Hundreds of JCB diggers buried underground – London’s property development legacy?

So how do you solve a problem like ‘digger’? A small JCB digger that is. Used to dig an increasing number of basements in London and the South East, the challenge is getting them out once the work is finished. Developers are turning to an alternative solution to the problem.

06.06.14 Digger 2

Image via Till Krech.

The development of so-called “iceberg” homes has soared across London as homeowners who seek more space have no option but to build downwards due to the capital’s planning rules that restrict building upwards.

The luxury basements often include swimming pools, cinemas and studies – and require huge amounts of building work that can only be completed with a small digger.

06.06.14 Digger 1The difficulty is getting the machine out again as the digger often has to go so deep into the earth that it is unable to drive out again.

Developers would often use a large crane to scoop up the digger from the large hole, but now they are no longer bothering with this approach. Instead, they are simply buried in the ground with a layer of concrete.

One developer has suggested that as many as 1,000 diggers may now be buried in London.

Ed Smith explains in the New Statesman: “A new solution emerged: simply bury the digger in its own hole. Given the exceptional profits of London property development, why bother with the expense and hassle of retrieving a used digger – worth only £5,000 or £6,000 – from the back of a house that would soon be sold for several million? The time and money expended on rescuing a digger were better spent moving on to the next big deal.”

“This metallic icon was a special sacrificial gesture”?

“The new method, now considered standard operating practice, is to cover the digger with ‘hardcore’, a mixture of sand and gravel. Then a layer of concrete is simply poured over the top.

“Digger? What digger? The digger has literally dug its own grave – just as the boring machines that excavated the Channel Tunnel were abandoned beneath the passage they had just created.”

He concludes by imagining an archaeological programme chancing upon the diggers many years from now: “What will the explanatory caption say? ‘Situated immediately adjacent to the heated underground swimming pool and cinema at the back of the house, no superior London address was complete without one of these highly desirable icons, sometimes nicknamed ;the Compact Cat’. This metallic icon was a special sacrificial gesture, a symbol of deep thanks to the most discussed, revered and pre-eminent god of the age, worshipped around the world: London Property.'”


June 6, 2014 at 1:59 PM 3 comments

Top 10 tree houses

You might not have a tree house on the list of must-haves for your next home but I’m sure the children would love if you did. It’s a nice surprise that can be found at the end of many a garden in the UK. We’ve picked our top 10 homes with tree houses on offer.

1. Blending in with it’s surroundings this tree house looks sturdy enough to live in.
Ten bed in Kent – Strutt & Parker


2. A children’s paradise with extended play house attached.
Seven bed in West Sussex – Hamptons


3. Previously featured in The Sunday Times this tree house, with electricity and phone line, is an ideally secluded home office.
Four bed in Horsham – Hamptons


4. An impressive cedar clad Tree House that goes a step further with heating and satellite TV. Would you ever need to leave?
Six bed in Southwell – Fine & Country


5. This bespoke tree house has us seriously envious.
Seven bed in Oxford – Penny & Sinclair


6. Invite all the family; this estate comes with not only one but two eco-lodge tree houses.
Thirteen bed in Mayfield – Batcheller Monkhouse


7. Just imagine how much fun the kids would have here.
Seven bed in Kingsbridge – Marchand Petit


8. A fun homage to Tudor houses.
Four bed in East Sussex – John D Wood & Co


9. Lets build a house on every tree!
Seven bed in Edinburgh – Savills


10. A whole new level of tree house complete with river frontage.
Eight bed in Hertfordshire – Strutt & Parker


Send us a link via Twitter to your #propertyoftheweek on Zoopla and our favourites will feature on the blog every Friday.

June 6, 2014 at 9:30 AM Leave a comment

Homeowners typically need £1,200 to cover mortgage and household bills

You know how much your monthly mortgage repayments will be, but many people overlook that rising household bills can add up to almost as much. It’s important to make sure you’ve considered all your costs up front, explains The Money Advice Service.


First-time buyers in particular will be concentrating on getting their deposit together, often not thinking about other home-buying costs, such as Stamp Duty or removal fees.

Striking a balance between the household bills and mortgage payments can have an enormous impact on your lifestyle.

For most people the biggest outlay you’ll ever make is when you buy your home. A typical first-time buyer with a mortgage of £140,000 will have monthly repayments of £749 a month assuming a 3.4 per cent (APR) Annual Payment Rate. For many people this represents a large percentage of their average monthly salary.

Meeting your mortgage repayment commitments should be your first priority especially if you have dependants. Fixing your mortgage interest rate is one option, but these are usually up to a period of five years and you could still come unstuck at the end of the fixed rate period should interest rates go up. For example, even a 1 per cent increase in your mortgage rate would mean you having to find an extra £83 a month based on the example above. A 3 per cent increase would see you having to find an additional £265 a month.

And then there are the household bills to pay and general living expenses to cover. Squaring these outgoings may not always be easy. Money Advice Service research shows first time buyers spend an average of £467 a month on bills – an amount half said was higher than they’d expected.

This gives a total of £1,216 a month – of which household spending accounts for 38 per cent and mortgage payments the remainder.

New rules on mortgage lending were introduced in April to encourage more responsible lending and increase consumer protection. They are designed to ensure consumers fully understand the commitment they are taking on and have thought about how they will make mortgage payments if foreseeable events, such as having a baby or interest rates rises, occur during the mortgage term.

So what does this mean to you? In short, lenders will ask you to provide evidence of your income and disclose your entire monthly spending including things like school fees, gym memberships and outstanding credit agreements.Given the increased number of questions you’ll need to answer, you can expect your mortgage application to take longer than you may expect.

The new rules may sound tough, but if you can satisfy your lender that you can balance the books when it comes to mortgage payments and household bills you can at least rest easy that you are well placed to step on or up the property ladder.

If you are thinking about buying a home, it’s essential to consider all the key costs. The Money Advice Service has a guide explaining what you need to know when buying your home.

Money Advice Service

June 5, 2014 at 1:10 PM Leave a comment

UPDATED: Latest house price rises fuel concerns about property bubble

House prices stormed ahead by 3.9 per cent during May as demand from potential buyers remained strong, figures showed today.

house prices 6

The increase was the biggest monthly jump since October 2002 and left the average home costing £184,464, according to mortgage lender Halifax.

But the rise followed two consecutive months of price falls, with property values dipping by 0.3 per cent in April and 1.2 per cent in March.

On the less volatile quarter-on-quarter change, house prices were just 2 per cent higher during the three months to the end of May than they had been during the previous three-month period.

Halifax said quarterly house price growth had now remained steady in a narrow range of 1.9 per cent to 2.3 per cent since June 2013.

Annual property price inflation has also remained broadly unchanged during the past three months at 8.7 per cent.

Despite the strong monthly increase seen during May, average house prices still remain well down on their previous peak of £199,612, recorded by the Halifax index in July 2007.

Stephen NoakesStephen Noakes, mortgage director at Halifax, said: “On an annual basis housing demand is still strong and continues to be supported by a strengthening economic recovery.

“Consumer confidence is being boosted by a rapidly improving labour market and low interest rates, although growth in average earnings still remains weak.

“However, there are signs of a revival in housebuilding which should bring supply and demand into better balance and curb upwards pressure on prices over the medium and longer term.”

Today’s figures are unlikely to do anything to curb concerns that a bubble could be building up in the property market.

They come after Nationwide said house prices reached a new record high of £186,512 during May, with values rising at their fastest annual rate since June 2007.

The building society recorded a 0.7 per cent rise during May itself – the thirteenth consecutive month in which values have increased.

Strong price growth has left the average home in England costing £263,987, according to Zoopla.

The European Commission recently called on the Government to reign in its Help to Buy scheme, boost supply and increase council tax on expensive homes to stop property values rising too steeply.

The Bank of England and the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development have both also previously warned that rapidly rising house prices pose a risk to the UK economy.

But other data suggests that the property market may be beginning to cool naturally.

Figures from the Bank of England showed that the number of mortgages approved for house purchase dropped during April for the third month in a row.

There was also a 1 per cent fall in property sales recorded by HM Revenue & Customs during April, although at 103,690 transactions were still a third higher than they had been in April 2013.

Matthew Pointon, 
property economist at Capital Economics, said: “This latest rise in house prices will no doubt play on the minds of the Financial Policy Committee, who are due to meet later this month with the housing market at the top of their agenda.”

“Whether they will take any action to cool the housing market, to prevent it posing a risk to financial stability, is still uncertain.

“But in our minds the rationale to take action is still strong.”

He pointed out that the dip in mortgage lending was likely to have been caused by the introduction of the Mortgage Market Review, and would probably recover in the coming months.

He added that loan-to-income ratios were at record highs, which raisedthe probability that buyers could struggle once interest rates eventually rise.

“Better to act sooner, than to risk leaving it too late,” he said.


June 5, 2014 at 9:37 AM Leave a comment

Rise in complaints about interest-only mortgages

Borrowers with interest-only mortgages are being urged to discuss any repayment difficulties with their lender amid concern they’re leaving it ‘very late’ before seeking help.



The warning from the Council of Mortgage Lenders comes amid an increasing focus on the ability of borrowers with interest-only deals to repay their loan.

If they fail to pay off the debt at the end of the term, they run the risk of being evicted from their property.

At the same time, recent figures have showed a rise in the number of official complaints by homeowners about the interest-only mortgages they’ve been sold.

The Financial Ombudsman Service said numbers rose 6 per cent in the past year.

The complaints focused on inappropriate advice given to homeowners taking out interest-only mortgages, and changes to interest rates on standard variable and tracker mortgages.

The CML said: “We welcome the ombudsman’s conclusion that, based on the evidence available, ‘many lenders seem to have been working constructively with customers who had found themselves in this position’.

“We continue to urge any borrowers anticipating a problem in paying their mortgage to contact their lender as soon as possible.”

June 4, 2014 at 2:44 PM Leave a comment

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