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Feel the peel: temporary interior design

Expressing our personality is what turns a house into a home but what happens if you can’t decorate or find it hard to decide on a theme? You go the peel-it route, of course! 

There is an exciting range of self-adhesive products available that can be used on a temporary basis and removed quickly, without damaging the surface underneath. Bold patterns, bright colours and even textured surfaces can all be applied on a short-term basis. Peel them off and no one would ever know your wall was plastered in pineapple motifs!

Why should you personalise with peel-off options?

  1. You are a dedicated follower of interior fashion: from Art Deco decadence to flamingo flamboyance, each season brings with it a different interior trend. If you like to keep in step without having to start back at square one every time, removable wall art is ideal, allowing you to change your room’s look as frequently as fashion dictates
  2. You are a tenant: it’s highly likely that your tenancy agreement stipulates that you aren’t allowed to decorate or permanently mark walls in any way (even a single screw hole can cause issues) so temporary, stick-on designs that can be peeled off without damage are perfect.
  3. You are prone to changing your mind: ever painted a room to find you hate the colour as soon the walls are dry? Call it being indecisive, fickle or picky, some people find it hard to be happy. Peel-off additions are not permanent, so you can reverse decisions almost immediately.

Peel-off personalisation options

Wallpaper: gone are the days of thick wallpaper paste, pasting tables and a whole lot of mess. Google ‘peel off wallpaper’ and be amazed at the options. We love the NuWallpaper designs, which are totally removable, will not damage walls or leave a sticky residue behind. Choose from on-trend botanical prints, brick effect, beach-feel wood and geometric motifs.

Wall decals: forget the transfers that themed kids’ bedrooms in the 1980s, wall decals have grown up and can now be bought in a variety of designs, colours and sizes for use across the home. Wayfair is a great place to start looking online, with its self-adhesive yet removable wall decals featuring flora, fauna, retro, vintage and even 3D motifs.

Tile stickers: you can really tap into the latest tile trends on a temporary basis, thanks to vinyl, waterproof stickers. They are as easy to apply as they are to remove, brightening up large expanses of plain tiles in kitchens and bathrooms. Browse Ten Stickers for a wide range of options that are suitable for walls and floors, including high-fashion terrazzo and Moorish-influenced designs.

Picture hanging strips & hooks: Command™ has a range of products that are described as ‘perfect for rented accommodation where you may be worried about harming surfaces’. Its products allow you to hang pictures, mirrors and seasonal decorations without drawing pins, screws, nails or sticky tack. When done, simply peel to remove.

Are you a tenant?

Don’t forget, if you’re looking to make modifications to a rented property you live in – no matter how small or temporary – please let your landlord know beforehand, either directly or via your property manager. Please contact us if you need any advice or decorating guidance.

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Pantry perfect: the latest kitchen trend

Stop right there if you thought the pantry was an American phenomenon. It actually comes from the old French word ‘paneterie’ meaning ‘pain’ – the French word for bread. In Medieval England, the pantry was the working partner of the larder and the scullery – butter and bread were stored in the pantry, meats in the larder and ‘dirty’ household chores undertaken in the scullery. 

The widespread use of fridge-freezers, the evolution of fitted kitchen cabinetry and the introduction of integrated appliances conspired to almost kill off the pantry, but this storage nook has made a massive comeback of late. 

Celebs have made us covet pantry perfection

Early seeds were sown when the TV cook Nigella Lawson delivered monologues about ingredients from her walk-in pantry, flanked by shelves groaning with jars, tins and packets. Later, it was home expert Kirstie Allsopp who revealed her room of open shelves and overflowing countertops, and who also claimed that a pantry or larder room could add value to a property.

If a quick snapshot across social media channels Pinterest and Instagram are to go by, Kirstie isn’t wrong. There are hundreds of thousands of posts capturing pantries in all their organised glory. Search #pantryinspo, #pantrydesign #pantrylabels #storageideas and even #pantryporn to see what kitchen aficionados are up to. Even the Kardashians give tours of their pantry organisation and storage solutions.

Benefits of a pantry

  • The open shelves and increased storage space prevents you from forgetting items that usually lurk at the back of the cupboard
  • You can check ‘stock’ levels and use-by dates quickly, saving wastage due to spoiling
  • The visually appealing aspect encourages the use of a wide variety of ingredients
  • Decanting dry goods encourages recycling, refilling and more mindful food purchases

3 pantry types

  1. The walk-in pantry: a separate but small room that is lined with shelves and open storage units so everything can be seen at a glance. Although not always kept cold, it’s not the ideal place for a tumble dryer or any other heat sources. 

Great if you…..can convert a utility room, have a huge cupboard or can take space from a big kitchen to create a pantry from scratch.

  1. The breakfast pantry: a built-in cabinet that features shelves, an area of work surface with drawers underneath, a plug socket and breakfast items, such as a kettle, toaster, cereal boxes, mugs, bowls and preserves/spreads. Doors shut over the configuration, hiding any mess and keeping the kitchen streamlined. 

Great if you…..are short on space, as the breakfast pantry can be a single unit width of 600m.

  1. The freestanding pantry: an independent item of furniture available from department stores and furniture specialists. Usually a tall unit, this pantry commonly blends drawers, shelves, bottle holders and spice racks, hidden behind doors and with the ability to be positioned where most suitable.

Great if you…..aren’t planning to change your kitchen units any time soon as the freestanding pantry doesn’t have to form part of an existing kitchen.

It’s all about the storage containers

The best looking pantries are those where the dry goods are decanted into new but uniform containers. While Tupperware has its place, glass jars are the most Instagram-worthy. Not only does this lend aesthetic appeal, it also allows people to see how much pasta or rice, for instance, is left without opening a packet. 

And don’t forget the labels

Labels are big business in the pantry world. Although you can buy pre-labelled storage canisters, there is a thriving label-printing industry. You can order any ingredient/product name to be printed in a myriad of fonts and colours, with the lettering applied to self-adhesive transparent film. Other options include chalkboard labels, slate or ceramic tags and personalised stickers.

If your kitchen is the reason you are planning to move home – perhaps you need more storage or would like a bigger area to work with – contact us today for available properties.

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Secure that rental: 8 tips for tenant success

Are you moving rental properties? If so, you’ve got competition! Demand from tenants reached a five-year high during the last quarter of 2020 – sitting at their highest levels since early 2016 and rising 29% when compared to the third quarter of last year.

Performing your own tenant ‘health check’ before you start looking for a new property to rent, will help you secure the rental – allowing you to present yourself as an irresistible prospect and fending off any competition. As well as a refresher of what tenant referencing entails, these 8 tips will help you get in the best tenant shape possible:-

What is tenant referencing?

Tenant referencing – carried out either by a letting agent or landlord – is an assessment exercise that happens before a tenancy agreement is signed. Research is conducted on matters such as financial health, employment status, eligibility to reside in the UK and past tenant behaviour. The results will help the landlord and letting agent decide whether the tenant is suitable for the let.

Give yourself the best chance of rental success

  1. Be mindful about actions: if you have been a tenant in the past, the referencing process will probably involve contacting your previous landlord for details of how the tenancy went. Being reliable and respectful will always work in a tenant’s favour, as a history of late or skipped rental payments, damage to the property or anti-social behaviour will not reflect well.
  2. Be honest and open: we do appreciate that a tenant’s circumstances can change for the better, so if you’re worried a landlord may uncover anything during the referencing stage, it’s better to come clean about it at this stage rather than it come as an unpleasant shock. 
  3. Find out & improve your credit score: a credit score is a trusted reflection of financial health – any blip will be a warning sign to landlords that a prospective tenant may struggle to afford the rent. Tenants can find out their credit score by running a check with www.experian.co.uk or www.equifax.co.uk. Ask us about ways to improve and repair your credit score.
  4. Nominate a guarantor: if there are any past issues concerning rent payments, it can be helpful to line up a guarantor for a new tenancy – someone committed to stepping in and meeting the tenant’s obligations, therefore giving a landlord reassurance. It is worth remembering, however, that any nominated guarantor must also pass the full referencing process.
  5. Be decisive, willing & prompt: every landlord wants to avoid an empty property so the aim will be to move in the best tenant in the quickest time frame. Get a head start on renting rivals by showing willingness, returning all paperwork – filled out correctly and signed – as quickly as possible and making yourself available to move in as soon as you can.
  6. Have all your paperwork ready: part of being prompt is having crucial documents to hand. This includes photo ID, such as a passport or driving licence, wage slips or SA302 calculations for the self employed, bank statements, proof of a deposit and valid documentation to support Right to Rent checks.
  7. Warn referees they’ll be contacted: if you are putting forward the name and contact details of someone to act as a referee, give them advance notice so they don’t ignore the call, email or letter. No response from a referee is often interpreted as negative feedback.
  8. Be careful with social media: although not as well-respected or extensively used as traditional referencing, some landlords will use social media to screen potential tenants. It’s worth editing all of your accounts to ensure nothing that may trip you up has made it onto your feeds.

If you’re a first-time tenant or would like help finding your next rental property, please contact us for guidance and a list of available properties.

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First-time buyer prospects in 2021

Did you know the pandemic did little to dent the buying actions of first-time buyers last year? Those purchasing their first-ever property were out in force, according to analysis by the Halifax. In fact, first-time buyers accounted for half of all home purchases in 2020 and there are no signs of the momentum slowing.

The Halifax also revealed that the average price paid by a UK first-time buyer in 2020 was £256,057, up by £22,939 (10%) from a year earlier (£233,118), with the average deposit standing at £57,278 – 23% more when compared to the previous 12 months.

If you’re a first-time buyer considering your inaugural property purchase in 2021, there are positive prospects ahead. Below are some of the initiatives and forthcoming ideas that may make it a little easier to get a foot on the housing ladder.

Help to Buy in 2021

The Government’s Help to Buy scheme is now exclusively reserved for first-time buyers who are purchasing brand new homes, with a new round of the initiative open between 1st April 2021 and April 2023. The scheme comprises the following three parts: a 5% cash deposit provided by the purchaser; a 20% equity loan provided by the Government and a mortgage to fund the remaining 75% of the purchase price.

We can help you work out your figures and explain the new fixed ‘regional full purchase price caps’ – upper price limits that depend on where the property is located in the country.  

5% deposit open-market mortgages

It was in October 2020 when the Prime Minister announced the come-back of mortgages that require a deposit as low as 5%. It is hoped the scheme will help 2 million people take their first step on the homeownership ladder, changing Generation Rent into Generation Buy. No launch date has been announced but we expect to see the first 95% mortgages – with long-term fixed rates – become available at some point during 2021.

Stamp duty thresholds

Choose your property value wisely and there could be no or a smaller stamp duty bill to pay. Even outside of the current stamp duty holiday, there is no stamp duty to pay on homes up to £125,000 in value. Buy a home worth £250,000 or less and the stamp duty bill will be £2,500 from the 1st April 2021. 

With the Budget scheduled for early March this year, we are watching to see if there are further changes to stamp duty rates – with a rumour that the ‘zero tax’ threshold may rise from £125,000 to £300,000. Please check with us for the latest stamp duty details, as we’ll use this information to calculate the bill attached to a property you are interested in buying. 

New ‘blended’ mortgages

A leading economist, a member of the influential Policy Exchange and a long-term adviser to Boris Johnson, highlighted how many renters can afford mortgage repayments but struggle to save for a deposit. As a solution, Gerard Lyons suggests a new type of ‘blended’ mortgage should be introduced. This would allow people to buy with a 5% deposit, by splitting the home loan into three parts to reduce any risk faced by lenders: 85% to 95% provided by investment banks, with retail banks, building societies and long-term investors (such as pension funds) providing the balance. 

We’d be delighted to help you buy your first home. Get in touch and we can assist with budgeting and your property search.

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Go green with houseplants

Whether you’re working from home or just want to enliven your living space, you can’t go wrong with houseplants. Gone are the days when a solitary, unloved spider plant was the extent of indoor greenery as now, the health and aesthetic benefits of houseplants has led to a boom in the types and species available.

Houseplants for health & wellbeing

There are well documented psychological and physical perks to keeping houseplants, which the RHS explains in this article. From lowering blood pressure and lifting moods, to increasing productivity levels and even boosting our pain thresholds, something as small as a succulent can have a big impact on everyday life inside.

Houseplants are particularly important for those in working environments, as studies show pot plants reduce indoor air pollution – not just the CO2 released from people but also emissions from furnishings, furniture and equipment, such as computers and printers.

Follow the flora & fauna fashion

Just as with clothes and interior design, there are trends in the world of houseplants. Currently succulents are having their moment in the spotlight as they require minimal care, are very compact and come in an amazing array of colours and shapes.

Try a terrarium

These mini indoor greenhouses have had a very modern makeover, making striking additions to any desktop or coffee table. You can buy the component parts separately or for a super-speedy set up, opt for a complete terrarium kit. Check out theurbanbotanist.co.uk for inspiration and other ideas, such as mini indoor plant ecosystems, quirky cacti and living wall art.

Low to no-watering houseplants

Did you know that 60% of people who buy houseplants each year kill them accidently and are clueless about their care? If the label ‘hard to kill’ fills your heart with joy, you’re in luck. Choose your specimen wisely and you won’t have to worry about a watering schedule. This Good Housekeeping article lists nine houseplants that you can ‘totally neglect’ – including air plants that don’t even need soil to thrive!

Fake it instead

If you don’t consider yourself green fingered, or need a foolproof method of keeping plants green, you can bring the essence of the outside in using faux plants. There is a wide variety sold to the general public now – check out one of the specific online retailers such as artificialplants.co.uk and department stores but shop around as you can even find great fakes in supermarkets’ homeware aisles and in bargain stores.

10 houseplants to try

  1. Aloe vera
  2. Peace lily Spathiphyllum
  3. Jade Plant Crassula ovata
  4. Snake Plant Dracaena trifasciata
  5. Corn Plant Dracaena Fragrans
  6. Golden Pothos
  7. Bromelia
  8. Hoya Linearis
  9. Monkey Mask Monstera oblique
  10. Blue Star Fern Phlebodium aureum,

If you’re inspired to add colour to your home and even improve your health with the addition of houseplants, then the dedicated section at gardens4you is a great resource. Its houseplants are categorised by species and type, such as flowering, low light, ‘trendy’ and easy to grow, and all the plants are available for home delivery.

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Could your kitchen become an office?

Working from home has always been a thing – it’s just become a mainstream activity in the last few months. From children completing homework at the kitchen table to the self-employed finding a nook in which to balance their laptop, the art of commandeering somewhere comfortable – and practical – to complete tasks is nothing new.

Not every home is blessed with a separate study or dedicated home office, which has left the kitchen as a rather unconventional place to set up ‘shop’. But working next to the washing machine – is it really possible? The good news is the kitchen can be a creative place to work – and you’ll never be too far from the fridge!

Kitchen offices are a thing

While it was standard practice to build in a small desk within a run of kitchen cabinets in 1980s and 1990s America, it wasn’t a trend that took off in the UK….until now. Kitchen makers are responding to an increase in working from home and homeschooling by launching dedicated desk spaces designed to blend in with the rest of the kitchen. Wickes has an online page dedicated to the kitchen office, with multi-purpose options that are useful in the long as well as short term.

Claim the kitchen table

If you don’t have an office desk in your home but you do have a kitchen table, you can create a productive place to work. The Posture People’s advice on setting up a workstation from home covers kitchen tables and there’s even a handy video to get you sitting comfortably. You may have to move your table – for better access to a power supply, natural light and wifi – but it’s a plausible option.

Don’t discount the breakfast bar

Do you have a breakfast bar? If so, you may have struck gold! The ‘sit-stand’ way of working has been revolutionising desk culture for a couple of years as it has multiple health and productivity benefits. In fact, research published in the British Medical Journal following a study of NHS staff found those using standing desks experienced lower levels of tiredness, better engagement with their work and fewer musculoskeletal problems. Try standing at your breakfast bar as much as possible but if you’d like the option to sit, choose a bar stool with a back – for support and to eliminate ‘perching’. 

Avoid the ‘al-desko’ lunch

You may have read about ‘al desko’ before – it’s the practice of eating your lunch at your desk, dropping crumbs into the keyboard in the process. This feature by The Guardian debates whether al-desko is a healthy habit but the current consensus is that lunch breaks offer the perfect window for escapism – whether that’s a walk outside, time away from a screen or lunch in a different room.

Practice the ‘pack up’

A good work-life balance is important to our wellbeing but spreading out in the kitchen can result in a blurring of lines. Whether it’s exercise books, notepads, pencil cases or computer wires, packing up at the end of the work or school day will help draw a line between work and home (and save spaghetti bolognese being splattered on worksheets). It may also help to have a ‘clocking off’ time when laptops are shut and the classroom closes.

If you are looking to move home and want your next property to facilitate working from home, please get in touch for a list of what’s available.

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You can become a landlord…and here’s how

Unlike other investment strategies – complex pensions, scary stocks and shares or crazy crypto currencies – many of us have a head start when it comes to investing in property, as most of us are familiar with the concept of renting.

If you’re planning for your financial future or are looking for better short-term returns, property looks set to be the star performer in 2021. Even for the uninitiated, the inexperienced and those with insubstantial amounts of immediate funds, investing in property is more attainable than you would imagine. Here’s how you could dip your toes into property investment this year.  

Make the most of money saved

With restaurants, bars and leisure facilities shut, and international travel off limits for most, it will come as no surprise that 85% of UK adults spent less money during lockdown. In fact, the results of a study by AA Financial Services, released in December 2020, revealed that the average Brit still receiving their full income had saved an average of £617 a month. If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself flush, you may start thinking about investing any saved money in property.

Get better returns than savings accounts

The same AA Financial Services study also found 31% of people with savings accounts increased their monthly deposits at some point during lockdown – a stat backed up by the Bank of England, whose own data showed personal bank deposits had grown by three times the recent average.

If you have a stash of money in a savings account, now is a good time to review how much interest you’re earning, if anything at all. The Bank of England’s data showed a record £215.3billion sitting in instant access accounts that paid zero interest, when analysed at the end of October 2020, and it’s common for even the best ISAs available today to only reward savers with interest around the 1% mark. In comparison, SevenCapital puts the UK’s average rental yield at 3.53% – dwarfing the return offered by most banks. 

Rent out your current property

If you thought becoming a landlord required access to pots of cash, think again. If you own your own home, it is highly likely that you can turn your current residence into a buy-to-let. Some vendors choose to become a landlord if they can’t sell their property as quickly as they’d like, or if they’d like to retain ownership of a home (perhaps if they have inherited a dwelling with family ties). Instead of selling, they swap the open market for advertising their home as available to rent. 

It’s usually a case of switching their current mortgage for a specific buy-to-let one, making it possible to free equity during the process so they can put a deposit down on an onwards purchase (what’s known as rent-to-buy). Some homeowners even choose the rent-to-rent path – renting out their current property in order to go and rent elsewhere. In either case, choosing to rent a property out instead of selling means the owner becomes chain-free behind them – a perk in itself – and they benefit from retaining an asset for the future.

Cash in your pension

Since April 2015, it has been possible for those over 55 to take a proportion of or their entire pension pot as cash, giving millions of people access to a lump sum that would have previously been tied up for years. There are some tax and future income implications that a financial adviser can assist you with, but an increasing number of people are choosing a property investment over a pension as a source of short and long-term funds, using their ‘pot’ to fund a purchase.

Ask about a ‘hands off’ property investment

If it’s the involvement, and not the cash investment, that’s stopping you becoming a landlord, ask about our lettings-focused management services. Did you know your participation could be as minimal as checking your bank account? We can take on the running of a rental property on your behalf – making sure the property is legally compliant, handling enquiries from your tenant and collecting the rent. 

Contact us today to start exploring the idea of becoming a landlord.

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Update: latest legislation for landlords

The lettings sector is highly regulated and it can be hard to keep up with all the new introductions and amendments. Although we have summarised three forthcoming items of note, we pride ourselves on pre-empting what new legislation is coming, informing landlords of their new responsibilities and implementing change, where applicable, to ensure all our lets are legally compliant and tenants are protected. 

Here’s what’s on the current rental radar:

Prepare for pets in buy-to-lets

You may be aware of The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill, which is sponsored by animal-loving MP Andrew Rosindell. In his initial parliamentary address, the MP acknowledged the comfort and companionship pets bring, leading to his desire for legislation that would stop landlords automatically refusing renters just because they were pet owners.

The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill is moving through the process of becoming law. The Bill had its first reading (and was passed) in October 2020, with the second reading scheduled in the House of Commons on 26th February 2021. If given Royal Assent in the Queen’s Speech, the Bill may force landlords – and letting agents working on their behalf – to remove ‘no pet’ clauses from their tenancy agreements.

It’s worth noting that the Government is already showing support for this Bill. On the 28th January 2021, its Model Tenancy Agreement – a suggested and not mandatory document – was changed in favour of tenants with pets. It now states that ‘consent for pets will be the default position and landlords will have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant and provide a good reason.’ 

Section 21s win a temporary reprieve 

One Bill that has progressed past the Queen’s Speech stage is the Renters Reform Bill. This has been in motion since 2019 and seeks to ban so-called ‘no fault’ Section 21 evictions and also paves the way for ‘lifetime’ deposits that follow a tenant around and replace a cash deposit for each different property rented. 

Delays have plagued the introduction of the Bill and despite a comment from the Junior Housing Minister in January 2021 that there would be change ‘very soon’, a comment from current Housing Minister Chris Pincher in February 2021 suggested the current climate will delay the Bill’s passing into law even further. We are here to advise landlords on all matters of repossession, including the temporary bans and timescales that have been introduced as a result of the pandemic. 

Approaching electrical safety deadline

What the Government did manage to introduce were mandatory electrical safety inspections for private landlords, passed in January 2020. This coming spring is when the private rental sector will feel the full effects of the legislation. 

As of 1st April 2021, all tenanted properties – including those that are new to the market, those with renewing tenancies, those with tenants in situ and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) – will be governed by The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020. Of imminent importance for landlords is the ruling that stipulates that the first electrical inspection for existing tenancies is carried out by 1st April 2021 and every five years for all tenancies, unless a report from an inspection or test specifies sooner.

There is also a prescribed protocol for landlords to follow once an inspection has been made, which we are happy to explain to landlords. We can also talk over what will happen during an inspection and the electrical tests so landlords can prepare in advance for the best chance of passing.