estate agents open viewings

Property sales and rental markets to reopen today

Last night Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that estate agents, removal companies and conveyancers can restart work with immediate effect.

Yesterday Parliament published several amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. This includes the addition of five short paragraphs that allow both agents and members of the public to travel to view properties and move home.

“Our clear plan will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process from viewings to removals. Our step-by-step plan is based on the latest guidance to ensure the safety and protection of everyone involved. This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so” Jenrick says.

Effectively the new regulations allow members of the public to visit sales or lettings agencies, developers’ sales offices, show homes, view properties for sale or rent, prepare properties prior to moving in and move home.

Following the new regulations, RE/MAX offices will resume viewing from today. We have systems and procedures in place to ensure everyone’s safety.

We expect an initial surge of requests. Over the last few weeks, we have taken hundreds of calls from people wanting to view our homes as soon as viewings are possible, and these enquiries are increasing daily.

From today we will start booking viewings, while making sure that our clients, our buyers and our team are safe.

We will follow strict procedures when conducting viewings:

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) – we now have gloves and masks available for our team while conducting a viewing, and also for the use of buyers, if they do not have their own.
  • Limits on viewings – we will limit the number of viewing on a property, per day.  If conducting more than one viewing on a property per day, we will ensure that there is at least a two-hour interval.
  • Viewings to be ‘contactless’ – where possible and appropriate, we will leave doors and main cupboards open, so buyers don’t need to touch them.
  • Distance viewings – we will remain out of the property whilst the viewing takes place

As always, we’re here to help, so please call your local RE/MAX office if you need advice or reassurance or send an email to info@remax.co.uk and we can direct you to your local RE/MAX office.

Pimlico, London

What Will Be the Effect of Covid-19 on the Pimlico Property Market?

So now we are almost a month into lockdown, yet can you believe it I am still speaking with agents from all over the UK, and I do not jest, properties are still being sold and let even in these unprecedented times. We agreed a sale to a Hong Kong buyer yesterday, close to asking price, after showing the property using videos and virtual tours. Yet, I would like to address the question I have been asked many times recently “What will be the effect of Covid-19 on the Pimlico property market in the short, medium and long term?”

These are obviously unchartered times, yet we can look back in history to give us clues and more recently, the bounce back that is happening in China (and their property market). The Covid-19 situation will touch all parts of the Pimlico and UK property market, and so in this article, I will be considering its impact on Pimlico property prices, transaction numbers (i.e. the number of people that move home), Pimlico buy to let landlords and finally tenants and the rents they pay.

The Three Issues with the Virus and the Property Market

The first issue has to be the lockdown itself. Limitations on society’s capability to go about their normal working life will hinder the house buying/selling process. The practical difficulties of moving home and expediting the property sale; from the viewing itself, the Energy Performance Certificate being carried out, the surveyor checking the property for the lender etc., are all issues. Yet the estate agency and legal industries are coming up with some innovative solutions, from virtual viewings to legally watertight delayed completions, where the old owners stay in the house under licence during the lockdown, and the move will take place after the lockdown period.

Secondly, the UK housing market has never liked ambiguity or uncertainty and this virus will play a part on people’s feelings and sentiment towards moving home (or not).

Thirdly and finally, there is the issue with the money people have, be that wages, whether they have a job (or not) and their overall affluence, on the back of the 29.4% stock market decrease in the last two months (correct at the time of writing this article).

The Background Economics

The economy drives everything including the housing market – and the overall measure of the economy is the Gross Domestic Product figure or the GDP (the GDP is basically the total value of all the goods and services created by the whole UK economy in one year and it currently stands at £2.15 trillion).

Looking at what has happened in China, most economists believe the UK will experience a short, yet sharp economic shrinkage in Q2 2020 with GDP set drop by 4% to 7% in the one quarter depending on the extent of the lockdown. Then GDP is expected to level out in Q3 2020, and then a significant ricochet (how significant depends who you listen to) in Q4 2020/Q1 2021.

Now putting politics aside, I have been impressed with Boris Johnson’s response with wide-ranging support for the UK economy and businesses, and whilst it’s far from perfect, help has been in the guise of the Bank of England reactivating its Contingent Term Repo Facility increasing liquidity and keeping the money markets going (important as that was what the issue was with the Credit Crunch), business grants and Government backed loans, together with telling lenders to take a compassionate line to those unable to make mortgage holidays and finally the furloughing of staff, thus allowing a quicker recovery in the economy.

What Will Happen to Pimlico Property Values?

There are a few doom-monger economists predicting Armageddon, yet I feel a lot of that is to get column inches in the newspapers. The Pimlico property market is less exposed than it was in the previous four historical property crashes in 1972, 1979, 1988 and 2008. This is because of the following reasons..

  1. Before each of the four crashes, there had been a significant upward spike in property values prior to the crash. We have not experienced that over the last 12 months.
  2. Mortgage interest as a percentage of household income (nationally) was a massive 32% in 1988, 18% in 2008 – yet now it stands at just under 8% (because interest rates are so low).

This is all assuming we don’t have high unemployment. Yet historically, it has been proved house price falls are not caused by high unemployment. It is in fact, that it happens the other way round, that a housing downturn can (not always) create unemployment – yet with the Government furloughing people – this shouldn’t be such so much of an issue.

The value of an average Pimlico home currently stands at £1,672,900

As I will explain in the next section, the biggest effect will be on transaction numbers, not on property values. I suspect in the summer there will be some Pimlico homeowners who will want to sell at all costs, and not care what price they achieve. Savvy property buyers will swoop on those properties and drive a hard bargain, meaning there will be some short-term localised reductions in what properties sell in the summer for those that want to sell at any cost.

Yet, these reductions will artificially amplify the property value indexes in a downward direction in the autumn (the ones the newspapers mention when they talk about property value changes) because they will be based on the very low levels of property transactions that will take place in the summer (because there is always a lag). Interestingly we have seen this many times over the years because just about every spring for the last 20 years, we have often seen negative or very subdued figures in the House Price Indexes in the months of January/February. This is because of the lack of property sales on the run up to Christmas a few months before. To give this all some context, property values in Pimlico are 53.5% higher than 10 years ago – and nobody was complaining about those. To give you an idea what that is in pound notes …

The average Pimlico home has risen in value by £582,700 in the last 10 years

 The swiftness of recovery in the autumn/winter from that point will depend on the state of the wider economy. With the measures (mentioned above) implemented by the Government, household incomes should continue to remain steady, and whilst holidays and luxuries may be shelved for a year, those Pimlico people who have been locked up in their Pimlico homes for weeks on end, might just consider making that move later in 2020, taking advantage of the ultra-low interest rates. This in turn ought to encourage a return to sturdier levels of house-price growth in the medium term (2021/2 onwards).

The Number of People Moving Home in Pimlico Will Significantly Drop in 2020

I foresee the number of people moving home (i.e. the number of household transactions) in Pimlico will significantly drop in 2020. This will only really affect the pockets of Estate Agents (as they charge their fee when people move – so if less people are moving, they will earn less) and the people associated with house moving.

Even with virtual viewings and creative legal work, the number of property transactions will be considerably obstructed over the next couple of months. Interestingly, in the Chinese cities that removed the lockdown first (in the middle of March) I have read in the press the number of property transactions has already bounced back to around half of the medium-term average after only three weeks!

This was caused by people delaying their move because of the ‘B’ word (Brexit) over the last 12/18 months, which interestingly saw a massive upsurge with the Boris Bounce in December/January and February.

Worse case scenarios suggested by economists state transactions will drop to 20% of the normal 10 year average number of transactions until the end of Q3 2020, return to 65% by Q1 2021, increase to 100% by the end of Q2 2021 and then 120% in 2022, yet most sensible economists (and often those that stay out of the limelight and don’t go chasing headlines), believe transactions will reduce to 45% to 50% of the 10 year average until the end of Q3 2020, improve to 80% in Q4 2020 and 100% by Q2 2021 with potential for higher transactions numbers in the order of 110% to 130% in 2022.

It all sounds rather grim doesn’t it, until you dig deeper…

Remarkably, it must be stated the number of property transactions over the last 12 months in Pimlico are only at 42.1% of the 10-year Pimlico average … and this was before Covid-19

In the last 12 months, there have been 270 property transactions in Pimlico, compared to a 10-year average of 642 per year

Yet, let’s not forget, these predictions are from the 10-year long term average, and as it can quite clearly be seen, transaction levels are already at a low, even without Covid-19 and nobody was complaining about that apart from estate agents and removal vans!

With the number of Pimlico people moving being held back, I would anticipate seeing a build-up of supressed demand for Pimlico property from Covid-19, on top of the pent-up demand from Brexit, especially with many Pimlico families realising their Pimlico homes aren’t large enough to contain them as the lockdown experience will push many Pimlico households to move in late 2020 or possibly 2021 …and as every economics student knows, when demand outstrips supply (because we can’t all of a sudden build more houses), prices go up.

How Will This Affect Pimlico First Time Buyers, Those Trading up, Downsizers and Landlords & Tenants?

FIRST TIME BUYERS – I believe the banks will be a little more wary when lending money to first buyers with their need for large percentage mortgages. The demand for the Help-to-Buy Scheme has been increasing year-on-year, yet its pace of growth has been declining in the last couple years – I foresee demand accelerating in the later parts of 2020. There could be some good deals to be had from new homes builders looking to release cash in Q3 and Q4 later in the year? Maybe the Bank of Mum and Dad might be able to help, yet they too will be stretched, although they might be able to release equity down the generations to their children and grandchildren (see the downsizers section).

TRADING UP – Many Pimlico homeowners in their starter homes will be going stir-crazy in their smaller homes, and with interest rates at ultralow levels, some Pimlico homeowners might forgo holidays and entertaining, and consider putting their weight and finances into moving up market in Pimlico. That might also be easier, if the Pimlico downsizers start to move as well.

DOWNSIZERS – There are many Pimlico retired people, rattling around their large Pimlico home, with their children having flown the nest and possibly moved away years ago. These Pimlico people don’t need to move, and so are considered ‘optional home-movers’ – yet the Covid-19 crisis could be the catalyst to make them finally move to be nearer their family around the UK – releasing good sized Pimlico family homes onto the property market for the ‘Trading Uppers’ to buy.

LANDLORDS & TENANTS – I suspect there won’t be many Pimlico tenants moving in the next three to four months. Tenants have the peace of mind with a cessation on evictions until the summer and buy-to-let mortgage payment holidays for buy-to-let landlords whose tenants are in financial difficulty (note the tenants have to give proof to their landlord that they are unable to pay with their applications to Universal Credit etc., etc.,). There might be small reductions in average rents, as some Pimlico landlords undertake to help their tenants in these chastened financial times, yet for most people, rents will continue to be paid, making no major impression on rental prices in 2020.

Let’s not forget, the level of average rents is directly related to tenants wages and I can’t see why this relationship between rents and tenants wages should break after Covid-19, so as wages are held back in the latter parts of 2020 the growth rents over the next year will be subdued. Finally, those Pimlico buy-to-let landlords sitting on cash might be able to bag a bargain in the summer from a desperate seller, before normality returns in Q3 and Q4 2020.

Conclusion

We are in unchartered territory, yet for the reasons explained in this article and, assuming there are no other seismic shocks in the coming weeks and months – in a few years’ time – this will be seen as a bump (albeit a rather big bump)  – another part of the roller coaster ride of the UK and Pimlico property market.

Showcase Your Home’s Best Features

To the get the most out of your property sale in today’s competitive housing market, it is more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. Post-referendum many investors and buyers have adopted a wait-and-see approach to the property market. With the pool of potential buyers in the market getting less, more than ever before, sellers need to focus on showcasing their home’s best features to gain a competitive edge and realise the property’s true sales potential.

To sell a home at the best possible price within the best possible time requires two crucial elements –  the right real estate professional and some effort on your part as the seller.

There is no need to completely change your existing home or embark on a costly renovation project, rather it is simply looking for ways to highlight your home’s key selling points. If done correctly, subtle changes can make a big difference. Well-chosen, contemporary updates can revamp your entire home, giving it a modern, revitalised look and feel, without being too costly. A fresh coat of paint and tidying up is already a great start to ensuring that the home is ready to hit the market.

Here are a few additional pointers to get your home in top form on show day:

Kitchen

Often considered as the heart of the home, the kitchen is possibly one of the most important areas. For many buyers, the kitchen can be the deciding factor as to whether or not they decide to purchase the home. An updated kitchen will increase the perceived value of the home and leave a lasting impression.

Refurbishing the worktops and cupboards can completely reinvent the space and give it a more contemporary look. Also, by updating large appliances you can breathe new life into the room. Adding an island is also a functional way to add to the room’s aesthetic appeal, while entirely changing the area’s dynamic with additional counter space.

Bathrooms

Another area in the home that draws buyers in or has them heading for the door. Not much needs to be done in a bathroom for it to feel completely different. Just by changing the taps to a more updated style or adding a mirror can freshen up the look and reinvent the space. Modern lighting can also change the feel of the room and breathe fresh life into an outdated area.

Storage and organisation

Although it depends on the availability of space and layout of the home, installing additional cupboards or storage units will be a practical way to create a selling feature. Buyers are often looking for homes with ample storage capacity, so an extra cupboard, expanding existing cupboards or a walk-in pantry can become a selling point. Built-in shelves or a wall unit in areas with a lot of open wall space can also be a unique and interesting feature.  These are relatively easy to install and will be a functional addition that could give the home added interest.

Flooring

Where the home has carpets, they should be in good repair and professionally cleaned. Cleaning the carpets will not only make them look good but will leave the whole house smelling great. If the carpets are in a bad state, depending on what’s underneath it might be worthwhile to have them lifted. Many older homes will have wooden flooring underneath the carpeting, which can be sanded and revarnished.  In the instance where the home does not already have wooden floors, synthetic alternatives are available that look similar but cost far less. The right kind of flooring will make a room appear larger, and it will completely revamp the area’s look and feel.

Outside areas and garden

Exterior features such as decks and patios can impress, however, they aren’t always in the budget and are not necessarily needed to make the garden look good. A garden that is neat and well-kept will make an outstanding impression with buyers.

Ensuring the property is in its best condition before it is listed will increase your chances of standing out from the crowd and achieving the highest possible selling price.

Don’t be caught unprepared

Being a homeowner is a long-term commitment that can span a lifetime. Although it is human nature to always hope for the best, it is inevitable that a home emergency will strike at some stage during our lifetime, so it is best to be as prepared as possible. While impossible to determine when it will happen, home repairs are a certainty every homeowner will need to consider and prepare for. Putting aside money each month in a contingency fund will provide you with a financial cushion and assist in avoiding going into debt when a crisis strikes.

Research from mortgage and loan brokers reveal that around 60% of adults in the UK have lived in the same house for more than 15 years, while one in ten have not moved for 31 years or more. It’s fair to say that a lot can happen over a decade or for that matter three decades.  Having a plan of action in place will help you to tackle whatever life throws at you and keep going. The goal is to have the means to address the changes or emergencies that occur, without it jeopardising the homeownership or placing you under severe financial pressure.

There are emergencies that happen to the house itself, such as roof repairs or rising damp, both of which can be a massive financial expense, and there are the financial emergencies that affect you as the homeowner, such as job loss. The question you need to ask yourself is if something like this happens, would I still be in a position to afford the home? For most, the answer would probably be no, which is why a contingency fund is imperative as a homeowner. While the idea of putting money aside can be a daunting task, the consequences of not having a financial cushion to fall back on will be far greater.

Essentially there are three basic steps that you need to take to start creating an emergency fund, which will provide a safety net and assist with any obstacles that come your way:

One – Determine the required amount

At a very minimum you should aim to save approximately one month’s salary, however, in an ideal situation, six months’ income in saving is preferable. A six-month financial cushion should see you through most crises. That said, saving up half a year’s worth of income will be no mean feat, it will take a fair amount of time and planning to achieve. Setting smaller goals along the way will ensure that you maintain focus and stay motivated.

Two – Choose a saving vehicle

When wanting to build up a significant amount of savings, especially rates at record lows, you need to ensure you put your money into the right type of savings account in the right order – whether that’s an Individual Savings Account (ISA), bank account or regular saver. Each offers different pros and cons, so it might require some research to find the right savings vehicle that will yield the greatest return while meeting the criteria. Often the method that offers the highest returns will require the account holder to lock their money away for a certain fixed period – this could be problematic if you require the money in an emergency.  The interest rate, as well as accessibility, will be key factors to consider.

Three – Automate the savings

Setting up a monthly automatic transfer will make the process far easier and will help you remain disciplined with savings. If a predetermined amount of money is transferred into a savings account automatically each month, it takes the decision-making process out of the equation and ensures that a contribution is made towards the contingency fund regularly with very little effort on your part.

Setting money aside each month is the best way to prepare for and deal with an emergency without being forced into debt. A contingency fund will help you be ready for the unexpected while building a solid foundation for their financial security and independence.

Does your home meet your future needs?

Deciding to buy a home is very exciting, but it is important to understand that it is a major financial commitment that should be given the proper consideration. Given the long-term nature of a property investment, there are some essential elements that should be carefully measured beforehand, to ensure you are making the right decision and purchasing a property that meets your needs both now and in the future.

Purchasing a property is a decision that will have an impact on your financial well-being, which is why it is essential to make an informed decision based on your life plans. Consider both your criteria now and how your needs could evolve over the next five to ten years. Rushing into the decision without considering your future plans and goals could end up costing a lot more money in the long run.

Before even looking at potential properties, sit down and determine what features you currently need in a home, as well as the features you may require in the future. A few elements to consider would be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the need for a garden and accessibility to public transport .  There may also be special criteria such as energy-efficient features, the number or type of parking facilities or wheel-chair accessibility.

Here are some examples of questions you might ask when looking for a home that will meet your future requirements:

  • Do I need a home office?
  • Do I plan to have children?
  • Do I have children who will be moving out soon?
  • Am I close to retirement?
  • Will I need a home that can accommodate different life stages?
  • Do I have an older relative who might come to live with me?

Everyone will have their unique criteria that will be specific to their life stage and plans.

The biggest restriction when looking to purchase a home that will fit in with your plans is affordability. Financial restrictions could mean compromising on certain aspects, even if only for the time being. For example, if a newly married couple who want to start a family need a second bedroom, but can only afford a one-bedroom home, they could find a home that they can add onto when they are financially ready. This way the home will meet their current needs while having the potential to grow into their plans.

Regardless of the type of home, you decide to buy – sustainability is a key issue to homeownership. Ensure that you can afford to sustain the financial obligation before entering into the agreement.

Mortgage repayments are not the only financial consideration when it comes to affording a property, as there are other costs involved in both the property transaction and homeownership. Take these additional costs into consideration when assessing affordability as they can add up to a relatively large amount.

Another essential aspect to consider in every property purchase is location. Location is a key influencer when it comes to a home’s future investment potential. It is far better to compromise on the features of the home than on its location. Purchasing a property in the right location that meets both your short and long-term needs will provide you with the benefits of an accommodating home that grows in value over time.

5 Essential tips for single homebuyers

  1. Budget

Buying a home on your own is an amazing move and a great step towards financial security, but make sure it’s a home you can afford if there is a momentary, or longer, blip in your financial profile.

  1. Maintenance

Being the only person with a set of house keys also means being the only person responsible for maintenance. A leaky tap or overgrown lawn won’t take care of themselves.

  1. Safety and security

Remember that being a single homeowner doesn’t allow for someone to be home the majority of the time. So you will need to consider safety and security issues.

  1. Resale and longevity

Purchasing a home is a great long-term investment. However, there are many reasons single homebuyers may need to move, such as relocating for a job or lifestyle change.

  1. Future

You buy yourself a nice little home or apartment now. But someday you might not be single and you’ll add a significant other to your team and possibly even children.

How to avoid the home buying blues

Studies reveal that eight out of ten homebuyers have at least one noteworthy regret regarding their property purchase decision. Why is this? The fact is that many homebuyers get caught up in the emotional journey of buying a home and sometimes overlook certain important aspects. It is only once they have moved into their new home, and everything has settled that the reality of the situation sets in and they start to see the things they previously may have missed.

Purchasing a property is a large financial commitment, yet many base their home buying decision on only a few minutes of viewing the property. If you are not fully prepared and do not have an idea of exactly what you are looking for, it could be easy to miss something or make an incorrect decision.

Here are a few tips you can use to avoid regretting your purchase:

Stay focused

Ideally, before you start to look for a home, make a list of your needs and wants, prioritising the must-haves and noting the elements you are willing to compromise on. Don’t get distracted by the wants and remain focused on the must-haves. If the house has many of your wants but does not meet their main objectives – it is not the right house. Due to the long-term nature of homeownership, you will have to deal with your compromises for a long period. Therefore it is essential you make the right decision up front. Working with an experienced, reputable real estate professional will assist you to keep on track and find a home that meets all your criteria.

Check the finances, and then check them again

One of the main reasons that buyers regret their home purchase is unexpected costs. Calculate how much you can afford, considering all the associated costs that go along with homeownership such as council tax, insurance, service charge, maintenance and ground rent if the property is leasehold.

The bank, mortgage lender or professional financial adviser will be able to provide you with a list of costs that you can expect to pay when purchasing a home.

Having the home inspected will also give you an idea of the type of repairs that you can expect so that you can budget for this beforehand.

Don’t get caught up in a bidding war

A competitive offer from another prospective purchaser could make a home seem more attractive than it is and lead you to push up your offer. However, it is important to stay objective and keep in mind that you are trying to buy the right home – not win an auction. It is best to walk away from the deal than overpaying because of a bidding battle. Paying more for a property will mean larger deposit requirements, higher fees and thousands in additional interest on a larger mortgage. Another downside is that it will take much longer to build up any equity.

Purchasing a home is one of the largest financial investments most people will make in their lives. While finding the right home can be an emotional rollercoaster, it is important to keep things in perspective and focus on what matters to avoid any remorse.

WILL VIRTUAL REALITY BE THE FUTURE OF PROPERTY SHOPPING?

While not a new concept, there has been rapid advancement in Virtual Reality (VR) and augmented reality technology, to the point where it could start to have an impact on consumers’ daily lives over the next few years. There is a wide array of applications that VR could have within a variety of sectors such as education, the office environment, medical facilities and of course estate agency.  Although it will still take some time for VR to become available to the majority of consumers, the advancement in the technology through hardware development and computing power has made the integration of VR into real estate business far more possible.

How does virtual reality differ from augmented reality? While augmented reality provides an additional layer of 3D content to the user’s actual surroundings, VR fully submerges the user into a simulated environment. By wearing a headset, the user is transported to another place offering them a 360-degree view of their simulated surroundings.

Regarding estate agency application, it will allow potential applicants to take 360-degree virtual tours of properties for sale or let all over the country without having to travel. Buyers can virtually tour multiple properties in a matter of minutes without leaving the comfort of their own home. The process will reduce the stress of relocating to a new city or even a new country. It will also allow potential buyers to quickly narrow down the field to a few choice homes that they would like to take a second look at in person.

Virtual reality could be an excellent tool for developers. They will be able to give potential buyers a virtual tour of an architectural rendering of a property before it is built. Buyers will be able to view an off-plan property and get an idea of the space and how it works before one brick is laid.

While most people have heard of virtual reality, not everyone has had the privilege of actually experiencing it first-hand. Although the technology is there, it will still be a while before we see everyone shopping for their homes in VR. However, that said, there are already elements of VR that are easily accessible to the general public and already being used within the property sector, such as Google Street View, which allows the user to visit city and suburb streets that they have never actually set foot on. VR headsets are also becoming more commonplace in many households.

What can we expect from virtual reality in the future? According to technology commentators, developments are underway to introduce haptic or kinaesthetic communication to virtual reality. Using forces and sensations the technology will replicate the sense of touch and allow users to see their hands in the virtual world. The user will be able to open doors and cupboards, interacting with their virtual surroundings when viewing a property.  Further developments are also being made to introduce the other senses into the VR world such as smell and taste. The buyer will be able to smell the freshly brewed coffee or baking cookies during the virtual home tour. These introductions can be used to simulate the same emotional response in buyers as they would if used in home staging during a show day.

Even with the advancement in technology and possible application, it remains to be seen whether the virtual world will ever truly rival the actual experience of shopping for a home in person.

Downsizing – is it the right decision?

The kids have flown the nest, and you no longer need a large high maintenance property – maybe it’s time to downscale? For some, this could be a tough choice to make, especially if they have lived in the home for many years and seen their kids grow up there. However, others may well look forward to a more relaxed lifestyle, unfettered by monthly mortgage payments and the never-ending upkeep and maintenance that is part and parcel of owning a larger property.

Either way, when it comes to downsizing, there are a few aspects to consider.

The pros

There are numerous lifestyle benefits to downsizing from a large property to a smaller one. For one, you are no longer responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of a home, a large garden, and other property features you may no longer use. Also, downsizing can result in significant monthly cost savings on water, gas and electricity, council tax, buildings and contents insurance, ground rent, service charges, and maintenance and building work.

Run the numbers

The biggest expense in most households is the mortgage repayment, and whether you will be free from this responsibility will depend on how well the family’s finances have been managed. If you have paid off your mortgage or at least the bulk thereof, it might be possible to sell the property, settle the outstanding balance and have enough capital to purchase a smaller property without having to enter into a new loan agreement.

On the other hand, if enough equity has not been built up, things could be slightly more tricky, especially if you are retiring. After a certain age, banks are not as willing to grant applicants mortgage finance. In this situation, you will need to carefully consider what monthly rental or mortgage repayment you can afford on your lower pension income. Bearing in mind, it will also need to cover the costs involved in buying a new property, such as a deposit, stamp duty, conveyancing, valuation fees, mortgage arrangement and broker fees, and removals.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

Most people who sell the primary residence will not have to worry about paying Capital Gains Tax because of the private residence relief. However, there are certain instances where CGT becomes a factor in the property sale. You may be required to pay CGT if:

  • Part of the home has been developed, for example, by converting part of it into flats
  • You sell part of your garden and your total plot, including the area you’re selling, is more than half a hectare (1.2 acres)
  • A portion of the home has been exclusively used for business
  • Let out all or part of your home – this doesn’t include having a single lodger (to count as a lodger and not a tenant you need to be living in the property too)
  • You have moved out of your property 18 months or more ago – to move into a partner’s home for example
  • The home was purchased for the purpose of renovating it and selling it on.

Timing is key

If it is not the best time to sell, consider delaying the decision to downscale by a few months as it could result in a better selling price depending on market conditions.  On the other hand, you would be selling and buying in the same market and delaying the downsizing decision could mean missing out on a good buying opportunity.

What about letting it out? 

If your mortgage is paid off, perhaps consider letting out the property, rather than selling. If there is still a mortgage on the property, this option will be far less attractive with the introduction of the Section 24 taxation on landlords. Letting out the property will also come with its own set of challenges such as who will manage the property.  This option will also require you to have enough cash flow to cover any vacancies. While letting out the property can supplement your income, it is important to remember that once you have let the property for 18 months it becomes subject to CGT.

Provided all aspects are considered carefully, downsizing can form part of a comprehensive plan that leads to a simpler lifestyle that offers financial freedom. A real estate professional or financial adviser will be able to give excellent advice on the first steps.

INTEREST RATES AMONG THE LOWEST IN HISTORY

While the interest rate increased from 0.25% to 0.5% in November last year, it still at one of its lowest values in history and is highly-favourable for potential homeowners who are trying to get their foot on the housing ladder. While the marginal change in the interest might have some consumers tightening their belts slightly, historically 0.5% is still one of the lowest interest rates the British home buyer has had to endure.

From 1971 until this year the interest rate in the UK has averaged 7.59%, reaching an all-time high of 17% in November 1979 and the record low of 0.25% in August 2016. In July 2007, the official bank interest rate was 5.75%, which means that from that date up until November last year, the bank’s base interest rate had dropped by 5.5%. Even with the 0.25% increase, homeowners who purchased their property with a mortgage within the last decade are paying less for their home now, than they did when they first bought it. Bearing in mind that banks will generally grant mortgages at an interest rate around 2% to 3% above the base rate, on a repayment mortgage of £200,000 over a period of 25 years at 7.75% (base rate of 5.75% plus 2%), the monthly repayment would have been £1,511 with a total repayment of £453,149. The same mortgage at an interest rate of 2.5% (base rate of 0.5% plus 2%) would cost £897 a month with a total repayment of £269,204.

While there are markets such as prime central London, where the majority of home sales are cash buyers, for the most part, prospective homeowners around the country are dependent on mortgages to purchase a property. A low-interest rate will help build consumer confidence and increase their chances of getting into the market. High-interest rates widen the gap for prospective homebuyers to meet the necessary criteria that mortgage lenders require for the applicant to obtain the finance. They also mean that applicants may have to opt for a lower mortgage amount, which could result in them having to choose a smaller home or perhaps one outside of their ideal location. Very often, high-interest rates push lower-income earners out of the market completely.

Another advantage of the current favourable interest rate is there may be some room in  consumer’s budgets to pay extra into their mortgage to reduce the term of the loan and pay the property off faster. This will, however, depend on the lender and their policies and fees with regard to overpayment. Most lenders will allow homeowners to overpay 10% per year if they are still in their introductory fixed, tracker or discount period. Usually, once this period has passed, you will be able to overpay as much as you want, but again this depends on the lender and their policies, so best to clarify beforehand.

At the moment the UK is among the top fifteen countries in the world with the lowest interest rates. While there are talks of the interest rate going up in the future, for the time being, UK citizens should make the most of the current circumstances and place themselves in the best possible position to get into the property market.