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  • March, 2019 12th

    How to Spot Dodgy Waterworks

    When you’re looking for a new home, you tend to focus on the more exciting elements, like having more space, having a bigger garden and a park nearby or moving to a more up-market area. One thing you might overlook is the plumbing in the property you’re interested in, but you shouldn’t.

    Plumbing is important

    Plumbing isn’t just a bunch of pipes and taps, it’s an essential element of living as it controls and facilitates washing, waste disposal, heating and drinking water. You need functional, safe plumbing to live healthily and so you need to either know the property you’re looking at has it or what you need to do to fix sub-par waterworks.

    When you view a property, here’s what to look out for.

    Patches of corrosion, dampness or leaks

    A property’s pipework runs all the way around it, therefore, inspect the pipes wherever you see them. Watch out for signs of rusting or dampness around them or on the walls, especially, around the joints. Don’t just look at the exposed pipes, though; you should follow them into attics, behind furniture and into cupboards to make sure they’re secure all along their lengths. Look out for loose pipes, too.

    Watch out for dodgy boilers

    Most boilers last around ten years. There are some still going strong after 12 or so years, but they’ll need more checks and maintenance as they get older. Older boilers are less efficient and so while it can be expensive to replace the boiler in your new home, it’ll be cheaper in the long-run.

    Check the age of the boiler when you view a property. If the information isn’t readily available, then note down the serial number and call the manufacturer. A boiler that’s approaching the end of or already past its best years isn’t a great investment so you should ask for a reduction on the asking price.

    Turn the taps, flush the toilets

    You should also turn on the boiler and hot water, try out the tumble dryer and the dishwasher and even light the gas hob. Hopefully everything will be in good order, but any creaking, bubbling or other funny noise should be looked into further.

    See how long it takes for water to run hot and how quickly radiators heat up. If you go for a second or third viewing then ask to see the dishwasher and washing machine in action to check out the plumbing. You should do this even if you’re bringing your own appliances with you, as they’ll be running off the same pipes, after all.

  • March, 2019 10th

    How to Pack and Move Big, Bulky Items

    If you’ve moved a few times before now then you’ll be an old hand at wrapping crockery in newspaper and sandwiching layers of delicate ornaments between layers of fluffy jumpers. You also know all about not putting loads of books in big boxes because they become ridiculously heavy.

    Do you know how to wrap, pack and shift really large items, though?

    The chances are that you don’t, especially, if this is your first big house move since becoming a proper grown-up. There’s a bit of an art to it, so put down your Sellotape and read on.

    Work out if you need to take absolutely everything with you

    You might not actually need to move everything, so talk to your buyers as they’ll probably really appreciate a few extra items of furniture. Heavy wardrobes, chests and cabinets might cost more to disassemble and transport than they do to replace, so spend some time working this out. If you’re downsizing, you may not actually have room for everything anyway.

    Dismantle everything that you’re taking with you

    Once you’ve decided which large items are going with you, you should start dismantling them around a month before moving day. Each component needs to be individually wrapped in moving blankets or bubble wrap and (most importantly) clearly labelled so you can start putting things back together again at the other end.

    Empty out items like fridges and washing machines

    If you’re taking your fridge with you then you need to remove all the food, obviously. What might be less obvious is removing all the internal shelves and vegetable bins and wrapping these up securely in bubble wrap. As ever, label each item clearly. For washing machines, make sure there’s no damp clothes left inside.

    Small-but-heavy items get special treatment

    Well, they get a box pretty much to themselves, anyway! Some items, like coffee machines, cutlery sets and so on don’t take up much space but they do weigh quite a bit. This warrants a special box that’s just a little bit larger than they are so that they can fit inside even when they’re all wrapped up. If there’s any space in the box above the item, then fill it with towels, jumpers, soft toys or similar so there’s extra cushioning without much extra weight.

  • March, 2019 8th

    Tips for Keeping Your Bathroom Clean and Fresh While You’re on the Market

    The bathroom is one of the hardest areas of the house to keep clean and it’s also the first to show signs of neglect. A bathroom should be all sparkly surfaces and fluffy white towels, but if you have more than a couple of people in the house and you live in a hard water area, it can be a tall order to maintain this shiny finish. Here are a few ideas to help you through the selling period, when even your grouting has to work hard for you.

    Eliminate moisture

    If you have a window in your bathroom, use it! If there’s one thing that makes a bathroom dingy and smelly, it’s mildew, mould and that special essence of a damp towel. If you don’t have a window, then invest in a squeegee and scrape away water from the sides of the shower cubicle and bath. You should also leave the bathroom door open or use the extractor fan to drive out steam. Moulds simply can’t live in dry areas, so aim for arid.

    Use a shower spray

    A quick spritz with one of these water-repellent sprays will mean you can leave the serious cleaning for a couple of extra days. These sprays dry to form a thin coating that causes water to bead up and run down rather than drying in situ and leaving mineral deposits behind. Use them on mirrors, taps, tiles and shower cubicles to keep them shiny for just a little while longer.

    Have a good old clear-out

    Everyone is guilty of having a chaotic bathroom cabinet or vanity stand, but when you’re trying to sell, you have to up your storage game. Go through your bottles, tubes, blister packs, old contact lens cases and so on and bin expired, empty and unwanted items. You should introduce zones for your products, too, even if it means buying new storage boxes or shelves.

    Bring in some new bars

    Another bad habit is using the floor as a shelf. Towels and clothes end up on the floor because there’s nowhere else to hang them and this is not a good look. Just adding another rail, door hanger or a set of shelves can make a huge difference.

    Keep on top of limescale

    If you only follow one of these tips, make it this one! Limescale looks awful, collects stains, dulls chrome and glass and gets worse the longer you leave it. There are lots of limescale removers on the market, so invest in some. If there are some really stubborn deposits, then soaking some cotton wool in vinegar, wrapping it around the beleaguered fitting and leaving it overnight will help to shift it.

  • March, 2019 7th

    Up-to-date Styling Tips

    The key to making your property inviting and appealing to viewers isn’t to make the interior as flouncy as fancy as possible – that was the 1980’s – it’s to make it as impersonal and as functional as possible. You should aim to strip the place down and with the help of a few tweaks, make it speak for itself.

    Make a great entrance

    If you’ve got someone coming to see your place on Wednesday at 5.30pm, you should expect them to drive or walk by on Monday or Tuesday. In anticipation of this recce, you should make sure your front door looks its best, that there’s no dead leaves strewing the path and that hoses, toys, footballs and muddy wellies are out of sight.

    Nix the clutter

    It’s time to put your collection of Cornish thimbles into storage, as well as to remove any piles of papers, sports gear, unseasonal clothes, shoes and outerwear and all your fridge magnets. The rule for deciding if something should stay or go is “If you can’t read, use, wear or sit on it today, it goes.”

    This may include furniture

    If you have any items of furniture that aren’t used every day then send them into storage alongside the thimbles. This will open up your spaces and show off your rooms better. It’s important to create traffic flow and also to display the perimeters of the rooms. Try out different groupings of furniture to see which arrangements work best. Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of lining up your furniture along the walls to make a big space in the middle – this just looks cold and claustrophobic all at once.

    Get rid of bad smells

    One of the first things you notice when you walk into a house is the smell, so make sure it’s a good one! Track down and eliminate the sources of any unpleasant pongs – blocked sinks and old trainers, we’re looking at you – and introduce some nicer ones. Brew some coffee, put a dab of vanilla essence on a radiator and definitely open the windows for half an hour before the viewing.

    Get around to those overdue repairs

    The funny thing about small repairs is that they cost much less to actually carry out than the reduction a potential buyer will ask for if you don’t do them. It’s one of the many mysteries of the property market and one that you should ponder while you’re filling in those cracks in the plaster and re-hanging the front gate.

    Add some final touches

    You can bring in a few subtle final touches, but they have to be part of the scenery, rather than standalone pieces. Try arranging some attractive cookbooks on a shelf in the kitchen, or invest in some new and pricier-than-your-usual body lotions for the bathroom, as well as new and plusher towels. It’s about making your place a slightly better version of itself.

  • March, 2019 5th

    Why Landlords Need Good Insurance

    If you’re planning to rent out your property, then one of the main priorities (aside from finding good tenants, of course) is to get good insurance that’s specially designed for landlords.

    No business, from mining quartz to letting out a property, is 100% risk-free. Even with tenants who come with good references and who look great in theory, there’s the chance that they could suddenly stop paying. Or, they could always pay on time but cause serious damage to the property by accident. Burglars could break in, a frozen pipe could burst, there could be a flood or the boiler could pack in.

    It’s for these reasons that you need to have good, responsive and comprehensive insurance. It’s not just for you, it’s peace of mind for your tenants as well.

    What’s wrong with regular insurance?

    Nothing at all, if you’re a regular householder. When you’re a landlord, however, you’ll probably invalidate your “regular” buildings and contents insurance if you’re renting the property out to tenants.

    Landlord insurance policies vary a bit in their offerings and conditions, but they’re pretty consistent at their core. They offer liability cover, protection if your tenants are injured, employer liability and also cover for loss of rental income. You should shop around and take advice about the various add-ons and extras that suit your particular needs, but as long as your policy has the basics, you’re all good.

    Landlord insurance is good for first-timers

    If you’re new to the game, then buying the best landlord insurance you can afford is always a good idea as this will remove a lot of the stress and worry. Once you get used to managing tenants, spotting potential future problems and dealing with letting agencies, you can maybe drop or reduce an add-on or two.

    A good example is starting off with your own contents insurance add-on. If there’s a flood or a fire, then you may be liable for the tenants’ possessions. When you start off, you might not be confident enough to ask tenants to buy their own contents cover, but as time goes on, you’ll be able to ask this without even blinking.

    Always look for emergency cover

    The law of emergencies is that they always happen at the most inconvenient time. Emergency cover will make sure the repairs are carried out as soon as humanly possible and by fully-qualified tradespeople. This sort of insurance should cover labour, parts and call-out fees (up to a specified amount).

    If you’re a bit bewildered by the policies on offer, then your letting agent should be able to guide you in the right direction and will probably have a preferred provider, so talk to them before settling on a policy.

  • March, 2019 3rd

    How to Bag a Quick Sale

    When you put your property on the market your biggest concern, after how much you’ll sell it for, is how quickly it’ll sell. If you’re particularly concerned about selling and moving quickly, then there’s a few things you can control to speed things up a bit.

    Get the neighbours onboard

    If your neighbours are great but maybe overwhelmed with young children, elderly or awkward shifts, then their garden might look a bit untidy. You know they’re great, but viewers might be a bit concerned about the unkempt hedge and patchy lawn. Help your neighbours to help you by tidying their garden and frontage up a bit.

    Pay attention to the smaller details

    When you live somewhere, you stop seeing the scuffed skirting boards and the fingerprints on the light switch panels. Someone new to your property – like a viewer – will see them, so spend some time looking for flaws. It might be an idea to get that friend in – you know, the one who spots all the flaws in everything – and give them free rein. It’ll sting a bit, but their critique could make all the difference if you accept it and act on it.

    Look for things like limescale build-up in the shower, tired old curtains, scruffy paint, dirty radiators (yes, it is a thing) and greasy kitchen cupboard fronts.

    Be upfront about any defects

    The biggest waste of time for sellers, buyers and agents are viewings where prospective buyers spot a structural problem or see the busy junction just metres from the front door and declare themselves out. These viewings could be avoided by being honest about the less-than-desirable features in and around the property.

    Accentuate the positive features

    You should be upfront about the flaws of the property, but even more upfront about the good bits. Don’t be shy about the great school just down the road, the stream at the bottom of the garden or the amazing view from the front bedroom window. If viewers feel that you love the place, they’ll love it too.

  • March, 2019 2nd

    Becoming More Sustainable

    We all want to make our homes more sustainable, but many of us are deterred by the thought of shelling out thousands of pounds on an air source heat pump or a huge solar panel array.

    It doesn’t have to be like this, though; at least, not to start with. While you’re saving up for your panels or heat pump, you can get cracking with some other changes that the planet will love.

    Look after your boiler

    More than half of the UK’s energy spending goes on heating, so if you make sure your boiler is always in top form then you’ll be able to minimise this expense.

    If you turn your thermostat down by a degree or two then you’ll be saving fuel and money. You’ll also avoid putting too much stress on your boiler, as this can lead to premature problems. Having an annual service is important, too, as your boiler will always be working as efficiently as possible.

    Bring some plants inside

    Anything from an entire living wall to a few extra pot plants will do. As long as there’s a bit more greenery around, you’ll be improving the quality of the air in your home. Many plants absorb harmful gases and other pollutants; they also give out oxygen and just make the place look and feel more natural.

    Stop so much heat escaping

    Even if your boiler is as efficient as possible, there’s no point pumping out a load of heat for most of it to escape through the walls, floor and roof. Installing insulation in your loft, sealing up little cracks in windows and floorboards and maybe investing in wall insulation won’t break the bank but it will slash your energy consumption and your bills.

    Hit the flea markets

    Browse flea markets, charity shops and swap sites for furniture and decorations, instead of buying new. You’ll be saving the items from landfill and also reducing your usage of plastics and other packaging. Buying second-hand is almost always cheaper, too.

  • March, 2019 1st

    How to Settle in a New Area

    If you’re moving quite a long way away, one of your worries will be how well you’ll settle into your new village, town or city, as well as how long it’ll actually take to feel at home?

    It can take anywhere between six months and two years to feel like a local, but you can speed up the process by following at least some of these tips.

    Take the plunge and introduce yourself to the neighbours

    This is the easiest, but often the most overlooked, way to start the resettling process. The chances are that your new neighbours will be curious to know who you are, so don’t keep everyone in suspense – get knocking on a few doors.

    Have an at-home day

    This might sound old-fashioned, but it’s a good way to meet and greet the people in your neighbourhood. Post an invitation on the local noticeboard or just invite a few people who appeal to you and then lay on drinks and nibbles.

    Take the dog for a walk

    If you don’t have one already, then consider adopting, buying or even borrowing one. There’ll be some well-established dog-walking trails and you’ll meet the same characters each day if you stick to a regular slot. Dogs are great icebreakers so you’ll be bound to get talking.

    Go to school events

    Younger children never have difficulty making chums and so if you get dragged along in their wake into friendships with the parents, well, it’s just outsourcing, isn’t it?

    Join the local Facebook page

    This is a good way to target potential new friends as you can get a fair idea of who they are and what they’re about from their messages and online behaviour. You can also announce yourself and your move in a no-pressure sort of way.

    Hang out in your front garden

    If you spend as much time as possible in your front garden then you’ll end up talking to everyone and eventually, you’ll be able to persuade someone in through the gate.

    Remember to be patient

    You won’t settle overnight, but it can be an exciting process so you should relax, go with it and let nature take its course.

  • February, 2019 19th

    Using Glass to Improve Your House

    Most home improvements offer obvious, well, improvements. There’s an extra bathroom, a bigger kitchen or another bedroom. Most improvements also involve at least one window or bi-fold door as part of that process.

    There’s a new movement in the home improvements area that involves using glass as the main focus and reason for the work. Adding floor-to-ceiling windows, a glass roof or even a glazed room is becoming more popular and has benefits, beyond creating more space.

    Glass can boost your value

    If your home has a glass installation of some kind then it’ll attract increased interest and offers, as buyers look for more modern and well-designed homes.

    If the glass installations are unusual or also feature new technologies, such as UV filters or solar films, then they’ll appeal even more. Think about glass floors, especially if you have an old and interesting floor underneath, or a glass staircase. These are improvements you can make without too much internal restructuring, if you’re not up to it.

    Let the light in

    A glass installation is there to let light, air and sometimes people in. Fresh air and access are great, of course, but natural light is better. Natural light always works best in interiors, from putting on make-up to reading a book, and it also means you don’t have to use as much artificial light.

    Sunlight also helps us to set our body clock to its natural circadian rhythms, which makes us feel healthier, happier and less prone to sleeping problems. Artificial light just can’t do this for us yet.

    You can use glazing to increase living space

    The first thing most people think of when they plan an extension is bricks and mortar. Of course, this approach will work, but it can also cost a lot and involve lots of planning and actual construction.

    Glass has, recently, become a whole new construction material. With advances in silicone bonding and structural fixing methods, a whole new room can be made from just glass.

    It’s not a conservatory

    The old conservatory has probably had its day. We just accepted that it’d be freezing and damp in winter and like an oven in summer, but we don’t have to do that anymore. Today’s glass structures are elegant, environmentally-friendly, practical and good for all seasons.

    These extensions use triple-glazing and specially-treated glass to maintain a consistent internal temperature. Far from being a furnace or an ice-box, these glass rooms can have controlled ventilation and light levels, whether these controls are manual or integrated with a smart system. You don’t get much more modern than that.

  • February, 2019 16th

    Tips for Moving House with Pets

    Around half of the UK’s populace has at least one pet, so when it’s time to move, that two, four, six, eight or even no-legged friend has to come along too. Here’s some pointers to help you all get to your new home in safety and comfort.

    Take your pet to the vet

    If you’re moving some distance away then you’ll probably be changing vet practice, so visit your present practice for a check-up, to collect any important meds and to make sure your vaccinations are all up to date. You also need to make sure that meds are easily available until you’re all unpacked at the other end.

    Pack an overnight bag

    This should include food, toys, litter trays, comfort objects, brushes and so on; it should also be easily accessible.

    Update your microchips and name tags

    You should update the central database with your new address just before you move so that if your cat or dog goes wandering during all the chaos of the move, you can find him. It’s also important to get collar tags with your new address on.

    Register with a new vet practice

    Ask your present vet for recommendations, especially if you have exotic pets or a pooch with an unusual medical condition. You can always drop into your local practices for a chat before you make up your mind.

    Maintain your usual routine

    Keeping to your usual feeding and walking times isn’t just for the pet’s benefit; it’ll help everyone to cope with the upheaval.

    Get out the carriers a few days beforehand

    If your animals associate their boxes with the V-E-T, then having them lying around for a few days will mean your pets just start to ignore them and by Moving Day they’ll be as chilled as usual.

    Designate a safe space on Moving Day

    You need one room which is relatively quiet and away from all the hubbub. The bathroom is ideal, especially for keeping litter trays in, as it’s one of the easiest rooms to clear out before you set off. Just make sure your removals guys know it’s a temporary den.

    Only offer light snacks before the journey

    If you’ll be driving a long way, then just offer a light meal in case your pets become nauseous or travel-sick. Make sure there’s plenty of breaks for walks and wees.

    Keep cats indoors

    The experts say you should aim to keep your cats in for two weeks to make sure they know they’re “home”. Try to create a special cat space, with familiar toys, treats, litter trays and baskets so that they settle in faster.

    Make sure your new garden is pet-safe

    You need to know that the fencing and gate in your new garden is secure and that there’s no dangers like broken glass. It’s also a good idea to look out for poisonous plants, wasp nests and similar hazards.

    Meet the neighbours

    Introduce yourself and your animals to your new neighbours. You never know, you could find yourself scooped up by the local dog-walking club before you’ve unpacked!

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