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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

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Guide to Renting with Pets in London

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. 

To start your search click here

To download a Pet CV template, click here

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What do I need to secure a property?

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. 

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Introduction of the Tenant Fees Act

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:

  • Administrative fees
  • Credit check fees
  • Viewing charges
  • Reference fees
  • Tenancy agreements

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.

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Tenants’s rights, responsibilities & tenancy agreement

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 managementThis 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 forTypically 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…

Understand your rights & responsibilities:

Understand the tenancy agreement (Assured Shorthand Tenancies or AST)

Understand the Tenancy Deposit Protection

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Your checklist when viewing a property

When viewing a property, there are a number of things that you will want to check.  After all, this is the opportunity for you to evaluate if it meets your requirements and if you need the landlord to make any changes to the property as part of your offer (e.g. repairs, add or remove furniture, etc.).

Also, using this checklist will help you to avoid making a decision that is based only on the emotional connection that you may have made with the property and its location. Renting a property is a financial commitment and you want to make sure that it’s the right home for you on all levels.

Outside the property & surrounding areas

Sources of noise & pollution

  • Is there any sign of a construction site or scaffolding? If so, find out what is the nature of the work being done (e.g. construction, refurbishment) and for how long is it expected to continue. This may be an issue, making the place noisy, disrupting traffic, limiting parking space, etc.
  • Is the building close to a busy street or busy crossroads with a traffic light? If so, check on which side of the building is the property located. If the windows look over a busy traffic light area, it may be an issue for you in the summer, when you’d want to keep your windows open.
  • Is it close to a school, hospital, fire station? These could all be sources of noise, especially if the property is not equipped with double-gazed windows. Make sure you are aware of and comfortable with being in close proximity to these.

Convenience

  • Where are the closest amenities, local shops and transport links? What are the opening times.
  • How do you get to the closest Tube, train or bus station? Are you comfortable walking along that route? Try it out and make sure it’s Ok for you as you’ll be doing this on a daily basis if you decide to rent this property.

Safety

  • Is there any security system in place, such as security cameras outside the building or in the common areas, burglar alarm, entry-phone system? Are the external doors well-secured?

Outdoor space

If the property comes with a garden or a terrace, it’s worth clarifying a few questions, such as:

  • Is the garden or terrace shared? For example, in the case of a rear garden, both flats on the lower ground and ground floor may have access.
  • Who is responsible for maintaining space?  Generally, this falls under the responsibility of the tenant (unless it is a communcal space) and you will need to add this to your budget.
  • How is the outdoor space secured? Who has access to the garden door? Can someone easily jump over the door to the garden from the street?

The neighbors

Ask about the neighbors.  Are they a young family with children (in which case you may need to be sensitive about hosting late night parties), young professionals, etc.? If you can, ask the existing tenants or the building’s porter or concierge to find out more.

Inside the property 

  • Is the property in good condition?  Are there any repairs required? In particular, check the flooring (any loose tiles?), windows (do they open and close properly), walls and the furniture.
  • Are the windows double-glazed? How good is the insulation? Are the windows secure and do they lock properly?
  • Are there any signs of mould? Are there any water stains on the walls or ceilings, that could be an indication of leakage issues? In particular, make sure you check the built-in cupboards if there are any. If there are signs of mould or water stains, it’s important that you get more context around the issue – was it a one-off incident or is this a recurring issue, how has it been fixed, etc. If you suffer from mould allergies, you may decide that this is not the right property for you.
  • What heating system is in place? Is there central heating? Some buildings have communal central heating and the heating and hot water are generally included in the rent. Are all the radiators functioning properly? Is there any sign of water leakage on the wall or floor next to any of the radiators?
  • Where is the boiler or the water tank located? If you are viewing a 1 bed property, the boiler could be located in the master bedroom (e.g. wardrobe), which can be an issue if you are a light sleeper.
  • Are all the taps working properly? Is the water pressure good enough? This is not systematically part of the ‘check-in inventory’ and low water pressure could be the sign of a significant plumbing issue, requiring a lot of work. You should systematically check that everything is in order before making an offer.
  • Where are the phone sockets, broadband connection, etc. located? Will you need to get an extension? If so, who will cover these costs?
  • Do all the kitchen appliances work? These are generally checked during the ‘check-in inventory’ but it’s best if you can learn in advance of any repairs that are required so that you can include these in your conditions as part of your offer.
  • What furniture stays and what goes?  If the property is tenanted at the moment of viewing it’s easy to get confused about what you will get when you move into the property and what actually belongs to the current tenant.

Finally, ask about the landlord: who is he/she and what do they do? Do they own several properties or is the one you’re viewing the only one? Do they live locally or abroad? Will they be managing the property? A local landlord may be more inclined to directly deal with any issues in the property, while a landlord based abroad will probably use some form of property management agent. It’s also good to know a bit about the person who owns the home you’re living in.

If possible talk with the existing tenants. Ask about how long they have been living in this property and why they are moving out. Ask them about the landlord and there experience in getting things fixed. Speak with the porter or concierge (if there is one) – they can often be a minefield of information and would know the area and residents very well!

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Top tips when negotiating the rent

How to get the best deal?

Tip #1 – Don’t let your emotions over-control your decision

Even if you think that is the best property out there, don’t show your excitement. That property has not been designed for you (even if you think it is). You will design your own home after your MBA or a few years after it.

Tip #2 – Have the right information on the property to negotiate

The more informed you are on the property, the better it is. Here are some elements to know:

  • Property vacancy: For how long has the property been on the market? If it has been on the market for long, the landlord may be more willing to accept a lower rent than the asking rate.
  • Size of landlord’s property portfolio: Does the landlord own multiple properties or just a single property? If he just owns a single property, the he / she may be dependent on the rental income to pay for the mortgage, whereas a larger landlord may think of his overall portfolio income first, which can make him more flexible on tenancy terms like monthly rent, break clause, minor improvements to the property, etc.
  • General condition of the property: Any factors that may give you some space to negotiate a discount on the asking rent? For example, is the furniture worn down? Are there minor repair works that would ideally be needed but that you are willing to do without? In these cases, you may be able to negotiate a discount on the asking rent on the basis that the landlord will not need to spend money on getting things fixed before you move in.
  • Comparative rental information: we recommend that you do some research to find out the asking rent on comparative properties in the area, as well as the rent the current tenants of the property are paying. You can also do a general Internet search (on sites like ZooplaMousePrice) to find out if this property has been listed there by other agents for a lower price, or to find out previous rents for this property.

Tip #3 – There are many amazing properties out there!

The most critical aspect that will help you negotiate well is to have 2 or 3 good alternative properties on your shortlist. These properties should be within your budget, provide similar quality living space (location, area etc.) and be available for similar terms (duration of lease, etc.).

This will put you in a position where you can afford to ‘let go’ of a property and not feel pressurised to accept terms that may not reflect the market value of the rental property or not present a balanced deal.

It’s also helpful to plan your search so you have sufficient time to find the right property before needing to move out of your current accommodation. The general recommendation is to start searching within 4 to 6 weeks before your moving date.

So when you get a copy of the tenancy agreement, make sure you fully understand the terms that are outlined.  This will include the agreed rent, notice period, break clause, etc.

And don’t forget… you will not get a lower rent or better terms unless you ask for it!