Category Archives: Home buying

Help at hand for first-time homebuyers


If you dream of spending your weekends indulging in DIY but are yet to even get your foot on the property ladder, help might be at hand! It’s First Time Buyers Fortnight, the ideal time for ‘Generation Rent’ to glean expert tips, advice and inspiration to avoid a lifetime of wasting money on rented accommodation.

Being a would-be buyer can be daunting, with worries about your credit rating and the enormous task of saving for a deposit. First Time Buyers Fortnight, which runs until February 28, seeks to help people who are renting or living with their parents by advising them on the dos and don’ts of buying their first home.

First Time Buyers Fortnight organiser Adam Cox says: “With property prices and rents set to continue rising and the cost of higher education meaning larger student debts than ever, it’s imperative that Generation Rent takes immediate action to avoid a life of renting.

“The age at which people are buying their first property is getting later and there’s a genuine risk of missing the first time buyers’ boat. The first action they must take is to decide that they want to own their own property. First Time Buyers Fortnight was created to not just inspire but also educate people on how to navigate the minefield that is first time buying”.

As the annual campaign gets underway, the organisers have rounded up the year’s housing news so far and what’s ahead for the rest of 2016:

A good start

Despite a challenging financial climate, 2016 has started off well for potential home buyers. More 95% mortgages are available from mainstream lenders and an increase in government funding was announced in the Chancellor’s autumn statement, meaning this year could be a good one to get onto the property ladder.

front-doorThe National House Building Council (NHBC) has also reported a seven percent year-on-year increase in NHBC new home registrations. In 2015, 156,140 new homes were registered, representing an eight-year high and amounting to 75% more new homes registered than in 2009.

However, there is also caution for first time buyers, with house prices rising by an eye-watering 6.1% in 2015 and with similar predictions for 2016. In addition, buy-to-let investors are facing a three percent surcharge on stamp duty from April, which could cause house prices to increase and thwart the hopes of potential buyers.

Help at hand

There are a number of much-needed government initiatives to help anyone hoping to buy this year. The Help To Buy scheme allows homebuyers to secure a new build property with a five percent deposit and interest-free loans of 20% (40% in London), resulting in more affordable 75% mortgages.

For those who don’t want to invest in a new build, the return of 90-95% mortgages is important for first time buyers with a lower deposit, who will now find it easier to obtain a mortgage.

In addition to Help To Buy, extra government funding for its Shared Ownership scheme will allow a greater number of first time buyers to purchase a 25-75% per cent share of a property and pay rent to a housing association on the remaining amount, instead of paying rising private rents.

For starters

homebuyersAstonishingly, first time buyers purchasing a property in England in 2016 will already have spent an average of £52,900 on rent, according to the Association of Residential Lettings Agents. As starter homes are an essential option for potential buyers, the government is to subside 20% of the cost of 200,000 new homes built for first time buyers – although this only applies to buyers under the age of 40 purchasing homes where the discounted price is less than £250,000 (£450,000 in London).

Saving grace

For those not quite ready to buy just yet, saving for a deposit can seem impossible, but the Help To Buy ISA enables you to save with the government boosting your efforts by 25%! The maximum government bonus you can receive is £3,000 and it’s a good idea to shop around the High Street lenders to find the right Help to Buy ISA for you.

Adam continues: “Overall, 2016 is looking like a prosperous year for potential home buyers. New builds are at an eight-year high and there are more government schemes than ever available in order to help people climb onto the property ladder. Make sure you’re savvy when saving and searching for property; be realistic, always view properties and ensure your credit rating is good.”

For 10 years, First Time Buyers Fortnight has been on a mission to empower people who are renting or living with parents. The campaign teams up with leading voices in the industry to offer insights and advice on each area of buying your first home, such as top tips, mortgages and the buying process. Visit for more details and you could be doing up a dream home of your very own before you can say ‘completion date’!

Paving the way for bank holiday style


It’s the early spring bank holiday, and time to head into the great outdoors! Many of us will be making the most of the long weekend by getting into the garden and sprucing up lawns and borders neglected through the winter. And if you want to go a step further and transform your outdoor space, help is at hand!

DIY Advice Online has these stylish tips to get you started if you’re thinking of a spot of May day garden DIY:

The green, green grass

Artificial grass is becoming more and more popular, especially for small areas that don’t warrant the expense of a lawnmower and damp or shady gardens where grass doesn’t grow well. Previously, synthetic turf could stand out in an elegant garden for all the wrong reasons, but it’s undergone something of an evolution and now looks realistic and attractive if properly lain.

Installing an artificial lawn is not an easy job, requiring digging to at least 10cm below grass level, adding aggregate and a weed-proof membrane and using fittings and bonding to fix the grass in place. But it’s an ideal option if you like low-maintenance or want to stop pets digging up your garden, and good quality synthetic grass can last up to 20 years.

Don’t go crazy, paving

outside-lightingThinking of laying a patio? Paved and decked outside areas remain on trend, adding value to a property and providing a great place to relax with family and friends. Natural stone, or flagstone, patios are as popular as ever, especially in the gardens of older properties where reclaimed stone can enhance a traditional look.

Wooden decking is stylish when well maintained, although it can be treacherous when wet and can take a lot of hard work to keep in tip-top condition. An alternative is porcelain tiles, like these from terrace and patio paving experts SACW Paving. They look just like wood, decking and stone but don’t need the same upkeep, are frost-proof and fade resistant. They give a long-lasting finish that looks great for years, won’t rot and are slip-resistant, making them ideal for busy family gardens where children run in and out of the house all day long!

In the limelight

outdoor-lightingPut your garden under the spotlight – literally – with fabulous outdoor lighting. Twinkling fairy lights can transform an outdoor space for lazy summer evenings, whilst installing outside wall lights and lanterns can light up barbecue and seating areas, as well as add extra security.

For older-style properties, think about installing antique or Arthurian lamps in brass, pewter or black. If you have a contemporary home, there are some fabulously stylish stainless steel outdoor lights and grey and brown LEDs on the market, helping your garden go truly glam!

Main photo: Boardwalk Oak by SACW Paving

Inset 1: Ayrton Almond by SACW Paving

Inset 2: Philips myGarden Riverbank by Socket Store





Successful house hunting wrapped up for Christmas

OnlineThis Christmas, once you’ve opened the presents and eaten the turkey, there’s only one thing left to do – and it’s not watching the Queen’s speech, apparently! Christmas is one of the busiest times for viewing new homes online, so if you’re planning to peek at properties in between all those parties and family visits, read on!

Property search and acquisition specialist The Buying Agents has compiled a homebuyers’ checklist and its top five tips for successful house hunting ahead of the festive break. The advice follows last week’s Autumn Statement, after which The Buying Agents predicted that the market will now pick up at a considerable pace following chancellor George Osborne’s decision to implement “buyer friendly stamp duty changes”.

Established in 2001, The Buying Agents is one of the UK’s leading property finders, with seven offices in London and the Home Counties. Managing director Henry Sherwood said: “The seasonal slowdown could well be counteracted by the new sub £1m stamp duty changes. Therefore, buyers need to be prepared if the market takes off again in the new year. The slow holiday period is the ideal time to reassess your position and prepare yourself for when the market picks up.’

“No one can predict the market will re-start before the impending interest rate rise and general election, so you need to be prepared. There is still pent-up demand from buyers and the changes in stamp duty could create potential for another property boom below £1m in 2015. Following a simple set of basic rules can ensure you gain a significant competitive advantage and are quicker off the mark than Lewis Hamilton come the first week of January!”

self-buildThe Buying Agents’ 5 tips for successful house hunting:

  1. Re-assess your requirements. While the property market quietens down, take a moment to write a list of what you really need from your next move. Cross out all the “nice to haves” and concentrate on the essentials. You will get estate agents working much harder for you if it doesn’t take a long time to list your requirements and you can be clear about what you want.
  2. Choose your team carefully. Ask friends to recommend mortgage brokers as well as lawyers and surveyors. When you speak to a broker, be honest about income and expenditure – the changes brought in by the Mortgage Market Review mean that lender criteria is far stricter than before and you will now need to provide a greater amount of detail about your financial circumstances.
  3. Set up portal alerts. With the Christmas break being one of the busiest periods for viewing property online, it’s a good idea to set up alerts now to give you a head start before the January viewing ‘rush’ kicks in.  The two biggest property portals will list 95% of all property, so set up alerts with both before Christmas!
  4.  Record and research. List every property from your alerts on a spreadsheet in order to build a comparable database, helping you identify the accurate market value for properties that are of interest to you. Input the price and square footage to gauge the price of homes you like; you can usually do this before you view if a floorplan is available.
  5. Pick up the phone. Don’t waste your time emailing estate agents. If you don’t pick up the phone to speak to the negotiators, you will always be the last person on their list to contact when a new property becomes available. Always call in the morning when agents are likely to be in the office and not out on viewings

Homebuyers’ checklist:

  • Get an Agreement In Principle (AIP)
  • Ask friends and colleagues to recommend solicitors
  • Research surveyors and survey types
  • Assess (or re-asses) your requirements
  • Set up portal alerts
  • Record all property on a spreadsheet
  • Know the local prices
  • Conduct area checks upfront
  • Be prepared to offer BEFORE you view