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Step-by-step guide to buying a home in London (and the UK!)

Are you a first-time buyer looking to buy a home in London? The process of purchasing property might sound complicated and daunting, especially during this particular COVID-19 period. Don’t worry, SearchSmartly has you covered. Here is our seven-step guide to buying a home.

Is buying a property worth it? Although 63% of people in the UK own property, nowadays, more and more young people believe residential property may not be a good investment anymore. People tend to have the misconception that you must own a house to ‘settle down’ or to have a family. But, is purchasing a property really the best option for you? 

Before you start your research, your occupation and commitment need to be considered. If you are a student or young professional, will you stay in London a few years down the line? Investment horizons must be taken into account whether you want to live in the property only for a few years, or decades, because the needs for them will be completely different. 

Commitment: will you do all the repairs yourself? Do you want to live in the same place for years or perhaps decades? For most people, purchasing a property is their biggest investment, so if you think the property market is not as stable as you’d like it to be, it is always a good idea to wait.

Having a clear understanding of your financial position is also essential. There is no harm in speaking to a financial advisor before you make a decision, especially if you want a mortgage loan. You don’t want to be looking for houses that are over your budget. It is a big financial commitment with ‘hidden’ costs such as stamp duty and solicitor fees, which can easily go beyond your budget. By setting a clear budget goal, you can find your dream home quicker and easier.

Think about where you want to live. There are 1000s of properties on sale in the 32 London boroughs, so how do you find your ideal property? SearchSmartly’s smart score system finds the property that matches all your preferences – no more stress from the enormous amount of information online about London areas. SearchSmartly generates recommendations based on your daily commute destination and what matters the most to you. And your time horizon of investment is the crucial factor in finding your dream home – if you are a young student and only thinking of holding your property for five years, factors like grocery stores and greater accessibility are more pivotal than infant and primary schools. If you are planning to stay in the same place for ten years or longer and ready to have a family, then the level of importance of schools near your property will be greater. 

You can always add the properties you like to create a ‘favourite’ list to share with others or come back another time. Remember, always be quick to request a viewing as properties go quickly!

Once you find your dream home, you will need to place an offer. Making an offer sounds very straightforward, but there are always more buyers than sellers. You need to make sure you are the most attractive buyer and here are some tips for that:

  • Build a good relationship with estate agents – it’s never a bad idea to have connections with estate agents, the more they know you, the more likely they will help you.
  • Get your finances in place before making an offer – you are in a more advantageous position when your finances are ready or if you’re a cash buyer especially if the seller is in a chain. 

After an agreement is made between you and the seller, a solicitor or conveyancer is needed to handle the legal process of transferring the ownership of the property to you. Some choose to find a conveyance firm before they put in an offer which can speed up the whole process, but it’s not a must. Conveyancing fees vary from firm to firm but they are typically between £850-£1500. Be aware that if you purchase a leasehold property, the cost is more than freehold properties. Leasehold is a form of legal ownership in which you have a lease from the freeholder to use the home for a number of years from 10 to 999 years. In contrast, with a freehold property, you own the building and the land, in perpetuity and never worry about paying annual grant rent or maintenance and service charges.  Your conveyance solicitor can also carry out some optional searches, for example, local authority searches, drainage searches and environmental searches. In total, these searches would only cost approx. £300; it is worth to get them all carried out before you encounter any pitfalls. 

Finding a surveyor to conduct a property survey for your house is not essential but advisable. If you need a loan, then your mortgage lender will do a mortgage valuation which provides the lender with independent confirmation of the property’s value. However, a property valuation is much less in-depth than a property survey as it only exams on the value of the house and is solely for the use of the mortgage lender. On the other hand, a property survey provides everything you, as a buyer, need to know about the property, from structural problems to small cracks on the wall and it highlights any potential issues in the future after you move in. The cost of a property survey varies from £500 to £2,000 based on the company, the size and the location of your property. Usually, the cost of a new-build property is much lower. With your survey, you can ask your seller to make reasonable adjustments to the price, for example, if there is a major structural problem, you can ask the seller to reduce the house price or request they fix the problem before you purchase the house.

Finally, the last step! The final step is coming to an agreement on a completion date with the seller. A completion date indicates the date you receive the keys. You should always check with your solicitor on a projected completion date before confirming an exact day with your seller. The completion date must be agreed before exchanging the contracts. And, finally, exchange contracts with your seller and become the legal owner of the property!

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Future of Property Property Advice

Five tips on improving your work from home experience

COVID-19 has changed the way we work and the perceptions we have about workplace structure and dynamics. Many companies made the transition to working from home – WFH. On a wider scale, this has changed employees’ daily routines and lifestyles. WFH has raised questions about ensuring productivity and a different work-life balance.

WFH includes a key aspect – the home! The SearchSmartly team would like to touch upon the transitions you may have to face to adjust to WFH. Also, many companies are musing about a full-scale transition to a remote-first working environment. So, what should your home look like if you plan to continue working from home?

There are other reasons why WFH might be a better choice. Harvard Business School research found that companies with WFH policies can boost employee productivity, reduce turnover, and lower organisational costs. Yet, converting our largely comfort-focused homes into efficient work-spaces can be challenging. We are here to help you tackle that challenge by exploring what you might now need to have at home.

There should be a separation between your work life and your domestic life. To put it simply, you should have a home office – but what does that mean?

1.     Choose green. Getting a small plant on your desk lowers stress and anxiety levels. Spruce up your work area with more plants to reinforce a calm working environment. If you’d want to go all out, why don’t you set up your home office facing the garden or with a green view? On warm days, you can choose to work in the garden too.

2.     Choose to cut distractions. Work and kids? You might have already experienced having to juggle the two. Consider setting up a playroom for your kids so they’re occupied during your most important working hours. Maybe even a garden for them to get some fresh air while you work away? Additionally, you might want to set up your home office further away from the kids’ area, and that’s not always easy. Once more, requiring extra space.

3.     Choose taking a break. It may become difficult to separate working hours, especially if you have easy access to your work computer at home. Make sure to take some time between tasks to get some exercise in or take a walk. Breaks you’d have at the office include catching up with coworkers or stepping out for a coffee. Now that you are WFH, why don’t you replace that with a nice neighbourhood to step out for a walk in while you’re on a call? All those calls you listen-in on, use that time for the treadmill or pedal away on your stationary bike. The health benefits of moving while you work are enormous.

4.     Choose a modern, well-equipped kitchen. Many people would go out during their lunch break to grab a quick bite, but you usually won’t be doing that if you are at home. For that reason, your lunch break might also pose a challenge. You now need to make your own lunch, and that requires time and effort. Having a comfortable, easy-to-navigate kitchen will allow you to remain worry-free about your lunch plans.

5.     Choose moving out. You might need an extra room at home to allow for a home office. It may make more sense financially to find a better-suited home than to fix up your old one. Remodeling and redecorating come at a price, so consider whether those costs pay off. A new home might lead to an easier transition into WFH – a fresh (WFH) start. You might also save on rent if you lived in a central location nearby the office. You don’t need to make the journey into the office anymore, so why are you still paying high rent for a centrally located home?

And if you’re not quite ready to move out yet, here’s some other things to consider:

·       A neutral background with adequate lighting is crucial for video calls, and you’ll be having many of them.

·       Natural light bulbs: believe us when we say you’ll be doing your eyes a huge favor.

·       Artwork. Make your workspace feel like your own with a painting, motivational poster or kids’ drawings.

·       Comfortable and ergonomic chairs as you’ll probably be doing most of your work sitting down at your desk.

·       A convertible desk? A good workstation starts with a good desk, we all know that. But did you know that you can also do your work standing up? Get a desk with adjustable height so you’re not sitting around all day.

Many home-based employees will tell you; it may not be easier to work from home – it’s just a different location. But remember, there are so many things you can do to make the most of your WFH experience! 

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Property Advice

How to submit an offer

How to Submit a Successful Offer on a Rental Property

You’ve invested lots of time in your search, and now you’ve finally found the perfect flat to rent. 

Once you are at this stage, it’s really important to act quickly to maximise your chances of securing the place, particularly when other people may also be interested in the same flat.

What’s the most important information you need to have at your fingertips to get your foot in the door? And how does the whole process work?

SearchSmartly has compiled a useful guide to make sure you’re fully prepared. 

First of all, you’re going to have to formally submit an offer on your chosen property. Your estate agent will provide you with a template form to fill in, but this will include key information about who you are, how long you’re interested in renting the property for, what you are willing to pay for it, and any other critical details such as whether you’d like the property furnished or not. It’s important to get this right to make your offer the most interesting one for the landlord, and avoid making some common mistakes that can result in your offer being rejected immediately.

When you have submitted your offer, you will be asked to pay a holding deposit equivalent to one week’s rent in order for the agent to take the property off the market during your referencing process. This period is when all paperwork and background checks will take place and can typically last for up to three weeks.

Price and Tenancy Dates

It goes without saying that the more you are willing to pay for the rent, the more likely your offer will be accepted! Start by checking if the asking price for your flat is reasonable by comparing similar flats in the area.  Also, ask if any bills (water, electricity or gas) are included in the rent. With this information to hand, if you are willing to pay the asking price then this will maximise your chance of getting your offer accepted. If you feel the asking price is too high based on your research, you can put in an offer below the asking price. We have seen offers at 3-5% below the asking price getting accepted in some cases, but bear in mind that this will only work if there isn’t much interest in the property – perhaps because it’s slightly older, or if there are too few people searching in that particular area. In places where there is lots of demand, particularly in parts of London, the ‘winning’ offer can be above the asking price!

Every property has a date from which it is available to move in. This is typically when the outgoing tenant has vacated the property, and will usually be advertised in the property listing itself. The closer to this date that you can move in, the more attractive your offer will be. This is because your move date will reduce the potential ‘void’ period for the landlord where nobody is paying any rent, and will improve their return. 

‘Void’ periods can impose high costs for landlords, as can the listing fees that they have to pay to agents every time a new tenant moves in. As a result, shorter tenancies are generally less attractive to landlords. Consider offering to sign a longer contract to make your offer more attractive. It is most common for tenancies to last around a year, but you could have a lease of two or three years.

Contract

Make sure you check the contract carefully. There are a number of things to look out for and to negotiate, such as if the property is furnished. Make sure you agree on refurbishment or purchase of additional furnishings in the offer. For example, if you love a flat and are happy with the asking price but want a mattress included with the furnished bedrooms, it is perfectly reasonable to make this a condition within your offer. The same goes with replacing old furniture or fixing any fittings that don’t appear to be working as they should.

Be upfront about what you expect and go into detail about this. You don’t want to discover later down the line that something you wish to have in the contract hasn’t been included when you’ve paid the deposit. 

Payment and Fees

For rental properties, agents will typically require that incoming tenants meet the financial eligibility criteria which is as follows:

  • The tenants earn 30 times the monthly rent, OR
  • The incoming tenants have a UK guarantor that can meet the above requirement, OR
  • Incoming tenants are able to pay 6 months’ rent up front.

The good news is that agents are no longer be able to charge renters any administration fee for tenancies by law, so make sure that this is the case by ensuring that the only payments you make relate to your refundable deposit and the rent that you pay in advance of your move. 

SearchSmartly Top Tip: Make sure you get this information in writing from the beginning so that you have a paper trail of what is agreed. This can be done via email. 

References

Get your references lined up from people who are likely to put in a good word on your behalf. Use people who know you and can attest to your reliability. For example you could use former flatmates or former landlords (where you’ve been a respectable tenant of course). 

You could also obtain a ‘character reference’ from an employer to show you are reliable. 

Make sure you have the documentation for your references ready to go before you put your offer in place, as things can move quickly and you’ll want to make sure there are no unnecessary delays on your end.

Deposit

Make sure you have enough money readily available to put down for the deposit. You’ll be in a great position if you have the money in your account ready to be bank transferred ASAP. The value of this deposit should be no more than the value of 5 weeks worth of rent.

We hope this information will allow you to secure that gorgeous flat you’ve been eyeing up in London and beyond. Good luck!

Categories
Property Advice

Take a Stamp Duty Holiday in London

SearchSmartly’s top 5 family-friendly neighbourhoods under the stamp-duty threshold.

You may have heard the headlines recently about the stamp duty holiday. What does this mean for London property prices and why should you be paying attention? 

In England and Northern Ireland, the tax threshold for property purchases has been temporarily increased from £125,000 to £500,000. That means you don’t have to pay a penny in tax on the value of any property under £500,000. Whether you’re a first-time-buyer or not.

For properties valued over £500,000, you only pay stamp duty on the value over £500,000. It works in a similar way to income tax thresholds.

This reduction in tax means you could save up to £15,000 when purchasing a house. Buying a home has suddenly become more attractive.

“But I’ll still never be able to buy a comfortable family home in a nice, safe area of London, even with this tax reduction!” I hear you scream. 

This isn’t true. London is full of fantastic areas that are suitable for families. You don’t have to put up with an unappealing area or squeeze into a poky flat to be able to afford a property in the capital. Looking beyond the obvious areas can help you to find a property that really matches your needs, at an affordable price.

We’ve taken a look at 5 London neighbourhoods using SearchSmartly’s personalised search tool so you can get a flavour for how far your money goes. All these properties come under the new stamp duty threshold of £500,000. It may surprise you.

  1. Penge, SE20 – South East London

Penge has become a prime location thanks to  an excellent mix of affordable house prices, a desirable community feel and transport links. There are three accessible railway stations and regular buses across town. This has attracted the attention of a range of buyers, young and old when looking to live in South London.

Penge has a good supply of Victorian terrace houses and converted spacious flats. Take a look at the Alexandra Cottages housing estate. Detached houses have a village feel, with leafy gardens and appealing driveways.

A short walk away from Penge is the beautiful Crystal Palace: an 80 hectare Grade II listed park. Here you can find lakes and the National Sports Centre with regular events.

We found this 2-bed house with a charming garden at just £425,000. 

2. Barking, IG11 – East London, Best Location for Low Property Prices

If you’re looking for fantastic value, Barking is your best bet. The cheapest houses in London can be found in Barking. That doesn’t mean that Barking doesn’t have anything else to offer other than saving you a few quid.

Barking is a traditional suburban town where many families have lived for generations. It’s within easy reach of Canary Wharf and short 15-minutes to Fenchurch Street. Or you can cycle to work along the Cycling Superhighway to Tower Hill in 39 minutes. 

The nearby Barking Riverside development is underway, and the overground extension is set to complete in 2021. This area is only going to improve, providing a good place to invest your money. 

A 3-bed in London for £390,000?! Well under the stamp-duty threshold.

3. Morden, SM4 – South West London

Perhaps leafy, quieter Morden is more to your taste. The open spaces of Surrey and 125-acres of National Trust parkland are right on your doorstep. You can relax and escape the hustle and bustle of London life. Commuters shouldn’t worry though, Morden is the last stop on the Northern line. You’re sure to secure a seat in morning rush hour.

It’s not just fresh air and green grass in Morden. Many properties enjoy affordable off-street parking – unheard of in nearby Wimbledon. 

Check out this gorgeous 3-bed with a garden and driveway in Morden. 

4. Greenford, UB6 – West London

Why not try Greenford in West London. Greenford is conveniently located; situated on the Central line. Sudbury Hill Harrow train station offers a direct train to Marleybone in 15 minutes. If you are a cyclist, there is a direct 45-minute route from Greenford Quay to Paddington Basin.

Wembley is a stone’s throw away, with plentiful attractions. Head on over to Bunny Park to get lost in the maze. Take a stroll down Hanwell Lock or climb to the top of Northala Fields for views of central London and Canary Wharf.

Look at this 2-bed house for £425,000 in Greenford. 

5. Highams Park, E4 – North East London

Highams Park is nestled between Walthamstow and Chingford. There’s a real community village feel here. A fantastic area for families looking for social and environmental well-being. Highams Park has three well-regarded schools nearby. There’s a great mix of independent shops, restaurants and events most weekends. Spend an afternoon in the picturesque Epping Forest lake. You can go fishing here (fishing in London? Really?). 

We found this spacious 3-bed on SearchSmartly. 

Feeling Inspired? 
Act quickly because this holiday isn’t going to last forever. The temporary change in the threshold is set to end in March 2021. Everyone’s needs are unique, and SearchSmartly’s intelligent house-hunting tool can help you find your perfect home. Get started here, and you may surprise yourself. Time to spend a leisurely Saturday afternoon browsing those lovely houses in Penge…

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Future of Property

Why we became the world’s first property platform to show air quality data

This week, we released a comprehensive update to the SearchSmartly platform. Amongst the many improvements that we’re very excited about, one is particularly important to us.

Our mission at SearchSmartly is to empower our users to find the best homes for their unique needs. Transparency through data, technology, and trust is how we deliver on that promise. We know that in the stress and time that property search consumes, it’s easy to miss out on things that do matter. Which brings us to air quality.

In the UK alone, 34,000 people die prematurely because of air pollution. It’s one of the greatest – yet most silent – threats to our society. This problem is particularly grave in metropolitan areas like London, our home city. Secular trends will only make this issue worse: according to the UN, a further 13% of the world’s population will migrate into cities by 2050. It doesn’t take much to recognise that this will result in more congestion, illness and death.

The path ahead

There is light at the end of the tunnel. COVID-19 provides us with a generational opportunity to embrace a modal shift towards active travel. Our own user data shows a 77% increase in willingness for Londoners to cycle to work. Cities are doing more to ban cars from the centre of cities. There is progress. But it isn’t enough. More transparency is needed to empower people to make holistic decisions for a better, healthier life. Knowing the air you and your family breathe around your home is an important step in this journey.

We are proud to be the first property search platform that not only leads with the user’s lifestyle needs in mind, but also their complete wellbeing. With the inclusion of air pollution data in our search results, we continue in our efforts to help our users to find the right place to call home.

This is one step. There’s still a long way to go!

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Agents

Property in the post-COVID world

For the property industry, COVID-19 has brought about a host of unprecedented challenges; changes that will be felt by all stakeholders.

We at SearchSmartly believe that what will emerge is an industry that is more technically-savvy, customer-centric and thoughtful in its approach to the wellbeing and living of society. The depth of these changes is likely to be strongly affected by how long this crisis, and its associated economic impacts, truly lasts. This will be led by changes around repayments and new ways of doing business driven by entrepreneurial, energetic estate agents who aim to out-perform the status quo of a pre-crisis industry.

Empathetic approaches to repayment

From the onset, unemployed and furloughed staff will likely be disrupted with rent and mortgage payment issues. With an estimated 9 million people affected, this strain will ultimately force landlords and agents to adopt more flexible means of re-payment. The government’s introduction of payment holidays will likely lay the foundations to this. Supported further by the protection of consumer credit scores – which can strongly impact an individual’s financial wellbeing – we believe this will encourage banks and mortgage providers to adopt a more thoughtful, inclusive approach to consumer protection. In doing so, more flexible payment agreements could become commonplace in the future.

New technology to enable new business

With the inability to provide physical property viewings, agents have quickly had to adapt to providing video viewings to customers. Although not an entirely new concept, video viewings will likely become more of a norm within the property industry as social distancing enforcements and temporary restrictions on movement adds to its adoption. This could very well be the tipping point in which technology becomes readily adopted in increasing proportions within the industry. As consumer demands begin to shift and fragment, the best agents will adapt in the delivery of their customer service.

Remote-working becoming the norm

In a Post-COVID world, remote-working will likely become more commonplace in a professional setting. As a result, what we could begin to see in the long-term is the growth of community-first relocation. With less emphasis on a daily commute into work, consumers will make decisions about where they live based on factors that matter to them: proximity to loved ones, nearer to green spaces, access to great cycling paths etc. No longer will commuting become a leading factor in a customer’s relocation efforts. 

Ultimately, the grey skies set upon us all in the industry will clear. Beyond the clouds will emerge a landscape in which the property experience for consumers will adapt to changing needs, and the estate agency world will adapt to new business realities in a post-COVID world. 

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Property Advice

COVID-19: Tenancy Deposit Guide

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect us all, many tenants, letting agents and landlords may be in the dark around issues concerning their tenancy at various stages. As a result, we’ve decided to shed some light on this for our users and those who may seek value in it. 

Thanks to our friends over at the Tenancy Deposit Scheme for providing their expert, impartial advice. 

Pre-Tenancy

I am a tenant who is about to move-in without a check-in/inventory run, how can I best deal with this?

  • Without the ability to have a re-move inventory or clean, we advise tenants to work with landlords to have a written record of issues on photo/video so that it is not held against you on checkout. We advise that all correspondence is done via email to maintain a trail for future reference. 

I am signing a tenancy agreement for a future date but am currently out of work so unable to afford a deposit, what can I do?

  • If you are unable to currently afford a deposit, you can work with the landlord to agree to pay the deposit at a later date. Alternatively, it may be possible to pay the deposit in instalments with the landlord having to protect the deposit for 30 days within receiving it. 

Mid-Tenancy

I am unable to pay this month’s rent, can this be taken away from my deposit instead?

  • Unfortunately in this instance, it would not be possible to use your deposit against any rent due until the end-of-tenancy process. 
  • According to the law, it is only possible to use your deposit against your rent once a record of rent payments have taken place, after which any outstanding unpaid rent would be able to come out of your deposit.

I have lost my job, what does this mean for my tenancy?

  • Should this unfortunate event occur, you  should work together with your landlord to establish a rent reduction or an affordable repayment plan. 
  • Under the government guidelines, the landlord is unable to use your deposit for the rent. It is only possible to use the deposit to pay arrears once the tenancy agreement has come to an end. 

I am a student who is about to leave a rented property, do I have to pay rent?

  • You will have to pay rent if you are still under contractual obligation. The only time this is not needed is if you reach an agreement with the landlord that it is no longer due, or to end the tenancy early with no further obligation to financially cover the remainder of the tenancy agreement. 

Post-Tenancy

My tenancy is about to end during self-isolation

  • During this period, landlords and agents are expected to work alongside tenants to navigate through these problems. A suggestion includes:
    • Tenants doing a video call and a virtual walk-around

My tenants are moving-out during self-isolation

  • During the pandemic, it may be more sensible to give a maximum of 4 weeks from the end of tenancy date for the delivery of a check-out report.
  • Landlords and agents are advised to maintain an email trail advising the tenant that a check-out inspection will be unable to take place immediately, therefore delaying the return of their deposit. 

My tenancy agreement ends during isolation, how do I best navigate this?

  • Normally, a check-out report should be completed as close to the tenancy date as possible, and to avoid any doubts about cleaning or damage being caused by anyone other than the tenant (for example, contractors or prospective tenants). During the pandemic, it may be more sensible to give more time (up to 4 weeks from the end of tenancy date) for the delivery of a check-out report in order for any traces of the virus to die out before the check-out is conducted. However, this will delay the return of your deposit, and may make it difficult to ascertain the source of any damage found on check-out.
  • For this reason, we suggest that tenants offer a thorough video walk-around of the property as close to the end of the tenancy as possible to provide documentation of the state of the property on checkout, and to expedite the return of your deposit.

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Uncategorized

How to record the perfect video viewing

Thanks to improvements in technology and the increasing popularity of video, property walkthroughs have become a popular way for prospective renters and buyers to learn more about a property before deciding to rent or buy it. Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible for estate agents to gain access to a property in order to record a video viewing, so existing tenants and homeowners can sometimes be asked to record these tours themselves.  

To help make you capture a great video viewing the first time around, the team here at SearchSmartly have put five simple tips to follow:

Start with a quick tidy

Before shooting, spend a few minutes to ensure the spaces are as tidy as possible with minimal clutter. This will help provide an accurate representation of the property and floor space. 

Open the curtains for lighting

Ensuring your property is well-lit can have a great impact on the quality of video, so keep your curtains open! The best time of day to shoot is in the afternoon, when the natural lighting will help to show a true representation of the property with clearly captured footage. If any rooms do not have access to natural lighting, such as the bathrooms, make sure you turn on the lights as you step into the room. Your smartphone’s flashlight should only be used as an absolute last resort.

Watch your camera angles

In order to provide an accurate and authentic perspective, videos should be shot with the phone held vertically at shoulder height. If you hold the phone too high, it will make the room look much smaller than it really is. Similarly, if you hold the phone too low, things will look larger than they really are. Finally, make sure your phone is zoomed as far out as possible, using a ‘wide angle’ setting if your phone has one.

Keep things slow and steady

When shooting video it’s important to maintain a steady hand, and walk through the property at a consistent and deliberate speed. This will provide a smooth recording that will allow viewers to see all the details they need. When turning around, try and keep your movements slow and deliberate, too. Finally, rather than zooming digitally, take a couple of steps towards the item you want to show. 

Details matter

When shooting, it is important to remember that the viewer won’t be in the room. Be conscious of this and try to capture as much footage in one shooting. Features such as storage, dishwasher, washing machine, and boilers are all important to viewers, so make sure you capture them on your tour! Explore storage spaces by opening them and showing how much space they offer. As an extra bonus, turn on the taps to show water pressure, and maybe even provide a short narration of each room you are walking into.

Need more help?
Here’s an example of a recent video your conducted by our team for a client. You can use this as an example of what to aim for.

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Uncategorized

The SearchSmartly Guide for Tenants during COVID-19

Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s become increasingly difficult for potential and current tenants to know what they can (and can’t) do in a variety of challenging situations that they might find themselves in. Here, we’ll be shedding some light on the latest government guidelines around issues such as moving home, keeping things running, and for those who are having difficulties in paying rent – evictions.

We will be updating this post with any new official guidance as it comes in. And if you have any questions that aren’t covered below, do reach and we’d be happy to provide any guidance that we can!

I haven’t started my search yet, but need to move soon. What should I do?

The advice we’re hearing from the government outlines that whilst emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus, home buyers and renters should delay moving to a new home unless they’ve already started the process and are close to exchanging contracts. So, if you have just started your search, strongly consider delaying your move until emergency restrictions are lifted.

I have a move coming up soon, can I still move in?

If for contractual reasons your move is unavoidable, the government’s advice is that all parties should try to work to reach an agreement to delay the move. If a delay isn’t possible, then all parties must follow advice on social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus, keeping at least 2 meters from one another, for example. With limitations in place on non-essential services, this will also mean that you may have to move in without the usual pre-move professional clean and inventory checks.

My home needs maintenance – can essential repairs be carried out?

The government has announced that maintenance on rental homes can still be carried out. Services, delivered by tradespeople concerning repairs and maintenance can take place providing that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. In addition, they must comply with the Public Health England guidelines of maintaining a 2 metre distance from any household occupants. 

I’m struggling to pay my rent because of the virus. What are my rights?

In order to protect tenants who may be affected by the Coronavirus, the government has increased the standard eviction notice period from 2 months to 3 months. This currently means that no court proceedings can begin earlier than 3 months from the date the notice is served.

Although not legally binding, the government has pledged to introduce a complete ban on evictions and additional protections for renters affected by COVID-19. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government stated that after the 3 month period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into accounts tenants’ individual circumstances.

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COVID-19: How to prevent your property search from stalling

Moving home can be fraught with challenges in the best of times. Unfortunately, the global spread of the coronavirus has only added to the stress of this experience. Although some may consider deferring their move, many don’t have this option for various reasons, be it having served notice on their existing home, starting a new job imminently, and so on. Here at SearchSmartly, we’ve been getting enquiries asking for advice for what to do in this situation, so here are three tips that we’d like to share for anyone not sure about how to manage their property search in these uncertain times. 


Don’t hang around

With recently government advice on social distancing and the restriction of gatherings or public movement, it is possible that in efforts to curb the spread of the virus, stricter rules may get imposed. We would advise that should you be in the midst of a property move or thinking about it, then it would be better to act sooner with conviction in order to prevent these limitations from affecting your search. 


You’ll have less competition


As restrictions limit the number of people conducting viewings, there will likely be less competition for the right home. Here at SearchSmartly, we’re committed to finding the most suitable homes for our users and will ensure that we continue to deliver on a customer-first property search and move experience. 


Do video viewings from the comfort of your home


Agents are still available for in-person viewings, but in some cases they are operating with reduced staff. It may be easier and safer to conduct viewings via video on FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, and most agents will be happy to support such viewings. In some cases, the agents may also have a 3D tour available for the property, too. At SearchSmartly, many of our users have found their next home via video tours, often when relocating internationally, so why not give this a go?
If you’d like to arrange video viewings for any of the properties available on SearchSmartly, simply let us know and we’d be happy to help!