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  • August, 2019 23rd

    How to Beat a Slow Market

    If you hear about the market being slow, then you might feel it’s not worth putting your place up for sale at all. You might be worried that you’ll be stuck, waiting for viewings for months and then lowering your asking price to a level that just doesn’t work for you.

    It doesn’t have to be this way, though. By following these tips, you can get ahead of a slow market.

    Choose the best estate agent

    Make sure you get the best estate agent possible. Ask friends and family for recommendations and comb through reviews. You need someone who’s proactive and who can offer something above and beyond the competition.

    Have a reasonable asking price

    Your estate agent wants to sell your place, so if they’re recommending a particular price point, it’s because they know it’ll work. They’re also going to take into account the prevailing market conditions, which may result in a slightly lower price than you hoped for, but if you’re looking to sell, you may have to accept this.

    Realise that you’re in a cycle

    So, your asking price is lower than you wanted… Well, so is pretty much everyone else’s! If you’re £10,000 below your ideal, see if you can’t knock a similar amount off the place you buy. Your sellers will be in the same position, because they’re trying to make moves in exactly the same market.

    You can also help yourself by looking for a property that’s been hanging around for a while; the sellers might be delighted to hear from you.

    Make the most of what you’ve got

    Do what you can for as little money as possible. Choose cheap but effective DIY projects so that you get as much improvement as possible without eating into your eventual profits.

    Stay out of the way when you have viewings, too, as this can make you look desperate and also cause prospective buyers to rush through the place without really looking.

    Be quick off the mark

    Make sure your paperwork is all sorted out and that you’re in a good position to proceed. If you’re up against a similar property, the fact that you’re ready to move forward could tip the balance in your favour.

    Have all the information about your energy performance, your warranties for appliances and so on all collated, as well as all the forms that your buyers’ solicitors will need. It might even be a good idea to get your own survey done so that you can present it to buyers, saving them money and you time.

    Be patient

    It’s not called a slow market for nothing. You can only work with what you have and if this involves waiting for longer than average, then you’ll have to accept that.

  • 23rd

    Does Overpaying Your Mortgage Pay Off?

    If you overpay your mortgage you can save money by lowering the balance of your home loan and also by reducing the amount of interest you’ll have paid by the end. You could be mortgage-free several years ahead of schedule.

    You can either make a one-off payment, for example if you have a windfall or inheritance, or make smaller payments on a regular basis, with your monthly payment, maybe. Improving your loan-to-value ratio by reducing your outstanding balance usually means you get preferential interest rates when you refinance, which helps you to save even more.

    Use an overpayment calculator

    Overpayment calculators look at how long it’ll take you to pay off your mortgage at your “usual” rate and also at your overpayment rate. You’ll also find out how much interest you’ll pay over the lifetime of the loan.

    Overpaying your mortgage can be better than putting money into a savings account; you’ll be paying less money at your mortgage’s interest rate, which could work out better than leaving your savings to grow at currently very low savings rates.

    Making overpayments

    Many mortgages have limits on the amounts you can overpay annually, usually 10% of your existing balance. Some let you pay more than this before penalising you, so do check.

    If you go over this limit, you may have to pay penalty fees which can eat into or even negate your savings, so call your provider to find out where you stand and how much you can pay in each year.

    How to make overpayments

    You can create an additional standing order or direct debit each month, or simply increase the amount that comes out at your statutory repayment. Alternatively, you might pay in a lump sum once a year or even a one-off windfall. You simply have to phone your provider and be ready with your card.

    The potential drawbacks

    Your lender may apply penalties

    This may be the case even with smaller overpayments, so make sure you’re not running to stand still. If you have the cash to spare, it’ll be better off in a savings account in these circumstances.

    Could the money be put to better use?

    If you have credit cards or loans with a higher interest rate, then your extra money should be diverted there instead.

    What will the money actually pay off?

    If you have a repayment mortgage, then make sure the money comes off the principal balance, not the interest.

    If your mortgage is interest-only, then all you’ll be doing is paying off more interest. To pay down your principal amount, you’ll have to talk to your lender.

    You may not have enough contingency cash

    Not all mortgages will let you redraw overpayments or take mortgage holidays, so even if you’ve made big overpayments, you won’t be able to get the money back in emergencies. If you think you might need to do this, then look for a flexible mortgage, as this will let you access the “extra” cash.

  • 23rd

    Tips for Downsizing Successfully

    It may be that the kids have left home or that you’re simply trying to live with less, in a smaller space, to save money. Whatever your reasons for downsizing are, you can make a bigger success of it by following these tips.

    Make a thorough inventory of your possessions

    In order to downsize, you’ll almost certainly have to part with some of your belongings, so go through everything and decide whether to keep, bin or donate things.

    This can be the hardest part of downsizing, though, because possessions carry a lot of memories and emotions. It’s important to recognise whether you need an item or whether you want it because of the associations it carries. It’s the not-quite-essential items with associations that are the trickiest because some of them will have to go.

    One idea is to distribute a few of them among friends and family so they’re still in circulation. Take some photos and send them to F&F to see which ones get snapped up.

    Get rid of duplicates

    This is one of the easiest tasks. If you have four different sets of salad servers, pare them down to your favourite two. Do the same with wine glasses, chairs, picnic blankets and jars of paprika until you’ve created an impressively large pile, which can then go to charity or F&F.

    Have a yard giveaway

    Some things aren’t going to sell and aren’t worth the effort of listing on a freebie site, even. However, lots of people can’t resist a roadside giveaway, so kick your items to the kerb (with a “Free to a Good Home” sign) and most of them will be gone in a day or two. Job done.

    Get creative with storage space

    There’s bound to be a few things that you can’t part with, even if they’re not necessary, so buy some new items of furniture with built-in storage so that you’re still able to fit into your smaller new space.

    Put your best items and possessions in your new cupboards and closets

    Fill up your new storage space with your best possessions so that you know you’re using the space you’ll have to its best advantage. If you find you’re left with less-than-optimal stuff that doesn’t fit in, then you know you have further to go with your decluttering.

    Measure twice, throw out once

    You might find that the dimensions of your new place make decisions for you when it comes to keeping or discarding furniture and other items. If your corner sofa simply won’t fit, then you know what to do.

  • 23rd

    How to View an Empty Property

    An empty property can often be overlooked or rejected by house hunters because, well, it’s empty. People may wonder what’s wrong with it for it to be unoccupied and also ask themselves how long it’s been “abandoned” for…

    It’s possible that it’s the lack of furniture and “life” in the place puts off lots of potential buyers; whatever the reason, unoccupied houses and flats just don’t get the same amount of attention as busy, inhabited properties.

    If you’ve spotted an empty house on the market and you’re feeling uncertain about putting an offer in or even viewing it, consider these tips before dismissing it out of hand.

    Think about the bigger picture

    The photos you see, and the physical structure you might go to view aren’t hiding anything. There are no curtains hiding a damp patch or rugs laid over dodgy floorboards, so you can see the place in all its glory (or not…), which allows you to make an honest appraisal.

    Just use a bit of imagination

    You know, the thing that’s like Photoshop, but is in your brain. Many people can’t see past the existing décor and furniture and so can’t put their own stamp on the place. One of the good things about an empty property is that it removes one layer (as it were) of difficulty, offering you a blank canvas to work with, rather than having to ignore the people and possessions already in the property.

    There’s probably no chain

    There’s more chance of a straightforward sale with an empty property, because you don’t have to wait for the owner to complete on their purchase. It also gives you more flexibility over your moving-in date, with far less risk of a fall-through.

    The place may be unoccupied for a good reason

    It’s almost certainly NOT haunted! The chances are that the place is empty because the owners have moved overseas for new jobs, or it’s a second home they’re looking to sell to release funds. Relax!

  • August, 2019 13th

    Five Things You CAN’T Ignore During a Renovation

    Everyone likes to think that they could turn their hand to property development – and turn a handy profit while doing so (sorry). It’s certainly more than possible, but you have to become something of a control freak to really make it work. There are dozens of things to think about and dozens of things to avoid. There are also five definite factors that you have to pay attention to right from the start.

    Your mortgage

    As in, can you actually get one. It’s great that you’ve found your ideal doer-upper, but as it doesn’t actually have a functioning roof, your lender might not want to approve your application. If it’s a real wreck, you might have to look elsewhere for funding.

    You might have your own money upfront anyway, or you may be able to go into partnership with another investor. There’s always the possibility of a bridging loan, although these can be expensive.

    Your best bet is to start off by talking to a mortgage broker to see what your options are and what state your property has to be in to be eligible for such financing. This will give you a good idea as to how it’s all going to be paid for.

    Your budget

    Quite simply, this comes down to looking at how much you’re buying the place for, how much you’ll be spending on it to bring it to market and then how much you’ll (probably) sell it for. Those numbers have to make sense.

    Then again, even with those numbers, that’s not everything… You may come to market at a low-point, there may be hidden expenses (actually, there will be hidden expenses because there always is) or you may be on the market for longer than anticipated. All of these scenarios will eat into your profits, so when you’re doing your budget, you need to look at the worst-case scenario and still be reasonably happy with your profit.

    Your escape route

    You need a Plan A and a Plan B. You also need a Plan C, which is often an exit strategy to let you get out of the entire process or another tactic to help you to make a profit.

    A good example of this is an investor who has secured a property and the renovations are going great, but there’s a huge downturn in the sales market for that type of property in that area. The investor is paying a mortgage each month and so needs to make it work. The two options are to sell it for a smaller profit to another developer or to rent the place out so that the mortgage is paid. When the market picks up, he or she can think again about selling.

    Your contingency budget

    You always need a contingency budget because there’s always something extra that you need to spend extra money on. You might find that one set of wiring needs to be brought up to the relevant safety standards, so you have to strip it all out and then re-plaster. This in turn reveals a touch of damp or woodworm…

    This is precisely why you need to tack on an additional 15% to your budget when you start. Think of it as a slush fund if you like, but make sure it’s there. In the unlikely event that you don’t use any of it, then you’re quids in!

    Your holding costs

    Owning a property isn’t free. You’ll be paying a mortgage or a loan off and even if you aren’t, there’s council tax, ground rent and so on. These costs can often be overlooked by inexperienced property investors, so get ahead of the game and factor them in right from the start. If you’re planning to be done and sold up within 18 months, budget for two years of holding costs just to be on the safe side.

  • 13th

    Should You Join the National Landlords Association?

    The National Landlords Association (NLA) is a membership group for private residential landlords. At present, it has more than 41,000 members and it helps landlords to navigate the hundreds of regulations and Acts of Parliament associated with this sector.

    The association also represents the interests of its members locally, nationally and Europe-wide with the aim of creating a fairer system and environment for both landlords and tenants.

    Training and advice for landlords

    NLA representatives also run local meetings and training courses for members across 100-plus locations in the UK. This helps landlords to meet one another and also make contact with local authorities.

    Landlords can also use the NLA’s dedicated advice line when they need support and assistance. The people staffing this line are themselves experienced landlords and in 2018 the line handled more than 40,000 calls.

    Who are the members of the NLA?

    The UK’s landlords are not one homogenous mass! There are NLA members with an extensive property portfolio and others who have become so-called “accidental landlords” after, for example, inheriting a property that they’re not ready to sell yet.

    What are the requirements for joining the NLA?

    The only membership requirement is that you own at least one property that you rent out, even if only partially. No matter what the size of your portfolio is, the NLA can give you access to various discounts and signpost you to recommended services and products.

    How will joining the NLA help me?

    Landlords are increasingly expected to be professional and responsive to the needs of tenants. The NLA can help you to achieve these aims by offering advice and educational resources to guide you through whatever life as a landlord throws at you.

    Being an NLA member also makes you more credible as a landlord, as well as helping you to stay abreast of all the legal and regulatory changes within the private rental sector.

    Does the NLA offer licences to landlords?

    The NLA does offer a nationally-recognised accreditation scheme and once a landlord has this accreditation, they can advertise it to letting agencies and to tenants. This helps to build trust between them and their tenants, which in turn makes for happier and more stable tenancies. The accreditation comes from either attending a course or using the NLA’s online resources.

    If you’re interested in joining the NLA, then call 02078408937 for more information.

  • 13th

    DIY Jobs to Wrap Up Before Winter

    It’s been a fun summer of relaxation and maybe the odd getaway, but even though Game of Thrones has ended, Winter is Coming anyway. You might not have to fend off the Night King, but you do have to get ready for the months of cold and dark. Here are your eight priority tasks.

    Check your heating and book a service

    Your central heating has also enjoyed the rest, but placing a sudden demand on it after a long break can cause problems. Have a trial run to make sure all’s in good working order and then schedule a service to make doubly sure. It’s practically the law of the land that your boiler will go kaput in mid-December if you don’t maintain a service schedule. Plumbers and gas technicians get very busy (and expensive) in December and January, so beat the crowds and book now.

    Check for draughts and seal them off

    Look over window frames, doors and even your letterbox for draughts, especially if your old threshold seals are looking a bit worn. Replace or add new seals as necessary, so that you’re saving money on heating fuel.

    Clear your drains and gutters

    This is a job for late autumn, once all the leaves have fallen. Clear out any leaves that could block your gutters as this can lead to an accumulation of rainwater that can soak into brick and woodwork. In worst-case scenarios, if this water freezes, you could develop damaging cracks and damp problems.

    Clean any paths and decking

    Jetwash paved or decked areas and apply an anti-fungal treatment so they don’t become slippery over the winter. The wetter and milder winters that many of us are having are ideal for mould and fungus, so keep them at bay.

    Treat your timber

    Your fence, shed and decking will look better and last longer if they’re treated ahead of the cold and damp. With your decking, you can do this after it’s cleaned and dried out. Adding a stain or special finish really makes a difference and your woodwork will look cared for and more attractive.

    Repair, replace or add exterior lighting

    A brightly-lit exterior is always welcoming to come home to when the nights are dark and cold. It’s also more secure, as would-be intruders have fewer places to hide. Check that all of your exterior lights work and sort out any that need new bulbs, as well as look for any areas that don’t currently have lighting.

    Improve your home security

    As the darker evenings do make homes more vulnerable, make sure all your door and window locks are working and not seized up and that any weak spots in your fencing are fixed.

    Have the chimney swept

    Not so much a DIY job (remember, it’s now illegal to send small children up chimneys…) as a professional one, really. Book a chimney sweep service and check so that you can use your fireplace or burner safely.

  • 13th

    Selling Your Property in Autumn

    The nights are drawing in and the early mornings aren’t always quite as warm as they were a month previously… It’s the approach of autumn and this is actually one of the best times of the year to go to market, as everyone’s back from their holidays and ready to start moving. Don’t just rely on autumn to do the work for you, though. You need to follow these seven easy tips to seize the day (or the season…).

    Keep on top of your lawn

    Start a lawn-raking campaign so that litter, leaves and other detritus doesn’t build up on your lawn or any other outdoor space. Trim all your borders and dead-head any faded blooms that had their day in the summer.

    Offer a warm welcome

    Lots of early autumn days can be very warm, but towards the end of the season, there’s a definite chill in the air. If you have a viewing on a cooler day, then turn on the heating half an hour beforehand so that the place feels welcoming. A working fireplace or log burner can be a serious advantage here, too, as a glowing, crackling fire can transform a space.

    Turn on all the lights

    Even on a fairly bright autumnal day, use this handy showroom trick and turn on every available light so that no corner goes unilluminated. This means all the under-cupboard lights and even the ones in your cooker hood. Bedside lamps are especially effective as they can turn your bedroom into a sanctuary.

    Give yourself some old-fashioned kerb appeal

    If there’s one thing we can learn from the Americans, it’s how to make a house look great from the outside in. Clean the porch, paint the door, jet wash the garden path and add a collection of interesting pumpkins and hanging baskets.

    Don’t pack away the barbecue just yet

    By the time the clocks go back at the end of October, then you should have packed up all your summer fun equipment. If it’s a bit of an Indian summer, however, leave it out as long as you can so that viewers can imagine themselves flipping burgers next summer.

    Add a bit of plush

    Bring in thick woollen and velvet throws and cushions to your reception rooms and bedrooms, as well as luxurious new rugs and thick curtains. This creates a welcoming, safe cocoon-like feeling.

    Appeal to the sense of smell

    Autumn has its own smell, more than other seasons, so play up to this with spiced candles, fresh baking smells and vanilla oil in the burner. Make your viewers want to curl up and hibernate in your home.

  • August, 2019 6th

    Why We Need Floorplans

    Although we all expect to see floorplans when we look at property specs, either online or in hard copy, they’re actually a recent thing with estate agents. They used to be only for the biggest, grandest of homes, with many rooms and even wings. Now, however, even humble one-bedroomed flats have floorplans, simply because they work really well.

    The three reasons floorplans work so well

    Accurate measurements

    Good floorplans include measurements so that people can see how big rooms are and also how they fit together within the property. Measurements were originally included in the written description only, and while this information was generally correct, a series of numbers didn’t always help people to visualise a space.

    A blueprint for the future

    Floorplans also feature a compass marker so that potential buyers can see which rooms face north and south. This can help them to plan future living plans like installing solar panels, knocking two rooms into one or working out which rooms will be too bright in the mornings. The “flow” of the property, as well as how different sections are connected, can be forgotten once someone’s got home (especially after several viewings), so an accurate floorplan serves as a reliable reminder of the place.

    A measure of the property’s worth

    The buyer can also see the overall square footage of a property, so they can see how much house they’re getting for their money. The UK has traditionally sold houses and flats based on the number of rooms rather than the overall area, but in recent years rooms and property footprints are getting smaller. A four-bedroomed house may only take up the same space as a three-bedroomed property and people need to see this clearly before deciding to even view, let alone buy. Good-quality floorplans can detail storage areas, as well as large hallways and landings, which can help to make up for relatively small rooms in a property.

  • 6th

    Staging Your Reception Rooms

    When you’re selling your home, it’s not quite enough to place a vase of flowers on the dining room table and clear away a few cobwebs. These days, you need to go all-out to impress viewers and to make them want to make your home their own.

    The most important rooms are undoubtedly the kitchen and the reception rooms, with your reception rooms needing a bit more staging than the kitchen. Here are some great ideas for getting it right first time.

    Your living room

    When you’re adding or arranging anything, always aim for symmetry, whether it’s cushions or lamps. It’s attractive and calming.

    If you don’t have any lamps, invest in some as they brighten up the space and also add a focal feature.

    Clean up your fireplace if you have one, replacing any worn fireside items and the back of the fireplace if it’s discoloured.

    You can always buy a bright new slip cover for sofas and chairs, or at least some new cushions. Choose bright, light shades to bring cheer and an airy feeling. If you’re using throws instead, buy in new ones so the whole look and feeling is fresh and bright.

    Place a few items of furniture in storage to make the room feel and look more spacious.

    Make people imagine their lives in your house by leaving a travel book open on a coffee table, or an ornate tea set.

    Dining room

    With your dining room, you need to get people thinking about entertaining or enjoying family meals in there. Set the table with some new flatware (no chips in sight!) and maybe some wine glasses and a bottle on the sideboard.

    Don’t aim for a formal look; you should have some splashes of colour here and there, with maybe a runner on the table, unusual candle holders and other friendly-looking decorations.

    A few extra tips

    Start to declutter already! You’ll have to pack up anyway, so make this process work for you by depersonalising your home and making it more spacious.

    Swap out dim bulbs for high-wattage ones, preferably colour-changing LEDs.

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