Thursday, 25 June 2015

First Time Buyers - Have You Considered The ‘Help To Buy’ Scheme?

As a first time buyer, one of the most worrying things is always whether or not youll be approved for a mortgage. With it becoming increasingly common for first time buyers to be turned away due to not having a sizeable enough deposit or as a result of their income being too low for the property which they want to buy, the government have stepped in to offer their assistance and the recent General Election saw David Cameron pledge to continue the scheme for the foreseeable future. 

This assistance comes in the form of the Help To Buy scheme, introduced in October 2013 to give an extra helping hand to first time buyers looking to get onto the property ladder. To find out more about the scheme and how it can help, we teamed up with London mortgage broker, David Sharples. 

What Does Help To Buy Offer?

If youre a first time buyer, the Help To Buy scheme is fantastic news! Whilst theres two parts to the scheme, its the EquityLoan arm to it which is of most benefit and, in short, offers first time buyers the opportunity to own their own home with as little as a 5% deposit. 

In the words of the scheme themselves, with a Help to Buy: equity loan the Government lends you up to 20% of the cost of your new-build home, so youll only need a 5% cash deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the rest."

As you can see, with an equity loan, youll only need to put down a 5% deposit but will similarly only need a mortgage for 75% of the property price. The government will lend you 20% to allow you to get a mortgage with lower monthly repayments and, in many cases, be eligible to buy a house which is higher priced than you could usually afford. Theres no interest at all payable on the 20% for five years.

Who Can Get An Equity Loan?

In short, any first time buyer is eligible for an equity loan so long as theyre buying a new-build home up to the value of £600,000. Theres few other restrictions on the scheme and its fantastic that the government are backing such a great offering.

As far as were concerned, Help To Buy gives would-be first time buyers a real chance to get themselves onto the property ladder whilst only needing to save up a 5% deposit. In many instances, families are happy to gift a deposit of that value, however for those in rental accommodation, its saving up the rest which is the hard part. With Help To Buy, the dream of becoming a home owner becomes a reality and could see you in your brand new home in weeks!

Friday, 27 June 2014

London is officially the best city in the world
We all know London is an incredible city and now it’s been confirmed. The UK capital has just topped the “Cities of Opportunity” index; PwC’s sixth annual report of 30 major cities internationally. London has edged ahead of New York since 2013, with Singapore coming in third place.

One aspect of London which was highlighted in the report was the fact that the city’s burgeoning technological sector means that it now ties with Seoul in South Korea, as the city with the strongest software design and development capability. As well as this, it also performs very strongly on internet access in schools and broadband infrastructure. So it seems that London’s economic future lies in many ways in the tech industry, as long as it continues to grow and prosper.  London is truly a digital hub, with the growth of Tech City in Old Street sparking a whole community devoted to the world of entrepreneurship and start-ups. With Google Campus located nearby and government investment in the area, the digital sphere is set to become a whole lot bigger over the next few years.

The report described London as: “an economic powerhouse”, an “urban gateway” and a centre for culture, education, study and innovation. There’s a whole new generation coming up in schools thanks to our new digitally-enabled society and one thing’s for sure: office space in London will be more in demand than ever. However, while Tech City has definitely helped to boost the tech sector; but London needs to remain ahead of the game considering Chinese cities are likely to catch up quickly in the next few years.

Rising rents in Tech City

Thanks to rising rents around Silicon Roundabout, the West End could be set to benefit from the digital boom. This is because there will soon be little difference between rents in Tech City and Central London. With the cost of the best quality office space in the West End having risen by almost 15 percent over the last year or so to an average of £100 per square foot, the council has proposed new measures to make sure there’s more office development to keep the area’s creative industries and technological companies in the area. However, the excellent location, strong reputation and great vibe in the West End will likely keep digital businesses in the area; or even encourage them to locate there. Why not, after all, rent an office in the centre of London if rents in the East aren’t any lower?


The report demonstrates that it’s not all about business – higher education plays a strong part in encouraging investment into the city. The world-class universities make London a “global capital for higher education” (beaten, just, by Paris). This makes London’s growth sustainable, attracts world class talent to the city and helps sustain workers’ skills.

The future

London property has big advantages over other international cities too. When it comes to monthly costs and long-term returns on investments, the UK capital comes up trumps in comparison to its main rival, New York. This is why the city’s so popular with overseas buyers. However, for London to keep itself top of the pile, they will need to be further investment in infrastructure such as transport and more land freed up to build on as the population soars.

We love London and it comes top of our chart any day of the week! It’s the city of opportunities and the centre of this incredible town is where everyone wants to be – and no wonder.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Amazing local places to eat in Soho

Soho has lots of wonderful places to eat and drink. No, we’re not talking about big chains or glamorous clubs, but those eateries frequented by workers and residents alike, those places that make Soho, well, Soho.

Read on for further details…
Found on busy Brewer Street, Randall and Aubin is one of London's most famous oyster bars. Seafood lovers can find everything they wish for here; the seafood counter’s full of delicious produce, from lobsters to prawns to whelks and crabs. Try a taster platter of the fruits de mer if you’re not sure what you want as a main dish. You can also try meat from the rotisserie, such as chicken, roast salt beef and lamb. For main dishes, fish and chips and grilled sea bass are on the menu.
The dining atmosphere is unique – with white tiled walls and marble topped tables – creating a fresh, minimalist approach. It’s hard to believe Randall and Aubin was once a butchers! The serving staff are very friendly, enthusiastic and create a great buzz.
A charming tapas bar with delicious food, top service and excellent vibe, this venue has a San Sebastian feel. There are lots of small plates, try the ajo blanco, beetroot and salt cod brandada as well as the duck egg yolk. There’s an intimate atmosphere, with high wooden counters and stalls and you can just turn up – no need to book - as is often the case with tapas bars.
Surely a star of Soho eateries, this place is pretty packed and loud in the evenings. The menu regularly changes and of course the wine menu is brilliant, a good spread of vintages by glass or carafe.
Found on Frith Street, this Peruvian restaurant provides the best recipes from Peru. Ceviche is a seafood dish most popular in Central and South America. It’s made from fresh raw fish with citrus juices like lemon and lime and spiced with peppers. This restaurant takes ceviche making seriously and it is provided with super salads. Try a little Pisco too – a colourless grape brandy that is produced in the regions of Peru and Chile. 

 Do you enjoy pizza? If you’re looking to get a delicious lunch in Soho, make sure you check out Princi. The surroundings are minimalist, with an airy room and lengthy marble counters. There are also an array of delicious cakes, breads and pizzas – complemented by pretty salads, from chicken and avocado, to mozzarella and tomato. Prices may be above average, but definitely worth it! Just a tip: be sure to book early as is usually packed. There’s also a self-service system and bubbly staff making the atmosphere vibrant and relaxing.
If you’re not looking to eat in town and want to pick up some amazing pasta, get yourself along to Lina Stores, an Italian delicatessen based on Brewer Street. Lina Stores has been selling Italian food in Soho since 1944. They import everything from Italian meats to cheeses, dried pasta, wines, oils – even biscotti!  Word on the street is that. Lina Stores provides the best past in West London…

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Tax relief for commercial property deadline has been reached
The UK commercial property market is a pretty good bet right now. It’s been booming during the past year or so – with research demonstrating that commercial property has generated an 8.9 percent return for investors during 2013. This is largely due to foreign buyers – especially from Asia – putting their money in commercial property in the UK capital, which is believed to be a very safe haven. Some £20 billion was spent last year – with £14.2 billion of this spent in Central London.

Tax Deadline

For all those looking to invest in commercial property, it’s vital to consider the changes that came into effect on the 6th of April. These reforms change the criteria for businesses to claim capital allowances on properties they own or have improved. Previously, commercial property owners were entitled to tax relief on items that come along with their properties – such as lighting; air; conditioning units; cabling; radiators and security equipment retrospectively. However, some 96 percent of property owners in the UK have not actually claimed this relief and now the deadline has passed.

Previously, if you didn’t claim allowances for these items at the point of buying, it wasn’t an issue – backdated claims could be made. However, as from this month prospective purchasers and their advisors must understand how to make a claim initially, as they won’t be able to get the tax relief later.

Why the changes were made

HMRC changed the rules in order to stop property owners making fraudulent tax relief claims, to ensure tax relief is only claimed once and that legislation isn’t abused.
Some experts claim the changes will make buildings owned by pension funds and charities more appealing to purchasers. This is because they cannot claim capital allowances as they don’t pay tax in the first place, so this new ruling won’t particularly put them off.

What now?
First of all, this could be a great opportunity to snap up a bargain, as potential buyers may push property prices down to compensate for relief lost. With the UK commercial property market expected to continue to boom in 2014, there could be a temporary lull due to this new policy and then a pick up later down the line, who knows! If the current rate of growth (largely) continues in the same vein, with a yield of, say, six percent; then this could put commercial property among the top performing asset classes in which to invest.

Consult an expert

One thing’s for sure: it’s important you consult an accountant and lawyer. Although historically, they’ve tended to avoid this area as it can be very complicated, professional advice is a must. Some purchasers of property have been concerned about the fact that they weren’t previously informed about this key tax saving potential. Also, sometimes when buildings are bought, new owners don’t know how much cabling is worth or even how much there is inside the walls! It’s important to be aware of these kinds of details so you can capitalise on this tax relief from the outset.

We hope this advice has been helpful – commercial property’s a great investment – just make sure you’re aware of these latest changes.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Covent Garden throughout the ages

Ah, Covent Garden. That wonderful, bustling, fascinating part of London, so beloved by tourists and locals alike. From the famous market, to the Opera House, to the brilliant range of shops on offer for those looking to pick up something special – it’s the place to go for a fantastic day (or evening!)

Covent Garden also boasts a rich and interesting history – here’s a look back in time to see how this popular area has evolved over the years…

Saxon Times…

Once upon a time the area around Covent Garden stretching down to The Strand was a trading settlement known as Lundenwic. The extent of the settlement is calculated to be up to 60 hectares. Records show there was a trading port established along the Thames which landed at the foot of The Strand, although by the late Saxon Period, maybe due to the threat of Viking invasion; the settlement moved back as far north as Short’s Gardens, one of Covent Garden’s long streets. As a result, Lundenwic became a derelict waste, used as farmland.

Middle Ages

The name “Covent Garden” came from the presence of a garden belonging to Westminster Abbey, which was referred to as "The garden of the Abbey and Convent". This land was acquired in the sixteenth century by Henry VIII and was given to John Russell, who happened to be the 1st Earl of Bedford. The land was thus developed and remained in the possession of the Bedford family until 1918. Apart from Bedford House, the rest of Covent Garden stayed as pasture, until the 4th Earl inherited the title in 1627 which led to…

The Piazza!

The Piazza was built in 1631, with the Earl employing Inigo Jones as his architect to build a series of Palladian style arcades, based on the main square in Livorno, Italy. The development was initially a fantastic success, attracting a well-heeled and aristocratic clientele. However, over the next century, the atmosphere changed as flower and vegetable stalls expanded and theatres and coffee shops popped up. The market grew so rapidly and started to dominate more and more of the grand square. In 1667, commissioners for highways and sewers were discussing what to do about what they called the “great ffylth” which was the result of traders in the Piazza.

Haven for Artists

Over the next two centuries, Covent Garden became more and more popular with artists, journalists and writers and developed a bohemian reputation.  Famous writers such as Henry Fielding and painter and satirist William Hogarth frequented the area. Many well-known actors also lived and worked in the Covent Garden – David Garrick’s house in Southampton Street survives and many actors are commemorated by street names. The Covent Garden Theatre – now the Royal Opera House opened in 1733 – with Handel conducting his famous ‘Messiah’ there.

The New Piazza!

By the mid-18th century, there were floods of complaints about the “nuisances of the market”. The noise, smell, the blocked streets, the booze were all causing massive problems. The comments about house prices having “abated in proportion as the nuisances have increased”, are the kind of things we all hear about today – plus ca change! In 1828, Whig politician John Russell, the 6th Duke of Bedford, got government permission to knock down the Piazza’s stalls and build a proper market building and introduce a regulated system of rents. Architect Charles Fowler constructed the Piazza based on Greco-Roman design – which was considered at the time massively understated and practical.

The 20th Century

In 1966, an Act was passed to provide for the removal of the fruit and vegetable market at Covent Garden to new premises at Nine Elms, Vauxhall, with the freehold ownership of the Covent Garden Market authority acquired by the Greater London Council and the Department of the Environment. The central Piazza area and its surroundings have been redeveloped, with a mixture of restaurants, cafes and market stalls making it a top tourist spot.
Ultimately, Covent Garden still has its reputation for being an arts haven today, with many arts shops, dance studios and high culture located in the area and around The Strand. Today, however, it’s very much a hotspot for sightseers and is popular among those looking for cute boutiques as well as drinking venues and bigger stores. This is why Covent Garden is so sought-after for those looking to buy and rent in the West End – it’s always got something to offer, at any time of the day.

Friday, 7 March 2014

History Of Bloomsbury

Ever wondered about the history behind Bloomsbury, that wonderful part of town well known for being a hub of cultural establishments, along with being conveniently located in Central London? Read on for a fascinating insight into the story behind this area...

First of all...

...Where is Bloomsbury?

Bloomsbury is part of the London Borough of Camden which is in Central London between Euston Road and Holborn. Developed by the Russell family in the 17th and 18th centuries into a cool residential area, it’s famous for its pretty garden squares, educational institutions and of course, the Bloomsbury Group!

The History!
The earliest record of this area is in the 1086 Domesday Book, which shows the area had vineyards and "wood for 100 pigs".  In 1201, the name Bloomsbury first emerged, with the name originating from Blemondisberi – the bury, or manor, of Blemond (William de Blemond a Norman landowner who acquired the land). Towards the end of the 14th century, Edward III acquired Blemond's manor, and next passed it on to the Carthusian monks of the London Charterhouse. Henry VIII took the land back in the 16th century with the Dissolution of the Monasteries into the possession of the Crown, next granting it to Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton.

In the early 1660s, the Earl of Southampton constructed what eventually became Bloomsbury Square. Laid out mainly in the 18th century by landowners such as Wriothesley Russell, 3rd Duke of Bedford, who built Bloomsbury Market, the massive development of the squares that we see today started in about 1800 when Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford developed the land to the north with Russell Square as the main centrepiece.

The Bloomsbury Group
Known as “Bloomsberries,” the Bloomsbury Group initially gathered sporadically to talk about creative ideas in this very famous part of the UK capital in the early 1900s. While the artists had no specific agenda and in theory at least, were not political in the way in which we understand it; they were left-leaning by nature – although often wildly disagreed.  The most famous of the Bloomsberries were feminist writer Virginia Woolf (the de facto ‘leader’ of the group), novelist EM Forster, economist John Maynard Keynes and revolutionary 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell. Instead of holding committees, the Bloomsbury Group had dinners and gatherings where varying topics were the subject of serious discussion. Much of the literature produced by the Bloomsbury Group was revolutionary and they managed to form a bridge between the Victorians and the Moderns.

So there you go! A look at the history behind Bloomsbury. If you’re looking for property to buy or let in the area, contact our estate agent in Bloomsbury for more details.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Top 5 Restaurants In Fitzrovia
Next time you’re out and about in Fitzrovia make sure you check out some of the fantastic restaurants in the area. From Thai to Turkish to Italian – there’s something for everyone.

Here’s our pick of the best...

Crazy Bear
Tucked away in a quiet street is luxury oriental restaurant and bar Crazy Bear. With a bar in the basement and a glamorous area with crocodile skin tables, leather armchairs and cowhide barstools; this is very popular with the trendy crowd who enjoy sipping on cocktails and feasting on Thai cuisine alike. House specials include the hot and sour soup and the slow roast pork belly, as well as the green curry and Pad Thai. If you’re looking for a glamorous evening make sure you don’t miss out!

My Old Dutch
Established in 1958, this legendary pancake venue is situated in the heart of Fitzrovia and offers both savoury and sweet pancakes, along with a selection of salads and traditional Dutch starters and desserts.  There are roughly 30 different types of crepes, from adventurous to standard, so we thoroughly recommend trying one of them! It’s the place to go if you’re looking for a fun day out with both families and kids.

Back to Basics
If you’re looking for fresh fish then look no further than Back to Basics, a fantastic fish and seafood restaurant close to Goodge Street tube. A popular and busy eatery, Back to Basics is simply decorated, with a huge blackboard featuring the catches of the day. Fish ranges from cod, skate, tuna and mackerel. Dishes are served either as simple platters or with sea bass; ginger; spring onions or monkfish; as well as spicy prawn cous cous and garlic butter. The two-course set lunch is great value for money at just £10.00. Remember - if you eat early you'll be spoiled for choice, but by 9pm, many of the day's specials could have gone!

Sofra  is a fantastic Turkish restaurant, a stone’s throw from Oxford Street and with mouth-watering food such as deliciously tasty mezzes which are ideal for sharing. Plates include Turkish meatballs, spicy lamb sausage and fried halloumi or falafel. If you fancy meat, why not try chicken skewers or lamb koftes, there are also a fantastic collection of tagines as well as and Turkish pizzas. The friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere make this a great place to eat out.

Italian restaurant Mennula is found in Charlotte Street in the heart of the media district. Mennula The focus of the restaurant is on Sicily, using traditional, first class ingredients. The dining room has a minimalist feel and has plenty of mirrors, with comfortable booths. Popular among those looking for somewhere to eat after taking in a show, Mennula offers a menu that changes according to season. Examples include tasty squid with beetroot, prawns and broad beans served with piquillo pepper and the wine list includes a wide range of Sicilian varieties.