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Happy places, housing support, rents tumble, and sound insulation sales

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The last week sees a mixed bag of news stories bringing both positives and possibly less than welcome developments for homeowners, landlords and tenants.

Here are just some of the headlines showing the way.

The happiest places to live in the UK

The list might bring a smile of contentment to some homeowners and a tinge of envy to others – a story in the Daily Mail on the 25th of November identified the happiest places to live in the UK.

Happiness doesn’t seem to gravitate towards any particular region of the country. While St. Ives in Cornwall, for example, steals first place in the happiness stakes, the second is around 400 miles away in Skipton, North Yorkshire. Third-placed Leamington Spa is in Warwickshire, in the Midlands.

Although the demand for homes in these centres of happiness of course helps to nudge up prices, there is really no hard and fast connection between house prices and the overall sense of contentment.

In hotspot St Ives, for example, demand for housing has shot up by an estimated 120% in the past 12 months. Yet prices are currently an average of £413,414. This is substantially cheaper than the average £869,864 you would need to pay for a home in Richmond, Surrey – which is only the tenth most happy place to live in the UK.

Or take Llandrindod Wells, the happiest place in Wales (and fourth overall across the country as a whole), where you can buy one of the cheapest homes in the UK at an average of just £150,963.

It’s a similar story with the happiest place to live in Scotland. Perth takes the hotspot here (fifth in the whole of the UK), where an average price of just £163,303 puts homes as the second cheapest of the top 20 happiest places in which to live.

One of the conclusions drawn by the authors of this latest report is that wherever people are living they seem to have reacted to the coronavirus restrictions by connecting more forcefully – and favourably – with their local communities and with a renewed appreciation of the natural environment and green spaces around them.

Housing support cut

The National Residential Landlords’ Association (NRLA) has voiced its disappointment about the effective freeze on the benefits to which some tenants are eligible for help in paying the rent.

Reacting to the Chancellor’s Spending Review 2020 on the 25th of November, the NRLA described the freeze as a “kick in the teeth” for the many tenants and landlords who have been struggling to stem the tide of rising rent arrears during the pandemic.

According to an article in Inside Housing on the 25th of November, the Chancellor’s revised spending plans with respect to housing benefit means that the £1 billion which will be spent in 2021/22 will be worth only £840 million in 2022/23. At that rate, and if the freeze continues, the budget for those benefits will have fallen to £300 million in real terms – significantly short of the current lowest 30th percentile of homes in any area.

How working from home is affecting rents in the least affordable cities

As working from home as slowly but surely become the new norm, the demand for rented accommodation in the country’s biggest cities has slumped. That slump is accompanied by an inevitable fall in average rents, reported Landlord Today last week.

While average rents across the whole of the UK have risen by a slim 0.6% since the property market reopened for business in May, those in the major cities have fallen. Worst affected, for example, is Edinburgh, where average rents have declined by 6% – from £1,085 per month at the beginning of the year to a current £1,020.

Cambridge has seen a fall of some 5.4%, London 4.8%, and Bournemouth, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, and Oxford, all also registering significant reductions in average rents.

Sales of sound insulation rocket during coronavirus lockdown

Have the various lockdowns made you more acutely aware of your noisy neighbours? That seems to have been the experience of many households, according to a story in Property Wire recently.

The article quoted one manufacturer in the Midlands who has reported a 240% increase in sales of foam products used for sound insulation.

Whereas the material was previously used largely by the owners of recording studios and musicians such as drummers wanting to practice in their spare room or garage, sales are now being made to regular householders who want to insulate themselves from noisy neighbours.

Sales have lately taken off in cities such as Landon, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, and Sheffield.