Archive | March, 2012

How To Find A Blue Chip Commercial Tenant?

13 Mar

Today I have got a hugely exciting challenge…I have been given the opportunity to tenant a large town centre retail premises.

Now I have had my eye on this building for years, but the landlord (a big commercial owner based in London) had previously had the building with a big commercial agent and I know talks were ongoing with a potential client for the past year.  But now things have changed, the talks have reached an impasse and the landlord needs help for his empty town centre building.

As a letting agent, I know my place in the pecking order. Gorgeous Homes are not big commercial players in the sector, and we’ve only been acting in the commercial sector for just over a year.  However, in that year I feel we have proved ourselves and delivered results that show we will literally bend over backwards to get a commercial property tenanted.

I’m chuffed to say that our town now ranks among one of the highest in the country for attracting new businesses in – and given that we’re working in a tough economic climate that is quite an achievement!

The sense of satisfaction I feel bringing empty shops back into use is huge.  I love the fact that we are bringing new businesses in who will grow the local economy and who may add jobs and services to our area.  I adore that we are, in our own small way, playing our part to making the town, the local area and the community a better place to live and work.

Until now we have only had smaller shops to tenant – and we have loved it. And we have thrived on it.

And now we have our biggest commercial challenge yet – and it’s only come to us because of the small successes that we have shown we can achieve.

I have known for years who I have wanted to put in this building.  They are a major blue chip company.  Will they come?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that this major building deserves and warrants a major blue chip tenant.  If we get this right – the tenant will benefit massively – and we as the local town will get the “halo” effect.

Wish me luck in my new challenge. My town and this building need me to succeed in finding the right commercial tenant.

Why there is no security in your mortgage lender’s Standard Variable Rate (SVR)

8 Mar

So for the past few days I have watched as bank upon bank announce they are increasing their Standard Variable Rates (SVRs). And with every new lender hiking their prices I check my products and wait with baited breath.  Of course, it was only a matter of time before all the banks jumped on the band wagon…

There may be moral indignation and hatred in the popular press – but these are banks – they don’t really give a rat’s arse about anything more than making money.

We are all grown ups, and following this banking crisis, we really should know better by now.

But we don’t.

Last week I shared with you how the 25 year mortgage contract I signed with Skipton which had a ‘rate guarantee’ meant nothing in the face of the “exceptional circumstances” clause, which is a catch all, for this-clause-means-we-will-do-what-the-F-we-want. Unfair contracts. Misleading guarantees. Outright liars – you would have thought Watchdog and all the other consumer action groups would have a field day – but they don’t, because they can’t do anything.

And so today I wake up to the news that my Bank Of Ireland mortgage rate which is currently on a Standard Variable Rate (SVR) is going to increase by 1.5%. It was a shock. Even for me.

Generally SVR’s, although independent of Bank Of England Base rate, do usually follow the pattern of base rate changes. Yes, the SVR is the mortgage lender’s own rate for lending, but usually it does have some sort of semblance to Base Rate.  But now we’re worlds apart. This is again a case of the banks doing what the F they like and screw anyone else.

So Halifax started the ball rolling last weekend with it’s 0.25% hike, then a few others started piling in – all with approximate 0.25% increases. Then Bank Of Ireland who saw the media furore which had started to erupt, just said “F*** IT” why not just get it over and done with and screw our customers royally.  Let’s jack it up by 1.5%.

Just to put that into a real world context for you, my mortgage with this new increase will rise by £196 per month…and that’s without the base rate moving…which we all know is going to happen at some point soon.

Of course, most banks would probably not act like Bank of Ireland, they don’t really want to lose all their customers.

However, that does not apply to Bank Of Ireland.

Having spoken with Bank of Ireland this morning to find out my options for other mortgage products (limited – I can fix for 3 years or 5 years at 5.99% or 6.25% respectively) I was politely informed:

“We do not make a secret of it; Bank Of Ireland do not want to be in the mortgage business any longer. We stopped taking on new customers 3 years ago. Now we are looking to offload our business.  In the nicest possible way, we are not looking to encourage our customers to stay with us. We want them to seek other options elsewhere which is why we have paired up with London & Country Mortgage Brokers and they will find you a more competitive rate with another lender”

There is truly no better way than saying Fuck Off.

Truly that is she told me.

So the banks have changed their minds. They no longer want to lend the money they offered to consumers.  I understand businesses change course. But really, is it fair for a bank to just change it’s mind when hundreds of thousands of people and their homes are involved?

Is it OK to just say – we don’t want you business – take it elsewhere.  Property is the most expensive purchase of your life and it takes years to pay back the debt.  It is not an overnight decision. Well not for me anyway, but then I am not a bank.

Again, I have limited choice. The mortgage market is screwed.  And on top of all this, there are the extortionate arrangement fees of the new mortgage which are typically in excess of £2,000.

Maybe I should know better. I wonder why I am so surprised. But do you know what? I am.

Property is a long term investment.  It would be nice to feel that we have that long term security with the banks we deal with.

What Does A Mortgage Contract Really Mean?

1 Mar

Today is a bitter day.  Today I have lost my battle against Skipton Building Society.

It is true; I was warned. Banks can do what the F they like regardless of any contract that you sign. It means jack all if they decide they don’t want to honour it.

Fairness? Roll over. That doesn’t exist.

So what happened?

Well you may remember I wrote about it here – it was a letter I received out of the blue from Skipton which essentially would change the key borrowing terms of my 25 year mortgage I had taken on an investment property.

The nuts and bolts were – after the 5 year fixed period had elapsed, rather than a ceiling of 3% above base being applied (as my contract clearly stated) Skipton decided to change the terms due to “exceptional circumstances” and charge what they felt like/ how much they wanted/ how much they needed to fill their coffers.  The rate they decided to charge me was 4.95% – some 1.45% ABOVE the agreed contract rate.

I argued. I ranted. I raved. I sent long letters. I sought out case laws. I contacted a consumer pressure group for a legal class action (details kindly provided by Nick P in his comments on my original blog).

I tried every which way.

I got nowhere.

So I went to the Ombudsman.  This could not be fair. How can it be that a bank decides because market conditions no longer suit them they can just change a 25 year contract?

Well they can. And so the Ombudsman letter tells me – it’s also fair.

And apparently the FSA also agree that what Skipton has done is fair. How is it fair for Skipton to renege on a key contract clause?

Apparently it’s fair because Skipton:

a) Informed it’s customers of it’s decision to breach the mortgage contract

b) Gave customers the “choice” that if they didn’t like this breach then they could leave.

That’s it – you got it, apparently the Skipton’s response “which resulted in a fair outcome for consumers” was the reponse:

If you don’t like it, FUCK OFF

Well, that would be great if I had a choice; I would leave.

But, the mortgage market is a mess. Nobody wants to lend.

So I had no choice, I had to stay with Skipton. For the privilege I also got to pay another 2% arrangement fee for my remortgage (which they were generously allowing me to do).  It wouldn’t feel so big a deal if this was just one property…but there were several.

In “fairness”, Skipton has made a killing out of me – it’s just added £1000s of pounds to every mortgage in arrangement fees and added more to the amount I owe at the end.  Of course, why shouldn’t I feel that is “fair” as the Ombudsman, FSA and Skipton tell me.

But then I am just the muppet who thought that a mortgage contract was a legal document and meant something. More fool me.