Apr 19

Whether you want to replace a single broken roof tile or build an extension, the correct specification of materials is vital to any work on listed and conservation area buildings. But you’re not on your own: there are set procedures to follow and experts who can guide you through them and help you assess everything you can – and can’t – do.

Can I extend a listed building?
It is possible to extend a listed building, but you need to apply for a special form of permission called Listed Building Consent. Permitted Development rights do not apply to listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas, so you will also need to apply for Householder Planning Consent.

“Because there are no Permitted Development rights, standard loft conversions with box dormers are completely out of the question,” Kevin Clarke says. Any extension must enhance the existing building and not detract from the heritage value and historic elements associated with the house.

Kevin explains that any extension should be subservient to the original house. “This usually, but not exclusively, means it should be small and to the rear of the property,” he says. “The local planning authority and Historic England [or your local equivalent] will also expect materials and fenestration [windows] to match the existing house.”

If a proposed extension affects any trees on your property, be aware that trees in conservation areas are likely to be subject to Tree Preservation Orders. If you want to carry out work on trees that are not yet the subject of a Tree Preservation Order, you must give the local authority something called Notification of Proposed Works to Trees in Conservation Areas.

Does an extension have to be in the same style as the original building?
A modern extension may be considered acceptable, but there are strict caveats, Kevin says. “The design must be of an exceptionally high standard. You will need to prove to the authorities that it’s an improvement on a more traditional alternative.”

Conservation officers can vary in their opinion about how best to extend listed buildings, as Denis Hayes explains: “Some look for something in keeping with what’s already there. Others believe a modern extension that contrasts with the original building and doesn’t seek to replicate it is more sympathetic. It’s subjective and you should seek advice about what might be most successful in your local area.”

What about repairing or replacing windows?
“Original windows tend to be single glazed with a distorted or unperfected look,” Lior Brosh says. “Therefore, the council will assess the impact of any replacement or repair. It’s very likely they’ll ask for the replacement to be like for like.” This means the colour, material and profiles should be identical to the original windows.

“You need to be careful,” Denis says. “You can get modern replicas that mimic single-glazed sashes, but the frames are almost always too chunky and are often refused by conservation officers.

“In that instance,” he continues, “it’s always seen as better to repair than replace. You may be able to upgrade the existing glazing to improve the performance, but keep the same frame. Whatever you choose will need to be approved by your local conservation officer.”

Are there other glazing options?
“The most common method to enhance acoustics and thermal buffering [insulation] in a listed building is to add secondary glazing behind the original windows,” Kevin says. This solution increases performance without changing the exterior appearance.

“But there are many high-quality heritage-style double-glazed options that are considered acceptable,” he says. “Quite often, Heritage England [or your local equivalent] and heritage officers in local planning authorities acknowledge that the existing fabric of the building is no longer fit for purpose. In this case, they will often approve an upgraded window or fenestration grouping on the assumption the aesthetics are on a like-for-like basis.”

Why is damp a particular issue in listed buildings?
“Many period properties suffer from damp simply because of their age and the constant movement of the building,” Lior says. “Newer listed buildings might have a damp-proof membrane or damp course that over time has broken in one or more places.”

Once there’s a break, he says, the brick becomes a sponge and absorbs water. “If there’s no proper ventilation, bacteria can start growing into mould and rot, which can also affect human health,” he says. It’s very common and treatable, but must be tackled as soon as possible.

A lot of Britain’s historic housing stock, however, was built before modern plastics and damp courses were introduced into the construction industry and, as a result, can suffer from moisture penetrating through and rising up from the foundations.

“All old buildings were built to be breathable, with plenty of passive ventilation,” Denis explains. “They are what’s known as ‘hygroscopic’ in nature, meaning that any moisture is absorbed by the walls and released slowly over time.”

Therefore, be wary of introducing modern materials, such as insulation and vapour barriers, into older buildings, he says. “They can prevent air flow and ventilation, altering the performance of the building and causing major damage, including damp and decay.”

Kevin adds, “Many listed buildings have basements or cellars that have not been tanked or water-proofed internally, which subsequently causes damp. Trying to resolve damp issues like this on listed buildings can be costly and time-consuming.”

The correct specification of materials is vital, Denis says. “Engage with an architect as early as possible to discuss what is the most appropriate approach when upgrading a listed building element.”

What do I need to bear in mind if I want to repair or replace roofs, chimneys, guttering or drainpipes?
“If the roof is made from a particular natural slate or the guttering from cast steel, you’d need to source the exact same product,” Denis says. “This can be expensive, both in material costs and the specialist labour required.”

It’s important that no material changes are made to the exterior of a listed building that alter it from its original state, he says.

“In a conservation area, a chimney needs to remain untouched, because it forms part of the streetscape,” Denis continues. “Chimneys are also often integral to the whole structure of the building. Many older properties have shallow foundations and the whole thing settles into the ground over time. As a result, removing the chimney could impact the structural integrity of a historic building. It’s always best to consult a structural engineer prior to carrying out any works involving a chimney.”

How do I insulate a listed building for energy efficiency?
“It’s often incredibly difficult to do this,” Kevin says. “While windows can be upgraded on a like-for-like basis, walls, floors and roofs are trickier.

“Older listed buildings are unlikely to have a cavity to allow insulation to be pumped into the walls,” he says. “External insulation is ruled out because it would alter the aesthetics of the building. Dry-lining the walls internally is likely to be impossible, as it would require skirting boards, architraves and cornicing to be removed to achieve full coverage of the wall.”

Alternatively, look at improving insulation elsewhere, Denis suggests. “You can, for instance, upgrade loft insulation to reduce heat loss without any impact on original features.”

What about draught-proofing?
“Draught-proofing is one of the most cost-effective and least intrusive ways of improving the comfort of occupants and reducing the energy used for heating,” Denis says, “and there’s little or no change to a building’s appearance. It also has the added benefit of reducing noise and keeping out dust.

“You can draught-proof the windows throughout,” he says. “Research has shown that this can reduce air leakage by at least 33%, significantly reducing the heating requirement needed for a room.”

Can I do anything about draughty floors?
“If you need to insulate a wood floor because of draughts, the local planning authority will require you to carefully number and set aside the floorboards,” Lior says. “You’ll need to install the insulation without any damage to the floor joists and then carefully put the boards back in their original location.”

“Obtain professional advice on this beforehand,” Kevin advises. “This will ensure the process won’t adversely affect the thermal balance and breathability of the house or create condensation issues.”

“Whatever you have in mind for your listed building,” Lior concludes, “make sure you have all the drawings and information describing the work you want to carry out, so the local planning authority can assess and guide you through what can and what can’t be done.”

Apr 19

On Monday 12th November, BBCs latest Panorama investigation focused on the impact of the controversial Universal Credit, and most crucially the housing element.

The programme revealed the extent of the rent arrears problem as a result of changes to the benefits system. Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, together with Mick Roberts, one of the UK’s largest Housing Benefit landlords, join other industry experts in calling on the government to act now and scrap direct payments to tenants of the housing element of Universal Credit, before the situation worsens.

Under the old system, housing allowance was paid direct to councils or private landlords. Now, in order to mirror the world of work and encourage people to be more independent, Universal Credit (UC) payments are made direct to claimants. However, when combined with the cuts in benefits, tenants are under increasing financial pressure, evidenced by the 55% rise in evictions of council tenants compared to the same time last year. Panorama revealed the average rent arrears for UC claimants across the UK stands at £663 versus £263 on the old system, nearly two and half times more.

According to Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, the changes are exacerbating the housing shortage by forcing private landlords to move away from letting to tenants in receipt of Universal Credit. In the last year, 61% of private landlords with tenants on UC have seen them go into arrears.

Paul says: “It’s a deal breaker for landlords and yet the councils don’t have enough houses to house homeless people. We saw on Panorama that, in the last year, Flintshire Council alone has seen an 85% reduction in the number of private landlords on their books willing to rent to UC tenants. When you roll that out across the rest of the country you can see why we have such a desperate housing shortage. The system used to benefit tenants, by providing more accommodation, as well as landlords, who were guaranteed timely rent with no void periods. Now it benefits no-one. The most vulnerable tenants are being left behind, forced to use an online system which many can’t access, and landlords are having to start eviction proceedings as a last resort.”

Mick Roberts, 40, has been a private landlord for more than 20 years. He has always let his properties to Housing Benefit tenants but is now having to consider only letting to private tenants.

He comments: “I have loved letting to housing benefit tenants over the years and formed great relationships with many of my tenants, but I’m sad to say I can no longer do it as a direct result of Universal Credit. As an example, I have four tenants in Nottingham in receipt of housing benefit who have rented from me for over 16 years. They have NEVER had arrears. They have all been moved to Universal Credit, and now they are all in arrears! That’s 100% failure rate. I believe sorting the housing element would solve a large proportion of problems.”

Panorama’s investigation appeared to echo what many industry experts has been saying for some time - the majority of tenants do not want direct payments because they openly admit they struggle to budget.

Alok Sharma MP, Minister of State for Employment, argued that UC is working well, that there have been lessons learnt in the process but that “we have is a simpler system which people understand and ultimately makes sure they get into work fast, stay in work longer and earn more.”

Mick Roberts vehemently disagrees with this: “UC has to be applied for online. I have a tenant who doesn’t even know how to go online or have access. They are not coming out to see the people at ground level. If they spoke to the tenants that are affected by this, as I have, they would realise.”

Paul Shamplina adds: “I’ve raised my concerns over the increasing complexity of the scheme which, in many cases, means even staff assessing Universal Credit claims are making mistakes on an all too regular basis to the detriment of tenants and landlords. Over the next few years, thousands more families will move across to UC as the Full Service rollout expands, bringing with it even more complicated cases and further challenges for DWP staff.

Unless changes are made now, housing stock will decrease further, and homelessness will increase. At present, direct payments to landlords are only considered in certain crisis situations. This needs to change and tenants and landlords need the option to have the housing element paid direct to the landlord.”

Full story below


Apr 19

The Equity Release Council have released their Spring 2019 Market Report revealing a soaring popularity of the product across all regions of the UK.

According to today's report, over the course of 2018, homeowners over-55 years of age accessed 50p of housing wealth for every £1 of savings withdrawn through flexible pension payments, highlighting the increasing role of property wealth as a supplementary source of later life funds.

As product options continue to expand – with H2 2018 seeing the first regular-income paying products launch to consumers – the lifetime mortgage market saw the biggest annual increase in new loans compared to other mortgage market segments for a third successive year. Buoyed by continued growth across all UK regions, lifetime mortgages are now estimated to account for around a third of all mortgages taken out by homeowners from their mid-50s onwards, compared to less than a fifth ten years ago.

Between July and December 2018, 43,879 over-55 homeowners accessed money from the value of their homes, including 24,907 new plans agreed.

However, while total annual lending activity grew for a seventh consecutive year to reach £3.94bn in 2018, the average amounts of property wealth withdrawn remained broadly stable – indicating that growth is a result of broader uptake rather than increasing loan sizes.

The Council’s analysis suggests consumer demand for equity release is rising across the UK, with double-digit growth in the uptake of lifetime mortgages visible across every region. Over the last five years, London and southern regions – East of England (158%), the South East (143%) and South West (99%) – have experienced some of the strongest growth in consumer demand.

More recently, the Midlands and Northern Ireland have come to the fore, with the East Midlands (26%), West Midlands (20%) and Northern Ireland (21%) seeing some of the greatest increase in demand for lifetime mortgages between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

At the start of 2019, the range of product options that meet Equity Release Council standards – backed by product safeguards and independent legal advice alongside regulated financial advice – had doubled to 221 in the space of a year. Over half (52%) of product options offer downsizing protection, up from 42% a year earlier. The range of options allowing customers to make regular interest payments - helping to reduce the overall cost of unlocking housing wealth - also increased to 45 in January 2019.

These features and flexibilities have had broad appeal across the market with one in four (25%) new plans taken out during the second half of 2018 allowing customers to make interest payments, 27% featuring downsizing repayment options and 87% allowing customers to make voluntary partial repayments with no early repayment charge.

The second half of 2018 also saw the introduction of regular income lifetime mortgages, providing monthly payments to customers’ bank accounts in the style of pension products to help meet ongoing costs and supplement other sources of income.

New and returning customer trends

The report also shows prudent measures are in place by lenders to keep consumers’ withdrawals of housing wealth in proportion to their age and potential longevity – offering an average maximum loan to value (LTV) of 18.5% for those aged 55 compared to 31.5% aged 70 and 47.1% at 90.6

Jointly held plans continued to make up the majority of new plans in H2 2018. Across single plans, women accounted for a greater share of market activity than men, with more than double the number of single plans taken out by women than men in H2 2018.

Returning drawdown activity increased by 29% year-on-year, broadly in line with the increase in new drawdown products agreed over the last two years. This suggests that growth in drawdown activity was due to more individuals holding these products, rather than individuals taking more frequent drawdowns.

The number of existing customers seeking further advances (extensions of their plans) was also lower in H2 2018 than a year earlier.

David Burrowes, Chairman of the Equity Release Council comments: “2018 saw equity release enter the mainstream of financial services as an increasingly popular way to meet important and diverse social needs in later life. Flexible options to access housing wealth are helping the nation’s growing population of older homeowners to fund lifestyle purchases, satisfy daily needs, support long-term financial planning or assist their families.

As the demand for equity release grows, so does the need for quality advice. It is vital that consumers have access to professional support that considers short and long-term needs, the broader retirement picture and the role of family in decision-making. Products recognised by the Council remain the only route which guarantees product safeguards, regulated and qualified financial advice and independent legal counsel to help identify whether they fit a customer’s later life needs.

Equity release is not a ‘silver bullet’ for every retirement need, but a growing number of homeowners are finding it can be a solution to meet a range of financial goals.”

Will Hale, CEO at Key, comments: “Today’s report shows an industry that is thriving as it steps up to meet increasing demand by providing innovative new products with features to meet the needs of an ever more diverse range of customers. That 50p is released for every £1 taken out in flexible pension payments clearly highlights the important role that housing equity is already playing in retirement finances.

Older homeowners have considerable property wealth tied up in their houses which is enabling them to transform their own standard of living in retirement as well as to support other family members. Over a quarter (27%) use some or all of the money they release to help family and friends. This growth in gifting underlines how the market has changed with customers increasingly able to use housing equity address a wide range of needs and wants in later life.

Equity release is not right for everyone but if housing equity is a retiree’s largest asset it is vital that they at least consider the role it might play. Key to this is independent specialist advice which will help to ensure that they receive the most benefit from their property wealth and use it in the most appropriate way, whether they are helping families, improving their own homes or clearing debts.”

Full story -

Apr 19

The latest data and analysis from ARLA Propertymark has revealed that the number of tenants experiencing rent increases rose to the highest figure since August - compounded by an increasing number of landlords exiting the market.

ARLA found that 34% of agents witnessed landlords raising their rents during February compared to 26% in January - this is the highest figure recorded since August, when 40% of tenants had their rents increased, the highest on record.

Year-on-year, this figure is up 14%, from 20% in February 2018. In line with this, the number of tenants successfully negotiating rent reductions fell to 2.3%, from 2.5% in January.

In February, the number of landlords exiting the market rose to four per branch, after falling to three in January. This is up from three last February.

Demand from prospective tenants fell in February, with the number of house-hunters registered per branch falling to 65 on average, compared to 73 in January. The number of properties managed per branch remained at 197 in February, with no new properties coming onto the market.

David Cox, ARLA Propertymark Chief Executive, said: “According to data from the Office for National Statistics, private rent costs rose by one per cent in the year to February, and our data shows that the number of tenants successfully negotiating rent reductions fell. We warned this would happen, as landlords continue exiting the market and increasing legislation deters new ones from entering. The Chancellor’s Spring Statement included a number of initiatives aimed at growing housing stock for buyers, but it didn’t offer any solutions to increase the supply of properties in the private rented sector.

Unless the Government commits to making the prospect of investing in the PRS more attractive, and introduces measures to increase supply, tenants will only continue to feel the burn.”

Full story -

Apr 19

Fantastic visit today from Clive Emson Auctioneers and amazing to receive a basket full of goodies as a thank you for providing the highest number of sold referrals in Q1!💚🎁

Do you want to know more about auction? Contact us today! 📞


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Mar 19

We are always looking at ways of improving our service and support to clients and following the transition to digital tenancies, we looked at faster and easier ways to reference the tenants which helps to cut down on fall through's. We chose Van Mildert who are market leaders in this field and one of the other reasons was for their "Rent On Time" product. This is an amazing product that effectively ensures that you receive your rent on time, irrelevant of whether the tenant has paid, provides full legal cover for possession of your property and wait for it, also has contents cover built in.

We love this new product so much and it has already been welcomed by everyone we have spoken to. So, if you are concerned about your investment and want complete peace of mind then contact me today and I will be more than happy to discuss your options!

Mar 19

❤️❤️❤️ We are SO excited about this gorgeous family home 👪 that has come to the market as not only has it been remodelled to offer more than enough space for any family but also, it is located in what is believed to be one of the best and most sought after cul-de-sacs in Park Farm.🏠
This amazing family home is positioned in a private driveway with only one other home and has a superb front garden with gorgeous oak tree 🌳 and plenty of area for the children to play as well as parking. The current owners have carried out extensive works in the property which include a garage conversion, newly fitted contemporary kitchen, new heating system, low maintenance astro lawn at the rear and full redecoration.

Do not miss this, contact us today!!! ☎️ 📲

Mar 19

Located on one of the most sought after developments in Ashford is this stunning 2 bedroom semi-detached home. The property has a modern open living space with a good size garden, parking and handy utility room. Call or email us today!

Mar 19

❤️ This 2 bedroom home 🏠 has been fully redecorated throughout and has brand new carpets and landscaped rear garden. There is an en-suite, cloakroom and double aspect lounge. 🔑 Want to know more? Contact us today! 📲

Mar 19


It's always nice ending the week on a high with lots of positive feedback. Here is our most recent:
“Excellent service once again thanks to all the team!”

"Everyone has been very helpful and friendly. Sally dealt with our move and she was very patient with us when we had questions and had to move the date of the move on by 1 week. After the move-in-date we had an issue with a plug in the kitchen. I emailed the maintenance team and within one day they had an electrical in touch which was a fantastic service"

"really friendly and efficient"


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