14
Oct 19

At one point or another, we've all been victim to unwanted noise in our homes whether it's from traffic, animals or neighbours.

In fact, one of the most searched for topics across the Landlord Library is noise pollution and how to deal with it and with this in mind, lettings platform, Howsy, has revealed what noises cause the biggest impact and how to protect against them.

Neighbours playing loud music or socialising late at night is the number one most hated cause of noise pollution amongst UK tenants, closely followed by road traffic, noise from animals such as dogs, cats or foxes and neighbours arguing – according to a survey of 1,000 UK tenants.

What can you do about it?

You don’t have to suffer in silence and there are plenty of cost-effective tips that both you and your landlord can carry out to ensure maximum peace and quite within your home.

Perhaps obviously, start structurally. Use filler to address any holes or cracks in your walls with a particular focus around things like window frames or other breaks in the wall such as sockets.

It may look nice, but wooden flooring can be one of the main issues when it comes to noise pollution, particularly if you rent out a flat with neighbours below. While a new floor might not be necessary, sorting out any creaky floorboards can make more of a difference than you might think when it comes to cutting out noise pollution.

Now check out your doors. All too often, cheap doors aren’t soundproof and can be replaced by something a bit more substantial where materials are concerned. Once you’ve fixed your new door in place, one handy tip is to bolster your soundproofing with weathering strips which will also make your home more energy-efficient.

Now your doors are sorted, what about your windows? Not the most cost-effective method but replacing old or damaged windows with double or triple paned PVC can work wonders for noise pollution – even a good quality wooden frame will reduce noise dramatically.

From fibreglass to insulation foam or ceiling panels and everything in between, insulating your home doesn’t just help keep you warm in the winter, it cuts out a lot of noise.

It’s within your best interests as a landlord to make sure your property is not only fit for purpose but is appealing as possible for tenants while also doing your bit for the planet and your pocket.

However, there are additional things you can recommend to your tenants that can also make a difference and these range from simple touches such as heavy-duty curtains to help down out the outsides world or a similarly robust rug to cover wood flooring and protect from the noises below.

Rearranging the furniture is also a smart way of minimising noise pollution and putting larger items such as a big book case or cabinet against the sharing wall will help add another layer. Another smart trick is to always position your tv on or by a shared wall as this will at least drown out any noisy neighbours while it’s on. Even a large picture or mirror will play its part and so considering layout is a small but smart step to help reduce noise pollution.

Calum Brannan, Founder and CEO of Howsy, has this advice: “When it comes to the tenant-landlord relationship, it’s often the small things that can go a long way and helping to soundproof your property, even with the smallest of touches, can really improve your tenant’s quality of life.

Of course, there is always work that can be done to improve a property, but you certainly don’t have to break the bank and there is a whole host of innovative tips that you can suggest and that will cost nothing to do.

Not only will you have a happier tenant for doing so, but you’ll have increased your property’s rental appeal which will make it more attractive if or when does return to the market.”

9
Oct 19

Newly released data from estate agency, Springbok Properties, has found that first-time buyers in and around London have seen some of the biggest jumps in average house prices since the Help to Buy schemes were introduced.

Help to Buy is characterised by three schemes.

The Help to Buy Equity Loan was launched in 2013 and has buyers contribute a 5% deposit towards a new build, with the government providing a 20% equity loan on the property, or 40% within London, which is interest-free for the first five years.

This is available on new builds under £600,000 in England and £300,000 in Wales. The scheme is running until 2023, though after 2021 it will only be available for first-time buyers and there will be caps on the value of homes people can buy.

This is the most well-known of the Help to Buy schemes.

The second scheme is the Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee, which also launched in 2013. This had the government act as guarantors against loans, while it wasn’t restricted to new build. It was discontinued at the end of 2016.

The Help to Buy ISA was launched in 2015, which saw savers pay money into an ISA and then get a cash bonus form the government. The scheme closed for new entrants in November 2019, while the bonus must be claimed by 2030.

Springbok Properties looked at the average cost of a first-time buyer property across the UK and where has seen the largest uplift in price growth since Help to Buy was introduced. While Help to Buy has given many a leg up when it comes to climbing the property ladder, the influx of additional demand has also, perhaps ironically, pushed the cost of Help to Buy homes up considerably.

Across Great Britain, the average cost of a first-time buyer property has increased by 32.8% since 2013, almost on par with the regular market. The typical price first-time buyers paid for a property in Barking and Dagenham was £281,396 in 2019, an alarming 70.8% increase from 2013.

This isn’t the only East London region to see huge increases the average first-time buyer price, as they rose by 60.7% in Newham to £349,874 and 60.1% in Havering to £307,874.

Other areas to see a strong uplift are Waltham Forest in North East London, rising by 68.7% to £408,233; Thurrock in Essex, increasing by 59.2% to £237,635; and Stevenage in Hertfordshire, rising by 58.7% to £250,086.

Scotland and the North East more subdued

The City of Aberdeen, which has been hit hard by falling oil prices in the past few years, is the only area of the UK where first-time buyers are paying less than in 2013. The price they paid has fallen by -10.9% to £126,794 in 2019.

Some other areas of Scotland have only seen modest rises, as Inverclyde prices have risen by just 6.55% to £83,995, while South Ayrshire prices have seen a 6.9% uplift to £102,992.

In England, the worst climber is County Durham in the North East, where prices rose by 3.5% to £88,790. This is followed by Redcar and Cleveland, where prices climbed by 4.5% to £105,156; while behind that is Middlesbrough with an increase of 5.0% to £110,304.

It seems Help to Buy hasn’t been enough to kick-start some of these markets into action.

Shepherd Ncube, Founder and CEO of Springbok Properties, commented: “Help to Buy was introduced by the previous government with good intentions – to assist would-be home-buyers in their first step onto the property ladder.

However, it seems that whilst around 200,000 buyers have indeed been supported, the unintended consequence in most areas has seen an above average hike in prices driven by the demand that Help to Buy has created.

First rung homes are supposed to be more affordable, but we’ve seen the average price paid by a first-time buyer accelerate to similar levels as the wider market. Not only has this made it more difficult for today’s aspirational homeowner, but perhaps some tax-payers might question the wisdom of using their money to fuel house prices even further?”

7
Oct 19

Halifax has unveiled ‘Home by Halifax’, a new space on Cannon Street in London, dedicated to helping people buy a home.

The new is thought to be the first its kind in the UK and will bring together experts in home buying, interactive experiences and special events.

Aimed at everyone, from those just starting to think about saving to buy a property to those thinking about home insurance and other homeowner essentials. Extended opening hours will ensure expert staff are on hand to help walk people through the process and provide the best support possible at a time that’s convenient to London’s busy workers.

Located in the heart of London at 100 Cannon Street, Home by Halifax’ visitors will be greeted by a 55” interactive screen which breaks down the process of buying a home into helpful stages.

Free events open to everyone will also be a regular feature, focusing on a range of topics, including home buying and events with industry experts, and charity partners.

Yoga classes will also be offered free of charge to encourage mental and physical health and combat stress.

All events and seminars will be held in the morning, at lunch and after popular working hours. A list of current events can be found here.

Russell Galley, Managing Director, Halifax says: “We’ve built a different kind of space unlike any other dedicated to home buying, as we know the challenges people can face when attempting to set foot or move up the housing ladder.

Home by Halifax is designed to make the process simple, with extended opening hours and specially trained staff on hand to help people make the most of their visit at a time that’s convenient. Our free events also recognise that buying a home can be stressful, and that’s why we think it’s important to offer something different, focussed on health and wellbeing.”

Quality food and barista crafted coffee will also be available in Change Please coffee shop – a warm, informal space to chat, meet, work and learn. Run in partnership with social enterprise and award-winning local independent supplier Change Please, it empowers members of the local homeless community by offering opportunities to be trained as baristas.

Halifax recently launched the Family Boostmortgage to help first-time buyers without a deposit, where savings from parents or other family members can be used to provide security for 10% of the loan.

Staff will be on hand to discuss Family Boost, as well as a range of other products, with visitors from the 7th October. In addition, video links to further expert staff members will help customers make the most of their time in store on the rare occasion an adviser isn’t immediately on hand to help.

Home by Halifax will be open five days a week from 07:30 to 19:00 on Monday to Thursday, closing at 16:00 on a Friday.

14
Sep 19

It’s been six years since the Help to Buy scheme was launched, with the honourable intentions of helping more people onto the housing ladder in the UK.

After some negative press in recent months and the scheme’s extension until 2023, I would like to shed some light on the nuances of the initiative. As a developer and someone whose business has benefitted from Help to Buy, I think it is important to delve into how it might be adjusted to be more helpful to its users.

Help to Buy was introduced back in 2013 and has proved very popular, especially with young people who might have thought that home ownership was out of reach without the opportunity to buy with only a 5% deposit. From my background as a property developer, I have really enjoyed seeing young people move into their first homes within some of my projects which have qualified to be sold under Help to Buy. However, I have a number of concerns about elements of the scheme, specifically whether it is really benefitting buyers or merely bolstering major housebuilders’ profits.

One issue that dominates is the restriction of Help to Buy to new-build properties only. This was put in place to stimulate a much-needed uptake in creating new homes in the UK, but the downside of incentivising developers in this manner is that premiums on new-build properties have spiralled further than they should. Developers are aware that Help to Buy is a closed market, and many properties are sold for premiums of 15-20%, a surprising statistic that may come to harm first time buyers perhaps more than it is helping them.

Buyers are paying an artificial price on day one, in comparison to buying an older property. My concern is that they won’t be protected in the event of a market correction if they have to repay their Help to Buy loan and mortgage company and fall into financial trouble. Just like in the case of new car sales where the minute the car is driven off the forecourt it has dropped in value, the same applies to any Help to Buy purchase.

Furthermore, conditions of the loan specify that subletting is prohibited so in the instance where a couple purchase their first home and subsequently decide to separate, they could be faced being unable to sell due to negative equity and unable to rent due the HTB restrictions.

The onus was on getting young people into the market, but if they then can’t afford to move when they want somewhere bigger, are we going to see the same issue with property availability in 10 years’ time?

There is also the matter of meeting the criteria of Help to Buy, which critics have claimed is an issue with the scheme, with the National Audit Office revealing in June that two thirds of purchasers could have afforded to buy without using the loan. In addition, one in 25 of those who used Help to Buy had a household income of over £100,000 per annum, which was widely criticised. From this outlook, it seems that the initiative is not succeeding at helping people who really need it. There is certainly a case for means-testing those who purchase using Help to Buy to ensure the system is fairer.

However, this would require the government to invest greater resources into the scheme, which is another fairly common complaint I hear from those I deal with in the property industry. The HTB completion monies for a property I recently sold arrived seven weeks late, and the estate agents I deal with on a regular basis say that the initiative is under-resourced and slow.

My final concern, and one that has been widely discussed in the media, is the amount of snagging issues found in many new-build homes, where buyers are not provided with adequate support after purchasing. Some major housebuilders have posted an enormous increase in annual profits on the basis of the Help to Buy scheme, and one has to ask whether developers are running away with themselves to fill their own pockets at the expense of compromising the quality of build.

To conclude, I think there are still a great deal of benefits to the Help to Buy scheme, but that it could benefit from some significant reforms. I think means-testing applicants or taking some elements of the Key Workers Scheme could help the system become more effective. I also think it should be applied to all homes within a certain value and not just new-build properties, to level out the market and ensure that developers are not applying enormous premiums to their developments. The scheme itself also needs greater investment to become more efficient in its dealings. With a little adjustment, I think Help to Buy could truly help those it was meant to.