Posts Tagged ‘’

A holiday home in Portugal

Monday, July 27th, 2009

From Porto to the Algarve, Portugal has some fine property for sale. Graham Norwood picks some of the best

Snooping around: Rural, urban or renovation

Monday, July 27th, 2009

From the canals of London to a gated enclave in Portugal's Algarve

Writing home: Properties with literary connections

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Fancy a house with a literary past? Huma Qureshi opens the book on some inspiring properties

Trading up, trading down

Monday, July 27th, 2009

From the raw beauty of the Cairngorms to the quiet reaches of Cornwall

How the surveying profession failed

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Life was easy for surveyors when properties were flying off estate agents' books, but the housing market downturn has raised questions about their role

Quite what does a valuation surveyor actually do? Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are surveyors. I'm not anti-surveyor, but ...

A report from the Bank of England this week said lenders are struggling to value homes in the current market, causing delays which are leading to the break-up and collapse of chains.

How different from the halcyon days two years ago when the job of a valuation surveyor was little more than establishing the "comparables". A tough task indeed: dropping in for a chat at a local estate agency, and finding out what similar properties have gone for. If that was too strenuous, there was always the Land Registry's website, holdings details of actual sale prices. Indeed, why even employ humans? Many lenders found it was simpler and cheaper to use "automated valuation models" during the boom years.

Yet the homebuyer still got stiffed with an steep bill for a valuation, typically around £350 on a £200,000 purchase (although often waived for remortgages).

Today the automated valuation models are close to breaking down. With so few sales, it's impossible to establish comparables. How much is a house worth on a street where there has not been a sale for a year? Valuation surveyors are having to work twice as hard on half the amount of business. Lenders want valuations pushed down, fearful of further falls in house prices. Buyers are in chains which fall apart after a low valuation prevents them from obtaining a big enough mortgage to go ahead.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors should be taking a long hard look at itself. How truly "professional" is the work of its members? Who was valuing buy-to-let flats at such absurdly inflated prices? How does a valuation surveyor get it so wrong? And what sort of action should a professional body take against members who have so discredited themselves?

The professional skills needed for the structural element of a home survey will always be essential. But the valuation bit? Clearly the profession failed, hypnotised like the rest of the country into believing markets rise in a straight line upwards.

Valuers live by the maxim that the price of a property is the amount that someone is willing to pay. But this has turned out to be nonsense. In truth, the price of a property is the amount someone is willing to lend you to buy it. Value is not in the eye of the beholder, it's in the spreadsheet of a lender. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Ex-John Lewis chief to head Crown Estate

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

The Crown Estate has appointed Sir Stuart Hampson as its chairman, making the former John Lewis Partnership boss one of the most powerful men in UK property.

His appointment comes at a delicate time for the Crown Estate whose huge collection of property assets in the year to March collapsed in value by 18% to £6bn, the first time the estate had lost value since 1993.

Despite the most challenging property markets for a generation, the Crown still managed to return £226.5m to the Treasury. Revenue from its sprawling portfolio of offices, shops, agricultural land and offshore marine assets has exploded from £187m in 1999 to £304m this year. Surpluses have increased from £132m to £226.5m during the same period.

Hampson's urgent task will be to ensure the Crown Estate holds its value as tenants increasingly go out of business. Property insiders believe a wave of tenant defaults could see rental income dry up across Britain, which would put the Crown Estate, like other big landowners, in jeopardy.

Hampson, 62, is well regarded in business circles, having overseen a resurgence in the John Lewis department store and Waitrose supermarket business, where he was chairman for 14 years. He left the firm in 2007 after the announcement of huge bonuses for the store's entire workforce.

Hampson is also a former senior civil servant and has a wealth of experience in farming and urban renewal. He recently stepped down as a non-executive at ITV and is a government adviser most recently helping the NHS on leadership issues.

A former leading member of London First, the business lobby group, he will be all too familiar with the challenges facing the Crown in reviving Regent Street, which it owns and where it has spent tens of millions refurbishing buildings behind their listed facades. With 14.8m sq ft of commercial property, the Crown also owns land and buildings in Kensington and around Regents Park as well as 2,000 residential properties and 146,000 hectares of agricultural land and forests. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Credit crunch reaches world’s most expensive streets

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

The global financial crisis has squeezed property prices, but how has it affected those at the very top?

Avenue Princesse Grace in Monaco is the most expensive street in the world, with each square metre in an apartment setting you back £73,000 – or about the same as a 70-square-metre apartment on the seafront in Hastings, according to Dow Jones' Wealth Bulletin.

But the palm-lined street, named after the Hollywood star Grace Kelly and popular with Russian oligarchs, is suffering from "la crise du credit" like everywhere else. The bulletin shows top prices paid for apartments, are down by 37% from 2008's peak of £116,000 a square metre.

Overall, prices paid for prime residential property in the world's fanciest locations have fallen by 12% over the past year, although Europe fell less sharply than the US and Russia.

Via Suvretta in the Swiss ski resort of St Moritz was the only street on the list where prices for top properties have risen since 2008. Prices are up by 18% to around £27,500 a square metre.

The world's second priciest street, the Chemin de Saint-Hospice, is a 20-minute drive along the coast from Monaco, snaking through on Cap Ferrat. It numbers just 15 houses, commanding beautiful Mediterranean views.

According to Wealth Bulletin, local estate agents say there is one property for sale on the street, but it is being sold privately and its price a closely guarded secret. It estimates that property on the street goes for an average of £61,000 a square metre.

New York's Fifth Avenue pips London's Kensington Palace Gardens to third place in the survey, with apartments selling for around £44,000 a square metre. Although a 400 sq/m apartment overlooking Central Park on the Upper East Side of Fifth Avenue sold for $29m in June, local agents say the market has come off the boil, and remains affected by a lack of supply

Fourth-placed Kensington Palace Gardens is Britain's most exclusive address, best-known as London's embassy row, including the Russian delegation. Prices in the street are estimated to have fallen by 15%-20% over the past year.

The world's top 10

1. Avenue Princesse Grace, Monaco, £73,000 per sq/m

2. Chemin de Saint-Hospice, Cap Ferrat, South of France, £61,000 per sq/m

3. Fifth Avenue, New York, £44,000 per sq/m

4. Kensington Palace Gardens, London, £40,000 per sq/m

5. Avenue Montaigne, Paris, £33,000 per sq/m

6. Via Suvretta, St Moritz, Switzerland, £27,500 per sq/m

7. Via Romazzino, Porto Cervo, Sardinia, £26,000 per sq/m

8. Severn Road, The Peak, Hong Kong, £24,500 per sq/m

9. Ostozhenka Street, Moscow, £21,000 per sq/m

10. Wolseley Road, Point Piper, Australia, £17,000 per sq/m © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds