Monthly Archives: May 2010

Should I be worried about the cracks in my brickwork?

It is always advisable to have cracks in masonry (brickwork) check out by a professional and that professional is not a builder. The first port of call should be a structural engineer or for a more general condition report a competent surveyor a member of the ?Royal Institute of chartered Surveyors?. If you have cracking or signs of movement in the brick work you need to contact a structural engineer. These helpful chaps will give you the benefit of their years of experience and specialist training. Some cracks can be simply repaired with products like ?Heli tie fixings?, using specialist resins. Some cracks do show evidence of much more serious problems, like poor foundations or sub-soil erosion often caused by damaged drainage. One of the other issues effecting foundations is heave sometimes caused when large trees are removed and the area of the roots dry and the ground moves or heaves.
Some repairs are made simple with products like stitch cracking bars or wall straps that are used to tie gables to timber roof structures or the use of timber ties or noggins to tackle issues like roof spread. So rather than lay awake at night worrying about them call in a structural engineer and they will often put your mind at rest or suggest some minor works to stop further movement or cracking. This could save you thousands of pounds in the long run.

How to avoid cowboy builders, our top ten tips

1. The first actual contact you will have with your potential builder is when you meet to discuss your project. These are only common sense guidelines but they really will help.
1.1 Did they turn up on time, because if they can?t make a sales visit on time it does make you wonder what their timekeeping will be like when they start?
1.2 Did they confirm the appointment a good builder is a busy in demand builder! They will want to make sure that their prospective customer has remembered the appointment.
1.3 Builders are renowned for being scruffy, it is after all difficult to lay bricks in a dinner jacket, but have they made some effort to be tidy before they traps through your home?
1.4 I think this is very important, do you get on if you are faced with seeing this guy every morning before you rush off to work, or he has to break it to you that there is some unforeseen issue. It is always better if you get on with your builder from day one.
2. The next contact you will have is when the dreaded quotation arrives and you find out just how much your project will cost.
2.1 DO NOT ALWAYS ASSUME THAT THE CHEAPEST QUOTATION IS THE BEST, cowboy builders will always price low because that is the easiest way for them to win the work. Once they have the job they will cut corners and rush through with little thought for quality in order to bodge it up in budget.
2.2 MAKE SURE YOU READ THE QUOTE PROPERLY, it is amazing how long people spend choosing food in a restaurant but faced with spending tens of thousands of pounds just flick through the quote.
2.3 MAKE SURE ALL QUOTES are like for like, many contractors use basic items when quoting because they are not sure at this stage on your choices. So tell your builder how much to budget for fittings, flooring etc.
2.4 Look at the quote is it one page? This is an important reference point for your costs, if your contractor has specified man made slates and you wanted new Whelsh slates the cost difference could run into thousands of pounds. So make sure the quote is comprehensive and well written. A good builder will be happy to issue two or three revisions of the quotation to make yours and his life easier once the construction phase of a project begins.
3. A good builder will be able to provide written testimonials from satisfied customers and will be happy for you to call those customers. Can they let you see jobs they have done? Are they recommended by other professionals within the industry? A good builder will have a number of close alliances with building professionals architects, surveyors, structural engineers etc, can they let you speak with some of their extended team?
4. Are they VAT registered, this may seem an odd point but give it a little thought? If a builder does two or three domestic extensions in a year they will be VAT registered. If they are not why not? They cannot be doing the volume of work to give them the buying power or experience needed to undertake a project much over ten thousand.
5. Quality this is important to everyone, then when they are faced with two quotes one for ?25,000 and one for ?28,000 they start thinking ?wow I could save ?3,000, that?s enough for that new car or holiday?. The car or holiday will soon be forgotten but that poor bit of finishing you could be looking at for 20years! So start with the end in mind, if a builder is rushed because he has cut the quotation price to the bone quality may slip.
6. Speed you can have a high quality job completed quickly but again only by the best and the best will cost your builder ?20-30 per day extra. He will need the best plumbers, plasterers, electricians, etc and as with all experts you get what you pay for.
7. Behaviour people rarely think about this but this causes more issues between customers and builders than people would expect. If you do have a problem with a member of your builder?s team have a quite word with the site foreman. There are cowboys out there that take great delight in shouting, having radios too loud, swearing in front of your children and generally bringing anti-social behaviour into your home. So check your builder?s attitude before you sign him up.
8. Cowboy builders will always talk down the disruption to win the work but be prepared all building work brings disruptions, just the skip on the drive will start to drive you mad after the first few days. This is your home or dream project but to be fare it is also your builder?s place of work, so let them use your toilet and plug their kettle in. The little things like offering the team a cool drink on a hot day will help your job get done quickly and well.
9. Cheaper for cash? This is a sure sign of a dishonest builder, if they are prepared to knock a bit off for cash that shows they are quite happy to commit fraud. Ask your self do I really want to have a fraudster as my builder?
10. Stage payments, most good builders will require stage payments this is standard in the industry for most jobs but make sure that the stage payments are clearly agreed on clear deliverables e.g. footings complete, masonry complete, roof complete, etc. That way everyone knows where they stand through the project, I have heard of builders suddenly asking for ?5,000 and expecting it in the next two hours. So make sure you discuss all these details before you start.

Creative funding solutions the answer for small house builders and property developers?

Joint ventures, private equity, venture capital and business angels look to fund small developments and enjoy high yield returns as the banks continue the funding drought for speculative property development.
Many of the small residential builders and house builders have simply shut up shop in recent times unable to finance sites as capital adequacy criteria has stayed stringent. The lending drought for this sector of property finance has been a big challenge for many developers. Many experts in development finance expect the lending drought for development finance to continue, and that this niche area of bank lending will be one of the last areas to be fully restored as the UK economy continues to recover. There are still lots of lenders offering property development finance but at a much lower level of leverage.
The lenders must keep within their level of capital adequacy for the higher risk lending to satisfy both bank regulations and the peace of mind of their shareholders.

Better rental yields for landlords as demand for rental property increases

The first quarter of this year has showed very positive improvements in residential tenant demand which has in turn given landlords the opportunity to marginally increase their rents. The increase in rents has a dramatic effect on the rental yield that a property returns for its owner. In April 2009 nearly 60% of surveyors were reporting falls in both rents achieved and asking rents. This was in part due to a large number of venders with unsold houses looking to cover mortgage payments with rental income. Many of these reluctant landlords have grasped the recent opportunities in the sales market and have off loaded their unwanted housing stock.
News like this will again encourage buy to let lending specialists to dip their toes back in the buy to let mortgage market. There will be no sudden torrent of cash hitting the property sector and inflating any buy to let asset bubbles in the near future. With that said there are more buy to let mortgage products available and once the lenders money supply does become more fluid with rents rising could we see buy to let back in vogue?

Buy to let mortgages

It is a pretty liberating day when there is good news in the mortgage market and an even better day when buy to let brokers have some good news. The good news being that there is now a new provider of residential buy to let mortgages in the UK. The mortgage lender Kensington is providing a new buy to let mortgage product which interestingly is purely focused on existing experienced buy to let landlords. The lenders are obviously looking to lend to buy to let landlords who have experience of dealing with the various challenges that experienced landlords tackle with ease, issues like rental arrears and property repairs.

Development sites required

March figures show the number of new homes being started has increased to its highest level for almost two years. Government figures show that work has begun on nearly 25,000 new homes in the quarter leading up to March, this figure is an impressive 62% higher than the number started during the market trough. The number of new homes being started still remains around half the number of the same quarter in 2007 which for many in the property sector just seems like a pleasant dream.

Should I buy a bungalow?

Bungalows remain very much in demand. Some view bungalows as more suitable for those at the older end of society, and indeed it is true that they are popular with those approaching or at retiring age, and to people who just like to live at ground floor level, and of course to those at whatever age if their mobility is such that stairs present a problem.
Investors also have an interest in bungalows, and any such property in need of updating is likely to be attractive to an investor who can see a lot of potential buyers seek such properties that have been renovated and modernised. The investor can usually anticipate a bungalow to be sold on fairly quickly because of the general demand for such homes. Investors can also see it may be worthwhile to add another bedroom/s maybe with an en suite in the roof space as bungalows usually have a large enough attic space for this to be done providing a room of reasonable size. The market for potential buyers widens for properties that have had a loft conversion as some people may not only welcome the additional room/s for a family but may also like the flexibility of a bedroom at ground level or indeed turn this/these into say a playroom or office, and still have the additional space upstairs.
The above outline some reasons why the bungalow remains such a popular type of property to buy both for the private home seeker and the investor.

House sellers no longer feel any pain in the Hips, after the new government takes care of this Pickle

Hooray! The home information pack is dead! Long live the Energy performance certificate! The HIP?s have been very unpopular since the concept was announced and forced through by the previous government. The parliamentary order made yesterday took immediate effect, so sorry to all of you who purchased a HIP yesterday, but stay positive there is always someone worse off. They are the poor HIP providers that set up and based their business on this now redundant piece of legislation.

Want an award winning builder?

W4W Building Limited has won the prestigious Action COACHING business coaching award for the ?Best results in first 3 months 2010?. Amazingly the company also placed as finalists for ?Best team 2010? award?, ?Innovation Award 2010? and ?Financial Award 2010?. More of the news and photos from the night in the near future.

Do I need planning?

Seeking Planning Permission for alterations/extensions to your home or for a new build, if you have not been involved in such matters before, can be rather daunting for some people. It is important to bear in mind a few guidelines and I mention a couple of these which are important to note before any works start.
(1) Don?t progress any works on the project in mind before you have researched what Planning Permission, or other Authority you need. You can be made to remove/ or the Local Authority will take action to remove any/all building works in some cases, at your expense, and it is not advisable to rely on Retrospective Planning Permission being given for any building project deemed to need Planning Permission.
(2) You could need Building Regulations Approval, even if you don?t need full Planning Permission.
A reputable Builder, will of course know Building Regulations details, and you should note it covers such things as structural requirements, energy efficiency, fire safety, damp proofing etc.
An experienced /reputable builder will progress with you all the requirements of any building project concerning Planning Permission, Building Regulations and Public Utility (Electricity/ Gas/ Water) concerns from the planning stages to completion of the works.