Phil Spencer’s property tip of the month – tips for getting the inside track on the neighbours


When buying a property, very few of us actually think about taking the time to talk to the potential new neighbours. Talking to the neighbours should be a vital part of the buying process. When you buy, the seller will fill out a Seller’s Property Information Form (SPIF) which your solicitor will handle for you, but knocking on the door can head off and warn you of any possible disputes down the line.

The agent selling the property will be a great source of local information when it comes to schools, local amenities and transport, but it’s very unlikely they will know anything about the neighbours, who could be a hive of information info for you, not to mention help you make your buying decision.

1. When you view the property, ask the sellers a general question such as ‘What the neighbours are like’. From this you should get some insight – maybe they have kids, maybe they are elderly, maybe they rent the property – this will help with intros when you do knock at the door.

2. Don’t be afraid to knock at the door, but make sure you try and knock at a time that might suit the neighbours. For instance if they have kids, early morning might not fit in with the school run or if they are elderly, a late night visit might not the best idea. That’s why it is important to ask the owners some questions and get some information on them before knocking.

3. Try not to overstay your welcome and don’t expect to be asked inside for a coffee, but be polite and explain you have been viewing the property and you’re keen to say hello ahead of making any offer.

4. The outside of your neighbour’s house should tell you some of the story. Is it well kept, the garden in a tidy state, does it look well maintained. Clearly you shouldn’t be overly critical as we all lead busy lives, but the exterior could give you valuable clues.

Whilst getting to know your neighbours a little before you move in is only a small part of the buying process it is only takes a little effort into what will likely be your biggest ever investment and in my eyes is well worth doing. Either way you’ll learn something positive or negative that will mean you’re more informed when it comes to possibly making an offer.

December 27, 2013 at 9:51 AM 12 comments

Wishing you a Merry Christmas…

Zoopla loves everything about Christmas, from the Carol singers to the Roast Turkey. And we hope you do too!

Christmas cards

We would like to wish all our readers a happy, healthy and peaceful festive season.

We’ve loved having you visit us and read our articles, blogs, tweets and facebook posts.

See you in the New Year!

December 25, 2013 at 10:00 AM Leave a comment

Top 10 #propertyoftheweek Picks – Christmas Dining

A selection of our top 10 dining rooms that we’d love to be enjoying our Christmas dinner in next week. Listed in no particular order as we’d like to hear what your no.1 is, so please vote in the poll below for your favourite.

1. A cosy dining area complete with open fire.
4 bed in Billingshurst, £895,000 – Chewton Rose


2. A dining room fit for a Christmas banquet.
4 bed in Surrey, £2M – Hamptons


3. Could you go for a pink theme this Christmas?
5 bed in Leicester, £409,995 – David Wilson Homes


4. What a great dining table and a great open plan living space.
4 bed in London, £10.5M – Cluttons


5. A beautiful country style dining area.
4 bed in Essex, £2.65M – Savills


6. A pretty circular table is great for keeping everyone involved in conversation.
3 bed in London, £999,999 – James Pendleton


7. Mixing old style character with a modern touch.
3 bed in London, £3.35M – Banbury Ball


8. Homely and cosy feel to this bright family dining room.
5 bed in Pudsey, £550,000 – Waite & Co


9. Love the rich colours of this room, perfect for the occasion.
6 bed in Witham, £2.85M – Chewton Rose


10. The bench seating ties in beautifully with the exposed beams.
3 bed in London, £2.5M – Domus Nova


Send us a link via Twitter to your #propertyoftheweek on Zoopla and our pick of the Top 10 will feature on the blog every Friday.

December 20, 2013 at 12:06 PM Leave a comment

Buying a house with stables is not horseplay

Buying a horse is not just for Christmas, but a big commitment in terms of both time and expense – and it may involve moving home.

12.12.13 Paddocks 1

Keeping horses on site may sound like an extravagance, but it means owners can save on renting fields and stables.

And perhaps most importantly, it saves time. Travelling to a rented stable may take at least half an hour one way, which is clearly not ideal if you need to visit your horse a couple of times a day.

If a horse is housed in stables just yards away from your own property, it is going to take just 10 minutes to do a feed instead of potentially more than an hour.

And of course, there’s the luxury of being able to see your horse over the fence from your kitchen window.

Old Vicarage farm is a Grade II Listed property built in the 1850s that has undergone a complete modernisation.

The six bedroom home is seven miles from Cardigan in Wales and is currently on the market for £659,000 via Rural Scene.

It comes complete with several outbuildings – including a stable yard with three loose boxes, a stone barn and garage – and 24 acres of land. The paddocks are conveniently sized and most have water troughts

12.12.13 Paddocks 2

12.12.13 Paddocks 3

Properties with fields are not restricted to those with a million pounds budget and can be obtained for a few hundred thousand pounds.

A three bedroom detached house in Wigton is currently on the market with land and estate agents Donald Scott for £300,000 and comes complete with two fields extending to two acres.

12.12.13 Paddocks 5

12.12.13 Paddocks 6

For those with a larger budget, a five bedroom converted mill in Leicestershire is for sale via Howkins and Harrison for £800,000.

The detached property has five double bedrooms, with paddocks and a stable block.

12.12.13 Paddocks 7

December 20, 2013 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Top 10 tips for staging your home for the New Year

Christmas is coming and before we know it, it’ll be 2014. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your house isn’t still for sale in 2015, by home staging expert Sam Ashdown.

Selling a house during the Christmas period can be tricky. Shiny decorations and nosy relatives will put off even the hardiest of viewers. But once you’ve taken down the tinsel, and sent Great Aunt Hilda packing, what can you do to make sure your home has the ‘wow’ factor for the early spring buyers?

Here are some practical tips to help you ‘spring’ into your new home:

1. Heat it up

The thought of viewing an unheated house is uninviting and won’t create the right first impression on a viewing. If you know you’re going to arrive at the same time as your viewers, set the heating timer to come on a few hours prior to the viewing. Not only will the house be toasty warm, it’ll prevent any noises of boilers kicking in. Before they arrive, maybe pop the fire on low too if you have one, it makes a living room so warming and homely.

path_clear_snow2. Clear the path

If we have snow – and the forecasters say we will – ensure your front path is shovelled to make it clear, and gritted to prevent slip ups. Trawling through the snow to the front door isn’t massively inviting.

3. Let there be light

Create a warm, welcoming atmosphere even before your viewers step through your front door, by switching on all the lights, just like you see in showhomes. If the viewing is arranged for after the sun has set, leave the overhead lights off, and instead light all the lamps, for a cosier look. Don’t shut any curtains as it will make rooms seem closed in. Take advantage of timers too – if people go past your home and see for the sale sign, your home will seem more interesting with lights on.

4. Lighten up

Winter often encourages us to seek out deeper, richer colours in fabrics and bedding. To change the mood for Spring, change bedding and soft furnishings, like cushions and throws. Spring colours are soft pastels, like duck-egg blue, pale lemon and soft greens. Sprinkle some of these around for a fresh Spring-like feel.

5. Don’t forget the garden

If your garden is looking a bit worse for wear after Winter, it’s time to spruce it up – a well-presented garden can add thousands to the perceived value of a house. And there aren’t many buyers out there who will be keen to get stuck into an overgrown garden straight after moving in. Take out any garden toys left over from last summer, pressure wash the patio and add colour with some pretty hardy plants in pots.

6. Dress your rooms

Make a room look inviting and well-staged by creating a mood. In the dining room, set the table for a meal using your best china. Put your lotions and shampoos in neat groups in the bathroom, and hang freshly laundered dressing gowns. Place winter flowers in vases around the house. Set a newspaper on the coffee table and a few magazines to add that extra polish.

7. Add some sparkle

clean_homeMake your home sparkle on the inside, and keep it really clean. Vacuum carpets, wash the windows, dust furniture and clean the floors. Clean out your fridge as – surprisingly – many people look in the fridge, especially if it is integrated. Your whole house should look and smell as if it has just been completely spring-cleaned.

8. I ‘scents’ a sale!

While making your home smell nice is a must, don’t spray air fresheners or perfume in case visitors are allergic. Focus on getting the home smelling naturally clean and welcoming. A lovely inviting smell is baking – make some cookies and time them so they’re just ready as people arrive. Ensure that you offer them to the buyers though, or they’ll be disappointed.

9. Flower power

Splash some cash on a couple of really nice bouquets of flowers. Put one in the living room, and split the other into two or three smaller vases for the hallway and master bedroom. Keep to the Spring colours, though bolder shades can work well for accent colours. Spring flowers like daffodils and tulips will add a lovely scent while reminding your viewers that warmer weather is almost here.

10. Add some ambiance

Try playing some soft music to add a sense of atmosphere to the house. There’s nothing worse than a house that’s too quiet, and you may feel you have to rush in and talk when sometimes viewers just need to soak it up. Music can really help to put everyone at their ease. Go for easy listening, but relatively up to date, like Adele, Dido or Michael Buble.

Home staging can be a really good investment. None of these suggestions are particularly expensive, and most are free. By spending a little money, and some time and effort, you will be in your new home in time to enjoy your Easter eggs.

SAm Ashdown byline pic

For more house selling advice, check out Sam’s Selling Secrets at or her blog at

December 18, 2013 at 7:00 AM 1 comment

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