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As the days get shorter and the temperatures start to drop, it’s hard to avoid the fact that winter is on its way. The colder weather can wreak havoc with your property, so we have put together some top tips to keep your property in tip-top shape throughout the cooler months.

Pipe dreams

As the temperatures drop, the water in your pipes can freeze causing them to burst and deal major damage to your home. In order to avoid this, keep an eye out for any gaps in external walls as the cold air could reach the pipes and encourage them to freeze over. Sealing over any gaps in external walls, as well as adding insulation around vulnerable pipes in areas such as the loft and garage could mitigate this problem. Further to staying vigilant to external wall gaps, keeping your heating on a low-level (around 4 degrees) - even when you’re away from your home - will maintain a consistent temperature around pipes, thereby avoiding the problem of pipes freezing over. 

Boiler spoiler

When was the last time that you had your boiler checked? A poorly maintained boiler wastes energy and costs more to run, as well as running the risk of leaking carbon monoxide into your home. Having your boiler serviced will reap rewards in the long run, as well as giving you peace of mind in terms of safety and efficiency. Naturally, one of the key components of your boiler system are your radiators - a handy hint to maximise their efficiency is to put kitchen foil behind them for the heat to be reflected back into the room they are in.

Fill the gaps

Around a quarter of the heat lost from your home escapes through the loft, and therefore having good loft insulation is key to staying warm this winter. As well as the loft space, cavity wall insulation can make a real difference to keeping your home warm and energy bills low - with a typical saving of £145 per year saved on energy bills simply through having insulation installed. In terms of cost, there are a number of government grants and subsidy schemes available to help you with the initial outlay of insulating your home and staying warm this winter – so do your research and stay warm for less.

The big switch

If you feel that your winter energy bills are high despite your best efforts to prepare your home for the cold months then give your energy supplier a call and have a chat about being allocated a more cost-effective tariff. Remember that you will never experience a disruption in service if you decide to change suppliers, so feel free to shop around and find the best deal that works for you. You can use online comparison tools as well as literature direct from suppliers to find the most competitive energy rates and offers, so turn up that thermostat and get extra cosy!

Down the drain

As the leaves fall from the trees, drains and gutters can easily become blocked with debris, causing build-ups of water which could make its way into your home in the form of damp. As the temperature drops, these leaves are prone to freezing which can weigh down your guttering and damage external structures. Ensure that your drains and gutters are debris free by checking lower-level guttering on your property and clearing these out by hand as safely as possible - if the lower-levels are blocked then higher levels may also require a closer inspection.

At the annual Conservatives’ conference this month, Chancellor Sajid Javid and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced plans to allow homeowners to add two-storey extensions without the need for planning permission. This would tie-in with legislation brought in earlier in the year which allows homeowners to extend on a single storey without planning permission.

Sally Tagg, the Managing Director at Foxley Tagg has concerns over the plans with regards to the effect on communities if there is little in terms of restrictions, which could result in inconsistent building design.

“Because the announcement is not formal yet it is very unclear about what it will comprise. Conceptually, rolling back further on permitted development should be treated with caution and concern in terms of the potential impact it may have in design terms which is an important plank of place making,” said Tagg.

Tagg’s concerns stem from the fact that although extensions will be required to comply with current building regulations, neighbours will no longer be able to formally object.

The Housing Secretary had this to say on the proposals: “All too often the planning system proves complicated, outdated and bureaucratic and is too complex and costly for people and small businesses to navigate. This is a barrier to building the homes that we need…

“I want to give families the freedom they need to expand their homes and ensure small developers get a fair chance to succeed. Our vision for reforming the planning system will speed up and simplify the process, while ensuring that communities still retain a say over their future.”

 

Do you sometimes feel as though you’re drowning in a sea of clutter? Or that your house has become more and more disorganised? Well, now’s the time to hit those common, messy areas!

Start by sorting through everything you own

Getting started is always the hardest part but performing an audit of everything you own is a great first step. Gather common built-up items like books, items of food, jewellery, paperwork, loose batteries or anything you’re saving “just in case”. Find out how many duplicates or useless items you have and throw them away. Whatever there is leftover, sort and store them properly.

Next… tackle the wardrobe

Let’s face it, a wardrobe is a totally different beast to the random things you tend to collect.

A good system to operate in the future is a one in one out system. Every time you buy a new item of clothing, throw away an old item.

Whilst you’re at it, you should tackle your sock drawers. Throw away any old and worn out items, and add an organiser to the draw to keep everything separate and neat.

Sort out your utensils drawer

You know you’ve collected too much cutlery when the draw starts to stick. Take everything out of the drawer and throw away those useless tools (like your melon baller or your citrus juicer) and add a divider to better divide your essential utensils.

Organise your garage, shed and/or loft space

Transparent boxes are your best friend when it comes to organising your storage spaces. You can stack them all on top of each other and you can see all the contents you’ve stored inside them, meaning you don’t need to go through a hundred boxes to find something.

Get the kids involved

Encouraging your kids to keep their bedrooms neat and organised is a brilliant way to keep one of the messiest areas of your house neat and tidy.

Introduce them to the idea of donating unwanted toys to charity shops and how doing so can have a positive impact on the lives of others. It’s also a vital life skill your children will need to learn, so everyone wins!

Your tenancy has come to an end, and now there are a lot of different tasks you will need to juggle before you can successfully leave the property. Take a look at our guide to moving out. 

Round off all your bills

Unpaid rent is the most common reason for tenants losing their deposit, so it is a good idea to check with your landlord or property manager before you move to make sure you’ve paid the correct amount.

You should also give your energy suppliers plenty of notice before you moveso that they can organise a final bill. Make a note of your meter reading on the final day for reference should you be billed an incorrect amount. 

You could also consider having your mail re-directed to your new address and you should inform any service providers such as TV, Internet etc. that you will be moving to a new house.

Give the place a good thorough clean

Landlords will need the property to be ready for the next tenant, so there will likely be a clause in your contract that stipulates that you will need to clean every nook and cranny of the property before you move out. If the property isn’t spotless, you could lose some of your deposit to a cleaning bill.

Spruce up the Garden

The garden will also need to be in the same condition as when you moved in. Pull up any weeds, mow the grass and dispose of any garden waste properly. If the gardening tools belong to the landlord, ensure you leave them behind for the next tenant.

Thoroughly check the property for a final time…

Moving out of your rental property is a different proposition to moving out of your parent’s house or a property you may have owned. For the duration of your tenancy, you have essentially played the part of guest and caretaker of someone else’s property, so a good deal of the process will be focused on the condition of the property when you moved in vs when you left it. 

To help avoid any issues, it’s a good idea to do a walkthrough of the property and compare it to the condition report and/or any pictures you or the lettings agent might have taken before the move. It’s also a good idea to take new images before you leave.

… and review the inventory

The inventory you received at the beginning of your tenancy will detail any items that the landlord had in the property, for example, gardening tools, small items of furniture, kitchen appliances etc. You will need to check that all these items are still in the property and that they’re all in working order, or you might face losing a portion of your deposit.

 

According to a new report from Zoopla, first-time buyers are continuing to prop up the property market in 2019, with this group responsible for the majority of property purchases this year. Thanks to favourable mortgage rates, as well as more flexible mortgages including a higher loan-to-value ratio, first-time buyers are now in a more favourable position than ever to purchase a property.

It would appear that rather than the current train of thought, which would suggest that first-time buyers are doing anything they can in order to join the market, the reality is that they are taking a much more considered approach. Typically, first-time buyers are looking for three bedroom properties which will provide them with a longer term home to grow into which is a stark contrast to previous generations who began with a “starter property” which they quickly moved out of in order to purchase something larger. 

Since 2010, first-time buyers as a group have grown by 85%, according to statistics from UK Finance, and this trend is not stemming.

“First time buyers have been the driving force behind the housing sales market in recent years. Lower mortgage rates, and improving mortgage availability have supported the growth in FTB numbers across the country” explains Richard Donnell, research and insight director at Zoopla.

“Despite increased barriers from high house prices in southern England and mortgage regulations, the appetite to buy their first home remains strong. Whilst the outlook is more challenging in London, growth in FTB volumes is expected to be driven in regional markets where affordability remains attractive, supported by greater availability of higher loan to value mortgages,” he continues.

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