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As I have mentioned a number times in my local property market blog, with not enough new-build properties being built in Docklands and the surrounding area to keep up with demand for homes to live in (be that tenants or homebuyers), it’s good to know more Docklands home sellers are putting their properties on to the market than a year ago.
At the start of 2007 there were 1,413 properties for sale in Docklands but by May 2008, when the credit crunch was really beginning to bite, that number had risen to 3,095 properties on the market at a time when demand was at an all-time low, thus creating an imbalance in the local property market.
Basic economics dictates that if there is too much supply of something and demand is poor (which it was in the Credit Crunch years of 2008/9) … prices will drop. In fact, house prices dropped between 15% and 20% depending on the type of Docklands property between the end of 2007 and Spring 2009.
However, over the last five years, we have seen a steady decrease in supply of properties coming onto the market for sale and steady demand, meaning Docklands property prices have remained robust.  A stable housing market is one of the foundations of a successful British economy, as it’s all about getting the healthy balance of buyer demand with a good supply of properties. Nevertheless, if you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have said we were beginning to see there was in fact NOT enough properties coming on to the market for sale … meaning in certain sectors of the Docklands property market, house prices were overheating because of this lack of supply.
So, it is pleasing to note, looking at the recent numbers …
There are 20% more properties for sale in Docklands today than a year ago
There were 1,911 properties for sale 12 months ago, and today that stands at 2,298. Definitely a step in the right direction to a more stable property market.
Even better news, since the Chancellor announced the stamp duty rule changes for first time buyers (FTB), my fellow agents in Docklands say that the number of FTB’s registering on the majority of agent’s books has increased year on year. That has still to follow through into more FTB’s buying their first home, however, with the heightened levels of confidence being demonstrated by both Docklands house sellers and potential house buyers, I do foresee the Docklands Property Market will show steady yet sustained improvement during the first half of 2018.
What does this mean for Docklands landlords or those considering dipping their toe into the buy to let market for the first time? Landlords will need to keep improving their properties to ensure they get the best tenants. It is true that demand amongst FTB’s is increasing, albeit from a low base. Even with the new landlord tax rules, buy to let in Docklands still looks a good investment, providing Docklands landlords with a good income at a time of low interest rates and a roller coaster stock market.
If you are thinking of investing in bricks and mortar in Docklands, it is important to do things correctly as making money won’t be as easy as it has been over the last twenty years.  With a greater number of properties on the market .. comes greater choice. Don’t buy the first thing you see, buy with your head as well as your heart … and don’t forget the first rule of Buy To Let Investment …..

I will tell you that 1st rule in a couple of weeks!

The value of all the homes in Docklands (orE14 to be precise) has risen by more than 348% in the past two decades, to £2.687bn, meaning its worth more than the stock listed company Tate and Lyle, which is worth £2.611bn.
Those Docklands homeowners and Buy-to-Let landlords who bought their homes twenty or more years ago have come out on top, adding thousands and thousands of pounds to the value of their own Docklands homes as the younger generation in Docklands continue to be priced out of the market.  This is even more remarkable because, in those twenty years, we had the years of 2008 and 2009 following the global financial crisis, where we saw a short term drop in Docklands house prices of between 15% and 20% (depending on the type of property). And although there have been a number of consecutive years of growth in property values recently in Docklands it hasn’t been anywhere near the levels seen in the early 2000’s.
Twenty years ago, the total value of Docklands property was worth £599.6m. Over those twenty years, total property values have increased by £2.088bn, meaning today, the total value of all the properties in Docklands is worth £2.687bn. Even more remarkable, when you consider the FTSE100 has only risen by 40.84% in the same time frame. Also, when I compared it with inflation, i.e. the UK Retail Price Index, inflation had risen by 72.2% during the same twenty years.
So, what does this all mean for Docklands?  Well as we enter the unchartered waters of 2018 and beyond, even though property values are already declining in certain parts of the previously over cooked central London property market, the outlook in Docklands remains relatively good as over the last five years, the local property market has been a lot more sensible than central London’s.
Docklands house values will remain resilient for several reasons. Firstly, demand for rental property remains strong with persistent immigration and population growth.  Secondly, with 0.25% interest rates, borrowing has never been so cheap and finally, the simple lack of new house building in Docklands. Not even keeping up with current demand, let alone eating into years and years of under investment mean only one thing – yes it might be a bumpy ride over the next 12 to 24 months but, in the medium term, property ownership and property investment in Docklands has and always will, out ride out the storm.
In the coming weeks, I will look in greater detail at my thoughts for the 2018 Docklands Property Market. As always, all my articles can be found at the Docklands Property Market Blog

The degree to which young Docklands people are locked out of the Docklands housing market has been revealed in new statistics.
                    
A Docklands landlord was asking me the other week to what effect homeownership rates in Docklands in the early to middle aged adult age range had affected the demand for rental property in Docklands since the Millennium. I knew anecdotally that it affected the Docklands rental market, but I wanted some cold hard numbers to back it up. As you know, I like a challenge when it comes to the stats.. so this is what I found out for the landlord, and I’d like to share them with you as well.
As anyone in Docklands, and most would say those born more recently, are drastically less likely to own their own home at a given age than those born a decade earlier, let’s roll the clock back to the Millennium and compare the figures from then to today.
In the year 2000, 23.6% of Docklands 28-year olds (born in 1972) owned their own home, whilst a 28 year old today born in 1990) would have a 12.6% chance of owning their own home. Next, let’s look at someone born ten years before that. So, going back to the Millennium, a 38 year Docklands person (therefore born in 1962) would have a 34.8% chance of owning his or her own home and a 38 year today in Docklands (born in 1980) would only have a 27.1% chance of owning their own home.
Since the Millennium, overall general homeownership in the 25 to 44 year old age range in Docklands has reduced from 32.19% to 23.28%
If you look at the graph below, split into the four age ranges of 25 year olds (yo) to 29yo, 30yo to 34yo, 35yo to 39yo and finally 40yo to 44 yo, you will quite clearly see the changes since the Millennium in Docklands. The fact is the figures in Docklands show the homeownership rate has proportionally fallen the most for the youngest (25yo to 29yo) age range compared to the other age ranges.
The landlord suggested this deterioration in homeownership in Docklands across the age groups could be down to the fact that more of those born in the 1980’s and 1990’s (over those born in the 60’s and 70’) are going to University and hence entering the job market at an older age or those young adults are living with their parents longer.
I read some national homeownership statistics of different age groups with the same number of years after they left education (rather than at the same age) and that gave an identical dip to the graph above.  Neither are these drops in homeownership related with a significant increase in the number of young adults living with their parents. Again, nationally, that has hardly changed over the last 20 years as the percentage of 30-year-olds living with Mum and Dad only increased from 22% of those born in the early ‘70s to 23% of those born in the early ‘80s.
So, what does this mean for the rental market in Docklands?

Only one thing .. with the local authority not building Council houses, Housing Associations strapped for cash to build new properties and the younger generation not buying, there is only one way these youngsters can obtain a roof over their head and have a home of their own .. through the private landlord sector. Now with the new tax rules and up and coming licensing rules, Docklands landlords will have to work smarter to ensure they make the investment returns they have in the past. If you ever want to pick my brains on the future direction of the Docklands rental market .. drop me line or pop in next time you are passing my office.

Buying and selling a home in Docklands isn’t the easiest or cheapest thing you will ever do. Estate Agent fees, Solicitors fees, Surveyfees, Mortgage fees, Removal Van … the costs just mount up throughout every step of the move. Last week, a Docklands landlord asked me whether the Council Tax Band made a difference to a property’s appeal, be it tenanted or to owner occupiers, when it comes to being sold on the open market and whether extensions or improvements made a difference to the tax banding?
Well, like I said, the first point you should always be aware of is what Council Tax Band your new house or apartment will fall under. Being aware of this before you buy/move will help when planning month by month for life in your home (or investment). But what exactly are Council Tax Bands, and how do they affect landlords/tenants/homebuyers?
How much Council Tax you pay depends on two variables. The first is which Council Tax Band your property is in. A property is placed into a specific band depending upon what the value of the property was in April 1991 – the date when the tax band system was applied. In a nutshell, what your property is worth today has no relevance whatsoever to your banding.
Council Tax Bands have a letter of the alphabet and range from bands A-H.
The Council Tax Band values are:
Band A – up to £40,000
Band B – £40,001 to £52,000
Band C – £52,001 to £68,000
Band D – £68,001 to  £88,000
Band E – £88,001 to £120,000
Band F – £120,001 to £160,000
Band G – £160,001 to £320,000
Band H – more than £320,000
So, for example, if a property sold for £110,000 in April 1991 but is now worth £350,000 it will remain in Band E – NOT Band H), as this was the value when the bands were set in 1991. For new homes, the same thing applies: they are valued based on the 1991 market value. This safeguards that all homes and all buyers are treated equally and consistently. The second factor that determines how much Council Tax you pay is what each individual local authority decides each band will pay in Council Tax. (So for example, a householder/tenant in Leeds in a Band E property will pay a different amount in Council Tax each year to someone in Swindon or North London in Band E).
Interestingly, the average current level of Council tax paid by Docklands people stands at £934 per annum, up from £402 in 1993 (although if it had risen by inflation in those 25 years .. today that should only be £764) … meaning Council Tax has outstripped inflation by 22.23%. So unless the local authority changes its majority political party, the only way you can change the amount you pay in Council Tax is your banding i.e. you physically move to a higher or lower band.


Contrary to what most people think, extensions and improvements do not change the Council Tax Band and existing householders/tenants only have to pay the same Council Tax as they would have without any extensions and improvements. However, the Valuation Office (The Government’s Property Valuers) do reserve the right to re-value the extended property if the property gets sold.  If you are a potential buyer, you should be aware of this review as it could change the amount of Council Tax you pay after the purchase. If a higher band is necessary, the new band will be based on what the extendedproperty would have been expected to sell for in 1991. However, this does not necessarily mean that the banding will jump one band, as this is contingent on the extent of the changes and whether the property falls towards the top or bottom of its existing band. More often than not – it isn’t an issue and the banding stays the same.
In terms of which band the property is in, this can be challenged. In my experience in the Docklands property market the only issue is one where there is an anomaly with the banding, when one property is in a different band to all the others in the street. This is much rarer than it used to be, as most such anomalies have been found and rectified. Anyone can check the banding of any property by going to Google and typing in “Check My Council Tax Banding”. I do need to mention a thoughtful warning though. Challenging your Council Tax Band is not something to do on a whim for one simple fact - you cannot request your band to be lowered, only 'reassessed', which means your band could be moved up as well as down. I have even heard of neighbouring properties band’s being increased by someone appealing, although this is the exception. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

A little bit of good news this week on the Docklands Property Market as recently released data shows that the number of first time buyers taking out their first mortgage in 2017 increased more than in any other year since the global financial crisis in 2009. The data shows there were 208 first time buyers in Docklands, the largest number since 2006.
I expect in 2018 that this increase of first time buyers will level out and maybe dip slightly as, nationally, figures demonstrate that first time buyer’s average household income was £40,691 and this represented 17.3% of their take home pay. Although, it might surprise readers that it is actually cheaper to buy than it is to rent at the ‘starter home’ end of the housing market. Many of you can remember mortgage rates at 12% ... even 15%. Today, at the time of writing this article, I found on the open market, 189 first time buyer mortgages at 95% (meaning only a 5% deposit was required) with 3 year fixed rates from a reputable High Street bank at 2.49% ... they even did a 3 year fixed rate 100% mortgage for 2.89%!
Interestingly, looking at the other end of the market, the buy-to-let investment in Docklands was subdued, with only 43 buy-to-let properties being purchased with a mortgage. However, I must stress, whilst there is no hard and fast data on the total numbers of landlords buying buy-to-let, as HM Treasury believes only 30% to 40% of buy-to-let property is bought with a mortgage. This means there would have been further cash only buy-to-let purchases in Docklands – it’s just that the data isn’t available at such a granular level.
In terms of the level of mortgage debt in Docklands, looking specifically at the E14 postcode, as you can see from the graph there has been a steady rise in borrowing over the last few years.

 

This is pleasing to see, as new mortgage debt is created by first time buyers, buy-to-let landlords and home movers themselves, that is being roughly equalled by the amount being paid off with mature mortgaged homeowners in their 50’s and 60’s finally paying off their mortgage.
So, what does all this mean for the Docklands Property Market?  Well, the stats paint a picture, but they don’t inform us of the whole story. The upper end of the Docklands property market has been weighed down by the indecision around the Brexit negotiations and rise in stamp duty in 2014, when made it considerably more expensive to buy a home costing more than £1m. The middle part of the Docklands property market has been affected by issues of mortgage affordability and lack of good properties to buy, as selling prices have reached the limit of what buyers can afford under existing mortgage regulations. The lower to middle Docklands property market was hit by tax changes for buy-to-let landlords, although this has been offset by the increase in first time buyers.
If you are in the market and selling now and want to ensure you get your Docklands property sold, the bottom line is you have to be 100% realistic with your pricing from day one and you might not get as much as you did say a year ago (but the one you want to buy will be less – swings and roundabouts?). I know it’s not comfortable hearing that your Docklands home isn’t worth as much as you thought, but Docklands buyers are now unbelievably discerning.

So, if you are thinking of selling your Docklands property in the coming months, don’t ask the agent out a few days before you want to put the property on the market, get them out now and ask them what you need to do to ensure you get maximum value in the shortest possible time. I, like most Docklands agents, will freely give that advice to you at no cost or commitment to you.
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