Is it us, or is housing getting extremely political? There was Ed Miliband on ITV recently defending his mansion tax to singer Myleene Klass (we didn’t just dream that, did we?); while Labour MP Emily Thornberry was forced to resign after tweeting a picture of a house in Rochester (actually Strood, as it turned out) draped in the English flag. And housing policy has certainly been marked as a major issue in the run-up to the General Election on May 7 by all major parties.
Yet Mark Hayward, Managing Director of the National Association of Estate Agents, warns that the UK needs a long-term plan — not just a short-term, vote-catching one. “Few things in life are as important as the home we live in,” he said recently, “so it’s time to stop politicising housing. We need to stop thinking of housing policy in five year election cycles and adopt a long term approach to this critical issue.” Still, as we approach the election, all politicians will have to clearly reveal where they stand on housing. Won’t they?
Think 2014 is all over? It is now (or very nearly, at any rate). So as we teeter towards Christmas and the start of 2015, we can look back on a varied year for property-watchers, be they householders or landlords.
Just 12 short months ago, the Government was trumpeting its newly launched Help to Buy scheme for new-build homes, noting how it had expanded the UK mortgage market. And, in fact, first-time house-buying was reported to be at its highest level since 2007 — although figures have dropped since — so no wonder Chancellor George Osborne announced during his March budget that he was extending Help to Buy. Ironically, a matter of weeks later, new rules from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) tightened up mortgage applications — so homebuyers now face more detailed questioning about their lifestyles than ever.
At the beginning of summer, after a warning from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney that the housing market was overheating, the property market duly began cooling off; although fears about Scottish independence and what it could mean for the private rented sector and construction industry were dampened after the No Thanks campaign was victorious in the September referendum.
So where does that leave us as we head towards 2015? Well, almost certainly waiting for an interest rate rise in the spring, while coping with a housing shortage that shows no sign of going away. Ooh, and don’t forget: there’s a General Election in May.
It looks as though the next 12 months is going to be even more eventful than the last…
Happy birthday, buy-to-let
Think it’s easy being a landlord? Think again. Apart from managing properties and tenants, even finding financing can prove tricky.
Recent statistics have shown that two thirds of landlords rely on buy-to-let mortgages to fund their portfolio — but that, worryingly, one in five have had trouble getting them (which is a tad ironic, because buy-to-let is currently celebrating its 18 year milestone. Not such a happy birthday, then?).
This news only reinforces how important it is for landlords to do their research thoroughly if they are seeking out finance for themselves by reading out about the latest buy-to-let deals in the press, and checking the lenders’ websites. Or, of course, landlords can use a broker to find the best deals.
Rooms for Improvement
Have you been gripped by the second series of the BBC’s Great British Interior Design Challenge? If you have, you won’t want to miss the grand final which is unfurled with a flourish on BBC2 at the start of this month.
Twenty-seven designers started on the show, making over everything from tenements in Edinburgh to oast houses in Kent. But now the two finalists — and at the time of writing, we can’t say who they are (but the show’s Facebook fans are going mad for Fiona and Martin… so it probably won’t be them) — are charged with their most fiendish design tasks yet.
“Interior design is one of the best ways to improve the enjoyment of your home,” says judge Sophie Robinson, who gushes about the “abundance of talent and enthusiasm” in the UK. A third series is practically guaranteed.