Property drifts towards years of no growth

Nationwide, Britain’s biggest building society has stated that house prices could stay flat or even fall in 2011 and 2012 despite the recent rally, adding to growing fears of a “double dip” in the property market. As a result many homeowners are considering home improvement, extension or loft conversion which will make an even bigger difference if you are looking to sell in 2012/2013.

Figures from Halifax this month showed the recovery started to slacken in January with a 0.6% rise in property values — the lowest monthly increase for six months.

Nationwide’s index was more bullish, saying house prices rose by 1.2% last month and are up 8.6% year-on-year. It thinks house-price inflation could top 10% next month, before falling back as interest-rates start to rise and unemployment ticks up next year.

However, some commentators are more bullish. The Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) has revised up its forecast on house prices from a 4% rise to 6% over 2010, on the basis that interest rates will remain low. It also expects mortgage approvals to rise.

In a research note last week, Capital Economics, the consultant, said mortgage costs would rise for most borrowers by up to one percentage point during 2010, adding: “The full benefit of the 2008-09 rate cuts may now already be behind us.”

Last week, Nationwide cut the amount of deposit required for remortgage customers from 40% to 30%. The move reduced the cost of a two-year fix by 0.81 percentage points for those with a 30% deposit to 4.37%, although this is still shy of the best-buy deal of 3.29% from First Direct, which has a £998 fee.

Tomorrow, HSBC will cut its five-year fix from 4.73% to 4.64%. It will also launch a best-buy lifetime tracker with no switching penalties at 2.49% with a £999 fee for those with a 30% deposit, although this deal is available only to those who take out the bank’s packaged current account.

However, there are warnings that best-buy mortgage rates, which fell along with the cost of wholesale funds, may not come down much further. The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has also warned of an ongoing “mortgage drought” as lenders face a £300 billion funding shortfall. Lending dropped 60% in the past two years, the CML said.

Aspinalls Builders Ltd is an experienced family run business. We are London builders who offer a wide range of London building services covering areas such as conversions, extensions, brick work, plastering, painting, decorating, extensions, conversions, kitchens, bathrooms, heating and plumbing.

Add value to your home: refurbish your kitchen or bathroom

There are many things that can be done to improve the saleability of your home and increase its value where kitchens and bathrooms are concerned. Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Fit a spacious walk in shower – far more convenient and practical than an over-bath shower.
  2. Install under floor heating in a bathroom – this will remove the need for unsightly radiators thus saving space and creating a far more seamless design. What’s more, under floor heating is far healthier as the heat is more evenly distributed throughout the room rather than staying at head height, and it also keeps nasty things like mould and damp at bay.
  3. Update your kitchen so that it includes built in modern conveniences – this will really make an impact on potential buyers because it’s a job they won’t have to do themselves.
  4. A modern eco friendly condensing boiler will help tip the scales in your favour when selling a property because potential buyers will be able to enjoy the benefits of reduced fuel bills and increased energy efficiency.
  5. Consider the installation of a solar hot water heating system which will offer considerable savings on fuel bills for your potential buyers.
  6. If space allows, add a downstairs cloakroom. Modern WCs and basins come in the most compact of sizes and it is relatively straightforward to liberate some space and transform it into a very convenient feature.
  7. If your bathroom does not need a complete overhaul but could do with a little ‘something’ then go for some new taps. Choosing attractive taps from a high quality range will miraculously transform the look of any bathroom, and it should be a relatively low cost exercise in terms of your potential return.

If you are looking to improve the saleability of your property then a good place to start is by talking to your plumber who will be able to give you sound advice on your heating system options and energy efficiency for starters. A good plumber will work with reputable kitchen fitters and other professional craftsmen to provide a complete service and overall they will be able to provide you with space-saving and energy efficient solutions.

Shaun Aspinall is the owner of Aspinalls Ltd, a building, plumbing and heating company covering all areas of London and Hertfordshire. Aspinalls Ltd is Gas Safe and NIC EIC registered. They can install, replace or refurbish bathrooms, kitchens and various types of heating system including energy efficient condensing boilers and under floor.

Aspinalls Builders Ltd is an experienced family run firm of London Builders. We offer a wide range of London building services covering areas such as brick work, plastering, painting, decorating, extensions, conversions, kitchens, bathrooms, heating and plumbing.

Energy efficiency in the home a priority

When Paul Rawlings builds a home, he envisions all the features he and his family would enjoy. That was certainly true of the Rosedale model, which he completed recently in the Neighbourhoods of Sunningdale. Rawlings designed the home for himself, his wife, Darlene, and their three children — although he later sold it to clients who fell in love with it at first sight.

“The idea was that this was going to be our house for the next 10 years,” Rawlings recalls. “We designed it so our teenagers would be downstairs; the idea of the one-floor was that we could always stay in it after the kids were gone and we could use the lower level for guests.”

The Rosedale model is an R-2000 home that features exterior walls made of Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF). It also includes Heatlink radiant in-floor heat, a LifeBreath heat recovery ventilator and Andersen high-performance, low-e, argon-filled windows.

An EnerGuide rating of 82 places the home in the upper level of the EnerGuide program. By comparison, a similar home built to the Ontario Building Code would earn an EnerGuide rating of 63.

The rating system, which operates under the direction of Natural Resources Canada and is delivered in Ontario by EnerQuality Corp., determines the amount of air leaving a home. Each home is analysed twice, once on paper at the design stage by an accredited EnerGuide evaluator. At that point, home buyers have the opportunity to select upgrades, such as full basement insulation, improved windows, attic insulation or a heat recovery ventilator. After construction is completed, the home is rated a second time with a blower door test.

From these tests, a rating out of 100 is assigned. A home built to the basic Ontario Building Code standard will rate in the 60s, while an energy-efficient new house will rate between 68 and 79. For every point rise on the scale, more money will be saved on electric and gas utility bills.

EnerGuide then issues a label for the home with the rating, which is determined by the upgrades and the results of the blower door test. The label is applied to the home’s breaker box and can be a beneficial tool in the resale market.

In London, EnerGuide for New Houses is being promoted by an innovative partnership, which includes the London Home Builders’ Association (LHBA), the City of London, the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, London Hydro, Union Gas, the London and St. Thomas Real Estate Board, EnerQuality Corporation and several other partners.

The Rosedale model exemplifies Rawlings’ belief that less is more when it comes to home design. At 2,000 square feet, the home’s footprint is modest; its design, however, is versatile since the finished lower level adds another 2,000 square feet of living space.

The stucco and stone home incorporates bright, open rooms with defined functions. From the foyer, a view of the great room is framed by an arch supported by two round columns. A vaulted ceiling, accentuated by deep crown mouldings, provides a feeling of airiness that’s in keeping with the scale of the home. The room is further defined by silky maple hardwood floors, two long, narrow built-in cabinets on each side of a gas fireplace and an arched feature window.

A large island with a raised granite ledge visually separates the new kitchen, which was designed by Bob Linton of Arthur, from the great room. The emphasis on natural materials is evident in the cherry cabinets, granite counters, which combine shades of caramel and charcoal, and textured slate floors. From the adjoining dining area, a French door opens on to an east-facing rear deck.

The master bedroom at the end of the hall is distinguished by double French doors flanked by two square windows that overlook the backyard. The ensuite bathroom is striking with its white wainscoting and double porcelain pedestal basins. The shower’s ceramic tile surround features a distinctive diamond pattern that is repeated in the floor in a design that resembles an oriental rug.

The lower level is decorated in warm earth tones and incorporates full-height windows that convey plenty of light into the space, as well as an abundance of closets. Two large bedrooms, a new bathroom with a glassed shower, an enormous family room and several other mixed-use rooms complete the lower level.

Hart says one of the advantages of the EnerGuide for New Houses rating system is the fact consumers can quantify their energy savings. He believes it’s not enough for builders to make a home affordable for consumers to buy; it also has to be affordable for them to own.

“People have traditionally not known what the operating costs of their house would be, so we’re looking at a house now with the EnerGuide program where you can see what it costs, plus what it costs to own and operate, so it’s a package deal,” Hart says.

The fact EnerGuide homes are tested and consumers are provided with information about the rating of their home will increase the popularity of the EnerGuide rating system, Hart predicts “I think people will start to demand it.”

Aspinalls Builders Ltd is an experienced family run business. We offer a wide range of building services covering areas such as brick work, plastering, painting, decorating, extensions, conversions, kitchens, bathrooms, heating and plumbing.