Schedule Your Renovation
Time is money and you want to avoid leaving your property vacant for longer than necessary. Be sure to make a note of all works that are required prior to your tenants leaving so you can start scheduling work well in advance, especially if you need to hire professional contractors. Ideally, you’ll have a timeframe in which the works will be done and move your new tenants in as soon as possible, so planning is essential.
Keep it Neutral
When it comes to style, keeping things neutral is key. You don’t want to drive away prospective tenants with a design so flamboyant they’d be ashamed to invite their friends and family to visit. No matter what, you’ll never be able to suit everyone’s tastes, so it’s best to opt for a stylish yet elegant design with a neutral palette that can be complemented by an array of furnishings. By all means, look at current trends but be sure it will pass the test of time - you don’t want to have to completely re-design every time you get a new tenant.
The most valuable rooms to keep neutral are the bathroom and kitchen. In London, a sleek and modern bathroom suite is advantageous among professional tenants, while a high quality easy-to-clean and functional kitchen is preferable. In terms of colour, opt for timeless shades of white, grey or brown to create a bright, open space that is contemporary, yet inviting. Stay away from heavy patterns, vibrant colour and bold furniture where possible. Try investing in signature light fittings to bring a room together and highlight key features. Light fittings can take a room from being plain and dull, to contemporary and bright, as well as opening out the space to make the room appear larger.
Properties tend to get more interest online if they are furnished but a furnished property also comes with its own hassles, including disputes over theft and damage at the end of a tenancy and the responsibility of replacing furniture that breaks. If you’re unsure, we recommend dressing the property for professional photographs that you can reuse when marketing your property and offering the property unfurnished with a view to furnish for the right tenant if required.
If you furnish a property, make sure you don’t “over-furnish” as this can make the property appear small and cramped, not to mention giving you more to account for. Minimalism is key when furnishing a rental property. Think about what the tenants will need and invest in high quality, contemporary items that will last. If possible, include additional storage space to make your tenants’ lives easier when moving in.
Protect Your Investment
Be realistic with prices; if you’re expecting £1,200 per month in rent, don’t spend £10,000 re-decorating as you won’t see a return on investment. Likewise, don’t skimp where it matters. Spend more on frequently used areas of the property such as flooring and bathroom fittings. Choose high quality, durable bathroom and kitchen fittings to ensure you get the most out of your investment and don’t need to continuously make repairs.
Light coloured carpets and wood flooring are easily stained or damaged, so be sure to choose darker, high quality carpet and ensure your floor is treated. For wood flooring, try adding some coloured rugs to further protect your asset and ensure any furniture has felt pads to avoid scratching the floor when it is moved.
If you would like advice on decorating your rental property, protecting your investment or finding out more about Living in London’s fully managed property service, email email@example.com or call 0207 231 0002.
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With so many changes underway in the lettings industry, it’s easy to see why landlords and investors are nervous for the future. It is now more expensive to buy since the 3% Stamp Duty surcharge was introduced back in 2016, not to mention more expensive to own since the loss of the 10% wear-and-tear allowance. April 2017 saw the beginning of tax relief on mortgage interest being phased out, and with overseas investors now having to pay capital gains tax, things are looking pretty gloomy for the buy-to-let industry, with many calling this the end of buy-to-let for all but the richest.
At Living in London, we receive a lot of questions from landlords about the state of the lettings market. We want to help investors every way we can, so we’ve broken down what each of these changes means and ways you can secure your assets to get the most from them.
One big and recent change involves additional stamp duty land tax surcharge imposed on buy-to-let investors, affecting those purchasing residential property and more so for those who own two or more properties and remain at their main residence.
There’s no avoiding this tax unless you manage to find a property under £40,000 which seems unlikely in this market. We’d advise investors to ensure they are up-to-date with percentage changes before they make an offer so there are no nasty surprises when it’s time to pay the stamp duty. Ultimately, this shouldn’t put investors off buying, just ensure you’re making smart investment choices and calculating your return on investment well in advance.
In April last year, the HMRC announced the abolition of the wear-and-tear allowance which previously gave landlords renting out fully furnished properties the chance to claim back 10% of the rental income received.
This is an annoyance more than anything, it hasn’t drastically affected the market or how landlords choose to manage their investments. It just means that it’s more important than ever to ensure you have good tenants in your properties. We cannot stress how vital it is to ensure your tenants are extensively vetted before they move in. Always choose better tenants over a better offer, it will save you money in the long run. At Living in London, it’s our company policy to not only fully reference tenants, we will not accept any smokers or pet owners (unless our landlords request otherwise) to leave your property in the best possible condition.
Changes to tax relief
One of the most controversial changes to buy-to-let tax is the restriction of financial costs affecting mortgage interest and other finance costs. From April 2017, a 4-year equal phase-in will commence, and mortgage interest will no longer be deductible when calculating your rental profits. The first phase of the process has already begun, with landlords now only able to offset 75 per cent, rather than the full 100 per cent, of their mortgage interest payments. These deductions will be gradually withdrawn and replaced with a basic rate relief tax reduction.
This change is only applicable for residential property, so you will not be affected if you operate a Furnished Holiday Let, or a commercial lettings business. It will also not affect those with property in a limited company, but will affect LLPs and partnerships.
Making the right investments is key in this market. Some landlords may consider moving properties into limited companies, while others will opt to convert to a repayment mortgage or contemplate raising rents.
If you’re concerned with these changes, we have a dedicated Property Investment Team available to answer your questions and queries. If you’d like to take advantage of our FREE PROPERTY CONSULTATIONS, we’d be happy to have a chat about your portfolio and advise you of any future investment opportunities. Contact us today!
If you’ve seen our previous blogs, you’re probably well on your way to making great interior design changes to your home to stay on trend, adopting the colour green. Or perhaps you’re ready to buy, sell or rent with a new-found knowledge of the UK housing market and what to expect in 2017. At Living in London, we know trying to find the right tenant or buyer can be stressful, frustrating and not always straight-forward. A happy viewing can speed up the sales or rental process and keep interest competitive, giving you the best possible price. That’s why this Valentine’s Day, we’ve come up with five top tips to make sure it’s love at first sight for your potential tenant or buyer.
The first thing they see
Whether you have an extravagant front garden or a front door in an apartment building, make sure the front of your home is well-presented. Mow the lawn, de-weed the pathway, trim the hedges, invest in some potted plants, and consider giving the front door and windows a lick of paint. Essentially, the goal is to make them want to come in. If the property has communal areas, ensure these are looking their best and contact your management company if necessary. It’s no good having an amazing, spotless, beautiful apartment if by the time the viewer gets to it they are put off by the poorly managed communal areas with paint flaking and stained carpets, or worse still, lifts out of order. People don’t want to spend £500k + on a property that will give their friends and relatives the impression it’s in a poor block.
Let there be light
It may sound obvious, but to ensure your property shines in its best light, turn on the lights and open the curtains and blinds before a prospective buyer or tenant enters. You want them to focus on the appeal of the property, not fumbling for light switches and tripping over furniture. Let as much natural light in as possible. If you’re holding a viewing in winter, you may want to consider investing in some additional sources of light or rearrange furniture to create a radiant atmosphere.
It goes without saying that the property should be thoroughly cleaned prior to a viewing, but something that often gets forgotten or overlooked is de-cluttering. Ensure surfaces are clear in bedrooms, bathrooms and especially the kitchen – the kitchen is a huge selling point. They need to visualise themselves using it as their own so organisation is key. Kid’s rooms can turn into a bit of a warzone so it’s important that at least for the viewing, toys are tidied away. If mould is starting to show around the edges of the bath, you may wish to replace the sealant as this can be quite a turn off. Remember, there are no barriers during a viewing. Prospective buyers and tenants will examine every nook and cranny of the property, so ensure cupboards are well organised and make sure you hoover under the beds.
Don’t air your dirty laundry
Viewings can be short notice so be aware that you could have visitors while you’re away or with little time to prepare. Don’t let rubbish build up, regularly empty the bins and don’t leave last night’s take away on the side just in case someone needs to pop by. Don’t leave anything out that you wouldn’t want viewers to see. This can be anything from personal post to underwear. We also recommend getting into the habit of making your bed look presentable and putting shoes away.
Home is where the heart is
You’re not just selling the property; you’re selling a lifestyle. Viewers have to picture themselves living there so extra touches often go a long way. It’s a bit of a cliché but the smell of fresh baked bread or brewed coffee always go down a treat. If it’s cold outside, turn the heating on so the property is warm and inviting and they won’t want to leave in a hurry. Every aspect of the property needs to be inviting so ensure nothing is neglected.
Top tip from Branch Manager Elizabeth Miller: “Display fresh flowers, pretty perfumes and nice looking bottles of wine to create an air of opulence and luxury when viewing.”
How do you feel walking round the property? Would you want to live here? Presentation and organisation are vital during viewings but for something extra, check that your agent is aware of any special features the property has; the view from a certain window at a particular time of day… Something you could only know after living in the property to accentuate its personality.
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Following the events of 2016, it’s easy to see why experts across the country are torn when it comes to the question “what will 2017 bring to the property market?” Uncertainty caused by the Brexit referendum has rolled over into 2017, with many sources predicting that with no surge at the beginning of the year to beat the changes to stamp duty as we had in 2016, prices will likely stabilise or fall across the UK as an average, but pick back up in 2018.
At Living in London, we see things taking a different turn. Whilst we can understand why the media is pessimistic about the upcoming year, we expect to see a slowdown in the market as opposed to a drop off in price and activity. Top institutes across the country agree that 2017 will be a year of re-balance, with The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) predicting a Nationwide rise of 3 per cent in house prices. Property portal, Rightmove is predicting an average rise of 2 per cent, while Halifax predicts a rise of anywhere between 1 and 4 per cent.
We believe 2017 will bring a much more price sensitive market in which properties will need to be priced accurately in order to sell. It is critical now more than ever that you choose a local agent known for giving area specific, honest advice over whoever gives the highest appraisal. Overpricing a property in 2017 could have a detrimental effect on whether the property sells at all, striking up several red flags with buyers due to a lack of interest and time spent on the market, even with a price reduction. You may then be required to price the stale property lower than its value in order to regenerate market interest – a huge waste of time, and unfortunately, money.
2016 saw a total rise of 6 per cent across the UK despite challenges. With housing and affordability already stretched, a slowdown in the market may be just the thing we need for more sustainable growth and realistic prices. Housing demand is still drastically outweighing supply, especially in London’s first-time buyer and second-stepper markets, which helps to keep prices competitive. Reduced interest rates mean mortgages are at record lows, keeping the market moving for first-time buyers. Gathering a deposit is still the greatest barrier for first-time buyers, so actions such as the Government funded Help-to-Buy scheme must continue to help millennials move out of their parents’ homes and onto the property ladder.
Higher end properties were hit hardest last year with the market facing the effects of the changes to stamp duty, along with Brexit uncertainty. However, we have seen considerable interest from overseas buyers, attracted by the weaker pound.
The changes to stamp duty in April caused a great decline in the number of buy-to-let transactions agreed in 2016, while bringing in only half as much as the Treasury had expected by November according to The Telegraph. To put this in perspective, data collected by Rightmove shows buy-to-let transactions actually declined by 30 per cent overall and a whopping 50 per cent in London. Many figures working in property hoped for the changes to be revoked in the Autumn Statement to restore some faith in the property industry and keep the market rolling. Instead, landlords and investors are set to face further challenges in 2017 through tougher affordability checks for buy-to-let mortgages and the start of the withdrawal of tax relief on mortgage interest.
As a result of this, The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) expects activity to slow but not grind to a halt. Simon Rubinsohn, RICS Chief Economist said it was unlikely that investors would completely lose their appetite for buy-to-let. “You do have to bear in mind the alternatives,” he said. “Also the mentality of property investment is quite embedded despite these changes.” [Quotes from The Guardian] Rightmove is also predicting a 4 per cent increase in rents due to less availability of stock, so we advise investors and landlords not to panic or be deterred by the upcoming changes, just use due diligence with financial forecasts and planning.
It’s important to acknowledge that while it’s great that the experts are predicting a rise of between 1 and 4 percent, this is the UK average. Prices and activity in Scotland is going to be nothing like the London market, and likewise the differences between the sale of a small one bedroom flat and a million-pound house will be extreme. If you’re looking to invest in 2017, look for an area that can offer steady price and rent increases. We’d also recommend looking into areas that are planning change or redevelopment and choose an agent that knows the developments like the back of their hand. We predict that Canada Water will be a very strong investment location in 2017 due to the Canada Water Masterplan in which Southwark plans to build a brand new town centre, 3,500 homes and over 2,000 student flats.
Essentially the laws of the housing market will always apply to any market, in any year, throughout any conditions. Research the price of your property before inviting any agents around to value your home. This is easily done by using SOLD prices of properties in your street, block, development or postcode. Research the agent you intend to use, make sure they operate in the area, have a local office, a proven track record and are reviewed well. Finding a buyer is one thing but knowing the certain nuances, legal work, and how to progress your sale efficiently, effectively and to a time frame often eludes agents who rarely deal with such issues.
Make sure you like and can have a good working relationship with the company you chose. When you call for them can you speak to the correct person? Do they return your calls/emails in a timely fashion? Can they support their claims? And finally, do you feel confident that they will give you the service you deserve? If you answered no to any of these questions, it might be time for a change.
It’s safe to say 2016 has been unpredictable. The UK surprised the world with its decision to leave the European Union, leading to uncertainty for the UK property market, and now with yet another twist, the USA has elected Donald Trump as their new President. So for those of you sat there thinking “what next?”, don’t give the seasonal weather a chance to take its toll on your property. Each year, icy temperatures lead to millions of pounds in claims for damage to cars, homes and businesses. Here at Living in London, we’ve come up with 10 tips to prepare your property for winter, to help you sail through the rest of 2016 with no nasty surprises or unexpected costs. We’re even offering free winter inspections so you can feel safe in the knowledge that your property is taken care of.
1. Don’t let the pipes freeze
Frosty the snowman and pals have it in for your pipes. The icy weather can cause pipes – especially those close to external walls - to freeze, which can then burst and flood your home when they thaw. The best way to prevent this is to constantly have the heating on low during cold spells. Another thing you can do to keep your pipes toasty is to invest in lagging, which is a foam that coats the pipes, reducing heat loss and insulating them to stop freezing. Keep an eye out for any new damp spots and make sure your tenants know where the stopcock is so the water can be turned off in a hurry if necessary.
2. Clear the gutters
Now in the midst of Autumn, it’s only a matter of time before fallen tree leaves start forming blockages in your gutters. It’s important at this time of year to ensure guttering is completely free of debris to prevent a build-up of foliage. This may not sound like something to worry about now but it can become a massive problem if left unattended by causing water to back up and leak into the roof and walls of the house. Another precaution you can take, is making sure that any trees near the property are thoroughly trimmed back.
3. Crack down on damp
When internal walls become wet, they are a breeding ground for damp and mould. Unsightly, odorous and potentially harmful to the health of residents if left to spread; it’s vital that any sign of damp is tackled as early as possible. This means checking your property regularly and asking tenants to report any issues as soon as they are spotted. If you do notice damp, dry the affected area with dehumidifiers to stop condensation, as too much moisture can damage the paintwork and lead to black mould. There are also a few preventative measures you can take, including advising tenants not to hang-drying washing in any ‘at risk’ rooms, regularly airing the property out, and not letting the property get too cold. Providing tenants with a tumble dryer will also mean they’re less likely to hang-dry washing in the property.
4. Sweep the chimney
If your property has a chimney, clear a path for Father Christmas – nobody wants a sooty beard! Apart from helping out old Saint Nick, getting your chimney swept by a certified chimney sweep will prevent build ups of debris which can be potential fire hazards when bad weather strikes.
5. Insulation is key
Now we’ve talked briefly about insulating pipes to prevent water freezing but don’t stop there. Double glazing, wall insulation and loft insulation are pretty common place in homes these days, so if your property doesn’t have these, you may find yourself with a poor EPC score and struggle to place tenants. You may find it even harder to retain tenants in an unnecessarily cold property with subsequently high heating bills. About a quarter of heat is lost through the roof so make sure loft insulation is extra thick.
6. Bleed the radiators
If your radiators are warmer at the bottom than the top, you may have trapped air. Don’t worry, this is an easy fix. Use a radiator key to ‘bleed’ the radiators, letting any excess air escape through the valve. This will cause heating to spread more efficiently in the property and save money on energy bills.
7. Deal with draughts
“Through every nook and every cranny, the wind blew in on poor old granny.” Poet Spike Milligan must’ve known all about horrible draughts when he wrote ‘Granny’. If your property has draughts around windows and doors, you might want to seal these with self-adhesive draught strips or something similar. Apart from saving on the bills, a warm home is a happy home.
8. Check the boiler
If there’s one thing you and your tenants don’t need, it’s a broken down boiler in winter – especially during the Christmas period. A poorly maintained boiler runs the risk of breaking down but also, wasting energy and costing more. By law, under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, it's your responsibility to get a Gas Safety Certificate every year, but it’s also advisable to get boilers professionally serviced at least once a year to prevent things like this from happening. If your boiler is particularly old, investing in a new unit could save you money in the long run and give you peace of mind.
9. Talk to your tenants
Having a good relationship with your tenants is essential when letting a property. You want your property to be well looked after and you want to keep the tenants happy so they renew the tenancy. Talking to them about any issues they notice and getting these fixed as quickly as possible is the best way of doing this. It’s especially important over the winter period as any issues are more likely to lead to greater damage. If your tenants are away over the winter period, make sure they know to leave the heating on low to prevent frozen pipes and damp forming.
10. Play it safe
If you’re unsure of the state of your property, get it professionally checked. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. At Living in London, we’re offering free winter health inspections by way of schedule of condition, complete with a detailed report. To see if you qualify for a free inspection click here.
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At Living in London, our aim is simple – to exceed the expectations of our clients. If you feel we’ve delivered a fantastic service and you would happily recommend us to a family member, friend, colleague, or anyone who is looking to rent or sell their property, send them our way!
There is no limit to the amount of recommendations you can make, and provided that we sell or rent the property; we will contact you, order your £100 voucher of choice and have it delivered.
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The Right to Rent legislation, introduced in select UK cities since 2014, was officially rolled out across England on the 1st of February 2016, bringing new considerations to private landlords or their managing agencies when letting a property. We like to keep our landlords up-to-date on anything relating to their investments, so here is a bit more information.
You'll be pleased to know that Living in London was well prepared for this initiative as we're already in the practice of completing thorough tenant checks through our preferred referencing company. We have been and will continue to gather all important documents so you don't have to, ensuring you're fully covered and informed during the lettings process.
A recent report from The Guardian Money found that 7 in 10 landlords were unclear about their obligations to now check the immigration status of new tenants. Those who fail to do so will face fines of £1,000 on the first instance and an escalated fee of £3,000 thereafter. These checks are similar to what employers carry out when hiring an applicant outside of the UK, and will ensure that your tenant is fully able to remain and live in the country.
You can read the full UK.gov Code of Practice here, but here is a sample of key documents that will help prove a tenant's status to let property in England:
- A passport issued by the UK, Switzerland or any EEA country
- An international passport with a government issued visa
- Permanent residence card
- Biometric Residence Permits
- Asylum Registration Card
If you have any questions at all, our team are fully versed on the new legislation and are happy to speak about how we can help. Of course, if we're already managing your property, we will take care of these checks for you both in-house and through our relationship with an industry leading referencing service.