Gated communities appeal more to Britain's younger population than the over-65s, according to figures recently released by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). They showed that 65 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds believe that gated communities are a good idea, compared to only 44 per cent of over-65s. Although residents feel safer in estates that are closed to non-residents and have security systems and surveillance equipment, it is more of a perception than a reality. Research from the US, where 15 per cent of people live in gated communities, tallies with evidence from the UK that gating may not deter criminals effectively. In fact, gates may restrict police access and fences provide criminals with cover. Ironically, although crime rates have been falling in England and Wales since the early Nineties, almost two-thirds of respondents to the British Crime Survey in 2001 believed that crime has risen "a lot" or "a little" over the previous two years, despite a 14 per cent drop.
¿ As homes across the country are beginning to glow with snowmen, santas and reindeer, RoSPA has issued safety advice, especially after the first firefighters' strike. It warns against using old sets of lights that are not transformed down to 24 volts or are not double-insulated. Buying BS-Kitemarked lights from a reputable store is best and manufacturer's instructions for usage should be read carefully, especially for outdoor lights. A residual current device should be used for added protection against shock, and systems should not be overloaded. Most important, all lights should be turned off before going to bed. For more advice visit www.rospa.com.
¿ Government plans to redraw council tax bands, last updated in 1991, are said to include a new premium rate for properties worth more than £1 million as well as a new "low" band, below the current lowest Band A, for properties up to £40,000 in England or £30,000 in Wales. The revaluation will not take place until 2005, however, with the new charges applicable from 2007.
¿ Rents are down in London and the South-east, although modest rent rises were reported in all other regions in the last three months, according to RICS's latest residential lettings survey. But the sharp rise in property prices over the past year has forced some frustrated first-time buyers to rent because they cannot afford to buy. The good news for them is that the plentiful supply of property has kept rents at a competitive level.
¿ Online mortgage applications, instant credit scoring and a simpler application process have led to significant improvements in the time it takes for a lender to make a loan offer. Over three-quarters of lenders now issue an offer within 15 working days of receiving an application. About a third can make an offer within 10 days. In 1998 the average number of days to an offer was 22.
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