Sales Group 1

Planning ahead: selling properties with permission granted

Getting planning permission for work on a property you are looking to sell may sound counterintuitive but it could have its advantages. We look at whether obtaining planning permission can make a property more alluring to would-be buyers and add value to your home in our Q&A blog.

Q: Is my property suitable for an extension, conversion or remodelling?

A: If you want some advice as to the potential in your property – and if any works may require planning permission – the best thing to do is to ask a reputable local estate agent for advice. They will be able to advise you if properties like yours in the area have already been remodelled, extended or converted, and talk to you about what could be feasible.

Q: How will I know if any works need planning permission?

A: The best way to find out if a planning application is needed is to have a conversation with your local council’s planning department. There’s also lots of information on the Government’s – it’s worth a quick check before you get carried away.

Q: Will planning permission add value to my property?

A: Having planning permission in place usually increases a property’s market value, as it shows buyers the true, permitted potential that the property offers. Having planning permission granted also saves purchasers the hassle of applying themselves – and that alone can be a deal clincher. Precisely how much value planning permission adds depends on a number of factors, like the type of property, its location, the work covered by the permission, the type of permission and when it was granted. 

If you achieve planning permission before going on the market, remember to ensure that your property listing includes information about the planning permission – this will not only substantiate your home’s valuation but it can also spark interest from a wider range of potential buyers. 

Q: How much does it cost to get planning permission?

A: In most cases, there will be a planning application fee to pay when you make a submission. The cost varies across the UK and depends on exactly what you’re applying to do but as a very rough guide, a basic householder application is just over £200. It’s best to contact your local planning authority before you submit your application to make sure you apply correctly and pay the appropriate fee – any errors can delay your application. Although getting planning permission incurs some costs, it’s far cheaper than carrying out the works yourself and you should recoup the submission cost through a higher sales price.

Q: Does planning permission lapse?

A: In most cases, planning permission is valid for three years from the time the local planning authority grants it. This means you have three years in which to start the work, rather than actually complete it. Despite this, it’s worth checking the dates on any planning permission that you’ve had granted in the past and allow plenty of time for a sale to reach completion before the permission expires.

Q: Should I get some plans drawn up to show what’s possible?

A: If you can afford to employ an architect to draw up plans, it’s a great way to help potential buyers envisage what is permitted. This can be especially useful for those who lack forward vision or a strong ‘mind’s eye’. An illustration, computer generated images or even a revised floorplan will all help persuade buyers and can be included in property listings.

If you’re looking to sell and want to unlock the potential in your home, get in touch. We can show you what homeowners of similar properties have done, and give you a valuation for your home both with and without planning permission in place.

Sales Group 2

Have you got the energy to be bothered about EPCs?

With climate change in the media almost every day, is it time for homeowners to pay more attention to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings? We look at the increasingly-important role an EPC rating plays in the sales market – not only in attracting buyers but also in affecting a property’s value. 

Duty of environmental care

It appears that now, more than ever, people are looking for ways to live more sustainably and help the planet. In fact, a recent survey by home appliance brand Beko found 9 out of 10 of those questioned felt it was their personal responsibility to make changes to the way they live.

Why should home movers be bothered about EPC ratings? 

Although EPCs are a legal requirement for every property coming onto the market, they also offer a range of useful information to a prospective buyer. EPCs are now scrutinised to check estimated energy costs, read advisory notes on suggested eco improvements and see the typical financial savings. If buyers don’t like what they find, they may be deterred from booking a viewing or making an offer. 

Elevate your home’s value with a better EPC

Research has found that around 82% of home buyers, particularly the younger generation, would be willing to pay more for an eco-efficient home that allows them to reduce their carbon footprint. It was also found that more than 1 in 4 people would pay at least a 6% premium for a home with sustainable features.

The results above dovetail with what found in a recent survey. The comparison site discovered, on average, an A-rated home has a value 14% higher than that of a similar G-rated property. There are even bigger differences regionally, so having a good EPC rating doesn’t just contribute to a lower carbon way of living, it can contribute to a final sales price too.

A poor EPC may stop buyers getting a mortgage

As part of its commitment to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, the Government is considering whether to set lenders ambitious targets around the energy performance of the properties they lend against. The end goal would be to encourage homeowners to improve their home’s energy performance before they sold.

It is thought mortgages lenders would be named and shamed for repeatedly lending against homes with poor EPC ratings, and there is even a suggestion that lenders could be forced to consider a property’s EPC rating before they approve finance, perhaps making the most eco-inefficient homes unmortgage-able. 

If you are looking to market your home and need help arranging an EPC assessment, get in touch. Likewise, if you’d like to buy a property with a better EPC rating, we can match you with an eco-efficient property in your area.

Lifestyle Group 1

Adding shade to your garden this summer

Getting out in the garden has become one of life’s real pleasures and with many of us planning to swap international holidays for time off at home this year, making your outside space as usable as possible has become a priority.

Deciding to add a form of shade to your garden can prolong the amount of time you can sit outside comfortably – and provide somewhere to entertain even if there’s a sharp summer downpour. What type of shade you opt for will depend on your aim, approach to building work and budget.

What do you want to take shelter from?

A traditional British summer can include sun, rain showers and even stormy conditions so with this in mind, decide what you want protection from the most. If, where you frequently sit outside, enjoys full sun, shade can create a cool spot to set up a dining table or outside sofa when the temperature rises. Go one step further by making your shade waterproof and you will stop having to scuttle back inside every time the heavens open. 

A pergola with a wood or metal frame and a transparent plastic roof will be waterproof but may not provide cover from the sun, while growing a dense canopy of plants over the top of a pergola will do the reverse – give shade but will let water in. If you want protection from all of the elements, choose a pergola with a retractable waterproof shade or opt for an adjustable louvre roof, allowing you to adjust the angle of the slats according to the weather conditions. A retractable awning fixed to a wall is another option, as is a sail shade made of waterproof fabric stretched between fixed posts.

Do you want a permanent structure?

The UK is no stranger to blustery conditions and a permanent structure is the safest way of providing shade that will withstand a summer storm. Bear in mind that tenants would need permission from their landlord before adding any form of permanent shade to the garden.

Pop-up gazebos and canopy parasols offer a temporary shade solution but they will need weighting down to give them stability; they can suffer damage if subjected to high winds, so factor in collapsing these items and storing them inside on a frequent basis. A pergola, sail shade or awning will require building works to ensure the structure and fixings are solid, and you’ll need to check the frame’s dimensions don’t break any planning restrictions. 

What is your budget?

You can pop to Argos and pick up an inexpensive, pack-away gazebo but it’s unlikely to be of a quality that can be left outside year round. Likewise, garden parasols and umbrellas vary widely in cost, and it will be a case of you get what you pay for. A permanent structure will involve an investment in materials and labour but you will be repaid with peace-of-mind that your shade won’t blow away into next door’s garden and that the structure can be utilised all year round.  

If moving home is on your list of summer activities, let us find your perfect property match. Contact us for a list of available properties, some of which will come complete with shaded garden areas.

Lifestyle Group 2

6 ways to fragrance your home ahead of viewings

Step inside any property and our senses tend to take over. While so much emphasis is placed on what a home looks like, those hosting viewings shouldn’t forget what it smells like either. In fact, it was only in May 2021 that a survey found as many as 95% of home buyers could be deterred from purchasing a property due to an unpleasant pong.

Smells that make buyers baulk

Strong cooking odours, musky dampness, stale cigarette smoke, pet smells, sweaty gym kits, recently used toilets and rotting rubbish are all cited as aromas that can detract from a property and may also shorten the duration of time a potential buyer spends on a viewing.

Of course, the holy grail of home fragrancing before a viewing has been baking bread and freshly brewed coffee – two things guaranteed to stimulate the olfactory receptors – but there are other ways to perfume the air so every sense is stimulated in a good way. 

  1.     Candles: as well as releasing a gentle scent, the flicker of a flame can also create an inviting ambience. Opt for non-toxic candles made with natural soy wax and pure essential oils, and keep the wick short to prolong the life of the candle. Don’t forget, never leave a lit candle unattended (even if you’re briefly showing people around your house), and keep naked flames away from draughts and draped fabrics.
  1.     Diffusers: there are two main types of diffuser to choose from. Mist air diffusers usually require an electric supply, as droplets of essential oils are dispersed using ultrasonic waves created by a vibrating plate. Reed diffusers can be placed anywhere, consisting of a small bottle filled with a liquid fragrance, with rattan or bamboo reeds inserted into the solution to soak up and release the scent. The reeds do require turning frequently to maximise the aroma distribution.
  1.     Burners: a burner usually comprises a bowl suspended above a lit tea light. Traditionally, the dish would contain water with a few drops of essential oils added but gaining in popularity are fragranced wax melts. Both work on the principle that the heat from the tea light below warms the water or melts the wax, helping the scent permeate a room.
  1.     Flowers: for scents that are 100% natural, nothing beats a vase of real flowers, with the bonus of the blooms being visually attractive too. Lilies, freesias, gardenias, hyacinths, roses and stocks are some of the strongest smelling flowers you can display but ask a florist about their compatibility with pets, as some are toxic if ingested.
  1.     Air fresheners: conventional air fresheners used to get a bad press for smelling too synthetic but manufacturers have made massive strides in their bid to come across as more discerning, with far more natural ingredients used. Choose from plug-in options, aerosol cans and trigger sprays (that can also be used on fabrics to mask stale smells), upmarket room and linen spritzers, and gel air fresheners but use with restraint – stick to one scent or the result could be too heady, bordering on overpowering.
  1.     Fresh air: never underestimate the power of the great outdoors – fresh air is free and always there! If you’re cooking, smoking or exercising in your home before a viewing, always keep your doors and windows open. Likewise, keep rooms where pets and teenagers congregate well ventilated.

If you would like more advice on how to conduct the perfect property viewing, get in touch with our team today.

Lettings Group 1

Can I sell my buy-to-let with tenants in place?

One of the biggest perks about renting a property is the flexibility, with standard tenancy agreements of 6 or 12 months giving both the tenant and landlord the ability to alter their plans in the short term, should there be a change in circumstances.

Not every renter, however, is in the habit of chopping and changing where they live. There is a growing demand for longer tenancy lengths, with some landlords already offering tenures of two and three years. In fact, the Government would like three-year tenancy models to become the standard so renters can feel secure enough to put down roots. 

While signing tenants up for more than 12 months sounds like a good way to guarantee rental income, what happens if the landlord needs to sell their property? And what’s the approach for those with tenants signed up for a year? We look at how landlords can regain possession of a property, sell a buy-to-let property with tenants in place and, crucially, the timings and circumstances landlords need to be mindful of.

Selling with an assured short-term tenancy (AST)

Landlords can’t decide to just sell up overnight, unless their property is in vacant possession (ie, empty). Fixed-term tenants on an AST have the right to stay in their property until their tenancy ends and even then, they will need to be issued a Section 21 notice as an official way of being asked to leave. Therefore, agreeing to a term beyond 12 months needs careful consideration.

Landlords wanting to regain possession of their property also have to follow a set procedure and timeline set out by the Government. If the tenants are on a fixed-term agreement, a Section 21 notice cannot be issued during the first four months of the tenancy or before the fixed term has ended. A Section 21 notice can, however, be served at any time if the tenancy is on a rolling periodic basis with no fixed end date. If tenants want to stay on after their fixed period is over, a rolling tenancy is a good option for landlords wanting to keep their selling options open. In both cases, tenants usually receive two months’ notice of an intention to regain possession but check with us first as Covid has altered some tenants’ rights.

It is sometimes possible to regain a rental property with a view to selling before the fixed period ends but there has to be special circumstances – usually instances where the tenant has broken the terms of their tenancy agreement or the law, enabling a Section 8 notice to be served. In these extreme cases, possession can be as quick as two to four weeks.

Using break clauses

Inserting a break clause into a tenancy agreement may allow landlords to end a contract early. For instance, if the fixed period is for 12 or 24 months with a 6 month break clause, the landlord can start the process to regain their property after 6 months. If you’re starting a buy-to-let journey, ask us about adding a break clause to your tenancy agreement for maximum flexibility.

If introduced, it is hoped the Government’s three-year tenancy agreements will contain a mandatory 6 month break clause, with extra options for landlords to regain their property if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ and provided a minimum of two months’ notice.

Selling a property with tenants in place

If the tenants are happy where they are living and the landlord doesn’t want to go through the eviction notice process – or needs to sell before a fixed term ends – it is possible to sell the buy-to-let with tenants in place. It is highly likely that the buyer will be a fellow landlord looking for ready-made rental income.

Sitting tenants

It’s worth noting that sitting tenants (sometimes referred to as tenants in situ) are renters who entered into a tenancy before 1989 and have stayed in the same property throughout. This tenant group has extra rights on top of AST renters who have only been in a property for 10 months, for instance. Sitting tenants retain the right to reside in a property that’s being sold under the Rent Act 1977, so landlords in these cases will need expert lettings guidance.

If you are a buy-to-let landlord and are considering your position in the market, talk to us about your options.

Lettings Group 2

Tips for tenants: creating a portable garden

We don’t need to reiterate how important outside space is and searches for properties to rent with gardens or balconies continue to grow. Having somewhere to sit outside, entertain and even grow your own produce is the end goal for many but getting to that point involves an investment of both time and money.

If you’re living in a rented property, it can be galling to think all your hard work digging, planting, pruning and perfecting has to be left behind when you move to a new property but that doesn’t have to be the case. It is possible to create a totally portable garden that can give you just as much pleasure in your next property.

Here’s our guide to creating a garden that’s good to go:-

Pots and planters: flowerbeds are the backbone of many gardens but they don’t pack up and fit on the back of a removal van. Pots, however, can be moved from property to property and will last for years. Opt for lightweight plastic or faux stone planters and half fill with recycled polystyrene to keep the weight down further, making them easier to move. 

Pick plants wisely: specimen shrubs and mature plants are investment purchases, and there is no guarantee that they will survive or thrive if dug up and replanted in your next garden. Be prudent when choosing plants for your rented property’s garden. If you use markers, bulbs can be dug up, dried out and replanted, or choose plants that set to seed, as these can be collected, stored in a labelled envelope and grown again elsewhere.

Freestanding cooking: while the current trend is for outdoor kitchens, going to the effort of building somewhere to cook in the garden isn’t wise in a rented property – especially as it may break a clause in your tenancy agreement if it is a permanent alteration. Opt for freestanding BBQs and table top pizza ovens that can be enjoyed in any garden.

Lights and lanterns: fairy lights and festoon bulbs add instant atmosphere to any garden but avoid anything that is hard wired or runs off mains electricity. Battery operated and solar powered lights are inexpensive and moveable, or choose lanterns and candles that easily fit in a packing-up box.

Soft furnishings: garden rooms are all over social media and if you’ve joined the trend with waterproof cushions, throws and outdoor rugs, you’ll need a smart way to transport them or risk your soft furnishings taking over the removal van. One solution is to use vacuum storage bags that will reduce the biggest pile of cushions to a more manageable, airtight stack.

Garden furniture: who doesn’t love swinging in an egg chair or lounging on an outdoor sofa but how easy are these items to move? Bulky furniture may ramp up your removal costs, so look out for folding alternatives. Old fashioned collapsible deckchairs and sun loungers are in vogue, while folding bistro sets are both small and lightweight. 

If your next move is motivated by outside space – or if you have a property to rent out that has an amazing garden – get in touch today.

Lifestyle Group 1

5 ways to embrace friluftsliv – the Nordic love of outdoor living

Ubuntu is over (the Zulu way of saying ‘we are all one family’). We’ve gone past gezellig (the Dutch term for ‘a cozy atmosphere, which allows good times to happen’). And the cosy, comfortable and convivial hygge? It’s had its day for now.

The lighter, brighter and warmer weeks are here, and that calls for friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv) – the Nordic word for open air living.  Even if you’re not a fan of following interior fads, Covid has forced many of us to entertain outside, and friluftsliv can also reduce stress and boost wellbeing, so why stay inside? 

It’s already common across Scandinavia to get together and socialise outside, whatever the weather. While we’re not suggesting that a hike in the pouring rain with friends is the fast track to contentment, friluftsliv is about shifting your mindset and being ready to head outdoors at the end of the working day, rather than loafing on the sofa or being glued to a screen.

Setting the scene in your own back garden or on your balcony will contribute to the success of friluftsliv, especially if you can create an all-weather area. Here are our top 5 tips for those looking to embrace outdoor living:- 

  1.     Provide somewhere to cook: this could be a pizza oven, a BBQ or even an open fire with a tripod set over the flames. Pre-plan a weekly dinner menu that can be cooked outside without an oven or microwave and you’ll find you stay in the fresh air to eat, rather than scuttle back inside.
  1.     Make sure you can see: once we’re past the summer solstice, the nights start drawing in but that’s no excuse. Lights that run off the mains, solar alternatives or even battery-powered lamps can create an alluring atmosphere after dusk and allow you to see what you’re doing.
  1.     Keep your furniture on standby: if the rigmarole of uncovering and arranging your garden furniture is a barrier to sitting outside, opt for weatherproof tables, chairs and outside sofas that are always out and ready for use. Look for metal, pre-treated wood and plastic rattan options.
  1.     Create a sheltered area: it rains alot in the UK, although summer can bring tropical downpours where the temperature remains high and the atmosphere humid. Opt for a sail shade, gazebo, pergola or awning to create a dry corner where you can watch the weather roll in.
  1.   Ensure there’s a source of heat: chilly, clear-sky nights often follow searing hot, cloudless days and when the sun sets, the temperature can drop sharply. A firepit, chiminea, gas-fired patio heater or open fire will provide a welcome social focal point as well as warmth.

If your appreciation of outside space is growing in importance, talk to us about moving home for more friluftsliv. We can show you a list of available properties with gardens, patios, balconies and terraces.

Lifestyle Group 2

Marble: this month’s hottest interior trend

Marble is one of the most expensive materials you can add to your home, used for centuries for its cool, durable luxury. While it has always had timeless appeal, marble has not always been at the top of the interior fashion pack but in 2021, it has seen a resurgence in popularity.

If you love the look of marble, here’s how to incorporate it into your home, from wall-to-wall tiles and small pieces of the real thing to the best faux options and DIY hacks that won’t break the bank.

What is marble?

We’ll spare you the geology lesson but in short, marble is a metamorphic rock that forms when limestone is subjected to heat and pressure. Marble deposits can be hundreds of feet thick, making it suitable for quarrying, carving, sanding and polishing. 

The main characteristic of marble is its veining – streaks that make each slab unique.  There is a myriad of marble colours available thanks to the different minerals present in the stone, from the purest white through blue and green to the deepest black.

Why is marble so expensive?

As a naturally-occurring material, marble has to be quarried from the ground. It’s a slow, laborious job, therefore the labour costs are high, and some of the best marble is in remote areas where new roads have to be built just to gain access. The price of Marble varies with plentiful, easy-to-quarry marble from cheaper labour markets, such as India and China, carrying a lower price tag. 

Rarer types of marble will always sit at the premium end of the market, and these include the white Italian Statuario Marble of Carrara, the deep red Sicilian Diaspro and the jade green Brazilian Amazzonite. 

Will marble worktops stain?

Marble is one of the most requested materials for kitchen worktops as it is heat resistant but before you get carried away, it’s worth knowing that marble is porous – meaning it has tiny holes that can absorb oil, juice and red wine. Spills will need mopping up very quickly to avoid permanent staining. 

Where else can marble be used in the home?

Marble is better suited to bathrooms, where it can make a beautiful vanity unit worktop. Marble basins are also freely available and can be purchased for less than £300. Its heat resistance also makes marble a superb choice for fireplace hearths, backplates and mantles. 

On-trend: marble tiles

The elegance of marble is the darling of 2021’s interior design scene, with marble wall and floor tiles making style statements – especially when the biggest tiles available are used, or when the tiles are laid in a herringbone pattern. Some of the most stunning effects are when the same marble is used to tile the floor, walls and shower cubicles in bathrooms. It can look impressive but it may not be budget friendly.

Add marble through accessories

If worktops and wall tiles are outside of your budget, marble accessories are a cheaper alternative. Opt for the interior designers’ favourite – marble spheres in different sizes – or follow the practical route with marble vases, coasters and serving boards.

The no-marble marble

Marble’s distinctive pattern can be recreated using cheaper production methods and materials. Browse supermarket homeware sections, stores such as B&M and Home Bargains, and online retailers, for convincing plastic/resin faux marble accessories. There’s also a good range of marble-effect wallpapers, self-adhesive murals and waterproof shower panels if you want to avoid the fuss of tiling.

DIY marble

Sticky back plastic with a marble printed pattern can be stuck to most clean, dry, smooth surfaces for an instant marble makeover, while along the same lines but on a grander scale, it is possible to ‘wrap’ old worktops with a marble-effect vinyl film. You can even buy marble-effect spray paint and marbling kits from stores including Hobbycraft.

It’s easy to embrace marble, even if you’re not as grand with its use as the Greeks and Romans. If you’d like more interior advice or a list of available properties where you could work some design magic, contact us today.