Spring Clean!

April signals the beginning of spring and is the perfect time of year for both landlords and tenants to check the general condition of their property. Here’s how to ensure everything is in tip-top shape and ready for summer.

Spring cleaning tips for landlords

If the property or any outbuilding is timber clad, have a look at the exterior woodwork and take the opportunity to get any damaged areas repaired, then treated or repainted.

As the weather gets warmer, there is a greater risk of infestations. To prevent pests coming into a property, it is advisable to check the roof for any slipped tiles, rips or tears. Also make sure there isn’t any crumbling brickwork or holes in the exterior walls, in particular check airbricks and ventilation covers along with historic gaps/holes from old plumbing systems.

The boiler and heating system may have been working overtime during the colder months, so to help mitigate future issues consider undertaking a timely service of the system.

If the property has the benefit of air-conditioning, get the units checked now so they are fully operational when the temperatures rise.

Gutters and downpipes should be cleared of leaves and debris, and check that drains and soak-aways are clear and free-running. If not, check your agreement with your tenant as it is likely that they will share some responsibility for having them cleared.

If you have opted for a management service, your agent is likely to undertake these checks on your behalf. Check with your agent.

Spring cleaning tips for tenants

Unless gardening services are included in your rent, now’s the time to start thinking about maintenance. Particularly, clear the lawns and borders of obvious weeds before they take hold. If you have patio or garden furniture, it is likely to need cleaning and, if made of wood, re-oiled to make it look smart in time for outdoor entertaining.

If you have an outdoor pool, now is the time to open it up, top it, clear any debris and make sure the chemicals are level, so it is in full working order by the summer.

As a tenant, you should always keep an eye on the property and report maintenance issues to your landlord or agent in a timely manner. If in the course of your spring clean you happen to notice anything untoward, make sure you report it in writing so that action can be taken.

Top Tips When Moving Into Your First Home

Let’s start with the important things you shouldn’t forget!

  • The DVLA need to know you’re moving so you can update your driving licence and remember to change your address on the V5C vehicle registration certificate – these are both legal requirements.
  • Redirect your post, this can easily be done online from the Post Office. It’s a good safety net, it’s hard to remember everyone who has your address.
  • Tell your bank! The last thing anyone needs is a drama of a lost card and the ‘proof of address’ being different to your current address.
  • Update your address on all online shopping accounts! Else next time you go to tea at your mums she’ll be rocking your new scarf!

Things to do now to make things easier later

  • One of the first things you will need to set up is your Gas, Electric & Water. Shop around to get the best deal, it’s a very competitive market!
  • Arrange internet connection at your new property. If you leave it too late you will risk not being connected for weeks!
  • If you’re getting a nice new sofa, fridge freezer or any other house appliance, it’s worth arranging delivery straight to the new address at a time that is suitable. Maybe not the same day your entire family and Mum’s neighbour Mary shows up to see ‘how you’re getting on’.
  • Pack the Kettle and some tea bags last, it will make it easier to find when you get to your new home so you can make a brew for you and your hard working removers.

How to pick a removal company

  • When you know the date you’re moving you should be thinking about transporting your possessions, so start looking for an accredited removal company such as a member of the British Association of Removers (BAR).
  • Choosing a BAR accredited remover can protect you against damages and are the industries mark of quality.

The most important thing to remember is: keep calm and don’t forget the bubbles to celebrate!

You only get to move into your first home once, you’ve earned this, so enjoy it!

Checklist for when you move!

Preparing to move – first steps

1. Firstly, get the biggest job out of the way and decide how you are going to move everything from your old home to your new home. If you’re thinking about a professional mover, try getting 3 – 4 quotes.

2. Communication is key. Keep in touch with your Conveyancing Solicitor and Estate Agent, ensure they are all prepared for completion day, after all, they are working for you. Inform your Conveyancing Solicitor of anything that could be an issue, no matter how small, they can judge if they need to do anything to ensure a smooth transaction.

3. Change of address. Start working through the key contacts checklist to let everyone know you are planning to move home. Most contracts require a minimum of a month’s notice so the sooner the better. Don’t forget the DVLA, TV License, Store Cards, Broadband.

4. Spring clean and remove old items. Your local council maybe able to arrange the removal of large items you no longer want. This service sometimes has a small charge. Start packing the items that you do not use frequently such as things from the spare room.

5. Arrange for child and pet care. Not only can children and pets be a distraction but it can also be an unsafe environment. If possible arrange for someone to help look after them on the day, this will allow to concentrate on getting moved as quickly and efficiently as possible. If the children are old enough to help, find age appropriate tasks for them so they can feel part of the move and help with workload for everyone else.

The week before the move

1. Confirm the dates and times of moving day with all parties, including the removals company.

2. Get your new services and utilities in place. Arrange for Gas, electric, water and most importantly you’re broadband so you have something good to watch when you crash out at the end of the moving day!

3. Finish packing the rest of the house up and make a special essentials box that will be transported with yourselves. Essentials box to include; kettle, tea and coffee, milk, toilet roll, snacks, phone charger, small radio, sellotape, pens, scissors, takeaway menus for the new house and a vase (for potential house-warming flowers!).

4. Pack an overnight bag as if you’re going away for the weekend. It saves trying to find clothes and toiletries that are packed away for the first night and day once you arrive in your new home. Sounds obvious but this could save you tearing your hair out trying to find your toothbrush and slippers by rummaging through all your nicely packed boxes!

5. Prepare a note for the new owners explaining how things work and where they can find useful items such as the boiler switches, aerial sockets and alarm codes. A few kind thoughts will go a long way when it comes to mail redirection and injects some humanity into the whole process. Also include details of who currently provides the utilities at your property as it is not always obvious.

Moving day

1. Meter Readings. Before you leave, get a final meter reading of all your metered services and call the relevant suppliers to inform them of the numbers so you can settle up the final balance and close the account ready for moving. If you don’t do this you could end up in disputes with the new owners and it’s just added stress when you could be relaxing in your new home. Remember to also take all the appropriate meter readings at your new property.

2. First thing to unpack. Make up your new beds in the new house first. So when you’re tired later and you can’t face anymore work, you can hop straight into a comfy bed and get a good night’s sleep. This way you will feel revived and ready to crack on again in the morning!

3. Have some cash ready for when you order food in. It happens to us all, you will rope family and friends in to help and they’ll need to be fed!

4. Home insurance. It may be the last thing on your mind, but ensure your policy has started and everything is covered for your new home. It would be awful if you were putting boxes in the loft and your foot goes through the ceiling, just to find out your home insurance policy has not started and that you’re not covered.

5. Introduce yourselves to the neighbours. Making friends with the neighbors can make a world of difference to your enjoyment whilst at home. Having good neighbors can be a great benefit, they can help keep an eye on the place while you’re on holiday, collect packages when you’re not at home and they might invite you to their parties so you’re not left being.

Top Five Tips For Creating The Perfect Outdoor Living Room

1. Lighting

There are plenty of options to choose from, both practical and on trend. Possibilities include citronella candles which can help to keep those bugs at bay but for something super stylish, why not hang festoon lights or oversized lanterns from trees and bushes to create a magical effect.

2. Seating and furniture

If you’re planning on making the most of your outdoor space and socialising with friends into the evening, then comfort is king. Make sure you buy appropriate furniture for lounging as well as dining. A pagoda or gazebo is always a good idea to provide much needed shade or rain protection. Children love the freedom of the garden so throw down some blankets and cushions for them so they can eat and play as they wish and keep the big comfy seating for the grown-ups.

3. Home grown

Make the most of the summer harvest by using as much as you can from the garden. Lavender can make a lovely table centrepiece and utilising home grown fresh fruit and veg in your salads and pudding can only serve to impress your guests and show off (or pretend) how green fingered you are.

4. Fire pits

Choose the one that’s right for your garden space. Large ones may offer more in terms of heat and lighting but there are more compact gel fuel alternatives that provide a decorative option and can even fit on a suitable table, ideal for smaller patio areas. Some garden tables even come with a small fire pit built in.

5. Dressing your space

You’d choose a colour scheme for the inside of your house, so do the same for your outside space. For ease, you can opt for a similar style to your interior design scheme and give some of your colourful cushions an outside airing to add interest to plain furniture. Colourful furniture is available to buy but for longevity it may be better to plump for funky accessories.

5 Tips For A Perfect Viewing

Viewings are one of the most important parts of the buying process, it allows a prospective buyer to find out more about the property and the area and ultimately it will help them decide if it’s really the place for them to call home.

As the seller, you want your property to give off the very best impression and ultimately find someone who thinks it feels like home to them. The process can be long and stressful, so these 5 tips might just help you along the way to preparing for, and hosting the perfect viewing.

First impressions really do count!

Viewings are always arrange for a mutually appropriate time, so if you then are unable to make it at the last minute or are browsing the aisles of your local supermarket whilst someone waits on your doorstep, you might as well rule that viewing out. Make sure you’ve spent some time cleaning and making a fresh and welcoming environment, whilst you want the property to be respectable, remember it isn’t a show home and showing it’s lived in can help to make people a little more comfortable. Some bright seasonal flowers and lots of nice natural light always make a property seem more welcoming.

Kerb Appeal

Whilst, it’s important to have the inside of the property looking spot on, how does your property look from the road? If you’ve got an overgrown front garden trim it back and make it presentable so that when the potential buyers pull up outside, they can see a nice clear view of the property. If it looks like it’s poorly maintained, you could get off on the wrong foot and they may enter the property with a negative impression.

Make it feel like home

It’s your home and the prospective buyers will be quite aware of this – you know it best so showing off the best features of the property and even telling little quirky anecdotes of the time your kids turned the under-stairs cupboard into their den will help them to picture their family calling it home.

Don’t be pushy

You’re not there to push someone in to buying your home, you’re there to show them around the property and learn how fantastic it is. Sometimes it takes a buyer a little bit of time to decide if a property is right for them, making good impressions and answering any questions that they may have will always help them to make a decision of their own.

Keep the best for last

Make like a magician and have something up your sleeve that the buyers aren’t expecting. Whilst you should start with a nice feature like your fantastic new kitchen, when you’re coming to the end of the viewing slip in another feature that will really impress, show off your mature, landscaped garden or the stunning views from your loft-room – adding these in last will make your home stick in their mind and will add a talking point when they begin to shortlist further.

How to Choose Accommodation for you Second Year of University

Securing the right accommodation can have a major impact on your university experience though, so be prepared and start your search early.

Find out how to get organised, where to look and what to keep in mind with our handy guide.

Know your options

After first year, when the majority of students live in university-owned halls, there are various different options available to you. From rented, shared accommodation in private housing to living in the increasingly popular private halls, it is important to consider what will work best for you.

If you’re looking for a bit more independence, renting a property with a group of friends could be the best option. However, beware of a few potential pitfalls. It is essential to rent from a reputable estate agent. Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for students to face complications with landlords when it comes to paying the bills and fixing repairs. Make sure you ask your university or students’ union for a list of recommendations if you’re unsure.

If you don’t feel comfortable signing contracts for shared accommodation or keeping on top of your bills, private halls are the ideal solution. The great thing about living in halls is that all the paperwork is handled for you, meaning you can cut out on any potential problems from landlords or letting agencies.

Work out your budget

Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, certain options may not be practical. If money is tight, living by yourself is obviously not the most sensible option. Don’t forget all the hidden costs from bills, including internet, TV licence and every student’s nightmare: the central heating.

Teaming up with friends for a shared rental allows you to split the bills and potentially save some money. You need to keep in mind the initial admin costs though which really can add up, as well as any damages that may incur a hefty bill from your landlord.

Some areas of the country are notorious for poor student rental experiences, so if that’s something you are worrying about, private halls might be the perfect match. Dispelling the myth that private halls are super pricey, there are plenty of affordable options in many major cities across the country. These student housing companies often take care of your bills for you, also providing a nice little internet package included in the price of your rent.

Pick the people

Avoid those petty arguments about whose dirty dishes have been on the side for the past week by carefully picking the people you want to live with. There’s no denying that student properties can get a little bit on the messy side, so try to avoid this by ensuring that the people you want to live with will all abide by house rules.

Choosing your friends early on can be scary though. Often the start of the new calendar year is when students secure their accommodation for second year, and if you’re still not feeling settled or haven’t built a strong friendship circle yet, this can be daunting.

Private halls have a fun community vibe which can offer a great way to meet new people and make some amazing friends. This is also a bonus if you’ve been living at home for your first year and are looking to move closer to the university for their second year.

Check the location

You may have found the ideal house share or flat but if it’s miles away from campus it will make that morning commute to lectures a bit harder. Whether you’re at university in one of the UK’s major cities or somewhere slightly smaller you’ll need to know your way around.

For those with a fear of missing out who like to be in the middle of things, private rentals are normally situated close by the university. If you’re looking to save on costs, living a bit outside the centre may help but you’ll need to make sure there are strong transport links to get you in on time.

It’s also worth thinking about the positioning of the property. If you’re a light sleeper or you’re easily distracted, you might not want to live somewhere that’s on a busy and noisy main road or close to train tracks.

Check out the local area too. You’ll regret not having a supermarket just down the road when you run out of milk or bread in the morning.

Top 10 Tips & Tricks For Making A Move Simple

5 hacks for dressing your house to sell

1) Define your rooms

Rooms are more appealing to buyers if they have a specific purpose. Make sure each room is set for its designated purpose – if it’s a three-bedroom house make sure it is just that, as bedrooms add more value to properties than studies or store rooms.

2) De-clutter and clean

Clutter can make your home seem small and disorganised, so de-cluttering will help buyers to visualise how the house will look when they’ve moved in. Minimise lotions and potions in the bathroom, put excess clothes away, thin out books on the bookcase and clear surfaces in the kitchen. Then it’s time to give everything a thorough clean and light some scented candles to make your home even more inviting.

3) Natural colours

Most buyers prefer natural colours to bold tones as they can make a room feel brighter and more spacious. Splashes of colour can be added with accessories and the right lighting can also help to enhance the space.

4) Make an impression

First impressions really do count. You can maximise your home’s kerb appeal by making sure there is no litter in the front garden, pathways are clear and the front door is painted. Plant pots can add a splash of colour and you can always take them with you when you go. The hallway is equally important – a mirror can make it look bigger and create that wow-factor as people cross the threshold.

5) Do those DIY jobs

If there are DIY jobs that you’ve been putting off for ages, start working your way through them. Dripping taps, broken blinds, peeling paint and squeaky hinges are all off-putting to buyers and can be fixed quickly and easily.

Five hacks for packing and moving

1) Separate the essentials

Pack an overnight bag for each family member and use a clear plastic box to keep your daily essentials together (kettle, mugs, teabags etc) so you can access them easily during and after the move.

2) Label Label Label

Buy a pack of parcel labels in different sizes, colour coded if you’re really serious, and label every box with the room and main contents. You can also use labels on chargers and cables to remember what goes with which device, as well as labelling items that are to be donated to charity, binned or sold.

3) Invest in good boxes

Decent boxes can be used time and time again, folded down or used to keep your loft tidy. So buying good quality boxes is always a solid investment. You may even be able to source these for free from shops but make sure they’re strong and not too large otherwise you won’t be able to move them once they’re full.

4) Save bags of time when packing clothes

Save time when packing your wardrobe contents by keeping all of your clothes on their hangers and placing a tie top bin bag over the bottom. You can then tie the tops around the hangers and your clothes are ready to be hung up as soon as they are in the new house.

5) Ask your friends and family for help and offer a ‘reward’

While moving can be stressful, having friends and family to help can actually make it fun. And if you sweeten the deal, perhaps with the offer of a takeaway at the end of it, you may find you have even more willing volunteers.

5 Decorating Tips for Renters!

Here are our top five ways to make your rental property feel more like home, where the only limitations are your imagination!

1. Removable wallpaper

Who knew removable wallpaper was a thing!

Easy to apply, remove, reposition, and reuse without leaving damage or residue, contact paper is a top tool for any renter wanting to jazz up their home. Available in a never-ending selection of colours, styles and patterns. Either use it to cover entire walls, or get creative and use it to add simple accents.

If you’re fed up of your housemates conveniently forgetting whose turn it is to do the washing up this week, chalkboard versions are also available!

2. Washi tape

This little Japanese gem is a must-have tool for every creative renter out there.

Super cheap and available in all the colours of the rainbow, it’s easy to remove and re-apply without leaving adhesive residue or destroying the surface it has been applied to.

3. Wall Stickers/Decals

Add movement with a tree, or show off your playful side with a wall decal. Unlike some of the other rental-friendly decorating ideas out there, these are a great option if creativity isn’t your strong point as all you need to do is figure out where you want to position your sticker.

4. Fabric

If you’re fond of texture, you could also try using fabric as an alternative wall covering that will also be super hard wearing. There are endless step-by-step tutorials out there explaining how you can create this look yourself, otherwise you can also purchase pre-adhesed version as well.

5. Command hooks

Last but by no means least, Command hooks are an item every renter should have at hand.

Easy to put up and take down, use these nifty hooks to hang your towels, bathrobes, coats and bags without the need for nails or screws. Genius!

Check out this hidden little gem!

If you paid a visit to the quaint town of Bridgenorth in Shropshire, you’d find a bustling riverside town with a traditional market, cobbled lanes, some great afternoon tea locations and even a little funicular.

But tucked away down a side street, this two bedroom terrace home has come up for sale and has been causing quite a stir!

On the market for £199,950, what looks like a simple two bedroom home from the outside offers a pleasant surprise once you walk through the door. The description claims, “Dracup’s Cottage is a simply unique home that must be seen to be believed,” and we’re certainly first in line to get a taste of this stunning and elaborately designs interior!

Entering the home into the lounge, you then walk through the kitchen and utility room, then into ‘Dracup’s Cave’. With orate pillars and arches, the room is currently used as a lounge and dining area. What would you do with this space?

The rest of the home is decorated in beautiful and elaborate patterns, giving the whole property a sense of imagination and fairytales! And to top it off, check out the garden, set over several layered balconies.

This home’s space and traditional features stand it apart from anything we’ve seen in a long time – so why not take the plunge and get yourself a Hobbit-style pad now?

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Running you family home & saving money

Kitchen

How many times have you wasted food this year? Whether it’s the soggy salad you’ve forgotten about at the back of the fridge or a loaf of bread that’s gone mouldy, it’s easy to throw away food without thinking about it. But this can add up.

Love Food Hate Waste found out by making the most of the food you already have the average family with children can save around £700 a year – an amount not to be sniffed at.

Remember, the freezer is your friend – if you’re not going to use something freeze it to be used later. Meal planning, correct storage and knowing your date labels can also help. Use-by dates must be adhered to for safety, but best-by dates indicate food quality, not safety, so you can still eat food after this date although it may not be at its best.

Food waste is even more pressing at this time of year. Always think of what you can do with leftovers before you throw anything away.

Living room

Have you switched your phone or broadband deal yet? You can make great savings this way. Take a look at Ofcom accredited switching sites such as broadband.co.uk and Broadband choices for an overview of your options.

If you’re considering switching, phone your supplier first and ask for your MAC code. This code lets you switch suppliers easily and quickly, and you’ll probably find once you ask for this code you’ll be transferred to the retention department and may find you’re offered discounts or other special deals to stay.