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THE HOME FRONT: Property Paraphernalia


AROUND THE WORLD AND HOME OF HOMO SAPIENS: Welcome to a relaxed look at the global property market at the start of 2015.

Around The World The Hawkins Way is guaranteed to keep you informed and smiling – with some fascinating facts from around the home of Homo Sapiens.

The blog, Property Paraphernalia, is published in the first instance by Coventry and Warwickshire leading estate agents, Hawkins at


princeDON’T PANIC, YOUR HIGHNESS: An apartment, fresh on the New York housing market, comes with a very special add-on.

The property on the 5th, 6th, and 7th floors of the Heritage at Trump Place has been listed by Prince Nawaf bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud for an almighty price tag of £30million.

The pad, according to the Wall Street Journal, boasts four bedrooms, a hair salon, deluxe built-in saltwater aquariums and a bulletproof panic room on every floor.

A panic buy? Surely not . . .

chinaHOME RULE: Napoleon called us a nation of shopkeepers, although today he might think we’re the world’s greatest grocery store shoppers.

One aspect of our living not in doubt is that ‘home’ is at the heart of everything we do.

And, ironically, figures from a faraway source – China’s National Bureau of Statistics – reveals that the UK’s urban home ownership rates stand at an impressive 66.7 per cent.

So two thirds of Britons own, or are buying, their own homes in our towns and cities.

But our stat pales into insignificance behind China’s home rule revelations.

According to a study by the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, some 87 per cent of Chinese people own their own homes in the urban sprawls.

And this figure rises to 97 per cent for rural home ownership.

In the urban home ownership table – China leads the field ahead of the UK, followed by America, France, Japan, Korea and Germany.

11 love1ALL LOVED UP: There’s no doubting the impact the month of February has on the housing market.

The signs are clear that it’s now when people start to fall in love with a new home.

And if you’ve been thinking about making that move – there can be no better time to take advantage of the Valentine’s property bonanza.

The week after Valentine’s Day sees a definite uplift in interest, experts claim.

It’s probably down to the February 14 ‘Cupid’ effect because it’s the time when folk get engaged; move in together; and even split up!
Whatever the reason, the numbers of buyers and tenants increase and mortgage enquiries see a positive spring in the step.

immobBEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE: Here’s something for nothing which all ‘property owners’ should take a look at . . . and make your own minds up whether you want to proceed.

Immobilise is the world’s largest free register of possession ownership details.

Millions of users have mobile phones, bikes, computers, gadgets and other valuables recorded, helping the police fight property crime.

Membership of Immobilise helps the police identify the owners of recovered property thousands of times each day.

Property updates you make are immediately available to the Police nationally.

Combat the sale of stolen gadgets and valuables; alert the second-hand trade and publicly checkable stolen goods database if an item goes missing.

It assists simplify insurance claims and Police reports with certificates of ownership.

Both Warwickshire Police and the West Midlands Police forces support Immbolise.

Go to for more details.

2601aSAFE AS HOUSES: A private police force has been set up to safeguard homes in the UK for the first time.

And the cost of pounding the beat will be “measured in coppers”, according to its creators.

Retired Metropolitan Police officer Stewart Brown, 56, and ex-Hampshire officer Stephen Rowney, 50, will provide 24-hour cover of neighbourhoods with four other staff.

Wearing navy blue uniforms and driving a patrol car, they will report suspicious activity to Staffordshire police.

Homeowners in a trial scheme in the Hartshill and Penkhull areas of Stoke-on-Trent who pay the £1 weekly charge also get burglar and panic alarms linked to a rapid response unit.

Mr Brown, who served with the Met for 33 years, told the Metro newspaper: ‘We are offering a contract between the homeowners and ourselves to protect their homes and patrol the streets. This is another level of policing.”

2601bSEVENTIES’ CHIC: Glossy mags are proclaiming the return of the 1970s for style, design and furnishings.

There is a new enthusiasm, it seems, for pine dressers, cane hanging chairs and flares.

At least there is no double-digit INFLATION to worry us – rather the possibility of living with DEFLATION for some time to come.

2601cFAIRGROUND ATTRACTION: The world of dodgems, rifle ranges and hook-a-duck are moving from our playing fields to the home.
Neon lighting – normally found at the fairground – is turning up at the houses of the rich and famous.

At Christmas, it appears, celebrities such as Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham) gave her fashion-icon husband, David, a Tracey Emin neon heart with the words I Felt You and I Knew You Loved Me written inside it while last year model Kate Moss had her name fashioned out of vivid pink tube lighting (at a cost of £100,000) – to adorn her home in Highgate, north London.

app 1APP-LIANCE OF SCIENCE: There’s lots bubbling Down Under – and it’s all thanks to something that sounds as though it could have been invented by musical maestro Bob Marley.

Over the years people have suffered from missing out on a property they fancied – because of the price.

Well enter website RealAs, an Australian website that has a rather special app built for house-hunters who want to know the real value of any property.

Using an algorithm developed by machine-learning and data-mining academics at RMIT University in Melbourne, RealAs claims to predict property values within a FIVE per cent rate of accuracy.

Website chief executive Josh Rowe says even he was initially sceptical of the science behind the predictive algorithm.

“I didn’t believe the algorithm at first,” he admitted. “I literally thought that I was just applying some sort of percentage on top of the figure.

“It wasn’t until I went to an auction in my suburb. The house was listed for $600,000 – RealAs predicted $680,000 and it sold for $690,000.

The business was launched in August, but has already won a major innovation award, including a $40,000 cash prize.

Rowe says the start-up’s quick success has its investors hopeful of a global expansion. “We’d love RealAs to be the TripAdvisor of real estate . . . a platform where people can have discussions about property.

“We’d love to expand globally. A few people have emailed us from the US to ask us when we’re bringing it over there.”

Locally in Melbourne, RealAs takes on the likes of online property giant REA Group, which operates

But the start-up has a long way to go – it attracts 10,000 unique monthly visitors while gets 40 million monthly visits.

RealAs is already making money from advertising on its site, but Rowe says it has yet to break even on its $500,000 capital investment. However, the start-up’s investors are aiming to turn a profit within the first 12 months.

It is free for all users, who just need to register an email address and log in.

Experienced Melbourne estate agent Greg Hocking says the site is sure to change Australia’s real estate market.

01-620xHOUSE OF CARDS?: It’s not a reference to the famous 1990 BBC mini-series of the same name starring Ian Richardson as scheming Prime Minister-in-waiting Francis Urquhart (pictured) – reborn last year with actor Kevin Spacey taking the lead in an American version of the political thriller.

But it does belong to the category marked extraordinary . . .

In a new book Comic, Curious & Quirky: News Stories From Centuries Past, author Rona Levin pulls together some of the most bizarre tales to fill the columns of newspapers as far back as the 1700s – trawling the vast British Library archive for her material.

One such story she uncovers comes from the Leeds Intelligencer of July 23, 1853.

02 26 09 14 comic quirkyThe publication reports about an idea which, on the face of it, offered an eco-friendly and cheap solution for papering over the cracks of a housing shortage more than 150 years ago.

It reads: “Messrs. Bielefeld have commenced the manufacture of papier-mâché houses.

“The framework, the flooring, and the doors are of wood, but the rest is constructed of paper.

“A number of cottages, stores and villas have been erected at Messrs Bielefeld’s works at Staines; and a gentleman has purchased them as an investment for Australia, whither he is going.

“These buildings can readily be taken down, and re-erected in a few hours.

“They have hollow walls, so that damp is excluded; and tropical insects will not attack the paper, for the poisonous ingredients it contains.”

A flexible ‘house of cards’ then – giving a new meaning to the paper round?

04 paul_hollywoods_c04 rusty_83536_16x9AROMA HELPS HOME COSTA MORE: If you want to raise the value of your property when potential buyers come to view your pad – then stick on coffee machine or get baking.

That’s the great news from property experts who know that adding one and one beans together make five!

For filling your home with the aroma of freshly baked bread or just-brewed coffee can add around £849 to the sale price.

Getting rid of out the clutter could add £2,500 to the value of your home, a new survey says.

De-cluttering the house by removing bulky items to maximise space can push the value up by as much as 11 per cent, the survey by Big Yellow Self Storage found.

Freeing up space and de-personalising a home helps create a blank canvas and buyers can better imagine themselves living there

In fact, most estate agents say a minimalist approach to decor leads to homes selling for more – and 38 per cent insist it increases the price every time.

De-personalising a home by removing ornaments and photos is also likely to add value.

05 29 10 14 dirtySPRAY IT AGAIN: Estate agents regularly go the extra mile to impress a potential buyer.

From hiding “inappropriate objects” under the duvet and flushing the loo to opening windows and spraying air freshener to get rid of unpleasant smells – the caring property expert is there to help.

The estate agent wants to highlight the positive aspects of their vendor’s property and first impressions count, according to a study of 258 agents by Big Yellow Self Storage.

Research reveals estate agents are only too happy to undertake “less appealing tasks to make sure a property is presentable at the time of viewing”.

06 RUGSRUGS TO RICHES: Alessandro Isola has pulled the rug from underneath the genie’s lamp – to invent a rug that can turn into a settee.

The London-based architect hopes to transform the market with his ‘Stumble Upon Sofa’ – a nod to being inspired after perpetually tripping over his own carpet.

Normally that hump in the carpet would immediately be pulled straight or be stood on to regain its flat purpose, the 39-year-old designer explained explained on his project’s website. “But not in this case,” he added.

Instead, the rug is designed to be its own seating structure with supportive curves and ridges moulded with a carbon fibre core.

Padding was also added to make the sofa more comfortable, and there are built-in shelves that can hold books and display knick-knacks beneath the folds.

The dimensions can be custom-made to fit the home owner’s needs and will remain static once installed in the home, Isola’s studio told website Business Insider.

HOMING IN ON A BIG PURCHASE: Apart from entering the housing market or finding a new home, what other items will you consider buying in the coming year.

130212015 could be the year for seeing One Direction, the cricket world cup in Australia (starting next month) or the rugby world cup tournament – which begins in September in Britain.

Travelling to the Maldives might be on your agenda for the holiday of lifetime – or staying put and enjoying a great cinematic year with Hollywood producing a bumper crop of movies for 2015.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron is the star-packed continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe of superheroes featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor and Hulk. See them battle from April 24.

The original story of John and Sarah Connor’s fight against cybernetic killing machines takes a twist in the reboot Terminator: Genisys which goes on general release in the UK July 3.

spectreGuy Ritchie directs Man of Steel Henry Cavill as The Man From U.N.C.L.E from August 14 and the spy games continue with Daniel Craig in Spectre on November 6.

It’s back to basics for the seventh episode Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 18.

For lovers of the 1989 film Back To The Future II – there’s a chance hoverboards may make it into the shops (26 years late) or you might fancy Google glasses.

One purchase looks a stone certainty – updates on your mobile devices. Dates have not been released as of yet, but reports suggest the Samsung Galaxy S6 could be released as early as next month with front speakers for a better music experience and front camera with a flash as likely additions.

Apple are yet to announce the name of the new iPhone with options including (no prices for guessing) iPhone 6s and iPhone 7.

singaIRISH EYES ARE SMILING: Forget London and look westwards to the fair city of Dublin which, at the moment, is probably the hottest property market not just in Europe but the world.

In 2014, house prices went up by 16.3 per cent in Ireland and a whopping 24 per cent in Dublin.

“2014 was undoubtedly a fragmented year for the Irish property market. For the Dublin market, the year opened to very tight supply and pent-up demand, resulting in buoyant price inflation of 12.6 per cent in the first six months,” said Marian Finnegan, chief economist at property advisers Sherry FitzGerald.

Other hot property contenders include Turkey and the United Arab Emirates while, going in the opposite direction, Ukraine’s capital Kiev saw a 34 per cent fall in prices in 2014, compared with a 4.5 per cent increase the previous year.

Greece (-7.7 per cent) and Spain (-3.2 per cent) also suffered drops in their house prices during last year.

Meanwhile if you’re looking for a property portfolio in India, now is the time to buy.

New Delhi prices have fallen by as much as a third over the last 12 months as a pile-up of inventory and need for money turn many investors into desperate sellers.

NIRELANDMAKING GIANT STRIDES: First-time buyers are driving a welcome recovery in one of the UK’s hardest-hit regions over the last seven years.

Renewed confidence in Northern Ireland’s housing market has turned a generation of renters and ‘boomerangs’ into home starters.

At the peak of the property boom in 2007, NI house prices sat at NINE times the average salary – putting the prospect of owning their own home beyond the reach of many and an “impossible dream” for young people in particular.

A new generation of young renters sprung up, with house-sharing becoming the norm, and many others having no choice but to stay at home with their parents longer than they would have hoped, or move back in – the so-called ‘boomerang generation’.

After years of tumbling prices, the tables have now turned with the market bottoming out, encouraging more confidence among buyers and putting prices within the reach of young people once again.

Data compiled by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency calculates the average residential property price at £102,000 with growth in the market of seven per cent in the second quarter of this year, compared to the same time last year.

With prices now at a more normal four times the average salary, starter homes are easily within reach of the average earner and it is first-time buyers who are coming back in such large numbers – driving the market’s recovery.

Those seeking to buy starter homes account for 60 per cent of mortgage loans this year.

The Belfast Telegraph reports: “It is generally agreed among experts that a housing market recovery starts with first-time buyers entering the market and bringing stability to the price of starter homes.”

les getsSKI WHIZ: Snow is finally making its presence felt across the French Alps – with a subsequent flurry of interest in ski property.

The housing market is being helped by lenders in France.

Rates below three per cent were available in 2014 and the beginning of 2015 may herald even lower rates in France as the long term outlook for growth in Europe remains weak, according to some money experts.

Look out for Les Gets – near to Geneva Airport – Tignes les Brevieres and La Plagne which has fully furnished apartments available from December 2016.

TOP OF THE PROPS: 2014 was a massive year for high-end moves.

The most expensive home ever sold in the United States hit the record books last year while several famous properties also changed hands.

Billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch — still a go-getter at 83 — bought the penthouse triplex and the apartment on the floor below, taking over the 57th through to the 60th floors of the lavish One Madison address with panoramic views of the New York skyline. Price was a headline-grabbing £34million.

Still in New York, hedge fund manager Barry Rosenstein paid a record-breaking £90million for an 18-acre property in the town of East Hampton last April — the most expensive home ever sold in the US.

San Francisco, USA..DEEP POCKETS: Still in the ‘land of opportunity’ – you’ll need a better than average job to afford a property in downtown San Francisco.

The mortgage website has updated its estimate of how much annual income a household would need to buy a home in major cities in the US.

The site looked at average home prices from the National Association of Realtors, along with interest rates for common 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages and property taxes and insurance costs.

Here’s the bottom line.

San Francisco (population 777,660) is the “most expensive” city to buy property in the United States with New York in fourth place.

The average home price is $744,400 (£440,000) with a monthly mortgage payment of $3,391 (£2,350) and the annual salary needed to stay in the home of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the famous 49ers is $145,000 (£87,000).

‘BETTER THAN WINNING THE LOTTERY’:  Portugal’s property market is on the move after years of stagnation.

And in the residential sector, the revival can be laid squarely at the door of a “golden ticket” which is underpinning the market.

The residence permit for investment scheme or “golden visa” programme — a fast track for non-EU citizens, primarily through purchase of properties worth at least 500,000 euros — has been hugely successful.

In two years it has brought in one billion euros  — according to the Immigration and Borders Service — of which 80 per cent of the 1,775 permits have been issued to Chinese citizens.

germanTHE WORLD’S MOST: Three more awards were handed out as 2014 drew to a close.

London has overtaken Bangkok to regain its place as the world’s most visited city, according to MasterCard’s 2014 Global Destinations City Index.

The UK captial sees about 18.69 million international visitors annually, generating £12billion in revenue.

Singapore is the new champion of the world for “most expensive city to live in”, beating off Tokyo for the title. But house prices fell by four per cent last year – which was better than the predicted 20 per cent by some doom-mongers.

Cars can cost between four to six times in Singapore what they cost in the UK — a Toyota Prius is priced at about £90,000 there.

The Stan Boardman award for the world’s most popular country goes to Germany, as adjudged by the annual BBC World Country Rating Poll for its positivity among people under the age of 85.

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