London working, outside London Living: 5 Steps to making it outside London.

Today we are going to be discussing something that is very close to home for me – the big commute!

It’s no secret that London is the place to be in order to receive a quality salary. This tends to be because salaries incorporate the extortionate costs of zone 1-3 travel and the general cost of living. Let’s not forget that London is the heart of the UK. London is home to the Bank of England, the worldwide beloved Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament to name a few! 

Throughout my career from retail right through to the financial sector I have always met people that lived in areas I had never heard of either on the outskirts or far out of London. They’d always express how affordable it was to maintain a high quality of life, whilst commuting to London and still having a considerable amount of disposable cash.

I have had the experience of renting in London for around 6 years and the most I have spent on rent is £1,200 per calendar month for a 1 bed apartment and then an additional £500 on bills & groceries. That’s a whopping £1,700 to have a roof over my head and food in my stomach. Let’s not forget that we haven’t even discussed the cost of travel, luxuries and unexpected miscellaneous expenses. I’d say my monthly expenses were not too shy of £2,500 – crazy!

Living outside London I have realised that I am able to keep the same quality salary, whilst reducing my outgoings, in turn being able to save more and invest elsewhere. Not to mention that the house prices are extremely affordable. I went from paying £1,200PCM on rent, to under £500 on my monthly Mortgage. 

Thinking about making the big move?

Here’s some tips and things to consider… 

5 Steps to making it outside London:

  1. Drive. Get your driving licence so that you don’t have to depend on your partner, taxi’s or public transport. Honestly, public transport is shocking! You can expect a bus every 30mins. 


  2. Commute. Live somewhere that is within walking/cycle distance of the train station. If you live far from the train station, you will have to drive, pay for parking or a taxi and this is counterproductive.


  3. Flexible working. The current climate has meant that the hands of many employers have been forced to be more flexible with their employees. Not commuting in to the office everyday can take some pressure off both financially and physically, this also allows you to recharge your batteries, in turn making you a lot more productive. 


  4. Opt for a bigger space. Outside London the pound goes a lot further. If you can, opt for a house/apartment with a spare room. Make this your office. Try to avoid working on your bed hunched over on your laptop. And if you can stretch a bit further, go for somewhere that has a garden or a lovely communal outdoor space.


  5. New Normal. Have an open mind. Things are going to be different, try new things. You can’t expect that London ambiance, because after all, it’s not London. 

Image Source: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/02/houses-parliament-are-falling-down

A buyers Market, not a sellers…

It’s no secret that Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the entire world.

Millions have lost their jobs. Off of the back of this, many will have to take payment holidays on their mortgages, some may eventually fall behind on mortgage payments and some may even lose their homes due to repossession. 

What does this mean for the market?

I’m going to focus on 2 things today.

  1. It will be a buyers market, not a sellers 
  2. Lenders will have to recover a lot of unpaid debt and be a lot more frugal with who they lend to

What does this mean for you? 

The person with a home to sell…

  • Now is the time! Sell as soon as possible and sit on the funds. Move in with family, think about short term renting and sit on the proceeds of the sale as in a few months, you will be able to buy a bigger house for a lot less.
  • Fast forward a few months… If you take too long to take the leap to put your property up for sale, you may need to take an Offer much less than what you wished for.

Are you in a chain? There’ll be more about what can do next week… 

 The person with a home to buy…

  • Hold your horses. There are going to be many houses to choose from and many people desperate to sell them so this may work in your favour when it comes to negotiating on price. 
  • You may need to front more deposit than you may have initially planned due to Mortgage products being quite unstable. 90% Mortgages which require a 10% deposit have been pulled and reintroduced week by week. Lenders may also be a lot more picky with who they lend to, request much more information and be much quicker to decline applicants who don’t fit within their risk appetite 

Key take aways

Home Sellers

  • The time is now!

Home Buyers

  • Be patient. Fix your credit & save save save!

All information on my blog is opinion driven based on market trends, statistics and forecasts regarding the current situation. 

*Photo Source https://www.standard.co.uk/news/estate-agents-face-ban-on-for-sale-signs-6781275.html

Questions to ask when viewing a property

1. When was the last time the *electrics were checked? (Particularly important for Victorian/Edwardian houses, not so relevant for New Builds)

2. Has there ever been any water damage to the property? Flood, roof leak etc.

3. How long has the property been on the market?

4. Roughly how much are the monthly property related bills? Water, gas, electric, council tax, Building insurance2, internet

5. How old is the roof? (Particularly important for Victorian/Edwardian houses, not so relevant for New Builds)

6. Have the owners done any renovations within the last 5 years?

7. How long have the owners lived here?

8. How far is the supermarket/train station?

9. What is the parking like? Do you have an allocated spot, drive way or is it first come first served?

10. Whats the crime like in the area? 

11. Does the property have a restrictive 3covenant? If the Agent is unsure, dig!

12. Is there a 4chain? How quickly does/can the owner want to proceed to completion?

Ultimately, the seller/agent has one goal, sell the property! Take what they say with a pinch of salt and do some research of your own. Ask friends that live in/know of the area. Get a feel for the vibe on the street.

Go to your official viewing in the day and once you feel like you are willing to proceed with the purchase, visit the property and its surrounding area in the night to get a real feel for what it’d be like living there. Pay close attention to noise, anti social behaviour, over crowded parking etc. 

1Electrics are particularly important, you can reasonably knock off £10,000 from the asking price of a property if the electrics have not been given the once over within the last 10 years. This is something you will definitely have to get done as soon as possible, this involves checking plug sockets, making sure no wires/cable are frayed and checking that the lights are working properly with no buzzing sound. Worse case scenario you will have to rewire the property. Rewiring a property is not cheap, but if required, is essential for older houses to prevent electrical fault damage which can ultimately lead to fires etc. 

2Building insurance is a necessity and legal requirement for a House. It is not required for a flat as you are covered under the ground rent that you pay to the Landlord/Freeholder. 

3A restrictive covenant can encourage neighbours to be to create harmony and deter anti social behaviour. It can also prevent you from carrying out certain actions like extensions, loft conversions or converting the house in to flats etc.

Obtain copies of the properties title from the official Land Registry website to be sure there’s no surprises.

4A property chain is created when more than one buyer is involved in a transaction. For example, say you are buying a home from someone and they are moving to a new home they are buying from another. That is an upward property chain, meaning that your completion date (when you move in) is likely to be affected by the date when your seller can move into their new home too.

If you’d like to add to the list of questions to ask when viewing a property, feel free to comment below. Happy House Hunting!

How does Equity work?

The concept of equity is quite simple and in practice is a great way to see a return from an investment.

Whether you are purchasing a family home or a buy to let property for rental purposes, the location and aesthetics of the property are crucial for its potential.   

E.g

2016
Purchase Price £220,000 
Mortgage Attained £198,000 (10% Deposit)
4 Bed property bought just outside of the M25 
Walking distance from station
Local supermarkets not far
Good school catchment area
En-suite Bathroom

2020
The same house sells for £300,000
The Mortgage balance has been decreasing repayment after repayment for the last 4 year
Mortgage Balance (guesstimate) £188,000 (Dependent on interest rate)

This means that on the property you bought for £220,000 in 2016, you have made £80,000 as the value has gone up by this much across the 4 years.

When you sell the property for £300,000 you will clear the remaining Mortgage balance of £188,000 and be left with £112,000

You will then have other fees like solicitor fees, capital gains tax (on the *gain, not the sale price) and if you sold your property before the fee free period on the Mortgage product you are locked in to, you may have to pay an exit fee.

*The gain here is £80,000

All in all, worse case scenario you are left with £90,000. That is a profit of £68,000 when you take away the £22,000 deposit you initial invested for the property.

This is why many people buy properties well outside of London, fix them up and then sell them on. The money that can be made is mind blowing. However, that is only possible if you get it right!

Next week I will be speaking about what questions to ask and what to look out for when you go for a house viewing.

The Enemy: Japanese Knotweed

What is Japanese Knotweed?

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is a weed that spreads rapidly. In winter the plant dies back to ground level but by early summer the bamboo-like stems emerge from rhizomes deep underground to shoot to over 7ft, suppressing all other plant growth.

Why having Japanese Knotweed at a property is a no go…

It’s pretty self explanatory, but from a Mortgage perspective, most surveyors will note Japanese Knotweed as a negative find at a property and will deem a property unsuitable for Mortgage purposes due to the aggressiveness of it. However other surveyors will note Japanese Knotweed as a problem and insist that it is seen to and removed by a specialist before giving the property a value.

Loopholes

Not all home owners know that their property has Japanese Knotweed, which means potential buyers won’t know either and if not noticed when a survey is done on the property, good news, you’ve got away with it. However when you decide to move on and the weed has grown out of control and is noticeable, you may find it very costly and difficult to get the property off of your hands.

It’s not a good idea to hide the presence of knotweed

Whilst it may make the sale easier, the TA6 form now has a specific question about knotweed.  Concealing the presence of knotweed could prove to be an expensive mistake, as the buyer may have a case for misrepresentation and against the seller and report the acting agent to the authorities for breach of CPR regulations. 

What can be done… 

Removal

  1. The two main knotweed removal methods are herbicide treatment and physical removal. 
  • Herbicide Treatment is lower in cost but takes at least one growing season, often more. It’s the least disruptive method, but not suitable where there are plans that result in substantial disturbance of the the ground e.g. construction or landscaping works.
  • Physical Removal such as Environet’s Resi-dig-out™. This eco-innovative removal method can be completed any time of the year, and takes a matter of days. 

2. Don’t buy that property if Japanese Knotweed is present. Do your due diligence.

Financial Hack: How long would you be able to pay your bills for if you were to lose your job tomorrow? Build your emergency fund, Thailand can wait.

At the beginning of 2020 my husband and I decided to house hunt. We bought our apartment 4 years ago, renovated and thought it was a good time to upsize.

We had a budget, we knew the area we wanted to settle down in and knew that our next move would be for the long term. 

Ideally we wanted a project. Something that was nice enough to move in to straight away, however somewhere that had room for a back extension and loft conversion.

Deal breaker. He needs his space – games room and I need mine, an office.

We made 3 offers on 3 separate properties. 2 Offers were accepted and then BAM Covid-19 triggers a lockdown.

This was a bitter sweet situation as we were given time to truly analyse and think about what we were spearheading in to.

We are living in uncertain times and it is said that it will be a while before life is truly back to normal and in many ways, we’re going to have to accept a new normal.   

Why I gave up my 4 Bedroom Detached House hunt and decided to stay in my 2 Bedroom Apartment a few more years…

After a self analysis of our finances and various eventualities we decided to remain put.

In our current state we knew that if one of us were to lose our jobs, the other could pay the bills 3x over before it became a strain. 

We knew that if both of us lost our jobs, we had enough savings to carry us over for a few months paying the bills whilst we hunted for new jobs.

If we were to upsize and take on a project this wouldn’t necessary be the case.

We’d essentially be taking on much higher outgoings because I wanted a shiny new house and project to get my paws in to – a want, not a need. 

The take away from this experience is to stay where you are until you outgrow your home and are bursting out of the seams. Or until you can financially make the move without any strain, taking all eventualities in to consideration. No one knows what tomorrow holds.

Keep those outgoings low.

Save. Save. Save.

Save. Save. Save and when it is time to upsize, you can do so effortlessly.

There’s a time to save, time to build and a time to enjoy what you’ve built. 

Tip: You should have enough savings to carry you through 3 months of a rough period. These savings will pay your Mortgage, utility bills and basic essential costs of living (travel, food etc.)

Why?
Theres an average of about a 3 month period from being made redundant to securing a new job and receiving your first “normal” pay cheque.

Build your emergency fund, Thailand can wait.

Financial Hack: So nice, I had to buy it twice!

The best piece of advice I received growing up was, “If you can’t buy it twice over, you can’t afford it”.

Of course the above doesn’t apply to the acquisition of a property as this is a life changing purchase and something many save years for. However, if you want to be a home owner, you have to be disciplined, you have to save!

I love me a bit of online shopping and I also went through a phase where I loved brands! I moved out of home when I was 18 and lived in one of my dads properties. I covered the electric, gas, shopping, council tax etc. This move was primarily to teach me the cost of life, responsibility and most importantly discipline!

There came a time where I became disheartened because I couldn’t shop as freely as I use to when I lived at home, or would often find myself in a spot of bother towards the end of the month and have to ask my mum to save me. That’s when she delivered this gem, she sat me down and amongst many things, the word that stood out for me is when she said, “If you can’t buy it twice over, you can’t afford it”.

Since then, I have lived by this word and have never found myself in a spot of financial trouble. I live within my means and if I do buy a luxury item, I have enough free cash to buy it two, even three times over. 

I never wanted to be that person that bought a Louis Vuitton bag on pay day, but had to walk to work and eat buttered bread for the remainder of the month because I lived way above my means.  

Lesson:

Don’t be afraid to be fugal – tight! Weigh up your needs vs. your wants.

If you can’t buy it twice and have surplus funds in your account, then you can’t afford it! 

Financial Hack: Turn £100 in to £21,600 – Your 18 Year Old dependent will thank you!

The most daunting thing is the creation of life and the responsibility to lead, teach and grow the little human you’ve brought in to the world. 

They never chose to be here. That was down to us and our significant other. Now that they are here, we have to ensure that we set them up for success and entrench some core values. 

Many people are broken and make warped adult decisions due to a fragile childhood, non existent good examples and lack of nurturing. 

Financial Hack: Turn £100 in to £21,600

As 2 parents, you can both individually set aside £50 a month for your child – Or £100 as a single parent.

Over 12 months this £100 equates to £1,200

Over 18 years this £100 a month totals to £21,600

Once your child hits their 18th birthday they’ve already been given a head start. You can give them these funds, but also teach them financial intelligence. They can continue what you started 18 years ago and build on the funds (£100 per month), purchase a car or invest in their education. 

The options are limitless, but the important thing is that you’ve led the way, given them a booster and your dependent will most definitely thank you for this!