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Property News

Big surge in distress sales even before virus – top agent

Big surge in distress sales even before virus - top agent

One of London’s most experienced estate agents says there has been a very significant surge in foreclosure sales in part of the capital’s housing market – even before the Coronavirus outbreak began.

Marc Schneiderman is the director of Arlington Residential, an independent agency that offers sales and lettings at the middle to top end of the market in central and north west London.

He says that clearly during the lockdown period that will be almost no new business, although he notes that predatory buyers are already on the prowl for casualties of the crisis – forced to sell at significant discounts.

However, Schneiderman believes there have been significant weaknesses in the market even before the Covid-19 calamity.

“Notwithstanding this current crisis, never before in my 35 years as an agent can I recall so many sales on behalf of banks and mortgagees in possession” he says.

“The property market has always been a barometer of the business world and reflected how well industry and retail is performing. For some time now bank foreclosures and mortgagee possession sales have been prevalent at the top end of the market.

“At the end of 2019 my firm acted on behalf of receivers on the sale of one of London’s largest flats. This penthouse apartment had an impressive 8,342 square feet of space and a further 4,125 square feet of terraces. It overlooked Regent’s Park, had underground parking for seven cars and an asking price of circa £10m.

“This is one of many receivership sales that have taken place in recent months at the top end of the London property market and it is no longer unusual for us to be contacted by a bank who are foreclosing on a £10m, £20m or even £30m property.

“Sadly it is just indicative of the wider depressed economic environment in which we find ourselves as a country”.

Separately, Savills has issued its routine quarterly figures for Prime London – unusually ending them not at the end of the quarter, but at mid-March to reflect the situation before the Coronavirus outbreak.

Nonetheless, in an introduction to the figures, the agency admits that the virus has impacted the market and Lucian Cook – the agency’s head of residential research – says: “It seems inevitable that there will be a period of low transactional activity over the spring and summer months, so it will probably be autumn before we can understand what this will mean for future price growth.”

Two new portals set to launch despite Coronavirus chaos

Two new portals set to launch despite Coronavirus chaos

Two property portals insist they’re going to launch this spring despite the Coronavirus chaos effectively closing down much of the housing market.

OpenBrix has been 18 months in the making and says it’s finally launching at an unspecified date in early April.

It says it’s seeking to address what it describes as agents’ frustrations with the current leading portals – lack of control, price hikes and “the uncomfortable feeling that the agents hard acquired and costly data is being sold without benefit to the agent.”

It says its structure is reliant on a database shared across a Blockchain network of agents, rather than located at one central point.

Its structure is similarly devolved – it says each agency brand, irrespective of size, will have one vote in determining strategy and policy. It describes this as “community control” and pledges that “all price increases will have to agreed and voted on by the community.”

And it adds: “If the UK agents want control of a portal for the first time, then this is the solution.”

Meanwhile Homesearch, a relatively new supplier to the industry that has until now specialised in data for agents, says it too is to launch a portal – this time on May 25.

The company says it has information on Britain’s entire 29m housing stock and pledges to be not just another portal but “the future of the industry”.

Creators Giles Ellwood and Sam Hunter say on their website: “We have self-funded the business since 2017 and have reinvested over £3m in data and engineering. Last year alone our software delivered over a billion pounds worth of market appraisals to the agents using our services. Over the past few days, with help and honest truths from agents closest to us, we believe we have engineered a long term solution. Not just another portal, but the future of the industry. A platform that networks you, the agent, with every home and client in the country.”

Calling itself a truly agent-first platform it describes itself as: “A network where consumers can interact with your agency and your instructions, as well as placing your agency in front of them for every other property they search for in your market. Everything will lead back to your website and the phone numbers and links will be yours, not ours.”

It promises agents will “not ever pay to list instructions” but property developers and house builders will; half of those charges will go to homeless and social housing projects.

Coronavirus outbreak could cost the buy to let sector £14.9bn in three short months

Market: Brexit Bounce giving way to Corona Crippling, says agent

The latest research by Deposit Replacement Scheme, Ome, has found that the impact of the Coronavirus could cost buy to let landlords nearly £14.9bn should tenants be unable to pay rent during the three month support period announced by the government yesterday.

Last night the government announced that they would suspend new evictions and halt new possessions proceedings to the court while the Coronavirus crisis persists. They have also protected landlords as well as tenants with a three-month mortgage payment holiday on buy to let mortgages.

However, if tenants simply can’t pay, this holiday will do little to help landlords who will still have to pay once the three months is up, with or without the rental income from their tenants.

Ome’s research shows that there are 5.2m households currently within the private rental sector alone and without the ability to work and pay their rent, the buy to let sector could see a loss of £4.97bn every month based on the average monthly rent of £955 alone. Over three months this climbs to a huge £14.9bn.

Nationally, this lost income is highest in England with potentially £11.6bn lost in rental income, while London is home to the biggest sum regionally with a potential £4.9bn lost in three months alone.

What does this mean for the average landlord?

There are some 2.6m landlords operating within the UK buy to let sector meaning the average landlord has a portfolio of two rental properties. With an average rent of £955 and a loss of three months’ rental revenue across both properties, they could be facing an individual £5,730 shortfall in rental income.

With a ratio of 2.1 properties per landlord in Scotland, the loss is at its greatest at £6,146 over three months with Northern Ireland also high at £6,083.

Not only does this huge sum have implications on a sector that has already seen its financial return stretched by the government, but it could see tenants out of pocket even further should landlords look to keep their tenancy deposit to account for lost rental income.

Co-founder of Ome, Matthew Hooker, commented: 

“It’s great news that the government are providing some financial respite for the nation’s landlords, however, it’s more of a weekend away than a holiday and once expired, UK landlords are still facing the cost of a buy to let mortgage without the rental income to pay it.

It’s by no means the fault of the tenant if they are unable to pay but there is a very real chance that landlords will turn to the rental deposits at the end of a tenancy in order to recoup this lost rent. While this would be unfair on a tenant who has otherwise kept the property in good order, it may well be the case that landlords are simply left with no choice.

The silver lining at least is that hopefully, not all tenants will be unable to pay their rent and so this sum of lost rental income should reduce, but whichever way you look at it, the UK rental sector is in for a tough few months.”

 

Location
Private renters
Average rent
1 month B2L lost revenue
3 months B2L lost revenue
Number of landlords
Average number of B2L properties
Cost per landlord
England
4,552,000
£852
£3,878,304,000
£11,634,912,000
2,266,770
2.0
£5,753
Wales
176,000
£515
£90,675,200
£272,025,600
104,450
1.7
£4,828
Scotland
340,000
£748
£254,481,840
£763,445,520
158,505
2.1
£6,146
Northern Ireland
138,000
£627
£86,526,000
£259,578,000
64,995
2.1
£6,083
UK
5,206,000
£955
£4,971,730,000
£14,915,190,000
2,594,720
2.0
£5,748
Location
Private renters
Average rent (2019)
1 month B2L lost revenue
3 months B2L lost revenue
London
964,000
£1,697
£1,635,908,000
£4,907,724,000
South East
713,000
£998
£711,574,000
£2,134,722,000
South West
474,000
£816
£386,784,000
£1,160,352,000
East of England
437,000
£869
£379,753,000
£1,139,259,000
North West
571,000
£621
£354,591,000
£1,063,773,000
West Midlands
405,000
£662
£268,110,000
£804,330,000
Yorkshire and the Humber
427,000
£617
£263,459,000
£790,377,000
East Midlands
359,000
£628
£225,452,000
£676,356,000
North East
202,000
£533
£107,666,000
£322,998,000

House price gap between sellers and buyers reduces

Unmanaged vacant properties may invalidate insurance - claim

Leading lettings and sales agent, Benham and Reeves, has released the latest of its very own quarterly house price index based on data from the top four existing indices, looking at where the average house price sits and how the gap between buyer and seller expectation and actual sales has changed.

The Benham and Reeves House Price Index combines data from the four leading industry indices to give a singular figure of how the UK market is moving based on both buyer and seller sentiment, as well as looking at the difference in these indices and what they reveal about the state of the current market.

Current property values

The latest index from Benham and Reeves for Q4 2019 shows that the current overall average UK house price is sitting at £251,912 having dropped marginally by -0.2% on the previous quarter, although prices were up by 1.4% on an annual basis.

In London, the average property value also dropped marginally to £511,166, down -0.4% on the previous quarter, down -0.7% on an annual basis.

Seller and buyer expectations show signs of alignment 

The latest quarterly data from Nationwide and Halifax shows that the amount UK buyers are committing to borrowing has increased slightly by 0.31% to £225,188. At the same time, the average asking price has fallen by -1.02%, while sold prices are up 0.4% to £234,167.

Despite a market bounce following the election, it’s clear that months of Brexit uncertainty have seen the expectation gap between buyers and sellers close. The gap between buyer expectation and asking prices dropped -1% in Q4 to 35%, while there was also a -1% decrease between asking price and sold price, down to -23%.

However, in London, this gap remained consistent with a 33% increase between the price at which buyers were being approved for a mortgage and the asking price expectations of UK sellers, while there was a -22% drop between this asking price and the average sold price.

Director of Benham and Reeves, Marc von Grundherr, commented: 

“It’s only natural that asking prices will remain at a higher level than the average mortgage approval or sold price, but it’s interesting to see that months of Brexit uncertainty had started to bring this difference in buyer and seller expectations closer together.

As buyers committed to slightly more in the way of a mortgage approval price to take advantage of lower market values and lower interest rates, sellers realised they had to lower asking expectations to secure a deal in tough market conditions. This also translated to a smaller gap between asking price and the sold price accepted.

However, with a huge spike in activity following December’s election, we will no doubt see asking prices start to lift once again, as UK sellers look to take advantage of returning buyer demand.

While this asking price expectation will always be higher than the reality of the average sold price, an optimistic increase in a stronger market places sellers in a better position to negotiate a stronger sale price before accepting an offer.”

Benham and Reeves House Price Index
UK
Year
Quarter
Average House Price
Quarterly Change
Annual Change
2018
Q1
£245,074
Q2
£248,245
1.3%
Q3
£250,244
0.8%
Q4
£248,513
-0.7%
2019
Q1
£247,463
-0.4%
1.0%
Q2
£251,682
1.7%
1.4%
Q3
£252,487
0.3%
0.9%
Q4
£251,912
-0.2%
1.4%
London
Year
Quarter
Average House Price
Quarterly Change
Annual Change
2018
Q1
£519,238
Q2
£520,412
0.2%
Q3
£517,059
-0.6%
Q4
£514,976
-0.4%
2019
Q1
£504,731
-2.0%
-2.8%
Q2
£512,193
1.5%
-1.6%
Q3
£513,180
0.2%
-0.8%
Q4
£511,166
-0.4%
-0.7%
UK
Year
Quarter
Mortgage Approvals Price
< Difference >
Asking Price
< Difference >
Sold Price
2018
Q1
£218,231
37.8%
£300,684
-25.4%
£224,319
2018
Q2
£219,116
40.4%
£307,745
-26.3%
£226,869
2018
Q3
£221,959
37.4%
£305,060
-24.1%
£231,438
2018
Q4
£220,522
37.1%
£302,239
-23.8%
£230,274
2019
Q1
£221,578
35.6%
£300,481
-24.3%
£227,608
2019
Q2
£225,987
36.2%
£307,691
-25.5%
£229,276
2019
Q3
£224,490
36.5%
£306,321
-23.6%
£234,074
2019
Q4
£225,188
34.6%
£303,182
-22.8%
£234,167
London
Year
Quarter
Mortgage Approvals Price
< Difference >
Asking Price
< Difference >
Sold Price
2018
Q1
£473,776
30.8%
£619,905
-23.1%
£476,653
2018
Q2
£468,845
34.0%
£628,174
-23.8%
£478,555
2018
Q3
£468,544
31.2%
£614,537
-21.9%
£480,090
2018
Q4
£466,988
31.5%
£614,044
-22.4%
£476,273
2019
Q1
£455,594
32.8%
£605,178
-22.9%
£466,356
2019
Q2
£465,722
32.7%
£618,232
-24.5%
£466,683
2019
Q3
£460,686
33.1%
£612,967
-21.9%
£478,594
2019
Q4
£458,363
32.9%
£609,315
-21.5%
£478,227

Housing market could be ‘frozen’ to avoid Coronavirus crash

Housing market could be ‘frozen’ to avoid Coronavirus crash

It’s been reported that the government is talking with banks and building societies about putting the housing market ‘on ice’ during the virus crisis to avoid a crash and to allow financial institutions to offer mortgages.

Today’s Financial Times says UK Finance – the trade body representing mortgage lenders – has told members: “UK Finance has been seeking urgent clarification from the government about whether home purchases should continue at the current time, particularly as physical property valuations are no longer possible.”

One suggestion is that offers of mortgages in principle could extend to six months rather than three.

The FT story follows growing concern yesterday that many mortgage lenders were withdrawing their products or severely restricting access to them; this was thought to be because valuations were not possible ‘in person’, and because of uncertainty that homes would retain their value over the coming months.

Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays, two of the UK’s biggest lenders, are temporarily pulling many of their mortgages. Lloyds has stopped offering mortgages or remortgages through brokers unless the customer has a deposit of at least 40 per cent of the value of the property.

Barclays told brokers it would no longer offer mortgages for customers that did not have a deposit of at least 40 per cent, but it will continue to offer remortgaging deals.

Last evening the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, took to Twitter to say: “I know that many people across the country are due to move house tomorrow. Whilst emergency measures are in place, all parties should do all they can to agree a new move date. If you’re socially isolating or being shielded, it’s especially important to try and delay.”

And this was followed up by tweets from the MHCLG saying: “People should delay moving where possible … Estate agents must work remotely to support their clients … If your home is on the market, you shouldn’t let buyers visit your home.”

Earlier this week the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had advised buyers and renters to, if at all possible, delay moving home until the Coronavirus crisis has subsided.

The same guidance also allows tradespeople to continue repairs and maintenance work, “provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.”

“No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so.”

Rightmove “taking appropriate measures” to shore up company

Rightmove "taking appropriate measures" to shore up company

Rightmove has this morning told its shareholders it is “taking appropriate measures” to shore up the company.

It gives no indication of what those measures are but it says in a trading statement released at 7am today: “In this period of unprecedented uncertainty, we are unable to quantify the impact of COVID-19 on our financial and trading performance at this stage. Accordingly, the group is suspending all existing financial guidance for 2020. The board is confident that the company has the financial capacity to withstand this challenging period.”

It has scrapped a dividend to shareholders and suspended financial guidance on how the firm will perform this year.

Shareholders were to have received a final dividend payment of 4.4p per share for the year ending December 31 but in the light of the Coronavirus crisis, that has been stopped.

In a bid to pacify those with a stake in the company, Rightmove has told them: “The board recognises the importance of the dividend to our shareholders and will consider the timing of the reinstatement of the share buyback programme and the quantum of any interim dividend for 2020 in due course.”

It goes on to say: “The strength of our balance sheet and business model has enabled the board to act quickly to support our customers [the offer to agents] as announced on 20 March.”

A week ago today Rightmove revealed it would slash its charges to agents by 75 per cent for four months.

The portal also apologised for getting it so badly wrong with its deferred payment scheme, which was derided by customers – many of which left the portal in disgust.

A statement from Rightmove to agents at the time said: “I don’t think many of us would have predicted sitting in our offices last week that we’d be where we are today, with the possibility of more restrictive measures approaching. Earlier this week we offered our independent estate and lettings agents a deferred payment scheme to help them through the next few months. The situation in the UK has changed rapidly and we’re sorry that it was too little and now inappropriate for the challenges we all face.”

The portal went on to say a week ago: “Instead of offering the deferred payment scheme to independent estate and lettings agents, we’re going to reduce your Rightmove bill by 75% for four months, starting from 1st April whether you advertise residential properties, new homes or commercial premises. You don’t need to apply for this discount, your invoice will automatically come through reduced by 75%. To be clear, this is not a deferred payment, this is a discount that you don’t need to pay back.

Agents Beware: definitive government guidance on buying and selling

Agents Beware: definitive government guidance on buying and selling

The government has at last issued extensive advice on home moving and the activities of estate agents during the continuing Coronavirus crisis.

This came last evening after days of debate on how much marketing, valuing, viewing and conveyancing could be done during the lockdown.

Here is the guidance in full:

There is no need to pull out of transactions, but we all need to ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority.

Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance in this document on home removals. Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place.

In the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed.

Recognising parties will need to alter common practice, we have sought to ease this process for all involved by:

  1. Issuing this guidance, developed with Public Health England, to home buyers and those involved in the selling and moving process;
  2. Agreeing with banks that mortgage offers should be extended where delay to completions takes place in order to prioritise safety; and,
  3. Working with Conveyancers to develop a standard legal process for moving completion dates.

Advice to the public

What does this mean for my property move which is scheduled whilst the stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus (COIVD-19) apply?

  • Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Our advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter.
  • If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.
  • In line with Government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group, or where someone in a chain is in this group.

What if an extension goes beyond the terms of a mortgage agreement?

UK Finance have today confirmed that, to support customers who have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.

If a customer’s circumstances change during this three month period or the terms of the house purchase change significantly and continuing with the mortgage would cause house buyers to face financial hardship, lenders will work with customers to help them manage their finances as a matter of urgency.

If your home is not yet on the market

Getting your home onto the market may be more challenging than usual in this period.There should be no visitors to your home. You can speak to Estate Agents over the phone and they will be able to give you general advice about the local property market and handle certain matters remotely but they will not be able to start actively marketing your home in the usual manner.

  • If you are thinking about selling, you can use this time to start gathering together all of the information you will need to provide to potential purchasers.
  • Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite unnecessary visitors into your home, including: Property Agents to carry out a market appraisal or take internal photographs prior to marketing your home; and Energy Performance Certificate assessors.

Viewings

If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it as being for sale but you should not allow people in to view your property.

  • There should not be any visitors into your home, and you should therefore not let people visit your property for viewings. Your agent may be able to conduct virtual viewings and you could speak to them about this possibility.

Accepting offers

The buying and selling process can continue during this period but you should be aware that the process is likely to take longer than normal.

  • You are free to continue to accept offers on your property, however the selling process may take longer.
  • Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite visitors into your home, including prospective buyers or advisors.

Exchanging contracts

Once you have exchanged contracts, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase that home.

  • If the property you are purchasing in unoccupied you can continue with the transaction.
  • If the property you are purchasing is currently occupied, we recommend that all parties should work either delay the exchange of contracts until after the period where stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus (COVID-19) are in place, or include explicit contractual provisions to take account of the risks presented by the virus.

Advice to industry

All businesses must follow the Government’s latest Guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Estate Agents

Estate Agents should ensure they are able to support clients during this period:

  • Agents should work with their clients and other agents to broker a new date to move where sales are due to complete on occupied properties in the current period where emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Agents should prioritise support for anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, and those they are in chain with, to agree a new date.
  • In line with advice for certain businesses to close, agents should not open branches to the public during this period, or visit people’s homes to carry out market appraisals.
  • Agents should ensure that employees can work from home, to support existing clients and advise potential new clients.
  • Agents should continue to progress sales where this can be done whilst following guidance to stay at home and away from others.
  • Agents should advise clients to be patient and not to exchange contracts unless the contracts have explicit terms to manage the timing risks presented by the virus.

Conveyancers

Conveyancers should continue to support the sales process as far as possible and should make sure their clients are aware of the difficulties of completing transactions in this period:

  • Conveyancers should continue to support the sales of unoccupied properties as far as possible.
  • Conveyancers should make every effort to support clients who are due to complete on occupied properties in the stay-at-home period to change this date.
  • Conveyancers should advise their clients who are ready to move not to exchange contracts on an occupied property unless they have made explicit provision for the risks presented by the virus.
  • Conveyancers should prioritise support anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus and those they are in chain with, and we urge them to do all they can to help a new date to be agreed in these circumstances.

Surveyors

Surveyors should not expect to carry out non-urgent surveys in homes where people are in residence, and no inspections should take place if any person in the property is showing symptoms, self-isolating or being shielded. It may be possible to carry out some of your work online and also carry out urgent surveys on empty properties, or those where the occupants are out of the property or following guidance to stay at home and away from others.

  • Surveyors should follow the latest Government guidance which currently (26 March 2020) states that work carried out in people’s homes can continue, provided the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • It is important to ensure Government guidelines are followed, including maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
  • No work should be carried out by a person who has coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, however mild.

Removals Firms

There will be people who have already committed to moving home; where possible we are encouraging them to delay their move but a small number of moves may need to go ahead. We would urge everyone to take all sensible precautions to ensure the move can happen safely.

  • Removers should honour their existing commitments where it is clear that the move can be done safely for the client and your own staff and it is clear that the moving date cannot be moved.
  • Removers should follow the latest Government guidance which currently (26 March 2020) states that work carried out in people’s homes can continue, provided the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms or coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • It is important to ensure Government guidelines are followed, including maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
  • No work should be carried out by a person who has coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, however mild.

Useful guidance and support for dealing with tenants during Covid-19 outbreak

Useful guidance and support for dealing with tenants during Covid-19 outbreak

A high number of buy-to-let landlords are concerned about the impact of the Coronavirus, but The Guild of Letting and Management has provided some practical guidance and advice to help you cope with the existing situation.

One of the most common questions many landlords are currently asking about is the announcement the government made on the 18th March 2020, relating to evictions and support for those renting, although it is important to point out that the new legislation has not yet been released.

A key topic on the Guild’s advice line is Rent. It is important to note, that not every single tenant in the UK has been made redundant, or is experiencing difficulty, therefore, it is important to ensure that this is dealt with on a case by case basis.

Points to consider:

1. Ensure the tenant is aware that rent is still due.

2. If the tenant is experiencing difficulty, guide them to the Department of Work & Pensions website where they can obtain the guidance they require regarding pay, statutory sick pay (SSP) and other relevant up to date information.

3. Ask tenants to put their concerns to you in writing. It is important that you are able to discuss the matter with all the relevant facts to hand.

4. Speak to your lender and find out what they are putting in place. Some landlords have already offered tenants a discount on rent or a “rent holiday”. But remember, that as with the mortgage lenders, this deferred rent will have to be paid back at some point in the future.

5. Speak to the guarantor, where there is one. They should not be left out of any discussions regarding rent payments.

6. Check whether your insurer can offer rent and legal protection.

7. Keep records up to date. Every discussion, conversation over the phone, email, must be logged and documented.

8. Any pre-existing arrears (pre-18th March 2020) cannot be factored into this Coronavirus situation. Remember everyone is in the same boat. No one has experienced this before, This is not the same as the 2008 recession, this is a public health matter, so it is difficult for everyone involved on so many levels.

Coronavirus could cost BTL landlords almost £15bn in lost rental income

Coronavirus could cost BTL landlords almost £15bn in lost rental income

The devastating impact of the Coronavirus could cost buy-to-let landlords nearly £14.9bn should tenants be unable to pay rent during the three month support period announced by the government last week, new research shows.

The government has announced that they will suspend new evictions and halt new possessions proceedings to the court in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If tenants are unable to pay their rent, Ome calculates that this would leave landlords £14.9bn out of pocket over a three-month period.

The deposit replacement scheme’s findings are based on the fact that there are 5.2m households currently within the private rental sector alone and without the ability to work and pay their rent, the buy to let sector could see a loss of £4.97bn every month based on the average monthly rent of £955 alone.

Nationally, this lost income is highest in England with potentially £11.6bn lost in rental income, while London is home to the biggest sum regionally with a potential £4.9bn lost in three months alone.

There are some 2.6m landlords operating within the UK buy to let sector meaning the average landlord has a portfolio of two rental properties. With an average rent of £955 and a loss of three months’ rental revenue across both properties, they could be facing an individual £5,730 shortfall in rental income.

With a ratio of 2.1 properties per landlord in Scotland, the loss is at its greatest at £6,146 over three months with Northern Ireland also high at £6,083.

Co-founder of Ome, Matthew Hooker, commented: “It’s great news that the government are providing some financial respite for the nation’s landlords, however, it’s more of a weekend away than a holiday and once expired, UK landlords are still facing the cost of a buy to let mortgage without the rental income to pay it.

“It’s by no means the fault of the tenant if they are unable to pay but there is a very real chance that landlords will turn to the rental deposits at the end of a tenancy in order to recoup this lost rent. While this would be unfair on a tenant who has otherwise kept the property in good order, it may well be the case that landlords are simply left with no choice.

“The silver lining at least is that hopefully, not all tenants will be unable to pay their rent and so this sum of lost rental income should reduce, but whichever way you look at it, the UK rental sector is in for a tough few months.”

It doesn’t have to be like Spicerhaart – another agent’s approach…

It doesn’t have to be like Spicerhaart - another agent’s approach…

While controversy swirls around the approach and motives of the sackings and branch closures at Spicerhaart, other agents are showing how they can pull teams together at difficult moments like these.

Estate Agent Today has seen a message to the staff of Choices Estate Agents from its chairman, Simon Shinerock, revealing an open communications approach and an unusual way of sharing the pain of reduced income, if that happens, during the crisis months.

He says an event such as Coronavirus leads to companies showing their true colours, and that his letter – which we reproduce below, in full – has been met with universal support from his team.

 

 

 

Dear All 

I am writing to you so you can understand my thinking at this difficult and unprecedented time because it falls to me to make crucial decisions over the coming days that will affect the long term survival of the business and everyone who works in it. 

Before I go on I want you to know that compared to our competitors we are a relatively financially strong company, which means that if we are careful we stand a much better chance than most of getting through this crisis and out the other side. 

However, we don’t have unlimited resources and based on what I am now seeing we might not be able to sail through without some drastic temporary measures being put in place. I would also like to say that during the crisis I will not personally be taking anything out of the business and will if necessary make a substantial sum available from my savings in order to get us through.

That said, like any business or family we need to make ends meet and if our income is going to drop substantially over several months we have to plan to reduce our expenses accordingly. 

At the moment we don’t know for sure how badly we will be affected but it’s now obvious new business will be harder and we will take a hit if a significant number of tenants don’t pay their rent. 

Our biggest expense by far is our wages bill, it constitutes over 50% of all our expenses and it is the one over which we have the greatest control. 

In stark terms I have a choice, I can try and get through this by making a lot of people redundant, something I really don’t want to do, or, I can try and keep as many if not all of you employed by asking you to be prepared to potentially make a personal sacrifice during this difficult time.

Normally we expect to make a profit every month, our rental income means we can predict and forecast how we are doing quite accurately and we have been making great progress this year so far. 

I’m happier with my senior management team than at any other time and I can see the quality of all our staff improving all the time. I’m also more confident than I’ve ever been that we as a company are offering a market leading proposition which has become the envy of our competitors. 

So, under normal circumstances I would expect this to be a record year for us. However I can now see that it is most likely that over the coming weeks and months our income is likely to decline and put us in an unsustainable loss making situation unless we put a contingency plan in place now

Obviously the best outcome is that we continue to do new business and take advantage of the many opportunities that will arise as landlords and sellers find it harder to get a result from their agent either because of lack of proactivity, or because some agents will throw in the towel, something we are already beginning to see. 

There will also be a lot of private landlords in distress who may want our help and we should be on the lookout for them. I can still foresee an optimistic outcome where we get through this in profit, now that would be an achievement and it’s something we must aim for and do everything we can to achieve. However, we also need a plan for what we do if we don’t make a profit and can’t sustain our current cost base. 

I want you to know we are exploring all avenues, negotiating discounts and payment holidays with suppliers, looking at government loans and assistance, getting rid of unnecessary expenditure, everything we can to get us through this. 

On the last point please try to help by keeping non essential expenses down to a minimum, every little helps. If after looking at all these options we still can’t cover our costs I am proposing that we apply a fair income reduction formula to everyone in the company.

What I mean is that whatever the percentage shortfall is in a month we apply that percentage to everyone’s pay which would be reduced accordingly. So, as an example, if our normal wages bill is £200,000 and we had a shortfall of £10,000 it would mean everyone would be paid 5% less than normal. 

If we put in this backstop now we may never need it, I hope we don’t but it will mean I can make firm plans for the future, retain as many of our people as possible, focus on the business and come out of this as strong and fit as possible. 

Because of the extraordinary nature of this situation I will be available to any member of staff who wants to speak to me personally to ask questions or tell me about their concerns. All I ask is you speak to your manager first and if you still feel you want to talk to me I’m available. 

I’m delighted to say that since writing this message, during today most of you have been told about its contents and that as a company everyone has received it positively. 

You will be getting an email on Monday from HR confirming the change will be in place, the earliest it can affect your pay is April. I really believe that by pulling together we can come through this intact, stronger and wiser.

Finally, this is new ground for everyone and I don’t claim to have all the answers, I may well make some mistakes and errors of judgement along the way but I promise you this. 

I will do everything in my power to steer us through this crisis and out the other side and I will fully recognise everyone who gives the company and me personally their support and trust along the way