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House prices hit another record high in May with average now above £260k

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Property prices reached another record high in May, with the average home adding more than £3,000 of value in the last month alone.

The typical home is now worth nearly £262,000 according to the Halifax price index – this is £22,000 or 9.5 per cent more than in May 2020.

Prices increased by £3,000 or 1.3 per cent between April and May of this year alone, although that was slightly lower than the 1.5 per cent growth the previous month.

Bricks and mortar: The price of a home in the UK is now more than £260,000 according to the latest Halifax House Price Index: an increase of £22,000 year on year

Bricks and mortar: The price of a home in the UK is now more than £260,000 according to the latest Halifax House Price Index: an increase of £22,000 year on year 

Halifax, one of Britain’s biggest lenders, said house price inflation was now at its strongest level in almost seven years.

Wales saw the strongest price growth of any region, with prices having increased by 11.9 per cent in the last year.

It was followed by the North West and Yorkshire & Humber, both of which posted double-digit annual growth.

For Wales and the North West, these are the biggest percentage gains since April 2005, and for Yorkshire & Humber since June 2006.

All regions bar the North East saw an acceleration in year-on-year house price inflation last month.

However, the South is lagging somewhat behind the rest of the country. 

In Greater London, average prices are still 3.1 per cent higher than a year ago but growing more slowly than the rest of the UK.

This four-bed detached home in Lincoln is listed on Rightmove for £875,000

This four-bed detached home in Lincoln is listed on Rightmove for £875,000

A four-bed home in Stratford Sub Castle near Salisbury is listed for £795,000 on Rightmove

A four-bed home in Stratford Sub Castle near Salisbury is listed for £795,000 on Rightmove

In Heswall, Wirral, this five-bed home is on Rightmove with an asking price of £450,000

In Heswall, Wirral, this five-bed home is on Rightmove with an asking price of £450,000

This new-build, two-bed property near Buxton in Derbyshire is on Rightmove for £274,995

This new-build, two-bed property near Buxton in Derbyshire is on Rightmove for £274,995

In Hove, East Sussex, this two-bed home is listed on Rightmove for £475,000

In Hove, East Sussex, this two-bed home is listed on Rightmove for £475,000

In Bishop Auckland, County Durham, this four-bed home is on Rightmove for £215,000

In Bishop Auckland, County Durham, this four-bed home is on Rightmove for £215,000

This has been influenced by a trend towards moving away from cities and into more rural areas during the pandemic, linked to working from home.

House price rises in the last year have been boosted by these kind of lifestyle changes, as well as the Government’s stamp duty holiday which has eliminated the tax on the portion of a property purchase under £500,000, saving home buyers up to £15,000.

The threshold will be lowered to £250,000 on 1 July, and then back to the normal level of £125,000 on 1 October.

Some experts are predicting house prices will fall after this deadline – but Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax, is more bullish. 

‘Heading into the traditionally busy summer period, market activity continues to be boosted by the Government’s stamp duty holiday, with prospective buyers racing to complete purchases in time to benefit from the maximum tax break ahead of June’s deadline, after which there will be a phased return to full rates,’ he said. 

House prices have increased by 9.5 per cent in the last year, according to Halifax

House prices have increased by 9.5 per cent in the last year, according to Halifax

House prices are being driven up in part by a shortage of properties on the market

House prices are being driven up in part by a shortage of properties on the market

‘For some homebuyers, lockdown restrictions have also resulted in an unexpected build-up of savings, which can now be deployed to fund bigger deposits for bigger properties, potentially pushing property prices even higher.

‘Whilst these effects will be temporary, the current strength in house prices also points to a deeper and long-lasting change as buyer preferences shift in anticipation of new, post-pandemic lifestyles – as greater demand for larger properties with more space might warrant an increased willingness to spend a higher proportion of income on housing.

‘These trends, coupled with growing confidence in a more rapid recovery in economic activity if restrictions continue to be eased, are likely to support house prices for some time to come, particularly given the continued shortage of properties for sale.’

With the country tentatively unlocking and many families unable to go on foreign holidays, Nicky Stevenson, managing director of estate agent Fine & Country, is predicting the housing boom will continue throughout the summer. 

She said: ‘This market is moving so fast that if you blink, it increases in value. 

‘If the unlocking goes ahead later this month, this new blood, which until now has been cautious due to the pandemic, will enter the market and there will be even more buyers chasing the must-have properties of the year, namely detached homes with plenty of outside space. 

‘If the change to the stamp duty relief creates even a wrinkle in July that would come as a bit of a surprise.

‘The market normally has a lull in the summer months but, now almost all foreign holidays appear to be off, there’s nothing stopping the freight train that is unbridled demand from crashing straight through June, July and August.’

Cheap mortgage borrowing and a shortage of homes coming on to the market are also helping to push up prices.  

Tomer Aboody, director of property lender MT Finance, said: ‘Stamp duty holiday or not, the housing market has never been at this level before and will continue to be so while interest rates are so low. 

‘With buyers looking for more space, coupled with a lack of supply, multiple purchasers per property are pushing up prices to new highs.’

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Ulster maintain 100 per cent European start with Northampton win

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Northampton Saints 20 Ulster 24

Ulster maintained their 100 per cent start in the Champions Cup and booked their place in the last-16 of the competition with a win over Northampton Saints that will have perhaps offered Andy Farrell a reminder of the talents of Mike Lowry.

The uncapped fullback, who trained with the Test side last summer, was in supreme form at Franklin’s Gardens, scoring two tries and earning player of the match honours in the 24-20 win.

Dove-tailing brilliantly with the fit-again Robert Baloucoune here, Lowry’s fleet footed breaks from deep were more than the English opposition could handle.

Coming in without Iain Henderson, John Cooney, Stuart McCloskey and Jacob Stockdale, the odds didn’t seem particularly weighted in favour of the northern province, all the more so when the Saints’ team selection confirmed they were not one of the sides taking a laissez faire attitude to European competition after a stuttering start.

The visitors have been made of sterner stuff on their travels under Dan McFarland though and their record against English opposition is impressive.

This 11th win in the last 13 attempts against Premiership sides saw Ulster start and finish the first half in the ascendancy with a brief Saints purple patch in between.

Coming off such a deflating performance against the 14 men of Munster in Thomond Park a week ago, there was no sign of a hangover when Robert Baloucoune smartly snuck in for an early try. The Irish wing, back from injury just in time for the coming week’s Six Nations squad, reacted the quickest to the bouncing ball and powered in between the opposing wing and fullback to finish strongly in the corner.

Remarkably, Ulster’s next two scores would similarly come from looking sharper when the ball spilled to the deck. Mike Lowry stooped and scooped in one motion when Rory Hutchinson couldn’t gather his own kick, allowing Baloucoune to send Doak under the posts.

And it was the fullback again showing his smarts when he capitilised on the confusion in the Saints backfield after Billy Burns had sent a chip over the top intended for Stewart Moore.

In between the latter two of those three first half tries Dan Biggar added a try, conversion and penalty for the hosts but Ulster will have been more than happy with their first 40 minutes in the English midlands.

When Lowry knocked on under no pressure to start the second half it opened the door for the Saints to force a penalty which Biggar kicked to cut Ulster’s lead to just one score.

And so it remained, nervously for the visitors, until the hour mark.

They first looked set to secure the try bonus with a penalty knocked into the corner but Saints would halt their maul without much ground gained with Lawes completing the job with a turnover soon after.

When Kieran Treadwell gathered a high ball and sent Mike Lowry haring up the touchline, the fullback looked an even better bet to get that all important fourth score but he too was halted short, illegally so by Alex Mitchell who was sent to the sin bin.

Ulster used the stoppage to spring Ian Madigan from the bench but the Saints read his dummy kick to the corner and were alert enough to smother him off the tap and go.

Errors looked to be creeping in for Ulster at the most unwanted of times but Nick Timoney secured a key turnover at the breakdown and, on the hour mark, Ulster finally got over the line again.

Again Baloucoune and Lowry were the ones providing all the cut and thrust. It was the winger who broke a tackle and somehow got his arms free to send Lowry clear for the game’s most crucial score.

Mitchell would return soon after but as the minutes ebbed away, so too did the chances of Saints derailing Ulster’s charge to the last 16 even if Rory Hutchinson’s late score ensured the need for one last defensive stand.

Scorers: Northampton – D Biggar, R Hutchinson tries; D Biggar 1 pen, 1 con, G Furbank 1 con. Ulster – R Balacoune, N Doak, M Lowry (2) tries; N Doak 2 cons.

Northampton Saints: G Furbank; C Skosan, T Litchfield, R Hutchinson, T Collins; D Biggar, A Mitchell; A Waller, S Matavesi, E Painter; D Ribbans, B Nansen; C Lawes, L Ludlam, T Harrison.

Replacements: A Ratuniyrawa for Nansen (40 mins), J Augustus for Harrison (56), E Iyogun for Waller (60 mins), A Coles for Lawes (64 mins), T Freeman for Biggar (67 mins), J Fish for Matavesi (71 mins), K Garside for Painter (71 mins), T James for Mitchell (76 mins).

Ulster: M Lowry; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S Moore, E McIlroy; B Burns, N Doak; A Warwick, R Herring, M Moore; A O’Connor, K Treadwell; M Rea, N Timoney, D Vermeulen.

Replacements: E O’Sullivan for Warwick (15 mins), I Madigan for Burns (56 mins), T O’Toole for Moore (58 mins), S Carter for O’Connor (58 mins), D Shanahan for Doak (58 mins), G Jones for Rea (67 mins).

Referee: P Brousset (France).

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Djokovic violated Australia’s highest national value – a ‘fair go’

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Every few years, a celebrity tries to test out the Australian border and in a nationalistic show of strength they are sent packing.

To the outside world it might seem from time to time that Australia chooses a celebrity to sacrifice at the altar of sovereignty. It must seem we make an example out of them, to scare everyone else off lying on their immigration forms and from smuggling forbidden, squashed fruit from the aeroplane meal into the country.

Things got a bit heated back in 2015 when Johnny Depp and Amber Heard sneaked their dogs into the island nation with a delicate ecosystem and a fondness for biosecurity. It escalated when the now deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce threatened to have the dogs put down.

Depp and Heard ended up copping a fine, complying with procedures and were made to film a video apologising to Australia in a performance as natural and warm as a hostage proof of life tape.

Depp eventually turned around and said Joyce looked like he was “inbred with a tomato”, but only after he was safely back in the US, like the notable big man he is. Deputy PM Joyce recently shot back in trademark eloquence calling Depp a “deadshit” live on national breakfast television.

Citizens of other (more boring) countries might be dismayed that their national 2ic would trade verbal blows with Captain Jack Sparrow. Not Australians though, who are taught in high school that our economy and trade could be threatened by an outbreak caused from improperly imported fauna and flora. We said “Good onya Barnaby” for applying the rules fairly and squarely, regardless of stardom.

There was broad support for his actions at the time, just as there has for the cancellation of Novak Djokovic’s visa. There has been a lot of legal wrangling involving the Balkan bad boy of tennis, who is now to be deported, but for Australians the stoush was really over one thing: did he try to get around the rules?

There’s a lot of overseas analysis around the Australian public and the political will behind pursuing the case against the tennis star. After all “Djoker” (Jock-a), as he’s known here, is one of the biggest crowd-drawing players at the Australian Open, a banner event in a country where sport is the default religion. Why not let this one slide?

It’s being said that Australians just love rules. But I think this is over simplistic. What Australians actually love is fairness. In past surveys Australians have listed “fairness” and getting a “fair go” as their highest national values. There is an expectation that it doesn’t matter who the person is, they should be treated equally. We hate special treatment, particularly when it’s a public figure appearing to bend the rules the rest of us are following.

In Ireland sometimes there is the ‘ah here, sure look, go on ahead’ approach. This can be a publican letting patrons stay for a sneaky lock in, the bus driver letting you on when you don’t have correct change, but also includes say a person keeping their high-profile job after attending a certain golf function.

Rules in Ireland are bent for people we know, just as we give jobs, rentals and sometimes vaccines to people we know, in the name of “helping out”. This is seen as a positive thing by those receiving the favour, and “nepotism” by others.

Of course, Australia also has favouritism and nepotism but we like to think we don’t. Rules equate to fairness. Everybody has to be inconvenienced equally. Someone trying to get around rules when the rest of us are stuck following rules, even if they’re ones we hate, deserves to be punished.

Covid-19 has exacerbated the situation. No one is enjoying Covid rules. “I am doing the right thing, and it’s deprived me of joy just so this utter tiprat next to me can ignore them at will” is the angry thought rattling around in our rage filled brains.

Australians have not forgotten the 40,000 or so “stranded Aussies” who remained stuck overseas thanks to strict border controls during the pandemic. Those who did not get to see dying parents or hold their own children. A multi-millionaire tennis player seemingly looking for a loophole to hit a ball about for a few weeks because he refused to be vaccinated was never going to go down well.

When Djokovic stayed at the Park Hotel, the only people who might have been happy to see him were the asylum seekers who have been held there for years by the Australian Government while they await processing. They made signs and waved to TV cameras, hoping to draw attention to the “rules” keeping them locked up without an end in sight.

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Interiors trends for 2022: It’s all about vibrant designs and natural textures

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Some home trends last the course (think sustainable design and open-plan living), while others are, thankfully, fleeting (goodbye matching furniture and round beds). 

But there are a few we can count on to stay the distance this year.

So here’s what we think will be in vogue for the next 12 months.

Jaunty: A striped armchair. Curves, spheres, lozenges and circular silhouettes reflect our current desire for a greater sense of flexibility in the way we merge work and play

Jaunty: A striped armchair. Curves, spheres, lozenges and circular silhouettes reflect our current desire for a greater sense of flexibility in the way we merge work and play

Soft shapes

Curves, spheres, lozenges and circular silhouettes reflect our current desire for a greater sense of flexibility in the way we merge work and play.

‘You can expect to see more organic shapes coming to the forefront in terms of furniture,’ says the Dining Chair Co’s Amanda Huber. 

‘Curved designs feature softer lines, creating a less strict and more informal setting.’ Check out the gracious shape of Soho Home’s Luciana sofa, £2,495.

Playful pieces

The latest interiors don’t take themselves too seriously — the idea is to elevate simple materials or use them in a creative way.

Think wide, jaunty stripes on an overscaled armchair (take a look at Buchanan Studio’s Studio chair, £2,394, for inspiration), half-length linen café curtains used as cupboard skirts, and trims, tassels, bobbles and fringing on curtains, lampshades and upholstery. 

Relaxed, unfitted kitchens also feed into this look: Buster + Punch’s latest foray into freestanding cabinetry is designed to easily adapt to lifestyle shifts.

Earthy: Bold, natural colours are set to have a resurgence in our homes next year

Earthy: Bold, natural colours are set to have a resurgence in our homes next year 

Colour confidence

More of us are experimenting with colour — whether that’s mixing bold primary tones, colour washing our walls or choosing confident finishes such as all-gloss or soft plaster. 

Warm hues and nature’s tones are set to prevail, from rich terracotta and sand to olive and deeper greens.

This calming, earthy palette suits our renewed connection to nature during the ebbs and flows of the pandemic, when ‘home’ has become a byword for sanctuary. Look out for calming and uplifting bright blues.

Handcrafted appeal

Items that feature the hand of their maker inject individuality, such as the beautifully detailed pieces of Galvin Brothers: the Bobbin Side Table, £375, or the Fluted Cabinet, £4,800, both future design classics, which take inspiration from the shape of ancient columns.

Introduce handcrafted appeal through lighting, too. Susie Atkinson’s Plato lamp bases, inspired by 1940s conical leather lamps, are coated in high gloss colours. They work well with a hand-painted or trimmed shade; Rosi de Ruig’s are a timeless option, priced from £60.

Swish: Bert & May¿s Ric Rac tile from designer Samantha Todhunter

Swish: Bert & May’s Ric Rac tile from designer Samantha Todhunter

Mindful design

Lessening our impact on the planet remains key. 

‘Sustainability is not a trend, but a key design principle,’ says Kelling Designs’ Emma Deterding. 

‘It’s about changing our mindset to embrace upcycling, reupholstering and repairing.’ 

This also translates into buying fewer but better pieces and researching provenance.

‘Seek out items made from recycled materials, such as outdoor furniture produced from recycled aluminium, upcycled fabrics or fabric leftovers for upholstery, and recycled glass for tableware and tops,’ says interior designer Claudia Ludwig.

Flexible living

With many of us required to work from home at a moment’s notice, our living spaces need to accommodate relaxing, escaping, cooking and working. So quality joinery is high priority.

‘All of my projects focus on it, from library style shelving and desks to concealed storage,’ says interior designer Louise Robinson.

‘Another trend that has become hugely popular is open-plan layouts and indoor/outdoor living, which is set to continue as we try to reclaim our homes from pandemic living,’ says Fionnuala Johnston, senior home designer at John Lewis.

Try textures

The trick is to look for less obvious ways to introduce these familiar elements. Try opting for warm oak internal doors rather than ubiquitous Crittall; lining front door surrounds and frames with richly veined marble or using tactile Zellige tiles in bathrooms and kitchens.

Check out Bert & May’s new Ric Rac collection with designer Samantha Todhunter, whose pattern is inspired by the ric rac ribbon she used to sew onto the Spanish dancing skirts she made as a child.

Global interiors

Armchair travel is on the rise as many are reluctant to take risks.

That translates to confident interiors that are embracing global design motifs, from deeply pictorial wallpaper such as Osborne & Little’s Portovenere, featuring retro Ligurian village scenes, £94 per roll, to patterned flora and fauna soft furnishings.

Charming ceramics

Spanish and Italian handmade pottery is enjoying a resurgence. See the vintage collection at The Edition 94, from £40 per plate and the range of decorative jugs, plates and dishes by traditional maker Cerámica J. Marín, available at Liberty.

Savings of the week! Winter duvets

Dunelm¿s Fogarty Soft Touch microfibre-filled duvet costs from £17.60 to £35, depending on size

Dunelm’s Fogarty Soft Touch microfibre-filled duvet costs from £17.60 to £35, depending on size

Fuel bills are set to soar. Since turning up your thermostat against winter chills will harm the wallet this year, consider a new duvet, an item on which heartwarming savings are now available,

This will also be an investment in better sleep, improving your health and mood in the morning. 

If you share your bed, a 10.5 tog rating duvet should be sufficiently cosy.

Dunelm’s Fogarty Soft Touch microfibre-filled duvet costs from £17.60 to £35, depending on size, a 20 per cent reduction. 

A kingsize costs £33.60, down from £42. For a little more, you can have the microfibre-filled Feels-Like-Down duvet from bedding store Julian Charles, which costs from £55 to £85, a 50 per cent reduction. 

The Woolroom Deluxe costs from £112.50 after a 25 per cent reduction

The Woolroom Deluxe costs from £112.50 after a 25 per cent reduction

The price of the kingsize is £75, down from £150.

Happy to splurge? Then prices for Marks & Spencer’s Luxury Siberian goosedown duvet start at £192, down 40 per cent.

Should you dream of snuggling up under a British wool-filled duvet, the Woolroom Deluxe costs from £112.50 after a 25 per cent reduction. 

The kingsize is £157.50 down from £210.

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