Property News: buy-to-let rentals; first-time buyers; 'reality check' home preview

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The Independent Online

Buy-to-let rentals provide a steady return, but yield more in the north than in the south

Buy-to-let rentals provide a steady return, but yield more in the north than in the south

Buy-to-let rental yields are remaining steady at an average of just under eight per cent, says Paragon Mortgages, a specialist buy-to-let lender. The highest yields are in the North, where properties are cheapest, and the lowest in the South-east and Greater London, where properties are most expensive. For landlords, terraced properties remain the best investment, with the highest annual rental yields of 9.36 per cent, followed by semi-detached at 8.38. Flats continue to give the lowest yields, at 7.41 per cent.

Number of first-time buyers down by 14%

First-time buyers are thin on the ground, according to the latest Housing Market Survey from the National Association of Estate Agents. The percentage of sales agreed to first-time buyers fell to 14 per cent in May, the lowest number since the question was incorporated into the survey in 2001. During 2002, 25 per cent of sales agreed were to first-time buyers, but this figure has been falling steadily. Generally, market activity remains flat, with an average of 12 new sales agreed in May and nine exchanges of contract, compared to 20-plus sales and 14 exchanges per month throughout most of 2002. It is now taking an average of seven weeks from instruction to sale agreed and nine weeks from sale agreed to exchange of contracts. Estate agents are also reporting that sale prices are currently being set at 95 per cent of asking prices, one per cent down on last month.

New service offers a 'reality check'

People looking to relocate or buy a second home within the UK or abroad can find the expense and time involved in viewing several properties to be prohibitive. Jonathan Haward from the County Homesearch Company has come up with a preview service that offers a "reality check" on any property, which could save the purchaser a wasted trip. Digital pictures of the property are taken and detailed information about the interior, exterior and environmental or location factors are investigated, usually within 48 hours. The service costs £300 for properties in the UK, and can be offset against the cost of the full home-finding service of £500. Further details can be found at, or by ringing 020-7352 0772

The pluses and minuses of location

Access to mainline rail stations and motorways can add around £14,872 to the price of a house, but living next door to a derelict property can take a hefty £24,336 off the price, says Hometrack. Schools, country parks and quality food stores like Waitrose and M&S within three miles of the property can add value. However, the minus factors take a higher percentage off the price. A top state school will add over £10,000 (eight per cent) to the price, whereas a poorly rated comprehensive takes off more than £13,000.

Council property website launched, a specialist site dedicated to ex-council property, has been relaunched. It offers information and advice on the various issues associated with these types of property, latest trends and expected yields, as well as right-to-buy advice. The subscription-based service is a searchable database, updated daily and lists many of the latest properties coming onto the London market. Advertising on the site is free for individual property owners.