All Eyes on Welsh Reform

The Welsh Assembly’s new policies affecting the private rental sector in Wales may serve as an interesting template for the rest of the UK.

Rob Clifford, Chief Executive of Century 21 UK, made an interesting point when he suggested that we may be getting a glimpse of the Private Rental Sector of the future if we examine the measures that have recently been passed by the Welsh Assembly as part of its Housing Wales Bill.

He reminds us that the Welsh Assembly has power over housing and, given the fact Labour is the biggest party and leads the Government there, it has the ability to bring in policies – something it is unable to do in England. Therefore, in Wales, regulation of letting agents and landlords will now go ahead via a two-stage process. This means that all agents and landlords will need to be registered and if they want to manage properties, they will also need to be licensed.

Landlords in Wales who choose not to be licensed will no longer be permitted to manage their own properties and will be forced to use a letting agent. Cardiff City Council will be running the scheme, giving them enforcement powers over unlicensed and unregistered landlords and agents who are breaking the rules.

But that’s not the end of it. The new rules also state that all landlords and agents will need to be deemed ‘fit and proper’ and will have to complete training and pass specific tests. Those landlords and/or agents who break the rules can have their licenses revoked and, if this is the case, then tenants will be able to withhold their rents.

It seems likely that many small landlords will not wish to bother with applying for a licence, and will pass the responsibility to registered and licenced letting agents instead. Whether this will result in higher management fees remains to be seen, but as Clifford says, these changes will provide an interesting template for the rest of the country, particularly if the Labour Party wins next year’s election.

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Prime London Rents Back to 2007 Peak

As prime central London rental values return to their pre-recession peak, we consider what this means for the future and reveal the capital’s emerging hotspots.

The international real estate firm Savills has reported that average rental values in the prime central London lettings market have finally returned to their 2007 peak. According to the firm’s prime lettings index, the recovery remains “slow but steady in a market where demand is largely matched by supply”. They predict that further rental price rises will continue to be modest.

Following -1.9% falls in 2013, rents in core prime central London locations have grown by 1.8% over the past quarter and by 2.9% year-to-date, says Savills. Their data shows that the return of the family market has driven a 3.4% rise in central London houses during the second quarter, with international occupiers accounting for three-quarters of all tenants.
Whilst growth in core central locations such as Mayfair, Kensington and Chelsea has been driven by the return of the family housing market and rising relocation budgets, Savills claim that demand from singles and professional sharers has created east of City hotspots in Wapping and Canary Wharf. Their lettings index shows that these two areas have outperformed all prime locations, rising 3.1% year-to-date.

Andrew Scott, Vice President of Dwellworks’ UK office, said: “A more buoyant employment market and higher numbers of corporate relocations have contributed to the steady rise of prime central London rental values. The global appetite for living in London has not slowed down, despite the new report from Mercer that puts London at number 12 on the list of most costly places in the world for multinational companies to send their staff, up from number 25 last year. Rent, calculated at £2,385 a month for a two-bedroom flat, was more expensive than in Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Beijing. In fact, we have certainly seen record levels of relocation work this year, but a better balance of supply and demand is keeping London rental prices in check so far. It is interesting to note that rents in London’s prime commuter zone are also performing strongly, with locations such as Guildford and Windsor continuing to offer a popular alternative for domestic and international families looking to balance London careers with excellent schools and high quality of life.”

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Spotlight on: Richmond-upon-Thames

For centuries, Richmond, just 15 minutes from Waterloo Station, has been a centre of fashion and the arts, as well as home to several of Britain’s monarchs.

Richmond upon Thames, one of London’s most attractive boroughs is steeped in history and has been a favourite royal retreat for hundreds of years. It lies 15 miles southwest of central London, yet a fast train from London Waterloo takes just 15 minutes.

The River Thames runs through the heart of the borough linking Hampton Court Palace, Richmond town centre and Kew Gardens with central London. Beautiful Royal parks and historic houses, theatres, museums and galleries combine to create an exclusive enclave sought-after by families, young professionals and affluent downsizing couples.

The centrepiece of the town, the Green, remains virtually unchanged since Tudor times and is surrounded by an impressive display of listed architecture and a selection of terrace cafes overlooking the river. The High Street provides a wonderful combination of designer, high street and independent outlets, along with the more traditional cobbled side streets where boutiques, cafes and delicatessens offer something a little out of the ordinary.

Richmond also has some of the finest schools in the country, including King’s House, the Old Vicarage, The Vineyard, Marshgate Primary School and St Elizabeth’s Roman Catholic School. An international German school is located in nearby Petersham.

Richmond’s top five features:

  1. Elegant, historical architecture and one of the capital’s most beautiful shopping areas
  2. Easy access to family-friendly open spaces. Richmond Park offers 2,500 acres of beautiful, leafy parkland including a deerpark. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the National Trust’s Ham House are also close by
  3. The River Thames is at the heart of Richmond’s beautiful setting and towpaths provide delightful walking and cycle paths for many miles in both directions
  4. Richmond Theatre hosts many national touring productions which regularly transfer to the West End, and the Orange Tree Theatre is a well-respected alternative venue.
  5. The borough of Richmond upon Thames has 260 public rights of way and five signed walking routes. There are bridleways for horse-riders, gyms and healthclubs, swimming pools and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors

Richmond Station provides fast access to central London via mainline trains to Waterloo and underground services via the District line.

Property in Richmond: average price per week

Studio 1 Bed 2 Bed 3-4 Bed 4-5 Bed
£225-£360 £350-£550 £550-£800 £650-£1500 £1300+

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UK Landlords To Enforce Border Control Duties

The Implication for international assignees when UK landlords become responsible for checking the immigration status of tenants.

New legislation which will make private landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants looks likely to come into force this October.

A detailed announcement of when The Immigration Bill, now an Act of Parliament, will come into force is expected before Parliament goes on summer break at the end of July.

In a bid to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the UK, managing agents, private landlords and even home-owners taking in lodgers will have to vet their tenants to ensure they are legally entitled to reside in this country.

Those who fail to undertake the necessary checks and who are found renting a property to illegal immigrants will face fines running into thousands of pounds.

There has been widespread opposition to the scheme, particularly from bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the National Landlords Association (NLA) who claim that landlords should not be expected to operate as the UK’s Border Control.

This new legislation will have an impact on corporate assignees. Without the correct paperwork and visas in place, international tenants will find it difficult to view rental properties, and impossible to make an offer on a property until their legal right to reside in the UK has been demonstrated.

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The Regional UK Rental Market

A summary of the regional rental market reveals that Scotland is fast emerging as the UK’s second “market apart”.

Data from the latest LSL Property Services index has revealed that, in absolute terms, the average rent in England and Wales has risen by £8 in the last year, currently standing at £745 per month, compared to £737 in May 2013.

LSL Property Services points out that for much of the UK, private renting is becoming cheaper in real terms and May’s sub-inflation rent rises will help over nine million tenants.

The data shows that average rents are higher than a year ago in seven out of ten regions. The fastest annual increase is in the South-West, where the average monthly rent is now 3.9% higher than in May 2013. This is followed by a 3.8% annual increase in the East Midlands and annual rent rises of 2.3% in the North West.

By contrast, both London and the South East saw annual rent rises below the overall average. In the South East annual rent rises now stand at just 1.2%, while rents in the capital are now only 1% higher than in May 2013.

Scotland is experiencing something of a resurgence with average advertised rents consistently improving since last year to reach a record £726 per month. The rental market in Scotland has grown by more than £50 or 7.5% since May 2013 and the upward trend looks set to continue.

However, rents have dropped in three regions over the last 12 months. The North-East recorded a 3.6% fall, followed by an annual fall of 2.3% for rents in the East of England. Rents in the West Midlands are currently 0.4% lower than a year ago.

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The Lowdown on London Lettings

With London’s annual rent rises lower than inflation, tenants with a flexible approach to location may find they get more than they bargained for.

According to David Brown, commercial director of LSL Property Services, ‘London is a dramatic example of how a prospering housing market can feed through to tenants. In absolute terms, the capital is naturally more expensive to live in than elsewhere, but the pace of change is now going in the right direction. In the last year, London’s annual rent rises have dropped from highs of almost 8% a year to only 1%.” This compares to inflation of 1.5% over the same period, as measured by the consumer prices index (CPI).

There is general consensus that the rental market in London remains fairly static. According to Savills, demand is being met by supply, keeping growth in check. In some areas, like Wimbledon, local agents Robert Homes & Co have reported that stock far outweighs supply which is helping tenants achieve good value for money.

However, in prime central London, letting agents at W.A. Ellis have noted increased activity in the sub-£1,000 per week 1-2 bedroom price range and a very buoyant family house market. They have seen a 12% increase in the letting of family houses since January 2014 and several of their substantial houses in Kensington and Chelsea have gone under offer, off-market, at a higher figure than the outgoing rent.

Agents W.A. Ellis also reported that corporate relocation enquiries are on the increase, with relocation consultants eager to find their blue chip clients the right property before the summer. Their figures for May-to-April 2013/14 (WAE financial year) show that 77% of tenants came from outside the UK.

Historically this is one of the busiest periods for London’s rental sector as corporate assignees with families, British and international students as well as recent graduates flock to the capital to find homes in time for September. Whilst there appears to be some fluctuation across the capital, assignees who are willing to be a little flexible about location may find themselves benefitting from a tenants’ market for the first time in several years.

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Dwellworks Continues Commitment to Compliance & HSSE

Dwellworks’ Legal, Compliance, and Human Resources teams recently completed a refresher training for all associates on our Code of Conduct and Associate Handbook.  This included review of our data privacy policy, our personally-owned mobile device privacy policy, and our social media policy.  We talked in detail about HSSE (Health, Safety, Security, and Environment) and corporate social responsibility.  To emphasize their importance, our anti-corruption and anti-bribery policies have been separated into their own documents.

We are confident that our review and training of these policies as well, as offering a global hotline for associates and suppliers to submit a claim or concern of non-compliance, exceeds our clients’ increasing expectations from their corporate clients to hold suppliers responsible for compliance. Several of our policies can be found on our website at

Paul Salamon, legal department, dressed as Dwellworks' Captain Compliance!

Paul Salamon, legal department, dressed as Dwellworks’ Captain Compliance!

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Dwellworks Honored with SIRVA “Supplier of the Year” Award

Dwellworks was recently honored to receive the 2013 Supplier of the Year award from SIRVA. Awarded to a supplier who exemplifies excellent customer service and who embodies SIRVA’s brand, it was one of seven total awards presented at SIRVA’s annual supplier summit. The award is a reflection of Dwellworks’ focus on customer service and corporate culture grounded in the values of integrity, teamwork, performance, innovation, and fun.  Meredith Kennedy, Vice President of Account Management, explained, “It was such an honor to accept this award on behalf of our hard working team.  I am extremely proud that our associates and our local consultants were recognized for their consistency,  responsiveness, flexibility, and partnership.”

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Qualities of Good Leaders

At Dwellworks, we’re lucky to have many great leaders among us. Being a leader is both a privilege and a duty and there are some attributes that the best leaders share.

  • Setting the proper example – No matter what role we play in the organization, we are setting an example for our teammates. Setting the proper example means doing even the small things right, such as showing up on time, putting forth 100% effort, acting in the best interest of the team and company, going the extra mile, meeting deadlines, and simply acting the way we would want others to act. Remember, the small things always make the greatest difference.
  • Bringing a positive attitude – Not only is it acceptable to be excited about what we do – it’s encouraged! If leaders expect their teams to be positive, then they too must be positive. Inevitably, there will be ups and downs, and it might be difficult to stay optimistic 100% of the time. But the best leaders know that they must keep moments of negativity from adversely affecting the rest of the group.
  • Embracing communication – Leaders are the conduits of communication for information to and from their teams. On one hand, leaders must listen to their managers, teammates, clients, and suppliers. On the other hand, they must share all relevant information with them. It is also important that leaders communicate with each other. As the old saying goes: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
  • Relaxing – Issues will arise and mistakes will be made, but neither indicates the end of the world. When presented with an issue, good leaders breathe first and react second. Most issues are not as big as they first seem, and even if they are we will work through them together. Additionally, issues represent opportunities to learn so that we can better avoid them in the future.
  • Having fun – Just have fun. This is one of five celebrated values at Dwellworks. We spend a great deal of time at work, so we should do everything we can to have fun while we are here. Even the best leaders take a few moments to smell the roses, talk to a neighbor about something that isn’t work related, take a walk, or go out to lunch with a teammate. Everyone deserves to take a few minutes each day to recharge the batteries!

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Diversity as an Advantage

“We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”
–Jimmy Carter

This great quote, originally addressed to the United States as a whole, also describes at a very basic level the power and potential of a great team.  Oftentimes, team members are all very different, and these differences are often simultaneously their greatest asset and challenge.  The fact that individuals can come from different companies, different schools, and different parts of the country – even different stages of life – gives each of us a unique perspective on the situations we face.  Occasionally, those differences have the potential to cause misunderstandings, but our differences more often lead us to solutions that we never would have considered on our own.

When you work with a team, use each individual’s unique perspective to the group’s advantage.  We need to listen to each other, and we need to work collaboratively toward our goals.

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