Martin Roberts, celebrity guest editor of Property & Home, talks to Chris Jenkins about the ups and downs of the property market, and tells us what he thinks about the turbulent economy and how this could affect the fortunes of buyers
The name of Martin Roberts has been closely associated with the property market since he started work on the BBC’s Homes Under the Hammer in 2003. But Martin’s experience goes back further than that, to when he got into property development in the 1990s.
Having travelled all around the country and looked at thousands of properties from unliveable wrecks to the most luxurious mansions, and developed a series of popular property buying seminars, Martin is in a unique position to know about buying, renovating and selling property for a profit. But these are difficult times, when there are all sorts of challenges created by the rising cost of living and the turbulent economy. So does Martin still think that the property market is a sound game to be in? Read on for the words of the man himself…
What is happening with the property market? Is the boom over?
Well, these are undoubtably turbulent times, with uncertainties regarding interest rate rises, the cost-of-living crisis and general world instability.
However, the property market has proved its resilience even in unprecedented periods of history, such as throughout lockdown. The recent rises in property prices have been fuelled by many factors, including changes in work habits, lifestyle alterations, and perhaps the desire to make changes sooner rather than later because the future now seems so uncertain. The last few years have seen house price growth that few predicted and despite the current climate I think there is still further to go.
See also: What is the Modern Method of Auction?
What can first-time buyers do to get on the property ladder in an increasingly squeezed property market?
The reduction in Stamp Duty, and specifically the increased help for first-time buyers, went some way towards reducing additional costs associated with buying a property. But it’s always been historically difficult to get that first foot on the ladder. However, believing you can use your position, whatever that is, to stack things in your favour, rather than disadvantage you, is a useful mindset shift. So, make it personal.
I recently lost out on buying a house, despite offering the full asking price, because the people specifically wanted to sell to first-time buyers. Therefore, get the seller to want to sell to YOU. Explain your circumstances, and go OTT on how much it would mean to you to buy their house!
Have changes in tax laws made it impossible to make money from buy-to-rent?
It would certainly seem that private residential landlords are being unfairly penalised for the important role they play in the UK property rental market. Certainly, for private individuals, some tax reliefs and incentives are no longer available. However, for those buying in the name of a company or similar legal entity, many of those reliefs are still legitimately available. But even property owned in a personal name can still prove profitable, so long as costs are carefully controlled.
Rents are rising, and yields on investment are still potentially much higher than through other forms of investment. But before you buy, it’s vital that you do your research, and make sure you are buying the right kind of property in the right area. A house suitable for students within easy striking distance of the campus? TICK! A large family home near popular local schools? TICK!
What’s the solution to second homes forcing first-time buyers out of popular holiday areas?
Many local councils now have restrictions on who can buy property in popular holiday destinations. There is also sometimes a restriction requiring developers to sell exclusively to locals, or at least sell a portion of any newbuild properties to them at a discounted price. I understand the frustration of locals, but I’m not sure a blanket ban on sales of second homes in lovely parts of the country is the answer, fair or reasonable.
We hear a lot about new-build homes being full of faults – are they a liability?
Like anything new, freshly built houses are bound to have ‘settling in’ issues. Modern unseasoned wood shrinks, plaster cracks as it fully dries, joints separate. All these issues come under the description ‘snagging’, and it’s impossible to deal with all snagging issues as soon as a property is finished, as some will take months to come to light. There is nothing wrong with this, so long as the builder resolves any such issues when they finally arise.
In the energy price crisis, what are the essentials for saving money in your home?
There is so much you can easily do to reduce the running costs of your home. The recent meteoric rise in energy prices has made us all acutely aware of our energy usage in a way that even years of ‘green’ campaigning would not have done. But all these things we’ve been hearing about for years now have financially painful relevance.
So; Insulate your loft with ANOTHER layer of insulation, even if you think it’s got enough already. Turn your boiler temperature down by at least 5 degrees. Have your boiler serviced regularly to make sure it’s working efficiently, and consider a replacement if it’s over 10 years old, as modern boilers are considerably more efficient. Replace ALL your light bulbs with energy saving equivalents. Use an old-fashioned draft excluder at the bottom of exterior doors. Install or upgrade your double glazing. Consider alternatives, such as ground or air source heat pumps and solar panels>
What particularly interesting properties have you seen recently on Homes Under the Hammer?
The houses we feature on Homes Under the Hammer continue to be a hotch-potch representation of the diverse properties that come to the auction market. I’ve recently filmed in a haunted church and a former public toilets! But for the most part, auction properties are solid opportunities to get your hands on an investment you can add value to, or be a place to live, without the worry of the gazumping, broken chains and shattered promises that often accompany houses bought via more traditional routes.
What DIY job are you most/least proud of?
I love my DIY, but like anyone I occasionally mess things up, and embark on a job that ends up worse than if I hadn’t touched it. Despite taking suitable precautions, there’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling when you realise you’ve drilled through a pipe or electricity cable when all you were trying to do is put up a shelf! I’m particularly proud of my sheds, which are getting more and more elaborate. I’ve now run out of garden space, so I’m moving into the trees with multi-level constructions that rival a Tibetan cloud forest monastery!
I’m currently embarking on one of the most challenging projects of my property life. I’ve just bought a pub, restaurant and hotel in the Rhondda Valley of South Wales. I’ve never owned or run any of those things, so what could possibly go wrong? [Some 21 British pubs a week are closing for business or losing their licensees, according to the Campaign for Real Ale, CAMRA – Ed]. Well, quite a lot actually, which is why I’ve decided to film the whole thing for a new TV documentary. It will feature local characters who will help me and relevant experts who will guide me. And it should be a helluva ride. Look out for “Ooops! I Bought a Pub!”, coming to a channel near you soon. And wish me luck!
Read more in the latest issue of Property & Home with Martin Roberts, here.