Climate Change – What can we do about it?

By the year 2050 our sector needs to reduce the carbon emissions by 84 billion tonnes. This is a huge challenge, but how are we responding? The World Green Building Council (WGBC) have calculated that to limit the rate of global warming to just 2°C, then we need to cut our carbon footprint by this huge figure. 84 billion tonnes is the estimate that the built environment sector needs to reduce, with emissions from existing stock reduced by 80%. By 2050 all new developments must reach the target of net zero energy. To reach these targets the construction and property industry need to radically change the way we build, refurbish, fund and manage properties globally. Global Change In Paris back in 2015, the first Buildings Day, was the moment when the industry started to listen. With a momentum for change, the target for meeting the goals set will be crucial going forward. If everyone has to take part in the changes, then they will become internalised in the models, making it second nature for future projects in years to come. Investors need to assess the carbon risk of a building project, and manage the environmental, social and climate-related impacts. With rising energy prices and restricted carbon budgets, this will make inefficient buildings too expensive to run and maintain. Property professionals need to ask if these risks have been considered, and inform potential investors. This should drive change in the market and support the growth of better performing new buildings. The public opinion is a powerful one, with those countries moving ahead being rewarded, and those countries left behind being...

What do EPC’s mean for Landlords?

What pressures will be put on landlords as the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) start to be enforced in England and Wales? From the 1st April this year the domestic MEES came into play meaning that landlords need to make sure they reach the minimum energy efficiency standard for all their properties. With changes to the Energy Act 2011 it made it illegal to rent out private properties that don’t reach this standard. An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) indicates the efficiency of a building using a rating system from A, being the most efficient, to G the least. The standards that have been set mean that landlords have to secure a rating of E or higher to renew a lease, or to issue a new one. The future shows a further rule coming into play in 2020, that a lease where the EPC is less than an E will not be able to be continued. Forcing landlords to improve their EPC ratings by this time at the very latest, or face a fine of up to £4,000. Legislation This new legislation is applicable to all assured tenancies including shorthold and agricultural occupancy, or similar. The rules do not affect the validity of the lease though. The properties that are legally required to have an EPC fall within the MEES, but if the EPC has expired and there is no reason to renew, then the legislation will not apply. Also listed buildings that are not required to have an EPC do not fall within the MEES remit, nor do temporary buildings or spaces of less than 50m². If a landlord...

Global Fire Safety

RICS has recently combined with over 30 worldwide organisations to try to develop industry standards and global fire safety in buildings. The International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition was launched in Geneva this week. The IFSS Coalition This new coalition consists of local and global bodies committed to support and develop the standard of fire safety seen in buildings. Their aim is to establish and reinforce the minimum requirements that professionals should adhere to. This should ensure building safety in the event of any fire. With property investments seen across international borders our property markets are needing a high level of global standards to be set. At present this sector still lacks a consistent level of design, construction and management when it comes down to fire risks and safety. With differences seen in materials, testing, certification and building regulations across borders it brings confusion and high risks to the public. The best way to tackle the difference between countries is surely to create a worldwide global fire safety standard. Grenfell Tower The Grenfell Tower fire of June 2017 is a recent example demonstrating the need for an improved global approach to fire safety. Grenfell has exposed the global inadequacies and the focus now must be on the how our fire safety standards are set. Once these high standards become developed then the IFSS Coalition will be able to work around the world to deliver these standards everywhere. They will draw on the expertise of international fire experts to develop the high standards required to deliver across the global market. Across the world we are seeing an increase in the...

What Caused the Housing Crisis?

The housing surplus in the UK has, over the last 40 years, now become a shortage. How has this happened? How have we entered into a housing crisis and how can we respond? For the last four decades there has been an under-supply in our UK housing marking, resulting in housing problems. Including overcrowding, high rental costs, high market values, long commutes and homelessness across the country. The price of housing is high compared to salaries, causing problems for the Millennial generation. Post-War In 1951 the national census recorded that 75% of households were living in substandard conditions or were overcrowded. The Political parties of the time initiated unprecedented levels of building. With private and local authority houses being completed in post-war new towns. Over the next 30 years the housing shortage was overcome, the combination of private and public housing successfully helped the housing shortage. This was the basis for the HRA (Housing Revenue Account) which helped to provide social housing in the expensive urban areas. Right to Buy The Housing Act 1980 introduced the ‘Right to Buy’ in England and Wales. This gave Council tenants the right to purchase the home they had been living in, a policy which has remained unchanged since. They also looked at the prices of selling and the amount of discount, which later rose to 70% of the house value. The problem arose here when there was no commitment made to re-use these funds to invest in more social housing. Restrictions were also imposed on to the councils capacity to build new social houses. Since 1980 about 2.5million council homes have become...

Are House Prices dipping?

National house prices dipped slightly in April this year, with both London and the South East showing a continuing fall according to the RICS Residential Market Survey in April 2018. The Survey shows that both new buyer enquiries and agreed sales stabilised following the recent decline seen. The National price indicator turned slightly negative in April, however nearly all areas of the UK show a positive 12-month price expectation. A Dip in House Prices After previous months of declines in sales and new buyer interest it seems that they are now holding steady. The National RICS price balance slipped to -8% which, although figures only show a slight decline, is the lowest figure since the end of 2012. The National figures are largely affected by the housing market in London, but regional prices are showing a mixed range. House prices were seen to fall in London, the South East and the South West, the latter of which has seen a fall for the first time since May 2013. If you look at Scotland and Northern Ireland the house prices here continue to rise. Looking ahead the outlook for house prices remains broadly level, but 31% of respondents expect house prices to be higher in 12 months time. With the strongest rises to be seen in Scotland and Northern Ireland. New Buyer Enquires New buyer enquiries were pretty much unchanged during April, with the last four months showing a sharp decline, and thirteen months since a positive trend. Agreed sales also remained steady over the month of April, with a varied regional picture the figure change throughout the country. House...

Millennial Housing

Recent studies are indicating that the ‘Millennial’ generation are going to have an enormous impact on the UK housing market. There are recent figures which predict as high as one-third of Millennials will still be renting by the time they retire. The statistics show that it is very important that we don’t alienate these future home buyers from the property ladder. Millennial Housing Preferences Do Millennials enjoy living with their parents or are they forced into the situation? The greatest trend we are seeing is that more and more young adults are living with their parents, unless they have made the move to a different location to pursue a career. If you make the choice to move out of your parents home as a young adult then there are significant costs involved. There are also social and cultural taboos connected to living away from parents which Millennials may factor into their decisions. Millennials do tend to move around if chasing a career, so if they are in a different city to their parents they will usually rent. Otherwise if they are working closeby they tend not to rent their own place but live with parents. Rent or Buy? To rent a house is usually preferred as it is more convenient and offers flexibility at a usually unpredictable time of life. Buying a home requires a large commitment not only in money but to stay in one location for a substantial period of time, which a career may not be able to guarantee. Millennials like the freedom available in renting as they may wish to change jobs or location, but...

The Rising Cost of Private House Building

There has been a steady rise in the cost of building a house since the start of 2014, in the year up to 2017 the prices increased by 4.6%. This is due to the increasing demand on resources available to the private market. 62% of contributors reported that they had seen an increase in costs within the last quarter, with 31% of people noting a rise in labour costs, and 35% reporting a increase in the cost of materials (figures from RICS report). There has been an increase in the cost of many types of materials including timber joints, roof trusses and MDF, bricks, blocks, imported materials and rigid insulation. The labour costs of roof tilers, scaffolders, bricklayers, dry liners, plumbers and electricians have all also increased within the past few years. Brick and Tile Stocks There are current concerns that the stocks of bricks and roof tiles are at their lowest in three years. House builders are reporting that brick stocks did recover slightly at the beginning of the year, but they are still at their lowest level since 2015. This relates to only a two month supply at the current construction demand. In comparison concrete roof tiles are at their lowest levels since 2013, which relate to less that a two week supply. The capacity for increased production is in place, but it takes a relatively long time for this to filter into the production of stocks. The production rate of bricks has risen steadily since mid 2017, but the demand has also increased in that period. At present the levels of deliveries exceeds the production rates...

Should Green Belts be developed?

Green Belts divide opinions. Some people say that they must be protected under all circumstances, while to others they are now outdated and unnecessary. Either way they can become a heated debate when looking at development in cities and built up areas. Many of our communities are desperate for new affordable homes so is the Green Belt land the best place to provide the needed infrastructure. Looking at London alone its Green Belt covers around 500,000 hectares, so you can see why this protected land is much desired. Green Belt Benefits Green Belt land provides many benefits to urban landscapes and people living in them. People that live within busy city areas utilise the green spaces for leisure activities, the Green Belt gives biodiversity and easy to manage areas, but this cannot always be quantified. Developers require figures to weigh up the development potential, which housing markets can provide. If, however, you look at the green benefits of having more trees and plants within an area, this can be measured by the ability to take carbon out of the atmosphere. Therefore looking more towards renewable energies, and developing health and leisure facilities could help to provide a quantifiable value for the Green Belts. Developers have been calling for ‘poor quality’ inaccessible land which falls within the Green Belt to be released for development. They hope this will provide more affordable properties, especially within the cities. However people are concerned that slowly ‘chipping away’ at the Green Belt will encourage Urban Sprawl, which may then become out of control. London is an example of a successful prevention of Urban Sprawl...

What is the Impact of Brexit on Construction?

Is it not yet known what Brexit will mean to the UK, as the Brexit agreement could take many forms, all of which are being decided and debated at present. Leaving the European Union will surely affect different aspects of the Construction industry and tender prices, all of which will become clearer as time goes on. Demand, cost of labour, materials and availability of contractors all contribute to the construction tender prices, and how these change will all depend on the final Bexit agreement. Hard Brexit and Soft Brexit are both terms we have heard often in the press. Hard Brexit being the complete withdrawal from the EU single market with no agreements put in place to replace them. Soft Brexit is an agreement that will be similar to that which is already seen, but with some restrictions on the movement of labour. Demand for Construction Work This will mainly be affected by the general economic situation of the country. Whether we have a hard or soft Brexit these will both affect the confidence of the consumer, which will in turn effect GDP. The private sector demand for construction will be impacted as investment from the EU will suffer with a hard Brexit. With that, falls in the value of the Sterling will see more non – EU investments. If GDP rises then the Government may be able to afford to invest, increasing the demand for public sector construction. The supply, and cost of labour will be directly affected by whichever agreement comes into play. The UK construction industry currently relies on EU labour, and with more difficulty in...

Are there enough Homes to go around?

The ‘Housing Crisis’ is too often spoken about and appears in the news all the time, but the phrase means different things depending who you are. For homeless people there really is a Housing Crisis. In the UK capital there are around 1,000 people sleeping on the streets every night. There are about 75,000 people living in temporary accommodation which really brings home the crisis part of the problem.   Has it always been like this? Before 2009/10 the numbers of people homeless were reducing as local authorities had tight targets to get people out of living in B&B accommodation. There was a commitment to dealing with people and their complex problems, and accommodation was freed up as people moved out of hostels when their situations changed. The local authorities were also building more affordable homes which helped people to get on the housing ladder. Today however, demand for houses on the rental market is high so rent is increasing. Landlords can easily rent their properties on the private market so there is less demand for council-assisted renting. The UK is currently failing to build enough homes for those people needing affordable housing, if we are struggling to meet the current demand how will be cope with our future population. With limited houses available this is causing house prices and rental costs to rise higher than the current wages.   How to fix the problem? Our Housing Crisis is so large the answer are very complex. Firstly more homes need to be built, with the land and infrastructure to support additional houses. More investors need to be found to...

Is Conversion or New Build best for Residential Development?

When looking at residential development is it best for convert or build from scratch? A recent Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) study looked at the cost per square meter and found that the difference many be nominal. They showed two project examples where the conversion of a townhouse cost £1040 per square meter, whereas a comparable new build came in at £1329 per square meter. The cost will vary depending on the project but here we look at the different schemes available and what factor to look at during the design phase. Often conversion is not an option, depending on location, cost, requirements and availability. The Extent of Work BICS looked at a range of conversions costing from £646 to £1336 per square meter. Some of the schemes included repairs and refurbishment of the building fabric, such as roof windows and stoneworks, whereas others just needed minimal exterior work. All schemes needed the replacement of fixtures, fitting, mechanical and electrical installations as well as redecoration. If any finishes could be retained then this was done where possible to add value to the project. Architecture For period conversions the buildings were analysed for any possible renovations of architectural features including windows, fireplaces and decorative plaster work. Any high ceilings and large windows are seen to enhance the internal environment and recognised at this stage. The buildings were also recognised for any external architectural appeal that they may have. Duration BCIS calculates that the construction duration of a new build block of flats with a contract value of £450,000 has a contract period of 38 weeks, and a project with and...

Hayle SLSC and the St Ives Webcam

The Hayle surfing beach webcam from Hayle Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) headquarters streams live here on Building Surveyor Cornwall. The St Ives webcam overlooks the Hayle Estuary river mouth, one of Europes top kite surfing spots. This area of St Ives Bay is a great beach for surfing and family holidays throughout the year and ever growing in popularity. Behind the clifftops and sand dunes you will find Haven Holidays and Toms Chalets campsites offering holidays in Cornwall through the season. This three mile stretch of golden sand looks over to Carbis Bay and St Ives and down to Godrevy Lighthouse. The history of Hayle SLSC began in 1961 when the club formed. A spate of drownings at both ends of the beach encouraged locals to do something about beach safety in the area. Their philosophy is to educate, provide a service, improve skills and fitness, and to above all have fun. The club moved to new premises in 2005 and has now expanded to several hundred active members. They range from the youngest members the ‘sandhoppers’ who are 5-6 years old, to the ‘nippers’ from 7-13 years, through to juniors, seniors and masters. Hayle SLSC train lifeguards up from the age of 16 who then go on to work for RNLI. Surf Life Saving Clubs from around the county, country and world compete to test their skills and showcase their abilities in the sport. There are races in the sea and on the beach, with titles in individual and team events up for grabs. Hayle SLSC compete in competitions in Cornwall, England and Worldwide and have gained...

Are Modern Methods of Construction the answer to the Housing Crisis?

The answer to providing more housing for the UK is a difficult one which raises many challenges. What are the Modern Methods of Construction and how can building surveyors assess these different types of construction? The term ‘Modern Method of Construction’ can be misleading and has become the go-to phrase when describing any non-conventional type of construction. The more accurate terminology to use would be offsite, non-traditional or manufactured construction methods. Prefabricated reinforced concrete (PRC) were a post-war experiment, and timber-framed construction has been slow to change peoples perceptions. With timber-framed houses, they are mostly clad with the same conventional finishes. So to most untrained people they just appear to be of a traditional construction type. When looking at commercial building projects most hotel chains, fast food restaurants and student accommodation providers opt for an off-site building method. These are usually modular new build units. Self-builders are also moving away from traditional construction methods and using Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF) as it’s a lot easier to manage the lightweight components. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are also used to reduce construction time on building sites. The Advantages The advantages to offsite methods of construction include the ability to monitor the quality of the building. The quality can be managed within a factory leading to more accurate construction than on a site. It’s easier to train the workforce to this type of building property construction. It also takes a shorter amount of time to build the property, meaning that there is less exposure to the elements during construction. The shorter build time is also beneficial to the client and neighbours, which...

The Housing Market is facing Uncertainty

The UK housing market is going through a period of uncertainty at the moment with the latest RICS Residential Market Survey showing that house price inflation has dropped again. There is a general trend of both housing sales activity and new buyer enquiries decreasing. The Survey showed that only 7% of surveyors recorded seeing an increase in house prices, which is the lowest recorded since July 2016. The previous month showed that 17% of surveyors saw a rise in house prices. This however doesn’t mean that the whole country is following the same pattern. Some parts of the country showed a similar pattern, however changes in Stamp Duty are contributing to the numbers seen in London. Central London has shown a decline whereas those in the South East and East Anglia are showing a flatter trend. Some areas however are reporting a rise in housing prices such as Northern Ireland, Wales and the North West. Our housing stock is also presenting an ongoing supply shortage, which analysts are predicting will continue over the coming months. When asked why we are facing this period in our housing market activity 44% of people blamed domestic political uncertainty, and 27% listed Brexit activity directly accountable. If you look at the overall activity and levels of completed transactions, then 5% more respondents than previous, reported seeing a fall in sales numbers. This shows that consecutive periods of decreasing sales reflects a lack of stock on the housing market and a more cautious attitude from perspective buyers. Newly agreed sales for the next twelve months are still predicted to show an increase in activity,...

Don’t risk Property Underinsurance

In light of the recent flooding in Coverack, it is vital that you make sure your property insurance is up to date. The dangers of being underinsured for your home are great, but don’t forget about other buildings or commercial properties too. The Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) report from 2012 revealed 80% of commercial properties were in fact underinsured, an overwhelming percentage. Get your valuation right If you fail to get regular insurance valuations then this leads to the most common cause of property underinsurance. Insurers will look at many factors of your commercial property to see what risks are present. Typically you would expect them to look at the following: Property fixtures and fittings, any outbuildings, extensions or annexes. Any external walls, gates, fences and fixed signage. Any other outside surfaces such as car parks, roads and pathways. Any security devices such as cameras and lighting. The buildings communication services, such as aerials, masts and fittings. Your insurance cost will usually cover you for the reinstatement of all of the listed items. It is in your interest to make sure that your commercial property is fully insured so that you do not face a situation of Property Underinsurance. What you need to do as a Property Owner of both residential and commercial properties If you think you have any specific risk factors with the building itself, then speak to a Chartered Surveyor to see if there is anything you can do to prevent high insurance costs. Compare all the insurance available from different brokers and providers, they may offer different types of insurance. Assess the valuations annually...

A Valuation is not a Property Survey

There is a difference between a valuation and a property survey, which it seems many people are not aware of the difference. A recent survey at the Residential Question Time Debate raised that more needs to be done in the industry to highlight the differences, especially to first time buyers. The younger generation in particular are not necessarily aware that a valuation will not help to highlight building faults or defects, and that a building survey is additional required. It is seen, particularly more with cash buyers, that a survey is turned down due to time delays with the buying process. Lots of buyers in todays market are in a rush to complete so will opt for the shortest route. Which ultimately can lead to much higher costs in the future, meaning waiting just a little longer to get the survey processed could have saved a lot of time if repairs are needed. Read our information on What First Time Buyers need to know. Make sure that you choose to use a Chartered Surveyor who provides you with evidence of a site visit and a written report highlighting any potential problems. This provides you with the peace of mind that and issues have been thoroughly investigated. The advancement in surveying technology now easily allows all the information to be stored and displayed on the same device or tablet making it easier to collate and present information. Find out more about how Residential Surveying is Changing. There is continued demand for the buying and selling experience as a whole to be improved and made more easily understandable. This is particularly...

Why should you use a Surveyor for your Building Project?

Taking on a building project is no easy task. Here we look at why using a chartered surveyor can help you manage your project and make sure you run on time and budget. Managing your Project and the Risks As we all see regularly on television time management for your project is one of the most important things to keep on top of. When you begin the building renovation, build or works you need to make sure you keep a tight lid on the budget. This usually means that a lot of people will not want to spend any extra money getting a Project Manager on board. Often this is a bad move as being the owner you will usually have a very high workload and loose control of lots of small things, which all gradually build up into a problem. Once you start running a little late or start spending too much money then you will begin to appreciate how helpful a Project Manager could have been. They will help you with decisions and look at any risks or compromises. They will also have the foresight to consider problems like asbestos, legal documentation and health and safety. Lots of people rush into committing to a building or space but don’t always look at the risks involved. Always seek advice on any maintenance or repairs that are needed, or any commitments or restrictions to a lease. A solicitor can provide some information based on the paperwork but you will need someone to look at the property who has the building knowledge. Using a Chartered Surveyor Try to make sure...

Will a Smart Meter help lower your energy bills?

The aim is for every UK home and business to have a smart meter installed by 2020. With an estimated cost of £11 billion is this achievable and beneficial? The government has set targets for energy companies to install smart meters for their customers including meeting specific security and requirements. There is no legal requirement for customers to have a smart meter in their homes so the rollout may be a difficult task. What are the benefits? Smart meters provide you with a more accurate energy bill with the avoidance of estimates. You can see your usage and charges live on the monitor and see any fluctuations or peaks in your daily routine. They allow the potential for different tariffs so that the customer can decide to use their appliances outside of peak times to reduce the unit cost. The smart meters provide huge amounts of data back to the energy companies so that they can target different locations, products and predict when energy surges are needed. The roll out of smart meters is going to be slow to begin with as the technology is still being developed and in the early stages. Some landlords have seen the potential to upgrading to a smart meter as they will have access to the energy use of tenant and hence see whether any energy saving measure need to be taken. What are the challenges? Only some energy suppliers are providing smart meters at present so some customers are changing suppliers to gain access earlier. There are points to consider with data protection and the sharing of the customer data amongst the...

What First Time Buyers need to know

It’s First Time Buyers fortnight where people are being inspired to buy their first homes. Here we look at what you should know and understand before you make the commitment to purchase your first home. Most people are encouraged to do as much research as they can and to look around a wide variety of properties and location to make sure you know what you want to buy. It’s good to get a good understanding of the local market so you know the realistic price when you are putting an offer in. First time buyers are also wise to save up as much as possible before purchase as this will give you a better mortgage and interest rate. Although in todays market you can purchase a house with only a very small deposit to help first time buyers on to the housing market. One of the most important things when looking at buying a house, is not just the location and price, but also making sure you get a survey done and understand the findings. Many first time buyers do not know the full details of mortgage valuations, home buyer reports and building surveys surveys so make sure you look into the full process. The factors of buying a home that you will need to understand are; choosing the right property, agreeing the sale, financing the sale, arranging the survey, instructing your solicitor, the exchange of contracts, and finally completion. This process from beginning to completion can be quicker than you would expect, or if you reach hurdles along the way may take a while longer. Be prepared for...

The Rental Market is facing a Shortage

In the news recently we have been told that the UK Government must find 1.8 million new rental homes. New figures released have shown that there has been a large decrease in the number of properties available on the rental market. We know that since the change in stamp duty there has been a decrease in the sale of buy-to-let properties. Figures suggest that the majority of landlords are not planning to purchase any more properties to increase their portfolios in 2016, or in fact the next few years. This leaves us with a deficit as the Government predict we will need 1.8 million new homes by 2025 to keep up with the demand. Renting or buying? The fact that house prices are forever rising and becoming unaffordable for many young families and first time buyers, it is predicted that more people will turn to renting. There has been a dramatic increase in rental properties since 2001, with only 2.3 million back then, to 5.4 million in 2014. This year the Government made changes to the stamp duty threshold which has reduced the number of people investing in rental properties. If this trend carries on then by the time we reach 2025 there could be a housing crisis. There is a further issue for landlords in the future as they will loose the right to deduct the mortgage interest from their tax bill. All leading to a less encouraging prospect for potential landlords. How to find more houses? There is a growing idea amongst professionals that the new Prime Minister should reverse the stamp duty changes that were put...

St Ives Bay Webcam

A St Ives Bay webcam has been launched by RH Benwell and Associates which looks from Hayle towans across the bay towards St Ives and Carbis Bay. The webcam provides live streaming of the surf conditions of Hayle estuary and river mouth, as well as weather and tidal updates. You may even spot a dog walker or two if you keep your eyes peeled! The beaches that Cornwall has to offer are truly beautiful and now you can browse the delightful views of St Ives Bay from the comfort of your own home. St Ives Bay picks up swell that rolls in from the Atlantic Ocean, with Gwithian being a very popular Cornish surfing spot. The waves at Hayle towans will be a little smaller, but usually a lot quieter, so ideal for anyone wishing to embrace the Cornish surf. From surfers, to kayakers and SUPers, you’ll see all types of craft in the sea. Hayle towans offer magnificent views across to St Ives or down to Gwithian and Godrevy Lighthouse. There are several cafes along the beach to visit for a coffee or icecream. Cove Cafe is located just in front of the webcam, and has had a recent change of ownership and refurbishment, check them out at (www.covecafe.co.uk) . Sunset Surf (www.sunset-surf.com) and Godrevy Cafe (www.godrevycafe.co.uk) are at the other end of this 3 mile stretch of golden sand and are the perfect spots to pop in for a coffee and a slice of cake after a walk along the beach. The beaches of St Ives Bay are all lifeguarded by the RNLI for the summer season, some starting...

What is the evidence behind cancer and mobile phones, wi-fi and power lines?

A recent Cancer Research UK article looks into the evidence behind mobile phones, wi-fi and power lines. Ionising radiation is where there is enough energy to make changes to our cells, non ionising radiation has less energy, therefore is used in a wide range of communication and electronic devices. Microwaves, electomagnetic fields and radio frequencys use different types of non ionising radiation. What is the evidence behind mobile phones? There is not enough scientific evidence to completely rule our the risk, but so far what we do know is that it is unlikely that mobile phones could increas the risk of brain, or any other type of cancer. In 2011 the International Agency of Research (IRAC) for cancer classified mobiles in their ‘gold-standard’ rating system. They said that mobiles could ‘possibly’ cause cancer in humans but there wasnt enough evidence to derive a clear conclusion. There have been may scientific studies trying to find a possible link, but many have been too small to be significant in proving either way. The IARC decision in 2011 was based on the results of two studies, research conducted by Swedish Hardell and a large international study called InterPhone, although the IARC didn’t feel there was enough evidence to come to a decision. The Hardell study suggested a connection between using a mobile phone and a few specific types of brain tumour, particularly in heavy users. InterPhone studied 6,000 people across 13 countries and largely found no link between mobiles and brain tumours. However in the ten percent of people who used their phones the most there was a link, but this can...

A Mundic Block Guide

Many properties constructed in the South West are made from concrete blocks laid on mass concrete foundations. This is due to the lack of available raw materials to mould the conventional red clay bricks, therefore other materials had to be constructed from available resources in the area. Building blocks were therefore produced from waste rock from the local mines, quarries and beach gravel from the coastline. The rocks from the mines were a coarse aggregate with finer aggregates from the beach sand, mining residue and china clay waste. From the beginning of the 20th century blocks were made from these materials until the 1950’s when mass production of concrete blocks became more mainstream. However the use of the local materials were not completely phased out until the 1960’s. There were problems with some of the local materials used in the concrete construction and signs of deterioration and mechanical weakening of the building can occur. Types Sulphide Minerals – Usually found within mined or quarried rock. They can oxidise under damp conditions, which are common by the coast, producing sulphuric acid. This causes weakness and expansion of the cement, commonly called ‘Mundic Decay’. Fine Grain Rocks – These are formed by sediments which have settled on the sea floor and are often quite soft. They can change in volume and delaminate when exposed to moisture which causes the fracturing of concrete and cement, named ‘Killas’. Furnace Residue – Namely Clinker, Coking Breeze and Slag from metal smelters, gasworks and laundries. If the coal has not been burnt enough then it can expand when wet causing cracking of the material. Reactive...

UK house prices to rise by 6% in 2016

A lack of houses in the private market is leading many to suggest that there will be an increase in house prices during 2016, this increase is expected to be much higher than any rise in household incomes. Summary – According to the RICS housing forecast there will be an average increase in UK house prices of 6% over the course of 2016. – A housing shortfall will push prices up. – Transactions to increase to between 1.25 and 1.3 million, from 1.22 million in 2015. – Government initiatives hold out the prospect of further material uplift in the development pipeline. Housing has become a much more important agenda item for the government in recent times, and despite the many initiatives announced this past year the delay in development means that house prices and rents are expected to increase further in the next year. The lack in the housing stock will continue to drive these house prices and rents higher. Being ever optimistic, an increase in new builds with significant incentives are being put in place to deliver more starter homes. This will not itself stop the increasing house prices, but it may help to slow the rate of growth down closer to the increase in household incomes. The main concern with these measures is the promotion of home ownership, the discouragement of buy-to-lets could see private renting taking more of the strain of the housing market. Regional Variations With the average increase across the UK of 6% there are some counties which are always much above or below trend. East Anglia is expected to rise 8%, while the...

The Advantages of Buying at Auction

There has been an increase in the number of properties bought at auction in the past few years as buying at action does have advantages, this is mainly due to the following. 1. Control, certainty and transparency – as the buyer you make all the decisions on when to buy and how much to spend on the bidding. If your bid is successful and higher than the other bidders then the property is yours on completion, as the seller cannot withdraw the property. 2. You can buy properties quickly – if you are well organised, with all your financials in place then the porperty can be yours within just a few days. Although take note that is the auctioneer is following RICS Common Auction Conditions, then completion will require 20 days from the auction date. 3. Properties on offer with low guide prices – you may be able to successfully win a property much lower than the market value, but the final price may be increased by competitve bidders. Before attending any auction there are several things to take note of. Get hold of a copy of the catalogue from the auctioneer, this contains the ‘lots’ which will be available, then you can arrange any viewings before commiting to a purchase. Make sure you deal with the autioneer direct so you can be sure you have the most up to date information to hand. If you are browsing the properties online visit the actioneers official website, rather than a listings website as these are less likely to be up to date, or have the full information available. Before the...

Highlighting the importance of getting a home survey

Are you confused between getting a valuation and a survey? Can your dream home turn into your worst nightmare? You can be in danger of spending £5750 on an average (ComRes research on behalf of RICS) on those unexpected repairs once you have moved in to your new home. This is often down to those home-buyers not getting a proper survey done and relying solely on the lender valuation. Buying a home is probably going to be the most expensive thing you ever have, and ever will purchase; so make sure you know as much about its full condition, inside and out, before you commit to making the final decision. Remember a valuation is not a survey, so don’t get confused. A mortgage valuation benefits your lender, whilst a survey is for you! A RICS home survey will let you know about any potential problems there may be…Always make sure your surveyor is RICS qualified so that you can have the peace of mind that they’re working to the highest industry standards and are regulated for your protection. Do also bear in mind that different surveys need different levels of inspection so always double check this information with the surveyor.You can arrange to a surveyor direct though RH Benwell & Associates, Contact Us...

Buyer and Seller beware

Home purchases can be impeded or fall through if information is found in the survey that causes the lender or purchaser cause for concern. After a sale is agreed this information normally comes to light by a separate home survey taken by the purchaser or valuation for the lender. Things that this normally relates to are the value of the house or an extra cost involved to correct a problem. Normal common problems are,  structural movement and damp but there are many other issues that can arise in a home and when these issues are raised they can cause concern for the purchaser and the seller. Issues such as Japanese knotweed, fracking, asbestos and flooding to name just a few can be a big problem when selling a home To avoid these issues when purchasing a house a buyer should obtain all the information from the seller about the properties characteristics and use locally available information to find details such as local planning issues, and school catchment areas. Carrying out this research will mean you are fully aware at each and every stage of the property transaction. It would be recommended that a purchaser should obtain there own home survey as a initial step and not rely on a lender valuation. If after this survey further reports are needed or estimations on works required to be carried out are recommended then this should be done to obtain the full picture of the property. Provided that the correct information is gained through a industry standard source then any problem can be managed and an appropriate solution can be worked out....