Stamping down on stamp duty

Stamping down on stamp duty

As you enter the house buying process, you’ll no doubt be tightly managing your finances. With a number of costs and taxes to account for, you could be forgiven for losing track. One recent alteration to the fees you’ll pay when purchasing a new house relates to stamp duty.   In 1997, Gordon Brown revised the stamp duty system in response to rising housing prices as a source of government revenue. Over 15 years later and for much of the same reason, in December 2014, the 1997 system has been revised to become fairer by progressive taxation. So if you are thinking about buying your first home or just an overview of how the new system works, then look no further.


The good news is that £4,500 is the amount saved on an average price home but how will this system impact on you?


As you can see from the image above, for any property up to £125,000 you won’t have to pay a thing; this is very much the same as the previous system. Under the old system you would have been liable to pay 1% on homes between £125,000 – £250,000, whereas the new system 2% is the threshold. However, the current system is a progressive tax where you will only pay a percentage based on the amount you are over any given threshold. This in turn means you’ll be financially better off under this system than the last.

In addition, under the new rate you’ll pay 5% on any property up to £925,000 progressively. The old system would have meant that you’d have paid 3% between £250,000 – £500,000 and & 4% for anything over £500,000. This ensures that anyone buying a home under the £937,000 mark will pay less or the same, treasury figures show.

Paying stamp duty and possible exemption:

Although the system is now a progressive system and is therefore fairer, there are still some ways that you can either reduce paying the tax or not pay it at all.

Paying stamp duty:

It is important to pay stamp duty or a £100 fee could be incurred. Your solicitor usually takes care of this but should you choose to do it yourself, then you need to complete the form and send it off. It is your responsibility to ensure that all documents are completed within the 30 days on completion of a deal.

Think about the band system:

The first thing to do, regardless of the system or not, is to ensure you get the best possible price for the house. This may be the difference from being put in one band to another. For example, if the house was on the market for over £125,000 and you as the buyer was able to get a deal for just under that figure then you wouldn’t be liable to pay anything at all.

Transferring of property:

If you transfer the deeds of your home to someone else, they will not have to pay the stamp duty on the market value of the property. This therefore means you could be eligible to pay less stamp duty if you pass the house over as a gift or leave it in your will.


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6 unusual ways to save for a house deposit

6 unusual ways to save for a house deposit

We all know how tough it can be to scrimp and scrape funds together. Whether you’re trying to make every penny count as you try to save for a deposit, or you’re living as a peasant after buying your first home, here are some great quirky ways of making your money go further.

Tin foil behind the radiator

Heating the home over winter is an essential, however if you’re short on funds, make that heat work harder by placing tin foil behind your radiators. It looks a bit weird and as if it should be in a bad sci-fi film, but it does the trick and keeps the warmth in the room.

Returning past purchases!


Sure, you probably don’t want to hear this one, but have a search through your recent purchases and return any unused or unworn items – it’s highly likely you won’t even miss them when they’re gone.


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Car boot sale!


 A good old car boot is a greatway to rid yourself of old tat whilst also making a bit of extra pocket money. It won’t shoot you into any rich lists, and you’re likely to regret it when you’re up at 6am traipsing to a muddy field, but car boots are one way to generate spending money when money is tight.


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Write a shopping list!

Thank you for shopping face down

We all know how tough it is to go shopping and stick to a strict list of items we need. Make sure before heading to the supermarket, that you’ve put together a list of necessities! You might stray with a couple of impulse purchases, but otherwise, try to stick to the essentials. Likewise, try to avoid shopping when hungry – that’s always a potential nightmare when it comes to overspending.


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Leave oven open after cooking to heat house

Feel a need to add a quick injection of warmth into your home? Leaving your oven door open after cooking is one way to utilise heat that would otherwise go to waste. The warmth gives your kitchen a quick boost in temperature and can also be used for small jobs such as drying towels.


Market your hobby!


We all have hobbies, and if you’re lucky enough to have perfected yours, then it’s likely you’ll have a marketable skill that you can turn it into a small source of income. If you have a full time job this may be difficult but if you have the free time to put your skills to use, the internet is now a valuable tool for getting your work out there.


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Top 7 blogs for financial advice

Top 7 blogs for financial advice

Buying your first home is exciting, but  can be equally as nerve wracking. It is a major decision which requires a lot of research, planning and most importantly; financial budgeting. Once you have raised afunds for your deposit, you may be left struggling financially; however by finding ways to make a little extra money, starting to manage your living expenses more effectively and spending your money more wisely you will soon find a more stable financial footing. Here is our guide to the best blogs on the internet if you’re these helpful hints and tips than from some of the best and most influential finance blogs.

  1. Couple Money (@elle_cm) centres on finding ways to build your finances together as a couple, and aims to educate couples on ways to live on one income whilst having fun with the other! Check out their posts on how to pay off your debt faster, how to build your savings and ways to earn more in the meantime.
  2. Magical Penny (@magicalpenny)  is a personal finance blog which strives to “help you to grow your pennies through conscious spending, automatic saving, and simple, low cost investing”. His posts range from turning your hobby into a money maker, varying house prices, energy comparison shopping and helpful tips when getting a mortgage. It’s definitely a helpful one for a first time home buyer.
  3. Young Adult Money (@davidcarlson1 ) encourages the balance of earning more and spending less, something which can seem like an impossible task. Again this is one to help those of you in your 20s and 30s, with the blog covering topics as diverse as real estate, making more money, cutting expenses and even travel. This blog should be the go to guide for all financial savvy young adults.
  4. Help me to save (@karenbryan) is a blog devoted to helping you spend less, save money and enjoy life. Not only is there advice offered on money saving tips, but posts also focus on providing helpful ideas for making money and ways of managing your living expenses more effectively.
  5. Master the Art of Saving (@MasterTAOSaving) is a blog written for those who want financial tips written in an everyday conversational style. Created by Jen Perkins, the site states outright that it is not a professional financial service, but is a source for easy to read tips and advice. Although it is American, it has a readership that far exceeds that nation, and the tips and advice can easily be applied to UK home owners looking for financial tips.
  6. Young and Thrifty (@youngandthrifty) Kyle and Justin created Young and Thrifty when they left University after having beaten student financial issues. Having then been faced with new financial challenges as young adults such as making investments and getting a mortgage, they have turned to blogging to offer tips from their experience. They now cover all bases on the key issues for first time buyers such as investing, banking, taxes, real estate, and ways to monitor your day-to-day spending habits.
  7. Phillip Taylor Money (@PTMoney) is all about finding ways to build wealth, spend money wisely and make extra income. This blog will help you to discover the best rates when it comes to credit cards, bank accounts and even mortgages. Phillip gives his top tips on saving money, spending wisely and making extra money a read to stay financially secure and savvy.

Have we missed off your go-to blog when you’re looking for sound financial advice? If so, make sure you drop us a comment below.

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Extra fees to be aware of when moving home
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Extra fees to be aware of when moving home

When planning a home move, it can be a costly period of time. With home buying fees and organising your removals, it can take a big chunk of both your budget, and your savings. If you have an impending move, and you have a tight budget to stick to, you don’t want to under cost the value of the jobs at hand, and end up being stung by additional fees. In order to prepare for your move, here is what to look out for.

Legal fees

When buying a new home, it’s likely you’ll need to hire a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to handle the legal areas associated with the move. It’s important that for aspects such as transfer of ownership/funds that they’re done by a professional. Legal fees typically cost anything between £500 and £1,000. It’s easy enough to find the right person or organisation for you, and often can come down to a good word-of-mouth referral.

Stamp duty

Most homebuyers have to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax on home or land purchases over a certain value amount. If you buy property for more than £125,000, you pay Stamp Duty Land Tax of between 1% and 7% on the whole purchase price.  If you’re unaware, Stamp Duty is charged at different rates according to the price of the home or land. The rates rise incrementally in brackets, which are set by the government and can be found online.


Before being approved a mortgage, it’s highly likely that your bank or lender will insist a valuation is carried out on your new home to ensure that  it’s worth the price you’re willing to pay, giving peace of mind to both yourself and the lender that  the property is a reasonably sound purchase. As valuations are the cheapest type of survey, you may want to spend a little more and have a more thorough check carried out. Whilst they might be a more expensive option, they do provide further insight into any potential problems a home may have.

Buildings insurance

Insurance is hugely important, especially when it comes to a property, and it will be required as a mortgage condition in most cases. Obviously, the policy will need to take effect from the date of exchange (when you take possession of your new home).

Contents insurance

Another piece of important insurance you’ll require is for your home contents. It’s important that both old and new items are covered at your new address, and means that should any disaster strike, your belongings won’t be in jeopardy.

Removal firm/van hire

One expense that is an optional one, is that associated with hiring removal services for your big move day. When it comes to shifting your belongings, the budget option here is to do the removals yourself, in which case the only real expense you’ll encounter is van hire and fuel costs. However, if you’re not so keen on the idea of taking all the responsibility in your hands, and want the experts in to take control of the situation, a removal firm should be more than willing to accommodate most of your needs.


Whilst you might get away without doing this through the summer, in winter, you want to avoid moving into a cold, dark home. To make sure your new house is habitable upon arrival, make sure that the gas and electricity is connected before you move in. The seller will probably have informed the utilities companies of a change of ownership, but it’s important to remember that you’re not in any way obliged to stay with the same providers.

Council tax

This one is sadly unavoidable, with this payment going towards local council services such as  your rubbish collection, policing and other municipal costs. It’s divided into eight bands, from the cheapest A band, to the most expensive homes, which fall into the H band. Similarly to stamp duty, it all relates to the size of your home, so it’s worth bearing in mind that, should you move from a smaller premises to a larger dwelling, your council tax bill will probably increase.


Image credit: CC image via Alan Cleaver from flickr.

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Calculating the carbon footprint of your home

Calculating the carbon footprint of your home

We all know buying a first home is expensive but calculating your carbon footprint can help you save money in the long run. Calculating this, whether as an individual or a business, can sometimes be a complicated procedure. Why, then, spend time and effort doing it?

Well, for some businesses, it is an essential part of the reporting regulations and for others – and for individuals – it’s useful to know what impact we are having on our environment. Within the next 35 years, the UK aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to just 20% of the levels measured in 1990. The only way we can meet this target is if we all substantially reduce our contribution to greenhouse gases. While there are a number of greenhouse gases identified and targeted for reduction by countries across the world, it’s accepted that most references to a carbon footprint include just carbon dioxide (CO2).

CO2 is targeted for reduction by nearly every government because of its high level of concentration in the atmosphere which contributes to global warming – hence the term “greenhouse gas”. Most of our current major fuels are carbon-based, meaning CO2 is released when we burn them. This applies to everything from the gas, coal and oil used in power stations, homes and businesses, to the fuel used in aircraft and road vehicles. An individual carbon footprint is the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere when these fuels are consumed, in both transport and at home through electricity, gas and oil use.

The size of a carbon footprint depends on a number of factors, including how much energy is used to heat a property, how much electricity home appliances consume, the chosen method of transport and how often one travels. Government statistics show that UK households contribute more than a quarter of total annual CO2 emissions (27%), roughly 4.5 tonnes per household, excluding vehicle use. If other elements are added and the data is broken down to an individual level, the average carbon footprint is anything between 10 and 12 tonnes annually. Variations in carbon footprints can be large due to disparities in wealth and associated lifestyle. Broadly speaking, the older age groups in the UK contribute more greenhouse gases than the young ones. 50 to 64 year olds produce the largest carbon footprint at an average of 13.5 tonnes annually, while the second highest group are the 65 to 74 year olds. The under 30s have the lowest carbon footprint, with an average of 11 tonnes annually. Although there are some pieces of the carbon footprint jigsaw that are outside of individual control, they still need to be included in the measurement process for accuracy. These include: emissions from infrastructure, hospitals and other public service buildings. On average, other services like education and water contribute 11% with food and drink at 7%.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to shrink your carbon footprint in the home is to focus on energy-efficient lighting, better water management and effective insulation. Replacing traditional bulbs with LED lamps will not only cut electricity consumption by as much as 85%, but will also go on saving for years as these items have an incredibly long life span of around 25,000 hours. Meanwhile, fitting eco showers can reduce water consumption by around half. Eco taps and tap aerators can also have a huge impact on energy requirements, significantly reducing the amount of power needed to heat and pump the household’s water. Loft and cavity wall insulation can also be used as an effective way to reduce the consumption of gas, oil or coal for heating. Likewise, an efficient new boiler can burn up to 60% less fuel. As you can see, there are many variables involved when calculating your carbon footprint.

The simplest way to find out the size of yours is to visit the DirectGov portal, which has an excellent Carbon Calculator.

This article was kindly contributed by Mark Sait, managing director at Save Money Cut Carbon, a full-service efficiency partner, helping households and businesses reduce energy and water consumption and cut carbon emissions to improve sustainability.

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Taking the first step on the property ladder is cheaper than you think

Taking the first step on the property ladder is cheaper than you think

We all know how notoriously difficult it is to take that plunge and get onto the first rung of the property ladder, and with house prices back on the rise, more young adults than ever are opting to stay in their parental home whilst saving. However, even amidst rising house prices, first time buyers struggling to get on the property ladder can now buy a new two-bedroom home in Hartlepool with a mortgage which will cost them just £230 a month; making it the perfect first step on the property ladder.

National house builder Keepmoat is offering customers with a salary of at least £14,000 a chance to own a £79,995 home at its development at Alexandra Square in the town centre of Hartlepool. The homes, which are available under the government’s Help to Buy scheme, can be purchased through a 35-year mortgage product, perfect for customers on modest incomes.

The exceptional value of the homes available at Alexandra Square mean local people can now aspire to buying their own home, with potential monthly mortgage repayments as low as £230. Even with the falls we have seen in property prices in recent years getting on the housing ladder can be difficult for those who do not have substantial incomes. Combined with Help to Buy it makes purchasing a new home an increasingly attractive proposition for first and second time buyers. And with a choice of homes on offer at Alexandra Square there’s something for everyone, whether families or young professionals.

Alexandra Square is a development of 83 two and three-bedroom homes located within 10 minutes’ walk of Hartlepool Marina with its boats, watersports, attractions and mix of bars, cafes, shops and restaurants. The development is also in a good catchment area for schools and transportation links. The new homes offer great access to nearby Hartlepool town centre as well as Durham, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

Alexandra Square is part of a £9 million regeneration scheme, which is a key to the North Central Hartlepool Masterplan, and is being funded jointly by Keepmoat, Hartlepool Council and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). For more information or to reserve your dream home, please visit check out Keepmoat’s website.

Copyright free image courtesy of pallspera

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Three step guide to mortgage research
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Three step guide to mortgage research

To many, taking the plunge and grabbing onto that first rung of the home buying ladder is a big and extremely scary step. One of the most important plunges in life can be securing a mortgage, as it’s not something that you’ll forget about, and will inevitably lead to years of repayments. Whilst is can be a scary process, securing a mortgage and buying your first home is also one of the most exciting life experiences. If you’re looking to secure a mortgage, here are our tips on how to make the correct decision.

Step One: Check out your current financial providers

As a starting point, to provide you with an initial idea, it’s worth contacting the banks and building societies who already provide you your current and savings accounts. If that’s more than one bank, then check with them all and begin to work up an idea of what offers are available to you. We aren’t guaranteeing anything, but from time to time, if you have accounts, previous mortgages or other connections with a bank, they can offer you a more attractive rate. Obviously, if you ring your bank, they’re going to give you a fairly one sided set of options, as they undoubtedly push their products. Make sure that all information provided is then noted down and researched further, to ensure you know the ins and outs of each option. Once you’re in the know about the options provided by your current banks and building societies, you have a solid base, and can begin to shop around to compare deals.

Step Two: Analyse the market

The next step for you to take is to gauge the state of the rest of the market. There are a load of great online tools for comparing finances, so make sure you have a good study of the available options from other high street providers. It’s not as simple as one option standing out above the rest, as most mortgages offer tailored features depending on what your financial situation is; many have a range of differing features and charges that you’ll need to consider, so make sure you do your due diligence and give your research phase plenty of time.

What to look out for: The Annual Percentage Rate is one factor that is important when you’re assessing options on the market. This figure takes into account the cost of fees on top of the interest rate quoted – for example booking and arrangement fees, valuation fees and other add ons. Obviously, finding a low rate that suits you, and ties in nicely alongside all the other aspects of a mortgage is of utmost importance.

Dates of significance throughout the life of your mortgage: You need to make sure that you’re aware if there are any dates where fixed, capped or discounted rates will come to an end.

What rate you revert to after any initial rate ends: If an option does have an initial discounted rate to start, you need to ensure you’re aware of what rate it will drop to once the introductory rate comes to an end.

How flexible are payments: One option that may be available to you is to select a mortgage with flexibility. It’s important to know whether you are able to make overpayments without being penalised with a charge.


Step Three: Talk to a mortgage broker

If you feel out of your depth when it comes to hard hitting finance, the best option you have available is to get in touch with an independent mortgage broker to provide unbiased help and information. Generally, mortgage brokers fall under two general categories. Firstly, there are brokers who offer advice scoping the whole of the financial market, entirely independently. This means that any advice will be given in your best interest, without attempting to steer you in the direction of particular service providers. There are also, however those which offer a restricted service – based on products from a limited number of lenders. Whilst both are entirely different from advisers in a bank, you should opt, if possible to speak with a broker who advises over the whole market.

Taking on board these expertise are a vital aspect of the selection process, and for a relative financial rookie, it’s definitely a wise move.

Are you a new home owner who has recently secured your first mortgage and home? If so, we’d love to hear from you, and be sure to add any possible pieces of advice in the comments box below!

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Switch to save: Simple tips to save you money

Switch to save: Simple tips to save you money

It may sound cliché, however as homeowners, we know just how important small savings here and there can be. Whilst a slight decline in monthly bills might not immediately give you enough money to plan a lavish holiday, over the course of a full year, the savings do mount up. If you’re looking to make a few smaller savings here and there, but aren’t sure where cost cuttings are available, here’s our top advice on bringing down those monthly bills.


Through the summer, saving on electricity might not be at the forefront of most minds. In fact, the reduction in costs required to heat the house, coupled with the brighter nights should mean electricity bills drop substantially, however summer might be the best time to make the switch to a new supplier.

Prices are stable right now, meaning that if you do a comparison, you’ll get a true answer to which is cheapest. Plus, perversely, there’s real competition to be the cheapest fixed deal, meaning it’s often cheaper to get a price where no rises are guaranteed.

Once you’ve pinpointed your deal and it’s your cheapest or most effective option it’s as simple as making the change and then continuing to monitor your prices to make sure the deal you’re on continues to be the best to suit your needs.



It’s become a necessity for the modern household, however you should always monitor the costs of your broadband, just like you would any other utility. There’s nothing wrong with shopping around as the market is always a competitive one. There are a number of variables when it comes to selecting your provider so it is always important to weigh up aspects like television and download speeds.

Be careful, however, if you’ve only recently changed provider. If you signed up to broadband in the last 18 months, or longer in some cases, it’s worth first checking if you’re still in your contract period. If so you’ll have to check and make sure you aren’t tied into a deal for a minimum contract length. If you leave your contract and breach an aspect of the deal, then you’re likely to be hit with exit penalties, which will seriously impact on any potential savings. If you’re planning to move home soon, check if your new contract’s portable, or consider a no-contract deal.

Assess your bank situation

Sometimes, just taking a bit of care and attention when it comes to your bank is all that’s required. Whether it’s a case of putting your savings into the right type of account, or switching bank to make the most of some new customer offers, assessing your bank situation is a good way to make instant savings. Do some investigating as some banks now simply offer you a cash payment for switching. Alternatively, many banks offer accounts or credit cards which are incentive led; many of which are easy to attain and can lead to substantial rewards. Do your own shopping around online to see which accounts best suit your needs, and you could be surprised at some of the benefits you’re entitled to.


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