Buying a House | House Viewing Checklist

Tips and Tricks For Viewing a Property

Buying a home is probably the most important financial decision that most of us will make in our lives.

House hunting can be an exhausting undertaking and decisions about which property to buy can be led as much from the heart as it is by the head.

As it can take a long time to find the property that is just right for you we thought we would share a handy viewing tool with you that we found on insurance company Aviva’s website to help with the process.

Aviva have worked with a group of surveyors to create an interactive house visual which features a useful viewing checklist to help you identify common signs of maintenance trouble when viewing a property.

The most useful bit, in our opinion is that they also show you the average cost to fix them.

Sometimes buyers are put off unnecessarily by the worry of what building works will cost, whereas in fact the agent has probably taken the costs into account when assessing the value of the property.

Aviva_House_Viewing_Checklist

House Viewing Checklist from Aviva.co.uk

Take your phone or tablet with you on the viewing and you can simply click on the selected areas of the house graphic to see tips to help you identify some of the most common problems.

You can also use your phone or tablet to take photos of the property (but do ask permission first).

Before you View Your Property Shortlist

Obviously you will have worked out your budget. Try to stick to this as this will allow you to factor in any maintenance work you might have to pay for.

You should get a mortgage in principle agreed so you are ready to move as soon as you find what you want.

Make a list of the points that are most important to you in the order of most to least important.

These could include
1.    The number of bedrooms
2.    The number of bathrooms
3.    Open plan or separate rooms for living/kitchen
4.    Garden
5.    Parking and Garage
6.    Budget for modernising and decorating

Add in anything else that is important to you and your family.

Using the Internet to Shortlist Property

Make use of agents websites and property portal sites like Zoopla and Rightmove to find out as much as you can about available properties in your area.

Most will have photographs, floorplans, online brochures and local information, and some have virtual tours to help with your shortlisting.

Discuss any missing information with the agent and ask about the sellers position and timescales.

Try to arrange a series of viewings over a day or two so you can more easily compare the properties on your list. Make sure though that you leave enough time to look properly, make notes and then have time to think about what you have seen (and discuss with a friend, partner or family member) to help ‘fix’ each property and its pros and cons in your mind, before moving onto the next appointment.

Once you have found the property of your dreams and made the decision to move check out our blog about buying and selling property – keeping your property sale moving forward.

Landlords – Deposit laws will bite you if you don’t do it right

Monopoly HouseLandlords Need to be Aware of Deposit Legislation

In Property Eye today Rosalind Renshaw reported an industry scandal about deposits. In fact four in every ten landlords who called Landlords Action’s legal helpline have broken the law by failing to protect tenants’ deposits.

Since 2007 Landlords and Letting Agents have been required by law to protect tenant’s deposits using a government-recognised scheme within 30 days of the tenancy start date. In addition there is a requirement to issue the tenant with Proscribed Information so that they know where their deposit is, and how to retrieve it at the end of the tenancy.

The Penalties for Not Protecting Tenants’ Deposits

Where the deposit is not protected Landlords can face penalties of up to three times the value of the deposit, which is then awarded to the tenant. Less well known is that landlords may still face penalties even if they used an agent, if their agent failed to comply with the legislation.

In addition to the possible fines, where a landlord wishes to gain possession of a property through Section 21 they will be unable to do so unless and until the deposit is legally protected. A court order for possession cannot be granted without proof that the deposit is protected in a recognised scheme, and may be refused if the deposit was not protected when it should have been.

The founder of Landlord Action, Paul Shamplina commented: “There are too many landlords that still do not know enough about being a landlord and their responsibilities.

Many are failing to comply with deposit protection rules and this is having a knock-on effect when landlords wish to evict through Section 21. The simple fact is, ignorance will not solve the problem.”

Landlord Action are seeing more landlords contacting them because of legal action being taken against them by tenants for not protecting the deposit. Tenants appear to be becoming increasingly aware of the legal situation where many landlords are still in the dark.

The problem is that many landlords will struggle to find a solicitor to act for them because the legislation is so straightforward, and there is no defence for not protecting the deposit. There is a really clear guideline for landlords about tenants’ deposits on the Government website.

The Property Eye article goes on to quote Eddie Hooker of MyDeposits who raises the point that not only should the deposit be protected but the tenant should be served with the Prescribed Information. He says “The majority of legal cases we see surround the incorrect issuing of the Prescribed Information, or failing to issue it at all.”

Is My Deposit Protected?

Riley Marshall ensures their clients stay within the law to protect their interests. However we are aware that some landlords do not know their obligations in regard to deposits. In fact we highlighted this issue in 2012 in our blog post – How Secure is Your Deposit? You can read that article here.

Don’t risk falling foul of the legislation on deposits. If you are unsure of the status of your deposit you can use this handy tool on the Shelter Website which will check whether your deposit is protected. You just need your postcode, tenancy start date and the amount of the deposit.

Developing Potential South of the River

Woolwich Map2013 saw an increase in property prices of some 10% in London, and it is likely that house prices will continue to rise in 2014.

Despite the chancellor announcing headline-grabbing measures to cool property price rises by taxing overseas investors in reality this is unlikely to affect the market significantly, because over 70% of the market are resident owners.

The Government target is to build 200,000 new homes to meet growing housing needs, but supply could struggle to keep pace with the market demand in which case prices will continue to rise accordingly.

At Riley Marshall we have been keeping our ear to the ground to bring you news of the latest happenings in our area.

Crossrail opens up the East and South East

Crossrail will bring high speed links from Abbywood and Woolwich via the Royal Docks and Canary Wharf before heading on into central London.

This will significantly reduce traveling times to and from these areas and is likely to bring investment into these more outlying areas that would previously have been seen as being too far to commute.

The Northern Line Extending to Meet Battersea Development

Battersea Power Station is part of a £4 billion forty-two acre site which will bring some 16,000 new homes.

This area, south of the River Thames will include the new American Embassy and the development will feature amenities such as schools, shopping, restaurants and parks as well as housing.

You can even watch the progress of construction on the live feed on the Battersea Power Station’s dedicated website.

Transport For London plans to build an extension to the existing Northern Line to include Nine Elms and Battersea.

Croydon Expects Westfield Development

Westfield, the highly popular shopping mall developers are planning to build in Croydon at an estimated cost of £1 billion.

Westfield in Stratford has been a tremendously successful venture, bringing crowds to shop, eat and visit the cinema.

It is likely to prove equally popular if Westfield get permission to develop in Croydon, and will bring a much needed boost to this area which could see price rise as demand increases.

More Olympic Village Property Released

Stratford continues to be a burgeoning market, enjoying the increase in popularity since the Olympics put Stratford so firmly on the map.

More new houses are being released on the previous athlete’s village site during 2014, and the plan is for the site to realise some 10,000 new homes in five new neighbourhoods each of which will have new schools health facilities and shops.

The site will be landscaped to include open spaces, parks and waterways to make the area a popular destination for homeowners, tenants and investors.

Our opinion is that the property prices in our area will continue to rise over the next year, if the first quarter is anything to go by, so please get in touch with us if you are planning to move and we can discuss your options 0207 394 1160.

Buying and Selling Property – Don’t be the one who holds things up

House Sales

Quick Sales Avoid Chains Collapsing

Check Your House Sale Progress

If you are thinking of buying and selling property in the UK you can help to ensure the process goes smoothly by making sure you are ready and staying on top of the process.

You cannot influence the whole chain but you can keep on top of the process by speaking to everyone involved on a regular basis and asking some searching questions about the status of all the links in the chain. A good agent will do this for you and they will report back to you.

Last year a survey by 1st Property Lawyers revealed that 29 per cent of deals fell through. To avoid your sale or purchase falling down make sure you are doing all you can to speed up the process.

The faster things move, the less likely it is that the sale will fall through.

6 Ways To Speed Up a Property Sale

  1. Get a mortgage approved – speak to a mortgage advisor and chose the mortgage product you want, then get yourselves approved so the mortgage doesn’t slow down the buying process.
  2. Have a solicitor in place to deal with the conveyancing, and provide them with the documents they need before you find your property so they are ready to act immediately.
  3. Respond quickly to all requests for paperwork, signatures and queries from your agent or solicitor as soon as you can.
  4. If you’re selling a property to buy another, make sure you have all guarantees up to date and to hand, if there is building work to do you can identify and price up work to save being held to ransom by a buyers survey report.
  5. If you need building work done on a house you are buying or selling you can use the Government -approved Trustmark register or find reliable, vetted and insured tradesmen through Checkatrade.
  6. Arrange to review the process once a week – your agent should be ringing you, but if they don’t, you should ring or email the agent and your solicitor to make sure everything is moving along as it should.

Quicker House Sales

If you want a quick sale of your property you can speak to your agent about open days, which generate a large amount of interest and prompt buyers to make an offer because they actually see the competition for a property.

Speak to one of our Sales Negotiators about your buying and selling options 0207 394 1160 or email us on sales@rileymarshall.co.uk.

It’s Good News for House Prices in London so Buyers Need to be Ready to Move

London house prices are rising

The London Property Market is Buoyant

Help to Buy Set to End in 2016

The Government’s Help to Buy initiative has been responsible for increasing the number of house sales and housing prices. It has given a valuable helping hand to buyers who would not otherwise have qualified for a mortgage, and it has encouraged developers to build, knowing there is a market once they are completed.

Chief Executive Pete Redfern confirms the Help to Buy scheme has helped Taylor Wimpey start 2014 with a £1.2 billion pipeline of new orders: An increase of 27% year on year.

However the Help to Buy is scheduled to finish at the end of 2016, and while the Chancellor George Osborne has yet to comment on extending the programme the Bank of England opposes any extension of the scheme.

So if you can benefit from Help to Buy make sure you plan to move in the next two years to take advantage of the help on offer.

Housebuilding Initiatives

Market activity has increased dramatically, and with the second phase of the Help to Buy initiative now available to buyers, the issue in many areas is a lack of property for sale.

The Government is well aware of the link between a healthy housing market and economic recovery. The number of homes built in Britain last year was the highest since the start of the economic downturn in 2007. According to figures collected by The National House Building Council (NHBC) 133,670 homes were built in the UK in 2013, which is a 28% increase on 2012.

There have been signs of economic recovery for the UK as a whole, and of the housing market in particular. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, has recently delivered the Bank’s revised economic forecast. He is projecting growth of 2.8% in 2014.

The latest Land Registry House Price Index figures (published December 2013) show an annual house price increase of 4.4 per cent, which takes the average property value in England and Wales to £167,353.

As a buyer it is often seen to be best to buy on a rising market rather than a falling one, so you do not run the risk of falling into negative equity. This gives you options when you do need to move, as you will be building up equity in your home as the market rises.

Interest Rates linked to Unemployment figures

Chancellor George Osbourne had said that he would not consider raising interest rates until unemployment fell below 7%. Figures released by the ONS, the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show the number of people out of work fell by 167,000 to 2.32 million in the three months to November, which is 7.1%.

The chancellor’s original plan was to leave interest at the current low rate until 2016, and despite the sooner-than-expected drop in unemployment he may not make increases and risk slowing economic growth.

George Osbourne has not confirmed if or when he will raise interest rates, although if he does do so this will have an effect on mortgage payments, unless you have a fixed rate mortgage. Fixing your repayments on a mortgage will mean that your repayments will be higher than a flexible rate mortgage but you will be protected against any interest rate increases for the term of the mortgage rate deal.

Get Yourself Ready to Move

Mortgage approval rates are up 25% on a four year average according to Rightmove. In the nine months between January and September 2013 the rate of approvals increased to nearly 60,000. Rightmove attributes this increase to the Funding for Lending Scheme.

Funding for lending is a joint initiative between the Bank of England and HM Treasury to incentives banks and building societies to boost lending by reducing the cost of borrowing for lenders. Funding for lending was extended in April last year and will now run until January next year, although the focus on lending is moving away from mortgages and towards small businesses.

As a buyer you should take advantage of the increased mortgage approval rates. Seek advice from an independent mortgage advisor and shop around for the deal that will suit your circumstances.

Get your mortgage approved before you start looking for property to buy. That way you can be sure you are looking in the right price range. More importantly you can get the sale moving quickly once you have found the right property.

Search on our website for our range of properties for sale.

See ‘Don’t be the one who holds things up’ next week…

Build to Rent Should Feature Large in the London Housing Market if Property Developers Seize the Opportunity Offered by Government Initiatives

What is Build to Rent?

Build to Rent is a government initiative to encourage the building of more purpose-built rental properties in the UK.

Around 3.8 million households in the UK are in private rented accommodation. That’s about 16.5% of the population. There is no doubt that some people choose to rent for the flexibility it offers, or for financial reasons, or because they do not want the responsibility of owning their own property.

In recognition of the fact that private rented housing is likely to continue to be a growing part of the housing market, the government has been introducing measures to boost this sector as well as the house buying market.

  • Changes to Stamp Duty Land Tax implemented in 2011 mean that large-scale investors pay a typical 1% instead of 5% on large purchases.
  • A £1 billion fund for equity finance for house builders and developers.
  • A debt guarantee scheme to support the building of more private rented housing.

Build to Rent Funding

The Build to Rent Fund assists the new development of these purpose-built rental properties. The developer takes out the funding loan, builds the properties and then passes on the loan to a third party investor. This means less risk to the developer and avoids them having to wait to regain capital from rental payments – which could take many years.

The Government hopes that the first round of developments will provide high profile ‘show case’ developments that will be test-beds to prove the model. The theory is that this will encourage more developers to take up the Build to Rent scheme rather than the more traditional one of selling off the development piecemeal, either off-plan or on completion.

The Build to Rent Fund prospectus was launched on 20 December 2012 under the joint banner of the government and the Homes and Communities Agency, and the first 45 projects were confirmed in April 2013.  About a quarter of this housing will be in London, and in total are projected to support the construction of between 8,000 and 10,000 new private-rented homes.

Debt Guarantees for Developers

The private rented sector housing guarantee scheme provides a direct government guarantee on the debt property developers incur when investing in new privately rented homes.

The Government thinking is that by reducing the property developer’s borrowing costs it should increase the number of homes they can afford to provide.

The government application process for direct guarantees focusses on applications that comply with the government scheme rules. Developers are expected to demonstrate a robust rental demand with a viable exit strategy, a solid management structure, and suitable asset cover,

If you are developer who is interested in the scheme you can find out more on the Homes and Communities website http://www.homesandcommunities.co.uk/ourwork/private-rented-sector or email housingguarantees@communities.gsi.gov.uk to discuss a specific proposal.

Private Rented Sector Taskforce

There is an expert panel to oversee the scheme. The Private Rented Sector Taskforce consists of developers, management bodies and institutional investors, who aim to support the expansion of the build to let sector.

The Taskforce is headed by Andrew Stanford, who is the former Head of Cluttons Residential was MD and founder of property and asset management company Stanford Mallinson.

Other Taskforce members are:

Julian D’Arcy of Kirkby Capital, a former regional chairman and proprietary partner at Knight Frank

Joanna Embling, a property consultant and chartered surveyor, specialising in urban redevelopment and a former equity partner at Cushman Wakefield

Tracey Hartley, a specialist asset manager for large scale residential landlord Grainger plc

Dominic Martin, senior analyst at EC Harris and a qualified surveyor

So 2014 could be an interesting place for property developers who are willing to embrace the scheme. For advice on property investment and the rental market please get in touch with Riley Marshall on 0207 394 1160.

Housing Developers Needed as Property Demand Swells in the UK

Help to Buy Numbers Treble

According to a report from RICS (Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors) the Help to Buy numbers trebled in the last two months of 2013, so will demand outstrip supply in the UK this year?

A report by the NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents) following their recent member’s survey states that during November its members sold an average of nine homes per estate agency branch, and on average two of those were Help to Buy purchasers.

The Help to Buy initiative launched at the beginning of October 2013 and we dealt with the different Government housing market schemes in our earlier blog post.

Nationally more than 2000 people took advantage of Help to Buy in the first month after launch – by December that figure nearly tripled to 6000. These new mortgages will equate to around £1 billion of new lending to homeowners who may have been deterred or prevented from borrowing because of the need for a lump sum for their deposit before a mortgage company will lend money.

David Cameron Comments on the Increased Demand for Housing

Prime Minister David Cameron hopes many more people will be persuaded to get on the property ladder in the New Year, giving the property market and the wider economy a welcome boost

RBS, HSBC, Lloyd’s, Virgin Money and Aldermore are already offering these mortgages but they will soon be joined by Barclay’s and Santander who plan to introduce their own Help to Buy products this month.

The property market will no doubt continue to heat up as we head towards one of the busiest times of year and Cameron observes:

“. . . too many people have found themselves frozen out of the market in recent years as a result of the size of the deposit required.

That is why as part of our long-term economic plan we introduced the Help to Buy scheme, so hard-working people with sufficient earnings can get on, fulfil their aspirations and enjoy the security of owning their own home.”

UK Economic Growth Relies on a Booming Property Market

The UK economy is so dependent on a raising property market that the Government is always under pressure to find ways to keep the figures rising upwards, but if the market gets too hot it could cause a bubble that would be very painful for our recovering economy if it should burst.

RICS senior economist Josh Miller warns:

“The pace of demand is exceeding that of supply in every part of the country. Clearly the momentum in the market is growing. Help to Buy, funding for lending, and the clear commitment to keep interest rates low for a long time, all three are having an effect.”

Build More Housing to Stabilise Economic Growth

The best way to stabilise the market is to increase supply so that it tracks this increased demand. Providing that buyers can afford to purchase we are unlikely to ever have a situation where available housing stock outstrips demand in London. Therefore building more housing is the answer to increased, gradual and sustainable economic growth in the Capital.

The Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds comments that:

“Any help for first-time buyers struggling to get on the property ladder is to be welcomed.

But rising demand for housing must be matched with rising supply if this scheme is to bring the cost of housing within the reach of low and middle income earners.”

It is certainly true that without a reliable release of new more affordable housing onto the market that the housing ‘bubble’ will stall and even burst, if house prices rise sharply in response to this increased demand. This could spell economic disaster for all of us.