Archive for the ‘General’ Category
Monday, January 14th, 2013
Twenty three finalists have just been announced in the Scottish Legal Awards 2013 sponsored by Scott and company. These awards recognize excellence in the Legal Profession. Caesar and Howie is among the twenty three firms shortlisted as finalists. Actually Caesar and Howie have reached the final in two of the awards categories – Innovation of the Year and also for probably the most coveted award of all – that of Firm of the Year.
Senior Partner, David Borrowman commented – “Whether we actually win either award remains to be seen. We are just delighted to have been named as finalists. It really is encouraging to feel that a prestigious panel of judges have recognised the effort and commitment our partners and staff put in to do our very best for our clients. I am particularly pleased that our work with older clients has again been commended”.
The judging panel is chaired by Margo Macdonald, MSP and the winners will be announced at a glitzy awards ceremony to be held in Edinburghon the 28th of March.
Terry Ann O’Donnell, Professional Relationship Manager at Caesar and Howie looks forward to the event. “I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed – but we will enjoy the event win or lose and the best thing about the evening is that we all raise lots of money for charity”.
Monday, December 10th, 2012
The Scottish Parliament has passed The Social Care (Self directed Support) (Scotland) Bill. This will come into force some time in 2013 and from that time Councils will be required to allow citizens needing care to decide themselves how that care should be delivered. The idea is that after a care assessment the council by agreement with the person involved should allow the care to be delivered in the way the person wants.
The new law obliges councils to offer four ways in which someone can receive care.
Option 1 – by receiving a direct payment – which the citizen can use to purchase care services himself or herself.
Option 2 – the citizen directs from where the council should provide the care
Option 3 – The local authority arranges the care itself.
Option 4 – a mixture of the three options above.
Self directed support is not new – but only once this bill becomes law will the councils delivering care will be compelled to allow citizens to have these choices over how care and support is going to be provided to them.
The government’s thinking on this seems to be twofold. First it is seen as generally a benefit for those in need of support to be able to “take control” of their care – a movement towards equality if you like as a citizen. Secondly there seems little doubt that the government hope and expect that stretched resources will simply go further under this new system.
David Borrowman of Solicitors for Older People Scotland comments “Many people will welcome this new approach. The last published statistics show only just over 4000 people receiving self directed support in Scotland. Once the legislation is in place I would expect this number to increase rapidly. Whether councils’ expenditure on care goes further – we’ll just have to see. But since about half of the recipients of Self Directed Support are over 65 – I think older people inScotlandwill benefit from this new law”.
Thursday, December 6th, 2012
November has been rife with equity release research, but three statistics in particular stand out.
Equity release lending growth is up 11% in quarter three. The continued growth in people releasing equity from their homes this year can be attributed to three key factors. First, innovation in the market has seen new plans specifically designed to relieve interest-only issues attracted new clients. Second, the formation of the Equity Release Council has been a major step forward in ensuring all parties involved in the market work in concert with one another to raise the profile and standards of equity release. And lastly, the ongoing squeeze on pensioners’ finances has created a greater need for alternative sources of income.
Recent research from Equity Release Council Member Key Retirement Solutions emphasises why equity release is a viable alternative income source. It found the total value of equity tied up in pensioners’ property is now an estimated £756.3 billion. This means over 65s are sitting on a substantial pot of property equity which could help to reduce financial woes if accessed via equity release.
Accordingly, 90% of advisers agree that equity release is relevant to retirement planning. Increasing innovation and collaboration in the equity release market, alongside cuts to government spending and substantial sums of pensioners’ money tied up in property all suggest the popularity of equity release will continue to grow. Yet only 38% of retirement planning advisers can provide advice on equity release. A shortage of advisers with substantial equity release knowledge needs to be addressed, with 46% of intermediaries citing a lack of relevant qualifications as the explanation for the absence of equity release advice. To ensure they keep up with growing demand and are able to provide a comprehensive equity release service to consumers, advisers should look to breach the current knowledge gap by training or setting up a referral scheme with a specialist.
Thursday, August 23rd, 2012
New regulation of the property factoring industry in Scotlandwill come into place this year. The Property Factors (Scotland) 2111 will be in force from 1st October. There was fairly widespread criticism of the standards of factoring for some years before the government acted. Factoring is important inScotland where so many residential properties in cities are flatted. The factors role is to manage property repairs and issues relative to the common property parts of tenements.
From 1st October it will be an offence to operate as a property factor unless you are registered on a national register of factors. Once registered factoring firms must then operate following a code of conduct. The code of conduct sets out minimum performance standards in various areas including levels of communication with householders, charging arrangements, instructing repairs, and debt recovery activities.
Finally the Act introduces a statutory dispute mechanism – the Homeowner Housing Panel. Homeowners will be able to apply to that panel if they feel the factor dealing with their property is failing to keep to the code of conduct or failing in factoring duties.
Tenement living – with several householders requiring to cooperate over repairs and so on, is a tried and tested system in Scotland. However with the rise of private lets and landlords not actually living in flats they own cooperation over common repairs has become a difficult area. The Tenement (Scotland) Act 2004 was an attempt to clear up some of the legal issues involved. Now this Act seeks to regulate better the factors actually responsible for day to day housing management. It remains to be seen how the new regime will work – but both these Acts do strive to improve what had become a very frustrating system particularly for flat owners.
Friday, August 17th, 2012
Half year figures issued by the Registers of Scotland confirm modest but continuing increase in house sales. All house sales are recorded with this national agency and its data therefore is perhaps more complete than other data from for example lenders or sales agents. Sales across the country are up by approximately 9% for the six months to the end of June, as compared with the same period last year.
The figures are reflected locally in Caesar and Howie sales figures. “We have seen a modest increase this year in completed sales and also conveyancing purchases” comments David Borrowman, Senior Partner of Caesar and Howie. “So there is a bit of a change in the market after several very difficult years. But whilst this is encouraging news – we have to keep things in perspective. Transaction numbers are at last going up a little but sales are still less than half pre recession levels. Also apart from some city areas most sales can take many months to achieve. I would therefore, still advise clients to be cautious and patient. Price your house sensibly, sell first before committing to a purchase and be very patient. I do feel however that by approaching the market properly there are bargains to be had because I think in the longer term the likelihood is that prices will start to rise again.”
Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
Sadly the economic recession has produced many innocent victims. No situation is more harrowing than perhaps a family being forced to sell their house because mortgage payments can no longer be met. This happens usually because the main earner in the family has lost their job or suffered reduced income.
A whole series of companies – often website based – have grown up cashing in on these difficulties. Guarantees to sell your property in a very short time or better still buy it very quickly for cash are heavily advertised. The attraction of these offers to folk struggling to pay mortgage bills is obvious.
However as in all life – when something seems too good to be true it usually is. Generally these companies will only offer sums well below the proper valuation for the property. These companies are not charities – they buy to make money on the property one way or the other – and the more desperate the houseowner the lower the price.
When mortgage payment difficulties first arise a far better approach is for the homeowner to communicate quickly and openly with their lender – and to explain their financial difficulties. Most lenders nowadays will work with borrowers to avoid repossessions – provided always that the borrower is up front and realistic and keeps in contact. Sometimes monthly payments can be reduced and there is plenty help available in negotiating with the lender – the Citizens Advice Bureau, Debtline or Money Advice Scotland for example. On top of that in Scotland there are still some mortgage rescue schemes run by local authorities or housing associations which could be investigated. Quite often sale of the house can be put off for a good time – hopefully giving the house owner time to get another job for example.
Even if arrangements cannot be made which avoid the house sale, most lenders will accept reduced payments or even payment holidays if the lender knows the house is on the market and the selling agent keeps the lender informed. This approach allows the homeowner to market the property widely and to get the full market price for it rather than accept in a hurry a vastly reduced price.
Sensible homeowners can generally do better for themselves if they avoid the apparent attractions of the “we’ll buy now for cash” adverts. That’s the truth.
Thursday, May 17th, 2012
The recent publication of two interesting reports should at the very least stimulate debate amongst our law makers. More than that however individual citizens should read these reports and think about the consequences for them and their families.
The first report was by Price Waterhouse Cooper and it tracks life expectancy and projected pension ages. People born in 1964 can expect to collect their state pension at 68 and to live to 88. But people born this year may not be able to collect a state pension till age 77 although they will still enjoy twenty years of “retiral” with an expected age at death of 97. And the report predicts an inexorable rise in both pension ages and life expectancy into the future. Clearly “three score years and ten” is a somewhat outdated concept.
Just days after this report The International Longevity Centre published “Retirement in Flux” described as a “think piece”. This is indeed a thought provoking document, which tracks the history of “retiral” from work with the expectation of a period of life thereafter funded by a pension. This is actually a relatively recent development in our social history. But the report argues that the concept of “retiral” as we now understand it is perhaps already obsolete due to the increased financial demands on state and citizens’ resources caused by increased longevity. The institution suggests a fixed retiral date should go and the concept of gradual retiral should take its place – with the state and employers changing the current practice to make that possible. But at the same time the report argues that older people should expect and be expected to contribute by staying in the labour market longer and being prepared to contribute from their own property wealth to paying for care costs for example.
David Borrowman, Senior Partner of Caesar and Howie comments “These reports are valuable in my view – even if they are a bit scary in some ways. But really there is one simple message – families must plan ahead for the future – and you can’t plan early enough whether it be ensuring adequate pension provision or anything else. Just on one issue we find for example that steps can be taken to mitigate payment of care costs – including protecting houses from being sold – but they must be taken early. Too many house owners don’t think about care costs at all and how they might impact in the future on the house they own perhaps with their partner. I just wish people would think about this in their middle age and come and see what simple planning can be done. Waiting till someone has to go into care is too late”.
Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
The National Association of Estate Agents has called on the Scottish Government to scrap Home Reports.
Home Reports were introduced by the SNP’s first administration in 2008, despite much criticism by many professionals in the residential property market. Now the NEAE adds their voice to the criticism. Their spokesperson for Scotland, David Mackie said “Home Reports are widely seen as an extravagance in Scotland; they haven’t had their desired impact and it’s not too late to suspend the scheme”.
Yet another voice criticising Home Reports comes as no surprise to Senior Partner, David Borrowman of Caesar and Howie. “I welcome Mr Mackie’s comments – yet another sensible plea for removal of Home Reports. If there is a way to ensure you get bad legislation on the statute book look at how Home Reports came about. The government’s own trial failed miserably, then they listened to anyone except those professionals actually buying and selling houses. Home Reports have caused increased costs and uncertainty for sellers and buyers as well, and their existence has caused the return of unnecessary multiple surveys. That’s just daft. The trouble is the government don’t listen – their constant comment that Home Reports are great and are here to stay couldn’t be bettered by a PR team for the North Korean government. But it is hard pressed Scots paying hundreds of pounds more than they need to move house who are paying for this intransigence. The English have ditched their similar scheme and so should we”.
Friday, April 27th, 2012
The Scottish residential house market remains very far from buoyant. Prices remain subdued and may still be falling in many areas. Outwith the cities many sellers face a very long haul indeed to find that elusive buyer. On top of all that when the buyer eventually turns up he or she generally offers under the asking price or Home Report value. Sellers have faced these tough conditions for fully four years now and you just have to enter the market as a seller with a gritty determination to see things through realistically. On top of all this we now hear theUKis still in recession – hardly the news to excite anyone trying to sell their house.
Yet behind all this doom and gloom the fact remains that all markets for assets trend up and down depending on supply and demand. Since people live in houses there will always be demand for them – but now much of that demand is met by letting the asset – not buying. However, it is just possible now to identify some signs that the popularity of buying rather than letting may be returning.
A recent Bank of Scotland survey found that there was “a considerable improvement” in affordability of houses in most areas of Scotland for key public sector workers such as nurses, teachers, police and fire fighters.
A further survey by the bank into confidence in the housing market showed a significant increase in the number of people believing house prices will go up in the next year.
On top of that the major Solicitors Property Centres – which sell most property in Scotland– report a modest increase in sales activity in the first quarter.
So perhaps for the first time in several years there is some modest evidence that the housing market is perhaps approaching a return to better times. The next few months should tell if these “straws in the wind” turn into something significant.
Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
Research conducted by the Equity Release Solicitors Alliance (ERSA) has found that the percentage of people considering equity release has almost doubled compared with 12 months ago. UKwide research found that the percentage of people qualified for equity release and considering it has increased – from 20% to 38%. This represents an increase of 90% and it fits in with the industry body SHIP (Safe Home Income Plans) reporting third quarter advances of £206.2m – an increase of 12% from the previous quarter.
Solicitors Caesar and Howie are ERSA members and Managing Partner, David Borrowman comments “These figures reflect what we are finding ourselves. Both awareness of these products and demand for them seems to be on the increase and our Senior Issues team is working flat out to get money through for clients. It was not always like this though and I think the current climate for pensioners – where finances just get more and more difficult – is the main driver of this increase. If you are sitting with a lot of equity in your home, it doesn’t seem sensible to be short of money or deny yourself a good lifestyle in retirement, when unlocking some of the capital in the house could help so much. We expect the sales of these products to just keep increasing actually”.
Equity Release products are now regulated by the Financial Services Authority and are generally sold through specialist brokers mostly using specialist solicitors for the legal work involved. Caesar and Howie are the only Scottish members of the Equity Release Solicitors Alliance.