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What Happened in the Central London Property Market in 2020

By Maurice Shasha  //  Mon 14th December 2020
2020 has been an unprecedented year, and the UK housing market has weathered many ups and downs. As we reflect on 2020, here are our most-read stories from the past 12 months.
Property Review 2020
There is no doubt that 2020 has been a year of change and we have all had to adapt quickly to the so called “new normal”. 

The Covid-19 global pandemic resulted in an eight-week lockdown that caused the property market to grind to a near halt. The lockdown period forced Londoners to rethink what they wanted from their homes with many people desiring an extra office space or easy access to London’s royal parks. Following the end of lockdown, the pent-up demand together with the stamp duty holiday resulted in a surge of activity. 

We have seen some prices adjustments this year, but prime central London property is now looking better value compared to similar areas in other global cities. Looking forward to 2021, the arrival of a vaccine for Covid-19 could see a return to international investors snapping up central London property. However, the impact of the stamp duty surcharge on overseas buyers remains to be seen. 

As we reflect on 2020, here are our most read stories from the past 12 months.

Rents to rise in 2020 

9th January 2020 

Any landlord looking to sell up should make sure they understand the complexities surrounding buy-to-let sales, particularly if the property is occupied. 

A survey, by industry body ARLA Propertymark, has revealed that 84% of letting agents believe rents will rise this year - up from 65% last year. 

According to the research, the agents attribute the rise to increased demand for rental properties (61%) and a decline in the number of landlords in the sector (68%). 

David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, said: “For far too long, successive governments of all political persuasions have passed significant amounts of complex legislation for landlords. 

“Looking ahead to 2020, we hope the government recognises the importance of increasing supply for tenants and uses it as an opportunity to make the market more attractive for landlords. This will encourage more landlords back into the market as well as ensure that tenants, including those who are most vulnerable, are not at a disadvantage in being able to find a suitable and affordable home to rent.” 

The results come as a separate survey, by landlord insurance provider, Simply Business, found that 26% of landlords plan to sell one or more of their rental properties in 2020, with 82% saying they do not plan on purchasing additional homes for rent. 

The top reasons given by the 800 respondents are tax increases and government legislation, such as changes in licensing for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and the tenant fees ban. 

But Bea Montoya, chief operating officer at Simply Business, warned landlords to be aware of the implications of selling a rental property: “Any landlord looking to sell up should make sure they understand the complexities surrounding buy-to-let sales, particularly if the property is occupied. Any tenants should be made aware of plans to sell as early as possible and given reassurance their tenancy still stands. 

“When it comes to selling, landlords need to understand any tax implications involved, such as capital gains tax. If the property is sold for more than it was paid for, there will be a capital gains tax liability.” 

Read more about rent rises in Property Wire and landlords leaving the sector in Landlord Today.

Investors give mixed response to new government pledges 

27th January 2020 

Property investors support a stamp duty surcharge for non-UK buyers, a new study has found. However, 61% of people taking part in the survey believed that the government will fail to reach its target of building one million new homes by 2025. 

The Conservative Party manifesto contained the proposal to introduce a 3% stamp duty surcharge for overseas buyers, with proceeds to be used to fund homelessness initiatives. 

In the survey of 750 property investors, 70% of respondents backed the move. The investors also approved of plans to give residents a bigger say in new developments in their areas. 

The data comes from property investment firm, FJP Investments, whose CEO, Jamie Johnson, said: “The December 2019 general election might have been dominated by Brexit, but the Conservatives also promised many potential reforms during the campaign. 

“Our research shows that when it comes to the property market, the majority of UK investors are in favour of their key policy ideas, including a stamp duty surcharge for overseas buyers and giving local residents greater say in new-build developments in their area.” 

However, 61% of people taking part in the survey believed that the government will fail to reach its target of building one million new homes by 2025. 

And, in spite of signs of renewed confidence in the housing market since Boris Johnson’s decisive election victory, less than half (43%) believe his new government will stabilise the UK economy. 

In addition, 41% believe Boris Johnson will fail to ‘get Brexit done’ by his deadline of 31 January and 58% said they were concerned that domestic issues are being ignored in favour of Brexit. 

More than a third, 36%, want the prime minister to take a softer approach to buy-to-let landlords when it comes to regulation and tax increases. 

According to Jamie Johnson: “The question now is whether Boris Johnson and his team can deliver on their promises. And at present, a great many property investors in the UK doubt that they can – particularly when it comes to getting Brexit done, building more new homes and stabilising the economy.” 

Read more on this story on the Property Wire and Property Reporter websites.

Could co-buying help you onto the housing ladder? 

10th February 2020 

Co-buying involves up to four friends or family members investing in a property together. The main advantage is that you can buy a stake in a home sooner, rather than later, saving money which would have gone on rent. 

If you’re struggling to afford the deposit on your first home, joining up with friends in the same position could bring home ownership within your grasp, but you should be aware of the pros, cons and legal implications before you start. 

Co-buying involves up to four friends or family members investing in a property together. The main advantage is that you can buy a stake in a home sooner, rather than later, saving money which would have gone on rent. It could also mean you can buy in a pricier area than you’d otherwise be able to afford. As well as the cost of the deposit, you would spread professional fees and charges among the buyers too. 

Writing in What Mortgage, Simon Nosworthy, from London law firm Osbornes Law, explained: “For many young people getting on the property ladder is just a dream, with spiralling house prices making it impossible for many to buy a home. As a result, more and more are pooling their financial resources with friends to co-buy a property.” 

One thing to consider when buying with others is that you are all liable to meet the monthly mortgage payments. So, if one co-buyer loses their job, the others would still need to cover their repayments. 

Issues also occur if one buyer wishes to move out and take their share with them. The remaining buyers would either need to find the funds to buy out their friend, remortgage or sell the property. If the home has risen in value, you may struggle to agree on a figure which reflects this. 

According to Simon Nosworthy, the important thing is to have a trust deed drawn up before you commit to co-buying. “This sets out the size of the deposit paid by each co-buyer; who owns what equity going forward; who pays what [share] of the mortgage; the procedures for leaving the co-ownership arrangement and what happens if everyone decides to sell and the financial split on completion of sale.” 

Co-buying probably won’t be a long-term arrangement. If you are moving in with friends, it is likely that at least some of the buyers will wish to move out and settle down with a partner. However, it can be a more stable and affordable option than renting and is worth considering as a way onto the housing ladder. 

New housing minister appointment amid fears of excessive turnover 

21st February 2020 

The new minister will have plenty to keep him busy. Figures from the National Housing Federation estimate that 8.4 million people in England live in insecure or unsuitable homes. 

Christopher Pincher is the UK’s new housing minister, following Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle, which saw the sacking of Esther McVey. 

Mr Pincher is the tenth person to hold the job in the past decade, and the nineteenth since 2000, leading industry experts to question excessive ministerial ‘churn’. 

Such high turnover is thought to be an issue for the housing sector, because this complex area brings together construction, finance, public services and taxation, impacting on the lives of most citizens 

The new minister will have plenty to keep him busy. Figures from the National Housing Federation estimate that 8.4 million people in England live in insecure or unsuitable homes with 2.5 million unable to afford their rent or mortgage. 

And, nearly 1,000 days after the Grenfell fire killed 72 people, the safety of tower blocks remains a concern, with 174 privately-owned buildings retaining similar cladding to that which featured in the blaze. 

In a joint statement, Mark Hayward and David Cox of ARLA Propertymark said: “Unfortunately, the lack of continuity in this post and the persistent changes means it’s near impossible for anyone in the role to make an impact. Fixing the broken housing market should be the priority, and there’s a number of consultations and policies that requires action.” 

Robert Jenrick – who supported Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign – stays on as Housing and Communities Secretary. However, even at this level, there has been a high turnover with three secretaries of state - Robert Jenrick, Sajid Javid and James Brokenshire - since 2018. 

Rishi Sunak, who replaces Sajid Javid as Chancellor, does, however, bring housing experience to the Treasury, having previously served as a junior minister in the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government. He also sat on the parliamentary committee that scrutinised the Tenant Fees Bill. 

Read more about this story in City AM and Property Industry Eye

Top places to see cherry blossom in central London 

9th March 2020 

One sure way to tell that brighter days are on the way is seeing London’s parks and street burst into life with beautiful cherry blossom. 

After storms Ciara and Dennis, plus plenty of other wet and windy weather, you might be feeling the need of some signs of spring. One sure way to tell that brighter days are on the way is seeing London’s parks and street burst into life with beautiful cherry blossom. 

The arrival of cherry blossom, or sakura, is a big deal in Japan, with people travelling the globe to witness this glorious spectacle. But when the blooms are out, central London looks pretty good too, so soak up the splendour in these top blossom-spotting parks and gardens - and have your camera at the ready. 

Regent's Park 


Take the Chester Road entrance for an avenue of tall white Sunset Boulevard-variety cherry blossoms or head to the south end of Avenue Gardens, for a spectacular pink cluster. 

Holland Park 


If you can’t make it to Japan, Holland Park’s Kyoto Gardens are a beautiful and peaceful substitute. You’ll find koi carp, a waterfall and a little bridge plus plenty of cherry blossom – it’s unmissable in spring. 

St James' Park 


For maximum blossom opportunities, take a circular stroll round the park, but be quick as these are among the first to flower. You’ll find pink blossoms at Storey’s Gate, and around the lake on the Buckingham Palace side. 

Kensington Gardens 


Catch the blooms at Lancaster Gate then walk to the Albert Memorial where you’ll spot six gorgeous pink trees. 



Further afield, head to Greenwich Park for its famous arch of magenta blossoms or Kew Gardens with its own cherry walk. If it’s a perfect London springtime photo you’re after, pop to St Paul’s Cathedral for a view of the dome framed in cherry blossom. 

Read more about London’s blossom hotspots in this Time Out story. 

NRLA calls for government to make it clear that tenants should continue paying their rent 

17th April 2020 

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) wants the government to make it clear that tenants should continue to pay their rent, in spite of the Coronavirus outbreak. Landlords struggling to pay their mortgage were also told that they can apply for a three-month payment holiday, thanks to a scheme from the government and the banks. 

Ben Beadle, the NRLA chief executive, said that while landlords need to be flexible if their tenants are struggling, any rent holidays should be agreed in advance. "This is not a green light to tenants everywhere to stop paying their rent," he said. 

According to the NRLA, many landlords could face financial difficulties, if rents are not paid, reducing the supply of homes to rent. The association added that tenants receiving government support - such as 80% of their wages if furloughed, or 80% of profits if self-employed - ought to be in a position to continue to make rental payments. 

In March, the government announced a three-month ban on evictions in England and Wales. Landlords struggling to pay their mortgage were also told that they can apply for a three-month payment holiday, thanks to a scheme from the government and the banks. The expectation is that landlords would pass this payment holiday on to cash-strapped tenants, with the shortfall to be made up at a later date. 

However, such payment holidays only help buy-to-let landlords with a mortgage, not those who own their properties outright but rely on the rent as their main source of income. 

Some groups representing tenants have called for a rent-free period to help those in financial difficulties. The National Union of Students, for example, wants students, who have left term-time accommodation while courses are suspended, to be exempt from rent payments. 

The NRLA believes that such moves would mean hardship for landlords, who could still be required to pay council tax bills and for the upkeep of properties, forcing many to sell up and reducing the availability of homes to rent in the future. 

Read more about this story on the BBC and NRLA websites. 

What buyers and sellers can do as the lockdown continues 

27th April 2020 

Tips on refurbishing your property if you’re planning to sell your home and what to do if you’re hoping to buy a property during lockdown. 

If you had been planning a house move, but your dreams have been put on hold by the covid-19 crisis, there are plenty of things you can do now to be ready when restrictions are lifted: 

If you are looking to buy… 

1: Get to grips with floorplans 

Floorplans and square footage don’t mean much to most people, who can’t always visualise the space until they see it in the flesh. By measuring your rooms, and drawing up your own floorplans, you’ll have a better understanding of the homes you are considering viewing. 

2: Pull your paperwork together 

Be ready to get your mortgage application in on time by putting all your paperwork in order. You’ll need to be able to produce bank statements, pay slips and utility bills, showing your name and current address. You will also need to be on the electoral register - if you aren’t registered to vote, you can still apply during lockdown on the gov.uk website. 

3: Check your credit rating 

Mortgage companies will do a credit check before they make you an offer, so get in first and make sure there won’t be any nasty surprises. If your credit history isn’t good, do what you can to pay off debts and ensure you are meeting payments. 

If you are hoping to sell… 

1: Tackle your home maintenance to-do list 

With DIY stores still open or operating online, now is a perfect time to tackle outstanding jobs before you put your house up for sale. If you’re not great with DIY - there are plenty of YouTube tutorials to help you. Replace mouldy sealant, clean carpets and windows and touch up any scuffed or tired-looking paintwork. 

2: Have a big declutter 

Go through every room methodically, sorting papers and throwing away anything you no longer need and won’t be taking with you when you move. 

3: Revamp your garden 

Spring is the perfect time to show your garden some love. Repair fences, scrub your patio, fill up your planters and clear away any leaves and rubbish. 

4: Boost your kerb appeal 

First impressions count so give your front door a lick of paint, clear your gutters and sweep your paths. If you can’t tackle your own exterior paintwork, contact decorators now, so you are top of the list for quotes when they begin working again - some may be already giving estimates by video link. 

Read more about this story on the Evening Standard Homes & Property website. 

From face masks to stamp duty holidays, what is the future of property sales after lockdown? 

11th May 2020 

The NAEA is asking the government for a support package, including a £1,500 loan for home buyers and a six-month stamp duty holiday. 

With estate agents likely to be among the first businesses to reopen after lockdown, industry body NAEA Propertymark has set out its asks and protocols for getting the sector back on its feet. 

The NAEA is asking the government for a support package, including a £1,500 loan for home buyers and a six-month stamp duty holiday. 

The interest-free loans would be transferred to buyers on completion and repaid when they sell the property. The sum would help meet the costs of moving home, including legal fees, buildings insurance, estate agent fees and mortgage costs - thought to average more than £8,000 per sale. 

The NAEA believes that this, and a property tax holiday, would have knock-on benefits for the wider economy. Mark Hayward, chief executive said: “It is now vital that the government understand the importance of the property sector and put measures in place to maintain consumer confidence and keep the market moving.” 

The organisation has also briefed estate agents about how it believes the industry will work after lockdown. Proposed measures include “contactless viewings”, not scheduling back-to-back appointments, requesting open doors and cupboards to limit contact and restricting visits to one or two buyers. 

People viewing homes could be asked to wear face masks and gloves, while agents would be armed with sanitisers and wipes. Vendors would be absent from the home and any buyers showing signs of the virus would be refused entry. 

Video viewings are likely to continue to be play a major part in the process, post lockdown with visits to branches and paper copies of property details discouraged. Open house events, where many buyers visit during the course of a day may also be banned. 

Read more about this story in the Evening Standard Homes & Property and Estate Agent Today.

Homeowners urged to take advantage of record-low interest rates 

21st May 2020 

Homeowners, who remortgage now, could save £1000s, says Ideal Home magazine. 

Following two emergency cuts in the Bank of England’s base rates, homeowners, who remortgage now, could save £1000s, says Ideal Home magazine. 

The 0.1% base rate is being passed on by lenders, with average interest rates for two and five-year fixed-rate mortgages at a record low. 

According to the Moneyfacts website, interest rates are at their lowest for 13 years, having fallen to an average of 2.09% for a two-year deal and 2.35% for a five-year one. 

Anyone whose current mortgage deal has come to an end, leaving them on their lender’s standard variable rate (typically 4.5%), is advised to switch now. Someone with a £200,000 mortgage could save more than £3,000 a year by switching to a two-year fixed rate deal. 

This is also a good time for people with a two-year deal, to consider fixing their rate for longer. Currently, the difference in cost between a two and five-year fixed rate is small, meaning homeowners could now pay a lower premium to secure their rate for five years. 

On the downside, the covid-19 crisis has made it harder to find a mortgage in the first place. The impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has led lenders to cut their range of products - halving the number of mortgages available from 5,222 products in March to 2,566 at the beginning of May. 

People with a small deposit are being particularly squeezed. The number of mortgages for homeowners with 5% to put down has dropped from 279 to just 22, while the number of loans available to people with a 10% deposit fell from 563 to 50. 

This could impact on first-time buyers according to Eleanor Williams, financial expert at Moneyfacts: “First-time buyers are likely to feel the effect of the current circumstances even more keenly than most. These borrowers are more likely to be looking for a low-deposit mortgage product, which, as a sector of the market, has contracted significantly.” 

Read more about this story on the Ideal Home and Moneyfacts websites. 

Top London events you can stream online in 2020 

15th June 2020 

There is still no sign that the cultural sector will restart any time soon. So, if you’re looking for some mental stimulation, here are a few ideas. 

For people worldwide, an upside of lockdown has been the chance to stream sell-out arts events from the comfort of a sofa. Whether it’s watching a favourite band perform from their living room, taking a course on zoom or streaming a live theatre event, there’s been plenty to keep us occupied. 

As lockdown measures begin to ease, and non-essential shops get ready to open, there is still no sign that the cultural sector will restart any time soon. So, if you’re looking for some mental stimulation, here are a few ideas: 

1: National Theatre at Home 

This series of acclaimed plays launched on YouTube on April 2, with One Man, Two Guvnors starring James Corden. The show drew more than 2.5 million viewers. Since then audiences have been treated to productions featuring Gillian Anderson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tamsin Greig. You can see the last broadcast - Shakespeare’s Coriolanus featuring Tom Hiddleston until 11 June. 

2: The V&A’s ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ 

This stunning show opened in February only to close within days. One of the first exhibitions in Europe to delve into the social significance of the kimono, it brought together some fascinating and beautiful garments. Included are kimonos made for Bjork by Alexander McQueen and others used in the Star Wars films. Through five YouTube videos viewers can get an intimate, behind-the-scenes tour of the show led by V&A curator Anna Jackson. 

3: The Royal Opera House #OurHousetoYourHouse 

A free programme of curated online opera and ballet broadcasts each Friday night at 7pm. Forthcoming productions include Puccini’s Il Trittico and Mozart’s The Magic Flute. 

4: About Time at the White Cube gallery 

An online exhibition featuring major international artists including Olafur Eliasson - whose recent Tate Modern show wowed audiences. With many of us having so much unexpected time on our hands, it’s fitting that the show explores time and its place in our world. From works featuring clocks and calendars to more abstract pieces, there’s plenty to get you thinking. You can catch it until 16 July. 

Read about more events to get you through lockdown in Time Out

Landlords urged to share their experiences as eviction ban continues 

23rd June 2020 

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick announced on 5 June that the suspension of evictions would be extended for two more months. The government wants letting agents and landlords to work with tenants who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic. Landlords are being asked to look at all possible options, including flexible payment plans which take account of a tenant’s circumstances. 

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) is calling on its members to write to their MPs, explaining the hardship faced by some landlords as the ban on evictions in England and Wales continues. 

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick announced on 5 June that the suspension of evictions would be extended for two more months, meaning that landlords will be unable to start proceedings to evict tenants until late August. 

The government wants letting agents and landlords to work with tenants who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic. Landlords are being asked to look at all possible options, including flexible payment plans which take account of a tenant’s circumstances. 

But according to the NRLA, landlords who had rent arrears before the lockdown face at least five more months without receiving any rent. The landlord body fears that some tenants will fail to pay, in the knowledge that eviction cannot happen. 

The NRLA wants the government to make a clear statement that tenants who can pay their rent should do so. It also wants to see increases to Local Housing Allowance and the introduction of interest-free hardship loans to make sure that tenants can stay on top of their rent. 

In addition, the association wants compensation for landlords where existing possession orders from the courts cannot be executed because of the pandemic. It also wants the courts to prioritise possession cases for arrears built up before lockdown and those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic violence. 

NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle says: “It’s essential [that] landlords’ voices are heard as the process for possessions is agreed. Tenants affected by coronavirus need to be supported, but it is equally important that landlords are able to regain possession in legitimate circumstances – for example anti-social behaviour. 

“The government also needs to recognise the financial impact on individual landlords of significant rent arrears pre-dating the coronavirus measures – and of a further five months without payment. We are encouraging members to write to their MP – sharing personal experiences [can] carry a lot of weight.” 

Read more about this story on the Letting Agent Today website. 

Temporary stamp duty exemption for properties under £500,000 

9th July 2020 

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced a stamp duty holiday period in his summer statement. 

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak has introduced a temporary stamp duty exemption on transactions of up to £500,000. The change was announced in his summer statement on Wednesday 8 July, and came into force that day. The stamp duty holiday will last until 31 March 2021, and is aimed at stimulating the housing market. 

Previously, the threshold at which homebuyers started paying stamp duty was set at £125,000. Buyers paid 2% on the next £125,000 (up to £250,000) and 5% on the following £675,000 up to £925,000. First-time buyers did not pay the tax on transactions below £500,000 in London, or £300,000 elsewhere in England. 

The threshold for all buyers has now been increased to £500,000. Homes costing more than £500,000 will attract a 5% rate, which will apply to the part of the sale up to £925,000. 

The change will apply to second homes and additional properties as well as to the main residence, meaning buy-to-let will be cheaper for landlords, in spite of the 3% stamp duty surcharge, which remains in place. 

The tax holiday is one of a number of moves to kickstart the economy, as the UK emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Other measures include a temporary cut to the rate of VAT on hospitality and tourism, from 20% to 5%. 

The chancellor launched his “eat out to help out” scheme, which offers diners 50% off their bill up to a maximum of £10, Mondays to Wednesdays in August. 

And Mr Sunak announced that £2 billion has been allocated to the Green Homes Grant scheme which will offer homeowners up to £5,000 in vouchers to fund energy-efficient improvements. 

At the beginning of lockdown, homebuyers were told to put their moving plans on hold. Lifting the restrictions saw a flurry of interest in homes to buy and rent in London, but the property market has remained sluggish in some areas. 

Read more about this story in The Guardian

Chancellor urged to “tread with care” over capital gains tax review 

27th July 2020 

The chancellor has asked the Office for Tax Simplification to review CGT - the tax on the profits made when people sell second homes and other assets. 

Property industry bodies have urged caution over a review of capital gains tax (CGT), launched by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak last week. ARLA and NAEA Propertymark, the organisations representing letting and estate agents, have warned of landlords and investors exiting the sector if taxes increase. 

The chancellor has asked the Office for Tax Simplification to review CGT - the tax on the profits made when people sell second homes and other assets, such as works of art and stocks and shares. 

Mr Sunak’s request follows reports that the government faces a £350 billion deficit this year, after putting in place measures to protect businesses and households from the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The chancellor wants the Office for Tax Simplification to examine how capital gains rates compare with other taxes and how they “distort behaviour”, amid concerns that taxpayers are using a variety of avoidance measures to cut their CGT bills. 

Options for the review include recommending an increase in CGT rates, so they mirror those of personal taxation or removing the CGT-free allowance, which currently stands at £12,300 a year. 

In a joint statement ARLA and NAEA Propertymark warned that changes to the tax may be a disincentive to landlords, saying: “The government needs to tread with care with the review into the capital gains tax system and all consequences, whether expected or unexpected, need to be considered. 

“Increasing rates further for investment properties could reduce appetite from landlords who provide vital housing to the private rented sector, which will have a detrimental impact on supply.” 

The Office for Tax Simplification is looking for views on the tax through an online survey, which closes on 20 October. 

Read more about this story on The Guardian and Letting Agent Today websites.

Reforming the leasehold system in England and Wales 

10th August 2020 

The Law Commission also proposes moving to a new system, known as commonhold. This involves people owning the freehold of their individual flat and managing the maintenance of the building. 

A series of reports by the Law Commission is putting the government under increasing pressure to reform the leasehold system in England and Wales. 

  

Earlier this year, the Law Commission called for the process of extending or buying a lease to be simplified, and for costs to be capped. 

Problems with the leasehold system include escalating ground rents and service charges, as well as cases of freeholders asking high fees to make alterations to a property. Strict conditions, such as pet bans can also be an issue. 

However, some campaigners believe that even with a cost cap, extending a lease is still too expensive. The group National Leasehold Campaign has complained too of slow progress, saying there have been years of “empty promises” on the subject. 

The Law Commission also proposes moving to a new system, known as commonhold. This involves people owning the freehold of their individual flat and managing the maintenance of the building, either jointly or by appointing a manager. The change would mean no ground rent to pay and more control for flat owners over how their building is run. 

People opposed to the system say that getting agreement between households can be difficult and that lenders have been reluctant to grant mortgages for commonhold properties, which already exist. 

There are at least four million leasehold homes in Britain, with most London flats sold on this basis. 

The Law Commission was asked to look at leasehold reform in September 2017 by the then communities secretary, Sajid Javid. He called for an end to the “feudal practice” of leasehold and wanted new rules to make extending a lease or purchasing a freehold “much easier, faster and cheaper”. 

So far, the government has banned developers from selling new houses as leasehold and cut ground rents on new apartments to zero, however, the ban is not retrospective. 

Read more about this story in the Evening Standard Homes & Property

House prices at record high 

15th September 2020 

Estate agents have also reported a large increase in buyers looking for bigger properties with outdoor space following lockdown. 

UK house prices rose to a record high in August, according to data from high street mortgage lenders. 

Month-on-month figures from the Halifax show a rise of 1.6%, meaning that house prices were up by 5.2% on last year. The previous quarter (June to August) saw prices 1.3% higher than in the preceding three months. 

The rise follows a surge in demand for property once the housing market reopened after lockdown. Another factor is the stamp duty holiday, announced by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak in his July statement. The move increased the threshold at which buyers pay stamp duty land tax from £125,000 to £500,000 until the end of March - saving them up to £15,000. 

Estate agents have also reported a large increase in buyers looking for bigger properties with outdoor space following lockdown. 

Halifax managing director Russell Galley said: “House prices continued to beat expectations in August, with prices again rising sharply, up by 1.6% on a monthly basis. Annual growth now stands at 5.2%, its strongest level since late 2016, with the average price of a property tipping over £245,000 for the first time on record. 

“A surge in market activity has driven up house prices through the post-lockdown summer period, fuelled by the release of pent-up demand, a strong desire amongst some buyers to move to bigger properties, and of course the temporary cut to stamp duty.” 

The Nationwide building society has also reported a 2% jump in UK house prices in August, taking them to an all-time high. 

However, the Halifax warns of likely downward pressure on prices in the medium term, following a predicted recession and rise in unemployment. 

Read more about this story in City AM

First-time buyer dreams are not dampened by Covid-19 

29th September 2020 

Four out of 10 respondents said a garden or balcony is now a top priority, with a third aiming to buy near a park or the countryside. 

First-time buyers may have seen their plans delayed by coronavirus, but they won’t let the pandemic dampen their dreams of homeownership, according to new research. 

The study by Aldermore bank, found that the pandemic has caused nearly half of first-time buyers to delay their plans, by a year on average. However, 42% of respondents said they are now more motivated to buy than at the start of lockdown. 

Aldermore’s First-time Buyer Index surveyed 1,000 prospective first-time buyers. According to the research, one in six had a property sale fall through during the crisis, while a fifth had pulled out of buying due to lockdown. 

As with buyers at all stages, the pandemic has caused this group to rethink priorities, with 39% of prospective first-time buyers reconsidering their property type. Four out of 10 respondents said a garden or balcony is now a top priority, with a third aiming to buy near a park or the countryside. 

And as demand for certain types of home have increased, 38% say there are now fewer properties available which meet their requirements. 

The announcement of a stamp duty holiday was good news for first-time buyers, with almost half (47%) of those looking to buy in the next 12 months believing it will help them. 

For a quarter of buyers, the move has encouraged them to bring their plans forward to meet the 31 March 2021 deadline, with 21% saying they will borrow from family members to buy before the stamp duty holiday ends. 

Jon Cooper, head of mortgage distribution at Aldermore, said: “It’s encouraging to see increased delays and challenges have not dampened prospective buyers’ home buying dreams; in fact, they appear more motivated than ever after the lockdown experience. 

“Stamp duty relief also appears to have received a positive response from first-time buyers, with many seeing it as a welcome boost. The initial costs of getting on the ladder can be a real barrier to many, so anything that helps reduce that entry fee for some is welcome for the housing market.” 

Read more about this story in Property Wire.

Property rich list 2020: London’s most expensive streets revealed 

13th October 2020 

In the survey, Kensington Palace Gardens is named the country’s most expensive road for the 12th year running with an average price tag of £35.9 million. 

It’s one of the most talked about annual surveys in the prime London property market. Property portal, Zoopla’s listing of UK’s most expensive streets 2020 has been announced – and, unsurprisingly, Britain’s priciest addresses are all to be found in London. 

In the survey, Kensington Palace Gardens is named the country’s most expensive road for the 12th year running with an average price tag of £35.9 million. Move here, and among your neighbours will be ambassadors and the super-rich, including Roman Abramovic and steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal. You’ll also be right by Kensington Palace, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have an apartment. 

Next, for the second year running, comes Courtenay Avenue in Highgate, where the average price tag is £18.6 million. 

New entries this year include Chelsea’s Mulberry Walk (eighth) and St Albans Grove in Kensington (ninth), with properties averaging £9.5 to £9.6 million. Most of the properties in the top ten can be found in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. 

Gráinne Gilmore, Head of Research at Zoopla, said: “Our data shows where housing stock and prime locations converge to create some of the most expensive addresses in the UK. Clusters of expensive homes are not unusual as the cachet of an area starts to create an appeal of its own, which can factor into what a home is really worth. 

However, the South East, and in particular Surrey, is hot on the capital’s heels, with eight of the 10 priciest streets, outside of London, located in the county. Says Gilmore: “London dominates the country's prime property market, but it is being challenged by the South East in terms of the number of million-pound streets, reflecting the rise in demand and pricing seen in this market.” 

Read more about this story on the Zoopla website.

Could negative interest rates mean money back on your mortgage? 

28th October 2020 

Last year, Danish bank Jyske introduced a ten-year fixed-rate mortgage with a rate of -0.5%. However, the mortgage attracted fees which outweighed the negative interest - meaning borrowers still had to pay a small amount for their loan. 

With the Bank of England base rate remaining at the 0.1% record low, introduced at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s been a lot of talk in the media about what will happen if interest rates fall to zero, or even become negative. 

Negative interest rates have been seen in other countries, and could be a reality in the UK, if it goes into a full, second lockdown. But what does that mean for savers and borrowers - will you be charged for holding money in a bank account or even paid for taking out a mortgage? 

Probably not according to MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis: "For those with mortgages and other debts, I wouldn't expect to see you paid a negative interest rate. For some who are on very low trackers, … I think it's more likely that we'd drop to somewhere around 0%. So, you wouldn't have any cost for borrowing money on your mortgage, which would help some.” 

Last year, Danish bank Jyske introduced a ten-year fixed-rate mortgage with a rate of -0.5%. However, the mortgage attracted fees which outweighed the negative interest - meaning borrowers still had to pay a small amount for their loan. 

According to most commentators, it seems unlikely that UK banks would introduce a similar offer. This is because there’s already a disparity between the bank base rate at 0.1% and most mortgage deals, which start at around 1.2% - meaning the Bank of England rate would need to fall to around -1.1% for mortgage rates to reach zero. 

In addition, demand for mortgages is currently high, following the Chancellor’s stamp duty holiday, pushing rates up rather than down. 

In any case, most UK borrowers have a fixed rate mortgage, with even tracker deals usually having a built in ‘collar’ below which the rate cannot fall. 

For example, Nationwide Building Society has a two-year tracker mortgage with a rate of 1.34% above base rate. Nationwide states that all trackers have a base rate floor of 0%, meaning that even if the base rate goes into negative territory, the loan has a minimum rate of 1.34%. 

Read more about this story on the This is Money and Money Saving Expert websites. 

Going green - Ikea launches Buy Back scheme

11th November 2020

Currently, 45% of total global carbon emissions come from the way the world produces and uses everyday products, so Buy Back represents an opportunity to address unsustainable consumption.

Swedish furniture giant Ikea is launching a buy back scheme. The move is a boost to the eco-credentials of the brand, which aims to have all its products made from recycled or renewable materials by 2030.

Through the scheme, customers will be able to return items of unwanted furniture to a store and receive vouchers of up to 50% of the original purchase price, depending upon condition. Second-hand products received will be offered for sale in the store’s bargain corner or recycled.

The scheme was due to launch on 27 November - Black Friday. However, England’s second national lockdown means Ikea is among the non-essential businesses required to close for four weeks from 5 November.

Customers wishing take part can use an online tool to obtain a quotation before bringing items to a store. "As new" items, with no scratches, will get a voucher for 50% of the original price - “very good" pieces, with minor scratches, will get 40% and anything "well used" will receive a 30% voucher. Vouchers can be spent in store, including on second-hand furniture, and they have no expiry date.

Not everything can be recycled through Buy Back - exceptions, including kitchen cabinets, Pax wardrobes and outdoor furniture, are listed on the website. Anything recycled must be clean and fully assembled.

Hege Sæbjørnsen, sustainability manager at Ikea UK & Ireland said: “Currently, 45% of total global carbon emissions come from the way the world produces and uses everyday products, so Buy Back represents an opportunity to address unsustainable consumption and its impact on climate change.”

The world's first second-hand Ikea store is scheduled to open in Sweden later this year.
Read more about this story on the Homes & Property website.

Don’t fall victim to the porch pirates

23rd November 2020

Parcels waiting in porches and on doorsteps offer rich pickings for opportunistic thieves - so called ‘porch pirates’, who may not stop at stealing deliveries.

With England well into its second lockdown, Black Friday on the way and Christmas just around the corner, internet sales are likely to be increasing exponentially - and so, it seems are thefts of online shopping.

Data from mediation service Resolver shows a rise in the number of doorstep thefts of parcels left by delivery drivers, with the service receiving 54,000 complaints about missing items since the start of the first lockdown in March. This is double to number from a year ago despite many more people working from home.

According to Resolver, the increase is down to more online shopping putting pressure on delivery drivers to drop and go - as well as the need for no-contact deliveries during the pandemic.

Parcels waiting in porches and on doorsteps offer rich pickings for opportunistic thieves - so called ‘porch pirates’, who may not stop at stealing deliveries. Says Inspector Rebecca Robinson from the Metropolitan Police: “For burglars, seeing a parcel left outside someone’s door is a sign that nobody is in. They may then spot other signs, which indicate easy access to your home, valuables within and a good opportunity to commit a burglary.”

The figures follow research by insurance company Admiral revealing that home insurance claims are rising despite the increase in home working. The study found that burglary claims doubled in October compared to the previous six months, and warned homeowners to secure their properties, even during a quick stroll between zoom calls.

Data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that a tenth of break-ins are carried out by a burglar with a key - circumstances which may leave home insurance invalid. Yet, according to Admiral, a fifth of homeowners keep a spare key under a doormat or flowerpot with 60% saying they didn’t change the locks after losing keys.

Noel Summerfield from Admiral said: “We’ve seen examples where a previous owner, or someone they’ve given a spare key to, has let themselves into their old house to steal the new homeowners’ belongings. Even house guests have been known to take a spare key and come back later to help themselves to valuables.”

Read more about this story on the Which? website.

Housing boom to bring 100,000 extra spring sales

7th December 2020

The first quarter of 2021 could see 100,000 more sales than normal across the UK, as the mini housing boom continues.

Figures show that London and the south east are experiencing the biggest increase in sales, following the reopening of the markets after lockdown and the chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s stamp duty holiday on properties priced up to £500,000.

According to property portal, Zoopla, agreed sales are up 38% on a year ago with the run-up to Christmas - usually a slow period for the housing market - likely to be the busiest in more than a decade. 

Richard Donnell, director of research and insight at Zoopla said the housing market had experienced a “remarkable turnaround”.  

“It has been a rollercoaster year for the housing market which is ending on a strong note with demand and sales agreed still more than 30% higher than this time last year.” 

Property transactions last month topped 105,000; an increase of 10% on September, and 8% on October 2019, according to HMRC. Mortgage approvals have hit their highest level in more than a decade with 85,000 loans agreed in August. 

This level of demand has increased prices by 3.5%, the biggest growth in three years, with more transactions predicted this year as buyers scramble to complete before the stamp duty holiday ends on 31 March 2021. 

However, potential buyers have been warned that they may miss the deadline. Delays are being experienced with mortgage applications and conveyancing, due to huge demand and coronavirus safety restrictions.  

David Hollingworth of mortgage brokers L&C said: “To get a mortgage offer in normal times you are usually looking at a couple of weeks from the application. Now you could be expecting it to take at least a month, or possibly longer.” 

Read more about this story in the Guardian.

Best wishes for 2021 

Here at Plaza Estates we are optimistic about the central London property market in 2021 and are looking forward to working with both our new and existing clients. 

We wish you health and prosperity in 2021. 

Offices at

Marble Arch
29 Edgware Road
London
W2 2JE
f: 020-7258-3090
Knightsbridge
34 Beauchamp Place
London
SW3 1NU
f: 020-7581-7005