Winds strong enough to cause damage to property are fairly rare in the UK. When a severe weather warning is issued in your area it is a good idea to take some sensible precautions to protect your home and property.
Autumn precautions and maintenance measures to take:
- Check your fences. Most home insurance policies specifically exclude storm damage to fences. So before the autumn weather sets in replace and loose or rotted fence posts, repair panels and replace rotten gravel boards. Ensure all panels are securely fixed to fence posts. It is a good idea to add screw the battens on fence panels as this makes them stronger and prolongs the panel life.
- Make sure that your guttering, drainpipes and overflow pipes clear of debris and leaves and check they are securely attached to the building.
- Regularly inspect your roof for damage, loose or missing tiles and broken or missing pointing and any dislodged lead flashing. Even if it appears minor, ignoring small items like a missing tile may provide a weakness meaning any storm damage is likely to be much more extensive if it is not attended to beforehand.
- Inspect any trees on your own and neighbouring properties. Cut off any branches and dead areas, likely to be dislodged by a storm. Cut down any dead trees. However do not touch and trees that are protected under a tree preservation order but write to the council and ask permission to get a tree surgeon to do the work.
- It is best if the TV aerial is located inside your roof space. If it is not consider this but as a minimum ensure it is securely fixed so that it doesn’t come loose in high winds. Also be sure to check that what it is fixed to is also secure!
With the increase in demand for new homes being fuelled by the government’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, demand is exceeding supply and house builders cannot (or will not) build them fast enough. As a result more people are buying ‘off-plan’ to secure their new home. Off-plan is the term used to described buying (reserving) a new home before it is built, purely on the basis of the builder’s brochure, construction plans, specifications or scale models, rather than after viewing the actual property or even a representative show home.
No show home, no problem. Most house builders like to be able to show they have sold a few plots prior to the show home opening. It can give potential buyers confidence and the impression that the development is popular or offers good value. It is common for prices to increase, often quite markedly, when the show home is available to view, as buyers will be able to properly assess the quality and specification of the homes.
“Early bird” or “up-field” reservations.
House builders normally release a limited number of plots at any given time, in certain order. This is because they need the development to be completed in a particular sequence, usually for pricing, presentation, access and perhaps safety reasons. “Early bird” reservations are not strictly the same as buying ‘off-plan’ as you are not actually buying or reserving a particular home, you are pre reserving a right of first refusal once the plot is priced and released for sale. Keep in mind that the prices subsequently released could be higher, as the builder will already have a registered interest in that particular plot. House builders like the early bird system as it gives them the best of both worlds: a list of would-be buyers ready to pounce as soon as plots are released for sale, whilst they can also take full advantage of any price rises in the market since the early-bird reservation.
There are many firms and individuals that offer so-called professional snagging inspections. Some even refer to historic TV appearances. So how do you decide?
New home buyers need to ensure that the inspector who will be snagging their new home is qualified and experienced and not sub contracted out to a local ex-site manager or finishing manager who cannot currently find a job – the very people who have now made professional independent snagging a necessity!
Cost – Most people’s first consideration. However, apart from making sure any VAT is included in the price cost should not be the primary factor. Most snagging companies charge similar fees anyway. You should not be asking yourself can I afford this, rather than, can I afford not to!
Is the inspector competent?
- Check the qualifications and experience of the inspector who will be doing the inspection.
- Can the company provide any testimonials or historic snagging reports as examples?
- Does the company’s website feature a list of their inspectors along with details of experience and qualifications?
- Do the inspectors have a thorough knowledge of the latest building regulations and NHBC standards?
- Are employed inspectors properly interviewed and assessed?
Check the level of service
- Does the company have trained and knowledgeable staff in an established office? People who are able to provide help and advice over the telephone, not just for the initial inspection, but throughout the two year warranty period.
- How quickly are they able to carry out the inspection and produce a professional report for the builder to action?
- Do they offer nationwide inspections or are they just in a particular county or area?
- Are they able to carry out inspections, even if the house builder or site manager initially refuses access?
Does the fee include re visiting the home to check defects have been dealt with or is this only available at extra cost?
Does the service provided include dealing with any problems or disputes with the builder for the full 2-year warranty or does it just provide a one-off inspection report?
Read any of the largest house builders year-end reports and it is all about profit, earnings per share, return on capital employed, sales, turnover, number of homes built, the average selling price and land bank values – all financial matters. Forecasts for the coming year are about the potential to increase these numbers. So it should be, after all they are commercial businesses and these numbers matter to investors, shareholders and the banks lending them money.
But what about announcements regarding improving quality and customer satisfaction? Surely these matter to shareholders too, as any successful business must have happy satisfied customers. But it is very rare that any of the CEOs make any reference about the actual quality of their product in their year-end statements. Even when they do, it is normally a reference to the potentially manipulated HBF Customer Satisfaction Star Rating. The star rating is only based on around 30% of the homes that the larger house builders build each year so is hardly representative. CEOs may also mention awards won in the year such as the NHBC Pride in the Job Awards. However, some of the larger builders, whilst winning a handful of awards, have a poor record in the competition considering the number of active sites they have in any given year.
Top left to right: Jeff Fairburn – Persimmon * Pete Redfern – Taylor Wimpey * Mark Clare – Barratt/David Wilson * Steve Morgan – Redrow * Greg Fitzgerald -Linden. Bottom left to right: Ted Ayers – Bellway * Tony Pidgley Berkeley * David Ritchie – Bovis * Stephen Stone – Crest * John Bloor – Bloor
Are snagging inspectors worth it? This is a question often asked by new home buyers, especially as it comes at a time when they have other non-optional costs such as stamp duty, legal fees and mortgage fees to budget for.
New homes are required to be built to the relevant building regulations and warranty standards. Whether any new home meets these standards will depend on the level of inspection and supervision throughout the build process. However, compliance should not be taken for granted.
Many people buying a new home do not even think about hiring a professional snagging inspector. They expect, quite rightly, that their new home will be built with care and that all those statements and promises regarding quality from the house builder will be reflected in the finish of their new home.
According to the HBF Customer Satisfaction Survey, 91% of new homebuyers reported problems with their new home after they moved in. A quarter (27%) of new homebuyers experienced more problems than they had expected.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has announced his intention to turn Britain into a “nation of house builders” with a series of policies offering tax breaks and subsidies to people who want to build their own home. He said: “We’re taking practical steps which will unlock the potential and will turn our country, which is famously a nation of shopkeepers, to a nation of self-builders too.”
He said added that encouraging people to build their own homes would lead to less “homogeneous, pasteurised housing” being built all over the country. It is believed people living in the countryside will be less likely to object to custom housing than larger modern ‘hobbitat’ developments.
Currently, UK self-building accounts for around 11,000 new homes each year worth £4 billion. The new policies are aimed at doubling this in a few years so that around one in every five new homes will be a self-build.
Mr Pickles confirmed that more than 50 councils are making sites available for self-builders and 3,000 plots are already in the pipeline. Under planning guidance, councils are asked to assess the demand for self-building in the local area and keep a register of people who are interested in plots as they become available.
Despite a widespread condemnation of the Help to Buy scheme and an already overheating property market, George Osborne has now gone on record stating that “the Office for Budget responsibility has estimated that during the three years the scheme will be running, there will be over 3.4 million property transactions. Of these only 2% will be with the support of the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme and therefore it is unlikely that the scheme will have a material effect on house prices.”
However, during the first five months of the scheme, over 12,000 households have already reserved a new home using the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme. At the current rate of take up there will be 18,400 more buyers using the Equity Loan scheme, 27% more than Mr Osborne’s forecast. With house builder’s average prices rising around 7.6% over the last 12 months and outstripping price rises in the general housing market, as house prices get even further out of reach, even more buyers will need to use the Help to Buy Shared Equity Scheme.
Readers should note that Mr Osborne specifically avoided saying that the recently brought forward Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee scheme will not lead to a house price bubble.
Why normal home insurance will not cover a rental home?
One of the most frequently asked questions when people first start letting out their main home is whether or not they need to change their home insurance, and if ordinary home insurance will provide cover for a rental home.
If you are intending letting your home, you need to tell your insurers straightaway, as your normal insurance would be invalidated. Your insurer will need to adjust your policy (and probably charge you a higher premium) even if you are just renting a room to a lodger.
When you rent out your home to a tenant, you need to take out landlord insurance. This is similar to home insurance, in that it can cover both the building itself as well as your contents such as any furniture, but not your tenant’s possessions. It also covers several important things that ordinary home insurance does not. For example, landlord insurance provides cover for any third party risks that you may encounter as a landlord. It will reduce your level of risk, and will ensure that you do not lose out financially if anything goes wrong.
Yesterday, the government officially launched the Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee along with details of lender’s fees and some 66 pages of scheme rules.
The £12billion scheme is intended to help thousands of people buy a home. RBS, NatWest and Halifax will start taking applications this week, with HSBC and Virgin Money joining later. However, some bankers working on the scheme say they expect interest rates could be as high as 6%, well above the best deals currently available, due to government fees. Buyers can already get 95% mortgages by paying a rate of around 6%.