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Meet the brave property investors who saw the pandemic as the perfect opportunity

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Britain’s property market boomed in the pandemic thanks to the stamp duty holiday, pent-up demand and a race for space. 

Buyers outstripped homes for sale by 20-to-one and average asking prices climbed every month between January and July to reach an all-time high of £338,447, according to property website Rightmove. 

And the red-hot housing market has delivered for a legion of ‘property flippers’ who buy a home in need of improvement, refurbish it quickly and sell it on within 12 months. 

Quids in: Natalie Duke hopes to make £200,000 profit on her Essex home

Quids in: Natalie Duke hopes to make £200,000 profit on her Essex home

Exclusive analysis of official data for Money Mail by estate agent Hamptons International reveals that close to 19,000 homes were ‘flipped’ during the pandemic — and three-quarters sold for more than they were bought for, earning investors an average profit of £48,190. 

Many flippers were driven by the chance to save up to £15,000 after Chancellor Rishi Sunak scrapped stamp duty on the first £500,000 of property purchases until June 30. 

The tax-free threshold was pared back to £250,000 in July, but buyers in England and Northern Ireland can still save up to £2,500 before the holiday ends at the end of this month. 

Those who are buying a second home or an investment property, though, have to pay an extra 3pc on top of normal stamp duty rates. 

John Howard, a property developer and investor with 40 years’ experience, says: ‘Every property boom is slightly different. This boom is unique because it is self-made due to the stamp duty holiday and incredibly low interest rates. 

‘And families have been stuck at home, saving more, which means they can bring forward plans for five or ten years in the future to now.’ 

Bullish approach: Joe Robertson, pictured with partner Polly, made a £45,000 profit by buying and selling a house in the pandemic

Bullish approach: Joe Robertson, pictured with partner Polly, made a £45,000 profit by buying and selling a house in the pandemic

So investors bold enough to buy a bargain property in early 2020, when most other buyers were too nervous to make an offer, are now selling to a hot housing market full of househunters armed with cash savings. 

Natalie Duke may have become a property flipper by accident in the pandemic. 

The mother of two sold her home near Hampstead in North-West London to move out of the city. Natalie, who has worked on property interiors for the past 20 years, wanted more space, so she moved to a five-bedroom, Grade II-listed Georgian farmhouse in Saffron Walden, Essex, which she bought for £1.07million. 

I EARNED £45K DOING NOTHING 

Joe Robertson made a £45,000 profit by buying and selling a house in the pandemic — and he didn’t even have to carry out any renovations. The property surveyor caught the flipping bug after fully remodelling his own home and making £125,000 profit. 

So he decided to buy two more properties when the housing market reopened in May 2020. ‘I was very bullish,’ says the 31-year-old from Manchester. 

‘I like to go the opposite way to the market. But it’s not because I’m reckless, it’s down to research.’ 

Joe, who lives with his partner Polly Egan, 31, bought a three-bed semi-detached house in the suburb of Northenden for £205,000 in need of a full refurbishment; and another in Chorlton with 1960s decor for £320,000. 

He says: ‘I had an exit plan if property prices crashed, as some people feared. Having been a landlord in the past, I planned to rent them out. ‘I’d also heard whispers about a stamp duty holiday, which I thought would stabilise the market. So I was confident but also scared.’ 

But when Joe priced up the work needed on the Northenden house, he could see his hoped-for profit margin begin to shrink. He says: ‘The builders’ quotes were going up because everyone wanted home improvements.’ 

So Joe asked a local estate agent for advice. He says: ‘They told me to do nothing and put it back on the market, priced at £250,000. I accepted an offer for the asking price in two weeks.’ 

She spent the past seven months renovating it, spending about £100,000 and turning it into ‘a completely different house’. 

She has now decided to put it on the market and hopes to make at least £200,000 profit. Natalie, 59, bought the bigger house thinking her children, who were both furloughed during the pandemic, could live with her if they needed to. 

She says: ‘But now things have settled and they are back on their feet again. So while I didn’t set out to flip the property, I may do now.’ 

Saif and Gina Derzi, both 29, bought a three-bed detached house in Lincoln at the start of 2020, just before lockdown measures were introduced. It cost £172,000 with an 80pc bridging loan from Together Finance, and they spent around £90,000 doing it up. 

They sold the property in September to a cash buyer for £275,000 but Saif says if they had waited, they could have got perhaps £25,000 more. 

Saif, who lives in Lincoln, says that the cost of building materials has risen significantly over the past few months, as has the price of properties. 

He adds: ‘All of a sudden, everyone wants to be a developer. Over lockdown many people found they had more cash as they were spending less, and it created a market for people wanting to take on a project. Derelict properties are like gold dust.’ 

Higher taxes for buy-to-let landlords also mean property investors are turning to flipping. 

Jo Breeden, managing director of mortgage broker Crystal Specialist Finance, says: ‘Since tougher taxation rules came in that reduced landlords’ profits, flipping has become more popular. ‘The number of flipping transactions we’ve arranged has increased by 40pc in each of the past four years.’ 

But experts warn that when the furlough scheme and stamp duty holiday end, the market will reset. 

Early signs of a slowdown have already emerged, as annual growth fell from 8.7 pc to 7 pc between June and July, according to Halifax. 

Yet while sellers may be less enthusiastic about a market slowdown, it could pose more opportunities for property flippers to haggle with homeowners over house prices. 

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Fraser to attend Oireachtas committee on Zappone controversy

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The State’s highest ranking civil servant will appear before an Oireachtas committee to explain the circumstances around the now-scrapped appointment of Katherine Zappone as special envoy.

The secretary general of the Department of Taoiseach Martin Fraser will appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs next week.

Members of the committee are expected to ask Mr Fraser to explain in detail when precisely Ms Zappone’s name was communicated to the Department of the Taoiseach.

Controversy erupted in late July over an attempt by Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to appoint Ms Zappone as a special envoy for freedom of expression and LGBTQ+ rights.

On Monday, former minister Zappone turned down an invitation to appear before the committee to discuss the matter.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was not aware of plans to appoint her before they came before Cabinet just before the summer recess.

Moreover, Fianna Fáil has disputed a claim from Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s that Ms Zappone was named as a UN special envoy in a memo sent to the Taoiseach’s office the day before the Cabinet discussed the proposed appointment.

“The memo with the name of Katherine Zappone was in the Taoiseach’s office, the day before the Cabinet meeting,” Mr Varadkar said earlier this month.

“Notwithstanding that, Simon Coveney and I had a responsibility to flag that to him as a Minister, me as a leader in Government, there should be good faith and no surprises, and I’ve spoken the Taoiseach about that, and apologised.”

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath disputed this and said that an “under the arm memo” sent to the office of the Taoiseach the day before the Cabinet meeting on July 27th did not mention Ms Zappone.

Mr Fraser’s decision to appear before the committee means the controversy will continue into another week.

Mr Fraser, who has been secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach for a decade, is to move from Government Buildings late next year to become the Irish ambassador in London.

In mid-September, the Dáil voted confidence in Mr Coveney by 92 votes to 59.

Separately, Mr Varadkar has now sought to downplay reports of a “sting” operation arising from the Zappone affair, whereby a junior minister reportedly gave false information to a senior minister during a phone call, which then made its way to a journalist.

The Tánaiste said he had spoken with Patrick O’Donovan, reportedly the junior minister involved, but said he had not been shown text messages arising from the “sting” and that “there have been no confrontations” about it.

“He’s shown me no text messages or anything like that. This is an internal matter that will be dealt with within Fine Gael,” Mr Varadkar said. “I’m aware of what’s been reported and I’ve spoken to all the Fine Gael cabinet Ministers about this.”

Asked whether Ms Zappone should attend or otherwise respond to written questions from the Oireachtas committee, Mr Varadkar said it was a matter for her and the committee, arguing the Government had “moved on”.

Speaking in New York on Monday, the Taoiseach also sought to draw a line under the controversy, saying Ms Zappone was a “private citizen”. Mr Martin said: “As far as I’m concerned we’ve had enough debate about it now.”

“This was in effect, an under the arm memo which means it is brought to Cabinet on the morning of the Cabinet meeting itself and that was the first time that the name Katherine Zappone was with the Taoiseach and with all of the other Cabinet colleagues so that is certainly the case.”

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How much it costs to buy near new Nine Elms and Battersea tube stations

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Two new Underground stations opened this week – Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station.

But while the areas feature lots of new housing for London, people looking to move to there and jump on the Tube’s extended Northern Line will pay a hefty price tag.

The average price of a house in Nine Elms is £726,131, according to Zoopla, but they have got cheaper. This is a drop of more than 6 per cent on a year ago, the equivalent of £50,000. 

But that average price doubles to £1,501,091 once you narrow a buyer’s search area from the wider Nine Elms area to just the Nine Elms development site, which is the new housing just south of the River Thames. 

And there’s the opportunity to spend much more – among the three homes we found below in the location was a flat in Battersea Power Station for £16million.

A luxury penthouse high up on the eleventh and twelfth floors of Battersea Power Station is for sale for £16million with estate agent Copperstones - see more details below

A luxury penthouse high up on the eleventh and twelfth floors of Battersea Power Station is for sale for £16million with estate agent Copperstones – see more details below

Two new Underground stations have opened this week: One at Nine Elms and the other at Battersea Power Station

Two new Underground stations have opened this week: One at Nine Elms and the other at Battersea Power Station

Buyers looking at the Nine Elms development will need a typical budget of £1.5m, according to property website Zoopla

Buyers looking at the Nine Elms development will need a typical budget of £1.5m, according to property website Zoopla

Billions of pounds of investment have been pumped into the area in recent years, including through the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station.

The decommissioned coal-fired power station is now luxury flats and penthouses – while there has also been the building of a new US Embassy in Nine Elms.

Despite the recent falls in average house prices near the stations, property experts suggest that values will rise, at least in the surrounding areas.

Billions of pounds of investment have been pumped into the Nine Elms area in recent years, including through the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station

Billions of pounds of investment have been pumped into the Nine Elms area in recent years, including through the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station

Buying agent Henry Pryor said: ‘While some might expect the new stations to be full of people fleeing the Nightmare on Nine Elms Street, these new infrastructure nodes are really going to give the area a genuine lift.

‘Lower Chelsea and the area around Battersea Park may well see prices bumped up by as much as 10 per cent, even if many buyers in SW11 thought that they were high enough.’

We take a look at three properties for sale at Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms 

1. Two-bed flat, Battersea Power Station, £1.15m

This luxury flat is close to the Battersea Power Station Underground station, which opened this week in London

This luxury flat is close to the Battersea Power Station Underground station, which opened this week in London

The modern property is on the market for £1.15million and is being sold via estate agents Martin & Co

The modern property is on the market for £1.15million and is being sold via estate agents Martin & Co

Inside, there is an open-plan living area with a fully-fitted kitchen, while outside there is a covered and tiled private balcony

Inside, there is an open-plan living area with a fully-fitted kitchen, while outside there is a covered and tiled private balcony

There are two bedrooms, including the main one boasting an en-suite shower room and room for a baby's cot

There are two bedrooms, including the main one boasting an en-suite shower room and room for a baby’s cot

There is also a smaller balcony at the rear of the flat that overlooks the railway tracks that carries commuters in and out of central London

There is also a smaller balcony at the rear of the flat that overlooks the railway tracks that carries commuters in and out of central London

This luxury two-bedroom flat is in the redeveloped Battersea Power Station and has an asking price of £1.15m.

It has an open-plan living area with a fully-fitted kitchen and a large private balcony.

Residents have access to a library, private cinema, communal gardens, a gym, swimming pool and a concierge service. The flat is being sold via estate agents Martin & Co.

2. Six-bed penthouse, Battersea Power Station, £16m

The modern interiors include designer crittall-style doors and walls, which are made from many panes of glass

The modern interiors include designer crittall-style doors and walls, which are made from many panes of glass

The property has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms - including this one with a cooper bath -, a roof terrace and two parking spaces

The property has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms – including this one with a cooper bath -, a roof terrace and two parking spaces

The penthouse boasts far-reaching views from the private balcony across the River Thames and towards the city

The penthouse boasts far-reaching views from the private balcony across the River Thames and towards the city

The London penthouse has a hefty price tag and is being sold via estate agents Copperstones for £16million

The London penthouse has a hefty price tag and is being sold via estate agents Copperstones for £16million

This luxury penthouse is on the eleventh and twelfth floors of Battersea Power Station, with views across the River Thames and the capital.

It has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a roof terrace and two parking spaces.

You’ll need deep pockets to buy it due to its £16million price tag. It is being sold by estate agents Copperstones.

3. Three-bedroom flat, Nine Elms, £3.95m

The three-bedroom flat is in the Ambassador Building in Nine Elms and has a light interior with walnut parquet flooring

The three-bedroom flat is in the Ambassador Building in Nine Elms and has a light interior with walnut parquet flooring

The luxury home has floor to ceiling windows and is being sold via estate agents Johns & Co with an asking price of £3.95m

The luxury home has floor to ceiling windows and is being sold via estate agents Johns & Co with an asking price of £3.95m 

The famous Sky Pool floats 10 storeys up between two skyscrapers at the Embassy Gardens development in London

The famous Sky Pool floats 10 storeys up between two skyscrapers at the Embassy Gardens development in London

This flat is in the Ambassador Building in Nine Elms at the Embassy Gardens development – home to the Sky Pool.

It is three bedrooms, walnut parquet flooring, marble work surfaces and floor to ceiling windows.

It has an asking price of £3.95m and is being sold via estate agents Johns & Co.

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What to expect in Budget 2022? Small tax cuts and modest welfare increases

Voice Of EU

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Public spending may have rocketed over the past 20 months due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic but it appears that tax cuts and welfare increases will be on the table nonetheless when the Government sets out its budget on October 12th.

As Tánaiste Leo Varadkar recently said, there will be tax measures aimed at “middle-income people in particular”, as well as a welfare package to offset the impact of the rising cost of living.

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