A strong, fire-resistant fibre, asbestos was basically the most popular insulation against fire, noise and heat before the 1980s. After this time though, research and studies found that any material containing this fibre was dangerous; potentially fatally so.
While we know this now, the hazards of asbestos continue to cause us problems. Last June, this article on the BBC by the British Lung Foundation warned us that deaths from asbestos-related diseases will only peak in 2016. If that wasn’t worrying enough, they already kill more people (around 4,500) each year than road accidents in the United Kingdom.
It is true that the use of asbestos was at commercial properties more than domestic ones, but home owners and landlords must be vigilant to the potential problem in their properties. With asbestos-related diseases developing over time (anything from 15 to 60 years), it really is a tricky substance to understand and deal with but if you don’t then it may lead to things like lung cancer or leave you fighting mesothelioma compensation claims from the work carried out in the past.
Only completely banned in 1999, back in 2011 it was believed that half of the homes in the United Kingdom housed some form of the fibre. Any concerns or misunderstandings can be cleared up by reviewing the 2006 Control of Asbestos Regulations where it tells you who has the duty, what that is and how to comply.
Dealing with asbestos during renovations
Whilst it is usually advised to hire professionals to do any renovations to the home, asbestos checks should always be the first port of call. To do this, you need to find someone trained to check for and remove asbestos and get them to do a full check on the property – particularly if it is an older build.
The fibres don’t pose any problems if they are in a material that hasn’t deteriorated but once disturbed through anything from sanding to drilling to handling you have a major problem. You are responsible for the health and safety of anyone who does any refurbish or remodeling work on your home.
Where is asbestos often found?
From kitchen tiles to guttering, asbestos was that popular and cheap that has the potential to be anywhere in the property. The most common spot is when it was used for insulation on the roof. But, it is also often found on pipe, wire and boiler insulation as well as in cement and building structures.
With your whole property having potential to house asbestos, it is always recommended to have a professional check before any renovation plans. While the levels in buildings might not be enough to be particularly harmful, if you’ve already started renovations and find a problem you will have already lost both time and money.
Asbestos is a Royal problem
If you are wondering what the chances are of asbestos being so widespread that you need to check every property with a tooth comb then one look at the Queen and you’ll realise it is a problem we all face. Accounts from the Royals last year showed that Buckingham Palace, and particularly the south wing, had cost everyone a lot of money due to asbestos.
Around one million pounds was spent last year to strip the material and it is thought that more will be spent on completely eradicating this problem for the next two decades. Aside from the Queen’s residence, the Houses of Parliament may close for the removal of asbestos and other refurbishment while the famous King’s College at Cambridge University was found to carry asbestos as well.
The winter months are traditionally a quiet time of year for house moves, but if you are planning to relocate in 2013 now’s the time to start your research. There are so many elements that factor into making a place a desirable one in which to live – good schools, leisure facilities, transport links and security and community spirit.
Moving to a new area can be unnerving when you don’t know your way around, or any of the locals, as such security can be one consideration. Rushing into a move without exploring the neighbourhood or wider region could lead you to feel less than settled when you move in and in some of the worst cases, land you with a property that you are unable to sell on in the future. So, what kind of checks can you make to ensure you are moving into a safe neighbourhood?
In the first instance you can check the Policeuk website. Here you’ll find local crime statistics by street or area, so you’ll be able to identify if you are moving into a particularly troublesome neighbourhood. You can also find out what type of crimes are being committed in the area so that you can be prepared. For example, should there be a high instance of car break-ins you might concentrate your property search on homes with secure garages or if there have been a spate of burglaries, you could install a monitored alarm system.
This recently published interactive graphic from security specialists ADT is also a useful tool. It uses the firm’s statistics to show where and when their monitored alarms go off and highlights problem areas and times.
Of course, there are very few communities that remain completely crime-free and many good areas do suffer crime problems. Be sure to visit properties during the day and evening to get a more accurate feel for the area. Chat to neighbours and call into local shops to find out whether current residents are happy and friendly and ultimately help you decide whether it’s a community you’d like to be part of.
THIS ARTICLE IS AN ADVERTISING FEATURE FOR ADT ALARMS
With winter rapidly approaching, it might be a good time to improve the energy-efficiency of your home. Not only will this reduce your carbon footprint, but it could help you save money throughout the cold spell – so check out these five simple tips:
Take a look at your Energy Performance Certificate
If you have recently moved home, or were thinking of selling up, you might have access to a recent Energy Performance Certificate. This will include information about your property’s energy use and typical energy costs as well as recommendations about how to make your home more eco-friendly. Take a look at these suggestions, as you could find several ways to reduce your outgoings when the temperatures drop.
Arrange a boiler service
The cold weather is sure to set in over the next few months, so why not book a gas boiler service in good time? An approved engineer will make sure everything’s running properly and will replace any broken or damaged parts if necessary. If your boiler cover’s in date, don’t forget to check the conditions of the policy, because annual gas inspections are often included.
Switch to energy-saving light bulbs
If your house is lit up like Vegas throughout winter (particularly at Christmas), try to use energy-saving light bulbs. According to the Energy Saving Trust, compact flourescents are a great alternative to traditional bulbs and LEDs can replace 50W halogen downlighters – so see what you can find. While we are on the subject of lighting, try to turn all switches off when you leave a room and use candles and lamps whenever possible to reduce your energy output.
Insulate your home
Does your house get a little chilly from time-to-time? Are there cold winds blowing around? If so, take steps to insulate your home. Get hold of some self-adhesive sealant strips to close up gaps and buy special foam to spray between doors and windows. Once that’s done, fit draught excluders to your letterbox and underneath your doors and buy yourself a keyhole cover. A few small changes can make a big difference, so it’s worth taking action – sooner rather than later.
Bleed your radiators
If your radiators are warm at the bottom and cold at the top, there might be an air bubble trapped in the system. This blockage is called an airlock and can stop your central heating from working properly. To solve the problem, try bleeding your radiators by turning the bleed valve anticlockwise and waiting for the air to hiss out. Once water emerges, tighten everything back up and check things are working as they should be. Still having issues? Then ask your insurance company to send out one of their qualified heating engineers.
Winter is just around the corner, so do all you can to make your house energy-efficient.
This weekend’s Independent on Sunday contained one of the clearest explanations of the 2000 – 2008 Housing bubble that I have read. Two simple graphs: one showing the spike in ‘House price to average earnings ratio’ between 2002 and 2008 and the other showing a corresponding spike in ‘UK Net mortgage lending’.
The relationship between a huge net lending increase (credit creation) and house prices seems undeniable.
I won’t add any value with additional commentary so head over the the Independent website to read the full article:
In fact print it off and keep it in your purse/ wallet and hand it to any bubble deniers you encounter.
The Nationwide Building Society, who have been at odds with house price figures from other sources in the past have backed up the overall view that the market is in decline. The Society showed that property prices across the UK fell by 0.4% in September to an average figure of £163,964 and that the annual rate of decline now stands at 1.4%.
These statistics represent a small drop from that reported in August although the overall pattern will be causing concern in some quarters. However, the Nationwide are another organisation who are hopeful that the new Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) will shortly start to show a positive impact on the housing market.
Robert Gardner, Chief Economist at Nationwide said that the market had “been impacted by a number of one-off factors this year, such as the ending of the stamp duty holiday that cannot be controlled by the usual process of seasonal adjustment”.
“For this reason the annual rate of house price change is a better guide to the state of the market at present. On that basis, the housing market remains fairly stable, with prices 1.4% lower than September 2011.”
Nationwide were one of the first mortgage lenders to sign up for the FLS and while they remain firmly behind the scheme, Mr Gardner warned that other factors were of equal importance if the property figures were to experience a sustained rise.
“Labour market developments will remain of paramount importance in deciding the trajectory of house prices. There are grounds for caution on this front, as the unusual combination of rising employment and declining economic activity that was evident in the first half of 2012 is unlikely to be sustained,” he added.
Once again, regional variations in the market vary wildly. At the top of the list, the average price of a property in London is now £301,168 while in Northern Ireland that average drops right down to £107,719.
“London continues to defy economic logic. To be just 2% below its peak in a paralysed economy is preposterous,” said Russell Quirk, of estate agents eMoov.co.uk.
Mr Quirk was also sceptical over the FLS, suggesting that it would not filter through to first time buyers and make a significant difference.
“I’m less confident than the Nationwide that the Funding for Lending scheme will have a major impact. Yes, it may make credit more available and cheaper, but will it get through to the people who need it?
“Cheap and available is idle chatter if it’s not getting through to higher loan-to-value borrowers,” Mr Quirk concluded.
When we’re looking to buy a property there are always going to be obvious factors that are more important than others. The number of bedrooms, the size of all rooms and the style and look of a house should be at the forefront of a property seeker’s mind but what about those added extras?
Is a garage more important than regular public transport links or would you favour high speed broadband access over the nature of your power supply?
A recent survey of 2,000 homebuyers revealed that broadband is now a number one priority and 19% of movers make sure that their service is the first thing they activate when they move in. In fact, one in ten potential buyers have rejected a prospective property simply because it had a slow connection.
“When it comes to buying a home it seems it’s more a case of broadband, broadband, broadband than location, location, location,” said Dominic Baliszewski, of the website broadbandchoices.co.uk.
“Broadband has become something people are not prepared to live without, so it’s little wonder it’s now such a major factor for homebuyers.”
Estate agents have also shown that a faster broadband speed will secure more viewers as buyers consider this to be of higher importance than factors such as a garage, off street parking or easy walking access to nearby shops.
The increase of teleworking is undoubtedly at the heart of this growing need. With more people working from home, either on a full or part time basis, a fast broadband connection suddenly becomes essential.
“In this digital age, a fast broadband connection is becoming much more important for home-hunters,” said Miles Shipside of RightMove.
“People don’t just rely on a good internet connection for web browsing, but also streaming television and working from home.
“As the consumer technologies which rely on the internet expand, the need for a strong connection will be added to more home mover wish-lists.”
Once you move beyond the desire for broadband, the more traditional requirements start to emerge. Electricity and gas fired central heating may be more attractive than isolated properties that still rely on oil for their fuel source while garages, off street parking and local amenities are still taken into consideration.
However, it’s Broadband that has emerged as the main requirement in terms of those property ‘add-ons’.
“It is very easy to check broadband speeds in a specific area so we’d urge potential home buyers to do this rather than be left disappointed,” Dominic Baliszewski added.
While it may be easy to check, estate agents are finding that the inclusion of a positive broadband speed on their sales specifications will save time and is also becoming a powerful selling tool.
A recent survey has revealed that downsizing has become the prime reason for moving house within the UK with one if five people moving to a smaller home sooner than they expected. The findings come from Lloyds TSB who claim that more and more homeowners are moving to cheaper houses, either for relocation purposes or simply to save money.
Within the survey, Lloyds TSB found that around one third of those taking part said that they were downsizing to save money on household expenses while 59 per cent stated that they were looking for dwellings that better suited their needs.
Traditionally, those property owners reaching retirement age have been the main demographic in any downsizing statistics but Steven Noakes of Lloyds TSB said that the findings were continuing to include people from all life stages.
“Downsizers are now playing a key role in the housing market and as the study shows we are starting to see homeowners on different stages of the property ladder considering it as a sensible option as more and more families are looking at ways to save money,” Mr Noakes said.
Many are still option to downsize in order to claim a cash windfall and this is another area where market factors have led to more homeowners selling up and moving to smaller properties. Those planning to trade down have seen the average amount of their cash windfall rise by forty per cent over the course of the last ten years. It’s claimed that trading from a detached home down to a small bungalow in 2012 will earn an average of £97,298 – an increase of £28,484 from 2002.
“While we have seen a significant rise in the potential cash windfall, downsizing can make a lot of sense for a wide range of people, it is important to consider carefully whether trading down is the best solution,” Added Steven Noakes.
“Whether you are looking to lower utility bills, pay for an offspring’s tuition fees, or free up extra cash for retirement we recommend you seek professional advice before taking action.”
For anyone thinking of downsizing, they are urged to weigh up all the advantages and disadvantages and there are more than just financial issues to consider. On the plus side there are factors such as less work and maintenance but some homeowners regret their decision purely because they miss the comfort factor that a larger property can bring.
For whatever reason, downsizing is on the up but will it make any significant boost to the property market over the next few months and years?
A survey commissioned by the Housing Charity Shelter has found that complaints over rogue landlords have increased by 27% over the course of the last three years. The stories behind those figures are quite alarming but the Charity feels that the actual numbers of landlord problems are even higher and that many tenants are simply not reporting their problems through fear of reprisals.
In the last year alone, 85,000 complaints were submitted to local authorities across England and Shelter found that 62% of these issues involved serious or life threatening situations. An additional 781 cases needed the involvement of local health services due to private landlord behaviour or neglect.
Shelter are urging their supporters to petition their local councils and they believe that the situation is even worse than the figures suggest.
“Despite the significant increase in complaints, we believe that the number of rogue landlords is still underestimated,” said Campbell Robb, Shelter’s Chief Executive.
“Some local authorities don’t keep records of complaints and tenants often hold back from complaining out of fear of the consequences or because they don’t believe their voices will be heard, even though such a high proportion of complaints are about life-threatening issues.”
The figures have come after a two year campaign by Shelter to highlight the growing problems with regards to rogue landlords and to encourage the government to put effective measures in place to tackle them.
In a response to these moves, the government has set up its own dedicated taskforce to tackle these problems. Under the scheme, local authorities will be given all the support they need to deal with rogue landlords and to bring about prosecutions.
In addition, £1.8m will be invested to tackle so-called ‘sheds with beds’ – slum properties that are unfit for habitation – while the plans will also remove limits on the fines that can be imposed on landlords.
Shelter may have welcomed the proposals but they insist that there is more work to be done.
“There is still much to be done,” Mr Robb continued. “It’s ultimately local authorities that must do everything in their power to support people who are suffering by cracking down on the worst offenders in their area.”
Those wishing to add their name to the charity’s campaign are invited to e-mail their local council while Shelter are urging any tenants experiencing problems with rogue landlords to get in touch with them for advice without delay.
The Government’s New Buy Scheme was launched in March amidst a great fanfare and hopes that the plans would give the property market a much needed boost. Six months on however, the first set of purchase figures have indicated a slow start to the scheme.
In the four months from the launch of the initiative, only 250 homes were sold through the scheme. Overall, the coalition were looking to help 100,000 people move by the end of 2015. Writing in his newspaper column in January, the then Housing Minister Grant Shapps underlined his hopes for the new buy project.
“At the heart of the (government) Strategy is a new-build indemnity scheme, which will offer a useful alternative to the Bank of Mum and Dad for those people struggling to get deposits together and take a step on the housing ladder,” Shapps wrote.
“Due to be launched this Spring, under this new industry-led scheme house builders and we in Government will provide security for the loan, enabling homebuyers to secure mortgages on newly-built homes with just a five per cent deposit”
The headlines surrounding the news suggest that this is a big blow for the government’s plans but as a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government pointed out, the average house purchase takes around six months to go through and a significant proportion of reservations aren’t shown in those initial figures.
“As the Home Builders Federation have recently reported, 1,500 reservations have been made through NewBuy and at least 25,000 additional new homes will be built as a direct result of the scheme,” the Spokesman said.
The Home Builders Federation are also standing behind the scheme and they indicate greater interest from lenders and property developers since the launch back in March. At that stage, only seven builders and four lenders had expressed an interest but this has risen to six lenders along with thirty developers.
“People weren’t aware of it – it’s a completely new scheme,” said Steve Turner, spokesman for the HBF.
“Take-up in the past few weeks has markedly increased, to about 100 reservations a week.” He said take-up had been similar to the previous government’s FirstBuy scheme, which was regarded as a success.”
Predictably however, the opposition government has criticised the initiative in the wake of the new figures and is suggesting that the planned target for 100,000 purchasers by 2015 is way off course.
“The government needs to drop the hype and change course by implementing a real plan for homes, jobs and growth,” said Shadow Housing Minister Jack Dromey.
“If it fails to do so, at this rate, it will take 200 years for NewBuy to help 100,000 homebuyers buy their own home.”
Whoever is right or wrong in this argument, it seems that it’s far too soon to be judging the New Buy Scheme after just four months.
The office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed what some believe to be worrying figures in regards to the number of 30 year mortgages currently being taken by new borrowers. The statistics also show that the 25 year deal, which is still seen as the standard term, is dwindling fast.
The ONS’ figures show that 23.3% of all new mortgages are now spread over a thirty year period. Meanwhile, the 25 year term, which accounted for 70% of the overall market in the 1990’s, has fallen to around a 30% share.
The thirty year mortgage numbers have increased since the financial crash back in 2008 and at that stage, borrowers seemed more concerned about taking on more debt over a longer period of time. In the four years that have followed however, mortgage affordability has been one of the factors behind the steady rise.
Bob Pannell, chief economist at the Council of Mortgage Lenders confirmed that the rising costs of home loans were a main contributory factor. Elsewhere, some property experts are concerned at a repossession time bomb that is currently ticking due to homeowners deferring debt in the short term.
Meanwhile, the question of overall mortgage availability has also been highlighted by these figures and in a survey carried out by Canadean Consumer for the Building Societies Association (BSA), it was shown that financing and general availability of home loans was improving.
“Results from our Property Tracker report indicate that the barriers to purchasing property may be largely down to perception, rather than actual experience,” said Paul Broadhead, head of mortgage policy at the BSA.
If, as Mr Boradhead suggests, there is an issue with the public’s perception of the mortgage market, is there a significant proportion of borrowers who are taking out 30 year mortgages unnecessarily?
Meanwhile, there have been several stories highlight beneficial rates from some of the lenders but the issues over raising deposits for first time buyers (FTB’s) still remain. A recent survey has shown that around 47% of FTB’s believe that it will take them ten years or more to save sufficient funds for a suitable deposit.
“Prospective first-time buyers believe they will be 35 years old by the time they get on the housing ladder,” said John Willcock, head of Post Office Mortgages.
As always, there is mixed news for borrowers but it does seem that those who are remortgaging or who have a sufficient deposit for a new home, may have more choice from the market than they may think.