It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 10

marshwood

Housing Association new builds, but how long before they fall into private hands?

Interesting times since Plymouth dad, Jamie Pogson started an online petition to Parliament demanding that rent should be used as proof that someone can afford mortgage repayments.

Interesting because that is exactly the point I have been making for years and interesting because it has been picked up by the media and the injustice of the situation highlighted by people from within the financial industry.

The number of signatures quickly racked up and the 100,000 point was soon passed meaning his petition stands a chance of being discussed. Sadly there are no guarantees and if I’m honest, I’ll be surprised if it happens given the state of national and international affairs, but what this petition has shown is that there are thousands of people who agree and it’s not just the people who are suffering from this unfair system.

Media and Social Media latch on

Amongst the many press reports there is also a LinkedIn post from Ryan Crighton, director of Marketing at Aberdein Considine, a Scottish law firm, and he states renting a property is now more expensive than paying a mortgage; the last time renting was the cheaper option was back in 2008. Whilst he is applying this to Scotland, I am confident it also applies south of the border.

The London Metro picked it up and published a comment from Mark Homer of Progressive Property in Peterborough who said ‘lenders should be more intelligent about it…they are simplistic in their approach’.

Prudential Regulation Authority

A friend of mine who signed the petition told me I was on a hiding to nothing because it was not within the government’s remit to change things; it has to be the lending houses who make the decision. But it seems this may not be the case; it is the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) created under the Financial Services Act 2012 as part of the Bank of England, who are responsible for and regulate the financial institutions. The Bank of England is owned by the government.

The PRA was set up in the wake of the 2008 financial crash that happened due to the greed of those same institutions. But now, some 8 years on, the archaic rules are too prohibitive and have gone too far the other way preventing 100s if not 1,000s of people from getting a mortgage.

A nation of shopkeepers? No, a nation of no-hopers

It seems obvious to me that given the massive increase in the number of people renting, this level of financial commitment is absolute proof you can pay a mortgage.

I keep being told the UK is moving away from a nation of home-owners to a nation of renters and the government is encouraging local authorities to increase building of homes to rent.

But that is not the answer.

We are not turning into a nation of renters, we are becoming a nation of those who have and those who have not and it is being made worse by government short term goals and human greed.

As fewer people are able to get a mortgage, those people who can are snapping up properties the moment they come on the market, giving them a quick coat of paint then renting them out at extortionate prices to finance their pension pot.

The net result is property prices keep rising, supply dwindles, property owners increase their property portfolio, the average person can’t get a mortgage so have to rent, often a sub-standard house and their rent is funding the landlord’s next property purchase.

A never ending circle.

There is only one solution; the PRA has to adjust the lending rules allowing rental payments to be used as proof of ability to pay a mortgage, this will open up a large bank of people who will become house buyers. The rental market will become less popular therefore rent will go down and/or the landlord will sell the property. Those people who want to move onto or up the property ladder or downsize will be able to because there will be more available properties to buy.

Property investors are capitalising  on the misfortune of others, the trend needs to be reversed.

The Saffron Building Society were offering ‘Rent-to-Buy’ mortgages back in 2011. They were unable to tell me anything about this product or why they stopped selling it, perhaps it’s time to take another look at it.

With so many people agreeing the lending rules need to change, to me it’s a no-brainer and the thought that there could ever be a possibility I will never own my home fills me with despair.

The rules need changing. End of.

 

 

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 9

dscf2146

I’ve been suffering from déjà vu this week. It happens a lot when you rent, or at least it does to me.

My son has been asking for a pet; perhaps not every waking hour, but certainly at every opportunity. From the moment he comes down to breakfast to last thing at night. There is a certain tone he uses so I can predict what it is he’s going to ask “can I have a pet” and when I say no, he asks why. It has reached the stage where I have a stock reply,

“For the same reasons that I gave earlier/this morning/last night/yesterday/last week/last year”

You’d have thought he would have got the message by now but perhaps he thinks the constant asking will wear me down until I relent.

The Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association (PFMA) estimates 40% of the UK households have a pet & the pet population stands at around 57 million

Of course it does wear me down, sometimes I despair especially if it has been a long day and all I want to do is collapse. It also makes me feel like the meanest most unkind mother in the universe. Particularly when he reminds me that I grew up with a menagerie including chickens at one point. Reassuring him that I would love to have pets, including chickens and when we have our own house we will, simply doesn’t wash.

Because I’ve been saying it for years and he’s been asking for years.

Because that has always been one of the many restrictions placed on us as tenants renting from private landlords. All they are thinking about is the next tenant, how quickly they can move them in after the old tenant has gone and how little work they want to have to do.

Our current tenancy stipulates:

Not to keep any cats or dogs on the property. Not keep any other pet, animal, bird, reptile, fish, insects or the like on the Property, without the landlord’s consent

A previous tenancy stated:

Not to keep or allow to be kept on the Property of any part thereof any animal, bird, fish or reptile without the written permission of the landlord

Looking back at our other tenancy agreements they all say the same thing and every time my son asks me if he can have a pet, I repeat this mantra

We are not allowed

We did have a gerbil once, the same son was so desperate and at the time we thought our days of renting were numbered, so it was a good idea to test my son’s animal responsibility ready for the pet proper. But gerbils aren’t much fun and anyway he didn’t live long.

The RSPCA says: Dogs and children can be great friends and having a dog can help children develop kindness, understanding and respect for living things. Dog companionship can improve a child’s social skills with people and caring for a pet can encourage responsibility

There are many people who say ‘oh but it’s not the bricks and mortar, it’s the people, it’s enjoying your family and not thinking about never being able to call it your home’. But to every one of you who say that, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

We have no memories of ‘remember when H first climbed those stairs’ or ‘remember when J used to make a camp in there’. Our memories are of each problem in each house, of each move, of every unreasonable landlord or agent and of every pet we have never been allowed to own.

But at least one of my repeated chants has seen a change this week. There’s a government petition ‘Making paying rent enough proof that you are able to meet mortgage repayments’ which as you will know if you’ve read my previous posts, is something I have been saying for years. There were over 120,000 signatures as of 4 March which means it has at least jumped through one hoop.

But I have the feeling my pet déjà vu will continue for a while longer.

Here is the petition if you would like to sign it https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/186565

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 8

lloyds

How would you feel if you’ve been working your socks off to keep the wolf from the door  and done everything you possibly can to try and secure a mortgage only to discover there are thousands of people being given preferential treatment allowing them to buy their home?

I’m pretty sure you’d be annoyed.

I learned this week that the government’s ‘Right to Buy’ scheme is being actively promoted once more.

To say I was “annoyed” would be a bit of an understatement; I was furious, outraged, fuming and any other adjective you can attribute to my anger.

Who in their tiny miniscule minds thought the Right to Buy scheme was a good idea? It has to have been one of the stupidest and most unfair government policy ever. That’s not even taking into account the depletion of council house stock that has never been replaced and has therefore been a major contributor to the housing crisis.

The civil servant who came up with the idea and the minister who pushed it through are clearly as thick as two short planks and living in cloud cuckoo land.

If you’ve been following my weekly blog, you will know why we cannot get a mortgage at the moment i.e. it is due to the unreasonably restrictive lending rules that were altered following the financial meltdown caused by the banks themselves.

However, if you live in a council house ergo you are likely to be on a low income, possibly with financial challenges, you will be given the right to buy that house. Not at the market value, but with a discount of up to £103,900

It beggars belief.

Here we are, doing everything we can to keep our heads above water, paying an extortionate rent to a private landlord, claiming nothing in social welfare benefits, but cannot get a mortgage.

You couldn’t make it up.

The government Right To Buy website prompts

Why you might like to buy

Your home could be a valuable asset for you and your family and an investment for the future. Home ownership could give you more freedom to make the changes you want to your home. This could be your first step on the property ladder.

To justify their stupidity, the government state:

The money raised through extra sales since April 2012 goes towards building new affordable homes for rent.

More than 60,000 households have taken up their Right to Buy since discounts were increased. Money raised through extra sales is now going towards building new affordable homes for rent.

Which we all know is cobblers. Then they decide to make it even easier for council tenants:

Recent Changes

From May 2015, the eligibility criteria has been reduced from five years public sector tenancy to three. This means you now have to be a tenant for three years instead of five before you can apply to buy your home

Not content with favouring this demographic, the government is making a controversial addition they have slipped into the small print of the white paper. They want to include properties that are being built by ‘arms length’ building companies; this was a way round financial restraints put on local councils. So far these developments have been exempt from the Right to Buy fiasco, but for some unfathomable reason the government want them included.

Around 40% of Right to Buy homes end up in the hands of private landlords rather than owner/occupier which was an obvious consequence.

Why can’t anyone see this entire system is not only counterproductive but it is fuelling the housing crisis.

What is more, why on earth should council tenants be given over £100,000 to buy a house and just a few years later sell the property for an enormous profit and yet people like us are being prevented from even getting a mortgage?

Unfair? I’d say it’s bordering on illegal.

Anyway, I at least had a reply from Lloyds Bank this week, rather frustratingly on the same day I sent my chaser which meant I wasted a stamp, but at least they replied.

Sadly the response did not contain what I had hoped, in fact it created another frustration. They informed me that they do not own the property that is occupied by the local branch and because of data protection they are not permitted to tell me who does. They go on to assure me they will forward my correspondence to that organisation, but I won’t hold my breath.

I can go to the online Land Registry property search and for £3 receive a brief report telling me who owns the site. But time is ticking and I don’t want to miss the opportunity so I shall ask around to see if anyone knows.

But perhaps I’ve got it all wrong, maybe I should apply for a council house, live there for three years, buy it then sell raking in the huge profit. But that wouldn’t be right or fair would it?

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 7

money-word

Manners maketh Man.

A well known expression credited to William Horman, headmaster to Eton School around 1600 who wrote ‘Vulgaria’ a book of expressions and sayings of the time, so it is likely that particular idiom belongs to someone else. Nevertheless it has been used for centuries in an effort to remind us that good manners and politeness are the building blocks of humanity and civilisation.

But try as I might, living by this virtuous standard and other than the occasional slip treating everyone with the utmost respect and regard, given the behaviour of some, I have come to the conclusion that manners are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

However it would seem there is another ‘m’ word that does it for many…

Money maketh Man

Let me state my case; at the moment we are keeping our head above water. With some exhausting and wild underwater activity going on, we have stopped ourselves from sinking without any help from anyone. During this time we would doubtless have been entitled to all manner of financial support in the way of income supplements and benefits, but if we pulled in our belts and were sensible we knew we could cope.

At over £25billion, housing benefit is one of the fastest growing areas of the welfare state

It just didn’t seem right to claim financial help when we could manage, you could say it would have been ‘bad manners’ and I like to think we are setting a good example to our sons.

Also during this time we have been beholding to the different letting agents we have had to deal with during our 12+ years of renting, and I say “beholding” because that is how we have always been made to feel by every agent, bar one.

For instance, the letter telling us our tenancy was up for renewal in three months so it was decision time and by the way that’ll cost your £96. Cheque sent and cashed by the agent, three months later we are told in another letter that the tenancy has renewed and the £96 fee is due immediately.

When I pointed out to the agent they had already been paid, their reply was “the letter was merely confirmation that the tenancy had renewed” and yes, they had received my cheque. When I pointed out the letter also demanded the £96 we had already paid they didn’t even bother responding.

Rude, unprofessional and discourteous in my humble opinion #BadManners

Then there are the banks, building societies, credit card companies etc who won’t touch you with a barge pole unless they can either a) make some money out of you, or b) see you have masses of the stuff that you might want to invest with them.

Of course if you move from the lowly loss-maker to the highly profitable prospect, I will guarantee you every one of them will be clamouring to reach your door.

Suddenly your poor pariah status of yesterday is forgotten and they welcome you with open arms.

57% of 18-34 years olds have had their credit application turned down (Feb 2015)

Over 50% of business employing 50 or less have been turned down for a bank loan (Sept 2015)

So here we are, people who have managed to keep going without turning to the welfare state, paying what is due and keeping our head above water #GoodManners

However, it seems without that other ‘m’ word, no matter how good our manners, we are still not worthy of so much as an accurate letter from our letting agent, or for that matter, an acknowledgement from Lloyds Bank who incidentally have still not responded to either my original letter or the chaser.

I just wonder, if I suddenly came into a large sum of money, large enough to buy a property outright, do you think their manners might improve?

I have seen several properties in my area that are either empty, run down or looking very dated perhaps because the same person has been living there for the past 50 years and I just wondered whether it would be bad manners to drop them a line, just a short note enquiring if they ever thought about selling, would they get in touch. But I’m just a bit wary of doing this in case the person takes offence at my direct approach and they may think it bad mannered of me.

Perhaps that explains why Lloyds Bank haven’t bothered responding, but then I can’t imagine they worry about good manners too often.

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 6

house-for-sale-lyme-regis

At £395,000 this terraced house will be another one for the holiday/second home market

Boxes.

That word is used quite a lot when it comes to houses, house moving and house renting. You need boxes to pack your belongings in; you’re surrounded by boxes for days before and after you move and if you’re renting maybe you don’t bother unpacking.

Then there are the boxes that have to be ticked to ensure we meet the criteria set by the politicians and corporations so we all fit into their boxes.

Boxes are everywhere.

“Little boxes on the hillside…

And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky

And they all look just the same”

So sang Malvina Reynolds in her 1962 hit that embodied the unquestioning quick-fix mind-set of middle America as the massive post-war house building project got underway. Whilst it mocks the middle classes for their subservient acceptance of being slotted into their ‘box’, it could be said that the same mind-set exists here in the UK; as  thousands of people accept they are unlikely to own their home, they acquiesce to the demoralising diatribe of the politicians and money markets who tell them they will never have enough money to secure a deposit, will never earn enough, they don’t fit the mould,  are too big a risk, they don’t tick all the boxes; they are ‘boxed in’.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

We need to think ‘outside of the box’ figuratively and literally.

When I was growing up we moved a lot, I remember my mother property searching. There was no internet then so it was a case of driving to the area and visiting estate agents; but it wasn’t unusual for her to try a different tact that would nowadays doubtless by completely unacceptable (possibly even an arrestable offence). She would drive around the area we wanted to live and if she saw a For Sale board, would knock on their door and ask to have a look round. I don’t recall her ever being  refused. There were even times she would knock on someone’s door even if there wasn’t a board, just in case they were thinking of selling!

But the point is she didn’t let the rules stop her and she thought outside of the box.

Which is how I feel about the housing crisis today; the rules need bending.

For instance if you were considering a level of risk, would you trust a couple who had paid £1,000 every month without ever needing a payment holiday, or a repayment plan or any other sort of concession; through thick and thin, good times and bad, a couple who had paid their monthly rent for over 16 years without fail?

Or would you trust someone who was younger, had been working for perhaps 18 months, is well paid but has little in the way of a record to show they can be relied upon to pay the same amount every month; someone who may or may not keep their job given the economy’s sometimes dodgy state?

Sadly it is nothing to do with reliability, it boils down to the number of boxes they have ticked.

But surely there is less of a risk with the couple who have a proven track record of paying their full rent no matter what, but they are self-employed and their accounts are only just starting to show an upward trend.

It’s time for the lenders to start thinking outside of the box.

The one size fits all has to go as our economy changes to a self-employed workforce. The UK population is nothing like it was 10 years ago and no matter how determined the decision makers are, our different shapes and sizes mean we don’t fit in their box.

They have to stop slotting people into boxes that were made to a ‘one size fits all’.

I am my mother’s daughter and I’ve been thinking outside of the box for quite a while.

I wrote to Richard Branson a few years ago asking him to set up a whole new way of lending to help people like us.

Of course he didn’t reply, his office didn’t even bother acknowledging my letter.

But I am not to be thwarted and whilst I am still holding on tight to our very small lifeline that we were thrown recently, I saw another opportunity with Lloyds Bank. I wrote to their Head Office and the district branch with my proposal. It was an unusual proposal I cannot deny, but it wasn’t unreasonable. However, I doubt it will tick any of their boxes.

They haven’t yet replied.

But I have to think outside of the box because one of the reasons we cannot afford a property in the area we are currently renting is because prices have rocketed due to people buying properties as second homes or to rent as holiday homes.

On average 14.3% or 1,073 houses are second/holiday homes in our area; add to that the number of houses (like the one we are renting) that people buy as an investment and it soon becomes obvious that the housing market is being driven by the select few.

Two properties I recently saw for sale were snapped up and the decorators began work almost immediately so the house is ready for the summer season.

If the politicians and banks would only move out of their enclosed boxed-in world, the housing crisis would diminish.

There need to be less standardised boxes and more different shapes and sizes.

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 5

whalley-lane-damp

What’s reasonable? It depends on the person involved, what is acceptable to one may not be to another.

One of the most important aspects of  my job when I worked for a city insurance company was meeting or exceeding customer expectations. Nowadays despite individuals’ behaviour and the growing trend of not caring about consequences, I continue to believe there is still such a thing as good customer service, no matter who is supplying or receiving it.

Perhaps I have high expectations, although over the years I have had to adjust and sometimes lower these, but when I am relying on and paying a significant amount of money to another to ensure the house I rent meets a reasonable standard, I hope and expect that person to do all they  reasonably can to ensure the accommodation and facilities are not below standard. I also expect their customer service to reflect the client/agent relationship commensurate with their fee.

Sadly when it comes to renting, the client/agent relationship is more often than not loaded in favour of the agent. For instance, when viewing 3 of the properties we have rented in the past, before I had even got half way round the house it was pointed out to me that I had to make a quick decision because there was a queue of people waiting to look at the property i.e. hurry up, stop wasting my time, if you don’t want it I have someone who does.

On another occasion, after having lived in the property just a couple of days, I noticed some damp appearing on the wall. I was told to draw around the area with a pencil and monitor it to see if the damp patch got any bigger. The agent showed no interest and made no contact after this, even though you  would have thought they had a duty of care to the landlord let alone the tenant.

At one property I kept a snagging list and after one week I gave the list to the agent; it included a broken dishwasher, kick boards that had no fixings so each time they were touched they fell over, a broken toilet seat, shower and towel rails hanging off the wall, light fittings that didn’t work and blocked guttering. Other than the blocked gutter (that evidently hadn’t been cleared for years) the response I received to everything else was

“You knew what it was like when you took it on…if you are unhappy with this, then really you need to decide whether you wish to stay…”

Reasonable? Clearly they thought so, but not to me. However, with the veiled ‘take it or leave it’ threat, I soon realised there was little point in trying to improve the various things that were wrong and I had niaively thought any reasonable landlord would put right.

But not for the first time I have been proved wrong and for all the years I spent putting the customer first and encouraging staff to exceed customer expectations, with a few exceptions, that level of service does not seem to exist in the house letting world and the tenant is left feeling they have no right to complain even when something is so obviously wrong.

In the meantime I continue to focus on the light I think I can see at the end of the renting tunnel and perhaps when I reach that point and I no longer need the services of the letting agent, I will make a different list for them, this time headed

‘Customer Service’

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 4

Have you noticed how the government are blaming our OAPs for contributing to the housing crisis? Not content with accusing them of being a drain on the national pension as everyone continues to live longer, they are also one of the main causes of the bed blocking problem we have in our hospitals and now they are being labelled as the house-blockers.

By staying in their home where they may have lived for decades, where they have invested time, money and love to create a place of warmth and happiness; they are being told it’s selfish to stay in their 3 or 4 bed house, that they should move out, downsize so another family can have their home instead.

The government are considering financial incentives including stamp duty concessions and help with moving costs.

Anything to get the geriatrics out, anything to divert attention away from the fact it is the government who have caused the problem by letting the financial world control our property market.

The housing crisis started in the 1990s when interest rates went through the roof and people were buying and selling property virtually overnight cashing in on the panic that ensued and as available properties became scarce, so the price went up. Then the bubble burst and people were left with enormous negative equity which meant they had to either stay put and wait until the price went up or sell at a huge loss.

Years on the prices have remained high and availability is still limited whilst wages have remained relatively low; the result is no one other than the high earners or first time buyers who are being given extra government help are able to get a mortgage.

That leaves a huge tranche of people like me who are stuck in the middle; our income is good but not good enough, we are not first time buyers so cannot access any of the special deals and because of the rent we are paying, we cannot build up enough of a deposit which needs to be around 10 or 15% of the amount being borrowed.

So assuming most families like us consist of two children and two adults, that means a three bedroom house preferably with parking and a garden is needed.

When I scanned through the property paper this week I found these:

  • 3 bed detached £575,000
  • 3 bed mid-terrace £365,000
  • 3 bed chalet bungalow £399,950
  • 3 bed bungalow £350,000

 Then under the rental section these:

  • 3 bed terraced £750/month
  • 3 bed semi-detached cottage £800/month
  • 3 bed rural semi-detached £995/month

A £300,000 mortgage will cost roughly £1,800/month and with a £30,000+ deposit needed it doesn’t take a genius to understand the problem we and thousands like us face as the cost of private rental continues to rise.

So whilst the government continue to look for their fall guy to excuse their irresponsible behaviour, property prices will continue to rise, rent will go up and the possibility of us owning our own home will move further away.

It is nothing to do with our elderly population house-blocking but everything to do with the ministers and financial houses not accepting there is a different housing landscape out there that needs new innovative solutions. There also needs to be a cap on what private landlords can charge and more importantly, the lending rules have to be changed so people like us who have been renting for over a decade despite the ups and downs of our own economic status, rent should be undeniable proof of our ability to pay a mortgage.

By changing the lending criteria the housing market will organically adjust allowing the thousands who are stuck in rented properties to buy and that will inevitably have a knock-on effect to the rest of the housing market without evicting one single OAP.

So forget about the blame game, just get on with adjusting the lending rules that need to recognise circumstances are different now, only then will we see a solution to the housing crisis.

 

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

In my dreams

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 3

There have to be some positives when it comes to renting rather than owning your home, although I use the word “home” loosely because for the past 13 years I have at no time felt like it was my home and the agent and/or landlord/lady was always there to remind me the property was not somewhere I could call my own.

But there will be some who enjoy it and there will be many who have no choice, I am especially concerned for my son’s generation who are still at school and already worried about incurring debts if they go to university, thus starting their working life already owing money to the big organisations.

So for those people who are planning to or currently do rent, I am going to be a bit more upbeat and say there is an upside of renting; the main one being you can up sticks and leave relatively easily which can be a big advantage.

According to one report, one in three of us don’t get on with our neighbour and one in seven of us will move house to get away from them.

But when you own your house it’s not that simple because as we all know it takes weeks and sometimes months to get an acceptable offer and it is another two or three months before contracts are exchanged, assuming nothing goes wrong with the sale.

Then of course there is the vendor questionnaire that asks if there are any known problems with neighbours, so if you’ve had a few humdingers over the garden wall, then you have to disclose this information which may impact on your sale.

Aside from annoying neighbours, you may have visited your area of choice on a quiet sunny Sunday afternoon and enjoyed the idyllic rural setting with church bells ringing and birds singing. However, at 7.30am on a Monday the local mechanic starts work and that innocent brown building with the chimney turns out to be the local knackers yard! But if you’ve bought your house then it’s going to be a long time before your can change things; however if you’re renting, whilst the likelihood is you have signed for an initial six month tenancy, after this time you can move out if you decide the location is not for you.

Unlike that pair of bright red shoes or that enormous roll neck sweater you bought, there are no returns allowed when it comes to buying a house, once you’ve signed on the dotted line you are committed. But renting means you can ‘try before you buy’; what is it like living in that remote village miles away from the nearest shop or GP surgery? What will your trip to work/the school run be like? How noisy will it be living near a main road even with that thick row of Leylandii?

How often has someone bought a house only to find the area wasn’t quite what they thought or the commute to work was too far or having lived all their life in a town, decide to give country life a go only to find they miss the streets, the crowds and reliable public transport?

By renting, all of your questions about an area could be answered before you buy.

Then of course there is the family; what could be better for small children than growing up surrounded by fields or within walking distance of the sea or a river. But once they reach the world of teenagers they may want more than cows and long walks, they’ll want to meet up with friends, go skateboarding, to the cinema, for a pizza. But living out in the sticks means someone is going to have to taxi them around.

If you rent, you can move to accommodate your growing family and what they want out of life.

Since moving down here nearly 13 years ago we have lived on a farm in rural Somerset, in a medium sized village that was within driving distance of a small market town and on the outskirts of a larger town where everything was within walking distance.

We have also suffered the horror of having neighbours from hell who hated children and thought nothing of threatening local youngsters with the police. Because we knew we didn’t have to stay there it was manageable.

Then there are the many friends we have made that we might not otherwise have done and we frequently bump into them and enjoy a catch-up.

So nothwithstanding my dislike of renting, there are some benefits and as I continue to strive to secure our own home, I now have a pretty good idea where I would like to live, the question is will I be able to afford it?

boys in sea

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 2

I think it’s fair to say we all like to get value for money; not necessarily a bargain as such, but recognise the money we pay is commensurate with the goods or service we receive.

Which is why I weep at the amount of money we have had to fork out over the years with absolutely no prospect of anything in return.

One of my mother’s warnings (she had many) still rings in my ears.

“Renting is dead money”

We have been renting since we moved down here 12 years ago and during that time we have paid an average of £1,000 in monthly rent, which means we have paid £144,000 dead money.

It makes me scream to think with that money we could have virtually paid off a mortgage by now, but instead it has fuelled the lifestyle of the landlord/lady.

But it’s not just the rent that is dead money; letting agent fees have also run into the thousands because with each move there has been a different agent, each of them charging a different amount and all charging a ‘new tenant’ referencing fee.

At least the government has recognised the sometimes outrageous sums of money being charged and they have said letting fees will be banned in the autumn statement; too late for us and quite frankly, it is nothing more than lip service because all that will happen is the landlord will be charged more by the agent and hey presto, the monthly rent will increase to cover the cost.

So once again the tenant carries the can.

One particular agent charged us £125 every six months when the tenancy renewed despite them taking three weeks to sort out some faulty plumbing and thinking nothing of leaving us with a broken boiler during the winter months.

Another agent charged £288 and for that we moved into a house that still had scum on the bath fittings, no bath panel for the first month and a broken shower. We also had to have the front door lock changed because it was broken, the back door rehung and the garage door lock replaced because they couldn’t find the key.

When I pointed out several other areas that were substandard, their reply was

“Well you knew what it was like before you moved in”

To add insult to injury, just three months after moving in with two ‘property inspections’ already having taken place, we were sent a bill for £96 to renew the tenancy even though there were still three months left to run.

And of course there are the removal fees that have increased over the years; so far we have paid in the region of £6,500 and then there is the upheaval of it all and living for days surrounded by boxes. I would calculate it takes roughly two weeks each time to pack and unpack, so over the last 12 years we have been packing/unpacking for nearly 4 months.

So have we had value for money? It doesn’t even come close; the rent has gone to finance someone else’s nest egg; I was told by an agent:

“This is a business for them and a pension”

and there has been no pleasure living in someone else’s house where we are not allowed to hang pictures on walls, change a hideous colour scheme or have a pet without permission and then there are the ‘inspections’ when a complete stranger comes into the house and walks around checking everything.

No, my mother was right, renting is dead money and for many hoping to get on the property ladder, they come to a dead end and as I encountered face a ‘like it or lump it’ attitude:

“…for once, it would be nice for you to have something beneficial to say rather than complaining. How about giving us some valuable information we can do something with?”

No, for us renting has been a big black hole but I hope the chink of light I can see will be our way out.

dscf1524

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 1

We have lived in rented accommodation for well over a decade, initially by choice but six years ago we made the mistake of not buying when we could and now we are struggling to even get close to the bottom rung of the property ladder. However, at the end of 2016 we were thrown a very small lifeline and so began our journey along the bumpy road to what will hopefully be home ownership. This weekly blog plots our route with stories of renting, mortgages, agents, banks and buying.

 

Moving house is said to be amongst the most stressful experience second only to a family member dying.

I’ve moved 24 times.packing-boxes

By the time I was 14 years old I had moved house 8 times; it was sadly nothing as romantic as being a ‘forces’ family, no, it was a different kind of force altogether, that failing of human nature my father suffered from otherwise known as the grass is always greener and within months of settling into our new home and school, he would decide there was a better job opportunity so off we’d go again.

I promised myself that if I ever had them I would never subject my children to this nomadic cum gypsy style of living, but as Mary Poppins so accurately said, promises are like pie crusts, easily broken.

In my defence the middle tranche was during an entrepreneurial phase of refurbishing properties but since moving south we decided to rent until we had sorted out various aspects of family life. In the last 7 years, three of the moves had to be made when the landlord decided to sell the house we were living in and the only reason we haven’t bought our own home is because of the change in lending rules brought about by the few greedy financial fat cats who ruined it for the rest of us mere mortals.

The fact is it was those same fat cats who caused the housing crisis that started back in the 1990s; the consequences and fall-out of their selfish gluttony continues to be felt by the majority of the population who are left carrying the can.

Gone are the days when an understanding bank manager would treat a customer like an individual, so too the days when self-certification allowed the self employed to get a foot on the property ladder. Today you have to have a whopping great deposit, no loans or debts and earn in excess of £40k per annum.

With landlords becoming the new breed of greedy fat cats and rental payments often being more than you would pay for a mortgage, there is very little hope for anyone to clear their debts let alone build up a big enough deposit.

But after years of renting, lining the pension pockets of other people, having to pay £1,000s in agent’s fees, house removal fees and deposits, we have been thrown a life line.

I’m not going to make any promises, but 2017 will hopefully be the year we finally stop moving and this blog is going to follow our progress to see how easy or difficult it will be to start again at the bottom of the property ladder. I will give you a weekly update to plot our passage through the mortgage maze with some additional anecdotes on renting.

I have to accept we may not end up with the house I expected to be living in by now, but it has to be better than living in someone else’s house where you are under constant surveillance by the agent and regularly reminded it will never be your home.

So as the dull grey of January once more sweeps across my horizon, I will try to see beyond the bleakness and keep telling myself the outlook is sunny.

dscf0687

 

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