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THE HOME FRONT

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SUMMER BRINGS OUT THE ‘FLY ONES’: July records have already been broken for sizzling sunshine in the UK.

And forecasters are predicting that the all-time temperature of 101F (38.5C) at Brogdale, Kent, on August 10, 2003 could be beaten at the end of this month.

But as well as an infestation of mozzies, the most dangerous ‘creatures’ likely to emerge from the woodwork are garden thieves.

Opportunist burglars up their activity over the summer, with a 40 per cent increase in outdoor thefts.

Did you know that the average garden shed contains £573 of BBQs, mowers and the like while the average garden itself has £419 worth of plants, shrubs and trees?

To make sure garden furniture and tools are protected, we suggest keeping everything in a LOCKED shed as well as anchoring down pricy plants with wire pegs dug into the ground.

Mark your valuable items with a security pen of some description and check your home contents insurance includes ‘contents in the open’ (loss or damage to items left outside but still on your property).

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z relocationLOST PROPERTY? FIND YOUR DREAM HOME WITH RELOCATION AGENT NETWORK: A property register has helped unite a music festival fan – with her mobile phone.

The 19-year-old misplaced it while packing away her tent at the Isle of Wight festival last month.

It turned up in Coventry when a man tried to pawn it. Now thanks to quick-thinking staff at the store informing police, the ownership of the teenager’s phone was established using the National Mobile Property Register – a national police database of registered property.

If you need helping with finding a property, then look no further than the national Relocation Agent Network, of which Coventry and Warwickshire’s leading estate agent Hawkins is a member.

The network operates in 600 UK towns and cities in the UK and provides home buyers and sellers with the “best independent agent in your area”.

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z safeas2 roberta flackSAFE AS HOUSES: The winds may blow, the rains descend and floods come. But in 2015 the ‘wise’ among us will build our financial nest-eggs on the HOME.

For it’s becoming increasingly clear that the best path to follow in turbulent market terms is the rock-steady route taken by millions of Britons who believe that buying a house or apartment is the best long-term investment they can make.

Worry not about the Greeks going to the wall, gold being down, a probable US interest rate rise or the FTSE roller-coaster ride as one safe haven that’s delivering is the UK housing market.

Shares of homebuilders such Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Berkeley have surged a mouth-watering 30 to 50 per cent, even beating the financial gains made in the Far East.

Property listings website Rightmove is up 47 per cent and listed estate-agent chains are showing massive gains, even after Britain faced its most uncertain general election in generations.

Homebuilders are trading at all-time highs relative to their asset values and average UK house prices at their highest since records began.

“UK property has been a nice place to be, with good management discipline and prices going up,” said Chris Watt, manager of the Jupiter Asset Management UK Growth and Income Fund.

However there is one place in the world at the moment you might find it very hard to invest, and that’s the most “exclusive” building New York.

For the iconic apartment block where Beatle John Lennon was murdered has a reputation for being “picky” about its new residents.

Apartment 46 in The Dakota — the co-op building at 72nd Street and Central Park West where Yoko Ono still lives — has been on and off the market for more than eight years.
It’s back at £8million but, even if you have the cash, you might not have a chance as the Dakota board has already refused everyone from Billy Joel through Cher to Madonna to buy in there.
Another famous Dakota inmate is Killing Me Softly legend Roberta Flack, 76, who’s been a resident for almost 40 years and lives next door to Yoko.

Now The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face singing star wants to become the ‘first time ever I sold my place’ by bagging a buyer for her two-bedroom flat at an asking price of £6.1m.

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011vietPROPERTY ON TRACK?: Getting on the right lines – in a rail to home link – is fast becoming a key attribute in today’s hectic whirl of a world.

The high-octane commercial pace of Ho Chi Minh City, one-time known as Saigon, has driven Vietnam to new heights.

Now the first metro rail line in the city will become operational in 2020 and will greatly impact on the property market, according to a new report.

The ability of the population to access employment, retail and recreational activities will be enhanced by the metro’s introduction, says Marc Townsend, managing director of CBRE Vietnam.

“In theory, a home located near a public mass transit system would command a higher rent or sales price than the one that was further away because good public transport allowed those living nearby to travel more easily to and from destinations that are important to them,” he said.

“This has been well proven through experiences of other countries where the premium for housing prices in locations close to public transport ranged from six per cent to 45 per cent.”

CBRE believe that in the future, when the metro line becomes operational, the premium for land prices on sites located within a 10-minute walk from stations could be up to 10 to 20 per cent against sites in other areas.

Estate agents across Greater Manchester are looking longingly at the extension of the Metrolink network which currently joins the city centre to Altrincham, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bury, Didsbury, Eccles, and Rochdale.
Last year some 29.2 million journeys were made on the light rail system – and the network is now spreading to Manchester Airport and potentially the Trafford Centre.

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06 winnieWAGING MODERN WAR ON CHURCHILL’S PEACEFUL OBSERVATION POST: HE was our finest wartime leader, yet his early upbringing was filled with peaceful thoughts and tranquil settings.

None more so than when Winston Churchill looked out from the many varied vantage points of his home at Blenheim Palace and looked over to the Georgian property of Woodstock House.

Today the World War Two prime minister might not recognise the crumbling grade II listed Oxfordshire mansion of Woodstock House, being more than a tad run down.

So its owners have come up with a cunning plan to restore it to its former glory when Churchill had a view on it.

06winnie1The downcast home needs a new custodian – prospective tenants prepared to stump up £3million to renovate the property and then £25,000 a month for the pleasure of living in it.

Who’s ready to wage war on this one?

Talking of war houses – a home for children orphaned by the Blitz during WWII – is on the market at £4.25m.

In 1942, the six-bedroom property hosted US President Theodore Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor on her first overseas visit. She came to meet children “adopted” on the scheme.

Today, for that £4m+ price tag, you get 11 acres and an extra cottage plus a plaque commemorating Mrs Roosevelt’s visit.

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07peterTHIS HOUSE WILL NEVER GROW OLD: If you’re young at heart, this Victorian semi could be for you.

The price may be daunting at £6.95m but the pedigree of the 200-year-old London property speaks volumes.

This was the house where novelist J M Barrie wrote Peter Pan.

Visitors to the Bayswater Road property have included Lawrence of Arabia, poet laureate John Betjeman, actor James Mason, Labour PM Harold Wilson and his ministers Tony Benn and Anthony Crosland.

A gardener was the first owner when it was built back in 1820. J M Barrie moved in with his wife Mary Ansell circa 1900 but moved out in 1909 when they divorced.

The Neverland building has remained untouched since the Barries lived there.

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budgetFIRST IN LINE FOR DEPOSIT BONUS: More help is on the way for first time buyers – via this week’s budget.

Chancellor George Osborne described the ‘Help to Buy’ ISA as a “tax cut” for those wannabe homeowners trying to make their way on to the property ladder.

The Government will add an additional 25 per cent to whatever is contributed by a saver up to a maximum of £3,000.

The bonus will be available on properties worth up to £250,000 on properties outside the capital and £450,000 in London itself.

Experts see the new ISA as a “positive, encouraging step” when savings’ rates available for building a deposit are currently very low.
Meanwhile the Chancellor, pictured, is also expected to announce plans in the next fortnight that would allow parents to pass a main property worth up to £1million to their children without paying any inheritance tax.

The proposed measure would also reduce the inheritance tax bill on properties worth up to £2m by £140,000, according to Treasury papers leaked ahead of Wednesday’s budget.

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£4m1SALE SET TO GO SWIMMINGLY?: The name of the district is a bit of a giveaway but this concreted-over car park is up for sale at £4million.

The plot is a tenth of an acre in size and generates £35,000 a year in parking fees.

But a potential buyer could develop this site in the west of London and build two homes or some flats here.

The location . . . Little Venice.

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05 03 15a‘OUR BABY IS BRINGING REAL HAPPINES TO THE FAMILY’: Prime Minister David Cameron heard ‘first hand’ today that his government’s flagship Help to Buy housing scheme is working.

The PM was told by the Lee and Christine Billings on a visit to a new development in Cannock, Staffordshire, the Westminster-assisted project had “brought the family real happiness”.

And the PM was able to announce that the scheme had meant nearly 90,000 people had been able to buy their own home since its creation in 2013.

Mr Cameron hailed the figure as proof that HtB was encouraging construction companies to build new properties.
Four-fifths of those using Help to Buy equity loan and mortgage guarantee schemes since its launch have been first-time buyers, some 66,661 out of the grand total of 88,420.

More than half of Help to Buy completions have involved new-builds and the average price of property bought has been £185,000 – well below the national average of £272,000. The vast majority – 94 per cent – have been outside London.

There are a number of schemes operating under the Help to Buy banner to help would-be home-buyers cope with the larger deposits which have been widely demanded by lenders since the financial crash of 2008.
The England-only equity loan scheme allows buyers to borrow up to 20 per cent of a property’s value from the Government to top up their five per cent contribution to the deposit, while NewBuy lets purchasers buy a newly-built property with a deposit of just five per cent.

The PM added: “We’re seeing an enormous recovery in house-building. It’s been growing every year over the last years, and part of that is because of Help to Buy.

DSC_0275“We are now seeing housing start-ups, housing completions, building taking place. The estate we are standing on now, the builder said to me it was because of Help to Buy that they started building more homes, building more quickly.

“It’s working, and more people are getting the security and stability of owning a home of their own.”

The Cannock site will see more than 200 new homes built by Bellway Homes, who are one of the builders bringing quality homes to the new housing development on the Long Shoot in Nuneaton.

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discountLIFE BEGINS AT: First-time buyers in England under the age of 40 have been given a pre-election ‘Brucie’ bonus to help them on the housing ladder.

Would-be homeowners can now register to buy new properties at a discount of up to 20 per cent off the normal price.

It’s all part government’s new starter homes’ policy to encourage home ownership and construction – achieved because housebuilders on brownfield sites would not have to pay local authority fees of at least £45,000 per dwelling.

FIRST IN, LAST SHOUT: 2014 saw the highest level of first-time buyers in seven years since the start of the financial crisis, according to one of the UK’s largest lenders.

The Halifax estimates that 326,500 people bought their first house or flat last year – a rise of 22 per cent compared to 2013. That was the highest total since 2007.

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91032HEADING IN RIGHT DIRECTION: House prices are now nudging the 2007 summit before the financial fall.

This January saw property values in the UK increase by 1.3 per cent to £179,492, within touching distance of the peak eight years ago of £181,101.

According to the Land Registry, the gain was the largest recorded since July 2014 but the regional rises vary greatly.

Meanwhile confidence in the UK property market has reached a three year high, according to new research from Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks.

Almost a quarter of people plan to change their current property either by extending or carrying out home improvements, the research found while a further 14 per cent said they want to sell their house in the coming year.

The latest Annual Housebuyers Survey supports the latest findings from the Council of Mortgage Lenders which reported that 2014 lending levels were the highest since 2007.

One institution to reflect the housing upturn is the 130-year-old Coventry Building Society. Last year its new mortgages increased by 25 per cent to £7.4billion.

The society, which saw its total mortgage balances up 12 per cent, now accounts for 2.1 per cent of all UK mortgage balances, more than double the market share seven years ago when the financial crisis began.

The city housing bastions recorded strong results for 2014 with underlying profit increasing by 51 per cent to £217.8m for the year ending December 31.

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WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH: In Phoenix, Arizona, one vendor at least is hoping to use the power of persuasion for a home that boasts four bedrooms and bathrooms, pool, spa, fitness room and a wine bar.

Aside from the house itself – this particular Mr & Mrs Motivator are throwing in all the furnishings as well as handing over the keys to a six-month-old electric Tesla Model S to the first person who stumps up £815,00 for the property.

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POLESWORTH 12 DSC_0329OIL BE BLOWED: A couple of oil-rich cities across the world are feeling the squeeze as diving prices threaten to downvalue their homes.

Aberdeen, headquarters of the North Sea gas industry, was in boom mode when oil hovered around $100 a barrel.

But in just over six months prices have tumbled by 60 per cent – and house values could be heading in the same direction. In the last four years, mortgages classed as “risky” by the Bank of England rose by 42 per cent (2,128 in numbers’ terms).

Meanwhile in Calgary in Canada, home sales in January plunged 35 per cent to their lowest levels in more than seven years while new listings shot up 40 per cent.

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12 redFOLLOW THE RED BRICK ROAD: Part of Nuneaton’s “social revolution” has helped to push a housing developer’s profits skywards.

Redrow founder and chairman Steve Morgan has hailed “an outstanding” performance for his company – with a new homes programme on Tuttle Hill – after it posted surging revenues and record interim profits.

Deeside-based Redrow’s half year figures showed pre tax profits rocketing 92 per cent to £91.2million as revenue jumped 54 per cent to £560.6m in the six months to December 31.

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01 hawkCHEAPER AND MORE CHEERFUL: That’s the news from the homes front in Coventry.

For the average mortgage in Coventry is now just shy of £200 cheaper each month than the cost of renting, according to new national stats.

A typical monthly payment is £361, courtesy of a two-year fixed-rate repayment mortgage with a 25 per cent deposit, according to the latest Bank of England figures. Average rent for all properties in the city is £556.

People looking for a new home could be saving huge sums by buying rather than renting. In fact, it would take the average renter 17 years to buy the average home outright with the money they would have paid to their landlord.

The mean price for all properties in Coventry – including flats and apartments – stands at £112,423, exclusive research by national and regional newspaper publisher Trinity Mirror’s Data Unit reveals.

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RISING2RISING 3MOVING UP PROPERTY LADDER: Determined Yaron and Sigal Ivry have spent almost £80,000 on lifting their property five feet to beat rising damp.

They jacked the five-bedroom Thameside house – Wraysbury, Berkshire – up on to stilts to stop a repeat of last winter’s flooding.

Certainly a move in the right direction as far as the property ladder is concerned. The flood saw the house value slip from £1million to £750,000 – now it’s thought to be worth between £1.5m and £2m.

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mortgaHOME A-LOAN, THERE’S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT: A price war between lenders is set to bring a unique “window of opportunity” to the housing market in the next six months.

It will be the best time in the history of homes to take out a mortgage, experts believe.

From now until the summer, with a UK general election fixed for Thursday, May 7, a purple patch of property trading is forecast.

Fixed-rate deals have never been cheaper and two-year ones may even slip below one per cent within weeks with five-year ones set to dip under two per cent.

Variable rates have almost halved over the past 12 months to 1.64 per cent as house buyers can secure fixed rate mortgages of just 1.19 per cent, according to new research.

Mortgage Advice Bureau spokesman Brian Murphy admitted: “The next six months are shaping up to be the best-ever window to secure a low interest rate if you are looking to buy or remortgage.

“Today’s prices have never been bettered in modern times and given that a base rate rise is inevitable at some point, it is unlikely they will be surpassed in the years ahead.”

Bank of England research shows that a typical two-year fix has dropped from 2.37 per cent to 2.01 per cent (a five-year fix from 3.34 per cent to 3.09 per cent) over the past year.

And the average variable rate has plunged from 2.74 per cent to 1.64 per cent – chopping £1,300 off annual repayments.

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billg3THAT’S RICH: It might be considered the equivalent of a housewife’s bet on the Grand national – but it’s always serious business to William Henry Gates III.

For Microsoft’s former founder, chief executive and chairman Bill Gates has reportedly purchased a 228-acre horse farm in Rancho Santa Fe, California.

According to property records, the purchase price was a cool £10.8million – a saving of more than £7m on the original listing several years ago.

The estate formerly belonged to weight-loss expert Jenny Craig and includes a racetrack, guesthouse, office, vet’s suite, orchard and five barns.

Bill Gates – listed as business magnate, philanthropist, investor, computer programmer and inventor – has lost one race lately however.

According to the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people – he was top dog from 1995 to 2009 inclusive. He regained the number one spot in May 2013 but lost the position in July to Carlos Slim.

Slim pickings for Bill then!

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cadburtyCHOCOLATE TO BUILDING BLOCKS?: It was once thought to be the traditional home of the world’s most famous chocolate bars.

But the former head office of Cadbury is set to be transformed into ‘blocks’ of a different kind.

Franklin House in Bournville – reputedly where the Curly Wurly was invented – will be turned into a plush apartment with up to 96 homes, a garden terrace and a coffee house in a £16million redevelopment.

The plans for the 1960s office will be a high-end scheme, but hopefully affordable for first-time buyers.

Plans for flats at the six-storey office block were withdrawn in summer 2011 before being re-submitted and then rejected by the local authority in spring 2012, amid claims it could have led to the closure of the Cadbury factory.

A spokesman for Cadbury owner Mondelez International said it opposed the development, believing it to be inappropriate to have residential property so close to a 24/7 operating factory.

Work is due to start on Franklin House, in Bournville Lane, shortly with a completion date by Christmas 2015 for the one and two-bedroom apartments.

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Lleyton+HewittVOLLEY GOOD MARKET: As Britain’s tennis king Andy Murray prepares for a quarter final match in the Australian Open – an old adversary has registered a ‘home rule’ victory.

Both Andy and Lleyton Hewitt, the youngest male ever to be ranked No 1 in the world and back-to-back winner of the Tennis Master Cup (the old version of the end-of-year ATP World Tour Finals competition), share the accolade of being Wimbledon winners.

But 33-year-old Lleyton, now ranked 54th in the world, has been concentrating on the housing market racket over recent months.

oz1His Palm Beach residence in Australia has been for sale since February but he’s finally sold his pad, pictured, for an estimated £3million.

Property down under is on the up with Sydney prices rising 13 per cent in the last 12 months and preliminary figures from RP Data show the city auction clearance rate is nearly 80 per cent – important where a third of all homes are sold by this route.

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metrolinkON THE RIGHT LINES?: In olden times there was a famous saying about how important it was to get a good start in life by being “born on the right side of the tracks”.

Living in a “desirable” part of a town or city has always been considered important but having a home close to a rail link is fast becoming a big bonus in our modern world.

Estate agents across Greater Manchester are looking longingly at the extension of the Metrolink network which currently joins the city centre to Altrincham, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bury, Didsbury, Eccles, and Rochdale.

Last year some 29.2 million journeys were made on the light rail system – and the network is now spreading to Manchester Airport and potentially Trafford Centre.

The Metrolink is set to not only add value to the nearby properties but means homeowners will become increasingly well connected.

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HOMES YOU WON’T MAKE A HOBBIT OF SEEING EVERY DAY: You’ll not find Bilbo Baggins or Gandalf presiding over the viewings but if you fancy something a touch novel – in property terms – then hang on to your hat and broomstick.

Here’s a surreal tour of the wacky, weird and wonderful – six of the best unconventional homes that are currently on the market (although they are all located in the USA).

1) First up is the Hobbit-like Mushroom Home in Bethesda, Maryland – north of Washington – priced at $1.2million.

It’s covered in polyurethane foam coating. Design features include large oval windows and 30-foot-high ceilings and stars in a book called Weird Maryland . . . you don’t say.

2) For a shade under half a million US dollars you can have this multi dome-shaped home that wouldn’t look out of place in the upcoming Jupiter Ascending sci-fi thriller movie which stars Oscar-nominated Eddie Redmayne plus Channing Tatum and Sean Bean.

Built in 2005, this custom-made fortress enjoys incredible acoustics and hails from Alpine in California.

3) If you’re looking for amusement – in a Disney sort of way – then consider splashing out a cool $35 million on the Boca Raton estate in Florida.

Looks plain ‘Him Tarzan Me Jane’ on the outside but the scrumptious inside – with massive arcade, sci-fi themed rooms, pirate ship bedroom and spaceship-themed play room – offers a giant amusement park.

4 + 5) Barns are in vogue – whether it’s an antique Dutch variety in Titusville, New Jersey, with a carriage in the living room, interior stone walls and vintage wooden beams plus pool, gym, sauna and wine cellar OR a home that houses a giant basketball court, locker room, coach’s office and workout studio to boot.

The latter is to be found on four acres of land in Argyle, Texas. Net price – $675,000.

6) My favourite to pull out all the stops for – and the cheapest at just $129,900 (£85,000) – has a 2,300-piece pipe organ taking up a third of the available room in the house.

And the good news – if you’re a musician – is the cost today of the instrument included in the sale would be ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Bargain of the year or is it one for fortune’s slippery slope? Location . . . Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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£1HOUSING BY NUMBERS: It will have been a while since houses were as cheap as these in Liverpool.

But the city’s first “£1 homes” have now been completed and 49-year-old self-employed taxi driver Jayalal Madde, along with his wife and two daughters, are the proud owners of Britain’s bargain basement.

The family took on the property in Cairns Street, Granby, in October last year – having agreed to put finance in place for repairs as part of the fantastic deal’s conditions.

Liverpool City Council announced in February last year that it was making 20 homes available for £1 under a pilot scheme designed to help regenerate vacant properties in Granby and Picton.

More than 4,000 people initially registered an interest for the £1 home scheme and 1,036 people submitted a formal bid. Those who secured a home were expected to refurbish it to “decent home standard” within 12 months.

The local authority has estimated around £35,000 will need to be spent on each property. The freehold will only be transferred once the work is complete and has been inspected.

Work is underway on six other £1 homes that were handed over last year. The remaining properties in the pilot will be given to their new owners at the start of next month.

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arthur1ARTHUR MO: Set in three acres on the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle, this five-bedroomed mansion – valued at a cool £1.2million – certainly looks fit for a king.

It’s surrounded by a 19th century stone wall, built as protection by the local sheriff during the Chartist uprisings of 1839, and comes with some ultra-modern touches.

There’s a heated swimming pool, changing rooms and showers, sauna, a separate party room with bar as well as a private cellar.

arthurAnd this South Wales “palace”, which is drenched in history, comes with a very believable piece of royal legend.

According to those living in Caerleon, this home is the final resting place of none other than King Arthur and his famous knights.

Historians are divided over where the sixth century English leader was buried. Some reckon on Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset, while others believe he lies in a cave in Alderley Edge, Cheshire.

But Arthur and his men are rumoured to be buried under a mound in the garden of this house – known as the Mynde – which is just a few hundred yards from the remains of the town’s Roman amphitheatre and setting for King Arthur’s famous round table.

arthur3Chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth described Arthur as holding court at Caerleon in his Historia Regum Britanniae, written in 1133.

Legend says that the leader, who helped Britons hold back Saxon invaders between 500 and 550AD, is simply sleeping until the day he is needed again by his people, when he will return to save Britain from its peril.

The current owners, who have put the property up for auction, have unearthed various Roman and Normal archaeological remains from the garden.

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electPUTTING YOUR HOUSE ON GENERAL ELECTION RESULT: With less than four months to go, it’s too early to predict the outcome of what many observers believe will be the closest General Election in half a century.

But one thing’s a cast-iron certainty – the housing market, or more specifically house-building, could well hold the key to which political leader will take possession of the keys to No 10 Downing Street after the polls have closed on May 7.

The homes front has risen to the top of the political agenda as campaigning gets underway.

Why? Well current Prime Minister David Cameron has listed housing among his big six priorities going into the ultimate UK public popularity test – alongside the deficit, jobs, taxes, education and retirement. No room for immigration or the beleaguered NHS.

Opposition leader Ed Miliband has been quick to say Labour will bring in a mansion tax if it becomes the largest party and forms a government despite estate agents believing that the recent changes to stamp duty would put an end to the idea.

But one thing gets the main parties to agree and that’s house-building which they believe needs to increase in order to meet the needs of a growing population.

The Labour party has said it aspires to increase house building numbers to at least 200,000 a year by 2020.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats – who have forged consensus politics as a Coalition partner for five years – have gone further, calling for 300,000 new homes and to help deliver these numbers, the party is proposing at least 10 new Garden Cities.

The Tories have not yet set specific targets for house building, concentrating on homeownership. Since its launch in April 2013, the Government’s flagship policy Help to Buy has supported more than 73,000 sales.

Extending that theme, the new Help to Buy: Starter Home, will enable first time buyers under 40 to purchase a home at 20 per cent discount on the market price. This scheme, say the Conservatives, will deliver 100,000 over five years on new brownfield land.

Developers would be exempt from paying Community Infrastructure Levy, off-site Section 106 contributions, including affordable housing and the homes would not have to meet the full zero carbon standard.

So what’s the real numbers needed? Various estimates put the figure at between 240,000 and 245,000 new homes have to be built each year just in England, never mind the rest of the country.

Unfortunately forecasts suggest that despite the political will – only 150,000 will be built a year by 2019 which is still well short of what is needed.

According to research, larger developers are delivering around three quarters of new homes; small builders up to 15 per cent and the public sector – including housing associations – the rest.

It was the late Margaret Thatcher who surmised after winning the 1979 General Election that “any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country”.

More likely that the electorate of 2015 will be happier with Helen Rowland’s famous pearl of wisdom for the next incumbent at No 10: Home is any four walls that enclose the right person.

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no sale 1EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY (OR SHOULD IT BE ‘SELLS A STOREY’): It’s the housing equivalent of a Countdown conundrum. How do you fit ‘china’ into a semi-detached home on the outskirts of Liverpool?

Crosby is better known nationally for sculptor Antony Gormley’s eerie beach collection of 6ft iron casts of his body, which look out to sea while former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie – daughter of actor Tony Booth – was raised a few streets away in the Waterloo neighbourhood.

So welcome to the wonderful world of the Walsh family where plumped-up cushions, lamps and trinkets fill the lounge of their six-bedroom property. In fact, no nook or cranny is left unadorned.

no sale 2No minimalist tendencies here where even the modest-sized bathroom boasts a chandelier. Nor is there any escape in the garden, awash with ornaments, statues and ironwork.

Now the house has achieved celebrity status in internet terms as the Rightmove property website details clock up thousands of hits and go viral – with opinions being passed on everywhere from Mumsnet to Facebook.

The unique property has been owned by 56-year-old Gillian Walsh and her second husband David since 1986.

no sale 3Her particular taste in furnishings formed the backdrop for bringing up three children by her first marriage, as well as five children with 58-year-old Mr Walsh.

The immaculately-kept house has been on the market for 13 months with the asking price dropped from £350,000 to £300,000.

Last word from a well-meaning neighbour: ‘They don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s the house they’re selling, not the ornaments.
no sale 4no sale 5no sale 7no sale 8

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boatWHEN THE BOAT COMES IN: Baby boomers born in the post World War II period are thought to own 40 per cent of Britain’s £2.5trillion stock of property.

Many are now “empty nesters” who don’t need the space and are therefore able to release equity by selling the family home.

A growing market is emerging with a new generation of retirement villages – an ‘import’ from America.

The active elderly can enjoy luxury swimming pools, spas, tennis courts, bowling greens, libraries, gastro pubs, IT rooms and even home studies for the many still working after 60.

One example of this is in London’s Wadswick Green, on the site of the former HMS Royal Arthur Naval College that Prince Philip attended.

Construction is under way and the first keys are due to be handed over next month. The main facilities are set for completion by July and the entire village, comprising 248 homes, should be finished by the end of 2016.

Courtyard apartments range in price from £285,000 for one-bedroom to £490,000 for three bedrooms. Pavilion apartments start at £205,000 for one bedroom and two bedrooms cost £245,000.

You could say it’s a new kid on the block, part of a craze for model retirement villages  . . .

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broad5IT’S MURDER, SELLING A HOME THESE DAYS: Well, Abbey Evans might say that, in the circumstances.

But more likely anyone would ‘kill’ to be in the current position of helicopter engineer Abbey.

He finds himself sitting on a plot of land that’s a dead cert to see him approximately £275,000 better off in the not-too-distant future.

Let’s rewind, this far-from-every-day property story is centred on British TV’s biggest storyline at the moment.

The nation is gripped by ITV’s murder mystery Broadchurch, which began its second series last Monday night.

It all looked straightforward until the ‘murderer’ pleaded not guilty last week in court – leaving the public gallery and millions of its television fans aghast.

broad4And now the picturesque blue chalet in which former Doctor Who actor  David Tennant’s character DI Alec Hardy ponders the murder at the centre of the ITV drama is expected to generate a lot more attention after going up for sale today.

Estate agent Malcolm Gill admits that the “Broadchurch effect” would certainly have pushed up the price of Britbank, a 100-year-old two-bedroom chalet on the banks of the River Brit in West Bay, Dorset.

“It’s impossible to quantify but I would say it has probably benefitted from an uplift of between £25,000 and £50,000,” he said.

The property was spotted by Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall, who lives in nearby Bridport, when he was writing the first series in a local café.

At the time, Tennant’s character was still being developed and it is thought that much of the second series was then created around the idea of the Jurassic Coast chalet as detective’s brooding base.

Chibnall has said the chalet “holds lots – if not all – of the secrets”.

Britbank has been available as a holiday let for the last two years and proved phenomenally popular. The Broadchurch crew booked out two blocks of two weeks for filming last year and paid the standard £41 per week rent.

The property, which can only be reached by foot, commands incredible views across the river, harbour and meadows behind. It is described by letting agents as “a quintessential Dorset holiday cottage”.

Built around 1900, it retains many original features and has been careful renovated and modernised by the current owner.

Mr Evans, 60, bought the chalet in 2000 and said it held wonderful memories for both him and his son. He had no idea it would be featuring so prominently in Broadchurch until he tuned in last Monday evening.

“I just hope the horrible murder won’t put people off,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

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clooney21BY GEORGE, ALL CLOONEYED UP ON REAL-LIFE DOWNTON ABBEY HABIT: In most households where a lady is in residence, it is fair to say George Clooney would always be welcome guest – even after tying the knot last year to Amal Alamuddin.

As you’ll remember over the festive period, television viewers on ITV got a chance to see the Hollywood heart-throb hob-knobbing with Lord Grantham in a Downton Abbey Text Santa charity special.

While gorgeous George was making an entrance – die-hard Downton fans will soon be able to lap up the atmosphere and ambiance of the real-life abbey surroundings.

London Lodge is one of five entrances to the 6,000-acre Highclere estate in Hampshire – just a mile away from where the upstairs scenes of Julian Fellowes’s period drama are filmed.

The owners of the lodge have spent two years transforming the grade II listed building, dating back to 1793, into a holiday cottage.

And from £350 a night you’ll be able to sample the home comforts.

Footnote: Why not enjoy a night at Fallowfields Country House Hotel in Oxfordshire. Prices start at £89.50 per person in a double room and also include a six course tasting menu for two on the evening of arrival, breakfast in the morning and an exclusive souvenir bottle of Downton Abbey white or red wine.

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roller vanDUTCH MASTERS: What has the world’s most unusual property viewing guide and Manchester United’s mercurial manager Louis van Gaal – now starting to relax at his new footballing home of Old Trafford – got in common?

They’re both Dutch geniuses, of course.

The former Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Netherlands national team boss, who settled into a home in Cheshire with wife Truus in the summer, needs little or no introduction.

But allow us to introduce an advert, made in Holland, which shows a brilliant alternative to viewing homes – in a rollercoaster.

It was installed in and around a house for prospective buyers to enjoy the ultimate tour.

The incredible video sees viewers hop on individual carts before being given a white-knuckle tour of the house as the rollercoaster makes its way through each room.

The ride’s fear factor (almost as scary as ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s 2014 traditional Christmas card) gradually increases as viewers face hairpin bends and drops as tall as the property’s roof.

Not sure it will catch on here . . . but take a ride and go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2QOtnLdnLQ&list=UUJKuqLjzGPxCPlY8YY7iphQ#t=71

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outhouseLOO-DICROUS NOTION?: Here’s a penny for the thoughts of our readers of a certain age.

Those of you old enough will still be able to recall the cobble-stoned rows of back-to-back terraced homes which came into fashion during the reign of Queen Victoria – with the outside loos down the yard.

One such group of properties were to be found in the Warwickshire town of Nuneaton . Number 24 Abbey Green (which backed onto Stanley Crescent) was the first real home of  top TV comedian Larry Grayson who was adopted by the colliery family of Jim and Alice Hammonds in September 1923 and sadly it was 20 years ago yesterday that the ex Generation Game television host died suddenly at the age of 71.

The idea that bathrooms can make or break a house sale might not be as far “down the pan” as you think.

swishWhile a cute kitchen or palatial patio could seal the deal – in America, at least, a home with more than the average number of toilets to population size seemingly attract buyers.

“Homes that were built 100 years ago had maybe one bathroom upstairs and one in the basement, but that’s not adequate for consumers these days,” says Leslie White of Web-based brokerage firm Redfin, which has studied per-capita loo levels in the 37 cities it operates in.

Redfin scoured county property tax records and other documents to estimate which communities have the most and least residential bathrooms on a per-capita basis.

And while people rarely talk about “the little room”, lavatory levels have a huge impact on the number and dollar value of offers properties attract.

“Buyers have come to expect more toilets in homes over time,” she says. “More often than not, they want a master bathroom for the parents, a second bathroom for the kids, a powder room on the ground floor for guests and maybe another bathroom in the basement for convenience.”

The expert says cities with the most toilets per capita are typically those that have seen lots of population growth since World War II, meaning they have newer housing stock and more bathrooms per property.

So here’s a housing market flushed with success, no less . . .

EXPERT VIEW: Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer, also authors of How To Buy A House

EXPERT VIEW: Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer, also authors of How To Buy A House

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HOUSEY-HOUSEY: Television tonight is definitely focussing on the home front.

No floorboard is left unturned as dynamic property experts and authors Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer help house hunters find the perfect home in the perfect setting.

That means a return for a new series of Location, Location, Location on Channel 4 at 8pm TONIGHT.

The featured couple want to recreate their dream beachside lifestyle which they previously enjoyed in Australia.

The LLL reprise comes exactly 24 hours after The Restoration Man returned to the small screen on C4 for a new run.

At 9pm tonight it’s time to switch stations to see what’s going down in ‘The Big House’.

Yes, Celebrity Big Brother is back on Channel 5 and there’s some loose connections between the inmates and a general heading of ‘housing’.

02 CBB_Ken3Former soap star Ken Morley, right – who played supermarket owner Reg Holdsworth in Coronation Street from 1989-95 – is one of the better known celebs on the CBB show.

The 71-year-old actor, who hasn’t been seen on the street’s famous cobbles for 20 years, has turned up in television ads more recently as the face of double glazing firm Safestyle UK.

Meanwhile one housemate who’s already a ‘celebrity winner’ is Nadia Sawalha.

The 50-year-old former co-presenter of The One Show was the winner of Celebrity Master Chef back in 2007.

And three years ago Nadia presented the UKTV Home series Kitchen SOS.

Other celebrities out to take the title include the former Mrs Liam Gallagher – actress Patsy Kensit; George Best’s son Callum and R & B singer Alexander O’Neal.
Celebrity Big Brother Channel 5 at 9pm tonight.

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THE RESTORATION MAN: Tv presenter George Clarke

THE RESTORATION MAN: Tv presenter George Clarke

FOUND . . . RESTORATION MAN DOWN ON THE FARM: We all love a plan when it comes together . . . and fans of ‘property programmes’ on the old gogglebox should ensure they get their tea/evening meal/dinner/supper over early tonight.

For Channel 4’s highly watchable The Restoration Man returns for a new series this evening at 8pm.

Architect George Clarke, who helps projects that transform neglected buildings into unique homes, begins the first of this six-parter “down on the farm”.

Two years ago this Georgian farmhouse was derelict with broken beams and rooms exposed to the elements.

But the TV presenter will introduce the viewers to Russell Edwards and his partner Nadia Smith, both 31, who lived in a caravan while restoring the Shropshire property to its former glory.

HOME SWEET HOME: Russell Edwards, Nadia Smith and their two-year-old son Jude

HOME SWEET HOME: Russell Edwards, Nadia Smith and their two-year-old son Jude

“I always wanted to build my own house, but instead we’ve ended up restoring one which has been fantastic – but it is definitely the harder way to do it,” said Mr Edwards who has ploughed £150,000 into the project

The couple bought the mid-8th century farmhouse, Foxholes Farm in an auction during the summer of 2012.

“It was really run down when we bought it, and we have done it up ourselves entirely. I think it’s a bit different having a team of 10 or 20 people behind you, but it has just been us with help from some friends,” Mr Edwards told the Shropshire Star.

Despite the two-year restoration slog, complete, the couple – along with children Jude, two, and three-month-old Vinnie – have plans for more.

“We have planning permission for an extension to the house as well – it would double the footprint pretty much,” added Mr Edwards.

The Restoration Man, Channel 4, 8pm tonight

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immigrationHOME OFFICE FRONTLINE?: Landlords in the West Midlands find themselves with a front room seat in the UK’s immigration debate.

For a new scheme is being piloted in the region under the direction of the Home Office.

Landlords who fail to check if new tenants are illegal immigrants face the threat of a £3,000 fine.

The initiative has been launched in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton – thrusting the responsibility for checks on to the shoulders of the property owner.

The landlord must now check the person’s identity and citizenship under the scheme. The Home Office will carry out an evaluation of the implementation in the West Midlands next spring and it is expected to roll out a phased introduction of checks across the UK next year.

Under the Immigration Act 2014, landlords now need to see a passport or a biometric residence permit.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “In most cases landlords will be able to carry out the checks themselves by asking to see the passport or permit and then photocopying (and keeping) it, without having to request a check on a person’s right to be in the UK via the www.gov.uk website.

“In a limited number of cases, such as where tenants don’t have their documents due to an ongoing Home Office application, landlords can request a check using the ‘right to rent’ tool on the website.”

In cases where a passport cannot be produced, landlords can request further checks via a government website.

West Midlands landlords who fail to check if new tenants are illegal immigrants face a £3,000 fine in a pilot scheme in the region.

An initiative launched today in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton thrusts the responsibility for checks onto the property owner.

The landlord must now check the person’s identity and citizenship under the Home Office scheme.

But the scheme has caused concern that the initiative will cause discrimination against foreign tenants, and also that it could lead to rising rents.

The Home Office said following an evaluation of the implementation in the West Midlands this spring, it expected to continue with a phased introduction of checks across the UK during the year.

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05 12 14 armitageESTATE AGENT TO DOUBLE AGENT: His career climb has included a six-month stint of holding ladders for trapeze artists and throwing batons at jugglers with a performing circus in Budapest, Hungary.

Actor Richard Armitage has appeared in high-profile costume dramas – including roles as the brooding John Thornton in North & South and villainous Guy of Gisborne in the BBC’s Robin Hood series.

He was double agent Lucas North – a renegade member of MI5 in the popular TV hit Spooks.

But few may realise that while at drama school in a decade of “reaching for the stars”, the 43-year-old spent three years as an estate agent.

He has some homespun advice from that period in his life that proved “interesting”.

He admits: “You can really study people. You see them when they are moving into their new house which is usually a really good day for them and when they’re leaving their house – which is often not such a good day.”

05 12 14 RDCbIRichard added: “The whole idea of finding a place to live and building a home is at the centre of life. The largest proportion of our income is on our home.”

Now the Leicester-born television and movie heart-throb is back in action on the big screen as Thorin Oakenshield, leader of the dwarves, in Peter Jackson ’s The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies.

Definitely worth a viewing . . .

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3D-Avatar3-D OR NOT 3-D, THAT IS THE QUESTION: It’s changed the film industry – turning movies like Avatar into a global sensation.

And the three-dimensional world which has brought motion pictures to life on the big screen and our TVs through enhancing the illusion of depth perception is ready to revolutionise the housing market.

First on the 3-D bandwagon, as you might expect, is America.

Apartment hunters in Manhattan will soon not have to worry about viewing property after property and wearing out their shoe leather.

Instead, thanks to a brave new world, home viewing will be “exercised” through high-definition walk-throughs of listings in a sort of Google Street View adaptation for real estate.

3d1Halstead Property, a brokerage with 1,200 agents in the New York metropolitan area, has takebn the 3-D technology on board and says it will become a standard feature for many of its Manhattan listings.

The tool allows buyers to tour a property online, peering out of windows and checking details from kitchen appliances to bathroom fixtures. A mouse click allows a viewer to virtually descend right into a room.

The new technology is set to follow on from innovations such as full-colour print advertisements in newspapers, web listings, photo slideshows and video tours.

“It is all about additional transparency for the consumer,” Diane Ramirez, chief executive of Halstead Property, told the Wall Street Journal. “That is what I find so exciting about it.”

While the edited videos “give you the essence of the apartment, this allows you to delve into the actual rooms,” she said.

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kimKIM’S BACK TO HOME FRONT: The pantomime season is in full swing and if American television and social media personality, fashion designer, businesswoman, model and actress Kim Kardashian was planning to enter the fray – the audience would surely be shouting: It’s behind you dear, honest.

While the Los Angeles-born celebrity has no plans to tread the comedy boards this season, the 34-year-old “girl next door” is reportedly making big strides on the home front.

Kim, with the world’s most photographed derriere, and new husband Kanye West are buying next door to their new £12million country-style mansion in Hidden Hills.

They are believed to have snapped up an outdated ranch-style £1.8m home on one-and-a-half acres of land – bought through a company called Safari View LLC and the deed was then transferred to the Noel Roberts Trust.

The couple’s new home — which boasts a very grand entrance —was previously owned by Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.

kim1The pair are most likely looking to extend their property to gain more privacy for themselves and their daughter North. They will probably demolish the current home and do some serious landscaping, bringing their total property acreage to five.

 

 

 

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