NEWS: George's summer surprise
Before the general election in April, potential house buyers were taking a cautious 'wait and see' attitude and the property market stagnated as a result. Yet post-election figures show that property is back on track once again, with sales up by 4.7%. Confidence has returned, it seems.
The really big news of the last few weeks, however, has been George Osborne's summer budget. There was no ignoring it, particularly if you're a landlord (more of which below) — although property owners also got a surprise, too: from April 2017, married couples and civil partners will be able to pass on family homes worth up to £1million to children or grandchildren without being hit by inheritance tax. Just two days later, Osborne followed this up with a series of sweeping planning proposals, including automatic planning permissions for brownfield sites in order to kickstart “an urban planning revolution.”
It was a busy week for Her Majesty's Government…
It's great, outdoors…
According to a new survey by Houzz.co.uk, we Brits spend an average of four to five hours a week in our outdoor spaces (although, as it's August and if the weather is half decent, we bet you'll be out in yours a lot longer than that). A stylish and beautiful garden was the most important design aspect for those polled in the survey — but functionality was also key (with over one in 10 people rating storage as a key functional aspect). The report also revealed that a third of UK homeowners will undertake a garden project this year, with 28 per cent of those surveyed planning to landscape or upgrade their grounds.
If that sounds like you, the same advice applies to work on outside spaces as it does to work on inside ones: get an expert in if you don't feel able to do the hard labour yourself, via recommendations (never cold callers). Get at least three different written quotes from at least three different tradespeople; ask to see examples of work they have completed; decide on a budget — and then stick to it. The majority of the Houzz.co.uk report respondents (61%) had a budget of less than £2,500 for their project, with over a fifth (22%) aiming to keep costs under £500.
Landlords: what does the budget mean for you?
Currently, landlords are able to claim tax relief on their mortgage interest payments at the rate of tax they pay. Which is why George Osborne's recent budget came as something of a shock to the buy-to-let market when he announced that tax breaks for landlords are to be restricted.
New rules will be introduced over a four-year period from April 2017, and mean that the amount landlords can claim as relief will be capped at the basic-rate of tax (which is 20%). This, says the Chancellor, will "create a more level playing field between those buying a home to let and those buying a home to live in”; but a new industry survey has found that half of the landlords polled intend to increase rents to cover their costs.
Up, down, backwards or sideways?
There are various things you can do to get a bit more space in your home: a front porch can give you extra room if your hallway is tiddly (and full of shoes and coats); or that exterior space at the side of your house — usually an unloved and underused bit of yard — might be better employed if it's incorporated into the interior. Rear extensions might be allowed under permitted development rules, with full-width dormers, rather than pitched ones, giving more room inside; loft extensions can be a viable way to add another bedroom; and though they tend to be more difficult (and therefore more expensive), you might even consider digging out the basement and turning it into a subterranean living space. In recent weeks, the government has shown that it wants to shake up the planning laws — but you'll still need to check with your local authority if you are making major renovations to your property.