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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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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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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!

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Daisy’s smart property search in London

On our mission to transform the property search experience for renters and buyers, the team here at SearchSmartly often come across property search requirements that are often as unique as the individuals that use our service. Here, we’ll be highlighting noteworthy case studies of some of the most interesting user requirements we’ve recently come across.

In this week’s case study, we have Daisy.

Daisy is a recent graduate from Exeter University, and is originally from the North East. She is about to join the graduate scheme at a government agency based in St. Paul’s and is looking to find an apartment with her partner; a trainee solicitor based in Liverpool Street. 

Together, Daisy and her partner have a maximum budget of £1,700 per month and would like a cycle commute that is no longer than 45 minutes each way. As avid foodies, they would love to be close to a high street with a variety of eating options, and perhaps a few hidden gems that they could ‘wow’ their friends with. Daisy’s partner is a keen runner, and having a park nearby would allow him to keep up his hobby.

This insight led to SearchSmartly’s smart matchmaking tool providing a number of quality options of available properties in London that all met the couple’s varied requirements.

Below are three examples that caught Daisy’s eye:

  1. West London Studios, SW6 – £1,582 pcm This property stood out because of the locality of great eateries. Located just off the Fulham road, Daisy would be spoilt for choice on new places to try. With King’s Road also within walking distance, she knew the options available would be endless, including the likes of The Butcher’s Hook (where Chelsea FC was founded!) and Chimayo . Complemented by the existence of 5 local parks, weekend cycling was certainly on the cards.

2. West End Lane, NW6 – £1,599 pcm Within the confines of the lifestyle-centric, leafy West Hampstead neighbourhood situated close to central London. This option left an impression on Daisy and her partner largely thanks to the availability of green space. With the added benefit of great restaurants located nearby such as The Gallery and Pham House, this open plan apartment they found was worthy of a viewing. 

3. Dalston Square, E8 £1,690pcm The final property, located in the trendy Dalston district of London offered Daisy the opportunity to be in the heart of the action whilst having a pretty short commute to work; ideal for the days when London’s brilliant weather isn’t on her side. Within close proximity to an endless option of dining and evening entertainment, this popular location certainly caught the eye of the pair but with a higher price point, there was a potential compromise to be struck given the much shorter commute offered by the Dalston location. 

Using SearchSmartly, our users discover uniquely tailored, bespoke properties in the finest corners of London. If you are looking to relocate why not uncover your matches and find a place perfect for you