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Until recently, financial commentators had predicted that the UK was likely to see an increase in the Bank of England Base Rate this year. A combination of factors however (including weaker economic growth and some turbulent activity in the stock market) has resulted in a re-evaluation of the forecast, and expectations for the first hike have now been pushed back out.
This has provided some scope for fixed rate mortgages to come down a little further. For those that feel rates will stay low, or are looking for a greater degree of flexibility, it could also lead to more interest in tracker mortgages.
A tracker mortgage is a type of variable rate that follow the movements of another rate (usually the Bank of England Base Rate), typically for an initial period of 2-3 years, or even for the lifetime of the mortgage. The variable nature of the payable interest rate also means that monthly payments can go up and down, so it is not suitable for everyone.
Some analysts have even raised the question of a potential cut in the Bank of England Base Rate, but over recent years several lenders have applied a collar to their variable deals, so borrowers need to be aware that their payments might not fall if rates do come down any further.
Our client contacted the mortgage service for the Guild of Professional Estate Agents looking for advice when purchasing a new family home. Feeling that interest rates were unlikely to increase significantly over the next couple of years, but comfortable that he could afford the monthly payments if they did begin to rise, the client was interested in the most cost-effective tracker mortgage.
In addition to a competitive rate, flexibility was key, as the client intended to pay a lump sum off the mortgage in approximately 12 months time. After discussing these requirements, his mortgage adviser recommended a 2 year tracker deal with a major high street lender, which had no Early Repayment Charges at any time. This meant no restrictions on overpayments, and the freedom to move to a new deal if the client’s circumstances changed or rates began to increase.
Guild Mortgage Service, Provided by London & Country Mortgages
Is the 100% mortgage back?
One of the big challenges for first time buyers has been in pulling together a deposit, especially when facing rising house prices in many areas.
The credit crunch led to significant tightening in lending and as a result the number of deals on offer to those with a small deposit dropped dramatically. There was barely a handful available at one stage but that has improved in recent years, especially after the introduction of the Help to Buy guarantee.
As a result the range of options for those with a deposit of only 5% has improved but lenders have shown little appetite to offer 100% mortgages again.
Barclays caught the headlines recently with the launch of its new version of the Family Springboard mortgage. This extended the potential borrowing to as much as 100% of the purchase price but carries a crucial difference to the 100% mortgages (and even beyond 100%) of the peak of 2007.
The Barclays rate requires the parent or family member of the person buying the property to put 10% of the purchase price away in a separate savings account.
The savings will earn interest and importantly remain in the parent’s name rather than having to be gifted to the child. That could be of benefit to those that want to use the cash again at a later stage, perhaps to help a second child buy their first property.
However the savings act as additional security for the lender and the parents cannot draw on the funds for at least 3 years. In a worst case scenario the lender could use the parental savings to cover any loss it suffered, so there is a risk to the cash.
Other deals work in a similar way but can use spare equity in the parental property as the added security that the lender requires. That’s helpful where there isn’t a cash lump sum but does ultimately put the parental property at risk if things did go badly wrong.
Talk of a return to 100% lending is perhaps not quite the full story but these products do certainly show that lenders are trying to innovate in a competitive market. That can result in useful mortgage options as long as everyone understands the potential implications for them.
Guild Mortgage Service, Provided by London & Country Mortgages
LAND REGISTRY DATA: MARCH 2016 (released 28 April 2016)
The March 2016 Land Registry data showed a fall in average house prices across England and Wales for the second month in a row with a drop of minus 0.5 per cent. Regionally, while London and the East saw prices rise by 0.2 per cent over the monthly period, all other regions experienced falls ranging from minus 0.1 per cent in the North West to minus 2.6 per cent in Yorkshire & the Humber.
On an annual basis, house prices have risen by 6.7 per cent across England and Wales, bringing the average house price to £189,901. London saw the highest annual increase in prices at 13.9 per cent and the average house price in the capital now stands at £534,785. The East and the South East also saw an annual rise in double figures at 10.7 and 10.3 per cent respectively, while the North East saw a fall of minus 0.7 per cent. In terms of property type, flats and maisonettes showed the highest annual increase at 7.5 per cent and the lowest increase was seen in semi-detached properties at 6.1 per cent.
By county and unitary authority, the strongest monthly growth was experienced in Slough with an increase of 3.1 per cent, while the most significant monthly drop occurred in Redcar & Cleveland at minus 3.5 per cent. In total, 33 counties and unitary authorities showed a fall in prices over the month. On an annual basis, Slough also had the greatest increase in prices with a movement of 22.1 per cent, while ten counties and unitary authorities experienced a fall, the greatest being Neath Port Talbot at minus 4.3 per cent.
Of the 36 metropolitan districts, Sunderland saw the highest monthly price increase at 1.6 per cent, while 22 districts experienced a fall, the greatest being Liverpool and St Helens each with a movement of minus 1.7 per cent. Coventry saw the largest annual price increase at 8.5 per cent, while three districts experienced a fall, the greatest being North Tyneside at minus 2.3 per cent.
Of the London boroughs, Brent showed the highest monthly price increase at 2.8 per cent, while Hammersmith & Fulham saw the greatest monthly fall at minus 1.3 per cent. Lewisham had the highest annual price rise at 19.9 per cent, while Kensington & Chelsea experienced the smallest annual increase at 4.2 per cent.
The volume of properties sold in January 2016 was 5 per cent lower than a year earlier in England and Wales and 14 per cent lower in London. Over the same period, the number of properties sold for more than £1 million across England and Wales as a whole and in London rose by 2 per cent.
Month on month, the total number of properties sold across England and Wales fell from 73,326 in December 2015 to 54,254 in January 2016 – a drop of 26 per cent. However, the number of property transactions from October 2015 to January 2016 averaged 74,374 per month, compared to 73,744 over the same period a year earlier.
Good news for older borrowers
For older borrowers, securing a mortgage from a high street lender has become something of a challenge in recent years, following the Mortgage Market Review and subsequent tougher underwriting criteria.
With the population living longer however, and our working habits evolving as a result, there have been widespread calls for the mortgage industry to adapt their policies and do more to help what is considered to be a neglected area of the market.
Rising house prices have meant that First Time Buyers are buying later in life, often in their thirties, and taking longer mortgage terms of 30 years or more to make their loans more affordable, so the requirement for lending into retirement is set to continue.
The good news is that mainstream lenders have now begun to respond to the growing demand for change. In recent weeks Halifax has announced a lift in the maximum age at the end of the mortgage term from 75 to 80, a move which was followed by Nationwide, which plans to increase its limit by 10 years to 85.
There will of course be restrictions on lending – borrowers will have to prove that they have adequate income into retirement, and Nationwide has put a maximum loan of £150,000 in place, with equity of at least 40% required.
Changes like this could open up options for many borrowers who are considered to be ‘mortgage prisoners’ – for example homeowners with interest only mortgages who wish to switch to repayment and require a longer mortgage term to make their loan affordable.
Smaller building societies, such as National Counties – who can lend up to the age of 89, have had a more individual approach to lending for some time, but these most recent changes are being viewed by the industry as a step in the right direction for mainstream lending.
Guild Mortgage Service, Provided by London & Country Mortgages
The colours you choose for your home will play a large role in determining the feel of each room. When planning an interior makeover you should always choose a specific colour scheme and incorporate this into your design concept. Some people have an eye for colour and instinctively know which colours look good together. However, if you’re not sure what colours work well together, it is a good idea to use a colour wheel to help understand how different colours interact with each other.
Firstly, decide what look you would like to create in your home. Modern? Vintage? Earthy? Think about what best reflects your personality and fits with the things you own. Terracotta and ocher are perfect for an earthy scheme while muted shades will help you achieve that vintage feel. Contemporary look can be achieved by opting for intense palette of colours like violet or lime green.
If you are after a home with a difference, there are plenty of unusual properties on sale across the country. From a family-run zoo, to historic grand manors and individually designed houses with rare architectural features, there’s something for everyone. We’ve selected our favourite ten unusual properties currently on the market in the UK.
If you’re looking for a completely bespoke, one-of property, then look no further! This individually designed luxury house features a rotunda turret with a dome, five bedrooms, including a grand reception hall, and spreads over 3,000 ft of land.
This two-bedroom flat is set within a brand new development in central Woolwich. The building itself is an architectural spectacle with its unusual shape and modern features. Its prime location is ideal for young professionals commuting into London, who will appreciate the close proximity of rail links, restaurants, bars and shops.
One of the burning questions in the property market is whether the new ‘online’ models are a passing fancy, or a fundamental disruptor to an industry which has seen little major change in the last 10 years. Marcus Whewell, CEO of The Guild of Professional Estate Agents, discusses what impact they will have on the estate agency industry.
Whisper it quietly, but my provocation is that this is only a sideshow; the future battle for the hearts and minds of estate agency will be over the customer experience, not technology or cost. The former is only a means to an end, and the latter is what marketers resort to when they have no significant points of differentiation.
Agents are paid to sell houses / let properties, not to market them; in truth, many people now believe that the major portals can deliver the latter just fine on their own.
There is, in general, a broad lack of understanding of what agents really do. Add to this a fragmented market which often publishes inconsistent and confusing data, plus a shortage of residential stock, and it is no surprise that vendors and landlords expect more for less. But employing a so-called professional (however technically advanced) to fail to sell your property is not a sustainable or compelling proposition.
So the real revolution may not be ‘online’ (almost every so-called agent is already in this space), but great marketing and consistent delivery of high levels of service. Because real differentiators are hard to find, agents have almost halved their (percentage) commission rates in the last decade, yet the biggest opportunity of all may be right in front of us.
Great service is not just convenient opening hours and polite and timely communications (although there is also work to do here); true professionals provide local, timely and appropriate advice throughout the transactions process to help secure a better result than would have been achieved otherwise. This can’t be aggregated and distilled, but needs local expertise and commitment. However, harness this to useful and clever technology (such as 24/7 online booking of appointments), and we may have a change of gear.
Some agencies seem to have taken this to heart, and are attempting to transform themselves by adopting a large retailer approach. Unfortunately, supermarkets have never proven to be good estate agents.
The smart money will focus on customer engagement, positive relationships, and consistent achievement; the other end of the service scale (minimum fees, irregular contact, and constant disappointment) will become the graveyard for the resistant, stubborn, sickly and obsolescent.
‘He will profit most who serves best’.
We all know that Spring is generally the best time to sell your house. The bright daylight will make your home look lovely and people tend to have clear schedules. But what about an exact month? We’ve dug a little deeper than just seasons and have searched out the best month for all different kinds of properties.
To sell a home successfully (for the most amount of money in the shortest possible time), it’s essential that you find the right buyers. This is, after all, what it comes down to – finding those people who are keen to move into your house and are willing to put an offer in straight away for its full value (not to be confused with asking price). Timing is everything when it comes to finding these buyers. They’re out there, but if they aren’t looking for a home when you market yours, there’s little hope in them finding it. This is why it’s difficult to pin down an exact month that’s best for selling houses; because different houses appeal to different buyers who are all looking at various times of the year. Therefore, it’s often best to think about the best month in relation to each various type of property. Here’s a good overview of what’s typically on the market in the UK.
These types of properties tend to appeal to young professionals. Depending on the asking price, it might also appeal to first-time buyers. With Christmas out of the way, lots of young professionals start looking in February. They also tend to start searching in September, when they’re no longer busy with summer holidays and weekends away, and would like to get moving before Christmas.
As classic family homes, these tend to attract second-steppers who are climbing up the ladder and either have children or are planning to have a family in the near future. Try to avoid selling this kind of house in school holidays when your target buyers may be busy trying to find childcare or running around after the children themselves. April is a good month to sell three-bedroom houses as the target buyers are likely to be looking now, thanks to Easter being out of the way and with the summer holidays a couple of months away.
Likewise, these properties tend to appeal to families and are usually afforded by people who are moving onto their third or fourth property. You could go for April, as you would if you were selling a three-bedroom house. However, February might be even more effective, as you’ll avoid the masses of houses that are coming to market at this time. This is important as you need yours to stand out because your buyers are likely to be experienced in viewing houses and more selective in what they choose.
Five-bedroom house +
Larger houses and luxury properties are typically more difficult to sell, simply because there are fewer buyers out there and they are searching for something truly special. The best month to sell a luxury house is typically in April, just like the family houses. This is because it’s a busy time in the property market, and you need to get yours out there when the optimum number of buyers are searching. But be careful, lots of other properties will be coming to market at this time, so make sure yours is marketed efficiently and has superb photos.
So what do we think? Is it February or April? Well, we would say April for most houses. It’s usually free of school holidays, often has sunny days and it’s popular – and when lots of people selling, lots of people are buying, too.
Award winning beaches, a 2,500-year-old castle and a number of attractions make Scarborough very popular with families. In fact, people have been flocking to the historic coastal town since the 1600s when the spa waters were discovered, and today it’s still as popular as ever. Thanks to the thriving town centre, community events and close proximity to the beautiful North York Moor National Park, no wonder that so many families choose to live in this coastal town.
Pubs and places to eat
The Plough in Scalby is just three miles from Scarborough and is the ideal spot for a tasty lunch, dinner with friends or a quiet pint by a roaring fire. It’s on the edge of the North York Moors, so you can stop here for a plate of yummy food after a brisk walk in the national park.
Lanterna Ristorante has been serving up plates of Italian delicacies for some 40 years. Bringing a taste of Piedmont in Northern Italy to North Yorkshire, they specialise in game, risotto, and pasta. Chocolate lovers won’t be disappointed – homemade truffles are their ultimate speciality!
If you’re a fan of Chinese, you can indulge at Kam Sang and either eat in or order a takeaway. Or, if Indian is more your thing, there are plenty of places that you can grab a yummy meal, and The Scarborough Tandoori is a popular choice amongst the locals.
Green spaces and leisure
There are three gorgeous parks in which to while your afternoon away in Scarborough. Peasholm Park has a central island with a Japanese Pagoda that’s surrounded by a lake. South Cliff Gardens stretch from an area of The Spa Bridge across to the Holbeck Landslip and is home to beautifully manicured flowerbeds, elegant ponds and pretty woodland. In Royal Albert Park, you’ll find gorgeous views across the bay as well as a skate park and a BMX park.
Keen surfers can enjoy riding the waves at a number of locations along the coast, and the little ones will never tire of building sandcastles at the three most well-known beaches; North Bay Beach, Cayton Bay Beach and Cornelian Bay Beach.
Scarborough Rail station connects locals to a number of northern cities, such as Leeds, York and Manchester. The A64 is the main road into Scarborough and from here you can get to the A1 to travel further afield.
Scalby School, Graham School and St Augustine’s Catholic School are three of the main secondary schools in the area. Scarborough College is an independent school, covering ages 13 to 18, and Bramcote Junior School is the independent school for children aged 4 to 13.
Types of property
RJS Estates, the local Guild Member, praises Scarborough for its wonderful range in property; ‘Here in Scarborough we are fortunate to have such a diversity of property. We have period cottage homes in rural villages, smart Victorian and Edwardian terraces, handsome semi-detached houses, built during the 1930’s, as well as a modern mix of bungalows and purpose built apartments. We have sea views, picturesque countryside vistas and harbour side fisherman’s cottages. There is something for everyone.’
RJS Estates provides a great insight into the current local property market to give us an idea of which properties are proving popular and tells us which regeneration projects the town is enjoying.
‘We have seen an upsurge in popularity for properties over the £250,000 price range with bungalows still proving very popular. Flats and apartments, especially those close to the sea also receive interest from the second home market.’
Recent and continuous investment in the town has brought us an Open Air Theatre, popular with many big name artists, and the upgrading of North Bay now provides a lovely walk to town. In South Bay, our eagerly awaited water park is well on its way to being built. We will also soon be the proud recipients of a brand new purpose built multi complex sports centre. This is being developed just outside the town centre which will offer facilities for almost every sport.’
When it comes to choosing which estate agent to sell your home, it can often feel like you’re splitting hairs. They all claim to offer the best solution by getting you the best price for your property. But is this all that moving home is about? Good estate agents will take the stress of moving home out of your hands. So how do you find one that you can trust to look after everything for you, while still achieving the best possible price? The answer is simple, look for The Guild badge! Here’s an insight on why your local Guild Member can help you secure the best result.
Marketing & Exposure
National & local exposure
Finding a buyer for your home isn’t just about listing it on a search portal and getting loads of buyers through the door for viewings. You want to find committed buyers who are actively looking for properties like yours in your area, and this takes the work of a local agent who really gets to know their buyers. As independent estate agents, Guild Members have the best of both worlds: local expertise and national exposure. Did you know that 15% of buyers are actually looking to move away? Guild Agents are able to find buyers who are looking to move to the area by working with their fellow Members to gain leads and insights. They also share syndicated websites featuring a national search, which means that your property would be visible on hundreds of estate agents’ websites across the UK.
Lifestyle and regional magazines promote properties of all Guild Members located in a specific region alongside engaging lifestyle content. Distributed through Members in the region, your property details will be in the hands of potential buyers living within 50-mile radius of your home.
National Property Centre – Park Lane
The National Property Centre on Park Lane, Mayfair, is another very lucrative marketing resource, and your local Guild Agent can promote your home on the external touchscreens 24/7 to target the London investor market.
Marketing your home professionally is very important for attracting the right buyer for your home. Guild Members can work directly with an expert Graphic Design Studio to create eye-catching material that will wow-buyers and encourage them to arrange a viewing.
Trust & Confidence
A surprising number of estate agents in the UK are not professionally trained, and The Guild is turning this around. Through our training schemes, your local Guild Agent can train their staff so they are all up-do-date with the latest changes in legislation and ‘best practice’. This means that our Members can ensure they are equipped to offer guidance to help you the make right decisions during your move.
All Guild Agents must be members of The Ombudsman or RICS, the leading industry redress schemes, so you can rest assured that any problems will be dealt with efficiently.
IT & Intelligence
By choosing a Guild Member, you will have an access to highly professional videos that can be produced for your property to give buyers a virtual tour of your home, providing a more detailed impression of your property.
Your property can be promoted within your Guild Members’ electronic magazines, which are sent directly to buyers who are actively looking in your area.
Guild Agents can have responsive websites designed and created, meaning your property details will be easy to view on laptops, tablets and mobile devices.
Conveyancing, removals and mortgages
Taking the stress out of moving home comes down to more than just selling your property. Guild Agents can help their clients to choose a suitable mortgage and find an expert conveyancer. They also have access to a number of local removal companies that can help pack and unpack your belongings to get you settled in your new home.
In recent years, buying a house and getting the keys has reportedly been increasingly difficult. Marcus Whewell, CEO of The Guild of Professional Estate Agents, asks why and considers if the UK needs a new approach how property transactions are governed.
One of the more remarkable statistics about the UK residential property market is that almost a third of sales agreed never actually complete. I can’t think of any other business which has such a high fall out ratio, and no other developed country can report such an unenviable statistic.
Some sales collapse for exemplary reasons, where for example a vendor’s or buyer’s circumstances change unexpectedly. However, a significant part of this is due to the time taken – currently an average of 12-14 weeks (but can be much longer for a long chain), which introduces many more variables into the process. This not only means wasted costs, but lives are put on hold and valuable opportunities are missed.
Don’t say it too loudly, but almost every good estate agent can secure some sort of offer in a market where instructions are in such short supply – maybe even the ‘DIY portals’. However, this is where the hard work begins and professionals earn their fees. This may be news to the general public, which highlights how ineffectively the industry markets its expertise and value (as opposed to cheap fees).
So given that transaction numbers have been relatively predictable for some years, where are the pinch points?
Searches can take up to 12 weeks* because some processes are still manual as opposed to automated. Such a low level of service should be unacceptable, and maybe SLAs should now be introduced with fines and compensation for poor performance.
Solicitors normally undertake much of the legal work, but conveyancing capacity in the UK has shrunk by approximately 5% in the last two years. Consequently, surges in demand, as seen recently prior to the additional stamp duty for ‘buy to let properties’, can cause significant problems. Solicitors are loath to turn business away and so another blockage is created. Buyers and vendors do not always understand the process and agents are often left to try to explain, and in some cases, also take the blame. Maybe solicitors’ fees could be flexed, so that they are rewarded for service and encouraged to invest in more capacity?
Securing a mortgage is normally relatively straightforward (as long as the buyer has a good credit score and a suitable deposit); but the process of checking individuals’ creditworthiness is not very rigorous and needs overhauling. In fact, some people can get a higher score for having been in debt compared to those who have not, and scores can even be affected by another family member, such a child not paying their mobile phone bill.
Most buyers will require a survey to secure a mortgage. As the number of surveyors in the UK falls and their own insurance liabilities increase, there is a natural tendency for them to undervalue, thereby delaying or risking the loan application. Also, to reduce fees, so-called panel surveyors are employed from out of area and paid relatively low sums to value the property, often with little local knowledge or experience, again risking under valuations.
In a market of perceived changing prices (fed by the popular media), such delays can lead to frustration and reassessments - and buyers and vendors may decide to pull out if they think the deal is no longer the best on offer, or try to renegotiate. Some estate agents will even whisper in their ear that ‘you can now do even better by remarketing your property’, but who pays the costs incurred? This is wasted money on aborted transactions that could be invested in higher levels of marketing and service. Why not ask for a bond from both sides to demonstrate commitment, subject to survey, returnable on completion?
In 2007 the Government attempted to improve the house buying process with mandatory HIPs (Home Improvement Packs), but these were withdrawn in 2010 after widespread opposition (mainly around cost, implementation, and lack of substance). The idea was not all bad, but poorly executed, with the various problems flagged by leading estate agents before the launch. Some even blame the 2008-9 housing crisis on this initiative by unnecessarily deterring vendors from marketing their properties.
So the market process is remarkably agricultural, and wastes literally hundreds of millions of pounds a year of the public’s and private businesses’ money. Good estate agents will find the best local partners and try to shave time off the process, but this is not a structural, long-term solution.
The fundamental question is whether the industry and Government want ‘cheap and cheerful’, with public perception of excessive competition driving lower costs, but with relatively high levels of frustration and failure – or a more professional approach where the transactions process is undertaken in a timely and proper way. Not all markets work better with minimal regulation.
If the Housing Minister wants to make a real difference, can I suggest that he only needs to focus on two areas:
• Release more brownfield land for housing development (the Government has the largest stockpile).
• Review the residential buying and selling process via an open consultation with the experts who suffer from its various fault lines, and probably know more than anyone else how to make substantial improvements.
*Observed in Estate Agent Today on 25.6.16
We’re so used to talking about house prices rising year on year that we often forget about all the places in the UK where properties are considered affordable. We have scoured the country to find the best value places to buy homes in the UK, and some of them are very surprising!
Best for London
The capital may be home to some of the most expensive properties in the UK, but there are still areas where it’s possible to buy a home for a fraction of the cost. Colliers Wood is a perfect example, and flats sold for an average of £314,731 in the past year – that’s approximately 42% less than the average for London. This area in South London is considered very up and coming, thanks to a number of regeneration projects that are taking place, and it has its own tube station, connecting residents with Central London and the rest of the capital.
Best seaside town
You typically pay a premium to live by the Great British seaside, but in Whitby, North Yorkshire, the average price of property was £173,710 in the past year. That’s approximately 9% cheaper than the national average of properties in February of this year. With Blue Flag beaches nearby, the chance to see whales off the coast and an English Heritage ruin called Whitby Abbey, which inspired the famous novel Dracula, this pretty coastal town certainly is a very special place to call home.
Best national park
Living in one of the UK’s beautiful national parks might seem like a distant dream, but Snowdonia in Wales offers surprisingly good value for money. Here, the average price of properties sold last year was £161,918. That’s a whopping £259,081 less than the average house price in the South Downs over the last year. Home to the highest mountain in the UK, a number of glaciers and a rugged coastline, Snowdonia is a spectacular place to live and has so much to offer to those who love the great outdoors.
Compared to the other large cities in the UK, Liverpool comes out on top for value for money with the average price of property at approximately £146,579 over the past year, that’s around 23% cheaper than the national average of this year. Birmingham comes in a close second, with the average house prices at £167,456 over the past year. However, thanks to the planned High Speed 2 rail which will provide a faster link between Birmingham, London and other major cities in the UK, it’s likely that prices will start to rise as the city becomes more attractive to commuters.
Best for overall happiness
If it’s happiness you’re after, then you might want to consider moving to Mid Sussex which, according to an ONS well-being report, is the happiest place to live in Britain! So where offers the best value for money in this joyous area? Well, Burgess Hill might be the answer. Over the past year, properties were approximately 17% cheaper on average than those in Haywards Heath, a town only five miles away. In fact, the properties were over £100,000 cheaper on average in the past year than those in Lindfield, a very popular village only 17 miles away.
With the government pledging to build one million new homes by 2020, more buyers are being encouraged to buy newly built properties. So what are the perks of buying a new home compared to an older property? Firstly, they are built to the latest building standards and usually come with a 10-year warranty, meaning you’re covered if you have any structural issues. They’re typically more energy efficient, too, meaning they’re cheaper to run and, depending on how close they are to completion, you may be able to add a few of your own specifications.
Here’s a selection of our favourite new builds currently for sale across the UK today. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and are on the market for a range of prices. It seems that there’s a new build to suit everyone!
Malvern, Worcestershire - £410,000
Nestled on the edge of the beautiful Malvern Hills, this four-bedroom house is one of three properties in a small development that has far-reaching views across the Severn Valley.
This four-bedroom home has been built to an exceptionally high specification with a number of luxurious fittings including a handmade kitchen, a feature fireplace and the option of a multi-room sound system.
This property may look like a barn conversion, but it’s actually a complete new-build. Between the main house and the detached holiday cottage, the property has nine bedrooms with en-suite shower rooms.
This month has seen the release of a number of statistics suggesting a weakening of the UK economy. The Office for National Statistics (the ONS) reported that, in February, the UK’s industrial output saw its biggest decline since August 2013, falling by 0.5 per cent from a year earlier. Over the same period, manufacturing output was down 1.8 per cent. These figures were weaker than expected, raising fears over the growth prospects of the UK economy for the first quarter of 2016. Separate ONS figures revealed that the UK’s trade deficit in February was also worse than expected.
New data on productivity from the ONS showed that worker output per hour in the UK fell 1.2 per cent during the last three months of 2015 compared with the previous quarter. Over the same period, manufacturing output fell by 2 per cent and the service sector dropped by 0.7 per cent. Nevertheless, over 2015 as a whole, output per hour rose by 1 per cent, which the ONS said was the strongest increase since 2011. As productivity is critical to economic growth potential, economists are concerned as to whether the fourth quarter figures mark a temporary relapse or hint at problems to come.
A slowdown in the UK’s economic growth appears to be supported by a survey just published by the British Chambers of Commerce (the BCC), which looked at key indicators such as sales and orders, confidence and investment intentions in more than 8,500 firms. It showed historically low confidence in turnover and profitability and further suggested that domestic sales and orders in service firms fell in the first quarter of the year to their lowest level in three years; manufacturers also reported a fall in domestic sales.
The Halifax has recently said that the housing market could slow down because of ‘worsening sentiment’ regarding the UK economy and amid the uncertainty over the pending EU referendum on 23 June. However, it also said that house price growth is likely to remain generally robust in the months ahead because the number of homes on the market is still outstripped by demand, and because interest rates and unemployment remain low.
Regarding interest rates, the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously at its monthly meeting on 16 March to maintain the Bank Rate at 0.5 per cent and to maintain the stock of purchased assets financed by the issuance of central bank reserves at £375 billion.
LAND REGISTRY DATA: FEBRUARY 2016 (released 30 March 2016)
The February 2016 Land Registry data showed a monthly drop in average house prices across England and Wales of minus 0.2 per cent, while the annual increase was 6.1 per cent. The average house price in England & Wales now stands at £190,275 and in London at £530,368.
Regionally, the highest monthly increase was seen in the North West at 1.8 per cent, followed by the East Midlands at 1.5 per cent; prices decreased in Wales, the West Midlands and the North East by minus 0.1 per cent, minus 0.3 per cent and minus 1.2 per cent respectively. London saw the highest annual increase in prices at 13.5 per cent, followed by the South East at 10.9 per cent, while the North East saw a fall of minus 3.2 per cent.
In terms of property type, semi-detached properties showed the highest annual increase at 6.4 per cent, while the lowest increase was seen in detached properties at 5.7 per cent.
By county and unitary authority, the strongest monthly growth was seen in Blaenau Gwent with an increase of 9.4 per cent, while Flintshire had the most significant monthly drop with a movement of minus 1.4 per cent. Four counties and unitary authorities saw no monthly price change. On an annual basis, eleven counties and unitary authorities experienced a fall in prices, the greatest being Rhondda Cynon Taff at minus 2.4 per cent; Slough showed the highest annual rise at 19 per cent.
Of the metropolitan districts, Barnsley saw the highest monthly price increase at 3.2 per cent; ten districts experienced a monthly fall, the greatest being Doncaster at minus 1.2 per cent. Knowsley continued to show the largest annual price increase at 8.1 per cent; four districts saw a fall over the 12-month period, the greatest being Rochdale at minus 1.8 per cent.
Of the London boroughs, Hammersmith & Fulham experienced the highest monthly price increase at 2.2 per cent, while Merton saw the greatest monthly fall at minus 0.8 per cent. Hillingdon had the highest annual price rise at 17.1 per cent, while Camden again saw the smallest annual increase at 3.6 per cent.
The volume of properties sold in December 2015 was 6 per cent lower than a year earlier in England and Wales and 12 per cent lower in London. Over the same period, the number of properties sold for more than £1 million across England and Wales as a whole and in London rose by 2 per cent.
Month on month, the total number of properties sold across England and Wales increased from 72,167 in November to 73,326 in December 2015 – an increase of 1.6 per cent. The number of property transactions from September 2015 to December 2015 averaged 78,778 per month, compared to 79,237 over the same period a year earlier.
London is about to vote and select a new mayor – probably one of the 10 most powerful and influential political positions in the country. Marcus Whewell, CEO of The Guild of Professional Estate Agents, examines what impact the London election could have on the capital’s property market.
Boris Johnson has of course decided not to run again, but is this election likely to make any difference to the property market in of the world’s largest and most successful cities?
For many, in truth probably not. London house prices have defied gravity as a heady mixture of overseas investment, rising population and speculation (including buy to let) has driven the average price to almost £450,000, still tracking at a 10% annual increase according to Land Registry. Mean prices are forecast to reach £550,000 by 2020, which would require a £28,000 deposit and a salary of £118,000 to secure a typical mortgage. Ownership is, therefore, becoming an exclusive club for the already wealthy.
This naturally ‘knocks on’ to the rentals market, putting increased pressure on the finances of aspiring homeowners, for whom the dream moves further away as prices outstrip wages. Of course, there are many so-called ‘lifestyle tenants’, but I believe only a few would freely waive the significant profits to be made from being on the housing ladder.
The occasional poor, and frankly unacceptable standards of some rental accommodation has led to several charities to campaign for Government intervention, but has this ship already sailed?
Boris Johnson launched his ‘rental standard programme’ in May 2014, hoping to use voluntary accreditation to attract landlords to agree to minimum compliance. This has largely failed (in terms of signups to the scheme), showing the difficulties in engaging with such a diverse and elusive market. I can’t see any new incumbent taking on such a task again without formal legislation, which is highly unlikely given the Government’s other pressing priorities.
Alternatively, could a new mayor fix housing supply in the capital? Lead-times for significant new build developments tend to be years rather than months, so his/her influence will be diluted with an unwelcome lag (a little like the Government using interest rates to influence employment).
Of course, some form of rent controls could also affect the disposable income of a high percentage of London residents (30% of the overall population), but no-one is actively planning such a measure, and may just restrict future supply.
So what could move the London property market? I would suggest one a few major catalysts:
Firstly, Brexit could cause a significant adjustment in several ways:
o Reducing the desirability of the location for international employees
o A flight of capital could influence interest rates and lending policies
o By reducing general confidence in a city continuing to project itself on a world stage against growing competition
A second factor would be the pending Basel III controls, that will look to build up banks’ capital bases (meaning that they can lend less against any given reserves) – due to come into play later this year.
Thirdly, the increasing attractiveness of ‘neighbourhood’ commute areas such as Luton and Dartford may persuade people to make a different decision on where to live – but this is more likely to affect first time buyers and upscalers than the property elite.
On the other hand, London has always been seen as a ‘safe haven’ in times of uncertainty, and so any escalation in the Middle East conflicts or a serious challenge to the European model (see Holland) would probably attract further funds and overseas relocations. It is difficult to speculate what would result from a Trump victory in the US, apart from a strong ‘political gulfstream’ from the West.
So in truth, the London market is driven by fundamentals and sentiment: sadly, as with most economics, any individual’s ability to influence this is on the wane.
The largest village in the district, Chew Magna is a beautiful historic village set within the picturesque Chew Valley, in the North of Somerset.
Conveniently located just 10 miles from Bristol and 15 miles from Bath, it is a great location for those who work in either of the cities but are looking to enjoy a laid-back lifestyle in the Great British countryside. With the lovely River Chew running through the village, gorgeous surrounding scenery and a number of listed properties, it is a very charming place to live. It also has three great pubs; what more could you wish for?
Pubs and places to eat
The Bear and Swan is an absolute delight of a pub. With the promise of ‘Great food, great rooms, great atmosphere’, it’s a sure winner for anyone who loves nothing more than sipping a scrumptious West Country cider in good company.
Just down the road from The Bear and Swan is The Pelican Inn, or The Pelly, as it’s known by the locals. It has a rather stylish set-up, with a fancy bar serving a range of wines, real ales, lagers, ciders, spirits and, if you ask nicely, they can even make you a tasty cocktail.
For a real treat, you can make a trip over to the Michelin starred, Pony & Trap, a real family-run local with a mouth-wateringly delicious and unique menu to die for. Only a mile and a half from the centre of Chew Magna, it’s well worth the short journey.
Green places & leisure
If it’s greenery you’re after, the Chew Valley is an ideal setting. Somerset’s famously rolling countryside surrounds the village and it’s also to the edge of the Mendip Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Local buses will take you to surrounding villages and into Bristol, Bath, Keynsham and Wells. It’s much easier to get around the area by car and you can be on the M4 and M5 within half an hour to travel further afield. Bristol airport, however, is only five miles away, and from here you can travel to a number of European cities.
Chew Magna Primary School serves the local village and surrounding area and Chew Valley School is the main secondary in the area.
Types of property
You can expect to find charming period houses and unique builds in the village. They typically come with lovely gardens and lots of them enjoy far-reaching views across the open scenery.
Debbie Fortune, from Debbie Fortune Estate Agents, has noticed a large number of buyers who are moving away from Bristol and London to snap up the good family homes in the area.
Britain is a pretty amazing place to live, but what made it great in the first place? Well, we reckon it might have something to do with its beautiful countryside, charming villages, gorgeous market towns and picturesque cities. This selection of the prettiest places to live in the UK will have you dreaming of packing up and moving away. Or, if you are already lucky enough to live in one of these places, you’ll be feeling very smug indeed, and so you should!
1. Ambleside, Cumbria
The Lake District is undeniably beautiful and Ambleside is one of the prettiest towns in the national park. Overlooking famous Lake Windermere, the town is full of Lakeland stone houses and charming cafes, shops and restaurants.
2. Port Isaac, Cornwall
Picture postcard Port Isaac is probably best known as the filming location for Doc Martin. It’s easy to see why the producers chose this backdrop; the traditional fishing village has classic Cornish white-washed houses, rolling green hills and turquoise waters.
3. Caernarfon, North Wales
Home to a 13th century castle UNESCO World Heritage Site and overlooking Anglesey, this Welsh seaside town has been attracting swathes of visitors for hundreds of years. It has medieval stone walls, a roman church and lovely pubs and cafes. Plus, it’s close to the beautiful Snowdonia National Park.
4. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
Famous for its ancient university, Cambridge is formed of historic buildings, all arranged around a peaceful river. It also has lots of attractive bridges which are often the most photographed spots in the city.
5. Aysgarth, North Yorkshire
Located in famous Wensleydale, Aysgarth is home to a number of stunning waterfalls. It was used as the filming location for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner, and the village is also known for its gorgeous old mill.
6. Burnham Market, Norfolk
Just a stone’s throw away from the North Norfolk coastline, Burnham Market is full of independent shops, restaurants, bakeries and cafes. It has lots of period properties and a long village green with a trickling stream.
7. Stamford, Lincolnshire
This old market town is regarded as one of the finest stone towns in England. It’s full of old stone buildings and small winding streets. It’s also home to Elizabethan Burghley House which, has featured in several films.
8. Morpeth, Northumberland
Historic Morpeth is a bustling market town that has a number of walks, parks and open countryside right on the doorstep. It holds several events throughout the year and has a true community spirit.
9. Lavenham, Suffolk
Lavenham in Suffolk is a medieval town that’s full of period houses and buildings. It’s not often that you find so many well-preserved medieval buildings in one place, and they’ve all been painted in pretty pastel shades.
10. Cheddar, Somerset
Made famous by its delicious cheese, Cheddar in Somerset is nestled on the edge of the Mendip Hills and has one of the most stunning rugged gorges you’ll see in Britain today. The village itself has lots of historic buildings and a number of walking tracks.
11. Alderley Edge, Cheshire
Full of luxurious properties, Alderley Edge is a very prestigious place to live. It has a wooded sandstone ridge called The Edge, and from its highest point, you can see across Cheshire and the Peak District.
12. Lindfield, West Sussex
The town of Lindfield, especially handy for London commuters, has been established for thousands of years and this rich history is prevalent in the architecture, with over forty medieval houses standing today. It’s home to a large, natural spring-fed pond and the surrounding countryside has been named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
This three-bedroom house on the High Street is on the market for £495,000.
13. Bath, Somerset
Famous for its honey-stone Georgian crescents and roman baths, this small city has been the hub of social gatherings for years. It’s surrounded by rolling picturesque countryside, too.
14. Castle Combe, Wiltshire
This Cotswolds village has often been called the prettiest village in the UK. It’s made up of gorgeous Cotswold stone cottages and it has a beautiful river running through it.
15. Salcombe, Devon
Surrounded by sandy beaches and gracing some of the bluest seas in the British Isles, Salcombe is Devon’s sailing capital. It’s a vibrant town with stunning natural surroundings and in the summer the water is warm enough to enjoy a swim.
16. Holland Park, London
One of the most prestigious postcodes in London, Holland Park in Kensington is full of stucco fronted houses. It also has a park of the same name, which has been beautifully manicured. You can expect to find high-end boutiques and chic restaurants in the area.
17. Ludlow, Shropshire
The market town of Ludlow is full of historic buildings from the Medieval period all the way through to the Georgian era. Altogether, there are around 500 listed buildings, including a stunning castle.
18. Nuneham Courtenay, South Oxfordshire
Conveniently located just five miles from Oxford, this quintessentially English village is mainly formed of pretty cottages lining either side of the main road. It’s also home to two beautifully preserved churches, one of which has typical Greek Revival architecture, and a large country house.
19. York, North Yorkshire
The walled city of York is a real beauty. York Minster, a 13th Century Gothic cathedral, is just one its impressive historic buildings. Many of its original medieval buildings still stand today, including the 3.4 kilometre walls.
20. Selborne, Hampshire
On the edge of the stunning South Downs National Park lies Selbourne, a quintessentially English village. Here you’ll find Selbourne Common, a large area of beech woods and flower-filled meadows.
So you’ve taken the leap and made the decision to buy your very first home. While joining the property market is exciting, it can also be expensive, and it definitely pays off to do your research. These top ten tips will explain some of the key elements of becoming a homeowner that it’s important to be aware of.
Get your finances in order
It’s important that you get your finances in order as your credit score will have an impact on your mortgage options. Make sure you pay all your bills on time and avoid making any bigger purchases around that time. Speak to a professional to get advice about how much you can afford. Don’t forget that there are lots of other costs attached to buying a property, such as solicitor’s fees, stamp duty and home insurance. When these all add up, you might reconsider the price range of properties you’re viewing.
Take the time to decide what you want
Take time to view different properties and create a list of what you want your new home to include in the process. Divide your wish list into must-haves and things you can compromise on. This will help you to avoid making hasty decisions and get you thinking in detail about your ideal home. Be realistic though, and ensure your list is appropriate to your budget.
Whilst it’s good to have a list of do’s and don’ts, it’s important to remain flexible. You could miss out on a perfectly suitable home because it’s located three miles out of your desired area or the bedroom doesn’t have a walk-in closet. Be open-minded when viewing different properties and think outside the box – with a little creativity you can do some wonderful things with the décor of a house or the look of a garden!
Get to know your local agents
A good agent should be well-informed and able to answer questions not only about the property but also the area you are moving into. Cast your net wide and visit a number of agents in the town. Make sure you meet them face-to-face and explain in detail what your requirements are - this will make them remember you and think of you when a suitable property comes on the market. Also be proactive and keep an eye on newly listed properties on their website and different online portals as great homes tend to get snapped up quickly.
Are you willing to invest in renovations?
Unless you’re specifically looking for a project, buying a property that needs renovation might not be the right step for you. Purchasing a fixer-upper can be a risky investment and you could end up with a money pit. If you do decide to buy a home in need of work, it’s advised that you get a thorough inspection to get a realistic overview of the property’s conditions. If possible, opt for an examination after a rainy day that will assess the state of the foundations and basement.
Learn more about your prospective home
So you’ve found your dream home and you’re eager to make an offer. Before you progress to the next step, make sure you learn as much as you can about your prospective new home. Find out how long it has been on the market, ask to see the utility bills and hire a surveyor to inspect the condition of the property. It’s a good idea to get to know the neighborhood as well to get a feel for the area. Is there a convenience store nearby? What schools are in the catchment area? What is your local pub or café like? These are all important aspects of day to day life that might influence your decision to make an offer.
The price of the property is rarely set in stone and the vendors are often willing to negotiate. If the property needs some work or your surveyor revealed any defects, use this as an argument to agree a more affordable price. You can use your estate agent to do this for you, however, as a buyer you will be the one making the final decision and should be in control at all times.
Get a good solicitor on board
Search for the right solicitor, someone trustworthy and someone you can rely on to work hard for you. Usually, you get what you pay for and this is definitely not the time penny pinch. As a first time buyer, you will most likely need someone more experienced to manage Stamp Duty charges, dealing with Land Registry and drawing up and explaining contracts. Avoid using the same solicitor as the sellers to minimise the possibility of a conflict.
Don’t feel pressured
Buying a house is possibly one of the biggest purchases of your life so it’s important you take time when making important decisions. It can sometimes feel like you’re under a lot of pressure to buy straight away but if you don’t need to move immediately then shop around. It’s likely you will be living in the house for years to come and it’s essential that you feel comfortable and happy in your surroundings.
Try to stay sane in the process
The whole process might take longer than you originally anticipate. It’s a good idea to focus solely on house hunting so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Juggling other big decisions, such as organising a wedding or planning to have a baby, whilst buying your first home can put a huge strain on your life and take all the fun out of the process. Buying your very first home is a big step in every person’s life and should you be remembered fondly.
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