Top 10 #propertyoftheweek Picks


1. Something a bit different at no.1 this week – a houseboat:

2. A popular listing this week – a £2M ‘Total Wreck’:

3.  Who doesn’t love a view:

4. New build with immaculate finishes:

5. A great cottage:

6. Love the spiral staircase:

7. For the big kitchen:

8. Yes we do fancy a game:

9. We do like a London view:

10.  Our own pick:

Send us a link via Twitter to your #propertyoftheweek featured on Zoopla and our pick of the Top 10 will feature on this blog every Friday.

October 11, 2013 at 3:37 PM Leave a comment

Home removals & how to avoid disaster writes Mark Prout, MD of Aussie Man & Van

It is often said that moving is one of the most stressful things we do in life. But while it’s an unavoidable necessity for many of us at some point, a good proportion of us make some avoidable mistakes writes Mark Prout, managing director of London removals specialists Aussie Man & Van.

London removals specialists Aussie Man & Van

Here are his top 10 mistakes people make when moving home – and how to avoid them:

1) Packing late wreaks havoc with your nerves and leads to broken objects and damaged clothes. Always plan to get the packing finished so that you have a good buffer between the day you finish and the removal day.

2) Book your removals firm as soon as you’ve got your moving date. If you don’t, you may find everyone is booked up, particularly if you are moving on a Friday, towards the end of the month or during the summer. You could do it yourself and hire a van but while that may be the cheap way of doing it, it’s time-consuming and backbreaking work.

3) Choose your removals firm carefully to ensure they do a good job: ideally get a recommendation from a friend, family member or colleague. Make sure they are members of the British Association of Removers (BAR).

4) Some people forget how much of their life is computer-based. Back up everything to a portable hard drive so that you can access it even via someone else’s computer if necessary.

5) Forgetting to label boxes means that your kitchen materials end up in your bedroom and vice versa. Label precisely and in detail. If your removal company is packing for you, good firms will label each box with the name of the room it is destined for, ensuring the boxes end up in the right place.

6) Work out measurements well in advance. Don’t end up with an item of furniture that doesn’t fit anywhere, and in a worst-case scenario, blocks access into your new home.

7) Don’t disregard insurance. If you break something, it could be a costly mistake. If you are packing yourself, check your household insurance covers damage and breakages in transit. Removal companies will not be able to provide this level of cover unless they have done the packing themselves.

8) Try to get your new home cleaned a day or two prior to your arrival. This isn’t always possible if you are moving in just as the previous owners are moving out but if there is some leeway, it will make a huge difference. It is also good form to leave your old house or flat clean and in good order.

9) Don’t decide to pack up clutter and deal with it at the other end. Declutter before your move and ruthlessly discard things with no thought to sentimentality. It’s much easier then taking it with you.

10) Take valuables with you rather than packing them up for loading onto a van or lorry. First, you might need them quickly at the other end and secondly, you can relax knowing that your passports and jewellery are not stuffed into a large box, unreachable for days.

For more moving advice, contact Mark Prout at Aussie Man & Van

Mark Prout of Aussie Man & Van

October 11, 2013 at 11:25 AM Leave a comment

Help to Buy (phase two): Lenders ‘already offering’ better mortgages

Banks take-up of the Government’s Help to Buy scheme is ‘lukewarm’ and is unlikely to change, brokers said, after lenders unveiled rates offered under the scheme.

Brokers suggested a limited number of lenders would participate in the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme as they were already offering higher loan to value deals and may feel they have enough exposure to borrowers with small deposits.

So far, just a handful of banks have announced they are taking part, including Natwest, RBS, Halifax and Bank of Scotland. Rates of 4.99 per cent are being offered by Natwest & RBS.

Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, said: “Take-up among lenders has so far been lukewarm and it is likely that this stance won’t change. Over the past few months a growing number of lenders have introduced high LTV deals anyway, and they may feel they have enough exposure to this area of the market already.

“The fact remains that most lenders would rather lend to borrowers with bigger deposits and without details of any capital relief available under the scheme, this position is unlikely to change.”

Help to Buy

Help to Buy rates in review:

  • RBS and subsidiary Natwest are offering H2B two and five-year fixed rate deals at 4.99% and 5.49%
  • Halifax are offering a two-year fixed rate at 5.19% with a £995 product fee
  • HSBC will take part later in the year (first major player with no taxpayer support to sign up)
  • Virgin Money and Aldermore Bank will join from January
  • Barclays and Santander UK are still considering

October 8, 2013 at 12:02 PM 2 comments

Property sale falling through or stalling? What are the signs?

If you’re a seller with a nagging feeling that something isn’t right with your move, what can you do? 
And what are the signs that your sale is stalling or ‘falling through’? Jessie Hewitson investigates.

It should take around 12 weeks to buy or sell a home, but for many it’s a lot longer than that. For some of the more lengthy sales, it’s just a question of being patient. But for others, there are signs that the sale is in trouble – signs that are not always picked up on by the buyer or seller because they are so subtle.

The obvious one is if the buyer isn’t spending any money and is suddenly uncommunicative. If a surveyor hasn’t been instructed to carry out a valuation on behalf of the bank three weeks after a price has been agreed – or your agent who can’t get hold of the buyers or sellers, or their solicitor – then it’s time to ask some tough questions. Any misleading or unclear information given during the sale can be cause for concern, too.

Another sign of a stalling sale, according to veteran estate agent James Wyatt, of Barton Wyatt agency, is when the solicitor starts asking silly questions. He cites one example last month where a buyer asked if the seller was taking the loft insulation. “And if both solicitors start blaming each other like children in the playground, take charge and talk direct,” he suggests. “Agree sale milestones and dates both verbally and in writing from the outset.”

It is a good idea to choose an agent who will continue to monitor the sale after it goes under offer to try and minimise the risk of a sale losing momentum. This means liaising between the vendor, the vendor’s solicitor and the buyer. “Continual weekly monitoring and edging the sale along can unearth potential problems, which means the sale may fall through at a later stage if left undiscovered” suggests Annabel Morbey, of Smiths Gore.

The best way to communicate during a slow sale or purchase, according to Carl Davenport of Hamptons International, is to be clear from the beginning about the time-frames you require them to perform within. “ Say that you expect the survey to be instructed within two weeks, or that the search should be paid for an put in within one week,” he recommends.

And should you speak to the seller or buyer direct? Davenport thinks not. “In 95 per cent of cases we would never put the buyer and seller in touch with each other, because it only takes one small comment to upset the sale or for one party to agree something that the agent is unaware of.  A compromise might be to set up a meeting between all parties and agree a way forward.”

October 8, 2013 at 11:00 AM Leave a comment

As Help to Buy rates are unveiled, half of London homes go to foreign buyers

Foreign buyers are snapping up expensive London properties as experts warn British borrowers lower down the ladder are being squeezed out of the market.

Foreign buyers snap up London properties

Almost half of properties worth at least £1m are going to foreigners, according to estate agents Knight Frank. And seven out of 10 new build homes in the capital have been sold to foreign buyers.

Russian, Middle Eastern and European buyers are leading the way.

Liam Bailey, a researcher at Knight Frank, said: “Investors prize the convenience and lower maintenance offered by new build property, making it especially attractive for buyers looking to let their properties.”

It means local buyers are being ‘priced out’ of the market.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: “There has been a significant influx of overseas buyers seeking the safe haven of London and this is inevitably pricing out ‘local’ buyers.

“Many can’t compete with the cash buyers from overseas who are looking to invest considerable sums in London property. They are snapping up property in the most desirable locations, with prime central London prices rocketing as a result.”

The warning comes on the day the Government launches the second phase of its Help to Buy scheme to help borrowers with small deposits. Banks taking part in the scheme include Natwest, RBS, Halifax and Bank of Scotland. Rates of 4.99 per cent are being offered by Natwest & RBS.

The scheme aims to help people with deposits as small as 5 per cent to buy homes worth up to £600,000 by guaranteeing up to 15 per cent of the mortgage.

It means home buyers will need a deposit of less than £10,000 to get on the property ladder with a budget of £220,000, according to separate research by Zoopla.

Even in London, the most expensive part of the country, a deposit of just £16,000 would enable the purchase of a £322,000 home.

However, brokers welcomed the scheme, saying the rates are competitive.

Mr Harris said: “The rates released so far via the scheme compare well with non-assisted schemes lending at the same LTV. Yorkshire Bank has a three-year fix pegged at 5.49 per cent, for example, while Newcastle Building Society has a two-year fix at 5.95 per cent.

“However, the benefit Help to Buy has over other high LTV products is that you can borrow more – the Newcastle product is capped at £350,000 while the Woolwich has a £500,000 cap. The real advantage of Help to Buy is that you can buy a property up to a maximum of £600,000 which opens up a part of the market not available under existing high LTV deals.”

The mortgage guarantees do not kick in until January, but lenders will accept applications and provide home loans before then as it is impossible to default on a mortgage during this time frame.

It follows the introduction of the first phase of Help to Buy - equity loans – earlier this year. Under this phase, the Government provides a loan of up to 20 per cent of the price of a property, with the borrowers providing a 5 per cent deposit and a mortgage of 75 per cent.

October 8, 2013 at 10:38 AM 1 comment

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