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  • January, 2020 13th

    Improve or Move? The Choice is Yours

    It’s quite possible to suddenly look around your home and feel that it’s too small, stale, boring or too big. What was once your cosy nest is feeling tired and cramped, or empty and echoey, so you start to think about moving. Should you stay and improve your space instead, though?

    The advantages of improving

    You can personalise the place more and probably add some value. By renovating or remodelling your home, you can really make it yours, or bring it up to date so that when you do decide to sell, you’ll get a better price for it.

    Do bear in mind, though, that your home will have a ceiling price, dictated by the area, that even the most amazing improvements won’t break through. You should make the improvements for yourself as much as for profit.

    The disadvantages

    No matter what improvements you make, your home will still be in the same locale, so if it’s the area you’re unhappy with, that won’t change much.

    Renovations are really messy and stressful, too. They’re also messy and stressful for a few months. If you’re having your kitchen ripped out and remodelled, you may be eating ramen for weeks!

    The advantages of moving

    You get an amazing new home without piles of rubble or doing the washing up in the bath. You could also have a bigger (or smaller) space to match the stage of life you’re at, a better layout, bigger garden or better amenities like schools.

    The disadvantages

    You might have to move and still do some work

    You may be moving into a doer-upper, or somewhere that has an “interesting” range of interiors that really do need some new paint. In this scenario, you have the stress of moving and then the stress and effort of decorating or remodelling.

    Moving can also be very expensive, usually over £10,000 at least. The money you spend on a move doesn’t add to the eventual value of your new home – stamp duty, solicitor’s fees, the removal people – all this money vanishes into the ether as soon as you’ve parted with it.

    So, what to do?

    If you’re genuinely on the horns of a dilemma, then it’s a good idea to find out what a move is likely to cost and where you could move to so you know what you’re spending and what you’ll get.

    Similarly, you should find out what improvements you can make, both in terms of cost and in practicability. Talk to builders and architects, as well as your planning office, to see what’s possible and how it can improve your life and your eventual selling price.

  • 13th

    Dealing with Mice in Your Property

    During the winter, mice and rats will look for a warm place to wait it out and once rodents start to consider your home theirs, they can be hard to get rid of.

    While you might feel sorry for them and sympathise with their search for a warm home for themselves and their families, mice and rats can cause serious problems. They can chew through wires, damage walls and woodwork and leave droppings and urine behind, which can be a health hazard as well as smelly.

    Here’s how to get rid of rodents and keep them at bay.

    Find out where they’re living

    Mice and rats are creatures of habit. They’ll hide during the day and follow the same trails around your home at night, so sprinkle flour on your kitchen floor and look out for footprints and trails in the morning. When you see where they’re living, you can concentrate your efforts in the right place.

    Locate and fill in holes in walls and cupboards

    This is more preventative than anything, especially when it comes to external walls. However, blocking access to food cupboards makes your kitchen less attractive to guests and may see them move on elsewhere.

    Always seal up food, even dry goods, in sturdy containers and tins

    It’s also important to clean up your kitchen surfaces before you go to bed, as even a few crumbs or smears of butter will attract rodents. Similarly, clean up pet food bowls at night too.

    Make sure your outdoor bins are secure

    If your bins fall over or have wonky lids, mice, rats and even foxes will make a beeline for them.

    Remove or fill in any cavities in your property

    A hollow wall, an empty cupboard or a loose floorboard will provide a safe nesting area for rodents, to block, seal and fill anything that might look like a des res.

    Set traps if you have a recurring problem

    There are humane traps on the market, as well as devices that create high-pitched noises to deter rodents from settling.

    Introduce some feline pest-control

    Buy a cat – or borrow one for a couple of weeks – to reduce the population and scare off any tiny would-be tenants. Sometimes the old-fashioned solutions are the best, and you don’t have to lift a finger yourself!

  • 13th

    How to Work with Your Estate Agent

    You might think that once you’ve engaged your estate agent that all you need to do is primp the cushions and wait for your agent to bring in all the viewings and the offers.

    This isn’t quite so, though. There’s a lot that you can do to make your agent’s job easier and your place sell faster.

    Tidy up, inside and outside

    Outside is actually just as important as inside, as kerb appeal has a huge effect on potential buyers as they drive past your property or walk up your garden path.

    Make sure the garden looks neat and tidy, with no rusty old kids’ bikes or leaf-dotted paddling pools lying around. Paint your front door if necessary and plant some quick-blooming flowers in the beds or in tubs.

    When it comes to the inside, you should start to depersonalise the place as soon as you go on the market. Remove fridge magnets, children’s artwork, photos, magazines and so on – you could see this as the start of the packing process. You should also take care not to cook any strong-smelling foods before viewings and if your agent suggests taking a wall back to a neutral colour, you should listen.

    Make arrangements for your pets

    If you have dogs or cats, it might be an idea to have a neighbour look after them during viewings. Stranger pets, like snakes or spiders, may need to be concealed from view or rehomed for a while and it’s especially important to remove all evidence of feed bowls and beds, as they can generate unpleasant smells.

    Never turn down a viewing

    Always be ready for a viewing! This means keeping the place at a minimum level of tidiness so that when the call comes, all you have to do is run the vacuum cleaner over the floors, stack the dishwasher and then head out.

    Do you need to be there?

    Most viewers feel more comfortable if the owners are out, because they can talk freely without worrying about offending you. They can also ask awkward questions that the estate agent can answer, or discuss problems and come up with solutions.

    If there’s a second viewing, the agent might want you there to meet the prospective buyers, as you can talk about your property in more detail and get a feel for one another.

    Always let your agent know if you’re going away

    have a key to your property, but if you’re going away, then let your estate agent know if you’re still accepting viewings. It’s also useful, if the place is unoccupied for a few days, for the agent to come in and turn on the heating and pick up post before the viewing starts.

    Get all your paperwork together

    You will get an offer at some point and so you should be ready to go. Collect together the reports and paperwork from any building work, your energy certificates, deeds, warranties for the boiler and so on, as well as a list of everything that you’ll be leaving behind for the buyer.

    Have a solicitor and conveyancing company ready

    Your agent might be able to recommend a solicitor to you, or you may already have someone in mind. If you haven’t, however, then start looking for one as soon as possible because you can’t progress your sale without the legal help. It’s important to choose a solicitor who gets along with your estate agent, too, as a good working relationship makes everything move along more smoothly.

    Find a new home

    This might seem like a ridiculous piece of advice, but if you suddenly get a great offer and your buyers can proceed quickly, then you’ll need somewhere to move to. A sale can be derailed by the seller not being quite ready enough, so have a few places lined up, and even be prepared to move into a short-let if necessary.

  • 13th

    Tips for Remodelling Your Bathroom

    Renovating a bathroom is a bit more daunting than most other rooms, except for maybe the kitchen, because you can’t easily move the fittings around once they’re plumbed in. This is why you have to plan ahead and plan very carefully. Here are some pointers to help you to make it a success.

    Plan your layout and don’t deviate from it

    When you lay out the sanitaryware, try to keep everything pretty much where it is now so that you don’t incur extra plumbing costs. If you don’t mind the additional pipework and the expense, then you can move things around more, but it’s always best to keep the toilet in place so that it’s connected to the wastepipe.

    Once you’ve got your design, run it past a tiler, an electrician and a plumber to make sure you haven’t created any issues for them.

    Find an electrician early on

    You need any wiring to be done early on in the project so that the plumber or builder know what they’re working around. Make sure you choose an electrician from a directory of reputable tradesmen.

    Mix cheaper and more premium fittings to save money

    You should choose white items and shop around different suppliers to get the best deals. Some things, however, you shouldn’t skimp on. Shower trays need to be well-made and sturdy so that they don’t bend and break their seals, for example.

    Keep it simple

    The simpler the design, the less it should cost. Avoid steps, plinths, fancy mouldings and overly ornate fittings, as these not only cost more but they date rapidly.

    Bring in a bit of tech

    Now’s your chance to install that waterproof TV! Or, at least, some smart lighting and an automatic curtain puller. Anything involving electricity needs to be factored in at the start, remember.

    Always buy the best brassware you can afford

    If you skimp on the concealed pipes that lead into your shower or tap mixer, for example, then you’ll just have to replace them all the sooner, which may involve a bit of expensive dismantling.

    CONCEAL PIPEWORK

    Hide the pipes

    For a modern, clean look, your pipes should be hidden under flooring, in the ceiling and in some boxing. Hiding these elements away makes tiling and flooring easier, but you need the important bits to be accessible for repairs.

    Remember ventilation

    Bathrooms are damp places, so if there’s no window, or if you don’t like opening yours in the winter, then you’ll need a decent ventilation system to prevent damp, condensation and mould.

    Stay warm

    If you’re making your bathroom bigger, you may need more heating. This could come from a bigger radiator, a heated towel rail or underfloor heating. Another thing to remember is, if you’re plumbing in extra sanitaryware, to make sure the water pressure won’t be affected.

    Add in some storage

    The last thing you want in your new bathroom is piles of damp towels, rows of bottles, scourers and so on. Make sure you have enough storage space to keep cleaning products out of sight and enough rails to keep damp towels off the floor.

  • December, 2019 16th

    Tips for Your First Christmas in a New Home

    The idea of a Christmas-time house move might bring many people out in a cold sweat, but it doesn’t have to be a horror story at all. With a bit of forward-planning and a willingness to think outside of your usual (packing) box, your first Christmas in your new home can be as fun as it is memorable. Here’s six tips to help you have a happy holiday.

    Book your movers ASAP

    As there may be fewer people moving at Christmas, many removals companies are taking a well-deserved break. You shouldring around to find someone who doesn’t mind booking in a bit of extra business before they get too comfortable with the idea of watching Die Hard with a Bailey’s by their side.

    Transport your presents and decorations in your own vehicle

    If there’s a delay with the removals lorries due to bad weather, you might be left without your presents and baubles for a couple of days, so keep these essentials with you.

    Familiarise yourself with your new oven

    Every oven has its own personality. Fact. You don’t want to be messing up your turkey, beef or goose by taking a chance with an unfamiliar beast. If you can bake a few batches of biscuits, roast a chicken or two and fiddle with the hob so you know your new oven’s foibles, you can be more confident of a great dinner on the big day.

    Do a recce of the local shops

    If you’re moving to a new area entirely, then spend an afternoon wandering the local shops, including the little independents and corner shops, so that you know who’s selling wrapping paper and last-minute gifts, as you will run out…

    Make sure you’re ready for guests

    If you’re hosting a family member or two, then get the spare room ready for them, at least at a basic level. If it really does all feel too much, however, then check out a local hotel or B’n’B and book them in.

    Be ready to let one or two things slide

    There’s so much pressure on everyone to create the perfect Christmas, but you’ve just moved house! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then have a side of smoked salmon instead of turkey, or buy in a ready-made Yuletide spread. You could even just forget the whole thing for once and head out for a lunch at a local gastropub or just put your feet up with a glass of wine and a soppy film.

    Do whatever it takes to make life easier and, above all, enjoy the experience!

  • December, 2019 6th

    The Best Estate Agent Jokes

    Property is a serious business, with thousands of professionals up and down the country all working hard to make moves happen. Everyone – buyers, sellers and agents – get stressed from time to time, so what’s needed is a few minutes to laugh at the property industry and the people in it…

    An enterprising agent

    A small-town estate agent was appalled to turn up to the office one day to see a rival agency opening next door. Even worse, the new agency had “The lowest commissions in town” emblazoned over the door.

    The following week, another agency opened on the other side, promising clients the “Fastest sales in town”. Not to be deterred, the first estate agent fixed a new sign over his door which read “Main entrance”.

    What’s in the belfry?

    How is an estate agent similar to a bat?

    They’re both all about the echolocation, location, location.

    Traditional values

    What does a British estate agent care about most in life?

    His proper-tea.

    Not the sharpest tool in the box

    A particularly daft burglar was boasting to his friend about his latest “job”.

    “I ram-raided a shop and made off with 15 paintings. They’re all worth hundreds of thousands of pounds! Look at this one, it’s worth half a million!”

    “You didn’t burgle an art gallery,” his friend replied. “You hit an estate agency!”

    Is it too soon?

    A family cleared the house of their grandma. They had a productive day, listing some of her possessions on eBay, donating others to charity and then finally, putting the property on the market.

    When she got home from bingo, Gran had a few choice words to say.

    Some jokes just bug you

    How many insects do you need to rent out an apartment?

    Tenants.

    And finally, a cheeky one

    Two friends were walking through a cemetery when they came across a headstone that read:

    “Here lies Walter Smith, an estate agent and an honest man”

    “Blimey,” said one friend to the other: “They buried two people in here,”

  • 6th

    Get Your Best Side – Preparing Your Home for a Photoshoot

    People make up their minds in seconds when they’re looking at properties on a website and so you must make the right impression when your interior photos are taken.

    Having the best photos possible can get your property a few extra online views, which often translates into real-life views and hopefully some offers.

    How to get ready for your photoshoot

    Make the most of the light

    Hopefully it’ll be a sunny or at least clear day when the photos are taken, which will help to show off your exterior as much as possible.

    Sunlight also works indoors, so try to time your photoshoot for when the most light comes into your home.

    Declutter outside

    Move any vehicles or trailers from your immediate kerbside and hide any bins, hoses, wormeries and kids’ toys. Mow the lawn and make sure the windows are clean inside and out.

    Tidy your reception rooms

    Swap out scruffy old sofa throws for some neater ones; if you need to buy new ones for the shoot, then do so. Bring in some vibrant new cushions as well if necessary and arrange them to look tidy and attractive.

    You can also set your dining room table with your best ware, but remove rugs if you have attractive wooden or tiled flooring. If you have a kids’ toy corner, or piles of magazines, make sure they’re all out of sight, even if it means shifting them out of shot a few times!

    General tips

    You can remove some items of furniture for the shoot and rearrange the remaining ones so that the room looks more spacious. Bring in some fresh flowers and a fruit bowl to inject life and colour.

    Increase the amount of light in your rooms, both by using brighter lightbulbs and opening curtains further.

    Your bedrooms

    Make each bed neatly and use bedclothes that are new, modern and in keeping with the overall style of the house.

    If you store anything under your beds, make sure they’re out of sight and shut wardrobe doors and drawers.

    Your kitchen

    The kitchen is the heart of the home and so you should take extra care here. Clear all of your worktops and remove most appliances, except for “fancy” and shiny items like premium blenders, chrome slow-cookers and coffee machines. No baby bottle sterilisers or dented bread-bins.

    Remove all fridge magnets and clean the front of the fridge and freezer, as well as any other white goods. Keep cupboards and drawers shut, hide bins, pet bowls, litter trays and neglected washing up!

    The bathrooms

    The toilet lids should be down and there should be no evidence of toilet roll, brushes or cleaning products. Similarly, remove toothbrushes, squidgy soap bars and shower gels from the sink and bath. If you have a shelf for towels in your bathroom, make sure that you have clean, fluffy, luxurious-looking towels in it, all folded or rolled so they look their best.

  • 6th

    Getting the Most Out of a Box Room

    Moving into a house with a box room can often fill people – especially if you have to explain the small space to a younger sibling – with dread. Handled properly, though, that small space can be an appealing and comfortable retreat.

    Here’s some great ideas to make the most of your smallest room.

    Limit your colours

    Lots of colours can make the room feel like it’s closing in, so try to keep most surfaces one colour. It doesn’t have to be all white, but make sure any colours you do bring in are well-considered and not overwhelming.

    Let enough light in

    Use blinds instead of bulky thick curtains if you can. Big curtains can close in a space and they do actually take up space, which is a big deal in a small room. It’s also important that when the curtains or blinds are open, they expose as much of the window as possible.

    Use storage smartly

    Use floor-to-ceiling storage and always be on the look-out for creative and space-saving ideas. A high-rise bed with a desk, drawers and wardrobe is a go-to solution, as well as windowsill shelves and hanging baskets.

    Use the space directly under the windows

    Many of us assume that the space in front of and under the window is sacrosanct, but it can work really well. Tuck a bed right under it, or a chair or desk. If you’re using blinds rather than curtains, you’ll be able to get pretty much flush with the wall.

    Put up some mirror tiles

    Tiles, rather than a hung mirror, save space and help to create the illusion of space, especially if they cover a large part of the wall.

    Invest in some customised furniture

    Most UK furniture is made for bedrooms that are bigger than a box room. Having some items that are measured and designed to work in a smaller space is really effective, especially if each item performs more than one function. For example, the headboard of a bed could feature some bookshelves or small drawers.

  • 6th

    What You Must Disclose When You’re Selling

    It’s understandable that when you’re selling your property, you’ll want to make it look as good as it can look so you get a rapid sale and a decent (or even great) price. In the UK, you have to disclose everything about your property to potential buyers and this includes the good, the bad and the ugly.

    You may be tempted to cover up or “forget” the downsides of the property so that buyers don’t reduce their offer or withdraw it altogether, but this is against the law.

    You must tell the truth and the whole truth…

    As a seller, you’re obligated to declare everything about the property, including the positive and negative details. Buyers need to have all the information available in order to make an objective decision.

    What you must declare when selling

    There are lots of forms to complete when you’re selling your property and one of them is the Property Information Form (TA6). This is one of the first documents you’ll fill out and you can get help from the explanatory notes published by The Law Society. TA6 is written so that you can fill it out without referring to other material.

    Here’s what you’ll need to detail in TA6

    • property boundaries and boundary features;
    • any disputes with or complaints from neighbours;
    • any notices;
    • any alterations, planned developments or permissions;
    • guarantees and warranties on any appliances or structures within the property;
    • the council tax band;
    • any environmental issues;
    • any formal or informal arrangements;
    • the details of any occupiers or tenants;
    • the transaction information;
    • services to the property, including drainage, gas and electricity;
    • the reasons for previous sales falling through (if any);
    • any planned developments nearby;
    • any known structural issues, and
    • whether there have been any burglaries in the area recently.

    It’s vital that you’re honest while filling out this form so that there are no delays or further queries throughout the process. The answers you give will actually form part of the contract of sale, so think carefully. If you don’t know the answer to some of the questions, then answer with <> rather than guess.

  • 6th

    Who Controls the Thermostat in a Rented Property?

    It’s set to be a particularly cold winter in Cheltenham this year, with the mercury regularly hovering around zero at night. Keeping your home warm enough is often a concern for people, especially if you’re worried about a huge electricity or gas bill in the New Year.

    If you actually have control of your heating and thermostat then you’re lucky compared to some tenants in the UK, who don’t have access to the controls for their heating and hot water.

    Is it legal for a landlord to control the thermostat in one of their properties?

    It all depends on the terms of the tenancy. If the tenants are responsible for the utility bills then they should have control of the thermostat in the dwelling. If they run up a big bill, that’s their responsibility.

    However, if the tenancy includes bills, then the landlord can control the thermostat, but only to a reasonable degree. If the internal temperature of a dwelling falls below 19C, the risks of health problems increase, rising even more sharply at 16C and under.

    The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 states that all residential tenancies granted or renewed after March 20 2019 must be free from hazards. If the landlord refuses to raise the temperature or increase the hours of heating, then tenants can take action against them.

    Negotiation is always best

    Anyone living in a tenancy that includes bills can and should approach the landlord during cold spells to make sure that the property is adequately heated. It may be that the landlord pays a fixed amount on gas and electricity each month throughout the year to cover the changes in demand, in which case they’ll be happy to increase the heat.

    If this isn’t the case, then tenants could offer to make extra monthly payments to cover the increase in gas or electricity consumption. It may be tempting to circumvent the thermostat altogether and buy electric heaters to warm up the dwelling, as this offers some independence. If there’s a huge gas bill that the landlord is liable for, however, then he or she could put up the rent permanently or even apply to evict the tenants.

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