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Lifestyle Group 2

Purple reign! 6 ways to use Very Peri

After last year’s dual grey/yellow combination, the colour masters at Pantone have reverted to a single shade for 2022’s Colour of the Year. Introducing Very Peri – an uplifting shade of purple that was created especially for the year ahead.

Unlike other shades of purple, which are either classified as warm or cool, Very Peri is a mix of colder blues and violet reds, which makes it an easier shade to work with. That said, we appreciate that it may not be a hue you want to paint an entire room.

Using Very Peri as an accent colour is a flexible, low cost and more temporary way of embracing the latest colour trend in your home – especially if you are in rented accommodation and can’t make permanent changes. Here are 6 ideas to try:- 

  1. Say it with flowers…and a vase: one of the quickest ways to bring Very Peri into your home is with a bunch of flowers. Choose hyacinths, irises, hydrangeas and lisianthus for a heady mix of purples, or opt for an all-white selection of blooms displayed in this Dartington Crystal Vase in the amethyst colourway, stocked at John Lewis.
  2. Throw in the towels: add colour and a spa-like vibe to your bathroom with a new set of fluffy towels – neatly folded in a stack or placed over a heated towel rail. Marks & Spencer’s cotton rich towels in the colour violet are a great Very Peri match.
  3. Paint it purple: paint isn’t just for walls. Prepare your surface correctly and choose the right paint finish, and you can apply a coat to just about anything – photo frames, bedside cabinets and even terracotta pots. Try Dulux’s off-the-shelf shade Purple Pout, or its mixed-to-order shade Amethyst Showers 1.
  4. Colour up with candles: Very Peri’s likeness to a vibrant shade of lavender makes it easy to find purple-coloured candles. Many examples that are infused with the scent are often coloured purple too – such as these ribbed lavender-scented candles by Bolsius, stocked by Wayfair.
  5. Cast some shade: whether you have a table lamp, ceiling pendant or wall light, a change of shade can completely change a room’s look. Pooky has an amazing choice of shades designed to fit a variety of fittings. Opt for the empire shade in cobalt silk for a fantastic colour match.
  6. Blanket coverage: a blanket or throw is one of the most versatile home accessories you can buy. This super-soft dyed cashmere blanket in violet from Anthropologie will add Very Peri vibes when neatly folded at the end of a bed or draped over the arm of a sofa.

Over the years we have seen many different interior design schemes in our property visits, with varying degrees of success. If you would like to view our current crop of design-led homes – or would prefer your next property to be a project – please contact the team today.

Categories
Lifestyle Group 1

Very Peri: how will you use Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2022?

It may be best to stop reading now if you’re a fan of neutral design palettes, as home interiors are set to be full of Very Peri this year – Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2022. For the first time in its annual colour trend history, the company created a brand new shade that wasn’t already in its extensive catalogue.

Very Peri has been described as a ‘periwinkle shade of blue’ that also brings to mind fields of soft lavender and hyacinths in full bloom. Unusually for a colour that is arguably purple, the colour is a blend of cool blue tones and richer violet-reds. As a result, Very Peri is a warm shade that can be embraced in a variety of settings. 

If you are a fan of the colour but are struggling to imagine how you could use it in your home, here’s our room-by-room guide:

Living room: if you are worried about overpowering purple on your living room walls, stick to colour on accessories and textiles. Flashes of Very Peri can be introduced by adding scatter cushions, a rug, a lampshade or even a piece of art hung over a mantlepiece. 

Kitchen: despite its functional role, it’s still possible to bring the latest colour trends to where you cook. Look out for Very Peri themed ceramics, such as mugs, fruit bowls and ovenware, or make a more permanent change by retiling in purple – a colour that works well with white kitchen cabinetry.

Bedroom: if you would like to embrace Very Peri in a bolder way, a bedroom is a great place to start. Try bedlinen or a window blind for a dash of colour, or use the wall behind your bed as your focal point. A painted or wallpapered feature wall would look great.

Bathroom: white bathrooms suites can be perfectly paired with Very Peri as the blank canvas really makes any accessories stand out. As well as soft towels in a shade of Very Peri, look out for colour matched soaps, toiletries and candles that can be used to create a hotel-style display.

Exterior: kerb appeal is very underrated and a splash of colour can transform your front of house. If repainting your front door in Very Peri is a step too far, you can add an essence of the colour by opting for plant pots painted purple.

Garden: its periwinkle description shows how nature has inspired Very Peri; no wonder it’s easy to surround yourself with this shade by refreshing your planting scheme. Opt for lavender, nepeta, hydrangeas, liatris and veronica spicata, whose purple hues are a great match for Very Peri.

If your design ideas lead you to a new property, contact us for a list of the latest houses and apartments available.

Categories
Sales Group 1

All you need to know about Japanese knotweed

There are a couple of phrases that strike fear into the hearts of property sellers – ‘serious subsidence’ and ‘negative equity’ being two of them. Another phrase you never want to hear is ‘Japanese knotweed’, but is having this invasive plant among your borders really a property death sentence?

Over the course of 2021, it is estimated that £11.8 billion was wiped off the value of UK property due to the presence of Japanese knotweed, with values taking a dip as soon as the plant is identified in a survey report or disclosed by the seller.

This figure, however dramatic it sounds, is a little misleading. Homeowners should be aware that only around 4% of UK properties are affected by Japanese knotweed and even when it is detected, it impacts the value of a property by about 5%. In many cases, a home’s full value is often achieved after an appropriate course of action is taken, despite the plant’s presence.

Even though the plant is found at less than 10% of UK properties, Japanese knotweed isn’t something that can be glossed over when it comes to selling a property. When you have decided to sell, you’ll be asked to fill out a Property Information Form (TA6). 

This form requires sellers to give detailed information about the property and the surrounding area. It is a legal requirement to disclose if the property is or has ever been affected by Japanese knotweed, as its presence can create or worsen cracks in mortar and structural joints, as well as push up through paved and concrete areas. 

It’s important that the ‘affected’ aspect is understood too, as sellers will need to divulge if they’ve ever had to treat the plant if it spread from a neighbouring property. It’s worth noting that a Japanese knotweed plant can be up to 7 metres away from your boundary and still need disclosing on a TA6 form.

Identifying Japanese knotweed (fallopian japonica) can be troublesome if you have no horticultural experience – it can look similar to other harmless plants but the RHS provides a good point of reference. If you’re in any doubt, it’s wise to revert to a specialist removal company for identification.

There is good news. Selling a property is entirely possible if there is Japanese knotweed. It really isn’t the barrier that some people imagine it can be. The vital aspect is to seek guarantee-backed treatment that mortgage lenders will accept. 

It is usually the seller who instructs a specialist Japanese knotweed removal company to excavate and remove the plant’s rhizomes. The plant is rarely eradicated for good through hand weeding or with the use of herbicides as the rhizomes will be buried deep underground. 

If a removal company offers an insurance-backed guarantee, lenders (sometimes referred to as knotweed IBG, a Japanese knotweed indemnity or a knotweed insurance-backed warranty), there’s a high chance a mortgage lender will loan against the property.

Don’t forget, the Japanese variety isn’t the only invasive knotweed out there. Dwarf, giant and bohemian are the other top three knotweeds buyers and sellers need to be on guard for. You can visit the Government’s web page dedicated to the prevention, treatment and disposal of knotweed for further details. 

If you are planning to sell a property where you suspect a case of Japanese knotweed, or are buying a property where the plant has been disclosed on the TA6 form, please contact us for advice and guidance

Categories
Sales Group 2

Japanese knotweed: 7 plant points to note

A report by Environet UK at the end of 2021 discovered that Japanese knotweed – a non-native and aggressive weed – had knocked an estimated £11.8 billion off the value of UK property. While it’s lush leaves and dainty white flowers may look attractive, its potential to scupper a transaction is something buyers and sellers need to be aware of.

Despite its bad reputation, identification and successful treatment of Japanese knotweed almost always result in favourable outcomes for sellers. Here are the 7 most important points you need to know when it comes to the plant:-

1. Even though Japanese knotweed is a well-known horticultural pest, only around 4% of UK properties actually have a problem with the plant. It is an invasive species that is classed as a weed but it’s not illegal to let it grow in your garden.

2. When you sell a property affected by Japanese knotweed, this must – by law – be disclosed on the Property Information Form (TA6). Disclosure also pertains to Japanese knotweed that has spread from a neighbouring property or from surrounding land – any plant within 7 metres of the property’s boundary must be mentioned.

3. Some lenders won’t approve a mortgage on a property where there is Japanese knotweed as it represents a threat to the structure of the building. Its roots and rhizomes can damage drainage systems, foundations and walls – harming a home’s current and future value, and potentially making it unsellable in the future.

4. If you suspect Japanese knotweed, you will need to instruct a Property Care Association (PCA) approved surveyor, who will assess the plant and its posed risk. They will grade the problem using a categorisation system set out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – a system widely used by mortgage lenders to assess risk.

5. Eradicating Japanese knotweed needs the involvement of a specialist company. The plant’s rhizomes are buried very deep in the ground and simply pulling out what’s above ground is very rarely enough – the stems merely snap and the plant regrows quickly, sprouting up to a metre a week in spring. There are also strict laws governing the disposal of Japanese knotweed, set out by The Environment Agency.

6. Japanese knotweed doesn’t always have a detrimental effect on a property’s value. Reports suggest the plant can reduce a home’s value by around 5% but in cases where there has been a successful insurance-backed treatment (see below), the full market sales value is often achieved.

7. It is essential that any eradication work is carried out by a specialist Japanese knotweed contractor that offers an insurance-backed treatment plan accepted by mortgage lenders (also known as knotweed IBG, Japanese knotweed indemnity or knotweed insurance-backed warranty). With this in place, mortgages on properties that have Japanese knotweed are usually granted, although the lender will usually want the treatment finished before completion takes place, and it may also require a larger deposit.

If you have any questions about Japanese knotweed – as a buyer or a seller – please call us for guidance.

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Lettings Group 1

Your guide to damp and mould in rented properties

Winter presents the ‘perfect storm’ of conditions that can trigger episodes of damp, mould and condensation. While it can be concerning to see black patches develop or water running down the walls, many issues are easily fixed. Knowing who is responsible for prevention and treatment in rented properties is the essential place to start, as our guide explains. 

Know what damp you’re dealing with

There are three main types of damp and knowing the difference will establish the course of treatment and by whom. Rising damp is when moisture below a building is drawn up through bricks and mortar, and it’s this moisture that encourages mould growth. A lack of a damp course – or a damp course that’s failing – are the most common reasons for rising damp, and this issue needs resolving by the landlord.

The landlord is also responsible for rectifying penetrating damp, which is a result of failing structures, such as broken guttering or a  leaky downpipe. It’s important to note that while a landlord is responsible for repairs involving rising and penetrating damp, tenants should alert their landlord or managing agent if they notice blocked gutters, peeling wallpaper or bubbling paintwork – especially if it’s occurring on the interior surface of an outside wall.

The third type of damp – ambient damp – is the most common and reducing it is a shared responsibility between the tenant and the landlord. Damp and mould are most frequently caused by condensation – warm, moist air that turns into water droplets when it meets colder surfaces. Many everyday actions produce condensation – from taking a shower and drying wet washing inside, to boiling a kettle and even having a conversation. 

Prevention and cure

If there is a suspicion of rising or penetrating damp, a specialist company may need to be deployed by the landlord to find the root cause and undertake repairs. Cosmetic redecorating will also be the responsibility of the landlord, unless agreed otherwise.

Condensation is a trickier issue as improving insulation standards in let properties can actually contribute to increased condensation, unless well mitigated, as homes are now more airtight with fewer cracks and gaps where air can naturally escape or enter. 

We know asking tenants not to breathe or bathe simply isn’t possible so ventilation is crucial, especially when cooking, showering and drying clothes inside. Windows should be open or kept ajar whenever safely possible to let moist air escape and extractor fans should be installed in rooms susceptible to high humidity – bathrooms, kitchens and utility rooms as a minimum. 

On the note of wet washing, this can be a hard aspect to tackle in flats, especially those without balconies or outside drying options. In these cases, a condensing tumble dryer or a dehumidifier is something to consider.

As well as ventilation, a steady, even temperature throughout a property is a useful tool in the fight against condensation. Avoid letting a property get too cold inside by keeping the central heating on low – warm air of around 18° and warm surfaces are what you ideally need to stop condensation forming. 

Everyday actions to prevent condensation, damp & mould

Small lifestyle tweaks can make a big difference around the home, so here are eight to encourage:

  1.     Keep lids on saucepans when cooking
  2.     Keep the bathroom door shut when bathing
  3.     Open a window in any room where washing is drying
  4.     Wipe condensation off window sills promptly
  5.     Move furniture away from outside walls to improve air circulation
  6.     Boil only enough water required to cut a kettle’s boiling duration
  7.     Air a property on a regular basis by opening as many windows as safely possible
  8.     Use anti-mould and condensation paint when decorating

If you would like more information about mould and damp in lieu of Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 in England, please contact us today.

Categories
Lettings Group 2

Your damp & mould questions answered

Damp and mould are not glamorous topics but some of our most frequently asked questions involve humidity, condensation and unsightly black patches. As landlord responsibilities are bound in legislation and compliance, including the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), it is imperative those involved in lettings understand how damp and mould issues are tackled. 

Here are the answers to the most common damp and mould questions:

What is damp?

Damp is a broad term for the presence of water, moisture and condensation within a property. There are three main types of damp. Rising damp is when moisture is drawn from the ground up through a property’s bricks and mortar, while penetrating damp is a result of a structural defect – such as a cracked chimney stack or broken gutter. Ambient damp is usually attributed to condensation and is a by-product of everyday lifestyles inside. 

What produces condensation?

Condensation is when warm air full of water vapour comes into contact with cool surfaces. In the home, this can be the steam from a hot shower settling on a cold mirror, or a kitchen window fogging up when boiling a pan of water. Having a conversation, breathing in our sleep, houseplants and wet washing drying inside also create condensation.

What is mould?

Mould is a microscopic fungus that grows best in damp and poorly ventilated areas – it’s what you see if there’s a black-green, mottled stain on a wall or window sill. As well as being unsightly and damaging to surfaces, the presence of mould and its spores can create or worsen respiratory health issues.

Who is responsible for preventing & treating damp in rented properties?

Prevention is definitely a shared responsibility but it is usually the responsibility of the landlord to provide the cure. In the case of rising and penetrating damp, a structural fault is usually to blame. It falls to the landlord to solve the issue and make repairs under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

It is wise, however, for tenants to let landlords or their property manager know if they see the first tell-tale signs of damp or mould, such as peeling wallpaper, bubbling paint, black speckles or water droplets – especially if these are on the interior surfaces of outside walls. In fact, a tenancy agreement may stipulate that it’s a tenant’s responsibility to flag up issues early.

Ambient damp needs a team effort. A tenant should take measures to reduce the amount of condensation they produce in their property by making lifestyle changes, while landlords should create an environment where warm, humid air can easily escape.

Are there any condensation, damp & mould prevention tricks?

For tenants, this could be: line drying washing outside or using a condensing tumble dryer; ensuring the inside temperature in winter is kept steady throughout the property at around 18°; ventilating the property by opening windows whenever safe to do so, and keeping steam confined to one room by shutting the bathroom or kitchen door.

A landlord can also play their part by ensuring there are extractor fans in all high humidity areas; using specialist anti-mould and condensation products in kitchens and bathrooms; ensuring replacement windows have trickle vents installed, and making sure windows have locking safety latches so they can be left securely ajar for ventilation. 

Nip small issues in the bud

Professional inventories and scheduled inspections commissioned by a letting agent are two other ways of ensuring instances of damp and mould are recorded, tracked and attributed. Often small lifestyle changes or the installation of extractor fans are enough to reduce condensation to acceptable levels. If you’d like more advice on the matter, get in touch with our team.

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Lettings Group 2

The pros and cons of longer tenancy lengths

Results of the latest English Housing Survey (EHS) have brought the issue of long-length tenancies back into the spotlight. While the idea of making 3-year tenancies mandatory was abandoned by the Government in 2019, following an extensive consultation, the survey results have highlighted how renters are choosing to stay in the same rental property for extended periods.

The EHS found the new average stay in a privately rented property is now 4.3 years – surpassing the three-year benchmark that was widely rejected as a mandatory term. It’s a trend that has been building for a number of years, with the average tenancy length rising from 3.9 years in 2016/17 and 4.1 years in 2017/18.

The findings may prompt more landlords to consider offering longer-term tenancies but there are pros and cons to weigh up when it comes to offering rental agreements of more than 12 months. Here’s our quick-read considerations guide but for tailored advice, please contact our lettings team.

Pros:

  • Void periods are reduced: any void is a drain on finances so reducing the number of times you have to find new tenants – a process that may potentially leave a let empty for a week or two – is a good thing. A long-term tenant also ensures rent is always hitting your bank account every month.
  • You’ll generate a ‘hands off’ investment: long-term tenants are a great option for landlords who like as little involvement in their buy-to-let as possible. There’s less worry about renewing tenancies, finding new renters, check ins, inventories and check out, plus landlords who opt for a fully managed package can really sit back and enjoy the rewards.
  • Tenants will reward you with respect: tenants who feel secure in their rental generally feel more positive about the experience. They will be keen to create a home they can settle in, and anecdotal evidence suggests they look after the property better and forge good relationships with the landlord or property manager.

Cons: 

  • Regaining possession may be harder: currently, landlords can serve a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice after a fixed term tenancy ends. If the agreement is only for 6 or 12 months, regaining possession doesn’t pose too much of a problem. If the agreement length is two or three years, landlords may have to wait an untenable amount of time. One workaround is to insert a break clause into long-term agreements – something we can organise on behalf of landlords.  
  • You’ll have to trust your tenants: when the same people live in your let for 2 or 3 years, you’ll have to trust that they’ll take care of the property and pay the rent on time, especially if the eviction process will favour the tenants more in the near future. Referencing carried out by a letting agent is the best line of defence. It will uncover an applicant’s past renting behaviour and reveal their financial situation, allowing the most trustworthy tenants to be chosen.
  • Rent reviews will need careful planning: it’s a wide-held but unwritten rule that landlords reward long-term tenants with fair rents that aren’t hiked up overnight. If you’re used to raising the rent every time new tenants sign up – perhaps as often as every 6 months – you’ll need to plan a rent rise strategy before you move in long-term tenants. Always consult with a letting agent and consider writing any plans into the tenancy agreement. 

Speak to us about setting the right tenancy agreement length for your property, your target tenant and the current lettings market. We will create the perfect tenancy agreement that factors in break clauses, rent rises and notice periods.

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Lettings Group 1

Tenants: in it for the long haul

Despite the common rhetoric that renting is great for flexible living and flighty lifestyles, the latest English Housing Survey (EHS) – which represents the biggest and most representative dataset for the private rented sector – showed that average tenancy lengths are rising.

The average stay in a rented property is now 4.3 years. This is up from 4.1 years detailed in the 2017/18 EHS, and up from 3.9 years in the 2016/17 version of the report. The findings also reveal that tenancy length increases with age. Renters aged 75 and over were found to have an average tenancy length of 17.5 years, which puts their tenure on a par with owner occupiers. Those aged 45 to 64 were found to live in one property for an average of 5.7 years, while those in the 16 to 24 age group stayed the shortest time – an average of 1.3 years.

The figures come at a time when the Government looks set to publish its Renters Reform Bill white paper – a document that seeks to shake up England’s private rental sector in favour of creating secure long-term tenancies. While the white paper mentions lifetime deposits and a ban on Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, it stops short of introducing mandatory 3-year tenancies – a move it consulted on in 2017.

That doesn’t mean to say that the notion of long-term tenancies is abandoned or is a bad idea. On the contrary. For many landlords, the thought of a regular tenant is an appealing one, especially if they pay the rent on time and look after the property. There is always the option to set longer tenancies at the start, rather than keep renewing the same tenancy after 6 or 12 months.

Agreeing a tenancy length of 2 or 3 years will reduce the ‘churn’ of renters and eliminate void periods. Longer tenancy lengths can also save landlords money, as there are fewer tenant-find, inventory and check-out costs to pay. In addition, well-managed, long-term tenants are a great way to earn passive income – especially when a property manager takes on the day-to-day running of the tenancy.

Creating a tenancy agreement of more than 12 months does, however, need a well-planned approach. Choosing to have the agreement professionally drawn up and the tenancy managed by an agent is the safest way to ensure everyone enjoys maximum protection. This is especially pertinent for landlords in light of forecast changes to the evictions process, of which we can explain more when you get in touch.

Three essential considerations for long-term tenancies:

  1. Evaluate risks at the referencing stage: when agreeing to a longer tenancy, it is imperative that the very best tenants are placed in the property. Referencing will identify those who have good credit histories and are in secure employment. Crucially, references will reveal if applicants have been model tenants when renting before.
  2. Ask for a break clause to be added to the agreement: if the security of a long term tenant appeals and makes you nervous in equal measure, ensure there is a ‘break clause’ inserted into the tenancy agreement. A break clause gives the landlord, or the tenant, the right to end the tenancy before the fixed-term period ends.
  3. Ensure inspections are carried out regularly: it’s easy to cultivate a false sense of security when you have long-term tenants who pay the rent promptly. Knowing how your buy-to-let is being treated over the years is imperative to protect the property’s value and to catch small niggles before they turn into major problems.

We can help landlords plan for their buy-to-let’s future, advising on the best tenancy duration based on individual aims and circumstances. Get in touch with us today.

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Sales Group 2

4 things you need to know about mortgages & interest rates

House prices have long held the property headlines but making a late charge for column inches of late are interest rates and their effect on mortgages. December 2021 was a busy month for the Bank of England, whose actions and intentions will shape the year ahead for property buyers.

Here are four key take-aways from the most recent announcements:-

1. The interest rate has risen: it has taken the Bank of England three years to start raising the interest rate from its historic low of 0.10%. As of December 2021, the interest rate is 0.25% – still a very low rate and a return to the figure we last saw in March 2020. The mortgage market, however, remains fiercely competitive and lenders continue to offer attractive rates on home loans in a bid to win borrowers’ business.

2. Most borrowers are unaffected: mortgage rate volatility in the past has encouraged more borrowers to take out fixed rate home loans. As a result, UK Finance estimates that 74% of all current mortgages are fixed and enjoy a rate that doesn’t budge, despite what the Bank of England does. Borrowers should, however, pay attention to when their fixed-rate period ends. Many lenders have already increased their standard variable rate – the rate you’re automatically switched to if you take no action at the end of a fixed-rate period – in light of the Bank of England’s decision.

3. Long-term mortgages are on the rise: coming at a time when more property buyers will be looking for long-term repayment security, another 40-year fixed-rate mortgage has launched in the home loan market. While borrowers need to check details – such as any early repayment charges, the set interest rate and the ability to ‘port’ the mortgage to a different property – fixing for four decades allows people to borrow greater sums of money, with a repayment figure that stays the same, even if interest rates rise.

4. Affordability checks may be eased: before the Bank of England decided to raise the interest rate, it had floated the idea of easing mortgage affordability checks. This tests the borrower’s ability to keep paying the mortgage after any fixed-rate period ends and interest rates rise by 3%. It is thought the 3% benchmark may be revised downwards, making it easier for more people to borrow money. It’s a case of ‘watch this space’, with further details expected.

Whether you are taking out your first ever mortgage, need to borrow more to fund your next move, want to purchase a buy-to-let or are thinking of freeing equity by remortgaging, we urge you to take independent financial advice.

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Sales Group 1

Interest rate & mortgages update

After staying the same for the last three years, the Bank of England decided to use its December 2021 meeting to start raising the interest rate from its record low of 0.10%. The widely predicted move comes as inflation continues to rise – something monetary policy makers hope to stop.

So what does the new interest rate of 0.25% mean for those with a mortgage? The good news is most will not see any change to repayments, as figures from financial trade body, UK Finance, indicate that 74% of all current mortgages are fixed and as a result, the monthly repayment is protected.

For the other 26% on tracker or variable-rate mortgages – who will typically pay an extra £10 to £15 more every month as a result of the rate hike – thoughts may turn to moving to a fixed-rate product, especially as experts widely believe further rate rises could be on the cards as we move through 2022. 

Talk of fixed rates brings us neatly to other news from the world of mortgages – another 40-year, fixed-rate home loan being launched to the UK market. This unusually long term, with a rate that remains unchanged for up to four decades, may spark interest among nervous borrowers who would like a buffer from further interest rate rises. 

Committing to the same mortgage product for 40 years does, however, need careful consideration. Although there is financial security in the fact that the mortgage’s rate, and therefore the monthly repayments, will remain unchanged – even if interest rates rise – the home loan’s small print needs reading.

Before borrowers get excited, they’ll need to check they’re happy with the product’s rate of interest, given that they’ll be living with it for a number of years. They should also confirm they have the necessary deposit or equity needed to meet the lender’s loan-to-value criteria. 

Those interested in long-term, fixed-rate mortgages will also need clarification about ‘porting’ the mortgage, which is the ability to take the mortgage with them if and when they move home. It’s also worth checking the cost of paying the mortgage off early, which can incur early redemption penalties.

There is another piece of finance news that may affect borrowers for the better in 2022. Although it remains a consideration at this point – and the news was announced before December 2021’s interest rate decision – the Bank of England is mulling over easing mortgage affordability checks. 

Any change would affect how borrowers’ financial capabilities are assessed at the application stage. Currently, lenders want proof that a borrower could afford repayments if interest was charged at its standard variable rate, plus three percent. 

The Bank of England may downgrade the three percent figure, making it easier for more people to pass the affordability checks and potentially borrow greater sums of money. We will provide updates when further details are released.

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Sales Group 1

First-time buyer? 6 top tips when saving for a deposit

If you’re a first-time buyer, putting down a deposit is part and parcel of purchasing your first home. We all know the bigger the deposit the better but how can buying novices save effectively in 2022?

A little background about deposits
A cash deposit is provided by buyers to show serious commitment to a property purchase. The deposit is paid to the seller’s solicitor at exchange and if the buyer withdraws from the purchase, they will forfeit their deposit. When you consider Halifax’s UK average house price in November was £272,992, 10% of that – £27,299 – is a sum most of us can’t afford to lose.

Deposits and mortgages
The cash deposit provided at exchange is the same deposit that is considered when applying for a mortgage – there’s no need to save twice! The bigger the deposit the better as this will improve the LTV (loan-to-value) – the ratio of mortgage to property value. For example, if you’re buying a £200,000 flat with a £20,000 (10%) deposit, you’ll need a 90% LTV mortgage.

Lower LTVs – where the lender loans less and the buyer provides a larger deposit – result in cheaper monthly repayments, the ability to reduce the mortgage term and access to the lowest interest rates, and this is why saving for the biggest deposit possible is advisable.

Existing homeowners don’t need a deposit
If you’re already a homeowner, you won’t need to save up for a deposit when making an onward purchase as the conveyancers involved will use what’s referred to as the exchange deposit. This is where the deposit paid by the buyer at the bottom of the chain moves up and provides the security for the others involved.

How much is enough when buying your first home?
Mortgage lenders offer a number of home loans where buyers need to supply a 5% deposit, although lower rates of interest are generally attached to products where the purchaser can supply a 10%, 15% or even 20% deposit. If you’re at the start of your savings journey, these 6 tips will help get you started:-

  1. Open a specific account
    Use a comparison site to find the account that pays the best interest rate and open an account for the sole purpose of saving for a deposit. Look for accounts that limit how many times you can withdraw money to stop you accessing the account in an emergency.
  2. Save in a deposit-specific ISA
    An alternative to a savings account is the lifetime ISA (LISA) – a tax-free savings or investment account designed specifically for those saving for their first home or for retirement. You must be between 18 and 39 to open a LISA, and for every £4 saved, the Government will add £1, up to a maximum of £1,000 every tax year. Savings can be withdrawn after the first 12 months and used as a deposit on a property worth up to £450,000.
  3. Make saving automatic
    Manually moving money between accounts is a habit you can easily fall out of, so set up a standing order that automatically transfers money on a monthly basis into your dedicated deposit account. You could also ask for all birthday and Christmas presents to be in cash, to be paid directly into your deposit account.
  4. Re-evaluate your renting situation
    It can be hard to save for a deposit while paying rent. You can reduce your outgoings by moving to a smaller property or by taking in a lodger (check with the landlord first). You could even remove the need to pay rent altogether by moving in with family or friends.
  5. Change your eating habits
    A milkshake here, a pizza there – it all adds up, with a twice weekly trip to Starbucks for a caramel frappuccino and a muffin setting you back at least £5 every visit. Home cooked food will always save you money, as will swapping your food shopping habits. Replace Waitrose with a continental budget supermarket and your deposit fund will look a lot healthier.
  6. Shop around & switch
    Save more money by reducing your monthly bills. Use comparison sites, switching incentives and introductory offers to cut what you spend on gas, electricity, broadband and mobile phones. Easy wins include changing your SIM card plan and asking rival broadband suppliers to beat your current deal.

If you need help with working out how much deposit you may need and what loan-to-value you should aim for, we’d be happy to help crunch the numbers with you. Contact us for advice and guidance.

Categories
Sales Group 2

The super habits of deposit savers

Many of us may feel the squeeze in 2022, especially with rising fuel and food costs leaving first-time buyers wondering how they can save for a deposit. With the average deposit hovering around 18% of a property’ purchase price – that’s almost £50,000 – it can feel like there’s a mountain to climb.

Saving is not impossible, however. The secret is getting into good habits and despite what the coming months may throw at us, you can squirrel away a tidy sum of money to use as a deposit. If 2022 is the year you’d like to take your first step on the property ladder, here’s what super savers are doing:-

They give themselves a deposit deadline

Savvy savers will be motivated by a deadline. Don’t, however, set a D-day and promptly forget about it. Diarise monthly ‘check ins’ to see how your fund is building and re-evaluate how much you need to save at the halfway point to avoid any shortfall. 

They choose the right savings account

Shopping around for the best savings account is essential. ISAs are a tax-free way of saving money and they usually have higher interest rates than bank accounts. There’s even a product – the lifetime ISA (LISA) – specifically for first-time buyers saving a deposit. With a LISA, the Government will top up your fund, adding £1 for every £4 saved. In addition, money can’t be withdrawn for any reason other than for a property deposit or for retirement, removing the facility to raid the account. 

They set up a standing order

Even the most disciplined of savers can forget to manually transfer money to a savings account. A good action plan is to set up a standing order that automatically transfers a set amount every month, without any action required.

They don’t deal in cash

The phrase ‘money burning a hole in your pocket’ is the enemy of the saver. If you’re ever in receipt of money – whether that’s a gift or when selling something – ensure the payment is made directly to or transferred quickly into your savings account to remove the temptation of spending it.

They live frugally, not lavishly

Saving for a deposit isn’t the time to live the high life. Short-term but impactful compromises may involve swapping the Amalfi coast for camping in Cornwall, luxury spa days for DIY facials and Michelin-star restaurants for stay-at-home suppers. Even switching a Costa cappuccino a day for instant coffee granules will help.

They sell, sell, sell

As the saying goes, every little helps so selling unwanted goods and gifts is a great way to swell the deposit savings. Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Vinted and Shpock are online platforms where it’s easy to sell clothes, homewares and collectables.

They start a side hustle

Smart savers are willing to go the extra mile in terms of income. If you’ve dreamt of starting a kitchen table craft business, have thought about taking part in market research or want to turn a hobby into a money-making side hustle, now’s the time to make it happen. 

They bank what they save

There’s no ground breaking advice when it comes to saving money but the best savers bank what they’ve saved before it’s frittered away. You’ll reach your deposit goal quicker if you identify how much you are gaining by switching broadband suppliers, for instance, and amending your standing order by the same amount. 

We’re here to help all first-time buyers, so get in touch if you’d like advice regarding deposits and starter homes.

Categories
Lettings Group 1

Regulation change regarding carbon monoxide alarms

Tenant wellbeing should be at the top of every landlord’s compliance list and there’s a new gas safety regulation to understand and implement this winter. The change has prompted a number of questions from landlords, which our lettings team have answered:-

Q. How have carbon monoxide alarm rules changed?
A. The Government’s change to gas safety regulations in late 2021 states that all properties in the private rental sector with a fixed gas appliance, such as a gas boiler or fire, now need a carbon monoxide alarm fitted.

Q. Wasn’t that always the case?
A. Previously, the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 made it mandatory for rentals to have a carbon monoxide alarm only where there was a solid fuel appliance, such as a coal fire or wood burning stove.

Q. My buy-to-let doesn’t have a gas appliance – am I affected?
A. If your rental property is all-electric but you’re planning to install a gas appliance, the new regulations have made it compulsory to supply a carbon monoxide alarm at the same time as you fit a new gas appliance. If you rely on solid fuel to heat or power the property, you will still need a carbon monoxide alarm.

Q. If I supply a carbon monoxide alarm, have I fulfilled all of my alarm obligations?
A. Landlords, or their property manager, need to go a little further than merely providing a carbon monoxide alarm. They need to ensure it works at the start of every new tenancy by testing the alarm, and they need to replace a faulty carbon monoxide alarm as soon as a fault is flagged up.

Q. Have the rules changed in regards to smoke alarms?
A. Smoke alarm rules – as set out in the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 and the statutory guidance (Approved Document J) supporting Part J of the Building Regulations – stay the same. Landlords are required to install at least one smoke alarm on every storey of their rental property that is used as living accommodation. Like carbon monoxide alarms, a landlord, or their property manager, needs to test the smoke alarm at the start of every new tenancy and replace a defective alarm as soon as they are alerted to a problem.

Q. Whose job is it to test any alarms?
A. The Government makes it quite clear that a tenant is responsible for testing any carbon monoxide and smoke alarms during the tenancy period, as outlined in the Government’s Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm Q&A Booklet. Tenants are responsible for changing an alarm’s batteries but it should be the landlord that replaces an alarm unit that’s broken.

Q. Where’s the best place to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms?
A. The best locations for smoke alarms are where air circulates more freely, such as landings, hallways and stairwells. Installing carbon monoxide alarms at head height is best, as long as the alarm is between 1 and 3 metres away from any gas or solid fuel appliance.

Please check with us if you think your buy-to-let property is exempt from any gas safety regulations. We would be happy to advise on the best course of action to keep your let compliant and your tenants safe.

Categories
Lettings Group 2

New carbon monoxide alarm regulation

Landlords of private rental properties need to be aware of a change in regulation relating to gas safety. All buy-to-lets with fixed gas appliances, such as a gas boiler or a gas fire, now need to have a working carbon monoxide alarm after changes were brought forward through the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 and the statutory guidance (Approved Document J) supporting Part J of the Building Regulations.

Additionally, the regulations state that a carbon monoxide alarm needs to be supplied when the first gas appliance is fitted in a rental property. This could be when electric storage heaters are replaced with gas central heating, for instance.

This is different to the old regulation, which previously stated that carbon monoxide alarms were only a mandatory requirement in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance, such as a coal fire or a wood burning stove.

It has been reiterated that it is the landlord’s responsibility – or that of a managing agent working on their behalf – to ensure a defective carbon monoxide alarm is replaced once they are told it is faulty. They should also ensure the carbon monoxide alarm is tested for working efficiency at the start of every new tenancy. 

A refresher on smoke alarm regulations

There is no change to the regulations regarding smoke alarms in rental properties but a refresher on the compliance aspect is always useful. Private sector landlords should have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their rental property which is used as living accommodation. As with carbon monoxide alarms, they must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.

Failure to comply with any of the carbon monoxide or smoke alarm regulations can result in a fine of up to £5,000, with the requirements enforced by the local authority in charge. 

Testing…testing

One of the biggest grey areas with regards to both smoke and carbon monoxide alarms is testing the alarm during the tenancy period. This excerpt is taken from the Government’s Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm Q&A Booklet, and should be widely distributed to new and existing tenants: 

“After the landlord’s test on the first day of the tenancy, tenants should take responsibility for their own safety and test all alarms regularly to make sure they are in working order. Testing monthly is generally considered an appropriate frequency for smoke alarms. If tenants find that their alarm(s) are not in working order during the tenancy, they are advised to arrange the replacement of the batteries or the alarm itself with the relevant landlord.

 A note on alarm placement

As well as ensuring that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in good working order, landlords can ensure their location increases their chance of effectiveness. Smoke alarms should be fitted to the ceiling in circulation spaces, such as hallways, stairwells and landings. Carbon monoxide alarms should be placed at head height between 1 and 3 metres away from a gas or solid fuel appliance.

Please contact us if you have any questions about gas safety and compliance in rental properties.

Categories
Sales Group 2

2022: the year of the power buyer

We’ve had power dressing, the power lunch and even power walking but have you heard about the power buyer? It’s a phrase recently used by property portal Rightmove to describe purchasers who are in the strongest position possible.

As we move into 2022, becoming a power buyer will increase in importance. Expert forecasts for the months ahead are in agreement – moving activity will continue, buyers will face competition from rival purchasers and sellers will prefer offers from those who can proceed without drama and delay. Have you got what it takes to be a power buyer?

The value of the offer is important….

As well as reflecting a home’s value, finish and desirability, the asking price will play an instrumental role in the owner’s next move. In almost every case, the seller’s onward purchase and potentially how much money they need to borrow will hinge on the offer they accept. A power buyer will offer as close to the asking price as fairly possible.

….but it’s not everything

As an estate agent, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll encourage sellers to accept the highest offer without investigating the potential buyer’s wider circumstances. One of the first questions we ask anyone hoping to view a property is ‘do you have a property to sell?’. If the answer is yes, we’ll ask if the property is under offer.

These questions relate to time and proceed-ability. A power buyer will already have their home under offer so they’re ready to hit the ground running and won’t risk delaying the transaction. Remember, even if a buyer offers way over the asking price, they may be overlooked if their own property isn’t on the market and this can draw out a transaction for weeks or even months. 

It’s behind you

A chain, that is. Power buyers realise that getting caught up in a long chain isn’t what any seller wants, so they make themselves as chain-free as possible. Of course, first-time buyers are naturally chain-free but some power buyers will sell their own property and move into rented accommodation as a temporary measure. This makes them chain-free when they decide to make their next purchase.

Money matters

Some of the most powerful buyers are those who can purchase with cash. By having money in the bank, they sidestep the mortgage application process and remove the risk that they may be turned down for finance. For a seller, a cash buyer represents a quicker, simpler transaction. 

The majority of buyers, however, will need a mortgage to purchase a property but there are two simple steps people can take to move them into the power buyer category. The first is to have valid evidence of your deposit and the second is to have a mortgage agreement in principle. Both of these should be in place before a buyer starts looking for a property.

Be authentic

Sellers will sit up and take notice of purchasers who are sincere, open and reliable. That means turning up to pre-booked viewings (preferably on time), putting forward sensible offers and not making outlandish demands. Building the best ‘power buyer’ picture also includes having a solicitor instructed when an offer is made, showing flexibility when it comes to a completion date and taking a genuine interest in the property for sale. 

If you would like more advice about how to become a power buyer, contact our team today.

Categories
Sales Group 1

9 tips for becoming a power buyer

As far as property trends go, 2021 was the year of the ‘great reset’, with more people wanting to buy property than homes available for sale. The demand and supply issue has already created a trend for 2022: ‘the hangover’. With thousands of would-be purchasers thwarted last year due to red-hot competition, many buyers will roll over to 2022, hoping a new year will bring them new buying opportunities.

With sellers set to enjoy multiple viewings and offers on their properties, being a ‘power buyer’ in 2022 will be crucial. This means presenting yourself as the stand-out, most bank-able purchaser when compared to the buying competition – someone who will offer the seller the simplest, most straightforward transaction.

So what can you do to become a power buyer in 2022? Here are our top 9 tips:

  1. Don’t make silly offers: you can risk coming across as a time waster if you offer well below the asking price. Aim for as close to the advertised value as you can justify and don’t nitpick over a couple of pounds here and there.
  2. Sell first, buy second: all estate agents will advise sellers to choose a buyer who already has their property under offer. In a competitive market, merely having your home ‘for sale’ may not be good enough, especially if a rival has already sold their property.
  3. Present as a chain-free purchaser: if you’re a first-time buyer, you’ll already be a power buyer but selling-up and taking an interim rental property or moving in with family before you buy again are two other ways of making yourself chain free.
  4. Come to the table as a cash buyer: cash buyers are power buyers as they’re not relying on a mortgage to buy a property. This simplifies the transaction, reduces the seller’s risk and can trim weeks off the moving process.
  5. No cash? Have a mortgage lined up: many transactions fall apart at the finance stage, therefore sellers prefer buyers who can prove they’ll be loaned enough money to buy the property. This is called a mortgage agreement in principle – something the seller’s estate agent will request. 
  6. Have a solicitor lined up: showing you are serious about the sale will stand you in good stead. A power buyer will have researched solicitors before they start looking at properties and will instruct one as soon as their offer is accepted. 
  7. Have your deposit ready: potential buyers will be prequalified by the seller’s estate agent so they know who’s in a financial position to proceed. By having your deposit in one bank account, together with valid evidence from your bank or building society, you’ll edge ahead of disorganised rivals.
  8. Be accommodating: if you really love the property and want to impress the sellers, be as accommodating as you can. This may mean flexibility when it comes to viewing times or leeway when it comes to the completion date.
  9. Tell the seller your intentions: sellers won’t warm to dithering, stuttering buyers who don’t seem 100% committed. Use a viewing to tell the seller you want to buy the property, and avoid saying  you’re ‘interested’ or may ‘possibly’ make an offer.

If you have seen one of our properties for sale that you’re interested in purchasing, talk to us about your status and how we can help you make a successful offer.

Categories
Lettings Group 2

The ‘grey pound’: why older tenants should be a target

Landlords, who is your target tenant? While traditional focus has always been on Generation Z, Millennials and young families, there is growing evidence that those over the age of 55 are increasingly turning to rented property in their later years.

In 2020, AgeUK reported that 750,000 people over 60 live in private rented housing in England, with the number of households inhabited by older renters doubling in the last 15 years.

That figure isn’t static either – an aspect landlords shouldn’t ignore. A report published in the same year revealed that renters of retirement age and those in the upper-middle age category are the fastest growing tenant groups. 

Privately rented properties where the tenants were aged between 55 and 64 years old had risen 118% between 2010 and 2020, while rented properties where the tenants were aged over 65 had grown by 93% over the same period.

While you may assume older tenants have been forced into renting due to unfavourable circumstances, the New Generation Rent article published by Property Reporter suggests that comfortable baby boomers are actively choosing tenant status, earning their spending power the nickname of ‘the grey pound’.  

With both the Halifax and the Nationwide’s November house price indexes showing that average property values are at record highs, many over 55s are selling now to free capital to fund their retirement, and are choosing to move into rented accommodation in order to watch what the market does next.

Among this age group is hope that house prices will decline, making their next purchase cheaper, while other older renters like the advantage renting gives them in being chain-free when it comes to buying again. 

The article also suggests that many mature tenants will stick with private renting for the rest of their lives, whether it’s for the flexibility, the lower maintenance aspect or as part of  an estate planning exercise.

Older tenants often prove to be very reliable tenants, so landlords should go the extra mile to appeal to this group. Over 55s are likely to be asset rich and less likely to default on rental payments, for low or zero arrears. In addition, they’re unlikely to be involved in anti-social behaviour, can deal with running repairs and basic maintenance without troubling the landlord, and will want tenure security for consistent occupancy.

If you’d like to chase the ‘grey pound’ and appeal to more mature tenants, there are a number of considerations that may improve your chances of success:-

  • Opt for access-friendly flats and houses: consider ground floor apartments, those on upper floors that are serviced by a lift and houses without steps to the front door
  •  Choose locations carefully: town centre living where everything is within walking distance is ideal, as is a property close to a bus stop
  • Offer long-term tenancies: foster a sense of security with tenancy agreements of at least 12 months 
  • Buy new build: brand new properties will present lower running and maintenance costs for both landlord and tenant
  • Consider added extra: on-site facilities, such as a concierge, video entry or gym
  • Think reduced responsibility: developments where communal gardens are tended to and maintenance is taken care of will rent out quickly

Talk to us today about letting a property you own or purchasing a buy-to-let.

Categories
Lettings Group 1

The over 55 tenant takeover is here

It’s no secret that demand for rental property is rising. The letting industry’s main professional body, ARLA Propertymark, has reported year-on-year growth in the number of new prospective tenants registering per lettings branch during 2021. In its most recent report, it revealed that every month, agents were processing an average of 83 renters hoping to secure a tenancy.

There will be assumptions as to who joins the queue of hopeful tenants: students looking to secure a let for the next academic year; couples and friends renting for the first time; professionals relocating to a new city and young families moving for more space or an extra bedroom.

Many landlords will not think of the queue as being populated by over 55s keen to live the rental lifestyle but analysis conducted over the past two years reveals there is a growing number of affluent, able and active mature tenants.

Not catering for the over 55s is a huge oversight that may be capping the success of a buy-to-let venture. For starters, the number of people turning to tenant status later in life is rising. In 2020, a report showed the upper-middle age and retirement brackets were the fastest growing tenant groups.  

The rise, charted between 2010 and 2020, should prompt landlords to sit up and take notice. The number of privately renting tenants aged between 55 and 64 years old had risen by 118% in the decade, while tenants aged 65 or older had grown by 93% over the same period. The growth isn’t a fad either, with research by the Centre for Ageing Better forecasting that by 2040, a third of people aged over 60 could be living in private rented accommodation.

So why are older tenants taking over the private rental sector? The website Property Reporter highlighted how peaking house prices have started a movement among over 55s to sell up and cash in. Swapping a large personally-owned family home for a landlord-owned rented property not only frees up capital for the ‘golden years’ but if the move is to somewhere smaller or with cheaper running costs, it also makes day-to-day living more affordable. 

As well as having more money to fund a retirement lifestyle, renting is appealing as many of the major maintenance aspects are a burden borne by the landlord and not the tenant – freeing time as well as money.

Time and funds are more important than ever among the over 55s – many of whom are working part-time or are fully retired and in excellent health. Mature renters appreciate the same flexible aspects of renting as Generation Z and Millennials do, such as the ability to try new locations, less responsibility and lower set up costs – no stamp duty or large deposits to pay, for example. 

For others, trading an ‘owned’ property for something rented becomes part of a sensible estate planning exercise, with an inclination to remain in rented accommodation for as long as is feasible. With this in mind, landlords looking for long-term, asset-rich tenants should consider the over 55s a valuable target market. 

Appealing to over 55s may mean tweaking your usual approach to lettings, and you may wish to consider the following:-

Offer long-term tenures

Many over 55s will be embarking on ‘one last move’ or a downsizing exercise, therefore they want long-term security without the hassle of having to uproot every 6 or 12 months. Landlords can trade a tenancy agreement of two, three or even more years with a tenant who should be reliable and respectful.

Don’t assume over 55s are IT illiterate

Mature tenants will look for home tech as much as Millennials, so it pays to offer quality broadband, smart energy meters and connections for cable TV. ‘Kerb-to-couch’ technology is another aspect mentioned by Property Reporter, with keyless entry, app-controlled central heating and lighting operated by voice assistants, such as Alexa, all making life easier in later years.

Be receptive to modifications

Under the 2010 Equality Act, landlords are required by law to make any reasonable adjustments to their properties to allow tenants with disabilities to live safely and comfortably – including older tenants whose mobility has been affected by age. Landlords will need to consider future modifications, such as grab rails, ramps, wider door openings and applying for a priority parking bay.

Consider investing in ‘lock up and leave’ properties

Active retirees may be keen to travel, so renting an apartment in a block – ideally with a concierge and secure parking – will appeal to a wide audience. Security in general tends to be important to older renters, so secure front doors, window locks, porches – and video entry when it comes to flats – will find favour.

Highlight the low-maintenance aspect

One of the redeeming features of rental accommodation is the low maintenance aspect, which particularly interests retirees keen to put major DIY behind them. Properties in maintained blocks also have the advantage of a management company looking after communal gardens, common areas and structure elements, such as the roof.

Please ask us about marketing your property to the widest tenant audience. We’ll advise you on how best to improve your property before it is advertised as ‘to let’ possible, and we’ll manage the tenancy agreement negotiations for the best outcome

Categories
Lifestyle Group 1

Winter warmers: staying safe and snug this winter

As the temperature drops, we have a tried and tested routine: dig out hats and scarves, revert to warming soups and casseroles, and start speculating about snow days, but what about our homes?

Preparing our properties for inclement weather is more important than ever this year, with many of us mindful about the amount of gas we are using and how low the temperature may drop, thanks to climate change. Now is a good time for a reminder of the basics that may save your boiler breaking down or a pipe bursting. 

The age-old debate still rumbles on – keep your heating on a low setting all the time or only turn it on intermittently? Current thinking revolves around insulation. If your home is well insulated, leaving your heating on is a good option as it may not kick in very often. For those in older, poorly insulated properties, using a timer so the heating only comes on when it’s needed is a more cost-effective approach. 

There’s no harm in trying both methods if you have a smart energy meter, as you can compare costs. You can reduce energy consumption further by using radiator or underfloor heating thermostats to only heat the rooms you occupy, as well as by avoiding plug-in heaters (the Energy Saving Trust says using an electric heater is more than twice as expensive as using central heating), ensuring you have good insulation and keeping draughts out.

Pipework and central heating go hand-in-hand, and the real danger is when temperatures drop below freezing. If your property is left vacant – whether it’s overnight, for a week or for an extended period – leaving the central heating on and set to a minimum of 13 degrees will ensure any standing water in the pipes doesn’t freeze. Frozen water expands and creates pressure, which can rupture a pipe. Any crack or hole will start leaking water as soon as the temperature rises, which will result in a sudden flood or a slow drip – both highly damaging.

You can also protect pipes from freezing by lagging – the process of wrapping them in insulation material, such as foam sleeves. Pay particular attention to pipes in lofts, garages, basements and those that sit against external walls. It’s also sensible to insulate any outside tap and an older-style hot water cylinder.

If a property is going to be uninhabited for a long spell over winter, it’s wise to play it safe and turn off the water supply at the mains stopcock. Don’t forget, most modern central heating systems still work even if the water supply is turned off.

There is another pipe that’s often overlooked and when it freezes, it’s one of the most common reasons gas engineers are called out. The condensate pipe is what removes steam and condensation from a condensing boiler. If the temperature drops below zero, the condensate pipe can freeze solid and cause the boiler to shut down. 

As well as insulating this pipe, you can reduce the chances of it freezing by shortening the amount of pipe that sits outside, making the condensate waste pipe as large as possible with a vertical fall and opting for a boiler with a syphon trap type of water release, rather than a continual drip. 

There’s one final leak that property owners should be mindful of during winter and that’s carbon monoxide – a poisonous gas that can emanate from cookers, blocked flues and chimneys. As well as getting your central heating boiler serviced on an annual basis and installing a carbon monoxide detector, it’s wise to get a health check for other gas-fired appliances and book a chimney sweep before the first fire is lit.

If you have any questions about looking after a property during the winter months, feel free to get in contact with our team.

Categories
Lifestyle Group 2

Top property tips for cold conditions

How do you create heat in an efficient way, prevent property disasters and keep energy bills in check when mother nature is throwing freezing rain, snow and sub zero temperatures our way? Here are our top 4 property tips for cold winter conditions.

1. Be heat smart: we may be a little more economical with our gas consumption thanks to rising fuel costs and climate change but it’s still possible to create a toasty warm home. If you have radiator thermostats, use them to only heat the rooms you’re using or turn down your main thermostat by one degree. You’ll still generate warmth by doing the latter but, according to uSwitch, you’ll save an average of £80 a year on your energy bill.

The jury’s still out on whether it’s best to keep your heating on low permanently over the winter or programme it to come on when it’s needed most. If you have a smart energy meter, you could try each method for two weeks and see what uses the least gas.

2. Stop warmth escaping: there’s no point creating warm air only for it to leak out and let a cold draught back in. Check for gaps around windows and doors, sealing with caulk and replacing weather stripping around doors if in poor repair. Even an old fashioned draught excluder will help if you feel a chill around your ankles.

You can use expanding foam insulation to fill large holes where pipes leave the property and if fireplaces are not in use, consider getting the flue capped. Don’t forget to check for draughts around cat flaps – you’ll be surprised how much warm air seeps out of a poorly fitted one.

3. Reduce  the risk of leaks: Some of the most common insurance claims stem from water leaks, and the problem is exacerbated over winter. When water freezes in pipes, it expands and can cause the pipe or weak joints to burst open. A leak will start as soon as the water starts flowing again – if it’s a slow trickle or the property is vacant, the water damage may go unnoticed for months. 

Use foam sleeves to lag pipes in lofts, garages and basements where it tends to be coldest, and don’t forget any pipes fixed to external walls and your boiler’s condensate pipe. If the latter freezers, the boiler will shut down when its needed most. 

Another freeze prevention method is leaving the heating on low (13 degrees minimum) throughout cold snaps, even if no one is living in the property. If a property is vacant, it’s also wise to turn off the water from the mains stopcock.

4. Create a safe environment: everyone should get their boiler serviced on an annual basis, not just landlords. While you have a Gas Safe registered engineer in your property, it’s worth getting them to perform a health check on other gas-run appliances, such as hobs and fires, which may be used more heavily over winter. 

As well as installing a carbon monoxide detector and checking it works on a regular basis, book a chimney sweep to prevent a deadly build-up of gas that a blocked flue may prevent escaping.

If you’d like to discuss winter proofing your property or you feel now’s the time to move on to somewhere new, give us a call today.