Five homeowner tips to beat a recession

Our top tips on how to manage your finances to survive and thrive, even in a property market downturn.

1. Get on top of your mortgage payments

  • With interest rates at historical lows, check that you are on the best deal.
  • If your current deal is up, remortgage at a good rate. Get a free mortgage quote.
  • If you get behind with payments, speak to your bank immediately.

2. Review your monthly expenses

  • Do you really need that 3 pound gourmet coffee every morning?
  • Eat in more often – and have fun and get healthy from cooking from scratch.
  • Get a better deal on your home insurance by shopping around? Get quote.
  • Reduce monthly electricity and gas bills by switching providers.  Save money.

3. Consolidate or sort out your debts

  • Try to create and stick to a schedule so you can pay debts off little and often.
  • Avoid credit card – it’s usually very expensive compared with a bank loan.
  • Consider an IVA or Debt management solution.  Get free, no obligation advice.

4. Consider downsizing or equity release

  • You could reduce your mortgage by selling and moving to a smaller home.
  • Relocate to a great value area like Shropshire, Dorset or Norfolk.
  • Consider releasing equity in your home through a secured loan.  Get loan quote.

5. Be smart about renting or buying

  • Rental activity has grown recently as people fear losing capital as prices fall.
  • However, buying at the bottom, if you can time it right, can make you money.
  • If buying in a down market, look for price reductions and don’t overpay.
  • Search thousands of Zoopla homes to rent in England, Scotland or Wales.

April 22, 2009 at 2:08 PM Leave a comment

Advice for Keeping Chickens in a Coop

Sometimes you’re drawn into a world you know little about and come back both amazed and enlightened.

It’s happened to me twice today already. The first came about by following the @talkirish Twitter feed.

To explain: I have an Irish girlfriend I’d like to impress with my knowledge of her native tongue. But thus far my Irish vocab only includes such useful words as ‘poc’ (goat) and ‘ceapaire’ (sandwich). So if I’m ever starving in Sligo I can at least ask for a goat sandwich.

bull-headToday’s Irish word came through on the Twitter wire.

“Hey Mike,” I say to Winging It’s Hibernian Editor, “today’s Irish word is ‘Bó’.”

“That’ll be ‘Cow’,” he says.

Next thing I know I’m knee deep in Irish myths on th’internets reading about the Cattle Raid Of Cooley, which as far I can tell is all about mass slaughter through bull envy.

The second voyage of discovery happened just now as I was researching chickens (bear with me) …

As the credit crunch bites even harder more people are starting to grow their own veg, make their own stuff (Kirstie Allsop throws a pot and uptake in pottery classes quadruples*) and even keep their own chickens.

To this end, via I came across the rather lovely and enthusiastic, which proudly presents itself as the: “#1 destination for the information you need to raise, keep, and appreciate chickens”.

It’s fairly USA-centric, but does indeed contain pretty much everything you (n)ever wanted to know about chicken keeping.

There’s a guide to breeds, which takes chicken appreciation to a new, intimate level. The ‘Blue Laced Red Wyandotte’ is apparently “a bird of curves”.  Hmmm. Not sure I needed to know that.

A bunch of Chicken sayings: “Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.” (Frank Lloyd Wright.)

And (relating to the previous quotation) there’s a great gallery of chicken coops, some of which would indeed shame Notre Dame. Ok, maybe that’s a slight eggsageration (ahem) but some of these chickens have seriously nice cribs…


The Kreitz Family’s “Poulet Chalet”



The (slightly odd) GopherBoy's Coop

The (slightly odd) GopherBoy's Coop

And finally … the one I saw on that dragged me into this odd – but strangely comforting – world of chicken keeping, the wonderfully absurd:

Maurice, The Car Chicken Coop

Maurice, The Car Chicken Coop

The last one is from England, naturally. No-one does eggcentricity (ouch) like the English.

For a more modern take on the chicken coop, see ‘Chicken Coop For The Soul‘.

*Note: I just made up this statistic, but it’s probably true.

April 21, 2009 at 2:18 PM 7 comments

Diary of a Commuting Gentleman: #2

Glitzy City, Curious Town

The Easter weekend is always a bit of a treat and this year certainly didn’t disappoint.

Far from being frowned upon, the pursuits of stuffing one’s face with gigantic roast dinners, ovular chocolate and day-beer are positively encouraged, which never fails to fill my clogged heart with gladness.

On Tuesday I experienced a brief bout of commuter chaos when, on arriving Finsbury Park, I learnt that there’d been a jumper on the line and so trains on the Hertford Loop were indefinitely suspended.

Naïvely, I asked why it wasn’t possible to simply pounce down onto the track and snatch it off when there was a reasonable gap between trains, or even try hooking it up with a broom. Did it have a hood, I wondered, because that would surely be a doddle to snag.

After a wearisome roll of the eyes from the First Capital Connect platform manager, the term “jumper” was explained to me and I realised my suggestions had perhaps been a little less helpful than I’d hoped.

Rather than wait around twiddling my thumbs and spending eye-watering sums of money at the organic snack shack betwixt platforms 5 and 6, I quickly scanned the departure board and got set for a four minute wait for the Welwyn Garden City service.

I was in Hatfield about twenty minutes later, and quarter of an hour after that the taxi was pulling up chez moi.

It’s the first time there’s been any real travel chaos in nine months (even during the snow earlier in the year) and, whilst I wouldn’t fancy the prospect of doing it every day, it’s good to know that by crossing a mini-cab driver’s palm with gold (well, fifteen quid), I’m not stranded just because I’m not on the Tube.

I’d have comfortably spent more than that on a couple of cups of boredom tea and floor-biscuits had I waited for the ‘Loop to re-open.

Maundy Thursday arrived and, as I enjoyed quaffing a handful of post-work Soho holiday-beers outside one of the area’s fine hostelries, I was delighted to be approached by a heart-stoppingly pretty young lady dressed as a rabbit and dishing out flyers for some modern discotheque or other.

After a brief, flirtatious chat that was in no danger of going anywhere given the clear disconnect in our relative prettiness, I was able to enjoy a good old fashioned rock back on my heels with my eyes on stalks as she sashayed off into the night never to be seen again.

Feeble, I know, to count this voyeuristic non-event amongst the highlights of my city week, but she had whiskers and everything, that wascally wabbit, so I really was powerless to resist.

April 15, 2009 at 5:10 PM Leave a comment

Nivea, Nokia and Nationwide: Trusted In The UK

Europe’s biggest all-singing, all-dancing consumer poll, the Readers’ Digest Trusted Brands survey, has released its results for 2009.

Research is conducted in 16 countries to find the top 20 “Brand Specifics” that are common to all countries.  There’s also a “Local Categories” list where each country includes 20 top brands of their own choice.

And so to the results….drum roll, please…

Here in the UK, Nationwide has overtaken Halifax as the most trusted mortgage lender while British Gas topped the list as best utility provider.

Our favourite household cleaning product is Flash, which we probably buy from our top retailer, Tesco, along with our Colgate, Flora and Sure deodorant.

And, since it’s almost Easter, we can’t forget chocolate: Cadbury’s came out as the UK’s favourite choice of confectionary.

Across all 16 countries, Nivea and Nokia hit the number one spots for skin care and mobile phone handset; both brands have been voted in first place by all countries since the survey began in 2001.

Visa is the credit card of choice in 14 countries; Canon the top brand of camera in 13; and Kellogg’s serve up the best cereals in 10.

The survey also threw up some weird little peculiarities according to country.

Russia’s local categories, for example, included seed oil, shoe care – and diarrhoea remedy.

Portugal, on the other hand, voted for favourite laxative and throat analgesic.

In Finland, they had a category for best ‘functional food’. Eh, hello? Isn’t that the ultimate point of food?

Meanwhile, over in the Netherlands, they were busy rating bicycles, dating sites…and beds.  You gotta love the Dutch.

April 9, 2009 at 4:13 PM Leave a comment

Pause for thought, Houses or Flats?

I ask because I recently had two blog posts sent my way, one urging investors to buy flats, the other saying, nah, don’t be daft, it has to be houses.

In the flat corner is Robin Bowman of Property Secrets, who argues:

“There is almost always rental demand for good flats in good locations, which are generally what renters will be looking for rather than houses. Larger, family suited apartments also. Provided there’s no oversupply.”

But  David Lawrenson, over at Letting Focus, reckons the typical leasehold flat can sometimes be a bit of a headache:

“If the management of the block is good, the lease is well drafted and there are not too may other flats in the local area then flats are OK. But often this is not these case.

“If you are thinking of buying a flat, think about noise and inconsiderate neighbours. In converted flats, noise is always a real problem because the properties were never built to be soundproofed in the first place. In the long run, properties that are freehold and have gardens will always keep their price – just as long as they are in decent areas.”

[poll id="12"]

Feel free to send your reasons using the Comments link below.

April 8, 2009 at 3:47 PM 2 comments

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