Archive for April, 2015

All you need to know about Planning Permission

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

What to think about before starting the work

When thinking of doing any kind of building work is it always worth knowing that the owner of the property is responsible for complying with all relevant planning rules and building regulations. Even if you have hired someone to come in and do the work you need to ensure they are working within the rules and regulations regardless of if you need to apply for planning permission or  building regulations approval. This makes it important that you can trust the people who do the work as if they were not to comply with these rules it won’t affect them only the property owner.

Failure to comply with the relevant rules will result with the owner being liable which could mean the work is to be demolished or restored. This makes it important for the property owner to check all relevant paperwork so they know all the rules and regulations are being met. If after this you are still worried about anything then you can always talk to the local planning authority and building control services before the work is carried out to check what you have planned will be fine.

What the difference is between Planning Permission and Building Regulations

Most people think that you need a form of permission for all building work or alterations to a property but this isn’t true. Whether or not you need planning permission depends on the size and amount of work that you are proposing to do in comparison to what is already there but it is always worth checking first with local planning authorities. It is also work checking if you have any responsibilities under the construction health and safety regulations but if you use a contracted company they should be able to clarify this with you.

The use of planning permission is to shape our towns, cities and countryside development in a way that is local councils seek fit. Meaning they don’t want you to change the look of an area with the work that you are planning. This includes the use of land & buildings, the appearance of buildings, landscaping considerations, highway access and the impact that the development will have on the general environment. These are all considerations that will be considered by local planning authorities when you submit an application for work.

Building regulations have been set to ensure the standards for the design and construction of buildings are safe and healthy for the people who are in or near the buildings. This is making sure anyone who works on the building is not at any risk and that all the work carried out is to a required minimum standard and is all structurally sound. They also include requirements to ensure that fuel and power is conserved and facilities are provided for people, including those with disabilities, to access and move around inside buildings.

Depending on what work you are planning to have done to your property though, you will more than likely need to get planning permission and get your building regulations checked by an inspector. If it is just internal altercations then you might only have to get building regulations approval and not planning permission but it is always worth checking just in case. Most building company’s such as Four Corners Properties would be able to clear this up with you to avoid any confusion.

planningapproved   Conservatory-Planning-Permission

So how do you go about the planning

One of your first considerations will be planning control. This is the process of managing the development of land and buildings. This process is what is in place to protect what is the best of our heritage while also helping to improve the infrastructure which we need for a civilised existence.This responsibility falls to your local planning authority and they will decide whether a development should go ahead no matter how big or small.

There are a few things to consider before you try to get approval from the building regulations. The responsibility for checking building regulations have been met is up to the building control bodies from the local authorities or a private approved inspector. This would be up to the person who is carrying out the work to get approval for the work. How to get approval depends on whether a Local Authority Building Control service or an Approved Inspector Building Control service is being used and if all their conditions for health and safety have been met. This would normally be checked before and during the work to make sure plans are been followed.

What if any plans are refused

Even if plans are refused it doesn’t mean that is it, you can appeal as long as you think you have a good case to carry out the work. The appeals are carried out by a planning inspectorate and you will need to provide reasons with evidence as to why you think a case should be given the go ahead. You may have to wait to hear back from your appeal as they are sometimes overloaded with cases so expect a delay.

Determinations and appeals are two procedures in which are provided for the secretary of state for communities and local governments. These are what you would use to adjudicate a dispute with carrying out building work subject to the Building Regulations and a building control body (i.e. either a local authority or a private sector approved inspector).

Planning permission is nothing to be feared as most local authorities are happy to let you develop your property as long as it is not going to affect anyone in the area. You always need to be considerate of your neighbors and check you are not going to change the property too excessively unless you have plenty of space. This article should have cleared up your understanding of planning any building work and if you needed any more information we are here to help.

Why to invest in the USA?

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

During the recession house prices in America fell by up to 60%. This was an incredible fall and has seen many people already invest due to the fact they knew eventually the markets would turn and they could make huge financial gains. Well this time has now come and the US property market is now on the rise once again. This has meant there are now lots of tenants looking to rent who either do not want to or cannot borrow money to buy. This is a huge reason in why many people in England are buying into properties in America to increase their monthly revenue.

In August 2014 housing sales reached there highest level since early 2007 before the recession which is causing the housing market to rise. Some investors who bought into properties in 2010 and 2011 managed to secure properties for as little as £30,000 and went rented out for a return of 20% for the year. Even now with the value of properties rising, investors can still expect to see an average of 14% a year return after you minus maintenance and other costs. On top of that you also have to include the rise in the value of the house. In Atlanta over the previous 12 months house prices rose on average of 18.6%. This means if you decided to sell after even just a year you would make serious financial gains. A year ago you could buy an entry-level detached three-bedroom house for $65,000. Today it would be $80,000 to $85,000. This is still quite a lot lower than before the peak in 2007 where this type of property was selling for $150,000. Now it does not take a genius to see that as long as prices continue to rise to what they once were you could make a lot of profit on a property, let alone what you make through rent.

This has a lot to do with the repossession of properties during the crisis which made up 60% of the property market. This has now fallen to 25% of the market so it shows a strong increase in the growth of the economy. But this is also showing that there are foreclosed properties available which we can help you with to increase your money. You don’t have to be a landlord with a large landlord as we are here to help you mange your properties and advise in the best investment opportunities for you.

As with any investment there is always risks, but with the current low price of houses and many financial experts predicting the rise in house prices as the American and worldwide economies recover there is a  big opportunity for financial gain. So get in touch if you think this could interest you and we would be happy to help advise you and provide as much information as you require. As we have been investing abroad for many years we know a good opportunity when we see one.


How to extend your house to maximise living space and increase your property value

Monday, April 27th, 2015

With recent figures showing that property value is still rising, there are fewer houses being brought and sold. On average people now move every 14 and a half years which is much less frequent than has been the case in the past. Due to this there has been a rise in people choosing to extend their properties. There are many good reasons for this, one been that it is often more economical to extend rather than to move. One of the main reasons for this is due to the stamp duty on the most expensive houses currently at four percent. Then if you add in the agent fees for selling your house this is usually a similar amount that you would pay to extend your house before you even think about the extra money you have to pay for moving into a bigger house.

Another reason people are choosing to extend is also due to the hassle that comes with moving. If you have children you might need to find them a new school, register everything to the new address and even the neighbourhood itself. If you like the area you live in, have friendly neighbours and friends that live close by these can all count to people rather extending their property rather than moving to a new one.

Planning and building regulations

One of the most important factors to consider when planning an extension is that you make sure the extension will add to the value of the property no matter how big or small you are planning. This means making use of what space you extend onto the house, so making sure rooms are a good size and in suitable places. Another factor to consider before you look to get plans drawn up are the area your building onto, for instance:

  • What are the ground conditions?
  • Are there any surrounding trees?
  • Does the area have a history of flooding?
  • Do you have rear access for building materials or will they go through the house?

These are all factors which could affect the price of an extension. It is worth considering all these points and even going to speak to someone at the local planning office to find out informally what might be permitted especially if you are planning anything out of the ordinary. It is wise to research the local planning policies so that you are aware of any problems you might have with planning before spending money on a plan that will be refused. At Four Corners Properties ltd we have lots of experience in building extensions so know the planning officials well and can advise on what might and might not get permission, but it does all depend on the are in which the property is situated. It is also worth talking in detail with whoever creates your plans so that you are getting exactly what you want for a price you can afford, making sure they have done a detailed plan of how much everything costs so there are no financial surprises later on.

Under the Permitted Development Rights system a large number of home extensions can be built without the requirement of planning permission so you may or may not require consent for your proposed extension. It should be noted however, that if your property is near a Conservation Area or a National Park, the amount of work allowed is usually reduced by planning development but this can be checked with the local planning authorities.

Building Control

All building work, whether or not you need planning permission needs approval  by the building regulations. These are rules set by parliament to make sure fire and other forms of safety, insulation, drainage and access are all up to the correct standards. These are minimum design and construction standards which must be met for all building work. Building control officers do not supervise work on your behalf. Their role is to ensure the minimum standards of the building regulations have been adhered to. Most self-builders and extenders send what is called a Full Plan Submission to their local authority. In this case you pay a fee and the building inspector visits the site at the various stages of the build and inspects the work as it proceeds.


Depending on the size of the extension payments plans can often be arranged as not everyone has thousands of pounds sat in their bank accounts. At Four Corners Properties ltd we can set up a payment scheme to help you pay for any work as and when it is carried out so if its a big job you might not have to fork out all of it before the work commences. We also offer a breakdown plan of what you will be charged for, everything from local authority application fees to building supplies. You will get a quality service where you can see how much each part of the job will cost you so that you know your money is being spent wisely. You will also have a guarantee that any work carried out will be to your satisfaction so you can have confidence in the job we are doing.

If you have any thoughts about getting an extension added to your home feel free to get in touch and see what options you have as you might find it to be a great benefit to you and your family.

Extension Kitchen     loftconversion

House Build

Have you ever thought about a Loft Conversion?

Friday, April 24th, 2015

When most people think of a loft, they think of a dark and dingy place for storage. But with the cost of housing continuously rising maybe it is time to rethink about the way you use a loft?

At four corners properties we have seen many people profit from converting these large areas used for storage into comfortable new living areas. Most loft conversions are usually the size of a small studio apartment adding a comfortable additional living area. Below we will state what benefits you can expect from converting a loft into a new living area.

  1. One advantage of a loft conversion is that all the base structures needed are already in place so only timber strengthening and design would need to be addressed. Depending on the condition of the house you might only require some wiring, possible plumbing and decorating meaning it will not cost you an arm and a leg although this would depend on the age of the house and how well looked after it is. Some older houses have been known to have new fuse boxes and wiring due to aging to prevent future wire faults and electrical fires as we always make sure the job is done properly first time. For the size you are adding to your house it could be like adding a flat to the top floor of the building.

  2. Most lofts would already be insulated meaning they will keep the heat in. Heat also rises through the house so as long as there is heating in the rest of the house during winter months then the loft will be heated for free! This makes them very efficient as heating can be expensive so as long as the rest of the house is heated and the loft is properly insulated then it will be heated too.

  3. Once your property has had a loft conversion it clearly increases the size of the property, which in turn will increase the value. Some homeowners have found that their loft conversions have increased the value of their home by as much as 40% in certain areas. With the constant rise in the cost of living many people are converting their lofts as they look for new ways to renovate their property and rebuild onto the property to hold more tenants.

  4. A few of our projects over the last few years has seen some people look at the option of converting a loft into a separate living area to be rented out. Many young couples and professionals pay up to £1200 a month for studio apartments so by converting a loft into a separate living area you can increase your monthly revenue by renting out your current storage space. It is possible to provide and exterior entrance meaning you have two completely separate living areas so you still have your own privacy.

  5. Bungalows can also have loft conversions as it can convert your single floored property into a much more spacious two floored property. It can be ideal for when friends or family want to stay round or maybe a way of having a huge luxurious bedroom with walk in wardrobes and an en-suit? The decision is yours for how you want to use all the extra space.

  6. A big question we find from customers is the maintenance? Some people assume that due to having the extra space provided by a loft conversion that is will increase your maintenance costs. This is not the case as lofts are build inside the existing infrastructure of the house so most things that would go wrong would be things that would go wrong even if you did not have a conversion. Since plumbing, heating, and electrical utilities operate off the main house, there usually isn’t anything that can break down or malfunction inside a loft.

So there are 6 reasons to consider about loft conversions that might change your mind. Building extensions onto properties can be very expensive which is why many people have chosen to have loft conversions to fit their budgets. We have lots of trained professionals who could transform your home so if you have had any thoughts about having a loft conversion in your property then get in touch and see if it could benefit you.


Air heat source and Solar panels

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Here at Four Corners Properties we are always looking to move with the time and utilizing the latest technology to improve your homes. In this article we will be looking at how you can improve your home and save money with two new government incentives in air heat sources and solar panels.

Air Heat Sources

air-source-heat-pumps-taster-252299               airheatsource

An air source heat pump (ASHP) is usually placed outdoors at the side or back of a property. It takes heat from the air and boosts it to a higher temperature using a heat pump. The pump needs electricity to run, but it should use less electrical energy than the heat it produces. Many ASHPs are eligible for payment through the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Costs and savings

ASHPs are cheaper than ground source heat pumps. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) estimates that the cost of installing a typical ASHP system ranges between £7,000 and £11,000.

The payback period (the time taken to recoup the cost of the system in energy savings) depends on how efficiently your system works, the type of system you’re replacing, how much money your illegible for from the Renewable Heat Incentive and how you’ll be using the heat generated from the pump. The Renewable Heat Incentive could pay you an extra £925 to £1,365 a year every quarter under the current government scheme.

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) says that an average performing air source heat pump in an average four-bedroom detached home could save:

  • up to £575 a year if replacing oil (non-condensing)
  • up to £1,820 a year if replacing LPG (non-condensing)
  • And up to £1,325 a year if replacing electric heating (old storage heaters).

Installing an air source heat pump

A reliable company that we worked with on energy saving projects are Conrona energy saving company who have already helped many people save more on their energy bills with honest advice and competitive pricing.

ASHPs look similar to air-conditioning units and are less disruptive to install than ground source heat pumps, as they do not require any digging in your garden.

An ASHP works a bit like a refrigerator in reverse. The process consists of an evaporator, a compressor and a condenser. It absorbs heat from the outside air and the heat pump compressor then increases the temperature of that heat further to create useful heat.

There are two main types of ASHP:

  • Air-to-water systems take heat from the outside air and feed it into your wet central heating system. As the heat produced is cooler than that from a conventional boiler, you may need to install larger radiators or underfloor heating in your home to make the most of it.
  • Air-to-air systems take heat from the outside air and feed it into your home through fans. This type of system cannot produce hot water.

In the summer, an air-to-air heat pump can be operated in reverse, like an air-conditioning unit, to provide cool air for your home.

What advantages could this offer you?

  • Air source heat pumps can generate less CO2 than conventional heating systems.
  • They are cheaper than ground source heat pumps and easier to install, particularly for retrofit, although their efficiency can be lower than with ground source heat pumps.
  • ASHPs can provide heating and hot water.
  • They require very little maintenance.
  • Some can be used for air conditioning in the summer.
  • You need to use electricity to power the pump which circulates the liquid in the outside loop, but for every unit of electricity used by the pump, you get between two and three units of heat – making this an efficient way to heat a building.

What are the downsides?

  • You’ll need enough space in your garden for the external condenser unit (comparable in size to an air-conditioning unit). Condenser units can be noisy and also blow out colder air to the immediate environment.
  • You still need to use electricity to drive the pump, so an air source heat pump can’t be considered completely zero-carbon unless this is provided by a renewable source, such as solar power or a wind turbine.

Solar Panels

       solar panels                  solar panels

So how do they work?

When light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced. Groups of cells are mounted together in panels or modules that can either be mounted on your roof or on the ground.

The power of a cell is measured in kilowatts peak (kWp). That’s the rate at which it generates energy at peak performance in full direct sunlight. Most cells come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most systems are made up of panels that fit on top of an existing roof, but you can also fit solar tiles.

What are the costs and savings?

A 4kWp system can generate around 3,800 kilowatt hours of electricity a year in the south of England – roughly equivalent to a typical household’s electricity needs. It will save nearly two tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. A 4kWp system in Scotland can generate about 3,200 kilowatt hours of electricity a year – more than three quarters of a typical household’s electricity needs. It will save more than a tonne and a half of carbon dioxide every year.

The average domestic solar PV system is 4kWp and costs £5,000 – 8,000 (including VAT at 5 per cent).

Location System size Feed-in-Tariff payment (£/year) Export tariff payment (£/year) Electricity bill savings (£/year) Carbon dioxide savings (kgCO2/year)
London, South England 4kWp £510 £90 £135 1,870 kg
Aberystwyth, Wales 4kWp £480 £85 £125 1,750 kg
Manchester, North England 4kWp £450 £80 £120 1,650 kg
Stirling, Scotland 4kWp £425 £75 £110 1,560 kg


If your system is eligible for the Feed-in Tariff scheme, you could generate savings and receive payments of up to £770 a year depending on your location (based on a 4kWp solar PV system eligible for a generation tariff of 13.39p/kWh). You will get paid for both the electricity you generate and use, and what you don’t use and export to the grid. The installation of a bigger system will increase your savings and money received through the government incentive schemes.

What are the advantages this could offer you?

  • Cut your electricity bills. Sunlight is free, so once you’ve paid for the initial installation, your electricity costs will be reduced.
  • Get paid for the electricity you generate. The UK government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme pays you for the electricity you generate, even if you use it.
  • Sell electricity back to the grid. If your system is producing more electricity than you need, you can sell the surplus back to the grid through the Feed-in Tariff scheme.
  • Cut your carbon footprint. Solar electricity is green renewable energy and doesn’t release any harmful carbon dioxide or other pollutants. A typical home solar PV system could save over a tonne of carbon dioxide per year – that’s more than 30 tonnes over its lifetime.

What are the downsides?

  • Maintenance. They will need to be kept relatively clean in order to maximize the use of the sun. Dirt can block out some of the sunlight meaning you are not harnessing as much power.
  • Sunlight. You need sunlight for them to work. On cloudy days you may find that you don’t generate as much electricity and it will also generate less in the winter as the sunlight strength is weaker. Also making sure things like trees do not grow into the sunlight which shines on the panels.

Solar panels are also a great way to power low voltage LEDs, check out our funky lights pictured below that we have recently installed for a creative way to brighten up your home.

Leds2                      Leds1

Which home improvements deliver the best return?

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Extension Kitchen

Here at Four Corners Properties we know that splashing out on home improvements not only makes your house a more enjoyable place to live, but it if done right, it is also likely to give its value a boost.
The average home improvement would add a healthy 10 per cent to the value of a home, research from peer-to-peer platform Zopa claims, while those who build conservatories come out top on their return on investment of potentially 108 per cent.
Zopa asked users who had taken out home improvement loans through the platform what changes they made and how much profit they reckoned they got on what they spent on the work.

There is a whole range of minor and major improvements you can make to your property from just cleaning up to structural renovations. But you don’t want to spend too much if you are not going to get a decent return on your investment when it comes to sell, and here is where our advice can give you a big difference. Our Team of Builders are all Professionals.
Source: The Daily Mail