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6 ways to be winterwise in your home

As any Game of Thrones superfan will chant as the evenings draw in, ‘winter is coming’. Just how mild, wet, bitterly cold or stormy it will be this year, nobody knows, but one thing is certain – winterising your home can save you money and stress in the coming months. Not doing so may leave you – literally – out in the cold. 

Here are some jobs around the home that should be done now before the big freeze arrives:-

  • If it ain’t broke, STILL fix it

Starting outside, it’s important to get rid of any leaves, moss and other debris that can block your gutters, downpipes and gullies to prevent leaks and breakages. Secure or fix any broken or loose roof tiles, and repair any broken fence panels before winter gales blow them away completely. Also check for cracks in external walls and consider getting them repointed. 

  • Carry out a heating health-check

Whatever type of heating system you have, make sure it’s in good working order before it’s too late. Check storage and immersion heaters, get chimneys swept and your boiler serviced. Some households will have a regular boiler service included as part of an insurance policy or care plan, but if not, you can get a Gas Safe registered engineer to carry one out from as little as £75, or contact your energy supplier for a quote. You should also bleed your radiators to maximise their efficiency.

  • Shop around for energy suppliers

Cranking up the thermostat will impact your energy bills so before you become too reliant on your radiators, compare the best energy deals. You can switch suppliers – even if you’re a tenant – and potentially save hundreds of pounds each year on gas and electricity. You may consider a smart meter at the same time as switching, which will help you identify costly appliances that are used more in winter, such as fan heaters and tumble dryers.  

  • Draughtproof windows and doors 

Whether you opt for a DIY reseal or use more complex weatherstripping techniques, make sure the warmth in your home is not escaping through your windows and doors. Use draught excluders, and upgrade curtains and blinds to thermal versions to keep the heat in. 

  • Insulate, insulate, insulate 

According to The Green Age, about 25% of the heat in a house escapes through the loft, 35% through the walls and 10% through the floor. Insulating these areas can dramatically reduce heating bills. Insulating pipes with foam tubes, also known as lagging, can also prevent them from freezing or worse – bursting. 

  • Be prepared

With winter comes an increased risk of power cuts and storm damage, so it’s advisable to take some time preparing in advance. Put together a power cut survival kit and ensure you know where your stopcock is (82% of 18-24 year olds have no idea). Check your insurance policy and consider home emergency cover – worryingly, research from Defaqto revealed that almost 3 in 4 home building and contents policies don’t include cover for home emergencies. 

Green Homes Grant

Many of the action points above – including draught proofing, insulation and heating controls – are potentially covered by the Government’s new Green Homes Grant. There’s a narrow window for applications and vouchers are only valid for 3 months or until 31st March 2021, whichever is sooner. Find out what is covered, whether you’re eligible and apply using the dedicated online form.

If you would like more advice on winter home care or would like to move to a new property during the winter months, contact us today.

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Sales Group 1

Trading up? Advice for second steppers

Whether you’re spurred on by the stamp duty holiday or have found being home together has highlighted a lack of space, we are a nation on the move to bigger properties. The rise of the second stepper – homeowners trading up from their first home to a larger residence – is more pronounced than ever, with upsizers fighting over three and four-bedroom houses across the country.

The scramble for more space is, of course, pushing up house values. Rightmove reported in September 2020 that prices continue to climb – up 0.2% in August 2020 when compared to July 2020, and up 5% annually. The online portal also noted acute activity and record asking prices in the second-stepper sector. 

If you’re in a one or two-bedroom property and intend to join the ranks of the second stepper, there are a few considerations other than a higher asking price. You may wish to think about the following before you ascend the property ladder. 

  • Moving costs: there’s a brilliant window of opportunity to buy your next home with no stamp duty or at least a reduced bill*. You’ll still have to factor in, however, solicitor’s fees, a mortgage arrangement fee (if applicable), removal costs and an agent’s fee if you also have a property to sell.
  • Redecorating costs: if you’re gaining more rooms or more square footage, your interior will cost more to change. Be mindful that you’ll need more paint and more carpet, for instance, plus there will be more windows to dress.
  • Running costs: a bigger property will cost more to heat and power. It’s also worth checking out the council tax banding of a bigger home you’re interested in, noting the difference when compared to where you are living now.
  • Budget for furniture: extra bedrooms are brilliant but to optimize the space, they need to be furnished, so factor in the cost of buying a bed, bedside cabinets and a wardrobe. Likewise, if you’re swapping eating from a tray on your lap for a dedicated dining room, you’ll need to buy a table and chairs.
  • The value of a home office: if your primary motivation for upsizing is to gain a home office, you may face stiff competition from others moving for the same reason. Be prepared to pay a premium for houses where there’s a dedicated study on the ground floor, or consider alternative options, such as using a guest bedroom as a home working hub or adding a garden room for the 9 to 5.

If an extra bedroom, a home office or extra outside space is on your moving wish list, tell us the size of your current home and we’ll show you properties for sale that give you the extra space you crave. Get in touch to start your search. 

*Purchases must legally complete by 31st March 2021 to qualify for a zero or reduced stamp duty bill

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Sales Group 1

The price is right: reducing the price reduces sales success

The press is ablaze with articles about a super buoyant property market and while it’s true the temporary stamp duty holiday has stimulated home moving activity, not every property will fly off the shelves.

We have always known that the ‘price it once, price it right strategy’ has been the best but Rightmove has now quantified this. The online portal monitored over 300,000 homes that were listed for sale between 13th May and 31st July 2020 to discover sellers are twice as likely to find a buyer if there is only ever one asking price, with no changes.

The danger of changing the price

Rightmove’s research found 63% of properties that were not subject to a price reduction went under offer or were sold subject to contract. In contrast, in the group of properties where price reductions were made, only 32% of these properties had gone under offer or were sold subject to contract. Reducing your asking price may suggest that there is something wrong with the property and can arouse suspicion among buyers – even though there is a clear cost saving.

The danger of overpricing

Property portals give buyers a good snapshot of any given market, so it’s easy to see if a property is punching above its weight in terms of asking price. Generally, each road, postcode or area will have an upper limit with regards to what buyers are willing to pay. Breech this and you could languish on the market for months or come across as greedy. If your property remains unsold, then you move into the ‘danger of changing the price’ category, as above, or you may enter into a detrimental negotiation process where a purchaser will chip away at your asking price.

The danger of under-pricing

There is such a thing as a property advertised for sale too cheaply! Although it is common to place an attractive price on a property in order to sell it quickly, under-price your home by too much and buyers may wonder what’s wrong with it. If it’s marketed well below the market average, you’ll ring alarm bells, as well as not realise the true value of your property.

The price is right….first time

Many sellers come to us with a price in mind and it’s our job to deliver a sale as close to that figure as possible. As professionals, however, we will also be realistic about the possibility of achieving that figure, taking into account local demand, current stamp duty rates, competition and the timescale of the seller. We’ll do everything possible to set a price that won’t budge, and that will deliver enquiries, viewings and offers.

Pricing strategies to discuss

Chat to us and we can explain the different pricing strategies we can use. Options include a price bracket – £380,00-£420,000, for instance – ‘offers in the region of’ (OIRO), ‘offers in excess of’ (OIEO) and ‘open to offers’ (OTO), all of which may help you achieve the right figure without having to adjust the asking price. 

The only way is down

Of course, there are times when a price reduction may be the only way to create more interest in a property, especially if the circumstances of the seller have changed and they need to move quickly. This does need careful managing to get the best out of any lower price and to maximize the offers submitted, so talk to us about the options available.

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Lettings Group 1

Mould: Landlord or tenant responsibility?

As we head into autumn, the chances of experiencing damp and mould in our homes increases but when it comes to rented properties, who is responsible for finding a solution? Well, the answer is not as cut and dried as you might have hoped.

Analysis of the latest English Housing Survey has revealed that 2.2 million people are living in homes with some sort of damp or mould issue. Compared to just 2% of owner-occupied homes, 7% of private rented dwellings suffer from this problem, implying that tenants and landlords take longer to report and rectify the causes of mould.

From March 2020, both social and private renters have been able to sue their landlords under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act if the cause of damp or mould is not resolved. However, both tenants and landlords have a duty to take action to avoid the issue.

Causes of damp and mould

Unfortunately, damp and mould are common in any residential property because they are often caused by everyday activities like showering, drying clothes and cooking. This produces condensation, which accounts for around 80% of damp and mould issues, and is classed as ‘man made’.

The other two serious types of damp that properties can suffer from is rising damp, where water comes up from the ground, and penetration damp – caused by water getting in from outside or an internal leak. If untreated, any type of damp can lead to serious issues for the property and also your health.

When is mould the landlord’s responsibility?

Landlord’s have a legal responsibility to ensure a rental property is fit for human habitation, including maintaining the structure and exterior, the constant external supply of utilities (different from selecting a provider) and keeping it in a good state of repair.

When it comes to damp and mould issues, the landlord will usually be required to fix the problem if it relates to the property not being watertight or a major leak as a result of plumbing defects.

For example:

  • Cracks in external walls
  • Broken or missing roof tiles
  • Unsealed of faulty windows and doors
  • Insufficient insulation
  • Broken or leaking pipes
  • Badly fitted kitchen sinks/bathrooms
  • Broken damp proof course

If the cause of damp and mould, however, is one of the above and not as a result of accidental damage by the tenant, ignorance and failure to report an issue could lead to you being partly liable for the cost of repair. Why? Because if you’d have reported the issue sooner, it would likely have taken less time and money to rectify.  

What should tenants do to prevent mould?

Most damp and mould occurs as a result of condensation, which builds up due to poor ventilation and inadequate heating in a property.

As a tenant you are, therefore, obliged to look after the property and prevent condensation by:

  • Keeping the property warm
  • Opening curtains and windows regularly for air and light circulation
  • Using extractor fans (if available) when cooking and bathing/showering
  • Drying clothes outside whenever possible and never hanging them on radiators
  • Ensuring tumble dryers are vented to the outside

If you are confident that you have taken all the necessary steps to prevent the build-up of mould, but the issue persists, report this to your landlord or letting agent as soon as possible. It could be that they need to install additional ventilation systems, provide you with sufficient means to dry your clothes indoors (if you live in a flat for example) or investigate further.

As a tenant, it’s also always a good idea to protect yourself against the cost of repairs or damage to your belongings with some kind of tenancy liability and contents insurance, should the worst happen.

If you would like to know more about your responsibility as a tenant or landlord when it comes to mould or damp in your property, contact us for further information.

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Lettings Group 1

Tenants: switch on to utility swapping

We rely on gas, electricity and a broadband connection almost every minute of every day, whether we’re charging a phone, boiling a kettle or watching a film. Now, with more of us working from home than ever before, our utility consumption is growing.

Many of us don’t give a passing thought to flicking a switch, while others have become more energy conscious thanks to smart meters. Very few, however, stop to think how much we will spend on utility supplies over the course of our lifetime but somebody has done the maths.

O2 has found the average adult will spend almost £1 million in bills while they are alive – £926,720 on gas, electricity, water, their phone and other bills, to be precise. This amalgamated figure is enough to take your breath away but everyone, with a little shopping around, can chip away at that figure – and that includes tenants too. 

When it comes to utilities in rented properties, our lettings team find it’s asked the same questions time and time again, so we’ve provided the answers below:- 

I’m a tenant, can I choose my own utility suppliers?

Many renters move into a property and simply pick up where the last tenant left off, using the same gas, electricity, TV, phone and broadband suppliers. While convenient, this may not be the most economic of options and unless you’re on a ‘bills included’ tenancy agreement, renters are entitled to swap energy suppliers. If you want further clarification on your rights, Ofgem has a great guide to switching utility suppliers specifically for tenants.

How much could I save by switching?

Moving into a new rented property is the perfect time to compare deals. An hour spent researching the cheapest suppliers could result in a saving of almost £600 a year on gas and electricity bills alone*. There are several online comparison websites freely available, including but not limited to Uswitch, comparethemarket and moneysupermarket, and switching can also give you the opportunity to choose a greener energy supplier.

Can I get a smart meter if I’m a tenant?

Tenants who pay directly for gas and electricity in their rented property can apply to have a smart meter installed. It is wise to let your letting agent or landlord know your intentions but unless there is something specific in your tenancy agreement, smart meters should be encouraged. You can read about your smart meter rights here. 

Does a landlord have to provide media/communication connections?

There is no legal requirement for a landlord to provide a tenant with a telephone, television or broadband connection but it’s usual for provision to be in place. If a tenant paying the bill directly finds the incumbent services too expensive or unsuitable, they can shop around for the best deal. Remember, if your switch involves any new cabling or drilling that may damage or alter the property, a tenant should notify their landlord or letting agent before the work begins.

If you’re looking for a new property to rent and would like a list of the latest available properties, please contact us. We’re also happy to hear from landlords looking for utility and energy advice.

*gocompare.com

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Sales Group 1

The rise of the Shoffice

With home working now a permanent fixture of 21st century living, a ‘shed’ load of money is being invested in ‘shoffices’ up and down the country.

The semi-permanent structures once known as sheds or garden rooms are now being lovingly transformed into insulated, windowed, stylish and functional multipurpose rooms that could rival someone’s main residence.

Even before lockdown, it was predicted the UK domestic garden building market would grow by 12% by 2022 but now, Google search trends are reporting a sharp increase in people looking for shed offices while many suppliers are out of stock.

The ‘shoffice’ has become the perfect alternative to an expensive extension or a ‘too hot in the summer/too cold in the winter’ conservatory – especially for home workers who need to physically as well as emotionally separate their professional and personal lives.

Here, we answer some common questions about the ‘shoffice’.

How much does a ‘shoffice’ cost?

The cost of your chosen shoffice can range from under £1,000 for a self-build or upwards of £25,000. It will depend on a number of factors, including whether you have the correct foundations for the right type of shed office (a hard standing surface), the size and materials used, and if you choose to go for a basic interior or all the bells and whistles.  

The great thing about shoffices is that even if you decide to construct it yourself over contracting a professional, it could be up and operational within a couple of days.

Remember though, for it to be functional all year round, you need it to be insulated and water-tight. A standard garden shed from B&Q will not do the trick. Gardenofficeguide.co.uk has a price guide, which is a good starting point.  

You could also explore whether your employer will help you with home office expenses if it’s going to be a permanent arrangement. In the US, the likes of Shopify and Twitter have already started providing remote workers with $1,000 dollars to set up their home office.

What amenities can I have?

The facilities you have in your shoffice will be down to personal preference and the type of work you plan on doing. It’s likely you’ll at least need an electrical supply unless you plan on going back and forth to the house to charge your laptop – a very unproductive use of time.

WiFi connectivity is also important. Depending on how far the shoffice is located from the main router, you may be able to use the existing connection or simply get a booster. However, this may not be an option and an additional line could be needed.

The next step is to consider plumbing. You can, of course, get a spare kettle and go back and forth to the main house to fill it up while taking a toilet break but you might want to think about installing a toilet and small kitchenette, if space allows.

Do I need planning permission?

Provided you are not erecting the shed or garden room to the front of the property, it will probably come under Permitted Development. This is a government scheme allowing homeowners to make improvements to their property without applying for planning permission. There are various criteria that must be met, however, such as size, proximity to boundaries and use.

If, for example, you do decide to install domestic plumbing, then the outbuilding may not be seen as an incidental building, and therefore your local authority may require planning permission. If you go even further and want your shoffice to double up as additional accommodation, it will almost certainly require planning permission and could even be considered a self-contained separate dwelling, which you may have to pay council tax on.  

Planning permission may also be required if you are running your own business rather than working for someone else and/or having clients regularly visiting the ‘shoffice’. You won’t just be working from home, you will be running a business from home and then you’ll also need to inform your mortgage and insurance provider. Other insurance policies may be needed too, like professional indemnity and public liability.

What if I rent?

Just because you don’t own the property you live in, it doesn’t mean you can’t have your own shoffice. The first step is to check through your tenancy agreement and then contact the landlord (via a letting agent, if they manage the property) and ask for permission. One of three things will happen – 1. they will say no; 2. they will say yes and even offer to contribute towards the cost if it is left at the property once you move out; or 3. they will allow it provided the garden is put back to its original state before you leave. If the latter happens, you may want to consider more of a portable structure that you can take with you, like a Shepherd’s Hut.

If you need some inspiration, take a look at what these shoffice owners have done.

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Sales Group 1

Could your home sell in seven days?

The Chancellor’s stamp duty holiday has certainly achieved its aim of supercharging the property market. The temporary measure – under which homes sold for £500,000 or less are stamp duty free and those costing more have a reduced bill, with savings of up to £15,000 – has led to ‘time on market’ figures reducing drastically, with one in seven homes listed on Rightmove by an agent, between 8th July and 31st August, finding a buyer within a week. 

In layman’s terms, ‘time on market’ simply refers to the duration a property is for sale. The start is usually measured from the day a property is launched online, and the final day can be either the day the property is withdrawn from the open market or when a successful offer is made and the property is shown as sold subject to contract.

The appetite for moving home is so strong at the moment that the ‘time on market’ is now at its lowest figure for a decade. Rightmove’s latest data shows sellers are finding buyers within the quickest time frame for 10 years, breaking records that have been held since February 2016. In addition, one in three homes sold within two weeks of coming to market.

There is no doubt the stamp duty holiday has accelerated moving plans. After all, the initiative is a temporary one and buyers must complete their purchase by 31st March 2021 to qualify for the benefit, so time is of the essence. The speed of sales, however, is also down to our new normal and the changing priorities that come as a result. 

If you’re wondering if your house might sell in seven days, there are a few factors that will contribute to how quickly a buyer is found and these include:

The size of your property: the lockdown period has highlighted how many families can’t coexist in small spaces, especially if people have adopted home working patterns or have had their children at home for extended periods. The quest for more room has led to a scramble for larger houses so if you have a home with three bedrooms or more, you will attract interest.

Your ability to offer a home office: whether it’s a full time switch to working from home or a split between a central office and a home hub, a dedicated place to work – not a dining table or corner of the lounge – has moved to the top of the buying wish list. Although converting a spare bedroom into a home office sounds good in principle, this can affect a home’s value if it comes at a loss of a bedroom. The most desirable home offices are separate studies on the ground floor or a garden room that’s well insulated with power, light and a heating source.

Any outside space: our gardens have become a place to entertain safely, to exercise in, to let the children burn off excess energy and to start being more self-sufficient during times of food shortages. It’s no surprise then, that gardens have appeared in increasing numbers of property searches. You’re already winning if you have a garden – or even a courtyard – but if your outside space is neat, low maintenance and generously proportioned, you’ll win brownie points with buyers. 

If you’d like to know how quickly properties like yours are selling and what prices are being achieved, please get in touch.

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Grand plans for your new property?

If you’ve found an almost-ideal property but want to consider an extension or remodel, it’s definitely worth doing your research before putting in that offer.

In some cases, you may be able to carry out renovations under permitted development but certain building work will require you to apply for planning permission with your local authority, and that’s a whole other ball game.

In this mini guide, we look at the differences between permitted development and planning permission when it comes to altering a residential property.

What is Permitted development?

Permitted development grants rights to property owners that allow for certain changes without the need for planning permission. They often present a speedy and painless opportunity for homeowners and investors to maximise the potential of a property and the freehold land it sits on.

The type of work you can carry out might include:

  • Building a porch
  • Interior remodelling
  • Erecting conservatories or outbuildings
  • Converting an integral or attached garage
  • Loft conversions
  • Adding a single-storey extension to the side or rear
  • Adding a two-storey extension

Permitted development is not a given, however, and there are caveats. Firstly, permitted development only applies to unlisted houses outside of ‘designated areas’. Secondly, there are lifetime volume and size limitations to the works listed above that have been in place since 1948 – you have to check if any, part or all of your allowance may have already been used by a previous owner. These depend on the type of house, and concern the overall use of land area, as well as proximity to boundaries. Thirdly, there may be restrictive covenants in place that impact permitted development rights.

Even when working within permitted development rights, you might still have to submit a prior notification and in any instance, it’s always a good idea to check with your local authority that permitted development applies and obtain a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC).

To account for the lack of home building over the last few years, many changes have been made to permitted development rights, including the ability to change the use from commercial to residential for example. The latest amendment in 2020 will allow for many purpose-built blocks of flats to be extended by up to two storeys to create bigger or more homes.

What work requires planning permission?

Planning permission will be needed with larger property extensions, rebuilds and circumstances where permitted development rights are removed or allowances used.

You’ll need consent from your local authority prior to starting any works. Not doing so could lead to you requiring planning permission retrospectively and if not approved, you could be forced to take the property back to its previous state.

Home improvements that usually need planning permission include:

  • Building or demolishing and rebuilding a new property
  • Extending to the front
  • Installing verandas, balconies or raised platforms above 300mm from the floor
  • Splitting your property into more than one dwelling
  • Converting a stand-alone outbuilding, such as garage, into a dwelling
  • Adjusting an officially designated building
  • Alterations to a listed building
  • Fitting bay windows

How to apply for planning permission

Applying for planning permission can be a lengthy and often stressful process, especially if it’s your first time. According to the HomeOwners Alliance, 27% of homeowners said planning permission is a major obstacle in completing home renovations.

Take these steps to alleviate some of the stress and increase your chances of approval:

  1. Do your research – Consider the alterations you are planning and see if any properties in your street have done anything similar. Go through the Planning Portal to check whether you will require planning permission.
  2. Understand the costs – Planning application fees start at around £200 for an extension but realistically, be prepared to fork out at least £2,000 once you take planning and design fees into account. If your project is a more complex one, you may want to call your local planning authority to set up an informal meeting (which may be charged) or you could consider applying for outline planning permission, which requires less detail but will give you an indication of approval.
  3. Get professional plans drawn up – Reputable planning consultants and architects should know what they are doing, helping you produce designs, technical drawings and site plans.
  4. Compile supporting documents – You should also obtain location plans that you may have to purchase, an ownership certificate, details of any previous work carried out on the property, agricultural holding certificate, and a design and access statement.
  5. Check any local authority specific requirements – Throughout the online application, ensure you have understood any local planning requirements that could be in addition to national requirements.
  6. Make sure you are sure – From the date of submission, it should take no longer than eight weeks to get a decision but alterations to plans could mean you have to start the process again, which is very common. So be confident your plans are thoroughly thought through.
  7. Calculate and pay the correct fee – When applying online, you need to pay the right fee or your application could be delayed.
  8. Get to work – If approved, ensure you start work within three years from the date of approval, unless your permission says, otherwise or it could expire (read up on the special extensions granted due to Covid-19). If rejected, which 25% of planning requests are in England, either deal with the issues raised and resubmit or appeal – 40% of homeowner applications are later granted.  

We sell properties that are ripe for remodelling, refurbishing and extending. If you are keen to purchase a ‘project’ rather than a finished home, contact us today for a list of available properties with potential.

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Could your home provide a lucrative side hustle?

This year has brought with it many changes, not least of which is the fact we’ve become more acquainted with the homes we live in.

Whether we’ve been forced to adapt every nook and cranny into work stations or spent months on furlough renovating neglected rooms, we’re now much more aware of the space around us…but are you aware of your home’s earning potential?

As lockdown measures ease, the majority of UK workers hope their employer will continue to allow some working from home, while others fear redundancies as unemployment rises. So, now presents the perfect time – and we have more of it than ever before – to consider how you can turn your home into a cash-generating side hustle.

Here are 6 ways you could earn a supplementary wage or even replace income from your home.

  1.       Rent out rooms

If you are lucky enough to have a spare room in your home and you don’t mind sharing it with strangers – even if it’s just now and again – you could consider renting out a room.

You don’t have to take in a full-time lodger (although you can earn up to £7,500 per year tax free if you do) and could consider more temporary lets, like hosting summer students, letting rooms via AirBnB or even starting your own bed and breakfast. The latter two will require some business planning but could earn you hundreds of pounds per night.

  1.       Rent out space

Got a garage or shed but aren’t much of a hoarder? Have space on your driveway for an extra car and live in a prime location?

Why not rent out your unused space with sites like Stashbee and JustPark? There are plenty of people who need storage, or who aren’t willing to pay extortionate parking prices at train stations, for example. Depending on where you live, you could earn between £40 and £350 per month or even more if you’re in a city.

Believe it or not, you could even rent out your kitchen for caterers, magazines or start-ups – perfect for anyone who has a sizeable and envious cooking space but only uses the microwave!  

  1.       Rent out personal items

While not strictly your home, the explosion of the sharing economy means you could rent out almost anything to anyone, including personal items you keep at home. Called peer-to-peer lending, this could include your car, a touring caravan, games consoles and even DJ decks.

It doesn’t have to be a classic or sports car either, although they will of course earn you a premium. If you work from home or even use public transport to commute, you could rent out your everyday car for around £700 per month. And if your caravan or campervan sits on your driveway for most of the year, advertise it for rent on sites like Camplify, Gumtree or again, AirBnB.

Finally, if you ever invested in high-end technical equipment or instruments for your latest hobby, but it all sits in the garage under a thick layer of dust, services such as Fat Llama and Borrow-it say these items are in high demand on their rental sites.

  1.       Make your home a movie star

No matter what shape or size your property, there’s likely a TV show or film that would consider using it as a filming or photoshoot location.

The more glamorous the better in terms of earning potential, but Broadchurch and Gavin and Stacy weren’t filmed in countryside mansions or Caribbean holiday homes, were they?

So whether you think your home has character and quirkiness, an air of luxury about it or it’s simply an average property that you’re willing to let cast and crews intrude for a few days, see if you can pimp out your entire home by contacting broadcasters’ location departments or registering your home on Amazing Space.  

  1.       Produce your own

The combination of panic buying, hours of queuing at the supermarket and supply chains suffering severe delays led to many people growing their own fruit and vegetables during lockdown. Many budding gardeners have now turned green-fingered grocers, with excess food in abundance.

If this is you, why not consider selling your produce via a roadside stall, on local online community groups or even at nearby markets and independent stores?

Another way you can earn money from producing your own is through energy. By getting solar panels installed, you could not only reduce your energy bills but sell surplus energy back to the National Grid. There’s even a Government scheme that pays you for the energy you produce.

  1.       Bring your work home

If you’re already a business owner who has been forced to work from home, you could think about converting some space in your home and ditching your premises costs entirely. Could you convert your garage into a beauty salon or dog grooming parlour? You may have started a new business from home during lockdown – can you continue running that from home to keep overheads trim?

If none of that applies to you and you’re set to return to the office soon, your home could be rented out as office space. There will be plenty of small businesses looking to cut costs and your property could make for an attractive alternative.

Before you start…

When earning any money from your property or land, or starting a business from home, you must seek professional advice. It’s highly likely you will need to declare any income to HMRC and you may also be required to inform your landlord, home insurance provider, mortgage provider and local authority, as well as potentially take out additional business and liability cover.

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Lettings Group 1

Lettings latest: extension to eviction ban

Being evicted: it sounds so harsh. Sometimes we think the phrase ‘being asked to vacate the property’ sounds a lot better, as eviction isn’t always a negative or malicious act. There are many reasons why a landlord may want to regain possession of his property – they may simply want to sell the residence or move into it themselves. Whatever the thinking behind the action, there have always been rules attached to how a tenant is evicted – you’ll find details about this and how it may change later on in this blog.

For now, in our new Covid era, a set of temporary eviction alterations have been made to allow for today’s exceptional conditions. As the situation continues to unfold with a degree of uncertainty, it is worth clarifying the current circumstances during which a landlord can evict a tenant.

No new evictions for now

With many tenants furloughed, facing redundancy or in a delicate financial situation, the Government has placed a temporary ban on new evictions. This is designed to give tenants greater protection and confidence that they will be allowed to stay in their homes. 

The ban was supposed to be lifted at the end of August 2020 but at the eleventh hour, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that the eviction ban would be extended for the second time. The new deadline is 20th September 2020 and, only at this point, courts will start hearing eviction proceedings again.

Tenants must receive 6 months’ notice to leave

To complement this news, a new notice period has been introduced and will be in place until at least 31st March 2021. This means landlords will have to give tenants 6 months’ notice if they want to evict them in all but the most serious of cases.

Eviction exceptions for exceptional cases

Serious cases include anti-social behaviour and if this is the cause for eviction, the tenant only needs to be served a four week notice period. It is the same notice period – 4 weeks – for tenants who have built up rent arrears of 6 months or more. If the eviction is due to domestic violence in the property, the landlord only has to serve the tenants 2 weeks’ notice.

Permanent eviction changes on the horizon

Unless you are a landlord, you may not know that there are currently two types of eviction notice: Section 21 and Section 8. Sometimes these are referred to as ‘notices to quit’.

A Section 21 notice doesn’t have to specify a reason why the landlord wants to regain possession of their property, and is sometimes referred to as a ‘no fault eviction’. Circumstances such as the landlord selling the property fall under a Section 21 notice. This notice cannot be served in the first 4 months of a tenancy. A Section 8 eviction notice covers instances where a tenant has breached their contract – such as rent arrears of more than two months, subletting or unsociable behaviour – and can be served at any time during the tenancy.

At the end of 2019, the Queen’s Speech contained details of a Renters’ Reform Bill that will see the removal of Section 21 notices from the Housing Act 1988. It is hoped that in its place will be a revised and more comprehensive Section 8 notice – the details of which are yet to be revealed. A firm date when Section 21 notices will cease to exist is also to be confirmed.

If you are a landlord or a tenant and would like further clarification on the matter of evictions, please contact our lettings team.

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Sales Group 1

Ready to take on a wreck or renovation?

Lockdown has given us all time to think about our future plans – and plenty of time to watch TV! If you’ve been revisiting Grand Designs or George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, you may have ignited a desire to take on a wreck or renovation project as your next property.

Well, now might be the best time to make your move. The Chancellor’s stamp duty holiday – which has made homes priced at £500,000 or less stamp-duty free and those over this value up to £15,000 cheaper to purchase – is leaving home movers with more cash to splash.

Research by Checkatrade.com has revealed that 14% of Brits are looking to take advantage of the stamp duty change by moving home soon and they will collectively save £38.1 billion if they complete their property purchases by 31st March 2021 – the date when the temporary tax holiday is due to end.

The findings also discovered any new-found financial reserves are destined for home improvements. Three in five purchasers (59%) said they’d be more likely to buy a ‘doer upper’, with their confidence and budgets boosted by the stamp duty saving. In fact, a third of buyers (33%) will reinvest the money saved in a property they are buying straight away.

On the list of immediate renovations are new kitchens, refitted bathrooms and loft conversions, with the creation of both indoor and outdoor workspaces also in the planning, all thanks to bolstered improvement budgets. 

Top 5 considerations when buying a wreck or renovation project

Buying a property that needs work or modernisation may be possible thanks to the current stamp duty savings but it’s wise to do your homework before making an offer. Knowing what costs lie ahead and understanding the complexity of works will ensure you don’t make a costly mistake. Here are 5 things to consider before you buy:-

  1. Start with finances: although you will have a new nest egg thanks to a stamp duty saving, securing a mortgage for a wreck or renovation may need a specialist lender. As well as evidence of a deposit, they may also require proof of funds to finance improvements that will bring the property up to an open-market value. 
  2. Book a detailed pre-purchase survey: knowing the difference between a superficial crack and serious subsidence is essential. Opt for an in-depth survey that looks at the structure of the building so you’re prepared. Once any defects are identified, get a specialist trade in to quote for rectifying, replacing and repairing.
  3. Plan where you will live: if you’re buying a real wreck, it may not be possible to live in the dwelling while work is ongoing. You may use your stamp duty savings to rent a property during the project or buy a caravan for the garden, in the style of Grand Designs. Don’t forget, you’ll have to budget for mortgage repayments on your new home as well as renovation costs and potentially monthly rent.
  4. Familiarise yourself with planning rules: permitted development rights are due to change in September 2020, and you may even be able to turn an old shop or café into a residential dwelling. The age, location, type and listed status of a property you buy, however, will impact what changes can be made. It’s essential to contact the local council’s planning department to establish any restrictions before you make an offer.
  5. Be realistic about what you can do yourself: even the most confident DIY-er may be out of their league when it comes to more construction-based and structural projects. Know your limits and budget to hire professionals, when required.

From properties that need a cosmetic refresh or easy update through to un-extended examples and untouched relics from the past, we regularly sell homes that would make great projects, all within a sliding scale of commitment and involvement. Get in touch to start your buying journey.

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Sales Group 1

Preparing your property for photographs – 3 steps to the ‘perfect’ shot

They say a picture paints a thousand words but actually, when it comes to selling your home, a picture could make you thousands of pounds.

In the UK, 92% of homebuyers find photos extremely helpful in making buying decisions and research from the US revealed that your property will sell 32% faster with good photography – and the faster it sells, the closer to the asking price you are likely to get.

With property photos being the first marketing touch point with potential buyers in print and online, it’s important you make your home as visually attractive as it can be.

So, how can you get your property Instagram-ready while striking the right balance between selling a lifestyle and creating a sterile home devoid of personality?  Here’s our top 3 pointers:-

 

  • Declutter inside and out

 

An exterior image is often the lead on any property listing, so you must try to give the best possible first impression.

If you own a house and its grounds, it’s much easier. Tidy up any debris and mess, including children’s toys and bikes, move bins out of sight and cars off the driveway. Replace dead hanging baskets with fresh ones, and give the windows and doors a good clean. Mow lawns, weed flower beds and trim shrubs for extra neatness. 

If you live in a flat where the exterior is not your responsibility, try to ensure photos are arranged for just after the windows are cleaned, bins collected and gardens tended to.

Inside, put as much clutter away as you can – basically anything that signals day-to-day living. Piles of shoes and drying umbrellas inside the porch are a no-go, as are coats on the banister, laundry in the utility room, toys and week-old newspapers on the arm of the sofa.

Temporarily clear away small kitchen appliances like toasters and kettles, and ensure kitchen clutter, such as tea towels, oven gloves and cleaning products, are safely stored under the sink (ideally along with your fridge magnet collection).

Upstairs, ensure beds are made, yesterday’s washing is out of sight and your animal print eye mask is hidden under your pillow. In the bathrooms, wipe mirrors free of dried toothpaste and neatly fold towels – preferably ones that complement the colour scheme. Only leave out your smartest toiletries and ensure your loo brush is hidden, or at least clean.

 

  • Maximise space and light

 

There is only so much jiggery-pokery photographers can do when it comes to light manipulation and angles, so you need to do all you can in advance to give them the best canvas to work with.

A quick win to maximise the light and create a sense of more space is to open all the internal doors, and ensure all curtains and blinds are fully open. This not only shows the flow of the property but natural light will do wonders in any room. If your spaces are quite small and dark, try adding a few mirrors around the home.

Consider moving furniture around or putting it away in the loft if you think a room looks too cramped – especially kids’ chairs and beanbags. Push dining tables up against a wall for example, or remove the chaise lounge shoved at the end of your bed that you never use but always wanted.

The final point is to take the pictures at the right time of day. No one can guarantee the weather and the powers of editing allow for some flexibility, but you want to avoid night time and rainy days if you can.

It is recommended, however, that bright sunny days aren’t the best either as over exposed images are harder to correct than dark ones. It will, of course, depend on the position of your property too and how it absorbs light at different times of the day.  

 

  • Don’t forget the details

 

After a complete spring clean and declutter, don’t be let down by a few last minute blunders. Walk through the entire property ensuring all cupboard doors and drawers are shut, toilet seats are down and shower curtains are closed. 

Straighten rugs, neatly fold throws, plump up cushions and turn the TV off too – no one wants to know what you’re currently binge-watching. Even a washing machine drum full of wet clothes can spoil a photo.

Then look at where you might be able to add some character. This may seem contradictory to decluttering but carefully positioning a few choice items can be the difference between a bland property listing and selling a lifestyle. In today’s home working climate, make sure any dedicated study or home office is propped to illustrate its purpose, with a desk, office chair and a filing cabinet, or artfully leave a laptop and notepad out where you’ve been working – maybe at a breakfast bar.

Although cliched, a vase of flowers or bowl of fresh fruit will add colour and character, while a strategically-placed hat, handbag, pile of classic novels or a houseplant can give that lived-in look without overcrowding the space.

And remember – keep it up!

Try to keep your home photo-ready throughout the viewings process, as no potential buyer wants to discover your home standards have slipped when they pull up outside and cross your threshold. Get in touch if you need guidance – we can show you some examples of houses that have sold well thanks to their fantastic photos.

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Sales Group 1

How to avoid dropping the asking price when selling a property

Selling a property isn’t an exact science and each sale, purchaser and set of circumstances is different. What is the same, however, is the desire to sell a property for as much as possible – especially if an onwards purchase, retirement, lifestyle change or debt settlement is reliant on achieving a set sales figure.

There are a number of reasons why a seller may have to reduce their asking price, however, and knowing what these are can help prevent this happening to you. Reasons can include:-

Being on the market for too long: if a home remains unsold for an extended length of time, this can be because it is overvalued – especially if similar properties in the local area are selling for less. 

Because the buyer has asked them to: negotiating the asking price is part and parcel of selling a property and many purchasers expect to successfully get the owner to reduce what they’re willing to accept to secure the deal. Sometimes a buyer who is also selling will have had to reduce the asking price on their home, and this can have a knock on effect. 

Unfavourable survey results: even if the original offer matches the asking price, a survey may show a flaw that’s expensive to rectify – such as damp or subsidence. In this case, it’s quite usual for the buyer to ask the seller to accept a lower offer so they can cover the cost of any repairs once they have moved in.

How to avoid dropping your asking price

  • Get the most realistic and attractive valuation possible – if you opt for a very ambitious asking price, you may deter buyers and leave yourself with no other option than to reduce that figure later on. Beware, some purchasers may become suspicious if a property for sale is repeatedly reduced in price as it may suggest there’s something wrong with the home.
  • Ask for your property to be listed ‘offers over’ – there are a number of ways of listing a property’s asking price and if a single figure is listed, it’s fair to say that figure is up for negotiation. If you’d like to minimize haggling over the price paid, ask about listing your property as ‘offers over’ or OIEO (Offers In Excess Of) and we can discuss the minimum amount you need or are willing to accept. We suggest you avoid a wide price range or OIRO (Offers In the Region Of) as this invites people to make a lower, more speculative offer.
  • Ensure your property is in tip top condition – as mentioned, a survey may highlight structural issues within your property that will either cause the buyer to pull out of the purchase or prompt them to negotiate a lower offer. You can avoid this by identifying your home’s weak spots and repairing these before you go on the market. As well as rectifying any major issues, make sure any DIY is up-to-date, that all appliances are in working order and your boiler is serviced, as this will give your buyer fewer reasons to bargain.
  • Try a new marketing approach – this can be as subtle as a new set of photographs after redecoration or decluttering, or a more drastic measure, such as moving to a different estate agent. If you’re reading this and we’re not currently marketing your home, get in touch. We can provide you with a second opinion on your current marketing package and offer advice on your asking price.  
  • Provide value for money justifying your asking price is another way of appeasing a potential buyer. If you really don’t want to lose an interested party and can’t lower your offer, you may discuss leaving furniture, curtains and free standing appliances to improve the value-for-money aspect of your sale.

Are there any upsides of dropping the asking price?

Yes! You will immediately appeal to a new set of buyers with a smaller budget. If your home can be reduced to under £500,000, it will also be available to a buyer, stamp duty free until 31st March 2021 – purchasers are increasingly setting their budget and search criteria to only include homes for sale below this price threshold.

The smart way to reduce your asking price

Contact us about reducing your asking price. We’ll make sure any reduction drops you into a new band on the property portals, so your home reaches a whole new audience who may not have seen your property online before.

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Sales Group 1

A guide to downsizing your home

Downsizing is something many homeowners consider, particularly later in life when children have flown the nest. It can be a fast-track way to become mortgage-free, raise money to pay off any personal debt or boost retirement income.

Research from retirement housebuilder McCarthy and Stone revealed that 11 million people plan to downsize their homes by 2037 but while there are many advantages to doing so, there are also some financial and practical implications to consider.

Financial considerations
Downsizing to a smaller property can have many financial benefits, including significantly reduced household bills and upkeep costs, but these savings may not be as big as initially thought.

Type of property
Even though many first-time buyers are now bypassing flats and smaller two-bedroom properties in favour of something bigger, many won’t have an option to stretch their budget that far. This means downsizers could potentially be pitting themselves against property-owning novices in the property search.

Equally, smaller properties may not be that much cheaper. Flats, for example, may have a lower asking price but there are other costs to think about, such as ground rent, leaseholder charges including management and maintenance fees, plus sometimes a fee for buying a parking space.

Perhaps you’re thinking about a bungalow instead? Well, with these types of properties in such high demand and very few being built, they come with the price tags to match.

Moving costs
If one of the reasons for downsizing is to raise cash, then the cost of moving must be factored in as it can seriously dent the capital you are left with.

According to My Big Move, the cost of moving house is around £10,000 when you factor in the usual stamp duty land tax (the current holiday is due to end on 31st March 2021), estate agent fees for selling your current property, solicitor and conveyancing fees.

There are also removal costs and even possibly penalties for repaying your mortgage early.

Practical considerations
Aside from the sentimental value when selling a home you may have brought your family up in for decades, you have to think rationally about the other consequences of becoming a downsizer.

– Less space

It may be stating the obvious but, of course, you are likely to have less space when you downsize. It’s not just about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms or sacrificing a big garden. Generally, in a smaller property, everything will be smaller. No space for walk-in or fitted wardrobes, no downstairs cloakroom/toilet, no larder or utility room, no garage or driveway.

When looking for a smaller property, think about which facilities you have in your current home that you really value and couldn’t live without. Also think about where visiting friends and family members will stay if you’re not going to have a spare bedroom.

Then there’s your furniture and personal possessions that may not fit in your downsized home. Prepare to sell or gift large and unwanted items, and identify those must-haves that you really want to take with you when measuring up smaller properties.

– Growing old

When moving home later in life, you need to have a plan for your long-term care whether you want to or not. Firstly, be mindful that any capital freed up from the sale of your bigger home could end up being used for your care in later years, so you should find out how you’ll be assessed financially.

But more than that, you have to think about the practicalities around growing old. How far away will you be from family and friends who could care for you? Are you going to be near to amenities and transport links should you not be able to drive? Is another house with no ground floor bathroom or a second-floor flat with a temperamental lift a good idea?

A risky alternative?
If you’re not convinced that downsizing is for you, then you could look into equity release – where you release some cash from your property but continue living there and paying it back when you die.

A staggering £3.4 billion of property wealth was released in these kinds of schemes in 2019 but they do come with an element of risk and we recommend you take trusted, unbiased advice before taking this action.

Whatever decision you make, do not make it lightly and do your research beforehand. Feel free to talk to us for more financial and practical downsizing advice.

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Bank Holiday DIY jobs to improve your home’s value

Bank Holiday weekends are traditionally a time when millions of homeowners take advantage of the extra day off to spruce up their homes, and August is the last opportunity before Christmas.

But before you arm yourself with the contents of your dusty toolbox in a bid to play Bob the Builder, you might want to think about what DIY jobs will give you the best return on your investment.

If you’re considering selling up in the near future, there are certain home improvements that will have a greater impact on the value of your property than others. By investing just a few hundred pounds, you could increase your property’s sale price by more than £50,000. 

So, as well as doing your research beforehand, think about prioritising DIY jobs based on your current budget and the value you can add.

Freshen the exterior

House hunters in Britain take just 65 minutes to decide whether or not to make an offer on a property, with first impressions forming from outside in under five minutes. With this in mind, an attractive home exterior is crucial.

From garden maintenance to fixture and fittings upgrades, you can improve buyer appeal and asking price potential by:

  1. Repainting the front door and upgrading doorknobs, letter boxes and house numbers
  2. Repainting the garage door
  3. Tidying the driveway and front garden, adding low maintenance flowers where possible
  4. Cleaning or replacing fascias and guttering
  5. Washing the windows
  6. Painting the fence and garden gate

Upgrade kitchens and bathrooms

There’s no need for a completely new kitchen and bathroom to make your home look modern or desirable. However, these two rooms are often the most used in the house and the most expensive to replace, so buyers on a budget will often be looking for properties where no immediate upgrade is required.

According to DIY specialists at Tap Warehouse, 77% of property professionals place good quality tiles and grouting as the most desirable feature, so the floors and walls of your kitchen and bathrooms are great places to start.

Other ideas include:

  1. Upgrading taps and shower heads
  2. Installing a heated towel rail
  3. Adding a kitchen backsplash
  4. Painting cupboards and replacing handles
  5. Replacing worktops

Floor-to-ceiling improvements

The moment someone steps over the threshold of your home, they are making a judgement and it’s not just potential buyers who are guilty. Even your family and friends will judge your property within 38 seconds.

To make your home as inviting and tempting as it can be, consider how you can freshen up the floors, ceilings and walls – a new lick of paint can cost under £100 but boost the value by over £1,000.

Also think about:

  1. Upgrading fixtures like switch plates, plug sockets and light fittings
  2. Replacing downstairs carpet with hard flooring
  3. Cleaning or replacing carpets
  4. Installing crown moulding
  5. Upgrading internal doors

Boost energy efficiency

With climate change now on everyone’s radar, a commitment to saving energy in the home is not just a trend but a necessity. Even the Government says boosting your eco credentials can increase house prices and will be making grants available to homeowners so improvements will cost even less from autumn 2020.

Here are some ways you can improve your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating:

  1. Install wall, floor and ceiling insulation
  2. Use smart technology to monitor energy usage
  3. Draught proof your home
  4. Install double or triple glazed windows
  5. Replace conventional light bulbs with energy efficient alternatives

So it’s not a case of DIY don’t this August Bank Holiday, but more about choosing your home improvements wisely so you can reap the rewards at a later date. If selling a property you own is on the cards, talk to us about your local market.

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Lettings Group 1 Sales Group 1

Move in time for the primary school application deadline

Those without school-age children probably won’t be familiar with the primary school application process but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be. In fact, the jostle to be in the best position possible for a favoured primary school often starts before a baby is born.

Even before Ofsted inspections, parents tended to have a school in mind, but freely available results have made the race for places in the best schools more prononced. As a result, well-rated primary schools are usually oversubscribed and in tie-break situations; an admissions department will revert to its distance criteria or catchment area when offering places. Quite simply, where you live can make or break your admissions success.

In this quick guide to your home and primary school admissions, we answer the most commonly asked questions.

When do I have to apply for a primary school place?
Despite rumours of newborns being added to school waiting lists, parents can only apply for a state primary school place in the autumn term after their child turns four. There is a strict deadline for primary place applications and the next is 15th January 2021. It is around this date each year.

Does it matter where I live?
A resounding yes! Each school will either have a pre-set catchment or distance criteria. Usually places are given to those classed as ‘looked after’ and those with siblings already at the school first but after which, a family’s location can heavily influence the success of an application.

Is it ‘closest to the school’ wins?
It’s true that in a case of over subscription, the distance from the family home to the school gate may be taken into account. It is wrong, however, to assume a primary school puts itself in the middle of a circle to establish its admissions radius. The school could actually be off centre and those living closest won’t always get an automatic place. In some cases, parents who can actually see their favoured school from their home or live a matter of feet from the classrooms have missed out.

So is a school catchment different?
Yes, it is. It’s very important to contact each primary school you are interested in to establish their catchment, as this, for instance, may not always include the roads closest to the school – some will prioritise children in certain parish areas. Other influences include county boundaries, as well as cultivated relationships with ‘feeder’ nurseries and pre-schools.

What can I do if I’m out of catchment?
Some families or would-be parents discover they’re living ‘out of catchment’ and want to move home to secure an address that gives them the best chance of application success. In these cases, we can help locate a property to buy or rent that falls within the right catchment or distance criteria.

Does the timing of my move matter?
School applications must reflect the child’s permanent address, so for maximum peace-of-mind, complete any move before the 15th January 2021. You can move during the primary school application process but you will need to provide your local authority’s admissions department with a solicitor’s letter confirming your completion date (an exchange date will not suffice), evidence that you are selling or have sold your current residence or if you are a tenant, proof that you have given notice on your present property and have signed a new tenancy agreement, together with the start date.

How long will it take me to move?
Given the next primary school deadline is 15th January 2021, anyone needing to move to for application purposes should go on the market now. Parents should factor in how long the marketing, viewing and offers process takes, plus add the time between accepting an offer and completion – usually around 12-16 weeks. If you are renting, the process may be a little quicker but still factor in a three month lead time.

All we need to start your home moving journey is the name and postcode of the primary school that’s at the top of your list. While we can’t guarantee you application success, we will do our best to get you in the strongest position possible. We can also assist in the process by selling your current property, so get in touch.

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Buying a home – Your document checklist

Whether you’re buying your first property or moving house, there’s a mountain of paperwork you’ll need to work through and dig out of your dusty filing cabinets or maxed-out mailbox.

This document checklist details everything you might need before you find your perfect property and put in that offer.

Applying for a mortgage
Both first-time mortgage applications and remortgages will require identity and affordability checks. You’ll need to prove you are who you say you are and that you can afford to repay a mortgage debt.

Have the following to hand before applying for a mortgage and if you need extra support, consider talking to a mortgage advisor:

– Passport

– Recent utility bill at current address

– Proof of benefits received

– Most recent P60 and your last three months’ payslips OR SA302 tax return form and at least two years’ certified accounts if self-employed

– Bank statements for three to six months to show income and outgoings

– Balance statements for credit cards, store cards, finance agreements etc

Preparing to sell
If this isn’t your first step onto the property ladder and you’ve got a property to sell before you can buy, you’ll need all documentation proving you own the property and that it is fit for sale.

This will often be required by estate agents before they can market your property and solicitors before they can complete any sale on your behalf. They may also assist you in finding or completing the documentation too.

– Title deeds or ‘Title Absolute’ if not available – check with the solicitor who handled the last purchase or obtain from the Land Registry for a small fee

– Freehold documentation or copy of the Lease – depending on whether you own the land the property is built on

– Management or leasehold information pack – if ground rent and management fees are paid, to show what is included

– Certifications, warranties and approvals – for any work that has been carried out such as new boiler installation, new double glazing or Building Regulation sign-off for permitted extensions and planning approvals

– Energy Performance Certificate – required by law since 2008 and valid for 10 years so if your home is more energy efficient now then it was, you may want to pay for a new one

– Transaction (TA) forms – providing essential property information to potential buyers, from boundary information and neighbour dispute details to existing development notices and building insurance details

Preparing to buy
As long as you have proved you are who you say you are, live where you say you live and earn what you say you earn, there is just one more thing to obtain before you can start house-hunting…

– Mortgage offer and proof of deposit – this could be an offer in principle and bank statement to show you have the funds to purchase a property

Of course, more paperwork will be needed once you find a property you like and the sale process gets rolling, but it’s not something you can prepare in advance. By packaging all your other paperwork together beforehand, you’ll find your property purchase journey a much smoother – and sometimes faster – one.

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Sell to rent: is it for you?

‘Sell to rent’ – when you find a buyer for your home and move into rented accommodation. While this isn’t one of the most common moving steps, in 2020 we are finding that anything is possible – and sometimes necessary.

There are many strategic reasons to make the swap, as we have highlighted below, but we realise sometimes changing where and how you live is a matter of urgency, and we’re here to help.

As a dual agency with specialisms in both sales and lettings, we can switch you from owner occupier to tenant status with ease. Here are 4 reasons why it can be advantageous:

Cap moving costs
Buying a property has been made cheaper thanks to the stamp duty holiday but there are still costs attached to purchasing an onwards home. Moving into a rented property tends to have lower set up costs, with the deposit required capped at 5 or 6 weeks’ worth of rent and no tenant fees to pay. As a result, moving to the right rental property can provide a financial ‘breather’ for some.

Shorten your next chain
For many movers, the thought of being in a chain is daunting, knowing one person pulling out will jeopardise everyone’s success. If you buy from the position of living in a rented property, you become the start of the chain with no one else behind you. From here, you carry forward favourable advantages.

You could purchase a new build home or a property with no onwards chain – both of which should result in a straightforward, speedy transaction with a chain of just two. Alternatively, you could re-enter the open market and make offers with the bonus of having no chain behind you – an aspect that is favoured by sellers and often give buyers an advantage when there’s purchasing competition.

Free equity
We are living in strange economic times and for many homeowners, wealth is tied up in a property. A smart home move can be organised by us to free equity to provide a cash lump sum, re-finance or fund a business or facilitate a new lifestyle. We can help you work out the numbers, taking into account the value of the home you are selling, any outstanding mortgage and the cost of a rental property where you’d like to live.

Try before you buy
We are helping more movers than ever make a different lifestyle or location choice, especially now many professionals have been given the option to work from home. Moving from an owner-occupied property to a rental home affords flexibility – handy if you’re relocating to a new area or totally new setting and you’d like to sample a change before you commit to a purchase. Tenancy agreements can be arranged on a short-let basis – for as little as 3 or 6 months, for instance – as well as the traditional 12 month contracts.

If you’d like to explore the ‘sell to rent’ option, get in touch. We can create a plan of action that includes marketing your home for sale and finding you a new home to rent.

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Moving for the mobile signal & broadband speeds

It’s probably one of the most frustrating phrases to keep shouting down the receiver but you’ll be all too familiar with “can you hear me now?” if you live in an area of poor mobile phone reception. Of late, we’ve also become increasingly exasperated with poor internet speeds that embarrass us with frozen screens and time lags during video calls.

As a result, today’s home movers are especially concerned with their quality of the broadband service and mobile phone signal strength – especially now more of us than ever are working from home.

In fact, home movers were making reliable connections a ‘must have’ moving facet back in 2018. Broadband Genie found that only 16% of buyers would purchase a property that doesn’t have access to fast broadband, while just 19% said they would buy a home that doesn’t have a good mobile reception. Fast forward two years and those figures will, no doubt, be lower.

When you consider 49% of UK workers reported working from home in June 2020 – compared to 4.3% in 2015 – mobile signal and broadband speed tests need to be up there with schools and public transport research. So, is there a way to avoid dropped-connection disappointment before you collect the keys to your new home?

Check speeds & signal strength before you move
The good news is Ofcom offers a free checker service via its website and app. You simply input the postcode you’d like to check and choose to see the broadband or mobile phone coverage.

You can select to view the 3G and 4G reception for both indoors and outdoors, and compare mobile providers based on the quality of their voice, data and enhanced data performance. There’s also a map that clearly shows signal strength based on the network provider selected. When it comes to broadband, there’s another map to see what areas are served by standard, superfast or ultrafast broadband.

There is an online broadband speed checker, which creates a detailed report based on a given postcode. You’ll find out the average download speed and whether high speed copper phone line or superfast fibre optic broadband is available.

There’s also a handy comparison facility that displays your speed test history – allowing you to quickly compare the results from a number of postcodes – as well as a selection of broadband deals from different suppliers, so you can see charges alongside average speeds.

Rural broadband
If you’re one of many home movers thinking of heading out to ‘the sticks’ – perhaps because you’ve been given the option to work from home permanently – mobile phone signal and broadband speed checks are vital before you view a property.

The number of so-called ‘not spots’ rise the more rural you travel, and some homes have to rely on satellite or wireless broadband – the latter usually from a 4G network. A property’s distance from the telephone exchange and a street cabinet can all affect speeds and reliability, so investigate what cabling is available and whether residents struggle to get even 3G.

5G – when and where?
The next generation of mobile data speeds is here, although the roll out across the UK is gradual and won’t be complete until 2022. Providers EE, Three, Vodafone and O2 are already making 5G available to some users but if you’re hoping to rely on 5G for an internet connection at home, bear in mind it’s only compatible with a few new mobile handsets (there wasn’t a 5G compatible iPhone as of August 2020); is only available in a limited number of towns and cities, and is comparatively expensive.

Feel free to ask us which networks and providers we use – as a local business and personally. We’d be happy to help get you connected in your new home.

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Lettings Group 1

6 Dos and Don’ts in your rental property garden

Private outdoor space is fast becoming a rarity in rental properties, especially within cities, but if you are lucky enough to have your own garden, or keen to make this a priority when you next move, you need to understand the consequences.

Whether you’re a green-fingered gardener or simply a ‘sit back and sunbathe’ type of tenant, having outside space with your rented home comes with added responsibilities. Just like you have to maintain the property itself, you have to also maintain the garden.

Each year, there are more than 2,000 tenancy deposit disputes concerning the upkeep of gardens, so it’s advisable to find out exactly what is expected of you as a tenant as well as know what the landlord is responsible for.

DO…
Be prepared for basic maintenance
Generally, the tenant is responsible for maintaining the gardens to the standards they were in when they took on the property. This will include mowing the lawn, keeping the weeds at bay and ensuring it doesn’t become overgrown or untidy. But you should not be expected to tend to award-winning rose bushes or anything that requires expertise.

Buy your own gardening tools
It’s unlikely the landlord will provide you with a lawnmower and set of hedge trimmers, so you may need to invest in (or borrow regularly from a neighbour) some gardening tools. If there is nowhere to store such equipment, it would be reasonable to ask for a shed before you move in.

Check the tenancy agreement
Landlords are increasingly advised to stipulate what they expect of tenants when it comes to maintaining the garden within the tenancy agreement. It should be clear what areas of the garden and type of maintenance are your responsibility. It may also reveal that the landlord has contracted a gardener whom you must grant access to.

DON’T…
Carry out major repairs, restoration or felling
Usually, the landlord would take responsibility for more significant tasks like repairing broken gates or fencing, felling any overhanging or dangerous trees and replacing broken walls or patio slabs. It will largely depend on whether any damage was caused by you or wear and tear.

Improve the garden
From erecting a small shed or grand summer house to swapping patios for decking and attaching a pergola to the side of the house, it pays to ask permission. Anything that improves the property will probably be allowed (and some landlords may even pay towards it if it will increase future rental prospects) but beware you may have to take down any outbuildings and return the garden to its previous state before moving out.

Break the law
Regardless of whether you are a tenant or homeowner, you could be breaking the law by carrying out certain activities in your garden. Putting up a trampoline, for example (even if your landlord agrees), could threaten your neighbours’ privacy. Having summer BBQs is also fine, provided you don’t break the terms of any lease (in leasehold properties) or be a noise or nuisance as you party in your hot tub and sing around a campfire.

What about communal gardens?
You may live in a flat, apartment or maisonette where you have access to a communal garden that can be used by all residents. In some instances, this may be where your bins are stored or a private shed and washing line.

While it’s likely that any maintenance fee you pay will cover the upkeep of this space, you should check your tenancy agreement carefully, particularly as to when and what you can use the communal garden for.

In any case, if you’re still unsure, there’s no harm in asking your landlord or letting agent.