Posts filed under ‘Guest Post’
Move house and save money – how does that work? Well we’ve asked Helen Cripps from uSwitch to explain all in this guest post below…
Whether you have already moved, looking to move or about to move in, take a little shuffle away from the boxes or the property research, enjoy a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive and see what the energy experts uSwitch have to say about saving money in your new home…
1. You can save up to £316 just by switching gas and electricity suppliers!
A word of warning – if you don’t shop around, you will automatically be put onto a standard tariff, which can cost an average of £1211 a year, compared with the cheapest online deals which cost an average of a £895 a year. It may be that you have moved to a new area, to a different sized house, or even just next door, either way it’s always worth 10 minutes online to compare gas and electricity prices. Even though it may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of moving mayhem, the potential to save £316 per year really is not. It could be the cost of a removal company for a day, or at least 15 takeaways to help you ease into your new kitchen. At uSwitch all you need is your postcode!
2. While you have an empty space, make it an energy efficient space…
Whether refurbishing or not, the likelihood is that the majority of your belongings are still in boxes and that your new living space is still relatively clear. So now is the time to look at what small changes could be made to your surroundings that will save money in the months to come. Loft insulation, for example, can save you £128 per year. And let’s face it, when is your loft likely to be empty again? The insulation can be installed effectively (in a fool-proof DIY fashion) in under 2 hours! It might be just the displacement activity you’re looking for to avoid unpacking boxes. It’s definitely worth having a scout around to consider what money-saving measures you could implement that are not going to cost a fortune.
3. New surroundings – new habits?
There’s a link between habitat and habits, so moving house is a great opportunity to establish new routines and ditch some of the old ones. It could be a good time for a quick energy-saving makeover. With everything being unfamiliar, you get the chance to make a fresh start, or at least try and re-programme any lazy patterns of behaviour, like the obvious – leaving things switched on.
Here’s what a few appliances had to say…
“Unplug me! If I’m left plugged in I have to keep going. Waste of my energy, waste of your energy! Charge me at work for a couple of hours; you’re less likely to leave me plugged in for too long then.”
Overused Phone charger, Brighton
“Give me more powernaps! If you’re not using me, let me sleep. I don’t want to be logged into Facebook all day.”
Tired Computer, London
“We’re sick of standby! Neither on nor off, we just wait around, tapping our feet like Sonic the Hedgehog and wasting our energy!”
Just married Television & DVD Player, Suffolk
You’re probably now thinking – is my television on standby? Did I switch the bedroom light off? And when did I last check if I am with the cheapest Electricity supplier? Hopefully you have been inspired to make at least a couple of small changes to your home and habits. Time to start patching up that moving-house-sized hole in your wallet.
The house before renovation started.
In our latest guest blog, we asked property expert Jo King to share her knowledge and expertise when it comes to home renovation.
Jo bought her first property in 1978 at the age of 19 – a 3 bed terrace in East Sussex with plenty of potential for ‘added value’ which she went on to maximise.
With her husband Deric she has built, renovated and added value to a wide range of properties in East Sussex, Surrey and Devon.
Jo puts down their success to tight financial control and spotting the potential for ‘added value’ which has been achieved largely through a combination of physical hard work, thorough and detailed research, tenacity and endless persistence in the face of adversity.
2010 has been an exciting year for Jo and Deric as they embarked on another renovation project involving traditional and sustainable techniques.
Here are Jo’s top ten property renovation tips:
1. Planning Permission & Building Regulations
Familiarise yourself with current planning and building regulations for renovation work. Even if you are contracting out the work it helps to know what’s possible and the likely cost implications when viewing potential projects
Your Building Inspector will require a Structural Engineer’s calculations for Structural Alterations.
Demolition of the gable end for new window installation
2. The ‘Wow’ factor
To achieve the ‘wow’ factor – money spent on an architect can reap rewards. The whole project will have a better finish and run more smoothly if you have good detailed plans.
Finished gable end
Draw up a detailed budget and stick to it. Your builder, architect and engineer should view potential projects and give you an overall budget figure. If the project is too small to justify a team like this, it’s still important to establish your costs.
In general materials and labour will be roughly 50:50 so doing the works yourself can potentially make savings. Be aware most electrical and all gas installations should be carried out or inspected and certified by appropriately registered contractors – your Building Inspector will ask for these certificates.
4. Contractor or DIY Route?
Consider using a skilled contractor or ask him to work alongside you. Having the right skills, tools and equipment to do a professional, speedy job can save you money in ways you hadn’t thought of. Doing the work yourself may slow the project and impact on financial costs. Labouring for your builder can be a good cost-saving method and you can learn along the way.
5. Choosing your team
Get recommendations. Meet them, discuss your project, check previous work and make sure the chemistry is right.
We have learned to pay more for a team who work well with us, are up for a challenge, enjoy their work and take pride in the results. It saves money in the long-term and hassle.
Get your builder to commit to your job until completion, but be flexible. If he’s good he will have regular customers who might need him to attend to small urgent jobs, accept this and don’t give him a hard time.
Completed house. View from the rear.
6. Fixed Price or Day Rate?
If your builder is working to a fixed price ensure your specification includes everything – the extras can be financially crippling if you don’t plan properly.
We prefer to work alongside our builder, paying him a day rate. We know we’ll get a good day’s work and experience has taught us renovation work usually uncovers unexpected changes along the way.
7. Demolition Works and Recycling
Building materials have become expensive and difficult to dispose of. Skip companies have to pass on the cost of additional red tape for building material disposal and highways licenses. Recycle where possible – it’s more sustainable.
Make sure your scaffolder knows exactly what works you plan to carry out so he can erect the structure according to your needs. Get a fixed price for the estimated period of works and a weekly rate thereafter in case the project overruns.
If you use a contractor check they have up to date Contractors’ Liability Insurance. If not, it’s something you should take out to cover the works. Run a safe and tidy site to help avoid insurance claims.
10. Project Manage to a Happy Ending
Whether you employ a Project Manager or manage the project yourself, regular communication with site is essential to ensure everyone understands what’s required of them. Get materials delivered to site in plenty of time to ensure continuation of works. Be prompt, clear and realistic when making decisions. Dithering costs money.
It’s no newsflash that properties all across the UK are using excess energy with serious financial and environmental consequences. To solve the problem, there are plenty of big ideas about what should be done to change the way we consume energy as a nation for a greener future.
Perhaps the bigger challenge is making every homeowner feel empowered to make small changes in their homes today. For many, the trouble is just knowing where to start. Here are 3 easy steps to help you get on your way, thanks to our friends at MyBuilder.com and The Energy Saving Trust.
Step 1 – Identify problem areas
Are you leaking heat?
Any interior designer will tell you that a lick of paint or luxurious wallpaper can make a home feel all warm and cozy inside, but in reality, it’s what’s behind the walls that really makes the difference.
- Adding cavity wall & loft insulation (270mm) alone could save homeowners over £200 a year on heating bills. Installing insulation is a quick and fairly inexpensive job, taking just a day or two to fit. Experienced insulation specialists can help you pick out suitable materials and get the best rates with their trade discounts.
Often overlooked, floors can be a sieve for heat.
- It’s easy to mend gaps and cracks around floors and skirting boards. DIY quick fixes can be taken care of using a tube of sealant and a bit of attention to detail.
- If you think your floors could use a complete overhaul consult a flooring installer for professional advice.
What’s the status with your windows and doors?
- Check all external access points for leaks. London builder and sustainability expert, James Christofides recommends you get your window fitter to put construction tape around the window and secure it properly with fabric so it’s airtight.
- If you don’t already have double glazing, what are you waiting for? According to Energy Saving Trust you could be saving around £130 a year by installing sufficient double glazing. If you’re buying new windows, always check that they’re up to standard. Recent changes to regulations require that all new window installations have an Energy Rating of C or above.
How are you heating your home?
Do you have a high efficiency condensing boiler? If so, well done! Otherwise, it may be time to make a switch. Did you know that most boilers have a maximum lifespan of 12 years? If your boiler is ageing or has a low efficiency rating, it’s worth exploring your options and upgrading. Not only can you save hundreds on your yearly heating bills, you can also add major value to your property. Whether you’re just looking for advice or you’re ready to supply and fit, make sure you contact a Gas Safe engineer or plumber.
Step 2 – Get a second and third opinion!
Once you have an idea of what you want to do, make sure you seek out plenty of professional advice and get multiple competitive quotes. Whenever comparing quotes it’s important to make sure you’re comparing like for like. Ask each tradesman for a breakdown so you can assess costs based on materials and labour to get a better idea of value for money. You can find and communicate with recommended builders and tradesmen online using MyBuilder.com.
Step 3 – Put it in writing
Once you decide to forge ahead with your energy saving home improvements and engage a contractor, cover yourself by putting your plans on paper. Always sign a contract and make sure you get guarantees for any materials.
Recently there has been a lot of online and offline column inches dedicated to privately selling your property. Only last week we saw the OFT come out and suggest consumers consider “private seller platforms”.
Prospective buyers who come to view your property could well be looking at your car, your identity, your family, and your future! Why would you risk all that to avoid paying a fee to an estate agent?
Most people have a camera on their phone or own a digital camera these days but that doesn’t make us all professional photographers.
Your local estate agency may well use a professional photographer; or will have trained in the field of residential property photography and use a professional camera and equipment. We do this to ensure that your property – the externals and internals – are well represented and portrayed in a manner that will encourage people to view the property.
Car key theft
Where do we typically leave our car keys…near the front door. Thieves target private sellers deliberately. Professional thieves know that private sellers are easy to distract as they are so pre-occupied with trying, so hard, to sell their home.
Houses with drives are especially vulnerable (for some reason many people feel the photo looks better with their expensive car parked on the drive). An experienced estate agent will spot a bogus buyer a mile off.
Bank statements tend to be left anywhere within the safety of ones own home. An experienced agent will conduct and control the viewing. Private sellers often let people walk around a second time unaccompanied.
An experienced Estate Agent knows how to balance a viewing without letting a buyer out of their sight – the slightest unusual behaviour is instinctively sensed.
Just at the point of exchange…
A private seller is likely to miss all the subtle clues that an experienced agent will pick up on. How many private buyers slap themselves on the back for saving on estate agents fees only to get blackmailed out of thousands, of pounds just before exchange of contracts? What are your options? Reduce drastically, or lose your buyer, plus the home you thought you were about to buy.
You are the weakest link
Add to this the pressure of everyone else in the chain of transactions not being able to move because of your buyer! Very seldom does a seller realise that by going it alone without the experience of an expert behind them, actually makes them a potentially weak link and high risk buyer in the eyes of another vendor, and especially the vendors agent who will have a moral duty to flag this up at the point of an offer.
A private seller will not want to get off to a strained start by asking for extra contact details, work numbers, email addresses, number plates, solicitor details etc. Add to that the sense of excitement at the prospect of the viewing! An experienced agent will not only take care of their own staff safety, but they will also do this automatically for their clients. Part of the filtering process is listening to the response to these questions. An experienced agent will sense any evasiveness.
Negotiations and Re-negotiations
A private seller is rarely polished in the art of negotiating, let alone re-negotiating when it comes to property. Property negotiations are a very different beast to general sales negotiations. An experienced agent will have built up a thorough understanding of their client, their wants, needs and emotions. These are all invaluable tools that the private seller will rarely have at their disposal.
Making the move actually happen
The vast majority of people are ultimately trying to achieve one thing when selling – the ability to move! Of course they want to do well financially, but most people simply want to move to their new home in a calm, confident and reassured fashion. In my experience, most people are prepared to pay a little extra for peace of mind, and the enhanced probability of it actually happening. Realistically this is far more likely to happen in the hands of a local professional. We know what we are doing, and take a pride in what we do, this is where the no sale – no fee comes in!
Written by Steve Hatch
Director at Castles Estate Agents – Harringay Branch
With daily talk of a potential recovery and more properties coming on to the market, we asked North West London estate agent Greene & Co. to give us their top tips on what to do in order to get your house ready for the market.
1. Keep it clean – You need to take this seriously!
- No amount of smooth talking from the agent is going to help sell your house if the place is a tip.
- Even if you are the cleanest, tidiest person in town, the reality is that you are probably going to need to do at least a few things to spruce up your home.
- Make your home really sparkle – especially on the day the photographer turns up. Get the carpets, sofa covers, oven and windows cleaned and pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms, which need to be inviting and hygienic.
- Start with fresh folded towels and a few strategically placed plants.
2. De-clutter – Clutter will shrink your home!
- Even if arranged neatly it will make your home not only appear smaller and messier, but can distract your prospective buyers, so they won’t notice all the positive qualities your property has to offer.
- The most effective action of all is to clear clutter away.
- To make some space, move unnecessary furniture into the attic, basement or garage.
- Better still, get it off the property altogether.
- Remember that homebuyers will open everything.
- If your cupboards look jammed full and buyers are hit by falling shoes when they open the doors, their lasting impression will be one of a lack of storage space.
- Self-storage depots are an invaluable tool for the house mover. They’re inexpensive and convenient.
3. Freshen up – Flowers can make a difference
- A fresh coat of neutral paint or new tiling can do wonders to smarten a tired looking property, as will putting in matching chrome fittings, a freshly painted door, ironed bed linen in the bedroom and brightening the living room with subtle lighting.
- Strategically placed flowers throughout a home can really make a difference too.
- A little time and effort in preparing your home for selling will help the process be faster and more successful.
4. Make your home “anonymous” – Don’t distract potential buyers
- Whilst we understand that selling your home is a stressful time, it is important to remove emotion from the equation by putting away any personal and symbolic items, such as family photo’s and souvenirs. This allows potential buyers the opportunity to see the property as their potential home, not yours.
- It also helps them concentrate on the aspects that they should be looking at; your desirable home – not being distracted by your amazing paraphernalia.
5. The exterior – First impressions count
- Do as much as you can to ensure that the outside of your property looks clean and tidy.
- Take bins away, tidy up communal areas and if you have a garden, your lawn should be freshly cut and cleared of loose leaves and grass cuttings.
- Remember that your front door may start to colour a potential buyer’s initial impression before it is even opened!
6. The facts – You need to be honest too!
- You stand a much better chance of selling your property if you have acknowledged any problems and reflected them in the asking price.
- Forearmed is forewarned – up front honesty about your property from your first negotiation with a buyer will mean that they will have less reason to reduce their offer price or change their mind later in the proceedings.
- We would also recommend that you ask your agent to give you an honest opinion of anything about your home which is likely to affect its sale.
- You may even find this hurtful initially and you may not agree (perhaps you spent hours painting that hallway bright green!) – but our team are experts who want to make it as easy as possible for you to sell your home.
- Their honest advice is always given with your best interests firmly at heart.
- When your agent does complete the particulars, make sure you see them and check them carefully.
- Have they missed anything?
- Does the description accurately reflect the character of your home?
- Do the photographs show the property to its best advantage?
- Once you’ve agreed on the particulars, make sure you have copies to hand all the time – just in case a would-be purchaser arrives without their copy.
If you’d like to guest post on the Zoopla! Blog we’d love to hear from you.
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