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  • May, 2018 18th

    Summer Selling!

    Traditionally, summer was one of the worst times of year to sell a property. The school holidays and actual going-on-holiday-type holidays used to get in the way of a serious selling campaign so many people used to wait until autumn to get moving.

    However, going to market just before or during the summer can make life a lot easier and can mean you’re in your new house before the days start to get shorter. This is how you make the most of the warmest season.

    Use the sunlight to get some amazing photos

    The flowers are in bloom, sunlight is streaming through the windows and the sky above your roof is cerulean blue. Perfect! Clean those windows, mow the lawn, water your hanging baskets and prepare to get snapping.

    Or rather, get a professional in to do your photos so you have the right lighting, the right angles, and the right editing. You’re (almost) literally making hay while the sun shines.

    Your ‘For Sale’ board will be particularly effective

    Around 20% of enquiries come from people who’ve seen the ‘For Sale’ sign outside a house or flat. More people are out and about in the warmth and extra daylight, so more people will see it and hopefully get on the phone within minutes. Make sure you get a sign put up as soon as possible.

    Use an enhanced listing

    More and more people are finding their new homes online so a well-photographed and crafted listing, allied with the extra footfall that summer can bring, can generate a lot of interest. If you go one step further and upgrade your listing, you could be packing for more than just your holiday…

    Go ahead and book a holiday

    You might think that you have to stay around all summer to receive viewings and give instructions but it doesn’t have to be the case. There are virtual house tours that can give interested parties a taste of your property no matter where they are or where you are.

    You can also ask your estate agent to keep in touch online while you’re abroad and to conduct viewings, too. Think about it, you’re lying on a beach rather than messing up your house in between viewings, so how could things be any better?

  • May, 2018 16th

    UK House Price Round-up

    Depending on which index you look at, house prices may be falling, rising, staying stagnant or wavering about all over the place. It’s a much better idea to have a look at a brief round-up if you want a clearer picture.

    House prices are still on the rise

    Across the nation, property prices are still going up – they rose 0.3% in March this year and they’re up by 2.5% from February 2017.

    This is reflected in property portal Rightmove reporting a 1.5% increase, the Halifax reporting a 0.4% rise and the Nationwide and Land Registry recording falls of 0.2% and 0.1%.

    What about the regions?

    Across the nation, house prices have gone up but in London, they’ve fallen by 1.0%. The fastest rates of growth have been in the West Midlands, with 7.3%, followed by the East Midlands at 6.3% annually. Monthly, the north of England and the Midlands are the fastest movers.

    Enquiries and instructions have slowed down

    March this year was the 12th month in a row that new buyer enquiries dropped and the numbers of properties on agents’ books are very low. Rightmove says there were 5.0% fewer properties for sale in March this year than in March last year and they’re also taking longer to sell.

    More property withdrawals

    The Royal Institution of Charted Surveyors (RICS) in London says there are more properties being withdrawn from the market than there was a year ago.

    The number of sales fell in February this year

    This seems to be because of the relative lack of choice on the market, with home sales falling by 0.3% between January and February and by 0.7% since February 2017. This might look gloomy, but if you can add choice to the market by putting your property on it, this could work in your favour because a lot of new properties will attract a lot of interest simply because of the slim pickings available right now.

  • May, 2018 14th

    Making the Most of Your Garden

    Brits are, it seems, growing ever-keener on their gardens and a useful, well-maintained garden space can add up to 20% on your asking price a national average of £60,000.

    The great news is that you don’t have to develop a green thumb or spend hours trimming the lawn edges with nail scissors because the simpler the garden is, the more attractive it is to buyers.

    Here’s what else you can do to make sure your garden works hard for you.

    Get a shed

    Everyone, regardless of gender, needs a shed it seems. More than 20 million of us have a shed, a garden room or an outdoor kitchen now. Outside buildings are now seen as additional living space so if your shed is insulated, wired and plumbed, you’re onto a real winner.

    Think about privacy

    High fences, tall plants or even a gazebo-type enclosure will help you to sell your house – and for more – because privacy is increasingly important to people, especially in urban areas.

    Make your garden feel like part of the house

    If your back door opens onto a patio with comfortable furniture then it will feel like an extra room and if you can, design it so it feels bigger than it actually is.

    Avoid decking

    Decking is now being replaced by paving because it only has a few useful years before it looks tatty and becomes slippery. Get ahead of the curve by going straight to stone.

    Install lighting

    If you have outdoor lighting then you’re developing the theme of your garden being an extra room, especially at night.

    Build an outdoor kitchen

    Ditch the portable barbecue and build an outdoor kitchen, whether it’s a fixed barbecue within a small walled-off area or a full-on outbuilding, so you can spend your summers there.

    Invest in a water feature

    If you’re near a main road, then a fountain or similar water feature can help to baffle or mask the sounds of the traffic. Running water is also very cooling for anyone sitting near it.

  • May, 2018 12th

    The Quickest Ways to Add Value to Your Home

    When homeowners think about a project that could add £50,000 to the value of their property their first thought is usually something like a loft conversion or an extension. While these building projects are great and usually do the job, they can take anywhere from six weeks to six months to complete.

    If you’re looking for a faster turnaround, then there are lots you can do to give your house value a significant boost, according to research from the Home Owners Alliance (HOA) and the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

    Your best bets for a quick buck

    Knocking down an internal wall to make an open plan kitchen and diner

    In London, this quick-fix can cost less than £3,500 but can add almost the full £50,000 to your asking price. The best bit is that it can take less than a week to complete so you get a great return on a relatively small investment with the minimum of disruption.

    Create a garden room

    Building a garden room can cost less than £7,000 but add anything up to £35,000 if you’re in the south-east. Most garden rooms, depending on their size and construction, take from two to eight days to put up and involve little disruption.

    Turning a little cupboard into a second littlest room

    If you have an under-stairs cupboard you can convert it into a downstairs toilet, complete with a diminutive corner sink and even a bookshelf for under £3,000 but this could add as much as £26,000 to your selling price.

    Adding an en-suite to the master bedroom

    If your main bedroom is big enough then turning part of it into an en-suite can bring your value up by £15,000 for a mere £5,000 spend. It’s ten nights of sleeping downstairs on an airbed, but how else can you earn a grand a night?

    Heading outside

    It’ll cost you just over £2,000 to add a driveway to your front garden but you’ll get an extra £13,500 when it comes to selling and putting decking and lights in your back garden will mean an extra £9,000 for a £4,000 spend.

    Your mileage may vary, though

    Some areas of the country like the north of England and inner London won’t see much of a return from the decking, but some parts of London will see more than £50,000 for the open-plan kitchen.

    If you’re in Manchester with no plans to sell and you really fancy some new decking, then go for it because you’ll be enhancing your life. If you’re planning to move in the next few years, however, then you’d be better off spending the money on a downstairs bathroom or a driveway, even if you’re happy with what you already have.

  • May, 2018 10th

    Should Estate Agents be Professionals?

    People have been calling for estate agents to be made professional for a long time, as this makes it easier to find trustworthy agents and to uncover dodgy ones, which in turn helps to maintain best practice across the industry.

    The government recently announced proposals to regulate the industry and to make other improvements, including professionalising it and reforming the property buying and selling process.

    Professional qualifications

    These new government plans mean it would become compulsory for estate agents – both in sales and lettings – to have a professional qualification and also to be 100% transparent about the fees they get for referring clients onto solicitors, mortgage brokers and surveyors.

    Managing agents and freeholders would need to offer up-to-date information on leases for a set fee and within a set timetable. This, would, according to the government, put an end to the situation where leaseholders are at the mercy of freeholders and agents.

    There’ll also be a timeline for local authority searches so buyers can get the information they need within ten days. Alongside this will be guides telling people how to buy and how to sell so that all consumers are more informed about the property-buying process and their rights.

    Conveyancers under scrutiny

    There’s also a plan to bring consumer groups and conveyancers together to create a “consistent set of performance metrics for conveyancers” so that consumers can have more information – and thereby more power – to choose the best service available.

    The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team will have more powers beyond those outlined in the Estate Agents Act (1979). It’ll be able to use more enforcement activity such as banning rogue estate agents and giving warnings to any not playing quite fair.

    No more gazumping?

    There’ll be more encouragement to use voluntary reservation agreements, which can help to prevent sales falling through because of gazumping. Gazumping is the bane of many a buyer’s life because they have agreed a price verbally with the seller, only to be outbid by another down the line.

    An improvement in industry standards

    Although the government recognises that rogue agents are rare, the estate agent sector needs to become more professional so it’s seen as more trustworthy and reliable, as well as accountable.

    At present, anyone can become an estate agent and this does lead to the industry being accused of unprofessionalism and of being unscrupulous. If every agent has to be qualified, it tightens up the sector and increases trust in both the individuals within it and their ability to do the job.

  • May, 2018 7th

    Are You Re-doing Your Kitchen? Go One Step Further

    The kitchen is the room to focus on when it comes to home improvements so if you’re finally getting around to re-doing yours, you should think about more than just re-hashing it; you should aim for a total overhaul.

    Think space

    How big is your kitchen? What do you need to fit into it and how much free space do you need for eating and hanging out? Consider stacking ovens and microwaves into tall vertical units to save space while maintaining (or creating for the first time) the eternal fridge-stove-sink triangle.

    Aim for a minimalist layout so that you have the maximum floorspace available as this will be the most appealing when it comes to buyers. Of course, if your kitchen is big enough, then you can furnish it a bit more.

    Make more space

    Could you knock a wall through into a small dining room? Or could you reclaim some space by changing the size and layout of your units? An open-plan kitchen is the best when it comes to making it the heart of the home as you can cook at the same time as entertaining guests or helping with homework.

    Work with what you have

    If you have a long, narrow kitchen space then fit it out as a galley, with each side of the room having well thought out and positioned appliances, workspaces and access to utensils.

    Square kitchens are just made for an island centre-point as this offers extra storage space, workspace and eating surfaces.

    The floor is also important

    You have much more choice than you ever did, but you still have to match your flooring to the overall style of your home. If you’re going for a sleek, modern look, those rustic Mexican tiles aren’t going to fly, are they?

    Think about your work surfaces

    These also have to fit in, as well as be durable and easy to look after.

    What is your kitchen’s purpose?

    Is your kitchen strictly business-only, or is it a space for you to hang out with guests and family as well? Is there a TV, do you listen to music in there? If you stay in there a lot, then you need a breakfast bar and maybe even a corner table with comfy chairs. If you have a lot of dinner guests, then an island is probably the way to go.

    Lighting up your life

    If you don’t have much natural light in your kitchen then you might be able to fit a skylight or at least some pull-down overhead lamps that will lend a Scandinavian feel to proceedings.

    Is there enough storage?

    Have an eye for the future here, especially if you’re planning to sell. Make sure there’s enough space for all the crockery, cooking books, gadgets and, of course, the actual food to go in. Think about an American-style double fridge-freezer as they save a lot of space and can store a lot of food.

    Maybe a complete overhaul isn’t within your budget just yet, but start making plans and do what you can well ahead of putting the place on the market.

  • May, 2018 4th

    Would You Consider a Digital Mortgage?

    We’re increasingly reliant on digital technology to help us with our everyday lives, from shopping to banking and even working out what’s wrong with our washing machines.

    Some things still seem to be done by wizened old scribes scratching away at parchments in dusty vaults (there may be some artistic embellishment here…), with mortgages, in particular, moving along at a snail’s pace.

    This may be about to change, however, with the first-ever digitally-signed mortgage being lodged with HM Land Registry on April 5. Coventry Building Society and Enact Conveyancing saw the process through for a house in Rotherhithe, south-east London. This simple act, performed through the Registry’s Sign Your Mortgage Deed service, is the first such deed entered into the Register in its 146-year history.

    An important first

    The Land Registry says it’s planning for a future in which witnesses won’t need to watch over an ink-on-paper signing. This will save time and will also offer more security to homebuyers, lenders, and conveyancers.

    This digital registration is the start of a simplification of the conveyancing process and will mean that transactions are instant whenever possible, speeding up and simplifying property-buying.

    Is the tech safe?

    The GOV.UK Verify portal, which enables buyers to verify their identity before signing the mortgage deed, was used in this purchase, so the tech is already in use and is already known to be safe. The facility will be rolled out to more lenders in the near future.

    How will it help?

    The UK government has been looking for ways to make property transactions simpler and faster so if by using secure digital services days or even weeks can be shaved off the average three months it takes to buy a property, then most people will welcome it.

    Digital signing means that people can do it wherever they are and whenever they like, reducing hold-ups and stress. Like most innovations, there’ll be sceptics, but increasingly we’re seeing that people are quicker to trust and adopt AI-based solutions as they arise.

    Many house-buyers have bemoaned the fact that they can’t just press a button and be done with the process; well, now they can!

  • May, 2018 1st

    Cheltenham Breaks the Million Barrier

    Cheltenham has long been famous for its spa and, more recently, for its code-breaking prowess, but it’s just added another feather to its cap by being the town with the fastest-growing number of £1 million-plus houses.

    In 2016 there were 23 £1 million-plus property sales but 2017 saw 45 such sales, an amazing increase of 96%, with the most expensive property being a five-bedroomed detached house which went for £2.6 million.

    Next on the list, which was compiled from Land Registry sales data, was Birmingham, which saw an 86% rise from 22 £1 million-plus sales in 2016 to 41 in 2017. Some areas in the north of England also saw significant rises in million-pound homes, with Cheshire East stepping up a gear from 76 to 105 millionaire gaffs, a rise of 38%. In Yorkshire, Harrogate wasn’t too far behind, with a rise of 32% (38 homes in 2016 and 50 in 2017).

    Some regions of the UK, it seems, are remaining robust and even thriving in the face of uncertainty and stamp duty changes. In 2016, 14 local authorities recorded at least 100 £1 million-plus property transactions but last year this number rose to 18.

    The nuts and bolts

    Property values in Cheltenham rose by 8.1% in 2017, which brought some homes over the magic million barrier. It’s thought that the town centre’s £750,000 revitalisation plans, including a new John Lewis department store, new natural stone paving and an outdoor performance area are helping to boost the market demand and to keep it buoyant.

    We’re still not tired of London, though

    There were 19,100 properties selling for £1 million or more in England and Wales last year, with London accounting for 60 per cent of these deals.

    Of the 19,000 properties that sold for £1 million or more in 2017, around 60% were in London. In Kensington and Chelsea alone, 64% of homes changing hands did so for more than seven figures.

  • April, 2018 16th

    Sell Up by Summer

    Spring makes us think of Easter eggs, crocuses, green buds on trees and moving house. Plans to sell up that have been delayed by Christmas and the dark, dank last weeks of winter suddenly – ahem – spring back into life and so there’s a rush of properties coming onto the market. There’s also a lot more house-hunters in the mix as well so this really is the best time to go to the market and take advantage of the warmer weather and longer days.

    Use the light

    We all love the longer days and the brighter sunshine, but there’s a downside to the spring light – it can highlight the little flaws in your home that could shave off a few grand here and there. It’s time for that spring clean and touch-up.

    Clean up the hallway

    Your hallway is the first glimpse viewers get of your interior and if you still have wellies, thermal socks and bulky winter coats hanging around then you need to move them. It doesn’t matter where they go as long as they make room for lots of lovely clear, welcoming space and maybe even some colourful flowers. Spring is the season for flowers, so make some space, invest in some bright new vases and some blooms.

    As well as opening up the hallway a bit, you need to let more light into the rest of the house. This is quite easy to do; get your windows cleaned inside and out and try to arrange viewings for late mornings or early afternoons to make the most of the light. If you do get hit by an April shower, then make sure you already have lots of side lamps to boost the lux factor.

    Plant flowers outside as well

    If you have a garden then plant some fast-growing flowers that’ll turn May and June into a colourful riot. If you live in a flat then think about window boxes or even some indoor plants. Your garden is one of your best weapons as it’s the first and last thing viewers see and they approach and leave, so you can’t spend too much time on it. Weed it, clean any paved or decked areas and make sure the gutters are cleaned.

    DIY

    We tend to put off those smaller DIY jobs because they’re small and can always be done the next time you have a spare hour or two. It’s the little things that make the difference, though, because the scuffed skirting board, loose cupboard handles and leaky bathroom sealant can put people off. Look at your home objectively, as if you were thinking of buying it, and fix anything that makes you pause.

  • April, 2018 15th

    Buy With a Stranger

    An HSBC study involving 2,000 people aged 18-40 found that most people in this age group believe that home ownership will always be out of reach, despite low interest rates and recent changes to Stamp Duty.

    Some 83% think they’ll never be able to afford their own home and 80% would be willing to buy a property with someone who isn’t a partner or relative. Over half – 59% – would at least think about buying with a stranger as long as the stranger was the right fit. An adventurous 4% would be willing to buy a property with someone they met in the pub and 5% would buy with an ex!

    Speed-dating for househunters

    These findings prompted HSBC to hold an experimental speed-dating event for househunters in February. The event brought together people who would be willing to buy with a stranger and apparently a few matches have been made, although it’s too soon to know the true outcome.

    What makes the right stranger?

    HSBC asked its research group for its top criteria for the perfect co-buyer and apparently, he or she:

    • is great at DIY;
    • loves pets and animals;
    • enjoys BBC dramas;
    • cleans the bathroom, and
    • makes a mean Sunday roast.

    They’d also have to have a good credit rating, pay bills on time, save money each month and earn at least £50,000 a year. The ability to stay calm under pressure and make compromises is also very important.

    On the other hand, messiness, annoying or inconsiderate behaviour and poor money-management do not make for the ideal co-owner.

    What motivates people to buy with a stranger?

    One-third of the people in the study said they’d think about buying with a stranger because they just can’t raise a big enough deposit on their own. Another 27% said their income wouldn’t get them a property in their ideal area and 25% said they’d want someone to share the household bills with.

    Others would buy with someone they weren’t close to because if everything went wrong, they wouldn’t be losing a treasured friend or relative. Around one third said they’d actively avoid buying a place with a friend or relative for this reason.

    Is this the future?

    Realistically, there’s only ever going to be a small number of people who will buy with a stranger, although these new speed-dating events might push the numbers up a little.

    Always exercise caution

    Anyone who does decide to take this unusual route should make sure the co-buyer is a responsible and reliable person. A mortgage is a lot harder to get out of than a joint tenancy and there’s a lot more to think about than a rental deposit and bill-sharing. There must be a very tightly-drawn contract from the start so that when it comes to selling-up time, you both get your fair share.

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