Lifestyle Group 1

6 portable garden trends

A quick skim of social media shows we are styling outside spaces in the same way as our home interiors – with colour, furniture and accessories – especially now our gardens are more important than ever. 

Thankfully, there is a more temporary route to this summer’s hottest garden trends for those not wanting to make permanent or expensive outdoor improvements – ideal if your current home isn’t your forever home. Here are our top 6 portable garden trends for this summer:-

  1. Fire pits & chimineas: with recent emphasis on entertaining outside – and the British weather not always delivering tropical temperatures – a source of outside heat has moved up the must-have list. A bonfire isn’t always safe or practical, especially if you’re renting, but the good news is fire pits and chimineas are very much in vogue. These wood-fired portable sources of heat stand on legs and therefore won’t scorch the ground below.
  2. Plant pots: plants can be expensive and if you do choose to fill beds and borders, there is no guarantee anything you dig up and transport will survive in your next garden. The most portable way of adding flora and fauna is to use pots. Opt for a variety of sizes and you’ll be able to grow everything from bulbs and bedding plants to vegetables and even small trees, then simply load the pots onto the removal van when you’re on the move!
  3. Mirrors: if your garden is more of a courtyard or terrace than extensive area, mirrors can bounce around daylight and trick the eye into believing the space is larger than it is – just as you would inside a home. Prop a mirror against a wall for a no-fix solution or securely wall mount for removal at a later date – just ensure you opt for a mirror designed for outdoor use.
  4. Lighting: whether for safety or a sense of theatre, garden lighting is big news this summer. Solar lights are a fantastic, wire-free way of illuminating your garden and can be purchased anywhere, from supermarkets to garden centres. Choose from strings of festoon and fairy lights, spotlights and lanterns – all with the added benefit of being totally portable. 
  5. Hot tubs: ‘plug in and play’ hot tubs have become less of a novelty and more of a permanent fixture, thanks to their temporary nature and more modest price point. Even though inflatable tubs feel a quick and easy luxury, they still need an outside power socket and careful daily chemical treatment – plus they use a significant amount of electricity. If you’re a tenant, you’ll need to check in advance with your landlord as to whether a hot tub and an outside power socket are allowed under the terms of your tenancy agreement.
  6. Waterproof textiles: the craze for creating outdoor rooms has led to an explosion of waterproof textiles in the form of cushions and rugs. Although it’s not desirable to leave these accessories out for a regular drenching, they will be shower proof and able to withstand a typical British summer. Opt for good-quality classic designs and a set of waterproof textiles will work in any garden you happen to grace.

If you’d like to see our list of available properties with gardens, please get in touch.


Lifestyle Group 2

Tenancy ending? Start the big spring clean

The big spring clean – is it an activity you undertake every year? While not everyone may perform a thorough clean every 12 months – we’re talking dusting behind radiators, scrubbing skirting boards and removing cobwebs from every corner – there are occasions when a little more attention goes a long way.

A clean break

End of tenancy cleans are of paramount importance for tenants, as it’s reported that rentals left in less than salubrious states are the biggest cause of deposit deductions. The mantra ‘leave your let as you found it’ should be adhered to, especially as the check-out clerk will compare the outgoing condition of the property against how it was documented on the day you moved in – a state of cleanliness usually backed up with photographic evidence in an inventory.

Before you pick up your bucket and bottle of bleach, check your tenancy agreement. Some landlords stipulate within the contract that a professional cleaning company should be instructed to undertake the end of tenancy deep clean, and tenants may be obliged to use a pre-selected firm.

DIY with a little elbow grease

If there is no obligation to use a professional cleaning service, tenants can perform their own end of tenancy deep clean – just don’t underestimate the hours and effort needed as every nook and cranny should receive some attention. If the job feels overwhelming, the tenant can instruct a company to undertake a specific end of tenancy deep clean on their behalf, although be sure to go on personal recommendations when finding a cleaner.

If you want to ensure your self-administered spring clean gives you the best chance of a full deposit refund, refer back to the inventory document and move-in checklist to refresh your memory with regards to marks, stains and areas of grime. If you can’t find these documents, do ask your letting agent for a copy.

You’ve missed a bit

An end of tenancy deep clean needs to be thorough and methodical, so start with a super critical eye. Dusting, polishing, mopping and vacuuming is the very minimum and don’t fall into the trap of concentrating on everything that’s at eye level. All corners, behind tall appliances, high shelves and plug sockets will need attention.

Of particular importance are carpets, ovens and grills, louvered blinds, white goods and bathroom/kitchen areas that may have seen a build-up of dust, limescale or mould. Anything that wasn’t there on move-in day – but is visible at the end – needs cleaning or removing. 

In addition, cupboards, wardrobes, storage units and drawers should all be clean and free of everything – down to the last crumb. Plus, don’t forget the windows (inside and out) will need cleaning, and any garden areas/outbuildings must be emptied and tidied.

Marketing a property

In addition to the end of a tenancy, a really good spring clean can work wonders if your property is going on the market soon. A clean and clutter free home will always look better when photographed as well as in the flesh for viewings. Follow the above advice and you won’t be disappointed with the end result.

We’re happy to answer all your property questions, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Sales Group 2

Talking about multi generation

Recent events have brought the distance between family members into sharp focus, so it’s only natural to start thinking about moving loved ones closer and providing a roof over the heads of those who need support. Multigenerational living, however, isn’t anything new. 

Parents, grandparents and children living under the same roof is still commonplace in mainland Europe – the comforting presence of ‘Nonna’ cooking pasta in an Italian kitchen comes to mind – but even here in the UK, more than one generation sharing the same house was commonplace up until World War II.

When the post-war middle classes grew in wealth and mobility, we shook off the image of crammed family homes in favour of independent living and more personal space. Now, however, there are indications we are returning to the idea of multi-generational living. 

Aviva’s How We Live report, released in late 2020, found an upwards trend in the extended family set up – with a third of UK households now multi-generational. This is mainly made up of adult children living with their parents but the rate of older relatives living with their younger family is on the rise – standing at 14% now compared with just 9% when the same report was collated in 2016.

Modern reasons for multi-generational living

  • Lack of affordable housing for first-time buyers, leaving them to reside with parents while they save up for a deposit
  • The ‘Boomerang’ generation – adults returning to the family nest after university, between renting and buying a property, or after a change in circumstances
  • Older adults moving in with their grown-up children for healthcare needs and everyday living support
  • Grandparents moving in with families to help provide childcare and share living costs
  • A lack of specific retirement and assisted living properties
  • Inability to afford private care homes in later life
  • Isolation, disconnection due to geography and general feelings of loneliness

Making multi-generational living happen

Many movers are finding their next home will need to accommodate more than just their immediate family – with the spotlight now on who makes up a household. Planning an extended family residence can be exciting but there are a few considerations too. 

The granny annexe: an old idea with new provenance

Having a separate space for additional family members is growing in popularity. Aviva’s report found 1 in 20 UK households (5%) already have a granny annexe, with converted garages, cellars and separate outbuildings providing extra accommodation. A further 7% of householders say they have plans to develop this type of space in the future.

Attached or not?

One of the biggest considerations of multigenerational living is how close is close enough? A true annexe is a separate building within the grounds of a home, with its own entrance and facilities. This is most commonly a converted outbuilding or detached garage. If you’re thinking of adding an annexe for residential use, you will need to check with your local council’s planning department for any permission needed, and establish whether the annexe qualifies as a separate dwelling with its own council tax and utility bills.

Alternatives to increase space and capacity for family members include converting the loft, extending the existing property out to the side or up, or converting a dining room and utility, for instance, into another bedroom and a shower room. There are some great ideas, as well as food for thought, in this Grand Designs article on multigenerational living. 

Self-contained or communal?

Anticipated levels of privacy, dependence and social interaction also need consideration. Whether you’re comfortable sharing a kitchen and bathroom facilities will influence how you remodel an existing dwelling or what floor plan you’ll need should you be buying a property to accommodate more family members. 

The age of everyone under the same roof also matters – a young adult will not have the same needs as an elderly parent, for instance. Planning for health and mobility issues should be factored in too, as will the size of the property – especially if there’s potential for an ‘empty nest’ later on. A big home may prove costly to run in the future if only one generation remains.

The estate agents’ view

The good news is there is a growing demand for larger houses and properties with separate annexes. We can help if you would like to sell a home suitable for multigenerational living, or if you’re looking for a property where lots of family members can live together. Contact us for advice today.

Sales Group 1

Monthly mortgage repayments: fixing the cost

For many of us, knowing what our monthly bills are going to be provides a comforting level of security and while many costs vary month-on-month – such as gas and electricity – having a set mortgage repayment is achievable.

Mortgage rates: why do they matter?

Every mortgage has an associated rate of interest – the amount charged by the lender for the privilege of loaning the buyer money. As a simple example, for every £10 loaned, the borrower will pay the bank £11 back – an extra pound for providing the loan. Actually, how much is repaid depends on the rate of interest set by the lender – and this figure is influenced by the Bank of England interest rate and by wider financial conditions. 

A lender has the right to increase – or decrease – the rate of interest applied to a loan during the term of the mortgage. In previous decades, rates of mortgage interest quickly rose from 7% to 17%, making repayments unaffordable for many homeowners.  More recently, mortgage rates have plunged to their lowest levels and it’s possible to secure a rate of around 1% in some cases. 

Every time the lender changes their mortgage interest rate – and that can be as frequently as monthly – the repayment amount will also change, becoming more or less expensive.

What is a fixed rate mortgage?

Fluctuating repayment amounts particularly affect borrowers on tracker and variable rate mortgages, as they are at the mercy of the lender’s intentions and of the Bank of England’s interest rate decisions. Fixed-rate mortgages are the truest way of knowing what your monthly mortgage repayment will be, as a fixed interest rate is agreed at the start of the loan and it will stay the same for a pre-agreed period of time.

Fixing: for how many years?

The traditional home loan term is a 25 year mortgage but there is unwavering certainty when it comes to repayment costs. 

It has now become commonplace for lenders to offer fixed mortgage interest rates for 2, 3 or 5 years, with a few 10-year fixed rate products creeping into the market. When the fixed-rate period ends, the borrower has the choice to take out a new fixed-rate product, choose an alternative home loan or revert to the lender’s standard variable rate.

Considerations when taking out a fixed-rate mortgage

Given the ups and downs of life, many borrowers love fixed rate mortgages, knowing their repayments won’t climb higher and higher every month. There are, however, some considerations that you should talk through with a mortgage adviser or your lender. These include:-

How competitive are fixed rates?

Variable rate and tracker mortgages usually carry a lower rate of interest as lenders know there is the likelihood of repayments rising. Fixed rate borrowers will see higher rates of interest set at the start, as the predetermined repayment is seen as a benefit that carries a premium. The size of your deposit will also impact what rate of interest you are offered – generally, the bigger the deposit, the lower the rate. It’s also worth comparing the total repayment costs of different fixed rate mortgages – including any arrangement fees – with other products on the market.

What happens when the Bank of England lowers its interest rate?

Lenders usually – but not always – pass on a cut in the nation’s interest rate to borrowers. That means a tracker and variable mortgage rate that was 3% may become 2.5%, bringing down the monthly repayment in the process. Borrowers with a fixed rate mortgage will not benefit from a cut – their monthly repayment will stay the same.

What happens if you want to end the mortgage early?

Sometimes fixed rates that looked good value to begin with start to look costly as new mortgages are released with lower rates. It is possible to leave a fixed rate mortgage but there could be a fee, depending on your timing. Those exiting before the fixed term expires may have to pay an early repayment charge – usually a fee between 1% and 5% of the outstanding mortgage balance.

What happens if I want to overpay?

Long-term fixed rate mortgages tie borrowers to a certain product or lender for an extended period of time. It’s worth knowing what it may cost to make overpayments during the term – establish this before you sign any loan agreement.

Lifestyle Group 2

Your guide: choosing a vase

Botanical is a big trend for 2021 and displaying blooms inside is an instant way of bringing the outside in. More than just a connection with nature, however, flowers have long been used to sell or let a property – to add a splash of colour, perfume a room and provide a focal point when marketing photographs are being taken.

From bunches of fresh cut flowers to the most convincing of faux foliage, every stem will need support in the form of a vase and the vessel itself can also provide a style statement. Here’s your quick guide to vases and creating striking displays.

Matching the vase to the flowers

The advice from Interflora is easy to follow – the length of the flower stems should be no more than one and a half to two times the height of your selected vase. Don’t be put off by the length of stems when you buy your flowers – some of the best displays are in small, squat vases where the stems have been drastically clipped short.

Also take into consideration how many stems you have – a generous bunch will need a vase with a wide neck so the flowers aren’t damaged, while a small number of willowy stems will need the support of a narrow-necked vase. Extra support can be added by placing some pebbles or decorative stones at the bottom of the vase and pushing the stems in the gaps.

Vase shapes

A vast array of different sizes and styles of vase now line supermarket and homeware shelves but they are loosely based on four classic shapes – column, hourglass, round and rectangular. You can also buy bud vases, which are much smaller with narrow necks designed especially for holding a single stem. There is no right or wrong choice – select what suits your taste, decor or budget.

Materials & finishes

Glass and ceramic are the most common materials for vases to be made of – chosen for their ability to be moulded into different shapes, tinted, painted and textured. As well as not being porous, glass and ceramic are easy to clean – essential as vases can become a breeding ground for bacteria, which can impair the life of flowers.

Making your blooms last longer

The beauty of a bunch of flowers is its relative cheapness and ability to instantly change the mood of a room. That said, there are hints and tips to extend the life of your blooms – even if they’re a £1 bunch of daffodils or a mix of free flowers cut from your own garden. Florists recommend:-

  • Cutting stems at a 45 degree angle before placing them in water
  • Changing the water in a vase every two days
  • Stripping the lower part of each stem so there are no leaves below the water line
  • Removing fading or dead blooms swiftly
  • Placing vases in cool spots out of direct sunlight
  • Keeping vases away from bowls of fruit as the ethylene gas emitted can cause flowers to wilt
  • Always adding the supplied sachet of flower food
  • Moving filled vases to a fridge overnight, if possible

Hit and miss hacks

Old wives’ tales for extending the life of flowers include adding some weird and wonderful things to the water (aspirin, lemonade, vodka, sugar, vinegar and even bleach) but there is no scientific evidence that these work, so they are best avoided. Dropping a penny into the vase, however, has some grounding in science as copper acts as a fungicide.

If you’d like to discover additional ways of making your home look appealing when it’s on the market, get in touch for advice.

Lifestyle Group 1

Colour by compass

Unless you love the look of stark white walls, most of us like to introduce a little bit of colour to our homes. Did you know, however, where each room faces – north, south, east or west – can drastically impact how a colour looks? Whether you have a free license to paint walls, fancy hanging wallpaper or are adding colour with temporary art, colour mistakes can be avoided with some advance planning. 

One direction

Your first step should be identifying which way your rooms face. You can download a compass app to almost every smart device to help you establish which direction you’re dealing with, or use the compass that comes with Google Maps for a quick start. 

If you want to know which direction your entire property faces, simply stand at your front door, looking outwards, and read which way the compass points. If you’re trying to establish which way a particular room faces, stand in front of the window that is your biggest source of natural light and read the compass from that position.

North facing rooms

These tend to let in cooler light and can feel cold if your colour choices have blue, grey or green undertones. Colours with cream, yellow and orange hues will help make these rooms feel warmer, as will rich, darker shades. In fact, north facing rooms look great with deep red accents.

South facing rooms

These rooms are often filled with a warm, soft light from sunrise to sunset, therefore you can use blues and cool greens without the room feeling too cold. South facing rooms are also the place to experiment with pastels, although any colour tends to work when the natural light is slightly golden.

East and west facing rooms

When you’ll mostly use these rooms should dictate the colours you choose, as they can switch between both cool and warm natural light depending on the time of day. It’s common for west facing spaces to feature cooler light in the morning and softer light in the afternoon – the opposite is true for east facing rooms.

Save stress with samples

The calibration of our phone and computer screens rarely depict colours as they appear in real life, so anything you see online should only be used as a guide. The most accurate way of deciding which colour is for you is by obtaining samples – tester pots of paint, wallpaper cut offs and fabric swatches. 

Try and get enough so you can create four samples of each colour you have in mind, then stick a sample of each to every wall in your room (use something like 3M Command’s no-residue adhesive strips if you’re worried about damaging the wall). You’ll be amazed at how different the same colour looks in various places, as shadows and other furnishings will influence their tone.

Look into the light

To make sure you really love a colour, check the samples under different light conditions. A pale pink, for instance, may look almost white in the morning, like bubble gum at lunch and more orange in the evening. Plus, don’t forget to alter the light source too – natural light with curtains/blinds open, at night with curtains/blinds shut, with overhead artificial lights on and with just side or lamp lights too.

If you’re looking for a new home that’s a blank canvas ready to make your mark – or you’d like a property that’s already decorated with pops of colour – get in touch for a list of available homes.