December, 2018 19th
Your kitchen really is the heart of your home and it’s never more important or welcoming than when it’s cold and dark outside. There’s nothing better than returning home from work, or a long chilly walk and being greeted with lights, colours and the smell of something simmering in the slow cooker.
If you sometimes wish your kitchen greeted you as warmly as this, then it’s time to do something about it. You don’t have to have a total refurb, just make some easy and cost-effective changes.
Change the lighting
Of course, you need to have a little bit of clinical overhead light so that you can show off your culinary genius, but once the magic has happened, it’s time to turn the floodlights off and relax. Install a dimmer switch or bring in a couple of floor-lamps or an LED array so you have lots of options and moods.
Rugs aren’t just for your living room
Kitchen floors are usually tiled and so they can feel very cold underfoot. You could put in some underfloor heating, but this is all about quick, easy improvements, so a rug is the answer here. Ideally, you’ll need a rug that can be easily laundered, so a rag rug is a great idea. Remember to use anti-slip mats underneath whichever style of rug you choose to prevent any skidding incidents.
Light some candles
Nothing banishes the cold and dark like some candles in the window or on a table or two and there’s no reason to restrict them to your living or dining room. If you have the space, or you have particularly deep windowsills in your kitchen, then make an arrangement of varied church or beeswax candles and light them once the night has drawn in.
Put some foodstuffs on display
This doesn’t mean stack your tins of beans into an attractive pyramid shape! If you have a large fruit-bowl, then fish out the keys and USB ports and fill it with seasonal fruit – pomegranates, satsumas, nuts and so on. You can also buy some large glass jars and fill them with coloured pasta, orange lentils or preserved lemons to add interest and colour to your space.
December, 2018 17th
The end of one year and the promise of another makes most people, especially those people thinking of a new home, start to wonder how to spruce their property up. It’s especially important if the place hasn’t been revamped for a while, to bring in some contemporary touches that’ll appeal to the discerning modern viewer.
Here’s the best bets for 2019
Dark kitchen walls
You heard it here first! This doesn’t mean dingy and splashed with pasta sauce. No, it means bold and very deliberately dark. It seems that indigo is a popular choice for feature walls in kitchens, which is as dark as it gets without going full-Goth! If you’re not quite that brave, or your kitchen won’t stand up to such a powerful hue, then think about mustard yellow or strong geometric patterns instead.
Indoor vertical gardens
There are lots of ways to make living walls, so do explore as many as possible before starting your project because you want to hit on the right one. You could have a wall of moss, or maybe trailing ivy. These indoor greening projects are particularly popular among city-dwellers who might otherwise have to live without a garden.
For quite a while now we’ve had the sanded, varnished and natural look for our floors. It seems that this era might be coming to an end because more and more people are interested in using tough, durable floor paints to make a whole new look underfoot. These paints are also ideal for tiles and, as they’re paints, you can be as creative as you like.
Scandinavian style will still be important
This doesn’t have to be the classically minimalist look that most people instantly think of, though. Next year will see a need for a blend of ergonomic and fancy-schmancy; previously people tended to go for one or the other, but increasingly we’re going to see well-designed and functional items that are decked out in all sorts of vintage and ethnic fabrics and prints. The best of both worlds beckons, it seems.
December, 2018 15th
It’s mid-winter now, but the cold won’t last long and before you know it, spring will be poking its verdant head up from underneath the snow and you’ll be wanting to get back out into the garden. Your garden space will need extra attention if you’re planning to sell, and move in the spring or summer of next year, so here are some easy TLC ideas.
Start with a spring clean
This is essential after the last snows have melted and you’re left with patchy grass, dead flowers and lots of other detritus. Raking everything up and letting the place dry out and get some sun is one of the first things you need to do. It’s also a good idea to plant some flowers that will bloom in early spring, as well as to re-seed your lawn once the temperatures are no longer falling below zero. Thinking ahead means you don’t have to scramble around nearer the time.
Create some unusual plant arrangements
Not all your plants and flowers have to go in the ground. Think about how you can incorporate them into existing structures in your garden. If you have a sturdy fence, then hang some pots from it, all arranged at jaunty angles. You could place lots of differently-sized pots and containers on an outdoor trolley, or create a living wall by growing lots of small, fast-growing plants on a series of closely-spaced trellis frames.
Use lots of vibrant colours
If there’s one part of your home where you can let it all hang out when it comes to colours, it’s the garden. It’s not just about the green of the grass and the riot of the flowers. You can bring in even more shades and hues by painting your garden walls, your shed or by installing some big painted pots. As long as it all ties in at least vaguely with the overall look of your home, you can do as you like here.
A spring viewing leads (hopefully) to a summer move, so if you already have the stage set for barbecues and garden parties then you’re halfway there! Take a look at your existing garden furniture and if it’s a little ratty, then replace it. If you don’t have any, then get some! Think about an outdoor sofa and maybe even a small kitchen space, rather than just the usual garden table set.
There are lots of options for outdoor lighting that don’t involve static and glaring spotlights! Invest in lots of good-quality string lights – don’t skimp on the cost because you’ll find cheaper sets just fail. Solar-powered string lights are always better, as well as converted mason jars that light up when the sun goes down. Adding some lights to a dull or bare area is a cheap and easy way to jazz it up if you’re on a budget.
December, 2018 13th
It’s the run-up to Christmas and New Year now, so if you’re on the market or about to hit it, you need to think about injecting some comfort, togetherness and joy (what the Scandinavians call hygge) into your home to help it to sell.
Create a warm atmosphere
This doesn’t just mean physically warm, although you should give the heating a quick boost half an hour or so before a viewing; it also means you should make the place feel more inviting and comforting.
What you need to do is to replace as many lightbulbs as you can with brighter and warmer versions. Try bulbs with a slight pink or orange tinge, as well as bringing in lots of plush, fuzzy and velvety throws.
Use subtle and organic Christmas decorations
Ditch the glitz this year as metallics can feel a little cold and impersonal. Try some Nordic-themed (after all, who invented hygge?) wooden, felt and straw decorations instead. Stick to red and white if you can and aim for humble and rustic rather than in-your-face impressive.
Remove some furniture
If you have some rooms or spaces that you always have to take extra care to walk through, then they’re overcrowded with furniture. Hygge is soft and welcoming, with no hard or jutting edges, so if you think you can soften and open up a room by putting some larger and not strictly necessary items in storage, then do it.
Bring in more natural materials
Recently there’s been a trend towards shiny and metallic soft furnishings, like sequinned cushions. While they’re certainly eye-catching, you can’t imagine snuggling up among them with a cup of hot chocolate. Get back to basics with knitted fabrics, velvets, fleece, lambskin and so on. You want people to crave the comfort of your throws, cushions and rugs.
Appeal to the sense of smell
Viewers might not even be aware of it, but if you can put some cinnamon sticks behind radiators, or some drops of vanilla essence in a bowl of warm water before they arrive, they’ll “feel” the welcoming smell. If you follow this up with handing over some spicy cocoa and a cookie, you’ll be onto a winner.
December, 2018 11th
A lot of attention is on first-time buyers and downsizers, but there’s a stage in between these two major life events that often gets overlooked – the second step.
The people who take this second step on the property ladder are known, unsurprisingly, as second-steppers.
According to Lloyds Bank, the average age of the second-stepper is 33 and the average household income is £57,300.
Second-steppers are mainly couples
Lloyds also revealed that, according to its research, most second-steppers are married or co-habiting couples who are looking for more space. More than 50% of these movers want a detached property as their long-term home and favour period and new-build homes.
In an ideal world, the second-steppers want at least three bedrooms, as well as a garden, a kitchen-diner, a garage and a driveway. The second step is most often a step up, with buyers looking for more space, a better area, and a bigger garden.
It’s hard to make this leap though!
The move up the ladder is usually linked to a demanding life-stage, with the couples having a first baby or adding to their family. It often takes a few years to get the necessary promotions, save up the extra deposit and find the right house.
Many second-steppers have actually had to change their life plans in order to make the move happen. Some have had fewer children than they initially planned, or have delayed another baby, so that they have more time to save up and sell. The number of second-steppers delaying or abandoning plans baby plans due to worries about moving has doubled since 2016.
The research by Lloyds also found that a third of would be second-steppers, expecting it to be harder to sell their current home than it would have been a year ago.
Improving or moving?
Many of the people Lloyds spoke to had been in their homes for three or four years and were expecting to be there for another 18 months or so before taking the next step. Once in their new home, some said they intended to stay for five years while a quarter said they wouldn’t be moving again.
Another 25% said they were thinking about staying in their current home and extending or making other improvements to make life more comfortable in case they couldn’t sell up in time.
December, 2018 7th
For many regional estate agents, families are leading the way when it comes to house sales this year.
Property market specialists TwentyEA released some insightful figures last month that show how terraced and semi-detached houses made up more than half of the UK’s property transactions in 2018. The number of detached houses selling also rose by 36% in the autumn of this year.
This shows that despite the slight slow-down of the market before Brexit hits next March, people who need to move will still move. When a family outgrows a property, it’s time to look for somewhere bigger!
When you gotta go…
The property market will always see peaks and troughs as the economic climate and confidence in it shifts, both at home and across the world. One thing that’s always certain, though, is that needs-based buyers will always, have needs. Families grow, whether it’s another child or two or older relatives moving in, so the household needs more physical space. Then there’s the downsizers and the people who need to move for work or to get into a great school catchment area. People in these circumstances will do everything they can to make it work.
The property specialists also said there had been a 2.5% rise in instructions to estate agents compared to 2017, with an 11% rise in actual exchanges. This means that more houses are selling than are coming onto the market; it also shows that anyone setting foot in the market at the moment is more serious about it than in previous years.
Think outside your postcode
If you’re thinking of going to market either now or early next year, then you should opt for an estate agent that has contacts outside the immediate area. When people actively need to move, rather than just quite liking the idea of a new dwelling, they’re more prepared to look further afield than usual.
December, 2018 4th
House prices in the UK grew at their slowest rate since December 2012 as people are deciding to play it safe until there’s more clarity over Brexit. According to the Halifax house price index, property prices rose by 0.3% from November 2017 to November 2018. It’s a rise, admittedly, but much slower than the 1.5% seen from October 2017 to October 2018.
The average house price falls slightly
The average price of a home in the UK was £224,578 in November, 1.4% lower than in October. It seems that, despite unemployment being at a 40-year low and wages finally set to rise faster than inflation, uncertainty over the UK’s departure from the European Union is making would-be buyers and sellers more cautious than usual.
No more no-deal worries
It’s less likely now that the UK will suffer a catastrophic no-deal scenario, which could see property prices plunge by 30%, but movement in London and the south east of England is stifled, with fewer transactions taking place.
Economists are predicting higher borrowing costs after Brexit even if there’s an orderly exit and transition period.
Could it be a good thing?
One factor that’s contributed to the steep rises in property prices is the lack of new housing supply. The influx of international property investors, particularly in London and the south east, has also boosted values in these regions.
If the government plans to build 300,000 new homes comes to fruition, combined with fewer international investors choosing to come to the UK, then this market slowdown could end in the next couple of years.
At present, people are paying almost 10 times their annual salary to buy a new home in England and Wales, whereas in 1997 it was just 4.6 times their salary. Economists aren’t predicting that price rises will speed up again in 2019, instead they believe they’ll find a healthier balance.
This balance will be especially important in London and the south east – the UK’s least-affordable regions – with commuter belt prices falling by 2% or so. This slight fall may well stimulate first-timers, who’ve been saving and waiting, to take the plunge and put that deposit down.
December, 2018 1st
Despite it being what we think of as a quiet time of the year on the property front, lots of people move house at Christmas. Relocating can certainly make for a memorable Yuletide, especially if you do it right. Moving house at Christmas needs a bit of special planning to make sure everything goes smoothly, so if you’re going to be roasting your turkey in a new oven or seeing in a very new year, read on for some useful tips.
Book everything very much in advance
This includes your movers, cleaners, packers and pet-sitting service. Most companies tend to slow things down a bit so staff can have a few days off. If you leave it too late, you could find that the slots for removals and so on are filled simply because there’s fewer available.
Make sure your utilities are good to stop and go
As soon as you have a moving date, get onto your gas and electricity providers, because even if the worst happens and you have no Wi-Fi for a couple of days, at least you’ll be warm and able to see! Make sure, if you think that your Wi-Fi might be an issue, that you have some DVDs of Christmas classics handy.
Pack your presents and Christmas decorations in the same boxes
This means you can hit the ground running at the other end and get your seasonal spirit on without scrambling about between boxes! Moving and missing Christmas may well be just too much for younger members of the family.
Consider putting cats or dogs into kennels for the duration
One worry about moving home is that pets will wander off and get lost. If you’re moving in the winter, especially at a busy time like Christmas, then giving your pooch or moggy their own Christmas break might be the easiest and kindest way to do things.
If all else fails, book yourselves into a hotel or last-minute getaway
If it looks like you’ll have no Wi-Fi, gas, electricity and stressed animals and kids (and adults…), then bypass it all and look for a last-minute holiday deal. The movers can still move your things and you’ll have a few more days to find your feet.
November, 2018 19th
When you decide to put your property on the market you often have high hopes of an easy sale and a decent-to-great selling price. Sometimes this just happens without too much effort on your part and sometimes you have to put a bit of work in.
If you’re short on time and on a tight budget, a complete overhaul or revamp of the place might be out of reach, so you should focus on these three key money-making rooms.
The kitchen really is the heart of the home. It doesn’t matter how spacious the rest of the property is, or how desirable the postcode is, if the kitchen isn’t quite up to scratch it’ll do more than the other rooms to dissuade people. Buyers might not want to spend extra on a new kitchen once they’re in.
You need to make the kitchen as cosy, functional and welcoming for the target demographic as you can. If you’re in an area that’s popular with young families, then think about what two adults and two or three children need out of their kitchen. If you’re in a commuter area popular with young professionals then a low-maintenance kitchen with built-in, up-to-date appliances is your best bet.
No matter what the age or life stage of your buyers, the bathroom will always be a sanctuary for them. If you can add in an extra toilet and sink downstairs, you’ll attract more interest; if you can push it to an extra shower, you’ll really be cooking (or soaking). Families and young professionals alike prefer to have more than one bathroom, especially in the mornings, and older people like deep corner or whirlpool baths.
Your living areas
Your living spaces also need a review to see if there’s anything that can be done to optimise them – and your selling price. You need to aim for spacious, comfortable, welcoming and practical. This seems like a tall order, but it’s not an impossible target.
If you’re aiming at busy families or young professionals then you need low-maintenance. Think about pulling up the carpets and sanding the floorboards underneath. To make the room cosier you should lay down a plush, easy-care rug.
Another option is knocking a wall through to create a bigger space if your downstairs rooms are a bit cramped or boxy. Open-plan spaces appeal more to families, though, so bear that in mind before you swing that lump-hammer!
November, 2018 15th
Why wait until spring to have a thorough de-clutter? If you’re planning to put your property on the market in early 2019, then you can start your clearing campaign any day now! Here’s the areas to go for.
The coat rack
Go through all the cold weather gear and pick out all the items that never get used – coats, ear-muffs, wellies and so on – and either take them to a recycling bank or to a charity shop. Even if you don’t need them, someone will.
Wrapping paper and cards
You might have saved some scraps and bits of ribbon from last year, but realistically, not all of it will be used. Resist the temptation to save them again, because you’ve bought a load more already! Just tidy up any useable bits into a box file or similar and throw out or recycle scribbled-on gift tags and empty tape rolls.
Old bedding and towels
You might have bought yourselves some new bedding and towels for Christmas, so go through your older stock and see if any can go to an animal shelter.
The kids’ toys
Just after Christmas is the best time to thin out the toy box as there’s lots of new things to play with! Get rid of all the broken items that you still haven’t fixed, as well as any that haven’t been played with for the best part of a year. Involve the children in this process, as you don’t want to throw out anything with sentimental value.
Your own wardrobe and drawers
It’s easy to find your wardrobe and drawers suddenly too full after Christmas, what with all the sales and vouchers! Anything that’s not had an outing for a year can go – clothes in good condition can go to a charity shop, while more threadbare items can be recycled.
The kitchen cupboards
If you’ve got surplus stock in after Christmas – unopened marzipan, jars of mince pie filling and pastry, for example – then donate it to a food bank or church group.
Your craft supplies
Christmas usually brings new pens, tubs of glitter and sketchbooks with it. Make time to sort through your drawers and baskets and throw away any lidless pens, empty glue and glitter tubes and broken crayons before you put all the new stuff in.
Sort through the bookshelves and take out any books that you didn’t enjoy or just don’t have any use for. These can go to a charity shop. Books that you haven’t got around to yet should go their own special shelf and then the whole shebang can be dusted thoroughly.
Your Christmas decorations
When it’s time to take down the tree and decorations, look for ornaments that have seen better days or don’t fit in with your themes anymore and give them away or recycle them. Check that your string lights still work before you store them away and make sure you don’t leave any decorations outside until July!