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Which Eco-Savvy Techniques Boost Property Values?

With rising energy costs and increasing awareness of the environmental impact of property, home energy efficiency improvements are high on the list for agents and landlords alike. There are plenty of eco-savvy techniques that property owners can deploy to not only help lower their tenants’ utility bills, but also dramatically improve the value of the property.

Take a look at the chart below, courtesy of Money Supermarket research data, to see the clear correlation between higher EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) ratings and an increase in property value.

Source: https://www.moneysupermarket.com/gas-and-electricity/value-of-efficiency/

A growing number of homebuyers now look for green credentials as an important requirement for their future home. These days, many buyers will check the EPC ratings of a property before making the decision to view it, discarding some properties on the basis of poor energy performance even though they might otherwise be perfectly suitable homes.

Eco-friendly features that add value to a home are increasingly on the radar, both for buyers and sellers, and it is clear that buyers are willing to pay a premium for a property if they can see how sustainability features can save them money over the long term.

What are the best green investments for a property?

Draught proofing

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.

Draught proofing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to save energy in a building. Unwanted gaps around doors, windows, floors, walls and pipework can lead to cold air coming in and warm air going out. You may even be able to feel a tangible cold breeze. The result of uncontrolled heat loss is a home that doesn’t feel cosy and can cost a fortune to heat. Draught-free homes, on the other hand, are comfortable at lower temperatures and save the homeowner money on energy bills.

Draught proofing costs will depend on the exact areas that need attention and the size of the job. A typical semi-detached property should cost in the region of £200 for professional draught proofing, according to Energy Saving Trust, and DIY options will of course be cheaper.

Cavity wall insulation

Wall insulation is one of the best individual contributors to EPC improvements. Good cavity wall insulation can reduce heat loss by up to 1/3, cutting energy bills by up to £255 a year, says EDF Energy.

Walls are insulated by injecting mineral wool, polystyrene beads or polyurethane foam into the cavity from outside by drilling holes through external walls. Expect to pay upward of £950 for professional cavity wall insulation. Free insulation grants are available through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) government scheme for low income households.

For home extensions and new build projects, using thermal insulation building blocks in the construction is a good way to ensure maximum energy efficiency from the outset. Older buildings with solid walls instead of cavity walls – typically buildings constructed before the 1920s – can be insulated by way of fitting internal or external insulation to achieve the same effect.

Doors and windows

External doors and windows can be a major source of heat loss in the home. Single glazed doors and solid material doors have a high ‘U-value’, meaning they are comparatively thermally ineffective. Double glazing options and composite materials are designed to reduce heat transfer, and are a good energy efficiency upgrade option. Any door installed before 2002 should be reviewed. The smaller the U-value, the less heat is lost through the door.

The same goes for single glazed windows. Upgrading the property’s windows is an excellent investment to increase energy efficiency. Double glazed windows throughout an average three-bedroom house is likely to save around £110 in heating bills per year, and improve the property’s EPC rating. Triple glazed windows could save an additional 50% on top of double glazing figures!

Loft insulation

Around a third of heat loss occurs through uninsulated roof space, which makes effective loft insulation one of the most useful ways to improve energy efficiency in a property. Given that heat rises, simply lining the loft floor can make a big difference. Building Regulations guidance stipulates a minimum depth of 270mm, which equates to a thermal resistance R-value of 6.1, and up to 300mm thickness is recommended.

Good loft insulation helps reduce a property’s carbon footprint and combat climate change. The reduced heat loss means that the central heating system doesn’t have to run as long, reducing the amount of fossil fuels needed to keep the home warm. A detached house can expect to save around one tonne of carbon dioxide each year, according to this heating expert.

Boiler upgrade

Upgrading the central heating boiler to a more energy efficient option can have a significant effect on the property’s energy consumption. Old boilers can lose an inordinate amount of heat, while modern combi boilers are among the most energy efficient appliances around. On a detached house, the difference can be as much as £400 in lower energy bills. An A-rated boiler can also greatly improve the property’s EPC rating. A new combi boiler and installation should cost no more than about £3,000 but it’s a worthwhile home improvement that will contribute to a higher market value for the property.

In terms of environmental impact, heat pumps and biomass boilers offer a fossil fuel free heating option, but buying and installing this technology does come at a price.

What do homebuyers really think?

A recent eco-home survey report asked 2,000 potential homebuyers which eco-savvy property upgrades they valued most and which they valued least. The results make for interesting reading. Draught proofing, installing thermostats and smart metres came top as the most valued green home improvements. This is excellent news for sellers who are choosing to invest comparatively little on eco upgrades and are achieving healthy returns.

Source: https://www.money.co.uk/loans/eco-homes

Interestingly, ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps and biomass boilers top the list of least valued eco-improvements. With many people yet to be convinced of the economic feasibility of the new technology the jury is still out on whether homeowners are likely to get their money back on the investment when selling their property.

Source: https://www.money.co.uk/loans/eco-homes

What Changes Will Landlords Be Taking into 2022?

As a landlord, there are always legalities and responsibilities to consider, and the past year has been no exception. Landlords have faced several changes to legislation this year, along with some that are still in the pipeline, that buy-to-let investors need to be prepared for and adapt to. These are the key changes that have affected the buy-to-let sector during 2021 and what landlords can expect in the future.

Renters’ Reform Bill

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.

The Renters’ Reform Bill has been described as a way to deliver a fairer and more effective rental market, and it will deliver a series of reforms which will change the grounds on which landlords are able to evict their tenants. The goal of the reforms is to provide greater security for tenants and reduce financial pressures when moving between rental properties. ‘No fault’ evictions will be abolished, as a result of the removal of Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, and there will also be changes to Section 8 to reform the grounds on which a landlord can seek legal possession.

This will be a significant change to legislation but despite plans for them to come into effect in the autumn of 2021, the date for publishing the White Paper has been delayed until 2022. According to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, this was agreed at the end of October 2021, with contributors to the documents told that the government needed additional time to make the reforms as balanced as possible.

Stricter Fire Regulations in HMOs

Landlords, letting agents and property managers of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) could face unlimited fines if they don’t adhere to the new measures to enhance fire safety. The new regulations form part of the government response to the Fire Safety Consultation, which only apply to multi-tenancy premises and HMOs. The changes are expected to be published in 2022, as part of the Building Safety Bill. Regulations will amend the Fire Safety Order to include frequent risk assessments for each building and to improve the information passed over throughout the lifetime of a building.

Electrical Compliance

The regulations for electrical safety standards came into force back in June 2020. But since 1st April 2021, they apply in all cases where a private tenant has a right to occupy a property as their main residence and pays rent, including shorthold tenancies. These regulations specify that landlords now have to have the electrical installations in their properties inspected by a qualified electrician every five years, at least, and supply a copy of the safety report to their tenants within 28 days of the inspection. If the local authority requests a copy of the report, landlords are legally required to supply a copy to them.

Right to Rent Deadline Extension

At the start of lockdown, the government relaxed the Right to Rent rules. Since being brought into force, the deadline has been extended several times, and has now been extended until 5th April 2022. Since the beginning of April 2020, the government has allowed Right to Rent checks to be carried out via a review of scanned copies or photos of documents, sent by email or phone. The authenticity of the documents can be checked on a video call with the prospective tenant.

However, landlords need to mark these document copies with the phrase “an adjusted check has been undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19” to highlight that the check was amended for safety reasons. It’s not necessary for landlords to carry out retrospective checks for any tenants who had a COVID-19-adjusted check between 30th March 2020 and 5th April 2022.

Regulation of Property Agents

The Regulation of Property Agents’ group made recommendations back in 2019 for an updated regulatory framework for property agents. This is set to include an independent property-agent regulator, mandatory and legally enforceable Code of Practice, and mandatory qualifications for property agents. While there’s no date in place yet for this to come into effect, pressure is building for updates to be made and any changes are likely to have a big impact on landlords who work with property agents, so prospective and existing landlords need to stay on top of the updates for this implementation.

Making Tax Digital Scheme

The government’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) scheme has been extended to taxpayers with business income over £10,000, which includes landlords and sole traders. All VAT businesses will need to follow this ruling from April 2022 while from April 2024, the regulations will demand that many individuals using Self Assessment will be required to change to this method for income tax (including all income tax accounting and reporting as well). If landlords also identify as sole traders, the income from the sole trader businesses they own, along with any income from property ownership, will be combined for the purposes of determining whether they are mandated for MTD Tax.

Essentially, whether you’re an existing landlord managing properties or you’re looking to invest in a buy to let in the near future, staying on top of the legal aspect of rental properties is essential. While some of these changes are yet to come into effect, there have been a number of updates over the course of the past year as a result of COVID-19 that landlords need to be aware of to stay compliant with the latest legislation.

Man show sad that sale has fallen through

Why do more than a quarter of property sales fall through and what can agents do to stop it?

Buying and selling property in England and Wales is a complex process that most homebuyers actually know very little about. Property investors with multiple assets may be more clued up, however the majority of residential buyers and sellers rely on the expertise of their estate agent and conveyancer to guide them safely through the transaction.

What’s more, moving home is reportedly one of the most stressful life events, right up there with getting divorced or losing a loved one. With emotions running high and huge financial commitments on the line, it is perhaps little wonder that property transactions don’t always go smoothly.

According to recent findings, around one in four residential property sales falls through every year before completion. In 2021, these figures may be nearer 40% as a direct result of the high-pressure property market we’ve been experiencing. With demand for properties to buy at an all-time high, there are plenty of things that can go wrong between an offer being accepted and contracts being exchanged.

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.

A property sale or purchase falling through before the transaction becomes legally binding is not only inconvenient, it can involve substantial financial losses too. In general, it is useful to see if anything can be learnt that might help estate agents avoid sales falling through at all. Let’s, therefore, consider the main reasons for a failed property transaction.

Bad survey results

Once an offer has been accepted and the conveyancing process initiated, most prudent homebuyers will arrange for an independent home survey to be carried out. Having a RICS-accredited building professional inspect the property’s condition and provide valuable feedback is an important due diligence step. And while every buyer will obviously be hoping that the building will be given a clean bill of health, the news is not always good.

The survey report plays an important part in the purchasing process. Building defects and issues of varying degrees of severity may be identified, and while some of these can be easily rectified by the seller before exchange, or a price discount negotiated to cover the cost of repairs after completion, others may represent a deal breaker. The main culprits relate to structural issues such as subsidence and heave, damp issues, timber decay, roof defects, asbestos containing materials, outdated services and invasive garden species such as Japanese knotweed.

No funds available

The vast majority of residential property purchases are funded by way of a mortgage. In a competitive market, a buyer who has an agreement in principle in place is in a stronger position than one who doesn’t, and many estate agents won’t even put forward an offer unless it is backed by an AIP. However, a lender’s decision ‘in principle’ is just that. Before the funds can be released, mortgage companies carry out a variety of checks and obtain their own valuation to assess the risk. There are numerous reasons why a mortgage offer may not be approved after all. From problems with the building itself to irregularities in the application form, a recent job or other changes in the applicant’s personal circumstances, the buyer could unexpectedly find themselves without the funds to proceed.

A growing number of UK properties are bought without the help of a mortgage, which removes the uncertainties explained above and should reduce the chances of a sale falling through on the basis of no funding. However, cash buyers are just as likely to walk away from a poor survey result, or change their mind for all manner of reasons.

Property chain collapse

Property chains are commonplace in residential property transactions. Since most buyers require the proceeds from the sale of their current home in order to purchase their new home, a line of buyers and sellers are linked together in this way, all working towards exchanging contracts on the same day. The chain has a beginning (perhaps a first-time buyer with nothing to sell) and an end, someone who is selling but not buying.

It is the interdependence caused by the ‘linking’ of transactions that can be a problem. Effectively, the chain will only progress as fast as the slowest link in it, and any problems occurring anywhere along the chain will have a knock-on effect for everybody else. Clearly, the longer the property chain is, the higher the risk of something going wrong somewhere.

Property chains can collapse for all sorts of reasons, but there are warning signs that should alert you to urgent action, and plenty of things you can do to keep the chain moving.

Gazumping or gazundering

When buying and selling property in England and Wales, the signing and exchanging of contracts that gives the transaction legal status comes rather late in the conveyancing process. There is typically a delay of several weeks (or longer) between an offer being accepted and contracts being exchanged, during which period the property survey is conducted, local searches are carried out and mortgage offers are finalised. This can be a nail-biting time for buyers and sellers, and anything can still happen.

Unfortunately, gazumping (initiated by the seller) and gazundering (initiated by the buyer) are not illegal practices despite debates over the years arguing that they should be. As it stands, there is nothing to stop the seller from choosing a different buyer if contracts have not yet been exchanged, or to stop the buyer from suddenly dropping the offer price at the last minute. It goes without saying that these unscrupulous tactics go against any sense of fair play and carry a high risk of one or the other party pulling out from the deal.

Change of personal circumstances

Sometimes, there’s no other reason for a property transaction to be aborted than life happening and things changing. Perhaps the seller has good personal reasons for taking the house off the market, or maybe the buyer has found a better property somewhere else or has decided to stay put.

A change of heart could be the result of a job loss, family break-up, illness or countless other personal reasons that may never be fully explained. While it can be incredibly disappointing to lose a property because someone along the chain has simply changed their mind, there’s nothing much that can be done about it.

Can a fall-through be prevented?

Abortive transactions are always frustrating, especially when a failed mortgage application or a horrendous survey report makes any chances of rescuing the deal pretty much impossible. However, more than half of failed property sales are preventable and can be rescued. If delays or inactivity threaten to derail the sale, the key to keeping the momentum going is good communication.

This is where estate agents and conveyancers need to step up to do the best for their clients especially in a booming property market. Reputable agencies will appreciate that it is in their best commercial interest to bring the sale to a successful conclusion, and many have dedicated sales progressors to jolly everyone along and reduce the risk of feet getting cold or minds being changed. Solicitors will also recognise the need for steady progress towards an exchange of contracts within a reasonable timeframe, and should take responsibility for ensuring no undue delays in the conveyancing journey.

Property Law Updates Estate Agents Need to Know

Every year that passes comes with new updates and amendments to property legislation and guidance. 2021 is no different and with the tumultuous past year that the world has experienced, it’s unsurprising that the property market has been affected in several ways. As we start to navigate the new normal as the pandemic slowly starts to ease, these are some of the changes and updates to the housing market that estate agents should stay aware of.

Changes to pet ruling

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.

Earlier this year, the government updated the Model Tenancy Agreement which includes a clause that landlords are no longer able to reject a tenant’s request to keep pets in the property unless there’s a valid reason for doing so, such as the size of the property. However, something that estate agents need to be aware of when responding to client requests is that the law does not state that landlords are legally required to permit pets in their properties.

There’s a distinction between the terms guidance and law, and the agreement falls under guidance. This means that there are no legal obligations for landlords to allow pets – landlords and letting agents are only entitled to operate a no pet policy providing there’s no increase to the deposit past the five week’s rent maximum and that, in regards to service dogs, there’s no breach to the equality laws.

Updates to the leasehold reform

One of the biggest changes that was announced in 2021 was the Leasehold Reform, which the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced in early January. Under the new legislation, house and flat leaseholders can extend their lease to a new standard of 990 years without any ground rent. The new rules offer a great opportunity for significant savings for clients, of thousands of pounds in some cases, and it’s a huge change to the sector that was first raised back in 2017.

Right to rent

Since mid-June, the regulations have changed for proving a tenant’s right to rent in the UK. It’s now required that you meet anyone taking on a property face to face, while they are having their documents checked. And tenants need to provide evidence that they have the right to rent in the UK, given that we’re no longer part of the EU. Letting agencies can’t grant a tenancy to anyone who cannot provide evidence that they are legally allowed to stay in the UK.

There are two categories of tenants who have the right to rent – unlimited rights and those with time-limited rights. Unlimited right to rent includes British citizens, people who have the right to live in the UK and those who have been given indefinite leave to remain or have no time limit on their stay. However, this doesn’t include EU citizens, EEA nationals or Swiss nationals anymore. Time-limited right to rent applies to anyone falling outside the previously mentioned categories who can stay in the UK for a set period of time, such as people who are permitted to remain in the UK as a result of Acts of Parliament, EU treaties and immigration regulation.

Distancing guidelines remain

With each phase of the easing of COVID restrictions comes a wave of relief and feeling like life is returning to normal, but we’ve not passed the finish line just yet, so there are still guidelines to bear in mind when carrying out viewings and property inspections. The changes for agents, therefore, will be minimal and professionals in this sector should continue to adhere to safety guidelines for the protection of themselves, their colleagues and clients.

Agents should ensure that people visiting office sites have made an appointment, to avoid overcrowding and to ensure distancing is maintained as much as possible, and that Test and Trace codes are in place to track contact with others. Masks should still be worn to keep everyone safe and, where possible, offering virtual viewings will help to maintain social distancing. In instances where in-person viewings are required or preferred, opening windows and doors to allow ventilation and providing hand sanitiser can help to minimise the spread of the virus.

In summary

Property law is always changing and with the pandemic, Brexit and governmental updates to consider, there are plenty of amendments to how estate agents need to operate throughout the remainder of 2021 and beyond. Staying up to date with the trends and demands of the market, as well as the legalities for compliance, will ensure that you’re always equipped with the latest knowledge to answer client queries and provide the best advice to tenants and property purchasers.

Money-Saving Tips for New Property Investors

Getting into the property market as an investor is a challenging but incredibly lucrative endeavour, if you know how to make the right types of investments. If you know how to make the right decisions, property investments can set you up financially for the foreseeable future. Here are a few ways you can save money while you’re making money.

Know where to invest

About our guest blogger:
Based in Worthing, Lucy studied Economics, Finance and Management before turning her focus towards the property market.  She’s a specialist short/long stay holiday rentals and has written for a number of major industry blogs.

Understanding property market trends will help enormously in helping you decide where to invest in property. There are growth areas around the country where rental yields are higher, and these change continually, so it’s important to do your research so you can take advantage of capital gains. Cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh are all popular destinations for investors, with plenty of potential tenants and higher rates owing to the central locations.

Pay attention to average rental rates which will help you determine if an area will pay off your investment costs sooner and whether a property in that area is worthwhile. Vacancy rates will also help you identify areas that are in demand, so you can be sure you’ll always be able to find tenants. This can be an ongoing challenge for landlords, so having peace of mind that an area is consistently in demand will minimise the risk of an empty property.

Get professional advice

While it may seem counterproductive to spend money on professional services, specialists will be able to identify areas where you can make savings, whether that’s finding you the best mortgage deal or reducing taxes. Firstly, you should hire an accountant who can guide you through the process of purchasing the property and help advise you on setting up your investment portfolio. Depending on how many properties you’re managing, you could be dealing with large sums of money each month, so it can be an advantage to have an experienced accountant handle your finances for you.

An experienced mortgage broker will also help you get the best mortgage deal for your buy to let property. As mortgage specialists, Town & Country Mortgage Services explain: “there are now plenty of competitive buy to let mortgage deals around that are specifically aimed at the buy-to-let market, ranging from special offer buy to let mortgage deals to fixed and variable rate options”. In order to ensure you’re getting the best deal, you need to work with someone who understands the nuances between these options.

Shop around for insurance

Insurance is essential for landlords, protecting their property and the returns on their portfolio. However, many people wind up overpaying for their cover, so it pays to shop around. Insurance policy rates vary depending on whether the property is secured via window locks and alarms, the age and profession of the tenants, and what type of property you’re insuring. You can cut costs by checking what the policy you’ve chosen covers, so it’s not more or less than you need, and increasing your excess to reduce monthly premiums.

Determine maintenance costs

The age and condition of the property will affect how much you can expect to pay in maintenance costs, which will impact how good of an investment a property is. If you need to pay out thousands in repairs and renovations, is the property really worth the price you’re paying for it?

Compare the costs of an old property versus a new property – the former will be cheaper to buy, but may need more work, while a newer property will require less maintenance but will cost more to purchase. Extra features like a garden or a swimming pool may also seem like an appealing option, but these will cost money to maintain which will cut into your profits.

Final thoughts

Investing in property requires plenty of research and planning, but when you choose the right property, it can provide great returns. Whether you’re just starting your property portfolio or you’re adding to existing properties, there are always opportunities to save money and boost your profits.

From choosing the location carefully to making sure you balance upfront costs with ongoing maintenance fees, and making sure you work with professionals, there are cost-saving measures that property investors should be aware of.

Property being decorated

How to Create a Low Maintenance Rental Property

About our guest blogger:
Based in Worthing, Lucy studied Economics, Finance and Management before turning her focus towards the property market.  She’s a specialist short/long stay holiday rentals and has written for a number of major industry blogs.

For most landlords, the goal of a rental property is to make money. But maintaining a property can be expensive, especially when tenants are moving in and out. One way to ease the financial burden of this process is to create a durable, low maintenance property that will stand up to wear and tear more effectively.

Here are a few ways you can save money as a landlord while also providing a comfortable and attractive property for your tenants.

Avoid matte white paint

There’s a temptation to paint the entire property white to give the illusion of freshness and space. But white shows up marks and stains far more than a darker shade, meaning that it requires repainting more often. Instead, you can choose a neutral colour such as a light grey or beige which still opens up each room but masks wear and tear more efficiently.

You should also choose a paint that is hard-wearing and will stand the test of time for longer. This is particularly key in areas where spillages are likely, such as the kitchen.

Keep the colour palette consistent

Painting each room a different colour creates a lot of visual interest in your property, but it’s more costly and more difficult to maintain. It can also be off-putting for some tenants, as you might choose colours that aren’t to everyone’s taste.

It’s a good idea to keep the colour of the walls and trims simple and neutral to appeal to a broader audience and to use the same colour throughout all of your investment properties. This will keep upkeep costs down and will also make it easier to touch up chips or marks quickly if you need to get a property ready for new tenants.

Stick with laminate worktops

The kitchen is an area of the home that’s subjected to a lot of wear and tear, and if you’re not careful with the materials you choose, you could find yourself replacing fixtures regularly as a result. Wooden worktops might look great, but they’re not a great investment in a rental property, especially around sinks as tenants might not be vigilant about keeping them dry and well-cared for.

Plastic laminates are easier to maintain and are an affordable solution for rental properties. “Laminate worktops work best for busy and messy households since they require less maintenance” explain worktop retailers House of Worktops, “they’re easy to clean and don’t need additional treatments”.

Choose large tiles

Dainty details like mosaic tiles might look aesthetically pleasing in a kitchen or bathroom, but they can be a burden to repair or replace if they become damaged. Larger tiles minimise the amount of grouting required, which can become mouldy if it’s not maintained properly, plus they’re neutral so they’ll withstand passing trends without looking dated.

If possible, choose a darker grout that will stay looking cleaner for longer, unlike white grout which can look drab fairly quickly.

Pick plain cupboards

Grooves and details on kitchen cupboards can become a haven for dirt and grime if they’re not cleaned regularly. Plain cupboard doors are a low maintenance alternative that won’t look dated and can be cleaned or repainted easily if need be. They’re also usually a cheaper option so they’re ideal if you’re looking for a budget-friendly style.

Skip the carpets

Carpets are comfortable underfoot but they show stains and dirt quickly and can be expensive to replace – particularly if you have several investment properties to maintain.

Similarly, if you’re allowing pets in the property, carpets won’t last very long and will need vacuuming often to look clean and tidy, so they’re not a good investment.

Hard flooring materials, like tiling or laminate flooring, are far more durable and won’t need refinishing, so they’re more cost-effective for landlords too and easier to maintain for tenants living in the property too.

Final thoughts

When furnishing a rental home, make sure that you’re considering longevity with every choice. It’s tempting to choose the cheapest option, but this can be a false economy, as you’ll wind up replacing or repairing things more frequently.

Instead, opt for materials or fixtures that are built to last and can stand up to wear and tear, however long your tenants are living in the property. Not only will these options make for an easy property for landlords to maintain but they will also help tenants to keep their home clean and tidy too.

How To Support Homebuyers During Lockdown 3.0

Following the government’s decision to enter into a third and hopefully final lockdown, house sales have, unfortunately, been hit hard yet again.

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.

Not only are home viewings becoming more and more difficult to arrange, but also with more people now needing to stay at home to avoid infection, there are a reduced number of interested parties as well.

What’s more, for homebuyers who had agreed to purchase prior to the lockdown, there is now predicted to be significant delays to the sale process, largely thanks to surveys, contractors, conveyancing searches and more becoming difficult to organise within the government’s restrictions.

Therefore, it’s important for you – their estate agent – to support and reassure these homebuyers fully throughout this uncertain time, regardless of where they might currently be in the sales process.

So, with this in mind, we thought we’d compile a quick guide on how to do exactly that, helping you to put the homebuyer’s mind at ease prior to their date of completion.

Keep In Regular Contact

Whether your homebuyer is a first-time buyer or has bought hundreds of houses before, it’s important to keep in regular contact with them to ensure everything is still in order.

Put yourself in their shoes, for instance. They are investing hundreds of thousands of pounds into a process that you are encouraging them to follow through on.

As such, you need to keep them updated along the way and make sure any questions or queries they have are answered as quickly as possible.

Whether it be an enquiry over a survey-related matter, like how carbon-friendly the property is, or something a lot more general, like how long the entire process is likely to take, don’t allow weeks to go by without contacting them. Otherwise, they could start to fret and eventually pull out of the sale, which wouldn’t be good for either of you.

Keep COVID-Secure

If your buyer wants to revisit the property they’re interested in buying but are nervous about how COVID-secure it will be, try to put their mind at ease.

Whether it be the property they’re buying, the estate agency you work for, or the removals company you recommend, it’s important to remember that the coronavirus pandemic is at the front and centre of everyone’s minds right now.

Therefore, you need to help reassure them that each aspect of the move you involve yourself with is kept COVID-secure, to keep the risk of infection as low as possible.

Maintain Social Distancing

While on the topic of keeping viewings, surveys and some of the more physical aspects of the home move COVID-secure, maintaining social distancing is imperative.

It may be perfectly natural to want to follow the buyer around answering any questions they might have but, without sticking to the social distancing guidelines, you could end up putting both you and them at risk.

The last thing you want, after all, is for either you or them to be out of action due to infection. Therefore, it’s imperative to do all you can to avoid contact where possible; you could even simply provide them with a sanitised key to access the property themselves.

Stay Organised

As you should well know, there are a lot of hoops to jump through when it comes to moving house so keeping organised throughout is vital.

Therefore, while it may sound obvious, make sure you are doing all of the basic productivity traits to keep on top of everything.

Make lists, use a diary, write down notes, set reminders – in essence, the more you can do to stay organised, the easier the entire process will be to handle along the way, and the more at ease both your buyer and vendor will feel as a result.

Final Thoughts…

From minimising the spread of infection to ensuring home purchases go off without a hitch, there’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic has brought with it a number of issues for estate agencies to address – especially in terms of keeping homebuyers onside.

However, by utilising the tips listed above, you can put your estate agency in the best possible position. Helping ensure that you will not only see the sale through to completion, but you will also put the mind of the buyer at ease in doing so.

Meeting the Needs of the 2021 Renter

About our guest blogger:
Based in Worthing, Lucy studied Economics, Finance and Management before turning her focus towards the property market.  She’s a specialist short/long stay holiday rentals and has written for a number of major industry blogs.

Letting services look very different to how they did a year ago. Although business continues (people still need somewhere to live, after all), tenant expectations have dramatically changed and agencies are being forced to adapt their practices to keep transactions moving.

Even when COVID-19 is under control, it’s likely that the pandemic will have irreversibly changed the face of the housing industry. Renters are looking at potential homes through a completely different lens, and faster, contact-free agent services will be the norm. Fostering good relationships between landlords, property managers and tenants will be essential for long-term stability.

So, how can letting agents stay on top of these changes and maintain the trust of their landlords? Here are our top tips for meeting the needs of renters in 2021.

Adapting to Changing Consumer Tastes

Let’s start with one of the simplest adjustments: appealing to new tenant expectations.

Reframing what’s in your portfolio

Faced with many more months of lockdowns and social distancing, tenants will be prioritising space alongside affordability. Boost interest in your listings by focusing on outdoor areas (no matter how small), nearby recreation spaces and interior layout flexibility. De-prioritise emphasis on commuter options, and encourage your clients to stage spare bedrooms and dining rooms to highlight home-office possibilities, with tips on making home workspaces feel welcoming.

Speed up applications

Nobody needs an uncertain, drawn-out application and contract procedure right now, so make your new-tenant process as transparent and efficient as possible. You’ll encourage renters to choose your agency over others and keep landlords happy by filling vacancies quickly. Boost this along using technology (more on that in a moment), and by ensuring safety inspections, cleaning and repairs are carried out as soon as the property is vacant.

Delivering Contact-Free Services

To keep deals moving, the property industry has been pushed to adopt various types of technology much more quickly.

Video walkthroughs

Video tours were previously there to give a flavour of a property, but they’re often now the only way potential tenants will see the property before committing – make sure yours don’t let you down. Software like Giraffe 360, Mattterport and iStaging make it easy to capture professional-quality virtual tour footage from a smartphone the company’s livetour gallery gives you an idea of what’s possible. There’s also an innovative offering suited to new and in-progress developments from DCTR (formerly Doctor Photo) called DCVR.

Digital contracts and eSignatures

Avoid paperwork delays by using digital contracts for tenants and contractors. It speeds up the process of getting signatures and you save yourself the hassle of dealing with physical documents and filing. Compare eSign products for the best price points and look cross-compatibility with any other software you use – this list covers some popular choices.

Building Relationships with Landlords and Tenants

Nurturing your active relationships to protect your current income is the best thing you can do if new business is slow.

Communicate with tenants and landlords

Over the last year, people have faced financial instability, job loss and changes in family circumstances, all of which could be affecting their housing. However, you won’t understand how your clients and tenants (potential or existing) are directly affected unless you ask. Like the application process, fostering transparency will help you navigate any foreseeable issues, either with new tenants or struggling existing clients. The government has excellent guidance that you can pass to landlords or tenants to help support them and build trust.

Managing rent arrears

Discuss solutions for your landlords to remain financially stable even if their tenants are struggling to pay rent due to pandemic-related issues. Rent deferment (postponing rent until it can be paid back in future instalments) is preferable to rent abatement (agreed non-payment for a set period of time), but either is better than having to maintain an empty property, especially if tenants can still cover bills and council tax.

Planning repairs and maintenance

If possible, resolve any maintenance issues that have been delayed due to social distancing measures. Tenants in comfortable properties tend to stay put, and it will prevent landlords being hit with costly repairs in one go. Landlords are allowed to carry out essential work as long as they follow the COVID-19 legislation and current public health advice.

Person working productively at their desk

5 Productivity Tips for Landlords and Property Managers

Managing a property portfolio can be exhausting, especially if you run several different locations.

Throw in multiple tenants, be that student housing or HMOs, you could soon find yourself swamped chasing rent, answering queries, and planning for renovations and repairs. Your housing stock must remain habitable and in good shape, and each of those tenants will have needs and requests that possibly require filtering.

About our guest blogger:
Rae Joanne is a freelance career counsellor with five years experience in the field. When she’s not working, she enjoys experimenting with coffee and playing with her kids.

As a landlord, you may have only your own properties, but a management company may have multiple landlords and multiple properties to oversee and manage effectively. Simply Business explains how you are responsible for assessing every request from a tenant and react accordingly. Productivity is key here – if you spend too much time on the wrong areas, or do not work effectively, then people's lives will be adversely affected.

In our article 20 Minutes a Day productivity Increase, we explained how not only must you find methods to be productive, but also to maintain quality and efficiency in your work patterns. How can you achieve that? By following these five handy tips.

One Thing at a Time

Do not try to do too much at once. You may well find yourself spinning plates for much of the day, but you can only positively impact one problem or task at a time. Even if the phone rings constantly for an hour, once you get time to be productive you can only achieve goals by taking one step at a time. If you try to juggle three or four tasks at a time, you could suffer mental exhaustion remembering what stage each task is at.

Make Lists

If you are doing one task at a time, you will need a clear record of what else needs doing, so make a list. This is important for tracking calls coming in as well as ones you have made, so try to note down every call, with a time, incoming or outgoing. It will help you assess urgency further down the line, knowing when one problem was reported, or when to chase up a call you have placed.

Establish Processes

Having a standardised process for most tasks will ensure productivity as everyone will understand what stage a task is at, and can pick up where you left off. This is especially important in a property management company with multiple employees. With a standard onboarding procedure for new tenants, if you happen to be pulled to another task, someone else knows exactly what needs doing going forward for existing projects. It will also help with scheduling repairs too, if there are standard points at which each project arrives – reporting, scheduling, implementing, inspecting etc. If everyone is working to the same process, the job becomes much easier to understand for the whole team.

Be Prepared

Property management is a career which always brings the unexpected – that is the nature of the job. Nobody expects a pipe to burst, or a drain to become blocked, but they occur regularly with multiple properties under your watchful eye. Being prepared for those eventualities is hugely important. You may prepare by carrying out 'services' of these key aspects of a property, checking drains and plumbing regularly, but that could impact productivity negatively in taking up too much time. Insurance is a good way of staying one step ahead of any unpredictable variables. An overview of the landlord insurance policies on HomeServe, details that tenants can deal directly with the insurer in the event of a problem, cutting out the need for landlords or property managers to intervene. Not only are you prepared for a problem, but when it does occur it is not something that steals your attention away from the other day-to-day jobs you have to fulfil.

Leave the Office

Leaving your desk is a vital part of improving productivity, according to this post on Medium. It helps stimulate the brain and by switching off, you make it easier to switch back on. Stepping out for half an hour might sound counter-productive, but it is proven to improve concentration and application. Want to be more productive? Stop working for a short time and rest your mind.

Strategies for lettings agents to overcome challenges in 2021

About our guest blogger:
Based in Worthing, Lucy studied Economics, Finance and Management before turning her focus towards the property market.  She’s a specialist short/long stay holiday rentals and has written for a number of major industry blogs.

As a result of the global pandemic of 2020, 2021 is a year likely to have its fair share of challenges for many businesses across a host of industries. This is particularly true of lettings agents. COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty in the jobs market and the housing market alike. But there are ways that lettings agents can overcome these challenges in the coming year and continue to thrive.

Be prepared to change in the face of the ongoing pandemic

COVID-19 looks certain to remain a huge issue into 2021. But it is possible to have a strategy in place that can deal with a situation that might evolve rapidly. This year has proven that having a strategy that can quickly be adapted is key to success.

Picture of a virus

So, letting agents must factor this type of unpredictability into their plans. Make sure that, going forward, there is a plan B in place that can accommodate the more challenging aspects of the year that might arise.

Rent guarantees could be the answer

Landlords need stability and they need to be able to ensure that their payments will come in each month. After all, they still have their own legal obligations to adhere to, regardless of their tenants’ situations. But with government help drawing to a close, it’s a good idea to ensure that tenants are in a comfortable position financially. Lettings agents need to facilitate conversations between landlords and tenants.

Picture of a rent guarantee Form

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to rental agreements but rent guarantee insurance could be the solution to this type of uncertainty. This type of insurance covers the monthly rental income if tenants don’t pay. Most policies cover at least 50% of rental income for peace of mind. It will not only help lettings businesses but also landlords, so it’s a good idea to educate landlords on the rental guarantee products available to them.

The need for flexibility

No-one knows how COVID-19 will shape the market or what the government will put in place, with regards to the furlough scheme and other funding options. Although overall most rents have so far been paid, tenants may find it harder to pay their rent on time as wider economic challenges continue.

So, letting agents and landlords need to be able to offer flexibility during these unprecedented times. Good tenants are bound to have their shortcomings occasionally, but it’s important to offer a grace period wherever possible.

Pay attention to the rules

The pandemic has meant a change in the rules in numerous ways. So, it’s more important than ever to stay up-to-date with the latest legislation to ensure that you’re following the correct ruling.

It’s also important to remember that not all of the changes in ruling will be COVID-19-related. For example, there are new rules affecting wood burning stoves. 2021 will mean focusing on the details at all times, as they can have a big impact on businesses.

Providing a great service has never been more important

In challenging market conditions, the letting agents that really thrive are the ones that prioritise their customer base. In 2021, businesses need to place a far greater emphasis on the service they are providing and really pay close attention to detail.

It’s these differences that will set successful letting agents apart from the rest of the industry. For example, having a strong local knowledge is vital – customers want to be sure that the agents they are working with truly understand the area. It’s also important to follow up on calls and be accessible to customers.

Final thoughts

2021 looks set to deliver challenges that we haven’t seen before. But the key to overcoming these challenges is to face them head on and to be prepared. Letting agents need to use the lead-up to 2021 reviewing their processes and strategies so that they can identify the areas that can be improved.

It’s only through this difficult analysis that businesses can really find the gaps that will set them apart from the competition. While there will no doubt be businesses that fail to make it through the tougher times, if you can survive, there will likely be a bigger share of the market to take advantage of.