The UK has been crowned by Forbes, for the second year running, as the best country for business following its latest survey published in December 2018. A total of 161 countries are assessed on 15 different criteria.
The UK is the only country to land among the top 30 in all 15 metrics, including property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom and workforce.
Forbes states that although sterling plummeted 9% against the US dollar the day after the EU referendum result and remains down, the economy has ‘held up relatively well’.
With the official exit from the EU scheduled for this March, Forbes recognises that uncertainty remains. Some UK companies are holding off investments to see how Brexit affects trade relations, but on balance the business climate remains attractive, with a globalised economy that is more open than most in terms of trade, investments and capital flows.
Infrastructure improvements can act as a catalyst for regeneration and new residential development. Major investment in the last decade has seen improvements to a number of rail stations. Some have been vital due to rapidly rising passenger numbers and others as a result of policies to spur economic development.
Using the latest passenger data from all rail stations across Great Britain, we calculated which stations had seen the largest number of additional passengers over the last 10 years. St. Pancras, London recorded the largest increase at 28 million.
Three non-London stations made the top 10: Birmingham New Street (2nd place), Leeds (7th) and Liverpool Lime Street (9th).
The proportion of new build sales, out of total sales in the location of the station, ranges from 93% for St Pancras, where regeneration meant the volume of new residential led to the creation of a new postcode, to 11% in Euston which is yet to be regenerated. The average proportion of new build sales across England and Wales is 10%, showing that busy stations encourage and support new build development.
There are many factors that influence our quality of life and well-being. In 2010, the ONS started the ‘Measuring National Well-being’ (MNW) programme in order to have a standardised monitor of well-being. The latest bulletin was published on 28th November 2018.
At a national level, previous research has shown that how people view their health is the most important factor, followed by employment status and relationship status. At a local level, a wide range of local conditions can affect people’s well-being, with housing affordability a key issue. In particular where local house prices are too high relative to incomes, thereby preventing prospective buyers from getting on to the housing ladder and they subsequently remain in rented accommodation.
Comparing June 2017 with June 2018 there were no significant changes to personal well-being measures (life satisfaction, feeling that things done in life are worthwhile, happiness and anxiety) in the UK, or indeed across any of its countries. Also, fewer people reported low happiness ratings and more people reported very low anxiety ratings.
The positive changes in well-being across the UK may be influenced by the improvement in economic indicators during the 12 months, such as the unemployment rate which was at its lowest level between April and June 2018 since the period from December 1974 to February 1975, at 4%. Also, average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain increased by 2.7%, in nominal terms, compared with a year earlier. However, in June 2018, the rate of annual house price growth was also at its lowest level since August 2013, at 3%.
Despite tax revenue from residential property seeing its usual annual rise between July and September, total tax revenue in the first nine months of 2018 across England and Wales was 9.5% lower than a year ago, according to the latest data published this week by HMRC and the Welsh Government.
It is estimated that £6.3 billion has been netted by HMRC and the Welsh Government between January and September, a fall of £662 million compared to the same period in 2017.
The number of properties liable for the 3% Higher Rate of Additional Dwelling (HRAD) levy fell over 5% in this period. The amount collected from the HRAD 3% element was down £243 million, the equivalent of 14.3%, to £1.24 billion.
Since its introduction in the 2017 Autumn Budget, the government has also ‘lost’ £427 million, owing to the introduction of first-time buyer tax relief which has benefitted over 180,000 first-time buyers. That number will rise thanks to the backdating of the scheme for first-time buyers purchasing shared ownership properties, as announced this autumn. On average, first-time buyers account for just over one-fifth of residential property purchases each quarter.
The number of property valuations for first-time buyers has risen in all areas of the UK except for London, according to the latest data released this week by UK Finance.
The largest increases in first-time buyer valuations were in the north of the country, where over 43% of first-time valuations are for properties priced less than £125,000. The North East leads the way with an increase of 3.8%, followed by the North West with 3.3%.
Across London, valuations in the first half of 2018 were down 3.9% on a year ago. A quarter of valuations were for properties priced over £500,000, compared to the UK average of just 4%.
First-time buyers are currently facing less competition for property from buy-to-let investors. In the first nine months of 2018 buy-to-let mortgage approvals across the UK have fallen by 13.5% compared to the same period a year ago.
A drop of more than a third of the average sole agency fee for a traditional estate agent in the UK, to 1.18% (plus VAT), since 2011 makes it among the cheapest prime location for agent fees in the world.
Of the places analysed, only China and Hong Kong had lower seller-side fees at 0.5% and 1.0% respectively. Other countries with significantly higher seller fees including Mexico (7.5%), the USA (5.5%) and France (5%).
The UK comes out as the cheapest location to buy in terms of estate agent fees when you consider the combined buying and selling commission fees (assuming no buying agent is used).
A survey carried out by TheAdvisory of over 2,000 property sellers in England and Wales, which was reported by Prime Resi, also identified that 95% chose a traditional agent over a new online and hybrid agencies (often with ‘no sale no fee’) to sell their home.
A quick analysis of sales volumes to date in 2018 indicates that in areas where sales have increased compared to the same period last year, on average virtually half of all properties have access to ultra-fast broadband, with an average download speed of 46.4mbps.
In contrast, in those areas where sales have fallen, just under one third of properties have access to ultra-fast broadband and the average download speed is slightly lower at just 42.9mbps.
While broadband coverage and speed may well not be the most important factors in choosing which home to buy, their impact on daily life is ever increasing. 89% of adults now use the internet each week, up from just 51% in 2006 (ONS), and a rising proportion of the population works from home for at least part of the week.
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Close to a quarter (23%) of the UK population eats out once a week or more, according to research by PwC published last year, with the value of the eating-out market in the UK estimated to be in the region of £88 billion pounds.
While the proximity of local restaurants may not directly influence a house purchase, the availability of such amenities is certainly a consideration. Unsurprisingly there are significantly more restaurants in London then elsewhere across England and Wales when compared to the number of residents.
For fine-dining, the Michelin star guide for 2019 was released earlier this month, including 21 new entries across the UK. All five of the UK’s Michelin three-star restaurants retained their accolade.