Balancing commercial and residential developments is key to keeping town centres alive post-pandemic

Balancing commercial and residential developments is key to keeping town centres alive post-pandemic

United Kingdom
  • Just 29% of high street addresses are retailers (Office for National Statistics)
  • 1 in 12 shops closed in 5 years to 2018 (Ordnance Survey)
  • Blending retail units with new homes is key to city centre survival (Fabrik Invest)

Property investment specialists Fabrik Invest have spoken out about the importance of balancing residential development in city centres with commercial premises in the post-pandemic world. City centres have been hit incredibly hard not only by successive lockdowns but also by the reduced footfall resulting from a far higher incidence of home working throughout the pandemic. According to Fabrik Invest, this puts an onus on developers and investors to take an active role in keeping urban centres alive.

“Our town and city centres were already struggling when the pandemic struck, with one in 12 shops closing in the five years to 2018. Yet town centres do so much to help communities connect. That’s something that has become infinitely more valuable as a result of the prolonged isolation of the pandemic. Developers have plenty of scope to help nurture our towns’ and cities’ growth and this needs to be a key focus moving forward.”

Steve Jacob, CEO, Fabrik Invest

By March 2020, just 29% of high street addresses were retailers. Squeezed salaries and the shift to online shopping have been two of the key reasons behind this, both of which have been significantly exacerbated by the pandemic. The closure of offices and the shift to students studying online has intensified the problem, due to the huge drop in the number of those passing through town and city centres. For retail units, footfall is everything

People’s changing preferences have also had an impact on town centres in recent years. While the pandemic has served to push people towards country living, that followed a boom in demand for city centre homes, which is likely to pick up once more as the vaccine roll-out continues and we look forward to a post-pandemic return to relatively normal life.

“People increasingly want everything on their doorsteps – to live within walking distance of excellent restaurants, a selection of shops and the best leisure facilities available. The relaxation of planning laws meant that many old office spaces could be converted into residential buildings, but we need to balance that with keeping commercial premises in urban centres too, as those are a key part of the reason that people want to live centrally.”

Steve Jacob, CEO, Fabrik Invest

The planning law relaxation allowed people with B1 office space to convert it into residential accommodation without the need for a full planning application, provided they stuck to national framework guidelines. The move led to a lot of unused office space being turned into homes and continues to do so to this day. Fabrik Invest regularly offers such developments for investment.

Bishopgate Gardens in Preston is a prime example of this. The office block, which had stood vacant since early 2019, is being converted into 130 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, with shared social spaces including a stylish lounge area, coffee pod café, shared working space, reception area with 24/7 concierge and show-stopping rooftop gardens on the eighth and eleventh floors.

Bishopgate Gardens will also be home to seven retail units on the ground floor, including a deli, barbers, beauticians and florist. Budding entrepreneurs to take over the high-spec shops, which face onto the development’s impressive plaza, are currently being sought.

“With commercial to residential conversions, there’s often plenty of scope for developers to provide retail space on the ground floor. This will be key to the long-term survival of our town and city centres as places where individuals can connect with local businesses and with the wider community. In the post-pandemic era, this will be more important than ever in keeping the commercial heart of our cities alive.”

Steve Jacob, CEO, Fabrik Invest

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

Domestic student demand for rental guarantor services up 12%, reports Housing Hand

Domestic student demand for rental guarantor services up 12%, reports Housing Hand

United Kingdom
  • 30% of students housed in private rented accommodation (HESA)
  • Non-EU student enrolments up 59,000 (2019/20)
  • Student accommodation sector needs to expand while remaining affordable

It’s been an interesting couple of years for the UK in terms of its international student numbers. The government’s International Education Strategy has a target of hosting 600,000 international students by 2030, despite the current complexities of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. Hitting the target would mean the industry’s economic impact reaching £35bn annually, making it an attractive aim.

The 2019/20 academic year was certainly a good one for non-EU student numbers, with enrolments shooting up by 59,000 students, taking non-EU total enrolments to 556,625.

So, what does this mean for pressure on student accommodation? UK rental guarantor service Housing Hand has been working with both domestic and international students since 2013, helping them to secure accommodation in their university town or city by acting as their guarantor. The market has changed a great deal since then, with a major boom in Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA), although figures from Glenigan show that planning consents for such properties have dropped every year since 2017.

Nor are PBSA homes suited to all students. Many prefer to live in halls, while figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that around 30% of students opt for private rented accommodation.

The UK has an interesting spread of student accommodation, with some university cities suffering from a deficit of suitable homes and others a sizeable glut. The fluctuations in student movement patterns that the pandemic has created is further complicating this picture. However, the long-term view is a positive one for student numbers, particularly those from overseas. This means that the accommodation sector needs to prepare to house increasing numbers of talented young people over the years ahead and to do so in an affordable way.”

Jeremy Robinson, Group Managing Director, Housing Hand

Affordability is a key concern for many students and especially so for those without a rental guarantor. At a time when many parents and guardians have been furloughed, have lost their jobs or face the prospect of losing their jobs, signing up to guarantee a child’s rent becomes a far more dauting prospect.

This is one of the reasons that Housing Hand has seen such a sharp rise in the number of domestic students using its services. Between November 2019 and November 2020, demand from UK students increased by 12%. While international student numbers dropped over the same period, in line with trends across the sector as a whole, the long-term prospects remain bright.

“International demand for university education in the UK has necessarily been curbed by the pandemic and its associated travel restrictions but the longer-term outlook is one of growing demand. We need to ensure that appropriate accommodation is in place, therefore, for the growing body of students that the UK will be housing. That includes an emphasis on affordability, to ensure that young people can focus on their studies, rather than having to find several months’ rent upfront because they don’t have a guarantor.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

For more information please contact Housing Hand today on +44 (0) 207 205 2625 or visit https://www.housinghand.co.uk/

Trapped in your timeshare? CostaLuz Lawyers offers fresh hope to burdened families

Trapped in your timeshare? CostaLuz Lawyers offers fresh hope to burdened families

Spain
  • Many clients still paying maintenance fees for illegal and unwanted timeshare contracts
  • Issuing a legal statement on the client’s rights is often sufficient to cease payments
  • Spanish law supports buyers’ interests when it comes to timeshare purchases

“We often think of timeshares as an issue of the past, but there are still so many families who are trapped in them and either don’t want them or can’t afford them. What’s most shocking is that many of those families are trapped in their contracts illegally. We have a good deal of experience of this and want to let people know that they may be able to take action to get out of such schemes.”

Keith Rule, www.costaluzlawyers.com

Timeshares took off as a way for multiple individuals to share the rights to use a holiday property back in the 1960s. By the mid-1970s the business model was well-established and increasingly popular in both the US and Europe. Globally, the industry continues to expand, with MarketWatch reporting the global vacation ownership (timeshare) market to have a value of USD 15620 million in 2019. That figure was projected (as at December 2020) to rise to USD 25720 million by the end of 2026.

However, the history of timeshares has been littered with scandals, as well as with treasured holiday memories. Between mis-selling and families becoming trapped in unsellable contracts, timeshares have caused plenty of distress over the years. The cross-border nature of the timeshare transaction process has also caused issues.

“Timeshares make a very interesting study from a legal perspective. The number of abusive, corrupt companies located in tax havens that are involved is truly eye-opening. Thankfully, case law is very much on the buyers’ side, at least in Europe where a Directive on timeshares has supported buyers’ interests.”

Keith Rule, www.costaluzlawyers.com

According to CostaLuz Lawyers, Spanish law has established that if the timeshare complex is in Spain, then Spanish law governs the contract. The law in Spain relating to timeshares has changed twice in recent years. Law 42/1998 was enacted to protect buyers. Then, in 2015, the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that any contract lasting for 50+ years (including all those ‘in perpetuity) and signed after 5 January 1999 was illegal, as all such contracts had to be for 50 years or under.

For those stuck in timeshare contracts that they can’t afford or simply don’t want, the CostaLuz Lawyers team advises investigating the available options. The number of contracts that Spanish judges have ruled are null and void means that many owners do have a choice about remaining in their contracts.

“In many instances, all it takes to get clients out of the illegal timeshare contracts in which they are trapped is the issuing of a legal statement in relation to the null character of the contracts, along with cessation of maintenance fee payments. Very few timeshare companies take the matter any further. At the other end of the spectrum, very few sign a settlement agreement, either. Most simply leaving the matter un-concluded but with contract holders no longer having to pay.”

Keith Rule, www.costaluzlawyers.com

In the CostaLuz Lawyers’ team’s experience, this situation is just fine with the majority of those seeking to escape their illegal and/or burdensome timeshare contracts. Most don’t have the will to pursue the timeshare company to claim back the amount they’ve invested, despite there being scope in Spanish law for them to do so. Instead, the majority of clients simply want to stop paying their maintenance fees and forget about the issue entirely.

While there is occasional pushback from one of the timeshare companies, this is usually swiftly dealt with through a reiteration of the client’s rights and the relevant case law.

 “Unwanted timeshares don’t have to be the millstone that those forced to make regular maintenance payments might assume. It’s always worth finding out if the option to escape the contract exists.”

Keith Rule, www.costaluzlawyers.com

For more information, please contact CostaLuz Lawyers’ UK office on +44 1908 635 111 and speak with Keith. To speak with Maria in the Spanish office, call +34 956 092 687 or you can visit www.costaluzlawyers.es

Pandemic drives changes in landlord behaviour/buying patterns

Pandemic drives changes in landlord behaviour/buying patterns

United Kingdom
  • Investors increasingly seeking additional bedrooms and on-site co-working spaces
  • Outdoor space to remain at a premium over the longer term
  • City homes in particular being scrutinised by landlords looking for ideal amenities

Property investment company Fabrik Invest is reporting longer-term changes in landlord behaviour and requirements, as the continuing impact of the pandemic is felt across the UK’s private rented sector.

“There’s still plenty of interest from investors looking to become landlords. Indeed, the Bank of England putting banks on notice to prepare for negative interest rates in the next six months is doing much to fuel a shift of liquid assets into bricks and mortar. Many of our investors are already moving to do this. What’s interesting is the sustained shift in the types of property that they are seeking.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

This shift in demand has put a spotlight on properties such as Bishopgate Gardens in Preston. Priced from £120,000 and due for completion in September this year, Bishopgate Gardens’ 130 apartments have been designed to deliver an exceptional living experience. Residents of the one, two and three-bedroom homes will have access to a shared working space (‘The Common’) and on-site coffee pod café, as well as a stylish lounge area and reception with 24/7 concierge. The show-stopping rooftop gardens on the eighth and eleventh floors, meanwhile, more than tick the oh-so-important outdoor space box.

It is the shared working space, as well as the outdoor areas, which Fabrik Invest has found that investors are increasingly focused on. Home-based working has flourished of necessity during the pandemic, but over the longer term it will continue out of choice for many.

“The increase in home working is driving interest in on-site co-working spaces like never before and it’s not stopping there. Many investors are now looking to put their cash into properties with an additional bedroom that can be used as an office. Landlords are adapting their behaviours and approach to the new normal.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

It is city centre homes in particular that landlords are scrutinising through a new Covid-lens. People aren’t using city centres in the same way they used to. Many behaviours are expected to return to normal as the vaccine rollout reaches the masses. However, the fact that Covid-19 may well move from pandemic to endemic in the human population means that some changes will be for good. This means, according to the Fabrik Invest team’s experience, that landlords are hedging their bets by investing in homes with on-site facilities that make localized living easy. In Preston, Bishopgate Gardens’ seven ground floor retail units are a case in point, with residents enjoying easy access to a barber, hair salon, beauty shop and grocery store, among others.

Location-wise, it’s all eyes on the North West. Savills’ latest mainstream residential market forecast pegs the North West as leading the UK for house price growth over the next five years, projecting growth of 27.3% for the region (compared to 20.4% for the UK as a whole). This is already unfolding, looking at recent figures. Zoopla’s latest House Price Index shows that the highest house price growth since April 2017 is being led by northern cities, with Liverpool house prices climbing by 6.3% over the past year, followed by those in Manchester at 6%. But that’s not to say that landlords are looking in precisely the same locations within these cities that they were pre-pandemic, according to Fabrik Invest.

“In big cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester, we are seeing investors looking at areas further out, such as the home counties and commuter belt towns for London. Kent is a good example of this – it has the good transport connections for those who need to commute into London, as well as plentiful green space and more affordable prices than the capital. In Manchester, it is Salford Quays that is turning heads. Tenant demand is strong there and investors are racing to meet that demand.”

Dale Anderson, Managing Director, Fabrik Invest

As 2021 unfolds, all eyes will be on the UK housing market to see what happens after the stamp duty holiday ends. Ultimately, though, the country has a sustained imbalance between its supply of rental homes and the demand for those homes. With the prospect of negative interest rates also coming into play, demand from investors doesn’t look to be dropping off any time soon.

For more information, please contact Fabrik Invest on 020 8175 9891 or enquiries@fabrikinvest.com, or visit www.fabrikinvest.com

Housing Hand warns of increasing unsustainability of using landlords to support non-paying tenants

Housing Hand warns of increasing unsustainability of using landlords to support non-paying tenants

United Kingdom
  • 700,000 tenants and landlords could be dealing with rent arrears by end of 2021 (LSE London/Trust for London)
  • Eviction ban well intended but fails to protect increasingly desperate landlords and letting agents
  • Clock is ticking for government to step in

UK rental guarantor service Housing Hand is speaking out on behalf of landlords who are suffering at the hands of the government’s eviction ban. The legislation has been designed to protect tenants who have suffered financial loss as a result of the Covid pandemic. However, in so doing, it is creating an increasingly difficult situation for many landlords. Some are facing not just losing their investment properties but their homes as well.

The intentions of the eviction ban to protect individual tenants are excellent, but the situation unfortunately doesn’t take all those involved in the rental transaction into account. The financial impact of tenants who can’t afford to pay on landlords is devastating.”

Jeremy Robinson, Group Managing Director, Housing Hand

The clock is certainly ticking. According to research by LSE London and Trust for London, the number of private tenants in rent arrears in England could treble in the coming year. That could mean as many as 700,000 tenants – and their landlords – in financial difficulty.

Housing Hand points out that letting agents, too, are suffering Letting agents receive a percentage of a property’s rent as a management fee, but 15% of £0 is £0. This means that there is a limit to how long agents, as well as landlords, can continue to operate with a reduced income. Client Money Protect reported at the end of 2020 that lettings agencies were closing at a rate of ten per week. Housing Hand believes that around 4% of all letting agencies closed their doors for good during the year.

The eviction ban is currently due to run until 21 February but has the potential to be extended in line with continuing lockdown restrictions. Such a move would mean that landlords, and the letting agents whose businesses they support, could face further weeks or even months of financial struggle. For those with mortgage payments to cover, the situation is increasingly unsustainable.

“The government must stop using private landlords to house tenants who are unable or unwilling to pay their rent. These are difficult times for all concerned and a new solution is needed – one that supports all those involved in the rental sector.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

The situation highlights the value of professional rental guarantor services, which guarantee landlords will receive their rental payments, even when tenants cannot afford to pay. Housing Hand has covered £587,626,099 in rent to date, working with over 3,000 accommodation providers.

“Those without a guarantor company in place are likely to see landlords increasingly turning to their personal guarantors for payment over the difficult months ahead. It’s a role that parents often fulfil, but how many of those acting as guarantors are also finding that their income has been reduced or lost entirely? The government needs to do more to step in and prop up the private rented sector in these truly exceptional times.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

For more information, please contact Housing Hand today on +44 (0) 207 205 2625 or visit https://www.housinghand.co.uk/

Pent up demand from British tourists ready to give Spanish golf sector a major boost

Pent up demand from British tourists ready to give Spanish golf sector a major boost

Spain ,
  • Buyers looking for golf homes with private outdoor space, pools and flexible internal areas (Taylor Wimpey España)
  • Single-family homes account for record-breaking 20.43% of transactions (Q3 2020)
  • Palma Tourism Board “confident” that British visitors will be some of earliest to return

Popular tourism destinations such as Spain have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but hopes are high that pent up demand from British holidaymakers will provide a significant boost this summer.

Spain’s golf industry, in particular, is eyeing up demand from British golfers. The sector is responsible for 120,000 jobs (direct and indirect) and the generation of nearly €13 billion, including €777 million in direct income from golf courses and €4,640 million in spending by golf tourists. As such, golf is a major player in Spain’s tourism offering, with 1.2 million golfers travelling to enjoy Spain’s fairways each year (2020, obviously, being a notable exception).

“Think of Spain and you immediately picture sunny beaches, great food and wine and world-class golf courses. Being able to spend time on the fairways year-round is an intrinsic part of Spain’s appeal. Not being able to visit Spain and play has been distressing for all those who enjoy golf as a way to stay fit and healthy and to spend time outdoors in beautiful natural surroundings.”

Marc Pritchard, Sales and Marketing Director of Taylor Wimpey España

British players are certainly missing golf – so much so that design and build firm Oakbridge Bespoke recently reported an increase in interest from clients wanting golf simulators in their own homes. Of course, even the fanciest of simulators can’t beat the feel of being out on the fairway, but it is hoped that British golfers won’t have to wait too much longer to do so. According to Pedro Homar, Director of the Palma Tourism Board,

“With the rate in which the UK is rolling out the vaccination, we are confident that the UK market will be one of the first to return to Palma… In terms of timings, we expect the UK market to return from around May onwards.”

Golf in Spain comes with a surprisingly affordable price tag. Indeed, the Golf Travel Centre recently worked out that the average Brit doing Dry January would save £343 from missing nights out (pandemic aside). That’s enough for a long weekend at the Costa del Sol’s stunning La Cala Golf Resort.

For many golfers, though, the odd weekend here and there just isn’t enough. They are looking for golf properties where they can play golf all year round, enjoying the lush greenery, sea views and abundant sunshine that are so good for mental as well as physical health. As such, many seek to buy golf properties that they can use whenever suits them.

The pandemic has, of course, impacted the kind of homes that golfers in Spain are seeking. According to leading Spanish home builder Taylor Wimpey España, buyers are looking for spacious terraces, communal areas and swimming pools as their top priorities (alongside access to first-rate golf facilities, of course). Open, flexible spaces within the home are also important, with many buyers now incorporating working from home in their plans for the way they will use their golf property. The option to practice other outdoors sports has also moved up buyers’ priority list, with socially distanced outdoor activities holding even more appeal than previously.

As in the UK, demand for rural and coastal area homes has increased, while more densely populated cities have fallen out of favour. Not only that, but buyers also looking for individual villas and townhouses, rather than apartments. The Association of Property Registrars, Movable Property and Mercantile of Spain report that the sale of single-family homes accounted for 20.43% of total transactions in Q3 2020 – the highest recorded percentage for this type of property.

“Single-family homes in quiet locations, with easy access to golf and other outdoor sports are experiencing strong demand right now. Buyers are looking for plenty of their own outdoor space, in addition to communal areas and shared pools.”

Marc Pritchard, Sales and Marketing Director of Taylor Wimpey España

In the Costa Blanca, where prices increased by 2% in 2020 despite the pandemic, according to Fotocasa, it is newly built, private developments that are turning buyers’ heads. At Kiruna Residencial, for example, just one key-ready home remains for sale, priced at €191,000 plus VAT. A further development in the area, Kiruna Hills, has properties available off-plan, priced from €193,800.

The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home at Kiruna Residencial boasts a 50 m2 roof terrace, a 26 m2 garden and a further terrace of 14 m2. The development offers views of the spectacular Sierra de las Aguilas Mountains, as well as Elche’s Alenda Golf, in which the property is located. Residents also benefit from a communal swimming pool, an array of landscaped gardens, a supermarket and a club house. There’s even a bilingual English/Spanish school for families looking to settle more permanently.

The Costa del Sol is, of course, renowned for its golf courses and Taylor Wimpey España’s Green Golf has everything that buyers are looking for there. Available from as little as €299,000 plus VAT, the frontline golf townhouses face southwest to make the most of the plentiful sunshine. The three bedroom, three-bathroom homes, which are ready to move in to, have large terraces that are ideal for outdoor dining, and make up a private, gated community with communal gardens and pools at Estepona Golf.

With Palma’s tourism director ‘confident’ that UK holidaymakers will be some of the first to return to Mallorca, many golfers are also eyeing up properties there as both potential second homes and main residences. One popular development is Canyamel Pins, just a few minutes’ walk from the beach at Canyamel and the Canyamel golf course. The two- and three-bedroom homes, with have large terraces for enjoying the unbeatable Mediterranean climate, are available from €335,000 plus VAT.

For more information please contact Taylor Wimpey España today on 08000 121 020 or visit https://www.taylorwimpeyspain.com/. If you reside outside of the UK you will need to call 00 34 971 706 972.

How to buy a home in Spain safely during lockdown

How to buy a home in Spain safely during lockdown

Spain
  • British appetite for holidays and second homes in Spain remains strong
  • CostaLuz Lawyers walks buyers through safe online buying practices
  • Pre-foreclosure purchases deliver savings of up to 60%

The Covid-19 pandemic has done little to quell the long-term British love for Spain. In fact, the idea of lounging on a beach in the sunshine holds a great deal more appeal when it is so far out of reach. As Spanish tourism board officer in London, Javier Piñanes, recently pointed out:

“There is a strong desire to travel on the part of the British and they emphasize that Spain is the destination they want to travel to, it is their top destination for holiday.”

Nor is it just holidays that Brits are dreaming of during lockdown. Recently reported figures from Taylor Wimpey España observed an increase of 39% in website traffic during the first week of 2021, compared to the same week a year earlier.

But with travel restrictions in place that, currently, have no end in sight, how can British buyers turn their dream of holiday home ownership into reality?

According to CostaLuz Lawyers, with the right safeguards in place, it is perfectly possible to buy a Spanish property safely online during the lockdown. While buyers can’t visit the property and the local area in person, they can research to their hearts’ content online. Key to doing so safely is to engage an independent lawyer early in the process.  

 “The right lawyer can be invaluable in terms of helping you choose a Spanish property. They can help you to work with reputable, honest and reasonably priced agents, arrange a surveyor, check all required paperwork is in place and do the conveyancing and post-sale work. Not only that, but your transaction will be covered by the law firm’s professional indemnity insurance and title insurance, for added peace of mind.”

Keith Rule, www.costaluzlawyers.com

Locating the right agent through whom to buy is half of the battle. Plenty of British buyers have been burned attempting to buy property in Spain before now. The CostaLuz Lawyers team can attest to this. They have won almost 850 claims from Spanish property developers and banks, with many cases brought by buyers who paid substantial deposits during the pre-crash years, but never received a completed property. Many of these cases are still working their way through the courts now, some 10 to 15 years after the deposits were lost – in 2020, CostaLuz Lawyers won 51 cases for a total of 76 clients, despite the shutdown and reduced operation of the Spanish legal system for extended periods during the year.

These cases highlight how essential it is to find the right agent, which is something that an independent property lawyer can assist with. Not only that, but the right legal representation can also open doors to potential cost savings. CostaLuz Lawyers, for example, operates a service that connects British owners of negative equity homes in Spain – those who are facing foreclosure in the near future – with buyers in the UK. The service enables the seller and buyer to agree a below market value price that avoids foreclosure, keeping everyone happy (including the bank). In some cases, this service has seen buyers pick up homes for around 60% of the price paid for them back in 2007.

“Buying during the pandemic means finding new ways to view properties and engage with the purchase process. It can also deliver some excellent bargains. And what better way to finally celebrate the lifting of travel restrictions, whenever that may be, than to visit your new holiday home?”

Keith Rule, www.costaluzlawyers.com

For more information, please contact CostaLuz Lawyers’ UK office on +44 1908 635 111 and speak with Keith. To speak with Maria in the Spanish office, call +34 956 092 687 or you can visit www.costaluzlawyers.es

Spanish property buyers focus on green second homes as Malaga gets first National Park

Spanish property buyers focus on green second homes as Malaga gets first National Park

Spain ,
  • Sierra de las Nieves to become Spain’s 16th National Park later this year
  • Designation includes strict environmental protections
  • Taylor Wimpey España reports uptick in interest in greener homes

Later this year, Spain’s Malaga province will finally get its first National Park, after six years of campaigning. Sierra de las Nieves, the mountainous area north of Marbella and east of Ronda, will enjoy increased funding and stricter environmental protections as a result of the decision.

Sierra de las Nieves has been a protected national park since 1989 and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1995. It is home to the largest collection of pinsapo trees in existence, along with an abundance of largely untouched flora and fauna, with some of the trees thought to be over 500 years old. Bird spotters who visit the park can enjoy sightings of golden eagles, griffon vultures, peregrine falcons and many more species, while ibex, wild cats, mouflon and roe deer roam the steep slopes.

Connecting with nature has rarely felt so important as it has over the past year, with lockdown restrictions confining so many people to the inside of their homes. Likewise, exercise has becoming something to be valued even more than normal. With cycling, hiking, horse-riding, kayaking, climbing, abseiling, potholing and canyoning all available in Sierra de las Nieves, those visiting the resorts of the Costa del Sol will have easy access to all the nature and exercise they could possibly wish for.

Many visitors and locals alike have long enjoyed the rich eco-diversity of Sierra de las Nieves. Now, the profile-raising nature of the National Park designation, along with the funding that comes with it, means that many more families will benefit from this incredible natural resource. The development of sustainable tourism activities will ensure the area is well protected, which is incredibly important for the future of Sierra de las Nieves.”

Marc Pritchard, Sales and Marketing Director of Taylor Wimpey España

Both tourists and second home owners are increasingly conscious of the need for greater sustainability, according to leading Spanish home builder Taylor Wimpey España. Concern for the environment is being reflected in the questions that buyers are asking as part of the purchase process.

Taylor Wimpey España has long been included environmentally friendly features in its developments. Its properties at the prestigious La Cala Golf resort, located just over an hour from Sierra de las Nieves, include several such features. One example is their electric water heaters, which use energy saving systems and source their hot water through thermal solar energy. Double glazed windows also help to make the homes more energy efficient.

The properties also deliver the chance to reconnect with nature. The low-density construction and quiet location of the key-ready homes at Sun Valley, for example, are ideal for those looking for a greenery-surrounded retreat. Available from €251,000 plus VAT, the southwest-facing homes offer stunning golf view from their ample terraces. In addition to golf, owners can enjoy the on-site tennis facilities, as well as an array of water sports at the stunning beaches just 7 km away.

The off-plan apartments available at Harmony, also on the La Cala Golf site, will also make the most of the natural surroundings and spectacular scenery, with views taking in the golf course, mountains and sea in a single vista. Priced from €295,000 plus VAT, the homes are being built in accordance with the new Technical Building Code (CTE). This means that they are ahead of the market in terms of delivering some of the highest levels of energy efficiency and thermal and acoustic insulation. The property has achieved Energy Certification B, as does Sun Valley (this obligatory certification ranges from A for the most energy efficient homes to G for the least).

“Features such as energy efficiency, solar energy and thermal insulation are no longer ‘nice to haves’ – they are a core part of what many buyers are seeking. We are delighted to be developing homes that adhere to such high standards in this respect.”

Marc Pritchard, Sales and Marketing Director of Taylor Wimpey España

For more information please contact Taylor Wimpey España today on 08000 121 020 or visit https://www.taylorwimpeyspain.com/. If you reside outside of the UK you will need to call 00 34 971 706 972.

All is not lost for owners of ‘illegal’ properties in Spain

All is not lost for owners of ‘illegal’ properties in Spain

Spain
  • CostaLuz Lawyers highlights potential to take action against banks
  • ‘Illegal’ property owners can claim for refund of off-plan deposit
  • Claims not subject to December 2020 deadline that applied to many other owners

The Spanish property experts at CostaLuz Lawyers have reached out to owners of ‘illegal’ properties in Spain to reassure them that all is not lost. The team has highlighted the potential for owners of these properties to make a claim against their developer’s bank for a refund of their off-plan deposit. Not only that, but if the buyer subrogated the developer’s mortgage, they can also claim for all mortgage repayments.

Action can be taken against liable banks under Law 57/1968, with no deadline in place for making such claims, yet few of those impacted are aware of the full extent of their right to a refund.

An illegal Spanish property is one that did not have the proper planning permission, building licences or other paperwork in place at the time the client paid their off-plan deposit. Many buyers moved into such properties following the building boom of the early to mid-2000s, either paying for them in full or taking on large mortgages. These buyers now have recourse to legal action to reclaim the deposits that they paid – along with interest and legal fees.

“We’ve been hugely successful in winning back some €25 million for Spanish property buyers who lost deposits to developers who went bust. The deadline for such claims under Law 57/1968 was 28 December 2020. However, claims for the return of off-plan deposits paid on illegal properties, and for mortgage payments where the buyer subrogated the developer’s mortgage, are not subject to this deadline; they’re not subject to any deadline at all.”

Keith Rule, www.costaluzlawyers.com

Owners can claim against the developer’s bank or insurer for a refund of any deposit that they paid prior to the legally required paperwork being in place. This applies even when no contract exists, as the Spanish Supreme Court has deemed that lack of consent means no time-barring can be applied.

Despite many of those who are eligible to claim having purchased their properties 15+ years ago, it was 2013 before the Supreme Court stated that ‘finishing’ a property means not just building it but also having all of the legal paperwork in place. And it wasn’t until 2016 that the court clarified that planning illegalities were a matter that fell under the purview of Law 57/68.

“There is clear case law to support the claiming of refunds of deposits paid on illegal properties and in some instances of mortgage repayments as well. The Spanish justice system can move slowly but this doesn’t mean that it is not worth pursuing a case. The return of a deposit, along with 15+ years’ worth of interest, can equate to a lump sum that feels well worth the wait.”

Keith Rule, www.costaluzlawyers.com

For more information, please contact CostaLuz Lawyers’ UK office on +44 1908 635 111 and speak with Keith. To speak with Maria in the Spanish office, call +34 956 092 687 or you can visit www.costaluzlawyers.es

Hold on tight to the UK rental sector roller-coaster

Hold on tight to the UK rental sector roller-coaster

United Kingdom
  • Housing Hand’s figures highlight notable shifts in student rental market
  • Furloughed/unemployed parents turning to rental guarantor services for their offspring
  • Housing Hand records surprising 8% jump in international working professionals
  • Figures point to continuing volatility of private rented sector

Newly released data from UK rental guarantor service Housing Hand has highlighted the volatility currently being experienced across the UK’s private rented sector. The company acts as a rental guarantor for students and working professionals and has seen significant shifts in demand for its services over the period from November 2019 to November 2020.

Demand for rental guarantor services for students was notable for a number of reasons. While there was an overall increase in the number of students that Housing Hand guaranteed over the period, there was a drop-off in international students.

The fall in demand from international students aligns with wider data trends across the industry. Between travel restrictions, lockdowns, a shift to online learning and Brexit, international appetite for UK higher education has been impacted significantly. This is why we’re seeing such low occupancy rates in London for purpose-built student accommodation right now. It will be interesting to see the impact that all of this will have on the January intake.”

Jeremy Robinson, Group Managing Director, Housing Hand

Student rent strikes across the UK are also feeding into this volatility. However, despite the unrest, Housing Hand recorded a 12% increase in the number of UK students using its service. The lower grade boundaries offered by universities following the UK’s A Level grading controversy in August 2020 has played a part in this.

It’s also likely that many parents and guardians who are currently on furlough or unemployed are now turning to Housing Hand to secure their properties. Even those still currently in employment may wish to avoid acting as guarantors themselves, in case that situation suddenly changes.

Nor is it just the student part of the private rented sector that is experiencing shifts in renter patterns. Housing Hand recorded a surprise increase of 8% in the number of international working professionals that it guaranteed between 2019 and 2020, despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The growth in demand for rental guarantor services by working professionals from overseas flies in the face of what we were expecting to see. It highlights the continuing diversity of the UK workforce, despite the wider political, economic and medical situation. During 2021, hopefully this will continue; however, the first three weeks of the year have shown a slow start, so watch this space.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

Even with mass vaccination underway, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to be felt across much of the UK’s private rented sector over the course of 2021. Economic uncertainty means that many of those in the UK are seeking the reassurance that a professional guarantor service provides, rather than the risks associated with a parental guarantor.

“From a landlord’s perspective, rental guarantor services mitigate the increased risk that is now associated with parental guarantors. Just as many renters may be facing personal economic uncertainty, so too are their parents. This is why professional guarantor solutions are so prized by landlords and letting agents right now.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

For more information please contact Housing Hand today on +44 (0) 207 205 2625 or visit https://www.housinghand.co.uk/