Rental blog: Sometimes renting is a full time job, says Jeannie

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.

This is the first time I’ve rented a home managed by agents. Most of my previous landlords were hands-on or had a handy man who’d come to the rescue  – bless Gordon and his useful box of tools who stepped in when an ex-flatmate and I, newly moved out of home, had maintenance problems. Poor man even changed our light bulbs.

For the most part, I think our letting agents and our house had quite a good relationship. There’d been no unexpected visits (cue turn down the music and hide the empty wine bottles) or need to spam them with messages just to get a washer replaced. We needed a new lawnmower, they obliged. We requested they take a look at securing and glazing our windows, they sent someone round to get a quote. They even sent us a Christmas card!

But it was after I received yet another phone call at work , that a hint of irritation began to creep into my attitude towards them. Who had to go, buy and assemble the lawnmower? Me. Who had to let the window company in and wake at my housemates early on Saturday morning? Me. I even had irate Andy phone me one morning requesting I be at the house to let him in to do a gas and fire safety check. When I explained I was at work, like most people on a weekday, he got in a strop and said I’d wasted his time.

Thing is, I had never made the arrangement nor given him my number, but somehow the letting agents, who are getting paid to manage the property, seemed to have selected me as site co-ordinator. Perhaps I should ask for a cut or a decrease in my share of the rent?

But then I have to stop and remind myself of the mysterious case of the missing toilet handle: at a house I once rented, landlord-appointed odd-job man Majek came to fix a toilet. After staring at it for five minutes, he unscrewed the handle, walked out the door and was never seen again.

So sometimes while it might be a bit of hassle to organise repairs for our rented house it at  least gives me a never ending stream of odd stories (thanks to Majek and co.) with which to entertain my friends!

July 15, 2011 at 3:51 PM Leave a comment

First-time buyer blog:Get your poker face ready, says Emma

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.

By now we’ve got a good understanding of the rules of being a first-time buyer. We have our poker face finely tuned, done the research and are holding our cards close to our chest. The opponents are also ready and waiting.

As first-time buyers we are being constantly reminded that we are in the driving seat, and in a good position. According to Phil Spencer, we are the “darlings of the property market”. But do our fellow players – the estate agent and the seller feel the same? And who is really at an advantage here? The estate agent, surely?

Our property search started by asking friends and relatives for advice. Two pieces in particular have stuck with me. The first, from my dad, who told me that as much as we fall in love with a house, we must always be prepared to walk away. The second, from a work colleague, who told me to remember the estate agent is working on behalf of the seller only.

Estate agents have already been given a stereotype – they’re often mentioned in the same category as parking police and tax men. However, I must admit I’ve developed a bit of admiration for this profession.  They’re  a group of people who start on the back foot in any relationship because of our preconceptions about them, but they use the smartest tactics to win us round, and, ultimately, sell a house. They have to be salespeople without appearing to be, and at the same time must do what it takes to close a sale. It’s impressive, I’ll give them that.

We’ve been advised to be friendly to our estate agent – if something new comes on the property market we want to be the couple they call first. TV property experts Kirsty and Phil have even recommended buying them a coffee. I see their point, but I’m also a first-time buyer in a struggling property market with a 25% deposit to find.

I read an article from a journalist a while ago who had done some training with an estate agent in London. Apparently one of the agents had said first-time buyers were an east touch. What happened to us being at an advantage? I guess this is where our tactics must come in, and despite the emotion running all the way through we must remain strong and focussed.

Who knew this was going to be such a financial and psychological game of endurance?

Bring it on.

July 15, 2011 at 3:32 PM 2 comments

Looking for a home to rent? Don’t worry – you’re not the only one

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.

If you’re one of the army of people who’ve been looking for a new home to rent recently, then the latest news from the Association of Residential Rental Agents (or ARLA for short) won’t come as a surprise.

What they’ve found, and you no doubt already know, is that there’s been an increase in the number of people on the hunt for a rental home. Specifically, ARLA asked its members – who are all residential letting agents – about demand and found that 74 per cent of them had more prospective tenants than homes to let over the past three months.

Two years ago, they asked a similar question, but found only 10 per cent  of letting agents had an over-supply of would-be tenants.

“There is a clear shortage of homes to buy in the UK,” says ARLA’s Ian Potter. “Faced with this, many people are turning to rental homes as a more flexible option than buying; yet as our research highlights that the dearth of properties is just as real in the private rented sector and is showing no signs of improvement.”

One thing is for sure: the rental market is going through a crazy period at the moment and ARLA’s findings chime with’s own research into the sector. Next week, we’ll release our own quarterly Rental Index showing just that.  What we can say now is that although the number of homes available to rent has recently risen slightly, demand is dramatically exceeding supply and therefore rents are rising very fast. For example asking rents in London up are up 15 per cent year on year.

And at the moment, it looks like this trend will continue. As more first-time buyers find themselves renting for longer while they save up a deposit to buy, so rental prices will continue to rise as competition becomes more intense. On the plus side, the strong yields are luring more buy-to-let investors back into the market so that’s why supply of rented properties is increasing.

July 14, 2011 at 10:51 AM 2 comments

Ozzy Osbourne selling home in California – and there’s not a trace of goth

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.’s favourite gothic (and sometimes shambolic) reality TV family, The Osbournes, have put their surprisingly bright and sunny LA home on the market for a not completely unreasonable £8.1 million.

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The Black Sabbath frontman and his outspoken TV host wife Sharon have reportedly decided to sell their Cape Cod-inspired home in the gated Hidden Hills community in Calabasas, California. The decision follows the family’s well-publicised tax woes and although they’ve now settled their £1 million bill it’s no doubt as good a time as any to revise a property portfolio.

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According to the breathless property details, the six bedroom home is set on 2.5 acres and features a “dramatic foyer”, a basement studio and home theatre, two pools and a “barbeque island” (you can just see Ozzy out there tonging some hamburgers, can’t you?). The master bedroom suite has a wood-paneled walk-in wardrobe and its own stone fireplace – perfect for those chilly LA winters.

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The property pictures show a kind of rococo meets country manor via LA kind of vibe without a trace of the contemporary gothic charm the family became so well known for cultivating during their reality TV years.

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The house, purchased in 2007 by the Osbournes, has even made it into the respected Architectural Digest, where interior designer Martyn Lawrence-Bullard outlined his main challenges which apparently included keeping Sharon Osbourne’s knack for shopping under control.

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“I did have to control Sharon from buying everything she could see,” Lawrence-Bullard told the magazine. “We pared down and chose a few beautiful, good things for the house.”

They even created a sunny spot in the living room for the Prince of Darkness himself to sit and paint, Lawrence-Bullard told the magazine.

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The Osbournes reportedly bought the home after their long-running family reality TV show wrapped and after selling their Beverley Hills goth pad to none other than Christina Aguilera, who is now selling that house on for £8.4 million.

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Oh, and if you’re picturing yourself as the lord or lady of a rock star pad, you can rent out the Osbourne’s Malibu home. It’ll only set you back £25,000 a month. Wonder how much of that will go to the tax man?

July 13, 2011 at 12:01 PM Leave a comment

Katie Price sells Surrey home: A blessing or a curse?

This is a legacy post from the blog which is now maintained as an archive within the Zoopla blog. Links have been preserved.  is always thrilled to hear about a house sale – especially when  it relates to blog favourite  Katie Price and her decadent Surrey home.

You may remember that the ex-glamour model shelled out £2.5m for the home in 2008 with then hubby Peter Andre and lived in it with her three kids. Once the couple split, she stayed put, eventually moving in second husband and cage fighter Alex Reid, with whom she parted ways earlier this year.

Now, after trying to unload the property, which has been on the market for more than six months at £2.9m , Price reportedly knocked £250,000 off the asking price and  has now –  finally – exchanged contracts on the home.

All this is good news for the reality TV star formerly known as Jordan, who reportedly slashed the price because she was convinced  the Woldingham home was “cursed” and would jinx her relationship with new love Leandro, who as far as can tell, does not have a surname.

These days, Price and her Argentinian polo player love are settled in a £2 million country mansion in West Sussex, which they are in the process of renovating.

And if the interior of her former Surrey home is anything to go by, her West Sussex bolthole may be transformed into a glamour pad  set to rival the most blinged-up Hollywood homes.

Price reportedly spent  £500,000 sprucing up the eight bedroom Surrey mansion whose new owners will now be able to enjoy a sprawling  Gone With the Wind style staircase, plush purple lounge room, indoor pool, stables, gym and 1.3 acres of grounds.

She says: “Cursed”.  We say: “One ex-glamour model’s curse is another’s eight bedroom blessing”.

July 12, 2011 at 11:06 AM Leave a comment

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