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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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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!

Categories
Uncategorized

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!

Categories
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…

Categories
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!