Blog

Property Symbol With Keys and Calculator

Is A Leasehold Property A Good Buy-To-Let Investment?

[Image source: Deposit photos]

When investing in a buy-to-let, there are countless considerations to make, but one that often gets overlooked in discussions is whether looking at leasehold properties is a good use of an investor’s time. When you buy a freehold building, you own the building and the land it’s on until the time comes to sell it, but leasehold means you only own the building for a set period. So, what does this mean for landlords, and are leasehold properties a good investment?

What is a leasehold property?

A leasehold property means you own the property in question for a specific length of time, which is the term of the lease. When the lease expires, the ownership transfers to the person or entity that owns the land. For a landlord, the idea of the investment simply being lost can be a frightening prospect and can put people off wanting to invest in a leasehold home.

Leases can range from 99 or 125 years all the way to 999 years, the latter of which is as good as a freehold. Theoretically, the closer the lease expiry date is, the less valuable it becomes and it can be harder to recoup your investment if you’re looking to sell. If the remaining term falls to 80 years or less, it can be hard to obtain a mortgage on the property, which is something potential investors need to bear in mind when looking for buy-to-lets.

The key differences with a leasehold property

Most leasehold properties are flats, though a leasehold can apply to any property. Properties purchased through the shared ownership scheme may also be leasehold. Because a leasehold means you don’t own the land the property sits on, you don’t have any ownership of communal areas in the case of a flat, meaning stairs, hallways and gardens are not your sole responsibility.

However, while leaseholders usually pay a set fee to the freeholder which goes towards the maintenance of these areas, from June 2022, new legislation on ground rent charges means these rents will be banned on new residential leases to avoid future rent increases, which makes leasehold properties more affordable.

What to consider before investing

The first question an interested landlord needs to ask is ‘does the lease permit letting?’. Not all leases will allow you to sublet the property, so if your intention is to purchase the home as a buy-to-let, this is a critical question to ask. If you go ahead with your buy-to-let without checking this first, you could find yourself in breach of your lease and that can come with fines and complications later on, so it’s important to check first.

Landlords also need to ensure they take into account the cost of maintenance and repairs for the property, as with any buy-to-let, which some leases enforce via a sinking fund to cover any unexpected repairs. Investing in a property as a buy-to-let means landlords need to think about the saleability of the property for the future, as it’s not their primary residence. Problems can occur, as previously stated, if the lease is less than 80 years, so extending a lease may be beneficial when purchasing the property but this can be a costly endeavour.

The benefits of leasehold buy-to-lets

It’s not all bad news when it comes to a leasehold property, especially when it comes to finances. Because of the challenges that you need to face when you buy a leasehold property, you can often find great bargains on the property market as they’re less appealing for many investors. If you’re willing to overcome these hurdles, you could find yourself getting a great deal upfront compared to a freehold.

There are some restrictions with this type of property, because you’re effectively renting space from another landlord who is the freeholder, so you’re at their mercy in terms of what you can do to the property. However, from a landlord’s point of view, the likelihood is you only want to make the property presentable and won’t be investing in any large-scale renovations, so this may not be an issue at all.

It may be possible to extend your lease if you’ve owned the property for at least two years, or if it only has 80 years or less left. Extending sooner rather than later is the best option, as the shorter the remaining lease is, the more expensive it will be to extend. Lease extensions are usually for 90 years, and the cost is typically 50% of the ‘marriage value’ of the property, or the extra value the property would gain from the longer lease, as well as legal fees, Land Registry updates and property valuations.

Is investing in a leasehold the right decision?

The process of investing in any property is complex and time-consuming, and it requires in-depth research to ensure you’re making the right choice. A leasehold may seem more complicated than buying a freehold to rent out, but it can still be a highly valuable investment depending on the buyer’s circumstances. Of course, this might not be the case if it is sat on the market with a short lease and you need to sell it fast.

The trick to investing in a leasehold is finding an agreement that suits the needs of the investor. If it’s an affordable property with agreeable lease terms and you aren’t in any rush to sell the property on, it can be a great way to save money upfront and grab a bargain. There’s certainly nothing wrong with investing in a leasehold property, if it meets the criteria you need from it – you simply need to be aware of the differences that a leasehold property has to a freehold.

There are also some unique perks, such as not needing to worry about the upkeep of communal areas, which frees up your time when you’re managing your buy-to-let portfolio. The best advice for landlords looking to buy a leasehold to rent out is to seek professional advice and speak to local buy-to-let agents who can offer advice based on the potential yields for the surrounding area. This will ensure the best returns, whatever the type of property bought.

Monopoly Houses and Pound Coins

Helping Viewers See The Full Picture: How Agents Can Highlight Potential

[Image source: Deposit photos]

When your agency or property management company is tasked with selling a home, it often goes one of two ways; the property is in great condition, has been renovated and practically sells itself or it’s time to get creative as there’s not much to shout about. In scenario two, the best way to sell the property is to highlight its potential, but sometimes it can be difficult to see where that potential lies.

If you’re struggling to see it, then there’s a good chance that viewers are going to encounter the same problem. To help viewers see the full picture of your property portfolio, here are some helpful tips to share as you show people around.

Increasing the property’s footprint

Most people want as much space from their new home as possible, perhaps because they are looking to move to something bigger or they are simply trying to move up the property ladder. Building outwards is one of the easiest and most common ways to improve the footprint of any property, with rear extensions being favoured as most people are happy to lose some of their gardens to improve their indoor living space.

According to CheckATrade, the average cost of a 20m2 extension is £44,000 while expanding a home can add between 10 – 20% to its value. So not only can you use adding an extension as a way to improve potential buyers’ lives and living spaces but also it can be a way to improve their returns when they come to sell.

Adding extra storeys

If the outdoor space is already limited or there isn’t much scope for a rear extension, consider whether an additional storey is a viable option. This could be a loft conversion which can be a quick way of increasing space and adding value, or perhaps a basement with lower floor conversions, which can be a great way to improve the energy efficiency of a home as there are fewer directly exposed external walls.

Of course, there is also the potential for a double-storey extension which will greatly increase its capacity but will require substantial funds. As an agency or property company, you can check whether a house is suitable for extension or additional storeys by asking for pre-planning advice from the relevant council.

Having an informal discussion can give you enough scope to know whether an extension is viable and if it’s a smart marketing strategy as you show viewers around. It requires some additional groundwork on your part but can be worth it to paint a better picture of the property’s potential to viewers who may otherwise be unsure about an extension.

Decluttering and cleaning

House viewers want to be able to imagine themselves living in the property they are being shown around but one filled with clutter and that needs cleaning can be a distraction from those thoughts. For starters, a decluttered home allows viewers to better understand how much space there is in the property they are viewing.

It is also much harder for them to envision how they would live their lives in a house if someone else’s clutter is everywhere to be seen. Sure, it’s not possible to remove the vendor from the home but encouraging them to make their home as aesthetically appealing as possible is a great boost to their chances of selling.

Similarly, a viewer who goes into a home and is met with visible dirt or dust, or perhaps some unsavoury smells, is going to have to work hard to overcome those issues to imagine themselves living there. It might be fine for a buy-to-let buyer but if you are selling the property as a home rather than an investment then it must be set up to succeed, rather than fail.

Acquiring nearby land

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself that allows a buyer to invest in more than they initially think. Consider whether there is any adjacent land available, whether it’s from a neighbour or even just a bit of extra land a freeholder is willing to part with.

This can greatly improve the prospects for potential buyers as they can expand their home, add an outbuilding, add electric car charging or look for further investment opportunities. A quick enquiry with the Land Registry can let you know who owns the land and whether it’s possible to approach a sale.

Updating doors and windows

Doors and windows can be an important selling factor when it comes to buying a home. With old doors and windows, the buyer knows the time they have until they need replacing is limited but again this is an opportunity to highlight the value of upgrading.

Whether it’s the front door, side door, or garage door, security shouldn’t be overlooked and the same goes for insulation levels, where you can show the EPC potential can enjoy a sharp rise with some new doors and windows.

Reconfiguring the layout

Open-plan living is very popular at the moment and while you won’t be able to reconfigure the layout yourself, exploring the options ahead of showing people around can help put the home’s potential into perspective.

Homes with dated kitchens are a great opportunity to showcase the potential in an open-plan layout as people will already be feeling as though they want to update it. Similarly, outdated bathrooms are a great selling point and shouldn’t immediately be something to try and gloss over.

Spending time layout out and describing what improvements are possible and how they could be easily implemented is useful information that viewers can take with them as they think about their options. Updating both rooms will not only represent a great investment but provide real value to the people who live there.

Other layout considerations to point out to potential buyers include installing a downstairs loo, adding a room in the garden as an office or creating a kitchen diner to free up another room in the house.

a top floor flat

Are Top Floor Flats Harder For Estate Agents To Sell?

The sale of flats and apartments makes up around 1 in 5 homes in the UK (and about half of all property transactions in London). Recent price inflation has lagged behind the growth enjoyed by houses and many factors have contributed to slower capital growth for leasehold flats, among them the leasehold and cladding scandals of 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, in 2023, the demand for flats and apartments in the UK is expected to strengthen. Urban living is gaining traction again post-covid, while budget-squeezed households and high mortgage rates mean property buyers are looking for affordability and value for money.

Of course, it’s easy to make sweeping statements and predictions, but don’t forget that demand is also majorly affected by property specifics. Flats come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in a wide range of locations, sited on different floors in purpose-built blocks or converted buildings. Some are new-builds and are assumed to be in pristine condition, while others are charming period flats with original features. And that’s before their leasehold status is taken into account…

In this article, we’ll take a look at the desirability of top floor flats. Is it easier or harder to sell a property on the highest floor of the building? What are the advantages of living on the top floor? Are there any perceived drawbacks of this type of property and how can estate agents address potential buyer concerns and allay any fears?

What are the key selling points of top floor apartments?

Top floor flats have several obvious advantages over properties on lower floors, and these selling points provide excellent opportunities for marketing the sale:

Great views

One of the main attractions of living in a flat on the top floor is the views over the neighbourhood. Depending on location, this could be a panoramic sea view, a sweep of the eye across the city’s rooftops or a glimpse of greenery in a public park on the opposite side of the road. Urban property buyers, in particular, will be looking for great views, with London’s iconic cityscape being top of the list of desirable vistas.

Natural light

Abundant natural light is high on homebuyers’ wish lists, especially in smaller properties where it can add a sense of space. In a recent survey, nearly 85% considered this the most important criterion when buying a property. Compared to ground floor or mid floor accommodation, top floor apartments have a natural advantage when it comes to light. Maximise the effect by opening curtains and window dressings to let the light flood in and show off the bright and airy feel that buyers love.

Greater privacy

Privacy and seclusion are also highly prized, particularly among city dwellers who tend to be looking for a peaceful sanctuary to retreat from the urban hustle and bustle. Moving to the top of the building means less traffic noise from the streets below, less commotion on stairways and lifts and generally fewer disturbances. With nobody living above and the windows ideally not overlooked by nearby buildings, a top floor flat combines the convenience of urban living with the ultimate in privacy.

Good security

Being the least accessible property in the building has definite advantages when it comes to home security. Most burglaries are initiated by thieves spotting an opportunity such as valuables left in plain sight, an open window or unlocked door to gain entry. It is the reason why ground floor and basement flats are at greater risk of break-ins. None of this applies with a top floor flat, which is inherently the safest place to be.

Adding value

While it is much more difficult to add capital value to a leasehold flat compared to a freehold property, there may be an opportunity with a top floor flat. It may be possible to develop the unused loft space above, subject to the lease and the necessary consents being obtained. If the attic does not form part of the demise, could the freeholder be approached with an offer to buy the space in the loft? It’s worth pointing out the possibilities to any interested buyer.

What are the potential drawbacks of top floor properties?

Top floor apartments can be an excellent purchase, and the best properties should have no difficulty achieving the optimum price. In some cases, people prefer a low-rise flat because they are scared of heights or are worried about the re-sale value. Flats on a short lease might be even tougher to sell if they are on an unpopular floor in a building. That said, agents need to be prepared to address some of the downsides potential buyers may identify and counter any negative perceptions.

Too many stairs

A flat at the top of the building means many flights of stairs to climb, unless of course there’s a lift. Older properties and period conversions may not have one, which could be a real problem for young families with babies in prams, elderly people and those with mobility issues. Even fit and healthy buyers may feel uncomfortable having to go beyond the second floor to carry the shopping up or the bins down, and bulky deliveries such as furniture could also be an issue.

Roof leaks

It goes without saying that properties on the top floor, with no one living above, will be most vulnerable to any damage caused by roof defects and water leaks. Most top floor flats will be absolutely fine and unless there’s any evidence to the contrary when buyers come to view, there’s no reason to draw attention to issues that don’t exist. In any event, should water start leaking through the ceiling, the freeholder is typically responsible for any roof repairs.

Lack of outdoor space

Ground floor apartments and basement flats may have the benefit of a patio or private garden, which constitutes a valuable asset that top floor accommodation simply cannot provide. In fact, outdoor space is much harder to come by in apartments at the top of the building, but usually, the abundance of natural daylight and great views make up for it. Top floor flats with a balcony, a roof terrace or even a roof garden, and luxury penthouse apartments, are clearly premium properties and need to be marketed as such.

Conclusion

In the end, there’s unlikely to a simple answer and most often it will come down to the individual apartment you are trying to sell. Whilst many of the negatives to top floor flats are self evident to potential buyers, it’s important to check for all the positives as well, know the positives as some might be more easily missed. This should help you to achieve maximum value for your clients.

Two hands pulling a key in different directions, representing a property dispute

How To Resolve Tenant-Landlord Disputes Without Going To Court

Every landlord needs to be prepared for a deposit dispute because it’s an inevitability that comes with the job. Whether a minor quibble or a larger dispute, knowing how to handle those conversations professionally (and without the need to take the matter to court) will save you a lot of time and money. There are a few ways you can achieve this. Read on for suggestions of how to deal with tenant-landlord disputes quickly and calmly.

Prevention is the best cure

As a landlord, the old phrase ‘prevention is the best cure’ couldn’t be more appropriate. You don’t want to be wasting time constantly handling disputes with tenants, so it’s best to avoid them in the first place so that a dispute is a rarity rather than a common occurrence.

Many arguments over deposits arise because either the tenant or the landlord don’t realise they’ve broken their part of the lease agreement, or they don’t understand their rights. The best way to achieve this is to know the law fully and stay abreast of any changes to housing legislation, so you can make the necessary amends. It results in happier tenants and lowers the chance of you having an empty rental property for too long, as well as reducing the risk of legal issues arising.

Communicate face-to-face

So many problems with tenants can be resolved quickly simply by having a face-to-face conversation with them and ironing out any issues in person. Keep your temper calm and don’t let the conversation get out of hand. There may well be an honest solution to the problem which both parties are blowing out of proportion, and trying to resolve it over text or email only makes the likelihood of that happening higher. Another way to keep tensions at bay is to meet in a neutral environment, so everyone feels safe and able to say their piece.

Contact a mediator

If you’ve met and tried to discuss the problem to no avail, a professional mediator can help you make progress and find a solution that works for you both. In a mediation, both parties come together with an impartial mediator to reach an agreement and resolve the dispute.

The mediator will be trained to deal with these types of situations so they’ll be able to act as a neutral but experienced party. They don’t assist with working out the issue directly. Instead, mediators guide the parties to negotiation in a constructive way. Mediation isn’t as formal or expensive as the litigation process so it works well for tenants who are seeking an informal solution and landlords looking to save on costs.

Keep detailed records

Having detailed records to hand makes it much easier to resolve disputes because you’ll have evidence of what’s been agreed and what has occurred since. From correspondence with the tenant regarding the issue at hand, to photographic evidence of the property before they moved in and its current state, a paper trail makes it much easier to fall back on hard facts when the time comes. And, if you need to escalate the issue to a legal team, records will be very helpful to show that it’s not just a case of your word against your tenants.

If you handle multiple rental properties, you should keep a file for each one, whether paper or digital, so you can keep your property management records organised and up to date. It can deter a tenant from taking the matter to court themselves if they know that you have evidence to back up your claims and disprove theirs.

Hire a specialist solicitor

If the problem has escalated and you haven’t been able to informally handle it, then the next step is to hire a specialist solicitor who has experience of landlord and tenancy law and will be able to advise you on the best course of action. Contact from a solicitor can often dissuade a tenant from taking the matter further and may help you both reach a fair agreement outside of court.

A specialist solicitor will be able to advise you on your legal rights, and those of the tenant, as well as the likelihood of you getting the result you’re looking for. It’s certainly an expense that you don’t want to pay for, but it can be a beneficial step to take if court is looking likely.

Put it in writing

Putting your complaints, or having the tenant put their issues down, in writing formally dictates any misgivings either party has about the property that’s being let. It’s important when you do this to be as specific and accurate as possible, from the occurrences being disagreed upon to the dates the dispute spans. It’s also important to take into account any previous correspondence.

The reason for doing this and having a record of the issue is that if you aren’t able to handle it out of court, having a document in place that outlines exactly what the issues are will come in handy when resolving it with a legal team. It also ensures you won’t forget any details further down the line, as court proceedings can take some time.

Court involvement as a last resort

Where possible, both parties should avoid taking the matter to court, as it’s time-consuming and incredibly costly. But sometimes it’s the only way to reach a decision. Just know that if the matter reaches the courts, you could be in for a long wait and a lot of legal expenses to have the matter settled, so it’s not a decision to take lightly.

The housing industry has been on a rollercoaster of activity in the last few years and it’s led many people to invest in rental properties. But it’s vital that you understand the issues that can arise with a buy-to-let and know how to mitigate them as much as possible, to save yourself time, money and the need to find new tenants. The smoother you can make your relationship with tenants, the better it is for you and them, so it’s worth making clear who is responsible for what and having thorough records in place to reduce the risk of a dispute.

What Will Really Matter In The 2023 Property Market?

Buying a home is a huge decision, and one that is obviously going to be influenced by the prevailing economic climate and personal financial situation. That said, while the housing market, along with the rest of the economy, may be experiencing a period of uncertainty at the moment, this doesn’t mean that people won’t be moving home.

When it comes to choosing the right new home, every buyer has a list of must-haves and need-to-haves that will be used to assess properties listed for sale. So, what is it that buyers are looking for in 2023? According to a recent survey, 54% of potential buyers were looking for a garden as their top asset, 50% wanted a nice kitchen, 44% prioritised parking or garage space, and 36% were looking for a nice bathroom. Add to that the rising importance of having an energy efficient home, and a picture appears to be emerging. Let’s take a closer look.

Energy-saving features

According to Rightmove, buyers are now increasingly searching for sustainable properties or homes that have at least some eco-friendly features. Not that long ago, green home features were seen as nice to have by homebuyers keen to make a positive contribution to the environment. However, the current cost of living crisis, skyrocketing energy bills and the global oil and gas crisis have put energy-saving features firmly into the ‘must have’ camp.

Searches for properties for sale that have solar panels or heat pumps fitted have increased significantly over the last few years, and the trend is set to continue. Even without any new technologies, buyers are now more concerned than ever before about energy efficiency.

From double-glazed or even triple-glazed windows to loft insulation and cavity wall insulation, high-efficiency boilers and LED lighting and more, there are many ways that a property can achieve a favourable EPC rating and add value.

Private outdoor spaces

Ever since the recent pandemic-induced lockdowns have shown us the importance of having access to a garden, a patio or even just a balcony, properties with outdoor space have become much more sought after.

A simple, lawned garden space may be all that’s required for buyers to be interested, as long as it’s well-maintained and easy to look after, or presents an opportunity to get creative. Wooden decking or paved patios are also high on the list, either as a no-maintenance urban garden option or for dining, socialising and entertaining and as a peaceful space to relax.

Creating a seamless connection between outdoor and indoor living spaces is another major trend, epitomised by the ubiquitous bifold doors adorning kitchen/diners and living rooms. And it’s not just about ‘bringing the outside in either. These days, ‘taking the inside out’ means creating living spaces in the garden, be it outdoor kitchens, alfresco dining rooms, or lounging and chillout areas. The latest pergola designs come with retractable roofs and side panels for shade and shelter as you can see here, fully able to withstand the elements and ensure year-round use.

Large family kitchens

The kitchen has long since been hailed as the heart of the home, and this trend isn’t going anywhere fast. This is the room where family and friends congregate, and not just at mealtimes.

Some would argue that the kitchen is the most important room in the house and it’s a well-known fact among estate agents that kitchens sell houses. A generously proportioned, welcoming and convivial space with a kitchen island is what most buyers will want to see.

Kitchen redesigns can be expensive and disruptive. A recently updated kitchen with modern cabinetry and plenty of storage, and in a style that complements the rest of the property, is one home improvement that is sure to pay big dividends.

Open plan kitchens/diners are still the gold standard for interior layouts, however people are also rediscovering the advantages of having separate living spaces. Perhaps the lockdowns are also responsible for this shift in perspective. After all, when the entire family is spending time at home, it’s useful to have doors you can close to provide peace and privacy. Even a separate snug, den or box room can make all the difference – plus it has the potential to be transformed into a home office for working from home.

Indulgent bathrooms

Kitchens may sell homes but bathrooms are also receiving a lot of attention. As the concept of self-care is becoming more widespread, buyers are looking for recently updated bathrooms that have separate showers and baths to accommodate different needs: function and rest. A traditional shower over the bath can be seen as old-fashioned and not up to speed with current lifestyles.

Bathrooms are also a prime contender for underfloor heating, which adds a luxury feel. There’s nothing like stepping out of the bath or shower onto warm floors below, especially during colder months, and especially in our temperate climate. Indeed, luxury and indulgence are the main watchwords for bathroom features.

Finally, it is interesting to note that the absence of a downstairs WC can be a dealbreaker for many potential buyers. Whether there’s space under the stairs to fit a small washroom, or it can be added (along with a utility room) with a house extension, it’s an investment well worth making when it comes to sell.

Home security system

Having a modern home security system to protect the property against intruders is proving to become a popular feature that home buyers are looking for. From smart doorbells to security cameras or intruder alarms, there are many ways to add extra security features to keep the occupants safe.

Then there’s the automatic control of electronic devices in the home, such as lighting or heating but also including Internet-of-Things devices such as smart fridges and home security devices, via internet technology that can be controlled remotely to make life more convenient and save on bills. Whether you’re a property manager looking after a property for sale or rent, or you’re a homeowner looking for your next home, smart home automation is the gold standard.

5 Steps to Easier End-Of-Tenancies

[Image source: Deposit photos]

It is in everyone’s interests to ensure the end of a tenancy is handled as smoothly as possible. While there is a lot to think about, making preparations early on means it doesn’t need to be a headache.

Read on for five steps to easier end-of-tenancies.

1. Give the appropriate notice period

The end of a tenancy starts with your tenants giving you notice or you terminating their tenancy. The exact amount of notice required will depend on the terms of the contract but a minimum of four weeks is usually required from either party.

This period allows time for a tenant to find a new property and remove their belongings from their current one. It also provides you with some time to seek new tenants or list the property for sale if you plan to reduce your letting portfolio.

Before the deadline for ending the tenancy comes around, it’s wise to be prepared for what you will need to do as a landlord. There are various things to consider including your legal responsibilities, such as:

  • requesting the release of your tenants’ deposit from the tenancy deposit scheme
  • inspecting the property and
  • making any necessary repairs and renovations.

2. Inspect the property

Before you return your tenant’s deposit it’s essential to visit the property and conduct a thorough inspection of the furnishings, fittings and goods. It’s good practice to draw up a property inventory at the start of a tenancy as it’s this document that you can refer to when it’s time for your tenants to leave.

A property inventory details the contents and condition of the property at the start of a tenancy. It should include a full list of fixed features, from walls and ceilings to cupboards and doors, as well as any appliances and fittings. It’s important to remember any external buildings such as sheds or greenhouses and make a note of their condition and contents too.

Having an inventory means that when you inspect the property at the end of a tenancy you can compare its current condition with the way it was at the start. You can then make any relevant deductions for damage or missing items from the deposit. This reduces the chance of any disputes over deposits.

3. Return your tenant’s deposit

Once you have thoroughly inspected the property and agreed upon the cost of any damage or missing items with your tenants, you must return your tenants’ remaining deposit within ten days. Since 2007 it has been a legal requirement that landlords must put deposits in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme for any property rented on an assured shorthold tenancy.

It is simple to return a deposit via the online account you will hold for the tenancy deposit scheme. But bear in mind that if you plan to make deductions from the deposit you should be able to provide evidence for your reasons in the case of a dispute.

As long as your tenants agree with your repayment instruction or claim the deposit will usually be released in a couple of days.

4. Enlist professional help with cleaning

Your tenants have responsibility for leaving the property as clean as possible when they move out. But this doesn’t mean it’s going to be ready for the next tenants to move straight in.

In order to benefit most from rising rental yields and attract reliable new tenants it’s important to show off the property in its best light. Depending on the length of the previous tenancy that could mean a thorough deep clean is recommended.

You could do this yourself, of course, but it’s usually better left to professional cleaners. Agencies that specialise in end-of-tenancy cleaning services are used to carrying out the many tasks required to leave a property looking (almost) like new

The specifics of what is needed will depend on the state in which the property has been left. But you should expect a clean to include jobs such as cleaning of internal and external windows, all carpets and upholstery cleaned; the kitchen and bathroom de-greased and deep-cleaned and the oven, hob and extractor thoroughly cleaned.

5. Carry out repairs and renovations

With any luck, you won’t need to undertake any significant work when your tenants move out. If the property is well-maintained and generally sound, the most that will probably be required is giving walls and woodwork a fresh coat of paint.

However, it is your responsibility as a landlord to make any necessary repairs to basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings, maintain heating and hot water systems and ensure the building is in a good condition structurally. The longer you spend on these tasks, the more time you will lose out on rent or leave your property vacant and vulnerable to break ins. So it often pays to enlist professional services for security support or property maintenance. Whether it’s clearing gutters, supplying new appliances, safeguarding empty homes or changing the locks, these specialist teams have the experience and capacity to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

By bringing in professional support – and putting processes in place in good time – you’ll cut down on lost income and be ready for another successful tenancy.

6 Ways Landlords Can Keep Properties Secure With A Minimum Spend

Your landlords, have a responsibility to keep your rental properties as safe and secure as possible. Tenants want to know that they can live comfortably and safely in their home, and it can help to minimise tenant turnover as people who feel safe are more likely to remain in the property for longer periods. But, security can often be an expense that they don’t want to shell out for.

The good news is that there are ways to make a home more secure without it costing a fortune, reducing the risk of vandalism and theft. Here are a few ways that landlords can create a secure property with minimum expense.

1. Install a security system

A high-tech security system isn’t just a benefit for landlords, but it also provides peace of mind for tenants too. It could spell the difference between the best tenant choosing one property over another. Security systems don’t need to be complex to be effective. In fact, technology has evolved enough that you don’t need to spend a fortune to feel as though you’re securing the property effectively.

From smart alarm systems to alert unauthorised access or attempted entry, to motion sensors to detect movement and CCTV cameras. You can create a master code for security systems and enable tenants to have their own personal access codes for privacy.

2. Light up the home

An easy but highly effective way to make your tenants feel safe, while also preventing criminal activity, is to add outdoor lighting. Would-be criminals tend to be deterred by well-lit areas as it makes them vulnerable to witnesses, so it’s always a good idea to have lights fitted to the exterior of the property to keep it safe and avoid a break-in.

Solar or LED lights are an effective solution that provide a great source of lighting and are very affordable, as well as being low maintenance as you won’t need to worry about replacing batteries or an increase to your tenants’ electricity bills. Fit these lights near entry points to the property but also near driveways and gardens where criminals may try to gain access from.

3. Automate the garage door

If the property comes with an adjoining garage, it’s vital that it’s kept secure because not only is it likely to store valuable, expensive items that could be stolen but it could also serve as another entry point for burglars. One way to increase security is to make sure your garage door is automated. Automation isn’t just a convenient feature for tenants, but it also makes it much harder for vandals and criminals to do damage or gain access to the property. Garage doors are common targets for entry to properties, and they’re also often overlooked by property owners, so don’t neglect this area when securing your rental property.

4. Secure windows and doors

Windows are a vulnerable area of any home, and are a common target for opportunist thieves. Even if the windows of your rental property have a mechanism to prevent them from being opened from the outside, they can still be broken into. And if the windows don’t have a lock, it’s even easier for your property to be accessed by someone other than your tenants.

Installing locks is the first step to making the property more secure, but it’s also important to remind tenants to lock up if they’re leaving the house. Window sensors can also be installed for a relatively low cost that will sound an alarm if the windows are ever meddled with, with alerts sent to your smartphone so you know precisely when the property is at risk. For added peace of mind, encourage tenants to use a door jammer for additional protection.

5. Find the right insurance

Landlords may be thinking of the physical changes they can make to your rental property, but have they considered the unforeseen costs that will come your way if the home is broken into? Landlords need to have the right insurance policy in place to protect the assets of the property and any furnishings. Liability insurance is a worthwhile addition to property maintenance, making sure that the home is protected, for only a small amount of money every month. The right insurance will give landlords the confidence that the home is protected from a financial perspective as well as physically. It is worth remembering that securing your garage to prevent easy access for would-be thieves will also keep your insurance company happy.

5. Conduct regular inspections

In the property market, prevention is always cheaper than the cure, so you want to do all you can to avoid costly repairs. By dropping by a few times a year, you can check on the health of the property and spot any issues that tenants may not have seen as a problem. For example, a lock might be broken on a window, there might be a blind spot on the security cameras or the smart doorbell might not be working properly.

These faults could cost you and your tenants if they lead to a break-in, so make sure that you’re scheduling in visits periodically to give the property a scan and check for these issues before they cause problems.

A rental property is an investment so it stands to reason that you want to protect it from damage. Keep your buy-to-let home secure to protect it from break-ins while also giving tenants the confidence that they can live in the home safely.

Gutter Gleaning Illustration

Sustainable Property Maintenance Jobs Agents Shouldn’t Ignore

Property maintenance doesn’t just improve the aesthetic quality of a home, it also helps to retain value, or even significantly increase it. Regular maintenance could increase a home’s value by at least 1% per year while neglecting it can cause properties to depreciate.

Any home is a valuable asset and when it comes to selling, those in better condition understandably tend to fetch a higher price. That’s why it’s essential to carry out regular maintenance on a property or asset, yet some remedial projects are easier to work on than others.

Running the vacuum cleaner around and trimming the hedges is one thing, but grabbing a ladder or some heavy-duty equipment isn’t something most people can do on a whim. Here are our essential green property maintenance tasks that agents shouldn’t ignore when talking to their clients.

Upgrading insulation

Insulation is essential all year, not just in the winter. Effective insulation can help to regulate temperature during the summer months and retain heat when the chill hits. Insulation materials come in many forms and if you are looking for sustainable materials we recommend natural wool, cork, hemp or cellulose.

Using natural materials to insulate a property rather than synthetic or man-made ones does mean that they have a relatively limited lifespan, however. For example, cellulose insulation is typically good for 20 to 30 years but can begin to degrade by the 15-year mark.

Upgrading a property’s insulation provides an energy efficiency boost and makes it more sustainable as fewer resources are required to maintain a comfortable temperature. From cavity walls to the roof and floors, there are plenty of opportunities to upgrade the insulation in a home to improve energy efficiency. And, with the cost of living crisis pinching wallets, being energy efficient is more important than ever.

Gutter cleaning

Perhaps one of the most common household maintenance tasks that gets forgotten or neglected is cleaning out the guttering. They can get clogged with leaves and debris that blows in throughout the year and this causes a blockage.

It is a relatively simple fix but often requires the assistance of a long ladder or a high-level platform to give you the access you require. Without the gutters diverting any rainwater away from the home you are putting your property at risk of water damage.

That water can pool in places which causes leaks that seep into the roof as well as the frames and fascia of a property. If left unattended this water can lead to mould, rot and mildew which risks your tenants’ health and can cost thousands to repair.

General roof surveys and maintenance jobs

The roof is often a property’s first level of protection against the elements, be that the wind, rain or even the sun. But, unlike other areas of a property, it’s difficult to check on the status of the roof due to how high it is.

You just can’t see the roof well enough from the ground so it’s important to gain a better perspective, particularly following a heavy downpour or strong storm. High-access equipment hire allows you to inspect any roof damage from a better vantage point.

Having the right high-level equipment allows for other maintenance tasks to be completed, such as:

  • replacing any broken or missing roof tiles

  • cleaning the outside of windows

  • repointing the chimney breast

  • repairing the roof and gutterings

  • painting elevations and chimney pots, and

  • inspecting solar panels (if the property benefits from having them installed).

Having a safe platform in place to make these comprehensive maintenance checks can also help you to oversee whether a property’s renewable energy sources are running effectively.

Creative and sustainable landscaping

Landscaping and gardening is a job that many people put off but once completed can transform how a home looks and feels. Not only will the outdoor space be easier on the eye, but it can also be more welcoming to residents’ guests and encourage local wildlife to flourish if you take an eco approach.

Many people are opting to include a wild zone in their outdoor space to promote any wildlife to move in, and potential tenants looking for outdoor space may wish for an eco-friendly environment outside their rental home. Ideas include ponds, allowing a patch of grass to grow wild and uncut and composting facilities. It’s important to reclaim as many materials as possible for any landscaping project to help make it as environmentally friendly as possible.

Also try to consider using plants that are native to your area. For example, bell heather is prominent in Kent and adding some to your wild garden will help boost the numbers of bees, moths and butterflies that thrive on it.

Install rainwater collectors

Countries like the UK experience plenty of rainfall throughout the year, even when it’s summer and the sun is meant to be shining. Rainwater harvesting allows homes to conserve water by collecting it throughout the year and using it for common household chores. For instance, harvested rainwater is ideal for flushing toilets, washing cars or watering flowers during hot and dry spells.

This allows residents to cut down on their water consumption, which is not only good for the planet but also helps reduce water bills. Modern toilets use as much as five litres per flush, while older models made before 2001 use up to 10 litres per flush. Depending on how much space you are working with, rainwater collection barrels can collect as much as 210 litres.

Electric car charging point

Perhaps one of the most important upgrades property management companies can make to a modern home concerns transport. Electric cars are very much the future of the automotive industry and with the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to end by 2030, that future is rapidly approaching.

Requiring a qualified electrician, electric car chargers are an important upgrade due to the prominence of electric vehicles on our roads. Zero emissions cars continue to grow in popularity and an electric car charger at home is beginning to be a must-have.

With homes that have an electric car charging point installed selling for 30% more than those that don’t, it is a significant consideration to make. Electric car chargers can cost up to £1,000 to install but considering the value they add to a home, and the convenience they provide, they are a worthwhile and sustainable home upgrade.

man_surveying_property

Snagging Report or Home Survey – Which Option Should Agents Recommend?

A property purchase is a major financial commitment and most residential home buyers are in need of professional help to understand whether the asset they have their eye on is indeed a good investment. Stories abound of ‘nasty surprise’ building defects or issues that can cost thousands of pounds to remedy after the transaction is completed.

Independent home surveys and snagging surveys can be invaluable to help prospective purchasers gain valuable insights into the condition of the building, providing the necessary facts for informed decision making. But with so many different types of surveys to choose from, which one should estate agents recommend?

What is a snagging report?

A snagging list is typically drawn up at the end of a construction project. As such, it is associated with new-build properties, where building issues are identified by the prospective buyer to be addressed by the developer as a condition of sale. It’s not a survey as such, but rather a list of defects that can be passed on to the builder for remediation either before or after completion.

A snag is simply a defect that needs repairing – usually a minor or cosmetic issue such as a cracked tile or chipped paintwork. However, it could also apply to substandard workmanship such as faulty window and door installations, leaking pipes or poorly installed insulation, and could even include structural defects. The snagging list will cover everything, from ensuring that heating systems and smoke alarms operate as they should, to highlighting decorating defects or poorly finished joinery, to checking that Building Regulations have been complied with.

The snagging survey can be carried out by any building expert; they don’t have to be Chartered Surveyors. Ideally, they should operate independently of the housebuilder, so that an unbiased assessment can be provided.

What is a home survey?

A home survey is an independent property survey carried out by a RICS Chartered Surveyor. There are currently three types of inspection endorsed by the RICS:

  1. A basic Condition Report

  2. A mid-level HomeBuyer Report, and

  3. An in-depth Building Survey (formerly known as a full structural survey).

Prices for surveys start from around £300 and vary depending on the level of investigation as well as the value of the property.

  • Level 1 Condition Reports average from around £350+

  • Level 2 HomeBuyer Reports cost about £500, and

  • Level 3 Building Surveys cost approximately £900.

Here’s a useful overview of costs.

A Condition Report provides a snapshot overview of the condition of the building on the day of inspection, without adding much detail. An intermediate HomeBuyer Report consists of a visual inspection of the property inside and out, checking the condition of all building elements and identifying issues, such as damp, subsidence and other potentially serious issues. It will also advise on possible causes of such issues and will recommended any repairs and possible maintenance required. A RICS Building Survey is suitable for older and larger properties and those with complex surveying requirements, and delivers a comprehensive analysis of the condition of the property alongside ample professional guidance.

Who is responsible for repairs?

If the property in question is a new-build, the housebuilder is responsible for rectifying all the agreed snags for as long as the property is still under warranty, which is normally up to 2 years after completion. This puts the onus on the buyer to find all and any issues as soon as possible.

For resale homes, the seller is not obliged to repair any issues detected, whether these are flagged up via a snagging report or home survey. However, if issues of concern are identified, the buyer may ask for the valuation to be revised downwards for the sale to proceed or they may pull out of the transaction. If the property is a fixer-upper, it would be unwise for the seller not to disclose known faults.

Which type of survey is most appropriate?

Estate agents are likely to be asked for their professional advice and recommendations regarding the best survey for the property. Buyers will assume that you have a clear idea of the condition of the property and if you wish to maintain your reputation and ongoing trust of buyers, it is essential that you are transparent about known flaws of any property you are marketing for sale.

Recommending any kind of pre-purchase investigation is therefore a prudent move that can protect you from any accusations that you hid what you knew about the property and potentially poor reviews for your agency.

A snagging survey is the obvious choice for new-build homes or properties that fall under warranty. Even if there are additional costs associated with a snagging survey, it is an excellent opportunity for the buyer to ensure that problems are fixed by the contractor before signing on the dotted line. There is no risk in recommending that buyers spend their money on a snagging survey. What’s more, you may even be able to benefit from building a network of qualified and trusted snagging surveyors to recommend.

Essentially, the right survey to recommend will depend on the type, age and apparent condition of the property and the buyer’s plans for it. For a new build, a snagging list is likely to be the best option, although a RICS Condition Report may also be an excellent choice. Potentially, both types of survey could be carried out alongside each other for a comprehensive check and peace of mind for the buyer that no unforeseen issues will emerge.

For resale homes, older buildings and period homes, the choice won’t be as straightforward. While a RICS home survey is likely to be the better option, there are different levels of investigation available that only a qualified surveyor should be able to recommend directly to the buyer. Your best bet is to have the names of one or two experienced local surveyors to hand that you can pass on to prospective buyers, and let them take it from there. As estate agents, it is your job to provide buyers with the available options so they can choose what’s best for them.

Newpaper with headline that reads Changes in legislation

How Landlords Can Tackle Rental Reforms and Energy Changes

The government’s plans for the rental market will see some big changes in the coming years. In fact, landlords have started to make their homes more energy-efficient. Rental properties must already have an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of band E or better.

About our guest blogger:
Dakota Murphey has experience in property management with her portfolio of properties expanding in the South of England. Her passion for renovation and home improvement projects is shared through her writing to help educate and inspire others.

However, the government wishes for rental properties to be better insulated and rated in band C by 2026 for all new tenancies. Existing tenancies have until 2028 but for landlords with a large property portfolio, that means beginning to consider changes now.

Data from March 2021 shows that 63% of existing dwellings have an energy efficiency rating of D or worse. This represents a considerable chunk of the property market and presents a challenge to landlords to improve their ratings. It may even see some landlords step away from the rentals market as the costs involved to upgrade their ratings no longer make it financially viable.

Proposed rental reforms plan to introduce lifetime deposits for tenants and to ban Section 21 evictions. The introduction of this bill has been delayed due to the pandemic but it is expected to be published in 2022. So, what can landlords do to tackle these proposed changes and make their properties more compliant?

Making homes more energy efficient

Landlords have an extra year to ensure their new-let properties achieve band C after it was extended from 2025 to 2026. That still requires plenty of work to be done to upgrade the efficiency of these homes. And, the 2028 deadline date for existing lettings looms large. A fifth of landlords have already improved their energy ratings and here are some ways to improve yours.

Bolstering insulation

One of the easiest ways to make your property more energy-efficient is to improve insulation. Poorly insulated windows, walls, doors and roofs cause the largest amount of heat loss in the home. Windows, doors and walls contribute to approximately 35% of heat loss, while the roof is estimated to lose a further 25% of generated heat.

Heat escaping from poorly insulated homes is incredibly inefficient as it costs so much more to keep heating a room. Rather, retaining the generated heat for longer means tenants can lower their heating bills and therefore their costs of living.

With the costs of living beginning to spiral to the point of unaffordability for many, it’s important landlords make their homes efficient for their tenants. Ways to upgrade your insulation include replacing windows and doors, and taking the time to insulate your roof.

Regular servicing of boilers

Energy efficiency comes in many forms but one of the best ways to improve your property’s rating is through regular servicing of your boiler. If your property’s boiler is over 10 years old then it’s worth looking into its efficiency. This might mean replacing the entire boiler or just installing newer parts to ensure it is running smoothly. The same applies to homes that use oil tanks for heating.

“Annual boiler services remove sludge deposits that can clog your system, increasing heating costs and reducing heating efficiency”, says oil tank experts, SG Tanks. “If your boiler is well past its best, investing in a modern and better model is the way to go. Modern boilers are more energy-efficient and fail less often than old ones”.

Look at your lighting

One of the aspects of a property that EPC surveys check is the lighting. An assessor looks at the number of fixed light fittings plus how many low energy light bulbs are fitted. Low energy lightbulbs include CFT and LEDs.

“The average LED lasts 50,000 operating hours to 100,000 operating hours or more”’ says LED light installation company Stouch Lighting. “That is 2-4 times as long as most fluorescent, metal halide, and even sodium vapour lights”.

LED light bulbs, for instance, require just 3.3 watts to produce 400 lumens which is the equivalent of a 50-watt incandescent bulb. To put the costs into perspective, that 50-watt incandescent bulb, running at 8 hours a day, would cost £21.90 to run for a year if you are charged 15p per kWh.

The LED bulb, by comparison, costs just £1.45 per year for the same usage and rate. Now, consider how many bulbs are in your property and do the maths on the savings tenants could make on their yearly energy bills.

Preparing for the proposed rental reforms

While there are things we can do to improve how energy-efficient rental properties are, it’s a tougher task to prepare yourself for the incoming rental reforms. Although the rental reform bill hasn’t come into effect yet, one of the biggest challenges to come from it will be the proposed abolishing of Section 21. This section allows landlords to end rolling tenancies with two months notice without giving a reason.

Legally evicting tenants will become much more difficult so it’s important for landlords to be satisfied with the people living in their properties. This might mean introducing a stricter background check process that gives you a better indication of who is moving in.

Another proposed change to the rental industry is the removal of security deposits for tenants. Instead, a ‘lifetime deposit’ will be introduced that is supposed to stay with the tenant, wherever they move to. This could make it harder to withhold a security deposit and require better evidence of the tenant doing something against their terms of tenancy.

Speculation surrounding the Renter’s Reform Bill includes proposals for an independent industry regulator or a national landlord database. Both would require the actions of landlords to be better documented.

Further rental reform proposals

The government is looking to give renters more of what they want and further proposals include:

  • Making it easier to rent with pets

  • Better enforcement on criminal landlords

  • Making open-ended tenancies the norm

Landlords may no longer have the peace of mind of knowing that their tenant is going to occupy their property for a certain period if open-ended tenancies become the norm. That might mean putting procedures in place to replace tenants unexpectedly. This could be done by associating yourself with an agency or creating a bigger financial buffer to cope with the loss of income.

Renters looking for a property that allows pets have struggled in the past and the new proposals would seek to change that. It is implied that landlords will have to object to pet requests in writing and this can only be rejected if there is a ‘good reason’. An example of a ‘good reason’ would be if the property is too small and the pet’s introduction would be impractical.

Households bought 3.2 million pets during lockdown, creating a huge rise in demand for pet-friendly living. It’s something to prepare for in advance by introducing more durable flooring, enclosed gardens and less exposed electrical cables into your properties.