Xact Mortgages Magazine May 2022

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MAY 2022








National Biscuit Day Biscuit recipes for you to try at home




Half-Term travel Abroad travel ideas for the next half-term


May gardening Learn more about World Bee and World Biodiversity Day.


Screen free week Get away from your screen this May


Dr Strange We breakdown the upcoming new release


Jubilee street party Arrange a patriotic street party for the Jubilee.

Keep your bedroom cool We show you ways to keep you and your bedroom cool in the upcoming months


News Our latest mortgage news. Plus meet the team!

22 24

About us Get to know the Xact mortgages team!

Your home move Your guide to help you every step of the way on your home move



Football all around We talk all things finals and football this month

WELCOME TO THE MAY ISSUE! Summer is very nearly here, and May looks like a great month to bounce into the sunshine. May means half-term, which ultimately means trips away enjoying the warmer weather and with that in mind, on pages 8&9 we look at some of the best last-minute resorts for you and your family. However, if you’re staying closer to home, we look forward to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, with a guide on some of the best street party ideas to celebrate in style. On pages 4&5, keeping with the Great British theme, we look at National Biscuit Day. With the weather getting warmer, we want to help you keep cool with our feature on top tips to keep your bedroom cool during the summer months. Moving outdoors, our



monthly gardening feature is all about World Bee Day and Biodiversity Day this year. Rounding this all off, we have three fantastic features: We look at ways to take part in Screen Free Week this month, alternatively, if that sounds like hard work, we have a movie preview of the new Marvel film, Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. And finally, it’s a big month for football with a month of finals, all of which we have previewed on pages 14&15. So make yourself a cocktail, sit back in the garden, and enjoy this month’s magazine. Jonathan Wheatley Editor


he Queen’s Jubilee extended bank holiday is going to be very special this year, since The Queen will be making history being the first British monarch ever to reach 70 years on the throne. Queen Elizabeth II will be celebrating her Platinum Jubilee, the major celebrations of which will take place on 2nd June this year and last throughout that entire weekend - officially qualifying her as the first British monarch in history to reach the landmark.The Platinum Jubilee itself, however, fell on Sunday 6th February, which is the date The Queen ascended to the throne on the death of her father, George VI, in 1952. The official day planned for the Big Jubilee Lunch is Sunday 5th June, when up to 10 million Brits are expected to organise and attend street parties in Her Majesty’s honour. There are different ways to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee over the first weekend of June, and here are our best ideas to celebrate in the most exuberant and patriotic way possible. Arranging and planning a Platinum Jubilee street party is extremely simple, and that includes being legal about it all. Typically, you do need to request permission to hold a street party in



general, and this may be harder to do so if you live in a particularly quiet street but over the course of the first weekend of June, including that Thursday, anyone who wants to hold a street party is welcome to do so any time during that bank holiday weekend. All you need to do is follow the steps on this webpage and complete the online form to request permission: https:// www.gov.uk/apply-hold-street-party It is important to note that if you are planning on playing loud music and/or selling alcohol, you will need a Temporary Events Notice, and you can apply for one here: https://www.gov.uk/temporaryevents-notice It is generally recommended that six weeks in advance is a good time to start planning for the event, as this allows the Government time to put any necessary temporary traffic regulations in place and close your road to traffic so you can take advantage of the whole street. While some councils might charge a small fee, event officials are being encouraged to make street parties as affordable as possible and facilitate any necessary road closures. Once the application(s) is approved, you can begin inviting guests. Spread the good news and try to get as many of your neighbours to attend as

possible. Handwritten letters through front doors and a useful Whatsapp group are probably the most effective ways of spreading the word and informing your guests on what to bring. Believe it or not, you can also tell the Royal Family itself about your event, as there is an interactive map on The Queen’s official Platinum Jubilee website which will show the thousands of events being held over the course of the weekend.

CORONATION CHICKEN: Otherwise known as Poulet Reine Elizabeth, coronation chicken is the perfect food item to be enjoyed for the Platinum Jubilee. Constance Spry, an English food writer and flower arranger, and Rosemary Hume, a chef, both principals of the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London, invented this dish for the banquet of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The dish typically consists of cold cooked chicken meat, herbs and spices, and a creamy curry based sauce. It can be eaten as a salad or used to fill sandwiches.

VICTORIA SPONGE: The famous, and utterly delicious Victoria sponge is named after The Queen herself, making it the perfect dessert for the Platinum Jubilee. The Queen is said to

enjoy a slice of the delicious cake with her traditional English afternoon tea. It is sometimes referred to as The Victoria Sandwich because of the filled nature of the two sponges. The classic filling of this wonderful sponge cake has come to be based around jam and cream or buttercream.

THE PIMM’S ROYALE COCKTAIL: As we all know, Pimm’s is absolutely ideal for the summertime. It has a punchy yet light and fruity character to it, making it wonderfully versatile for a whole range of fruits and herbs, including strawberries and mint. Pimm’s is also said to be The Queen’s favourite summer drink.




BISCUIT DAY Be a smart cookie and go crackers for the best day of the year for all things biscuits!


ith all the recent controversy and discussion on whether or not a Jaffa Cake qualifies as a cake or a biscuit, the definition of ‘biscuit’ is still a hot-baked topic. In the States, biscuits are small crusty bread rolls, often served at breakfast or as a side dish. In Britain, biscuits are a whole different thing, and cover a much broader range of shapes, sizes, ingredients and textures.

go off and wouldn’t need to be chilled to stay good, and biscuits is what they came up with. Thereafter, dried biscuitlike breads became a staple at sea. It was around the end of the 10th century when biscuits finally arrived in Europe. By the 19th century, per capita sugar consumption rocketed, and biscuit firms such as McVitie’s, Crawfords, and Carr’s all set up factories to mass-produce biscuits in a confectionary capacity.

Biscuits are beloved worldwide, and for very good reason. It’s the warmth and smells from the kitchen while they bake, the feeling of satiety we get when our bellies feel full with the heaviness of the biscuit, and the flavours of salt and butter, among many other versatile possibilities, dancing on our tongue and about our taste buds. Moreover, they can be enjoyed as savoury or sweet foods, depending on the ingredients.

National Biscuit Day is a celebration of biscuits of all forms – cookies, oatcakes, crackers, water biscuits, and crispbreads. While most biscuits for sale are sweet, savoury varieties still make up a considerable chunk of overall sales of biscuits all over the world. It is also the perfect excuse to bake your own biscuits at home, particularly with the kids, which is a whole lot of fun. A great baking idea is an ancient Roman biscuit called a ‘buccellum’, which will give you an insight into the sort of cuisine that people enjoyed in the past whilst sailing the seven seas. Alternatively, cookies or traditional biscuits bread are absolute favourites for anyone celebrating the day in style. National Biscuit Day is a day to share with loved ones, so whatever it is you’re going to be doing or baking, ensure you’re surrounded by your loved ones.

Biscuits are not a modern invention. Rather, they originated from the ancient world, when merchants and military personnel in the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian empires would often spend many weeks at sea and found they needed snacks which provided the source of calories they needed for their entire journey. Through much experimentation trying to invent a snack which wouldn’t



BISCUIT RECIPES FOR NATIONAL BISCUIT DAY The best way to celebrate National Biscuit Day is to bake, of course, and there are many recipes to try your hand at.


Ingredients: 1/2 cup shortening 3/4 cup sugar 1 large egg, room temperature 2 tablespoons 2% milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup small jelly beans Directions: Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until blended. Beat in egg, milk and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Stir in jelly beans. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 1-1/2 in. apart onto greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.


Ingredients: 85g porridge oat 85g desiccated coconut 100g plain flour 100g caster sugar 100g butter, plus extra butter for greasing 1 tbsp golden syrup 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Directions: Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/ gas 4. Put the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tbsp boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter and golden syrup mixture. Stir gently to incorporate the dry ingredients. Put dessertspoonfuls of the mixture on to buttered baking sheets, about 2.5cm/1in apart to allow room for spreading. Bake in batches for 8-10 mins until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


The basic biscuit base is the absolute perfect foundation on which to design anything at all you like. Almost anything can be added to a part-baked biscuit base, or a fully baked one, which is what makes this recipe so versatile and useful for any baker looking to celebrate National Biscuit Day with panache.

Ingredients: 250g butter, softened 140g caster sugar 1 egg yolk 2 tsp vanilla extract 300g plain flour Directions: Mix the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, then add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and briefly beat to combine. Sift over the flour and stir until the mixture is well combined – you might need to get your hands in at the end to give everything a really good mix and press the dough together. For basic vanilla biscuits: Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Chill the dough for 20 - 30minutes, roll out and cut out shapes as above. Bake on a non-stick baking tray for 10-12 minutes until pale golden. Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool and crisp up.







HOT SUMMER MONTHS Follow these suggestions to keep the heat out of your room


ummer is one of the best times of the year. Long days, barbecues with family and friends, outdoor fairs and concerts and of course, the beautiful sun beating down throughout it all.Yes, in England we may only have a handful of truly beautiful days, but we are sure to enjoy them all the same. While sunny weather is enjoyable, these summer months also bring unbearable nights trying to sleep and get comfortable in hot bedrooms.Sticky heat can cause even just trying to get a few hours of rest feel like an impossibility. To help you get ready for the warm months of the summer this year and to ensure your beauty sleep does not get disrupted, we have put together some great tips to cool down your bedroom. While one of the most obvious suggestions is to get a fan to blow cold air around the room during the night, selecting the right unit can make all the difference. Portable aircon systems are affordable and can move the air around your room much more efficiently and effectively, while also being far quieter than noisy bladed fans spinning in the corner of your room all evening long. Anyone who is scared of the dark may not like our next suggestion, but as lightbulbs naturally give off heat

A thinner duvet can make a whole world of difference



themselves, switching them off during the summer can help to drop your room’s temperature. Appliances and televisions you may have in your room similarly produce heat while plugged in and working, so make sure these are all switched off to optimise the amount of heat you are taking from the room. Heat is well-known to rise, so if you are sleeping as low as possible in your room you are going to feel the heat far less. Air mattresses or Japanese futons, which both sit low to the floor, can make ideal alternate beds to use in the summer. Another great suggestion is to switch the type of bedding you are using. Thick duvets, such as those stuffed with duck feathers, may keep you warm and toasty during the winter, however in the summer this can be one of the worst choices. A thinner duvet can make a whole world of difference, and is not always something you may think of straight away. Right, now you have decided which bedding to stick with throughout the summer, you can even look to cool it down in preparation for sleep. Ditch any

additional throws or blankets, whether ornamental or not, the fewer layers on the bed, the better. You could place your pillow in the fridge or pick up a specific cooling pillowcase, which are filled with gel to absorb heat away from your face. There are some steps you can take before nighttime to keep the room’s temperature down. Keep your curtains or blinds closed throughout the day, effectively blocking out as much of the summer sun as possible to stop the room from heating up as much during the day. Making a few additions to your room can also help to bring down the heat, such as introducing one of two houseplants to the bedroom. The plants will take in the warm air, offering a natural solution to dropping the heat, while also becoming an attractive new feature to your room. Right before you head to bed, go for a short, cold shower. Starting your body at a low temperature before even getting in bed can help you to stay cool throughout the evening. Be wary, however, and do not jump straight into a sudden cold shower after getting into the house from a long day in the sun as a sudden and extreme change in body temperature can be dangerous to your wellbeing and health. Many of you may not expect to be advised to use a hot water bottle during the summer to cool off. While they are great for cuddling up to in the winter, a hot water bottle can also be used for the exact opposite of their intended use. Stick the bottle full of water into the freezer for a couple of hours and pop it in your bed overnight. The hot water bottle, now a “frozen water bottle” will release cold temperatures directly into your bed throughout the night, cooling it down. Follow as many of our tips as you can to ensure you can sleep as much as you can during the warm months.




I It is nearly time to put your feet up and relax, but why not hop on a plane and get exploring during the break

t is nearly time for the May half-term holidays, why not spend it somewhere a little bit different this year? For those thinking about perhaps jetting off to experience a bit of fresh culture, while learning something new and dining on fantastic cuisine, a city break is always a great choice. The only issue is deciding where to go.

An iconic piece of architecture in the Spanish city is the massive Sagrada Familia basilica, designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudi.

Europe is blessed to be home to so many fantastic cities to visit, with Paris, Berlin and Lisbon stunning places to spend some time. We have broken down three more cities we think you would enjoy spending your next holiday in.

Barcelona sits on a coastline stretching around 4.5 kilometres and hosts a variety of beaches to relax on and truly soak in the Spanish sun, with a beer or glass of sangria in hand.


The capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, Barcelona, is a destination almost every traveller should have on their bucket list. Whether looking to shop, eat, drink or enjoy deep and fascinating historic culture, Barcelona is the ideal city to pick when trying to learn about and experience a whole new way of life. The coastal city is home to a number of beautiful pieces of architecture, churches, museums and parks.



The unfinished church, which sits in the Eixample district of the city, is known for its eye-catching exterior, spires and beautiful interior.

The city is home to one of the world’s most famous and successful football clubs, FC Barcelona, with a trip to the side’s famed ground, Camp Nou Stadium, providing a fascinating insight into the history of the team, ideal for keen football fans.


Another popular choice of a city to be the next stamp on your passport is the capital of Italy. Rome Culture, entertainment and historic structures

are around every corner in this city, which houses a number of iconic structures which features which are in many European travel guides. From the Colosseum, an ancient Roman gladiator arena, to the Pantheon, one of the city’s most recognisable churches and historic tombs, there is so much to see during a break. However, just as “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, everything the city has to offer cannot be experienced in just 24 hours. As a city, Rome can be likened to one big museum, transporting visitors into how the great Romans once lived and houses more than 900 churches. Art lovers will be able to appreciate the stunning decor in each of these religious buildings, which offer different views, structure and fascias. For those wanting to head abroad in May to experience warmer weather, Rome could be the place to go, with average temperature ranging between 11C and 23C, making it warmer than the UK, while not too warm to deter you from grabbing your backpack and strapping on your walking boots to explore everything the Italian city has to offer.


From one Italian city to another, our final suggestion for a May holiday city break abroad is Naples.

Located in the Campania region, Naples is the country’s third largest city, behind only Rome and Milan, but offers equally as beautiful views and fascinating history as the previously mentioned cultural hotspots. The centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a range of significant sites nearby such as the Royal Palace of Caserta, which once housed kings, as well as the Roman ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Nearby islands can be visited within an hour from Naples, such as Capri, Ischia and Procida, making the city an ideal place for a longer stay to then venture out and see even more of Italy and experience as much as you can while there.

An iconic piece of architecture in the Spanish city is the massive Sagrada Familia basilica

Lovers of Italian cuisine are certain to enjoy Naples, as the city is credited to be where pizza was first invented. The delicious cheese and tomato dish, which is now enjoyed across the globe, was created as a fast and affordable meal for Neopolitans to eat on the go. When emigrating Italians took the dish with them to America in the 1900s, it developed worldwide popularity, but why not taste the original during your next visit to the city?



MONTHLY GARDENING GUIDE It’s a busy month in the garden


ay is typically one of the busiest months in the garden, with plenty to do to ensure productive plant growth and high yields on the vegetable patch. It is also a month with two international days that you can get involved in outside: World Bee Day and the International Day for Biological Diversity.

Most seed packets now have a symbol of a bee which showing which plants are great for pollinators, and simply adding a few of these to your garden will help your garden become more biodiverse and a haven for pollinators. If you want to go bigger, you could create an entire wildflower meadow. Wildflower meadows are perfect for all pollinators and gives them an exclusive habitat to call their own.

Biodiversity simply means the variety of plant and animal life in a particular habitat, in this case our own gardens. With the Most garden nurseries and online retailers necessity for the helping hand we can offer wildflower seeds in mixed packets give nature it is which you can sow direct more important in prepared soil in spring than ever to or autumn. One of the You can’t plant or have a biodiverse best ways to create a sow them direct into garden. This wildflower meadow is grass, as they won’t could be planting to start them in pots grow, so you will something that in the greenhouse or need to dig an area you wouldn’t somewhere warm before for them to go. normally plant or transplanting them into adding a pond the prepared area. You to increase the can’t plant or sow them number of animals in your garden. Overall, direct into grass, as they won’t grow, so the main aim is to turn your garden into a you will need to dig an area for them to go. thriving place for nature. When established, remember a wildflower World Bee Day raises awareness about the meadow is exactly as the name suggests threats to pollinators like bees by human wild. Which means once in the ground you activities. Without bees, our world would don’t have to do anything. Just let them be a lot worse place to live. We need these spread. There isn’t anything quite like beautiful creatures to carry on pollinating sitting near your established wildflower our plants, and it is easier than you think meadow with a cup of tea, a book or to help bees and other pollinators in your magazine and listening to the busy own garden. pollinators as they do their thing.



OTHER JOBS FOR THE GARDEN IN MAY Tomato plants are ready to go to their final position, whether that is somewhere sunny and sheltered outside or in a warm and sunny greenhouse. Give the compost a good fertilizer feed, 6X chicken manure pellets are great, and a mulch, followed by a water and then keep checking them as they grow. Don’t forget to plant them deep as roots will start on any area of the stem. Sow sunflower seeds in pots of compost. A range of varieties will give your garden lots of interest as well as height throughout later summer. If May is particularly warm, you can sow the seeds directly into the ground.

Do some instant gardening. If you have a border that is looking slightly bare, then May is a great time to head to the garden centre to pick up some plants. Simply transplant the plants to where they want to live and give them a good soak. Check the temperature of your greenhouse. You should be able to gauge how hot your greenhouse will get during the summer by checking the temperature now. If you are worried it will get too hot, then now is the time to create some shade. You can also set up an automatic irrigation system to water the plants for you in the morning and evening. Mulch your borders. Your borders will need a good mulch to keep moisture in and pesky slugs away from your plants. Strulch is a good option, however, you could also use bark or compost. Remember when mulching to lay the mulch at least two inches thick.








his year, Screen-Free Week runs from 2nd May to the 8th of May. Did you know that on average we spend 2 hours and 24 minutes on social media? Now, we all know that social media has its uses, but even then, over two hours is an incredible amount of time to be staring at a smartphone, and this doesn’t even take into account TV screens. Now, think about what you could achieve in those extra (let’s even it out to) four hours a day with TV included.



In four hours, you could go for a long walk, with plenty of time to stop and consider the beauty of the surrounding world. That DIY project you’ve been putting off could be completed within a week. With one hour of writing a day you could complete a book within three months, depending on how fast you type… The list of things you could get done, instead of sitting in front of the TV or on your smartphone, is simply endless. And there are other benefits

too. By not being on your smartphone you will be more ‘in the room’ when spending time with friends and family, living in the real world and not the virtual world, and at the same time, by getting off your phone you’ll be setting a better example for your children, after all, how can we tell them to get off YouTube if we’re then sitting on our smartphones – a bit hypocritical of us, no? Do what we say, not what we do. Another benefit of getting off social media, is that you will jump back into actual reality and not a world of unrealistic filters. You’ll feel happier in yourself without that constant barrage of filtered images telling you what you should look like, how your home should look, and what gadgets you need in your life. Now, that’s not saying social

media and TV are all evil, they definitely have benefits. Social media helps you keep in touch with friends and family, which was the original aim of it, while TV and gaming gives you that escape from reality when you need it most, but just remember, as with cake and wine, ‘everything is best in moderation.’ So, this Screen-Free Week, why not test yourself, and find out, not only how addicted you are to your smartphone, but just how nice life can be without it for a little while. Screen-Free Week starts on the 2nd May and runs till the 8th May, find out more at https://screenfree.org/



his month, one of the most anticipated Marvel movies arrives in cinemas. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is hoping to pick up where Spiderman: No Way Home left off earlier in the year with an outrageous number of surprise cameos thanks to the Marvel Multiverse. In Spiderman: No Way Home, Marvel surprised everyone by bringing back not just one incarnation of the web slinger, but two in Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield which led to one hell of a lot of gushing reviews, and a lot of fun especially with the return of previous villains such as Dr Octopus, Electro and the Green Goblin. With Avengers: Endgame a distant memory, Marvel seems to have struggled to bring the remaining members back together in any synchronicity

with the previous releases, such as Black Widow, ShangChi and the Eternals which were all okay in their own right, but not showing any real sign of how the future looked for the MCU. That, however, changed with Spiderman: No Way Home, and with the new Dr Strange, they are looking to expand on the Multiverse which all looks hugely exciting. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is released on the 5th May 2022. The Internet has been awash with rumours ever since the first trailer, and that only increased with the Super Bowl trailer that was released in February. It’s quite clear that there will be numerous versions of the main character, and looking even closer, there could well be some huge surprises, which we will look at now.

• Zombie Avengers. Seems far-fetched, however, there are rumours that all the original Avengers will appear as zombie versions of themselves. • The X Men. At the end of the trailer, that voice definitely sounds like Professor X, as played by Patrick Stewart, so does that mean any of the original X Men are going to show up? Maybe even Wolverine? • The Fantastic Four. It’s been so hard for even Marvel to get a good Fantastic Four film off the ground. However, could we see the beginnings of one here. • Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool would add a humourous x-rating to proceedings, which would make it so great if he did appear.





It’s May, which means some of the biggest football competitions come to their conclusions It’s been an epic football season. With supporters back in stadiums, it’s been a riveting 10 months of action, with plenty of shocks, thrashings, and manager sackings to keep us all entertained, but alas, like all good things it must come to an end at some point. This month sees some of the world’s biggest clubs competing in cup finals abroad and at home, and we have all the info you need about the upcoming games.

THE FA CUP FINAL There have been some barnstorming games in the FA Cup this season, with some major upsets along the way. Cambridge United knocked out Newcastle in the third round, and Nottingham Forest did the same to Arsenal. Then in the fourth round, Middlesbrough knocked out the mighty Man Utd, while Forest were at it again against Leicester City. Boro and Forest made it all the way to the Quarter Finals before finally succumbing to the two finalists, Chelsea and Liverpool. Liverpool are battling on three fronts to win


an unprecedented Quadruple, having already won the League Cup, meanwhile, this could be Chelsea’s second piece of silverware after winning the Club World Cup in February. So far this season, the teams have met three times, with each game ending in a draw, although Liverpool did win the League Cup against the blues on penalties.

Prediction: 2–2 Draw with Liverpool to win on penalties.

THE CHAMPION’S LEAGUE FINAL At the time of writing, neither semi-final has played the first leg. There are two English teams still in the Champion’s League, Liverpool and Man City, and if results go the right way it could be another all-English final. But first Man City have got to get past a rejuvenated Real Madrid, while Liverpool face fellow Spaniards, Villarreal. Real Madrid have ran away with the La Liga title, however, they are still an ageing team up against a Man City side boasting an incredible pedigree of youth and experience. Meanwhile, even though Villarreal are only seventh in La Liga, they save their best

performances for European Competitions, knocking out the mighty Bayern Munich in the quarter finals, Juventus in the round of 16, and winning the Europa League last year. With the Champion’s League being the last piece of silverware Pep Guardiola has yet to win with Man City, and with Liverpool fighting on three fronts, it is highly probable that Jurgen Klopp’s side will finally come undone against a street-smart Spanish side managed by Unai Emery.

Prediction: Man City and Villarreal to reach the final. Man City to win the final 2–0

THE EUROPA LEAGUE As with The Champion’s League, at the time of writing the first leg hasn’t yet taken place, so we are looking at all four teams remaining in the competition. West Ham, under David Moyes, have looked invigorated in Europe. Their 3-0 win over Lyon was an incredible game of football, that has gone a long way to making them favourites to win this year’s Europa League. However, they come up against one of two German sides in this year’s semi-finals, Eintracht Frankfurt, who knocked out Barcelona in the quarter-finals.

Domenico Tedesco after Jesse Marcsh left to become the new Leeds Utd manager. Since then, though, RB Leipzig have been on a good run of form, reaching third in the Bundesliga and are in the semi-final of the DFB-Pokal (Germany’s equivalent of the FA Cup)

In the other semi-final, Glasgow Rangers will go head-to-head with the second German team, RB Leipzig, who are now managed by

Prediction: West Ham and RB Leipzig to reach the final. RB Leipzig to win the final 2-0

Rangers, meanwhile, are fighting to keep their Championship dreams alive, albeit with a depleted squad after injuries to Aaron Ramsey, Alfredo Morelos and Ianis Hagi, which could spell trouble for the rest of the campaign.

This month sees some of the world’s biggest clubs competing in cup finals



Winter 2021/22

Mortgage & Protection news


The newsletter from Xact Mortgages Limited

With rising inflation, the interest rates on mortgage deals are also on the up...


Inflation rose to 4.2% in October (the highest level for almost 10 years), and is expected to peak at around 4.4% in 2022. To counter this inflationary growth, there’s pressure on the Bank of England to consider increases to its interest rate. (Sources: Office for National Statistics, Consumer Price Inflation; and Office for Budget Responsibility, Economic Outlook, Oct. 2021)

In fact, it has already had an impact on mortgage interest rates, with lenders factoring this into their pricing, resulting in rate rises for a number of deals on offer. Whilst the direction of travel is upwards, these increases are coming from a record low base, which means that there are still excellent deals out there. But, for how long? So, for a range of borrowers, perhaps now is the time to act to lock-in the current low rates: ■ those looking to secure their first loan deal. ■ those who have a mortgage deal that’s due for review in the next 6 months or so. ■ existing borrowers who simply want to obtain a decent interest rate now and/or raise more funds.

Planning how we live... A further consideration, and a by-product

Xact Mortgages Limited 6 The Square, First Floor Solihull B91 3RB Tel: 0800 014 9962 Email: sales@xactmortgages.co.uk Web: www.xactmortgages.co.uk

Time to Act? of the pandemic, is that many of us have given thought to the future set up of our home and the way we live. This could encompass both where we live (with some leaving the cities), or the amount of space we need (as many will continue to work from home, full or part-time).

House Price growth Possibly surprising for some, in this period of economic uncertainty, the average UK house price has actually risen 9.9% annually. (Source: Nationwide, House Price Index, October 2021)

It’s largely been driven by government tax incentives, and buyer demand for a different type of home, against a limited number of available properties. Continued on the next page

You may have to pay an early repayment charge to your existing lender if you

Mortgage Deals Decent

rates on o ffer, but startin g to rise (Source: Mo neyfacts, 8 Nov. 2021 )

Remortgaging If you’re moving towards the end of your deal period, then you ought to be considering what’s on offer from your existing, or alternative lender(s). To do nothing would mean you revert to your lender’s Standard Variable Rate, which may be in the realms of 4.41%. The following are comparative average fixed rates across the board (to give you a general feel). For those that tick all the boxes, rates are on offer from around 1% for largely 60% LTV. ■ Coming off a 2-year fixed deal - Average rate 1 Nov. 2019 = 2.45% - Average rate 1 Nov. 2021 = 2.29% ■ Coming off a 5-year fixed deal - Average rate 1 Nov. 2016 = 2.98% - Average rate 1 Nov. 2021 = 2.59% (Source: Moneyfacts, 1 November 2021)


■ Xact Mortgages Limited is an appointed representative of PRIMIS Mortgage Network (PRIMIS), a trading name of First Complete Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. PRIMIS is only responsible for the service and quality of advice provided to you in relation to mortgages, protection insurance and general insurance products. Any other product or service offered by Xact Mortgages Limited may not be the responsibility of PRIMIS and may also not be subject to regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority. ■ This firm usually charges a fee for mortgage advice. The amount of the fee will depend upon your circumstances and will be discussed and agreed with you at the earliest opportunity. ■ Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up

repayments on your mortgage.

Time to Act? (contd) Continued from the previous page

Decent deals on offer Even in light of the current inflationary pressures, there are still a number of deals in the realms of 1%. These are primarily (but not exclusively) for those that need to borrow 60% or less Loan-to-Value (LTV) of the home’s value. However, even those needing 90% or 95% LTV could still be looking at the better deal rates of around the 2-3% mark. (Source: Moneyfacts, 17 November 2021)

These deals may be particularly enticing, but it’s not just the headline rate that needs to be considered, it’s the associated fees, and lender requirements. That’s why it makes sense to take professional advice to identify the most suitable route for you.

The help we can offer... For our part, we know where to look, as we are doing this every day for our clients.

Additionally, to help that process, and for you to be able to move swiftly, it makes sense to have all of your financial details to hand, such as bank statements and payslips. This is because lenders continue to apply stringent controls on the ‘evidencing of income’ and ‘affordability’.

Find out your Credit Score This is also really useful information to have, as it would provide us with further background knowledge. A popular site you could use is checkmyfile.com, as that brings together findings from all the rating agencies. And if your score’s not great, there may be ways to improve it. Please get in touch to hear more... You may have to pay an early repayment charge to your existing lender if you remortgage.

Quick check Monthly payments for a mortgage per £1,000 borrowed over 30 years Interest rate %

0.25 0.50 1.00 1.50 2.00 2.50 3.00 3.50 4.00 4.50 5.00

Interest-only* £

0.21 0.42 0.83 1.25 1.67 2.08 2.50 2.92 3.33 3.75 4.17

Repayment £

2.88 2.99 3.22 3.45 3.70 3.95 4.22 4.49 4.77 5.07 5.37

Here’s how to use the mortgage payments calculator: A £100,000 mortgage over 30 years, charged at a 2% interest rate would cost 100 x £3.70 (for Repayment) = £370 per month. * Excludes any payments to a separate savings scheme, to help pay off the capital amount borrowed. This calculator only provides a guide to monthly payments and does not guarantee eligibility for a mortgage. The actual amounts that you may have to pay may be more or less than the figures shown. Please contact us for a personalised illustration.

■ Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

First-Time Buyers It’s a contradiction for many aspiring First-Time Buyers that what they’d pay in mortgage repayments is often less than their monthly rent, yet it remains difficult to get onto the property ladder. It’s not as if the desire to own a property is not there. In fact, 49% of 18-34 year-olds surveyed said that homeownership is now more important to them as a result of the pandemic.* (Source: *Santander, Life after lockdown, June ‘21)

Raising the Deposit 52% of this age group also set out that the deposit was their biggest hurdle.* However, Government intervention with the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme has helped bring about more products (across the board) that only require a 5% deposit. Others may be able to benefit from the Bank of Mum & Dad (plus Grandparents) to help deliver the deposit.

Rising House Prices

Type of Mortgage you opt for

The demand for more space afforded by larger properties has helped drive up prices. So, you may find that if you’re after a smaller home, it might be more achievable than you first thought to get a foothold on the property ladder. Additionally, there’s the Government’s First Homes Scheme for new-build properties (in England, although other initiatives may exist elsewhere in the UK). For eligible purchases, it’s designed to provide homes at a minimum discount of 30% against the market value, resulting in both a smaller deposit and mortgage loan. However, the discount off the price remains with the property when you sell it on.

Another way of reducing the monthly mortgage payments is to take out a mortgage over a longer term, such as paying back over 35 years. Although, this means that you will be paying more money back, if extending the payback period. However, over your lifetime of property ownership, you’re not committed to stay with the same deal - with homeowners often having a number of different mortgage deals across the years. The process can be confusing and that’s why around nine out of ten First-Time Buyers are likely to use an Adviser. (Source: Accord Mortgages, July 2021)

a standard 6m x 4m extension could cost in the region of £26-34,000.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The last 18 months or so may have made you realise that you need more space for both you and your family, with some preferring to stay put, rather than move.


The upside of this is that your current property may have increased in value compared to when you took out your existing mortgage deal. If that’s the case, then it may be easier for you to borrow extra money (if needed) to help create the space you want.

Property price rise For example, if you’re coming to the end of a 5-year mortgage deal, the average house price in October 2016 was about £206,000, by October 2021, it’s around £250,000. (Source: Nationwide, House Price Index, October 2021)

If you borrowed 70% LTV in 2016, then by 2021, you’ll be under the 60% LTV threshold, which opens up the better deals. Or, you can take a view that you are able to meet the borrowing criteria, and are comfortable with a 70% LTV deal - thereby releasing around £30k+ of extra funds. Of course, taking on extra borrowing may not be the most suitable route for you.

Additionally, if you remortgage before the end of the deal period there may be financial penalties. So, you have to weigh up all of this, along with the alternative costs attributable to moving home to secure the space you need.

Build up or build out? This would be the most obvious way to secure the extra living space you need. And whilst it’s likely that there are planning and building regulations to consider, the planning aspect can be less onerous these days if you remain within an accepted footprint, and keep your neighbours onside.

Extension This could create an extra room for an office, or simply be an extension to the kitchen area to help create more space. Rough costs: according to mybuilder.com,

Protection Insurance Rather than hunkering down following Covid claims, the Protection industry has responded positively and continues to pay out most claims, and deliver innovative products for today’s lifestyles... With the ongoing impact of the pandemic,

repayments on your mortgage’ possibly

it’s important to consider ways of insuring

resonates with them. Those renting also

yourself against early death, or the inability

need to ensure they can stay in their home.

to earn an income due to a serious illness, mental health issue or injury. In fact, according to Royal London, 15.9m people now feel more financially

So, don’t just view Protection Insurance as a small issue to consider when taking out a mortgage deal. Instead, get in touch with us to see if what you have

vulnerable than they did back in March

currently works well for you, or if there are

2020. (Source: Royal London, August 2021)

areas where you feel exposed.

The warning that ‘your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up

As with all insurance policies, terms, conditions and exclusions will apply.

Loft conversion This can create a master bedroom with en suite, be used as an office, or simply deliver an extra room(s) to ensure everyone isn’t always on top of each other! Rough costs: according to mybuilder.com, this costs on average £40,000.

Wide-ranging renovations Alternatively, you may want to do more, such as extend and update your kitchen, rewire, new heating system, new windows, and so on, to ensure the home layout works as best as possible for you. Rough costs: according to Checkatrade, against a 3-bed property, this might cost in the realms of £38-74,000.

Does it add value? Generally, it should. With an extension, or loft conversion, you are delivering more space, which should, understandably, make your home more marketable. (Sources: mybuilder.com website & Checkatrade website, both September 2021)

You may have to pay an early repayment charge to your existing lender if you remortgage. n Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

98% of all claims were paid out in 2020, equating to £17,000,000 a day! Life Cover

n 99.5% of all claims were paid out. n Average payout of £79,304 (term),

£4,026 (whole of life).

Critical Illness

n 91.3% of all claims were paid out. n Average payout of £67,011.

Income Protection

n 86.5% of all claims were paid out. n Average payout of £22,170. n Average length of claim could

be around 6 years.* (Sources: Association of British Insurers, 2020 data, May 2021 release; *2020 claims data from LV and Aviva)

Make it

Work for Yourself The Self-Employed may feel hard done by in recent times. Some would have missed out on Government financial support, and mortgage lenders have been applying stricter lending criteria. So, it’s no wonder that many feel they’ll never own a home, or will face issues when seeking a new mortgage deal.


At the outset of the pandemic, much of this was true regarding the ability to secure a mortgage. More recently, 47% of self-employed workers still feel deterred from even applying for a mortgage because of their self-employed status. (Source: The Mortgage Lender, August 2021)

But, let’s not forget that the self-employed sector comprises around 4.3m workers. Whilst that’s down on the 5m at the start of the pandemic, it’s still a sizeable part of the total workforce (around 13%). Of those remaining, many would have been nimble enough to adapt their offering in light of the economic climate. (Source: Office for National Statistics, Labour market overview, September 2021 release)

Also, the resourcefulness and size of this marketplace is not who seem to be easing some of their criteria restrictions. For example, some lenders appear to be more accepting of variable income streams such as bonuses, commission, or overtime, than before. Plus, there’s the revamp of IR35, which may impact upon affordability issues for some. If you find yourself in this situation, then it would be prudent to also have a chat with your accountant.

lost on lenders,

LIMITED GOVERNMENT SUPPORT ■ The majority of self-employed people (57%) said they

Rates on offer For those that can meet the affordability criteria required by lenders, they may benefit from the current competitive pricing. There are headline-grabbing ‘circa 1%’ deals, largely for the 60% Loan-to-Value (LTV) borrowers. But the competition amongst lenders has meant that even at the low deposit deals for 90% and 95% LTVs, it’s still showing low average rates for 2-year fixed rate deals of 2.54% and 3.22%, respectively. With slightly higher rates for the 5-year deals. (Source: Moneyfacts, 1 November 2021)

Insuring your income stream In addition to having Life Cover insurance to help pay off the mortgage, and to support your family, you should protect your income stream too, if you were unable to work through an injury or serious illness. This could come in the form of a Critical Illness policy (as a stand-alone plan, or an add-on to life cover), and would pay out a tax-free lump sum on a successful claim. Alternatively, there are Income Protection plans, which are designed to pay out a monthly income for a successful claim. Yet, many self-employed and contract workers mistakenly believe that they’ll never qualify for this insurance protection. That is generally not the case and, in fact, this insurance is possibly even more important for the self-employed, who are unlikely to have employee benefits, such as sick pay.

had no government support in the last 12 months. ■ Of those that did receive support, 28% received a grant,

with less taking up the various loans on offer. ■ A small percentage (9%) had used the furlough scheme

As with all insurance policies, terms, conditions and exclusions will apply.

for their staff. (Source: The Mortgage Lender, September 2021)

■ Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

Rental returns Despite the difficult economic environment, many of the fundamentals for a positive Rental sector for Landlords still remain, when you consider the following three statements... ■ Enough new homes are being built: there aren’t. ■ A deposit for first-time buyers is easy to secure: it isn’t. ■ Mortgage interest rates are sky high: they aren’t.

Were those factors true, then the Private Rental Sector would be less appealing to Landlords. As it happens, demand remains high, and if Landlords want to remortgage, then property price increases over recent years (combined with low interest rates) are working in their favour.

A downside

should open up the better deals. And, for others, it will present opportunities to raise further funds to renovate the existing property, or help to access money to purchase additional properties.

Buy-to-Let interest rates This information may be relevant should Landlords be nearing the end of their deal period, or are simply looking to remortgage. The comparative ‘average’ rates across all LTVs are even lower than the 2 and 5-year ones that could be coming to an end, despite the recent upward trend in rates. And, if the Landlord falls into the lower LTV arena, then they could have access to even better deals: 1 November 2016 = 3.72% (historical 5-year deal rate)

Of course, it’s not all plain sailing, as Landlords still face sizeable regulatory and tax issues to navigate, and many will have suffered from the recent support afforded to defaulting renters.

1 November 2021 = 2.88% (2-year deal) / 3.18% (5-year deal)

Renter demand

Do talk to us to hear more.

As said, demand remains high, but the hotspots have changed throughout the UK compared to pre-pandemic times. Some renters (as with house purchasers) have moved away from the cities. Overall, the UK average monthly rent figure is at £1,059, up 8.7% on the year prior. Regionally, the biggest annual growth has occurred in Wales (12.9%), Northern Ireland (11.6%), Greater London (9.7%) and the North West (8.9%). (Source: Homelet Rental Index, October 2021 data, released November 2021)

1 November 2019 = 2.96% (historical 2-year deal rate) (Source: Moneyfacts, Buy-to-Let Average Fixed Rate deals, 1 November 2021)

There is no guarantee that it will be possible to arrange continuous letting of the property, nor that the rental income will be sufficient to meet the costs of the mortgage. The value of your Buy-to-Let property and income from it can go down as well as up. You may also require advice on the legal and tax issues. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate legal and taxation advice, and most Buy-to-Let mortgages.

House Price growth

HM Revenue & Customs practice and the law relating to

Over recent years, many Landlords will have benefited from house price rises. If this is the case, then it should deliver more options for those nearing, or coming off 2- and 5-year mortgage deals. For example, in October 2016 the average residential house price was £205,904, five years on, it’s £250,311 - a jump of over 21.5%.

taxation are complex and subject to individual circumstances

(Source: Nationwide, House Price Index, October 2021)

In some cases, that may mean access to lower LTV rates, which

and changes which cannot be foreseen. You may have to pay an early repayment charge to your existing lender if you remortgage. ■ Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

The continuing impact of the pandemic has reinforced the importance of protecting your income stream through insurance cover such as an Income Protection policy.

Protect your EARNINGS... »

Across a working lifetime, consider this: the average annual income of about £30,000 (discounting inflation), could equate to about £1,400,000. This amount is almost six times the current average value of a UK home - circa £250,000. Yet many will willingly insure their home, plus sensibly take out life cover to help pay off the outstanding mortgage (as a minimum), but far fewer apply the same principles to their own income stream.

(Source: Office for National Statistics, Labour market overview, September 2021 release)

payouts from the Income Protection policy for that period of time, and face lower premiums as a result. Income Protection will generally cover up to around 60-65% of your gross income, and dependent on the type of product you opt for, it could be a tax-free monthly payout until you’re well enough to return to work, retired or have died, whichever occurs first. And, if you’re still working and paying premiums, you can claim against it more than once. Alternatively, if a lower monthly premium is better for your pocket, then you could opt for a scheme that only pays out for a specific period of time, generally one to two years (although it can be up to five, in some instances).

Probability calculator

Funding your insurance cover

To get a feel for your own particular circumstances, why not use this probability calculator which sets out the ‘broad’ chances of you being off work for a period of time, along with suffering a critical illness, or dying. Simply enter your age, gender and smoker/nonsmoker information into - www.riskreality.co.uk. Of course, it’s only topline data, and personal circumstances will differ. It shows, for example, that there’s a 33% chance for a 35 yearold, non-smoking, male to be off work for 2 months or more from now up to a retirement age of 68. For a female, the comparable figure is 41%. If viewed as a couple, then the risk of it occurring to just one of them rises to 60%! And, once you factor in that they are also smokers, the comparable figures are 41%, 51% and 71%, respectively. Whilst these results are merely a guide, it shows that bad things can happen.

You may be surprised that by simply cutting back on some of life’s small luxuries (odd takeaway, cab ride, cafe coffee, magazine, etc), you can swiftly set aside the premiums for an insurance plan that protects your income stream. Even better if you are one of the two in five Brits that have actually saved money across the pandemic period - a combined £5.8bn per month in 2021.* Part of these savings could be sensibly directed to paying the premium for an Income Protection plan.

(Sources: Office for National Statistics, Labour market overview, September 2021 release; Nationwide, House Price Index, October 2021)

Are we Invincible? Most of us will feel that being off work long-term, and unable to earn an income is unlikely. But it has happened to 2.15 million people in the UK, who are currently off work due to long-term sickness.

If it happens to you... The upside (unless you’re a contractor or self-employed) is that you may, initially, benefit from ongoing financial support from your employer, if you were off work due to an illness, or injury. However, it’s only likely to be there for a defined period. Plus, there’s limited state support to try to access. In which case you need to look at how you might cover any income shortfall, and this is where you could plan ahead and have an Income Protection policy in place. If you benefit from employer support, then you could defer

(Source: *LifeSearch, Health, Wealth & Happiness, Q2 2021)

As with all insurance policies, terms, conditions and exclusions will apply. ■ Your property may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. This firm usually charges a fee for mortgage advice. The amount of the fee will depend upon your circumstances and will be discussed and agreed with you at the earliest opportunity. ■ The contents of this newsletter are believed to be correct at the date of publication (November 2021). ■ Every care is taken that the information in the Mortgage & Protection News publication is accurate at the time of going to press. However, all information and figures are subject to change and you should always make enquiries and check details and, where necessary, seek legal advice before entering into any transaction. ■ The information in this newsletter is of a general nature. You should seek professional advice tailored to your needs and circumstances before making any decisions. ■ We do hope that the newsletter is of interest to you, however, please inform us if you no longer wish to receive it.

■ We cover mortgages, insurance and protection products along with a number of other financial areas, so do contact us if you’d like to discuss your financial needs: Tel: 0800 014 9962 Email: sales@xactmortgages.co.uk Web: www.xactmortgages.co.uk

mortgages Tel: 0800 014 9962 Email: sales@xactmortgages.co.uk

Steve Froggatt HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH XACT? Been with Xact for 5 years WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Helping people find the best deal in as simple a way as possible SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW? I met Nelson Mandela on an Aston Villa club tour in 1994 FAVOURITE FOOD? Italian FAVOURTIE TYPE OF HOLIDAY? Whale watching and shark cage diving in South Africa

Conor Brown HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH XACT? 18 Months WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Helping people get the best deal for their mortgage but also love making sure that everyone is fully protected SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW? I lived in America for 18 months FAVOURITE FOOD? Sunday Roast – so many flavours on one plate FAVOURTIE TYPE OF HOLIDAY? Disney Land as it is a real family holiday. I can’t wait to take my family there. However, I have always dreamt of going to Bora Bora

Colin Jones HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH XACT? 5 years WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Speaking to clients on a daily basis and giving them the peace of mind that should the worst happen they will be financially secure. SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW? I am a qualified Golf Instructor FAVOURITE FOOD? Italian FAVOURTIE TYPE OF HOLIDAY? Hawaii


Meet our Advisors Lee Heycock HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH XACT? Since December 2017 WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Solving problems for people who are looking to move but don’t think its achievable SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW? Prior to Xact I served in the Infantry as a LCpl in the Royal Anglian Regiment where we toured Afghanistan, Nigeria and Kenya FAVOURITE FOOD? Sushi, looking forward to the new Japanese restaurant opening in Solihull! FAVOURTIE TYPE OF HOLIDAY? A cruise around Italy and the Greek Islands

Mike Hodgkinson HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH XACT? 19 September 2001…Day one WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? I love putting smiles on our customers faces SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW? I have a gold medal for ballroom dancing watch out strictly here I come FAVOURITE FOOD? Sunday Roast FAVOURTIE TYPE OF HOLIDAY? Cornwall, have been lucky enough to travel most of the world, Cornwall is still the best

Alan Dalby HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH XACT? I have been back since August 2020, having worked for the firm for 5 years previously WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Love helping our clients achieve their goals and ambitions of home ownership and constantly offering the best customer experience possible SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW? I’m scared of heights, yet have been to the top of the Eiffel Tower FAVOURITE FOOD? Can’t beat my Nan & Grandad’s Sunday Lunches FAVOURTIE TYPE OF HOLIDAY? Give me a nice Pool in a hot country and I’m happy

The information contained herein is of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal or financial advice and is not intended as a substitute for the same. You should seek professional advice tailored to your needs and circumstances before making any decisions. The contents of this newsletter are believed to be correct at the date of publication (April 2021).

Present your house for sale by de-cluttering... Maximise your home’s potential and create spacious rooms enticing potential buyers – simply by de-cluttering!

De-cluttering allows you to… maximise your space, emotionally prepare you to move, and will allow you to focus your buyers on what is important


f you are looking to sell your house, or have had your home on the market for a while now, then you probably want to get the maximum sale price in the quickest time. There are a few things you can’t control – but the one thing that is in your control, is the look and feel of the interior and exterior. While it’s worth spending time fixing and cleaning your house before potential buyers come and view, it’s also important to de-clutter. This creates spacious rooms and also allows you to decrease and organise your personal items before you move yourself. Of course it’s understandable that you don’t to want spend money, time and energy on a home you are about to leave, however, a lot of people are looking for a house in which they can move straight into. Maintaining your

property might even save you thousands of pounds; it could even reduce added expenses of living in your home whilst waiting for a sale. And it might even help avoid possible reductions in the asking price. The main reason in which people move house tends to be because they lack space in their current home. They want a home that is spacious and in which they can grow into. If a potential viewer comes to your home and sees that there is lack of space, then this will turn them away. De-cluttering allows you to remove any unnecessary items in an untidy or overcrowded place. It will help maximise your space, emotionally prepare you to move, and will allow you to focus your buyers on what is important.

So where should you start? You need to create a great first impression and focus on the rooms themselves. You will notice that the first things you see in each room are personal items. Where possible you want to create the look of a

them into things you want to keep and things you want to get rid of. You may even find that you have collected a cupboard full of paper work. Get yourself organised! Don’t just throw it all away, but file it and go through it thoroughly. This will also make it easier when you move.

De-personalising can also be a great way to declutter. Too many personal effects can be distracting to buyers. They want to see a house in which they can make their own memories rather than seeing yours. Again, personal items can be stored away. Remember

Where possible you want to create the look of a lifestyle that the potential buyers want lifestyle that the potential buyer want. This usually has a ‘show home’ feel, rather than a ‘lived in’ feel. Minimising your things is the quickest way to do this: you want to ensure that potential buyers can do simple things, like, open any doors easily, ensuring that there are no obstacles. So, what do we mean by clutter? There are two types: genuine clutter, and items that you want to keep but don’t work for the sale of your property. Genuine Clutter: You need to go through the space and sort out each item, categorising

You also want to focus on little things like DVDs, books and trinkets. These items may have some small value so sell them or donate them to charity. Get rid of any old shoes and coats that are lying about in your porch or hallway. You might want to hide away the coats and shoes you do currently wear. Store them in your wardrobe, while you have viewings. Items that you want to keep but don’t work for the sale of your property: You may want to consider putting some items in storage while you sell your home. Sometimes items are too large or even too small for some spaces and can make the room look odd. If you want to keep these particular items, then store them until you move into your new home.

that this is only a temporary way of living and hopefully it won’t be for long! If you find you are keeping more things than you are throwing out, then think about whether or not it’s in the right room or do you even need it now? As previously mentioned, you can attempt to sell some of the things you have acquired over the years. Use sites like eBay, Gumtree and social networking sites to try and sell items. You may want to even hold a house sale for the remaining items that you can’t sell. Failing that, why not donate to charity. The end goal is still the same and it’s important to help potential buyers envision your house as theirs. So remember, decluttering will make your home more spacious and entice potential buyers!

Top Tips! If you are throwing away paperwork, shred anything that is confidential

De-clutter before agents come and take photos of your property. This will help attract more potential viewers online and get that first good impression

Don’t spend too long on certain items and don’t get distracted. Keep yourself motivated and race against the clock!

Make it fun! Play some music or watch TV while you de-clutter

Your step-by-step guide to the conveyancing process


nce a sale has been agreed and is in the hands of your solicitor, it will go through the following stages. Sometimes additional work will be needed – for example, if the property is leasehold or is yet to be registered with the Land Registry. It is also important for buyers to discuss the availability of their deposit with their solicitor early in the transaction, and we strongly recommend that you contact your solicitor regularly so that they can keep you fully up-to-date with the progress and the latest timescales.

Seller’s solicitor’s steps • O btain a copy of the Title Deeds (or office copies if the title is registered) • Obtain a copy of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) (if applicable) • The seller(s) will return a completed Property Information Form and a Fixtures, Fittings and Contents Form to the solicitors • Copies of the above documents, plus a draft contract – this is known as an ‘Information Pack’ – will be sent to the buyer’s solicitor • Answer the buyer’s solicitor’s additional enquiries (for example, specific questions about fixtures and fittings) and obtain copies of any planning consent documents • Agree the contract and arrange for the sellers to sign it in readiness of the exchange (below) • All parties agree completion dates and the contracts are exchanged

Between exchange and completion • O btain redemption figures from the mortgage lender and reply to requisitions on title • Approve the transfer and arrange for the seller(s) and buyer(s) to sign • Receive the agent’s fee account and seek the seller’s consent to settle this out of completion funds

Completion date This is the date the ownership of the property passes from the seller to the buyer, and it follows the successful transfer of funds. It’s the date that the whole process works towards.

Upon completion • Receive completion funds and (only when this has been completed) instruct your estate agent to release the keys to buyers. Redeem mortgage and forward the financial statement. Forward any surplus funds (unless these are being used to fund an onward purchase). Ensure all outstanding bills are paid • Forward transfer documents and deeds to the buyer’s solicitors • Forward evidence of ‘discharge of mortgage’ to the buyer’s solicitors

Buyer’s solicitor’s steps • O btain the Information Pack, including a copy of the EPC (if applicable) from the sellers’ solicitor and raise any additional queries • Initiate any specialist searches (for example: a coal search). Submit local, environmental and water searches and a chancel check. This takes about 10 working days in total, and enquiries are then usually raised from the results • Approve the contract when all enquiries are satisfactory and complete. (At this stage, a mortgage transfer deed will need to be signed and witnessed) • Receive a mortgage offer and instructions from the lender and deal with any conditions set out by them. Make sure that life cover and buildings insurance is being arranged • Request the deposit, report back to the buyer, and arrange for the contract to be signed. Place buildings insurance and life cover in force • All parties agree completion dates and the contracts are exchanged

Between exchange and completion • Raise ‘requisitions on title’ and prepare the draft transfer deed • Report on title to mortgage lender and obtain funds for completion, including Stamp Duty (if appropriate) • Prepare accounts, obtain signature to mortgage deed and undertake final Land Registry and Land Charges searches

Completion date This is the date the ownership of the property passes from the seller to the buyer, and it follows the successful transfer of funds. It’s the date that the whole process works towards.

Upon Completion • F orward to the seller’s solicitors the balance of funds − it is only then that they can authorise the release of the keys. Receive from the seller’s solicitors, the transfer document deeds • Stamp the Transfer Deed, register the buyer’s ownership with the Land Registry and forward the deeds to the lender or client (where appropriate)

Contract - The agreement that sets out the main terms that have been agreed − for example: price, address, names, etc. Two copies are drawn up, and each party signs one in readiness for the exchange of contracts. Deposit - The part of the purchase price (usually 10%) which the buyer pays on exchange of contracts. Exchange of contracts - The swapping of signed contracts by the solicitors (together with the buyer’s deposit). After this, the contract is binding. Energy Performance Certificate - This contains information on energy use, energy performance, carbon dioxide emissions, and fuel bills. Land Registry - The Government department that records who owns what land, and under what conditions. Local Authority Search - A list of questions that are specific to the property and intended, for example, to discover if there have been any planning applications on the property, if the road to the house is maintained by the council, etc. Mortgage Redemption Figure - The amount required to repay the outstanding capital/ interest of a mortgage. Property information form/fixtures, fittings and contents form - Standard forms about the property that the seller answers for their solicitor (for example: what will be left behind, details of guarantees, etc.) Title Deeds - Legal documents that prove ownership of land/buildings, and the terms on which they are owned. Transfer of Title - The document that passes the ownership from the seller to the buyer. Stamp Duty for buy to let investors and second home owners - An additional tax, paid by the buyer purchasing an additional property that is not their main residence. It includes buy to let landlords and those buying second homes and holiday homes. The higher rates will be 3 percentage points above the current rates of duty shown below. Requisition on title - An enquiry relating to the completion arrangements. Seller’s Pack - This comprises a Property Information Form, a Fixtures, Fittings and Contents Form, a copy of the title deeds and the draft contract. Stamp Duty - A tax paid by the buyer purchasing their main residence. The current Stamp Duty Holiday runs until the 30th June and as such you won’t pay stamp duty on purchases up to £500,000. After this date the nil-rate band will be set at £250k until the end of September.

Moving house? From meter readings to removal companies, there’s so much to remember when moving house. Here’s our checklist of what to do and when


irst of all, congratulations on your new home! The excitement has probably now kicked in but moving home can also be one of the most stressful and emotionally draining things you can do. However, careful organisation and planning can help decrease the stress and anxiety of moving. This comprehensive and essential checklist will help you do just that.

Eight weeks – Research Ideally, you want to start packing away any non-essential items as early as possible. This includes any items stored away in the loft, garage and shed. If you are not using it, pack it. Looking into your new area is also important, try to do this around eight weeks before you move. You might need to think about transferring your children to different schools and ordering new uniforms too. At this point, ensure you are also documenting all your important information away: that includes contact details, dates, contracts and information regarding your solicitor.

Six weeks – Removal companies or do it yourself? Now would be the perfect time to decide on a local removal company. Or if you don’t have too much to move, you may want to do it yourself. You could even look into different van hire companies. At this point you’ve probably started packing away some bits, but if there is anything you decide not to take, then look into selling these items or donating them to charity. This will also give you an idea on the volume of items you have to move.

Four weeks – Notify utility companies This would be a good time for you to notify utility companies and inform them about your move to switch over. This includes gas and electricity, council tax, internet, phone rental and TV. You should also consider changing any car insurance, tax, memberships, phone contracts and inform your bank about the move. Now’s the time to also arrange a date to have your new house cleaned before you move

The buyers of our homes receive their very own property website to share via

Checklist Eight weeks Pack non-essential items Research your new area (transfer schools and order new uniform) Keep all important documents

Six weeks Decide on a local removal company Clear out any unwanted items Keep packing

Four weeks

It will be worth packing a night bag each to help everyone settle in, which means you won’t have to rummage through everything to find your toothbrush! in, and start ordering any new furnishings for your new property. Start packing away more items, that being, out of season clothes, books, dvd’s and even bulky items, like TV’s that aren’t used often.

Two weeks – Confirm all details Confirm your move with your removal company or van hire, estate agents and schools. If possible, try to organise someone to look after your pets and children for the day of your move, as this can also be a stressful time for them too. If your removal company doesn’t disassemble any furniture or sort out the un-plumbing for the washing machine, then now would be the ideal time to organise these. Remember to also cancel any local services you receive: this could be window cleaners, gardeners and newspaper deliveries. You should now also think about re-registering to vote and getting your post re-directed after your moving date. Continue packing away more furnishings, kitchen appliances and crockery that you won’t be using for the next couple of weeks.

24 hours – Final check and walk round You now have only 24 hours before you move, so double check that everything is packed away and ready for transit. It will be worth packing a night bag each to help everyone settle in, which means you won’t have to rummage through everything to find your toothbrush! You may want to create an inventory of your boxes and

furniture to help you keep track of what you have and to help you ensure it doesn’t go missing.

Moving day Today is the day! You need to be ready for when your removal company comes. Ensure that you let them know if there are any fragile boxes that need extra care when handling. If you’re moving yourself, then pack up your car or van and work out how many trips it may take. Before you leave, also take note of your final meter readings and send these off to your provider. Don’t forget to leave your keys for the new owners!

You have arrived at your new home! Give your removal company instructions of which boxes go in which rooms and make sure you are happy with everything that has arrived. Ensure you check for any damage before the movers leave. Read your new utility meters and send your readings of to your supplier. Taking photos of them will also ensure you have the correct reading if you need them again in the future. Unpack your essentials such as bed linen and clean towels. Don’t worry about the rest, it isn’t going anywhere! Order a takeaway, have a cup of tea and enjoy your first night with your family. Right, so now you’re all moved in, it’s time to settle down, unpack and enjoy your new place. Remember, planning is essential to ensure your move runs stress free.

social media with its address and personal message!

Notify utility companies Start preparation for your new house Keep packing

Two weeks Finalise all details Organise pet and child care Cancel local services Keep packing

24 hours Check every room and ensure everything is packed Pack a night bag so everything is to hand Collect your new keys Make sure your phone is fully charged so you can get in touch with the estate agents or removal company

Moving in Prepare for the arrival of the removal company and give them directions/ your contact details Ensure everything is ready to move Record meter readings

On arrival Give removal company instructions of what goes where Check for any damage before they leave Read your new utility meters and send them off to your supplier Check if the previous owners have left anything behind Unpack essentials Order a takeaway and sit back and relax!

Want to treat yourself to a proper removal company for your next move or are you prepared to do it yourself

Removal company or brave it yourself? Y

ou’re excited about your new home and location but the process of packing, organising and actually moving all of your items is something no-one really ever looks forward to. Not only that but you also have to contact utility companies, maintain a job, keep your children happy and clean your entire house. You do have super powers, right?

Removal companies You also won’t have to worry about the exhausting physical side of things, that being carrying boxes back and forth

Unless you live in a small property or flat, it could be worth hiring a professional removal company to help relieve some of the stress on the day. They have many skills and experience and some of the services they can provide include packing and

unpacking, dismantling and assembling furniture, loading your belongings quickly and securely, including those fragile and specialist items. They can even supply you with packing materials. Hiring a removal company will also allow you the time to collect the keys to your new home. You also won’t have to worry about the exhausting physical side of things, that being carrying boxes back and forth. Some services are great if you don’t have much time to plan and get these done yourself; however these do often come at a premium and may not be suitable for those on a budget. When choosing a removal company

Top tips for packing When packing, ensure you don’t overload your boxes with heavy items, as these will be difficult to lift and could cause a back injury. Fill any empty gaps using old newspaper, clothing, socks or even tea towels. This will help secure any items when they are being moved. its key to look at those which have good recommendations and reviews, as you need a company you can rely on. You can use comparison sites, such as comparemymove.com and reallymoving.com, to help find you the best deals.

items you have. You should also ask for the price to be broken down so you can see just how much you are paying for when it comes to certain aspects like insurance, packing, an hourly rate, mileage and any storage costs.

Getting quotes

Once you have found a removal company, it can be useful to send them a briefing sheet that includes information about any items which need to be specially packed, any difficult or large items, plus any carpets and curtains which need moving. Finally, it can also be helpful to send them a floor plan of the new property so they can unload efficiently.

You should aim to get at least three quotes from removal companies, preferably from firms which will come out to your property rather than those who just estimate the cost over the phone, as you don’t want any nasty charges later on. Plus it will give the company an accurate idea of any restricted areas in your home, if they can park a van or lorry, and how many

Create an inventory and label all your boxes and write the contents on each box with a marker. That way you will know which room each box is to go in. And if you are super organised, you could even colour code each room! Pack heavier boxes on the bottom. This might seem like common sense but it will ensure that any of your fragile items won’t break. Pack a survival box. These are the things that you will need first and should include paper towels, bin bags, cutlery, the kettle, some mugs, tea, coffee, milk, sugar and finally, some toilet paper!

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