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Archive for May, 2014

Mortgage Lenders React to Rising Property Prices

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Fears that rising property prices could result in another housing bubble have already drawn comments from politicians about the future of the Help to Buy scheme, but now lenders are starting to take action to try to tackle the growing costs of buying a home.

Lloyds Banking Group, the largest lender in the UK, which includes brands such as Scottish Widows, Bank of Scotland and Halifax, has just announced that it will be imposing tighter restrictions on its mortgages. Lloyds will now be capping its high value mortgages, in an attempt to address what it calls the “inflationary pressures” that are operating in the UK market, particularly in London. The cap will apply to anyone who is taking out a mortgage for more than £500,000. It will limit the amount that these people can borrow to a maximum of four times their income. The goal is to try to avoid problems with unaffordable mortgages and to limit growth at the higher end of the market.

The announcement from Lloyds comes in the wake of a sharp increase in mortgage lending during April. The Council of Mortgage Lenders revealed that the total of mortgage advances made in April added up to £16.6 billion. This was an 8% rise over the previous month, but it marked a 36% rise compared to the same month in 2013. Property prices have also been increasing rapidly, particularly in London and the Southeast, the areas where Lloyds’ new measures are likely to have the most effect. According to the Office for National Statistics, prices in London rose by 17% between March 2013 and March 2014.

The problem, according to Lloyds, is largely the limited supply of housing, which has allowed house prices to rise much faster than incomes, leaving borrowers struggling to afford properties worth many times more than their annual incomes. If property inflation continues at the same rate, it is predicted that the average cost of a London property will rise above £500,000 by the end of 2014, the level at which Lloyds’ cap on lending will be applied.

Although the new restriction on lending by Lloyds will mainly impact people buying higher end properties in London, it is likely that further restrictions on mortgages will be introduced by other lenders, which could affect buyers in other areas and price ranges. Politicians and lenders are being forced to react to rapidly rising property prices and mortgage lending in order to try to keep growth under control.


Unexpected Removals Costs: Will Greater Openness Over Letting Agents Fees Make Budgeting for a Move Easier ?

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Estate Agency Fee'sDeputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s recent announcement that letting agents will be required to publish their fees clearly on their websites and in their offices will be useful for anyone moving into rented accommodation, but agent’s fees are not the only hidden costs associated with moving. Finding some extra cash to cover unexpected bills can be difficult enough at the best of times, but when you have just committed to buying or renting a new home, it can be particularly problematic when removals costs start to add up.

The new policy will make it easier for tenants to calculate the true costs of their new property, by ensuring that it will be easy to find out exactly what letting agents will be charging. The hope is that greater openness about the fees that are being charged will help to keep rates down, as well as helping tenants to understand what they will need to pay. However, discussions are underway to determine whether stronger regulation should be put in place to restrict letting agent fees. An amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill has been proposed that could ban agents from charging any extra fees to tenants for renting them a property. Charges could then be limited to a deposit and the first month’s rent, although some estate agents worry than banning agent’s fees could just result in a rise in rents, as happened in Scotland when similar legislation was passed.

Even if the ban on fees is put into place, there will still be other hidden costs associated with moving that buyers and renters will need to continue including in their budgets:

1. Decorating costs, particularly if professional services are used.
2. Packaging materials for the move, although costs can be kept down by sourcing free cardboard boxes or asking the removals service to help source materials at a low price.
3. Fee for parking the removals van outside your property if you have to arrange a suspension of council parking restrictions to use street bays.
4. New appliances and installation costs, as well as any extra costs for setting up broadband, TV, or even tuning a piano.
5. Extra utilities bills, if services are not switched immediately, or if meter readings aren’t given to suppliers quickly to avoid paying for the previous tenant or owners’ energy use.


Where Should Our Rubbish Go ?

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 biomass pelletsGetting rid of unwanted waste is not as simple as putting out the bin for collection or handing it over to a rubbish removal team. Once the rubbish leaves our homes, it has to go somewhere, and it is not always easy for everyone to agree where it should be sent. Ideally, we want to get rid of our rubbish in a clean, safe and environmentally friendly manner, but we also have to think about how much it costs to handle different kinds of waste, and where our disposal facilities will be located. It is very easy to say that our garden waste and wood should be taken to a biomass facility where it can be turned into green electricity, but it is far less easy to decide where this facility should be placed, and who should end up living next to it. Nevertheless, rubbish has to go somewhere, and as we try to live greener lifestyles and find alternatives to tips and landfill sites as they reach their limits, we do have to choose locations for new recycling and waste processing facilities.

Permission has just been given in the form of an environmental permit for one such facility in Potters Crouch, near St Albans. The site, which already played a role in rubbish removal in a former life as Wood Recycling Services, will now be converted by Navitas Environmental into a biomass facility processing up to 86,000 tonnes of dry wood waste collected by rubbish removal services from across Hertfordshire every year. The £60 million development will create 30 new jobs, as well as employing about 150 people during construction. It will generate 12 mega watts of renewable energy, which is enough power to supply electricity to 17,000 homes.

The company intends to work closely with the local community to avoid any conflict, and hopes that the development will be seen as an improvement for the rubbish removal site, which has stood unused for some time. Locals, along with St Albans’ MP Anne Main, have raised concerns about the project because of the previous mismanagement of the site that led to a serious fire in 2012, but the Environment Agency has confirmed that restrictions will be placed on the amount of material that can be stored at the site, preventing similar incidents from occurring again.


Flytipping Frustrates Farmers and Threatens the Environment

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Fly Tipped WasteFarmers across the UK are struggling to cope with an epidemic of flytipping that is leaving fields full of unwanted junk and rubbish that could have been safely and responsibly disposed of at local licensed tips. The National Farmers Union released statistics showing that there were 711,000 incidents of flytipping in England alone in the year 2012-13. This works out as once every 44 seconds.

Many farmers have suffered repeated problems, with people dumping unwanted rubbish on their land many times. The problem appears to be particularly bad in the southeast of the country. One farmer near St Albans told the BBC that he was finding items dumped on his land about three times a week, largely because his farm was one of the first pieces of open land on a major route out of the town.

Clearly, the problem is much bigger than just a few people dumping their own rubbish without thinking about the consequences. Farmers can wake up to find several truckloads of rubbish has appeared in their fields overnight, since there are actually “professional” rubbish removers who are taking people’s money to dispose of their junk and then just dumping it as soon as they get out of town.

The NFU is now calling for people to take more care by selecting a licensed rubbish removal service rather than handing their money over to these flytippers. Many of the items that have been dumped on farmland could actually have been donated to local charity shops to raise money for good causes while making a new owner happy. Other types of rubbish could have been recycled rather than dumped, and used to produce more environmentally friendly new products. Even the rubbish that could not have been reused or recycled could have been treated better. Licensed disposal sites could have ensured that rubbish which posed a threat to health or the environment was treated appropriately. Farmers have found material such as asbestos and electrical waste that needs to be disposed of carefully in order to avoid risks to people, livestock and wildlife. All of these actions could have been taken to protect the environment if this waste had been handed over to a licensed company.


Removing, Renovating and Redecorating

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Renovation WorkAn empty house will be much easier to clean, do up and decorate than one that is full of furniture, so if you are getting new flooring put in or putting on a fresh coat of paint, it can be very useful to have some breathing time in between picking up the keys to your new home and handing over those for your old one. You will also have your removals service on hand to offer additional services such as delivering building supplies or removing rubbish, making your life a little easier.

How much work you want to do before you move in will depend on your moving schedule and the amount of care that the property needs, but there are a few big jobs that it is much easier to get done in an empty house:

1. Flooring: putting in new floorboards, tiles or carpets will be much easier when there is no furniture to be moved out of the way, so try to arrange this before you move in, but remember to cover new wood flooring with a rug or tarp on moving day so it doesn’t get scratched.
2. Decorating: painting and wallpapering is another job that is much easier in an empty room. You can avoid worrying about fumes, drips or accidentally destroying your furniture. Adding a touch of your own style will also help you feel at home, which can be particularly soothing for children who are anxious about the move.
3. Plumbers, electricians and builders: if you are planning to have any work done immediately, arranging it while your family will be out of the way can make life a lot less stressful. Having your new kitchen or bathroom fitted when there is no one waiting to use them is also a sensible idea.
4. Storage: organizing your belongings when you move in will be much easier if there is plenty of storage available, so if you need to put up shelves or add hanging poles into closets, try to do it before boxes start arriving to be unpacked.
5. Cleaning: even if you aren’t planning to install new carpets or redecorate every room, the time before your new home fills with furniture can be the perfect opportunity to give everything a good clean. It will never be so easy to get into all those nooks and crannies.


One Person’s Junk Is Another’s Treasure

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Wooden treasure chesWhen you finally get around to clearing out your attic or getting rid of the junk that has collected at the back of the cupboard, it is tempting to daydream about coming across some hidden treasure, or suddenly recognizing that the ugly ornament your mother in law gave you is really a missing Faberge egg. Unfortunately, even if we were lucky enough to make such a discovery, most of us would probably fail to notice what we had found, and end up being the person who sold the lost masterpiece for pennies at a car boot sale rather than the one who finds out the real value at the Antiques Roadshow. Working with an experienced house clearance service can ensure that you don’t miss out on any of these priceless pieces, since the clearance team will be able to advise you on the value of your unwanted items and how to sell them on at the best price.

Even with help, few of us are likely to make quite such extraordinary discoveries, but even the oddest pieces that seem like old rubbish to you could be valuable treasures to someone else. The recent unearthing of a heap of old Atari ET game cartridges in a New Mexico landfill site shows just how true this is. The ET cartridges were originally dumped thirty years ago because the game was considered the worst one ever made, but this just made people more interested in finding the cache. Its existence had become something of an urban legend, but this time it just happened to be based in fact. Plenty of other items can also accrue value with age. Broadcasters are often on the lookout for recordings of old TV and radio programmes that they failed to preserve, and people collect all sorts of items that were once cheap and common. A collector or a local museum might very well be interested in your old stamps, LPs, postcards, magazines, coins or even old tins or packaging. You might not make much money from selling or donating these items, but they could bring a lot of joy to someone who is interested in their history. You might even learn something along the way if you do some research or talk to collectors.

If you finish your clearout without finding anything that will make you a millionaire, try not to be too disappointed. Sorting through our accumulated junk is likely to turn up a few items that have some value, if not to others, then at least to ourselves. Finding an old childhood diary, forgotten photos of our parents, or love letters sent between our grandparents can remind us that treasures can take many different forms.


Help to Buy and Moving Into Your First Home

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Help To Buy Couple At HomeThe government’s Help to Buy scheme has helped thousands of people to move into their new homes, enabling many to step onto the property ladder for the first time, but in light of the OECD’s recommendation that the scheme be scaled back in order to keep property price rises under better control, it might be a good idea to take advantage of this scheme while you still can. Rules for mortgage lending have already been getting stricter, and the Bank of England could decide to do more to tackle rising prices when its Financial Policy Committee meets in June.

Help to Buy was designed to be particularly useful for first time buyers, especially for those who are moving into a new build or looking for a mortgage that will allow them to make a smaller deposit. Overcoming the financial barriers to home ownership is a major step towards getting into your first house or flat, but there are many more steps to take before you will be settled into your new home. Even when you have navigated your way through all of the different stages of the buying process up to the exchange of keys, you still have to go through the actual move.

If you are a first time buyer moving into your own home thanks to the Help to Buy scheme or through a more traditional mortgage, here are a few tips to make moving in a little easier.

1. Book a removals company that can schedule the move at a time that is right for you. Moving in the evening can be easier for many young first time buyers, since it avoids the need to arrange time off work.
2. For a small, local move, choose a removals company that offers short pricing blocks so that you don’t end up paying for more time than you need.
3. Use delivery services to get new furniture, appliances and other purchases to your new home and reduce your workload. If delivery is not available, or if the store’s service is too expensive, consider hiring a man and van to pick large items up for you. Try to spread the deliveries out over several days if you are moving out of furnished accommodation and need to buy everything new, but make sure the essentials will be delivered first.
4. Second hand furniture and gifts or unwanted items from friends and family can keep down the costs of furnishing your new home, but it is still sensible to include any items you need to buy in your budget when you start thinking about buying.
5. Don’t forget to arrange your new utilities and to notify everyone of your change of address, including your mobile phone company and the DVLA as well as your grandparents.


Getting Your Office in Order

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Messy OfficeKeeping your office neat and well organized can help to ensure that you are working more efficiently and that you are presenting a professional image to any clients who need to visit for a meeting, but keeping on top of office waste can be a struggle. Now that we are comfortably into the new tax year it might be the right time for a serious spring clear out if you have let your waste get the better of you.

Set aside some time to sort through all of the accumulated papers and other waste in the office. Book a waste removal service in advance so that you have a deadline to work towards when they will arrive to collect your rubbish. For a big job, try to enrol some help from the office or a professional clearance team, but make sure that everyone knows how to separate the important documents and office equipment from the junk.

Invest in some new filing cabinets, in and out boxes or other storage solutions so that you can come up with a good system to keep things better organized in the future. Labelling, colour coding or asking people to sign out special pieces of equipment so that you can check who should have returned them can make maintaining the new system easier.

You might have cleared plenty of old rubbish out of the office, but it can quickly build up again if you are not careful, so incorporate a plan for dealing with different kinds of waste in your new system. Set aside separate bins for different kinds of rubbish and recycling as sorting items as you throw them out is much easier than trying to organize them later. Reduce waste as much as you can by going paperless and avoiding disposable items like paper cups as much as possible. You might also be able to come up with a good use for some kinds of waste by turning it into a profitable by-product or passing it on to someone who can. Even coffee grounds can be recycled as compost if you are willing to see your waste as an opportunity.


3 Tips for Making Multigenerational Moves Work

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Multi Generational Family Photo

 

Family homes seem to have become much more crowded in recent years, as the “boomerang generation” has often been forced by high house prices and the tough economic climate to move back in with their parents. With relatives at the other end of the generational scale also needing more help as they grow older, families can end up with several generations, ranging from children to grandparents all needing to move into a single home. We might not be able to resolve every argument about whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher or why no one else seems to turn off the lights when they leave an empty room, but these tips can at least help to make the actual move a little bit easier.

1. Clear out before you move.

Don’t add extra stress to your first days living together by waiting until you’ve moved in before you decide what to keep. Work through one room at a time, sorting out what will be thrown away, recycled, donated to charity or sold. Pack everything you want to keep, but consider using your removals service to send what you can to storage if space will be an issue. Just remember to coordinate who will be contributing what to your new shared home so that you don’t arrive with two toasters and no kettle.

2. Don’t move everyone on the same day.

If you are moving from separate properties into a new shared home, book your removals vans on different days to avoid stress and confusion. Even if you are using a full service removals company to do all of the packing and carrying for you, it can still be important to have someone there to provide emotional support, particularly if you are helping an elderly relative move.

3. Make sure everyone feels at home.

Whether you are making space for an additional family member in your own home, moving back into your childhood home, or combining the generations in a new house, it is important to be aware that this will be home for everyone. Being able to move in some of your own furniture or having a say in how your home will be decorated can make a big difference to a boomerang kid or an elderly parent.

 

 
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