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House prices hit another record high in May with average now above £260k

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Property prices reached another record high in May, with the average home adding more than £3,000 of value in the last month alone.

The typical home is now worth nearly £262,000 according to the Halifax price index – this is £22,000 or 9.5 per cent more than in May 2020.

Prices increased by £3,000 or 1.3 per cent between April and May of this year alone, although that was slightly lower than the 1.5 per cent growth the previous month.

Bricks and mortar: The price of a home in the UK is now more than £260,000 according to the latest Halifax House Price Index: an increase of £22,000 year on year

Bricks and mortar: The price of a home in the UK is now more than £260,000 according to the latest Halifax House Price Index: an increase of £22,000 year on year 

Halifax, one of Britain’s biggest lenders, said house price inflation was now at its strongest level in almost seven years.

Wales saw the strongest price growth of any region, with prices having increased by 11.9 per cent in the last year.

It was followed by the North West and Yorkshire & Humber, both of which posted double-digit annual growth.

For Wales and the North West, these are the biggest percentage gains since April 2005, and for Yorkshire & Humber since June 2006.

All regions bar the North East saw an acceleration in year-on-year house price inflation last month.

However, the South is lagging somewhat behind the rest of the country. 

In Greater London, average prices are still 3.1 per cent higher than a year ago but growing more slowly than the rest of the UK.

This four-bed detached home in Lincoln is listed on Rightmove for £875,000

This four-bed detached home in Lincoln is listed on Rightmove for £875,000

A four-bed home in Stratford Sub Castle near Salisbury is listed for £795,000 on Rightmove

A four-bed home in Stratford Sub Castle near Salisbury is listed for £795,000 on Rightmove

In Heswall, Wirral, this five-bed home is on Rightmove with an asking price of £450,000

In Heswall, Wirral, this five-bed home is on Rightmove with an asking price of £450,000

This new-build, two-bed property near Buxton in Derbyshire is on Rightmove for £274,995

This new-build, two-bed property near Buxton in Derbyshire is on Rightmove for £274,995

In Hove, East Sussex, this two-bed home is listed on Rightmove for £475,000

In Hove, East Sussex, this two-bed home is listed on Rightmove for £475,000

In Bishop Auckland, County Durham, this four-bed home is on Rightmove for £215,000

In Bishop Auckland, County Durham, this four-bed home is on Rightmove for £215,000

This has been influenced by a trend towards moving away from cities and into more rural areas during the pandemic, linked to working from home.

House price rises in the last year have been boosted by these kind of lifestyle changes, as well as the Government’s stamp duty holiday which has eliminated the tax on the portion of a property purchase under £500,000, saving home buyers up to £15,000.

The threshold will be lowered to £250,000 on 1 July, and then back to the normal level of £125,000 on 1 October.

Some experts are predicting house prices will fall after this deadline – but Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax, is more bullish. 

‘Heading into the traditionally busy summer period, market activity continues to be boosted by the Government’s stamp duty holiday, with prospective buyers racing to complete purchases in time to benefit from the maximum tax break ahead of June’s deadline, after which there will be a phased return to full rates,’ he said. 

House prices have increased by 9.5 per cent in the last year, according to Halifax

House prices have increased by 9.5 per cent in the last year, according to Halifax

House prices are being driven up in part by a shortage of properties on the market

House prices are being driven up in part by a shortage of properties on the market

‘For some homebuyers, lockdown restrictions have also resulted in an unexpected build-up of savings, which can now be deployed to fund bigger deposits for bigger properties, potentially pushing property prices even higher.

‘Whilst these effects will be temporary, the current strength in house prices also points to a deeper and long-lasting change as buyer preferences shift in anticipation of new, post-pandemic lifestyles – as greater demand for larger properties with more space might warrant an increased willingness to spend a higher proportion of income on housing.

‘These trends, coupled with growing confidence in a more rapid recovery in economic activity if restrictions continue to be eased, are likely to support house prices for some time to come, particularly given the continued shortage of properties for sale.’

With the country tentatively unlocking and many families unable to go on foreign holidays, Nicky Stevenson, managing director of estate agent Fine & Country, is predicting the housing boom will continue throughout the summer. 

She said: ‘This market is moving so fast that if you blink, it increases in value. 

‘If the unlocking goes ahead later this month, this new blood, which until now has been cautious due to the pandemic, will enter the market and there will be even more buyers chasing the must-have properties of the year, namely detached homes with plenty of outside space. 

‘If the change to the stamp duty relief creates even a wrinkle in July that would come as a bit of a surprise.

‘The market normally has a lull in the summer months but, now almost all foreign holidays appear to be off, there’s nothing stopping the freight train that is unbridled demand from crashing straight through June, July and August.’

Cheap mortgage borrowing and a shortage of homes coming on to the market are also helping to push up prices.  

Tomer Aboody, director of property lender MT Finance, said: ‘Stamp duty holiday or not, the housing market has never been at this level before and will continue to be so while interest rates are so low. 

‘With buyers looking for more space, coupled with a lack of supply, multiple purchasers per property are pushing up prices to new highs.’

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Disenchanted? Surely not, as Enniskerry gets a magical Disney makeover

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The village of Enniskerry in Co Wicklow was en fete on Sunday afternoon with locals, tourists and film crew all mingling among flower-festooned buildings and pubs serving food in the open air.

The normally flowery-but-sedate village seemed to lose all sense of sedateness and go all-out-twee, as plastic garlands of wisteria flowers almost smothered real-life wisteria-clad houses facing the town’s iconic clock tower.

The clock tower itself, built by the 6th Viscount Powerscourt to commemorate the centenary of the 1743 creation of the first viscount, is already an ornate affair, built on a shamrock-shaped base. But for Disney which is filming Disenchanted, it was not enough. The clock tower was clothed in artificial shrubbery, more purple wisteria, bunting and its flower beds brimming with multi-coloured, plastic, daisies.

The entire looked across the square at a grand imperial building where, last week, no grand imperial building was located. Visitors posed for photographs in front of its granite-looking steps, just a blue line around the roof giving the game away.

Yellow roses were trailed through the iron railings of homes on the streets approaching the clock tower, while The Reluctant Dragon Tavern, a Tudor-looking structure, leaned perilously into the – suddenly cobbled – roadway. A small sign to one side announced: “Enniskerry Inn, business as usual”.

Ever more garlands

Indeed, with tables set out on the road in the sunshine and visitors eating and drinking as workers added ever more garlands seemingly to any structure that stood still, it was hard to know what was real and what had changed.

The local chemist was there, renamed The Village Cauldron, Potions, Notions and Lotions. Next door was Prince Ali’s Magic Carpet Shoppe, while across the road was Beauty and the Book. A house had been renamed “Ratatoothie”, and declared it was a dentist’s practice.

People work during the week on transforming Enniskerry village in Co Wicklow into part of the Disenchanted film set, where Disney are filming. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
People work during the week on transforming Enniskerry village in Co Wicklow into part of the Disenchanted film set, where Disney are filming. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

All afternoon, visitors and locals alike trailed through the centre of the village, cameras aloft or staring from cars as gardaí from the Roads Policing Unit tried to keep things moving.

Disney did not respond to requests for commentary on what was happening over several days. A local retailer said she could not say anything because “Disney have told us not to”.

“I can say Enniskerry will be closed next week from Monday, but I can’t say anything more than that – I don’t know anything more then that anyway,” she said. Two further businesses in the village declined the opportunity to comment.

Disenchanted is a sequel to the Disney movie Enchanted, featuring Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey as princess Giselle and divorce lawyer Robert Phillip. It follows on from Enchanted, which ended with the baddies destroyed, Giselle (Adams) married to Robert, and running a fashion business. But what happens then is seemingly the tightly guarded secret.

The village will be closed from June 14th to 18th, from 7am to 10pm, with other dates in July, and even “night shoots” towards the end of next month.

At another location, Erskine Avenue, in Greystones, a modest Arts and Crafts Edwardian home has also been given the Disney treatment, complete with turrets and masses of blossoms, and of course onlookers and a closed road. A local told The Irish Times “it was fun at first, but now I’m browned off”.

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Madison International Realty invests in London Salesforce Tower (GB)

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Madison International Realty has acquired a minority stake in the Salesforce Tower, London EC2, through a Jersey Property Unit Trust (JPUT), joining other investors including Heron International.

 

The 230-metre tower, completed in 2011 at 110 Bishopsgate, is an island site in the City of London and provides 441,000ft² of office space over 37 floors. The property is over 93% let to a range of tenants, the largest of which is Salesforce. The Salesforce Tower also has an outstanding food and beverage offering with Duck and Waffle and Sushi Samba at the very top and the Drift on the ground floor. The building has a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating for design.

 

The asset’s central location in the core of the City of London means it benefits from excellent transport connectivity, with Liverpool Street and Bank within a short walking distance. Similarly, there are a large number of new world-class food, drink and entertainment options nearby including the new Pan Pacific hotel adjacent at Heron Plaza and Eataly in Broadgate. In January 2021, an ING-led syndicate of lenders completed a €465.2m (£400m), five-year refinancing of the Tower.

 

Alex Lukesch, Managing Director at Madison International Realty commented on the investment: “This acquisition has allowed us to secure a stake in a prominent London office building, which we believe delivers space that meets the demands of modern occupiers looking for world-class offices in one of the world’s leading financial centres. The investment reflects our conviction in the ongoing resilience of the office sector and the role we believe it will play post-pandemic. We have observed that demand for quality, well-located space remains robust, while companies are increasingly looking for properties that also have strong ESG credentials to help meet their own sustainability targets. In Heron, we believe we have an experienced and highly regarded partner and we look forward to working with them on this venture.”

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Britain’s blossoming love for Japanese design in the home

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The design has a red lid and a narrow neck which widens to form a base of sturdy hips. When poured, the contents flow in a singular, uninterrupted stream.

The Kikkoman bottle hasn’t changed since it was designed in 1961 by Kenji Ekuan for the world’s largest soy sauce producer.

Simplicity has made it ubiquitous. And crucially, it works — think of wrestling with glass Heinz ketchup bottles or constantly wiping lids on plastic iterations. Likely, Kikkoman’s bottle is the reason we’re so familiar with soy sauce.

Serene: A contemporary Japanese-style sitting room. The country's influence can be seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes

Serene: A contemporary Japanese-style sitting room. The country’s influence can be seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes

In the introduction to her book Japanese Design Since 1945 (£35, Thames & Hudson), Naomi Pollock writes: ‘In Japan, good design is everywhere. But most of all, it’s in the home.’

The trend for Japanese-inspired, UK-based brands, such as Wagamama, Superdry and Yo! Sushi, is well worn, but the country’s influence is likely seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes.

Inspired idea 

The Japanese approach to design is summed up well by a single product – Muji’s right angle sock (from £3.50, muji.eu). 

As the foot is perpendicular to the leg, the sock should follow the shape of the body: design centres on the user rather than the designer.

The word ‘Muji’ translates as ‘without brand’ and the company invites (often renowned) designers to create reasonably priced products anonymously. 

Design guru Naoto Fukasawa is an adviser to Muji, and his wall-mounted CD player for the company (£149) is in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Naoto Fukasawa's butterfly-inspired Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair (£2,869, chaplins.co.uk)

Naoto Fukasawa’s butterfly-inspired Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair (£2,869, chaplins.co.uk)

In the UK, Chaplins stocks a large selection of products from Japan, including some from the designer.

‘The idea is to create designs that appear to have been sculpted by the elements,’ says Ludovic Aublanc, creative director at Chaplins. ‘It’s the kind of minimalism that brims with emotion, that makes you grateful and happy to come home.’

The company stocks Fukasawa’s butterfly-inspired Papilio range – chairs and sofas sporting headset ‘wings’ to protect the user’s head (Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair, £2,869, chaplins.co.uk).

Simple seating

Japanese designers have described the chair as the centre of design and an extension of the human form. It follows that these things should be easy on both the body and the eye.

Habitat’s Mori charcoal two-seater sofa (£716, habitat.co.uk) certainly fits the bill. It is compact, unfussy and elegant with its plush curved armrests and contrasting thin, wooden legs.

Simple unfinished woodwork is a key part of design in Japan, like the solid oak dining chairs from Oak Furnitureland (£140, oakfurnitureland.com) which would pair well with the Japanese oak Castor Table by Karimoku New Standard (£1,169, nest.co.uk).

Clutter free

Last year, decluttering guru Marie Kondo took the world by storm with her hit Netflix show. The programme has been talked of plenty, but we’re perhaps unaware of how key these principles are to Japanese design.

A large part of the focus on user-friendly products comes down to space. As ever, it’s important for Muji, with its storage bed (from £299) which has spacious drawers to banish clutter. Loaf has the Woody storage bed (from £995, loaf.com).

Simple boxy shelving units such as the Ikea Kallax range (from £15, ikea.com) are practical, but can also be used for displaying plants, books and records.

Or, for a modern twist, try the John Lewis Dice shelving unit bookcase (£450, johnlewis.com). The company also stocks Japanese brand Like-it’s clear storage products (from £8).

Crockery that rocks 

Japanese pottery has long been a feature of our homes, and a collection by John Lewis is a nod to this. Inspired by woodblock prints, the range includes glassware, plates, mugs and even Christmas decorations. 

It’s all delicate, bright patterns and the infuser mugs by Tokyo Design Studio (from £25) are a highlight.

But elegant motifs are only part of the story. The earthy charcoals, whites and beiges of Hasami Porcelain (hasami-porcelain.com) are a calming, elegant addition to any kitchen.

Hasami teapots start from £65 and mugs from £22 (la-gent.com) – also pick up a copy of Okakura Kakuzo’s The Book Of Tea, written in 1906, an insight into the Japanese ritual of tea-making. Elsewhere, an Oriental Hobnail tea set costs from £22.98 (wayfair.co.uk).

For eating, Denby Pottery has Japanese-inspired bowls from £58 for four in grey and white (denbypottery.com).

Finally, being able to serve Japan’s other favourite drink – the highball – is a must. Try LSA’s Mia Highball glasses (£27 for four, lsa-international.com) or, for something cheaper, a set of six Duralex Prisme highballs is £11.99 at rinkit.com.

Then grab a bottle of Akashi whisky (£28.50, waitrosecellar.com), add ice, stir clockwise 13 times, add soda water, stir again and appreciate another example of elegance and simplicity in Japanese design.

What your home really needs is… a Christmas throw

At this time of year, people fall into two groups: those who believe more is more, with bright lights and decorations aplenty; and others who keep things simple, with a few holly sprigs and a carefully adorned tree.

Yuletide luxury: You could use this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw, £99.50, all year round

Yuletide luxury: You could use this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw, £99.50, all year round

But whether you’re a maximalist or a minimalist, your home will need a Christmas throw because someone in your festive bubble is bound to complain about being cold.

If glitter is your thing, you’ll like the fleece star throw from Marks & Spencer (£25, marksand spencer.com). 

Or snuggle up under Dunelm’s red cable-knit design with a fleecey inside (£60, dunelm.com).

For something more fun, Redbubble has one that reads: ‘This is my Hallmark Christmas movie watching blanket’ (£34.73, redbubble.com).

Going low-key? How about a white and grey reindeer pattern with red pompoms (£40, barkerand stonehouse.com)? 

Or this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw , £99.50, notonthe highstreet.com), which you could use all year round.

Anne Ashworth 

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