Archive | September, 2011

The Cambridge Repossession And The Legal Squatter

21 Sep

Today I almost fell off my chair when I saw a 3 bed semi-detached house for auction in Cambridge with a guide of just £170k. It’s in a great location, just a 5 minute walk to town and would have great appeal to a family in the area.

Excited by the prospects of a decent project on my doorstep and some decent money to be made I headed straight out the door to the viewing.  I knew there would be a huge number of people interested, but I felt confident as I was prepared to pay way over the odds to secure this opportunity – with a resale of c. £400k there was plenty of money to be paid and made on this property. OK so the property had a dodgy looking extension and was in need of a fair amount of work:



But this is typical auction stuff – and to get top dollar you need a remodelling of the entire property so really the aesthetics are the least of my concerns. OK so the fact you can’t see outside the windows due to the creeping vines meant I was budgeting for a new roof:



But still I was optimistic…That was until I discovered the fencing that had been erected all around the perimeter of the garden:



Why on earth was there so much fencing – and why were these trees so huge I wondered?

And then I discovered….behind the fencing and the trees, on what used to be part of the back garden lives the previous repossessed owner in a caravan!

So the story is –  prior to the owner being repossessed he transferred part of the garden (with the mortgagees consent) to his son. His son then allowed his father to live on the land – the former garden in a caravan. From my vantage point on the upper floors of the house I could work out he had two caravans, a large van, a pick up truck and a car, plus, an odd assortment of building materials and other debris. From this picture below you can just about make out the outline of the caravans – I have highlighted them in red as they are quite difficult to see through all the trees which have been planted for screening!

This photo is taken from through his letterbox which is in the gate:


This is the drive that you now share with the repossessed owner  – he also owns the blue car in the drive!


OK no problem I thought – he doesn’t have planning for this so surely the council can get this sorted. No. It would appear the council have done bugger all.

So this stretches back over some years whereby the council had ordered him to remove the structures and to leave the land. He had then appealed and some 8 years later we are where we are now – he has several “temporary dwellings” on the land and nobody seems able to do much about it! Not willing to give up so easily I planned how I could buy the bit of garden off him. Having spoken with the estate agents I had discovered that with him on the garden the house was going to be a difficult sale and nowhere near the value I had anticipated.  And then I discovered he was planning on applying for permission to build a bungalow on the land…it wasn’t for sale…not as a garden at any rate!

And so the best case for this property was to buy it and use it as a student rental property. Grossing somewhere around £36k per year it could be a good income generator – but the issue was with lending. While the previous owner was on the land there was little hope for capital increase or much point in trying to get the most out of the property.  Any valuer in their right mind would down value the property so much due to it’s issues I had little chance of raising a good sum against the value.

In the end, and with a heavy heart, I have decided that the risks are too great. If the previous owner could get planning permission for his bungalow it would detract from the value of the house I was trying to develop. Moreover, given the repossessed owner intends to apply for planning permission means that the value of his garden is now worth more than what it would be to me to get the deal through.  While I will walk away from this deal, I fully expect the property to sell for it’s income potential and for somebody to factor in a lot of hope value – against a guide of £170k I wouldn’t be surprised if the end price is somewhere in the region of £275k.  The auction is tomorrow – I’ll let you know!

The Luxury Military Fort Development

13 Sep

You know I love unusual auction lots – and this Freehold Victorian Sea Fort in the Solent ticks all the boxes for a development with a difference…or should that be defence!

So what’s the deal?


Horse Sands Fort, The Solent, Portsmouth, Hampshire

Horse Sands Fort is one of the largest of four forts in the Solent completed in 1880 as a  military base to protect Portsmouth against the French.  They were never needed for their intended use and thus became known as “Palmerstone’s Follies” after the Prime Minister who authorised their construction. The fort was armed during the 1st and 2nd World Wars then declared surplus by the Ministry of Defence in the early 1960s.

The fort lies South East of Portsmouth in the middle of the Solent approx 15 minutes by boat from Gunwharf Quays and approx 4 miles out to sea.

Robustly built from concrete blocks and granite shipped from Scotland, the fort comprises two floors and a basement and has a circular road along the inner perimeter affectionately known as “The Street”.


Horse Sands Fort offers residents the ultimate in seclusion, fantastic views and a rare chance to reside offshore in this unique and inspiring location.

So what’s the potential?

Planning permission was granted by Portsmouth City Council on 1/4/2004 (now lapsed)  for the conversion of the fort to provide 14 luxury apartments. A second application has been made (currently pending) which provides for 22 luxury apartments…alternatively this could be a Single Dwelling or Other Alternative Leisure Uses (subject to consents)

So what’s the guide for this luxury military development opportunity: £1,000,000 plus.

Call the auctioneer today for your property viewing – even if you can’t afford to bid it’s got to be worth the day trip 🙂


Why You Need A Contingency On Property Refurbishments

6 Sep

Today has been a bloody nightmare to be quite frank. And it’s a good reminder as to why, when you are doing property refurbishments (no matter how small), you need to have a contingency budget and you need to be able to think on your feet.

So what was the problem? Well it was simple enough. While a flat was empty we decided that we would update the kitchen – which was looking pretty rancid. The flat’s located in a pretty nice part of London which deserves better than the crap we currently have in there.  I would show the photos but I’m too embarrassed – yes that’s how bad it was…

Anyway so I decided to bite the bullet and change the kitchen figuring that I could get an enhanced rental for my capital layout. So like any good developer I use a team of tried and trusted builders…and so I brought them down from Stoke to the Big Smoke. I tried to convince them it was a busman’s holiday – sadly they know me too well and saw through it…anyway enticed by alcohol and money they’ve made the journey.

So here we are in London with my Stokie lads ready to get going…and they work some I’ll tell you – no 5 0 clock finishes for my boys 🙂

So within hours of them being here we’ve ripped out the kitchen and we’re ready to start fitting the new one…or so we thought

But the stop cock located under the kitchen sink had other ideas…

It didn’t work full stop. No amount of wrenching, pulling, gas lamp heat, you name it we tried it – it wouldn’t budge.

And so we’re stuck. Without being able to shut off the water we can’t do anything. We call a plumber we know locally – maybe he can help with the magic of his plumbing expertise. Nope, he’s not interested he reckons the freeze packs won’t hold the mains pressure in our flat 3 storeys up and he’s not willing to try. It’s not worth the potential claim on his insurance he said – or some sort of claptrap such as that.

And so I call the estate management company of the block to request their assistance. I get them there in 2 hours…I won’t tell you what I said – but I can be very persuasive…but sadly not enough

Cue the estate manager at our flat at 19.45 today – who phone’s his boss, who speaks to me…who informs me that what is required is a “block shutdown” to enable us to change our stoptap.

In simple terms – they want to turn off the water to the whole block of flats. That’s fine. It’s a 15 minute job I think. Not so explains the estate manager “You will have to put your request in writing and once we have received that we will then assess your request and respond to you within 5-7 working days. We will inform all owners of the necessary shutdown. Your plumber will need to be on site at the time and day we decide. Oh and by the way there is a cost of £150 for us to enact this procedure”.

Holy shit – I don’t have time to write a letter and then wait 5-7 working days! I have my builders from Stoke waiting to fit the kitchen.

And so a major panic ensues…we get an offer from a cowboy who can turn the water off regardless of the block procedures (oh, but we need to cut the locks to the roof space)…and we have many plumbers who would love to do the job but just don’t have the time. And so money talks. I up the ante. I offer more money to get the job done. It works. The colour of money comes through.

I never budgeted paying over £350 for a new stopcock – but that’s what I’ve done – and that is what contingencies are for 🙂