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FCA Accused Of Interest-Only Mortgage ScaremongeringThe Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been accused of scaremongering when it comes to dealing with outstanding interest only mortgages.

You may remember that Spotlight reported that the FCA warned that almost half the 2.6 million or so UK property owners that have interest only mortgages would not have savings or other funds to cover the final bill at the end of the tenure.

Read the article here

Interest only mortgages represent approximately 33% of all UK mortgages.

With Interest only mortgage holders only paying enough to cover the monthly mortgage interest on the amount borrowed, the average shortfall is £71,000 (GBP) per person, according to the published FCA research.

The FCA, the new watchdog for the sector taking over from the Financial Services Authority (FSA), commissioned the research to provide a clear indication of what mortgage borrowers could face when their Interest Only mortgages mature between now and 2041.

Property investors and Buy-To-Let landlords are still wise to select interest only mortgages, rather than waste money by opting for capital repayment mortgages from the outset.

Landlords choose interest only mortgages to purchase rental properties because they are the cheapest option and may choose to switch to a repayment option at any time once the rental income is coming in.

Peter Williams, Executive Director of the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA),said: “By confirming that nine in every ten interest only (IO) borrowers have a repayment strategy in place, the FCA’s research should put an end to misguided reports of a mis-selling ‘scandal’ when the market boomed between 2002 and 2007. Having said that, as both the Experian report for the FCA and the GfK report shows, there are issues for the industry to deal with.” 

Market research firm GfK NOP questioned 1,103 interest only borrowers to consider how prepared they were to repay their loans.

The study found that 37% of interest only mortgage holders faced a shortfall in their plans to pay back the lump sum of the home loan, based on their own calculations.

But the FCA believes that many people underestimated the financial problem and it believes 48% of interest only mortgage holders will face a shortfall.

Martin Wheatley, Chief Executive of the FCA, said: “My advice to borrowers is not to bury their head in the sand over interest only mortgages. This report is a call to action.”

UK PRS Tenant Demand Increases Again

UK PRS Tenant Demand Increases Again

There was good news for UK property investors and buy-to-let landlords who are looking to expand their rental property portfolios, as it has been reported that the number of new applicants seeking to rent PRS properties in March increased by 21% from the number of applicants seen in February.

Tenant demand continues to outstrip supply as the number of residential properties available to rent only increased by 5%.

According to Sequence, who are part of the Connells group, average rents for March 2013 were £704 (GBP), unchanged from February.

London rents averaged £1,375 (GBP), almost twice the national average.

The number of agreed new tenancies was up 13% on the previous month, and up 19% on 2012, reflecting the strong current rental preferences and tenant demand.

Spareroom.com reported that flat sharers are paying nearly 7% more than they were a year ago, with rent for a double room including bills now averaging £497 (GBP) per month compared with just £465 (GBP) a year ago.

In London, average room rents are £660 (GBP) per month, 20% higher than they were in 2011.

Matt Hutchings, Director of Spareroom said: “The fact that room rents are rising at a rate well above inflation is worrying. The bright side is that at least there is not the added cost of utility bills to factor in. All inclusive is a silver lining in an increasingly bleak rental market.”

Buy to let landlords and property investors are extremely confident about the UK rental market, with high levels of tenant demand, strong rental yields and low void periods.

A survey by specialist mortgage lender Paragon also showed that landlords are more positive about the availability of buy-to-let mortgages, with 32% saying they thought finance was reasonably available.

Paragon said that landlords with small portfolios and new property investors just starting out in buy-to-let are finding it easier to get mortgage finance than professional landlords with large rental property portfolios.

March 2013 Sees PRS Rents up by 0.5%

UK PRS Rents Increase Again

UK PRS Rents Increase Again

UK private rented sector (PRS) rents increased for the first time in five months in March 2013, led by busy regions such as London, according to LSL Property Services. 

The latest figures reveal that average monthly PRS rents rose by 0.5% in March compared with February to reach an average of £735 (GBP). 

London private sector rents surged to a new average high of £1,106 (GBP) per month, following a 1.3% month-on-month increase.

The study, which has been running for five years, is based on rents achieved on 18,000 UK PRS rental properties, show that average rents in the capital are now £81 (GBP) higher year-on-year.

However, the increase in rents has left a greater number of tenants struggling to keep up.

Tenants’ finances worsened to levels not seen since before Christmas 2012, with 8.5% of all rent late or unpaid in March, compared with 7.4% in February.

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Avoid Property Fraud

Avoid Property Fraud

There has been a great deal of stuff and nonsense bandied about by the media concerning property fraud over recent months, however, most of it has been fairly erronious.

To mark the launch of the UK Land Registry’s “Property Fraud Hotline” earlier this month, here are a few tips to help landlords and property owners to protect the registration of their assets.

  1. Property fraud can happen in many ways. Fraudsters may attempt to acquire ownership of a property either by using a forged document to transfer it into their own name, or by impersonating the registered owner. Once they have raised money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge, they disappear without making repayments leaving the owner to deal with the consequences.
  2. The property fraud line on 0300 006 7030 is available from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday. An online reporting form is also available at http://www.landregistry.gov.uk/contact-us/report-fraud or customers who prefer to email or wish to contact Land Registry outside business hours.
  3. The line is not a substitute for reporting allegations of fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 (who will pass your report on to the police) or for taking independent legal advice.
  4. In 2011, half of the 52 claims paid out by Land Registry for fraud and forgery were by non-family members. Of these, 22 involved properties with an absent owner and amounted to £1.5 Million (GBP) out of the total £7.2 Million (GBP) paid for fraud and forgery claims.
  5. Two publications for property owners are available free from Land Registry – Public Guide 17 How to safeguard against property fraud and Public Guide 2 Keeping your address for service up to date.
  6. With the largest transactional database of its kind detailing over 23 million titles, Land Registry underpins the economy by safeguarding ownership of many billions of pounds worth of property.
  7. As a government department established in 1862, executive agency and trading fund responsible to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Land Registry keeps and maintains the Land Register for England and Wales. The Land Register has been an open document since 1990.
  8. For further information about Land Registry visit www.landregistry.gov.uk

The UK Land Registry’s trial of a free restriction for absent owners is being continued, so far around 5,000 properties have been protected in this way since the trial began in February 2012.

Designed to help prevent forgery, the restriction requires a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner.

There is no Land Registry fee for property owners who wish to register this restriction as long as they do not live in the property, (i.e landlords).

Owner occupiers will have to pay a small fee.

UK Land Registry Launches Property Fraud Hotline

UK Land Registry Launches Property Fraud Hotline

A new fraud line has just been launched that allows property owners who are concerned that their property might be subject to a fraudulent sale or mortgage quickly alert the UK Land Registry.

Callers can speak to specially trained staff for practical guidance about what to do next.

The telephone number is 0300 006 7030

Lines are open from 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

The types of properties most vulnerable to fraudulent registrations or even mortgage fraud are usually empty, tenanted or mortgage-free residential properties.

Individuals at a higher risk of fraud include owners who do not live in the property because they live abroad, buy to let landlords, are in long term hospital or residential care or where a relationship has broken down. Other high risk property types include a landlord’s previous residential address that has since become a rental property controlled by the owner.

Examples of property fraud include situations where a buy to let landlord gets a call from a local estate agent saying that one of his rental properties seems to be being marketed for sale or where a relative learns the property has been ’stolen’ by a fraudster impersonating the deceased proprietor.

Alasdair Lewis, Director of Legal Services said: “Fraud affects all parts of today’s society and everyone in it, costing this country an estimated £38 billion each year. Government has a zero tolerance to fraud against the public purse but in order to fight fraud, everyone needs to work together. The need for everyone to play their part is just as relevant in the fight against property fraud as in other contexts. Our award-winning Counter-Fraud Unit works closely with the police and other agencies to reduce the risk of property fraud. Since September 2009, our measures have prevented fraud valued at £52 million but with an average indemnity payout of some £150,000, fraud is still a fundamental risk to our business.”

Additionally, as part of its commitment to a range of counter-fraud measures, Land Registry’s trial of a free restriction for absent owners is being continued. Around 5,000 properties have been protected in this way since the trial began in February 2012.

Designed to help prevent forgery, the restriction requires a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner. There is no Land Registry fee for home owners who wish to register this restriction as long as they do not live in the property. Owner occupiers pay a small fee.

Land Registry’s Counter-Fraud Unit picked up the top prize in the Fraud Prevention Category at the inaugural Fighting Fraud Awards, supported by the National Fraud Authority, in December 2012.

Land Registry’s top tips to help owners protect their property from fraudsters:

  • Make sure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer a financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated.
  • Once registered, have up-to-date contact details so we can reach you easily.
  • You can have up to three addresses on the register, email addresses or an address abroad can be used. The more information you provide, the more chance we have of reaching you if we need to.
UK Council of Mortgage Lenders May Change Buy To Let T's & C's

UK Council of Mortgage Lenders May Change Buy To Let T’s & C’s

Lenders may have to change their terms and conditions on buy to let mortgages and rethink their attitudes towards standard tenancies, according to the UK Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) was responding to calls by Labour leader Ed Miliband for longer-term tenancies in the private sector after he said he wanted to see greater security offered to households in rental accommodation. Similar calls have also been mounted by Shelter, and longer tenancies were also discussed in Parliament at the end of January.

But the CML acknowledges that lenders are nervous about extended tenancy agreements because of the risk of a build-up of rental arrears leading to buy to let mortgage arrears, affecting lenders’ ability to repossess the property if a long-term tenant is in place.

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New research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows UK property prices rising by 0.8% in 2012.

CEBR confirm a view that has remained fairly consistent for the last 3 years, that low interest rates and an increasing availability of mortgage products suitable for First Time Buyers (FTB’s), next time buyers and Buy To Let Landlords will help UK residential property prices creep up over the 2012-2016 period, reaching pre-recession levels in the second quarter of 2016.

The CEBR based its forecasts on a mix of micro and macro factors.

  • The key micro factor is the shortage of housing relative to potential household formation.
  • The key new micro issue is the changes in the planning regulations re-announced in the Budget.

These are likely gradually to boost the supply of housing and will constrain the gentle rise in house prices.

The key macro factors are

  • Affordability
  • Employment
  • Mortgage availability

The first of these will be slightly positive, the second slightly negative and the third increasingly positive.

The CEBR expect the mortgage famine to ease gradually as further quantitative easing flows through the economy and as banks recapitalise themselves.

“House prices have been pretty stable over the past two years” says Shehan Mohamed, main author of this report “Lending for housing was £74.5 billion in 2011 and we forecast that this will rise to £109.9 billion by 2016”.

CEBR’s regional house price analysis, also included in the report, shows house prices are likely to continue to rise more quickly in the London and the South East, though the gap in house price inflation with the rest of the country is likely to close because of the 7% stamp duty and the heavy taxation on corporate home ownership announced in the Budget and because of the non-recurrence of special factors like the Arab Spring and the euro crisis which boosted the London market in 2011.

Home insurers and the UK’s coalition Government are still arguing over paying for flood protection, meaning Millions of homeowners and Buy-To-Let Landlords are facing uncertainty over house prices, mortgage availability and the validity of their insurance policies.

Buy-To-Let Property Owners In Flood Risk Areas Fear Worst

UK Landlords With BTL Property In Flood Risk Areas Fear Worst

If the UK Government fails to meet the demands of insurers to reinstate flood protection cuts then insurance cover for millions of homes, including buy to let rental properties, could be withdrawn from June this year.

Although insurers pledged to offer insurance premiums for properties at risk of flooding, it was on the proviso that the UK government would invest money in flood defence protection.

The agreement is set to run out on July 1st 2013, but Millions of pounds have already been cut from flood defence budgets earmarked for improving sea walls and river banks.

Insurance policies starting at the end of June 2012 could be withdrawn for properties in high flood risk areas if an agreement isn’t reached, as the policies would be in force after the date the current agreement ends.

Flood defence protection is a priority for all residents living near to waterways, lakes and rivers, many people in flood-prone areas now have the added worry that their properties may be difficult or even impossible to insure later this year.

Some insurers are already warning that property owners in high flood risk areas, might not be able to renew their cover after the end of June this year, because their new insurance policy will extend beyond the 1st July 2013 agreement cut off date.

Not being able to obtain insurance cover will blight property values in many areas, as mortgage lenders may not offer funding and in many cases the properties will be very difficult to sell on.

Many home owners and buy-to-let landlords could also risk breaching stringent mortgage conditions that require them to have buildings insurance in place for the life of their mortgage loan.

Business Development Director for SearchFlow, Richard Hinton, said “Buyers will be able to obtain flood insurance for the next few months, but the long-term prospects of properties at risk of flooding are potentially bleak. Buyers purchasing in high-risk flood areas face the possibility of very high premiums, significant reductions in value, less access to mortgage finance and even action taken by the mortgage lender due to breach of the mortgage agreements.”

Check if you have a property at risk by going to the Environment Agency flood pages

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