It might be rather damp and chilly outside, but February can be the perfect month to don coats and wellies in order to start sprucing up the appearance of a property, writes Caroline Knight and Karin Hawkes.
The excess rainfall we have endured so far this year will have washed debris into gutters, so clearing those should be a priority.
Next – provided it is ice-free – you could jet wash your paths and driveway. There’s certainly no danger of a hosepipe ban. You might be pleasantly surprised just how much difference a clean-up makes – but check the pointing as any loose stones or mortar will inevitably become dislodged during this rather harsh process. Mossy paths, uneven surfaces and slimy decking can present a very real ‘trip and slip’ hazard – and while sweet Auntie Mabel wouldn’t dream of suing you if she fell and broke her arm, cantankerous Kevin next door might grasp the opportunity of compensation as he happens to know that you have a duty of care towards visitors to your home.
An even greater risk of slipping applies if and when we are blessed with snow.
First, we should be thankful that we don’t reside in countries such as Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands where there is a legal obligation to keep pavements cleared. In the UK, during snowy times we might witness householders rushing outdoors ready for action, but they are more likely to build snowmen than shovel away the snow.
Under the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 our duty extends only to visitors on our property. If you think you are being kind by clearing snow from the pavement and someone subsequently slips over you might find you are held liable.
Most homes are looking pretty glum this month, so if yours is on the market make sure it stands out from the dowdy crowd. Wash the paintwork, clean the windows and clear leaves, twigs and last year’s dead undergrowth from the front garden.
Consider pots, window boxes and containers to inject a burst of much needed colour into the garden and around the front door. There are plenty of flowering plants looking their best this month, including pansies, violas, primroses, heathers, hellebores, daffodils and early tulips.
• Select pots with care. Avoid small containers and ensure your pot has plenty of drainage holes – you can hardly have enough
• Consider putting a plastic pot inside a clay pot so that you get the benefit of better moisture retention together with pleasant appearance
• Add crocks to the bottom, just like granny used to do. Crocks stop roots from blocking the drainage holes, they also encourage air to stay in the compost and they prevent plants from drowning in too much moisture. You can use broken pieces of terracotta, gravel, or light bulky matter such as polystyrene
• Use soil-free compost which is fluffy and light, but buy the best you can afford as it will have more nutrients and better growth potential. Fill your container to around two thirds full.
• Make a hole, loosen the roots of your colourful flowers and pop them in
• Fill your pots with compost to within 3cm of the top
• Gently firm down the compost, then water gently. Top up with compost and water again
Zoopla garden of the month
Why do we approve of this front garden at a six bedroom detached in Kent, which is currently on the market for £595,000?
• It’s neat, clean and tidy, with enough greenery to provide interest but no dead or slimy plants to remind us that it is still winter
• There’s just enough height to provide a little variation and we like the way that the clean driveway has been framed with evergreen planting so it doesn’t give the impression of a wide, barren space
• The heather bed in the centre divides the space discreetly and encourages people not to park too close to the front door
Caroline Knight and Karin Hawkes are passionate about the beneficial impact that outdoor space can have on a property. An effective garden, courtyard or even parking space can not only provide considerable charm but also offer enormous benefits for occupants of homes of all sizes – from the tiniest, diminutive dwelling to the most expansive country estate. This is why it is essential to make the most of your outside space before putting your property on the market.
Caroline and Karin, who met while studying for a BA (Hons) in garden design, feel that front gardens represent a vastly neglected area. Their design and maintenance service, Kerb Appeal South East, seeks to correct this imbalance, thereby forming a missing link in the house sales process within Kent,Sussex and Surrey. They are on a mission to enable sellers to enhance their properties with the minimum of fuss and upheaval, thereby maximising the selling potential of any home.
The associated costs of buying a home are often overlooked in favour of the major expense, the house itself. It’s easy to come unstuck if you fail to budget along the way for these often hidden, one off costs.
Costs range from search fees to mortgage arrangement fees and can add up to thousands of pounds with many first-time buyers, in particular, getting caught out by the extra fees they will have to pay.
Here are some of the main costs associated with buying:
One of the largest chunks of money goes on Stamp Duty, which is charged at 3 per cent for properties valued at between £250,000 and £500,000. It compares to just 1 per cent for properties valued at between £125,000 and £250,000.
Fees on average tend to cost around £1,000 depending on the services you require for the purchase. Make sure that you get a quote upfront before the solicitor does any work as some will charge by the hour, while others will do the job for a set fee.
Lender related fees
There are then smaller costs that may need paying depending on what deal you have struck with your lender. These include valuation fees paid to a lender for checking the property is worth the amount they are lending and a booking fee for selecting a mortgage deal. A larger cost is likely to be a mortgage arrangement fee, which can run into several thousand pounds. However, a lender may offer some or all of these charges for free depending on the mortgage deal you have agreed and so it is worth checking on the details and shopping around.
You will also need to budget for a survey of the property and for searches for anything unusual about property. Searches are conducted via the Local Authorities and are designed to check whether there are any issues such as planning permissions or planned roadworks that are in motion that may effect the property. These tend to cost around £500 each, but it again depends on the scope of the survey required.
And don’t forget the all-important removal fees as these can also run into several thousand pounds depending on the services your require.
More information about buying a home can be found on the Zoopla website.
Our pick of top 10 Indoor Swimming Pools that will keep you going till the summer.
1. Best of both worlds…an indoor and outdoor pool in one.
8 bed in The Bishops Avenue, London, £16M – Bargets
2. The perfect escape…this pool is surrounded with giant screens so you can choose your surroundings.
5 bed in Belgravia, London, £12,250,000 – Knight Frank
3. The chandelier says it all.
11 bed in Cheshire, POA – Jackson-Stops & Staff
4. This ski chalet pool has a distinct party feel about it…and who doesn’t love a good pool party?
7 bed in Rhone Alpes, France £9.8M – Athena Advisors
5. We just love the ceiling over this pool.
7 bed in Loughborough, POA – Alexanders
6. The floor to ceiling glass makes this indoor pool feel like it’s outdoors.
5 bed in Liverpool, £2M – Savills
7. Fancy a pool party…then this pool is ideal complete with a bar in the water.
6 bed in Hatfield, £4,750,000 – Savills
8. This uniquely shaped pool is a nice change from the usual.
7 bed in Chelsea, £84,500 pcm – Prestige Capital Properties
9. A welcome surprise to find a pool underneath the floor of this 2 bed flat in London.
2 bed in Crouch End, £795,000 – Foxtons
10. How elegant – a welcome change from the typical pool.
9 bed in Surrey, £15M – Hamptons
After it was revealed last week that Britain’s smallest £1m property offered less space than a London Underground tube carriage, Zoopla looks at what other properties of a similar size are currently on the market to buy or rent.
A one bedroom property offering a living room and a bedroom – both measuring 2.8m by 2.6m each – is being offered for sale in South East London.
For £125,000, it also comes with a kitchen, shower room and sole use of a patio garden.
Similar ‘tube carriage sized’ properties are also available on the rental market.
An unfurnished studio flat in New Malden is available to rent for £650 a month. With only an electricity bill to pay, it is described by the agent as being in a ‘great location and priced to let quickly’.
A more luxurious rental is available in Roehampton at £1,200 a month. The property is brand new and includes a breakfast bar, high gloss kitchen and porcelain tiles in the bathroom.
It is described by Carringtons, the agent handling the sale, as being in a peaceful and quiet, affluent area with plenty of free parking and close to all amenities. It is 10 minutes by car to Putney town centre. Gas, water and council tax bills are included in the price.