The High Court recently ruled that picturesque St Ives in Cornwall can keep its ban on ‘outsiders’ buying new-build second homes. A local referendum found that 80 per cent of residents in the pretty seaside town would prefer to reserve new homes for full-time residents only.
One in four properties in the town are now second homes or holiday lets – a 70 per cent increase in the last decade – with some empty for parts of the year. The average house price in the town is £324,000, some 18 times the normal wage.
This is an issue replicated around the country. In 2005, the sale of new homes and barn conversions in the Yorkshire Dales was restricted to people who already live or work there and the Peak District imposed a similar ban some 10 years previously.
If you’ve ever visited wonderful but grid-locked St Ives in the height of summer you’d be hard pressed to work out how any more residents could squeeze in to those empty properties.
Nevertheless, the newly imposed rule has led some commentators to question whether the Cornish are doing enough to keep out ‘Emmets’, as incomers are called. One online parody suggested that a Trump-esque wall be built across the county border, with Devon residents paying for it!
It’s not just a problem for coastal communities. More than 25 per cent of properties in the City of London are second homes and most would agree that high-rolling international buyers are raising property prices beyond the norm.
Second home dwellers are also a key target for revenue-raising ‘initiatives’ from the Treasury. Higher stamp duties on second homes or buy-to-lets have been introduced together with a staged withdrawal of the mortgage interest relief that landlords can claim making property investment less attractive.
And yet we still hear ‘you can’t go wrong with property!’ There is no doubt that many have made considerable sums from property in the last few decades but with typical rental yields now only reaching around five per cent, it is no longer an easy money-spinner.
Some of us invest in a holiday home because we love the location and go out of our way to boost the local community and economy as much as we can. On the Isle of Wight, I am officially an ‘Overner’ but would happily live there full-time if work allowed. I just hope the locals don’t build a wall.