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PPA : Spinnaker Tower
PPA : Spinnaker Tower

Think about Flood Risk when buying a property

We wouldn’t be British if the subject of the weather didn’t feature in daily conversation and you may have noticed that we have had a particularly wet summer this year. Wellies have been the footwear of choice at music festivals, no-one has been able to go anywhere without an umbrella, and sporting events from school sports day to Silverstone have all had their fair share of interruption. More seriously though, there have also been incidents of flooding around the country and it is becoming more and more important for home owners to assess the risk of the potential for flooding in their neighbourhood.

Flooding is an issue that a buyer should consider carefully before purchasing a property. A flood search can be undertaken by your solicitor and this usually comes back with information from data held in records by the search provider and usually gives a low, moderate or high risk of flooding assessment.

There is currently an arrangement in place which ensures that insurers are obliged to offer cover to all property owners, regardless of their flood risk.  However this arrangement expires in June 2013 when the current Statement of Principles adopted by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) comes to an end.

So in less than a year, insurers will no longer be obliged to offer cover to properties deemed to be at high risk of flooding. You could find insurance cover withdrawn and the property becoming uninsurable which could put you in breach of mortgage conditions and affect future value or saleability of the property. Owners of properties in moderate risk areas may see their premiums increased. Even where cover may be available, insurance companies can put additional requirements on customers as a condition of future cover for example to ensure that they have appropriate flood defences in place.

Before buying a property, speak to your solicitor about getting a flood search. It is also important to have a survey when you buy a property and take advice from your surveyor and you can also contact the Environment Agency for information.

Branches in: Fareham, Havant
Members: Gareth Maddern, Lorna Newnham, Mark Watson, Samantha Marsh

Solar Panels

I previously wrote about all the rain we have been having and issues with flooding. Turning now to a sunnier subject – Solar Panels. It is important to investigate arrangements in detail when buying a property if it has solar panels and also before signing up to any agreement for solar panels on a property you may already own.

Usually there will be a lease arrangement where the home owner leases part of the property to a company eg the air space above the roof and the right to use the roof for support. The owner may benefit from the electricity that is generated and the company may sell any surplus to the National Grid. The company often has the right to recover any losses they may suffer if you do something to the property which affects their rights under the lease and these could be substantial over a long period.

Things to think about could include:-

1. whether planning permission should first be obtained if the property does not have ‘permitted development rights’or whether building regulation consent is needed.

2. whether the property title has restrictions on alterations, additions or use.

3.  if there is a mortgage then the lender may need to be involved and give their consent before works start. They usually require a clause to protect them if they need to enforce the mortgage

4. the wording of the lease – sometimes you can find that the lease arrangements for a few solar panels on your roof are more onerous than an average commercial lease of big commercial premises! They may not be acceptable to some lenders or to buyers

5. whether it may affect the value of your property

You should involve your solicitor before signing any agreement or lease and if you are buying a property that already has solar panels then make sure the arrangements are checked out carefully by your solicitor. You could find the scheme ties in the property for up to 25 years or that the company has a right to renew the lease. You need to get clear advice what you are taking on as it could affect the marketability of your home.

Branches in: Fareham, Havant
Members: Gareth Maddern, Lorna Newnham, Mark Watson, Samantha Marsh

What is the Property Market doing?

Here’s what the property lawyers have to say…

Barry King – PPA Chairman and lawyer at Glanvilles LLP

Since March 2012 when I became Chairman of the Portsmouth Property Association, the property market has been somewhat confused. We appear to have had very busy times and also lean times, and there is no specific reason for it. I trust that I am not the cause!

We can all speculate with various plausible reasons as to why that may be. There is most unseasonable weather which we have all had to put up with, or that the Diamond Jubilee bank holidays made people think more about taking time off than buying and selling houses, or that they would rather watch the Euros (why? we lost on penalties again), then there was Wimbledon, and of course there are now the Olympics.

Whatever the reason, now is a good time to move house, as prices have remained pretty stable, and 90% mortgages are starting to become more available. Let’s face it we all have to have somewhere to live, so why not cheer up your local estate agents and PPA property lawyers and buy a house?!

John Blake – PPA Committee member and lawyer at Warner Goodman LLP

The end of the Stamp Duty holiday in March prompted activity in the market and led to matters completing in quick time, leading to fears that market activity might dip following the holiday end.  Those fears seem largely to have been allayed and reasonable levels of activity has been seen.  No return to prior levels of record activity have been seen or were anticipated and so perhaps the levels we have at present are perhaps the new “normal”.

Mortgages are available to those with a largish deposit, property prices are pretty stable and well presented, well situate, keenly priced properties are selling.  No boom, no bust, maybe this is the way it should be?

Firms of Solicitors have had to adjust staffing levels to cope with the “crisis” in the Housing/Mortgage/Banking market and those in the PPA seem to have successfully ridden the storm and offer good service levels at competitive prices.  We continue to struggle however competing against distant companies offering cheaper fees but a distinct lack of service, which reflects badly on the profession.  Local firms working together with local Agents and Surveyors, together seeking solutions to problems makes perfect sense.

So what next?

Whilst summer holidays, the Euros, the Olympics, Wimbledon and my cousins David’s wedding may distract a few, so far levels of business are good. What we probably needed was Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France, and now on to a record number of gold medals at the Olympics and an Indian Summer to introduce a feel good factor.

Roger Sherliker – Head of Valuations at Hughes Ellard and PPA Committe Member also had the following summary of the first half of the year for the Portsmouth region for the commercial sector

Offices

After a glut of lettings at Lakeside, North Harbour during 2011, the pace of activity has slowed considerably. Lakeside remains the focus of activity for the top end of the market in Portsmouth though and the major deal during the first half of 2012 has been a letting of 3,000 sqft to Consumerable Solutions. Otherwise, lettings and sales in and around the City have been small suites and buildings to local firms. At Segensworth there has been more significant activity recently with two buildings totalling 55,000 sqft currently under offer.

Industrial and Logistics

The problem remains a lack of quality space, particularly to buy. Demand is surprisingly good despite continuing gloomy macro-economic news. A local high technology engineering firm have recently bought a 9,000 sqft unit at Voyager Park in Portsmouth. At Brunel Way Segensworth a 13,000 sqft factory has just been sold to an owner occupier.

Retail/Leisure

This sector continues to throw out very mixed signals, location is very significant to performance. Whilst nationally these sectors are struggling and there is no doubt that trading conditions are tough, several local centres are performing well . A new small shopping parade is under construction at Lakeside and is fully pre let. Also at Lakeside, the new Porsche dealership is now open. Sports Direct are fitting out a new store in West Street, Fareham and construction of the new Whiteley shopping centre is moving ahead quickly. A new pub and restaurant will be built at the entrance to Cams Hall, fronting the harbour, details of the tenant have yet to be announced but a deal has been concluded. A new Costa Coffee unit has just been built at Locks Heath Shopping Centre and is trading at higher than expected levels and all units in the Centre are occupied or under offer. Gosport High Street and London Road, North End have failed with their recent bids to be included in Mary Portas’ initiative to revitalise shopping locations. News about the Northern Quarter development in Portsmouth remains sporadic but both the Council and developer say they remain committed to the scheme.

PEARSONS ESTATE AGENTS – THE LONDON NIGHTRIDER TEAM

Jubilant but tired around 6:00am all six riders were home and dry, the weather had been just great but the exhaustion and testing hills, yes there are many testing hills around London, were all forgotten as the lovely lady placed our medals around our necks.  We had enjoyed a hearty pasta meal in Dulwich Village to build up our energy levels and by 11:00pm we were getting into our grouping and setting off.  From Crystal Palace we follow the arrowed route through busy streets with traffic and buses vying for position at traffic lights and smokers outside the busy pubs clapping and screaming us on our way.  It is all pretty uninteresting until we are in Greenwich and the O2 leaps into view across the Thames and we head for central London.  Soon it is the run up to Tower Bridge which stands before us like some archaic time machine, swallowing cyclists by the hundreds.  The magnificent lighted night time scene of the Pool of London and also downstream was breathtaking but no time for pictures as the group presses on.

Simon Pinkney and his younger brother, Julian, Steve Sprake, Luke James Stewart (only one man, not three) and myself, Stephen Hartley make the team up and Katy Sprake, Steve’s daughter, Fundraising events manager for our chosen charity, Help The Hospices has tagged along for the ride.  It is early morning now and the sidewalks are thick with Saturday night revellers queuing for their favoured club and the road is a mass of buses and taxis that really could do without the rush of 3000 cyclists.  We pass St Pauls, the City and Canary Wharf then arrive at Mile End Stadium for our first pit stop.  Top up water and energy bars are given out freely so we refuel our stomachs and are soon away again heading for the Emirates Stadium, a thrill for all Arsenal fans I am sure.  Having left the river behind us the climbs become more frequent and we pass through areas of differing affluence and then the eeriness of the run down shanty style market at Hackney.  We quickly press on.  Alexandra Palace is our next goal and we believe it is the half way mark but our speedometer says different and as the road begins to climb more steeply we expect it to be just around the next corner but it isn’t.  Finally, at the top of the most monstrous and totally unnecessary climb we reach Alexandra Palace and close to total exhaustion’ we pull into the break area which, in the artificial lighting looks like some surreal Hollywood film set.  Never, in the history of cycling, has so much energy been expelled by so few for a cup of tea but it was welcome.

  Only slightly rested we mount our cycles again, the saddle now quite snug and the shoes more easily clipping into the pedal fastenings.  A slight mist envelopes us and the temperature drops noticeably but we can only press on, for what, another long and drawn out climb ending in not one but two peaks.  Following on so soon from the last hill the effort is excruciating and never ending but you cannot keep a good team down.  We are now in the more upmarket suburbs of Noel Park, Fortune Green, Hampstead Heath and Camden Lock then soon we are on more level ground in Westminster.  It has by now gone 4:00am and the sun is rising and London is waking and we are witnessing a totally different City with determined stern faced people heading for work or some other non recreational purpose.  Having had the roads to ourselves for the last couple of hours and may I say, some of the most potholed roads that we were most surprised to come across, the traffic was by now building up again and Piccadilly was so full of rickshaws, I had to ask myself if this really was London and not Singapore.  A push up Whitehall and a quick salute from Nelson only leaves us Hyde Park, the Royal Albert Hall and we are back at the Thames.  We crisscross the river on famous bridges and catch the skyline in the early light but the most amazing point for me was the first view of Westminster Palace with its windows reflecting the low sun as burning gold.  It was a spectacle too behold.  Like home coming footballers, some WAG’s had stood on Westminster Bridge to raise a cheer and lift our spirits which, surprisingly were not flagging.  Leaving the city behind we have about ten miles of less exciting streets to cover before, the final hurdle, another mother of all climbs which forces two of us to dismount before re grouping again for a two minute cruise downhill into Crystal Palace, a medal and a mighty bacon, sausage and egg roll.  What a journey.  Would I do it again?  Yes, on foot with my camera.

Branches in: Auction Department, Clanfield, Denmead, Fareham, Havant, Land & New Homes Department, Southsea, Survey Department, Waterlooville
Members: Brett Austin, Chris McKenzie, Debbie Passells, Graham Atkins, Jeremy Beckingsale, Mark Gilbert, Martin Banfield, Paul Wolland, Steve Sprake