OK, I confess, the property market has me rattled.
When I bought my first flat six years ago, house prices and interest rates were relatively stable, so I could take my time, doing a few viewings each weekend.
Of course, as a first-time buyer the reams of unfamiliar paperwork were stressful. And I was particularly anxious not to put a foot wrong as my deposit was an inheritance from my late mum.
Uncertainty: With interest rates expected to rise to 1.25 % by the end of the year, some experts predict the market will cool down. Yet with demand stubbornly high you cannot be sure
But as I now look to take a second step on the property ladder, I’m overwhelmed.
Just like almost every other buyer right now, my husband and I are seeking a larger home with outdoor space a little further out of the City.
When we enquired how much we could borrow, we were initially pleased.
But after factoring in soaring utility bills, looming tax rises, higher interest rates along with more expensive commuting costs, suddenly a loan of that size felt more like a recipe for bankruptcy — and that’s before any consideration of childcare costs if we have a family in the future.
Even after settling on a sum we can realistically afford, we still face a battle. As we report, competition is off the charts. We are in no position to be able to attend mid-week viewings at a moment’s notice.
And the thought of being pressured to offer thousands over the asking price after seeing a house once is enough to bring me out in hives.
Pandemic property boom: House price inflation has rocketed through Covid disruption
Given how much we will have to pay in stamp duty, solicitor and estate agent fees as well as moving costs, we really need to get this next step right.
Yet every day we delay, house prices edge ever higher. And with flats still comparably out of favour, the affordability gap is growing. Some second-steppers are resorting to selling their home and renting so they are in a better position to act fast.
But amid soaring demand, it is more expensive than ever to rent, so coming off the property ladder is not a risk we want to take.
We really need to get this next step right. But every day we delay, house prices edge ever higher
Now interest rates are expected to rise to 1.25 per cent by the end of the year, some experts predict the market will soon cool down.
Yet with demand stubbornly high, homes in short supply and mortgage rates still competitive by historic standards, I’m not so sure.
So should we hold off until flat prices bounce back and more larger homes come to market? Or do we just plough on? At times like this, I like to remind myself that we are not property investors; this is our home.
And if I have learned anything after more than a decade of writing about personal finance, it’s that you cannot predict what the housing market will do next.
That means if we are as desperate to move as we say we are, it’s time to get going — if we can find somewhere we can afford, that is.
Our inbox is overflowing with harrowing tales from readers caught out by the new Mum and Dad scam sweeping WhatsApp —where crooks pretend to be their children pleading for cash.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that Lloyds Bank is now warning that WhatsApp scams are the fastest growing type of impersonation fraud.
Its figures show reports soared by more than 2,000 per cent last year, with victims losing an average of £1,950 each. So what is WhatsApp doing to help protect its users?
This is a brilliant opportunity for the tech whizz kids at its parent company Meta (formerly Facebook) to finally use their powers for good.
Though, given how reluctant online giants have been to clamp down on fraud in the past, you’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.
Go the extra mile
I do wish financial firms would make correspondence more customer-friendly.
Nationwide sent me a letter about my mortgage earlier this month to tell me the rate was rising.
Surely the most useful thing to do in this instance would be to state the old and new payment side by side so I can clearly see the increase in pounds and pence.
Instead the lender printed only the new monthly cost, leaving me to dig through my bank statements to work out how much extra I’d be paying.
It’s only a small change but it would be very useful for those of us who like to keep a keen eye on our outgoings.
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