as a whole had its 5th wettest Autumn on record. South Yorkshire doubled it’s rainfall at 425.4mm compared to the average of 208mm and Holne in Devon had the highest rainfall levels at 899mm. In fact we also had the 7th wettest Summer on record since 1910, when in June the River Steeping broke its banks in Wainfleet All Saints, Lincs and the RAF dropped over 100 tonnes of ballast to close the breach. Of course, we can’t forget the more recent concerns at the Whaley Bridge Dam, Derbyshire. At one point, Yorkshire received 112mm of rainfall in 3 hours!

Flood checks are an important part of surveying and valuing and this type of local knowledge is invaluable. Not only does flooding endanger life, ruin homes and businesses, cause distress and upset - but it also costs significant sums. The Association of British Insurers estimated last November that insurance pay-outs could go as high as £110 million. At that point over 4,000 claims had been submitted with the average household claim costing £31,000 and for businesses £70,000. You can download the full report from the House of Commons Library here. 

In particular, floodwaters can increase the spread of Japanese Knotweed and other invasive species, when parts of damaged plants get caught up in floodwaters and are deposited elsewhere, taking root and once again flourishing. Buyers and other property professionals must always, where possible, conduct appropriate online and/or visual checks at the property. Whilst a mortgage can go ahead where Japanese Knotweed is present, lenders are likely to release the funds only after they have proof an eradication plan is underway. For other property professionals, it can result in timely and costly claims against their PI insurance if the plant is missed. You can read the article from Today’s Conveyancer’ here. 

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are seeking views on their 'First Homes Policy' which will deliver discounted homes for local people. The consultation opened on 7th February and will run until 3rd April. It covers the following areas:

  • what First Homes are and who should be eligible for them
  • how the scheme should work in practice
  • how to deliver more of these homes through developer contributions
  • the requirements for delivering these homes through planning or legislation

 To read more and submit your response, click here.

A recent update to the form which sellers are required to complete when selling their property (TA6) now has the option for "Not Known" in response to the question asking if the property is affected by Japanese knotweed. The Law Society advised that the update was in response to the House of Commons Select Committee on Japanese knotweed which recommended that the wording was reviewed. The Law Society added that it will be reviewed again when the Department for the Environment , Food and Rural Affairs has completed its own research into the treatment of Japanese knotweed in the conveyancing process in other jurisdictions. Other changes regarding Japanese knotweed include:

“highlighting that information ought to be provided to a buyer if the seller is aware that there is a treatment plan in place” and “replacing ‘eradication’ with ‘managing its regrowth’”

Read more here.

A pub in Liverpool has had its listing upgraded to Grade I, joining the 2.5% of buildings with this status. The Philharmonic in Liverpool is one of 11 pubs which have recently had their status upgraded or listing updated as part of a project to protect rare historic interiors. It was built between 1898-1900 and features very ornate and elaborate carvings and strong Art Nouveau features.

Images from Historic England

Another pub called 'The Vines' in Liverpool was upgraded to Grade II* and pubs in West Sussex, London, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Staffordshire  have had their status upgraded or more information added to their listing. 

Chief Executive of Historic England, Suncan Wilson said:

"English pubs are some of our best-loved community buildings and are often threatened with closure so we are delighted to see 11 historic pubs receiving further protection. We are proud that the Liverpool Philharmonic pub, a remarkable survival from the Victorian era, has been given a Grade I listing which will help maintain and preserve its outstanding interior fittings and exterior fabric for the future. The 11 pubs range from the opulent Philharmonic in Liverpool and the picturesque Rose and Crown in Somerset, to a London pub with links to Bartholomew Fair. All of them fully deserve the protection given by listing."

Read more here.

The government published its Environment Bill 2020 detailing a governance framework for a range of environmental matters. Intending to protect and improve the UK’s natural environment, the bill will have a far-reaching legislative impact on the issues it aims to address, including domestic solid fuel burning, flood and coastal erosion and ensuring developers enhance natural spaces for communities. Targets will be issues in four key areas:

  • Air quality
  • Water
  • Nature
  • Waste and resource efficiency

These targets along with Environment Improvement Plans will be reviewed every five years. Policy-makers will be legally obliged to consider policies that cause the least environmental harm and that any damage caused  to the environment must be rectifed. Upon leaving the EU, the government is ensuring we continue to deal with climate change by bringing all associated legislation within the Office for Environmental Protection and enforcement will fall within their remit. You can find the report here.

Could Hydrogen boilers be the future? It seems that boiler manufacturer Worcester Bosch thinks so as they recently unveiled their new Hydrogen Boiler developed in response to the UK target to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. The boiler is designed to run on natural gas but can be switched across to run on hydrogen if energy networks switch to hydrogen. Worcester Bosch also claim that the existing gas engineers will be able to install these new boilers with only limited upskilling.  Will this be the boiler of the future? Read more here.

Wednesday 29th January was the busiest day Rightmove had ever seen and January 2020 has now taken the winning spot for the most amount of visits in one month, surpassing 152 million. These figures suggest that home-hunters are feeling more confident now there is a more certain political outlook. Here’s a few interesting stats provided by Rightmove:

  • The top five busiest days were between 21st and 29th January, with Wednesday 29th taking the lead
  • On the 29th, there were 5.7 million visits, an increase of 9% on the previous record on 24th April 2019
  • The time spent on the site was up by 4%, totalling 1.17 billion minutes!
  • Sales agreed by agents was up 12% compared to the same month in 2019
     (this was the biggest year-on-year jump in any month since July 2017 with London seeing the biggest boost at 26%)

To read more , click here.

Set up at the end of 2018, the ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’ has released its report in January 2020 covering their research and proposals for the future. Amongst many other things, the report looks at how beautiful buildings and developments promote healthy and happy lives, suggesting that ugly developments result in unadaptable, unhealthy and unsightly buildings which they believe comes at a social cost to all who live there. Wishing to create greener urban areas, more consideration for the long-term view and neighbourhoods and communities, not just houses, their eight priorities for reform are:

  1. Planning: create a predictable level playing field 
  2. Communities: bring the democracy forward 
  3. Stewardship: incentivise responsibility to the future 
  4. Regeneration: end the scandal of left behind place 
  5. Neighbourhoods: create places not just houses 
  6. Nature: re-green our towns and cities  
  7. Education: promote a wider understanding of placemaking 
  8. Management: value planning, count happiness, procure properly 

Looking at beauty in three scales:

  • Beautiful buildings
  • Beautiful places
  • Beautifully placed

New developments should be an improvement and be more beautiful than the area they replaced. The report acknowledges how the increase in cars has impacted developments and the way that people live. In the past, areas were designed with walking in mind as access to transport was so much more limited. It therefore proposes we should rethink the way we design developments. Touching on the change in use of materials over the years, the report recognises that modern materials must be used to meet building regulations and considers how they can be best used to create beautiful buildings. One of the thought processes of the Commission is that mixed-use areas have a better chance of creating communities, with less reliance on the car, people can live together, visit the same shops and facilities and are more likely to get to know each other. There needs to be consideration for affordability and respect for nature and heritage. Find out what the Commission’s proposals are and what they have achieved so far here.

The Legal & General Modular Homes venture was established in 2015 aiming to revolutionise housebuilding using advanced computer aided and automated design techniques. Constructing panels and installing kitchen and bathroom fittings, plumbing and electrics, they have the capacity to build around 3000 off-site homes per year at their factory near Leeds. Whilst modular housing has for a long time been heralded as the solution to Britain’s housing shortage, despite heavy investment from parent company L&G, progress had been slow to start. Read more here. The factory recently received a boost from Minister of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Esther McVey when she visited the factory site and applauded their designs for among other things, taking on safety requirements, environmental needs, quality and the ability for occupants to reduce living costs. You can read details of the published speech here.

Following the regulations introduced in December 2018, the use of combustible cladding was banned on all buildings 18m tall or more. However, it appears that some builders are avoiding the restrictions by building just below 18m according to Chandru Dissanayeke, director of building safety at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

He said “Experts who say there’s a difference between 17.95m and 18m are being dishonest to themselves” adding “We need industry to step up and provide leadership. There are parts of the industry which know about the risks and are closing their eyes and that’s disgraceful.”

Read the story from Building Design here

Following the tragedy of Grenfell, government has taken steps to set up a safety regulator in accordance with their building safety programme. On 20th January, a press release announced a new regime in order to ensure effective oversight of the design, construction and occupation of high-risk buildings. A new regulator will be at the heart of a new regime and will be established as part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 

The plan is that the HSE will quickly begin to establish the new regulator in shadow form immediately, ahead of it being fully established, following legislation. The intention is to raise building safety and performance standards, including overseeing a new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings.

Dame Judith Hackitt will chair a Board to oversee the transition. Read more here.


On average, new homes cost almost 20% more than pre-owned properties of the same size. Research carried out by Monmouthshire Building Society (MBS) found a staggering variation around the country when comparing the cost of new -v- old homes throughout 2019. For example, in Greater London a new detached property cost nearly 25% less than an existing detached. Yet, in the North West, a new terraced property cost almost 55% more than a pre-owned one. New flats in North Wales cost about 50% more than their pre-owned counterparts.

Unsurprisingly, it was in Greater London that the highest proportion of new build sales took place at 13.7%, outperforming the England & Wales average of 11.5%. New build sales in Wales on the other hand reached 6.6%. It’s clear there are some benefits of owning a new home, with various mortgage products to attract first-time buyers, the latest renewable technologies and a 10-year warranty, although other people prefer the character of an older home. It all really comes down to individual worth and preferences. However, with these variations around the UK, some buyers could really benefit from investigating price differences in their region. Find the report from MBS here.

An audit has found that one in five new-build developments should have been refused planning permission outright and that the design of many others should have been improved before relevant permissions were granted. 

The audit, which was carried out by Place Alliance and CPRE (the countryside charity), included 142 large-scale housing development projects in England and the findings suggest that housing design is overwhelmingly ‘mediocre’ or ‘poor’, although, there has been small improvement overall since the last audits between 2004 and 2007.

It finds that there is potential for good, affordable design everywhere, 'but we don’t do it'. The reasons given for the variation in practice were:

  • less affluent communities get worse design
  • large developers are inconsistent
  • we are not good at building at lower densities and on greenfields
  • inconsistent use of proactive site-specific design governance
  • poor design is getting through on appeal.

Positive findings were that we are delivering a variety of housing types and designing for safety and security. Read the summary of findings here.

A lawyer who sued estate agent Savills after he fell from climbing the locked gates outside his home has had his case thrown out by a judge. Mr Perez returned home one evening at 10:30pm to find the spiked security gates locked and then proceeded to climb them, resulting in him falling and suffering spinal fractures and a ‘moderate’ brain injury. He sued Savills (who were acting for his landlord) for £100,000 arguing that they should have provided him with a key fob, however Savills claim they were not aware the gates would become operational that day.  The judge found his decision to climb the locked gates rather than book a hotel or stay at a friends house to be ‘reckless’ and dismissed his claim. Read more.

Whilst gross mortgage lending was down by between 1-2% in 2019, the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA) predict 1.4% growth to £268 billion this year, with a further rise to £275 billion in 2021. Reporting that reduced interest rates have provided mortgagors with an additional £32 billion in their pockets compared to 10 years ago, IMLA believe this alongside less political uncertainty and earnings growth could motivate more people back to the mortgage market. Kate Davies, IMLA’s Executive Director believes modest growth over the next two years is possible if a trade deal can be negotiated with the EU. She also comments on how product transfers will further boost the market with fixed rate mortgages coming to an end. Stating that the housing market is still far from perfect, she highlights the need to look at innovative solutions to help the market after the closure of Help-to-Buy. Read more about this story and see the full statement from Kate Davies here.

Highways England have published a guide for property owners relating to blight. Blight is when the value of a property is substantially reduced because of a proposal to carry out public works, such as a new road or improvement to an existing road and the owners are unable to sell it at unaffected market value. If a blight notice is accepted an offer will be made to purchase the property.

The guide includes information on when a blight notice can be submitted as well as how blight notices are processed.

The guide is available here.

On the 20th January the government announced a new regime in order to ensure effective oversight of the design, construction and occupation of high-risk buildings.  A new regulator will be at the heart of a new regime and will be established as part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The plan is that the HSE will quickly begin to establish the new regulator in shadow form immediately, ahead of it being fully established, following legislation, with the intention of raising building safety and performance standards, including overseeing a new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings.

Dame Judith Hackitt will chair a Board to oversee the transition.

Read more here.

New research marking the start of Big Energy Saving Week 2020 (20-26 January) has revealed a significant gap in consumer understanding about managing their household energy use and the simple steps people can take to reduce their carbon footprint.

The survey revealed that 36% of British households have made no changes to their energy usage in recent years and 73% were surprised to hear that British homes are responsible for 25% of UK carbon emissions.

Analysis by the Energy Saving Trust found that 4 simple changes could help towards the UK target of net zero emissions by 2050:

  • Turning your thermostat down by 1 degree would cut 3.3 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year
  • Changing all your lightbulbs to LEDs would save 430 thousand tonnes of carbon emissions every year
  • Turning appliances off rather than keeping them on standby would  curb the release of 1.3 million tonnes of carbon emissions
  • Only using the right amount of water in your kettle would stop 2 million tonnes of carbon emissions being released annually.

You can read more here.