February, 2018 15th
If you’re in the buy-to-let business, whether as an old hand or a total newbie, you need to know how to spot a good investment opportunity so that you get the best returns possible.
This is pretty much the first thing you have to look at. How much can you afford and what are the properties within your budget like? Look closely at the market in the area and make sure the places you like the look of are priced fairly and have room for growth in the future.
Can you negotiate?
You should always try to strike a deal. Always. Most vendors are able to come down a little if you’re a cash buyer and can move things along quickly, so make this clear at the outset. Find out a little more about the vendors; if they’re in no hurry to move then you may be barking up the wrong tree, but if they are keen to go, then it’s time to talk turkey.
Location is key
As well as price, the location is vital to the success of your project. Look in the best postcodes you can; there’s no point buying a great property in a really dodgy area, or a really run-down place in the best part of town. Strike a balance, look at amenities and transport links, as well as schools and leisure venues.
You also need to look at what’s happening down the line. If there’s a big local housing, shopping or transport link development in the pipeline, then you may have struck gold.
Talk to a trusted adviser
You should always get advice and tips from people who are already in the know. This could be friends who are already involved in buy-to-let investment, or an estate or letting agent. Many estate agencies have BTL experts who can point you in the right direction and also tip you off about properties before they go live. It pays to ask around.
Copyright for the image within this blog post is owned by ‘spectrumblue’, and has been licenced for use on this blog post through Big Stock Photo (stock photo ID: 100509425). For questions relating to this image please contact the copyright owner directly.
February, 2018 12th
If you’ve decided to invest in a buy-to-let property for your children then you have some big decisions to make. You’ll be spending quite a lot of money, so you need to choose the right place. Mortgage rates are still fairly low, so if you’ve been putting these plans on the back-burner, it’s time to get moving.
Firstly, you need to work out the reasons for your investment. Parents often opt for a buy-to-let as their children need accommodation while they’re at university.
Your own halls of residence
The first thing you need to do is find out whether your child will want a house-share or a small flat to live alone in. Then, do they want central and in the middle of the action, or do they want a quieter place further out? It’s a good idea to spend some time in the town or city to get a feel for areas and for prices. If you’re planning to rent out the property after your child graduates, then you need to think about catering to students.
Letting to students is quite easy – they want basic, durable and clean furniture with a few kitchen appliances rather than high-quality items that cost a fortune to replace. If a property starts off clean and in good repair, it’s more likely to stay clean and in good repair.
Investing for the future
Other parents are investing in a nest-egg for their children and grandchildren. It’s easier to invest in a familiar area if you’re doing this and you can also approach it in a more business-like manner; think yields and appreciation. It might be an idea to buy somewhere out of the way, in an up-and-coming area of your city so that you see a decent amount of growth year-on-year and get a good yield on the rent.
You also have more flexibility with your tenants – you could rent to young professionals, families or groups of students. Families will need an area near to good schools and shops, while professionals and students will want to be near clubs, bars, and transport links.
Whatever you decide
Whichever type of property you go for, it has to be safe. It’ll need to come up with fire regulations and have all the gas and electricity certification. If you’re renting to groups, you’ll also need a Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) licence.
February, 2018 10th
Get bold on the sofas
It looks like the days of dark-coloured and neutral sofas are over – at least for now. This year it’s the turn of vibrant, deep, rich colours like teal, maroon, aubergine and cobalt blue. Set against a neutral background, or even a black and white one, these colourful sofas will catch the eye and invite people to sit and luxuriate in them.
Bucket sinks in the bathroom
They’ve been around for a few years now but they’re still holding their own (as well as water) in bathrooms up and down the country. The good thing about them is that they don’t have as big a footprint as the older, curvy shell-style sinks so you can fit two bucket sinks into a relatively small area – ideal for larger families.
Statement wall art
The minimalism movement isn’t going anywhere just yet and so we’re seeing those busy-looking wall-galleries of photos and prints being replaced by single pieces. These standalone artworks draw the eye, add colour or detail to an otherwise blank wall and don’t overwhelm the space in the same way the more “bitty” galleries do.
Brass is pushing out copper and rose gold
It was good while it lasted, which wasn’t long, but rose gold and copper are over; possibly because it was hard to tell the difference between the two… Old-fashioned brass is back in style, though, so use the real deal, or at least the tone, in picture frames, lampshades, fireplaces and other fittings throughout the home. It adds a touch of traditional shine and glamour to pretty much anything, but don’t be tempted to overdo it.
Floral prints are back
There’s no need to panic, though, as we’re not going back to the 1970s and 1980s with the chintz (unless you really want to). Modern floral uses a range of sizes and styles, from big bold patterns to more ethereal designs. You can also use them more sparingly if necessary, like a feature wall or some cushions.
February, 2018 8th
If you’re a landlord in the private rented sector (PRS) then you may find that you sometimes have a hard time replacing tenants. Partly this could be because more properties are coming onto the market as the sector grows, but it could also be because something about your property is putting people off.
Research by furnishings seller Terry’s Fabrics found out what interior design features are serious turn-offs for renters and the results might surprise you.
Around 50% are dissuaded by a dirty property
This won’t come as a huge surpriseto anyone, of course, as no-one wants to move into a dirty home, with smells, damp patches and a wild garden. What is slightly more surprising is the emphasis many tenants put on decoration and interiors. Just as many prospective tenants are turned off by old-fashioned kitchens and avocado bathrooms (and don’t even think about leaving a carpet in there…).
The other top five no-nos were old-fashioned bedrooms (28%), excessively bright walls (27%) and migraine-inducing patterned carpets (26%).
Thankfully, most of these are easy fixes – re-paint the walls, get rid of the carpet and put some wood or vinyl down and install a new kitchen sink. If you can afford it, renovate the kitchen and bathroom a bit more thoroughly or at least upgrade the oven and get a dishwasher.
There’s no excuse
Realistically, you can prevent damp patches or smelly old carpets from ever becoming an issue and it’s up to you to do this before you even sign up with a letting agency. When it comes to cleaning up after old tenants move out, then again, it’s up to you. You can do it yourself or you can get the professionals in; it’s worth spending the money if it helps you to prevent a void period. Remember, your tenants are paying you money to stay in your property so they deserve a clean, pleasant and comfortable place to live.
February, 2018 6th
Theresa May’s last reshuffle wasn’t so much a reshuffle as a slight rearrangement. Nearly all major ministers stayed put, but there was one new appointment that caused a stir – Dominic Raab became Housing Minister, replacing Alok Sharma, who is now Minister for Employment.
Who is Dominic Raab?
Raab has been a vocal Brexit campaigner; he’s also been Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Civil Liberties and Minister of State for Courts and Justice. In 2010 he was elected as MP for Esher and Walton and comes to his new role without much experience of housing.
Housing gets a Cabinet slot
Housing has only just been elevated to the Cabinet table; some think this is overdue, given the importance of housing to the electorate. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is Sajid Javid and May added “Housing” to his role to demonstrate how seriously her government intends to take the issue.
Javid, who will work closely with Raab, has much more experience in housing, having lead many consultations and worked on policy in the sector.
This move could signal May’s determination to sort out the UK’s problematic housing market, with the issue being taken as seriously as health, education and defence.
First on Raab and Javid’s to-do list must surely be increasing the stock of affordable housing to first-time buyers, as well as leasehold reform. Chancellor Philip Hammond promised to build 300,000 new homes each year until the mid-2020s, so now we’ll see if this can come to fruition or not.
What does the housing sector think?
Raab is something of a controversial figure – he’s a prominent Brexiter and a legal expert – but there have been 16 Housing Ministers since 1997, so many think he’ll be gone soon. Others would like to see him stay long enough to actually get something done.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said it was looking forward to working with Raab on housing supply, private rentals and planning reform.
No matter how long Raab lasts in his new role, however, the fact that housing now has a position at the Cabinet table can only be a good thing for this neglected sector.
February, 2018 4th
It looks like Britain’s movers aren’t about to let Brexit uncertainty and potential interest rate hikes scupper their plans. Recent research from moving website reallymoving.com showed that its unique visitor numbers for this January were up 15% from last January.
First-timers were out in droves, too, with more than half of the portal’s January conveyancing registrations coming from buyers taking their first step on the ladder. This uptick is possibly related to the scrapping of Stamp Duty for homes selling for under £300,000; this move saves first-timers around £1,600 on average.
Reallymoving.com isn’t a property portal, it’s for people further along the funnel, providing quotes for conveyancing, surveys and removal services. The fact that people are registering there shows they’re serious about their purchase and are some way along the process already, not just browsing their dream gaffs.
This is all encouraging, as the UK’s property market isn’t being dampened by political upheaval and uncertainty – buyers and sellers are still out there, buying and selling. People are being realistic; they still need homes for their new or expanding families, or they still need to downsize after retirement, keeping the market humming along nicely.
Racing against Brexit?
There’s been no great changes to house prices since the Referendum; people still need to move no matter what and many may be deciding to do it sooner rather than later.
It also looks as if Brexit won’t make the March 2019 deadline, so waiting and seeing isn’t an option, especially for first-time buyers who are keen to make the most of the Stamp Duty amnesty and the still-low interest rates.
Ongoing confidence and movement
One thing that’s always resisted uncertainty is the housing market and despite our economic and political landscape looking more unsettled than it has in decades, it seems we can still rely on it to stay buoyant. If you’re thinking of putting your property on the market, then don’t let the news stop you!
February, 2018 3rd
If you’re planning to sell, buy, rent or let, 2018 has some changes in store for you so here’s the big changes and their dates so that you’re not caught unawares.
The Help to Save Scheme launches
January, April and October 2018
This scheme was trialled in January for an April launch, but it’s been delayed, probably until October. It aims to help people to get onto the property ladder by asking approved savers to squirrel away up to £50 per month for two years, after which they’ll get a £600 bonus from the government. Once the initial two years is up, you can either extend it for a further two years or cash it in.
New energy rules for landlords
April 2018 and April 2020
As of April this year, landlords starting new tenancies will have to prove that the property meets the minimum energy-efficiency rating – E – by having an Energy Performance Certificate. Existing tenancies will have the same rules by April 2020. This could spell trouble for some as there are estimates of more than 400,000 properties in England and Wales becoming unrentable because they won’t meet these new targets. If you’re a landlord, it’s time to act now because there are fines of up to £4,000 for non-compliance.
Changes to Lifetime ISA bonuses
ISAs are a great savings vehicle, especially for those saving to buy their first property. Lifetime ISAs allow savers to get an extra £1,000 tax-free bonus on top of their individual £4,000 maximum. This money can go towards a first home as long as the property is under £450,000. If you’re about to open a Lifetime ISA, or you already have one, then you need to know that the bonus payments will be coming monthly rather than yearly from April onwards.
A ban on letting agency fees to tenants
To be confirmed
Parliament drafted this bill last November and it’ll come into force sometime later this year, so be on the look-out. This ban aims to make renting easier and more transparent for tenants so that they don’t suddenly get stung by hidden fees. It also plans to cap deposits at six weeks’ rent and to require landlords to join the Ombudsman Redress Scheme. If you’re a landlord you should make the necessary adjustments now as there are fines of up to £5,000, plus the fact that charging letting fees will become illegal for landlords in 2018.
February, 2018 1st
It’s something that the uber-organised do once or twice a year; if you’re in this camp, then you can stand down as you probably don’t need any of the advice here (although, being organised, you’ll probably read on anyway).
For the rest of the population, however, de-cluttering is an ordeal that only gets done when they’re selling up. If you’re in this camp, then these tips will help you no end.
Set a timer for 15 minutes
Start off small, with a chest of drawers, a sideboard or under-bed storage and work for 15 minutes only. When the buzzer goes off, stop, lift up the black bag, feel the weight, then feel how light you are when it goes in the bin… These are your baby steps.
If you’re unsure, sleep on it
There’s always a few possessions that you’ll find it hard to get rid of, so it’s OK to hold onto them. There are also some that you’re not sure about so you should pack them away and sleep on it for a night or two. De-cluttering is a state of mind, not a race.
Use the 80/20 rule
Out of our clothes, appliances, jewellery, toys, games and books, there’s 20% that we use or wear 80% of the time. Identify which items from the 80% that goes unused you can part with easily and find it a better home.
Getting rid of old paperwork
If you want to keep all your old bank statements, financial agreements, guarantees and receipts, then set aside a day to go through them all, picking out the necessary ones, then scan and shred them. You’ll free up a lot of space this way.
Get ruthless in the kitchen
The kitchen is more like a 90/10 zone – we use a very small number of utensils and appliances for most of our kitchen tasks. You may have a fiddly egg slicer but use a simple (and easily cleaned) sharp knife instead. You know what to do with the egg slicer now, so get going!
January, 2018 19th
We all think of the space inside our garden wall or fence as our empire and of course it is, but the way we demarcate our empire from the rest of the world sends out an important message. So, what’s it to be, a fence or a wall?
Very often, it comes down to cost. In general, fences are cheaper to install than walls are to build. However, walls last longer and make you feel more secure; they really section off your garden.
Then again, fences offer a lot more variety – you can use lots of different woods, different designs, like slatted or close-board, or even a post and chain version if you’re after a bit of old-world sophistication (you probably need the appropriate Georgian house to really get away with this, though). If you have a Victorian era house you might find a wrought iron fence a great choice, but if you have an older country cottage then you can go full-traditional and erect a white picket fence – yes, really.
Consistency is key
You must make sure that your fence fits in with the look and colour scheme of the outside of your house. If you have a redbrick house, try to use the same type and colour of brick, as well as the same sort of bonding; it’s actually fairly easy to find reclaimed bricks. If your house has made of stone, you should try to source the same sort of stone for your wall.
Ask about planning permission
Before you finalise any plans for your fence or wall, you need to contact your planning office for advice. If your boundary structure is more than a metre in height and you’re beside a large road then you’ll need planning permission. While you’re at the design stage, you should also think about incorporating a bike or bin shelter in your plans. Although if you do decide to do this, make the bin storage bigger than you think you’ll need as you never know what dimensions the new recycling bins from the council will be…
Copyright for the image within this blog post is owned by ‘bildlove’, and has been licenced for use on this blog post through Big Stock Photo (stock photo ID: 182505487). For questions relating to this image please contact the copyright owner directly.
January, 2018 16th
The days are slowly getting longer and many people’s thoughts are turning to spring and the great outdoors. When the weather gets warmer, it’s a good time to think about spending more time outside and also about making your outdoors more appealing to be in.
What can you do?
Whatever your outdoor space is, whether you have a big garden or a postage stamp, you can always improve it and make it more comfortable. You might want to add decking to a corner or a larger space, or turn a smaller space into just decking, it’s up to you, but you need to make this outside space as functional and comfortable as your indoors.
Choose furniture that matches the look you’re aiming for
Of course, to do this, you need to decide what sort of look you are actually aiming for. You might want coastal, urban, rustic or your own eclectic style, but once you’ve settled on a theme, you can bring in the furniture.
The right seating is vital
Weatherproof, comfortable and durable furniture is essential, but this doesn’t mean it has to offer all the comfort of a park bench! You can choose a combination of day beds and regular chairs, upholstered in waterproof fabrics, as well as throws and extra cushions if you need them.
Think about an outdoor fireplace
Even if you make a simple firepit from old bricks and sand, it can still be a central feature, especially if you plan to have a lot of barbecues and late-night chats around it with a few beers.
There’s nothing as good as eating outside on a warm summer evening – as long as you have your bug-repelling candles handy! Buy the best outdoor dining table and chairs you can afford as cheaper sets won’t last long and they’ll feel, well, cheap.
Bring light and colour
Although your outdoor space has lots of natural colours and hopefully lots of sunlight, you can still use lots of colours and lights of your own. You could use solar lanterns that twinkle when it gets dark, as well as lots of shiny copper accessories, or chrome and steel for an industrial look. Alternatively, you could use mirrors and brightly patterned fabrics for a boho or Mediterranean feel.
Called to the bar
Everyone wants an outdoor bar. You don’t have to spend a fortune on it, reclaimed timber or even an upcycled door will do. As long as you have a fridge and some bar stools, you’re good to go. Get in the basics and add to your cocktail gadgets and glasses collection as you go.