Friday, 29 April 2016

Penicuik ‘eye candy’ property of the week!

The weekend is almost upon us so I thought I would leave you with a property to have a think about over the weekend.

Today’s buy to let opportunity from the Penicuik Property Blog is a fairly standard spacious three bed mid terraced house at 8 Greenhill Park in Penicuik.  Greenhill Park is a pleasant cul-de-sac within a mature residential area off Carlops Road behind Penicuik Leisure Centre and Penicuik High School.

The property, which is in good condition internally, has a spacious lounge dining area, a fitted kitchen, three bedrooms and a bathroom with a shower over the back.  It has a separate garage and gardens to the front and rear as well as double glazing and gas central heating.

This house is on the market with Allan McDougall for offers over £154,000 so let’s say it goes for £165,000.  The right tenants should pay £800 for a house like this once it has been done up so that’s a yield of 5.8%. 

We hope you find our posts useful.  If you want some buy to let advice on this property, another property you have in mind or anything else property related, come and see me in our office (6 Bank Street, Penicuik), call me on 01968 674601 or email me (

Thursday, 28 April 2016

What would Brexit mean to Penicuik’s property owners?

The date of the EU referendum is less than 2 months away .... although at times the endless claims and counter-claims by the ‘In’ and ‘Out’ sides does make each day seem like a lifetime!

If we as a country were to unshackle ourselves from chains of Brussels, could this make UK house values drop?

If you read all the UK wide newspapers, the Brexit debate seems to be focused solely on central London. Many commentators have said that Brexit would mean central London would have a lower standing in the world, meaning fewer people would be employed in Central London. That implies lower wages, fewer jobs etc… in Central London.

But we are in Penicuik, not Marylebone, Mayfair or any part of Zone 1 London.

On the run up to the vote on 23rd June I predict:

‘In’ Camp

The ‘In’ camp will start to scare homeowners with forecasts of negative equity is we vote ‘Out’.

‘Out’ Camp 

The ‘Out’ camp will appeal to the 20 something market, which has been priced out of the property market, with the prospect of a new era of inexpensive housing is we vote ‘Out’.

Should we believe the fears of central London estate agents and developers who believe the bottom will fall out of the market if we do leave?

Well, I do think that we should.  The only reasons the Mayfair, Knightsbridge, and Kensington property of central London are attractive to foreign buyers are political and economic steadiness, an open and honest legal system and a lively cultural lifeNone of that is threatened by Brexit.

...but again, we are in Penicuik and central London is 391 miles away.

We are hometown to Penicuik Athletic FC, Penicuik Rugby Football Club and Jim Aitken, the ex Scottish rugby captain. While the central London property market exploded after 2009, that explosion really and honestly didn’t affect the Penicuik property market in the same way.

So, putting central London aside, what would an ‘in’ or ‘out’ vote really mean for the 5,196 property owners of Penicuik?

Initially, over the coming months on the run up to referendum, I believe it will be like the run up to last year’s General Election or the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014. With the short-term uncertainty in the country, quite often big decisions are put on ice and people are less likely to make big money purchases i.e. buy a property.

However, in the months leading up to last year’s Election, property values in Penicuik remained the same which is not bad for a country that thought it would get a hung parliament!  Also, in the months leading up to the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, property values in Penicuik decreased by only 0.3% which is quite remarkable given the fundamental change that was being discussed.

So that argument doesn’t hold much weight with me.

Post vote, should the UK opt to leave Brussels, there would be a much more noteworthy impact. I believe that a vote to stay in the EU would see the Penicuik property market return to a status quo very quickly, but the contrasting result could lead to some changes.

The principal menace to the Penicuik (and UK) housing market could be variation (in an upwards direction) in interest rates, theoretically seeing the cost of mortgages grow swiftly, pricing many out of the market…

... but, two thirds of landlords buy without a mortgage, so that won’t affect them in the short term at least.

According to the Bank of England, 80.33% of all new mortgages taken out in 2015 were fixed rate. Looking at all mortgages as a whole, according to the Bank of England, 44% of all UK mortgagees have a fixed rate mortgage, but 56% don’t, so if you aren’t on a fixed rate ... talk to your mortgage broker now, because they can only go in one direction!

In reality, if I really knew the future, I wouldn’t be a letting agent in Penicuik, but a City Whiz Kid in London earning millions.

However, I suspect whatever decision the electorate of Penicuik and the country as a whole makes, over the long term it won’t have a major effect on the Penicuik property market. We have seen off:

·                     The ‘end of the world’ credit crunch of 2008/9 and subsequent property crash.
·                     The 1988 Nigel Lawson induced post dual-MIRAS property crash.
·                     The 1979 Winter of Discontent property crash.
·                     The 1974 oil crisis that stimulated another property crash ....

... hell, we can even go back nearly a century with the 1926 post General Strike slump in property prices ...

Today, property prices are 274.47% higher than 20 years ago in Penicuik and are 1.01% higher than 6 months ago.

So, make your own decision on 23rd of June safe in knowledge that whatever the result, there might be some short term volatility in the Penicuik property market, but in the long term (and property investment is a long term strategy) there aren’t enough houses in Penicuik to live in either to buy or rent.  Until the Government allow more properties to be built – the Penicuik property market will be just fine. Even if it has a little blip in the summer, there could be some property bargains on the run up to Christmas to be had!

For more advice and opinion on the Penicuik property market, even where those buy to let bargains could be found now - visit the Penicuik Property Blog.

If you are a landlord or thinking of becoming one for the first time, and you want to read more articles like this about the Penicuik Property Market together with regular postings on what I consider the best buy to let deals in Penicuik, out of the many of properties on the market, irrespective of which agent is selling it, then feel free to get in touch!  Email me on lettings@thekeyplace, call me on 01968 674601 or if you are in the area feel free to pop into the office at 6 Bank Street, Penicuik where the kettle is always on.

Double click here to view back dated Penicuik Property News articles.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Semi-detached house investment in Penicuik

This property has recently come to the market through Purple Bricks, with an asking price of £120,000. It's a 3 bedroom semi-detached house in Teviot Grove in Penicuik. This property would rent for £808 pcm to housing benefit tenants giving you an annual gross yield of 8.1%. 

The house, which is in a lettable condition and looks like it have been let out before, has a large lounge, a dining kitchen, three bedrooms, a bathroom with a shower over the bath, double glazing, gas central heating and low maintenance gardens to the front and rear.  Given its location, it is likely to appeal more to housing benefit type tenants but after all that’s why you are getting a higher yield.

We hope you find our posts useful.  If you want some buy to let advice on this property, another property you have in mind or anything else property related, come and see us in our office (6 Bank Street, Penicuik), phone us (01968 674601) or email us (

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Is boiler insurance worth the cost?

Today the Penicuik Property Blog is going to depart from the norm.  Normally, I discuss matters that help landlord’s answer the two basic questions that they are interested in (i) how much is my property worth? and (ii) where is my next buy to let property coming from?  Now I know, because I am one myself, that this is really all that landlords are interested in but occasionally all landlord need to deal with some of the more nitty gritty aspects of renting out property.  So I thought that I would write this week’s post about one aspect of this nitty gritty stuff .... do not worry, I will know from the emails I get from readers as well as the stats whether this sort of thing is of interest to readers!

Last week a tenant contacted me to say their boiler was leaking water at an alarming rate. This was the third time in 12 months this particular boiler has had an issue and it prompted me to suggest to the landlord whether it might be worthwhile taking out boiler insurance on it.
I don’t normally take out boiler insurance on my own portfolio as I’ve run the numbers, which shows it’s not worthwhile. I have a very good gas engineer who is both competent and readily available to attend to my properties.

However, in this particular case, it was the third time in 12 months there had been an issue with it; costing £720 in total!

I took a quick look online at boiler insurance policies and found for £15 per month you could have unlimited repairs with no excess. At £180 for the year, it certainly would have been worth it for this particular boiler!

Looking through my records though shows that only 9% of boilers had repair bills above this figure in any one year. Unfortunately however, I know the pain of having a boiler become uneconomical to repair and having to fork out for a complete replacement (easily costing 10 years of insurance premiums).

Some independent research suggested that 49% of boilers develop a fault within their first six years, costing an average of £188 to repair, whilst 67% of those with breakdown cover did not need a repair visit at all.

Of course like all insurance policies, overall the company makes money from the group as a collective. But some will take comfort that by paying a manageable monthly fee they may prevent a larger unexpected bill.

It would certainly help me not have to make uneasy calls to landlords with the news of a large repair bill! As a letting agent, there’s nothing in it for me except the hassle.

If you’re using a letting agent they should have good links with local tradesmen to get the work done promptly. For a ‘DIY landlord’, the convenience of having an insurance policy in place could be a deciding factor, alongside improved service levels to tenants. The most likely time you’ll encounter a failure is in the winter months - just when plumbers are all busy! Will they get to your stricken boiler promptly whilst your tenants are without heating and hot water? You may feel it’s easier to simply pay a monthly fee for the privilege of providing tenants with a number to call with a guaranteed response time in place.

It seems to me that if you are on a tight budget, have an older boiler or just don’t want the hassle of phoning around for plumbers, then boiler insurance might be worth the cost; just be sure to check the policy for limits and exceptions so you don’t have a nasty surprise in the event of a breakdown that isn’t fully covered.

If you would like to have a chat about boilers or any other buy to let property matter (be that property market or day to day property management related), please get in touch on 01968 674601 or at

Alternatively please feel free to pop in and see me at our offices in Bank Street for a chat, the coffee is always on.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Attractive stone built 1 bed flat in Auchendinny

Today’s Buy to Let opportunity from the Penicuik Property Blog is a stone build flat that is ready to rent in Auchendinny .... stone built properties like this are not that common in and around Peniciuik!

This property is a one bed, ground flat at 25 The Brae in Auchendinny which is just up from th bridge at the bottom of the Auchendinny hill.  Auchendinny is surprisingly popular as it is close to the Bush, Roslin Institute etc so getting high quality tenants is fairly easy.

The flat is in a stone build block and it is in a ready to rent condition having been well maintained.  It has a lounge with wood burning stove, a fitted kitchen, a utility rom, one double bedroom and a shower roomnewly fitted bathroom with bath as well as an electric shower over the bath.  It has double glazing and gas central heating, the decoration is in good order as are the carpets.  The only thing I would point out (as I always do) is that the flat has a shower but not a bath so it will not appeal to all.

This flat is on the market with Mov8 for offers in excess of £90,000.  It has been on the market for a wee while now so let’s say you can get it for £95,000.  The right tenants should pay £525 for a flat like this so that’s a yield of 6.6% which is good for a stone built property in this part of town. 

We hope you find our posts useful.  If you want some buy to let advice on this property, another property you have in mind or anything else property related, come and see us in our office (6 Bank Street, Penicuik), call us (01968 674601) or email either of us (

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Is it healthy that 29% of all people are renting property in Penicuik?

Renting used to be a dirty word in the 60‘s and 70‘s.

You either lived in a ‘Rigsby Rising Damp‘ style bedsit with woodchip on the wall and a coin operated electric meter that buzzed in the night, or you lived in a council house. 

In the latter part of the 20th Century, the British were persuaded that rent payments were ‘wasted money’ so lots of them bought their own home.  However, owning often makes less financial sense and and the rate of home ownership is now reducing as there is now no stigma at all to renting.

In fact, of the 15,926 residents of Penicuik, 4,619 rent their house from either the local authority/social provider (i.e. council house or housing association) or private landlords – meaning 29% of Penicuik people are tenants.

The idea of home ownership is deeply embedded in the British psyche: in fact, 11,307 Penicuik people live in an owner occupied property (or 71%).

Housing is at the heart of Government policy, as John Swinney has promised to oversee the building of tens of thousands of new properties a year so first-time-buyers can buy their first home and John Swinney & George Osbourne between them have changed the tax laws for buy-to-let landlords in Penicuik and across the wider UK.

To get votes, Thatcher (and everyone since) ran election campaigns promising everybody their own home and, as a country, we seem to equate home ownership as the main goal of British life. However, there has been a shift in this prevailing attitude recently.

So as more and more people are renting nowadays, are we turning to a more European way of living? Well, I believe as a country, we are.

In fact, home ownership could be affecting your health. The UK, according to Bloomberg, is only the 21st healthiest country in the world. Germany is at No.10 and Switzerland at No. 4 
and home ownership is at 52.5% and 44% respectively in those countries— and in the UK and Scotland as a whole it’s 64.8% and 62% respectively.

In the Midlothian area, 75.6 % of homeowners who own their house outright said they were in ‘very good’ or ‘good’ health whilst, at the other end of the scale, 5.3% said their health was ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’.

Looking at renting, the census splits tenants renting properties in Penicuik into two types.  

68.6% of Penicuik local authority/social tenants said they were in ‘very good’ or ‘good’ health and 10.9 % were in ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ health, whilst ‘private rented tenants’ in Penicuik were the healthiest, as 90.3 % of them described themselves in ‘very good’ or ‘good’ health and only 2.5 % were in ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ health.

I am not suggesting that low home ownership rates in Switzerland and Germany are directly linked to health, nor, do I expect Brits to all go to Berlin, Interlaken or Dusseldorf and realise how happy people are when they don’t need to worry about all the stresses with accompany home ownership.

The numbers for Penicuik do go some way to back up the argument and they are the same across the whole of the UK.

Nonetheless, I do think that substantially all of the upside to home ownership in recent years has been a function of monumental rising house prices. Penicuik landlords have seen this, too.
Now that’s come to an end, it‘s hard to see why anybody would want to buy? Renting is here to stay in Penicuik and it‘s growing incrementally each year.

Even with the new tax rules for property landlords in Penicuik, buy-to-let is still a viable investment option for most people in the Town.

There has never been a better time to purchase buy-to-let property in Penicuik, but buy wisely.
Gone are the days that you would make profit on anything with four walls and a roof. Take advice, take opinion, do your homework, and speak to property experts in Penicuik.

To keep up-to-date with the rented property sector in Penicuik, visit my property blog here.
If you would like to explore how I can help you with your property investments, or should you require any advice about investing in the Penicuik property market, wish to enquire about our Investment Analysis Reports, Property Sourcing, Residential Lettings or Property Management services, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01968 674601 or at

Alternatively please feel free to pop in and see me at our offices in Bank Street for a chat, the coffee is always on.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Where are the Twenty Somethings going to live in Penicuik?

My parents bought their first house in the 1960’s, they were in their early 20’s. Interestingly, looking at some research by the Post Office from a few years ago, in the 1960’s, the average age people bought their first house was 23. By the early 1970s, it had reached 27, rising to 28 in the early 1980’s. 

This year alone, 210 people in Penicuik will turn 28 ... and dare I say it a similar number will do the same in 2017, 2018 and each year beyond that ... year in year out, the conveyor belt carries on ... where are the Penicuik youngsters going to live?

Ask a Penicuik ‘twenty something’ and they will say they do not expect to buy until they are in their mid thirties, seven years later than the 1980’s. Some people even say they will never be able to buy a property and the newspapers have labelled them ‘Generation Rent’, as they are people born in the 1980s who believe that they have no hope of getting on the property ladder. One of the major problems facing young Penicuik people is the large deposit needed to get a mortgage… or is it?

The average price paid for an apartment in Penicuik over the last 12 months has been £111,500 meaning our first time buyer would need to save £5,575 as a deposit (as 95% mortgages have been available to first time buyers since 2010) plus a couple of thousand for solicitors costs. A lot of money, but people don’t think anything today of spending a couple of thousand pounds to go on holiday, the latest iPhone upgrade or the latest 4k HD television. The deposit and solicitors costs could soon be saved if these ‘luxuries’ were with held over for a couple of years but attitudes have changed.

Official figures, from the Office for National Statistics, show the average person in Penicuik earns £497 per week meaning they would still comfortably be able to get a mortgage for apartment.

I was reading a report/survey commissioned by Paragon Mortgages from the Autumn of last year. The thing that struck me was when tenants were asked about their long term housing plans, some 35% of participating tenants intended to remain within the rented sector and 24% intended to buy a house in the future, with the proportion of respondents citing the “unaffordability” of housing as the reason for renting privately increasing from 69% to 74%.

However, time and time again, in the starter home category of property (i.e. apartments), nine times out of ten, the mortgage payments to buy a Penicuik property are cheaper than having to rent in Penicuik. It is the tenants’ perceptions that they believe they can’t buy, so choose not to. Renting is now a choice. Tenants can upgrade to bigger and better properties and move up the property ladder quicker than their parents or grandparents (albeit they don’t own the property). Over the last decade, culturally in the UK, there has been a change in the attitude to renting and, unless that attitude changes, I expect that the private rental sector in Penicuik (and Scotland as well as the UK as a whole) is likely to remain a popular choice for the next twenty plus years. With demand for Penicuik rental property unlikely to slow and newly formed households continuing to choose the rental market instead of purchasing a property, I also forecast that renting will continue to offer good value for money for tenants and recommend landlords pursue professional advice and adopt a realistic approach to rental increases to ensure that they are in line with inflation and any void periods are curtailed.

If you would like to explore how I can help you with your property investments, or should you require any advice about investing in the Penicuik property market, wish to enquire about our Investment Analysis Reports, Property Sourcing, Residential Lettings or Property Management services, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01968 674601 or at

Alternatively please feel free to pop in and see me at our offices in Bank Street for a chat, the coffee is always on.