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01Dec

When it comes to Christmas selling, there is no single answer. Your estate agent will be able to advise whether your home could benefit from being on the market over the festive season, or whether it is worth waiting until the New Year.  

If you are looking for a balanced view, these points will help:  


  • • When selling your home you need to be prepared for viewings at a moment’s notice – and with a house full of vising family, it may not be possible to show your home at its best. Cluttered homes are difficult to imagine, as you tend to see the items as opposed to the space.  

  • • House-hunters might wonder why you are choosing to sell at this time of year and may read your choice to sell at Christmas as a rushed or even a desperate sale. This may lead to lower offers.

  • • As well as making assumptions about the sellers, those who are house hunting are likely to be fewer as they too would choose to celebrate Christmas before resuming, or starting, their search.  

  • • A New Year means a fresh start for many, which makes January a very popular time to start searching for a new home. Waiting until January could widen your potential buyers significantly.  

  • • For those who do venture into the market over the holidays, you will find a buyer thanks to the reduced number of homes for sale – it is a perfect time to capture serious house hunters.

  • • Christmas decorations are an interesting topic. For those who celebrate Christmas with gusto, their homes will be beautifully cleaned and decorated, which could well mean the festive season is the perfect time for viewings. However, decorations are extremely subjective. Do people like white lights or coloured lights, do they want a fake tree or a real one, is tinsel a must or a no, no.  


But remember, the busiest time for property portals is Boxing Day. If you decide to market your home over Christmas then make sure your home is online.  

Find your nearest Guild Agent now.  

25Nov

The bottom line of raising a deposit is that you need to save money! Here are some top tips to help start you on your campaign to turn your pennies into pounds:

·         With a realistic monthly saving plan, you can rest assured you have started the wheels in motion – there is a lot to be said for initiating the ‘saving’! A deposit can seem like a daunting figure, so taking it month by month will take some of the pressure off. Even if you aren’t sure how much you will ultimately need, you can always begin saving.  

·         There are plenty of free online budget templates you can download which will help you to assess your finances. As well as fixed monthly costs, such as bills, you would be surprised how much you spend on seemingly small items. Start this process by reviewing your previous months spend to avoid forgetting or being too optimistic.

·         Avoid overestimating the amount you can set aside each month. Settle on a minimum figure and, if you have an extra good month, you can always transfer some extra pounds into your savings account. Trying to save too much is likely to put you off and leave you feeling disappointed.

·         Before you choose an account, do some research as interest rates can vary. Since saving for a deposit is a long-term goal, it may be that an account which gives you better interest rates, but does not allow you instant access is more appropriate. Take your time working this out as it’s important to make your money work hard for you! Remember that a savings account is not for life: periodically assess whether moving your savings could be more beneficial.

·         Take the chore of transferring out of your life and transfer the money automatically with a standing order or direct debit. This stop you from thinking, hesitating or reallocating those funds.

·         Your family and friends will understand your goal – so ask them for support. Find cheaper midweek deals to meet with friends and swap dinners out for a nice meal in. 

Saving can be a struggle; often, the first few months are your best as you are focused and dedicated. Since this is a long-term plan, you may need to find ways to reinvigorate your savings at varying points, but also remember there are times to give yourself a break as long as you continue to save your minimum amount.

 

23Nov

Moving house can be a stressful time but, for buyers who already have a mortgage, it doesn’t necessarily mean ripping up the deal and starting again.

 

Most mortgages are portable, which means that they can be transferred from a borrower’s current property to their new home when they move.  This can be particularly useful for homeowners who want to avoid paying Early Repayment Charges (ERC’s) on their existing mortgage, which can amount to thousands of pounds.

 

Those who have secured a competitive interest rate may also find it more beneficial to port their mortgage to a new property rather than taking a new deal.

 

Staying with the same lender can still throw up its challenges however, so the ability to move the mortgage to a new property is by no means guaranteed. A lender will still carry out an assessment before approving the loan, and this will be based on their current criteria.



 

The Mortgage Market Review of 2014 saw more focus placed on affordability, with lenders asking more questions and examining incomings and outgoings in greater detail. As a result, some may be surprised to find they are turned down by their existing lender, even if they are not asking for any additional borrowing.  Those whose circumstances have changed since last applying, for example becoming self-employed or starting a family and paying for childcare, may also discover that they no longer meet the criteria of their lender. 

 

For many, moving home means buying a more expensive property, and asking for a top-up on the mortgage. A lender might not be willing to lend the additional funds however, leaving borrowers with little choice but to pay a penalty to move elsewhere. If they are happy to lend, then it could be on a different and potentially higher rate.

 

Whatever the options are, it is still important to take the opportunity to review the current market and compare new deals with those on offer through the existing lender. With rates over the last few months coming down to historic lows, it could even make financial sense to pay a penalty and take out a new loan with a different provider, but it’s vital to do the sums first to make sure this is the best course of action.

 

If you are considering moving home and need mortgage advice, then please speak to the Guild Mortgage Service provided by fee free L&C Mortgages.

You can contact L&C mortgages on: 0800 073 1945

21Nov

The author of Adrian Mole fame, Sue Townsend’s, former home is for sale. The four-bedroom property in Stoneygate, Leicester has many happy and creative memories. Now the property is on the market for offers in excess of £700,000.  


Colin, Sue’s husband, talks fondly about life in Homefield Road: 

“Every house has a story to tell. But perhaps none more so than Holmfield Road, the former home and creative hub of one of Britain’s best-loved authors and playwrights. 
 



On securing her first million-pound publishing deal for her Adrian Mole diaries, Sue Townsend bought the former manse in Leicester’s leafy Stoneygate more than 30 years ago, moving in with her husband, Colin, and their family. 


“I will always remember looking around the house with Sue,” recalls Colin.   

 

Although they didn’t make an offer on the house straight away, it stayed at the forefront of their minds, and when Colin spotted an advert for it in the paper with a different agent 10 days later, he showed it to Sue. “She just rang the estate agent and said ‘I’ll buy it." When asked, do you want to view it, Sue said "No" And that was that,” he continues. 
 
The two-storey property was the manse of St Margaret’s Church and was the first of its kind in Leicester to be built beyond the city limits. It provided the perfect backdrop for the family of six, the main selling points for the children being the potential for hide and seek, as well as each having their own room. 
 



The couple quickly embarked upon a long period of renovation, knocking down walls and reducing the maze-like feel of the late Victorian accommodation. 
 
“Originally, there was an outside toilet, a scullery and accommodation for a maid and butler,” says Colin. “So we simplified it to make bigger rooms.” 
 
"One of the best things about it was that Sue could get out into the garden in her wheelchair. She loved the garden. It’s walled and not at all overlooked, and despite being relatively close to the A6 London Road, it's a peaceful space to sit and relax." 
 



According to Colin, Sue’s favourite place to write was at the kitchen table, amid the bustle of family life. 
 
“We spent most of our time in there,” adds Colin. “It’s without doubt my favourite room in the house. It has doors that open up on to the garden. I can’t even begin to think how many celebrations and dinner parties we’ve hosted in there, but I do remember one Christmas with 26 people around the table.” 
 
Parties – often to celebrate a new book launch – were frequent, often with 50 or so guests. And invites to various neighbours’ houses were equally abundant. 
 
“We loved entertaining,” he says. “There is so much space here, which makes it perfect for a sociable, growing family.” 


Rob Shields, from Aston & Co Exclusive Homes commented: After more than 20 years I am still honoured when anyone entrusts me with the sale of what is probably their most valuable financial asset. 


As Aston & Co’s Exclusive Homes Manager, I get to see some stunning properties but to be involved with the sale of a home of such historic significance, where so many literary masterpieces have been created is a bit special.

07Nov

On the 23rd November, The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, will present his Autumn Statement to Parliament. This will be his first opportunity to define the Government’s strategy for the forthcoming year, and it will be carefully scrutinised given the political and economic uncertainties which have occurred in the last 12 months.

So what would we like to see in the Autumn Statement in relation to the property sector, and how will these changes affect you / the property market?

Stamp duty

When buying a residential property, you pay Stamp Duty in increasing portions of the property price above £125,000.

Reports all indicate that the market has been relatively resilient in the last 12 months in the light of increased economic and political uncertainty, but that activity at the top end of the market in particular has been notably depressed by the higher tax payable.

Currently, buyers pay 5% Stamp Duty on homes between £250,001 and £925,000; over that the tax is calculated at 10%. In many instances, this has prevented or delayed people from moving up the property ladder. Higher tax rates can act as a powerful incentive towards developing and extending a current home as opposed to moving house. Therefore, a reduction in rates could give transactions a welcome boost.

The following Government website can provide more information about Stamp Duty charges.



Buy-to-let
Investors will also be hoping for some relief from the recent tax changes (Stamp Duty, MIRAS) which have reduced rental yields. It has been calculated that interest rates were to rise to 2.5%; a large percentage of private rental stock could no longer be profitable for the landlord. The Government seems to prefer a model where large institutional investors provide a majority of residential rental stock, but currently the small private landlord still plays a crucial role in matching supply and demand - and also keeps down average rents which are staring to pick up following the tax increases mentioned above.

A clear, balanced strategy towards the private rental sector would be very welcome, including some reductions in the recent, punitive tax changes.

Rent more about best rental practice here.




Housing Supply & Demand
Of greater concern is the supply of residential housing stock. The need for more housing is a very real concern as the UK population is expected to rise to 67m by 2020, and 73m by 2035. We are not even meeting the current demand for property, especially affordable housing- and the knock-on effect of this is to boost the private rental sector and push rents upwards, further disadvantaging potential first time buyers.

Several conservative party ministers prioritised housing supply at the recent Conservative Party Conference, and so it is expected that the government will announce financial support for smaller house builders.

Like this post? Read more about the market here.

As a more radical option – if the Government really wants to get people moving and encourage more building of new homes, why not scrap Stamp Duty altogether and replace this with a tax on companies who sit on undeveloped plots? Downsides could include the loss of Treasury income or even the return of a more ‘speculative’ housing market…but some new thinking is required to solve what is now a chronic issue.

04Nov

The weather is getting chillier by the day; the leaves have fallen and the time has come to put the fire on. With bonfire night just around the corner, winter is on its way.


Caring for your home in the colder months is really vital. If you are planning on selling your home this winter, the last thing you need is frozen or burst pipes you have to fix and décor to replace.

Here are our top 5 tips to help your home through the winter:

1. Gleaming guttering
As pretty as those falling leaves are, they will collect in your guttering. Designed to prevent damp and leaks, the water should be able to flow through the pipes, well away from your walls. When it comes to selling, shoddy looking guttering can significantly diminish your kerb appeal, but the occasional clean out can make them look as good as new and keep them in good working order.




2. Loft insulation
Without insulation, you can lose a significant amount of heat. Not only does decent insulation keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but will also add value to your property; prospective buyers will be looking out for homes which are more energy efficient.

3. Frozen Pipes
If the water in your pipes freezes up, you could end up with a soggy mess. To save yourself some costly repair work here are a few simple tips:

Don’t trap heat in areas of your home; keeping doors open and allowing the air to circulate will help to prevent isolated cold spots, which is good news for your pipes.

Set your heating to come on low during the day, this will help to keep frost at bay. If you go on holiday, keep the heading scheduled and retain some warmth in your home during your absence.

Wrapping your pipes with lagging is a good precaution, especially in the coldest areas of your home such as the garage or a chilly utility room. It is fairly cheap and easily purchased online, you just need to wrap it around the pipes. 

Do you know where your stopcock is? Although not a prevention tactic, you need to know where to switch your water off in case of emergencies.

Like this post? Read more about preparing your home here.

4. When was the last time your boiler was serviced?
Now is the ideal time to get your boiler serviced. There are several reasons to get this looked at: it will reduce your fuel bills by making your boiler run at its most efficient, it will save you money on future repairs, and your annual service will ensure that you meet any insurance requirements.



5. Safe and secure
As the daylight fades and we get cosy in our warmly lit living rooms, it becomes easier to see the contents of our homes if we are home or not. Do you have a sensor light? Do you draw your curtains in the evening? Do you leave keys, handbags or tablets on display?

From now on, get yourself into the habit of leaving a few lights on when you go out and remember to keep valuables out of sight – there is no need to make your home vulnerable.

Having good relationships with friends and neighbours is invaluable; they can pop in and check your home while you’re away. They will naturally keep an eye out for your property and notice when things are amiss – so this could be a good time to invite them round for coffee.

28Oct

As the month comes to an end, children Trick or Treating isn’t the only thing to make you jump! If you love the paranormal and are looking for somewhere to live that’s occupied by more than just the living, here's our pick of some of the most haunted places to live in Britain:

Pluckley, near Ashford, Kent
Holding perhaps the dubious honour of the Most Haunted Village in Britain, Pluckley is said to be haunted by over 12 ghosts and is a must-visit for those with an interest in the paranormal. Purportedly haunting the village is a Screaming Man, a Red Lady, a White Lady, a monk and a little bonnet-wearing old lady and, as if that wasn’t enough, Fright Corner is where a local highway man met his demise after being on the wrong end of a lawman's sword. If this doesn't convince you, perhaps the sounds of a horse drawn coach ringing out over Maltman's Hill will have you questioning your hearing and your sanity...

Prestbury, Gloucestershire
Prestbury is also well renowned for its ghostly activities and is perhaps best known for The Black Abbott, a hooded shade of a monk. He tends to appear at the same time and always takes the same route, so it's up to you if you wish to visit or avoid the Old Priory and its churchyard at Christmas, Easter and on All Souls Day. Keep your ears pricked for the sound of hoof beats pounding along the oldest street in the village, The Burgage, as it could be announcing the arrival of a Royalist despatch rider on his trusty steed, murdered during the Civil War. The cold misty mornings of spring are the best time to catch sight of another victim, a messenger who was shot dead by a Lancastrian Archer in 1471. The spectral horseman is known to gallop along Shaw Green Lane in the early hours on his white charger.



Rushton, Northamptonshire

Boasting a number of supernatural sightings, Rushton is home to a ghostly monk who is often seen drifting along a quiet, leafy road carrying an unknown item. Whilst travelling along the road, some drivers have reported looking into their rear view mirror and seeing a man's face staring back at them from the back seat. Nearby, in the grounds of the stately Rushton Hall, a rider on horseback and his hunting dog are reported to haunt the area around the hall. The place they are reputed to wander is said to be where their bodies were once discovered during building work in the 1580's. Also found in Rushton is the Triangular Lodge where the sounds of fiddling can still be heard beneath the structure. Sent down to investigate a secret passage, the unlucky fiddler had only travelled 12 metres or so, when the tunnel collapsed and trapped him inside for the rest of eternity.



Castleton, Derbyshire
Although Castleton is home to several ghosts, perhaps the most tragic story is that of a heartbroken bride-to-be. Jilted on the morning of her wedding, it's believed that she committed suicide in the Castle Hotel and can sometimes be found in the gallery, still wearing her wedding dress. Also be on the look out for a smartly dressed man wearing a pin-striped suit, sneaking into the side entrance to stop his wife from catching him drinking. He loved his pints so much that not even death can keep him away! The spectre of a nurse wearing her uniform has also been reported in the cellar of the hotel, whilst a ghostly 60-year-old housekeeper can be seen to roam the corridors.

London
The English capital has the reputation of being the most haunted capital city in the world with ghosts that span the passing of centuries, from headless queens to phantom highway men. From those who perished inside the Tower of London – famed for being the most haunted building in Britain – to the victims of the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper, oh, and not forgetting the boys and girls of the Ragged School Museum, London has more than its fair share of spooky goings-on. Why not find yourself a ghostly walking tour and be scared and entertained in equal measure.



Cannock Chase, Staffordshire
Designated as the 'Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty', the region was once the hunting ground of ancient royalty and is a picturesque area of woodland walks and abundant wildlife. However, it's also home to an eerie entity known as The Black Eyed Child, a girl with coal-black eyes. Although her history is not known, it's claimed that she could be one of many buried in an unmarked grave after dying in a workhouse.



Borley, Essex
The pretty village of Borley is home to Borley Rectory which is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a nun, two headless horsemen and a phantom carriage. This, coupled with the unexplained ringing of the servant’s bells and bottles mysteriously being thrown, has all the elements of a ghost story waiting to be unravelled...

Newchurch, Pendle

Nestled in the shadow of Pendle Hill, the tiny village of Newchurch is home to the infamous story of the Pendle Witches. Back in the 17th century, a dozen residents were accused of practicing the dark art of witchcraft and – all bar one – were subsequently found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging on Lancaster Moor. Naturally, with such a bloodthirsty history, the area is rife with hauntings and in a field just outside the village lies a toppled stone, near which the ghost of a young girl has been seen weeping for her soldier lover who never returned from war.

Like this post? Read more about the top places to live in Britain. 

Eyam, Derbyshire
Home to the Villagers Who Chose to Die, the village of Eyam is surrounded by hills stretching upwards onto moorlands. With pretty stone cottages, a manor house and a haunted inn, there are reminders everywhere of its tragic history.  Next to the Parish Church there is a line of houses known as the Plague Cottages; it was here in 1665, where the innocuous opening of a parcel of cloth from London, would set off an event which would devastate the community. The cloth contained fleas carrying the Plague which spread like wildfire throughout the village. Victims succumbed to the illness every day and so, under the leadership of their Vicar, the villagers took the brave and selfless decision to quarantine themselves in an attempt to contain the illness. Today the cottages are adorned with small plaques commemorating the residents.



Blackpool, Lancashire
Blackpool attracts millions of fun-seeking tourists each year, however there is a darker side to waiting to be discovered. Claimed to be home to a number of ghosts, including scorned lovers, demented clergymen and the unfortunate residents of the ancient town of Kilmigrol, thought to have been once situated just off the coast of Blackpool. Coastal erosion has claimed many villages throughout the ages, Kilmigrol was one of its ill-fated victims. Thought to have been consigned to its watery fate sometime in the Dark Ages, residents and visitors to Blackpool have reported ghostly occurrences over the years, including the mournful sound of eerie sea shanties drifting across the water, sometimes accompanied by ghostly lights shimmering on the horizon. Listen out for the sounds of church bells tolling on stormy nights, warning the villagers of their impending doom.


26Oct

Without a crystal ball, how can you possibly know where an up-and-coming area might be? Finding a location that is on the cusp of a boom is not just about finding the trendiest spot in town; the right location which could make a property a much stronger investment for the future.
Local estate agents have in-depth knowledge of the local area and are the perfect people to guide your property search. However, there are several pointers to help you spot the next best thing:

Retailers
When people have a greater disposable income, there tends to be a larger number of independent retailers. Keep your eyes peeled for new boutiques, delicatessen or niche food chains. Bear in mind that for bigger stores there is a significant volume of market research conducted before the expensive of opening a new store is considered – use this as a steer in your search.



Transport Links
Anywhere within a five-mile radius of good transport links has a lot of potential. Many will already be popular and therefore expensive, but taking a closer look at the map could pay off. While this approach may mean going a little further down the train line, you should consider this as a tactical, and practical move. 


Age
The age within a local area can be a good indicator of future desirability. With young professionals in their twenties and thirties in abundance, there tends to be a subsequent influx of retailers and businesses to accommodate.

Days on Market
If a property is selling fast, it can only be a good sign! Take a moment to investigate how long properties in your search area are taking to sell, if it is a long time it would suggest the market is not working its way up to fever pitch in the near future.



Future Developments
As well as what is already in close proximity, it is also worth investigating whether there are any future development plans, such as new transport links or schools. New build developments are another tell-tale sign that the area is worth investing in.

To make the absolute most of your search and get the detailed knowledge you require, find your local Guild estate agent.

20Oct

As the cost of buying a property rises, three-generational living is becoming more common. These are often short term arrangements where a grown-up child moves their young family in with their parents, or where an ageing parent moves in with their child and family for financial or health reasons.

Often the most stigmatised of family members, the in-laws are proving to be surprisingly helpful. With house prices remaining at high levels, the 'Bank of Mum and Dad' now extends to the 'House of Mum and Dad', enabling buyers to reduce their outgoings and free up their money to be put towards a deposit.

Relationships with the in-laws can often be viewed as challenging due to differences in values and behaviour but when you get it right, the benefits can be great for all generations. As well as the obvious financial benefits, living with family can often create a closer relationship between grandchildren and grandparents because they get to see each other every day. Having another set of adults under the same roof means that the responsibility of running a house and doing the school runs can be shared for everyone's benefit, so there's plenty to be positive about.



If you're considering taking the plunge into 3G living, here is some of the best advice we can offer, to help you all make the most of the situation.

Set boundaries around the key areas likely to cause conflict, for example, which parts of the home are communal or private and who does particular household chores. The key thing here is that you all have an input and mutually agree on the guidelines that will help you get along, and most importantly, that the outcome ensures everyone feels comfortable in the new living environment.

Regular communication is crucial and it's important to discuss any new or unresolved issues. However uncomfortable you may find it, speaking out honestly is essential to resolving any issues. Returning to a family home can have some adverse effects; the desire to become a big kid again and arguing with parents is a real possibility. Try and keep yourself out of any family disputes – leave them work through it out together to avoid further arguments or tension.

One of the biggest areas of contention could be over the children. It's important to state your expectations regarding discipline and care. If the adults involved aren't clear on their responsibilities, it can quickly lead to resentment and arguments, so agree this up front.



Discuss and agree finances in advance of moving in. There are sure to be little things that you hadn't considered, for example, paying the window cleaner. The bigger outgoings such as a nominal rent value or utility bills can, of course, be agreed in advance.

Establish a clear plan of action and expected timescales involved for you to get to where you need to be financially. Try not to deviate from this (it can be tempting to book a holiday when you're feeling a bit down and the weather is cold and rainy!) and work diligently to achieve those financial milestones. Remember living together is a temporary situation.




Set aside a regular 'date night'. This could be an evening which coincides with the in-laws night out, or you could propose that one evening per week is set aside for everyone to stay in their own living areas, ensuring everyone gets some uninterrupted down time.

It's important to be appreciative of your in-laws generosity, so let them know that you recognise this by showing your thanks. Living in close confinement with your in-laws can sometimes blur the fact that they are the people who you love and who love you back. It's certainly worth doing all that you can to strengthen your relationship whilst you're living together, instead of breaking it.


Like this post? Read more about how to become a first time buyer.

18Oct

Current statistics suggest that in years to come, renting is only going to become more popular – that doesn’t mean we have to resign ourselves to a life of off-whites. We take a look at ways to give your rented space some personality and style without breaching your tenancy agreement.

1. Plants
In a pale colour scheme, a green leaf can really pack a punch. Although often assumed quite complex to grow, an orchid will give your home an elegant touch of colour. For the less green-fingered tenant, an Areca Palm is a full and vibrant green that gives a tropical feel and will grow big enough to be a focal point. Spider plants could be another good option for those with a tendency to kill off their plants. Whatever you choose, plants will really soften a room.



2. Crockery
So many interior design schemes now feature exotic locations, it is easy to pick up some colourful crockery. Give your table a hint of the far east with coppers and include some Moorish accents with mosaic tiled patterns. Or, step back in time with vintage tearoom style. In particular, larger serving bowls and platters can be left as permanent table displays, or you can display them in a dresser for added personality.



3. Art
Colourful, unique and personal, art can transform a room. Choosing a large canvas will draw the eye and be all the more stunning for the pale-coloured walls around it. Larger works will save you making too many holes in the walls which you need to fill later, but if you prefer a collection of smaller images you could opt for a large frame with space for lots of images to give a collage feel. 



4. Mirrors
Make a room feel bigger and brighter with the addition of a mirror which bounces light and space around a room. You can go for something ornate or very simple, depending on whether you want some artwork or a more functional mirror. Think about different shapes too; a convex, port-hole style mirror could be ideal in a small toilet to give the illusion of space while adding a nautical theme. Alternatively, a large rectangular mirror resting on the floor and tilting upwards will give the room a greater sense of depth.



5. Wall hangings
Using fabric to cover a wall is a great way to express yourself; you can create a feature wall which only requires a curtain rail. Hang some material behind your bed to give a dramatic, sumptuous feel for minimal cost and effort. Pop into your local haberdashery to peruse the colourful fabrics. Not only is this a relatively cheap option (dependent upon the fabric you choose, the size of your wall or the proportion of wall you want to cover), but it is also easily changed, unlike wallpaper or paint. You can change your style according to the season or even your mood.

Like this post? Read more about the rental market here.

6. Rugs
Beige, bland carpets can be the backdrop to some spectacular floor art: welcome the rug. From spiced Moroccan coloured runners to a faux fur rug, a well-placed mat can give your home bags of personality. What is great about this is that you are able to keep your other items fairly neutral, making them perfect for taking to your new home which may be very different. 



7. Textiles
From cushions to bedding, carefully picking patterns and colours for your textiles will convey a homely, loved feel – which makes a huge great difference to rented space. Play with different textures and materials in complimentary colours for a layered, expensive look. 



8. Tiles
Think outside the box and add tiles for a quirky feel. While you are likely to have a splashback in your kitchen already, resting some bold impactful tiles behind the cooker will inject colour. The bathroom is another good place to try this; if you have a shelf or a window sill, rest a few tiles on it. They will seem in keeping with these rooms in particular, even though you are using them more like pieces of art. Don’t be afraid to choose different types of tiles; a mismatched pattern with a recurring colour scheme will make for an eclectic space.



9. Lighting
Add a freestanding lamp to your living room to create an expensive and tailored look. You can make a reading nook with a low-hanging lamp over a comfy chair, or perhaps light up an alcove with an uplighter to showcase features. Table lamps will also help to style your home, whether they are on your bedside table or in the hall; the right lamp is always a feature. If it’s feasible, a statement chandelier could give a room real drama.  



10. Furniture
This is perhaps one of the most obvious ways to make a space your own. If you are in an unfurnished property though, it may be that you have bought a collection of cost-effective furniture which could be a little bland. A way to avoid a white-washed room or a pine frenzy, is to choose one item which is unique and turn it into a feature. Charity shops could be a fantastic source for something which is still relatively cheap, yet totally different to the rest of your items. Don’t be afraid to sand furniture down and get the paint brush either!

17Oct

Seven-year age gap between FTB’s across UK

Recent research by Halifax has revealed a seven-year age difference in First Time Buyers depending on where they live.

 

According to the lender the national average is currently 30, but they say this figure hides the disparity between the oldest and youngest groups buying a property for the first time.

 

The report found thast the youngest First Time Buyers, at 27 years old, were in parts of Cumbria and South Wales. In areas such as Slough and some London boroughs on the other hand, the average had risen significantly to 34.

 

This data reveals a link between younger buyers and areas with lower property prices, where the house price to earnings ratio is below the national average. Saving for a deposit is therefore a more realistic and more affordable prospect.

 

By contrast, areas with the oldest buyers are nearly all in the South East, where the price to earnings ratio is nearly double the national average.

 

It’s no wonder that so many First Time Buyers need help getting on to the property ladder, and that in the meantime Generation Rent continues to dominate so many parts of the UK.

17Oct

CML figures show an increase in lending 

The latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders reveal that mortgage lending in the residential market has risen over the last year.

First Time Buyers borrowed £5.1bn in August, an increase of 24% on this time last year, while lending to home movers increased by 3%. 

Remortgage activity amounted to £5.9bn, representing a significant increase of 41% compared to last August.

These figures certainly indicate that appetite among borrowers is still strong. The CML say this is likely to continue over the coming months, with mortgage rates ticking along at near-record lows following the base rate cut in August.

By contrast the report also reveals that Buy to Let lending is down 12% year on year, a drop which is to be expected given the changes to stamp duty on second properties this year, and the upcoming tax changes next 

17Oct

Tougher rules to be introduced for BTL market

Following a consultation on the Buy-to-Let market earlier this year, the Prudential Regulation Authority has now confirmed it will introduce tougher underwriting criteria, to be phased in from January next year.

The aim is to make sure that borrowers are not over-stretching themselves, and can cope with their mortgage payments as well as the other costs associated with being a landlord.

These costs could include repairs, voids and management fees. Tax liability should also be accounted for, particularly for higher rate taxpayers who will see their tax relief on mortgage interest eroded from next April.

The regulator will require that lenders consider potential increases in interest rates. As a result they will be expected to assume a minimum stress rate of 5.5%, unless the mortgage is fixed for at least 5 years.

A number of lenders have already reviewed their policies and increased their rental requirement, their stress rate, or both. More are likely to follow suit over the coming months, and ultimately this could mean that landlords won’t be able to borrow as much based on rental income.

It’s therefore important for investors to be aware of increasing costs over the coming years and account for these when planning a purchase. 

14Oct

No picture will match what a property is like in reality, but given the majority of house searches begin online these days, you can’t afford to use poor images and hope people decide to visit regardless! This is harder than it seems, as not everyone can take a good picture. So, give house-hunters a compelling reason to arrange a viewing by making your home look its absolute best.

1. Call in the professionals! Estate agents either know how to take the right image or they commission a photographer who does. They also know which areas of your home to put in the spotlight as they will have an idea of the type of buyer your property will attract.

2. Prepare your home first. Before anyone photographs your rooms, make them look their best – dirty dishes in the sink or mucky floors will still be present in a good photo! A thorough clean and declutter will showcase the space rather than your personal items and furniture. 

3. Soften your rooms with flowers. Thoughtfully placed vases full of flowers can add a welcome splash of colour or a touch of elegance. Flowers are a good reminder that that not all items are clutter; arrangements can give an impression of delicate fragrances and a loved home. 



4. The right equipment will make all the difference. Although iPhones can take fantastic images, you can do so much more with a digital camera. In addition, tripods hold the camera steady and remove any chance of a shaky hand and a blurry photo. 

5. Following some basic principles of photography will result in fantastic images. Think about framing your image; symmetry is often appealing, so avoid unbalanced photos with bare spaces on one side and chaotic furniture on the other. Think about the angle too; you can create a journey through your house by keeping a living room in the foreground and drawing the eye outside to patio space, for example. Although cropping shouldn’t compromise the honesty of an image, it may be that removing a distraction will make better images.



6. Natural light is your friend. Rather than bright overhead ceiling or wall-mounted lights which cast a variety of often unflattering shadows, natural light will work better and will give your home a light, spacious feel. Interior design photographs are often a fair guide to good aesthetics, so take a look at the lighting they use and follow some of the current trends.



7. Choose the right time of day: morning or early afternoon are the best times as the light will be lower and softer. Experimenting at different hours by yourself, ahead of any professional shots, is a good way to explore the different feels lighting can give your home.

Like this post? Read more about preparing your home for sale here.

8. Find the optimal angle. Wider shots from a kneeling angle will reduce the amount of floor or ceiling you typically get in a photo taken from a standing position, after all, these are hardly the focal points. If you do take wider shots, avoid the distorted fishbowl effect as it has an untrustworthy feel. 



9. A few detail shots would be ideal for conveying the character of the house; focus on a cornice or unique fireplace, perhaps. A few artful photos will give your property a magazine feature feel and entice viewers. Make sure there is a balance though – all feature shots can be frustrating since they don’t give an accurate or very realistic impression of your home when viewed alone.

10. The features included should be carefully considered – not all need to be photographed. Ceiling fans are good example of an unnecessary inclusion: they aren’t a fixed feature and if the buyer doesn’t like them they can be removed, so don’t put them off before they have a chance to view the property!

Are you looking to sell your home? Find a Guild Member agent here.

11Oct

It’s no secret that first impressions are vital when it comes to selling your home. So before sprucing up your exterior ahead of selling, consider carefully which might be the most enticing colour to paint your home. 

Is it blue, green, pink, yellow or white? Firstly, think about where you live. If your street has a definitive palette it would be wise to stay in keeping; in a line of green houses, a pink one is likely to clash, making it stand out for all the wrong reasons!



Can the colour somehow reflect the landscape? A property which sits on the water may well work in a pale blue, reflecting the location while suggesting a calm, serene lifestyle. Another factor to consider could be the season; if you are painting specifically to sell your home you can afford to choose a colour which compliments the season, think sunny tones for sunny months!

Generally, the advice is to select neutral and traditional colours in order to attract the most people.

Like this post? Read more about improving your kerb appeal here.

White is always an attractive choice; a crisp white house will look clean and fresh. White will also give your home a palatial feel and will bring a lifting light to your front garden or kerb. On the flip side, it can look a little stark and clinical, so if you are set on white think about what else surrounds your home; do your garden borders soften the outlook? You could also temper a brilliant white a little with a complimentary palette for the window and door frames. This will work to accentuate the features and design of your property when done well.



Whether it’s called putty, taupe, stone or cream, there is no need to fear beige. It is a soft, neutral colour which enables house hunters to see it as a blank canvas they can apply their own style and personality to. It is friendlier than white, but offers a neutral appealing finish. Grey tones are currently very popular, although pick a colour which isn’t too dramatic.

Yellow often equals happy. Unsurprisingly, a sunny outlook gives an impression of happiness and warmth – perfect for a family. As with all colours, the shade is quite important; choose a pastel yellow as opposed to a shade closer to neon!



Green can be a little tricky – there are numerous shades to choose from. Picking a pale, apple green can give your home a cheery, yet calm disposition. A deeper, rich green can look very regal and elegant in the right setting, but remember it may not be loved by everyone!

Overall, lighter colours tend to be more attractive to people. However, if you are craving some drama, why not give your front door an injection of colour? For example, a pale facade with a deep, slate grey door could give a stately effect to your home.



Stick with something fairly neutral or at least in keeping with your neighbourhood, light and inviting to help you successfully sell your home.

Like this post? Read more about how to sell your home here.

06Oct

The Government Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee scheme (Help to Buy Two) was first launched in October 2013, with the aim of increasing the availability of high loan-to-value mortgages and providing a much needed boost for First Time Buyers struggling to get their foot on the housing ladder.

The Chancellor has now confirmed that this element of the initiative will come to a close at the end of this year as planned, stating in a letter to the Bank of England that ‘the high LTV mortgage market has become less reliant on the scheme as confidence has returned’.

There is no doubt that over the last 3 years the market for First Time Buyers has improved considerably. At the time the scheme was launched there were very few options for borrowers with small deposits, and the intention was therefore to encourage lenders back to that riskier end of the market.

Since 2014, according to the Financial Policy Committee, lending above 90% LTV within Help to Buy has fallen from 70% to 25%, yet total lending at this LTV has not declined. More lenders are now offering a greater range of deals without being reliant on the scheme, and the market is looking healthier as a result.

For those who still require a helping hand to get that deposit together, there are other options available. The first part of the initiative, the Help to Buy Equity loan, provides a 20% interest free Government loan for 5 years (40% in London) which buyers can combine with their own 5% deposit. This scheme is only available to those buying new build properties, but is set to continue until 2020.

The Help to Buy ISA will also continue to be available. This allows a buyer to deposit their own savings - £1,000 initially, and £200 per month – and benefit from a 25% uplift in the form of a Government bonus when they do decide to buy.



Despite some recent criticism over the fact that the bonus is paid on completion rather than at exchange of contracts, this remains an excellent way for First Time Buyers to boost their savings. Those buying together can have an ISA each, and double up the benefit, so that additional bonus can prove to be quite significant.

Like this post? Read more on Mortgage Advice here.

The Bank of Mum and Dad is also still a popular way for parents to help their children buy a property. This could be via a gifted cash lump sum to help with the deposit, parents acting as guarantor on their child’s mortgage, or even taking out a joint mortgage on a property.

Getting on to the property ladder is not easy, but the Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee scheme certainly appears to have served its purpose, resulting in a greater number of deals and a more robust market.


If you are considering a high loan-to-value mortgage and need mortgage advice, then please speak to the Guild Mortgage Service provided by fee free L&C Mortgages.

You can contact L&C mortgages on: 0800 073 1945

05Oct

Is a ‘forever home’ a myth? Your personality, or perhaps your finances, may well dictate whether you find a forever home or a ‘for now’ home. There are people who know exactly what they want and stick to it, but it will take a lot to settle on one property and stay with it.

To find a property to last a lifetime, consider these 5 main points: 

1. Flexibility
Being realistic is what makes a home last forever – the demands you make on your space will change. The current trend for open plan living spaces could work in your favour as you will be able to zone the space differently according to your needs; dining space can soon become a play area, for example. 



Think about the style of the property, not so much the décor but the structural elements; sleek, modern lines maybe give you thrills now, but could mean sharp edges for small children. You want a property that suits you, but one that you could also suit you in 20 years. You don’t need to be psychic to know that when something is appealing to you because it's the trendiest place you’ve seen and your friends will love it, it may not be the best choice for a forever home.

Thinking too far into the future can be scary, but what if your grandfather needed to come and live with you in the next couple of years? Think about how your older relatives navigate the space and use that as a guide for the practicality of a home.

Something else to consider is whether you might need to rent some, or all, of the space out. What if you want to travel or your children emigrate? Thinking about the space in these terms will help to see how applicable it will be to your changing life. 

2. Location

This is always a huge factor in finding the right home. But when it comes to your forever home, taking a closer look at all your needs will allow you to future-proof, as far as possible at least. Education from pre-school through to sixth form should be factored in.



Lasting homes should be well facilitated too - from bus routes to shops, the more local amenities available, the more robust your home will be for whatever circumstances appear on the horizon. 

Like this post? Read more about how to find the right property for you here. 

3. Costs
 

An efficient home will make a great deal of difference. A sprawling mansion with tennis courts and a pool may seem like it will cater for every eventuality, perfect for children’s parties and social gatherings, but space often equals costly maintenance.



What’s more, buying a drafty old property that you never properly repair, one that’s always in need of a little mending here and there, will fritter your money away. Choose a home you can afford to fully repair if necessary, or stir towards a cost-effective home you know you can heat through the winters.

In short, for longevity find an efficient house!  


4. Can you sell it?
This is important: things change, you may want to move! Forever rarely means forever these days and we find more and more that change isn’t so hard – getting bored with you property can easily be fixed. So, don’t think only about your life in a property, ask yourself who would want it if you put it up for sale? Don’t pick, or develop, a property which is too niche.  

30Sep

It’s finally moving day! It’s an exciting time, but it can also be crowded and frantic for your beloved companions. Like us, your pets will get used to the move in time, but there are ways you can help them to get used to your new home without overwhelming them:

1. Make a plan
Planning your move is a good thing. There will be a lot to think about when moving and your pets, however much we love them, may not be the top of your list of priorities – a plan will keep you on track.



If you have fish, have you thought about how you will move them and then the tank? If you have a rabbit where will the hutch go in the new house? Do you buy special food from a local supplier and should you stock up before you move? The more organised you are, the easier the move will be (in all respects!).


2. Seek expert opinion
If your pet is particularly nervous or you are worried about how they might settle in, consult your vet. Moving can be highly stressful for us and we understand what’s happening, so give your furry friend every chance of a peaceful move.

3. Give your pet a good clean ahead of the move
Of course this doesn’t apply to all animals, but giving your dog a bath before moving day might be worthwhile. Not only will it mean they are clean for the car journey, but they won’t be too stinky when you move into your new home, which is a good start.



4. Consider leaving your pet with others
Moving day will mean lots of people coming in and out of the house, often many strangers. Of course, you may need to weigh up the pros and cons of leaving your pet with friends or at a kennel – if the stress of that is likely to be similar to the move itself, it may be better to keep them with you. However, if you don’t have the room to move your animal in comfort, or you would have to leave them in the new house alone, saving them from the move could be beneficial.

5. Think about who is left in charge of your animals
It may seem like a great job for the little ones, perfect for keeping them occupied and giving them a purpose rather than getting under your feet, but they may not be as sensitive as you when it comes to looking after your pets. If you do give them the responsibility, make sure you keep an eye on them and ask for updates throughout the day.



6. Remember to pack all of their toys
Just like us, your animals become familiar with their surroundings, so forgetting their favourite scratch post or squeaky toy will be unsettling. Pack all of their things in a box together, so that you can get them settled in as soon as possible without hunting through tons of boxes. It is also a good idea to keep an item with them during the journey, for a calming effect.


7. Give your pet the chance to get used to their surroundings
Go into the property yourself first and assess the situation – look out for broken glass or overwhelming paint smells for example.
When you’re happy they can come in, put your new pet in a room in the house with the door closed for a little while. With plenty of ventilation and some water, this will give them the chance to acclimatise without the confusion of moving boxes and unfamiliar faces.

If you have an independent cat, gradually introduce them to the home. Keeping them in one room for a couple of days, then the house, then the garden with supervision will help them get used to their environment and enable them to find their way home again.

This gradual process is good advice for any animal– give them the chance to get used to their new home without overwhelming them. You know your companion best, so keep a close eye on them and look out for any signs of unhappiness.  

8. Give your pet some serious attention
Once you have moved in, dedicate some time to your animal, for reassurance and some quality play time.



9. Try and keep a similar routine
Moving day will naturally be out of the norm, but if you walk your dog at the same time every day or feed your snake on a particular day, try and get back into that as soon as possible. The familiarity will be calming to them and smooth out the transition.



10. Update ID tags
Animals which are free to roam (or escape) may need a little help to find their way home, so make sure you don’t forget to change any registered addresses amongst your other moving chores.

28Sep

A recent report by a leading Insurance Company claims that one in seven tenants break the rules of their leasing agreements.

The most common offences include a failure to pay rent on time, smoking and keeping a pet; but perhaps of even more concern is that it is claimed that one in eleven (or almost 10%) of renters are living contract-free.

25%    Failing to pay rent on time (or at all)
21%    Smoking in the property 
18%    Keeping a pet in the property  
17%    Damaging or making alterations to the premises 
16%    Changing the locks
14%    Caused disturbances or a nuisance to neighbouring properties
14%    Sublet a room without notifying the landlord
13%    Failed to clean accessible windows
12%    Redecorated without permission
10%    Failed to check smoke or carbon monoxide alarm

The most common sanctions for breaking tenancy rules include losing some or all of the deposit (52%), followed by having to pay for any damages (22%) and in some extreme cases, tenant evictions (4%). However, more than one in five (21%) tenants say that the landlord never found out about their misdemeanours.

This lack of transparency can hurt both the landlord and the tenant. The renter risks exploitation and even summary eviction if they do not have a binding agreement to protect them, whilst the landlord is exposed to potential misuse of the property and possibly even a sitting tenant who can’t easily be removed.

In a professional world, the tenant’s behaviour is defined and bound by their contract, and a good landlord will actively manage and nurture the relationship to protect their investment.

Any failures for both sides to act responsibly can be very expensive; for example, a separate report published last week highlighted the risks taken by landlords who don’t properly deal with repairs requests by inhibiting the ability to serve a section 21 notice.

So what should landlords (or their letting agents) do as a minimum? A few simple rules may help:



Legal Agreement:
Ensure that this is appropriate, signed and dated. Writing your own contract will save some money, but may miss out important aspects – it is best to get proper advice, or employ a solicitor or letting agent to assist.  

Regular Inspections:
If you inspect as opposed to expect, it is much more likely that the tenant will follow the rules. Always ensure that you give the tenant fair warning of your intentions to visit the premises so as not to breach their right to privacy.

Be Informed:
There are increasing legal requirements on both landlords and tenants, and ignorance will not be a suitable defence if something goes wrong!

Respond in a Timely Manner:
Living with broken or poorly working appliances can be very frustrating, particularly when the tenant is paying significant rent. How long would you put up with a hotel room where the lights or plumbing does not work? Therefore, you should deal as quickly as you can with requests from tenants for repairs and improvements, even if the answer is ‘no’.


 
Keep Communicating:
Legal disputes can quickly get expensive, so the ability to discuss any issues openly and rationally may reduce the stress and potential cost. Remember that very few tenants set out to get themselves evicted.

See Both Sides:
You need to think of the property as a business investment and not as your home. Your tenants may have a different lifestyle and tastes to you, and are paying in hard cash for the right (with few guarantees and little or no financial return) of borrowing your property; also, don’t forget finding new tenants can be expensive so you may want to bend occasionally over the small stuff.

With average yields now at about 5% across the UK, taking the time to find a good tenant and looking after them properly (avoiding constant personnel changes and voids) may be the best investment you can make in your rental property.

Also, the legal requirements in relation to letting are now so onerous that having a professional manage your rental affairs might be the best solution in the medium term.

Looking to rent a property? Find a Guild Agent here.

27Sep

The July 2016 house price index data for the UK showed a monthly rise of 0.4 per cent, while in England the increase was slightly higher at 0.5 per cent. In London the monthly change was 1.0 per cent but of the English regions it was the North East region that experienced the highest monthly growth with a rise of 2.3 per cent. Falls were seen in Yorkshire and The Humber, the South West and the West Midlands, the latter seeing the greatest fall at minus 0.8 per cent.  

On an annual basis the price change across the UK was 8.3 per cent, bringing the average house price to £216,750. In England the annual price increase was a little higher at 9.1 per cent and the average house price £232,885. London experienced a rise of 12.3 per cent making the price of an average London home £484,716. However, the East of England again saw the greatest increase over the year with a rise of 13.2 per cent, while Yorkshire and The Humber saw the lowest annual price growth at 4.7 per cent. Annual price increases by property type across the UK showed little difference, ranging from 8.1 per cent for both terraced houses and flats and maisonettes to 8.5 per cent for both detached and semi-detached houses.

Detailed statistics for local authority areas continue to show a wide variation but only five areas saw a fall in prices over the year, including the London boroughs of Camden at minus 0.6 per cent, Hammersmith and Fulham at minus 1.6 per cent, and Kensington and Chelsea at minus 3.0 per cent. The highest annual rise was seen in South Bucks at 22.7 percent, while Stevenage, Haringey, Hertsmere and Newham also saw increases above 20 per cent.

Completed sales for England in May 2016 totalled 49,795, a fall of minus 33.5 per cent compared to a year ago when 74,897 completed house sales were made.

Statistics relating to building status showed that the average price of a new build property in England in July was £295,039, down minus 2.2 per cent on June but up 16.4 per cent on a year ago. The average price of a resold property was £228,779, a rise of 0.7 per cent over June and 8.5 per cent higher than 12 months ago.

Statistics on buyer status in England showed that the average price of a house sold to a first time buyer was £195,484 and to a former owner occupier £264,184. Prices to first time buyers increased by 0.3 per cent over June, while re-purchasers saw an increase of 0.6 per cent. Over the year, prices for first time buyers increased by 8.9 per cent and for former owner occupiers by 9.2 per cent.

The latest figures on funding status, which compare average cash and mortgage prices, show that in England the average cash price was £218,331 and the average mortgage price was £240,233. The monthly increase in prices for cash buyers was 0.3 per cent, while mortgage purchase prices rose by 0.5 per cent. However, the annual change for cash purchases was 8.3 per cent, while for mortgage purchases it was somewhat higher at 9.4 per cent.