Future of Property Property Advice


This week’s government budget announcements from the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has brought with it some welcome news to prospective home buyers. The two significant announcements see the re-introduction of the 95% mortgage guarantee and an extension to the existing stamp duty holiday by three months and a lighter version of the holiday for a further 3 months.

95% mortgage guarantee

The 5% deposit policy was first introduced in 2013 by David Cameron under the ‘help to buy’ scheme that aims to encourage lenders to consider mortgages from applicants with a 5% deposit. This scheme is open to both first time buyers and existing homeowners, coming into effect from April 2021. It will include all properties up to £600,000 and, unlike Help to Buy, will not be limited to new build homes. This is great news for buyers who might be interested in a traditional house rather than a new-build flat, for example. To do so, the government takes on some of the risk that comes with lending at higher loan-to-value ratios (LTVs). Lending policies applied by mortgage providers will still apply, which include an assessment of an applicant’s income, expenditure and credit. 

With the average property price in the UK being £250,000, it means the great majority of the property market will benefit from this scheme for both buyers and sellers. The downside to all this however is that the higher the LTV, the higher the interest rates will be as banks take on more risk by lending more money. 

Several high street banks, including Lloyds, NatWest, Santander, Barclays, and HSBC have already announced that they will be re-introducing 95% LTV mortgages as a result of this announcement.

Stamp Duty Extension

Alongside the introduction of the 95% mortgage, the government has extended the stamp duty holiday until the end of September. The original “nil-rate band” introduced for all properties up to £500,000 will finish at the end of June; having originally been due to finish at the end of March, followed by a tapered approach from June to September. 

This will result in no stamp duty being charged on a residential property bought for up to £500,000 and until 30th September, no stamp duty being charged on a residential property bought for up to £250,000. 

In doing so, this will save thousands of transactions at risk of falling through due to backlog caused by continued demand from consumers being met by smaller teams at most agents. The data has shown that the stamp duty holiday has been effective in maintaining the property market with 16 buyers chasing every available property. 

With a renewed opportunity to reduce purchasing costs for the next six months, prospective buyers can quickly discover great homes in areas that best suit their lifestyle needs on SearchSmartly’s smart property matchmaking platform. Why not give it a go and see which unique homes you get matched with?

Future of Property Property Advice

Five tips on improving your work from home experience

COVID-19 has changed the way we work and the perceptions we have about workplace structure and dynamics. Many companies made the transition to working from home – WFH. On a wider scale, this has changed employees’ daily routines and lifestyles. WFH has raised questions about ensuring productivity and a different work-life balance.

WFH includes a key aspect – the home! The SearchSmartly team would like to touch upon the transitions you may have to face to adjust to WFH. Also, many companies are musing about a full-scale transition to a remote-first working environment. So, what should your home look like if you plan to continue working from home?

There are other reasons why WFH might be a better choice. Harvard Business School research found that companies with WFH policies can boost employee productivity, reduce turnover, and lower organisational costs. Yet, converting our largely comfort-focused homes into efficient work-spaces can be challenging. We are here to help you tackle that challenge by exploring what you might now need to have at home.

There should be a separation between your work life and your domestic life. To put it simply, you should have a home office – but what does that mean?

1.     Choose green. Getting a small plant on your desk lowers stress and anxiety levels. Spruce up your work area with more plants to reinforce a calm working environment. If you’d want to go all out, why don’t you set up your home office facing the garden or with a green view? On warm days, you can choose to work in the garden too.

2.     Choose to cut distractions. Work and kids? You might have already experienced having to juggle the two. Consider setting up a playroom for your kids so they’re occupied during your most important working hours. Maybe even a garden for them to get some fresh air while you work away? Additionally, you might want to set up your home office further away from the kids’ area, and that’s not always easy. Once more, requiring extra space.

3.     Choose taking a break. It may become difficult to separate working hours, especially if you have easy access to your work computer at home. Make sure to take some time between tasks to get some exercise in or take a walk. Breaks you’d have at the office include catching up with coworkers or stepping out for a coffee. Now that you are WFH, why don’t you replace that with a nice neighbourhood to step out for a walk in while you’re on a call? All those calls you listen-in on, use that time for the treadmill or pedal away on your stationary bike. The health benefits of moving while you work are enormous.

4.     Choose a modern, well-equipped kitchen. Many people would go out during their lunch break to grab a quick bite, but you usually won’t be doing that if you are at home. For that reason, your lunch break might also pose a challenge. You now need to make your own lunch, and that requires time and effort. Having a comfortable, easy-to-navigate kitchen will allow you to remain worry-free about your lunch plans.

5.     Choose moving out. You might need an extra room at home to allow for a home office. It may make more sense financially to find a better-suited home than to fix up your old one. Remodeling and redecorating come at a price, so consider whether those costs pay off. A new home might lead to an easier transition into WFH – a fresh (WFH) start. You might also save on rent if you lived in a central location nearby the office. You don’t need to make the journey into the office anymore, so why are you still paying high rent for a centrally located home?

And if you’re not quite ready to move out yet, here’s some other things to consider:

·       A neutral background with adequate lighting is crucial for video calls, and you’ll be having many of them.

·       Natural light bulbs: believe us when we say you’ll be doing your eyes a huge favor.

·       Artwork. Make your workspace feel like your own with a painting, motivational poster or kids’ drawings.

·       Comfortable and ergonomic chairs as you’ll probably be doing most of your work sitting down at your desk.

·       A convertible desk? A good workstation starts with a good desk, we all know that. But did you know that you can also do your work standing up? Get a desk with adjustable height so you’re not sitting around all day.

Many home-based employees will tell you; it may not be easier to work from home – it’s just a different location. But remember, there are so many things you can do to make the most of your WFH experience! 

Future of Property

Why we became the world’s first property platform to show air quality data

This week, we released a comprehensive update to the SearchSmartly platform. Amongst the many improvements that we’re very excited about, one is particularly important to us.

Our mission at SearchSmartly is to empower our users to find the best homes for their unique needs. Transparency through data, technology, and trust is how we deliver on that promise. We know that in the stress and time that property search consumes, it’s easy to miss out on things that do matter. Which brings us to air quality.

In the UK alone, 34,000 people die prematurely because of air pollution. It’s one of the greatest – yet most silent – threats to our society. This problem is particularly grave in metropolitan areas like London, our home city. Secular trends will only make this issue worse: according to the UN, a further 13% of the world’s population will migrate into cities by 2050. It doesn’t take much to recognise that this will result in more congestion, illness and death.

The path ahead

There is light at the end of the tunnel. COVID-19 provides us with a generational opportunity to embrace a modal shift towards active travel. Our own user data shows a 77% increase in willingness for Londoners to cycle to work. Cities are doing more to ban cars from the centre of cities. There is progress. But it isn’t enough. More transparency is needed to empower people to make holistic decisions for a better, healthier life. Knowing the air you and your family breathe around your home is an important step in this journey.

We are proud to be the first property search platform that not only leads with the user’s lifestyle needs in mind, but also their complete wellbeing. With the inclusion of air pollution data in our search results, we continue in our efforts to help our users to find the right place to call home.

This is one step. There’s still a long way to go!