Real Estate    

To Buy or Not to Buy – Buying vs Renting: The Pro’s & Cons.

For the average adult living in the UK, this will be an inevitable question: do you buy or do you rent? Well, depending on your financial circumstances and your long-term goals, each option has some pros and each has some cons. This article aims to offer some insight on the upsides and downsides of each in order to help you make a more informed decision. We’ll start with renting.

Renting is usually the first step that the average person will take when it comes to setting out independently, or with a new partner. Usually, in order to rent a property, all you’ll need is a couple of good references, proof of income (or, in some cases, a guarantor), and a deposit that equals the equivalent of about two-months’ worth of your rental. Depending on where you are renting, this could be anywhere from around £800 to £2000. But usually, if you’re renting in an area at the higher end of the cost scale, it’s likely that you will start out in a house share anyway. Not many people can afford £1000 per month in rental costs when they’re just starting out. So, as an average, let’s stick with a deposit of around £1000 and a monthly rental cost of around £500 plus bills. If you’re in a fulltime job or if you are moving in with a partner where your income matches a decent combined living wage, renting may be a good place to start. As the deposit and requirements are fairly manageable, it’s one of the fastest ways to find a home to live in. What’s more, if anything goes wrong with the rental property (with details depending on individual contracts and as long as and damage is not down to tenant neglect or carelessness), it is most likely the responsibility of the landlord to foot the bill and see to it that the issue is sorted and fixed.

The downside of a rental is that your monthly payment will, in most cases, be more than the sum you might be paying on a mortgage. What’s difficult about this is that every time you pay your rent, you’re putting your money into someone else’s pocket and making no investment. When you buy, the monthly mortgage payments are going towards your ownership of a property, which can increase in value and earn you some profit in the long term.

In simple terms, rentals are great when you’re not in a position to provide a buyer’s deposit. They are easier to attain, usually quicker to move into, and shouldn’t cost you unexpectedly if something were to occur; a boiler breaking or a leak for example. But be aware that rentals will have rules an restrictions with regard to freedoms you would otherwise have with a property of your own. For example, interior decorating, house modifications, and whether or not you are allowed pets, etc.

So let’s look into buying. As we’ve already said, buying will require more from you in the first instance than a rental. So, you will have to have the starting capital required to put down a deposit (which is usually 10% of the property selling price). There is also a longer and more detailed process to go through in terms of legalities, surveys and insurance requirements. This being said, if you have the means to buy, it is potentially the better option. Buying is essentially investing. Where with rentals, you are paying the landlord to ‘borrow’ their property as a tenant, when you buy a home of your own, your money is going towards an investment in a property which, if looked after, extended or converted, will likely increase in value over the years and offer some profit long-term. On a more trivial level, the house is yours to do with what you will: own pets, decorate in any way you like, modify or extend, and so on. You won’t have the added worry that you are going to accidentally damage something that will later cost you your rental bond. On the flip side of this, you will need to be cautious with your savings, as anything that may go wrong in the home, is solely your responsibility. Having said that, it is likely that your monthly mortgage payments will be lower than that of your rental price – so that extra cash can be put to one side for unexpected events.

On the whole, whether you buy or rent will be circumstantial. However, it is likely that rentals are the option when you are still finding your feet or you’re on a lower income and unable to put together a deposit. Buying a home may be a more complicated process, but for those who have the means to do so – they are an investment and offer more freedoms to live your life exactly as you choose.


Should We Spend Less Time at Work? The Pros & Cons

When we say less time at work, we’re not talking holidays, annual leave or simply cutting our hours. What we’re looking at here is a trend in flexible working. Modern technology and access to software such as the Cloud and VoIP systems that allow us to work from anywhere in the world at any given time of day or night are leading an increase in flexible working options. This means less time at work, say – in the office, for example – and more time elsewhere. For example, working from home, working flexible hours and potentially even working abroad. But what are the pros and cons of working less ‘at work’? Let’s take a look.

When it comes to flexible working the clue is in the title – it offers more flexibility. Gone are the days where working life means being at the office for 9am and staying there until 5pm when you make the traffic-packed journey home. Today, the majority of office-based work can usually be from anywhere, which allows room for the varied lifestyle of the modern human being. More companies these days are putting an emphasis on work-life balance due to the increasing trend of work-related stress, depression and anxiety. In fact, according to a report published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in late 2018, workload was the number one cause of anxiety, stress and/or depression in the workplace at 44%, while the other 56% was spilt across causes such as lack of managerial support, changes in the workplace and bullying. It is a serious issue that should be considered by employers. Potentially, flexible working options could help to reduce the burden of workload by offering employees more choice and more freedoms. Not only is this good for the wellbeing of employees, but it could result in less time taken off sick, which benefits employers too.

Cutting down on the commute. Working from home, for example, means cutting out any need to drive to work or use public transport. Not only does this save time, it allows for more quality time either side of working hours: time for a decent breakfast, or more time to cook dinner on an evening. This can be a great enhancer of wellbeing and can reduce stress. What’s more, cutting down on travel is also good for the environment, so this aspect of flexible working is sort of win, win.

All of this being said, it’s not all smooth-sailing when it comes to flexible working. At first glance, it looks like a very appealing option. Afterall, who wouldn’t want to work from home? I mean, you could even sit in your favourite pj’s, listen to your favourite music and sip your favourite coffee while getting your work done and earning at the same time. However, the reality isn’t so simple.

Turning your home into your workplace. This in itself can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it sounds much more appealing than sitting in a neon-lit office. On the other, however, it can be quite important to be able to separate your home and working environment. This is because lines can very easily blur and, if you don’t have a strong and assertive sense of boundary-setting, you could find yourself in one of two situations: 1. Your work will suffer because home-comforts becme too much of a distraction, 2. Your home life will suffer because it becomes less and less clear where the line is drawn between your home being an office and your home being the place you come to when work is done.

All in all, flexible working is only a positive thing for offering people more choice and giving more consideration to quality of life and work/life balance. But in order for it to be successful and worthwhile, boundaries need to be set, and people need to be strong and assertive enough to stick to them.

Real Estate    

Spain & Portugal: Why are they the UK’s Favourite Property Investment Destinations?

When you think of property investments, holiday and retirement homes and rentals abroad – particularly from UK investors, you’ll likely think Europe, more specifically, Spain and Portugal. This is because Spain and Portugal are among the most popular destinations of choice for expats, holiday-makers and those planning to retire in a warmer climate. But why so? This article seeks to explore.

One of the more obvious reasons is that these destinations are only a short flight away. They are accessible destinations from most UK airports and flights are, on the whole, relatively cheap (particularly off-season). Spain and Portugal are close enough to keep administrative responsibilities, moves and procedures fairly simple to undergo, while far enough away from the UK to offer warmer summers that can be spent enjoying time outdoors or by the coast. This is a hugely appealing aspect of countries like this overall.

There are also some real benefits when looking at the economy and trends that would suggest that these places are an enticing place to not only live but do business. Looking at Portugal in particular, there has been a rise in tech start-ups over the past few years which continue to strengthen and modernise the working economy. More business means more money coming into the country, and Portugal is reaping the rewards as investors are spotting the rise in opportunity. Spain is also quite an appealing choice when you review the economy as a whole. The reputation of the Spanish government has a lot to offer, as government spending and input is on the rise. This will also potentially see a positive influence on business opportunities, as well as property.

We can’t ignore the lifestyle appeal either. Not only is the climate a welcome change for those in the UK looking to move or invest, the lifestyle as a whole is also ticking many boxes. Generally, life in Spain and Portugal moves at a different pace from that in the UK. In part due to the warmer weather, there seems to be a more relaxed attitude in Spain and Portugal, with more of an emphasis on living contently than breaking your back in order to get by. This is reflected in the warmth and friendliness one might encounter amongst the locals. The cuisine is also not to be ignored, with excellent links to fresh seafoods, and fruit and vegetable selections which would otherwise be seasonal and more expensive in the UK, a more Mediterranean diet is also an appealing invitation from these countries. Not only is it fresh and tasty, but it can be sourced locally and is potentially much cheaper than in the UK.

Finally – investments from the UK in Spain and Portugal are familiar processes from both sides. This might sound quite a simplified point. It is quite simple, but it can make a massive difference. Because UK investors have been turning to Spain and Portugal for so long, the procedures, papers, surveys, policies and eligibility lists, as well as property guides and advice, are already strongly in place and easier to research for first-time investors. This can be a huge selling point. Familiarity is always more of a puller than the unknown. So, as a starting point, this is a great stepping-stone for UK investors.