Our mission here at SearchSmartly is to revolutionise the property matchmaking experience in a simplified manner by accommodating the personal needs of buyers and sellers to find the best suited properties for them. Not only have we managed to save customers a lot of stress and money, but we have managed to shorten the time typically spent in finding a home in London.
The journey of moving home is always a great time for reflecting on the sheer amounts of things we have and what we really need. You may find yourself realising you no longer have space in your wardrobes, or you simply need more space for working from home. You might have underestimated the number of items you have acquired over time that you need to pack. With that in mind the options of solving this issue usually includes either selling your items or asking to use the leftover storage place of a family member. Both of which aren’t always ideal.
However, rarely do we ever realise that the most convenient solution, that will still allow us to keep our valuables but without taking away our space, is to use a storage and moving service. It has become easier than ever to leverage the use of storage as it is very affordable, offers vast flexibility for storage duration and size; and most importantly, it keeps our items secure. A moving service will take away all the hassle of packing and moving for you.
Whether you are moving to a new flat, or an existing one, our partners at Stackt have helped hundreds of customers by offering affordable bespoke solutions to their storage as well as their moving needs! You want it done right? They’ve got this covered from start to finish – packing, collection, storing and delivering.
Stackt is a fast-growing start-up that has managed to cement itself in the UK storage and moving industry with their incredible tech advancement that offers customers the best solutions suited to their needs. Their non-traditional approach has made them aware that every move is unique, which helps them identify individual customer wishes.
Their smart calculator will accurately determine the best price for your move and storage depending on the number of items and distance. Stackt operates across the UK. Oh, and guess what… all your items are covered by insurance. If you are interested in Storage and a Moving service, our partners at Stackt can help answer any further questions you may have. Your peace of mind is a click away.
This week’s government budget announcements from the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has brought with it some welcome news to prospective home buyers. The two significant announcements see the re-introduction of the 95% mortgage guarantee and an extension to the existing stamp duty holiday by three months and a lighter version of the holiday for a further 3 months.
95% mortgage guarantee
The 5% deposit policy was first introduced in 2013 by David Cameron under the ‘help to buy’ scheme that aims to encourage lenders to consider mortgages from applicants with a 5% deposit. This scheme is open to both first time buyers and existing homeowners, coming into effect from April 2021. It will include all properties up to £600,000 and, unlike Help to Buy, will not be limited to new build homes. This is great news for buyers who might be interested in a traditional house rather than a new-build flat, for example. To do so, the government takes on some of the risk that comes with lending at higher loan-to-value ratios (LTVs). Lending policies applied by mortgage providers will still apply, which include an assessment of an applicant’s income, expenditure and credit.
With the average property price in the UK being £250,000, it means the great majority of the property market will benefit from this scheme for both buyers and sellers. The downside to all this however is that the higher the LTV, the higher the interest rates will be as banks take on more risk by lending more money.
Several high street banks, including Lloyds, NatWest, Santander, Barclays, and HSBC have already announced that they will be re-introducing 95% LTV mortgages as a result of this announcement.
Stamp Duty Extension
Alongside the introduction of the 95% mortgage, the government has extended the stamp duty holiday until the end of September. The original “nil-rate band” introduced for all properties up to £500,000 will finish at the end of June; having originally been due to finish at the end of March, followed by a tapered approach from June to September.
This will result in no stamp duty being charged on a residential property bought for up to £500,000 and until 30th September, no stamp duty being charged on a residential property bought for up to £250,000.
In doing so, this will save thousands of transactions at risk of falling through due to backlog caused by continued demand from consumers being met by smaller teams at most agents. The data has shown that the stamp duty holiday has been effective in maintaining the property market with 16 buyers chasing every available property.
With a renewed opportunity to reduce purchasing costs for the next six months, prospective buyers can quickly discover great homes in areas that best suit their lifestyle needs on SearchSmartly’s smart property matchmaking platform. Why not give it a go and see which unique homes you get matched with?
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.
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?).
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Ultimate Guide to Renting in London with Your Pet
Finding somewhere to rent in London is hard enough as it is. For owners of pets, this is made several times harder because of the difficulty in finding pet friendly landlords and properties. SearchSmartly decided to find solutions that will put any London pet-owner at ease when looking to rent in the city
Guide to renting with pets
Renting a property as a pet-owner depends on the willingness of the landlord to accept pets in their property. Landlords are concerned about damage to the property, noise, and fouling. In order to put your pet’s best paw forward, we have assembled a few steps you can take to help you secure a lease.
Step One: Prepare a Pet CV. Use the CV as an opportunity to talk about your pet’s behaviour and personality. You should also mention any training your pets have received and how they behave inside of the home. Include details of your pet’s last vaccinations and flea & worming treatments. Here is a Pet CV template that you can use to address any concerns your landlord may have regarding your pet.
Step Two: Be prepared to pay a higher deposit, have less flexibility on the asking price or pay for any professional end of tenancy cleaning services. But hey, if your landlord is impressed with your pet CV, and if you maintain the property correctly, you may not have to! A reference from your previous landlord addressing those points would add leverage to your offer.
Step Three: Search for properties matching your lifestyle.
Use the SearchSmartly filter to find a list of properties suitable for your budget, commute, and lifestyle requirements.
Book a viewing with the property that is of interest to you, completing the registration form when prompted to do so.
Fill in your contact details, move in date, and add a comment about your pet in the notes section.
Keep in mind that newbuilds don’t generally allow pets, but unless it’s a strict building association policy, having your pet CV at hand, would help you negotiate with the property landlord.
We hope you find this information useful. Do let us know in the comments or feel free to get in touch via our website.
For many first-time tenants, it can be difficult to know what is needed to secure a rental property.
After speaking with many of our customers, we’ve decided to answer some frequently asked questions on what financing and documentation is needed.
What documents do I need to secure a property?
In order to legally rent a property, there are several documents that are required in order to go through this process. These include:
Proof of Identity: A valid passport/driving licence (UK residents only)
Proof of employment/study: This will need to be an official (typically on official institution letterhead paper) letter confirming your place of employment/studies
Proof of employment: For some agents, they require prospective tenants to be able to provide pay slips for their previous three months of employment as proof of ability to pay; this can also apply to students so always be sure to have it prepared in any case that it is requested
Proof of funds: In addition to this, some agents may go as far as requesting bank statements in order to clarify that potential tenants have the ability to pay the rent
Proof of address: More applicable to UK-based residents, agents may also request a proof of address. This will usually be in the form of an official letter dated within the last three months. This can be a tax/utilities bill.
What if I’m not employed, or don’t have a stable income?
Do I need a UK bank account to secure a property?
No – for most agents, the ability to pay the deposits required from foreign accounts is totally acceptable. However, this may vary from agent to agent so be sure to ask about this early in the process
What deposits are required to secure a property?
Once you have agreed on a property with an agent, there are two types of deposits that are required, these are:
Holding Deposit: This deposit is typically asked for once an agreement has been made but not confirmed in contract. It’s important to note that once this has been paid, you have agreed to rent the property and the agent has agreed to rent it to you. This will be worth 1 week’s rent.
Security Deposit: Once paperwork has been signed off, agents/landlords will ask for a security deposit. This is to ensure that rent is paid whilst also acting as protection against damage to the property caused by the tenants. This will be worth an additional 4 week’s rent on top of the Holding Deposit.
Can a non-UK citizen be used as a guarantor?
As the UK continues to be a popular destination for international students and young professionals, the question of a guarantor being a non-UK citizen remains ever-relevant. Generally, due to the enforce-ability of having a guarantor, they need to be a UK citizen, which can range from being an extended family member to a friend. In the circumstances where a guarantor can’t be provided, agents/landlords will offset this by asking for six months’ rent upfront.
Tenants across England from June will be relieved to hear that the upfront costs of renting will be considerably reduced. Thanks to the Tenant Fees Act – which puts a ban on lettings fees, tenants from June 1st will no longer be expected to make payments for services provided by agents and landlords such as:
Credit check fees
The act pertains specifically to any new agreements signed from June 1st 2019 whilst tenants currently in agreements that precede this will get the rights to this from June 1st 2020.
By eliminating such costs, it’s expected to save renters up to £800 off fees that have historically stifled a proportion of the market. As a result, the government estimates that these new fee bans will save 4.8 million renters around £240m a year.
This ban does however exclude the following payments/costs which landlords and agents can be expected to charge for:
Refundable deposit capped at five weeks’ rent (six if the annual rent surpasses £50,000)
Refundable confirmation deposit capped at one week’s rent
Changes in tenancy agreement for occupancy changes, pets, or subletting capped typically at £50 but can be variable (with evidence provided)
Early termination fee
Default fees for late payment of rent or replacement of lost keys or door fobs
For agents and landlords, charging illegal fees could cost fines up to £5,000 for first-time offenders whilst an unlimited fine can be expected for repeat offenders within a five year window.
Here at SearchSmartly, we work strictly with reputable agents who abide by the new acts implemented, ensuring that all proposed tenancies exclude illegal or unscrupulous behaviour that do not benefit potential tenants. If you are looking to move, why not start your search with us and our trusted agents.
What you need to know about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, as well as key points you need to be mindful of when reviewing your tenancy agreement.
In this article, let’s look at the rights and responsibilities for tenants, as well as how to review your tenancy agreement carefully.
First things first, you should always make sure that there is a written tenancy agreement between you and the landlord. The most common agreement in the UK is called Assured Shorthand Tenancies or AST. ASTs are superseded by the law, so in the event of a dispute, the law takes precedence over any wrongly drafted clauses in the agreement.
Key points you need to watch out for in your tenancy agreement
Agreed rent per month and mode or payment. This is an obvious one – just pay attention to the rent amount that it has been calculated accurately, especially the conversion from per week rent (that’s how rents are often advertised) to per month (there are more than 4 weeks in a month).
Tenancy start and end dates, and the process for ending the tenancy early. There should ideally be a notice period of 1 to 2 months depending on the tenancy period.
Break clause. It is common to have a break clause in long-term tenancy agreements. We recommend having this clearly spelled out so that you have the flexibility to move out easily in the event of a change of circumstances for you.
Process for periodic rent review. We have seen agreements that have an inflation-linked rental price increase every year.
Deposit amount and how it will be protected, along with details of when the deposit can be fully or partly withheld (e.g. to repair the damage you have caused, deducted when you are vacating the property). The landlords are now required to put the tenants’ deposit into a Tenancy Deposit Protection scheme and provide the receipt to the tenant within a few days of giving the deposit account. The landlords lose some rights (related to tenant eviction) in case they do not put the deposit amount into a tenancy deposit scheme.
Property management. This can be a topic of contention during the tenancy, so pay special attention to this. It’s not uncommon for landlords to hand over regular repairs and maintenance work to private agencies – make sure you have their full contact details, including emergency phone numbers. If your landlord plans to take care of property management, make sure to talk to him/her in advance on how quickly he/she can respond to emergencies – for example, if there is a water pipe leakage in the middle of the night, or there is a major issue when the landlord is living abroad or away on holidays in a remote location.
An outline of the bills you are responsible for. Typically all utility bills and council tax are payable by the tenants, while any building management fee is paid by the landlord. Occasionally, gas heating in the flat may be covered by the landlord if there is a central heating system in the building.
Pets. Most landlords are adamant that they will not allow pets to reside in their property. Sometimes, if the property is part of a purpose-built apartment block, this can be dictated by the regulations of the building, leaving no margin for discussion. Make sure you are fully aware of the rules that apply to the property regarding this matter.
There are various public sources available for information on tenants’ rights and responsibilities that you may want to review…