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London: Are the streets really paved with gold?

Posted by: Adam Male on 28 October 2015
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Everyone knows that London property prices are a league all of their own, but new data has highlighted figures that make even the most hardened house-hunter stop in their tracks. 


The new research, released this week by NLP Research, has shown that London is outstripping the rest of the country when it comes to how the capital's property prices are rocketing, increasing in value by a whopping £3.48 per hour! This meteoric rise has led to a nearly 10% increase in London prices this month, compared to October 2014.


Working on an increasing hourly rate of £3.48, lucky London home-owners are looking at their properties increasing at an average rate of:

  • £83.52 a day
  • £584.64 a week
  • £2505.60 a month
  • £30,484.80 a year!

Elsewhere in the country, the hourly growth is somewhat steadier, with homes in the East Midlands increasing by £0.53 an hour, and the North West increasing by £0.03 an hour - 116 times less that the growth seen in London. 


The Big Squeeze: Buy-to-let mortgages set to change

Posted by: Adam Male on 28 October 2015
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What’s going on?

Strict affordability rules are being placed on buy-to–let lending, making it harder for landlords to secure high loan-to-value mortgages.

Chancellor George Osbourne has just announced that he has granted the Bank of England ‘additional powers’ over buy-to-let mortgages, which has brought them in line with residential mortgages. Coupled with the changes to the way landlords are taxed, this signals a major change to rental finance in the coming years.


What do the changes mean?

In 2014, changes were introduced by the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee, which stated that no more than 15 percent of residential mortgages were to be allocated to people borrowing more than 4.5 times their income, and that borrowers were to be subjected to more rigorous ‘stress tests’, to be sure of their ability to pay back the loans.

Until now, these rules didn’t cover buy-to-let mortgages, which currently account for around a sixth of the market. That has all changed with the introduction of Osbourne’s affordability ruling on buy-to-let mortgages, which will see landlords having to be able to prove that they can afford to pay the mortgage in full from their earnings or savings, without the help of rental income that subsequently comes from the mortgaged property.

The ruling has been introduced in order to protect the market from ‘overheating’, and it is believed that it will mean that thousands of potential landlords across the country will be prevented from getting on the buy-to-let ladder on the basis of mortgage affordability.

The theory is that it will free up some of the more affordable housing stock, much of which is currently snapped up by ‘opportunist’ landlords, leaving the market more open for first-time buyers, and low earners. The Government is keen to give low-income families a hand up onto the property ladder, and the prevention of another ‘housing bubble’ caused by a market built solely on renting is one way of assisting with this.


How does it affect me?

If you’re considering becoming a landlord, and don’t yet have a mortgage, the mortgage change could be a thorn in your side.

Either way, becoming a buy-to-let landlord and maintaining profitability, has become much less viable, recently - with the introduction of this ruling and the severe new tax legislation - and many landlords may find that it may in fact be more financially sensible to sell up, and take the profit out of their property while they still can.


What do I have to do?

If you already have a buy-to-let mortgage, you don’t have to do anything. If you have a high loan-to-value ratio and you are looking at having to re-mortgage your property, you should consider staying with your current mortgage provider, rather than shopping around, as you are unlikely to be subject to such stringent affordability checks – your current provider already knows your credit history.

If you don’t already have a mortgage, consider your financial position carefully before you decide to jump into the buy-to-let market!


Can you help?!

Of course. If you feel that your rental property is going to start costing you more than it earns you, or that there may be some doubt that a re-mortgage is a possibility in the future, we are able to handle a speedy, cost-effective sale to help rid you of a pricy property problem.

If your property is still providing you with a healthy return, we can help you make sure that you never have any down time to worry about and that there is always a tenant in your property

Most haunted locations in Britain - are you brave enough?

Posted by: Adam Male on 23 October 2015
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Our Spooky Survey showed this month that 85% of viewers would be happy to share their living space with a ghostly housemate, as long as they did their share of the washing up…. Which is just as well, because the UK is supposedly full ghosts and ghoulies!

With Halloween on the horizon, we’ve compiled a list of the top spooky locations around the UK, perfect for ghost hunting on Saturday night!


Borley Rectory, Essex

Believed to be one of the most haunted houses in the country, Borley Rectory was built in 1863. Legend has it that a Borley monk fell in love with a nun from a local convent, and they made plans to elope. When elders discovered their plans, he was hanged and she was buried in the vaults below the building – their ghosts have haunted the site ever since.


Pluckley, Kent

With at least a dozen ghosts, Pluckley is believed to be the most haunted village in Britain, and has even made it into the Guinness Book for Records! If you’re planning a visit, make sure you head for ‘Fright Corner’, where you might come across the ghostly highwayman, or maybe you’ll meet the Red Lady, the Screaming Man or the Schoolmaster.


The Red Lion, Avebury, Wiltshire

The Red Lion, situated within Avebury’s mysterious stone circle, is proof that even in the afterlife the great British past time is still enjoying relaxing in the pub with your friends! The spooky regulars that frequent the Red Lion are all very good-natured, especially a lady called Florrie, who has a particular fondness for bearded men!


London Underground

Much of the London Underground is home to spooky going on, but certain stations are the focus for more paranormal activity that others. London Underground staff have reporting sightings of ‘the Black Nun’ at Bank station, whilst Liverpool Street is believed to be home to the ghost of Rebecca Griffiths, a former resident of the Star of Bethlehem asylum, which used to be built on the site of the station.


The Ancient Ram Inn, Wotten-under-Edge, Glouchestershire


The Ancient Ram Inn is named by Ghost-hunters as one of the most haunted properties in the country, and has a significant role-call of ghoulish guests in residence. As well as a horse-mounted Centurion who apparently appears through the walls of the courtyard, and a pesky poltergeist who thinks nothing of throwing books and upturning boxes, the inn is also home to a ghostly cat, who vanishes at will


Berry Pomeroy Castle, Totnes, Devon

With a Blue Lady, and a White Lady, there is no shortage of colourful ghosts to see at Berry Pomeroy Castle. The Blue Lady is often seen dancing among the ruins of the castle, signalling to visitors to come and dance with her – guides suggest that this is not advisable.


SS Great Britain, Bristol


 Built as a passenger steam ship and launched in 1843, the SS Great Britain was the first iron steamer to successfully cross the Atlantic in 1845. However, despite its illustrious past, the ship is now a museum ship, and is home to a great many ghosts, including the famous Captain Grey, who’s hobnail boots can often be heard walking around on the ship’s decks.


Edinburgh Castle

One of Scotland’s most haunted sites, Edinburgh Castle is said to be home to a phantom piper, a headless drummer and a spooky dog. In 2001, the castle vaults and chambers were subjected to a scientific survey of nearly 250 volunteers, round-the-clock thermal imaging and night vision recording, to prove whether Edinburgh’s ghosts really were real. Nearly 50% of the volunteers reported ghost sightings and spooky phenomena, including sudden drops in temperature and the feeling that someone was pulling at their clothes.


The Black Swan Hotel, Devizes


 Filled with antiques and a friendly charm, the Black Swan is not the sort of place that you would expect a pair of detached ghostly legs to walk through the bar, however, according to locals one of the hotel’s many resident spirits is in fact lacking a body!


So, there you have it, the spookiest places in the UK! Perfect locations for a visit on Saturday night, if you’re feeling brave enough!

Can you recommend any more spooky locations to add to our list?

The Green Room

Posted by: Adam Male on 23 October 2015
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Everyone knows the importance of presenting their property in the very best light when they are trying to sell. Making sure toys tidied away, beds are made, you have had a quick hoover round – some people even like to give the walls a fresh lick of paint.

Many buyers like to see a property that is enjoyed by the current owner, and like to see how the property is used in its current guise. That said, they also don’t want TOO much of someone else’s personality to get in the way of them imagining themselves living in the space – ideally, they need to be able to be able to buy into the lifestyle that the property affords, via a blank canvas that they could put their stamp on!

Most buyers understand what they need to do in order to meet this exacting criteria, however one area that many still neglect is the garden. In the summer months outside space is a real consideration, with colourful flowers and warm, sunny space being a real selling feature for some buyers. But, as the nights start to draw in and the weather turn chillier, the garden often becomes less of a concern for sellers, and many people tend to ‘forget’ about it until spring.

However, if you are hoping to sell your property you cannot forget about your garden. It represents another room that potential buyers will see as a useable space, and a good garden can make or break a sale. Even if a buyer is viewing your property in deepest, darkest winter, they are likely to be viewing it with a plan to live there in the long term, and will be enjoying the space in the hot summer months as well, so you need to work extra hard to sell the potential of that space to them.


Don't forget to tidy!

 Children’s toys, fallen leaves, broken pots, overgrown grass and grubby paving are all things that will turn a buyer off, and make your garden look less like the ‘Garden of Eden’, and more like ‘Steptoe’s Yard’!

There is plenty you can do to make your outside space the most appealing room of the house though, even when the weather is doing all it can to work against you. Before a viewing, wrap up against the elements and venture outside, and give the space a tidy up just as you do inside - a quick sweep of any fallen leaves and tidy of any escaped toys will make a world of difference.


Prep your Panels!


Faded or broken fence panels are one of the key culprits to making a garden look shabby, so if you can invest in some new ones to replace any broken ones, do make this a priority. Don’t forget though, if you’re replacing fence panels, do check if the fence in question is your responsibility or your neighbours – you don’t want any boundary disputes on your hands when you’re trying to sell your property! If replacing the panels isn’t a possibility, make sure you give your existing ones a bit of a face lift with some wood stain – not only will it protect them against the elements but it’ll make them look much fresher.


Bloomin' lovely

A few small pots dotted around will add a little colour and you will even be able to take them with you when you move to your new property! Most good garden centres will stock a wide range of perennials and shrubs, such as heather, cyclamen and ornamental grasses, which are hardy enough to withstand even the most biting of British winters, and look good all year round with a minimum of attention.


Sell the lifestyle

As well as good upkeep, some ‘window dressing’ is often a good way to highlight the way a garden can look. In the same way that some people choose the lay their dining table to show the potential for fun, entertaining nights with friends, you could suggest ways in which your viewer could use the space in your garden. Maybe consider investing in a garden table and chairs (if you don’t already have one) which you can position ready for the viewing, so the potential new owner can envisage themselves using the space to relax in after a long day, or host summer BBQs with friends and family – sell them a lifestyle, not just a home. Q&A - Am I responsible for Legionella?

Posted by: Adam Male on 22 October 2015
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As a landlord am I responsible for monitoring my property for Legionella?



Yes, any Landlord of a residential property is responsible for helping to combat Legionnaires disease.


You are responsible by law, to carry out risk assessments to check for the presence of Legionella Bacteria, the bacteria which causes Legionnaires disease. The disease, caused by inhaling infected drops of water, is similar to pneumonia and can be fatal.  


Legionella can be found in both hot and cold domestic water systems, thriving at temperatures between 20 - 45°C. The hardly bacteria can survive low temperatures, but are killed by high temperatures at 60°C or above.


You are required to carry out annual checks and adequate controls in order to control the spread of this potentially deadly bacteria – however this needn’t be complicated or expensive. You can carry out the assessment yourself, and in most residential properties the test will show that there is no risk to tenants.


All you need to do in order to check for Legionella is carry out a few simple tests on your property’s water system:


  • Check the temperature that water, especially in large tanks, is being stored at. If it is within the 20-45°C it poses a risk.
  • Check if water can stagnate anywhere within the property’s system – are there any long or redundant lengths of pipe? If so, consider removing these in order to remove the possibility of pooling stagnant water.
  • Check with the ‘Water Fittings and Materials Directory’ that none of the fixtures and fittings in your water systems are ‘Legionnaire friendly’ – certain materials encourage the growth of the bacteria and should be avoided if possible.
  • Ensure tanks and cisterns are covered and free from debris 

If you identify a risk, you must treat the water in the system to kill the bacteria, encouraging your tenants to make sure that they make use of all the water sources in the property will also help ensure that the water is kept moving, and help prevent the build-up of any pools of water, keeping the system clean.


For more information on your duty as a Landlord, a downloadable PDF is available from the Health and Safety Executive here


A more in depth document from the Health and Safety Executive on the Control of Legionella in Water Systems is available here