How to sell your house: top tips to make sure your property finds a buyer as quickly as possible

Local demand for property, pricing and your home’s kerb appeal can all affect how quickly a house sells in a sluggish market.


HOMES & PROPERTY Wednesday 8 May 2019 15:26 BST

If it feels like selling your home is taking forever you’re not alone. New research from Rightmove has found that more than a quarter of properties currently for sale have been on the market for at least six months.

The property website found that 28 per cent of properties have been on its books for half a year or more, while eight per cent of properties have been listed for at least a year.

House sales have been sluggish for the past few years thanks to tax changes, mortgage restrictions and high prices being compounded by Brexit uncertainty. Rightmove said 26 per cent of properties were on the market for six months or more in 2018, and 27 per cent were in 2017.

While there are always a number of factors at play in the market, from overall demand in a particular area to the price and presentation, there are changes a seller can make to entice potential buyers — without dropping the asking price.

“If you’ve failed to find a buyer after several months of marketing, then it could be that overall demand in your area is low due to local market conditions. However, if some properties are selling and yours is not, then you either have a property with limited appeal or the price is too high,” said Rightmove’s Miles Shipside.

“After six months or more on the market, your property will appear pretty stale and could be ignored by some prospective buyers. A price reduction will be required to make them take notice, or if you do a makeover then make sure new photos and an updated description show it off.”

Here are eight ways to get your home in the best state to avoid reaching that six-month mark.

  1. Don’t rush to put your home on the market

If your listing isn’t ship shape then it could affect your ability to sell the property.

The majority of listings will receive 70 per cent of interest in the first two weeks of being on the market, so know who you want to sell to and make sure you have at least five good quality photos, a floor-plan and a well-crafted description of the property before it goes online.

  1. Give the best first impression

First impressions really do count for buyers and anyone coming to the door will make an initial assessment before they’ve even walked through yours.

Be sure to spruce up the outside of your house if you need to – think painting the front door, hanging a few baskets or giving the garden a tidy.

  1. Use the professionals

Use whatever tools you or your agent may have at your disposal. If you’re able to use a photographer or your agent can offer one to take pictures of your home, then take advantage to make sure buyers looking online or in estate agents’ windows see it at its best from the get go.

4.Clear some space

It’s important to help buyers picture themselves in your home, but that can be hard to do if there are toys lying around or family photos covering the walls. De-clutter your home and let potential buyers imagine themselves making it their own.

5.Not everyone likes animals

Pets and property viewings rarely mix – make sure any dogs, cats or hamsters are well out of sight when potential buyers are around — and don’t forget to hide the litter tray, too.

  1. Listen to advice

Estate agents may not give you the advice you want to hear when you’re preparing your home for sale, but it may well be the advice you need.

Don’t forget, they deal with dozens of sellers each month and should be giving you honest and impartial help to best market your property.

  1. Be accommodating

When it comes to viewings it can sometimes be hard to have the owner in the property when buyers are taking a look around.

It helps to be as accommodating as possible, which sometimes means simply going out and leaving your agent to it.

  1. Plan your price

Pricing your home depends on a number of factors, from how much work you’ve put into the place to how quickly you want to sell it, but it’s always key to have a strategy.

Researching how much you can reasonably expect for a home in your neighbourhood, pricing competitively and ultimately being prepared to negotiate is more likely to make the odds of selling in your favour.

HTB assisted 143 households a day to get on the property ladder during 2018

HTB assisted 143 households a day to get on the property ladder during 2018

 The latest statistics released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have revealed that 2018 was another successful year for the scheme.

According to the figures released, over the period since the launch of the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme (1 April 2013 to 31 December 2018), 210,964 properties were bought with an equity loan. The total value of these equity loans was £11.71 billion, with the value of the properties sold under the scheme totalling £54.48 billion. Most of the home purchases in the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme were made by First Time Buyers, accounting for 171,053 (81 per cent) of total purchases. The mean purchase price of a property bought under the scheme was £258,223, with buyers using a mean equity loan of £55,498.

In London, the maximum equity loan was increased from 20% to 40% from February 2016, and since then to 31 December 2018, there were 12,511 completions in London, of which 10,635 were made with an equity loan higher than 20%.

Shaun Church, Director at Private Finance comments: “The record number of property completions using the Help to Buy equity loan scheme in 2018 is proof that high loan-to-value (LTV) products have a welcome place in today’s market. Outside of the scheme, availability of 5% deposit loans is improving, and given the stringent affordability tests in place the market should not shy away from providing more of these options.

Today’s housing market is working in favour of first-time buyers. Though accumulating a deposit still remains a challenge, there are now numerous schemes and initiatives designed to give new buyers a leg up onto the property ladder. More than 90,000 property completions benefited from a Help to Buy ISA in 2018 and stamp duty relief is significantly cutting costs for first-time buyers. Making clever use of mortgage options – such as by opting for longer-term or higher LTV products, and locking into low rates – is another way first-time buyers can achieve their home owning ambitions. Speaking to a mortgage broker to get a whole-of-market view is therefore essential.”

Kate Davies, Executive Director of Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association, had this to say: “The statistics for 2018 highlight a very successful year for Help to Buy, with the scheme having helped 1,000 households every week over the year (and 143 households a day) to get on the property ladder. The Government’s programme has continued to stimulate the bottom of the housing ladder and indirectly support the whole of the UK property sector throughout 2018.

With as many as one in every seven first-time buyers using Help to Buy in England in 2018, it is likely that the programme will remain invaluable in supporting home buyers over the remaining years of scheme, and will play a crucial role in helping to keep the housing market on an even keel during a period of heightened uncertainty as a result of Brexit.

While we are yet to see if the programme is continuing to grow in 2019, strong HMRC transaction statistics for Q1 2019 possibly indicate that Help to Buy-fuelled sales are still running at a healthy pace, continuing the trend we have been witnessing for more than a year.

MHCLG has made it clear that HTB will come to an end in 2023 and that it is looking to lenders and developers to come up with alternative products for first-time buyers and second movers. The challenge to the industry is clear and IMLA will assist wherever possible in facilitating discussions and proposals.”

Craig Hall, Head of Broker Relationships and Propositions, Legal & General Mortgage Club, comments: “Having exceeded the 200,000 mark and with the number of completions up 12% compared to 2017, today’s results demonstrate the vital role Help to Buy continues to play in our housing market. The scheme has not only enabled housebuilders to deliver more homes, but it is consistently supporting the buyers who need it most – with first-time buyers accounting for 81% of total purchases.

Looking beyond the scheme’s end it’s vital that Government and industry works together to ensure these buyers remain supported. It’s likely that we may see private schemes coming to market to help fill the void, however during the previous Legal & General New Build Forum, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government hinted they are considering alternative schemes to Help to Buy.

We’re already seeing a wave of innovation from lenders to help first-time buyers, with a return to higher loan to value lending and the introduction of family assist mortgages. Any would-be borrowers looking to buy their first home and considering using Help to Buy should speak with a mortgage adviser. These professionals have an in-depth knowledge of the schemes and products available on the market, ensuring borrowers find the right solution for their unique circumstances.”



30TH APRIL 2019

Take insurance cover because the unexpected can happen to you too

THERE are plenty of reasons why people fail to take out vital insurance protection for their loved ones and while some excuses may be valid, others are not. Too many people do not bother taking out life insurance, income protection or critical illness cover because they believe “it will never happen to me”. The truth is that serious illness or accidents can happen to anybody.


PUBLISHED: 11:47, Thu, May 9, 2019 | UPDATED: 12:34, Thu, May 9, 2019

Others say that they do not trust insurance companies to pay claims but new research shows this is misguided. Big protection insurers such as Aegon, Aviva, Legal & General, LV=, Royal London, Scottish Widows, Vitality and Zurich pay out on the vast majority of claims for bereavement, sickness and injury without dispute.



Last year insurers paid out more than £5.3 billion in total, equal to £14.5 million every single day, up 4 per cent on 2017.

Just as importantly, they openly reveal the percentage of claims they accept and reject.

While many in the industry were originally reluctant, this transparency has served to boost customer confidence.

Insurers paid 97.6 per cent of claims in 2018, which will come as a shock to those who think insurers will do anything to wriggle out of their customer responsibilities.

More than 35,000 families were supported following an unexpected bereavement, with the average term life insurance payout being £81,269, according to the Association of British Insurers.


‘We’re that ABI head of health and protection Roshani Hewa said families dealing with a loss, serious injury or illness, are getting more help than ever: “Protection is there to ease the financial burden and many policies now offer excellent mental health support too.”


Self-employed bathroom fitter Neil Morgan discovered the importance of protection after he was diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer in May 2017 at the age of 50, then developed severe sepsis which required intensive care.

Neil had previously taken out income protection with insurer British Friendly, which paid him a replacement income until he was fit enough to run his business again.

He bought the policy through specialist insurance broker Drewberry and his £60 monthly premium has been worth every penny.

British Friendly paid Neil £323 a week free of tax, which covered his mortgage and other essential bills and took the financial pressure off his partner.

His policy eased him back into work with a one-off lump sum of £1,292 and Neil said he claimed benefits worth £22,000 in total: “My claims manager was extremely empathetic and because I didn’t have to worry about money, I could concentrate on getting well again.”


Drewberry head of protection advice Robert Harvey said Neil’s story highlights how vital income protection is, especially for the self-employed and added: “We’re hoping that more will secure their earnings against accidents and sickness.”

Yet only around one in 10 takes out this cover, even though it protects the earnings that pay for everything you buy in life.

British Friendly product and marketing director Nick Telfer said: “Many risk losing their home if [they are] unable to keep up with the mortgage payments or rent.”

Do not confuse income protection with the inferior payment protection insurance or PPI, which was rampantly mis-sold by banks.


Income protection claims can be tricky to assess because they depend on subjective judgments about the claimant’s fitness for work, with insurers green lighting 88.1 percent.

Claims levels rise to 91.6 percent on critical illness cover, as claimants must be diagnosed with a specific hoping more will condition. The average payout was £70,926.

Figures from Aegon show the average age of a critical illness claimant was just 50 with the “big three” cancer, heart attack and stroke accounting for more than eight out of 10 claims. Aegon approved 93 per cent of critical illness claims, with the main reasons for declining being failing to meet policy definitions and misrepresentation.

Head of claims and underwriting Simon Jacobs said: “We’re proud to have been able to help people, businesses and families through some of the most difficult times in their lives.”


This does not mean that everybody needs protection. If you have already retired or will soon do so, you may be able to rely on your pension to see you through, especially if your children are grown up and you have cleared your mortgage and other debts.

However, family breadwinners, or those with financial responsibilities such as household expenses, servicing a mortgage or running their own business are taking a big risk if they go without financial protection.

Most people buy from an independent financial adviser rather than direct with the insurer. Check what protection you need.

‘In my 20s, the idea I might suffer a life changing injury never crossed my mind’: Is critical illness and income protection worth paying for?

‘In my 20s, the idea I might suffer a life changing injury never crossed my mind’: Is critical illness and income protection worth paying for?

  •  Three quarters of those with a serious illness spend more money on everyday living costs due to their condition
  • Average £153 extra is spent a month on necessities 
  • Many people shun critical illness or protection insurance due to cost 


PUBLISHED: 08:54, 7 May 2019 | UPDATED: 08:54, 7 May 2019

Ten years ago, while the world was in the grips of a financial crisis, I was going through a financial crisis of my own.

In 2008, at the age of 26, I suffered a life-changing back injury.

In the short-term I couldn’t work for almost a year, and in the long-term I have been left with permanent nerve damage and chronic pain.

Every year, around 1million people employed in Britain are unable to work due to injury or illness, according to estimates from the Association of British Insurers.

However, the loss of income may not be your only financial concern – the cost of everyday life can also increase.

Why everyday life costs more…

Of those who have suffered a serious illness, three quarters say they had to fork out more for basic necessities as a result of their condition, according to Direct Line Insurance.

On average, £153 extra a month – or £1,836 a year – is spent on increased travel costs, hospital visits and parking, medication and home adaptations.

‘When someone is diagnosed, it can turn family life upside down,’ said Jane Morgan from the company.

‘Everyday tasks often become far more difficult; frequently preventing individuals from working, resulting in a loss of earnings, at the same time as living expenses are increasing.’

The extra costs were found to be higher for those aged 18-34 compared to those over 55.

Think the unthinkable

Back in 2008, I had a staff job and received statutory sick pay which currently is £92.05 a week for up to 28 weeks.

A decade ago it was £75, certainly not enough to live on as a single person.

I fell back on my credit card to pay for everyday costs which took much of the next decade to pay off.

Now, I am among the growing army of freelancers in the UK but with the benefits of increased freedom and variety of work comes increased financial insecurity.

It is important for all workers though to make sure that plans are in place should the unexpected happen

Multiple sclerosis: ‘It’s a scary diagnosis’, says Rosie – ‘life definitely costs more’

Rosie Tong, from Canterbury, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in January 2016 aged 22.

‘It’s a scary diagnosis,’ said Rosie. ‘The first thing I did was to ask the neurologist how long until I was in a wheelchair. I didn’t know it was a young person’s disease.’

‘I thought my fiancé wouldn’t want to marry me anymore and that I would be a burden to my family.’

Rosie says it has taken her three years to come to terms with her illness’s impact on her body but not on her finances.

‘I don’t know how I would cope without the support of my now husband Christopher and my family.’

‘My employer has been really supportive but in the three years since diagnosis I have been off work more than I have been at work and I don’t get sick pay.’

‘Life definitely costs more,’ she said. ‘I do have a concessionary bus pass but it is only off-peak. I often need to get taxis or order take away if I can’t cook.

‘I make up to thirty hospital trips a year, which involves taking two buses, or driving – which costs me in petrol and hospital parking.

‘I also often have to pay for lunch or snacks, as hospital appointments are never on time.’

What is critical illness insurance?

In my twenties, the idea that I might suffer a life changing injury never crossed my mind.

I didn’t have a savings pot big enough or a benefits package from my work to cover me – critical illness cover could have helped soften the blow.

‘Critical illness cover can help protect people against the financial impact a serious illness can have on someone’s life,’ says Jane.

‘It could help towards additional travel costs or household bills whilst you’re unwell, enabling you and your family to continue day-to-day life.’

The policies pay a tax-free lump sum after you have been diagnosed with any of a number of specified conditions.

They are not cheap though and premiums increase with age and the state of your health, for example whether you are a smoker or not.

It is important to check what exactly is covered and the degree of severity of that condition needed for a pay-out.

But according to the ABI, around 92 per cent of critical illness claims are paid to policyholders.

How much cover do you need?

Jane adds: ‘When thinking about how much critical illness cover you might need, you may consider the financial commitments you already have.

‘This could include mortgages, childcare or day to day living.

‘It is important to consider the costs that could need covering if you’re unable to work as a result of long-term sickness or disability.

‘Product providers have their own lists of specified critical illnesses so it’s important to understand what’s covered and what’s not.

‘The list of illnesses we cover includes many types of cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

‘For example, some types of cancer are not included and you need to have permanent symptoms to make a claim for some illnesses.’

Income protection insurance

Income protection insurance pays out if you can’t work due to illness or injury, this could range from a serious injury, to stress or depression.

Unlike critical illness insurance, it does not pay out a lump sum – instead it will provide a monthly income of up to 80 per cent of your salary until you are healthy enough to return to work or retire.

It has never been a best-seller – partly because it is seen as complex and pays out smaller amounts each month instead of one big sum.

Some experts argue, however, that this is the best form of protection insurance if bought right.

It is vital to check what the policy covers and to find a decent policy it is worth seeking out independent financial advice.

One of the key issues is whether the policy will pay if you cannot do your own job or if you cannot work at all.

There are a lot of income protection policies around, but it is essential to realise they are not all the same. Cheap cover may not deliver when you need it, so it is worth paying for a good policy.

Things to think about include:

  • The level of monthly payments required
  • Whether cover is level or increases in line with inflation
  • Whether premiums are guaranteed to stay the same over the policy’s term or whether they could rise
  • At what age the policy should finish. Usually, it is between 60 and 65 to coincide with retirement although it is also possible to have short-term policies that only pay out for two years
  • When the benefit should start to pay out in the event of a claim. This can be as early as four weeks and as long as 52 weeks. The earlier it pays out, the more expensive it is – the longer you can delay it the cheaper it gets. Consider how long your work’s sick pay runs for and any other protection you may have.

Other help

Being diagnosed with a life changing illness or injury can be a terrible shock but it is important to remember that you have rights and there is support available.

Statutory sick pay is a legal requirement when you are unable to work.

Those returning to employment are covered by the Equality Act which makes it unlawful for an employer to treat anyone less favourably because of disability.

Employers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’, which includes giving staff time off for medical appointments and offering flexible working hours.

Your doctor can point you in the direction of any support groups and Citizens Advice is invaluable in knowing what your rights are and what benefits you may be entitled to.

I was too proud to ask for help, and it cost me dear.


Bank warns of ‘more frequent’ rate increases than expected

Bank warns of ‘more frequent’ rate increases than expected

By Ben Morris, Business reporter, BBC News

2 May 2019

Interest rate increases could be “more frequent” than expected if the economy performs as the Bank of England is expecting, governor Mark Carney says.

The markets are forecasting just one interest rate increase by 2021.

But if there is a resolution to the Brexit impasse, and inflation and growth continue to pick-up, then more increases are likely, Mr Carney said.

As expected, the Bank kept interest rates on hold at 0.75% at its latest policy meeting.

Interest rates have been at that level since last August, when the Bank raised them by a quarter of a percentage point.

The Bank is expecting growth and inflation to pick up over the next two years.

  • Slight fall in UK unemployment
  • Wanted: New Bank of England boss

In a news conference, Mr Carney said: “If something broadly like this forecast comes to pass… it will require interest rate increases over that period and it will require more, and more frequent interest rate increases, than the market currently expects.”

The Bank’s forecasts are based on a “smooth adjustment” to any new trading relationship with the European Union.

What did the Bank say about the economy?

In its Quarterly Inflation Report, the Bank of England raised its UK growth forecast for this year, in part because the outlook for the global economy is a bit brighter.

The Bank now sees growth of 1.5% this year, up from February’s forecast of 1.2%.

Economic growth has been subdued since the UK voted in June 2016 to leave the EU.

In particular, business investment has been falling.

The Bank says stockpiling has been giving the economy a short-term boost, but for this year, the strengthening of the global economy will have a more important effect.

In the minutes from its latest policy meeting, the Bank said “global growth had shown signs of stabilisation, and had been a little better than expected”.

It also forecasts the unemployment rate will continue falling in the coming years to 3.5% by 2022, which would be the lowest rate since 1973.

Will the Bank raise interest rates soon?

Analysis by Dharshini David Economics Correspondent

The Bank is reluctant to move interest rates until there is further clarity, not least about the path of Brexit.

For as it highlights (again), the movement in rates then could be “in either direction”, depending on the outcome, the impact on the economy and whether it decides to support growth or inflation.

If all goes smoothly, then the Bank is likely to turn its firepower on inflation and proceed with raising rates “at a gradual pace and to a limited extent” – especially if there’s a bounce in investment and hiring.

At the moment, the MPC reckons “the cost of waiting for further information is relatively low”.

But that, given the degree of inflationary pressure it’s forecasting, is quite a gamble.

If the Bank has missed the boat, then rates might have to ultimately rise faster and by more than originally envisaged to curb inflation.

That would be an unenviable parting gift from Mr Carney to his successor.

What does it mean for mortgages?

Moves in interest rates are important to the 3.5 million people with variable or tracker mortgages.

Even a small quarter-point rise can add hundreds of pounds to their annual mortgage costs.

Mortgage market experts say that for those who can afford to buy a home, now is a good time to borrow.

“Right now, you’ve got lenders that want your business and rates are exceptionally low,” said David Hollingworth, from L&C Mortgages.

Some lenders are offering five-year fixed deals at below 2%, he said.

Even borrowers with a small deposit can find competitive rates of interest, he added.

What is the outlook for the housing market?

The Bank expects a fall in UK house prices this year, with property values predicted to drop by 1.25%.

It says some households are likely to have delayed moving house because of Brexit uncertainty.

It also says that affordability is also slowing the market, particularly in areas where prices are high, such as London and the South East.

When will Mark Carney step down?

Last month, the government launched the recruitment process for a new governor for the Bank of England.

Mark Carney will step down on 31 January 2020 after more than six years in the post.

Interviews will be held over the summer and the appointment will be made by the government in the autumn.

The government is under pressure to consider female candidates, as men hold the Bank’s key positions.

At the moment, the Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates, only has one female among its nine members.

When asked about the lack of diversity at the Bank, Mr Carney said “big progress” had been made with women now making up 31% of senior management.D