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Land market influences


Continuation of the Government – and its economic strategies will offer greater stability for Shropshire’s land market. Balfours head of sales, Tim Main, says the constancy will serve to underpin the strength of the market.

Tim Main explains: “After an exceptionally strong market last year, we have successfully completed on a number of private farmland sales this year; one of the latest being 300 acres in the south of the county. With the election now out of the way, there will be purchasers out there who feel more confident.

It is true to say that neighbours seeking expansion understand the once in a lifetime opportunity purchasing neighbouring farmland presents. Private farmland sales ‘off the open market’ have proved particularly popular this year in Shropshire and bordering counties, with deals struck as neighbours look to retire or off-load, safe in the knowledge that adjacent farms are keen to upsize.”

The “model paddock” remains a vendors market, with access, location, fencing and water being drivers. “We have just launched a paddock of less than 2 acres to the market at Brockton; with a guide of £25,000 – interest has already been very encouraging.  

Development land

The return of David Cameron will be most appreciated by property developers seeking to invest in land. Despite local and regional developers doubling the number of houses they are building this year, compared to 2014, building land is currently outstripping demand.

Says Tim: “At present some development sites in smaller villages are proving to be surplus to requirements. Developers have just hesitated, but the formation of a second term of Conservative government is likely to be the economic stability they were hoping for – so that they can simply get on and build houses.

This market is without doubt being significantly curtailed by CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) payments currently running in the region of £80 per square metre; that amounts to around £16,000 on a four bedroom home. ”

According to Tim there is currently a big gap between the national builders with developments of 75 homes plus and the local builder, who takes plots of up to a dozen homes. “Again it would appear this is not helped by the fact that once outline permission is granted, ‘reserved matters’ are required within twelve months, which in the current economic climate is a big ask.

“However individual plots in village locations remain popular; not least boosted by the fact that private individuals can register to be zero rated for CIL payment, offering a significant saving on building the dream home,” adds Mr Main.

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Number 10 is vacant, is yours?


The local rental residential market is flourishing and despite the election, Balfours Property Professionals has experienced a flying start to 2015 and as a result now seeks more stock.

Balfours letting agent, Charlotte George enthuses: “Our message to anyone sitting on a vacant property, excluding Downing Street, is that it could be achieving a significant income. Whether recently acquired through purchase, inheritance or as a result of partners living together, we would encourage owners to consider letting.

She adds: “There seems to be no let up, we have had a terrific few months with a high volume of properties being turned around quickly. Indeed we still have a significant number of good quality professional tenants on our waiting list.”

Charlotte says: “There is strong demand for properties all over the county ranging from one bedroom apartments to six bedroom farmhouses. There still remains a strong level of buy-to-let investors in the area who are experiencing a good yield and minimal void periods.”

“We expect the market to continue to get busier now as the weather improves and we move towards the end of the school year. Over the years we have found that these factors, combined with new job contracts, does increase movement in the rental market.

We can arrange a no obligation free market appraisal which would provide an accurate rental figure and in depth advice on terms and conditions. For more information call Charlotte at Balfours on 01743 277069.

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FARMING TALK - Employee Accommodation could be hit by tax


Careful wording of job specifications and employment contracts will be essential if employers and employees are not to be hit by recommended reforms to benefits in kind and specifically in connection with employee accommodation.

The provision of accommodation to an employee is considered a benefit in kind and is taxable as income on the employee.  The employer will also have to pay Class 1a NICs on the value of the benefit at 13.8% in 2015/16.  The average value of accommodation benefit in 2011/12 was £5,000 which would have meant a tax charge of circa £1,000 on a Basic Rate Tax Payer employee and circa £700 of Class 1a NICS due from the employer.  In all likelihood the £1,000 tax charge would hit the employer as well via an increase in salary to compensate.  

Currently workers on farms and estates often benefit through an exemption from including the value of the accommodation on their tax returns where:

  • It is necessary for the proper performance of their duties that they reside in the accommodation, or
  • The accommodation is provided so that you can perform your duties in a materially better way, and you are in the kind of employment in which it is customary for employers in that business to provide accommodation

The Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) has described the rules governing Accommodation benefits as both ‘arbitrary and inconsistent’ as well as ‘difficult to apply’ and has made a number of recommendations to how the exemptions should operate in future and to how the value of the benefit should be calculated.

They aim to distinguish more accurately between what is a ‘perk’ and what is needed to get the job done and want the exemption to consider:

  • Whether the employee is required to live in the accommodation to enable him/her to protect buildings, people or assets
  • Whether the employee is regularly required to work outside normal working hours and
  • Whether he/she is required to live in the accommodation as a result of regulatory requirements

The OTS is also recommending the introduction of open market rental value to tax non-exempt accommodation.  This is likely to produce a substantially higher tax charge than the current regime so it will be very important to ensure that exemptions are achieved under any new system and getting job specifications and employment contracts right will be essential.

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Barns attract strong interest at auction


Brook House Barns, Wootten, near Bridgnorth, sold at public auction for in excess of £300,000, without planning permission.

Balfours Property Professionals conducted the auction, of the barns, together with 2.5 acres at the Mytton and Mermaid Shrewsbury. Head of Sales, Tim Main, who conducted the auction said: “We had excellent attendance and moved the auction into the courtyard with sunshine, raising the temperature and interest of both developers and private buyers present.

“Ultimately the hammer dropped at £330,000 for the barn with 2.5 acres, which we and the vendor were very satisfied with for buildings without planning consent,” added Mr Main.

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Shropshire promoted to London buyers


Shropshire’s stunning property portfolio and healthy lifestyle will be promoted in London next week, May 13, when Balfours Property Professionals exhibit at “The Move to the Country Show.”

Alistair Hilton and Clemmie Radcliffe, town and country sales managers at Balfours will not only be promoting properties currently on their books to the London market, but also the fact that Shrewsbury came top out of 70 major towns in the UK, according to the Royal Society for Public Health, who carried out the survey.

Says Clemmie, “Potential buyers are pleasantly surprised by what Shropshire has to offer, in terms of countryside and market towns, plus of course road network. This latest accolade to Shrewsbury is another positive we can promote.”

The RSPH says that rather than simply counting the total number of different businesses on a high street, it looked at the extent to which business encouraged healthy lifestyles, promoted socialising and wellbeing and allowed greater access to health care and advice. For example leisure centres, health clubs, libraries, pubs and bars scored well, but fast food takeaways, bookmakers and pay day loans scored badly.

Alistair adds: “As it happens I moved up from London just 12 months ago with my young family. We absolutely love Shrewsbury it has a superb town park bordering the river, individual shops, good restaurants and there is lots going on. Out of town there is a diverse range of landscapes within a short distance, from South Shropshire’s Hills to the meres, mosses and woodland walks.

“I am really looking forward to the Move to the Country Show at The Chelsea Old Town Hall, because to talk the talk is just so easy,” adds Alistair. If you would like your property promoting to the London market, call Alistair or Clemmie at Balfours on 01743 353511.

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Tartan in lounge not law


Plans hatched by Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader to change the face of Britain would be bad news for English property transactions should they ever be implemented south of the border.

That is the message from one of the county’s leading property agents, Tim Main, head of sales at Balfours Property Professionals, says, “If the Scottish system was perfect we would have followed suit by now. I often hear people say that vendors in Scotland have peace of mind that a sale is binding the moment it is agreed, preventing buyers from pulling out.

“However in Scotland it is all about commitment of capital; you can’t make an offer until your capital is freed up which, for most of us, means you have to have sold your own house first. That puts quite a stranglehold on the progression of property sales which we don’t suffer south of the border.”

According to Tim the only reason our process is wrong is because it allows you to shop for a house before you are ready. “On balance we have a fair system in England and Wales. Of course it is frustrating when an offer falls through, however it isn’t an everyday occurrence and most sales agreed do come to a positive conclusion.”

He adds: “Tartan might be very in vogue in home décor presently, but I think we have to be very wary of any change to our property law, particularly if strong willed SNPs arrive at the Commons shortly after May 7.”

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