Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Go ahead given for 170 homes on Inspired land.

ANGRY campaigners have condemned a council's “horrific” decision to allow 170 homes to be built in a picturesque valley.

The homes on Carson's Drive at Great Cornard, near Sudbury, are part of Babergh District Council's local plan which campaigners say will destroy views that inspired legendary painter Thomas Gainsborough.

At yesterday's full council meeting members rejected an amendment to reduce the number of houses on the site and a further 11th hour amendment to eliminate the site altogether from the local plan.

Controversy was stoked by the exclusion of five councillors who had “pre-determined” the debate by signing a Save Gainsborough Country Campaign (SGCAG) petition against Carson's Drive.

Embittered campaigners pointed to the fact that the five were less than the margin of defeat for the amendment to omit the 170 homes.

Betty Bone, SGCAG member, said: “If the five councillors had not been barred from the meeting then Carson's Drive would have been deleted.

“I'm horrified because when I first lived in Great Cornard 50 years ago there were perhaps 170 homes in the whole village now they are putting 170 in one field.”

Stefan Kosciuszko, chairman of SGCAG, who vowed not to give up defending the valley, said: “Today marks a new low point in the history of our district.

“The views of over 2,200 individuals, objections from English Heritage and Suffolk County Council Highways and sound planning arguments were all ignored in a sham of a consultation process.

“The stench of pre-determination emanating from the council offices has been overpowering throughout this process.”

Nick Ridley, chairman of the strategy committee, said he regretted the fact that five councillors had been excluded from the decision but he said the plan was sound and had been debated in detail.

“It would have been helpful if all the councillors had taken part but they were not allowed to proceed,” he said.

“However, we must keep things in proportion - we have a good plan. It is a plan which balances new housing, including low cost housing, new sites for jobs and environmental improvements for the next ten years.”

Rich Cooke, acting head of planning policy and economic development at Babergh, had urged councillors to pass the Carson's Drive scheme or face losing the entire local plan.

He said the district had been waiting eight years for an up-to-date local plan and failure to agree on one before the deadline of July 21 could invite a “scatter gun” approach from developers.

The amendment to block the 170 homes was defeated 15 votes to 12, and the local plan was passed 22 votes to two.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Goverment announces dry run for Home Inspection Packs.

Government has set out today next steps to help homebuyers with the announcement by Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper, of details of a dry-run prior to introducing Home Information Packs (HIPs) on 1 June 2007.

The Government is introducing HIPs, which have long been called for by consumer groups, to address the serious problems and delays homebuyers and sellers face when they can't get early reliable information about homes.

HIPs will provide reliable information at the beginning of the homebuying process to help prevent buyers and sellers being misled by incomplete or inaccurate information when they put in or accept an offer. Currently £1million is wasted every day when sales fall through. The Government has said that all aspects of the Packs need to be tried and tested through a dry run before becoming mandatory on 1 June next year.

The dry run has already begun with 45 organisations in England and Wales already providing more than 2500 packs on a voluntary basis. The Association of Home Information Pack Providers will be rolling out voluntary HIPs in the regions during 2006 and 2007.

From August, the first certification schemes, which will ensure the work of Home Inspectors meets tough Government standards, will be approved. Currently seven organisations have applied to run the certification schemes.

The approved schemes should begin to operate from October 2006, with qualified, certificated Home Inspectors able to register the Home Condition Report and deliver authorised reports to consumers. At the same time a rigorous testing process will be put in place for example, Home Inspectors' work will be assessed through the Certification Schemes and consumers will be surveyed to ensure they can understand the contents of the Pack and the Home Condition Report to use them effectively.

Between 5000 and 7400 full time Home Inspectors will be required to complete an estimated 1.44 million Home Condition Reports each year. Over 4000 people have begun training to gain the Home Inspector qualification.

Yvette Cooper said:

“The current system isn't fair on buyers or sellers. £1million is wasted every day when sales fall through and too many buyers and sellers face real headaches when it turns out they were misled or that problems emerge when it's too late. Home Information Packs have been long called for by consumer groups to give people reliable information at the beginning of the process. Now the dry run will make sure that all aspects of the Packs are properly tested before being fully introduced next year."

From January 2007, lenders will be able to acquire Home Condition Reports electronically from a register and use them for valuation assessments as part of their lending decisions.

This month will also see the Home Information Pack advertising campaign kick off with advertisements placed in trade and online media designed to raise awareness of the new arrangements amongst to estate agents, solicitors, mortgage lenders, surveyors and Pack providers. The campaign will be extended later in 2006 to inform and educate homeowners and first time buyers as to what they will need to do as implementation date draws nearer.

As momentum gathers in the run up to 1 June 2007, the ODPM has created a dedicated website at http://www.homeinformationpacks.gov.uk/index.aspx - for industry and consumers. The site will provide detailed, up-to-date information, including case studies, FAQs, leaflets, regular e-newsletters, event details and other useful links.

Notes to editors:

About Home Information Packs
As from 1 June 2007, homeowners will be required to provide a Home Information Pack when marketing their homes for sale throughout England and Wales. This will help reduce the estimated £1 million which is wasted each day because of failed transactions. The Pack will include a Home Condition Report, terms of sale and any search details. An energy effiency rating will be included in the report, giving consumers the choice to assess the likely running costs of a property before they buy.

1. Consumer Benefits:

  • Provide transaction improvements by reducing the abortive costs to consumers and the industry attributable to failures caused by survey or valuation inspection findings.
  • Improve the condition of the housing stock by reducting the incidence of unexpected repair bills and encouraging better maintenance of homes.
  • Provide greater consumer choice by reducing the entry costs to first time buyers and creating a market of serious sellers.

2. Cost of Home Information Packs:

  • The Packs will cost around £600 plus VAT. Most of this cost is not new being met at present by sellers and buyers. The Home Condition Report is the new item and is expected to cost around £300, for an average home, plus VAT. It is similar to the homebuyer survey that some purchasers already commission.
  • The proposed content of the pack includes searches and other information which is currently paid for by the buyer. Where several buyers pursue the same property, then these costs are repeated by each buyer. Under the new arrangements all prospective buyers will be able to access this information up front as supplied by the seller.

3. Market Impact:


Home Information Packs will make the market more efficient and certain. They will make home buying more affordable and sustainable for first time buyers, who will receive full details abiout the property at no cost to them.

Major players are now investing heavily in Home Information Pack systems and intend to market these well in advance of packs becoming mandatory. This means sellers and buyers will not have to wait until June 2007 before they can benefit from packs immediately before implementation of the mandatory scheme in June.

Industry accepts that sellers will generally not pay up front for Home Information Packs. Thus there is no impediment to sellers marketing their homes with the Packs both before and after implementation.

4. Home Inspectors/Certification Scheme:


Only inspectors qualifying under certification schemes approved by the Secretary of State will be able to prepare Home Condition Reports. The scheme will be responsible for monitoring and auditing inspectors’ work. This will be robust to ensure that standards are maintained and the reports can be trusted.

If inspectors fail to maintain the correct standard or act in a way that is partial to one party contrary to the rules of the scheme, their certification will be removed, along with that their ability to produce Home Condition Reports.

5. Home Condition Report:

The Home Condition Report will be an objective report on the condition of the property that buyers, sellers and lenders will have a legal right to rely on. Home Inspectors will have to have suitable insurance that will be backed up by insurance of last resort provided by the certification scheme.

6. Integrated Government Policy Benefits
Home Information Packs support the Government’s wider reform agenda, including raising the energy efficiency of the housing stock, and improving its state of repair. as well as contributing to sustainable home ownership and communities.

7. A timeline was published on 16th March 2006 -

Monday, April 03, 2006

Energy Bills And Council Tax Hit First-time Buyers

Record rises in energy prices and steep council tax increases are making life harder for first-time buyers, says a new report...
Finding a deposit is tough enough, and stamp duty always comes as a bit of a nasty surprise, but now first-time buyers are facing additional costs due to rising utility bills and higher council taxes.
According to Yorkshire Bank research, gas and electricity prices are now at such a high level that one in three (33 per cent) first-time buyers would avoid buying a property that lacked the basics such as double glazing and cavity wall insulation.
They are, says Gary Lumby, Yorkshire Bank's head of retail, conscious that utility bills are on the rise and know that this will make owning their first home more expensive:
"With the average annual domestic energy bill now close to £1,000, it is clear the energy costs and efficiency of a home are becoming as big an issue for first-time buyers as raising money for a deposit or paying stamp duty.
"The problem is that, unlike a deposit or stamp duty - which are one-off payments - energy costs are ongoing. Consequently, energy efficiency and the size of a home's energy bill is now essential information for those looking around potential homes."
Council Tax As well as having to factor higher energy prices into their already tight budgets, first-time buyers are also bracing themselves for this spring's rise in council taxes.
Yorkshire Bank found almost one in four (23 per cent) first-time buyers were putting off plans to buy until local councils announced their charges for the year ahead.
Gary Lumby said: "Higher council tax is a concern for many buyers, not just those looking to buy their first home. The general cost of running a home is set to be more expensive in 2006, with combined council tax and utility bulls estimated to rise by an average of 111 per cent.
"The problem for buyers is that average earnings are only rising at 3.6 per cent. As a result, first-time buyers should consider buying sooner rather than later - as affordability may become an even bigger challenge.
"Although it is clearly harder for people to get onto the property ladder, stable interest rates are helping. And should the Bank of England reduce rates in the next few months as expected, then it will be cheaper for buyers to borrow."
Where household bills are increasing:
Water bills: 2005: £279. 2006: £295. (+5.7%)Energy bills: 2005: £795. 2006:£971 (+22.1%).Council Tax (Band D): 2005: £1,197. 2006: £1,250 (4.4%)Overall cost: 2005: £2,271. 2006: £2,516 (+10.8%).

Friday, March 17, 2006

The ODPM launched there Home Inpsection pack timeline, to see the full report click the following link.
http://www.odpm.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1002882&PressNoticeID=2103

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

MP'S BILL TO DITCH THE DEFECTIVE HIP

Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, has secured a 'Ten Minute Rule Bill' in the House of Commons on 18th April which, if successful, would see the end of the Home Information Pack. The 'Housing Act 2004 Amendment Bill' will provide a focus for debate and expose the weaknesses in the government's case.

Mr Liddell-Grainger says: "I am convinced that Home Information Packs were well intended but always fatally flawed. I am determined to stop the process before it starts in order to save everyone involved a great deal of heartache and hard cash."

Recognising the contribution to HIP opposition made by the SPLINTA campaign Mr Liddell-Grainger goes on: "The weight of evidence against HIPs is mounting fast. SPLINTA has performed a remarkable job in recruiting hundreds of prominent estate agents to the cause. Even the cautious souls in the Law Society and the Mortgage Lending industry are getting stuck in."

The newly created role of the Home Inspector may prove to be a short-lived career. Says Mr Liddell-Grainger: "I got involved when a personal friend told me he was thinking of training as a Home Inspector. He showed me the paperwork. And the huge cost. It looked like a confidence trick. The sad reality of this half-baked scheme is that thousands of innocent individuals are already parting with their pounds to train for a role that has not been properly defined or implemented. They are signing up to training providers and kissing goodbye to almost £10,000 a piece in order to be taught skills inferior to that of a surveyor. They have been encouraged by the Government to believe that new lucrative careers are there for the taking. They have been cruelly misled."

Nick Salmon of SPLINTA welcomes Mr Liddell-Grainger's initiative. "The more MP's of all parties learn about the defects of the HIP proposal the less they like it. Those I have spoken to immediately grasp the fact that the only people who will benefit from HIPs are the commercial organisations being set up to cash in on the annual billion pound market supplying packs. The Home Information Pack - 'Prescott's Penalty' on home owners - is going to be an expensive disaster for the property market. Mr Liddell-Grainger's Bill should therefore be of interest to all MP's and, most importantly, their constituents"

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

BYCHOICE PART OF UK NUMBER ONE NETWORK

Local estate agent Bychoice is celebrating after their national property network, movewithus, was ranked number one property network in the league table of property Affinity Groups and Franchise Operations published by Estate Agency News. The network, which recently announced it has recruited over 1000 members across the UK, is quickly becoming one of the largest and most successful networks in the country and was responsible for the sale of property worth £22.8 billion in 2005. Further expansion is planned for 2006 and membership is expected to grow to 1,500 offices by 2007.

Todd Lewis, Director commented: ‘we are thrilled to be recognised as an important part of the UK’s number one network and that it has passed the 1000th member milestone. Our business is growing and, with the ongoing expansion of the movewithus network, we envisage this trend continuing.’

Nigel Higgins, Director at movewithus, commented: “it is a fantastic achievement to be named number one in the property affinity group league table and to have broken the 1000th member barrier. The rapid growth of our network proves the success and impact our service has made within the property industry. We are looking forward to another successful year of expansion and to continue to develop our service offering in new and innovative ways. ”

Thursday, March 09, 2006

73% of homeowners will think twice about selling.

9 March 2006

NAEA research shows major consumer concerns on introduction of HIPs
- majority say no to the cost and 73 per cent will think twice about selling

Consumer research published today by the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) supports the association’s concerns over Home Information Packs (HIPs) and reveals the general public’s true feelings about the increased cost of marketing a property for sale when the packs are introduced on 1 June 2007.

With the help of an independent research company, the NAEA surveyed 1295 adults throughout England and Wales. The respondents all had an interest in the housing market and comprised existing homeowners and those looking to purchase property within the next five years.

The Government’s guideline cost for collating the pack is between £600 and £1,000. One of the most alarming findings from this research is that a mere 4.5 per cent of respondents felt paying over £500 to collate a HIP was reasonable. In fact, 39 per cent of all homeowners surveyed believe the HIP should cost them nothing at all.

Peter Bolton King, Chief Executive at the NAEA, says: “The Government claims the HIP will be cost neutral. However, this cannot be the case when only 20 per cent of buyers currently bother with any form of survey. With over one third of respondents stating that they should not have to pay a penny to put a HIP together, it is clear that many people are concerned about this additional cost.”

Lack of first day marketing

Once HIPs are introduced, homeowners could be forced to wait up to 14 days while the pack is prepared before being legally allowed to market their property for sale. Only 13 per cent of those surveyed felt that 14 days was an acceptable time to wait and almost half of those surveyed (47.9 per cent) felt they should be able to market their home immediately.

The NAEA has found that buyers and sellers are both apprehensive about this delay. Almost 60 per cent of respondents believe the wait will cause them to miss out on prospective buyers, while 42 per cent are concerned that it will prevent them from buying the property they want.

Peter Bolton King comments: “First day marketing is a fundamental right for every home owner and its removal will have a huge impact. Time and time again we have been telling the Government that the lack of first day marketing will affect housing supply, the overall stability of the housing market in general and the entire economy. This latest survey emphatically confirms that consumers also believe this.

Long term Impact

A further survey statistic of considerable concern to the NAEA is that 73 per cent of homeowners said they would think twice about marketing their home for sale as a result of the mandatory cost and delay in marketing caused by HIPs. Peter Bolton King explains: “One of the biggest concerns the NAEA has about the introduction of HIPs is that it will have a negative impact on the supply of property coming onto the market. A very real consequence of this could be an increase in property values, which would further stunt the growth of the housing market.”

Short term impact

More than half (57 per cent) of the homeowners surveyed said they would consider putting their home on the market prior to 1 June 2007 to avoid paying for the HIP. The biggest concern for homeowners on this subject, however, is that they will have to pay for the HIP whether or not the property sells. Peter Bolton King says: “This will undoubtedly create an artificial impact on the housing market by increasing the number of properties for sale prior to the introduction of HIPs. The proposals are complex and the Government has decided to introduce them at the busiest time of the year for estate agents, against our recommendations.”

Awareness of HIPs

Almost half of the adults surveyed were completely unaware of HIPs and their consequences. Peter Bolton King comments: “This is of extreme concern to us, as HIPs will become mandatory in just 15 months time and will increase substantially the cost of selling a home. Clearly the Government has a long road ahead in terms of communicating the implications of the packs to the public.”

And finally…

Peter Bolton King concludes: “This research confirms many of the fears the NAEA has had about HIPs for some time now. I urge the Government to take heed of this research and again consider the practical implications of introducing HIPs to the public on 1 June 2007.”

- Ends -

About the research

This research for the NAEA was carried out online by Tickbox.net between 24 February 2006 and 28 February 2006, amongst a nationally representative sample of 1295 UK adults aged 16 plus.

Tickbox.net is a leading market research organisation, carrying out consumer, corporate and niche market surveys online amongst a 50,000 plus member panel.

Tickbox.net is a member of the BMRA (British Market Research Association), follows the codes of the MRS (Market Research Society) and is fully registered and compliant with the Data Protection Register, as well as being the preferred research supplier of the PRCA (Public Relations Consultants Association).

About the NAEA

The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) is the UK’s leading professional body for estate agency personnel, representing the interests of approximately 10,000 members who practice across all aspects of property services both in the UK and overseas. These include residential and commercial sales and lettings, property management, business transfer and auctioneering.

The National Association of Estate Agents is dedicated to the goal of professionalism within high street estate agency. Its aim is to reassure the general public that by appointing an NAEA member to represent them they will receive in return the highest level of integrity and service in both sales and lettings. Each NAEA member is bound by a vigorously enforced Code of Practice and adheres to professional Rules of Conduct. Failure to do so can result in heavy financial penalties and possible expulsion from the Association.

Editorial contacts:
NAEA:
Peter Bolton King, CEO
T: 01926 417750
M: 07793647219
Phoenix plc:
Kirsty Marshall
T: 01372 370 850
E: naeapress@phoenixplc.com