Categories
Sales Group 1

Is summer a good time to sell?

Early summer usually heralds the start of the great British getaway, with suitcases packed, passports located and flight times double checked. This year, however, looks set to be a repeat of 2020, with a degree of uncertainty around holidays overseas.

What is a travel agent’s loss may be the property industry’s gain, as more Brits look to buy and sell in the traditionally quieter summer months. There are a number of reasons why 2021 is different, so if you’re sitting on the fence over the matter of selling your property, read on.

Stamp duty holiday…it’s not over!

While many of the headlines have focused on the 30th June 2021 deadline, when the maximum £15,000 stamp duty saving ends, the initiative has been extended. Although the discount threshold will drop to £250,000, home movers can still save thousands. From 30th June 2021 until 30th September 2021, there will be no tax to pay on the first £250,000 of a property purchase (or zero stamp duty if the property is worth £249,999 or less). The usual stamp duty thresholds will return on 1st October 2021, so movers looking to save money need to take action now.

Mortgage interest rates drop to sub zero

Borrowing money is at one of its cheapest levels for decades, thanks to a war between mortgage lenders to secure business. The competition has seen the re-introduction of rates below 1% this summer – 0.95% in some cases. The borrowing affordability is prompting previously hesitant buyers into action, which is boosting the entire home moving market.

Saving money has been a silver lining

If you’re thinking of selling but are worried about a lack of buyers, think again. Curbs on holidays, eating out and leisure activities last year allowed many to save healthy deposits. When combined, this summer represents the ‘perfect storm’ of buying conditions. We’re finding many purchasers are looking to make offers in the coming months for fear of missing out.

Selling your home this summer? 

Here are our top 5 presentation tips ahead of photography and viewings this summer:-

  1. Tidy gardens: there is no doubt that outside space sells so if you have a garden, make sure it’s neat and tidy. Mow lawns, weed flower beds, prune back overgrown shrubs and clear away kids’ toys as a minimum.
  2. Set the scene: entertaining al fresco is big news, so set aside some time to illustrate what’s possible outside. If you have garden furniture, set it out as if you’re hosting and even dress the table as if you’re about to eat.
  3. Create kerb appeal: don’t let potential buyers get the wrong impression the minute they arrive outside your home. Attend to flaky exterior paint, hide recycling bins, sweep your front path, fix a broken gate and clean your front door or even give it a fresh coat of paint. You’ll get extra bonus points for a hanging basket in full bloom or a pair of artfully-placed bay trees.
  4. Make inside light and airy: summer is no time for stale air and dark rooms. Ensure all windows are sparkling clean inside and out, throw open windows and doors if the weather is fine, use fresh flowers or a natural home fragrance to scent rooms, and ensure blinds and curtains are open.  
  5. Keep viewers comfortable: bear in mind viewings may take place during a heat wave….or a torrential summer downpour. Be ready to accommodate either with a cold drink or an umbrella, and don’t forget to keep the property’s temperature at a comfortable level.

If selling your property is this summer’s focus, let us know. We can get you on the market in a matter of days, making the most of this season’s super selling conditions.

Categories
Sales Group 2

How to avoid arguments when moving home

They say moving home is up there with death and divorce in terms of stress levels. It’s hardly surprising given the sums of money involved, the level of commitment required and the pressure of deadlines. Together, these elements can put a strain on any relationship, whether you are buying with a friend, sibling or partner. Here’s our guide to surviving one of life’s most testing times with as few squabbles as possible.

Acknowledge that not everybody is equal

Money is often at the heart of arguments and it’s no different when it comes to property – perhaps one person has put down more of the deposit or maybe one buyer is going to pay more of the monthly mortgage repayment. If you’re the party stumping up the most cash, the temptation is to use this as a position of superiority in arguments, or to take control, which can lead to resentment further on. Quarrels can be avoided if there is a serious ‘clear the air’ discussion before any property is bought.

Explore a ‘Deed of Trust’

This is also known as a Declaration of Trust, and protects the financial interests of the buyer who is contributing more – an important aspect if there should be a parting of ways in the future. A Deed of Trust ensures shared assets are divided fairly, and it covers instances where one buyer is stumping up a bigger deposit, paying off more of the mortgage or is picking up the cost of the property’s maintenance. Just having this legal agreement in place can ward off arguments.

Sharing the same property vision

It’s no good looking at property without discussing what you can afford and really need beforehand. Being dragged along to a house that’s £50,000 over your budget or that is too far from a school, for instance, will lead to tension. Make sure you agree on what you can afford before going anywhere near a ‘for sale’ sign. Agreeing on a budget and a shared list of things a new home must have can also stop buyers falling out. Use two columns – ‘essential’ and ‘preferable’ – so you’re both working towards the same vision.

Split the admin

There is a fair share of paperwork and administration involved when buying a property and if you have a property to sell too, that workload can double. Filling in forms, chasing solicitors and talking to mortgage lenders can be time-consuming and tedious. Split the admin side of things equally to avoid one person feeling like they have been burdened with the mundane but crucial tasks.

And if it goes wrong…

…..don’t blame each other. Sadly some property purchases never get off the ground or the transaction fails to clear the final hurdle but this is usually because of factors outside of the buyers’ control – especially if you’re in a property chain. Focusing on a new plan made together is much better than dwelling on the ‘what ifs’.

If you are looking to buy a property with a friend, relative or partner, we’re here to help. Although we won’t take sides in any arguments, we will be here with impartial, constructive and useful advice.

Categories
Lifestyle Group 1

7 places to start when baby proofing your home

Switch on the TV or visit a news website and there is no shortage of bumps and babies. Among the glut of Royal births and new celebrity offspring, one headline did catch the eye and it concerned the ex Chancellor, George Osborne. 

It was reported that the former political high flyer, who is to become a father this summer, is being encouraged to baby proof his London home, after it was revealed to be a very chic, sharply-styled mews property that is more bachelor pad than baby nest. 

This case highlights how some parents may have to adapt their grown-up interior style to accommodate small people – especially leading up to when babies start crawling and walking.

With this in mind, we bring you our quick guide to baby proofing a new home, bearing in mind that small people are quick, inquisitive and unpredictable.

 

  • Implement electrical safety

 

Tiny fingers will find the smallest of gaps, so lockable plug socket covers are a must, especially when it comes to sockets at skirting board level. It’s also wise to tie up cables and to block electrical hubs with heavy items of furniture.

  1. Remove hazardous items 

Babies love to reach out, grab things and put them in their mouths so hazardous items should be locked away or moved up high before a baby is born. Pay particular attention to batteries, coins, knives, tools, cleaning products, alcohol, sewing kits, plastic bags, house plants and medication. As an extra precaution, add safety catches to cupboard doors and drawers below waist height.

 

  • Eliminate trip hazards

 

As soon as a child’s first step is taken, parents need to remove anything that could cause them to fall. Pay attention to unsecured rugs, piles of shoes, loose pieces of carpet, trailing wires, vacuum cleaner cords and extension cables. 

 

  • Secure windows & doors

 

Window restrictors and childproof locks offer peace-of-mind if you have little explorers, and don’t forget to only ever use cord-free window dressings. Door stops and finger guards will prevent fingers and toes getting squished, and it’s also wise to check if any glazed panels contain safety glass.

 

  • Buy baby gates & a playpen

 

A baby’s new found freedom can also present an accident waiting to happen. A baby gate at the top and the bottom of the stairs is advised and using a baby gate across a doorway will restrict access to an out-of-bounds room or the garden. A playpen is another way to keep a baby safe in one spot.

 

  • Make furniture safe

 

Sharp corners will quickly be at eye height of a toddler, so use cushioned guards to prevent injury, paying particular attention to low-level items. Heavy or freestanding furniture pieces – especially bookcases, dressers and chests of drawers – should be screwed to the wall or securely fastened using anti-tip straps/brackets so they can’t be dragged over or toppled. 

 

  • Fire & water safety

 

Open fires and fireplaces should always be screened with a fixed fire guard, and extreme caution should be taken with candles or wax melt burners. Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, if not already in place, and ensure they are tested on a regular basis. You may also like to buy a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket to keep in the home. Don’t forget to keep kettles out of reach and install tap guards to avoid scalds. 

Outside – fence off, securely cover or fill in ponds, water features and pools. 

Download, read or buy now 

This online guide to baby proofing really is a must-read, and covers other areas, such as garages and gardens, in more detail. If you find your home is unsuitable for family life, contact us for a list of alternative properties.

Categories
Lifestyle Group 2

Live in or move out? 7 considerations before renovating

If you are planning to buy a ‘doer upper’, are remodelling a home for the rental market or want to add value to where you live, what you do with yourself during the project is just as important as what you do to the property.

Major renovation works can equal major disruption – think removing the roof, pulling down ceilings and taking a sledgehammer to walls. There will be noise, dust and a house full of trades, meaning you’ll be short on peace and privacy. 

If your burning question is ‘should I move out during renovation works or live in?’, here are seven considerations for you to mull over.

  • Can you afford to live out?

If you’re thinking of moving out during the renovation work, factor in the cost of renting a property short term – or perhaps living in an Airbnb for a few weeks. If you can stay with family for free or go down the Grand Designs route with a caravan in the garden, you will save money.

  • Do you have a project manager?

The ability to move out may also depend on the scale of your renovations and if you’ve employed a project manager. If you’re self managing and living in, you’ll have the advantage of being around to make critical decisions in person. The luxury of a project manager, however, is that they’ll take on the day-to-day decisions on your behalf, freeing you to go to work or live elsewhere.

  • Can you plan for unexpected delays?

While moving out and escaping the chaos may sound ideal, you’ll have to plan for unexpected delays which, unfortunately, can happen when renovating a property. Likewise, if you’ve taken annual leave to stay at home, be aware you may have to return to your workplace leaving an unfinished project behind.

  • How will you clean and wash?

Never underestimate how much busy households rely on running water. Whether it’s to drink, wash up, clean clothes or bathe, the absence of water can make everyday living a challenge. Establish with your builders and plumber how long your water may potentially be turned off and when it will happen, then plan your living arrangements around the timings. 

  • Can you cook ‘camping’ style?

As well as water, you may find there are periods when you’re left without gas and/or electricity. For those who are replacing their kitchen, you’ll also need to check the schedule of appliance removal and when new ones will be operational – not just fitted as gas, water and electricity will all need to be connected to start making meals again. 

The novelty of cooking on a camping stove may soon wear off and take-aways can hurt the wallet after a week. Batch cooking and freezing meals ahead of renovations is an option if you can retain the use of a microwave. If your project is short but high in disruption, a week or two on holiday in a full-board hotel may be an idea.

  • Do you have children or pets?

Renovation people, small people and furry people don’t always mix, especially if your project is whole-house or your home is short on liveable space. If you’re considering moving out as a family, balance the job of packing up and the disruption to daily routines versus staying at home and working around the mess.

Did you know ingesting too much dust can lead to serious health issues for some animals? Therefore boarding your cats/dogs is sensible, as is sending smaller pets to a temporary home while work is completed.

  • Do you work from home?

If you’re having your house rewired, or are moving light switches and sockets, an electrician will frequently visit your fuse box to cut the power and the supply can also ‘trip’ without warning. Your wifi connection may be disrupted, so if you rely on the internet for emails and video calls, moving out could be a more reliable option than living in.

Also factor in the noise of pneumatic drills and circular saws – they’re not conducive for a peaceful day at your desk. You could explore the option of renting a desk in an office hub while work is ongoing, returning to the property at night.

If you’re not deterred by the prospect of power tools, piles of rubble and the job of making endless cups of tea for trades, contact us for a list of potential property projects. We can also match you with homes where someone else has done the hard work already.

Categories
Lettings Group 2

Top 5 ‘no-viewing’ tips for tenants

Would you sign a tenancy agreement without a physical visit to the property in question? According to behaviour analysis by Twentyci – a data agency specialising in home moving activity – an increasing number of renters are agreeing to let a new home without going on a viewing. 

Twentyci concentrated on rental properties that were being marketed with virtual viewings, and found that two thirds of prospective tenants who had seen a property exclusively using a virtual tour would sign a tenancy agreement without making an in-person visit.

Reasons for signing up without seeing

There are natural peaks in the property market when the supply of homes to rent doesn’t always keep up with demand. During these periods, houses and flats can be let within a matter of days – even hours. Tenants who have missed out previously may find they stand the best chance of success by signing up to a property based on the online listing alone – especially if they are signing a short let agreement.

Tenants relocating from out-of-area and those moving from overseas are also more likely to sign on the dotted line without seeing a property in the flesh, as the distance to travel and speed at which decisions need to be made are not always compatible.

More recently, tenants are exercising caution in the wake of the Covid pandemic when deciding to visit properties. Thankfully, the quality and quantity of visuals aids now available for tenants to review can be enough to come to a decision, especially in a fast moving market. 

How to reserve a rental without a viewing

Competition for rental properties can be fierce and the latest ARLA Propertymark report showed that a record number of new tenants registered with letting agency branches in April 2021. In fact, an average of 82 prospective renters joined the waiting list of every office, which is 10 more hopeful tenants per branch than in April 2020.

If you’re worried about missing out – or perhaps you haven’t got time to view a property in person as quickly as required – you can still make an offer on a rental. Here are our top 5 tips for making a decision without a physical viewing:

  1. Review the photos and/or virtual tour: take time to study the pictures that have been taken. Try to look at the photos/footage on a laptop or bigger screen and not just on your mobile ‘phone.
  2. Look at the floorplan: the floorplan will show you the flow of space and arrangement of rooms in a way photos can’t. Elements often missed – doorways, storage cupboards and windows – should be marked.
  3. Examine the measurements: use the measurements provided and compare these to the room sizes where you live now – it’s the best way to truly understand the space that’s on offer without standing in the property.
  4. Use Google Street View to explore: Google’s Street View function is a great way to check out the immediate area without visiting the neighbourhood.
  5. Ask if there’s a video: it may be possible for an agent to take a video of the property for you to view or sometimes, they can FaceTime call you from the property to create a ‘live’ viewing scenario.

If you are looking for a new rental property and need advice about making a successful offer before someone else beats you to it, get in touch with our lettings team today.

Categories
Lettings Group 1

Your first shop when you move out

For many, deciding to make it on your own in the big wide world involves flying the family nest to move into a rented property. While your mind may be preoccupied with houseplants, accessories and the friends you’ll invite over, there are more mundane matters that could catch you out.

If your first night involves a take-away and a bottle of wine that your new neighbours gifted you, you may wake up the next morning to bare cupboards and an awareness of what you took for granted when living in the family home. There was always loo roll, a fridge full of food and a packet of paracetamol when you needed them most. 

Moving out to a rented property for the first time? Here’s our guide to your first shop.

Make a list

Lists aren’t just for forgetful people. There will be so much to think about during your first few days of being on your own that an inaugural shop could turn into a disaster if you are not prepared. If you’re feeling stressed at the thought of a supermarket visit, why not register for online shopping and check out a basket of essentials to be delivered directly to your new home?

The obvious

Of course, food will be at the top of your list. Make sure you think about fresh food, frozen food and non-perishables like tins, jars and pasta. Having store cupboard basics will allow you to rustle up something edible even if everything in your fridge goes off.

It’s also wise to shop for the not so obvious items. Here are our recommendations:-

Health & safety

Think about buying a first aid kit – which are available ready-assembled from chemists and stores such as Boots – as well as painkillers, antibacterial hand gel and a pack of plasters. Heat/ice packs are also handy for sprains and injuries. 

Unless you are renting a room in a house share, your landlord may not provide a fire extinguisher, so it’s sensible to buy your own. A fire blanket to keep in the kitchen and a fireproof safe for valuables and essential documents are two other considerations. A torch (a wind-up one is most useful), matches and candles may sound like you’re buying for an expedition but they will prove vital during a power cut.

Essential DIY/maintenance items

Minor household tasks are the responsibility of the tenant and you can’t call your landlord out to unblock your sink. You’ll probably find it handy to have a multi-function screwdriver with both flat and Phillips heads, a tape measure, a stock of light bulbs (preferably low energy), a variety of batteries (AA and AAA are most commonly used), a set of steps, fuses for plugs and some sink unblocker.

Spares

A good mantra is always ‘one in use, one in the cupboard’ – this avoids someone running out of washing up liquid as they’re about to tackle a mountain of dishes, or an unplanned dash to the petrol station in your PJs. Make use of ‘buy one, get one free’ offers and stock up on essentials like toothpaste, shower gel, washing powder, loo roll and hand soap to avoid tricky situations.

Odds & ends

It’s always handy to have a small sewing kit with safety pins, spare USB cables and chargers, a dustpan and brush, postal stamps, envelopes, a notepad, pens, sellotape, black bin bags and scissors in your household kit. These may not feel like glamorous purchases but you’ll feel smug the day you come to use them.

If you are planning your first fledgling flight from the family nest and would like to see what rental properties are available in your area, get in touch today.

Categories
Lifestyle Group 1

6 ideas to get your guest room ready

With gatherings given the green light and overnight stays back on the agenda, your spare room may be in more demand than ever but is it ready for overnight guests?

Spare rooms have a notorious habit of becoming dumping grounds, which can render them unusable but with a plan of action, you can transform your space into somewhere welcoming for guests. Here are 6 ideas, tips and tricks for you to try:-

  1. Declutter: cast your eye around your spare room – are there stacks of laundry, piles of books and items destined for the loft? If so, diarise one day devoted to decluttering and remember the ‘reuse, reduce and recycle’ mantra.
  2. Upgrade your storage: if, despite decluttering, you have items that need a home in your spare room, think about storing them out of sight. While plastic boxes are practical, they don’t really set a relaxing tone, so opt for storage ottomans, blanket boxes and neat under-bed bags. 
  3. Decorate: tired, dated rooms won’t provide a warm welcome but almost any decor can be refreshed with some basic DIY. A fresh lick of paint on the walls in a restful shade, such as pastel blue or green, is a good place to start. You could also paint wardrobe doors, change drawer handles and replace the floor covering, if it’s especially worn.
  4. Add furniture: while a proper bed is ideal, you could compromise with a sofa bed, futon or pull down bed to save space, a bedside table with a lamp saves fumbling around in a dark, unfamiliar room looking for the light switch. If you have room, a chest of drawers will provide guests with somewhere to store their clothes during extended stays.
  5. ‘Dress’ to impress: you can make the experience of staying away from home more inviting with a few finishing flourishes. Prevent guests awkwardly asking for towels with a neatly folded bale at the foot of the bed, while a reed diffuser will perfume the air and disguise any odours that can occur in underused rooms.
  6. Tackle dual-purpose rooms: if your spare room also doubles as an office or where you practice a hobby, your main preparation before guests arrive will be to find a temporary home elsewhere for your paraphernalia. If not possible, use a room divider to screen off anything that doesn’t set the right scene. 

If you don’t have enough bedrooms to invite family and friends to stay, why not talk to us about trading up? We can show you some available properties that give that extra bedroom and space to host.

Categories
Lifestyle Group 2

Wallpaper: what the best dressed rooms are wearing

Wallpaper is back in the interior design spotlight, thanks to a certain flat refurbishment and a Prime Minister left with a huge redecoration bill. While the fact that Carrie Johnson gave the green light to wallpaper that cost over £800 a roll caused outrage, the follow up news is also causing consternation.

If reports are to be believed, the ultra luxurious wallpaper is already peeling off, with interior designer Lulu Lytle recalled to examine why the rolls of gold are falling down. It is thought the handcrafted nature of the wallpaper chosen made it extremely difficult to hang and ‘wallpaper-gate’, as it’s been dubbed, has brought to light the issues faced when using paper wallcoverings.

If you have been inspired to break out the paste and paper table – and want to avoid any nightmare scenarios –  here’s our quick guide to wallpapering:-

Preparation is king: flat, smooth and dry walls will ensure that the end result is as good as possible. It’s best to remove any existing wallpaper – using a wallpaper steamer is usually the quickest way but ensure the walls dry out before you put any new wallpaper up. 

If you’re wallpapering over painted walls, fill in holes, sand back to achieve a smooth surface and wash down before papering. Newly-plastered surfaces should be left to dry for at least a month before wallpaper is applied and the plaster must be sealed before you start. If you’re after perfection, you could put up lining paper before your final wallpaper choice.

Types of wallpaper: gone are the days when wallpaper had to be put up using a thick, gloopy glue. The traditional method of using paste applied to the wallpaper is still very common but there are less-messy alternatives. 

Pre-pasted wallpaper allows you to just add water to make the paper sticky, or there’s self-adhesive wallpaper where you simply peel off a backing and apply. Every room in the house can receive the wallpaper treatment, as you can now buy paintable, washable and moisture-resistant examples.

Tools for the job: prep work may require filler, sandpaper, sugar soap, a sponge and perhaps a wallpaper steamer. As wallpaper is sold in rolls, you’ll also need a surface that’s long and clean. While you can use the floor, a specific wallpaper pasting table is best. Hanging wallpaper is about accuracy, so a sharp blade or scissors, tape measure, plumb bob, pencil and carpenter’s levels are vital. 

Depending on your adhesive type, a pasting brush, something to mix the paste in or a tray filled with water can be useful. Once the wallpaper is in place, a clean, dry sponge, a seam roller or a wallpaper smoother will help remove small bubbles and join seams.

There is more detail and advice in B&Q’s ‘how to hang wallpaper guide’ – have a read and make a list of what you might need to get wallpaper ready. 

If you’re looking to move home and fancy a property where there’s already wallpaper in place, ask us for a list of available homes that are decorated and ready to move into