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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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Step-by-step guide to buying a home in London (and the UK!)

Are you a first-time buyer looking to buy a home in London? The process of purchasing property might sound complicated and daunting, especially during this particular COVID-19 period. Don’t worry, SearchSmartly has you covered. Here is our seven-step guide to buying a home.

Is buying a property worth it? Although 63% of people in the UK own property, nowadays, more and more young people believe residential property may not be a good investment anymore. People tend to have the misconception that you must own a house to ‘settle down’ or to have a family. But, is purchasing a property really the best option for you? 

Before you start your research, your occupation and commitment need to be considered. If you are a student or young professional, will you stay in London a few years down the line? Investment horizons must be taken into account whether you want to live in the property only for a few years, or decades, because the needs for them will be completely different. 

Commitment: will you do all the repairs yourself? Do you want to live in the same place for years or perhaps decades? For most people, purchasing a property is their biggest investment, so if you think the property market is not as stable as you’d like it to be, it is always a good idea to wait.

Having a clear understanding of your financial position is also essential. There is no harm in speaking to a financial advisor before you make a decision, especially if you want a mortgage loan. You don’t want to be looking for houses that are over your budget. It is a big financial commitment with ‘hidden’ costs such as stamp duty and solicitor fees, which can easily go beyond your budget. By setting a clear budget goal, you can find your dream home quicker and easier.

Think about where you want to live. There are 1000s of properties on sale in the 32 London boroughs, so how do you find your ideal property? SearchSmartly’s smart score system finds the property that matches all your preferences – no more stress from the enormous amount of information online about London areas. SearchSmartly generates recommendations based on your daily commute destination and what matters the most to you. And your time horizon of investment is the crucial factor in finding your dream home – if you are a young student and only thinking of holding your property for five years, factors like grocery stores and greater accessibility are more pivotal than infant and primary schools. If you are planning to stay in the same place for ten years or longer and ready to have a family, then the level of importance of schools near your property will be greater. 

You can always add the properties you like to create a ‘favourite’ list to share with others or come back another time. Remember, always be quick to request a viewing as properties go quickly!

Once you find your dream home, you will need to place an offer. Making an offer sounds very straightforward, but there are always more buyers than sellers. You need to make sure you are the most attractive buyer and here are some tips for that:

  • Build a good relationship with estate agents – it’s never a bad idea to have connections with estate agents, the more they know you, the more likely they will help you.
  • Get your finances in place before making an offer – you are in a more advantageous position when your finances are ready or if you’re a cash buyer especially if the seller is in a chain. 

After an agreement is made between you and the seller, a solicitor or conveyancer is needed to handle the legal process of transferring the ownership of the property to you. Some choose to find a conveyance firm before they put in an offer which can speed up the whole process, but it’s not a must. Conveyancing fees vary from firm to firm but they are typically between £850-£1500. Be aware that if you purchase a leasehold property, the cost is more than freehold properties. Leasehold is a form of legal ownership in which you have a lease from the freeholder to use the home for a number of years from 10 to 999 years. In contrast, with a freehold property, you own the building and the land, in perpetuity and never worry about paying annual grant rent or maintenance and service charges.  Your conveyance solicitor can also carry out some optional searches, for example, local authority searches, drainage searches and environmental searches. In total, these searches would only cost approx. £300; it is worth to get them all carried out before you encounter any pitfalls. 

Finding a surveyor to conduct a property survey for your house is not essential but advisable. If you need a loan, then your mortgage lender will do a mortgage valuation which provides the lender with independent confirmation of the property’s value. However, a property valuation is much less in-depth than a property survey as it only exams on the value of the house and is solely for the use of the mortgage lender. On the other hand, a property survey provides everything you, as a buyer, need to know about the property, from structural problems to small cracks on the wall and it highlights any potential issues in the future after you move in. The cost of a property survey varies from £500 to £2,000 based on the company, the size and the location of your property. Usually, the cost of a new-build property is much lower. With your survey, you can ask your seller to make reasonable adjustments to the price, for example, if there is a major structural problem, you can ask the seller to reduce the house price or request they fix the problem before you purchase the house.

Finally, the last step! The final step is coming to an agreement on a completion date with the seller. A completion date indicates the date you receive the keys. You should always check with your solicitor on a projected completion date before confirming an exact day with your seller. The completion date must be agreed before exchanging the contracts. And, finally, exchange contracts with your seller and become the legal owner of the property!

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Property Advice

Take a Stamp Duty Holiday in London

SearchSmartly’s top 5 family-friendly neighbourhoods under the stamp-duty threshold.

You may have heard the headlines recently about the stamp duty holiday. What does this mean for London property prices and why should you be paying attention? 

In England and Northern Ireland, the tax threshold for property purchases has been temporarily increased from £125,000 to £500,000. That means you don’t have to pay a penny in tax on the value of any property under £500,000. Whether you’re a first-time-buyer or not.

For properties valued over £500,000, you only pay stamp duty on the value over £500,000. It works in a similar way to income tax thresholds.

This reduction in tax means you could save up to £15,000 when purchasing a house. Buying a home has suddenly become more attractive.

“But I’ll still never be able to buy a comfortable family home in a nice, safe area of London, even with this tax reduction!” I hear you scream. 

This isn’t true. London is full of fantastic areas that are suitable for families. You don’t have to put up with an unappealing area or squeeze into a poky flat to be able to afford a property in the capital. Looking beyond the obvious areas can help you to find a property that really matches your needs, at an affordable price.

We’ve taken a look at 5 London neighbourhoods using SearchSmartly’s personalised search tool so you can get a flavour for how far your money goes. All these properties come under the new stamp duty threshold of £500,000. It may surprise you.

  1. Penge, SE20 – South East London

Penge has become a prime location thanks to  an excellent mix of affordable house prices, a desirable community feel and transport links. There are three accessible railway stations and regular buses across town. This has attracted the attention of a range of buyers, young and old when looking to live in South London.

Penge has a good supply of Victorian terrace houses and converted spacious flats. Take a look at the Alexandra Cottages housing estate. Detached houses have a village feel, with leafy gardens and appealing driveways.

A short walk away from Penge is the beautiful Crystal Palace: an 80 hectare Grade II listed park. Here you can find lakes and the National Sports Centre with regular events.

We found this 2-bed house with a charming garden at just £425,000. 

2. Barking, IG11 – East London, Best Location for Low Property Prices

If you’re looking for fantastic value, Barking is your best bet. The cheapest houses in London can be found in Barking. That doesn’t mean that Barking doesn’t have anything else to offer other than saving you a few quid.

Barking is a traditional suburban town where many families have lived for generations. It’s within easy reach of Canary Wharf and short 15-minutes to Fenchurch Street. Or you can cycle to work along the Cycling Superhighway to Tower Hill in 39 minutes. 

The nearby Barking Riverside development is underway, and the overground extension is set to complete in 2021. This area is only going to improve, providing a good place to invest your money. 

A 3-bed in London for £390,000?! Well under the stamp-duty threshold.

3. Morden, SM4 – South West London

Perhaps leafy, quieter Morden is more to your taste. The open spaces of Surrey and 125-acres of National Trust parkland are right on your doorstep. You can relax and escape the hustle and bustle of London life. Commuters shouldn’t worry though, Morden is the last stop on the Northern line. You’re sure to secure a seat in morning rush hour.

It’s not just fresh air and green grass in Morden. Many properties enjoy affordable off-street parking – unheard of in nearby Wimbledon. 

Check out this gorgeous 3-bed with a garden and driveway in Morden. 

4. Greenford, UB6 – West London

Why not try Greenford in West London. Greenford is conveniently located; situated on the Central line. Sudbury Hill Harrow train station offers a direct train to Marleybone in 15 minutes. If you are a cyclist, there is a direct 45-minute route from Greenford Quay to Paddington Basin.

Wembley is a stone’s throw away, with plentiful attractions. Head on over to Bunny Park to get lost in the maze. Take a stroll down Hanwell Lock or climb to the top of Northala Fields for views of central London and Canary Wharf.

Look at this 2-bed house for £425,000 in Greenford. 

5. Highams Park, E4 – North East London

Highams Park is nestled between Walthamstow and Chingford. There’s a real community village feel here. A fantastic area for families looking for social and environmental well-being. Highams Park has three well-regarded schools nearby. There’s a great mix of independent shops, restaurants and events most weekends. Spend an afternoon in the picturesque Epping Forest lake. You can go fishing here (fishing in London? Really?). 

We found this spacious 3-bed on SearchSmartly. 

Feeling Inspired? 
Act quickly because this holiday isn’t going to last forever. The temporary change in the threshold is set to end in March 2021. Everyone’s needs are unique, and SearchSmartly’s intelligent house-hunting tool can help you find your perfect home. Get started here, and you may surprise yourself. Time to spend a leisurely Saturday afternoon browsing those lovely houses in Penge…

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Future of Property

Why we became the world’s first property platform to show air quality data

This week, we released a comprehensive update to the SearchSmartly platform. Amongst the many improvements that we’re very excited about, one is particularly important to us.

Our mission at SearchSmartly is to empower our users to find the best homes for their unique needs. Transparency through data, technology, and trust is how we deliver on that promise. We know that in the stress and time that property search consumes, it’s easy to miss out on things that do matter. Which brings us to air quality.

In the UK alone, 34,000 people die prematurely because of air pollution. It’s one of the greatest – yet most silent – threats to our society. This problem is particularly grave in metropolitan areas like London, our home city. Secular trends will only make this issue worse: according to the UN, a further 13% of the world’s population will migrate into cities by 2050. It doesn’t take much to recognise that this will result in more congestion, illness and death.

The path ahead

There is light at the end of the tunnel. COVID-19 provides us with a generational opportunity to embrace a modal shift towards active travel. Our own user data shows a 77% increase in willingness for Londoners to cycle to work. Cities are doing more to ban cars from the centre of cities. There is progress. But it isn’t enough. More transparency is needed to empower people to make holistic decisions for a better, healthier life. Knowing the air you and your family breathe around your home is an important step in this journey.

We are proud to be the first property search platform that not only leads with the user’s lifestyle needs in mind, but also their complete wellbeing. With the inclusion of air pollution data in our search results, we continue in our efforts to help our users to find the right place to call home.

This is one step. There’s still a long way to go!

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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.

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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