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Old House vs. New Build?

When talking about investing in a property, some people are immediately drawn to newly-furnished, modern houses, and some yearn for the charm of old houses. If you are considering investing in a property in London or in the UK, then this is the article for you! This article breaks down the pros and cons for both newer and older homes to help you decide which one is more suitable for your investment.

The benefits of buying a newly built property are quite straightforward – nothing can compare to buying something brand new, being able to customise and decorate the house into your dream home.

  • It is satisfying to live in a newer home, especially if you are a neat freak – being the first to take a shower and sleep in the bedroom. And suppose you are a first-time buyer, with the government’s help-to-buy scheme. In that case, the financial burden on you is much more comfortable, the new-built house is such a perfect blank canvas to start your new life in.
  • Another advantage of new builds is they are a lot more energy efficient than older properties, often having better insulation and double-glazed windows and doors. This saves you a vast amount of money in bills and potentially the need for further improvements to make your home more environmentally friendly. 
  • Most new builds come with a guarantee from the builder company. The ten-year warranty and protection scheme helps reduce maintenance costs and stress, particularly suitable for investors who are thinking of letting out their homes.
  • If you are a young professional, part of a young family or plan to rent out your property to these groups, then new builds are suitable for you as they are specifically designed to fit for modern families. Most new houses have spacious open-plan dining-living-kitchen areas with fewer walls which provides greater accessibility for the occupiers and usually more desirable for families with young children. And an open-plan design allows natural light to flood into the room and make space seem more extensive and comfortable.

New-build sounds just perfect for you, right? However, apart from these great benefits that new builds can offer, there are also some disadvantages you need to consider:

  • Although new builds are designed to conform with the lifestyle of modern families, bedrooms and gardens are reduced in their sizes to accommodate a bigger for kitchen-living spaces. This is because developers believe, due to the change in people’s lifestyle, that younger generations would prefer to go out for fun other than have a sunbath and relax in the garden. 
  • Adjustments in regulation standards put new builds in a disadvantageous position when compared to old houses. The walls of most new homes are thinner: lightweight walls finished with plasterboard, meaning that you might be facing noise issues in the future with thin and hollow walls. Furthermore, the ceiling heights tend to be lower than period houses, so some have complained that they feel space-constrained in these homes because of this.
  • New builds usually cost, on average, 20% more than older properties and some benefits may be lost upon purchase. Its value depreciates on the day you buy the house as it is no longer considered ‘brand new’ and other buyers may choose to buy another new build over a second-hand new home. If you are thinking of holding the home for only a few years, it is essential to consider its future values.

Now, let’s talk about the charm of period houses! People have various opinions about purchasing old homes as an investment: some worry about the quality of these homes that were potentially many years ago, and others about whether there is any room for an increment in the value. In the UK, the market for older homes is enormous compared to newly built houses. For sure, you will reconsider your views on older homes after reading this section.

  • A significant strength of an older home is space. According to BBC: “the average size of a UK home – including both older and new-build properties is 85 sq. m. and has 5.2 rooms” whereas the average size of new homes “is 76 sq. m. and has 4.8 rooms”. As space can be such a scarce resource nowadays, for the same price, an older home is usually much bigger, including both internal and external areas (gardens, garages, etc.)
  • Older homes are a lot more suitable for car owners who live far from a central city. They have ample parking space and driveway.
  • Another charming feature of a period home is the uniqueness – in comparison to all similar-looking new-builds, period homes always bring some individuality,  like the symmetrical look of Georgian style and coloured bricks of Victorian style homes. The mixture of architectural styles in London attracts many people to live in London.
  • When comparing a new-built with an older home, which are both similar in size and location, then the older home has more potential to increase in value in the future.

If you think an older property sounds great to invest in, remember that there are also some drawbacks that you have to be careful with.

  • A common downfall of older homes is the need for renovations. You can always find yourself with some houseworks that might need to be done: cracks on the ceiling, or changing a timber under the floor, or even refurbishing the whole house as the design and decorations are usually old-fashioned. 
  • On top of repair and refurbishment, many old homes are much less environmentally friendly than new-builds; the old heating systems and thinner insulation layers can lead to higher energy bills and carbon emissions. 
  • Costs of renovation are high. For example, changing the central heating system for a 3-bedroom house will cost around £4000. From an investment perspective, although the old homes cost less upon purchase, they usually cost more in repair and maintenance.

There is no obvious winner between new-builds and period properties, it is all down to own personal preferences. It is best to stay open-minded to all options on the market, conduct thorough research and make accurate financial calculations before deciding to place an offer!

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Property Advice

How to submit an offer

How to Submit a Successful Offer on a Rental Property

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

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

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

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

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

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

Price and Tenancy Dates

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

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

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

Contract

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

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

Payment and Fees

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

Deposit

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

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

Categories
Agents

Property in the post-COVID world

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

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

Empathetic approaches to repayment

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

New technology to enable new business

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

Remote-working becoming the norm

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

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

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Property Advice

COVID-19: Tenancy Deposit Guide

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

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

Pre-Tenancy

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

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

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

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

Mid-Tenancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Tenancy

My tenancy is about to end during self-isolation

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

My tenants are moving-out during self-isolation

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

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

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