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11Nov

With global warming increasing at pace, and a number of problems with the environment being caused by our reliance on fossil fuels, there is no doubt that the world needs to start investing in more clean and green energy solutions. And the simple fact is that any changes of this nature need to begin in your own home.

Many of us want to do more to utilise clean energy at home, but a huge number of homeowners do not realise just how easy and varied it is to power your home with green electricity. You might be surprised at all of the different ways that you can use to reduce your reliance on the grid, and invest in green sources.

Here are five ways that you can power your home using clean energy options:

Choose a green energy provider

Firstly, you have the simplest and least invasive option in terms of powering your home with clean energy: switching to a green energy provider. The UK has a huge range of fantastic green electricity providers, so it is actually very easy to make the switch over from your traditional supplier. By doing so, this sends a message to the major energy companies that they need to work on their way of doing business. Use comparison sites such as Simply Switch which identifies the most environmentally friendly and cheapest providers. 

Solar panels

You may want to do more than just change suppliers however, and if you have a property that is suitable, you may wish to install energy generating hardware that can help both to reduce your energy bills, but also to ensure that you have more control over the energy you use.

Perhaps the most obvious (and certainly the most popular) choice of renewable energy technology is adding solar PV panels to your roof. Solar PV modules are used to convert sunlight into electricity that can be immediately used to power your home.   

Wind power

Not all homes are ideal for solar panels. You may not have a roof space, or you might not want the aesthetic changes to your property created by solar PV panels. So, another option is small wind turbines that draw electricity from wind movement. 

However, there are more likely to be issues with planning permission surrounding this, so make sure to do your research beforehand. 

GSHPs

One option that is often overlooked but could actually be extremely valuable for many homeowners is the concept of ground source heat pumps (GSHPs). These pumps are extremely useful for homeowners with grounds, as they are buried underground and draw heat from the soil. So, if you have a lot of ground space, but perhaps lack the rooftop area or access, GSHPs could be a brilliant possibility. 

A large tube of pipe is buried in the ground, and a pump then circulates a mix of water and antifreeze. This draws heat which can then be used in the home to heat appliances such as underfloor heating or radiators. 

Solar water heating

You could consider the possibility of installing a solar water heater, using solar thermal technology to heat your domestic water. It’s a very simple system to install and can be much smaller and less obvious than solar panels on your roof. This option is ideal for your home if you are planning incremental changes and want to take it slowly. 

 

More people making changes to their home can have a huge impact on the amount of energy we use. Adding sources of clean energy can be beneficial for both the planet and your bank balance.

Contact us today!

If you’re looking to buy, sell or for further advice on property related matters, contact your local Guild Member.

 

07Nov

The legal principle of caveat emptor (‘let the buyer beware’) may date back centuries but it still applies to today’s conveyancing process. It puts the onus squarely on the buyer to find out if there are any physical defects with the property before committing to the transaction. Unfortunately, more than 7 million home buyers don’t bother with a professional property survey, leaving themselves wide open to nasty surprises further down the line.

Here are five important things that can be wrong with a property that the untrained eye may not notice but any RICS Chartered Surveyor worth his salt would certainly pick up.

1. Structural movement

Subsidence and heave are two words no property owner wants to hear. Both are evidence of movements in the building’s foundation. Subsidence tends to occur on buildings that have been built on clay soil or in areas of previous mining activity. Most cases of subsidence are the direct result of tree roots nearby taking up too much moisture from the soil, or drainage leaks washing the soil away from underneath the building.

Heave is the opposite of subsidence, pushing the building upwards when the soil underneath swells up. Cut down a thirsty willow tree near the house without proper advice and you may find that the clay soil becomes overly wet and expands.

Your surveyor will be looking out for tell-tale cracks in brickwork or plasterwork, or sticky doors and windows from misaligned frames. Remedial action typically requires underpinning the foundations, which can be eye-wateringly expensive.

2. Damp problems

Damp in a building is a common enough problem but with potentially serious consequences. Not only will a damp property feel clammy and unpleasant, there may be condensation and mould patches on internal surfaces that create an unhealthy living environment. Prolonged exposure can cause respiratory diseases that range from constant colds to chest infections and asthma.

While our laymen’s noses may be fooled by a fresh coat of paint or a strong whiff of air freshener that have been cleverly used in an attempt to cover up the obvious characteristics of damp, a good surveyor will be able to identify it. “A RICS Home Buyer Survey includes damp meter readings taken from the wall and an assessment of damp proofing in the building,” confirms Brian Gale Surveyors.

Once damp has been detected, effective treatment is relatively straightforward in the early stages. But ignored and left, both penetrating damp and rising damp can be costly to remedy, and significant amounts of decorating will be needed afterwards.

3. Japanese Knotweed

Unless you’re a professional surveyor or gardener, you may not have heard of Japanese Knotweed, and you certainly don’t want it anywhere near your property. This is a highly invasive, destructive oriental plant that spreads like the proverbial wildfire, growing at an incredible 10cm per day! A 1cm section of underground stem can produce a new plant in as little as 10 days. 

Tough and persistent, Japanese Knotweed can inflict serious damage to your house by penetrating walls and concrete, eroding building foundations, blocking drainage pipes and causing flooding. This nightmare plant is estimated to affect circa five per cent of homes in the UK, and the worst-case scenario really is the worst case you can think of: you may have to knock the building down and build again. Little wonder, then, that mortgage companies are not keen approving finance for properties known to be infested by the dreaded Knotweed.

Getting to grips with this pernicious plant and getting rid of it is not easy, and you need to contact your local authority to find out how to dispose of it safely. If your survey turns up Japanese Knotweed, you may want to reconsider the purchase altogether.

4. Woodworm attack

Tiny holes in woodwork, crumbling sections of timber and evidence of beetles in timber? Chances are that the building is infested with woodworm. Interestingly, woodworm is not actually caused by worms but by beetles, the larvae of woodboring beetles, to be precise. And they can cause havoc in properties of all ages. From ancient timber-framed cottages to new builds, no property is safe from attack. 

Left undealt with, woodworm can cause serious damage to the integrity of the building, especially if structural timbers are affected. From weakening floorboards, ceiling joists and any other timber elements in the property, the damage may be such that sections of timber need to be removed and replaced, which can be awkward, messy and expensive.

Your surveyor will look for evidence of new exit holes and dust around the holes, as well as weak floorboards or beams, a sure sign of an active infestation which, if spotted, will need urgent professional treatment

5. Rat infestation

It’s common knowledge that rats carry diseases and spread harmful bacteria including E. coli and salmonella. They can also transfer fleas, ticks and mites to pets and humans. In short, you don’t want rats anywhere in or near your home.

Unfortunately, rats can get into incredibly small spaces. Did you know that a baby rat can squeeze into a 1cm square hole? If you spot evidence of rat activity in your garden, act fast to stop them getting into your home. Block up every conceivable hole you can find and check your pipework and guttering too so they can’t gain access via broken pipes or through sewers.

Even if you don’t see any live animals, the presence of rats is also announced by typical signs and symptoms of pest infestation such as the smell of ammonia, small sausage shaped droppings and scratching noises. You may also find signs of destructive activity such as chewed cables and wires, or torn food packaging.

 

Are you thinking of buying or selling? Get in touch with your local Guild Member today.

05Nov

Many people think that trying to move house over the festive period is a mistake, but that is no longer the case. People have more free time and motivation to make a change in the New Year, so it can be a great time to buy and sell. Guild agents share their top tips. 

 

Make your property visible online 

If you are selling, your home needs to be listed and visible on all the major property portals (like Rightmove) over Christmas. People have more free time and will start to browse properties online over the festive season. 

Ailsa Mather from Andrew Coulson says: “We are listing a number of properties now because statistically, property portals show that there is a substantial spike on Boxing Day. We appreciate Christmas is a busy time for families, so we operate a ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy, that is clicking the property on the market just before Christmas but refraining from viewings until after the New Year.”

Simon Miller from Holroyd Miller agrees that sellers need to take advantage of this busy time. “Once Christmas Day is done and Boxing Day leftovers eaten, what do people looking for a New Year move do? Start looking for a new home. Don’t miss the opportunity to sell your house during the holidays; what could be nicer than viewing a very festive home?”

Rightmove say that Boxing Day is their busiest all year, and Steve Thompson from Thomas Morris agrees that it is equally busy in their office. 

“Statistics have shown over recent years that the busiest days of the year for internet traffic on property portals are the days immediately following Christmas and Boxing Day. Our own evidence appears to confirm this phenomenon, showing that during the period from Christmas Eve 2016 up to and including New Year’s Day, we received over 130 telephone calls and 170 email leads from property portals. We even received calls and emails on Christmas Day.” 

But why is this period so busy? Stuart Mills from Rickman Properties has an idea. “The reason? All those lovely new phones and iPads. It is also one of the few holidays that the family will be all together and most likely at home. This means that any discussions about a move can be had, viewings can be done with all the decision makers present, adults and children, and with a coming New Year, what better than a new home?” he asks. 

 

 

Winter weather 

Spring is a popular time to buy and sell, but winter has its benefits, too. 

“Sometimes stepping into a bright, warm, cosy home on a bitterly cold day or drizzly evening can have just as positive an effect as viewing a property on a warm summer day,” said Ben Whiting from Victorstone

Abby Wheeler from Keats Estate Agents agrees. 

“If you walk into a property in the depths of winter, when the sky is moody and the nights are drawing in at 4pm and you still love it, imagine how much you will love it in the summer? If in winter you can see yourself living there, it’s a keeper.” 

She has some tips for winter viewings, too. “Always arrange viewings in the daylight. If you arrange a viewing after work at 6pm, you won’t get the true experience of the property, especially if there are grounds to explore. It is important to view them before the night draws in.”

 

Motivated to move 

Those people who are looking to move in December and January are committed to moving quickly. It’s a great idea to make the most of this. 

Richard Stovold from Seymours said: “Although there are downsides to house hunting over the festive season, the benefits can outweigh the drawbacks. Houses that are available for sale over the Christmas period have often either been on the market for a while or are very new to the market. This means that sellers are likely to be eager to secure a sale, giving buyers greater control as they find themselves in a much better bargaining position.”

Simon Davies from Norman F Brown completely agrees. 

“The December and the Christmas period is a great time to try to sell your property as the quality of the buyer is higher than at any other time of the year,” he said. “If someone is out house hunting around Christmastime, it generally means they are motivated to buy quickly. The speculative, non-motivated viewings decrease as people are busy preparing for Santa and won’t go out to view unless they must. There also tends to be less properties for sale around this time of year and therefore less competition to compete against for a buyer’s attention.”

Justin Flanagan from Charles Eden agrees that there is a much higher number of motivated buyers and sellers, and the ‘the viewing to sale ratio’ is much higher at other times of year. “From a buyer’s point of view, there is not so much competition and the sellers are probably motivated to move,” he said.

 

 

Think about photography 

If you’re thinking of making the most of the Christmas attention, it’s a good idea to think ahead. “Try and instruct your agent prior to putting up any Christmas decorations,” says Gina Burbidge from Royston & Lund. “This prevents the photos from looking dated if it doesn’t sell instantly.”

 

Ready for the New Year rush 

In the New Year, there will be a rush of people looking to buy and sell. Why not beat the rush by getting your sale registered or getting to know the market in December? 

“January 2nd is one of the busiest days for us at Drivers & Norris,” said Steve Barron. “There aren’t likely to be too many viewings happening over the Christmas period, but it’s nevertheless a great time to get some viewings lined-up for the New Year. 

“Many sellers hold off until after the New Year and miss out on the busy online searching that takes place between Christmas and New Year. Additionally, because there are fewer sellers listing their property over Christmas, those who do benefit from having less competition than they typically would have in the New Year or spring.” 

Don’t underestimate the time that it takes for your home to go on the market, either. 

Steve Wiggins from Bond Residential said: “Given the time it takes for an estate agent to prepare the marketing material for a property including taking photos, preparing floorplans and commissioning an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), we advise our clients to actually start the process now so that they are ahead of the competition and ready to take advantage of these peak periods.”

It is a great time to develop a strategy with your Guild agent to make sure your home launches to market in the best possible way. 

“We are currently running a ‘do not disturb’ campaign which means we are preparing properties to market with EPC, floor plan and images before the decorations go up and then launching them to market over the festive period,” explained John Newhouse from Roseberry Newhouse

“We will then start arranging viewings in the New Year when the household returns to usual. In January 2017, we arranged more viewings on the first day back than in the whole of December,” he revealed. 

 

 

It’s not essential to wait until spring to sell, agrees Celeste Hannah from Hamilton Parkers. “Most sellers wait until spring and then there is more supply and more competition,” she said. “Whereas over the Christmas season, there is less supply but still high demand. By selling your home over the Christmas season, you are more likely to achieve a better selling price than you would trying to sell against the flurry of stock in the spring market.  

“My tip for house hunting over the Christmas season is to contact local agents and see what stock they have ready to launch over the festive period, as most agents hold back stock to launch over the Christmas holidays. This way you may get first refusal and will get to register your interest first.”

 

The property market is still active at Christmas 

Take our word for it: people are still looking to move, even on Christmas Eve. 

“We have found that year on year we have improved with agreed sales figures in December,” said Laura Scott from Cooke & Co. “I am unsure if this is to do with investors in recent years trying to secure a bargain purchase, believing that anyone on the market at this festive time of year will be desperate to sell and more likely to accept an offer, but we have also seen a vast improvement with first time buyers agreeing sales too.”

Tim Goodwin from Williams & Goodwin says it is never too close to Christmas. “Having sold property at 4:30pm on Christmas Eve before now, I have no hesitation in recommending that potential sellers should place their property on the market sooner rather than later,” he says. 

“I did have a viewing one year on December 20th, with the completion due the next day. The sole purpose of the viewing was to measure the oven to ensure it was big enough to fit the turkey in, so make sure you take your tape measure to the butchers as well as the viewing if looking to complete before Christmas Day.” 

 

Are you thinking of buying or selling during the Christmas period? Get in touch with your local Guild Member today by clicking here. 

 

05Nov

Across England there are a variety of unique and beautiful places to live and work which offer individuals their perfect lifestyle. We asked our Guild agents their opinions on where the best places to live in Britain with a good quality of life are.

1. London


“Believe it or not, London is still a good place to live although there has been a mass departure in the last 12 months with many moving out of the city.

“It is ideal for young and old with amazing restaurants, bars and theatres. London’s offerings to its inhabitants are inexhaustible unlike any other city in the U.K; ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’ as Samuel Johnson once said. 

“With all the economic turmoil and uncertainly over Brexit, Londoners need to stick by their capital city and tell the planet that it is still the best city in the world,” explains Susie.

Susie Robinson, Rickman Properties in Kensington

2. Wiveliscombe


Wiveliscombe is the best place to live as it is 10 miles from Taunton and six miles from Wellington. The geography defines the place and it stands on its own two feet, socially, educationally and economically.  Whilst it’s technically a town, it really is a big village, with primary and secondary schools, shops, takeaways, businesses, services, serving a much wider rural community in West Somerset.  

“There is a real diverse group of people of all demographics, young, working, old, retired, matched by a real variety of property in beautiful rolling west country Somerset countrywide between the Quantocks and the Brendons and Taunton Vale. 

“The population is less than 3,000 but there are many thriving businesses and further residential and commercial development taking place in the town. There are also numerous clubs and societies, including the latest - Wivey Lele, mini Ukelele orchestra and Wiveliscombe rugby club which is currently top of Tribute Somerset premier, explains Bruce.”

Bruce Keay, Wiveliscombe Estate Agents

3. Brighton and Hove


“Sometimes you have to look a bit further than the headline to get the real story, and if Brighton is usually the name in bold sometimes the attractions of Hove actually get over looked.

“Today it's the city of Brighton and Hove, but because they were originally adjoining towns with separate councils the city's sibling areas still have unique identities. One thing they share is a varied, vibrant lifestyle, though in Hove it tends to be a little more laid back and discrete. 

“You only have to walk the beachfront along from Brighton's piers to feel the change as the promenade starts to be separated from the road by Hove Lawns. A well-kept wide strip of grass which hosts various culinary and sporting events throughout the summer, it's popular all year round with families, dog walkers and sports enthusiasts as are the green open spaces of Hove Park and St Ann’s Well Gardens.

“The Churchill Square retail centre is a big Brighton attraction, but for those who like their shopping to be carried out away from the modern mall experience Hove is the place to be. Church Road runs through from the famous floral clock and has a wealth of restaurants, pubs, cafes and shops. George Street is a traditional local high street with a mix of outlets, both major chains and independents, and recent additions to the culinary scene include MasterChef winner Steven Edwards' first restaurant Etch.

“With its wide main avenues laid out in a continental style grid, when you’re enjoying a coffee in local popular indie Baked or Brighton chain The Flour Pot, you know you are far removed from the more hectic and touristy atmosphere of Brighton.

“If you need to travel to London, Hove train station offers mainline commuter links that travel directly to the capital without needing to change at Brighton, and if you really want to escape the South Downs are on your doorstep offering their own panoramic sea views, explains Jenny.

Jenny Owen, Saywer & Co.

4. Yarm, Teesside

“Yarm is a Georgian market town bordered by the River Tees and previously voted Best High Street in the UK.

“Yarm is well regarded as the best place to live on Teesside due to the wide range of shops, cafes and restaurants in the high street. It is popular with families due to excellent schooling in both state and private sectors. There are open park spaces at Preston Park with river walks and easy access to the A19, Darlington train station and Durham Tees Valley airport.

“The area has a wide array of property available from first time buyer price ranges through to million pound residences. Yarm is undoubtedly the jewel of Teesside,” says John.

John Newhouse, Roseberry Newhouse

5. The Test Valley Village



"The Test Valley Village is one of the best places to live as it has very convenient access to London and the West Country by road and rail with main line stations at Winchester and Sailsbury providing fast trains into London Waterloo. 

"The Test Valley is blessed with some spectacular walks and countryside and is renowed for the River Test. The area is a favourite for ramblers, cyclists and for its shooting. 

“There are many attractions in  the Test Valley which include the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Longstock Park Water Garden, Highclere Castle, Houghton Lodge, Romsey Abbey and Romsey Signal Box.

"Test Valley in the west of Hampshire possibly has more pubs and restaurants than any other area of the county. The clear chalk streams of the River Test are famous for the Test Valley trout and there are many producers of quality local food in this area. Thatched cottages and welcoming pubs in Test Valley's picturesque villages add to the area's charm and there are attractions for all ages. There are also excellent schools within the area in both the public and private sector.” concludes Celeste.

Celeste Parkers, Hamilton Parkers

 

Are you thinking of buying or sellingGet in touch with your local Guild Member today.

 

 

31Oct

Halloween is known for its eerie tales, creepy ghouls and mysterious occurrences. We have put together a collection of spooky stories, inexplicable sightings and things to look out for. Here is a tongue and cheek look at how you know if your house is haunted. 

 

1. What’s the history?

Particularly if you live in an older property, there may lie some spooky stories behind the history of your home. Do some digging into previous owners and the origins of your town and you may find out more than you bargained for!

 

2.  There’s something in the air

Darren Challis, Director of Chambers Sales and Lettings said, “I would say ask a medium to attend the property and tap into the spirit world at that location.  I can usually tell if a property has a positive or negative vibe just by being there and getting a feeling around. Sometimes the negativity can rub off on the occupants and in some cases the property will have this affect for years.”

 

3. Ask the agent

Brian Carlisle from JR Hopper & Co said, “There are a number of houses in the Dales where viewers have commented about a "bad feeling" or not being comfortable in the house. In these instances move on as they will not buy. Having said that, if I have a house with history or stories of Ghoulies and ghosts then better to make it a feature, rather than hide it and hope no one finds out. The brave and adventurous will love a good highwayman or jilted bride story.”

4. Is anything flying through the air?

Simon Miller, Partner of Holroyd Miller said, “Unless you live in the notorious 30 East Drive, Pontefract, Yorkshire, which is classed as one of the most haunted homes in the UK, then weird happenings are probably no more than squeaky expanding and contracting floorboards or air in the central heating pipes. However, paranormal activity can take on many guises. Are you experiencing a fine chalk like dust falling inside your home, green foam appearing from taps and the toilet, lights turning on and off, cupboards shaking, and objects levitating? Such activity was reported at 30 East Drive and they most definitely had a poltergeist. Many people report haunted happenings, from the unexplained hair-raising feelings, to objects that simply appear to have been misplaced. But in truth how can we ever really make sense and explain the unexplainable.”

 

5. Time for a ghost hunt

Mike Coles of Debbie Fortune Estate Agents in Wrington has some interesting top tips for all the ghost hunters out there. Study the history of your home and the region, “Allegedly, areas with a violent past can increase the risk of a haunting. You could try setting up a video camera in your home when you're away to capture any unusual shadows on film,” said Mike. Don’t forget to rely on your senses and intuition; unusual images in the corner of your eyes, noises like footsteps and smells like sulphur can be more sinister than you think.

6. Animals… or not

Often, people report hearing unusual sounds, such as scratching and footsteps. Anything from rats to woodlice can make your mind wonder with all sorts of ideas. Sometimes, it is the most simple of explanations. If these sounds continue, call an exterminator to have a look around, especially in attacks and basements. If nothing is found, congratulations you have a haunted house.

 

7. When in doubt, listen to the dog

Dogs are known for their keen hearing and sense of smell. They can detect far more than humans, so are the perfect sidekick when ghostly occurrences are in your home. If you canine is barking when no one is at the front door, whimpering at thin air or staring at blank spaces, your best friend on four legs might be trying to tell you something. 

 

8. Got a chill?

Does your home have cold spots for no apparent reason? Before jumping to any conclusions, give a call to your builder to take a look around. He may find cracks or areas which needs insulating. However, if your trusted builder cannot find a reason, then something creepier might be at large.

 

9. Misplacing little things?

Everyone misplaces their possessions from time to time, especially items like glasses and car keys. However, if this starts to happen a little too often then you might have a ghostly trickster playing around in your home. 

 

10. Lights flickering

This is arguably the most noticeable sign for a haunted home. It is there in all the horror films and spooky stories. If you have checked your fuse box or even called an electrician then there is only one explanation for flickering lights…

 

Happy Halloween!

 

21Oct

According to a release issued by the government, a package of measures to help people on lower-income get onto the housing ladder have been confirmed by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

The release states that the plans for a new national model for shared ownership will help thousands of lower-income earners get their foot on the property ladder. It was announced earlier in the year that the government would be reviewing the shared ownership model to make it easier for people to purchase more of their own home. Part of the plan is to allow people to ‘staircase’ the purchase of their property in 1% increments, rather than the 10% increments stipulated by the previous model.

1% at a time

The Guild of Property Professionals, CEO, Iain McKenzie, says: “As the saying goes, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. The option of buying a property in smaller increments will make owning a home far more accessible to a greater number of people. For many, a 10% jump is just too much, especially in expensive areas, whereas 1% increments are far more financially manageable and will help shared-ownership buyers work towards owning their property outright. Considering that shared ownership buyers have to pay rent on the government-owned portion of their property, it is important for them to have a plan in place to increase their share of ownership over time. Smaller increments will also make this more accessible.”

He adds that smaller increments will also reduce the need for loans when purchasing a share of the property. “It is far more likely that a buyer will require financial assistance from a bank when buying a 10% share of the property, than a 1% share. Smaller share segments will make it easier for buyers to save the money they need to increase their level of ownership, removing the need to obtain a loan and incur further costs. That said, if the buyer does require a mortgage, the government will be introducing a preferred national model for shared ownership and encouraging more widely available mortgage finance.”

Minimum initial stake cut

Another change that the new model brings is a cut in the minimum initial stake required. “Previously the minimum percentage that people could initially purchase in a shared ownership scheme was 25%, the new model will cut this to just 10%, reducing the barrier to entry and making the avenue to property ownership slightly wider. Being able to start with a smaller initial stake of the property will mean lower deposit requirements. In certain areas buyers will be able to buy a home with a deposit as low as £2,000,” says McKenzie.

The changes to the shared ownership model will help to fulfil the Prime Minister’s priority to level up the whole country, closing the opportunity gap and helping millions of young people into homeownership.

According to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP: “Many people want to own their home but can’t see a route towards achieving that goal. This government is determined to help people realise that ambition and boost ownership for thousands of hard-working people up and down the country,” he continues, “Owning a home is not just about the four walls around you, it’s about investing in your family, saving for the future and putting down roots in a community. These measures announced today will mean more people, including residents living in new housing association homes, are given the opportunity to get on to the housing ladder.”

Costs of ‘staircasing’ will be fair and proportional

The previous model involved a potentially lengthy and costly process when staircasing property ownership. Part of the process involved high valuation fees to determine the worth of the property. The government is making the fees more cost-effective and proportional, and have consulted on introducing a streamlined valuation process, which will also reduce costs.  

Another aspect that will be streamlined is the resales process. If the buyer decides to sell and move on before they have reached 100% ownership, the resale process will be far easier under the new model.

Working with existing housing associations

On a voluntary basis, the government will work with housing associations to determine what offer can be made to those in existing housing association properties, so that the new Right to Shared Ownership is extended as widely as possible.

To read the original release from MHCLG here

15Oct

There's much to think about when determining whether the commuter lifestyle is for you, and if so, what you should examine when looking for a suitable property. The rationale behind your desire to live outside a major centre will also affect the rentability of a property, impacting the return on investment.

Crunch the numbers

There are always going to be trade-offs in making a move. It's easy to crunch the numbers. The savings made on the cost of buying or renting a home in a commuter town minus the cost of the commute is a basic starting point. At this stage, check the price of a season ticket from the area you're considering, as some similar length routes cost more than others.

You may well find the cost of the house together with the cost of a rail season ticket is financially appealing and within your budget, but you can't buy time, so factor this into any decision on where to live. Ideally, you want to keep the commute under 45 minutes. 

What are your work needs?

In addition, take into account your work needs. If arriving punctually is an important aspect of your work, avoid areas serviced by slower train lines with unreliable services. Journeys that have extra connections can create possible problems. Every change takes time and adds a stress factor, whereas a single trip provides an opportunity to use the time productively, which makes for a happy commute.

Consider arrival points

Look for the most convenient point of arrival for your work location too, as once again, travelling to and from arrival points takes time and may lack comfort in peak travel, creating a more stressful commute. Before making a final commitment, try the travel at different times of day to make sure you're comfortable with it. If you need to drive to a station, make sure there is adequate and affordable parking available and you're not going to be involved in traffic holdups during peak time transits.

Location is vital

The location of your property remains a priority. Is the area still going to provide the kind of lifestyle and comfort you currently enjoy, as well as added benefits such as a larger garden or a nicer house? Is there easy access to shops, bars and restaurants, as well as good schools? Think about how you will spend your weekends - is there enough in the area for you to enjoy your leisure time, as well as amenities that allow you to continue with any hobbies or activities you currently enjoy or to develop new interests? 

Assess potential capital growth

Whether you intend to make a lifestyle change or you're buying a rental property, it is a significant investment, so the potential for capital growth should be considered. Research current development in the area to find out if it will result in improved facilities in the town that will add to its attractiveness. Large-scale investment projects, particularly any improvements in transport links, will have a major impact on future property prices.

If you are looking to move to a commuter property, have a look at some of the homes Guild Members have on offer.

15Oct

With the assistance of The Guild of Property Professionals and other experts, the Government has released a How To Buy a Home guide and a How To Sell a Home guide, which provides homemovers with an overview of the entire process of purchasing and selling a property. The guides give potential buyers and sellers the key steps in the processes, as well as which organisations they can contact for help if required. 

Iain McKenzie, CEO of The Guild, said: “We are very pleased to be a part of this project and to be able to assist the Government in educating people about buying and selling property. Buying a home is a massive step, in fact, for most people, it will be the largest financial decision they will ever make. It is vital homemovers are able to make informed, confident decisions, knowing what to expect from the process and their estate agents.”

The guides will act as a benchmark to determine what homemovers can expect when dealing with estate agents. “As much as the guides are aimed at sellers and buyers, estate agents will need to ensure that they are acting in accordance to the guides and ensure they are fully compliant,” says Paul Offley, The Guild’s inhouse Compliance Officer. “For example, agents need to ensure that they are adhered to the requirement to fully disclose referral fees.”

He adds that the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team issued guidance at the end of February regarding the requirement for agents to disclose the amount of fee agents may earn by referring a seller or a buyer to a third-party provider such as a conveyancer or mortgage/insurance broker. “These referrals all form part of the ‘journey of the transaction’ and are aimed at helping support buyers and sellers through that process. It is important that the industry is able to demonstrate full transparency on any fees they may earn as part of this referral process, this then enables sellers and buyers to be aware of all the facts before they make a decision. These new guides now include this information for sellers and buyers,” Offley explains. 

He continues that The Guild has been working with its Members to ensure this information is provided, and to regularly check on Members’ compliance with this requirement as part of its compliance assessment support it provides to its Members. 

According to McKenzie, while first-time buyers and sellers will find the guides particularly useful, they are also useful tools for all homemovers who can benefit from understanding the latest key steps.  

Essentially, the aim of the guides is to help people avoid stress and to speed up the process by knowing which questions to ask, what their rights are, and what responsibilities they have as homebuyers or sellers. “It is imperative that homemovers are aware of their rights and understand whether the agent they are dealing with is compliant and acting in accordance with the law. Guild Members have compliance tools at their disposal and we regularly present them with the updated information on the latest legalisation requirements. Our in-house compliance officer, Paul Offley, is also at hand to help ensure Members are giving the quality and high standards our customers have come to expect,” says McKenzie. 

For more information about the home buying or selling process or to download the guides visit gov.uk.

27Sep

Moving to a new home can be refreshing and exciting; however, the move itself can be a stressful process for younger members of the family, who often need a bit of extra support and time to prepare.  While moving can be a potentially worrisome event for children, much of the negative emotional effect can be mitigated by proactively dealing with the process in a positive manner. 

The reason behind the move often determines the amount of stress caused. If your family is upgrading to a larger home or relocating to a nicer area, for example, there will be far less emotional upheaval than if the move is because of a loss of income or divorce. Another crucial aspect is the timing of the move. According to psychological studies, very young children and older children take moving in their stride, while those between the ages of 11 and 14 years are typically more affected as they’re also dealing with hormonal changes.

Family moving into new house

Regardless of the reason, there are ways for parents to make the transition easier for their children. Here are some of our top tips:

Before the move

Communication is key 

If possible, tell the children about the move as early as you can to give them time to process the idea. Children generally take longer than adults to get used to change and will have a higher level of anxiety if they feel as if something is happening and they are not fully aware of the details.

Point out the positives

It is a great idea to highlight the positive aspects of the new home or area to get the children excited about the new location. They may think moving means leaving behind their favourite toys and pets, so take some time to explain that they will all be moving together. 

Focus on things that won’t change

Consistency makes children feel secure, so highlight elements that remain the same, regardless of the circumstances. Parents can emphasise aspects that will not change during or after the move, such as play schedules, bedtimes or the fact that they have a loving family that supports them.

During the move

Let the children say goodbye 

This doesn’t just refer to people, but also some of their favourite local places such as the park. It might be worthwhile to tell the children that saying goodbye today does not mean goodbye forever and that they may be able to visit those friends or places in the future. 

Don’t let the children see the moving truck

When the truck is being loaded with your household items, it may be better for the children to be out with a friend or family member. Seeing all their possessions loaded into a truck and hauled away can be an upsetting experience for some children. 

In the new home

Mother playing with children

Make the children’s bedrooms priority

it’s a good idea to set up the children’s bedrooms up first, so they have a familiar and safe retreat to go to when the move gets busy.

Allow time to adjust

For both adults and children, it will take time to adjust and acclimatise to your new surroundings. Make it an adventure by taking children out in the new area to explore. This is a great way to find nearby parks and activities for them to do. 

Get involved

Whether it is joining the local church or playgroup or getting involved in the local community and activities, it will help everyone in the family make friends and feel at home faster. 

Lend an ear

Irrespective of their reaction to the move, it is vital they know they have someone who is listening and paying attention to their emotions and needs. They may need to be reminded there is no right or wrong emotion and their feelings are valid. 

An important element to reducing the stress on children is for parents to support and help each other deal with the change in circumstances. As with most situations that can have a negative impact on relationships, mutual support is vital to ensure that both adults and children adjust to the move as seamlessly as possible.   

If you are looking for a new home for your family, find a Guild agent in your area.

20Sep

Many people dream of owning their own home, and when your financial and personal circumstances finally allow your dream to become reality, it’s an exciting time. That said, as a first-time buyer, there’s plenty to learn to ensure that you get the right property at the right price while avoiding the many pitfalls along the way.

If you’re about to take your first step onto the property ladder, but don’t know where to start, follow these four steps to find your perfect first home.

Do your homework

Before you get carried away with property viewings, it pays to sit down and consider these three factors:

1. Location

2. Price

3. The property itself

Define your priorities and flexibilities to help stay focused on your search, and to avoid wasting time on unsuitable properties.

Firstly, determine the maximum price you’re willing to commit to. Speak to a mortgage adviser to help you work out your budget before you contact estate agents. Not only will this offer perspective, but it will also make you a much more credible purchaser when it comes to putting in an offer on a property.

Next, make a list of the non-negotiables your new home must have. This could include the number of bedrooms, availability of outdoor space and parking, proximity to work or loved ones, and the amount of decorating required. Bear in mind that the goal is to buy your first home, not necessarily your forever home, so allow some degree of flexibility.

Research the area 

Once you’ve established your property requirements, it’s time to start looking for suitable properties to view. But before you get inside any of your shortlisted properties, there’s a lot you can do to narrow down your choices and save time. 

Drive or walk around your chosen neighbourhoods to get a feel for the place and whether you can see yourself living there. Has the area been well-maintained or is it up-and-coming? Research the neighbourhood’s history and reputation and whether things are set to change in the future.

How close are the nearest shops, pubs and restaurants? Are there any parks or other amenities? What’s the parking and the traffic like? Good schools and transport links are always a bonus and will boost your property’s value, whether or not you actually need them.

Look at local property market forecasts including any planned developments that could affect the value of homes in the area. Urban regeneration plans may bring new transport links, retail and leisure facilities that could revive a tired neighbourhood, while new residential developments may put additional pressure on the existing infrastructure.

Arrange property viewings

If you’ve never viewed a property for sale before, you may be understandably nervous about what to look out for. 

As you stand outside the building, look at the condition of the roof, walls and windows. Note down anything that doesn’t look quite right. When it comes to carrying out a property survey later down the line, you can mention your concerns to the surveyor who will inspect them professionally and report back to you. This could potentially save you thousands of pounds in repairs.

Once inside, the trick is to look beyond superficial details and décor that may not be to your taste – it can all be changed if needed. Instead, inspect the space itself. Are the rooms spacious enough and will your favourite furniture fit? How much natural light is there, and are there enough lighting points and fittings? Check to see how many power sockets there are in each room and test light switches to look for signs of faulty or old wiring. Appliances should be given a quick glance too. Check over the boiler and radiators, shower and kitchen appliances to get an idea of age and how much life is left in them.

Move on to the main building elements such as doors and windows. Are they in a good state of repair, do they open and close properly? Damp can be a major issue, so check walls and ceilings for signs of condensation, peeling wallpaper, damp patches and musty smells.

After your first viewing, compare your findings with your original requirements and see how the property matches up. It’s highly advisable to have multiple viewings – and by that we mean two things:

1. Go and see several properties that are potential contenders to give you an idea of what’s available in the marketplace and help you make an informed comparison. 

2. Go back for a second (or even third) viewing of a property you particularly like. You will be able to take a more dispassionate view and assess the property more rationally.

Make an offer

When you’ve decided on the property that best meets your needs, let the estate agent know that you wish to make an offer and he will guide you through the process. You also need to instruct a conveyancer and contact your mortgage company to let them know that you are ready to proceed.

When your offer is accepted, your next step is to find a local Chartered Surveyor and commission a property survey. This is not compulsory but highly recommended as it will provide you with the information to make an intelligent purchase decision. There are three levels of inspection to choose from, depending on what the property needs, if you go for a home survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Any major issues that are flagged up can then be used to renegotiate the purchase price with the vendor.

Having agreed on the final price, it’s now down to both parties’ legal teams to get the conveyancing under way. It can take weeks or months for contracts to be agreed and signed, so make sure you are in regular contact with your solicitor and answer any requests for information promptly to avoid delays. Remember that both you and the seller can change your minds at any time up until exchange of contracts, at which point you pay the deposit and the transaction becomes legally binding. The balance of payment for the property is due at completion, when ownership of the property will pass to you. 

 

Are you searching for your first home? Find your local Guild Member today. 

16Sep

All properties require ongoing maintenance, but when you’re not there to keep an eye on things, the safety and security of your property may be at greater risk. 

You may be a landlord with a void in the tenancy or own a holiday home mothballed for the winter months. Perhaps you’re working or travelling abroad for an extended period, leaving your flat or house unoccupied. Whatever the circumstances in which the building is left empty, it’s worth taking some simple measures to protect your property.

Inspect the outside

Starting with the outside, make sure general maintenance regimes are up to date, and that any necessary repairs have been carried out before winter arrives. A poorly maintained roof that collapses under the weight of heavy snow can easily run into five figures to put right.

Begin by clearing the gutters which, by autumn will be full of leaves, moss and other debris. Left undealt with, this can result in weeping joints and overflowing or sagging gutters, causing water damage and damp issues.

Next, check the roof to ensure that roof coverings are intact without any missed, slipped or damaged tiles that could become dislodged in bad weather. Pay particular attention to mortar beds and joints to the ridge tiles as any deterioration and dislocation here could allow rainwater into the roof space.

Once the cold season has passed, it’s good practice to check over everything again, just in case the winter weather has caused any new damage that now needs addressing.

Protect your pipework

One of the biggest issues with an unattended property is the risk of water damage. Even the smallest leak can, over time, do untold damage to your furniture, furnishings and entire interiors. It can even cause structural damage to the building.

Water damage is often caused by burst pipes in winter, so keeping the house warm enough to avoid frozen pipes in the first place is the most important job.

Step 1

Service your boiler annually to make sure that it can be safely left on over the winter, and check that all radiators are working properly. 

Step 2

Set the heating to come on daily for a few hours morning and night to prevent the water in the pipes from freezing.

Step 3

Keep the thermostat on a low temperature. 12-14 degrees should be sufficient to get warm air circulating.

Step 4

Open the loft hatch and cupboard doors under the sink to encourage warmer air to flow into these areas and protect your pipes.

Step 5

Any exposed, vulnerable pipework (external, in the loft or garage) should be adequately lagged and the installation of frost protection systems considered.

 

In case of emergencies, you should familiarise yourself with the exact location of the stopcock for your mains water supply to the property – often found in the kitchen under the sink, or in the garage. Check periodically that the stopcock can be operated easily, and share its location with a trusted neighbour, local friend or property agent.

Drain the central heating system

If you prefer not to pay utility bills for an unoccupied property through the winter, an alternative is to drain down the plumbing and heating system. t’s not a fool proof solution since some water may remain trapped in parts of the system, but any damage should be limited.

External taps should be turned off securely, hose pipes disconnected, and the tap covered with an insulated cap or box. It is important to eliminate any risk of outside taps dripping since these are most at risk of freezing.

If you choose to shut down the heating system for the winter, be warned that the cold building might be more susceptible to condensation, which can lead to mould and mildew deposits, and cause damp issues in the longer term.

Improve your home security

Unfortunately, an empty property tends to stick out like a sore thumb, particularly at night time. Would-be thieves are more likely to take advantage of breaking into a house or flat that is obviously unoccupied.

In addition to ensuring that all windows and external doors are securely locked or fitting an intruder alarm, there are other measures you could take to give the impression that someone is home in order to deter any opportunist burglars in the neighbourhood.

If you do nothing else, fit simple timer switches for lights or radios (spoken word stations are best) in several rooms. At the advanced end of the scale, smart home security systems allow you to view, monitor and control various home operations from a smartphone app. Some even come with a moisture sensor that detects water leaks or floods in the home!

Check your insurance

Finally, you must tell your home insurance company if the property will be left empty for more than 30 days or so (check your policy for details), and you may have to arrange unoccupied property insurance

Some insurers have specific stipulations for unoccupied property cover, particularly for vacant properties during winter. These may include maintaining a low-level degree of heating around the clock, leaving the loft hatch open or draining the system. For your own peace of mind, contact your insurance company to check their specific requirements to make sure you have adequate cover, should you ever need to make a claim.

Contact us today!

Looking for further advice on property related matters, then contact a Guild Member in your area. 

 

13Sep

Whether you are an avid Brexiteer or have staked your flag in the Remainer’s camp, one thing is for certain, and that is at the moment - nothing is certain. One thing there is no doubt about is that the continued political turmoil and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit have left their mark on the housing market.

We spoke to Guild Members about their views and opinions on Brexit and how the current political climate it is impacting their local property markets.

Activity has reduced

The latest data from HMRC UK Property Transaction Statistics show a dramatic year-on-year drop of 12% in the number of residential transactions in July 2019 (86,630), the lowest figure since April 2016.

According to Philip Bartlett of Carringtons Estate Agents in Kingston on Thames, Brexit has had an impact in terms of reduced activity in the region. He notes that, despite the lower levels of activity, there is still a good demand for homes priced between £600,000 and £800,000, however not much supply in this price range.  “It is also very apparent that many buyers are waiting to find a property to buy before placing their own property onto the market. As there is a shortage of property, they are reluctant to risk placing their property onto the market as they fear that they will not be able to find a suitable property to purchase. The trouble is, when a good property does come to the market – they find themselves in competition with other buyers and, quite rightly, vendors are selling to proceedable buyers.”

Operating in the affluent Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Managing Director of Rickman Properties, Kieran Ryan says the current turmoil in Parliament, is seriously affecting any property from £2 million upwards. “Brexit is on everyone’s lips and the uncertainty of everything that is said is having a negative impact in our market place in the Royal Borough. The complete uncertainty of whether we are out or in leaves people’s minds well away from moving.”

Some markets have levelled 

With Brexit edging closer, house price growth has slowed everywhere but Wales, which has seen an improvement. House price growth in England was the weakest with a 0.72% year-on-year increase.  Source:UK House Price Index, released 14 August 2019

Joe Masterson, Branch Manager at Benjamin Stevens Estate Agents in Bushey, says that their local market has seen a levelling off of the relentless increases which were the norm before 2017. “Whereas previously buyers were paying extra for ‘off-market’ properties to secure them or viewing and offering within short order, this is no longer the case,” he says, “Often buyers are being cagier with their offers and trying to feel out what price points a seller will accept. Indeed, this has led to several occasions where buyers make ‘off the cuff’ offers with little or no intention of backing it up even if the offer were to be accepted. This has meant agents need to scrutinise not only a buyer’s offer, but also their intention to actually move forward if a price is agreed.”

An apathetic market 

According to the Rightmove House Price Index, in January this year, the average time for a property to receive an offer was 77 days, the highest on record. This has dropped to 54 days in July.

Partner at Holroyd Miller, Jonathan Kidd, comments: “To be perfectly honest, the sooner the government reach a decision, the better. The current political indecision has resulted in a distinct lack of urgency in general decision making. Whether dealing with developers or vendors, no one is in a rush.  Don’t misunderstand me, there’s no panic, or fear, just apathy, most people we speak to are absolutely fed-up of the current situation, but more than happy to get on with their lives rather than leaving things on-hold.” 

Some markets have remained buoyant

Servicing the Cardiff market, Kelvin Francis, says that while matters were building to a head in Parliament during August, the Cardiff market remained buoyant. “There were a record number of properties coming onto the market for sale in July, followed by a higher number for sale in August than 12 months ago. The number of properties sold equated to those in May, which were the highest number, by some way, of any other months in 2019. We have noticed a “bounce” in activity before each Brexit deadline. It happened in March and again in August, but generally we would say the market is healthy and steady, indicating that the general view is that “life must go on”. We will be watching to see what effect these recent most turbulent events in Parliament may have, but so far we have observed no noticeable effect,” he explained.

Some are seeing the silver lining

A Director at Home Sales & Lettings, Graham Wood, says that he has spoken to investors who are looking at the current state of uncertainty as an opportunity. “One of the investors I spoke to is looking to purchase two one-bedroom apartments in a town centre location where the developer had recently rented out four units because he could not sell them. After almost 12 months the developer still has eight out of the original 12 units sitting vacant. The investor saw this as a good opportunity to acquire for his growing portfolio.”  

Miller points out there is still high demand in some sectors. “We’re still receiving plenty of interest in residential and commercial properties, and interest in development stock is high. However, there has been a slowing down of interest in the higher end of the market, mainly in residential properties over £700,000. In reality, the high-end market has never been fast-moving, so it hasn’t been a cause for concern for us. Like everyone else, we’re just waiting for a decision.”

According to Ryan, in Kensington and Chelsea, there are quite a few overseas buyers taking advantage of the low pound and a 20% price drop in purchasing selective properties in the area.

Bartlett says that for many, life moves on and they have no desire to wait for Brexit to unravel. “Some buyers have their eyes fixed on the future and know that over a five to ten-year period they would have benefited from great capital appreciation of their property and now have good deposits to transition upwards, benefitting from the superb mortgage products currently available. If only there were more supply for the buyers to choose from.” 

What does the future hold?

The Guild CEO, Iain McKenzie, says: “While there is currently a lot of uncertainty surrounding Brexit, it is essential that homeowners recognise that economic data remains remarkably strong. The housing market, albeit slightly down in transactional volume, is remarkably resilient with correctly priced homes selling well. The lack of clarity surrounding Brexit is disconcerting, however, once a decision is made, and we know the future direction of our country, I expect to see the pent-up frustration of hopeful movers released and a mini resurgence of the housing market.”

Looking to take advantage of the opportunities in the current market, contact a Guild Member in your area.

05Sep

As his first major move in the job, Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick has revealed plans that would help more first-time buyers get onto the property ladder. The plans involve overhauling the shared ownership scheme, allowing people to increase their home share in smaller increments. 

Shared ownership increments

Under the current model, homeowners who have bought through a shared ownership scheme are only able to buy back the government-owned part of their property in 10% increments. Jenrick has said that he would like to change this so that homeowners would be able to increase their stake by just 1% at a time. The Guild of Property Professionals, CEO, Iain McKenzie, says: “A 10% jump for many is just too much, especially in expensive areas, whereas 1% increments will be far more financially manageable and will help shared-ownership buyers work towards owning their property outright. Considering that shared ownership buyers have to pay rent on the government-owned portion of their property, it is important for them to have a plan in place to increase their share of ownership over time. Smaller increments will make this more accessible.”

35-year mortgages on Help to Buy 

Jenrick also announced that he would make the Help to Buy incentive more affordable by enabling buyers to take out 35-year mortgages. A loophole had prevented buyers from taking a mortgage of more than 25 years, however, in the announcement the Government has said this has been rectified. 

The changes are to ensure that younger generations will be able to own property. “We will be looking at ensuring young people from Cornwall to Cumbria aren’t priced out of their home areas and how we can build public support for more housebuilding and better planning,” says Jenrick. “This Government will help a new generation to own their home.”

McKenzie adds: “Any changes that would help people get onto the property ladder are welcomed. The upcoming generations have struggled to get their foot in the door, and any changes that could assist them would be good for the market and buyers who have been forced to sit on the side-lines because they simply could not afford to be a part of it.” 

More house building

In addition to the shared ownership changes and mortgage terms, the minister also said that he would look into reforming the planning system with the goal of increasing housing delivery. "My mission is to increase the number of homes that are being delivered and to get more young people and families on to the housing ladder, particularly those on lower incomes,” said Jenrick. "Building the houses this country needs is a central priority of this Government.”

“The country has faced a housing shortage for some time, so further effort from the Government to address this is needed and overdue,” says McKenzie. “Hopefully Jenricks changes will open doors to many more first-time buyers and drive activity in that sector of the market,” he concludes. 

Looking to buy or sell a property, find your local Guild Member.

30Aug

Education is one of the most important factors when it comes to your child’s future and where you live has an impact. 

There are a growing number of families who are considering moving to increase their chances of securing a place for their child in a preferred school. If you are considering such a move, the initial step is to do some research on the implications. Moving to a catchment area can boost your child's chances of getting a place at the school of your choice, but it may not guarantee a place.

Select a school

The first hurdle is to select the right school, and this can take some time. Researching schools by using league tables or achievement and attainment tables, together with Ofsted reports, provides only part of the picture when deciding if a school is right for your child’s individual needs. Attend open days, but keep in mind that you are being presented with an optimal view of the school. One of the best sources is first-hand information from parents with children attending the school in question. 

Make a shortlist

Narrow down options by shortlisting schools that fit your criteria. Speak directly to the schools you have in mind, as well as the local education authority, about what your choices are and what the criteria is for placement. This will help you assess how successful your application is likely to be. 

Catchment areas

Catchment areas are a simple way to decide who can attend a school.  They are based on the premise that local children will become friends with other local children. Catchment areas vary in size, depending on whether the school is in a rural or suburban area. They can also change from year to year, often due to the school’s growth in popularity. For example, if a large number of younger siblings are starting school in the same year, the catchment area could be reduced to stop it becoming over-subscribed. In this situation, it is unlikely your child will be accepted.

Get on a waiting list

Ask if there is a waiting list you can be added to. However, bear in mind if your child is already attending school they may have to remain at their current school until a place becomes available. Consider how you will handle this transition period, which may require your child commuting.

Work out the costs

Any move comes at a cost, and it is important to factor education options into your decision. Properties in the catchment area of highly regarded schools command a much higher price. Moving to another home also means establishing yourself and your family in a new environment. 

Notwithstanding, buying a house in a school catchment area can be a sensible decision, but it requires research and planning. If you are confident the school of choice will have an available place for your child, and the property prices are within your budget, it is worth doing.

 

Get in touch to find a home in the catchment area of your choice.

Here at The Guild, we have properties in school catchment areas around the country, so search here.

30Aug

This month, we caught up with Val Shakespeare, Sales Director at Royston & Lund to discuss her idea of a perfect home and top tips for working in the property sector.

Tell us about yourself

I have 38 years of experience in the property industry and I’ve worked for the company for 17 years. 

Tell us about Royston & Lund

Royston & Lund was founded in 1994 to offer a professional estate agency service in West Bridgford, Nottingham. Today, the business still operates from the same premises on Gordon Road; a prime position right in the heart of West Bridgford town centre.

In 2018, we opened a second office in Keyworth, which is also thriving. We now employ 25 staff and are ranked by Rightmove as the leading estate agent in our area.

Describe your typical day

My typical day starts with an early morning team meeting to discuss events from the previous day as well as planning for the day ahead, sharing tips, knowledge and tea with our team. My role includes managing the sales office, head of new homes, HR, compliance, maintenance and facilities manager - as you can imagine, my days are often varied!

Why do customers choose Royston & Lund?

We are extremely proud to employ the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the area. We work as a team to provide a friendly, effective service. As independent agents we rely heavily on reputation. We endeavour to always do a fantastic job so that our clients recommend us time and time again.  After 25 years of operating in West Bridgford, we feel we have gained the trust of our community. As testament to this, we were named ‘Best Estate Agent in the UK’ at the prestigious ESTA awards in 2018.

What is next for the property market in your area? 

We are seeing a lot of new developments in our area.  Period properties in close proximity to the town centre are particularly sought after. There is a definite shortage of this style of property and we hope to see more of this style coming on to the market over the coming months.  

What charities do you support in your local area?

Last Christmas, we did some fundraising for a local homeless charity, The Friary, with the amazing help of the local community we managed to raise £550. This fantastic cause helps homeless and vulnerable adults to rebuild their lives by offering practical services, advice and emotional support.  We have also supported other charities such as, Children in Need, Comic Relief and Macmillan.

We sponsor local cricket teams, West Bridgfordians Cricket Club and Keyworth Cricket Club. In addition to this, we support four of our local schools with the Royston & Lund Sporting Achievement Award; the schools include Abbey Road, Pierrepoint Gamston, Edwalton and West Bridgford Juniors.  

If you became the Housing Minister for a day, what would you change?  

I would make the house buying process much simpler; I think one way of doing this would be by reintroducing the HiP (Home Information Pack). 

Can you give six tips for anyone who wants to work in the property sector? 

Tip 1

I believe solid customer service and excellent communication are the key skills for anyone looking to start off in the industry.  

Tip 2

Having empathy and patience with people is a must and a sense of humour often helps! 

Tip 3

An understanding of the property market is essential along with knowledge of different house types/styles/periods.  

Tip 4

Having a great understanding of the local market and the wider area as well; in terms of amenities, local schools, employers and events etc are invaluable knowledge for anyone looking to move to the area. 

Tip 5

Professionalism is a key point to remember when dealing with clients, solicitors and other professionals.

Tip 6

Master multi-tasking for those particularly busy periods!

What makes the perfect home for you? 

Modern, clean lines, a spacious ground floor space, plenty of light meaning lots of glass, a nice south facing garden, good local schooling and amenities in close proximity.  Oh, and somewhere with enough space for my two chocolate Labradors.   

Do you have any news you would like to share?

We have just celebrated our 25th birthday! I am so immensely proud of the team’s hard work throughout the years, we have managed to maintain an excellent rapport within the West Bridgford and Keyworth communities. We want to say a big thank you to our customers and we look forward to continuing to offer them great advice and the best possible service.

For more information regarding membership to The Guild of Property Professionals email parklane@guildproperty.co.uk or to see more click here.

16Aug

On Sunday 21 July this year, the Government announced that they had launched their consultation on the abolition of Section 21. The consultation, which will only cover England, will be open for 12 weeks closing on Saturday 12 October.

In the consultation, the Government proposes to remove Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) from the Housing Act 1988, essentially making assured tenancies the only type of tenancy available to landlords.

In the proposal that the Government has put forward, tenants will have the option of agreeing to a fixed-term assured tenancy, which means both parties are committed to a predetermined time or a periodic assured tenancy. In the case where a fixed-term tenancy has not been terminated by the tenant or the landlord using the Section 8 Notice process, it is possible for it to be renewed to a new fixed term. If this doesn’t happen, it will automatically revert to an assured periodic tenancy.

If the decision is made by the Government to move forward with the proposed changes and they are passed into law, there will be a transitional period of six months before the law comes into full effect. So, if nothing else changes and this matter is prioritised, we could see it come into place either towards the end of next year or perhaps early in 2021.

Would the changes impact tenancies currently in place?

According to Iain McKenzie, CEO of The Guild of Property Professionals, there has been confirmation that the Government plan for the changes not to be retrospective. “What this means is that should the law come into place, it will not impact tenancies that are already in place at the time it is passed. So, landlords in these agreements will still be able to use Section 21 until the tenancy comes to an end. Any new agreement thereafter will then become an assured tenancy,” he adds.

What if the landlord or tenant wants to end the agreement?

If the landlord wishes to terminate an assured tenancy, they will have to give the tenant a Section 8 eviction notice based on one of the grounds specified in Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988.

“In the instance where the tenant decides to end the tenancy, they would have to give one month’s notice, but only at the end of a fixed-term tenancy or during a periodic tenancy, unless their agreement includes a break clause,” explains McKenzie.

A reformed Section 8 Notice process

If Section 21 is abolished, other aspects will need to come into play to protect landlords such as the improvement of the Section 8 notice process. The Government is proposing that the process for possession be accelerated, removing the need for a court hearing if unchallenged by then tenant.

McKenzie says: “There are several other changes that the Government will be looking to make to Section 8 to mitigate the loss of Section 21, such as adding a new ground into Section 8 for when a landlord wishes to sell the property or widening the current grounds to cover a landlord, their spouse, partner, or family member, should they wish to move into the property.”

It is also proposed to strengthen the current mandatory ground 8, which pertains to rent arrears, as well as ground 13 to allow landlords to use this if tenants routinely refuse access to the property for safety checks and repairs.

For tenants, the Government wishes to include the prescribed information requirements that currently exist via the Deregulation Act for the valid use of Section 21 in the Section 8 process to ensure their existing protection is maintained.

Impact on rentals

Even with the proposed amendments to the Section 8 process, with Section 21 abolished, landlords will feel they have fewer options when dealing with defaulting tenants – which will have repercussions on the rental market

“If landlords feel they have less protection the likelihood is that they will become far more risk-averse and less likely to want to rent out their property. This could mean the supply of rental properties would decrease, which in the long term could push up rental prices. Landlords will also be far more stringent in their tenant selection process, meaning some tenants may find it far more difficult to find a place to live,” says McKenzie.

What should landlords do to prepare?

The Guild’s inhouse Compliance Officer, Paul Offley, says: “It is important that landlords have a workable process for obtaining possession where there is a justified need for them to do so. Any process which helps execute this process, whilst being fair to the tenant, has got to be seen as a positive move. Any change brings concern but providing MHCLG is working with organisations like The Guild and that they listen to the feedback they receive, then hopefully this will benefit all parties concerned.”

To find out more about what the Government is proposing read this article

If you are looking to rent your property, find your local Guild Member.

12Aug

While leaving your home to a family member is a very generous act, there is the matter of inheritance tax to think about. 

One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was once attributed to saying that ‘nothing is certain except for death and taxes.’ Combining the two in the form of inheritance tax seems to only add salt to the wound. Often referred to as “death tax”, inheritance tax is levied on the estate of someone who has passed away. Although this tax only impacts a small number of estates, approximately around 4% in 2014/2015, the amount of revenue has increased annually.  As property prices increase, so will the number of people who will be liable to pay the tax.

When does inheritance tax occur?

Inheritance tax is charged at 40% on assets above the current tax-free threshold of £325,000 for an individual and £650,000 for a married couple. Amendments which were introduced in 2017 mean an individual can now transfer an additional £125,000 during the 2018/2019 tax year to their direct descendants, this increases to £150,000 in the 2019/2020 tax year, rising again to £175,000 in 2020/2021.

It is imperative to ensure the right people benefit when you pass away. If you die without a will in place, your estate will be dispersed according to intestacy rules and may attract a higher level of tax.

Is there a way of avoiding inheritance tax?

While inheritance legislation is complicated, there are a lot of ways in which you can legally avoid paying inheritance tax. One of the best ways is reducing the value of your estate by gifting sums of up to £3,000. Every year gifts of up to £3,000 can be given to your spouse or legal partner, a registered charity or a political party and are inheritance tax free. The legislation allows for other types of gifts too, such as variable amounts for weddings or civil ceremonies, the value of which is determined by your relationship. The golden thread is that you must not benefit from the money or assets you give away, because if you do, your estate will still have to pay inheritance tax.

Larger gifts

It is possible to give away larger amounts, however, it is far more complex, and you must live for seven years for it to be completely tax free. It is also important to note that, while you might not need the excess cash now, it may be needed later in life, so take that into account before gifting larger sums of money. Concerns about gifting to younger children or grandchildren can be allayed by setting up trust funds to ensure the money is spent wisely.

Tax relief investments

Certain investments, such as a trust fund, do qualify for tax relief provided they are structured in the right way. Remember, however, all investments carry a level of risk and should be assessed on its merit as a sound investment, rather than a means of tax avoidance. 

Another effective and essential part of the planning is taking out life insurance, which can be placed in a trust so that your executors can pay any outstanding tax outside your estate. 

Before you give everything away though, remember to enjoy the money you’ve worked for and spend it. There’s no need to live on a tight budget just to save money that will be taxed. 

Contact us today!

Looking for further advice on property related matters, then contact a Guild Member in your area

09Aug

Understanding credit scores can be tricky yet essential, as it affects your ability to borrow loans for mortgages. Lenders such as banks, credit card companies and mortgage lenders look for low-risk borrowers who have a history of making repayments on time, so it’s vital to know your credit score and determine whether you’d be a suitable candidate for a loan, especially if you would like to apply for a mortgage

Experian, Equifax and Transunion are three credit reference agencies (CRAs) that calculate credit scores and create reports based on your credit history. The CRA’s are sent information about your credit from lenders, and this is how they calculate your score. Your score may be checked if you make a big purchase on finance, take out an insurance policy, apply for a loan, or apply for a mortgage or to rent a property. It’s required by law to have free access to your credit report, so checking is simple. 

If you have a poor credit score, there are numerous ways to improve your score, so don’t fret. For starters, paying bills on time, tackling existing debt, and registering on the electoral roll are all ways in which you can improve your score. The higher your score, the lower the risk you are for lenders.

For more information, Sainsbury’s Bank has created a guide to help you improve your credit score

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07Aug

Traditional countryside cottages are highly coveted all year round. We reveal five delightful homes filled with character and charm. 

Little Milton, Oxfordshire, 1 bedroom

This quaint, unusual Grade II Listed one-bedroom detached cottage can be found in the heart of Little Milton, Oxfordshire. It is a small village with many period properties, which are predominantly built from local stone. 

South Lodge is one of a pair of identical early 19th century timber-framed gate lodges with thatched hipped roof, planking the west entrance to the village’s Manor House. The lodge has been well-maintained and modernised over the years, whilst retaining an abundance of charming period features. The accommodation comprises a front-facing sitting room with exposed beams, vaulted ceiling, Inglenook fireplace and a pair of pretty pointed arched diamond leaded windows. 

There is a single storey side extension providing a well-proportioned kitchen/breakfast room. It overlooks the beautiful gardens with terracotta tiled flooring and side door access to the paved terrace. To the rear of the property, there is a light and airy double bedroom with vaulted ceiling and exposed beams, as well as a modern shower room. 

The garden is one of the highlights of the property which is laid to lawn with beautiful herbaceous borders. The home also benefits from driveway parking for two cars. 

Little Milton has a primary school, a pre-school, church, post office, public house, shops and cafes all within a short walk. The nearby market town of Thame provides a wide range of shops and supermarkets. The location also offers excellent access to the city of Oxford

Heage, Derbyshire, 4 bedroom

Situated in Burford, Oxfordshire, this charming Grade II Listed three-bedroom period property has been stylishly extended to offer contemporary interiors. Plum Tree Cottage retains a wealth of character whilst benefitting from sophisticated updates with an abundance of storage and integral appliances. 

The sitting room has exposed beams, stone flooring and a wood burning stove, whilst on the first and second floors there are exposed wall timbers. The home also offers three excellent double bedrooms, two stylish en-suites, ground floor shower room and boasts a picturesque, fully enclosed rear garden.

Burford is a picturesque small Cotswold market town with many historical connections. Situated on the Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire border and known as the gateway to the Cotswolds, the town offers a good range of shopping facilities, local schools, a fine parish church and a number of public houses and restaurants. 

Little Haseley, Oxfordshire, 3 bedroom

Maytree Cottage is a beautiful Grade II Listed three-bedroom detached cottage situated in the idyllic and sought-after hamlet of Little Haseley, Oxfordshire. The popular rural setting comprises many attractive period houses and thatched cottages and offers excellent commuter links, with easy access to London and the Midlands. 

There is a first-class range of independent and preparatory schools in the area and shopping facilities can be found in the nearby market town of Thame or the city of Oxford. In the neighbouring village of Great Haseley, you will find the village-owned public house, The Plough, and Great Milton is home to the renowned restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. The Oxfordshire Golf Club and the Waterstock Golf Club are also nearby. 

The picture-perfect stone cottage is believed to date to the early 18th century and is well-presented both inside and out. The property has an incredibly romantic garden, billowing with fragrant blooms. With the private mature garden comes a summer house and a separate stone-built home office. Quintessentially British, featuring a wealth of character features, including wooden beams and Inglenook fireplaces, the interior of the home is bursting with charm.

East Boldre, Hampshire, 3 bedroom

This three-bedroom family home is a quintessential Grade II Listed ‘chocolate box’ style thatched cottage, of which the roofing has recently been replaced. The beautiful property oozes with character and charm and has been immaculately presented throughout to a high specification. 

A sweeping path leads to the front of the porch, which you enter through into the main sitting and dining room. The room is lovely and light and features exposed timber beams and a large Inglenook fireplace with a gas burning stove.

The kitchen has been attractively fitted with wooden cupboards and marble type worksurfaces. The room benefits from wood flooring, cedar boarded ceiling and a door that leads out onto the rear garden. 

The accommodation sits on a corner plot and is fully enclosed by hedging, walls, bushes, trees and fencing. The current owner has recently converted the outbuilding with insulated cavity walls and insulated roof spaces which lend for various buyer’s requirements. The property also benefits from a workshop and garage. 

The rear garden is of an excellent size and is mainly laid to lawn with a variety of mature trees, shrubs and borders and there is a generous front garden with ample driveway parking. The cottage enjoys direct forest access and is situated in the popular village location of East Boldre

Charlbury, Oxfordshire, 4 bedroom

This stunning four-bedroom home is located in a quiet corner of the sought-after town of Charlbury on the edge of Wychwood Forest and the Cotswolds

The home is presented exceptionally well and has been well cared for by its one previous owner. It comprises an entrance hall, a kitchen with a vaulted ceiling which leads onto a lovely dining room, a separate pantry, cloakroom, study, sitting room with a feature fireplace, master bedroom with an en-suite shower room, two further bedrooms, a family bathroom and a guest room with an en-suite shower room.

Externally, the property offers a double garage, driveway parking and attractive landscaped gardens to the front and rear which have been lovingly planted.

Charlbury is a historic and sought-after market town located midway between the Blenheim and Cornbury estates, with lovely country walks to be enjoyed along the nearby footpaths and bridleways. There is a thriving and vibrant community, with good facilities including a range of local shops, a medical centre, dental practice, veterinary surgery, library and a well-regarded primary school. 

The delightful town is particularly well-placed for commuters, with the railway station providing a regular mainline train service to Oxford and London Paddington. Junction 9 of the M40 is within easy reach as well.

Find your next home!

Looking for your next home? Find your local Guild Member today. 

05Aug

When it comes to selling a house, ‘staging’ is of the utmost importance. You might spend hours upon hours dusting ceiling corners, scrubbing at the kitchen floor or rearranging the furniture. However, there are other changes you could make which you might not have thought of.

Recent research carried out by Carpetright explores how our living spaces can often dictate how we feel. Given that we spend 80-90% of our time indoors, it makes sense that, as people, we want to go to great lengths to ensure our surroundings make ourselves feel happy and positive.  

Key findings from the study found that three-quarters of people surveyed agree that the layout of a room can impact their mood. Two-thirds of the group found a messy room stress-inducing, while a third associate gardens with relaxation.

Feng Shui master, Alan Stirling, recognises that “our environment is very often an expression of how we feel inwardly. Ideally, it should inspire us to make the most of our lives from when we open our eyes in the morning and help us relax after a rewarding day”.

If Carpetright’s findings tell us anything, it’s that if we can positively influence how people feel when they step foot in our home, they are more likely to be open to purchasing. So, how can you harness this knowledge and achieve ultimate zen within your soon-to-be-sold home in preparation for viewings? 

Use plants and natural materials to your advantage

The study showed that 81% of participants agree that having an outdoor space at home is important. Many other studies have also shown that adding plants to your household creates a calming and colourful environment. 

Plants are quick and relatively inexpensive additions to make; simply head on down to your nearest garden centre and stock up on ones that go nicely with the colour palette and space you’re working with. According to Mark McCance, Director of Hortology.co.uk, ‘The Indoor Plant Experts For Home & Office’, some of the best house plants include Dragon Trees, Kentia Palm and Snake Plants because of their air-purifying qualities.

“Plants in the home have generally been linked with improved well-being, optimism, calmness, particularly as they dampen sound in noisy environments, and a sense of stability and reduction in stress and anxiety”, says McCance. 

In addition, natural materials such as wooden flooring not only offset the human-made parts of your home visually but also have positive effects on yours and your guests’ mental states, simulating proximity to nature.  

“The introduction of greenery such as houseplants, green walls or natural materials is an important element of health and wellbeing”, says McCance. 

The abundance of plants and natural materials will leave your viewers feeling relaxed and calm, with a positive impression of your home. 

Change up the lighting

You want your home to ideally be bright and airy when expecting visitors or viewings. A dingy, poorly lit environment will be an immediate turn-off to potential buyers, whereas standing lamps, intricate fairy lights or mood-boosting colour-changing LED lights signal warmth and comfort.

Lighting can instantly influence the mood of your guests, so it is definitely something to take into account when preparing your house for viewings.  

Stimulate your guests’ senses with smells and sights

This can be in the form of bright, eye-catching rugs, essential oil diffusers or scented candles. These small additions to your household stimulate at least one of the five senses and have a big impact on your space and how relaxed your guests will feel. 

Entering a house that smells divine and oozes colour is going to immediately impress your visitors. When it comes to décor, certain colours can evoke specific feelings and sentiments too; for example, yellow is associated with optimism, green and blue with harmony, while reds and oranges go hand in hand with warmth and excitement. Decide how you want your guests to feel and adjust your colour palette to suit. 

But this ‘sense awakening’ doesn’t have to be synonymous with splurging; miniature adjustments to cushions, rugs and small furnishings can make all the difference. 

Get rid of clutter 

It goes without saying that too much clutter can be very off-putting to potential buyers. By placing bits and pieces into storage units and boxes, you enable visitors to get a clear picture of the space on offer. Mess and clutter can often hinder this. 

Home organisation expert and Netflix show host Marie Kondo has taken the internet by storm with her trademarked ‘KonMari’ methods. By only keeping items that “spark joy” within you and discarding those that fail to have the same effect, you are able to both declutter and surround yourself with plenty of positive vibes. 

In addition to this, two-thirds of people feel stressed in messy rooms – the last thing you want your guests to feel when thinking of potentially buying your home. 

Sell your property

Are you looking to sell your home? Find your local Guild Member today. Don't forget to use our free instant online valuation tool on our website to get an instant quote. For a more accurate valuation of your property, we advise you to contact your local Guild property professional.

 

Tasman Hogan

 

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