Larkfleet Homes on Blogger

Larkfleet Homes on Blogger

15 Jan 2019

50-plus and in need of a mortgage?

Mortgage application
If you are 50 or 60 years old (or more) and thinking of moving home, you are probably thinking of ‘down-sizing’ – moving to a smaller property. If so, you probably have a house to sell that is worth more than the one you want to buy. So, you won’t need a mortgage.

But you may want to do the exact opposite. Maybe you want to ‘up-size’ and move to a bigger property. In which case, you may well need to take out a new mortgage.

So, where do you stand with getting a loan?

The normal mortgage term – the number of years you will be paying off the loan – in the UK is 25 years. And with rising house prices making property purchase increasingly difficult, 30-year terms are becoming common.

If you are 50 years old or more already, 25 or 30 years will probably take you well into retirement (although many of us, from choice or necessity, are working well beyond the age at which previous generations retired). Will a lender be willing to give you a mortgage if you may not have a salary with which to repay it?

Lenders see offering you a mortgage becoming riskier as you get older. They need to be sure they will get their money back – without taking drastic steps such as repossessing your house. They must also follow the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) rules, which mean they have to make sure you can keep up with repayments over the full term of the mortgage.

As we all know, what you earn is one of the key factors in deciding how big a mortgage you can obtain. So how do lenders view people who may not be earning a salary at all during the period of the loan?

The good news is that an increasing number of lenders are willing to look at mortgages that will take you well into your 80s – or even your 90s. We are all (if we’re lucky) living longer nowadays and the financial services industry is adapting to the changes.

Some lenders, though, still have lower age limits. They may well insist that if you want to take out a mortgage aged 50 or more, you take it out over a short term – say 15 years – so that the majority (if not all) of the repayment period is while you are still earning.

Of course, a shorter term on your mortgage means more expensive monthly repayments, so this may not be ideal. Especially if you will be paying from a pension.

On the other hand, taking on a 25 or 30-year mortgage later in life is not necessarily a good option either. Financial planners usually recommend that you eliminate as much of your debt as possible before retirement. By reducing debt, or ideally becoming debt-free, you will have an easier time managing daily expenses once you are living with less income.

If you can afford the higher monthly payments of a 15-year mortgage, you will ultimately save money by paying less interest over the life of the loan. And by paying off the mortgage more quickly, you could eliminate mortgage debt early in your retirement years, or even before you retire.

Whether you are going for 15 years, 30 years or some other term, it is often easiest to do a deal with your existing mortgage provider rather than seek a new lender. They will usually be willing to forget about things like early repayment fees (what you need to pay if you want to end a mortgage early) if you are taking out a new mortgage with them.

But if their rules prevent them from offering you a new mortgage because of your age, you may have a problem.

One way to increase your chances of getting a mortgage in later life is to have a clear plan of how you will pay the loan back. This will not only help you to budget for making payments when you retire, to provide you with the assurance that you can afford the loan, it will give the lender that same assurance.

You will need to prove to the lender that you will have enough income to cover the repayments after you retire. If you want the lender to take account of your pension income you will have to show evidence that you are paying into a pension (or are receiving one). If you are still a few years away from retirement, you will need to show some evidence of what your pension and any other income will be once you’ve stopped working.

The lender will also want to know how you plan to cope with some of the consequences of old age. If you are one half of a couple, for example, and one of you dies, how will the surviving partner pay off the loan? What happens if one of you needs to go into a nursing home? It all may sound a bit ‘morbid’ but it is actually sensible long-term planning.

Getting some good professional advice at an early stage is well worthwhile. If you are buying a new home from a builder such as Larkfleet Homes or Allison Homes they will be able to recommend an advisor who can help you. He or she will have experience of the available options and know which banks and building societies are willing to take on older borrowers – and at what costs.



09 Jan 2019

Women in charge when searching for new homes

Taking the keys to a new house
This may not come as a total surprise. Research we have carried out has proven that when it comes to finding a new family home, if there is one person ‘in charge’, it is women who take the lead.

A survey we ran with a number of media partners has revealed that, in the majority of households, there is shared responsibility for the search for a new home. Even the children play a role in some cases (why not? they will be living there too).

In fact, in almost 70 per cent of households thinking about moving to a new house, there is no clear leader in the property search.

However, where there is one individual leading the search it is likely to be a woman. This is the case in more than 30 per cent of households. In only a very small number of mixed gender households is it a man taking the lead.

The research also identified a strong role for ‘extended families’ in both searching and decision-making by first-time buyers. Parents in particular are heavily involved – perhaps not surprising when the research also shows that the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ is the most common source of financial help for house buyers.

Not everyone gets financial help, however. The survey shows although many (28 per cent) current house-hunters expect to receive some help with putting together the deposit needed to secure a mortgage, most of them (64 per cent) say they will have no assistance.

And when it comes to the point of purchase it appears that not all the promised assistance materialises. Among those who have actually completed a purchase only 22 per cent say they received help with the deposit.

Those who did receive help with putting together a deposit usually (58 per cent) obtained it from their parents – and grandparents assisted a further 8 per cent of respondents.

A slight majority (51 per cent) of those who received help are expected to pay the money back – but 46 per cent are not and 3 per cent are unsure.


About the research: 

1. The research was conducted in two phases:
a) An online survey in which people were asked a number of questions about their house-buying preferences and experience. 
b) A telephone interview in which people were asked more probing questions about a number of topics. 
2. The survey was promoted online and in print through a number of channels to obtain a representative cross-section of respondents who were either currently searching for a new home or had bought one within the past 12 months. 
3. What Mortgage and First Time Buyer Magazine were media partners and helped to promote the survey to their readers.
4. 418 people took part in the online survey and 30 then went on to participate in the telephone research.


08 Jan 2019

Selling your home when buying a new one

House for sale
As we’ve seen on our blog before, selling your existing house so that you can buy your new dream home can be a bit of a problem. If you cannot find a buyer for your current home – or you thought you had a buyer and then it all went wrong when the buyer pulled out – you may not be able to buy your new house.

In the property industry they call it a ‘chain’. And you really don’t want to be there if you can avoid it.

Probably worst of all is to be in the middle of the chain. You have to sell your house before you can get the cash to buy your new one. But the people who are buying your house need to sell their house before they can pay you. And the people buying their house need to sell …. etc, etc.

There can be many links in the chain above you. And if any one of them ‘breaks’, everyone in the chain (including you) may have to start again.

And there may be a chain ‘beneath’ you as well. If you are buying a second-hand home, the people who are selling it to you need to move out before you can move in. They may need to wait for the people selling their planned new home to complete their purchase. And they may need to wait …. etc, etc, all over again.  And if the chain breaks, you’re all ‘back to square one’.

It can be a complete nightmare. But there are ways to solve the problem without losing too much sleep – or money.

One way is simply (well, it sounds simple) to sell before you buy. Sell your existing home, put the money in the bank, and then go shopping for your new home.

As a ‘cash buyer’ you can be in a position to negotiate a good deal and vendors (the people selling the home you want to buy) may prefer to take a lower offer from you than a higher offer from someone who hasn’t yet sold their own home.

Of course, there are downsides.

One is that you’ll probably have to move out of your existing house and take a short-term rental somewhere else (or move in with family or friends) while you shop around for your new home.

That’s not always the case, though. You may (if you’re lucky) be able to agree a short-term rental with the people buying your existing home, so you can stay there for a few weeks while you are house-hunting. Don’t count on this as an option, though – it’s rare that your desire to stay for a while will match your buyer’s plans. They are much more likely to want to move in straight away.

If you do need to move out before you have a new home to move into, you’ll have two sets of moving costs (from your existing home to your rental home, and then from there to your new home) rather than just one. And if you’ve put your furniture into storage while you stay with family, you’ll have storage costs to pay as well. Compared with all the other costs involved in buying and selling a house, though, it’s not a big deal.

But don’t forget that you won’t be getting much interest on money you put into the bank – and house prices will probably be rising all the time you’re shopping around. Again, it’s probably not a big deal at this time of relatively slow house price increases, but you don’t want to leave it too long before you ‘get back on the property ladder’.

Of course, there are other ways of avoiding getting caught up in chains.

If you are buying a brand-new home from a builder, you clearly don’t have a problem waiting for someone to move out before you can move in. So, there’s no chain ‘beneath’ you.

And the builder may be able to cut the chain ‘above’ you as well. Many developers – such as Larkfleet Homes and Allison Homes – offer schemes such as part exchange, assisted sale or guaranteed sale to help you get rid of your existing home at a good price.

With part exchange, the builder will take your existing home as part-payment for the home you want to buy. You then only need to find the money to pay the difference between the sale price of your existing home and the purchase price of your new one. And the builder can probably introduce you to a financial adviser to help you find a good mortgage deal (we can certainly do that at Larkfleet) if you need to borrow the money to do this.

In an assisted sale scheme, the builder will help you to sell your existing home – and while you are waiting for the sale to be completed, will reserve the home you want to buy for you. It takes some of the pressure off when it comes to selling your existing house. You know that you cannot ‘lose’ the home you want because the vendor decides to take a better (or quicker) offer from another purchaser.

And sometimes there are other benefits too – at Larkfleet, for example, we will pay your estate agent’s fees when the sale completes.

With a guaranteed sale scheme (at Larkfleet we call it Secure Home Purchase) the builder buys your home – and then, one you’ve moved out, sells it again. There is a small commission to pay but it can be well worth the money for all the hassle it saves!

Finally – well, as far as today’s blog is concerned – you can escape your chains by using a bridging loan. Basically, this is some short-term finance which puts cash in your bank while you’re waiting for your existing home to sell. It makes you a ‘cash buyer’ in the same way as if you had sold your existing home.

But bridging loans are not cheap. If you are planning ahead, most of the ideas above (selling before you buy or doing a deal with a builder) are probably going to be better value.

Where bridging loans can be really useful is to ‘repair a broken chain’. It is possible to get a bridging loan arranged within a few days. So, if the buyer of your existing home has pulled out, and because of this you are at risk of losing the option of buying your new home, a bridging loan can be a stop-gap solution. We’ll come back to this topic in a future blog post. At this stage, all we’ll say is – get some good financial advice before you go down this route!

In the meantime, you can read our advice on selling your existing home – because at some stage, the solution to all the problems is to find a buyer willing to pay a good price for the home where you currently live!














04 Jan 2019

Maybe Mum and Dad should move home?

Enjoying retirement in a new home
When we were young we all desperately wanted to be older – as teenagers we longed to be adult. It would, we thought, give us all sorts of things that we just didn’t have as kids. A home of our own being one of them.

Now that we’re older and that home is either a reality or coming within reach, is being adult all that we dreamed it would be? Do we sometimes wish we were younger again?

And surely by the time we reach our 60s and 70s we would like to turn the clock back, for all sorts of reasons?

Well, apparently not. Research shows that we are at our happiest once we’ve turned 65. So, if you’ve not yet reached that age, you have something to look forward to!

But when we reach our sixties we need to start thinking of what the future will bring. Retirement and all that comes with it can be a ‘watershed’ moment, opening up new opportunities – not least in our choice of home.

And if that is not yet you, maybe it is something your parents are experiencing?

For most of history, people spent their whole lives in small communities. Few people moved away from the village where they were born. Several generations of the same family would share a home. Those who moved out were usually living just around the corner in a home shared with several generations of the family of a husband or wife.

That’s not the way of things in Britain today. Children grow up and leave home in pursuit of education or jobs. They often end up living miles from their parents. Which is fine for them and their parents – until the parents pass a milestone age (60? 65? 70?) at which some rethinking may be needed.

Maybe it would be better if the family were closer together again? Would that make life easier – if not now, perhaps in the future?

But, let’s face it, you probably don’t want Mum and Dad moving into the spare bedroom. Perhaps somewhere a little closer to hand than where they live at present, though?

Now, they may be nowhere near ready to move into a care home. They are still fit and well and enjoying retired life with the freedoms it brings. But maybe thinking ahead would be good. In fact, the right choice of housing in retirement could (research shows) postpone the time when people do need a care home, perhaps by several years.

That’s why there is an increasing interest in age-exclusive developments that are designed for those who have retired or are planning to do so in the next few years.

These communities are built to meet the housing needs of people of a certain age – some are for people ‘over 55’, others ‘over 60’. The idea is the same, regardless of the exact age limit.

They provide the over-55s or over-60s (whether retired or still working) with independence based on owning and living in their own homes combined with the health and social benefits of being part of a community.

Research by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that communities such as the ones that Larkfleet creates under The Croft brand – with their opportunities for social interaction and engagement – can reduce social isolation, with consequent benefits to health, well-being and quality of life.

Communities such as The Croft can provide a wide range of different resident-led interest groups and a wide pool of people from which to draw friends and companions.

Studies have also found real community support for residents in developments such as The Croft. For example, neighbours will often help with activities such as shopping. The community will provide support for everyone through formal or informal ‘neighbourhood watch schemes’ and similar arrangements.

That’s a benefit not just for the residents but for their wider families, knowing that someone is keeping an eye on Mum and Dad. And also knowing that the older generation is not feeling lonely and isolated but actively enjoying a good social life.

If that is happening just a short distance from home, rather than on the far side of the country, it makes the whole notion of family support so much easier.

The research which shows we are happiest in our retirement years suggests that one of the reasons we are not so happy in the years leading up to our retirement may be that we not only have to look after our own kids, but we are under pressure to invest time in looking after parents too.

So, a move to The Croft could be a ‘win:win’ – good for everyone.


03 Jan 2019

Larkfleet sponsors girls’ football team

The ICA under-8 girls team
Is there anyone out there who still thinks football is only for boys?

It's certainly not what we think at Larkfleet - and it's not what they think at the Peterborough-based ICA Sports Football Club. So we have been delighted to back the ICA Under-8 Girls team with a £250 cash boost from the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund.

The donation will help to purchase a new playing kit for all the players and the Larkfleet Homes logo will take pride of place on the back of the shirts above the squad numbers.

ICA Sports Football Club hosted its first ever girls-only football session in February 2015. As the sessions continued and news of its work spread, the club has kept growing.

For the 2018/19 season, ICA Sports is running girls-only squads at every age group from Under-8 to Under-15, providing organised league football for girls in school years 1 to 10.

The Larkfleet Homes Community Fund supports groups which 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, both part of The Larkfleet Group of Companies.

Karl Hick, CEO of Larkfleet Homes, said: “A community is more than just houses. When we are building new homes, we want to support the local groups that our residents can participate in to help build a real community.”

You can read all about the ICA team at http://www.icasports.com/news/larkfleet-backs-ica-sports-girls-2376836.html. We wish them every success as the season progresses.



01 Jan 2019

New Year, new home?

Homes for sale
If one of your New Year resolutions for 2019 is to move to a new home there are a few things you need to sort out first.

It’s best not to rush into this. You can always cancel a gym membership if you decide that joining was a bad resolution but it may not be so easy to back out of a house purchase once you’ve started things moving.

Over the next few weeks we will look in our blog at a number of aspects of planning a purchase and move.

We’ll start the year with something obvious but often overlooked in the enthusiasm of planning for a move – if you own a house already, you probably need to sell that before you can buy a new one.

It may not always be necessary, of course. There are ways – such as bridging loans – to get the cash to make a purchase without having sold your existing property. But all of these have drawbacks (and costs) so the best thing to do is sell before you buy.

So, is January a good time to put your house on the market?

If you talk to an estate agent, he or she will tell you that January is one of the best months to sell. But, curiously, if you ask in February whether that is a good month to sell, they will tell you pretty much the same. If you are selling a house, estate agents want your business - and they want it now. So now is always a good time to sell according to estate agents!

What is the reality, though? Is January actually a good time to sell a house?

Well, it is probably not too bad. After all, you want to sell when people are looking to buy. And if you are thinking of buying a new home right now yourself, you are probably not alone. In fact, market data shows you are definitely not alone.

Spring is usually said to be the best time to sell your house but many factors affect the market – such as the type of property you are selling – so any advice on when is the ‘best’ time to sell needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Analysis of data from Rightmove carried out by The Advisory says that if you are looking for a quick sale, March is the best month to put your house on the market. Homes first listed in March take an average of 57 days to find a buyer.

But the variation throughout the year is not huge. Homes first listed for sale in January take an average of 62 days to sell. That’s only five days longer. That probably won’t make a great deal of difference to your plans. And remember, that’s only an average figure, anyway. Your house could sell much more quickly (or not) depending on things such as its location and the price you are willing to accept.

The best time to sell, obviously, is when there are lots of buyers actively looking to buy and few competing sellers looking to sell.

You can get a feel for the number of homes like yours on the market in your area by using a portal such as Rightmove as though you were looking for a house like yours near where yours is actually located.

Figuring out how many buyers are in the market is more difficult. You probably just have to put your house up for sale and see how many enquiries you get.

Conventional wisdom in the property industry (if there is, in fact, any wisdom in the property industry!) is that many first-time buyers and young couples are looking for a new home in January. Spending one more Christmas at home with parents and family has convinced them that it is time to move! So, if you are selling a smaller property that might appeal to this group of potential buyers, now is probably a good time to put it on the market.

Potential buyers who themselves already have a home to sell may also be spurred into action by the Christmas festivities when they realise they could actually use more space. What has prompted you to think about moving? How many others are likely to be having the same thoughts right now?

If you are aiming to sell, now may be a good time to have your home online to ensure you don’t miss this New Year audience. If you wait until later in the year, your home could end up being one of many houses for sale. If you aim to sell now there is less risk of getting lost in a ‘market overload’ later in the year.

But, we have to say again, there is no right or wrong answer to property sales. You could be lucky and swiftly find a buyer at any time of year.

Or not, of course. And that is where moving to a brand-new home may be helpful.

Many builders – including Larkfleet Homes and Allison Homes – offer part-exchange deals on some properties, taking your existing home off your hands so you don’t need to find a buyer. They can also help you with similar schemes which guarantee you a buyer at a good price. That is not something that can be offered by sellers of ‘second hand’ homes.

It is one more reason to think about buying a newly-built home.

Our show homes are closed today (New Year’s Day) but we’re open as normal from tomorrow onwards. Why not call in for a chat about how we may be able to help you?


31 Dec 2018

Resolving to keep your resolutions this year?

woman thinking of New Year resolutions
Today is the day to make your New Year resolutions for 2019. And for many people, tomorrow is the day to break them!

A recent study by Bristol University found that 88 per cent of people who set New Year resolutions fail to keep them – although the majority of people are confident they will keep them at the time they make them.

It has probably been the same for thousands of years because New Year resolutions have a long-standing history.

The ancient Babylonians apparently made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, after whom the month of January is named.

So, how can you increase your chances of keeping your resolutions in 2019?

One tip is to make just one resolution. What do you really want to achieve this year? Your chances of success are known to be higher when you focus on changing just one aspect of your life.

If you can, break the resolution up into small steps. So, if you aim to lose weight, set yourself a monthly target – what would you like to weigh at the end of January? And then at the end of February? And so on, right through to this time next year.

Psychologists also suggest that you should give yourself a small reward whenever you achieve a sub-goal. This will help to motivate you and give you a sense of progress. So, if you hit your weight loss target for the end of January, treat yourself to a meal out. But make it a small one if you’re going to stand a chance of hitting your target for February!

And tell your friends and family about your goals. You're more likely to get support and, if you’ve made a public commitment to doing something, you will be more motivated to actually do it and avoid the failure.

So, if your resolution is that you will move to your dream home in 2019 - we’re here to help. Just give our sales team a call on 0845 450 7872.

Happy New Year!


29 Dec 2018

Get shopping – it’s the New Year sale season!

Family shopping

If you didn’t have enough shopping in the run-up to Christmas, now’s a good time to head to the shops.

Many retailers started their ‘New Year’ sales on Boxing Day and certainly by 1 January, most of them will be underway and in full swing.

And then by mid-January, it’s all over – although still keep an eye open for the last-minute bargains. Some stores will cut prices again in the final few days of the sale just to shift things like last year’s models of electronics goods or last season’s fashions. And at these prices, does it really matter if it’s not quite the latest trend?

Originally started as a way for retailers to clear the stock they had failed to sell in the weeks before Christmas, the January sales are now a much-anticipated feature in the shopping calendar.

The big stores are worried though that this year's sales season will turn out to be as much of a disappointment as Black Friday was back in November. The figures suggest that although we bought more things (the number of items sold over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend was 10 per cent higher than in 2017) we were particularly choosy. The amount of money we spent actually went down by 12 per cent.

So, if the retailers are struggling to tempt us into making purchases, there could be some real bargains in the January sales this year. A winning situation for those who enjoy shopping, especially if you still have a couple of days before you need to go back to work.

Transport for London has put together a handy list of the big retail outlets in the city that are having sales:


Transport for London, however, also notified that public transport will not be running a full timetable on 1 January, so if you’re heading to the big city on that day, check travel websites and plan your journey before you set off.

Of course, if you’d rather do your shopping from the comfort of your own home, you could check out the following online retailers which, amongst others, are also having New Year sales:

If you are taking part, either in-store or online, we hope you bag a bargain – and have fun!




27 Dec 2018

Planning a New Year party

New Year party
Well, that’s Christmas done for this year! Time to start thinking about 2019.

For many people, the New Year celebrations are bigger, and often more important, than Christmas. And by their very nature, are certainly different.

While Christmas is a time for families, New Year celebrations tend to be more of an adult occasion – largely driven by the tradition to actually see the new year in at midnight (and beyond!).

If you are planning to host a New Year's Eve party, the plans are likely to be well underway by now and your invitations safely with your guests. But if it's a late decision to celebrate, don't worry, there's still time to rally people up but you need to hit the phone now.

Either way, you need to have thought about how many guests you can realistically invite as this will determine the type of party you are able to host. If it's a more informal drinks reception with finger buffet, you'll be certain to fit more people in; a dinner party on the other hand inevitably requires more space (and planning), even if it's just for the table and chairs. And then there's the dancing!

Catering should be next on the list. Whether it's light bites or a full 3-course dinner, you'll need to plan ahead and decide your menu in advance; food is always a talking point and can be the making of a good party. But don't forget to ask guests about any special dietary requirements, allergies or intolerances as you'll need to factor these in too.

After the food is sorted, turn your attention to the drinks because your options are endless. You can offer a full bar to suit all tastes, add a touch of style with a sparkling drink on arrival, indulge in a full menu of cocktails and let people get mixing or simply stick to asking everyone to bring a bottle (or two) of their choice! The latter will certainly help if you are party planing on a budget!

And it's always wise to make sure there are non-alcoholic drinks available too, especially for those who have drawn the short straw and are driving. Sparkling water, festive cordials and fruit juice are great, but there's always the option for some inspiring ‘mocktails’ too?

Music is also a key ingredient at any great party. What you play will depend upon the type of event you've planned, as well as how the evening takes shape in reality – background music is always a good starting point but something to dance to later on is almost an essential. Create your playlist in advance and leave it to roll on the night.

Party games - whether you love them or hate them, they can certainly add an element of fun to the evening.  Something where people can choose to be involved, or not, is often a good move to make sure no-one feels embarrassed or uncomfortable, although this is something usually overcome once the drinks are flowing.

And then you need to think how you will mark the stroke of midnight. A countdown to the turn of the new year – maybe from ten seconds beforehand – is always good fun, followed by a good sing-song of Auld Lang Syne. The fireworks on TV are always worth a watch too.

For some, this defining moment in a New Years Eve party can result in a momentary anti-climax but it's unlikely to end the party. Guests love to dance the night away into the early hours before making their way home. Hopefully most will have planned taxis well in advance, and if not, have an alternative plan in place.

But after all this, the most important thing of all is to make sure you have fun yourself! We hope you have a great New Year and look forward to welcoming you back to the blog in 2019.


24 Dec 2018

Help! Santa can’t get in!

Santa comes down the chimney
Throughout the land this evening, children are going to be wondering “how will Santa get in?”.

Almost every picture you see of Santa delivering presents shows him coming down the chimney with his sack (you don’t often see one of him going back up!). But most modern houses don’t have a chimney. So how can Santa get in?

Rest assured. The same magic that allows him to get around every home in the world in just a single night means that the absence of a chimney causes him no problems at all.

But why doesn’t your house have a chimney?

Up until some time after the First World War, most homes constructed in the UK were built with the traditional open fire – and therefore with a chimney. But from the 1930s onwards, more and more homes were built with central heating.

Even then, the houses may well have had chimneys. Many early central heating systems burned coal and therefore still needed a chimney – though it would have been difficult for Santa to use.

From the 1960s onwards, we saw a switch to oil-fired or gas-fired central heating (which needed a flue – but not a proper chimney) or electric heating (which doesn’t even need a flue).

Of course, central heating is not a great innovation. The ancient Greeks had it – the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (near the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey) used what was basically the chimney from a fire outside the building running horizontally under the floors to heat the rooms.

The Romans had a similar system for heating their villas with the flues from the fire running not just under floors but through the walls.

The collapse of the Roman Empire, though, brought an end to the use of central heating in Europe.

The earliest central heating system in more modern times was probably the one used in a mill building in Derby, designed in 1793 by William Strutt. It had a large stove that heated air brought from the outside through an underground passage. The air was distributed through the building by large central ducts.

The majority of houses built by Larkfleet Homes now use gas-fired central heating. Even where we are building in locations far from a gas main – meaning there is no gas on tap – we will often fit central heating that runs from bottled gas. Sometimes we will even use electric central heating with a ‘heat pump’ – like a refrigerator running in reverse, it draws heat from the air or ground outside the house and brings it indoors.

Our gas-fired central heating uses a combination boiler, (or combi-boiler) which produces hot water not just to circulate around all the radiators fitted in your home but also for washing and bathing.

Combi-boilers are very efficient, and therefore help to keep your fuel bills down.

You also make savings because the boiler heats only the water that you use. Older boiler systems used to heat a tank of hot water (usually up in the loft) and once you had used all the hot water in the tank you had to wait for it to heat up again. Of course, if you didn’t actually use the water, all the energy put into heating it up was wasted.

We reckon Santa probably uses a combi-boiler to keep himself and the elves warm in his North Pole workshops. Or maybe he just uses magic – and a woolly vest!


21 Dec 2018

Congratulations to our winners

Mr and Mrs Jest
Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Jest who attended our show home launch at Hawthorne Gardens at the start of the month.

They put their names into our prize draw – and have won a Christmas hamper.

Hawthorne Gardens is in the village of Ilton, close to Ilminster and Taunton. It consists of 47 stylish two, three and four-bedroom detached and semi-detached houses.

The new homes are built using sustainable timber frames which help to make them more energy-efficient than average houses. You can save more than £600 per year on your energy bills compared with a similar ’second hand’ home.

Each new house is fitted with solar panels which allow you to generate electricity from sunlight even on cloudy days – cutting your energy bills as well as helping to tackle global warning.

This is all part of our commitment to the environment which also includes minimising waste, reducing the use of materials and protecting wildlife during house-building.



21 Dec 2018

Hurray - summer’s on the way!

Stonehenge
Things can only get better. Today (21 December) is the shortest day of the year – the winter solstice* – so tomorrow we can start the countdown to summer.

Such beliefs were taken very seriously in years gone by. The threat of starvation in a harsh winter was very real, so the turning of the year towards seasons where food would be more abundant was significant.

Throughout much of recorded history and – as far we can tell – for thousands of years before that, the passing of the year’s shortest day was marked with feasting and celebration. As it is today. It seems quite probable that the early Christians ‘hijacked’ ancient pagan midwinter festivals when choosing a date for Christmas.

Scandinavian and Germanic pagans – the Anglo-Saxons of ancient England – lit fires and may have burned Yule logs as a symbolic means of welcoming back the light. Cattle and other animals were slaughtered around midwinter, followed by feasting on what was the last fresh meat for several months. The Romans celebrated the midwinter festival as “Saturnalia”, named after the god Saturn.

The ancient Iranian festival of Yalda is also celebrated at the winter solstice. In pre-Islamic times, it heralded the birth of Mithra, the ancient sun god, and his triumph over darkness. Zoroastrian tradition says that evil spirits wander the Earth and the forces of the destructive spirit Ahriman are strongest on this long night. Beliefs about the presence of evil on the longest night are also contained in Celtic and Germanic folklore.

The modern Druidic celebration Alban Arthan – Welsh for "Light of Winter" – marks the death of the ‘old Sun’ and birth of the ‘new Sun’.

And Stonehenge (which is far more ancient than the Druids) is aligned to sunset on the winter solstice, demonstrating its importance to the neolithic peoples who built it. The primary axis of the monument is oriented to the setting sun – although we don’t know why. Its purpose is still a subject of debate. But its importance on the winter solstice continues as thousands of hippies, pagans and other enthusiasts gather there every year to celebrate the occasion.

What we do know is that Stonehenge was built in several phases over a period of around 1,500 years.

We can promise that if you reserve a new Larkfleet home on the winter solstice (or indeed, at any time) it will be built rather more quickly than that. And for the next few days, through to the end of the year, you can reserve a new home for just £99 and (on selected plots) win a seasonal gift as well.

*Solstice derives from the Latin word sol, which means "sun", and the past participle stem of sistere, meaning "to make stand”. It reflects the fact that the sun’s position in the sky relative to the horizon at noon, which increases and decreases throughout the year, appears to pause in the days surrounding the solstice. The date of the winter solstice varies - it can be anywhere between 20 December 20 and 23 December 23. However, 21 and 22 December are the most common dates. The next time the solstice occurs on 23 December will not be until 2303!



18 Dec 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.


17 Dec 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.


13 Dec 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.


12 Dec 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.


10 Dec 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.
  • 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. 





07 Dec 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.


05 Dec 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!



03 Dec 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.