Larkfleet Homes on Blogger

30 Jan 2019

New home for a new life?

Middle aged couple ready for moving day
There comes a time in life when you just know you have to make a move.

The ‘trigger’ for the decision to up sticks and move house is different for different people.

It often has to do with changing family circumstances. Maybe the kids have left home and you don’t need the sort of house that was ideal for a growing family. Or maybe your choice of location was dictated by the need to be close to particular schools and you’re now free to live somewhere different.

Changing employment can be another trigger for a move. You are earning more now that you were when you moved to your current home. You can afford somewhere bigger – so why not enjoy the fruits of your success with a better home?

And a house more conveniently located for commuting to work might be good. If you can save just 15 minutes travel each way on the daily journey to work and back, that adds up to around a whole working week of your life each year that you won’t spend travelling. What could you do with an additional week of ‘you time’ every year?

Or maybe you need to move closer to your parents. Or your children and grandchildren. Or the golf club.

Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to make a move.

There are lots of factors that influence where you move to. Location, obviously. Size of home. Price.

New build or second hand home?

Another factor you may want to give some thought to is the type of property. When it comes to moving home, you have two choices - new-build or used. Both come with their own advantages.

Things that you might want to consider when making that choice include:

  • You may actually be eligible for government help with the purchase. It is commonly believed that the Help to Buy scheme is just for youngsters and first-time buyers. But it’s not. You could get up to 20 per cent of the purchase price on what is basically an interest-free loan from the government if you are buying a newly built home with a price tag of up to £600,000.
  • A new-build home can be fully decorated to your own taste and ready to move in. Talk to the builder early enough and you can probably choose from a range of things such as floor and wall tiles, bathroom fittings, door handles, light switches and more - as well as specifying paint colours - to ‘personalise’ your home. If you buy a second-hand property you’re stuck with whatever the previous owners chose. And if you’re not keen on it, you’ll spend a great deal of your time (and money) over the next few months changing it. Do you really want to do that?
  • A new-build home will have a new central heating system and can come with new appliances in the kitchen, all covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. The garden fence is new, the windows are newly painted, there’s no moss on the roof and the gutters are clear. So, you know you’ll have no expenses in these areas for a good few years to come. 
  • Most new-builds will have a ten-year insurance-backed warranty that gives you security in the face of any major problems with the property. Even if you get a full survey done on a used home (which can be expensive) there is no guarantee that it will uncover all the potential problems with the property and you will not get any warranty from the seller.
  • You will get after-sales service with a new home that you won't get with a used one. It should be perfect when you move in, but if there are minor problems such as windows that don't lock or taps that leak, the builder will sort them out. In a used home, you're on your own from the day you pick up the keys.
  • If you are buying a new-build you won’t find yourself stuck in a property chain because you don’t have to wait for someone else to move out before you can move in. So, you can generally fix a moving date and stick to it. That really does make life much simpler!
  • Energy costs will be lower in a new-build property because it must meet tougher building regulations for things such as insulation and double glazing than older properties did when they were built.

29 Jan 2019

Is it time to buy your first home?

First time buyer couple looking at smart phone
How old do you have to be to buy your first home? The obvious answer is that there is no particular age to become a first-time buyer. But sooner is probably better than later.

Research last year by Santander found that owning a home is cheaper than renting in every part of the UK. On average, across the UK, you could make a saving of £2,268 per year if you move from renting to owning. Savings are greatest in London where the average monthly rent is £289 more than comparable mortgage payments, adding up to a potential £3,500 annual saving.

So, if you can afford to buy, it’s the smart financial decision.

Rising house prices, though, have put mortgages out of reach for many young people. As a result, the English Housing Survey reports that the average age of first-time buyers is now 33 years, up from 30 years a decade earlier.

And research which we’ve done at Larkfleet found that 58 per cent of house buyers said that their parents bought their first home at a younger age than the survey participants had done.

Financial benefits of buying - not renting

Not surprisingly, research shows that one of the main motives of becoming a home owner is a desire to stop wasting money on rent and instead start investing in an asset that you own.

When it comes to buying your first home, though, it’s not just about the money. A survey for Yorkshire Bank last year found that more than 90 per cent of actual and prospective first-time buyers say they made the change because owning a property is a good financial investment. But nearly as many also cite ‘emotional’ drivers such as ‘it feels more like home if I own it’, ‘it makes me feel grown up’ and ‘it is essential to feeling like I have succeeded in life’.

In fact, first-time buyers say that owning their own home is the most important milestone in their lives – rated more important than having children, getting married or achieving career or educational aims.

So, if home-owning has all this going for it, why isn’t everyone doing it? Well, you probably don’t need us to tell you that the biggest obstacle is getting a mortgage. And, in turn, the biggest obstacle to getting a mortgage is putting together a deposit.

Help with the finance to buy your first home

Putting together the money you need to buy your first home may not be as hard as you think. Government schemes such as Help to Buy can make a big difference to how much you have to raise and how much you have to save.

And government isn’t the only source of financial help. Research has shown that 'The Bank of Mum and Dad' is the equivalent of a £5.7 billion mortgage lender. It’s supporting more people than ever - around 27 per cent of all buyers receive help from friends or family. And our own survey showed that almost half of the buyers who received financial assistance in this way were not expected to pay it back.

Even if your family cannot afford to put up cash, they may still be able to help you get a mortgage – without a deposit. Read our insight into ‘guarantor mortgages’.

So, maybe it is time to make a move. But what sort of house should you buy?

Buying a new home

Partly because of Help to Buy – which is only available on new-build homes – more than half of new homes being constructed by most builders are now being sold to first-time buyers.

But in addition to the financial incentives, first-time buyers say they buy brand-new homes (as opposed to ones that have been previously lived in) because:

  • Once you’ve bought the house, that’s it. It is decorated, ready to move into, and fitted with a new central heating system and new appliances. Buy a second-hand home and you may soon be facing big bills for redecoration, repair and replacement at a time when you are already financially at ‘full stretch’ with your new mortgage.
  • It comes with a ten-year guarantee. If anything significant goes wrong, the builder has to put it right – at no cost to you. With a second-hand home, you’re on your own from the minute you pick up the keys.
  • You will get help and support from the builder throughout the sales process in a way that is just not possible for someone selling their house privately.

So, how old do you need to be to buy your first home? The answer is ‘old enough’. If you can raise the necessary finance (and as we’ve noted above, that may not be as difficult as you fear) there is no time like the present!

28 Jan 2019

A new home you can just lock up and leave

Middle aged couple getting ready for a hike
Owning your own house is great for independence, financial security and the feeling that there is somewhere you can really call ‘home’. But sometimes it can feel like a bit of an obstacle that’s actually stopping you from doing what you want to do.

Particularly when you retire, with all the additional free time that brings with it, you often simply want to ‘up sticks and go’ – a long weekend, a world cruise, a trip to somewhere warmer and sunnier than a UK winter (not hard to find!).

But if you’ve got to worry about the security of your empty home, or what state the garden will be in by the time you get back, it maybe spoils some of the fun.

That’s why there is an increasing interest in ‘lock up and leave’ or ‘lock up and go’ homes. Homes that you can be confident will be just as you left them by the time you get back.

Over-55 retirement communities often come with that sort of assurance ‘built in’.

Because they are real communities - not just housing estates – you can be sure that your neighbours will keep an eye on your home for you. In fact, in some of these communities there are formal ‘neighbourhood watch’ schemes.

If you are leaving a car at home while you travel, that same security looks after your vehicle as well.

If your lock up and go home is an apartment, you obviously don’t need to worry about the garden looking like a jungle by the time you get back. The communal grounds and gardens will be looked after by staff.

In over-55 developments such as The Croft at Baston, where the homes are all individual bungalows with their own gardens, these tend to be much smaller than you get with a ‘conventional’ home. There is therefore much less work involved in looking after them.

And smaller gardens doesn’t mean an absence of green open space around your home. There are well-tended communal spaces between the bungalows, creating a pleasant residential setting for the whole development.

In newly built over-55 communities the homes are all designed to be low maintenance, so there is just generally less ‘upkeep’ that you need to do yourself.

Of course, if you want your new home to be a base from which you can satisfy your wanderlust – now that you have the time to do so – you want to pick a location that is close to airports, seaports, rail stations or the places in the UK that you want to visit. That cuts down on your travel time and cost if you’re taking the car. And if you are jetting off overseas, having the airport nearby makes it feasible to get a taxi to the terminal without breaking the bank (and that will save you a fortune in airport car parking charges).

The Croft at Baston is just a few minutes from Peterborough rail station - with direct connections to Stansted airport and central London.

And talking of location and finance – ‘downsizing’ (we prefer to think of it as ‘rightsizing) to a home suited to your needs away from high-priced housing areas can free up a substantial amount of cash that you can spend on travel. Or whatever else you want to do with your expanded free time now that you’ve retired.

23 Jan 2019

Move home – or extend your existing home?

Move or extend? How to get more space in your house.
Needing more space is one of the most common reasons for moving home. A growing family is often the trigger that starts the search for a new house. Or maybe you would like to work from home – either working for yourself or someone else – and just need a space where you can work in peace and quiet.

Whatever the reason, if you’re thinking about moving home, maybe you should also think about the alternative – extending the home you have already. It may be cheaper and less hassle.

And if you are happy with the home you have, and like the location, why move if you don’t need to?

Well, there may be lots of reasons. Extending your home isn’t always as easy as it appears at first. But it is certainly worth looking at and we’ve set out some of the ‘pros and cons’ in this blog post to help you come to a decision.

We are assuming here that you own your house rather than rent it. But if you are a tenant rather than a homeowner, don’t immediately assume you cannot extend the property. See our ‘notes for tenants’ at the bottom of the blog.

Practical issues

One of the first things to consider, obviously, is whether you have the space to extend your home. Is your garden big enough to allow you to build an extension? Will you be happy with the size of garden you have left afterwards?

An extended home with little garden or no car parking may be difficult to sell when you eventually do move home.

Think ‘upwards’ as well as ‘outwards’. Can you create an additional room (or more than one) in your loft?

And what about going ‘downwards’? It might be possible to add a basement. But this is not a cheap option and is probably only financially feasible in high-price areas such as parts of London.

Financial issues

An extension will add value to your home as well as creating space. But you may find that the additional value is less than what you pay to get the extension built when all the costs are taken into consideration.

And anyway, if you are planning to stay in the house for the next few years (that’s why you are extending it, after all) any increase in value is not going to benefit you now – you only see the benefit when you come to sell.

Unless you have the cash to pay for the extension you are planning, you will have to take out a loan or – usually cheaper – get an additional mortgage or extend your existing mortgage. Usually the new borrowing will be via a separate account and you will be able to choose from several deals on offer. In this case, the new loan will not change the terms of your primary mortgage, but lenders will limit your total borrowing.

Some mortgage lenders are more flexible than others, but all have a limit to the ‘loan to value ratio’ (LTV) that they are prepared to consider. The total amount of your loans – what you currently owe plus the additional money you need to borrow for the extension – cannot exceed the LTV that the lender is willing to advance. This is typically 90 per cent of the total value of your home once the extension is completed.

Some lenders will be willing to let you have access to the cash before building works are complete. Others will want to see the extension finished before they part with any money – which isn’t a problem if your builder is willing to wait to the end of the project until it is paid. But you will usually get a better deal from the builder if you are willing and able to make payments as the project proceeds. And you will certainly have to pay some fees and charges 'up front'.

It may be possible to finance your extension quite cheaply if you can remortgage all your borrowings on to a better deal.

Personal and secured loans are likely to be more expensive than a mortgage, but they are worth considering if you cannot get a mortgage. But make sure you are confident you can meet the repayments. If you cannot get a mortgage for the additional expense, it may be that mortgage lenders are not convinced that you can afford the new loan. If that is the case, it should make you stop and think.

Whether you are extending your mortgage to pay for the extension or not, you will need to talk to your existing lender about what you are planning – and it is best to do this before you sign a building contract. The lender may want to see plans and a valid planning consent before giving permission for work to proceed. And there may be fees to pay for varying the mortgage.

It is a good idea to get some independent financial advice about the best way to raise money.


Make sure you tell your insurer what you are planning before building work starts. Your existing policy may not be valid if you are making changes to the structure of your house.

There may be additional premiums to pay to cover additional risks during building works and for the larger house you will own when the works are finished.

What will it cost?

The cost of building works obviously varies according to what you are having done and also on where you live. Builders in some parts of the country are simply more expensive than in others, mostly because they have higher costs to cover.

As a rough guide, though, you can expect to pay something between £1,500 and £2,000 per square metre for a single storey extension. And then there is 20 per cent VAT to pay on top of that.

That’s not the end of it though. In addition, you will have to pay:

  • Surveyors’ and architects’ fees.
  • Fees to your local council for obtaining planning consent and inspections to ensure your new building work complies with Building Regulations.

These will typically push you costs up by another 20 per cent or more.

Planning consent

You will probably need planning consent for any extension to your property unless it is quite small.  There is a handy guide here to when you need planning permission and when you don’t.

Generally, planning consent is not difficult to obtain for any reasonable building works. If you live in a conservation area though, or in a listed building, things may not be so simple.

Your architect or builder should be able to advise you and handle all the necessary paperwork. Or talk to your local council – they are usually helpful, although frequently over-worked and under-staffed which means even simple enquiries can take a long while to be dealt with.

You will have to pay a fee when you apply for planning consent – and you don’t get it back if planning consent is refused! So, it is important to get the documentation right in the first place. You don’t want to have the application refused because of simple errors in the plans. There is a guide to the fees here.


Moving house can sometimes be a lengthy business - finding the right home, selling your existing property, dealing with the complexities of being caught in a ‘chain’, and all the rest of the problems that can occur.

So, building an extension may seem like a quicker solution to your need for more space.

In fact, that is probably not going to be true! From the point where you first start thinking about this through to the day when you start using your new extension, it will take far longer than you probably expect. Getting the plans drawn up, obtaining planning consent, finding a builder and then doing the actual building work will typically take a full year.

Hassle and stress

It has often been said that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do in life. So, ‘staying put’ and having an extension built may seem a good idea to avoid that.

It is not exactly without problems, though. There’s the stress of seeing the project through its planning stages. Then, for several weeks (or even months), your home is going to be a building site, with all the associated noise and dust. You won’t be able to park your car on the drive because it will be full of building equipment. Your lawn will be a storage area for bricks, blocks and other materials. And the patience of even the most pleasant neighbours can wear thin after a few weeks of noise, mess and builders' vehicles parked all over the road.

If you are having a loft extension built it can be even more intrusive. The builders will generally gain access through the roof, rather than tramping through your home, but they will be working right above your head with scaffolding up against your windows.

It’s definitely not stress-free!

A separate solution

You can avoid many of the problems of building an extension if you are willing to have your new space separate from the rest of the house. And this can be ideal if you need that additional space for a home office or workshop rather than for ‘daily living’.

You can buy some really excellent ‘sectional buildings’ (the posh phrase for sheds) that can be well-insulated to make them usable all year round and fitted out to a high standard of convenience and comfort.

You will probably need to put in proper foundations (your supplier will advise you) and you may need planning consent (talk to your local council).


So, do you move – or do you stay and extend?

With so many things to consider, each decision is different. But while staying put and expanding your existing home may at first seem like less cost and stress, it may not prove to be the case.

And with developers such as Larkfleet Homes offering a wide range of new homes that are ready to move into, and with many also offering schemes that will relieve you of the hassle of selling your existing house, making a clean start in a new-build home could be the better option.

Notes for tenants

If you have been a good long-term tenant, and are planning to remain that way, you may find the landlord is willing to consider helping you if you want to extend your home. After all, it could leave them with a bigger and more valuable property on which they can collect more rent. 

It is a bit of a ‘long shot’, though. You are much more likely to be successful if you are renting privately than if you are renting from a housing association or council. But it is always worth asking. 

The financial arrangements can be ‘messy’, though – who is going to pay the builder, who is going to meet any additional insurance costs, what is the impact on the landlord’s mortgage on the property, etc? These complications can be enough to put off even the most willing landlord.

It can be much simpler if you are planning on creating more space by doing something like putting in a large shed, rather than building an extension to the house. But you will almost certainly need the landlord’s permission. Make sure you have that in writing before you make any financial commitments.

If you do get permission to erect a shed, your existing tenancy agreement will probably mean that you are obliged to keep it in good repair, etc.

And consider what happens when you do eventually move. Will you be able to take the shed with you (some will come apart almost as easily as they went together – in theory, at least!) or will you have to leave this expensive asset behind you?

21 Jan 2019

A home for a teenager

Teenager does her homework in her bedroomSo, you want a home for a teenager? We don’t mean that you want to ship your offspring out to a hostel for troubled kids (tempting though that may be, sometimes). We mean you want to create – or maybe buy – a home where your teenager will feel … well, at home.

Let’s think about buying a new house first. We’ll look at what you can do to adapt an existing home in another blog post later.

Many families with young teens or about-to-be-teens move house. Children growing up is a turning point in family life and often a trigger for a change of home.

Younger children can maybe share a bedroom, but as they get older this becomes a problem. For a start, they are just bigger. They physically need more space. And psychologically they want their own space. We all did, when we were their age.

You want them to have their own space as well. Partly to keep them out of your space. And partly so that you don’t have to be constantly intervening in arguments between the children about who can do what in a shared room.

And they have more ‘stuff’. They may be leaving toys behind, but they fill their lives with more things. Often more clothes as they become more design and fashion conscious.

The clothes are bigger, too. A single drawer that used to hold all of a toddler’s tee-shirts, for example, will not be big enough for many teenage tops.

So, let’s face it, you need a bigger house. One with more rooms.

You probably don’t want to move far. But the kids are now of an age where they can get a bus to school further away. Or go on their bikes. You are no longer tied to being within walking distance of the junior school.

So, you can move to a different location.

It can be as simple as that. A bigger house in a different place.

But there are some things you should perhaps look out for when house-hunting.

One is fairness. “It’s not fair” is a constant teenage complaint. And if one of your children has a room that is very much bigger than the other (or others) the complaints from those allocated the smaller rooms may have some justice.

There are ways around that.

The one with the bigger room may be expected to play and study within his or her room, for example, while the other(s) have some priority over space in family areas. But it is good to agree those bargains before you move in. While you are house-hunting, in fact.

Take the kids with you when looking at potential purchases (it is going to be their new home as well, after all). Maybe not on a first visit but when you have a shortlist for a second visit. Agree the ‘deal’ then – “Jackie gets the bigger bedroom, but John can use the dining room for studying or playing on his computer – but needs to tidy things away before bedtime”. Or something like that.

If the ‘rules’ are agreed and clear from the outset, there is less chance of argument later.

So, more rooms, certainly. But think about how they are going to be used. If you are going to expect your teenagers to use their bedrooms for play and study, the rooms need to be big enough for the appropriate furniture. A bed and wardrobe won’t meet the need any more. What about a desk? A chair?

And what about visitors? If they have friends around, do you want your living room full of noisy teenagers? Or do you want your kids to do their entertaining in their rooms? How much space and furniture will they need for that?

There can be issues there, too, as they get older. What are the ‘rules’ about visiting boyfriends/girlfriends? If the only furniture in the room is a bed …..

If your budget stretches to buying a home with a room that the kids can use for entertaining friends (on a rota basis – so one of your brood doesn’t monopolise the facility) and for doing homework, etc, you can get away with smaller bedrooms. And you will have fewer worries about what the youngsters are up to with their guests where you cannot see them.

Think about the layout of the house as well. Modern, new-built, homes are pretty well soundproofed. Older homes may be less so.

Having the family room directly under a teenage bedroom can cause problems if you want the TV or music on when you also want your offspring to be sleeping. And, similarly, that drumkit in the bedroom can be a headache (literally!) if you’re trying to read a book in the room below.

And what about location? Transport links should be a key consideration. If your teenagers’ interests (sports, dance, music – or even just socialising with their friends) require them to be in places more than a short walk away, you are going to be constantly in demand as a taxi service. A house close to a bus route that serves the most likely destinations to meet your youngsters’ needs is a good idea.

Finding a house to meet all of these requirements may not be easy. But house-hunting can be fun, especially if you involve the whole family. Including the teenagers.

Start by taking a look at some of the new-build developments on offer.

And come back to the blog later for ideas on how to make the most of teenage bedrooms, whether in a new home or your existing property.

18 Jan 2019

The benefits of a new home in a retirement community

Over 55 couple in retirement village
‘Retirement villages’, ‘retirement communities’ or ‘age exclusive developments’ are a relatively new idea in the UK. Ten years ago you would have struggled to find one (OK – maybe ten years you weren’t looking for one – just take our word for it!).

But maybe you are looking for one now. If not for yourself, then for family members.

In our experience (and we’ve researched this topic pretty thoroughly) it is often the children of retirement village residents who first suggest the idea to them. When your parents are starting to ‘get on a bit’ and are rattling around in the old family home which is far too big for their needs, it’s maybe time to think of making a move. Especially a move that brings them nearer to you.

And there are lots of good reasons for making the move to a retirement village.

Typically, these are communities of from 50 homes up to 200. They may be apartments, bungalows or small houses. All are designed and built to require minimum maintenance and there are usually some shared services – such as a cleaner or gardener, for example, to look after communal areas.

What retirement villages are not is ‘care homes’. Residents live active and independent lives in their own homes. They are not ‘elderly’. That’s why the age limit for these developments is sometimes as low as 50 years. But 55 or 60 is more typical.

They are designed to appeal to healthy and active people – whether retired or still working – who are ‘downsizing’.

There can be a strong financial incentive to make a move to one of these communities. Some people can sell their current home for considerably more than the cost of a new one in a retirement village, allowing them to bank a tidy sum of money.

But it is the community aspects of these developments which are their key benefit. Residents make their home among a group of like-minded neighbours. Strong new friendships are often formed.

And research shows that this has all sorts of benefits. A report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation called ‘Making the case for retirement villages’ found that:

Retirement villages promote health and well-being. Increased opportunities for social interaction and engagement can reduce the experience of social isolation, with consequent benefits to health, well-being, and quality of life.
There is often a wide range of different resident-led interest groups in retirement villages and there is a pool of people from which to draw friends and companions.
The villages show ‘solidarity in ageing’, with people making organised responses to difficulties being experienced by individuals. For example, neighbours collectively organise assistance with shopping, meal preparation, visiting and so forth for people coming out of hospital. And the community as a whole gets engaged in things such as neighbourhood watch schemes.
Living in a purpose-built, barrier-free, efficiently-heated environment removes many of the difficulties and dangers of living in inappropriate accommodation, in particular the risk of falls.

The report also shows that residents see retirement villages as a positive choice. They are particularly attracted by the combination of independence and security, as well as opportunities for social engagement and an active life.

So, if it is time for Mum and Dad (or you) to start thinking about a home better suited to their needs, why not consider somewhere like The Croft at Baston?

17 Jan 2019

Bungalows for family living

An Allison Homes bungalow
The British have a bit of a love affair with bungalows. But bungalows also have an image problem. They are are seen as good housing for people who are, perhaps, getting on in years.

We think that’s all wrong and it’s time for a ‘bungalow revival’. Bungalows can be great places to bring up a family.

Here are a few things worth thinking about:

It is stating the obvious – but there are no stairs! So, if you have young children you don’t need to worry about stair gates to stop them falling down the steps. And when you trip over the toys they’ve left strewn around, you’re not going to fall down the stairs either!
Everyone is closer to hand. When the kids are playing in their bedrooms, they somehow seem nearer than when they are a floor above you. And if you need to make several trips to their room in a morning to get them out of bed or in an evening to drag them in to dinner, the closeness can have advantages. You won’t need to shout up the stairs any more (but maybe you just text them anyway, if you’re in a really big house!).
It may be a mixed blessing – but you won’t be constantly going up and down stairs to visit the loo, get the washing from the bedrooms, etc. But if that is the only exercise you get all day, maybe stairs are a good thing!
However, the fact that moving items such as furniture around the home is easier in a bungalow is definitely an advantage. If you’ve ever tried to get a wardrobe up a flight of stairs, you’ll know what we mean!
Bungalows can be easier to keep clean and tidy, inside and out. Apart from the fact that there are no stairs to keep clean, all your windows are on one level – so you don’t need to employ a window cleaner. If you have the time, you can clean all the windows yourself with no more specialist equipment than a step ladder.
Exterior maintenance of a bungalow can be easier than a house as well. If your window frames need repainting, they are all within easy reach of the ground. And a step ladder is all you will need to reach the gutters for clearing or painting.
If you’re surrounded by other bungalows, you won’t have anyone overlooking your garden.
Planning ahead, it’s a fact that most of us get less mobile as we get older. Having all your rooms on one floor may mean that, even if your mobility declines to the stage where you need a wheelchair or walking frame, you won’t need to move home.

But there are some downsides you may want to think about as well:

Some people are not happy sleeping on the ground floor, feeling that they are somehow more vulnerable. We’ve not seen any evidence that this is the case. But sometimes evidence isn’t what matters - it’s how you feel!
Some people feel that living on one level means that there’s not as much separation between living and bedroom areas. There is also a perception that there will be more problem with noise – eg, the TV in the living area keeping children awake – but again there’s no evidence to support this. Modern bungalows are built to high standards. You will probably have as much trouble with noise in a house traveling through ceilings as with noise in a bungalow traveling through the walls.
You may also feel there is less privacy when bathrooms are on the same level as other living areas. Again, it’s a ‘perception thing’. How do you feel about it?
Pound for pound, you will probably get more living space with a house than you will with a bungalow. In other words, a bungalow is likely to have a higher cost per square foot (or square metre – we really should ‘go metric’ in the property business).

A recent survey carried out by Tepilo, Sarah Beeny’s estate agency, found that people living in bungalows are the nation’s happiest homeowners. They were the most likely to say they are very happy with their property, with 51 per cent agreeing. This was followed by those living in detached properties (41 per cent), semi-detached homes (37 per cent) and flats (34 per cent).

Put all the evidence together and you can see that living in a bungalow has many advantages. So, while they are extremely popular with older homeowners, younger buyers are also realising the many benefits that these properties offer.

If you are interested in bungalow living, take a look at the Allison Homes developments at Pinchbeck Fields and Nettleham Chase.

And if you are over 55 and thinking about a bungalow in a ‘retirement community’, you could take a look at our development at The Croft in Baston.

16 Jan 2019

Getting a mortgage – without a deposit

Mortgage calculator
Yes, you read that headline correctly. You can get a mortgage, even as a first-time buyer, without having a deposit.

Sounds too good to be true? Sadly, for most people it probably is. But read on to see if you could be one of the lucky few.

Some lenders (and there aren’t many of them, to be honest) will give a mortgage to cover 100 per cent of the purchase price of your new home. But only if someone else is willing to guarantee that you will keep up the payments.

You will no doubt have noticed that every mortgage advert you see contains the words “Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage” – or something similar.

Repossession is the mortgage lender’s final trump card. If you don’t keep up your mortgage payments, the lender will eventually kick you out of the house and sell it. That’s the way it can be sure it will get its money back.

But – you will be pleased to know – lenders really don’t like to do that. Just on a practical level, it’s messy and complicated from the lender’s perspective. So, what if the lender could be sure of getting its money back from someone else, not you?

That’s the basis on which you may be able to get a 100 per cent mortgage – a loan for the full cost of the house.

It’s called a guarantor mortgage, where a friend (it would have to be a really good friend) or a family member takes on some of the risk of your loan by offering their own home or their savings as ‘security’ for the lender. Whoever it is becomes what is known as a ‘guarantor’. If you don't make your mortgage repayments, the lender then gets the money from your guarantor instead.

So, you can get a mortgage without a deposit if you have a guarantor who the lender thinks will be certain to come up with the cash if you can’t.

And that’s why only a few people are able to get a 100 per cent guarantor mortgage. You have to have a guarantor. Who do you know who trusts you enough to put their own home or savings at risk to help you take that first step on the ‘property ladder’? It’s a ‘big ask’ that you’ll be making.

But it can be done. The Bank of Mum and Dad may come up with the guarantee.

Of course, you don’t need to go for a 100 per cent loan to take out a guarantor mortgage. You could borrow less than the full purchase price of your new home and still use a guarantor mortgage.

So, why would you want to do that?

Well, for a start, you may be able to get a better interest rate because the lender will see you as less of a ‘risk’. This particularly applies if you have a poor ‘credit history’ such as regularly going overdrawn at the bank or missing payments on your credit cards.

If you decide to go down the guarantor mortgage route, both you and your guarantor are responsible for the mortgage repayments. And, just as you will (if it all goes wrong) have your home repossessed if you cannot afford to repay the loan, your guarantor could (in the worst of all circumstances) lose their home as well.

For example, if you owed your lender £250,000 but it was only able to recover £200,000 by repossessing your property and selling it (which could well happen if property prices go down), your guarantor would be liable for the remaining £50,000.

If your guarantor couldn't find the money, their home could be repossessed as well. Usually, though, they would be able to take out a second mortgage on their home to repay the debt. But that still saddles them with a potentially large additional monthly payment they have to find as a consequence of their generosity in guaranteeing your mortgage.

There are a number of variations on the basic guarantor mortgage, with greater or lesser risks for the guarantor.

For example, under a so-called ‘family offset mortgage’, parents or grandparents put their savings into an account linked to your mortgage. The amount in the account is deducted from the amount of the loan that you pay interest on, which is good news for you. The bad news for the family is that they don’t get any interest on their savings. And if you stop making your mortgage payments, they could lose all the money in the account. If all goes well, however, eventually they do get their money back.

Some lenders offer a similar mortgage scheme where the family’s money is put into a special account and is held as security against the mortgage. They still get interest paid on their savings (although the rate will not be as good as they'd get with other investments). And if you meet all your repayments, it won't cost your guarantor a penny.

If you don’t make all your repayments, though, the lender can take the money from the guarantor’s account.

It can all get a bit complicated. So, we’d strongly recommend that you (and your guarantor) get some good independent financial and legal advice. Everyone needs to know exactly where they stand and what the risks are.

There is real danger of families being torn apart if things go wrong. You and your guarantor may have every confidence now that the lender will never need to call on the guarantee. But you do need to think seriously about what happens if you cannot keep up your payments.

That said, a guarantor mortgage can be a great idea. And it could allow you to get a mortgage without a deposit.

It has to be worth looking at, surely?

For advice on finding an independent financial adviser and a quick estimate of what your monthly mortgage repayments might be, take a look at our mortgage calculator.

15 Jan 2019

50-plus and in need of a mortgage?

Mortgage application
If you are 50 or 60 years old (or more) and thinking of moving home, you are probably thinking of ‘down-sizing’ – moving to a smaller property. If so, you probably have a house to sell that is worth more than the one you want to buy. So, you won’t need a mortgage.

But you may want to do the exact opposite. Maybe you want to ‘up-size’ and move to a bigger property. In which case, you may well need to take out a new mortgage.

So, where do you stand with getting a loan?

The normal mortgage term – the number of years you will be paying off the loan – in the UK is 25 years. And with rising house prices making property purchase increasingly difficult, 30-year terms are becoming common.

If you are 50 years old or more already, 25 or 30 years will probably take you well into retirement (although many of us, from choice or necessity, are working well beyond the age at which previous generations retired). Will a lender be willing to give you a mortgage if you may not have a salary with which to repay it?

Lenders see offering you a mortgage becoming riskier as you get older. They need to be sure they will get their money back – without taking drastic steps such as repossessing your house. They must also follow the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) rules, which mean they have to make sure you can keep up with repayments over the full term of the mortgage.

As we all know, what you earn is one of the key factors in deciding how big a mortgage you can obtain. So how do lenders view people who may not be earning a salary at all during the period of the loan?

The good news is that an increasing number of lenders are willing to look at mortgages that will take you well into your 80s – or even your 90s. We are all (if we’re lucky) living longer nowadays and the financial services industry is adapting to the changes.

Some lenders, though, still have lower age limits. They may well insist that if you want to take out a mortgage aged 50 or more, you take it out over a short term – say 15 years – so that the majority (if not all) of the repayment period is while you are still earning.

Of course, a shorter term on your mortgage means more expensive monthly repayments, so this may not be ideal. Especially if you will be paying from a pension.

On the other hand, taking on a 25 or 30-year mortgage later in life is not necessarily a good option either. Financial planners usually recommend that you eliminate as much of your debt as possible before retirement. By reducing debt, or ideally becoming debt-free, you will have an easier time managing daily expenses once you are living with less income.

If you can afford the higher monthly payments of a 15-year mortgage, you will ultimately save money by paying less interest over the life of the loan. And by paying off the mortgage more quickly, you could eliminate mortgage debt early in your retirement years, or even before you retire.

Whether you are going for 15 years, 30 years or some other term, it is often easiest to do a deal with your existing mortgage provider rather than seek a new lender. They will usually be willing to forget about things like early repayment fees (what you need to pay if you want to end a mortgage early) if you are taking out a new mortgage with them.

But if their rules prevent them from offering you a new mortgage because of your age, you may have a problem.

One way to increase your chances of getting a mortgage in later life is to have a clear plan of how you will pay the loan back. This will not only help you to budget for making payments when you retire, to provide you with the assurance that you can afford the loan, it will give the lender that same assurance.

You will need to prove to the lender that you will have enough income to cover the repayments after you retire. If you want the lender to take account of your pension income you will have to show evidence that you are paying into a pension (or are receiving one). If you are still a few years away from retirement, you will need to show some evidence of what your pension and any other income will be once you’ve stopped working.

The lender will also want to know how you plan to cope with some of the consequences of old age. If you are one half of a couple, for example, and one of you dies, how will the surviving partner pay off the loan? What happens if one of you needs to go into a nursing home? It all may sound a bit ‘morbid’ but it is actually sensible long-term planning.

Getting some good professional advice at an early stage is well worthwhile. If you are buying a new home from a builder such as Larkfleet Homes or Allison Homes they will be able to recommend an advisor who can help you. He or she will have experience of the available options and know which banks and building societies are willing to take on older borrowers – and at what costs.

09 Jan 2019

Women in charge when searching for new homes

Taking the keys to a new house
This may not come as a total surprise. Research we have carried out has proven that when it comes to finding a new family home, if there is one person ‘in charge’, it is women who take the lead.

A survey we ran with a number of media partners has revealed that, in the majority of households, there is shared responsibility for the search for a new home. Even the children play a role in some cases (why not? they will be living there too).

In fact, in almost 70 per cent of households thinking about moving to a new house, there is no clear leader in the property search.

However, where there is one individual leading the search it is likely to be a woman. This is the case in more than 30 per cent of households. In only a very small number of mixed gender households is it a man taking the lead.

The research also identified a strong role for ‘extended families’ in both searching and decision-making by first-time buyers. Parents in particular are heavily involved – perhaps not surprising when the research also shows that the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ is the most common source of financial help for house buyers.

Not everyone gets financial help, however. The survey shows although many (28 per cent) current house-hunters expect to receive some help with putting together the deposit needed to secure a mortgage, most of them (64 per cent) say they will have no assistance.

And when it comes to the point of purchase it appears that not all the promised assistance materialises. Among those who have actually completed a purchase only 22 per cent say they received help with the deposit.

Those who did receive help with putting together a deposit usually (58 per cent) obtained it from their parents – and grandparents assisted a further 8 per cent of respondents.

A slight majority (51 per cent) of those who received help are expected to pay the money back – but 46 per cent are not and 3 per cent are unsure.

About the research: 

1. The research was conducted in two phases:
a) An online survey in which people were asked a number of questions about their house-buying preferences and experience. 
b) A telephone interview in which people were asked more probing questions about a number of topics. 
2. The survey was promoted online and in print through a number of channels to obtain a representative cross-section of respondents who were either currently searching for a new home or had bought one within the past 12 months. 
3. What Mortgage and First Time Buyer Magazine were media partners and helped to promote the survey to their readers.
4. 418 people took part in the online survey and 30 then went on to participate in the telephone research.

08 Jan 2019

Selling your home when buying a new one

House for sale
As we’ve seen on our blog before, selling your existing house so that you can buy your new dream home can be a bit of a problem. If you cannot find a buyer for your current home – or you thought you had a buyer and then it all went wrong when the buyer pulled out – you may not be able to buy your new house.

In the property industry they call it a ‘chain’. And you really don’t want to be there if you can avoid it.

Probably worst of all is to be in the middle of the chain. You have to sell your house before you can get the cash to buy your new one. But the people who are buying your house need to sell their house before they can pay you. And the people buying their house need to sell …. etc, etc.

There can be many links in the chain above you. And if any one of them ‘breaks’, everyone in the chain (including you) may have to start again.

And there may be a chain ‘beneath’ you as well. If you are buying a second-hand home, the people who are selling it to you need to move out before you can move in. They may need to wait for the people selling their planned new home to complete their purchase. And they may need to wait …. etc, etc, all over again.  And if the chain breaks, you’re all ‘back to square one’.

It can be a complete nightmare. But there are ways to solve the problem without losing too much sleep – or money.

One way is simply (well, it sounds simple) to sell before you buy. Sell your existing home, put the money in the bank, and then go shopping for your new home.

As a ‘cash buyer’ you can be in a position to negotiate a good deal and vendors (the people selling the home you want to buy) may prefer to take a lower offer from you than a higher offer from someone who hasn’t yet sold their own home.

Of course, there are downsides.

One is that you’ll probably have to move out of your existing house and take a short-term rental somewhere else (or move in with family or friends) while you shop around for your new home.

That’s not always the case, though. You may (if you’re lucky) be able to agree a short-term rental with the people buying your existing home, so you can stay there for a few weeks while you are house-hunting. Don’t count on this as an option, though – it’s rare that your desire to stay for a while will match your buyer’s plans. They are much more likely to want to move in straight away.

If you do need to move out before you have a new home to move into, you’ll have two sets of moving costs (from your existing home to your rental home, and then from there to your new home) rather than just one. And if you’ve put your furniture into storage while you stay with family, you’ll have storage costs to pay as well. Compared with all the other costs involved in buying and selling a house, though, it’s not a big deal.

But don’t forget that you won’t be getting much interest on money you put into the bank – and house prices will probably be rising all the time you’re shopping around. Again, it’s probably not a big deal at this time of relatively slow house price increases, but you don’t want to leave it too long before you ‘get back on the property ladder’.

Of course, there are other ways of avoiding getting caught up in chains.

If you are buying a brand-new home from a builder, you clearly don’t have a problem waiting for someone to move out before you can move in. So, there’s no chain ‘beneath’ you.

And the builder may be able to cut the chain ‘above’ you as well. Many developers – such as Larkfleet Homes and Allison Homes – offer schemes such as part exchange, assisted sale or guaranteed sale to help you get rid of your existing home at a good price.

With part exchange, the builder will take your existing home as part-payment for the home you want to buy. You then only need to find the money to pay the difference between the sale price of your existing home and the purchase price of your new one. And the builder can probably introduce you to a financial adviser to help you find a good mortgage deal (we can certainly do that at Larkfleet) if you need to borrow the money to do this.

In an assisted sale scheme, the builder will help you to sell your existing home – and while you are waiting for the sale to be completed, will reserve the home you want to buy for you. It takes some of the pressure off when it comes to selling your existing house. You know that you cannot ‘lose’ the home you want because the vendor decides to take a better (or quicker) offer from another purchaser.

And sometimes there are other benefits too – at Larkfleet, for example, we will pay your estate agent’s fees when the sale completes.

With a guaranteed sale scheme (at Larkfleet we call it Secure Home Purchase) the builder buys your home – and then, one you’ve moved out, sells it again. There is a small commission to pay but it can be well worth the money for all the hassle it saves!

Finally – well, as far as today’s blog is concerned – you can escape your chains by using a bridging loan. Basically, this is some short-term finance which puts cash in your bank while you’re waiting for your existing home to sell. It makes you a ‘cash buyer’ in the same way as if you had sold your existing home.

But bridging loans are not cheap. If you are planning ahead, most of the ideas above (selling before you buy or doing a deal with a builder) are probably going to be better value.

Where bridging loans can be really useful is to ‘repair a broken chain’. It is possible to get a bridging loan arranged within a few days. So, if the buyer of your existing home has pulled out, and because of this you are at risk of losing the option of buying your new home, a bridging loan can be a stop-gap solution. We’ll come back to this topic in a future blog post. At this stage, all we’ll say is – get some good financial advice before you go down this route!

In the meantime, you can read our advice on selling your existing home – because at some stage, the solution to all the problems is to find a buyer willing to pay a good price for the home where you currently live!

04 Jan 2019

Maybe Mum and Dad should move home?

Enjoying retirement in a new home
When we were young we all desperately wanted to be older – as teenagers we longed to be adult. It would, we thought, give us all sorts of things that we just didn’t have as kids. A home of our own being one of them.

Now that we’re older and that home is either a reality or coming within reach, is being adult all that we dreamed it would be? Do we sometimes wish we were younger again?

And surely by the time we reach our 60s and 70s we would like to turn the clock back, for all sorts of reasons?

Well, apparently not. Research shows that we are at our happiest once we’ve turned 65. So, if you’ve not yet reached that age, you have something to look forward to!

But when we reach our sixties we need to start thinking of what the future will bring. Retirement and all that comes with it can be a ‘watershed’ moment, opening up new opportunities – not least in our choice of home.

And if that is not yet you, maybe it is something your parents are experiencing?

For most of history, people spent their whole lives in small communities. Few people moved away from the village where they were born. Several generations of the same family would share a home. Those who moved out were usually living just around the corner in a home shared with several generations of the family of a husband or wife.

That’s not the way of things in Britain today. Children grow up and leave home in pursuit of education or jobs. They often end up living miles from their parents. Which is fine for them and their parents – until the parents pass a milestone age (60? 65? 70?) at which some rethinking may be needed.

Maybe it would be better if the family were closer together again? Would that make life easier – if not now, perhaps in the future?

But, let’s face it, you probably don’t want Mum and Dad moving into the spare bedroom. Perhaps somewhere a little closer to hand than where they live at present, though?

Now, they may be nowhere near ready to move into a care home. They are still fit and well and enjoying retired life with the freedoms it brings. But maybe thinking ahead would be good. In fact, the right choice of housing in retirement could (research shows) postpone the time when people do need a care home, perhaps by several years.

That’s why there is an increasing interest in age-exclusive developments that are designed for those who have retired or are planning to do so in the next few years.

These communities are built to meet the housing needs of people of a certain age – some are for people ‘over 55’, others ‘over 60’. The idea is the same, regardless of the exact age limit.

They provide the over-55s or over-60s (whether retired or still working) with independence based on owning and living in their own homes combined with the health and social benefits of being part of a community.

Research by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that communities such as the ones that Larkfleet creates under The Croft brand – with their opportunities for social interaction and engagement – can reduce social isolation, with consequent benefits to health, well-being and quality of life.

Communities such as The Croft can provide a wide range of different resident-led interest groups and a wide pool of people from which to draw friends and companions.

Studies have also found real community support for residents in developments such as The Croft. For example, neighbours will often help with activities such as shopping. The community will provide support for everyone through formal or informal ‘neighbourhood watch schemes’ and similar arrangements.

That’s a benefit not just for the residents but for their wider families, knowing that someone is keeping an eye on Mum and Dad. And also knowing that the older generation is not feeling lonely and isolated but actively enjoying a good social life.

If that is happening just a short distance from home, rather than on the far side of the country, it makes the whole notion of family support so much easier.

The research which shows we are happiest in our retirement years suggests that one of the reasons we are not so happy in the years leading up to our retirement may be that we not only have to look after our own kids, but we are under pressure to invest time in looking after parents too.

So, a move to The Croft could be a ‘win:win’ – good for everyone.

03 Jan 2019

Larkfleet sponsors girls’ football team

The ICA under-8 girls team
Is there anyone out there who still thinks football is only for boys?

It's certainly not what we think at Larkfleet - and it's not what they think at the Peterborough-based ICA Sports Football Club. So we have been delighted to back the ICA Under-8 Girls team with a £250 cash boost from the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund.

The donation will help to purchase a new playing kit for all the players and the Larkfleet Homes logo will take pride of place on the back of the shirts above the squad numbers.

ICA Sports Football Club hosted its first ever girls-only football session in February 2015. As the sessions continued and news of its work spread, the club has kept growing.

For the 2018/19 season, ICA Sports is running girls-only squads at every age group from Under-8 to Under-15, providing organised league football for girls in school years 1 to 10.

The Larkfleet Homes Community Fund supports groups which enhance or develop local communities. It makes grants to charities or voluntary organisations within ten miles of any housing development by Larkfleet Homes or Allison Homes, both part of The Larkfleet Group of Companies.

Karl Hick, CEO of Larkfleet Homes, said: “A community is more than just houses. When we are building new homes, we want to support the local groups that our residents can participate in to help build a real community.”

You can read all about the ICA team at We wish them every success as the season progresses.

01 Jan 2019

New Year, new home?

Homes for sale
If one of your New Year resolutions for 2019 is to move to a new home there are a few things you need to sort out first.

It’s best not to rush into this. You can always cancel a gym membership if you decide that joining was a bad resolution but it may not be so easy to back out of a house purchase once you’ve started things moving.

Over the next few weeks we will look in our blog at a number of aspects of planning a purchase and move.

We’ll start the year with something obvious but often overlooked in the enthusiasm of planning for a move – if you own a house already, you probably need to sell that before you can buy a new one.

It may not always be necessary, of course. There are ways – such as bridging loans – to get the cash to make a purchase without having sold your existing property. But all of these have drawbacks (and costs) so the best thing to do is sell before you buy.

So, is January a good time to put your house on the market?

If you talk to an estate agent, he or she will tell you that January is one of the best months to sell. But, curiously, if you ask in February whether that is a good month to sell, they will tell you pretty much the same. If you are selling a house, estate agents want your business - and they want it now. So now is always a good time to sell according to estate agents!

What is the reality, though? Is January actually a good time to sell a house?

Well, it is probably not too bad. After all, you want to sell when people are looking to buy. And if you are thinking of buying a new home right now yourself, you are probably not alone. In fact, market data shows you are definitely not alone.

Spring is usually said to be the best time to sell your house but many factors affect the market – such as the type of property you are selling – so any advice on when is the ‘best’ time to sell needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Analysis of data from Rightmove carried out by The Advisory says that if you are looking for a quick sale, March is the best month to put your house on the market. Homes first listed in March take an average of 57 days to find a buyer.

But the variation throughout the year is not huge. Homes first listed for sale in January take an average of 62 days to sell. That’s only five days longer. That probably won’t make a great deal of difference to your plans. And remember, that’s only an average figure, anyway. Your house could sell much more quickly (or not) depending on things such as its location and the price you are willing to accept.

The best time to sell, obviously, is when there are lots of buyers actively looking to buy and few competing sellers looking to sell.

You can get a feel for the number of homes like yours on the market in your area by using a portal such as Rightmove as though you were looking for a house like yours near where yours is actually located.

Figuring out how many buyers are in the market is more difficult. You probably just have to put your house up for sale and see how many enquiries you get.

Conventional wisdom in the property industry (if there is, in fact, any wisdom in the property industry!) is that many first-time buyers and young couples are looking for a new home in January. Spending one more Christmas at home with parents and family has convinced them that it is time to move! So, if you are selling a smaller property that might appeal to this group of potential buyers, now is probably a good time to put it on the market.

Potential buyers who themselves already have a home to sell may also be spurred into action by the Christmas festivities when they realise they could actually use more space. What has prompted you to think about moving? How many others are likely to be having the same thoughts right now?

If you are aiming to sell, now may be a good time to have your home online to ensure you don’t miss this New Year audience. If you wait until later in the year, your home could end up being one of many houses for sale. If you aim to sell now there is less risk of getting lost in a ‘market overload’ later in the year.

But, we have to say again, there is no right or wrong answer to property sales. You could be lucky and swiftly find a buyer at any time of year.

Or not, of course. And that is where moving to a brand-new home may be helpful.

Many builders – including Larkfleet Homes and Allison Homes – offer part-exchange deals on some properties, taking your existing home off your hands so you don’t need to find a buyer. They can also help you with similar schemes which guarantee you a buyer at a good price. That is not something that can be offered by sellers of ‘second hand’ homes.

It is one more reason to think about buying a newly-built home.

Our show homes are closed today (New Year’s Day) but we’re open as normal from tomorrow onwards. Why not call in for a chat about how we may be able to help you?

31 Dec 2018

Resolving to keep your resolutions this year?

woman thinking of New Year resolutions
Today is the day to make your New Year resolutions for 2019. And for many people, tomorrow is the day to break them!

A recent study by Bristol University found that 88 per cent of people who set New Year resolutions fail to keep them – although the majority of people are confident they will keep them at the time they make them.

It has probably been the same for thousands of years because New Year resolutions have a long-standing history.

The ancient Babylonians apparently made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, after whom the month of January is named.

So, how can you increase your chances of keeping your resolutions in 2019?

One tip is to make just one resolution. What do you really want to achieve this year? Your chances of success are known to be higher when you focus on changing just one aspect of your life.

If you can, break the resolution up into small steps. So, if you aim to lose weight, set yourself a monthly target – what would you like to weigh at the end of January? And then at the end of February? And so on, right through to this time next year.

Psychologists also suggest that you should give yourself a small reward whenever you achieve a sub-goal. This will help to motivate you and give you a sense of progress. So, if you hit your weight loss target for the end of January, treat yourself to a meal out. But make it a small one if you’re going to stand a chance of hitting your target for February!

And tell your friends and family about your goals. You're more likely to get support and, if you’ve made a public commitment to doing something, you will be more motivated to actually do it and avoid the failure.

So, if your resolution is that you will move to your dream home in 2019 - we’re here to help. Just give our sales team a call on 0845 450 7872.

Happy New Year!

29 Dec 2018

Get shopping – it’s the New Year sale season!

Family shopping

If you didn’t have enough shopping in the run-up to Christmas, now’s a good time to head to the shops.

Many retailers started their ‘New Year’ sales on Boxing Day and certainly by 1 January, most of them will be underway and in full swing.

And then by mid-January, it’s all over – although still keep an eye open for the last-minute bargains. Some stores will cut prices again in the final few days of the sale just to shift things like last year’s models of electronics goods or last season’s fashions. And at these prices, does it really matter if it’s not quite the latest trend?

Originally started as a way for retailers to clear the stock they had failed to sell in the weeks before Christmas, the January sales are now a much-anticipated feature in the shopping calendar.

The big stores are worried though that this year's sales season will turn out to be as much of a disappointment as Black Friday was back in November. The figures suggest that although we bought more things (the number of items sold over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend was 10 per cent higher than in 2017) we were particularly choosy. The amount of money we spent actually went down by 12 per cent.

So, if the retailers are struggling to tempt us into making purchases, there could be some real bargains in the January sales this year. A winning situation for those who enjoy shopping, especially if you still have a couple of days before you need to go back to work.

Transport for London has put together a handy list of the big retail outlets in the city that are having sales:

Transport for London, however, also notified that public transport will not be running a full timetable on 1 January, so if you’re heading to the big city on that day, check travel websites and plan your journey before you set off.

Of course, if you’d rather do your shopping from the comfort of your own home, you could check out the following online retailers which, amongst others, are also having New Year sales:

If you are taking part, either in-store or online, we hope you bag a bargain – and have fun!

27 Dec 2018

Planning a New Year party

New Year party
Well, that’s Christmas done for this year! Time to start thinking about 2019.

For many people, the New Year celebrations are bigger, and often more important, than Christmas. And by their very nature, are certainly different.

While Christmas is a time for families, New Year celebrations tend to be more of an adult occasion – largely driven by the tradition to actually see the new year in at midnight (and beyond!).

If you are planning to host a New Year's Eve party, the plans are likely to be well underway by now and your invitations safely with your guests. But if it's a late decision to celebrate, don't worry, there's still time to rally people up but you need to hit the phone now.

Either way, you need to have thought about how many guests you can realistically invite as this will determine the type of party you are able to host. If it's a more informal drinks reception with finger buffet, you'll be certain to fit more people in; a dinner party on the other hand inevitably requires more space (and planning), even if it's just for the table and chairs. And then there's the dancing!

Catering should be next on the list. Whether it's light bites or a full 3-course dinner, you'll need to plan ahead and decide your menu in advance; food is always a talking point and can be the making of a good party. But don't forget to ask guests about any special dietary requirements, allergies or intolerances as you'll need to factor these in too.

After the food is sorted, turn your attention to the drinks because your options are endless. You can offer a full bar to suit all tastes, add a touch of style with a sparkling drink on arrival, indulge in a full menu of cocktails and let people get mixing or simply stick to asking everyone to bring a bottle (or two) of their choice! The latter will certainly help if you are party planing on a budget!

And it's always wise to make sure there are non-alcoholic drinks available too, especially for those who have drawn the short straw and are driving. Sparkling water, festive cordials and fruit juice are great, but there's always the option for some inspiring ‘mocktails’ too?

Music is also a key ingredient at any great party. What you play will depend upon the type of event you've planned, as well as how the evening takes shape in reality – background music is always a good starting point but something to dance to later on is almost an essential. Create your playlist in advance and leave it to roll on the night.

Party games - whether you love them or hate them, they can certainly add an element of fun to the evening.  Something where people can choose to be involved, or not, is often a good move to make sure no-one feels embarrassed or uncomfortable, although this is something usually overcome once the drinks are flowing.

And then you need to think how you will mark the stroke of midnight. A countdown to the turn of the new year – maybe from ten seconds beforehand – is always good fun, followed by a good sing-song of Auld Lang Syne. The fireworks on TV are always worth a watch too.

For some, this defining moment in a New Years Eve party can result in a momentary anti-climax but it's unlikely to end the party. Guests love to dance the night away into the early hours before making their way home. Hopefully most will have planned taxis well in advance, and if not, have an alternative plan in place.

But after all this, the most important thing of all is to make sure you have fun yourself! We hope you have a great New Year and look forward to welcoming you back to the blog in 2019.

24 Dec 2018

Help! Santa can’t get in!

Santa comes down the chimney
Throughout the land this evening, children are going to be wondering “how will Santa get in?”.

Almost every picture you see of Santa delivering presents shows him coming down the chimney with his sack (you don’t often see one of him going back up!). But most modern houses don’t have a chimney. So how can Santa get in?

Rest assured. The same magic that allows him to get around every home in the world in just a single night means that the absence of a chimney causes him no problems at all.

But why doesn’t your house have a chimney?

Up until some time after the First World War, most homes constructed in the UK were built with the traditional open fire – and therefore with a chimney. But from the 1930s onwards, more and more homes were built with central heating.

Even then, the houses may well have had chimneys. Many early central heating systems burned coal and therefore still needed a chimney – though it would have been difficult for Santa to use.

From the 1960s onwards, we saw a switch to oil-fired or gas-fired central heating (which needed a flue – but not a proper chimney) or electric heating (which doesn’t even need a flue).

Of course, central heating is not a great innovation. The ancient Greeks had it – the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (near the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey) used what was basically the chimney from a fire outside the building running horizontally under the floors to heat the rooms.

The Romans had a similar system for heating their villas with the flues from the fire running not just under floors but through the walls.

The collapse of the Roman Empire, though, brought an end to the use of central heating in Europe.

The earliest central heating system in more modern times was probably the one used in a mill building in Derby, designed in 1793 by William Strutt. It had a large stove that heated air brought from the outside through an underground passage. The air was distributed through the building by large central ducts.

The majority of houses built by Larkfleet Homes now use gas-fired central heating. Even where we are building in locations far from a gas main – meaning there is no gas on tap – we will often fit central heating that runs from bottled gas. Sometimes we will even use electric central heating with a ‘heat pump’ – like a refrigerator running in reverse, it draws heat from the air or ground outside the house and brings it indoors.

Our gas-fired central heating uses a combination boiler, (or combi-boiler) which produces hot water not just to circulate around all the radiators fitted in your home but also for washing and bathing.

Combi-boilers are very efficient, and therefore help to keep your fuel bills down.

You also make savings because the boiler heats only the water that you use. Older boiler systems used to heat a tank of hot water (usually up in the loft) and once you had used all the hot water in the tank you had to wait for it to heat up again. Of course, if you didn’t actually use the water, all the energy put into heating it up was wasted.

We reckon Santa probably uses a combi-boiler to keep himself and the elves warm in his North Pole workshops. Or maybe he just uses magic – and a woolly vest!

21 Dec 2018

Congratulations to our winners

Mr and Mrs Jest
Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Jest who attended our show home launch at Hawthorne Gardens at the start of the month.

They put their names into our prize draw – and have won a Christmas hamper.

Hawthorne Gardens is in the village of Ilton, close to Ilminster and Taunton. It consists of 47 stylish two, three and four-bedroom detached and semi-detached houses.

The new homes are built using sustainable timber frames which help to make them more energy-efficient than average houses. You can save more than £600 per year on your energy bills compared with a similar ’second hand’ home.

Each new house is fitted with solar panels which allow you to generate electricity from sunlight even on cloudy days – cutting your energy bills as well as helping to tackle global warning.

This is all part of our commitment to the environment which also includes minimising waste, reducing the use of materials and protecting wildlife during house-building.

21 Dec 2018

Hurray - summer’s on the way!

Things can only get better. Today (21 December) is the shortest day of the year – the winter solstice* – so tomorrow we can start the countdown to summer.

Such beliefs were taken very seriously in years gone by. The threat of starvation in a harsh winter was very real, so the turning of the year towards seasons where food would be more abundant was significant.

Throughout much of recorded history and – as far we can tell – for thousands of years before that, the passing of the year’s shortest day was marked with feasting and celebration. As it is today. It seems quite probable that the early Christians ‘hijacked’ ancient pagan midwinter festivals when choosing a date for Christmas.

Scandinavian and Germanic pagans – the Anglo-Saxons of ancient England – lit fires and may have burned Yule logs as a symbolic means of welcoming back the light. Cattle and other animals were slaughtered around midwinter, followed by feasting on what was the last fresh meat for several months. The Romans celebrated the midwinter festival as “Saturnalia”, named after the god Saturn.

The ancient Iranian festival of Yalda is also celebrated at the winter solstice. In pre-Islamic times, it heralded the birth of Mithra, the ancient sun god, and his triumph over darkness. Zoroastrian tradition says that evil spirits wander the Earth and the forces of the destructive spirit Ahriman are strongest on this long night. Beliefs about the presence of evil on the longest night are also contained in Celtic and Germanic folklore.

The modern Druidic celebration Alban Arthan – Welsh for "Light of Winter" – marks the death of the ‘old Sun’ and birth of the ‘new Sun’.

And Stonehenge (which is far more ancient than the Druids) is aligned to sunset on the winter solstice, demonstrating its importance to the neolithic peoples who built it. The primary axis of the monument is oriented to the setting sun – although we don’t know why. Its purpose is still a subject of debate. But its importance on the winter solstice continues as thousands of hippies, pagans and other enthusiasts gather there every year to celebrate the occasion.

What we do know is that Stonehenge was built in several phases over a period of around 1,500 years.

We can promise that if you reserve a new Larkfleet home on the winter solstice (or indeed, at any time) it will be built rather more quickly than that. And for the next few days, through to the end of the year, you can reserve a new home for just £99 and (on selected plots) win a seasonal gift as well.

*Solstice derives from the Latin word sol, which means "sun", and the past participle stem of sistere, meaning "to make stand”. It reflects the fact that the sun’s position in the sky relative to the horizon at noon, which increases and decreases throughout the year, appears to pause in the days surrounding the solstice. The date of the winter solstice varies - it can be anywhere between 20 December 20 and 23 December 23. However, 21 and 22 December are the most common dates. The next time the solstice occurs on 23 December will not be until 2303!