Guest Bloggers Wanted!

 

As we continue to grow the Whitegates community we’re always looking to see what our industry colleagues have to say. Keeping up to date with industry websites and blogs is just a one way we make sure our team stays a step or two ahead of what’s happening in the industry.

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We are always active on social media and this year we have some big plans. We will shortly be launching a  brand new website and  we also have some great content planned for our blog this year. As well as a schedule of blog posts, look out for content such as Infographics, checklists for Landlords, factsheets, Q&A’s, comment pieces from our MD, Michael Stoop and more.

On that same note, we’re very excited to announce that we are looking for local property industry experts to provide guest blog post content for the Whitegates blog, starting now!

If you are an expert in the property market in your area, we’d be honored to feature your work on our blog. We are looking for submissions on any property topic, specifically aimed at any of the following:

• Landlords
• Tenants
• Buyers
• Sellers
• Students

Maybe there is a property trend you have noticed in your local area, a type of property which sells well, or not, or an area which is receiving regeneration and/or additional starter homes. Whatever the topic, if its important and interesting to those in your local area, we’d love to hear from you.

Please send submissions of any length – preferably 300-600 words to social@whitegates.com and we will get back to you know when your content will be posted on our website, how we will share it and where you can access it to re-share on your social media accounts.

How to personalise your rental home without losing your deposit

 

Rental properties can sometimes come with all kinds of rules – you might not be allowed to repaint the walls without the landlord’s permission, change the carpet, or even make holes in the walls!

But just because it’s a rental, it doesn’t mean that you can’t give it that personal touch. Read on for some great tips on how to ‘turn that house into a home.’

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Make it all about you

Choose accessories that really reflect your own tastes and styles. Think about what you love – are you a huge music buff or a major sports fan? Adding small reminders that reflect your passions can immediately make a place feel much more “you”. Small, carefully thought out details can really transform a space – by adding some select items, you can instantly add personality and atmosphere into a room, without having to make any major changes at all.

Been to an event that you loved and evokes lots of memories for you? Don’t just leave the ticket stubs in a drawer somewhere – frame them up and put them on display on the fireplace or a table.

Adding your own artwork and wall art to your new home is another very easy way to make it feel more lived in. Make a wall collage from old prints, postcards and other treasures.

Add a splash of colour

Transform your dining room or bedroom with some choice accessories – an oversized throw over the sofa or bed linen will give a significant colour boost. You may have a no-decorating clause in your contract, but there are alternative ways to add interest to walls. You don’t need to strip the existing wallpaper or repaint the walls to add a fresh new colour to your home. Choosing the right accessories can have just as much of an impact – and it’s a lot easier.

Make sure to choose colours that complement the existing walls and carpet of course – go with something monochromatic for a soothing and consistent look, by choosing accessories in a similar hue – or to add a vibrant touch, choose a colour that contrasts instead. It’s useful to look at a colour wheel to help you decide which colours will work!

No holes no problem

Want to create a feature gallery wall but can’t make holes? No problem! Invest in some removable picture hanging and poster strips, which attach frames or artworks directly to walls and can be removed without a trace. Or for a more fun and modern feel, Washi tape can be used to stick up unframed prints. There are so many uses for Washi tape, one of them being making a creative design on your boring white rental wall. Washi tape is strong, although peels right off without damaging your wall.

If you need a guide on how to make a Washi tape wall, head on over to Pinterest, where there are countless DIY projects to get your creative juices flowing.

Alternatively, why not consider some wall stickers? They are cheap and both easy to apply and remove – great! Inspire yourself every day with a new phrase above your bed. Or add some colour and decoration with sticker shapes.

Make it fresh

One of the best ways to give any space a fresh new lease of life is literally by adding new life! Plants are a fantastic way to make any house or flat feel more lived in and comfortable – they detoxify the air, add colour and don’t require any major amendments.

Choose plants that will suit your lifestyle. If you’re not particularly green-fingered, then plants that are easy to maintain – such as terrariums, succulents and air plants are a great choice, as they require little maintenance. But if you do love fresh plants, then be a bit more adventurous! A mini potted tree or exotic shrub that you can look after and nurture will imbue your space with a special touch.

You can also create the same effect with fresh cut flowers instead – fill a bowl or vase with a variety of colourful blooms to uplift the atmosphere of a room.

Make it fit

There’s nothing worse than moving into a new home, rented or purchased, to find that your furniture and belongings simply don’t fit the space. Your existing furniture may be too small or large and imposing for your new room. Many renters put some pieces into self storage until they decide what to do with them.

Storage is key in any home, but in a rental it can be extra tricky as you may be reluctant to invest in pieces to fit a space that isn’t your own, plus you may have to try to incorporate your landlord’s furniture into the mix. Don’t be afraid to use furniture outside of its intended room or context, for instance, a chest of drawers could create handy storage in a living room as well as acting as a side table, or that old tallboy might work as a seating area in the hall for children.

Alternatively, add colour to your furniture itself – try painting pieces with Chalk Paint, which is especially good for adhering to cheap melamine furniture. Or try your hand at decoupage.

Remember, you don’t always have to spend a huge amount to find something that works, check out eBay and pre-loved sites to find a new sofa that fits your living room properly.

 

Finally, when adding new furniture or accessories, always stick to what you love and what makes you happy, and you’ll be surprised at how it helps your rental space come together and feel like home.

5 Steps To Being A Model Tenant…And Avoiding Eviction

 

It’s always best to keep landlord-tenant relationships as friendly and open as possible, but of course sometimes things go wrong.

Since 2010 the number of landlords evicting tenants has consistently increased. In 2014 alone, there was 161,300 total landlord repossession claims issued (Direct.gov).

We’ve put together a list of how to stay in ‘model tenant’ territory, so you don’t have to worry about becoming part of these statistics.

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1. Be Informed On Legal Aspects Of Being A Tenant

Firstly – and perhaps most importantly – know what type of tenancy agreement you are signed up for.

A fixed tenancy will ensure you can live in the property until a fixed date, and are usually renewed on a six or twelve month basis.

If your tenancy goes from month to month (or sometimes even week to week) this is known as a periodic tenancy. Your landlord is within their rights to begin eviction proceedings at the end of your tenancy agreement.

Make sure you know what type of agreement you have in place and only agree to move into a property if you’re happy with this agreement.

Tip: If your tenancy began after 1st April 2007 and doesn’t have a definite fixed period mentioned, then your tenancy is guaranteed for a six month period.

Another legal aspect you need to be aware of is breaching the tenancy agreement.

This could include anything from damage to the property to failure to pay rent, overstaying your term agreement or subletting the property without appropriate permission. Make sure you carefully read your tenancy agreement and adhere to it completely. It is a legal document and is there to protect you as much as your landlord and the property.

2. Look After The Property (Neglect)

Landlords have the right to evict tenants if they fail to upkeep the property to a reasonable standard. Sometimes damage happens by accident and landlords are accepting of this, simply let them know and a good landlord should pay to have the damage repaired. Alternatively you could repair the damage yourself; if you are confident you can carry it out safely and properly.

If you are having difficulty paying for the upkeep of your house you may be entitled to a grant to help you cover these costs. See your local housing authority for more information, or contact your local Whitegates office for advice.

3. Pay Your Bills On Time (Arrears)

Not surprisingly, rent arrears are the most common reason for eviction. Make sure you can afford to pay for a property in the long term before moving in.

Take into consideration unaccounted for one-off costs and lifestyle expenses such as car insurance and holidays – can you still afford to cover the rent? If the answer is anything other than ‘absolutely’, then you should avoid going for that property in the first place.

4. Be A Good Neighbour (Antisocial Behaviour)

Nobody wants an antisocial neighbour. If your landlord is informed of antisocial activity from you, somebody living with you or even somebody associated with your property, you could well find yourself on the path to eviction.

Communication is key. As with any problem, don’t ignore it and expect it to go away; chat with your landlord. Inform them if you think your neighbour has (or will) report you for antisocial behaviour unfairly or maliciously.

Try to iron out any issues with your neighbours directly, a small token of peace offering can often go a very long way in such disputes. Above all, be the courteous neighbour you’d want to have living next door to you.

5. Be Present (Landlord Suspects Property Is Vacant)

Your landlord is entitled to start the eviction process if they have reason to believe you aren’t living in the property. If you plan on living away from your home for an extended period of time – but still wish to remain a tenant there – you should inform your landlord of this. Perhaps you will be working away or going travelling for a while.

If you want to remain a tenant you should of course keep up with all rent and utility bills during this period. If you are living at the property but the landlord mistakes the property as being vacant, you can use utility bills to demonstrate your occupancy.

 

Most of these points are common sense; however if you are worried that your tenant-landlord relationship is on the rocks, or you’d like some advice, contact your local Whitegates branch today.

Ten Points To Consider When Moving From Halls To A Student House

 
Moving from university halls to your very own shared student house can feel liberating and rather grown up. And it is a rather grown up thing to do, which is why you should treat it as a big decision and consider the following…

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1. Choose Your Housemates Wisely

Perhaps you’ll live with the same people you did in halls, or maybe other friends. Regardless, it’s usually a good idea to avoid living with ‘Party Pete’…awesome on a night out, not so good when the night out is in your living room at 3am on deadline week, and where’s his share of the rent again?

2. Make Sure You Use A Reputable Letting Agency

Some students choose to find (often unreliable) landlords on free advertising websites etc. While you may save a few pounds in the short term, when your boiler breaks you could find yourself cold for a very long time after the landlord fails to appear. Choosing a reputable agent gives you peace of mind that your home is safe and if anything goes wrong, it will be fixed quickly.

3. Make Sure Your Deposit Is Held In A Deposit Scheme

As of 2007, ALL deposits on rented properties are required by law to go into a recognised scheme. A Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme protects a tenant’s deposit and ensures that it will be refunded in full at the end of the tenancy providing certain terms are met. All Whitegates local offices hold deposits under one of the three Tenancy Deposit Schemes in England.

4. Factor In ALL Costs

Gone are the ‘all inclusive’ student halls days. Make sure you know what is –and isn’t – included in your rent. Internet, gas, electricity, water and TV licenses all need paying for, and utility inclusion differs from property to property.

Also remember to attain the relevant form from your university to make you exempt from council tax! If you’re going all out and installing Virgin/Sky, remember the installation costs!

TOP TIP: Remember that you require a TV license even if you are only watching TV online. One license per house. Don’t be left with a hefty fine.

5. Lay Out A Chores Schedule

Boring? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. We’re not asking you to go all ‘Monica Geller’ on your new housemates… but sharing the tedious tasks avoids the inevitable arguments in the long run when the one person cleaning the toilet eventually cracks. Tidy space, tidy mind etc.!

On the subject of tidiness, use common sense – be clean and don’t break anything. If accidents do happen, let your landlord know as soon as possible. Treating the property, as if it were your own, will protect you when you come to the end of your tenancy and you need your deposit back.

6. Split Bills Properly

There’s a few ways to do this:

a) Make sure bills are in everybody’s name – not just one person’s. If they’re late andin one person’s name, it could affect their credit rating in future. (It may seem like miles away, but CCJs can stay on your credit file for SIX YEARS, and will stop you getting loans, mortgages or even phone contracts during this time!)

b) Set up a joint bank account – all set up a standing order to pay into the account monthly (or as your student loans come in) and have all bills deducted from the joint account.

c) Share the bills – i.e. one person is assigned gas, one electricity, one Internet etc…

7. Create An Inventory List

A good landlord is likely to create one for you, but it can’t harm to have your own. It’s amazing how much you can forget in a year. “Was that sofa in the living room or dining room?” and “Is the microwave mine or Sarah’s?” “Did we buy the mop or was it already here?”

You can incur charges upon checkout if:

a) Any items are in a different room from when you moved in;
b) Any items are missing or;
c) Any items need removing once you leave

Leaving an ironing board may seem like a kind thing to do, but if it’s seen as litter then is it really worth a removal fee?

TOP TIP: Take photos. Despite having inventory, having photographic evidence of every item as it was when you moved in gives your that extra bit of protection when it comes to getting your deposit back at the end of the year.

8. Read Your Tenancy Agreement

Knowledge is power. Arm yourself with all the information you need at the beginning of the tenancy to avoid any nasty surprises at the end.

TOP TIP: Never, ever move into a property without a copy of the tenancy agreement in your pocket. This is the only way to guarantee there’ll be no surprises – and you’re within your legal rights to request one.

9. Do Not Make ANY Changes Without Consulting Your Landlord/ Property Manager

A student house may seem a far cry from your rule-ridden halls of residence, but it’s still a rental property and rules still apply. Whether you think painting an purple wall is a good choice or not, always seek your landlord’s permission first or you could be charged for it when you move out! Even things as trivial as installing a picture hook could land you in hot water.

10. Research, Research, Research!

Research your landlord, research the area and research the house’s history if you’re unsure about something.

 

If you are on the hunt for a student property contact your local Whitegates office who can match you with properties in your area.

Landlord’s Guide: Grants For An Eco-Friendly Property

 

Everything today seems to revolve around the ‘green agenda’. Some people are passionate for the cause whilst others don’t view it as a main priority, or think it a maze of the unknown.

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Landlords can often dismiss the green vision as a drain on their property profit, when in fact did you know you could cover such costs with various grants? And offering an eco-friendly property can actually make it more attractive and profitable?

What are the benefits of making your rental property more energy efficient to both you and your tenants?

  • Increase in property value
  • Lowers energy bills for tenants
  • Reduces rent arrears
  • Attracts longer term tenants
  • Achieves higher EPC ratings
  • Property is easier to let
  • Reduction in emissions

We’re here to shed some light on a few of the great grants on offer to landlords and homeowners across England and the UK.

Green Deal

If your property has an electricity meter, then you’re eligible for the Green Deal. You can take out a loan to cover home improvements that will make your property greener, and repay through your electricity bill.

Because of this repayment method, both you and your tenant must agree to the terms. They will be expected to cover the bill if you choose to repay in this way as opposed to covering costs outright yourself.

How does it work?

A Green Deal Assessor will pay you a visit and decide which measures will be the perfect fit to improve your property. This could include adding insulation, improving the heating system; draught proofing, installing new windows or looking into ways your property can produce renewable energy. From here you will be granted a loan to carry out the suggested works if you wish.

Note: Subsequent tenants will also be liable for this additional charge if you choose to repay via the property’s electricity bill, so you must tell them too. However, the money they will save in utility bills could well cancel out the cost of the repayments, and they will enjoy a clear, green conscience to boot!

Landlord’s Energy Saving Allowance

As a landlord, you could claim back up to £1,500 in tax reductions if you install wall or hot water heater insulation, draught proofing or cavity loft insulation. The rewards will be passed on to your tenants, as they will benefit from lower utility bills and a more eco-friendly and responsible home.

Note: You can include this in as many properties as you own, so if you have six properties, you could claim back up to £9,000 etc.

Feed In Tariff (Fits)

These were introduced in 2010 and are really something to get excited about! If you install a renewable energy source at your property such as a wind turbine, solar panels, anaerobic digesters or hydroelectricity, you could secure an additional revenue stream.

How? Because you can be paid for the electricity you generate with such measures from the national grid and energy companies – even if the property uses the energy itself! You even receive a ‘bonus’ if you provide the grid with additional energy.

It’s all part of an incentive to become a greener country less reliant on fossil fuels. It also enables your property to become more self-sufficient which is a major advantage for potential tenants.

There are a plethora of both grants and loans for landlords, but what is available from council to council varies so we recommend you contact your local council as a first port of call for help and advice. You can also find more information on the Energy Saving Trust website.

Alternatively, if you have a property to let, why not contact your local Whitegates branch today? You could also download our Lettings Guide for information on the landlord services available to you.

Five Mistakes First Time Buyers Should Avoid, But Continue To Make!

 

Buying a home is one of the most exciting and self-affirming life experiences. Because of this, it can also be one the most stressful. We’ve put together some of the most common (and avoidable) mistakes that first time buyers continue to make, so you can be one step ahead.

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1. Becoming Financially Stranded Before You Even Begin

Familiarise yourself with potential hidden costs and factor them into your budget. Your deposit is just the start: Think about mortgage arrangement and valuation fees, removal and storage costs, legal fees, Stamp Duty, home insurance, surveyor fees and always have a contingency fund. Planning ahead eliminates nasty surprises. Check our previous blog post, which details the costs involved in buying a property and provides a guide as to how much budget you should put aside.

Also be careful not to borrow too much by chasing your dream home. It may only be an additional £150 a month, but this is a long-term decision that will affect your lifestyle. Don’t run before you can walk and only borrow what you can truly afford.

2. Being Too ‘Green’ a Buyer

Arm yourself with facts. This will make the process easier, especially when it comes to negotiation, which you should not be afraid of.

Unrealistic expectations are also dangerous to first time buyers: There’s always flexibility but don’t expect a mansion on a flat budget… and if you find one, be very dubious indeed!

Research your preferred area for price trends and its ambiance at different times of the day. That quiet, leafy side-street could also be the bustling main walkway to the nearby football stadium on a weekend!

3. Failing To Conduct Structural Surveys

The period features you so dearly love come with age, which means the house around it will too have aged. Period properties require specific – and often constant – maintenance to remain beautiful and safe.

Do not take the risk, know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and get the most extensive structural survey you can afford. In the long run it is usually a false economy to skip a survey.

4. Letting Your Heart Rule Your Head

It will be your home for a long time, but it will be an investment for longer.

We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know things change. Don’t let your emotions take over when buying a home and don’t pay over the odds for your dream home, it could be dead money.

An expanding family or relocation could mean you need to sell up in years to come. And if you do, you want to be confident in your initial decision. Know your potential resale value – check with your local council for planned transformation schemes that could add value to the area.

5. Relying Too Heavily On The Internet

Never underestimate the power of face-to-face interaction. Pop into your local estate agents’ for valuations, visit your bank or a mortgage advisor to see which deals you’re eligible for when buying a home.

They are likely to suggest items that an online generator failed to display, and their knowledge is invaluable to first time buyers. The internet is wonderful, but information there could be outdated and you cannot be sure of the intention of the original source.

However, that is not to say that the Internet is an invaluable property search tool. Most websites and property portals such as Rightmove, OnTheMarket and Zoopla allow you to register for property updates. This can be vital in keeping you up to date with the latest properties that match your search criteria.

Add more tools to your arsenal; why not download a property app to keep up-to-date information on your smartphone?

If you have any questions, please contact your local Whitegates branch today. They’re happy to give free and solid advice, always.

Our Top 10 Apps For House Hunters

 

Whether you’re renting or buying a new home, it’s often a stressful experience. In this article, we review some of the best applications for house hunting on the go. Mobile phone

1. Kirstie And Phil’s House Hunter

House Hunter is like having the expertise of Kirstie and Phil, right there in your pocket. Using this app gives you access to advice on house searches, viewings, closing deals and utilizing their video guides to make the best choices for you.

Available for download on iOS for £2.99.

2. Mouseprice

Mouseprice is an essential app that helps you stay informed on the history of any property. You can view anything from how much someone has paid for a property to the fluctuation in price over any given time period.

Available for download on iOS for free.

3. Houzz

Whatever stage you’re at in the buying process, it’s never too early to start thinking about interiors. With the Houzz app you’re able to browse their collection of mood boards featuring stunning designs from around the world. There’s no end to the amount of inspiration here and makes for excellent food for creative thought.

Available to download on iOS and Android for free.

4. Crime Map England & Wales

This app uses real data provided by the National Policing Improvement Agency and is licensed under the Open Government Licence. It helps you find out where local crime hot spots and anti social behaviour occurs in your area, plus where any safe areas are. By browsing the map, you can zoom into more detail on your chosen area, and see how your area compares to national averages. A great app for house hunters, parents or businesses alike.

Available to download on iOS for free.

5. MagicPlan

Overseeing a renovation can be so much more difficult than buying a new home. With MagicPlan hopefully you can ease some of the pressure. Using your phone’s camera, it allows you to map out entire floor plans, helping you keep track of every detail without losing your cool.

Available to download on iOS for free.

6. Zoopla

Zoopla is a great little app for helping you search for properties to add to your shortlist. Easy to navigate, it includes numerous filters to refine your search by price, location and other variables. As one of the most popular house searching apps, it’s a sure-fire way to help find your perfect home.

Available to download on iOS for free.

7. Rightmove

Similar to Zoopla, Rightmove is another comprehensive app for searching homes to rent and buy. With full, refineable listings as well as information on the local area, you’re able to gain a full overview of a home and it’s location, before deciding on whether you’d like to take the plunge and book a viewing.

Available to download on iOS for free.

8. Cell Phone Coverage Map

We’re all connected to the phone network in some form these days. There’s no escaping our shiny gadgets, therefore ensuring your new home has good mobile phone network coverage has to be on your agenda somewhere before you buy. The Cell Phone Coverage Map does this brilliantly, showing you coverage details for all major networks.

Available to download on iOS for free.

9. Paper

Not happy with carrying around notepads and bits of paper with hasty scribbles? Not to worry. Paper is a handy app that lets you take notes, sketches and all manner of doodles, all in one simple, intuitive application. Use Paper to collate your ideas and keep them together in one place.

Available to download on iOS for free.

10. Around Me

What do you do once you’ve found your new home? You get to know the local area of course! Enter Around Me, an app that gives you an overview of your area including the nearest hospitals, petrol stations, schools and even restaurant reviews.

Available to download on iOS for free.

Final Thoughts

With so many apps to choose from, it’s difficult finding the best ones to help you with your house hunting experience and decisions. With a bit of luck, the apps we’ve covered will add value to your property hunt and help finding your dream home, that little bit more enjoyable.

Have you used an app as part of a property search? Do you have any recommended apps for use when buying or renting a place? We’d love to hear your thoughts: please talk to us at @WhitegatesEA and let us know what you think!

What To Look For When Choosing An Estate Agent To Sell Your Property

 

Finding an Estate Agent to sell your property is easy. Finding the right Estate Agent to sell your property takes some research and investigation. In this blog post we will provide some guidance and advice on what to look for when choosing an Estate Agent to sell your property, to make the process a little less stressful.

Martin and Co

Sole or Multiple Agent?

The first question to ask yourself is whether you will choose a sole or multiple agents to sell your property. Listing with your property with every Estate Agent on the high street will get the most exposure and more viewers through the door, but you will pay much more in fees. Many house sellers choose a sole agent for this very reason. However, a sole agent may take longer for your property to sell so isn’t advisable if you are in a hurry. However sole agents generally work on a lower commission so may actually save you money. There are pros and cons to both options, and there isn’t a one-size fits all approach here so do your research.

Word of Mouth

A great incentive to use a particular Estate Agent is through personal recommendation. Ask friends and family or neighbours what experiences they have had. Anyone who has had a good experience with an Estate Agent is worth listening to, because this can cut out a lot of the searching and the mistakes that could be made.

Locality

Good Estate Agents know the market in your local area like the back of their hand, and they also have good connections with local people, that are in the market to buy. The impact of this cannot be exaggerated – a good Estate Agent can find the perfect buyer for your property, quickly and easily, simply because of their network of active house buyers. They will be close by, to meet prospective buyers and this makes it good practice to choose an Estate Agent local to the property you are selling.

Valuations

Unfortunately, some agents give deliberate optimistic valuations as a ploy to get you to go with them, after all, they know that the valuation is the main reason a seller will use them. This is not good practice and you should not be fooled by higher than expected valuations.

Err on the side of caution, and find an agent who gives you what you think is a realistic price according to the market. This is much better than you being fooled by a high price and then being disappointed months down the track when your property still hasn’t sold.

Here’s the thing. You, as the seller, can set the price for your property. You can say to the agent exactly how much you would like to sell your property for. It has been this way since time immemorial, and it is not going to change.

Marketing

When you are looking to buy a property, the first place you head for is the Internet so it is vital the Estate Agent you choose to sell your property advertises online. As well as listing your property on their own website, always check which portals they will use to advertise your property – the big players are Zoopla and Rightmove with a new portal OnTheMarket having launched at the start of 2015.

When selling a property, it is important to consider which portals your chosen agent uses to ensure your property gets maximum exposure.

Fees

All Estate Agents have different terms and conditions, and their fees cover different things – many of which are open to negotiation – so it is always best to ask.

Estate Agents usually charge the seller between 1% and 3%, excluding VAT, for a sole agency agreement of the price at which the property sells. With the VAT added on, the fee rises between 1.2% and 3.6% of the value of the property. Fees are generally negotiable, and a good Estate Agent will be happy to talk this through with you to find a level of fee you are comfortable with.

If an Estate Agent has incredibly low fees compared to other agents, then it is worthwhile investigating what is covered in the terms and conditions. For instance, the quoted fee may not cover marketing of the property, preparing the property details or even for sale boards. The best Estate Agents are upfront about fees, and what is and isn’t covered.

Additionally, some Estate Agents stipulate that a fee must be paid just for finding you a ‘ready, willing and able purchaser,’ rather than for actually selling the property. This means you still have to pay the agent’s fee even if the sale falls through. It is advisable to only use an Estate Agent who charges a fee as a result of exchange of contracts, and nothing less.

Online Agents

The online Estate Agent market is still relatively new, although a quick search on Google provides a plethora of online agents on the web. Online state agents offer cheaper services than traditional high street Estate Agents and there are no standards in terms of quality provided.

If you are considering an online Estate Agent, always contact them by telephone and have a discussion with them regarding their practices and their experience. In addition, it is a good idea to look for testimonials, preferably contacting some previous clients to see what their experience was like.

Online Estate Agents will not have the in-depth local knowledge that a traditional high street Estate Agent will have. Therefore it may be advisable to contact a local Estate Agent for a valuation first, so you are sure your property will be marketed at the right price.

 

Contact your local Whitegates branch for a free, no obligation, Market Appraisal of your property and see how we can help you achieve your sale.

Alternatively, see our tips on how to get your property ready to sell.

New Landlord Checklist: Part 2

 

This is the second of a series of two blog posts, which detail our ten-step checklist for new Landlords.

It has been designed for first time Landlords but can also be used as a useful reminder for even the most experienced Landlords.

Gas safety

The first article, Checklist for new Landlords part 1 covers items such as consent to let, insurance and health and safety requirements, all related to aspects of letting your property before you have secured your tenants.

But once tenants are chosen, what should you remember to ensure are carried out? This article will detail five important things you need to do to protect yourself, your property and maximise your rental income.

1. Conduct an Inventory

This is a very important document; you should conduct an inventory at the start and end of a tenancy. Make a list of all items in the property and the current conditions. The inventory should include items such as the walls; carpets, fixtures and fittings- remember you can use photos to support the inventory. This document will need to be signed and dated by both the new tenants and you as the Landlord.

You should also make sure your tenants knows where to find the important things, burglar alarm codes, stopcocks, meters, boiler and heating controls. It might be worth preparing and leaving behind a guide. This can feel like a bit of a hassle but it is important because if there was a leak, and tenant knows where the stopcock is, they will be able to turn the water off quickly, to stop more potential damage happening. Whitegates offer an inventory as part of our Property Management Services. Please contact your local Whitegates office for information.

2. Inform All Utility’s Including The Council

Applicable once the tenancy agreement has been signed, but important none the less, you should inform all utilities and the council. You will need to pass on the names of the new tenants, and the date on which the tenancy agreement began. This will help to avoid disagreements over any outstanding bills, at either end of the tenancy.

3. Organisation

It is important that you keep on top of the inevitable paperwork that comes with being a Landlord. We recommend you keep a file of information relating to your property and tenants. Use a computerised accounting system to manage your finances. Act fast when it comes to tackling missed payments or problems with neighbours and record anything serious in writing. Remember that you need to give your tenants 24 hours’ notice if you want to enter the property.

4. Marketing and Viewings

The key to letting your property quickly is to ensure it gets maximum exposure to the right people. You will need to think about the kind of tenant you want to attract, and where best to find them. At Whitegates, we are on the high street and online and we have thousands of properties currently marketed through the UK’s major property portals as well as our own.

5. Tenancy Agreements

Once you have found a tenant that you are happy with, you will need to agree and sign the tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement is the most important document at your disposal. You should make sure that your tenancy agreement is properly drafted and that it relates specifically to your property. This is where you get to include any clauses, terms or restrictions, so if you don’t want pets and smokers this is where you need to make that clear. It should name each of the tenants individually. The agreement should be signed and dated by you, and by each of the tenants. Whitegates can draw up legal tenancy agreements as part of our Property Management services.

6. Deposits

Getting a deposit is a good way of protecting against any damage and since April 2007, all Landlords are legally obliged to protect the deposit in a government-supported deposit protection scheme, and to provide the tenant with details of the scheme being used within 14 days. The schemes gives both the Landlord and the tenant peace of mind that the deposit monies have been lodged in safe hands. All Whitegates local offices hold deposits under one of the three Tenancy Deposit Schemes.

 

There are a number of additional things to remember, which Whitegates can assist with if required. To find out how, contact your local Whitegates office.

  • You may require a range of references from prospective tenants. At the very least, most Landlords request employment details. In addition you may wish to take details of their previous Landlord. Having received these references, it is important to check them. Many Landlords do not follow up references – rendering them virtually pointless.
  • Depending on the nature of the tenant, you may also wish for them to provide a guarantor. In this case, you should ensure that you have their name, their current address, and their previous address if they have moved in the past year. This information will be required if you wish to run credit checks.
  • Some Landlords choose to request bank statements from prospective tenants, in order to ensure that they are in a position to pay the rent. This can be particularly useful if the individual is self-employed, or not in regular employment.
  • You may want to arrange a formal credit check with your applicant’s employer and any previous Landlord.

This checklist is only a guide, as all rental properties requirements are different. As a Landlord, there is always something to be dealt with and it can quickly become a struggle to keep up with it all, especially if you are working full time or have other commitments. In which case, we advise you consider using a Letting Agent, however we also understand it is not always viable to do so.

Whitegates offer a comprehensive range of services to Landlords, from a tenant find only service, rent receipt and a full managed property service – leaving you safe in the knowledge that everything will be dealt with correctly and efficiently, and with more time for the fun things in life.

If you would like to discuss any items mentioned in this two part series, please contact your local branch.

New Landlord Checklist: Part 1

 

Renting a property for the first time can be quite a daunting prospect. There are many tasks that need to be implemented and checked before you even begin to start to think about finding tenants to move in.

That is why at Whitegates, we have created this first time Landlord checklist – to make life just a little bit easier at this very busy time.

Tenancy agreement

This is the first of two blog posts, which details four important things to think about when letting your property before you have found your tenants. It shows you what you need to do to protect yourself, your property and tenants, and maximise your rental income.

Checklist For New Landlords: Part 2 will contain useful information for once you have secured suitable tenants, and covers six further items such as tenancy agreements, deposits and marketing of your property.

The checklist has been designed for first time Landlords but can also be used as a useful reminder for even the most experienced Landlords.

1. Consents to Let

This is the first thing you should do when renting out a property for the first time. If your property is subject to a mortgage, your mortgage provider must consent to the rental. If you have a corporate tenant, this will need to be in writing. In addition, if your property is leasehold you will need permission from the freeholder. This can usually be obtained from the managing agent of the building.

2. Preparation

Before potential tenants view the property, make sure that it’s clean and that you have finished any DIY. The property should be in a clean and tidy condition, particularly the kitchen, bathroom, carpets and curtains. Think about how you would hope to find it if moving in yourself. A tenant can tell if the property is well cared for and is more likely to look after it during the tenancy if it is clean at the start.

Additionally, properties that look good achieve higher rents and let more quickly. So it really is worth taking time to ensure your property is presented to the highest possible standard.

If you’re living in the property while it is being marketed, do make sure that you keep it clean and banish clutter. Keep the decorations neutral – it is worth thinking about the kind of tenant you want to attract, as each type will have different needs. For example, young professionals tend to want contemporary decoration, while students will require desks and young families generally like a kitchen table.

If your property is let furnished, include everyday items like a vacuum cleaner, ironing board and, if there is a garden, a lawn mower. If your property is unfurnished, you will still need to supply carpets, curtains, light fittings and a cooker.

Where applicable, any chimneys should be swept and boilers should be serviced and tanks filled (with instructions to the new tenants). It is also important to check every light bulb is working and that everything is in good working order within the property.

3. Insurance

It is vital that you protect yourself, your property and your contents – if included in the rental property – with the right insurance products. Firstly, all Landlord insurance should cover third party liability, ensuring any damage caused to the property by the tenants is covered. Unfortunately, basic Landlord insurance will not cover you if your tenants do not pay their rent. Rent guarantee cover can usually be bought as an add-on to your policy. Whitegates can advise you on what you need and help you secure the most competitive quotes, so contact your local Whitegates branch for more information.

4. Health and Safety

It is vital that you comply with fire, gas, electric and furniture regulations. You must make regular safety checks and keep records to protect your tenants. Safety checks also help to ensure that your insurance is valid and failure to adhere to these safety requirements can lead to potential dander and serious penalties.

Here are some safety documentation recommendations:

  • If your property has a gas supply, you will need to provide a valid Landlord’s Gas Safety Record every year.
  • To ensure electrical safety, an annual portable appliance test (PAT) is advisable, and fixed wiring tests at 5 yearly intervals.
  • You must provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for each property you wish to let. An EPC lasts for 10 years and will usually cost you around £100. This will allow anyone who is interested in renting out the property to see how energy efficient it is.
  • All relevant furniture/ furnishings must comply with fire regulations.
  • Smoke detectors should be installed on each floor of the property.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed next to each gas appliance and in any room through which a flue runs.

To find registered contractors, visit the Gas Safe Register website and/or Electrical Safety Council website. Whitegates provides a range of services to Landlords, including advising on health and safety responsibilities and can even recommend a reliable local contractor.

This article forms the first part of the Whitegates, 10 step checklist for new Landlords. You can access the next six items, in Checklist For New Landlords: Part 2.

If you would like to discuss any items mentioned above please contact your local branch, or alternatively, download our company brochure.