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March 21, 2012

The Budget’s immediate impact on the property market

Filed under: Latest News — Four Communications @ 4:33 pm

In the Budget, Chancellor George Osborne announced that a new 7% stamp duty charge will be levied on properties sold for over £2 million. The Chancellor also increased the stamp duty on residential properties over £2 million bought through an off shore company to 15%. Both increases will take effect from midnight tonight.

In reaction to the announcement, Dawn Carritt, director of national upmarket property agents Jackson- Stops & Staff, said:

“The impact of the 15% stamp duty for off  shore companies buying in London is having an immediate impact as within just a couple of hours one Far Eastern investor has decided to withdraw from a purchase in Central London.  How many more will decide that this makes London property less attractive as an investment will only become evident in the next few weeks.  Is this the start of the delicate balance in the market being upset?

The new 7% stamp duty is going to have the greatest impact on properties just on the cusp of the £2 million threshold.  Whilst a buyer paying £1,999,000 would expect to pay £99,950 in stamp duty tip over the threshold and purchase a property for £2,001,000 and the duty jumps up by an extra £40,000.

“For those looking to purchase multi million pound properties the extra 2% may not be quite so significant and when viewed as part of the long term investment could be recouped, especially in the case of the prime London residential market where prices have risen steadily over the past few years.

“The new rate of duty could well have a significant bearing on those looking to go into farming.  Land prices have risen significantly over the last five years yet this has not been reflected in the profits working farmers are able to make.  Even a smallholding with a modest farmhouse could well fall into the new stamp duty rate and the £140,000 which would have to be paid on the purchase of a small working farm represents a significant slice of what could otherwise be working capital.  For those with larger holdings of 200 – 250 acres or more with a farmhouse and buildings the new rate of tax is as inevitable as it is unwelcome.  The details of the Chancellor’s proposals have yet to be published and hopefully due consideration will be given to the impact such a rise could have on British farmers.

Avoidance of stamp duty

“The well trailed announcement that will stop purchasers buying through an offshore company comes as no surprise and is unlikely to have a significant impact on the residential market.  There were some that regarded this as a means of mitigating tax and others who felt this was tax avoidance.  The closing of the loophole may well deter some investors in putting their money into UK property the actual number of transactions this relates to each year is unlikely to be large enough to have a noticeable impact on the market.

“The increase in stamp duty will inevitably encourage financial advisers to try and find other avenues to reduce the impact of taxation for their clients and in many respects the Chancellor is left playing cat and mouse with private client tax advisers constantly looking for ways to mitigate the amount of tax their clients are required to pay and the Chancellor blocking those “escape routes” as they become exploited.

“There is a threat that if the top of the market is squeezed too hard through taxation it will start to impact the delicate balance of the residential property market, certain areas have remained quite buoyant over the last few years and this has filtered out to the neighbouring regions and price brackets.  With the lower end of the market severely restricted by the lack of mortgage funding being made available if movement at the top of the market is snuffed out the fragile growth that is predicted for 2012 could well stall.

“As the Chancellor has already indicated he is keen to see better use of land and an increase in the rate of building the increased level of stamp duty which would impact on large site acquisitions but could well give developers the incentive to invest in the smaller slightly more difficult sites, where the capital investment is under £2 million, and build smaller houses.  The new 7% rate will, on the other hand, make it less attractive for developers to purchase large houses in big gardens with a view of knocking them down and building two properties on the plot where the resale values of each property tops the £2 million mark as such a scheme would attract the extra stamp duty on both the acquisition and the resales.”


March 20, 2012

Essex’s first city

Filed under: Latest News — Four Communications @ 2:36 pm

Chelmsford in Essex has been honoured with city status and joins Perth in Scotland and St Asaph in North Wales as the country’s newest cities in commemoration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The winners fought off competition from 22 other towns, including bookmakers’ favourite Reading.

Chelmsford is the first and – currently only – city in Essex and beat county rivals Colchester and Southend to the accolade. Schuyler Pratt, of Jackson-Stops and Staff Chelmsford Office said:

“Chelmsford’s newly acquired city status is a great endorsement for the area and is something it has wanted for quite a while – after all, our football club has been calling themselves Chelmsford City since 1938.

Woolwards-Property for sale near Chelmsford, click image for details“It remains to be seen what effect becoming a city will have on the local property market but the new status will raise the area’s profile and has definitely given it a stamp of approval.”

Schuyler Pratt also thinks that the recent news that local grammar schools plan to change their admissions policy and offer 80 per cent of their places to children living within 12.5 miles of the city will almost certainly increase interest in property in the area, as desperate parents try to get their children in to two of the top five best grammar schools in the country – King Edward VI for Boys and Chelmsford County High School for Girls.

He says: “At the moment, children are commuting as far away as London to attend these two very popular grammar schools and the teachers find that the travelling is making the children tired in lessons. If the new policy comes in to place it will take effect from September 2013 and will no doubt stimulate parental demand for homes in Chelmsford and its neighbouring villages to be in with the best chance of securing a place for their child.”

Currently over 60 per cent of Jackson-Stops & Staff, Chelmsford’s buyers come from London; looking for pleasant countryside, more space and a fast commute into the Square Mile.

Popular villages within a five mile drive of Chelmsford train station include Little and Great Waltham which are on the north side of the city and offer easy access into the station.

Roxwell is a pretty village to the west of Chelmsford which is also sought after. The villages all have the usual amenities such as pubs, primary schools, village shops and churches.

Stammers Farm-property for sale near Chelmsford, click image for detailsThe most popular properties in the area are four bedroom detached family homes, costing between £800,000 and £1.25 million. Schuyler Pratt comments that most people moving out of London will be cash buyers, having sold or decided to retain their London homes. Properties with easy access to the mainline railway stations and the A12 trunk road hold their value well. The savvy buyer prepared to drive 20 minutes to a station can find property that is much more keenly priced in some beautiful villages or open countryside.

Schuyler Pratt says, “Chelmsford might be known as the dormitory for London, due to its 30 minute commute in to the City. However it offers far more and now that Chelmsford has a city status it will hopefully become recognised not just for its first class cricket and schools but as a regional centre for shopping, sports and the arts.”

March 15, 2012

A Dickensian restoration

Filed under: Latest News — Four Communications @ 1:47 pm

Minor Canon Row, Rochester in KentThe Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust devoted two and a half years to the painstaking restoration of Minor Canon Row, an historic Rochester street immortalised by author Charles Dickens. The final property in this challenging project has recently been sold by Jackson-Stops & Staff.

Charles Dickens lived in Rochester from 1856 and described the row as a “quiet place in the shadow of the cathedral”. Charles Dickens also mentions them in his novel, The Mystery of Edmond Drood, where he describes the houses as “wonderfully quaint” with “odd little porches over the doors, like sounding boards over pulpits”.

It is appropriate that this example of fine Georgian architecture has been brought back to life in the same year as the writer’s Bicentenary.

In a fascinating tale – almost worthy of a Dickens novel – seven houses on Minor Canon Row (formerly homes of the Cathedral’s minor canons) were put up for sale on the open market by Rochester Cathedral for the first time ever and were in desperate need of restoration. The Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust, with the support of private funding, stepped in to rescue the houses.

Several of the houses had been split into flats in the 1950s and The Trust embraced the delicate task of converting the flats back into houses and bringing these historic buildings back to life. In order to protect the integrity of the properties and the uniform exterior elevations the Trust were responsible for the structural repairs, renovating the front steps, replacing the front area fencing, overhauling the roofs, lead work and brickwork.  All but the end houses were then sold to owners to complete the restoration of the interiors t0 their own style and taste.  The medieval gatehouse, Prior’s Gate, and the houses at either end of the row – numbers one and seven – were fully restored and completely renovated by the Trust.

Dawn Carritt, Director, Jackson-Stops and Staff’s Country Houses office, who sold the properties said: “Minor Cannon Row is Grade I listed and these buildings are an important part of the Cathedral precinct and Rochester’s history so it was vital these were preserved.   The Spitalfields Trust brought over 30 years experience to this project and their knowledge of conservation has ensured that if Dickens were to walk down Minor Canon Row today, he would instantly recognise it.”

In a fitting final chapter of this restoration project, number seven – the former Cathedral organist’s home – the last of the properties to be restored has just been sold to buyers with a great appreciation and understanding of Georgian architecture.  The future of this group of buildings now looks secure.



March 2, 2012

Is now the best time to cash in and escape to the country?

Filed under: Latest News — Four Communications @ 3:43 pm

Many home owners in the capital are making the most of the high London house prices, selling up and escaping to the country. They go in search of better value for money and a better quality of life.

According to Dee Ryall at Jackson-Stops & Staff in Canterbury, “People are selling their London homes to make the most of the high prices and then renting in Canterbury. They are then in a strong chain-free position to go for property they want when it comes onto the market.”

According to Michael Clark, at Jackson- Stops & Staff in Exeter, 56 per cent of their buyers last year came from outside Devon and, of those, 51 per cent came from London & the Home Counties. Ben Adams in Taunton is experiencing similar interest from London buyers. He says: “Between 30 and 40 per cent of our buyers in the past year have come from London or the Home Counties and it is definitely a trend that has grown in the past two years compared to three or four years ago.

“It’s particularly common at the moment because people are cashing in on the high London house prices. A family can sell a four bedroom terraced home with a small garden in London in excess of £1 million and buy a six or seven bedroom farmhouse with 10 acres and outbuildings around Taunton, which is attractive to families.”

Adams says that advances in technology have allowed London workers to move further away from the London office. The fast train links from Taunton to London in one hour 45 minutes still allow the husband to commute a couple of days a week and work from home the rest of the time. “You get a different way of life with access to good schools while still keeping a link to London,” he says.

But those used to the dizzy heights of the London property scene should be warned, says Philip Blanchard from Jackson-Stops & Staff in Winchester: “Last year, we had some buyers who work in the City for whom buying a home was like a deal. Once they had bought it they expected it to go up in value within hours. The market isn’t like that here. We have a real market without the huge rises and crashes that you saw in northern cities – just gentle rises over the years, which is sensible.”

So for those fortunate enough to own a property in the capital, considering escaping the rat race and enjoying a different way of life in a country pile, now could be a good time to cash in and embrace the good life.