Phil Spencer - Your Home and Property Questions Answered

Property guru Phil Spencer answers your questions on being a landlord, marketing a rental property, selling your home and more.



Ever wondered what TV's Phil Spencer would have to say about your property problems? We asked and you provided a whole range of interesting queries. We've put them to Phil, now lets see what he has to say.



Andrew White

"What are the resale values of Baufritz houses compared to traditional houses?"

Ecological homes, of which Baufritz is one of several manufacturers out there, are really fascinating. They are often regarded as a brilliant way of truly building your ‘dream home’ from scratch but without the premium prices. Flat-packed, made from timber and other sustainable materials, they are energy efficient and therefore much more economical to run. The fact they are often found in very idyllic locations make these Scandinavian-style eco-homes very desirable. They’re also considerably cheaper than traditional new-builds, as many companies offer you the entire service, reducing the normal need for architect fees. Building them can be quicker and cheaper and you will normally need a suitable plot of land before getting started. This is why some people regard flat-pack home as a real investment. Find a bargain location and your energy-efficient property could well see you a decent return. It’s imperative to be careful here though, as several of these houses have gone on the market for pretty much what it cost to build them and the timber frames and healthy-living features may also mean your insurance provider ask you a few more questions than normal, potentially with a request for a fire extinguisher on site! My advice, as always, is do your research and be fully aware of the project you are taking on.

Graham Swindon

"Would you set up your own website to advertise a property to let or pay 20% to an agency?

There are pros and cons to either option; it comes down to your personal circumstances. Apart from the financial benefit of advertising the property yourself, you also get the added bonus of being able to vet potential tenants and make sure you only take on ones you like. On the other hand, having a letting agency find a tenant for you will save you a great deal of time, which could be extremely valuable as someone will focus on this and this alone for you. If you do decide to go with an agency, be sure to shop around - a small change in that percentage can save you a fair bit of money.
I would suggest websites such as Zoopla which will reach a wide ranging audience. Facebook and Twitter are another great way to get the word out that your property is available and you can make a page for your property or just put a status out on your own page - but remember to include as much detail as possible.

Clare and Pete Fleming and family

"We are currently trying to sell a 5 bedroom chalet bungalow which we have extended. The interior is modern with 2 excellent kitchens and 2 large lounges also one downstairs bathroom, a conservatory, family room, small room currently used as gym for my grandson and a swimming pool 5 bedrooms 2 bathrooms and shower room. When we bought the house I had been living in a 4 bedroom family home with a growing family following the death of my husband. The girls were just starting jobs in London and my son had just started a post in Portsmouth I was still working, so I didn`t want a "granny Flat". I also wanted to release some capital to help the family in acquiring accommodation. This house has enabled us to have a wonderful home, the door between the two being open or closed depending on circumstances, baby sitting, entertaining etc. What do we emphasize please? a two bed and three bed independent home or a family home. The house has all services and one council tax and would suit someone trying to do what I did. We would really welcome your advice. Our home is a little like a "Tardis" looks small from outside but warm and friendly inside."

It’s really important to market your house to the right audience by carefully considering your target market. You should tailor the space to a main group of potential buyers, being careful not to alienate others who might be interested.
It’s likely that either way you’ll be looking to target larger families who need the extra space to share, or a family who need the space for three generational living. On that basis, make it clear to prospective buyers what they could use each space in the home for. For example, when targeting families you could easily promote the smaller room as a play room rather than a gym. A ‘granny annexe’ can also be marketed as a ‘teenager suite’ or, a space which can be rented separately from the main home.
A good port of call is a local estate agent where you can establish which kind of property is considered more desirable in your area. Remember, once you go over four bedrooms there is not a great deal of difference in the price your home will sell for. The potential of an independent living space is more unique and will likely to be perceived as added value.

Gillian Noble

"We intend buying a house in Lewes and know that a lot of flood defence work has been carried out since the terrible floods of 2000. We liked a house that is on the flood plain and asked our current house insurers (not Towergate!) whether, hypothetically, they would insure a property at that postcode and they said they would not insure for flooding. Given that some new properties are being built on the riverside with all sorts of built-in defences, should we shop around insurers at the outset if we want to buy one? The developers must have thought this problem through…"

It honestly makes me happy when I hear people have carried out lots of research because lets face it this will be one of the biggest purchases you will ever make. Too many people rush into buying homes without looking into the wider area.
I would certainly shop around insurers. You will want to protect your investment and your possessions and having worked with Towergate, I know they offer flood risk insurance and can often find cover for homes where some other insurers struggle. Some insurers sometimes try to manage their exposure to claims by limiting the number of properties they insure in any one area, so you may find you’re disappointed unless you go to a specialist.
As you shop around, bear in mind you’ll need to take stock of your possessions and give an accurate sum insured if you want to protect your contents. It’s also worth telling insurers about the lengths you’ve gone to limit the potential damage done by flooding. It’s a long shot but sometimes if you show you’re trying to reduce your risk, your premium may go down.

Graham Borill

"How has the budget affected landlords? (Serious question), Also Mr Spencer needs to ease off in the fake tan. (Flippant comment)"

When the budget was announced the core change for landlords was around a reduction in tax breaks on buy to let mortgages. This reduction is expected to be down from 40% to 20% and could impact on landlord’s profits. Some argue that there will be a bit of a double whammy for landlords as the Bank of England are expected to raise the base rate meaning profits will be squeezed even harder. There is a theory that landlords will simply weather the storm by putting rents up however, this won’t always be possible until tenancy agreements are up for renewal etc. Similarly, there’s only so much the rental market will take so putting up rents is not necessarily the answer. It has also been suggested that you can reduce the impact of this change by setting up your portfolio as a limited company or transferring properties to spouses who may enjoy larger tax breaks.
This shouldn’t deter people from becoming landlords though. Despite diminishing returns, property is still a great investment. Even if you make minimal profit in the short term, your mortgage will eventually be paid off and you’ll be left with an asset to leave to your children, sell off (potentially for a profit on what you bought it for) or continue renting out at an increased profit margin.
It’s also worth noting the reason the government have done this. That is, to trigger some landlords to sell off their property thus creating supply in the market and making prices more affordable for first time buyers. If you’ve already got a reasonable portfolio, it could be worth looking at which of your properties will make you some profit through sale rather than rent while the property market is still on the up.
As far as the fake tan goes – it is a rumour my friend Kirsty started to wind me up! I have never used fake tan but I do spend plenty of time in the sunshine.

Thanks again for all of your questions, if you didn't find what you were looking for here, check out our Home and Property Hub. We have articles, infographics and guides and all kinds of home and property matters.

Towergate Insurance

Date: July 15, 2015

Category: Home and Property

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