News: Good for starters?

David Cameron has pledged to do away with planning rules that require property developers to build affordable homes for rent — an idea that aims to increase the building of homes for first-time buyers. The Conservatives know they have to deliver on the promises announced in their manifesto: namely that 200,000 starter homes will be built over the course of the next Parliament, reserved for first-time buyers under 40 and sold at 20 per cent below the market price. Mark Hayward, Managing Director of the National Association of Estate Agents, says that while this is good news, 200,000 homes “simply isn’t enough bricks and mortar to lift us out of the crisis we currently find ourselves in.”

So… will more be said about housing when George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement on 25 November, alongside the government’s spending review? We’ll wait and see…

Quietly does it

Recently it was reported that residents of an upmarket London suburb could be given football-style yellow and red cards for making too much noise in their back gardens. It seems that in this particular part of town, noisy lawnmowers and leafblowers are — ahem — totally offside (and manual tools are encouraged instead). If that sounds severe, consider this: we all have to respect our neighbours because most of us have them, and — more importantly — want to stay on the right side of them.

Noise seems to be the issue that causes most neighbourly disputes; and if it becomes too much it could be viewed as ‘noise pollution’, which can include everything from incessant dog barking and loud music to annoying alarm systems that keep going off. And then go on. And on. And on.

Under the Noise Act 1996 your local authority is obliged to deal with any ‘nuisance’ noise and can issue an abatement notice to the offender — although, usually, an environmental health officer will visit them to see if the issue can be easily resolved. If a notice is issued and then ignored, the police and the courts will step in — and fines of up to £5000 can be issued. If you are in the process of buying a house, remember to ask your estate agent about any ongoing disputes the sellers may have with the neighbours.

Top of the list for renters

Landlords: some intriguing new research has just been published which shows the main features potential tenants look for in a rental property. For 30 per cent, the kitchen is very important; while a large main bedroom is a must for 28 per cent. A spacious living room was top of the list for 20 per cent of renters; while only 10 per cent said that a bathroom was important — and a measly two per cent were bothered about the garden.

Worryingly, the research revealed that renters take an average of just 60 seconds to decide if a property is right for them, and 63 per cent will decide to take a flat on their first viewing. So the message is, make sure that first impressions are good ones — and that the kitchen, main bedroom and living room are in tip-top shape…

Banking on a loan

Since the financial crisis, getting a mortgage has not been easy. And that’s putting it mildly because many banks and building societies simply pulled up the money-lending drawbridge. Moves have been made recently to get the market working again — but new research has found that only 12 per cent of adults think access to mortgages has improved in the last five years.

It’s not all doom and gloom: the same report highlighted that UK renters now believe that saving for a deposit, finding an affordable property and getting a mortgage is less of a problem than it was last year. So if you are about to apply for a mortgage, the key questions you need to ask are: do you have your finances under control — and what can you afford for a deposit? Go prepared because a lender will want to know the gap between your monthly spendings and your income; and as tighter controls have come in, expect to be asked questions about childcare, loans, energy bills, mobile phone contracts, gym membership and even food bills.