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April Newsletter

This is to officially welcome you to our Monthly Newsletter.

If you know anyone else who would be interested in our topical newsletter, then please feel free to forward this on. We will be keeping our newsletters topical and relevant with an emphasis on property, mortgage market news, money saving tips and local news.

We are also pioneering a scheme for readers whereby you will get discounts, offers and exclusive invitations from local businesses generally in Greenwich and Blackheath. We are certain this will give true value to our readers and subscribers. We are in negotiations right now with many great businesses but for now we have one deal and after you read the article on squatters rights you may wish to take advantage of it!

Enjoy the read and watch out for our future newsletters and discounts.

Squatters rights

The national press seems to be starting a campaign to raise awareness about squatters and the ‘professional agencies’ that market empty homes to them.

Both the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph recently ran further reports about squatters and their so called ‘rights’. The Daily Mail revealed that there are more and more agencies cropping up in back street locations, offering properties available to squat.

The Mail also reported that the Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS) has a listing on its website for a handyman – not, as real professional agents would mean, to help with any little jobs when you move in, but a clever little chap who’ll break into an empty house for you and then cover up his handiwork to hide the crucial evidence of breaking and entering.

On Sunday 6th March squatters from ‘far and wide’ were invited to the “Squat-tastic III Strategy convergence”:

“Calling all squatters from far and wide. We need to get talking, plotting and step it up. Bring food to share and big imaginations. Starting at 2pm this event is a chance for everyone to meet, start plotting and take action in response to the current ‘rumours’ that the Con-Dem-coalition want to strengthen trespass laws.

"Dinner at 7pm, followed by inspiring film projections. Colorama 52 Lancaster Street, LONDON, SE1 ORY.”
Incredibly, aside from the breaking and entering part, which is very difficult to prove as the squatters have to be caught in the act, none of this is illegal.

In its handbook, the ASS say that police can only make an arrest ‘if there were witnesses’, and the ‘ASS know the law better than most owners or their solicitors, and better than many judges’.

In other words, they know every loophole in the book.

The Daily Telegraph said on Saturday, “We have highlighted the growing injustice being done to homeowners by squatters, and in particular by the way in which the current laws enable them to move into someone else’s house, cause damage to it, and then – once the owner finally manages to persuade the courts to take action to protect his elementary right to live in his own house – move on to another victim. We do not claim that squatting is a colossal social problem. But we do claim that it is one of the rare cases of a wrong that can be remedied quickly, and that the Government ought to take the straightforward step that would do so."

If you do have an issue with squatters then click here for some straight forward advice on how you may be able to remove them from your property without the need of a solicitor.

If you are concerned and feel your home may not be as secure as it could be then Conran Estates have negotiated a 10% discount at The Blackheath Locksmiths Company if you quote "Conran Estates".  Please contact them for advice on 020 8852 1222 or visit them at 34 Blackheath Village.  











London first region to register house price rises

London is the first region to register price rise for eight months, reveals Hometrack's Monthly National Housing Survey for March 2011.

The number of buyers registering with agents increased for the second month in a row, growing by 4.2% over March. This is a slower increase compared to the strong seasonal pick up seen in February, but it is consistent with the level of growth seen over the same month in previous years.

The volume of sales agreed grew by 12.6% over March following a 25.4% increase in February. However, this figure comes off a low base. Adverse weather and the seasonal slowdown which characterised December and January resulted in low levels of sales agreed.

Despite increased demand and rising sales volumes, average prices fell by 0.1% over March. The average price of a property is now £153,100. The year on year growth rate stands at -3.2%.

Prices were down across 27% of the country in March while 8% of the country posted price rises. London registered the first monthly increase in prices for 8 months on the back of rising demand and dwindling supply. Central London was the primary driver of a 0.2% increase in prices across the capital.

Across all other regions prices moved lower by between 0.1% and 0.3%. House prices in the South West were unchanged. The time on the market stands at 9.9 weeks but in three regions the average is over 3 months. In two other regions it is just under 3 months.

Rising sales volumes have led to a firming in underlying pricing levels with the proportion of the asking price rising from 91.9% in January to 92.7% in March. Despite this improvement the proportion of the asking price achieved is still down on the level seen 12 months ago (94%).

The supply of housing continues to grow on the back of improved levels of market activity. Property listings were up 5.2% in March - greater than the growth in demand over the month. Continued expansion on new supply over the coming months could put pricing under further pressure.

Richard Donnell Director of Research at Hometrack, the property analytics business, said:

“Hometrack’s latest survey of over 5,000 agents and surveyors across the country reveals that London recorded the first monthly price rise of any region over the last 8 months. Prices in the capital moved 0.2% higher on the back of a 25% increase in demand (over a 2 month period) and tightening supply.

"Central London saw some of the highest price rises with a 1% increase over the month. In contrast East London registered a -0.2% fall in prices, reflecting the highly polarised nature of the housing market across relatively small geographies.

"Away from central London pricing levels remain under downward pressure. Overall average prices moved 0.1% lower over March, a figure flattered by the relative strength of the London market. The survey recorded price falls across all regions in March with the exception of the South West where prices remained unchanged.

"The modest improvement in market sentiment over the last 2 months - albeit largely confined to southern England - is largely a result of increased sales volumes. The survey shows that the number of housing sales agreed has risen by 38% over the last 2 months.

"This increase is off a low base. For example provisional data from HMRC shows that non-seasonally adjusted residential transactions were down 30% in January compared to December.

"That said rising sales volumes show that demand exists and that pricing levels are at a level where transactions can take place – this was not the case over the final half of 2010. The time on the market indicator provides the best insight into the true health of the housing market. While the time on the market has fallen recently a regional analysis provides a more somber assessment of how the market is faring

"Across three areas East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside and Wales the average time on the market is over 3 months and in 2 others (North and North West) it is within touching distance of the 3 month mark (11.7 weeks). Across London the indicator is at half the level seen in the northern regions, while the average time to sell in the South East is just under 2 months. In Central London the time on the market is just 5 weeks.

"Linked to extended sales periods, the proportion of the asking price being achieve suggests that underlying pricing levels remain weaker than a year ago. The measure fell over the final half of 2010 from 94% to 91.9% as demand cooled and prices adjusted down to a level where transactions could take place.

"Over the last 2 months it has bounced back to stand at 92.7%, but remains well down compared to this time last year when it stood at 94%. The same pattern is true on a regional basis.

"Looking ahead, the prospects for the market are dependent upon the recent sales momentum being maintained and levels of demand holding up. Predicting short term fluctuations in demand for housing is notoriously difficult but the key risks revolve around interest rates, unemployment and income growth.

"It is clear from numerous surveys that consumer demand remains weak and in housing terms this is highlighted by the extended time to sell data in many regions.

"On the supply side, good news stories may be encouraging an increase in the supply of homes for sale - listings were up 5.2% in March following a 7.5% increase in February. If this trend were to continue, then the balance of supply and demand would shift back, putting prices under pressure once again.

"Such rapid fluctuations in the housing market are indicative of a low transaction environment. Looking ahead the key question is whether the market will continue to see increased demand for housing against the wider economic and fiscal backdrop. The market will remain highly polarised with pockets of strong activity alongside weaker areas.

"Overall we expect headline prices to continue to track lower over the coming months as supply rises and demand remains subdued."

Landlords placed on alert over increase in drug farms

The growth in residential cannabis farming continues at pace.

As a result, Aviva is warning landlords to be extra vigilant after reporting a 30% year-on-year increase in claims - the highest level since it started recording the data in 2007.

Nationally there were 643,510 cannabis plants seized in 2008-9 and this increased by 18% to 758,700 in 2009-10.

Some 83% of seizures by the police last year were for 50 plants or fewer.

Matthew Gordon, underwriting manager - property owners - at Aviva said: "Despite the upgrade of cannabis to a class B drug two years ago the industry continues to grow. We settled 92 cannabis farming claims last year, which is the highest number Aviva has ever recorded.     

"Almost all of the properties were residential and we often find that it is part of a larger operation or that the policyholder has had a couple of properties affected. Cannabis farming comes with serious risks for landlords; properties can be completely ruined inside to make space for plants, water damage can occur and fire poses a risk due to interference with electrics or strong lighting left on for a long time.

"Property owners must be vigilant and there are some simple steps that can be taken. We would advise thorough checks on tenants and regular visits to properties - both internal and external inspections. Permanently closed curtains, blacked out windows and strong smells are all signs that there may be a cannabis factory on your premises."                              

Cannabis farming warning signs:

* Walls, ceilings and doors can be lined with plastic or polythene as plants are often grown in individual pots throughout the property;

* Windows will normally have blinds or curtains closed to obscure any activity;

* Rather than having garden hoses plugged into a sink or basin, the plants are irrigated through pump spray guns, such as those used in a domestic garden;

* High-powered lighting is installed and the electricity has probably been tampered with to bypass the meter;

* A considerable amount of condensation is produced;

* A pungent smell, which may be noticed through the walls of adjoining properties, but ducting and extractor fans are often installed and fed through the chimney or flue to prevent this.

Gordon said: "It's important that property owners have adequate insurance and that they take 'reasonable precautions' to prevent any damage occurring. Employing a letting agent to manage the tenant-vetting process and provide an inspection service on the landlord's behalf is a good option as insurers could refuse a claim if a landlord has been found to neglect their responsibilities."

Bank charges to let out your residential property

Homeowners who need to relocate for work or a host of other reasons, but are unable to sell, often believe that letting their home is the best solution – and it usually is. But apparently mortgage lenders have noted the trend and decided to cash in on the borrower’s plight by imposing surprisingly high charges in return for the permission to let.

If the borrower refuses the charge, they can be forced to remortgage onto a buy-to-let deal at a much higher interest rate.

Jeffrey Lever, an independent broker at Conran Financial, says, “Banks are tightening up on accidental landlords. They want to ensure you are moving out for the right reasons and not because you cannot afford to repay your mortgage."

Falling house prices and a lack of mortgage funding can mean the average time to sell a house could be more than six months. Mortgage approvals in January 2011 were 29 per cent lower than a year ago, and the low level of lending and sales is expected to continue for several months.

But those wanting to let their home instead of sell must ask their bank for permission first, or risk committing fraud. While lenders used to be fairly relaxed about so-called ‘consent to let’, experts say these days it can set alarm bells ringing.

Paul Millar, 52, from Northwood, Middlesex, was staggered when Santander said he would have to pay £2,105 to let his home - a charge of one per cent of his mortgage borrowing limit.

The widower, whose children are grown up, says he is fed up of "rattling round" his four-bedroom house, but does not want to sell now because the market is so weak.

"It makes sense for me to use the property to provide an income, but I couldn’t believe Santander’s response. The house is worth about £600,000 and I owe £180,000, so there is no risk to the bank. It is just greed."

A spokesman for Santander confirmed that Mr Millar would have to pay 1 per cent of his credit limit if he wishes to rent out his home on a long-term basis. Alternatively, he could remortgage onto a buy-to-let deal.

Some lenders, including Coventry Building Society and Platform, will not allow people to remortgage their home onto a buy-to-let deal.

Other lenders will, but it might come at a high cost. Nationwide customers must ask the society for permission and, after this is given, pay a £50 fee. For the first six months, there is no other charge.

After six months, the mortgage interest rate will increase by 1.5 percentage points. So someone with a £150,000 mortgage on Nationwide’s Base mortgage rate at 2.5 per cent would be moved up to four per cent. As a result, their repayments would increase from £673 per month to £792 - an extra £119 per month.

A spokesman for Nationwide says, "This additional 1.5 per cent interest rate is commensurate with the additional risk undertaken."

Free money advice service

A new independent service giving consumers advice on financial issues has been launched.

The Money Advice Service, which replaces the Consumer Financial Education Body, will operate centres across the country as well as offering advice over the phone or online.

It has been set up by government and is funded by a levy on the financial services industry.

The service offers a Parent's guide to money and help on issues related to divorce or separation and a variety of comparison tables for mortgages and other personal finance areas. The website offers a helpline number on Tel: 0300 500 5000 and offers information and links across to the FSA's Money Made Clear website.

Simon Hughes, Managing Director of Conran Estates and Conran Financial says "I think this is a truly fantastic idea. For many years it has shocked me that a high percentage of Britons are not financially educated, which is dangerous.  I would like to see the next step taken whereby the government invest further into 'money education' within the school curriculum so when school leavers go onto further education or to work they are financially savvy".

For mortgage best buy tables then why not click this link...... here.

For 2011/12, the organisation has received £43.7m in funding from fees raised from financial services firms regulated by the FSA.

Backing local businesses

In Greenwich and Blackheath there are many small, niche, boutique retailers with fantastic products ranging from cafes / bars to fashion outlets and of course professional services.  These retailers are what make both Blackheath and Greenwich thrive with originality.

In the coming newsletters we are looking to recommend the very best shops and services in these areas (and other areas close by) and furthermore look to negotiate reductions in some of these fantastic shops for a limited period only. In time we would have built a fine list of local retailers for our subscribers to have confidence in and
maybe even get a bargain.

This newsletter will be going out to 12,800 recipients on our database and we are looking to increase these numbers further so it is a fantastic opportunity for both the businesses and the local residents.

Why are we doing this?  Simple really, we understand the importance of driving commerce into these areas and being local ourselves (also the Managing Director lives locally) we understand the pressures small, decent businesses face.  We are fortunate to have a large database of people who love the local area and why spend cash in large outlets when they can spend locally and ensure Greenwich and Blackheath stay away from recessional times (as much as possible)?  We are just doing our little bit for the local community and the fantastic businesses within it.

If you are a small retailer in the area then please click here to register your interest in us showcasing your business and we will be in contact to discuss further.

Interest rate rises likely?

Bank of England policymakers voted 6 to 3 in favour of keeping the base rate of interest on hold at a record low of 0.5% this month, according to minutes of April's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting.

The minutes suggest an interest rate rise is less likely in May.  It means there was no change to the voting from March. The Bank held the rate at its 0.5% for the 25th month in a row - despite inflation running at more than twice its 2% target.

Since that meeting, it has emerged that the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation fell unexpectedly in March by 0.4% to hit 4%.

Many economists and analysts think a 0.25% rise in rates could come as soon as May or June but the latest inflation data makes that less likely.

In the minutes, the Bank says it is hard to know how to interpret that drop in CPI inflation but there remains a significant risk it will reach 5%.

In February, March and April, five MPC members voted to keep rates unchanged while hawk Andrew Sentance voted for a 0.5% rate increase.

Martin Weale and Spencer Dale voted for a 0.25% rate increase.

Adam Posen, as well as voting to keep rates on hold, continued to call for an additional £50bn of quantitative easing.

Policymakers will be keeping an eye out for tomorrow's retail sales figures, which are expected to show a slump in consumer confidence as government austerity measures kick in.

Simon Hughes, MD of Conran Estates and Conran Financial says "If there is stronger, wider evidence that the UK's economic recovery remains stagnant, it seems clear there will be no interest rate increase for tracker mortgage customers to worry for a few months although data changes quickly. Anyone who is on a tracker rate mortgage and has a nervous disposition should speak to an Independent Mortgage Adviser to review their options.

Olympic Tickets

Time is running out for you to apply for London 2012 Olympic Games tickets! Applications will close in only a few days' time at 11:59pm on Tuesday 26 April.  Don't leave it until the last minute as there are more than 600 sessions to choose from and this is your best chance to get the tickets you want.

To make life easier for you, why don't you apply online now by clicking this link... here.

The full competition schedule is available to browse on the London 2012 ticketing website. Please click the link.

Greenwich Park will host the Equestrian competition and the riding and combined running and shooting event of the Modern Pentathlon.

The O2 which needs to be called 'North Greenwich Arena' for the games because of The International Olympic Committee's rules on sponsorship. Anyway, the O2 is hosting Gymnastics, Basketball and Wheelchair Basketball.

It is sure to be a fun time in the Greenwich area during the Olympics so ensure you get your tickets now.

10% discount at Blackheath Locksmiths for your Home Security needs

Established 12 years ago, the Blackheath Locksmiths Ltd strive for customer satisfaction. We only use higher-grade materials, knowing our work will give years of trouble-free use. We undertake all aspects of security - whether you want to completely overhaul your property's security or improve your existing security measures. We have an extensive workshop and carry a huge amount of stock to cater for all our customers' requirements.

To claim your 10% discount just mention 'Conran Estates' at the time of order.

Blackheath Locksmiths can be found at 34 Blackheath Village and contacted on
020 8852 1222.

For futher details then please have a look at their website by clicking here

Watch out for more great discounts in next months edition. 

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