Islington Property Through the Years

Islington Angel

The number of private rented housing in Islington hasn’t just grown, but almost doubled over the past decade – by a phenomenal 85 per cent. And the reason is quite simple – an overriding need.

Despite being London’s second smallest borough, the area is so densely populated (around 206,000 residents) that Islington Council is today crying out for help from the private rented sector. In fact, the last census showed the population had increased by 30,000 between 2001 and 2011. What this means is that the average private rent in Islington is today above even the London average.

It should be no surprise then to learn that the number of owner occupiers in the area is well below the London average at 31 per cent, while the number of private rented houses sits at 27 per cent (the national average is around 15 per cent).

Council Housing officers are keen to strike up a good relationship with private landlords in a bid to help them re-house residents, including those who are homeless.

A tale of two Islingtons

Islington, which stretches from Silicon Roundabout in the south to Archway in the north, reveals a major dichotomy. For although prices here are above the London average and attract some of the country’s wealthiest bankers, representatives of the global elite and even top Labour politicians (Blair lived in Richmond Crescent during the 1990s and Corbyn is near Finsbury Park in the North of the borough), these are areas which sit side by side some of the most deprived council wards in the whole of the UK. And it’s a gap which has been increasingly widening since the mid 1990s. How could it not when one of the most recent developments is the Lexicon tower with one bedroom apartments starting at £750,000?

Another change here is in the area’s diversity. Only 48 per cent of residents were white British at the time of the last census, compared to 57 per cent in 2001.

When it comes to accommodation in Islington the majority of properties consist of one bedroom flats. But then, 57 per cent of the population – most of whom are students at either City University or London Metropolitan University – are aged 35 and under. Despite this, there is still a huge need for two and three apartment houses by the Council. But then, when you consider Blair’s house sold for £3.5m in 2014 when he’d only paid £350,000 for it back in the 1990s it’s clear to see that property inflation has played the leading role in a lack of affordable housing for long-term residents.

In the meantime, of the Georgian and Victorian tenements in the area, more than half (62 per cent) were built around the turn of the 20th century, and require quite a bit of maintenance. In fact, those very properties would have housed the likes of Charles Dickens, Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Sellers, George Orwell and even Charlie Chaplin – all of whom chose to make colourful Islington their home at some point in their lives.

By Dean Crossley


How Crossrail is Creating A Property Buzz


London’s brand new high-speed rail link Crossrail 2 is set to make, if not exactly millionaires, then at least many ‘comfortably wealthy’ London home owners and landlords.

That’s because homes and buy to let properties in areas close enough to stations to benefit from the new £12bn transport system are expected to increase in value considerably over the next couple of years and beyond.

The rail link is one of the biggest infrastructures projects every undertaken in the UK and one of the areas earmarked for development is Farringdon. In fact it’s set to become a major transport hub with pedestrian traffic expected to increase threefold (from 19 million passengers in 2015 up to 41 million by 2025). Up to 140 trains an hour will pass through the station – the only one where passengers can access all three networks – Crossrail, Thameslink and the London Underground. The trains themselves will all be spacious, air-conditioned and with the capacity to carry up to 1500 passengers at a time, will be twice as big as a tube train.

Crossrail helps Farringdon’s BID application

Using the new station development as leverage, influential local retailers such as Kurt Geiger and Alexander McQueen, are keen for London Council to designate Farringdon a Business Improvement District (BID).

If the area is awarded BID status then money will certainly be invested in the area and its surrounds in order to improve the environment and reduce crime – all of which will naturally be reflected in rising property prices.

In fact, some property experts have predicted that most house prices in areas within a 10 minute walk of Crossrail stations throughout London will fetch an extra 13 per cent in value by 2018 (this is in addition to the 20 per cent in value they have already gone up since the announcement of the rail link in the first place). It’s easy to see why this is the case though – who doesn’t want a quick commute to work or an easy route home after a night out in the city?

In terms of new development triggered by the building of the new rail link, there is already £3.3 million sq ft of residential, business and commercial space planned for Crossrail stations. And resident property owners can rest assured too that their investment won’t be negatively affected by noise or vibration from the new rail link since tunnelling is taking place as much as 40 metres below ground level.

Canny Farringdon residents hold on to property

The actual East to West Crossrail 2 proposal received Royal Assent in 2008 and since then property owners in Farringdon have held on to their bricks and mortar investment in order to see by how much the value of their property rises when the rail link opens in 2018. Shortly after this you can expect to see a lot more apartments and houses in the area appearing on the market.

In fact, all 40 stations – eight of which are in central London and Docklands – and surrounding areas along the route should have benefitted from increased prices.

By Dean Crossley

Benefit from Turning Your Pension into Property

Property Pension

Fancy a regular income of around £750 every month when your retire (more if you live in central London) without actually lifting a finger? If so, now may be a good time to consider using some of your pension money to invest in a buy to let property. And if you did, you certainly wouldn’t be alone.

A survey carried out a couple of years ago by researchers Market Intelligence showed one third of people were thinking of doing exactly that. Their poll consisted of 1500 individuals who were within months of retiring. Another larger survey by Ipsos Mori, in the same year, found a similar result.

Pensions are reducing while house prices increase

Considering pensions aren’t growing in value compared to inflation and the fact their investment returns are less secure than they ever were, the value of a pension for the next generation will be much reduced. This makes us not unreasonably conclude that the number of young people preferring property over a pension will also be on the rise. And let’s face it – who wants to wait until they’re past 55 before they can get their hands on that big lump sum of money anyway?

But it’s not just those past middle age who can reap the benefits of a having a property rather than a pension. The young can actually benefit more since by the time they come to sell their bricks and mortar asset in 20 or 30 years time, the capital value will have gone through the roof compared to what they paid for it. That’s because obviously the longer you hold on to a property, the more money it will make you in capital terms.

Retirees can benefit from big down payments

But, unlike the retirees the young won’t have that crucial pension pot with which to invest. With mortgage rates at a record low, house prices rising and the demand for rental property increasing annually, now is a certainly an excellent time to consider a buy to let investment if you have the money for a reasonable down payment.

It’s not all a case of sitting back and watching the money in your bank balance add up while someone else pays off your mortgage though. As with your own home there will be maintenance costs and potentially even void periods when you won’t be collecting any rent – although there’s a lot you can do to prevent these (see our article 10 sure-fire ways to increase your rental yield). And, if you’re going for a refurbishment property rather than a house or flat in move-in condition, then this could prove a nice retirement project while family and friends might be willing to help out too.

Meanwhile the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) have calculated that for every £1,000 invested using a 75pc LTV mortgage the individual would gain an additional £1,910 by the end of 2023. This is an annual return of 11.3 per cent – far higher than any other type of investment we know of.

By Dean Crossley

10 Sure-fire Ways to Increase Your Rental Yield


Need to increase the amount of money you’re getting from your buy to let investment? Proposed government tax changes in the coming years might certainly make that the case.

So, in order to offset them, you need to think about maximising the potential from your property. And the earlier you do this, the better. The good news is there are plenty of ways to achieve this – some a lot easier than others.

Read on to see which method suits you best in our Square Quarters guide to increasing your rental yield:

  1. Reduce your overheads. This is a pretty easy way to increase your yield and includes refinancing your loan on a property in order to find a better interest rate or a longer duration of the loan to help in the short term. Another way would be when redecorating to switch to less expensive materials such as paint instead of wallpaper or tiles instead of wooden flooring.
  2. Making cosmetic changes. Putting in a new fitted kitchen or bathroom may be initially expensive but you’ll be able to recoup what you’ve paid over time by increasing the rent as tenants will be willing to pay more for a better-decorated apartment. This should also help reduce void periods.
  3. Allow pets. Britain is a nation of pet lovers and it stands to reason that many of them will be looking to rent rather than buy. By refusing to allow a tenant to have a cat or a dog in your buy to let you’re effectively cutting out a huge percentage of would-be tenants right from the offset.
  4. Increase the rent. This can be a difficult one to apply if you’re not between tenants and there’s no good reason to justify it ie you haven’t just extensively redecorated or there’s no national interest rate hike. You could get a property agent to conduct a rent reappraisal of the area and provide you with a written report.
  5. Check out your tax reliefs. Make the most of these by offsetting costs such as estate agent fees, buildings insurance, buildings maintenance and utility bills (if you pay these instead of your tenant). From April next year, these will be capped at 20 percent.
  6. Lower the rent. Yes, this may seem a bit back-to-front but if you find you’re pricing yourself out of the local rental market then it’s one of the best ways to attract tenants.
  7. Add a luxury touch. Along the lines of making cosmetic changes, you could go all out and install a rain showerhead, dishwasher, heated towel rails etc to make the flat irresistible to potential tenants. You’ll be able to charge a higher rent and, again, reduce voids.
  8. Make the garden private. As well as having a tidy garden, if possible erect a fence or some other means of privacy so tenants can enjoy sitting in the garden without being overlooked.
  9. Provide parking. If the property doesn’t already have driveway parking or access to a parking space then create one. Off-road parking is a huge consideration for many car owners these days.
  10. Install good security. More people are single tenants these days and for young women, in particular, a good alarm/security system in an apartment is essential. This won’t cost too much to install yet it could prove the difference between a tenant choosing your flat to rent or a neighbouring one.

We hope you’ve found the above helpful, but they’re not exclusive. By that, we mean, there are plenty of other ways out there to increase your yield. Call us today for more property advice on 0207 619 9191.

By Dean Crossley

Islington’s Least Expensive Property…


It’s official! Here at Square Quarters we are proud to announce we have the least expensive home in Islington for sale – as featured in the local Islington Gazette earlier this month here.

The first-floor studio bedroom flat sits in a vibrant and lively area of the area’s main thoroughfare, the popular Holloway Junction. We’re delighted for the vendors to say that the property has already attracted an impressive number of viewers through its doors since going on the market in recent weeks.

Currently advertised for sale at offers over £240,000, the sunny apartment sits above a McDonald’s in a part of Holloway Road which boasts a great atmosphere together with impressive restaurants, cafes, a multiplex Odeon cinema, three theatres in close proximity and a number of retail outlets. The latter includes major chains such as M&S, Waitrose and Top Shop as well as a number of quirky independent shops to while away a happy hour or two browsing around. The popular local department store is James Selby. See property here.

Excellent transport links into London

The area also offers good access into central London either by tube (Holloway Road, Caledonian Road and Arsenal on the Piccadilly Line), buses or by car. It’s also just one stop away from the Eurostar terminal at King’s Cross for those fancying a weekend trip to France.

Meanwhile, walkers can enjoy a stroll into Camden and Angel – both are a mere 20 minutes away by foot or, for a further 10 minutes walk, London’s West End.

A youthful resident population

London’s Metropolitan University’s north London student campus is on Holloway Road, (made familiar by the frequently photographed Daniel Libeskind crumpled box-type architecture) with the result that the area pulls in a great deal of student rentals.

Young professionals are also attracted to the area for its location and amenities (hence the increase in trendy coffee shops and smart restaurants), Families wants to live here too, for access to the three “outstanding” primary schools and the secondary schools which are definitely improving. The area also boasts two private schools, Highgate (boys) and Channing (girls).

Another plus point for families is the wide range of larger three to five bedroom properties. Those with toddlers also appreciate the welcome greenery of Highbury Fields and the Gillespie Park nature reserve which is overlooked by the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal Football Ground regeneration

For football fans, the area is – of course – home to Arsenal Football Club’s recently re-developed Emirates Stadium in Ashburton Grove (an area which has seen much impressive regeneration in recent years – including the development of 500 colourful and contemporary apartments located around a central piazza).

Property prices in the area

Islington is one of London’s more popular inner city boroughs and one of 10 where properties are well above the national average – such is the demand to live here.

In terms of housing, pretty and well-kept Victorian and Georgian tenements tend to dominate the landscape, although there has been plenty of contemporary architecture in recent years, providing a nice mix in an area which is already nicely diverse in terms of population.

Holl Outside

By Dean Crossley

Top 5 Tips For Finding a Mortgage

So you know what kind of house you want to buy, maybe you have even found the perfect roost to call home. It’s time to call in the mortgage broker and get to work figuring out exactly what kind of mortgage you can afford and which type will work best for your circumstances.

When this process begins, there are some things you will need to be aware of beforehand and others you will need to stay on top of throughout the process. It can be a stressful time, but following these top five tips for finding a mortgage will help everything move along smoothly.


Check Mortgage Fees

Before choosing your mortgage broker, you will want to do some research on what different brokers can do for you and to ensure you fully understand the process. Check their percentage interest fees that you will be liable for. Do your own calculations and factor in any and all other costs associated with the particular mortgage you want.

Check Flexibility

As there are quite a variety of different mortgages you can get, you will want to know how flexible the mortgage you are after will be. With some deals you will be able to overpay when you can afford it, and even underpay during a difficult month. Some mortgages even allow you to take a payment holiday which can allow you to afford an actual holiday or some other big expense. Decide which is the best option for your circumstances, although do bear in mind that those circumstances can change over the course of your mortgage.

Choose the Type of Financing

You will want to know in advance what kind of financing you require, whether it’s short term, long term, capital payment or interest only. There are also fixed rates and flexible rates, and all these options need to be decided upon according to what will work best for you. Flexible rates can often seem attractive but do carry a risk, while fixed rates can offer more security.

Have a Big Deposit

The ideal deposit size to give you as many options as possible is about 25% of the entire mortgage cost. That is indeed a lot, but the bigger the deposit you are able to present your lender with, the more faith in you they will have and thus the more options you will have when it comes to selecting the perfect mortgage for you.

Clean Credit Rating

High risk mortgages become harder and harder to acquire the worse your credit rating is. You can check your credit rating with any of the three main credit reference agencies (CallCredit, Equifax or Experian). They are pay account websites but you can check your credit rating for free by signing up for a month’s free trial and then cancelling before the subscription kicks in.

Obviously, your financial situation is going to heavily influence how easily you are able to find a good mortgage, but following these tips will help you get the best deal possible regardless of your circumstances.

How to Speed Up the Buying or Selling Process

A fact we all have to accept is that the process of buying or selling a home can take far longer than we’d like. It can get frustrating as we wait for the various steps to be agreed, approved and so forth. Sometimes the length of time it takes can make us wonder if the whole thing is worthwhile, but there are a few ways to ensure the frustration never gets so great that you feel like walking away.


How long should a House Sale Take?

Freehold properties can take around five or six weeks to complete (not always, but often), while leasehold properties can take up to double that. And that’s assuming everything goes relatively smoothly. A chain sale, where the purchase of one house depends on the sale of another, can cause untold amounts of frustration, especially if the sale of that latter house is dependant on the sale of another and so on along the chain.

Unfortunately there’s not much we can do about this as the process is very complicated and requires a lot of back and forth communication which all takes time. There are, however, several things we can focus on to help minimise our frustration and ensure the process of buying a new home moves along as smoothly as possible.

Communication is Key

It can often be a good idea to take the reins from the Solicitors when it comes to certain communication between the buyers and sellers. This is especially true when issues arise which cause a delay in the process. If you are relying on the solicitor to relay answers to questions and other kinds of information then the issue could add weeks to the process as usually they will have a lot of cases to handle and yours may not be the top of the pile until they get a response. However, if you have a good estate agent like Square Quarters they will regularly chase up the progress of the sale and intervene where necessary by speaking to both solicitors, vendor and buyer to push things along.

Ensure Your Estate Agents and Solicitors Are on the Ball

By ‘on the ball’, I mean that they are not sitting on problems instead of proactively trying to solve them via communication between the parties. It’s an unfortunate truth that some estate agents and solicitor firms might be understaffed (in the case of smaller firms) or overworked (in the case of larger firms). Researching client satisfaction with a firm before employing them is one way to ensure you make the right choice, but it is also up to you to keep in constant communication with them to ensure they are not sitting on any problems in the hope that they go away. Get guarantees regarding their behaviour and then hold them to it.

Additional Tips for Speeding Up the Sale Process

You can help speed up the house buying process by having both a reliable and trustworthy estate agent and solicitor in place prior to selling or buying. You should also communicate your desired (and realistic) timeframe for the sale to either the buyer of your home or the seller of the house you wish to purchase. Check up on any documentation you have sent forth by calling the solicitor within 48 hours of sending it to ensure it has been received and sent on to whomever it needs to be sent to. You will also want to be vigilant in checking that the property searches involving your house are all up to date.

Unfortunately, it’s still going to take several weeks before a sale can be completed, but by following these tips you can ensure the house selling and buying process goes as smoothly and as quickly as possible.