National Home-building figures seem to be in danger of missing this year’s new build target

Government House new build report

While the building industry is thriving in the south – all the way from London to Devon, and up towards Worcestershire, the building industry is keeping up with demand for new build properties, however in the North of England, Wales, and Scotland, the picture is less busy.

The official figures on new builds were released by the Government last week, and they show a decline of some 11% in ‘annual starts’ – the point at which a developer begins working on a building plot. See the full report here.

This is embarrassing for the Government, after they promised to ‘get Britain building’, to ensure adequate housing, and to boost the economy by building our way out of recession.

Shelter’s chief executive Campbell Robb commented:
“The slump in our construction industry is one of the main reasons we’re facing the threat of a triple dip recession. We can build our way of out of this, but the government has to use next month’s budget to unlock the finance to deliver more genuinely affordable family homes. Unless action is taken now, it’s hard to see our housing crisis improving any time soon.”

These new starts figures show annual starts at a little over 98,000 for the year, which is the worst figure since 2009. This was the very worst year of the current recession, and was the only other time that the annual starts figure dropped below 100,000 since records began, 30 years ago.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS Chief Economist, said:
“These figures demonstrate the scale of the problem facing the country in delivering sufficient homes to accommodate a rising population. In the final three months of last year, less than 27,000 new houses were started in England alone. Weakness was visible in all sectors although the biggest decline was from housing associations which saw a drop in starts of more than 20 per cent.

This shortfall in new build property will make it very difficult for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder. However this imbalance between supply and demand in the housing market will continue to support house prices, and rental values, so it is not necessarily bad news if you are already on the property ladder, or if you are an investor landlord.

Go to Riley Marshall property search  If you are looking for new build property in South East London Riley Marshall has links with local developers and we are always updating our property portfolio, click to go through to our property search.



Mediation and Flat-pack furniture makes divorce easier

children of divorced parents need room in both households

Bunk beds in bright colours make a great space saving solution at a reasonable cost.


People move house for lots of different reasons, and sadly divorce is one of them.

If our title seems flippant it is not meant to be, it is simply a trend we have noticed emerging, when Dad moves out (it’s often but not always Dad). Now he usually wants a better environment, and to include the children into his daily life following separation.

Divorce figures released today
According to figures collected by the Ministry of Justice the Greater London area has the highest number of divorce petitions in the country, which is not surprising given the density of the population. The next highest number of divorces are in Midland cities with Birmingham being the highest outside London. Leicester is in third place behind (of all places) Weston Super Mare. Quite why this popular tourist hotspot should be so high in the divorce steaks is unclear

The figures cover the period from 2011-2012, and it is expected that numbers will continue to rise as austerity measures kick in, causing financial strain on families.

Mediation rather than litigation
In order to lessen the financial burden of paying for legal proceedings The Government wants to encourage families who are separating to use mediation. Reaching  agreement over child maintenance and access agreements through mediation is far less costly than court proceedings.

According to a release from the Ministry of Justice today the average cost of resolving disputes over money and property after separation is approximately £500 if dealt with via mediation. A similar claim settled through the courts averages £4,000 for a publicly funded client. The average time for a court settlement to be reached is 435 days compared to 110 days for non-mediated cases.

If agreements can be reached via mediation they are often far less stressful for all members of the family, and mediation allows for a more sensitive and flexible agreement to be made than those laid down in a court of Law.

Family Justice Minister Lord McNally said:

‘All too often I hear stories of families going through expensive and traumatic court hearings but we know that when working out how to split assets and arrange time with the children, mediation is a far simpler and cheaper approach for everyone and leads to better outcomes.

When families split it is important for children to keep contact with both parents. So wherever possible, it makes sense for the non-resident parent to have enough space for children to visit and sleep over. Having their own space, in both homes, will help to make them feel more settled and comfortable when they spend time away from the resident parent, especially if they are very young.

The Modern Family
The stereotypical scenario of dad having to move into a bedsit, while mum and the children live in the family home does still happen but as separated families become more and more normal the ways that people choose to split their time and their assets can be much more creative. There is no need for dad (if it is dad) to move into a empty flat and eat his meals of a packing case.

While it may seem a trivial social change the rise of popularity of cheap furnishing shops can make this transition between homes much easier. The partner who moves out is now able to, relatively cheaply, set up a new home using cheap and cheerful flat-pack furniture to brighten up the second home. They can cheaply and attractively provide enough beds and bedding to house a couple of kids – utilising bunk beds, folding beds or a sofa bed at a price that wont break the bank.

At Riley Marshall we are also able to offer full furnishing packs at very reasonable prices, and these are available to landlords, tenants, or householders who need a quick and price-effective solution to setting up a second home.

Click here to find out more about our Furniture Pack Service.

Finally some good news for first time buyers!


Light at the end of the tunnel for First Time Buyers as lending increases

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) announced a significant rise in the number of first time buyers in the UK for the first time in the last six years

They reported that the number of first time buyers rose by 12% last year – the highest number since 2007. While the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also reported a rise in average house proses in the UK of 3.3% last year.

“the number of first-time buyers rose by 12% to 216,000” (CML)

“UK house prices rose by 3.3% last year.” (ONS)

“property sales rise by 4th month in a row” (RiCS)

This picture of a confident property market emerging from a previously stagnant market is backed up by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), whose latest survey showed property sales rising for the fourth month in a row since October 2012.

Cause for celebration?

Maybe not yet, but is is good news that lenders are extending more mortgages to first time buyers as this has a positive effect on the housing market as a whole

Why this upturn now?

Mortgage Lending has been boosted by the Funding for Lending Scheme, which was launched by the Bank of England in August 2012. The aim of the scheme is to boost overall lending in the UK by some £60bn stirling. Under the scheme Banks and Building Societies are offered access to cheap funds, on condition they then lend it down to customers.

The effect has been to gradually improve the flow of funds to home buyers, including those who had been unable to borrow because they did not have a large enough deposit to put down.

According to the CML some first-time buyers have found it easier to get mortgages, even if they only had a deposit of 5- 10%. They commented “one in 40 first-time buyers took out a 95% mortgage compared with less than one in 100 a year earlier. And around one in five first-time buyers borrowed 90% or more”

Other positive signs

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reported that completed sales rose by 5% last year to 932,000, the highest level of sales since 2007.

The  Bank of England reported that the number of mortgages agreed but not yet lent by lenders for home buyers but not yet lent rose in December for the fifth month in a row. This is a good indicator of upcoming house sales.

55,785 mortgages were approved in December – the most since January 2012 and, before that, the highest since December 2009.

If you are looking for property, whether you are a first time buyer or not, please visit our property search section on our home page.

If you would like to talk to us about putting you property on the market please call and speak to our sales team on 020 7394 1160

Lettings Market remains self-governing – so tenants should know how to protect themselves from rogue agents


The government have decided not to regulate the Letting market despite concerns over unscrupulous landlords and agents

A government paper released yesterday confirms the current government will not impose regulation on the Lettings industry. There is currently no legal requirement for letting agents to belong to a trade association, although many letting and managing agents do submit to voluntary regulation.

Estate agents who deal with property sales do have to comply with basic levels of regulation, including registration with the Office of Fair Trading and having access to an Ombudsman scheme for dissatisfied customers. It was thought that the Government would impose similar regulations on the letting market this year.

In response to this news, there was a report on unfair letting agents fees this morning, on the BBC Radio 4 Today Program. Ian Potter, from ARLA (the Association of Residential Letting Agencies). ARLA was asked to comment on the decision. They have been instrumental in lobbying successive governments for more regulation of letting agents.

“We want regulation of the letting agents market. It is the cowboys who get the bad reputation for the sector. There are many agents around the country who are doing things properly and who do not charge these extortionate fees.” Ian Potter – ARLA

The previous Government had proposed full and mandatory regulation of private sector letting and managing agents. However the current Government claims it is mindful of not imposing too much ‘red tape’ on the industry. This seems plausible while so many have to rent, because it is increasingly difficult for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder.

In August last year the Scottish Government decided to ban agents from charging any fees to tenants. However the problem is that fees are related to genuine costs incurred by the agents, which then have to be passed to the landlord. The effect has been a national increase in rents of some 6% since the law was introduced. To our mind it seems better to be transparent and upfront about costs rather than to load everything onto rents.

What can you do as a tenant?

If the market is going to be self-regulating then it relies on tenants being well-informed about industry practices.So as a tenant, or prospective tenant, you need to know what to look for when you are shopping around.

Avoiding unfair fees

  1. Do not agree to pay a fee for registering or to be taken on a viewing
  2. Ask for a full break-down of fees in writing before agreeing a tenancy
  3. Ask what is included in the fees and if there are any ‘extra’ fees that could be added later, typical charges include:
  • Referencing
  • Credit check
  • Tenancy Agreement
  • Inventory
  • Check in fees
  • Renewal fees if you stay
  • Check out fees if you leave

Points to Remember

  1. Not all agents will charge these fees, or if they do they may include elements in a one off fee rather than broken down individually. What you are trying to ascertain is the total charges so you can compare like-with-like.
  2. It is illegal for an agent to charge you fees for registering with them, or viewing properties.
  3. The amount of money required for a deposit varies, and must be held in trust throughout the tenancy in a government approved scheme. Ask about the amount payable, when and how it needs to be paid, and how it will be returned.
  4. You may be asked to pay a ‘holding deposit’ while the agent or landlord takes up your references. This is usually deducted from the first month rent when you move into the property, but may be non-refundable if you do not to go ahead with the tenancy. You should check exactly what the terms are before you pay.
  5. It is worth bearing in mind that the agent is acting on behalf of the landlord, not the tenants. The agent has a duty of care to their tenants in the same way as the landlord does if he is not using an agent, but the agent should always be acting in the landlord’s interests, and on their instructions.
  6. Even if you really like the property you should not proceed with a let if you are sure the landlord or agent are not reliable.

Here at Riley Marshall we always treat our tenants with respect, taking their wishes into consideration where possible, and we communicate with them and our landlord clients in a timely and courteous manner. We furnish tenants with the details of everything they will need to provide to comply with regulation, with the landlord wishes and with our professional practices, including any fees that they will incur. This has to be the fairest way to do business. If the tenant then wants to shop around they are free to do so.

We believe in acting in an open and honest way for good business reasons as well as ethical ones. It makes good financial sense to keep everyone advised of what the charges are to avoid misunderstanding or losing a deal later in the relationship.

We are mindful (like most agents) keep our fees within a competitive range in the knowledge that landlords and tenants are looking for value for money, not necessarily just the cheapest deal, but the best deal for them. As we all know you get what you pay for and if your agent slashes his fees well below the norm within the industry then there is a reason for that and it is likely to be inexperience over true cost, or a willingness to cut corners in a way that will be detrimental to Tenants and Landlords.

If you are looking for property to rent be assured that we are members of The Property Ombudsman (TPO) for your protection . Please do visit our main Riley Marshall website to search for property and you can contact us if you have any questions.