How to sell your house before Christmas – easy wins, inside and out

If you’re looking to put your house up for sale over the next few months, there are a several things you can do to help make your home more desirable to house viewers. The experts from 247 Blinds have put their thinking caps on and come up with the following simple yet effective tips on how to sell your house before Christmas…

If you’re tight on time or budget, make a list and prioritise the key factors and features that are really attractive and sought after to potential buyers’, explains Jason Peterkin from 247 Blinds.

1. First impressions count

It’s easy to forget about your outside space, especially during winter, however, first impressions are really important. Take time to tidy up your front and back gardens, raking up leaves and putting away any clutter. Don’t forget your driveway, either – make sure to show off key features like ease of access and safety aspects.

2. Create a warm welcome

Make sure buyers feel at ease while looking around your home and help them to imagine living in the space. Think about implementing small touches such as a vase of flowers, a pot of fresh coffee and even a few baked goods to offer around. During the colder months, ensure the heating is on so the house seems cosy and inviting.

3. Prioritise the main rooms

Certain rooms deserve special attention as they are where people are most likely to spend most of their time. The three main ones to consider are the living room, kitchen and master bedroom.

Helen Silver from The Property Styling Company advises, ‘Consider investing in a few new accessories, a couple of plants and maybe even a fresh coat of paint if the walls are looking a little neglected. A large mirror for the living room is always a good idea as it will help the room to look fresh and light.’

4. Refresh and declutter

While spending cash on a complete re-fit isn’t recommended, there are plenty of small changes that can make a difference to buyers. Try repainting walls and cabinets for a quick refresh and declutter your worktops and cupboards to show off the amount of storage space available.

Giving your tiles a refresh can also really transform your space. Try unusual shapes in the kitchen or bathroom – fan shapes are big right now – to give your home a contemporary update.

5. Demonstrate potential with statement pieces

Show off what can be done with the space by adding a few statement pieces around the home. It’ll make your rooms stand out and leave a good lasting impression, however, keep the overall backdrop neutral.

6. Let light in 

Try to be strategic when organising house viewings during winter. Pick times of the day when there will be plenty of natural light as this is one of the most important features buyers are looking for.

Jason Peterkin, director at 247 Blinds says, ‘Make sure you choose the right window dressing for the rooms in your home and keep your curtains and blinds open during any house viewings to allow for the maximum amount of light to flood through.’

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Mortgage prisoners may finally be able to switch to a better deal…

Mortgage prisoners locked into expensive rates have been offered a potential lifeline after the financial watchdog relaxed its rules.

The Financial Conduct Authority confirmed today it has ‘removed barriers that stop some mortgage customers from finding a cheaper mortgage deal’, helping borrowers when it comes to remortgaging away from their existing provider

It also announced plans to force all institutions that own mortgage books, whether they’re regulated or not, to alert borrowers to the rule changes and suggest they could get a better deal by remortgaging elsewhere.

Up to half a million mortgage borrowers in the UK have seen their home loan sold onto inactive or unregulated lenders, meaning their mortgage is now owned by a company or fund that can’t offer them a remortgage.

Of those, the Financial Conduct Authority estimates that 140,000 would save money if they were able to switch onto a new deal by remortgaging to another lender.

However, strict rules governing how lenders assess whether they can afford it have left them so-called ‘mortgage prisoners’.

These mortgage prisoners find themselves unable to qualify for a new deal with a different lender and so end up locked into providers who are not competing for new business and charging high interest rates.

The FCA claims today’s rule change will allow lenders to use ‘a different and more proportionate affordability assessment for customers who meet certain criteria’.

This would include allowing borrowers who are up-to-date with their existing mortgage payments and who are not looking to move house or borrow more to be accepted by a new lender – even where their income and expenses wouldn’t normally pass that lender’s affordability calculations.

However, earlier this year mortgage lenders said publicly that even if there were to be a rule change such as this, they still wouldn’t be able to help free many mortgage prisoners.

Jackie Bennett, director of mortgages at UK Finance – the lender trade body, appeared to reiterate this today.

She said: ‘The regulated mortgage industry supports all measures to help creditworthy borrowers on reversion rates switch to a better deal, and has already implemented a voluntary agreement that led to 26,000 customers of active lenders being offered a new deal in 2018.

‘We look forward to the FCA publishing up to date information on borrowers with inactive firms, allowing the industry to develop products that meet these customers’ needs where individual active lenders have the commercial and risk appetite to do so.

‘However, there is a risk that the regulator’s changes could unduly raise expectations among some customers on reversion rates who must now be contacted but may find they are unable to secure a new mortgage.

‘In particular, this may include customers of inactive firms who are in negative equity, in current or recent arrears or on an interest-only mortgage with no repayment strategy.’

Bennett committed to working closely with the regulator nonetheless, but urged the government to consider what more could be done to help customers of inactive firms who are unlikely to benefit from the new rules.

Earlier this year, This is Money proposed some alternative measures to support mortgage prisoners, including debt forgiveness and allowing lenders to waive stress testing, a rule that currently sits under the purview of the Prudential Regulation Authority – a regulator that is separate from the FCA.

What is a mortgage prisoner?

Mortgage prisoners are borrowers who were given a mortgage – most likely pre-financial crisis – but who are now trapped on high variable rates, unable to remortgage to a cheaper deal because they no longer fit the profile of a ‘good’ borrower.

This can be down to a number of things: perhaps they borrowed a lot on interest-only and can’t repay the outstanding capital; they could have borrowed on one of Northern Rock’s infamous Together mortgages at 125 per cent of the value of the property, meaning they’re still in negative equity; they might have retired since first taking their mortgage; or seen a drop in their income.

Whatever the reason, they’re stuck, and they’re not alone: the latest official figures calculate there are around 200,000 mortgage prisoners in the UK.

In January this year the Treasury Select Committee asked the financial regulator to ‘act swiftly’ to help mortgage prisoners, particularly those trapped with firms that no longer offer loans.

Currently an estimated 20,000 homeowners are locked into mortgages with lenders that are no longer active – with a further 120,000 stuck with firms that aren’t regulated by the UK’s financial watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority.

If these borrowers were with active lenders, the previous rules would let their lender remortgage them onto a cheaper deal. For those with inactive lenders, it’s simply not been an option until now.

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Five simple and inexpensive tips to get your home sold despite Brexit jitters

The housing market has had a significant slowdown as the Brexit repeatedly gets pushed back and now a General Election looms, so those who are looking to sell their home may require some help to get a deal over the line.

There are steps that those who is looking to sell a property can take to help entice a buyer.

These include making sure the property is presented in the best way possible and any outstanding jobs are completed.

As property website Residential People points out, ‘a large number of buyers won’t be willing to do work themselves, which is why it’s vital that you make as many improvements as you can to your property before potential buyers arrive to view it.’

It outlines five tips for renovating your home when selling so that buyers are drawn to it while searching for their next property to move to.

It comes as Nationwide Building Society revealed that house prices in Britain have barely moved, with annual growth remaining below 1 per cent for the eleventh month in a row.

Despite the modest levels of demand, average prices are still £800 higher than they were in October last year, or an increase of 0.4 per cent, at £215,368.

However, it represents a ‘significant slowing’ compared with recent years. For example, in the year to October 2016, just after the Brexit referendum, prices increased by £9,100, according to Nationwide.

Here are Residential Property’s five tips for renovating your home to help achieve that sale…

1. New cupboard doors and lighting in the kitchen

While a well-designed kitchen can go a long way to improving the value of your home and making it more attractive to buyers, you don’t necessarily need to go for a major overhaul.

Instead, one option may be to replace any damaged or tired cupboard doors and install new lighting.

This can give a kitchen a new lease of life at the fraction of the cost of a complete refit.

2. New bathroom taps and shower heads

Bathrooms may also be updated in a relatively simple way with new taps and shower heads, generating enough of a ‘wow’ factor to get your property sold.

Again, this is a much more inexpensive option than giving the bathroom a complete overhaul, while it is also important to freshen up any grimy tiles or mould-stained grouting.

Another simple tip is to box up any toiletries littered around the bathroom as it indicates a lack of storage and may put buyers off.

It may also be worth replacing anything that looks tired, but is easily replaced, such as shower curtains and toilet seats.

3. Jazz up your garden

A landscaped garden with decking and a stylish shed can help to enhance the value of your home.

A well-maintained garden can create a lasting impression on a buyer, offering an appealing space to relax, unwind and entertain guests.

Most potential buyers will want to see a manicured garden – so make sure the grass is cut and plants are tidy. If not, they may be put off by the thought of constant maintenance.

If you do have decking, consider giving it a lick of paint and if you have paving, a power wash.

4. Remove unnecessary walls

Attempt to make more space in your home by knocking down unnecessary walls and opening up space.

For example, you may be able to remove the wall between your living room and kitchen to create an open plan living and dining space.

Removing a partition wall can be relatively simple, but if the wall is load bearing you will need structural reinforcements such as rolled steel joists put in place. Make sure you comply with building regulations.

This is the biggest and most expensive job out of the five mentioned and will require an expert to come in and assess.

5. Improve energy efficiency

Improving energy efficiency, this can be done by installing double – or triple – glazed windows and fitting your home with insulation.

You can also potentially receive a Government grant to do certain energy efficiency changes in the home. This includes upgrading insulation.

Both of these options are expensive and time-consuming and unlikely to be the kind of thing that you would want to spend money on just before selling, unless you feel that you really need to do the work or have a high value property.

There are ways to improve the feel of a home, however.

When you do have viewers over, make sure your home is a good temperature, perhaps light a candle or two to make it seem warmer and cosier, and eliminate any draughts, with an inexpensive, but decorative excluder.

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