It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and there is nothing better than sitting down with your loved ones to watch some classic films. However, the In House team just can’t get properties off our minds, so we’ve decided to take a look at some of our favourite properties from Christmas films just for you.

L.A. Mansion – The Holiday

Although not the greatest location for picturing Christmas, Los Angeles featured heavily in the festive favourite The Holiday. It was the home of Cameron Diaz’s character Amanda and is a stunning seven-bedroom, six-bathroom property.

The home only portrayed the outside shots, the actual property is far different to that of the set in the movie, less modern, but just as lavish. It was last on the market in June 2018, for a whopping $11.8 million. You’d better get saving if you fancy that property.

Susan’s Dream Home – Miracle on 34th Street

A very sincere and touching movie, Miracle on 34th Street ends with Susan, played by Mara Wilson in the 1994 version, moving into her dream home with her mum and her new husband. Located in Lake Forest, Illinois, the house was last up for sale in 2016, selling for $2.4 million in August 2016.

A look inside the five-bedroom house and you can understand exactly why it sold for as much as it did. It’s no wonder Susan wanted this house for Christmas, we’d love one like that too.

Rosehill Cottage – The Holiday

Another property from The Holiday, Kate Winslet’s character Iris lived in the beautiful Rosehill Cottage in the stunning Surrey countryside. Unfortunately, the property doesn’t actually exist, but Honeysuckle Cottage, on which the cottage from the film is based, does. It went on the market in March 2018 for £650,000 and was subsequently sold.

Honeysuckle Cottage, a three-bedroom house, is in Holmbury St. Mary, in Surrey and features some stunning character elements, including exposed wooden beams and a log burner. The whole property is full of character, so it’s no wonder it got snapped up.

The McCallister’s House – Home Alone

House from Christmas movie Home Alone

One of the most stunning properties on this list, it should be of little surprise that the house from Home Alone, belonging to the McCallister’s features as our favourite. The five-bedroom mansion went on the market back in 2011, for $2.4 million, although it eventually sold for $1.58 million around a year later.

The film is a festive favourite and whoever bought the property, located in Winnetka, Illinois, hopefully won’t have wasted the opportunity to recreate some of their favourite films from the movie.


Finally, everyone at In House Sales & Lettings would like to wish you a Merry Christmas.

Finding a new home to live in can be a daunting process. There’s the uncertainty and pressure once you’ve started the process of selling your own home to find a new one for yourselves to live in. There’s no need to fear though, as preparations on what you’d like in your next home can be done before you even begin buying and selling a home.

Know your budget

It would also be good for you to talk to a mortgage advisor, as they will be able to work out the likely amount a mortgage provider will lend you based on deposit you tend to put down as well as your income and expenditure.

Getting a valuation of your property will give you a better understanding of what you will be able to spend on your next home.

However, if you’re a first-time buyer, then you won’t be able to get a valuation on your property, so the mortgage advisor will be the only person you need to contact to work out your budget.

Your ‘must haves’

There are always some criteria to a home that we are willing to negotiate on, but then there are also those that. We suggest that you make a list of everything you are looking for in a property, then work out which ones are the ‘must haves’ and which one are a bit more flexible. This will help you and an estate agent in your search for a suitable property.

For example, do you feel as though you need a downstairs toilet, or is that something you could live without? Is a bath a necessity, or would just a shower do? These all need to be taken into consideration.

Location, Location, Location

Another important aspect to consider is the location of the property you wish to live in. Consider if you want to live in the busy centre of a town or city or if you would prefer to live in a more rural location.

Also be mindful of what you’d like to live close to. Would it be beneficial for you to live near major transport links, or is it just about living near some shops within walking distance?

If you have a child or are thinking about having one in the near future, then you will want to consider the catchment area for the different schools.

Much like the ‘must haves’, write up a list of what you consider to be the highest priorities. Location plays such an important role that it shouldn’t be overlooked.

Are you looking for a home you can do up?

Some people, the majority in fact, will want a property that they can move straight into and won’t need to do much work to. Some people will relish the challenge of redecorating the whole house, fitting new carpets, replacing the kitchen and bathroom, to make their new home their own.

If you are one of those people, make sure you have enough money left over in your budget after the purchase price and other fees associated with buying a property, to make sure you can complete the overhaul.

Once you know everything above, start looking for some properties and arrange some viewings. Try not to rule out too many houses based on the photos, sometimes the camera doesn’t do them justice!

If you’re already in a position to starting the search for a new property, why not check out our property sales or even contact us?

Buying a home is expensive enough without all the fees and taxes that are added on to the cost. On top of the solicitor’s fees, moving fees and estate agent fees is the dreaded Stamp Duty Land Tax. Any home buyer will tell you that this tax is one of their least favourites, especially given the time frame that it needs to be paid in.

What is Stamp Duty?

When you buy a property, the government taxes you, this is called the Stamp Duty Land Tax. The amount you will have to pay will depend on the value of the property, but whatever the cost, it will need to be paid within 14 days of the completion.

The rates are different if you are buying a second home or a buy-to-let property, and you will be charged a higher rate for these. In most cases if you’re a first-time buyer you will not be required to pay Stamp Duty.

How much do I pay?

This all depends on the value of the property. There are different rates for different values. If you’re property is worth less than £125,000, then great news, you don’t have to pay any Stamp Duty. But let’s be honest, that’s unlikely to be the case.

If your property is worth over £125,000, then you will be taxed 2% on everything from £125,001 to £250,000. On everything from £250,001 to £925,000, you will pay 5% and then from £925,001 to £1,500,000 it’ll be 10%. Finally, if your property is over £1,500,000, then you will pay 12% on everything from £1,500,001 and above.

Tax Band

Tax %

Taxable Sum

Tax Payment

£0 - £125,000




£125,001 - £250,000




£250,001 - £925,000




£925,001 - £1,500,000




Over £1,500,000




As an example if you were to buy a property for £300,000, you’d be pay 0% on the first £125,000, then the second £125,000, you would be taxed 2% (£2,500) and then on the final £50,000, you would be taxed at 5% (£2,500), meaning the total you would pay is £5,000 in Stamp Duty.

If you’re a first-time buyer, then any property that you buy that you intend to live in that is priced at £300,000 or below will not be subject to Stamp Duty. If the property price is above £300,000 but below £500,000, then you will only pay Stamp Duty on the amount over £300,000. Should the property price be over £500,000, then you lose all first-time buyer benefits, meaning you must pay the full rate of Stamp Duty.

Buy-to-Let and second home Stamp Duty

Should the property be one which you intend to let out or have as a second home, then there will be different Stamp Duty rates applied to it. With these properties, you are required to pay 3% on the first £125,000, 5% on the second £125,000, 8% on everything from £250,001 to £925,000, 13% on amount from £925,001 to £1,500,000 and 15% for everything over £1,500,000.

If the £300,000 house from the example earlier was a buy-to-let property, then you would be paying 3% on the first £125,000 (£3,750), 5% on the second £125,000 (£6,250) and 8% on the final £50,000 (£4,000), meaning that you’d be paying a total of £14,000 in Stamp Duty for this property.

Tax Band

Tax %

Taxable Sum

Tax Payment

£0 - £125,000




£125,001 - £250,000




£250,001 - £925,000




£925,001 - £1,500,000




Over £1,500,000




It’s important to note that if you’re in the process of selling your home, should you complete the buying of your next home, you will be charged the higher amount of Stamp Duty, and as long as the sale of your home occurs within 18 months of buying your new one, then you can reclaim the extra Stamp Duty you paid.

There are plenty of Stamp Duty calculators which you can use to help you work out what you’ll need to take into consideration when buying your next property. We can also put you in contact with financial services to help you understand how far your finances will stretch.

When you have enough money saved up to put a deposit down on a property, you might be tempted to just go for it and buy your first home. But hold on one minute, buying a property is a big decision and depending on your personal circumstances, it might be worth renting for a year or two before taking your first steps onto the property ladder.

If you’re now struggling to decide if you should rent or buy, fear not, we’re on hand to help you decide.

When to rent

Having the deposit is just the first step in getting a property that you can call home. Even when you do have the finances in place for a deposit, there are some situations where renting is the ideal solution.

One of the most common times to rent first before buying is if you and your partner have never lived together before. Owning a property is a big step and you won’t want to make life more complicated should the relationship end. If you two decide that you can’t live together and split up, it’ll be easier to sort out the parting of ways at the end of the tenancy than the hassle from having to try and sell the house, or potentially one partner buying out the other.

It’s also beneficial, as with two incomes, assuming there is a profit after all bills are paid, you can save up for solicitors’ fees and the Stamp Duty tax, if you’ll be required to pay it.

Another instance where it would be more sensible to rent than to buy is when you are relocating to a new area. By renting, you can get a better idea of where the places to avoid are and you can look at properties in more ideal locations.

You wouldn’t want to rush into buying a property in your relocated area, only to discover that it isn’t the nicest and you might find it harder to sell it on in the future. Renting allows you to learn about the area and gives you time to find the ideal home in the ideal location.

If you’re under pressure to move in a short space of time then renting is a more viable option. In the case of property sales, they can take twelve weeks to be completed, whereas assuming a property is vacant either immediately or in a few weeks’ time, then a rental agreement can be a good solution for you. When time isn’t on your side, consider renting.

When to buy

Of course, those are great reasons why you should start by renting, but there are also occasions when it would be best to take the leap and get yourself onto the property ladder.

One of the most important aspects when deciding to buy or rent is to analyse your finances. A good idea is to look for a property that you would like to buy and one that you would like to rent. In the case of the rental property, work out how much money you’d be spending each month, including the rent payments and the council tax and estimates for gas, electricity and water and then see what you are likely to have left over at the end of the month. If you’re going to be making a loss, then it’s worth considering buying.

Realistically, the repayments on your mortgage should be less than the rent payments, meaning that it is more cost effective to buy if you have the funds in place to cover the deposit, solicitors’ fees and potentially even the Stamp Duty. If you're wondering if you'd qualify for the first-time buyer benefit of not paying Stamp Duty, check out our blog post "What is a first-time buyer?" to find out.

Also consider that not only are you paying less each month, but your money is going towards outright ownership of a property, rather than into a landlord’s pocket.

Another benefit of buying when you have saved enough for a deposit is that depending on the type of mortgage you choose; your monthly repayments won’t go up for a few years. Whereas a landlord is more likely to increase the monthly rent each year, even if it’s only a small increase.

One of the dangers of renting is that should your landlord decide to sell up, you face the arduous task of trying to find somewhere new to live. Whereas when you have bought your own home, the only time you might be forced to move out is if you fail to keep up with your monthly mortgage repayments. You can also live by your own rules and don’t have to ask for permission to redecorate and make substantial changes to the property.

The decision really comes down to your circumstances, if you are unsure if you have the finances to buy a property, then contact us, we can put you in contact with mortgage advisers, who will be able to assist you further. When you know whether you’d like to rent or to buy, do check out the properties that we have on offer.

It was back in 2013 that the coalition government launched the Help to Buy scheme in a bid to help more first-time buyers get on the property ladder. Although there are restrictions on who can apply for the schemes, there should be a scheme that can help.

Here, we will take you through the different options currently available to first-time buyers, helping you to clue yourself up on which will be the best option to help you get on the property ladder.

Help to Buy ISA

We are starting with the Help to Buy ISA primarily because if you’re looking to open one, you need to act fast. The scheme ends on 30 November 2019, meaning you don’t have much time remaining if you’d like to open one and receive the benefit.

The scheme was introduced to help people who were struggling to get a deposit together. The government will top up the savings in the ISA by 25%. In order to qualify for this scheme, you need to be a first-time buyer over the age of 16 and who is looking to buy a home worth up to £250,000 (or if you’re looking London, up to £450,000). The Help to Buy ISA can be used with any mortgage, not just the Help to Buy mortgages.

However, there are limitations. For example, you can’t use a Help to Buy ISA if you are planning on renting out the property, or if it’s an overseas property. You are only allowed one Help to Buy ISA and, in most cases, you can’t open a Help to Buy ISA if you already have a normal cash ISA.

Although, if you are buying a property with a partner who is also a first-time buyer, they can apply for a separate Help to Buy ISA, meaning between you, you could receive a £6,000 bonus. In order to claim the money from the government,

The maximum you can save with this ISA is £12,000, meaning that the government will top it up by £3,000 to give you £15,000 towards a deposit for a property. You can also only deposit a maximum of £1,200 to open the account and can add in a maximum of £200 per month. This prevents people from opening a Help to Buy ISA account, putting in £12,000 and walking away with £15,000 straight away.

It is a great way to top up your deposit so if it’s something that would help you out, don’t forget to set one up before 30 November 2019. You will be able to continue saving with the account until November 2029.

Help to Buy: Equity Loan

Arguably the most well-known of the Help to Buy schemes, the Help to Buy Equity Loan sees the government provide a loan to the buyer of up to 20% of the property’s value. The property must be a new build and the price cannot exceed £600,000. If you were to purchase a new build for £300,000, then the government would provide you with a £60,000 loan, while you would need to save up £15,000 for a deposit that in total would be 25% of the property’s value. You will need a mortgage for the remaining 75% or in the case of our example, £225,000.

During the first five years of owning your new build, you won’t be required to make any repayments towards the loan or the interest. However, after five years, you will be required to pay back interest on the loan. In year six, this interest is 1.75% of the loan when you took it out, and steadily increases year-on-year.

At any stage during your ownership of the new build, you will be able to pay off the loan via a method known as ‘staircasing’, unless you are able to pay it all off at once. Via the staircasing method, the homeowner can pay off a minimum of 10% of the property’s value in order to reduce the Help to Buy loan, which would reduce the interest payments that occur in year six. You can make the payment at any stage during your ownership of the property. This buyer’s guide provided by the government will help you understand it further.

If you’re looking to buy a new build property in Greater London, then a loan of up to 40% of the property’s value is available.

Shared Ownership

We know there are some people who think that with the Shared Ownership scheme, you get lumped in with some strangers and you each buy a proportion of the house. But let us put you at ease, that is not what this scheme does.

Shared Ownership will see you purchase between 25% and 75% of a property with either a mortgage or savings, and then you pay rent on the remaining share of the property. Some of the properties will be new builds, while others will be properties being re-sold by housing associations.

To qualify for this scheme, you must be a first-time buyer or someone who used to own a property but who cannot afford one now, as well as having a combined household income that is less than £80,000, or £90,000 for those in London, or you are currently renting a council or housing association property.

It’s always best to do some further research on these schemes before deciding which one is the most suitable for your current situation. The Help to Buy website can assist you further. We also put you in touch with an appropriate adviser who can help via our services page.


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