Marks & Spencer banking arm announced plans to launch mortgage range

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Fri, 20 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

You will soon be able to buy a house with Marks & Spencer, after the retail giant’s banking arm announced plans to launch a mortgage range.

The company better known for selling groceries and underwear will roll out its first mortgage products early next year, subject to regulatory approval.

The M&S Bank products will be targeted at both first-time buyers and home movers, with rates and further details to be announced next year.

Sue Fox, chief executive of M&S Bank, said: “Many of our customers have shopped with M&S their whole lives, feeling the comfort of the brand at every key life event.

“We’re now in a position to support our customers with the biggest financial decision they’ll ever make – their home.”

M&S Bank, which launched in 2012 and has four million customers, currently offers credit cards, loans and current accounts. Its number of current account customers has grown 60pc over the last two years.

The bank has its roots in the financial services division of M&S, which was founded in 1985.

It is a joint venture between HSBC and M&S, although it has its own banking licence and its own board. It has 29 branches and over 120 bureaux de change in M&S stores.

By 

The robot helping sick children explore the outside world

 

A rare genetic disorder often prevents 17-year-old Jade Gadd from leaving her house. Denied the normal life most teenagers enjoy, she is unable to go to school regularly and left feeling isolated. Recently, that has all begun to change with the help of a small robot, who takes her physical place in class, relays information and allows her to stay connected with her teachers and classmates.

Airbnb paid less than £200,000 in UK corporation tax last year

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 9 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

Airbnb, the accommodation website, paid less than £200,000 in UK corporation tax last year despite collecting £657m of rental payments for property owners.

The commissions the company earns in the UK are booked by its Irish subsidiary, but it also has two UK subsidiaries.

One unit made a pre-tax profit, but the other did not incur UK corporation tax because deductions resulted in a loss.

Airbnb said in a statement: “We follow the rules and pay all the tax we owe.”

One of the British subsidiaries, Airbnb Payments UK, handles payments between landlords and travellers for countries other than the United States, China and India.

That unit made a pre-tax profit of £960,000 and paid £188,000 in UK corporation tax – £8,000 less than in 2015.

The other British subsidiary, Airbnb UK, markets the website and app to British consumers. It reported a £463,000 pre-tax profit last year but because it gave shares to staff, which are tax-deductable, there was no corporation tax bill.

Airbnb said: “Our UK office provides marketing services and pays all applicable taxes, including VAT. The Airbnb model is unique and boosted the UK economy by £3.46bn last year alone.”

The tax arrangements of other technology giants have come under under closer scrutiny in recent years.

One of the most vocal critics has been EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. She has taken aim at the likes of Apple, Amazon and others for where they book the revenues and profits of their European activities.

Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, has also asked why Airbnb paid tens of thousand of euros in French corporation tax despite a turnover in the millions.

The company, founded in San Francisco in 2008, has disrupted the hotel industry by linking travellers with landlords who generally want to rent out a spare room or an entire property for short-term stays.

It has become one of the most successful examples of the digital economy, with an estimated value of about $24bn.

However, Airbnb has faced a growing backlash in cities including Barcelona, Berlin and Paris, where politicians have taken steps to stop landlords renting properties to tourists rather than local residents.

While Airbnb has long been linked with a stock market listing, it remains privately owned.

It takes a 3% commission from landlords for each booking, and also charges fees to travellers.

In the UK last year Airbnb catered for 5.9m travellers and had 168,000 listings.

 

UK housebuilders hooked on the help to buy binge

(qlmbusinessnews.com via cityam.com – – Mon, 2 Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

It’s been clear for some time that housebuilders are hooked on the help to buy drug.

Now it seems the government is, too.

In a bid to ensure that the Tory party conference has something to unveil, Theresa May has confirmed that an additional £10bn will be pumped into the scheme, helping (we are assured) another 135,000 people get on the housing ladder with as little as a five per cent mortgage.

The market movements this morning will likely tell you all you need to know about the housebuilders’ reaction to this news, but beneath that there’s an almighty political row rumbling on about the extent to which the government should be helping people buy homes with greater enthusiasm than it has for actually building them.

Help to supply, not help to buy – that’s the reaction of the free-market think-tanks, who are also joined by housing charity Shelter – whose chief executive said the scheme had increased house prices while propping up a system in need of reform.

When the PM is being criticised by the Adam Smith Institute and the charitable sector, alarm bells should ring. Clearly, there is a problem with housing policy in this country.

Twenty years ago, over 40 per cent of under 25s owned a property. Today that figure has fallen to just 20 per cent, and many people (regardless of age, and particularly in London and the south east) can see no route out of renting.

The scheme is bundled up with other government initiatives including the Help to buy Isa, the London Help to buy Isa and the equity loan scheme, all of which tinker with a market whose fundamental problem is a lack of supply – not demand. To compound matters, analysts warned recently that many using help to buy do not actually need it – adding weight to the argument that the whole process simply drives up prices of existing stock.

It’s hard to disagree with the Adam Smith Institute’s assessment over the weekend that the property market is “totally dysfunctional because supply is so tightly constrained by planning rules, and adding more demand without improving the supply of houses is just going to raise house prices and make homes more unaffordable for people who don’t qualify for the help to buy subsidy.”

Rather than injecting more taxpayer cash into this monetary doping of the housing sector, the PM should loosen rules to allow the construction of more homes in high demand areas – including in her own green belt constituency.

By Christian May

Possible fine for homeowners who sell draughty homes, a report has suggested

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 27 Sept 2017) London, Uk – –

Homeowners who sell draughty homes could be fined, a report has suggested.

Economic consultancy Frontier Economics says the money raised could underpin government funding for insulating the homes of the least wealthy homeowners.

It is the most radical idea in the report, which also urges interest-free loans and tax and stamp duty rebates for people to insulate their homes.

Frontier warns the government will miss its targets on cutting carbon emissions unless it stops energy waste in homes.

  • Households ‘need help to get warmer home’
  • ‘Abysmal’ take-up for Green Deal loans

The government said it is considering many options as part of its long-delayed Clean Growth Plan, which is expected soon.

Frontier’s report notes that government advisers say ageing housing stock is the biggest obstacle to meeting the UK’s climate change targets.

Improving homes also gives a boost to health and comfort and keeps bills down. But renovating homes is often an expensive hassle.

The report says that, following the collapse of the ill-fated Green Deal home loan scheme, ministers must find new ways of incentivising people to take on improvement work.

The Green Deal was criticised for offering loans at 7% interest.

The report suggests instead offering equity loans at lower than the standard mortgage rate, to be paid back when owners die or move house.

Another idea is to charge differential stamp duty depending on the level of insulation in the property.

Traditionally the Treasury has been unwilling to fund improvements that will increase the value of people’s homes, but it’s under pressure to be creative to solve the problem.

Infrastructure priority

The report also suggests that people should be tempted to invest in home improvements through a “salary sacrifice” scheme – where part of a person’s salary goes towards energy efficient renovation, and they then save on the associated income tax.

Frontier Economics’ report was funded by a coalition of groups concerned about housing stock – including the architects’ body Riba; the green thinktank e3g; the Institution of Civil Engineers and the electricity group Energy UK.

They all want housing treated as an infrastructure priority.

“It’s the package of measures that matters,” a spokesman, Ed Matthew, told BBC News.

“We want to stop the government’s incremental, short-termist, approach – and treat this like the major infrastructure programme it is… after all every home must be zero carbon within 30 years.”

By Roger Harrabin

Bovis new chief exec sets out strategy to fix the beleaguered company

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thu, 7 Sept 2017) London, Uk – –

Bovis Homes’ share price has soared more than 8pc as its new chief executive updated investors on his strategic review, which will include building fewer homes and paying out more cash to shareholders, in an attempt to get the beleaguered housebuilder back on track.

Greg Fitzgerald, who joined the company in May, described Bovis’s problems as “very fixable”.

In his plans for the overhaul, he said that he would streamline the business and its balance sheet, reducing the number of employees, disposing of developments outside its core areas, and lowering infrastructure spending.

He also added that the company would merge operating regions to create seven key areas, and that the business would aim to build just 4,000 homes a year, a step down from the high-volume model in which the company aimed to build up to 6,000 per annum.

To please investors, the company will hike its dividend and plans to pay out special dividends totalling £180m by 2020, as well as promising to raise the margins from 11.4pc in the first half of this year to 23.5pc.

George Salmon, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “[The plan] even includes pledges to return the cash generated from slimming down non-core operations to shareholders. In a big way too: the plans suggest around a third of Bovis’ current market cap will be in shareholders’ pockets by 2020.

“However, it seems fairly apt that the new CEO’s plans include instilling a culture of ‘getting it right first time’. The tailwinds in the sector, namely the combination of low interest rates and supportive government policy won’t last forever.”

 It came as it reported its pre-tax profits have fallen by a third in the six months to June as it reduced volumes in an attempt to repair damage to the company’s brand and the homes it built.

Bovis said there was a 6pc fall in the number of homes it built, as it had warned in a previous update, with pre-tax profit down 31pc to £42.7m from £61.7m in the same period last year. Revenues were up 4pc to £427.8m.

The company said that this profitability was impacted by “by legacy customer service costs, overweight operating structure, investment to change the business, and defence costs,” and it had warned that it set aside more than £10m to attempt to fix the problems that emerged earlier this year.

Bovis’s problems started when it ­issued a profit warning last December due to production delays, before it was revealed that the company was offering incentives to persuade home buyers to move into unfinished properties.

The company faced further reports of low-quality homes and service, while in March housebuilders Redrow and Galliford Try tabled takeover bids, although these were ultimately rejected.

Its average selling price increased by 9pc to £277,000, driven by an increase in building more upmarket homes in the south of England. Other measures to change the direction of the company include an increased focus on affordable housing, teaming up with housing associations.

 Mr Fitzgerald, who was previously chief executive at Galliford Try, said: “The new strategy of disciplined volume growth, allied with a renewed focus on customer satisfaction and build quality, will deliver the homes that are required in the locations where people want to live. The group’s strong balance sheet and valuable land bank mean we are well set to provide the stable returns to shareholders that their patience and support have deserved.”

By 

Uk Housing Market Shows Decline Amid Concerns over Cooling Economy

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 29 Aug 2017) London, Uk – –

UK house prices dipped this month, dragging down the annual growth rate, in further evidence of a cooling market.

The average price of a home fell 0.1% between July and August to £210,495, according to Nationwide, Britain’s biggest building society. Prices rose in July and June but fell between March and May, the first time this had happened since the financial crisis.

The latest monthly price drop took the annual growth rate back down to 2.1%, a level last seen in May, which was the lowest rate in four years, from 2.9% in July.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “The slowdown in house price growth to the 2-3% range in recent months from the 4-5% prevailing in 2016 is consistent with signs of cooling in the housing market and the wider economy.”

He noted that economic growth had halved from last year to about 0.3% per quarter in the first half of this year and that the number of mortgages approved for house purchase hit a nine-month low in June, while surveyors had reported softening in the number of new buyer inquiries.

He said in some respects the slowdown in the housing market was surprising, given the strength of the labour market, while mortgage rates have remained close to all-time lows.

Household finances are under mounting pressure, with the cost of living rising steadily as the weak pound bites, and wage growth stagnating.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at the consultancy Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the slowdown in house price growth reflected the squeeze on real wages (adjusted for inflation) and the slowdown in the pace that mortgage rates are falling.

“Prices likely will continue to struggle to rise much, given that inflation still has further to rise, consumer confidence has deteriorated sharply since June and lenders intend to reduce the supply of unsecured credit.

“From February, new lending also will not generate borrowing allowances from the Bank’s term funding scheme, raising the costs of credit significantly. Accordingly, we still think that prices will be up just 1.5% year-over-year in December.”

A shortage in the number of homes on the market is underpinning house price growth, with the number of properties on estate agents’ books close to 30-year lows. Nationwide expects prices to rise by 2% over 2017 as a whole. It says house prices across the country are still 12% above their 2007 peak.

After increases in stamp duty in spring 2016, revenues from the tax have reached all-time high highs, rising to £12.8bn in the 12 months to June, well above the £10.6bn peak recorded in late 2007.

By Julia Kollewe

Foxton estate agents profits plunge by 64% as housing market slows

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 27 July 2017) London, Uk – –

Two of the country’s estate agent chains have posted slumping profits in the face of a slowing housing market.

London-focused estate agent Foxtons saw profits plunge 64% in the first six months of this year.

Another estate agent, Countrywide, also saw profits tumble, by 98% in its case. The firm said it would not pay a dividend.

Foxtons’ head said demand had slowed in the face of “unprecedented economic and political uncertainty”.

Countrywide said house sales exchanges were down 20%, 24% in London.

Countrywide said the first six months of this year were also tough in comparison with last year, which saw high levels of housing transactions brought forward to beat an increase in stamp duty changes and ahead of the EU referendum.

Its profits were £447,000, down from £24.3m.

Both agents are making deep cost cuts.

Foxtons pre-tax profits fell to £3.8m, down from £10.5m for the same period last year. Revenues fell 15% to £58.5m.

Foxtons said in its statement that there had been further cooling of the market in the second quarter of 2017, with the unexpected general election a factor in slowing activity.

It added that London was more greatly affected than the rest of the country.

Foxtons has been warning since 2014 that rapid price growth and strong demand in London had started to cool.

However, it said that in the longer term, it expected London to remain an attractive property market for sales and lettings.

 

Government to ban leaseholds on new-build houses in England

(qlmbusinessnews.com via independent.co.uk – – Tue, 25 July 2017) London, Uk – –

Ground rents on flats could also be cut to zero under proposals tobe outlined by communities secretary Sajid Javid

Builders are to be banned by the government from selling houses as leasehold in England and ground rents on flats could be cut to zero following widespread outrage over exploitative contracts.

In a blow for major housebuilders such as Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon, the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, will on Tuesday set out plans to “ban new-build houses being sold as leasehold as well as restricting ground rents to as low as zero”.

Flats can be continued to be sold as leasehold, but ground rents will be restricted to a “peppercorn” level and therefore be of little financial value to speculative buyers. The ban is expected to come into force after an eight-week consultation period.

The ban, while welcomed by campaigners, leaves the position of existing leasehold homeowners unclear. The DCLG is expected to consult on what it can do to support existing leaseholders with onerous charges, which could include tackling unreasonable rises – such as rents doubling every 10 years – and giving more powers to householders to fight unfair charges.

“Under government plans, [ground rents] could be reduced so that they relate to real costs incurred, and are fair and transparent to the consumer,” said the DCLG.

Tens of thousands of homebuyers have been caught in spiralling ground rents, which have in some cases left homes virtually unsaleable. Javid cited one family home that is now unsaleable because the ground rent is expected to hit £10,000 a year by 2060.

A Guardian Money campaign has over the past nine months highlighted reports of buyers trapped in properties valued at zero just six years after being built, £2,500 fees demanded by freeholders for permission to build an extension, and quotes of £35,000 to buy freeholds on detached houses only just a few years old.

Javid said: “It’s clear that far too many new houses are being built and sold as leaseholds, exploiting home buyers with unfair agreements and spiralling ground rents.

“Enough is enough. These practices are unjust, unnecessary and need to stop. Our proposed changes will help make sure leasehold works in the best interests of homebuyers now and in the future.”

Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that ground rent had been used by some housebuilders “as an unjustifiable way to print money”.

He said building firms should do more to compensate those affected by such problems: “If they are responsible, if they want to keep their business in the future, if they want to show that they really care about their customers, they should be seeing what they should do to right some of the wrongs of the past.”

However, Javid said there were not as yet any definite government plans to compel builders to take action to assist those already affected.

“It’s an eight-week period of consultation to look at what action can be taken,” he said.

“I don’t profess that I’ve got all the answers on this. I’ve identified a problem, we’ve come up with some potential solutions. We don’t pretend they’re easy, there are are complex matters here.”

New legislation will close legal loopholes to protect buyers, some of whom have faced repossession orders after failing to keep up with the ground rent. The government will also change the rules on help-to-buy equity loans so that the scheme “can only be used to support new build houses on acceptable terms”.

Sebastian O’Kelly, whose Leasehold Knowledge Partnership has been the sharpest critic of abusive practices, welcomed the ban. He said: “Leasehold houses are an absolute racket: a means by which developers have managed to turn ordinary people’s homes into long-term investment vehicles for shadowy investors, often based offshore. In short, plc housebuilders have been systematically cheating their own customers.”

The practice of selling houses as leasehold has been particularly prominent in the north-west of England.

DCLG statistics estimate there were 4m residential leasehold dwellings in England in the private sector in 2014-15 and of these 1.2m were leasehold houses.

Justin Madders, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, who has many constituents suffering from leasehold problems, said: “What has occurred in this sector should be regarded as a national scandal. Therefore, once we have taken action to drive out these rotten practices, the ultimate aim must be to hold to account the men and women who must have known that creating this second lucrative income stream for developers would ultimately be at the cost of their customers.”

Jo Darbyshire, whose Taylor Wimpey-built house has a clause where the ground rent doubles every 10 years and is part of the National Leasehold Campaign group on Facebook, said the ban was “fabulous news”.
“It’s great that others won’t be stuck in the nightmare we have been in,” she said. “But what are they really going to do for people in our position? There now needs to be a national review, like the review of endowment misselling, to review every case and put people back into the position they would have been without these onerous clauses.”

Earlier this year, Taylor Wimpey agreed a £130m deal to help distressed leasehold buyers. At the time, it said that the contracts where ground rents double every 10 years were legal but “not consistent with our high standards of customer service and we are sorry for the unintended financial consequence and concern that they are causing”.

By Patrick Collinson and Peter Walker

QLM Business News and Market Analyses Now Available Digitally

 

QLM Business News Digital Media Channel for offering the latest business news as well as market analyses. Thanks to the fast-paced life people lead, most busy business people prefer to browse the Net on the go in order to keep up with the latest business news.

www.qlmbusinessnews.com

Barratt to build 17,000 new homes the highest in nine years

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Wed, 10 May, 2017) London, Uk – –

Barratt is on track to build more homes this year than in any of the previous nine, boosting its profits to the high end of the City’s expectations.

Shares in the UK’s largest house builder rose 4pc on the news that its completion levels for the year to June are now expected to be around 17,350, which is the highest since 2008. This is a 55pc increase over the last six years.

The FTSE 100 builder said its pre-tax profits would meet the high end of City expectations, at around £733m.

It went on to say, despite data elsewhere that the market is slowing, that conditions remain “good”, with the company benefiting hugely from the Government’s Help to Buy scheme, which allows first-time buyers to purchase a home with a 5pc deposit, as well as wider availability of mortgages.

David Thomas, chief executive, said he is not concerned about the future of Help to Buy, which is due to end in 2021.

Barratt sells one third of its homes using the scheme, but he said he is sure there will be a “sensible dialogue” on the issue after the election.

He added: “I maintain that if you want to build houses you have to have an effective scheme, like Help to Buy, to complement the mortgage market.”

However he emphasised the need for visibility, saying the 2021 date “is in the relatively near future. We’re buying land now that we will be trading on in four to five years.”

Barratt’s forward sales rate also rose, and Mr Thomas said that the greatest challenge was not a lack of supply but instead a shortage of skilled labour and access to materials, which is pushing up build cost. He said: “That has shifted dramatically from six years ago when the challenge was on the sales side.”

Anthony Codling, an analyst at Jefferies, said: “Our view of a two speed housing market continues to be validated: whilst the second hand market continues to face headwinds, Barratt will deliver its highest number of home sales in nine years.

“We are pleased to see that Barratt has a clean bill of health with respect to leasehold issues that have hampered others.” It comes after fellow FTSE 100 house builder Taylor Wimpey had to set aside £130m to settle disputes over homes sold with “doubling” ground rents.
By Isabelle Fraser

 

Houston Market Square Tower Glass bottomed Sky Pool

 

Dubbed the Sky Pool, the infinity pool is on the 42nd floor and extends 10 feet over the side of Market Square Tower. Sweat-inducing footage shows one brave resident gingerly walking around on the 8-inch thick plexiglass. He appears to be stepping into thin air as tiny cars zip past in the busy street 500 feet below in Houston.

London Docklands Factory to Build Thousands of Prefab Homes

ThisParticularGreg/Flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thu, 13 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

Plans are being drawn up for a factory in east London that would supply thousands of modern prefab homes.

The scheme in the Docklands will be the first of its kind in the capital and eventually provide 3,000 new homes. Although modular homes have been built and shipped into other London sites, this is the first development with its own factory.

The Government is keen to promote prefab housing as a way of solving the housing crisis. Modular homes can be built in sections and then assembled quickly on site. Currently, around 15,000 new homes are produced this way each year.

The developer First Base has brought on the global engineering consultancy firm Aecom to help with the plans. The factory, in Silvertown, would deliver homes up to nine months quicker than was possible using normal house building techniques, First Base said.

The Silvertown development, which is being built by a partnership between Chelsfield Properties, First Base and Macquarie Capital, spans 62 acres in total.

The factory is expected to become operational later this year, producing two-bedroom homes in two parts, which can be put together on site.

Building modular homes costs 20pc less than traditional methods, the company said.

A number of other housebuilders have set up similar factories, although none has yet put a prefab home on one of their development sites.

In December, the housing association Your Housing Group signed a deal with China National Building Material Company, a Chinese state-owned construction company, to build 25,000 modular homes in the next five years.

Last year the housing minister, Gavin Barwell, said the Government saw a “huge opportunity” in manufacturers building houses off-site to hit ambitious building targets.

A surge in prefabs after the Second World War helped families left homeless after the Blitz.

UK Paramount Theme Park Construction Set to Cost £3.5 billion

It’s the news British film-lovers and thrill-seekers have been waiting to hear forever – no longer do we have to schlep across the seas to get our fix of stardust and adrenaline, for the UK is finally getting its own ‘Disneyland’.

The theme park will be the first of its kind in the UK, and is being created by film company Paramount at a cost of £3.5 billion.

Paramount is the company behind such iconic films as Titanic, Forrest Gump, The Godfather, Footloose, Braveheart and Iron Man.

Touted as the “UK Disneyland,” the new theme park is set to be built in Dartford, Kent and will feature attractions inspired by the films.

However, the park will also include rides inspired by BBC Worldwide and Aardman Animations, the creators of Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Chicken Run.

The resort will be divided up into different areas such as Adventure Isle, Land of Legends, Cartoon Circus, Starfleet Command, Action Square, Port Paramount and Entertainment City.

As well as rides, the theme park is planned to include a theatre, cafes and restaurants, shops, hotels and a nightclub.

Much like at Disneyland, there will be a “Paramount and Friends Carnival” every afternoon and a show “celebrating the works of Paramount Pictures and our other content partners” every evening.

At an expected £57 for a full-priced day ticket, a family trip to the theme park will not be cheap.

Despite the price, the creators are expecting to welcome up to 40,000 visitors a day.

The plans for the park, however, are yet to be approved – a development consent order (DCO) will be submitted to the government in November, Essex Live reports.

But Humphrey Percy, group CEO of the project’s parent company Kuwaiti European Holdings, is confident there’ll be no problems getting the green light to go ahead with the park: “We have the financial backing to take us all the way through that process,” he said.

Provided the plans are approved by the Government, construction of the theme park should commence in 2019, with the 872-acre resort set to open in 2022.

Leasehold traps buyers in properties with rocketing ground rents

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 5 Apr, 2017) London, Uk – –

Landlords will cash in as resurgence of leaseholds traps buyers in properties with rocketing ground rents, say campaigners

The worsening “nightmare” of the leasehold system in England and Wales is holding millions of homebuyers hostage to exorbitant bills, according to a report by campaign group HomeOwners Alliance, which estimates that landlords are in line to pocket £4bn from lease extensions.

Leasehold, once seen as a dying relic of the Victorian property market, has returned with a vengeance since the 1990s, according to the report. In 1996 just 22% of new builds in the UK were sold as leasehold, but this has doubled to 43% today. In London, nine out of 10 new builds are now leasehold.

The HomeOwners Alliance said that of the 5m leasehold properties in England and Wales, 1.58m are “owner occupied”. “But in the eyes of the law, they are in fact owned by their freeholder. The UK’s official rate of home ownership was 64.6% in 2014, but this includes the leaseholders who are not their legal owners – subtract them, and the rate falls to just 58.9%,” the alliance said in its Homes Held Hostage report.

It found that four out of 10 leaseholders do not know the length of time remaining on their lease, while of those that do, almost a quarter (equal to 370,000 homes) have less than 80 years to run. “The cost of extending these is likely to exceed £4bn.”

Most leaseholds are flats, but the report highlights the growing number of newly built houses being sold as leasehold by developers, “a practice which was almost unheard of 20 years ago”.

Some buyers of leasehold houses are finding themselves trapped in properties made unsaleable by rocketing ground rents, with many doubling every 10 years. In one case highlighted by the Guardian, the owner of a £100,000 flat bought on a 125-year lease in 2010 found this year it was valued at zero by mortgage companies because of the ground rent clause.

The HomeOwners Alliance is demanding that the government calls a halt to new leaseholds, with developers forced to switch to “commonhold” instead. This is similar to the US-style system used for condominiums, which effectively gives a freehold to every flat buyer alongside a common responsibility for the building. It was introduced in the UK in 2002 but has been a “massive disappointment”, according to Paula Higgins, who runs HomeOwners Alliance.

“The main reason is that housebuilders have a strong financial incentive not to offer commonhold,” said Higgins. “Why would a housebuilder hand over commonhold ownership to flat buyers, when it can retain the freehold and sell that freehold on to investors at a premium a few years down the line, and collect ground rent and administration fees in the meantime?

“Leasehold ownership can be traced back to the Domesday Book and it is a practice that should be relegated to history.”

In its recent white paper on housing, the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, promised an end to “leasehold abuse” by which homebuyers are locked into leases with spiralling ground rents.

But Labour’s housing spokesman, John Healey, said: “This report shines new light on the difficulties faced by some homeowners who own their home on a leasehold basis. Often in the dark about the exact terms of their lease and currently unprotected from punitive terms including huge rises in rip-off ‘ground rents’.

“Labour would start by giving leaseholders security from rip-off ground rents and end the routine use of leasehold ownership in new housing developments.”

Widespread ignorance about leasehold among young flat buyers – made worse by poor quality information from estate agents – is highlighted in the report.

It found that less than half of adverts on popular property websites were clear as to the correct tenure of a property. Only 49% of flat listings specified whether the property was a share of freehold or a leasehold property. Furthermore, only a quarter of the listings (24%) were specific about the length of time left on the lease.

The HomeOwners Alliance’s report calls for new leasehold houses to be outlawed, and mandatory commonhold tenure for all newly built flats. For existing leases, it says lease extensions should always be a minimum of 250 years, with only a peppercorn rent.

By Patrick Collinson

‘Bank of mum and dad’ funding, making housing market unfair

 

Mark Moz/flickr
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 28 Mar, 2017) London, Uk – –

More first-time buyers than ever are using family money, exacerbating inequality, says Social Mobility Commission

The number of first-time buyers relying on family loans from the “bank of mum and dad” to fund their deposits is exacerbating inequality and impeding social mobility, a government-backed study has warned.

The Social Mobility Commission found the percentage of first-time buyers turning to family for financial help had increased from 20% in 2010 to a historic high of 34%. The report also found just one in three (31%) 25- to 29-year-olds owned a home compared with 63% of the same age group in 1990.

“Home ownership helps unlock high levels of social mobility but it is in freefall among young families,” said the former Labour MP Alan Milburn, the chair of the commission.

“Owning a home is becoming a distant dream for millions of young people on low incomes who do not have the luxury of relying on the bank of mum and dad to give them a foot up on the housing ladder. The way the housing market is operating is exacerbating inequality and impeding social mobility.”

The report, which used data from the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University, examined a series of surveys, including the English Housing Survey – which interviewed around 13,300 households in 2013-14 – and the Labour Force Survey, which looked at homeowners by age between 1995 and 2015.

It found one in 10 first-time buyers used inherited wealth and that 12%, whether it was a first property or not, were using a “gift or loan”.

First-time buyers who receive cash or at least a loan from their parents can buy 2.6 years earlier that those who do not, and this figure rises to 4.6 years in London.

The study also found 30% of households with dependent children held assets that could be used towards a home deposit, but only around 10% of households without any formal education qualifications over two back-to-back generations felt they could help out their kids.

The report predicts that if the economy weakens, the proportion of first-time buyers being propped up by family will remain at about one third until 2025, but it will boom to 40% by 2029.

Theresa May’s government earlier this year strayed from David Cameron’s “home-owning democracy” approach to housing and announced tougher regulation on landlords.

The proportion of people living in private rented homes has doubled since 2000.

“It is welcome that the government recognises the growing problem people face in getting on the housing ladder,” said Milburn, who was a Treasury and health minister in Tony Blair’s governments.

“A major national effort is needed to expand opportunities for home ownership and will require more radical action on housing supply.”

The commission’s State of the Nation 2016 report encouraged the government to build 3m homes over the next decade and build on the green belt.

The report’s lead author, Dr Paul Sanderson, said only “better-off” young people with parents who had accumulated housing wealth were likely to consider home ownership unless there were “radical changes to the housing market”.

“It is further embedding social immobility into the housing market,” said the Anglia Ruskin senior lecturer and University of Cambridge fellow.

“Obviously it’s down to affordability, increasing housing prices and incomes staying static compared to inflation.”

Sanderson said an increase in building social housing, regulation of planning developments and a focus on the help-to-buy scheme could help turn the tide.

John Healey, the Labour party’s shadow secretary of state for housing and a former government minister, however, criticised flaws in the scheme.

“This is further evidence of an inequality of wealth and opportunity for home ownership in this country and it’s part of seven years of failure on housing under Conservative ministers,” Healey told the Guardian.

“The government has got to do more to help young first-time buyers who don’t have the bank of mum and dad behind them.

“They could start by making sure help to buy is better targeted. It’s indefensible that help to buy is helping almost 25,000 people who are not first-time buyers.

“Younger people on smaller incomes are increasingly locked out.”

By Peter J Walker