kitchen-with-bar-stools

Tips For Building a Great Kitchen

Let's face it, the kitchen is the room where everyone lives. Our lives are focused around food, whether it is Mum preparing food in the kitchen whilst the kids are doing their homework, having dinner or the long breakfast and lunches on the weekend. The kitchen is where it happens. So if you are renovating your existing kitchen or building a new one from scratch, we give you some great trips to put in place.

Think Budget

Sure, we'd all love the world's greatest kitchen, both beautifully designed with all the latest tech and gear that comes with it. Whether it is pop-up TVs, hidden cupboards, power taps or the funky tap that changes hot and cold. But whilst The Mirror explains that even the most practical kitchen can increase your home's value by 4%, you still have to be conscious of budget and we will explain why.

The reality is that the cost of your kitchen needs to relate to the value of the home and those on the road. If your house is worth around £500,000 and so are all the others on the road, there is no point spending £100,000 on sprucing up a kitchen because your house value cannot rise by more than £100,000 - especially if all the neighbours' home similar in size. So you have to be practical in how much you spend and how this impacts the overall value of your home.

There is also no overall benefit of having the world's greatest kitchen but then a mediocre bathroom, living room or dining room - as it does not fit in with the rest of the house and future buyers will not dig it.

Making It Practical

Does It Also Become Your Dining Room?

A lot of households are also making their kitchens their dining rooms as a way to maximise space in the home. After all, a lot of dining rooms are only really for entertaining and are sometimes grand rooms that just end of getting covered in dust.

So if you're one of these modern households that want to make the kitchen the main dining area, it is worth smarting it up a bit and also allowing enough room for family and friends to join you around the table. This means that there is no point having a table with just 6 chairs around it but getting a table that can expand and fit 12 could be worthwhile.

Using Space Effectively

If you like to cook or you have kids that like to work and hang out in the kitchen, you can use space very effectively. For instance, case studies from leading designer The Wood Works shows the use of an island in the middle of the kitchen to store things and also clever bar stools for your children and their friends to hang out.

On the subject of making it child-friendly, a careful consideration is how it works for kids of all ages. For instance, if you have small children, does the table and island have space for a child seat? Can they climb up the bar stool without your help? Does it provide them with some support or will they fall off? In addition, you want to be careful about any tables of boards having sharp edges that you or your children could potentially bump into, especially if they are at heigh level for your offspring.

Colour

The colour of your kitchen is a careful consideration. A lot of kitchens go with the subtle tones of white (to match white goods) or light tones of grey, beige or even wood. If you are doing up a property as part of a property development finance project, you want a look that is fitting with the rest of the house and not too overpowering. Similarly, what chair colours and accessories go with it is also something to discuss - with the pink chairs featured above working nicely.

Easy To Clean

The kitchen is where we prepare food and where our children spend a lot of time - designing things and doing arts and crafts. So creating a kitchen that is easy to clean is very important. Some like the metallic look, like a restaurant kitchen just because it is so easy to clean. But for some people, you need to consider what materials and surfaces are most practical. For instance, tiles can be tougher to clean as things get through the cracks whereas flat surfaces and marble are certainly a lot more convenient.

Flooring

Your flooring must be practical. Whilst some shades of limestone look amazing, they can be on the slippery side which makes it not well suited for children and having lots of guests.

On the topic of cleanliness, the flatter surfaces are easier to clean compared to tiles or carpet which is likely to get stained or have things fall in between the cracks.

The Appliances

Are you a big family with a big appetite? Especially with babies and toddlers, you need a fridge to hold all the foods and formulas. Do you go with a normal size fridge or with a mega fridge like you see on MTV Cribs? Depending on your space, you can opt for the fridge and freezer in one, or some people have their freezers in the garage or utility room.

Fewer and fewer people are putting microwaves in their kitchens these days - after all its like nuking your food and can't be healthy, right? The only reason people use microwaves is really for popcorn anyway. But how your diet and your family's food habits vary will determine whether or not you need one and if so, you have to make space for it. With some people putting them plugged into the corner of the room or having them fitted within the actual wall units.

Other things to discuss are whether you go for an old school gas hob or a new snazzy electric hob. They say that gas hobs are more effective for cooking up a storm whereas the electric hobs are much easier to clean - so you have to weigh it up.

Is there anything else you would add to your perfect kitchen? Comment below!


Architects

Important Things To Ask Your Architect

When working on a new-build, buy to let property or development, finding the right architect is crucial. Even more important is being able to ask the right questions so that there are no surprises on the cost or outcome of the project. When applying with our bridging lenders or development finance companies, it will certainly strengthen your case for a loan if you have a good team of architects on board and can show blueprints etc. In our guide below, we tackle the most key things to ask your architect.

Understanding Price

Determining the price for your property's design is essential. Common questions include:

  • Does it fit within your budget?
  • Is it worth adding an extra 20% for contingencies?
  • Does their price include VAT?
  • It is paid in one-lump sum, stages or upon completion?
  • What is included/excluded?

The reason for getting bridging finance is so that you can make a profit on the resale of the building or when renting it out to tenants. But overspending on design for architects in London could compromise your margins. When speaking to a firm of architects, the communication and fees need to be clear - the last thing you want is your architect or contractors walking out on you mid-built because of blurred lines.

One needs to determine what is included in the price such as the project manager - will they use their own or hire an external one? If you do need to source a PM, can they recommend someone good or will you have to find them yourself? If you do have a project manager, just how much time of theirs do you receive each day, week or month - and will it be sufficient?

A good question is asking if the company includes business insurance within their package. In the event that there is a structural default or they missed something crucial, you could be liable for any damages caused to the property, the neighbours or any builders on site. The insurance should cover things like contents, public liability and employers liability to make sure that all stakeholders are protected against any potential harm - and you will not be required to cover any potential injury claims or physical damages. So does this responsibility of insurance fall on you or the architect? This will need to be discussed.

The Timescales

Useful questions include:

  • When can they start?
  • How long does the design process take?
  • How many designs are included in the price?
  • How long should the build take?
  • How does planning permission play into the timeline?

Understanding the time it takes to carry out the development job is so key because you will also need to be paying for other things like builders and potentially rented accommodation whilst it is being built. It is common for build jobs to take longer than expected so if you are renting in the interim, it is worth having a longer contract to give you flexibility for any delays.

Making The Most of The Property

This is where you need an architect with a good eye, because having a vision and the ability to see potential and add extra things can make a huge difference. For instance, that vision to add a loft conversion, basement, grand staircase, wine cellar, driveway, front and rear garden can add significant value to your home. A basement can add 30% to your home, a loft conversion (extra bedroom and shower room) can add 20%, an extra driveway can be worth £50,000, conservatory is 10% and even solar panels can save you £300 per year. See our guide on how to increase the value of your home.

Of course, if you are refurbishing or renovating, you may not have the space for all these things but working them within the budget can be useful, especially if they make a bigger profit upon the sale of the property.

The Joys of Planning Permission

For any major development work, you will typically need the help of the local council to grant you permission to make amendments to the house. This is because they are conscious about it being an eye-sore for the neighbours and whether it restricts their personal space or sunlight. Fortunately, some things do not require planning if they do not change the outside of the house such as turning a garage into another family room. You can also add a conservatory to the side or end of your home provided that it is no bigger than 10 feet.

But applying for planning permission and getting it approved is a big deal - and if they don't approve it at first, you can resubmit it. So the question is whether your architects can help you with your application and tick all the specifications so that it will be in a better position for approval.

One common issue is if your property is located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) because there are greater restrictions for preserving the area. This can involve the style, look and presentation of the residence. For instance, Hampstead Garden Suburb in North London requires all homes to have a front hedge in their driveway or garden at a specific height, as requested by the council. So having an architect who understands and appreciates Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty can be very useful.

Suggesting Other Good Partners To Work With

In addition to good architects, you need good interior designs, builders, contractors, kitchen specialists, solicitors and more. It is worth asking your desired architects if they can recommend any other good people who they regularly work with. In fact, there may be a discount or deal on the cards if you do, due to a long term standing relationship.

In conclusion, finding the right architect can be vital to the success of your development project and something that lenders will also take on board when reviewing your application. To highlight the main points, it is essential to find out the fees required, timescales and having these in writing prior to going ahead. You want to limit any extra costs, downtime and reasons why the project won't go to plan - so being efficient and sometimes just asking the right questions can help you achieve this.

 


tenants-rights

What Are Your Rights as a Tenant?

As a tenant who is paying a landlord each month to live in a rented flat or home, you are entitled to certain rights and responsibilities. In some respects, you are the customer who can request things to be a certain way and can expect your accommodation to be a high level of standard. You also have the responsibility to be a good tenant and your behaviour and actions must also be according to the tenancy agreement that you signed.

People typically use bridging finance for the purposes of buy-to-let, so it is important to know what is expected of you as a landlord and how tenants should be acting too.

So, What Are Your Rights?

As a tenant you have the right to:

  • Live in a property that is safe and in a good state of repair.
  • When the tenancy ends, have your deposit returned to you. In some circumstances, have it protected!
  • Challenge high charges and rent increases.
  • Know your landlord and who he, she or they are.
  • Live in the property, undisturbed to other tenants or third parties.
  • Be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent
  • Have a written agreement if you have a fixed-term tenancy of more that 3 years
  • See an energy performance certificate

If you have a tenancy agreement, it should be fair and comply with the law.

If you find that you do not know who your landlord is, be sure to write to the person, people or company you pay rent to. Your landlord can actually be fined if they do no give you this information within 21 days.

 

When You Start Your Tenancy Agreement

Once you start a tenancy, whether it be an assured or a short-term assured tenancy, your landlord will be expected by law to give you:

  • A copy of the “How to rent guide” if you live in England
  • A “tenant information pack” if you live in Scotland

Your Responsibilities

With your rights, come responsibilities when you are a tenant. You are required to give access to your landlord for him or her to be able to inspect the property or carry out any repairs that may need doing. In saying this, there are strict rules that state that your landlord cannot just walk in unannounced. He, she or they have to give you at least 24 hours notice before accessing the property that you are renting (see what are your rights as a landlord).

 You Must Always:

  • Pay the agreed rent, even if repairs are needed or you are in dispute with your landlord.
  • Pay other charges as agreed with your landlord, like, for example, paying council tax and any utility bills.
  • Take good care of the property you are renting, for example; do not damage the walls or carpets and think about turning off the water at the mains if you go away during cold weather.
  • Repair or pay for any damage caused directly by you or someone you are responsible for when it comes to your home (i.e a friend, family members or a child) - be conscious when having people over to stay, socialise or throwing parties.
  • You may only sublet a property if the tenancy agreement states you may, or if your landlord agrees regardless of whether a section on sub-letting features in you tenancy agreement. This could cause huge legal issues if your landlord finds out that you are renting the property to someone else without their permission.

Your landlord has the right to evict you and take legal action against you to do so. He, she or they may only do this with good reasons, such as you do you not meet your responsibilities, but cannot evict unless there is a clear reason or without good notice for you to find another residence.

Assured Tenants

An assured tenant will not usually have a resident landlord and the landlord will not provide any food or any services. If you are an assured tenant you will be paying rent for the accommodation which you occupy as your principal and only home.

Example of assured tenants include:

  • Individual living in a flat
  • Family living in a rented home

The following below are not assured tenants because they have a resident landlord and provide food and services:

  • A student let (student residence and accommodation)
  • A holiday let (hotel, villa, camp, park)
  • A company let
  • Business premises
  • A Crown tenancy
  • Private accommodation arranged by the local authority because you are homeless.

Rights of Assured Tenants

If you are an assured tenant, you have the right to remain in the rented property unless the landlord puts forward a good enough case in court as to why they have good reason to want to evict you. Examples of this may include if you are not paying the correct amount of rent and refuse to do so, you damage the property, or any of the terms of the tenancy are broken on your side. Common reasons are being responsible for loud noises or the landlord suspects that there are illegal dealings happening within the premises.

Meanwhile, as an assured tenant you have the right to get repairs done to the property without worrying about being evicted - but usually these will need to be approved by the landlord. Especially if you are looking to redo a bathroom, kitchen or add an extension - this is not something that should come out of your pocket completely and could impact the amount of rent that you pay. Alternatively, you could fit the bill of an extension but of course the landlord owns the property outright and will benefit when they sell it.

You have the right to stay in your home as long as you keep to the terms of the tenancy and other rights you have include:

  • the right to have the accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair by the landlord
  • the right of your spouse, civil partner, or other partner to take over the tenancy on your death (‘the right of succession’)
  • the right not to be treated fairly, and not discriminated against because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

Rights of Short Term Assured Tenants

As an assured tenant with a short term agreement, you have the right to stay put in your property until the fixed term as stated in your contract ends. This again is unless you landlord find he, she or they are able to convince a court of the reasons for your eviction before the fixed term ends. The reasons will be for the same reasons as listed above, rent disagreements, damage etc.

You may stay on after the ending of the fixed term, even if you do not renew your agreement, until your landlord gives you notice at the end of the term – this is his, her or their responsibility.

As an assured short-term tenant, just like a stranded assured tenant, you have the right to get repairs done without the fear of being evicted for it. Your right are also the same as an assured tenant without a short term loan as listed above.

Rights of Protected Tenants

Protected tenants are rarely seen since the Housing Act 1988 but the system offers security, no residential landlord, a fair rent and no services provided like food or washing. This is the strongest form of a tenant agreement, you are granted 'tenure' which means you pay rent but they still occupy the land.

Some examples include senior living in accommodation where there is security but they have their own home and can make food and put on the wash like a regular guest.

As a protected tenant you have rights which are the following :

  • Security of tenure (the land they occupy). Your landlord can repossess the accommodation in certain specified circumstances.
  • The right to have the rent fixed by the rent officer.
  • The right to have rent increased only in particular circumstances.
  • The right to have the accommodation kept in a reasonable state or repair - see under heading Repairs.
  • The right of your spouse, civil partner, other partner or another family member to take over the tenancy on your death
  • The right not to be treated equally and not face discrimination or prejudice because of your disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

landlord-rights

What Are Your Rights as a Landlord

With the rental sector enjoying a boom in industry, more and more people are interested in becoming a landlord or are simply curious to what it entails to be a landlord! Specifically, bridging finance is commonly used by buy-to-let investors and property developers who are looking to use the money to purchase a property, develop it and rent it out to tenants (both residential and commercial).

Overall, a lot of the responsibilities in a rental/tenancy agreement lie with the tenant or tenants, and people seem to know the rights of tenants more than they do with the rights of a landlord.

If you are wanting advice on how to evict a tenant and generally want to know about your rights with eviction, click here and here.

What Are Your Rights?

Payment of Rent:

  • You should always have a tenancy agreement in place, such as a assured shorthold tenancy agreement. This will initially set out the amount for rent payable by the tenant to you, and when it will be paid.
  • It is best to get your tenants to pay the rent to you by standing order, this way you are pretty much guaranteed to get your rent payments each month. Furthermore, you will have evidence of which payments you do receive, and more importantly, the payments you do not receive.
  • If you find that you have a tenant or tenants that do not pay you for a set period, and there is no solution forthcoming, then you as the landlord have the ultimate right to serve the tenant or tenants an eviction notice. However, you must be sure to follow a procedure when doing this as explained a bit later on. You can also legally attempt to reclaim any unpaid rent, since it is legally yours.
  • Check the terms and conditions laid out by the letting agent before signing an agreement.

Raising the Rent

  • You may, at certain points in the tenancy, put up the rent. This will depend on the specifics of the tenancy agreement at hand. You may have to wait for a full fixed term to end before you can make the increase.
  • You cannot simply just charge what you want though. The rent has to justifiable, and as do the reasons for upping the rent prices. The rent also has to be similar in comparison to other properties rent prices in the area. Otherwise, you tenant will be entitled to complain and then you will be forced to restore the price of the rent back to an acceptable enough level, or back to what it was before.

Damage and Neglect to the Property

  • Unfortunately for your property, damage caused by those occupying the property and their visitors is not uncommon. The damage can easily be by accident, but in some cases it is on purpose. Either way, there will always be tenants who do cause damage to your property and belongings, if the property Is furnished. As a landlord, you may chose to pay for repairs as part of the agreement, this is quite normal – but have the right to evict if you believe major damage was done on purpose.
  • Your tenants have a very high level of responsibility to keep the house or flat clean, in good condition and smoke-free (unless your agreement states otherwise). They are also expected to complete the basic maintenance like changing the lightbulbs and using the heating system responsibly. While being a landlord comes with the responsibility of carrying out most repairs, you do have the right to charge tenants for repairs if you see it fit.
  •  Tenants are obliged to stay within the terms of the tenancy agreement. This includes matters regarding as the keeping of pets – if damage or maintenance is required because of this, again you can take a deduction from the tenant's damage deposit or ask them to pay for the cost of repair altogether, since they have violated the contract.
  • However, the exception to all of this is for 'fair wear and tear' such as to carpets or other furnishings – you can't charge the tenant for these since they are bound to be damaged in some way, shape or form.
  • If you ever propose to charge a tenant for something of this nature, be sure that you have proof that the damage was caused while the property was occupied by those you are charging. You'll want to take photos to refer to and should properly cost the level of damage caused, complete with quotes to back you up if the tenant chooses to dispute the figure.
  • If any damage is considered beyond the 'fair wear and tear' rule and the tenant will not either repair it themselves or pay for the cost of repair, you have the right to serve an eviction notice and retain the sum of money from their damage deposit to cover the cost of the damage and repairing this damage.
  • Your last resort may be to go through a legal process to ask the tenant to repair the damage at their expense, but that may not be a viable option as costs could escalate. There are those who specialise in tenant eviction services that could help you through the process of doing so.

Gaining Access to Your Property

  • It is actually illegal for you as a landlord and owner to enter your own property without agreement from your tenant prior to asking for access. Landlords do have rights to what is dubbed 'reasonable' access to carry out any repairs for which they are responsible for, but you will always need to get permission from the tenant with at least 24 hours' notice. If you don't follow this process, which can be a simple mistake since it is actually your property, you could be prosecuted for 'harassment'.

As a round up, here’s a quick reminder of what you do NOT have the rights to do as a landlord:

  • Visit your tenants without prior warning or good reason, such as an inspection or to carry out duties of repairs, for example.
  • You cannot make your tenants leave immediately, or physically force the out of the property and ‘help’ them move out. You must be careful not to make an illegal eviction, this can lead to serious legal action.
  • It is a criminal offence to harass your tenants at all, this includes turning up to the property impromptu.

 


noisy-neighbours

How To Report Noisy Neighbours

Nowadays, it is unfortunate that encountering noisy neighbours is not all that uncommon. You could complaining about noisy neighbours due to loud music being played, parties  until the early hours in the garden or inside the house you are attached or directly next door too or pets making extreme levels of noise, especially does barking for hours upon hours.

Noise from neighbours includes:

  • Loud music/TV
  • Loud talking
  • Machinery
  • Pets
  • Construction work

If you are finding that your home-life and relaxing time is being effected by any noisy neighbours, please take a look at our tips below.

Personal, face-to-face contact

To start off, you may not want to jump straight into reporting your neighbours to the local authorities without direct discussion that may potentially resolve the problem. Reporting them without any communication may cause unnecessary tension between yourself and your neighbours, creating an unpleasant home environment.

It may surprise you that your neighbour is actually unaware of the noise  and therefore, disturbance they are causing. They may be unaware that you can hear them so clearly or that it is having a negative effect on you, especially if you are a little quieter than them.

The subject of ‘I think you are a noisy neighbour’ and potentially, ‘all the other people on the same street agree that you are a noisy neighbour’ can be a hard subject to bring up. So, we advise that you approach the situation in a calm, polite manner, whilst remaining firm and unapologetic. Avoided approaching them when in a heated moment as this is likely to cause arguments and create standoffish atmosphere. It is not advisable to phrase it is as a personal attack, or an attack in anyway at all. This will probably lead to them not listening to you properly, but rather being defensive and possibly retaliating.

It is important that if you feel in anyway unsafe approaching them alone, do not do it. However, avoid a whole gang of you going – this will make it feel like an attack and extremely intimidating for the person you are approaching about the noise.

Other personal contact

If you are not confident enough to approach them in person, or it just hasn’t worked, try writing them a letter. Include in the letter that you understand that they are probably unaware of any disturbance caused by them, and you are not claiming it is deliberate or out of spite. But you must explain the situation clearly and why and how it is effecting you and possibly the surrounding neighbours.  Make sure you end the letter by thanking them for understanding and not being awkward about. If they do make the effort to comply,  please do recognise it – and show your recognition by sending over a small gesture, like a thank you card.

Contacting the local council

Alternatively, if they do not make an effort to change or for some reason it gets worse, you may be forced to contact the local authorities. In the UK, you can report any noisy neighbours to your council through a tool on Gov.uk

Your own local council will have a specific office to deal with noise disturbances in the area. In a lot of cases, is office is located within the remit of the environmental health department, or in larger cities they may have a dedicated noise pollution team. The local police station in your area may also have a dedicated team that works to help and act as the mediator if you and your neighbor are unable to come to an amicable agreement or solution.

Your local council will also advise you to keep a small diary type of thing to record any disturbances. You should keep record of when the disturbance took place, how long you were experiencing the disturbance for  and what the disturbance was at any particular time.

Try and keep it as factual as possible. Try a format similar too: Unable to sleep until around 4am, sounds like they had people round until the early hours with loud music – have to get up at 7 for work. Avoid writing down any irrelevant information, like that you are angry or the way you were feeling in general, this will then just turn into what sounds like a personal, everyday journal.

You can even record the noises and the activity using a recording device, a mobile phone or a video digital camera. But it is very important to note that under no circumstances should you publish these recordings or videos, they should only been used as evidence to present to the local council. So do not put it on Facebook, or Twitter or any other social media outlets, ever!

The local council do have the ultimate power to issue official warnings or an ‘abatement notice’. The abatement notice aims to forbid the nuisance from happening altogether  or just to restrict it to certain times of the day. If your neighbour fails to adhere to this notice it is actually a criminal offence, leaving them open to a fine. In some areas of the country, councils have the right to get out on the spot fines. Councils are obliged to take action under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Getting the police involved

If a noise disturbance happens to play out at night, usually when it happens between the hours of 11pm and 7am, your local police will usually be the ones to take action. They will normally sent a community support officer to take responsibility for taking action on any noise complaints. They will usually be able to intervene to get the music turned down or off, or even help t mediate towards an agreement.

If a noisy neighbour is persistently disturbing the area, it can be seen as anti-social behaviour. If they are in rented accommodation they may be at risk of losing their home, as the landlord may evict them. This applies whether they are in local authority or social housing, or privately rented accommodation.

All of this information provided her applies to all forms of anti-social behaviour, other than violent and threatening behaviour. If there is violent or threatening behaviour report them directly and to the police every time.

For more information, watch this useful video below from an experienced property lawyer:


exterior-property-feature

Additional Exterior Property Features

A driveway, garage front garden, porch and various other ‘additional’ features can drastically change the look and practicality of your house. In addition, some of these features are bound to add some further value to your home and will increase ‘kerb appeal.’ For example, a property owner looking to sell their property in order to up size may wish to increase their property's value with fairly minimal investment prior to seeking out a prospective bridging loan. In such cases, they may look to add a porch or other inexpensive property feature.

A Driveway

There are many benefits to having a driveway, the main one being you have a place to park your car. Parking your car outside you house can be a nightmare. With streets being public property, your usual space may not be free when you get home and you may have to park further away from your house. Furthermore, in some cases, parking your car on the street outside your home could be an obstruction with large vehicles unable to get through and this is especially dangerous if an ambulance, police vehicle or fire engine needs to come down the street.

A further benefit of having a driveway applies to those that utilise taxis and travel a lot. If you need to bring luggage and other potentially heavy items out to a car, say your airport taxi that is taking to your departure location, having the taxi parked a few doors down can make an inconvenient difference that would be avoided with a decent driveway.

Houses that are built on slopes will benefit from a driveway that can be angled so rainwater runs off in a direction away from the property. From the driveway, consider having an adjoining pathway. A driveway and pathway also means that people entering the home are not walking through mud or dirt that will end up being brought into the property.

A Garage

Like having a driveway, a garage offers a space for you to keep a vehicle, while offering extra security. Some people prefer to use their driveway on an everyday basis, but enjoy having the locked security of a garage for when they are away from home for a long period of time without their car (i.e. on holiday).

A Garage also provides a lot of extra storage space. Consider converting your garage for maximum space efficiency. Converting your garage will not only provide additional storage, it will also mean you can have additional living space for your home. For kerb appeal, the exterior appearance of your house will also be altered, potentially adding value to it. However, the desired additional value may not be fully realised if you do not have a parking space or driveway. As long as you still have an outside parking space provided, your properties value will increase, as a lack of parking can devalue a property.

Front garden

A front garden is a great way of bringing life to exterior of your property, as well as all of the surrounding environment. A major benefit of a front garden is that they look great without much maintenance needed to upkeep it, as they are usually much smaller in space then a back garden.

Porches

Adding a porch emphasises the character of your home and also has great potential storage qualities. It is worth considering building a porch on to a house which does not have a hallway, but rather opens up straight into a living area. This gives people an area to clean their shoes before they walk in etc. A porch also acts as a shelter from bad weather for those who are coming to your home, whilst they are technically still standing outside.


security-for-property

Getting Security For Your Property

Property security is crucial for properties of all nature; both residential and commercial, public and private. Ensuring sufficient measures are implemented provides property owners with the peace of mind that their property is protected from vandals, intruders, trespassers and squatters. However, there are a wide range of potential measures that can be put into place for the security of properties and it can be difficult to choose from these.

The most common types of security tends to be separated into 2 distinct categories: electronic security such as alarms and Closed-Circuit Television cameras (CCTV) and physical security such as fencing and barrier security. Physical security can also include manned security including security guards, site marshals and guard dogs (source: Secure Site). There are advantages to using each type of security with each incurring different costs.

Because of the plethora of options around, it is crucial to understand some of the most common types of each category of security so your property, be it large or small, an office or a pub is suitably and adequately secured when it is vacant. It may be the case that you are in the process of building a new property, having just secured construction finance and you do not want the building site to be unprotected. There are a lot of potentially valuable items and assets on building sites that are appealing to burglars and trespassers.

Electronic Security

This category refers to any electronically powered form of security, of which there are many. Some of the most common types of electronic security are CCTV systems, alarms and lighting; all of which are powerful deterrents and preventers of unwanted visitors, vandals and trespassers.

CCTV Systems – These systems range from basic arrangements where there are just a few cameras that record, not needing to be checked until such time their footage is required to more complex systems that utilise motion detection technology and infrared night vision capabilities. Furthermore, CCTV cameras can be overt (visible to all) or covert [hidden]. The beauty of CCTV is that there are options for residential and commercial properties as well as for building sites. They are an effective way to secure prosecutions as any trespassers or potential burglars are caught on film to be handed to the relevant authorities.

Alarm Systems – Alarm systems are one of the most effective deterrents any site or property owner can utilise. Using motion detection; upon being set, any motion in the areas covered by the alarm sensors will set off the alarm, drawing attention to the site in question. Moreover, many alarm systems are monitored by alarm monitoring companies, sometimes alongside CCTV which allows them to alert the local police to any intruders. Just the site of an alarm box displayed on a property or site perimeter is a strong deterrent to burglars and intruders who tend to steer clear of properties and sites covered by alarm systems.

Physical Security

The most effective and cost-efficient methods of physical security tend to be barrier-related security which forms a physical barrier between any potential intruders and the site or property. Alternatively, for higher value properties and sites as well as those that are suited to it, having security guard, often with guard dogs is one of the strongest deterrents available.

Barrier Security – There are many types of fencing, hoarding and barriers that can be put in place to make intrusion and trespassing extremely difficult. For example, in the case of derelict or empty properties, a popular solution that isn’t too expensive is boarding up all windows and doors with steel or ply-wood panelling. Additionally, for sites where fly tipping, travellers and vehicular trespass are all possible, concrete bollards and hoarding can be implemented, making it impossible for the offending parties to enter without authorisation.

Manned Security – This is one of the most effective methods to protect a site or property; manned security will entail at least one security officer or marshal who will usually be trained to the minimum Home Office Standards (holding an SIA licence) being present on site. They may perform mobile patrols or them may man a static post such as the entrance or other vulnerable point of the site. Sometimes, and depending on the exact arrangement with the security provider, guard dogs may be provided to add an additional level of security.


stamp-duty

What is Stamp Duty?

Stamp Duty or and-tax/residential-property-rates">Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) as it is known, is a tax on the purchase of properties and land in the UK and Scotland. It is a one-off lump sum compulsory tax that must be paid within 30 days of completing on a property. For customers taking out bridging finance, it is important that they incorporate the cost of stamp duty into the mix when buying a property and doing any refurbishments or rent out to tenants.

In short, when it comes to stamp duty, the more expensive your property, the more you pay. If you want more than one property, the more you pay. Simple.

How Much Stamp Duty Will I Pay?

The amount you pay in stamp duty will depend on the value of the property you are buying, whereby the higher your spend, the most tax you pay. Following the Chancellor's Autumn Statement in December 2014, there has been a change to the traditional slab system which involved paying a single rate based on the property. Currently, we have a tiered structure which is more progressive and means you pay a portion based on every level.

Based on buying a property for £500,000:

Old system:

  • 1% on a property between £125,000 and £250,000
  • 3%  on a property between £250,000 and £500,000
  • So because the purchase price is over £250,000,  you would have paid £15,000 in stamp duty.

New system:

  • You pay nothing below £125,000, which is £0
  • You pay 2% between £125,000 and £250,000, which is £2,500 (based on taxable sum of £125,000)
  • You pay 5% on the value of the property above £250,000, which is £12,500 (based on taxable sum of £250,000)

So in total this means you'll pay £15,000 (£0+£2,500+£12,500).

The new stamp duty calculations, whilst they may seem the same for a property worth £500,000, it benefits those buying properties below this. For instance, a property worth £300,000 previously would have incurred a stamp duty fee of £9,000, under the new system would only cost £5,000.

Stamp Duty on Additional Properties

Anyone buying an additional property (in addition to their main residence) will be subject to a much higher stamp duty, provided that the value of the estate is more than £40,000. In some cases, the cost of stamp duty for a second property can be double the cost of the first property's stamp duty.

How Does Stamp Duty Work in Scotland?

The Scottish system does not refer to this tax as stamp duty anyway, following a reform by the Scottish Government in April 2015. It is now called Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and it still functions the same way as stamp duty - everyone has a set amount to pay based on buying a property or land costing more than £125,000.

The only difference with the Scottish system is the thresholds and percentages charged. See below:

UK: £0 - £125,000 (no fees)

Scotland: £0 - £145,000 (no fees)

UK: £125,000 to £250,000 (2%)

Scotland: £145,001 to £250,000 (2%)

UK: £250,000 to £925,000 (5%)

Scotland: £250,000 to £325,000 (5%)

UK: £925,000 to £1.5 million (10%)

Scotland: £325,000 to £750,000 (10%)

UK: £1.5 million+ (12%)

Scotland: £750,000 + (12%)

How To Pay Stamp Duty

Your solicitor that arranges your mortgage and property purchase will usually handle the stamp duty payment. They are usually very eager to get this paid for you which is why some solicitors will ask for the stamp duty money up front - and some will pay it after. By not paying your stamp duty within the 30 day window, you will be subject to the following fines:

Length of delay Amount of penalty
Documents late by up to 12 months 10% of the duty, capped at £300
Documents late by 12 to 24 months 20% of the duty
Documents late by more than 24 months 30% of the duty

 

If you want to pay your stamp duty yourself, without a lawyer, you need to find your unique 11-digit reference number (UTRN) which can be found online or via your stamp duty return. You can then pay the HMRC by phone or online through their bank account. Payments can take up to 3 days, so you are recommended to get payment in nice and early to avoid any fines. There are also options to pay by cheque, post or credit card (this will incur a fee). You may be required to present a valid pay-slip if you wish to pay by cheque or post as verification.

Stamp Duty Calculators

A stamp duty calculator can give you a quick calculation based on the cost of your property. We recommend the following tools:

and-transaction-tax-calculator-wales">MoneyAdviceService Wales

and-and-buildings-transaction-tax-calculator-scotland">MoneyAdviceService Scotland

and-tax/#/intro">HM Revenue & Customs

 Cost of Moving House Calculator

Other Costs To Be Aware Of

Whether working on a buy-to-let or developing a new property, stamp duty is not the only cost that you need to be conscious of. Other key costs include buildings and contents insurance which will allow you to cover the cost of any potential mishaps to your property development. This can involve any damage to the building by flood, fire, peril, vandalism, fly-tipping or similar. Your contents insurance will cover you for any furniture or items inside that are at risk of theft or even materials used to renovate the building.

Public liability insurance is necessary in case any work carried out by your buildings has a detrimental impact on any neighbours or passersby e.g a roof tile falls and hits the neighbour's car. Your liability cover accepts that you take responsibility and are willing to cover any repair or replacement costs.

When working on a development or property project, it is worth having an extra 10-20% in the kitty for any contingencies. This is extra money in case something goes wrong. For instance, what is you find asbestos on the property and have to hire a professional to remove this? What if there is very bad snow weather and this delays your project by several weeks, requiring you to pay your contractors more? You can never be sure when something unexpected will arise, so having that extra money spare can be crucial.

Other additional fees include the 'arrangement fees' charged by lenders who put together your application prior to funding your purchase. This is part of underwriting and carrying out checks to see if you are suitable for their financial product. This is usually around a 1% fee of the total loan value and is seen as a commitment between you and the lender which is why most lenders require this to be paid before the loan draw down.

Other fees include broker fees of around 2% which are collected upon the funding of a loan. With so many variations and bridging products available, a quality broker can help you source the best provider and save money with the most suitable rates and product.

Further fees include the cost of valuing your property which is required by the lender prior to funding your application. The cost of the valuation may vary based on the value of the property and each lender will use an independent surveyor. This is likely to be also be around 1% of the loan value, but will vary.

Finally, your solicitor will be crucial during the funding process, reviewing the loan contracts, reports from the surveyor and making sure all aspects run smoothly and are paid on time. You will incur solicitor fees, again, depending on who you use and the cost will depend on the complexity and scale of the project.


property-renovation

Property Renovations – What are the Options?

There are many ways in which a homeowner or landlord can renovate their property or group of properties to many ends. A common reason for improving a property is to increase its overall value. This may be prior to a future sale through which the seller wishes to acquire maximum yield or it may be to allow the property to increase its rental yield from tenants.

Whatever the reason for renovating, the options are endless, from quick and easy fixes that will improve the living space in the property to full and large-scale improvements and renovation works that alter and improve the structure, build and design of a part of or the entire property.

Before committing to any work or renovations is always important to assess a number of factors such as your budget and whether you will be able to afford the works you wish to pursue with or without a loan, what work you actually want done and if you can afford a project manager who will help guide you through the entire process and take the weight off your shoulders (source: Property Perfect Solutions).

It may be the case that you need to take out a specific property loan such as renovation finance to fund such a project (depending on its size and purpose), but the return on the investment may be well in excess of the investment.

Loft Conversions

Loft conversions are a sure-fire way improve the living space in your property, whilst certainly increasing the value of the property. Loft conversions can add potentially more than 20% to the value of your home. For example, if you have a property that is valued at £500,000, a loft extension could potentially increase its sell on value by £100,000 or more. With a loft conversion costing as little as £25,000 from many providers, the return on investment is hugely promising.

There are also various types of conversions and extensions to choose from. For example, if you have a detached property with enough roof space, you may qualify for a mansard conversion which restructures the entire roof and its shape, maximising the amount of space you gain from the works. The walls are built at a specific angle (7°) to ensure maximum space, with resistance to the elements, allowing water to drain off. Other popular loft conversion options include Victorian extensions for relevant properties and bungalow extensions.

Central Heating

Particularly in the UK, there are many times during the year where the central heating needs to be used for prolonged periods of time and this can occur anytime throughout the year in all seasons. Therefore, it is important to have a fully functioning and serviced central heating system. If you are selling your property, it is one of the first things a buyer will look at as it is likely to be well used.

According to This is Money, a new central heating system can add potentially more than 5% to a home’s value. In the case of the previous property valued at £500,000, this means that say the owner cannot afford a loft conversion, installing a new central heating system for around £3,000 could see as much as £25,000 added to the property’s value.

Add a Conservatory

Conservatory styles go in and out of fashion every year. However, one thing that stays constant is their ability to add a fair bit more living space to your property’s downstairs, whilst seeing as much as 5% added to the property’s value. Conservatories also allow a lot more light into the property in question which will make it much more appealing for buyers, particularly those with children who will be conscious of making sure their children receive their vitamin D fix.

The only downside of a conservatory is that you will need to be willing to give up a few metres of garden space to accommodate the new addition to your property. However, this is usually a secondary concern for many homeowners as the value added outweighs the negative feelings around giving up a bit more garden space.


mortgage-credit-directive

Mortgage Credit Directive Explained

The Mortgage Credit Directive is a legal framework that was put together by the EU to conduct rules for any individual, firm or introducer offering first charges, second charge consumer buy to let mortgages on residential property in the UK. The new legislation was implemented by the Financial Conduct Authority on 21st March 2016.

The new regulation treats first and second charge mortgages equally - so whilst second charge loans used to fall under consumer credit, now any businesses, lenders or brokers offering this service must be authorised and hold the correct permissions for mortgages. For second charge customers, it means that they must now go through the more thorough checks associated with getting a mortgage, rather than a standard loan.

The MCD applies to credit agreements that are secured by a residential mortgage and to credit agreements used to acquire or retain property rights in land or in an existing or projected building. The rules are applicable to the following stakeholders involved in mortgages and bridge finance:

  • Credit/lenders
  • Intermediaries/brokers/introducers
  • Appointed sales representatives

The directive was set up by the EU as part of the G20 commitment to improve the conditions and underwriting of credit agreements relating to immovable residential property (Source: Wikipedia). The decision was aimed to safeguard and prevent irresponsible lending and borrowing in the mortgage markets that caused havoc in the US during the housing crisis of 2006 to 2008, perfectly portrayed in the film "The Big Short."

Overview

The Mortgage Credit Directive sets out some common rules for mortgage lenders and brokers to follow. In doing so, this should create a residential market that better informs customers about the real costs of a mortgage and allow them to compare effectively between competitors. There is a key aspect to reflect on the mortgage contract before going ahead and this is aimed to protect mortgage applications from unfair and misleading practices by firms.

 

Key Features

The following are adapted from The Government's Guide of EU Mortgage Credit Directive.

andardised_Information_Sheet_.28ESIS.29" class="mw-headline">European Standardised Information Sheet (ESIS)

Before the mortgage contract is completed, applicants will be provided with a European Standardised Information Sheet (andbook.fca.org.uk/handbook/MCOB/5A/Annex1.html?date=2016-03-21#DES62">ESIS). This is similar to the pre-contractual information that is given to most mortgage applicants across Europe but the ESIS is more detailed.

It includes a seven-day reflection period for the borrower to decide whether or not they want the loan and the EU member state can decide whether to administer this in the pre-sale or post-sale period.

 

The document includes the impact of interest rates including the Annual Percentage Rate of Charge (APRC) and offers example monthly payments in case they rise to the highest level in the past 20 years. This is a way of saying that 'this is the highest you could pay' in extreme circumstances.

The ESIS must be given in good time before the closing of the credit agreement allowing the customer to compare other rates and ask for third party advice.

Annual Percentage Rate of Charge (APRC)

Part of the ruling of the directive means that customers are presented with the Annual Percentage Rate of Charge (andbook.fca.org.uk/handbook/MCOB/10A/1.html?date=2016-06-30">APRC) and this should allow borrowers to do the following:

  • See the whole cost of the mortgage and all fees
  • How much the mortgage would cost if you kept it for the full loan term i.e 5 years, 10 years 25 years etc
  • Compare effectively against other similar mortgage products.

Example of APRC: Imagine you want to borrow £500,000 with a 25-year mortgage. Halifax charges 1.14% on a two-year fixed rate deal but once the two year period ends, you will be subject to paying the standard variable rate of 4.99%. Therefore as part of the new regulations, the APRC shows you the full cost for the entire loan term as though it were 25 years, giving you an interest rate of 4.6%.

So ultimately the APRC shows you what you would be paying if you stayed with the same mortgage agreement for the entire loan period. However, this is unlikely as people realise that they can save massively by remortgaging at the end of the introductory period. So it is important for applicants and borrowers to look at the introductory rate first, which in this case is 1.14%.

Binding Offers

Mortgage lenders are now required to make a binding offer when providing a mortgage contract. A binding offer is when a mortgage provider draws up a contract stating the terms of the agreement and willingness to lend. It is part of a legal contract but does not become officially legally binding in a court of law unless the borrower accepts and signs the contract. It is common for binding offers to remain open some time to allow the borrower to make a decision and also consider other alternatives.

7 day Reflection period

Customers now have a 7-day reflection period where they can think and decide if the mortgage agreement is right for them. During this time, they can also investigate and compare other deals available. Since this was introduced by the EU, all member states can decide whether they introduce the 7-day period pre-sale or post-sale of the mortgage agreement, or even a combination of the two.

Tying and Bundling

The Directive has strict rules on lenders that want to 'tie' or 'bundle' additional products or services with the credit agreement. This has usually been offered by lenders to diversify and compete with other companies but can also lead to less mobility for customers and the feeling of being tied down. Therefore, the new rulings aim to limit bundling that can have a negative impact on the borrower but also keep anything which may be beneficial.

Property Valuations

Whilst most lenders and brokers already encouraged property valuations prior to forming credit agreements, it is now a requirement to have a valuation that is internationally recognised by the likes of the International Valuation Standards Committee and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Foreign Currency

There are now measures in place to protect those that are applying for loans in a foreign currency. Since exchange rates can fluctuate massively over a mortgage term that lasts several years, there is now an effort to safeguard borrowers from exchange rate risks.

Assessing a Customer's Creditworthiness

Additional guidance has been issued for lenders to assess a customer's credit prior to engaging in a mortgage contract. This can be through the use of credit checking via a credit reference agency such as Experian, Equifax or CallCredit.

The customers’ ability to refinance the credit agreement should be assessed and verified before the conclusion of the credit agreement. The assessment should also reflect on other factors that may inhibit their repayment of a loan such as number of dependents, income, debt to loan ratio and other commitments. Lenders and brokers must look beyond the fact that investing and purchasing a property can generate more income and value and this should not be an excuse for giving credit.

Allow Early Repayment

Whilst already common with most mortgage lenders and providers, customers must now always be given the option to repay their loan early, before the credit agreement ends. In fact, the ability to clear their debts early can play quite a big role when comparing the different rates and cost of a loan. The Mortgage Credit Directive believes that the option to repay early promotes healthy competition in the industry and financial stability within the sector.

Accidental Landlords

The MCD includes new rules if you suddenly become an accidental landlord such as inheriting a property or needing to let out your primarily residence.

This is the first time ever that accidental landlords will be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority which implies much stricter income and affordability assessments than previously, as though you were applying for a typical mortgage.

The MCD has also brought in new rules if you’re an ‘accidental’ landlord, for example if you’ve inherited a property, or if you plan to let out a property that you have previously lived in as your main home.

However, if you are professional landlord with a limited company and own more than one buy-to-let property, you will continue to fall outside the scope of the FCA. So if you are an accidental landlord, this may be an option to take to limit your compliancy needs.

What About Commercial Property?

The MCD totally excludes commercial property that is used for purchase or buy-to-let. This includes office blocks, shops on the high street, gyms, schools and more.

The new legislation also excludes properties that are 'mixed use' provided that the property is used more for commercial than residential reasons. An example of this is an office building with a flat above it.

The directive also excludes any contract for the purposes of a person's business, trade or professional, assuming that the borrower is not acting as the consumer.