Let the Chelsea Flower Show act as an inspiration for your garden

Is your May front garden an explosion of colour, or does it look more like an eruption of weeds and untidiness, asks Caroline Knight and Karin Hawkes?

27.05.14 Kerb 3If it’s the latter, urgent action is required. May is a marvellous month for selling houses, so catch the eye of your potential purchaser and draw them into your home. This does require a little effort – but you will be surprised how much you can achieve by spending just 15 minutes per day brandishing suitable tools. You should think of your front garden as a shop window that needs careful ‘staging’ to tempt people inside.

RHS_Chelsea_Flower Show_2014

Via https://www.flickr.com/photos/karen_roe/ – RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014. ‘The South West in Bloom’ Gold Medal winner

  • Keep up with the lawn – it will need mowing once a week, or at least fortnightly.
  • Plant up your summer pots – use the largest pot you can find to make a good display.
  • Use a mixture of trailing and upright varieties including geraniums, begonias, small dahlias, pelargoniums, fuchsias, coreopsis, cosmos lobelia, ivy, and trailing heucherella.
  • Clear weeds from paths and block paving for the ultimate ‘clean’ entrance. You can remove them physically or resort to weedkiller if necessary.
  • Prune shrubs when they have finished flowering. It will keep them neat and also encourage further blooms.
  • Make the most of your outdoor space by creating an ‘uncluttered’ appearance. Too many ornaments or randomly-placed structures can make it feel cramped.
  • Create gardens that look and feel ‘useable’. They can act like an extra living space and can be a great selling point.
  • Give your lawn edge a good, crisp shape, but avoid too many fiddly curves and corners.
  • Visit RHS Chelsea Flower Show, or watch it on (catch-up) TV to give you some creative ideas. The show takes place this year from 20-24 May.

27.05.14 Kerb 1

We especially like the back garden of this semi-detached property in Oxford because it has a sense of a ‘destination’. The garden room/summerhouse makes us want to explore. The long, narrow space would look even better with a serpentine path, but there are enough interesting plant forms to break up t27.05.14 Kerb 2he area and give it interest. Afternoon tea seated around the garden table would be a very pleasant experience.

Imagine the ‘wow’ factor your house would attract if your front garden looked like this RHS Chelsea Flower Show exhibit from a previous year.

If you have enough structure and form it can be just as effective as colour. Shades of green can be alluring, with just a few flowers for the bees.

14.03.14 Kerb Appeal 3

Caroline Knight and Karin Hawkes are passionate about the beneficial impact that outdoor space can have on a property.

An effective garden, courtyard or even parking space can not only provide considerable charm but also offer enormous benefits for occupants of homes of all sizes – from the tiniest, diminutive dwelling to the most expansive country estate. This is why it is essential to make the most of your outside space before putting your property on the market.

Their design and maintenance service, Kerb Appeal South East, seeks to enable sellers to enhance their properties with the minimum of fuss and upheaval, thereby maximising the selling potential of any home.


May 27, 2014 at 5:30 PM Leave a comment

UPDDATED: Mortgage lending reaches five-and-a-half year high

Mortgage lending soared to its highest level for more than five-and-a-half years during April on the back of strong housing market activity, figures showed today.

Mortgages 4


A total of £12.23bn was advanced during the month, the highest monthly total since August 2008, according to the British Bankers’ Association.

The sum was 52 per cent higher than in April 2013 and also up on the £11.05bn lent in March.

The group attributed the high figure to strong housing market activity, boosted by the Government’s Help to Buy scheme.

But the number of mortgages approved for house purchase fell for the third consecutive month in a further sign that the property market may now be slowing down.

The number of loans in the pipeline for people buying a home also dropped to the lowest level since August last year.

Despite the strong year-on-year increase, total mortgages advances still remain well down on their pre-credit crunch levels, with £19.36 billion lent in April 2007.

Richard Woolhouse, chief economist at the BBA, said: “Our figures show that the housing market is mixed.

“The value of mortgages taken out in April was the highest for six years, however looking ahead mortgage approvals have fallen three months in a row.

“The amount of borrowing is, however, still well below the levels we were seeing before the financial crisis.”

Today’s figures build on growing evidence that some of the heat may be beginning to come out of the property market.

Government figures recently showed that the annual rate of house price inflation slowed during March, while Halifax said house prices dipped slightly during both March and April, although it cautioned that monthly price changes could be volatile.

Recent strong house price gains have left the typical cost of a home in England standing at £263,987, according to Zoopla.

Jonathan HarrisJonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, said: “The actual number of mortgage approvals for house purchase was below the six-month average of 45,720. This is not a market running away with itself.

“The introduction of the Mortgage Market Review may be having an effect.

“While it’s still early days, with many lenders introducing the new rules weeks ahead of the official launch, its’ impact may already be starting to be felt.”

Meanwhile, retiring deputy governor of the Bank of England Charlie Bean said at the weekend that interest rates could rise to 3 per cent during the next three to five years.

But he added that there was no immediate need for an increase and the Bank would adopt a “baby steps” approach to raising the official cost of borrowing from its current record low of 0.5 per cent.

A 2.5 per cent increase in interest rates would add around £185 a month to a £150,000 mortgage.



May 27, 2014 at 10:27 AM Leave a comment

Highest levels of post recession lending on remortgaging for April 2014

Mortgage lending bounced back during April with the average value of new loans hitting a record high, research showed today.


Advances to people remortgaging totalled £4.37bn during the month, 28 per cent up on a year earlier and the highest figure for any April since the recession struck in 2008.

The typical homeowner borrowed £160,806 through their new loan, the highest figure ever recorded, according to LMS.

Remortgage lending was also 21 per cent higher than it had been in March, when the market suffered a slump ahead of the implementation of the Mortgage Market Review.

The MMR, which requires lenders to use tough new affordability criteria, came into force on April 26.

But many lenders implemented the new rules and made changes to their systems in March ahead of the deadline.

Andy KneeAndy Knee, chief executive of LMS, said: “Remortgaging has battled back in April after a dip in March at the early hand of MMR, having also been struck by a creeping up of rates from lenders.

“Total lending value was up by more than a quarter since last year making it the largest amount in April since 2008, while the average loan has also set a new record.

“However, we still fully expect MMR to have a continued impact over the next few months before the market really gets back to a healthy normal for the second half of the year.”

The group, which processes 28 per cent of all remortgage transactions in the UK, estimates the number of people remortgaging was 9 per cent higher than it had been in March.

Homeowners were remortgaging after four years and seven months in April on average, broadly unchanged from both the previous month and the previous year.

They borrowed an average of 59 per cent of their property’s value, down from around 70 per cent when they had first purchased their home.

The group said that while lenders had begun raising their rates in anticipation of future hikes to the Bank of England Bank Rate, there were still good deals available.

Overall, 56 per cent or homeowners secured an interest rate that was lower than the previous one they had been on.

Unsurprisingly, people remortgaging in London had the biggest loans at an average of £269,867, while those in Wales had the smallest ones at an average of £104,842.


May 26, 2014 at 7:00 AM Leave a comment

Top 10 Grand Designs Houses

If you’re anything like us you may have a slight obsession with Grand Designs. Whether they are full chronicles, programme features or award winners we want to see them all. Below are our top 10 on the market.

How many do you recognise?

1. A Venetian style water tower with 360 degree views of London – it doesn’t get more grand than that. Now on the market for £5.2m.
Five bed in London – Foxtons


2. Featured back in 2004, Kevin McCloud had this Scottish home in his top 20 of all the Grand Designs. He described it as “a beautiful, romantic building, like a ship or an ark”.
Four bed in Helensburgh – Savills


3. ‘The White House’ – a seafront oasis or quirky and cool with stunning views.
Three bed in East Sussex – Phillips and Stubbs


4. Dubbed ‘The Sugar Cube’ this is another truly unique grand design. Now for sale at £1.5m.
Four bed in Bristol – Savills


5. It’s no surprise this unique home was winner of the 2006 Grand Designs best remodelled house in Britain award.
Five bed in Berkshire – Knight Frank


6. A more recent build from 2010 which cost £200,000 to build and was recently on the market for £975,000.
More Grand Designs profits


7. This Holland Park home had plenty of fame before it’s 2012 appearance on Grand Designs. The building, a former recording studio, has previously hosted artists such as Shirley Bassey, The Sex Pistols, Rod Stewart & John Lennon.
Four bed in London – Aylesford


8. A RIBA award-winning London home that featured on Grand Designs.
Five bed in Hackney – Foxtons


9. The renovation of this water works was chronicled on Grand Designs back in 2002. If you’re looking for character then this could be the ideal property for you.
Four bed in Derbyshire – Blundells


10. New to the market is the decagon house from 2007.  Its series of glass fronted decagons and courtyards forms a protected and private walled oasis near the city centre.
Six bed in Oxford – Penny & Sinclair


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

May 23, 2014 at 10:00 AM 1 comment

Cost of renting rises 10% to average of £777 a month

The cost of renting has soared by 10 per cent during the past year as the supply of properties fails to keep pace with tenant demand, research showed today.


The cost of renting has soared by 10 per cent during the past year as the supply of properties fails to keep pace with tenant demand, research showed today.

The typical renter paid £777 a month in April, rising to £1,464 for those living in London, according to letting agency network Sequence.

Despite the rising cost, demand for rental properties remained strong, jumping by 14 per cent during the past year.

But the supply of new properties to let coming on to the market failed to match the growing number of would-be renters, rising by just 1 per cent during the same period.

As a result, there were an average of five people looking to rent every property letting agents had on their books.

The situation was most acute in London, where demand for rental properties rocketed by 40 per cent in the year to the end of April, but the availability of rental homes actually dipped by 2 per cent.

Despite the mismatch between supply and demand, the number of new tenancies agreed rose by 20 per cent across the UK during the 12 months.

In London, the number of agreed tenancies surged by 41 per cent year-on-year, the biggest increase ever recorded.

Stephen NationStephen Nation, head of lettings for Sequence, said: “Activity in the rental market is at full throttle with annual growth across all key indicators.

“But whilst demand from tenants is up 14 per cent annually, the supply of property has crept up only marginally on April 2013, a trend which is driving up average national rents.”

He added that the strong figures showed that the rental market could boom at the same time as the property sales market.

The number of viewings made by tenants rose by 15 per cent year-on-year, but dropped by 5 per cent in April compared with the previous month.

The group said the monthly fall in viewings did not reflect a slowdown in the pace of the market, but rather the fact that prospective tenants realised they had to move fast if they were going to secure a property to rent.

Meanwhile there was a drop in the number of buy-to-let mortgage applications made during April, which the group claimed was a short-term consequence of the introduction of the Mortgage Market Review.

Mortgage applications were 1 per cent lower than in the previous month and 7 per cent down on April 2013.

The Government recently announced that letting agents will have to publish their fees in full in a bid to promote greater transparency.

But Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said banning agents from charging fees to tenants, as Labour has called for, could lead to higher rents.


May 23, 2014 at 9:00 AM 1 comment

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