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As such, we’re no longer updating this blog.
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Downton Abbey is back on our screens and lovers of period melodrama will have their phones switched to silent for the next few Sunday nights as they discover whether Lady Mary will find love again and whether downtrodden Daisy will ever catch a break.
One of the biggest stars to emerge from the ITV blockbuster has been its location, Highclere Castle, and the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon have said the international interest in the property stoked by the show has helped them stay afloat – the electricity bills in a property with 50-plus bedrooms must be unimaginably frightening.
Highclere is a rarity; a country estate which remains intact and in the hands of its original owner. Many of its contemporaries have been sold off either as schools and hotels, or to be converted into apartments.
Buying a slice of a historic house has some serious pros and cons, but for buyers who want a home with jaw dropping kerb appeal they could be just the thing.
“You have the opportunity to acquire a quality of building and surroundings for a fraction of the price of buying the real thing – and in many cases less than the equivalent of buying a detached stand-alone version of really first class period house in large gardens,” said Mark Charter, head of the Oxford office of estate agents Carter Jonas.
Chandra Devadason, associate director at estate agents Hamptons International in Bath, believes it is the environs of this kind of property which is their biggest selling point.
“Stately homes are commonly found in stunning locations with bags of history offering kudos of living in a spectacular environment,” she said.
“Both downsizing retirees and young families are commonly attracted by property within a stately home as they can benefit from beautiful gardens and wonderfully kept grounds without having to bother with the upkeep themselves.”
On the downside the maintenance of a first class house and grounds doesn’t come cheap and you could pay four times the amount you would on maintenance fees for a regular apartment. “Service charges are generally very high,” warned Mr Charter – in some cases around £10,000 each year.
Another downside, said Ms Devadason, is that this kind of property may not be in the most convenient of locations.
“Often large country houses and stately homes were built just outside of the local village so you may have to walk or drive to local amenities,” she warned.
Another issue is that most of these buildings are listed – often at Grade I – which means that making even the most minor changes to a property could require planning permission, and old houses may not have mod cons like double glazing and lifts.
On the other hand these considerations must be set against the likelihood of wonderful original features, great views over (possibly) private parkland, and generously-proportioned rooms.
“The room size and the ceiling heights are just phenomenal,” said Mark Whincup, manager of William H Brown estate agents in Headingley, Leeds. “They do not feel like flats because they are so spacious and that is what people like about them.”
1. Flete House is a gorgeous mansion house overlooking the Erme Valley in South Hams, Devon. A one bedroom apartment in the Grade I listed Elizabethan house is on the market for £150,000.
2. Balls Park in Hertford, Hertfordshire, is such a quintessential English country house that it has been used as the location for films including Amazing Grace, The Golden Compass and The Young Victoria. A two bedroom flat in the seventeenth century property is on the market at £399,950.
3. With its castellated façade Headingley Castle in Leeds certainly looks the part (although it was actually built for a wealthy corn merchant in 1846). Buy a two bedroom flat for £425,000.
4. The fifthteenth century Brough Park is teeming with original features and set within its own private parklands. A three bedroom flat – complete with minstrel gallery – in the west wing is on the market for £425,000.
5. Own your own little slice of a baronial castle in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, for £360,000.
6. Thorndon Hall is a wonderful Palladian-style mansion set in 1,000 acres of deer park. Buy a three bedroom flat in the property, near Brentford, Essex, for £800,000.
Nearly half of all flat sharers currently looking for a room in Britain are foreign, according to new figures released today.
The survey, carried out by flat sharing website Easyroommate, revealed just under 50 per cent of the respondents categorise themselves as ‘not British’, with the majority indicating they are European (33 per cent), closely followed by Afro-Caribbeans, who accounted for 3 per cent.
Indians and Pakistanis made up for 2 per cent of flat sharers, while Americans and Canadians made up for 2 per cent of flat sharers. The remaining 55 per cent of respondents selected British as their nationality.
Easyroommate suggests the large numbers of foreign individuals currently based in Britain is due to the economic instability in other countries.
It explained the lack of jobs and career prospects in these areas drives people to look for opportunities elsewhere.
It added that moving to a new country can be extremely costly – and that this explains why foreign nationals who are looking for cost effective alternatives, such as flatsharing for cheaper accommodation.
Of the individuals surveyed, a large number prefer to flat share with Britains.
Maya Harruna, of Easyroommrate, said: “It’s not surprising to see that Brits are the most desired housemates. British flat sharers prefer being able to communicate fluently with the people that they live with, while people who have recently moved to the UK prefer to live with someone who speaks fluent English, as it gives them the opportunity to improve their language.”
Rents are expected to rise at below the rate of inflation during the coming year despite tenant demand remaining strong, research showed today.
Landlords estimate rents will edge up by an average of 1.8 per cent in the next 12 months, below both the Bank of England’s inflation target of 2 per cent and the current annual rate at which rents are rising of 2.4 per cent.
The majority of landlords said they did not plan to hike their rents at all during the coming year, with only 43 per cent saying they would increase them, according to letting agency network Your Move and Reed Rains.
Among those who do plan an increase, 57 per cent said they were hiking them to cover the cost of inflation, while 31 per cent said it was to pay for maintenance work.
Four out of 10 landlords said they had seen an increase in demand to rent a home during the past six months, and nearly two-thirds expect this trend to continue going forward.
The rise fed through to a 6.9 per cent jump in new tenancies agreed in August compared with a year earlier.
It also helped to reduce average void periods between tenants, and led to 18 per cent of landlords adding to their portfolio of rental properties.
A further 21 per cent of landlords think now is a good time to invest in a buy-to-let property, with 55 per cent attributing their confidence to strong tenant demand, while 54 per cent cited attractive property prices and 45 per cent said property provided better capital returns than other investments.
David Newnes, director of Your Move and Reeds Rains, said:“Demand for rented accommodation is climbing, and there’s little sign of this stopping.
“While Help to Buy and higher loan-to-value lending are enabling first-time buyer activity, strong house price growth this year has lifted home ownership a few steps out of reach for many, and the private rented sector remains the safety net supporting those still saving for a deposit.
“This demand is also powering more supply. Secure house prices and spirited tenant demand are encouraging budding buy-to-let investors and existing landlords to add to the number of available homes to let.”
But landlords were less upbeat about the mortgage market, with 42 per cent who had tried to take out a mortgage during the past 12 months saying they had found it more difficult than a year ago.
The figure was up from 35 per cent in January, highlighting the impact of the tighter lending environment.
A further 39 per cent of landlords said buy-to-let mortgage repayments had become more expensive in the past 12 months.
Even so, one in 10 landlords cited cheap mortgage finance as a key reason why it was a good time to invest in a buy-to-let property, although the figure was down from 17 per cent in January.
Today’s figures come after letting agency chain Sequence said there were nearly seven would-be tenants chasing every available property as demand to rent soared by 17 per cent in the year to the end of August.
People wanting to rent a home face fierce competition from other tenants as demand increases but the supply of properties to let falls, research showed today.
Around 68 per cent of letting agents reported seeing more people wanting to rent than there were properties available during the third quarter, according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents.
It is the third consecutive quarter that the number of agents reporting a mismatch between supply and demand has increased.
The situation has been exacerbated by a fall in the number of homes available on the private rental market.
ARLA members reported a 6 per cent drop in the number of managed investment properties they had on their books during the three months to the end of September, with agencies managing an average of 135 properties, down from 143.
The shortage of rental properties looks set to get worse going forward as recent house price gains tempt landlords to cash in their portfolios.
Nearly a third of landlords said they were selling a property, up from 27 per cent in the previous quarter.
At the same time, the number of landlords buying more properties fell by 8 percentage points to 27 per cent.
As a result, there were more landlords selling properties than those who were expanding their portfolios for the first time in four years.
The situation in the rental market mirrors that in the wider housing market, where the number of people looking to buy a home has fallen as more properties have been put up for sale.
David Cox, managing director at ARLA, said: “This quarter, we have seen demand for properties in the rental sector significantly rise, while the supply of residential rental properties has dropped.
“This activity has bucked the seasonal trend recorded over the past 11 years for this quarter, in which we normally see an increase in the number of new tenancies signed up.
“However, with landlords not investing in new buy-to-let property, tenants are finding it increasingly difficult to secure contracts.”
But some agents reported that a number of buy-to-let properties that landlords had tried to sell had come back on to the rental market after they had failed to find a buyer.
Meanwhile, the number of tenants who asked for references on their future landlords from a lender increased by 2 percentage points during the month to 9 per cent.
Cox said: “It’s great to see an increase in consumers making an active play to check that their landlords are financially viable.
“Renting a property and laying out considerable finances is a big commitment, and it is important that consumers ensure they are protected.”