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Ukraine welcomes Russian plan to reduce forces near its border



Ukraine has welcomed Moscow’s decision to end war games close to its borders and in occupied Crimea and return thousands of Russian troops to base, in a move that could ease western fears over the Kremlin’s military intentions.

The European Union, United States and Nato had urged Russia to reverse its recent build-up of soldiers and armour, amid an escalation of fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine that is partly controlled by Moscow-led separatists; Russia insisted its forces were conducting drills that did not pose a threat to any country.

“The troops have demonstrated their ability to ensure the reliable defence of the country,” said Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu, as he oversaw exercises in Crimea on Thursday involving more than 10,000 soldiers and 40 warships.

“As a result, I have decided to conclude the inspection drills in the southern and western military districts,” he added, ordering units to start returning to their permanent bases from Friday.


Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy was quick to respond on Twitter: “The reduction of troops on our border proportionally reduces tension. Ukraine is always vigilant, yet welcomes any steps to decrease the military presence and de-escalate the situation in Donbas,” he wrote. “Ukraine seeks peace. Grateful to international partners for their support.”

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said on Thursday he was willing to meet Mr Zelenskiy in Moscow, days after Ukraine’s leader offered to hold peace talks with him in Donbas.

Yet in a sign that tension in the region may remain elevated for some time, Mr Shoigu ordered Russia’s military to be ready to respond quickly to any “unfavourable development” in the security situation during forthcoming Nato war games in the Black Sea.

Moreover, it is unclear how many of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops now in Crimea and near eastern Ukraine will return to base, and a significant amount of their weaponry is expected to remain at a staging area only about 200km from Ukraine.

The military manoeuvres have taken place amid a further fraying of diplomatic ties, as the US imposed fresh sanctions on Russia and the two countries expelled 10 of each other’s diplomats.

US ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan flew home for consultations on Thursday, a month after Russia’s envoy to Washington Anatoly Antonov returned to Moscow in response to US president Joe Biden saying he regarded Mr Putin as “a killer”.


The Czech Republic told Moscow on Thursday to recall dozens more staff from its embassy in Prague, just days after it expelled 18 suspected Russian intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover and Russia responded by sending home 20 Czech diplomats.

The row erupted after Prague blamed Moscow for a deadly 2014 explosion at a Czech arms depot, and revealed that it suspects the involvement of two Russian intelligence officers whom the UK accuses of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.

Western capitals are also closely monitoring developments in Belarus, which is under Kremlin pressure to allow deeper integration with Russia. Mr Putin was due to hold talks on Thursday evening with autocratic Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, who claims to have been the target of a failed US-backed coup attempt.

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Likelihood of finding a buyer for your home at its best point in a decade says Rightmove



The likelihood of finding a buyer for your home is at its best point at any time in the past decade, new research suggests.

Nearly seven out of 10 homes for sale – 68 per cent – successfully found a buyer between June 2020 and June 2021, according to Rightmove.

It is up from 41 per cent in 2012, and the highest percentage in any year during the past 10 years, the property website says. 

The data suggests that the market is particularly hot in Scotland, while London locations are lagging.  

Between 2012 and early 2020, just over half - at 53 per cent - of homes typically found a buyer, according to Rightmove

Between 2012 and early 2020, just over half – at 53 per cent – of homes typically found a buyer, according to Rightmove

Region/country % of homes selling (June 2020 – June 2021)
Britain 68%
Scotland 89%
Yorkshire and The Humber 77%
North West 74%
Wales 74%
West Midlands 73%
South West 73%
East Midlands 73%
North East 72%
South East 67%
East of England 66%
Source:  Rightmove  

The analysis of more than 13million property listings on Rightmove’s website tracked the journey of a property, from initially being put on the market through to being sold subject to contract.

Those sales that fell through and went on to secure a buyer again were only counted once as part of the analysis, the property website explained.

Between 2012 and early 2020, just over half – at 53 per cent – of homes typically found a buyer.

Rightmove said that the remaining 47 per cent were either withdrawn from sale or stayed on the market.

Scotland leads the way with 89 per cent of homes successfully finding a buyer, compared to 48 per cent in London.

Almost seven in 10 homes have found a buyer in the current market, according to Rightmove

Almost seven in 10 homes have found a buyer in the current market, according to Rightmove

The next best performing area is Yorkshire & the Humber, with nearly four in every five homes – at 77 per cent – selling.

Areas at the top of the list are all in Scotland, with 94 per cent of homes in Falkirk and East Dunbartonshire finding a buyer. It is followed by South Lanarkshire, with 93 per cent of vendors finding a buyer. 

Outside of Scotland, the top three are Sheffield at 83 per cent, Craven at 81 per cent and Chorley at 81 per cent. 

By contrast, the bottom end includes high-end markets of London such as Westminster at 22 per cent, Kensington & Chelsea at 25 per cent, and Camden at 28 per cent.

Local Authority Region/country % of homes selling (June 2020 – June 2021)
Falkirk Scotland 94%
Torfaen Wales 80%
Bexley London 74%
Chorley North West 81%
Darlington North East 77%
Nuneaton and Bedworth West Midlands 78%
Chesterfield East Midlands 79%
King’s Lynn and West Norfolk East of England 74%
Weymouth and Portland South West 78%
Folkestone and Hythe South East 75%
Sheffield Yorkshire & the Humber 83%
Source: Rightmove     
Local Authority % of homes selling (June 2020 – June 2021)
Falkirk 94%
East Dunbartonshire 94%
South Lanarkshire 93%
Renfrewshire 93%
East Renfrewshire 93%
Midlothian 93%
North Lanarkshire 93%
West Lothian 93%
Glasgow City 92%
Fife 91%
Source: Rightmove   

Tim Bannister, of Rightmove, said: ‘There’s been a much greater chance of a seller finding a buyer over the past year, which really highlights the sheer number of people who have been determined to move.

‘While the long-term average shows that typically around half of properties sell, the increase in 2021 reflects the frenzied buyer activity we’ve seen in the current market, driven by multiple factors such as pent up demand and changing priorities.

‘This efficiency in the market means agents are operating on limited stock, and they need more homes to satisfy all types of buyers. 

‘We’ve seen from previous research that Scotland often contains the most likely areas to find a buyer, and London the least, however the broader numbers are reflective of the trend we’ve been seeing all year, which is that buyers have widened their scope, and the popularity of every area in Britain is increasing.’

Local Authority Region/country % of homes selling (June 2020 – June 2021)
Sheffield Yorkshire and The Humber 83%
Craven Yorkshire and The Humber 81%
Chorley North West 81%
Oldham North West 80%
Torfaen Wales 80%
Bridgend Wales 80%
Richmondshire Yorkshire and The Humber 80%
Halton North West 80%
Knowsley North West 79%
Tameside North West 79%
Source: Rightmove     

It comes amid a red hot property market, with Nationwide reporting this week that the average value of a home in Britain has risen by around £24,500 between July last year and the end of June this year.

The average cost of a home now stands at £244,229, it said. However, this is a drop from £245,432 in June, following the end of the stamp duty holiday.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: ‘ Buyers had rushed to complete deals before the deadline, with the number of housing market transactions soaring to a record high of almost 200,000 in June, which is around twice the typical monthly number before the pandemic.’

Borough Region % of homes selling (June 2020 – June 2021)
Islington London 39%
Richmond upon Thames London 38%
Ealing London 38%
Brent London 36%
Hammersmith and Fulham London 31%
City of London London 31%
Tower Hamlets London 30%
Camden London 28%
Kensington and Chelsea London 25%
Westminster London 22%
Source: Rightmove     

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Real Estate

Higgins raises concerns over volume of legislation received in recent weeks



Two Oireachtas committees are being convened at short notice to consider concerns raised by President Michael D. Higgins at the volume of legislation sent to his office in recent weeks.

In a letter to the Ceann Comhairle, the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad and the Department of the Taoiseach, Mr Higgins said an “overwhelming number of Bills” were presented for his consideration in the final two weeks before the Christmas and summer recesses.

“For example, in the three weeks since the beginning of July I have been asked to consider 19 separate Bills. Nine were presented on the one day, sharing a requirement to be considered and signed in the same seven-day period,” he wrote, pointing out that in the entire preceding six months, he was presented with 13 Bills for consideration.

Last year, 21 of the total of 32 Bills presented to him were sent in the weeks approaching summer and Christmas recesses.

“It would strike me, as President and from my years as a parliamentarian, that there must be a more orderly approach to arranging the legislative timetable that allows all legislators the time to consider and contribute to proposals before the Oireachtas without unnecessary time constraints and an unseemly end-of-term haste to have Bills concluded,” the President wrote.

“Having this vital work concentrated into four weeks of the year strikes me as being less than ideal and, I believe, unnecessary.”

Mr Higgins noted that little time was being given over in the Oireachtas to debate often “very important and far-reaching legislative proposals”.

He said the process has “been curtailed through the imposition of restrictions on time in one or both Houses”.

He said amendments put down by Oireachtas members were often not discussed, and those proposed by the Government were at times “carried without an opportunity for scrutiny or debate”.

The President noted an “unseemly end-of-term haste”to pass legislation and said a “real prospect” of having to convene the Council of State in the days after Christmas day to consider Bills had arisen more than once.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl, the Ceann Comhairle, told The Irish Times that the Dáil’s Business Committee and the Seanad’s Committee on Procedures would meet on Friday to consider the letter, and actions open to the Oireachtas to consider.

There have been renewed concerns during the lifetime of this Dáil about the use of the guillotine to force Government legislation through without extensive oversight, with several heavyweight pieces of legislation passed in a matter of days before the Oireachtas rose for its summer break earlier this month.

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Real Estate

Who do I need to notify if I move home?



Moving house is frequently said to be one of the most stressful things anyone can do.

The massive investment both financially and emotionally can take its toll, especially if the process takes months to complete.

It is why anything that helps to elevate some of the stress along the way can be hugely beneficial. This includes addressing some of the practicalities in advance, and having a list of who to notify when you move can help. 

We look at some of the organisations and companies who you may need to contact when you move home

We look at some of the organisations and companies who you may need to contact when you move home

Dozens of companies will need to know your new address, whether this is an insurer who may use them to help calculate your insurance premiums or a retailer who need to know where to send the clothing you ordered online.

Without updating them, you may endure a bigger headache from moving home than you had anticipated.

North London estate agent Jeremy Leaf, said: ‘When moving home, it is vital to plan ahead. Moving day can come upon you very quickly, particularly if there is a short time between exchange and completion.

‘Buildings insurance is the most important thing that needs arranging on your new property as soon as you have exchanged contracts.

‘Confirm your moving date with your removals firm and make a list of who needs notifying about your impending change of address – the electoral roll, the DVLA, Amazon and other delivery firms, particularly supermarket deliveries. The last thing you want is for your orders to turn up at your ‘old’ address once you have moved.

‘Don’t forget to change your council tax, while utility providers will also need informing, and given final meter readings. The more you plan ahead, the smoother the process will be.’ 

A checklist for who to notify when you change address can help to elevate some of the stress of moving home

A checklist for who to notify when you change address can help to elevate some of the stress of moving home

Tom Parker, of property website Zoopla, agreed: ‘Moving home can be overwhelming with so much to do. When it comes to notifying organisations, it’s best to divide it into digestible categories like work, household and vehicle.

‘Notifying your employer is a top priority, especially if your payslips are sent to your home. If you own a vehicle, ensure you update your driving licence, insurance providers and vehicle logbook.  

‘Make sure you also notify organisations like your broadband, utilities, insurance providers and council tax. Finally, don’t forget the small things like magazine subscriptions and store cards.’

Here we look at some of the organisations and companies who you may need to contact when you move home.


Perhaps one of the most important and probably most overlooked places that need to be notified of your change of address is HMRC, which needs to know for tax purposes.  

Similarly, your employer needs to know when you change address for your payroll, so that it can update your contact details.

In addition, your National Insurance number helps the Government to identify you and is used by the organisations such as the DVLA and HMRC, so this will need your new address attached. 


There are various companies providing services to your household that will need to know about your move so that they can update your contact information.

In some cases, you may end up continuing to pay for a service in your former home that you are no longer using if you fail to update these companies.

They include your cable or satellite provider, your phone and broadband company. It is also important to update your TV licence contact details, which can be done up to three months before a move.


You can update DVLA via its website and within two to four weeks, you should receive an updated licence and V5C log book documents for your car. Failing to update the log book could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.

You will also need to notify the supplier of your vehicle breakdown cover and your car insurer.


Most insurers take postcodes into account when calculating premiums and the cost of insurance cover, so they will need to be notified of your change of address. 

You may need to contact those insurers who provide cover for household contents, health, life, travel and your pets.


As well as your health insurer, you will also need to provide your address to other healthcare organisations.

For example, if you change doctors when you move home, you will need to let your old doctor know so that your medical information can be forwarded to your new doctor. This may similarly apply to your dentists and opticians.


Your gas, electricity and water suppliers will need your updated contact information, even if you are leaving them behind at the old property and taking on new suppliers.

It can take a couple of days for energy providers to update your information, so it is worth contacting your suppliers ahead of your move. However, you may be able to move your deal to your new property.

Make sure you take readings of your utilities on the day of your move so you can update your suppliers with these and only pay for the amounts you have used. 

Royal Mail’s redirection service may be worth considering as it forwards any post sent to your former address to your new address. You can apply for the redirection up to three months before your moving date.


There are several companies and organisations that fall into this category and will need to know your new contact address.

They include bank and building societies, your pension providers, loan companies, credit card providers and store cards. If you are on a state pension, the Government will need to know your new details.

Similarly, you will need to update your address for council tax purposes.

Others include your accountant as you don’t want important tax documents going to your old address (if you are not using the a postal redirection service). And don’t forget updating NS&I with your new address if you put money into premium bonds.

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