There are no limits to what can be created by upcycling. Not only is it cost-effective, but anyone can give it a go, with no previous skills required. Reducing household furniture waste that can’t be recycled by upcycling and giving it a brand new look is a simple way to begin to live sustainably.
2. Go toxic free
Lots of household products contain large amounts of toxins and gases. Switching to eco-friendly cleaning brands for a toxin-free deep clean is a quick and easy way to instantly reduce your carbon footprint. Air fresheners and aerosols are also harmful to the atmosphere, so try an alternative such as a charcoal air purifier or a natural spray. You can also buy paints that contain low or zero (volatile organic compounds), or non-toxic paints.
A recent study found that having a leafy plant in your house can help to absorb harmful volatile organic compounds, one of the main categories of pollutant gases. The most effective is the bromeliad plant, which removes over 80 per cent of toxins in the air, and also makes a beautiful home accessory.
3. Natural Materials
Incorporating sustainably-sourced eco-materials into your home is a great way to modernise with a conscience. Anglian Home Improvements’ Heritage Timber Collection, a range of wooden casement and sash windows, doors and conservatories, are perfect for homeowners looking to embrace the natural timber trend.
As well as looking to incorporate wood into your home, materials such as cork, bamboo and recycled glass are sustainable and durable materials, which make great options for flooring or kitchen countertops. Incorporating natural textiles into your styling, such as wool or hemp, can create a relaxed and cosy feel to a room, while also being eco-friendly.
4. Energy Efficient Windows
If you love the idea of living a more sustainable life and reducing your carbon footprint, don’t forget to look beyond interior design. Installing energy-efficient windows will not only transform the look of your property and dial up the kerb appeal, but it is also a sure-fire way to minimise energy consumption and keep your home warmer, quieter and safer.
5. Plastic-free home
Swapping plastic containers for glass jars or tins, having a wooden washing up brush and using ceramic or glass bowls are all quick and easy ways to reduce your plastic use. Start small by replacing your household items with plastic-free alternatives where possible, and watch the changes add up.
A spokesperson from Anglian Home Improvements commented: “As a nation, Brits are undoubtedly making a conscious effort to minimise our impact on the environment – from making lifestyle changes in order to cut down on single use plastics, to buying more ethically. Giving a little thought to how we live in our homes and how we can make ‘greener’ or more socially-responsible choices when it comes to home improvements can also help to make a big difference to the future of our planet.”
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Can't sell your property? Seven top tips to hook in buyers and get your home sold for the price you want.
Published: 18/03/2019 Last Updated: 18/03/2019 10:02:26 Tags: Top Tips On How To Sell Your Property; How To Get The Best Money For Your Property; Get The Best Val
Concerns about Brexit and uncertainty about the economy means some buyers are holding off on their purchases, leaving some properties on the market for months on end.
Additionally, it can be argued that in some cases, homes are being listed for unrealistic prices.
But don't despair as help as it at hand. Estate agents have revealed their top tips to help not only get your property sold, but for the best possible price.
1. Over personalisation
Modestly-decorated homes are most desirable to buyers, according to estate agents.
It means preparing your house for sale might require redecorating if your personal taste is particularly colourful or bold - and consequently unlikely to appeal to the majority of buyers.
Potential buyers need to see how their own belongings would fit into the space, and how they could make it their own home.
2. Condition of property
Evidence of damp, cracks in the walls, a roof in poor condition, an old boiler and single-glazed window can all have an impact on how much buyers are willing to spend.
If a property is not in good condition, it will limit the number of interested buyers as there will be some people who only want somewhere that is ready to move into.
This can be for a host of reasons, be it they don't have the time to spend addressing the issues or they may not have the money needed to be spent fixing them.
Any damage or unfinished work should be fixed before the property is put on the market
3. Bad presentation
Making sure your property for sale is presented in its best possible light is key if you are going to get the value you want out of it.
Everything should be clean, clutter tidied away, and any outstanding DIY jobs should be finished.
A home has a greater chance of selling quickly if it 'smells fresh' and is clean.
A few adjustments to the presentation may be all it takes to get a property sold.
4. Swimming pools
Having a swimming pool might seem like an attractive addition to a property, especially for friends and family who visit during the summer.
However, they can be an issue when it comes to selling your home.
This is because they can be expensive to maintain, use up a lot of space and they often can't be used that often due to the poor British weather.
As such, if your property for sale has a swimming pool, it may be worth considering filling it in.
Alternatively, if the swimming pool is in good condition, it may be beneficial to delay the sale of your home until the summer when you can show it off when it is looking at its best in warmer weather.
Swimming pools can put off buyers as they can be expensive to maintain and use up space
5. Planning permission and building regulations
Any extensions or conversions to your property will have required the appropriate planning permission and building regulations.
Make sure you have these documents available to reassure buyers that the work was carried out properly.
6. Darkened rooms
Graphite grey may be the one of the most popular colours in interior design, but it may not be so effective when it comes to selling your home.
Nine times out of time a bright and airy property will be worth more than a dark and dingy one.
But it is not only about the paint colours as overcrowded bushes and trees close to the windows, frosted glass windows or netted curtains can have the same effect of making a property feel less spacious than it really is.
7. Japanese knotweed
The two words 'Japanese knotweed' can set off alarm bells among clued-up homebuyers.
The invasive plant can damage the foundations of your home and significantly devalue it if it is at risk of subsidence as a result.
Anyone who believes they can see any of the plant in their garden should call a professional to excavate it.
Moving home is an expensive business in London. Whether you’re buying a home or renting, there’s a range of extra costs involved in getting set up in your new home. Clarity on these extra costs is vital, so you can ensure you’re financially prepared for moving day.
First time buyers are in particular risk of underestimating the cost of moving house in the capital, with a major focus on getting together their deposit before contemplating any additional costs. Luckily, moving costs are entirely predictable once you understand the services you require. Stamp Duty, conveyancing costs and house removals are all costs you can factor in ahead of time.
No one should face “unexpected” costs on moving day. Here we’ll run through the main costs relating to moving house so you can plan ahead and get saving.
Set out your budget in good time
To begin with, you should work out a rough estimate of the savings you’ll need to cover the cost of moving house.
Are you purchasing your next house? Many of the costs you face will be relative to your house price, so you’ll be able to use your budget work out your cost of moving. Are you renting? You’ll be able to use your projected monthly rent to work out the extra costs involved.
We’ll run through the different costs you might pay in the next section so you can make your calculations and start saving.
Planning core costs when buying a home in London
When you’re buying and selling a home, there are some costs you can’t escape. You’ll be aware of the costs involved in saving up a deposit for a new home, but there are a few extra costs you’ll need to budget in:
These are the fees payable for your solicitor or Conveyancer. In a nutshell, the fees you pay are fees paid on your behalf to third parties (disbursements), and the legal fees paid to your conveyancer. You can expect to pay your conveyancer between £600 to £2,000 depending on the cost of your home, the service you require, and the area you’re buying. Read more about conveyancing costs including disbursements here.
You’ll know the exact amount you can expect to pay for Stamp Duty because it’s relative to your house price. It can get confusing as you’ll pay a different percentage on different portions of your house price, so use helpful tools like our Stamp Duty Calculator. For example, you’ll pay £10k in Stamp Duty when purchasing a £400k home. Remember that first time buyers don’t have to pay Stamp Duty on properties below £300,000 and get relief on homes which cost up to £500,000.
Planning core costs when renting
Although you dodge the costs faced by home buyers like Stamp Duty and conveyancing, if you’re renting in London there’s still a significant amount to save ahead of your move. Your current deposit won’t be freed until you leave your current premises so don’t assume you’ll have that balance towards your next home.
You’ll pay a holding fee of one week’s rent, and your deposit against damages will be maximum 6 weeks rent. Though soon to be abolished, you’ll want to factor in Estate agent fees if you’re moving before June 2019. Add this all together and this will be the amount you need to put aside to save.
Planning your extra moving costs
Once you’ve totalled your core costs involved in moving house, it’s time to factor in any additional costs like house removals and a property survey.
For the average 3 bedroom home you could expect to pay around £850 for house removals, which could rise to as much as £1,300 if you opt for full extra services like packing. Every house move is different, but the cost will always come down to the volume of your contents, the distance travelled, and the time taken. Most removal companies will give a no obligation quote following a home survey, so this cost is certainly something you can factor well in advance.
London has a huge amount of older properties, and a property survey by a chartered surveyor will unveil any hidden defects and structural issues in your home. The most common option is a RICS Homebuyer Report, which starts from around £400 but will scale relative to the size and cost of your new home. Because of this you should budget in around £600 to £800 for a Homebuyer Report for your London property.
Spreading the cost
Once you’ve tallied up the cost of your move and decided on the extra services you require, you’ll want to save gradually to make the costs more manageable. Take your total estimated moving cost and split it across the time left before your predicted moving day.
Set up a direct debit straight into your savings account every month on payday up until moving day. The extra costs can be substantial, and if you know well in advance you could prolong the time spent saving to meet these fees.
This article was provided to us by a 3rd party, whilst believed to be factually correct, we cannot accept responsibility for content contained within it.
It is also interesting to see how Brexit is playing out with our neighbours as they jostle to take advantage of relocations from London. The French parliament has just adopted a package of measures for 2018 that includes scrapping the wealth levy on everything except property assets — in effect cutting the tax by 70%. A 30% flat tax rate will also be introduced on capital gains, dividends and interests — a longstanding demand from investors and entrepreneurs.
This goes directly against the most recent recommendations of the IMF, which suggests that major economies should raise taxes on high earners. The Fund said many rich countries could take advantage of benign economic conditions to raise taxes in order to reduce deficits and tackle inequality. It urged governments to consider different types of wealth taxes and to increase capital gains taxes. It said that taxes on land and property were “both equitable and efficient, and remain underused”.
Meanwhile Swiss bank UBS analysed 12 cities across the world to identify where people could best enjoy their retirement. Its International Pension Gap Index is based on ‘average Jane’, who represents a 50 year-old single woman, with one adult child, who earns the median wage and has not saved for “anything more than a rainy day" before entering her final decade in work.
Zurich was ranked as the best place to retire because Jane would only have to save around 11% of her monthly income to sustain her basic lifestyle in retirement. London and New York were ranked seventh and eighth, with Jane needing to save 47% and 49% respectively. Taipei, where Jane would need to save 157% of her salary every month, was ranked lowest.
And as our clocks have just gone back an hour for the winter solstice, here are some news items that may provide food for thought as the long evenings draw in. The final item in particular may make the onset of winter a little less threatening.
My Top Stories of the Month
Duke of Westminster avoids massive death duties through family trusts
The late Duke of Westminster escaped paying inheritance tax on the bulk of his multi-billion fortune, writes Andrew Levy in The Daily Mail. Probate records showed Gerald Grosvenor, who died aged 64 in August last year, left a personal estate of £743.4 million, reduced to £616.4 million after debts and liabilities. Most was left in trust with the income going to his widow Natalia, but his trustees were given the power to transfer all or any of the capital to her. Some £21.1 million was also given to charities. The UK’s inheritance tax of 40% of any assets worth over £325,000 is not payable on anything left to a spouse or on charitable donations. The rest of his estimated £9.35 billion estate appears to have been in family trusts which were passed on to his only son Hugh, 26, now the 7th Duke of Westminster. If it had been applied to the late Duke’s entire wealth, the liability would have been around £3.4 billion. However, a 6% charge of the value of a trust’s assets is levied every ten years on any wealth that was transferred as of March 2006.
£18 million London house to be sold in bitcoin
A house valued at £18 million is to be put up for sale in the Notting Hill district of London – but the vendor will only accept payment in digital currency bitcoin, writes Arjun Kharpal for CNBC. Lev Loginov, co-founder of property investment company London Wall, which bought the property in 2013, said he hoped that cryptocurrencies would soon be widely used for property sales. He also believed that property ownership records could be transformed with blockchain technology. He admitted that the proposed transaction was at an experimental stage and his company was trying to work out the details of the sale – not least, how to pay the tax due on the sale to the UK tax office. It has also hired a business intelligence firm and lawyer to ensure that any payment comes from legitimate sources. The quoted price tag equated to over 4,000 bitcoin at current prices.
Fintech boom drives record number of UK trademark applications
A boom in new fintech innovations saw UK financial services firms register a record number of trademarks in 2016, writes Ben Chapman in The Independent. According to research by professional services firm RPC, companies in the sector registered 4,228 trademarks last year, up from 3,141 in 2011. The use of trademarks in financial services is popular because it is relatively easy for competitors to copy financial products, meaning that they can become commoditised. Investment in fintech is the driving force behind the sharp rise in the last five years.
HMRC estimates that multinationals avoid up to £5.8 billion per year in UK
Multinationals avoided paying as much as £5.8 billion in UK corporate taxes last year by booking profits in overseas entities, a 50% increase over previous government forecasts, writes Madison Marriage in the Financial Times. The sharp increase reflects a more aggressive interpretation of corporate tax laws since 2015, when new legislation was introduced to crack down on ‘transfer pricing’ arrangements – transactions between different corporate entities belonging to the same multinational group.
ATED ‘mansion tax’ could hit buy-to-let investors
A tax designed to affect only the very wealthy could now catch out everyday landlords thanks to changes in its implementation and soaring house prices, writes Sam Meadows in The Daily Telegraph. The annual tax on enveloped dwellings (ATED) was originally introduced in 2012 to prevent buyers avoiding stamp duty by buying properties through corporate vehicles. It initially applied only to house worth more than £2 million but now applies to company-owned properties worth more than £500,000. ATED applies if a property is owned by a limited company and is either empty or lived in by a ‘linked person’. Properties that are rented out privately are exempt, but the owner must file a return in order to avoid penalties. Experts are concerned that many landlords may not realise their properties are now liable for ATED. The situation could be exacerbated as landlords rush to register limited companies in order to get round changes to tax relief on mortgage payments, which are currently being phased in.
StanChart faces probes in Guernsey and Singapore over $1.4 billion in client transfers
Standard Chartered is being investigated by regulators in Guernsey and Singapore over a $1.4 billion transfer of funds between the two countries on behalf of Indonesian clients at its private
bank, writes Martin Arnold in the Financial Times. The transfer was made in the second half of 2015, shortly before of tighter disclosure rules in Guernsey under the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard. The transfer was flagged up as potentially suspect by staff at StanChart because the clients had links to the military and had assets worth tens of millions of dollars while their annual incomes were only in the tens of thousands. It was self-reported to regulators.
Craft beer boom pushes number of UK breweries past 2,000
More than 300 new breweries were launched in the UK last year due to the boom in craft beer sales, writes Angela Monaghan in The Guardian. The number of new breweries rose by 18% in 2016 to 1,994, according to a report by accountants UHY Hacker Young. The trend has continued in 2017, with the number of breweries exceeding 2,000 for the first time since the 1930s. “The craft beer boom has reversed around 70 years of consolidation in the brewing industry and there is plenty of growth still to come,” said James Simmonds, partner at UHY Hacker Young. It said smaller breweries also continued to benefit from a tax break introduced by then chancellor Gordon Brown in 2002, paying 50% less beer duty than their larger counterparts
We have recently covered how to find good electricians and plumbers, as well as how to identify a reputable building contractor, but in this article we will focus on how to identify the people we will trust with designing and planning any major building or renovation work we want done. We’re talking about the architects and designers whose ideas and expertise will be crucial when it comes to making our own vision for a particular property become a reality.
How to Find a Good Architect
All architects should be registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) after completing a training period lasting seven years. The ARB is an independent organisation set up by the Government to be the UK’s regulator of architects. You can call the ARB at 0800 389 6221 or visit the ARB website where you can take advantage of a multitude of resources to gain information on finding and using the right architect, as well as using their ‘find an architect’ search function to check up on a business or individual you may potentially hire. You can search for an architect using their registered business address, their company name or via their ARB registration number.
If you don’t know of any architect firms that you want to check up on, then you can also input your postcode to identify the architects that operate in your local area. Once you have identified the architect you want to use, the ARB website should provide you with the contact details you need to get in touch with them.
Additionally, you can call the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) on 020 7580 5533 or visit the RIBA website which is another registry that only accepts membership from architects who adhere to a strict code of conduct. Again, you can search for a registered architect using your postcode, town or city.
How to Find a Good Kitchen or Bathroom Designer
To find a reputable bathroom or kitchen designer, you should call the Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installers (iKBBI) on 0845 519 2007 or visit the iKBBI website where you can use their search function to find a good designer in your local area. The organisation carries out credit checks, police checks and ensures their members adhere to strict regulations. You can also use the website to research your rights as a consumer and find out what to do in case of a dispute between a contractor and yourself.
Additionally, if it is a bathroom you intend to renovate or have built, you can call the Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA) on 01782 631619 or visit the BMA website. The BMA is the trades body specifically for businesses dealing with bathrooms and bathroom products. Find out which firms are registered with the BMA to ensure they will adhere to the trades body’s strict code of practice.
Some ‘Brexit Clauses’ Have Indeed Been Activated
It seems some buyers are indeed activating their Brexit clause and pulling out of purchases due to the uncertainty that a Britain forced to go it alone will bring. However, a majority of purchases still seem to be going through.
The Managing Director of the luxury development firm Two Fifty One, David Humbles, told The Guardian newspaper that, “We can confirm that a few purchasers have decided not to proceed given the uncertainty of the market. However, the majority are continuing with their purchase and the marketing strategy to offer the pledge at the launch was a worthwhile exercise.”
Number of ‘Brexit Clause’ Activations is Growing
While the number of the clauses being activated to cancel sales is still relatively small, it does seem like the number has the potential to increase as more and more uncertainty over the future of Britain grows. Part of that issue is down to the immediate resignation of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who said in his resignation speech that, “I would reassure those markets and investors that Britain’s economy is fundamentally strong and I would also reassure Britons living in European countries and European citizens living here there will be no immediate changes in your circumstances. There will be no initial change in the way our people can travel, in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold.”
However, it’s clear that the British people won’t get a clear picture of what exactly the future does hold until Britain officially declares its intention to leave the EU and negotiations on the manner of that exit are complete.
Scotland Sees a Boost in Market Interest
One region of the UK that might ultimately benefit from Brexit is Scotland due to their likely determination to remain part of the EU. The property website Rightmove revealed that on the morning of the Brexit result, searches for properties in Edinburgh shot up by 250% from the previous day when the result was unknown. Despite that interesting statistic, there doesn’t appear to be any great panic throughout the UK property market and it remains to be seen exactly what the future holds.
For a new buy-to-let investor, choosing which to go for can be a dilemma, especially if they have the means to take of everything themselves but could possibly do with a more experienced head taking care of certain matters.
The Two Options Provided by Letting Agents
Within the letting agent option there are usually another couple of options depending on exactly how much of the burden the landlord wants them to take, with most letting agents offering a two-tiered service.
The first tier is a ‘let only’ service where they take care of finding a tenant for the property. They will identify or advertise for potential tenants, then interview them and check their references. If successful, the letting agent would then take care of the tenancy agreement and secure the deposit and first month’s rent from the tenant, for which their fee is likely to be somewhere around the 10 to 15% mark of the monthly rent. This option can be ideal for new buy-to-let investors who need that experienced head to get them rolling but would then prefer to take full control of the reins thereafter.
The second tier would be a ‘full management’ service, which would be ideal for anyone who might be too busy to be on stand by for any issues your tenants might have, or who doesn’t want the stress and bother of chasing up rent payments or arranging for plumbers to go and fix a broken boiler. When a letting agency takes full management of the process, they take care of everything in the ‘let only’ service but will then remain in charge of maintenance of the property as well as securing the monthly rent payments. This full management service can cost upwards of 15 to 20% of the monthly rent, and is of course an ongoing payment rather than a one-off as it is for the ‘let only’ fee.
When using a letting agency, it’s important that you only use an agent that is registered with one of the professional estate agent organisations such as those listed below.
ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents)
NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents)
UKALA (United Kingdom Association of Letting Agents)
The reason for only using an agency registered with one of these national organisations was explained by Ian Potter, Managing Director of ARLA, to the Telegraph newspaper. Mr Potter said:
“There are no restrictions on who becomes a lettings agent, so seeking advice from an agent affiliated to a professional organisation is highly recommended. They are trained, offer client money protection and there is a redress scheme in place if things go wrong.”
Letting agents are certainly worth the money if the time you have to spend on looking after your tenants is severely limited as occasionally they will need you to be there for them which will intrude on your other endeavours. Paying a letting agency to take care of everything for you will repay you in time and reduced stress, so they are certainly worthwhile in many cases.
The latest Housing Market Report by the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) says that 28% of total property sales during March were by people purchasing their first home. That number has risen from 24% in February and there is every possibility that it will continue to rise in the coming months, though perhaps not by such a large jump as 4%.
Availability Set to Increase for First Time Buyers
The NAEA’s latest report also reveals that 36% of estate agents (who are NAEA members) believe that the first time buyer numbers will increase significantly due to the drop off in competition for properties. An even larger 39% believe that the Stamp Duty rise of 3%, introduced on April 1st, will reduce interest in available properties from investors seeking properties to let out or keep as second homes, thus further increasing the availability of properties for first time buyers.
The NAEA Managing Director, Mark Hayward, says that, “The last few months, first time buyers have had to compete with landlords for the same properties and those landlords have really pushed hard to complete ahead of the rise in Stamp Duty. Now, in theory, things should get easier for first time buyers as we have seen with a slight increase in sales this month and as those seeking to buy-to-let will tail off.”
Long Term Prospects Have Not Greatly Improved
Although this sounds very hopeful for first time buyers, Mr Hayward did sound a warning that buyers seeking their first homes should not expect any major changes to their prospects. He continued, “However, in reality, it’s unlikely in the long term that first time buyers will notice a huge difference, as prices remain high and housing is in short supply. The Government needs to significantly increase the number of homes that are being built in this country to really make a difference to those that are struggling to get on the housing ladder.”
Supply Increases as Demand Decreases
The NAEA Housing Market Report reveals that the supply of houses available to all kinds of buyers, not just first timers, grew by a huge 54% in March from 35 properties available to buy (per branch associated with the NAEA) in February to 54 in March. However, demand actually decreased in March, with NAEA estate agents reporting 417 (on average) potential buyers registered per member branch, which is significantly down from the 463 that were registered in February, which was the highest level in well over a decade.
A relatively large 63% of agents are already predicting that supply will significantly decrease as the stamp duty increase pushes many landlords out of the market.
Research Reveals Current Buy-to-Let Increase
The research by the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), which discovered the widely held belief that rents are going to rise after April, also revealed that a small majority of letting agents (52%) have reported an increase in interest in buy-to-let properties. That amount has increased from 47% in January. Supply also increased a little during February, with demand for letting properties at 37%, which is actually the highest percentage it has been since the same time last year.
ARLA’s Managing Director, David Cox, said, “Stamp duty changes are now imminent, and as well as hitting small landlords, they will also impact institutional investors. Although members are reporting a rush from landlords trying to snap up their buy to let investments now, it’s likely that we’ll see the buy-to-let market drop like a stone come April, and probably not pick up again until next year. This will most certainly cause rents to increase, with supply dropping, as competition for the limited availability of properties intensifies.”
Housing Demand has Also Increased
ARLA’s report reveals a rise of 19% in demand during February. That works out at about 37 prospective renters registered with each UK letting agent (who are members of ARLA). Last February in 2015, that number was at 40 but dropped significantly over the rest of the year. It is now climbing back near that recent peak.
Mr Cox continued, “The demand for housing continues to intensify as supply remains an issue across most of the country. We are concerned that the government rhetoric of wanting to help people on to the housing ladder does not tally with their action of continuing to target the rental market with additional costs. Some landlords will simply withdraw from the market whereas others who can take the hit of the extra stamp duty will simply raise rents to cover the extra costs. The dream of home ownership will remain out of reach for many as we move closer towards becoming a nation of forever renters.”
There can be a lot more to creating flow if you want delve deeper into the various methods used to create positive flow in a home, but the following ideas are good basics to start with to see if it’s something you might be interested in doing for your own house.
Knock Through Non-Structural Walls
Most of these ideas will depend entirely on the lay out of each individual home, and that’s especially the case when it comes to knocking through walls. But if your home features a separate dining room and living room, or any kind of spare room downstairs, then you should seriously consider removing the dividing wall (assuming it is a non-structural wall). While you technically ‘lose’ a room, you have actually created a huge living area which features less of the divisions that can impede the natural flow of the home.
Remove Kitchen Islands
If you have an enormous kitchen, then a kitchen island might be ideal for your circumstances, but beyond that they can take up unnecessary space and cause blockages in the flow. These blockages are areas that are awkward to access or cause a space to appear smaller or more cramped than it actually is. Kitchen islands can make a kitchen feel so much smaller, so if you are not living in a home with a huge kitchen that practically swallows up the island then start imagining the space without it.
Remove Unnecessary Doors
There are so many homes which feature hallways with an abundance of doors leading off them. This creates the impression that the hallway is a separate entity with little purpose other than to lead you to other rooms. But if you remove the unnecessary doors you can incorporate the hallway into the rooms it leads onto. Do you really need doors on the living room, the dining room and the kitchen? Possibly you do, but if not then remove them so the hallway feels almost like an extension of the rooms it is connected to rather than a closed-off space with little purpose beyond its basic function.
In the future, we will have more blogs detailing more advanced tips and tricks to help open up the right kind of space in the home and create that magical-sounding ‘flow’. Such amendments to a house will not only improve your every day living experience, but can also make your property a much more attractive proposition to a prospective buyer.
Find the Right Tenants
This is the most obvious one but a lot more goes into it than you might imagine. Mostly, it’s all about picking the right tenant to begin with. You want somebody reliable, of course, but you also want to find a tenant who will be in the property for the long-term. This means you must ask for and then follow-up on their references. Find out about their recent living situations, their reasons for moving out of their previous property and their plans for the future.
Some people will obviously tell you what you want to hear, so you’ll need to check up on them as much as possible and play it smart. For example, if you have a one bedroom flat available and a young couple with a new born baby are interested, then you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be looking to move onto somewhere with an extra room as soon as possible.
Keep the Tenants You Have
First off, you need to keep the property in a desirable condition so that it is a pleasant place to live. This means staying on top of any maintenance and always being available should problems with the property arise. If your tenants do move out, then find out why they are moving out and see that you make any amendments to the property to avoid the same issue arising in the future.
Another facet of keeping your tenants is the rent. Obviously, we all want to make as much money as possible but if raising the rent causes your tenants to move out and leave you with a tenancy void of even just one month, then you will end up losing money. If you have a good tenant already, then it might be in your best interests to keep the rent as it is to ensure you don’t lose the tenant.
Take Advantage of Tourist Seasons and Special Events
Obviously this can depend on where your property is situated, but should there be any tourist attractions reasonably near you, then you can possibly solve a summer tenancy void problem by renting out to visitors on short-term contracts. Special events can offer a similar opportunity to rent your property out for the short-term as well.
One last bit of advice is to make the most out of your tenancy voids by investing in the property to improve it, even to the point of raising it into a higher rent bracket. You can use the period when nobody is in the property to make any renovations that will improve your tenants’ living conditions. Such work will pay dividends in the end so think positively and make the most of the time.
Renovation and Regeneration
Massive improvements to the local infrastructure along with extensive redevelopment in the residential zones in Southwark, Borough and Bermondsey, has seen prices rise by 106% in the five years since the market was at its lowest ebb. The SE1 area has seen a boom in stark contrast to most of the rest of the city, with the average London price rise over the same period lagging far behind SE1 at just 51%.
The construction of the Shard is being credited with inspiring commercial development and investment in the area, as well as attracting an influx of young professionals. Many new jobs have sprung up around the Southbank, as well the area being close to the hub of technology and creative industries. The close proximity of the financial sector is another benefit which has helped fuel the surge in property prices.
No Sign of a Slowdown in SE1
Chestertons’ Tower Hamlets Sales Manager, Matt Johnson says there is no sign of a slowdown when it comes to the new homes sector, stating:
“The residential sales market has not been without its challenges this year, the number of transactions has fallen slightly in fact when compared to 2014, and we’ve seen slower price growth than last year. But owners are still enjoying average sales values in SE1 that are 70% above their pre-global recession peak in 2008.”
Johnson concluded, “Coming into the final quarter of the year, a total of 2,916 homes in 21 schemes were under construction and a further 4,146 homes in 22 schemes had planning permission.”
Rents Rising with Sale Prices
Chestertons’ Lettings Manager, Laura Kitts, added, “Tenant demand was nearly eight percent higher in the first three quarters of the year compared to the corresponding period of 2014, and the number of homes available for let was up by more than half. The wider choice of lets available hasn’t dampened rental growth either, with the average rent [prices] on new tenancies having risen by around five percent over the past year alone.”
It appears that there are still plenty of opportunities for property investors in various parts of London looking to make money on housing in the capital.
What next for mortgage rates? Rates nudge up as first signs appear that ongoing price war might be coming to an end
The average two-year fixed rate mortgage rate has crept up by 0.13 per cent in the past month, possibly showing the first signs that the ongoing price war between lenders is drawing to a close.
Average two-year fixed rates rose from 2.36 per cent in January to 2.49 per cent today, according to new data from analysts Moneyfacts. This time last year, average rates were also at 2.36 per cent.
This could be the first indications that the increased competition which has suppressed rates since the Bank of England’s base rate rise in August might be coming to an end.
These days, with so many different types of mortgage, there is a much wider breadth of choice for borrowers in all kinds of different situations.
But the world of mortgages can seem fiendishly complicated, and with all the fixed-rate, discount, tracker and offset mortgages out there, choosing the right deal can feel like a minefield.
This long-running guide can help you figure out what the best options are for you.
What are the best mortgage deals?
The attraction of a two-year fix may be lower rates now and extra flexibility, but that comes at the expense of needing to re-mortgage in two years to avoid slipping onto a more expensive standard variable rate.
And while the base rate only went up last year, there is really only one direction for rates to go in future - up.
A five-year fix gives the opportunity to lock into a low rate for a longer period and avoid extra fees and higher rates in a relatively short time.
Unless you have a good reason to take a two-year fixed rate, such as needing to move or expecting to have to sell your home, brokers have suggested that five-year fixed rates might be a cheaper long-term bet.
Even if the base rates stays low, if lenders are worried about the effect of Brexit, they are likely to make it harder for borrowers to get a mortgage by making their affordability and income tests harder to pass.
Whatever the right type of mortgage for your circumstances, shopping around and speaking to a good mortgage broker is a wise move.
Borrowers should have a quick look at the rates below.
Best fixed-rate mortgage deals
Bigger deposit mortgages
Five-year fixed rate mortgages
Skipton Building Society has a five-year fixed-rate mortgage at 1.83 per cent with a £1,995 fee at 60 per cent loan-to-value.
HSBC has a five-year fixed-rate mortgage at 1.85 per cent with a £999 fee at 60 per cent loan-to-value.
Two-year fixed rate mortgages
Chelsea Building Society has a two-year fixed-rate mortgage at 1.34 per cent with a £1,530 fee at 75 per cent loan-to-value.
Sainsbury's Bank has a two-year fixed-rate mortgage at 1.39 per cent with a £1,245 fee at 60 per cent loan-to-value.
Mid-range deposit mortgages
Five-year fixed rate mortgages
Platform has a five-year fixed rate mortgage at 1.94 per cent with a £1,249 fee at 75 per cent loan-to-value.
Lloyds Bank has a five-year fixed-rate mortgage at 1.94 per cent with a £1,499 fee at 75 per cent loan-to-value.
Two-year fixed rate mortgages
Leeds Building Society has a two-year fixed rate mortgage at 1.38 per cent with a £999 fee at 75 per cent loan-to-value.
Yorkshire Building Society has a two-year fixed-rate mortgage at 1.41 per cent with a £1,495 fee at 75 per cent loan-to-value.
Smaller deposit mortgages
Five-year fixed rate mortgages
Atom Bank has a five-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.34 per cent with no fee at 95 per cent loan-to-value.
Newcastle Building Society has a five-year fixed-rate mortgage at 3.35 per cent with a £763 fee at 95 per cent loan-to-value.
Two-year fixed rate mortgages
Newcastle BS has a two-year fixed-rate mortgage at 2.85 per cent with a £763 fee at 95 per cent loan-to-value.
Hanley Economic BS has a two-year fixed-rate mortgage at 2.85 per cent with a £250 fee at 95 per cent loan-to-value.
Can you get a mortgage?
Banks and building societies have broadly got to grips with the tougher new mortgage rules introduced more than four years ago in April 2014.
But getting a mortgage is tougher than it once was. You will need to get your finances in order and be prepared for the lengthier application process and in-depth affordability interviews getting a mortgage requires nowadays.
Lenders also apply different standards to what they will lend.
Weigh up the above, check the rates here and in our best buy mortgage tables, have a scout around what the best deals look like – and speak to a good independent broker.
There are a couple of things to look out for if you do decide to fix.
You need to check the bumper arrangement fees are worth paying – if you don’t have a big mortgage you may be better off with a slightly higher rate and lower fee.
It’s also wise to think carefully about whether you expect to move home soon. A good five-year fix should be portable, so you can take it with you.
But your new property will need to be assessed and you might need to borrow extra money, and so your lender could still say no. Getting out of a fixed rate typically requires a hefty hit to the pocket from early repayment charges.
Today's low rates may stick around, they may even inch a little lower, but they may also be swiftly axed.
If you think you’d kick yourself if you miss out on one, then set aside some time to consider what to do.
The average cost of buying a home now sits at £290,963.
Good News for First Time Buyers
These recent figures were collected by Rightmove, who also have some good news for first time buyers. Rightmove say that the lower end of the market has seen the smallest increases, with two bedroom houses only seeing a maximum rise of 0.1%. This is particularly good news for first time buyers as these two-bed homes are exactly the kind of properties they will most likely be looking for in order to get onto the property ladder.
Rightmove’s Director and Housing Market Analyst, Miles Shipside, said, ‘Upwards price pressure remains with the second highest rise seen at this time of year for nine years. But encouragingly for first time buyers, there’s more fresh choice with more property coming to market in their target sector.’
Rightmove also believe that changes to the landlord tax laws could be having a knock-on effect to the housing market in general. Shipside added, ‘With their asking prices pretty much the same as a month ago, perhaps the knock-on effects of the more punitive landlord tax regime have arrived early and they now face a dilemma over whether to buy now or wait to see if prices drop in this sector over the next few months.’
House Price Variations Across the UK
Another interesting facet of this recent data is the variation of price rises throughout the whole country. Prices have also fallen in some areas while actually increasing year-on-year. The East Midlands, for example, has seen a decrease of 1.8% but are actually up by 2.8% year-on-year. Similarly, Yorkshire and Humber saw a decrease of 0.2% but are actually up by 2.8% year-on-year. In Greater London, the different is quite dramatic, with a decrease of 0.9% but a year-on-year increase of 7.8%, leaving the average Greater London house costing £610,741.
All of these house price trend figures from Rightmove are good news in general for the UK housing market, with growth across the board but less so in the lower end where first time buyers should find themselves still able to afford to get their foot on the ladder.
From April 2016, those in England and Wales will have to pay a 3% surcharge on each stamp duty band.
George Osborne said the new surcharge would raise £1bn extra for the Treasury by 2021.
Landlords reacted angrily to the change, saying it would "choke off" investment in rented properties.
The stamp duty surcharge will lift each band by 3%. That means that for properties worth between £125,000 and £250,000, where the stamp duty is 2%, buy-to-let landlords will pay 5%.
For the average buy-to-let purchase of £184,000, that means they will pay an extra £5,520 from April 2016.
Commercial property investors, with more than 15 properties, are expected to be exempt from the new charges.
Buy-to-let landlords will also be hit by a change to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) rules.
From April 2019, they will have to pay any CGT due within 30 days of selling a property, rather than waiting till the end of the tax year, as at present.
Landlords are already due to get a lower rate of tax relief on mortgage payments.
In his summer Budget, the chancellor said that landlords would only receive the basic rate of tax relief - 20% - on mortgage payments, a change being phased in from 2017.
With the New Year not far away, it’s probably a good time to look into some interior design ideas to refresh your home and give it something of a makeover without splashing out too much cash. So here are ten excellent general design tips to give you a little inspiration.
Use two contrasting pairs of cushions to enhance the appeal and comfort of a couch. Mix and match the two contrasting patterns or sizes for the best effect.
MULTIPLE SEATING OPTIONS
The dining area need not be one table surrounded by six identical chairs. Pair a couple of traditional dining chairs with a pair of a more modern design along with a longer cushioned bench to enhance your dining area’s style (as well as your seating options).
THINK BIG IN THE BEDROOM
One interesting trick that can help make your bedroom appear larger is installing a high-standing bed with a large headboard. Contrary to what it sounds like, the bigger bed and large headboard actually help the room appear to grow.
OPEN DISPLAY CABINETS
If you have a cabinet like an armoire with items such as your finest china on display (or literally anything for that matter) then try leaving the cabinet doors open for the wonders within to have a stronger influence on the vibe of the room.
Small rooms can greatly benefit from dark colours being used when painting the walls. The darker shades help diminish the immediate smallness of the room.
NO MORE BATHMATS
Instead of the standard bathmat so many of us use in the bathroom, use a much larger real rug which can usually take much more wear and tear than a bathmat anyway.
Utilise space above doors and at the top of cupboards for storages purposes. This is an excellent way of making the best out of a small area or to maintain a larger area’s openness while still allowing you to store your gear.
LAYER THE LIGHTING
Multiple lamps are ideal for creating a warm and comforting atmosphere in a room, but layering them is equally as important. Four lamps all at the same height won’t be as inviting as four lamps with two on one level and two either higher or lower.
If you have a couch and a matching armchair along with a high table and some dining-style chairs in the same room, all the legs can create a less than relaxing atmosphere. Solve that problem by simply skirting the couch and armchair and any other suitable item with multiple legs.
Any room corners that don’t see a lot of action and are pretty much useless space can be livened up with a lovely potted plant. And it doesn’t just affect the lonely corner, but a large potted plant with its vibrant green leaves can cheer the whole room up.