December Newsletter - New Year, New Home: how to sell in 2020

We're full of festive cheer this month! Alongside a selection of events around the Hertfordshire area (which you can find below), you'll find our top tips for selling your home in 2020 alongside our guide to enjoying a warm winter and merry Christmas. 

We also take a look at how first-time buyers can speedily save for that first home and we investigate why green living is on the rise across the UK.

Finally, everyone at Intercounty would like to wish our clients a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

New Year, New Home: how to sell in 2020

There is often speculation as to when is the best time to sell your home. Sellers often wait for certain times in the year that may be construed to be better than others. If you feel like you are ready to sell, you should seek a valuation and consider whether it is the right time for you, as it may well be right now.

The imminent general election has caused mixed feelings about the housing market with many waiting for the outcome of the election to see whether policy changes (such as stamp duty reforms), will be put in place. However, if you are considering selling your home, now is a good time to put your property on the market. There will always be other circumstances that can affect the housing market, but none of that should prevent you from getting a full market appraisal.

House prices have continued to increase throughout these uncertain times so you may be surprised at how much your home is worth. But no matter what time of the year it is, there are a few checks that you can run through to ensure that your home is in its optimum condition. High spec homes are attracting the attention of serious buyers, so if your house is well presented and organised, it will help potential buyers believe in your home.

Photos, photos, and more photos! If there was one factor alone that could attract potential buyers to your home, this is it. It’s key to make a good first impression, so ensure that photos are of a high specification, in natural daylight and show the full room to its full potential. Check that your home is neat and tidy so that buyers can visualise living in the home themselves.

‘Tis the season!
Leading on from photos, we have Christmas. It might be tempting to make your home a festive feast for the eyes, but you should ensure that you have photos of your home without decorations up. This is so that those viewing can see how the space in the home could look throughout the year.

Christmas time is where we can really show off our homes and display how inviting it is, giving viewers a lasting feeling about your home. The festive spirit is a great tool but be mindful to use tasteful festive décor without too many different colours. Everybody has different tastes so a more neutral Christmas touch will work best if you have viewings over the Christmas season. Potential buyers will also be able to see a sense of community and good spirits in the neighbourhood.

It should go without saying, but your home needs to be clean and tidy when on the market, both inside and out; you never know when a potential buyer may be driving past the home unexpectedly! Keep leaves swept off the garden and ensure that doorbells and outside lights are working, which will show that the home has been well maintained. Inside, you want to prove that there is ample storage space, so anything that is left out on tables, sides or shelves should be there for a reason. That way potential buyers can see that there is plenty of storage to maintain a tidy home.

Remember all that important paperwork that you keep in that ‘safe place’? Now’s the time to dig it out! Important paperwork relating to deed titles and guarantee certificates for any work you have had done are essential during the selling process; collate any paperwork that you have for the home into a folder so that you can show prospective buyers that everything is in order.

Santa's Grotto @ Burston Garden Centre

Burston Garden Centre will be launching a new, magical Santa's grotto open from Saturday 16th November and selected days until Christmas Eve.

Click here to read Santa's Grotto @ Burston Garden Centre.

Green living on the rise across Great Britain

Fresh air, green trees, and birds singing…sounds like a simple yet picturesque dream, doesn’t it? Climate change and our environment have been hot topics for discussion across the planet this year, with a rise in awareness in part due to global activist efforts. But has that truly had an effect on how we live our lives in Britain?

Recent data provided by Property Wire suggests that a whopping 68% of UK residents would be mindful of eco-friendly features when seeking a new home, which is certainly heartening to hear. But what do we mean by the term green living?

Simply put, it’s a description of living environmentally friendly, to maintain the earth’s natural resources. This includes:

Building with sustainable materials
The property sector is making good headway when it comes to making eco-friendly changes to buildings to create sustainable living, with a heavy focus on making urban environments ‘greener’. According to the UK Green Building Council, 40% of Britain’s carbon emissions come from property, which is a large proportion of the carbon footprint. Sustainable design is beginning to be woven into planning requirements, particularly with commercial buildings, to support the goal of reducing greenhouse gases.

Renewable energy and reducing energy consumption around the home
To aid the above, there is a big drive on making properties more efficient in their energy performance. Energy bills across Britain could be brought down by a staggering £6.1 billion if energy efficiency rates were brought up to a C ranking. Many energy providers are using renewable energy to recycle, giving customers competitive prices and simultaneously helping the planet, but you can also reduce the amount of energy used in your household to support this cause. Small steps such as turning lights and plug sockets off, turning taps off, and reusing rainwater for the garden can make a big difference.

Using better methods of transport for the environment
Using public transport, cycling, walking, and car sharing are all great ways to reduce pollution. Although this is not always an option for commuting, everyone can make small lifestyle changes to contribute. Even a change as small as walking to the shop instead of driving supports the reduction of pollution. Even little things can help!

Recycling items and packaging
It is a requirement for everything we buy in packaging to indicate whether it can be recycled or thrown with regular waste. Local councils make it extremely easy for households to recycle with waste collections for correct disposal of rubbish and items for recycling. Regular collection of rubbish, garden waste, recycling waste, and even glass is a big step to maintain the earth’s natural resources. Make use of the local support on offer to do your bit to support the planet.

Speedy saving for first-time buyers looking to purchase a home

It is clear to see that the younger generation is becoming more and more conscious of their spending habits and begin to plan for their futures earlier, which often encompasses purchasing that first property.

There are many savvy saving techniques that prospective first-time buyers have taken advantage of to step onto the property ladder. For example, the ‘paying yourself first’ method is the smart new way to budget throughout the month after being paid, allowing lifestyles to come after saving so that the money pot can grow.

Recent findings from Post Office Money suggest that first-time buyers are typically taking 3.6 years t save for that first deposit, which is down over one month from 2018.

What’s driving this change? The employment sector and modern attitudes to work are very different to what they were ten years ago, with many new opportunities available and jobs that previously would not have been heard of. On top of that, a third of savers have an additional job to help in their journey, and a quarter of the first-time buyer group used the internet to their advantage to generate more income.

Worldwide Opportunity
Speaking of which, the internet has allowed the option of having a side hustle and remote working as an everyday option, meaning that people are working harder and smarter to reach their goals. This phenomenon has taken over with more job opportunities using the internet as an integral tool offering flexibility and connectedness across the globe. The number of opportunities to make a fast buck is gigantic and ever-growing, offering more opportunities for first-time buyers to save more money faster.

The Bank of Mum and Dad
As well as clever and sensible saving, there is still the ongoing support from parents and other family members giving considerable contributions towards house deposits to further fast track the process. A large proportion of first-time buyers have used the assistance of family to fast track their saving with 69% having the help of others to reach their totals. Many families are offer support to their loved ones to obtain a pre-Brexit housing steal so the generosity still growing.

High rates from lenders
Mortgage lenders are also more willing to lend at present offering desirable fixed-term rates including low-interest rates. Add on the help-to-buy ISA that also supports first-time buyers, with the Government giving a maximum of £3000 toward a first-time purchase, the saving picture is clear and in rude health.

Carols on the Hour @ St Albans Cathedral

Head to St Alban's Cathedral on Saturday 21st December for one of the Cathedral's most popular festive events and enjoy one of our bite sized carol services.

Click here to read Carols on the Hour @ St Albans Cathedral.

Stick Man Story Session @ Harpenden Library

On Monday 23rd December, join the library for a story and craft session where you can make a stick man to hang on a Christmas Tree!

Click here to read Stick Man Story Session @ Harpenden Library.

Winter Warmer: top tips for a warm and Merry Christmas

The autumn leaves have fallen leaving an army of frosty branches, we’ve had our fair share of rain and an extra few minutes are needed at the start of your commute to scrape the frost from the windscreen. All sure signs that Christmas and winter are on their way!

A fresh winter morning can make it harder to get up each day, with many of us wanting to sink into our duvets and hibernate. But work must go on, and the best way to do that is to take care of our homes, keep the warmth in, and adopt those cosy habits we’ve been waiting for all year. See below for some tips and traditions for a warm and Merry Christmas:

Keep the heat in
It may sound obvious but keeping the doors to rooms closed really helps to keep the heat in. Rooms near the front door often have a draught which brings the cold air in and older homes often lose heat due to windy weather that creeps in. This simple tip can save you from continually cranking up the heating!

If your home is not insulated it may be worth considering having this installed to save on your future heating bills, with plenty of Government loans available to help as the march towards eco-efficiency continues.

Dig the blankets out
Sadly, we’re not talking about sausages lovingly wrapped in bacon but your army of warm blankets. Although we all have heating, sometimes there’s nothing better than cosying up on the sofa in front of the fireplace watching your favourite Christmas show. Not only is it particularly wholesome; it can be more comfortable and give your heating a break. Not only that, but it can make for a great Christmas scene for the whole family to sit together in festive or even matching jumpers!

Christmas tipple
It’s fair to say that mulled wine has become a staple winter warmer over the years. They are commonly found at Christmas markets across the UK, but they can also be made in your very own kitchen and it’s easier than you may think! The ingredients consist of red wine, a cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, orange, lemon and brown sugar, most of which we already have in our cupboards.

The added bonus to mulled wine is that it is served warm, so it’s a perfect way to get comfortable in the festive season. Just remember to serve it in a heat-proof glass! Even if you don’t drink alcohol you can still get the same feeling this favourite winter warmer provides by switching the red wine for pomegranate and apple juice. Voila!

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