22Feb

Last month the government’s much-heralded housing White Paper was launched in parliament by Secretary of State Sajid Javid who, while in TV studios the weekend before, had promised radical changes to government policy.

What he subsequently revealed was considered by many people in the industry not to be the sweeping changes that had been expected, or much of a switch of government focus to renting.

Although there were interesting ideas and proposals introduced, much of the White Paper covered old ground and, we think, recycled existing proposals as ‘new’. If you were being charitable, perhaps you’d call them refinements.

Here is our summary of the initiatives revealed within the White Paper plus some of our thoughts on what it will mean for consumers. 


Three-year tenancy agreements

Javid intends to make longer tenancies agreements of up to three years ‘available’ to those who want them, alongside the current six-month rolling tenancies most agents offer. These are designed primarily to stimulate investment in the Build to Rent sector and encourage families to use this kind of rental property. 


More Build to Rent

The government wants to change planning laws so councils can allow more Build to Rent developments, and increase the number of more secure, long-term tenancies available within the market. It’s a great idea but the Build to Rent market is at a very early stage in the UK, and although schemes are coming on stream, it’s going to take a while to get going. 


Repayment on starter homes

There is some encouraging news on Starter Homes, with repayments now allowed over 15 years not five. But with a combined income of £80,000 required for anyone looking for a starter home in London, this still seems an unobtainable goal for many.


The letting fees ban will still happen

As previously confirmed the government is to consult on a total ban on fees charged to tenants by landlords or letting agents, although it’s unlikely to come in until 2018. This might have some positive effect on renters’ willingness and ability to move house.


Clamp down on rogue landlords

Javid re-iterated the government’s desire to clamp down on rogue landlords, and enable councils to fine them more easily. Mandatory electrical safety checks for properties will be introduced, as will more strict client money protection rules.


Get councils to plan better

The government think some councils are poor or reluctant to tackle the housing crisis, so councils are to be forced to come up with a ‘realistic’ plan every five years. Although councils are encouraged to build on brownfield sites, there is a lack of clarity on the policy regarding greenfield, and indeed green-belt, land.


Speed up house building

Javid wants councils to speed up the house building process by using their existing power to cut the time it takes to build homes from three to two years. Yet with fewer than half of all planning applications actually getting to build-stage, more radical thinking is needed here.


Get more small builders involved

The government is to make £3 billion available to help support smaller builders and therefore diversify the market. 60% of new homes in the UK are built by the largest ten construction firms. 


Reform leasehold

Some builders have recently begun offering houses for sale as leasehold, and then sell on their freeholds which can lead to higher ground rents. The government is to consult on what to do about this. 

These are all ideas of course and that’s the role of a White Paper. The government now intends to complete a vigorous round of industry consultations on these ideas.


OUR VIEW...

In our view if we are to find solutions to the growing proportion of the young and/or poor who cannot afford to get on the housing ladder yet are also stuck in rising rents, there needs to be some thinking which is a good deal more radical than this.


22Feb

The number of visits to the UK’s biggest property website, rightmove.co.uk, was up 3% in January this year, compared to the same month in 2016.

The rise in visits comes despite last year’s boost in home-buying in the first quarter of the year, ahead of the rise in stamp duty for second homes that was introduced in April last year.

Gordon Andrews, senior director of Mansell McTaggart, said “this is welcome news for the property market. It supports our view that many people held off buying or selling in the second half of 2016 – but now see that much of the catastrophe predicted after a vote for Brexit hasn’t materialised and are once more returning to the property market. We expect there to be a healthy number of transactions this year”.



22Feb

Carb-free diets are all very well, but it’s avoiding when you’re in need of a snack is a real challenge.

So friend of a friend Kate Snell found cloud bread!

Try it, and report back via our facebook page to let us know how you got on…


INGREDIENTS

  • 3 fresh, free range eggs
  • 3 tbs cream cheese
  • pinch salt
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • (optional)
  • 1 tbs brown sugar or honey
  • rosemary


METHOD

1. preheat oven to 150 Celsius

2. separate the eggs completely

3. mix the egg yolks, cream cheese, salt (and sugar/honey if using) until smooth

4. in another bowl to the whites and beat the whites with an electric whisk till fluffy and hold their peaks when turned upside down (this is important) 

5. now, gently fold the egg yolks into the egg whites – but be gentle so as not to destroy the whites’ consistency

6. spoon the resulting mixture into even rounds (probably 10-12 from this quantity, depending on the size of your eggs) onto lightly greased baking sheet

7. sprinkle with rosemary (if using, but do, it makes them even lovelier) and put in the oven

8. bake for 18-20 minutes minutes in the middle of the oven

9. then turn on the grill and grill for one minute until golden brown (keep an eye on them as they burn really easily!)

10. eat warm from the oven or cool and store in the fridge for up to a week.


WHAT TO DO WITH THEM

Well, exactly the same as you would with bread! Toast them, make them into sandwiches using your favourite fillings (but tomato and avocado is especially good IMHO!), marmite, honey…


We’d love to know how you get on, please report back!

22Feb

Q. I’ve received an offer after only a few days of marketing. What should I do?

A. It’s one of those ‘nice problems to have’: you’ve received an offer after only a few days of going on the market. Do you accept and be happy that you’ve got an offer so quickly, or do you hope for more.

This really comes down to several things.

First, how close the offer is to the amount you expected. If it’s far off, it’s probably worth keeping it on the market to see if other offers develop.

If it’s close to your expected price, it’s a brave person who turns that down in the hope of finding something quickly. A bird in the hand, after all…

This must of course be balanced with the second question; how urgently you need to move. If you’re in no hurry but want to get the best price, then it might be worth staying on the market to see what else develops. If you’re keen to move soon (perhaps before a certain date, or you’ve fallen in love with another property) then accepting might feel like the safest thing to do.

Dare I say, but it also comes down to how much you trust your agent, and the advice they would give you in this instance! 

If you chose them because they were the cheapest or they flattered you with an over-blown valuation, then you may might feel doubtful about the quality of their advice. Agents who routinely overvalue are not being strictly honest with their clients at the very outset and when it comes to lower fees, well you generally get what you pay for! 

If, on the other hand, you chose your agent on the basis of their professional reputation or through personal recommendation – then you might feel more inclined to accept their advice. 

Of course, you can always try hedging your bets by accepting this first offer while keeping your home on the market. After all, under the English system nothing is legally binding on either party until exchange of contracts. But I would be very cautious about doing so, not least because your agent would be obliged to inform your buyers of the fact, in writing – and you could end up losing them.

It’s also wise, in somewhat turbulent times, to remember that we never know what’s around the corner – personally, locally, nationally and globally. Sadly, history is littered with people waiting for a better offer, only to see that turn to tears when the unexpected happens.

It’s common in a ‘quick offer’ situation like this to think both you’re your agent has done nothing for their fee and/or that it’s priced too low and raising the price would deliver a higher offer.

But take a step back and think about your objective: probably to get your house sold for as little hassle as possible. If you get a good offer without having to endure endless viewings, and this enables you to start looking for your next property with a firm offer under the belt and a clear budget, it’s a brave person who turns their nose up at that!

22Feb

A new survey suggests that many people are struggling to get mortgages due to poor credit scores, and that many only realising they had a poor credit rating at the point their application was rejected.

The research, commissioned by specialist credit card provider Vanquis, reveals that a fifth of people in the UK have been declined credit, with one in ten of this group being denied a mortgage. In the 24-35 year old age group, this rises to 1 in 4 people.

Nearly half (43%) confessed that they have never checked their credit score, rising to 53% of 25 to 34 year olds.

One in ten of respondents said they only realised they had bad credit when they got turned down for a mortgage.

One in ten people believe that regularly checking your credit score will affect your rating and a further 10% believe that your credit score would be better if you you don't borrow money, both of which are incorrect, says Vanquis.

Sion O’Connor, Marketing Director at Vanquis, said: “The results of our research are really interesting. It’s so surprising that 43% of adults confessed to having never checked their credit score, despite the fact that a credit rating ... is important to be able to borrow money for the important things we want in life, like a mortgage to buy a property of our own. It’s concerning that so many people get to the point of applying for a mortgage before they even know there is a problem.

We would advise people who have issues with their credit score not to apply for credit until they have improved their credit score, to get on the electoral register, make sure they pay your bills on time and, in the long term, consider using a credit builder card.

A credit builder card helps improve your creditworthiness by demonstrating that you can borrow money and meet the minimum payment each month.”


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