Lifestyle Group 1

Could Swedish fika be the secret to selling your home this winter?

Colder, darker days can be more challenging when presenting a property, especially if you’ve been following summer’s advice of throwing the doors wide open and showing off your garden, but fika can become your secret weapon when hosting viewings this winter.

While potential movers will be interested in the bricks and mortar, they are equally as likely to fall in love with a lifestyle that you purvey and even you as a person, so it’s good to tap into the heart as much as the head. And what better way to welcome people to your home this winter than with a hot drink and a cake?  

Rather than batten down the hatches, take a leaf out of the Swede’s book and embrace fika. It’s the latest Scandinavian trend that celebrates all things cosy and warm, coming hot on the heels of Danish hygge and Dutch gezellig.

The Swedes certainly know a thing or two about making the most of the winter months and fika is easily transferable to us here in the UK. Fika is the tradition of stopping for a cup of coffee and something sweet to eat with friends – less formal than a British afternoon tea but more organised than grabbing a latte on the go.

Fika is considered such a ritual in Sweden that many professionals have a fika break written into their contract but it’s a daily routine that takes place in homes, workplaces and factories across the country. 

Not only will a mug of coffee and a pastry break the ice during a viewing – and provide comfort when coming in from the cold – offering fika will also give you a head start when it comes to the olfactory department.

As this Real Homes survey reveals, appealing scents upon arrival can help conjure up sales success, while Ideal Home reported that the smell of cats is one of the most prominent reasons why people deem a viewing ‘disgusting’.

Your home will smell divine if you have a freshly brewed pot of coffee on the go and just-baked kanelbulle in the kitchen (kanelbulle are cinnamon buns, which are reputed to be the Swedes’ favourite fika snack).

How you present fika can also help set an inviting scene. An Italian-style ‘moka’ stove-top coffee pot always looks attractive and there is something mesmerising about pushing the plunger down on a traditional cafetière. If you have a pod coffee machine, using a capsule display and giving someone a choice of coffee is another nice touch – and it may make their visit to your property more memorable.

Don’t fret, however, if you only have a kettle and a jar of instant coffee. Place your emphasis on serving your drinks in chip-free mugs or even in a set of on-trend, double-walled glass coffee cups. You could even decant your milk and sugar into a jug and bowl to really up the ante. 

While we have mentioned home-baking, we understand not everyone has the time or skill to whip up a Swedish fika feast. If you want to be authentic, Totally Swedish offers a superb selection of sweet treats that can be delivered to your door, or simply pop down to your local supermarket and buy a selection of fresh pastries. 

Whatever treats you have, artfully arrange them on a plate instead of offering them to people straight out of the packet. And why not follow the lead of interior design stylists and display all your fika essentials on a Scandi-inspired wooden tray? Add a candle and some winter-themed napkins and you’ll have won over viewers in no time. 

If you are getting ready to show your property this winter and would like advice about the local property market, please contact us today.

Lifestyle Group 2

Reduce clutter to increase your home’s value

While it’s true that adding to a property – an extra bathroom, a new boiler or an upgraded kitchen – will also add value, there is another side of home improvement where the ‘less is more’ mantra definitely applies. After all, the Queen of decluttering, Marie Kondo, says ‘life truly begins after you have put your house in order’.

Clutter is one of the biggest contributors to a negative property perception. Whether it’s an agent going out to provide a valuation or a potential mover taking a tour, being met by piles of personal effects and belongings collected over the years can seriously affect what value we place on a property. 

The significance of clutter in relation to worth was recently highlighted in a TV show called the Big House Clear Out, where a deep clean and a declutter added £35,000 to the value of one particular property. 

You too could add substantially more value if your home is in need of attention, as a new post-pandemic survey by Rated People found movers are placing increasing emphasis on a tidy property. Clutter, dirt and bad smells can collectively knock almost £54,000 off a home’s value, while 43% of respondents said they wouldn’t even arrange a viewing for a property if it looked unclean in photos. 

The survey also uncovered what particular aspects of a cluttered property would dent the value the most. A dirty bathroom would reduce a home’s value by £8,966, while rubbish or debris in the front garden could take off £8,964.

Unlike adding value with expensive improvements, decluttering and cleaning takes little more than time and some elbow grease. Wherever you are on the scale – from messy home maker to full-blown hoarder – here are 5 steps to follow if you’re determined to cut out the clutter. 

  1. Set aside time: block out a weekend to really get to grips with clutter but if this thought is overwhelming, set a daily alarm and spend 30 minutes clearing one area of one room – perhaps a chest of drawers.
  2. Arm yourself with the right tools: just as you would decorating, preparation is key to efficient decluttering. Gather black sacks, recycling bins, expanding files, paperclips and storage boxes before you make a start.
  3. Be mindful of where clutter goes: if you dump your junk in the garden, you will continue to damage your home’s value so always remove, rehome or recycle. If you must store items on top of wardrobes or under beds, use boxes or risk spoiling the neat look.
  4. Recognise what is too much: if you can’t see your floor, your kitchen work tops or surfaces such as sideboards, you need to be ruthless. Bag up and bin what’s unsalvageable, file paperwork and tackle laundry piles. 
  5. Remember it’s not forever: if you’re decluttering ahead of a home move and want to impress viewers, a good rule of thumb is ‘50% less’ when clearing personal items and knick-knacks. Use your loft or even a storage facility for anything you can’t bear to part with.

If you would like an impartial opinion on your property’s condition, ask us for honest yet friendly advice.

Sales Group 2

It’s still a sellers’ market

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the end of the stamp duty holiday is the end of sales success. Reports are coming in of a positive moving market ahead, with some very encouraging statistics in early autumn.

More….but not quite enough

Rightmove found the number of new listings in the first two weeks of September 2021 was up 14% on the last two weeks of August. Although encouraging, it is far from an oversupply of property. The trickle of new-to-market homes will hold up values and continue the sellers’ market as we move through the last quarter of the year and into 2022. 

To put the current supply and demand situation into context, there are 10.1% fewer properties for sale now compared to the same period in 2020, with demand up 20.2%, according to property data analyst TwentyCi.

Looking at property through fresh eyes

The motivation to move home remains undented and in a recent article, The Times reported on the ‘deeper dissatisfaction with our homes’ uncovered in the first lockdown. In addition, a new study by Samsung Electronics UK found that 74% of UK consumers look at their homes differently now than they did 18 months ago.

This level of discontent was evidenced later on in the same study. Over half of homeowners questioned (52%) said their long-term property plans had changed, with 22% wanting to sell their property and buy a new one a top priority, followed by 12% looking to buy another property to rent out  and 11% buying a second home for themselves. 

Tenants too are reflecting on their next property step, with 64% of renters reporting that the pandemic had changed their future plans. Almost a quarter are now considering buying (23%), with 19% planning to purchase a property sooner than anticipated (19%).

Finding that ‘fit for purpose’ home

Although clichéd and over reported, agents agree that buyers are still looking for an antidote to where they currently live – be that faster broadband speeds, an extra room to turn into an office or a bigger garden. Many just dream of a bigger kitchen so they can cook for their family more conveniently with sufficient space for family and friends to gather, but the underlying reason for moving remains dissatisfaction in the face of re-evaluated lifestyles. 

Also advancing up the agenda and spurring on home movers are eco issues – perhaps coming as no surprise in the wake of a fuel and energy crisis. The Samsung Electronics UK study also found 79% of Brits now consider how green and environmentally friendly their property is a priority – as well as the impact on the local environment.

Confidence returns 

Worries about the downturn in prospects with the stamp duty holiday ending and furlough winding up have been misplaced, as the Building Societies Association quarterly Property Tracker survey illustrates. The number of people for whom the risk of a job loss presents a barrier to homeownership is plummeting. Only 34% are putting their buying plans on hold due to the thoughts of a redundancy, after reaching a peak of 68% in September 2020 and resting at 45% only three months ago.

Buying & borrowing for the first timer

One home buying group not fazed by the end of the stamp duty holiday is first-time buyers – purchasers who are essential for a fluid and fast-moving property market. They retain favourable treatment, paying zero stamp duty if their purchase price is £300,000 or less, while first-timers buying a property worth between £300,000 and £500,000 will only pay 5% on the portion of the purchase price that exceeds £300,000. 

Property novices can also use their stamp duty benefit in conjunction with the Government-guaranteed 5% mortgage scheme that has, in turn, stimulated the whole lending market to re-introduce low-deposit home loans. 

We’d love to discuss the changing nature of the property market with you, relating current trends to the home you own or a property you wish to purchase. Contact us for buying and selling advice that’s tailored to your personal circumstances.

Sales Group 1

Boost your home’s value via the bathroom

How much importance do you place on the condition of your bathroom? If you’re thinking of selling, the smallest room in your home can have the biggest impact on potential buyers – and it can lead to higher offers and increased desirability. 

When Royal London asked UK homeowners about buying decisions, they were prepared to offer an extra £10,915 for a property with a new bathroom – the second most valuable home improvement after a new kitchen. Even an upgrade can add up to 5% in value, so we strongly recommend paying particular attention to your bathroom ahead of a sale.

What adds the most value?

According to research by Plumbnation, installing an extra bathroom could add £50,000 to your home’s value – especially if there are more than two bedrooms and only one existing facility. If you can’t create an extra bathroom, making your current one bigger will also add around 5% in value, according to QS Supplies.

Next on the value adding list is creating an en-suite – a feature that a 2020 survey by the Nationwide Building Society found could increase a property’s value by 5% – adding around £13,300 to the average home. 

Offering a similar return on investment is a cloakroom. Providing a WC on the ground floor can lift your property’s value by 5%. Even shaking up your bathroom’s heating can be a winner – install underfloor heating and potentially add £7,000 to your asking price.

Bathroom blues: 4 to avoid when selling

As a seller, you really don’t want to give buyers any excuses to put in a low offer, so presenting your bathroom well will help you achieve as close to the asking price as possible. You may wish to consider.

  1. Coloured bathrooms: the avocado suite is always used as the biggest bathroom faux pas and for good reason. In fact, a 2017 survey discovered homebuyers would offer almost £5,000 less for a home with one in situ. Rarely installed since the 1980s, this and pastel-hued sanitaryware instantly date when a bathroom was fitted. It’s an acquired taste, so the first thought of many viewers will be the cost and hassle of replacing it. 
  2. Carpets: another hangover from the past is a carpet in the bathroom. They can harbour bacteria, are hard to clean and can feel depressingly damp underfoot. Anything is better than carpet – even cheap vinyl – so make the swap before selling.
  3.  Signs of mould: water leaks and damp issues can be expensive to fix, so any sealant or grouting that shows signs of mould will worry potential buyers. Mould on ceilings and walls can also be an indication of poor ventilation, and needs investigating prior to a sale.
  4. Bad smells: whether emanating from your toilet bowl or from a pile of wet towels, unpleasant odours can confront buyers on viewings, putting off a reputed 78% of people. Always remove the source of bad smells, open windows and use a subtle fragrance to freshen the air.

We are happy to appraise your current bathroom and make some value-adding suggestions, based on your budget, floorplan and selling timescale. Contact us today and we can make an appointment to visit your property.

Lifestyle Group 2

Doorscaping: designs to elevate your property’s entrance

So many magazine pages and column inches are devoted to interior ideas that it was only a matter of time before the ‘outside’ got in on the act. ‘Doorscaping’ is the latest design trend to catch the eye, with the forthcoming autumn and winter months the prime time to elevate your home’s entrance.

Doorscaping is actually a trend that has been slowly creeping up on us in the UK. We have already started to follow the lead of our friends across the pond, adopting the American penchant for a different door wreath every season. Instead of confining ourselves to a traditional Christmas arrangement for two weeks of the year, more UK front doors have been sporting Easter wreaths and late summer examples made from dried flowers.

Aesthetic efforts outside really ramped up last Christmas, when a number of famous faces adopted a ‘more-is-more’ attitude to dressing their front doors. While 2020’s efforts were grand, this year’s doorscaping is set to be even more substantial. 

Not all of us have the help of interior design stylists to create a ‘wow’ entrance but there is good news. It is possible to create a visually striking doorscaping display with a supermarket dash, a trip to Hobbycraft and a scavenge around your local park or woods. Once you have your haul, visit Instagram or Pinterest and search #doorscaping for inspiration. 

An integral part of doorscaping is a wreath. While you can buy pre-made items, those feeling creative can follow Hobbycraft’s guide to make your own this autumn. Simply swap the choice of autumn flowers for holly, ivy and pine cones next season, and you’ll have a bespoke winter-themed example too. As well as foraging for twigs, autumnal leaves, dried grasses and seed heads, wreaths also look appealing when adorned with cinnamon sticks and dried slices of orange, so add these to your next food shop. 

Doorscaping is as much about your front steps as it is your actual door and Halloween presents an entry-level way of experimenting. You can quickly create a compelling scene by arranging a selection of pumpkins and ornamental gourds on your steps. If you’re not too fond of carving, add some storm lanterns filled with battery-operated candles and you’ll extend the appeal to after dark. 

Some doorscapers change their door mats in line with seasons and events – an easy switch as different types are readily available in hardware stores, garden centres and online. Others dedicated to the doorscaping cause use props to set the scene – think baskets of harvest vegetables, hand-tied wheat sheafs, apple crates and even hay bales.

If you want to go all-out when it comes to doorscaping, the most extravagant projects involve door arches. It’s a hallmark that’s been carried over from weddings, high-end hotels and boutique shops into a residential setting. The very best arches are much-photographed focal points  – even tourist attractions – so if you’re adding this doorscaping element, be prepared for people to stop and admire.

Flora and fauna – fresh, dried or even faux – usually provide the backbone of an arch but each season sees the introduction of extras – balloons, baubles, fairy lights and fruit have all made appearances to great effect. 

While a local florist may offer a door arch service, you can create your own by following Georgia Rivett’s guide, as featured in Northern Life magazine. Attractive alternatives include an arrangement of branches that are intertwined with leaves, lights and berries, or pre-made garlands that are easily draped over a porch.

As an agent, we know that kerb appeal really helps generate interest in a property. Why not apply a few doorscaping ideas to where you live and share the results with us?

Lifestyle Group 1

Revealed: Bright Skies is Dulux’s Colour of the Year 2022

Whether you are preparing your home in advance of a sale or have recently moved into a new property, applying a fresh lick of paint may be at the top of your ‘to do’ list. With literally thousands of paint shades to choose from, the choice can easily become overwhelming, so how do you pick a colour that you won’t regret?

Design and decorating companies usually announce an annual ‘colour of the year’ – a shade that encapsulates a nation’s mood and complements current interior trends – and Dulux has been the first to break cover. It has announced that its Colour of the Year 2022 is Bright Skies – a great shade for those who want something neutral with wide appeal.

Unlike the colours nominated by Pantone, which are unusually bold, often divisive and not always suitable for liberal use in the home (browse its choices from the past 11 years here), Dulux’s annual pick is always less controversial and more accessible. The latest choice doesn’t disappoint.

Bright Skies is a cool, pale blue described by Dulux as an ‘airy and fresh tone that opens up and breathes new life into any space’. Using the colour is also designed to revitalise and bring a new sense of optimism – perfect for anyone stuck in a decorating rut.

Its cool, fresh qualities allow Bright Skies to be used to paint entire rooms and lighten up dark corners. As well as lifting the mood in living rooms and bedrooms, it can be used to refresh bathrooms, hallways and kitchens, as the paint is available in Easycare Washable, Tough Matt, Easycare Bathroom and Easycare Kitchen (the latter two are available as tinted and mixed-to-order products). 

A versatile shade, Bright Skies also works well when combined with other colours. You can create a warm and inviting interior scheme by mixing it with beiges and creams – Dulux’s Cardamon Pod and Fossil Hunting are the perfect neutral paint partners. Bright Skies also pairs well with light greys, duck egg blue, sage green and pastel pink – why not get some tester pots of Moon Cloud, Romantic Reverie, Tranquil Dawn and Frosted Steel to go with Bright Skies? 

If your plans don’t involve painting, you can still join the colour club and use Bright Skies to influence your choice of accessories. Fabric manufacturers and homeware retailers are usually very quick to pick up on colour trends, and the shops are already full of blues that match Dulux’s Colour of the Year 2022.

Changing your bedlinen is a quick way of introducing Bright Skies to your bedroom and Dunelm’s floral design duvet set won’t break the bank, while scatter cushions can perk up a tired sofa – Marks & Spencer’s quilted version in chambray is a good colour match. Other ways to bring Bright Skies into the home include Loaf’s ceramic bowls in Baker’s Blue or Annabel James’s super soft throw

If you’d like more advice about getting your home ready for a sale – or are hunting for the perfect property to paint as you wish – we’d love to hear from you.

Lettings Group 1

Revealed: revised attitudes to the private rental market

The private rental market is an integral rung on the property ladder. For many, it is the first step when leaving the family home or going off to study. For others, it’s a safety net when life’s plan changes direction. Whether it’s a stop gap, a stepping stone or a lifestyle choice, one thing is constant – the need for quality rental accommodation.

A recent buy-to-let report suggested that mood in the buy-to-let market was nothing short of positive, with more than a third of landlords planning to buy a property in the next year, and two thirds feeling confident. Rents are rising, demand is rising and the value of the private rental sector is rising too. With many aspects in the ascendency – and a very different landscape in terms of lifestyles and working arrangements – now is a good time to re-evaluate attitudes to renting.

HMOs & student accommodation

Yields will remain the crucial factor when purchasing a first buy-to-let or expanding a portfolio. Once overlooked for their perceived level of hassle, HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) and student accommodation could be a valid alternative to the default choice of a two-bedroom apartment. Research shows that since 2016, student properties have enjoyed mean gross yields in England of between 6.15% and 6.6%, compared to the overall rental market yield of between 5.43% and 5.6%. Landlords who opt for a professional management service will enjoy a market-leading return with none of the day-to-day administration.

Targeting older tenants

At the other end of the spectrum, landlords could exploit the growing band of tenants that fall outside of the ‘home leaver’ and postgraduate age bracket. The latest English Housing Survey showed there was a generous rise in the number of 35-44 year olds living in privately rented accommodation, as noted between 2009/10 to 2019/20. The results also showed the number of 55-64 year olds with private tenant status has risen from 7% to 10% during the same ten-year period.

Longer terms & fixed rent

Post-pandemic attitudes to living are well documented and may bring about some ‘against the grain’ thinking for both tenants and landlords. While the ability to rent for short periods has always favoured the tenants – and the ability to raise the rent favoured the landlord – both parties may find mutually beneficial ground in the shape of longer tenancy agreements and fixed rents. Indications show the turbulent times of the last 18 months have left more people involved in the private rental sector seeking long-term stability and reassurance.

The ‘doubling-up’ property

Although Propertymark’s latest figures show a 30% decrease in void periods since the start of 2021, having a contingency plan is best practice. New research suggests 17% of landlords said they would look for a future property investment that could double up as a holiday let so they could counteract a void period. As well as a let that attracts holiday makers, some properties can easily double up as serviced accommodation or as an ultra-short-term rental aimed at professionals.

If you are a portfolio investor looking to expand the number of properties you own, or are a first-time landlord requiring advice, we’re here to chat all things yield, return and property management. Get in touch today.

Lettings Group 2

Rent controls? Not on the radar

The UK’s property market can be hard to keep up with. As well as a new minister for housing, communities and local government (step forward Michael Gove), the industry is awaiting the Government’s publication of a Rental Sector White Paper. There is a gentle murmur that rent controls could be on the cards but is it time to panic?

It’s a firm no. The letting industry’s gut reaction is that rent controls are not part of the Government’s immediate plan, especially as the post pandemic recovery is still underway and the leading letting agents’ professional  body – ARLA Propertymark – is not supportive of such an introduction.

History shows us that rent controls have rarely had the desired effect those in charge want, so despite a few rumbles in the press about a possible introduction, landlords should read with passing interest but it’s definitely not time to worry.

A brief history of rent control

The idea that a limit is put on how much rent can be charged – or by how much rents can rise – is not a new one, nor is it a concept consigned to ancient history. Modern-day rent controls were introduced during World War I, when approximately 90% of UK households rented privately. 

As rent caps existed to prevent profiteering during troubled times, it was no surprise that rents were also limited during World War II. Local rent caps, rent tribunals and revised rent Acts prevailed in some form right up until 1989, when the Housing Act 1988 deregulated rents on new private sector lettings and legal limits on rents were lifted.

Will Scotland set the precedent?

Rent control discussions are already happening in Scotland, where a new power sharing agreement between the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Greens has allowed rent caps to make it onto the agenda. The Green Party manifesto outwardly supports rent regulation, favouring ‘a points-based system’ of rent controls, although it remains to be seen if this notion wins cross-party backing. The mood is definitely that controls won’t make the final cut. 

Tenants in Scotland don’t, however, have to wait for a coalition Government to enshrine new ideas to curtail soaring rents. Local Scottish authorities have recently been given the power to introduce ‘Rent Pressure Zones’ – a way of capping rent increases where rents are rising to unaffordable levels. This initiative has staved off widespread rent controls but it remains to be seen whether it’s an effective or sustainable housing model.

Has London already provided the blueprint?

London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has been extremely vocal in his support of rent controls but he actually has zero power to introduce them and there’s actually no need for them.

The capital already has an active way of controlling rents in the shape of the ‘London Living Rent’ – a below-market rent held at one-third of median local household incomes in a localised area. It’s an initiative that doesn’t affect many private landlords, however, as London Living Rent properties are generally only available at dedicated Build to Rent schemes. 

How would other rent caps work?

As nationwide rent caps are theoretical at this stage, how they would be implemented is merely speculation, serving as a discussion topic and nothing more. The Scottish Green Party’s points-based system would work on the basis that housing costs should not equate to more that 25% of a household’s income, while others – including the Labour Party – suggest that rent rises could be limited by linking them to the RPI (Retail Price Index) – which is a measure of inflation. Previous rent caps were linked to the age, condition and location of a property. 

If the mechanics of the lettings sector are something you’d like to know more about – in your position as a tenant or a landlord – get in touch today.