Finding the perfect house is hard enough – but imperfect neighbours can spoil all your efforts.
According to a new study, the best place to head if you are looking for charming neighbours who never throw raucous parties or have family slanging matches, whose dogs never bark, and who keep their gardens suitably pristine is the undoubtedly lovely, but slightly impractical Isles of Scilly, where the local council received not a single nuisance complaint over the last year.
However, relocating to a group of islands 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall (where the main local career opportunity is growing scented narcissi and – according to the Land Registry – only 60 homes have changed hands in the last five years) might be a little drastic.
Other options include investigating the delights of Gwynedd with an average price of £169,058, Worcestershire with an average price of £220,693, Nottinghamshire with an average price of £146,579, or Glasgow with an average price of £147,135, which received the next lowest levels of complaints in the country, according to the research by Churchill Home Insurance.
It might also mean avoiding the most complained-about areas of Fife, Newcastle, Westminster, Stockton-on-Tees, Belfast and Tower Hamlets.
There are, however, other ways to safeguard yourself against the undeniable horror of acquiring a set of nightmare neighbours along with your dream home.
James Wyatt, of estate agents Barton Wyatt, said buyers do have some legal protection: “With consumer protection regulations in force, estate agents should have asked the seller about any neighbour issues,” he explained. “If there is a serious problem with noise or mess then it should be made clear to the potential buyer before they embark on trying to buy the property.”
However, Matthew Dabell, of aspire estate agents, said that while vendors should disclose information about neighbourly problems there is a grey area about how much they are legally required to fess up.
“While the guidelines are not black and white as to what you need to make any buyer aware of legally, there have been situations where the new owners have decided to sue previous owners for not informing them about particularly dreadful neighbours,” he said. “From a buyer perspective you have a right to know about any major issues with the neighbours and certainly if there are any ongoing disputes the outgoing vendor will need to inform you of these.”
And, of course, you can always simply ask the vendors directly about what the neighbours are like and listen to what they don’t say as well as what they do. They are unlikely to wax lyrical about how marvellous the neighbours are, what fantastic friends they are, if they have a long-running vendetta.
The other thing you can do is to use your eyes.
If neighbouring properties and gardens look basically well cared for then it is a good sign, and it is also not a bad idea to knock on doors and introduce yourself – you can pretend to have a question about local schools or whatever but in reality this will give you a chance to suss out whether the home is occupied by a dear old lady or a Hells Angel. You can also fish for gossip about other residents of the street.
Mandy Stevenette, of estate agents Stevenette & Co, suggests that buyers get to know the area before making a decision. “Visiting the property at differing times of the day, having a drive around, again at different times of the day, should help,” she said.
And if you smell a rat you should seek help from your conveyancer.
“If there’s something specific that concerns you – such as shared parking, or swimming pool related noise – ask your solicitor to insert a specific question among the standard questions that the vendor is required to answer,” said Greenwood. “For instance, you can ask: “Has the shared parking ever led to disagreement?”
Ultimately, of course. you cannot protect yourself 100 per cent. And it is worth remembering that, like family members, not only can you not choose them, but you need to learn to live with them.
Properties for sale in some of the most neighbourly corners of Britain:
Four bedroom apartment in a great Glaswegian location:
Five bedroom detached Georgian house in Nottinghamshire:
Historic three bedroom stone cottage with the proverbial roses around the door in the heart of Gwynedd:
Britain’s smallest £1m property offered less space than a London Underground Tube carriage, it was revealed last month. Zoopla looks at what other properties of a similar size are currently on the market to buy or rent.
It hasn’t always been regarded as the most glamorous of places. But Walthamstow’s award winning restaurants, leafy village feel, and popular market mean it is has now arrived on the official wall of cool in terms of places to live.
And higher demand for accommodation in the area means higher prices.
A one bedroom loft conversion in the E17’s Queens Road is available to rent at £173 a week, the equivalent of almost £750 a month.
The accommodation consists of an open place kitchen and living room, a double bedroom and a new fully tiled shower room.
It is within easy walking distance of Walthanstow Central and Queens Road mainline states.
For those looking for something more central, a studio in West Kensington is available to rent for £325 a month.
Found just off the popular North End Road, the accommodation is fully furnished with a single bed, an open plane kitchenette and its own shower. The toilet is shared.
A waterside retreat in Kent is available for £60,000 and includes a double bedroom, shower room, kitchen and a spacious lounge.
The windows on three sides means this bespoke purpose built houseboat is flooded with light.
It is fully centrally heated and full finished, meaning that the new owner can move straight in.
Outside, there are terraces at either end of the boat and a ladder leading to a roof terrace.
House prices rose at their fastest rate for nearly three and a half years during January, Government figures showed today.
The average cost of a British home increased by 6.8 per cent during the year to the end of January, the biggest annual jump recorded by the Office for National Statistics since August 2010.
The buoyant housing market is being supported by strong mortgage lending, with the British Bankers’ Association today reporting a 47 per cent rise in total advances during February, compared with the same month of 2013.
At £11.5bn, gross mortgage lending during the month was at its highest level since August 2008.
Net lending, which strips out repayments and people switching lender, was also higher at £700m – well up on the recent six month average of £200m.
Richard Woolhouse, BBA chief economist, said: “Mortgage lending has leapt 50 per cent since this time last year. Mortgage assistance schemes are helping first-time buyers and housing chains generally, as housing market activity rises.”
Lending looks set to remain strong going forward, with mortgages worth £11.4bn approved during the month.
The total was slightly down on January’s figure, but still above the six-month average.
Among the approvals, 61 per cent of loans by number were for people who were buying a property.
Overall, 53 per cent more loans were approved for house purchase during the month than in February 2013.
Matthew Pointon, property economist at Capital Economics, said: “The slight decline in mortgage approvals for house purchase in February is almost certainly a blip, and doesn’t herald the end of the revival in mortgage lending.
“But it does suggest mortgage lending is not set to accelerate out of control, and banks are taking a steady-as-she-goes approach to the recovery.”
The ONS said the strong increase in house prices it recorded was driven by a 13.2 per cent year-on-year gain in London, with growth also strong in the South East at 7.1 per cent and Wales at 6.9 per cent.
Prices rose in all regions of the UK during the 12 months, although increases were slowest in the North East, where the average cost of a home edged ahead by just 0.6 per cent, while in Scotland gains stood at 1.4 per cent.
First-time buyers paid an average of 7.6 per cent more for their home during January than they had in the same month of 2013.
Today’s data is the latest in a run of positive figures on the housing market.
The Council of Mortgage Lenders also reported strong lending during February, while HM Revenue and Customers said the number of homes changing hands had risen for the 10th consecutive month.
The number of people forced to rent out their home because they cannot sell it has fallen to a record low as the property market continued to boom, writes Nicky Burridge.
Buoyant sales levels led to just 13 per cent of letting agents reporting an increase in the number of so-called ‘accidental landlord’s during the first three months of the year.
It was the fourth consecutive quarter during which the level of people renting out homes because they could not sell them fell, according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).
The figure was well down on the peak of 94 per cent of letting agents who reported a rise in accidental landlords at the beginning of 2009, when ARLA first introduced the question to its survey of members.
Accidental landlords became a feature of the post-credit crunch housing market when the mortgage drought hit sales levels, forcing many people to let their home after being unable to sell it.
Ian Potter, managing director of ARLA, said: “The resurgence of property prices and buyer demand in many areas is reducing the number of so-called accidental landlords.
“Despite the reduction of landlords in this situation, wider investment in rental properties remains strong across the market.”
The ARLA survey is the latest in a run of positive data on the housing market, as the improved economic outlook, falling unemployment and low interest rates have combined to boost property sales.
The average value of a home in England rose almost £14,000 during the past year to more than £258,000, according to Zoopla.
The Council of Mortgage Lenders said total mortgage advances soared by 43 per cent during February, compared with the same month of the previous year, to stand at their highest total for February since 2008.
At the same time, the number of homes changing hands rose for the tenth consecutive month, according to HM Revenue & Customs.
Meanwhile, ARLA said the fall in accidental landlords was changing the shape of the private rented sector, with long-term investment landlords once again becoming a strong feature of the market.
There was a slight increase in the number of letting agents who reported landlords decreasing their investment in property by selling up, with 20 per cent of agents noting this phenomenon, compared with just 15 per cent in the final three months of 2013.
But among landlords who were retaining their portfolios, the vast majority were in it for the long term, holding a property for an average of 19.8 years between buying and selling it.
The survey – of 637 of letting agent offices and 1,040 landlords during the first three months of this year – found that 45 per cent of landlords said they had let a property in order to benefit from both rental income and capital appreciation, while 37 per cent saw it as an investment for their long-term future.
Many of us dream about an escape to the country. Here are some very tempting options for you to make that dream a reality.
1. The interiors, the garden…actually we love everything about this house!
6 bed in Oxford, £1.85m – John D Wood & Co.
2. If you lived here we don’t think you’d ever want to leave.
9 bed in West Glamorgan, £1.65m – Savills
3. Pack up and start a business in Cornwall. Another beautiful home, this time with holiday cottage potential.
4 bed in Cornwall, £1.66m – Stags – Exeter
4. If you want to go all out with your country bolt-hole why not try this Edwardian Mansion House with impressive grounds and stunning views.
16 bed in Moray, £1.95m – Knight Frank
5. Best of both worlds not only is this a secluded oasis but it’s also a mere 5 minute walk down to the beach.
6 bed in Cornwall, £1.95m – Knight Frank
6. This home may have the most perfect country kitchen ever!
6 bed in Vale Of Glamorgan, £845,000 – Watts & Morgan
7. Oak Tree Cottage is a Grade II Listed thatched cottage built circa 1603 and sympathetically extended in 2000 from re-claimed stone.
4 bed in Peterborough, £685,000 – Chesterton Humberts – Stamford
8. With no other houses in sight you have the outstanding views all to yourself.
2 bed in Monmouthshire, £499,950 – Fine & Country
9. A kitchen every country bolt-hole deserves.
6 bed in Oxfordshire, £1.7m – Sotheby’s
10. Rutland Retreats – the perfect second home in the country.
3 bed in Rutland, £250,000 – Chesterton Humberts – Stamford