December, 2019 6th
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.
What does a British estate agent care about most in life?
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?
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,”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re looking to upsize from your current home, you might be excited and you may be spending hours on property portals looking at huge gaffs with games basements, lofts and maybe even a wing or two. Stop, think and tread carefully, however, because you need to know what you’re doing in order to make your upgrade a success.
Look realistically at what you need and what you can afford
It may be that your income has gone up, you’ve received and inheritance or your existing home has increased in value and you have enough equity to make the next step up. Whatever the reason, be sensible with your new extra money and make sure you don’t waste it on space that’ll go unused.
Do you cook a lot and have parties and suppers in your kitchen? Do you have guests to stay a lot or is there a new baby? If you have teenagers or soon-to-be teens, do they want their own den? Don’t be tempted to buy somewhere with a games room if you’re unlikely to occupy it much, for example.
Look at the location
Moving up the property ladder can sometimes mean moving out of your familiar neighbourhood. If you can afford a bigger place just down the road, that’s great, but you might have to move further out of town or into an up-and-coming postcode.
Make sure you’ll be happy there, and that you’ll have all the amenities you need within reasonable reach. If your mortgage is about to increase, you don’t want extra expense involved in getting to school or work.
Speaking of expense…
Once you’ve paid your stamp duty and the removal company, you need to look at all the ongoing expenses involved with a bigger house.
There’s the mortgage payments, of course, which may well have gone up. Then there’s increased heating costs if your new home is significantly bigger, as well as more electricity, more maintenance and maybe evenmore expense on gardening. Look at the energy efficiency of the property and think about how you can reduce running costs going forward.
Do you buy or sell first?
You need to plan your timeline carefully as you don’t want to be covering two mortgages while you wait for your old home to sell. If you have to do this for a couple of weeks then it can be doable, but you should make sure you have enough funds for a couple of months.
On the other hand, if you sell first, then you might have to rent for a few weeks before your new home is vacant, which includes paying for a deposit, credit checks and so forth. Budget for everything, including putting any pets into a kennel or cattery just in case your temporary rental can’t accept them.
It can be stressful enough when you’re house-hunting but if you’re new to the property game, the different phrases and even acronyms you’ll see on websites and property specs can be confusing as well.
When you’re looking for a new home, you want to know how much it’ll cost, but sometimes you see phrases like “OIEO”, ”offers over”, “guide price” and maybe even “offers over” if you’re in Scotland.
Do you need to pay any attention to these phrases? If so, what do they mean? Understanding them can help you to go into negotiations with a bit more confidence – or not even bother to negotiate at all.
OIEO, or offers in excess of
If you see a house on the market for, say £400,000, but the spec says “OIEO”, you’ll know that the sellers are hoping to get more than the estate agent has valued it at. The estate agent might think £400,000, but the sellers might be happy to wait for a couple of interested parties to get into a bidding war.
You don’t have to pay much attention to OIEO, especially if the property hasn’t had much interest. If you’re a cash buyer or you have your mortgage approved in principle and you can complete quickly, the sellers might prefer you over someone who offers a few thousands over their asking price. Many properties sell for less than the asking price, so your sellers might be delighted to get theirs after all.
The guide price
You’ll often see “guide price” on a listing as well and you might end up wondering if the sellers and estate agent actually mean the number that you see.
In short, they probably do, but they’re not 100% sure and they may want a few offers to come in so they can fine-tune it. Put in the offer that you’re comfortable with, as long as it’s not insultingly low, and see what happens.
Price on application
Very often seen in the windows of the more expensive estate agents, you might be forgiven for thinking that “price on application”, or “POA” means that if you need to ask how much the property is, you can’t afford it.
What it may actually mean is that the estate agent wants to see how many people register their interest, what their price brackets are and how proceedable they are. This can filter out less-than-serious buyers and save the sellers and agents a lot of time.
This is essentially the Gallic shrug of the estate agents’ phrases. If you see “offers invited”, then neither the agent nor the seller has much of a clue and wants house-hunters to decide for them.
You should offer the average of the asking prices that you’ve seen for similar properties in the area, modified by your budget and by any big advantages or disadvantages that the property or street has.
Ultimately, you’re entering into a negotiation, so as long as you’re not way out of the ballpark to start with, you can re-adjust and have another go.
The average amount of money needed for a 15% deposit in the UK is over £30,000 now based on average house prices. Whether you’re one half of a couple or whether you’re going solo, you have a real journey ahead of you to save up this figure.
It can be done, however, and if you get some help along the way that’s even better. This help can be from the Bank of Mum and Dad, from some canny savings or investments or even from a government scheme. Most of the hard yards will be walked by you, though. Here’s some ideas to get you started.
Go out a bit less
Most 25 to 30-year-olds spend around £60 on a night out and they tend to go out once a week at least. This could represent £400 a month or more. Think about ways to cut these expenses maybe by staying in every other weekend or entertaining at home instead. Join forces with someone in a similar boat and commit to a film night with cheap plonk and homemade popcorn once a month. This could see anything from £3,000 to £6,000 going into your deposit pot each year.
Change your holiday plans
The average holiday for two costs £2,500 to £3,000 nowadays. You can reduce these costs, though. Try a UK-based holiday, for example, to save money on flights. Alternatively, grab a last-minute bargain to somewhere you might not have considered before.
Once you’re at your destination, you can help your savings campaign further by not overspending. Most of us do it, but one definite sinkhole for money is transaction charges on debit and credit cards; get yourselves an international prepaid debit card so that at the very least you’re not being stung £2.50 or so every time you flash your plastic.
Your home may be hiding anything from £400 to £1,000 in unused, forgotten or unwanted items. It may be old textbooks, clothes, computer games or collectors’ items, but if they go for decent prices, that’s another few hundred towards your target. It’s also less packing once you finally move into the new home you’re saving for.
Open a Help to Buy ISA
This savings account is tax-free and once you’ve saved at least £1,600, the government will top it up by 25% of your total. You’ll need to be buying a home that’s selling for up to £250,000 (£450,000 in London) and this property must be your main home. Head to the Gov.uk webpage to find out more.
Downsize a bit
If possible, move into a smaller flat or house and pocket the difference in rent. If you can’t downsize then you might be able to move a bit further out of the town centre, as long as any increased commute costs don’t eat up your rental savings.
October, 2019 30th
Whether your floorboards are sturdy-but-ugly, or you just fancy doing something different to the usual sanding and varnishing job, painting your floorboards is a great idea. You can make a room feel bigger and lighter if you choose a light cream shade, or if you’re feeling really bold, you could use a deeper paint.
What you need to paint wooden floors
You’re best-advised to use specialist floor paints because they’re formulated to withstand the high levels of traffic and wear and tear, as well as to resist flaking and staining.
You can find paints that don’t need primers and sealers, so do check the tins if you’re looking for this type. If you’ve sanded the floor beforehand, then you should prime the floor to cover the bare wood. Make sure the primer will work with your paint first, though.
If you have visible cracks and knotholes, or dents and dips, then you’ll need to apply some wood filler to create a level surface.
When it comes to painting, you can use a brush, a roller or a pad. Remember that a roller will leave a stippled effect and a brush will leave stroke marks. Paint pads leave the smoothest finish, but you should use the implement that gives you the effect you want.
You’ll need to move all the furniture out of the room. Don’t be tempted to do it in quarters or halves because you’ll take forever and you’ll have two or more lots of post-sanding cleaning up to do.
Remove any beading or skirting boards before you start, just to make life easier. You can replace it afterwards, either with the original or with some new pieces if you want a whole new look.
You will need to sand the floor. There’s no avoiding it (sorry). If it’s a big room with a particularly tatty floor, then hire a disc sander. If it’s a small space and you just want to provide a key for the paint, then a handheld sander might do the job. Make sure there’s no nails sticking up before you get going, as they’ll shred your sanding pads.
Use a handheld sander with a pointed tip to get right into the corners and once the entire floor is done, wash it with detergent to remove all the dust. If you see any mould, use a bleach or specialist cleaner to remove it, then let the floor dry completely for at least a couple of days.
Filling and sealing the floor
Once the floor is dry, look for any holes or pits and use a wood-filler on them. You’ll probably need to sand over these repairs to smooth them out before priming the entire surface.
Finally – the painting!
You need lots of ventilation so open all the windows on the floor you’re working on.
Start off by painting the very edges of the room, avoiding the skirting board or wall. You should cut in by two or three inches with a fine brush, before starting on the main floor area.
Don’t make the mistake of painting yourself in! Start off in the corner furthest from the door and work backwards towards the door, following the grain of the wood and bringing the roller, pad or brush towards you with each stroke.
It’s important to finish the entire floor in one go if you can so that there’s no lap marks from wet paint going over dried paint. If you can’t finish it by yourself in one session, bribe a friend with some beers!
Take your time…
…but hurry up! You’ll need at least two coats, as well as the primer, so find out how long the drying time for each coat is. Two thin coats are better than one thicker one because it’ll dry harder and bond more, but if you’re using thin coats you may need three or four.
It’s also vital that you leave the paint to dry as long as possible before walking on it – 24 hours at the very least. You’ll also need another few days before bringing the furniture back because dried doesn’t mean cured and hardened! Be patient, as you don’t want to ruin all your hard work!
On average it takes three or four months for a property to sell and while this sort of timescale suits most sellers, some movers might be in a real hurry. There are several reasons why someone might want their property to sell quickly and usually sellers in this position are willing to accept a slightly reduced price.
Whether you’re a deliberate or accidental landlord, problem tenants can be a serious headache. If your tenants never pay the rent on time, or they throw wild parties until the small hours and forget to tidy up after themselves you’ll probably want rid of them. Unfortunately, the legal path to evicting tenants is long and winding, so you may decide to just sell up and forget all about it.
Retirement or downsizing
Many people want to move once they’ve retired, be it to be closer to family, the seaside or simply to have less space to maintain. While many retirees don’t mind waiting for the right price, just as many are more impatient, especially if they stand to make a decent profit from the sale.
At the other end of the career path, some jobs need the person to relocate and if you need to take up the post quite soon, you’ll need to sell up fast so you don’t lose the opportunity. Freeing up the money in your existing property will help you to buy a place to live in your new town, city or country.
Many people bequeath property to relatives in their will and sometimes family members decide to sell the property in order to divide up the proceeds. It can be very stressful and so a rapid sale helps people with the grieving process, as well as preventing any arguments and fall-outs.
A relationship breakdown
In a similar way to a death in the family, selling a jointly-owned property after a divorce or separation can be very painful and stressful. The sooner it’s all done and dusted, the sooner both parties can move on – emotionally and financially.
The loss of a job
If you don’t find a job quickly enough after you’re made redundant, then you can fall behind with your mortgage payments. Selling your property means you can free up enough money to cover your living expenses and rent until you’re back on your feet. You might decide to buy a smaller place outright and still have enough to tide you over, but only if you sell fast.
Large maintenance and repair costs
You might have bought a doer-upper and found it too hard to handle, or your house just needs more TLC than you have the time or money for. Selling up (preferably to someone who’ll be able to look after the place) is a great option, especially if you’ve made a profit and can buy a low-maintenance abode.
If you’ve fallen behind on your payments then you could end up facing repossession. If you can’t reach or afford a suitable repayment plan then it’s only a matter of time before repossession action starts. This is expensive and incredibly damaging for your credit rating, so selling the property can halt this. Make sure the sale price covers all of the outstanding loan, though.