Covid19: Air pollution falls sharply across the world

With global economic activity ramping down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it is hardly surprising that emissions of a variety of gases related to energy and transport would be reduced.

Scientists say that by May, when CO2 emissions are at their peak thanks to the decomposition of leaves, the levels recorded might be the lowest since the financial crisis over a decade ago.

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Researchers in New York told the BBC their early results showed carbon monoxide mainly from cars had been reduced by nearly 50% compared with last year.

Emissions of the planet-heating gas CO2 have also fallen sharply.

But there are warnings levels could rise rapidly after the pandemic.

An analysis carried out for the climate website Carbon Brief suggested there had been a 25% drop in energy use and emissions in China over a two week period. This is likely to lead to an overall fall of about 1% in China’s carbon emissions this year, experts believe.

Both China and Northern Italy have also recorded significant falls in nitrogen dioxide, which is related to reduced car journeys and industrial activity. The gas is a serious air pollutant and also indirectly contributes to the warming of the planet.

With aviation grinding to a halt and millions of people working from home, a range of emissions across many countries are likely following the same downward path.

While people working from home will likely increase the use of home heating and electricity, the curbing of commuting and the general slowdown in economies will likely have an impact on overall emissions.

Source: BBC News

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COVID19: UK Government suspends property market till further notice

The housing market was halted on Thursday night by the Government after financial institutions said they could no longer operate properly.

Ministers are discouraging buyers from going ahead with house sales and purchases unless they have ­already exchanged contracts as part of wider efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, saying no one should move unless absolutely necessary. ­

As a result of the pandemic, homeowners trying to sell their properties face a year of misery as the number of buyers dwindles, estate agents close their doors, banks withdraw deals and house prices falling.

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Banks and building societies have agreed to extend mortgage offers where completions have to be delayed as a safety precaution.

Grainne Gilmore, head of research at Zoopla, commented: “The clarity provided by the government announcement is welcome for buyers, sellers and agents who are in the middle of the sales process.

“Agents continue to support their buyers and vendors remotely. But, now that there is some leeway on mortgage offers – with a three month extension from lenders – this will enable some buyers to press pause, and to re-start their purchase once the current social distancing rules are relaxed.”

What does it mean if you’re buying?

You should only consider going ahead with your move in the immediate term if you have already exchanged contracts.

If you have not yet exchanged contracts, the government are advising you to delay doing so.

See the source imageBanks and building societies have agreed to extend mortgage offers for up to an additional three months to enable customers to move at a later date without losing the deal they had lined up.

If your circumstances change during this period or the terms of the house purchase alter significantly, meaning that continuing with the mortgage would put you into financial hardship, lenders have pledged to work with you to manage your finances as a matter of urgency.

What it means if you are selling?

Putting your property on the market will be more challenging than usual, as you are not allowed to have visitors to your home.

As a result, you will not be able to have estate agents come to take photos or carry out a physical market appraisal, while Energy Performance Certificate assessors are also not allowed to visit you.

If your home is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it for sale, but people cannot come to physically view your property.

Importantly, you are still allowed to accept offers on your property during the current period.

In fact, the number of sales agreed between March 16 and March 22 were only 4% lower than a year earlier.

Source: Zoopla Property News

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Covid-19: UK property market to be suspended as sales drop significantly

UK house buyer interest has slumped as people stay at home to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus, according to property listings websites.

Zoopla predicts housing transactions will drop by up to 60% over the next three months.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of sales that had been agreed before the lockdown are falling through.

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The government has advised homebuyers and renters to delay moving as much as they can.

“Would-be homebuyers paused major decisions and took stock of the unfolding events in the UK and around the world, even before [restrictions] announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson,” Zoopla said.

Demand in the week to 22 March slumped 40% on a week earlier, its figures suggest.

The property listings site said the UK housing market had a strong start to the year before the coronavirus outbreak crushed demand.

The pandemic has since led to a “rapidly increasing” proportion of sales falling through, as would-be buyers “reassess whether to make a big financial decision in these shifting times”.

Sales were still being agreed, it found, but at a 4% slower rate than at the same time a year earlier.

The Financial Times has reported that bankers have been urging government ministers to suspend the housing market.

They are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on valuations but they are also worried about issuing loans due to uncertainty about the effect the virus will have on the economy, the paper reported.

In response to the crisis, UK Finance, which was formerly known as the British Bankers Association, said lenders would extend mortgage offers for people who were due to move house during the lockdown.

“Current social distancing measures mean many house moves will need to be delayed,” Stephen Jones, who runs the group, said in a statement.

“Where people have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion this is likely to be particularly stressful,” he said.

“To support these customers at this time, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.”

The government has told people “there is no need to pull out of transactions”, instead encouraging them to “amicably agree alternative dates to move”.

The sentiments identified by Zoopla echo a previous announcement from rival Rightmove, which said the slowdown in the UK housing market had been “significant”.

“The number of property transactions failing to complete in recent days and likely changes in tenant behaviour following the announcement of the renters’ protections by the government may put further pressure on estate and lettings agents,” it said, referring to the recent ban on evictions.

The government said on Wednesday that home buyers and renters should delay moving if possible while emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus.

“If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus,” a housing ministry spokesperson said.

“Anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice and not move house for the time being.”

Meanwhile, there were reports on Thursday that mortgage lenders had started to temporarily restrict some products for certain customers.

Source: BBC News

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UK Covid19 Lockdown: Only emergency repairs allowed, Landlords and Estate Agents told

The latest advice issued today is that although tradespeople can complete repairs at properties if they take precautions, landlords should avoid face-to-face contact with existing or prospective tenants.

The government has told landlords and letting agents that they should not conduct house viewings or complete routine inspections of properties, but has said that their tradespeople can complete emergency repairs.

See the source imageBut confirmation has yet to come through from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government about essential tasks such as gas safety and electrical equipment testing and whether these will be exempt from the lockdown as ‘essential services’.

It is also understood that ministers are considering whether to allow many of the companies serving the private rented sector to continue doing their work if a property is owned by someone working in frontline health and emergency services.

Until yesterday industry organisation Gas Safe Register was recommending to landlords that they book inspections by an approved engineer as soon as possible if their renewal date was within the next two months.

The organisation says that following the lock-down announcement last night, it is urgently seeking guidance from the Cabinet Office and the Health and Safety Executive about whether residential property safety inspections will be deemed ‘essential services’.

Also, landlords who are refurbishing properties can continue their work as construction sites have also been given the green light as essential service, it was confirmed this morning.

But all this advice from government remains just that – guidance; the necessary legislation to make it an offence to ignore the rules has yet to make its way through parliament, although this is expected to be achieved at any moment.

One grey area is whether landlords can help tenants move into or out of a property; there are a large number of outstanding rental tenancy contracts that were signed and paid for up-front before the Coronavirus shutdown, and now lockdown, gripped the nation.

Source: LandlordZone

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Property Ombudsman conference postponed due to COVID 19

The Property Ombudsman has announced that it will postpone its annual conference, which was to have been on June 18, until next year.

In its place, TPO will be holding a Rightmove Webinar on the same morning.

Katrine Sporle, who retires as TPO later this year, says: “Given the circumstances affecting us all, we have decided to convert the conference in Solihull to a Rightmove Webinar to take place on the morning of June 18. We will provide updates, advice and interactive sessions to respond to agents’ questions and concerns.”

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TPO’s office says tickets already purchased will be credited towards the 2021 conference “when normal business resumes.”

Meanwhile a statement from the organisation says it’s business as normal at The Property Ombudsman, with many of its staff managing to work remotely to provide a normal service.

However, TPO says that the priority for agents is of course to ensure the welfare of their employees and advises: “Therefore, if services have to change and complaints cannot be dealt with in the usual way, agents should ensure this is communicated to complainants in writing.”

Should a complaint then be subsequently escalated to TPO, this will be taken into account.

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UK Budget 2020: Low interest rate & spending on housing may boost property market

The Government unveiled its first Budget since the General Election, amid increasing coronavirus pressures.

The Budget came hours after the Bank of England’s announcement of an emergency cut in the base interest rate to shore up the economy following the outbreak.

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The cut, from 0.75 per cent to 0.25 per cent, takes borrowing costs back down to the lowest level in history, and may help the housing market.

Just 27 days after taking over the Treasury, the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a dramatic increase in infrastructure spending, including new housing.

Stamp Duty

A Stamp Duty surcharge of 2% will be introduced for overseas non-residents who buy residential property in England and Northern Ireland. This will start from April 1 2021.

The Government said the measure “will help to control house price inflation and to support UK residents to get on to and move up the housing ladder”.

There were no other changes to Stamp Duty charges; a disappointment to many potential buyers.

Interest Rate

The reduction in the bank rate will benefit homeowners on variable rate mortgages; however, these represent a minority with over 90% of new mortgages now fixed rate.

For those on variable rates, it normally takes up to two months for the change in bank rate to filter down, but the Government will put pressure on financial institutions to implement it faster.

It’s important to remember that it is up to the banks’ discretion as to how much of the cut they pass on to consumers, which could stymie potential benefits.

Spending on housing

The Affordable Homes Programme, intended to ‘help more people into homeownership and help those most at risk of homelessness’, will be extended with a new multi-year settlement of £12 billion.

This marks a £3bn increase on the current five-year Affordable Homes Programme, which is worth £9 billion and is due to end in 2021.

The Chancellor also announced £1.1 billion worth of allocations from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to develop almost 70,000 homes in nine different areas, including Manchester, South Sunderland and South Lancaster. This was announced in addition to a new £400m for new housing on brownfield sites.

Source: Zoopla Property News

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Louis Vuitton to use perfume production lines to start making hand sanitiser

Louis Vuitton owner LVMH will use its perfume production lines to start making hand sanitiser to protect people against the coronavirus outbreak.

The luxury goods maker says it wants to help tackle a nationwide shortage of the anti-viral products across France.

“These gels will be delivered free of charge to the health authorities,” LVMH announced on Sunday.

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France has now seen 120 deaths from the coronavirus as the pandemic spreads.

“LVMH will use the production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands… to produce large quantities of hydroalcoholic gels from Monday,” LVMH said in a statement.

The factories normally produce perfume and makeup for luxury brands like Christian Dior and Givenchy.

The French luxury conglomerate also owns well-known brands such as champagne maker Moet & Chandon, watchmaker Tag Heuer and jeweller Bulgari.

“LVMH will continue to honour this commitment for as long as necessary, in connection with the French health authorities,” the company said.

France has closed its restaurants, cafes and non-essential stores in an effort to combat the virus, which has infected an estimated 165,000 people and killed more than 6,000 worldwide.

Governments across the world have called on manufacturers to help make products that are running low during the virus outbreak.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to ask UK engineering firms on Monday to shift production to build ventilators for the NHS.

In China, at the peak of its coronavirus outbreak in February, electronics giant Foxconn switched some of its production from Apple iPhones to make surgical masks.

Source: BBC News

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