The Inside Edge
Winter is well and truly upon us, and as the weather’s got colder, many of us have turned the heating on already – and probably won’t be turning the thermostat down until after February!
Although energy prices are falling, the average family still spends over £1000 a year on gas and electricity, which is no small sum.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to cut your energy costs without shivering all winter. If you want to keep warm without breaking the bank, here are five top tips.
Maximise your radiators
How many of us have our sofa up against the radiator in the living room? It might be keeping the back of your sofa toasty warm, but the heat won’t get much further than that. Moving furniture away from the radiators, even just a few inches, lets the heat circulate through the room and warm it properly, as well as saving on damage to your furniture.
To make your radiators work even harder, consider investing in radiator panels; reflective panels you put behind a radiator to reflect more heat into the room – these really do make a difference: using them on every radiator in your house can cut your heating bills by as much as 15%! And if you don’t fancy buying them, you can achieve a similar effect by lining the wall behind your radiators with tin-foil.
Stop losing heat
You may already use draught excluders to keep heat from escaping under doors, but what about your windows? Even with double glazing, thin curtains or blinds can let heat out. Consider replacing yours with a heavier option to keep the warmth in the room, or line them with a thermal lining – a cheap fleece material will do.
And curtains aren’t just for windows! Try placing them over external doors for extra draught exclusion, as well as a bit of interior design flair. However, don’t keep curtains or blinds drawn in the day, as sunlight will warm your rooms up naturally.
Don’t heat what you don’t need
If you have a spare bedroom or second bathroom that’s rarely used, turn radiators off in those rooms, and shut the doors to them so that heat from the rest of the house doesn’t escape into them either. It might be unpleasant if you have to nip in to find something, but it’ll be worth it for the savings!
Additionally, if you have radiators in the halls or corridors of your home, these can be turned down slightly – if not shut off altogether – as you’ll only ever be passing through them for a couple of minutes at a time.
Professional home insulation can be costly, but DIY loft insulation is relatively cheap and simple. Foam insulation is cheap, and three 8inch rolls should be enough to give most lofts a decent layer of insulation. Make sure you know what you’re doing before you start, and wear protective clothing and goggles to stay safe, though.
Another part of your house to insulate is the hot water tank and pipes. You can buy a jacket for the tank and foam tubes for the pipes, both of which are easy to fit, and will keep the heat inside the pipes – so it heats the water, not your airing cupboard.
It’s all about timing
It’s a basic tip, but putting the thermostat on a timer is a great way to make sure you’re only heating the house when it’s needed. Set the timer for 20 minutes before you wake up and 20 minutes before you get home from work, and you’ll feel toasty 24/7 without having to think about it.
Additionally, try to keep the heat setting at 18C – this is the temperature that most of us should feel warm in a jumper and jeans, and ensuring your heating doesn’t go above this temperature often will save you cash. If it seems too cold at first, try bringing the temperature down 1 degree every few days until you’re acclimatised.
Liberty is writing on behalf of Lifestyle Blinds.
Managing a property is something that can take time but must be done well and efficiently if you are to receive a return on your property investment and attract the right tenants. The Autumn 2014 Lettingstats report indicates that 75% of tenants surveyed think that their property is managed either very well or quite well. So to ensure that you fall within this category, Glenham Property Management has put together some top tips to help you on your way.
Almost 25% of tenants spend 30% – 40% of their income on rental with 31% of respondents living in rented property for a continued period of 3 – 5 years*. This suggests that tenants are willing to spend money on a property they will find comfortable; a reliable longer-term tenant can be less stress than lots of short-term lettings!
Top Tip: Research your market and competition to establish the standards expected and you are competing against. Then decorate and furnish your property to a better standard than the competition as this will drive a higher yield.
86% of tenants have never experienced a rental increase during their tenancy*. This can often be the case when both landlord and tenants are in a comfort zone.
Top Tip: Stay alert to rental rates and property prices in your area to ensure that you are competitive. If you do feel that a rental increase is justified then explain to your tenant why this is the case; often presenting some sort of value-added benefit to the tenant can ease the blow.
Vacate the Property
Your circumstances have changed and you need your property back. Did you know that 95% of tenants felt any request to vacate property was reasonable*.
Top Tip: Ensure that the contract clearly establishes tenancy termination so you are legally within your rights to request that the tenant leaves but try to be a human too – many tenants become attached to the rental property and view it as their home so provide as much notice as possible and try to be flexible with exit dates.
The most popular reason (25% of respondents) noted for moving to a rented property was due to work or study relocation*.
Top Tip: Develop relationships with local businesses so that if they are recruiting employees from around the UK you are top of their recommended relocation list.
*Data taken from Autumn 2014 Lettingstats Report
A high-quality hardwood floor can give you and your family many years of enjoyment. However, in order to preserve its allure and showroom sparkle, a comprehensive schedule of cleaning and maintenance is required. While hardwood floors require less upkeep than carpets, it’s still important to use methods and cleaning agents that won’t affect your floor’s natural qualities.
Prevention is the best cure
The best way to preserve your hardwood floors look and protective layer is to prevent dirt, excess water and potentially harmful substances from ever getting anywhere near it. The simplest thing you can do is to place mats at doorways and runners along high-traffic areas. These will stop dirt from being unnecessarily dragged around your home, and they’ll absorb excess moisture from dirty shoes when it’s raining or snowing outside. You can also protect your flooring from furniture by using floor protectors under tables and chairs.
Clean as you go
The best hardwood floors will retain their natural shine for weeks at a time – but only if you look after them on a daily basis. Sweep up dirt and vacuum dust as soon as they start to accumulate, and wipe up spillages immediately. It may be a good idea to use a hardwood attachment on a leading vacuum cleaner at least once a week in order to remove all traces of dirt, dust and foodstuffs. You may also find that quality electrostatic cloths will pick up dust without the need for anything else.
Schedule regular deep cleans
There will be areas of your floor – particularly in a kitchen – that don’t respond to daily sweeping, wiping and vacuuming. Areas around cookers, sinks and fridges may require deep cleaning once every few months.
In most cases, they can be applied by hand using a micro-fibre cloth or sponge. However, water can seep into the smallest of cracks and crevices – undermining your floor’s protective layer.
You should always aim to ring out your cloth or mop fully before cleaning. And although some people use of steam mops for the job, they aren’t usually recommended by the manufacturers of real wood flooring.
Remove marks as and when they arise
It is always a good idea to identify your floor’s finish before attempting to remove marks, scuffs and stains. Where marks have occurred on the outer surface of your floor, the chances are it has a hardened protective layer, such as urethane. However, if the mark seems to have penetrated the wood, your floor has probably been treated with an oil-based sealant.
If yours is a hard-sealed floor – which most are these days – nothing more than a wipe with a soft-fibred cloth and a little hot, soapy water will be required. You can use dedicated hardwood floor cleaners if necessary, but never use abrasive cleaning materials such as steel wool, sandpaper or scouring pads, as these will scratch the surface of your floor and make it susceptible to moisture penetration.
If your floor has been treated with an oil-based sealant, you may need to employ the use of steel wool, specialist cleaning chemicals and floor wax. However, you should never attempt complex repair jobs without first consulting the manufacturer’s guidelines. It may also be worth consulting a flooring specialist, as using inappropriate materials and cleaning agents could actually lead to more damage.
With a little tender, loving care, there is absolutely no reason why your hardwood floor shouldn’t provide you and your family with a lifetime of faithful service.
With a well-known national newspaper reporting on possibly the world’s smallest but most expensive house in North London this week – where people visiting the house walk through the front door only to find themselves directly under the bed – one can fairly confidently suggest that the London property market is holding its own. London is still an incredibly desirable location to live.
In fact, everything points to now being a good time to invest as the property market grows and grows, and London is the first to experience a positive uplift. This belief is supported by data from the London Housing Market Report (Source: GLA 2014), which focuses on key trends in London’s housing market and shows an upward trend in many areas including price and lending over the last 12 months.
Small, and pricey
Whether you are international property developers interested in London, a private investor looking to add to your global portfolio or you are buying a home for yourself, the London housing bubble seems yet to burst and buyers continue to look at moving into smaller accommodation for larger price tags. So if you bought low, chances are very likely that, right now, you will definitely sell high.
Good news for developers
This upward trend is absolutely positive news for developers, and the news is backed up by the Office of National Statistics figures, which indicate that property values rose 9.1% in February this year compared to a year ago – the highest annual increase in property values since June 2010. Again, it was in London where prices saw their greatest growth. Property values in London soared by 17.7% in February compared to the same month a year earlier. The Greater London Authority (GLA) Report on 27th August 2014, also confirmed that unemployment is going down, more first time buyers are getting mortgages and there is generally a strong economic growth in London.
More lending breathes new life into marketplace
In addition to property holding its price, first time buyers have also been given a chance to get back on the ladder, which has injected new life into a previously stale marketplace. The amount of new mortgages given to first time buyers in the capital grew to almost 50K in from April 2013 to March 2014, the largest combined annual total in six years (source: GLA Report Aug 14). The amount of lending to owners who have already installed their property has been fairly steady, and we have seen almost 40K new loans in the last 12 months.
London stronger than ever
Putting a smile on existing property investors’ faces, the key house price indices show on-going steady month by month improvement in London house prices. Following results announced by Halifax, in London there was an over 4% increase in the second quarter of 2014. Nationwide announced quarter-on-quarter growth of nearly 11%.
Attractive yield on rented property in London
If you are thinking of investing in a London property, the rental market is also strong. In fact, you can expect a very attractive yield at the moment, with domestic rentals in London up 1.4% from July 2013 to June 2014, following data released by the Office for National Statistic’s index of private rents, against a smaller 0.7% rise across other areas in England.
According to uktv.co.uk, around 25% of all home renovation projects end up going over budget. As a homeowner, you are obviously keen to add as much value as possible to your property when selling it but there are a number of things you need to consider.
5 Things You Need To Look Out For
- Planning Permission: Once your project goes beyond a certain scale (see legal considerations below), it will be necessary to get planning permission. This can be a time consuming process and it also costs around £1,000.
- DIY Pitfalls: Legally, you need to be qualified to complete certain DIY jobs such as electrical wiring for example. Additionally, an estimated 14% of people will damage their property doing DIY jobs with the average damage caused believed to be over £340.
- Cowboy Builders: According to Santander Insurance UK, almost 20% of UK homeowners have suffered from poor quality work and fixing these issues causes over £1,500 worth of damage on average.
- Compare Quotes: Always look for 3-5 quotes and base your final decision on experience rather than cost.
- Project Completion Time: On average, a loft conversion can be completed in 4-6 weeks while a kitchen conversion can take 8-10 weeks. A conservatory should also be finished in around 4 weeks depending on planning permission requirements.
The Cost of Renovating/Extending Your Property
Obviously, the total costs associated with any project will depend on its complexity. However, a good marker is £1,000 per square metre for an average extension. Below, we look at a list of potential costs for different projects.
- The estimated cost of a purchasing and installing a conservatory in the UK is just over £8,700.
- A 4×2.5m ‘lean-to’ conservatory will cost around £6,000 while a 6x3m model should cost an average of £6,700.
- You may also need blinds for your conservatory and these can cost anywhere from £80 to £120.
Interestingly, the price for loft conversions varies throughout the UK. Scotland and South-East England are the most expensive regions whereas Northern Ireland is by far the cheapest. We give the lowest and highest prices below:
- 20m2 Standard: £8,600-£12,000
- 20m2 Deluxe: £19,400-£27,000
- 30m2 Standard: £9,500-£13,300
- 30m2 Deluxe: £20,000-£28,500
How Much Is My Extension/Renovation Worth?
Back in 2010, Phil Spencer of Location, Location, Location fame claimed you could double your money on a loft conversion; in his example he said that a £20,000 conversion could add £40,000 to your property’s value. He also suggested that a conservatory could add 7-11% to your home’s value.
Although the face of the property market has changed exponentially in the last four years, it seems as if loft conversions and conservatories are still ‘old reliables’ when it comes to adding value to your home. A 2014 Nationwide study suggested that a loft conversion or extension could add as much as 23% to your home’s value. So if your property is worth £400,000 right now, spending £20,000 could add an incredible £92,000 to your home’s value in theory!
While we feel this level of profit may be overstated, there is no doubt a loft conversion reigns supreme when it comes to adding to your property’s sale value. Incidentally, the same study showed you would add 5% to your property value by adding an extra bedroom.
Good new also for owners of classic Victorian or Edwardian homes and add central heating, this will increase your property’s value by up to £4,000.
For more tips on how to market your home and sell your property for the best price possible, visit Fish Need Water.
Buying a house can be a challenging affair and it can take years to save up enough money to get on the property ladder. Once you do have a deposit at the ready – and have an adequate credit rating – there are still various things to consider. Purchasing a home that’s not right for you and your circumstances can lead to a number of problems down the line, so it really is a good idea to approach the market sensibly, armed with a detailed knowledge of it. Services like Experian Mortgage Matters can provide you with in-depth advice about your options when it comes to mortgages.
One of the main things you should think about is the kind of property you’re looking for. You’ll have to consider whether your preference is suitable for any children you might have, or any that might be born in the future, pets and how close to facilities like shops and supermarkets you need to be. You’ll need to choose from flats, detached houses, semi-detached and terraced homes and the amount of rooms that you’ll need. Working out your budget is essential and there are many costs that you’ll have to factor in such as stamp duty, costs of getting to and from work, mortgage payments, council tax and other costs. Some highly attractive properties can look affordable on paper but can be more expensive than you would think in reality. In any case, you don’t need to apply for a mortgage until you have found a home that you’re interested in.
Check your credit report
Most of us aren’t in a position to buy a home outright, so chances are that a mortgage application will be inevitable. Your credit rating is an integral factor considered by banks when they decide how much money they are willing to lend to you and at what rates. Your credit report, which has a major influence on your credit rating, is a record of how you have managed any debt or and credit accounts you have had over the last six years. It will also include information like electoral roll details, and court judgements that have been filed or settled during this six year period. If you are looking to apply for a mortgage, ensure everything on your credit report is accurate and up to date, including your name, any aliases you may have and your address, and that any outstanding accounts are marked as settled.
A foot on the ladder
You don’t have to buy through an estate agent, and many people do purchase homes via private sales and at auctions instead. Legal support is nearly always essential, however. A solicitor will deal with the seller or their agent on your behalf and deal with complex legal issues that can only realistically be tackled by trained professionals. You’ll need to enlist the services of a surveyor too, in order for any defects to be checked before you make your offer.
Once an offer is accepted, contracts are exchanged, and neither the seller nor the buyer can back out of the deal without legal action being the result. A deposit is usually paid to the seller at this point. When the concluding legal tasks are dealt with, the solicitor instructs the mortgage company to pay the remaining fee and the house becomes yours. Though buying a home has become harder over recent years, new legislation and mortgage products have been introduced to provide assistance to those who cannot get together a significant deposit, even those with a less-than-perfect credit sc
Investment in Buy to Let properties has become a popular strategy in the UK for those developing a portfolio either for income or as a retirement investment. Compared with other investments property is seen as relatively risk as property prices only go in one direction over the long term yet the return on investment is competitive and steady over time. Those building investment portfolios often start with smaller properties such as flats, for which there is strong demand at the lower end of the housing market for singles, coupe sand sharers who have yet to buy a property of their own. Putting aside the financial criteria for investment (balancing the expected income with budgeted costs) finding the right property can make a big impact on your investment.
If you’re going to buy a flat or house for investment then here are a few top tips for you:
1. Try to narrow your search from the start by making a list of criteria for your prospective property. Work out which are the most critical, and which are less important to you. Does it need to be near where you live, for example, or be a certain size for the rental market you’ll be targeting?
2. Put yourself in the place of your future tenants. Make a list of things they’ll be looking for. If it’s a student town, how close is it to the University, town centre and other facilities?
3. Price. How much you can afford to spend will be limited by what you can borrow and what savings you have available but you might not need to spend all of it. Doing a budget to work out what return you’ll get on your investment may be a better way to decide how much to spend than simply buying a property at the top end of your budget.
4. Sale-ability. If you don’t intend on holding on the property for the long term, how easy will it be to sell on?
5. Do your research. Try to gather as much information as possible concerning the flat or house. If you’re serious about the investment then this time will not be wasted and you can avoid nasty surprises later. It’s worth checking any information given to you by the vendor and their estate agent unless it comes via their solicitor. Visit the property as many times as you need to feel comfortable.
6. The area is as important as the property. Research of the local area well amnd speak to neighbours and locals to get a feel for the place if you don’t already know it well yourself.
If you have any tips of your own, let us know in the comments below.
Getting on the property ladder is not easy these days, especially for younger people and first-time buyers. There’s plenty to think about when looking for the right house, let alone finding the right mortgage with so many different mortgage options out there. When thinking of buying a house, shopping around for a mortgage is extremely important; without properly researching what’s out there, buyers risk signing a deal that may not be in their best interests, and could end up paying more.
Before you even start looking to get a mortgage you should always make sure that you are aware of the state of the current housing market. Once you’ve made all the researches about the area you’d like to buy in, only then you should look around the many price comparison websites. This will give you a feel for what sort of mortgage deals are out there and which ones are the most adequate to your situation.
Totallymoney.com for example, returns results from over 3,000 mortgage companies; it searches for deals from the entire mortgage market and displays them objectively.
Note that not all price comparison websites provide every available offer on the market and brokers typically only include mortgages that they can sell themselves, so the best deals may not necessarily be included.
On the other hand, there are certain deals that can only be available through specific brokers this is why it is important to shop around and take your time before making a decision that will follow you for the next 25 years.
It is also worth noting that many online mortgage calculators can only give the approximate costs and will rarely include fees and charges. In reality, these play a significant part on total monthly costs, so having these calculated will prevent any unpleasant surprises in the future.
In the end you may still choose to consult an Independent Financial Advisor, and we would recommend that, but searching first on a mortgage comparison website will give you a good starting point in understanding what your options are and what you are likely to be able to borrow, at what rates and over what period. Most importantly you’ll be able to budget for your total mortgage costs when considering making an offer on your new property.
After a long hard life of working and bringing up kids, all most of us want from our retirement is a little bit of the good life.
Some nice views, friendly neighbours and plenty of opportunities for day trips and activities are all we ask for from a retirement property – in addition to top class facilities, high end fixtures and great staff.
If you’re looking for the perfect destination for your golden years, here are five of the best spots in the country for the older and more discerning members of our nation.
With breathtaking views, picturesque villages and friendly locals, it’s no wonder that North Yorkshire, and Skipton in particular have been voted the best place to retire to in the UK.
The result comes from findings put together by the government’s National Wellbeing Programme, and categorically show that retirees are shunning big cities in favour of the warmth and tranquillity of small town living.
Boasting miles of beautiful coastline, historic cities and plenty of sunshine, Dorset has been a firm favourite among retirees for many years.
As a result, developments are springing up in the best locations across the country – have a look at McCarthy & Stone’s Google+ Profile or website for all of the latest projects.
Like Dorset, Devon has more than its fair share of rugged countryside and spectacular beaches, both of which play a large part in tempting retirees from across the country.
Small cities like Exeter make excellent retirement destinations thanks to their proximity to the sea, wealth of facilities and community atmosphere.
The stunning countryside of the Lake District is enough to tempt people of all ages to relocate. And if you’re looking for a spectacular setting for your retirement, this could be just what you’re looking for.
The small market town of Kendal makes the ideal retirement destination, giving residents easy access to the countryside and a picture postcard setting.
If it’s calm and tranquillity that you’re after, look no further than Norfolk.
This peaceful and relaxed part of the country has been a haven for the elderly and retired for years, with few hills, friendly locals and great scenery just waiting to be explored.
Reaching retirement can be an exciting time in your life, giving you the opportunity to relocate to your favourite holiday destination or move closer to friends and family.
And with a wealth of great value and high standard retirement developments across the country, you’ll be spoilt for choice when the time comes.
The city has always been synonymous with success. Property investors, hedge fund bankers and young CEOs have always lined the streets of the city centre, along with trendy bars, fine dining and modern apartments.
But, is the city changing? Urban regeneration and strategic development has meant that the centre of the city has expanded, and an explosion of modern apartments can now be found in new corners of the centre. As with any surge of residential investment, it is soon followed by a boom of leisure and entertainment facilities. As this trend has continued in major cities across the UK, it has brought a huge choice of properties – and the city centres are slowly but surely expanding, making them the perfect spot for young professionals looking to get a foot on the housing ladder.
A lifestyle option
Besides the benefit of being able to own your own home, there are plenty of other reasons why city centre living is ideal for first time buyers. Being in an exciting location, especially an up-and-coming quarter of town, within walking distance to work, close to friends and in the heart of the action, is great for a twenty-to-thirty-something professional.
Looking at two-bed semis in the suburbs is what many first time buyers do, without considering the alternatives. This is because many believe they are automatically priced out of the city centre. However, a quick look at current house prices shows that the difference is minimal. Average prices in Manchester show that an apartment in the central region costs £136,881, whereas a terraced property in the Trafford suburb costs £126,748. Similarly, a two-bed central apartment, again in Manchester, can be bought for £115,000, whereas a two-bed terrace in Stretford (a suburb four miles from the city) costs £129,950. For very little difference in cost, you can have the centre on your doorstep.
If the mortgage repayments seem a little steep, get rid of the car (and expensive parking fees), rip up the annual train ticket, and walk. After all, you’re paying to have the vibrant centre at your front door, so you may as well enjoy it.
The benefits of a modern home
A modern, city centre apartment may not be to everyone’s taste. But, even if you considered it a temporary option – a short-term investment that will help you fund the period property of your dreams – it is still an affordable and beneficial option for most.
A modern home will most likely need less renovation, and far less alterations. This can save a small fortune as many older houses (especially affordably priced ones) suffer from damp, poor insulation and require general updating and improving.
Heating bills will be cheaper in your modern apartment, both because they are smaller, and due to the fact that most apartments are built with energy efficiency in mind. Many apartments are serviced or managed, taking a weight off your mind, and any exterior problems, issues or damage, are covered by someone else. It’s also often possible to buy a furnished new-build home, or buy a furnishing pack from landlords and agents, again saving you money on the initial costs of moving in.
If you work and play in the city, you should live there, too, and now, thanks to an abundance of city centre properties and urban regeneration, the city is a lot bigger – making a central apartment the ideal home for first time buyers.
Author: The Hub offers spacious and stylish apartments, located in the heart of Manchester city centre. A shared equity scheme and competitive prices makes it the ideal choice for first time buyers.