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Had your Offer Accepted? Here’s what to do next

Congratulations! Having your offer accepted can be a huge relief, as you’re a (big) step closer to moving into your dream home. With the relief comes an equal dose of butterflies-in-your-stomach, as in many ways the real work begins now.

Before you can officially call this home yours, there are a few steps still to be completed. Luckily, we’ll make it straightforward and simple to follow to ensure your exchange is as efficient and seamless as possible.

  1. Request to de-list the property: Once an offer has been accepted, it’s good practice to request to the estate agent that the property be taken off the market as soon as possible. Doing so reduces the chance of a competitor submitting a higher offer – the dreading “gazumping”. 
  1. Appoint a conveyancing solicitor: A conveyancing solicitor will be responsible for completing the legal aspect of this transaction from your side of the deal, so it is very important that you appoint the best quality solicitor within your budget, who will be aware of the searches and checks relevant to your property. These searches and checks on average take around 3 weeks to complete and all conveyancing solicitors should ideally be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority or the Council of Licensed Conveyancers. A good solicitor can spot and avert problems early.
  1. Submit a mortgage application: This applies to most home buyers. For those who aren’t buying a property with cash, a mortgage will be needed to fund the purchase of a house which can take up to 6 weeks to complete. Your lender will require the necessary documentation such as: 
    1. Proof of ID
    2. Proof of address
    3. Proof of earnings
    4. Recent bank statements 

We recommend that you research the best mortgage offerings on the market, you can do so via our partner Trussle. Once you’ve found your preferred lender, we advise you to get an agreement in principle from them as this would support the offer your agent puts to the seller.

  1. Organise an independent survey from a RICS surveyor: Your chosen mortgage lender will arrange a valuation of the property to ensure it’s worth what you are offering to purchase it for. At times, there may be differences between the valuation report and what you’ve offered which may require you to go back and negotiate. For your own sake, we recommend organizing an independent surveyor to deliver a detailed report for your keeping. The physical surveys can take up to 8 hours, whilst you can expect a report to be delivered in 7-10 days.
  1. Exchange contracts and deposit payments: Once your searches have been completed, prices agreed and mortgage approved, the final step is to sign and complete on the exchange over the course of the day, which legally commits you to purchasing the property. You’ll be required to pay the deposit and from there, confirm date, completion and moving date.  Once this has been confirmed, your solicitor will ensure the mortgage funds are sent to the seller’s solicitors.
  1. Complete key collection and moving-in: Upon completion, the ownership of the house will be transferred to you, you can now pick up the keys and move-in. At this stage, we recommend that you plan ahead with your key collection, van removal and move-in date to minimise any further delays and fees. 

Altogether, this moving process should take anywhere from 12-15 weeks assuming things go smoothly with minimal delay. The process can seem quite long, but is well worth it when carried out properly, ensuring you can move with peace of mind. 

We hope this guide will provide you with enough information to confidently go through the property purchase process. If you have any questions that are holding you back – our team is here to help, so just reply to this email if you need any assistance!

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Why Andrew bought a 2-bed property in Blackheath, London for under £600k (and why you might too)

When searching for a new property to either rent or buy, you will certainly have an extensive list of requirements unique to your specific situation. It can seem overwhelming to sift through hundreds of properties, in a seemingly endless effort to find the perfect home that ticks all your boxes. At SearchSmartly, our smart property search tool is designed to help you solve this very problem, prioritising your matches by just how well they fit your unique “must-haves”. Here we’ll be exploring how Andrew, one of our users, managed to find the perfect home to buy.

Andrew is a management consultant looking to buy his first property with his partner. They are considering starting a family soon, and that’s one of the things that is top of mind for the couple in their search. Andrew wants to live within a 45-minute cycle to his workplace in London Bridge. Ideally, the property would be somewhere south of the river so that he is able to drive down to Kent easily to see his parents, who are keen to be near when the future baby arrives. As a keen runner, it is also important for Andrew to live near green spaces. He has a budget of £600,000. 

Andrew entered his budget, commute and lifestyle needs into the onboarding questionnaire on our website, using the twin commute feature to find locations both convenient to commute to work and to drive to his parents’ house. 

Three examples stood out to Andrew for very different reasons:

1. Tranquil Vale – £575,000

This two-bed property is located right in the heart of Blackheath, a quiet and green commuter town in South East London. Known for its large public green, Blackheath is an ideal location for those looking to stay within a short distance of central London, without compromising on a more relaxed, suburban lifestyle ideal for families. Andrew was particularly drawn to this property as he had not previously considered Blackheath as an area that he could afford, let alone finding a property £25,000 below his budget, giving him some negotiating room. Just a 33-minute cycle from London Bridge, this fit Andrew’s commute requirements, whilst also just taking 36 minutes to drive to his parents in Sevenoaks. Andrew was also drawn to the green just 5 minutes away for his regular runs, whilst the three highly rated primary schools within 10 minutes walk from the home were ideal for his future plans to start a family. 

2. Dowding Drive – £525,000

This property sits in another southeastern suburb, this time just a 15 minute walk away from Kidbrooke Station. Andrew was particularly attracted to how the property overlooked the nature reserve and running track in Sutcliffe Park. With Cator Park less than a mile away also, Andrew was spoilt for choice. From his workplace in London Bridge, this property is just a 43 minute cycle, or 15 minutes on the train from Kidbrooke. The property also sits less than a 10 minute walk away from two primary schools. As a bonus, this flat also offers a 24-hour concierge, gym facilities and underground parking. Finally, Andrew was drawn to the proximity to his parents’ house, at just a 33 minute drive from Sevenoaks. 

3. Thicket Road – £600,000

Coming further south into Crystal Palace, this two-bed property is located right next to Crystal Palace Park, not only perfect for Andrew’s runs but also a family-friendly place with attractions including a playground, an animal farm, maze and museum. This location not only would allow Andrew to cycle to work in 43 minutes or drive to his parents in 59 minutes, Penge West Station is also a 2 minute walk away and conveniently on the overground, allowing quick links into central London. With parking and a communal garden, this property ticked a lot of boxes. 

After much deliberation with his partner and balancing up commute requirements, the prospect of their future family and the need for green spaces, Andrew decided to buy Tranquil Vale, SE3, in Blackheath. Andrew was drawn to Blackheath’s beautiful green, quiet suburban feel and close proximity to central London. We are thrilled that Andrew and his partner were able to find the perfect place to call home, especially in an area that he had never considered within his reach before. If you are looking to relocate, why not use our smart property search tool to uncover a variety of unique options bespoke to your specific needs. Who knows, you may discover new areas you had never even thought of moving to before!

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Moving to London (Part IV): Moving In

Following a long search process, with all the browsing, viewings and paperwork, you’ve finally done it – you have a new home in London! Not only can you finally relax and settle into your new place, there’s a whole new neighbourhood (and city!) ready for you to explore, and if you’re moving in with new flatmates, some new friends to get to know. The hardest part is over, and now all there is left to do is move in. By taking the right steps, you can avoid costly mistakes and also save yourself some hassle along the way. To help, we’ve compiled some tips to make this process as smooth as possible. 

If you’ve used SearchSmartly to find your home, congratulations! You have now unlocked our free move-in concierge service delivered by our partners JustMoveIn. They will help you with many of the tasks on our checklist below (address changes, switching you over to the most suitable utility provider, and much more) – saving you up to 8 hours of admin time. Just let us know when you’ve signed your contract at hello@searchsmartly.co to unlock this offer.

Moving your belongings

  • It’s advisable to organise moving your belongings from your old place into your new property around 1-2 months in advance. Consider which option would be most suitable for you: a move-in company, using the help of family and friends, or if you don’t have too many items, moving items yourself by car or public transport. 
  • Order materials that you need to pack also around 1-2 months in advance, such as moving boxes and tape. 
  • Don’t forget to book some days off work for the move if you need several days for it!

Changing Address

  • A few weeks before your move, you can begin to change your address with various organisations, which could include: the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, HM Revenue & Customs, the electoral register, your bank and credit card providers, and your employer. 
  • You should also change your address with any subscription services you may have in order to avoid items being sent to your old address, such as newspapers and food deliveries. 
  • After moving in, you can also register with the local doctor (GP) and dentist. 

Utilities

  • Let your utilities provider in your current home know that you are moving so that you can cancel your contracts (unless the landlord is responsible for your bills).
  • If bills are not included in your new tenancy, you can either stick to the same provider or choose a new one. It’s always worth shopping around to see if you can get a cheaper deal, don’t feel obliged to stick to the current company. Our move-in concierge partners, JustMoveIn, can help with this.
  • Take note of utility readings in both your current home when leaving and your new home when arriving. Take a picture so you have a record.  

Other costs

  • Wifi: you can search online to find who provides wifi in your area, as well as to compare the best deals available to you. 
  • TV Licence: if you are planning to watch nationally broadcasted TV channels, including online via their streaming services (such as BBC iPlayer) you will need to pay for a TV licence. If you were already paying for a licence at your old home, notify the licensing agency of your move so that they can change your address. 
  • Insurance: taking out contents insurance for your new home will cover your possessions in the event of theft, loss or damage. 
  • Council Tax: if you are required to pay council tax, contact your new local council in order to set up payment. They will register you, send you your bill and advise you on  how to pay. To save hundreds of pounds, check for exemptions! Not everyone is required to pay council tax, for example, if you are in full-time education. You can check online to see whether you are exempt. 

The condition of the property

  • As soon as you arrive, take pictures of the property and compare them with your check-in inventory. It is especially important to check for any damages and/or signs of wear and tear, and to make sure these are documented in your inventory. If not, you should email these to the agent or landlord. Without these photos, you may be at risk of being charged for damages that you did not cause at the end of your tenancy. 
  • Beyond visible damages, it’s also worth checking if everything is working, such as light switches, taps, locks, smoke alarms and windows.
  • If renting a furnished property or one with white goods, check the inventory to see if all the items on the list are also in the property. If there is anything missing, notify the landlord. Even if you are not given an inventory, you can request one. 
  • The landlord has a responsibility to ensure that the property is clean when you arrive, although minor signs of wear and tear are permitted. Remember that you’ll be expected to leave the property in a similar condition to how it was given to you, so if it hasn’t been professionally cleaned before your move-in, you shouldn’t be expected to professionally clean it when you move out.
  • Before you move anything around in the property or put up decorations, ask your landlord if you are permitted to do so. Landlords differ in their leniency when it comes to decorations and furniture rearrangement, and if you leave marks on the wall from blu tack for example, you are likely to lose money from your deposit. 

Documents and safety

  • When moving in, the landlord should be able to provide you with the following documents. If you do not receive any of these, you can ask your landlord to provide them 
    • gas safety certificate
    • electrical safety certificate
    • energy safety certificate
    • deposit receipt and documentation
  • Emergency contact details: ask the landlord who to contact in the event of an emergency. Legally, the landlord is required to provide you with their name, address and telephone number. 

With this checklist out of your way, it’s time to crack open a celebratory drink – you’ve officially come to the end of your property search journey! If you are just getting ready to embark on your own hunt for a property to rent in London, why not try SearchSmartly? In addition to our smart property search tools which can help you discover hidden gems that we know you’ll love, our friendly team will support you right from the early stages to the day you’ve moved in and had everything set up.

Looking for more advice on other steps in your property search journey? Why not explore other parts of our How to Rent Guide and find out how to search for a property, make a viewing and prepare the right documentation. 

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Moving to London (Part III): Documentation 

After sifting through what probably feels like hundreds of properties, you’ve finally viewed a home that makes you shout – “this is the one!”. The good news is that the end of your property search is finally in sight. Having reached this exciting stage in your search, the final steps ahead are to make an offer that the landlord will be willing to accept, and to submit all the relevant documentation to rent the property.

Submitting an Offer

Submitting an offer is just that – an offer. This shows that you are very serious about committing to the home, but it is no guarantee of securing the property. Considering the competitiveness of the London rental market, there are often several applicants placing an offer for the same property at one time, and the landlord has final discretion on who they will choose. It is therefore crucial to put your best foot forward to make your offer stand out, unless you’re willing to let that property go. Here are some tips to help you make the most competitive offer you can: 

  • Be quick: landlords give preference to first offers over later offers. At SearchSmartly, we help you make the most competitive offer possible by providing you with an offer form early on in your search journey. This form includes all the relevant information landlords may ask for and prepares you to put your offer in as soon as possible.  
  • Stick to asking price: try not to negotiate too aggressively, especially if it is a busy period in the market such as summer. Most properties in London go at, or even above, the asking price. Your offer is therefore going to be less successful if you try to negotiate a lower price. 
  • If you are going to negotiate pricing, a rule of thumb is that most landlords will not go below 5% of the asking price. Consider the prices of similar properties in terms of quality, location and number of bedrooms to come up with a sensible offer before negotiating.
  • Paying upfront: offering to pay several months rent in advance can make your offer more competitive. It can also give you some negotiating power for a lower rent. 
  • Furniture: ensure that any requests regarding furniture are included in your offer, such as asking for a specific piece of furniture to be replaced or added. If you ask for such additions, be aware that the landlord may ask for a higher rental price. 

With multiple applicants vying for the same property, there is a risk that you will miss out on your ideal home by not having your documentation ready, allowing another applicant to get their offer accepted first. The following sections outline all the relevant paperwork you will need in order to avoid such a situation. Some documents can take some time to gather, so starting early is always advisable! 

It is also important to remember that the documentation stage of your property hunt is not just for the landlord to check that you are a suitable tenant. As a tenant, you have certain legal rights in the UK, and now is your chance to ensure that the tenancy agreement is complying with the law. Make sure to read the written tenancy agreement carefully before signing. 

Proof of Identity:

 First and foremost, landlords must check whether the applicant is legally allowed to rent in the UK. By law, applicants must be aged 18 or over and have the right to rent (either by way of British citizenship or through a relevant visa). In order to prove this, you may be asked for: 

  • Passport or driving license 
  • Proof of current address e.g. a utility bill 
  • Visa / associated documents to prove right to live in the UK (if coming from abroad) 

Proof of Income or Guarantor: 

Eligibility to live in the UK is not sufficient to rent a property. Landlords also will ask for evidence that you are able to meet the monthly rent of the property, normally through having annual earnings of 30 times the monthly rent (sometimes 36 times the monthly rent). For example, if your rent is £900 per month, your annual income must be at least £27,000. If you are sharing with more than one person, it is your combined income that would have to meet this requirement. Documentation to prove this could include:  

  • Recent pay slips 
  • A letter from your employer confirming job title, salary and length of employment  
  • Current employment contract 
  • Tax return for the most recent tax year 

If you are self-employed, it is likely you will be subject to stricter checks. This could include: 

  • Three years’ worth of income evidence 
  • Bank statements 
  • Company details (if you work for your own company) 
  • Invoice records 

Referencing: 

Landlords may also require a character and/or employment reference in order to ensure that you are a reliable and suitable tenant that the landlord is able to trust with their home. This could include:

  • A letter attesting to your character from a former landlord, former flatmate or school
  • A reference from your employer both supporting the suitability of your character and your income

If unable to provide a reference from your landlord, a useful alternative could be to prove that your deposit was fully refunded or to present your previous tenancy agreement and rent receipts.

The method by which landlords and agents require references differs. Some may ask for a written reference, in which case you could ask your reference to write a letter, others may use an external referencing company who will ask for your reference’s contact details in order to get in touch with them directly. 

Deposits: Always agree on the terms of your contract before you pay for your deposit, and ask for a receipt for any money paid. There are laws in place to protect your deposit: 

  • It must be refundable 
  • It must be protected in a Deposit Protection Scheme 
  • It cannot be worth more than 5 weeks’ rent (for properties with an annual rent of up to £50,000) or 6 weeks (for properties £50,000 or more). 

Once the holding deposit (equivalent to one week’s rent) has been paid, the landlord or agent should remove the property from the market.  

Landlords may ask for more than one type of deposit:

  • A security deposit (5 or 6 weeks’ rent): this is held for the duration of your tenancy. Any damages made to the property will be deducted from this deposit. If no damages are made, this will be returned to you in full at the end of the tenancy. 
  • A holding deposit (1 week’s rent): this is paid at the offer stage in order to ensure you are a serious applicant for the property. It effectively reserves the property for you, and will be refunded to you once the offer is accepted. Some landlords take the cost of this off the subsequent security deposit once contracts have been signed.

Other costs: Always ensure you check all costs involved before signing any agreement: 

  • Rent price: although the rent price is advertised, it is worth double checking what the monthly rent is. You can also ask the landlord whether the rent is negotiable or not. 
  • Bills: confirm whether bills are included in the monthly rent. If not, you can ask for an estimate of how much bills may be and which energy rating the property has. Properties with energy ratings of A or B for example will cost less than those with C or D. All properties advertised on SearchSmartly have this information at the bottom of the page. If bills are included, remember that you do not have to stick to the same energy provider that the landlord has chosen – you are able to change if you wish. 
  • Council tax: properties in the UK are subject to council tax. Certain groups may be exempt from paying, such as households where all tenants are students, so it’s worth discussing at the viewing.

Overall, documentation is a vital part of the property search process and is often the last hurdle standing between you and your new home in London. Although it may seem complicated, our team here at SearchSmartly are here to make the process as stress-free as possible. From the moment you submit your first viewing request, after filling out your search requirements here, our agents will support you through the process and answer any questions you may have. 

Ready to move ahead with the next steps in your property search journey? Why not explore other parts of our guide and find out how to search for a property, make a viewing and move in.

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Moving to London (Part II): The Viewing Process

Having taken the time to discover great flats and houses that match your needs, let’s say you’ve come across the perfect home. The next step that you’ll now need to take is to start organising a viewing. This is an exciting stage in your property rental journey, as you can finally see what the property looks like for yourself, picture your decorations on the walls, and check that the home fits all your requirements. The majority of agents will be able to do both in-person and virtual viewings (either by sending a video, or by doing a live video call), so if you are abroad or unable to travel, not to worry! Typically, you should look to start your first viewings 3 to 4 weeks before your planned move-in date. This will allow you to spend up to a couple of weeks on viewings, while still leaving plenty of time for paperwork and final admin tasks.

Considering that this is likely to be the only opportunity you will have to see the property before you move in, it is important to make the most out of your viewing. We’d recommend that you make a list of things you would like to check about the property, as well as any questions for the agent or landlord. Here, we have compiled a list of recommended points to check on viewing day: 

General features

  • Bedroom size 
  • Storage space
  • Water pressure and hot water: check the taps to ensure that there is hot water running and if the water pressure is high.  
  • Signs of mould/damp: Landlords have a legal duty to ensure the property is mould and damp free. Mould and damp is a health hazard – if you spot any during your viewing, ask the landlord if they will be addressing this before you move in.
  • Temperature: in the UK the weather can become quite cold. Ensure that the heating is working and ask whether there is double glazing, as this can make significant savings on heating bills. If you come from a hot country – don’t expect any air conditioning unless you’re willing to pay for a premium flat!
  • Smoke alarms: ask the landlord where the smoke alarms are and when they were last tested. 

Furnished properties

Double-check whether the property is furnished or not when making the viewing. Although there might be furniture there at the time, this may not be included when you move in. If the property is furnished, check for: 

  • Couches, beds, tables, and chairs: Are these of a good, safe standard? If something is broken, will the landlord be willing to repair or replace it before you move in?
  • Appliances: Is a fridge, freezer, dishwasher, and washing machine included? 
  • Curtains/blinds: Are these included, or will you need to arrange your own? If you are a light sleeper, do they block out enough light?
  • If anything is missing, ask the landlord if they are able to replace it before you move in.

The neighbourhood

Viewings are an ideal time to not only check whether you like the house, but also whether you would be happy living in the area. Here are some important factors to consider when walking around the neighbourhood at your viewing:

  • Public transport: how close the property is to public transport, and what the running times of the bus and train services are. 
  • Amenities: are there restaurants, supermarkets, pubs, bars, gyms and schools nearby? At SearchSmartly, we show the distance between the property and their nearest amenities.
  • Noise levels: is the property overlooking a busy street, train tracks, or an airport flight path? Stick around for 5-10 minutes and keep an eye out for any signs of noise. You may even wish to open the windows to see what noise levels might be like on a warm summer day when you might want a breeze flowing in.
  • Others: there may be other considerations that are important to you, such as whether the area is well-lit at night, or who your neighbours will be. 

Broken or damaged items

  • Make sure you check throughout the viewing whether any items are damaged or broken, both inside and outside the property. If you cannot see any apparent damages, you can ask the landlord/agent if there is anything you should know about.
  • If any items are broken, ask whether they are going to be repaired. If not, it is important that you take a photo on the first day you move in so that it is clear to the landlord that the damage was there before you arrived. 
  • Ask what the procedure is for any items that become broken or damaged during your tenancy, including checking what the emergency number is.

Overall, with just a little bit of preparation, you can make the most out of your viewings and really make sure you only commit to renting the right place for you to call home. And remember to stick to your ‘dealbreakers’ without being pressured into renting a place that just doesn’t fit your needs.

At SearchSmartly, you can request viewings at any time through the convenience of our smart search platform, and relax while our friendly support team gets you booked in for your viewings. Our team is there to answer any questions you might have, from viewings to contracts, and will check up on how your viewings are going to make sure you have all the support you need.

Ready to move ahead with the next steps in your property search journey? Why not explore other parts of our guide and find out how to search for a property, prepare the relevant documentation and move in.

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Moving to London (Part I): The Search Process

Moving to London is an exciting prospect, but the task of finding a new place to rent can be daunting. 

Narrowing down where to live within such a large city composed of many neighbourhoods with their own distinct feel and amenities whilst considering your budget, your commute to work or study, and the amount of space that you need can feel like an overwhelming balancing act. 

To help make this process as easy as possible for you, we’ve compiled a four-step guide to finding a property to rent in order to ease any stress related to the process. 

Searching for a property: when to start looking?

It’s important to give yourself enough time for your search, considering that there are different types of properties and processes that you may come across in London. Properties in London are usually advertised 1-2 months before the move-in date. Therefore, we’d recommend that you begin to look 4-6 weeks before you wish to move in.

What to consider before your search

It’s a good idea to consider the main constraints of your search before you begin – this could include the likes of:

Budget: Housing prices vary hugely in London, and at times can be notoriously expensive. Therefore, it’s a good idea to set a monthly rent budget. Many rental properties do not include bills (which can be an extra 25% of your monthly rent cost),  as well as additional charges such as putting down a 5-week deposit. Ensure to leave space for this within your budget.

Location: London is an incredibly diverse city, so your experience may differ widely depending on where you choose to live. When thinking about location, it’s worth bearing in mind your commute, whether that be to work, university or your child’s school.

Space: Consider how much space you want in your property. This includes not only the number of bedrooms and bathrooms but also the internal area of the property in terms of square footage. You can use tools like the SearchSmartly platform to search with criteria like minimum bathrooms and square footage. 

Amenities: How near do you want to be to the tube or bus station? Is green space, health and fitness, a lively neighbourhood, or good local schooling important to you? Considering this before you even begin to search will ensure you don’t live in a neighbourhood lacking your key amenities.

Your financial situation Landlords and agents will ask you to prove that you are a reliable tenant that can pay the rent for the duration of your tenancy. Common financial qualifications include having an annual income that is at least 30x the monthly rent, or if not, having a UK-based guarantor that meets this prerequisite or being able to pay 6 months’ rent upfront. Organising this and setting your budget accordingly before you search will avoid any delays down the line.

Housemates If you’re not looking to live alone, it’s worth considering who you will be living with. Sharing with those who have similar budgets, schedules and lifestyle often makes life easier.

Other dealbreakers A few other things to consider may be whether you want the property to be furnished or unfurnished, and whether you have a pet – not every landlord is willing to accept them!

How to search

Once you’ve identified what’s important to you, it may seem difficult to find a property that ticks all these boxes. Search methods include using search portals (such as SearchSmartly) and contacting estate agents and landlords directly.

SearchSmartly allows you to combine all of the above prerequisites into one search. The website’s commute feature will help you overcome the challenge of pinpointing ideal areas to live in by identifying all the properties located within a certain time of up to two commute locations. You can also identify the amenities that are important to you, be that parks, gyms, restaurants or schools. Additionally, you can filter your results by the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and the internal area (in square footage) of the property. Give it a go here.

Types of Properties

Once you have made a search, you will notice that a few different types of properties may be available:

Private flats/houses: These are self-contained, including kitchens and living rooms. Usually rented through individual landlords, these properties have no bills included in the price (unless stated otherwise). Find an example here in St Johns Wood.

Built to rent (BTR): Built to rent properties do what they say on the tin – they have been built specifically with renters’ needs in mind. These properties often have communal features such as shared social spaces, gyms and a concierge. Here’s an example in Wembley.

Co-living/flatshare: This option allows you to rent a room in a shared property. This option is ideal for those looking to live in a social environment with other housemates. Bills are usually inclusive of utilities and extras.

Overall, the search for a property in London can be greatly simplified with some prior planning. If after all of this, you are struggling to find anything that matches your requirements, a handy tip is that estate agents often have alternative properties that may not be released on the market yet. When using SearchSmartly, let our operations team know if you need alternative properties and we’ll be able to help. Good luck with your property search and enjoy your time in London! 

Ready to move ahead with the next steps in your property search journey? Why not explore other parts of our guide and find out how to search for a property, book a viewing, prepare the relevant documentation and move in.

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To buy or to rent?

Is renting cheaper than buying?

For the first time in six years, renting a home is cheaper than buying. Although it is only happening in four areas in the UK – North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humber, and Scotland, the trend might expand further if the pandemic continues. The average private-sector tenant in Britain spent £71 per month less in rent than if they were repaying a mortgage with a 10% deposit. This equates to a monthly spending of £1,054 on rent compared with £1,125 on the mortgage. The new trend might be convincing for many, thinking that they can avoid the headache of a mortgage and significant expenses, and still be better off than home buyers. But what are the actual advantages and disadvantages of renting or buying a house? If you are at a crossroads between buying and renting, this post is for you.

Pros of renting

Flexibility is one of the most important renting pros for many tenants. You can move out at short notice, and move to another home without making a significant commitment to one place. The maintenance of the place you are renting is the landlord’s responsibility, and all the repairs are their duty. 

Additionally, with the flexibility of living in many different places and with different people, you get to know yourself and your preferences about your décor, localisation, utilities and many more. This knowledge might be useful for the future when you actually do buy a home. 

Cons of renting

Renting a home is more expensive in some regions than in others. London’s rents are much higher than North East’s rents, but it also corresponds with the quality of life and work possibilities. Many people use the argument that renting is ‘’paying someone else’s mortgage’’. 

Moreover, as the maintenance of the property is the landlord’s problem, they often fail to ensure the quality or withhold the deposits for general wear and tear. In unfavorable circumstances, tenants have to account for repairs and maintenance on their own. In addition to the ‘questionable landlords’ argument, many tenants are worried that they will be asked to move out within short notice. The constant uncertainty is one of the significant disadvantages of renting. 

Pros of buying 

First of all, buying a house is an investment. In the case of buying a house, unlike renting a property, the mortgage payments will eventually pay off your debt. Any renovations or improvements are effectively investing in your asset, which should reward you at a later date. 

From a more personal perspective, your house means your rules. You can choose the décor, number of pets, number of tenants and the look of the garden. With this said, you can rent a spare room in your house and make extra income. 

As a nation that has historically loved to own their own homes, buying a property certainly has its appeal!

Cons of buying

Inevitably, there are some disadvantages to owning your own home. 

Firstly, it will be more difficult to move if you buy a house. As one of the pros of renting was flexibility, to sell and buy a house in a short period can be a real burden and a source of stress. Additionally,house prices and the unexpected costs to maintain a house can be very high. There are also additional costs of ownership, such as service charges and ground rent for leaseholders, and homeowners insurance in the case of older properties.

To pay off the mortgage and maintenance cost, you must guarantee a consistent income, even if you have a good credit score. Moreover, you have to consider that interest rates can increase and your monthly payments alongside them. 

Whether we convinced you to buy a property or rent it, check out SearchSmartly’s intelligent property search platform , where you can find houses, flats and rooms satisfying your individual needs. 

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Up to 50% off your first home?

Government’s New First Home Initiative

If you’re a First-Time home buyer, there is no doubt that you have heard about the Government’s new First Home initiative. But maybe you are not sure what it means for you, or whether you are eligible? Maybe buying a home was out of the question before you could get up to a 50% discount on your purchase? If these are the questions you have been asking yourself, then read on as we explain it all in great detail.

What is a First Home Initiative?

Without further ado, if you’re buying a house for the first time, you can get a discount of a minimum of 30% of the house price. The discount can reach 40-50% if the local authorities demonstrate a need for this, based on the social demographics of the area. For the discount to be applied, the first price of the house must be no higher than £250,000 (with an exemption of £420,000 in Greater London). Therefore, this initiative can save you a whopping £100,000 or more! 

Who is eligible to purchase First Home?

To participate in the First Homes initiative, you have to be a first-time buyer. The purchaser can be an individual, a couple or a group of individuals. What is crucial, is that the combined annual household income of the purchasers cannot exceed £80,000 in the tax year immediately preceding the year of purchase. Additionally, the purchaser of First Homes must have a mortgage or house purchase plan to fund a minimum of 50% of the discounted house. 

However, be aware that local authorities might have additional eligibility requirements. Additional criteria might involve lower-income caps, local connection status or employment status checks. Authorities may also prioritize key workers, especially if a particular profession is in-demand in the area. However, you should not feel discouraged as additional criteria requirements are continuously reviewed. They are also carefully monitored to not restrict eligible candidates too much to the point where it becomes too difficult to sell any homes. Another point of concession is that local authorities’ additional criteria is only in place for 3 months from when the house is first marketed. If the home is not sold successfully within those 3 months, the additional criteria is scrapped and replaced with the more lenient national criteria.

Which homes can be First Homes?

Any home can be eligible for the discounted purchase, but for newly-built homes specifically, the home developers must show proof that the houses match the definition of “affordable housing” and meet First Homes’ criteria. The house can not be sold at a lower discount than 30% and the price cannot be higher than £250,000. Additionally, the legal restrictions on the sale and use of the property, must be registered onto the title of the First Home on its first sale. The aim of it is to ensure that the discounted price will be applied to all future sales of this property. 

With the First Homes initiative it is easier and cheaper than ever to finally buy your first property. If reading this article gave you the smallest seed of the idea of buying a house, why not check the available homes that would suit your needs on SearchSmartly’s intelligent property search platform?

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Viewing Best Practices

How to conduct a successful property viewing – virtually or in person

Viewings are crucial to the success of any property transaction. With the agent typically doing their best to impress the viewer, it’s equally important for you as the renter or buyer of the home to come ready to ensure you ask the right questions and don’t miss any important details.

To help you plan the perfect viewing, we’ve put together a best-practice guide for you to make the most of your viewings – whether in-person or virtual.

Arrive early and well equipped with priorities 

Ensure that you arrive in time for your viewing. Not only does this display a sense of responsibility and seriousness (two things agents take into consideration when there are many people ready with offers for the property), it also provides a few minutes to run through your checklists and your priorities when deciding between several potential homes. 

Your preparedness can prevent you from forgetting about any key questions you wish to ask and for confirmation of any points that require further clarity. It will show the agent that you have really thought about the things that matter, and should you not be interested in the property, the agent may be able to find one that is more suitable for you based on this experience. 

Know your deal breakers

When looking for a property, there are many different reasons why one given property may be your preferred choice over another. When attending a viewing, it’s important to always remember what your personal deal breakers are. For some, it might be the need for double-glazing; for others, it might be how much storage space there is in the closets; others it may hinge on the local area and access to important amenities. No matter how big or small these deal breakers may be, knowing them clearly will allow you to view each property objectively, and stop your heart from ruling over your head!

Check the details!

Alongside your deal breakers, the details of the home being viewed can often matter an enormous amount in the decision-making process of choosing a home. It’s very easy, especially in virtual viewings, to overlook these small details and only discover issues once you move in. 

We recommend having a short checklist of things to keep in mind as you go from one room to another. If you’re conducting your viewing virtually, be sure to ask the agent hosting your your to address these points for you!

  • Will the property be furnished? If so, is the furniture that will be left behind the same as the furniture visible during the viewing? What condition is it in? Does any of it need replacing? You could negotiate this as part of your offer
  • Check room corners and the ceiling for mould and damp (virtual viewing tip: ask the agent to raise the camera angle and show you the corners of the rooms, especially the bathrooms)
  • How much storage space is there? (virtual viewing tip: ask the agent to open the cupboards and to take a step back so you can assess the space)
  • Are you close to sources of noise pollution? Look outside the windows to see if there are any train tracks or busy roads that you overlook (virtual viewing tip: ask the agent to show you what the view outside the windows looks like, and ask them to open the windows too)
  • How well-lit is the street and surrounding neighbourhoods, would you feel safe walking home after sunset?
  • Are the utilities fit-for-use? It is always worth checking things such as water pressure in showers, kitchen appliances, and boilers and radiators.
  • If you have a car – what is the parking situation within the property or the development? Are there necessary permits? Is the road always congested?

If you are planning to view a property virtually, then it would be advisable to request all the added information you’d like from the agent ahead of the viewing, agents will be more than happy to adhere to special requests such as showing the view out of the window, opening cupboards and showing storage space. 

Your Neighbourhood

One of the overwhelming benefits of attending in-person viewings is that you’re able to quickly get a sense of the neighbours and local neighbourhood alike. If doing so, we would highly recommend either before or after a viewing, to take a walking-tour of the neighbourhood. How far are the local amenities? Is there green space in the neighbourhood? Is the area well-trafficked? What is the noise level like? Are you getting strong mobile signals in the area? 

Doing so will give you a sense of what the day-to-day community is like and whether it’s one that you would feel comfortable becoming a part of. In addition to this, you will be able to get a practical sense of what the local amenities are in relation to your future home and confirm if the locality of the park/shops are to your liking. 

Of course, SearchSmartly’s smart search functionality can help you get matched to the perfect homes based on your ideal neighbourhood, so you could save dozens of hours of time avoiding viewings of homes that just aren’t going to be a good fit your needs.
If you’re ready to take the leap in finding your next home and arrange a viewing, why not use our intelligent property search platform and find that perfect place for you?

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March 2021: Tenancy Agreement Update

Much has changed in the world around us following the COVID-19 pandemic, and the world of property is no different. For those looking to move home over the coming months, it’s important to be aware of the many changes to the property market that could be beneficial to you – and your wallet! Some of these are things you should know and potentially negotiate before you sign your tenancy agreement, so read on and get a leg up.

Price Negotiation

Caused by an emigration away from cities throughout the pandemic and supported by a slow return to normality across the country and particularly London, landlords have largely seen the demand for rental properties plummet. According to house-sharing website Spareroom, house prices in the capital have been most affected, seeing prices drop in the centre of London by as much as 34% at the height of the pandemic. 

As a result, for customers looking to secure a tenancy agreement particularly in London, there is more room than ever to negotiate on a more favourable price that is more affordable and reflective of the market conditions. In general, for those looking to live in London, a rental reduction of 15-20% compared to pre-pandemic prices can be achieved. Compare historical prices around the area you’re interested in and check to see whether this price reduction has already been factored into the current asking price. If not, you should be in a good position to ask for a sizable reduction in rent as part of your offer. A word of caution, however. As normality continues to return, the more difficult it may be to get your desired price if the property is in high demand with various offers being submitted. If you put in an aggressive offer and get rejected, you may lose the property to someone making a better offer. You’ll end up back at square one with your search.

Rental Term Length

Traditionally, in high demand areas like London, tenancy agreements have tended to run for a minimum of 12 months with the possible inclusion of a six month break clause. Throughout the pandemic however, many landlords have had to adapt to customers’ demands around fixed tenancy lengths. A pattern that has emerged and continues to flourish is the increased flexibility around not only the existence of a break clause (be it anywhere from as early as three months) but also the length of a rental agreement. Several new contracts we have seen emerge include: open-ended contracts with a 6 months minimum length and fixed notice period, shorter notice periods for tenants and lengths of contracts being shortened to suit the tenant’s uncertainty on future plans. Long story short – there is greater flexibility around the traditional 12 month minimum, which is great news for many tenants and particularly students, who might be looking to rent for 9 months rather than a full year.

In theory, as lockdown across the country continues to slowly unwind, we can anticipate that there will be more clarity around decisions for tenants. Nonetheless, it would be wise to consider your personal best- and worst-case scenarios and negotiate your length of agreement and any necessary clauses based on these factors.

Section 21 Evictions

One of the key legislations that have taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic is the government’s amendments to Section 21 of the eviction of tenancies. In England, since 29th August 2020, landlords have been instructed to give the notice period of a minimum of six months to current tenants who have been occupying the property for a minimum period of four months. This also means that should you fall into financial hardship after you move in, you have more time to get back on your feet without the risk of being evicted from your home.

Should you be in the process of agreeing on a tenancy with a view of staying in the property for a prolonged period of time, it would be advisable to maintain this extension in your contract as some landlords may wish to still operate without the extension. 

Renting a property can be tedious, but with the latest updates in place to provide better safeguarding for tenants, there has arguably never been a better time to negotiate when renting a property. We hope with the tips above, you will remain better informed and well-equipped to make the most of the current climate for renting. Should you wish to find a property to let, why not do so on our smart property search platform?