News & views from Urban Sales and Lettings

Second Phase of Help to Buy Launched

Posted by: Administrator on 14 October 2013
Comments: 1

The early introduction of the second phase of the government backed Help to Buy scheme this week is proving controversial with warnings it could create a second property bubble. The recently launched phase of the scheme is designed to help first time buyers onto the property ladder by providing a government backed mortgage to buyers with small deposits. The scheme has now been extended from new build properties to include pre-owned properties.

Critics say that the scheme could push house prices higher causing another property bubble with similar consequences to that of the property boom of 2007, however analysts of the market have drawn attention to the fact that the current boom in house prices is primarily linked to London’s property market which is being driven upwards by an increasing number of landlords and overseas buyers, neither of whom meet the criteria to apply for the Help to Buy scheme.

Many areas of the country are seeing property prices remain in the throes of recession, with some prices remaining a third lower than at their peak in 2007 and despite government assistance to first time buyers, banks remain cautious in their lending. HSBC, the latest lender to sign up to the Help to Buy scheme, recently said that, “Mortgage borrowers are currently assessed for affordability at an interest rate significantly in excess of the Bank of England base rate [before being offered a loan],” so government assistance does not guarantee that a mortgage will be granted.

Recent months have seen a rise in first time buyers in the market, with 27,100 loans granted to first time buyers in August according to the latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, a 33 percent increase over the year to the end of August but according to a recent government announcement on the initial success of the Help to Buy scheme, since its introduction 15,000 people have taken advantage of it in order to purchase a property – a figure that is certainly not high enough to inflate property prices in the UK to detrimental effect.

The scheme has also seen a positive effect on the UK’s house building industry which in the last month rose at the quickest pace in almost a decade. At present around 100,000 new houses are built in the UK each year, less than half that analysts believe to be necessary. The increased pace of building may also provide a welcome relief to the limited market and alleviate pressure on house prices to go upwards.


House prices up 5.4% this year

Posted by: Administrator on 13 September 2013
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Property values are currently on an upward trend with Halifax reporting that average house prices had risen by 5.4 percent in the year to the end of August 2013. They also reported that prices had risen since July by 0.4 percent, with Nationwide also seeing a similar rise of 0.6 percent: both indices reported the average house price in England and Wales to be just over £170,000 after consistent rises in price over the past three months.

The rise in house prices may be partly due to an influx of first time buyers in the market as July saw 26,100 sales to first time buyers – the highest reported level in six years. These rising numbers of first time buyers mean that sellers are seeing their properties going for above the asking price as competing first time buyers push prices higher, something which Urban Sales and Lettings are seeing to be increasingly common.

Oliver Atkinson, director of Urban Sales and Lettings, said, "For prices to have risen so consistently during the three summer months is especially impressive. Traditionally the market quietens down as many people focus more on holidays than house hunting. That momentum is continuing into September, which is shaping up to be a truly bumper month for sales.

Buyer sentiment is improving steadily, and there is a growing sense that - despite the Bank of England's forward guidance - the current rock bottom interest rates won't be around forever. The result is the release of a lot of pent-up demand from first-time buyers, as those who have saved hard for a deposit decide that now is the time to take the plunge. We've seen a gentle migration of people from renting to buying as increasing numbers of those with savings calculate that they'd be better off buying. That logic has rarely looked so appealing.

Even regions that endured the worst of the slump are returning to growth as the market returns not just to normality, but to strength."

The property ladder has become more accessible to first time buyers after the government’s Help to Buy Scheme was launched across the country in April. Designed to make property more affordable for those new to the market, the scheme will lend buyers 20 percent of the sold price of a new build property, interest free for five years, to those who have a deposit of just 5 percent.

Other government schemes such as Funding for Lending have also meant that banks and building societies have been able to lower interest rates on mortgages and help first time buyers obtain cheaper deals for their mortgages.

Although the housing market continues to look more positive, first time buyers may find it increasingly difficult to save for a deposit if prices continue their current upward trend. The International Monetary Fund and RICS have cautioned against reckless spending, advising buyers to ensure they can afford interest rate rises before taking the plunge with a purchase in order to avoid the current market buoyancy creating another housing market bubble.

Should you join a landlord association?

Category: Blog
Posted by: Administrator on 30 August 2013
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Joining a landlord association can be hugely beneficial and rewarding, but if you’re new to letting out property, an accidental landlord or are only considering membership for the first time it can be a bit daunting to know where to start, why you would want to join and what the benefits are.

What are landlord associations and what do they do?

One of the primary reasons landlords’ associations exist is to provide support and protection for landlords on a national level which includes lobbying the government on behalf of landlords on a range of issues and by informing their landlords of changes to legislation that will affect them. In particular the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), two of the UK’s largest associations for landlords, are actively involved in campaigns on behalf of landlords. For example, both the NLA and the RLA recently raised concerns regarding the government’s introduction of universal credit as a replacement for different types of benefits, with concerns that this would impact the payment of landlords by social tenants.  Partly due to the lobbying by these landlord associations, changes were made to the universal credit policy to allow landlords to be paid directly in cases where the tenant was in rent arrears.

As well as representing the interests of landlords the other primary function of landlord associations is to provide support and advice to their members. Regardless of whether you are new to property investment or if you have owned a portfolio of property for several years, this service can be invaluable. Typically landlords associations will look at providing the following:

  • Tenancy agreements and guides
  • Support line and advisors
  • Advice on legislation and problems with tenants
  • How to serve possession notices
  • Deposit assistance
  • Updates on changes to legislation and latest developments
  • Accreditation schemes

Landlord associations of all sizes will also offer regular meetings for their members. Whilst local associations may provide these on a local or regional basis, national associations will also hold national meetings or conferences to which all their landlords are invited. These provide an opportunity for you, as a landlord, to network with other professionals and receive updates and information that will be relevant to you. Other landlords will also be able to provide advice and assistance, and if you’re new to letting out property these meetings could be particularly useful as a starting point.

Which associations are there?

Whilst you may like to consider a local landlord association there are also a number of larger, national organisations which provide support and advice for landlords across the UK whilst also acting to support their interests in the political arena. You are likely to find that many smaller, local associations are also affiliated to one of the national associations listed below.

The largest of the UK’s landlord associations is the National Landlords Association, who represent around 1.4 million landlords in England and Wales. One of the other leading national landlord associations is the Residential Landlords Association, which is also the UK’s oldest national landlord association. Whilst these organisations provide representation for landlords in England and Wales there is also a Scottish Association of Landlords which is the largest and only dedicated national landlords association for Scotland. As with the NLA and RLA they focus on providing advice and support for their landlords whilst also being involved with lobbying and campaigning on behalf of Scottish landlords.

Membership of these organisations will come at a price and typically membership is priced around £75 - £100 for a year’s membership. However in addition to the support and advice you’ll receive from these associations they do also work to secure their members discounts with suppliers, tradesmen and letting agencies so you may find that the cost of your membership is quickly saved. Typically landlord associations are also able to extend special deals on insurance to their landlords as well as providing tax advice to make further savings.

 A landlord association can provide a valuable support system to landlords: whilst you may hope that every tenancy you take on and every property you purchase goes smoothly, there may be instances where you require advice or situations that arise which you have questions about. Being a member of a landlord association can be a great place to get these answers at very little expense and the additional benefits of being part of a network of professional landlords that are actively involved in lobbying and campaigning can be great.

A Passion for Pizza became A Passion for Homes…!

Category: Blog
Posted by: Administrator on 30 July 2013
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Jo Ridout owner of A Passion for Homes blogs for us on how her passion for all things home and property began...

As owner of A Passion for Homes I am extremely enthusiastic, some may say obsessed, with everything to do with homes, properties, design and buildings!

Mad about marketing, property bookworm, interior design magazine hoarder, house programme TV addict, building buff, show home visitor, trade show junky, prolific internet and blog surfer, and content generator - that's me!

But I often dreamt of how I could bring all these elements together into a business that would indulge all of my passions (I like football and tennis too, but to incorporate them as well was completely impossible!).

So, 14 months ago, whilst eating pizza with my sister in Rome (not relevant, but sets the scene!), I came up with the idea of the website A Passion for Homes (the pizza was totally yummy, by the way!).


So, take your coat off and come on in…!

Welcome to - a unique and creative website that brings all aspects of property, homes, design, buildings and related information together under one roof!

It is a comprehensive ‘housey hub’ – a property portal where everyone as passionate as me can visit and stay as long as they like, browsing all the rooms in the house, finding stories, interviews, inspiration and information.

Interior design, home products, retail trends, ‘housey’ celebrity interviews, dream homes, beautiful buildings, stories of the people behind properties, estate agent and show home search facilities – phew, it’s a big site with lots of things to inspire and admire.

I love to share, so the site has a sharing section – share pictures, share videos, and share your views via a monthly vote on a homes based topic.

“A Passion for Homes looks like an ideal place for the British home-moving public to supplement their property fix.” Rightmove


The kettle’s on, so relax and find out more about the business itself…

A Passion for Homes offers businesses some unique opportunities to showcase their products and services to a targeted and attentive consumer, via advertising and articles on the website.

We’ve featured UK based, hand-made amazing products such as beds from The Wrought Iron Bed Company, building and renovation advice from qualified professionals, and new season ranges, products and trends from retailers such as Habitat, M&S, John Lewis, Heal’s and, to name but a few.

And, because the business has been built solely out of the comprehensive use of social media, we offer businesses training and services in social media, and in fact, all aspects of marketing.

 "…interesting and engaging, some excellent information on social networks like Pinterest, that was handy for both the beginners and the social-media-savvy. Funny, concise and informative." Dwell

"Lovely to learn in a fun environment - really helped open the doors to understanding how social media can boost business and raise company awareness." Wrought Iron & Brass Bed Company

An expanding area of work for companies, including estate agents, retailers, interior designers and tourist attractions, is producing high quality short videos for website content – which is becoming an increasingly important aspect of every companies’ website and social media. Google loves video, as will your customers! At the moment we are working on a private executive home for sale and an amazing castle!


Got time for one more biscuit before you leave?

I also write about every aspect of homes and properties – writing articles, writing text for companies’ websites and print, and proofing text for clients.

"Jo was fantastic to work with recently, writing a superb article for the company blog. She not only wrote a great article, she implemented a good social campaign to promote the article, working with other companies effortlessly. I would highly recommend Jo and look forward to working with her again soon."  Louie Watts, Anglian Home Improvement

So, I hope you will call round to A Passion for Homes soon and check out all the gorgeous homes, products, interior design and celebrity features, and share your thoughts. Who knows, maybe you will find our site and services useful too when you come to plan your next move.

Thanks for sharing my story,

 All the best,


Don't forget follow up calls after viewings!

Category: Blog
Posted by: Sarah on 26 July 2013
Comments: 0

So you have hosted a viewing of your property that seemed to go perfectly…The prospective buyer turned up, spent a long time looking around, asked all the right questions and generally appeared enthusiastic. So what’s your next step as the vendor? Many of our clients wait for the potential buyer to call them or us with their feedback or an offer as they don’t want to appear “pushy”; this really isn’t the most proactive way of selling! It is vital that you follow up all viewings within 72 hours. Be prepared that the feedback you get may not be 100% positive, that isn’t the aim of the game, what you want is honest feedback on your viewings which you can use to make the next viewing more successful.

You may decide to make the follow up calls yourself so that you have full control over what is asked and can interpret the answers you are given and reply to them as you see fit. If you decide to take this route do keep in mind that the prospective buyer will be aware you are the owner of the property and may feel uncomfortable about giving negative feedback regarding  the property which is after all your beloved home! With this in mind it is a good idea to ask your estate agent to make the follow up calls on your behalf.

Opting for this strategy does not necessarily mean relinquishing all control, feel free to ask your agent to include any particular questions you want the answers to alongside their normal patter; which will generally include questions regarding the asking price, property specification and location and how interested the potential buyer may be in arranging a second viewing or making an offer. It can be very valuable to ask your agent to gain feedback on your hosting skills, to help you improve the way you conduct your next viewing.

Once you have taken the time to gain feedback it is essential that you listen to it! For example if you have hosted ten viewings but have not received any offers and all your feedback calls say the property is lovely but overpriced  it’s time to seriously consider a price reduction. Ask your agent for pricing advice and look at the competition in your area before making any rash decisions.

Using the feedback you are given to make your property more attractive will help you sell, so what do you have to lose? Keep an open mind and don’t leave it too long after the viewing before the call is made to ensure your property is fresh in the mind of the viewer.


Written by Sarah Male, Urban Sales and Lettings