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  • April, 2020 6th

    How Your Home Could be Discouraging Second Viewings

    You take to the property market with high hopes, but if, after a few weeks, you’re not getting any second viewings, then you probably need to take a critical look at your property.

    According to property market experts, there are several serious turn-offs for prospective buyers. Some can be remedied, but with others, you’ll just have to style it out. Take a look at the top eightardour dampeners.

    Traffic noise

    This is a real bugbear, with many house-hunters citing a lack of traffic and transport noise as a must-have. If you’re near a motorway or under a flightpath, there’s not much you can do other than install double (or triple) glazing and plant a hedge as a sound baffle.

    Grubby kitchens and bathrooms

    This is quite understandable, as people will feel uncomfortable and even unsafe in a dirty kitchen or bathroom. This is an easy fix if you know what you’re doing, so get busy with limescale remover, grout cleaner and some high-level elbow grease.

    Weird plants in the garden

    A slightly less obvious turn-off, but it can be a major one. If a viewer doesn’t recognise a plant, they might worry that it’s the dreaded Japanese knotweed, a very aggressive invasive species that can damage property foundations.

    If it’s not knotweed, make sure people know this, even if it means printing out a side-by-side comparison. If it is knotweed, you must get it removed by a professional.

    You, rather than the estate agent, holding the viewing

    It used to be the norm, but buyers are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the vendor showing them round, as they can’t relax, talk about how much they hate your colour scheme or ask you awkward questions. Even if you do go down this route, make it clear that the estate agent will conduct any second viewings.

    Clutter

    Clutter prevents people from seeing your home in all its glory, they wonder what’s behind it, and they also think you’re careless and slobby (harsh but true). Piles of, well,stuff can also give the impression that there’s not enough storage space in the property.

    Get rid of as much as possible, put the things you can’t part with in storage and please, do something with the Yorkshire-themed thimbles…

    Deeply-coloured bathroom suites

    These may have all the rage in the 1980s, but; this was the 1980s. A pink toilet could end up knocking as much as £10,000 from your selling price, so do your best to replace your bathroom fittings with white ones. You can do this for under £1,000 and if you can, you really should.

    Unpleasant smells

    Damp, the lingering scent of rancid cooking oil and teenage trainers can all contribute to create a miasma that, even if it’s not overpowering, can lead to a bad feeling. Once this feeling is there, you can’t turn it around, so air the place, chuck old trainers in the bin and deep clean the kitchen. Carpets can also harbour old smells, so hiring a carpet washer can’t hurt, either.

    Don’t, however, fall into the trap of using diffusers and sprays to cover up smells, as viewers will know that you’re using diffusers and sprays to cover up smells and give them an asthma attack.

    Lots of cats

    Speaking of asthma, having lots of cats or other small animals might put some people off, no matter how much they love pets. If you do have lots of pets, definitely deep clean the carpets and think about finding some of them temporary homes until you’re ready to move.

  • March, 2020 30th

    Taking Care of Valuable Items During a House Move

    Moving house usually means that you lose one or more items along the way, most often things like chargers, books and even sentimental things like jewellery. In the midst of moving day chaos, it can be difficult to keep track of all your possessions, so you need a plan of action to help you along. While losing a charger is irritating, leaving behind passports or other important documents, keepsakes or beloved toys can be devastating, especially if you’re moving a long way away.

    Here’s a few tips to help you get yourselves and the things that matter safely over to the other side.

    Pack up your valuables first

    Start wrapping and packing your most valuable items a few weeks before moving day and put them all in a designated box. Doing this while you still have plenty of time means that you’ll take care with them; you’ll also have enough time to spot the things that need to go into the special box.

    Make a list

    Once something is placed into the special box, add it to the list that you’ve started on the side of the box. It’s especially important to list documents and files as it’s not always immediately obvious what’s in an envelope or folder.

    Think about placing really valuable things in storage

    One good way to keep your valuables safe and away from all the chaos is to pack them up and move them into a storage facility until you’re moved in and comfortable at the new place.

    Use a reputable and trustworthy removals company

    The key to looking after your valuables during your move is to hire a removals company that is experienced and professional. If you have antiques, valuable furniture, clocks and similar items, then you need to be sure that your removers will make the right preparations to move them properly and safely. Even if this involves extra cost, you need a team that will take the extra time to wrap up valuables, especially if they’re old and delicate, securely enough to prevent bumps and scratches during transit and unpacking.

  • March, 2020 23rd

    Help-to-buy Schemes Aren’t Just for First-timers

    You’ve almost certainly heard of the government’s various help-to-buy schemes, but you might have thought they were only for first-time buyers and so if you already own a home, you wouldn’t be eligible for any.

    The good news is that you’d be wrong about the schemes only being there for first-timers. There’s also help available for homeowners who want to take the next step up the property ladder. The Equity Loan scheme is open to first-timers and existing homeowners who want to buy a new-build home.

    The scheme, which will run until 2023, is available to buyers in England only, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having their own versions which, while broadly similar, have some differences.

    The eligibility criteria for the Equity Loan scheme

    In order to qualify for the scheme, the property you hope to buy must fulfil a few criteria. The property must:

    • be a new-build;
    • have a purchase price of no more than £600,000;
    • be the only home that you own, and
    • not be rented out or sub-let after you’ve bought it.

    From 2021 there’ll be regional caps on the maximum purchase values, so visit helptobuy.gov.uk before you get the ball rolling to make sure you’re not affected by any of the changes.

    How does the Equity Loan scheme work?

    One of the biggest hurdles first-timers and second-steppers face is raising a big enough deposit to put down on the property they want to buy. Usually lenders want to see a 20% deposit, but with an average price of £275,000 for a two-bedroomed house in Cheltenham, this is no mean feat.

    The Equity Loan scheme requires you to have at least a 5% deposit ready so that the government can lend you up to 20% of the property’s value (or up to 40% if you’re planning to buy within the Greater London area).

    This means that you can get onto the ladder (or the next step) sooner and that you only need to apply for a 75% mortgage at most. The Equity Loan is interest-free for the first five years, after which interest is applied at just 1.75%.

  • March, 2020 16th

    Choosing the Best Removals Company

    When you’re finally ready to move, you’ll want the big day to go as smoothly as possible and an important factor in this is your removals company. You need to choose the best company you can so that your belongings arrive at the other end on time (and in all the right pieces!) and, maybe even more importantly, so that you feel confident with them.

    The first thing to do is to get a few quotes so that you can make a shortlist. You should be open about your requirements with each company, especially if you have furniture that needs to be dismantled, or a piano, antiques or any other item that needs special handling. This means that you’ll get the most accurate quotes possible right from the start.

    Ask for an in-house assessment

    You should get a few of the companies round to look at your property, because they won’t just need to look at your possessions, they’ll need to look at your stairs, your entrances and exits and where they’ll be able to park the vans safely.

    Make sure the company you choose has enough insurance to cover all of your possessions from end-to-end. You may need to take out additional cover yourself for some items, and your removals people will advise you here. A minimum level of £50,000 is advised.

    Avoid cash payments

    Reputable companies should want to be paid by card or bank transfer. Of course, you can offer to pay cash, but beware if the company only accepts cash.

    Ask about the delays policy

    Some companies charge by the hour for delays while others might include reasonable delays in their overall fee. Of course, some delays might not be your fault, so find out what types of delay are billable.

    Does the company offer boxes and packaging materials?

    Most companies will give you the packing materials and boxes, even if you’re planning to do most of the packing yourself. Others will hire out the boxes, so find out if the supplied materials are free or whether you can save money by collecting your own.

    Furniture disassembly

    Similarly, dismantling furniture or disconnecting household appliances might come as part of the package or be subject to an extra fee, so you need to find this out beforehand.

    Helpful and professional staff members

    A uniform, even if it’s just a branded t-shirt or sweatshirt, usually shows that the company is professional and wants to be visible to the public. All the staff members you speak to should be friendly, able and approachable, both in person, in writing and over the phone.

    The complaints procedure

    Things can always go wrong, so find out which professional or trade bodies the company belongs to and what its protocol is for raising a complaint. Look for removers who are members of the British Association of Removers, as this body can help with grievances or problems.

    Check the feedback

    This can include online reviews, but you can also ask to speak to previous customers, especially if you have some specialist requirements.

  • March, 2020 9th

    Looking After Your Wood-burner

    If you’ve recently installed a wood-burner, or, indeed, if you’ve moved into a property with one already in place, you’ll be wondering how to look after it so that you get the most out of it, as well as keeping it safe. Here’s some great tips for maintaining your wood-burner so it keeps you nice and toasty for years to come.

    Empty and clean out the ashpan daily

    When hot ashes gather in the ashpan they can come into contact with the underside of the grate and if they’re left there repeatedly this can distort the grate.

    Clean the glass regularly

    Many newer burners have airwash systems that keep the glass clean as you go along. If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to clean the glass yourself. You should do this daily, or before you light the burner, using a proprietary burner glass cleaner or malt vinegar and newspaper. Don’t ever use an abrasive cleaner as this can damage the glass.

    Watch out for rust

    Most modern stoves won’t develop this problem, but you should always watch out for it. If you do see any rust developing, then abrade the area with steel wool and apply a new layer of stove paint.

    Clean the baffle, or throat plate, once a week

    The area around the baffle plate is prone to collection of soot and other deposits. These deposits can block the flue, making the burner less efficient and they can also catch fire themselves.

    Check the rope seals

    You’ll see that the edges of the door have rope seals and these heat and fire-resistant ropes seal the door so that its closes securely and no excess air is drawn in.

    These ropes can, over time, become compressed or worn, so they start to let in air, which makes the fire burn too fast. You should check for this compression every month or two by examining the rope and also closing the door on a piece of paper. If you can pull out the paper, the rope needs replacing.

    Sweep your chimney

    It also reduces the efficiency of your stove, which brings additional problems.

    Leave the door open or ajar when you’re not using the burner

    During the summer months, or if you go away for a few days or more, then you should leave the door slightly ajar so that no moisture builds up in the system, where it could cause rust.

  • March, 2020 2nd

    The Best Colours for Interiors in 2020

    Whether you’re looking to update a property before it goes to market, or whether you’re just aiming to breathe new life into your home, using the latest colours and shades is important, especially when the prevailing trends in interiors are changing. It seems that the new decade is bringing in some new hues, so here are some of the most popular colours for 2020.

    Warm, rather than cool, pastels

    Pastels are still with us, but we’re moving away from the cooler areas of the palette to warmer, more organic tones. Instead of barely-there blues and pinks, we’re seeing paints with richer, earthier undertones to add more depth and texture.

    A new type of monochromatic

    Monochromatic isn’t always black or white, it can be a dark blue, an aubergine or even a rich dark green. These hues make a definite statement while providing a comforting warmth to interior spaces.

    Natural, organic shades

    In another move away from the cool, distant and sophisticated pastels, greys and metallics, natural shades are coming in to bring a taste of the organic. This doesn’t mean just browns and greens, though; yellows, ochres, reds and berry-blues are very much the order of the day (or year).

    Blues, green and greys

    Reports of the deaths of blues and greys are somewhat exaggerated; they haven’t gone away, they’ve just become deeper and darker. Choose more saturated shades to add an extra dimension to your interiors, as these colours will change appearance slightly according to the light source and time of day.

    Earthy shades

    It seems that cool definitely isn’t anymore! Lots of people will be returning to earth with warm chocolate browns, olive greens and muted ochres instead of pastels and neutrals in 2020.

    Jewellike darker shades

    It is possible to be dark and vibrant at the same time and you might find yourself walking into a friend’s kitchen and seeing a dark, shimmering emerald green on the walls, or a garnet-like dark red. Say goodbye to greige at last!

  • February, 2020 24th

    It’s What’s Outside that Counts

    Your home is probably your biggest investment and so when it comes to selling, you’ll want to get the best return possible. Many people focus more on the inside of the property and don’t do so much with the outside. However, if you’re in a slower or more competitive market, or if you just want to get some particularly attractive offers, then sprucing up the exterior space can really help.

    Adding to your outside space can be easier and cheaper, as there’s no remodelling or demolition needed, so you can really get a decent profit on the work. Here are some great ideas for improving your exterior.

    Landscape your front and back gardens

    This is an easy change, providing a lot of impact for a relatively small amount of work. The front garden in particular is important because it’s the first thing potential buyers will see. Make sure you jet-wash or resurface dirty or cracked paths and driveways as this makes a huge difference to the appearance.

    Install an awning or veranda in your back garden

    An awning or a glazed veranda doesn’t just look great, it adds on extra living and entertaining space, as well as increasing the value of your property. Even if it’s just an awning, you can spend longer outside in high summer and showery conditions because you’re protected from these elements. Glass verandas are also great in winter as you get daylight and possibly even a bit of warmth without the biting winds.

    Use up that empty space

    If there’s a corner of the garden that’s always been neglected, or has had a huge trampoline in it for years, then it needs a makeover. Think about a hot tub, for example, or maybe a firepit or even an outdoor kitchen. While an outdoor kitchen will probably get most of its action during the summer months, a hot tub is an all-year-round perk that can be surprisingly compact and cheap to run.

  • February, 2020 16th

    Selling Up Before You do the Repairs

    You’re often told that it’s important to do all your repairs before you put your property on the market, but sometimes that’s just not possible. You might have a deadline for moving, or you might just not want the hassle and expense. It’s still possible to sell your property even if it needs a bit of work, you just need to adjust your angle of attack.

    Pitch to the right people

    Of course, you could simply go to market with a really low asking price and hope for the best. You never know, you could have two or more potential buyers slugging it out in a bidding war…

    This isn’t likely, though, unless you’re particularly well-placed in terms of state schools and transport links. A better idea is to attract the right buyers.

    Flippers look for properties that need a bit of work so that they can buy them at a relatively low price and sell at a profit once they’ve completed the repairs or refurbishments. Typically, flippers make low offers, but you don’t have to accept any offer you feel is unfair; a decent estate agent will guide you here.

    Then, there’s the buyers looking to upgrade to a larger property or to move into a more desirable area but who don’t quite have the budget for a “walk-in” property. They don’t mind taking their time over repairs as they’re looking for a home, not an investment; this also means they might be able to go a bit higher than the flippers.

    The ideal buyer, however, is someone who’s desperate to move into your highly desirable area but due to the sheer popularity of your postcode has been waiting around for a while. They won’t mind a slightly tired property and could be persuaded to give you a good price, which is a win-win scenario.

    You could do some quick fixes

    If your property needs quite a bit of work, then you could meet the buyers halfway and complete some of the smaller, quicker repairs or refurbs. It’s best to avoid anything major, like the kitchen or the bathroom, because these are more personal areas and your buyers are likely to want to do it all over again anyway.

    The best things to focus on are replacing an old front door, landscaping the gardens and either cleaning or replacing carpets or sanding and resealing wooden floors.

    Be sensible about the price

    Find out how much the main repairs will cost and factor this into the asking price, because your buyers will certainly do this and you need to be on the same page. Very few people will agree to an asking price that essentially means paying twice for repairs.

    Having said that, if you’re in an area that’s really up-and-coming, then the right buyer might be happy to pay slightly over the odds if they can make a big profit a couple of years down the line, so factor this in as well.

    An experienced estate agent will suggest a reasonable price; don’t be tempted by an unrealistic one, as you could be lingering on the market for ages.

  • January, 2020 29th

    Coming Out of the Woodwork! All About Woodworm

    You’ve almost certainly heard of woodworm, but you might think it’s a thing of the past, found only in very antique wooden furniture and neglected floorboards. You’d be wrong, in that case, as it’s still a problem that you need to watch out for.

    Where do they come from?

    Woodworm live in infested timber; this could be the old chair you bought at a flea market and plan to upcycle, or it could be the firewood resting by your burner.

    If you have adult beetles, they’ll come out of the wood to look for new paces to lay eggs. Cracks in skirting boards, floorboards, chair legs and tables will do very nicely and once the eggs hatch out, the larvae eat downwards into the wood, pupate after two to five years. All the while, they’re eating track-lines through your wood! Once the adults emerge, they start all over again.

    How do I know if I’ve got woodworm?

    You might, if you have the deathwatch beetle, be able to hear a clicking or ticking noise as it butts its head against the insides of your furniture! Most often, however, it’s visual signs that give these pests away.

    Exit holes

    The maturing larvae make these holes of 1-3mm in diameter as they come out of the wood to find a mate. Just having the holes doesn’t mean there’s an active infestation, so look for lighter-coloured holes, as these are recently made.

    Frass

    Another indication of an active infestation is frass, or the faeces of the larvae. It looks like gritty sawdust and gathers around the exit holes and any surfaces that it might fall on. If you see this, you need to act fast.

    Living beetles or larvae

    If you see the beetles or larvae themselves, then you’ve definitely got an infestation! Look for larvae around the furniture and the holes, as well as beetles suddenly appearing indoors and flying towards sunlight or indoor lights.

    What’s the treatment?

    There are several treatment methods for woodworm, but the most common one is a water-soluble spray that absorbs into the wood and kills all life stages of the woodworm, including eggs.

    Is it a serious problem?

    If you have priceless antiques in your house, then it could be very bad news indeed! However, if you’re an average Joe or Joanna, then all you need to do is to call a pest control company and then you, your furniture and floors can be woodworm-free for many years.

  • 29th

    Selling Up with Kids

    Selling up and moving is a stressful time, even though you’re an adult and in control (kind of) of the proceedings. It can be really difficult for children, especially younger ones, to cope with the run-up to the move, the move itself and then the settling-in period.

    Here are a few handy tips for helping your youngsters to move house without too much upset.

    Get the kids involved with packing up

    Many children worry that they’ll have their possessions taken away from them during the move, so let them get involved with wrapping and packing their toys, books and furniture. Suggest that they give away a few items if necessary, but don’t pick these things out yourself.

    Talk to them about everything

    Obviously, smaller kids aren’t going to be interested in stamp duty, but they might wonder why the nice people who visit and look around don’t want to buy their bedroom. Similarly, they might worry that the old house will be lonely and empty, or that they won’t make any new friends themselves. Give them enough time to express their fears and ask questions.

    Give them some responsibility

    This could be making sure your pets have enough food and water on moving day, or that their younger siblings have their comfort toys for the journey. You might let them have some say over any decorating plans you have for the new place, too.

    Visit their school or nursery, as well as the local parks

    One big source of anxiety is not knowing who their new friends will be and what their new school will be like. Spend an afternoon or two at the park nearest to the house you’ll be moving into so you get an idea about people – you might even meet some new chums before you move. You could also visit the school, even if it’s just for a look-around, so that it’s not completely alien to them on that nerve-wracking first day.

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