First time buyer? This is why you need to start a Lifetime ISA

Lifetime ISA logo

If saving for your own house seems like an impossible dream, help is at hand from the government which you need to know about, says Homefocus editor Victoria Galligan

In November 2019 the Help to Buy ISA was replaced by the Lifetime ISA, which can help first time buyers put away up to £4,000 a year and receive a 25% government bonus. 

Although it’s only just replaced the Help to Buy ISA, the Lifetime ISA has been available from April 2017 so many people have been taking advantage of this pretty generous offer from the government for a while now. But is it the right way for you to save for your first home?

Here, Homefocus has put together a guide to show how the Lifetime ISA can help you get onto the property ladder sooner than you thought…

WIN a Masha by Sensio Home!

Electric potato masher: Masha by Sensio Home

With lots of new technology hitting the market it can be hit or miss on whether the item you purchase will do the job right, especially when it comes to kitchen products. 

If you're a fan of mash potatoes (or any other sort of mashed vegetable for that matter!) but can never get your mash quite right, then we have the perfect product for you - an electric potato masher called Masha! 

Our junior designer Meghan recently tested the Masha and absolutely loved it. Here's what she had to say: 

"Like most people I absolutely hate mashing potatoes but I love mash! I've tried all sorts of mash in the past - even packet mash, but found that it's just not the same as when it's made with fresh potatoes.

Win a Philips Hue Starter Kit and bring your home to life

Philips Hue starter kit

HomeFocus has teamed up with Signify, the world leader in lighting, to give away a Philips Hue E27 Starter Kit worth £169.99! Set the mood in your home with the smartest light in the world. Choose from over 16 million colours and create the perfect ambience whether you’re looking for a soft glow for a romantic dinner or a splash of colour as the ultimate party décor. Set the tone for any occasion via the Philips Hue app on your smartphone or voice control. Get light for everyday moments such as the best light for reading, relaxing, concentrating and energising. at home, whether it is a sun-set like setting or dimming your lights for a more romantic feel. Let your smart-home experience begin by entering the competition with Philips Hue Starter Kit!

Exploring Help to Buy and Shared Ownership schemes

Photo of new home example of available on shared ownership scheme or help to buy schemes in UK

Have you ever heard the words “shared ownership”, or “Help to Buy” but always wondered exactly what people were talking about?

The world of affordable home ownership might seem like a complex one, particularly for first-time buyers, but here at HomeFocus we strive to cut through the jargon and tell you exactly what you need to know.

Thanks to the sky-high prices of homes and houses nationwide, people right across the country are being priced out of the open market, and add that to the extortionate cost of renting, it’s no wonder that people are struggling to get a foot on the property ladder.

However, there are affordable home ownership schemes in place to help you buy your own home - and the key word there is affordable.

“Dreams can be affordable,” says first-time buyer at Graven Hill

Ferial Fattahi outisde her new home

Ferial Fattahi found her dream home using the Help to Buy scheme at Graven Hill. Learn more about her custom build journey…

After leaving university in 2014, Ferial Fattahi had been living at home in Oxfordshire with her parents to save money for her own home in Graven Hill. In 2016, she decided it was time to try and take the first step onto the property ladder and visiting show homes soon became a hobby for her. However, nothing felt quite right and over a year later the search continued. 

£10.7 billion’s worth of properties are sitting empty across London

Empty property in London

New research by HomeProtect on unoccupied homes has revealed that an astonishing £10.7 billion’s worth of properties are sitting empty in London. The total number of long-term unoccupied (6 months or more) properties in the capital rose by 2.8% between 2013 and 2018 to a total of 22,481, which accounts for 0.63% of all properties in the city.

Only 15% of Brits know correct term for integral stair part

Only 15% of Brits know correct term for integral stair part

Homeowners often don’t think about the correct names of fundamental stair parts until it comes to replacing them, turning an easy task into a frustrating challenge. 

A recent survey by Jackson Woodturners revealed that the majority of the British public have been calling the balustrade—a structure made up of a combination of stair parts including a handrail, base rail, spindles and newel post—by the wrong name. In fact, only 15% of the public are aware of its correct term.

This integral part of a staircase was incorrectly referred to as a banister by 68% of those that took part, a further 8% called it a railing and 7% knew it as a handrail. 

Why Buy There Unless You Want To Live There?

Couple moving in to their new home - Why Buy There Unless You Want To Live There?

The three most important things to look for when buying a home are said to be location, location, location. The reasons why you want to live in a particular location vary from person to person: close to work, close to transport, good school catchment areas, near family and friends, it’s the area I know, it’s trendy, up and coming, prices bound to go up in the next few years, handy restaurants, bars and coffee shops…you can add your own reasons why somewhere is the place you really want to live. And if you’ve got enough money you can live there. But if you’re on a budget, then you’re stuck, having to buy where the developers and housing associations offering affordable homes have their new-build properties. Or do you? 

Cavanna Homes recognised as best medium housebuilder

Cavanna Homes staff with best medium housebuilder in national industry awards

Westcountry homebuilder Cavanna Homes have picked up one of the top honours in a prestigious national industry awards scheme.
The 2019 Housebuilder Awards saw Cavanna Homes named Medium Housebuilder of the Year, recognising the firm’s strong commitment to “building brilliance” and well-designed high-quality new homes.
The homebuilders’ Primrose Hill development in the seaside town of Torquay was highly commended in the ‘Best Design for Three Storeys or Fewer’ category, with the firm’s vibrant Yarners Mill development in the Devon village of Dartington also shortlisted in this category.
Cavanna Homes successful apprenticeship scheme was shortlisted for ‘Best Training or Recruitment Initiative’ alongside six others.

Home cinema inspiration – create movie magic in your new home

Samsung TV and soundbar for home cinema

So you’re looking for a new home, planning your décor, looking at furniture to make your house reflect your personality – and if you’re a movie buff this means having an amazing space in which to settle down for some serious viewing. Media rooms have become popular with widescreen TVs, home speaker systems and gaming consoles all available at affordable prices. And as cloud-based, voice-activated technology brings all this to life, the future of cinema is no doubt in the home. With some great TV and audio equipment, careful lighting and a few pieces of wow-factor furniture, here’s how your home cinema dream could become a reality…


David Wilson Homes Donates To Local School

David Wilson Homes staff with donation to local school

Leading housebuilder David Wilson Homes South Midlands has donated £250 to Corby Red Kite Special Academy to help launch their after-school provision.
The school has a richly diverse community in which children with many special needs, languages, cultures and religions learn together.
The after-school facility will support the children and enable their parents to work, or spend some time with other siblings, it can also provide much needed respite and therefore it is vital that this opens.
Situated in Northamptonshire, the free school is a vibrant place to learn where children are enthusiastic and motivated to achieve endless possibilities.

Catalyst Homes launches collection of Shared Ownership homes near Bletchley

Catalyst Homes Bletchley Kitchen

Catalyst Homes has released from plan its latest collection of Shared Ownership Homes in Newton Leys, just outside Bletchley, near Milton Keynes. 

Oakbrook will feature 15, two and three bedroom homes and two bedroom apartments which are ideal for first time buyers looking to get on the property ladder and become part of a brand new community which is being created by Taylor Wimpey. 

Gareth Gow, Area Sales Manager for Catalyst Homes comments, “The new homes at Oakbrook are available to those who live or work in the Aylesbury Vale borough or have a connection with the area. Each home is finished to a high specification and will feature contemporary kitchens with integrated appliances included within the price, flooring throughout and a private garden.” 

Demand is high for Shared Ownership homes in the historic village of Bloxham

shared ownership homes in Bloxham

First time buyers are being given a rare opportunity to buy a Shared Ownership home in the sought after village of Bloxham in Oxfordshire. 

Weavers Fields features just nine, two and three bedroom homes located near the picturesque and historic village centre. The homes are ideal for young professionals and families looking to get on the property ladder and take advantage of this tranquil village location. 

Get on the property ladder at Wolvercote, Oxford 

Homes at Wolvercote, Oxford 

First time buyers given the opportunity to get on the property ladder in sought after Wolvercote, Oxford 

Catalyst Homes has just released from plan its brand new collection of Shared Ownership homes at the former Wolvercote Paper Mill in Oxford. 

The site, which was used as a mill for about four centuries but ceased paper production in 1997, is being transformed into a brand new community by Cala Homes. 

Catalyst will be creating 19, one, two and three bedroom apartments and three bedroom houses which are ideal for first time buyers, renters looking to buy their own property and young families. Each property will feature a contemporary kitchen with integrated appliances included in the price and parking for each property. 

How to save hundreds on energy bills this winter

Man working out energy bills

A third (33%) of Brits have NEVER switched energy supplier, and 73% haven’t switched in the last 12 months - despite this being the best way to save money on bills. One in five (20%) spend up to £1,000 a year on gas and electric!
Knowing these top tips and tricks could save you money on heating during the coldest months of the year

One in five (21%) Brits say they are more worried about gas and electricity costs than any other household spending, yet many don’t appear to be taking advice from energy companies to help reduce bills. 

Join the cleaning revolution with a robotic vacuum (Review)

Vorwerk Kobold robotic hoover inside the hover

Smart home technology​ is fast becoming a necessity for modern living from – smart video doorbells to the robotic vacuum cleaners, we have come very far. But do these smart gadgets actually work and make your life easier? Here our very own Meghan Pollock from the Homefocus team reviews the Vorwerk Kobold VR300, to find out if the latest technology in the robotic vacuum cleaner lives up to expectations…

I know that the robotic vacuum cleaner has taken off in other countries – in the USA and Scandinavia in particular – but no-one I know has one, to be frank. So I thought I'd take the leap and try one out for myself.

I wasn’t expecting the Vorwerk Kobold VR300 to be able to keep up with the hair left over from animals, and even from myself! How wrong I was. 

Win a ColorReader decorating gadget worth £119

The ColorReader

If you’re planning a decorating project and want to ensure you pick the rights hues for your home, then try the ColorReader – a decorating gadget which avoids picking the wrong shade of paint which will make your heart sink instead of lifting your mood.

Smaller than a deck of cards, ColorReader is an ultra-portable, Bluetooth® connected color selection device that works in conjunction with the ColorReader mobile app to precisely identify colors based on the NCS® 1950 and RAL® Classic, Design and Effect color standards. 

Users can create and manage color palettes by saving and sharing paint colors. 

Homeowners under-using dining rooms despite space concerns, study suggests

Living room and dining rooms

British homeowners are increasingly shunning the traditional purpose of dining rooms and many only use them for entertaining and special occasions, new research suggests.

In an independent survey by lighting specialists LampShopOnline, almost three-fifths of the British public said they use their dining room for everyday meals.

But results suggest this space is being underused in many households, with 30.8% admitting they mostly use their dining room for entertaining or special occasions.

According to research conducted by the Energy Saving Trust, lack of space is the number one bugbear for UK homeowners, a problem easily rectified by making better use of the dining room.

Anglian Home Improvements reveal top tips for securing your home this winter

Anglian Home Improvements - Door locks securing your home this winter

October marks the start of National Home Security Month (NHSM), and homeowners are being reminded to take a few simple steps to enhance home security this winter.

As the clocks go back and the cold winter nights draw in, millions of homes could be left vulnerable to opportunistic thieves. 

Fear not, as Anglian Home Improvements has revealed its top tips on how property owners can safeguard their home and stay protected this winter:

1.Appearance matters

Top Tips For A Stress-Free Move For Pets In Bedfordshire

Helen & Darren with their puppy after a stress-free move

David Wilson Homes has teamed up with the UK’s leading animal charity the RSPCA to provide pet owners with advice on a stress-free move for their animals.

Jason Hearn, Sales Director at David Wilson Homes South Midlands, said: “Moving to a new home can be a worrying experience for pets, who often get overlooked during this busy time. 

“We want our customers’ moves to be as stress-free as possible, and that includes keeping their pets happy! That’s why we’ve teamed up with the RSPCA to ensure a happy move all round.”

The RSPCA, which has a branch in Bedfordshire, is encouraging buyers to plan in advance and minimise the impact on pets.

New homes In beautiful Essex village now available

New homes in Essex

Residents seeking to get on the housing ladder are being urged to apply for the brand new shared ownership properties in Uttlesford, Essex. There are five properties available, based in the beautiful village of Great Chesterford – just a short journey away from the charming town of Saffron Walden and not far from Stansted Airport. 

The two bedroom homes have beautifully landscaped rear gardens. They feature a living room with garden access, a modern kitchen and two allocated parking spaces per home. 

The development has been funded by Colne Housing Association. This is one of their many developments in the Uttlesford area.

Learn how Assisted Move can help you move to your dream home 

Trinity Mews interior bedroom - move in today with assisted move

Lea Valley Homes is hosting two Assisted Move days at its Buckinghamshire developments on 26th and 27th October. 

On Saturday 26th October experts will be on hand at the popular Kite Meadows in Princes Risborough, Bucks to discuss how Assisted Move can help you market your existing home and purchase one of the brand new homes at the development. 

On Sunday 27th October potential purchasers will be given step by step advice at Trinity Mews in Lane End, Bucks about the benefits of using the scheme. 

Homeowners under-using dining rooms despite space concerns

Dining rooms in new home

British homeowners are increasingly shunning the traditional purpose of dining rooms and many only use them for entertaining and special occasions, new research suggests.

In an independent survey by lighting specialists LampShopOnline, almost three-fifths of the British public said they use their dining room for everyday meals.

But results suggest this space is being underused in many households, with 30.8% admitting they mostly use their dining room for entertaining or special occasions.

According to research conducted by the Energy Saving Trust, lack of space is the number one bugbear for UK homeowners, a problem easily rectified by making better use of the dining room.