Monday 22 September 2008

Surveys - The Truth

I am offended by the amount of junk email, pop ups, and safelist adverts I get telling me that Surveys are a valid "Work at Home" plan. There is just no way on Earth that anyone is making a living by doing online surveys, and I be pushed to believe that anyone is making any significant second income this way at all. Here is how I got on from an Evening of survey taking:

Opinion World - 15 mins; entry into a prize draw.
Ciao - 11mins; should have been credited £1 but it's never appeared.
Ciao - 2mins; survey has reached maximum participants.
Ciao - 2mins; survey has reached maximum participants.
New Vista - 2mins; enough people with my profile already.
Opinion World - 2mins; survey now closed.
Pinecone - 20mins; £3! Hooray!
Global Test Market - 2mins; Survey closed.
Global Test Market - 2mins; knocked out because of my occupation.
Ciao - 2mins; survey now closed.
Opinion World - 2mins; knocked out because I didn't want to take out a secured loan in the next 6 months.
Ciao - 2mins; kicked out because I am not a company decision maker.
Toluna - 2mins; survey closed.
Toluna - 2mins; kicked off because I don't rent my property.
Ipsos - 10mins; unclear on whether I have won anything or not!
Toluna - 2mins; survey closed.
Global Test Market - 2mins; kicked off because I haven't taken a flight in the last year.
Toluna - 2mins; not part of target group required.
Opinion World - 2mins; survey now closed

Overall then, I spent one and a half hours to earn £3 in Tesco Vouchers. I've not cherrypicked the above surveys. This is genuine! In over 1 year of doing Ciao surveys I've amassed an amazing £2.79!

I firmly believe that most of the online survey sites are actually just fronts to try and sell you stuff. Never, under any circumstances pay to join them!

Friday 12 September 2008

What is a Vendor Gifted Deposit?

In certain cases, money saved through negotiation on a property can be used as what's referred to as a "Vendor Gifted Deposit".

Here is an example of how a deal such as this would work: Let's say that you find a property advertised at £90,000. It would certainly value at this price but you manage to negotiate a buying price with the vendor of £75,000. What you now need to do is get the seller to price the property in the sale contract at £90,000 and give you £15,000 back at completion. The net result is that you have a mortgage for £75,000 as you would have always done; the vendor receives £75,000 as they would have always done, however now the bank is satisfied that the need for a deposit has been met.

When organising a Vendor Gifted deposit, there are two rules which must be met. Firstly, not all banks accept this method of providing a deposit - so you must find a bank who does. Secondly, the surveyor must agree that the asking price is fair. In other words, we cannot over-inflate the asking price to make it look like a deposit is there.

At the moment, Bank of Scotland and Woolwich will still accept a 5% vendor gifted deposit, whereas Halifax will still do 10%. It is widely thought that this loophole will be closed in the near future.

Vendor gifted deposit is the easiest way of purchasing a house if you don't have at least a 5% deposit to put down.

If you don't have a deposit then I would recommend using the Vendor Gifted Deposit method. Note though that the banks who allow this will not allow unlimited over payments - just 10% per annum. Therefore you need to reduce the term at the outset if you'd like to get your mortgage finished as early as possible.

Ross Taylor is the author of "Money, Mortgages and Magic" and "The No B.S. Credit Crunch Ready Guide to Buy to Let in 2008". Ross is a successful Financial Adviser specialising in First Time Buyers and Buy to Let. He owns over £2million worth of property in the UK and regularly gives lectures on Financial Planning. To read more by Ross please visit

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Sunday 7 September 2008

Increase the Chances of your Property Selling by 100%

In the future, if Marketing students need to write an essay about a "Buyers Market" then they could do no better than a case study of UK property in 2008. More and more vendors are beginning to realise that they need to something special to sell their house - but many are still oblivious to what is actually going to sell their house. In reality there are only four rules to maximise your chances of getting a sale
1. There is no shortage of stock out there. For your house to be noticed above all the others then you need to be presenting it at it's very best. Get the kids toys hidden in the garage. Give the house a lick of paint. Get the front door washed down and the stairs hovered. If you can't manage these things then you need to drop the asking price into the first banding that makes your place look like Buckingham Palace.
2. Again - there is no shortage of stock out there. Your house must be keenly priced or it will sit on the shelf for a year. Have a look on Rightmove and bring up your competition. If rule 1 (make your house the most attractive amongst it competition) does not fit then you must make it the cheapest in its group. If you can't make it the cheapest in its group, perhaps because you have no equity, then you'd better get the feather duster out!
3. Not all Estate Agents are equal. Ask your agent how they finished in the last board count (they'll know what you mean). If they weren't first or second then dump them. Don't go multi - you'll look desperate and the individual agents will try less to sell your property as they may put in a lot of effort only for someone else to steal their glory. Get a board up - a good 25% of sales will come from people on your street or individuals visiting them. Get into the 21st Century. If your agent is not on Rightmove then they just aren't in the game.
In reality - only 1 in 10 properties that are currently on the market will be abiding by these rules. So if you currently can't sell take a good look at your situation.
In "Mortgages, Money and Magic" I have written an 88 page plan showing how you can buy a property with little or no money down and then go on to own that property outright within 10 years. Visit to learn more.
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Repossessions are not just the realm of the Subprime

I note from reading American articles that over the pond repossessions are almost wholly a subprime problem. I can assure you that isn't the case here in the UK - and this point is likely to be reinforced in the near future.
Through my job (I am a Mortgage Adviser and closely work with Estate Agents), I am privy to finding out the repossessing lender in homes which are marketed within the Agency I work in. I know this may not be reflective of the country as a whole but I am finding that the majority of repossessions are properties secured with Northern Rock. Now please note that Northern Rock were never a subprime lender. Rather than defaulting on the mortgage because they are people who can't handle credit very well it is more likely that they have been the victim of "rate shock".
Rate shock occurs when people come off their "mortgage deal", whether it is a fixed rate, tracker, discount or whatever. The loan reverts from the deal to the respective bank or building society's Standard Variable Rate (SVR). This rate will generally be 1 or 2% higher than the deal, meaning a huge jump in monthly payments. In the past people would remortgage in order to avoid going onto the SVR by getting a deal with another bank. Due to the Credit Crunch though the banks don't want you if your mortgage is large compared to the value of your house - as many Northern Rock customers have found out.
The scary fact is that 1.2 million homeowners currently on fixed rate deals are due to end within 6 months. Many of these people will have little to worry about - but I estimate that the vast majority will see an increase to monthly payments and at least half will have to adjust their lifestyle in order to cope with rate shock.
The only way of cushioning the blow is to reduce your mortgage debt now in order to soften the blow of rate shock. By taking action now you can offset the jump in monthly costs. Take a look at your finances today. Check that you can overpay on your mortgage and then do so. Every penny counts - literally.

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Inflation and Recession - Look Through the Statistics to Find the Real Story

Two pieces of data reaching my desk today have once again made me question the value of headline statistics.
Firstly, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development has predicted that Britain is on the brink of recession with negative growth forecasted for second half of 2009. This is the first time that any of the major economic forecasters have used the "r" word. The OECD is very bearish when it comes to the UK, especially when compared to the US, which has predicted growth will rise to 1.8%.
However, also this morning I have watched score of videos on Youtube from the American politician, Ron Paul with quite opposing views. I've also seen Wall Street economists blast the Whit House for cutting figures released to suit their own political agenda. This is something we see regularly here in the UK too. Note that the children are now to remain in schooling to the first leaving date after their 16th birthday - who think this decision may have been made to massage unemployment figures on the brink of a recession?
Secondly, the OECD predicted that inflation would see some moderation, assuming commodity prices stay where they are. Note the italics! There is more chance of Elvis Presley winning the Euromillions than commodity prices standing still. Oil is considerably more expensive than it was last year - no argument. Primary industry is spending more to grow, dig or farm hence we will pay more at the checkout counter. Also, even if inflation were to fall back to 3%, it doesn't put any more cash in our pockets. Quite the opposite in fact. Imagine if a tank of petrol costs £100 in year 1, and then rises to £110 in year 2 because inflation is 10%. If, in year 3, inflation falls to 3%, then a tank now costs £113.30 - it doesn't recede back to £103.
At times of financial turmoil my recommendation is to get the fundamentals in place. Look after shelter, food and fuel before anything else. If you have a mortgage then don't give a hoot about what car you are going to get next year, what holiday you are going on, what rate you can get on an ISA, or what is going to happen with inflation. Instead, use absolutely every spare penny you have to bring down your mortgage debt.
By doing this you will at least ensure you have a roof over your head, whilst others can't sleep at night with worry.

The Common Sense Route to Happiness

Research has revealed that Lottery winners and Paraplegics show the same levels of happiness. Can you believe this? One group have came across unbelievable fortune by hitting the million to one chance of picking random numbers. By no skill whatsoever they have been given a cheque for huge amounts of cash - tax free. The other group have had their life decimated by tragedy. It is unlikely that they will be able to look after themselves. Therefore, it is almost incomprehensible to believe that these two groups can be equally happy, and yet that is the case.

This is because happiness is not directly correlated to the amount of money you have in the bank. Happiness is created in your own mind. I think that everyone can actually relate to this if you see enough examples. To my mind, think about the happiness of the man who has just been released from prison. He doesn't think about the pain of the previous period, but rather looks ahead with a fresh sense of freedom to the future. On the other side of the coin, look at the unhappiness of a star such as Kurt Kobain. Thousands in the bank but an inability to find contentment in their life.

For those of us who are Working Class or Middle Class though there are many ways in which Personal Finance and Happiness are intangibly linked. From my own experience I can see an obvious way in which money-in-the-bank and happiness are one and the same. I call it Common Sense - but it's actually an uncommon notion. Here is what I am talking about: If you have been on holiday to "Butlins" and you enjoyed it, then there is no need to upgrade to Disneyworld when you have more cash coming in. Happiness is Happiness. You don't get more Happiness by going to Disneyworld. Media pressure may make you think that way but it just isn't the case. Don't fall for Lifestyle Inflation. The same applies to Cars, Houses, Food, Toys, TVs, Washing Machines etc etc etc.

There used to be a common saying, "be happy with your lot", and although in terms of ambition and your goals in life I would totally disagree with in, in terms of being happy it should actually be the watchword of your life. By sticking with the simplest and cheapest thing that makes you happy, you will find that not only will your life be more fulfilled but also your savings should increase relatively quickly.

The opposite of being happy with your lot is "keeping up with the Joneses". Your next door neighbour gets a conservatory so you want one too. Your best friend gets a new car so you need one too. It's all nonsense - and is by no means the road to happiness. It creates a nature of always wanting more. Unless you have an enormous wage cheque then this process can only lead to misery.

Take action today to find your base line happiness level. I'm happy with a run-around that gets me from A to B so I have no need, want or desire for a Porsche. I'm happy with homemade soup for tea so no need for a takeaway. Set your stall out today and start the good fight against Lifestyle Inflation!

New FREE download available at Ross Taylor is the author of "Mortgages, Money and Magic" and "The No B.S. Credit Crunch Ready Guide to Buy to Let in 2008". Ross is a succesful Financial Adviser specialising in First Time Buyers and Buy to Let. He owns over £2million worth of property in the UK and regularly gives lectures on Financial Planning.

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Thursday 4 September 2008

You don't recognise the prophet in your own home!

I found the above saying to be very true this week. For 6 weeks I have been accurately predicting the Friday night evictee on the Big Brother show. I have been happily making cash week in, week out as the results have rolled my way.

Now, I am personally against gambling, so how I have managed to reconcile this with myself? Easily - I have been gambling; I have been using science.

When Gallop and Mori run a poll they ask 1000 random people their opinion. The results from these 1000 people can be reliably extrapolated to gauge the views of the nation. The same process can be applied to Big Brother. At a poll has been running from week to week with 5000+ votes taking place. How can it go wrong? Two weeks ago the poll showed that Lisa was favoured to go when she was up for eviction against Sarah. This went against the odds on offer at the bookies where Sarah was round 4/6 and Lisa odds against at 6/4.

This scenario has been repeated week after week. This brings me to this week's finale. Mikey is favourite on Betfair at around Even money, and has had over £100,000 placed on him to win. However, our system suggests otherwise:

Rachel 31.9%
Sara 27.9%
Rex 18.5%
Michael 12.0%

Total votes: 5507 votes

According to this poll (OF OVER 5000 VOTES!) Michael is actually 4th favourite - behind even the odorous Rex.

This system has not been wrong yet - get your money on Rachel AND Sarah to hedge your bets. Rachel is currently available at 3/1 and Sarah at 8/1. Pile in.

Bank of England holds rates at 5%

The MPC have announced that the Base Rate is to be held at 5%. No surprises at the BoE continues with its wait and see approach - as predicted at

This will be the case for the remainder of 2008.