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  • September, 2018 18th

    Inherited a Property and Thinking of Letting it Out?

    If you’ve recently inherited property and you’re not sure whether to sell it, or you’re having a hard time selling it, then another option is to let it out. This makes you an accidental landlord.

    What’s an accidental landlord?

    Accidental landlords are landlords who, rather than definitely choosing to make money from rental property, rent out a property because of circumstances. If you can’t sell the place in good time, it’s better to rent it so you can pay the mortgage on it or spend time doing it up for a better profit. Becoming an accidental landlord can be difficult, especially if the property is a long way away. If you’ve found yourself in this position, there are things you must consider to ensure that you and your new property are protected.

    The mortgage

    If the property has a mortgage on it then you must make sure that the mortgage lets you rent it out. Some lenders will grant you “consent to let” for 12 months to give you more time to find a buyer.

    If your lender won’t do this, then you could switch the mortgage over to a buy-to-let version. You must do this before renting the property out so that you’re not in breach of contract as this could lead to the lender asking for full payment of the loan. Your new mortgage may involve higher payments and administration fees, so factor this into your calculations. Once you’ve decided to go ahead, you’ll need landlord insurance.

    Your insurance

    You need to talk to a provider – start with your existing insurer – to sort out landlord insurance. These policies don’t just cover buildings and contents, they also cover you against non-paying tenants, property damage and liability (so if a tenant is injured, your legal costs are covered).

    Know your rules and regulations

    You and your tenants need to be protected, so you should make sure your prospective tenant is legally able to rent in the UK, according to the 2014 Right to Rent Act. If you fail to adhere to this regulation you could receive a large fine.

    You also need to place the tenant’s deposit into a government tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days of receipt and provide evidence of having done so.

    Your tenants need a safe home so you must have all your gas and electrical appliances and utilities checked by registered gas engineers and electricians. This must be done before anyone moves in and then you must provide your safety certificates to your tenants.

    Look at your Income Tax liability

    Your monthly rental payment counts as income so you’ll be liable for tax on it. Since April 2017, landlords are liable for tax on the full amount of the rent aid, not just on the profits. This amount is calculated according to your tax band and you can claim 20% back as tax relief.

  • September, 2018 16th

    Brace Yourself for Hitting the Market!

    Selling your property can be a crazy ride and it might take a longer – or even a shorter – time than you imagined. Get yourself selling and moving-ready as soon as possible so that you’re ready for impact.

    Start decluttering as soon as you decide to sell

    You need to start on this before you’ve even instructed an estate agent. Clear away shoes and coats that are out of season, hide your hair removal cream under the bathroom sink and leave your kitchen counters as open and spacious as possible.

    It might even be an idea to depersonalise your space by removing kids’ artworks from the fridge, sports certificates, photos and fussy trinkets. You might feel like you’ve created a void, but viewers will fill it with visions of themselves living in your property.

    Redecorate

    Once you’ve cleared the decks, give them a new coat of paint. There’s nothing like removing all the clutter to show up scuffs and grubbiness, so get to work on it! If your kitchen’s looking a bit tired, replace the cupboard doors, and put plants in those suddenly empty spaces (where laundry and cricket pads used to be…).

    Do a deep clean

    Ideally, you should get the professionals in, but if you can’t afford this, clean the oven, de-scale every conceivable surface and brave the badlands behind the sofas.

    Then start on the garden

    Lots of viewers are put off by a neglected or overgrown garden, so make sure yours is looking its best. If you have the space, place a new table and chairs in a prime evening cocktail sort of position.

    Find the best estate agent

    This isn’t the one who comes up with the highest valuation, as some agents will make unrealistic promises so you instruct them. Go for the middle-of-the-road figure, especially if it’s from an agent that’s got a fair number of “Sold” signs in the area.

    Start your paperwork early

    Find and instruct a conveyancing solicitor early on so you can get a break-down of all the costs involved. Ideally, agree on a fixed fee for the service beforehand and then collect together all the property’s paperwork, such as boiler service records, building certificates and guarantees for double glazing and the like.

    Invite in the viewers

    You should let the agent take care of this and, ideally, you should leave the building! If you have a busy family life, then it might be an idea to hold an open-house viewing once a week to get as many viewings as possible in one go.

  • September, 2018 14th

    How Does the Buying Process Actually Work?

    If you’re new to the property game then you’re probably very excited about buying your first ever place. The process of buying a property takes quite some time, however, and to newbies this can seem really confusing, stressful and even boring. If you know and understand the process, you’ll find it much easier to navigate. There are also some things you can start on before you’ve even found your dream house.

    Getting your paperwork ready

    You can’t approach a lender until you have all your documents, like your passport and P60, as well as payslips, tax returns and bank statements, all lined up. Find out from your bank or preferred lender what you’ll need to bring – some will want six months’ worth of bank statements and others will want longer periods.

    Getting a mortgage in-principle

    When you’ve got all your documentation, you can talk to your lender and find out how much you can actually borrow. If you don’t have a mortgage in-principle, some estate agents and vendors won’t take you seriously. Having proof of how much you can borrow is a good start and it also helps you to keep your feet on the ground when you finally start shopping.

    Finally – you go looking!

    Or, more realistically, listening to your estate agent. You’ll have your ideal home in mind, but few people end up buying this place, especially first time around. Talk to your agent and then listen to their suggestions – even if you don’t really fancy their ideas at first – because they could bag you a great place that’s just outside your dream postcode.

    You make an offer

    It’s sometimes worth making an offer on a property that’s just out of reach because the vendors may want to move quickly. You make your offer to the agent, who passes it on to the vendor, who then comes back with a yay, a nay or a suggestion. This is a negotiation process, it’s just done through a third party.

    You get your solicitor

    You’ll need to find your conveyancing solicitor before you actually need one. Very often, your agent will suggest one for you and then when your offer is accepted by the vendor, a memorandum of sale will be sent to all parties (including your solicitor) by your agent.

    Book your survey

    Your lender will need the property to be surveyed before it can formally agree to the loan and release the funds. Most lenders want a more basic survey, but if you’re buying an older property you’ll need a more complicated and thorough one. This is for your own protection as well as the lender’s, because you could be committing yourself to an expensive purchase that also involves lots of unexpected costs down the line.

    You exchange contracts and then complete!

    Only when you exchange contracts does your offer become legally-binding. The exchange can only happen when the lender has a satisfactory survey and can approve the loan and when the solicitors have all the paperwork they need – title deeds, land searches and lease details – to draw up contracts.

    Once the contracts are signed they are exchanged by both parties’ solicitors and the purchase is legally-binding. Then, a completion date is set within the contract (it can’t be moved) and then the transfer of ownership from the vendor to you (completion) can happen. Once completion has taken place and your funds have moved, you can collect the keys to your new home!

  • September, 2018 12th

    Tips for New Landlords

    If you’ve recently become a landlord, or if you’re about to welcome your first set of tenants into your rental property, then you could benefit from these important first-timer tips.

    Remember that your rental property isn’t your home

    Although you own the property, it’s not your home – it’s your tenants’ home. You might spend a small fortune on the interior décor, but to your taste and this could put off tenants as they know they won’t be able to change it. Remember that you’re running a business and so you need to appeal to as many “customers” as possible so that the place is never left empty. Safe and neutral is the way to go.

    Make sure you have the right mortgage

    You’ll need a buy-to-let mortgage, which is different to your own-home mortgage. Even within this distinction, there are other categories – your lender might not want you to have a multiple occupancy rental or you may not be able to rent out your property to a housing association.

    Then there’s the insurance…

    You’ll need special landlord insurance – you can’t just buy another buildings and contents policy like the one you have for your home. Even with the best tenants in the world, accidents and damage can happen, or the place could be burgled. As a landlord, you also need liability insurance – if one of your tenants is injured and takes legal action against you, you’re covered. Most insurers also offer a helpline for emergency repairs, break-ins and sudden water leaks so that you can send the necessary help round – even in the middle of the night.

    Check all your certificates

    You’ve got the neutral décor, the right mortgage, the right insurance… Have you also got all your gas and electricity certificates? Your gas boiler and any other gas appliances, as well as all your electrical sockets and lights will need to be inspected by gas engineers and electricians. Once you’re up to scratch you’ll get a certificate – which you’ll need in order to get your insurance. You need to renew this certification every year.

    Make plans for the future

    A rental property is a brilliant investment for the future, but you need to plan ahead. How much is your mortgage likely to be over the coming years and how much will your rental income be? How much of your profit will go on upkeep and improvements? If you keep the place in good shape then you’ll be able to ask more for it each month and your tenants will be more likely to look after it.

  • September, 2018 10th

    Finding the Right Estate Agent

    You shouldn’t just plump for the first estate agent you see in your local directory, you should put them all through a series of tests before choosing your best bet.

    Get recommendations

    Ask around at work and in your social circle for recommendations. If someone’s recently moved then they’ll be able to tell you what they thought of their agent. If the same names crop up (in a good way), then focus on them. Similarly, make notes of the agents behind the “sold” signs in your area – they’re doing something right!

    Become a secret shopper

    When you’ve got your shortlist, visit the agents in person and pretend you’re looking for a house just like yours. See how the agent describes these places and ask yourself if you’d like your home to be described and marketed in that way.

    Obtain three valuations

    Three is the magic number! Any more and you’ll start to get confused and any fewer and you won’t have a middle valuation to choose! Avoid the highest of the three valuations as it could be the agent trying to reel you in. You don’t want the lowest number either, because you could be short-changing yourself.

    When you’ve chosen your agent, review the contract before signing

    You don’t have to sign it just because it’s there! If there’s anything you’re unsure or unhappy about, ask about it or see if you can change it.

    Keep an eye on your agent’s performance

    Towards the end of your contract, assess the estate agent’s performance. Ask yourself how many viewings you’ve had and how they went. Has the agent kept in touch; called you with a few offers, even if they’ve been low-ball?

    You should also have received feedback from your agent. If you’ve not had many viewings, or had quite a few but no serious offers, then your agent needs to give you the feedback from viewers. It could be that several people have said the price is too high; in which case talk about a new amount and try again.

  • September, 2018 7th

    Finding the Right Doer-upper For You?

    Many people look for the classic British “doer-upper” property (is there a more British expression?). These seekers usually have one of two aims in mind – doing up the pile to turn it into their forever family home or to sell it on for a big profit.

    While many have dreams of doing-upping (ahem), not everyone manages it because it’s a serious project. Some places need structural work and others just need a good interior update. Not everyone can handle – or afford – the really long-term projects, but if you’re feeling doey-uppy (that’s enough), then you need to keep these things in mind.

    Your budget

    You need to be absolutely clear on what your budget is before you even start looking. Don’t think about the bonus or pay rise you might get next year; just factor in what’s available now. There’s no point in buying a wreck on a maybe, because you won’t be able to afford to refurbish or rebuild it and you’ll probably have trouble selling it.

    It’s not just what you have

    It’s who you have. If you have friends and family who are great DIY-ers, then you could draft them in for the occasional day to do some plastering or sanding. Make a weekend of it, with beer and food, and have some fun.

    When it comes to the serious stuff though, like identifying a supporting wall and lowering floors, you’ll need the professionals. When you go for your second viewing, it might be an idea to take a contractor with you to get some rough quotes. If it’s looking like it’s out of your budget, leave it.

    If it looks like a good prospect, then work out what supplies you’ll need and always add a contingency amount or sum of money to the tune of 10% to your calculations.

    Is it cosmetic or structural?

    Some houses only need redecoration, new windows and a new kitchen and bathroom to do the job for you. Others, however, need a full-scale gutting and renovation.

    If you’re aiming for just cosmetic changes, then you won’t turn such a big profit, but then you won’t be spending as much time or money as with a big renovation. If you don’t have the time, money or endurance for the whole shebang, then a slightly tired place that needs a spruce-up may be better for you.

    Location…

    The property gurus advise us to buy the worst house on the best street because if it’s in a nice area and you bring it up to standard, you’ll have no problems selling it when you’re finished. You’ll also sell it for more than you would if you bought a so-so house in a dodgy area. You might get the place cheaply, but chances are you won’t get much profit once you factor in the cost of the improvement work.

    Get a survey

    You might think that your lender’s valuation report is as good as a thorough survey, but it’s not. This is especially so when it comes to older properties, which may have structural problems, damp or even something like flying freehold. It might be best to use an independent surveyor who’s acting solely on your behalf so you know you’re getting fair and objective advice.

  • September, 2018 3rd

    How to Improve Your Home on a Budget

    Putting your property on the market forces you to take an objective look at it. It’s one thing to sort out scuffed skirting boards and give the front door a new coat of paint, but sometimes you just need to switch the place up a bit. If you’re looking for ways to bring in a more modern look to your home without blowing your budget, then read on.

    Make more of your kitchen

    It’s easy and relatively cheap to change the cupboard doors in your kitchen and a popular option now is to go for glass fronts. These transparent doors aren’t just for glasses and crockery, though; you can keep your non-perishable goods in them if you switch up their storage.

    Try decanting dried barley, lentils, pasta, beans and biscuits into attractive glass jars, rather than keeping them in their crumpled plastic packages. If you install lights into these cupboards as well, then you’ve got storage that doubles as a display.

    Use the right lighting

    Light is one of the most effective resources for transforming a space, whether you’re using artificial light, natural or a combination of both. You can merely buy some new bedside lamps, or go the whole hog and kit the entire house out with interactive LED lights that change hue and brightness with your mood.

    Get smart with colour

    You could consider making a statement with a bold feature wall, or go all out and decorate the space with an intense shade. You could even opt for a stylish two-tone scheme. Whatever you decide, refreshing your walls with a new shade could be even more effective than you imagined.

    You could pick out a feature wall and paper it, or paint an entire room in a bold shade, but whatever you decide to do, bringing in a new colour will make a massive difference.

    Get into the garden

    If you throw out your old, ratty-looking garden furniture and bring in some newer, colourful plastic or metal items, you’ll instantly change the look and feel of your garden. If you can’t quite run to a whole new garden set, then you can always try upcycling some of your existing furniture by sanding it down and painting it in bright modern shades.

  • September, 2018 1st

    Autumn Sales Are Go!

    Autumn isn’t just the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, it’s also the best time of the year for selling your property. Everyone’s back from holiday, the children are safely ensconced in school and anyone with itchy feet is imagining Christmas in a new postcode.

    Don’t just expect nature to do everything for you, though, as you should put in some effort to help things along.

    Have a seasonal clear-out

    Put away your summer things, like sunhats, picnic blankets, cricket gear and anything you still haven’t unpacked from your holiday (you’re not alone…). You won’t be needing them for a few months!

    Make sure everything in the garden is also set for autumn – don’t leave the barbecue out, looking neglected and rusty – and clear away sandpits and scattered toys. It’s also time to start your schedule of raking leaves and cutting off dead-heads.

    Clean your carpets

    If you have carpets anywhere in the house, invest in a professional clean because it’s amazing how much dirt they collect. Cleaner carpets look brighter and lighter and even feel newer, so it’s worth paying for a thorough job.

    Review your lighting

    Autumn still has quite a bit of daylight to start with, but as it goes on, the days get shorter and you’ll need to start putting lights and lamps on. If any bulbs have blown or those older energy-saving bulbs really are looking dim, it’s time to replace them with brighter ones. You can also bring in some more lamps – try whiter bulbs for bigger, lighter rooms and bulbs with slight yellow or pink tones for smaller, cosier spaces.

    Open the windows as much as you can

    Although the encroaching winter might make you want to shut them and draw the curtains, try to air the place as much as possible and especially before viewings. If it’s really cold outside, shut them 30 minutes before the viewing and turn on the heating.

    Speaking of heating…

    If you haven’t had the heating on all summer, give your radiators a quick once-over and bleed them even if you don’t think it’s necessary. If you haven’t had your boiler serviced this year, now’s the time because if viewers hear strange gurgling, they’ll want to know what it is.

    If you have a wood burner or a working fireplace, then spark it up because nothing invites people in like a crackling little fire.

    Get your autumn on!

    Invest in some new throws and cushions in autumnal colours and, as Halloween approaches, get some pumpkins for the front porch or doorway. It’s all about the natural, rustic look these days, so aim for as natural-looking as possible.

  • August, 2018 20th

    Preparing Yourself for Emigration

    While we all dream of packing our bags, cancelling our TV subscriptions and heading off to warmer climes – or at least away from Brexit – the truth is that emigrating is a long process and you must be practically, emotionally and mentally ready.

    Don’t jump in

    Do your homework before deciding to move. Is the country right for you? Is it not liberal enough? Too liberal? If you’re female, will you have the same freedoms there? The same job opportunities?

    Think about the language you’ll have to learn. Have you already made a start, or do most people speak good English? How cold does it get and how good are the schools. Whatever you do here at home, find out how you do it in your destination country.

    Make sure you have at least six months of living expenses

    Of course, you may have a job to go to, but even then, you need to make sure you can survive for a few months just in case it goes wrong. You may need to use this money for a few weeks after your UK job ends and you’re making your final preparations and saying your goodbyes.

    Don’t buy a house for at least a year

    You might not fancy going back to renting, but you won’t like being trapped in a neighbourhood that isn’t as nice as you imagined, especially if buying and selling as an immigrant is complex.

    Take some time to scope out the different areas and make sure, even before you go, that you know how the property buying business is done over there.

    Be ready to be flexible

    There’s always something that holds your emigration process up, with some countries being more bureaucratic than others. If you expect to be processed in three months, double it so you don’t feel frustrated and disappointed when delays happen.

    Join a support group and read some blogs

    You can do this as soon as you’ve hit on your ideal country. The internet means you can forge connections and find out where to buy your almond milk before you’ve even booked your flights. Talk to those who have gone before you and arrange to meet in person when you’re there. You may find some genuine friends this way, or these people may signpost you to more suitable chums.

    Find a cheap and easy way to transfer and exchange money

    You need to be able to switch between currencies for quite a while after you emigrate, so make sure your platform is cheap and efficient. There’s nothing more stressful than finding your money is held up and bills are going unpaid.

  • August, 2018 17th

    What to Do With that Under-stairs Space

    Ah, the under-stairs cupboard. That great British hinterland that never really seems to find its true place (well, other than being under the stairs, obviously).

    We can’t all have a trainee wizard living there, so if you’re nowhere near Hogwarts, then you’ll have to find another way of creating a bit of magic.

    Here are some brilliant ideas for transformation and utilisation…

    Hide your washing machine and drier in there

    This isn’t glamorous, but what it will do is make space in your kitchen for your wine cooler or whatever you’ve always fancied and never had the space for because washing machine.

    Make a cosy little reading nook

    You may need to remove the wall, or you might not want to, but you can make a really comfortable little den with a padded bench or some bean bags, as well as some shelves bearing books, CDs or even DVDs. It’s the perfect little getaway space.

    Create a pet corner

    If you have an older dog or cat, or one that needs its own space more than most, then that cupboard could become its retreat. Make it comfortable and cosy, with a bed and some cuddlies, and you could have a happier household. Urban chicken owners have also been known to turn their under-stairs cupboards into dark summer bedrooms for accidental roosters so they don’t crow at obscene hours!

    Make your own customised storage space

    There are literally thousands of combinations here, with umbrella stands, boot racks, coat pegs, cycle helmet hooks, benches and out-of-season clothes storage. It can look as beautiful as it is functional, especially if you open the space out to the hallway and use a contrasting colour scheme.

    Turn it into a pantry

    When you’ve run out of space in your kitchen, or you’re fed up of rooting through cluttered cupboards for the sumac, then an open-to-view pantry is your answer. Because there’s so much wall space, everything’s on display and you can also finally start bulk-buying dry goods because you’ll have somewhere to put them!

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