Disused office space to be turned into residential use

New rules have been created, to make it possible to convert disused offices into homes without having to obtain planning permission.

It is thought that a large number of former offices could now be turned into private rental blocks.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said: “New permitted development rights will enable offices to be converted to homes. This is an opportunity for office owners and developers to bring outdated and underused buildings back to life and create much-needed new housing.”

However, 17 local authorities have opted out of the three-year planning exemption.

London boroughs include: the City of London, Camden, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Westminster, Newham, and Kensington and Chelsea.

Outside London, they are: Vale of the White Horse, Stevenage, Ashford (Kent), the district councils of Sevenoaks, and East Hampshire, and Manchester City Council.

Later this year, the Government will consult on similar plans to turn redundant shops and farm buildings into homes.

RLA vs Shelter

The Residential Landlords Association has attacked Shelter today for what is regarded amongst Landlords as a scaremongering campaign. Shelter’s “Growing Up Renting” campaign argues that families with children are bearing the brunt of insecure tenancies, high rents, and constant moves that it asserts are standard in today’s market.

In dismissing this allegation, the RLA says that the reality is that nearly all tenancies are ended by tenants. Just 9% are ended by landlords, usually as a result of tenant rent arrears or anti-social behaviour. It demonstrates that contrary to popular myth, most landlords would prefer to keep tenants rather than being left with an empty property.

In our opinion the RLA is spot on. As a landlord, given the costs of voids and re-letting, you do what you can to keep any half decent tenant. Shelter’s campaign is utterly bewildering and were it to be successful completely self-defeating as it would reduce the number of landlords and rental properties in the market. Whilst (despite their anti- landlord stance) we support some of Shelter’s aims, one sometimes wonders if these people actually live on the same planet.

On rent levels, figures in the English Housing Survey for 2011-12 show that over the 3 years between 2008/2009 and 2011/12, average rents in the private rental sector increased by an average of just 2.4% per year, less than half the rate of 5.6% in the social sector over the same period. The charity’s “Growing Up Renting” campaign argues that families with children are bearing the brunt of insecure tenancies, high rents, and constant moves that it asserts are standard in today’s market.

The Housing Survey also notes that tenants who have remained in their property for ten years or more face much lower rents, on average £123 a week compared with the average £173 paid by those resident for less than three years. This amounts to an average 28% discount in rents. Private tenancies have also reached a record average length of 20 months, showing that landlords are responsive to tenants needs.

RLA Policy Director, Richard Jones commented: “The RLA condemns the scaremongering that Shelter is engaged in. Whilst we agree that a small minority of landlords ruin the lives of tenants and should be banned from renting property, the reality is that the majority of landlords in the country provide a good service.

“At a time when increasing numbers of people are depending on the private rented sector for their housing, Shelter should act more responsibly and not promote inaccurate generalisations which only serve to frighten families into thinking that a majority of landlords can’t wait to throw them out which is nonsense.

“The reality is that landlords will do all they can to keep tenants in their properties rather than face an empty property.

Mr Jones continued: “Shelter are playing a dangerous game by frightening off investors from increasing the supply of much needed private rented housing. Whilst we agree with the need for longer tenancies where needed, Shelter’s calls for universal five year contracts with index linked rent rises would be bad news for families who are presently seeing average rents increase by less than inflation.”

Cash investors fuel property price boom

New records have been set in UK house prices, Rightmove reported today.

 The average asking price of a property new on the market has tipped £250,000 for the first time.

According to Rightmove, new sellers have bumped up their asking prices by 2.1% over the last month, The highest asking price previously was last June when it hit £246,235, and before that in May 2008 when it reached £242,500.

The fifth consecutive monthly rise means that overall, national average asking prices are now 5.1% higher than at the start of the year.

 Rightmove said this was the “strongest price start” to a year since 2004.

The site itself has also seen record traffic, with 1.25 billion pages viewed in April, a 20% rise on last year. However, buyers have less stock to look at, with new instructions this year down 3%.

The turn-around appears to be almost totally south-based and fuelled by cash property investors who are buying buy to let property. They have plenty of cash and little need of mortgages.

“Despite a new national record, it’s not ‘green shoots of recovery’ across the board, especially for the deposit-strapped mass-market. They must wait patiently until January when the Help to Buy scheme extends to the resale market.”

 According to Rightmove, only two regions have asking prices which have slipped back on last year – Yorkshire & Humberside, and the East Midlands, where they are down 1.1% and 0.6% respectively.

In some regions, the South-West and North-West, asking prices are more or less static, having gone up by 0.1% and 0.6% respectively.

The average asking price on Rightmove at £249,841 compares with the far lower ‘sold’ prices being quoted by Halifax and Nationwide, currently £166,094 and £165,586 respectively.

Universal Credit: I Hate To Say I Told You So…

Universal Credit: I Hate To Say I Told You So…

Ever since the Universal Credit concept was announced, abolishing direct payments to landlords, it was clear it was destined to be a disaster. It was an immensely ill-conceived plan created in some Westminster ivy tower.

I was always confident that sense would actually prevail in the long run: surely the government couldn’t be so blind as to continue with it once they appreciated the practical ramifications of trusting benefit recipients to pay their landlord directly. For months I have been saying that I thought they would backtrack and the signs are that they are (thanks largely to the sterling work of The Residential Landlords Association) in fact now heading for a complete u-turn.

Whilst to date, changes have been made only to the trial scheme, Richard Jones, policy director of the RLA, said the change was significant. He added: “Whilst Government promises of automatic direct payments do not yet extend to the national roll-out of Universal Credit later this year, we are eager to ensure that it will apply when this happens.

“Whilst Government promises of automatic direct payments do not yet extend to the national roll-out of Universal Credit later this year, we are eager to ensure that it will apply when this happens.

“At the same time, the RLA will continue lobbying for a shorter time period in which automatic payments can be triggered, and for more details about the direct payments process.

“It is important for landlords to know that if tenants fall into arrears an immediate stop will be placed on further payment of housing costs to the tenant until direct payments to the landlord have been established.”

Read the full article


Property crowdfunding is now taking the investment world by storm, following our brave debut onto the scene in 2012. We were the first (and continue to be the best) platform for property crowdfunding.

We are proud to offer better returns on investment than many other investment models, and allow people previously locked out of the property market to benefit from the lucrative world of property investment. What’s more, we’re helping bring much-needed new homes across the Greater Manchester area.

For more information on the process of getting involved with property crowdfunding, visit our Crowdfunding Process page.

We are committed to breathing life into empty, rundown properties whilst giving investors great returns on their investments.

To find out more about getting great returns on investment with The House Crowd, start by getting to know us here.

The Iron Lady – Patron Saint Of Landlords?

Margaret  Thatcher has always divided opinion. Even now, following her death, and 20 years after John Major succeeded her as Prime Minister, she still elicits strong emotions. Many consider she saved the nation from the misery and chaos of a union controlled Britain, whilst others believe she destroyed the soul of the country (or at least the working class communities where they lived).

When I was young, it was fashionable to be anti-Thatcher. Everyone tends to be more left wing in their youth, but I would have thought those who were misguided in the 1980s into thinking Arthur Scargill was some sort of hero, might by now have realized the error of their ways and acknowledged they should be grateful for her having the guts to stand up to the unions however callous she may have appeared to them at the time.

It is a fact that the vast majority of improvements in our national wealth and standard of living can be directly traced back to Mrs. Thatcher’s policies. But apparently many people remember the rubbish strewn streets and power shortages of the pre-Thatcher years with rose tinted spectacles, judging by the vitriolic comments I have heard in the press and on the internet.

From my point of view, Mrs. Thatcher’s policies were the closest embodiment we have ever seen of Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy which, though admittedly somewhat lacking in empathy for any sort of weakness, offers a complete and undeniable demolition of the socialist manifesto.  Mrs T set out to create an environment which encouraged and rewarded the producers in society giving them the freedom to create wealth not just for themselves but for society as a whole. It is, as Ayn Rand points out, the producers in society who take all the risks and create jobs for others. But not only are they rarely thanked for it, they are frequently criticized for being greedy exploiters – especially by the very people who most benefit from the fruits of their work; the ones who are given jobs and a paycheck and those whose rent is paid for by the state. These people seem to think they are entitled to a job and a roof over their heads, without ever stopping to think about what has to be done to create and pay for these things.  Apparently, it’s just the ‘government’s job’ to provide them.

And don’t look to the media for support. Most of the press treat landlords as though we are all versions of Peter Rachman without ever giving us credit for providing much needed housing. In fact a recent TV documentary seems to suggest that Rachman himself was unfairly vilified and turned into a Fagin like character by the press.

It is thanks to Mrs. Thatcher that you have had the opportunity to develop an income from property. It was her support for The Housing Act 1988 which transformed the property investment landscape. It encouraged the de-regulation of rents in the private rental sector and aimed to increase supply of private rented accommodation. It removed the right to an ‘independently assessed fair rent’, reduced protection for tenants and ended rent restrictions in the private sector.  She also helped lift the restrictions on mortgage lending. All these things were hugely influential in creating the buy to let property boom.

For many reasons, I think she was a great woman, though I can understand why she alienated so many who feel she had a negative impact on their lives – I feel the same about Gordon Brown (but don’t get me started on that!)  However as property owners or entrepreneurs we should all be extremely grateful for what she did.

I will leave you with an amusing and affectionate (I think) piece of graffiti I saw via a photo posted on a wesbite:

The Iron Lady – may she rust in peace.

Is It Spring Time For Property Investment?

It is worth bearing in mind that, despite the property market being in the doldrums for the last 5 years, property investment as with all other markets, goes in cycles.

If you think of the property investment cycle as seasons in the year, we have been in winter for the last few years.  But the daffodils are starting to bloom and it looks like we may now be in spring – at least in terms of property investment. It may still be chilly, but it’s definitely getting warmer.

Pent up demand from first time buyers, low interest rates on savings and the banking crisis in Cyprus mean more people are turning to property as a safe haven. And this is particularly true of the British property market.

Britain is one of the most established property markets in the world, especially in terms of property investment financing. It is very different in terms of property supply and demand from other countries such as USA, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Dubai where the property prices were inflated because of demand caused by the perceived profits to be made (greed) and the sudden availability of easier borrowing rather than actual demand for accommodation to live in.

The UK market is very different.  I do not think there is any doubt more housing is required for the UK population. Without boring you with stats, for well over a decade, every survey I’ve seen has reported there is a massive shortfall in the amount of housing required to keep up with demand.  Further, the rate at which new houses are being built falls far, far short of predicted requirements. So the gap is widening every year.

It is interesting to note that every time The House Crowd buys a property – typically for about £50,000 – the rebuild costs for insurance purposes are upwards of £80,000 and often closer to £120,000. What that tells me is that if the cost of building new property is considerably more than existing stock (land values aren’t even taken into account in the example above).  Common sense suggests that few people will buy a new build property, when they can get a similar sized property for half the amount.  It is equally clear that developers aren’t going to build property unless they believe people will buy what they have to sell. And just to reiterate it: there is a shortage of housing which increases demand for available property.

It’s a complex relationship and there are differing viewpoints on how it works, but I believe that fairly soon builders will start building again in earnest. Once they start doing so, the price of old stock will be pulled up by the price of new builds as sellers realize they can achieve higher selling prices whilst still pricing their property competitively against new builds.

There are tentative signs that the property market is already beginning to warm up – you may well have seen the news headlines about average property prices now increasing at £25 a day. One factor for this is new investors putting their money into property as they are tired of the woeful returns provided by the banks and pension companies. We have noticed buy to let lending is becoming more readily accessible in the last 6 months.

But that is nothing compared to what will happen next year when the new government incentives kick in, giving buyers the ability to get on the housing ladder without raising a 20% deposit.

One thing I have learned throughout my time in property is not so much the price of a property but the affordability factor that is the biggest influence.  People’s income, the deposit required, the ratio income to borrowing permitted and interest rates all play a much bigger role than the actual price tag.

The government incentives coupled with low interest rates will have a massive affect and greatly increase the demand for property pushing prices higher (although salary levels will keep the increase in check to a degree)

That may be good bad or dangerous depending on your point of view. Some argue that it will create another bubble – and they may well be right. But in terms of achieving capital growth over a relatively short space of time (say the next 5 years), I believe 2013 will prove to be the ideal time to invest into property.  So get your sun cream and your sunglasses out.  A bright hot summer for property investment is on its way… Shame we can’t say the same for the British weather.

Buy To Let investors ‘are piling into the market’

Rightmove issued a statement last week saying: “Asking prices for properties new to the market have shot up to hit an all-time record high for March, boosted by buy-to-let investors “piling into the market” with new asking prices 1.7% higher than last month. 
Asking prices are now 1.2% higher than this time last year.”

Miles Shipside, Rightmove director, said:

“Even those who truly believe that the market has turned a corner may be unable to do anything about it due to lenders’ cautious risk profiling, a significant factor limiting the speed and strength of the recovery.

“However, with new sellers asking more than ever before as we enter the traditionally busy spring market, and an expectation among home-movers of price stability or growth, there is now a bedrock upon which confidence and momentum appear to be building.”

Rightmove also said that the average time on the market has fallen from 90 days last year to 80.

 Shipside added: “Whilst it is too early in the year to make estimates about full year transaction volumes, agents are reporting more properties being sold subject to contract.

 However, these prospective buyers still have to complete the potentially treacherous journey through to successful completion. 

More limited inventory for sale by agents means less choice for buyers and is usually a forerunner of increased property prices.

  Shipside said that there are currently “blindingly” good returns on the right buy-to-let investment, and that investors are “piling” into the market as a result. Property investors can get a much better deal than putting money into a bank.”

Mortgage Lender Guarantee Announced in Budget

Government-Backed Mortgage Lender Guarantee Announced in Budget

George Osborne announced yesterday the introduction of a government-backed mortgage lender guarantee in order to help house hunters who are struggling to find a deposit.

The guarantee will provide up to £130bn of lending between 2014 and 2017 in order to encourage lenders to provide high loan-to-value mortgages. It could continue to run beyond this with the Bank of England’s agreement.

This will undoubtedly give a boost to property prices especially in the areas The House Crowd are buying. These are the poorer areas where people are least able to raise a 20% deposit. That’s good news in that it will give us better capital gains and make it easier to sell properties.

Conversely, it will also make it harder, after 2013, to buy property that will achieve double-digit yields.

It is, therefore, our intention to capitalise on this announcement and buy as many properties as we possibly can in the next 12 months.

If you want to maximise your returns, then the next few months present the best opportunity for you to do so.

How Will The Chancellor’s Announcement Affect Property Investors?

Investing through property crowdfunding and secured P2P lending in real estate is fast becoming recognised as a great way to invest in property. The promised increase in mortgage lending is likely to have positive outcomes for our investors, whilst simultaneously providing high-quality property on the market for those who are set to benefit from these new announcements.

As property prices are set to rise over the next few years, we anticipate that there will be a rise in the number of people seeking rental accommodation, particularly in the city of Manchester. The city is experiencing a surge at the moment, with significant rejuvenation to position Manchester as a city for the future. This is bringing a wealth of new businesses to Manchester, and thus vast swathes of new jobs.

The predicted boom in the number of rental households in the UK means that there will be unprecedented demand for rented properties, of course. Again, The House Crowd will invest in buy-to-let rental properties to feed this demand. With the continued growth of Manchester as the leading city in the Northern Powerhouse, we may also find excellent rental yields coming through from these buy-to-let investments.


If you would like to learn more about investing in property crowdfunding, then register with The House Crowd for further information. You can do this directly by clicking on the purple button below. Alternatively, to view our full range of investment properties, click the blue button.

Register Now for more Info

View our Property Investments

If you have any questions or queries about the new Government-backed mortgage lender guarantee announcement, or are looking for any other advice about property investment, please feel free to get in touch. We’re always happy to have a chat about anything to do with property, and to help you plan your next moves on the property market.

Universal Credit Trial: An Unmitigated Disaster

Universal Credit Trial: An Unmitigated Disaster

A Universal Credit trial in Torfaen South Wales has resulted in an increase in arrears from £20,000 to £140,000 in just seven months from July to January.

CEO of Brofn Afon Housing, Duncan Forbes said,

“That was a group of people who had a good track record of payment and pretty low level of arrears, thrust into a position where they are now in significant arrears. At the same time, we’ve increased our staff levels by about double what we would normally put into income recovery. We’ve been very successful up to now in getting the number of evictions right down, but we can see that inevitably steadily rising. The difficulty for us is that if there’s no long-term solution to paying that rent we can’t sustain business as a landlord.”

Despite the obvious disaster Universal Credit will be for both tenants and landlords, the Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud (I thought the Freuds were known for being intelligent!) is still supporting Universal Credit and said:

“Millions of people will be better off on the new benefit.”

To which we have to agree – yes millions of benefit claimants who keep the money and don’t pay landlords their rent will certainly be better off.

Should we, as landlords of DSS tenants, be worried? Well, it is a concern. But, taking into account the possibility that the government will not come to its senses in time and cancel the whole misguided notion before the Autumn, we have a plan in place to ensure we still get paid. Many landlords will not have a plan and will either suffer financially or simply stop renting to DSS tenants.

Universal Credit Trial Failure: The Impact On Families In Need

This is a shame, as there are plenty of people on DSS who are in real need, but there is a nasty underbelly of unscrupulous claimants who make it very difficult for honest, low-income families, such as single parents who are in that situation by no fault of their own, to live.

A Bit About Property Crowdfunding

Property crowdfunding is now taking the investment world by storm, following our brave debut onto the scene in 2012. We were the first (and continue to be the best) platform for property crowdfunding.

We are proud to offer better returns on investment than many other investment models, and allow people previously locked out of the property market to benefit from the lucrative world of property investment. What’s more, we’re helping bring much-needed new homes across the Greater Manchester area.

For more information on the process of getting involved with property crowdfunding, visit our Crowdfunding Process page.

We are committed to breathing life into empty, rundown properties whilst giving investors great returns on their investments.

To find out more about getting great returns on investment with The House Crowd, start by getting to know us here.

Mark Prisk Announces New Affordable Housing Fund

Mark Prisk Announces New Affordable Housing Fund

The Department for Communities and Local Government has announced a new Government initiative, an affordable housing fund, which will see up to 15,000 homes for affordable housing being developed.

As part of the plans, providers of affordable housing in the UK will be able to bid for a share of up to £225 million, subject to meeting the bidding criteria.

The Affordable Housing Fund and the New Affordable Homes Programme

The new initiative is based on the existing Affordable Homes Programme and will operate alongside the Government’s Affordable Housing Guarantee, which provides a pledge to underwrite debt for lenders on eligible housing projects.

The House Crowd hopes the new Affordable Housing Fund initiative will unlock private finance and help to get spades in the ground and workers on site. However, once again, we must question why the huge numbers of empty homes across the UK are being overlooked in favour of a new build solution?

As we know all too well, the UK needs to produce significantly more new homes every year to meet the growing demand. New builds are, of course, a key part of this, and this new Affordable Housing Fund will help. However, developing existing empty homes will not only boost the property market and economy, but make a dent in the number of new homes required.

That’s why we at The House Crowd believe so passionately in what we do. We want to build a better property market in the UK, and we know property crowdfunding is a crucial part of the solution.

Want To Know More?

The House Crowd is a new concept in property investment which allows people to invest small amounts via crowdfunding. For more information on the process, visit our How It Works page.

We are committed to breathing life into empty, rundown properties whilst giving investors great returns on their investments For more information about us, see Our Manifesto.

If you’ve read enough and want to invest now, visit our Invest in Property page or register by clicking below:

Register Now for more Info

You can also see our full range of current investment opportunities here:

View our Property Investments