A house that won’t sell; har­vest­ing heat from a millstream; and un­rav­el­ling plan­ning jar­gon to ful­fil a life­long am­bi­tion

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Property Clinic -


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.


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.

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