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Tenant demand, houses prices, cannabis farms, the housing market, and other property news

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Here is our weekly round-up of some of the latest property news and views …

Tenant demand reaching record levels

Nationwide demand for homes in the private rented sector continues at record levels, reported the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) last week.

ARLA studies the average number of advertised vacancies at letting agents around the country and has revealed that the figures for August match those achieved in July – both historic highs of an average of 208 vacancies per lettings agents’ branch offices.

The length of tenancies is also extending – currently registering an average of 21 months, with highs of 25 months in the East Midlands and a low of 10 months in the North East of England.

Although almost a half of all landlords have reported rent increases, this is lower than the 64% who gave similar responses this time last year.

More properties sell for over the asking price

Demand is also exceeding expectations in the market for house sales, revealed a report in Property Wire on the 29th of September.

According to the article, one in eight of all house sales during August fetched higher than the original asking price. That percentage was the highest in almost five years. The good news is probably fuelled by the release of pent-up demand following the end of coronavirus restrictions and the availability of a stamp duty tax holiday (in place until the end of March).

Even so, and despite the good news for one in eight of vendors, roughly half of all homes put up for sale fetched less than their asking price in August.

Cannabis farms: Signs landlords need to look out for

Yet another round of arrests has put landlords in and around Southsea, Hampshire, of the continuing need for vigilance against potential cannabis growers renting their properties.

A story in the Portsmouth News on the 25th of September described how raids on two addresses in the neighbourhood led to the seizure of hundreds of cannabis plants and the demolition of two cannabis factories in rental properties.

Hampshire police have warned landlords to be on the lookout for damp walls in their property or peeling wallpaper, together with windows that remain blacked out and lighting left on day and night.

Passers-by are also asked to help out by reporting cannabis-related activity in the neighbourhood or the tell-tale aroma of cannabis plants.

For our part here at UKinsuranceNET, we regularly remind landlords of the danger of their let property being turned into illegal cannabis farms – and the responsibilities and implications for landlords if their property is used in such a way.

Strong recovery for UK housing market

Building society Nationwide has confirmed commentators’ widespread belief that the housing market has bounced back healthier and buoyant than ever, according to a story by the BBC on the 30th of September.

The underlying feature of the current market is the steady increase in house prices. These are 5% up in September compared with the same month last year, says Nationwide. By the end of September, prices had risen by 0.9% since the previous month and by the end of the third quarter of the year were up by 1.7% compared with the same quarter last year.

Despite what Nationwide described as a “strong recovery” – fuelled, in part, by the current stamp duty tax holiday – fears of unemployment or shorter working hours have delayed plans by young first-time buyers to attempt their first steps onto the housing ladder.

The building society warned that the upward movement in property prices could not continue indefinitely and that we have probably seen the highest increases already this year – the market is likely to weaken in the medium-term.

Green Homes Grant opens for applications

The last day of September marks the launch of the government’s latest initiative to encourage residential property owners – both owner-occupiers and buy to let landlords – to make their homes “greener”.

With effect from the 1st of October, explains an article in Mortgage Strategy, residential property owners can apply for a Green Homes Grant – worth up to £5,000 – to make their property more energy-efficient. The grants are designed to cover up to two-thirds of the cost of certain energy efficiency improvements, with the homeowner or landlord paying the remaining one-third.

A higher, maximum grant of £10,000 is available for low-income households for the installation of improvements such as low-carbon heating systems or comprehensive insulation.

The current Green Homes Grant scheme carries forward the principles established in the earlier Green Deal (which offered discounted loans for energy-efficient home improvements rather than the grants available under the current scheme).