The year is coming to a close and it’s time to reflect on our coverage of property news within and outside the business. In this post we give you a handy look at major events in the industry this year, plus links to the articles that covered those events. We hope you find it interesting, relevant, and a reminder that you can find all the information you need by simply visiting our news page! 2015 has been a big year for Martin & Co. After the Group’s acquisition of the Legal & General Property Franchise we were faced with the exciting challenge of consolidating the management of four new brands under one roof and building on our personal current position in the market. The first big opportunity came in April. Significant pension reforms allowed many people reaching retirement age to take total control of their pension pots, opening up brand new opportunities for investment. The bulk of media attention targeted buy-to-let. As a lettings specialist we were more than ready to pass commentary on the options that presented themselves to would-be investors, and we published 11 reports (including for the UK as a whole) that described, in great deal, the possible and potential returns from your property investment around the UK – which could reach 13.2pc a year. The reports were a hit. We successfully positioned ourselves as a thought-leader on the subject of lettings investment and over 90% of our enquiries about the reports came from people specifically looking to invest in buy-to-let properties. Up to this part of the year, most agents struggled. Buyers didn’t want to commit to deals because Labour had promised to change many taxes if they were elected. However, the Conservative’s landslide victory brought an end to the caution surrounding the property market. Prices quickly started increasing and momentum shifted. Since the election, Martin & Co more than doubled their sales per instruction (from .21 sales per instruction in January to .47 in August). In June we were awarded Silver for Franchise of the Year in The Sunday Times Awards, following consecutive Silvers for Lettings Agency of the Year in 2013 and 2014. The goal next year is obvious – go for Gold! July and August were a scary time for landlords, but it took a while for everyone to untangle the implications of the Chancellor’s summer budget. The proposal, to alter tax breaks for landlords by 2020. The result, landlords being taxed on profit they don’t have. However, we surveyed 4,000 landlords after the budget and found that 44% of them planned on expanding their portfolios – even after news of the tax reforms. Meanwhile the recovery of the housing market continued. The issues became very clear though – the Conservative’s extension of Right-to-Buy meant that an already diminished housing supply was likely to decay further. It was at this time the experts started noting the rapid increases in rents and house prices, and the unaffordability of purchasing. Indeed, it seems that both renting and buying are too expensive, it is just that renting is “less too expensive”! August brought with it the first set of winners in Martin & Co’s Recommend a Friend scheme. Each winner was rewarded with £1,000 of Virgin holiday vouchers for referring a friend to Martin & Co. One of the best stories was about a referred client at our Stafford branch, who invested £80,000 in three properties, and then generated another referral after his positive experience with the office. But things in the property industry were still serious. September had no shortage of legislative confusion, as brand new Section 21 guidelines were released just three weeks before going live. Martin & Co also took the opportunity to analyse investment activity since April’s pension reforms – and it turned out wealthy pensioners were satisfied with not having to buy a pension annuity. As understanding grew, the reactions to the Chancellor’s summer budget became more panicked. Landlords finally realised that their buy-to-let investment was at risk of making significant losses in the coming years, and mortgage interest plus tax paid would wipe out profits. Add a possible bubble in London, and people started questioning their investments. However, all was not what it seemed. Remortgaging was way up, and we found that the number of people renting is only going to increase, not to mention the fact that rent itself if bound to increase, too. Landlords aren’t leaving the market – in fact, they’re preparing for the future! October was cause for personal celebration. MartinCo PLC started trading under the rebranded Property Franchise Group, giving equal balance to all five of our brands – CJ Hole, Ellis & Co, Martin & Co, Parkers, and Whitegates – but more importantly positioning us as the largest multi-brand property franchising specialist in the UK. For more information, please see The Property Franchise Group’s website. November came, and our share price broke the 200p mark for the first time. We also published a new set of market intelligence reports to give investors a new way of looking at the sales and lettings markets. In terms of lettings, we measured tenant demand increase across England (21pc), Scotland (77pc) and London (43pc). Our sales data includes specific data on the best locations to invest in five categories: Northern Powerhouse, Commuter, Seaside, University, and Tech Growth. They will be available on the website soon and will give you the knowledge to inform your future investment choices. December, and the final month of the year was supposed to be a time of legislation. However, the chancellor’s budget once again targeted the property industry – a 3pc surcharge on stamp duty for second homes was introduced, due to go live in April 2016. The response was unsurprisingly one of shock and disappointment. After the curve ball of tax relief changes in summer, having consecutive budgets directly target landlords wasn’t a welcome move. However, our CEO Ian Wilson moved quickly to dispel the frustration. “This intervention was a surprise, but not a catastrophic one. Buy-to-let is a market that is currently working extremely efficiently, with over 1,000 buy-to-let mortgage products available and 20pc of the population living in private rental accommodation. “Buy-to-let will continue to outpace other investments, including traditional pensions, and property will maintain its psychological and emotional advantages of being an easily understood, tangible asset. “The stamp duty surcharge is an unwelcome one but landlords will continue to benefit from financial flexibility and favourable mortgage rates. This is the lesser of evils and we expect the sector to pick up pace in the months leading up to the new surcharge going live.” Who know what is going to happen next year, but that brings us up to date with Martin & Co and the property industry. As always, if you have any questions about investments and sales, please contact your local Martin & Co office today for information.