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  • May, 2017 10th

    Out on the Tiles

    Tiles are back in style after a long time of being consigned to splashbacks and shower cubicles. They’re looking a bit different now though, with lots of new finishes and sizes to choose from.

    The sort of tiles you’ll need will vary according to the room they’re going in, your overall décor and how much stress they’ll be put under. Here’s a quick rundown to start you off on your thousand-tile journey (sorry).

    Coloured tiles

    More and more we see boldly or deeply-coloured tiles, even some with metallic or glass finishes, and these tiles can be used for an accent wall, or for an otherwise dull corner. Alternatively, they can be scattered among plainer, simpler neighbours to add interest and detail.

    Tiles in striking patterns

    Rectangular tiles are surprisingly versatile here – you can fix them vertically instead of horizontally, or vertically and horizontally, or in a herringbone pattern. You don’t need fancy coloured or textured tiles for this (unless you really want them), as the interest comes from the arrangement.

    Tiles in striking shapes

    Using tiles that are hexagonal, rhomboid, diamond or even shell-shaped can create maximum impact with the minimum of effort and (probably) the median amount of expense. Useful for walls and floors alike, these sorts of tiles make a real statement – it’s up to you which statement it is, though…

    Terracotta’s back

    We all thought it had died a death back in the mid-nineties. Well, actually, it did. However, terracotta is back with a vengeance, and this time it’s gone full-desert. Many people are choosing to bring an exotic, Middle Eastern or Mediterranean feel to their homes. Terracotta is teamed up with wall rugs, hammer-beaten plates and tables, as well as vibrant orange and yellow walls and soft furnishings.

    Then there’s black

    Innovations in lighting – LED arrays and so on – have meant that you can have a dark corner or retreat that you can actually see in! Black bathrooms are catching on, as long as some accessories bring some pops of light and colour. Shiny black tiles don’t absorb as much light as matte ones, so go as dark as you dare.

     

    Image Credits;
    Copyright for the image within this blog post is owned by ‘StudioDin’, and has been licensed for use on this blog post through Big Stock Photo (stock photo ID: 165072281). For questions relating to this image please contact the copyright owner directly.
  • May, 2017 7th

    Décor that Could Stop You Selling

    You have probably already combed all the interior magazines and blogs to find out what the latest trends are and how to pick out your accent wall in just the right shade of green (here’s a clue – not avocado), but do you know what not to do? There are ten definite no-nos when it comes to interior design and Bathroom.com’s recent survey has found them and listed them in order of awfulness.

    You have been warned – persist with these crimes against style at your peril.

    Wood panelling takes the top spot, with 46% of respondents saying they wouldn’t even consider buying a place that still had it.

    Then comes the old avocado bathroom suite – this 1970s classic can knock as much as £5,000 of your sale price, but the damage to your reputation far, far exceeds mere money. Disturbingly, it’s feared that as many as 325,000 homes in the UK still harbour one.

    The avocado suite isn’t as off-putting as wood-panelling though, as people are far more prepared to rip the green stuff out. Tellingly, it’s the first thing more than 70% of buyers get rid of if they end up with one.

    The rest of the list isn’t pretty either, with textured wallpaper, Artex ceilings and built-in wardrobes over beds (the 1980s called…) featuring prominently.

    The ditch-list

    If you have any of these – ahem – features in your property and you’re thinking of selling, you need to do something about as many of them as you can as soon as you can.

    • wooden panelling,
    • an avocado bathroom suite,
    • a built-in bar, especially if it sports a Spanish or maritime theme,
    • woodchip wallpaper,
    • an Artex ceiling,
    • a nausea-inducing swirly carpet,
    • textured wallpaper,
    • crazy paving in either garden,
    • a brick fireplace, and
    • a built-in wardrobe, especially if it arches over the bed.

    Modern and minimalist is the safest way to go. You might even like your Jackson Pollock carpet, but you can’t expect anyone else to, so rip it out and reap the cash rewards.

     

    Image Credits;
    Copyright for the image within this blog post is owned by ‘Sergey Nivens’, and has been licensed for use on this blog post through Big Stock Photo (stock photo ID: 158139866). For questions relating to this image please contact the copyright owner directly.
  • May, 2017 4th

    Thinking About a Green Roof? Here’s the Lowdown

    You’ve probably seen some green roofs around and about – many people top their sheds or bike shelters with a living canopy, while others go the whole hog and turn the roof of their house into a green zone.

    Apart from looking great, what exactly are the benefits to a green roof, how much work is it to create and, most importantly, how much does it cost?

    Why green roofs are good for the environment

    We can’t deny that climate change is happening and that our towns and cities are major drivers. Not only do they develop in places where it all used to be fields, but they also kick out an unnatural amount of heat – the so-called urban heat island effect. Covering over large areas with tarmac and concrete isn’t great for flood defence either, or for wildlife. A great answer, then, is to grow plants on top of these urban structures. These living roofs absorb CO2 and help to filter out particulates, they offer a habitat for insects and birds, they transpire water so the urban heat island effect is mitigated and they take in rainwater, helping to prevent floods. What’s not to like?

    Well, the work involved

    This is very true, there is some work involved in creating a green roof. If you’re covering a small area, like the top of a bike shed, then it’s no more than a day or two. You’ll need a secure waterproof membrane, then some gravel, then some coarse soil or sand, topped off with topsoil. You need, of course, a frame to keep everything in place, but if you’re handy with a hammer, you can do this yourself.

    For bigger roofs, like a house roof, you need to get the professionals in, not least because you may need to reinforce the structure before you start – soil is heavy, wet soil is even heavier…

    How much?

    Bigger roofs have to be done by professionals and the more complex the job – steeper roofs and/or more biodiverse planting – the more it’ll cost. On average, you can expect to pay between £100 and £140 per square metre. The average roof in the UK is around 50 square metres, so you’re looking at £5,000 or so. However, this roof provides extra insulation and it also protects the roofing material underneath it, reducing the need for repairs and replacement.

     

    Image Credits;
    Copyright for the image within this blog post is owned by ‘Alison Hancock’, and has been licensed for use on this blog post through Big Stock Photo (stock photo ID: 34944623). For questions relating to this image please contact the copyright owner directly.
  • May, 2017 1st

    Your Garden Has Never Been So Important

    After a dreary April, summer is just around the corner and so your garden could become the focus of your selling efforts. This is the time of year when buyers place more importance on a good-looking, functional garden, so you need to make yours as appealing as possible.

    Buyers will want to step outside

    If you’re on the market now, viewers will want to see your garden, mainly because there’s more daylight hours to see it in, and also because they have barbecues and sunbathing on their mind.

    UK fencing company Colourfence recently conducted a 2,000-strong survey and found that, on average, UK buyers are prepared to pay an extra £35,000 for a property with a decent-sized garden or other outdoor space.

    In London, as you’d imagine, they’re prepared to pay even more – up to £82,700 – and in the south east this garden-premium averages out at £50,000.

    Better than a spare room

    What’s more, the survey revealed that for 62% of respondents, a garden or outdoor space was more important than having a spare room. The summer months make a comfortable, welcoming and functional (if not spacious) garden paramount, so you should strike while the iron (and the sun) is hot.

    Work with what you have

    If you already have a great garden then you’ll only need to tidy it up and maybe get some new furniture to showcase it. If your garden is smaller, you can still make the best of it with these quick fixes.

    Jetwash your patio

    After the long winter, your patio will be covered in moss, dirt and mould – scrub it all off.

    Revamp your flowerbeds

    This is the best time of year to freshen up your flowerbeds and maybe bring some new flowers and plants in for the summer.

    Trim your lawn edges

    Just this small touch will make your lawn look neater and lusher, which brings up the entire space.

    Get weeding

    It’s got to be done – everything looks better and the plants and flowers you actually want to thrive won’t have so much competition.

    Make a gathering area

    If you have no decking, or your garden furniture is a bit tired, now’s the time to do something about it. It’s worth the investment.

     

    Image Credits;
    Copyright for the image within this blog post is owned by ‘Artazum LLC’, and has been licensed for use on this blog post through Big Stock Photo (stock photo ID: 143109038). For questions relating to this image please contact the copyright owner directly.
  • April, 2017 22nd

    Updating Your Kitchen Without Gutting Your Bank

    You use your kitchen every day and it takes quite a pounding over the years, which is why it can start to look tired or worn that little bit sooner than the rest of the house. If you’re cooking in a stale-looking kitchen these days but you don’t have endless funds with which to update it, you could try one or more of these ideas to give the heart of the home a bit of a lift.

    Get new drawer pulls and cupboard handles

    This is one of the cheapest, fastest and easiest ways to inject a bit of newness into your kitchen. Don’t, however, be tempted to go wacky – Hello Kitty handles, comedy corncob pulls – they get old surprisingly rapidly.

    Paint your cabinets

    A new colour, or a new finish, can give your kitchen a whole different look for just a few pounds. Think about your colours, though – aim for bright hues like lime green.

    Change the cabinet doors completely

    You could change your clunky old doors for glass-paned ones – frosted or clear. Or, you could remove them altogether in some cases, especially if the contents of the cupboard look good.

    Have an accent wall

    If you’re redecorating, then elect one wall to go a shade or two further than the rest of the room.

    Try a striking pendant light

    Ditch your old overhead fluorescents or your angled halogens and install a big globe pendant light. This can add an entirely new look and feel to a kitchen for a reasonable outlay.

    Redress your windows

    Change your old curtains for brighter ones, or try a new colour. If your window is next to your sink, try a blind instead so you can pull it up while you’re doing the dishes.

    Fit a backsplash

    Backsplashes are, by their nature, only small, so they won’t cost a fortune but they’ll have a big impact, especially if they’re brushed copper, or made from interesting tiles.

     

    Get a new work-surface

    This needn’t be expensive and if you’re stuck for ideas, you could just make this one change – it’s a big one and there’s lots of options out there.

  • April, 2017 19th

    Tips for Packing

    Moving is stressful and you can feel out of control. You can’t do much to speed up the legal side of things or to gazump a gazumper, but what you can do is make sure you pack like a pro. This is how you do it.

    Gather boxes

    Small ones, medium ones, larger ones, heavy duty boxes and wardrobe boxes (you may have to buy these last ones). You’ll also need packing tape, bubble wrap, old newspapers, a bold marker and some labels. If you’re lucky, your movers will supply you with everything you need.

    Start packing early

    Aim to pack one box a day – a large four-bedroomed house should need 60 days, or two months. You may beat this deadline, of course, but do give yourself time to do it in comfort.

    Start with the items and rooms you use least

    Your hobby room, the Christmas decorations, winter clothes (but only if it’s summer…) and seasonal cooking items are good examples. Then start on pictures, books and ornaments. Aim to pare down to your essentials by the last week.

    One room at a time

    Many people think it’s a good idea to put similar types of items in the same box, but you don’t hang all your photos in the same room, do you? Keep everything grouped by room, and then clearly label the boxes – it’ll help the movers, and then you.

    Declutter

    Sell, donate, recycle or bin anything you don’t need. It makes packing and unpacking so much easier.

    Don’t go over 30lbs per box

    More than 30lbs a box risks injuring your movers’ backs, or yours, and the box itself may just break. A good idea is to pack light items into bigger boxes and heavier ones into smaller boxes.

    Fill the gaps

    Some boxes will have lots of airspaces in, so fill them with sheets, clothes or just old newspaper to secure everything for the trip.

    Label your boxes

    Not just by room, but by type. So, “cleaning supplies, kitchen”, “cleaning supplies, bathroom”, for example. Kids love to label their own boxes and this helps them to cope with the move.

    Stack heavier boxes at the bottom

    Think about it – a layer of books will hold up boxes of china ornaments much better than the other way around!

  • April, 2017 16th

    Brexit Touchpaper Lit – Now What?

    On March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, signalling the UK’s intention to start formal negotiations for the its exit of the European Union.

    The country saw triumph and dismay in more or less equal measure, but the shockwaves travelling through social media, news channels and hearts don’t seem to have had much effect on the property market.

    There’s no real need for Brexit to tank the property market

    Many experts (the ones we still have time for) believe that there’s no direct reason for Brexit to affect the property market – for good or ill. It shouldn’t change prices or people’s housing choices at all.

    Of course, others think that the uncertainty of the whole process could affect confidence in the market, but as with any market, demand is the main driver, and demand remains high.

    The market bounced back after June

    After a pre- and post- Referendum slowdown, the property market recovered surprisingly quickly and has stayed fairly buoyant since. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can coast along complacently.

    There has been a slight fall in the number of transactions since last June and this has caused prices to drop slightly, especially in London. However, London has had unsustainable prices for some time, so a “correction” has been on the cards for years.

    There’s also the pressure of extra taxes on investors and buy-to-let landlords, as well as tougher mortgage criteria, especially for first-timers. One of the factors holding prices up is the shortage of housing stock, which is set to continue for the foreseeable. The fall in transactions is somewhat sobering, though.

    More certainty

    In some ways, the triggering of Article 50 means we have some sort of timetable, but the EU isn’t playing softball and we can expect a rollercoaster ride of negotiations for years. Many hope to have it all wrapped up by March 2019, but this isn’t likely.

    Hopeful punters

    Despite all the to-ing and fro-ing and the Euro-this and UKIP-that, consumers have forgotten about Brexit in the main and expect to see property prices continue to rise. Only around 10% of consumers think prices will fall, with half thinking they’ll go up. Over the next few years, it’s likely that there’ll be rises and dips in optimism according to how the negotiations are doing.

    Hold on tight, people.

  • April, 2017 13th

    Spring Statement Round-up

    Everyone was waiting for Chancellor Phillip Hammond to mention the property market in his spring budget speech – they waited, and waited…and nothing happened.

    There was a lot of anticipation about changes to the Stamp Duty bands, as well as news for private landlords and buy-to-let investors, but precious little was mentioned. There was, in fact, no word about property whatsoever, despite last autumn’s promises.

    In November 2016, Hammond promised to put more money into a huge new housebuilding project, as well as into more shared ownership and help-to-buy initiatives. This all sounded good, but now…nothing.

    This leaves investors and landlords still facing steep and almost punishing Stamp Duty bills – the average Stamp Duty bill in London is £21,000, with BTL buyers even worse off. The extra charges on second homes and BTL properties still remain, as do the increased taxes that landlords and investors have been hit by.

    The fact there was no mention of the property market last month leaves many worried that the government doesn’t have any plans in the pipeline at all. At least, not for smaller landlords or people letting out one or two properties for some extra cash each year.

    Empty promises

    A nationwide building programme is both laudable and long overdue, as is any initiative to help first-time buyers. However, it seems that the government is focusing more on big developers and businesses – the ones who can afford to dream and build big – and forgetting all about the little guy. The guys looking for a comfortable retirement or a property to pass onto the grandchildren.

    The squeezed middle

    Hammond has been piping about investment into construction projects, tax breaks for builders and construction companies so that they can concentrate on closing the housing supply gap. Whether this will ever happen is to be seen, but what is certain is that the smaller landlords are really feeling the squeeze. They are taxed on turnover not profit, their rental incomes can bump them up a tax bracket and they still have to find huge Stamp Duty payments. Many are, as a result, wondering if these investments are actually worth it anymore.

  • April, 2017 10th

    What’s Stopping the UK from Going Eco?

    We all know that ecological buildings use less energy and lose less energy than regular dwellings and workplaces. Why is it, then, that the UK lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to ecological building materials and techniques?

    The answer is complex, as this seeming reluctance is caused by several factors, involving cultural and infrastructural inflexibility. There’s this, and also people’s lack of understanding of what an ecologically-built dwelling actually is. The main reasons for the UK not going as eco as its neighbours include:

    • the lack of formal, objective assessments of materials and building techniques, as well as the lack of assessments of what people actually want from an eco-house;
    • a certain amount of confusion in councils and among the public as to which type of eco-housing to promote and adopt. In the USA, eco-building is well-established and people know what they want; in the UK, we’re only just starting;
    • ecological materials and building techniques are still seen as niche and untested, despite many people having the know-how and the will;
    • there’s still the idea that building an eco-house is more costly than conventional, despite the figures showing that the extra upfront expense pays for itself within years;
    • there’s also the lingering misconception that going eco means eschewing TV and warm floors and eating lentils while wearing scratchy woollen jumpers – this has to change;
    • people also have very deep-rooted ideas about what they expect from their house – bricks, security, rooftiles, a chimney – it’s a hard archetype to break away from, and
    • then there’s the cost – many builders want to start building eco houses, but the uptake has to justify the training and specialist materials involved.

    How to make eco-building more attractive and affordable

    People can learn to trust eco-building, as well as to adopt it, if it’s made more understandable and affordable.

    A good way to start this off is by making eco houses smaller – many are huge architectural projects featured on TV and in magazines. This is intimidating, so smaller, simple homes with easy-to-understand tech would be a big help.

    Making the homes affordable from the start is vital; one good idea is to make the homes modular. If the owners have another baby, they can easily and cheaply add another bedroom, for example.

    Another way to make things more affordable is to use common land and facilities, as well as the costs. There should also be less emphasis on eco-purism, as this can be intimidating and expensive.

    By easing in eco, we’ll have more time for trust to grow and for planning regulations to accommodate this essential shift in the way we build our homes.

  • April, 2017 7th

    Put a Spring in Your (Door) Step!

    Ahhh, spring. Isn’t it great? The days are longer, the frosts are receding and you can see new shoots emerging from the ground. It’s time to open your windows to the world and open your mind to the possibility of a spring or summer house sale!

    Spring is all about new beginnings, so it’s the perfect time to refresh your home and garden, especially if you’re hoping to be in a new place by summer or autumn.

    It can be surprisingly easy, so here’s a few ideas for getting your spring on.

    Bring some pops of colour in

    It seems like winter bleached out all the colour from the world, so when spring bursts out, it’s only natural to want to enhance the hues we see around us already. You could repaint your front door and porch, for example, or even your entire exterior. If you’re not feeling quite so ambitious, you could put up some new curtains and maybe even some coloured solar-power lights by your garden gate.

    It’s time to declutter

    If you are planning a bit of a refresh, then you need to chuck out the old first! If you’re fed up of looking at the same set of garden furniture, or the same old mirror, then do something about it. Try a freebie site, as someone else may be glad of your gently-used items, then you don’t need to feel so guilty.

    Strew your path with roses

    Or at least, wash your neglected vases and fill them with some spring blooms – nothing adds colour and vibrancy like tulips and peonies, for example. Flowers bring the spring indoors for next to no effort.

    Rearrange your furniture

    Moving your existing furniture about is like a no-cost makeover, especially if you’ve got some new curtains or a new rug. It’s really quick to do as well, and has a profound psychological effect on residents and visitors alike.

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