Sell your home this Christmas with our top tips

In this month's edition, we're on hand to offer our top tips if you're looking to sell your home this Christmas!

We also take a look at the recent extension for the Help to Buy Scheme and analyse what impact the 2018 Budget and next year's exit from the European Union could have on the UK property market.

Sell your home this Christmas with our top tips

There are some things that the British public simply cannot believe at this time of year; how cold it is, how dark it is and, above all, that it’s nearly Christmas. Nevertheless, Christmas is indeed upon us and if you are selling your home, or thinking of selling your home, you may be under the impression that it’s not the optimum time to bag a sale. Our top tips to sell your home at Christmas will show you that not only is it possible to sell your home during the festive season; it is a doddle.

Picture perfect
The average time that a buyer takes to look at a picture on a property advert is three seconds, so having the perfect image is essential in your quest to sell your home – especially at Christmas. When having your home photographed, it is important to think about the staging; ask yourself whether the clutter around your home has been put away, can you remove some of your personal items in order to create more space or give everything one last polish? Once you’ve ticked off those basics, think about the Christmas factor – do not include heavily decorated rooms in your photographs as they will detract from the space and may age your property if your home remains on the market into January.

Keep the pine in line
Of course, at this time of year the Christmas tree has taken its place in our living rooms and other communal spaces, but make sure that the tree isn’t dwarfing the space it is in. We can all get carried away with the festivities, but this may not be the year to get the 7-foot Nordic spruce of your dreams – in the same way, that cramming a king-size bed in to a single room will make the room appear cramped, an over-sized tree will also make your room seem smaller than it is. Buyers like to imagine their own furniture in potential new homes, so allow them the space to do so.

Serious offers only
Although some may suggest that Christmas is a difficult time to attract buyers to your home, what the period does provide is serious buyers. You can make the most of the serious buyers in December by ensuring that you see each property viewing as the optimum chance to sell – making sure that your home is in pristine shape and you are welcome and positive about the property and the area. Potential buyers can glean an image of what it may be like to live in the area from their interactions with you as the homeowner, so ensure that you are up-to-date about local schools and solely positive when they ask you any questions. Similarly, being flexible may bag your buyer as an accommodating vendor, who allows for viewings at irregular hours, for example, could help clinch that crucial sale.

Preparation is key
Being organised could be the key in securing your Christmas sale. Make sure that your fixture and fittings list is put together, you have the legally required energy performance certificate and, if you have had work completed on the house, make sure you have the relevant consents. Solicitors can be the make-and-break in a sale scenario, with a slow solicitor frustrating both buyer and seller, so take recommendations from your estate agent and have an efficient solicitor all lined up, ready for a sale.

Being in a new home by the New Year can seem to be an impossible task, however by showing restraint with your festive decorations, and taking the appropriate steps to be prepared and organised you can certainly sell your home this Christmas and start your 2019 with the perfect gift – a new home.

Experts say property market is set to revive after Brexit

With Brexit negotiations in Brussels reaching their crescendo, the reality of Britain leaving Europe is now truly upon us, and for the property market, it seems that this could lead to something of a revival.

During the drawn-out periods of consternation and uncertainty around Brexit, sellers and buyers alike have shown some restraint in their interactions with the market, and this pent-up demand is set to boost activity next year.

“People with important and costly decisions to make tend to pause and reflect, waiting for a time when the outcome is more predictable. The ongoing machinations of the Brexit process for the last two years are no exception, so it is little wonder that the property market has become increasingly subdued as time has gone on,” said Richard Watkins, the land and planning director for Aston Mead.

“What’s more, despite the risks involved in the current challenging market conditions, we expect that come April 2019, those hoping to trade up will find that the gap in sale values and onward purchase prices will be the narrowest it has been for half a decade. So there continue to be real opportunities out there,” he concluded.

First-time buyers will be buoyed by the two-year extension to the Help to Buy scheme offered by the government in the recent Budget and, with house prices growing at a steadier rate than in historical years, people looking to take their step on to the property ladder will surely benefit from the post-Brexit period.

Despite the well-publicised Brexit uncertainties, the property market has remained relatively stable this year and endured the period of political instability better than most predictions initially forecast. However, 2018 has still seen some slowdown in property transactions throughout the year, and therefore the notion of a post-Brexit revival will be good news for many. With the demand for properties now at an all-time high, and new-builds unable to keep up with this vociferous appetite by the masses to own a home, buyers and sellers should benefit equally after March 2019.

The Help to Buy scheme has been extended until 2023

The Government’s Help to Buy scheme has been extremely successful, with a duality in its accomplishments; firstly, in encouraging people to take a step on to the property ladder and secondly, in encouraging housebuilders to develop new homes in the knowledge that they have a government-backed safety net of potential buyers, just waiting to purchase their newly-built homes. With the news from the recent Budget that the scheme which is due to end in April 2021 will be extended, albeit in a new format, by two years prospective buyers should be buoyed by the government decision.

Help to Buy will have been in existence for a decade by the time the extended period finishes and is available to first-time buyers as well as current homeowners looking to trade up on the property ladder. Essentially, the scheme provides a government-backed loan to people who want to buy a new home but cannot afford the deposit. For developments participating in the scheme you only need a 5% deposit (ie. &10,000 for a home worth &200,000) and the government then lend 20% of the cost (topping up the deposit), with the remaining 75% consisting of a mortgage. The 20% loan from the government is also exempt from fees for the first five years of the scheme.

The extra two years of Help to Buy will be available to first-time buyers throughout the UK for houses worth up to a new regional price cap, rather than the current scheme’s cap of &600,000. As well as new regionalised limits for the equity loan, the scheme will solely be available to first-time buyers whereas currently, you do not have to be new to the property market in order to buy through the scheme – a fact which very few are aware of.

The scheme in its current guise has helped more than 300,000 people purchase a property, all of which have been new-build homes. It is this interaction between buyers and new-build homes which has helped to answer the ever-increasing demand for properties across the UK, and with the scheme forecast to end in 2023, there will surely be an impact upon the ready availability of new homes from this point onwards.

Housebuilders have had the luxury of a steady supply of buyers ready to purchase through Help to Buy who otherwise would not have been able to purchase their properties, and after 2023 there is the real possibility of a slowdown in new building projects due to the cessation of Help to Buy. Companies such as Barratt, Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon have reaped the rewards of the scheme since its introduction in 2013 with around 40% to 50% of their sales from Help to Buy homes.

For five years, potential homebuyers have been able to purchase properties which would otherwise have been outside their price range – and for first-time buyers, in particular, this has allowed a first foray into property ownership. The announcement of an extension to the length of this scheme should, therefore, encourage potential buyers to take the plunge, and allow building firms to continue to reap the rewards of a particularly lucrative sector of the property market.

What impact will the 2018 Budget have on the property market?

The recent Budget has ramifications for all of us – with the Chancellor setting out levels at which we pay income tax, fuel duty prices and the all-important “sin taxes” around cigarettes and alcohol. What, therefore, does the Budget 2018 mean for property?

Stamp Duty
Stamp duty has been abolished for all first-time buyers of shared ownership homes (whereby the buyer purchases a share of a home, with the local council or housing association owning the remainder) up to a value of &500,000. The policy will be retrospectively applied from the 2017 budget meaning those who already bought a shared ownership property within the past year will also benefit from the change. Further to this, first-time buyers do not pay any stamp duty on homes below &300,000.

Stamp duty rates in England and Wales are now as follows:
• First &125,000: 0%
• &125,001 to &250,000: 2%
• &250,001 to &925,000: 5%
• &925,001 to &1.5m: 10%
• &1.5m+ : 12%

Help To Buy Scheme
There are a few changes being made to the Help to Buy scheme, one of the key points being that the term has been extended to 2023. Further to this extension, the new iteration of the scheme from 2021 to 2023 will only be available to first-time buyers rather than to all, as is the case with the current scheme.

Overseas Investors
A new tax will be introduced for overseas investors, the revenue from which will be used to tackle homelessness across the country. Overseas investors will face an extra charge of 1% to 3% when they buy a UK property, in addition to current stamp duty charges. As well as using the revenue to tackle the increasing problem of homelessness, the intended effect is to dissuade some of the rife competition from the London market which is making purchasing increasingly difficult in the capital.

New Homes
Although the Help to Buy scheme is being extended by two years, there are fears that the cessation of the scheme will slow down new-build homes as there will be fewer buyers able to purchase. The government is intending to give an extra &500 million to councils through the Housing Infrastructure Fund in order to promote the building of new homes and avoid any slowdown in the production of new properties.

Transformed High Streets
As part of a billion-pound boost to the UK’s struggling high streets, the Chancellor has announced a &675 million fund to help councils support their retail zones through this difficult period. An unexpected result of this could be the redesigning of empty retail units into homes – with the chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, Brian Berry, estimating that as many as 400,000 new homes could be created by making use of empty space above shops on high streets.

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