Tuesday, 18 December 2018

New Year, new home?

Christmas greetings
The Christmas and New Year holidays are traditionally a time to start thinking of plans for the year ahead.

They can range from fairly straight-forward (but not necessarily easy) New Year resolutions - such as losing weight and being nice to your mother-in-law – through to more life-changing plans. Such as moving house, maybe?

If you are thinking of a new home, it’s not too late to squeeze in some house-hunting before the end of the year.

The last opening day before Christmas for most Larkfleet Homes and Allison Homes show homes will be Friday 21 December. But they will be open again on 27, 28, 29 and 30 December before taking a two-day break on 31 December and 1 January.

And don’t forget, until the end of December, you can reserve your new home for just £99. If you do, you might also win a Christmas gift to help your New Year move. Offers include:

  • Fitted carpets in your new house
  • Your rear garden turfed
  • £1,000 towards your legal fees
  • A 42-inch HD television
  • An Apple iPad

The deals are being offered on selected plots at:

  • The Croft at Baston, Baston
  • Boston Gate, Boston
  • Collingham Brook, Collingham 
  • Oakley Rise, Corby
  • Gretton Valley, Corby
  • Nettleham Chase, Nettleham
  • Pinchbeck Fields, Pinchbeck
  • Whittlesey Green, Whittlesey

As well as your ‘present’ you will, of course, get a superb energy-efficient new home with a ten-year insurance-backed warranty. What a great start to the New Year!

Our head office at Larkfleet House will close on the afternoon of Friday 21 December 2018 and reopen on Wednesday 2 January 2019.

Monday, 17 December 2018

A Dickensian Christmas

Charles Dickens' Christmas stories
Charles Dickens has probably had more influence on the way that we celebrate Christmas today than just about anyone else.

At the beginning of the Victorian period, the celebration of Christmas was in decline. The move of a large part of the population from rural villages to big cities as a result of the industrial revolution meant that traditional celebrations, which were a feature of village life, were abandoned. Dickens helped to reverse this and to create new ‘traditions’ to replace the old.

He was not alone, of course. Possibly equally influential was Prince Albert who brought the German custom of decorating the Christmas tree to England.

The singing of Christmas carols (which had all but disappeared at the turn of the century) began to thrive again, and the first Christmas card appeared in the 1840s.

However, it was the Christmas stories of Dickens that really revived the idea of Christmas as a time for celebration.

In October 1843, he began writing A Christmas Carol and it was finished by the end of November. The book captures in many of its chapters what Dickens observed taking place around him in London – and then built upon this.

The Spirit of Christmas Present takes Scrooge into the city streets, with their mud and sooty snow, to witness how the poor celebrated the festival.

However, the theme of A Christmas Carol is not Christmas feasting. It is a story of conversion, of release from the imprisoning chains of grasping covetousness worn by Marley's Ghost into the freedom of compassion and generosity. Dickens made his story a vehicle for delivery of the real message of Christmas.

The Spirit of Christmas Present therefore shows Scrooge not just the family celebrations so familiar to us now, but also the crowds hurrying to church and chapel 'with their gayest faces' – something rather less familiar to most of us today.

Whatever you will be doing this Christmas, it may well be as a result of traditions which Charles Dickens and Prince Albert revived and created nearly two centuries ago.

And whatever you are doing, we hope you have fun.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

More hot air from Larkfleet!

Pat Smith (left) and Nikki Gunn from Edenham Village Hall with one of the new hand dryers that has been installed at the hall.
We couldn't resist the pun in the headline - but this is a 'good news' story for a local community and for the environment.

The village hall in Edenham - not far from our head office in Bourne, Lincolnshire - is reducing its carbon footprint and improving hygiene thanks to a donation from the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund.

The fund has given £250 to Edenham Village Hall to help pay for hot air hand dryers in the toilets, allowing the hall to end the use of paper towels.

Now, you may think that electric hand dryers would be something of an environmental disaster, but it turns out that actually they are far 'greener' than paper towels.

They use fewer resources than towels because towels constantly need to be produced and transported to users, and eventually they take up space in landfill. Even when compared with recycled paper towels that are composted (which are better than those made from virgin materials and sent to landfill), air dryers are more eco-friendly. If you are interested, check out the report here for details of research studies.

For the village hall, there are other benefits as well. Pat Smith of the village hall committee said: “This is a much more hygienic system for all our groups using the hall – everyone from the toddler group through to dog training handlers, Edenham school children and the senior citizen Christmas Party.

“And the dryers are always available, unlike paper towels where the dispenser requires refilling on a regular basis. It also saves us a bit of work as we no longer have to deal with ordering the towels and accepting delivery.”

Karl Hick, CEO of The Larkfleet Group of Companies, said: “We were particularly pleased to support this project because of the positive impact on the environment.”

The Larkfleet Homes Community Fund supports groups that enhance or develop local communities. It makes grants to charities or voluntary organisations within ten miles of any housing development by Larkfleet Homes or Allison Homes.

If you want to know more about the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund and how an organisation that you are involved with could get a grant, visit www.tiny.cc/larkfleet-fund.

Our photo shows Pat Smith (left) and Nikki Gunn from Edenham Village Hall with one of the new hand dryers that has been installed at the hall.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

More than just houses

Front cover of Larkfleet Review
At Larkfleet Homes we're proud to be part of The Larkfleet Group of Companies which also includes Allison Homes.

But there is more to the group than house building. The winter 2018 edition of our magazine The Larkfleet Review, which includes news from across the group, has just been published.

The eight-page publication looks at new sites that The Larkfleet Group of Companies has opened across the country, reports on some of the group's R&D activities and highlights some of the grants made by the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund.

It also reports on the group's recent award wins, training activities and market research. There's a feature on housing for the over-55s and a story about how our colleagues are delivering solar power in India, Mexico and Kenya - all rather warmer and sunnier than the wintry UK!

If you would like to know a bit more about Larkfleet, you might find The Larkfleet Review to be interesting. You can download a copy from here.

And if you want to know even more, check out the group website at www.larkfleetgroup.co.uk.

Monday, 10 December 2018

It’s panto season – oh yes it is!

Beauty and the Beast poster
Pantomime is a much a part of the British Christmas tradition as turkey and mince pies. So here’s a handy list of the seasonal theatrical offers in some of the towns and cities where we are developing new homes.

  • In Boston – where we are developing at Boston GateAladdin is being staged at the Blackfriars Theatre and Arts Centre until 2 January.
  • On 3, 4 and 5 January Peter Pan is visiting Oakham, close to our development at Farriers Reach. In nearby Stamford Sleeping Beauty will be waking up daily from 27 December to 1 January. 
  • There’s a choice of two pantos in Peterborough as well – Peter Pan at the Key Theatre until 6 January and Robin Hood at The Cresset until 30 December. So you could easily catch both if you live at Whittlesey Green.
  • Entirely appropriate, we think, to the agricultural area around Spalding you can see Jack and Beanstalk at the town’s South Holland Centre until 31 December. It’s only a short distance from the new homes at Pinchbeck Fields (oh yes it is!).

Wherever you go, we hope you have a truly magical theatre experience.

Above: Beauty and the Beast is at The Cube, Corby. 

Friday, 7 December 2018

Another win for Larkfleet

Larkfleet Homes CEO Karl Hick (left) being handed the Peterborough Business Awards trophy by Shailesh Vara MP.
Larkfleet Homes walked off with another trophy at the recent Peterborough Business Awards. We picked up the title for ‘corporate social responsibility’ – mostly in recognition of the contribution we are making to local ‘good causes’ through the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund.

We set up the fund because we believe it’s important that when we build new homes for people, we help to develop robust, living communities as well.

The fund supports charitable projects that enhance or develop local communities. Any charitable cause or community project operating within ten miles of any Larkfleet Homes' or Allison Homes' development can apply for these grants.

We work in partnership with Cambridgeshire Community Foundation which manages the fund independently of Larkfleet. Grants of between £250 and £5,000 (more in exceptional circumstances) are awarded on a quarterly basis – details are at www.tiny.cc/larkfleet-fund.

Small grants of less than £250 are administered directly by Larkfleet Homes because we recognise that many small groups, seeking small donations, may not be able to meet all the requirements of the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation’s application process. Applicants who want to apply for funding of less than £250 can fill in the form on our website at www.larkfleethomes.co.uk/community-fund.

The fund has welcomed applications from groups that promote the environment, support residents or bring communities together.

So, if there is a group that you are involved with, and it operates within ten miles of one of our sites, why not get in touch and see if we can give you some cash?

Our photo shows our CEO Karl Hick (left) being handed the Peterborough Business Awards trophy by Shailesh Vara MP.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Merry Christmas offers from Larkfleet

Santa's sack with presents
We’re getting into the Christmas spirit at Larkfleet Homes with an offer to open Santa’s sack for house buyers who reserve a property before the end of the year - and with a reservation fee of just £99.

Selected plots at all of the following developments are included in the offer:

  • The Croft at Baston, Baston
  • Boston Gate, Boston
  • Collingham Brook, Collingham 
  • Oakley Rise, Corby
  • Gretton Valley, Corby
  • Nettleham Chase, Nettleham
  • Pinchbeck Fields, Pinchbeck
  • Whittlesey Green, Whittlesey

Buy one of the chosen homes at these developments and you could get any one of the following:

  • Fitted carpets in your new house
  • Your rear garden turfed
  • £1,000 towards your legal fees
  • A 42-inch HD television
  • An Apple iPad

Come along and try a lucky dip in Santa’s sack!

As well as your ‘present’ you will, of course, get a superb energy-efficient new home with a ten-year insurance-backed warranty. What a great start to the New Year!

All our normal assistance with a purchase is available as well – things like part exchange if you need to sell an existing property and (also on selected plots) the government’s Help to Buy scheme.

Help to Buy means you can get 100 per cent of a new Larkfleet home with just a 75 per cent mortgage and a 5 per cent deposit. The remaining 20 per cent of the purchase price is paid for through an equity loan from the government (subject to approval). It’s almost like an extra Christmas present!

Monday, 3 December 2018

Winning winter breaks

Reindeer sleigh

Once the weather turns from glorious sunshine to drizzling rain, the default is to batten down the hatches, light the fire and hibernate for the winter months. But what if it was a time to explore all that winter breaks had to offer, especially when the season becomes festive?

Short breaks at this time of year tend to be about the culture and the sightseeing, often deemed the perfect opportunity to tick something off the bucket list. A winter break always seems to carry an element of magic, simply because popular destinations are bustling cities backdropped with twinkling tights and glistening snow.

So, what are the options for a winter adventure?

Staying close to home is a great opportunity to explore what's on your doorstep. With so many wonderful and historic cities in the UK, there's an abundance of things to see and do. Most will offer a festive buzz with a Christmas tree centre-piece, illuminated streets, an outdoor ice rink and a traditional Christmas market. The highlights being Edinburgh, Bath, Birmingham, Manchester and of course London's Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.

But to go a little further afield simply expands the magic a little more. Finding the perfect festive destination is all about looking for something cosy, mysterious, magical and if possible, snowy; the epitome of Christmas all in one place. Here's just a selection of some of the best places to bring this to life.

Lapland, Finland

Nothing screams 'quintessential Christmas break' like a whistle-stop tour to the home of Father Christmas. Whether you’d like to meet the man himself, feed the reindeer, go exploring on a sled or discover a secret village, there’s something for everyone. You may even be lucky enough to see the natural wonder of the Northern Lights or simply enjoy a snow fight in the cold. A stay in a traditional log cabin with roaring fire is surely the making of the trip.

Copenhagen, Denmark

A genuine Christmas city, making it impossible not to get in the festive spirit. And the best place to soak up the atmosphere is at one of the city's famous Christmas markets. Tivoli Gardens is without doubt the city’s number one Christmas market complete with gifts, decorations, snacks, cookies, sweets and hot drinks. The historic gardens are full of decorated wooden houses, snow-covered trees, Santa’s reindeer, Christmas lights, and the true Nordic Christmas atmosphere.

Nuremberg, Germany

Otherwise known as Germany's Christmas City, Nuremberg is sure to be a memory-making trip. From the delicious smell of festive spices in the world-famous Nuremberg gingerbread to the magical Christmas market itself, Nuremberg is agreed as one of the best European cities for a festive getaway. You can chow down on bratwurst and drink mulled wine until your heart’s content, and if you're lucky enough, it will snow as you stroll through the city whilst it sparkles with twinkling lights.

New York City, USA

New York is undoubtedly one of the most magical cities to visit in the countdown to Christmas; it simply transforms into one of the most festive winter wonderlands. Every borough is adorned with sparkling Christmas lights and charming trees whilst pop-up holiday markets can be found outside of subway stations, providing excellent gift ideas and festive fun. Some of New York's best holiday sight-seeing spots include the Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, and Saint Patrick's Cathedral.

Christmas is simply a magical time of year and to experience the best of what is has to offer all over the world, try to fit some of these magical destinations on to your festive bucket list; you can't be disappointed.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Rocking around the Christmas traditions

Writing a letter to Santa
The 1st of December is nearly upon us. The advent calendars are ready and waiting and the festive countdown is all but underway.

For children, the excitement of Christmas is already unbearable, and the 25th December can't come quick enough. Counting down one day at a time feels like the longest journey ever, a little like setting off on a family holiday.

The reality is that for anyone else, those 25 days are just not long enough. The build up to Christmas can, and does, begin before December but there is something symbolic about the 1st day of advent. The festivities suddenly become socially acceptable, and people actually consider dusting down the Christmas jumpers.

In less than a month, there's seemingly so much to fit in and an abundance of festivities to tick off. The list of Christmas traditions is ever-growing and the opportunities for festive fun just keep on giving.

Advent calendars are a long-standing must, having gained popularity in Germany in the late 1800s. Early advent calendars simply presented a beautiful Christmas picture behind each of the 24 doors. Today, they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes with children (and adults alike!) enjoying anything from chocolates and sweets to toiletries and your favourite tipple.

And then there's the Christmas cards and the point at which the advent countdown becomes a race against time. It's a lovely festive gesture but a Christmas card list can soon get out of hand; writing the cards always takes longer than expected. Christmas card etiquette certainly divides the crowd too; there's the ones who send their greetings in November and those who miss the Christmas post deadline every year!

A certainty in most households though is the tree, without which, is Christmas really Christmas? The evergreen trend has been going strong since 1841 when Prince Albert put a Christmas tree up at Windsor Castle, marking the beginning of a wonderful tradition. The decorating of the tree is a happy time, each and every one capturing its own charm and setting the scene for Christmas morning.

But before the big man arrives, a visit to see him and talk about your wish list is a memory-making essential. Nothing beats the magic of a Santa's Grotto and for children, the anticipation of being on the 'naughty or nice' list is more than exciting. Christmas really is nearly here by now and attention can be turned to the festive menu.

Will it be a traditional turkey roast with all the trimmings? Trimming such as pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce and stuffing to name just a few. Until the 1950s, turkey at Christmas was deemed a luxury and to this day, it remains a wonderful festive treat. So too does figgy pudding; a Christmas staple laced with lush fruit and lots of alcohol. Traditionally made a week before advent on what is known as 'stir-up Sunday', a Christmas pudding is nothing short of a festive icon.

So, we've made it to planning the Christmas lunch, now to live Christmas Eve; perhaps one of the most magical nights of the year. A pantomime, Christmas Eve boxes, treats for Santa, stockings at the end of the bed and a little festive tipple. And surely, it's early to bed, because if you're not fast asleep, he won't come!

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

Planting trees
There’s no doubt that trees are taken for granted by the very people who enjoy them every day.

Trees are just there, right?   

In the back garden, the local park, along the road side and, of course, in the many forests we use for cycling, walking and picnics, trees are just there. They are a part of our landscape and we watch as they change through the seasons, perfectly filling a gap at every point. The stunning colours through autumn, the stark silhouettes of winter, the lush green leaves in spring and the beautiful blossoms of summer. 

You can’t beat a game of hide and seek in a dense forest, or a tree house to create the best childhood memories. And then there’s the great job they do of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, providing a habitat for insects and wildlife, turning sunlight into energy and of course growing and nurturing delicious fruit. 

In the main, they are a fairly low maintenance and self-sufficient addition to the landscape, particularly in relation to the huge benefit they provide. 

So, back in 1975, trees were handed some well-deserved recognition with the launch of National Tree Week. Established by The Tree Council, one of the UK’s leading charities for trees, the initiative saw a national replanting of trees after the outbreak of Dutch Elm disease. 

And now, 43 years later, National Tree Week is the UK's largest annual tree celebration, marking the start of the winter tree planting season which runs from November to March each year. 

More than just an event in the calendar, National Tree Week has already inspired more than a quarter of a million people. It’s all about encouraging communities, schools and interest groups to have a positive impact on their local treescape.

It’s a great opportunity to encourage everyone of all ages to get their hands dirty and plant some much-needed trees; we’ve been celebrating their importance for hundreds of years, but the job is far from done. 

Often known as the lungs of the earth, trees play an important role in the world we live in, yet deforestation is clearing forests at a phenomenal rate. Although they still account for 30 per cent of the world’s land area, masses half the size of England disappear each year. In fact, the world’s rainforests could vanish in a hundred years if this current rate of deforestation continues. 

And it’s happening on our doorsteps too. Despite the belief that a tree is never far away, most European countries have a greater abundance of wooded areas in comparison to us. 

At Larkfleet Homes we plant many new trees every year in and around our new housing developments and, wherever possible, we retain existing trees. We also aim to protect the wildlife around our development sites.

National Tree Week is a great, long-established initiative to keep our trees going, and it’s so easy for you to get involved. Schools and community groups can join the Tree Council as a member organisation and get lots of ideas and inspiration for successful tree planting activities.   

You can also pull a group together yourself and get your hands mucky for the benefit of your local area. Maybe there’s some vacant land, a local project or even a school that could benefit from the planting of more trees. And even better if you involve the children too; it’s a valuable pastime for helping them to understand the benefits that trees provide to us all. 

And don’t forget to tell everyone about your activities too. Spread the word and encourage friends and family to join in and help your local community; there’s a free poster on the Tree Council website and then there’s the power of social media. 

So, if you’re inspired and keen to get started, simply check out the Tree Council website to see if there are any events near you to join in.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

On show at Collingham Brook

The Larkfleet Homes show home and sales centre at Collingham Brook
We’ve just opened a new show home at our Collingham Brook development in the highly sought-after Nottinghamshire village of Collingham.

The five-bedroom house is of the design that we call Thirsk – a detached home with a double garage. You can buy one for just £429,995.

The show home has been decorated and furnished to give you an idea of what your own house at Collingham Brook could look like - even if you choose to buy one of the other nine different property types on offer.

And our ‘show home promise’ is that we use only full-size furniture and ‘no tricks’. We’re told that other developers sometimes use things like shortened beds and remove internal doors to give an impression of more space.

Collingham itself offers an array of amenities including three churches, three pubs, a post office, medical centre, pharmacy, dentist, takeaways, butcher and convenience stores, library and a primary school. There are regular train and bus services to Lincoln and Newark – and from there you can get a main line train to London, making Collingham Brook convenient for commuting or for leisure days out in the capital.

The university cities of Nottingham and Lincoln are within easy reach by car or on the frequent local bus services.

With the rolling landscapes, parks and woods of Robin Hood country in the west, and the traditional seaside experience of the east of England coast just a day trip away, Collingham is an ideal centre for active families.

All the homes at Collingham Brook are built using eco-friendly timber frames and they are all fitted with solar panels that will cut your power bills by allowing you to generate your own electricity. In addition, they are all covered by a ten-year insurance-backed warranty to give you total peace of mind about your new house purchase.

Why not come to take a look around the village and our new show home?

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Eating out with Larkfleet

Celebration table place setting
It’s a great tradition that when we have something to celebrate, we go out for a meal. Not so great for the diet, maybe, but heck, it’s a celebration.

So, whether you’ve just reserved a Larkfleet home, completed a purchase, or moved in – here’s a list of places to eat near each of our developments.

We confess we’ve not eaten in all of these ourselves (maybe doing that should be our New Year Resolution?) so it’s just a list without recommendations. But we’ve had fun putting it together from some internet research and a little local knowledge. Each of the entries is a link through to the eating house named in the list. We hope you find it useful.

And around our sites down in the south west of England you could try ..

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Black Friday deals – save up to £20,000 on your new Larkfleet home

Black Friday deals on new homes
Is this a ‘first’? Over the past few years we’ve seen Black Friday deals cutting the costs of a whole host of goods – but we cannot remember seeing it being applied to houses.

This year, though, Larkfleet is picking up the Black Friday theme and giving discounts of up to £20,000 on selected homes if you reserve before 30 November and then complete the purchase before the end of the year.

From Ivybridge in Devon to Collingham in Nottinghamshire, there are some great deals on offer.

  • £5,000 off selected two and three-bedroom homes
  • £10,000 off selected four-bedroom homes
  • £20,000 off selected five-bedroom homes
  • £15,000 off selected bungalows

So, a two-bedroom Holland style bungalow at The Croft in Baston which was £260,995 now costs just £245,995 until the end of the month and the detached five-bedroom Musselburgh house at Collingham Brook which was £344,995 is now available at the Black Friday price of £324,995.

All the details, including a full list of the homes covered by the Black Friday deal, are here.

But just what is Black Friday anyway?

It started in the USA and has now spread across the world. It is the Friday after the US Thanksgiving holiday which is always on the fourth Thursday in November. Most employees get Thanksgiving as a day off (it’s like an English bank holiday – including the fact that in many places, it usually rains!). Many people also take the Friday off as well, giving them a four-day weekend.

To tempt buyers into the shops, retailers started offering special deals on the Friday. And then it spread to the rest of the weekend. And then to all the following week. So Black Friday is now a week-long (or longer) retail bonanza.

And where does the name come from? Apparently, it comes from the idea that this is the day that shops ‘move into the black’, meaning they have enough money to cover their costs while reducing prices.

Whatever the name and meaning, though, Black Friday is good news for shoppers – and now for house-hunters, too!

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Best books for children

Child reading book in library
If you’re thinking of buying a book as a Christmas gift for a child, here are some suggestions for ones that you might put under the tree.

We hope you will have fun browsing and that your young friends will have fun reading whatever you decide to buy.

But why restrict this to Christmas? A book may be for Christmas, but reading is for life. Opening up the world of books to young minds is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

And, if you make use of your local library, it need not be an endless expense.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Get your boiler serviced – save money, save lives

Boiler being serviced
Getting your boiler serviced might not just save you a load of money – it might also save your life.

According to the government, more than 4,000 people go to hospital accident & emergency departments each year because of carbon monoxide poisoning and 50 people die. Most of these tragedies are as a result of faulty central heating boilers.

If you are a landlord, you have to get the boiler in any rental property checked each year. But if you are a homeowner, there is no legal requirement to do anything about making sure your boiler won’t kill you. We think it might be a good idea, though!

If you’ve bought a new Larkfleet home, your brand-new boiler will be covered by a warranty and we’ll have given you all the paperwork for this. But the warranty is only valid if you get the boiler serviced regularly.

Knowing how important it is, we recommend that you make sure whoever looks after your boiler is registered with Gas Safe . Only technicians on the Gas Safe register are legally allowed to work on gas boilers.

As well as keeping you safe, getting your boiler serviced regularly should save you money. A proper inspection and service by a qualified technician will make sure your boiler is running as efficiently as possible and isn’t squandering energy. This will not only cut your bills it will also cut your ‘carbon footprint’ and make some small contribution to tackling global warming. And every little helps!

Regular servicing should also extend the life of the boiler, meaning it will be longer before you eventually need to replace it. That could save you a load of money too!

Once each year should be your target for servicing. As we head into winter, now is the time to do it.

A boiler breakdown over Christmas may put a real hold on your celebrations – have you ever tried to get an emergency plumber over the Christmas holidays? Even if you can find one willing to break into his or her festive holiday to come to help you, you can expect to pay a hefty fee. And, if the boiler needs a spare part that the plumber doesn’t have in the van, you could be without heating until the stores open again after the Christmas break.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

House prices moving up again

Cheaper to buy than rent
House prices rose by 0.4 per cent in October – the first monthly increase since February – according to property website Your Move. The average price of a home in England and Wales is now £304,433, up from £301,367 last October.

Your Move says that prices in most regions continued to show growth, with the exception of the south east and north east which showed modest falls.

Overall, though, if you look at the figures for a full year rather than just for October, the annual rate of house price inflation is continuing to fall and is now down to 1.1 per cent. That’s the slowest rate of growth for six years.

But the picture varies across the country. The East Midlands (where we have many of our developments) bucked the national trend, with annual growth of 2.8 per cent.

In London, annual price growth slowed substantially in the past month, falling to just 1.8 per cent, yet there was still an increase of £10,889 in the past 12 months with the average price of a home in London now £620,571.

Meanwhile, figures from estate agent Hamptons suggest that there has been a ‘real’ fall in rents over the past ten years. Over the past decade rents have risen by 22 per cent, but the consumer prices index (CPI) which measures the average cost of goods and services (or the cost of living) has risen 24 per cent.

As with house prices, though, the figures do vary by region. Hamptons says that in the East of England (where we also have many developments) ‘real’ rents have risen by 7.5 per cent over the past 10 years.

And if you look at the short-term trends, Hamptons says that the average cost of a new let in Great Britain rose to £977 per month in October as rental growth accelerated to 2.0 per cent - the highest level since February 2018.

Every region recorded a rise in rents, with the East of England seeing the biggest increase at the equivalent of 3.9 per cent per year.

This all means that you are still better off buying rather than renting. A recent study found that it is cheaper to buy than rent in every region of the country. Average savings are at least £2,000 per year.

You can check out all our new homes here and see what you can afford to pay on a mortgage here.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

What to do in the garden in November

We’re not yet quite in the winter season, when even the keenest gardeners can sit back and relax. This is still the tail-end of autumn so there are a few tasks you can get out of the way before frosts set in.

Autumn leaves on the lawn
The leaves are still falling, but don’t wait until every last one has left the tree. Continue to clear fallen leaves off the lawn to keep it healthy. If you leave them too long they will kill the grass underneath.

And talking of leaves, if you’ve not done it already, put nets over your pond (if you have one) to prevent leaves falling in. If you need to clear pond weed, lay it next to the pond for a day or two to allow wildlife to escape back to the water.

If you haven't already aerated your lawn, there's still time to do it before winter. Either use a lawn aerator or simply insert a garden fork at regular intervals and lean it back slightly to let air in.

And now’s the time to give the lawn its final cut of the year. Set the blades on your mower to their maximum height and give the grass a trim that will last the next few months until it starts to really grow again in spring.

Now is also the time to edge your lawn, to create a neat and tidy appearance that will make future maintenance easier.

November is the ideal month for planting daffodils, tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs. If you are planning to make roses a garden feature next year (and for years to come) November is also good for planting bare-root bushes. Existing roses could usefully be pruned to prevent ‘wind rock’ during the winter, when gales blowing through the branches can loosen roots.

Tender plants need protecting from frost, gales and freezing rains – and now is the time to do it. Move plants into a greenhouse if you have one or consider wrapping plants or pots. Also think about putting pot stands beneath pots and tubs to prevent winter water-logging.

And finally – remember that winter can be a tough time for birds. Now is the time to get into the habit of regularly putting out food and water. Apart from the pleasure of seeing birds in the garden this winter, you will be helping yourself. Birds are gardeners’ friends and will keep pest numbers down all year round.

There is lots more advice on this month’s gardening tasks on the Royal Horticultural Society website at https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/in-month/november.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Time to get away?

Beautiful Barcelona
Summer holidays seem like a long time ago – especially if you decided to get away before the schools took their break – and Christmas is still a few weeks off. Many people are thinking that this is a good time to take a long weekend to recharge their batteries now that the clocks have gone back and it's definitely ‘autumnal’ outside.

But where to go?

We’ve taken a look at some of the recommendations being made by people who know about these things. Here’s what we’ve found.

The Daily Telegraph https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/articles/best-european-city-breaks-and-hotels/ lists not just cities in European countries such as France, Italy and Spain, but also recommends hotels in each of them. Rival newspaper The Guardian has a different list of cities and hotels at https://www.cntraveller.com/gallery/european-city-breaks-for-autumn-preferred-hotels while Conde Nast at https://www.cntraveller.com/gallery/european-city-breaks-for-autumn-preferred-hotels provides yet more options.

Trip Advisor https://www.travelsupermarket.com/en-gb/blog/inspiration/top-10-autumn-city-breaks/ gives its view on the top ten city destinations that includes not just Europe but also the Americas.

If you don’t want to travel so far, the UK still has much to offer – even at this time of year. The Guardian presents its list of ten ideas at https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/sep/23/top-10-autumn-weekend-breaks-small-uk-british-town-city. The Evening Standard’s top 25 selection is at https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/travel/25-of-the-best-autumn-breaks-in-the-uk-a3357496.html.

Or you could just stay at home! Turn your phone off, unplug the TV and curl up with some of those books you’ve been meaning to read for ages – like the ones you took on your summer holiday but never actually found time to look at.

Or maybe (dare we mention it?) take a weekend out to do some Christmas shopping before the stores get too crammed with folk like us who leave everything to pretty much the last minute.

Whatever you do, wherever you go – have fun!

Our photo shows beautiful Barcelona - a city mentioned on several of the top destination lists above.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

You can’t have hygge without candles!

Candles for hygge
The Danes allegedly burn more candles per person than any other nation – and that’s all to do with hygge.

If hygge (pronounced 'hue-ugh') has passed you by, let’s explain that it is the Danish idea of being comfortable and cosy. It has been something of an international lifestyle and fashion trend over the past two or three years. It’s all good (we reckon) but maybe slightly over-hyped (which is definitely not hygge!).

And whenever you hear about hygge, you soon end up hearing about candles. In the winter, the Danes burn them all day long to create a cosy, welcoming lighting for the room (we’re talking about home here, not the office – but there’s a thought…). In summer they come in handy for light once the long days come to an end. Apparently you just can't have hygge without candles!

And have you noticed how often there is a candlelit garden, teamed with twinkling lights and an open fire in romantic comedies? This could be a ploy by Hollywood to tap into our desire to have more 'hygge'.

Candles provide a more natural light than electricity. In Danish they are called levende lys which means “living light”. After a day under the strip lights of the office, shop or factory, levende lys provides a definite change of style.

But hygge is more than candles, of course. You can make your home more hygge with smart, minimal and intentional design. "Less is more" is the unofficial hygge motto. So, if you’re thinking about how to make your home more hygge, ask yourself, "Does this piece of furniture or item make me feel more relaxed or cosy?" If not, consider moving it or giving it away!

And your lifestyle can be more hygge if you ‘chill out’. Stop rushing about. Relax.

When you get home tonight, light some candles, wrap yourself up in a blanket and drink a warming cup of hot chocolate. Happy hygge!

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Have fun, stay safe on Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night this year is actually on Monday next week (5 November) but many people will be having parties or attending events over the coming weekend.

Safe firework party
If you are planning to have an event at home, here are some sobering statistics:

  • According to the NHS, there were 4,436 incidents with fireworks last year that required an ambulance or a trip to A&E.
  • According to the UK Fire Service, over the past five years more than 350 pre-school children, some only a year old, were treated in hospital for fireworks injuries.
  • According to the government, around half of all firework injuries happen to children under the age of 16.
  • According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, far fewer people are injured at public displays than at family or private parties.

And talking of 'sobering' statistics – best advice is that the person in charge of the bonfire and fireworks should not be drinking alcohol. If you have someone who is the ‘designated driver’ for taking people home, hand him or her the matches!

But don’t be put off by the statistics. It is possible to have a safe and fun bonfire party at home. Just follow these simple tips:

  • Ensure that you actually have enough room in your garden to safely light fireworks. Not having enough room can increase the chance of injury to those attending and damage to your property.
  • If you don’t have a suitable tree or post, avoid Catherine wheel or other types of fireworks that could damage your fence if that is where you were thinking of pinning them.
  • Clearing up the garden can reduce the risk of something going wrong. Remove any furniture that isn’t required, clear away dry leaves and move anything that you or your guests may trip over in the dark.
  • Let off fireworks as far away as possible from trees and bushes.
  • Only purchase fireworks from a reputable shop. They should have CE and BS 7114 written on the box to prove they conform to British Standards. And talking of the box – make sure you keep your fireworks in a box with a lid on. A stray spark could be a disaster! Take the fireworks from the box one at a time rather than setting several up in advance.
  • Keep buckets of water and/or a hose that is hooked up to a water source nearby. Hopefully you won’t need them, but prevention is better than cure.
  • Pick where your spectators are going to stand and then measure out a ‘clearance distance’ of at least five metres – more if you are having some large fireworks. Most fireworks are sold with information about how big a space you need, so make sure you check this when you're buying them. Once you have worked out where people are going to stand, make sure they stay there. Set up a rope barrier if you can. 
  • The bonfire, if you are having one, also needs a clear space around it. Make sure that kids running around cannot trip and fall into the flames.
  • Keep an eye on the children – little ones don’t appreciate the danger and may duck under the rope to take a closer look at the fireworks or fire.

But don't forget sparklers for the youngsters; these can create really magical moments. Make sure they wear gloves, though, and don’t run around with sparklers in their hands.

Not everyone enjoys fireworks – and pets can be distressed by noise – so talk to your neighbours to let them know what you’re planning. Think about inviting them to come along (they cannot really complain about the noise if they were there!).

It all sounds like a lot of hassle and ‘health and safety gone mad’, perhaps. But it is actually just common sense and, if you follow these tips, you can have a great, safe, party.


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Budget help for house buyers

Saving for a new home
More help for first-time buyers and plans for ‘homes on the High Street’ were among the measures announced in the budget by Chancellor Philip Hammond this week.

What does it all mean for house buyers? We’ve picked out some of what we think are the key points below.

Help to Buy

The Help to Buy scheme, under which you may be able to buy a home with as little as a five per cent deposit, is to be extended to 2023.

It had been due to end in 2021 so we reckon this is good news for people trying to ‘get on to the property ladder’. Our own market research has shown how important the scheme is to first-time buyers, with many telling us they simply would not have been able to afford a home without it.

The rules are being changed, though, so that the scheme will be available only to first-time buyers. At present, almost anyone can get a Help to Buy loan.

There are also changes to the rules about how big the loan can be. At present, there is one single limit for the whole of the UK outside London. In future, there will be different limits in different regions.

But don’t worry if you have already started your Help to Buy application – or even if you haven’t. The new rules don’t start to apply until 2021 so you have plenty of time.

Stamp Duty

It has always been a bit odd that most first-time buyers are exempt from Stamp Duty – unless they are buying a shared ownership property. Now the government has put that right and the same benefit will be available to shared-ownership buyers.

What’s more, the change is being back-dated to last year’s Budget (22 November 2017). So if you have bought a shared ownership property since then, talk to your solicitor to see whether you could be due a repayment of Stamp Duty. However, it would probably be best to wait a few days until we’ve all had time to figure out exactly how the details of the Chancellor’s announcements will work.

Funding for housebuilding

The Chancellor also announced that the government is putting another £500 million into the Housing Infrastructure Fund - a pot of money that local councils can apply to for help with building homes. Mr Hammond says this will “unlock a further 650,000 homes”.

And there are to be government guarantees for loans made from the British Business Bank to small builders to help them finance the building of homes.

Neither of these things is likely to have an immediate impact on house buyers – but, if they work as planned, they should mean more new houses being built over the next couple of years. And the market law of ‘supply and demand’ should mean that, with more homes being built, any rise in house prices over the next few years will be (slightly) less than it would otherwise be.

Homes on the High Street

The rules under which shops and offices can be converted into homes – usually apartments – are being simplified to make this easier. And money will be available to local councils to help with these conversions. Again, this should mean more new homes.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Have you bought your tickets for the big bang?

Have you bought your tickets yet for the fireworks at Bourne Abbey Primary School on Saturday (3 November)?

Fireworks sponsored by Larkfleet Homes
We’re sponsoring the event again, as we did last year, and are looking forward to a spectacular night of ‘bangers and flash’.

Right now, the weather forecast for Saturday evening looks good. Dry and (relatively) warm – but still best to wrap up well.

As well as the fireworks and bonfire there will be live music (from Pads Lad and The Overdubs) and food stalls (Groovy Foods, Panjab and Georges Fish Bar).

Gates open at 4:00 pm, the official welcome from the mayor is at 4:15 followed by music and then the bonfire will be lit around 4:45.  There is a ‘low bang’ children’s firework display from 5:15, more music at 5:30, and then the main display of fireworks (with accompanying music) from 6:30.

Advance tickets are on sale at the school and at Greetings in The Burghley Centre in Hereward Road and Stringers decorating centre in Manning Road - £18 for a family of five, £7 for an adult and £3 for a child.

If you prefer to pay on the night, tickets on the gate are £22 for a family, £9 for an adult and £3 for a child. You can pay by card as well as cash.

There is more information on the event’s Facebook page. We look forward to seeing you by the bonfire!

Friday, 26 October 2018

£8,100 per mile

£8,100 per mile is how much you can save on buying a new house if you move from central London to Peterborough.

The average price of a new-build house in the London Borough of Camden (home to King’s Cross station) is £849,000 according to the latest Land Registry data. Catch a train to Peterborough, less than an hour away, and you’ll pay an average £241,000 for a newly-built home.

It is just 75 miles ‘as the crow flies’ which makes the price drop per mile an amazing £8,100.
That’s less than the cost of a 12 month season ticket for rail travel between the two stations.

Of course, house prices aren’t the only reason to make the move. There are all the lifestyle benefits as well. Get out of the big city and enjoy a higher quality of life!

And if you want to take that idea a little further, maybe don’t look for a home in Peterborough itself but in one of the many towns and villages that surround it.

Like Baston, for example. If you have reached that stage in life where you no longer need a property as big as your current one, and you want somewhere that will fit your dream lifestyle, this could be your opportunity to cash in.

If you own a home in London, you have a hugely valuable financial asset that will help you to realise that dream. ‘Downsize’ to a new build home in Baston and you could pocket a small fortune when you sell your home – and enjoy a new lifestyle full of possibilities.

The Croft at Baston is designed to provide the over-55s (whether retired or still working) with the independence of owning their own homes combined with the benefits of being part of a community.

If you are looking for a new home in a community-spirited, friendly and tranquil village that offers age-exclusive living for busy modern lifestyles, then The Croft at Baston is for you. It’s not just a place to live. It offers a lifestyle of possibilities, leaving you with more time and energy to do the things you enjoy doing, every day, within a bustling community environment.

The new second phase of The Croft at Baston consists of one and two-bedroom bungalows all located around attractive walkways and gardens that help to create a pleasant community environment.

Located close to the bustling market towns of Market Deeping and Bourne, Baston boasts two excellent village pubs with restaurants, a church, a hairdresser, a post office and a general store. Other local shops and services are also conveniently located.

Its proximity to the A15 also means that The Croft at Baston offers easy access by car or bus to Peterborough, making commuting to London swift and convenient.

And, of course, what’s good for commuting for work is also good for commuting for leisure. All of London’s life and culture are easily accessible.

All the homes in this modestly scaled community have been designed to need minimal ongoing maintenance, so homeowners can benefit from the independence and security of property ownership without the day-to-day concerns of property upkeep.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Showing off new homes to Lynda

We love to show off at Larkfleet Homes (well, who doesn’t?) so we were delighted to be able to show Lynda Clark, editor of First Time Buyer Magazine, around some of our show homes last week.

Lynda Clark at Collingham BrookIn a ‘whistle stop tour’ we took in our developments at Collingham Brook, Nettleham, Boston Gate and Pinchbeck Fields (OK, some of these are actually developments by our sister company Allison Homes – but we could still bathe in the reflected glory).

When we dropped Lynda back at Peterborough railway station to return to London after her day out on site she said: “I was really impressed by your developments. The quality of your homes is outstanding and I shall be telling everyone they should move to your area!”

That’s just the sort of thing we like to hear, of course. Especially coming from an expert like Lynda who must see more show homes than you could ‘shake a stick at’ (though why you would want to shake a stick at a show home is a bit of a mystery).

Even so, you don’t need to take Lynda’s word for it. Come along and take a look for yourself. There are details of all Larkfleet Homes and Allison Homes developments here which will tell you which have show homes.

Most of our show homes are open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm seven days each week (but check the website for details – we’d hate to miss your visit if you come along when we’re not open).

Our photo shows Lynda Clark of First Time Buyer Magazine at our Collingham show home.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Baby, it’s cold outside

Moving house in the rain
Moving to a new home is not just exciting – it’s stressful. And there’s nothing more likely to dampen (literally) the excitement than rain on moving day. Or snow!

There’s lots of advice on our website about planning for your move. But the weather can throw in a few extra problems if it is wet and cold on the day.

With the clocks going back at the end of this month, and our ‘Indian summer’ apparently now turning to more typical autumn weather, here are a few tips for moving in the wet.

Plan ahead. Take a look at the Met Office website a couple of days before you move and get a detailed forecast both for the postcode of your existing home and for your new one. We all take the mickey out of weather forecasts, but they are actually pretty accurate, especially if you’re only looking a day or two ahead. If the forecast says it is going to be dry at both ends of your move, you can stop reading right here!

Protect what needs protecting. Wooden furniture, your washing machine and tumble drier, even cardboard boxes full of your precious possessions, won’t be damaged by a bit of rain as you load/unload them from the removal van. But you may want to think about protecting soft furnishings with a sheet of polythene to keep the rain off. Do the same with electronics such as computers and the TV – in our experience, water and electricity don’t mix well! Make sure plastic sheeting is well secured with tape – it will be more of a nuisance than a help if the wind gets under it and blows it down the street!

Hot drinks and more. Have a box of ‘essentials’ kept separate from all your other packing. It should have mugs, a kettle, tea, coffee, milk, sugar (you may not use it but the removal contractor’s staff may like sugar in their tea) and a few snacks. If there is any doubt about whether electricity and gas may will be operating as soon as you walk through the door of your new home, take an insulated flask of tea or coffee. And maybe some hot soup!

Clothing. Plan for moving day like it’s a ski trip. Lots of layers rather than one or two thick ones are best. You may work up a real sweat while shifting furniture and then cool down rapidly when you’re unpacking the plates. Being easily able to add or remove a layer or two of clothing will help you maintain a steady body temperature. And if you are expecting heavy rain, having a complete change of clothes (or maybe two) conveniently packed for easy access is a good idea so that you aren’t wandering around your new home soaked to the skin and dripping water everywhere you go.

Snow shovels. Seriously – if you are expecting snow on moving day, make sure you have shovels and maybe salt or grit to clear drives and paths at each end of your moving journey. You don’t want to be sliding around on ice while moving heavy furniture. Or your best china.

Floor coverings. If it is wet outside, you and anyone else involved in the move is going to be traipsing through the house in wet and, maybe, muddy footwear. Plastic sheets or some old bedding such as sheets and blankets can protect carpets and tiles – sort them out in advance and have them ready for moving day. But make sure you don’t create a hazard on shiny surfaces such as parquet flooring. Floor protection that slides out from under you while you are carrying heavy furniture is a recipe for broken limbs (and broken furniture).

Inside team and outside team. If you have enough people involved in your move it can be a good idea to have an ‘inside team’ and an ‘outside team’ when moving in bad weather, with furniture and boxes being passed from one team to another at the door. Both can be dressed for the environment in which they are working, and this system cuts down on the number of muddy boots crossing the threshold. It could be bad news if you’re nominated for the outside team, though!

Lights. It’s not just an issue in bad weather – if you’re moving in winter you could be moving in the dark at either end of the day. Make sure you have torches (with batteries!) packed somewhere that enables you to find them easily if you need them.

If the weather is really bad – think floods and blizzards – you may have to postpone your move. Again, checking the weather forecast should give you advance warning. If you are in a ‘chain’ you will need to talk to the people moving into your existing home to see if a postponement is possible. With a little goodwill all round you may be able to complete all the legal processes (and not break the chain) and just delay the actual move. 

Thursday, 18 October 2018

No tricks - just treats

Little witch with cauldron
Our sister company, Allison Homes, is getting spooky in the run-up to Halloween. It’s running a ‘shared ownership event’ at its Pinchbeck Fields https://www.allison-homes.co.uk/new-homes/pinchbeck-fields/ development over the Halloween weekend – Saturday and Sunday 27 and 28 October.

Shared ownership can be a way to get onto the ‘property ladder’ without breaking the bank.

It is a scheme in which you can have a new home for perhaps as little as 50 per cent of the market value. You pay for the share of the value that you are buying and then pay rent on the rest. Later on, you can increase the share that you own - either in a series of steps or in a single purchase of all the remaining share.

Allison Homes has a number of three-bedroom houses available for shared ownership at Pinchbeck Fields, with prices from £85,250 for a 50 per cent share.

Over the Halloween weekend you can take a look at a home like the one you could soon be moving into. You can also have a chat with an independent financial adviser. She will explain to you how shared ownership works, what the best balance between ‘rent’ and ‘buy’ will be for your individual circumstances and where you can get the best mortgage deal on the part of the home that you buy.

And, if you reserve a new shared ownership home at this event, you get the chance to pull a prize from a Lucky Dip Halloween Cauldron. You could walk away with an offer for free carpets for your new house, free turf for your new garden or a range of options to personalise your new shared ownership home to your taste.

Pinchbeck Fields is at Wardentree Lane, Pinchbeck PE11 3UF.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Having a ball

Big Bold Ball logo
We have bought two tickets to the Big Bold Ball – but no-one from Larkfleet is using them!

Having paid for the tickets, we’ve given them back to the organisers of this event which is raising funds for the Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice in Peterborough. So, two people from the charity who would not otherwise have been able to attend will get seats.

The Big Bold Ball takes place on Saturday (20 October) at the Holiday Inn in Peterborough. Starting at 7:00 pm and running until the early hours of next morning, there will be dining, dancing, probably a bit of drinking, a magician, caricaturists, raffle, auction and a whole lot more fun.

Your Larkfleet bloggers will be there (we’ve only handed back two tickets) having fun while contributing to a very worthy cause.

If you are coming, we look forward to seeing you at the ball!