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Repossession rights, house prices, and home-hunting search terms

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Landlords show their determination in retaining the right to repossess their property, soaring prices reflect a revitalised housing market, and house-hunters hone their preferences and search terms for their ideal home.

These are just some of the themes stealing the spotlight in this week’s property news headlines.

NRLA calls for changes to rights of repossession

Last week the National Residential Landlords’ Association (NRLA) weighed in on discussion of the Renters’ Reform Bill with a plea to allow landlords their rights to repossess let property they own.

The government’s intention to bring a Renters Reform Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech to parliament on the 19th of December 2019. Progress has stalled somewhat because of the coronavirus pandemic and other pressing parliamentary business.

Central to the Bill is the repeal of Section 21 of the Housing Act, 1988, which gives landlords rights to so-called “no-fault” evictions, because the government sees it as a priority to get a better deal for tenants, according to an exchange in Parliament on the 20th of July 2020.

In addition to a repeal of Section 21, however, the Bill also seeks to introduce a “lifetime deposit” which tenants can take with them from one tenancy to another, rather than paying a separate deposit each time they move.

The Bill also proposes opening to public scrutiny the information compiled by local government agencies about so-called “rogue” letting agents and landlords.

House price growth rises to five-year high

Released from the restrictions of a national lockdown, pent-up demand has been given such free rein that house prices have grown at their fastest rate for almost six years, reported Property Wire, citing statistics released by building society Nationwide, on the 2nd of December.

House prices climbed by 6.5% during November – a significant increase on October’s rose of 5.8% – and the steepest increase in Nationwide’s House Price Index since January 2015.

Looking to the months ahead, however, Property Wire predicted a notable slowing down of this recovery in house prices as unemployment rises and the furlough scheme comes to an end in March – the same time that the current tax holiday on Stamp Duty also comes to an end.

Indeed, the article warns that some hopeful homebuyers might already have missed the boat as far as the Stamp Duty tax holiday is concerned. Because of the heavier burden of property transactions at the moment, inevitable delays mean that purchases started now might not be completed by the end of March.

A story in the Guardian newspaper on the 1st of December also commented on some of the areas currently favoured by house-hunters at the moment.

Still reeling from the claustrophobia of lockdown, many buyers are looking for homes with gardens or easy access to open spaces and parks, preferably away from the bustle and congestion of city life.

As a result, homes located within the boundaries of a national park are likely to carry a 20% premium – making them £45,000 more expensive than comparable properties elsewhere. Even homes within 3.1 miles or 5 km of a park boundary carry a 6% premium.

Top 10 most-searched terms used by home hunters in 2020

Online property listings site Zoopla, in a posting on the 23rd of November, put a little more flesh on the bones of what today’s home hunters are likely to be looking for.

Zoopla analysed the most common search terms entered by prospective buyers in the site’s property search engine as a fairly firm indication of what buyers and renters now have in their sights.

For buyers, for example, terms such as “secluded”, “rural” and “detached” made it into the top ten most commonly used. Top of the list, though, were searches for properties with gardens, followed by those with a garage, and, in third place, those with parking spaces. Some of the other search terms favoured by home buyers were “bungalow”, “balcony”, (granny) “annexe”, and “freehold”.

Priorities were slightly different for renters, of course, many of whom were likely to have been students – so that very term “student” appeared in tenth place of the most commonly used search terms. Renters also attached a priority to let accommodation that allowed them to keep a pet and favoured tenancies were the monthly rent also included the payment of utility bills. An ensuite bathroom also features prominently in searches conducted by prospective tenants.

These differences aside, though, renters shared many of the same aspirations as home buyers, placing a garden, parking, a garage, and a balcony in first, second, third, and fourth places, respectively.

It is important to prospective tenants what floor any flat might be on and also that the property had a “rural” location.