27 November 2015

Condensation and ventilation

A common reason a tenant contacts their Landlord or agent is to say they have "a damp problem". In most cases this is a problem due to condensation and not damp and is usually a result of not opening windows or turning extractors on whilst washing or cooking and therefore no fresh air is getting in.

Condensation is one of the most common problems in houses and flats and can usually be minimised relatively easily. Condensation occurs when warm moist air meets a cold surface. The water in the air then either settles as water droplets on the surface (as it does on windows for example), or, if the surface is absorbent, it soaks into the surface. In the latter case condensation is often not noticed unless or until mould appears. Condensation can be prevented or reduced in the property by controlling the excess moisture in the following ways:

        Close kitchen and bathroom doors to prevent steam going into other, colder, rooms.
        Open the kitchen or bathroom windows (if applicable) when cooking or washing.
        Open windows in other rooms to allow a change of air.
        Keep trickle vents open (these are small devices on new windows which can be opened without affecting the security to your property).
        Curtains and blinds should be kept open during the day as this will help to minimize the condensation in the property.
        Wipe down surfaces where moisture settles to prevent mould forming.
        Use the extractor fans if supplied in the property (do not isolate fans in bathrooms).
·        •Dry clothes outside if possible.
·        •Do not hang wet clothes over radiators or in rooms without suitable ventilation.
        Ensure that tumble driers vent to the outside.
        Maintain a low background heat – it is advised that the property thermostat is kept at a minimum of 13 degrees during cold periods to prevent the hot and cold effect which causes condensation.

We always remind new and existing tenants on how to prevent and deal with condensation and would recommend that you do the same.  For more useful tips, follow our blog.

24 November 2015

Factors that can devalue property – both sales and rental

Two similar properties in the same street can end up with very different values.  Below are 6 possible reasons for this which can affect both sales and rental:

Anti social neighbours
You may think a property is a perfect buy-to-let investment but if it has anti social neighbours this will result in tenants not staying long and the property possibly being difficult to sell on.  If you are considering a property, visit the area in the evening when it is busiest and walk the area.  Check out the condition of neighbouring houses and gardens, if they don’t look good, walk away.

Home improvement
Lots of home improvements require planning consent, sometimes even a fence will need it.  If you are buying a property or considering improvements to an existing one, make sure all necessary planning consents and building control sign off is in place.

This is becoming more and more of an issue with insurers.  A property you have or are considering may be considered at risk of planning, even if you cannot see how!  Always check with the local authority who keep a register of “at risk” properties and run the post code past a few insurers.  They will quickly tell you if the property has been black listed.

All important kerb appeal!
This is so important, both for sale and let.  Always keep the frontage tidy and looking fresh.  If this means a fresh lick of paint then so be it but it may be as simple as a few plant pots.

Personal taste
Poorly decorated properties and those with odd colour schemes are both difficult to sell and let and can affect value as people will just be thinking of the cost and effort to put it right.  With rentals you are safest with neutral carpets and good old magnolia as the tenant will then jazz it up with furnishings.

School catchment area
More and more families are buying and renting close to their preferred school.  This can affect rents by up to 15%.  For Landlords this is obviously great and leads to tenants staying for much longer periods than normal.  On the flip side however, properties in these areas do tend to sell for closer to the asking price which is not great for Landlords.  Just bear in mind that if you buy in an area with a struggling school, you are less likely to attract families.  A good agent should be able to tell you which schools in your area are performing well.

We hope this has been helpful but if you are thinking of buying either a property to rent out, or for yourself but are not sure of the area, pop in our office and we will be glad to advise you. 

18 November 2015

Ex-council properties in Andover... Are they good buy to let investments?

In previous articles we have found that ex-council properties can achieve good annual yields for the area. Yet their average value tends to stay quite stable when we compare this to the average capital growth on the more modern estates of Saxon Fields and Burghclere Down, which have had a more significant rise.
Nevertheless, a two bedroomed mid terreaced property on Pilgrims Way sold for £127,500 in November 2014 and it was sold again in May this year for £160,500, which is a decent return in 6 months.
The best performing property for capital growth in 2015 so far was bought in March 2014 for £168,000 and has recently sold for £220,000. This is a significant return of 26.27%. However, this was not an ex-council property it was a Victorian terraced house on Leigh Road!
However, regular readers to our blog will know that, as long as you accept that you will not have the best capital growth on your property in the area, ex local authority properties may great buy to let investments and are always popular with tenants.

If you would like some advice about buying to let, please come and see us at our offices.

11 November 2015

Rents continue to rise but home ownership further away for most tenants

The tenant referencing company Homelet have recently issued a report showing that rents continue to rise in the UK while more and more tenants are throwing in the towel when it comes to becoming home owners with two thirds saying that saving for a deposit is now unaffordable.

Excluding London the average rent is now £749, up 3.5% on last year.  While this is running ahead of inflation it is down on the 8.5% increase seen earlier in the year.

Homelet also report that 64% of the 15000 tenants surveyed believe that they will continue to rent for the foreseeable future.

Martin Totty, CEO of HomeLet’s parent company Barbon, said: “Our survey showed that many tenants ultimately aspire to own their own home, but that just over half of them aren’t actively saving for a deposit: 66% of those questioned said that a deposit wasn’t affordable for them.

“However, the positive news is that almost nine out of ten tenants told us they were happy with the standard of their current rented property, and the majority told us they were happy with the service provided by their landlord or letting agent.”

The report also shows that the highest rises in rent are again in Scotland with 9 regions out of 12 showing rent increases with the exceptions being the north-west, East Anglia and Northern Ireland.

9 November 2015

Five reasons why a tenant may turn a property down

Whilst the rental market may be currently booming in our area it is always good to know what tenants don’t like about properties.  Below are 5 of the most common reasons for turning a property down. Forewarned is forearmed!

1.       Too many stairs.  Obviously there is little a Landlord can do about this.  However, know your market and you will know who to aim a property at that is up a lot of stairs.  There is always someone who will take a nice property and it can cut down on their gym expenses!

2.       Low maintenance flooring.  Again, know your market.  A family will probably prefer carpet, sharers laminate flooring.  Either way keep it simple.  Carpets should be neutral, laminate kept in good order as once it starts to lift it can become unsafe.

3.       White goods provision.  Tenants will always prefer to have white goods fitted.  It doesn’t tend to add loads to the value but does make a property more lettable.  Just bear in mind that obviously this can increase your maintenance costs keeping them running and replacing as necessary.

4.       Central heating.  Tenants will want some form of heating so make this the most cost effective option available to you whether it be gas or modern electric heaters.

5.       Bathroom.  Statistics show that the average person takes 227 showers a year over 4 baths!  Therefore make sure you have a decent shower fitted, whether it be in a cubicle or over the bath.  If you can get it fitted with a water softener attachment to cope with the hard water in our area.

Remember, this is not your home but a business.  Therefore what may be required in your rental might not be to your taste but needs to appeal to tenants.

5 November 2015

Hoorah!! Yet more changes in legislation!! This time its Section 21 Notices

It seems to us that the law changes virtually everyday regarding the lettings business so here is the latest little update you need to be aware of regarding Section21 notices

The salient points are as follows:

The How To Rent leaflet must be served at the commencement of the tenancy and upon any renewals. The best advice is that all 3 documents (EPC, gas safety certificate and How to Rent leaflet) should be served again when a Sec 21 is served. 

The above documents can be provided in hard copy format or via email. The 'How to Rent: the Checklist for Renting in England' does not need to be supplied every time a new version is updated.  

You will also need to provide the above documentation when you renew the tenancy.

Section 21s can now only be served after 4 months of the tenancy has passed and also must be used within 6 months of being served.

An 'adequate response' must be provided to tenants within 14 days of any maintenance request being made - this is to stop the serving of a Section 21 invalid.  We therefore suggest that all communications with tenants regarding repairs should now only be made in writing, producing an evidence paper trail if required.

Click here to go to a site that will help explain the changes and how they will affect you going forward. You will see there is a mix of legal documents and helpful guides.