🌹 There is little else more quintessentially British than the chocolate box cottage. Bringing up idyllic images of rambling roses framing the doorway, thatched roofs, exposed beams and open fires, an escape to a rural retreat is the aspiration of many.

🍫 We have taken the opportunity during this National Chocolate Week to delve further into this market and the buyers who have made this dream their reality this year.
So far in 2018, there have been 2,100 country cottages sold in rural locations across England and Wales. The South of the country dominates, with 46% of sales but a fifth were in the Midlands and 15% in the East. The remaining 19% were spread across the North, Yorkshire and the Humber and Wales.

🌳 Unsurprisingly, buyers are prepared to pay a premium for a rural idyll. Chocolate box cottages sold this year for an average of £364 per square foot. This is 33% higher than the average price paid for all homes across rural locations.

💷 How much is your house worth? Free, instant, online valuation available here.

 

 The short answer is no. Of course, you are perfectly at liberty to knock down your own garden wall and flatten your front garden if you want to, but you need council permission to drive your car backwards and forwards across their pavement - and that depends on your willingness to pay for a council-approved contractor to insert a dropped kerb and reinforced crossover. 

In any case, many councils are now refusing permission for dropped kerbs in all but the most exceptional cases, on the perfectly understandable grounds that there are already far too many of them. After all, every new dropped kerb effectively eliminates one more parking space on the street itself – thereby making the problem worse for everyone else. 

Besides, the dropped kerb is only part of the problem. You are perfectly at liberty to flatten your own front garden, but you can’t concrete it over or have it paved without planning permission, and this applies to patios and terraces too.

 The reason for this is the growing concern over the progressive loss of green spaces in cities and towns and the increased risk this brings of surface water flooding. Wherever this happens, it drastically reduces the extent to which rainwater can soak away naturally into the ground. Instead, it collects rapidly on the surface, before pouring into already seriously over-stretched sewage systems. 

There is a way round this, of course. You can use special porous bricks, gravel or paving slabs with large gaps to allow the water to soak through.At the end of the day, you can always try to get permission but just bear in mind it may well be refused.

home insurance value

Q. I recently had an estate agent round to value my house and there is a big difference between what the agent says my house is worth and the amount I have it insured for. Should I increase my insured value?

 A. The market value of a home and its value for insurance purposes are two very different things. The estate agents’ figure indicates what your home is worth should you sell it, while the insured value is solely concerned with the cost of rebuilding it in the event of something like a major fire. The rebuild figure is almost always lower, mainly because it doesn’t take into account the value of the land on which the property sits. So, there shouldn’t be a cause for concern. 

However, whether the insured value is actually correct is another matter altogether... 

Generally speaking, insurance companies increase their valuations annually in line with inflation. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the figure is accurate; you may have significantly extended or improved your home over the years and unless you make a point of telling your insurers, they won’t have taken that into account. 

As a general rule, I would advise you to check the insured value of your home every two or three years. It’s calculated by multiplying the property’s total external size (both upstairs and downstairs) by the estimated rebuilding cost per square foot or square metre, which can vary quite considerably depending on where you live and the type of property you live in - these costs are published by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and are available, at a price, from most qualified surveyors. Alternatively, the website of the Association of British Insurers’ includes a free building insurance calculator. 

Once you’ve done your calculations, you can easily compare the result with the insurer’s valuation and if you’re not happy, ask them to change it.

A useful infographic explaining the planning permission process.

Well, it’s not absolutely necessary but it would be sensible to do so.

 

If you are relatively young, the whole subject of making a will may sound a bit morbid – not to say premature! Nevertheless, you have just made probably the biggest joint investment in your lives, so you want to be sure that both your interests are equally protected.

 

For the sake of argument, I’m assuming that you did buy it jointly, and that it is in both your names. However, there are actually two different types of joint ownership – and you need to check.

 

If you own the property as ‘Joint Tenants’ – in other words, what most people actually think of as joint owners - then each of you should automatically become the sole owner of the entire property if the other dies, irrespective of whether you are married or not.

 

If however, you own the property as ‘Tenants in Common’, the surviving partner has no automatic right of inheritance and the deceased’s share becomes part of his or her estate to be distributed, in the absence of a will, according to the rules of intestacy - which in practice means that it goes to any living relatives in a strictly laid-down order of precedence, or even reverts to the Crown.

 

Of course, if you are married or in a civil partnership, then that’s not a problem, since the spouse automatically comes top of the list. But if you’re not, and therefore from a legal standpoint you are only co-habiting, then the only recourse open to the surviving co-owner would be to buy out the deceased’s share.

 

Either way, to be on the safe side, I would advise making two so-called ‘mirror’ wills, which basically match and reflect each other so that in the event that either party dies, the survivor is equally protected. A bit morbid perhaps, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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