A house that won’t sell; harvesting heat from a millstream; and unravelling planning jargon to fulfil a lifelong ambition
QALorna Vestey writes:
The market at the moment varies considerably according to location. Get your agent(s) to report to you in writing, urgently, on why they have been unable to sell the house and what they recommend to achieve a sale. It may be that you need a change of agent, so ask one or two others to visit and advise you.
Do some research on the internet: www.rightmove.com and www. primelocation.com have listings from hundreds of agents. Find out which properties are competing with yours and view a few of them to get a better idea as to whether your price is realistic. A bold price cut might attract potential buyers. You really need to move so it is probably worth biting the bullet, particularly as any house you buy is also likely to have come down substantially in value.
You could let and rent, but most family homes need work before they are in lettable condition. By the time you have paid for this and your removal costs, faced the possibility of a house bringing in no income until a tenant is found and paid tax on the rent, then financially and emotionally you might wish you’d taken a hit on the sale price and been able to get on with your lives.
Lorna Vestey is a former partner of a blue-chip London estate agency.
BRICKS & MORTAR
QAWe have just had our third child and need to move, but we haven’t been able to sell our house, which is at the wrong end of the right road. Extending isn’t an option, nor is doing nothing. Should we leave the house on the market for longer, at the risk of it looking even less desirable than it already does, or try letting it while renting somewhere bigger? I have been impressed by the ground-source heat pump recently installed to provide heat and light to our village hall. It has made me consider a similar domestic system. The loops of piping for the hall are buried under the car park but I believe I could get similar results by laying it on the bed of a stream, which would be very handy as I live in a mill. If so, would it be able to heat the whole house?
David Snell writes:
Heat pumps work by extracting the latent low-grade heat from the atmosphere, the ground or a water course, stream or pond and upgrading it to useful heat within the home. A mill stream should be eminently suitable and indeed may be even more efficient than normal ground sources, where the best of the pumps has a conversion rate of 1:4 (one unit of electricity to four units of heat), although the reality is probably 1:2.5 or 1:3.
It should be perfectly capable of heating your home, but is likely to be far more efficient if combined with an under-floor central-heating system. This is because heat pumps can rarely heat water above 50C. That is fine for under-floor systems, where the water passing through the pipes is 45-50C but not so good with radiators, where it has to be 60-80C unless they are super-sized. You will need a back-up, such as an immersion heater, for domestic hot water, which is usually stored at 60C or more to prevent bacteria forming.
David Snell is contributing editor to Homebuilding & Renovating magazine and author of Building Your Own Home, available at £25 plus p&p from 0870 155 7222.
QI have had a lifelong dream of building my own house, but there is a lot of planning jargon I don’t understand. I have heard of outline consent and full planning permission but what is “reserved matters consent”?
AJohn Winter writes:
“Outline consent” is where the local authority agrees to a development proposal in principle but not in detail. For instance, it could state that two houses may be built on a certain piece of land, but you would need to submit a further application to settle the design and positioning of the houses. “Full planning consent”, as the name implies, grants permission for the applicant to build subject to any conditions – usually that the project is started within a certain time – or “reserved matters” that may be imposed.
The local authority grants full consent subject to a list of “reserved matters” when it wants more details but does not want to leave the applicant in suspense. He or she then knows that they have a viable proposal and can proceed to more detailed drawings, but they must go back to the planning authority to agree some aspects of the project before carrying out the work. It is advisable to obtain such agreements in writing.
John Winter runs his own architectural practice.
QI own a half-share in a holiday home, splitting all finances 50/50 with a friend. We have a joint mortgage and a joint bank account with the same lender. It has worked very well for four years but my friend now wants to pull out (we agreed at the start that either of us could do so at any time). I can’t afford to buy his half but my son-in-law’s mother – a comparative stranger – is interested. Can half a mortgage be transferred to another person, or does the whole mortgage have to be shut down and a new one negotiated? Could she replace my friend in the joint bank account?
ARichard Morea writes:
Your friend can be replaced by a third party on the mortgage through a process called a transfer of equity. All parties must agree to the transfer and the new proposal will need to meet the lender’s normal mortgage criteria before they will give their consent. The buyer will have to pay stamp duty on half of the existing mortgage plus any extra payment – such as your friend’s share of any profit, or refunding their initial deposit – that is greater than the £125,000 threshold.
Whether your lender agrees to the transfer or not, you could also consider looking for a better deal elsewhere: the remortgaging process will be similar to a transfer of equity. Lenders will be greatly influenced by whether the property is for your own personal use or is a holiday home to be let, as the latter will be unacceptable to many.
Before you shop around, check whether you have any early repayment penalties on your existing mortgage.
It should also be possible for your son-in-law’s mother to replace your friend on the bank account fairly easily.
Richard Morea is a mortgage specialist at L&C (0800 953 0304; www.lcplc.co.uk). Our experts regret that they cannot answer readers’ letters personally. All correspondence should be sent to them at the address given above. We regret that we cannot acknowledge letters. Please keep them brief.