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Helpful hints for first time house buyers

Friday 15 April 2005

Our countryside commentator John Sheard welcomes some good (non-election) news which could help local youngsters to set up home in the Yorkshire Dales

IT HAS taken a lot of ducking and weaving to avoid all the political bitching and brawling in the national media this week so it came as a welcome blessing when two items popped up which could mean good news for young folk in the Dales.

The first was that the Yorkshire Dales National Park has decided to go ahead with its scheme to restrict new house building to the "locals only" market (See News, Thursday).

The second, whether by coincidence or design I do not know, came from the Skipton Building Society, which over the years has shown a great concern over young people being driven out of the housing market - and often out of their own villages - by property prices driven sky high by wealthy incomers.

Helpful hints for first time house buyers

So, all being well, local people might be able to get their feet of the first rung of the housing ladder sometime late this year or early in 2006. Many of them will be first-time buyers - and that first step is likely to be the most serious financial transaction of their entire lives.

The psychologists say that moving house is the most traumatic event in a lifetime after the bereavement of a loved one, divorce or being made redundant. It is very much a time when people need sound advice. And the Skipton has come with just that.

It has launched a website called www.firsttimenerves.co.uk which gives vital advice on how to - and how not to - buy the first home of your own. Some of the steps which are so obvious to long-term property owners - who have fallen into the traps themselves and learned the lessons - may be something that never crosses the mind of nervous young couples desperate to take this first forbidding step.

For instance, when they are working out how much they can afford to pay on a mortgage, have they taken into account all those other bills like council tax, gas, water, electricity and insurance? At a time when interest rates seem to be on the rise, to miscalculate such matters could mean losing the house again - a major disaster for any family.

This and many more problems are tackled by the Skipton website and I need not dwell any more on the details - interested people can see for themselves. But it does give me a chance to comment on the society and its recent support of many worthy causes in the Dales.

I did not always feel this way. Some fifteen years ago, I was involved in a very unpleasant spat with the society after I had put in a lot of work on a scheme which was at first liked, then rejected out of hand.

But in recent years, since the arrival of the bluff Scot John Goodfellow as CEO, I have seen the society adopt a brilliant strategy of local involvement in charity and environmental schemes running alongside a massive expansion which had made it and its many subsidiaries major players on the national financial scene.

To entrench and massively expand at the same time is no mean feat and the Skipton has done it with a gentle touch rather than ruthless aggression - much to the surprise of London-based money men who once upon a time dismissed such organisations as sweetie shops run by provincial hicks.

At a time when the huge salaries of often unsuccessful City fatcats are in the news every day - like Rover directors allegedly pocketing £10 million apiece whilst their workers face the dole - it is good that the biggest employer in the Yorkshire Dales remains a hugely successful business whilst maintaining its human face.

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