The plight of uninsured householders affected by the Australian bushfires is a reminder of the importance of buildings and contents cover, even if securing it can be more difficult or costly when your home is at greater risk from natural forces such as storm, fire or flood. One victim did have their misfortune balanced out by an A$1m (£530k) lottery win, but it is perhaps unwise to rely on such luck.

Clearly, the greatest tragedy of the bushfires has been human fatalities and the massive loss of wildlife. However, those who have escaped injury but lost their homes and possessions have often suffered trauma, as well as the prospect of rebuilding their finances, their homes and their lives. Insurance cover can be a financial lifeline when such a disaster strikes.

Underinsurance: a false economy

Uninsured and underinsured householders in Australia, as elsewhere, could end up regretting their false economy. In fire-ravaged New South Wales, a levy on insurers pays the bulk of emergency service costs and this adds about 25% to premiums, meaning more people there aren’t insured. Other states fund emergency services through a property tax, making insurance more affordable.

The moral of the story? Wherever you are in the world, don’t be tempted to save money by underinsuring your property. You might end up paying for it down the line.

It’ll never happen here…

Well, actually it could. While wildfires are relatively unusual in the rainy UK, February’s dreadful storms reminded us of risks related to that, they do occur. In April 2019, firefighters tackled moorland blazes in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. According to New Scientist, there were more UK wildfires last year than ever before, with fires in the Midlands, South West, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Scottish Highlands recorded by the National Fire Chiefs Council.

When buying a property, it is generally best to have a survey carried out, even if your mortgage lender is also conducting a valuation that involves an inspection. A thorough survey conducted on your behalf may reveal defects or possible costly problems you need to be aware of.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is the professional body that sets standards across the profession. The qualifications it awards confirm that the surveyor concerned has passed their exams following rigorous study and training.

Qualification matters

Surveyors can gain various levels of RICS qualification: Associate Member (AssocRICS), Chartered Member (MRICS) and Fellow (FRICS). They can offer a range of survey types, including HomeBuyer Reports and Building Surveys, which are governed by laws and rules that may vary in different parts of the UK.

Other qualifications exist, including the Diploma in Residential Surveying (DipRSurv). This is a route some surveyors take to their AssocRICS. Surveyors may also belong to the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) or the Independent Surveyors and Valuers Association (ISVA).

Georgian origins

It was back in 1792, during the architectural heyday of the Georgian era, that a group of leading surveyors set up The Surveyors’ Club. This was relatively informal, but in the ensuing decades, membership increased and plans were made for a more structured professional association.

The 19th century saw rapid urban, industrial and transport development, and reliable standards were badly needed. In 1868, about 50 participants gathered at a Westminster hotel and resolved to form the Institution of Surveyors under the presidency of eminent railway surveyor John Clutton.

Victorian charter

Premises near the Houses of Parliament were leased by the institution (still RICS HQ today). Its work was quickly recognised as beneficial to the many ambitious projects of the day and, in 1881, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors was incorporated by Royal Charter granted by Queen Victoria.

Much has changed since RICS became Chartered; its standards and qualifications have been updated over the decades to ensure they meet current needs. Always be certain about the credentials of anyone conducting a survey on your behalf. It is unwise to take any chances when buying a property.

As a mortgage is secured against your home or property, it could be repossessed if you do not keep up mortgage repayments.

While buyer sentiment has become more positive, sellers continue to be wary of uncertain economic conditions, according to the latest ‘State of the Property Nation’ report1 from Zoopla. The subsequent COVID-19 outbreak will no doubt have an impact

More buyers eager to make the move

Finding a property in the right location and within budget has always been challenging for buyers, but the good news is that the number of house hunters who have felt frustrated by these difficulties has fallen 5 percentage points in the past year. Meanwhile, nearly a third (32%) of active property seekers say they are more serious about moving than ever before.

Sellers remain wary

The sentiment gap is growing, however, as sellers appear less convinced by the so-called ‘Boris bounce’ and remain wary of ongoing economic instability. In particular, they fear not achieving their asking price, with 31% of aspiring sellers concerned that buyers won’t be willing to pay what they feel their property is worth.

A reason for caution?

Are prospective sellers right to remain so hesitant? Well, perhaps not. Experts predict modest house price growth this year, with Savills2 and Rightmove3 predicting 1% and 2% growth, respectively.

Looking to the future, Savills forecasts a more significant cumulative rise of 15% over the next five years – albeit with significant regional differences. While the true impact of Brexit remains uncertain during the transition period, property-buying firm Good Move has suggested that three-quarters of Britons overestimate the negative impact Brexit has had on house prices4.

Count on us

Property transactions can be a daunting process, whether you’re buying, selling or both, so it’s little wonder that many remain cautious. That’s where we come in. We can assess your financial situation and aim to help you find the most suitable mortgage deal for your circumstances and offer professional advice to help ease your doubts. Just get in touch.

1 Zoopla, 2020, 2 Savills, 2020, 3 Rightmove, 2020, 4 Good Move, 2019

As a mortgage is secured against your home or property, it could be repossessed if you do not keep up mortgage repayments.

In the current climate, there is uncertainty in all of our lives with both health and financial concerns. However, while we are all understandably focusing on the here and now, it might be worth using this time to take a step back and review your long-term financial wellbeing as well. This newsletter takes a look at some of the areas you might want to consider. Of course, we are on hand to support you through any challenges ahead.


  • Economy predicted to grow by 1.1% in 2020-21, revised down from 1.4% forecast a year ago (this figure does not take into account the impact of COVID–19)
  • Growth predicted to rebound to 1.8% in 2021–22, easing back to 1.5% in 2022–23
  • Inflation forecast of 1.4% this year, increasing to 1.8% in 2021–2022


  • £5bn emergency response fund to support the NHS and other public services in England
  • All those advised to self-isolate will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, even if they have not presented with symptoms
  • Self-employed workers who are not eligible will be able to claim contributory Employment and Support Allowance (available from day one)
  • £500m hardship fund for councils in England to help the most vulnerable in their areas
  • Firms with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay payments for two weeks
  • Small firms will be able to access business interruption loans
  • Business rates in England will be suspended for firms in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with a rateable value below £51,000
  • £6bn in extra NHS funding over five years to pay for staff recruitment and start of hospital upgrades


  • The tax threshold for National Insurance Contributions will rise to £9,500 (previously announced)
  • Tax paid on the pensions of high earners, including NHS consultants, to be recalculated to address staffing issues
  • The two tapered Annual Allowance thresholds for pensions will each be raised by £90,000
  • The minimum level to which the Annual Allowance can taper down will reduce from £10,000 to £4,000 from April 2020
  • Annual Capital Gains Tax exemption increased to £12,300 from 2020–21
  • ISA allowance to remain at £20,000 for 2020–21 tax year / JISA allowance increase to £9,000 for 2020–21 tax year
  • The Lifetime Allowance for pensions will increase in line with the Consumer Prices Index, to £1,073,100 for 2020–21
  • From 11 March 2020 the Lifetime Allowance on gains eligible for Entrepreneurs’ Relief reduced from £10m to £1m
  • The new single-tier State Pension will increase to £175.20 per week in April 2020, pensioners receiving the older basic State Pension will see it increase to £134.25 per week.

In the current climate, there is uncertainty in all of our lives with both health and financial concerns. However, while we are all understandably focusing on the here and now, it might be worth using this time to take a step back and review your long-term financial wellbeing as well. This newsletter takes a look at some of the areas you might want to consider. Of course, we are on hand to support you through any challenges ahead.

In March, Rishi Sunak’s debut Budget tackled the Covid-19 outbreak head-on, responding with a fiscal stimulus of £30bn to support the NHS and businesses.

In the first of two Budgets this year, relatively little was announced about housing. The agenda did include new taxes for overseas property buyers. From 1 April 2021 non-resident buyers of homes in England and Northern Ireland will have to pay a 2% Stamp Duty Land Tax surcharge, tempered down from the 3% surcharge outlined in the Conservative election manifesto. This measure is expected to affect 70,000 of the UK’s total 1.2 million annual property transactions.

Other housing measures include an extension of the affordable homes programme (£12.2bn funding), a 1% cut for local authorities in interest rates for social housing, a £1.1bn allocation from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to build 70,000 new homes in high-demand areas and funding to remove unsafe cladding. In all, over £600bn is to be spent on roads, rail, broadband and housing by the middle of 2025.

In addition, the Chancellor announced that Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government would set out comprehensive reforms to overhaul Britain’s planning system. Outlined the following day, these reforms will aim to create a simpler planning system and improve the capacity, capability and performance of Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to accelerate the development process.

The Bank of England chose Budget day to announce an emergency cut in its base rate from 0.75% to 0.25%, returning it to its lowest level in history. A further emergency cut to 0.1% was announced on 19 March. The Bank said its role is: “to help UK businesses and households manage through an economic shock that could prove sharp and large but should be temporary.” Good news for home buyers, those looking to remortgage and those on base-rate tracker mortgages. The large number of homeowners who have already taken advantage of lower lending rates to secure a fixed mortgage will not benefit. Also, many aspiring first-time buyers saving for a deposit may initially suffer downside from the base rate move, as banks and building societies may opt to cut their savings rates.

Some housing industry commentators have expressed disappointment that there were no initiatives announced to help first-time buyers, replace Help to Buy, or measures proposed to reform Stamp Duty.

Following the election at the tail end of 2019, the ‘Boris bounce’ provided some long overdue momentum in the housing market, with data highlighting that buyer interest in some parts of the UK jumped over 60% year-on-year. Now the global COVID-19 outbreak has arrived, it’s difficult to quantify the likely impact on both the commercial and residential sectors.

While there are many factors involved with determining the mood and movement of the property market, few things have a bigger impact than uncertainty. Rest assured we are here to help, if you have any questions about the property sector, mortgages or your protection requirements – please get in touch.

If the former Leeds Permanent Building Society had ‘done what it says on the tin’ like that wood-stain in the old TV ad, the mortgage lender would surely still have branches on Britain’s high streets. Savers might even be able to invest in its Liquid Gold account, the ‘nice little earner’ promoted in another old advert by the late George Cole, who played likeable rogue Arthur Daley in ‘Minder’.

On the basis that within financial services ‘permanent’ should mean what it says, maybe that Arthur Daley character was just the man to front a here-today-gone-tomorrow outfit? Well, ‘The Leeds’ wasn’t really like that, as building society history confirms. The first building society of all, founded in 1775 in Birmingham, was a ‘terminating’ society, as were the other 250-plus established by 1825.

When the Leeds Building and Investment Society opened in 1846, it too was a terminating society, one whose members pooled resources to provide their own homes and shut down once all were housed. At that time, only a few societies had begun accepting savings and financing homes for a wider membership with the intention of perpetual operation.

Perpetual notion

Seeing permanent status as the future, in 1848 the society converted into what later became Leeds Permanent. It was soon helping homebuyers throughout Yorkshire and during its first century grew its assets beyond £40m with its countrywide expansion. Later, the wave of privatising and demutualising that began in the 1980s saw ‘The Leeds’ merge with Halifax Building Society in 1995.

Halifax plc united with Bank of Scotland in 2001 as HBOS, which was absorbed by Lloyds Banking Group during the 2009 financial crisis. Meanwhile, in 2005, a small but old society, Leeds & Holbeck, opted to drop ‘& Holbeck’ and confusingly rebranded as Leeds Building Society. In this evolving market of banks, building societies and alternative lenders, as your mortgage adviser, we are always totally at home.

As a mortgage is secured against your home or property, it could be repossessed if you do not keep up mortgage repayments


On average, over-50s in Britain have £56,574 worth of unused space standing empty in their properties (usually bedrooms belonging to children who have since flown the nest)3.

Many are reluctant to downsize due to the nostalgia and memories linked to their family homes.


House prices crept up by just 0.6% last October, the lowest monthly rise for the time of year since October 2008. This is against an average ‘Autumn Bounce’ of 1.6% over the past decade.

Sluggish prices and political uncertainty are also causing many would-be sellers to put their plans on hold, with the number of properties entering the market down 13.5% on the same time last year4.


Buying or selling a property can be an expensive business, if new research on moving costs is to be believed. If you’re looking to move, make sure you have a bit of spare cash to hand – the average moving cost now stands at a record high of £10,4145 (£25,585 in London)!

Higher Stamp Duty and conveyancing fees are believed to be the main culprits behind escalating costs.

3Equity Release Supermarket, 2019
4Rightmove, 2019
5ReallyMoving, 2019

As well as the Bank of Mum and Dad, the ‘Bank of Granny and Grandad’ now plays a major role in helping both prospective and existing homeowners.

Recent figures show that nearly a third of buyers aged 18-34 were helped financially by their grandparents to buy their home and 12% of existing homeowners have received assistance from the Bank of Granny and Grandad9.

On average, the amount received is around £7,400. Based on the latest government house price data, this figure equates to around 30% of a typical 10% deposit worth £23,437.

9Trussle, 2019

Picture this: a spark from an open fire has caused a blaze in a house on a city street and the flames have spread to next door. The residents have all escaped safely and the fire brigade has been called. Fire appliances are soon on the scene and hosing water onto one of the blazing houses – but not the other.

Why just one house? It’s 1770 not 2020 and the fire chief has spotted an insurance company’s fire-mark plate on the front of the house getting the dousing. The chief works for that insurer and only fights fires on premises it has covered, as evidenced by a metal fire-mark.

That’s how things worked in 1770. After the Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed many homes and brought multiple disputes between landlords and tenants over rebuilding costs, minds had turned to how the financial impact of fire damage could be mitigated.

As a Museum of London historian explains: “In 1680 the first fire insurance company was set up by Nicholas Barbon. Other insurance companies followed and by 1690 one in 10 houses in London was insured. By 1700 companies began to employ their own fire brigades [to cut claim costs].

It took another Great Fire, in Edinburgh during November 1824, to accelerate a further beneficial change – the development of fire brigades under local authority control. The insurers’ direct firefighting role ended, but they continued providing cover to meet the expense of fire damage.

A lot more has changed since. Buildings insurance cover can include subsidence (an excess may apply), flood, storm and fire damage. Cover for contents may also include theft, accidental damage and use away from home. Getting the right buildings and contents cover is vital – like having a fire-mark on your wall in 1770.