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the number of empty UK properties still increasing

The Number of UK Empty Properties Continues To Rise

Despite campaigns from all quarters of the media and industry bodies, the number of empty homes in the UK increased significantly in 2011, new research has shown.

Data from the Communities and Local Government department, (CLG),the Office for National Statistics, (ONS), and Halifax’s own housing statistics database, the study revealed a 1.8% rise in empty residential dwellings.

According to the Halifax Empty Homes survey, which takes into account all private and public empty residential abodes, including those that have been vacant for under six months – leapt from the 650,127 recorded in April 2010 to 662,105 for the same period earlier this year.

Despite this trend, the study also revealed some more positive movement, with the amount of long-term empty private homes, those that have been without occupants for at least 6 months, dropping to the lowest levels since 2008.

These properties account for 44% of all empty residences, underlining the significance of the improvement.

It was shown that April 2011 that there were 292,313 examples of this kind of home, which represented a 1.1% decline on the 295,519 reported in the same four-week period 12 months earlier.

Stephen Noakes, Mortgage Director at Halifax,(a division of Bank of Scotland), said: “The findings show the considerable impact empty properties can have on the overall housing market, claiming it is therefore necessary for action to be taken to address the issue. Long-term empty homes account for about 1.6% of all private homes in England. And at a time when first-time buyers are still facing numerous obstacles to getting on the ladder, it is imperative we look further at the issue as an industry.”

The issue of empty homes that are fit for purpose remains a particular problem in a number of areas across the UK, where the proportion of void occupancy is double the national average. Even the UK’s Private Rented Sector is not unaffected. Landlords with properties requiring substantial improvements are lying empty due to the current lack of available finance.

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Confidence in the UK’s commercial property sector has fallen for the first time in almost a year amid fears about the economic fallout of the Eurozone crisis.

According to survey data released last Friday by Lloyds Banking Group, the UK’s largest commercial lender, confidence in the prospects of the industry are being pushed lower by fund managers, only 10% of whom expect activity to increase within the next six months.

Large businesses were more positive, however, with more than two-thirds intending to increase their exposure to the sector.

Lloyds is well placed to gauge industry sentiment, having inherited a large loan book from its takeover of HBOS.

The group owns more than £60 Billion (GBP) or $93 Billion (USD) of commercial property loans.

Lloyds’ Managing Director of Corporate Real Estate, Lynda Shillaw said: “This quarter’s market overview suggests that weakening prospects for the world economy, turbulence in global financial markets and Europe’s sovereign debt crisis are impacting negatively on UK commercial property confidence.”

Added to the news that UK retail surveyors are reporting an increase in vacant retail units and the picture becomes even gloomier for landlords with commercial premises on the British high street.

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, (RICS), the number of retail surveyors who saw an increase in available shop space rose 14% during the three months to September,

The 29% net balance of those seeing a rise in availability, up from 15% in the last quarter, is a worrying omen for the retail property sector, which is suffering from falling consumer confidence as well as a massive tightening in lending from UK banks.

The number of respondents reporting increased demand for shop space fell, with the net balance declining from 12% in the second quarter to -19% during the three months to October.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist said; “There is a suspicion that the recovery that was expected is no longer coming, and with more stock coming through and demand falling, rents are going to come under pressure. The resolution of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe would go some way to alleviating the concerns, but confidence is crucial to the retail sector and at the moment it is hard to see where the good news story is coming from”.

Across the wider commercial property sector, demand levels slipped back for the first time since last year, with a net balance of surveyors seeing demand among tenants falling to -11% from a 10 % positive balance during the last quarter.

Landlords across the sector also offered special deals and discounts to encourage retail tenants to take up commercial property rental agreements.

Over the last three months, 20% of commercial landlords said the need for inducements had been increasing and many felt that landlords were under increasing pressure to incorporate more flexibility into their leases.

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