It’s autumn – arguably the most beautiful time of year. Leaves are turning golden and many look as if they are on fire with their dramatic red and orange hues. The property market is as vibrant as the colours that we see around us. In fact there are so many properties for sale, just how do people start their search for the perfect home? How do they decide which houses might be suitable and which to ditch without a second glance, asks Caroline Knight.
It’s worth thinking about the effect that a garden creates during the very first glimpse. The chances are that it’s the photo of the front of the house from the road that first catches people’sattention. They can dismiss or delight in a property with just a single peek. If the property is obscured by gigantic conifers, straggly shrubs and dark shadows they might be a little underwhelmed by its kerb appeal, but if the garden helps to display the home like a sleek carpet or solid wooden floor helps to stage a lounge, its audience is captured within seconds.
Judging a house by its façade might not be wise in every sense, but we all do it. The exterior appearance of a property is frequently the deal maker or breaker when it comes to buying a home. In fact it can take just eight seconds for a potential buyer to decide whether or not to view – and their decision is usually based on their judgement of a mere photograph.
Just imagine the scenario – a flower-filled garden suggesting scented aroma, a cleanly swept path, seating area signifying relaxation, no bins in sight, a clipped lawn looking like a smooth carpet and a clearly defined boundary offering privacy and style. Autumn tree colour will be the icing on the cake – people like to have interest for every season, not just the height of summer. Alternatively, an overgrown patch with brambles, mud and rubbish can only damage that first vital impression and few people are going to want to brave the journey up the front path to the door.
First impressions count immensely. An ugly house can recede into insignificance when clothed with a delightful garden. And the most beautiful home can look daunting if its grounds appear to be ‘high maintenance’.
The good news for sellers is that they can do something about it. A garden tidy-up might be all that is required. The great news for buyers is that they can instruct themselves to see past any outside neglect and might then have an opportunity to buy a property at a knock-down price. Fewer competitors in the buying field means the vendors will be keen to keep their potential buyer’s interest and they could find themselves in a strong bargaining position.
Creating kerb appeal can be simple, but it does take a little thought. The rewards are there to be reaped – why wait until after the photos have been uploaded?
Garden of the month on Zoopla
Why do I like this property on Zoopla?
- The curvaceous design of the front garden leads the eye in a welcoming manner to the front door.
- The paving looks clean and crisp, with well-defined edges – suggesting it is easy to maintain.
- The boundaries give definition to the space and make the house appear to be large, even though it’s a bungalow.
- Everything in the photo looks clean and well-cared-for, suggesting that moving into this home would be a pleasure.
Caroline Knight is a garden designer working at Perfect Plants in East Sussex. This online retailer supplies top quality plants including bedding, perennials, shrubs and trees – many of which are home-grown – together with garden essentials. It has a team of dedicated horticultural experts who endeavour to provide an excellent all-round service to customers.
House prices raced ahead by nearly 2 per cent in July as the property market showed little sign of slowing down, Government figures revealed today.
The average cost of a UK home jumped by 1.6 per cent during the month to stand at £272,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The rate at which prices are rising also accelerated to stand at 11.7 per cent for the 12 months to the end of July, up from an annual rate of 10.2 per cent in June.
London continued to be the driving force of the property market, with house prices in the capital increasing by 19.1 per cent during the year.
Growth was also strong in the South East and East, with these regions posting gains of 12.2 per cent and 10.6 per cent respectively.
But the London house price boom is continuing to spread to other regions of the UK, with the North East, North West, East Midlands, West Midlands, South West, Wales and Scotland all posting annual growth of more than 7 per cent.
The gains were enough to push property values in the East Midlands, West Midlands and South West up to record levels.
These regions now join London, the South East and the East in having average house prices that have passed the peak reached before the financial crisis struck.
In London, house prices are now nearly 40 per cent higher than they were before the property market correction, while across the UK as a whole, prices are 11.4 per cent higher.
Property price gains were more subdued in North Ireland and Yorkshire and the Humber, with prices in these regions rising by only 4.5 per cent and 5 per cent respectively during the past year.
The ONS data is slightly at odds with other housing market surveys that had indicated the property market was starting to slow down as buyers balked at high asking prices and more homes came on to the market.
Halifax reported that house prices edged ahead by just 0.1 per cent in August, although this followed a strong gain in July.
Jonathan Harris, of mortgage brokers Anderson Harris, said: “ONS house prices tend to be more historic than the other indices, revealing that there was no cooling in the housing market in July with house prices continuing to increase strongly.
“However, since then the temperature has definitely dropped as growing uncertainty – both with regard to the political climate and interest rates – takes the wind out of prospective buyers’ sails.”
The Government should introduce a permanent replacement to its Help to Buy scheme to enable more people to get on to the property ladder, a report claimed today.
Mortgage insurer Genworth estimates that up to two million people who would like to have bought their first home since 2007 may not have been able to do so.
The group blamed the situation on the introduction of tougher mortgage regulations and greater capital requirements for lenders.
It said since new regulations were introduced in 2008 and 2009, there had been a dramatic reduction in high loan-to-value mortgages, while those that remained had become more expensive.
But it said the situation could be improved by introducing a mortgage insurance scheme to help lenders spread the risk of high loan-to-value loans.
The group found that someone buying a home costing £147,000 with a 75 per cent loan-to-value two year fixed rate mortgage would pay £496 a month, but someone buying the same property with a 95 per cent loan-to-value loan would face repayments of £843.
But it said a system of mortgage insurance for high loan-to-value loans could help to keep mortgages for people with small deposits affordable by transferring some of the risk away from lenders, while it would also protect the safety of the financial system.
Simon Crone, vice president for mortgage insurance (Europe) at Genworth, said: “The scale of frustrated demand is growing larger by the day.
“Help to Buy must become a precursor to a permanent system where mortgage insurance for high loan-to-value loans – backed by capital relief – plays an ongoing role in helping first time buyers access the market, ensuring a sustainable rise in house building and protecting the safety of lenders and the financial system.”
The group used government and industry data to compare the number of people entering the housing market with expected demand.
It found that the number of people buying their first home was consistent at 10.26 million a year between 1985 and 2006, only slightly below the figure of 10.29 million, which would be expected based on population trends.
But it said since 2007 there had been a large and persistent deficit in first-time buyer numbers.
It estimates between 2007 and 2013 1.8 million people who would have hoped to buy their first home have been unable to do so.
It added that although the Government’s Help to Buy scheme had helped, nearly half of people who were expected to want to buy a home during 2014 were still unlikely to be able to do so.
Based on figures for the first six months of 2014, Genworth estimates there will be 296,200 first time buyers during the year as a whole, despite demographic trends suggesting more than 500,000 people would like to get on to the property ladder in 2014.
Homebuyers wanting to live close to a popular station can expect to pay an extra £42,000, research claims.
Adding £42,000 to their budget means buyers can afford to include properties that are just 500 metres from a London station in their search, compared to an otherwise identical property 1,500 metres away.
The findings by Nationwide Building Society were based on a typical London home.
It also suggested the premium on a typical property in Manchester that is 500 metres from a station is £12,000, while in Glasgow it is £9,400.
Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “London homebuyers’ willingness to pay a greater premium for being close to a station compared with those in Greater Manchester and Glasgow probably reflects the greater reliance on public transport in the capital, with residents less likely to drive.”
The research found London has the densest network of stations and services, with 94 per cent of properties within 1.5 kilometres of a station, compared with 72 per cent in greater Glasgow and 69 per cent in greater Manchester.
Homebuyers can find properties that are within commutable distance of their work with the help of Zoopla’s travel time search tool.
You can discover which locations are within your preferred commute time from work. For example, if you work near Waterloo Station, you can search for properties for sale or to rent that are within a certain travel time from there.
The research comes as the building society also unveiled an increase in house price growth in August, with property prices rising by 0.8 per cent.
The annual rate of house price inflation also increased during the month, rising to 11 per cent, up from 10.6 per cent in the 12 months to the end of July.
The latest monthly gain, which followed a change of just 0.2 per cent in July, left the typical home costing £189,306.
The acceleration in price growth is at odds with recent reports that the property market was beginning to slow down as more homes were put up for sale and buyers stayed away from the market.
Gardner said: “The outlook for the housing market remains highly uncertain.
“The number of mortgage approvals fell by almost 20 per cent between January and May, suggesting that activity was cooling.
“However, there was a modest rebound in June and it is unclear how much of the slowdown was due to the introduction of the Mortgage Market Review rather than an underlying loss of momentum.”
He said surveyors had reported that inquiries from new buyers had moderated in recent months.
But he added that the brightening economic outlook was likely to provide ongoing support for housing demand, while supply remained constrained, despite more homes being put up for sale.
Meanwhile, the first increase to the Bank Rate is not expected until early 2015, despite the fact that two members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee voted for a hike at the most recent meeting.
The Nationwide figures come just days after the National Association of Estate Agents reported a steep drop in the number of people submitting above asking price offers in a bid to secure a home.
The group said only 4 per cent of homes sold for more than the asking price in July, down from 19 per cent in May, while 66 per cent of sales were agreed for offers below the asking price last month.
It added that the number of homes being put up for sale had increased during July at its fastest rate for nearly three years.
Gardner said house price inflation was continuing to outpace earnings growth by a significant margin, with average wage increases running at less than 1 per cent in recent months.
But despite this situation, he said affordability at a national level did not appear stretched by historic standards, partly due to low mortgage rates, which have left the cost of servicing a home loan close to the long-run average of around 30 per cent of take home pay.
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: “August proved to be a decent month for the housing market, even though it is traditionally a quiet time of year when not much gets done.
“Prices continued to edge up slightly, while we had one of our best months for new business – emphasising the continued strength of the London property market in particular.
“While borrowers may be worried about an interest rate rise, there are plenty of excellent rates still available which will continue to support activity in the market to an extent.”
Which are the most popular properties in August so far? With asking prices from less than £164,950 to almost £65m and located in a variety of places – from Plymouth to North Yorkshire – here are the most viewed properties on Zoopla.
1. The humble bungalow reigns supreme this month, with a three bedroom version topping the most viewed chart. The £164,950 property in Leicester is ‘an ideal investment opportunity’ according to estate agents Leicester Premier, which is handling the sale.
2. This four bedroom home has an asking price of less than £450,000. It can be found in a small town within commuting distance of Plymouth.
3. With possibly the most unforgettable address, this building is equally unique and has the potential to be a stunning Grand Design. The property is at Number 1, The Thames, in Sheerness and is currently on the market for £500,000.
4. As well as seven bedrooms, this gated property close to Hampstead Village includes a cinema room, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, garages for three to four cars, and a separate staff flat on the lower ground floor. It has an asking price of £46.5m.
5. This three bedroom luxury apartment in the heart of Royal Greenwich boasts three bedrooms and three bathrooms, and covers a floor space of 909 sq ft. It has an asking price of £580,000.
6. If you would like to live in a modern mansion north of Birmingham, this six bedroom property fits the bill. It boasts solid oak and natural stone finishes throughout, zoned underfloor heating and landscaped gardens.
7. This five bedroom apartment at London’s iconic One Hyde Park has an asking price of £64,999,950. The accommodation spans an entire floor and boasts views of both Knightsbridge and Hyde Park.
8. Diversity is at the heart of this £659,000 detached property in North Yorkshire. It can be used as a five bedroom house, a successful B&B with separate owners accommodation or it could be converted to a three bedroom property with an adjoining two bedroom cottage that would be ideal for relatives.
9. A nine bedroom detached house in London’s Kensington is being offered (POA) with full planning permission to build a separate cottage, tennis court and garden pavilion.
10. This newly built ambassadorial-style and stucco-fronted London home has 11 bedrooms and is spread over five floors – including a lower ground and basement.