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  • June, 2018 22nd

    Living the Bungalow Dream

    In the UK, bungalows tend to be found in more rural or suburban areas, where space isn’t at such a premium and houses can spread out rather than go up. Living in a bungalow does have some advantages so if you’ve never thought about one before, read on to find out more.

    Bungalows are more accessible

    Most bungalows in the UK are occupied by older people or people with mobility problems because there are no stairs to contend with. This is probably the number one advantage, although bungalows aren’t just for these demographic groups.

    They have a modern, open-plan design

    Having an open-plan interior, as most bungalows do, makes the inside feel more spacious. Bungalows can be seen as quite traditional and conservative, but being open plan makes it easier to incorporate modern, minimalist interior design.

    They sell well

    At the moment, bungalows are selling very well indeed so if you are looking to buy one, you won’t have to worry about selling it again a few years down the line. You can also think about loft conversions and extensions to make it even more attractive.

    Bungalows are usually detached

    Being detached, rather than semi-detached or terraced, offers more privacy and less noise from neighbouring properties. They often have big gardens so there’s lots of opportunity for hedges for more privacy and maybe even a vegetable patch.

    What to think about before buying a bungalow

    Can you extend the property easily or will you need to apply for planning permission?

    Is the property suitable for a loft conversion? If it is, will you still have enough storage space downstairs and upstairs?

    Is there a large plot of land attached? If there is, then you’ll have more room for extensions or garden rooms. If you’ve been looking for your ideal house for a while with no luck, then a bungalow could provide you with the chance to build it for yourself by adding extensions.

    Could you live in an open-plan setting? If you could, and you want to create a modern interior, then a bungalow could be ideal for you.

    Do you need extra accessibility? If you do, then you’ll find a single-floor dwelling much easier to convert than a two-storey house.

  • June, 2018 19th

    Tiling the Bathroom for Dummies

    Most people approach the tiling of their bathroom with optimism and enthusiasm when what they really need is a bit of advice and tuition beforehand. Spending some time learning about tiling is well worth it if you’re to avoid uneven tiles which will look out of place against your shiny new bathroom accessories.

    If you plan to re-tile your bathroom to help you to sell your property, then you really need to make sure you get it right. So, read this advice and avoid the common mistakes that can often end up with an emergency call to a professional.

    Work out how many tiles you’ll need

    You do this by measuring the area that you’ll be tiling and then working out how many tiles are needed to cover each square metre. Thankfully, tiles tend to come in boxes with this vital information included.

    Make sure the numbers match

    Always try to buy tiles with matching batch numbers as this means they’re from the same production run so there should be no variation in shade or finish.

    Choose the right grout and adhesive

    Different types of tile need different types of grout and adhesive, so make sure you get the right ones. Some natural stone tiles also need sealant and you’ll need to apply this sealant before you fix the tiles in place.

    Make sure your walls are ready

    Your walls must be as flat as possible, even if this means re-plastering or putting up new boards. It’s worth the wait as uneven walls make for uneven tiles which are even more obvious. If you need to re-plaster, leave it to dry thoroughly.

    Plan very carefully

    Look at the corners of the walls and any other places where you’ll need to use cut tiles and think about how you’ll cut them. Measure very carefully indeed and don’t rush things – you’ll be grateful in the long run.

    Find your starting point

    Use a spirit level to find the line which goes all the way around the room and make this your starting point. All your tiles will start here so that all the subsequent levels of tiles are straight. You also need to do this vertically so that the tiles are straight up as well as straight across.

    Only spread your adhesive along small areas

    At first, only spread enough adhesive along small areas of wall – enough for two or three tiles. Keep checking with your spirit level to make sure each tile is straight before placing another one.

    Use the right cutter

    Thinner tiles need only hand cutters, but larger or thicker stone tiles may need an electric cutter, especially if you need to make complicated cuts.

    Don’t grout straight away

    You need to wait for the adhesive to set and dry before grouting. You spread the grout along the lines and press it into place with a specialised tool. Once it’s dried, you can wash the tiles down to remove any grouting that’s outside its borders.

  • June, 2018 16th

    Sprucing Up on a Budget

    When it comes to putting your home on the market you know you have to make it look as good as it can and while it’s almost free to de-clutter and give the place a deep clean, you might need to do a bit more. If you need to do that little bit more with only a little bit of a budget, then here’s what you should focus your attention on.

    Paint your front door

    A really easy and cheap way to transform the front of your house is to paint the front door in a nice, bright, shiny new shade. Tidy up the porch and the front windows too, as well as either polishing or replacing the metal fixings on the door.

    A shiny door knocker against a new coat of paint makes an instant great first impression and if necessary, you can extend this sort of renovation to the inside of the house, including light switch plates.

    Bring in more light

    No-one wants a dim and dingy home, so make sure you banish the darkness from as many corners as possible by swapping out weaker bulbs for brighter ones and investing in some LED light features under kitchen cupboards and any other shadowy spots.

    If some of your lightshades are looking a bit old and tatty, head to your nearest – ahem – Scandinavian furniture store and find some modern new ones. You should also clean your windows inside and out, as well as change heavy, dark curtains for lighter ones.

    If you have a slightly less small budget, focus on the kitchen and bathroom

    House hunters look at the kitchen and bathroom more than any other rooms, so do whatever you can afford here because it’ll have a lot of impact. If you can’t afford to re-tile the bathroom, you can afford to re-grout; you can also afford to re-seal the bathtub and replace your taps with modern ones. These fixes do involve expense, but not a huge amount.

    A bit of gardening won’t break the bank

    Whether it’s summer or winter, tidying up the garden is important. You can sweep up fallen leaves, jet-wash the patio, plant some colourful flowers, mow the lawn, clear snow from the garden path, pull up weeds… Even if you just spend a Sunday weeding and cutting dead-heads, it’ll make the place look better and you can do this for free.

  • June, 2018 12th

    What to Consider Before Buying a Leasehold Property

    While leasehold properties are usually cheaper than freehold, they are more complicated and so if you’re looking at buying a leasehold property, here are five things you need to consider before proceeding.

    How long is left on the lease

    This is the most important consideration, but it’s often left out of the estate agents’ brochures. Most leasehold properties have more than 100 years left, but once the lease falls below 80 years or so, the cost of extending it rises sharply and it can be harder to get a mortgage.

    If the property you’re looking at is likely to fall below the crucial 80-year level before you’re likely to sell, then you should think about another place as it may become hard to sell. If you really want the property, then you need to note that you must have owned it for at least two years before qualifying for a statutory lease extension.

    You can ask the seller or the leaseholder to complete the lease extension for you before you buy it, but neither of these parties are obligated to do this for you.

    The cost of the ground rent

    If you’re buying a leasehold property then you’re essentially buying the remainder of a very long rental contract. This means you have to pay a small rent each year to the freeholder. Generally, it’s no more than £200 each year, but there may be a clause in the contract that makes the ground rent double every ten years or so. It’s fair enough as this rise insulates the freeholder against inflation, but an extra £200 a year might be a squeeze if you’re on a tight budget.

    What’s the service charge and what does it include?

    Most service charges are around £2,000 a year and this charge is so that the landlord can repair and maintain the communal areas of the building, like lifts and lights, as well as to employ cleaners and gardeners. It also includes insurance for the building and may also include a sinking fund that can help to cover non-routine expenses like, for example, repairing flood damage. Some sinking funds are charged separately from the service charge, so do check.

    You’ll have to pay service charges once you own the property so find out if there are any works planned and if they’re covered by the annual charges or if you’ll be liable for extra payments.

    Does the seller owe any service charges?

    If the vendor owes any service charges then you’ll become liable for them once you own the property. You can sue the vendor for breach of contract, but this isn’t always successful. If the arrears are only small, then it’s often better to settle up rather than risk expensive litigation costs.

    Your solicitor should make sure that any arrears are known about before you complete and, preferably, make sure they’re paid and get evidence of this. It’s also possible to ask the vendor’s solicitors to undertake that the arrears are settled before completion. You should ask about arrears early on so that if they look problematic you can withdraw your interest.

    How much does the Management Information Pack cost?

    The Management Information Pack contains vital information about the property and the freeholder and it’s provided by the freeholder or their agents.

    It’s the seller that has to provide it and as they can cost up to £600, it’s something you need to factor in if you’ll be selling again in another few years. At present the fee is unregulated, so it’ll probably rise year by year.

  • June, 2018 9th

    There’s a Steep Rise in BTL Re-mortgage Applications

    This year has seen a steep rise in the number of UK landlords re-mortgaging their buy-to-let properties, according to one of the BTL sector’s biggest lenders, Paragon.

    After a survey with 201 mortgage brokers, Paragon found that 52% of their buy-to-let mortgage queries and cases in Q1 of 2018 were for re-mortgaging. This is a steep rise from the 29% of BTL re-mortgages back in Q1 of 2015, just before the announcement of the phasing out of the tax relief on BTL mortgage interest.

    A fall in first-time BTL mortgage applications

    The same period of time has also witnessed a drop in the number of mortgage applications from first-time landlords – the fall is from 19% to 13% of total BTL applications. There’s also been a fall in the number of landlords re-mortgaging so they have more funds available to buy new BTL properties – this type of re-mortgaging has fallen to 22% from 39%.

    A big change in the air

    Back in early 2015, there were almost equal numbers of landlords who were re-mortgaging for better interest rates as there were for more capital. In early 2018, however, the emphasis has shifted onto securing better interest rates, with 60% of landlords stating this as their main reason for re-mortgaging.

    The number of landlords re-mortgaging to raise capital to expand their portfolios has fallen to 30%, so the gulf between landlords looking to secure decent interest rates and those looking to buy more properties is at its widest since 2013.

    Landlords are adapting to new circumstances

    There are several factors that are leading to landlords applying to re-mortgage right now. There’s the running out of the first terms of mortgages taken out before the stamp duty changes on second properties for a start. Then there’s worry over potential rate hikes coming in the future, as well as a need to lower the amount of money spent on interest so that applications pass the stricter new affordability tests.

    All in all, it seems that the BTL sector is facing challenges, but that savvy landlords are finding ways to meet them.

  • June, 2018 6th

    Focus on Your Garden If You Want to Sell

    Selling your home in the summer months can be really quite easy if you know what you’re doing. The UK’s short but glorious summers mean that drawing as much attention as possible to your garden is vital if you want a quick sale.

    No matter how big or small, or what shape your outside space is, making the most of it is key to finding a buyer. However, you need to work out how to play to your garden’s strengths and minimise its weaknesses. You shouldn’t just run out and splurge your cash at the nearest garden centre as that life-size replica of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue might not suit your postage stamp-size lawn…

    You won’t be able to fit in all the features you want, though, unless you have acres of rolling land at your disposal. Choose between a pond and a gazebo, or a cosy seating area and an outdoor kitchen, because chances are you don’t have room for both.

    Think logically

    You need to see which parts of your garden get the most sunlight, which bits are sheltered from colder winds and which are just perfect all year round. The sunnier parts could have seating and optional shade and the cooler areas could have that outdoor kitchen, for example.

    No matter how small your garden is, it can take a path and a small decked or paved area. You need some paving so that you don’t come straight out into damp grass during the rainier months. Paths also add interest and can make the space seem larger and more complex, especially if you make sure the flowers and grass next to them are kept neat and tidy.

    Draw in the city people

    It seems that spacious but low-maintenance gardens really attract people who are moving out of cities, so if you’re rural, semi-rural or in a market town, then your garden could be a major feature for folks moving out of London. Many people are so keen to have a bigger outside space that they’ll make compromises on the size of the house!

  • June, 2018 3rd

    What Prompts Brits to Sell Up?

    There are lots of factors that give UK homeowners itchy feet, but it seems that a major driver is envy, according to research by upholstery retailer Hillary’s. People can be so envious of friends’ and relatives’ homes that they decide to move to keep up with them.

    If it’s not envy, it’s a search for more bedrooms, more living space and a lower-maintenance sort of gaff.

    Hillary’s approached almost 2,500 UK adults who owned their home with a partner and asked them how they felt their place compared to those of their friends and family.

    The biggest response, at 42% was people claiming they were happy with their home but felt it was still a work in progress. Just over a third (35%) said their place was exactly how they wanted it and 23% said it they still had a lot of work to do.

    Ambitions, but no action

    Even though the majority of respondents said they still had lots to do, only 21% were actually walking the walk. The people who weren’t getting on with improvements said that either a lack of money (46%) or a lack of inspiration (29%) was putting them off.

    The green-eyed monster

    A huge 71% of the survey respondents said they envied their friends and family their possessions and interior décor. Looking at other peoples’ homes online and watching loved ones declutter or renovate were likely to provoke envy as well.

    This can be a good motivator, though. If you see the results of your friends’ DIY efforts then it can spur you on and give you ideas. Similarly, browsing a property portal can make you want to move, especially if you’re looking at bigger places.

    For one in eight, 12%, of the survey respondents, that feeling of envy caused them to actually take the plunge and put their home on the market. Most often, this happened within six months of the envy setting in.

    Envy isn’t a great emotion most of the time, but in this case, if it forces people to improve or change their home, it can work out well for everyone involved.

  • June, 2018 1st

    Government Steps to Prevent Sales Falling Through

    Property transactions are notoriously plagued by delays, hitches, gazumping and gazundering and, at worst, complete collapses.

    The HomeOwners Alliance found recently that more than 300,000 property deals fall through each year and almost 70% of these failures are down to buyers pulling out.

    Around a fifth of vendors have had their buyers pull out of the transaction and the usual reason is because they’ve found another property or they’ve simply changed their minds (39%). Sometimes it’s because they can’t get the finance (28%) and other times it’s due to a failure further up in the chain (20%). Gazundering is responsible for 8% of transaction failures.

    Government help

    The government is introducing new measures to reduce the number of failed property transactions, including introducing voluntary reservation agreements. These are legally-binding agreements that involve both buyer and seller placing non-refundable deposits at an early stage of the proceedings to show their commitment. This won’t prevent all sales falling through, but it will certainly discourage some people from just changing their minds or gazundering. Vendors will be more willing to accept offers from buyers if they feel more protected against time-wasters and gazundering.

    Many sellers feel that buyers have all the power at the moment; they’re able to make a lower offer at a late stage, or just leave the process with no recourse on the part of the vendor. Naturally, vendors would like more reassurance.

    More onus on the buyers

    The HomeOwners Alliance found that 80% of the people it asked thought that buyers should have to show they have the funding before they put in an offer. Almost two-thirds of the respondents like the idea of the reservation agreement, too.

    Of course, there are other factors that can bring down a sale, like chains breaking or a survey that reveals hitherto unknown problems, but these are seen as “fair” reasons and they don’t happen frequently enough to deter buyers or sellers.

    Thankfully, only 6% of sales fail because the agent can’t find a buyer and a similarly low percentage fail because there’s a legal problem during conveyance. Most failures are down to entirely preventable issues –buyers deciding they don’t like the place that much after all or not sorting out their finances beforehand.

    Having a voluntary reservation agreement won’t offer 100% security to vendors and sellers, but it will hugely reduce the incidences of time-wasting and also force buyers to get their financial ducks in a row before starting their search.

  • May, 2018 18th

    Summer Selling!

    Traditionally, summer was one of the worst times of year to sell a property. The school holidays and actual going-on-holiday-type holidays used to get in the way of a serious selling campaign so many people used to wait until autumn to get moving.

    However, going to market just before or during the summer can make life a lot easier and can mean you’re in your new house before the days start to get shorter. This is how you make the most of the warmest season.

    Use the sunlight to get some amazing photos

    The flowers are in bloom, sunlight is streaming through the windows and the sky above your roof is cerulean blue. Perfect! Clean those windows, mow the lawn, water your hanging baskets and prepare to get snapping.

    Or rather, get a professional in to do your photos so you have the right lighting, the right angles, and the right editing. You’re (almost) literally making hay while the sun shines.

    Your ‘For Sale’ board will be particularly effective

    Around 20% of enquiries come from people who’ve seen the ‘For Sale’ sign outside a house or flat. More people are out and about in the warmth and extra daylight, so more people will see it and hopefully get on the phone within minutes. Make sure you get a sign put up as soon as possible.

    Use an enhanced listing

    More and more people are finding their new homes online so a well-photographed and crafted listing, allied with the extra footfall that summer can bring, can generate a lot of interest. If you go one step further and upgrade your listing, you could be packing for more than just your holiday…

    Go ahead and book a holiday

    You might think that you have to stay around all summer to receive viewings and give instructions but it doesn’t have to be the case. There are virtual house tours that can give interested parties a taste of your property no matter where they are or where you are.

    You can also ask your estate agent to keep in touch online while you’re abroad and to conduct viewings, too. Think about it, you’re lying on a beach rather than messing up your house in between viewings, so how could things be any better?

  • May, 2018 16th

    UK House Price Round-up

    Depending on which index you look at, house prices may be falling, rising, staying stagnant or wavering about all over the place. It’s a much better idea to have a look at a brief round-up if you want a clearer picture.

    House prices are still on the rise

    Across the nation, property prices are still going up – they rose 0.3% in March this year and they’re up by 2.5% from February 2017.

    This is reflected in property portal Rightmove reporting a 1.5% increase, the Halifax reporting a 0.4% rise and the Nationwide and Land Registry recording falls of 0.2% and 0.1%.

    What about the regions?

    Across the nation, house prices have gone up but in London, they’ve fallen by 1.0%. The fastest rates of growth have been in the West Midlands, with 7.3%, followed by the East Midlands at 6.3% annually. Monthly, the north of England and the Midlands are the fastest movers.

    Enquiries and instructions have slowed down

    March this year was the 12th month in a row that new buyer enquiries dropped and the numbers of properties on agents’ books are very low. Rightmove says there were 5.0% fewer properties for sale in March this year than in March last year and they’re also taking longer to sell.

    More property withdrawals

    The Royal Institution of Charted Surveyors (RICS) in London says there are more properties being withdrawn from the market than there was a year ago.

    The number of sales fell in February this year

    This seems to be because of the relative lack of choice on the market, with home sales falling by 0.3% between January and February and by 0.7% since February 2017. This might look gloomy, but if you can add choice to the market by putting your property on it, this could work in your favour because a lot of new properties will attract a lot of interest simply because of the slim pickings available right now.

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