Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Winter Advice 3 - How to drain your cold water tank

How to drain your cold water tank

  • Make sure the mains water is turned off at the Stopcock.
  • Turn on all the cold water taps and flush the toilet several times. This will empty the cold water storage tank and stop the flow of water.
  • If you have an open fire burning you should let it burn out and do not light it again until the burst pipe has been fixed.
  • Turn off oil or gas heating systems and do not use again until they have been checked.
  • Do not use the water heater as this may cause the hot cylinder to collapse.
  • Do not turn on the water supply at the Stopcock until the burst pipe has been repaired.
  • If the water has come into contact with electrical fittings the electricity should be turned off at the mains.
  • If you are going to be away from your home for more than a day or two during cold weather you should drain down the cold water system as described above.

Winter Advice 2 - Find your Stopcock

NI Water's free stop valve tag.

Know the location of your Stopcock (also known as a Stop Valve, or Stop Tap)

In the event of a leak, flood or freeze, your first thought should be to stop the threat of a new leak, or the spread of an existing one by turning off your Stopcock, but you need to know where it is!
  • Find your internal Stopcock. It is usually, but not always, located under your kitchen sink and normally closes by turning clockwise. You may want to test it is working.
  • NI Water has produced a bright tag for customers to loop around the Stopcock in their premises. This will ensure they are aware of the location of their Stopcock and it will be easily identifiable in the event of a burst pipe. Tags are available free to customers by phoning NI Water on 08457 440088.
  • Stopcocks are usually found in your kitchen, below the sink unit.  However in some houses the Stopcock is found in a front or back hall or in a larder unit beside the sink unit.
  • It is important that you know where the Stopcock is and that you check that your Stopcock is working.
  • If you cannot find or do not have a Stopcock it's best to have a registered plumber take a look at your property.

Winter Advice 1 - Avoiding Frozen Pipes

The damage caused by flooding from burst pipes can be considerable.

Avoiding Frozen Pipes

  • Make sure doors and windows from unheated parts of your property are kept closed and minimise any draughts from outside.
  • If you have tanks or pipes in the roof space, allow some warm air to circulate by opening the trap door.
  • Leave the heating on low when you are away.
  • Leave a key with a neighbour, friend or family member who can check the house regularly.
  • If a property is not in use or occupied for a prolonged period of time it is advisable to turn the water supply off at the Stopcock and even consider draining down the system to lessen the possibility of burst pipes going undetected causing property damage and the waste of water.

Dealing with Frozen Pipes

  • Turn off the water supply at the Stopcock.
  • Thaw along the pipe, starting from the end nearest the tap.
  • Don’t use a blow lamp or naked flame.
  • Put hot water bottles or a thick cloth soaked in hot water over the frozen pipe or use a hair dryer at its lowest setting to thaw pipes. Be careful not to warm them too quickly.
  • Don’t leave taps dripping or running. The water may not flush down the plug hole if the pipes below are frozen.

If a pipe bursts...

  • Turn off the Stopcock.
  • Try to block escaping water with thick cloth like towels.
  • Turn on all taps to reduce flooding.
  • Contact a plumber.
  • Don’t forget to turn off taps once the problem is fixed to avoid further flooding.

NI Water has produced a series of informational videos that can be seen online which go over some of the advice above.

More substantial frost prevention measures (check now, BEFORE the freeze comes)

  • Check that there is Insulation on water tanks and pipes in unheated areas like lofts, roof spaces, garages and outbuildings. 
  • Insulation is essential in helping to prevent water in pipes from freezing. It is also important to ensure there are no gaps in the insulation at bends, valves or fittings.
  • It should be noted that even with lagging, extreme weather conditions can result in water in pipes freezing. Without lagging however the potential for this to happen is greatly increased.
  • Those in receipt of Housing Benefit, or on Low Incomes, may be eligible for the “Warm-Homes” scheme for Insulation and Heating Improvements, visit their website or ring 0800 988 0559 for more information, and to see if you are entitled.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


ABC Christmas Decorations 2012

This office will be closed from
1300 on Friday, 21st December 2012
0930 on Wednesday, 2nd January 2013


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

First-Time Buyers Keep Local Housing Market Afloat

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have recently unveiled their latest survey, which has revealed that, for the first time in over ten years, first-time buyers are dominating Northern Ireland’s housing market.

‘With first-time buyers making up the largest proportion of the Northern Ireland housing market since 2001, it is clear that the increased affordability has helped facilitate activity in this segment’, said Derek Wilson, the head of lending products at Ulster Bank, which carried out the poll alongside RICS.

Of those surveyed, 55% reported that prices fell in the past three months, while 44% reported no change.

‘Overall, the big house price falls are certainly behind us,’ said RICS Northern Ireland housing spokesman Tom McClelland, ‘particularly at the lower end of the market, and this is most apparent in the Greater Belfast area. But with economic conditions, repossessions and other factors, the average price in Northern Ireland will likely move lower in the months ahead, with price changes likely to be much more apparent in some areas than others.’

Half of respondents saw transaction levels remain static, while 17% saw a rise and 33% reported a decrease.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Bank Holiday Closure

We shall be closed on Monday, 27 August 2012 for the Summer Bank Holiday.

We shall be open again for business on Tuesday, 28 August 2012 as normal.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

The ABC Team.

Thursday, 9 August 2012


A new and unexpected player has entered the mortgage market, as supermarket group Tesco announced recently that they would be offering mortgages via Tesco Bank.

Customers taking advantage of the deals on offer will have to put up at least a 20% deposit, but Tesco Clubcard holders are given the opportunity to earn loyalty card points as they make their monthly repayments.

 ‘Its opening rates would have been competitive a month ago,’ commented Ray Boulger of John Charcol mortgage brokers, who seemed unenthusiastic about the 3.19% to 5.09% interest rates on offer. By comparison, a number of lenders have begun offering less than 3% interest on their fixed-rate, long-term mortgages. 

Boulger went on to say that ‘Any hopes that the entry of Tesco would provide a significant increase in competition have been dashed, at least initially, by its opening rates, which seem designed more to avoid getting too much business than to ruffle the feathers of existing lenders.’

Andrew Montlake, of mortgage brokers Coreco, was more positive, noting that ‘The products themselves are priced sensibly, with the opportunity to repay 20% of the loan amount off each year without penalty a nice extra.’

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


A study from Cambridge University predicts that current economic stagnation will have long-term repercussions for the potential homeowners of the future.

If the economy remains flat, a mere 27% will be in ‘mortgaged home ownership’ by 2025. The figure is presently 35%, a substantial drop from the 43% seen in 1993-94. 

As a result, millions of young families throughout the UK are entering a market where renting is their only option. Falling wages and banks’ unwillingness to lend are impacting on families with children who have little or no money left at the end of each month to save for a deposit. 

This has meant that the number of families renting over the past five years has rocketed by 86%.

Based on the report, the outlook for the next ten years will see the trend towards renting and away from ownership continuing. 

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, the housing and homeless charity who co-commissioned the report, said that these findings highlight ‘what is fast becoming the new realities of our housing market in the current economic climate: home ownership continuing to fall while renting becomes a way of life for British families.


Fluctuations in the property market are continuing throughout the middle of 2012.

Whereas May and June experienced an increase, house prices fell by 0.6% in July, according to the most recent Halifax House Price Index. This year has so far seen four monthly increases and three monthly drops, adding up to a flat and stagnant market.

‘Prices continue to fluctuate on a monthly basis’, said Martin Ellis, Halifax Housing Economist.
The outlook for the rest of the year remains uncertain at best, warned Halifax, citing reluctant sellers and cautious buyers as the potential cause of further stagnation.

‘Looking forward,’ said Ellis, ‘we expect little change in prices over the remainder of 2012 so long as the economic climate in the UK does not worsen substantially.’

Due to the high cost of moving house, many homeowners are staying where they are until they see concrete signs of economic improvement. 

The Chief UK and European Economist at IHS Global Insight, Howard Archer, commented on the Halifax’s findings, stating that ‘Limited activity, low and fragile consumer confidence, muted earnings  growth and relatively high unemployment’ mean that a drop in prices of at least 3% from current levels is expected over the rest of the year.

Halifax Data Shows UK Property Market Stagnant -

Monday, 2 July 2012

July 2012 Holiday Closures

We will be closed at 1600 on Wednesday, 11 July 2012
until re-opening at 0930 on Monday, 23 July 2012
due to the July Summer Holidays.

Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Monday, 25 June 2012


Conducted by the Halifax, a recent survey has shown that only 14% of non-home owners aged between 20 and 45 are saving for a deposit. 

 Half of those surveyed within this age bracket believe that, within a generation, Britain will cease to be a nation of homebuyers and become a nation of renters. 

The mortgage director at Halifax, Stephen Noakes, summed up the situation by commenting that ‘Young people are still downbeat about their chances of owning a house, and we’re also seeing the impact this has on their parents’ financial future. Parents think that their kids could make cutbacks on holidays and going out in order to save for a deposit. However...parents continue to stump up a contribution.’

The major stumbling blocks for potential first-time buyers were found to be the high price of houses, decreased job security and the size of a deposit.

 Increased assistance from friends and family indicates that independent finances are currently insufficient for many who are trying to take their first step onto the property ladder.

With an unstable economic climate creating an atmosphere of risk, only 31% of surveyed respondents had a serious intention to buy within the next five years.

Under 45s See the UK Becoming a Nation of Renters Rather Than Property Owners, Research Shows - Property Wire

Monday, 28 May 2012

Diamond Jubilee Weekend Closing

Please note that our office will be closed over the Bank Holiday / Queen's Diamond Jubilee Weekend.

We will close at 1600, on Friday, 1 June 2012

and will re-open at 0930, on Wednesday, 6 June 2012.

Sorry for the inconvenience and enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


A recent survey, conducted by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Ulster Bank, has revealed a mild rise in housing transactions in Northern Ireland.

 The traditional peak in buying and selling during spring and early summer has undoubtedly contributed to the increase, but the lower end of the market has seen an upsurge in activity, with greater Belfast emerging on top.

 ‘At the lower end of the housing market at least, there are increasing signs that asking prices and buyers ability to borrow are more closely aligned,’ said Tom McClelland, RICS housing spokesman. 

The head of lending products at Ulster Bank, Derek Wilson, is also ‘encouraged’ by the ‘level of interest and activity that we have experienced in recent months’.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


According to the most recent Housing Market Survey conducted by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Ulster Bank, Northern Ireland’s property market experienced a rise in transactions during March.

In addition, property enquiries also increased.

In spite of this encouraging news, prices continue to fall, with further decreases expected to come in the months ahead.

Tom McClelland, RICS Northern Ireland spokesman, was keen to emphasise that a major shift in the market is not expected. However, he remained optimistic about the forecast for first-time buyers: ‘With prices at the lower end of the market now so much more affordable and increasing stability, there is evidence that if first-time buyers have a deposit, there is enthusiasm to buy.’

Thursday, 22 March 2012


The latest figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have reported encouraging news for Ulster’s property market.

Sales in February were on the rise, as shown by the RICS and Ulster Bank Housing market survey, which also predicted that this trend would continue. The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) also revealed recently that Northern Ireland was unique as the only UK country to see a hike in the number of mortgages in the last three months of 2011.

Despite this, prices are still falling, with suggestions that Ulster may be near the bottom of the market.

RICS spokesman Tom McClelland commented that ‘Recent auction results and repossession sales show that, in some instances, selling prices are down 65 to 70% from peak prices, which hints that the bottom of the market may not be too far off.’

He remained guarded, however, about the rise in sales. ‘I think the key theme for this year is not to expect the unexpected. Average prices will continue to come under pressure, though the view is that this will be less so in greater Belfast and Lisburn than elsewhere.’

House Sales and Loans Up - Is Ulster Property Market Moving at Last? - Belfast Telegraph