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Current trends in the London property market

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With a well-known national newspaper reporting on possibly the world’s smallest but most expensive house in North London this week – where people visiting the house walk through the front door only to find themselves directly under the bed – one can fairly confidently suggest that the London property market is holding its own. London is still an incredibly desirable location to live.

In fact, everything points to now being a good time to invest as the property market grows and grows, and London is the first to experience a positive uplift. This belief is supported by data from the London Housing Market Report (Source: GLA 2014), which focuses on key trends in London’s housing market and shows an upward trend in many areas including price and lending over the last 12 months.

Small, and pricey

Whether you are international property developers interested in London, a private investor looking to add to your global portfolio or you are buying a home for yourself, the London housing bubble seems yet to burst and buyers continue to look at moving into smaller accommodation for larger price tags. So if you bought low, chances are very likely that, right now, you will definitely sell high.

Good news for developers

This upward trend is absolutely positive news for developers, and the news is backed up by the Office of National Statistics figures, which indicate that property values rose 9.1% in February this year compared to a year ago – the highest annual increase in property values since June 2010. Again, it was in London where prices saw their greatest growth. Property values in London soared by 17.7% in February compared to the same month a year earlier. The Greater London Authority (GLA) Report on 27th August 2014, also confirmed that unemployment is going down, more first time buyers are getting mortgages and there is generally a strong economic growth in London.

More lending breathes new life into marketplace

In addition to property holding its price, first time buyers have also been given a chance to get back on the ladder, which has injected new life into a previously stale marketplace. The amount of new mortgages given to first time buyers in the capital grew to almost 50K in from April 2013 to March 2014, the largest combined annual total in six years (source: GLA Report Aug 14). The amount of lending to owners who have already installed their property has been fairly steady, and we have seen almost 40K new loans in the last 12 months.

London stronger than ever

Putting a smile on existing property investors’ faces, the key house price indices show on-going steady month by month improvement in London house prices. Following results announced by Halifax, in London there was an over 4% increase in the second quarter of 2014. Nationwide announced quarter-on-quarter growth of nearly 11%.

Attractive yield on rented property in London

If you are thinking of investing in a London property, the rental market is also strong. In fact, you can expect a very attractive yield at the moment, with domestic rentals in London up 1.4% from July 2013 to June 2014, following data released by the Office for National Statistic’s index of private rents, against a smaller 0.7% rise across other areas in England.

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Mortgage matters – buying a home, have you got everything in order?

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Buying a house can be a challenging affair and it can take years to save up enough money to get on the property ladder. Once you do have a deposit at the ready – and have an adequate credit rating – there are still various things to consider. Purchasing a home that’s not right for you and your circumstances can lead to a number of problems down the line, so it really is a good idea to approach the market sensibly, armed with a detailed knowledge of it. Services like Experian Mortgage Matters can provide you with in-depth advice about your options when it comes to mortgages.

One of the main things you should think about is the kind of property you’re looking for. You’ll have to consider whether your preference is suitable for any children you might have, or any that might be born in the future, pets and how close to facilities like shops and supermarkets you need to be. You’ll need to choose from flats, detached houses, semi-detached and terraced homes and the amount of rooms that you’ll need. Working out your budget is essential and there are many costs that you’ll have to factor in such as stamp duty, costs of getting to and from work, mortgage payments, council tax and other costs. Some highly attractive properties can look affordable on paper but can be more expensive than you would think in reality. In any case, you don’t need to apply for a mortgage until you have found a home that you’re interested in.

Check your credit report

Most of us aren’t in a position to buy a home outright, so chances are that a mortgage application will be inevitable. Your credit rating is an integral factor considered by banks when they decide how much money they are willing to lend to you and at what rates. Your credit report, which has a major influence on your credit rating, is a record of how you have managed any debt or and credit accounts you have had over the last six years. It will also include information like electoral roll details, and court judgements that have been filed or settled during this six year period. If you are looking to apply for a mortgage, ensure everything on your credit report is accurate and up to date, including your name, any aliases you may have and your address, and that any outstanding accounts are marked as settled.

 

A foot on the ladder

You don’t have to buy through an estate agent, and many people do purchase homes via private sales and at auctions instead. Legal support is nearly always essential, however. A solicitor will deal with the seller or their agent on your behalf and deal with complex legal issues that can only realistically be tackled by trained professionals. You’ll need to enlist the services of a surveyor too, in order for any defects to be checked before you make your offer.

Once an offer is accepted, contracts are exchanged, and neither the seller nor the buyer can back out of the deal without legal action being the result. A deposit is usually paid to the seller at this point. When the concluding legal tasks are dealt with, the solicitor instructs the mortgage company to pay the remaining fee and the house becomes yours. Though buying a home has become harder over recent years, new legislation and mortgage products have been introduced to provide assistance to those who cannot get together a significant deposit, even those with a less-than-perfect credit sc

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Bringing an Empty Home Back to Life

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With more 279,000 houses standing empty for over six months in the UK* and numerous district and county level strategy plans in place to handle the problem of vacant properties across the county, what would you do if you found yourself the proud new owner of a previously empty property?

Indeed national newspapers have reported on the £1 houses available in numerous locations across the North of England, although these do come with a fairly stringent set of criteria for those looking to purchase. However there are empty properties all over the country and many come at cut rate prices whether through an auction or otherwise. But that’s where the fun starts; these buildings are more often than not half dilapidated and in need of some serious love and affection.

Laying the Foundations

First things first, you’ll want to make sure you do your homework before putting pen to paper. It’s all very well to have big dreams about your new place; fitted out from head to toe in the latest gadgets, or maybe even complete with a brand new extension. However some properties will come with restrictions as to what you can do, such as listed premises, so it’s well worth your time to make the necessary enquiries beforehand.

You’ll also want to ensure your newly purchased property remains vacant until building work can begin i.e. protecting the building from squatters and vandals. Vacant property security companies, such as Safe Site Facilities who cover the entire UK from their base in West Sussex, are able to deliver short and long term solutions to guard against unlawful entry until you’re up and running with the renovations.

Be a People Person

Just like any creative project it’s important to have the right people on the job. Making sure you have the right builders and architect for your project will make everything go that much smoother. This means putting in the time to find someone who shares your vision for the property, which normally means following up with references and asking friends for referrals of professionals they’ve worked with before.

Make the Most of Your Materials

Choosing the right ingredients i.e. materials can make all the difference. Depending on your specific criteria there are materials that come with environmental credentials, others that will cut your budget in half and those that make the job quick and easy for those doing the building.

It’s All About the Money

We’ve all seen Grand Designs on Channel 4 where every single new build or renovation project seems to go wildly over budget. If anything budgeting will be even harder for an empty property, which may have unforeseen issues that take more to fix than they would to install from scratch. Therefore it’s vital that an emergency fund is included as one of your budget pots; that way if any unexpected problems do crop up, and they often do, you won’t have to get another loan or re-mortgage. Then of course when the build goes exactly to plan you’ll have a nice bit of extra cash on the side for that sofa you thought you wouldn’t be able to afford or another luxury you’ve been ogling!

A quick word on grants; taking on an empty property and bringing it back to life is not only a benefit to you but also the local council and your new neighbours who should benefit from increased house prices. Therefore you may be able to pick up a grant for a portion of the work to be carried out; it’s not guaranteed but is surely worth the time it takes to send off a quick enquiry.

* Shelter Website

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What to look for in a rental property

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Moving into your own place is an exciting time for most of us.

Then again, lots of us have heard (or experienced) the horror stories when it comes to renting – mouldy rooms, elusive landlords and broken furniture amongst the common complaints.

So what should you look out for? Recent research into features of a ‘dream home’ found that the most desirable feature is an indoor swimming pool, followed by an en-suite bathroom. Other responses included a cinema room, a sauna and even a moat!

You’re not likely to find many of those things unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money – but there are certain things you should check when searching for the ideal home to rent. Our friends at thinkmoney have put together this list to help you.

Adequate furniture

This point doesn’t really stand if you’re planning on kitting out your new home all by yourself, but many rental properties come fully or partially furnished. This can really help you keep your costs down, but don’t forget your monthly rent will probably be a bit higher than unfurnished properties.

If you’re looking for a furnished property, check that everything is in good condition. A bit of wear and tear is natural, but if you find things like broken slats on the bed or a sofa that sinks when you sit in it, it’s your landlord’s responsibility to get them fixed.

Heating & windows

If you’ve never lived in your own place, you might underestimate just how cold the winter months can get! Make sure your new property has a good heating system and preferably double-glazed windows, which do a much better job of keeping the heat in.

In general, electric heating systems will cost a lot more than gas, so you might want to steer clear of properties with a little electric heater in each room. Similarly, gas fires use gas a lot more quickly than a good gas boiler with radiators.

This will be less important if you’re happy to wrap up warm and leave the heating switched off – but there’s a lot to be said for the comfort (and lower bills) that a good heating system brings.

No mould & damp

Mould and damp are usually signs of a problem with the building itself – and they could be very bad for your health. Unfortunately it’s a fairly common issue with older properties, but landlords can (and should) get it fixed in most cases.

A friendly landlord

As a tenant, your landlord is your first port of call when something goes wrong – they are legally required to repair or replace anything that came with the property (as long as the problem is not your fault).

So it could pay to make sure you are happy with your landlord before you sign up for anything. There’s no way to be certain, but if you have any doubts about them you may want to keep your options open.

It may be easier if you find your landlord through a lettings agency, as they should only have honest landlords on their books – and will usually contact them on your behalf.

Ground rules that suit you

Most lenders have ground rules for their tenants, whether it’s no smoking, no pets or no decorating. Breaking any of these rules is likely to cost you your deposit, and maybe more – so make sure your new home suits you before you decide to move in.

If you’re planning on buying a puppy, check with your landlord first. And if you’re planning to wall-mount your TV, make sure they don’t mind before you start.

 

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Choosing the right holiday home

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If you’re thinking about buying a holiday property, experience of buying your primary residence will help in a way, but there’s a lot more to think about when buying a second home – especially if you plan on renting it out to holidaymakers. Here we have some advice on choosing the right holiday home from experts at RentMyCottage.com:

Planning

It goes without saying that a second home is a big financial commitment, and as the vast majority of those buying one will be using some form of mortgage borrowing to make the purchase, it’s important to set out your budget early. Just how much can you afford to pay every month towards a second home? It’s not just about the mortgage payments, either; there is contents and buildings insurance to consider, maintenance costs and, if you’re planning on renting out your holiday home to cover some of the cost, marketing bills.

Those who are looking to subsidise their mortgage payments through rental income should also understand that it can be difficult to get consistent bookings for your property – especially in the first few years of ownership. This can lead to gaps in income which you will have to make up in order to meet your overheads.

With any financial commitment there is a need for sound planning, but the variables involved with second home ownership make it even more important to have a viable worst-case-scenario plan in place.

Finding the right property

They say location is everything when it comes to buying property. This is true enough for second homes, but the criteria on which you judge the quality of a location changes. For a permanent residence, you’re looking at schools, local amenities and transport links – for a holiday home, the focus is more on proximity to popular tourist areas, attractions and places on interest. All these are valued by holidaymakers, and you’ll need them if you want to achieve regular rental income.

There are other practical considerations for a holiday home too; while you might want a more remote property, any secluded property which is unoccupied for long periods of time can be a target for burglars, and you might not know of any break in until you turn up at the property and find your planned short stay is ruined.

Price is also a key deciding factor: you’ll need to cover your costs, but some areas offer better value than others, and will therefore be more attractive to holidaymakers.

Obviously you’ll want to choose a property which suits your needs, but if you’re seeking rental income you should consider some of the things that holidaymakers desire: broadband access, a drying room, a fully-equipped kitchen: these are the kinds of details which can set your property apart from the rest.

 

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Spotlight on Whitefield

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From time to time we focus on a place – often as a result of a question or correspondence from a reader of our property blog – and today we’re visiting (virtually, of course) Whitefield in Bury, Greater Manchester.  Whitefield lies to the North-west of Manchester with good transport links to Bolton, Bury, Rochdale and Manchester itself.  Whitefield was an important Mill Town in the 19th century and has a current population of around 25,000.

Earlier this year Salford in Greater Manchester was named as one of the top 10 most affordable cities to live in by a Lloyds TSB study which quoted an average price to wages ration of 4.11 – but what about Whitefield?  Well it seems Whitefield presents an affordable option in itself – the average house price (according to proviser.com) stands at £157,013 in the M45 postcode – nearly £3000 below the national average of £162,621 (Land Registry).

Whitefield’s proximity to Manchester also adds to its allure.  Apart from two world class football clubs, Manchester has a thriving music scene and nightlife – making it an attractive place to live for the young and the young at heart.  First time buyers especially may well find in Whitefield somewhere that’s close to a lively city and affordable.  (Hint: Try the Halifax Mortgage Calculator for more info on how much monthly repayments would be.)

Some facts about Whitefield:

-  Bury Borough (which Whitefield is part of) has the lowest crime rate in Greater Manchester (source: Zoopla)

-  Local schools are considered to the best in the North West and above the national average (source: Zoopla)

-  Within 20 minutes commute into Manchester City Center by Metrolink (1 tram every 6 minutes)

-  Large properties are often sold below the stamp duty threshold.

-  South Manchester (Didsbury, Chorlton etc) is becoming more expensive for first time buyers, so North Manchester is becoming an attractive first time buyer option

-  Low car insurance premiums compared to the rest of Greater Manchester

-  Bury Borough is next to Salford which is one of the country’s most affordable places to live (but has a higher crime rate and higher car insurance premiums).

So it seems Whitefield has a lot going for it.  Low crime, affordable houses and good transport links to the city of Manchester and beyond.  If you’re looking around the Manchester area, Whitefield could be a good place to start your search.

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7 Thrifty Ways to Protect Your Home

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When it comes to home security you could end up spending a fortune on the latest high tech equipment or you could follow these seven simple tips and achieve much the same results at a fraction of the price. While it would be easy to dismiss the need for any security measures if you have never had any problems just remember that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and you never know when something might go wrong. Wouldn’t you rather be prepared; even if it’s just to ready and implement the tips in this article?

1.      Thorny Plants Under the Windows

 

This is probably one of the prettiest security solutions that exist today. Plant thorny plants, like a lovely rosebush for instance, under your down stairs windows to deter anyone thinking the windows would make a good entry point. Not many would be criminals will relish getting caught up in a rosebush as they try to get in through the window.

2.      Make Use of Fencing

Fencing or any other kind of barrier for that matter is a great way to define the boundaries of your property. Now this isn’t going to stop anyone who’s determined but by having a boundary in place you’ll at least be making the task a little harder plus it will also make the criminal think twice; I mean who wants to try and carry the plasma TV they just stole over a 6 ft. high fence?

3.      Install Security Cameras

While these top tips mostly focus on non-high tech devices the popularity of security cameras and home security systems have brought costs down to a level where the majority of people can now afford to have some security cameras setup. Here’s a nice list of security cameras available in the UK ordered by price. It’s fairly straight forward to fit a security camera yourself and a great way to gain peace of mind knowing that everything’s being captured on tape.

4.      Check Who’s at the Door

You hear parents tell their kids never to open the door to strangers and this should go for you too. Logically you know it’s odd if a plumber or electrician turn up unannounced claiming to be there to fix a problem you weren’t even aware of. Just because they’re wearing a uniform you recognise doesn’t necessarily mean you should let them in. This is why we have security chains on our doors, peep round the door and ask them to identify themselves; a quick call to the firm they represent should confirm they are who they say they are. Don’t worry about wasting their time, tradesmen and women want you to trust them and they’ll be more than happy for you to confirm their identity.

5.      Give Your Place a Lived In Feel

If you’ve got your neighbours keeping an eye on your property whilst you’re away why not ask them if they wouldn’t mind moving your car every now and then. It will only take a few minutes and gives the impression to anyone canvasing the area that someone has been coming and going. Better yet ask a friend if they would want to stay at your place whilst you’re gone; with it being more and more difficult for twenty somethings to get their own place in the UK you shouldn’t have  a problem finding someone appropriate and in need of a break from their parents.

6.      Light It Up

A little bit of light can go a long way. Would be criminals often look for dark and gloomy properties in order to avoid being spotted. Thus a simple solution is to install some lighting around your property. This might be a porch light providing a warm glow, or perhaps some lights lining the driveway or even better a motion activated security light. Whatever you decide on will act as an extra deterrent and assure you that nobody is out there lurking in the bushes.

7.      Let People Know Your Home is Secure

Finally make it obvious that you have a security system in place. Even if you don’t have a full blown alarm system in place doesn’t mean you can’t put up a sign saying you do. It’s a simple and very affordable security measure but, putting the shoe on the other foot, would you risk breaking in if you thought there could be an alarm system in place?

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Top tips for sprucing up your garden

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Now it seems that spring has finally sprung in the UK, many of us are turning our attention to the possibility that it might be possible to get the barbeque out in the next few weeks. But this winter’s heavy snows, frosts and general wet weather have taken their toll on the appearance of Britain’s gardens. Now’s the perfect time to get your gardening gloves on and start getting your outdoor space ready for relaxing and entertaining your friends and family this summer.

Photo courtesey of USDAgov

Below are some of our top tips for good places to start.

  1. If your outside space is more small patio than expansive green lawns, try planting a few brightly coloured pots full of beautiful summer bedding plants in a variety of colours.
  2. Make tired looking wooden garden furniture look good as new by painting it with some teak oil – there’s no need to splash out on an expensive new set.
  3. If moss has been ruining the look of your lawn, simply rake it out. Reseed your lawn to fill in any patchy bits.
  4. Invest in a pressure washer (or hire one from your local garden centre) to give dirty patios and decking areas a good scrub, creating a more appealing space in which to relax this summer.
  5. Place some solar lights around the garden to keep your al fresco entertaining spot well lit until long after the sun goes down.
  6. Make sure your flowerbeds are full of perennials that come back year after year, then simply fill in any gaps with summer bedding plants to add a spot of colour straight away.
  7. Focus on fragrance too – plant some jasmine, roses or gardenia near your patio to treat you and your guests to a heavenly aroma – you’ll be surprised what a difference it can make.
  8. Invest in a shed to house your garden tools, soil etc to avoid untidy areas. If you’re worried about theft or damage to your new equipment, switch to the AA’s home contents insurance, which includes up to £1,000 garden cover and £3,000 for the contents of your shed.
  9. Create some further points of interest in your landscape by adding some personality, whether it’s through wind chimes, driftwood, boulders, stones, or even lanterns – this will make a real difference and create a really stylish look.
  10. Finally, to keep your lawn looking good all summer long, with minimal fuss, make sure you have got a decent sprinkler system on the go, so you can kick back, relax and make the most of any good weather that comes our way.

 

 

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The Rising Cost of Energy Bills

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According to a recent statement made by Ian McCaig, chief exec of First Utility, the cost of energy bills could potentially overtake mortgage payments within the next five years. This news may sound dire, but it is anything but surprising. Over the past five years, the average cost of utility bills in the UK has risen by approximately 35%. And if this trend continues, homeowners could very soon find themselves paying substantially more for their utilities than they do for their homes.

Coping with Rising Utilities

Many people across the UK will be able to deal with their rising utility costs, despite these costs having a significant impact upon their standard of living. However for many, these increases will prove devastating.

The worst consequences of rising utility bills can already be observed amongst those people who don’t have the financial capabilities to absorb such increases. These people tend to be the most vulnerable in society, including elderly people and the disabled. And for those living in ‘fuel poverty’, simply turning down their heating isn’t an option. This is particularly true in winter, and for those living in poorly insulated houses who don’t have the money to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Energy Efficient Homes

The homes which will be the least affected by rising utility costs will be those which have the highest energy efficiency ratings. There are many elements which contribute to how well a property is able to conserve energy, which include:

- Wall, floor and roof insulation

- Properly sealed exterior walls

- Energy efficient boilers

- Alternative energy sources (such as solar panels)

The more energy efficient elements a property is in possession of, the lower said property’s utilities will be. Therefore, it is in the best interests of the homeowner to ensure that their property has as many energy efficient features as possible.

Finding an Energy Efficient Property

There are three ways to make sure that you have an energy efficient home. The first is to buy a property which has already been fitted with energy efficient features. This can be achieved by utilising the services of a reputable conveyancer from Conveyancing Direct, to make sure the property in question has all of the features you desire – and none of the features you don’t.

The second way is to build your own energy efficient home. This is a choice which increasing numbers of UK homeowners are making, in order to guarantee that they are able to reside in a property whose energy performance rating is as high as possible.

The two methods outlined above are great solutions for some, but inaccessible for many. This is because the cost of buying or building a new home is simply out of reach for many people; especially those who may be classed as ‘vulnerable’. For these people it is essential that another option be provided. In this case, opting into the government’s Green Deal scheme may be a possible solution to the problem of rising utility bills. As a financing scheme designed to help people have their properties retrofitted for energy efficiency, it potentially gives hope to many who might otherwise have seen their utility bills spiral beyond control.

 

 

 

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Have we become a nation of renters?

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More and more it seems people are renting accommodation instead of buying. For first time buyers the reason is simple, the initial outlay. The average property in the UK is valued at around £240,000, so with a 95% mortgage you’re looking at a £12K deposit. Add to this the costs involved, such as arrangement fees and stamp duties, and you could well be looking at paying over £15K upfront. The next problem that immediately arises is repayment fees. The greater percentage of the property that is mortgaged, the higher the interest payments. In other words, if you take out a 95% mortgage you are deemed to be a greater risk than someone who has taken out a 70% mortgage and as such, you will pay more interest.

Rising house prices

Part of the problem is caused by house prices rising at a far greater speed than inflation. The average house in the UK is around twice the cost than in 1980 (allowing for inflation). This has led to more and more of those who earn less not being able to get on the property ladder, with properties going to those with more money, who in turn rent out the properties, thus leading to a nation of renters.

According to the Guardian owner occupation has been steadily declining for several years, with private renting increasing at the same time. Some of the reasons for this are obvious. Many people are having their incomes frozen or have pay rises that aren’t keeping up with inflation. As a result, mortgages aren’t as easy to obtain as they once were and more and more are being forced into renting.

With the lack of social housing, more people are having to opt for private renting, which is also becoming more expensive due to the basic economics of supply and demand. The more people that want to rent, the more landlords can charge.  There is also the issue of a housing shortage. The population is on the increase and houses are becoming harder to find. With this, house prices are still rising and as such, more and more people will struggle to get on the housing ladder. Unless this issue is addressed at some point in the future, there doesn’t really look like an end in sight and the reality is that the nation will see more people renting and less buying.

Camberwell estate agents are one of a large UK network and can help you to find a home, whether it’s renting or buying, or even buy-to-let.

 

 

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