SHOWCASE YOUR HOME’S BEST FEATURES

To the get the most out of your property sale in today’s competitive housing market, it is more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. Post-referendum many investors and buyers have adopted a wait-and-see approach to the property market. With the pool of potential buyers in the market getting less, more than ever before, sellers need to focus on showcasing their home’s best features to gain a competitive edge and realise the property’s true sales potential.

To sell a home at the best possible price within the best possible time requires two crucial elements –  the right real estate professional and some effort on your part as the seller.

There is no need to completely change your existing home or embark on a costly renovation project, rather it is simply looking for ways to highlight your home’s key selling points. If done correctly, subtle changes can make a big difference. Well-chosen, contemporary updates can revamp your entire home, giving it a modern, revitalised look and feel, without being too costly. A fresh coat of paint and tidying up is already a great start to ensuring that the home is ready to hit the market.

Here are a few additional pointers to get your home in top form on show day:

Kitchen

Often considered as the heart of the home, the kitchen is possibly one of the most important areas. For many buyers, the kitchen can be the deciding factor as to whether or not they decide to purchase the home. An updated kitchen will increase the perceived value of the home and leave a lasting impression.

Refurbishing the worktops and cupboards can completely reinvent the space and give it a more contemporary look. Also, by updating large appliances you can breathe new life into the room. Adding an island is also a functional way to add to the room’s aesthetic appeal, while entirely changing the area’s dynamic with additional counter space.

Bathrooms

Another area in the home that draws buyers in or has them heading for the door. Not much needs to be done in a bathroom for it to feel completely different. Just by changing the taps to a more updated style or adding a mirror can freshen up the look and reinvent the space. Modern lighting can also change the feel of the room and breathe fresh life into an outdated area.

Storage and organisation

Although it depends on the availability of space and layout of the home, installing additional cupboards or storage units will be a practical way to create a selling feature. Buyers are often looking for homes with ample storage capacity, so an extra cupboard, expanding existing cupboards or a walk-in pantry can become a selling point. Built-in shelves or a wall unit in areas with a lot of open wall space can also be a unique and interesting feature.  These are relatively easy to install and will be a functional addition that could give the home added interest.

Flooring

Where the home has carpets, they should be in good repair and professionally cleaned. Cleaning the carpets will not only make them look good but will leave the whole house smelling great. If the carpets are in a bad state, depending on what’s underneath it might be worthwhile to have them lifted. Many older homes will have wooden flooring underneath the carpeting, which can be sanded and revarnished.  In the instance where the home does not already have wooden floors, synthetic alternatives are available that look similar but cost far less. The right kind of flooring will make a room appear larger, and it will completely revamp the area’s look and feel.

Outside areas and garden

Exterior features such as decks and patios can impress, however, they aren’t always in the budget and are not necessarily needed to make the garden look good. A garden that is neat and well-kept will make an outstanding impression with buyers.

Ensuring the property is in its best condition before it is listed will increase your chances of standing out from the crowd and achieving the highest possible selling price.

Don’t be caught unprepared

Being a homeowner is a long-term commitment that can span a lifetime. Although it is human nature to always hope for the best, it is inevitable that a home emergency will strike at some stage during our lifetime, so it is best to be as prepared as possible. While impossible to determine when it will happen, home repairs are a certainty every homeowner will need to consider and prepare for. Putting aside money each month in a contingency fund will provide you with a financial cushion and assist in avoiding going into debt when a crisis strikes.

Research from mortgage and loan brokers reveal that around 60% of adults in the UK have lived in the same house for more than 15 years, while one in ten have not moved for 31 years or more. It’s fair to say that a lot can happen over a decade or for that matter three decades.  Having a plan of action in place will help you to tackle whatever life throws at you and keep going. The goal is to have the means to address the changes or emergencies that occur, without it jeopardising the homeownership or placing you under severe financial pressure.

There are emergencies that happen to the house itself, such as roof repairs or rising damp, both of which can be a massive financial expense, and there are the financial emergencies that affect you as the homeowner, such as job loss. The question you need to ask yourself is if something like this happens, would I still be in a position to afford the home? For most, the answer would probably be no, which is why a contingency fund is imperative as a homeowner. While the idea of putting money aside can be a daunting task, the consequences of not having a financial cushion to fall back on will be far greater.

Essentially there are three basic steps that you need to take to start creating an emergency fund, which will provide a safety net and assist with any obstacles that come your way:

One – Determine the required amount

At a very minimum you should aim to save approximately one month’s salary, however, in an ideal situation, six months’ income in saving is preferable. A six-month financial cushion should see you through most crises. That said, saving up half a year’s worth of income will be no mean feat, it will take a fair amount of time and planning to achieve. Setting smaller goals along the way will ensure that you maintain focus and stay motivated.

Two – Choose a saving vehicle

When wanting to build up a significant amount of savings, especially rates at record lows, you need to ensure you put your money into the right type of savings account in the right order – whether that’s an Individual Savings Account (ISA), bank account or regular saver. Each offers different pros and cons, so it might require some research to find the right savings vehicle that will yield the greatest return while meeting the criteria. Often the method that offers the highest returns will require the account holder to lock their money away for a certain fixed period – this could be problematic if you require the money in an emergency.  The interest rate, as well as accessibility, will be key factors to consider.

Three – Automate the savings

Setting up a monthly automatic transfer will make the process far easier and will help you remain disciplined with savings. If a predetermined amount of money is transferred into a savings account automatically each month, it takes the decision-making process out of the equation and ensures that a contribution is made towards the contingency fund regularly with very little effort on your part.

Setting money aside each month is the best way to prepare for and deal with an emergency without being forced into debt. A contingency fund will help you be ready for the unexpected while building a solid foundation for their financial security and independence.

Does your home meet your future needs?

Deciding to buy a home is very exciting, but it is important to understand that it is a major financial commitment that should be given the proper consideration. Given the long-term nature of a property investment, there are some essential elements that should be carefully measured beforehand, to ensure you are making the right decision and purchasing a property that meets your needs both now and in the future.

Purchasing a property is a decision that will have an impact on your financial well-being, which is why it is essential to make an informed decision based on your life plans. Consider both your criteria now and how your needs could evolve over the next five to ten years. Rushing into the decision without considering your future plans and goals could end up costing a lot more money in the long run.

Before even looking at potential properties, sit down and determine what features you currently need in a home, as well as the features you may require in the future. A few elements to consider would be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the need for a garden and accessibility to public transport .  There may also be special criteria such as energy-efficient features, the number or type of parking facilities or wheel-chair accessibility.

Here are some examples of questions you might ask when looking for a home that will meet your future requirements:

  • Do I need a home office?
  • Do I plan to have children?
  • Do I have children who will be moving out soon?
  • Am I close to retirement?
  • Will I need a home that can accommodate different life stages?
  • Do I have an older relative who might come to live with me?

Everyone will have their unique criteria that will be specific to their life stage and plans.

The biggest restriction when looking to purchase a home that will fit in with your plans is affordability. Financial restrictions could mean compromising on certain aspects, even if only for the time being. For example, if a newly married couple who want to start a family need a second bedroom, but can only afford a one-bedroom home, they could find a home that they can add onto when they are financially ready. This way the home will meet their current needs while having the potential to grow into their plans.

Regardless of the type of home, you decide to buy – sustainability is a key issue to homeownership. Ensure that you can afford to sustain the financial obligation before entering into the agreement.

Mortgage repayments are not the only financial consideration when it comes to affording a property, as there are other costs involved in both the property transaction and homeownership. Take these additional costs into consideration when assessing affordability as they can add up to a relatively large amount.

Another essential aspect to consider in every property purchase is location. Location is a key influencer when it comes to a home’s future investment potential. It is far better to compromise on the features of the home than on its location. Purchasing a property in the right location that meets both your short and long-term needs will provide you with the benefits of an accommodating home that grows in value over time.

5 Essential tips for single homebuyers

  1. Budget

Buying a home on your own is an amazing move and a great step towards financial security, but make sure it’s a home you can afford if there is a momentary, or longer, blip in your financial profile.

  1. Maintenance

Being the only person with a set of house keys also means being the only person responsible for maintenance. A leaky tap or overgrown lawn won’t take care of themselves.

  1. Safety and security

Remember that being a single homeowner doesn’t allow for someone to be home the majority of the time. So you will need to consider safety and security issues.

  1. Resale and longevity

Purchasing a home is a great long-term investment. However, there are many reasons single homebuyers may need to move, such as relocating for a job or lifestyle change.

  1. Future

You buy yourself a nice little home or apartment now. But someday you might not be single and you’ll add a significant other to your team and possibly even children.

How to avoid the home buying blues

Studies reveal that eight out of ten homebuyers have at least one noteworthy regret regarding their property purchase decision. Why is this? The fact is that many homebuyers get caught up in the emotional journey of buying a home and sometimes overlook certain important aspects. It is only once they have moved into their new home, and everything has settled that the reality of the situation sets in and they start to see the things they previously may have missed.

Purchasing a property is a large financial commitment, yet many base their home buying decision on only a few minutes of viewing the property. If you are not fully prepared and do not have an idea of exactly what you are looking for, it could be easy to miss something or make an incorrect decision.

Here are a few tips you can use to avoid regretting your purchase:

Stay focused

Ideally, before you start to look for a home, make a list of your needs and wants, prioritising the must-haves and noting the elements you are willing to compromise on. Don’t get distracted by the wants and remain focused on the must-haves. If the house has many of your wants but does not meet their main objectives – it is not the right house. Due to the long-term nature of homeownership, you will have to deal with your compromises for a long period. Therefore it is essential you make the right decision up front. Working with an experienced, reputable real estate professional will assist you to keep on track and find a home that meets all your criteria.

Check the finances, and then check them again

One of the main reasons that buyers regret their home purchase is unexpected costs. Calculate how much you can afford, considering all the associated costs that go along with homeownership such as council tax, insurance, service charge, maintenance and ground rent if the property is leasehold.

The bank, mortgage lender or professional financial adviser will be able to provide you with a list of costs that you can expect to pay when purchasing a home.

Having the home inspected will also give you an idea of the type of repairs that you can expect so that you can budget for this beforehand.

Don’t get caught up in a bidding war

A competitive offer from another prospective purchaser could make a home seem more attractive than it is and lead you to push up your offer. However, it is important to stay objective and keep in mind that you are trying to buy the right home – not win an auction. It is best to walk away from the deal than overpaying because of a bidding battle. Paying more for a property will mean larger deposit requirements, higher fees and thousands in additional interest on a larger mortgage. Another downside is that it will take much longer to build up any equity.

Purchasing a home is one of the largest financial investments most people will make in their lives. While finding the right home can be an emotional rollercoaster, it is important to keep things in perspective and focus on what matters to avoid any remorse.

Downsizing – is it the right decision?

The kids have flown the nest, and you no longer need a large high maintenance property – maybe it’s time to downscale? For some, this could be a tough choice to make, especially if they have lived in the home for many years and seen their kids grow up there. However, others may well look forward to a more relaxed lifestyle, unfettered by monthly mortgage payments and the never-ending upkeep and maintenance that is part and parcel of owning a larger property.

Either way, when it comes to downsizing, there are a few aspects to consider.

The pros

There are numerous lifestyle benefits to downsizing from a large property to a smaller one. For one, you are no longer responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of a home, a large garden, and other property features you may no longer use. Also, downsizing can result in significant monthly cost savings on water, gas and electricity, council tax, buildings and contents insurance, ground rent, service charges, and maintenance and building work.

Run the numbers

The biggest expense in most households is the mortgage repayment, and whether you will be free from this responsibility will depend on how well the family’s finances have been managed. If you have paid off your mortgage or at least the bulk thereof, it might be possible to sell the property, settle the outstanding balance and have enough capital to purchase a smaller property without having to enter into a new loan agreement.

On the other hand, if enough equity has not been built up, things could be slightly more tricky, especially if you are retiring. After a certain age, banks are not as willing to grant applicants mortgage finance. In this situation, you will need to carefully consider what monthly rental or mortgage repayment you can afford on your lower pension income. Bearing in mind, it will also need to cover the costs involved in buying a new property, such as a deposit, stamp duty, conveyancing, valuation fees, mortgage arrangement and broker fees, and removals.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

Most people who sell the primary residence will not have to worry about paying Capital Gains Tax because of the private residence relief. However, there are certain instances where CGT becomes a factor in the property sale. You may be required to pay CGT if:

  • Part of the home has been developed, for example, by converting part of it into flats
  • You sell part of your garden and your total plot, including the area you’re selling, is more than half a hectare (1.2 acres)
  • A portion of the home has been exclusively used for business
  • Let out all or part of your home – this doesn’t include having a single lodger (to count as a lodger and not a tenant you need to be living in the property too)
  • You have moved out of your property 18 months or more ago – to move into a partner’s home for example
  • The home was purchased for the purpose of renovating it and selling it on.

Timing is key

If it is not the best time to sell, consider delaying the decision to downscale by a few months as it could result in a better selling price depending on market conditions.  On the other hand, you would be selling and buying in the same market and delaying the downsizing decision could mean missing out on a good buying opportunity.

What about letting it out? 

If your mortgage is paid off, perhaps consider letting out the property, rather than selling. If there is still a mortgage on the property, this option will be far less attractive with the introduction of the Section 24 taxation on landlords. Letting out the property will also come with its own set of challenges such as who will manage the property.  This option will also require you to have enough cash flow to cover any vacancies. While letting out the property can supplement your income, it is important to remember that once you have let the property for 18 months it becomes subject to CGT.

Provided all aspects are considered carefully, downsizing can form part of a comprehensive plan that leads to a simpler lifestyle that offers financial freedom. A real estate professional or financial adviser will be able to give excellent advice on the first steps.

8 TIPS FOR AN EASY MOVE

Get Rid of Clutter Before You Move
The more items you can clean out before you move, the better off you’ll be. Decluttering and getting rid of unused items means you will have less to physically move on moving day, which means you will be less tired and stressed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by how much stuff you have, try the 12-12-12 rule. Donate 12 things, throw away 12 items, and return 12 items to their proper place. It’s an easy, laid-back way to declutter your space quickly.

Pack for a Successful Move
It is essential to pack your boxes well to ensure that all your items arrive at your new place in the same condition they left the old one. To reduce shifting and to maximise space, pack your plates, dishware, frames, and books vertically. Keep clothes on hangers and wrap rubbish bags around a bundle at a time. This makes them easy to carry without falling on the ground. For your beautiful accessories, thread delicate necklaces through a straw and fastening the clasp so they don’t get tangled.

Colour Code and Label Everything!
When packing you need to be thinking about the unpacking process when the items arrive at your new place. Make it as easy for yourself as possible and label boxes with things you will need straight away with “Unpack First.” Load these labeled boxes into the truck or storage container last. When taping up your boxes, buy different coloured tape and assign a colour to each room. This will make unloading and sorting in your new home easier.

Take Photos of Your Audio & Video Components
Take a photo of your electronics wiring configuration before you pack them so you’ll be able to reconnect them at your new place. There are tons of apps, like Evernote, Sortly and Google Keep that let you take images, record audio, and create checklists.

Purchase All Your Moving Supplies Before Moving Day
Stock up on box tape, rope and any other moving supplies you may need before moving day. Make sure you securely pack all of your belongings and have your big items covered in the moving truck or container to avoid damage and minimise shifting. Moving bands are also a great way to wrap blankets around soft furniture, like couches and mattresses, before you tie them down.

Hire Packers and Loaders
Trusted moving and storage companies should be able to provide you with contact details of people that can help you move. Before hiring any help, check their reviews, social media, and ask friends for any recommendations as well. Hiring professional, reputable moving help can be the icing on the cake when it comes to planning an easy move.

Maximise Your “Cubed” Space
Rather than used bags, pack as many of your items into boxes as you can. Boxes stack well and can give you a tight fit in your storage container or van. This makes all your belongings more secure and allows you to efficiently fit more stuff in a smaller space.

For Moving and Storage – Think Outside the Van
Portable storage containers allow you to have unlimited time when loading and unloading your belongings. Stay organised and in control by loading your boxes into your container as soon as you pack them. If you label them properly, this will eliminate confusion and spare you from drowning in a sea of boxes inside your home.

School Ratings Impact Property Prices

Regardless of whether you have children or not, if you are looking to purchase a property, it is best to choose a home that is near a well-rated school. Why? Because school ratings affect demand and have an impact on property prices.

According to a study published in the Financial Times, an increase in a school’s Ofsted rating inadvertently boosts property prices in the area. The data revealed that homes located in well-heeled areas received an immediate increase in their value when a local primary school was awarded a higher Ofsted rating.

The Ofsted rating is used by parents across the country to determine school performance and assess whether they would want to send their children to that particular school.  The rating is given more weight by parents than any other school performance measures such as exam results. Schools with an “Outstanding” rating are in high demand among parents, which in turn increases the demand for property within an easily commutable distance. As demand increases, so does the value of the homes in the catchment area as buyers are prepared to pay more to live there. In certain circumstances, buyers have been known to offer between 5% and 10% over market value for the right home within the right catchment area.

The findings of the study, which looked at the ratings of 8,000 primary schools in England, found that prices of properties located in affluent areas where a school’s rating had been improved by one notch, rose by as much as 1.5% on average. The impact on home values in less-affluent or disadvantaged areas was not as apparent, with prices in those neighbourhoods only increasing by approximately 0.5% on average. This could be a result of other factors in those areas negatively affecting demand in those areas.

While an improvement in the Ofsted rating had a positive impact on housing prices, the opposite held true when a school was downgraded with home prices taking a knock in those areas by the same margins.

With Ofsted having such a bearing on the property prices in an area, property search portals have introduced a ‘school checker’ feature which shows a school’s most recent rating, the catchment area and the distance from the property.

At the end of the day, it is clear that people are willing to pay more for a home if it means they have given their children the opportunity at a better-quality education.

A great real estate agent will be able to provide insight on the schools in the neighbourhoods where you’re looking to buy. Find one to work with here.

9 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN RENOVATING YOUR BATHROOM

Giving a fresh new look to an outdated bathroom can modernise and add value to your home. Renovations and contemporary remodelling of bathrooms are known to boost the marketability of a home and, also, bathrooms and kitchens are the two areas of a home where the cost of the renovation can be largely recouped on the sale of the property.

Over the past few years, bathroom renovations have become extremely popular with many opting to renovate their bathrooms before any other room in the home, because bathrooms and kitchens are major focal points that buyers look at before they put in an offer to purchase a property. Additionally, bathrooms are smaller than other rooms in the home, so the cost of renovation can be managed more effectively.

Here are some important things to consider before you begin renovating your bathroom.

Select Elegant Fixtures.

Subtle changes can make a big difference to the overall feel of the bathroom. Selecting the right fixtures will be key to transforming your bathroom. An elegant sink with a curvaceous shape will exude beauty much more than a bulky vanity unit.

If you have a large bathroom, decorative feet on a freestanding bath can be a subtle design feature that adds character and elegance to the space. However, you don’t need a huge bathroom in order to make it special.  Accessories like robe hooks and soap dishes can be just as effective in revitalising the room.

Don’t buy a bath until you sit in it.

A 1500mm bath accommodates most people, however, assuming it is the right fit for you by sight can be a mistake you will live to regret. It may raise an eyebrow or two, but before you buy a bath, sit in it, lie down in it and pretend you are having a bath.

Things to think about is whether it provides you with enough room for you to stretch out and be comfortable, as well as whether it provides a strong foothold. First, try it, then but it.

Choose Durable Flooring.

Out of all the floors in your home, the bathroom floor needs to endure the most strenuous daily treatment.  Ideally, the floor needs to be made of a hard-wearing, water-resistant material such as ceramic, marble or stone. The floor will also need to be sealed to ensure that water doesn’t get under the flooring and cause damage. The right floor will prolong the life of the bathroom and ensure you are enjoying it for years to come.

 Mirror, Mirror On The Wall.

Both practical and beautiful, mirrors are a crucial element to any bathroom. A well-designed mirror can be the focal point of the room while proving the illusion of space. A mirrored cabinet is also a great way to add an elegant feature to the room, which is ideal for hiding away an unsightly mix of toiletries.

Floor Space Is Considered Good.

Storage cabinets on the walls are a functional way to save floor space. To avoid cluttering the room, the cabinets should have an interior depth of at least three inches and a door flush with the wall.

A Built-In Shower Area.

A great way to add value to the property is with a built-in shower area. Steer away from the confinement of a traditional shower with an open shower area which eye-catching and will set your bathroom apart.

Good Lighting Is Key.

Lighting sets the overall mood of the room and can make all the difference in creating the right atmosphere. If the lighting doesn’t work with the space it can really undersell a bathroom, so make sure you get it right.

Purchase A Quality Throne.

The toilet is an essential part of the bathroom, which is why it is so important to get the right one. Apart from its aesthetics, it is best to opt for a well-built toilet that is made to last than buying a cheap one out of convenience. Also, make sure it is the right height and size for the space.

Indulge Yourself.

If you have space, make the room a luxury haven where you can escape to and relax. Add a few indulgent elements such as a television, fireplace, some exercise equipment or even a large comfortable occasional chair. The room is yours to create – enjoy it.

5 Budgeting tips to help you save for a down payment

Here are a few tips to help you on your journey to becoming a homeowner:

1.Track Every Pound

Find out exactly where your money goes each month by keeping track of every single you purchase over 30 days. Review your card and bank statements to categorise where you spend each pound.

2. Rate Every Purchase

Using the month of expenditures, rate each item or service you bought as a “want” or “need”

3. Set Savings Goals

Using your “needs” and “wants” list determine where you can realistically cut spending. Use the budget to set monthly and yearly savings goals.

4. Set Aside Funds

Create a separate savings account for your down payment. It’s not only easier to track but blocking off funds may make you think twice before dipping into that money for something other than your future home.

5. Save Automatically

Set up a “down payment” savings account and have a set amount automatically transferred each month.