Jun 19

Beleive it or not, summer is just around the corner. We might not get the record breaking temperatures of last year, but with 48% of us citing summer as the season we spend the most time in our gardens, it's time for some top tips to help us get the most out of our outdoor space.

Outdoor building manufacturer, Tiger Sheds, offer their top tips to help your garden flourish throughout June, July and August:

June - Priorities: lawn, weeding, harvesting vegetables, top up building paintwork

June is the official start of summer and with that, it’s time to take advantage of the longer days and stay on top of your garden maintenance. Why not spend some time cleaning out your shed to maximise space and make the most of the sunshine to top up any paintwork while the weather is warm.

The warm weather may be a blessing for your garden, but all that quick growth means your lawn will need weekly haircuts, and your weeds will need regular weeding to stop the greenery from getting out of control.

Now is also a great time to harvest vegetables such as broccoli, peas and early potatoes, and start sowing carrots so they will be ready for autumn/winter time.

July - Priorities: watering, trimming, hedges, weatherproofing

With the sun shining it’s important to give your plants a much-needed drink. To encourage growth and flowering throughout the warmer months, monitor the soil for dryness and keep your plants hydrated.

British summers often mean unpredictable weather which can be tough on your garden buildings. Make sure to treat your shed with preserver to prolong the life of your outdoor building and keep an eye on any leaks which could cause serious damage.

Now birds have finished nesting, use July to spend some time trimming your hedges to get your garden looking neat again.

August - Priorities: deadheading, building maintenance

Summer is now in full force which means many of your plants will have flowered by August. Keep on top of deadheading to ensure your plants not only look tidy but will be able to focus their energy on their remaining flowers.

As the nights start to get cooler towards the end of August, close the ventilators and doors of your greenhouse to keep in the day’s warmth. When it comes to other garden buildings, keep an eye out for birds or any other wildlife that may have visited your shed or outhouse as they may need help to find their way back out again.

And it doesn't stop there. The experts at Tiger Sheds have created a 12 month gardening calendar to help you get the most from your green space for the entire year.

The calendar, which can be downloaded to sync with your Google calendar, includes handy tips on how to care for your garden month-by-month so you can enjoy your outdoor space all year round.

Sam Jenkinson, Head of Marketing at Tiger Sheds, said: “Our previous research has highlighted that we’re a nation who loves to make the most of our gardens in the summer, but we tend to forget about them in the winter.

That’s why we’re proud to present our gardening calendar so people can get stuck into their gardens while the weather is brighter, and follow our tips right through into the colder months, to keep their garden in tip-top condition all year round. We hope this will allow homeowners to truly make the most of their outdoor space.”

Jun 19

The latest data released by Moneyfacts has revealed that the number of buy-to-let products available on the market has risen to the highest figure seen since the start of the financial crisis in 2007.

According to the figures, 2,396 BTL products are now available, increasing by 21% since June 2018.

Meanwhile, average buy-to-let mortgage rates have also risen over the past 12 months, with the average two-year fixed rate increasing by 0.17% from 2.88% in June 2018 to 3.05% and the average five-year rate rising by 0.11% to 3.54%.

Both rates still stand significantly lower than in October 2007 however, when the average two-year buy-to-let fixed rate stood at 6.36% while its five-year counterpart stood at 6.39%.

Darren Cook, finance expert at Moneyfacts, said: “The buy-to-let market has experienced a number of regulatory changes during recent years, however, it seems that product competition within this specialised mortgage area is continuing to grow. A 21% increase in availability to 2,396 products over the past 12 months indicates that providers are keen to offer potential buy-to-let investors plenty of choice within the sector.

Despite this increasing competition in terms of the total number of products available over the past year, average rates have unfortunately not fallen, and have instead followed suit, with the average two-year fixed rate increasing by 0.17% to 3.05% and the average five-year fixed rate increasing by 0.11% to 3.54% over the same period.

The largest concentration of buy-to-let product choice can be found at the maximum 75% LTV tier, where there are currently 352 (44%) two-year fixed rate products available and 374 (48%) five-year fixed rate products available. Coincidently, the average fixed rates at the 75% LTV tier for the two and five-year sectors are currently 3.05% and 3.55% respectively, equalling or near-equalling the average rates for both terms across all tiers.

The increase in the buy-to-let average rates contrasts with the downward trajectory of their residential mortgage counterparts, where product competition seems to have instead resulted in rates falling. This disparity in trends is likely to be attributed to the different approach lenders take to risk between these two sectors, and that economic uncertainty may be having a more adverse influence on the buy-to-let mortgage market than it is having on the residential mortgage market.”

Jun 19

The latest data and analysis from Halifax has revealed that average house prices in May edged up to £237,837 - a rise of 0.5% on the month as the first signs of stability return to the market.

May’s annual change figure of 5.2% comes against the backdrop of a particularly low growth rate in the corresponding period in 2018, which has had an impact on year-on-year comparisons.

HMRC Monthly data shows UK home sales remaining steady. April saw 99,420 home sales which is close to the 5 year average of 101,249 and follows a similar result in March. Sales in February to April fell 0.2%, against the levels in November to January. April home sales were flat against the previous 12 month average of 99,322.

Mortgage approvals rise back above the 12 month and 5 year averages. Bank of England industry-wide figures show that the number of mortgages approved to finance house purchases – a leading indicator of completed house sales – rose 5.9% in April to 66,261. The April rate is just above the 5 year average monthly approval rate of 66,066, and is 1,118 above the previous 12 month average of 65,143. While this is a notable change on a monthly basis, the approval level is still very close to the longer term averages.

Demand for and supply of housing remains subdued for another month. The RICS UK Residential Market Survey again showed a subdued result for nearly every measure. The sales to stock ratio dropped slightly to 30.7% and is, as last month, at its lowest rate since September 2013. Price expectations and sales expectations showed a small improvement, for the third month running, but both expectations remain firmly negative.

Russell Galley, Managing Director, Halifax, said: “We saw a slight increase in house prices between April and May, but the overall message is one of stability. Despite the ongoing political and economic uncertainty, underlying conditions in the broader economy continue to underpin the housing market, particularly the twin factors of high employment and low interest rates.

This is supported by industry-wide figures which suggest no real change in the number of homes being sold month to month, while Bank of England data show the number of mortgages being approved rose by almost 6% in April, reversing the softness seen in the previous month.

While current conditions may help those looking to make their first move onto the property ladder, existing homeowners will doubtless be considering long-term house price growth which continues to look subdued in comparison to recent years.

Looking ahead, we expect the current trend of stability based on high employment and low interest rates to persist over the coming months, though clearly any downturn in the wider economy would be keenly felt in the housing market.”

As ever, the property industry was quick to react. Here's what they're saying:

Marc von Grundherr, Director of Benham and Reeves, commented: “I think this week, in particular, we’ve been reminded that Brexit isn’t the be all and end all and this is a mentality that’s been returning to the UK housing market over the last few months.

All in all, we’re in a very good spot right now. High employment and steady wage growth are bringing an overarching air of stability to the market, subdued house price growth and low-interest rates are giving first-time buyers an additional leg up, but we’ve also seen the largest rate of annual house price growth in the last year which is positive for existing homeowners.

On the face of it, the clouds of political uncertainty seem to be lifting from the UK property market, although it remains unclear as to whether this is a brief respite or this positive movement will remain.

Shepherd Ncube, Founder and CEO of Springbok Properties, commented: “We’re starting to see the strong uplift in mortgage approvals seen throughout the start of this year translate into some pretty consistent house price growth and while the market isn’t moving at full speed, it is certainly building up a head of steam.

This positive growth continues to be driven by the nation’s more affordable regions but it’s only a matter of time before the likes of London and the South East follow suit.

While the rate of house price growth hasn’t quite returned to full form, some might argue that these are ideal conditions for the cultivation of the UK property market and a slow but steady rate of growth is far healthier than the exuberant increases of previous years, or of course, the sharp declines.”

Tomer Aboody, director of property lender MT Finance, says: "With an annual rise in values based on the same period last year, along with a steady increase in transactions, the housing market is continuing to show signs both of recovery and confidence. Buyers have come to the conclusion that enough is enough, and the uncertain conditions which have been facing them could carry on for a while still, so that shouldn't hold them back from getting on the ladder or moving up or down it.

Fewer homes are on the market since sellers feel that they either don't have to sell when values are still down on 2016 or with the stamp duty levels being so high they can't afford the step up so are staying put for now. We don’t see this changing anytime soon."

Jun 19

The latest research by independent London estate and letting agent, Benham and Reeves, takes a look at where across the UK and London offers the best buy-to-let investments when it comes to rental return and the speed at which annual rent will repay the original average house price.

The estate agent looked at average house price plus the cost of buy-to-let stamp duty and annual rent and ranked each area on the number of years it would take for this annual rent to recoup the cost of buying in each area and paying stamp duty.

Across the UK, Scotland offers the quickest return on investment with the annual rent returning the original asking price in 17.7 years. Northern Ireland was the second quickest at 18.9 years, followed by England (25 years) and finally Wales at 26.4 years.

In the capital, Tower Hamlets is the best buy-to-let investment for the fastest return, with annual rental income taking 21.4 years to return the average house price and stamp duty costs of £452,821.

Barking and Dagenham (22 years), Newham (23 years), Greenwich (23.5 years) and Enfield (25.7 years were also amongst some of the best options in the capital.

With Scotland and Northern Ireland home to the quickest return on a top level, it’s no surprise that they account for the top three quickest areas in the UK, with Glasgow the quickest of them all at 13.3 years followed by Belfast at 15.8 years and Aberdeen at 17.8 years.

Nottingham was the quickest area in England to see rental income recoup the cost of buying a property at 18.4 years, followed by Newcastle at 18.5 years.

Marc von Grundherr, Director of Benham and Reeves, commented: “Buy-to-let investment is a complicated business, even more so given the changes to the sector of late, however, the primary indicator of a good investment is always going to be the rental yield available.

While a buy-to-let investment includes all sorts of additional concerns such as contingency budgets, capital growth and so on, we wanted to highlight on a more digestible level where offers a good investment option when it comes to recouping the cost of that investment via your rental income.

What this research demonstrates is that while buy-to-let remains a lucrative business despite the Government’s attempts, it should be viewed as a long-term one and not a method for making a quick buck. For those serious about the sector whether it be as a professional or amateur landlord, it’s important to understand the commitment before diving in if you wish to see a profit.”

Jun 19

Homebuilder, David Wilson Homes North West, is encouraging people to make their garden a haven for our fuzzy friends, by planting flowers to attract them and making small changes to their garden to give bees somewhere to shelter.

There are over 250 bee species in the UK, and most face threats such as loss of habitat, climate change and disease. They are vital to the food chain, with one in every three mouthfuls of food consumed by humans dependent on pollination, including apples, pears, onions, potatoes, cherries, chilies, carrots, margarine and herbs.

Lynton Dudgeon, Sales Director at David Wilson Homes North West, said: “We want to raise awareness of the threat faced by bees and by all doing our bit to plant nectar rich plants to benefit them we can help combat some of the issues faced by bees.”

The homebuilder's top bee-friendly tips are:

1: Sow the seeds for bees

Certain types of plants are more attractive for bees than others. Bee-friendly plants produce high levels of nectar and pollen, and include poppies, lavender, heathers, geraniums, foxgloves and fruit trees. David Wilson Homes North West plants a range of nectar and pollen rich plants at its developments across the county to help boost the population of bees around its new homes.

2: Water is the bees knees

Like all creatures, bees need to drink too. Adding a pond, water feature or bird bath to your garden will give them a hydrating boost in the warm summer months, as well as benefitting other wildlife in your garden too.

3: Build a bee B&B

Many of the UK's bee species are solitary which mean they do not create a bee-hive and opt to nest either in the ground or in small holes found in wood. Provide nesting sites for solitary bees in a specially made bee hotel. These can be purchased ready-made or constructed from bamboo cane make a collection of small wooden tunnels for bees to nest in. All you need to do is put your shelter in a warm sheltered spot, close to nectar rich flowers.

4: Keep an eye out for tired bees

Bees can struggle in both hot and cold weather, and if you see a bee on the ground finding it difficult to fly it could be suffering from exhaustion. When out and about in your garden this summer look out for tired bees which may need reviving.

Never give a bee honey to revive it, as they can catch viruses if the honey is from a neighbouring hive. Instead make a solution of two tablespoons of white granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water and place near the bees head on a plate or spoon. Once it has had a drink it should regain its energy and fly back to its hive.

5: Hold off on pesticides

While it can be tempting to reach for chemicals to keep pests such as aphids at bay, these can be harmful to all species of bees. Avoid spraying open flowers with pesticides and instead combat pests by planting certain plants such as marigold or garlic to repel them.

Lynton continued: “These small steps can create a welcoming environment for bees. As bee numbers decline in the UK it is more important than ever that we take action to help the critters out wherever we can.”

Paul Stephen, Biodiversity Advisor for the RSPB, said: “We are asking everyone to help give nature a home as even a few small touches can make a big difference for wildlife. Gardens can be a fantastic space for families to relax or play and we would like to see people feel inspired to do something for nature.

Sadly, the UK's bee populations are in decline, but planting the right mix of flowers, shrubs and bushes will help reverse this. And plants rich in nectar and pollen will not just be welcoming to bees, but will look great for anyone looking to enjoy a garden full of life and colour.”

May 19

New data released by Zoopla has revealed that cautious buyers are negotiating harder on price resulting in a 3.9% widening in the difference between asking and selling prices.

According to the report from Zoopla, the gap between average asking prices to average achieved prices has increased in Q1 2019 across nearly all (16) cities, compared to 2018.

With the exclusion of Leicester, these discounts are increasing off a relatively low base and indicate that buyers are not prepared to keep pace with asking price growth. Different market dynamics in Edinburgh and Glasgow mean property sells for more than the asking price but the scale of the premium has declined in 2019Q1 compared to 2018.

Regional breakdown

The current UK average for the gap between asking price to selling price is 3.9%, up from 3.3% in 2018. Six cities registered average discounts above the current national average, with Aberdeen registering the highest discounts at over 8%. This is consistent with the decrease in demand for housing in the city due to the collapse in the oil price since 2015. Newcastle and Liverpool also registered higher gaps than the national average although the level of discounts has narrowed over the last 3 years as underlying market conditions improve.

Only two cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, registered average sale prices as higher than average asking prices. Typically, properties in Edinburgh sell for 6.3% more than their listing price, while stock in Glasgow shifts for 5.2% above asking price.

Discounts increase in London

In London, which has led the slowdown in house prices, the average differential between asking price and selling price has increased from 4.8% in 2018 to 5.7% today. Price falls have been concentrated in inner London areas where average discounts are highest at 7.6%. In some central areas, such as Kensington & Chelsea, buyers continue to achieve double digit discounts. In outer London and the commuter locations, the gap is lower, averaging 5.1%.

House price growth softens

The level of house price growth across UK cities continues to slow, following the national trend. UK Cities registered the smallest spread in annual growth since 1996 according to the latest Zoopla UK Cities House Price Index. Price growth ranged from +5.1% in Glasgow, which is the lowest growth rate of the best performing city since 2012, to -0.5% in London. Overall, house prices increased by 1.7% over the 12 months to April 2019.

The latest index results reveal a softening in the annual rate of growth across most cities, with this slowdown now extending beyond southern England. Manchester, Nottingham and Leicester are among the regional cities registering a slowdown in price growth. The deceleration in house prices is still most marked in southern England with Bristol, Portsmouth, Bournemouth and Southampton all registering price inflation at or below 2.5%.

Richard Donnell, Research and Insight Director at Zoopla, comments: “This latest index report reveals a continued moderation in the rate of UK city house price growth as the slowdown extends beyond south eastern England. It has been twelve years since the fastest growing city was recording price inflation of 5.1%.

Sellers are having to accept slightly higher discounts to the asking price in order to achieve a sale. This is a natural response to weaker market conditions and buyers are starting to negotiate harder on price. The increase between asking and selling price is off a low base. Correctly priced homes continue to sell within a reasonable period and setting the asking price at the right level remains a key decision to agree with your agent.

Market conditions remain weak in London and the level of discounting continues to increase. We expect the price adjustment in London to continue although we do expect sales volumes to start to tick upwards. The slowdown in the rate of price growth is set to extend further across the south of England while we expect continued above average house price growth in regional cities where employment levels continues to grow, and affordability is attractive.”

May 19

Room share platform, ideal flatmate, has looked at the eye-watering cost of attending this year’s Champions League final and how long this money could keep a roof over your head in each teams’ respective rental markets.

It was recently reported that some tickets for the final are going for as much as £40,000 online, while hotel and flight costs have soared, as both sets of fans scramble to make the all England affair.

Ideal flatmate researched the cost of attending and found that a category 2 ticket was going for £24,304, while the cheapest flights were £613 for a return from Liverpool between the Friday and the Sunday, and £786 for the same trip from London.

Just two nights in a Madrid hotel would also set you back £996 meaning the total cost of the trip (before factoring in spending money), is a ridiculous £25,913 if you’re a Liverpool fan and £26,086 if you’re a Spurs fan.

With the average annual rent in Liverpool costing £5,988, you could secure a rental property in the city and pay your rent for 4.3 years for the cost of a weekend at the Champions League final!

Of course, Haringey home of Tottenham will set you back a bit more, but even with the annual rent costing an average of £18,240, you could still rent for 1.4 years in the London borough for the price of the weekend trip to Madrid.

Don’t fancy London or Liverpool? The annual cost of renting in Madrid is £9,348 and so you could live in the city for nearly three years (2.8), rather than seeing the sites for just three days. Even if you were to swap your ticket for a category 3, the cheapest on offer, you would still have to buy a pair, and this would still equate to a cost of over £9,000 once you’ve included the cheapest flights and hotel on offer.

This amount of money, although considerably less than the category 1 ticket trip, is still enough to rent in Liverpool for 1.6 years, Haringey for half a year and Madrid for a whole year.

Co-founder of ideal flatmate, Tom Gatzen, commented:

“If there’s one thing that could make the cost of renting in the UK look like a comparable bargain, it’s the cost involved in this year’s Champions League final.

"Much like the rental market itself, those with the required amenities are taking advantage in a huge surge in demand to cash in, while those everyday fans who deserve to be there are forced to pay up or shut up.

"There’s no doubting that it will be a once in a lifetime experience, but for me personally, a year or three in sunny Madrid once the dust has settled sounds like much better value for money.”

May 19

According to the latest research from regulated property buyer, Good Move, people would rather buy a house where a murder has taken place than one that has signs of damp or cracks in the walls.

The firm's analysis revealed that nearly three in five (58%) would be put off if there had previously been a murder at a property, and more than two in five (44%) would reject a house if there had been reports of paranormal activity. However, Brits are far more concerned by more trivial faults, with a shared garden (73%), signs of damp (75%) or cracks (73%) and having a short leasehold remaining (76%) all featuring higher on the list of unwanted features.

The biggest red flag for those looking to buy is noisy neighbours, with a huge 85% of people saying this would put them off purchasing a property.

The top 10 things that would put house buyers off are:

1. Noisy neighbours (85%)
2. Short leasehold remaining (76%)
3. Signs of damp (75%)
4. A shared garden (73%)
= Signs of cracks on the walls (73%)
6. Front Door opening onto a main road (70%)
7. No parking (69%)
8. No garden (66%)
9. Smelly (63%)
10. Busy or high-speed roads nearby (62%)

Although over 40% of UK housebuyers say they would not be put off by the fact that a murder had taken place onsite, the survey also found that, if this were the case, they would expect the property to be reduced by almost a third (32%) of its market value.

Similarly, buyers would also expect a 30% reduction if there had been reports of paranormal activity.

The top five features that buyers would expect the biggest discounts for are:

1. Existing tenants (34%)
2. Murder (32%)
3. Paranormal Activity (30%)
4. Pets left behind in the property (26%)
5. Being next door to a cemetery (25%)

Ross Counsell, director at Good Move, said: “Although everyone has a different idea of the perfect home, it’s clear from our survey that certain things will put off most people. On the bright side, some of these put-offs are easy to address, so if you are looking to sell your house, make sure you sort out small things like cracks and damp.

These little actions can make a huge difference and help you to make your house more attractive to buyers.”

May 19

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May 19

Rightmove found that the price of newly-marketed property increased by an average of 0.9% (+£2,841) during May, buoyed by the spring market and remains consistent with the previous two-year average of 1.0%

What is surprising against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty is that four out of eleven regions are showing few signs of any Brexit blues and have set new record highs for average asking prices.

Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst comments: “Price increases are the norm at this time of year, with only one fall in the last ten years, as new-to-the-market sellers’ price aspirations are under-pinned by the higher buyer demand that is a feature of the spring market. Indeed the 0.9% monthly rise is consistent with the previous two years’ average rise of 1.0% over the same period. What will seem inconsistent to some, given the ongoing uncertainty of the Brexit outcome, is that four out of eleven regions have hit record highs for new seller asking prices.”

Prospective buyers in Wales, the West and East Midlands, and the North West are being confronted with average prices of property coming to market at all-time highs. While the national rate of increase is virtually flat at +0.1% compared to a year ago, these regions have considerably higher prices than at this time last year, with Wales breaking through the £200,000 barrier for the first time. By contrast, London and its commuter belt (the South East and East of England regions) have seen year-on-year falls.

Shipside adds: “Buyers looking in Wales are faced with newly-marketed property prices that are 4.1% higher than 12 months ago, with the West Midlands at 3.0%, the East Midlands at 2.5%, and the North West at 2.1%. These increases are the result of a combination of strong demand, buyers’ affordability headroom, and a continuing shortage of suitable properties. Agents in these areas say that Brexit concerns are not really on the agenda of home-movers; they are more concerned with satisfying their housing needs.”

Compared to the rest of the UK, property owners in the regions which have reached new record prices seem to be overcoming hesitancy to come to market. Their average number of new sellers so far in 2019 is holding steady compared with last year, at just 0.3% down. In contrast the remaining seven regions are seeing new listing numbers for the year to date down by an average of 6.5% compared with the same period in 2018.

Shipside concludes:”Activity breeds activity and a greater choice of fresh properties in these record-setting regions helps to spur buyers into action, especially if they have a property to sell. This in turn adds another new listing that might then tempt another buyer, in a virtuous circle. And in much of the rest of the country, despite the ongoing political uncertainty, agents are reporting that the lure of the right property at the right price still attracts good interest. In spite of some of the challenges in the market, interest in property remains very high.

People’s ongoing desire to satisfy their pent-up housing needs means that on average someone contacts an agent on Rightmove every second.”

As ever, the property industry was quick to react. Here's what they're saying:

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, says: "Asking prices are not selling prices, which explains why some of these figures do not match results from other recent housing surveys. Overall, although there has been little change, that masks some considerable regional differences. For instance, London is acting as a drag on the rest of the UK housing market and prices don’t include inflation so have risen or fallen further in real terms.

The spring bounce is taking place but not reaching to the heights we would have expected and certainly not in the capital.

Looking forward, we are not expecting significant changes one way or the other, at least until Brexit is clarified."

Shepherd Ncube, Founder and CEO of Springbok Properties, commented: “Positive signs for the UK property market and it would seem that the previous tide of low buyer demand levels spurred by Brexit uncertainty is starting to turn.

An uplift in buyer sentiment was always likely to materialise as we enter the busiest selling period of the year and this growing demand is pushing asking prices up, driven by the more affordable front runners such as Wales and the Midlands.

It is likely that this positive movement in asking price trends should filter down to the rest of the market as the year goes on, but sellers should remain aware that these are still tough market conditions, and pricing based on current market data is essential when looking to secure a smooth sale.”

Marc von Grundherr, Director of Benham and Reeves, commented: "While we tend to view London as a separate market to much of the UK already, the current landscape in the capital is clearly fragmented and there are three or four more granular levels at play.

What we are currently seeing across the London property market is a 'three-speed' dynamic with outer, more affordable areas doing one thing, the prime market another and the ‘regular’ market doing something different again.

The top end of the market may take solace from a recent bump in the value of their homes, adding on average £74,700 to their notional bank balance, however, it is important to note that there is still a decent sized gap between asking prices and selling prices.

That said, the signs are, here at the coal-face, that at last we are seeing increased activity from potential buyers with applicant registrations up quite significantly year on year and as a result, we are now seeing the bottom of the London market."