What people are saying in the property world

Gary Brine.

Can house prices keep climbing?

Our website has received an unprecedented number of hits this month – I'm told most people are clicking through to the blog I wrote last month.

Many people have contacted me and congratulated me on being so open and brave as they too have had to endure as we have, some people have called it professional suicide and some people have been genuinely outraged and disgusted by my open honest dialogue – this seems strange to me – how can you be outraged by a true story unless the words have hit a nerve or two?!

Now moving on – what are people saying in the property world this month? The piece that interests me the most was written last week for The Express – I don't know about you but I can never get a straight answer on where we are in the market – it would appear that prices in key areas are set to rise and rise – some agents are calling a tough market but I don’t see it like that – I believe quality is what is demanded and houses that aren't selling are either too old, undesirable in some way or just poorly built.

Ray Boulger, of mortgage broker John Charcol, says that he expects an 8% rise in house prices in 2014, based on the Halifax and Nationwide indexes.

This would match the kind of annual increases seen at the end of 2013, which he admits would have been a surprise for anyone studying the market at the start of 2013.

He says that two schemes to stimulate the housing market "moved the goalposts" during the year.

They were the Funding for Lending scheme, which offers cheap funds to lenders under the proviso that this is then lent on to mortgage borrowers and small businesses, and the Help to Buy scheme.

The former is being restricted to just small business lending, but the latter has been extended, giving borrowers access to mortgages if they are able to afford the repayments, but have little to put down as a deposit.

Mr Boulger says that there is no great shortage of funding. He predicts that this will be borrowed by people buying homes across the UK - not just in London, which drove the increase in average prices in 2013

"There is a ripple effect, so next year, I do not see London as having the biggest regional rise in house prices," he says. That is not a view shared by housing market commentator Henry Pryor. He predicts that house prices will go up by 5% nationally in 2014, but rise by 8% within the M25 motorway.

There is, he suggests, little appetite amongst politicians to put the brakes on the housing market.

"Next year, the coalition [government's] ambition is that the housing market goes from strength to strength ahead of the next election," he says.

The result is that homeowners will see the kind of prices that neighbouring homes are being sold for, tempting them to put their property up for sale.

Price rises in 2013 were the result, in part, of a lack of supply, so this could even out a little in 2014. Yet, Mr Pryor still predicts a "buoyant" London market.

Ed Stansfield, chief property economist at Capital Economics, says he too expects London to be "at the front of the pack" when it comes to house price rises. Overseas investment in London property means this market differs from the rest of the country.

Despite the distinction, he predicts price rises of 4% to 5% on average across the UK next year.

He points out that rising house prices will not be greeted with "universal glee", and the Bank of England has tools at its disposal to cool the market.

However, he says that these tools are untested. It is not clear how the market would cope with an increase in interest rates, the traditional way to control runaway prices.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, with members including estate agents, says that it is dangerous to see the UK market as a single entity.

It is predicting an 8% rise in house prices nationally in 2014, but this ranges from an 11% rise in London to a 5% increase in the North East of England. It expects the cost of renting a home to go up by 2%.

Miles Shipside, director of property website Rightmove, says he expects prices to rise by 6% to 8% in 2014, depending on the decisions made by potential sellers.

"A good and plentiful choice of property for sale would limit sellers from getting over-ambitious with their asking prices and result in a national average increase closer to 6%," he says.

Martin Ellis, of the Halifax, makes a similar prediction of a 4% to 8% rise, owing to a continued economic recovery and low interest rates.

All these predictions of price rises should ring a warning bell, with many local housing markets already overheated, according to Prof James Mitchell.

The economics professor from Warwick University says that most regions of the UK are already in a house price bubble.

"The results raise the risk, although not the certainty, that house prices will fall, although predicting the timing and manner of any fall is even harder than identifying the presence of a bubble," he says.

"But a bubble it appears to be and we should all - householders, business people and policymakers alike - be alert to this risk."

Gary Brine, Founder of Aspire

Gary Brine.

An apartment fit for McQueen and Wodehouse

In Alexander McQueen's last interview, published in Harper's Bazaar a month after he died in February 2010, he spoke of the apartment he was renovating on Dunraven Street in Mayfair.


The interviewer, Godfrey Deeny, wrote: "One can tell he's desperately keen to move into his new home, anxious to get the art he's bought installed, keen to walk his dogs in Hyde Park and determined to do lots of cooking. McQueen gets very excited explaining how to make a good bouillabaisse."

McQueen never made it to his new home to cook his favourite fish soup, committing suicide in a flat not far away, on Greim Street. The year after his death, Gary Brine, the chief executive of the property development company Aspire, bought the · property from the McQueen estate, with the help of Dragonfly Property Finance.


He set about finishing the project, taking over the planning permission that had been granted to extend the property, formerly the home of P.G. Wodehouse, as well as a grandson of Queen Victoria.

Now, the 2,500 sq ft, three-bedroom property - two of the bedrooms have their own private courtyards, as well as en suite bathrooms - is about to go on the market through the Mayfair office of Knight Frank for £7.25 million. Though undoubtedly not as dramatic as it would have been had the fashion designer still owned the apartment, there are echoes of McQueen there still, not least in the large wine store, which would have been well-stocked thanks to the generosity of the Pinault family, majority shareholders of the McQueen fashion house and owners of the Bordeaux vineyard, Chateau Latour.

"My cave should be full of Latour," McQueen said in the interview. "I've still got 28 bottles left. François-Henri Pinault sends me a case each year with a note asking that we leave them for at least · six years. But I drank a whole case at Christmas, loved it."

Source: The Times by Jessie Hewitson

Posted by Gary Brine, Founder of Aspire

Gary Brine.

An apartment fit for McQueen: Inside the amazing three-bedroomed Mayfair property the fashion designer never got to live in

A luxury apartment that was being renovated by Alexander McQueen has finally gone on sale three years after the flamboyant fashion designer tragically took his own life.

It is unlikely that the luxury Mayfair property in the heart of the capital has been decorated to the eccentric style that the former chief designer for Givenchy would have chosen himself.

But the 2,500sqft three-bedroom pad - two of which have their own private courtyards plus en suite bathrooms - is a home for the truly well-heeled nevertheless.


For sale: The home that was being renovated by Alexander McQueen has finally gone on the market three years after the designer's death


Modern: The living room has been decorated in cream with a dark wooden floor, perhaps a more conservative tone than McQueen would have chosen himself


Life of luxury: The courtyards, which can be accessed through two of the bedrooms, have been lined with shrubs

Once home to the author PG Wodehouse as well as a grandson of Queen Victoria, the property in Dunraven Street is about to go on the market through estate agent Knight Frank for £7.25 million.

A blue plaque on the exterior of the building pays tribute to Wodehouse, the author behind the Jeeves and Wooster novels.

The year after McQueen was found hanged after committing suicide in 2010, the property was snapped up by property development company Aspire, funded by a specialist loan from Dragonfly Property Finance.

Chief executive Gary Brine set about finishing the work started by McQueen, according to an article in The Times yesterday.


Easy living: Two of the bedrooms have their own private courtyards as well as en suite bathrooms


Fish soup: McQueen was looking forward to his new kitchen, where he would have prepared the perfect bouillabaisse

And while the interior's neutral colours may be a little on the conservative, the designer has retained the wine store, a feature McQueen spoke enthusiastically in his last interview before he died.


Each year the Pinault family, the French majority shareholders of the McQueen fashion house and owners of a Bordeaux vineyard, sent the 40-year-old a case of their finest wine.

Speaking to Harper's Bazaar, he had said: 'My cave should be full of Latour - I've still got 28 bottles left.

'Francois-Henri Pinault sends me a case each year with a note asking that we leave them for at least six years.

'But I drank a whole case at Christmas - loved it.'

McQueen spoke enthusiastically to the magazine's Godfrey Deeny, who wrote: 'One can tell he's desperately keen to move into his new home, anxious to get the art he's bought installed, keen to walk is dogs in Hyde Park and determined to do lots of cooking.

'McQueen gets very excited explaining how to make a good bouillabaisse.' But he never did get to rustle up his favourite fish soup in his dream home. He was found hanged by his housekeeper at another of his properties in Green Street, London in February, 2010, shortly after the interview.

McQueen was born in Lewisham south London in 1969 and was the youngest of six children. His father was a taxi driver and his mother, a social sciences teacher. Shortly after he was born the family moved to a small terraced council house in Stratford, east London.

Openly gay, he left school at 16 with just one O'Level in art, and was offered an apprenticeship at traditional Savile Row tailor Anderson and Shephard. He later went to work at neighbouring Gieves and Hawkes.

It was while here that he developed his deftly cut tailored look and in less than 10 years he was to become one of the most respected fashion designers in the world.

Following stints working for Koji Tatsuno, then Romeo Gigli in Milan, he returned to London where he completed a masters degree in Fashion Design at Central St Martins.

When he displayed his portfolio in 1992, it was snapped up in its entirety by Isabella Blow, fashion editor of Tatler magazine.

But it was in 1996 that McQueen got arguably the biggest break he would ever have when he was appointed chief designer at the French fashion house Givenchy.

One of his career highlights came in 1996 when he was asked by pop legend David Bowie to design his wardrobe for his forthcoming tours.

He also designed the Union Jack jacket worn by Bowie on the cover of his drum and bass album, Earthling.

In 1997 McQueen collaborated with Icelandic popstar Bjork, design the cover for her Homogenic album and directing the video for the single Alarm Call.

In an illustrious career during which he was labelled a 'l'enfant terrible' and 'the hooligan of English fashion', McQueen was to be named British Designer of the year four times between 1996 and 2003, and International Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designer's of America in 2003.

He was also made a CBE in 2003.

But despite his fame and riches, he was having troubles in his personal life. David LaChappelle, a friend of the designer, said in the lead up to his death he was 'doing a lot of drugs and was very unhappy'.

He took his own life just nine days after he lost his mother to cancer, and just days before the start of London Fashion Week.

McQueen left a note saying: 'Look after my dogs, sorry, I love you, Lee.'

For more details call the Aspire office and we'd be happy to show you around.

Source: Mail Online. by Stuart Woledge
Posted by Gary Brine, Founder of Aspire

Gary Brine.

Oh my goodness – can it get any hotter?? And with most local authorities making it almost impossible for developers to install air conditioning because of strict emission regulations we all look set to fry!!

But it's not all bad news - the cost of the average home is up by four per cent so far this year and prices are rising at more than £1,000 a month.

Plots on the Crown Estate in Oxshott have risen dramatically this year with half an acre now costing in the region of £2.5m.

The Nationwide’s figures reflect growing consumer ­con­fidence and a strengthening economic recovery. Cheaper mortgages and Government schemes to boost lending have also helped fuel the boom. Prices this month were up by 1.9 per cent alone compared with a year ago, the fastest rate of increase since September 2010.

Brian Murphy, Head of Lending at Mortgage Advice Bureau, said: “Homeowners will be delighted to see a third month of house price increases in Nationwide’s figures while potential buyers will be comforted by the fact that mortgage rates are still heading in the opposite direction. This golden age of rate reductions is coaxing more borrowers through the door.”

Jonathan Hopper, Managing Director of property search consultants Garrington, said: “There is without doubt more momentum in the property market and this latest data is further proof of that.”

A local Surrey agent has reported x 5 more enquiries in the last quarter of this year with a large number of foreign buyers taking the places of the small banking exodus – 26 families left Danes Hill School in the last term!

“Consumer confidence is crucial to the property market and people certainly feel a lot more confident about the economy at the moment.” Nationwide warned, however, that rising prices masked “significant regional variations”. It said the gap between house prices in London and the rest of the UK was the widest it had ever been, in both cash and percentage terms.

Indeed - Savills recently wrote that prices rose by 2.5% last month alone making a little 7m lock up and go now worth a cool 175k more than it did last month – talking of which – Aspire will be launching a three bed gem right in the heart of Mayfair next week.

The 2,700 sq ft three bed flat, with two gardens, was once owned by Alexander McQueen and is a blue plaque gem proudly boasting the former residence of P G Wodehouse.


The flat, which is split over two levels, has been sumptuously appointed with absolutely no expense spared.

For more details call the Aspire office and we'd be happy to show you around.

Gary Brine, Founder of Aspire

Gary Brine.

Thank goodness the thaw has arrived!

I’m not just talking about the weather although I began to think that I would never feel the sun on my face again as we endured week after week of freezing temperatures, rain, snow and windy days which all makes construction impossible. But persevere we did. We managed to move one lovely family all the way from South Africa into a fully finished and Christmas decorated home by December the 21st and another family by January. During this particular build we had to double the amount of muck away lorries because the clay was so wet, we worked shifts of men through nights and weekends to make up for countless days lost to snow and cold.

Moving on – has the thaw finally arrived? All of the data points in that direction. Today in the Daily Express experts point to a 30% rise in house prices, the Halifax are reporting an increase in mortgage approvals, Zoopla report a 30% increase in traffic to their site and many agents are saying it is only a lack of stock restricting the market.

At Aspire we have sold two houses off plan already this year, we have had a strong bid on our Wimbledon development, all flats in Fulham are now sold and of the fourteen developments currently in production only one remains either un-sold or un-offered because we are keeping it all wrapped up for a launch in June.

Hopefully we will see the reversal of the CIL payment on all client builds in the next quarter and the release of more contentious plots to the market to play our part in the current British recovery, after all, not everything can last forever – not even cheap flights to Abu Dhabi!!!

Gary Brine, Founder of Aspire

Gary Brine.

Happy New Year

As we come to the end of what feels like a very,very long week (I guess the first week back after Xmas always feels like this?) I thought it would be fun to look forward into 2013 and make a few predictions.

It goes without saying that my first prediction is that Aspire will continue to grow both in size but also in capability during 2013, we are now twenty people and have development on the slab of over 45m for 2013. Not only are we building six new houses in the traditional style totalling over 60,000 sq ft we are also embarking on two contemporary builds, one in Wimbledon

Coach House

and one in the heart of Cobham which takes me nicely into prediction two.

I see a steady move away from the flash mansions of 2008 into homes built for real families. Floor plans will adapt to support real living, houses will be built to include practical spaces like airing cupboards and I believe the era of the shinny floor is over.

Prediction three is that people will move away from indoor pools to well designed and flexible space that will allow indoor/outdoor swimming – after all – if you are going to build a pool make sure you can get a good swim in it.

Prediction four comes from Savills – they say - Prime commuter hot spots around the capital are expected to feel the house price ripple during 2013, areas such as Sevenoaks, Guildford and Beaconsfield will see rises of just two per cent. The longer-term forecast shows a five-year growth of 21 per cent in the prime inner commuter zone which includes Oxshott and Cobham – 21% come on !!

Prediction five comes from RIBA – they predict a strong move toward sustainability and economic development but not at the cost of style. Todays modern architect must be able to design a house that uses 25% less energy than five years ago but with compromising on style space or practicality.

Short a sweet this month – If you are looking to build a new house start with a foot print that works for the whole family, don't ignore the need for storage and make sure your developer is using sustainable materials that can reduce your house hold bills without compromising on style – it's simple really.

Happy new year.

Gary Brine, Founder of Aspire

Gary Brine.

Strong Partnerships.

Business is built on strong partnerships and insight – we are fortunate to partner with one of the very best – Savills.

Each year the Savill's research team produce real market insight which helps me as a developer and ultimately my clients make the right decision when building, choosing and ultimately owning a property.

For me a property should be a home first and foremost but it is probably one of the biggest investments ever made by a family so what one buys needs to be right.

Please enjoy reading the comprehensive report by Savills and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me or Trevor Kearney at Savills Cobham.

Gary Brine, Founder of Aspire

Download Report
Gary Brine.

A proud day to be British

This is a day that I am proud to be British - we do pomp so well - people that don't get Britishness should just pause and behold because we are about to put on the very best games the world has ever seen.

I don't know what outside forces may yet try to disrupt the games but as a developer and a Brit I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved.

We have taken 100 Hectares of contaminated, useless ground and built one of the most elegant, green and useable parks ever.

Did you know that 98% of the material taken out of the 100 hectares has been recycled back into the park? Also did you know that with over 500,000 trees and plants planted we have just completed the biggest landscaping project ever carried out in Europe?

When you visit the park stop, and stare at the wonderful centres but also (please) take time to look at some of the gems like the pumping station,

Pumping Station

the velodrome


the Aquatic centre

Aquatic Centre

and my favourite - the ArcelorMittal Orbit or the helter-skelter as I see it - Man, what were Ushida Findlay Architects smoking when they created this 114m meter high landmark? I love it !!!!!


The ArcelorMittal Orbit was designed by Anish Kapoor and one of the world’s leading structural designers, Cecil Balmond, who trained and lives in London, and is known for his innovative work on some of the greatest contemporary buildings in the world, such as the CCTV building in Beijing, as well as many Serpentine Gallery Pavilion commissions.

Construction of the ArcelorMittal Orbit took 18 months and required 560 metres of tubular red steel to form the sculpture’s lattice superstructure. The result is a bold statement of public art that is both permanent and sustainable, with close to 60 per cent of the 2,000 tonnes of steel used in the sculpture being drawn from recycled sources, underlining steel’s status as the world’s most recyclable material. Steel was chosen for the ArcelorMittal Orbit because of its unique properties including strength, modular structure and advantages of weight and speed of construction.

Indeed Lord Richard Rogers has said: "The new Olympic Park will be a fantastic place and will help to regenerate east London. The designs show exciting sculptural form and will enhance the landscape" - no shit - the whole place is a testimony to our imagination and skill as a nation - if only our politicians could see this, stop bashing the bankers whose salaries proliferate down through the economy, keep spending on sport and not only get our social spending under control, get an initiative together to educate the families that are in a spiral of despair who then turn to drink and drugs that prevent them from working! It's not rocket science.

So what has this got to do with little old Aspire - this I say - never accept second best, anything is possible in design and construction but don't forget, the park took seven years to deliver at a cost of many billions of pounds - if you want the best you have to be prepared to pay for it and be patient - anyone can build a house that looks great from the outside but the money needs to be spent on the stuff you never see that is what sets great apart from rubbish - the same can be said for Great Britain - we have built a monument to an age that will never be rivalled in our lifetime - now let's fix all the stuff the tourists never see - after all if we can raise 20bn for the Olympics surely we can raise a billion to help our starving kids.

Have a great Olympics.


Gary Brine, Founder of Aspire

Gary Brine.

Happy new year to you and thank you for visiting our site.

Looking back it was another stunning year for Aspire winning five client contracts totalling 55,000 sq ft of construction and buying a clutch of valuable sites that will be completed in 2012.

Our flagship development on the Crown Estate Oxshott is now well under way; we have used 133 piles to sit the house upon, completed construction of the basement which will house the cinema and gymnasium, the infinity pool is completed and the main landscaping elements of the south facing one acre plot are complete - the house is due for completion in September and will be the finest house ever built on the estate.

In London we are close completing three stunning flats overlooking Bishops park in Fulham, each flat has two bedrooms, fully interior designed interiors and bespoke sound and information system for the young mobile worker.

In Mayfair Aspire are extending and fully refurbishing the London home of the late Alexander McQueen. The house will boast three bedrooms, cinema, gymnasium, split level garden and an address just off Park Lane close to Hyde Park.

Other exciting projects for 2012 include two town houses in Twickenham, a contemporary 6,000 sq ft house close to Wimbledon village and a great Family home in the much sought after Fairmile estate in Cobham.

If you would like to find out more about any of Aspire's exciting developments or talk to us about building your dream home simply press the contact us tab and we will be back to you as soon as we can.

May I wish you a happy and prosperous new year

Gary Brine, Founder of  Aspire

Gary Brine.

As part of our commitment to understand our customers we have recently conducted a survey amongst customers, prospective clients and Estate Agents to establish the top ten most desirable wish list for people who invest in a new property.

The results didn't surprise us and underline why we build the houses the way we do:

    1 Large kitchens, with an island
    "If you're going to spend money on a house - spend them where people want them — spend them in the kitchen," one client said. Granite worktops are a must and at aspire we favour induction hobs which are the safest way to cook with a glass on wine or two in your hand.

    2 Energy-efficient appliances, high-efficiency insulation and high window efficiency
    Among the "green" features touted in homes, these are the ones buyers value most, said one Agent. While large windows had been a major draw, energy concerns are giving customers pause on those, he said. The use of recycled or synthetic materials is only borderline desirable but we are seeing more customers ask for ground source heat pumps and air recovery systems say's Darren Knight at Aspire.

    3 Home office/study
    People would much rather have this space rather than, say, a formal dining room. People are feeling like they can dine out again, and so the dining room has become tradable. One client felt that the home theater may also be headed for the scrap heap, a casualty of the "shift from boom to correction," but most of our clients want them and we love to build them.

    4 Main-floor master suite with separate living room
    This is a must feature for everyone questioned and appears to be getting more popular in general, this together with upstairs laundries that enable 'clean washing' to always stay upstairs was popular amongst families with small children especially.

    5 Outdoor living room
    The popularity of outdoor spaces continues to grow and the idea of an outdoor room is even more popular than an outdoor cooking area, meaning people are willing to spend more time outside as the UK weather changes. Bringing your garden into your hose is easier than ever with wonderful products like bi-fold doors and in-out stone.

    6 Sonos and Cat 7i
    A must for every home along with Apple TV and any streamed music, film and internet gaming devices.

    7 Master suite soaker tubs and walk in showers
    Rain showers seem to be declining in popularity due to energy restrictions but hand held power showers and massage kets are as popular as ever.

    8 Stone and brick exteriors

    9 Intelligent lighting, security systems and home entertainment devices run from your smart phone
    Forget about complicated all in home management systems, keep it separate, future-proofed and small!

    10 Three -car garages
    A given at all levels; three-car garages, in which the third bay is more often than not used for additional storage and not automobiles, is desirable in the move-up and custom build categories.

So there you have it - the top ten wants amongst the people we asked - why are these ten items so important - re-sale - don't personalise your build too much unless you want to stay for life - get funky with your removable design but stick to the norm for maximum financial return - happy house building.


Gary Brine.

Happy Birthday to us

Happy Birthday to us - Aspire is one year old this month and I would like to thank everybody who made it to our party in the rather swish Sanderson hotel, our clients, partners and most importantly backers - you know who you are - a big thank you.

What a year it was; we completed and sold 5 refurbishments, two new builds and also transacted on eight plots of land totalling some £25m; our current development list consists of 15 projects totalling over £45m of GDV - we're busy but loving every minute.

Our driver is simple - create great homes to the highest possible standard - but to create great homes you need great people and from a standing start we now have 10 people in the Aspire management team.

    Gary Brine; Founder and CEO
    Alyson Lumb; Director
    Darren Knight; Managing Director Aspire Specialised Homes/Head of Construction
    Richard Barnes; Head of Aspire Developments
    Fran Lazenby; Senior QS
    Lisa Rowledge; Construction administration
    Stewart Wright; Head of Refurbishment
    Deborah Pitt; Back office Manager
    Anne Brown; MA
    Andy Hawkes; Head of logistics

Our commitment is to continue deliver to our customers and investors using the very best care, attention and communication methodologies that makes dealing with Aspire a joy not a head ache.

If you would like to know more about Aspire I'd love to talk with you, we need talented people to join our growing team and above all else we need clients who want that little extra - If that's you please give me a call, we'll look after your build, tell you the truth and build you a home that is an investment and an investment that is a home.


Gary Brine.


Happy new year to you all - as we move into a new year of property matters I thought I would take a look at the potential of the property rental market for 2011.

At Aspire we hold a large and quite diverse rental portfolio which on the whole has performed excellently for us over the past two years and has returned at least 4% over what our money could achieve in any bank.

As mortgages continue to be hard to come by and there is a continued air of caution in the wind I recommend purchases to enhance any portfolio which include properties in:

Affluent areas

Close to popular schools

Close to main line links to London

Family houses

One bed flats (which give the very best yields)

Savills have recently gone on record to say - Nationally, mainstream rents have risen by 5.8% since January to the end of September 2010 driven by the fall in the number of properties available to rent and rising tenant demand. The pick up in the residential market over the last year has meant owners have transferred rental property back into the sales market. In addition to a lacklustre investment market and a decrease in new build development activity, fewer new properties have entered the market while demand continues to grow.

This supply demand dynamic is driving rental growth and having a positive impact on landlords’ returns. Thus, the quarterly increase of 1.4% in UK rents was a result of stock falling by -14.5% over the last quarter. At a UK level the supply of flats available to rent fell sharply (-18.9%) and decreased much more rapidly than the supply of houses (-5.3%) during the summer months, although rental prices for flats increased by just 0.9% over the third quarter compared with stronger growth of 1.7% for houses. This lack of supply has in fact driven demand for flats at the bottom end of the prime London rental market. Demand continues to place pressure on rents in the middle and upper tiers of the mainstream markets and into the lower and middle tiers of the prime markets.

This demand will be strengthened by first time buyers who can not take advantage of renewed affordability in the sales market, as problems persist in raising deposit finance. Rents in London increased at the highest rate of any UK region, by 5.1% between June and September, with stock levels falling by -15% during the corresponding quarter.

In London, even areas with high levels of flatted development and rising unemployment has seen rents move upwards in the last two quarters. In particular, demand for larger three bed units in these locations has driven rental growth of over 5% this year.

So there you have it - spare cash? Buy, refurb, let –

that's my mantra for 2011.

All the best


Gary Brine.

Market hits rock bottom

Mark this date in your diary - August 2010. In the advertising world I was often asked to predict where we were in the current economic cycle pertaining to a product or service. This skill was taught to me by Tony Caplin - the business turnaround guru who led the Conservatives to the last election win and who helped me enormously early on in my career (Thank you Tony).

You simply draw a hockey stick on a white board, analyse a pile of data on that product, the competitive market, key market data and some insight, and bingo - you plant a cross on the board.

If I were being asked to do this for the residential property market I would place a cross slap bang at the bottom of the curve - yes the bottom, not on the way down or on the way up but at the bottom which means one thing - there is only one place for the market to go - up.

Why do I say this? Well - the Times (Aug 2010) reported that mortgage lending jumped by 20% in June - it's highest rate for two years. Lenders granted 51,000 loans, of which 19,400 were to first time buyers up from 3,300 this time last year.

Savills recently reported a 6% increase in values for the first half of this year in the prime south with towns located on mainline routes into London doing particularly well.

At Aspire we have seen a recent increase in interest of our properties with only a handful of badly constructed or overpriced new homes sticking in the Weybridge, Cobham, Oxshott and Esher areas.

Prime London is still rocking - Savills write - "the rebuilding of global wealth, and in particular the rise in the population of Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, played a vital part in the rebound in transaction levels, and prices paid for property in prime central London in 2009 and the first part of 2010."

European Union countries are reporting better than expected GDP figures, our own government have gotten most of the elephants out into the open, and the widely expected cuts haven't stagnated the economy as much as the doom mongers want them to.

Summer is coming to an end and I predict life will return to some sort of normality later in the autumn with house prices rising steadily and demand outstripping demand - Maslow is always right.

Gary Brine.

Hip Hip Hooray!

As a development company that refurbishes a large number of properties to sell I could never understand why Hips were introduced in the first place. Apparently they were introduced to speed up the process and prevent deals from dropping out of bed but it seemed to us here at Aspire to be just a waste of time and money – how on earth did we do deals before Hips – just fine thanks.

Well – they've gone as quickly as they were introduced and I'm really pleased to see some companies offering to reimburse money for packs started but not finished or indeed from a month ago so please check with your Hip supplier if this applies to you.

But isn't this just all about common sense - did we really need Hips? Of course not and today in the Queens speech we have another issue that could potentially cause developers, house builders and even end users a major headache – new planning regulations and an idea called localism.

So what is localism? Well, it's supposed to be where developers and house builders work in close harmony with the local community to help build better, more eco functional and aesthetic housing but my concern is whether it can really work.

Liz Peace CEO of the British Property Federation says:

"After years of failure, we welcome a fresh approach and are committed to working with the new government to make localism work. Offering incentives for new development and encouraging developers to be involved locals will lead to better development, but we need to ensure that democracy is followed and that vital decisions don't get lost amid the kind of infighting and political bickering we often see at local level. As we know, the silent majority are often happy with things and it's only those with the time on their hands to fill council meeting rooms who are heard."

"Bringing in a democratically accountable system for major infrastructure will be key to delivering large projects and it is absolutely essential that there are clear national guidelines for all areas of planning. We also need to be realistic about how much power we can devolve to councils. Many aspects of planning and regeneration are highly complex and will require resources which many councils will struggle with. Many planners are losing their jobs to help keep police and nurses in post, and there is a large amount of concern over how local authorities will be able to manage all these extra responsibilities with less staff."

Strong stuff indeed - I support Localism, I support getting closer to communities and building properties that we can be proud of and can stand the test of time - I vote for Localism but let's hope it doesn't turn into a fight between them and us - I'm quite sure Robert Adams had he's objectors but where would any of us be without his influence.

Gary Brine.

People often ask me how important City Bonuses are to the market in the South of England I reply simply and consistently that they are an imperative part of not only the luxury housing market but also the housing market period. This week the Times have noted that following the freeze on city bonuses in late 2008 the London prime market fell by 32% with many people fearing that bonuses had gone forever - However, if we compare the London market currently to this time last year prices have risen 51% showing a nett gain over a twelve month period of 19%. Why? Bonuses albeit in disguise are back and this has affected the market positively.

Also - If we look down at the 1m market houses are selling quickly and most estate agents will tell you there is a lack of stock with which to sell before the 5% threshold raises and below that first time buyers are filling their boots as Aspire's £200 - 550k refurbishment business will testify.

So what has all this all got to do with City Bonuses or high earning Premiership footballers - well I call it capital deployment. I would like to see the government look past the bonus subject and understand for the moment how our high earning executives tend to spend a large proportion of their wealth. They spend it on valuable and secure assets such as new houses which keep bricklayers, plasterers, gardeners, plumbers and many more in healthy employment which in turn enables them to buy new homes, new cars and much much more so - before we bash the bonus culture lets respect what it does for not only the macro economy in the South but the economy as a whole.

And finally I am delighted to announce that from next month our blog will be written by the experienced and hugely respected property Oracle Phil Spencer from Location, Location, Location. Phil will go where others fear to tread and really try to give an insight into market trends, design trends and market conditions which ultimately affect all of us - welcome to the team Phil.

Gary Brine.

Reality is biting for sellers in the UK property market according to the Sunday Times property experts. Despite a slight recovery in the value of most homes right across the country, the usual New Year bounce hasn't happened and the Spring market seems to be fizzling out before it has begun. The experts state that there is no real reason for the slow down but one must believe that the general election and the thought of tough times ahead must have something to do with it. Many owners rushed to get their homes on the market at the start of the year and in some places (but not all) there is a significant amount of stock on the market with many people still expecting 2007 prices for their homes. At Aspire we recognise this and the property analyst who advises us on buying plots and selling units has some simple advice which we tend to follow:

  1. Don't take anything for granted when selling a home, showing a house at it's very best will maximise the possibility of getting the price you want.
  2. Make sure you have spent money on the things people really want when they buy a new or reconditioned home e.g. taps, light switches, door handles, new kitchen appliances, storage and toys!
  3. Todays homebuyer wants light and space downstairs and smart accommodation with lots of bathrooms upstairs. Don't knock down too many walls, but think en-suite when converting your home.
  4. The average 1930's house was built with little or no storage because people didn't have many possessions - roll forward 60 years and even our kids have suitcases. Make sure conversions have storage and at Aspire we make sure our new build homes have ample storage on every floor, especially for suitcases!
  5. Design is great but practical is where it's at - make sure you use the right materials for the right job and in the right place. At Aspire our pet hate is Travertine floors - Travertine is a grade three exterior marble, it has hundreds of imperfections and needs large amounts of filler to make it present well. The problem with filler is that it cracks when heated so DO NOT use Travertine floors on top of underfloor heating - it will end up costing you a lot of money in a few years.

With a little care and attention, and a relationship with an agent who understands exactly who should be buying a property and why, we believe that houses will still sell in 2010, for more information on Aspire's route to refurbishment and new build that guarantees success contact Gary Brine and he'd be glad to share our thoughts with you.