Bank Holiday DIY plans suffer amid lack of skills among younger generation

Bank Holidays are traditionally a time to get out the hammer and nails to address some of those DIY projects that have been put on the back burner. But homeowners are being urged to take care as the number of accidental claims hits 30,000, with each claim costing £339, according to new research.

19.08.14 DIY

DIY skills are particularly low among the younger generation, according to the survey by insurers Halifax. It suggested more than half of over 55 year olds are confident they can put up wallpaper, while only 28 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds feel confident about doing so.

At the same time, more than eight out of 10 older people said they can paint, while just over six out of 10 under 24 year olds feel able to use a decorating brush.

Martyn Foulds, senior claims manager at Halifax, said: “It seems that DIY skills are fading with each generation, which is a worry as home improvements can easily go wrong for those who don’t know what they are doing.

“We’d recommend homeowners check they have the right tools for the job, avoid taking on too much and call a qualified tradesman for gas and electrical work.”

Last year, Halifax recorded more than 32,000 accidental damage claims, while more than £1m was paid out in such claims in August alone. In total, the insurer paid out more than £11m for such claims last year, with each costing an average of £339.

The survey suggests almost a quarter of people asked their parents for help with home improvement jobs.

Top DIY tips from Halifax:

  • Preparation is key – make sure you have all the correct tools and equipment for the job before you start to avoid coming unstuck later
  • Plan a budget beforehand and stick to it
  • Call a professional for jobs involving gas, electrical or plumbing work. When choosing a tradesman, ask for references and certificates to demonstrate that they are competent
  • Contact your insurer if any work is being carried out which may alter the structure or layout of the home such as an  extension or garage, etc
  • For major building works, you may need to seek planning permission

August 19, 2014 at 2:32 PM 2 comments

UPDATED: Average house price rises £100 a day

Property values hit a new record high in June as prices jumped by £100 a day during the month, Government figures showed today.

house prices 9

The typical cost of a British home rose to £265,000 during the month to stand 10.2 per cent higher than a year earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics.

People getting on to the property ladder faced the steepest house price inflation, with the cost of a typical first time buyer home rising by 12 per cent during the year to £204,000.

The increase, which was the biggest since April 2010, means someone taking out a 75 per cent loan-to-value mortgage would need to put down a £51,000 deposit and have household earnings of around £50,000.

But despite the strong year-on-year rise in house prices, there were further signs that the market is beginning to slow.

The average cost of a home rose by only 0.5 per cent during June itself, down from a jump of 0.8 per cent in May and a 2 per cent gain in April.

The annual rate of growth also slowed slightly to 10.2 per cent, down from 10.4 per cent in May.

London continued to drive the rest of the market, with the typical cost of a home in the capital soaring by 19.3 per cent in the 12 months to the end of June to stand at £499,000.

But no other region in Britain recorded double-digit growth, with the South East posting the next strongest gain at 9.7 per cent, followed by the East at 7.9 per cent.

Once London and the South East were stripped out, property values across Britain rose by only 6.3 per cent during the year.

London, the South East and the East remained the only regions in which house prices have passed their pre-correction peaks, with the typical home in the capital now 35.6 per cent above the previous high.

In Scotland prices are only 1.6 per cent below their 2008 peak, while in Wales they are 3.2 per cent lower.

But in Northern Ireland the average home still costs 47.4 per cent less than it did in August 2007.

Ray Boulger 2Ray Boulger, senior technical manager at mortgage broker John Charcol, said: “The rate at which property prices are increasing has stabilised.

“One thing that surprised me was that the annual figure for London increased slightly after dropping in the previous month.

“But the ONS figures are based on completions, so they reflect transactions agreed in March or April and lag other indexes such as Nationwide.”

There is growing evidence that the housing market is beginning to slow down following a period of strong price growth.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said demand from potential buyers fell for the first time since mid-2013 during July, while the number of homes being put up for sale rose for the second consecutive month, easing the mismatch between supply and demand.

Meanwhile, Nationwide Building Society said property values inched ahead by just 0.1 per cent in July.

There is also anecdotal evidence from estate agents that house prices are falling in some of the prime areas of central London, while surveyors questioned by RICS predicted prices in the capital would rise by just 1.9 per cent during the coming 12 months.

But while the headline figure for house price inflation is easing, growth is starting to accelerate outside of London and the South East as the recovery ripples out across the country.

August 19, 2014 at 10:03 AM Leave a comment

Cost of divorce rises to £44,000 as experts reveal financial survival plan

If you’re mulling over a potential split from your partner, you might want to check how deep your pockets are first as new figures suggest it could cost almost £44,000.


The cost of splitting from a former loved one has rocketed by 57 per cent during the past eight years, according to insurers Aviva.

The last time it carried out the survey, the cost was £28,000 per couple.

The study takes into account the core costs in a divorce as well as added extras that many people treat themselves to following a separation, such as post-split holiday and a new gym membership.

One in eight people said they took a holiday to celebrate their newly-single status at a typical cost of £1,925.

Four out of 10 said they were financially worse off following the separation and more than half of couples said the process took more than two years.

Financial experts urged separating couples to keep a close eye on their money as lenders will be examining their outgoings with a fine tooth comb if they need a mortgage to fund a new home.

Jonathan HarrisJonathan Harris, of mortgage brokers Anderson Harris, said: “Divorce can be an expensive business but if you need to get a mortgage afterwards, lenders will want to see evidence that you can afford it.

“Reduce or remove any unnecessary expenditure as lenders will closely scrutinise all your outgoings.

“Pay down any debt where you can as this will also affect how much you can borrow.

“The biggest problem is being able to split the mortgage liability. Lenders will not release one party until they are happy that the mortgage can continue to be serviced, so seek independent mortgage advice from a broker. If this can’t be done, it could be immensely frustrating to the splitting couple as they cannot be free of their situation until the loan is repaid or other arrangements are made.”

The survey found the hidden cost of divorce to be £21,979 per person or £43,958 per couple, with the typical age when the split took place being 38 years and two months.

Those who took part in the survey were with their partner for an average of 10 years and eight months before separating. although one in 10 were together for less than two years.

Aviva’s Louise Colley said: “Two thirds of couples who are married or co-habiting have some shared finances, so these arrangements can take some time to unravel if a relationship unfortunately breaks down. Beginning again following a separation can be a daunting time, not to mention a busy one, but it’s crucial that newly-single people review money matters when their circumstances change.

Louise Colley

Latest official figures from the Office of National Statistics show 118,140 marriages and 794 civil partnerships ended in England and Wales in 2012.

Meanwhile, 9,700 marriages and 67 civil partnerships ended in Scotland in 2012/13, according to latest figures for Scottish civil law cases.

It equates to 128,701 divorces and dissolutions annually, relating to 257,402 people.


August 19, 2014 at 9:40 AM Leave a comment

Gardening tips to attract August homehunters

Your garden acts like a shop window for your home. Fill it with flowers or a subtle blend of plant structure and you will attract passers-by. This, coupled with your ‘for sale’ board, might be just what you need to clinch a deal this August – or at least entice viewers up your garden path, writes Caroline Knight.

18.08.14 Garden 2

If there are gaps in your garden this August, never fear, you are not alone. Gardeners sometimes refer to this wonderful month as dire for flowers due to spent flowerheads, dryness and harsh light. But this flowering vacuum can easily be filled as there are many August stalwarts that bring a touch of magic to pots and borders.

However, select your colours with caution. Psychologists agree that red is the most emotionally intense colour. It stimulates the breathing and heartbeat, so perhaps this is what you need in order to attract a serious buyer. But this bold colour is comparatively difficult to place in a garden, although of course red roses are traditionally popular and ‘hot borders’ make a daring statement. Pink is far easier to accommodate as it is soothing and romantic and blends well with tranquil blue, which can promote peace and calm. Pastel shades of pink, blue and violet look beautiful in a cottage garden or naturalised border.

The colour yellow tends to provoke a reaction, although people have been shown to lose their tempers more easily in a yellow coloured environment. On the opposite side of the spectrum, purple is the colour of royalty and it can suggest luxury and wealth. It makes a splash of grandeur that is instantly noticed – Verbena bonariensis, for example, is seldom ignored. If you really want to make a statement plant yellow and purple together, they will not go unnoticed.

But even the colour green has immense value when carefully manipulated as it is refreshing and calming. Gardens can be beautiful without flowers if they utilise green in various shades, shapes and forms. Variegated forms of foliage such as Hedera helix ‘Gold Heart, shaped balls of Buxus, tall, pencil-thin conifers, strappy and spikey leaves such as Phormium and Astelia, can all be combined to make a spectacular garden that looks just as good in the winter as in the summer. What’s more, green is said to be the easiest colour on the eye, even being credited with improving vision.

Garden of the month on Zoopla

18.08.14 Garden 1

Why do I like this garden? This semi-detached property in York has an outstanding rear garden that will definitely set it apart from its neighbours. The design has been carefully managed to create an illusion of space within a standard rectangular plot. We love the circular lawns which lead the eye around the site, and the pots at the end of the garden together with a shed – they offer a destination that we would like to explore.

Caroline KnightCaroline 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.


August 19, 2014 at 7:00 AM Leave a comment

Bungalows for sale could ‘solve Britain’s housing crisis’

Property developers should build more bungalows to help solve Britain’s housing crisis, a Government minister has said.

18.08.14 Bungalow 1

Increasing the supply of bungalows would enable older people to downsize to smaller homes, freeing up larger properties for families, Brandon Lewis claimed.

Britain’s shortage of homes has been one of the key factors driving up house prices during the past year, as the supply of suitable properties has failed to keep up with demand.

Brandon Lewis

Housing minister Brendon Lewis (left) with transport minister Robert Goodwill

Lewis, who was appointed as Minister for Housing and Planning in last month’s reshuffle, said many couples wanted to trade down to smaller properties once their children had left home, but they were reluctant to move into apartments or retirement homes.

He said the “quintessentially British bungalow” was an important part of Britain’s housing mix and developers should build more of them.

But despite the need for bungalows, there has been a sharp drop in the number of these properties being built.

Only around 2 per cent of new homes are bungalows, with just 300 of the properties built in 2009 – the latest year for which figures are available.

Lewis said his own parents-in-law showed why the country needed more bungalows.

“My in-laws are in their 70s, pretty fit, mentally really with it; they live in a normal house which they both struggle with,” he told the Daily Mail.

“They are not ready to move into what they would see as a retirement home, but where they live there is not access to bungalows.

“We should be looking to love bungalows a little bit more. They are an important part of the mix.”

Bungalows not only enable older people to downsize to a more manageable home, but they can also help them to release substantial equity in the process.

For example, a two bedroom bungalow in Southampton is currently on the market for £245,000, according to Zoopla.

But a four bedroom house in the same area is selling for £399,950.

The Government amended planning guidelines earlier this year requiring council planners in England to set aside a certain number of flats or bungalows for older people in a bid to meet the needs of Britain’s ageing population.

But developers are thought to be reluctant to build higher numbers of bungalows, as houses are generally more profitable.

Planning rules that require developers to build at least 30 homes on every hectare of land also make bungalows unappealing to developers.

Lewis’ call echoes the findings of a report by think tank the Policy Exchange that called for the planning system to be reformed to encourage developers to build more bungalows.

The group estimated that there were 25 million unused bedrooms in the homes of older people, which it partly attributed to the fact that many homeowners could not downsize to a bungalow.

August 18, 2014 at 1:46 PM 1 comment

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