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‘Half my stuff got stuck in Milton Keynes’: Removal firms struggle to cope with stamp duty rush

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Blackbirds and starlings are singing. Over the fields in the distance I can see the July morning sunlight glinting on a sandy bay.

It’s the first day in the farmhouse we have just bought in the Scottish Borders; a dream come true, frankly.

And yet I am stressed as hell. I moved on Wednesday, but only half my stuff arrived at the new house. It wasn’t until 6pm that I learned that the rest was in a lock-up 300 miles south in Milton Keynes and it wouldn’t be arriving for a further 48 hours.

On the move: As many as 100,000 people are moving house each month; paying on average about £1,200 to use a removal service

On the move: As many as 100,000 people are moving house each month; paying on average about £1,200 to use a removal service

So I am writing this with the computer perched on a packing case. As for the kitchen table, three legs are propped in a corner. 

I heard one of the removal guys saying they hoped the fourth was on the other van. I hope so, too.

I have got off lightly. Up and down the country the national blood pressure has reached an unprecedented high level this week as homeowners rushed to complete their transactions and moves before the stamp duty ‘holiday’ ended yesterday.

There simply are not enough removal companies to cope. As many as 100,000 people are moving house each month; paying on average about £1,200 to use a removal service. 

The median distance moved by UK homebuyers in 2020 was 10 miles, an increase of 1 mile from the 2019 average.

It’s estimated that every 100 miles adds £100 to the bill. A light has been shone on the removals business and what it reveals is not always pretty. My removals team arrived about 4pm and finally left just before eight.

I had a testy conversation with the ‘team leader’ before he left about the ‘missing’ truckload of stuff. I was just getting into my stride when a thought occurred: ‘Hang on, are you driving back tonight?’

They were. Another six hours on the road. I let him go. For all the stress we housemovers are under, spare a thought for the people shifting the boxes.

May their bonuses reflect the incredibly hard graft they are putting in; pretty cheerfully, in my team’s case.

‘I have never seen a period like the last ten days,’ says Raz Hussein, owner of the removal company I used, Daniel Adams of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

In demand: But there simply are not enough removal companies to cope with the high number of people moving home

In demand: But there simply are not enough removal companies to cope with the high number of people moving home

Ian Studd, director general of the British Association of Removers (BAR), has a bleaker message: ‘Many moves may not have been completed by the stamp duty deadline. There was not sufficient availability to cover the demand.’

BAR has 450 UK removals companies on its books, completing 280,000 home moves in Britain during an average year.

Yes, I can hear the bleak laughter from hundreds of frustrated movers. ‘Ahh, you’re missing a leg from your kitchen table. Poor you.’

At least my deal went through smoothly and I got a removal company.

Pressure has been building up in the property chains for weeks as solicitors triaged clients. Only after exchange can you confirm your contract with the removers.

I was moving the contents of a large house 360 miles north. It suddenly looked as if there’d be no one to move us. 

Tips for a smooth house move 

  • Ask for evidence of professional qualifications (eg membership of a removals trade body).
  • Carry out due diligence on who you may be inviting into your home. British Association of Removers’ (BAR) membership can be verified by clicking on Trading Standards’ TSI logo found on members’ own websites.
  • Ask for references.
  • Look for feedback reports and customer reviews.
  • Always get a minimum of two quotations. Quotes must be considered on a like-for-like basis (i.e. Is the service provision described exactly the same) and not simply on the price at the bottom of the page.
  • Check the T&Cs for potential additional charges and how/when they may be incurred.
  • Allow sufficient time for all of the above to happen and a formal contract offer to be made and accepted.
  • Finally, don’t move on a Friday (everyone else does).

But Daniel Adams came through. The question remains: have companies such as these grasped at every piece of business they can without considering whether their logistics can cope?

Raz Hussein denies this. He says the extra pressure ‘was not about how many jobs we took on, but the date changes that customers were experiencing due to chains trying to complete before June 30.’

Daniel Adams chose not to belong to the BAR. ‘It’s a paid subscription and we opted not to be members,’ says Hussein.

Ian Studd thinks it’s not always a question of fees. He says the BAR rigorously audits every company it deals with. Not all satisfy the selection criteria and some companies are asked to leave. He continues to ‘bang the drum’ about the lack of regulation in the removals industry.

‘There is nothing to stop a person buying a transit van today and calling themselves a removals expert tomorrow. This can leave the consumer at risk of being ‘gazumped’ at short notice.’

He also points out that I chose his company even though they are not BAR members. Well, at that stage I didn’t have much choice.

What will I do next time?

Outside the window, the lambs bleat and a deer leaps gracefully through a dewy field. It feels like the forever home. Just as well. I’m not going through all this again.

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Homes near Elizabeth Line see asking prices double in a decade

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Asking prices for properties for sale near stations on London‘s new Elizabeth Line have more than doubled in a decade, new research has revealed.

Many areas near stations on the capital’s new high-speed line were previously less well connected to key commuter hubs, such as Liverpool Street or Paddington stations.

But they have seen a surge in property asking prices amid new interest from homebuyers and tenants due to the better transport links that the Elizabeth Line provides.

REVEALED: The asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

REVEALED: The asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Elizabeth Line hotspots: This two-bed flat in London's Windmill lane is o.2 miles from Maryland station and is for sale for £395,000 via Filtons estate agents

Elizabeth Line hotspots: This two-bed flat in London’s Windmill lane is o.2 miles from Maryland station and is for sale for £395,000 via Filtons estate agents

The new figures from Rightmove revealed the extent to which asking prices have risen in local areas around Maryland, Abbey Wood and Stratford stations.

Maryland Station in Newham, which provides an additional option for those commuting near well-connected Stratford, has seen the biggest jump in asking prices.

They have more than doubled compared to ten years ago, rising 108 per cent from £233,480 to £486,235.

This compares to the London average increase over the past ten years of 55 per cent.

About half a mile from Abbey Wood station is this two-bed flat for sale for £235,000 via Your Move estate agents

About half a mile from Abbey Wood station is this two-bed flat for sale for £235,000 via Your Move estate agents

Rightmove has identified the asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Rightmove has identified the asking price hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Meanwhile, Rightmove revealed that total buyer demand has risen the most in western areas, while prices and competition has risen most in eastern areas.

Twyford, at the end of the western section of the line and the next stop along from Reading, has seen the biggest jump in the number of buyers contracting estate agents.

Numbers have more than tripled compared to 10 years ago, up 245 per cent.

Those looking to buy near Abbey Wood station, at the end of the South East section of the line, face the stiffest competition from other buyers.

Competition in that area has soared more than nine times and is up 869 per cent.

Rightmove has identified buyer demand hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

Rightmove has identified buyer demand hotspots around the new Elizabeth Line stations

The increase in buyer competition compared to ten years ago around the new Elizabeth Line has been revealed

The increase in buyer competition compared to ten years ago around the new Elizabeth Line has been revealed

Near Custom House station: This two-bed house is for rent for £1,700 a month via Outlook lettings agents

Near Custom House station: This two-bed house is for rent for £1,700 a month via Outlook lettings agents

The rental hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line station have been revealed

The rental hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line station have been revealed

It is a similar story along the Elizabeth line for tenants as many look to balance their commute into London with where they can afford to rent.

Average rents in London have reached a new record of £2,195 a month, up 14 per cent compared to this time last year.

Southall has seen the biggest increase in the number of tenants contacting letting agents compared to ten years ago, more than quadrupling, up 372 per cent.

However, asking rents near Southall station are lower than nearby Hanwell or Ealing.

Asking rents have increased the most in western stations Slough, up 44 per cent, and Burnham, up 43 per cent, while those looking to rent near Custom House station face the most competition from other tenants.

Slough is among the asking rent hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line stations, with the average asking rent up 44 per cent during the past ten years

Slough is among the asking rent hotspots along the new Elizabeth Line stations, with the average asking rent up 44 per cent during the past ten years

One of the new stations built for the Elizabeth Line - Custom House - has seen competition increase 3270 per cent compared to ten years ago

One of the new stations built for the Elizabeth Line – Custom House – has seen competition increase 3270 per cent compared to ten years ago

Custom House, one of the new stations built for the Elizabeth Line and benefitting from significantly lower travel times into Central London, has seen competition increase by a staggering 33 times, up 3270 per cent compared to ten years ago.

Tim Bannister, of Rightmove, said: ‘As the Elizabeth Line opens, it does so with a backdrop of record rents in London, a rising cost of living and a shortage of available homes.

‘Areas further out from central London that have lower asking prices or rents, but are now more easily commutable will be attractive to new buyers and tenants in search of somewhere affordable to live near the capital.

‘Not only this, but new working from home patterns since the pandemic started two years ago will have many people weighing up whether they are prepared to commute from further away if they need to do so less often.’

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National Maternity Hospital decision is a welcome sign of the Government’s backbone

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The Government’s decision to proceed with the building of the new National Maternity Hospital is a welcome sign that the Taoiseach and his Ministers are willing to face up to the Opposition, the social media mob and assorted objectors on an issue of major national importance.

One of the weaknesses of the Coalition since it took office in June 2020 has been a tendency to run scared in the face of contrived outrage, usually fomented by a combination of Opposition politicians and vested interests, often mistakenly portrayed as representing public opinion.

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URW rolls out Westfield brand to three new destinations

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Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) unveiled plans to rebrand three flagship centres, rolling out the Westfield brand to Parquesur in Madrid, Taby Centrum in Stockholm, and Galeria Mokotow in Warsaw this fall. The rebranding continues the expansion of the Westfield brand in Europe as the company drives new revenues through media advertising and brand experiences, turning its huge footfall of 550 million visits across its European assets into a qualified audience, while also leveraging the Westfield brand’s significant value to retailers, who see over 20%2 higher sales at URW’s centres even when compared to other A-category malls.

 

The flagship destinations share a number of characteristics in addition to being among the most important retail centres in their respective markets: they are set in excellent locations with unrivalled transport options, have distinctive architectural and design features and a best-in-class approach in terms of customer experience, community engagement, and sustainability practices. To celebrate the launch of the Westfield brand at these assets, each destination will host festive consumer events which will be announced later this year.

 

Caroline Puechoultres, Chief Customer Officer of URW, said: “The rebranding of these centres continues our strategy to expand Westfield to Flagship European destinations in the wealthiest cities and catchment areas. The significant opportunity afforded to both retailers and brands by this increasingly digitally linked network of destinations is unparalleled – through Westfield our partners can reach tens of millions of European consumers, driving new possibilities in advertising, brand marketing and retail.”

 

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