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10Mar


09Mar

Economic News 01 March 2016


The first two monthly meetings this year of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee saw the interest rate held at 0.5 per cent and the stock of purchased assets financed by the issuance of central bank reserves maintained at £375 billion. A majority vote in January was followed by a unanimous decision in February. 

The Bank of England’s decision on the level of interest is largely based on assessments and forecasts of economic growth, unemployment and inflation, particularly core inflation, which strips out the impact of changing food and petrol prices. In January, core inflation fell to 1.2 per cent from 1.4 per cent in December. The broader measure of Consumer Price Inflation rose to 0.3 per cent in January from 0.2 per cent in December due to fuel prices falling by less in January that they did at the same point in the previous year. Consumer Price Inflation is well below the Government’s target level of 2 per cent and analysts now believe it will stay below 1 per cent for the whole of 2016. Interest rates are now expected to stay at their historic lows well into 2017. 

Consumer prices in the Eurozone fell sharply in February to minus 0.2 per cent, driven down by an 8 per cent fall in energy prices. In response, the European Central Bank has already announced a cut to its negative bank deposit rate and further stimulus measures are anticipated.

Newly released figures on household credit from the Bank of England reveal that in January, UK consumers borrowed a further £1.6 billion, the second highest level for more than a decade. Unsecured consumer credit rose by 9.1 per cent compared to the same month a year ago. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has warned that the rising level of household debt is an indirect threat to Britain’s economic recovery. 

The Bank also reported that 74,581 mortgages were approved in January, the highest level since January 2014. The Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors had earlier reported a surge in buy-to-let landlords purchasing property ahead of the stamp duty changes in April, exerting upward pressure on house prices.

New figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that 37,080 new homes were started in the last quarter of 2015, up 23 per cent over the preceding year, while completions were up by 22 per cent at 37,230. In the year up to December, 143,560 new homes were started, an increase of 6 per cent over 2014 and 91 per cent up on the slump recorded in 2009. 

The Office for National Statistics confirmed the twelfth consecutive quarter of growth for the UK economy with a figure of 0.5 per cent in the three months to the end of December. This was largely due to the buoyant services sector, which grew by 0.7 per cent. Despite the steady expansion to date, the Chancellor, George Osborne, warned about the future effects of turbulence in the global economy.

09Mar

LAND REGISTRY DATA: JANUARY 2016 (released 26 February 2016)

The January 2016 Land Registry data showed a monthly increase in average house prices across England and Wales of 2.5 per cent and an annual increase of 7.1 per cent. 

Regionally, the highest monthly increase was seen in Wales at 3.7 per cent, followed by London at 2.8 per cent; prices decreased in the North West and the North East by 0.4 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively.

The average house price in England & Wales now stands at £191,812 and in London at £530,409. London saw the highest annual increase in prices at 13.9 per cent, followed by the South East at 10.7 per cent and the East at 8.9 per cent. The lowest annual increase was seen in the North East at 0.2 per cent, but no region experienced a fall. In terms of property type, flats and maisonettes showed the highest annual increase at 8.2 per cent, while the lowest increase was seen in semi-detached properties at 6.5 per cent.

In greater detail, eleven counties and unitary authorities saw an annual fall in prices, the greatest again being Hartlepool at minus 3.8 per cent; Reading continued to experience the highest annual rise at 16.1 per cent. The strongest monthly growth was seen in the Isle of Anglesey with an increase of 4.1 per cent, while Blaenau Gwent had the most significant monthly drop at minus 3.5 per cent. Six counties and unitary authorities saw no monthly price change.

Of the metropolitan districts, Knowsley continued to show the largest annual price increase at 8.8 per cent; only two districts saw a fall, the greatest being Sunderland at minus 3.2 per cent. Newcastle upon Tyne experienced the highest monthly price increase at 2.1 per cent, while Liverpool and Knowsley both saw the greatest monthly fall, each with a movement of minus 1.5 per cent.

Of the London boroughs, Hillingdon had the highest annual price rise at 15.5 per cent and the highest monthly price rise at 2.4 per cent. Camden saw the smallest annual increase at 3.0 per cent, while both Camden and Islington experienced the only monthly fall, each with a movement of minus 0.4 per cent. 

The volume of properties sold in November 2015 was 2 per cent lower than a year earlier in England and Wales and 7 per cent lower in London. Over the same period, properties sold for more than £1 million across England and Wales as a whole rose by 14 per cent and in London by 9 per cent. 

Month on month, the total number of properties sold across England and Wales fell from 79960 in October to 72167 in November – a fall of 9.7 per cent. The number of property transactions from August 2015 to November 2015 averaged 78,652 per month, compared to 81,656 over the same period a year earlier.

09Mar

LAND REGISTRY DATA: DECEMBER 2015 (released 29 January 2016)

The December 2015 Land Registry data showed a monthly increase in average house prices across England and Wales of 1.2 per cent, while the overall annual price change was 6.4 per cent. 

Regionally, the highest monthly increase was seen in London at 2.1 per cent, followed by the East at 1.7 per cent; prices decreased in the East Midlands, the North East and Wales with falls of 0.3 per cent, 0.7 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.

The average house price in England & Wales now stands at £188,270 and in London at £514,097. London saw the highest annual change in prices at 12.4 per cent, followed by the East at 10.6 per cent and the South East at 9.5 per cent. The lowest annual increase was seen in the North East at 0.8 per cent, but no region experienced a fall. In terms of property type, semi-detached properties showed the highest annual increase at 6.7 per cent, while the lowest increase was seen in detached properties at 5.8 per cent.

In greater detail, just seven counties and unitary authorities saw an annual fall in prices, the greatest again being Hartlepool at minus 3.3 per cent; Reading continued to experience the highest annual rise at 17.1 per cent. The strongest monthly growth was seen in Blaenau Gwent with an increase of 3.8 per cent, while Hartlepool had the most significant monthly drop at minus 4.2 per cent. Eight counties and unitary authorities saw no monthly price change.

Of the metropolitan districts, Knowsley continued to show the largest annual price increase at 10.5 per cent, while three districts saw a fall, the greatest being Sunderland at minus 3.5 per cent. Walsall experienced the highest monthly price increase at 1.7 per cent, while Rochdale saw the greatest monthly fall with a movement of minus 1.2 per cent.

Of the London boroughs, Barking & Dagenham had the highest annual price rise at 15.3 per cent, while Hammersmith & Fulham saw the smallest annual increase at 3.3 per cent. On a monthly basis, the City of Westminster showed the highest increase at 2.3 per cent. Four boroughs experienced a monthly fall, the greatest being Southwark at minus 0.7 per cent.

The volume of properties sold in October 2015 was 8 per cent lower than a year earlier in England and Wales and 13 per cent lower in London. Over the same period, properties sold for more than £1 million across England and Wales as a whole and in London fell by 2 per cent. 


Month on month, the total number of properties sold across England and Wales increased from 72397 in September to 79960 in October – an increase of 10.4 per cent. The number of property transactions from July 2015 to October 2015 averaged 80,691 per month, compared to 84,517 over the same period a year earlier.

08Mar

With one of the busiest time for property market just around the corner, some of us will be gearing up for a house move this spring. Moving can be a truly daunting experience, especially if you’re relocating for the first time. To ensure a smooth transition from old to new, we’re bringing you some useful tips to make the process as easy and stress-free as possible. 


1. The secret is in the planning

Make sure you get organised early. If your house is on the market, the chances are you will have to move out within the next 30 days of the sale. Create a list of everything you have to do to complete your move successfully. You can start packing things you don’t use regularly, such as out-of-season clothes and decorative items, like photographs.  


2. De-clutter before your move

Moving house is the perfect opportunity to de-clutter. There’s no point in lugging junk to your new house. Be ruthless and get rid of everything you haven’t used in the past year - you can sell your unwanted items online, organise a garage sale or donate them to your favourite charity. 


3. Pack smartly 

Always make sure you label your boxes correctly and fill them in a logical order. Although it might take a bit longer, you’ll be thankful for this when arriving at your new house. You don’t want to be searching for the kettle and mugs amongst a pile of boxes filled with anything from photo frames to bathroom mats and towels. It’s also a good idea to keep inventory of all your household items in case something goes missing. 


4. Pack a first night survival kit

Prepare a bag filled with the main necessities, such as your basic hygiene supplies, change of clothes and snacks, to help get you through the first couple days. Looking for your toothbrush and a pair of pyjamas is the last thing you will want to be doing on the first night in your new home.


5. Choose the right type of transport

If you’re moving a long distance, it’s likely that you won’t have the luxury of making more than one trip. Therefore, it is important that you secure the right size of truck to safely carry all of your belongings in one go. Speak to your moving company - they should be able to advise what size you of truck you will need based on the size of your current house. 


6. Speak to your utility and insurance suppliers

Check with your insurer to confirm you’re covered before your move and let them know you’re relocating. Don’t forget to redirect all your mail to your new address and get in touch with utility suppliers so you have running water, electricity and gas at your new place. Also, arrange to have your phone line, cable and internet working if necessary. 


7. Pack your children’s items last

Moving can be difficult for the little ones so make sure they have their favourite toys or a comfort blanket on hand. They might not understand what is happening and be wary of their new environment, so it’s really important they are surrounded with familiar items, especially the ones they have created an emotional attachment to. Likewise, if you have any pets, try to make them comfortable throughout the move to help them feel settled. 


8. Get help

If you can’t afford to hire a moving company to help you relocate and unpack, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends and family. Whether hired movers or friends and family, make sure you have food and drinks readily available for everyone. They will appreciate a cold drink and a bite to eat during their busy day of heavy lifting and unpacking boxes.  


9. Meet your neighbours 

It’s a good idea to make conversation and build good relationships with your future neighbours from the beginning – let them know you will be moving in and what time the movers will arrive. If you’re moving into a block of flats, don’t forget to ask about any moving policy so you can prepare your schedule for the day. Ensure that you will have sufficient space to park outside your new home and that you don’t block your neighbours’ driveway. 


10. Plan for the unexpected and stay positive

No matter how much organising you have done prior to your move, you might still come across some unforeseen circumstances. Things you didn’t expect will always come up and it’s important to stay positive. Moving house is one of the most stressful things to do – remind yourself of all the reasons why you decided to move and celebrate with a nice family dinner. You will soon forget about the struggles when enjoying a cuppa in your beautiful new home. 



04Mar

With spring just around the corner, pretty daffodils, tulips and periwinkles will be flowering in gorgeous cottage gardens across the country. There couldn’t be a better time to appreciate the handsome cottages that we have here in the UK. Without further ado, here is a charming selection of some of the most beautiful cottages on the market today.

East Stoke, Wareham, Dorset - £500,000
Nestled within bluebell covered woodland, this whimsical two bedroom lodge cottage is like something out of a fairytale. It’s immensely cosy and the layout is all centred around a chimney stack, creating a cosy circular design both inside and out.



Coverack, Cornwall - £350,000
If you were asked to draw a coastal cottage, you’d probably draw something that looks exactly like this beauty with whitewashed walls, a thatched roof and pale blue window panes. Nestled in the heart of Coverack, the two bedroom cottage has gorgeous views across the sea, beach and village beyond.


Forncett, Norfolk - £400,000
Pretty in pink with a traditional thatched roof and set within an acre of gardens, this three bedroom cottage certainly is a picture postcard. It has literary connections too as it’s believed to have been owned by H. Rider Haggard, the author of Victorian adventure novel, King Solomon's Mines.



Raunds, Northamptonshire – £295,000

It’s not often that you find a country cottage with so much space on offer and four well-sized bedrooms. Although the property is believed to date back to the 17th century, it has a fresh and bright feel thanks to the modern lighting and contemporary clean lines.



Eggesford, Chulmleigh, Devon - £425,000
Tucked away in four and a half acres of gardens and woodland, this timber conversion has a seriously peaceful setting and is much-like a traditional Nordic cottage. Once part of a Victorian rail sliding, it’s now a charming three bedroom period home surrounded by a wildlife haven.



Abbotts Langley, Hertfordshire - £550,000
Cecil Lodge Cottage is a beautifully charming three bedroom cottage with an equally romantic story to tell. It is thought to have been part of a small estate and a summer residence, which was presented to Lord Cranborne as a wedding gift in 1773.


Poltimore, Exeter, Devon - £500,000
Just five miles from Exeter but surrounded by picturesque countryside, this four bedroom, pink, thatched cottage has an ideal location. It’s full of charming features, too, including oak beams, impressive fireplaces and the original bakers oven.



Selside, North Yorkshire - £220,000
Once home to railway workers who worked on the Carlisle-Settle railway, this cottage is now a lovely one bedroom home. As a traditional Railway Cottage with views across the Yorkshire Dales, the property definitely looks like something out of The Railway Children.



Chalgrove, South Oxfordshire - £370,000

Situated right on the village green and next to a pub, this two bedroom 17th century cottage has a seriously enviable location. With a thatched roof, wall and ceiling beams, an inglenook fireplace and country-style fittings, Rose Cottage is a true classic.




*All properties for sale at the time of publication 

04Mar

An increasing number of people are now renting rather than buying. In fact, PwC has recently predicted that by 2025, 7.2m households will be in rented accommodation, compared to 5.4m in 2015.

With rising house prices, first-time buyers are renting for longer in order to afford. But the rental market can also be a challenge. As with most things, it’s much easier once you’re prepared, so here’s an overview of what you can expect so you can sail through the rental market.
 
Flatmates
Many of us choose to go into flatshares when renting. They’re often cheaper and they’re a great way of making new friends. But they can be a challenge, especially if you’re not the biggest fan of the person in the next room. So how can you be sure that you’ve landed on a good selection of housemates before you start renting? First things first – always meet them before you sign the contract. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people move in without any idea of who they’ll be living with.

Although there’s no definite way of being sure what they’re actually like to live with, there are a few things you can look out for when you meet them. Firstly, don’t be afraid to ask questions; go beyond what they do for a living, and ask what they do for fun, how often they’re in the house, and if they socialise together. All of this will add to the general atmosphere in the property. Secondly, take note of how well the house is being looked after when you visit for a viewing. If the bin is overflowing and there are dirty pots on the stove, it might not be for you if you like things to be clean and tidy. Finally, discuss how bills are split and paid. This will give you a good indicator of how organised your potential housemates are, and you can iron out any problems before signing for the property.

Finding the property
One of the best things about renting is that it’s temporary. Although this can feel like a downside, it does mean that you don’t need to think too far into the future and can find a property that suits your current lifestyle. To find a good rental property for you, make a list of all the things you require for your lifestyle and search for a property that fits the bill. And remember to prioritise; it’s unlikely that you’ll find the ideal property, so think about what is a must and what you can compromise on.
 
Securing the property

The rental market moves extremely fast, so it’s important to be proactive in your search. Set aside time when you’re available for viewings and ask the lettings agent to take you to a few properties during each appointment so you can compare them easily. When you find a suitable property, be prepared to move quickly and put in an offer on the day or the next day.

It’s also a good idea to be prepared well in advance for the next few steps. Make sure you have funds for your deposit and references ready so the next part of the process runs smoothly. Informing the lettings agent that you have these available will put you in a strong position for securing the property.

Fees
It’s now a legal requirement that all lettings agents display their fees on the websites and in their offices. Sometimes, you also have to pay a holding fee to secure the property. Make sure you have a look at the fees before going on viewings so you know how much you will have to pay.

Deposits

A rental deposit covers your landlord should you miss any rent or damage their property. They are typically between four weeks and eight weeks rent, but check this in advance so you can save the money.

It is a legal requirement that your deposit is put into a deposit protection scheme, so always check this before signing any contracts.
When it comes to getting your deposit back, it’s a case of looking after the property while you’re a tenant and reporting any problems. Check the inventory when you first move in and add any existing damage that you notice, making sure it is confirmed by the landlord. Take photos when you first move in and when you leave so you have proof of any previous damage to avoid being penalised. If the property is furnished, remember to take photos of what is present when you first move in and when you leave. All of this should be recorded on the inventory, so check everything is present and correct. For more advice on getting your deposit back, please click here.

Insurance
Tenants can get home contents insurance to cover the cost of their belongings under unforeseen circumstances. Most tenants won’t need to worry about buildings insurance as this should be covered by the landlord, but check this before signing for the property. You can get home contents insurance if you’re renting a shared property, but find out from the insurer exactly what you need to do to ensure you are covered.

03Mar

As of the 1st February 2016, no tenancy can legally commence until the right to rent has been established. But what exactly is right to rent? Here is a very brief overview.

Before a property is legally rented, all landlords have to confirm that the tenants have the right to rent residential property in the UK. And, under Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014, landlords should not authorise an adult to occupy a rented property unless the adult is a British Citizen, is a European Economic Area citizen, or Swiss National, or has a Right to Rent in the UK.

Who needs to be checked?
Landlords or the lettings agent must check that a tenant or lodger can legally rent the residential property in England.
Before the start of a new tenancy, they must make checks for all tenants aged 18 and over, even if:

•    they’re not named on the tenancy agreement
•    there’s no tenancy agreement
•    the tenancy agreement isn’t in writing

All new tenants must be checked.

If the tenant is only allowed to stay in the UK for a limited time, the check needs to be undertaken in the 28 days before the start of the tenancy.

Some types of accommodation are excluded from these checks. Click here to view these types. There is no need to check tenants in some types of accommodation (e.g. social housing and care homes).

How will tenants be checked?
All landlords and lettings agents have to check original documents to make sure a tenant has the right to rent in the UK.

What will happen if a tenant fails to pass the checks?

If a tenant fails to pass the checks, the landlord or letting agent cannot legally allow the tenant to rent the property.

Further checks
Landlords and lettings agents must make further checks on their tenants to make sure they can still rent property in the UK, if their permission to stay is time limited.

If tenants fail to pass the further checks, they may be evicted from the properties.

What could happen to landlords if they fail to comply?
Landlords can be fined if they rent their property to someone who isn’t allowed to stay in the UK and you / they can’t show that they checked a tenant's right to rent.

Can landlords delegate the responsibility to a lettings agent?
Landlords can ask any agents that manage or let their property to carry out the check on their behalf. All landlords and lettings agents should have this agreement in writing.

If a tenant sub-lets the property without the landlord knowing, they’re responsible for carrying out checks on any sub-tenants.

For further information on right to rent, please visit gov.uk
 


02Mar

Is Britain truly unaffordable? We searched the country to find the best buys on the property market for you – and the homes all come with more than a friendly price tag!

Take a look at our top 20 homes for sale that can be yours from just £50,000.

Calne, Wiltshire - £165,000

The delightful semi-detached house offers easy access to schools, sports facilities and walks in the nearby Bowood Estate.


Caerleon, Newport, Wales - £160,000

This charismatic semi-detached house is conveniently located in the close proximity of well-known local schools, making it an ideal family home.


Wilberfoss, York - £99,950

This beautiful, modern timber lodge with gorgeous decking area and immaculate interior, set in the popular development at Florida Keys Park, surprisingly doesn’t come with the usual eye-watering price tag.


Wallsend
, Newcastle - £100,000

If you’re after a fully renovated property in the North East with a generous piece of land, you don’t need to look any further. And what’s more, this house will be yours at a highly reasonable price.


Ipswich, Suffolk - £140,000

This 2014 two bedroom park home benefits from a convenient location only a short drive from the A14 and the town of Ipswich. Plus, it has a lovely, well-proportioned and modern interior.


Humberston Fitties, Lincolnshire - £59,950

If you’re looking for a home with the all year round holiday feel, then this two bedroom chalet located in the charming seaside resort is the perfect choice for you.


Haverhill, Cambridgeshire - £132,500

Located on the Cambridge side of Haverhill, this two-bedroom maisonette comes with off-road parking and spacious front and rear gardens, perfect for those summertime barbeques.

Tilbury, Essex - £180,000

Dreaming about a big house with a large piece of land and potential to extend? Then this three bedroom end of terrace house in Essex is exactly what you’re looking for.


Moorland Gardens Newport, Wales- £129,950

Get your hands on this townhouse at the bargain price of just under 130k. The location is ideal for families with young children since the local school is just a stone’s throw away from the front door.


Bridgwater, Somerset - £89,950

A great property for a first time buy or as an investment opportunity, this two-bedroom, second floor flat is set in a popular Somerset market town.

Houghton Le Spring, Tyne and Wear - £49,950
 

Considering its handy location with close proximity to local amenities and commuter routes, this two bedroom family house is on the market for a truly tempting price.


Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire - £69,950

This three bedroom semi-detached house located in the industrial Scunthorpe can be yours for a mere £69,950, a bargain price considering its convenient access to schools, town centre and hospital.


Bootle, Liverpool - £79,999

An ideal family home, the property boasts three bedrooms and an enclosed courtyard. What’s more, it is located in a prime residential area with access to schools, shops and restaurants.


Chatteris, Cambridgeshire - £115,000

Who said you can’t buy a beautiful property on a budget in Cambridgeshire? Here’s a modern, two bedroom terrace house overlooking a pleasant green to the front.


High Peak, Cheshire - £139,000

You can find this traditional two bedroom terraced house in a residential location close to the Sett Valley trail. The property is situated only a short distance from the town centre, offering a choice of restaurants, shops, school and readily available transport links to many major places of work.

Leedstown, Cornwall - £139,950

Priced to sell, this four bedroom semi-detached house is located in the popular village of Leedstown, which has a range of amenities and is within approximately a 20 minute drive of a number of towns.


Ipswich, Suffolk - £160,000

With off-road parking, a garage and a decent garden, this three bedroom property in the south of Ipswich is only a short distance from local shops and amenities.

Stanford-Le-Hope, Essex - £200,000

Located on the ever popular 'Homestead' is this spacious three bedroom semi-detached home that also comes with an off-road parking, a garage and a good sized rear garden.


Disley, Cheshire - £200,000

This impressive three bedroom house has a beautiful green expanse at the front and boasts a well maintained garden to the back. It is perfect for families with children. 


Windmill Hill, Runcorn, Cheshire - £79,500

This fully refurbished, four bedroom mid-town house with expansive landscaped gardens will set you back less than £80k – pleasantly affordable for the industrial town and port, Runcorn. 


*All properties for sale at the time of publication

25Feb

Although neutral interior design is the go-to look for selling a house, lots of buyers are looking for that special wow-factor in their next home.  Here are some simple ways of making your pad extra eye-catching, which will make buyers come knocking on your door for a second viewing.

Exposing raw materials is a hot interior design trend that’s here to stay. Leaving brickwork, wooden beams and wooden floorboards untouched gives the impression your property is full of original features and charm. If your property isn’t graced with these rustic features, then incorporating plush materials in your furnishings will attract the right kind of attention. A leather chair, an oak dresser or a wool rug each bring an expensive feel to a property.


Monochrome features heavily on catwalks across the world as it’s chic and eye-catching. This fashion statement is equally as stylish in properties and a very easy look to achieve. Simply pare down the decoration in a room to just black and white and then add a few soft furnishings of one bright colour at various points to open up the space.

Interesting lighting instantly brings a modern touch to any home. Fitting lights above cabinets will create an unexpected glow, while lights within skirting boards have a particularly luxurious feel. For a quick fix, try replacing your existing lampshades with a modern alternative.

Arranging your furniture symmetrically works very well for creating an elegant, classic look that’s pleasing on the eye. In the living room, you could position two sofas facing each other with a coffee table in between for a classic style. In bedrooms, place the bed in the centre of the wall with matching bedside tables either side. In kitchens, this is much more difficult to do, but you can work with how you dress the dining table with symmetrically arranged candles and vases.


Free-standing furniture is a key trend at the moment and incorporating a few pieces in your home will help to give it the wow-factor. While free-standing islands in the kitchen and wood-burning stoves in the living room are particularly striking, they can be expensive, especially when you’re looking to move home. To avoid spending too much, consider investing in a free-standing cabinet or mirror that you can take with you. These handy pieces of furniture will look good in any home and are useful for making rooms feel larger, too.

If your property benefits from a gorgeous view, make the most of it by drawing the eye towards windows. Dressing windowsills with candles, scent diffusers or a vase of flowers will catch the eye and encourage people to take a look at what’s beyond.

It’s also worth paying attention to the front of your house to give it kerb appeal. We like to feel proud of our homes and part of this is down to what is looks like from the outside. Give the exterior of your house the wow-factor by painting your door in a bold colour, placing two box plants either side of the door and buying a new door knocker and house numbers. It’s a good idea to choose items that catch your eye while your shopping as these are the ones that will also catch the attention of your buyers.


There are so many ways of making your house stand out from the crowd and a good rule of thumb is to highlight your favourite features, or the ones that caught your eye when you bought the property. If you’re planning on making changes or buying any additions, make sure you do so before the photographer arrives so your home stands out on your estate agent’s website and the property portals.

Like this post? Read more on this topic here.

25Feb

We all want to add value to our homes. After all, property is one of the best investments so why not make the most of it. The rule of thumb when it comes to adding value is to utilise what you already have. Any additions that are too costly might not bring you much of a return when you sell, so work with the space and think how it could be transformed to make it more useful.

Here’s a list of some of the most worthwhile alterations and additions that can add great value to properties. Remember, it’s important to think about who the most likely buyers are and to go for improvements that will be most beneficial to them.


Utilise the garden
Although large gardens are becoming less and less attractive, as a nation, we do value the addition of outdoor space. Making your garden feel like another reception room could add heaps of value to your property, especially if it's currently somewhat neglected. Simply adding decking or a patio can turn a garden into a great entertaining space. Summer houses are other welcome additions, especially when staged as an extra room to enjoy.



Convert the garage
Most people would prefer an extra reception room to a garage. If you have permission to do so, then you could convert the garage to add a square footage to your home. Depending on where your garage is located, they can make fantastic playrooms for children or home offices.

Loft conversions
The loft is another often unused area of potentially functional pace in a property. Most houses don’t require planning permission to convert the loft and they make really stunning rooms. Plus, they’re reported to add up to 20% onto a property’s value.



Add parking space
Having somewhere to park the car is a big plus for most buyers. In 2014, 29.6 million cars were registered for use in the UK, which is a 9% increase on the previous year. We clearly do like our vehicles and parking spots are becoming even more scarce, making them especially valuable. Even if your buyers don’t drive, they will value the space for when family and friends come to visit. If you don’t already have parking but do have a front garden, consider paving part of it to create off-road parking. You might have to apply to have the kerb dropped, but it’s still well worth investigating.

Conservatory

Conservatories are another great way of adding square footage to your property. Consider adding one next to your dining area or kitchen to increase the size of this hugely appreciated space. And make sure you keep it at a comfortable temperature as any rooms that are too hot or cold could put buyers off.

Kitchen renovations

Kitchens are the heart of the home and there’s nothing more appealing than a big welcoming room in which to cook up a feast and entertain. If you only want to improve one room, then definitely concentrate on the kitchen and  add a few wow-factor touches to really make it stand out.



Bathrooms
After the kitchen, your bathroom should be next on the list for an overhaul if it’s looking dated. Opt for a crisp white suite so it appeals to lots of people and add a few ultra-stylish features to make it a room to remember.

Central heating

It might seem obvious, but adding central heating to a property that doesn't already have it will really help to increase its value and appeal. It’s considered essential and buyers could try and offer less money if they need to get it installed.

Fix problems

At the very least, make sure you fix any structural problems before you put your house on the market if you want increase its value. Buyers could use any problems as leverage to get money off the asking price and majority will be pleased if they know it doesn’t require any urgent work.

Eco-Friendly
Making your home more environmentally friendly with the likes of solar panels, wind turbines and good insulation can increase its value. If your home is cheaper to run, it will stand out in the property market and you can usually add a premium to the price.

Like this post? Read more on this topic here.

25Feb

These days, kitchens are not only used for cooking, but are now the hub of a family social life. So how do you create the perfect kitchen - one that reflects the practical needs of a modern lifestyle yet remains pleasing on the eye, fitting for hosting dinner parties and entertaining?

Here are our top tips to create a functional and beautiful kitchen.

Invest in a quality kitchen table
Your kitchen should be easy and comfortable to live in and a good kitchen table will make all the difference. We are talking the kind of table where you can enjoy a big family dinner, playing cards and board games with your friends or read your morning paper while relishing a cuppa.

Go large
Bigger kitchens often have a positive impact on selling a house successfully. If you’re thinking of making some changes to your home, why not take out a wall to create an open-plan living space? 


Be inventive with furnishings
If you’ve got the space, definitely bring in some more relaxed seating such as a low sofa or a window seat. These can be adorned with pretty cushions or a wool throw, instantly adding that warm, welcoming touch.

Dress your table to impress
Candlelight can instantly transform an ordinary kitchen table into an elegant dining table. Opt for a simple cotton tablecloth and fresh flowers to finish off the sophisticated setting.

Showcase your pottery
Don’t be afraid to be creative with your cups, bowls and plates. Keep your pottery on display using open shelves, instead of hiding it in a cupboard, to add an extra chic touch to the room.   


Light, light, light
Good lighting is an essential part of a functional kitchen. While spotlights are ideal for cooking, make the most of natural daylight where you can. Try placing a large mirror on a wall that will reflect daylight around the room. Also use candles and table lamps to brighten up corner space that’s often overlooked.

Choose your colour carefully
Opt for soft colours for your walls to add a warm, welcoming feel. You can be more creative with the colour of your tiles and furnishings to add that personal touch.

Position the dining table centrally
Not only will positioning your dining table centrally create more room in your kitchen, it is also very convenient for hosting dinner parties, allowing the host to cook and entertain at the same time. 


Keep your pantry organised
Clear glass storage jars or plastic containers are a simple and cost-effective way to store ingredients. Make sure to keep your containers labelled and use drawer organisers for your herbs and spices.

Add a pop of colour with funky blinds
It’s worth opting for roman blinds to cover your kitchen windows. They are practical and come in all sorts of patterns and colours, adding a touch of personality to your décor. In the dining area, try hanging up curtains to bring a feeling of warmth to the room.

25Feb

Often, we feel like we have to compromise on space to find a home in the most desirable locations. Sure, when it comes to living in more lucrative postcodes, especially city based ones, the properties tend to come in smaller packaging.

But there’s no need to worry because we have come up with a selection of simple tips that will instantly transform little to large.


Keep your home tidy

This is by far the most important rule - mess and clutter make even the largest of rooms feel smaller. The good news is that small spaces are usually easy to maintain, so there’s no need to spend hours sweeping and polishing.

Choose clever furniture

Opt for furniture that is proportionally suitable to the size of your apartment or house. By choosing furniture on legs, you can bring a sense of lightness to rooms. Make sure you leave a gap between the furniture and walls to create breathing space.


Paint your walls light
It’s no secret that painting walls in pastel shades helps to optically enlarge rooms but there are some other techniques you can also use. Try using darker shades lower down and lighter shades higher up to give a room added height. You can help your furniture to blend in by painting it the same colour as your walls.

Use vertical space

Think shelves, ceiling storage and assortment of holders. You’ll find a wide range of innovative ideas for creative storage options using walls, doors and ceiling room online. Think outside of the box and utilise every bit of space available – but be careful to avoid clutter and make sure all storage blends in with the decor.

Go heavy on glass
If used wisely, glass can completely change the dynamic of your interior. Opt for a glass coffee table or a glass bookcase in your living room to optically declutter the room. Mirrors also work great to bounce natural light around the room.

Create focal points
Arrange the rest of your décor based on a few focal points to draw the eye around the room. Often, this will help you gain a whole new perspective and you’ll notice details that might otherwise have a negative impact on the overall look of the room.



Work with natural light in the kitchen
Dress your windows with cream coloured blinds so you can let the light in during the day. Shiny material for your surfaces works especially well to reflect light. Consider buying granite or stainless steel worktops and glossy floor tiles to create an airy and spacious feel.

Personalise you space
Decorating your living room with items such as furry rug, vibrant cushions or a cosy throw will give the room that unique touch and highlight multiple areas in a room. Buy every piece with you and your daily routine in mind to avoid getting carried away and creating clutter.

Follow the cantaloupe rule
Only display items that are larger than a cantaloupe melon and instead opt for a few statement pieces as these help avoid a busy look. Avoid small, elaborate patterns that can create the impression of a clutter and instead, opt for plain fabrics or bold prints. It’s also a good idea to leave some shelves and surfaces empty.



Invest into expandable dining table  
A quality expandable dining table is a must for anyone with a small home, yet a big social life. It fits perfectly into a tiny kitchen but you will definitely welcome the table’s ability to stretch when having family and friends round for a dinner party.

25Feb

There are many reasons that you might find yourself needing to sell up and move fast. Maybe you’ve already bought your next property, or you need to release the equity for financial purposes. Perhaps you need to move quickly for personal reasons or you’re starting a new job in a few weeks and need to get organised.

So how do you sell property quickly and can you really sell your home in 48 hours? There’s no sure formula that will definitely sell your home within a couple of days, but the following tips will help make your home more appealing so you can find that buyer sooner rather than later.


Price
Make sure your property is reasonably priced and go for the valuation that seems most realistic. When you invite estate agents round for valuations, tell them you want to sell quickly so they can value your property accordingly. And ask them to explain their valuation so you can carefully consider which one you're most confident in. But be careful of under-valuing your property – this could make buyers question what’s wrong with it and actually put them off.

Research your estate agents
Don’t just choose your estate agent based solely on the valuations. Do some research and find out if they have a strong track-record of selling homes like yours. Pay them a visit too, and speak to them about how they can market your home effectively. This way, you can be confident that they’ll do everything in their power to sell your home fast.

Get talking to your solicitor now
By getting the ball rolling with the solicitors now, they can start making preparations so you’re ready to complete quickly once your property has sold. Remember, you can’t hand over a property until all the legal issues are sorted, so make this a priority.

Hand the notice to tenants
If you have tenants, hand them the notice so they can make preparations to leave. If you’re struggling to sell with your tenants still occupying the property, consider taking it off the market until it’s empty. Then you can then give the property a quick once over and repair any damage, making it much more appealing to a wide range of buyers including families, single professionals and investors.

Start packing before you’ve sold
By starting the packing process in advance, your property will look less cluttered and personalised, making it more attractive to buyers. Plus, you’ll be in a good position to move quickly once you’ve sold.

Make your house look appealing from the outside
Kerb appeal really is important. In fact, according to Barclays Mortgages, the majority of house-hunters take just 10 seconds to decide whether they like a property from the outside. So make it look as attractive as possible by painting the front door, trimming any trees or bushes, power-washing the driveway, and investing in a couple of pretty plants to stand by the front door.

Make sure the photos are beautiful
It’s essential that you get people through the door for viewings, so have professional photos taken. These will make your property look enticing on your estate agents’ website, the national portals and social media so it catches peoples’ eye.  

Be available
Make sure the property is free for viewings throughout the day. Handing the viewing responsibility over to your estate agent means it’s all taken care of while you’re away from the house. Sometimes, this might be inconvenient, especially if you have children, but it will really help your house to get snapped up quickly.

Get your pets looked after
According to AOL, 53% of people are put off houses because of bad smells, and pets can be one of the strongest odour creators. Consider booking them into kennels, catteries or boarding services so they are away from the house for a couple of weeks, or ask friends and family to look after them. If this isn’t possible, try and take them with you during scheduled viewings so they are out of the house. Alternatively, hide away all beds and blankets they have been sleeping on and give your home a huge deep clean to help eliminate the smell.

Move your car
If you have a parking space, make sure it’s empty during viewings so it’s easy for your buyers to park. This will help make the viewing experience a positive one and give buyers a welcoming first impression of your home. If the parking is for residents only, contact the council and ask if they are able to send you some visitors’ permits. You can give these to your estate agent who can hand them to your buyers during viewings.

22Feb

It’s a classic question: should I sell my current home before buying my next home? There’s no straightforward answer to this complex dilemma. A great deal of your decision depends on your situation and how quickly you need to move.

We’ve created a list of pros and cons to help you decide which option is best for you. Remember, there’s no correct way of approaching the property market, and keeping your options open means you won’t miss a valuable opportunity.


Selling first - The Pros

The Power of Negotiation – By selling first, you have the advantage of time and, therefore, you shouldn’t have to lower your asking price in order to sell quickly.  

Strong Buying Position – When it comes to buying, you will be in a strong position as you can move quickly. This is often attractive to those who are keen to sell, which allows you to negotiate a competitive price for the property. You’re also in a favourable position to other buyers and this can help you to secure your dream home if you’re in competition.

Knowing your Costings – Once you’ve sold your home, you know how much you can afford to spend on your next property. This can make your property search much more practical and straightforward.

Selling first - The Cons

Missing your Dream Home – If you concentrate on selling your home first, you could let your dream home pass you by. It’s advised that you keep your eyes open for properties coming to the market while you’re selling to avoid missing out on that ideal home.

Priced Out – If house prices are rising, you might be disappointed with the houses that you can afford once you’ve sold. Use the expert market knowledge of your estate agent so you can stay on top of the market and avoid getting priced out.

Renting – In order to keep your buyer, you may have to move into rented accommodation and put some of your furniture into storage if you haven’t bought your next home. This can be costly, but it puts you in a strong position when you want to make an offer on your next property.  

Buying first - The Pros

House Viewings – With no pressure to move out of your existing home, you can enjoy the buying process and take the time to look into different areas and houses.

Secure your Dream Home – If you’ve found your dream home, it can be a good idea to buy first to secure the property while you have the opportunity.

Rising House Prices – If house prices are rising, you can buy a property while it’s still in your price range and avoid getting priced out of the market.

Buying first - The Cons

Quick Sale – You may have to accept a lower offer on your existing property in order to sell your home in time.

Two Mortgages – Buying first could leave you in the precarious financial position of having to pay two mortgages at the same time if your current home doesn’t sell quickly enough. You could get a bridging loan to cover the transition but be aware that rates can be high. Another option is to rent out your existing home, but this gives you the added pressure of being a landlord whilst trying to move.

21Feb

From next month, important new regulations are coming into force that all businesses, including estate agencies, need to be aware of and adhere to.

There is a growing focus on money laundering, and HMRC has been increasingly strident in their approach to compliance. Fines imposed on estate agents have been as much as £169,000, and our own Park Lane office has recently been inspected.

This new requirement is part of the government’s drive to increase transparency and trust in UK companies, whilst at the same time tackling crimes such as terrorist financing and money laundering.

Here is a brief guide to the new legislation:

What are the latest changes?

From 6 April 2016, most UK companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) will be required to keep and maintain a new register – a register of persons with significant control (PSC) over the company or LLP.

Companies and LLPs will need to keep this information internally from 6 April 2016 and will need to file this information at Companies House from 30 June 2016 – either as part of the new annual confirmation process (which will replace the annual return in June 2016) or on a new incorporation.

What is a PSC register?

The PSC register will identify and record people who have significant control over the company/LLP and contain stipulated information about them.

In summary, companies and LLPs will need to:

keep an internal register of their PSCs from 6 April 2016

take reasonable steps to identify those persons who should be registered on the PSC register

enter the required information on the PSC register - and keep this information updated

make the PSC register available for public inspection free of charge or provide copies on request for an optional flat fee of £12

file information about their PSCs at Companies House (as set out above) from 30 June 2016 onwards

PSCs will be under a corresponding duty to notify the company/LLP of their interest.  Failure of the PSC or the company/LLP to comply with these duties is an offence.  And if a relevant person fails to respond to a company’s requests for information, this may eventually result in the company being able to apply restrictions (for example restrictions on transfer) on the affected shares. 

All companies must keep a PSC register – even if they have no PSCs or the process of investigating who may be a PSC is still ongoing. The PSC register can never be empty - and there is prescribed wording to be included depending on the specific circumstances.

Who is a PSC?

Very broadly speaking, a person is a PSC if he/she:

1. holds, directly or indirectly, more than 25% of the nominal value of the company’s issued shares;

2. holds, directly or indirectly, more than 25% of the voting rights in the company;

3. holds the right, directly or indirectly, to appoint or remove a majority of the board of directors of the company;

4. has the right to exercise, or actually exercise, significant influence or control over the company; or

5. exercises or has the right to exercise significant influence or control over a trust or firm, which itself meets any of the above conditions.

The test for LLPs is very similar but is amended to reflect their different ownership structure. 

What do you need to do?

Based on what is currently known, it is likely that at the very least a company/LLP will need to contact its shareholders/members to ask them to confirm or provide details to enable completion of the PSC register. Both the Regulations and statutory guidance are still in draft form at this stage, so it is probably best to start your compliance process by considering whether you have any potential PSCs and possibly what procedures you will need to put in place in order to ensure you take 'reasonable steps' to identify them.  

For companies/LLPs with a simple ownership structure, this should not involve too much additional work. 

What information is recorded? 

Personal information:

For individuals on the PSC Register, certain personal information will need to be disclosed including name, service address, nationality, date of birth and usual residential address. The Act and the Regulations contain safeguards on how this personal information may be used and disclosed. 

An application may be made to Companies House to omit material from the public register or to prevent disclosure of PSC Register information. However, this will be limited to circumstances where there is a serious risk of violence or intimidation towards a registrable person or someone who lives with them. There will be no protection afforded for cases of commercial sensitivity or confidentiality.

A key point to note is that from 6 April 2016, a company's PSC Register must not be blank.  

How will the PSC Register be made available to the public?

A company's PSC Register will need to be kept at its registered office (or other inspection address) and be available for public inspection in the same way as for the register of members. The information on the PSC Register will also need to be confirmed to Companies House at least every 12 months and will be held by it on a publically searchable database. In addition, from June 2016 companies will be able to elect to keep their PSC Register (as well as other statutory registers) at Companies House. 

Companies will also be obliged to provide free access to the PSC Register and copies of it to any person on request for a flat fee of £12 per copy.

Duties and penalties

The new legislation will impose clear and unequivocal obligations both on companies and on persons with significant control.

Companies must take reasonable steps to identify those persons and legal entities which should be included on its PSC Register and must keep it up to date. If companies do not comply with their duties in relation to the PSC Register, they, and their directors, face criminal liability.

Registrable persons (PSCs) and legal entities must respond to notices and provide information, or volunteer such information where the company doesn’t contact them. Failure to respond to a company’s request for information will entitle the company, effectively, to freeze their interest until compliance. This may lead to a loss of dividend, voting and other rights while the interest is frozen.

Where to find the new rules and guidance

The rules are to be implemented by the insertion of a new part 21A and schedules 1A and 1B into the Companies Act 2006 ("Act") with the detail surrounding certain provisions being contained in The People with Significant Control Regulations 2016 ("Regulations"), the final draft of which can be found here. 

In addition, The Limited Liability Partnerships (Register of People with Significant Control) Regulations 2016 here apply the provisions to LLPs. 

The most up-to-date versions of these can be found on the Government website here.  

In addition, we are also expecting the Government to publish non-statutory guidance aimed at assisting PSCs in understanding their obligations under the new law, but this has not been made available yet.

What issues may there be with the PSC Register?

The major issue facing companies and LLPs required to keep the new PSC Register will be putting in place the internal processes necessary to enable them to compile and maintain the register and, where this has not already begun, companies should start this process now.

The way forward

Because full guidance on “significant influence or control” is not being made available until October, the full impact on businesses is currently unknown. However, given the short timescale to proposed implementation, companies should take steps to ensure they will be able to comply in time.


03Feb

Remortgage borrowing on the rise


The latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders showed that lending had increased substantially year on year.  That applied across the board for first time buyers, homemovers and remortgage borrowers alike, reflecting the continued improvement in the mortgage market. 

The annual increase in remortgage borrowing was up by a whopping 36%, a clear sign that borrowers are taking advantage of the competitive rates currently on offer.  In fact it amounted to the highest volume of remortgage loans in November since 2011.

The level of competition in the market is only likely to increase, which is great news for borrowers as lenders fight hard for their business.  As a result, rates have been driven down and have improved across the board, not only for those with a large slice of equity in the property.  

It therefore makes sense for borrowers to keep their mortgage under review, especially when it is likely to be the single biggest outgoing for most households.  Shaving the rate on a mortgage could equate to a saving of thousands of pounds per annum.  

Borrowers can choose from a wide range of product types so may also take the chance to plan ahead for the day when interest rates start to climb.  Fixing the mortgage rate will mean that they know exactly where they stand for a period of time.  Those that feel rates will remain low for longer and can deal with an increase may prefer a variable or tracking rate.   

However, it is important to factor in any costs associated with the switch as fees can mount up and eat into the potential savings. There is a huge range of deals on the market though and many lenders offer help with switching costs.  

For some borrowers, a slightly higher interest rate with lower or even no fees will offer better value so it makes sense to shop around.  Advice tailored to your individual circumstance and requirements will help navigate the mortgage maze to find the best deal for you.


Guild Mortgage Service, Provided by London & Country Mortgages

YOUR HOME OR PROPERTY MAY BE REPOSSESSED IF YOU DO NOT KEEP UP REPAYMENTS ON YOUR MORTGAGE

The FCA does not regulate most Buy to let mortgages.

03Feb

Mortgages for the self-employed


Within the mortgage market, lending criteria has tightened enormously over recent years, focusing heavily on ensuring borrowers can prove affordability, both now and in the event of a rate rise. All applicants are subject to the same affordability checks and are required to provide evidence of their income for underwriting purposes, but for the self employed this can sometimes prove difficult.

While an employed applicant can confirm their income using payslips and P60s, the self-employed will often need to provide 2 to 3 years worth of full accounts or self assessment returns (SA302s) from HMRC. This can be particularly tricky however for someone who has changed to a self-employed status more recently. 

One such couple approached the mortgage service for the Guild of Professional Estate Agents, looking for advice on purchasing a new property. Both were sole traders, but applicant 2 had only made the transition from employed to self-employed when the couple relocated in 2013. After carrying out a range of non-contracted work from ad-hoc clients, she began a rolling contract with a consultancy in 2014, and as a result could only provide 1 year’s worth of accounts. 

Despite their limited proof of income, the couple’s mortgage adviser was able to place the applicants with a smaller, more specialised lender, who would consider a minimum of 12 months trading history.

They decided on a fixed rate deal, allowing them to secure their mortgage payment for the first 2 years, while also giving them time to build up their accounts further and have access to a wider range of lenders when their deal comes to an end. 

Although there is often an assumption that securing a mortgage if you are self-employed is almost impossible, there are options available. As can be seen here, getting advice from a mortgage broker can be invaluable when it comes to finding a lender with the most suitable approach to underwriting. 


Guild Mortgage Service, Provided by London & Country Mortgages

YOUR HOME OR PROPERTY MAY BE REPOSSESSED IF YOU DO NOT KEEP UP REPAYMENTS ON YOUR MORTGAGE

The FCA does not regulate most Buy to let mortgages.


03Feb

LAND REGISTRY DATA: NOVEMBER 2015 (released 30 December 2015)

The headline statistics of the November 2015 Land Registry report on house prices are identical to those reported for October, the monthly increase in average house prices across England and Wales being 0.4 per cent and the overall annual price change 5.6 per cent. 

Regionally, the highest monthly increase was seen in London at 1.6 per cent, followed by the North East at 1.3 per cent; prices decreased in the West Midlands, East Midlands and Yorkshire & The Humber with falls of 0.3 per cent, 0.7 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively.

The average house price in England & Wales now stands at £186,325 and in London at £506,724. London saw the highest annual change in prices at 11.2 per cent, followed by the East at 9.8 per cent and the South East at 8.0 per cent. The lowest annual increase was seen in Yorkshire & The Humber and the North East, both at 1.3 per cent, but no region experienced a fall. Reversing last month’s statistics on property types, detached properties showed the highest annual increase at 5.8 per cent, while the lowest increase was seen in terraced properties at 5.2 per cent.

In greater detail, ten counties and unitary authorities saw an annual fall in prices, the greatest being Hartlepool at minus 2.5 per cent; Reading again experienced the highest annual rise at 16.2 per cent. The strongest monthly growth was seen in Merthyr Tydfil with an increase of 3.5 per cent, while Ceredigion had the most significant monthly drop at minus 3.3 per cent. Eight counties and unitary authorities saw no monthly price change.

Of the metropolitan districts, Knowsley again showed the largest annual price increase at 11.2 per cent; six districts saw a fall, the greatest being Barnsley at minus 3.7 per cent. South Tyneside experienced the highest monthly price increase at 2 per cent, while Sunderland saw the greatest monthly fall with a movement of minus 2.1 per cent.

Of the London boroughs, Hillingdon had the highest annual price rise at 14.4 per cent, while Kensington & Chelsea saw the smallest annual increase at 0.3 per cent. On a monthly basis, Barking & Dagenham showed the highest increase at 2.2 per cent. Richmond upon Thames and Kensington & Chelsea experienced monthly falls of minus 0.3 per cent and minus 1.4 per cent respectively. 

The volume of properties sold in September 2015 was 8 per cent lower than a year earlier in England and Wales and 13 per cent lower in London. Over the same period, properties sold for more than £1 million across England and Wales as a whole increased by one per cent but fell in London by two per cent. 

Month on month, the total number of properties sold across England and Wales fell from 74,596 in August to 72397 in September – a decrease of 2.9 per cent. The number of property transactions from June 2015 to September 2015 averaged 79,315 per month, compared to 83,095 over the same period a year earlier.


03Feb

ECONOMIC NEWS: December 2015/January 2016


At its December 2015 meeting, the Bank of England’s nine-member Monetary Policy Committee again voted by eight to one to hold the UK interest rate at 0.5 per cent amid expectations that inflation will remain low after a sharp fall in the oil price and a levelling off in wage growth. The Bank maintained its view from November that inflation would not exceed one per cent until the second half of 2016. Meanwhile, interest rates for millions of UK savers have sunk to a new low with the average rate on Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs), for example, falling from 0.99 per cent in November to 0.85 per cent in December.

Later in December, the US Federal Reserve voted unanimously to raise interest rates by 25 basis points to between 0.25 per cent and 0.5 per cent – the first rate increase there since 2006. However, it is widely believed that the Bank of England will not follow suit when it meets again in mid-January. 

The Bank of England’s annual survey of 6,000 households compiled by NMG Consulting and published in December 2015, suggests that households ‘appear a little better placed to cope with an increase in interest rates than a year ago’; it also found that the share of mortgagors with high debt servicing ratios had fallen close to an historic low. However, it warned that some households, whose finances were especially vulnerable to a rate hike, might suffer from continued cuts in state spending. The Bank also released figures showing that unsecured debt in November 2015 had reached £2,759 per household, excluding student loans; one reason for this high figure is believed to be the current popularity of car loans – car sales reached a record level in 2015, when, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, some 2.63 million new vehicles were registered.

According to a Trade Union Congress (TUC) survey, published in early January, the proportion of household debt is at its highest for five years. Based on data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which includes student loans but excludes mortgages, the average UK home owed 26.5 per cent of its annual income on loans and credit cards in the third quarter of 2015, the highest proportion since 2008. The average amount owed by households is £11,800, the highest level yet. However, debt was proportionately greater in 2008 at more than 30 per cent of household income. 

In addition to low inflation, another factor that keeps the lid on UK interest rates is the current strength of the pound, particularly against the euro, which makes imported goods cheap. However, in early January, the ONS reported that the UK’s trade deficit in goods and services had narrowed in November 2015 after the value of oil imports fell; the three-month figures also showed a narrowing in the trade deficit, down £1.0bn from the previous quarter. 

In a speech early in the New Year, Chancellor George Osborne warned that 2016 is likely to be one of the toughest since the financial crisis; this assertion contrasts with the positive tone of his Autumn Statement, when he said that the UK was ‘growing fast’