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I miss the good old days of George Osborne as Chancellor, with his hardhat and hi-vis jacket. He must have visited every new home building site in the UK with his trademark attire! For the last few years, the nearest Philip Hammond got to donning a ‘Bob the Builder’ outfit was at his grandchild’s birthday party. However, with what appears to be a change in focus by the Tories to ensure they get back in power in 2022, they appear to have fallen in love with house building again with the Chancellor’s promise to create 300,000 new households in a year.
Nationally, the number of new homes created has topped 217,344 in the last year, the highest since the financial crash of 2007/8. Looking closer to home: in total there were 1,145 ‘net additional dwellings’ in the last 12 months in the Maidstone Borough Council area, a decent increase of 79% on the 2010 figure.
The figures show that 89% of this additional housing was down to new build properties. In total, there were 1,019 new dwellings built over the last year in Maidstone. In addition, there were 265 additional dwellings created from converting commercial or office buildings into residential property and a further 11 dwellings were added as a result of converting houses into flats.
While these all added to the total housing stock in the Maidstone area, there were 150 demolitions to take into account.
I was encouraged to see some of the new households in the Maidstone area had come from a change of use. The planning laws were changed a few years back so that, in certain circumstances, owners of properties didn’t need planning permission to change office space in to residential use.
With the scarcity of building land available locally (or the builders being very slow to build on what they have, for fear of flooding the market), it was pleasing to see the number of developers that had reutilised vacant office space into residential homes in the local council area. Converting offices and shops to residential use will be vital in helping to solve the Maidstone housing crisis especially, as you can see on the graph, that the level of building has hardly been spectacular over the last seven years!
Now we have had the autumn budget, Theresa May and Philip Hammond have set out their stall with housing as their key focus. I was glad to see the Government introducing a variety of changes to improve housing, including more funding for the supply side and an injection of urgency into the planning system.
The biggest question is, just where are the Government going to build all these new houses? Maybe a topic for a future article?
Back to the main point though and the focus on the housing market by the Tory’s is good news for all homeowners and buy to let landlords, as it will encourage more fluidity in the market in the longer term, sharing the wealth and benefits of homeownership for all. However, in the short term, demand still outstrips supply for homes and that will mean continued upward pressures on rents for tenants.
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I had the most interesting conversation the other day with a local Maidstone accountant, who asked me about my articles on the Maidstone property market. It was quite humbling to be given praise by such a professional, when he commented enthusiastically on the articles I write. He was particularly interested with the graphs, facts and figures contained within them – so much so he recommended his clients read them, as most of them were either Maidstone homeowners, Maidstone landlords and a lot of the time - both. However, one question that kept me on my toes was, “With so many House-Price-Indices, how do you know which one to use and how can you calculate what is exactly happening in Maidstone?”
To start with, there are indeed a great number of these Indices, including the Land Registry, Office of National Stats, Halifax, Nationwide and LSL to name but a few. The issue occurs when these different house price indices give diverse pictures of the state of the UK housing market. Whilst some indices measure the average value of every property in the UK (sold or unsold), others measure the average ‘price-paid’ of houses that happen to be sold over a fixed time scale… confusing isn’t it!
A lot of the variance between house price indices occurs because of the distinctive ways in which the numerous indices endeavour to beat these issues. You see, the biggest problem in creating a house-price-index when comparing and contrasting with most other indexes (e.g. inflation where the price a ubiquitous tin of Beans can easily be measured over the months and years), is every home is unique and as Maidstone people are only moving every 14.5 years, it appears the only thing that can be measured is the price of property sold in a given month.
By their very nature, all of the indices are only able to paint a picture of the whole of the UK or, at best, the regional housing market. As I have said many times in my articles on the Maidstone property market, it is important to look to the medium term when considering house price inflation/deflation. Looking at the month-to-month jumps, many indices look like one of those jumpy lie-detector needles you see in the cold war movies!
I can guarantee you in the coming few months, on a month-by-month basis, one or more of the indices will say property prices will have dropped. Let me tell you, no property market indices are representative of the housing market in the short term. Many indices have shown a drop around the Christmas and New Year months, even the boom years of 2001 to 2007 and 2013 to 2015.
So, back to the question, how do we work out what is happening in the Maidstone Property Market and can there be a Maidstone House Price Index?
To calculate what I consider is a fair and proper House Price Index for Maidstone, I initially needed to decide on a starting place for the index. I have chosen 2008 as far enough away, but still gives us a medium/long term view. Next, I split all the house sales into their types (Detached/Semi/House /Apartment) to give us an indication of what is actually selling by postcode district. So, for example, below is a table for the ME15 postcode district (the sample shows 2008, 2016 and 2017.
Then I look at the actual numbers of properties sold in the ME15 postcode district. Below is the graph with the numbers for the years already mentioned.
Next, I have looked at the prices paid for those types for every year since 2008, again in this example using the sample years of 2008, 2016 and 2017 for the ME15 postcode.
Finally, I amalgamated the same data points for the other postcode districts covered by Maidstone and the surrounding villages, weighted it accordingly, to produce the Maidstone House Price Index ... which after all that work, currently stands at for Q4 2017 at 159.94 (Q4 2008 = 100).
I hope you found that of interest and over the coming months and seasons, I shall refer back to Maidstone House Price Index in my Maidstone Property Blog www.maidstonepropertyblog.blogspot.co.uk to give you a flavour of what is really happening in the Maidstone Property Market.
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I see many new and experienced Buy- to -Let Landlords .They come from all walks of life. Some have just one property others many more. One of our landlords has 24 but he started with just one ! Our landlords often think of themselves as simply typical landlords but there are so many different types. There are portfolio landlords with a great wealth of experience, we have new landlords who have had some cash to invest. There are’ accidental landlords ‘ who have inherited a property or have moved elsewhere, couldn’t sell and now decided to keep their property as part of their pension scheme.
I have worked in the lettings business for many years and it is important for me to understand the individual needs of each type of landlord as it can change how they want to let their property-the approach to maintenance and the type of tenant required.
As an Independent Family Firm we can tailor what we do to achieve that perfect relationship and get the most from your investment. Many of our clients have been with us for many years .
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As I mentioned in a previous article, the average house price in Maidstone is 9.68 times the average annual Maidstone salary. This is higher than the last peak of 2008, when the ratio was 8.47. A number of City commentators anticipated that in the ambiguity that trailed the Brexit vote, UK (and hence Maidstone) property prices might drop like a stone. The point is - they haven’t.
Now it’s true the market for Maidstone’s swankiest and poshest properties looks a little fragile (although they are selling if they are realistically priced) and overall, Maidstone property price growth has slowed, but the lower to middle Maidstone property market appears to be quite strong.
Scratch under the surface though, and a different long-term picture is emerging away from what is happening to property prices. Maidstone people are moving home less often than they once did. Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the number of properties sold in 2016 is again much lower than it was in the Noughties. My statistics show…
Even though we are not anywhere near the post credit crunch (2008 and 2009) low levels of property sales, the torpor of the Maidstone housing market following the 2016 Brexit vote has seen the number of property sales in Maidstone and the surrounding local authority area level off to what appears to be the start of a new long term trend (compared the Noughties).
Interestingly, it was the 1980’s that saw the highest levels of people moving home. Nationally, everyone was moving on average every decade. Even though it was during the Labour administration of the late 1970’s where the right to buy one’s council house started, it was the Housing Act of 1980 that that really got council tenants moving, as Thatcher’s Tory government financially encouraged council tenants to buy their council-rented homes - for which countless then sold them on for a profit and moved elsewhere. The housing market was awash with money as banks were allowed to offer mortgages as well as the existing building societies, meaning it made it simpler for Brits to borrow even more money on mortgages and to climb up the housing ladder.
But coming back to today, looking at the property sales figures in the Maidstone area since 2010/11, a new trend of number of property sales appears to have started. Interestingly, this has been mirrored nationally. The reasons behind this are complex, but a good place to start is the growth rate of real UK household disposable income, which has fallen from 5.01% a year in 2000 to 1.68% in 2016. Also, things have deteriorated since the country voted to leave the EU as consumer price inflation has risen to 2.7% per annum, meaning inflation has eaten away at the real value of wages (as they have only grown by 1.1% in the same time frame).
With meagre real income growth, it has become more difficult for homeowners to accumulate the savings needed to climb up the housing ladder as the level of saving has also dropped from 4.26% of household income to -1.11% (i.e. people are eating into their savings).
Next week I will be discussing how these (and other issues) has meant the level of Maidstone people moving home has slumped to once every 14.5 years.
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I recently read a report by the Yorkshire Building Society that 54% of the country has seen wages (salaries) rise faster than property prices in the last 10 years. The report said that in the Midlands and North, salaries had outperformed property prices since 2007, whilst in other parts of the UK, especially in the South, the opposite has happened and property prices have outperformed salaries quite noticeably.
As regular readers of my blog know, I always like to find out what has actually happened locally in Maidstone. To talk of North and South is not specific enough for me. Therefore, to start, I looked at what has happened to salaries locally since 2007. Looking at the Office of National Statistics (ONS) data for Maidstone Borough Council, some interesting figures came out...
Salaries in Maidstone have risen by 4.29% since 2007 (although it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride to get there!) - interesting when you compare that with what has happened to salaries regionally (an increase of 15.87%) and nationally, an increase of 17.61%.
Next, I needed to find what had happened to property prices locally over the same time frame of 2007 and today. Net property values in Maidstone are 29.41% higher than they were in late 2007 (not forgetting they did dip in 2008 and 2009). Therefore...
Property values in the Maidstone area have increased at a higher rate than wages to the tune of 25.12% ... meaning, Maidstone is in line with the regional trend
All this is important, as the relationship between salaries and property values is the basis on how affordable property is to first (and second, third etc.) time buyers. It is also vitally relevant for Maidstone landlords as they need to be aware of this when making their buy-to-let plans for the future. If more Maidstone people are buying, then demand for Maidstone rental properties will drop (and vice versa).
As I have discussed in a few articles in my blog recently, this issue of ‘property-affordability’ is a great bellwether to the future direction of the Maidstone property market. Now of course, it isn’t as simple as comparing salaries and property prices, as that measurement disregards issues such as low mortgage rates and the diminishing proportion of disposable income that is spent on mortgage repayments.
On the face of it, the change between 2007 and 2017 in terms of the ‘property-affordability’ hasn’t been that great. However, look back another 10 years to 1997, and that tells a completely different story. Nationally, the affordability of property more than halved between 1997 and today. In 1997, house prices were on average 3.5 times workers’ annual wages, whereas in 2016 workers could typically expect to spend around 7.7 times annual wages on purchasing a home.
The issue of a lack of homeownership has its roots in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It’s quite hard as a tenant to pay your rent and save money for a deposit simultaneously, meaning for many Maidstone people, home ownership isn't a realistic goal. Earlier in the year, the Tories released proposals to combat the country’s 'broken' housing market, setting out plans to make renting more affordable, while increasing the security of rental deals and threatening to bring tougher legal action to cases involving bad landlords.
This is all great news for Maidstone tenants and decent law-abiding Maidstone landlords (and indirectly owner occupier homeowners). Whatever has happened to salaries or property prices in Maidstone in the last 10 (or 20) years ... the demand for decent high-quality rental property keeps growing.