Five ways to make your property search easier

In this month's edition, we're full of tips if you're looking to spruce up your bathroom, add a little extra value to your property or in need of advice to make your property search a little easier. 

There's also plenty of news to sift through; reports suggest that landlords are making their return to the market after several inactive years, one in six parents are thought to remortgage their home in order to help their child's property journey and finally, supply and demand in the property market is now outstripping any lingering concerns over Brexit, thanks to the latest delay. 

Five ways to make your property search easier

We all know that searching for a home can be quite a long process. Studies have shown that it can take up to 3-4 months, with most buyers viewing a total of 8 houses on average before finding the house that’s right for them. The only way to make it easier for yourself is by doing a little research and preparation before you dive in, so with that in mind, we’ve put together 5 simple steps to make your hunt for a home that little bit easier.

Figure out your finances
Before your search begins, you absolutely must figure out exactly how much money you have to play with, taking into consideration the full cost of buying a home. It’s not just the cost of the property, but also the cost of surveys, stamp duty and more.

There is no such thing as ‘too early’ when it comes to looking at mortgages and speaking with financial advisors. While setting up meetings and discussing your finances with a mortgage advisor can be time-consuming in itself, once you’ve determined your maximum spend it allows you to greatly refine your search and also puts you in a stronger position further down the line when it comes to negotiating.

Separate your wants from your needs
You probably already have an idea in your head of what your dream home looks like, what features it has and the type of area its located in. Unfortunately, for most buyers finding your dream home takes a lot of luck or a lot of money, so you need to decide early on which features are the ‘must haves’.

Every buyer’s criteria is different, whether it is the size of the kitchen, being close to a good school or the number of bedrooms. A successful home search does require a little bit of compromise; separating your wants from your needs allows you to begin your search with a lot more focus, saving you time in the long run as you won’t need to book an endless series of viewings.

Take advantage of all the information available to you
In the past, a lot of property information such as how much it previously sold for, floor plans and general statistics for the area were not as easily accessible as they are today. There are plenty of websites that allow you to do that extra bit of research, allowing you to make more educated decisions throughout the process.

Find out what the average price is for homes in your favourite area and delve a little deeper; take a look if a home you have your eye on has a surprisingly high flood risk, for example. Buying a home being the biggest purchase you’re ever going to make, so the extra research you put in could not only protect you from hidden disasters in the long term, but also means you’re able to be a little more brutal with your shortlist as you take advantage of the wealth of information available online.

Get in touch with us!
While the internet does hold plenty of useful information on the property market, if you’re looking for in-depth knowledge of the local area, then your local estate agent is always your best bet. By speaking to your agent, you can get some more information on the current state of the local market, which is incredibly valuable information if you’re moving to a new area.

If your essential property criteria include the commute to work or the good local schools, a good agent will be able to bring even more focus to your search and help you avoid any homes that are unsuitable to your needs.

Be thorough, be brutal
Once the viewings begin it’s important that you gather as much information as possible during your time in the property. Take notes, take photos and ask plenty of questions. After a few viewings you may find that all the properties begin to blur together in your memory, so the more information you collect the first time round, the more time you save from not having to make repeat viewings to feel the place out.

At this point, you’ve already made a list of the things you can’t live without, so to speed up the process, you should also create a list of things you can’t live with. If your shortlist only contains 3 or 4 properties, then it may be best to take a slightly more lenient approach when discovering a room will need completely redecorating. However, if your shortlist of homes is in the double digits, you’d be wise to be thorough and spot any deal breakers early as a long list of homes will require you to be brutal, unless you want to spend months going from viewing to viewing.

Overall, the key to a successful property search is to make sure you’ve done your homework and have as much information as possible to make an educated decision when you see ‘that’ property and your heart takes over. Being able to determine exactly what you want early can be a massive help and by combining the online information with the knowledge of your local expert, you can make finding a home a much smoother process.

Looking to spruce up your bathroom? Read our top tips

It’s been a long day at work and you’re a little stressed; what better than a relaxing, hot bath to unwind and loosen up? Bathrooms have become sanctuaries in our homes in recent years, with innovative design and outstanding comfort at the heart of all good bathrooms. If you’re thinking of updating your bathroom, then we have some handy hints and tips to help you create a space to relax in.

Small bathroom ideas
A clawfoot tub in the centre of a decadent room is the dream for many of us, but the reality is that any well-designed bathroom should consider space and practicality at its core. If you have a smaller bathroom, or a room that is an awkward shape, then embrace the space and look for solutions, not problems! High storage allows you to make the most of the room, and naturally draws the eye upwards giving the feeling of taller spaces. If storage is paramount, then think about utilising the space under your bath – all you need is an opening bath panel that you can close and open when needed. To give the illusion of more space, include plenty of mirrors in your bathroom, as well as objects with mirrored or shiny surfaces – this will reflect the light around the room keeping it bright and airy.

Bath or shower?
Everybody has a preference for either a bath or shower, it is all down to personal inclination. If you’re feeling radical, however, then skip the bath altogether and go for a luxury shower in your bathroom – if you use glass screens then the space that this creates will give a real feeling of luxury. Exaggerated shower head sizes, and multiple shower heads will enhance this feeling of spa decadence, and the notion of bathtubs will long be forgotten.

A floor can make or break a bathroom in terms of the style stakes so the smallest of changes to your floor coverings can have a big impact. If you’re lucky enough to have quality floorboards in your bathroom then make the most of them by sanding them back and painting them – the rustic aesthetic is timeless and easy to maintain. A classic white paint will keep the bathroom crisp, but experimenting with other colours (especially pastels) will also add some interest to the room. Tiling your bathroom floor is a preferable option due to the longevity of the finish, and despite recent trends towards ornate tiling and Moroccan influences, we would recommend a neutral tile for bathroom floors which can be accented with painted walls and accessories.

The small stuff
The smallest details can have the biggest impact in our bathrooms – matching accessories around the room give a cohesive feel to the room, from soap dispensers to toothbrush holders…they can all make a difference. Keeping the walls and floorings fairly neutral in the bathroom is always a good idea as they are then easy to maintain and, most importantly, look clean and fresh in a space where cleanliness is next to godliness. Don’t worry about creating a bland space, however; you can add colour and interest through your bathroom accessories – these can be much bolder in design in order to add pops of colour around the room.

Landlords are making their return to the market

Three years on from the Government passing buy-to-let tax and legislative changes, which resulted in a 3% surcharge on Stamp Duty on the purchase of additional homes also encompassing buy-to-let properties, it appears that landlords are now returning to the market.

Statistics have indicated that there has been an almost 8% increase in the number of landlords registering to buy over the last month, showing that the feeling in the market is overwhelmingly positive. With investors both national and international still wholeheartedly positive about the state of the market in the United Kingdom, according to SevenCapital’s Brexit survey, lettings would appear to be a strong bet once more.

Demand for city centre properties is now at an all-time high; in Birmingham, for example, between 2011 and 2016 around 8,000 homes were completed, whereas demand was closer to 20,000 showing the extent of overdemand and undersupply. This provides a stellar opportunity for landlords looking to invest in a city-centre location in order to reap the highest possible rental yields.

Rental yields by room, an increasingly popular option for landlords, are showing extremely positive values year-on-year; with the country as a whole reporting an average rise of 11%, according to the rental index from Ideal Flatmate.

With the recent spotlight on the rental market from the Government, renters and potential renters will be feeling buoyant in terms of their rights and responsibilities which should embolden them to rent a property, whereas previously they may have been more hesitant to take the step. This newfound confidence amongst renters should provide further comfort to landlords, knowing that there is a strong contingent of potential renters ready to move into their property.

One in six parents remortgage their home for their children's benefit

With interest rates remaining incredibly low and competition amongst lenders producing some of the most favourable finance options ever seen, many are remortgaging in order to benefit from cost savings. Rather than simply easing the financial burden, however, recent research has shown that many parents are remortgaging in order to gift the extra money to their children.

Price comparison website MoneySuperMarket has found that one in six parents who remortgage their home then gift some of that extra cash to their children, with the average financial contribution standing at £9,050 per child and nearly 10% of parents giving over £20,000.

More than a third of the children who receive the financial gift utilise it as a deposit for a property, whilst others use it to go travelling (11%), buy a new car (11%) or pay for ‘everyday essentials’ (9%).

Rachel Wait, consumer affairs spokesperson at MoneySuperMarket, commented: “Our research found that 15% of parents released equity when they remortgaged to help their children. However, you’ll only be able to do this if your property has gone up in value and you’ll need to be sure you can afford to keep up with your new repayments.

“It’s also important to factor in the costs associated with remortgaging, such as arrangement fees which can be as much as £2,000, as well as legal, admin and valuation fees. Try to be realistic – only release equity to help your children with life events if you can really afford to do so.

“Also keep in mind that because a mortgage takes so long to pay back, remortgaging may not be the right option for everyone – there may be cheaper ways of getting a cash sum. It’s important to look at all options and shop around before making a decision.”

Supply and demand is outstripping Brexit concerns

With the Brexit date being pushed back once more, it would appear that supply and demand for property is now the driving factor in the market, with Brexit taking the back seat in terms of market-driving factors.

In a recent survey from property investment company SevenCapital, nearly 69.5% of investors continued to invest in the United Kingdom despite the spectre of Brexit. Indeed, this confidence in the United Kingdom property market is echoed by international investors, with nearly 95% of the Hong Kong respondents believing that Brexit isn’t a critical factor in their investment decision.

SevenCapital points out that the Sterling has risen in value – a better indicator of fiscal stability – and this outweighs any potential impact that Brexit may have levied upon the market. With the average price of properties increasing last month by over 1% or £3,347, according to Rightmove, then house prices are also reflecting this upturn in the market.

In terms of the rental market, rental yields have also grown in recent months with the best performing areas in Birmingham and Manchester seeing yields driven up as much as 10%. With new changes in the rental sector such as the Tenant Fee Ban and Section 21 changes, tenants and potential tenants should be feeling more empowered in terms of their rights which should encourage more renters into the market.

Despite the headlines that Brexit has provided of late, it is evident that other factors are driving the property market, both sales and lettings. A key point to note is the lack of housing supply and increased demand of late with this duality keeping the market buoyant, despite any political uncertainties. With first-time buyers now at record levels and keen to buy, there is a whole new swathe of potential buyers entering the market which is creating an extremely competitive sales environment.

The best ways to add value to your property

When we decorate our properties, it is often driven by personal preferences in order to make a space fit into our own idea of what is stylish. However, if you are not just looking to decorate a space but to maximise the potential value of your property, then read our guide which explores the best ways to add worth to a home.

Solve existing issues
If you’re thinking of adding value to your property then don’t jump straight to improving the aesthetic of particular rooms in order to gain the much-lauded “wow factor”; instead, make sure that your property is structurally sound. It may have less cosmetic impact, but a house with a leaking roof, subsidence or damp will be severely hindered in achieving a strong asking price due to the perceived costs and effort in fixing the issues. Take the time to assess your property and ensure there are no major defects, and this will give a solid foundation for your property to achieve the best price on the market as buyers will not be scared away by problems, nor will they be able to barter the price down.

Central issue
Take a look at the central heating system in your house - does it look modern and fit-for-purpose or is it on its last legs? If your central heating isn’t quite up to scratch, then replacing this is a sure-fire way to add value to your property as it is another issue which has the potential to put off potential buyers. Although the initial outlay for the central heating refit may seem high, you should more than recover these costs when selling the property as it is another key point which will assure buyers that your property is well-cared for.

Extra space
Adding additional living space will always attract potential buyers as this offers them versatility in the way in which they will use the property; however, before you convert that loft or garage then we would recommend doing a little research. A converted loft can add thousands to the asking price of your property, so it is certainly something to consider – before you undertake this do take a look at similar properties in your area and do some investigation as to what the top selling price has been lately. There will be a ceiling price to the properties in your area, and therefore before you add a room, make sure that there is the potential to recoup the cost in the asking price of the property.

If you’re looking to add value to your property without any major outlay, then picking up the paintbrush could be the answer. Freshen up any paint that has seen better days around the house and do the same in the bathroom, checking on any sealants to ensure they are crisp and clean. Clean up a few simple defects and potential buyers will see your property in an entirely different light, willing to pay more for a home that they perceive to be in excellent condition. This should extend to the frontage of your home, so ensure lawns are mowed and outside areas look cared for.

Kitchens and bathrooms
That old saying that homes are sold due to their kitchens and bathrooms is true, to an extent. Having a modern kitchen and bathroom will add considerable value to your property, as well as generating much more interest from potential buyers. If you don’t want to invest in a brand-new kitchen and bathroom, then update your current spaces in order to make them more sellable. Kitchen cabinets can be painted to modernise them, and changing the door handles to something sleeker will also help to create the feeling of a newer space in the kitchen. In the bathroom, refresh the paint on the walls, keeping it as neutral as possible, and ensure that the space is bright and airy – add mirrors to make the space feel bigger, and use accessories to add colour into the space.

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