NEWS: Party Pledges

Phew. The campaigning — and the incessant political bickering — is over. Still, here’s a round-up of the main parties’ manifesto pledges regarding housing. The Conservatives have said that they will build 200,000 new starter homes for first-time buyers under 40 and extend the Help-to-Buy scheme to 2020. Labour, meanwhile, have promised 200,000 new homes a year by 2020, giving first priority to local first-time buyers; plus they want to guarantee three-year tenancies to renters and cap excessive rent rises. The Lib Dems announced plans to build 300,000 homes per year, while introducing a new Help to Rent scheme so that government-backed tenancy deposit loans will be available for all first-time renters under 30; and Ukip has pledged to protect Britain’s green belt and exempt houses built on brownfield sites from stamp duty. The Greens would scrap Help to Buy, and protect tenants by capping rents and introducing longer tenancies and a licensing scheme for landlords.

Pensioner Landlords

In his recent Budget, the Chancellor announced that, from 2016, people with existing annuities will be able to access their pension in cash. Which means that, if lots of people turn to property to fund their retirement as expected, the buy-to-let landscape could change. “It… seems likely that some of those who can access their pension pots once the changes come in will choose to manage their own risk and invest in property,” says Stephen Johnson, MD of Shawbrook Bank’s Commercial Mortgages division.

Yet if you’re a first-time ‘pensioner’ landlord, Lisa Williams, founder of mortgage brokerage Keys Mortgages, has some tips for you. First, she says, do lots of ‘free’ research by looking at forums attending events or reading books — and don’t rush in. “It’s better to wait for the right property and deal than fall down on your first,” she points out. You should also sell regularly rather than retain your property at all costs. “Having liquidity is essential for any business and in this case equity is vanity,” says Williams. “I recommend a keep one, sell one strategy.” Then, value your team – your solicitor, broker and accountant in particular — and stick to your own plan. “It is your money and life after all,” she says, “and your strategy should aim to fulfill your hopes and dreams, rather than anyone else’s.”

How does your garden grow?

Summer isn’t (officially) here; but the month of May is — so no doubt you’ll have been out in your garden, pruning, mowing, digging and hoeing. Unless, of course, you don’t actually have a garden… just a scrubby old patch of earth. Never mind. If you think of it as a blank canvas you can transform your outside space — however desperate-looking it seems — into a vibrant garden, and add appeal (and maybe even a bit of value) onto your property in the process.

As with so much in life, planning is key, so make a rough drawing of everything you want to include: veg patch (very popular at present), herb garden, flower beds, lawn, patio or decking and play area for the kids. Think about where the sun sets and rises, find out your soil’s pH (so you can choose the best veg and plants) and encourage wildlife. What are you waiting for? That veg patch isn’t going to dig itself, you know…

Everything but the kitchen sink?

So you’re moving out, and moving on — but when it comes to fixtures and fittings, what do you take from your old house… and what are you obliged to leave behind?

Actually, there isn’t a law that stops you taking anything you want — and that includes the lightbulbs. But the unspoken rule is: be sensible. Also, it’s plain good manners for the seller to make an inventory of things they are going to take with them. By the way: a fixture is thought of as anything fixed to the building (ie, kitchen units, electrical sockets, bathroom suites), while fittings are considered to be free standing items (carpets, beds, sofas, etc). If you need any clarification, be sure to ask your estate agent.