As the winter months draw in and the temperature starts to drop, keeping one’s home warm is vital. Yet, with the price of gas and electricity rising quicker than a Saturn V rocket and gas, oil and electricity taking on average 4.4% of a typical Brit’s pay packet (and for those Brit’s with the lowest 10% of incomes, that rockets to an eye watering 9.7%), whether you are a tenant or homeowner, keeping your energy costs as low as possible is vital for the household budget and the environment as a whole.
For the last 10 years, every private rental property must have an Energy-Performance-Certificate (EPC) rating. The property is given an energy rating, very similar to those on washing machines and fridges with the rainbow coloured graph, of between A to G (A being the most efficient and G the worst). New legislation comes in to force next spring (2018) for English and Welsh private landlords making it illegal to let a property that does not meet a certain energy rating. After the 1st of April next year, any new tenant moving into a private rented property or an existing tenant renewing their tenancy must have property with an energy performance rating of E or above on the property’s EPC and the new law will apply for all prevailing tenancies in the spring of 2020. After April 2018, if a landlord lets a property in the ‘F’ and ‘G’ ratings (i.e. those properties with the worst energy ratings) Trading Standards could fine the landlord up to £4,000.
Personally, I have grave apprehensions that many Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable Landlords may be totally unaware that their Leighton Buzzard or Dunstable rental properties could fall below these new legal minimum requirements for energy efficiency benchmarks. Whilst some households may require substantial works to get their Leighton Buzzard or Dunstable property from an F/G rating to an E rating or above, my experience is most properties may only need some minor work to lift them from illegal to legal. By planning and acting now, it will mitigate the need to find tradespeople in the spring when every other Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable landlord will be panicking and paying top dollar for work to comply.
Whilst there is money and effort involved in upgrading the energy efficiency of rental property, a property that is energy efficient will have greater appeal to tenants and other buy-to-let landlords/investors and this will enable you to obtain higher rents and sale price (when you come to sell your investment).
So, how many properties are there in the area that are F and G rated .. well quite a few in fact. Looking at the whole of the Central Bedfordshire Council area, of the 12,612 privately rented properties, there are ..
478 rental properties in the F banding
107 rental properties in the G banding
That means just over one in 21 rental properties in the Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable and surrounding area has an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of F or G. From April next year it will be illegal to rent out those homes rated F and G homes with a new tenancy.
Talking with the Energy Assessors that carry out our EPC’s, they tell me most of a building’s heat is lost through draughty windows/doors or poor insulation in the roof and walls. So why not look at your EPC and see what the assessor suggested to improve the efficiency of your property? I can find the EPC of every rental property in Leighton Buzzard or Dunstable, so irrespective of whether you are a client of mine or not, don’t hesitate to contact me via email (or phone) if you need some guidance on finding out the EPC rating or need a trustworthy contractor that can help you out?
I had the most interesting conversation the other day with a local Leighton Buzzard accountant, who asked me about my articles on the Leighton Buzzard 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 Leighton Buzzard homeowners, Leighton Buzzard 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 Leighton Buzzard?”
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 Leighton Buzzard people are only moving every 13 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 Leighton Buzzard 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 Leighton Buzzard Property Market and can there be a Leighton Buzzard House Price Index?
To calculate what I consider is a fair and proper House Price Index for Leighton Buzzard, 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 LU7 postcode district (the sample shows 2008, 2016 and 2017.
Then I look at the actual numbers of properties sold in the LU7 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 LU7 postcode.
Finally, I amalgamated the same data points for the other postcode districts covered by Leighton Buzzard and the surrounding villages, weighted it accordingly, to produce the Leighton Buzzard House Price Index ... which after all that work, currently stands at for Q4 2017 at 162.81 (Q4 2008 = 100).
I hope you found that of interest and over the coming months and seasons, I shall refer back to Leighton Buzzard House Price Index in my Leighton Buzzard Property Blog to give you a flavour of what is really happening in the Leighton Buzzard Property Market
In the credit crunch of 2008/9 the rate of home moving plunged to its lowest level ever. In 2009 the rate at which a typical house would change hands slumped to only once every 21.5 years. The biggest reason being that confidence was low and many homeowners didn’t want to sell their home as Leighton Buzzard property prices plunged after the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. However, since 2009, the rate of home moving has increased (see the table and graph below), meaning today:
The average period of time between home moves in
Leighton Buzzard is now 13 years.
This is an increase of 61.39 per cent between the credit crunch fallout year of 2009 and today, but still it is a 20.56 per cent drop in moves by homeowners, compared to 15 years ago (The Noughties).
So why aren’t Leighton Buzzard homeowners moving as much as they did in the Noughties?
The causes of the current state of play are numerous. In last weeks article I talked about how ‘real’ incomes and savings had been dropping. Another issue is the long-term failure in the number of properties being built. Only a few weeks ago in the blog, I was discussing the draconian planning rules meaning house builders struggle to locate building land to actually build on.
Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, as a country, we were building on average 300,000 and 350,000 households a year. The Barker Review a few years ago said that for the UK to stand still and keep up with housing demand (through immigration, people living longer, a just under 50% increase in the number of households with a single person since the 1980’s and family makeup (i.e. divorce makes one household now two)) we needed to build 240,000 households a year. Over the last few years, we have only been building between 135,000 and 150,000 households a year.
Finally, as the UK Population gets older, there is no getting away from the fact that a maturing population is a less mobile one.
So, what does this mean for Leighton Buzzard homeowners and landlords?
Well, if Leighton Buzzard people are less inclined to move or find it hard to sell a property or acquire a new one, they are probably less likely to move to an improved job or a more prosperous part of the UK.
Many of the older generation in Leighton Buzzard are stuck in property that is simply too big for their needs. The fact is that, in Leighton Buzzard and Central Bedfordshire, nearly five out of every ten (or 49.8 per cent) owned houses has two or more spare bedrooms; or to be more exact ...
38,123 of the 76,617 owned households in the Central Bedfordshire
area have two or more spare bedrooms.
So, as their children and grandchildren struggle to move up the housing ladder, with those young families bursting at the seams in homes too small for them i.e. overcrowding, we have a severe case of under-occupation with the older generation - grandparents staying put in their bigger homes, with a profusion of spare bedrooms.
Regrettably, I cannot see how the rate of properties being sold will rise any time soon. Many commentators have suggested the Government should give tax breaks to allow the older generation to downsize, yet in a recent White Paper on housing published just weeks before the General Election, there was no reference of any thoughtful and detailed policies to inspire or support them to do so.
This means that there could be an opportunity for Leighton Buzzard buy to let landlords to secure larger properties to rent out, as the demand for them will surely grow over the coming years. As for homeowners; well those in the lower and middle Leighton Buzzard market will find it a balanced sellers/buyers market, but will find it slightly more a buyers market in the upper price bands.
Interesting times ahead!
The average house price in Leighton Buzzard is 10.61 times the average annual Leighton Buzzard salary. This is higher than the last peak of 2008, when the ratio was in the region of 6.33. A number of City commentators anticipated that in the ambiguity that trailed the Brexit vote, UK (and hence Leighton Buzzard) property prices might drop like a stone. The point is - they haven’t.
Now it’s true the market for Leighton Buzzard’s swankiest and poshest properties looks a little fragile (although they are selling if they are realistically priced) and overall, Leighton Buzzard property price growth has slowed, but the lower to middle Leighton Buzzard 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. Leighton Buzzard 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 Leighton Buzzard housing market following the 2016 Brexit vote has seen the number of property sales in Leighton Buzzard 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 Leighton Buzzard 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 3% 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).
My next article will be discussing how these (and other issues) has meant the level of Leighton Buzzard people moving home has slumped to once every 13 years.
Daniel Bourke is the owner of Belvoir Lettings Dunstable and in his previous career in Architecture he was an Associate in a leading London Architectural practice