Gardening tips to attract August homehunters

Your garden acts like a shop window for your home. Fill it with flowers or a subtle blend of plant structure and you will attract passers-by. This, coupled with your ‘for sale’ board, might be just what you need to clinch a deal this August – or at least entice viewers up your garden path, writes Caroline Knight.

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If there are gaps in your garden this August, never fear, you are not alone. Gardeners sometimes refer to this wonderful month as dire for flowers due to spent flowerheads, dryness and harsh light. But this flowering vacuum can easily be filled as there are many August stalwarts that bring a touch of magic to pots and borders.

However, select your colours with caution. Psychologists agree that red is the most emotionally intense colour. It stimulates the breathing and heartbeat, so perhaps this is what you need in order to attract a serious buyer. But this bold colour is comparatively difficult to place in a garden, although of course red roses are traditionally popular and ‘hot borders’ make a daring statement. Pink is far easier to accommodate as it is soothing and romantic and blends well with tranquil blue, which can promote peace and calm. Pastel shades of pink, blue and violet look beautiful in a cottage garden or naturalised border.

The colour yellow tends to provoke a reaction, although people have been shown to lose their tempers more easily in a yellow coloured environment. On the opposite side of the spectrum, purple is the colour of royalty and it can suggest luxury and wealth. It makes a splash of grandeur that is instantly noticed – Verbena bonariensis, for example, is seldom ignored. If you really want to make a statement plant yellow and purple together, they will not go unnoticed.

But even the colour green has immense value when carefully manipulated as it is refreshing and calming. Gardens can be beautiful without flowers if they utilise green in various shades, shapes and forms. Variegated forms of foliage such as Hedera helix ‘Gold Heart, shaped balls of Buxus, tall, pencil-thin conifers, strappy and spikey leaves such as Phormium and Astelia, can all be combined to make a spectacular garden that looks just as good in the winter as in the summer. What’s more, green is said to be the easiest colour on the eye, even being credited with improving vision.

Garden of the month on Zoopla

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Why do I like this garden? This semi-detached property in York has an outstanding rear garden that will definitely set it apart from its neighbours. The design has been carefully managed to create an illusion of space within a standard rectangular plot. We love the circular lawns which lead the eye around the site, and the pots at the end of the garden together with a shed – they offer a destination that we would like to explore.

Caroline KnightCaroline Knight is a garden designer working at Perfect Plants in East Sussex. This online retailer supplies top quality plants including bedding, perennials, shrubs and trees – many of which are home-grown – together with garden essentials. It has a team of dedicated horticultural experts who endeavour to provide an excellent all-round service to customers.


August 19, 2014 at 7:00 AM Leave a comment

Bungalows for sale could ‘solve Britain’s housing crisis’

Property developers should build more bungalows to help solve Britain’s housing crisis, a Government minister has said.

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Increasing the supply of bungalows would enable older people to downsize to smaller homes, freeing up larger properties for families, Brandon Lewis claimed.

Britain’s shortage of homes has been one of the key factors driving up house prices during the past year, as the supply of suitable properties has failed to keep up with demand.

Brandon Lewis

Housing minister Brendon Lewis (left) with transport minister Robert Goodwill

Lewis, who was appointed as Minister for Housing and Planning in last month’s reshuffle, said many couples wanted to trade down to smaller properties once their children had left home, but they were reluctant to move into apartments or retirement homes.

He said the “quintessentially British bungalow” was an important part of Britain’s housing mix and developers should build more of them.

But despite the need for bungalows, there has been a sharp drop in the number of these properties being built.

Only around 2 per cent of new homes are bungalows, with just 300 of the properties built in 2009 – the latest year for which figures are available.

Lewis said his own parents-in-law showed why the country needed more bungalows.

“My in-laws are in their 70s, pretty fit, mentally really with it; they live in a normal house which they both struggle with,” he told the Daily Mail.

“They are not ready to move into what they would see as a retirement home, but where they live there is not access to bungalows.

“We should be looking to love bungalows a little bit more. They are an important part of the mix.”

Bungalows not only enable older people to downsize to a more manageable home, but they can also help them to release substantial equity in the process.

For example, a two bedroom bungalow in Southampton is currently on the market for £245,000, according to Zoopla.

But a four bedroom house in the same area is selling for £399,950.

The Government amended planning guidelines earlier this year requiring council planners in England to set aside a certain number of flats or bungalows for older people in a bid to meet the needs of Britain’s ageing population.

But developers are thought to be reluctant to build higher numbers of bungalows, as houses are generally more profitable.

Planning rules that require developers to build at least 30 homes on every hectare of land also make bungalows unappealing to developers.

Lewis’ call echoes the findings of a report by think tank the Policy Exchange that called for the planning system to be reformed to encourage developers to build more bungalows.

The group estimated that there were 25 million unused bedrooms in the homes of older people, which it partly attributed to the fact that many homeowners could not downsize to a bungalow.

August 18, 2014 at 1:46 PM 1 comment

British parents anticipate typically spending £180 on back-to-school costs

Money Advice Service

The majority of parents with children aged between four and 11 expect to spend just under £200, although one in 10 will outlay more than £900, writes the Money Advice Service.

With the new school year looming, it’s time to start thinking about essentials like books, uniforms and stationery that you can bank on having to pay for. Money Advice Service research reveals 21 per cent of parents intend to dip into their savings, while 26 per cent say they’ll rely on some form of credit to cover the costs, such as credit cards or an overdraft.

Many parents will have experienced back-to-school spending in previous years, with mixed results. One in six admitted they had overspent in the past, while more than two in five said they expected to blow their budget again this year.

 Find properties for sale near your child’s school on the Zoopla website. Simply type the name of the school into the Zoopla search box.

With 17 per cent of parents having admitting to being worried about what it costs to send their children back to school in the past, it makes sense to take steps to avoid any undue stress. Here are five that could help:

  1. List all the back-to-school essentials you need to buy, with a cost against each. Involve your child in the process so they can see how much you’re spending. With luck they’ll appreciate what you are spending on them and will take care of the items.
  2. Use the old school network. You don’t have to buy new, especially when it comes to uniforms your child will soon grow out of. The school may have a parents’ club where you can swap or buy trousers, shoes or jumpers for a fraction of what you’d spend at a major retailer.
  3. Keep your eyes peeled for special offers, sales and discount vouchers (which may be advertised or included in local newspapers or on junk mail).
  4. Raid your drawers for items of stationery your child will need when they return to school. There is no point in spending a small fortune on the high street when you have plenty of erasers, pens, pencils and writing pads lurking in cupboards at home.
  5. Start buying early. You may be able to pick up some items before they are sold out and you’re left paying more via the official school uniform provider. Retailers also tend to increase prices as term time draws near, so it pays to plan ahead.

Beyond the back to school shopping spree, it’s also a good time to check your home insurance policy to see if the contents of your child’s school bag are covered.

Research by the Money Advice Service found the average pupil to be carrying £122 worth of gadgets in their school bag, with smartphones most common but also including music players, tablets and calculators.

School bag insurance infographic

Don’t presume your home insurance policy will cover these items as standard – 40 per cent of parents found their child’s gadgets were not covered. If your policy doesn’t, find one that will or ask your current policy provider to quote you for this additional cover.

August 18, 2014 at 11:00 AM Leave a comment

Which ‘property porn addict’ are you?

With property browsing almost seemingly a national sport, online estate agent eMoov has characterized five property personalities. Which one are you?

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Do you find yourself looking at Zoopla for incredibly expensive property that you can only dream of affording? Or do you only look at homes that you can realistically afford?

It all depends on what type of property search personality you are, according to new research by eMoov.

It identified five personalities, including the ‘delusional dreamer’, the ‘aspirational architect’, the ‘nosey neighbour’, the ‘price prophet’ and the ‘enthusiastic explorer’.

            1. The Delusional Dreamer

                2. The Aspirational Architect

       3. The Nosey Neighbour

4. The Price Prophet

               5. The Enthusiastic Explorer

So if you are a daydreamer at heart, prone to drifting off and think about other things – especially those things that are in some way unobtainable, such as out of reach property prices – you’ll fall into the delusional dreamer category, says eMoov.

It means you like escaping to a different time and place, and tend to be grand in nature, usually seeking high value properties with pools, tennis courts and a helipad.

However, if you only look at properties you can realistically afford in a few years, then you’re a so-called aspirational architect, eMoov suggests.

The aspirational architect is an organizer and likes structure in their life. They’re logistical thinkers and always have a plan of action in whatever they do.

They’re also ambitious, driven individuals who are always striving to get ahead.

They tend to go for minimalistic properties that are the epitome of clean and tidy and are so architecturally beautiful they’re worthy of being featured on Grand Designs.

But if you regularly check the value of properties in your area, then you’ll be a nosey neighbour, eMoov says.

Check the current value of your property – or your neighbour’s – at Zoopla. Click on the ‘current values’ tab at the top of the Zoopla home page.

Nosey neighbours are more concerned with how others perceive them and their material surroundings, and so they do all they can to keep up with the Joneses.

They care about the community, know their neighbours well and perhaps even lead the local Residents Association.

They also tend to be quite competitive and are never quite satisfied or content with their own lot in life.

Insecurity plays a big factor with these individuals, so making sure that are not missing out on a bigger garden, extra bedroom or latest home design innovation is of the utmost importance to them.

Meanwhile, those who constantly recalculate the value of their property are defined by eMoov as price prophets.

These investors are always in touch with trends and financially savvy. They’re realistic, conscientious and a little obsessive about looking at property online.

Personality wise, they are spreadsheet sifters, forever knowing where their investments are successful and where they need to improve on their return – especially when it comes to property equity.

They purchase houses, but do not always make them homes, but investments instead.

And finally, there is the enthusiastic explorer, who always checks to see where they can move now with a dramatically different location at the same cost.

They spent their time researching faraway places that are not always practical. Explorers don’t tend to live within their means and are always planning their next adventure in the property market.

Which property search personality are you?

August 15, 2014 at 3:42 PM Leave a comment

London’s ‘floating village’ to include right to extend homes

Plans for a ‘floating village’ in London will include the right for homeowners to extend their properties, it has been revealed.

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The village in London’s Royal Docks was announced by the Mayor Boris Johnson earlier this year, with the aim of transforming the 15 acres of water with homes, restaurants and bars.

And today, the Mayor’s office exclusively told Zoopla that anyone who buys a property on the site will be able to apply to the borough for planning permission.

“Homeowners would have to apply to the borough for planning permission as per normal procedures when people want to build extensions,” a spokesman for the Mayor’s office said.

15.08.14 Float 2With the city running out of places to live, the project is seen as a welcome addition to the capital, with London’s Mayor Boris Johnson describing it as having ‘the potential to become one of the most sought after addresses in the capital”.

A total of 50 homes are expected to be built, with their bases being constructed off-site and then transported by water into place – the planning application for which will be submitted to Newham Council in the spring next year.

A floating walkway will lead back to land, where the city plans a much larger development with tens of thousands of homes.

In the past, the Royal Docks have serviced hundreds of cargo and passenger ships each day. But they have not been in use for several decades and so it is hoped that the floating village will restore London’s docklands to their former glory.

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August 15, 2014 at 2:01 PM Leave a comment

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