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Rics: Home sales boom will ease when stamp duty holiday ends



A gulf between the number of house hunters in the market and properties for sale has grown to the widest in eight years.

Estate agents are seeing strong sales and a spike in buyer interest, as many hope to beat September’s tapered stamp duty holiday deadline, but new listings continue to fall from already very low levels, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said. 

House prices jumped sharply again in May, according to its member estate agents, as a ‘real mismatch’ between the supply and demand of homes continues to afflict the property market.  

However, Rics said that current sales boom is not expected to last once the stamp duty holiday ends, as estate agents’ sales expectations for the coming twelve months have now turned flat. 

 Rics said that current sales boom is not expected to last once the stamp duty holiday ends

‘This suggests that the Stamp Duty holiday is the primary driving force behind the latest market trend,’ Rics noted. 

Michael Darwin, an estate agent and surveyor in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, said that demand still exceeded supply – and that for the first time in 40 years, they had all of their property ‘either sold or under offer’. 

Chris Stonock, an estate agent and surveyor at Your Move in County Durham and Tyne and Wear, said it was still very much a sellers’ market with not enough stock of homes to meet rising demand.

He also noted that the pipeline of sales currently being processed was at levels he had not seen in 15 years, echoing a recent report by Rightmove, which said it is seeing the biggest sales logjam in a decade.      

Rics’ chart shows a drop in new homes coming to the market, with the reading below zero

Meanwhile, Rics enquiries chart this shows a continuing spike in buyer interest

Regardless of a slowdown in sales brought about by the end of the stamp duty holiday, prices will keep on rising as the imbalance between supply and demand is set to continue, according to Rics.  

The upward pressure on house prices intensified last month, with 83 per cent of estate agents noting an increase rather than a decrease, up from 76 per cent the previous month. 

Agents also anticipate that prices will rise for the year ahead, as 64 per cent more respondents expect an increase. 

The upward pressure on house prices intensified last month, Rics said

All parts of the UK continue to display above the average house price growth

Simon Rubinsohn, Rics chief economist, said: ‘Ending a tax break always has the potential to be a little disruptive for a market but with the economy performing better than could have been expected even a short while ago and the cost of money still at rock bottom levels, the principal drivers supporting demand will remain in place even after the expiry of the stamp duty holiday.’ 

All parts of the UK continue to display strong feedback regarding house price growth, with exceptionally sharp readings being posted in Northern Ireland, the South West and North West of England, and Wales, Rics said. 

Estate agents’ sales expectations for the coming twelve months have now turned flat

Kevin Burt-Gray, an estate agent and surveyor at Pocock & Shaw in Cambridge said they had a ‘very busy’ past few months ‘with resultant increase in property prices’.

‘Difficult to predict market for the rest of year but activity has dropped off as we approach the end of the stamp duty holiday,’ he added.

Activity has dropped off as we approach the end of the stamp duty holiday 
Kevin Burt-Gray, Pocock & Shaw in Cambridge

He also noted that smaller one and two bedroom apartments are still proving slow to sell as much of the property boom is being driven by people looking for larger homes with outdoor space as a result of the pandemic. 

Chris Gooch, of estate agents Carter Jonas in Winchester, said: ‘With supply tight, prices are increasing, especially for country housing and we expect this to continue despite the SDLT holiday phasing out.’ 

Meanwhile, rents also keep on rising…

A similar pattern is seen in the lettings market, as tenant demand continues to outstrip supply, pushing rents higher, Rics said. 

In May, a net balance of +48 per cent of estate agents reported a rise in demand for rental properties. 

However, the balance of new rental properties being listed continued to fall for the tenth consecutive month. 

This imbalance, as in the case for house prices, has led to 55 per cent more agents predicting rents to rise in the coming three months. 

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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GRACE ON THE CASE: Vodafone wrongly opened a mobile account and are refusing to repay




I am a Vodafone customer and set up a second contract for my husband on the same Sim deal in April 2019 as I would get a discount.

However, I cancelled both contracts in January as we found better deals. No more money came out of my account but my husband realised in March Vodafone were taking payments and had been since May 2019.

After speaking to Vodafone, it eventually appeared the payments were for a contract that had been set up in my husband’s name, at the same time that I had set up the additional contract for my husband in my name.

A Vodafone customer had wrongly been charged by the firm for two accounts for two years

We are now owed £489 from the phone company but it said it can only pay back three months of prepayment while we are also being chased by a debt collection company. 

This is unfair as it wasn’t our fault. How can he get a full refund? C.B., via email

Grace Gausden, consumer expert at This is Money, replies: When you and your husband noticed money had been taken out of his account, you thought something phoney was happening such as impersonation fraud.

However, it soon became clear that the error was Vodafone’s entirely.

You set up a Vodafone Sim contract for yourself in April 2019 and the month after you set up a second contract for your husband on the same deal as family members could get a discount.

After speaking to the phone company, it recommended doing this as a second additional contract in your name as there would be a better discount than if your husband took the contract out in his name which you agreed to.

The Sim arrived, the direct debit from your bank covered the cost of both Sims and you thought nothing more of it.

In January, you cancelled both your contracts as you had found better deals with other providers.

You monitored your bank account to check the Vodafone final payments were taken which they were and nothing more.


Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Grace Gausden tackles reader problems and shines the light on companies doing both good and bad.

Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:


However, in March, your husband asked why Vodafone were taking money from his bank account when the firm had never been given permission to take any funds, although it had details from when you initially signed him up on a separate contract.

At first, you thought he must have been a victim of impersonation fraud and someone used his details to set up another account with Vodafone.

Understandably, you were both concerned about the impact this could have on your husband’s credit file but immediately cut off the direct debit payments.

You say it was very difficult to get anyone to give you information on the phone as you were now an ex-customer and all you had was your old Vodafone account details and the direct debit reference number.

Eventually, you spoke to someone in Vodafone’s fraud team who said they would perform a investigation but within a week your husband received an email advising the fraud investigation had found no wrongdoing.

After many further hours on the phone, Vodafone admitted the charge was for a contract that had been set up in your husband’s name, at the same time you had set up the additional contract for your husband in your name.

The Vodafone customer assumed they had been a victim of impersonation fraud at first

After checking the billing statements for the other contract, the customer service agent confirmed the mobile phone number had never been used.

They terminated the contract but Vodafone said it could only offer 3 months’ worth of repayments.  

It, at one point, upped the offer to 6 months of repayments, which it said it would use partly to offset the collections charges that have accrued on your husbands account – currently standing at £48.

However, the complaint has since dragged on and you say you have ‘no faith’ the issue will be resolved to you and your husbands satisfaction – with the collection charges creeping up.

I contacted Vodafone as the stress of the impact this could have on your husbands credit file, plus the mounting charges, was making you both increasingly worried.

Fortunately, after speaking to the team, it admitted it was in the wrong and offered a full refund.  

A Vodafone spokesperson said: ‘After having looked into this, it is clear that the extra line was set up in error without Mr and Mrs B’s knowledge. We are very sorry for this mistake and the inconvenience caused and are issuing a full refund.’

You have since confirmed you have received the money and that the markers had been taken off your husbands file.

While this is now resolved – little credit can be given to Vodafone who took months to rectify an error that was entirely theirs.

However, again, this is a reminder to always check your outgoings regularly in order to avoid being left hundreds out of pounds out of pocket. 

A consumer was having problems getting a refund from Scottish Power after overpaying them

Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list

Each week, I look at some of the companies that have fallen short of expected standards as well as those that have gone that extra mile for customers.

Miss: Scottish Power is under the microscope this week after reader, John, revealed the many issues he had been having with the energy firm.

He said: ‘I was recently charged with selling my parents property and settling and closing all utility bill accounts on completion of the sale.

‘My mother is in a care home with vascular dementia and my father is not in the best of health and is in sheltered housing.

‘The property was sold and the account for gas and electricity with Scottish Power was closed.

‘However, I have an issue with retrieving £374.58 paid by me to Scottish Power to settle my parents account which I paid by bank transfer.

‘When I paid the monies I did not include my parents account number on the payment, thus that attempt to settle the account failed.

‘I was subsequently contacted by an employee of Scottish Power chasing payment. I explained to him the mistake and agreed to pay the £374.58, this time with the account details included.

‘I visited my bank and was given a telephone number to obtain details of the transaction so I could get a refund of the initial payment. 

‘Since then, I have made a number of attempts to resolve the issue via email and by phone calls, however to date all have been unsuccessful.’

Sorting out your parents finances was clearly a priority which is why you happily paid the amount twice, trusting that you would get your funds back in good time.

However, now you have been waiting for weeks for the payment, even though you are happy for the monies to be returned as a credit on your father’s new account.

I contacted Scottish Power to see why there was a delay on returning the initial payment as you said you were getting nowhere with the firm. 

Luckily, the supplier recognised its error and has given the money back plus £100.  

A spokesperson said: ‘We’re sorry for the difficulties experienced by Mr R when settling his parents’ energy account and have now issued a full cheque refund of the original £374.58 paid, which had been allocated to a suspense account.

‘We’ve also provided a further £100 as a goodwill payment in recognition of the poor customer service received, which brings this matter to a close.’

Trying to get a refund took too much energy but at least now you will no longer have to chase.  

Hit: Meanwhile, reader Daona, praised the customer service she had received from Pyrex.

She said: ‘We bought three flat baking sheets few years ago. We noticed a chip from one corner and emailed Pyrex.

‘They asked for a picture and proof of purchase. We sent both over email and a few weeks later we got a new baking sheet. You can’t ask for more from a company.’

Fortunately, you didn’t need to spend more dough to get a replacement and instead got a replacement for free. 

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This post first appeared on Daily mail

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Want a car that will pass its MOT first time? You need a Ferrari!




Ferrari owners are statistically more likely to see their exotic motors sail through an MOT at the first time of asking than drivers of any other make of car, according to analysis of test data held by the DVSA.

The Italian supercar company had an impressive MOT pass rate of 93 per cent in 2020 for vehicles aged 3 to 15 years, suggesting that the ultra-expensive supercars are proving they can endure the test of time despite their highly-strung performance parts – and their owners are, as you’d expect, taking extra special care of their cherished motors. 

The top of the list was dominated by prestige car makers, including Bentley, Aston Martin and Porsche, while the opposite end of the spectrum shows that Chevrolets have the highest failure rates of all brands.

Fezzas fly though their MOTs: It shouldn’t come as a massive surprise that cars with six-figure price tags are performing well in annual roadworthiness checks…

Of the 6,362 Ferraris aged up to 15 years that had an MOT in 2020, just 443 failed – giving the manufacturer a statistically higher pass rate than any other car maker last year.

Unsurprisingly, the top performers for passing the test were predominantly luxury brands – the cars that cover less annual miles and spend most of their time in the garage or private collections.

Bentley (91.2 per cent), Aston Martin (90.3 per cent) and Porsche (88 per cent) were behind Ferrari for the best pass rates of all car brands on average.

The more mainstream orientated brands with a high pass rate included Infiniti (87.3 per cent pass rate) – Nissan’s luxury spin-off marque that’s no longer sold in the UK.

Tesla was another strong performer, despite the brand being linked to poor production quality in recent years.

Of the 7,853 electric US models tested in 2020, 1,055 failed – an 86.6 per cent pass rate.

This was marginally better than Japanese car firm Lexus – a regular at the top of the rankings for vehicle reliability surveys.

The maker – owned by Toyota – had an 82.6 per cent MOT pass performance, which put it ahead of Maserati, Mercedes-Benz and the surprise manufacturer in the list, DS.

That said, DS Automobiles has only been a standalone brand since 2015 when it was officially no longer recognised as a sub-marque of Citroen, meaning its pool of cars analysed for the study are significantly younger than the averages for most other makes dating back to 2005.

Some 7% of Ferraris up to 15 years old failed their MOT last year – that’s the lowest failure rate of all car brands, according to the DVSA figures shared by BookMyGarage.com

Top 10 brands with lowest MOT failure rate in 2020 of cars aged three to 15 years old and with a minimum of 5,000 tests conducted throughout the year

Chevrolet took last place, with just over half (54.4 per cent) of its cars passing first time – though the US brand hasn’t sold any of its mainstream models in the UK since 2014 and therefore has a sample of older vehicles only that are more likely to have suffered from wear and tear.  

Jessica Potts, head of marketing at BookMyGarage.com, which requested the MOT data from the DVSA, said it was ‘no surprise’ to see luxury brands like Ferrari perform best for passing an MOT, given they’re likely cherished more than a mainstream car – and the quality you’d expect from such a pricey motor.

‘Owners of prestige car brands often cover fewer miles annually as the car is unlikely to be the owner’s sole vehicle and they are usually maintained to very high standards,’ she said. 

‘MOT pass rates are less indicative of brand reliability and more a representation of how well owners maintain their car and how much of a ‘workhorse’ a particular brands’ models tend to become.

‘That being said, there’s a noticeable dominance of more mainstream Japanese brands in the Top 10, which perhaps goes some way to prove the notion that Japanese cars are indeed very reliable.’

Former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland left-back Denis Irwin poses with a Chevrlet Trax donated to a West Sussex dealership to be used to raise money for charity

Over a fifth of nearly new cars fail their very first MOT, DVSA stats show 

A review of cars taking their MOT for the first time (at three years old) showed that Ferraris came out on top there too, again ahead of rivals Bentley and Aston Martin – though with Porsche dropping to sixth place.

Of the more mainstream brands, it was purely Japanese marques that filled the rest of Top 10, with Subaru and Lexus taking fourth and fifth places, and seventh to tenth occupied by Honda, Infinity, Mazda, and Suzuki respectively.

At the other end of the results, SsangYong fared less successfully, coming in last with a failure rate of just 78.1 per cent – a pretty difficult stat to swallow for customers who had forked out on their new cars just 36 months earlier. 

However, success at a test centre is as much about the keeper’s maintenance as it is about the durability of the motors and their parts. 

The most common MOT fails are due to owner neglect – such as the 6.8 per cent of cars that flunk the assessment because of illegal tyres. 

The average pass rate for cars sitting their test for the very first time was 78.1 per cent, the figures show.

Top 10 brands with lowest MOT failure rate in 2020 of cars aged three years old and with a minimum of 500 tests conducted throughout the year


This post first appeared on Daily mail

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We visit an Essex attic home to England’s first ever ‘Museum of Savings’




Do you remember your first ever piggy bank, the first time your parents, grandparents or local bank gave you a box to put your pocket money or loose change in?

Because it, or something at least a little like it, might be on display in an attic room in a new build house in suburban Essex which is the current unlikely home of England’s first ever ‘Museum of Savings’.

Here, a collection of more than 400 money boxes, piggy banks, fliers, adverts, books and other assorted objects dating from the start of the 20th century to the early 2000s have been carefully curated and arranged in four glass cabinets and on a smattering of shelves and side tables.

Squeezed into the attic room of a house in suburban Essex is a 400-strong collection of piggy banks, money boxes and other items forming England’s first ever ‘Museum of Savings’

The project is a collaboration between James Blower, founder of The Savings Guru and an adviser to challenger banks, and his fiancée Tanya Burrage, who spent close to 10 years working for Norfolk Museums Service in Norwich.

It began as a hobby, with James purchasing a piggy bank from the 1980s in an antique shop, and around 40 other objects, around four years ago.

Since then, the collection has multiplied tenfold, but, Tanya says, ‘We had no idea until lockdown we were going to do this, and then I said I would catalogue them.’

She adds: ‘I did this and my family tree. That was my lockdown.’

Most of the collection stems from antique shops and eBay or have been gifted from people aware of the project’s existence.

Aside from family and friends, I’m the first person to actually see the project, which James calls the first of its kind in England, and possibly the UK.

The project is a collaboration between savings bank consultant James Blower and his fiancée Tanya Burrage, who has more than a decade of experience in the museum industry

There is the Bank of England museum, and a museum about the history of savings banks in Dumfries, Scotland, where the UK’s first savings bank began in 1810, but, James says, the collection is unique, dedicated as it is to the history of the savings habit.

Arranged chronologically, Tanya begins our tour a century ago, with the creation of the first home money boxes in the UK.

‘These boxes started in the early 1900s in a bid to make saving accessible to working people’, she says, ‘before that people kept money under the mattress. Prior to 1921, when the first patent was filed in Birmingham, they were made in the US and imported.’

The collection begins in the early 20th century with home safes where the bank would hold onto the key if savers want access

The first tins are essentially that, fairly primitive metal boxes, where banks would actually keep the key and savers would need to visit to get the money out. Some of the earliest saving tins were even opened by can openers, you can see the line around the rim.

Researching the early history of these home safes ‘has been quite tricky’, Tanya says, but most of the information has been found through internet searching and ‘doing plenty of reading.’

From the 1930s onwards things get a little more sophisticated and a little more aesthetically pleasing, with book boxes displaying the crests of various banks and building societies. 

In the 1930s banks and building societies began offering savings book money boxes

Some may be defunct, others are still around in some form, Midland Bank is now HSBC, the Post Office Savings Bank now National Savings & Investments.

‘These are my favourite things’, Tanya says, ‘you get the variety of designs and covers and attempts to give them unique names. I want to know which accounts these banks gave out these money boxes for, hopefully people will be able to tell us.’

The advice hasn’t changed much in all this time, a nearly 100-year-old advert from Lloyds Bank which came with one of its home safes states: ‘Make a habit of saving a small sum weekly: you will be surprised and pleased to find how much you can accumulate’.

Although some of the language around saving hasn’t changed in nearly 100 years (top), the rates on offer (bottom) certainly have

However, the rewards on offer to savers certainly have. An advert for NS&I’s investment account from May 1982 advertises a now inconceivable 13 per cent interest rate. The same account currently pays just 0.01 per cent.

Some of these tins, like one from the Bank of Liverpool and Martins, Barclays since 1969, inviting savers to save three and then six pence, became redundant after decimalisation in 1971.

And it was after that, and in the 1980s in particular, where Tanya says the modern idea of the piggy bank first began to emerge. 

Much of the credit for that can be laid at the door of NatWest, represented on a side table by several piggies, of which one is part of a limited edition set of just 75, I am told.

NatWest was behind the dawn in the modern piggy bank in the 1980s. They were so popular they sold 200,000 in a fortnight 

‘In the 1980s banks went from attracting parents to attracting the kids’, Tanya says, ‘I think they realised the power of marketing directly to children.’

The NatWest pig was perhaps an early introduction to behavioural economics. Open an account and save £25 and you get a baby pig, then another after holding it for six months and saving a certain sum, and so on.

It proved phenomenally successful. The bank had to pivot from the original designer to someone who could mass produce them, and even then, they sold 100,000 within a fortnight.

Banks and building societies used characters from children’s books to market savings accounts to kids 

Other banks and building societies followed suit, using popular children’s characters like Paddington Bear and the Mr Men as the face of their savings accounts.

Similar, and even wackier, things populate the top of the four glass cabinets. There is Pudsey, eagles from Barclays, the Lloyds black horse, a penguin from Loughborough Building Society, and even a toy featuring Howard, the famous man from the Halifax adverts from the 2000s.

The early years of the 21st century is where the collection tails off. Tanya believes the trend of livening up banks’ savings offers died out a bit ‘because everyone lost their imagination’ after the 1980s, with unique designs replaced by identikit piggy banks.

‘Everyone lost their imagination’ in the 2000s, Tanya suggests, with the rise of identikit plastic piggy banks, Child Trust Funds and digital savings apps

The Government set up Child Trust Funds and Junior Isas, with the state in 2005 taking responsibility for child saving, while James believes ‘the focus has also shifted towards longer-term investment saving’ for younger people.

And the recent trend towards digital money management apps and piggy banks like GoHenry also raises questions for the pair, both as curators of a collection of physical savings boxes and as parents trying to teach children about money.

How do you teach the value of saving, or spending, it is often said, if money exists only as numbers on a screen?

James and Tanya are looking for a bigger space to house their collection, rather than leaving it in their attic

‘I think we will see a bit of a renaissance because of wanting to teach people about physical money’, Tanya says. ‘Things like credit cards are a bit meaningless. Kids don’t really use physical money anymore, especially with coronavirus.’

And at the very least, a collection of pocket money cards makes for less of a spectacle.

The collection, despite its impressive layout, arranged into eras and packed with information on sheets of printed paper, is in temporary premises at the moment, as I discover for myself tiptoeing around a large drum kit in the middle of the room to take a closer look at some of the cabinets.

Assorted memorabilia from what is now National Savings & Investments, including an advert for inflation-linked savings certificates, which still exist but are no longer on-sale

‘We’re definitely not keeping it up here’, Tanya exclaims. The pair are on the lookout for a larger space, perhaps a shuttered bank branch somewhere in the east of England.

The museum wouldn’t fill it by itself, but they’d be keen to find somewhere they can offer other things too, perhaps a place to get financial advice, to teach kids about money, or even a bank hub of the type being trialled elsewhere in Essex and in Scotland.

‘We’re having to think about all different ideas if we wanted to make it viable’, James says.

But the need for bigger space is certainly pressing, not least because the 400-strong collection isn’t finished just yet.

‘There’s still a wish list of we’re trying to acquire’, he adds. 

Tanya continues: ‘It would be really nice to do a pre-bank, pre-money box age and look at that, perhaps at what the Victorians did, and then bring it all up to date to where we are now.’

This post first appeared on Daily mail

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