RICS Publish Housing Market Forecast for 2013

Front doors, residential property

The RICS have issued their forecast for the UK housing market for 2013. According to the RICS prices are set to rise in the UK by an increase of 2%. The cost of renting is also expected to rise by up to 4%.

The RICS recognise the UK is not out of the economic doldrums quite yet but predict some “slight improvements” which will be reflected in the housing market.

They predict a rise in the number of transactions by just over 3% to 960,000; against a total of 930,000 in 2012. The RICS report this is still a significant decrease on 2006; their 2013 forecast representing just under 58% of the 2006 transaction figures.

London’s prime central market is predicted to remain stable, whereas the rest of the capital is expected to continue with above average increases. The South East and North West are predicted to see modest rises. The remainder of the UK is expected to dip slightly or remain stagnant, indicating that the London bubble is expected to drive market growth.

Gloomier news is that due to the negative equity generated by large loan to value ratios in the peak of the boom, repossessions are predicted to continue, with only a modest drop in repossession figures to below 35,000.

See the full RICS report here. RICS Housing Update December 2012

Glimmers of Positivity in the housing market.

Signs of improvements in the housing market are continuing to develop, although there is no doubt that people are still struggling to get into the housing market.

ThisisMoney.co.uk report a 1.5% increase in house prices in the year to October 2012 and a growth in demand. Mortgage rates are also reported to have fallen, thought to be as a result of the Funding For Lending scheme by the Bank of England which is supplying cheap money to banks and building societies to encourage them to lend at cheaper rated to borrowers.

The Telegraph report that mortgage lending has improved in the last ten months. However, with comparably unfavorable mortgage terms, stamp duty, professional fees, removals costs and other hidden expenses it is easy to see why people are playing safe and staying put rather than stretching themselves beyond their means.

 

Six Steps to a Party Wall Award

Party wallRecently we have had a number of requests for information regarding party wall procedure. With the aim of providing guidance the following is an overview of the basic procedure of serving Party Wall notices:

1. Firstly, do you need to issue a party wall notice? For the sake of argument let’s say you do. Do you know what type of notice needs to be served? A line of junction notice? A party structure notice? Or a notice of adjacent excavation? In some cases it may be just one in some cases it may be all three. This can easily be determined by any good Party Wall Surveyor who knows the Party Wall Act.

2. Secondly, on whom are you serving notice? Who is the freeholder? Are there any leaseholders? Does the proposed work affect more than one structure? If so, there are likely to be a number of parties to whom notice must be served.

3. With the aforementioned identified notice can be served. RMA Surveyors Ltd are often asked to become involved in Party Wall matters after notice has been served. Clients sometimes see an early saving being made by not appointing a Party Wall Surveyor, as the process seems simple at the outset. However, as the process develops it can become more complex and Building Owners seek to appoint Party Wall Surveyors to untangle the knots. We would say two things at this juncture. Firstly, fees for initial notice are usually minimal. Secondly, issue of the correct, properly drafted notices at the outset will save time. If a notice is not correct, it is invalid and another valid notice must be served. It can take two months before works can start from date of issue of a valid notice.

4. Valid notice is served to the Adjoining Owner. They now have fourteen days to respond. The adjoining owner can assent or dissent to the proposed works. If the adjoining owner does not respond in this period, works are deemed to be in dispute. If the Adjoining Owner agrees to works, the Building Owner may, by written agreement, proceed with works. We strongly recommend a condition survey of the Adjoining Owner’s property be undertaken prior to works commencing, to provide a benchmark and avoid later dispute.

5. If no response is received or the Adjoining Owner dissents to works the building owner will need to write to the adjoining owner to request they appoint a Party Wall Surveyor. The Adjoining Owner may opt to use the Surveyor appointed by the Building Owner. They may prefer to appoint their own Surveyor. In most cases the fee for the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor will be borne by the Building Owner.

6. Once appointed the Agreed Surveyor or Surveyors should then work to draw up a Party Wall Award. A Party Wall Award is the framework whereby works affecting the party structure are to be executed. A condition survey of the Adjoining Owner’s property will be undertaken. Once the Party Wall Award is agreed and published works can commence from the date stated within the Award.

Please also see our Party Wall Pitfalls blog with more useful guidance about the Party Wall process.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed at the rear of a propertyJapanese knotweed is an amazing plant. The young stems are edible and taste like bamboo shoots. It can grow over 20 feet in height. Its root systems can penetrate as deep as 3 metres below ground surface level. In some cases it has been reported to grow as deep as 5 metres. It usually grows in thick clumps (or stands). It can grow in a variety of soil PH’s. It will grow from a small cutting and will rapidly reroot itself. Where roots are disrupted new shoots will begin from breaks in the root, travelling vertically and horizontally through the ground. Its subterranean root system can survive double figure sub-zero temperatures. The mid-19th Century saw its introduction to the United Kingdom as it became popular with landscapers as it could grow quickly, form dense screens and hold together land banks with its root system. It was widely used in Wales to hold together subsiding railway embankments. Japanese knotweed has no predators in the UK and as such is not easily controlled. The saving grace is that the plant in this country is female only and is not espablished by seeds. However, the roots and stems can establish in new soil easily if not carefully disposed of.

The plant is a hardy one and it is illegal to spread the plant under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Soil deemed to be contaminated with Japanese knotweed is sighted as controlled waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In recent years lenders have begun declining loans on properties due to the presence of Japanese knotweed on sites. Most buildings insurance policies do not cover damage and problems caused by Japanese knotweed.

Close up of Japanese knotweedJapanese knotweed can damage ruin gardens, drains, paths paving, walls and out buildings. In rare and exceptional cases it has been reported to affect foundations and floors.
It can be treated in a number of ways. Herbicides can be applied, but this is usually necessary over a number of years. This is most economic, but not always effective. Excavation of contaminated soil is also employed, but soil must be disposed of as hazardous waste and the depth of the root system can mean excavation and disposal amounts to serious costs. Experiments with introduced grazing insects are being trialled, but there are obvious unknowns with introducing non-native insects into the environment. Japanese knotweed being the case in point.

The presence of Japanese knotweed is likely to affect the value of a property and remediation is expensive. Caught early enough and not disrupted the plant can be eradicated before it spreads.

I took these photo’s at a property in Bath. Unfortunately the knotweed had taken root outside the rear of the property. The building occupant was pleased he was only renting the property. The landlord and neighbours are likely to have a very different view on it.

RMA serves up food for thought at Hungerford Big Business Breakfast

Richard Mountain deleviring an insight into what buildings can tell us.Have you ever wondered what would be stories could be told if the walls could talk. Richard Mountain delivered a 10 minute presentation at Hungerford Big Business Breakfast (HBBB) on Tuesday 16th May 2012 that gave an insight into what they say.

Richard, chartered building surveyor and owner of RMA Surveyors Ltd,  frequently enters into dialogue with buildings. He gave practical examples of the kinds of conservations he has to fellow attendees at one of West Berkshire’s premium networking event, held at the Bear Hotel in Hungerford.

HBBB is held monthly and draws a wide variety of experts, services and business professionals. Richard enjoyed presenting to the room and imparting some of his expertise, whilst demonstrating why he is so passionate about building surveying.

After delivering his well received presentation he said “The group is unique and very relaxed. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to explain a little bit more about what I do. I am pleased that my talk engaged with everyone and I had the opportunity to demonstrate the skills required to provide the professional service we do at RMA Surveyors Ltd.”

Richard is actively seeking further public speaking opportunities to demonstrate the benefits of his expertise. The next HBBB is June 19th contact Sarah Culpepper of the Bear Hotel for more details.

Homebuyers are being refused mortgages due to 'free' solar panels | Press Releases | Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

Homebuyers are being refused mortgages due to ‘free’ solar panels | Press Releases | Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Top 5 Building Maintenance Tips

Defects that affect the structure of a building are usually caused by the simplest of issues,  which are easily remedied with a regular cyclical maintenance programme. The age old adage that prevention is better than cure rings true. The following is a list of the RMA Surveyors Ltd top 5 problems regularly encountered that could be easily prevented.

Poorly maintaned guttering1.    Keep rainwater goods regularly cleared and maintained. This is one of the simplest practical steps one can make to maintain any property. Safe access should always be factored in, particularly on larger commercial premises. That said the regular maintenance and clearing of rainwater goods will save hundreds, often thousands of pounds in remedying associated defects. We have discovered a dry rot outbreak covering three floors of a four story commercial premises; damaged masonry and staining; water ingress inside the building saturating the concrete floor screed; rotten external timbers and windows; damaged plaster and decorations internally; rusting of steel framing to a prefabricated system built property. All of these defects could have been easily prevented by maintenance of gutters and downpipes. In some cases poor rainwater management can lead to more serious structural damage caused by subsidence, where soil has been eroded away. For a small annual cost such problems could easily be avoided.

Partially blocked sub floor ventilation grille2.    Ventilation of buildings. This is a broad ranging subject, but in essence all one needs to do is remember a simple rule that buildings and their materials need to be adequately ventilated (or breath). The typical scenario we find is where suspended timber ground floors are not adequately ventilated. The presence of ventilation grilles on external walls indicates that the floor is likely to be timber and the void below needs to be well ventilated to prevent the accumulation of moisture. Typically solid floor extensions are installed and no provision is made to retain ventilation. This can create unventilated pockets where moisture can accumulate allowing the conditions for wood boring insects larvae (commonly called woodworm) and all kinds of rot to establish. Simply ensuring that ventilation grilles are maintained and not covered over could end up saving you thousands.

Loose repointing undertaking using cement rich mortar3.    Masonry repairs are often undertaken without due consideration for what original materials were used. Commonly I find that brickwork gets repointed in a cement mortar that is stronger than the surrounding brickwork. The result of this is that the mortar joints no longer allow water to evaporate and the brickwork begins to retain more water. On solid walled properties this can lead to damp on the internal wall surfaces. It can also mean damage to bricks in cold weather as the surface of the brick can be pushed off by the freeze/thaw cycle. Often repointing work can work itself loose due to expansion and contraction at differing rates with the brickwork and repointing is required far sooner than should be required. Make sure that when you are undertaking external masonry repairs it is done so by a contractor who understands the original construction and the work is correctly specified.

Flashing junction weathered with bitumen tape4.    Critical junctions between building elements such as chimneys and extensions are often poorly weathered with lead flashings in poor condition or missing altogether. The recent spate of metal thefts has compounded to the issue, as people are becoming increasingly reluctant to replace lead. Opting for cheaper bitumen backed aluminium tape is a temporary solution, but should not be relied upon to form a proper long term weatherproof junction. Where lead flashings are installed the standard of workmanship can often well below par. If you are planning to have any lead work undertaken make sure it is done by an experienced installer who understands the material and follows the industry standard guidance available from the Lead Sheet Association.

Jungle outside a back door5.    Finally, external decorations and maintenance of vegetation. Innumerable problems are associated with the simplest of maintenance tasks, namely vegetation management. Ivy climbing up walls may look idyllic but in some cases it can do permanent damage to masonry and cause all manner of associated problems. Careful pruning and maintenance of trees near buildings is also worthwhile especially in drought affected areas as the amount of water taken up by maturing trees can cause subsidence. A simple lick of paint every 5 years to external joinery will prevent costly maintenance of external and internal elements.

The above are simple measures that will save you time, stress and money. If you have a property that requires a detailed cyclical maintenance program, so you can plan and manage your maintenance budgets, or you require more urgent repairs and remediation, then please contact us. Our initial consultations are always free and we would be pleased to provide you with a full quotation based on the level of service you require.

Richard Mountain MRICS

Buy-to-Let Boom

Brook House, Northbrook StreetThe move is over the dust is settled and I have found some time to write a long overdue web update. So, what’s new?

The fanfares are out. RMA Surveyors Ltd have moved into Brook House in Northbrook Street. We now lease offices with Young Associates, an independent, specialist property management and consultancy firm. The move is a positive step for us, and we are sure it will be of benefit to both ourselves and other businesses in Newbury, now we have a presence in the heart of the town centre.

The RICS released an article this week formally recognising we are in a but-to-let boom. “Boom” is not a word we have heard in recent years and the activity in this sector is a clear indication that property is still a good investment. For those landlord’s or speculators who are making such investments I would add a cautionary note to invest in a detailed Building Survey or Home Buyers Report to prevent your investment becoming a liability. This service is an asset not a burden.

Older properties can require far more than a fresh coat of paint or a new kitchen or bathroom. Without the surety of a qualified surveyor’s opinion, investors could find themselves subject to all sorts of defects brought about by inherent poor design and previous lack of maintenance. I find the surveys I produce for my clients are a fantastic tool for negotiation. As such the survey pays for itself, and if it doesn’t bring the price down it should provide peace of mind that a property professional has cast their expert eye over it.

In the same vein, I have had plenty of experience of producing life cycle cost assessments to help commercial property building managers and businesses plan their budgets and maintenance cycles. In the residential market this approach is rarely taken. However, as landlord’s investments grow, commissioning of a stock condition survey of the entire portfolio is an invaluable tool. Allowing assessment of the current and future maintenance liability.

Good news for potential sellers. We now offer a presale survey, aimed at potential property sellers designed to make them aware of any defects their buildings may have prior to sale. This benefits a seller by identifying items requiring repair and defects likely to affect the sale or purchase price prior to marketing the property.

If you have any questions or need some professional property advice please contact us. An initial consultation is free and you will benefit from our advice.

Insurance Reinstatement Experts

Impact damge to house We keep hearing from clients that they never knew they could use an independent building surveyor to oversee the insurance reinstatement of their property. Here are a few reasons why it is better to use RMA Surveyors Ltd, an independent chartered building surveyor, to oversee the reinstatement of your property.

Larger insurance brokers offer their own in-house surveyors to oversee fire, flood, water and impact damage claims to property. These companies will appoint the services of their surveyors, to act on your behalf, after they have undertaken their initial assessment of the damage to your property. Often these brokers do not fully explain that you are not obliged to use their in-house surveyor’s services. You are free to appoint your own independent surveyor to specify, tender and oversee works on your behalf under your policy cover. Because your insurance policy covers the fees of an independent surveyor, like RMA Surveyors Ltd , it will not cost you a penny to get impartial, qualified and quality advice and management for the duration of the insurance reinstatement works.

Using an independent chartered building surveyor like RMA Surveyors Ltd is a better option for many reasons. Firstly, using RMA Surveyors Ltd guarantees you are using a qualified professional who is regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). As RICS surveyors we are governed by a code of conduct and must act reasonably and impartially at all times.

Secondly, as chartered building surveyors we are professionally obliged to undertake projects diligently and must have the resources and capacity to fulfil a project. Large insurance broker surveyors often have many projects on the go at any one time over a large geographical area. They do not have the time to provide a tailored, bespoke service to each project. Consequently they cannot provide the same attention to detail, often missing important elements critical to the smooth completion of the project. A high turnover of staff and reallocation of resources in these companies can mean you deal with a number of different surveyors. Often works can be specified by the broker’s in-house surveyors by using template documents that do not fit the criteria of an individual project. RMA Surveyors Ltd provide a personal service with a meticulous approach, tailored to each individual property.

Thirdly, RMA Surveyors Ltd provide a fully accountable service which is efficient, detailed and comprehensive at all stages of the project. We also understand the stress and upheaval caused by such events as flood, fire, impact and water damage and endeavour to provide swift reinstatement of your property. As a result of their limited resources, broker’s in-house surveyors are often difficult to contact, do not properly oversee the quality of materials and workmanship on site, are slow to react to problems that arise and provide incomplete documentation.

Lastly, RMA Surveyors Ltd ensure that all works are undertaken by quality independent building contractors, using industry standard building contracts which protect you and clearly define your rights. Therefore, in the unlikely event that something does go wrong you are protected. Often broker’s in-house surveying departments use contracts that heavily favour themselves and their own approved contractors; effectively absolving them of responsibility should a problem arise.

If you have an insurance claim that is causing undue stress or you need some free advice please contact us. We would welcome the opportunity to help you.

A Cold Snap Could Snap Pipes

Bird box in the snowWith weather warnings announced for snow in parts of south Wales, the southwest of England and with a small fluttering of snow on cars this morning here in Berkshire, it’s forecast that we’re in for another cold snap this week.

A survey last year showed that over three million of us suffered damage to our homes in the winter freeze of 2010/2011. The extreme winter weather that occurred between October 2010 and February 2011 damaged 6% of all homes in the UK.

Often the biggest damage caused is the result of escape of water caused by frozen and burst pipes. Extreme cold can cause internal and external water pipes and drainage systems to freeze up, when this happens the water in the pipes expands and can cause the pipes and fittings to split or burst open. When the frozen water melts, damage becomes obvious as water leaks out of the system.

Leaking water can cause severe damage to properties. There is potential for ceilings to hold water, causing bowing and the possibility that the ceiling could collapse. Plaster may become soft and fall apart once it gets soaked with water. Floors, stairs and timber joinery often swell, disintegrate and can rot if left.  Tiles, paint and wallpaper can crack, lift, and peel off when water gets behind.

If you find yourself the victim of such water or flood damage, it’s likely you’ll need to make an insurance claim.

Once you put in your claim, an inspection will be required to assess the damage to your property. A detailed inspection is not something that a loss adjuster is always fully qualified to do and while your insurance company may offer you their in-house surveying service, it’s worthwhile knowing that you are not beholden to use their services. You are entitled to appoint your own independent building surveyor to assess, specify, tender and oversee reinstatement works. In our experience you will receive a far higher level of service when you use an independent construction professional to act as your project manager.

The independent and impartial expertise of RMA Surveyors Ltd, chartered building surveyors,  can determine the real extent of the damage to your property and ensure that your home is reinstated to a professional standard. If you are comprehensively insured there should be no direct cost to you.

If the cold weather results in you having to submit a claim, then contact us. We’ll be pleased to look at your claim and offer an initial free consultation. We have a proven track record in getting insurance claims moving and homes reinstated professionally and efficiently.

Richard Mountain MRICS

HOW TO PREVENT FREEZING PIPES
It’s never too late to go about protecting your home from the extreme cold weather. Why not implement these ideas to help prevent pipes from freezing:
– Lag exposed pipes with insulation
– Install loft and cavity wall insulation (special attention should be taken over pipes in loft spaces)
– Stop any dripping taps and valves, the water could freeze in the waste or overflow pipe and cause a blockage
– Keep your property warm, and if you are going away consider leaving the heating on low
– Try to stop any draughts
– Make sure you know where your stopcock is, should you need to turn off your water supply