Can UK Green Mortgage help climate change?

The UK has set itself a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but that will be a challenge for the housing market.

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As things stand, domestic housing accounts for nearly 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions. At the same time, there are few ‘green’ mortgage products and even fewer that have been set up to fund making homes more energy efficient.

This matters, because upgrading current buildings will be what helps cut emissions.

According to the UK Green Building Council, around 80% of the buildings that will exist in the UK in 2050 are already constructed.

Few of those are energy efficient. Based on the government’s energy performance certificates (EPC), most of the UK’s housing stock is in the middle, ‘D’, band.

Top of the list in making housing more energy efficient is cutting fuel use. Around 10% of the UK’s carbon footprint comes down to heating – mostly domestic heating.

In principle, green mortgages that help homeowners manage the cost of boosting energy efficiency should be widespread and keenly priced.

In May 2020, the Green Finance Institute published a report on financing energy efficient buildings.

This cited “growing evidence that favourable financing terms can be achieved on securities that have an environmental or social impact label or certification”. 

But only three lenders in the UK currently offer green mortgages – Barclays, Ecology Building Society and Nationwide.

Chris McHugh, our Director of the Centre for Sustainable Finance, describes the UK green mortgage market as “a cautious beginning”.

“The eligible customer base, property types and notional amounts are limited. The price incentives for borrowers appear to be small or non-existent.”

The UK green mortgage market

Indeed you can count the number of green mortgage lenders on the fingers of one hand.

Ecology Building Society and Nationwide both offer lending for green home improvements. Ecology is a very small firm specialising in green finance including sustainable builds. In 2019 it lent £43.5m across 308 sustainable properties and projects.

However, compared to many other mortgage lenders, it’s relatively expensive – with a current standard variable rate of 4.1%.

Nationwide Building Society is a much bigger player with around 12% of the UK market. It  offers preferential rates on green improvements for loans up to £25,000, but only for existing customers.

Barclays has around 8.6% of the UK mortgage market. It does offer green mortgages for “energy-efficient new-build” homes provided by “partner suppliers”. But it doesn’t have any plans to offer mortgages for green home improvements in the near-term.

Lloyds, which has the biggest overall share at nearly 16%, announced in January that it plans to launch green mortgages, but did not give further details.

Right now, lenders may be cautious about broadening their green mortgage offerings as demand is likely to have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic

“There are far more pressing matters on consumers’ minds,” says John Somerville, our Head of Regulatory Relationships.

“With all green properties and loans, there’s likely to be an extra cost and more underwriting. The appetite to jump through those hoops will be strongly diminished for some time to come.”

Source: The London Institute of Banking and Finance

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UK property prices continues to drop as COVID19 impact deepens

A recent survey from Estate Agents across England showed that house prices across the UK fell at the fastest rate since the financial crisis in May with potential buyers saying they would wait at least six months before returning to the housing market.

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According to the report from the Nationwide Building Society, one of the UK’s largest mortgage lenders, the average price of a home dropped 1.7 per cent in May from the previous month to £218,902. This comes after April’s 0.9 per cent gain and is the biggest monthly fall since February 2009.

The figures came as the UK continues to lift its coronavirus lockdown, which has been in place since March. Last month, the government said construction sites could open if it were safe to do so, along with factories.

But the outlook for the housing market remains highly uncertain, said Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist. “Behavioural changes and social distancing are likely to impact the flow of housing transactions for some time,” he said.

Gardner said that would-be buyers are “now planning to wait six months on average before looking to enter the market.” The annual growth rate slowed to 1.8 per cent, down from 3.7 per cent in April and the slowest since December.

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UK Property sale hits record low

Residential property sales in the UK in April hit their lowest monthly level since comparable records began in 2005, new figures show.

Houses

There were 38,060 transactions in April, according to provisional numbers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

This was less than half the level seen in the same month last year.

Spring is usually a busy period for the property market, but the coronavirus lockdown halted activity.

The government lifted many of these restrictions on the sector in England in mid-May. The total number of UK property sales is slightly less than the previous low when the taps were turned off in the property market at the height of the financial crisis in January 2009.

Source: BBC News

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UK Property market estimated to fall by 13%, Is it the right time to buy?

Economists and housing experts are forecasting UK-wide price falls of up to 13%, with “brutal” declines in some areas, as the property market struggles to rebuild during the coronavirus crisis.

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The range of forecasts from the major researchers is markedly wider than usual. At one end is the Centre for Economics and Business Research, which predicts that 2020 prices will be down by 13% “as a lack of transactions, high uncertainty and falling incomes take their toll”. But the estate agent Savills said the hit to the market could be more like 5%, and a third of valuation surveyors are predicting that price falls may be limited to 4% or less.

The post-lockdown market will be a buyer’s market, said Jonathan Hopper of Garrington Property Finders, as he forecast falls of 10% nationally and 15% in some areas.

“Areas with a more resilient jobs market should see values hold up better, but elsewhere the price correction could be more brutal,” he said.

Knight Frank, in a revised forecast issued this week, said it anticipated a fall of 7% in 2020, more than its earlier forecast of 3%. Its analysis suggested prices had already fallen 5% since March, with a further downtick to come.

Source: The Guardian 

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UK property market: Questions asked by buyers and seller

The coronavirus crisis is affecting buyers and sellers alike. An estate agent talks through the hurdles faced by both parties

Spring and summer are often cited as the best time to buy a property, with the warmer weather encouraging more people to put their homes up for sale. But with the Government having all but shut down the UK’s housing market, buying and selling is challenging during the lockdown – although not entirely impossible.

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Here are the questions being asked by buyers and sellers:

Can I still complete?

The Government advises buyers and sellers to “where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus”.

However, solicitors are not banned from continuing completions and the Government has accepted some may still have to take place. For those who need to move for reasons such as death, divorce or debt, and for those who want to move perhaps to be in a better school catchment area for their children, there are still some possibilities.

What if I’m looking to buy?

If you are looking to buy, things look great on the face of it. The Bank of England has slashed interest rates to a record low of 0.1 per cent in response to the crisis, meaning mortgages are more affordable than ever as repayments will, in theory, be lower.

However, many lenders have withdrawn tracker mortgages offering the best rates. Savings the banks are making are not being passed onto consumers. Larger deposits are also now required. Nationwide Building Society, one of the UK’s biggest lenders, recently withdrew mortgages with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio above 75 per cent from sale.

Paul Broadhead, head of mortgage policy at the Building Societies Association, says: “Lenders and borrowers are facing unprecedented conditions. The temporary move away from higher LTV products across the whole market reflects prevailing uncertainty and the fact that physical valuations are on hold. Lenders are focusing on supporting their existing borrowers that have been affected by Covid-19, often with fewer staff available to work.”

What if I need a mortgage?

A downside for buyers is that you have to have 100 per cent of the property’s value in cash to now be in with a chance of securing a property. Assuming you have seen a house you liked before the restrictions came into effect, estate agents are unlikely to put any offers forward where a mortgage is required.

Mortgage valuation surveys are unable to take place during the lockdown because mortgage companies cannot send a surveyor out in person to ensure a property has not been overvalued by an estate agent. This is good news if you are a cash buyer and puts you in an even stronger position with less competition from other buyers.

However, sellers should be aware that cash-rich investors often expect a price reduction, with some offering as much as 30 per cent below the asking price.

What if I’m selling?

If you are looking to sell, it may still be possible. Some agents are making the most of technology and offering virtual viewings and video valuations, with vendors taking their own photos to market their properties.

This sounds great, but it isn’t. Unless you are a professional photographer with a wide-angle lens camera, it’s unlikely you will be marketing your property to its full potential.

It is also doubtful the valuation will be as accurate without the agent having visited. Every property is unique. And while virtual viewings are great for the casual viewer at home who doesn’t have to leave the sofa, they are not so helpful for vendors deciding how keen and motivated a buyer really is.

If an acceptable offer is made, there is even less certainty than usual when it comes to trusting that someone will see the process through to conclusion from sale agreed (subject to contract) to exchange/completion, as they have yet to set foot inside the property.

Some estate agents, such as Purplebricks, charge a fixed fee whether the property sells or not. It is worth noting that according to research firm TwentyCi, Purplebricks received an estimated £18m from 21,380 vendors whose properties were withdrawn having failed to sell in 2019. With actual viewings currently impossible, who knows what their figure for 2020 will be.

Property prices: Where next?

House prices were flat in March, the first time they did not rise in five months, according to the latest data on the UK property market.

Halifax, who compiled the figures, said the housing market began March in recovery mode as political uncertainty about Brexit had passed. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s election victory had also boosted confidence in the market.

But by the end of the month, the UK was in different territory as coronavirus swept across the country and the property market ground to a halt as the UK was put into lockdown.

Halifax said it was too early to accurately assess the long-term impact of the virus on the UK housing market.

When will the market recover?

Problems with physical viewings and mortgages will make moving house difficult in the short term.

But once the coronavirus crisis has blown over, and the barriers on movement have been lifted, the market should bounce back fairly quickly. After the lockdown is finished, the artificial restrictions on the free market will be released, causing a flood of supply and demand from sellers and buyers.

If furloughed employees are able to return to their place of work on their full salary, consumer confidence will likely be restored. Pent-up demand will hopefully encourage lenders to increase supply of affordable mortgages.

The property market may return to normal sooner than many currently envisage.

 

By Rupert Gray – an estate agent working in the Greater London area

Source: inews

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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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Struggling UK estate agency Countrywide in talks with LSL over a possible merger

Countrywide and LSL Property Services have said they are in talks over a possible merger which could create the UK’s largest estate agency.

The news comes after several years of losses at Countrywide and a difficult time for the sector.

Countrywide owns the Hamptons and Gascoigne-Pees brands while LSL owns Your Move and Reed Rains.

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The firms said that talks were ongoing, but there could be no certainty that an offer would ultimately be made.

If the merger talks – which were first reported by Sky News – lead to a deal, it will create a combined group worth about £470m with 14,000 employees.

Countrywide reported losses of £218m for 2018, compared with a £207m loss a year earlier, and it said last year that the uncertainty surrounding Brexit had been hitting business.

Recent surveys have suggested that the UK’s housing market is starting to pick up after a long period of sluggish activity.

Last month, a survey of property professionals reported an “uplift” in sentiment in the housing market following the general election.

Sales expectations had “risen sharply”, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said, with the number of house sales rising in December for the first time in seven months.

The most recent survey from the Halifax found the market continued “to show signs of improvement”.

The lender said it had seen “a pick-up in transactions with more buyer and seller activity consistent with a reduction in uncertainty in the UK”, although it added it was “too early to say if a corner has been turned”.

Source BBC News

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Using salvaged materials for your building project

Whatever type of building project you are preparing to undertake, it is always worth taking time to consider if there are any materials that can be salvaged for re-use, recycled or up-cycled.

As there are many types of building projects, there will also be many uses for material that you may initially believe would not be of any use to you. This is where you need to consider the building project as a whole and see what you have to buy in for the various stages and what you can salvage for re-use, recycle or up-cycled elsewhere.

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These projects could potentially involve using salvaged material:

  • Building an extension
  • Loft conversion
  • Refurbishment
  • Renovation
  • External works
  • Demolition
  • Building a new house

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Suspended mystery property with no access on sale for £100

A property has gone on the market for just £100, but it is shrouded in mystery as no-one knows how to get inside.

The 12sqm room is up for auction next month and comes with a flying freehold, as it has no structure beneath and is suspended in a passageway between two other buildings.

The room is in a row of historic buildings, some of which date back to the 16th century, but it appears to be sealed from both sides and there is no other access.

Victoria Reek, auction manager for William H Brown’s East Anglian auction centre, selling the room in Nene Quay, Wisbech, said it was one of the most unusual lots she had ever come across.

She told the Cambs Times: “There is no way in or out from the outside, we have been instructed to sell it and we’re starting the price off at £100.

“We think it would make an ideal store room for a market stall holder but it gives you no access rights, it really is just a room which at the moment, you can’t get into.

“We do come across all kinds of interesting lots like this in Norfolk but this is probably one of the most unusual.”

The room is being sold by Fenland District Council along with a number of other pieces of land, it has had in its portfolio for years.

The auction takes place on Thursday, February 20 at Dunston Hall Hotel in Norwich at 11.30am.

Source: Mirror

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What is Practical Completion in the building industry

The term ‘Practical Completion’ is a term use in the building industry at the end of a building project which is often open to interpretation. The issue of whether a building project has achieved practical completion has long been the source of many disputes within the building industry, both in the commercial sector and, in particular, the domestic sector.

Many standard form of Contract that are used in the building industry rely upon the issue of a Certificate of Practical Completion to trigger the release of funds at every completed stage or end of the project.

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Given the importance, the standard forms used throughout the industry do not define practical completion. They generally leave the matter to the discretion of the client, contract administrator, architect, engineer, supervising officer, etc. The Preparation of a comprehensive specification/scope of works is paramount to minimising the risks of misinterpretation, although the risks will never be fully removed.

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Practical completion of any part of the work should be seen as the work having been completed to a ‘set’ standard where the client can take possession of the works and use then as intended. It is important for both parties (client and contractor) to use common sense when agreeing on practical completion. On the one hand the contractor or builder should make every effort to complete the work to a satisfactory standard, and on the other the client should exercise some discretion on the finished product. That is not to say that poor standards should be accepted, but that some materials, such as bricks, timber, etc., can vary in colour or dimensions.

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