NEWS: Good to share

New year, new deal. The Government has announced that it is relaxing the rules of shared ownership — homes which people can part-buy and part-rent — so that, from April, those earning below £80,000 in England (£90,000 in London) will be eligible for the scheme. “By relaxing some of the existing restrictions, a potential 175,000 aspiring homeowners will be given the opportunity to own their own home, as well as allowing existing shared ownership homeowners the opportunity to step up the ladder,” says Mark Hayward, managing director, National Association of Estate Agents. “However, as with all housing promises, they can’t come quick, or big enough.”

The Government also announced that it is imposing a five-year limit on new tenancies for council houses, meaning that tenants will no longer have the right to live in their council homes for life.

Happy 2016?

Depending on which newspaper you read, you’ll know that some property experts are expecting house prices to grow steadily in the next 12months… while others are suggesting that they could either soar — or, er, slow dramatically. What this really proves is that house price speculating is a fool’s game.

A couple of things, however, are certain when it comes to 2016’s property picture: the housing crisis is still with us and, unfortunately, isn’t going to be solved in the next 12 months (in the UK, we need to be building 200,000 homes a year to keep up with demand — although, in his Autumn Statement, George Osborne did promise to kickstart “the largest house building programme since the 1970s”); Also, sadly, houses will remain unaffordable for many. The private rented sector looks set to keep growing: last month, 41 per cent of landlords reported a rise in demand.

What about interest rates? Well, here again, predictions vary, and keep varying: six months ago, notes The Daily Telegraph, the first interest rate rise was scheduled for December 2015 (ie, last month). That was scuppered because of wobbly markets and uncertainty on the global stage, and now there is talk that the first rate rise might not come until April 2017. And let’s not get started on what effect the in-out EU referendum (if it happens this year) could have on the property market.

Still — whatever it brings, whether you are an owner, renter or landlord — have a happy new property-watching year.

Landlords: Make Sure You are Flood Proof

Another year, another ‘once in a Century’ flooding disaster. Just a few short few weeks ago, the waters began rising in Cumbria and the North West, affecting thousands of properties — just in time for Christmas. As a landlord (and as a property owner, too, in fact), it’s vital that you know if you are in a flood risk area (you can check by visiting www.environment-agency.gov.uk) and ensure that you have the proper buildings and contents insurance covering you for flood damage. After all, landlords are responsible for repairs if the worst happens, and that includes any issues with electricity, water supply, gas supply and sanitation.

You should also ask your tenants to make a flood plan to help them stay safe, including having a flood kit on standby with a torch, water, food, plus any important documents and contact details.

Testing, Testing

Question: how important is it that you live in an area where there’s a good mobile phone signal? If a new survey from mobile analytics firm RootMetrics is anything to go by, the answer is ‘very’.

Incredibly, 34 per cent of the survey’s respondents said that a good signal is more important to them than the quality of local schools (which only scored 23 per cent) — and that a poor signal would put them off buying a property.

RootMetrics says it’s a good idea to take into consideration every factor when house hunting (which is sound advice), so make sure you run a quick test on a property’s mobile performance during your viewing — and/or ask your estate agent for more information.