Landlords: Ways to be Green and Save Money

For all Landlords, in particular when lets are to students, all inclusive ASTs, or Flat Shares it is very important to try keep the costs down for pure profiteering reasons as well as doing our bit to be green. Being environmentally friendly in the long run really pays off financially and you can use being green as a marketing tool also. Being green can be expensive but there are a few cheap alternatives that can really have a big impact.

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House Prices: Rising or Falling?

House Price Changes across UK

Diagram from the Telegraph

As the figures show, a universal headline figure of property price changes just doesn’t have relevance to individuals or investors. There is a huge disparity in rates and it is not in the stereotypical divide many of you are accustomed to.

Predictably London fairs well and in my opinion is one of the safest spots to invest in the long term. The not so great performance of the rest of the South East really drives home that nationally the outlook is not so good. The strong growth of the North West is great news for that area, one of previous very gloomy economic forecasts. This is a great place to put some money in if this price rises continue. In a region where you can still pick up bargains, properties where the equivalent in London would be 5-8 times the price. With higher percentages for council housing, this provides a great investor ground for stable rentals.

What has caused this increase in prices in the North West?

Where would you put your money?

Getting into the Mind of a Surveyor

Can you imagine what it is like to be a surveyor?  They have the power to make or break a market.  They made it for us on the way up and broke it for us on the way down.

Back in the days you would ask a surveyor to value a property at £60,000 which you had bought for £38,000 3 months ago and they would do it no problem.  You would remortgage and get a nice chunk to go and reinvest in more high yielding and high growth properties.

Now it is a different story.  You ask him or her to go and value a property you are trying to buy for £60,000 and they value it at £38,000.

So why do surveyors do this?  Well simply they are scared.  They are scared that the bank will come after them when the borrower has defaulted and all the property is worth is £38,000 when sold at auction.  If they put a value of £60,000 the bank could come after the surveyor for the difference i.e. £22,000.  The surveyor’s insurance will pick up the bill but the surveyor’s professional indemnity insurance rockets and the surveyor gets known as a bad surveyor.

Good surveyors in the bank’s books are the ones that down value.  The real pessimistic ones are the banks favourites.  But there is a point when the bank wants the surveyors to put an optimistic valuation.  Then the tide turns.

The surveyors that start valuing on the generous side start to get the work.  Ultimately the bank is safe because the surveyor has insurance.  So it becomes a game of who has the most balls.

We are not there yet.  But there will be a point when one of the banks says “I want to lend big time”.  Then there will be pressure from above on the surveyors to start valuing up properties.

Once other banks see what is happening they have two choices:

1. Do nothing and lose market share or

2. follow and compete by getting valuations that value up

The time of change will come back, tide will change and the cycle will circulate.

Article sourced from the view point and opinions of Ajay Ahuja of

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Risks and Rewards: Renting to Students?

On the day of A-Level results, the day when a school kid becomes a legal student. This opens out a whole new influx on potential tenants as they make the transition from “living with parents” to “renting.”

There has been a rise in Student Lets; the latest “” research shows increase of 4.3% on last year.

The average weekly student rent now stands at £65.30, 4.3% higher than last year (£62.61). The previous two years’ increases were just 1.6% and 1.7%. Since 2004, when the average rent was £52.44, rents have risen 25%.

Rents are highest in the South East, which hosts 8 out of the 10 most expensive student locations. London leads the way with an average rent of over £100 per week, with Guildford, Uxbridge, Cambridge, Middlesex, Egham and Brighton all weighing in with rents of over £80 per week. The stats are based on nearly 60,000 properties in 83 cities across the UK.

Some traditional English redbrick universities: Liverpool (£55.49), Birmingham (£57.30), Manchester (£60.12), and Sheffield (£60.14) are still below the average UK weekly student rent of £65.30.

Best value locations in terms of student rental accommodation are Middlesbrough, Stoke-on-Trent and Stockton with average weekly rents of £41.47, £42.65 and £44.71 respectively.

So as a Landlord, the most promising locations are in the South East, in particular London, with its wide choice of universities and colleges. Also London attracts many foreign students, they our paying huge international rates for tuition fee so it’s a safe assumption to say they are willing to pay higher prices and come from well off backgrounds.


One of our clients has a 3 bedroom flat it SE1, which has now been converted into a 4 bed. We have been able to achieve £599 per room per month, leaving the client with over £800 per month cash surplus after paying the buy-to-let mortgage.

We source the tenants from post graduate universities and colleges, what we have found is that many students like to pay 3 months in advance due to budgeting reasons and they pay it like they do their tuition on a term to term basis. This further aid the Landlord’s cash flow. What other private let in our economy is in a position to pay 3 month advances on rent.

There are of course risks involved like any other AST (Assured Short hold tenancy). Primarily rent payment, but if your contracts take references, take on parental guarantees and if possible insurance, your risk is dramatically reduced. In our case study, we have never had any students default on payments.


Landlord’s bewared; specify who is responsible for council tax, TV license and bills. Council tax is another source of advantage, Students are exempt. As a Landlord make sure the council is informed of the occupants of your property and advise the students on the simple procedure.

Provide your property with broadband, its only around £100 a year and that dramatically increases the rentablity of your property for students.

Older students are always more reliable, however there are many freshman available, those who have to go through Clearing, have little or no chance to get University Halls and have to look in the private market.

Don’t worry if there is not immediate responses from adverts, as it gets closer to the start of courses the interest grow exponentially, and desperation grows and properties are taken of the market.

Renting to students is cheap and cheerful, provide good quality basics, desks, chairs, a lamp and majority are happy and you won’t find any complains, they are always too busy partying or working to care for minor niggles.

Overall the returns out weigh the risks, managed well and reducing the risks, can create huge cash flow surpluses.

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Sources include personal experience, and

India Land of Contradiction: Implications to the Property Market

I write this week from India, having spent time in Mumbai.

In India contradictions survive side by side as if it were normal to do so.
Everything is just blended here. So much commotion and so many cars jostling for every inch of space on the streets. Here you have the most holy men in the world and the most corrupt living side by side coexisting in the same space.

These contradictions also extend themselves to the property market. In Mumbai, you have the most expensive property in the world, namely Mukesh Ambani new home costing £500m and only a stone through away from it Asia biggest slum Daravi in Central Mumbai, made famous in the recent hit Slum Dog Millionaire and a subsequent BBC documentary.

On one end of the scale, we have the Ambanis monstrous tower costing $1bn, which is currently under construction.
It consists of accommodation for 600 staff. It is the equivalent of a 60 storey building it house, 3 helipads, 6 parking floors to park the 168 imported cars, a gym floor, an entertainment floor and a few guest floors. Ambani’s new private heaven will occupy more than 48,000 square feet of the prime most land in one of the most expensive cities on the planet.

As per 2001 census, 54.1% of the city’s population lives in Dharavi  Asia’s biggest slum.
Mumbai has now spilled over to its neighbouring areas, giving rise to a hand-full of suburban domains.

It is actually very derogate to call this a slum. It actually is the heart of Mumbai. People live seemingly happily and actually thrive. The slum spreads laterally. This is the issue.
This takes up much valuable land. Instead, the plan is to do away with this thriving and productive community and to lock them up in tower blocks. This will then destroy the fabric of the all-important Indian family network, which is one of the most fundamental reasons why Indians not only survives, but also thrive happily.

In exchange for rehousing eligible households in 300 square-foot flats and providing some requisite infrastructure, amenities and commercial space, developers win the right to build developments on the rest of the land for sale on the open market.

The plan has been widely marketed as a win-win solution: a model of slum redevelopment through public-private part nership to be exported around the world.

The project is ridiculously lucrative. Once a no-man’s-land on a peripheral marsh, 590acre Dharavi has found itself in the center of globalizing Mumbai, surrounded by three major railway stations, a bus station and the two major east-west link roads. Most importantly, the Bandra-Kurla Complex, Mumbai’s new financial hub, flanks it where land values rival those of Manhattan and Tokyo.

It continues to be the entry point for many of Mumbai’s migrants and has been home to many families for generations. It has provided affordable shelter, economic opportunities and social mobility for countless people.

Dharvi has attracted support from the most surprising places. The Prince, who visited Dharavi in 2003, cited it as a model for environmentally and socially sustainable settlement because of the way it was organised around people’s needs. He was struck by what he described as the “underlying intuitive grammar of design” that, he said, was “totally absent from the faceless slabs that are still being built around the world to `warehouse’ the poor”.

The economic statistics of the settlement are astounding. They recycle 95% of Mumbai’s waste, there is no such thing as junk here, and everything is recycled and reused.
One million people are reported to call Dharavi home, but for many, it is also their place of business.

Other products manufactured in Dharavi’s cottage industries include soap and leather. One leather worker was so successful that he exported 25,000 belts to WalMart in the United States; he has since moved up and out of Dharavi. The annu al economic output in Dharavi is estimated at $1 billion.

I was amazed to see the levels property prices had reached within this city. The prices in Central Mumbai surpass the expensive price in areas of London.

The difference is India , has one of the strongest growth rates in the world and the property market in Mumbai will be a ridding on this wave. I can see most NRIs being priced out of this market in years to come.

This is a soft launch and is aimed primarily at investors. If you are interested, please register your interest at or call us on 0203 384 5323.

This article is an extract written by one of my mentors Suresh Vagjiani, MD of Sow & Reap