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  • September, 2017 13th

    Tips for a Winter Sale

    Many vendors believe they should put off going to market until New Year or spring, but this is a myth. The truth is that because many people still believe this myth, there are fewer properties coming onto the market so if you want yours to stand out, winter is a good time to sell.

    There’s also the drive among buyers to get into a new home by the New Year, so they tend to be more decisive. This can make for faster sales and higher selling prices – what’s not to love about a winter house sale?

    If you’ve been thinking of waiting until spring, stop right now and get moving. You’ll need a few tricks to help things along, though…

    Work on the exterior

    Vendors tend to focus on the interior more than the exterior and this can especially be the case in winter as it’s dark and no-one wants to hang around in the garden.

    You should, however, pay more attention to the outside. Clear any fallen leaves, clear the path and salt it to prevent your ideal buyer ending up in A&E and you should at least wash down the exterior walls as buildings can look very drab.

    Dress your porch with seasonal decorations and make sure your windows are clean and the interiors are brightly-lit so viewers feel welcome.

    Turn on the heat

    It’s dark, it’s cold…and that’s just the outside! No-one will feel like buying a house that is as cold and dark as a November night, so make sure everyone who comes through the door feels like they’re getting a warm hug. It won’t hurt to offer hot chocolate and warm biscuits, either.

    Head towards the light…

    Of course, sunlight is best, but there’s not much we can do about that when we’re so far away from the Equator, so just get creative with what you do have – artificial lights.

    Make sure all your bulbs work and swap out any dim ones for a higher wattage; using different colours if you think it’ll bring some life to a dull corner.

    Don’t forget the outside, either. Make sure your porch light works and add some fairy lights where you can – everyone loves those when the days are short as they’re so cheering.


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  • September, 2017 9th

    Improving Your Rental Yield

    We’re firmly into Generation Rent now, with lots of people looking for rentals but not enough properties to go around. Even so, you might not be getting as much of a yield as you deserve, so here are some ideas that might help you to make more of your bricks and mortar.

    Give your tenants what they want

    Ideally, your tenants would probably have their own house and they’d fill it with new white goods – a dishwasher, a slow cooker, a wine fridge, great broadband and a few TV subscriptions. If you can offer this to them then they’ll be prepared to pay more rent, just make sure you’re getting your cut as well, though!

    If you’re getting frequent voids, think about lowering the rent

    This might hurt, but not as much as having a vacant rental property. It’s possible if you’re having difficulty finding tenants, that the rent is just too high. Drop the price a bit and see what happens, or be flexible with prospective tenants if they ask for a reduction.

    Raise the rent occasionally

    In direct contradiction to the previous idea, but valid nonetheless. Think about the improvements you’ve made on the property since last year or that new Waitrose that’s just opened. They’ve got to be worth something, right?

    Make another bedroom

    If it’s a big old converted house, is there a room that could be made into another bedroom? If there are two reception rooms, but one is the dining room and it’s not used so much, then it’s not really earning its keep and would be better as a bedroom.

    Try to squeeze in another bathroom

    An old pantry, a tiny box room that you can’t rent out, or even a large under-stairs cupboard could become a small bathroom or even a tiny wetroom with the right treatment. This means more rent each month and a better selling price further down the line.

    Make storage a priority

    Every square foot counts when you’re charging for it, so make sure your tenants are happy in it by providing lots of storage space, especially if you’re renting to families.

    Allow pets

    Lots of house-hunters complain that they can’t find pet-friendly properties; many of these people will be prepared to pay a bit more if they can take Fido with them when they move, so help them out…

  • September, 2017 5th

    Letting to Students? Here’s Some Advice

    Autumn is a busy time of year for students and all the thousands of landlords up and down the UK who rent out properties to them. If you’re thinking of letting out a property to students in the near future, then while it’s an exciting prospect, it’s a bit different to renting to a quiet young family!

    Here is a quick rundown of the special considerations you should pay attention to when you welcome a new group of students – or welcome back some previous tenants for the new academic year.

    You need to use the right agreement

    Is it to be a single or a joint tenancy? With each type there’s different liabilities and responsibilities that your tenants will have, so make sure you use the appropriate one.

    Check in your tenants fully

    You should spend time over this process, preferably with all the tenants present. Show them the fire exits, how to use the boiler, give them your contact details and those of your agency if you use one. Get to know them a bit and let them know they can call you.

    Ban smoking

    It’s an offence to smoke in the shared areas of rentals now. Make sure that your tenants know this and that it’s written into the tenancy agreement.

    Make sure they’re not nuisance neighbours

    While you don’t want to stereotype students, there’s always the possibility that an end-of-year or graduation party could get out of hand and disturb the neighbours. If there’s a nuisance clause in the contract, you have some leverage.

    You’ll probably need to furnish the place

    Most students want a fully-furnished property and you’ll need furniture and fittings that are durable, safe and clean. There will be wear and tear, though, it’s just the way it is…

    Point out that the deposit’s there for a reason

    They need to know that if you need to do any extra cleaning or repair any damage that the costs will be coming out of their deposits.

  • September, 2017 1st

    Watch Out for Hidden Costs

    Everyone knows that buying a property is expensive, but there are loads of other expenses that first-timers might be blind-sided by, so here’s a useful checklist of hidden (or, at least, not well known to newbies) expenses.

    The Stamp Duty

    This is the tax that is levied on homes that cost more than £125,000 and it must be paid within 30 days of the transaction completing. The current rates are 0% on homes under £125,000; 2% for homes costing £125,001-£250,000 and 5% on homes costing £250,001-£925,000.

    The valuation fees

    Your mortgage provider will want to value the property you’re asking to be mortgaged and this valuation usually costs between £150 and £1,500.

    The legal fees

    You need a solicitor to help with all the legal processes and their fees usually range from £900 to £1,500. Sometimes extra searches and documentation is needed so this will increase any costs further.

    Electronic money transfer fees

    This pays for the mortgage provider transferring the money over to the solicitor and it’s usually no more than £50.

    The mortgage fees

    You’ve already paid your deposit, but it’s not quite over yet as you need to pay a booking fee of between £100 and £250, an arrangement fee (this is often around £2,000 but you can sometimes add it to the mortgage balance) and a mortgage valuation fee (around £150).

    Once you’re in…

    There’ll be even more spending! There’s always something, from new light fittings, paint, a new fridge because your old one doesn’t fit… You’ll already have been told about any major repair work that’s needed, but you can guarantee there’ll be minor ones you didn’t know about as well.

    Your insurance

    You can’t get a mortgage without insuring the property, so you’ll need home insurance and also life insurance in case the worst happens before the mortgage is paid off.

  • August, 2017 29th

    Will Buyers Pay a Premium for a Good School?

    September and October are the months when parents up and down the UK apply for their children’s primary and secondary school places. They’ve got until January to get the paperwork in and then it’s an anxious wait until April to find out the results.

    If they’re already living in the catchment area of a good or outstanding school, then all’s well and good. However, many people are prepared to move house – and pay a premium – to be in such a location.

    Fierce competition

    In England, 86% of the schools rated as outstanding by Ofsted are over-subscribed, which makes one wonder where all these children are; surely, they can’t all be in the catchment area?

    This also leads one to ask exactly how much parents are prepared to pay to move to an area that’s in the catchment area for a good or outstanding school.

    The answer is quite a bit, it seems. Property portal RightMove found that on average, the premium paid by people moving from a “requires improvement” catchment area to an outstanding one is £52,372. This differential rises to over £80,000 in London.

    Only one in five state primary schools are rated “outstanding”, with 62% being “good”. The premium for moving from “good” to “outstanding” is no small fee, either; £36,889 on average.

    This might seem eye-watering, but compare this to the ever-rising cost of private schools. Plus, once the kids are off to uni, the parents have the option of selling up and making a killing on the investment.

    Throwing money around doesn’t always solve the problem

    However, just being prepared and able to pay the “outstanding” premium doesn’t guarantee a place. Some schools have very small catchment areas; school-savvy parents are already aware of this and it’s pushing up prices even further.

    All areas in England around good and outstanding schools will see a flurry of property activity between now and January when school applications close. If you’re going to market and your local school is “outstanding”, then you need to make this very clear, as you can be certain that people will pay the price!

  • August, 2017 25th

    Second-steppers Still Need Their Parents

    It seems that despite getting onto the first rung of the property ladder and settling down, paying a mortgage for a few years and maybe having a child or two, one in three homeowners need a helping hand from the Bank of Mum & Dad to take the next step.

    Research from Lloyds Bank has found that 32% of would-be second-steppers need an average of £21,231 from the Bank of M&D and also ask for help from grandparents and sometimes even friends.

    Just over a third (35%) can’t move without this help and many people have to delay starting or adding to a family until they’re in their second property.

    A big step-up

    The Lloyds study found that the jump between a first-time home and the second step, which is typically detached, is £126,000. Generally, however, the equity level in the first home is just £105,068, which doesn’t quite bridge the gap, sometimes explaining the £21,000 leg-up from the Bank of M&D.

    To gather the deposit for the second home, 63% plan to use their existing equity, while 41% said they’d use savings. The people who plan to ask for family help usually ask for £20,000 or so.

    A quarter of second-steppers think it’s actually harder to move up than to get onto the property ladder. Around 40% of first-timers overpay their mortgage to increase their equity and 34% have started saving more. Many first-timers are looking to the second step as soon as they move into their starter property and begin their savings campaign there and then.

    The other challenges

    Another problem that second-steppers face is not finding the right property to aim for. This can delay them putting their first property on the market, or slow down the proceedings once it’s up for sale. Just over a quarter (26%) claim that they can’t find suitable property in their price bracket, while 24% think the Stamp Duty on a larger place will be prohibitive. Thinking further ahead, 22% worry about changes in interest rates.

  • August, 2017 21st

    Your Eight-step Home Staging Refresher

    You’re all ready for the slew of viewings coming your way – you’ve decluttered, mowed the lawn, dialled your décor right back to neutral… However, you’re still actually, you know, living in the house, which means cooking, having baths, kicking your shoes off in the hall and so on.

    One thing many vendors find to be the biggest hassle is the last-minute prepping they have to do before a viewing, especially if it’s a short-notice one. Here’s eight easy things you can do in that 30-60 minutes the estate agent has given you.

    Have a dedicated sack, washing basket or box that you can carry around the house to sling errant shoes, paperwork, laundry, toys and so on into. When it’s full, hide it in the car.

    Invest in a new set of pristine white fluffy towels and swap out your slightly raddled ones before you hear the pitter-patter of estate agent feet up the garden path. Don’t even think about using the new ones until you’ve moved…

    Do the same sort of thing with bedding. Have new bedding and pillows, especially for viewings. When one is imminent, place the new bedding over your regular duvets and pillows – instant refresh.

    Open the windows to let fresh air in; if it’s cold, then close them again a short while before the appointment.

    Keep the heating on if it’s colder, even though you’ll be opening the windows; this’ll mean it warms up quickly once you’ve shut them again. If you have a functioning fireplace, light a fire.

    If it’s anything other than a really bright summer day, make sure all your lights and lamps are lit, especially upstairs.

    Have some calming, welcoming music on, but not too loud. This can make people feel more comfortable about taking their time.

    Smells are very important, so once you’ve let some fresh air in, fill it with the scent of vanilla, lemon or cinnamon. If you have some vanilla essence, add a drop to a bowl of hot water. Alternatively, you could brew some coffee, bake some bread or light a spiced candle.

  • August, 2017 17th

    It’s All About the Lagom

    We’ve already taken hygge to our hearts and after seeing how much simple, cosy joy this Scandiwegian (ahem) concept has brought to our lives, it’s time we all embraced lagom.

    What is it?

    Lagom is pronounced “lah-gom” and it means “just enough”. Not too much, not too little, but just enough to keep you on the right side of comfortable without going overboard. It’s a way of balancing your life, as well, so that no one element dominates the others – family, work, hobbies, relaxation – they all get just enough time to be fulfilling without taking anything away from the others.

    The wider environment could do with some lagom, too; stop using too much water, buying too much food for your needs, spending too much…

    How do you achieve lagom?

    The simplest way to get lagom is to declutter a bit. Objects can weigh you down and make you feel hemmed in, with no room to breathe. Have a look around your home and ask yourself if everything you see gets regular use or makes you happy. If there’s anything that doesn’t fall into either (or both) camps – recycle it, give it to charity or put it in a yard sale.

    Do away with fancy design

    Form and function should be perfectly balanced, so no over-engineered equipment, no frilly furniture. Try to include as much multi-functional items as you can, made from sustainable woods and other materials and always look to save space.

    Rug up

    Think in terms of preventing cold, rather than generating heat in your home. Insulate the loft, cut out as many draughts as you can and turn down the thermostat by a degree or two. You can bring some hygge into play here by using thick blankets, rugs, and throws to keep warm – that’ll help to keep your hands away from the thermostat. Think about installing a wood burner – it’s almost carbon-neutral and it is ultimate in hygge.

    Make do and mend

    Don’t just throw things away because they’re slightly damaged – if you still use a piece of furniture or an appliance, see if you can get it mended or give it a new coat of paint before binning it.

    By adopting lagom, you’ll save time, money and improve your life balance so you enjoy everything more – what’s not to love here?

  • August, 2017 13th

    What Do Tenants Ask for the Most?

    Most rentals go along without too many problems if any at all; turning out to be a good deal, benefitting both tenant and landlord. There will be the occasional call to a landlord, though, so online retailer Lightbulbs Direct decided to find out what prompts the UK’s tenants to get on the blower.

    Damage and decoration

    By far the biggest reason for a call to the landlord, with 66% of tenants having made one, is to fix a broken window. Just under half (49%) call up the landlord to ask if they can decorate.

    Broken household appliances also warrant a few phone calls, with 46% of the survey respondents calling to sort out malfunctioning washing machines or ovens. Blocked plugs and toilets get 44% of tenants going and a dirty or neglected property will have 33% of renters bending ears.

    More unusual requests

    Some tenants – 16% – think it’s OK to ask their landlord to help with hanging pictures up and 8% call for help with tightening doorframe screws. For some reason, 7% of renters think they need their landlord’s help with moving furniture around.

    Obviously, some matters need immediate attention – a leak, a faulty boiler or a broken oven, for example – and no landlord worth his or her salt would delay here. There’s no need to rush over to the property to shift a sofa out of a corner, though, or to tighten a few loose screws.

    It’s important to act on reasonable requests, however, as this keeps the property in a rentable condition and maintains a good relationship with the tenants. If they decide to up and leave because they haven’t had a working oven for a month, then you’ll face a void period and some bad feedback (as well as the cost of a new oven).

    Don’t take renters for granted

    Nearly 90% of tenants say that they’d look to move out of their rental if there was a poor relationship with the landlord; a rapid turnover of tenants doesn’t inspire confidence.

    Thankfully, only 18% of the tenants in the survey described their landlord as unapproachable, although ideally, the figure would be nearer to zero. Landlords should always be approachable, friendly and keep their tenants in the loop about repairs and replacements. It makes good sense that if you provide a warm, safe home, people will want to stay in it for the long-term, which is a win-win.

  • August, 2017 9th

    The Summer Property News

    Summer can be a quiet time for buyers, sellers, and agents, so it’s also a good time to take stock and catch up with what’s going on.

    Asking prices are staying stable

    Figures from property website RightMove suggest that the asking prices of properties coming onto market are stable, even though there’s traditionally a slowdown in summer. The asking price of a newly-marketed property went up by an average of 0.1% from June to July – an average of £300.

    The Help to Buy scheme has helped nearly a quarter of a million first-timers

    Help to Buy has been around for four years, in different forms, and it’s helped 250,000 buyers make that vital first move.

    The help to Buy ISA, which launched in December 2015, has also been used by nearly a million would-be buyers to save up a deposit.

    The mortgage market still has some great rates

    Mortgage rates have been really low for ages and this is still going strong (as it were). The average interest rate for a fixed two-year deal fell by 0.04% between June and July.

    This is partly due to competition between lenders, and all indications from the Bank of England point to the base rate staying at its record low of 0.25% for at least the rest of the year.

    There may be some stirrings of uncertainty

    The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) released a report which points towards the political uncertainty starting to affect the housing market. Around half (44%) of the surveyors who contributed to the report claimed that the current climate was having an unsettling influence on the market, followed up by Brexit and swingeing Stamp Duty rates in London.

    There’s no London housing bubble

    Financial expert John Hawksworth of Price Waterhouse Coopers says he doesn’t believe there’s a London housing bubble or an impending pop. Taking key indicators (low mortgage rates, too few homes, and an increasing population) into account, he thinks the London property market will stay afloat, if stalled somewhat, for the foreseeable. Phew…

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