David Woolman, Director of Woolbro Group, shares his thoughts with the Evening Standard.
The Chancellor unveiled a new mortgage guarantee scheme to help homeowners get onto the property ladder. Although it will not be replacing the current initiatives in place, such as the Help-to-Buy scheme, it will be a welcome addition of support for the residential sector. Even more so in London, where average house prices are higher and much larger deposits are needed for first-time buyers. The new initiative will increase affordability across the whole market for many potential homebuyers.
Before the pandemic, first-time buyers had huge sway on the property market and accounted for more than half of the homes purchased with a mortgage. The pandemic has meant there have been fewer lower deposit options available for first-time buyers, with banks withdrawing their 5% deposit mortgage offers in early 2020.
With this new scheme, there will be additional support for all buyers and more favourable mortgage offers. In addition, it should in theory speed up and simplify the mortgage application process. Traditionally, with HTB, homebuyers need to seek approval from both mortgage lenders and the government to qualify. However, with the mortgage guarantee scheme, the government will provide lenders with incentives to bring back 95% mortgages, taking on more of the risk, and ultimately, simplifying the application process.
Playing a key role in the wider regeneration of the iconic Wembley area of London, our proposal includes both the demolition and redevelopment of an existing warehouse to transform the site into 100 one, two and three-bedroom residential units set across seven floors, 50% of which will be affordable. This major development will also include 12,000 sq ft of commercial units offering a mixture of flexible modern workspaces.
The scheme is in the heart of the Alperton Growth Area, reflects the London Borough of Brent’s goal of mixed-use regeneration along the Grand Union Canal, and is part of meeting the borough’s ambitious housing targets by 2026.
Designed by HWO Architects in partnership with Evolution Estate Developments, plans include thoughtfully designed landscaped gardens with additional cycle parking facilities to accommodate the growing demand for sustainable commuting options. In accordance with the Alperton Masterplan, plans also include improved pedestrian routes to the Grand Union Canal with continuous access to the towpath.
As we seek to provide innovative solutions that benefit the neighbourhood, this scheme will embrace the concept of ‘maker spaces’, allowing the local community to thrive and work in the area.
With planning permission now granted, work on-site is due to start in the summer of 2021 with completion expected in 2023.
An opportunity for first time buyers to invest in previously unaffordable areas.
We may be biased, however, there are some very good reasons for buying a new build, unless of course you adore period properties and all their charms, in which case a new build is probably not for you. In the bid to boost the number of new builds available, new homes are being built all the time, meaning there is a much wider pool of properties to choose from. A property’s location is a key consideration, and many new build developments give buyers an opportunity to invest in areas which would previously have been unaffordable.
New builds are energy efficient. Reducing your carbon footprint, and low energy bills is surely a good thing. At Woolbro Homes, all our homes include Smart Meters, triple glazing, good insulation and solar panelling.
There is a certain peace of mind which comes from knowing that all appliances and fixtures are new, reducing money spent on repairs in the first few years. This plug and play approach to moving in, allows you to settle into your new home far quicker, which works well for those who don’t want to take on a renovation project. Often, fixtures and fittings can be customised, so apartments can still be made to feel personal, rather than the characterless features which can too often be associated with new builds.
Most new builds come with government incentives, such as HTB, Shared Ownership and the new Mortgage Guarantee Scheme, giving first time buyers a real chance to jump quickly onto the property ladder, instead of having to save for years and years.
So, is buying a new build a good idea? If the above reasons feel right for your situation, then a new build is probably a good way to go.
Mortgage wait times have soared.
Before the pandemic it took two weeks to get a mortgage offer. It is now taking up to six weeks, much to the frustration of potential homebuyers and brokers. We can of course blame Covid, the go-to excuse for 2020, and partly it has been brought about by increased home working and the desire for more space, but the main reason is simply that buyers are keen to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday, hence demand has surged.
Can the lenders do anything more to speed it up?
Well, yes. There are few things which could be reviewed in order to better handle the situation:
• Make it less of a national box ticking exercise and take more of a personal approach when looking at the buyer’s financial situation.
• Assign more case managers to help guide buyers through the application process.
• Have an underwriter check the initial application to make sure the required documents are all there and in order, reducing the risk of delays at a later stage.
• If the lender is unable to process the application within a reasonable timeframe, they should perhaps restrict lending or be extremely clear with the borrower in the first instance. The borrower can then make a decision call as to whether to proceed or look for another lender and not risk losing their home.
In short, the lenders need to up their game. From the borrower’s side, get your credit report in shape and prepare well before applying and hopefully you will sail through with no errors.
Here are a few things you can do to help make the process a bit easier.
1) Start gathering a deposit The very first step is to work out your financial situation. Buying a home (particularly for the first time) will most likely require a mortgage. How much you can borrow will depend on several factors, from your earnings and your overall credit score to the area in which you would like to live. Ideally, you will need 20% of the house price, but if you don’t have that don’t worry. The governments Shared Ownership and Help To Buy schemes are in place to support a lower down payment. To calculate your borrowing capacity, check out our HTB calculator here: https://woolbrogroup.com/homes/. We recommend finding a good mortgage broker to help guide you towards the best product on the current market.
2) Searching for your new home Find a decent estate agent and start looking on @rightmove to get a feel as to what is out there and what you can get for your money. Since the number of new homes listed can be overwhelming, it is a good idea to set up some filters on your search. Viewing properties is time consuming, so it is important that you tell the estate agents clearly what you want and don’t want, to avoid wasted viewings.
3) Make an offer! When you see a home you love and you can imagine living there, then the next logical step is to make an offer. We highly recommend being financially qualified (via the sales financial team) before making any offer, so you don’t get your hopes up about a property, to then find that it is slightly out of reach.
4) The legals Picking the right solicitor is actually one of the most important aspects to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. As part of the conveyance process, your solicitor will raise any queries once the draft contract has been received and request searches to provide you with more in depth information about your new home and check that everything is compliant. If your solicitor is not on the ball, this process can drag on for months and it can cause frustration for all parties involved. Once the searches and valuation have been performed, contracts can be exchanged and steps will be made to move towards completion. If you are using Help To Buy, it is also worth keeping them on your radar and double checking all the documents before submitting them, as one wrong detail on a form, can really slow the whole process down.
5) Completion and moving in Completion is the day you officially get your keys! All of the necessary transactions from all parties involved will have gone through and you will receive a message to say that the keys can now be released. This an exciting moment, and means you can now finally think about moving in and starting life in your new home! Now all you have to do is pack your boxes and it’s at this point we realise that we don’t need half of the things that we carry around with us, but that’s for another post!
Director, Ben Woolman shares his thoughts on the practicality of virtual planning meetings in a recent issue of Property Week.
The government shut down many industries in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but not all of the construction industry. This stance has had huge implications, not just for developers and contractors but also planning authorities.
Legislative changes were made back in March, allowing planning committees to meet virtually and since then have become vital in helping to maintain the progression of planning applications.
So to what extent are local authorities using VPCs and could they be here to stay?
Developers report that applications are being processed more quickly as a result of the move to VPCs. “We’re finding that some local authorities are working quicker”, says Ben Woolman, director of Woolbro Group. “The response rate from planning officers in some examples has improved as offices have adapted well to remote working”.
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