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DIY Tasks to Tackle This Bank Holiday Weekend

by Alison Feemantle

The Bank Holiday weekend is almost upon us and a survey carried out by HSBC suggests that over 50% of us will be staying at home to carry out some of those DIY jobs that we’ve been putting off since the beginning of the year. A significant percentage of those people will be working around the house with a view to selling their property and there are many small and larger tasks that are known to help achieve a quicker sale.

If you believe the weather forecast, we are certainly in line for the type of weather that suits indoor DIY but what are the jobs that will carry most value when it comes to selling your home?

The 2012 HSBC Home Improvement Survey shows a list of jobs that property experts believe will add value to your house, while it also indicates how much importance individual homeowners place on those tasks.

As far as the experts are concerned, de-cluttering space is the most vital job by far with 93% claiming that this task made a bigger impact on potential buyers than anything else. In contrast however, only 71% of property owners felt that this was necessary.

This is just one area where experts and individuals disagree and it shows that there are many popular misconceptions over which jobs are vital to the vendor. It even seems in some cases that property owners are still falling into the clichéd traps of putting out fresh flowers and brewing fresh pots of coffee.

One of the key elements that HSBC stress is the importance of first impressions and there are many jobs that can be done right now that will have a tangible impact on any potential buyer.

“Many householders spend the Bank Holidays on DIY projects to help boost property value and saleability. However it is often the smaller jobs like painting the front door that can make all the difference when looking for a quick sale,” said Peter Dockar, head of mortgages at HSBC.

The front of the property is simply vital in regards to those crucial first impressions so aside from the front door itself, if you have an immediately visible garage door then this should be looked at. Door furniture is important too and if you have tired finger plates and letter boxes, they can be easily and cheaply renewed.

Fences and gates are other areas that experts believe will aid a successful property sale and above all, the HSBC survey highlights the disparity behind those expert views and the ones held by the homeowners themselves.

If you want to achieve a quick sale at a price to suit, the results of the survey should certainly be considered by any vendor.

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Empty Homes Charity Helps to Ease the Housing Shortfall

by Alison Feemantle

As pressure to address the housing crisis in the UK grows stronger and stronger, new solutions are starting to emerge that could help to ease the strain.  According to UK charity Empty Homes, there are currently 1.7 million families on council housing waiting lists and that figure continues to grow.  The UK population is growing and yet house building rates have not been this low since the 1920s.

It Could Cost as Little as £10,000 to Renovate an Empty Property

New ideas come and go on how to ease this problem, but one idea that can’t be ignored is the idea of reusing the thousands of homes currently standing empty across the UK.  Empty Homes has spent a great deal of time collating local council statistics and estimate there are currently 720,000 empty properties in the UK.  Renovation of each property could cost as little as £10,000.  With new-build homes at an all-time low, this seems like the ideal solution to the shortfall in available housing.

Thousands of Properties Ready to Be Renovated

Often these properties are privately owned or properties that have fallen into disrepair.  Some have been inherited by owners who simply don’t have the resources to renovate the property.  Whatever the reason, it’s apparent that many of these homes could be made habitable for the thousands of families desperate for accommodation and that’s exactly what Empty Homes sets out to achieve.

Empty Homes was first established in 1992.  Over the years they have acted on behalf of those individuals and families desperate for somewhere to live by challenging Government policies and suggesting ways to take advantage of thousands of empty homes.  One of the largest problems faced by the owners of these empty properties is the lack of funds to renovate and repair them.  Empty Homes successfully campaigned for tax-breaks for these owners helping them to raise the funds to make them habitable once more.

Help Empty Homes to Rehome Thousands of UK Families

On a local level, Empty Homes is helping thousands of individuals to bring homes back into use. On a national level, every council in the UK now has a named officer whose responsibility it is to restore empty homes back into habitable condition.  These are just some of the initiatives that Empty Homes has addressed and they plan to continue working with home owners and local authorities to help ease the housing crisis and help the thousands of people desperate for a place to call home.

Empty Homes provides a wealth of free advice and assistance to those looking to renovate an empty property and to those looking to invest in empty property.  You can also report an empty property through their website so they can investigate further.

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Spotlight on The Party Wall Act 1996

by Sarah Halloran

If you are thinking about doing some major renovations in your home that require a sledgehammer and a party wall, then it might be wise to know a little bit about the Party Wall Act and the legislation that determines what you can and can’t do within your home.

The Party Wall Act 1996 actually came into force in 1997 and comes into effect if somebody is planning on completing works on a relevant structure.  The term ‘party wall’ doesn’t always mean the wall between two semi-detached properties.  It covers the following instances:

A wall forming part of only one building but which is on the boundary line between two (or more) properties.

A wall which is common to two (or more) properties, this includes where someone built a wall and a neighbour subsequent built something butting up to it.

A garden wall, where the wall is astride the boundary line (or butts up against it) and is used to separate the properties but is not part of any building.

Floors and ceilings of flats etc.

Excavation near to a neighbouring property.

As with any DIY or major projects that might affect your neighbours, the polite thing to do is to let them know what you plan to do in the hope of reaching a friendly and amicable agreement.  Resorting to mentioning or enforcing the law should be the last thing on your mind in the early stages of planning.  Even if the work requires a notice to be served, it’s always best to informally discuss what you intend to do and to consider any comments or reservations your neighbours might have.  Friendly discussions at this stage might cause you to rethink your plans and amend them before serving a notice.

What party wall works don’t need permission?

There are many minor works that can be carried out to party walls without any notice being served or permission being granted.  Typically, this type of work includes:

Putting up shelves and wall units

Replastering works

Electrical rewiring works

What party wall works do need permission?

The Party Wall Act was enforced to ensure that all work that might have an effect on the structural support and strength of a party wall or that might cause damage to a neighbouring property, be notified.  A good rule of thumb if you are not sure what effect works might have is to seek advice from your local Building Control Office or a professional architect or surveyor.

You must serve a notice if you plan to carry out any of the following works:

To demolish and/or rebuild a party wall

To increase the height or thickness of a party wall

Insertion of a damp proof coarse (either chemical injection or a physical dpc)

Cutting into the party wall to take load bearing beams

Underpinning a party wall

Excavations within 3 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building

Excavations within 6 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below a line drawn 45° downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building

Serving a Notice

Once you are sure that the work you intend to carry out falls under the Party Wall Act, it’s time to arrange a notice to be served.  This must be issued to all affected neighbouring parties.  The notice must include the following information:

The owners of the property undertaking the work

The address of the property

The names of all the owners of the adjoining property

A description of the proposed work, usually a single line giving a brief description

The proposed start date for the work

A clear statement that the notice is being served under The Party Wall etc Act 1996

The date the notice is being served

If the notice is for excavation work, then a drawing showing the position and depth of the excavation must be included

The process of serving a notice under the Party Wall Act is as follows:

The person intending to complete the works must serve a written notice on the neighbours or owners of the adjoining property no less than two month before the intended work is due to comments.  All neighbouring parties must be informed.  Each neighbouring party then has 14 days to respond in writing giving consent or showing dissent – if a party chooses to do nothing within 14 days then the notice will be automatically put into dispute.  No work may commence until all neighbouring parties have agreed in writing.

So, if you’re planning on knocking down a party wall or arranging underpinning, you’ll need to consider the Party Wall Act and everything it contains.  Being on side with your neighbours is going to help a great deal with the notice process and will hopefully help you to achieve project completion with no problems.

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