Help to Buy equity loans provide £600m helping hand to home buyers

Home buyers using the Help to Buy scheme are being given a foot up the property ladder to the tune of £600m, despite growing concerns about a house price bubble.


The latest figures from the Government, published today, show the true extent of how the taxpayer is subsidizing the scheme and has led to concerns it is fuelling the increase in house prices.

Help to Buy was launched amid a fanfare by Chancellor George Osborne almost a year ago in the last Budget to help those with a small deposit to buy a home.

But the popularity of the equity loan scheme, which includes an interest free loan of up to 20 per cent of the value of a property, comes amid fears about the property market overheating.

The cash means home buyers can purchase higher priced properties they may not otherwise be able to afford, and mortgage experts suggest the taxpayers’ funds may be better spent elsewhere.

Jonathan Harris, of mortgage brokers Anderson Harris, said: “It is crystal clear how important the housing market is to the overall economic health of the country when the Government is handing out such significant subsidies to buyers.

“The idea is that we all benefit when the housing market is operating efficiently, with the knock-on effect being felt by estate agents, mortgage brokers, surveyors, solicitors, lenders, builders, and removals firms.

“However, £600m is a lot of money and one wonders whether it could be better spent elsewhere.

“The Government might be better off ensuring that enough homes are built to keep properties at realistic price levels rather than further fuelling house-price inflation in this way.”

A total of 14,823 properties were bought during the first 10 months of Help to Buy equity loans, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The average price of a home purchased under the scheme was £184,000 , with the average equity loan of £36,599.

The majority of home purchases in the Help to Buy equity loan scheme were made by first time buyers, accounting for 89 per cent of total purchases.

The figures do not include the Government’s second phase of Help to Buy, which was launched at the beginning of October last year, with the mortgage guarantees coming into force at the start of this year.

February 27, 2014 at 11:13 AM Leave a comment

Cornwall & Wiltshire are most popular locations for second homeowners

More than 1.5 million people own a second home in England and Wales according to the latest Government figures, which is almost twice as many as those who opt for a holiday getaway overseas.

The most popular areas to second home hunt – unsurprisingly – are Cornwall and Wiltshire, but as our collective minds’ turn to summer there are some far less obvious choices to consider…

24.02.14 Second 2

Best for water babies: Cowes, Isle of Wight

In August, this quaint, pretty town transforms itself into the British St Tropez as yachties converge for the annual regatta. But Cowes has year-round appeal, with three Blue Flag beaches, good restaurants and pubs and a picturesque Old Town. And if you don’t fancy Cowes Week you could always rent your holiday home out for around £1,500 per week (for a two bedroom cottage).

Although you can comfortably spend £2m on a huge waterfront house, the average property price on Cowes is £226,035, up 5.02 per cent in the last year.

Great holiday options include a three bedroom turnkey flat with sea views for £335,000 or a cute cottage for offers over £128,000.

24.02.14 Second 1

Best for beach life: Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales

A wonderful seaside town with an epic 2.5 mile stretch of sandy beach. Tenby is also on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path so perfect for walkers, and yet it retains a low enough profile to keep prices down compared to rival English resorts.

At the top end of the market, Tenby has some stunning Regency terraces. Average property price currently stands at £212,977, up 3.86 per cent in the last year.

For £375,000, you could have a new two bedroom flat with superlative views right on South Beach. Or overlook the harbour in a two bedroom flat for £150,000.

24.02.14 Second 5

Best for the best of both worlds: Harrogate, Yorkshire

This historic spa town has masses going on and is also surrounded by open countryside and handy for the Yorkshire Dales. There are great shops, restaurants and bars in town in case the weather lets you down, and a fantastic choice of Victorian and Georgian housing stock.

Average prices stand at £296,952, up a strong 8.05 per cent in the last year.

Go grand with a three bedroom apartment in a grand Victorian building close to the centre of town for £650,000. Or a lovely Grade II listed cottage could be yours for £329,950.

24.02.14 Second 3

Best for family fun: Sheringham, Norfolk

A pretty-as-a-picture fishing village which is better value than more famous North Norfolk coast hotspots like Wells-next-the-Sea. Sheringham is a winner for its sandy beach with gaily painted beach huts, characterful town centre and plenty of retail therapy opportunity at its interesting one-off shops.

The average Sheringham property costs £222,011, up 5.5 per cent in a year.

A really swanky option would be a three bedroom penthouse in a gated development. If that busts the budget, however, you could go for a traditional three bedroom terrace for £190,000.

24.02.14 Second 4

February 26, 2014 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Kerry Katona moves into £3,000 a month mansion

Pregnant Kerry Katona has allegedly moved into a £3,000 a month mansion despite being declared bankrupt for a second time.

Kerry Katona

The singer is understood to be living in the five bedroom country home in Oxfordshire with her fiancé George Kay and her four children.

The gated property reportedly boasts five bathrooms and four reception rooms.

The Big Reunion star, who was previously married to Brian McFadden and Mark Croft – was first declared bankrupt in 2008.

She told the Telegraph last year: “Money’s an issue for me. I’m really weird around money. I feel like I have to pay and bought my husband [Mark Croft] whatever he wanted: he had a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, an Aston Martin, a Porsche.

“He kept changing them, but we always had a few cars at one time.”

Other country homes to rent in Oxfordshire:

25.02.14 Oxford 1

Five bedroom detached house for £3,200 a month

25.02.14 Oxford 2

Five bedroom house to rent for £4,250 a month

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Five bedroom property to rent for £5,500 a month

February 25, 2014 at 2:18 PM Leave a comment

Give your house ‘kerb appeal’ & maximise selling potential

It might be rather damp and chilly outside, but February can be the perfect month to don coats and wellies in order to start sprucing up the appearance of a property, writes Caroline Knight and Karin Hawkes.

19.02.14 Kerb Appeal 3

Before a makeover

19.02.14 Kerb Appeal 2

After: Brighten up the entrance to your home this February with the addition of some seasonal containers

The excess rainfall we have endured so far this year will have washed debris into gutters, so clearing those should be a priority.

Next – provided it is ice-free – you could jet wash your paths and driveway. There’s certainly no danger of a hosepipe ban. You might be pleasantly surprised just how much difference a clean-up makes – but check the pointing as any loose stones or mortar will inevitably become dislodged during this rather harsh process. Mossy paths, uneven surfaces and slimy decking can present a very real ‘trip and slip’ hazard – and while sweet Auntie Mabel wouldn’t dream of suing you if she fell and broke her arm, cantankerous Kevin next door might grasp the opportunity of compensation as he happens to know that you have a duty of care towards visitors to your home.

An even greater risk of slipping applies if and when we are blessed with snow.

First, we should be thankful that we don’t reside in countries such as Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands where there is a legal obligation to keep pavements cleared. In the UK, during snowy times we might witness householders rushing outdoors ready for action, but they are more likely to build snowmen than shovel away the snow.

Under the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 our duty extends only to visitors on our property. If you think you are being kind by clearing snow from the pavement and someone subsequently slips over you might find you are held liable.

Most homes are looking pretty glum this month, so if yours is on the market make sure it stands out from the dowdy crowd. Wash the paintwork, clean the windows and clear leaves, twigs and last year’s dead undergrowth from the front garden.

Consider pots, window boxes and containers to inject a burst of much needed colour into the garden and around the front door. There are plenty of flowering plants looking their best this month, including pansies, violas, primroses, heathers, hellebores, daffodils and early tulips.

Potty tips:

• Select pots with care. Avoid small containers and ensure your pot has plenty of drainage holes – you can hardly have enough

• Consider putting a plastic pot inside a clay pot so that you get the benefit of better moisture retention together with pleasant appearance

• Add crocks to the bottom, just like granny used to do. Crocks stop roots from blocking the drainage holes, they also encourage air to stay in the compost and they prevent plants from drowning in too much moisture. You can use broken pieces of terracotta, gravel, or light bulky matter such as polystyrene

• Use soil-free compost which is fluffy and light, but buy the best you can afford as it will have more nutrients and better growth potential. Fill your container to around two thirds full.

• Make a hole, loosen the roots of your colourful flowers and pop them in

• Fill your pots with compost to within 3cm of the top

• Gently firm down the compost, then water gently. Top up with compost and water again

Zoopla garden of the month

19.02.14 Kerb Appeal 1

Why do we approve of this front garden at a six bedroom detached in Kent, which is currently on the market for £595,000?

• It’s neat, clean and tidy, with enough greenery to provide interest but no dead or slimy plants to remind us that it is still winter

• There’s just enough height to provide a little variation and we like the way that the clean driveway has been framed with evergreen planting so it doesn’t give the impression of a wide, barren space

• The heather bed in the centre divides the space discreetly and encourages people not to park too close to the front door

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.

Caroline and Karin, who met while studying for a BA (Hons) in garden design, feel that front gardens represent a vastly neglected area. Their design and maintenance service, Kerb Appeal South East, seeks to correct this imbalance, thereby forming a missing link in the house sales process within Kent,Sussex and Surrey. They are on a mission to enable sellers to enhance their properties with the minimum of fuss and upheaval, thereby maximising the selling potential of any home.

February 25, 2014 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Phil Spencer’s property tip of the month – Don’t overlook the costs associated with buying a home


The associated costs of buying a home are often overlooked in favour of the major expense, the house itself. It’s easy to come unstuck if you fail to budget along the way for these often hidden, one off costs.

Costs range from search fees to mortgage arrangement fees and can add up to thousands of pounds with many first-time buyers, in particular, getting caught out by the extra fees they will have to pay.

Here are some of the main costs associated with buying:

Stamp Duty

One of the largest chunks of money goes on Stamp Duty, which is charged at 3 per cent for properties valued at between £250,000 and £500,000. It compares to just 1 per cent for properties valued at between £125,000 and £250,000.

Solicitor’s fees

Fees on average tend to cost around £1,000 depending on the services you require for the purchase. Make sure that you get a quote upfront before the solicitor does any work as some will charge by the hour, while others will do the job for a set fee.

Lender related fees

There are then smaller costs that may need paying depending on what deal you have struck with your lender. These include valuation fees paid to a lender for checking the property is worth the amount they are lending and a booking fee for selecting a mortgage deal. A larger cost is likely to be a mortgage arrangement fee, which can run into several thousand pounds. However, a lender may offer some or all of these charges for free depending on the mortgage deal you have agreed and so it is worth checking on the details and shopping around.


You will also need to budget for a survey of the property and for searches for anything unusual about property. Searches are conducted via the Local Authorities and are designed to check whether there are any issues such as planning permissions or planned roadworks that are in motion that may effect the property.  These tend to cost around £500 each, but it again depends on the scope of the survey required.

Removal fees

And don’t forget the all-important removal fees as these can also run into several thousand pounds depending on the services your require.

More information about buying a home can be found on the Zoopla website.

February 24, 2014 at 2:23 PM Leave a comment

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