• The threat of Japanese Knotweed to your home
    Posted on 11 August 2023

    The threat of Japanese Knotweed to your home

    Japanese Knotweed is certainly invasive – and pervasive. The plant spreads extremely quickly and the smallest pieces of cut stem can take root, making the plant very difficult to kill off.
    Knotweed’s negative impact on the environment, with native plants struggling to survive under its dense foliage, is not in question. However, a certain amount of hysteria appears to have amplified the plant’s ability to cause damage to residential buildings.

    The latest Japanese knotweed research
    Japanese knotweed or fallopia japonica is an invasive fast-growing plant that can send its roots deep into the ground and cause damage to building foundations, drainage systems and walls.

    It’s an aggressive weed, first introduced into the UK in the mid-19th century, that has a bad reputation. If the plant is found near or in a property, it can significantly affect your ability to sell or for a buyer to get a mortgage. Treatment programmes are long and can cost thousands of pounds, plus the infestation can lie dormant for many years.

    However, the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology committee report notes that the latest research on the weed released last year suggests the physical damage to property is no greater than that of other plants and trees that are not subject to the same controls.

    Currently, any sign of Japanese knotweed nearby can have a ‘chilling’ effect on a property’s sale, the committee found. Yet, mortgage lenders in other countries do not treat the plant with the same degree of caution as we do in the UK.

    Why the framework needs to be updated
    Before 2012, it was very difficult to get a mortgage on a property that was anywhere near an outbreak of Japanese knotweed. To tackle this issue, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) set out a framework to help lenders assess the risk. A surveyor will apply these categories to the property so that lenders can judge the severity of the knotweed problem. The higher the rating, the less likely a mortgage lender is to agree to a mortgage over the property.

    Category 1 - Knotweed is found more than seven metres away in a neighbouring property, or an empty space like a railway bank or wasteland.
    Category 2 - Knotweed is within seven metres of your property but not within it.
    Category 3 - It is within the boundaries of the property but is not within seven metres from a living space. You will need a professional opinion.
    Category 4 - The worst. It is within seven metres of the living space and/or causing damage to walls, paths or foundations. This needs immediate professional intervention.

    The framework relies on the seven-metre rule to measure the scope of the problem. However, the parliamentary committee’s report says the origin of the widely used seven-metre rule was a ‘throw-away remark’ in a 1998 research paper. Indeed, RICS has admitted that the framework is ‘no longer current’, yet it still forms the basis of mortgage decisions.

    Can you still get a mortgage on a property with a Japanese Knotweed problem?

    Lenders, and the surveyors whose opinion a lender will be guided by, have definitely shown a softening approach to Japanese knotweed in the last couple of years.
    Historically the mere mention of Japanese knotweed being in the vicinity of a property was enough for a lot of lenders to immediately decline an application. However, as there has been a more sophisticated understanding of Japanese knotweed and the treatments available, a much more flexible approach has now been taken by the majority.

    So what’s the real risk with Knotweed?
    Although its ability to damage residential buildings seems to have been exaggerated thanks to sensational news reports, its vigorous growth can affect the following areas of a property:
    Drains and other underground services can be disrupted by Knotweed roots
    Paved areas such as patios and pathways can be affected by Knotweed shoots growing through joints
    Garden walls with shallow foundations can be undermined by the weed
    Outbuildings such as greenhouses, sheds and even garages can be affected
    Conservatories can be affected in a similar way to outbuildings
    Gardens can be overrun by Knotweed, reducing the positive effects of a well-planned outdoor space

    Even when the plant appears to have been cleared above ground, any sections of the plant can remain dormant underground. Regrowth can occur years after an initial treatment, so what’s the solution for homeowners faced with this pest?

    Expert help
    IN 2012, the Property Care Association (PCA) established the Invasive Weed Control Group to help people identify qualified, regulated specialists to help with infestations. Amateur attempts to remove the plant can easily make the problem worse, and professional solutions require a sustained approach over a number of years to completely remove the plant.

    Responsibilities: buyers and sellers

    Sellers are legally obliged to check for the presence of the weed on their property. If found to be present, this must be marked on the TA6 property information form. Any attempt to hide the existence of Knotweed on a property could result in being sued.

    It is the seller’s responsibility to provide an appropriate management plan for dealing with the infestation using an approved contractor (see Invasive Weed Control Group mentioned above). These firms should be able to offer a warranty, protected by an independent insurer, for the eradication work they undertake.

    This provides both seller and buyer with peace of mind, knowing that a full course of treatment has been committed to.

    The buyer’s surveyor will assess the impact level of any Japanese Knotweed infestation on, or around, a property, based on the RICS report mentioned above.

    A lender will typically want to know the details on the location, severity and treatment in place for any Japanese knotweed highlighted. As such, if these details are available upfront an intermediary can approach the lender and surveyor’s pre-application to ensure they would be comfortable with this.

    So – if you find this Japanese Knotweed on your property or are hoping to buy a home and have had it turn up in the survey, don’t panic. Get expert advice and take action. We’re here to help any way we can, simply get in touch.
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  • Simple hacks for a smooth home move!
    Posted on 11 August 2023

    Simple hacks for a smooth home move!

    If you are moving home this year and starting to think about all the packing and work that needs to take place, try not to worry about it and get too stressed out. The anticipation and excitement involved with moving home can make you feel like you want to dive in headfirst, but that’s not always the best idea. Instead, work smart when it comes to your move.
    Here’s a list of handy tips and tricks to make your house move go as smoothly as possible:

    Bag up your wardrobe
    The majority of households aren’t short on clothes, and each family member usually has enough clothing to fill a wardrobe or two to the brim. The idea of neatly folding away every single item of clothing can seem daunting, but there is an easier way to get around this.

    Buy some bin bags that have drawstrings at the top, and while your clothes are still hanging in the cupboard bring the bin bag up and around them and tie tightly at the top. This will keep all your hanging clothes together and mean they are ready to hang in your new wardrobe as soon as you’ve moved.

    Use soft dividers and padding
    Packing up your kitchen can be a nightmare, as the majority of things that need to be moved are fragile and can easily be broken. Instead of wrapping up every single plate in newspaper, why not simply buy a pack of paper plates and use them as spacers.

    When you pack fragile items into boxes, they can move around and become damaged in transit. Pad the top of the boxes with towels or stuffed toys, as this will keep everything in place and maximise your packing space.

    Use your camera
    If you have the chance, it is a good idea to visit your new house in-between completing and moving in – this will give you a chance to look round before you turn up with hundreds of boxes. Take lots of pictures of both the interior and the exterior of the property and categorise them into rooms.

    This will help you plan where you want to put your belongings and which box belongs in which room – you can even draw up a floor plan and number the rooms if it’s easier. If you’re renting your property, having photographic evidence of its initial condition when you move out will also help you secure your deposit.

    Tie your doors back
    When you’re moving all your belongings into a new house, you usually have to go back and forth through multiple doors and deal with them constantly swinging shut. This can be very annoying if you are trying to carry heavy boxes.

    If you are going to be walking in and out of your house for hours, then it’s a good idea to prop any doors open or pin them back so you have a clear walkway to bring in your things.

    Get labelling
    The amount of gadgets and technology set up in the average house will mean you likely have a huge amount of cables to sort out – power adaptors, internet leads, headphones, console controls, and more.

    The last thing you want when you move into your new house is to be stuck with a tangle of cables and hours ahead of trying to work out which wire is for which device – it could be days before you get your TV working again. Pop labels on your cables as you pack, and group them together so you know which ones go where.

    Make better boxes
    When you’re packing up all your belongings, the best way to get everything neatly from one house to another is by using boxes. Packing tape gets slathered over every crack in the box and once it’s full it can be hard to carry.

    Make your own handles in the sides of your boxes by cutting out triangle shapes on each side – this will make them much easier to carry, just make sure nothing falls out. Use string underneath your packing tape and when you come to opening the boxes you won’t have to dig with your fingernails to get it off.

    For more little hacks and tips or to get your home move started, get in touch! We’ve seen thousands of moves and have the low down to get it done quickly and efficiently, as well as give you advice on your home purchase and sale.
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  • A step-by-step guide for selling an inherited property
    Posted on 11 August 2023

    A step-by-step guide for selling an inherited property

    The additional steps required to sell an inherited property can add to what is already a demanding time so it's important to ensure you’re following the necessary steps. While the paperwork can be greatly increased, some elements of selling a property remain the same and it’s worth bearing that in mind.

    It’s important to make the property look as visually appealing as possible to leave viewers leave with a good and lasting impression, and it’s worth instructing a chartered surveyor to perform a property survey, so that you can take steps to rectify any major issues that could put buyers off or reduce the value of your home.

    1.     The Will
    When inheriting a property, the first step is to make sure the legal side of things is covered and that the will states the name of the executor (the person in charge of the deceased’s estate) and the beneficiaries (those who are to inherit the estate). Shared ownership can make things a little trickier when making those major decisions, but the next steps are to apply for a grant of probate from the Probate Registry. If there is more than one executor, there is advice on the probate application form and guidance notes, as well as a handy guide from the government on how to do this part of the process.

    2.     Apply for probate
    Probate gives the executor the legal authority to act on behalf of the deceased. They will be given access to things like bank accounts, investments, and anything else that is relevant to the property. In terms of timeframes, it usually takes a grant of probate around six to eight weeks to arrive, and then finalised issues of inheritance and the estate can take from about three to six months, or even longer, depending on if it’s a large estate with various bank accounts, properties, etc.

    3.     Speak to the experts
    If you want to avoid extra paperwork, you can get a solicitor to act on your behalf to provide probate services, and although you may be dealing with family members during the process, it’s always good to cover yourself and avoid any additional arguments. If you’re already thinking about doing work to the property then it’s a good idea to get a chartered surveyor in as early as possible, HMRC will also require an accurate figure for probate purposes.

    4.     Check your inheritance tax requirements
    Inheritance tax is due on estates of more than £325,000 at a rate of 40 per cent, however, there are some variants on this:

    • You won’t have to pay any inheritance tax if it is passed to the deceased's spouse or civil partner, a charity or a community amateur sports club.
    • If the deceased left the estate to their children or grandchildren, the threshold goes up to £500,000, which also applies to adopted, foster or stepchildren.

    Bear in mind that you might have to pay capital gains tax on any profits you make from the property.

    5.     Selling advice
    It’s a good idea to renovate an inherited property before selling, and although it may be difficult to change a loved one’s home, it’s usually more desirable for buyers once the property has been refreshed. Much of the decision to update will depend on your circumstances and what is best for you.

    Those looking for a quick sale will want to get the most out of their time and money with some light touches. Things like a good clear out, a fresh coat of paint in neutral colours and even getting rid of old carpets and replacing them with wooden floors can make a major difference.

    Best practice when selling is always worth considering. Make sure you’re allowing lots of natural light into the property and declutter rooms of furniture left in the property during viewing. Don’t forget it’s the outside of the property that potential buyers will see first, so be sure to tidy up the front and back gardens, jet wash any paving, and get the windows cleaned and polished.

    For more help and guidance on where to start when selling an inherited property, get in touch with our team, who have experience and knowledge in every aspect of the home sale. We can guide you with first steps and refer you to the best local people.
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  • Your key to the perfect buy-to-let
    Posted on 11 August 2023

    Your key to the perfect buy-to-let

    With investment properties on the rise and an ever-growing demand for rental properties, it’s clear that we haven’t lost our appetite for buy to let. We have come up with lots of tips and advice in our new mini guide to the world of property rental:

    1.     Layout
    Most modern apartments and houses will have fairly straightforward layouts, while older buildings may have awkward chimney breasts, stairs and rooms through rooms. If you can change the layout fairly easily, that’s a good way to increase its appeal to tenants. For example, it’s often worth moving a bathroom upstairs from the lean-to at the back or creating a kitchen/diner from a small galley kitchen and dark back room. Stick with what people expect.

    2.     Size matters
    This depends on your target tenant. If you’re after a single professional, you might consider a small flat, maybe even a studio, in a good, central area. If you want a family, for a longer-term let, you might look at three-bedroom properties, a larger home with more square footage, or a house in the suburbs. Studios, or one and two-bedroom flats are often easier to let and appeal to a wider audience.

    3.     Cash to spend
    So you’ve got a bit of money in the bank and it’s not gathering much interest. If stocks and shares are an unknown country to you, maybe bricks and mortar is the answer. First of all, do your homework. Decide how much you’ve got to spend, whether you can do any repair work yourself, whether you want to deal with the tenant yourself and how much it will cost if you don’t. Research mortgage options and calculate your likely profit. Only then are you ready to go out and start spending.

    4.     Location, location, location
    Obviously, you know your local area best and if you can afford to buy in it, then that makes things easier. If your own area is too expensive, then look further afield. Key to a great buy-to-let is having it somewhere where people want to live. A city/town centre location, close to transport links or handy for shops – all these will help drive tenants to your door. You might have to weigh up negative aspects against the initial price but remember that a takeaway restaurant next door will limit your rental even though the property might seem to be a bargain. However, it’s worth considering a cheaper road near to a popular area as the rent will be the similar.

    Top Tip: look out for commuter hot spots (near good transport links: bus routes or tub stations) along with high-end stores: Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Starbucks.

    5.     Add value
    Even if it’s not going to add to your rental income, it’s often worth making improvements such as those mentioned above. They’ll add value when you come to sell, and they’ll make the house easier to let. Other improvements to consider include double-glazing, a new bathroom or kitchen, and creating extra bedrooms. Spend money on making it as maintenance free as possible which will save money in the long run.

    6.     Talk to the professionals
    Will you be doing the work yourself or employing tradesmen? Weigh up the cost, the time it will take and whether you are capable. Unless you are used to DIY, it’s probably quicker and cheaper in the long run to get somebody in. Boilers and electrical work will need to be signed off by a suitably qualified person. Cheap workers who are available immediately might not be the best option. A skilled worker can often do the work in a fraction of the time. Get recommendations from friends, if possible.

    7.     Decoration
    Don’t spend too much money on the decoration. You won’t be living there. Unless it’s a top-end property, avoid expensive and unusual finishes. White paint is cheaper to buy and saves time because you don’t have to cut it in around the edges. New carpets throughout can change the feel of the property. Add a decent underlay, haggle a little, and you can achieve a good-looking finish without an enormous outlay. Replace avocado bathroom suites or damaged kitchens. You might get away with new cupboard doors and fresh grout in the bathroom. Clean up or replace socket fronts, light switches, knobs and taps and the property will look as good as new.

    8.     Presentation
    Give everything a good clean. Bathrooms and kitchens should be sparkling. Doors and windows are easily wiped down. If there’s a garden, clear it. If you’ve got time to seed it, do that. If not, use turf, decking or tidy up existing paving. Replace fences and fix broken glass in sheds. Kerb appeal is crucial when you are selling a house and tenants are no different to buyers in their responses.

    9.     Leasehold or freehold?
    Freehold is always better. It means you have more control. In theory, leasehold could mean maintenance charges are spread across the building and in practice it may mean you have to deal with somebody else to get things done and agree costs. Read the lease carefully and aim to have at least 100 years left on it. You might not get a mortgage if it is less than 70 years. Renegotiating the lease should be a condition of the sale if you are in a good position to buy.

    10.  Hidden costs and void periods
    You need to be able to cover your costs if the property is left empty for a couple of weeks or months, or if the tenant gets into rent arrears. If the tenant fails to pay the rent, it may take months to get them to leave. You can get landlord insurance to cover this. And once the tenants have vacated, you might find you need to redecorate before you can let the property again.

    11.  Furnished vs. unfurnished
    This depends partly on the type of property you are letting. But if you are going to furnish it, you need to be aware of fire regulations. That means you can’t just go down to the junk shop and buy a sofa. You need to be sure it conforms to fire safety rules. Check labels. You also need to consider durability, so buy soft furnishings with removable, washable covers. Mattresses can be covered, too. You will also need to fit carbon monoxide and smoke alarms. Tables, cabinets and wardrobes shouldn’t be too flimsy. Make sure the property is safe, reliable and comfortable.

    12.  Tax and capital gains
    Make sure you’ve factored in paying your taxes correctly and don’t forget you’ll be charged capital gains when you sell the property. Save your receipts as you can claim against tax when you eventually sell. Redecoration between tenants, however, does attract tax relief.

    13.  Good relations
    It is key to get on with your tenants. Treat them well, and communicate effectively, then you are likely to find the sentiments reciprocated.

    Looking for the perfect buy to let property? Get in touch and we’ll show you a selection of perfectly suited homes on the market…
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  • Support a healthier planet with these 8 environmentally friendly home tips
    Posted on 11 August 2023

    Support a healthier planet with these 8 environmentally friendly home tips

    Last month we celebrated Earth Day, to raise awareness for environmentally friendly measures to help preserve the planet we call home.

    We think that action should begin in our actual homes, by creating eco-conscious environments that not only support our families and lifestyles, but protect our larger surroundings, rather than contribute to their demise.

    Some green investments help save the planet, but they can also save you money over time as you spend less on energy or water. Even if you decide to sell your home in a few years, potential buyers may be willing to pay more for your home if they know that their energy or water bill will be less than the home next door.

    Read on to get started with eight ways to transform your home to be environmentally friendly…

    1.     Swap regular light bulbs for LED bulbs
    Not only do LED light bulbs last longer than conventional bulbs, but they’re also far more efficient too! This means that you’ll be using less power and having to replace your light bulbs less frequently – everyone’s a winner. What's more, they're available in a range of brightness and designs so you can really tailor the lighting to your needs or to suit the room.

    2.     Decorate your house with plants
    Potted plants are effective for indoor air cleaning. Not only that, but they are also beautiful and make your home more welcoming. Sure, it takes a bit of responsibility to take care of plants but it’s worth it to breathe in clean air.

    3.     Insulate your home
    By making your home more efficient at trapping in the heat you will cut your heating bills and use less fossil fuels. A draught excluder is one of the quickest and cheapest ways to keep your home warmer, and you can also think about insulating your home with thermal wallpaper along with attic or cellar insulation.

    4.     Use eco-friendly cleaning products
    A lot of cleaning products have a lot of harmful chemicals in them that aren’t environmentally friendly to create or dispose of. In fact, repeated exposure to these cleaning products can affect your health as well as the environment. Green cleaning products use more natural and organic methods of cleaning which are far less harmful. Here are some great tips from Good Energy in partnership with the National Trust.

    5.     Use your microwave
    Honestly, you’d be surprised by how much more energy efficient microwaves are compared to conventional ovens. While you’re already surprised, you may as well continue to be shocked with some of the awesome things you can cook in a microwave (hint: it’s not just ready meals).

    6.     Compost
    If you have let your food go that little bit too far past its ‘best by’ then you need to be sure to compost it rather than putting it in the bin. Not only will this help create a natural fertiliser and keep your garden green and beautiful, it’ll also reduce the amount of waste going to landfill - and as it won’t break down anaerobically, there will not be a build-up of methane gas.

    7.     Turn it off
    Energy conservation is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Leaving your electricals on standby needlessly uses up energy – hit the off switch and you could see huge improvements, most noticeably in your energy bills!

    8.     Invest in eco-friendly home technology
    Want to go further than simply turning it off? Make sure that the tech you have got is as energy efficient as possible. This way, you’re using much less energy for the time that the product is on, saving money, and reducing your energy output.

    Those are our tips for making your home eco-friendlier! Let me know if you have any sustainable tips of your own, we’d love to hear from you.
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  • Create a statement in your home with the latest trends in tiles
    Posted on 11 August 2023

    Create a statement in your home with the latest trends in tiles

    You can do lots of work on a project, but it all still looks a bit of a mess until you add those finishing touches.

    Whether choosing the colour scheme, wallpaper pattern, or soft furnishings, a carefully curated design can make all of the difference between a stunningly beautiful home and a simple blank canvas.

    Statement tiling can be a powerful way to make your home stand out from the crowd.

    For many years tiles were simply a functional part of a kitchen or bathroom. A way to keep wet areas waterproofed so that you don't end up with damp or leaks. This meant that the tiles were very plain and straightforward. They were there to do a job, not necessarily as a design feature.

    But, as trends changed throughout the generations, tiles were used as a showpiece for these rooms. Think of the tiles from Victorian manor houses with floral patterns or country cottages with fruit bowl motifs through to the retro prints of the '70s. Very different and all making a statement.

    It's relatively simple to change the paint colour in a room. If you choose something a little bolder than you are comfortable with, it is easy to paint over it for a slightly more muted tone. Tiles are a more permanent fixture, so it is crucial to make the right choice when changing them.

    Kitchens are often considered the heart of the home and are key rooms of interest for property searchers. If you can make a statement with the kitchen, you will undoubtedly improve your chances of selling your home for a great price.

    When upgrading a bathroom, most try to emulate hotels, creating an oasis of calm and relaxation. Marble and metallic tiles will bounce light from your scented candles around the room and create a cosy ambient glow, perfect for soaking away in a luxurious bubble bath.

    So what are the trends for the coming year in tiles? Perhaps you are thinking of renewing yours, and you could take some inspiration from here to make your home stand out.

    Bold patterns: Whether geometric patterns on the tiles themselves or using tiles of different shapes to create a design. The uniform shape of each tile lends itself to being used in different ways to create interesting patterns and effects which can have a dramatic effect.

    Terrazzo: When constructing the marble Terrazzo in Italy, the builders would bring home scraps of marble and press them into clay to make their own unique designs, giving this style its name. The modern, high-quality porcelain tiles available now will add a touch of Italian style to any bathroom. They also look fantastic when paired with brushed effect fittings.
    Wallpaper effect tiles: Large images to cover an entire wall, made from tiles to create a mural. These tiles look like wallpaper but have the benefits of being hard-wearing and waterproof to create a fabulous statement wall in a luxurious bathroom.

    Metallics: Corten steel, copper, brass, silver or gold. Metallic-effect tiles add an elegant yet rustic feel to a bathroom or kitchen. Some kitchen designers include hints of metallics around units and handles so the tiles would carry that theme throughout the room and can also be replicated through light fittings.

    Botanicals: Beautiful floral displays spanning multiple tiles give a botanical garden feel. You can create a tremendous effect, from jungle-inspired greenery to delicate wildflowers. The best bit is there is no maintenance required - you definitely couldn't kill off these houseplants!

    Going green:  The interior colour of the year is green, of all shades and tones, and tiles have followed suit. Contrasting shades of green are being seen together in a single room, so the green used in the tiles would not match flooring or soft furnishings. This is a nod to the multiple shades of green found in nature and is echoed in interiors to replicate the outside, inside.

    Tiles will start to take centre stage in homes over the next year. It looks like inspiration is being taken from nature using floral and leafy patterns and images and the tiles themselves are being used as features in the same way wallpaper has been used in recent years.

    If you are planning to update your interior with some eye-catching tiles, let us know, we would love to see your designs.
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  • 6 ways to speed up the sale of your home
    Posted on 3 August 2023

    6 ways to speed up the sale of your home

    1.     You need to be realistic about prices. The market is competitive and the wrong price can cost you – quite literally. Price your home too high and you run the risk of putting potential buyers off, but price too low and people will begin to wonder if there is something wrong with the property. Take a look at the local market and get expert advice from local agents.

    2.     It is important to be critical of your home and look at it through the eyes of a potential seller. Try and imagine different tastes, needs and wants from different type of people. If your home is a family home, then you may want to consider a family-friendly layout. Neutral colours work well as they can often be seen as a starting point for potential homebuyers. It is important that potential buyers can envision themselves living in the house so de-personalise! Remove anything that largely relates to your own family, religious or political stance.

    3.     Even though some buyers look for a house with renovations, most people want to move into a house that is practically perfect. A fresh coat of neutral paint will be beneficial to the sales process and if the flooring or carpet, need drastic improvement, you should do this before you put the property up for sale. Most buyers will also look for natural lighting so make sure individual rooms are well lit.

    4.     Space is the untold saviour in any property so make sure that you make the most of it. Remove any unnecessary clutter, opening up the space, leaving room for imagination. It is important to make sure that your house is orderly so tidy shampoo bottles in the bathroom and children’s toys in the living room.

    5.     It is important to make the property feel like home so accessorise it appropriately. Adding flowers or the odd houseplant will inject colour and warmth into a room and glossy magazines on your coffee table will create a high-end homely effect. In addition to this, investing in some sweet smelling candles and a diffuser will also have a positive effect.

    6.     Finally, have a look over your whole home and for every viewing, ensure it looks like a show home. There shouldn’t be any shoes by the door, dirty dishes in the kitchen or fresh washing in sight! Staging your house to perfection every time will allow people to feel that it is a home they would be proud to own.
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  • Leasehold v Freehold - differences and considerations
    Posted on 3 August 2023

    Leasehold v Freehold - differences and considerations

    What is a freehold?
    With a freehold, the property owner owns the property, and the land the property is built on, outright. The buyer of freehold is responsible for maintaining the land and property, which means these need to be budgeted for. Most houses in the UK are freehold, although some are leasehold.

    The benefits of buying a freehold include:
    ·         There is no need to worry about the lease ending because you own the property outright
    ·         You don’t need to deal with a freeholder or landlord
    ·         You don’t need to pay landlord charges, service charges or ground rent

    What is a leasehold?
    With a leasehold, the property owner owns the property for the length of the lease agreement. When the lease concludes, the freeholder regains ownership of the property, unless the lease has been extended.
    The majority of maisonettes and flats in the UK are leasehold. This means the leaseholder owns the property in the building, but they don’t have a stake in the building. There are some instances of houses being leaseholds. In these circumstances, the owner owns the house, but not the land the home sits on.
    In buying a leasehold property, you take over the lease which was held by the previous owner.

    It is helpful to investigate the leasehold, focusing on the following issues:
    ·         How long the lease is set to run
    ·         The cost of service charges and all related costs
    ·         Will there be an impact on your mortgage and property resale value relating to the contract?

    The length remaining on the lease can impact on a buyers’ ability to obtain a mortgage. If the lease has less than 70 years to run, it is likely there will be problems for the buyer in arranging a mortgage. This is because lenders are looking for at least 25 to 30 years of a lease before the mortgage ends.

    This means the bare minimum a lender is looking for on a mortgage is 50 to 55 years. However, to be able to sell the mortgage, the buyer and their lender must feel confident, which means an additional 25 to 30 years is required. When considering these circumstances, it is easy to see why many lenders are uncomfortable in offering a mortgage when the lease has less than 80 years to run, because the buyer may struggle to sell it at the end of the mortgage.

    It is possible to extend a lease
    Once a homeowner has lived in the property for two years, there is a right to extend the contract by 90 years. The homeowner needs to be a qualifying tenant, but this is usually granted if the initial lease was for more than 21 years.

    Be aware that there is a charge for extending a lease, with this charge set by the freeholder. Therefore, this is another cost to budget for. If you and the freeholder cannot reach agreement on the cost of extending a lease, it is possible to appeal to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal.

    Taking this action may help you to pay a lower fee to extend the lease, but you will have to hire a solicitor and surveyor, which may lead to an increase in the overall cost.

    If you own a leasehold property, you don’t own the land, and this means you aren’t responsible for maintaining the building. You will have to pay a share of the cost of maintaining the structure, and you may have to make payments to a sinking fund. This money is used to cover the cost of unexpected maintenance work.

    Some of the services charges you may have to pay when you own a leasehold property include maintenance of any communal garden area, the electricity bills for communal areas and the cost of repair and maintenance work of exterior walls.

    Therefore, if you plan on buying a leasehold property, you must budget for these costs in addition to monthly mortgage payments.

    There are pros and cons to both options, and your personal preference may be a factor which influences the property you wish to buy. Alternatively, the most crucial factor for you to consider may be the type of property itself, which could shape whether you buy a freehold or leasehold property.

    If you would like further guidance on the difference between leasehold and freehold, and how it affects you, please get in touch.
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  • Will buying a home ever become easier in the UK?
    Posted on 3 August 2023

    Will buying a home ever become easier in the UK?

    While we have been through many ups and downs in terms of the property market in the last few years, there are always good times to buy a home in the UK. Yet the process continues to be a long struggle of starting it at the right time, finding the right home, dealing with all the paperwork and hassle that comes along with that, and finally, dealing with a chain of other buyers. The vital question buyers have been asking for years – will buying a home ever become easier in the UK?

    Finding the right time to buy
    There are two types of property markets – a buyer’s market and a seller’s market. A buyer’s market typically has more homes on the market than there is a demand for – putting the buyer in a good position to negotiate, as their offer will likely be the only one. A seller’s market will have more buyers than there are homes on the market – meaning a buyer could end up competing with others for the same home.

    The easiest way to buy is to time it right so it’s a buyer’s market – this won’t only mean you get a better deal on the home’s value, but also that the buying process becomes easier as others won’t disrupt with a higher competing offer.

    Immediately after a big disruption in the economy and property market (such as after Brexit or after the coronavirus crisis is over), you’ll usually find a buyer’s market emerges as homes flood the market. If you’re selling a home of course, you’ll want to get your home on the market while a seller’s market is still in place.

    So, if you’re stuck right now thinking “Will it get easier?”, your best bet is to wait for the right property market situation to appear.

    Dealing with all the paperwork
    Currently, buying a home is a long drawn out process filled with paperwork, photocopies, proof of salary, mortgage applications, etc. While this will still be the case for all purchases in the near future, we may see this change eventually.  The first sale recently went through using

    Blockchain – an uncomplicated process which will change everything for those who want to buy or sell a home.
    Blockchain can search databases, and allows those involved in the process to prove identity online, upload supporting documents to the databases, fill in forms in a simple way online and will notify the next person in the process who needs to act of their responsibility. It has the added benefit of extra security, and every person having the ability to see where the purchase is in the process. It also means the sales process can happen in a matter of days instead of months, meaning the sale is less likely to fall through.

    This means an incredibly easier time is ahead for buyers!

    Dealing with a chain
    In the buying process, it's very likely you’ll have to deal with a chain of onward buyers, or even backwards if you’re selling your own home. This can be a very frustrating and fragile thing, as a break anywhere in the chain could mean your purchase falls through. As mentioned above, choosing the right time to buy, and the introduction of Blockchain in the future could mean a chain is less likely to break, but we believe it also relies on a great Estate Agent to see you through. Having someone to manage and take over all parts of the process properly – communicating with the right people at the right time and ensuring everything is in place can be a vital way to stop a chain breaking.

    Government reforms
    There continues to be many reforms taking place each year to not only make the purchase of a home easier, but also stop others from gazumping and allowing the purchase to fall through. There are also plenty of proposals the government has put forward to digitalise the process – allowing for identification, signatures and the Conveyancing tasks to be done online. If you’d like to know more about what the government is doing, check out the gov.uk site for up to date information.

    So – the good news? Despite there being some drawbacks currently in place, buying a home will get easier in the UK, and there are always good opportunities to invest, or size up your home. We recommend you always get an expert opinion in order to really get the best out of your purchase by contacting an Estate Agent for advice.
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  • The most crucial questions to ask before you buy
    Posted on 3 August 2023

    The most crucial questions to ask before you buy

    What is best – renting or buying?
    This is one of the most common questions but one that is very personal to you and your journey. Buying is a long-term investment but renting can be the best option for some – depending on circumstances. Before you decide to buy you should ask yourself some questions – how long do you plan on staying there? Are you ready for the responsibility? Are you buying alone or with a partner and if so, is the relationship secure? Whilst it is a great option, buying is not for everyone.

    How do I choose an estate agent?
    It is important to choose an estate agent who is knowledgeable and has experience in the local area. It is also crucial that you build up a good rapport with your chosen agent, as the likelihood is that you’ll be having a lot of communication with them. A lot of estate agency work is done on referral so ask around and make sure you are truly happy with your final choice.

    How many homes shall I view before making a decision?
    We are very lucky that we can view a number of properties without even moving from the computer so use this to your advantage. There is no right and wrong regarding the amount of properties you should view before making a decision but remember when you do find the one, you’ll know. If you want to streamline the process then why not focus on a particular neighbourhood?

    What can I afford?
    Again, everybody wants to know the answer to this but it will depend on your situation. Start by looking at your finances and creating budget – you can quickly become deflated when you realise you can’t afford the properties you have been looking at. Take into account your income and outgoings and meet with a mortgage advisor to discover the possibilities.

    How was the asking price determined?
    It is important to look at the market and decipher how much similar properties in the same area have recently sold for. A number of sellers will set the asking price too high so do your research!

    What should I look out for?
    What you look for in a property will be completely down to you but if you don’t have the budget or time to complete renovations then keep an eye out for possible work needed and make sure you inspect the bathroom and kitchen as these can be very expensive to improve.

    If you have any more questions about buying your dream home, then please get in touch today!
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