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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.

27Sep

At its mid-September meeting, the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee unanimously voted to leave its main interest rate at 0.25 per cent. The Bank halved its interest rate from 0.5 per cent to the new historic low in August with the aim of maintaining the stability of the UK’s banking system following the June referendum on membership of the European Union.  

A number of indicators measuring near-term economic activity suggest that the impact of the Brexit vote has been weaker than at first feared. However, the Bank still expects that the pace of economic activity in the July to September quarter will still be half the growth rate recorded earlier in the year. The Bank reiterated that it might yet need to cut interest rates further in the coming months.

The Monetary Policy Committee also voted to stand by its August decision to expand quantitative easing. The Bank will purchase an extra £60 billion of government bonds, which will take the total to £425 billion. It will also buy a further £10 billion of corporate bonds as part of its continuing measures to prevent the economy falling into recession.

Under a new timetable, the next Monetary Policy Committee meeting will not take place until November.

One of the economic indicators that seems to show that consumer confidence has not fallen away since the Brexit vote is that UK retail sales were stronger than expected in August. The Office for National Statistics reported that sales volumes fell by just 0.2 per cent from July and were up by 6.2 per cent from August last year. Furthermore, the sales increase for July was also revised upwards from 1.4 per cent to 1.9 per cent, representing the best performance for the month in 14 years.

Another positive indicator was the slight fall in UK unemployment to 1.63 million between May and July. The unemployment rate was 4.9 per cent compared to 5.5 per cent a year ago. However, the number of people employed in the public sector is at its lowest level since the Office for National Statistics started collecting the figures in 1999, down to 5.33 million, indicating that it is the private sector that is making the jobs.

A key measure of the economy is the UK Consumer Prices Index of inflation; in the year to August, the average cost of everyday household goods and services went up by 0.6 per cent, unchanged from July. The Retail Prices Index, which includes the cost of mortgages, dropped to 1.8 per cent in August from 1.9 per cent in July.

27Sep

The latest monthly report produced by the Royal Institution of Surveyors has indicated that the housing market is stabilising in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

The report gathers the observations of surveyors across the country, and is considered to be a good measure of confidence within the market. 

Following the referendum result, initial findings suggested a drop in prices as uncertainty amongst buyers grew. Members of the Institution are now forecasting an increase of around 3.3% a year for the next 5 years. 

One of the main factors in the predicted increase is a shortage of property for sale. Average numbers on estate agents books have been dropping over recent months, with numbers close to the record low recorded last December.

However, the recent base rate cut, record low mortgage rates and low unemployment levels, should help to boost the confidence of potential buyers over the next few years, as negotiations to leave the EU begin.


27Sep

When the Bank of England decided to cut interest rates in August, the main aim was to make the cost of borrowing cheaper. A less-reported side effect is that it also helps consumers borrow slightly more.

A while ago the Prudential Regulatory Authority brought in rules to ensure that lending wasn’t purely based on the record low interest rates we’re currently enjoying. If it were, many people could find themselves in serious difficulties when interest rates eventually rise. 

When assessing affordability, lenders are required to check that the loan would still be affordable if rates increased by 3%. This is what they call the “stress rate” and will typically be 3% above the lender’s Standard Variable Rate - even if the actual deal you’re applying for is much, much lower.

Of course when the rule came in no-one expected Base Rate would in fact fall further. But that’s what’s happened and so you could borrow slightly more today, than you could in July. That’s not just theory – a number of lenders have announced reductions to their stress rates, including big names like Barclays and Nationwide.

In real terms a 0.25% reduction to the stress rate isn’t going to make a huge difference to the amount you can borrow but anything that helps buy your dream home is good news.


27Sep

Saving up to buy your first home can be a challenge, but assistance is at hand in the form of the Government Help to Buy ISA.

This initiative allows a First-Time Buyer to deposit an initial £1,000, followed by £200 a month. When they decide to buy, the Government will provide a 25% bonus up to a maximum of £3,000. This means savings of £12,000 will be boosted to £15,000.

There has been some recent criticism over when the bonus can be claimed. The bonus is only available on completion rather than at exchange of contracts, when the deposit is normally paid.

Purchases can go ahead however without the need to pay the typical 10% deposit at exchange. 

The best way to avoid issues further down the line is to make sure that the solicitor is aware from the outset that a Help to Buy ISA is being used.  

First Time Buyers should certainly not be put off using a Help to Buy ISA to get their foot on the ladder. At the moment interest rates are better than on most standard savings accounts, and that 25% bonus will provide a much needed boost.

Each person can have one of these ISA’s, so those buying jointly could bump up their deposit fund significantly, and get a foot on the first rung of the property ladder a little quicker.


27Sep

Most of our attention has been centred on fixed rates over recent years, as economic uncertainty grew and borrowers looked for some peace of mind.

 

With the Bank of England cutting the base rate to an all-time low of 0.25%, and questions being raised over the possibility of a further cut, there is now likely to be more interest in tracker mortgages.

 

These are variable mortgages that move up or down in line with another rate (usually the Bank of England Base Rate) and as such the monthly repayments are also variable.

 

The potential for another drop in monthly payments will appeal to many. Borrowers should check with their lenders however. In recent years some have applied a collar to their deals, which would prevent monthly payments from going down any further, even if base rate was to be cut again.

 

The variable nature of tracker mortgages mean that they will not be suitable for everyone, and many borrowers will still prefer the security of a fixed rate, especially as they are so low at the moment.

26Sep

Are you in a hurry to sell your home? Or are you feeling impatient now you have committed to selling? There are no guarantees, but here are some sure-fire ways to grease the wheels of your sale:

1. The right time to sell

Knowing the right time to sell can depend on many factors. For example, it makes a difference if your property is a three-bedroom home with a garden or a studio flat. The family buying your three-bedroom home could be reluctant to move during the summer holidays – not only are they likely to use that time for their annual holiday, but it would be far easier to pack the house when the children are in school all day!




Read more about when to sell your property.

Your estate agent will be able to guide you through this process, and you can always call and get their opinion ahead of committing to your sale. However, a swift sale may be necessary due to specific circumstances meaning there is no chance to pick the best time. That’s when settling on the right price with your agent can make all the difference.

Find a Guild Agent in your local area.

2. Is the price is right?



Price is everything. It’s important you explain your time-frame to your agent when you instruct them and make it clear what your aims are. For your own reference, you can compare your property like-for-like with similar properties in the local area to give you an idea of what is achievable. If you are desperate for a speedy sale it could be that a slightly lower price will move the process along, but speak with your agent – their advice will be based on their detailed, in-depth knowledge of the market.

Read more about how to spot an overpriced house.

3. Declutter and clean all

Chuck out everything you don’t need and then give what’s left a thorough clean! Nothing will put people off quicker than a muddled mess. Let the features and space shine through your furniture and personality to capture your prospective buyer’s imagination.

4. Pack up your troubles

Wanting to turn your property around in a matter of days means being seriously organised, especially when it comes to the large, time consuming jobs. Packing is a bit of an unknown quantity, depends on how much ‘stuff’ you have, and how much you threw away in your clean and declutter phase. Whether you mean to hoard or not, removing around a third of your furniture and things will make your home look even better.



However, no one wants to shuffle around a room avoiding the fort of boxes in the centre of what should be your dining room. So, unless you have ample room in the garage for a discreet line of boxes that won’t be sabotaging a viewing, rent some storage. You will be so ahead of the game that you can move out almost at a moment’s notice.

5. Get your paperwork straight

Do you know where your title deeds are? If you have just decluttered, clean and then packed you certainly should! Legal delays can often slow a sale down and there is no need for you to postpone your move because you haven’t dug the deeds out of the box under your bed.



6. All the world’s a stage

Pretend your house is a show home: you are selling a lifestyle to someone, so don’t overlook the small details. Although packing ahead of time is good, leaving your home completely bare isn’t the aim. A sofa cushion seems a trivial item, but it can imply comfort and relaxation. Indicating to your potential buyer this is a space to unwind after a long week, or a place to curl up on a winter’s evening – it could make all the difference.



7. Leave no space unused and unloved

Your spare room doesn’t need to look spare, and it certainly needn’t be a dumping ground. Even if you are using it as a dressing room, sort the floor-drobe out and transform it into a dressing room. Wherever possible you should make the most of the space in your property – if you are selling home with a dining room, put a table in it!



8. Wow-factor kerb appeal
First impressions are so important – many people make their minds up about a house within seconds. Make your potential buyer want to live in your property, to be proud to call it home. Cleaning and decluttering is just as important outside as it is inside, so remove toys, weeds, gnomes, wash the windows, and so on.  

Read more about maximising your kerb appeal.



9. Shout it from the rooftops

If you want to sell your home fast, people need to know you’re selling it! A Guild agent will provide you with a comprehensive package to market your property, however if doesn’t hurt to tell people you’re moving, after all someone at the local shop may know someone who is looking to buy in your area.

10. Always be prepared

Your home should be ready to view at a moments’ notice. Whether you have a strict timeframe or not, making viewings difficult will absolutely get in the way of selling your home.

Read more about how not to sabotage your sale.

23Sep

Wondering whether an open house is the right choice for you? There are many factors to take into consideration: is there enough interest to warrant an open house, or would just one couple turn up? Do you have a tenant and will they cooperate?


A good estate agent should be able to answer these questions and suggest whether or not you should opt for an open house style viewing.

Here, Guild member agents offer their views on the practicalities of hosting an open house and how successful they can be with the right attitude.

Holroyd Miller Estate Agents say:

Before you rush out to buy ground coffee and a bread-making machine there is a less extreme approach.



Of course de-clutter, attend to those pesky maintenance jobs, tidy up – make it visually appealing, but before any of that you must employ the right agent for the job.

There’s no point in appointing an agent that has no experience of the town/village you live in. You will need an agent who is well and truly embedded in the community, knows the area and, more importantly, one that knows who your target audience is.

At Holroyd Miller we approach the open house format very differently. In fact, we purposely don’t call it an open house, and with very good reason. We prefer to organise grouped viewings; the main distinction is we book each individual viewing with its own time slot and dedicated attention with a member of our team, but, the appointment is designed to slightly overlap with the next booked session. The overlap creates a steady stream of visitors and it indicates serious interest in the property. It encourages faster decisions rather than a ‘walk away and think about it’ approach.

This steady stream also allows us to do the best job we can with the ultimate aim of obtaining an offer that day. We have found a higher percentage of potential buyers are reluctant to walk away without putting their cards on the table. It works for us, we achieve more instant offers with approach, and more importantly the house is sold much quicker!

Gary Butler at Trading Places Estate & Letting Agents commented:

An open house viewing day/event strategy is only beneficial in certain circumstances. Firstly, the market, or at least the property in question, should warrant an open day e.g. there should be sufficient buyer demand.



We have found that by allocating specific viewing time slots, you allow prospective buyers their own time to take everything in. Even if those time slots are just 10-15 mins long, the prospective buyer is able to focus on the viewing, instead of bumping into others.  In our experience, and based on client feedback, house hunters really do appreciate this one-on-one time and they feel more comfortable asking questions.

We would usually start with a 2 hour viewing window and have the event take place 7-14 days after the property goes onto the market. When the viewings are being booked you will usually find that the initial viewing window will increase, dependant on the level of interest coming in.

We believe it’s important to be clear with those viewing the property as to exactly what would happen should they wish to make an offer. Each prospective buyer is given a set of property details along with an Offer Form. The form requests information to assess a buyers’ circumstances and buying credentials, for example ‘what is the offer you wish to make?’, ‘do you require a mortgage?’ and ‘what level of deposit do you have?’, and so on.

The Offer Form explains how to submit an offer and the timeframe. For example, since these events are often conducted on a Saturday, offers are to be received by midday on the following Monday or Tuesday.



We strongly advise the seller to go out for the day, and leave everything to the agent. That being said, when sellers spend a few pounds on some sandwiches, crisps, cold drinks, even a few bottles of wine, the prospective buyers really appreciate the gesture. Bringing children to a viewing can be demanding for them, so a few light refreshments go down very well. Of course, this kind of scenario may not suit every situation, but it has never failed to impress and is not a big expense for the seller.



Getting any tenant on side can save issues. Whilst the seller is motivated to find a buyer, it often pays to work with the tenant; a day’s free rent in return for making the property as clean, tidy and uncluttered as possible, as well as going out for the day, could well be worth it.

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

Thomas Morris holds many open house events and has enjoyed huge success with them. Below are some key tips they would offer:

Pricing. The price of the property is incredibly important. In order to generate high levels of activity and ensure a busy and successful open house the price needs to be attractive. We have found that where this is the case the final selling price is often far in excess of the initial asking price as having a number of interested buyers, when handled correctly, will inevitably push all potential buyers to offer their maximum for the property. In most cases, when holding an open house, we will set the property price as a guide price only, as this seems to be far less fixed and helps to encourage offers above the asking price.



Timing. When organising an open house, our teams put much thought into the most appropriate time to hold the event. When is it most likely that potential buyers will be available? We have always found that weekends encourage more interest, and in particular scheduling it across a lunchtime may mean people who work weekends can find the time to visit.



Pre-event marketing. It goes without saying that the higher the marketing exposure you are able to give the event, the more likely it is to be a success. However, it is also important to consider the period of time given to market the property before the event. If the property and the event are not marketed for long enough, it won’t generate the maximum levels of interest. Conversely, if the property is marketed for too long then buyers can lose interest before the open house as other properties take their eye. The optimum marketing time can depend on a number of things; price, desirability and likely demand for the property, time of year, current market conditions and other factors should all be considered when deciding when to book the open house.  

Conducting an open house. Staff hosting are always fully versed with as much information as possible on all relevant aspects of the property, including the seller’s situation, the immediate location and wider area, current market conditions and the offering and sales process. The ability to address and answer all of the buyers’ concerns will give them the confidence to make strong offers.

There are many different ways to approach the event, and each agent works out the best way to deal with their own, based on their many years of experience and detailed knowledge. With the right approach, an open house event can be extremely successful!

               Like this post? Read more about giving your home kerb appeal!

20Sep

In celebration of London Fashion Week, we take a look at the TOP 10 stylish homes in the capital:

Willesden Green



Live in the lime-light in this five-bedroom Victorian property. The modern kitchen is perfect for cocktails and canapes, and any party would perfectly spill from the elegant glass extension onto the patio area. Ultimate relaxation can be found at the end of an evening in the freestanding tub positioned in the centre of the statement bathroom.

         Like this kitchen? Take a look at Ten of the best Bake Off Kitchens!


Bondway




What is more fashionable than investing in a future development? Due for completion in 2020, this two-bedroom apartment will offer 750.6 sq ft of living space and an additional 54.7 sq ft winter garden. 

Rising 50 storeys, the ultra-modern AYKON London One tower will stand proud between Vauxhall and Nine Elms. Stone, terracotta and glass come together in a fresh and distinctive world-class design to create an inspiration in luxury living, inside and out. The communal roof gardens are suspended above the city and you will be able to choose a garden to suit your mood - a large, south-facing roof garden, a generous terrace with city views to the north or a sun deck terrace. Everything you could possible desire.

Sandringham House




Moments away from the City of London and directly next to Tower Bridge, this apartment is within walking distance of some of the finest dining and culture the capital has to offer. This three-bedroom, 7th floor apartment boasts two balconies with views over Central London. The 1,689 sqft apartment also benefits from a large open-plan kitchen and reception room which fills with light thanks to the floor to ceiling windows. The development further benefits from a concierge and gym and spa facilities, including a swimming pool.

Lille Square



Although these images are just indicators of the finish, you can see just how stylish this apartment could be. Situated in Bolander Grove North, the owners can enjoy modern, open plan living. As you approach the avenue from Seagrave Road, the eye is drawn towards the heart of Lillie Square, taking in the complementary relationship of the various buildings. The distinctive contemporary architecture reflects the design principles of this predominantly Georgian and Victorian neighbourhood. The architecture of this space alone is a real statement.

Benson House



Consider this fifth floor, west facing apartment with a terrace over the communal gardens which spreads over1,188 sqft, and comprises of two south facing double bedrooms and two luxury bathrooms.. There is no need to travel far in search of most things as this development offers a luxury Fitness Suite, Spa, Cinema, Business Suite and 24-hour Harrods Concierge.

Hocroft Avenue



Located near Child’s Hill, this beautifully presented semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors, extending to 3210 Sq. Ft. The clean white kitchen is stylishly lit with tinted up and down strip lighting – perfect for serving nibbles to friends as they sip champagne; or you can enjoy a garden party on the decking, overlooking the garden. The balcony leading from the bedroom gives a real sense of grandeur, as though you are enjoying a hotel room for the evening.

St Michael’s Street



A stunning duplex loft apartment in this attractive period building. Measuring over 2500sq ft the apartment has been comprehensively refurbished. The top (third) floor boasts an exceptionally spacious 1686sq ft space with vaulted ceilings giving light and space to the kitchen, dining and living area. The purple feature lighting highlights the modern, clean lines of this space.
The bedrooms are finished in a glamourous style and have plenty of space to keep the many clothes you might

          Take a look at how to give your property serious kerb appeal!


Fitzjames Avenue




This elegant Mansion Block apartment is located on the corner of the second floor. Make the most of the large reception room with a bay window and the abundant period features, such as the beautiful fireplace. Located just a short distance from West Kensington station, this plush pad is in a great location and perfectly suited for entertaining friends over a delicious meal. The current interior style is elegant and regal – but the possibilities are endless beneath the high ceilings!

Nine Elms



This south facing apartment boasts far reaching views over London. The 11th floor apartment consists of two bedrooms and bathrooms with nearly 1000 sqft of living space. A state of the art kitchen, full width floor to ceiling windows and access to a balcony with river views would really impress. This apartment includes access to the Gym, Atrium Pool, Library, Cinema and Games Room (coming in 2017), 24-hour concierge and virtual golf!

Linister Mews




Spaced over four floors, this three-bedroom mews has an abundance of natural light throughout. Complete with a garage, secluded internal vertical garden, a bright reception room, open plan kitchen with the dining room and 3 en-suite bedrooms, this is a chic family home.  
The open plan dining area and modern kitchen make a great social space. All the floors benefit from the quirky vertical garden running the height of the house, giving this city home a hint of green.


Want to sell you home? Find a Guild member agent.