Free Admission to Disney on your Birthday!

Something new for Disney in 2009 – Free Admission on your Birthday…all you need is a valid ID including proof of birth date. To get this wonderful birthday gift for yourself, your children or others in your family, follow these simple steps:

Register your birthday (site listed below).
Print the confirmation message you receive after registering your birthday.
You will also receive an email reminder two weeks prior to your birthday, which you can also use to redeem your free admission on your birthday.
Bring proper ID and your confirmation message to the gate at one of the Theme Parks at the Walt Disney World® Resort or Disneyland® Resort on your birthday in 2009.

If you are a Passholder or already have a Multi-Day ticket you will use on your birthday, still register and bring the free admission on Your Birthday confirmation and proper ID to the designated Will Call windows and you can choose from one of their other birthday gifts instead.


Guests can get more details here and click on the ‘Free Admisison on your Birthday’ banner.

UK News from the Council of Mortgage Lenders

The Council of Mortgage Lenders chairman has urged the Bank of England to lead a global action plan to alleviate turmoil in the financial markets.
He called on BoE governor Mervyn King to coordinate action between international central banks such as the European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve.
The Council of Mortgage Lenders’ members are banks, building societies and other lenders who together undertake around 98% of all residential mortgage lending in the UK. There are 11.8 million mortgages in the UK, with loans worth over £1.2 trillion.
Read the full speech below…
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. What a difference a year makes.
"This time last year my predecessor, Jon Pain, then managing director of Cheltenham & Gloucester, took the opportunity at this lunch to celebrate the CML’s 18th birthday and the successful, vibrant, innovative and competitive mortgage market in the UK – the envy of the world.
"Many of those attributes still apply equally today, although it may not feel like it at the moment as we steer our businesses through the storms of the liquidity crisis and credit crunch – global events largely outside our direct control.
"Last year, we were all looking ahead to the potential market impacts of – the rollout of Home Information Packs, a new Prime Minister committed to growth in home ownership, and worsening affordability pressures with interest rates trending up to 5.75% and higher.
"HIPs became something of a side show.
"The Prime Minister has shown himself keen to promote shared equity for key workers this week, but a few thousand subsidised transactions makes the new scheme an inaccessible irrelevance to most first time buyers.
"And this week interest rates were reduced to 5%, and I expect further reductions over the coming months as the credit crunch contagion starts to affect the economy more widely.
"So – and stating the obvious, here – we have a very different market picture than we expected this time last year.
"Jon Pain went on to say with remarkable prescience that ‘the holy grail’ is perhaps to create a deeper and more liquid European funding market from which UK lenders, and their customers, can ultimately benefit.
"Access to European Central Bank funds in recent months has certainly helped some UK based lenders. The challenge is for a similar facility to be more widely available in the UK via the Bank of England – sooner rather than later.
"The bit that I defy anyone to claim that they saw coming this time last year has been the corrosive effect of the contagion from the global credit crunch and the shattering consequences of the bank run in the UK last summer.
"Like you, I’ve been reading the daily outpouring of product re-pricing, product withdrawals, and announcements of redundancies and business closures.
"And I have a sense of shock at how deeply our successful industry has already been hit by these unprecedented funding market conditions.
"But I’m also impressed by lenders’ speed of response and determination to continue to deliver mortgages to as many borrowers as possible – the vast majority who want one – within the constraints on our collective access to funds.
"We also continue to focus closely on managing the difficulties for those existing borrowers who may find themselves stretched in this new world order.
"Let me remind you of the CML’s forecasts from last October to put the current situation in context. Then our view was that, year on year, there would be a slow down of around 15% in terms of net lending, with consumer demand underpinning net lending of around £90bn this year, down from £108 billion in 2007.
"However, in the last few months, we have also highlighted the funding gap between supply and this expected demand, as the mortgage market remains predominantly funded by retail savings since last summer.
"Today, the picture is one of slightly lower demand for mortgages since our forecast. But potential borrowing still significantly exceeds the industry’s collective capacity to supply funds. It is therefore a real possibility, looking forward from today, that net lending in 2008 could reach only half las
t year’s level unless additional funds become available. But it doesn’t have to be that way. More of that later.
"Sometimes, lenders are criticised for being too conservative and risk averse, unwilling to lend against perfectly good propositions. Other times we stand accused of being reckless, enticing poor credit risks into unsustainable borrowing.
"Some of you will have heard me say at our annual conference in December that I thought the first half of my year in office would be spent defending the industry against accusations of lending to the wrong people and the second half against accusations of not lending to enough people. I was of course completely wrong. It was actually during February that the industry was accused of doing both and simultaneously.
"I think we need to address one key issue today. What interventions by the tripartite authorities, in collaboration with the mortgage industry, could help rather than hinder the market?
"Some of you – I think perhaps a diminishing minority – might still argue that the Bank of England should not intervene in a market adapting to a new operating environment.
"We all know the moral hazard argument. We should not be bailed out or subsidised. If risks have not been properly priced in the past, an adjustment needs to be made.
"All true at an individual firm level, but collectively these arguments fail to take account of the risk of contagion for the economy from substantially lower business levels, particularly impacting on housing transactions and first-time buyers.
"I suggest there are several steps needed on the part of the Bank. It needs to realise that the underlying problem may not be the one it thinks it is. Compared to the actions of the Federal Reserve in the US, our central bank stands accused of having been cautious and slow.
"The bank has diagnosed the overhang of assets as the disease. We see it as a symptom.
"It believes that institutions are hoarding liquidity because they do not trust other banks and so are reluctant to lend to each other. We think that lenders are hoarding liquidity because they’re concerned about whether they will be able to access future funding and are managing pipelines of business very cautiously.
"They’re worried less about the here and now and credit risk in the UK mortgage market, than the uncertainty about whether they’ll be able to get funds when they need to refinance their own maturing debt commitments and new mortgage offers they are seeking to make.
"If our diagnosis is right, then deeper and longer term repo facilities – extending beyond the three-month facility to 12 months or perhaps even 24 months – would definitely begin to help to address lenders’ concerns.
"And kick-starting the market for new issuance of mortgage-backed securities – perhaps by incentivising the kind of stable, domestic investors such as pension funds that would fit this market well – is something that the CML believes the Bank should seriously consider.
"If we await the return of global investors without taking action to reinforce why our market is different to the United States, we must accept that our new business levels will shrink substantially and for a significant period of time.
"As we have said this week, without attracting new funding sources, we will see an ongoing process of attrition in mortgage choice, possibly over a protracted period, with lenders managing down demand by tightening lending criteria, increasing price, or withdrawing more products from the market altogether. This is not lender specific but across the piece – large and small; specialist and mainstream; Plc and mutual.
"So today my message to Mervyn King is this. We urge you, governor, to show leadership in the proactive coordination of central bank responses globally to the current systemic risks. And in the UK, deliver on your recent hints to the Treasury Select Committee that you would be prepared to be more flexible. The main short term palliative is in the hands of the Bank of England, and there is a real and immediate need for broader based action than we have seen to date.
"To the chancellor, this message. We welcome your appointment of Sir James Crosby to lead a group including the CML and lenders to address funding problems, including the mortgage backed securities market. In terms of timescale, recommendations by the time of the Pre-Budget Report would simply not address the urgency of market difficulties now, nor reverse the shrinkage of the market I referred to earlier.
"But I very much hope that the interim report in the Summer will point us in the right direction so we can take early steps to address the market dysfunction.
"As the CML has said many times, it would be good for the Government to continue to remind people that the UK mortgage industry has been and remains a
major asset to UK plc and our economy.
"This will certainly be a central message when the CML meets government ministers shortly.
"We welcome contact with the government to discuss the position our existing customers – their voters – find themselves in We remain concerned that we still see two big problems – the inadequate state support scheme for mortgage borrowers and the absence of the regulation of sale and leaseback companies.
"Underpinning those borrowers in serious and short term financial difficulty to help minimise the level of repossessions is a clear spend to save policy.
"Yes, it has a short term cost in the form of higher benefit payments, but it delivers tangible longer term returns from helping people get back on their feet, supporting communities, and avoiding the likely higher costs of re-housing and housing benefit support.
"We look forward to continuing the close dialogue we have had with government ministers and officials.
And no CML speech would be complete without a plea to the Financial Services Authority.
"Please regulate us in a proportionate and focussed way – and we do appreciate that this is difficult in the environment flowing from the supervisory failures of Northern Rock.
"Lenders are engaging with the move towards more principles-based regulation and the treating customers fairly agenda. But, we do on occasion feel frustrated that FSA communications seem more alarming than reassuring in tone, failing in what is today the crucial role of helping market confidence.
"With the FSA hugely concerned with monitoring individual institutions’ liquidity on a regular basis, and driven by meeting its business plan commitments, there seems to be little “flex” in the regulator’s approach.
"For many organisations, but perhaps especially for small firms, this means that the regulatory burden is extremely high – some might say excessively so, relative to the consumer benefits.
"To lenders and intermediaries, my message is even simpler. We must make the very best of what we have.
"And what we have is not insignificant. For example – £2.5trillion of equity in the owner-occupied housing stock, against £1trillion of mortgage debt outstanding.
"The ability on the part of many lenders to raise substantial retail deposits is a real ongoing benefit when other funding sources remain constrained.
"The size and resilience of the full-service banking institutions with diversified businesses is also a source of strength for the mortgage market.
"High quality professionals who can not only sell mortgages but also provide a genuine service to borrowers facing less choice and higher costs, and who may need a more holistic financial planning approach as a result, will really add value in current market conditions.
"So let’s use everything we’ve got to make sure that the market adjustment to the new “normal” environment is as painless as possible.
"Finally, and most importantly, a message to mortgage borrowers – our customers.
We want to continue to provide you with the best mortgage market in Europe.
"We want to give you the excellent choice of good value products you’ve become used to. We want to give you good service and fair treatment both at the point of sale and during your ongoing relationship with us.
"And we don’t want you to be prevented from entering the market on good terms just because you don’t have a huge deposit.
"If you’re already in the market, perhaps with blemished credit, we don’t want to diminish your opportunity to rehabilitate your finances.
"It’s for all these reasons and more that we need the tripartite authorities to help us sustain the successful, vibrant, innovative and competitive mortgage market which we have developed since the recession in the early 1990s.
"We still have much more choice than we ever had before deregulation and the entry of specialist lenders into the market.
"We still have many consumers wanting to become home owners, given the opportunity.
"So let us continue to demonstrate to those who would criticise us that we are working for our customers, our industry, and the economy more generally through thick and thin, in good times and bad.
"On behalf of the CML Executive Committee and the staff, we thank you for your support to the CML, and invite your feedback and market intelligence.
"Despite my cautionary words, I hope you are enjoying your lunch, your conversations with your fellow guests, and your own chance to put the mortgage world to rights. Thank you."

Bank of England Cuts Tates to 5%

The Bank of England cut the Bank Rate a quarter percent today – now down to 5%.

There are a considerable number of British investors and 2nd home buyers in Florida property that are thankful of the move.

British Mortgages Abroad’s ‘flexible tracker’ products and multi currency mortgages originated in UK pounds, track the BoE for their variable Interest rates.

Abbey chief economist Barry Naisbitt says:"The MPC has taken a forward-looking view that slower growth is likely to reduce medium-term inflationary pressures and has been able to cut rates because of its focus on medium-term inflation…



THE BRITISH HOMES GROUP Florida, experts in providing sales and loans advice to UK property owners in Florida, is giving away a luxury family holiday as part of a package of incentives to encourage UK buyers to consider a LENNAR HOME.  Lennar Homes is the third largest developer in the USA and Florida’s leading developer in 2007.

The free family holiday, worth up to $7,500, includes:

Limousine rides to and from your UK home to a major UK airport
Return airfares to and from Orlando or Sanford International Airport
Limousine rides to and from Lennar Homes’ spectacular new resort community, Paradise Palms
3-Night, 4-Day stay in a 4-bedroom luxurious, fully-furnished town home
Car rental during your stay
VIP property tour of Paradise Palms and The Shire at West Haven Villas
Day passes to a theme park of your choice
Options to extend your stay at special rates

Two resorts, minutes from Walt Disney World in Orlando, have been selected by the British Homes Group for the special treatment:

Paradise Palms – Kissimmee, Florida

offers two-story town homes that come with private, screened, heated swimming pools. Each home is fully furnished with GE CleanSteel appliances and flat-screen TVs in the living room and all bedrooms.

The “Sabal Palm” floor plan offers 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms at 1,780 sq. ft. The “Beach Palm” offers 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, also at 1,780 sq. ft.and the “Royale Palm” floor plan offers 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms at 1,967 sq. ft.

The Paradise Palms community, just 8 minutes from Walt Disney World, has something for everyone. The superbly-equipped multi-million dollar clubhouse and surrounding amenities are available to both residents and guests. Amenities include a 24-hour manned security gate, resort style pool with tiki bar, waterfalls and grottos as well as a heated spa and children’s pool.  Alongside the pool area is the Tiki Bar and Grill serving drinks and refreshments to order.  

Paradise Palms Resort also features a movie theatre, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, fitness centre and sauna, tetherball, bocce, badminton, Internet Lounge, game room and gift shop.

The on-site management company that can provide short-term rental assistance should purchasers choose to rent their town home while they are not using it. 

Other promotion incentives include:

  • A $10,000 reduction on the current price of the property
  • a $6,000 allowance towards mortgage closing costs (legal fees)
  • Payment of the first years’ homeowners association service charges and maintenance costs (approximately $5,000)

The Shire at West Haven – Davenport, Florida

is a development of 4 and 5 bedroom detached villas with 3 and 4 bathrooms and 2-car garages. The “Hampton” floor plan is priced at $385,990 (£194,531), the “Woodford” floor plan is priced at $460,990 (£232,330), and the “Nottingham” floor plan is priced at $490,990 (£247,410).

The villas have private, screened, heated swimming pools, on oversized plots.  Community amenities include tennis, volleyball, children’s play area, clubhouse with fitness centre and lounge. West Haven is located in close proximity to Champions Gate (a 36-hole championship golf course), and Walt Disney World  is just 15 minutes away.

Other promotion incentives offered by Lennar include:

  • Lowering of the price of the home by $10,000
  • a $6,000 allowance towards mortgage closing costs (legal fees)
  • an array of energy saving products and features
  • GE appliances fitted as standard
  • A furniture voucher worth up to a $20,000

For the British buyer, the value of these incentives is multiplied by the currently highly favourable currency exchange rate of the U.K. pound against the U.S. dollar which makes buying Florida real estate cheaper than it has been for years.  

Lee Weaver, of The British Homes Group, the UK’s favourite “one stop shop” for British villa owners in Florida says: “For the UK buyer, prices of property in Florida are at their lowest level since 2003. The choice is immense and the quality extremely high so it’s a true buyer’s market.  Through British Home Loans, our Orlando-based multi-currency mortgage brokerage company, British and European buyers have the option to arrange a mortgage in 9 different currencies – including Euros, Pounds and U.S. Dollars with future flexibility to change the currency, depending on personal or economic factors. With excess inventory, a reduction in prices, motivated sellers and a strong buying currency, there has never been a better time to buy a Florida home.

“We have never seen such a superb range of real financial incentives to bring the price down lower still.  Florida’s largest and most respected developer, Lennar Homes, has made it so very easy for Brits to come over to inspect the communities and choose which property type is best for them”.

To find out more information on the ‘Free Orlando’ offer please visit: or call Lee Weaver at British Homes Group on their UK to Orlando Freephone number 0800 096 5989.

Florida Property Market Update

A Place in the Sun

Richard Way, Editor for the A Place in the Sun magazine asks Lee Weaver of the British Homes Group Florida for an update on the current Florida market.

Has the Florida Market hit rock bottom yet or is there still a fall in prices to come?

According to US industry expert Hank Fishkind the UK’s favourite Florida property market, Orlando, is either at bottom or close to it in terms of pricing. Although the housing slump overall will continue, Fishkind predicted that consumers looking for home prices in Florida (and particularly in Metro Orlando) to fall much more are not likely to be rewarded for their patience. Other industry and economic sector reports bolster his opinion; UCF economist Sean Snaith sees stabilization by mid-year and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) project median price increases by 2009. With unemployment at 3.9%, job growth steady, new movers to the state remaining strong and tens of millions of yearly visitors, Florida has too strong a foundation not to quickly recover from this pricing and inventory adjustment. I think that most people are aware of that and that’s why the world wide interest for Florida property right now.

Will 2008 be the year the market starts to turn around or level out?

Probably "level out". I visualise the letter "u" with a flat bottom and I picture the market just entering the bottom curve of the left line. I think the biggest determining factor of how quickly we move off that bottom line is inventory levels. Some coastal areas may lag behind a bit and maybe the condo-hotel market in general as lenders still seem unsure of the resale market for this property type.

Surely now is a good time for Brits to buy in Florida – with it being a buyer’s market and the Pound being strong against the Dollar? If not now when will be the optimum time for Brits to buy in Florida for investment?

Absolutely right now is a good time. Uniquely so from a British perspective. excess inventory + motivated sellers + strong pound = perfect UK "Buyers Market" Absolute, no reserve auctions like that of Stirling Sotheby’s (the Florida affiliate of Sotheby’s in the UK) will raise awareness of some of the current values to be had in Florida, bring short and mid term investors back and also help reduce inventory levels. The anticipated Bank of England base rate reductions could also have immediate effects on currency exchange rates, weakening some of the buying power of the Pound.

In the wake of the credit crunch, how available is credit for British buyers? Does the market suit cash buyers? What sort of finance is available for buyers?

A number of options are still available for British buyers. The biggest affect is more in the length of time to "process" the applications as lenders require more supporting documentation for their lower "loan to value" products. Stated income products are still available but at higher deposit levels. US Dollar fixed or adjustable products are common but by far the most popular is the multi currency product because of the ability to originate the loan in UK Pounds and the flexibility to switch it to Dollars (or Euros etc.) at a later date. With prices for 4 bedroomed pool homes hovering around £80,000 there’s no doubt cash sales are increasing. You do lose some tax advantages (interest deduction) and potentially increase risk on your primary home in the UK (if equity is released from it for the purchase) if you pay cash though. Short sale (pre foreclosure) and auction buyers normally need to move fairly quickly so most use the cash option for the short term and then refinance with an equity draw down on the US property as soon as things have settled.

What should British buyers be wary of when buying in Florida at the current moment?

One of the biggest things to be wary of would be pre-construction developers asking for high deposits. Florida is a very heavily "consumer protected" State, but when a developer stumbles (for whatever reason) at the pre-construction stage, recovery of invested funds can be very difficult. Check to see if "incentives to buy" are simply built in to the purchase price or are they of true value. If you want to rent out the home by the week, are there any restrictions imposed at the neighborhood or county level? Retain a Realtor that works well with you and one that listens too and understands your property goals. Here in the US one agent can show you any property so you don’t have to start from scratch explaining your needs every time you want to look at a different house. For your mortgages, ask for a ‘Good Faith Estimate’ from your mortgage company and be wary of ones that don’t align with other quotes…the costs probably appear elsewhere. Normal lines of precaution would also apply…how professional are they and what is the extent of their industry knowledge?, how long have they been in business?, are there any negative reports on websites or blogs about the development or company?, who are they associated with? what do their peers say of them? and, of course, what do their existing clients say about them!

Sterling surges through $2 mark

An article by Edmund Conway of the Telegraph ( today reports the pound has broken through the $2 mark for the first time since January, after the Bank of England voted to leave interest rates unchanged at 5.25 percent yesterday.

It is the highest the pound has been since New Year’s Eve, but while it is good news for the British consumers now streaming over to the US for shopping trips, it will cause further concern among British manufacturers.

Experts said all eyes would be on the Bank’s minutes, released in a fortnight’s time. They will indicate how soon it will be before the Bank cuts borrowing rates again.

The Bank of England board meets the first Thursday of every month, sets interest rates to keep inflation low, issues bank notes and works to maintain a stable financial system. (

Since the Bank’s Inflation Report last month, in which it hinted at further reductions in borrowing costs, the prospects for UK economic growth have remained more or less unchanged.

Futures markets indicate a 45 percent chance of a rate cut at the meeting on April 10.

British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: "The Bank needs to take action sooner rather than later to ensure that the slowdown doesn’t risk turning into something more serious."