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Nowhere to hide from mortgage debt

Hard-pressed home owners are being warned not to rely on reports of a legal loophole which suggest they can escape mortgage debts. The Council of Mortgage Lenders said a recent court case refuted claims that badly-worded mortgage guarantee policies meant borrowers could hand in keys and walk away from arrears. Even if a loophole did exist, most policies covered only part of the shortfall, said the CML. And it gave a warning that lenders could come back for their money up to 12 years afterwards. Repossessions fell slightly to just under 22,000 in the three months to June but, worryingly, court orders increased 10 per cent to 19,300.

The Russia house?

A rambling, redbrick house on Chelsea's Old Church Street - on sale for pounds 730,000 - appears a little spooky, and well it might. Agents Farley & Co say it was used by MI6 for training during the Cold War.

Sold within six hours

Fed up with waiting for a buyer? Read this and weep. A four-bed home in Southway, Hampstead, went within six hours of going on the market - and within 5 per cent of the asking price. Barrie Morgan of Glentree Estates said the best offers are usually the first ones, and waiting for more often brings disappointment.

Old Turks move in

First the City's young Turks helped boost central London prices with their fat bonus cheques; now come the slightly older Turks. But these have a better pedigree, says Beauchamp Estates. Turkish investors have joined the Russians as a new force willing to pay up to pounds 1m for homes in the capital. They are also keen to rent property as a base for getting into Europe, said Beauchamp's Jean Sewell.

Sound investment

Double-glazing retains top billing for the fourth year running in the Halifax Building Society's annual home improvement survey. Fitted kitchens and garden improvements also hold their position in second and third place. But owners' motivation has changed from enhancing value to improving their quality of life. They are resigned to staying in one place rather than increasing profit when they move.

Build your own

More than 35,000 visitors are expected at the National Self-Build Homes Show at Alexandra Palace from 15-18 September. A third of new detached houses and bungalows last year were self-built. Activity also rose by 8 per cent compared with a 6 per cent drop in conventional housebuilding. The Victorian-looking home built for the show is aimed at the young north London family, but is fitted with high-technology equipment and a home office.