Mortgage lending has hit 2008 levels even before the Help To Buy extension kicks in, according to figures published by the Bank of England. Many commentators have been critical of the scheme. Sue Foxley from Cluttons added that increasing funding in the absence of new supply in the capital and SE will hike up prices ahead of earnings and do little to alleviate renters’ fears. City AM, p3;
At the Conservative Party conference yesterday, Chancellor George Osborne signalled another six years of austerity as he set out his aim for a UK budget surplus by 2020. He has vowed to carry on squeezing welfare and other spending to meet his new fiscal objective. FT, p1; City AM, p1
The Chancellor has announced that he will freeze fuel duty until 2015 as he wants British households to ‘share in the rewards’ of the economic recovery. According to Conservative aides, the party will fight the next general election claiming that a litre of petrol is 20p cheaper than it would have been under Labour’s proposed fuel duty escalator. However George Osborne conceded that the money to pay for the freeze was not yet in place. City AM, p2; Telegraph, p1;
New vacancies are at their highest for four years, adding to recovery hopes though optimism has been tempered by a continued salary squeeze. The report from Reed shows job opportunities have risen by almost a quarter in the last year. The best performing sector was construction with a 78% increase, while vacancies in retail and manufacturing were almost up a third compared to a year ago. Brian Groom, FT, p4
The revised forecasts by the British Chambers of Commerce are another sign of growing confidence. But, writing in the Daily Express, Peter Cunliffe says its head John Longworth is right to warn against false dawns. The Middle East Crisis struggling eurozone and Chinese slowdown could hamper progress. “That is why it is vital the Government and the Bank of England create domestic conditions in which business can thrive.”
The Co-op has warned its banking business will go bust if bondholders don’t support its £1.5bn recapitalisation plan. Last night The Evening Standard’s Nick Goodway was happy to leave the blame at previous management’s door in his comment on the story – as is the Daily Telegraph’s business leader piece. But writing in the Daily Mail, Alex Brummer says it is not good enough for the new management team to simply kick the past into the long grass. He says auditors KPMG were “asleep at the wheel”. The Guardian’s Nils Pratley says members were complacent and also takes a pop at the FSA. What’s the answer? Goodway thinks the best bet, given the benefit of hindsight provided by RBS, would be to transfer the bad bank to UK Asset Resolution, which is already winding down the bad bits of Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley, as soon as possible. The Times’ Ian King thinks the same – hand the keys over to UK Asset Resolution and save everyone a great deal of trouble. CityAM says the group is right to hang onto its best assets while Brummer says Co-op, banking regulators and the Department for Business should try and claw back money from Peter Marks and former Britannia boss Neville Richardson. Pratley says bondholders should argue for as large an ownership slice as possible of the re-capitalised bank (49%?) – in the end bondholders don’t have much choice but to hold their nose and back the management’s plan. Peter Cunliffe is sure of one thing – “taxpayers cannot be expected to step in again”.
Recruitment & Employment
The Daily Mail reports that the cost of a room in a care home has rocketed by 9.3 per cent in two years. In the last year alone the cost rose by 3.5 per cent, a survey of 165 private care homes found. The average cost of a room is more than double the average pensioner income of £13,799 and the gap ‘continues to increase’, the survey said. Prestige Nursing+Care, which provides temporary staff for nursing and care roles and carried out the survey, said that since 2012 the average annual cost of a single room in a residential care home has risen by £963. The Daily Express meanwhile concentrates on the absolute numbers from the same report saying pensioners face a bill of almost £30,000 a year if they need to go into residential care.
The Metro’s property section runs a brace of pieces on a new development within walking distance of the medieval town of Saffron Walden, The Avenue. This is a development within mature tree-lined avenues and landscaped gardens. Developer Hill Residential is helping to sell a mix of properties to appeal to all buyers, from first-timers to families and downsizers; CEO Andy Hill and says the properties are suitable for buyers considering relocating from London. That may be a smart move – The Guardian’s House Price Blog quotes estate agent Marsh & Parsons, who say rising property prices mean that the cost of a two-bedroom home in the richest borough in London is set to break through the £1m-mark in early 2014. The agent said the price of these properties had risen by 14% over the past year to reach £909,203. With an average of 18 buyers chasing every property, it said prices were set to continue to rise. If the £1m mark seems out of reach, The Metro also looks at Gun Place, EC1 – a “bargain buy” – a one bedroom flat in a converted warehouse off Wapping High Street. That’s on sale for £400,000 with Cluttons.
“People are now chasing affordability not location. They are being priced out of their preferred first and second locations and slowly edging out to the capital’s fringes into South East, North West and East London where there are still excellent commuter links to the city.
“Buyers know that prices are rising and deals are being tied up often in 48 hours and are increasingly going to sealed bids. We are holding more open houses as so many people are looking at each property – we had 68 viewings and 20 offers recently for a family house in Clapham needing complete modernisation which went to sealed bids. It sold for significantly over the £1m asking price.
“Family homes are going under offer as soon as we are instructed which is causing a bit of a bottle neck with buyers not putting their own houses on the market first for fear of not finding anything themselves.
“The consequence of this pace of uplift in house prices will push ownership in and around London out of reach of yet more households. Even in London where earnings tend to grow slightly ahead of the national average, it is unlikely that average earnings will keep pace with this rate of house price growth over the next two years as the economy struggles back to strength.”
“Wandsworth is attracting families from across the capital as highly sought after family homes are coming to the market at competitive prices compared to more central locations. The area boasts good schools, green open spaces and a wide range of restaurants and chic cafes, ideal for raising a family. The increasing popularity has resulted in prices rising by up to 15% since the beginning of the year.”
“There is evidence especially in the family friendly areas such as Clapham that families are deciding to stay in London when they have children to take advantage of good schools and the city lifestyle on offer. Couples are keen to sign up for two to three year leases often in school catchment areas and then remain renting close by for a longer period.
“Traditionally couples have moved out of London to buy a property when they start a family, but there has been a significant change in attitudes in recent years and people no longer see renting as only a short term solution. Landlords are able to charge a premium for the best located properties near to schools and families are prepared to pay. Contrary to popular belief, landlords love families and if they have a three to five bedroom property to rent they are likely to prefer a family tenant over other options. Families are more likely to make the house their long-term home and treat it as such.
“Renting offers flexibility to this group who may be relocated through work, often abroad, at a later date so they are opting to renew tenancies until this happens instead of traditional home ownership in a secondary location, which comes with a daily commute.
“London is a great place to bring up children, with world class schools, parks and outside spaces as well as endless cultural experiences at the capital’s museums and galleries, many of which are free.”
In its editorial, The Guardian looks at Gordon Brown’s attempts to conceal the huge sums he was pumping into UK infrastructure projects via the Private Finance Initiative. The Guardian says that in today’s slump, economic respectability requires more proactive pursuit of growth but that George Osborne’s PF2 is not delivering. The IMF is only the latest establishment voice to call on Mr Osborne to increase capital spending. The Guardian suggests that the arm’s-length borrowing of Gordon Brown “was frequently on outrageous terms, but the hospitals got built…”
The front page of the Daily Mail is given over to Nick Boles, the Planning Minister, who has suggested building more houses will create more “human happiness” than preserving fields. The Mail’s leader piece admits that “with mass immigration, increasing longevity and marital breakdown, only a fool would deny that Britain faces an acute and growing housing crisis” and that there’s a “strong case for streamlining planning procedures and speeding up building where permission has already been granted”. But the paper says Boles is advocating “tearing up” restrictions on barn conversions and “browbeating councils into designating land for development”. “With acres of brownfield sites available,” it says, “there is no excuse for imposing them where they are not wanted” concluding “[our housing shortages] need not – and must not – be solved at the expense of our children’s and grandchildren’s heritage.”
The number of renters in London has grown dramatically over the past 10 years, with 50% of people now renting, according to Cluttons. 30% of people in the UK rent. City AM says the report cited the rising prices of London property as one reason for the emerging gulf. Metro offers solace for those looking to get on the property ladder; David Newnes of LSL Property Services says easing mortgage lending criteria is helping more first time buyers to realise their dream of home ownership.
Recruitment & Employment
The Independent’s leader piece is given over to “the jobless recovery”. The piece addresses a report from the think-tank The Resolution Foundation on the current employment paradox – an economic downturn without an equivalent loss of jobs – could be matched by an economic upturn without the increase in jobs that would be expected to go with it. The Independent says “if this is the future, ministers have some thinking to do beyond the standard calls for more apprenticeships, better training, and incentives to encourage more long-term unemployed people into work.”
“Cluttons’ research shows that properties with gardens in prime Central London don’t always command a premium, it can depend more on the needs of the different purchasers. For international buyers in Knightsbridge, where the ability to lock up and leave a property is paramount, internal space is considered superior to outside space and properties with a higher internal square footage can command a price premium in the region of 15%. However, in Kensington, for many of the European buyers with families, the desire for outside space is greater and properties with a garden can achieve even more than those without in most cases, close to £440,000 on the average price of a property (£2.98m) in the area.
“In Mayfair, where many properties are used as a second London townhouse or working-week property, gardens are much less sought after, and there is little difference in price between those with outside space and those without it. This may also be related to Mayfair’s close proximity to London’s prestigious Hyde Park and Green Park, where outside space is freely available.”