Are you guilty of sabotaging your own sale?

While an estate agent will do everything in its power to ensure your home is marketed to the right people, catches the eye of buyers and is priced attractively enough to encourage offers, sellers can also help themselves.

As a company that has sold hundreds of homes, we were very interested in the results of a new survey commissioned by GoCompare Home Insurance. It specifically asked home buyers and would-be purchasers what puts them off most when looking for a new home.

Tellingly, many reasons why a home may not sell were facets that, while out of the control of an estate agent, could easily be rectified by the seller. Taking joint first place in the top 20 reasons why a property for sale is rejected was damp patches or stained walls/ceilings, with 52% of those questioned saying this was off-putting (the other was no garden, which is probably the hardest point to address by anyone).

In second spot were bad smells, including pet odours, cigarette smoke, damp and food, with 50% of respondents citing this as a property turn-off. Other fixable issues that discouraged buyers included a property in a poor state of repair (45%); unfinished building work (38%); a dirty house (31%); untidy rooms (18%); overgrown gardens (18%) and a dated/over-the-top décor or carpets (12%).

The survey results indicate that first impressions really count, even though it’s a cliché in estate agency. The problem with a poor outward appearance is that it’s hard to see the true potential of the property underneath, while dubious stains and damp patches could give the impression there’s something more serious going on – even if the discolouration is merely superficial. Unfinished DIY or building work is also off-putting as the cost and effort involved in completing the projects is a barrier for many potential buyers.

Other aspects under a seller’s control that may be sabotaging a sale may need a little effort and diplomacy to fix. Neighbours are a bone of contention among buyers, with rubbish strewn in the garden next door (46%), a dilapidated neighbouring property (40%) and a student let adjacent (33%) are all red flags for those on a viewing.

Also of concern are connections – especially if the property is in a broadband blackspot. Of those questioned, 44% said an unreliable broadband service would be a deal breaker, while a poor mobile phone signal would put off 35% of hopeful buyers.

Even if a purchaser is keen to look past a property’s flaws, they may want compensation and could offer well below the asking price. Tidying, cleaning and repainting are quick fixes that will dramatically improve the chances of achieving your asking price, while switching to the provider of your area’s best broadband service and knowing the mobile operator with the strongest signal will win over those who’ve been online to check speeds and coverage.

If you would like a property valuation, together with honest advice about selling your home, contact us today.

Student lets leapfrog other property investment prospects

September can only mean one thing – back to school. While the concerns of younger students include pencil cases and packed lunch boxes, undergraduates will be thinking about more serious matters, such as where to live.

Student lets are big business for landlords, even for institutional investors. The Financial Times recently reported on Blackstones – the world’s biggest commercial landlord – offloading offices and retail units so it could bid to buy student housing operator, GCP Student Living.

Even for the humble one-property landlord or investment novice, there are gains to be made in the student let market. A shortage in traditional ‘hall’ accommodation, coupled with the desire to live with like-minded undergraduates in a freer environment, has buoyed the private student rental market.

A recently published student living index found that growing demand was behind student rents increases of almost 20% over the last 12 months. Students in Leicester were most affected, with a £188 rise in their average monthly rental costs.

The ability to increase rents is important when it comes to yields and there is good news for those aiming for the university market. Analysis of 5,000 student lets between January and July 2021 found that yields were climbing steadily, with marked gains in the North East, the North West and the South East.

Investing in a town where there is a single university has also been proven to be a good strategy, with research revealing 7 out of the top 10 cities for the best student rental yields only had one main university. Swansea came out as the top location, with landlords enjoying student yields of +9.56%, followed by Hull (+8.68%) and Sheffield (+7.58%).

If your head has been turned by the attractive student let market, here’s some advice about appealing to undergraduates:-

 

  • Operate compliantly

 

If you’re hoping to run a house share, also known as an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation), you’ll need to check with the local authority about a license to operate and also familiarise yourself with the extra compliance required when renting to multiple households.

 

  • Consider fully furnished

 

Students like fully furnished properties so they can move in with just the basics. Budget for buying furniture and ensure anything you purchase second hand, or are given meets fire safety regulations. When offering a fully furnished student let, an inventory will be especially important.

  •  Minimise financial risks

Don’t hesitate to ask for a parental guarantor or a whole year’s rent upfront. This is quite normal in the student let market, giving landlords a greater degree of financial security and less chance of arrears.

 

  • Offer brilliant broadband

 

With many lectures remaining online, reliable and fast broadband is on the top of every students’ housing wish list. Installing the very best WiFi could be part of a ‘bills included’ package, should you choose to follow this path.

 

  • Students are driven by location 

 

Think about the property’s location when looking to purchase a student buy-to-let. The holy trinity of places to be close to include the university campus, shopping facilities and any social centre – walking distance is preferred as students will not necessarily drive or own a car.

 

  • Don’t hesitate in marketing

 

It’s never too early to market your student let. Competition for the best properties can be fierce and as a result, many students will look for a place to live in the autumn, ready for the following academic year.

We are well versed in helping landlords get ready for the student market. If you would like advice on compliance and HMOs, setting the rent, how to operate a ‘bills included’ let, working out yields, how to find tenants and managing a student let with the minimum of fuss, talk to us today.

What influences buyers in 2021?

Our lives changed dramatically in 2020 with the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns forcing us to spend more time than ever in our homes. Here we explore how our lifestyles and professional priorities have shifted, and why this is influencing what we look for when buying a new home.

Changing priorities

Before the pandemic, being able to walk to the local Tube or train station, living close to the right schools and even having a well-known supermarket close by were what drew in buyers. These things, which were so important a couple of years ago, have now slipped down our must-have lists, making way for green spaces and home offices.

In fact, a report from Market Financial Services found 42% of us have changed our view on where we want to live and 46% of home movers are now looking for more space.

Gardens and outdoor areas

As we realised the true value of outdoor space, having a garden is now the top priority for many buyers, with searches for homes with gardens up 42% in May 2020 according to Rightmove.

If your current home has a garden – big or small – make sure you show it off to its full potential before it hits the open market. Set a small budget to create an area for socialising, remove weeds and clear away any junk. In a small garden or even on a balcony, some potted plants can add colour. Showing your garden as a tranquil space to relax and entertain could be key to attracting the right buyer.

No garden? No problem! Having outdoor spaces, like parks and woodlands nearby is also important to today’s buyers. If your home is near one, make sure it’s included in your property’s marketing details.

Home offices

Working from home became the norm for most people in 2020 and it appears that the trend for at least some work days to be completed from home looks set to stay. Creating a dedicated home office or workspace will appeal to those who have struck a flexible working arrangement with their employers.

If you have a spare room, box room or an additional, but unused  reception room – clear out the clutter and fit in a small desk to show what’s possible. Making sure your home Wi-Fi set-up is the best it can be may also be important – after all, it’s an essential tool when working from home and buyers can check broadband speeds online ahead of a purchase.

Making the most of what you have

While you can’t change where your property is, you can make it more appealing before you sell and show off the things you do have. Never has it been more important to sell a lifestyle, and as a result sellers will need to ‘set the scene’ with furniture and accessories. This will help buyers instinctively see themselves living there when looking at photos or when they’re on a viewing. Our friendly team can advise you on how you can make your home appeal to the widest audience, so get in touch.

Top 10 apps to manage your home move

Increasingly our lives are run from the palm of our hands, especially now almost everyone owns a smartphone. As buying, selling and moving home is made up of lots of elements to keep track of, apps can really help streamline the process. Here are 10 we recommend:-

  1.     Emma – Budget Planner Tracker  

Available on iOS and Android.

Emma can show you what you spend your money on and can help you economise, helping you save a deposit for your dream home.  

  1.     Freecycle

Available on iOS and Android

If you are decluttering before you move, Freecycle is a great way of giving unwanted items another life rather than taking them to the tip. Just list the items you want to give away and arrange a collection time.

  1.     Houzz Interior Design Ideas 

Available on iOS and Android

If you need ideas for a new home or want to spruce up ahead of a sale, Houzz offers more than 20 million photos of home interiors and exteriors for inspiration.

  1.     Pinterest

Available on iOS and Android.

Pinterest offers a digital place to store visual resources. Create a board for every room in your new home, browse the app for ideas and pin photos you’ve already taken.

  1.     Photo Measures 

Available on iOS and Android.

This app enables you to take photos of rooms or furniture and note down measurements directly on the image, so you can make sure your furniture will fit in another property while you’re on a viewing.

  1.     MooveMe: Let’s Get Packing

Available on iOS.

With MooveMe, you can print QR code labels for your moving boxes. Simply scan the code and see the pre-populated list of what’s inside without having to open or unpack the box. This app even works offline – great for when your Wi-Fi isn’t set up.

  1.     Moving App – Moving Checklist 

Available on iOS and Android.

This app will help keep you organised in the run up to moving day, with a weekly tasks section. It can also help organise your packing, keeping notes of what’s in each box and print box labels too.

  1.     Google Keep – Notes & Lists

Available on iOS and Android.

Google Keep enables you to quickly capture photos, ideas and checklists in one place. You can share your notes with others and set up reminders to make sure important tasks are done on time.  

  1.     Nextdoor 

Available on iOS and Android

If you are settling into a new area, Nextdoor can help you meet your neighbours, find local businesses, buy and sell homewares, and find out about events in your area.

  1. Dulux Visualizer

Available on iOS and Android

Download this app before you go on viewings to visualise any paint colour from the Dulux range on any wall – invaluable if you turn up to discover the seller’s decorating taste is nothing like your own.

Whilst apps can help you keep track of your move, there really is no replacement for estate agency advice, so always use apps in conjunction with a property professional. Get in touch with us to see how we can help.

Top 10 apps to manage your home move

Increasingly our lives are run from the palm of our hands, especially now almost everyone owns a smartphone. As buying, selling and moving home is made up of lots of elements to keep track of, apps can really help streamline the process. Here are 10 we recommend:-

  1.     Emma – Budget Planner Tracker  

Available on iOS and Android.

Emma can show you what you spend your money on and can help you economise, helping you save a deposit for your dream home.  

  1.     Freecycle

Available on iOS and Android

If you are decluttering before you move, Freecycle is a great way of giving unwanted items another life rather than taking them to the tip. Just list the items you want to give away and arrange a collection time.

  1.     Houzz Interior Design Ideas 

Available on iOS and Android

If you need ideas for a new home or want to spruce up ahead of a sale, Houzz offers more than 20 million photos of home interiors and exteriors for inspiration.

  1.     Pinterest

Available on iOS and Android.

Pinterest offers a digital place to store visual resources. Create a board for every room in your new home, browse the app for ideas and pin photos you’ve already taken.

  1.     Photo Measures 

Available on iOS and Android.

This app enables you to take photos of rooms or furniture and note down measurements directly on the image, so you can make sure your furniture will fit in another property while you’re on a viewing.

  1.     MooveMe: Let’s Get Packing

Available on iOS.

With MooveMe, you can print QR code labels for your moving boxes. Simply scan the code and see the pre-populated list of what’s inside without having to open or unpack the box. This app even works offline – great for when your Wi-Fi isn’t set up.

  1.     Moving App – Moving Checklist 

Available on iOS and Android.

This app will help keep you organised in the run up to moving day, with a weekly tasks section. It can also help organise your packing, keeping notes of what’s in each box and print box labels too.

  1.     Google Keep – Notes & Lists

Available on iOS and Android.

Google Keep enables you to quickly capture photos, ideas and checklists in one place. You can share your notes with others and set up reminders to make sure important tasks are done on time.  

  1.     Nextdoor 

Available on iOS and Android

If you are settling into a new area, Nextdoor can help you meet your neighbours, find local businesses, buy and sell homewares, and find out about events in your area.

  1. Dulux Visualizer

Available on iOS and Android

Download this app before you go on viewings to visualise any paint colour from the Dulux range on any wall – invaluable if you turn up to discover the seller’s decorating taste is nothing like your own.

Whilst apps can help you keep track of your move, there really is no replacement for estate agency advice, so always use apps in conjunction with a property professional. Get in touch with us to see how we can help.

7 Shortcuts to Boho Chic

Just like on the catwalk, interior fashions come and go but there is one which is stubbornly sticking around – boho chic.

So just what is boho chic, we hear you ask? In terms of interior design and accessorising, boho chic is the best of laid back, unstructured living, with global influences and a love of all things handmade.

Before you assume it’s an ‘anything goes’ look, the most relaxed and carefree rooms seen across social media and in the top interior design magazines are actually painstakingly pulled together.

But fear not, you don’t need to be a professional property stylist to create bohemian, louche-living vibes where you live. Follow these simple rules and you’ll be lounging Ibiza-style in no time.

  1.     Wall hangings: the casual essence of boho chic means the clean lines of framed photos and prints are replaced by eye-catching wall hangings. Anything with tassels and tapestry works well so don’t discount wall mounting your favourite rug!
  1.     Texture: fringing, beading, knots and even pom-poms provide a shortcut to boho chic. The texture de jour is macramé, so look out for cushion covers, hanging planters and even indoor hammocks for an arts and craft feel.
  1.     Low-level seating: socialising boho style means sitting low down but not at the expense of comfort. Add bean bags, pouffes and oversized cushions to your living room for maximum lounging capabilities.
  1.     Exotic treasures: a boho interior should look like you’re well-travelled but don’t worry if your passport hasn’t seen the light of day for years. Scour the internet and no one will know that your gilded tea glasses weren’t purchased in a Marrakech medina or that your Nepalese string of prayer flags were bought on eBay.
  1.     Non-matching furniture: the eclectic nature of boho chic dictates that nothing should match. Vintage and heirloom items can sit side-by-side with more modern pieces. There are no rules about upholstery either, so mix and match velvet, linen, embroidery and bold prints.
  1.     House plants: botanics lend any interior design scheme an exotic vibe and while there are a myriad of faux plastic house plants to choose from, there are more health, environmental and air purification benefits from growing the real deal. Opt for palms, ferns and the on-trend Swiss cheese plant for maximum foliage.
  1.     Colour combinations: almost every boho chic interior design has one common denominator – a neutral backdrop. White or cream walls in a chalky paint finish are reminiscent of far-away villas and allow the accessories to shine. Add splashes of jewel tones for an Ibizan island vibe or choose lush greens and deep turquoise for an Indonesian take on boho chic.

If you’re dreaming of creating a boho chic ambience in a new home, ask us for a list of available properties in your area.

Is the dining room dead?

What is your gut reaction when you view a property’s floorplan and see there is a space marked dining room? Are you one of those genial hosts who runs off to devise an eight-course tasting menu in anticipation of your first dinner party? Or do you instinctively think ‘waste of space’ as you’re more than happy with a TV dinner eaten off a tray?

Open plan living has pretty much killed off the dining room, with round tables, benches and breakfast bars initiating a much more informal approach to eating and drinking. The separate dining room has, however, been brought back from the brink of extinction in the last 17 months.

Now is a great time to re-evaluate your approach to this most formal of spaces, especially if you have resisted the urge to knock through and create one big open space, or are looking to buy a property with a separate dining room. Here are 5 ways to work a dining room into your property plans:-

  1.     No candelabra needed

If dining rooms conjure up images of mahogany tables, lead crystal glasses and a thin layer of dust, it’s time to find a fresh perspective. Opt for the most modern dining table and chairs you can find, be generous with lighting to keep the ambience upbeat and add vibrancy with brightly-coloured placemats, crockery and napkins (paper versions are perfect).

  1.     Dual purpose room

If your main concern is that a dining room will be an underused space, give it two identities. Install floor-to-ceiling fitted shelves so the space provides storage or cover the table with wipe-clean cloth so it doubles as a crafting room.

  1.     Convert with a couch

If your dining room is generously proportioned, you could add a sofa so guests can relax with a drink before being called to the table. Even more space? Make that sofa a sofa bed and your dining room can double as an emergency guest room.

  1.     The new home office

Not every home will have a dedicated study or home office, so it’s no surprise that dining tables across the UK have been commandeered by home workers and studying students. After all – you can close the door of a dining room and join a Zoom meeting that isn’t disturbed by the bustle of an open plan kitchen.

  1.     An excuse to entertain

Although formal meals account for a fraction of our time, retaining a dining room can be the gateway to some fantastic occasions with family and friends. Be liberal with your invitations, drop all airs and graces and don’t save your dining room ‘for best’. Sometimes the most memorable gatherings are over a take-away shared at the table – it’s the company that counts!

If you’re persuaded to find a new home with a dedicated dining room, let us match you with something where you can sit down to a feast. Got a property to sell? We can provide a free valuation and a snapshot of your local sales market, so get in touch.

Is the dining room dead?

What is your gut reaction when you view a property’s floorplan and see there is a space marked dining room? Are you one of those genial hosts who runs off to devise an eight-course tasting menu in anticipation of your first dinner party? Or do you instinctively think ‘waste of space’ as you’re more than happy with a TV dinner eaten off a tray?

Open plan living has pretty much killed off the dining room, with round tables, benches and breakfast bars initiating a much more informal approach to eating and drinking. The separate dining room has, however, been brought back from the brink of extinction in the last 17 months.

Now is a great time to re-evaluate your approach to this most formal of spaces, especially if you have resisted the urge to knock through and create one big open space, or are looking to buy a property with a separate dining room. Here are 5 ways to work a dining room into your property plans:-

  1.     No candelabra needed

If dining rooms conjure up images of mahogany tables, lead crystal glasses and a thin layer of dust, it’s time to find a fresh perspective. Opt for the most modern dining table and chairs you can find, be generous with lighting to keep the ambience upbeat and add vibrancy with brightly-coloured placemats, crockery and napkins (paper versions are perfect).

  1.     Dual purpose room

If your main concern is that a dining room will be an underused space, give it two identities. Install floor-to-ceiling fitted shelves so the space provides storage or cover the table with wipe-clean cloth so it doubles as a crafting room.

  1.     Convert with a couch

If your dining room is generously proportioned, you could add a sofa so guests can relax with a drink before being called to the table. Even more space? Make that sofa a sofa bed and your dining room can double as an emergency guest room.

  1.     The new home office

Not every home will have a dedicated study or home office, so it’s no surprise that dining tables across the UK have been commandeered by home workers and studying students. After all – you can close the door of a dining room and join a Zoom meeting that isn’t disturbed by the bustle of an open plan kitchen.

  1.     An excuse to entertain

Although formal meals account for a fraction of our time, retaining a dining room can be the gateway to some fantastic occasions with family and friends. Be liberal with your invitations, drop all airs and graces and don’t save your dining room ‘for best’. Sometimes the most memorable gatherings are over a take-away shared at the table – it’s the company that counts!

If you’re persuaded to find a new home with a dedicated dining room, let us match you with something where you can sit down to a feast. Got a property to sell? We can provide a free valuation and a snapshot of your local sales market, so get in touch.

7 realistic rental tips if you’re moving for a school place

Whether you think it is ethical or not, many families choose a rental property and time their move to put them in a favourable position when applying for schools.

The admissions process for both primary and secondary places is based around a set criteria and although the distance from your home to the school gates isn’t at the top, it often counts when a school is oversubscribed.

There is, therefore, much manoeuvring and jostling ahead of the application deadlines, with parents desperate to secure the right address before they fill out the form. For many, buying a property within the catchment of the best schools can be impossible in terms of cost and timings.

Property sales can take up to four months to reach completion once an offer has been made (and longer in more complex circumstances), which leaves parents at risk of missing the application deadline. Plus, properties closest to the best schools often carry a price premium.

An alternative is to move into rented accommodation, as the set-up costs are a fraction of the costs involved in buying and the entire moving process, from a viewing to collecting the keys, can be concluded in a matter of days, if the tenancy is straightforward.

There are, however, a number of serious points to consider if you are thinking of renting a property with the specific aim of applying for a school place. Here is our list of top 7 tips and hints:-

  1.     Check a school’s catchment area before you start your property search: sometimes the catchment will be an irregular shape and not a circle, so the house right next door to the school may still be out of catchment. Some schools only take from certain parishes or postcodes, while others adjust their catchment every year, based on the volume of applications.
  2.     Establish the application closing dates: the Government’s official school application website states the primary school application process opens in September and closes on 15 January. When it comes to places at secondary schools, the deadline for applying is 31 October.
  3.     Rent a property well in advance: local councils do have rules about families whose moving timings are suspicious. They may want proof that you have lived in a rental property for a minimum period before you apply for a school place, so ensure you are moved in well before the closing date.
  4.     Don’t assume a buy-to-let address counts: there have been cases where families have used the address of a buy-to-let property they own that falls within a school’s catchment on the application form. A local council will want an owner-occupier address on the form and could send an officer to the property to check the status of the person living there.
  5.     Be mindful of a short let: the most popular of schools are hot when it comes to parents who take out a short let agreement just to have an address within their catchment. They may not accept applications where the tenancy length is six months or less, unless the family can prove all ties with their previous property have been cut.
  6.     Be prepared to evidence your move: if you have started renting a property quite close to the school application deadline, be prepared to provide your local authority’s admissions department. You’ll need a solicitor’s letter confirming you have sold a prior residence or proof that you have given notice on your current rented property, plus a signed copy of the new tenancy agreement, together with the start date.
  7.     Stick to the rules: if there is a suspicion that a local council’s application rules have been broken and no validation or proof of a legitimate address is provided, the school application could be declared void.

Our local knowledge will help you choose the right rental with a favoured school in mind. Talk to us about timings and availability today.

How to rent your home and everything in it!

Carrie Symonds, now Carrie Johnson after her wedding to the Prime Minister, often makes news headlines but one of her latest front page stories was an altogether more sustainable – and less salacious – affair.

Many were surprised to learn that her wedding dress cost a mere £45! The catch? It was rented for a couple of days, representing an estimated saving of £2,825. While renting a property would not gain similar headlines, the act of an affluent couple hiring a wedding dress does.

Let’s look at the notion of renting in a little more detail. It represents a cheaper way to enjoy something that may be too expensive to buy outright. Wedding dresses fall into the same category as cars – pay a more affordable price to enjoy the pleasure for a limited amount of time. Hand the item back and move on, or rent again for a different experience.

It’s the same when it comes to property. Renting gives tenants freedom and flexibility, with tenancy agreements of 6 or 12 months allowing people to move on with ease and very few ties. In addition, setting up a rental agreement is also far cheaper than buying a property – there is no stamp duty to pay and the deposit is capped at a fraction of the price needed to secure a mortgage.

So if you’re renting your property, why stop there? We take a look at what other items you can rent as a tenant. Whether it’s haute couture clothes, the latest tech or the must-have interior design trends, renting instead of buying has an added ethical bonus too – it stops items heading for landfill when they fall out of fashion. Here are four to try:-

  1.     Gadget & appliances: if you lived in the 1980s, you may have popped into Radio Rentals to pay your monthly fee for a new fandangle VHS player. While the brand has disappeared from the High Street along with video tapes, it is still possible to hire the latest home tech and appliances – a wise option if you’re always looking to upgrade. Hughes Rental, among others, rents out Sonos sound systems, 65” TVs, white goods and laptops.
  2.     Art: if your money doesn’t stretch to buying a masterpiece, why not rent a painting, rare print or an iconic photo instead? The rentals at Rise Art start from £25 a month, and represent a risk free way of adorning your walls.
  3.     Furniture: Roomservice by Court is just one company that offers furniture packs specifically for hire by tenants. Ideal for unfurnished properties or short lets, an entire property can be kitted out without the need to buy – even down to the bed linen. Renting also removes removal costs, as the furniture is delivered and collected by the rental company.
  4.     Clothes: Carrie Johnson’s wedding dress was rented from My Wardrobe HQ, which operates a clothes, shoes and accessories rental service online and from within Harrods. You can fill your rented wardrobes with rented designer fashions from as little as £4 a day, ensuring you’re always sporting the latest styles.

If you’re looking for help with your next rental property, feel free to ask us for advice and a list of available properties.