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31Mar

Amidst the excitement about lockdown easing on March 29th, another important date might have escaped your notice. From 1st April 2021, new electrical safety regulations apply to existing tenancies. From last summer, the regulations have applied to new tenancies but now have a wider reach.

In brief, the regulations mean that landlords must have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested at least every five years. The testing must be carried out by a qualified, competent person and a copy of the resulting electrical safety report should be given to their tenant and, if requested, to the local authority.

The move is designed to ensure the safety and quality of housing in the private rented sector. Most landlords will already be complying with the new regs, but there are a few important details it’s worth checking which include some complex-sounding documents, standards and reports. Here’s a summary of the key points.

Which properties are included?

The regulations apply from 1 July 2020 for new tenancies (granted on or after 1 June 2020) and for existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.

Assured shorthold tenancies and licences to occupy come under the scope of the regulations. The regulations also apply to HMOs if the HMO is a tenant’s only or main residence and they pay rent.

Properties that are excluded include social housing, student halls of residence, hostels and refuges, care homes and accommodation relating to healthcare provision.

What do landlords need to do?

The legislation has the snappy title of “The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020”.

These regulations state landlords must:

  • Ensure compliance with national standards for electrical safety as set out in the 18th edition of the Wiring Regulations.
  • Ensure electrical installations in their properties are inspected and tested by a qualified and competent person at least every 5 years
  • Obtain a report of the inspection and test results, give a copy to an existing tenant within 28 days or to a new tenant before they move in.
  • Keep a copy and provide it on request to prospective tenants (within 28 days), the local authority (within 7 days) and the person carrying out any subsequent inspection or testing.
  • If remedial work is necessary, this should be carried out within 28 days or any shorter period specified in the report.
  • Confirmation of satisfactory completion of any remedial works should be supplied to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days of completion.

Who can do the inspection and testing?

The testing must be done by a qualified and competent individual, but what does that mean?

The electrical safety industry has several competent-person schemes, but the inspector doesn’t have to be a member of such a scheme. They must, however, be willing to certify their competence, detail their experience, confirm they are insured and qualified under the current version of the Wiring Regulations.

What will the inspector be testing?

The inspection relates to fixed wiring, sockets, light fittings, fuse boxes and any permanently connected equipment such as extractor fans or showers. It doesn’t cover electrical appliances which would be covered by PAT testing.

Inspectors will be looking for any overloaded systems, defects in earthing, and shock or fire hazards.

The inspector’s report will classify remedial work according to the level of danger. Some classifications mean remedial work is mandatory. Others indicate recommended work.

Are there any penalties?

Yes. Local authorities can insist remedial work is done and recover the costs if they step in to ensure it happens. There are also financial penalties of up to £30,000 if landlords don’t comply.

Need any more info?

There’s a lot more detail on the GOV.UK website.

Alternatively please feel free to contact us as your local lettings experts - 01364 652652.

 

Source: Legal for Landlords

 

04Mar

As estate agents, valuing homes accurately is at the core of our business. We’ve got to price them at a level that attracts enough attention from buyers, while achieving the maximum sale price for our clients, and sometimes it’s a challenge – particularly when there’s not much to compare them to.

We value homes based on a combination of factors. We look at recent data, consider what we know about current market conditions, sprinkle in price per square foot, then use our expertise to judge how popular your particular home is likely to be with buyers.

While it’s relatively straightforward to value a home if a lot of similar ones exist, it can be much harder to put a price on a unique home. Deciding how much a particular view or architectural style is worth in a certain location is not an exact science, which is why it’s especially important to choose the right estate agent when your home is one of a kind.

 

Let’s look in a bit more detail at how we arrive at a market value:

Data on comparable homes

The first thing we need to know is the value of other homes that compare to yours – ones of a similar size, in a similar location, with similar features. While there are usually plenty of direct comparables for homes on estates or Victorian terraces, the challenge with unique homes, where there might be very little else like them, is getting as close as possible. The more unique the home, the greater the challenge!

We look at two types of data:

  • Sold prices: How much have comparable homes sold for in the last 3–6 months? If there aren’t many of them, we sometimes have to look back further in time, then calculate a likely current value based on average price increases. Sold price data from the Land Registry is the main source for surveyors when they make their reports for mortgage lenders, so it carries significant weight.
  • Current market prices. We look at similar homes for sale and consider:
  1. How long have they been on the market?
  2. What’s the current asking price?
  3. Has the price been reduced?

Generally speaking, we expect to agree a sale at within 5% of the asking price, but the longer a home is on the market, the less likely it is to achieve this.

Together, these two sources give us a ballpark price guide.

You might be wondering about online instant valuation tools, like the one we have on our site here Sawdye & Harris - Valuation Service which use this kind of data to come up with a current price for your home. They’re becoming increasingly popular and can be useful if lots of similar homes have sold recently. But when it comes to unique homes, we find the results are often quite different to in-person valuations. There might only have been a handful of properties sold recently in the area that are even close to yours in size and style, and it’s almost impossible for a piece of technology to put an accurate value on a view or a one-off architectural feature. Data is certainly helpful in giving us a guide, but it’s by no means the whole story when it comes to unique homes!

One important thing for us to bear in mind is the ‘ceiling’ – the top price that comparable homes have sold for. If we value your home at more than this, there’s always a risk it might be too expensive, and when buyers think a home is overpriced, it tends to put them off. However, unique homes can often break through the ceiling and attract a higher selling price, simply because there’s nothing else like them.

 

 

Price per square foot

Not a commonly used valuation tool, but an invaluable one. It doesn’t take into account all the amazing amenities, like a stunning view, or even some disadvantages like a footpath right through a garden. Still, some buyers like seeing exactly how much they’re getting for their money.

Anything attached to the main home is included in the total price per square foot; however, most detached buildings aren’t, unless it’s an additional dwelling – a holiday home for example.

Price per square foot is different for each area. It provides a good general overview of what a home is worth. At least on paper.

 

 

Current market conditions

Prices depend on supply and demand. When there are fewer homes on the market, prices tend to go up as there’s plenty of competition from potential buyers. The best homes can often attract a ‘bidding war’ and end up selling for over the asking price. On the other hand, if there are fewer people looking to buy when more people want to sell, prices tend to fall. That’s because buyers have a good amount of choice and will be more tempted to try and get a bargain by making an offer below the asking price.

So, in order to put the right market value on your home, we need to know how many buyers out there are looking for a home like yours. Are similar homes selling quickly or is there an oversupply right now?

While unique homes are usually less affected by rises and falls in the market, it’s still important for us to know what’s happening, as it gives us a feel for how positive we can be with our valuation.

 

 

Our expertise

Taking all the above into account, we then have to judge how attractive your home is likely to be to buyers. We’ve got to look at the outstanding features and decide how valuable they are, then balance that with what we know about how much potential buyers are willing and able to pay. There might be lots of things that set your home apart, but would someone be willing to pay more for it than for its closest competitor, and how much more? This is where our experience really matters.

 A lot comes down to how rare the features are, particularly when you’ve got a combination of them. For instance, if you have a beautifully refurbished Grade 1 listed home in a waterfront location, how many other homes like that are there in the area – more importantly, how often do they come up for sale? When a buyer knows that if they miss out on your home, they might not get another chance to buy something similar for another five or ten years, they’re usually willing to pay a premium. And it’s our job to know how much that premium is.

The final thing we need to consider is your own position. How quickly do you want or need to sell? If you’re not in a rush to find a buyer, we might think it’s worth being optimistic with the price, then we can always adjust it if needed. On the other hand, if you’d like to sell as quickly as possible, we’ll recommend a price that we’re sure will immediately catch your target buyers’ attention.

So, if you’ve got a unique home, choose an experienced local agent who’s got a track record of successfully selling one-off homes. Search online to see what’s sold locally in the past couple of months and take note of which agents have handled the more individual sales. They’re the ones who should be able to see the true value of your home, properly judge its market potential and then help you achieve the best possible sale.

If you’re ready to move or are currently on the market and haven’t yet had the response you’d hoped for, give us a call on 01264 652652 or email us at sawdyeandharris@gmail.com. We’ll be happy to chat through our tailored marketing approach for unique homes and, if you’d like to talk in more detail or have a valuation, we can arrange for someone from our team to visit you at home.

27Feb

You’ve found and bought a property; perhaps you’ve upgraded or even refurbished it. You’ve no doubt spent time, effort and money on it.

All you need now is a tenant. Preferably one who will pay the rent on time, look after your property and stay for a while.

It’s tempting to wonder if you can manage the letting process yourself – find and vet a suitable tenant – and also to take on the management of the tenancy yourself. After all, 10% (plus vat) is a sizeable chunk of your monthly rent. But would a DIY approach be a shrewd financial saving or a potential logistical and legal headache?

Whenever we talk to our happy landlords, we hear the same thing: “We’re so glad you’re doing it for us!” They just don’t want to have to take on the role of a letting agent. But what exactly is that role? What does a letting agent actually do?

 

 

In this article, we explain, without bias (ok, maybe a little), and in as neutral a manner as we can, the answer to that question. Let’s look at what the various services offered by letting agents mean, what you can expect to pay for them and if a DIY option is right for you.

First, let’s look at…

A letting agent’s job

Our advisory service 

All you need to do is ask, and we will visit your property and give you our best advice on:

  • Its current rentable value
  • The likely tenant that will suit it best
  • Whether we have a tenant already on our waitlist for your type of property
  • Whether there are any changes or improvements you could make to maximise the rentable value
  • Any problems or challenges we foresee with the tenancy, to make sure you get the best return on your investment.

 

Our tenant find service

We’ll create a professional and attractive marketing campaign for your property, to show it in its very best light. We may also produce a floorplan, if appropriate. We’ll then distribute your property advert across the best online channels and portals, to make sure it receives as wide a reach as possible.

Then it’s time for viewings. Tenants will often want to view potential properties out of hours – in the evenings and at weekends. That’s why we offer viewings that are convenient to working tenants – after all, most landlords would prefer to have working, professional tenants in their properties.

Next, we manage applications and offers by your potential tenants. Often, the best properties are popular and over-subscribed, leading to a number of applications and offers that need managing carefully. We take extra care to make sure that all tenants feel their applications are taken seriously and considered on a fair basis. Sometimes, the first accepted tenant fails their credit checks, which means we have to go to the next applicant. Therefore, it’s important they feel valued and don’t consider that they have been rejected unfairly.

Finding the best tenant for you isn’t easy. We base our recommendations on strict criteria of suitability and affordability, vet them using a tenant referencing agency and credit check them. We want to make sure that they are who they say they are and that they will be a good ‘keeper’ of your property. A past record of rent-paying is important as it’s often an indicator of whether they will pay their rent on time in your property. Although we will make our recommendations as to which tenant we feel would be best for you, the final decision always rests with you, the owner. After all, it’s your property they will be inhabiting.

Once we’ve made our final selection and offered the property to the successful tenant, we draw up the tenancy agreement – in legal terms, this is known as an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, which may include any special clauses the landlord wants to add – and have the tenant sign it. We take a full inventory of your property, making sure we get photographic evidence of every fixture and fitting – furniture if included – and create an exact record of the condition of every room.

Our property management service

The tenant is happy with your property, and you, the landlord, are pleased with your new tenant. But this is not the end of the story, merely the beginning. Managing your property in a professional, sensitive and conscientious manner is the key to keeping your tenant satisfied and content, long-term.  Because, unless the landlord needs a short-term solution, a long-term, successful tenancy is what we strive for, on your behalf. A long-term tenant who looks after your property and pays their rent on time means that your investment will be easier and more profitable for you.

What does ‘property management’ mean? Managing your property means making sure your tenant is living there in the manner they promised, which could include no pets, sub-letting or illegal practices.  We do this by making regular property inspection checks, taking written and photographic records at each visit as appropriate, then reporting our findings back to you, the landlord. If we find a problem, we’ll let you know right away and make recommendations for it to be rectified. If the tenant reports a maintenance issue, either urgent or impending, we’ll talk to you and make sure it’s fixed in the way you’re happy with.

Essentially, the best letting agent acts as a go-between, or a ‘buffer’, between you and your tenants. Not all tenants are easy to negotiate and deal with, so having your agent’s number as the main point of contact, instead of your own, could prove a wise decision.

 

What do letting agents charge?

We have two main agency services: Tenant Find and Fully Managed.

Tenant Find – This service is for those landlords who are confident in managing their property themselves but need some assistance in finding and vetting tenants. For Tenant Find only, we charge a fee of YOUR FEE.

Fully Managed – This service is for busy landlords who want the peace of mind of having a full-service letting agent on hand to help them with every aspect of their tenancy. Our fee for a Fully Managed service is YOUR FEE.

 

And there’s more….

 

We are proud of the great working relationships we have with our landlords, and we know that sometimes they need extra advice and assistance from us. So, in addition to the services we’ve listed here, we can also help with:

  • Arranging specialist cleaning in between lets
  • Organising garden maintenance
  • Protection for your empty property in cold weather
  • Dealing with your post
  • Managing rubbish disposal where necessary.

And if all that isn’t enough to keep us busy, we can even help you:

  • Find your next investment property
  • Negotiate the best price
  • Secure financing
  • Organise or recommend its refurbishment
  • Replace carpets, flooring and curtains
  • Refit kitchens and bathrooms
  • Source the right furniture
  • Secure the best tradespeople and professionals

Ready to take the next step, and talk to us? We’ve a wealth of experience and expertise to help you on your property investment journey, and it all starts with a confidential chat.  Just call us on 01364 652652 or katie@sawdyeandharris.co.uk – we’re really looking forward to seeing how we can help you.

 

03Feb

Selling your home? Here are 11 key questions to help you choose an estate agent that will find the right buyer and get you the best price.

Selling your home is one of the biggest financial transactions you’re ever likely to make, and it could be an emotional time for you. So you need to be sure that the agent you choose can not only get you the right buyer and the best price, but also understand your situation and be able to guide you confidently through the process.

Perhaps you’re selling the family home where you’ve raised your children, and you’re now ready to downsize. It could be that you’ve outgrown your first home, and it’s time to take the next exciting step up the ladder. Or maybe it’s a buy to let or inherited home that you simply don’t want or need to keep.

Whatever your reason for deciding to sell, lots of agents will be keen to get your business. And with so many out there – local and national, high street and online – all with different strengths and core markets, how do you know which is going to be the best fit for you and your home?

Well, it’s not an exact science, but if you’re clear on your own plans, know the key things to look for and ask the right questions, you should be able to narrow it down to a top two or three.

 And with that, here are our 11 questions to help you decide. 

Before you speak to an agent:  

  1. What are your plans? This is often how estate agents will start a discussion, so make sure you’re clear on why you’re selling and what kind of timescale you’re working towards. If you’re going to be buying something else, write a list of your needs and wants. The agents you speak to about selling will also be keen to show you what great homes they have on their books, and you’ll get a feel for how they deal with prospective buyers.

 

Checking out agents online: 

  1. How good is their website? Is it professional looking, can you navigate it easily and has it got all the main information you want to know? Are you impressed by the look of their listings? 
  1. Are they a member of a professional body? Agents who are members are bound to work at the highest professional standards and adhere to a strict code of conduct. This isn’t to say that agents who aren’t a member don’t work to the same level, it’s just good to know and allows you to make an informed decision – it’s always good to get the full picture before you make your choice.  
  1. Are their homes listed on the best portals? There are plenty of sales websites out there which have a far wider reach than an agents site alone. The more popular sites an agent lists your home on, the more prospective buyers will be reached. There are several popular portals agents can use, ask them which ones they use, and why.  
  1. Have they got homes for sale that are similar to yours? You might think having competition is a disadvantage, but actually it can be a good sign that the agent is used to marketing your type of home to the right kind of buyer.

 

When the agent comes to your home for a valuation / when you speak to them directly:  

  1. What’s the market like at the moment? This gives you an idea of how many viewings you’re likely to have and how long it might take to sell. You’ll also get a feel for how knowledgeable the agent is.  
  1. What similar homes have you sold recently? That will confirm to you what kind of sale price is possible. And if the agent has sold several properties like yours in the last month or so, that shows the market is buoyant and they’re doing a pretty good job.  
  1. How much would you market our home for? You’ll probably already have your own idea from looking online, so compare that with what the agent says, and see how confident they are when they give you their valuation. They’ll usually state a range and then recommend an initial market price based on your own timescale and situation. If that’s different to what you thought, don’t be afraid to ask more questions and discuss it further.

 

 

  1. Do you have any potential buyers in mind? Of course they’re going to say yes! So follow it up by asking what those buyers have looked at recently and what their feedback has been. That will show you how engaged the agent is with buyers and how good they are at communicating.  
  1. What are your fees? Most agents do an all-in fee, but some will charge extra for things like glossy brochures, so make sure you’re clear on all the costs. And remember that a good agent will give you value for money, so don’t be tempted to go for the cheapest – you tend to get what you pay for!  
  1. What happens if I’m not happy with your service? As long as you’ve chosen your agent carefully, you shouldn’t have any real issues, but it’s always a good idea to check:
  • What’s the minimum contract period, and how much notice do you need to give?
  • If you find a buyer yourself, do you still have to pay the agent a fee?
  • Who’s the right person to speak to if there’s a problem?

 

Once you’ve found two or three agents that you’re sure can do the job, based on all the above, it’s time to turn to bonus question 12: Which agent feels right?

 When you’ve got queries, which of them are you most confident will be there with the answer? Putting it simply, who do you like best? Due diligence plus gut feeling is a tried and tested formula that works for so much in life, and in this case, it should give you the best selling partner and a successful sale.

 If you’d like to talk through your selling plans with us, we’d love to help. Call us on 01364 652652 or email us at sawdyeandharris@gmail.com and one of the team will get back to you shortly.

08Jan

It’s a new year – time to give your home a whole new look? If you’re selling your home, or planning to, our top home styling accessories for 2021 may help you make the right decisions to give your home a mini-makeover without breaking the bank.

And, now that the majority of us are ‘locked down’, you may have more time than usual to get new home accessories ordered online, even taking advantage of the New Year sale prices (if you’re quick!).

Home styling accessories can make even the most stale and tired rooms look new and on-trend again, so let’s dive into our seven top styling tips which won’t break the bank:

  1. Rugs

A large rug can transform a room, adding warmth and accentuating the room’s style. Rug trends in 2021 take a vintage turn. A simple flat pile with neutral tones echoing the room is on trend rather than thicker pile or geometric print. Avoid Persian inspirations unless you live in Downton Abbey.

You don’t have to spend a fortune either; decide on a budget and stick to it. You should be able to get a large rug, say 8’ x 4’, for under £150 if you shop around. 

  1. Cushions

Cushions are a really easy way to provide an instant update to a room whilst adding colour, texture and interest. Again, the trends point towards a simple style: stay away from geometric prints and pictures.

2021 has an altogether cleaner look for accessories. 

  1. Flowers

The finishing touch for viewings, adding scent and a sense of homeliness. Make sure arrangements are in keeping with the overall style of the house and the room.

If in doubt, keep the colours pale and the style simple with a vintage, minimal or Scandi twist.

  1. Toiletries

Toiletries for photos and viewings should be modern, elegant and the best you can find. Keep them eco-friendly and high-end – AcureTropic and Mu London are great options. Similarly, small, independent brands which are local to you are a nice touch.

Remember, keep these for viewings only – hide them after each one to keep them in pristine condition. 

  1. Bedding

New bedding for all rooms, especially the master bedroom, is a great way to show off each space to the best of its advantage. Environmentally-friendly fabrics with natural tones are growing in popularity – keep a look out for a brand with an eco-friendly ethos.

Don’t forget vintage accents either – another key trend for styling a bedroom.

Two cushions and a throw on a bed will add that elegant touch of style without overcomplication.

  1. Towels

Buy some new ones and make sure no one uses them – they’re just for show! Pop them away with the toiletries after each viewing to keep them crisp and fresh.

White or neutral shades are best, a staple style for a bathroom. They should be in keeping with the bathroom itself to ensure it looks simple and clean.

 

  1. Mirrors

Mirrors have a real Scandi feel to them in 2021, alongside other wall hangings like art. Mirrors especially add a feeling of coordination and harmony to a room, along with reflecting light, making rooms feel more spacious.

On top of these trends, there are three bonus points which our experience has taught us to constantly keep in mind when styling a home – Things that never go out of style.

Things which, whatever the trends for the year are, should always be in focus:

  1. Keep things clean and clear

We’ve noticed that buyers prefer a clean palette of neutral tones. This gives them more opportunities to let their imaginations run wild with ideas for their new dream home.

  1. Create an atmosphere to aspire to

The more you show the incredible lifestyle your home offers, the more prospective buyers see themselves living there – whether that’s done by leaving a large glass bowl full of vibrant fruit in the kitchen, an elegant vase of delightful flowers in the hallway or a delectable cake which might tempt them to stay a bit longer for another slice.

Some relaxing, ambient music playing in the background and a cosy room lit by the soft glow of a lamp in the corner also adds a feeling of wonder to a viewing.

  1. Keep a critical eye 

Remember to look at each room with an objective viewpoint; remove or replace accessories that don’t add to the aesthetic of the area.

First impressions are everything.

We also recommend staying up-to-date on constantly evolving home styling trends. Try these high street and online retailers; their prices won’t break the bank either:

  • Next – An excellent range of bang-on-trend soft furnishings and home accessories at value-for-money prices.
  • Wayfair – Furnishings for every budget; they have a ‘shop the look’ feature allowing you to pull together items that match before buying.|
  • Tu by Sainsbury’s – Brilliant if you’re on a budget. There are several ranges offering affordable updates for every room in the house.
  • eBay – A fantastic resource for homewares, both new and pre-loved. Great for your budget and your carbon footprint

 

There you go! Our top trends and home styling tips for 2021. Which will you be giving a go? You can even go one further and research some more if you’ve got a little spare time during lockdown.

Get in touch today on 01364 652652 or katie@sawdyeandharris.co.uk and we can provide you with specialist, expert advice to support you through your specific set of circumstances.

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