Rat and Mouse
Entries in April 2011
Thu
28
Apr

The police have been squat raiding like it's about to go out of fashion. Squats in Camberwell, Heathrow and Hackney were hit, and squatters arrested for a variety of offences relating to stolen goods and "electricity abstraction". The police have apparently denied that the raids were linked to tomorrow's Royal Wedding, but last week...

... senior officers made clear they would be taking pre-emptive action, including raiding squats and making arrests, in advance of the wedding to ensure that no criminal activity took place on the day.

Presumably there's some logic in that statement somewhere. The hint - I suppose - is that they're targeting squats inhabited by radicals who were planning some kind of protest/disruption. But one MP - John McDonnell, Hayes and Harlington - has already raised the question of disproportionate force and harassment.

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After a fall in 2010 (from 47,700 to 36,300), the Council For Mortgage Lenders, in its latest annual report, expects numbers to rise again in 2011, to somewhere near 40,000, due to a Government cuts, a worsening economic outlook, possible interest rate rises, and the end - earlier this month - of the Government's Homeowner Mortgage Support Scheme. If you're interested in reading the report in full, click this to have it downloaded in PDF format to your machine.

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Wed
27
Apr

 

20110427ideas factory

We love the design, but disagree strongly with the assertion that there's no such thing as a bad idea. Oh yes there is.

Anyway, this is how it works. You submit ideas to improve Rightmove. They publish them. You vote on them. Five people win iPads. Rightmove gets tons of publicity and some free focus group feedback. Go here for the details.

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More in this Category - Property online

Suzie Miller's play about a firm of estate agents battling for a sale against a backdrop of personal drama continues at Battersea's intimate Theatre 503 until May 14. It's had good reviews from the critics, and now this, from an agent:

SOLD is beautifully written by Suzie Miller, who must have been an agent at some stage in her history, so true to life are the characters and storylines...

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More in this Category - Estate agents

Almost 40% of house buyers in January 2011 did so without the need for a mortgage, that's double the proportion when the Council of Mortgage Lenders began keeping records in 2005. Although the scale of the change is shocking, the trend itself isn't so surprising, with credit difficult to find and the market being driven by the, mainly older, equity-rich. More here.

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Tue
26
Apr

House building down [Independent]
Confidence down, too [This Is Money]
The valuation game [Citywire]
Time's 100 Most Influential... and their property [Curbed]
Ronnie Wood's £2m kicking in Chelsea [Sun]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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The average UK property costs £608 a month in mortgage payments compared to £709 a month in rent (Halifax figures) Hurrah for buying? A few of the weekend papers thought there was a message here, but if it takes 0.5% interest rates to achieve a discount on renting it certainly doesn't suggest lower monthly accommodation costs are a good reason to choose buying over renting over the life of a loan. It's all about lifestyle and expectations. For what it's worth, three years ago those figures were £1,060 (buy) and £761 (rent).

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Thu
21
Apr

One in seven couples in their fifties and early sixties owns a second home, official figures revealed yesterday.

It's apparently the first time such data's been collected, and it comes courtesy of the Office for National Statistics. So if you're over fifty and your frustrated ftb children/grandchildren were a bit snippy with you today... now you know why.

20110421old 1

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[via Curbed]

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The Campaign For Real Ale is fighting plans by the owners of Wimbledon's popular Brewery Tap pub to build flats on its first and second floors. The concerns are that - with the removal of the landlord's living accommodation -  the pub will turn into a poorly managed wine bar. More here.

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More in this Category - SW19
Wed
20
Apr

Dermot O'Leary buys big Primrose Hill mansion [Daily Mail]
And end to London's skyscraper madness [Bloomberg]
Interest rate rise unlikely before August [Citywire]
Nick Clegg returns house sale profits to the taxpayer [BBC]
Is it all over for the Portland Place sex parties [BBC]

The Rat and Mouse - London's property blog

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Lending for homes rose 21% in March, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, but - before we all get too excited - it came off the back of a lacklustre start to the year, and was still down 2% on March 2010. More here.

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Tue
19
Apr

Ansmana Kamara's been jailed for three and  a half years for conning £2.3m out of the Olympic Delivery Authority. But what's really astonishing is just how easy it was:

They claimed to work for a company called Skanska, one of the contractors on Olympic Park. They told the ODA the company had a new bank account and wanted future banking payments changed. The ODA obliged, transferring £2.3 million into a bogus law firm account controlled by Kamara.

In the end, it was entirely independent money laundering spotters who realised something was wrong when the cash began to vanish to Nigeria.

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The big London property story this morning is the sale of (apparently) the world's most expensive apartment, for (apparently) £136m and to (apparently) a Ukrainian oligarch. It's a triplex penthouse in - inevitably - One Hyde Park. Part of the deal involves the protection of the buyer's anonymity (they apparently used an offshore company to buy the property)... although this kind of thing has a habit of eventually leaking out. The £136m price tag stands for now, but - again - these figures have a habit of jumping around after a big sale. More here.

STOP PRESS: the buyer's identity appears to have leaked out already. That didn't take long. It was Ukraine's riches man - Rinat Akhmetov - and he's unlikely to move in any time soon since the purchase has been described as an investment for his giant SCM company.

Kylie buys One Hyde Park [April 6, 2011]

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More in this Category - SW1
Mon
18
Apr

In NY: Sad images of Gatsby mansion demolition [Curbed]
Mosaic inventor selling Highgate home [Daily Mail]
One Hyde Park: almost £1bn so far [Evening Standard]
House prices to plummet by 25%, as Brits run out of money [This Is Money]
Medieval Italian village for sale: £485,000 [Telegraph]

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

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Speculation is mounting in Westminster that Grant Shapps is to be moved from housing in a reshuffle that could see him promoted to a plum new role in the cabinet.

Apparently, he's been tipped for either Health or Chairman of the Tory party. (God, let it be the latter.)

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According to Rightmove, sellers have been jacking asking prices for four straight months, leaving the average England/Wales asking prices 6% higher than at the start of the year. Mad? Even Rightmove think so, describing optimism as "misplaced". Unsold property is also on the rise, reaching the highest number of properties per estate agent branch (74) since May 2007. Rightmove's advice: price more keenly to pick up on the spring season, and don't get stuck before winter/autumn, when interest rates/cuts are likely to kick into the market.

Connells claims "sustained recovery" in residential property market [14 April, 2011]

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More in this Category - House prices
Fri
15
Apr

According to this, demolition started today on the Elephant & Castle council estate that formed a backdrop to Harry Brown. The Rat and Mouse hasn't - of course - been forced to live in the rapidly decaying building but we're still sad to see another icon of 60s design go.

Amputee trapped in condemned estate [July 23, 2010]
The Heygate refusnik [June 13, 2007]

More in this Category - SE17

It's Theydon Mount (where? here), and the story of a farmer who got planning permission for a dairy barn from Epping Forest District Council, and then sneakily built a £1m mansion right on the top and moved in. Now, he's taken advantage of a law that automatically grants planning permission if the person's been living in the property four years to have the place officially recognised as a residential property. The neighbours are, apparently, narked.

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The big Irish property fire sale [Sky News]
Video of man sitting on world's most expensive toilet [Gizmodo]
Increase in family home purchases in West End [Property Mentor]
Singaporeans count of 1 in 10 purchases at top end of London property [Singapore Today]
Chris Moyles foils garden-grabbers [Evening Standard]

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

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According to LSL Property Services, average rents are up 4.2% on the year, and 0.4% on the month, driven by priced-out first-time buyers. In London, the figure's up 7.3% on the year (balancing falls in the south west and Wales. More here. And contrast with this.

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More in this Category - Letting
Thu
14
Apr

Spain’s Minister for Public Works, José Blanco, will – according to Spanish newspapers – make London the first stop in an international 'property roadshow' to promote Spanish coastal property to overseas investors and attempt to spread the message: it’s safe, possibly even sensible, to invest in Spanish property.

Our publisher looks at the prospects for Spanish property in the light of some good recent press in his guest column for Citywire.

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What's going on? A lot of action in the London area might have done its bit to mask falling prices in the regions, but isn't the consensus that recent improvements in the unemployment figures are just trailing indicators of the period before the Government cuts, and that autumn/winter unemployment plus possibly rising interest rates are likely to take their toll on house prices into 2012? So can activity really be picking up now? Yes - according to Connells Survey and Valuation. They're claiming a big March, the fourth month of increased valuation activity and more first-time buyers entering the market and more buy-to-let landlords looking to increase their portfolios. Hard to fathom.

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Wed
13
Apr

A sorry tale of alcohol, buy-to-let flats and rising interest rates, resulting in a husband dying of stab wounds in a flat in Gosport. They'd been reduced to living in a mobile home, driving it from flat to flat to collect their rent. Mrs Parkinson denies murdering her husband, but admits "hitting out, but with a knife in my hand".

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More in this Category - Letting

20110413olympics

The Olympic Park Legacy Company are reminding Londoners that there's still a month left to get involved in the Your Park, Your Place competition to name some of the new neighbourhoods created in the Olympic regeneration programme. Apparently, suggestions so far include Plastic Fantastic and Dog & Bike. You can enter here.

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Not just London... prime country market doing well, too [Independent]
Ozzy Osbourne might lose US home [MSN News]
Watch out - StreetSide's coming [BBC]
Mayor's new homes targets controversy [Evening Standard]

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

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More in this Category - Linkage
Tue
12
Apr

Government figures show house prices rising 0.3% in February, leaving them 0.7% up on the year. Quarterly, prices were falling (-0.3%), but not as quickly as in the quarter to January (-0.7%). Interestingly, main gains were made on new houses (up 12.5% on the year) compared to "pre-owned" (up 0.1%). You can download the actual report by clicking here.

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We all know there's not much science to the RICS survey, but it does confirm the consensus that prices are falling (although fewer agents reported a fall in March than in February). In accompanying literature, their spokesman remarks that recovery is probably "still some way off".

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It's a temporary move, apparently, for a summer shoot, but it's a state-of-the-art bachelor pad he's looking for close to Guy Ritchie's Punchbowl pub in Mayfair.

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More in this Category - W1

20110412Robbie

It's a three-bedroom flat on Kensington Park Road, and it was home to Robbie Williams when he left Take That and moved to London. Williams shared the apartment with Nicole Appleton and later Geri Halliwell. It's a four-floor affair, with a roof terrace, right in the heart of Notting Hill. It's with Domus Nova, guide price £3.45m, particulars here.

20110411Robbie2

[via Prime blog]

If these walls could talk... James Hunt edition [April 5, 2011]

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More in this Category - Celebrity homes
Mon
11
Apr

It's Andrew Sentance, well-known MPC hawk who's due to step down from the rate-setting committee and be replaced by Goldman Sachs's apparently less hawkish Ben Broadbent in June, and he's claiming that the general consensus is moving in his own direction. He points to City forecasts, which are apparently factoring in a rise to 2% by next year. More here.

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20110411faces

How homeowners are paying to protect banks [Evening Standard]
Mansion tax? Forget it [Mortgage Strategy]
Houses with names sell quicker [Telegraph]
After the Hitler house... ten houses that look like faces [Curbed] 
Battle for Hanover Square listed building [BBC]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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Tonight, BBC 4, 9pm: The Great Estate: The Rise & Fall of the Council House... a "grand tour" of the British council estate, by writer Michael Collins. Apparently, more than a third of the UK population lived in council houses in the 1970s, before Margaret Thatcher's great sell-off. More here.

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More in this Category - Property TV
Fri
08
Apr

Interview with Digital Property Group's head of content Nigel Lewis [Property Portal Watch]
Shelter "takes stock" of second homes [Shelter]
Take part in the fun RICS online survey and shape their digital future [RICS]
Lending up 8% in February [Mortgage Strategy]

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

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The latest Academetrics/LSL Property Services survey - an estimate drawn from the most recent Land Registry data available and combined with other sources  - shows house prices falling 0.1% in March, leaving values unchanged on the year. The national data, however, conceals significant falls in the regions, and a market that's still growing in London, where prices rose 3.7% in the last three months compared to the same period in 2010. Accompanying literature points to weakening demand outside the capital.

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More in this Category - House prices
Thu
07
Apr

According to the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, it's not primarily the mortgage debt that's creating panic among British homeowners but other loans, largely credit cards. Ninety thousand homeowners called on its services last year, with an average debt of £30,160 each... built on credit cards and personal loans. Only a slight increase in interest rates, the charity warned, would be enough to push these families over the edge. More here.

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HSBC’s suggestion to make vendors pay the tax would remove the duty from first-time buyers completely and reduce the burden for anybody moving up the property ladder. Unlike the introduction of a Capital Gains Tax, it wouldn’t further blur the boundary between property as 'home' and property as 'investment' (or throw up questions about whether the cost upkeep/improvement should be treated as expenses). The only people to suffer, financially, would be downsizers and 'last-time buyers'. But it could be argued that they’d be best placed to make the greater contribution… they’d either be paying out of increased equity or, if they’d managed to make a loss, they’d be paying less than they’d have paid if the duty had been charged on the purchase (particularly after factoring in inflation).

Our publisher looks at the need to reform Stamp Duty, and an interesting suggestion by the HSBC bank, in his guest column for Citywire.

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Wed
06
Apr

This time it's the Halifax index, up 0.1% in March, a marginal rise but not the fall most of us were expecting. It leaves the annual rate of change at -2.9%. Over the first three months prices fell 0.6% compared to the previous quarter. If that 0.6% figure looks familiar, it's the negative version of rival index Nationwide's own +0.6% quarterly figures. Hmm.

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Despite denials from her "people", the Australian papers are reporting that Kylie Minogue has spent £16m on a three-bedroom apartment in One Hyde Park. More here.

If these walls could talk... Kylie edition [September 3, 2010]

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More in this Category - Celebrity homes
Tue
05
Apr

In case you missed it... a very interesting piece in yesterday's Telegraph about some slightly depressing opportunities to bag historical and architectural treasures the councils can't afford to keep at bargain basement prices. Examples? The Old St Giles Hospital in Camberwell, about to go under the hammer. Another former hospital - admittedly in North Wales - recently sold for £275,000. It came with seven and a half acres of grounds. Back in south London, Southwark Council sold a split-level three-bedroom flat in east Dulwich for £240,000. Read the original piece here.

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More in this Category - SE22

20110405hunt

It's a four-bedroom West Kensington mews house, originally two properties converted into one, and it was home to F1 motor racing hero James Hunt during the early 1980s... a tempestuous period that saw him lose his first wife to Richard Burton (who one would have thought didn't need any more). But don't be fooled by the blue plaque... it was commissioned by the current owners (Hunt's death, in 1993, wasn't long enough ago to warrant an official one from English Heritage). The properties on the market with Marsh & Parsons, guide price £2.75m. Particulars here.

[via Prime]

If these walls could talk... Forbes Battersea mansion edition [March 11, 2011]

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More in this Category - Celebrity homes
Mon
04
Apr

According to the Sunday Telegraph, thespian couple John Alderton and Pauline Collins (who starred together in Upstairs, Downstairs) have been waging a war against the creeping scourge of the underground swimming pool. They've just successfully put the kibosh on a neighbouring banker's plans to knock down and rebuild, but only after putting up with similar redevelopments on the other side. It sounds as if they're in the difficult position of owning a listed Arts & Crafts property surrounded by expendable 50s blocks liable for gutting and rebuilding. More here.

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Property market's north-south divide worsens [Guardian]
Candy losses mount [Sunday Telegraph]
Landlords wary in post-benefits cut climate [BBC]
Spanish property crash, worse than you think [Guardian]
Shift Stamp Duty onus to vendors, says HSBC [Estate Agent Today]
America's smallest apartment [Mail on Sunday]

The Rat and Mouse - it's about your house

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More in this Category - Linkage
Fri
01
Apr

Investors avoided having to pay deposits by arranging a temporary bridging loan, and then quickly re-mortgaged at the full valuation price… paying off the bridging loan and the clubs’ hefty fixers’ fee with the excess. The result was a spiv land-grab that sullied the reputation of small-scale property investment.

Our publisher looks at the history of the No Money Down deal and wonders whether current "Less Money Down" incentives are almost as dangerous, in his guest column for Citywire.

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We'd like to take this opportunity to thank House Hop for their support. House Hop is an online private sales website that reaches more than three million house hunters a month... wait for this... for free. It funds itself through the sale of third-party services, and delivers a proportion of profits to charity. What's more, it's a listing service, not an estate agency, so in theory it should be possible to use House Hop and your high street agent, without risking paying fees to your agent after achieving a private sale. So what have you got to lose?

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"I understand that the Coventry, which is in robust financial health, has notified the Financial Services Authority and the Treasury of its intention to bid for Northern Rock when it is formally put up for sale, which will almost certainly be later this year. "UK Financial Investments (UKFI), which manages the Government's banking interests, is also likely to have been made aware of the Coventry's interest."

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