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The need for more homes has always been one of the biggest issues with regard to the Country’s housing crisis.  One of the main reasons for families wanting to move home is the need for more accommodation as their families grow and so in 2013 and 2015, the planning permission rules were relaxed to try an alleviate this issue.


Initially in 2013, Nick Clegg, as Deputy Prime Mister, brought in temporary planning rules to allow larger single storey rear extensions without the requirement of a full planning application.  The temporary rules allowed terraced and semi-detached homes to be extended by just over 19ft, whilst detached houses were able to add even bigger extensions of up to 24ft.  Since those rules were relaxed six years ago, 109,320 people have taken advantage of the temporary rules (aka “permitted development size guidelines”).


Homeowners wanting to extend within these permitted development guidelines, must still inform the local authority of the extension beforehand, and local authority officials still need to then notify the neighbours.  If the neighbours object, the local authority could still stop the extension being built, but only if it is likely to damage the character or enjoyment of the neighbourhood.  The planning process exists for a reason and whilst these relaxed planning rules are popular with property owners, it does mean local authorities have little chance to deliberate the impact of these extensions on their locality.  However, 22,779 permitted developments had been refused in the same time frame meaning, 17.2% of permitted development planning applications have been refused since 2013.

Now these temporary rules have been made permanent recently as the Government believe these measures will help households extend their properties without fighting through the time-consuming red tape of obtaining planning permission.  The government believes this is part of a package of planning reforms to build more households, build them better, quicker and make the housing market work, meaning families can grow without being forced to sell and move… or does it?


The average size of a property in Maidstone is 942 sq.ft


.. internally (1,078 sq.ft  externally), whilst to the national average 929 sq.ft internally (1,081 sq.ft externally).  Interesting when compared to the average size of a new homes built nationally which is 12.1% lower at 818 sq.ft internally (927 sq.ft externally).


These relaxed rules are only for single-storey extensions though, when most growing families don’t need an extra downstairs reception room, they need an additional upstairs bedroom.  This means if families do want an extra bedroom upstairs, they will still have to go through the rigmarole of submitting a full planning permission.  Although, many Maidstone people have used these rules in the last 6 years to build a decent size granny-annex – there are other options less explored out there.


There was a second (less advertised) temporary change the Government made to planning rules in 2015, that has also been made permanent recently, many may have missed it, yet it has a bigger potential impact on the housing market.  The new rules make permanent the removal of planning rules to allow office blocks and shops to be converted into residential homes without a full planning application being made.  Since 2013, 11,090 office blocks and 1,750 shops have been converted into residential households.  This doesn’t sound a lot, but in 2017 alone, converted shops and office blocks provided 37,000 new households alone in the Country (or 17% of the new household created in 2017).


Over the next decade, more and more office blocks and shops will be converted into residential properties … and this will slowly change the dynamic of the housing market and the high street … and I’m not sure whether that will be for the good or bad ... only time will tell?

FIRST TIME SELLER’S GUIDE- it is not just newbie buyers who need a helping hand- Nigel Harvey Seekers Director reveals how to make the most of your next move.


  When should I put my house on the market?


 Apart from the Christmas period there is no “bad” time to market your home but there are better times! Spring, Summer & Autumn will have your home looking its best. This is more important in the countryside than in the towns. In the town’s buyer demand tends to be consistent throughout the year.

Your home should be attracting viewings-or even be under offer- before you start putting in offers on a property. If you have not had an offer accepted on your home and you are selling on or below £300,000 then you are likely to be ditched in favour of a first- time buyer with no housing baggage.



How much is my property worth?


 The main on- line portals offer free valuations based on sold prices in your neighbourhood. Many estate agents also have a tool on their web site also giving you a suggested price.  Whilst this will put you in the ballpark, they are only an estimate.  By far the best way to value your home is to invite an Estate Agent in, there should be no charge for this service. Be wary of instructing an agent who overvalues your property to get the instruction. Be realistic on price: the longer a home is on the market, the worse it looks for buyers who will start to think something is wrong with the property. Selling a house is time consuming, so choose an agent who will host the viewings, negotiate the price for you to get you the best deal. Avoid firms that charge extras for certain services such as viewings. Many of the on-line agents do charge extras. Traditional high street agents are unlikely to do so.



How much will it cost?


Traditional Estate Agents tend to charge between 1% & 2 % + vat (no sale no fee). To escape your current mortgage, you may have to pay a redemption fee usually somewhere between £50 & £300. Or you may be liable for an early repayment fee, which is a % of your outstanding mortgage debt. One way to avoid such charges is to port your mortgage over to the next property. This does restrict you in shopping around for the best deal. Obtaining a mortgage is more complicated than it used to be. Some lenders will only take around 60 % of overtime or commission into account. You are likely to have to pay stamp duty- check the HMRC website for the current thresholds. There are also legal fees so get quotes from solicitors as they do vary.



 What should I do to prepare for viewings?


Now for the fun part: getting your house ready for visitors. You are preparing your home for viewing but equally importantly for photography. Most agents use professional photography to maximise impact. Decluttering is essential if you want prospective buyers to be able to imagine themselves in the space. So this needs you to be unsentimental and remove ironic holiday souvenirs! A good way to see your home through fresh eyes is to invite your least tactful friend over for tea to tell you what needs to go.

As with most things first and last impressions count. Weed the garden, maybe paint the front door and garden gate . Give your property kerb appeal. One your home is a sight to behold, it is time to assault your buyers senses. Maybe invest in oil diffuser's or candles- or splash out on a designer room display. After the viewing ensure your agent provides feedback on how the viewing went.



 When should I accept an offer?


Negotiations often come down to circumstance: how desperate are you to move quickly? Is your buyer chain-free ?Are house prices boyant or sliding? An agents’ job is to get their client the best possible price. Don’t leave it to chance. Make sure you instruct a good local agent, read on line reviews and tell the agent exactly what you want to get out of the sale. I attach Seekers 25 point plan to get you the best price for your property.



In 1979, more than 4 in 10 British people lived in a council house, yet today that figure is only 1 in 12, whilst according to Shelter 65% of families on the Council House waiting lists had been on those lists for more than a year and 27% had been waiting for more than five years.

 One solution to the housing crisis has always been for the local authority to build more homes, yet should the state provide people with secure and dependable places to live – or is that an out-dated point of view? To look at this objectively, let’s take a step back.

After WW2, both Tory and Labour governments were building council houses in massive numbers, yet it might surprise you to know that more Council houses were built per year under Tory Governments than Labour ones between the years 1945 and 1970.  

Everything changed in 1979, when Margaret Thatcher delivered the right for Council tenants to buy their Council House (called the Right To Buy Scheme). Interestingly, Right To Buy was a Labour Party idea from one of Labour Manifestoes of the late 1950’s (although they lost to the Tory’s). Mrs Thatcher’s idea was based on massive discounts and 100% mortgages for those buying … but this was the real issue that has come back to bite us all these years later! Half the proceeds of the property sales went back to Westminster and the other half went back to the local authority – but the Councils half could only be spent on reducing their debt – not to be spent on building more Council houses.. hence why we have a shortage of council houses.

In 2011, Central Government gave local authorities the power to limit people’s entitlement for social housing (aka Council Housing), hence removing those people that did not have an association or link to the locality.

Today, in Maidstone, the Council House Waiting List has dropped by 82.0% since 2011, meaning


618 families are waiting for a Council House in Maidstone


Interestingly though, if our local Council House Waiting List had changed by the same amount as the national one, the waiting list figure would be 2,102 instead, because nationally Council House waiting lists are only 38.6% lower than 2011.


So where are these Maidstone families all living and what does this mean for Maidstone homeowners and Maidstone Landlords?


Quite simply, private landlords have taken up the slack and housed all those people that were on the waiting list. This is important as more and more tenants are stopping longer in the Private Rented Sector - the average length of time of a tenant stays in the same property is now 4 years. Renting is becoming a choice for many, as the years of this Millennium roll on. So much so, would it surprise you to know that renting a house can be more expensive than buying it as we have these ultra-low mortgage rates and 95% mortgages freely available?


Rents in the Rental Sector in Maidstone will increase steadily during the next five to ten years. Even though the Council House Waiting List has decreased, the number of new council and housing association properties being built is at a 75-year low. The government campaign against buy to let landlords together with the increased taxation and the banning of tenant fees to agents will restrict supply of private rental property, which in turn using simple supply and demand economics, will mean private rents will rise – making buy to let investment a good choice of investment vehicle again (irrespective of the increased fees and taxation laid at the door of landlords). 


..and for home owners (and landlords) Maidstone property values will remain strong and stable in the medium term, as the number of people moving to a new house (and selling their old property) will continue to remain limited, meaning that due to lack of choice and supply Maidstone buyers will have to pay decent money for any property they wish to buy (especially ones in good locations and presented well).


Interesting times ahead for the Maidstone Property Market!


The End of S 21 notices
The S21 notice allows a landlord to evict a tenant without any reason. It is known as “ no fault evictions” .
There are certain rules that a landlord or agent needs to follow, such as giving 2 months- notice and the tenant not having reported faults which have not been dealt with. There also has to be an up to date gas safety certificate and energy performance Certificate. The tenant must also have been given the latest version of the Governments “ How to Rent” guide.
The government wants to give tenants more security and enabling longer tenancies.
Did you know :
Tenancies of 6-12 months make up 81 % of the rental market.
41 % 0f tenants never expect to buy and 38 % of tenants are families with children.
2017/18 - 67% 0f tenancy evictions were because of rent arrears.
90% of tenancies were ended by the tenant and only 10 % by the landlord.
So does it matter that S21 notices will come to an end?
70 % of landlords would be happy with longer tenancies if there were improvements to Section 8 notices.
The government want to encourage minimum three year tenancies with a six month break course.
Landlords would be able to recover their property where they had “ reasonable grounds” i.e unpaid rent or anti social behaviour.
Rents could still rise on an annual basis.
When will this change happen- Probably in around 2 years.- Watch this space !


This research, which polled more than 500 UK property investors, takes a look at just how Brexit is impacting their long-term investment strategies.  It found that since the EU referendum in June 2016, 64% of investors have not let Brexit impact their property investment decisions.  45% of investors have expanded their property portfolio since the EU referendum and only 7% have sold one or more homes as a direct result of Brexit.

According to the findings, 57% do not envisage their property investment strategy changing following the Brexit deadline (29th March 2019).  There might be a spike in property investment in new properties immediately following the Brexit deadline.

The 2016 EU referendum signified the beginning of a new era in UK politics.  It also triggered many predictions of the demise of the country’s property market.

However, despite the uncertainty caused by the on-going Brexit talks, the majority of property investors have carried on with their financial strategies unperturbed, new research from Market Finance Solutions revealed.

The bridging lender commissioned an independent survey, among more than 500 UK property investors, all of whom own two or more investment properties.  It found that when reflecting on the period since the EU referendum, almost two-thirds (64%) stated the Brexit has not impacted their property investment decisions.

In fact, 45% said they had bought at least one more property since 23rd January 2016, with only 7% stating they had sold one or more real estate assets as a direct result of Brexit.  The research also revealed that the majority of investors do not see Brexit affecting their long-term strategies.  More than half (57%) of respondents say they will not change their property investment strategies following the Brexit deadline.

Although, there could be a surge in activity with the real estate market after Brexit formally takes place, with three in ten (29%) property investors lining up new purchases for once the deadline has passed.  The potential delay to the Brexit deadline could see this activity stalled.

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