Rat and Mouse
Entries in October 2010
Fri
29
Oct

Damn! Someone's already thought of that. And I don't mean the plethora of lenders who, collectively, managed to bring the entire banking system to the brink of expelling its head out of its own arse three years ago, I'm talking about Precise Mortgages who, according to the Guardian, will target individuals turned down by high street banks because of a blot on their credit record. Cool!

Two other niche lenders, Kensington Mortgage Company and Aldermore, have also in recent months begun offering sub-prime loans. In information prepared for "intermediary use only", Kensington says it will accept borrowers who have already had two county court judgments in the last two years and up to two defaults on unsecured loans.

In some ways, it's less than extraordinary that lenders will look to service a market when the need/desire is there. But I wonder how this squares with the Mortgage Market Review, which will shortlyl set in stone acceptable/non-acceptable risks/levels of due diligence. If borrowers are capable of paying back a loan, they shouldn't need to take out expensive sub-prime (I know, PM, KM and C&A, you're calling it something else, this time) mortgages. If they're not, we all know what happens when banks go ahead and lend anyway.

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The argument is like this: increasing rents on social housing to 80% of market rates (the current plan) will act as a disincentive to work, forcing more people onto Income Support and Housing Benefit, increasing the overall benefit burden. More here.

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There have been some extraordinary readings of this morning's Bank of England lending figures. From this:

U.K. lenders approved more mortgages than economists forecast in September, signaling the housing market may not be as weak as some data indicate.

To this:

Mortgage lending dived to less than a 10th of the level seen during the previous month in September.

The truth? Not much happened. Net mortgage lending rose, but not by as much as in August, bringing the twelve-month growth rate down very slightly, and the three-month to three-month annual rate down by a third (from 0.6% to 0.4%). The number of approved loans was virtually unchanged. Lending - of course - remains at a historically extremely low rate. If you fancy seeing the actual PDF, click this.

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Thu
28
Oct

One Florida law firm office manager was caught signing at a rate of 1,000 files a day. When her hand hurt, a paralegal was allowed to take over and forge her signature. Mortgage firms hired temporary staff – hairdressers, burger flippers, factory workers – to sign documents stating records had been checked and properties were ready for foreclosure. Some, later, admitted to not knowing what a mortgage was, and to changing dates on documents when necessary. Offices were turned into make-shift repo-factories, files spread across floors, some lost, while the 'robo-signers' attached their names to affidavits they didn’t understand.

Our publisher, on what America's dodgy mortgage crisis looks like as it reaches the other end of the economic digestive system, in his guest column for Citywire.

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Nationwide report a 0.7% fall in house prices in October. Over three months - generally considered a more significant view - house prices are down 1.5%, the furthest that number's been in the red since April 2009 (remember, though, that Nationwide were talking about -5% to -6% during the second half of 2008). The annual inflation rate now stands at just 1.4%. The Nationwide report projects the current rate of decline and works out that, if it continues, annual house price growth will drop to zero, perhaps into the minus numbers, by the end of the year. Get the actual report here.

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More in this Category - House prices
Wed
27
Oct

They call him Mr Debt-tastic [Daily Mail]
House prices and the Mortgage Market Review [lovemoney.com]
Government denies rumours of Housing Benefit reform rethink [BBC]
Enjoy the interest rates while you can [Yahoo]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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Monopoly and Lego are tipped to top Christmas lists this year, according to the Toy Retailers Association. Traditionalists, however, will "fume":

In Monopoly Revolution, paper money has been replaced by a battery-operated debit card machine, all the property prices have been revalued to reflect sky-high London prices and the board is now round.

Go on... and you drive around the city in a Foxtons Mini?

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The fifth new London office this year, no less. It's due to open in Clerkenwell on November 6, and expect the usual 0% commission deal to new clients, to help them stock their windows.

Another new Foxtons this weekend [October 1, 2010]
Foxtons, gayness, money... the story with everything [September 28, 2010]
It's a Foxtons world; we just live in it [September 13, 2010]

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More in this Category - Estate agents
Tue
26
Oct

According to a Halifax report based on Land Registry data, the number of properties changing hands for more than £1m has doubled in the past year. Nine out of ten of the 3,000 properties were in London, amounting to 4.5% of London's transactions. More here.

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More in this Category - House prices

Over at Money Week... a good case for "the German model":

What insurance companies and pension funds want more than anything is long-term reasonable yielding assets (and residential property yields about 4.5% net at the moment) to match their liabilities. That's why they constantly overdose on bonds. But property provides much the same thing. Manage it well and you can get a perfectly good yield with the security of owning a very long-term asset. And, if you build specifically to let, the end price of houses is by the by: what matters is the rent.

Merryn Somerset Webb suggests a system of longer-term leases (of five to ten years), a kind of "rented ownership" in which the tenant can re-decorate and make the place a proper home, to make the sector more attractive to the institutional sector and to tenants, and provide a plentiful and well-managed alternative to home ownership.

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More in this Category - Letting
Mon
25
Oct

A big "thank you" to our sponsor, Primelocation.com. Remember, Primelocation.com isn't just about searching properties listed by 4,000 leading estate agents, the website's a mine of useful advice, information and links. An example? Go here to search up-to-date real life completion prices for UK property. Snoop on your neighbours. Do the maths before making an offer. It's useful, it's free... you need to register, but it's quick and easy. If you've feedback, let us know and we'll pass it on with pleasure.

And don't forget Primelocation's very popular iPad app, which offers just about the most fun it's possible to have searching for a property with your clothes on.

If you want to know more about advertising opportunities on the Rat and Mouse, drop me a line. Or if you just want to chat with the Rat, we're on Twitter here, or email us tips here.

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... the one in which the landlord takes your deposit then takes off on his Nikes before you realise he's just some bloke with a winning smile. If so, you could help out the BBC, via this.

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More in this Category - Letting

Chinese ready to pounce on UK property fire sale [Property Wire]
Landlord wins payout from surveyor who over-estimated rental income [MoneyMarketing]
First six months sees big rise in expensive house sales [housefund.co.uk]
Having a second home can be expensive [Property Wire]
Man shocked when surveyor values house at £1 [Daily Mail]
John Lennon's house gets blue plaque [BBC]
Welfare cuts will lead to London exodus [Daily Mail]
Katherine Jenkins' house to be new Apprentice pad [Wales Online]
What's happening to Brixton? [Observer}

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog, since 2005

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Fri
22
Oct

Congratulations to our sponsors, Primelocation, who come out rather well.

The Rolls-Royce of property websites, primelocation.com was set up with the high-end market in mind. Like the glossy magazines that support the luxury sector, the emphasis on this site is on big seductive photos that are easy to scroll through.

Is that true, though? Is Primelocation still luxury-heavy?

The guys at innovative property search engine, Nestoria, must feel a little sore:

You can't register with Nestoria so if you want to find out whether new properties have been added, you'll have to keep revisiting the site and running your search again.

That's simply not true. There are buttons on the top right of the screen, giving a host of options, from emails to rss.

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More in this Category - Property online

The talk, this morning, is of a possible merger between Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster Councils - all Tory run - into a £100m-a-year-saving super-council. Each council would retain its political integrity - it's own leaders and councillors - but services would be merged. Eric Pickles is said to be enthusiastic. More here.

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More in this Category - _Other
Thu
21
Oct

Camberwell squatters take advantage of holiday [NDTV]
The cuts and house prices [This is Money]
First time buyers and house prices [Evening Standard]
The Single Man house... for sale [Apartment Therapy]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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Council of Mortgage Lenders figures show lending hitting its lowest level in a decade in September. Gross lending was 7% down on the year at £12bn. You'd have go back to September 2000 to find a less impressive month for lending. A leading broker described the figures as "a shocker", and joined a growing chorus bears predicting significant house price falls in 2011.

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More in this Category - _Other
Wed
20
Oct

Don't expect pressure groups or charities to take kindly to proposals to cut the social housing budget by 60%, and to take up the shortfall by making new social housing tenants pay up to 80% of market rates. According to the National Housing Federation, this could mean a tripling of rent on some properties, and a giant disincentive for social tenants to find jobs (and give up housing benefit). According to the Government, the money raid by higher rents could build £150,000 new affordable homes in the next four years. (Not, of course, if their ludicrous proposed changes to planning regulations take effect.)

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From Ernst & Young's Item Club: a fall of 5% for house prices through this year and 2011, followed by a slow recovery from 2012 . And - since it's Spending Review day - why not throw in a bit more gloom?

Peter Spencer, chief economic adviser to the Club, said that regardless of spending cuts being announced later today, " the health of the financial system and its ability to support the recovery still remains in doubt".

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More in this Category - House prices
Tue
19
Oct

Foilowing recent reports of a fractious relationship with the upstairs neighbours, who are mid-way through a noisy and disruptive renovation project, Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson have reportedly put their Belgravia home on the market. Saatchi bought the place in 2001 for £3.8m, and it's said to be carrying a £36m price tag now. Astonishing... especially given the high-profile problems with noise and surrounding development.

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More in this Category - Celebrity homes

Including student debts and mortgages. A mortgage broker - quoted here - makes the point that growing student debts will become another barrier to first-time buyers trying to get onto the housing ladder. It's likely, he argues, that an outstanding student loan will be taken into account when a prospective mortgage lender calculates affordability. However, there appears to be little evidence of consistency...

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Good gazundering [Money Week]
Buckingham Palace... busy [Google News]
Three peers suspended after dodgy expenses claims [Guardian]
Boris squares up to Shapps on house prices [Evening Standard]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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More in this Category - Linkage
Mon
18
Oct

News here that Boris Johnson - Mayor of London - is another to take up the "live-apartner" lifestyle, although possibly reluctantly. He's apparently living out of a rented Islington flat, just yards from the marital home. The talk is of an affair. Let's hope the flat is neither paid for by the taxpayer, nor claimed against tax.

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More in this Category - Celebrity homes

A big "thank you" to our sponsor, Primelocation.com. Remember, Primelocation.com isn't just about searching properties listed by 4,000 leading estate agents, the website's a mine of useful advice, information and links. An example? Go here to search up-to-date real life completion prices for UK property. Snoop on your neighbours. Do the maths before making an offer. It's useful, it's free... you need to register, but it's quick and easy. If you've feedback, let us know and we'll pass it on with pleasure.

And don't forget Primelocation's very popular iPad app, which offers just about the most fun it's possible to have searching for a property with your clothes on.

If you want to know more about advertising opportunities on the Rat and Mouse, drop me a line. Or if you just want to chat with the Rat, we're on Twitter here, or email us tips here.

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More in this Category - Property online

On the brink of a historically vicious spending review almost certain to hit employment, with talks - again - of recession, with the major indices agreeing we've seen the best of house prices for a while, and credit restrictions likely to worsen as banks are spooked by economic uncertainty and new rules redefine "sensible" lending... vendors have pushed up their asking prices by 3.1% in a single month, according to the latest Rightmove figures. Looking at London alone, the figure's more extraordinary, at 5%. Whatever the vendors are on... I want some.

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More in this Category - House prices
Fri
15
Oct

Chewing the cud with a Chelsea lettings agent this week about the dire lack of rental stock. "I guess the buy-to-let landlords have dried up through lack of finance and the future looks grim?" "Actually," he says, "it's looking up. Our sales department have got quite a few cash ones recently. Mind you, they're keeping a low profile by using people like you. One buying agent has six on his books with a million a piece. All looking for good rental flats in prime London." "Overseas investors, I assume?" "Well they'd certainly like us to think that but no. We twigged who they were when the 911s turned up at the viewings." "So who are they?" I ask. He looks at me with a sheepish expression. "Bankers, Darling, bankers."

Tracy Kellett runs leading buying agents BDI Homefinders. Follow her on Twitter, here.

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According to this, NIgella Lawson and Charles Saatchi's neighbours shouldn't expect an invitation to one of her lovely but just-elegantly-informal-enough dinners any time soon. An Egyptian couple, occupying the floor above their £10m Belgravia home, have offended the pair by erecting some unsightly scaffolding and spoiling their view. When their neighbours refused to remove it, Saatchi apparently took the matter into his own hands, or rather into the more calloused hands of some hired labourers - and oversaw the scaffolding's removal himself, apparently damaging some tiles in the process. Police were called, no less.

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DogVagina lead singer Loretta picks Stockwell as her London base, as she attempts to break into the UK music industry. Why? The fried chicken.

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More in this Category - SW9

I've checked and checked... but no, this isn't an old April Fools story accidentally re-published six months later. It's genuine and heartfelt in its profound, astonishing, copper-bottomed stupidity. The idea's published in Introducer Today, and it's courtesy of RICS  member and experienced estate agent Peter Hendry, who appears to have first gone public with his brain-wave a few days ago, on his blog:

The government should now amend the Estate Agent Acts to give agents a responsibility to sell a house at, or near, the price they suggest it is worth. If they fail, within a previously agreed timescale (say 3 months), the seller should have the option of requiring that agent to buy the property.

WTF doesn't come close to doing this justice. His argument is that the system would be a test of the agent's confidence in his pricing. If he's got it right, he's nothing to worry about, because he should be able to sell the property on shortly, anyway. Commission from previous transactions (traditionally used to, er, pay for offices, expenses, wages etc) would cover the cost of temporarily forking out for properties that aren't shifting. He doesn't seem unduly concerned by the idea of property prices or transaction levels drifting downwards for economic reasons (unemployment, credit availability, interest rates) other than valuation game-play. Nor that this might mean an orgy of under-valuation. Or that it turns the business of estate agency into arguably the most risky and unattractive profession ever. Ah... maybe he has thought of that. Following the links from his blog, I notice that his current business is in agent-free house sales.

My favourite part of the blog post:


I’m doing a Tim Berners-Lee by putting these ideas into the public domain without wanting to gain from them financially, even if they are taken up Universally.

With so much in common, you and Tim ought to get together... shoot the breeze.

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More in this Category - Estate agents
Thu
14
Oct

Controversial Kew Bridge development launched [Hounslow Chronicle]
Killer Derrick Bird's home for sale [MSN News]
Third of parents give £10,000 help onto property ladder [Telegraph]
Counter-terrorism policeman denies Met property scam [Google News]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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Are there any proper Tories in this Government? Stephen Glover's anger? Over this speech by the Housing Minister, which appears to turn its back on the ideal of the property-owning democracy, or, at the very least, made it seem slightly shameful. Shapps rebukes people for relying on bricks and mortar to fund retirement, and claims to be able to make house prices rise slower than incomes (which the Government can only achieve, I'd imagine, by further choking mortgage availability). Don't pick on current homeowners, encouraged by previous governments to save for their own homes and put off more conventional private pension plans by financial scandals and poor performance, he argues.

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Wed
13
Oct

And extraordinary claim from Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse, that the Met hate the streets they police so much they don't want to live in them. Instead, they apparently prefer to live together, in "police ghettos" in Surrey and Hertfordshire.

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The latest on the giant Crown Estate sell-off - affecting thousands of residents in Tower Hamlets, Westminster, Lewisham and Camden - is that the buyer looks like being housing association and registered charity Peabody, which has agreed to terms laying out affordable standards for the properties. Interestingly, while the Crown had estimated the portfolio at £250m, they actually achieved £150m.

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“We need a housing market that is best described as boring. We can’t go on thinking that your home is your investment, your retirement plan, and your roof over your head. We have to live in a country where housing becomes over a long period of time more affordable, and that means steadier house prices without boom or bust.”

Grant Shapps was speaking at the Housing Market Intelligence Conference, where he also called for more house building.

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More in this Category - House prices
Tue
12
Oct

Figures published by the Department for Communities and Local Government show house prices up 0.7% in August, leaving them 8.3% higher than a year ago. (The data's relatively old because it's based on completions.) The three-month change - a better indicator - shows house price inflation slowing, to 0.8% in the three months to the end of August, from 1.7% in the three months to May.

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It's the RICS "report"... 44% of those (265) surveyed believed house prices were falling in their areas... which is what's grabbing this morning's newsprint. However, 50% reported stable prices. I've included this for the sake of being complete. Really, you might as well stick your own fingers in the air. Or somewhere.

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Figures by insurers Genworth Financial get the Daily Mail a bit bothered on behalf of a generation of first-time buyers barred from the property market by a lack of finance options.

The number of mortgages taken out by people with only a 10 per cent deposit - loans which are typically associated with first-time buyers - dived from 245,000 in 2006 to just 28,000 in 2009; an 89 per cent fall.

The university professor putting the figures together points to implications to the economy and the savings gap, highlighting property's value as a way of insuring against inflation. That's one way of putting it. The other way - which is also mentioned - is property ownership as "wealth creation"... the thing that has priced first-time buyers out of the market. Hmm. There's no way around this... property prices that rise faster than inflation are good for the last generation to leap onto the ladder while the bottom rung's still affordable, bad for everyone they leave behind. That's not an argument against property ownership, it's just a plea for logic.

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More in this Category - House prices
Mon
11
Oct

Florin Vlasceanu, 46, surprised one victim when he shoved her foot into his mouth during a conversation.

Must have been a pretty one-sided conversation after that.

Florin was her landlord - he rented a room out of his Tooting Bec flat. His downfall was his out-of-control foot fetish, which leaves him facing jail, after being found guilty of three counts of sexual assault and two of exposure.

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More in this Category - Letting

Sellers are taking everything... including the kitchen sink (and the lawn) [Daily Mail]
Gazudering's back [This is Money]
Madonna wants to be a (legal) Londoner [Mail on Sunday]
Kirstie: "Without wishing to sound smug, I have the most lovely life..." [Mail on Sunday]
Return of the reluctant landlords [Sky News]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog, since 2005

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There's a little ten minute film, here. But the gist... 11% of the mortgage market is buy-to-let, fewer than 1% of the 1.3m buy-to-let properties out there during the slump were repossessed, and - with first-time buyers suffering and older savers losing money in savings accounts - the popularity of buying properties to let is likely to continue.

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More in this Category - Letting
Fri
08
Oct

A big "thank you" to our sponsor, Primelocation.com. Remember, Primelocation.com isn't just about searching properties listed by 4,000 leading estate agents, the website's a mine of useful advice, information and links. An example? Go here to search up-to-date real life completion prices for UK property. Snoop on your neighbours. Do the maths before making an offer. It's useful, it's free... you need to register, but it's quick and easy. If you've feedback, let us know and we'll pass it on with pleasure.

And don't forget Primelocation's very popular iPad app, which offers just about the most fun it's possible to have searching for a property with your clothes on.

If you want to know more about advertising opportunities on the Rat and Mouse, drop me a line. Or if you just want to chat with the Rat, we're on Twitter here, or email us tips here.

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It's a 0.2% fall in September, the third consecutive fall, leaving prices 0.7% down since June. However the London Prime market - boosted by the one-off nature of many of the properties and their exposure to foreign money - obeys different rules. Prices are still just a shade off 15% up on where they were 12 months ago, and 23% above their March 2009 low.

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Despite economic indicators, estate agents are replicating. Somebody told me, yesterday, that Spicerhaart is expanding (although I find no corroboration in the press), Foxtons is spreading like a cold, and now Carter Jonas is hiring.

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More in this Category - Estate agents
Thu
07
Oct

A 19th consecutive month at a record low of 0.5%. That, despite an inflation rate of 3.1% and a Government target of 2%. Either the MPC sees inflation dropping hard as we enter tough times this autumn, or fears the effects of higher mortgage interest rates. More here.

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Halifax has just posted a 3.6% house price fall in September, almost halving the annual rate of inflation to just 2.6%. The 3.6% figure represents the biggest month-on-month drop since the Halifax began compiling the data in 1983. However, the margin of a month is economically fairly random and susceptible to volatile fluctuations, particularly during periods of low transaction levels. The three-month average has only dropped 0.9%. That won't stop us all wondering, however... is this the shape of things to come?

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More in this Category - House prices
Wed
06
Oct

Cluttons calls London house price wobble [Cluttons]
Prince Charles calls Chelsea Barracks designs insane [Telegraph] 
Quirky brochures [The Modern Estate Agent]
Essex Man is 20 [Independent]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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More in this Category - Linkage

Anyone intrigued by the new look Douglas & Gordon space on Harrington Road? It's been given over to contemporary art for some time... the new installation is a series of metallic discs spelling out a forthright, if slightly sinister message...

20101006DandG.jpg

In case you can't quite make that out, it's "Kill All Negative People". Apparently, it's not a direct reference to the property press tracking the approaching Credit Crunch 2.0:

Ivor Dickinson, Douglas & Gordon’s Managing Director, states: “At this year’s D&G Spring Conference, our guest speaker was Tim Smit OBE who masterminded the Eden Project. Tim’s talk was incredibly inspiring but there were four words which all of us at D&G really took to our hearts and that is when Tim said that his mantra at the Eden Project was “Kill All Negative People”. I so empathised with this statement because let’s face it, there is no room for negativity in this world that we live in, that I decided to adopt it at D&G."

Enjoy it while you can. The office will return to normal business - lettings, actually - in the New Year.

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More in this Category - Estate agents
Tue
05
Oct

Interest repayments of almost £40m have helped add up to a net loss of £19m, while turnover fell 13%. Staff is own a quarter on 2009 levels. More here.

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From October 1, if a buy-to-let landlord faces repossession for failure to keep up with mortgage repayments:

Tenants will for the first time be able to attend the court hearing, and judges will be able to take their situation into account and delay repossession by up to two months to give them more time to find a new home.

It's part of the Mortgage Repossessions Act 2010, and it should calm a few nerves. (Not the landlords' nerves... the ones who haven't been able to make their mortgage payments because of rent arrears, obviously.)

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More in this Category - Letting
Mon
04
Oct

Ken pledges rent caps for London [Evening Standard]
Squatters' paradise? [Daily Express]
Residents win battle of Primrose Hill [Evening Standard]
One of them is Ed Miliband... [Daily Telegraph]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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More in this Category - Linkage

Another month, another bunch of mortgage brokers detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, and – according to Council of Mortgage Lenders figures – more first-time buyers and hard-pressed homeowners refused a mortgage or re-mortgage. If the trend continues, the only place left to learn how to secure a home loan will be the same place you go to learn how to by-pass a window lock and smuggle Class As past sniffer dogs.

Our publisher ponders a future without mortgage brokers, in his guest column for Citywire.

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He's Jamie Lester, an overseas property developer and former London estate agent, and he's into "dogs, cars and water sports". I don't want to cast aspersions, but it's probably safe to say he's no Alain de Botton. Nor is he the only representative from the property industry competing on this year's The Apprentice. Meet Christopher Farrell, ex-Marine, mortgage broker... except (and the BBC aren't promoting this on his biography page) he's apparently on bail for mortgage fraud, and has previous for possession of an offensive weapon. Already fired... from Mortgages4Plymouth... classy. The Apprentice starts Wednesday.

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More in this Category - Estate agents
Fri
01
Oct

A big "thank you" to our sponsor, Primelocation.com. Remember, Primelocation.com isn't just about searching properties listed by 4,000 leading estate agents, the website's a mine of useful advice, information and links. An example? Go here to search up-to-date real life completion prices for UK property. Snoop on your neighbours. Do the maths before making an offer. It's useful, it's free... you need to register, but it's quick and easy. If you've feedback, let us know and we'll pass it on with pleasure.

And don't forget Primelocation's very popular iPad app, which offers just about the most fun it's possible to have searching for a property with your clothes on.

If you want to know more about advertising opportunities on the Rat and Mouse, drop me a line. Or if you just want to chat with the Rat, we're on Twitter here, or email us tips here.

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"We do not want to see measures that would effectively regulate them out of the market and we believe it is possible to address the FSA's concerns."

Interest-only mortgages are widely considered under threat from new rules being considered by the Financial Services Authority. More here.

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It's a snapshot taken by Zoopla, and it shows, most interestingly, what the downturn has meant to different parts of the country. Overall, the market's 8.7% off its 2007 peak. But London's just 3.5% off; Bath and NE Somerset just 1.5% off. Lincolnshire, on the other hand, is 11.2% of 2007 prices, and Nottinghamshire's 11% down. Go here to gather more numbers. With the market arguably on the turn, once more, it's tempting to wonder how long those 2007 records will last.

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More in this Category - House prices

Willesden Green will be the latest target in the Foxtons expansion programme. Previously, the area was serviced by the Notting Hill branch. As per usual, first branch customers will be able to sign a 0% commission contract, and then - once they've helped encourage other vendors fill the Foxtons shop window - continually wonder whether the agents are working as hard to sell their home.

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More in this Category - Estate agents

 


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