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Buying a property for the first time can be a daunting process, but so long as you have the right knowledge and know the rules you have to follow, it’s a straightforward process. Below, we’ve consolidated the main things you need to prepare and consider, to make sure your home-buying journey goes as smoothly as possible.

1. Things to consider before the hunt begins

It’s definitely wise to find out how much mortgage lenders are willing to give to you before you start home hunting, so you know what price range you can be aiming for. Visit a few and they will give you a rough estimate, based on deposit size, income and other variables.

Explore a variety of different areas – not just with online research, such as crime rate, transport links and amenities, but by physically having a walk around local areas and getting a feel for them before you decide which works for you.

It’s also worth spending some time improving your credit report before you get to the home-hunting stage, as this will influence how much lenders are willing to give to you. Being on the electoral roll, having a credit card with safe spend amounts on it and steady, regular bill payments over the years will all improve your rating. The rating will also tell you what’s counting against you, so you can improve this before you get to buy your property.

2. Get your finances in order

Have you got all your finances in order? Costs you’ll need to consider are:

  • Deposit – this is usually 5% – 20% of the property price and the more you pay upfront, the better mortgage deal you can get.
  • Stamp duty – if you’re a first-time buyer, you will only pay stamp duty after the first £300,000 of your property on a property up to the value of £500,000.
  • Legal fees – ask friends or family for a trusted solicitor.
  • Service charges – if you’re moving into a leasehold development, make sure you can afford the annual service charges for maintenance of shared areas.
  • Survey cost – once you’ve picked a home and made an offer, you’ll pay for a survey to check there are no underlying issues you missed.
  • Removal costs – look into the level of removal help you need. If you have a lot of furniture and you need manpower, this can be quite expensive and something you haven’t accounted for in your budgeting.
  • Extras – it’s worth putting aside some funds for the cost of redecoration or furnishings you need immediately after moving into your new home.

3. Property particulars

Explore this blog of questions it’s important to ask when you’re viewing the property, but the most important one when you’re buying, is to ask how much lease is left on the property if it’s a leasehold. If it’s less than 75 years, you may struggle to get a mortgage. Other important questions to ask would be around the age of appliances, what work has been done on the property in recent years and what spaces are shared in a leasehold property and what the service charges are for these.

 

4. Mortgage time

You’ll need to get your paperwork in order next, so first stop is an approval in principle from your mortgage provider which lasts for 30 days. In this time, you must decide on a mortgage provider and can make an offer on a property.

When submitting paperwork for a mortgage, you’ll have to provide evidence of your income, and information about your outgoings, such as any debt, household bills and other costs, so that the mortgage provider can assess your situation and make sure you’re reliable before they agree to lend to you.

 

5. Offer, Exchange, Completion

Within a couple of days of submitting your claim for a mortgage, you will receive an offer which outlines the rules of your mortgage. You will then exchange paperwork with the home seller through your solicitor. Then, on the completion date you will officially take ownership of the property after you have made the payment to the seller.

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Selling your house, especially if it’s your first home, is a big decision and not one to be taken lightly. Before you go buying your next house, make sure you’re ready to sell your current one first. I don’t mean applying a new coat of paint and trimming the hedges, although that certainly helps the sale price. I mean other things you might not have thought of. Here are 9 key things you need to consider when selling your house.

Photo source: Pixabay http://bit.ly/2FX1ic8

1. Your Finances

First, consider your financial situation. Where will you live after you sell your house? If you’re moving out to an apartment first, there will be a period of a few months where you’ll be paying a mortgage and rent. Can you afford that? You’ll need to have some extra funds put aside to help cover you for those months.

2. The Price

Hand in hand with your finances, comes the price you want for your house. What you bought the house for and what you want to get out of it are irrelevant. What matters is the current real estate market in your community. An appraiser will accurately tell you the true value of your home. Don’t ignore their recommendation and market the house at too high a price or you’ll put off buyers. Remember, those buyers have realtors who can tell them if a house is priced too high.

3. Paperwork

Don’t let your house sale be held up due to missing or incomplete paperwork, ensure it’s all in place from the word go. Are there any issues with the house that would prevent you from selling it? For example, what if you owe more than the house is worth? This will slow the process down as the bank will need to approve the sale price. What if you discover that your mortgage has a prepayment penalty? Talk to your lender and ensure there’s going to be no issues and that you have everything you need in place to help your sale go smoothly.

4. Your Realtor

You will have plenty of choices when it comes to choosing a realtor. There is certainly no shortage of realtors in your area looking to sell your house. After all, they earn a living off the commission. You can either choose a big name company like remax or 21st or instead hire a local realtor. There are pros and cons to each approach. A big company would have the resources to get your house out there in front of a lot more people. Yet the local realtor truly knows the community like no other.

5. Your Likely Buyer

When getting your house prepared for the big sale, consider your target market. Do you live in an area with a lot of young families or conversely is it mostly peopled by downsizers? Think about the likely buyer of your home and stage the house accordingly.

6. De-clutter

The first step to making your home appealing is to de-clutter and depersonalize the space. Look at your home with fresh eyes and take down decorative items specific to you (like family photos) and de-clutter each room to maximize the space. Simply leave enough furniture in each room to show its purpose.

7. Finish Odd Jobs

Finish all of those odd jobs you’ve been meaning to get around to, from fixing dripping taps to cleaning moldy grouting. The houses which sell quickest are those which don’t need work done to them. Leave small jobs undone, and potential buyers will worry what else you haven’t done.

8. Refresh

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders to brighten up and refresh a dated home. Choose white or cream to maximize the sense of space, and to appeal to as broad a range of people as possible.

9. Clean

Nothing is a bigger turn-off to potential buyers than a grubby property – so pop on your rubber gloves and start cleaning. The less a potential buyer has to do, the more they can imagine themselves living in your property.

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Brilliant – you have found a property to rent! Whether you’re renting for the first time, or already an experienced tenant, you need to ensure you understand your responsibilities.  Being aware from the outset of what is expected of you can prevent confusion and issues further down the line.  So, what exactly are your responsibilities?

Financial

It may sound obvious, but one of your key financial responsibilities is to ensure that you pay your rent in full and on time every month.  Depending on your tenancy agreement, you may also be responsible for all the utility costs and council tax associated with the property.  It may be worth getting an estimate of such costs prior to signing the tenancy agreement so that you can truly understand your long-term financial commitment.

Upkeep

Although you may not own the property, you are the custodian while it is in your care.  This means it’s your responsibility to ensure that the property is maintained, so you need to inform your landlord or letting agent as soon as possible should something require repair.

Although your landlord is required to ensure repairs are undertaken swiftly, the upkeep of the property is very much in your hands.  From changing light bulbs to keeping the garden in good condition, you need to ensure that you take good care of it.

Cleaning

Everyone lives differently, but no matter what your lifestyle it is essential that you keep the property clean and tidy at all times.  This is even more important when it comes to the end of your tenancy, as the property needs to be left spotless; from the fridge to the bathroom, it all needs to be clean. If you fail to keep and leave your property clean and tidy the landlord is entitled to deduct money from your deposit and we know that’s the last thing you would want to happen.

Subletting

Subletting is not allowed during your tenancy unless you have a prior agreement with your landlord or letting agent.  If you’re considering subletting, we strongly advise that you speak to your letting agent as soon as possible so that an open and frank discussion can be had and a decision made.  There’s no guarantee that your landlord will agree to subletting, but if you proceed without their approval you will be in breach of your tenancy agreement.

Access

Your landlord may wish to undertake periodic checks on their property, and you must allow them access.  These checks could be to plan long-term repairs, or checking on works that may have been undertaken prior to your tenancy. It’s always beneficial to be on good terms with your landlord, and one way to nurture a positive relationship is to be flexible when they request access.

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A new survey has found that only 1 in 10 people take a property’s energy rating into consideration when looking to buy a house. A poor energy rating could however cost homeowners thousands of pounds each year.

The research, conducted by construction and Regeneration Company Keep moat, found that buyers tend to prioritize factors such as local amenities, transport links, and parking when looking for a new home, over the building’s energy rating.

The survey of 2,000 Brits found that the energy rating was actually the second least important factor people took into consideration when buying a new house, followed only by its future investment potential.

The highest priority for buyers looking to move house was actually living near family, but green space was also quite high on the list.

New measures now mean that landlords are required to ensure any new homes they rent out meet a set standard of energy efficiency by the year 2018, and any existing properties by April 2020. An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) includes information on the amount of energy a property uses, how much that energy typically costs, and how the energy usage could be reduced.

Landlords will have to comply with an Energy Performance Rating of C in accordance with the new legislation – the scale ranges from A (very energy efficient) to G (poor energy efficiency). The majority of new build properties have an EPC rating of B or C, and older houses can easily be boosted to a higher rating with a few changes round the house.

It’s quite hard for a home to achieve an EPC A rating unless the owners start producing their own electricity or hot water using solar thermal, solar PC, or air-source heat pumps.

Government analysis found that a good energy efficiency rating could add more than £16,000 to the asking price of a property. The easiest way to boost your property’s energy efficiency rating is by either adding cavity wall insulation or making sure your loft insulation is at least 270 mm thick.

Energy efficiency is important for both those looking to sell and those looking to buy, as it can benefit both financially. Buyers may regret not taking energy ratings into consideration when they are hit with their first winter bill at a new house. When looking to buy, a budget should be put together including mortgage repayment and bills for the whole year.

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Photo source: Pinimg https://bit.ly/2pIgSht

Don’t let renting a house stand in the way of your design aspirations. With a pinch of imagination, you can transform your rented home, tackling even the most overlooked areas such as the hallway or landing.

Try these landlord-friendly ideas for adding personality and character to your home.

Light it up

Lighting is an easy, high impact way to brighten up your home. An eye-catching floor lamp can change the whole feel of a room, so use it to highlight your style. And the best part? You can take it with you when you leave.

Treat your feet

Whether you’ve got wooden floorboards, laminate or carpet, you’ll need to protect it to protect your deposit. Rugs and runners are typically inexpensive and will enhance and style a room or hallway whilst keeping the floor intact.

Accessorize

Inject life into your home with bold prints and jazzy patterns. Textured scatter cushions and chunky throws will add personality to any room with minimal effort or cost.

‘Mirror-mirror!’

A mirror is a classic addition to any room, but there’s no need to fix it to your wall.

Where your tenancy agreement doesn’t allow you to drill holes to hang a mirror, try propping it against the wall instead.

This will add the illusion of space and depth and using a large mirror in a cramped hallway or smaller bedroom will make it look twice as big.

Add artwork

Just as with mirrors, making holes in the walls to display photos and artwork may not be possible in a rental home. Use what you have to avoid causing any damage to the walls; a fireplace mantle, existing shelving or a freestanding cabinet.

Try framing a large piece of art or a poster and leaning it against a wall to make a stylish statement.

Make it modular

When you potentially move every 1-2 years, you want furniture which you can take anywhere. Modular furniture is perfect for rented properties as not only will it fit any size or shape room, it is easy to remove at the end of your tenancy.

Bring the outside in

Fresh flowers are beautiful, but buying them regularly can be expensive. Plants are an easy and slightly cheaper way to bring life and colour into a space. You can sit your plants in pots on a book shelf, in floor stands or hang them from the ceilings in macramé hangers.

Create an indoor herb garden

When it comes to rentals, outdoor space can often come at a premium. Potting herbs indoors is a simple way to bring greenery into your home and keeps fresh flavours within arm’s reach.

Revamp your terrace

Don’t forget to decorate your outdoor space!

It’s easy to create a personal oasis by adding hardy plants, comfortable seating and a barbecue for those summer nights.

Don’t be afraid to ask

Whilst your tenancy agreement may contain restrictions, there is no harm in asking your landlord if you can paint a room or add a few pictures to the wall. As long as you fill in holes, generally most landlords should be quite open to you personalizing the space.

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Photo source: Flickr https://bit.ly/2G31APp

Busy roads, a bar in the lounge are among the things that turn buyers away.

 

It takes just 8 minutes for home-hunters to decide whether a new property is for them, according to a study.

After less than 10 minutes inside of a property, buyers know whether they should be giving an offer or getting back into the car.

 

6 out of 10 adults will make their decision not to buy before even putting their foot through the front door around just 4 minutes of standing outside the property. 15% of homeowners admitted they had already decided to buy without seeing inside of the house, while 18% have brought the first home they saw.

 

When viewing a property online, the average person takes around 8 minutes to choose whether they would like to view the property in person.

 

More than three quarters confessed to irritation at a property profile, and that it did not match up to the true state of the home advertised (Listings are crucial to a home selling quickly, they need to be accurate).

 

Obvious damp patches would put off 6 out of 10 Brits, while a house on a busy road or cracks in walls would send 40%.

 

There also personal turn offs such as: Ashtrays in rooms, overflowing bins and yellowed paintwork.

 

When viewing properties online 1 in 10 complained they can’t tell the colour of rooms from static pictures, and 52% find it difficult to tell how overlooked the property is. While 36% would want a clear view of the room layout.

 

Buying a new property is one of the biggest investments, we’d encourage clients to look past the dirty dishes and overgrown garden plants and focus more on the shape and size of the property.

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Photo source: Flickr https://bit.ly/2HZFI4e

Knowing when to downsize is never as simple as it seems. Having to settle for a smaller space after years of living in a larger home takes some time to adapt to. Below we’ve listed 5 reasons why it might be time to downsize from your 4bed detached.

Space

You’ve got so much space you don’t know what to do with it all. The husband has put a snooker table in your daughter’s bedroom and turned your son’s room into a study. It seems for the entire world you have that mansion you’ve always wanted. But when you have a property that gathers more dust than it does value, it might be time to stick a for sale sign outside that door.

The Money

Linda down the road has just sold and made a nice little sum. Perhaps it’s time you made a little profit yourself. At times it might feel tempting to stay where you are – less hassle and all that. But the hassle of moving will be worth it when you have an extra £40,000 in the bank. A nice little top up to the retirement fund which leads us on to…

Retirement

Sometimes needs are a must and that pension pot might need filling up. Putting the house up for sale so that your retirement fund can reap the rewards may not be such a bad move.

High Costs

Because heating a whole house is pointless when you and your better half only use three or four rooms. A bigger house costs more to maintain and manage.

Health

Of course, one’s health can be a deciding factor when deciding whether to downsize or not. If the regular journey up and down stairs becomes is becoming strenuous, a bungalow may be more appropriate.

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The biggest risks from cowboy builders, and what to do if things go wrong.

More than 40,000 people contacted Citizens Advice last year about a home improvement nightmare. Two thirds of them were about cowboy traders – who did a terrible job, took far longer than they said they would, or never finished at all.

The figures are an alarming wake-up call that we all need to be on our guard against the cowboys.

 

What can you do?

The best approach is to reduce the risk of falling victim in the first place – by taking a number of steps when you first contact a trader.

 

  1. Start with recommendations from people you know. This is the best way to be sure you are getting the full picture. You can also use a website where customers rate traders.

 

  1. Get references. If you can’t get a recommendation, make sure you get references from people they have worked for previously. Ideally go round and see the work yourself.

 

  1. Check they are a member of a trade body. Citizens Advice points out that trade bodies have codes of practice and can help resolve problems if things go wrong.

 

  1. Get a written quote – not an estimate, and be clear about what the quote covers. A quote is legally binding and the builder can’t change it without a good reason. An estimate is just a guess at how much the work will cost, and so it could change. You can compare quotes from a number of contractors to make sure you’re getting a fair price.

 

  1. Don’t go for the cheapest option. If something is a bargain, it’s tempting to take that option, but if they’re quoting for exactly the same work, there’s a risk they will cut corners in order to do a cheaper job – or bump up the price as they go along.

 

  1. Get a written contract. This should cover timing, payments, who will pay for materials and subcontractors, and what exactly is being done. If you can, you should pay in stages rather than upfront.

 

  1. Keep copies of receipts and your written contract as evidence, as well as photos of any problems which arise.If you run into problems, there are a number of steps that can help.

    1. Don’t pay until the job is done. If you are paying in stages, don’t bow to demands for a final payment until you are happy with the work.

    2. Make a list of the work that’s not up to scratch or is unfinished, and ask them to return to complete it. Don’t let politeness stop you, and don’t be afraid of what they may say or do. They promised something, if they didn’t deliver, then you have every right to expect them to return and finish the job.

    3. Ask for some money back. If you’ve lost faith in them, or they claim to be too busy to rectify things, ask for compensation. You tell them the refund you expect, and explain why it is reasonable – for example, you may have to pay to have the work fixed.

    4. Complain to the company in writing. If it’s a larger organisation, bypassing the individual and going to the firm itself can be useful. Include your list of outstanding problems, and your expectations for a solution – whether that’s them returning to finish the work or a refund.

    5. Check to see if they are a member of a trade association, and get in touch with them to see if they can help.

 

  1. If they still refuse to comply, you can consider taking them to county court or the small claims court. There will be a cost associated with this, and some traders are a nightmare to track down, but if you are significantly out of pocket, and they are part of a larger organisation, it may be your best option.
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Photo source: Wikimedia http://bit.ly/2jr4fFh

1.    Research the area.

Think about the area before you move in. Is it near a hospital? If so, can you hear ambulances all the time? Is it near a noisy pub? Check all the surroundings before you sign. It is up the tenant to do their own research and inspect the dwelling and surrounding area before they sign the agreement and move in.

2. Discuss pets early.

Bring up pets early in negotiations with your prospective landlord; if the landlord does not want pets at the address, then the tenant should look elsewhere. Having a pet in breach of a tenancy agreement that prohibits pets will generally lead to a possession action and eviction further down the line.

 

3. Check out the white goods.

Inspect the white goods (fridge, freezer, washing machine, cooker, microwave, dishwasher, etc), and report any defects as soon as you move in. If white goods are included in the inventory on the agreement, then the tenant should visually inspect them and get the landlord to confirm in writing that they all work satisfactorily. The tenant should seek clarification in writing as to whether the landlord agrees to repair or replace said items if they break down.

Responsibility will be determined purely by evidence of what has been agreed between the parties so it’s important to get these agreements in writing.

4. Don’t forget to check the water pressure too.

When you first inspect a property, run the taps and the shower.

If there’s a problem with the water pressure, you can negotiate with the landlord before signing the agreement. If the tenant does not comprehensively inspect the property before entering into the agreement, they may not be able to resolve these problems later.

5. Find out if your contract contains a release clause.

There are two things to look out for here:

A break clause means a “fixed-term tenancy” can be ended at 6 months. However, it’s important to check out the specific wording of the clause to see the conditions: “For example, that there are no existing rent arrears when the tenant wants to activate the clause.” A release clause runs along similar lines, but might involve the tenant “paying a fee to release themselves from the agreement at any time. It also usually means that the tenant has to find someone to replace them, as well as paying the fee.

6. Ask the landlord if they will repaint the walls before you move in.

If there are tasks you want the landlord to do before you move in (for example, painting the front door or steam-cleaning the carpets), then it’s a good idea to have them completed before you sign anything. The tenant can ask the landlord to do this [i.e. clean and repaint the house before you move in], but they can’t compel a landlord to do anything before a tenancy agreement is set up. The most important thing is to make sure everything is done before you sign the tenancy agreement and before you have made any payments.

7. Conduct a thorough inventory.

When going through the property’s inventory, make sure you point out any defects and take a note of the state of the items (by taking photos of broken bannisters, for example). Give a copy of the amended inventory to the landlord, keeping a copy for yourself. If your landlord has not prepared an inventory, you can prepare your own, and then ask your landlord to sign it. If not, make sure you have taken photographs, and ask an independent witness to sign the document.

8. Find out how much money will need to be paid in advance.

There is no “normal” amount of rent to pay in advance. Generally, landlords will ask for one month’s rent in advance, although it can be more. When it comes to the deposit, the amount is also at the landlord’s discretion. Usually landlords ask for the equivalent to one month’s rent as a deposit, but some ask for more (or less) than that; six weeks’ rent is also common.

9. Check if you will need a guarantor.

Even if you have a steady job, you might still need a guarantor. There is no set income threshold that will exempt you from needing a guarantor. A lot of landlords insist on guarantors before any tenancy can be agreed, particularly if they feel that the tenant is on a low income. The decision on insisting on a guarantor is down to the landlord’s perception of the risk of the tenant having difficulties paying the rent.

 

10. Challenge any terms and conditions you’re not happy with.

Sometimes you can challenge terms and conditions you’re not happy with, but this must be done before you sign the tenancy agreement. This can also apply to the landlord’s repair obligations (fixing a broken cupboard door, for example). Many repair obligations are legal requirements, but the landlord might agree to additional repairs under the tenancy agreement, if the landlord will not change the disputed term or condition, the tenant should not enter into the tenancy.

 

11. Find out where your deposit will be held.

Landlords are required by law to protect tenants’ deposits in a deposit protection scheme.

This means that any deposits taken (or carried over) on new tenancies have to be protected in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme within 30 days. The timing is important, failure to protect the deposit within the set time limits means that the tenant can potentially take action by applying to court for an order. The order can force the landlord to either return the deposit or protect it in a scheme, and can also fine the landlord up to three times the amount of the deposit, to be paid to the tenant.

12. Understand how rent increases work.

If the tenancy is within a written fixed-term (one year, etc), then the rent cannot be lawfully increased without the agreement of the tenant.

If the tenancy is a periodic assured shorthold tenancy (one which runs from month to month, for example), the rent can only be legally increased by one of three methods:

1) The landlord proposes a rent increase and the tenant agrees to pay it.

2) The written tenancy agreement allows for a rent increase by a clearly defined formula (such as the rent being increased by 5% every 12 months).

3) The landlord uses a statutory procedure to increase the rent. In this case the tenant should seek advice from Citizens Advice. A tenant can contest a rent increase done this way by appealing to the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).

13. Understand what an estate agent is allowed to charge you for.

In England and Wales, an agency is also allowed to charge a client for extra services it provides, but only if the client requests these services or agrees to the agency supplying them. For example, an agency may negotiate the terms of a tenancy agreement with a prospective landlord, draw up the agreement, and compile an inventory. The agency can ask the client to pay for this, whether or not the client finally takes up the tenancy.

  1. Ask for everything in writing.

There is no legal requirement for an inventory or survey, or even for a written tenancy agreement, so it is important tenants request these things if they are not provided. The landlord is legally required to provide a gas safety certificate, and the landlord (or agent) has to provide in writing the name, address, and contact details of the landlord on request.

 

15. Read the tenancy agreement thoroughly!

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