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How to bag a home bargain in the January sales

While estate agents won’t be giving you 50% off your dream home this January, plenty of retailers are offering discounts on hundreds of furniture items, electricals and gadgets. But how do you know if you’re really getting a good deal? 

Before hitting the shops (if they are open) or immersing yourself in the vast chasm that is the online marketplace this year, check out our top tips for bagging a home bargain. 

Separate temptation from need

As you may have heard, Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis warns repeatedly: ‘you’re never saving money if you’re spending money you never intended to’. 

What he means by this is that you shouldn’t use any kind of marketed ‘sale’ period, including Black Friday and Bank Holiday offers, to buy something you don’t need or want. 

On his ITV money show earlier this year he explained that if you were planning to buy a video game for £50 and it’s on sale for £25 you’ve saved 25 quid. If they have persuaded you to buy something you otherwise wouldn’t buy, there’s an extra cost of £25, so it’s not a saving.

Ask yourself if you really need that robotic hoover or will get any meaningful use from a trendy waffle maker – will they be collecting dust in the under-stairs cupboard come next Christmas? 

Make a list and check it twice

Do not wander aimlessly around the shops or scroll through hundreds of web pages. Make a list of items you know you want or are going to need in the near future and do not get distracted. In fact, making the list in advance and signing up to sales notification alerts or email newsletters is a great idea. 

Think about what retailers offer these products, shop around and do not be tempted by price alone. You may find that retailers are jumping on the Boxing Day band wagon and marketing something as a sale item when, actually, it’s more expensive than it was before. 

Use price comparison sites like PriceSpy and Alertr, who can tell you whether you’re getting a product for the best price and where you can buy it. 

Read reviews

There could be a good reason that a washing machine has gone into the sale and promises a large saving. It could be a bad performer!

As the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t buy something just because it’s cheap – see what consumers are saying about it before you enter your card details. 

Also remember to read reviews about the retailer. It could be that an item was one in a dodgy batch or damaged in transit, but would otherwise work perfectly fine. However, some retailers have less than helpful return policies and customer service, which could make getting a replacement extremely difficult. 

Think seasonally

Even though you probably can’t imagine enjoying a fruity cider in the garden right now and don’t want to see any form of festive bauble for at least 11 months, January is certainly one of the best times to buy unsold garden furniture and Christmas decorations before they are in high demand again.

This does raise the question, is January the best time to buy at all? According to ecommerce site, Klaviyo, Boxing Day sales only just pip Black Friday to the post when consumers were asked about their most popular shopping day. 

Spending and discount trends differ, however. Research from credit card company, marbles.com, analysed the best product offers throughout the year and found that you can get excellent deals all year round, depending on what you are looking to buy. 

The good news is January seems the best time to buy a bed, sofa or chest of drawers. But if you’re looking for white goods, hold off until February. 

Reading this outside of January? Although some retailers specialise in January sales, there are plenty of websites that will alert you to others that happen throughout the year.

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Ho ho go! Sellers: act now to catch the seasonal rush

If you’re thinking of selling your property in 2021, our advice is to de-Christmas as soon as possible – maybe even pare back what’s on display today – and come to market right now.

No, we haven’t lost our minds but the seasonal spike in property searching can’t be missed. Rightmove has a wonderful bank of statistics that show just how many movers look online at property over the festive period and into January.

Holidays & houses
Year after year, the property portal announces a record-breaking number of users choosing to browse listings when they should be playing charades or pulling crackers. Take 2018 for instance – property searches doubled over Christmas and New Year. Even on Christmas Day itself, there were 10 million page visits, rising to around 30 million on Boxing Day.

Why is there such a seasonal trend? Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people naturally search for homes online when they get a new mobile device, such as an iPhone or tablet. After all, looking at properties and house prices is one of the nation’s favourite pastimes! Others believe a house crammed full over Christmas (or perhaps not so much in 2020), heightens a lack of space, pushing people to look for a new home with more bedrooms or a larger living room, perhaps.

A resolution to move
The Christmas figures, however, are dwarfed by those noted in January 2020 – the month Rightmove claimed to be its busiest ever. Visitors passed the 150 million mark for the first time – up 12% compared to January 2019. For those who love fine details, the top five busiest days for traffic on Rightmove were all between 21st and 29th January, with the most traffic on Wednesday 29th January. It really is a case of ‘New Year, new home’.

You haven’t left it too late
So while it may feel natural to hold off marketing your property until the New Year, sellers may miss out on a quick sale and hundreds of potential buyers who are using the season of good will to start planning their next move. It takes an estate agent a matter of hours to book a visit, take photographs and get a property listed online. Even now, with a matter of days before Christmas, it’s not too late to start the process and catch the surge in online traffic.

Post-Christmas push
For those set on having a full-blown Christmas, with all the trimmings, tinsel and turkey proudly on display, you can still make the most of the dormant period between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve in readiness for the January rush. It’s actually the perfect time to contact your estate agent.

Tuck away that tinsel
There is a word of advice. Christmas decorations will pinpoint when your home came to market and let’s be fair, not many people will want to see gaudy garlands and bright baubles come January 2021. Pack away as many decorations as you can bear before photography takes place or, at the bare minimum, only leave things you can easily slide out of view or hide away.

Read, steady….start!
With millions of people online over Christmas – maybe looking for a home just like yours – don’t hold back if you’re thinking of selling. If conditions are favourable, you may even be able to sell and buy within the stamp duty holiday for savings of up to £15,000. Let’s get started – get in touch today.

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How to splash any saved cash

Despite some 9 million workers being furloughed on 80% of their salary during the peak of the first Coronavirus lockdown, Brits have managed to save an extra 20% of their disposable income and have been spending it on home improvements. 

The inability to go on holiday, frequent the pubs or spend their spare cash on leisure and entertainment has resulted in adults putting away £700 per month on average. And with more time at home, 85% of residents chose to carry out some DIY. 

The 2020 Renovation Nation Report found that UK homeowners spent an average of £4,000 each on home renovations, with 27% of them hoping to increase the value of their properties. It’s great news for buyers too, because not only will they likely be able to find a newly renovated property to buy but if they’re quick, they could save up to £15,000 on stamp duty too! 

While the majority of home improvement projects focussed on the garden, living room and bedroom, it was home gyms and bars that topped the wish list. But what types of improvements really add value to a property? 

When novelties become necessities

With buyer and renter priorities changing, the good news is that yes, a home gym or bar could in theory increase the value of your property, as buyers demand more leisure space. 

Although not specific about the uses, it’s clear from numerous studies that post-pandemic home movers want more space, both inside and out. What were once added extras or novelties are now becoming necessities. 

If you invest in creating more space in your property, you or future buyers could use that space as you see fit, including for a home gym or personal pub. 

The Telegraph reported in 2018 that an outbuilding that costs an average of £6,653 could add up to £35,611 to a property.  A conservatory will increase the value by 5%, while a loft conversion could add 15% to your home’s sale price. 

This extra space could have multiple uses from home offices and playrooms to gyms, bars and exclusive dining areas.   

The classics still top the bill

According to research from Confused.com, kitchens and bathrooms remain two of the top rooms to renovate at an average cost of £5,129 and £3,340, respectively. They will both add between 4% and 8% to the value of a property, giving one of the best returns on investment. 

Such features are also sought-after by potential buyers. As reported by Property Mark, 65% of homeowners renovate kitchens before putting their property on the market and 29% of new homes sold in 2019 had a new bathroom fitted. So, if you’re looking to sell, these two projects should be a priority. If not, it’s still a good investment for the future. 

First impressions count too, as we all know, so installing a new front door and double glazing are also popular home renovations. In 2020, there was at least a 50% increase in these keyword search terms.  

There are many other ways you can add value to your home but if your key motivation is selling, then it’s definitely worth reviewing The Rated People Home Improvement Trends Report, which details 15 property features that attract the most buyers. 

Cash in the bank? Don’t delay

If you’ve got cash burning a hole in your pocket and want to improve the value of your property, whether you’re planning on selling or simply creating your dream home, the time to act is now. Anecdotal evidence suggests that if you’re looking to engage any kind of trade professional, they are busier than ever! 

If you would prefer to spend any cash saved on moving to an already-improved property, get in touch for a list of available properties for sale and to rent. Don’t forget, you can save up to £15,000 in stamp duty costs if you complete on a  purchase by 31st March 2021.

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Is property flipping making a comeback?

Property trends come and go, with many dependent on the health of the wider market. But there are rumours that an age-old investment strategy is once again in favour, with professionals noting a rise in properties bought in 2020 solely for flipping. Read on to discover how buoyant house prices and the stamp duty holiday have propelled this ‘profit from property’ enterprise back into the spotlight.

What is flipping?

Flipping is the practice of buying a property at a low price and selling it on, usually very quickly, at a higher price. You may hear the activity also referred to as fix-and-flip, buy-to-sell or trading. When flipping, the buyer never has any intention of living in the property, so it’s classed as an investment exercise.

How do people make money when flipping?

There are three strategies that people can pursue when flipping:-

  1. The most common strategy is buying a property that needs work and usually a dwelling requiring modernisation will be sold at a discount. The buyer seeks to add value by completing the required works, allowing the property to be sold at a higher price once improved.
  2. Other flippers actively seek ‘problem properties’ where a more administrative course of action – and not manual labour – is needed to improve the home’s value. This could be buying a property that needs its lease extended, purchasing a property with tenants in-situ, or buying where a legal issue (which they know they can resolve) is devaluing the property.
  3. The third strategy is the most risky and relies on nothing more than rapidly rising house prices. The buyer will purchase a property, sit tight and do nothing to it, and hope its value will naturally climb, before being sold on at a profit.

Is now a good time to flip a property?

Property values in many parts of the UK are rising, which sets a good backdrop for all flippers. Also, flippers are being encouraged back into activity thanks to the stamp duty holiday, with savings of up to £15,000 – even for those whose purchase is considered an additional home. In some cases, the stamp duty saving is enough to create profit in a flipping project but anyone looking to take advantage of this tax freeze must complete on a property purchase by 31st March 2021.

Common mistakes when flipping

The most common mistake is underestimating costs, therefore making a loss and not a profit. Anyone thinking of flipping will need an eye for detail, a sense of speed (as delays cost money) and some serious Excel skills to ensure overspending doesn’t wipe out gains. Consider and budget for the following:-

  • Buying costs: any stamp duty, conveyancing, survey and any EPC due
  • Financing the purchase: interest on a bridging loan or interest lost if buying with cash, plus broker fees
  • Refurbishment works: materials, parts, goods and labour 
  • Legal & administrative costs: the cost of extending a lease and court activity 
  • Bills: utility, council tax and insurance bills between purchase and sale
  • Tax: to be paid on any profits made from flipping
  • Selling costs: estate agent or auction house fees, plus conveyancing costs
  • Your time: hours lost to flipping that you could have spent earning elsewhere

 

The above is a very simplistic take on flipping and we’d be happy to explain the process to you in more detail, especially in respect of your local property market. Please get in touch to start discussions.

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Step into the (virtual) real world

PropTech and other digital wizardry that assist the buying, selling and renting of properties has been around for some years. We are, after all, a mobile workforce that moves from location to location and can’t always take the time out to physically view a property or sign paperwork. 

Before the pandemic hit, a third of estate and letting agents were already planning to increase their use of technology and the lockdown has accelerated their plans.  

With hundreds of thousands of property transactions put on hold, the property sector has had to turn to technology to keep things moving and now remote buying, selling and renting could be here to stay. 

Valuations from afar

With agents not always able to enter properties to provide sales and lettings appraisals, they had to turn to virtual alternatives. 

Using smartphones, homeowners are now sending high-resolution images and videos of their properties to agents, which are combined with external reviews, desk research, floor plans and land registry documentation to provide super accurate valuations without stepping through the front door. 

Initially, many lenders were reluctant to approve mortgage applications without a qualified survey, but it now seems the tide is turning. Bespoke software has also become available that involves the property owner downloading an app and being virtually guided round the property with a registered valuer.

With restrictions now easing, it’s suspected that most agents will return to physical appraisals (and that lenders will again tighten their criteria again) but for many, a virtual valuation will remain a time-saving and hassle-free first step towards selling or letting.

Viewings from your sofa

As of April this year, just 8% of properties on Zoopla offered some kind of virtual tour. They were more common with homes for sale rather than to rent, although they were more prolific within the new build sector as they can be easier to create with no residents in situ. Virtual tours, however, are now becoming commonplace across the property board.

At the lower end of the scale, property owners are using smartphones and video conferencing software to record or host live tours themselves. However, many agents are now turning to more sophisticated virtual reality software, such as The 360 View, which caters for immersive self-guided virtual tours. It’s even reported that these allow for detail such as wood grain on bannisters to be seen.

At the very least, some virtual experiences give us the information we need to commit to taking the next step, like booking a physical viewing. But during the pandemic, buyers have been making offers or agreeing a new tenancy on virtual viewings alone. 

While virtual viewings were the only option during the early months of the pandemic, we predict they will never completely replace a physical visit. They do, however, have the potential to allow movers to filter out unsuitable properties during the search phase. In theory this means only the most serious, genuine potential buyers and tenants will visit properties in person.

Sign on the dotted line…..without ever picking up a pen!

Thankfully, modern-day technology already allows for much of the property paperwork and administration to be completed remotely but the events of 2020 will certainly encourage those in the property sector without the right software to invest in some. 

Remote tenant referencing – including ID checks – are already possible, while e-signature technology means important documentation  – including deeds – can be completed without pen or paper.

Maintenance & inspections made easy

For landlords, property inspections were off the cards during lockdown, so many opted to carry them out using bespoke apps like zInspector and by collaborating with their tenants. As many self-managing buy-to-let investors don’t live near their properties, this could save a huge amount of time in the future. 

More innovative, however, is the development of smart devices and appliances for in and around the home. Not only do they have the capability to alert owners and property managers to potential problems and predictive maintenance, they can also make running a home or rental property cheaper and more efficient. 

The future of refurbishment….now

If your heart is set on remodelling or extending a property on the market – perhaps to achieve the home of your dreams or to convert a house into shared accommodation to rent out – 4D visualisation technology now allows you to see a newly designed space before you commit to any work. 

This, coupled with virtual property scanning services that lets you take accurate room measurements, means you can see new room configurations, kitchens and bathroom suites in situ, and even how the light affects a space at different parts of the day simply by slipping on a set of VR goggles.

Some of these technologies are now becoming the norm, while others are reserved for more forward-thinking parties. One thing is for sure though, there’s a virtual property experience coming to a town near you very soon! Contact us for further information.

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What’s your property personality?

The drama and panache of a period property, the pin-neat and uniform beauty of a brand new home or the ‘somewhere in between’ of a 20th century semi – what’s your property personality? Here we help you narrow down your style. 

Period properties

Best for: high ceilings, grand proportions, big windows and intricate details

Avoid if: you haven’t got the time, patience or budget for improvements and upkeep 

Edwardian, Regency, Georgian or Victorian, our former monarchs have left a lasting – and valuable – architectural legacy. In fact, Georgian properties can sell for £100,000 more than other property types on the market, while Edwardian and Victorian properties can command 20% extra in asking price, according to OpenBrix. 

The preservation society

Refurbishing period homes has become a property subculture, with owners meticulously seeking out faithful replacements or salvaging original items to complete an authentic project. Browse social media and you’ll see render being blasted away to reveal original brickwork, stain glass panels painstakingly restored and original tiles handled with kid gloves.

Step away from the sledge hammer

Before you acquire a home of heritage, however, it’s worth being prepared for obstacles that may lie ahead. A grade listing, being set in a conservation area or in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty can affect what you can and can’t do to a property, and local authority permission may be required for works – both inside and out. You can also damage a period property’s value if you rip out original features or replace items with those from unsuitable eras.

Brand new homes

Best for: ready-made communities, money-saving incentives and a totally blank canvass

Avoid if: you love individualism, crave a sense of history and desire a big garden

First through the door

New homes are cropping up across the country thanks to a chronic shortage of housing. Built using modern methods of construction with the latest A-rated appliances, heating and insulation, new homes brandish excellent eco credentials and offer lower utility bills. With no running repairs or heavy maintenance needed, brand new homes also have that ‘move in and enjoy’ quality, with only the lightest of DIY required. Many house builders also offer incentives, such as Hep to Buy, part exchange, moving costs covered and stamp duty paid.

Read the small print

While brand new communities and shiny apartment blocks often enjoy a wealth of communal facilities, the perks will probably carry an annual service charge. Also take note of any ground rent in the contract, and whether your property is freehold or leasehold. If you’re buying off plan – before a property is built – be aware that a falling market may mean the value of your home decreases while under construction. In a rising market, however, your home may be worth more than you paid for it by the time you move in. 

The alternative: 20th century homes

Best for: those with grand remodelling plans and the ability to see past a bland exterior

Avoid if: you’re not up for a degree of modernisation or a sense of suburbia

The halfway house 

Homes built between 1901 and the 1970s sit somewhere between heritage properties and new builds, and often characterise the suburbs. While they don’t quite have the same class as period dwellings, they have more character than many brand new homes – and are not subject to the same covenants and caveats as listed properties. The potential attached to 20th century homes is tantalising, usually with nothing of substantial architectural merit to retain and generous footprints to work with. If you’re lucky – and have the budget – you may come across late Arts & Crafts or Art Deco properties that offer a blend of historic charm and modern convenience.

Bringing the building into the 21st century

While 20th century homes are rarely as antiquated as those from the 19th century, many do need modernisation – especially as they tend to be family homes that stay with one owner for decades. It’s not unusual to swap single for double glazing, rewire the electrics, replace worn carpets and kitchens, chip off ugly cladding, remove avocado-coloured bathroom suites, bring central heating systems up to scratch, strip away woodchip wallpaper and skim over Artex ceilings.

Whatever age or condition property you have your heart set on, contact us and we’ll match you with something suitable from our portfolio of available properties.

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Altogether now: hints & tips for house shares

Living together with strangers may feel like a crazy concept in our uncertain times but a collection of people under one roof is showing its positives during the pandemic.  In fact, The Times recently ran an article on the rise of solo renters who are moving into shared accommodation to beat loneliness. 

Quite early in the Covid crisis, it was made clear that co-sharers would be able to form their own bubble, allowing the group dynamic to continue. Now, with tier restrictions until March 2021, house shares – and even living with a couple of flat mates – are favourable options as they deliver a ready-made social scene when restaurants, bars and pubs are closed.

There are other perks too. With the potential for a bumpy economic road ahead, renting a room or going halves on a two-bedroom flat is invariably cheaper than taking on an entire property. And in the case of many house shares, bills are usually included in the monthly fee, which allows people to budget more accurately. 

Just for students?

Although the image of students may spring to mind, there are many smart house shares filled with professional workers – some with a laundry and cleaning service included. House builders are also reimagining house shares on a seismic scale, building developments with hundreds of units that share communal facilities, including office space, gyms, cinemas and even childcare facilities. Whether movers are freshly graduated and single, relocating to a new area where they don’t know a soul or are contracting, they are all drawn to a ready-made mini community. 

Choice is set to increase

Property investment hasn’t gone off the boil in 2020 – on the contrary. Between July and August this year, mortgage lender Foundation saw a 46% increase in buy-to-let home loan applications by those with three buy-to-lets or less. Specifically, there was a 23% rise in applications made between August and September this year for the purchases of smaller or standard HMOs (House in Multiple Occupation – the formal name for house shares where three or more unrelated people live together).

Hints & tips for a happy shared household

Of course, when you’re learning to rub along with a group of unfamiliar people, you may end up rubbing each other up the wrong way. We’re sharing our professional advice so you can tread the path to a harmonious house share:- 

  • Set working from home boundaries: if everyone is switching to the home office, there will need to be some ground rules about who works from where, when and general behaviour. If there’s a spare bedroom or underutilised dining table, it could be turned into a communal office space. It’s probably beneficial, however, to agree to set ‘office hours’, with anyone working outside of these transferring to their room to keep a good work-life balance. Notifying people of really important video or voice calls is also wise.
  • Acknowledge everybody’s idea of relaxing is different: while one person’s nirvana is an hour of pilates, another’s might be dancing around the kitchen to punk rock. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own style of downtime but it’s a good idea to establish some house rules, as well as factor in some no-obligation shared activities, like a quiz night or in-house ‘Come Dine With Me’ evening.
  • Have a plan in place should anyone need to self isolate: in a house share, there will need to be a dedicated bathroom for anyone isolating to exclusively use and/or a meticulous cleaning schedule in place. The NHS’s official isolation page is an essential reference point for house share residents. 

If you are interested in renting a property with a friend – or like the idea of a house share to live in or as a property investment – contact us today for advice and available properties.