Category Archives: Your Next Mortgage

Making your home your own

By: Simon Cocks

When it comes to home accessories you want them to say something about you and who you are. Whether you are a chintz and floral fan or a white-walled minimalist, your taste in home decor is something that is personal to you.

Fruitless searching

But finding that statement piece of furniture or artwork can be both time-consuming as well as costly. Weekends spent searching through craft markets or trawling the web for a one-off piece can end up being frustrating and fruitless.

Making a statement

Well, there could be a very simple and deeply satisfying answer – make your own. Quite often something that is sitting unused in your home, your garden or your garage could be transformed very easily into a piece of homeware that is at once original, interesting and cheap.

The idea came to me when I went into one of those little boutique shops that pop up in any village or town that has a ‘quaint’ quality. This particular shop was selling planters that were suitable for either indoor or patio plants. In effect they were old milk churns and metal buckets that had been painted a tasteful National Trust pastel colour.

Money for junk

While those particular planters were selling in the shop for £45 a piece, a local farmer was happy to sell me two old metal tubs for £10/pair. He looked at me as if I was mad as I drove away with what was essentially his old junk.

My aunt had left me a very ordinary writing bureau. It wasn’t antique, it wasn’t beautiful, it didn’t fit my modern style of furnishing. But painted a coastal blue colour and with some shells and glass ornaments on its shelves, it became a statement piece in its own right.

I also had an old wire rack, which had a little rust on it. This cleaned up beautifully and is now a spice rack in my kitchen. I looked at a specialist home ware website and a similar piece would have set me back £95.

A little imagination

Whether it is an old wooden crate that is transformed into a wine-rack, a suitcase that becomes a blanket box or a set of old-fashioned milk bottles that turn into stylish flower vases, with a little imagination your junk can become your treasure.

Here are 5 everyday items that can take on a new lease of life:

  • Stepladder – if you are lucky enough to have an old wooden step-ladder this can make a very useful and stylish bookcase.
  • A bicycle – an old cycle will lean against the wall with an insouciance and style that will be unbearably cool. Paint in retro colours to enhance the effect.
  • Old tools – scythes, axes, pitch-forks – these working instruments of days gone by can add a touch of character to a wall, particularly if it is a bare brick wall, or you live in an old cottage.
  • Fabrics – this takes a little more effort, but making cushion covers or door stops from the cut-offs from your curtains can add an effortless synchronicity to a room.
  • Pallets – the wooden pallets that building materials arrive on can make a lovely table top, be it for outside furniture or a statement-making coffee table. Again, a little bit of craftsmanship is necessary but the result is fabulous and cost-effective.

Myths about mortgages

Applying for a mortgage: some of the myths dispelled

As the process of applying for, and getting, mortgages is toughening up under the Mortgage Market Review (MMR), we take a quick look at some of the common mortgage myths that can lead to would-be lenders making some basic errors, and ending up with a more expensive mortgage, or indeed no mortgage at all.

 

All too often, well meaning friends will give you some mortgage advice or offer some perceived wisdom, which could make you fear for the future or take the wrong course of action. Here we outline some of the common misconceptions, but if you are in any doubt, then do seek professional advice.

Mortgage myths

A mistake in your 20s will not stay on file for ever – Most of us made financial errors in our 20s. Whether you were a student who ran up debts; a home owner who missed a payment or a party-goer who outlived your means, there comes a point when years of sensible living far outweigh your wilder young days. Lenders are not interested in a missed payment when you were younger, they want to get a decent picture of your financial situation now. Most details relating to your credit history are kept on file for around six years.

If you have never borrowed money, you will get the best deals – This one catches a lot of people out. Most banks would prefer to see a well-managed history of borrowing and repayment than a blank canvas. If you have never borrowed money before, they have no way of assessing how well you will manage debts now. If you are thinking of getting a mortgage in the future, start to build a good credit history by taking out a small loan and repaying it in full.

Repaying small amounts will increase your credit rating – No, paying in full will increase your credit rating as it will demonstrate that you can afford repayments and you are coping well with a loan. By only paying small amounts or the minimum repayment you are more likely to lower your score.

Previous occupants at your address affect your credit rating – This will only be true if you have a shared financial agreement with them, like a joint account. It doesn’t matter what the financial situation of the previous occupant is, it will not appear on your credit score. It does help if you have a record of your own previous addresses, and no outstanding debts to your name related to those properties.

Past debts don’t count – Court judgements, Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) and bankruptcies stay on your records for at least six years. Even a missed repayment on a credit card will be on your record for six years. Seeing that you have missed payments may suggest to a lender that you will miss repayments with them.

Whether you are looking for a mortgage now, or plan to apply in the future, it is never too early to start looking at your finances and getting them into the best shape you can. A potential lender is looking for someone who is capable of managing their financial situation well, so it is always good to establish some good financial habits.

 

Staying in credit

By: Images Money

A bad credit rating can affect your ability to get a mortgage, and with the clampdown on mortgage approvals as the banks tighten up on standards, even if you are not considering a mortgage at present, it is still worth getting your finances in order so obtaining a mortgage will be easier in the future.

What do banks look at?

Remember, banks will now look at all aspects of your finances. While we all know that lenders will not look favourably at people with County Court Judgements, defaulted payments or bankruptcy orders, it is also the case that a missed credit card payment or a default on an energy bill can also cause problems. Such is the pressure on the banks not to lend to potential bad debtors, the mortgage review process will even take into account spending habits and lifestyle so if you have an online gambling account it might be worth closing it or limiting your gambling activity to improve the number of times it appears on your statement. A bad credit history or some banking activity that suggest you might be a risk in the future, will limit who you can borrow from.

Here are some guidelines to getting your finances in top-top condition.

1. Check your own credit history through credit history companies Experian, Equifax or CallCredit. Ensure your debts are all registered to your current address and everything is up to date and correct.

2. Show lenders you are a responsible borrower by taking out a credit card and paying everything back each month. Having a credit card is important as it shows you have a credit history – there have been cases of people who have never had a credit card struggling to get a mortgage because they have no credit history to demonstrate!

3. Don’t make too many credit applications all at once, lenders will see this as desperation. Space applications out, even mobile phone contracts. Things that lenders like include: a fixed landline rather than a mobile phone; long-term employment history; a long-term record with the same bank; and a long time at one address.

4. Make sure you are on the electoral role. If you have a bad credit history, don’t despair. There are steps you can take to improve matters. Start to build a good credit history by paying store cards and credit cards as soon as you get the bill. Get a friend or family member with a good credit history to co-sign a loan or credit card. this will establish good credit in your name.

5. Don’t keep applying for credit if you have been turned down, this will show on your credit history. Wait a while until you are in a position to demonstrate a good credit history.

6. If you have had no credit cards and therefore no credit history, take out a credit card or a small loan and pay it off quickly. This will establish you as a trustworthy and responsible borrower.

Clean-up your credit act

Re-establishing a good credit history will take a little time, but by cleaning up your credit history, you will stand a better chance of making a successful application. So it really is worth taking a good look at your finances and making some tweaks to ensure that a potential lender will like what he sees. In a nutshell, this is someone who likes to use credit – be it in the shape of store cards loans or credit cards, but is willing and able to pay these debts back on time.

Five top tips to help you save money

By: Blatant World

Just making your wages last until the end of the month can be difficult these days. With food prices and the cost of living generally very high, people are struggling to make their money stretch. While pay rises and a drop in the cost of living would make an immediate and sizeable difference to many families, there are little things that each of us can do to reduce our cost of living.

Here are some ideas:

1. Make a shopping list before you do the weekly groceries.

If you take a few minutes to sit down and plan your meals for the week, you will find that you throw far less food away. Statistics suggest that we chuck out nearly £500 of food each year, so by planning what we need – and avoid the supermarket’s advertising ploys – we can reduce the amount we waste.

2. Sell your clutter on E-Bay.

Do a simple test: open a cupboard door and see what you can discover that you haven’t used/worn/touched in three years. Anything that you are keeping ‘for the sake of it’ can go towards your eBay or car boot sale.

3. Swap talents.

Within your circle of friends/family/acquaintances you probably know an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter and a decorator. You might not think you have a talent that they want, but think outside the box. Can you offer music lessons to their children in return for a room being decorated? Are you an IT whizz-kid who can build them a website or design them some business cards? Could you re-design their garden while they fit those down lights you have been wanting for years? By swapping skills you will save hundreds of pounds and enjoy socialising at the same time.

4. Get to the front of the queue.

Even when you are on a savings spree, you still want to go out and see your favourite bands or go to a West-End show. Today, we tend to mainly get our tickets through ticket touts, who charge a premium. But this is not always the case, sometimes you can get cheaper tickets by being first in line or going to the venue. For concerts and gigs, the tickets go on sale to the public at the same time as they are sold to the promoters. You just need to know when they go on sale and then buy them straight from the main agents before they hand the tickets over to the promoters. Sign up to a free alert service from the main ticket agents and get in before the touts get them. Also sign up to your favourite bands websites so you have insider knowledge of when they are touring. For West End shows, if you are able to be in the city, you can go directly to the venue and buy return tickets on the day – these will be a third of the price you would pay be booking through an agent.

5. Cancel your gym membership.

In these times when we spend large proportions of our day sitting down and we are constantly being warned about the dangers of inactivity and obesity, it may seem counter-intuitive to suggest cancelling a gym membership. However, there are two points to consider: a vast majority of the people who have gym memberships that they pay monthly, rarely go to the gym. A £50/month gym membership is very expensive if you only go once or twice a month. If you don’t go at all, then it is money thrown away. Consider joining a pay-as-you-go gym. That way you know you are getting value for money. Alternatively, look for an exercise regime that is free to use. Running, walking, cycling, doing a home circuit, meeting friends for a kick around in the park – these are all free and fun ways to get fit. These are just five ideas for saving money, it really is just case of making some adjustments in your life that will leave you feeling wealthier, and in some cases, healthier.

Discover your neighbourhood… on foot

By: robin robokow

Moving to a new area can be a daunting prospect. You might be a first time buyer moving out of your family home; you could be setting up home after three years at university; you could just be up-grading or down-sizing.

Step out

Whatever your circumstances, you are in a new area and you don’t know the first thing about your surroundings. I always find that one of the best things you can do to discover your local area is to step out of the door and just walk.

Through pacing the streets, lanes and footpaths you can discover more about the locality you have moved to than any guidebook can tell you.

Exploring the ‘hood’

Where is the best place to walk the dog? What is the quickest route to the village shop? Where can you stop for a coffee on your way to the station? where is the playing field for the kids to play football? By walking around, you will soon learn the answers to these questions and many more besides.

This is also the way you will meet local people. Walkers and dog walkers will usually nod and say ‘hi’, and often you will find yourself drawn into a conversation. A casual chat with a woman on our local heath led me to a reliable window cleaner.

A sense of adventure

There is also the small frisson that you get when you are not quite sure where your path will lead you. Once you cross the river, is there another route back? Does this alley lead anywhere, or will you come to a dead-end? Not knowing is sometimes half the fun. There is a path between two rows on houses in the city I live in that leads to a ‘secret swimming spot’. It is well known by a few local people, but the other 20,000 city dwellers know nothing about this hidden gem. I discovered it by following my curiosity.

Mapping your route

But if tales of the unexpected is not your thing then there are gadgets and gizmos to help. One favourite is Walkit.com, a website and smartphone app that allows you to wander the streets of most UK cities and a fair number of towns, without getting haplessly lost. If you key in your start point and your destination, Walkit.com will provide both clear, written instructions and a map. You can choose the most scenic route, the quickest route, the most traffic-free route and it will tell you other details such as journey time, incline, calories burnt, steps taken and a host of other information.

Tailored walks

OS Google Maps are another great source of route finding. The vast technology behind google maps allows you to follow more than 150,000 online routes, as well as add your own.

These routes, like Walkit.com, can be tailored to meet specific needs – accessible routes, cycling routes, traffic-free etc.

The old-fashioned method

For people who enjoy the feel of a paper map between their hands then the Ramblers Association is a great source of local maps for all sorts of environments. While people tend to think of ramblers as bound to beautiful countryside walks, then they will be surprised to see that the ramblers have extended their comprehensive maps to cover urban areas too.

Keeping fit

The final point to make, is related to fitness. Walking is an excellent way to get fit and stay fit. It is less damaging to the joints than running; requires no expenditure except for a sturdy pair of trainers or walking boots and can be for as long or as short a distance as you have the time or the energy for. And it is the perfect way to get to know your new neighbourhood.

Living a sustainable life

By: Jeremy Keith

How to make your life more sustainable? It’s the question on everyone’s mind. What does that even mean? Does it mean recycling carefully? Does it mean ensuring you have the most efficient heating system? Should you have a solar panel roof?

Well here are five tips for living sustainably without the need to break the bank or turn your home into a futuristic, solar-powered greenhouse.

Save energy… and money

If you reduce the amount of energy you use in your home, not only will you be lowering your impact on the climate, but you will cut energy bills. There are some simple steps you can take to do this:

  • Change your lightbulbs for energy efficient ones; they last longer and cut the cost of electricity.
  • Turn down your thermostat by just one degree – this reduces the energy you use by 10%.
  • Turn off your electrical appliances at the wall, this saves a massive amount of energy wasted by leaving appliances on stand-by mode.
  • Set your washing machine to 30-40% and try to dry clothes naturally
  • Draw your curtains at dusk to maintain the heat in the room

Travel smart

Transport in the UK contributes a staggering amount to total UK carbon emissions. Try to explore ways of lowering your own personal travel footprint. This could include things such as car share – travel to work with colleagues who live nearby, thereby sharing costs and cutting carbon; walk or cycle on shorter trips; take breaks in the UK to cut down on air transport; and plan your journey to cut out unnecessary trips – combine the school run with the family shop or give neighbours a lift to do their weekly shopping.

What’s for dinner?

Food is produced on such a huge scale that if we all made just small changes to our behaviour it would have a massive impact on the planet’s resources. This doesn’t mean you have to swap your meat-eating habits for that of pure veganism, but some changes will have a positive impact on your carbon footprint, your pocket and your health.

Try to cut out meat for some meals – if you normally have a meat product daily, try to reduce this to three times a week. Buy local, seasonal vegetables – these are usually cheaper and fresher because they haven’t travelled round the world, and there is ususally far less packaging on vegetables that come from a market or farmer’s shop. Plan your shopping to reduce food waste. Think about what and how much food you will need and try to cut down the amount you throw away significantly.

Recycle everything

It is easy to separate cans, bottles, paper and recyclable plastics from general household waste. It takes just a few seconds and, if everyone joined in, can make a huge impact on the planet. And when you shop try to avoid heavily packaged goods or say ‘no’ to a plastic bag if it is not necessary.

Go green

Whether you have a huge garden or just some window boxes, you can still grow your own produce. Obviously the larger the garden, the greater the scope and if you are lucky enough to live in a house with a garden you can grown your own fruit, vegetables and herbs. But even if you grow a few herbs on your window sill you will still be saving money and helping the environment. You can also make your environment a healthier and more aesthetic one by planting trees or bushes outside your front door or in pots in the house. Evidence from numerous sources suggests that trees and shrubs act as a filter for the noxious gases that are produced by vehicles in all our towns and cities.

If we all made a few, minor adjustments to our lives, collectively we could have a big impact on the environment and individually we could make our money go further.