5,090 Peterborough Homeowners to be ‘Unchained’ From Toxic Leasehold Agreements in Biggest Shake-up of Property Law in Decades

When William the Conqueror invaded our fair shores in 1066, like all good kings, he needed to buy loyalty and raise cash to build his castles and armies. He did this by feudal law system and granted all the faithful nobles and aristocrats with land. In return, the nobles and aristocrats would give the King money and the promise of men for his army (this payment of money and men was called a ‘Fief’ in Latin, which when translated into English it becomes the word ‘Fee’… as in ‘to pay’).

These nobles and aristocrats would then rent the land to peasants in return for more money (making sure they made a profit of course) and the promise to enlist themselves and their peasants into the Kings Army (when requested during times of war). The more entrepreneurial peasants would then ‘sublet’ some of their land to poorer peasants to farm and so on and so forth.

The nobles and aristocrats owned the land, which could be passed on to their family (free from a fee i.e. freehold), while the peasants had the leasehold because, whilst they paid to use the land (i.e. they ‘leased it’ which is French for ‘paid for it’), they could never own it. Thus, Freehold and Leasehold were born (you will be pleased to know that in 1660 the Tenures Abolition Act removed the need of Freeholders to provide Armies for the Crown!).

4.3 million properties in the UK are leasehold

… and 5,090 properties in Peterborough are leasehold. By definition, even when you have the leasehold, you don’t own the property (the freeholder does). Leasehold simply grants the leaseholder the right to live in a property for 99 to 999 years. Apart from a handful of properties in the USA and Australia, England and Wales are the only countries of the world adhering to this feudal system style tenure. In Europe you own your apartment/flat by using a different type of tenure called Commonhold.

The average price paid for leasehold properties in Peterborough over the last year is £135,780.

The two biggest issues with leasehold are firstly, as each year goes by and the length of lease dwindles, so does the value of the property (particularly when it gets below 80 years). The second is the payment of ‘ground rent’ – an annual payment to the freeholder.

Looking at the first point on the length of lease, the Government brought in the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, which allowed tenants of such leasehold property to extend their lease by upwards of 50 years. However, this was very expensive and as such only kicked the can down the road for half a century (when the owner would have to negotiate again to extend another 50 years – costing them more money, time and effort).

Ground rents on most older apartments are quite minimal and unobtrusive. The reason it has become an issue recently was the fact some (not all) new homes builders in the last decade started selling houses as leasehold with ground rents. The issue wasn’t the fact the property was sold as leasehold nor that it had a ground rent, it was that the ground rent increased at astronomical rates.

Many Peterborough homeowners of leasehold houses are presently subject to ground rents that double every 10 years.

That’s okay if the ground rent is £200 a year today, yet by 2121, that would be £204,800 a year in ground rent, meaning the value of their property would almost be worthless in 100 years’ time.  One might say it allows for inflation, yet to give you an example to compare this against, if a Peterborough leasehold property in 1921 had a ground rent of £200 per annum, and it increased in line with inflation over the last 100 years, today that ground rent would be £9,864 a year.

This is important because the majority of leasehold properties sold in Peterborough during the last 12 months were apartments, selling for an average price of £135,638.

So, without reforms, the value of these Peterborough homes will slowly dwindle over the coming decades. That is why the Government reforms announced recently will tackle the problem in two parts.

Firstly, ground rents for new property will effectively stop under new plans to overhaul British Property Law. Under the new regulations, it will be made easier (and cheaper) for leaseholders to buy the freehold of their property and take control by allowing them the right to extend the lease of their property to a maximum term of 990 years with no ground rent.

Secondly, in the summer, the Government will create a working group to prepare the property market for the transition to a different type of tenure. Last summer the Law Commission urged Westminster to adopt and adapt a better system of leasehold ownership – Commonhold. Commonhold rules allow residents in a block of apartments to own their own apartment, whilst jointly owning the land the block is sitting on plus the communal areas with the other apartment owners.

These potential leasehold rule changes will make no difference to those buying and selling second-hand Peterborough leasehold property.

Yet, if you are buying a brand-new leasehold property, most builders are not selling them with ground rent (although do check with your solicitor). The only people that need to take any action on this now are people who are extending their lease. If you are thinking of extending the lease of your Peterborough property before you sell to protect its value, your purchaser may prefer to buy on the existing terms and extend under the new (and better) ones later (meaning you lose out).

Like all things – it’s all about talking to your agent and negotiating the best deal for all parties. Should you have any questions or concerns, feel free to pick up the phone, message me or email me and let’s chat things through.

Peterborough Landlords and Second Homeowners Will Probably Save Money from the Proposed New Capital Gains Tax changes

If the proposals were adopted in full, some Peterborough landlords would pay £8,000 less Capital Gains Tax than they would currently

The government borrowed £394bn this financial year (April ‘20 to April ‘21). This figure does not include the cost of November lockdowns and support measures, which means the final bill will probably be over half a trillion pounds. Ultimately these billions will need to be paid back to cover the cost of Coronavirus.

The Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) published a report for tax reform and, as was predicted by many in the press, the Government Dept suggested the Chancellor contemplate readjusting current Capital Gains Taxation (CGT) rates with a person’s own Income Tax rates. This would mean increasing the rate of CGT for selling a buy to let property from 28% to 40% for high-rate taxpayers and 45% for additional rate taxpayers. To add salt to the wound, the OTS is suggesting cutting the £12,300 annual CGT allowance.

This has led to many Peterborough buy-to-let landlords contacting me in the last few weeks, wondering if this is the time to exit the Peterborough buy to let property market, especially as they have been hit by growing levels of rental legislation and higher taxes.

With tax bills about to go through the roof, is this the time to leave the Peterborough buy to let property market?

Yet, like all things, the devil is in the detail as Peterborough 2nd homeowners and Peterborough landlords may well finish up having lower CGT tax bills with these new taxation proposals, even though the CGT restructurings are being introduced to raise the much-needed cash for the Government.

Apart from the suggested cut of the annual CGT allowance and increase in the CGT percentage rates, the OTS report also proposed reintroducing rebasing and indexation. In layman’s terms, the OTS are suggesting all gains made before 2000 would not be taxable (rebasing) and any capital gains would be calibrated to account for inflation.

So, what would that actually look like for a Peterborough landlord? Let us assume we have a Peterborough landlord who bought a Peterborough buy to let property in 2000.

Under the current CGT rules

  1. The average value of a Peterborough property in 2000 was £74,100
  2. Today, that same Peterborough property has increased in value to £223,200
  3. Meaning a profit of £149,100
  4. As our Peterborough landlord is a high-rate taxpayer (earning £60,000 a year), their CGT bill after the annual allowance would be £38,304

Under the new proposed CGT rules

Under the new proposals, the CGT payable (assuming the CGT rate of 40% and a lower annual allowance of £5,000), the same Peterborough landlord would only pay £30,165 – a saving of over £8,000.

And the savings don’t stop there. Remember, under the new OTS proposals, all capital gains made before 2000 would also be tax-free.

However, let us not forget the responsibility of the OTS is to report on tax simplification opportunities, not to set Government taxation policy. None of us have a crystal ball on what Rishi Sunak will do with CGT on buy to let property or second homes. Although, as time has always taught us with investments, often the worse thing to do is to make impulsive decisions on what MAY happen.

You have to remember, CGT only gets charged when you sell or transfer your investments, and most people use their rental investments to provide their income. If you did sell up, the best 90-day building society accounts are obtaining 0.8% pa, the stock market is a rollercoaster (good luck with that) and Government 10-year bonds are paying a princely 0.324% pa … where else are you going to invest to get the income Peterborough property investments provide?

Property is an asset you can touch, feel and ultimately understand. Maybe, this is the time (if you haven’t already) to take portfolio advice on your Peterborough buy to let investments? Many Peterborough landlords do so, whether they use our agency, another Peterborough agency or you manage your property yourself. The service is free of charge, we don’t need to meet face to face as we can do it over Zoom and it’s all without obligation. I promise to tell you what you need to hear – not what you want to hear … what do you have to lose?

Peterborough 2nd and 3rd Time Buyers Finding it Tougher (and slower) to Move up the Peterborough Property Ladder.

Post lockdown, the need for Peterborough families who want bigger homes has meant Peterborough homebuyers must now pay considerably more to trade up to that larger home…

One thing that has come out of lockdown has been the inexorable movement of Peterborough households wanting to upsize to a larger home. Often considered to be first time buyer properties, the smaller 1st step on the property ladder one and two bedroom properties are selling quite well, yet demand for those properties on the 2nd and 3rd step rungs on the Peterborough property ladder (i.e. the three or four bedroom homes) has been even greater.

This demand has been driven by Peterborough buyers looking for more living space, especially those looking for an area or room to work from home (be that a bedroom, reception room or even an outbuilding converted into a study).

The average asking price of a 3 bed Peterborough home is £215,700, whilst for a 4 bed Peterborough home it stands at £329,500

As you can see, quite a jump for an extra bedroom! The heightened contest for 2nd and 3rd step Peterborough homes for that extra bedroom has pushed demand to a record in October for those looking to take the next step up the ladder. Historically, as a family and its household income grow, the need for more space has permanently been the No.1 reason for moving home, yet now there is a new need for additional space to facilitate people working from home. This means not only do we have growing families wanting larger Peterborough homes, there are also the people needing the same larger homes for space for a home office. Therefore, looking at the current stats, as you can see, the Peterborough property market is doing quite well…

47.5% of all 3 bed and 44.5% of all 4 bed homes in Peterborough are sold (subject to contract)

Roll the clock back to pre-Covid and ask any Peterborough homeowner who had enough bedrooms for their children if they wanted an additional bedroom, and most homeowners would say that was very much a ‘nice to have’, yet not a ‘must have’. With us all being cooped-up over the spring this year, demand for additional rooms is at a high, with those presently looking for their next larger Peterborough home are probably going to find that only offers close to (if not sometimes over) the asking price will be accepted.

Even though no properties sold during lockdown, putting the Peterborough (and UK) property market on hold for many months, many more people buying their next Peterborough home will have more than made up for it since lockdown was lifted as the portals have stated if the UK property market remains at its existing trajectory, then the number of properties sold YTD by the end of October 2020 will be greater than YTD October 2019.

Yet all these properties sold are causing another issue. Just because a property becomes Sold Subject to Contract (SSTC) doesn’t mean the property is actually “sold”. Before going into Covid, it was taking approximately 19 weeks between agreeing a sale price (and instructing lawyers) to completing the sale. Yet, because we are nationally running at 140% to 150% of properties SSTC (than where we normally are at this time of year), many of my estate agents colleagues are having to manage expectations with buyers and sellers, and tell them that the date they are going to move will take a little longer.

The elephant in the room is that the temporary stamp duty holiday ends on the 31st March 2021

It sounds an age away, yet trust me, nothing could be further from the truth.  Adding an extra month for the additional homes in the bottleneck means even if the sale of your Peterborough home was agreed today, that would take us to the 3rd week in March … that’s cutting it very close for the stamp duty holiday.

It is so fundamental for buyers and sellers of Peterborough homes to work meticulously with their estate agent, solicitor and mortgage lender. For example, there are less staff in the local authorities to do the local searches, bank staff are working from home meaning mortgages are taking much longer to get approved, and conveyancer/solicitors are snowed under with work. Therefore, if you get a document that needs filling in, are asked to provide documents, pay disbursements or questions need answering, do it immediately and without delay. A day here and day there will snowball and could mean you miss the stamp Duty holiday … and that could cost you thousands and thousands of pounds.

The bottom line is that we haven’t seen this sort of pressure on the UK property market since 1987, when dual-MIRAS was abolished. Now, as we are slowly starting to come out of Covid, with many legal and banking staff working remotely or still on furlough, the perfect storm has occurred with unprecedented demand from buyers looking to move post lockdown. The best advice I can give is, as soon as you put your property onto the market, find a solicitor that has the capacity to work with you, then instruct that solicitor to start work immediately to prepare the paperwork, so once you have a buyer, things can move more smoothly and quickly. The last thing you want is to lose out on saving thousands of pounds by missing the stamp duty holiday by a whisker.

Why are Some Banks Reining in Over-Enthusiastic Peterborough Homebuyers and Buy-to-Let Investors

The Peterborough property market is an enigma and chock-full of contradictions.

Not with standing an economic recession and forecasts of property values dropping, nobody seems to have informed the Peterborough homeowners selling their homes and those Peterborough people looking to buy them. As I have discussed in many recent articles on the locality, the Peterborough property market is booming and property values in some sections of the market are rising, yet amidst enthusiastic reports of gazumping, there are disgruntled and malcontent grumbles about mortgage company surveyors down valuing property on survey.

However, before we talk about the banks and surveyors, let’s look at what is happening in the Peterborough property market now.

Land Registry figures published last week showed unyielding evidence for what everyone in the property industry had been saying since the market reopened after a seven-week lockdown on May 13: property prices are rising.

The average value of a Peterborough home rose by 0.5% in the year to June to £223,300

Many expect the statistics to show more rises following the Stamp Duty Holiday announced in July, which unbridled a burst of buying activity in the Peterborough property market. In many (not all) sectors some properties have been going for over the asking price whilst some have been going to sealed bids.

Some newspapers have even suggested a small minority of homeowners are ‘backdoor-gazumping’, which is genteelly being referred to by estate agents as ‘retuning the asking price’ – as in, the homeowner removing the property from the market, ‘retuning the asking price’ in an upward direction, then placing it back onto the market.

Conceivably enthused by these stories, some house sellers and estate agents might be getting a little carried away and placing overambitious asking prices on homes they are selling. Customarily a property with too high an asking price wouldn’t sell – yet some over-enthusiastic Peterborough buyers are paying over the odds for certain types of properties.

So, let’s look at what is happening to the Peterborough property market (Peterborough plus 3 miles) by house type and the number of bedrooms…

 Number of Peterborough properties
on the market
…and of those –
how many are Sold STC
% Sold STC
compared to those for sale
Detached House103145143.7%
Semi Det House82239648.2%
Terraced/Town House68032848.4%
Apartment52015329.4%
Bungalows37216945.4%

And when we look at the number of bedrooms …

Number of Peterborough properties
on the market
…and of those –
how many are Sold STC
% sold STC
compared to those for sale
Studio/1 bed2166931.9%
2 beds83535041.9%
3 beds141167047.5%
4 beds77134344.5%
5+ beds2188036.7%

As you can see, the best performing type of properties in Peterborough are the terraced/town, very closely followed by the semi-detached houses and the best-selling properties when it comes to bedrooms are 3 beds.

These are quite impressive figures for the Peterborough property market, yet some of the banks are having none of it

They are looking apprehensively into 2021 when furlough/the new job support scheme ends, meaning it’s quite tough for all buyers borrowing high percentage mortgages (i.e. more than 80% to 85% of the value of the property in a mortgage). 

It is even tougher for self-employed buyers (whose income is less than assured) to get those high percentage mortgages – and finally, the banks are most certainly concerned with high percentage mortgage buyers who pay over-inflated prices for property using the bank’s money… hence the down valuing (Definition of Down valuing : the buyer and seller agree a sale price, then the mortgage is applied for with the buyer’s bank and the bank’s surveyor states the purchase price the buyer is paying is too much).

One small note to Peterborough landlords – I am also hearing that some overzealous Peterborough buy to let landlords who are over-egging the potential rental figures on their buy-to-let purchase in order to obtain the mortgage, are also being reined in by the banks.

Now this is not a huge issue (e.Surv – a nationwide surveying firm only reported a 4% increase in surveyors having to down value property in Q2 2020 compared to Q1), yet should you be lucky enough to have multiple offers on your home, ask the agent what the overall buying position of the buyers are. You need to specifically ask what percentage loan the buyer is taking on and the position of the buyer in the chain (they have to find this out anyway by law and you have a right to know that information as the property seller if you ask).

The bottom line is the highest bidder might not be the best buyer for you. It’s true, average property prices are rising nationally, yet this does not mean you should pay over the odds for your next Peterborough property.

If you would like a chat about any aspect of the Peterborough property market – please do send me an email on info@woodcockholmes.co.uk or call me on 01733 303111.