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From run-down house, to dream family home – one family tells their home story of a self-build project

We were so glad to hear from one of our families who bought a property from us and transformed it into their dream home. They saw potential in a small run-down house in the village of Pwll and began to convert it into their ideal home that ticked all of their boxes. Now they reflect on their journey through the whole process.

Elgin Road in Pwll, an area that wouldn’t first come to mind when searching for a dream home, is where our vendor found their “forever home” after exhausting the property market to no avail.

After what our vendor would describe as a moment of madness by her husband, the pair found themselves in a little village called Pwll facing an “old tiny run-down house.” Our vendor’s reaction was “why on earth would he bring me here?”, but her husband asked her to look beyond the house and there it was, a breathtaking view that sealed the purchase of this tiny run down house within just five minutes of being there!

This was the moment in which they decided this was the location for their dream home, and that they were going to build that dream home to match and to enjoy with family and friends.

The benefit of building your own home, according to our vendor, is that you can make your criteria ‘tick sheet’ a reality. Our vendor’s tick sheet was quite lengthy and included many factors that had prompted their plans to move, factors such as needing space for their three young teenagers to hang out with friends, whilst also wanting to be close to their ageing parents.

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Elgin Road is a home that offers something for all members of the family; it boasts generous room sizes and a self-contained living accommodation that’s ideal for a teenager or relative to live in. This is all without mentioning one of the main focuses of the build, the property’s outstanding views. The lounge and bedrooms have their own balconies where the family can sit out and admire the same view that convinced them to buy what they will always know as “the tiny run-down house”.

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The family are now able to enjoy a once unthought-of location that has links to the millennium costal path, beach walks for the dogs, and strolls to the local pub for a quiet evening meal and drink, all within just a five minute walk.

Has this family’s venture got you thinking about your next property?

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Support for Mortgage Interest – the changes under the radar

With the changes in buy-to-let tax relief and the potential rise, yet again, in interest rates dominating the economic headlines, you could be forgiven for missing a small but important change made by the government during the 2015 summer budget.

It has not been shouted about, nor has it been explained particularly well but, within the next three years, some rather dramatic changes to the Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) benefit are to be enacted.

Oliver Adair of Mortgage Advice Bureau discusses the benefits of SMI, the changes that are to be made within the next couple of years and how they could, potentially, affect home-owners.

What is Support for Mortgage Interest?

SMI can assist home-owners with the costs of their mortgage payments, though it should be noted that the scheme will not pay off your mortgage for you.

It will, however, contribute to paying off the mortgage interest.

The government will make interest payments on the first £200,000 of your outstanding mortgage directly to your lender for the period of time that you cannot afford to.

The amount that the government pays is based on its own specific interest rate known as the SMI Rate. This currently sits at 3.12 per cent but, with interest rates set to rise in 2016, this will increase alongside the Bank of England Bank Rate.

Can anyone apply for SMI?

To take advantage of the scheme, you need to be on some form of income-based benefit such as income support, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), employment and support allowance or pension credit.

Once these benefits stop, through you returning to work or working more hours, the government will stop making SMI payments.

Importantly, whilst there are no caps or limits for other benefits, if you are claiming JSA and have applied for SMI, you should be aware that the government payments made to your lender will only last a period of two years.

So, what changes have been made?

After claiming SMI, the first payments are made 13 weeks after application. However, it was announced during the Summer Budget that, from April 2016, this first period will be dramatically increased to 39 weeks after the home-owner has applied.

Particular notice should also be paid to the word “benefit” as, form April 2018, SMI will become a loan.

Why is this important?

Simply put – it is a loan. You will have to pay any money you get given back, plus interest (albeit at particularly low rates).

It is still in its early stages and is not yet confirmed but, if made law, anyone claiming SMI will have to pay back any amount that the government pay into their mortgage when they return to work or when they sell their property.

Seek advice…

With these changes potentially having a large effect on home-owners, it is important to speak to a professional mortgage adviser who will be able to guide you through the next steps in making sure that you receive as much help as possible.

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Leading Swansea estate agents warns landlords on new Welsh Assembly rules

Dawsons Estate Agents are advising on a dramatic and imminent change in lettings legislation that will mean landlords and letting agents throughout Wales having to be licensed.

The exact date of that implementation has yet to be announced by the Welsh Assembly Government but Rent Smart Wales, the WAG agency providing guidance and information for landlords, agents and tenants, was launched ahead of the implementation of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.

The new legislation and Rent Smart Wales will replace the existing voluntary scheme, which has been operated by Cardiff Council on behalf of all local authorities in Wales.

Although the Rent Smart Wales website is not yet fully operational agents and landlords will be able to apply for licences through it.

The scheme will require all private landlords to register both themselves and their properties. It will allow tenants to check whether their landlord is registered.

If the landlord wants to manage their own property, they will need to undertake training and demonstrate they are “fit and proper”.

Landlords who do not have a licence to manage their own properties would have to appoint a licensed agent to manage the property on their behalf. The agent will also have to undergo approved training.

Basically, if you own or manage a house in Wales, occupied by someone other than yourself in return for a rent, this new law will almost certainly apply to you.

After the first year of operation, enforcement powers will be introduced in autumn 2016, including fixed penalties and prosecutions.

Rent Smart Wales aims to raise standards in the private rented sector in Wales with the introduction of a new law requiring the registration and licensing of landlords and agents.

After the initial year of operation, in autumn 2016, the range of enforcement powers in the Housing Act (such as fixed penalty notices and prosecutions) will be introduced.

Landlords and agents found to be ignoring their new obligations will have action taken against them by local authorities and the licensing authority.

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South Wales estate agency takes gold at national award ceremony

Dawsons Estate Agents are celebrating after picking up a prestigious national gold award at a ceremony in London.

The renowned south Wales property firm has been named Wales Lettings Agency of the Year at The Lettings Agency of the Year Awards 2015 in association with The Sunday Times and The Times and sponsored by Zoopla Property Group.

Dawsons received the award from six-time world champion marathon ace, Paula Radcliffe MBE at a glittering ceremony at The Lancaster London Hotel opposite Hyde Park where 550 agents from across the UK had gathered.

The award has shown steady progression over the last few years – in 2013 Dawsons won bronze and last year silver.

Ricky Purdy, Director of Residential Lettings, said: “Winning this prestigious award really is an achievement, and is acknowledgement to our staff of their efforts and high service standards.

“Winning silver in 2014 gave our department and staff the goal of gold in 2015, what great recognition of the work involved so to achieve this target.”

But he said Dawsons would not be resting on their laurels.

“We`ll continue to improve, add to our systems, and raise the bar of customer service,” insisted Ricky.

“Of course, the reasons for this are for the benefit of our current and future clients, with Dawsons continuously striving to emulate the industries leaders meaning staying at the top of lettings within Wales is now our new objective.”

Award winners were decided following a rigorous and thorough judging process by a panel of 20 industry experts who assessed initial entry submissions before conducting an extensive review of the entrants, which included over 150 hours of telephone interviews and independent mystery shopping exercises.

The whole of the judging process was overseen by The Property Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, and David Cox, Managing Director designate of ARLA acted as Arbiter.

The panel of judges commented: “Dawsons has the largest branch network in its location and it has achieved its market share through a mix of targeted marketing and excellent word of mouth referrals.

“The team achieves an exemplary viewing-to-let ratio and accuracy of rents quoted. Brand awareness winning new instructions alongside extensive retention activity for their valued existing clientele is key.

“Landlords can access a number of services such as bespoke insurance services. Dawsons has also worked hard to build affiliations with many professional bodies and it leverages these associations for the benefit of tenants and landlords.

“Dawsons has jumped from the bronze in 2013, to silver in 2014, and to the gold this year – its success is well deserved.”

Now in its sixth year as a dedicated competition, these awards have become widely recognised as the most prestigious and difficult to win, especially as there were more entrants than ever before this year.

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Established estate agency celebrates their latest Relocation Agent specialist

Felicity Curtis from Dawsons Estate Agents in Llanelli is celebrating after becoming an accredited Relocation Agent specialist.

The accreditation was awarded by Relocation Agent Network (RAN), and is achieved by completing a comprehensive online training programme: The Importance of Service.

As a national network of independent estate agents RAN, of which Dawsons Estate Agents is a member, introduced the training programme to ensure each of their members provides the very highest customer service to those relocating around the UK.

By working with fellow members across England, Scotland and Wales, RAN members provide an exclusive relocation referral service to customers.

For those relocating to Llanelli, Dawsons guides their customers through the daunting task of moving to an unfamiliar location. This includes local area information on schools and amenities, popular neighbourhoods and, of course, finding the right property for them. The introduction of Relocation Agent specialists to the Dawsons team ensures this process is made even smoother.

Lorraine Evans, Branch Manager at Dawsons’ Llanelli office, said: “We take staff development very seriously and Felicity Curtis’s RAN accreditation is a great example of what can be achieved when staff are supported properly to improve their skill set.

“Felicity is now the third member of the team, after Angie Bastin and Matthew Whitehead, to achieve this accreditation which means having Relocation Agent specialists in the team is of great benefit for our relocating customers.”

Felicity, 27, who has worked for Dawsons for the past five years as an administrator is convinced the RAN certificate would be invaluable to her going forward.

“It’s a very useful qualification to have within the industry and it gives me more confidence when working with RAN leads,” said Felicity. Continue reading

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Reviewing financing could save landlords thousands

For most professional landlords, the biggest cost they will face when investing in a property is the interest charged on the money they borrow to buy it.

With this in mind, Oliver Adair of Mortgage Advice Bureau discusses how regularly reviewing your finance could save you tens of thousands of pounds.

Prior to the credit crunch, the Bank of England base rate varied from as low as 3.5 per cent in 2003 to as high as 6 per cent back in 2000, meaning that some standard variable mortgage rates reached levels of 7.6 per cent.

When interest rates crashed to just 0.5 per cent six years ago, the mortgage cost for many landlords who were on their lender’s Standard Variable Rate (SVR) fell to 4.8 per cent. This means that a £100,000 mortgage cost just £400 per month.

Now, with the ongoing mortgage rate war and the fact that many lenders remain keen to offer deals that are better than their SVR, many landlords will find themselves paying even less than before.

For example, some of the current deals have rates as low as 1.15 per cent, meaning that borrowing £100,000 could now cost you under £100 a month – £525 less than what it would have before interest rates fell.

Potentially, by carefully reviewing your finances, you could save £6,300 per year.

So, a crucial part of being a successful Buy-to-Let landlord isn’t just about buying a property at a great price and letting it legally. You need to keep a careful eye on your biggest cost – your mortgage finance.

And, because you could save thousands of pounds by regularly reviewing your finances, speaking to a mortgage broker who can search the whole of the market to find the finance deals which suit your needs on a regular basis is extremely important.

And, in addition to just finding the mortgage for you, that broker will also take the hassle of processing the mortgage application away from you. Considering the amount of time it can take some lenders to organise a mortgage offer, this can help save you extremely valuable time.

Developing a relationship with a good mortgage broker who understands Buy-to-Let will also help you to understand all of the different financing options available to you, whether you have just one extra property or a large portfolio.

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Estate agents raise money for cancer charity

Staff at Dawsons Estate Agents office in Llanelli are busy raising money for the Race For Life cancer charity.

A cake sale raised £125 at the office while two staff members Emma Davies and Felicity Curtis, both 27, are taking part in the 10km Race For Life event at Festival Field in Llanelli on June 14th.

“We are training very hard when we are not eating cake!” joked Felicity, an Administrator with Dawsons, who will be taking part in her fourth Race For Life.

“There has been a couple of family members who have suffered from cancer, so it is a cause very close to my heart.”

Emma said: “It’s just such a great cause especially as most people know someone who has suffered from the disease.”

Lorraine Evans, Office Manager at the Llanelli office, said the cake sale had been a great success.

“We are just grateful to everyone, both those who provided and bought cakes during the sale,” she said.

“And now we are cheering on Felicity and Emma as they prepare for the Race For Life run. I know they have been doing a lot of training and I’m sure they will do very well for such a brilliant   cause.” Continue reading

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The Queen’s Speech: what it means for housing and right to buy

In their general election manifesto, David Cameron and the Conservatives pledged to give tenants living in housing association properties the chance to buy their homes.

But, with the plan being revealed in the Queen’s Speech, David Treharne of Mortgage Advice Bureau asks the question of whether or not the scheme is going to help the market in the long run.

What is the Right to Buy scheme?

Brought to legislation under Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s, the scheme now allows tenants who have been living in their properties for a minimum of three years the opportunity to buy their homes at a substantially discounted rate.

The tenant will get a discount of 35 per cent and, after living in the property for five years, that discount will increase by 1 per cent every year, up to a maximum of 70% – or £103,900 in London, and £77,900 around the rest of the country.

Right to Buy has had its criticism…

Whilst it will certainly help many of those currently living in housing association to get their feet on the property ladder, the scheme has received mixed reviews from economists and experts in the industry.

The key issue is that the Right to Buy expansion plan doesn’t address the main problem – the lack of houses being built.

Selling current housing association homes is not creating new properties. And when they are sold to tenants, they are forever removed from the housing associations’ lists, making it even harder for those desperately in need to find a home.

It’s expensive, too. The National Housing Federation (NHF) have said that the policy could cost anywhere up to £5.8bn a year due to the compensation that will need to be paid to the housing associations for making them offer stock at below-market rates.

So, is the government doing anything to rectify the housing shortage?

According to the Conservatives, yes.

Under the Right to Buy policy, councils will be forced to sell around five per cent of their most valuable housing stock once it becomes vacant. Once sold, the council will then build cheaper and more affordable properties with the proceeds, effectively doubling the number of homes for every property sold.

Whilst, in theory, this could work, it has been argued that the policy could lead to councils being forced to sell stock in high-value areas and building “replacement” properties in areas that are cheaper.

Numerous councils are arguing the policy, with some even considering moving their eligible properties into separate companies to exempt them from the forced sale.

And, with the Local Government Association (LGA) expected to call for councils to be permitted to set their own discount rates within the next few weeks, the policy is still under scrutiny and may change numerous times before all involved parties are in agreement.

It is for this reason that it is imperative to seek advice from a professional adviser who will have the latest information to help you through your next steps.

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Leading South Wales estate agency announces four new key appointments

Established estate agents Dawsons has announced the appointment of four key members of staff.

Dawsons have recruited Emma Bolton (Marina Office), Samantha Milford (Llanelli Office), and Amber Miles and Sally Stevens (both Mumbles Office).

The quartet of appointments highlights a continued growth in Dawsons’ business in both the sales and lettings arms of the business.

“The four appointments shows Dawsons’ continued expansion and the quality of the recruits only goes to back up the high customer service standards we set ourselves,” said Ricky Purdy, Dawsons Director of Residential Lettings.

“New staff like this will help us especially in what is expected to be another busy 12 months for Dawsons.”

Emma, 37 from Sketty, joins the company as office manager at the Marina branch after more than 15 years’ experience in the industry.

“I have been made to feel very welcome at Dawsons and the staff at the Marina Office are really friendly and supportive,” said Emma.

New administrator/lettings negotiator Samantha Milford, 27 from Hampshire, said: “I have been involved in estate agency for four years and I am finding Dawsons an amazing company to work for.”

Sally, 27 from West Cross, who has had a dramatic change in occupation having formerly run a boarding kennels, said: “I have loved the change in career and working in Mumbles is an exciting new challenge. It’s like working with a big family down in Mumbles – the atmosphere in the office is great.”

Amber, 24, joins Dawsons after graduating from Swansea University with a Masters’ degree in psychology.

“I wanted a new challenge and I’m really enjoying Dawsons and the team in Mumbles. It has proved to me that Dawsons are one of the most reputable estate agents in the Swansea area.”

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The Latest from Chris Hope

Recently, our Senior Partner Chris Hope was asked a few questions regarding the recent election results and about his experience managing people.

Question 1: A reporter seeking reactions to the recent election results and the new Conservative majority government –

Chris Hope: “From my prospective, the property industry is a clear barometer for the country in general and therefore, if the carefully controlled conditions for growth over the past 2 years can be replicated for the next 2 years, clearly the government housing and financial decisions were correct ones.”

Question 2: As a manager of people within an organisation should you close the door? Yes, no, sometimes?

Chris Hope: “Absolutely sometimes. In this day and age, it’s vital that specific messages within some conversations are totally clear and not left to interpretation. For some occasions, delegation is suitable.”

Keep your eyes peeled in the next month for the full articles. For more information about Dawsons and our Visit our main property site http://www.dawsonsproperty.co.uk/index.php