Negative equity and a dearth of first-time buyers have trapped many families wanting to upgrade to a bigger home
Tom Green and his wife, Keira, bought a flat in Solihull, near Birmingham, in February 2008 as the property market reached its peak. “We took on a 125% mortgage from Northern Rock – at that time it was sold as ‘your property will increase in value, so it’s no problem’,” he says. However, just a couple of months later the market collapsed. “It’s a big flat and there were just the two of us, so we decided to stay put and wait it out. We thought after a couple of years things would pick up,” he says.
Instead, five years on, Tom Green thinks it is still worth less than the £122,500 they paid. They have watched as the neighbourhood has become less desirable and nearby properties have hung around on the market for years. “There are no first-time buyers left – they’ve all vanished, certainly at the level we want to sell at.”
The couple are among a large number of would-be second movers trapped by negative equity and a scarcity of first-time buyers whose plight is highlighted in two new pieces of research.
Yesterday, Lloyds TSB’s third annual Second Steppers report said that 61% of those who wanted to move up the property ladder in 2012 were unable to do so, while research published tomorrow by website Rightmove, will show that 40% of people hoping to buy their second property this year are living in homes their families have outgrown.
One in 10 told Rightmove they were trying to trade up despite living in a home worth less than they paid for it.
Of the 500 people interviewed by Lloyds TSB, 25% were in negative equity, while the same number reported a lack of offers on their home. Around a fifth thought it was harder to move up the housing ladder than it had been to get on it in the first place.
The lack of new buyers is underlined by Rightmove’s research, which found that in six out of 10 regions of the UK the proportion of people saying they hoped to buy for the first time in 2013 was below 20%, less than half of the 40% associated with a healthy housing market.
Of the 4,000 would-be second movers who responded, 40% said their families had outgrown their homes, while 7% said the size of their property had made them put plans to start a family on hold.
Tom Peirson and his family are among those who are squeezed into a smaller space than they would like, but can’t find the way to buy a bigger home.
Peirson, a firefighter, and his wife, Emma Jane, who runs a hairdressing salon, live with their two daughters in a two-bedroom home near Brighouse in Yorkshire. It is worth less than the £82,000 they paid in November 2005 and has been on the market since their youngest daughter was born four years ago.
He says: “We had an offer last year but they pulled out,” he says. “We’ve just had another offer, but it’s for less than we owe and, with all the other costs, we are not sure that we can afford to buy anywhere.
“If you are a young couple and can live at home you may be able to raise a deposit, but we are really struggling.”
Government initiatives to kickstart the housing market have predominantly focussed on new-build property, to help the construction industry. But there are hints that the Budget could include measures to extend the NewBuy scheme, which allows buyers to take 95% mortgages on new homes (with some of the loan guaranteed by the government and developers) to existing properties – a move that could free up some of those trying to sell.
Rightmove says although second-time buyers made up 29% of those looking to move, their needs were not often considered. “Second-steppers are the ugly duckling of the housing market,” says the website’s director, Miles Shipside.
“Overlooked for government incentives, struggling to protect their equity if they bought near the peak, and now crammed into a home that is too small.” He added: “It appears many second-steppers have had to shelve their family planning and home-moving ambitions since the onset of the credit-crunch over five years ago.”
Psychiatrist Clare Gabriel (not her real name) lives in a two-bedroom flat in Glasgow with her husband and two children and runs a business from there. It cost £155,000 in 2005 and was recently valued at £120,000. “We have tried trading in with developers but they won’t touch our flat,” she says. The couple are trying to get their lender’s permission to rent out their home so they can use Scotland’s Mi new home scheme to buy somewhere bigger. “It is difficult because we want to live where there are decent schools and that means prices start at £265,000 … Even if we did succeed we’d be taking a risk having two mortgages.”
Back in Solihull, the Greens have family reasons for moving, as well as financial ones. They had a child in November, and rather than live in a second-floor flat with no lift, they moved in with Tom’s parents. “If we sold now we would lose £10,000-£15,000 and we would need to find another £5,000 in fees – the last five years would have been a waste of time and money,” he says.
Fortunately, the property was easy to let and since the start of the year they have had a tenant. “We realise we are lucky to be able to live with my parents while we save money and in 12 months we will be in a much better position.”
A relaxation of planning laws aims to encourage home extensions, but question marks remain over consumer redress if things go awry. One couple tells of their nightmare
If you are planning an extension or thinking about a self-build project, make sure you have given serious thought to what would happen if the builder goes bust, and whether you would be protected.
That’s the advice from Ann and Kevin Ruck, who are embroiled in an “absolute nightmare” after their builder went into administration before he had finished work on their £300,000 “eco house”, a striking wedge-shaped building made with local materials.
The couple had handed over almost all the money because it was supposedly more or less finished. But after the builder left the site, it emerged that the Rucks would have to spend tens of thousands of pounds to put right a long list of problems and complete work that was already supposed to have been done.
Ann says they have learned, to their cost, that there seems to be little or no consumer protection when a builder goes bust, adding: “You have more protection when spending £500 on a package holiday than when spending thousands on building work.”
Their experience could serve as a warning to homeowners thinking about taking advantage of the relaxation of planning rules announced by the government this month, which, some say, could spark a rush to build larger extensions.
The Rucks had decided to build an environmentally-friendly home overlooking the sea near Gairloch on the north-west coast of Scotland where “we could spend some quiet time as we start to work a bit less”.
They were keen for it to be a sustainable build, using Scottish materials such as oak and Caithness stone, with the whole property highly insulated for energy efficiency.
The builder started work in May 2010 and was supposed to finish six months later, but the work “dragged on” until early 2011. In March of that year, the builder wrote to the architect to say he was temporarily ceasing trading “due to increasing bad debts”, and walked off the site. Shortly afterwards he went into administration.
“We had paid just about all the money and had thought the build pretty well complete, so at first we weren’t worried. It wasn’t until I got on site that I realised the extent of the problems,” says Ann.
“The sewage system had not been done as per the contract. There was extensive remedial and completion work including replumbing, electrics, extensive interior plastering, large windows needing to be replaced because they had not been fitted correctly – it goes on and on.”
This work – which the Rucks are having to fund out of their own pockets – is still not finished. They have had to employ another builder and pay a surveyor to investigate potential problems.
The couple, who live near Maidstone in Kent, say they thought they had done all the right things. They interviewed four architects before choosing one, while the builder was suggested by the architect but also competed in a tender process. They paid the builder on time, with the architect employed to administer the contract and sign off the work for payment at key stages. “Yet we find ourselves in this position,” says Ann, adding that it seems “everyone is protected except the consumer”.
Before work started on the house, Ann asked the architect whether they should take out a National House-Building Council (NHBC) warranty – which can, in some cases, offer protection if a builder goes bust (see right) – but he emailed: “We’ve never done a building that is NHBC guaranteed. Waste of money. I would hope that all our houses surpass their standards without you having to pay someone to come and do expensive checks.”
Ann says the builder was a limited company with no assets to speak of, so they have been advised there is no point in suing him.
She says they may have a case against the architect – who is a member of Rias, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland – on the grounds that he signed off work that was not acceptable to building control. But “because the builder has gone bust, he is able to use this as his defence – ie, if the builder hadn’t gone bust, he would have made him put it right”.
In an email to Ann, the architect said: “Much as I am furious… and much as I regret the situation, we are not culpable for the fact that [the builder] did not carry out the works in accordance with the specification or rectify the works prior to ceasing trading.”
She says they may be able to make a claim against the architect’s professional indemnity insurance, but this would be expensive, “and, frankly, I don’t know that I can afford it”.
She adds: “If people are going to embark on a building project, think about how you are going to be protected should the builder go bust, particularly if it is a limited company and goes into administration.
“The onus here seems to be totally on the consumer to protect themselves, whereas in other situations it’s the industry that funds the protection.”
Ways to avoid problems
Michael Black and John Morgan not allowed to stay at Swiss Bed and Breakfast in Berkshire in March 2010
A gay couple have sued the owner of bed and breakfast accommodation after she refused to let them stay in a double room because of her religious views.
Michael Black, 64, and partner John Morgan, 59, sought damages from Susanne Wilkinson after she declined to let them have the room at the Swiss Bed and Breakfast in Cookham, Berkshire, in March 2010.
In their particulars of claim to Reading county court, the couple, from Brampton, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, told how Black, an exams consultant and writer, had booked a double room for 19 March 2010.
But when he and his computer consultant partner arrived there Wilkinson made clear to them that she was not prepared to allow them to share a double bed and that she would not accommodate them.
Lawyers from Liberty, the human rights organisation, which has taken up the case, argued that under legal regulations it was unlawful for a person concerned with the provision of services to the public to discriminate against a person on the grounds of that person’s sexual orientation.
Lawyers for Wilkinson argued that a person offering bed and breakfast in their own home was entitled to refuse to permit persons who were not married or in a civil partnership (whether of the opposite sex or the same sex) to share a double bed.
The couple are not in a civil partnership, and in these circumstances, there was no direct or indirect discrimination, the lawyers said.
Wilkinson, a married mother-of-four, considers that providing a double bed to the couple would involve her in promoting what she believed to be a sin, namely sexual relations outside heterosexual marriage.
James Dingemans QC, for Wilkinson, told the court: “If Mrs Wilkinson had simply said, ‘don’t come in because you’re gay’, that could never be justified. It was simply the provision of the double bed which Mrs Wilkinson believed was wrong.”
Henrietta Hill, for the couple, said: “It is obvious that there is a difficult balancing act to be carried out in this case. The proper balance to be struck has already been determined by the very clear will of parliament.”
The men seek a declaration that they have been discriminated against, and damages – if they win the case, it has been agreed that £1,800 each would be an appropriate sum, Hill said.
It has been previously reported that they will give any money to charity.
The judge, Claire Moulder, reserved judgment after the one-day hearing, saying she expected to give her ruling in one to two weeks’ time.
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New U.S. auto sales are expected to hit 1.29M in August, a 20% jump Y/Y and 12% M/M, led by sharp gains by Japanese auto makers, according to Edmunds.com. “Sales showed signs of flattening out in the first couple months of summer, so August’s sales figures will come as a nice surprise for everyone in the auto industry,” the site’s top analyst says. Post your comment!
See the original post here: New U.S. auto sales are expected to hit 1.29M in August, a 20% jump Y/Y and 12% M/M, led by sharp gains by Japanese auto makers, according to Edmunds.com. “Sales showed signs of flattening out in the first couple months of summer, so…