Rat and Mouse
Entries in April 2008
Wed
30
Apr

Somebody's lending [MoneyWeek]
Abbey tightens criteria on interest-only loans [Guardian]
The truth about mortgage fraud [Evening Standard]
Comedian Ben Miller leaves London, Islington house sells without aid of Independent [Independent]
BofA's Blanchflower: cut rates or watch house prices fall 30% [IHT]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

Tuesday morning linkage - the nouveau poor [April 29, 2008]

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More in this Category - Linkage
‘Gazunder.’ He did his best Simon Callow impression. ‘That’s a quaint word.’ I explained, there’s nothing quaint about its meaning 1) n. a pot for lazy Brummies to pee into when it’s too cold to get out of bed 2) v. pretty much the same practice, aimed at a vendor during an ailing housing market. For the purposes of this column, we’re discussing the second. And gazundering is back.

Our publisher, on gazundering, in his weekly column for Citywire.

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More in this Category - About

Nationwide report a six monthly fall (1.1% in April), leaving their annual inflation figure in the red for the first time to the tune of 1%.

Market report 2 - Land Registry [April 28, 2008]
Market report - Hometrack [April 28, 2008]

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More in this Category - House prices
Tue
29
Apr

As a symbol of an era now passed, Inside Track does pretty well. A property investment company and seminar school that promised property riches and a live on easy street, it taught buy-to-let landlording and off-plan property flipping to a generation of get-rich-quick clients who knew only a rising market. To be fair, some of its early customers might have done very well. But those days are over. As is Inside Track, which went into administration this morning. And according to this, today brings a bit of a double whammy for Inside Track boss Jim Moore:

In 2004, his marriage to Kim broke up. The couple have since been arguing over a settlement. Today, a court will announce that the former Mrs Moore has been awarded £15m.

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More in this Category - _Other

England rugby team on bottom of property investment scrum [Times]
On Guy Ritchie, Madonna and the nouveau poor [Observer]
Benefits of a falling market [Times]
Bought in the last four years? You're in negative equity territory [Reuters]
Abbey's mortgage offer brings big business [Reuters]

The Rat and Mouse - because Londoners think about property every three seconds

Friday lunchtime linkage - "pretty rum affair" [April 25, 2008]

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More in this Category - Linkage
Mon
28
Apr

Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich has submitted plans to build an eight-bedroom palace in Knightsbridge. It would stretch across eight stories, joining to Lowndes Square townhouses... which Abramovich has gradually bought up, apartment-by-apartment, since the late 1990s. If it goes ahead, it's likely to become the UK's most expensive residential property, with a value of around £150m.

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More in this Category - Celebrity homes

How, exactly, did Labour peer George Foulkes manage to rack up £45,000 in overnight expenses to stay in a London flat he inherited, mortgage-free, from his mother? The expenses cover a two-year period. During the same two-year period Foulkes - according to this - managed to buy £600,000 of property in cash deals. He's quoted in the Sunday Herald thus:

Foulkes said yesterday: "This is beneath contempt. I have stayed there since 1980. I still have costs in London. I claim for having a flat and overnight stays, including food, travel and taxis. On whether he planned to reduce his overnight costs in the future, he said: "I don't know. Let's hope the cost of electricity and other things is maintained at the current level."

The London flat doubles as a business address for a directorship that nets him £50,000 a year. Presumably, then, that particular business isn't claiming utility-related expenses when it files tax returns.

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Murdoch bought it for £10m, Marcus Cooper's paying £200m for it, but plans to build houses worth £500m on it. It's Wapping, and it's about to enter its next phase of development. More here.

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More in this Category - E1

... where they're warning of a 25% house price crash, between now and the beginning of 2010. Savills' Yolande Barnes is, however, also pointing out that it's in the power of the lenders to turn this into a 6% dip, by lending money once again. If you're shopping in the £5m+ bracket (see below) you don't need to worry too much.

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More in this Category - House prices

According to yesterday's Sunday Times, Blair's capitalising on the economic meltdown he's left in his wake by going property shopping... a little premature in the Rat and Mouse's view, but perhaps he knows what he's doing. According to the piece, one of the properties on his list is Pophleys, a 16th Century farmhouse in Stokenchurch near High Wycombe, and the former home of Jethro Tull flute-hero Ian Anderson. It's on the market for £5.25m... although I can't find a listing anywhere...

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More in this Category - Celebrity homes

And another fall. This time... 0.4% in March, and - remember - this one's based on completions. And there's significant variation within the figure. In Wales, it was a 2.2% fall; in the north east, a 2.4% rise. Prices rose in London, too, by 0.6%. Transactions - year-on-year - were down by a quarter. The annual rate of inflation dropped to 3.6%.

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More in this Category - House prices

April's not over, but Hometrack's figures are out, and they show a 0.6% fall in the month. But that's not as important as the annual figure, which slips into the red at -0.9%.

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More in this Category - House prices
Fri
25
Apr

They apparently launched last month, but we somehow must have missed it. AgentQuote are an interesting online proposition... if you're a vendor, you register with them (for free), fill in a little information about the property you wish to sell, you sit back and wait for agents to "quote" for your business, letting you know how many potential viewers they've registered on their books and their rates of commission. Since commissions are pretty much similar across the board - and, in practice, open to last minute negotiation or matching - this probably isn't the most useful aspect. And I'd be very interested to know how AgentQuote intend to check up on an agent's "potential viewers" claims. AgentQuote say they'll be offering a comparison service, too - with agents rated by previous clients. Agents have to register, too, to receive leads... and this is the business bit of the business plan. AgentQuote will charge to add estate agents to their list... because, of course, agents have lots of spare money to throw around right now. We'll be watching this closely.

20080425Agentquote

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More in this Category - Property online

It was an expensive house - so we're talking about a considerable amount of commission, shifted to Hamptons in the Court of Appeal a couple of days ago. Why I am I writing about this? Because the story's interesting - in a technical kind of way - and might have repercussions for estate agents in the future. A Mrs Bicknall appointed Foxtons to sell her rather expensive house. When they didn't... she enlisted the help of Hamptons, and changed the Foxtons agreement from sole agency to multiple. While Foxtons were sole agents, they'd shown the house to a Mr and Mrs Low... but the Lows hadn't bitten. When Hamptons showed the Lows around, they did bite, and eventually exchanged. Foxtons caught wind of this later, and demanded their kickback commission, pointing to a clause in their contract that stated she'd be liable if she sold the house to "a purchaser introduced by them". Foxtons took her to court, and won. And it's that decision that was overturned a couple of days ago. The appeal judge based his decision on the definition of "purchaser". A purchase is apparently a purchaser when he decides to purchase. When Foxtons introduced the Lows, they weren't purchasers... they became purchasers afterwards. Interesting. You can read the full report - if you can be bothered - here.

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More in this Category - Estate agents

A glimpse behind the curtains at Nestoria [Nestoria blog]
Half a market [Daily Mail]
Bank of England's plan inadequate [IHT]
House price furore "pretty rum affair" [Daily Mail]

The Rat and Mouse - because Londoners think about property every three seconds

Monday morning linkage - back through the looking glass [April 21, 2008]

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More in this Category - Linkage

They've downed tools and walked off site, and they'll return when there's a sunnier economic climate. Sales have apparently fallen by 24%, and Britain's biggest housebuilder can't see the point in building. Persimmon boss Mike Farley was clear, though, to blame lending rather than simply falling prices. More here.

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More in this Category - _Other
Thu
24
Apr
It’s a valuable lesson for all politicians. If you decide to hitch a ride on a bubble when it’s on the way up, make sure you remember to bring a parachute for when it inevitably pops.

It's the question asked by John Stepek, in an interesting blog piece over at Moneyweek. We put up with Brown's more cretinous traits when we were being placated by easy credit and our houses were doubling in value every few years, argues Stepek; now that we can't indulge our expensive, credit-fuelled hobbies any more we've time on our hands to see Brown for the ditherer and incompetent he really is.

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That's according to an international poll of ten million people, reported here. It means she's officially sexier than Kate Moss and Jennifer Lopez. Actress Megan Fox topped the poll. More headline news throughout the day...

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More in this Category - Property TV

It's on Hemingford Road in Islington, and the vendors have managed to interest the Telegraph's property section, although it already appears to be under offer this morning. The story's interesting... two homes, without a party wall, previously joined at the hip and turned into a nunnery, re-converted by two separate owners, the extension at the back literally sliced in half by the two buyers.

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More in this Category - N1
Wed
23
Apr

Talking to Empire magazine:

"The natives of England are sort of being left behind because the big money came in and if it wanted something it bought it and made a bigger fortune doing so. And as anyone who has tried to buy a house in central London knows, it's almost impossible to do so unless you have 10 million quid."

I know... I know... tell me about it... less than ten million quid and it's a bloody Transit van and a matress. But what can you do? It's those Russian oligarchs and American pop stars. More here.

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More in this Category - House prices

... try commercial.

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That's right, of course; except down, according to the British Bankers' Association, by 50% March-to-March, to their lowest level in a decade. They fell from February by 18%. More here.

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More in this Category - _Other
John Paulson isn't queasy about making billions from people’s misfortune; in fact, he’s said to have kicked up a fuss when Bear Stearns drew up plans to bail out lenders, claiming market manipulation. Does that sound like you or me? It doesn’t sound like me. I experience a tiny pang of guilt every time I win a poker hand. It might sound like you though. David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index, tells me the spread betting specialist has recently experienced something of a dramatic run on wagers on the Halifax house price index.

Our publisher, and his weekly column, over at Citywire.

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More in this Category - _Other
Tue
22
Apr

And - perhaps surprisingly considering a) the bank must be fairly busy right now b) the letter writer's illiterate - he gets a reply. Here are some highlights:

Under what remit is the bank of englands job to prop up an over inflated housing market?? I now feel compelled to support the Euro currency and want no further involvement in sterling, above that I have to have. At least the Euro has sensible polocies and a more accurate measure on inflation... This is incompetence at the heighest level.

Add a giant sic to the above and you get the gist. The bank's response is pretty much a press release, but at least it's a response. Read the whole thing - including a comment thread that pretty quickly degenerates into one person calling another gay - here. And, seriously, all credit to HPC's waitingfor hpc for having the gumption to go straight to the source.

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I've always believed that, when it comes to nature, value's in the eye of the beholder, but - according to the capital asset value for amenity trees (CAVAT) system, it's calculated by its size, health, historical significance and the number of people able to enjoy it. A platanus or "plane tree" in Mayfair apparently does rather well from CAVAT, and has just been named Britain's most valuable tree, with an estimated worth of three-quarters of a million. Apparently, it's six feet wide, and Victorian. We're making enquiries regarding its exact location, because we'd love a photo...

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More in this Category - _Other

You've got to hand it to Capital Economics, they really grasp the principle that if you predict something for long enough it's bound to happen. It's probably little comfort to anybody who took their predictions at face value during the last five years and put their own money in the position of CE's mouth... that could have turned out an expensive spread bet. Few would argue, though, that now's the time of the bear, and CE continue to ensure there's no bigger bear than them. They've cut there 2008/2009 forecasts... and are now expecting a fall in house prices of 8% in 2008 and 10% in 2009. More here.

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More in this Category - House prices
Mon
21
Apr

Meanwhile, yesterday's Observer reported on "Chancellor" Alistair Darling's enthusiasm for mortgage holildays... a chance to, you know, just get away from that boring monthly repayment grind and enjoy a few months in the disposable income sunshine, living it large. First, it's pass on the rate cuts! Now it's give your borrowers a break! If our "Chancellor" didn't have the timing of a comic genius, the banks might have lost their respect for him...

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They've pulled all their buy-to-let offerings, in a day that has also seen them tightening up their residential lending criteria, and reduce the number of available residential deals. More here.

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It's a possibility, according to a report by independent investment bank Reynolds Partners. They've been looking at the state of British utilities providers and - after a period of expensive buyouts - discovered a level of debt that could, in the current climate, make unforeseen repair programmes difficult. Here's chief John Reynolds, quoted in yesterday's Observer:

'I think that it is only a matter of time before there is a major shock and we find that a utility can't afford to restore power to homes, hospitals or businesses. At that point the regulator would have to allow bills to rise to pay for the damage, or customers will have to wait longer than they should for normal service to resume, or both.'

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A solar success in south east London [Guardian]
In case you haven't heard... the Bank of England's big bend [BBC]
Buying... bad. Renting... bad. [Guardian]
Rosie Millard steps back through the looking glass [Sunday Times]
What's wrong with falling house prices? [Telegraph]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

Thursday afternoon linkage - that's all we need... [April 17, 2008]

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More in this Category - Linkage
Fri
18
Apr

The Evening Standard reports on falling asking prices here and there across the capital, including many of the top postcodes. According to Rightmove figures:

Average asking prices in Kensington and Chelsea have fallen £33,000 to £1,458,558 - down more than 2.2 per cent between March and April.

Oddly, though, asking prices rose (by 3.8%) in Hackney.

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More in this Category - House prices

The Times asks, will choosing a toff like Savills over a chav like Winkworth give you a better class of service? And the answer, it appears, is yes. but expect to pay for the privilege (of virtual tours, open days, and two dedicated negotiators who "listen")... as much as 2.5% in commission. What you get is an agent who can talk to the talk:

Jonathan Hewlett, of Savills in Central London, says that when dealing with such properties you must operate with the confidence of the insider: “You need to be able to talk about St Tropez, the beaches and the traffic, have been into a brownstone in New York, and understand the vagaries of Zermatt versus St Moritz.”

As opposed to the latest Chelsea fixture, and where to find blackmarket Sky cards. Is it me... or is all this quite funny? I don't doubt - though - that for certain properties, you'd be wiser choosing a top tier agent. But isn't it mainly about choosing the agent that appeals to the kind of person who is most likely to sell your house? Buyers with more money register with Savills, Chesterton, Knight Frank etc, so if your property's expensive, they're probably the people to turn to. The Times feature is here.

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More in this Category - Estate agents
Thu
17
Apr

If you've watched a news today you'll be aware that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has written 112 letters to 112 building firms alleging them of bid-rigging which is a contravention of English law. Remember -

No assumption should be made at this stage that there has been an infringement of competition law by any of the companies named in the SO. The 112 parties concerned now have the opportunity to make written and oral representations which the OFT will take into account before making a final decision as to whether competition law has been infringed, and as to the appropriate amount of any penalties the OFT may decide to impose on each of the firms concerned.

However, since the OFT's published the list, the Rat and Mouse thought you might like to see it. It includes some well-known names.

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There's an interesting piece over at Bloomberg. It doesn't tell us anything startlingly new: people got greedy and over-extended themselves, now they're in the shit, the inner-city apartment builders who relied on them are in the shit, and the lenders and surveyors and various other facilitators who walked the tightrope between stupid optimism and fraud might turn out to be in the shit, too, soon if people like Richard Lee get their way. Lee leveraged £150,000 up to £5.3m of property in - it appears - all the worst places. All his property's now owned by the bank, after losing 40% in value.

Lee and 85 other investors plan to sue the developers, lenders, appraisers and solicitors involved in their property transactions. Lee's attorney, Hammad Ahmad of Max Gold Partnership in Hull, England, said the lawsuit will probably be filed in about two months.

Read it and weep/laugh (delete, depending on your personal view) here.

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More in this Category - Letting

Doncaster council accused of snoop attempt [Daily Mail]
15% house price fall would leave 10% with negative equity [Times]
That's all we need... Brown's going to focus on housing [Guardian]
Ikea's 21 [4homes blog]
Rooftop Mortgages closes doors to... everybody [Renthusiast]
Reasons to rent [Telegraph]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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According to figures by Shelter, the average price paid for a home by a first-time buyer was £52,674 in 1997. In 2007, it was £159,494. The average weekly income of a UK family over the same period, up 53%. More here.

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More in this Category - House prices
Wed
16
Apr

He's quoted here predicting that current falls in the London market - not helped, he says, be a non-dom exodus - have already triggered 15% falls which won't be apparent for a few months... until the DCLG index, which reflects completion prices, shows up.

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More in this Category - House prices

Dump your fixed rate for a tracker [Fool]
A Blackpool hairdresser's £1m mortgage fraud [Blackpool Gazette]
Is it "fine" to live above a knocking shop asks Kings Cross woman [4homes forum]
Unemployment down [BBC]
Ladbrokes offer evens on "up to 10%" house price fall in 2008... sounds like a good bet [Mirror]

The Rat and Mouse - because Londoners think about property every three seconds

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More in this Category - Linkage
The story of the UK housing market – the real story, the bit with the heroes and the villains – is, like the market’s indices and headlines, in a state of constant flux.

It’s a complex piece of drama, too; each twist and turn of the plot reflecting the players in a slightly different light; a whodunit in which few of us are wholly certain of the ‘it’, let alone the ‘who’.

Newcomers to the genre make the mistake of leaping to conclusions. Remember – the first suspect’s ultimately rarely guilty. The villains don’t wear black anymore, or ride the black horses.

Our publisher... in his guest column... over at Citywire.

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More in this Category - About

The Daily Mail carries a feature about Abi Titmuss's London property exploits, which have apparently seen her turn lads' mag shoots into £2m of London property... which she hopes will provide security while she shifts her focus to the serious stage. Meanwhile, Kylie Minogue is said to be checking out a Tudor mansion "in the idyllic British county of Sussex".

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More in this Category - Celebrity homes
Tue
15
Apr

Don't worry, Brown's had a meeting [Guardian]
Dad, can I borrow £223bn? [This is Money]
Milliband: a sacrifice offered up to distract us from the rest of them? [Daily Mail]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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More in this Category - Linkage

For the last 40 years, he'd been digging tunnels under his big house in Hackney. Now - at the age of 77 - William "Mole Man" Lyttle has been billed £300,000 to put right damage which left 121, Mortimer Road supported by nothing more than a handful of white goods. He's got 14 days to pay before - presumably - the council takes possessions of a big house, recently held up by a fridge freezer and a washing machine. Ahh, Hackney. Full story, here. Archive, from when he was evicted, here. Weird search result suggesting the property's a Hackney B&B here:

20080415Hackney

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More in this Category - N1

According to this in the Telegraph, the Halifax is preparing to push up rates on its most popular mortgages by as much as 0.5% tomorrow, leaving two-year fixed rates at 6.12%. Longer term fixes (three and five years) will be unaffected.

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Research by mortgage brokers Mform shows that average arrangement fees have almost doubled in the last 12 months... £1,132 for a 3-year fixed rate, £1,478 for a 2-year fixed rate. HSBC, who stole the headlines recently for offering to match the terms of expiring fixed rate deals, are doing so at a premium, with fees up to £5,000.

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It's a big one - 1.6% - and you can't argue with it, because the DCLG figure is based on completions. It leaves annual house price inflation at 6.7%. Interestingly - although not without precedent - flats led the falls (-2.9%), bungalows were least affected (-0.6%). Inevitably there was regional variation, too. In London, the annual inflation rate is up at 9.5%. Something scary's definitely happening in Northern Ireland's recently over-heated market, with the annual inflation figure falling from 8.4% in December to just 3.7%.

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More in this Category - House prices

The BBC are headlining the radio news with the RICS survey showing that members (qualified estate agents) are more bearish on house prices than ever. Seventy-eight and a half per cent reported a fall in house prices March, that's up from 65.7% in February, and it's the worst figure since RICS began the (dubious, in my opinion) index in 1978. In an accompanying statement, the RICS thank low supply for saving the market from an all-out crash.

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More in this Category - House prices
Mon
14
Apr

It's the negative equity map of London, compiled by the Evening Standard, using Experian data. First off:

20080414Streets

The map itself seems to reflect the fast-rising house prices of the last decade, with most constituencies falling in the low or below average risk categories. There are just three labeled high: Hackney & Shoreditch, Poplar & Canning Town, Barking; and a little cluster of above average in the east and south east. Taking all this into account, what's to explain the bizarre "reader view" left below the accompanying piece?

20080414View

Do you ever look at these comments and just think... I could have been sitting next to that person on the tube tonight.... or, worse, he/she might have been driving it?

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The prediction comes from movewithus, a network of independent estate agents including Rolfe East, Clarke Hillyer and Douglas Allen. According to their chief, quoted here, we can expect to see a third of UK agents out of a job by the end of the year. Another interesting detail is that the piece mentions rumours that had reached the Rat and Mouse, but which we were too cowardly to publish, that Foxtons staff are jumping before they're pushed:

At least 63 staff left the company in February alone following poor sales figures.

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More in this Category - Estate agents

There's an interesting piece in today's Telegraph about a clause in buy-to-let mortgages by Bradford & Bingley and Birmingham Midshires, which demands a consistently maximum 85% loan-to-value rate on all loans (checked - via a new valuation - every time a landlord remortgages). The unhappy result during a period of falling prices is that landlords could find themselves being asked to produce cash "top-ups" where a property's value has fallen drastically enough to no longer meet security requirements. Yes, it's a cowardly clause. Yes, lots of landlords have agreed to it. The Telegraph fears it could be the final straw that forces landlords to dump properties back on the market. More here.

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More in this Category - Letting
Fri
11
Apr

20080411Squattersagents

It's located at Bowl Court, in Shoreditch, a vacant four-storey building in prime London real estate land that - according to Indymedia - has been deliberately gutted by the owners to deter squatters... toilets smashed, windows smashed, hole in the roof etc... and its part of a weekend of squat-related action, matching people to places and other people. More here.

Posh squatters - they're back [November 13, 2006]
When property was theft in Brixton... [January 19, 2006]

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More in this Category - _Other

In a response to yesterday's rate cut, Deloitte adviser Roger Bootle predicted that rate cuts will only end when base rates reach 3.5%, sometime in 2009. Allan Monks from JPMorgan Chase suggests a further half a per cent cut by this summer. More here.

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More in this Category - _Other
Thu
10
Apr

According to this, using spread betting on London house prices as an indicator, Cantor Spreadfair is predicting an 18% drop in London house prices by the end of 2010. The piece suggests (I think) Spreadfair's launching a new spread-betting opportunity based around punter confidence, and how it turns out compared to the Halifax index... betting on the betting. Can't find any mention of this over at their website, though.

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More in this Category - House prices

A little earlier, we wondered whether today's interest rate cut would reach borrowers interested in fixed rate deals. We knew what the answer would be; we didn't know we'd receive it so quickly. Already, both the Nationwide and Alliance & Leicester have announced plans to increase rates on their fixed rate deals by as much as 0.32%.

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More in this Category - _Other

It's a £5.6m deal, and it's going to profit estate agents who - according to this - will now be able to advertise on both sites for the price of one. Traffic figures are always hotly disputed, but realestate.com.au (50% owner of Propertyfinder Holdings) claim they'll be inheriting 400,000 unique visitors with HotProperty. How many, if any, agents advertise on HotProperty, but not Propertyfinder, I don't know...

[thanks, Ed]

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More in this Category - Property online

It's a quarter point cut to 5%. Will borrowers see it? I'd be surprised, despite growing political pressure. Will savers? But of course.

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Because it's interest rate day. Most appear to be predicting a quarter point cut; although an economist on last night's Newsnight claimed even a 0.5% cut would only leave us "back where we started". With the pound where it is, would a 0.5% cut be impossible?

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More in this Category - _Other
Wed
09
Apr

BBC has little luck encouraging sympathy for estate agents [BBC]
Chancellor has little luck calming house price fears [This Is Money]
Councils have little luck collecting taxes [BBC]

The Rat and Mouse - the London property blog

Tuesday afternoon linkage - Halifax index hits stocks [April 8, 2008]

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More in this Category - Linkage
Welcome aboard the Foreclosure Bus Tour. According to local news reports in the US, the big orange bus has been spotted in Orlando, Phoenix, Detroit, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Pismo Beach, and Sacramento; and according to Foreclosure Bus Tours, there are scheduled stops planned for New Haven, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Ft Lauderdale and a host of other crisis housing markets.

The service is advertised as a way of finding ‘the pick of the litter’ - the best-tended, most lovingly cared-for homes, conveniently rid of down-on-their-luck owners (a few of whom might have been tempted into reckless debt before the crunch hit; a few of whom might have been forced to remortgage to pay medical bills or other unforeseen expenses) and now available to cash investors at fire sale prices.

Our publisher, and his guest column, over at Citywire.

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In case you haven't heard... just when the rest of the market has practically shut its doors and retired to the snug, HSBC is offering to match borrowers' current deals. They estimate that three-quarters of customers will pay less than a grand to arrange mortgages; and they're preparing for enquiries to rise threefold. Hmm. The Rat and Mouse would be surprised if that doesn't turn out to be on the low side. Clearly, HSBC will be cherry-picking the safest customers... but surely this is also a big bet on the side of interest rates remaining low for some time. More here.

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More in this Category - _Other
Tue
08
Apr

London's long history of hoodies [Telegraph]
Landlords report "soaring" interest [ifaonline.co.uk]
The negative equity crisis map [Telegraph]
Today's Halifax index hits stocks [Press Association]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

Monday morning linkage - positive about negative equity [April 7, 2008]

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More in this Category - Linkage

The Evening Standard has the scoop... and a picture. It looks impressive... not least how the Candys have managed to squeeze 638 housing units, a boutique hotel and spa, a community hall, sports centre and a landscaped public park into less than thirteen acres.

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Abbey National has removed the last major 100% mortgage from the market, effectively ending the era of the stupid mortgage. The Times, and others, fear the effect this might have on the market. The Rat and Mouse has sympathy for recent 100% mortgagees who face SVR repayments when their deal comes to an end, but can't, in all honestly, mourn the death of the stupid mortgage.

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It's a 2.5% routing, to be precise... the biggest monthly fall since September 1992, leaving the annual inflation rate at 1.1%, the lowest in 12 years, and Q1 2008 levels down 1% on 2007 Q4. The Halifax analysts aren't, however, talking about readjusting their 2008 predictions of a "low single digit" fall. Chief economist Martin Ellis is quoted, thus:

Sound economic fundamentals are supporting house prices. A strong labour market, low interest rates and a shortage of new houses underpin housing valuations.

He doesn't mention the scarcity of loans or decent deals.

Broken down, London saw a price rise of 1.6%, the East Midlands a rise of 2.2%. West Midlands was battered -5%, Wales -4.7%. One statistical surprise, perhaps:

The average deposit put down by a first-time buyer (FTB) in 2007 (£34,381) represented 20% of the purchaser price compared with 12% in 1989. Only 5% of FTBs took out a loan of 100% or more of the purchase price in 2007 compared with 35% in 1990.

Read the actual report (in pdf), here.

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More in this Category - House prices
Mon
07
Apr

20080407Ouch

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The Telegraph visits a subject we haven't seen since this back in August, 2005... the shell apartment... the unfinished development waiting for the buyer's own interior design vision. Fred Redwood has found an unfinished development in Hoxton, and he's also found that the shell sale is still for the loaded only. Don't expect a discount.

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More in this Category - N1

Hopes for rate cut this week [Daily Mail]
Lauren Booth isn't negative about negative equity [Mail on Sunday]
Shared ownership schemes mired in confusion [Observer]
How to profit from falling house prices [Sunday Times]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

Friday linkage - Mum and Dad Henman, the IMF, and take John Charcol [April 4, 2008]

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Almost a year ago, the Rat and Mouse reported on squatter Harry Hallowes' £2m windfall, after a judge awarded him squatters' rights to a little parcel of land on the edge of Hampstead Heath.

20080407Squatter

He was back in the news on Saturday, in a piece about the problems he's creating for a local developer, who has plans to build an unpleasant-sounding pile of tack on land shared by Mr Hallowes and grand 19th Century home Athlone House. The plan was to bulldoze both. The Highgate Society is opposing one; Hallowes the other. But the squatter can at least comfort himself with the knowledge that - according to a valuation in the Daily Mail - he's made a 100% profit in just 11 months:

His small plot is now worth a staggering £4million.

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Fri
04
Apr

Over at property search engine Primemove they've been tracking the fortunes of 18,500 homes on the market since August 2007, and the results are fairly shocking. Just 20% have been sold (or been withdrawn from the market for other reasons), suggesting that "80% of people who put their property on the market since the Northern Rock crisis have yet to find a buyer". Primemove chief, Henry Pryor, is in characteristically outspoken form:

"Whilst we have been urging caution for the past 12 months, lenders have been arguing that things were not too bad and their indexes have been suggesting that house prices have continued to slightly rise - even into the new year. Frankly "liar, liar, pants on fire". I don't believe a word of it and it does a huge disservice to sellers and to the rest of the market when those responsible for funding house purchases not only deny that the scale of the problem but compound it by withdrawing their products so that even if someone finds something to buy they now find that some banks don't have a single mortgage product to sell!"

Pryor calls on the newly nationalised Northern Rock to repay the tax payer by "getting back to work" and offering mortgages to buyers. "There seems to be money to pay bonuses," he points out.

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IMF calls on banks to do more to control housing bubble [Telegraph]
Mum and Dad Henman take exception to eco-town plans [Telegraph]
What does the commercial property meltdown mean for the residential sector? [Times]
Nobody wants John Charcol [Independent]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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Thu
03
Apr

... despite the fact that, according to PropertyWeek.com:

The TV king regaled the audience with his own `awards’, recounting his experiences of meeting a galaxy of stars before hosting the event.

Christ... no credit, the arse falling out of the market, being told you're a has-been and now a night of Parky's celebrity moments. It's enough to make you toss the keys to your Cayenne to the nearest vagrant, loosen your giant tie-knot and head for the cheapest bar. Anyway, winners included HSBC for Deal of the Year (sale of Canary Wharf) and Francis Salway of Land Securities (Property Personality of the Year... an award which I'm still holding out for, by the way). For a full list, go here.

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The Rat and Mouse is used to finding estate agents at the bullish end of the spectrum when it comes to the business game of house price predictions, so it's with a certain amount of surprise that I've received a -15% by 2013 from online estate agency Brightsale (admittedly, an agency that isn't afraid of being different). It's part of a report into the future of estate agency, which uses the prediction as evidence that high street estate agencies will be no more than "niche" rarities by 2013, as diminishing business drives them online and out of bricks-and-mortar. You can read "Is There a Future for High Street Estate Agency here.

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Wed
02
Apr

20080402Bad Photo

Thanks to the Zoomf blog for pointing out the way to this great American blog post revealing some truly shockingly bad property listing photographs from 2007. View. Laugh. Shake your head in disbelief.

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Actually, it's posh in Peckham [Guardian]
Europe's worst property markets [Forbes]
Eco audits... is it all bollocks? [Telegraph]
Son... years ago there used to be this thing called a "mortgage" [Times]
Our pick of the Fools' Day gags [Nestoria blog]
US real estate agency kingpin arrested for fraud [HousingPANIC]

The Rat and Mouse - because Londoners think about property every three seconds

Monday afternoon linkage - when nutters attack [March 31, 2008]

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Owning a second home in the UK is a bit like owning fur. It’s perfectly legal, but not something you’d necessarily volunteer among thinking people. And yet in recent weeks, the customary reticence of the country or coastal cottage weekender has been replaced by a certain amount of public bleating on the letters pages. These are the letters that begin with the declaration that the correspondent’s own second home is ‘modest’, ‘tiny’ even, or was rescued and restored from Stig Of The Dump dilapidation, to the amazement and applause of grateful local straw-chewers. ‘We’re not hurting anybody,’ is the sub-text. ‘Please don’t hate us.’

Our publisher suggests they've little to complain about, in his guest column, over at Citywire.

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Tue
01
Apr

2080401Slump

It's all about February's Land Registry figures, which show a fall in London house prices of 0.4%... the biggest drop since March 2005's -1.2%. Kensington & Chelsea, one of the biggest winners over the last two years, got the worst of it, with a 0.7% fall. More here.

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Over at the Telegraph, Angela Pertusini meets Michael Holmes, developer, editor-in-chief of Homebuilding & Renovating magazine and author of this. He talks to Pertusini about how he got from buying his landlady's place in Maida Vale to his current (rather odd) mock-Georgian house (with "modern" glass extension) in just 13 years. Not all of it - for me, anyway - is entirely comfortable reading...

... he is someone who is completely unable to resist a deal, to ignore an angle: when his father died recently, instead of selling his home, he immediately applied for - and was granted - consent to demolish the house and build two new ones on the plot. A developer paid handsomely for this uplift.

But perhaps that's just an example of why I'm not cut out for the life of a property mogul. Tthere's no denying his skill, courage and energy; and what he has to say about micro-markets can't be said often enough. Go here for the piece.

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20080331Frank

Rio Ferdinand invests in the Caribbean [Telegraph]
Trump's $45m Park Avenue apartment, check the illustrations [link to particulars]
Terri Seymour's new Hollywood Hills home [link to particulars]
Milla Jovovich lived here... for sale, $2.4m [link to musical particulars]
Mary J Blige's $5m markdown [NY Daily News]
Frank Sinatra's hideaway, $4.995m [pictured, link to particulars]
The latest on the Michael Jackson foreclosure auction [the Real Estalker]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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