The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Property Clinic -


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.

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