The Pros And Cons Of Smart Locks For Home Security

With smart homes growing in number each year and smart technology becoming more widely available, it’s clear that the UK property market is experiencing a blossoming trend for homes that centre around technology and automation.

As smart technology often adds to a property’s value and appeal, it’s important for estate agents to offer practical advice on whether their clients stand to benefit by integrating smart tech into their properties. For instance, will installing smart locks add more value to a property up for sale or appeal to renters if home security tops their wish list?

Smart technology in general exists to not only give homeowners more control of their energy usage but also to make their lives more convenient and their homes more secure. Smart lock systems, meanwhile, are a modern home feature that has gained popularity in recent years, also providing added convenience for homeowners and tenants of rental properties.

When it comes to analysing the benefits of smart door locks, convenience should never come at a cost to our security and safety. This is why estate agents and landlords need to understand the inherent security risks associated in order to make fully-informed decisions about adopting smart door locks in favour of tried-and-tested, traditional keyed locks.

This article will look at the benefits, risks and best practices of installing a smart lock system in your property, as well as common security vulnerabilities to be mindful of.

Possible benefits of smart door locks

Smart door and window locks provide some advantages for homeowners, landlords, and tenants.

Secure and seamless entry

Smart locks eliminate the need for residents to hold and fumble around for sets of keys, which can be handy when arriving at the property with your hands full. By allowing immediate and easy access through key fobs, PIN codes, smartphone scanning software or biometric data like fingerprints, residents can gain access to their property in plenty of convenient and non-invasive ways.

Integration with the smart home

Some smart locks pair easily with existing systems, such as alarms, security and surveillance cameras, and other smart home devices like lights. This can create a futuristic feel for a property which appeals to a certain kind of buyer or tenant.

Control and visibility

Some smart locks use apps to remotely lock or unlock doors, grant temporary access and monitor ‌activity from anywhere in the world. This can particularly helpful if you live far away or spend large periods away from home, providing you with a convenient solution to keep an eye on your estate without worrying.

Many smart door lock solutions come with additional features such as real-time notifications and alerts to give homeowners full visibility over who enters and when. Time-stamped activity logs also provide them with additional insights and control. If something doesn’t look right, homeowners can grant (or refuse) access to anybody who they deem necessary.

There are, however, a number of factors to consider before agents and landlords see this as a silver bullet for managing access to rental property (see below).

Potential Challenges of Smart Locks in 2023

Getting a reliable connection

In the majority of Smart locks, the more advanced functionality (such as being able to grant a person access from anywhere in the world) relies heavily on the lock having a connection to the internet. This often means attaching the locks in some way to a home Wi-Fi network. Although home Wi-Fi is getting more reliable all the time, the majority still wouldn’t rely on it for the essential security of their property.

Landlords are often not responsible for the internet provision to the tenant, meaning that they can’t rely on the tenant setting things up correctly for correct operation of the smart lock. There is still a danger of smart locks becoming just one more thing that needs to be maintained with the work required outstripping the benefits.

Sharing access

It’s tempting to see smart locks as a great solution to the problem of managing keys faced by landlords, tenants and agents alike. If all parties can have access to a smart lock, then it becomes easier for access to be provided when needed. At least, in theory. In practice, most domestic smart locks are really designed around a single family to use, and don’t allow for easily sharing of control between different parties in a tenancy contract. It introduces a number of problems around who has control to the smart lock apps. Who assigns new users.

Many agents and tenants alike would be concerned that different teams of people would all need to be trained in each different type of smart lock. Most agents don’t want the risk of a team member accidentally opening up access to a property because they didn’t understand the app properly.

What happens when it goes wrong?

There are many reasons why smart locks can go wrong in practice. Aside from connectivity, the most common is a power failure. Most smart locks rely on a battery, which if not changed, can lead to tenants being locked out. Most have a a backup mechanism such as external battery contacts or a USB port to attach a phone- but they rely on the occupier having the correct battery or charging cable with them when they need it- not at all likely if it’s late at night!

Other smart locks still have a backup key to allow manual unlocks- this is perhaps the best solution, but still requires keys to be carried and managed by the interested parties.

Addressing potential vulnerabilities

While smart door and window locks offer plenty of security benefits, agents and landlords must be mindful of certain risks before any smart lock is installed. If not properly addressed, these possible risks could manifest into larger problems.

Cyber attacks and hacks

Cybercrime is rife at the moment, and hackers might attempt to intercept wireless communication between devices. Unprotected and unpatched networks and devices will make that easier. If a controlling device is compromised, a hacker could potentially disrupt the connection between it and the lock.

This is why it’s important to deploy a solution that ensures encrypted connections between devices, as well as regular security patches to prevent any breaches.

Unpatched software

Firmware that is not updated or patched can expose smart lock systems to more vulnerabilities and hacking risks. If prompted, you should always ensure that you install recommended security patches to ensure core systems remain as secure as possible. You should also do this for any other smart home technology that you have, as it only takes one breach for all interconnected devices to become vulnerable.

Access code theft

If smart lock access codes are compromised, it means that unauthorised individuals could gain access to your property. This is why enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) protocols like biometric verification, SMS or email access codes, or phone calls to trusted devices can be a valuable additional layer of security. You can install reputable third-party authenticator apps to verify all legitimate requests and refuse any that have not come from a trusted device.

Best practices for optimal security

There is no denying the fact that smart locks present some security risks. However, if landlords and estate agents can address these known risks and instil the preventative measures outlined below, security can be maximised.

Choose reputable brands

Make sure that you choose a trusted smart lock provider with proven security experience and one that is transparent about its approach. Make sure that you consider the relevance of all your solution’s features, whether it’s anti-hacking software, regular security patching or smart integration with other software.

Secure networks and devices

Make sure that you set your software to update all security patches automatically, as this will ensure all known vulnerabilities are promptly addressed and safeguarded. Don’t exclusively do this for your smart locks, but for all connected smart home devices, as this will ensure optimum security within your property.

Ensure that the Wi-Fi network (which the smart lock system will connect to) is also secure with a strong, unique password. Make sure that you change your network’s default username and password.

Implement MFA and real-time monitoring

If available, make sure that your smart lock system and app have multi-factor authentication features enabled. This will ensure that you (or another trusted resident) receive codes or prompts to verify the identity of whomever is trying to access the property, and thus will safeguard you and your possessions from potential theft or damage.

By integrating your smart lock software with a smart CCTV or camera system, you’ll be a step closer to achieving real-time visibility over your property. Landlords and estate agents can consider partnering with a reputable penetration testing expert that can provide 24/7 monitoring, as well as immediate assistance in case a system is compromised.

Smart locks: the future of secure property access?

As smart technology continues to affect the UK lettings and sales sector, you can expect to see Smart Locks becoming more compelling in the years to come. Traditional keyed locks are not going to go away, and certainly not anytime soon, however, smart locks will gradually become a more preferred option over time. As the market matures, the problems of today will become easier to solve.

Digital Tools Streamlining Commercial Property Inspections And Surveying

Commercial property surveys and inspections have remained relatively formulaic for decades. The crucial due diligence process of inspecting and surveying properties has remained relatively unchanged for some time.

That said, new technologies are emerging that serve to make this tick-box exercise much faster, more accurate and more efficient for commercial agents and property managers. From mobile applications to 3D scanning to drones, Proptech innovations are changing the inspection landscape significantly, cutting down on manual efforts and alleviating agents from excessive, tiresome and labour-intensive paperwork.

Find out some of the most innovative and intuitive tech that looks set to transform the ways that commercial properties can be routinely inspected and surveyed.

Automated and AI-powered defect detection

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are two intertwined technologies that are causing widespread disruption in many industries, and property is no different. While it’s no secret that AI can transform agents’ content marketing, lead generation and data entry efforts, the tech can also be used as the backbone for visual inspection solutions.

AI-powered software can autonomously detect defects and issues in buildings, based on insights and data from surveys, and therefore automate many of the laborious and time-consuming parts of manual property inspections.

Inspection tools such as TensorFlight can provide in-depth visualisations of properties, while using AI to highlight potential areas for further inspection and deeper analysis, meaning surveyors can dedicate their time and efforts to the most imperative tasks.

By leveraging automation, surveyors and commercial estate agents can intelligently analyse images, models and datasets to identify problem areas such as dampness, corrosion, asbestos, and so on.

Drones and UAVs to access high-up or hard-to-reach areas

Drones have become an invaluable tool for commercial property surveyors, enabling access to difficult areas like roofs, chimneys, gutters and facades, as well as the external walls of high-rise buildings and blocks of flats.

Equipped with high-resolution cameras, drones can capture detailed imagery and videos of a building’s external condition. Built-in photo-capturing software can then stitch these images and video content together into sophisticated, immersive models that can provide detailed inspection maps for surveyors and agents.

Providing this extent of data and photographic evidence makes report generation much more detailed and efficient; it’s no surprise that surveyors are regularly using these UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to conduct greater numbers of detailed RICS Homebuyer surveys and reports.

Drone deployments are much safer and faster than manual inspections of hard-to-reach areas. They also cause no disruption to a building’s occupants and are relatively easy to learn with minimal training.

3D laser scanning for precise digital replication

Static LiDAR technology – another word for terrestrial laser scanning – is becoming vital for commercial building surveys and inspections. Tripod-mounted scanners allow surveyors to deliver more comprehensive surveys, capturing very specific areas or everything within view, with individual scans distributed within a few seconds. The scans are condensed and aggregated to construct detailed 3D property models.

These scans pick up all physical and structural details at millimetre-level accuracy, which can then be used to create bespoke, detailed floor plans, flythroughs, elevations and supporting imagery for property listings. Everything is geospatially located with precise measurements and details. Using this highly sophisticated technology, professionals can inspect a property’s condition and identify defects with ease, often in real-time.

Dynamic mobile apps for improved accessibility and analysis

Mobile applications can make inspection reports much more sophisticated, usable and shareable for all stakeholders involved in a property transaction. Surveyors can use mobile applications to capture HD photos, videos, annotate images, and deploy measurements directly on-site, and subsequently embed these assets in their reports.

Interactive floor plans can also be created as a result of the images and supporting measurement data, thus making navigation and analysis easier. With these assets backed up by detailed, timestamped analytics, defects and issues can be identified with greater accuracy and efficiency.

Having inspection data in accessible and visual formats enhances understanding for clients. It also enables improved maintenance and repair scope planning. Commercial Estate Agents can find end-to-end platforms for defect detection and 3D CAD floor plan rendering, such as AutoCAD LT from Autodesk

Exercising caution with human oversight

While property technology tools provide significant cost- and time-saving benefits, they can’t replace the need for qualified professionals conducting on-site assessments and inspections‌.

Comprehensive building surveys and inspections still require meticulous attention to detail and expert human skill, experience, and opinion for all elements. While technology can certainly improve productivity and automate many manual components of the surveying process, we are still at a point where we can’t entirely entrust all aspects to computers and algorithms.

With people supervising and managing the use of this technology effectively, surveyors and professionals can use their natural senses like smell, hearing, and touch which technology can’t detect or replicate as easily. These insights can therefore be married with the real-time data that apps and tools have already aggregated to make reports more comprehensive and primarily human-driven.

The optimal approach blends traditional techniques with new technologies for more rigorous and complete surveys.

Enhanced due diligence for agents and property managers

For agents and property management professionals, the emergence of new proptech tools makes the due diligence processes much more enhanced for sales, lettings, and ongoing asset management purposes.

The baseline documentation derived from drone imagery and scans makes the property condition reports more comprehensive during the acquisition stage. From this, comparisons can be drawn with images taken down the line, thus making future repairs more accurate and easy to identify and schedule.

Ongoing maintenance scans at regular intervals can identify emerging defects early. Having detailed digital defect reports also aids in repair scope planning and contractor management.

Technologies like automated AI analysis provide more consistent and objective insight, while still allowing for manual assessment by experienced surveyors.

Overall these innovations in technology mean commercial property professionals can provide clients with greater transparency, scrutiny and planning abilities when it comes to the built environment. This raises trust and satisfaction for vendors, buyers, and landlords under contract with agents.

It’s hopefully clear to see that the adoption of proptech tools requires the right strategic approach for them to be optimally effective. Their benefits are clear, in that they can streamline and automate many of the cumbersome aspects of surveying while delivering greater insights, detail and analytics. The key is harnessing and leveraging the technology to make the process work for each end user, and not viewing apps and software as sufficient replacements for hardworking property professionals.

Leveraging the strengths of technology and marrying them with your own methodical approaches and real-world experience will allow agents to reap more of their benefits. From this, smarter management, leasing, selling, and investment calculation decisions can be made. In the near future, it’s evident that we will see the further integration of emerging technologies within the property sector, paving the way for more productive and insightful approaches.

If you can successfully embrace and implement the technology and tools available now, it will work in your favour down the line.

How Might The Renters Reform Bill Impact Lettings Agents?

Initially proposed in 2019, but delayed numerous times, many property professionals believed that the Renters Reform Bill would be postponed indefinitely. But in May 2023, the UK Government announced that they still intended to move forward with these legislative changes and it was back on the agenda.

With big changes on the horizon for the rental market, it has naturally led many letting agents and landlords to wonder how these changes will affect them and their businesses.

What are the changes to the Renters Reform Bill?

The Renters Reform Bill is being presented by the Government as a solution to improve relations between tenants and landlords. The primary goal of the bill is to eliminate the small fraction of criminal landlords, thereby improving the reputation of private landlords as a whole and minimising disputes. The majority of landlords already provide safe and comfortable properties for their tenants but these positive changes come alongside significant rent reform measures that will impact landlords.

The proposed changes for the Renters Reform Bill include:

  • End to ‘no-fault’ Section 21 evictions

  • Landlords aren’t legally allowed to unreasonably refuse tenants with pets

  • Landlords can’t reject tenants on benefits

  • Landlords must not discriminate against tenants with children

  • All privately rented residential properties have to meet the Decent Homes Standard

  • Landlords must become members of a private rental Ombudsman.

The Renters Reform Bill is being introduced to improve the private rented housing sector in the UK. The private rental market makes up a significant portion of housing in the UK, with over 4 million properties being privately rented, a number that has doubled since 2004.

The Government has identified several issues with the current private rented legislation. First, some renters face uncertainty and lack of security in their housing, particularly due to Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions that allow landlords to evict tenants without cause. Secondly, responsible landlords face difficulties competing with criminal landlords who break the rules. One examples might be not respecting a tenant’s right to be asked before permitting landlords legitimate access to a property.

While the Renters Reform Bill aims to address some of these issues, the Government has further goals for improving the private rented sector. Nearly a quarter of private rented homes do not meet basic standards of decency, and the Government hopes to implement the Decent Homes Standard for private rentals in the future to improve quality and conditions.

How will the changes affect Letting Agents?

The Renters Reform Bill will bring mixed effects for letting agents. While details remain unconfirmed, letting agents must stay up to date and help landlords understand the changes. Landlords with portfolios of all sizes are already asking letting agents about new measures like the Property Ombudsman and property portals, so agents must respond knowledgeably about the Renters Reform Bill. Some may even benefit by becoming experts, attracting more business in the future.

However, the outlook is uncertain given the market. Many agents worry about the constant attack landlords may face, and the impact this will have on the buy-to-let market or even the profitability of a rental investment in the long-term. If more landlords sell quality rentals, letting agents will have less work and revenue, while regulation and taxes could hurt tenants with lower rental supply.

While some letting agents may gain by helping landlords adapt to the Renters Reform Bill, there’s a risk that the impact could be negative if many landlords sell in response to the reforms. Support for landlords may be letting agents’ best strategy in this time of change.

Updating landlords on the changes

At present, letting agents have the ability to offer advice to landlords, including helpful tips for new landlords to succeed with the proposed changes on the horizon. However, the scope of their advisory role is expected to expand significantly.

According to the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), letting agents have a crucial role in keeping up with the ever-evolving nature of the sector. If and when the Renters Reform Bill becomes law, private residential landlords will be required to demonstrate compliance with the Decent Homes Standard or face fines for non-compliance. Letting agents can even view this as an opportunity to broaden the services they offer and provide enhanced guidance to property owners in light of the changes to come.

The renters reform can present a real opportunity for agents. Landlords may feel overwhelmed and seek professional advice from well-informed letting agents. In today’s market, having a letting agent to provide guidance and support on property types, locations, tenant demographics and tax considerations is invaluable.

However, effectively explaining the intricacies of the significant changes outlined above may prove more challenging in practice. The NRLA has criticised the Renters Reform Bill for its lack of detailed information regarding these major property letting changes, fearing that the proposed ruling may not be robust enough. They believe that more detailed information is needed to ensure the bill functions as intended, though they welcome the Government’s commitment to enabling landlords to regain their properties in such situations.

What can landlords do to prepare?

Landlords will be required to meet new minimum standards when it comes to property maintenance, which means fixing any lingering repairs and issues as soon as possible. In particular, if those repairs pose a health or safety risk, such as damp or gas and electricity issues, they need to be dealt with immediately to improve living conditions for tenants.

Landlords should also review tenancy agreements to ensure the properties in their portfolios meet the new requirements for repairs and ongoing maintenance.

One of the biggest changes landlords can make to prepare for this new legislation is to ensure that they communicate effectively with tenants as to their rights under this new ruling. Seeking advice from letting agents but also professional bodies such as the NRLA will help landlords to comply with these requirements.

The Renters Reform Bill will have a huge impact on the private rental sector, and both letting agents and landlords need to stay up to date with the proposed changes to ensure they’re legally compliant. The changes may be significant but they hopefully will improve the renting experience for everyone and make this sector more stable and secure.

Creating A Low-Maintenance Garden To Boost Your Rental Appeal

It is in your landlord’s interests to make your rental property as appealing as possible to potential tenants, giving it a competitive edge over similar properties in the area. One of the features many people look for is a private garden or patio.

Outdoor space has become a particularly sought-after feature in recent years for obvious reasons. “Since the recent pandemic-induced lockdowns, everyone seems to have rediscovered the immense value of having private outdoor space,” explains one letting agent.

That said, a garden tends to mean ongoing maintenance, which equals additional time and expense for both landlords and tenants. With estate agents also highlighting attractive property features like presentable gardens and patios, what’s the solution? In this article, we take a look at how to create an attractive yet low-maintenance garden that enhances your rental appeal and income without increasing your workload.

What do tenants want?

Whether you have a garden flat or a whole house to let, the type of tenants you wish to attract will determine the kind of outdoor space that appeals to them. Different groups look for various features – here are some typical examples:

Young Professionals:


  • Larger lawn area for children’s play

  • Sturdy table, chairs and benches

  • Child-friendly plants and trees

  • Secure fencing for safety, privacy and preventing stray balls/toys

Mature tenants:

  • Level pathways for easy access

  • Seating at frequent intervals

  • Flower beds with colour but not requiring much pruning or weeding

  • Natural light for spending time reading or enjoying the garden

Specific characteristics may differ but most tenants seeking private outdoor space want minimal responsibility for the upkeep of their garden. For landlords, this means that choosing a simple, uncluttered design with low-maintenance features will have the widest appeal across tenant types.

What are the key features of a low-maintenance garden?

The trick to creating an easy-care garden is choosing hard landscaping, hardy planting and efficient features that minimise ongoing chores. Start with hard landscaping to provide useful patios, decking and seating areas without a lawn to mow. One recent article recommends mixing materials for added interest. “From concrete, to pavers, stone, tile, brick and gravel, changing materials can create separate zones within your patio. Ideal if you want to use your patio for multiple things such as a dining zone or a reading corner.”

When it comes to planting, opt for low-growing evergreen shrubs, succulents like lavender and hardy perennials over flowering annuals. These plants don’t need annual replacement nor much in the way of watering or pruning once established. Also consider container planting with pots and planters that can be easily moved around and brought under shelter if needed. This also allows you to adjust planting displays for different seasons or tastes.

If there is a lawn, have it mowed and edged regularly by a gardener to keep a tidy appearance. Choose more robust grass types that do not require feeding to stay green and luscious. An artificial lawn is also an increasingly popular option, with no ongoing maintenance needed whatsoever. If you do have a gardener, arrange pruning shrubs and small trees a couple of times a year to avoid any areas becoming unruly while also encouraging healthy growth. This type of general maintenance should be sufficient for most low-key rental gardens.

With these choices, it is possible to design an outdoor space that presents beautifully but doesn’t become a chore to manage or cost a fortune to maintain. Keeping things simple but stylish is the key, with a minimal amount of lawn or planting that needs attention. Most routine maintenance can be handled efficiently by occasional visits from a professional gardener. Your tenants get to enjoy an appealing garden area without the hassle of ongoing responsibilities.

Who is responsible for garden upkeep?

Many landlords find it more convenient to pass the responsibility for garden maintenance onto the tenant, requesting that a minimum amount of work must be carried out to keep the garden looking reasonable. In fact, mowing lawns and keeping on top of weeds are often standard clauses in Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements.

If garden responsibilities are to be included in the tenancy agreement, be as specific as possible about what exactly your expectations are. Can your tenants grow vegetables or make structural alterations to the garden? What about adding or removing plants? It is advisable to add a clause saying the landlord’s permission must be obtained before any improvements or changes can be made to the garden.

We would also recommend that you include dated photos of the garden in your inventory check-in report, which can then be compared to the condition of the garden at the end of the tenancy. “Landlords should make sure that they are taking a sensible deposit from the tenant before the tenancy begins. This can then be used to recover some of the costs that might occur due to damage or neglect of the garden by the tenant,” explains an insurance expert in the field.

Unfortunately, garden maintenance is often a bone of contention between landlords and tenants, particularly when it comes to the end of the tenancy. The result of any dispute will largely be based on what it says in the tenancy agreement, so make sure you’re covered. If there is no clause about gardening responsibilities, you won’t be able to claim for damages caused by the tenant.

How to present your property’s garden for viewings?

First impressions count when it comes to viewings, so ensure your garden is looking its best to help secure the right tenants. While aimed at low maintenance, a few touches will make an outdoor space more appealing for viewings:

  • Clear any debris from patios, walkways and decking. Mow the lawn, edge pathways, pull up weeds and prune shrubs. A clean, clutter-free garden will show much better.

  • Place a few potted plants, window boxes or hanging baskets near entrance ways to give a friendly welcome and add colour, but without overcrowding the space.

  • Set out a bench, table and chairs to demonstrate how the space could be used. Keep furniture contemporary and in proportion to the size of the garden.

  • Feature good quality photos of the garden in your property listing to generate interest, including images of seating areas, greenery and other garden highlights.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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.


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.

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.