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Understanding Stamp Duty

You hardly need reminding that it’s tough to to be a first time buyer. But one problem – and it just happens to be Britain’s oldest tax – has become easier.house

This is of course Stamp duty, originating in the 17th century and imposed to cover the cost of registering a change in ownership at a government office called the Land Registry.

This process requires a stamped certificate from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – the tax man to you and me – but HMRC will provide this only when the duty is paid.

So how is it easier?

Well, stamp duty used to be charged on a ‘slab’ basis. So buying a home for £250,000 meant you paid the old charge of one per cent duty on the full price, making it £2,500.

But if you bought, say, a £260,000 home you would have been in the old three per cent category applied across the whole price – so the duty would become a whopping £7,800.

This slab system was considered unfair and a disincentive for buyers. Therefore stamp duty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is today levied like income tax.

Up to £125,000 it’s zero, and over £125,000 to £250,000 it’s two per cent. Then from over £250,000 to £925,000 it is five per cent.

On that £260,000 home you therefore today pay no duty up to £125,000, then two per cent above £125,000 to £250,000, and then five per cent above £250,000 to £260,000.

It adds up to just £3,000 and in this example saves you £4,800.

There are a few exceptions to stamp duty – but don’t raise your hopes.

There’s no duty at all on zero-carbon homes (but these are rare) while some Right To Buy properties, where tenants purchase their council home, have reduced duty. In Scotland, stamp duty doesn’t exist but there is Land and Building Transaction Tax which is roughly similar and means that north of the border, our £260,000 home would cost £2,600 in LBTT.

Across the rest of Britain buyers of almost all homes sold for above £125,000 have no choice but to pay stamp duty within 30 days of moving in.

In reality, it happens quicker because it’s handled by your conveyancer – that’s the expert you will have instructed to handle legal elements of the purchase.

Sometimes a mortgage lender may offer to add the stamp duty to the loan for the house. It sounds tempting but try to resist: saving for stamp duty may be tough but it will cost less than adding it to a mortgage on which you repay not just the loan itself but interest as well.

One final thing – it’s always buyers who pay stamp duty. That’s not really unfair because as you move up the ladder and sell up, so someone will pay duty to buy from you.

 As the saying goes ‘What goes around, comes around.’

Image Credit: Geograph

graham norwood

Author Bio

This article was provided exclusively to First Home News by Graham Norwood, a successful journalist who specialises in writing about residential property. Read Graham’s blog at Property News Hound or follow him on Twitter.

 

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How to make your home pet friendly

Many landlords have strict ‘no pets’ policies meaning renters are forced to live without a furry, loyal companion in their home. Once you become a homeowner, you may therefore be tempted to rush into buying a pet, but there are many factors you need to consider before you adopt a Pug or Labrador! The main one being ‘is my home pet friendly?’ Here’s what you need to do to make sure it is…

Fur babies

  • A good rule of thumb when pet-proofing your house is to use similar health and safety measures as those you’d use for a baby or toddler. From hiding electric cables behind appliances to not leaving lit candles out, do a risk assessment around your home and try to spot all potential hazards!
  • Putting child locks on your kitchen cupboards can prevent a variety of incidents! Many every day food items, such as grapes or chocolate, are highly toxic to dogs so it is essential you lock your cupboards to avoid tragedy.
  • If you hpugave a small or young pet, invest in a child’s stair gate to avoid any nasty falls as they learn how to navigate the steps. Alternatively, you can pop it on your kitchen door to keep out any hungry pups!

Decorate for your dogs

  • Cream carpets and expensive sofas may be your décor of choice, but with a pet (especially a dog!) it may prove less than practical. Good quality wooden flooring or tiles are much easier to clean, especially when house training, and doesn’t show up those pesky dog hairs!
  • When buying a new sofa, make sure you get one with removable covers so they are easy to clean. Choosing a natural colour is also great at hiding that summer fur shedding.

Glorious garden

  • Your garden should be your pet’s paradise. Be sure that it is completely safe by making it fully fenced, with no gaps and potential repair work needing to be done. This not only protects your pet from escaping, but also lowers the risk of your beloved friend being stolen.
  • Prevent a tragedy by making sure your garden is also completely poison-free. Avoid putting down slug pellets and look out for any hazardous plants that could make your pet ill, even cocoa chips in gardens are highly poisonous to dogs who mistake them for chocolate due to the smell.
  • Make sure that all ponds are covered; your dog may like a dip in the sea but for don’t expect your smaller animals to be good swimmers!cat

Safety first

Just as with children, make sure that you keep your house as safe as possible by closing windows and closing appliances such as your oven. Cats are notorious for finding cosy spots to sleep the day away in and can easily be missed while snoozing in the washing machine. The same is applied to open windows with many cats having serious or even fatal accidents by falling from a great height.

Do you have any helpful advice on how to keep your home pet friendly? Pop your tips in the comments below.

 

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How to throw a successful first dinner party

After years of being the grateful guest, now is the time to stick the oven on, call up your friends, and brush up on your Nigella as you host your first dinner party.  But before you rustle up some home cooked delights and pick out the perfect outfit, check out our handy advice on how to make your first dinner party a raving success.

dinner decorSet the scene

We all love a theme night, but when hosting a dinner party we have to question whether taking inspiration from your past student nights out is the right decision to make.  For a more sophisticated approach, incorporate a colour scheme to your table or dress code.  You can find fantastic name cards, table runners and more from leading brands such as Not on the High Street.  Hosting on a budget?  Experiment with candles to achieve an elegant ambience.  This is a great chance to express your personality and the food you are serving so choose your ideas with care.

Cheers!

Your guests will most probably be thirsty when they arrive, so ensure that you provide a welcome drink, giving your friends a choice between soft and alcoholic.  Ensure that you don’t end up doing a champagne toast in your favourite tea mug by buying buying the correct glasswear before the night.

Food for thought

To avoid the heart ache of discovering your friends new found vegetarianism just minutes before you present your delicious beef casserole, plan ahead and make sure your menu adheres to any dietary requirements your guests may have.  Once your menu is planned, research potential soft or alcoholic drinks that will compliment your food, wowing your friends with your new found sommelier skills.

Serve in style

These days you’re more likely to be served your dinner on a wooden board and your chips in a shopping trolley rather than proudly presented on a beautiful dinner sdinner partyet.  Impress your guests with your best tablewear and invest in some new plates, crockery and cutlery.    Cooking meat, fish or shellfish?  Ensure your guests aren’t struggling with their lobster and steak by buying the right type of cutlery for their food.

Let me entertain you

You don’t need to spend a fortune on grand entertainment, after all it should be the food and company that is the main focal point of the evening.  However, if you would like to inject a bit of fun in between courses why not host a quick fire quiz round, pop on some music for an impromptu boogie.  Pinterest  has thousands of party game suggestions that can be enjoyed for any type of night.

 

Have you got any top tips for a fantastic dinner party?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

Image Credits: Pixabay,  Flickr

 

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How to make yourself more attractive to lenders

How to make yourself more attractive to lenders

Getting your first mortgage is an exciting yet daunting journey; many people discover that the road to home ownership is more like climbing a mountain than taking a gentle stroll. With obstacles such as large deposits and rising house prices (to name but a few), we’ve compiled some handy advice on how to make yourself, and your situation, more attractive to lenders.

Check your credit
Your credit report is your financial history; the better your score, the more likely your lender will be to give you a mortgage. Improve your chances by checking your credit rating before you apply. Have you missed any payments in the past? Have you gone into your overdraft recently?

Another issue you need to be aware of is your partner’s or ex-partner’s credit score as this can greatly impact your mortgage application.

You can discuss your credit score with your bank or you can use popular websites such as Credit Expert, which will give you a free credit report if you sign up for a trial.

Register to vote
If you’re not already on the electoral role, get on it! Lenders often check it to ensure that you are being truthful about where you currently live and their decisions can be greatly impacted if you have yet to register. To sign on to the electoral role, or for more information, simply go to Gov UK.

How is your income?
How much you earn is extremely crucial to lenders as they use multiples of your total income (and joint income) to decide on the maximum that they will lend. It isn’t just about having a higher salary; you also need to ensure that you keep all important documents such as benefits letters or payslips (lenders usually ask for at least three to six months’ worth), as these will be analysed during the decision making process. Self-employed? You will need to provide three years’ worth of accounts instead. Have a lower income? There are plenty of schemes that may help you get on the ladder such as the new Help to Buy ISAs.

Stick with your work
Have you had several jobs for the past few years, or are you dreaming or a new career? While going through the mortgage process it’s best to put those plans on hold and stick with your current job (even if you hate it!). Not only do lenders need a regular amount of payslips, it is important for them to see that you are consistent with your income.

Clear your debts
Essentially, with a mortgage, you are about to commit to one of the largest debts of your life. Therefore, it is sensible to try and lose any outstanding debts that you may have. Lenders use any current debts, along with income and outgoings, to provide you with the maximum total that they can offer you. Although this might mean your dream of home ownership has to be pushed back a year or two, it will definitely benefit you in the long term.

 

Have you found that you have struggled to be accepted for a mortgage?  Let us know any other tips you found were useful for making the process a lot easier.

Image CreditWikimedia

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What can first time buyers expect to get for their money?

 

It’s no secret that getting on the first rung of the property ladder can be an extremely difficult task, with many first time buyers struggling to meet the high costs involved with purchasing their first home.

According to Rightmove first time buyers can now expect to pay an average of £169,414 to get their foot on the ladder – that’s an increase of 7.6 per cent on last year’s figures. A recent report by The Independenlondon flats 2t also revealed that unaffordable housing is forcing first time buyers out of the home towns they’ve grown up in and love.

So, what can first time buyers expect to get for their money?

London living

Reports claim that those hoping to buy in the notoriously expensive London need to be earning a whopping £77,000 a year to afford the capital’s average house price of £384,856. However, if the national average of £169,414 is more in your price range, you’re likely to be looking at a one bedroom flat in north London or The Isle of Dogs. The sizes may be “bijou” but many would argue that the lack of space is a small price to pay for the opportunity to live so close to the big city and all it has to offer.

A quiet lifeisle of wight
If you enjoy the open air, a slow pace of living and love the sea, perhaps a house across the Solent may be of interest?  You can buy a spacious three bed semi  in the more rural/coastal parts of the Isle of Wight, offering outside space and with a beach never more than 20 minutes away. You can expect to get a lot more for your money than if you buy around the nearby commuter belt of the south east.

 Go up north
Moving further up north to Cumbria, you could enjoy a three bedroom detached property in areas such as Wigton or Windermere. Prices generally are lower in the north with many areas such as Leeds in Yorkshire or the suburbs of Newcastle offering semi-detached or terraced properties with a garden for the average asking price. However, you may find that prices begin to rise the closer you get to the city centre – notably in the larger cities such as Leeds, where you could possibly purchase a two bedroom apartment for the same price as a house several miles down the road.

 How are you finding prices in your area? Do you plan on buying closer to home, or do you have to look elsewhere for something more affordable?

Image Credit: GeographGeograph

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Handy advice on how to keep your home cool in the summer

If you are living in the UK you no doubt have been affected by the July heatwave, where on July 1st, Brits experienced the hottest day on record – with temperatures peaking at a scorching 36.7C!

Such high temperatures can no doubt cause discomfort at home, so we have compiled some handy advice on how to keep you and your house cool in the summer.

Close the curtains

When the sun is shining it maybe tempting to throw open your doors and curtains.  However, windows can account for up to 30% of unwanted heat, and can turn your home into a rather large green house.  Closing your blinds and curtains can help significantly lower the temperature – a trick that you may notice when visiting warmer climates abroad!

Are you looking after yourself?

It may seem like an obvious tip, but ensure that you stay cool by looking after your body.  For example; take regular showers, drink plenty of water, and wear loose clothing when you can.  Also, freezing wet flannels bbqcan make fantastic cheaper alternatives to ice packs – once frozen, press onto your pressure points (i.e. wrists) and feel your body gradually cool down.

Any excuse not to cook…

Make the most of the hot weather by turning off your oven and enjoying evening BBQs instead.  Having your oven turned on will heat up your entire house, especially if used during the day.  So what better excuses to dust off the grill and bring the family round for an al fresco dinner?

Choose the right bed

Choosing the right mattress can save you a lot of sleepless nights once the temperatures start soaring.  Although priced slightly more expensively, buying from a good company such as Sealy, who use Geltex to help regulate temperatures and keep you cool at night, can stop you from waking up in a pool of sweat.

Let your heat rise

It is a common fact that heat rises.  If you have a loft, open the hatch to it and let the heat rise through, so that it can circulate throughout the roof and in return, cool down the entire house.

 

Do you have any more handy tips on how to stay cool?

Image Credit: WikimediaDeviant Art

 

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Three quirky hacks to make sure your furniture fits

One of the most stressful parts of moving into a new home is the daunting task of fitting in the furniture from your old home, as well as those additional items you buy along the way! But before you rush to transport your sofa or desk to your new place, make sure you have space for it all with these helpful measuring hacks.

Plan with cardboard

Do you have any spare cardboard boxes lying around after packing? Well, why not use them to find the perfect position for your furniture by simply cutting them to fit the dimensions of your chairs, tables, cardboard boxcabinets etc? You can then place them down, measure your space and work out exactly where your furniture should go before having to take on any heavy lifting!

Go virtual

Release your inner tech savvy by seeking out helpful apps, such as the Ikea Home Planner. to place virtual furniture in virtual rooms using your smart phone or tablet. There is no need to hire an interior designer as you can measure, rearrange, and style your room with nothing but technology.

Measure without taSpool_of_stringpe

Don’t have a tape measure? Don’t fear! These handy tricks will help you use your body parts to measure any space – it may look silly, but we promise it works!

  • Do you know exactly how tall you are? Lay on the floor to work out the dimensions of your room – you could even get different family members involved to give you a choice of heights!
  • Work out how many inches your shoe size is (there are plenty of tables online) and work out the length of something by walking toe to heel. For example a UK size 7 is 9.875 inches (25.1cm). Make sure you do it a few times to get the correct measurement, even if it is a bit time consuming.

Wrap a piece of string around your furniture and mark it, then take a ruler out and measure its length. Quick and simple!

 

Image Credits: WikimediaWikimedia

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Five top tips on how to update your living room

 

After years of enduring magnolia and off-white walls in your rented properties, you may find yourself overwhelmed with choice whilst deciding how to update your new living room.  It may seem like a daunting task, but we have compiled some simple yet effective tips that can help:

Discover new lighting
table lamp ikea

Different types of lighting can have a huge impact on the mood of the room.  Light that is too harsh and bright could make the room feel clinical and cold, whereas softer lighting will create a warm and inviting atmosphere perfect for cosy nights in.  A well lit room can be achieved easily by using lower watt bulbs, installing a dimmer, or strategically placing lamps to benefit the levels of light your room receives throughout the day.

You can find a wide range of affordable yet stylish lamps perfect for any modern living room in high street retailers such as Next, or John Lewis.

Paint in wonderful white

Choosing whitwhite walls e paint to redecorate with may not seem like a drastic change to your living room, but this classic look will never go out of style.   To  avoid a sterile feel to the room, make sure you use different textures in your room to give it a more homely feel, such as cushions or t  throws.

You could also choose a colour pallet to accent your room with, making future changes to the room more practical to deal with over the years.

 Writing on the wall

Personalising your living space has never been easier with a range of decorative wall quotes, words and letters to choose from.  Add words and  images to your wall using artistic vinyl graphics, or frame an inspirational or humorous quote to hang as a centre piece.  Online retailers such as Not  on the High Street or Etsy have some fabulous designs which can instantly transform your surroundings.

Change the dynamics

Change the dynamics of your room by moving around your furniture to create more space and making the most of the changing light conditions throughout the year.  You can also do this by changing the position of your radiator or removing a door to create more options whilst deciding where to place your furniture.

Go green plant

Add a splash of colour to your living room whilst also improving your mind and health, by introducing house plants and flowers.  This will create a fresh and natural feel to your room, instantly changing the atmosphere and bringing life to your home.

 

 

 

 

Image Credits: FlickrIkea

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Attaining a stylish garden

zen Gardens are an important part of any home; they’re a place to be at one with nature, to enjoy peace and tranquility in between neighbours mowing their  lawns, and relax whilst soaking up the sun (the little amount that we get). In true Brit-style, we’ll take any smidgeon of sunlight emerging from behind  the clouds as an excuse to crack open the beers and get the BBQ going, but this is almost impossible to predict. It’s therefore important that your garden  is ready for any impromptu summer barbecues, parties or outdoor get-together’s you may decide to host, and we think that one simple yet effective way  of doing this is to replicate the style of your home from the inside, out.

Imagine yourself in your living room minus all of its furnishings; you probably wouldn’t want to spend much time in there would you? Well the same  applies to your garden. Decorating your garden with plants is only the first step in creating a harmonious and stylish area, but furniture is an  increasingly vital element. There are a range of different furniture designs available to suit your desired garden style and theme. For example, Japanese Zen gardens have become very popular in recent years and are a modern favourite in garden design. Some others include Mediterranean, Tuscan, and Traditional English country for example. Allocating a theme to your garden will enable you to stay within a colour palette, chose materials complimentary of one another and above all, avoid mismatched items.

Choosing your Style

When looking for garden furniture, you made find than you’re overwhelmed by the vast number of different types and styles that are available.ratan furniture

For a more traditional and classic look, there are many different types of wooden furniture that are of high quality and well-made to look simple but effective. Rattan is also a great choice of furniture that is extremely charming. Rattan is made from superior quality resin and comes in two different types: Flat weave is a more cost-friendly and gives a more modern look whereas round weave is more traditional and perhaps a little more attractive and luxurious. Metal too has the potential to be attractive and luxurious and is conveniently simple to maintain. For a more modern appearance, darker coloured furniture such as black is more appropriate, or even sheer white – however white furniture, particularly fabric coated ones can be difficult to clean, but is nevertheless just as beautiful.

 

Picking up the Pieces

Garden furniture doesn’t have to be dull, however many flock towards the standard green or white plastic chair and table sets or the regular old wooden pieces. Not  that there is anything wrong with this, but your garden should be a place you actively want to return to due to its beauty and charm. Furthermore, many shy away  from the more interesting types of garden furniture as it is often found to be pricey or overindulgent. However, realistically you do not have to spend that much  money and stylish garden furniture can be picked up at a decent enough price.

You first need to establish what type of furniture you are looking for. Are you looking for an outside dining set, chairs, a coffee table, a bench, sofas or something  else? Are you buying according to a theme? You also need to think about who will be using the furniture and when.

Chairs and sofas are great for if you host an occasion or get together and even to also create an outside relaxation area. You may be more interested in purchasing  an outside dining table, allowing you and your family to enjoy the evening, or perhaps a coffee table for reading your book with a cup of tea or coffee. There are  many different arrangements to choose from, it’s simply about finding the right one to suit you.

 

About the author

Laura Morrissey

 

Laura Morrissey is a digital content editor and home improvement enthusiast at George F Knowles Furniture. She is a native of Liverpool with an interest in high quality craftsmanship & traditional luxury furnishings and passionately writing about them.

 

Image Credits: PixabayStatic FlickrOutdoorWickerFurniture.com

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11 Tips for an Easy and Affordable New Home Makeover

You’ve got a new house, but it doesn’t quite feel like home yet. Give your new place the makeover it needs to make it feel like it’s truly yours.

We’ve put together a list of 11 things you can do to drastically change the appearance of your home, easily and affordable. By the time you’re done, the old owners won’t even recognize the place anymore.

 1. A FreshFarbroller Coat of Paint

Perhaps the most cost-effective way to dramatically change the appearance of any room, a fresh layer of paint is the first order of business for any new  home makeover.

 2. Install Interior Shutters

Swinging wood shutters add charm and privacy to your home. They’re also easy to install.

 3. Refinish Kitchen Cabinets

You don’t have to replace the cabinets to make your kitchen look brand new and you don’t need very many supplies for this project either. Some cleaner, sandpaper, paint brush, the finish of your choice, and a weekend of time is all you need.

4. Refinish Your Wood Door

Damp weather and bright sunshine damage the appearance of your front door over time. Rather than replacing it, you can refinish it with a few affordable supplies.

5. Power Wash Your Deck

If the previous owner failed to maintain their deck, chances are it has more blemishes than you can count. However, a power wash and thorough scrubbing can revive that old deck in no time.

6. Install Stair Bracketsdeck_washing

Decorative stair brackets added to the exposed side of your staircase adds architectural flair and elegance. They’re easy to install using adhesive and nails.

7. Add a Back Splash to Your Kitchen

Backs splashes are affordable, easy to install, and easy to clean. With so many options available you can find exactly what you want to complement your kitchen.

8. Update Kitchen and Bathroom Faucets

You can find stylish and functional faucets that are reasonably priced and easy to install. Small changes like this have a big impact on the appearance of a room.

9. Install Dimmers on Your Lights

Dimmed lights dramatically change the atmosphere of a room. Installing dimmers is easier than you think and doesn’t cost much either.

10. Replace Your Shower Head

You can install a new shower head for the purpose of saving money on your utility bill, increasing water pressure, or simply for aesthetic appeal. Most shower heads can be replaced in less than five minutes.

11. Replace Cabinet Knobs

Adding or replacing knobs on cabinets gives your new home a custom look that you can easily change whenever you want. Installation is a breeze and affordable knobs are easy to find.

 

Image Credits to: CaptainsavehomeWikipedia

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