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Search for the Perfect Builder/Contractor and team

Is there such a thing?

I’m currently (with a small team of mentees) in the process of finding the right builder for a relatively small project in Croydon.  

Our mission is to secure planning permission to convert a large house into two flats – a two and a three-bedroom flat with a garden. 

Surely that can’t be difficult? Well, it certainly is when you don’t know how long the Council are going to take to grant you the permission. If at all. Croydon is also known for not wanting to split large houses into flats so we must tread with caution and offer something back which the Council will look favourably on. 

With that said – here lies our starting point for choosing the right builder/ building team.

The list below is by no means exhaustive or in any particular order. However, these eight points have been the focus for our Decision-Making Process:

1. Manage expectations – Planning permission is a waiting game. Therefore, how flexible is the builder whilst you wait for planning permission. Can the builder be stripping out in the meantime or starting the M&E? Are they prepared to stop the run of the job whilst awaiting for the planning permission?

Some might say, don’t instruct your builder until you have your planning permission, as then they know exactly what they are pricing you for, rather than on a drawing not approved.

2. Location, Location, Location – Does your builder want to travel every day to your job? Is his team local to be on site when he is not?

3. Materials – Included or NOT. Clarity is key. This could significantly change final costs. The obvious offenders are kitchens and bathrooms. For example with bathrooms, who’s supplying the sanitary ware, tiles and taps? If they are to supply them, exactly which ones? If you want to supply the tiles yourself, who’s supplying the adhesive and grout? Unless all such things are clear, there’s potential for misunderstandings and arguments over money once the work has already started.

Consider also, if you buy the materials, is that going to hold up the job? Will you be running around headless and eventually find there was little saving and you then get blamed for delaying progress?!

4. Availability and Timings – When can they start, but more importantly when will they finish? How confident are they that they CAN finish on time? This is by far one of the biggest problems with any works. Are your builders willing to enter into a JCT Minor Works Contract that includes penalties for late completion?

A little tip is to understand how many other jobs they have on the go and what size of team they have handling them. Some will offer the information freely and others will say – irrelevant if we finish on time. For me – RED FLAG!

5. Project Management – Let the builder project manage. There seems to be many different definitions of exactly what project management actually involves, but in my view, the most important manager of a project is the main building contractor. Without them leading the orchestra they often cannot play in tune.  

My tip here is to get the name of a foreperson. Who deputises when you can’t get hold of the main contractor? There is nothing more frustrating than turning up on site with no one to provide an update when you have concerns or simply want to ask a small question about your project.

6. Selection process : Money Money Money – Some would say this is where it starts. If the price is wrong then it’s all over. I would say differently. This is the beginning. Finding the perfect builder is much more than just the cost of the work. E.g. Can you work with them; can your team work with them; what is their set up? Are they going to offer more than just building skills; think outside of the box; offer solutions to problems or create bigger ones? 

Think value. What is that worth and then look at negotiation but with added value in the forefront of your mind alongside budget (and the all important contingency figure). 

Embrace tendering – Competitive tendering is the process of getting alternative prices from different builders for the same work. Clearly, it’s crucial the information against which they are pricing is absolutely clear and specific (otherwise how can two prices compare?) 

7.  Accreditation – Consider, does your builder need to be accredited or from a trading association? Is that important to you? Or is it more important that he/she has completed jobs like yours previously and has a track record of doing a good job; comes highly recommended/rated and has a good stable financial position?

8.  Don’t Rush- the Decision Making Process. Take your time as you could be working with the builder for a year or more and changing builders is costly both in time and money. No one wants to find themselves repenting at leisure!

HM Land Registry goes digital transforming the property market

HM Land Registry- a transformation to look forward to?

The latest report released this month from an organisation enmeshed in most property transactions across England and Wales, discusses what needed to change due to the pandemic and why things won’t be going back to the way it was, pre-pandemic.

Transaction processing has been made easier:

1. Paperless transactions

2. Electronic signatures

3. Digital mortgages

4. Digital registration services

5. An Application portal

Paperless transactions

The advantage is undisputed. Automating many of the services used allowed property transactions to continue through the various phases of lockdown experienced in the UK.

The government has responded by increasing the pace of switch to digital, to support the creation of a true digital property market.

Electronic signatures

Probably the most dramatic pivot was removing the need for in-person signature to complete property dealings.

Electronic signatures and digital identity checking are a thing of the present. Two important, permanent pieces of the digital conveyancing picture, sanctioning complete online and paperless transactions.

Stephen Ward of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers stated: “HM Land Registry’s policy statement of electronic signatures was a big milestone. The plans for physical witnesses to be replaced by technology that digitally verifies the signature will be something that we expect to see early next year.”

Digital mortgages

A digital mortgage service called ‘Sign your mortgage deed’, allows users to add information to the register without caseworker intervention. A first for HM Land Registry.

Digital registration service

This automates error checking. Customers can ensure the correct information is provided, before submitting applications, thus reducing delays.

The service was awarded the Real IT Awards 2021: Delivering Excellent Customer Experience.

An applications portal

A portal called ‘View My Applications’ which allows customers to speedily view the status of their current applications on one screen.

Clearly HM Registry are preparing for the increasingly digital future. Are you?

How do you see this making your life easier?

The Perfect credit score

So what does having the perfect credit score mean?

You’d think it meant you are going to get everything you apply for but No!

May be you’re going to have offers being thrown at you – possibly Yes!

All your mortgage and finance applications will be accepted – No!

The problem is the score is one factor, among many, that is looked at to judge your suitability as a loanee by potential loaners, and creditors, such as banks, credit card companies and car dealerships.

A credit score is the sum figure given after your financial situation has been evaluated. You are given a credit report which contains information about your payment history, debt and the length of your credit history.

What is a credit score?

Credit scores are calculated using information in your credit report, including your payment history; the amount of debt you have; and the length of your credit history.

It’s one factor among many to help them determine how likely you are to pay back money they lend.

Used by potential lenders and creditors, such as banks, credit card companies or car dealerships, as one factor when deciding whether to offer you credit, like a loan or credit card.

What does the score number mean?

Credit scores generally range from 300 to 850

580 to 669 is considered fair; 670 to 739 are considered good; 740 to 799 are considered very good; and 800 and up are considered excellent.

Higher credit scores mean you have demonstrated responsible credit behavior in the past, which may make potential lenders and creditors more confident when evaluating a request for credit.

Lenders generally see 670 and up as acceptable or lower-risk borrowers.

Scores from 580 to 669 are generally seen as “subprime borrowers,” meaning they may find it more difficult to qualify for better loan terms.

Lower scores – under 580 – generally fall into the “poor” credit range and may have difficulty getting credit or qualifying for better loan terms. 

Who decides the credit score?

Different lenders have different criteria when it comes to granting credit

Credit scores may differ between the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) as not all creditors and lenders report to all three in addition, there are many different scoring models.

My Equifax score at 1000 differs greatly to my Experian score and that is where the problem sometimes lies. That said, in property the value of the property and the end value coupled with your experience, have a lot to do with an acceptance or a decline.

Landlords

The attitude of landlords is traditionally strict to meeting credit requirements however the landscape is changing, with the rise of socially conscious landlords who look at guarantees and a whole host of other factors to facilitate putting a #roofoveryourhead. 

What affects your credit?

Pay your bills on time, every time.

Late or missed payments may be reported to the credit bureaus, which may impact your credit scores. If you’re having trouble paying a bill, contact the lender immediately. Don’t skip payments, even if you’re disputing a bill.

Pay off your debts as quickly as you can.

Keep your credit card balance well below the limit. A higher balance compared to your credit limit may impact your credit score.

Apply for credit sparingly. Applying for multiple credit accounts within a short time period may impact your credit score.

Check your credit reports regularly. Request a free copy of your credit report and check it to make sure your personal information is correct and there is no inaccurate or incomplete account information.

Resources available

You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit reports every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.

By requesting a copy from one every four months, you can keep an eye on your reports year-round.

Checking your own credit report or credit score won’t affect your credit scores.

If you find information you believe is inaccurate or incomplete, contact the lender or creditor.

You can also file a dispute with the credit bureau that furnished the report.

https://www.equifax.com/personal/education/credit/score/what-is-a-good-credit-score/

Government’s Removal of Renter Protection

There are more people who rent privately than own homes with a mortgage. Almost a third of Londoners. Considering the UK as a whole it’s 13 million people, according to the office of National Statistics, who rent.

The Coronavirus Act 2020, passed March 25th, enforced the government’s protection plan for tenants, covering the increase of notice periods, pausing of evictions and stopping of possession. A much needed relief by many. However, the dial has been reset, or is at least turning back gradually to resume pre-pandemic rules.

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Initially the notice period extension before eviction proceedings was three months, before being extended further to six months between August 29th 2020 to May 31st 2021. From June 1st this will be decreased to four months. Two months, come August 1st.

While it may seem like a huge hurray for landlords, they have not come out of these reforms unscathed. Remember mortgage payment holidays? Not anymore. Although the Pay as You Grow repayment holiday is still available to commercial properties.

So, what does support look like right now? Conversation seems to be the preferred approach. Renter to landlord. Landlord to bank. The government would like tenants who are still struggling with payments to talk to landlords about creating a plan that would probably lead to reduced or suspended payments for an agreed period. Landlords should discuss support measures with their bank, probably reduced interest or an extended mortgage. It is expected that the government will legislate that landlords cannot take tenants to court before they have sought arbitration on rents.

On the odd chance you have not checked if you qualify for financial support, do so. Housing allowance and Universal credit have been increased to help better cover costs. Emphasis on the word ‘help’ not ‘cover’. Don’t forget to check with what your local council can do.

Can more be done? Yes. Suggestions include discarding ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions altogether, which allows eviction at the end of a fixed-term tenancy agreement, or during a tenancy with no fixed end date.

As the Government, only yesterday, is back under pressure to address this Landlord and Tenant Covid rent row, I see this issue running and running.

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