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James Hammond

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It’s June, the sun shines, the rain comes, and Wimbledon is around the corner. And, as if you could ever forget, there is the small matter of a national referendum which will shape our society for generations to come.

It’s no surprise that the debate is heated because the stakes could scarcely be higher. If British voters decide to leave, there won’t be an “undo” option. No return-within-60-days-of-purchase guarantee. While the terms of the separation are far from clear, the split will certainly be permanent.

There are of course a multitude of complex issues under discussion, but we thought that it might be useful to quickly survey some of the latest opinions on how the property sector might be affected – if we stay or if we go.

In terms of renting, some argue that there will be short-term benefits of a Brexit for tenants. The Association of Residential Letting Agents (according to a report in The Guardian) estimates that curbs on immigration could leave to 1 million fewer people living in the country by 2026. According to this model, with less demand, rents should fall as competition increases.

In May Chancellor George Osborne warned that UK house property prices would fall between 10 and 18% should the Brexit vote prevail. Ratings agency Moody’s predicted that a Brexit – and subsequent house-price fall – would be beneficial for first-time buyers struggling to get on the property ladder.

But for those already with significant equity in their property, this is clearly a less-than-welcome forecast. However, for property owners there is some good news to share. Amidst all this uncertainty, according the latest Halifax UK House Price Index Report, house prices in the three months to May 2016 were 1.4% higher than in the previous quarter – and 9.2% higher than in the same three months in 2015.

What are your thoughts on what Brexit would or wouldn’t mean for Britain? How do you think it would impact your financial world? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. And of course, we’d be happy to talk to you specifically about your goals or concerns, and how we might help you achieve them.

Until then, happy voting.

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James Hammond

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In this fine weather, it’s all-too easy to forget the cold wet winter.

However, for those who suffered home damage in the devastating floods in December and January, it’s no doubt much harder to put out of mind. Storms Eva and Desmond flooded an estimated 16,000 homes in the UK – many of which did not have adequate cover for the necessary repairs.

Back at the start of the year, I was pleased to share a blog on Flood Re: a new collaborative initiative between the insurance industry and the Government focused on flood risk. So it was exciting to hear that the scheme was officially opened for business last month.

It aims to offer affordable cover for the 350,000 homes in the UK deemed at high risk from flooding. It does this by offering participating insurers the opportunity to pass on the flood risk part of a policy to Flood Re.

In fact as a property owner, you should never need to deal directly with Flood Re. Flood Re collects an annual tax from every home insurer in the UK; it then takes on the flood risk part of policies for properties in high-risk areas from participating insurers. If you need to make a claim, the insurer will process this normally. Flood Re then reimburses the participating insurer accordingly if any validated flood-related payments are made.

For those who don’t own properties but rent in high flood-risk areas, it also aims to make contents insurance more affordable.

By taking on the risk of flood cover from the insurers, it aims to create opportunities for those in high-risk areas to receive more competitive insurance prices. But Flood Re doesn’t set the prices for the insurance companies; how any potential reduction in exposure is passed on to the consumer is determined by the insurer.

If you want to find out more about how it works and who is involved, take a look here.

Let’s hope we don’t have to see or experience the devastation that floods can cause any time again soon. But if it does happen, it’s good to know that Flood Re is up and running – helping people to get affordable cover in high-risk areas.

And of course, with a variety of insurers already participating in Flood Re, it’s important to know exactly who offers the best cover at the best prices. With our longstanding experience in the home insurance market, we’d love to help you find the very best deal and the right level of cover.

 

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James Hammond

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It’s official: December 2015 was the wettest month in the UK since records began in 1910. 2015 was also the sixth wettest year on record according to the Met Office.

These stats hardly come as a surprise having seen the devastation wreaked by Storm Desmond and Storm Frank in December and early January. As records tumble, it seems like these kinds of more extreme weather events are here to stay. But if you’re looking to buy a property, how do you go about assessing the potential flood risk?

The first thing to be clear about is that a property doesn’t have to be situated near the seafront or by river banks to be at risk of flooding. A quick way to check the flooding risk in a particular area is to use the Environment Agency’s postcode search tool. This allows you to search for specific flooding risks in England and Wales, including those from rivers, the sea, surface water and reservoirs – it also details flood warning areas.

An estate agent should inform you about any recent flooding events at a property you’re looking at. However, our golden rule is always: don’t leave anything to chance. A detailed flood risk search is always a good idea in any at risk areas – we’ll be happy to talk to you about your options.

It’s also critical to make sure you have the right property insurance cover to match the flood risk in a specific area. Sadly, many people worst affected by the recent winter flooding had inadequate insurance cover – or none at all. Can you imagine the Christmas some of these families just endured?

It’s our job to find the best home insurance policies for our customers. We’re independent, so we look right across the market for the best deals. We’ve also read the small print. That means we’ll tell you in plain English what’s on offer and what that would mean if an event such as a flood should occur.

Let’s hope that never happens. But if it does, you’ll be glad you talked to us first.

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James Hammond

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Scenes of flooded homes in Cumbria bring an unfortunate sense of déjà vu; floods also hit the region in 2005 and 2009. Forecasters predict that floods and other extreme weather events are likely to increase as a result of climate change.

And of course, we don’t know where the next wave of floods will hit. So how are those most at risk going to get affordable house insurance? That’s up to half a million households according to industry estimates

So at Limetree, we welcome the forthcoming launch of Flood Re, which is the result of collaboration between the Government and the insurance industry to address this very issue. Flood Re is a reinsurance scheme whereby insurance companies are pooling a planned £2.1 billion of annual protection liability – making it the second largest “natural peril” reinsurance deal in Europe.

Insurance companies can pass on the flood risk element of home insurance policies for eligible at-risk homes. The insurers are then charged a fee by Flood Re which is calculated according to the property’s council tax band.

The three-year programme, which will be administered by the government, is set to launch in April. In fact, as a property owner or tenant, you won’t have any direct dealings with Flood Re. But what it will hopefully offer is a greater choice of and more affordable policies for people living in at-risk homes.

To which, we give a big thumbs up. But knowing exactly what kind of home insurance policy to get can be confusing. What is really covered in the small print? And who offers the best value for money? As independent insurance advisors, you can always count on us for our in-depth knowledge of the home insurance market and an unbiased recommendation.

Because, as recent events have shown, it pays to be well protected.

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James Hammond

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The High Net Worth Market is growing fast. One fifth of the UK population now has assets of over £750,000.  Surprisingly, however, around 80% don’t use a specialist insurer or mortgage broker.

My guess is that most people don’t use specialists because they either don’t think of themselves as High Net Worth (HNW) individuals and/or just don’t want the hassle of seeking out professional advice.

But compared with having to do all the legwork yourself, enlisting the services of a specialist can be time well-invested – especially if they understand what HNW clients want.

‘Top-Notch’ Service

According to a poll held at last week’s Insurance Age High Net Worth Forum, ‘top-notch service’ was cited as the most important factor for HNW individuals, gaining a whopping 74% of the vote.

But what does ‘top-notch service’ mean in practice?

In my experience, many HNW individuals are time poor, but asset rich. They like the fact that we get to know them, understand their financial goals and keep on top of market trends and deals so that they don’t have to.

We also understand that personal and financial circumstances can change quickly. An inheritance can suddenly open up better mortgage deals. Or the purchase of an expensive car can leave a client unwittingly underinsured.  Unfortunately life events and new cars don’t fall conveniently in line with policy renewal dates, which is why we like to stay in regular contact with our clients.

And while technology has made it easier for people to do their own market research, there’s still a lot of complexity involved. Online comparison tables don’t tell the full story.

We can open doors to better deals, negotiate terms on our clients’ behalves, and will always explain our recommendations in plain English.

The top people definitely need a broker. It’s very complex. Household is underrated in its complexity…You need to explain to the client what he can and cannot insure. It will be a fundamental need forever.

Panel discussion, Insurance Age High Net Worth Forum

At Limetree we also believe great service means:

  • Doing what we say we will, when we say we will
  • Being proactive and advising our clients if a better deal comes along
  • Using our contacts to offer help in other related areas, such as tax or pensions
  • Scheduling meetings around our clients’ work commitments and lifestyle
  • Being human!

Most importantly, we think every customer should expect this level of service, regardless of the size of their bank account.

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