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  • May, 2019 20th

    All about the Garage

    Your garage doesn’t just have to be a sump oil-scented repository for your car and some rusty old tools. If you have a sturdy outbuilding, or indeed, an integral garage, then there’s all sorts of things you can do with it.

    Here’s some of the more popular options for transformation.

    Make some more storage space

    If you’re relying on your garage to store your belongings, you’ll probably need to make sure that there’s enough room in your garage to compensate for everything you have.

    Many garages are left cavernous, with sloping piles of tat and belongings in the corners. There may be the occasional sad, isolated shelf high up on a wall with a spark plug on it…

    You can do so much better than this. Head to the nearest Scandinavian furniture emporium and grab some of its brightly-coloured and ever-so-ergonomic storage solutions and breathe some fresh (with a slight whiff of pine) air into the place.

    Turn it into an office

    If you simply don’t store your car in the garage then it’s safe to spend large amounts of time in it. Anyone who works from home on a regular basis will appreciate having this room of their own, but you’ll need a bit more than some storage furniture. Think about increasing the number of electrical outlets and also installing some plumbing.

    Create a gym

    Why pay for an expensive gym membership when you can roll out of bed and straight into your very own fitness emporium? Most garages are big enough for a comprehensive array of equipment – treadmill, cross-trainer, a stack of weights and a yoga mat. You could also include your gadgets as part of the sale when you move.

    Make your very own music studio

    If your garage doesn’t have any windows then it’s not a huge stretch to turn it into a soundproofed studio. Soundproofing material is easy to come by these days and your garage should have all the space you need for your instruments, some seating and even a mixing desk. You’ll almost certainly need more plug sockets, though, as studios are quite power-hungry.

    Whatever you do with the space, make sure it’s secure so that burglars can’t get in and steal your best guitar or, worse, gain entry into the main house.

  • 20th

    What to do with Your Loft

    If you’re thinking about transforming your loft before you sell up then you need to think about the particular challenges – and opportunities – that opening up this space can offer you.

    Everyone loves a well-done loft; there’s something very comforting and clever about a thoughtful space. Done right, your loft could seriously increase your asking price. Here’s how you set about it.

    Plan out your space

    One thing about most lofts is the lack of walls. If you’re using your loft as a multi-functional area, as a playroom for children and a TV room for adults, for example, then you need to delineate these areas. Rugs are ideal for this purpose, as are tall storage solutions (maybe for all the toys). Using larger items of furniture also works well, as well as screens or even heavy drapery, hung from the ceiling.

    Work to your scale

    Lofts can have very high ceilings in the middle, which can make your regular-sized furniture look a bit small and flimsy. You can compensate for this by bringing in large prints, for example, or a tall folding screen. You should actually take your time here, as buying furniture you don’t like just because it fills the space is a waste of time and money. It doesn’t matter too much if your initial items are dwarfed, as long as you eventually replace them with things you really have a feel for.

    Get clever with the storage

    Although there’s a lot of open space, there’s nowhere really for you to put things. There’s no real place for sideboards and so on, so you either build storage into the eaves, or buy furniture that doubles as storage. Think about ottomans or window seats with a lift-up top for storing bedding or toys.

    Final tips for the perfect loft

    Don’t be scared of the height! Use oversized prints or even commission a mural for one end wall and maybe have a custom-designed set of shelves for the other.

    Use floor plug sockets as there might not be enough wall space for them; this means you can plug in lamps and other devices to make the place cosier.

    Let your windows do their thing. If you have Velux windows, make sure you can uncover them as much as possible in the day time to let in all that light.

    Make it your own space. Too many people think they have to be ultra-modern or industrial in a loft, but if you’ve always fancied a seraglio at the top of your house,go forit.

  • 20th

    Brace Yourself for Summer Sales

    If you’re hoping for a summer move, then now’s the time to get started. Contrary to what most people think, there’s no great buying rush over the summer, as people are on holiday, the kids are off school and everyone’s minds are on the hot weather.

    This doesn’t mean you should sit back and relax, too, though. If you’re smart, you can take advantage of the relative lull, as it also means fewer properties coming onto the market.

    Here’s how you can get a rush of viewings and make the most of the summer.

    Look to the exterior of your property

    Summer means light nights, yes? Many people do drive-by viewings to check out a house they’ve seen online and they’re more likely to do this on a warm evening than a cold winter night. Make sure your exterior makes them want to look at the interior as well.

    Get rid of weeds, tidy up your fence and immediate pavement, hang some new flower baskets and solar-powered fairy lights. You might want to re-paint your front door and polish the brass. If it’s tatty, polish it, clean it, paint it or remove it. If you usually park your car in the driveway, move it elsewhere so there’s an unobstructed view of your house from the road.

    Make sure there’s loads of fresh air

    In winter you can bust out the cinnamon smells; in summer, people want clean air and maybe even fresh flowers so just open the windows. Don’t blitz the air with sprays, as hay fever and allergy sufferers might be having a hard time already.

    Get the windows cleaned

    The strong summer sun will really show up any grime on your windows; that same grime will also make the interior a bit darker, so make sure your windows are sparkling and streak-free. Keep blinds and curtains as open as possible – if you’re fond of heavy curtains, you may need to swap them for gauzier ones just for a while.

    Invest in a new patio set

    You want buyers to imagine themselves in your garden next summer (because they’ve bought the place, not because they’re stalkers…). If your garden furniture is a bit tired then replace it and maybe set up a barbecue and create a seating area complete with lights and a canopy.

    Highlight the local schools

    You may already know the school well, so big it up. Many summer movers will be looking to get their children into a good school by September, so if your nearest primary is good or outstanding, make sure viewers know about it.

  • 20th

    Hold a Really Welcoming Open-house

    Open-house viewings are becoming popular in the UK as homeowners realise that they can attract several interested parties to their property at once, instead of spending their lives cleaning and fluffing up cushions.

    If you’re at your wit’s end with pro-level tidying several times a week – sometimes for no-shows – then an open-house viewing might work really well for you. Here’s how to hold a warm, welcoming and hopefully very productive open house.

    Set the time for Saturday afternoon

    Saturday at 2.00pm to 4.00pm seems to be a great time for an open-house. People with kids will have fed their brood and anyone without children has had time to have a lie-in and start the day off properly.

    If you’re shy, recruit an outgoing friend or two to help you

    It can be nerve-wracking, opening your door to a bunch of strangers who then proceed to peer into every nook and cranny. You have to make a certain amount of small talk, as well as go into the nuts and bolts of the property. Press-gang your extrovert friend into doing the sweet-talking while you stay in the kitchen to dish out treats and answer technical questions.

    About those treats

    They stay in the kitchen, for a start! You don’t want to have to hire a carpet cleaner very Sunday! Aim for light bites and either coffee or hot chocolate if it’s cold and fancy bottled water if it’s hot. Wrapped treats are a good idea, as some people might like to take them away to eat on the way home. You should encourage people to view the place first, before coming into the heart of the house for refreshments.

    Have printouts of your EPC and other important information

    If you’ve had lots of work done to the property, then have copies of the reports and blueprints handy. It might be an idea to have a survey done beforehand so you can hand out copies of this, too, along with any interesting facts about the house, street, village and so on. Information about local schools is also useful. If you have the time and creativity, get together a viewers’ kit for people to take away with them.

    Smile, smile, smile

    You might be a natural at this sort of thing, but even if you’re a bit more retiring, you can do this. Keep your eyes on the prize and your hand on the kettle. It’ll be worth it.

  • April, 2019 16th

    Making the Most of Your Semi-detached Property

    The semi-detached house is almost as much of a symbol of the UK as red buses and Beefeaters. It’s versatile, welcoming and comes in a surprising number of sizes and configurations.

    If you live in, or you’re about to buy, a semi-detached house then you might be happy to keep the structure as it is for the time being or you might want to remodel it. Here’s some great ideas for getting the most out of your castle…

    Go open-plan

    An open-plan living space has that feeling of spaciousness and freedom that we crave as many semi-detached properties can feel a bit poky if they have lots of walls and sections. However, there are some downsides – cooking smells, lack of privacy and (especially if there’s kids in the mix) all-pervading noise.

    You can overcome this permeability by clever positioning of furniture, shelving and even by not knocking the walls down completely. Of course, for bedrooms and bathrooms, you’ll want to keep the walls where they are.

    You could extend at the back

    This is the easiest way to increase your footprint and you might, in some areas, not even need planning permission. Nowadays you’re not restricted to bricks and mortar for extensions – you could have a glazed structure, or even a timber-clad add-on. As long as it “flows”, has plenty of natural light and doesn’t upset the neighbours, you’re winning.

    Work with your backyard

    UK semi-detached houses always have a decent-sized back garden, so you’ll have enough space to have a man-shed (assuming it is of the male gender…), a kids’ play zone and maybe even a patio and barbecue area. All this and some greenery too!

    Have lots of natural light

    Semi-detached houses have an entire side with no windows; this is something that most of us never think about, but it’s a fact. You could expand the windows that are south and garden-facing to bring in more daylight, or make sure your extension has big windows. Don’t feel restricted, just talk to architects to make sure you’re choosing the right solutions to get the most out of your space.

  • April, 2019 14th

    Beware the Japanese Knotweed

    Spring is the time that you’ll see the scourge of Japanese knotweed start to do its thing. Its thing is, unfortunately, overgrowing native plant species and reducing the value of your property, so if you see it, you’ll need to take action immediately.

    By summer, the plant is in full flow, before it dies back in autumn and winter. Even if you’ve had a really good go at it, all it’s done is retreat, ready to come back with a vengeance next spring. That’s all well and good, you might think; that’s what most plants do. Japanese knotweed, however presents serious problems for your property’s structural integrity.

    Deep-rooted issues

    We’re often so surprised at the speed this plant sends out shoots in spring and summer – up to 20cm in 24 hours – that we ignore what’s going on underground. You can cut and rake the visible plants to save your garden, but unless you kill the roots, it’ll keep coming back. You’ll find it almost impossible to locate and dig out every single root by yourself, though, so each spring you’ll face the same foe. What’s worse is that each spring gives the plant more chances to damage your walls and foundations.

    The roots of the Japanese knotweed can burrow into cracks in walls and under the foundations and as the plant grows, so do the cracks. Once knotweed has taken hold of a building, it’s vulnerable to damage and if you’re trying to get a mortgage for a house with it, you’ll find it nigh-on impossible.

    Call in a professional

    Most lenders will simply refuse a mortgage application if a surveyor spots Japanese knotweed and the only way to remedy the situation is to call in a professional removal service. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favour even if you’re not planning to buy or sell the property because while you can keep it in your own garden (which is somewhat foolhardy), you’d be breaking the law if you allowed it to spread onto a neighbouring property.

    There are also penalties for digging it up and failing to dispose of it properly. If you have a pile of knotweed and you simply bury it elsewhere, you run the risk of it thriving out of sight and causing havoc eventually.

    Combating Japanese knotweed

    You may have been fighting the good fight yourself for a number of years, wondering why the knotweed Just. Won’t. Die. You may be at the point of a slash-and-burn solution, but even this won’t do the job unless you scorch the earth to a depth of a few feet. Which is probably even more illegal than keeping the knotweed…

    A tough job needs tough tools

    If you call in the professionals, they can use very powerful herbicides that you won’t find at your local garden centre. If you’re not planning to sell or buy the property, these solutions can take a few growing seasons to totally eradicate the problem, but they will work. You should choose a team that can offer you an insurance-backed guarantee against re-infestation of at least five years.

    If you need the weed to be gone quickly, then a dig-out will be necessary. This process will get rid of all the knotweed roots but cause the minimum of disruption to the rest of the soil and garden. Your team can also dispose of the dead plants properly so they’ll never come back to haunt you…

  • April, 2019 12th

    Living in the Basement

    If you’re planning to improve rather than move, or if you’re improving to move with more profit, then converting your basement into a living space is a nigh-on perfect solution.

    You might want a chillout room or a self-contained flat with plumbing and cooking facilities, but there are some basic tips that you have to follow if you want to make a success of it.

    Use or create a separate entrance

    Even if you’re using the basement as a play or gaming room, you won’t want hordes of grunting teens clomping through the main part of the house. It’s even more important if your basement is to be used as accommodation, so develop and strengthen an existing door or knock one through.

    Have at least one egress window

    This is vital for safety, especially in the case of fire. The window needs to be easily opened from the inside and wide enough for people to get through in a hurry. You can widen an existing one or install a whole new one, but it must be there.

    Make the ceiling as high as possible

    Ideally, the ceiling should be seven feet high for at least 75% of the footprint. This may involve some serious digging down, so factor this into your plans before you even start.

    Think about underfloor heating

    Even the plushest, best-constructed basement conversion will sometimes feel a bit cold or damp. One way to offset this is to use underfloor heating because not only does it keep toes toasty, it pretty much eliminates the water vapour problem that comes with many other forms of heating.

    Forget about chandeliers

    Unless you’ve got a seriously high ceiling in your basement, recessed lighting is the way to go because it doesn’t encroach into overhead space. Similarly, if you’re working with a small basement, recessed wall and even skirting board lights are a good idea.

    Do try to fit in a bathtub

    If you’re using the basement as a flat, think creatively about the bathroom. Even if you can only fit in a compact Japanese-style bathtub, do so because it’ll make the place more homely and welcoming, especially if you have paying tenants.

  • April, 2019 10th

    What’s Great About a Rooftop Garden?

    Let’s face it, your roof isn’t that appealing, is it? It’s functional, stops the rain from falling on you while you’re in bed and gives the crows somewhere to sit.

    You might have a few solar panels on your roof, in which case it’s already multi-tasking, but you might also have quite a few square metres spare for a rooftop garden or green roof.

    Having some greenery on your roof offers some serious benefits, not just to you, but to your neighbourhood, your city and to the planet.

    You’ll help your drainage system

    Summers are getting warmer and wetter and this is going to strain your sewers and drains. The fact that more land is built upon also means less area for rain to soak into, so by having your own field up top, you’ll be giving that rainwater somewhere to stay. The substrate and the plants soak up the water before it’s released gently back into the atmosphere through transpiration.

    You’ll protect your roof

    Your roof won’t last for ever. It’s exposed to baking sun, hail, frost, rain and high winds all year round and this takes its toll. By greening your roof you’ll be shielding your roof from the elements, protecting the waterproof membrane underneath and at least doubling its life expectancy.

    You’ll be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer

    Most roofs in the UK are very poorly-insulated so they accumulate loads of heat in the summer and let loads escape in the winter. You can end up spending extra money on heating in the winter and suffering when it’s hot.

    Your rooftop garden will absorb the sun’s rays (that’s what plants are good at, after all), so they’ll reduce heat gain in the warmer months and the physical structure of the garden will prevent excessive heat loss in the winter. That’s a win-win.

    You’ll help the environment

    We all know how carbon dioxide (CO2) is contributing to global warming. A rooftop garden can help reduce CO2 in two ways. Firstly, the plants sequester carbon as part of their life cycle and secondly, the roof itself reduces your heating fuel consumption. Almost half of the UK’s CO2 emissions are from buildings, so we all need a bit more greenery in our lives.

    You’ll be helping wildlife

    Your rooftop garden will attract bugs, birds, small mammals and even unusual plants (they are “imported” on birds’ feet as seeds). It might not be as big or diverse as a ground-level nature reserve, but it’s certainly better than bare shingles. The animals you attract depend on what you plant, but one Swiss study showed that there were more than 170 different species of animal on the 11 rooftops examined.

    You’ll improve air quality

    The UK’s air quality is a serious concern, with up to 24,000 excess annual deaths as a result. The problem is worse in big cities, which suffer the double whammy of more people and cars and less green space. Rooftop gardens can remove more than a third of the sulphur dioxide in the air around it, 21% of the nitrous oxide and up to 200g of dust particles per square metre each year.

    Go green, it’s good for everyone.

  • April, 2019 8th

    The Best Upgrades for Raising Value

    Lots of people nowadays choose to improve rather than move as it’s cheaper and less disruptive, especially if the driver for the move was the need for more space.

    Just as many UK homeowners choose to improve then move, as making an upgrade or two can increase your value and selling price. If you’re improving to move, then you need to know that your efforts will actually have a net effect on your eventual selling price, so here’s what you need to aim for.

    Increase the space

    If you don’t have much time or your budget isn’t quite enough for a huge internal restructuring, then just increase the amount of floor space is your best bet for a good return on investment.

    An increase in the floor space available in property of just 10% – so a small extension or even a conservatory – will add an average of 5% to your selling price, according to research by Nationwide.

    Convert your basement into living space for really big gains

    In some areas, especially in the middle of cities where space is already at a premium, converting your basement will increase the value of your property by 30%. True, it’s a bigger job than a conservatory, but if you’re not in a huge rush to move, then it can be a real earner.

    Just get planning permission

    Just having planning permission for an extension or a garage will raise your asking price by anything up to 10%. This is without even looking at a spade!

    Evict Harry Potter from under the stairs…

    …and turn his room into a second or third bathroom. Even if there’s only room for a little corner sink and a toilet, you’ll gain 4-5% when it’s time to sell up.

    Add central heating

    There are still some properties on the UK market that don’t have central heating, so installing some will boost your value by around 5%. If you’re not connected to the gas mains then you may need to look at a gas-fired system, but you need to remember that a lack of central heating will deter lots of potential buyers.

  • April, 2019 5th

    Important Steps for When You Move

    When you’re moving to a new home it’s all about who has the biggest bedroom, whether the sofa will fit into that corner and butterflies about meeting the new neighbours.

    It’s also about some rather more mundane – but crucial – steps that you need to take to make the move successful.

    Redirect your mail

    It’s doubly important to get all of your mail these days as identity theft is so prevalent. It’s hard to remember who to tell, as well as being very time-consuming to tell everyone, so set up a redirection service for at least six months so that you have time to let all your correspondents know your new address.

    When an annual statement, newsletter or similar arrives, let the sender know you’ve moved; by the end of six months to a year you should have everyone covered.

    Tell your banks first

    Make sure your banks know about your new address before you move – don’t include them in the redirection – to make extra sure that your financial details are safe. This allows your bank to get hold of you if there’s an emergency, as well as allowing you to get help if you need it.

    Make sure your new property is insured

    If you’re buying the property then you’ll almost certainly need buildings cover to get the mortgage. Whether you’re buying or renting, contents insurance is also a good idea to protect your possessions from loss or damage before, during and after the move.

    You can set up the policy for your new place up to a month beforehand and “activate” it on moving day.

    Change your car details

    You’ll need to change the address on your driving licence, ownership certificate and insurance so that you’re covered on moving day.

    You can apply for an updated licence at GOV.uk; it’s free to do this and could save you a fine for not having the right details.

    Take the last meter readings

    Make sure you have your final meter readings – gas, water and electricity – so that you get the right bill and so you’re not paying for the new owners’ first month!

    While you can keep the same provider, it might be a good time to look for a cheaper deal with a new company.

    Head to GOV.uk again to change your electoral roll details

    Changing your address on the electoral roll means you can vote in local, national and European elections without a hiatus. Maintaining your place on the roll also improves your credit score.

    Change your TV licence

    You’ll need to let the licencing company know of your change of address so that you’re covered to watch TV in your new home straight away.

    Update your address with all your delivery services

    Think about the various deliveries you get and contact as many as possible so that you continue to get your goods or services.

    These include magazines, contact lens subscriptions, vegetable boxes and so on.

    Find out about parking permits

    You may be moving to an area where it’s residents-only parking so make sure you have the necessary permit before you move in and get off to an – ahem – indifferent start with the neighbours.

    Run down your fridge and freezer

    Get creative with the food you have in your fridge and freezer so that you have as little as possible to throw out. You can give whatever’s left over to a neighbour.

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