I am due to inherit some money when I reach 25 and have always wanted to go into property development. To prepare for this, I would like to do a course and wondered if such a thing existed? Lorna Vestey writes: Full marks for planning some preparation, but doing any course (even if you find a good one) will not transform you into a successful property developer, any more than reading about the stock market would make you a canny share dealer.
There are proper HNB and BSC courses covering property development but they are two-three years full-time, principally aimed at potential surveyors. As for short courses for amateurs, beware of any outfit claiming that with their “expert” advice you will easily make a fortune from property development or investment. If it all seems to good to be true, it almost certainly is – you will find that they usually offer a free introductory session where a series of “charismatic” speakers encourage you to spend thousands on their courses.
Instead, talk to respectable agents in the area in which you’re interested, pick their brains and ask their advice, which will be free and relevant. View as many properties as possible, particularly learning from the professionals by looking at show flats/ houses in new developments.
Markets and buyers’ requirements are varied and changeable. You’ll need expertise and flair to source suitable properties, enhance them appropriately and make a worthwhile profit. Many individual developers have worked as agents and this is probably the best training; it gives invaluable experience of what buyers actually want. Even a Saturday job would be worthwhile. There are many pitfalls to avoid.
Having said all that, I do think that wisely chosen property is a good investment and there is certainly money to be made from it. I recommend you start by purchasing/ doing up your own home and then re-selling it. You will learn a lot and will not have to pay 40 per cent tax on any profit as you would with a true development project. Get the Which? Way to Buy, Sell and Move House ( Which? Consumer Guides, £12.99), and, for London, the New London Property Guide 2005/06 by Carrie Seagrave (Mitchell Beazley £12.99). Both contain a wealth of information. Lorna Vestey is a former partner of a blue- chip London estate agency.
We would be very grateful if you could advise us how to get rid of the Artex covering the hall, staircase and landing of our house. We want to avoid plastering over it, if possible.
Is it true that some Artex paint contains asbestos, and, if so, what is to be done? We do not know when the Artex was applied, but the house was built in 1972. David Snell writes: Some Artex can be removed by liberal application of hot water and plenty of elbow grease. It is extremely messy and the trouble is that the amounts of water needed may ruin and stain things like carpets or get into the grain of timber.
However, if it’s been up on those walls since 1972, it may have hardened to such a degree that it is almost impermeable and, if it has ever been painted, the water may have little or no effect. True Artex of that vintage also had a 3 per cent white asbestos content. Removing that by any dry mechanical means would not therefore be a good idea and it is probably best left untouched.
I suggest that you either cover the wall with a new layer of boarding and basically start again, or else apply a new, smooth finish. Artex Blue Hawk Ltd (0115 945 6100) make a product, “Flat Finish” for the DIY market and “Transform” for the trade, designed to cover the textured surface and bring it back to a smooth fi nish. It can be applied by an amateur using a plastic scraper with a wooden holding edge but it is probably best put on by a professional using a standard plasterer’s trowel. David Snell is contributing editor to Homebuilding & Renovating magazine and author of ‘Building Your Own Home’, available at £ 23 plus £ 2.25 p& p from 0870 155 7222.
My home, in a rural village, is adjacent to a hay meadow of about three acres, with a children’s playground occupying 450 square yards at one end. A group of parents wants to take over the whole fi eld for use as a community park, and has successfully applied to the district council for change of use. I am in favour of a refurbished playground, but believe that the scheme is over-ambitious, and will lead to diffi culties for me as a householder.
The applicants had researched the need for their scheme, and the planning offi cer and the councillors have accepted their findings without question. The trouble is that the research survey of local residents was very informal, yet any doubts about it were swept aside. Councillors clearly did not understand the issues, and voted largely on sentiment. Has the planning authority the duty to establish robustly the need for this sort of change? John Winter writes: I take it that planning consent has already been granted for the change of use for the meadow into a community park. In that case, the only way to challenge the consent is to apply for a judicial review under part 54, civil procedure rules on the grounds that the local authority did not follow correct procedures. However, I do not think that your concerns about the quality of the research survey gives you sufficient grounds for judicial review.
Having been asked to sign numerous petitions myself, and having helped to organise a few, I am aware that they can be used to present a case for or against almost anything. I always assume that professional planners and members of planning committees adopt a similarly cynical view.
In granting planning consent, I have no reason to doubt that the planning committee considered the research survey as one factor among others. You may be dismayed that the councillors voted “largely on sentiment”, but I am afraid that many planning decisions are made that way. John Winter runs his own architectural practice.
Besides the house that I live in, I own a fl at and a small comercial property, both of which are let. The gross income from these two properties is £16,500 per annum which supplements my small pension.
I no longer have a loan on the properties and the annual service charges and repairs are £1500. As an alternative to claiming the 10 per cent “wear and tear” on the rent income, would I be better off to claim relief under “the room to let” scheme or establishing a limited company? Or do you have any other suggestions to reduce income tax? Maggie Fleming writes: The “rent a room” scheme applies only where you are letting out part of your only or main residence. As you are not living in the flat, the income will not qualify for “rent a room”, so that idea is a non-starter.
Provided that the flat is let furnished, the 10 per cent “wear and tear” allowance applies, as an alternative to claiming the actual cost of replacing movable items such as beds, sofas, crockery, cutlery, TV, fridge, cooker etc. But, in addition, you can claim the cost of repairing such items. Furthermore, in addition to the 10 per cent allowance, you can claim the cost of renewing fi xtures which are integral to the property, such as baths, washbasins and toilets. And you can, of course, also claim the repairs and service charges you mention.
The “wear and tear” allowance is not available on the commercial property you let but you can claim capital allowances on plant and machinery instead. I doubt that forming a limited company would help. Until a few years ago, people with modest profits were incorporating their businesses and paying themselves dividends in order to pay little or no tax but the Chancellor of the Exchequer closed this loophole last year. Don’t forget that incorporation means lots of administrative hassle. My view is that it is probably better to leave things as they are (assuming that you claim everything you are entitled to in the way of expenses) but you should check the matter in detail with a qualified tax practitioner. Maggie Fleming is a director of Isis Financial Planners and a member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation.