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.

The BRE Academy is offering 3 hours of free CPD on Domestic Retrofit. The course consists of six 20-30 minute modules to raise awareness of key technical refurbishment topics - moisture awareness, air tightness, exposure, external wall insulation, building physics and unintended consequences. The course is consistent with the EHC review recommendations and the proposed technical direction of PAS 2035 Code of practice for the energy retrofit of buildings (and associated standards), which is now being developed. As well as introducing the key technical issues involved, it provides a first step to further training to become accredited under PAS 2035, which will enable practitioners to display the EHC Quality Mark.

To find out more or register to access the course, click here

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.

The Welsh Assembly has introduced a ban on the use of combustible cladding. The ban, which came into effect on the 13th January 2020, will apply to all new buildings, and to existing buildings being refurbished and will cover blocks of flats, care homes and hospitals over 18m high.

A BBC post quoted Housing Minister Julie James: "The fire at Grenfell Tower in London was a tragedy that will live long in the memories of so many of us in this country. 

Our homes should be 'the' safest of places. The action I have taken today will help ensure we make people safer in their homes, and leaves no room for doubt as to what is suitable for use on external walls of relevant buildings 18m or more in height."

More detailed information can be found at the National Assembly for Wales website here. 

Further to our news item ‘Valuation of high-rise properties’, we can now bring you an update relating to a ‘Certificate for valuations’ which is about to be finalised and will hopefully solve the problem for the thousands of people that have been unable to sell or re-mortgage their flats since the introduction of Advice Note 14 at the end of December 2018. This Certificate will enable a valuation and therefore means that a mortgage application can go ahead. The Certificate was initiated by Fiona Haggett, Head of Valuations at Barclays, who involved fire engineers, RICS, UK Finance and the Building Societies Association to bring an industry wide solution to the problem. Once finalised this should free the bottle neck in the marketing of flats and alleviate some of the stress it has caused many flat owners. To find out more about this story, click here.

A recent press release from the Government announced new funding will supply £3 million to Jobcentres in order to help support homeless people. This money will see staff from the Jobcentres assisting people living on the streets, on the streets, or in charity run day centres where people without homes may be using the services. Building on the Governments Homelessness Reduction Act, this work could further support verifying identification to set up claims for benefits, assisting with opening bank accounts, pausing requirements to look for work while finding stable housing, making regular payments to help pay for housing and signposting to drug, alcohol and other support services.

Minister for Homelessness, Luke Hall said:
 “As Minister for Homelessness, it’s my priority to ensure that we reduce all forms of homelessness and rough sleeping.

 “And while our interventions are working there is still more to do. Today’s announcement will mean homeless people get the support they need to get back on their feet and find new work.”

Read the full press release here.

The Scottish Government have released a consultation seeking views on proposals to set a standard for energy efficiency in owner occupied homes. Scotland has set in law a target for reaching net-zero emissions by 2045, with 75% reductions by 2030. In 2017 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland were from the residential sector. The 2018 Route Map included the ambitious target of all properties achieving EPC band C by 2040 at the latest.

Targets for the Social Rented Sector (SRS) already exist, with 85% meeting the EESSH 2020 target and a new target of band B by December 2032. For the Private Rental Sector (PRS), all tenancies must meet minimum energy efficiency standards of EPC band D by march 2025 and band C by 2030. As most homes in Scotland are owner occupied (62%) and only 32% are EPC band C or above, the consultation proposes introducing an Energy Efficiency Standard for these homes. The consultation proposes introducing a regulatory requirement in 2024 to meet band C at point of sale or major renovations.

You can read the full consultation here.

Storm Brendan has certainly left a mark on the country this week. In Slough, Berkshire, a large section of roof was blown off a block of flats and scaffolding from a 10-storey block in Orpington, London, collapsed on Tuesday night due to the high winds. Elsewhere, brick walls have collapsed, trees have blocked roads and rising rivers have led to flood warnings.

The RICS provide some interesting guidance documents on flooding and who is responsible for the cost of repairs due to fallen trees (see here)

A story from the BBC shows images of the havoc caused by the storm here. 
Image: BBC via @SAUDI89

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick is pushing for landlords to allow responsible tenants to keep well behaved pets in their homes. He will be removing restrictions in the government’s model tenancy contracts for renters, which can be used as the basis of lease agreements and a revised agreement will be published this year. 

The press release describes how currently only 7% of landlords advertise homes as being suitable for pets and with more people renting this should hopefully increase the options available for those who have pets. The government highlight that properties of landlords should be protected from damage caused by pets but there should be a balance so that responsible pet owners are not penalised. Complete bans should only be applicable where there is good reason, such as in smaller properties or flats where having a pet would be impractical.

Read the press release here.

With first-time buyers being the vital element that keeps the mortgage market alive, lenders participated in fierce competition to attract new customers to their fixed rate products throughout 2019. This resulted in the fixed rate sector seeing the largest interest rate cuts last year. The biggest drop was associated with the 10-year fixed deals which would have helped to sustain the first-time buyer market. These longer fixed terms offer some security for those stepping onto the housing ladder and the challenge will be finding out at the end of the term whether they’ll be able to shop around when the time comes to re-mortgage. See the Moneyfacts research and mortgage analysis here.

It was another challenging year in 2019 amidst uncertainty in the property market and we are all left wondering whether a definitive leaving date for leaving the EU will provide any level of clarity for the year ahead. Propertymark spoke to their estate agent members to get their thoughts on the housing market in 2020 and it appears they remain undecided on the matter. Whilst almost a third of agents thought house prices would drop,  just over half expect them to stay the same. When asked about expectations for housing demand, 32% believe it will decrease and 28% expect it to increase. So perhaps it is still a little too early to see where the market will go this year. Read more about this story and see what Mark Hayward, NAEA Propertymark Chief Executive has to say on the matter here.

Anyone who has looked at the price trends and house price indices published over time will know that London continues to be the most expensive city in Britain to buy a house. Indeed, areas just outside the capital also come with their own lofty price tag. According to Zoopla, the average house price in London stands at £657,154 as of December 2019. With average deposits ranging from 5% to 20% it can render both the deposit and the remaining mortgage payments unaffordable for most people. It was therefore interesting to find that technology is being used to scour areas on the outskirts of London, using data mapping and analysis of 500 datasets to identify land and then work with developers to build affordable homes. The data used includes commuting patterns, migration trends and house prices - one such company is District 34. To find out what Jenny Sargeant, Partner at Fladgate LLP had to say on the subject click here.

When the government took steps to prevent the wholesale collapse of banks like Northern Rock or Bradford & Bingley, their customers were caught up in the austere measures put in place to bring the books back into the black. Many of us will recall the news images of the queues outside the banks as information started trickling through to customers that their bank was about to go belly up. After nationalisation, customers complained about the severe measures being taken to recover mortgage arrears and others believed they were subject to unfair mortgage rates. One customer claims to have overpaid by around £32,000 as he was forced to pay standard variable rates when other banks were offering much more competitive deals. With the situation causing financial hardship and distress to many customers and some having lost their homes to repossession action, the UK Mortgage Prisoner Action Group is bringing legal action against the banks to claim back the extra interest. See the full story here and read more about the nationalisation of the banks here.

The latest updates to the RICS Valuation – Global Standards (Red Book Global) come into force on 31st January 2020. The main reason for issuing the update is to take account of the changes to the International Valuation Standards (IVS) - which the Red Book Global adopts and applies. However, the opportunity has been taken to make some other changes and refinements to the Red Book Global in the light of experience and developments since the current edition was issued in June 2017.

The IVS-related changes include:

  • Title: The year of publication is no longer included in the title of the standards. Instead, the 'effective date' (the date at which the standards come into effect) will be clearly set out on the cover.
  • Effective date: The latest IVS becomes effective from January 2020. However, the IVSC encourages early adoption from the date of publication. Valuers will need to make clear which edition of the IVS they are using when preparing a valuation report.
  • New chapter: The updated IVS includes a new chapter, 'IVS 220 Non-Financial Liabilities' as part of the intangible asset standards.
  • Technical revisions: Updates also include the technical revisions consulted on throughout 2018 and 2019.
  • Glossary: The IVS glossary has been updated to include new terms and to provide additional clarifications. These changes also reflect the IVSC's ongoing efforts to align valuation standards, terminology and definitions.
  • Notable updates: Other key updates have been introduced in relation to 'development property' (IVS 410), 'limitations' (IVS 102), and 'valuation models' (IVS 105).

 In addition to the above, the following RICS-initiated changes to the Red Book Global have also been made:

Part 3 Professional standards: 

  • PS 1 Paragraph 1.3: the text has been expanded to clarify that "written" encompasses all forms of communication other than purely oral.
  • PS 2 Section 1 Paragraph 1.5: a new second sentence has been inserted, tying this in with Section 3 that follows and adopting the widely used phrase "professional scepticism" as an aspect of objectivity which is growing in importance in relation to information and data.   

 Part 4 Valuation technical and performance standards:

  • VPS 3 Section 2.2 (l): A new paragraph 3 has been added under Implementation stressing the need to signal the relevance and significance of sustainability and environmental matters wherever appropriate.
  • VPS 3 Section 2.2 (o):  The wording of paragraph 4 has been strengthened to ensure that where material uncertainty applies, it is explicitly signalled

 Part 5 Valuation: 

  • VPGA 1: New material on the valuer's role in preparing financial statements has been added in Section 5.  This draws attention to a number of mandatory requirements in earlier parts of the Red Book Global and may serve as a useful reminder or checklist.     
  • VPGA 7: Some additions to, and strengthening of, the guidance in relation to arts and antiques has been inserted, with further emphasis on the issue of provenance.
  • VPGA 8: Some additions to, and strengthening of, the text in relation to environmental matters including sustainability.

 The valuation of assets, both tangible and intangible, plays a crucial role in global financial and real estate markets, as well as the global economy. The changes to IVS and the Red Book reflect the growing importance of combining professional, technical and performance standards to deliver high quality valuation advice.  

Compliance with RICS Red Book Global is mandatory for all RICS members, providing confidence to clients, governments, regulatory bodies, and the public that RICS professionals deliver consistent, independent, and transparent valuations.

You can find the latest standards here.

Statistics recently published by the Bank of England in their ‘Mortgage Lenders and Administrators Statistics 2019 Q3’, draws information from around 340 administrators and regulated mortgage lenders. It shows that in the residential mortgage market, there is a total outstanding value of £1.486 billion which is nearly 4% higher than the previous year. Gross mortgage advances for Q3 was quite similar to the previous year at £73.3 billion. The proportion of mortgages exceeding 90% loan to value went up to 5.9%, its highest level since the same quarter in 2008. However, the value of mortgages with arrears dropped considerably to £13.7 billion and is 0.92% of all outstanding mortgages being at its lowest level since 2007. Figures show that interest rates have remained low with the vast majority of products at less than 2% above Bank Rate. Gross advances by multiple income remained mostly unchanged and in line with Q3 2018. The share of the mortgage market was split between buy-to-let advances at 12.3% and to owner occupiers at 87.7%. The Bank of England’s key findings can be downloaded here.

Data requested under the Freedom of Information by chartered accountants Price Bailey to the Insolvency Service shows that in the last three years there has been a 67% increase in housebuilder insolvencies. In the last year 343 housebuilders became insolvent, the year before it was 272 and in 2016/17 it was 220. This article describes how SME housebuilders have been affected by the stagnant house prices in London and the South East and increased material and labour costs since the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Paul Pittman, partner at Price Bailey said “The proportion of new houses built by small housebuilders is dwindling and yet there is huge opportunity to build homes on the small parcels of land which the big developers won’t touch. The housing market is highly regulated and capital intensive, making it very difficult for new entrants to gain a foothold.”

Read the story here.

With almost 7,000 homes purchased for £1 Million plus in the first half of 2019, there were over 300 more homes sold in this price bracket in the first half of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. In the North East the figure rose from 8 to 61, in Yorkshire and Humber there was a rise of almost 100 sales, the West Midlands saw an increase of around 90 and in the East Midlands sales rose from 40 to 133. Whilst in London the number of £1M plus property sales fell by 186, it still represented 51% of all million pound property sales. The types of property you can buy in this price range varies around the country and you can get more for your money in some places compared to others. For example, £1M could buy you a flat in the south Bank Tower, Central London, whereas in Birmingham it could buy you a 9 bedroom detached home. Nearly 25% of mortgage deals on the open market had a maximum loan amount of at least £1M. Here is the breakdown of £1M purchases around the country, courtesy of Which?

Louise Santaana, head of private banking at Lloyds Bank said: “While the market in London and the South East has cooled in terms of volume of sales, average prices for million-pound-plus homes in these areas have still gone up by 13% and 19% respectively, which suggests the sales drop could be linked to availability of properties. This may explain why buyers are looking outside of traditional investment areas.” 

Growth in the sale of £2M plus properties also rose this year. In H1 of 2018, Yorkshire and Humber saw 2 sales in this price range and this soared to 63 in 2019. In the North East numbers rose from 1 to 26 and East Midlands sales climbed from 2 to 52. You can find the press release from Lloyds and a copy of the full report here.

Happy New Year to you! How happy is it where you live? Over 22,000 people participated in a survey carried out for Rightmove’s annual Happy at Home Index. Answering questions about feeling safe, community spirit, friendliness of neighbours and what they thought of their local services, residents in Hexham, Northumberland voted it the happiest place to live in Great Britain. To find out more about the survey and perhaps find out how happy people are where you live, click here.

Sandbag, the non-profit climate change think tank, has published a report looking at the impact of burning biomass instead of coal in power stations. Quoting EASAC (European Academies’ Science Advisory Council): “It is of considerable concern that scientific analyses indicate that, far from reducing GHG emissions, replacing coal with biomass for electricity generation is likely to initially increase emissions of CO2 per kWh.

[..] Research has shown that the time needed to reabsorb the extra carbon released can be very long, so that current policies risk achieving the reverse of that intended—initially exacerbating rather than mitigating climate change.”

The reports key findings include the estimate that 36 million tonnes of wood pellets would be needed for current coal-biomass EU projects resulting in 2,700km2 of forest to be cut down each year. This is equivalent to half of the Black Forest.

Their policy recommendations include proposing that Governments should focus policy on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar rather than biomass.

You can read the full report here.

Concluding a landmark legal case recently in Manchester County Court, a judge has ruled that an exchange of emails including the writers sign-off constituted a legally binding agreement in a land law dispute. Neighbours in the Lake District had been exchanging emails over the sale of a piece of land between the two properties and after confirming the sale, the seller pulled out. The buyer Mr Stavros Neocleous took the matter to court and won, meaning buyers, sellers and developers may now want to exercise a level of caution before sending emails. The solicitor for the plaintiff Mr Daniel Wise of Slater Heelis commented: “It is generally understood that the formality in buying and selling land and property is concluded in writing and signed by both parties, more commonly known as ‘exchanging. Despite there being no case law on whether an email sign-off counts as a signature for a property contract the court has found that an exchange of emails in a single chain with a name at the bottom is essentially the same as a hand-written signature on a paper contract”. Read more about this story in the Manchester evening news here.

Over a period of around 10 years, the planning system has seen a drop in spending of 55% per person. The British Property Federation (BPF) believe that politicians should be treating planning as a priority and that improvements to the system are necessary if they are to meet their housing promises. Covering 8 key areas, the BPF has issued its Accelerated Planning Manifesto to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government along with local authorities and are intent on creating a better funded and transparent planning system. Melanie Leech CBE, BPF Chief Executive acknowledges there is no single solution for creating an accelerated planning system, but says that funding must be a priority. Click here to see what BPF has to say and to download the full manifesto.

Today RICS, the BSA and UK Finance published a new industry-wide process for use in the valuation of high rise properties.

This must be a huge relief to those home owners stuck in a limbo where valuers have been unable to provide a valuation due to the uncertainty around the suitability of external cladding systems. The new External Wall Fire Review process will require a fire safety assessment to be conducted by a suitably qualified and competent professional. This should give the required assurance for lenders and valuers. The Review has been developed through extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders including fire engineers, lenders, valuers, and other cross industry representatives. Only one assessment will be needed for each building and this will be valid for five years.

And special credit must go to Fiona Haggett of Barclays Bank who, through BlueBox Partners has contributed to the valuation content of both the Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation and the Certificate in Residential Valuation.  Her vision and tenacity has helped make this happen.

You can read more from RICS here and download the form here.

Whilst there are currently no restrictions on planting bamboo, there are more and more disputes over it encroaching onto a neighbour’s property and causing damage in doing so. Solicitor Mark Montaldo who handles legal claims of this nature says that “Due to the increase in nuisance claims it is something that the mortgage companies are closely looking at and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them imposing lending restrictions on properties that suffer with bamboo infestations.”  

This article explains how the different varieties of bamboo can be classed as either running bamboo or clumping bamboo. Running bamboo is the worst offender as rhizomes can grow up to 30ft from the main plant causing new shoots to pop up some distance away. Clumping bamboo, although preferable, can still be problematic if not maintained adequately.

Advice from the experts Environet is to only plant bamboo in containers with root barriers designed to contain bamboo and avoid it spreading. Environet’s advice to estate agents and surveyors is to look out for signs of the plant growing out of control and alert potential buyers to the problem, which usually requires professional excavation.
Read the article here.

John Herron, Managing Director of Mortgages at Paragon writes in Bridging and Commercial that lenders should be given access to the rogue landlord register. The government introduced the rogue landlord database in April 2018 in order that local authorities could share information on banned landlords and letting agencies. The government proposes to give current and prospective tenants access to the register.

John says “Broadening access to lenders for underwriting purposes would be another important step forward. It is in no one’s interest to let unfit landlords operate in the UK’s PRS, and by granting lenders access to the rouge landlord database, lenders can fulfil a vital function in making sure rogue landlords are starved of the oxygen of finance.”

You can read the full article here.

UK Finance have recently published figures ranking the value of buy-to-let mortgages. It shows that members grossed £40.5 billion in 2018 - an increase of 5.5% on the previous year. Ranked at number 1, Lloyds Banking Group held just over 20% of the market share at around £50 billion. With landlords facing the challenges such as tax changes and regulation, these figures indicate that the market remains competitive. To view the published data, click here.

A new report by the charity Shelter has found out that a child becomes homeless in Britain every 8 minutes – this equates to 183 children a day and enough to fill 2 double decker buses. 

Homelessness is at its highest rate since 2006 with the number of homeless children in temporary accommodation up by 51% in the last 5 years.

Temporary accommodation is classed as hostels and emergency B&Bs and has not had the best reputation for being secure, private or comfortable.

Last year the government announced it wanted to end homelessness in England by 2027 and the charity Shelter is calling on all political parties to make housing a top priority on the domestic agenda. Read more from Shelter here. 

Image: Shelter

A new working draft document called “Investigation of Moisture and its Effects in Traditional Buildings” has been prepared by the heritage protection organisations of the UK along with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Property Care Association (PCA). This document describes the  knowledge needed to investigate dampness in older buildings.

The new methodology proposes framework centred around importance of understanding the building and its history, the behaviour of moisture, and moisture-related defects.  It is currently still a draft and the organisations that have collaborated to create the text are committed to its publication and use as a guide, standard or measure of competence. Process and procedure for each of the partner organisations must be followed before there can be any formal adoption or endorsement.

Read the document here.

A number of businesses and organisations from the construction and property sectors have come together to urge the next UK government to slash VAT on home improvements and maintenance. This coalition which includes the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) predict that a VAT reduction from 20% to 5% would provide sufficient stimulus to the economy to shift it towards a net zero carbon economy. The ‘Cut the VAT’ campaign believes it will trigger a green housing revolution and free up investment for domestic housing which creates around 20% of carbon emissions in the UK. Highlighting also that the build-to-rent (BTR) sector has rocketed from 30,000 to 148,000 homes in 5 years, the coalition believes the reduction of VAT paid on maintenance and management can help the sector improve delivery. Find details of the organisations involved in the coalition and read more about what the FMB has to say about the campaign here.

LV= GI (London Victoria General Insurance) has published some research looking at how and when people achieve their ‘forever home’. The forever home being that home you intend to stay put in, but with house prices on the rise, many homeowners are creating their forever home by making the following changes:

  • Redecorating
  • New kitchen
  • Landscaping the garden
  • Add an extension
  • Painting the exterior

They have produced a tool for you to put in your age and area to predict when you will buy your forever home.  

You can read the full article here.

Onerous ground rent provisions in leases has been widely reported and with fears it could render many homes unsaleable in the future, the government created a consultation paper to tackle issues such as doubling ground rents every ten years. That opening sentence will not come as news, however did you know that it has now come to light that freeholders who would have traditionally owned the land their home sits on and been free of ground rents and service charges, are finding costly covenants contained within their title deeds? Freehold householders are being charged thousands to contribute to the upkeep of shared green areas and open spaces, on top of the taxes they already pay to local councils. Read more about this story from Today’s Conveyancer here.

Research commissioned by OVO Energy has shown that 'unnecessary' emails contribute over 23,475 tonnes of carbon to the UK's footprint.  These are the carbon footprints of different emails (from the book by Mike Burners-Lee: How Band are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything):

Average spam email: 0.3g CO2

Standard email: 4g CO2

Email with 'long and tiresome attachments': 50g CO2

Mike Burners-Lee explained "When you press send it goes through the network, and it takes electricity to run the network. And it’s going to end up being stored on the cloud somewhere, and those data centres use a lot of electricity. We don’t think about it because we can’t see the smoke coming out of our computers, but the carbon footprint of IT is huge and growing."

We all need email communication, but do we really need to send that 'one liner'? OVO Energy is calling on the UK to 'Think before you Thank', if we all sent one less email per day, we would save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year.

Read more here.

RICS, Historic England, PCA and Cadw have been working together since the beginning of 2019 with the aim of developing a best practice approach to damp and moisture in traditional buildings. PCA report it is the first time that building surveyors, preservation specialists and heritage organisations have ever worked in collaboration to adopt a single approach to dealing with dampness. The methodology is based around 7 key stages outlining what level of knowledge the surveyor should have and what elements should be considered throughout diagnosis and repair. It includes legal requirements such as planning, building control as well as other associated legislation, regulations and standards. Currently released as a working draft document, the ‘Investigation of Moisture and its Effects in Traditional Buildings’ may be subject to further changes before it is finalised, so cannot be currently used to benchmark competence or duty of care. We’ll continue to watch developments with interest and await the final outcome once all the involved organisations have concluded their consultation process. If you’d like to see the document in draft, click here.

The Hometrack UK Cities House Price Index for October 2019 shows that London property prices may be 'showing signs of life' as average prices increased by 1% over last year. This is likely to be due to a drop in supply and more realistic asking prices. Leicester top the cities index table with and increase of 4.7% over 2018, and Aberdeen house prices continue to fall with a drop of 5.9%.

You can read the full report here.

You may also find this report by Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis (CBRE) of interest. It offers some positive news for homeowners and investors in and around the key regeneration areas of London such as Southbank, North Greenwich and Paddington Basin. The research conducted in these areas identified an annual property price growth of 4.7% above average with Stratford benefitting from an 8.5% uplift. The report focusses on seven of these areas in London and found that overall, the average annual house price growth was boosted by 3.5% due to regeneration. You can read the report here.