Oct 19

When looking to sell a property finding the right estate agent can feel like a real mine field.

As a London based property developer with over 30 years of industry experience, being able to identify effective estate agents to sell my completed units has been vital to ensuring that premium prices are achieved. As someone who started their career as an estate agent, I have seen both sides of the coin and consider myself well- placed to advise on how to recognise a competent estate agent.

For many people, a property is their largest asset, so it is imperative to take time in instructing an estate agent and consider a variety of options

First impressions count so check out your potential agent‘s website. How are their properties marketed and what are their online images like? They should be of a professional quality, not substandard smartphone shots, and ensure that their property write-ups are informative. With the majority of homebuyers searching online make sure that your favoured agent is signed up to one of the major online portals including Rightmove, Zoopla or OnTheMarket.

Try registering as a buyer on their website and see if and how quickly they call you back. Don’t be afraid to test them through this process and find out if the person who makes contact with you is knowledgeable about the area. An effective estate agent should encourage you to go and view properties. It may be worthwhile attending a viewing to sample their customer service and sales technique. Equally, a good agent should conduct the viewing themselves and not leave it to the seller to essentially market their own home.

When it comes to having a property valued many sellers are tempted to instruct the agent that provides the highest valuation. A good estate agent should be able to provide comparable sales evidence from the past three to four months of what they have sold in the area, including how close to asking price they achieved.

Look for an agent with a strong success record, sold boards in the area are a good indication of this. It’s important that your agent is a strong negotiator, so if they are easily talked into dropping their fee, this doesn’t bode well for them negotiating the best sale price with a buyer on your behalf.

Following the above tips will help ensure that you select the best agent to sell your home efficiently and for the best price.

Oct 19

At one point or another, we've all been victim to unwanted noise in our homes whether it's from traffic, animals or neighbours.

In fact, one of the most searched for topics across the Landlord Library is noise pollution and how to deal with it and with this in mind, lettings platform, Howsy, has revealed what noises cause the biggest impact and how to protect against them.

Neighbours playing loud music or socialising late at night is the number one most hated cause of noise pollution amongst UK tenants, closely followed by road traffic, noise from animals such as dogs, cats or foxes and neighbours arguing – according to a survey of 1,000 UK tenants.

What can you do about it?

You don’t have to suffer in silence and there are plenty of cost-effective tips that both you and your landlord can carry out to ensure maximum peace and quite within your home.

Perhaps obviously, start structurally. Use filler to address any holes or cracks in your walls with a particular focus around things like window frames or other breaks in the wall such as sockets.

It may look nice, but wooden flooring can be one of the main issues when it comes to noise pollution, particularly if you rent out a flat with neighbours below. While a new floor might not be necessary, sorting out any creaky floorboards can make more of a difference than you might think when it comes to cutting out noise pollution.

Now check out your doors. All too often, cheap doors aren’t soundproof and can be replaced by something a bit more substantial where materials are concerned. Once you’ve fixed your new door in place, one handy tip is to bolster your soundproofing with weathering strips which will also make your home more energy-efficient.

Now your doors are sorted, what about your windows? Not the most cost-effective method but replacing old or damaged windows with double or triple paned PVC can work wonders for noise pollution – even a good quality wooden frame will reduce noise dramatically.

From fibreglass to insulation foam or ceiling panels and everything in between, insulating your home doesn’t just help keep you warm in the winter, it cuts out a lot of noise.

It’s within your best interests as a landlord to make sure your property is not only fit for purpose but is appealing as possible for tenants while also doing your bit for the planet and your pocket.

However, there are additional things you can recommend to your tenants that can also make a difference and these range from simple touches such as heavy-duty curtains to help down out the outsides world or a similarly robust rug to cover wood flooring and protect from the noises below.

Rearranging the furniture is also a smart way of minimising noise pollution and putting larger items such as a big book case or cabinet against the sharing wall will help add another layer. Another smart trick is to always position your tv on or by a shared wall as this will at least drown out any noisy neighbours while it’s on. Even a large picture or mirror will play its part and so considering layout is a small but smart step to help reduce noise pollution.

Calum Brannan, Founder and CEO of Howsy, has this advice: “When it comes to the tenant-landlord relationship, it’s often the small things that can go a long way and helping to soundproof your property, even with the smallest of touches, can really improve your tenant’s quality of life.

Of course, there is always work that can be done to improve a property, but you certainly don’t have to break the bank and there is a whole host of innovative tips that you can suggest and that will cost nothing to do.

Not only will you have a happier tenant for doing so, but you’ll have increased your property’s rental appeal which will make it more attractive if or when does return to the market.”

Oct 19

We could be leaving the EU at the end of the month. I say 'could' because let's face it, anything is possible on the Brexit merry-go-round. However, one thing is certain and that is that there has been a negative effect on the property market.

Estate agent comparison site, GetAgent.co.uk, has looked at where UK home sellers have been forced to take the biggest property price reality check when it comes to the asking and selling price of their home.

Pulling data from all of the major portals then cross-referencing with the Land Registry, the firm used proprietary algorithms to create a comprehensive record of what is selling, where, for how much and how long it’s taking.

When it comes to the asking price sought by UK home sellers, the market has remained firm as a whole, up 7% across the UK since the Brexit vote, with actual sold prices up 7.6%.

However, while the resilience and diversity of the UK market means many areas have remained impervious to the Brexit blues, there has been a notable chill in both asking prices and sold prices in a lot of areas.

Here are the worst when it comes to both.

Asking Prices

The biggest asking price drop since the vote has been in Bradford with home sellers having to re-evaluate their price expectations by a huge -35.9% to drum up buyer interest. Waveney in Suffolk has also seen a notable decline, down -22.4%, while the London borough of Islington takes the third spot with asking prices down -21.3%.

Chichester, Wigtownshire, Vale of White Horse, Aberdeen, East Hampshire, Horsham and Bolsover are also amongst the largest declines.

Sold Prices

While home sellers will list at a higher asking price to chance their arm in any market conditions, often resulting in a decline, sold prices have also come tumbling down in a number of areas since the Brexit vote.

It’s bad news for those in Bradford as the area not only tops the largest asking price declines but also the largest sold price declines, down -30.6%. Another Suffolk district ranks for the second largest decline in sold prices, but this time it’s Babergh with a decline of -24.8%, while Hertsmere places third, down -20.3%.

Wellingborough, Harlow, Chesterfield, Blackburn with Darwen, Oxford, Ripon and North West Leicestershire join the rest as the worst areas for sold price decline since the Brexit vote.

Colby Short, Founder and CEO of GetAgent.co.uk, commented: “There’s no doubt that Brexit uncertainty has produced perhaps the most erratic property landscape we’ve seen in some years and while there is light at the end of the tunnel, it’s hard to say just how long the tunnel is and if there is indeed an end in sight or not.

It’s certainly not accurate to say the UK market is down and out and for the vast majority, property prices continue to creep up, albeit at a slower rate than previous years. However, there are certainly a notable number of areas in which Brexit has delivered a bit of a knock-out punch for property prices and a real lack of buyer demand is seeing sellers list for a lower sum and sell for even less.

The proof of UK property is most definitely in the pudding though and once Brexit is behind us, we should see a reversal in fortunes for those feeling the brunt of our current European limbo.”

Oct 19

Newly released data from estate agency, Springbok Properties, has found that first-time buyers in and around London have seen some of the biggest jumps in average house prices since the Help to Buy schemes were introduced.

Help to Buy is characterised by three schemes.

The Help to Buy Equity Loan was launched in 2013 and has buyers contribute a 5% deposit towards a new build, with the government providing a 20% equity loan on the property, or 40% within London, which is interest-free for the first five years.

This is available on new builds under £600,000 in England and £300,000 in Wales. The scheme is running until 2023, though after 2021 it will only be available for first-time buyers and there will be caps on the value of homes people can buy.

This is the most well-known of the Help to Buy schemes.

The second scheme is the Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee, which also launched in 2013. This had the government act as guarantors against loans, while it wasn’t restricted to new build. It was discontinued at the end of 2016.

The Help to Buy ISA was launched in 2015, which saw savers pay money into an ISA and then get a cash bonus form the government. The scheme closed for new entrants in November 2019, while the bonus must be claimed by 2030.

Springbok Properties looked at the average cost of a first-time buyer property across the UK and where has seen the largest uplift in price growth since Help to Buy was introduced. While Help to Buy has given many a leg up when it comes to climbing the property ladder, the influx of additional demand has also, perhaps ironically, pushed the cost of Help to Buy homes up considerably.

Across Great Britain, the average cost of a first-time buyer property has increased by 32.8% since 2013, almost on par with the regular market. The typical price first-time buyers paid for a property in Barking and Dagenham was £281,396 in 2019, an alarming 70.8% increase from 2013.

This isn’t the only East London region to see huge increases the average first-time buyer price, as they rose by 60.7% in Newham to £349,874 and 60.1% in Havering to £307,874.

Other areas to see a strong uplift are Waltham Forest in North East London, rising by 68.7% to £408,233; Thurrock in Essex, increasing by 59.2% to £237,635; and Stevenage in Hertfordshire, rising by 58.7% to £250,086.

Scotland and the North East more subdued

The City of Aberdeen, which has been hit hard by falling oil prices in the past few years, is the only area of the UK where first-time buyers are paying less than in 2013. The price they paid has fallen by -10.9% to £126,794 in 2019.

Some other areas of Scotland have only seen modest rises, as Inverclyde prices have risen by just 6.55% to £83,995, while South Ayrshire prices have seen a 6.9% uplift to £102,992.

In England, the worst climber is County Durham in the North East, where prices rose by 3.5% to £88,790. This is followed by Redcar and Cleveland, where prices climbed by 4.5% to £105,156; while behind that is Middlesbrough with an increase of 5.0% to £110,304.

It seems Help to Buy hasn’t been enough to kick-start some of these markets into action.

Shepherd Ncube, Founder and CEO of Springbok Properties, commented: “Help to Buy was introduced by the previous government with good intentions – to assist would-be home-buyers in their first step onto the property ladder.

However, it seems that whilst around 200,000 buyers have indeed been supported, the unintended consequence in most areas has seen an above average hike in prices driven by the demand that Help to Buy has created.

First rung homes are supposed to be more affordable, but we’ve seen the average price paid by a first-time buyer accelerate to similar levels as the wider market. Not only has this made it more difficult for today’s aspirational homeowner, but perhaps some tax-payers might question the wisdom of using their money to fuel house prices even further?”

Oct 19

Halifax has unveiled ‘Home by Halifax’, a new space on Cannon Street in London, dedicated to helping people buy a home.

The new is thought to be the first its kind in the UK and will bring together experts in home buying, interactive experiences and special events.

Aimed at everyone, from those just starting to think about saving to buy a property to those thinking about home insurance and other homeowner essentials. Extended opening hours will ensure expert staff are on hand to help walk people through the process and provide the best support possible at a time that’s convenient to London’s busy workers.

Located in the heart of London at 100 Cannon Street, Home by Halifax’ visitors will be greeted by a 55” interactive screen which breaks down the process of buying a home into helpful stages.

Free events open to everyone will also be a regular feature, focusing on a range of topics, including home buying and events with industry experts, and charity partners.

Yoga classes will also be offered free of charge to encourage mental and physical health and combat stress.

All events and seminars will be held in the morning, at lunch and after popular working hours. A list of current events can be found here.

Russell Galley, Managing Director, Halifax says: “We’ve built a different kind of space unlike any other dedicated to home buying, as we know the challenges people can face when attempting to set foot or move up the housing ladder.

Home by Halifax is designed to make the process simple, with extended opening hours and specially trained staff on hand to help people make the most of their visit at a time that’s convenient. Our free events also recognise that buying a home can be stressful, and that’s why we think it’s important to offer something different, focussed on health and wellbeing.”

Quality food and barista crafted coffee will also be available in Change Please coffee shop – a warm, informal space to chat, meet, work and learn. Run in partnership with social enterprise and award-winning local independent supplier Change Please, it empowers members of the local homeless community by offering opportunities to be trained as baristas.

Halifax recently launched the Family Boostmortgage to help first-time buyers without a deposit, where savings from parents or other family members can be used to provide security for 10% of the loan.

Staff will be on hand to discuss Family Boost, as well as a range of other products, with visitors from the 7th October. In addition, video links to further expert staff members will help customers make the most of their time in store on the rare occasion an adviser isn’t immediately on hand to help.

Home by Halifax will be open five days a week from 07:30 to 19:00 on Monday to Thursday, closing at 16:00 on a Friday.

Oct 19

Brexit is responsible for a great deal of misery, not least in the property market.

Vast numbers of people who have a desire or need to move are reluctant to make big buying decisions while we are beset by the uncertainty that Brexit has brought. As a result there’s a shortage of stock in all sectors, so even those who are pushing on through despite the Brexit drama are having to work hard to find what they want.

The problem with the seemingly endless wait for political issues to resolve themselves is that life can rarely be put on hold. Three years is a long time in life – children arrive and start growing up, jobs change, relationships move on, lifestyles adapt to new ages. For some, moving is non-essential, but for those whose lives aren’t static, waiting is a painful process.

So why shouldn’t you wait any longer? James Greenwood of Stacks Property Search explains:

1. On the face of it, the market looks thin with a seemingly limited choice of property available, but if you look hard and are determined you’ll find the right property, and you should be able to negotiate a good deal, especially as some vendors are determined to make a sale before Brexit happens, so you can put the boot in on price. The advantage is that you shouldn’t have too much competition.

2. Prices have remained relatively stable, so it’s an excellent time to both buy and sell. An unpredictable market with big price moves in either direction makes moving tricky, this is an excellent opportunity to transact without having to contend with difficult fluctuations.

3. Interest rates are at an all-time low, so there’s really only one way for them to change, and that’s up! While we don’t expect any dramatic rises in the short term, it’s sensible not to overstretch yourself, and to fix at a good rate if you can. Great fixed deals are available, and as long as you build in plenty of contingency, it’s a good time to obtain finance. Current levels of Stamp Duty are, in our opinion, here to stay, so don’t hold your breath waiting for any improvements.

4. There will always be something to prevent you buying and selling, we have had over ten years of political and economic uncertainty, but if you wait for a perfect blue sky, you could wait for ever, there’s always something around the corner. But not making a move that is required has a big impact on personal and family life and can cause tensions and unhappiness. It’s better to take the bull by the horns, make the move, and enjoy getting on with your new life in your new home.

5. The costs of moving continue to rise, and that’s a trend that’s unlikely to change. The sooner you do it, the lower the costs are likely to be.

6. By not moving, you are potentially restricting your life choices whether they’re about jobs, schools, partners, or lifestyle. Don’t put your life on hold. There are numerous examples of people who haven’t waited, they’ve taken a deep breath and got on with it. We can honestly say that of the many people we have helped move over the course of the last three years, none have regretted it.

We’ve helped people move out of London. While others have been waiting to sell at the top of the market, those who have moved out of the capital have settled children into schools, made new friends, and started enjoying their new lives, feeling the financial advantage of trading into the country market.

Downsizers have started to enjoy the benefits of the freedom that downsizing brings, whether that’s financial or practical, allowing them to help offspring with their own purchases, lock up and leave and travel, move nearer families and start enjoying grandchildren, and generally enjoy their lives unburdened by excess property.

Second home buyers have enjoyed several years of high demand from those seeking UK holiday rentals. The number of UK residents taking holidays at home is rising steadily – factors such as very weak Sterling, better summers, and uncertainty about the changing face of European travel are all very relevant.

Returning expats have found themselves in an enviable position due to the drop in Sterling. In particular, buyers who are paid in Dollars have been patting themselves on the back.

Buy to let investors have been able to find excellent bargains in the new build sector, and rents have been buoyant. We expect to see further rises in rents.

Whether we wind up with a hard Brexit, a soft one, or none at all, we are unlikely to see any dramatic effect on the property market. In either of the first two scenarios activity is likely to increase, but big fluctuations in price are unlikely, so there really is no sensible reason to wait.”

Oct 19

What’s Your Bathroom’s Expiration Date? Your bathroom is often one of the most used rooms in your home, so it’s particularly important to keep it in the best condition and functioning well.

It’s inevitable that fixtures and fittings will have to be eventually replaced - but did you know when that’s likely to be?

To answer this question, Mira Showers collected advice and tips from several bathroom experts on how to extend your bathroom’s lifespan.

Top tips on how to extend the life of your bathroom:

1. If you live in a hard water area the buildup of limescale can really affect how long your bathroom will last, look to install a water softener or a scale reducer to help with this problem.

2. Soak your shower head in diluted bleach once a month and scrub with a stiff brush to remove buildup and therefore extend its life.

3. Leaky taps are one of the main reasons people look to replace them and one of the key reasons this happens is being too heavy handed when turning them on and off. By never over-tightening the taps, the washers will remain intact and should last much longer.

4. It’s not the nicest of jobs, but regularly removing hair from your shower drain will avoid blockages and therefore prolong the life of your shower tray. Try to do it once a month, or use a shower drain hair trap to capture the hair before it disappears into the pipes.

5. Extractor fans are often forgotten about in a bathroom, and it’s this lack of attention that can lead to replacements being needed. The fan will attract lots of dust and debris, so once a week clear this out and once a month (after turning the electricity off) remove the vent face and soak it in hot soapy water. Make sure it’s bone dry before reassembling.

6. You’re probably regularly cleaning your shower well, but are you making sure any rubber seals are staying in tact too? They can often be forgotten and can cause leaks if left untouched, our experts recommend removing these seals once a month and cleaning with soapy water to prevent discoloration, damage and bacteria buildup.

7. If you’re looking to avoid toilet seats that easily get loose, try using metal brackets instead of plastics which are often much more sturdy and will mean your toilet will last longer.

Oct 19

As many of you may know, if you refer a client to us who places their home on the market with us, you qualify for £100 worth of vouchers for your shop of choice. One of our contractors, Andy Henderson, referred a client to us and we rented that property out very quickly. Andy asked us if we could donate the £100 to the Pilgrims Hospice which we totally agreed to do. Not only did we agree to do that but we also agreed to double it to £200! I contacted Rachael at the hospice and we agreed to split the vouchers so that they can use them as prizes in their up coming events to help raise even more funds for such an amazing cause.

We are pleased to say that from today, anyone who wishes to donate their vouchers to the Hospice, we will DOUBLE them every time. We enjoy supporting good local causes and we cant think of a better way to do that.

So, if you know anyone who is thinking of selling or renting out their property then just get them to contact us today and we will do the rest! We look forward to talking to you and assisting your recommendations!

Oct 19

Newly released data from Goodlord has revealed that, during September, void periods increased across 7 out of the 8 regions monitored, with only London bucking the trend.

In the West Midlands, void periods more than doubled month on month, moving from 15 days in August to 34 in September, taking the region back to rates seen during the first quarter of 2019. The shortest void periods in September were recorded in the North East, where it took just 10 days to fill an empty property in September, up from 7 days in August.

In London, void periods reduced across the month, dropping from 14 days to just 11 in September.

Overall, it took an average of 18 days to fill an empty property in the UK in September, up from just 11 days on average in August. The overall year-to-date average is 20 days.

London rents reach year to date high

The Rental Index also shows average rents in London jumping by 8% between August and September, taking the average rental cost for a property in the capital from £1,684 to £1,820 per month. Rental price increases were also recorded in the West Midlands (up 8%) and the South East (up 12%).

Elsewhere, the picture for average rents was mixed. The South West saw a modest decline of 3%, with average rents in the North West dipping by 5%. In the South East, landlords will welcome a 12% increase in average rents.

In the North East rent prices dropped by 17% - moving from a 2019 high of £897 in August to £745 last month. However, this was still higher than the year to date average for the region.

Wales also recorded a significant decline, with rental costs decreasing by 15% from £780 to £662, the lowest average rental cost for the region during 2019 so far.

Tom Mundy, COO at Goodlord, commented: “The trends seen throughout the summer were characterised by very low void periods and an uptick in average rents. The figures for September show that this ‘summer bump’ for agents and landlords might be coming to an end. Void periods have ticked up again across nearly all regions, taking us back to levels seen in the first quarter of 2019, and average rent prices are proving jumpier as the market adjusts to new levels of demand. As we move into the winter months, letting agents and landlords should do all they can to ensure their business models can withstand any forthcoming market fluctuations.”

Oct 19

Range cooker specialist, Leisure, have been crunching the numbers and calculated the value per square metre, that extending your home can add to your property and highlights the interior renovations homeowners are carrying out the most.

It is often said that we make a house a home by what we do to it. Regardless of what you’re working with, spending some time and effort (and a little cash) on styling your home makes a world of difference. This is no secret to homeowners, who are said to have spent an estimated £295 billion collectively renovating their homes in the past five years. But just how much value do our efforts add to our homes when it comes to selling up?

With space always at a premium, it’s not surprising that an extension can add value to your home, but what is surprising is how much value it can add depending on where you live. In the City of London, homes are valued at an average of £285,566 per m², meaning an extension could add serious value. Compare this with Burnley, where homes sell for around £1,147 per m², and it’s clear that not all extensions are created equal.

However, the average size of a property in the City of London is only 41m², the best region for a large property is Yorkshire and Humber and with an average property size of 94m², you’ll get over double the living space than the City of London.

Outside of London, Broxbourne in Hertfordshire is the location where homeowners could see the biggest increase in their home’s value by adding an extension, as houses here are valued at an average of £16,341 per m². The South East came in second place as the region where homes are likely to benefit most from an extension and see the biggest increase to their value, whilst the North East was bottom of the list with an average home value of £1992 per m².

But extensions aren't an option for everyone. Some don’t have the space to extend on to, are working with tighter budgets or are bound by restrictions, such as planning permission. So what other changes are people making to their homes? Over the last five years, the number of homeowners choosing to renovate their existing property, rather than move to a new one, has increased fivefold to four million households.

The key areas that people tend to focus on when making home improvements are the bathroom and kitchen. 63% of homeowners have carried out bathroom renovations in the last 10 years and that figure is 52% for kitchens.

Top 10 areas of the home where homeowners are focusing their renovation efforts:

1: Bathroom 63%

2: Kitchen 52%

3: New boiler or central heating 32%

4: Garden 25%

5: Double Glazing 23%

6: Living Space 19%

7: Additional Bedrooms 13%

8: New Roofing 12%

9: Office 10%

10: Storage or Garage 8%

Gino Grossi, Marketing Manager at Leisure, comments: “Our new research reveals that space continues to be a highly sought after element in homes and that extensions are often a hugely valuable investment. However, it’s also great to see that more and more homeowners are getting resourceful and turning their creative eyes to renovating their homes.

While it's clear that renovation efforts in any part of the home can increase its value, kitchens continue to be one of the highest priorities for homeowners so they can use it as a space to entertain friends and family.

Peter Davey, Director of James Anderson Estate Agents comments on the findings: “To help maximise the value of your property open plan living, kitchen renovations and luxury bathrooms are the best improvements to make in order to increase the value of your home. These areas have the most value per square metre and are most in-demand for homeowners.

Creating an open plan kitchen/family room is what many homeowners are after when renovating their property as they are the heart of the home.”