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Empty Homes Charity Helps to Ease the Housing Shortfall

by Alison Feemantle

As pressure to address the housing crisis in the UK grows stronger and stronger, new solutions are starting to emerge that could help to ease the strain.  According to UK charity Empty Homes, there are currently 1.7 million families on council housing waiting lists and that figure continues to grow.  The UK population is growing and yet house building rates have not been this low since the 1920s.

It Could Cost as Little as £10,000 to Renovate an Empty Property

New ideas come and go on how to ease this problem, but one idea that can’t be ignored is the idea of reusing the thousands of homes currently standing empty across the UK.  Empty Homes has spent a great deal of time collating local council statistics and estimate there are currently 720,000 empty properties in the UK.  Renovation of each property could cost as little as £10,000.  With new-build homes at an all-time low, this seems like the ideal solution to the shortfall in available housing.

Thousands of Properties Ready to Be Renovated

Often these properties are privately owned or properties that have fallen into disrepair.  Some have been inherited by owners who simply don’t have the resources to renovate the property.  Whatever the reason, it’s apparent that many of these homes could be made habitable for the thousands of families desperate for accommodation and that’s exactly what Empty Homes sets out to achieve.

Empty Homes was first established in 1992.  Over the years they have acted on behalf of those individuals and families desperate for somewhere to live by challenging Government policies and suggesting ways to take advantage of thousands of empty homes.  One of the largest problems faced by the owners of these empty properties is the lack of funds to renovate and repair them.  Empty Homes successfully campaigned for tax-breaks for these owners helping them to raise the funds to make them habitable once more.

Help Empty Homes to Rehome Thousands of UK Families

On a local level, Empty Homes is helping thousands of individuals to bring homes back into use. On a national level, every council in the UK now has a named officer whose responsibility it is to restore empty homes back into habitable condition.  These are just some of the initiatives that Empty Homes has addressed and they plan to continue working with home owners and local authorities to help ease the housing crisis and help the thousands of people desperate for a place to call home.

Empty Homes provides a wealth of free advice and assistance to those looking to renovate an empty property and to those looking to invest in empty property.  You can also report an empty property through their website so they can investigate further.

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Buying property at auction

by James Cole

Buying property at a house auction is not for the faint-hearted, ill-prepared or risk-adverse.

That said, its a perfectly viable route to obtaining a house to live in or an investment property at a ‘fair rate’ if you do your homework.  It is possible to pick up a bargain at auction, if you know what you’re doing and have a smattering of luck – but it’s also full of pitfalls for the uninitiated – who can end up getting much more than they bargained for.

Linton Chiswick recently argued that property auctions are the barometer of house prices – giving us an early warning of the direction of prices.  This theory is based on the fact that as I stated earlier, auction prices are very fair – as they very accurately match buyers with sellers in a way that finds the exact highest price that someone is willing to pay for a property.

I looked around an auction property recently – a two bedroom semi-detached bungalow in the Vale of Pewsey needing more than a lick of paint.  At £75,000 guide price (and strategically placed as lot 1) it attracted a lot of attention.  The viewing we attended was characterised by youngsters with mum and dad, probably looking at any which way to get on the ladder – but who were soon frightened off by the sheer amount of work and money needed to get the place into a livable condition.

Our cursory inspection revealed damp walls, outdated electrics,deteriating asbestos gutters (and in the roof), no central heating system and nothing saveable in either kitchen or bathroom.  A lot to take on for a non-tradesam or inexperienced investor or wanna-be homeowner.

House Auctions do have a lot going for them in terms of speed of sale  - with a 20 – 30 day completion period bringing urgency and focus to the legal transfer process that can stretch to weeks and months in ordinary circumstances.

Although, this could all change.   We’ve recently come across the Clear system of preparing the sellers’ legal pack prior to recieving an offer – in theory eliminating the to and fro between conveyancing solicitors and enabling an on the day completion.  We’re watching this novel scheme with interest – one of those ideas that makes you ask ‘why havent we done this before?’

So, if you’re considering buying at auction, do your homework.  Look at some properties, go to a few auctions with no intention of buying.  Read up on the process, and look at opportunities with very critical eye.

This series of short videos from David Sandeman, Managing Director of Auction Information Company EI Group is a good place to start.

There are over 280 Auction Houses in the UK – see our property auctions UK page to see if there’s one near you.

Last year, 2010, also saw the launch of Zoopla online house auctions.  I can’t help but feel that this will become a much more common form of house sales.

After all if people are bidding from out of the room using a mobile phone, why shouldn’t they bid from a computer with the extra security and manageability of online bidding?  This also allows home sellers to extend the period of the auction – perhaps allowing more exposure to interested parties and raising the achievable price?

You may remember an article on this blog nearly two years ago  Neil Singer of Click to Purchase (who offer online auction software services allowing any Estate Agent to offer an Auction service to sellers) argued the case for online auctions becoming the norm.  It’s not now seeming as ‘revolutionary’ as it once did.

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