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Off-Plan Property Warning

We often caution off-plan investors about governments 'moving goalposts' at some stage between reservation and completion and we have a good, universal example of that this week from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's Financial Secretary John Tsanghas just revealed measures to subdue prices; anyone reselling a property within six months of purchase is subject to a 15 per cent stamp duty; 10 per cent on sales between six and 12 months; 5 per cent between 12 and 24 months.

A classic example of why, when buying off-plan, you need to do some due diligence with a crystal ball as to what may happen in 18 months or so. Not easy!

Cold Weather Checklist

I'm being bombarded with cold weather advice right now. I think the issue of pipes is of significance at present so I will run a quick checklist from AXA Insurance, as follows...

Leave your heating on at a minimum of 12°C. This will stop water in your pipes from freezing.

Leave your loft hatch open to let warm air circulate - particularly if you have a cold water tank in your loft.

Make sure you know where your stop cock is so you can turn off water quickly in an emergency.

Check the insulation on your water pipes and the lagging on your cold water tank - if there's none in place get it sorted as soon as possible.

Insulate your loft - not only will this keep your home warm, it has environmental benefits too.

Leave your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open - this will allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes that are often found inside these cupboards.

Seal any holes that let in cold air. With modern technology, increasing numbers of people have holes in the wall for computer cables or TV links.

If you're going away, drain your water system. Probably not necessary if you are going away for just a short period, but if you are planning an extended break during the winter, this is a wise precaution. The group most badly affected by claims last year were the over 50s who were spending the winter abroad.

Also, if you're away, get your neighbours to check on your property - while it won't stop a pipe from freezing if you haven't taken other precautions, at least early intervention may reduce the damage caused.

Overseas Property Tip

Another useful, universal, piece of buying overseas advice can be found in the latest Italy magazine. In essence, the question is, 'If I have a property in Italy, do I need an Italian will?'

The magazine's reply? 'Too many people simply assume that their English wills are a “cover-all” and that a property abroad will be dealt with under the same terms. However, this is not correct. The rule is that English property will pass in accordance with English law of succession, by will or intestacy, while immovable property anywhere else will follow the law of the country where it is situated.

The bottom line is that UK law does not govern immovable assets abroad and English rules will be difficult to impose in a foreign jurisdiction.' So, in short, you need a will for the relevant country.