The Big Sleep Out – Raised Over £40,000

Like most my business and family life is very busy and there often seems little time to reflect but when Bastion Estates were asked to be one of the sponsors for the planned The Big Sleep Out event at the John Smiths Stadium with other Huddersfield Town fans, board members, sponsors and fans we didn’t hesitate. Our time and donation was a small  small price to pay for a bad nights sleep.

The cause, need and awareness is more than apparent and the money raised by everyone was superb and we are proud to have been part of it. The event was cold, damp and I had very little sleep but with a great group of people it was amusing, bonding and in an odd sort of way thoroughly enjoyable.

Click on the link to read just one of the articles written about the event

Big thanks to all involved for your company, support and humour.

Bastion Estates Ongoing Sponsorship of Huddersfield Town Football Club

Here we go again!

There was  a small degree of caution when our commercial partnership with Huddersfield Town FC was due for renewal as life in the Premier League is predictably more expensive than the lower leagues but our support is unshakable and we have agreed a new deal and we are very happy to announce our ongoing partnership which is the fourth year in a row.

We like so many local and regional businesses are more than willing to continue our support for HTAFC. This family club is credit to the football league and our ongoing support is unquestionable.

Click on the link to read the Club’s press release. 

UK House Prices Fell in February, Nationwide says

This kind of headline frustrates me greatly. Is the UK media’s prime focus to spread negativity about everything or report balanced facts? In my opinion and whatever the subject a negative headlines seems to be their favorite.

Article as follows: UK house prices have recorded their first month-on-month fall since August, according to the Nationwide.

The building society said average UK property prices in February were 0.3% down on the previous month.

This monthly change is generally regarded as a volatile measure of house prices, but the Nationwide said it reflected the wider picture.

The annual growth in house prices to February slowed to 2.2% from January’s figure of 3.2%.

Consumer confidence, the squeeze in household incomes, a lack of mortgage activity, and a slowdown in the key London market have all been factors in the slowdown.

So in this micro window of activity growth is still 2/2%!

2018 Property Market Forecast

Over the Christmas holiday period and the past few days I’ve read eight different articles from varying company’s and people’s predictions for the property market in 2018. In all fairness no one is saying anything dramatic or overtly negative and whilst the media as a whole have a tendency to focus in an negativity it’s all broadly positive.

In brief summary informed opinion is saying that the market will continue to grow but at a reduced level which is not new news and something we commented on a number of times last year. What is worthy is the focus on the rate of growth which they believe will be the lowest since 2011. Whilst I take the point it’s not earth bad news…is it! Ongoing year on year strong ‘hedonistic’ growth is not sustainable and more subdued periods are welcome to stable people’s expectations, the market demand and overall pricing. Steady growth is fine by us. It proves the stability of property and the medium to long term benefits of a bricks and mortar investment.

The buy to let market has gone through some tough changes in the past couple of years and landlords have had to work smarter to retain their returns but the simple fact is that all reports forecast ongoing demand for the UK buy to let market and the lucrative returns on offer. The advice hasn’t changed – buy carefully, buy with discount, buy in growth areas,  buy where rental demand is strong and take advice from experience property professionals.

UK Stock Markets Climbed to New Highs on the Final Day of Trading for 2017.

You may argue that the UK Stock Market has little direct relation to the business of property and property investment but it does often reflect what confidence levels are and what markets are performing better than others. Here’s some highlights from BBC News recent article.

Both the FTSE 100 index of leading blue chip companies and the FTSE 250 reached new records at the close of trading.

US stock markets have also hit new peaks over the year, helped in part by Donald Trump’s sweeping tax reforms.

Stephen Eckett, author of the annual Harriman Stock Market Almanac, said: “All the dangers that were anticipated with a Trump administration haven’t materialised.”

The FTSE 100 finished up 7.6% at 7,687.77 compared with the last day of trading in 2016.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 ended 14.7% ahead at 20,726.26 compared with the end of last year.

Mr Eckett said: “It has been a little bit of a surprise to many people that markets were are strong as they were this year.”

Housebuilders were among the best performing companies on the FTSE 100 in 2017.


‘Gloomy’ Economic Budget Forecast

Maybe I am just an eternal optimist or view things with a glass half full type approach but the negative stance and headlines about do frustrate me. Forecast Cut Sharply and Gloomy Outlook…really?

Key points below:

Growth forecasts for the UK economy have been cut sharply following changes to estimates of productivity and business investment.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) now expects the economy to grow by 1.5% this year, down from the estimate of 2% it made in March.

Growth, it says, will drop to 1.3% by 2020 and then rise to 1.5% in 2021.

The lower growth means that by 2021-22 government tax receipts will be £20bn lower than the OBR’s March forecast.

The OBR expects borrowing as a share of economic output will still fall, but not as fast as it predicted in March.

It forecasts that borrowing this year will be 2.4% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), rather than its previous prediction of 2.9%.

By 2021-22, it says that percentage will be down to 1.3%. However, in March, it had expected borrowing to have fallen to 0.7% of GDP by then.

This can hardly be interpreted as disastrous. It is not what anyone wants to read and we all want good solid growth at a higher rate but let us not forget where the UK economy has been, global pressures, the global economy as a whole and of course the unsettling Brexit negotiations. The media seems to revel in negativity and doesn’t focus on where we have been and where we are and where we aim to be. I’m not suggesting we all go around every day with an inane smile on our faces and forget issues in our lives but surely a positive approach, with a positive mind breeds positivity If you cannot be positive then at least be quiet!

BUDGET – Housing, Growth and Support

Housing always seems to feature in any government’s budget as the subject is of core importance to the long-term housing shortage and economy of the country and this time housing featured strongly. I’ve removed a few of the London related announcements but below are the key points in relation to the overall housing industry.

  • Stamp duty to be abolished immediately for first-time buyers purchasing properties worth up to £300,000
  • 95% of all first-time buyers will benefit, with 80% not paying stamp duty
  • Reduction will apply immediately in England, Wales and Northern Ireland although the Welsh government will have to decide whether to continue it when stamp duty is devolved in April 2018
  • £44bn in overall government support for housing to meet target of building 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of the next decade
  • Councils given powers to charge 100% council tax premium on empty properties
  • Compulsory purchase of land banked by developers for financial reasons
  • £400m to regenerate housing estates and £1.1bn to unlock strategic sites for development
  • Review into delays in developments given planning permission being taken forward

The key one of course that is creating the headlines is scrapping stamp duty for the first £300,000 spent by first time buyers. This is without doubt a positive approach and will help many financially as they commit to buying their first home. The first-time buyer market supports the market as a whole and will encourage movement. There are those that feel this is little more than a ‘headline grabber’ and it will do little to encourage first time buyers and will benefit very few and whilst I can see their point let’s not forget the positive.

Also, the ongoing support of the new homes market to meet the target of building 300,000 homes a year is again solid and positive with a sizable £44 billion-pound package.

I won’t comment on the other housing related points as they are self-explanatory but ultimately positive where the housing market is concerned but other announcements may not have featured in headlines but are worthy of comment are:

Bringing forward a planned cut in business rate rises by two years to 2018. Small and medium sized businesses are incredibly vital to the country and any assistance and saving is very welcome. This might seem a minor announcement but worthy of note.

new railcard offering discounts to those aged between 26 and 30. Again small scale but to financially assist people, reduce road traffic, encourage movement and working practice has got to help. Mixed reviews on this one reported but every little helps.

Was the budget good news? Opinions will vary, and we would all like something better but upon reflection of the economy, the Brexit negotiations and the global economy I would like to think it’s a fairly solid positive stance.

Interest Rate Rise – As Predicted

I was right! I’d like not to be in this case but on at least two previous blog posts earlier this year did state that in my opinion interest rates would increase marginally before the calendar year.

Banks will rush to increase their rates to reflect the rise and of course it has created lots of headlines and the usual doom and gloom approach. However, what difference will this really make to property market? Nothing! The difference will be incredibly marginal and will not effect the demand for quality rental homes and therefore the need for property still stands and the clear and obvious returns and growth for the buy to let landlord still stands.

The increase is an attempt to slow down and steady inflation not to effect the property market.

The ongoing Brexit negotiations undoubtedly are having an effect on the economy and the overall uncertainty though listening to Mark Carney on Preston on Sunday yesterday was incredibly positive, focused and typically reassuring. He commented on “business investment has picked up and that the economy should be booming but it is just growing” and how this was down to the “nature of the deal with the European Union”.

Interest Rate Increase: Reason for negative headlines? Concern for the economy? NO!

Statistics Say – Housing Price Sees Steady Growth

Maybe it’s my old life in the corporate world that means I’m often drawn to statistics and what they tell us but the Office for National Statistics do produce some interesting data.

Whilst I appreciate that it is only a snapshot of this calendar year so far up until the end of August but it shows us a housing price growth of 5% nationwide. Remove Scotland and Wales and the growth is 5.3%. This alone is a solid recommendation and offers great support and strength in the UK housing market. The growth may not be spectacular but it is steady and proven.

Naturally the 5% figure is an overall average and driven by regional variances. We as a company tend to focus on the north of England taking in the midlands as a whole and the M62 corridor and north up the Scottish border. In our core area the north west is up 6.5%, Yorkshire up 4.8% and the midlands (east & west combined) is showing a 5.8% increase. Lowest is London at 2.6% and Wales and Scotland are in the threes.

Some of this is good reading and most is not entirely surprising with ongoing steady growth being reported everywhere. Whilst these stats are only 2017 up to the end of August they are not hugely different from 2016 and show that steady but encouraging stable performing appeal that brings so many people into the buy to let property market. The growth is there and the rental demand continues to soar.

As a quick add on but a relevant supporting fact; the construction industry grew 2.3% in this period which was reported as being down to the growth in new work in private housing.


5 Steps to Avoid the Housing Market Perfect Storm (apparently)

Am I in Narnia or has a broadsheets economics’ editor really decided to type some rather fanciful wand waving “5 Steps to Avoid the Housing Market’s Perfect Storm”?

The article is long winded and relates heavily to the dysfunctional London market and whilst many of us are aware there is an affordability issue and rents are increasing too fast in some areas the ‘avoidance steps’ sadly have little substance.

The 5 steps are below and our response is below each step.

The first is to stop doing more harm through counter-productive policies such as help to buy.

  • Like what? Yes, Help to Buy has potentially created an inflated negotiation free new build market but it is one that has benefited the larger PLC type developers but not the majority of the independent house builders.

The second is to change the tax system, starting with council tax reform and action to prevent land hoarding.

  • Much land is not hoarded but merely unable to developer as a high proportion of independent house builders cannot secure flexible competitive lending. The high street lenders talk a good show but don’t want to lend unless it is at a hugely beneficial loan to value basis, so the independent often has had to rely upon the specialist bringing finance companies that are often not competitive enough, have strong controls and lend for limited periods.

The third is to increase supply, and the housing expert Kate Barker has suggested ways the government could do so, such as identifying large sites abutting urban areas and acquiring them at a modest premium to the value of their existing use.

  • Is this some sort of compulsory purchase style suggestion? How would this sit with landowners, many of which have no wish to sell in the first place? If we take the second point (above) in mind maybe this wouldn’t be necessary if competitive flexible lending was readily available for the independent house builder.

Step four is for the Bank of England to adopt a kid-glove approach to raising interest rates. The idea is to engineer a gradual fall in real – inflation-adjusted – house prices, not a recession that leads to a sharp increase in unemployment.

  • What is the point here? The Bank of England is being cautious and must consider global pressures not just those concerns at home as there is an overall connected consideration and an increase, marginal or not is on the way.

Step five is to find a way of boosting wages, because there are two ways in which houses can become more affordable. Earnings can rise or house prices can fall. The housing market will only become less dysfunctional when Britain becomes more productive.

  • Sadly, this is close to being fanciful or at least a very long-term statement on a hopeful level. Simply to increase wages has a far wider effect on the economy.

Stay away from the wardrobe people. When the fur coats become fir trees there may be trouble ahead. OK I’m being a little cruel but the 5 Action Steps are pretty general and not really a defined recommendation.