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New Research - Our Green Homes Report: What buyers want

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More than three quarters (77%) of homebuyers are likely to consider a green home as their next property.

Green homes will have a significant influence on the UK reaching its net zero 2050 targets, but unless homeowners are happy to live in them, there will be little commercial benefit for housebuilders to construct them.

We wanted to understand the opinions, knowledge and demands of those in the market to purchase a new home – having either recently purchased, or looking to purchase a property in the next 12 months.

We asked 500 first time buyers and ‘second steppers’ whether they were likely to purchase a green home, which green features they were willing to pay more for and their reasons for choosing – or not choosing – a green home.

Key findings

  • More than three quarters (77%) of homebuyers are likely to consider a green home as their next property

  • Top reasons for wanting a green home included it’s ‘better for the environment' (39%), it will ‘save me money in the long run’ (27%) and ‘I want to reduce my energy bills’ (35%)

  • Consumers confirm they are willing to pay more for better energy efficiency and renewable energy sources in their homes.

With bills high on the agenda of many homeowners, now is a good time to increase adoption of green home technology, ahead of 2025 building regulations for net zero coming into force.” said Neil Gosling, head of residential development at Shakespeare Martineau.

Our research also shows that buyers are willing to pay more for features like renewable energy sources and energy-saving measures such as triple glazing – indicating a commercial incentive for developers.

More than a third (34%) of homebuyers also wanted to reduce their carbon footprint and get ahead of the curve, stating: ‘I think eventually all homes will need to be green so I will pre-empt this.

Buyers want more information about green homes

Despite a significant uptake, more than 1 in 3 (35%) respondents who were likely to purchase a green home said they wanted to understand more about how it would benefit them in the future, indicating a gap in knowledge and understanding.

Neil added: “Housebuilders should be doing more to emphasise the health and economic benefits of green homes in their marketing.

Not enough green homes in the Midlands

When it comes to availability, however, of those considering a green home, just 14% of respondents in the Midlands1 said there were green homes available in their desired location, compared to 25% and 24% in the North2 and South3, respectively.

The results also show that age, social class and gender are influencing factors in demands and expectations of green homes.

The age group most likely to consider a green home is 35 to 44-year-olds at 84%, followed by 25 to 34-year-olds (78%).

More than three quarters (76%) of 18 to 24-year olds would opt for a green home, in contrast to just 64% of respondents aged 45 and over.

It’s probably no surprise that the millennial generation is most likely to opt for a green home. This leans into the stereotype that younger generations are more concerned about the environment and also reflects the ageing first time buyer population. - Neil Gosling

Why aren’t people opting for green homes?

Six per cent of respondents said they were unlikely to choose a green home and 18% said they were neither likely nor unlikely.

Almost three quarters (72%) of those who were undecided said it was because they didn’t know enough about it, while 29% said they felt ‘indifferently’ about green homes.

When given a detailed description of what a green home is, 76% of people said they would be more likely to consider purchasing one for their next property.

Neil said: “Our results show that not all is lost when it comes to getting more people on board with green homes. I believe those on the fence can be convinced with the right information and education.

“As a sector, we should be leading with messages that hit both hearts and minds to turn the undecided few. But it’s also important we’re building homes with the features people value and in the locations they want.

“Adoption of green homes at scale is a complex jigsaw that will require canvassing of Government, legislative changes and greater financial incentives for both consumers and those delivering the product. More must be done to encourage larger players in the industry to get behind the cause, so that maximum efficiencies are achieved in the future. There is also need for a significant educational and engagement piece with the public and wider supply chain.

“For the short term, the focus should be on fabrication of housing to secure green homes status, but the potential for positive change on a much larger scale is huge, should the pieces fall into place.

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Neil builds long standing working relationships with our clients by becoming an extension of their business. He is forward thinking and progressive in his approach.

1. ‘Midlands’ refers to those in the West Midlands and East Midlands regions
2. 'North’ refers to those in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber regions
3. 'South’ refers to those in the East of England, South East, South West and Greater London regions

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We wanted to understand the opinions, knowledge and demands of those in the market to purchase a new home – having either recently purchased, or looking to purchase a property in the next 12 months.

We answer the following questions

  • What do buyers want?

  • Are there enough green homes in the midlands?

  • Why aren’t people opting for green homes?

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What To Expect from Your Conveyancer When Buying A House

Guides & Advice

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Buying A House - Conveyancer Tips

The Seven Important Steps to Buying a House

Step 1: Instruct a conveyancer

Your conveyancer (solicitor) plays a very important part in your buying process. It can be a stressful and exciting time, but your solicitor will be able to answer all your questions and guide you through the process. 

Step 2: Confirm instructions to your conveyancer and pay search fees

Having instructed your conveyancer, you will need to provide full details and pay search fees.  Searches are the enquiries made to find out information about the property you are buying.  Searches will include: local authority, water and property and environmental.  It can take a couple of weeks for the searches to be completed. 

Step 3: Have your funding in place, i.e. your mortgage, if one is required 

Make sure you have your finances in place.  Eg have a mortgage offer in place, have investigated Help to Buy, First Homes or any other type of loan you may be using.  Having the finance in place and ready to go will speed up the whole process. 

Start to make enquiries if you are using a removals company and compare quotations. 

Step 4: Your conveyancer / solicitor will report all the findings back to you.

A good conveyancer will stay in constant communication with you, to report their findings once they have completed the necessary steps, such as; 

  • Received and reviewed your contract
  • Reviewed/completed the searches

Once you are happy with all the findings and any discrepancies/issues have been discussed you will be asked to sign your sales contracts and mortgage if applicable. 

Step 5: Agree a date for completion with your conveyancer

Once your documents have been signed and your deposit is paid to your solicitor / conveyancer, you will be asked to confirm a date for completion. Your completion date is essentially your moving day and this must be agreed on by all parties involved in the process.  

Step 6: Contracts can now be exchanged 

Once contracts are exchanged, it is vital that you understand that you are now committed to buying the property. Once contracts have been exchanged with your seller, the property is yours and if you fail to pay, the seller can take legal action and it can be a very costly situation.  

Please take time to run through your paperwork one more time before contracts are exchanged.   

Step 7: Completion Day!

The buying process is now complete and the property is yours.  This is the day you can officially take ownership of your keys and begin the process of moving into your new home. 

Congratulations! 

How long can it take to buy a house?

The buying process from instruction of a solicitor (conveyancer) to completion takes on average 8-12 weeks.  This can be dependent on your circumstances – ie if you are a first time buyer or if you have a property to sell, how long the buying chain is etc. 

How to choose a solicitor/conveyancer

Do your research, ask for recommendations, talk to your estate agent and find someone you trust.  Some estate agents may have an established relationship with a particular solicitor/conveyancer – but you are under no obligation to go with this firm. 

Get quotes and compare costs.  Compare conveyancing fees with a couple of companies to ensure you are paying a fair rate  

You can only instruct a conveyancer once you have agreed the sale of your home / purchase of your new home but do the research and make your decision so that this does not hold up the process.    

 

Residential Conveyancing

Our Residential Property team is a dedicated team of over 50 experts across all of our office locations in the UK.

They provide a specialist service to clients who are looking to sell or buy their own home or are looking to invest in residential properties and begin or expand their existing property portfolio.

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News

Marrons Planning launches urban design with new associate director hire

Midlands planning consultancy Marrons Planning has extended its portfolio of services with the appointment of architect and urban design expert Alex Craggs.

Specialising in bespoke residential projects and master planning urban design schemes, RIBA chartered architect Alex will take the role of associate director and be heading up the new Marrons Urban Design service, which will complement the consultancy’s existing planning services: including planning applications and appeals as well as promoting developments and planning strategy.

With more than 10 years’ experience working with a range of clients from strategic land promoters and developers to private clients and home owners, Alex will be responsible for setting up the new service line and growing the team in the future.

Andy Gore, Partner at Marrons Planning, said: “This is a really exciting new venture for Marrons Planning and one that will allow us to provide illustrative layouts, design and access statements, promotion documents, concept plans and more.

“We’re well known for providing planning advice that helps inform our clients’ decision making process, driving projects forward and using our close working relationships with Local Planning Authorities to help unlock strategic sites; but now we will also be able to provide our clients with brilliant designs that are underpinned by a deep understanding of commercial complexities, local authority requirements and planning strategy.

“We’re thrilled to have Alex join our team.

Alex has experience working in a variety of sectors including residential, conservation, mixed-use, commercial and leisure, taking projects from inception through to completion.

Alex, who was previously associate director for BHB Architects said: “I was attracted to Marrons Planning because of their enthusiasm and track record in gaining successful outcomes for their clients. I’m excited to bring design expertise to Marrons Planning to allow them to offer their clients a high quality design offering in conjunction with their established planning services.

Alex_Craggs-circle

How can we help?

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Guides & Advice

Building the future: the benefits and challenges of MMC

In recent years, modern methods of construction (MMC) have become increasingly popular, as it provides a fast and high-quality alternative to traditional house building. However, a lack of knowledge surrounding these methods has meant some developers have been hesitant to embrace it.

Read more about the difference between MMC contracts and standard construction contracts.

To tackle this, the government has assembled a ‘MMC taskforce’, which aims to encourage the industry to use off-site construction methods and accelerate the roll out of much-needed housing. So, what do housebuilders need to know about MMC?

What are modern methods of construction (MMC)?

MMC is an umbrella term given to a range of offsite manufacturing and onsite techniques that provide alternatives to traditional housebuilding. The most common form of MMC is modular housing, where the structures of the homes are built off site in a factory environment, before being delivered to the development site and assembled in-situ.

Although this method of construction is something that has been talked about for many years within the industry, it still only accounts for a small percentage of the total housing delivery in the UK. However, as the need for quick and sustainable construction solutions continues to grow, so does the momentum behind MMC.

What are the benefits of MMC?

Promising a speedy solution to housebuilding, MMC continues to grow in popularity, particularly with registered providers that need to provide high quality housing as quickly as possible. But speed is not the only benefit of these new methods of construction, others include:

  • Reduced construction time on site, resulting in less disruption for existing residents;
  • Fewer housing defects thanks to stricter supervision in factory;
  • Reductions in energy use and waste;
  • Safer construction; and
  • Greater flexibility - modular buildings can be disassembled and the modules relocated or refurbished for new use elsewhere.

However, despite these benefits, MMC still has some way to go before it is favoured over traditional housebuilding, due to limited awareness of the associated risks within the industry.

What are the challenges of MMC?

Like with anything new and innovative, MMC is not without its challenges and in this case, it could be argued that they stem from a lack of confidence in the product.

Unlike traditional housebuilding, MMC is done off site in a factory environment, meaning an element of trust is essential. For many housebuilders who are accustomed to being on site 24/7 and having unlimited access to check on the progress and quality of the build, this could prove to be difficult. Although many professionals continue to doubt the quality of MMC, being built in the controlled environment of a factory allows for rigorous testing of the product and leads to a consistently high-quality result.

There are also still question marks surrounding the long-term maintenance of MMC homes. This shouldn’t be a problem, with precision and energy efficiency built into these homes as standard, but until they have been lived in for an extended period of time, this will remain an unknown.

Further investment

MMC still has a way to go before it becomes part of the mainstream, but developers are starting to take a chance on it. Although more evidence regarding its long-term viability is needed, the MMC taskforce is aiming to accelerate the delivery of offsite homes in the UK, meaning more investment will be coming the sector’s way. Increased investment will continue to have a positive impact on MMC, making it more secure route for those in the industry.

Contact us

If you’re considering using MMC in a future development and would like more information, our construction and residential development teams can provide some guidance and support. For further information please contact Ruth Phillips or Louise Ingram.

Our construction team is ranked as a Leading Firm in the Legal 500 2021 edition.

Our updated guide to recovery and resilience covers everything you need to navigate your way out of lockdown, unlock your potential and make way for a brighter future. Further advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.  

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

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Major update to Stratford local land charges will speed up process for buyers

A major digital transformation project by HM Land Registry will see the time needed for local land charges (LLC) for properties in Stratford-Upon-Avon council slashed to just seconds, marking a significant change for homebuyers and residential conveyancers operating in the area.

Typically taking between two to six weeks, waiting for LLC searches is a significant proportion for the time needed to purchase a property and can see buyers finding out critical planning information or other restrictions that may alter their decision to proceed, weeks into the process. The new system digitises historic searches back to 1977 providing instant access for lawyers and the public - speeding up the process and creating cost savings.

What does this mean for home buyers?

Now found online, buyers and solicitors can purchase instant access to local land charges search results for a standardised £15 fee.  The search results reveal; planning and building regulation information and records such as tree preservation orders that are already registered in Land Registry. The reduction in price of this search function saves money as well as time for house buyers.

What about for conveyancers?

Tom Ansell - head of residential conveyancing at Stratford-Upon-Avon-based law firm Shakespeare Martineau - was involved in the initial focus groups that helped shape the product, he said: “Instant access to local search information is a massive step forward in the UK property sector, having access from the very start of instruction, whether that be for the buyer or seller, means that conveyancers can view the information from day one; pre-empting information requests from buyers and enabling solicitors on both sides to obtain upfront information about the property.

“Planning information also has an impact on mortgage applications; having access to local and charges data at the decision in principle stage gives greater certainty to mortgage lenders and buyers. Full transparency also prevents the transaction from collapsing down the line, when sellers and buyers have already incurred costs. This is a really exciting and transformative development and I expect we’ll see huge benefits from it, and quickly.”

The stamp duty holiday has seen a surge in residential transactions in the last year, however with the need for social distancing, fewer people are able to work in offices and the requirement to access traditional paper-based planning information has caused delays to house purchases in some local authorities. The 24/7 remote access to LLC search results that this transformation provides has added resilience to the local housing market at a crucial time.

To date, HM Land Registry has migrated more than half a million records, with more local authorities across the UK signing up for the scheme that will ultimately benefit UK PLC thanks to increased market movement, and efficiency savings.

We’re here to help

Shakespeare Martineau currently has five star rating on Feefo for private client services. Our dedicated residential conveyancing team is here to help and make the journey as straightforward as possible. For guidance and support contact Tom Ansell or complete our 'contact us' form and a member of our team will call you back to discuss your enquiry.

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June 2021 - key dates for businesses and individuals

1 June marks the start of a number of major changes coming up in the real estate and employment landscapes that businesses and individuals need to be aware of.

Changes to possession proceedings – 1 June
An end to the eviction ban

As of today (1 June), landlords can once again apply to evict tenants. The eviction ban was introduced by the government at the start of the pandemic to protect people from losing their homes in such a turbulent period. However, for landlords this ban has meant a strain on cash flow, putting some into difficult financial circumstances, especially for those owed large amounts of unpaid rent.

Although evictions are now able to take place once more, landlords must give 14 days’ notice and, due to COVID-19 safety concerns, bailiffs are being asked not to carry out evictions if anyone living in the property has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.

Reduced notice periods

The government has also set out to shorten notice periods for landlords seeking possessions. Also form today (1 June), the current six-month notice period will be shortened to just four months. Although the current exceptions will still be applicable, there are a number of key changes for grounds of possession and their notices, including:

  • Anti-social behaviour (immediate to four weeks’ notice)
  • Domestic abuse in the social sector (two to four weeks’ notice)
  • False statement (two to four weeks’ notice)
  • Four months’ or more accumulated rent arrears (four weeks’ notice)
  • Breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (two weeks’ notice)
  • Death of a tenant (two months’ notice)

Read more about the changes in our blog on key changes for possessions proceedings. If you’re a landlord and need advice then contact Habib Khan in our housing management team who can guide, you through any housing management and litigation issues you may face.

Concessions on ‘right to work’ checks will come to a close – 20 June

Businesses that intend to hire an international workforce in the UK should know that the government guidelines on 'right to work’ checks will be updated on 20 June. The new guidelines are being reintroduced as the world of work returns to normal after the pandemic and will require businesses to receive physical proof of a person’s right to work, such as a visa, not just a scanned or digital version of the documents.

Businesses should take this change in legislation as an opportunity to review their employment processes to ensure they are compliant with the new rules.

Register for our free webinar on right to work checks in 2021 and beyond, taking place on 17 June.

If you’re are unsure of what the changes mean for you, or you require assistance with the right to work checks and general compliance, speak to Tijen Ahmet in our business immigration team.

Ban on evicting commercial tenants likely to end – 30 June

As it currently stands, the evictions ban on commercial tenants for non-payment of rent will come to an end on 30 June 2021.

When the extension of the ban was announced on 10 March, it provided a much-needed lifeline for businesses who are still struggling with the impact of COVID-19.

However, if the ban on eviction is not extended once again, landlords will have the right to forfeiture from 1 July.

If you’re a landlord and struggling to resolve matters with your tenants then our commercial property disputes team can help you through these difficult situations - contact James FownesMartin EdwardsJustine Ball or another member of the property disputes team for advice and support.

The wind down of the stamp duty holiday – 30 June

Homeowners should be aware that the stamp duty holiday comes to an end on 30 June, with a staggered return to previous rates over the coming months.

First introduced in July 2020 and then extended in March 2021, the stamp duty holiday was designed to boost the property sector, which had come to a halt at the start of the pandemic. This meant that property purchases up to £500,000 were exempt from stamp duty land tax, saving people up to £15,000.

From 30 June 2021, the threshold will decrease from £500,000 to £250,000, considerably reducing the number of eligible properties. By 1 October, the thresholds are planned to return to their pre-pandemic levels.

This holiday has helped many people purchase properties without worrying about additional tax bills, which has lowered costs overall.

Homeowners looking to benefit from the tax exemption should expedite their completion dates, if possible.

If you’re looking to sell or buy your own home then our dedicated residential conveyancing team is here to help and make the journey as straightforward as possible. For guidance and support contact Tom Ansell or complete our 'contact us' form and a member of our team will call you back to discuss your enquiry.

We’re here to help

Being aware of these key events can help you and your business better prepare, seeking expert guidance to assist with navigating this constantly changing landscape.

Our updated guide to recovery and resilience covers everything you need to navigate your way out of lockdown, unlock your potential and make way for a brighter future. Further advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.  

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

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Guides & Advice

Escaping city life? Our top tips for buying a rural property

The pandemic has caused a shift in people’s perspectives when it comes to their home. As a result, having access to green space and more square footage has become top of the priority list, meaning people are now looking to the British countryside for their next big move. Moreover, research even suggests London’s population could drop over the coming years as a result.

With this in mind, what do those looking to swap the Big Smoke for country living need to know?

Staying connected

Remote locations often lack the same level of connectivity that people take for granted in urban settings. Therefore, for those who rely on technology for work, or day-to-day life in general, this could be a considerable issue. Consequently, homeowners should check the status of essential utilities before making a decision, including:

  • Water and drainage connections
  • Energy supply infrastructure
  • Mobile signal strength
  • High-speed internet availability
Not all roads are the same

Although most roads in the UK are adopted, which means they are maintained by the local authority, remote rural properties may be served by private tracks or unadopted roads.

For example, private tracks are maintained by the homeowner or a group of neighbours, which could lead to disputes over who is responsible for tasks such as repairing or even gritting the road.  Therefore it is important to understand who is legally responsible for the access, your ability to enforce those obligations and any costs associated with it before you buy.

Get to know the location

If a property is located within a conservation area, or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there may be restrictions on the alterations that you can make to the property. Therefore, if isolated bliss is what you are after, information about potential development schemes in the area is going to be important.

Most importantly, knowing the location and associated restrictions beforehand could prove an important cost saving exercise in the purchasing journey. Your solicitors will be able to provide guidance around any planning designations, pre-existing covenants or proposed development before you buy.

The price isn’t always right

As a result of an increasing number of people looking to buy homes in rural settings, listing prices could become inflated as sellers try to take advantage of the rise in desirability. By building relationships with local selling agents, you can receive alerts on properties before they come to market and hopefully steal a march on any other interested parties.

Test the waters

If an area seems ideal but there are still feelings of hesitation, renting first can be a simple solution. That way you can get a feel of the location, and identify both the positives and the negatives, without having to make a long-term financial commitment to the purchase of a property.

Find the right support

Solicitors specialising in rural conveyancing are a vital asset to have when purchasing a country property. By assessing the property with a practical eye, they can help to unearth any legal issues early on, ensuring homeowners avoid any unexpected bills or responsibilities in the future.

In conclusion, whether it’s a farm, country cottage, or plot of land, understanding the ins and outs of the area and the property is an essential step in securing the rural dream.

We understand that buying or selling a house and moving home can be stressful. If you’re about to buy a new property then our dedicated residential conveyancing team can help. For guidance and support complete our 'contact us' form and a member of our team will call you back to discuss your enquiry.

Our updated guide to recovery and resilience covers everything you need to navigate your business out of lockdown, unlock your potential and make way for a brighter future. Further advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.  

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

How can we help?

Our expert lawyers are ready to help you with a wide range of legal services, use the search below or call us on: 0330 024 0333

SHMA® ON DEMAND

Listen to our SHMA® ON DEMAND content covering a broad range of topics to help support you and your business.

Agriculture: diversifying or leasing your land to create habitat banks

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News

Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday – extension announced by the Chancellor and help to get on the housing ladder

It’s fair to say that the property market has exceeded most expectations in terms of the volume of activity during the course of the pandemic. There have been a number of contributing factors to this. The pent up demand from people living in lockdown created an initial rush to the market. This rush increased further when the government announced the Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday. And with the end of the holiday looming, the Chancellor has finally answered the big questions in his spring Budget.

There were a number of reports speculating that the government was proposing a three month extension to the stamp duty holiday and this was announced today (3 March 2021), to be followed by a tapering of it to pre-COVID levels.

 

The steps the government is taking

Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday extended to the end of June 2021

The government has announced a further extension of the holiday to 30 June 2021, leaving the ‘holiday’ running in its current format. Although the stamp duty holiday has definitely increased the activity in the market, it has also increased the levels of pressure on the industry. This extension now takes the pressure off the huge volumes of transactions that were pushing to complete before the end of March 2021.  However, without further measures, the government is just moving the deadline to the end of June. This could leave clients in the same position come May/June and may not be a satisfactory outcome for a number of people.

Reduced rate of Stamp Duty Land Tax from July 2021

From 1 July 2021, the government is to taper the end of the stamp duty holiday. At present, no stamp duty is payable on a purchase up to £500,000 (unless the property qualifies for the second home stamp duty surcharge). The proposal is to taper the holiday down from the current level of £500,000 to £250,000 until 30 September 2021.

From 1 October 2021 it will return to the normal levels of stamp duty (payable on properties over £125,000) before the pandemic.

This is a much more controlled end to the stamp duty holiday and may relieve some of the pressure on the industry.

Mortgage guarantee scheme

The Chancellor has also announced a new low-deposit mortgage guarantee scheme to bring back low deposit mortgages that have virtually disappeared over the past 12 months.

The new government-backed 95 per cent mortgages will enable more people to get on the property ladder, who have been excluded until now due to not having a large enough deposit.  Unlike the Help to Buy Scheme, this mortgage guarantee scheme will not be limited to first time buyers or restricted to new build properties.

With the addition of this scheme, and the combination of an extension and a tapered return to normal regarding stamp duty, it will certainly relieve the pressure on the industry and will provide certainty for future buyers who now have the information and time to make their proposed moves.  One thing we don’t expect though, is for the market to calm down any time soon.

 

We’re here to help if you’re looking to sell or buy your own home

We understand that buying or selling a house and moving home can be very stressful – our dedicated residential conveyancing team is here to help and make the journey as straightforward as possible. For guidance and support contact Tom Ansell or complete our 'contact us' form and a member of our team will call you back to discuss your enquiry.

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

Our free legal helpline also offers bespoke guidance on a range of subjects, with a team of experts on hand for any queries relating to personal and family matters. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

How can we help?

Our expert lawyers are ready to help you with a wide range of legal services, use the search below or call us on: 0330 024 0333

SHMA® ON DEMAND

Listen to our SHMA® ON DEMAND content covering a broad range of topics to help support you and your business.

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Guides & Advice

Stamp Duty Tax Relief announced – starting with immediate effect

Stamp Duty Tax Relief announced – starting with immediate effect

The Chancellor’s budget has come good on the news that there is to be a six month Stamp Duty Holiday for home buyers breathing life into the housing market, starting with immediate effect.

The announcement today is one of a raft of measures with the objective being to kick start the economy over the next few months.

The UK economy has contracted enormously since March 2020 and whilst lockdown measures are starting to ease and more people are going back to work, there is a desire by many for additional measures to be implemented by parliament to encourage the population to spend.

Until now first time buyers have been exempt from paying stamp duty on the first £300,000 of a purchase price, which rises to £500,000 in London.  Other buyers pay stamp duty incrementally on the value of the house – the higher the value, the higher the stamp duty. That limit has now been raised for all buyers for house purchases up to the value of £500,000 from today 8 July 2020. It is calculated that these measures will benefit seven out of 10 home buyers and could save people up to £15,000 in stamp duty costs – a sizable chunk of anyone’s moving budget. This holiday will be in place until March 31 2021.

Neil Gosling, head of residential development, commented, “This is a welcome announcement that will hopefully support the continued re-emergence of the housing market and support economic growth. Aligned with this news, if lenders re-assess recent decisions regarding LTV criteria, and Government funding schemes like Help 2 Buy are extended, which in both cases are integral to supporting the first time buyer market, the housing sector will be well placed to bounce back to pre-COVID-19 sales levels.”

Contact us
For further information please contact Neil Gosling or another member of the residential development team.

We have launched our guide to recovery and resilience, helping to support businesses and individuals unlock their potential, navigate their way out of lockdown and make way for a brighter future. Further advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

Our free legal helpline offers bespoke guidance on a range of subjects, from employment and general business matters through to director’s responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes. We also have a team of experts on hand for any queries on family and private matters too. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

SHMA® ON DEMAND

Listen to our SHMA® ON DEMAND content covering a broad range of topics to help support you and your business.

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Peter Snodgrass, Partner & Head of Agriculture
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We know that biodiversity net gains provide a significant opportunity for landowners to diversify […]

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Property problems

The current situation is incredibly fluid, making assessing the true impact on the residential market a complex task. However, a range of issues have been highlighted, including:

These problems have led to estate agents closing and prohibiting viewings, as well as the suggestion from the Government that transactions shouldn’t go ahead, even when contracts have been exchanged.

Halting construction

Not only has COVID-19 put a stop to the sale of houses, it has also put a spanner in the works when it comes to building properties. Most of the UK’s biggest house builders are now in lockdown, putting a temporary stop to many new build developments. However, the good news is that many house builders are starting to announce that they are returning to sites and have brought in measures for social distancing to enable construction to begin again.

For purchasers who have already exchanged contracts with house builders, developers have been asking to delay completion, resulting in people being stuck in rental accommodation for an unknown amount of time. Although long-stop dates are common in new build contracts, not having a fixed end date for the lockdown means the impact COVID-19 will have on completions is unclear.

Breach of contract

If an exchange has already taken place and either party is unable to complete, then this is a breach of contract. Under normal circumstances, a 10-working day notice period would be served on the party causing the delay, during which interest accrues on the purchase price. The defaulting party are also then liable for any expenses incurred by the other party at this point. However, The Law Society and others have suggested that lawyers take a common-sense approach, varying contracts to allow for delay.

Offering a solution

Completion failures during COVID-19 will be unavoidable, as such, the non-defaulting party can opt to take a ‘good faith’ view. This means the party will not take advantage or make an issue of minor errors, ensuring the objectives of the contract can still be met. This being said, if the transaction forms part of a longer chain, this might not be viable and a delay a better option.

For those who have yet to exchange contracts, it could be wise to include a clause which allows for delay due to COVID-19 making completion impossible at this time.

The current situation is something nobody has experienced before, so being as fair as possible during this time is vital. Cases should be reviewed individually, with long-term considerations kept in mind, enabling people to make it through this uncertain period and complete transactions once normality returns.

Contact us

To discuss any of these issues or to consider more general estate planning please contact Louise Drew or another member of the residential conveyancing team in your local office.

Shakespeare Martineau has launched a free legal helpline, with a team of experts on hand for any queries on family and private matters. We are also offering bespoke guidance on a range of other subjects, from employment and general business matters, through to director’s responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

General advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.

Here we look at how organisations can delegate temporary Powers of Attorney to ensure property transactions can continue to move forward, reducing the risk of delay or processes coming to a halt if key staff members are unavailable to provide signatures required to complete.

How could COVID-19 impact my property transactions?

Property transactions by their very nature can involve large amounts of paperwork with frequent signatures required. For organisations who regularly execute a large number of deeds for the transfer, acquisition and disposal of properties, it is often the case that only board members, ‘company’ secretaries and perhaps executive/senior managers have the authority in place to provide handwritten signatures required to complete these transactions.

As workforce disruption grows in light of COVID-19, obtaining signatures from these individuals will inevitably become more problematic, with increasing numbers likely to experience some disruption to work due to illness or caring for others. In particular, organisations with fewer authorised signatories will be vulnerable to these challenges, worsened by often having to have two authorised signatories to sign documents.

In addition, geographical spread of senior staff and social distancing make the transfer of physical documents to be signed even more difficult, potentially slowing processes even further.

How can appointing Powers of Attorney help?

Appointing temporary Powers of Attorney can help ease the burden on your current authorised signatories in these challenging times, delegating authority to others, such as your legal provider to execute certain deeds and documents on your behalf.

These Powers of Attorney do not give us the ability to enter into transactions on your behalf or agree any amendments – it simply broadens your pool of authorised signatories, helping to ensure your transactions continue to complete efficiently and freeing up your board’s and senior employees’ time.

What types of organisation can put this in place?

Assigning this type of temporary Power of Attorney is a good option for a broad variety of organisations progressing property transactions, from residential and commercial developers through to Registered Providers. This includes private companies (limited by shares or guarantee) and public limited companies, as well as registered societies and charitable incorporated organisations*.

(*For non-exempt charities disposing of property or entering into charges/mortgages, there are additional compliance steps that will need to be taken)

Contact us

For more information about assigning temporary Powers of Attorney and how they could benefit your organisation and keep your property transactions moving, please contact Rachel Gwynne or a member of our real estate or corporate team in your local office.

You can register for one of our online webinars or contact the events team for more details or for more general business advice in relation to coronavirus visit our dedicated resource hub.

For advice or guidance on any other legal issue, a member of our team can help – please click here to discuss.

All the latest views and insights on coronavirus.

Securing a speedy planning permission can be heavily reliant on achieving community buy-in, plus it’s important for housebuilders to maintain a positive reputation in the area where they could potentially be selling homes.

Andrew Gore, planning director at Marrons Planning, explains why communication is vital to development approval:

1. Products can be showcased
Gathering the community together gives developers the opportunity to explain the benefits of the development, while promoting the houses and possibly generating sales through word of mouth in the process. Helping residents to visualise the final product can reduce the initial fear of change and bring them around to the developers’ way of thinking, or at least lessen their resistance to a degree.

2. Concerns can be addressed
Although not an obligation, developers are encouraged by Local Planning Authorities and other planning professionals to invite community members to public exhibitions or stakeholder workshops. This way, residents can ask any questions they may have about the development, allowing concerns to be addressed and reassurance to be given, which may lead to a drop in objection numbers in some cases.

3. Compromises can be reached
If a specific concern consistently arises, a compromise can be made that suits both parties’ needs. However, depending on the arrangements surrounding the deal, changes that result in reduced dwelling numbers or additional community facilities can be met with resistance from landowners or agents who want to maximise development coverage and therefore land value.

Speaking to landowners and agents can help to manage expectations right from the outset before any option or promotion agreements are entered into, although it is appreciated that this can be difficult at the start of the process where developers are bidding against other more bullish developers for the opportunity to promote the land in question.

Some developers are unsure of whether the time and financial costs of community engagement are worth the less than certain prospect of reducing the amount of objections to a scheme; however, they should certainly give thorough community engagement full consideration and see it as an opportunity to align with the Local Planning Authority’s preferred approach, make some small gains with the local community and showcase the developer’s product at the same time.  The results of effective communication can be beneficial for all involved in a development scheme.

Gary Ekpenyoung, our partner in the social housing team, explains what the Act will mean and how landlords must prepare:

Tenant savings

Excessive fees placed upon tenants in the past have left those considering renting with unrealistic ideas surrounding the true cost of their rentals – many thinking that they need more money than they actually require. Once the Act is introduced, there is the potential for a combined total saving of £240 million a year on rental fees, which equates to up to £70 per household. Although this may seem like good news for tenants, this is not a guaranteed saving as letting agents may increase their fees and force landlords to increase rental costs as a way to recoup these funds.

Self-managing

Landlords with a limited number of properties may consider self-managing in order to avoid the potential hike in letting agent charges altogether. For those with a larger portfolio, assessing whether the increased responsibility is sustainable is important. Tenants need to be sure they can rely on their landlords to support them as agreed, with no dip in service or security experienced.

Social housing

The Act is unlikely to affect social housing landlords in the same way as the private market. Social housing uses primarily assured tenancy agreements that are not marketed using letting agents.

However, the Act may create hurdles for intergenerational living schemes, such as Homeshare UK – part of Shared Lives Plus – due to the money exchanged during homeshare agreements to cover admin and matching costs. Fortunately, if the homeshare organisation is registered as a charity or a community interest company, they are exempt from such utility costs and will largely be unaffected by the changes.

Tenants will largely benefit from the Tenant Fees Act, but landlords and letting agents must fully understand what the new legislation means for them, so they can handle the shifting marketplace without issue.

Estate maintenance fees would be capped by the Bill, as well as ensuring shared facilities are adequately maintained and providing the means for self-management of communal areas. Although positive news for freeholders, there could be implications felt more widely throughout this currently unregulated area.

Rachel Gwynne, our head of social housing, explains how the Freehold Properties Bill can help freeholders:

Private housing developments often charge homeowners for the upkeep of communal spaces, such as roads, grass verges, electric gates, and playgrounds. In fact, approximately 1.3 million households pay these estate fees.

Land, of course, needs to be maintained to keep communal areas usable. However, the fees charged for these services are considered disproportionate by many. They vary between location, developer and management company, but on average they are between £100-£450 per household, per annum. Residents also have no voice when it comes to the work undertaken or the service provider selected, as there is no obligation for companies to lower costs or prove they have completed their services.

Councils used to manage the roads and public areas of housing developments, but funding-cuts in recent years have limited local authorities’ abilities to do so. This has made developers wary of asking councils to fund these services, in case planning permission is not granted. Therefore, a growing number of new-build estates are adopting the private estate model.

Transparency is needed in the sector and that is what the Freehold Properties Bill aims to provide. Giving homeowners access to information such as how fees are calculated, why they are increased, and who to contact if they have concerns. Lack of regulation in this area leaves homeowners without the right to raise any issues they have.

As well as this, purchasers should receive greater transparency to ensure fees do not come as a surprise. Although they are contained within the transfer deeds as covenants, many homeowners are not fully aware of them. This can lead to financial issues for those who did not factor these additional fees into the cost of their home.

Now that leaseholders have an amount of statutory protection from the Government’s proposals to ban sales of new leasehold houses and impose a £10 statutory cap on ground rents for residential long leases, it is time for freeholders to gain protection too. The Bill has been introduced to help do this by regulating fees, ensuring standards of communal facilities are upheld, and allowing freeholders to self-manage communal areas.

Brexit has caused uncertainty in the market and this is only increased by the unresolved challenges of UK housing sector. The change involved must be understood by buyers, developers and investors before plans can be agreed upon successfully and fairly.

The Bill is due to have its second reading on Friday 22 March 2019.

Contrastingly, there are a lot of people desperate for affordable and suitable accommodation. Intergenerational living could be the answer to both problems.

Our partner in the social housing team, Gary Ekpenyoung, discusses the intergenerational living model and the benefits it holds:

Homeshare is an intergenerational living model that has established itself as an alternative to residential care and home visits. An agreement is made between an older person and another party, that gives the latter rent-free accommodation as long as the former is provided with companionship and support.

Loneliness, and the mental health issues associated with it, puts a large amount of strain on the NHS. The Homeshare approach could lessen this strain, through reducing loneliness and isolation, and allowing people to stay out of residential care for longer.

There is also no need for concerns surrounding the generational gap, as an interviewing and vetting process matches people based on personality, so that the relationship is mutually beneficial.

Almost 500 UK households are now embracing intergenerational living, but the Tenant Fees Act 2019, which received Royal Assent on 12 February 2019 could potentially cause a few hurdles. The legislation stops lettings agents charging excessive fees to their tenants, a positive goal, but one that could put Homeshare agreements in danger, as money is exchanged to cover admin and matching costs. This could lead to income drying up for Homeshare UK – part of Shared Lives Plus – the network managers for Homeshare.

Thankfully, Homeshare has secured Government support and recent amendments to the Tenant Fees Act have limited the impact of the Act on Homeshare schemes.

The combination of an aging population and ever-increasing rental costs has brought the value of Homeshare to the forefront. Intergenerational living is a solution to a multi-generational problem.

This stage of the development will see a considerable housing boost for the local area and is due to be finalised in six years’ time with an estimated worth of in excess of £100 million.

As well as providing 375 new homes, the project will deliver vital infrastructure improvements, educational and retail facilities, and a stadium sited between Leamington Spa and the M40.

A further 735 homes will be created in the area as part of a wider scheme, north of Gallows Hill. The construction of a spine road by Galliford Try Partnerships will link this development to Europa Way itself and will also carry all utilities to the development.

Caroline Irvine, head of commercial property in the Stratford office of Shakespeare Martineau, said: “We have collaborated with Galliford Try Partnerships on several pieces of work over the last few years. Europa Way is the latest project we have been involved in with the company and it is a great local scheme to be part of.

“There have been a few obstacles to overcome, but through working with Galliford Try Partnerships, the local authority and other third parties, the project is ready to begin. It will provide a significant boost to housing and infrastructure, benefitting the local area greatly. Over the next few months, we’ll be watching the scheme unfold, and are sure it will be an important addition to Warwick and Leamington Spa.”

Darren Bale, regional director, West Midlands, at Galliford Try Partnerships, said: “Working with Shakespeare Martineau again has been a pleasure. This is a high-quality project and a huge development opportunity for us in Leamington Spa. It will contribute significantly to the new build housing market in the local area, bringing about much-needed housing.”

For more information, please contact Caroline Irvine, or another member of the commercial property team.