Another new Scandi happiness craze?

Just when we had got our heads around Hygge, here comes another Scandi happiness craze that is about to take over our interiors.

Out goes the coziness of hygge and in comes lagom, which means just the right amount.

Lagom, pronounced laaaw-gum, is a lifestyle philosophy that promises to transform the way that we live.

The philosophy is not about making big changes, rather making improvements to small things in all areas of your life. Lagom can be said to describe the basis of the Swedish national psyche, one of consensus and equality.

So, how does this translate into interiors?

Your belongings should be either functional or have sentimental value. Things that fall outside of this may be considered unnecessary and excessive. If you let go of things that don’t fit those categories, you should feel more emotionally content and your mind should feel less cluttered too.

If you now feel ready to dip into the lagom philosophy, where can you start?

IKEA, the Swedish home store, has launched a series of in store workshops that will help create a better way to live and created a great brochure to help you on your lagom journey.

Some of the tips they have are:

Use less power – Did you know that 87% of large families in the UK are worried about their rising energy bills? And 15% of UK householders think their energy use if out of control.

Use less water – On average, every person in the UK uses 150 litres of water every day. And 30% of that is flushed down the toilet.

Create less waste – Up to 60% of what we throw away could be recycled. And we bin seven million tonnes of food and drink every year – costing us £12.5 billion.

Live well – If people in urban England and Wales cycled and walked as much as people in Copenhagen, the NHS could save £17 billion within twenty years.

There are also a wealth of books springing up on the subject and, as the trend expands, expect to see more examples and products across the whole high street.

Have you ever thought about your room ratios?

You may have a checklist when thinking about home improvements or moving home, but have you ever thought about room ratios?

Recent research by an insurance company has revealed that the ideal home should have a bedroom to bathroom ratio of 3:2.

So, a property should have two bathrooms for every three bedrooms in order to maximise its desirability and value.

Estate agents were polled to find out the impact of extra bathrooms on price and over 70% agreed that, a three bedroom property should ideally have at least two bathrooms.

The study also said that a five bedroom property should have at least three bathrooms but that a shower room can add as much value as a proper bathroom.

The estate agents polled estimated that an extra bathroom could add 6.8% to the value of a standard three bedroom property, nearly £12,000.

For a four bedroom property, an extra bathroom would be expected to increase the value by 6.2%, nearly £17,000 of added value.

Do you agree with this research? What would be your perfect room ratio and would it be a deal breaker when looking at a new home? Let us know in the comments below.

Top 20 Must-Have features revealed

New research has highlighted the Top 20 Must-Have features that would encourage people to purchase a seller’s property.

Can you guess what they are? Here is the full list:

  1. Central heating
  2. Double glazing
  3. A garden
  4. Secure doors and windows
  5. Driveway or dedicated parking space
  6. Plenty of electrical sockets
  7. Local shops and amenities
  8. A good, reliable broadband connection strong enough to stream TV and films.
  9. Friendly neighbours
  10. At least 2 toilets
  11. A bath
  12. A good energy efficiency rating
  13. A new boiler/central heating system
  14. A reliable, clear mobile phone signal.
  15. A shower cubicle
  16. A garage
  17. Cavity wall insulation
  18. A land line telephone
  19. A living room big enough for a large, flat screen television.
  20. A dining room

The research shows that several must-haves of the past, including period features and conservatories, didn’t make the list. What’s more, only 13% of participants indicated that they felt highly rated schools to be a must-have property feature.

The survey spokesman stated:

‘We found that many potential buyers are prioritising efficiency, security and connectivity over aesthetic features.’

‘This suggests that modern buyers are buying with their heads rather than their hearts and that investing in things like a new boiler, additional electrical sockets or modernising home insulation could be a smarter investment than traditional selling points.’

He continued:

‘It is surprising to see previous must-haves such as good schools and conservatories fail to make the top 20.’

‘However, our research shows that buyers are becoming more financially savvy and are willing to make compromises on the finer details of a property to keep costs down and avoid expensive work in the future.’

Do you agree with the list? What would be your number one Must-Have? Let us know in the comments.

Air quality reports – would they make a difference?

The Chief Executive of NAEA Propertymark, Mark Hayward, has said that estate agent listings may soon include compulsory information on a location’s air quality.

During an interview on BBC Radio London, Mark said:

‘I think anything that would affect someone’s decision to buy should be there to be seen by the public.’

Research by the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health suggests that air pollution has been linked to 40,000 early deaths in the UK.

The air quality information could be included in listings as a traffic light-style pollution warning.

How is the air quality in your home?
Mark added:

‘What we are saying is it will now factor into somebody’s wish list in terms of what and where they want to buy.’

The situation of declining air quality in London has already been described as an emergency by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. A report, authored by Kings College London, suggests that long-term air pollution was responsible for over 9,000 deaths in a single year in the capital.

Chief executive of the Homeowners’ Alliance, Paula Higgins, told The Telegraph:

‘Giving buyers information about pollution would help them think with their head and not with their heart. People need to look at pollution levels in a prospective area just as they would when they look at crime rates.’

What are your thoughts? Would you like to see this introduced and would it affect your decision on whether to buy a property? Let us know in the comments.

Politicians must vote for housing

Our Principal, Paul Carr, looks ahead to the 2017 General Election and an often ignored – but vitally important – area of policy.

No doubt Brexit, the economy and the NHS will dominate the 2017 General Election. Energy, education and defence should also get a strong look-in while the devolved governments will be trying to get as much air time as possible.

But do spare a thought for housing, as, on the evidence of the recent past, it doesn’t look as if any political party will.

Over the past nineteen hearts, and during the tenure of four Prime Ministers – Blair, Brown, Cameron and May – there have been no fewer than fourteen housing ministers.

This post seems to have become a stepping-stone for ministers who are either on an upwardly mobile career path or heading in the opposite direction into the political wilderness. That such an important part of our daily lives can be dealt with in such a perfunctory way seems short sighted and negative to most outside Westminster.

Property is a national obsession yet the politicians seem to treat it as a short stop to somewhere else. Property also provides important jobs and revenue through allied industries such as furniture, flooring, lighting and decorating, and in the service sector – finance, legal, surveying, etc.

We need more housing in the UK and we need better housing. Yet successive governments have failed to plan, have failed to act and have failed to build the 250,000 new homes that we are estimated to need each year. They have failed to establish any sort of meaningful housing policy – indeed how could there be a meaningful one with so many different housing ministers? By contrast, in the same nineteen-year period, there have been only seven Home Secretary’s.

Too few new homes being built creates greater demand for the properties that are already part of the ageing national estate. Strong demand and insufficient supply inevitably means rising property prices. The lack of any cohesive housing policies over two decades has not just added to the housing problem but has helped create it.

No market likes uncertainty and for the fourth year in succession, we have an important election which will bring fresh uncertainty. Brexit will rumble on for several years yet, adding to this uneasiness. But we hope that whichever party prevails on June 8th, the new Prime Minister will take his or her housing ministry more seriously.

We need a committed housing minister prepared to stay in the job for more than sixteen months. We also hope that the new housing minister will not use housing as another easy way to create revenue without first thinking through the implications a higher rate of tax will have on the property market as a whole, and our lives as citizens – after all, we all have to live somewhere.

What if ‘Friends’ had been set in Birmingham?

What if ‘Friends’ had been set in Birmingham …

1. The opening credits would be set in Victoria Square
2. Central Perk would just be another Costa branch
3. Or more likely, just a pub.
4. They’d all live in unaffordable flats in The Mailbox
5. Except Phoebe, who’d live in Nechells.
6. Instead of “How you doin’?”, Joey would say “Alright bab?”.
7. And he’d be more into balti than pizza
8. He’d be a regular cast member on Doctors!
9. Which would lead to him being nominated for an award by The Midlands Royal Television Society. He’d lose, ungracefully.
10. He’d then volunteer to host the BBC’s Children in Need, where he’d end up making a small appearance reading out a couple of local donations from Birmingham.
11. Rachel would work in Selfridges
12. Where she’s take up vaping to try and get close to her boss
13. Monica would work at Adam’s or Purnell’s
14. Or anywhere that was impossible to book a table or find parking
15. Monica’s homeware obsession would be fuelled by PROVIDE
16. Paul the Wine Guy’s nickname would be explained by him having worked at Loki
17. And Pete would have joined Birmingham Wrestling Club
18. Ross would work in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

The cast of TV series Friends
19. And lecture at BCU
20. Where he’d get into a relationship with a fresher
21. His sandwich rage would have been justified because it was a Philpotts special
22. Ross’ sofa would be from the neverending DFS sale
23. Ross would start dating someone from Coventry but fall asleep on the train and end up in London
24. Chandler and Joey would lose Ben on the Number 11 Bus
25. And still no one would know what Chandler did for a living
26. Ross, Chandler, and Joey would be frequent visitors to Villa park, where Ross would be smacked in the face by a stray football.
27. Phoebe would drive an Uber by night
28. And work at the spa in the Cube during the day
29. Phoebe would apply for Britain’s Got Talent when they’re auditioning in Birmingham
30. Which would result in “Smelly Cat” becoming a viral hit on YouTube
31. Phoebe’s wedding wouldn’t have taken place in the snow because it never snows in Birmingham
32. There would be a lot more swearing
33. Instead of taking a trip to Barbados, the group would travel to Magaluf.
34. Monica and Chandler would eventually buy a big house in Sutton Coldfield
35. Ross would be able to stop Rachel getting on the plane because there’s only one airport in Birmingham
36. But in reality he’d get horribly lost in the confusing car park and she’d end up in Paris after all

Thanks to BuzzFeed for the laughs!

Tenant happiness on the rise due to longer rentals

A study of over 3,000 tenants has found that an increasing number of renters are very happy with their living situation.

The LSL Corporate Client Department’s 2017 Tenant Survey found that 32% of renters claim to be very happy, which is up from 28% last year.

A further 37% claimed that they are happy, up slightly from 36% in 2016.

The survey claims that the increase in satisfaction amongst tenant is due to a reduction in frustrations with maintenance, fees and restrictions.

The report also highlighted growth in the long-term rental market with 33% of tenants having rented for six years or longer, which is up from 29% in 2016.

Renters were split into four groups in the survey, namely, Younger Independents, Struggling Savers, Moving Up and Reconciled with Renting.

The Struggling Savers and Moving Up groups are more likely to be renting due to having a lack of deposit or have difficulty in getting a mortgage. This means they are less inclined to see renting as a lifestyle choice.

The Young Independents and Reconciled with Renting groups are, on the other hand, more likely to appreciate the flexibility that renting offers them.

Conditions of the rental property and value for money were the two most important deal breakers for the tenants surveyed. These were followed by good communication with landlords/letting agents and the overall quality of the landlord.

If you are thinking of becoming a landlord, 28% of tenants said that they would pay more rent if they were allowed to keep pets and 21% said they would pay more for high speed internet. Points to think over!

Ian Fletcher, director of policy (Real Estate) at the British Property Federation said:

‘The results show that the vast majority of the sector’s customers are happy but there is no room for complacency. The rental sector’s customer base is changing, for example with far more families, and what customers want is changing too.’

He continued:

‘The private rented sector can’t divorce itself from these wider social, economic and technological changes and the impact that is having on how people want to lead their lives.’

If you are looking to rent a property or are looking to become a landlord, please contact our Residential Lettings team to find out about our with you every step of the way personal service.

When you find out your landlord is …

Landlords come in all shapes and disguises but in the shape of a former Prime Minister? Now we have seen everything!

If you were looking to rent a property, would you want to find out that your landlord is former Prime Minister Tony Blair?

A company has been set up to handle the ownership and management of buy to let properties and the main shareholder of the company is none other than Tony Blair.

Now, we will have all read the stories in the past about the Blair family and their property investments. In fact, Tony, his wife Cherie and their eldest son Euan, already own 38 properties worth an estimated £33m, according to the Daily Mail.

Their portfolio already includes a series of flats in North West England which are let our via an existing company, Oldbury Residential Ltd.

A new company called Harcourt Ventures Ltd has now been set up to help them manage their growing portfolio. The Daily Mail claim that Tony Blair owns 50% of the shares, although Cherie Blair is the company’s sole director.

It is no surprise that the former Prime Minister should be involved with buy to let via a company. His wife, and the law firm she leads – Omnia Strategy LLP, represented two landlords in last year’s unsuccessful bid to secure a judicial review of Section 24 of the Finance (No.2) Act 2015.

This act came into effect in April 2017 and started reducing landlords’ mortgage interest tax relief.

At the time of the failed attempt Cherie Blair said:

‘The court’s decision that our clients’ legal challenge should not proceed is very disappointing. Steve and Chris, and many others, have dedicated a lot of time and energy into putting forward the best case possible. We know the case has been supported and followed with interest by a large number of individual landlords.  Many of these landlords now face challenging times ahead.’

She continued:

‘From the outset, the legal process was just one aspect of our clients’ fight against this unfair measure. Together with their impressive and growing coalition, they will continue to engage with the government, and the legal team wishes them every success.’

So next time you do a double-take at your landlord, just have a look and see if it is him!

Landlords – EPC minimum ratings are coming soon

If you are a landlord, you need to make sure you know all about the changes to the EPC minimum ratings coming into effect soon. Read on for more information.

Energy Performance Certificate chart
From 1st April 2018, it will be unlawful to rent a property that breaches the minimum requirement of an E rating on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), unless there is an applicable exemption.

A recent survey by E.ON found out that 49% of landlords did not feel adequately informed about how to improve the energy efficiency of their properties.

This means that they may struggle to get their property compliant to the minimum EPC rating regulations and they could also be missing out on other benefits available for making a property more energy efficient.

Mike Feely from E.ON provides the following tips for landlords looking to improve their EPC ratings:

  • Don’t  underestimate the importance of insulation in making a property more energy efficient. If the property was built before or around 1920, it most likely has solid walls. Solid wall insulation can be installed from either the inside or the outside. If the property was built after 1920 it’s likely to have cavity walls. These have a double external wall with a small gap between which can be filled with insulation.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of insulation in making a property more energy efficient. If the property was built before or around 1920, it most likely has solid walls. Solid wall insulation can be installed from either the inside or the outside. If the property was built after 1920 it’s likely to have cavity walls. These have a double external wall with a small gap between which can be filled with insulation.
  • Make a play of your energy savings standards – don’t just think of improving energy efficiency as something for meeting regulations, it’s a commercial decision too. Given most tenants are responsible for paying energy bills, some may be willing to pay more for properties that are energy efficient, so make sure you’re making the most of this as a selling point.
  • Without properly insulated windows, the property could be losing up to 10% of its heat. Double glazed windows make a big difference when it comes to lowering energy bills as well as reducing condensation and noise. Instead of double glazing you could install secondary glazing which involves fitting a pane of plastic or glass inside the existing window recess to create an insulating layer of air. Though not as effective as double glazing, secondary glazing still saves a significant amount of energy and allows you to maintain good kerb appeal by keeping original features such as sash windows.
  • EPC ratings look only at permanent improvements to the fabric of the building so think about long-term upgrades that will help to reduce heat and energy use. Simple things – sausage dog draught excluders and the like – will help keep heat in, but for the EPC you need to find permanent ways to fill the gaps to stop heat escaping through windows, doors, letterboxes and even keyholes.
  • For those looking to bring their properties completely up to date, consider renewable technologies such as solar panels with an at-home battery to store electricity for use even when the sun goes down. Be aware these will
    contribute to your rating only if they’re helping to heat the house, rather than providing electricity for other uses.

If you are a landlord and would like to discuss the changes in the EPC rating regulations, please contact our Residential Lettings team.

Property Jargon A-Z: Final Part

The property world is full of words and expressions that may be unfamiliar to anyone who is not regularly buying, selling, letting or renting a home.

In the fifth and final part of an occasional series, this guide will help to shed light on what they all mean.

Searches
These are conducted by your lawyer to check if there is anything that might affect the current or future value of the property. It is compulsory to have a local authority search before exchanging contracts.

Share of Freehold
This is when the freehold of the property is owned by a limited company and the shareholders are the owners of the property, usually the owners of flats within that building.

Sole Agent
Where only one estate or letting agency firm is instructed by a seller or landlord to offer a property for sale or to rent.

Sole Selling Rights
Where an estate agency or person is granted sole selling rights by the seller of a property, they will be able to claim an agreed fee regardless of who actually introduces the buyer.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)
The tax paid to the government by the purchaser of a property. Rates of SDLT can vary. Changes in December 2014 mean that the tax rates are banded progressively in the same way as income tax. Nothing is payable on the first £125,000 of the purchase price. From £125,001 to £250,000 2% is payable and from £250,001 to £925,000 the rate is 5%. £925,001 to £1.5 million is 10% and over £1.5 million it is 12%.

Subject To Contract
Where contracts are still not exchanged and nothing is yet legally binding on either seller or buyer.

Survey
This is a report prepared by a qualified building surveyor to check the structure for any faults. Home owners can choose from three main types of structural survey, depending on how much information they want.

Tenancy
Possession of a property by a tenant under the terms of a lease.

Tenancy Agreement
The legal agreement governing the occupation of a property by a tenant.

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS)
An insurance-based scheme run by The Dispute Service Ltd. for the protection of tenancy deposits and the resolution of disputes between landlords, agents and tenants concerning the return of deposits at the end of a tenancy. It is one of three schemes approved for tenancy deposit protection.

Tenant
The person who has temporary possession of a property under a lease or tenancy agreement.

Tenure
The mode of holding ownership of a property, for example, leasehold or freehold.

Title Deeds
Documents detailing and confirming the legal ownership of a property.

Transfer Document
The final legally binding document that transfers the property and all its rights from the seller to the buyer.

Under Offer
A property becomes under offer when a seller accepts an offer from a buyer and the legal processes of the transaction begin.

Valuation or Market Appraisal
A term often used by estate agents to cover the process of them giving an opinion of the open market value of a property.

Vendor
The person selling a property.