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Crimbo Craft Ideas for You and the Kids

christmas

There are just a few weeks until Christmas and even less until the kids break up for their winter holidays, so it’s the perfect time to get creative and decorate your home with some Crimbo-themed crafts.

Forget last year’s tatty tinsel and dodgy fairy lights; it’s time to channel your inner elf and turn your front room into a festive wonderland (and keep the kids busy while you’re at it).

In this quick read, we’ve pulled some cracking craft ideas out of our Santa hats to get you and your loved ones in the mood for a cosy and cost-effective Christmas. 

Snowpeople 

What you’ll need:

– Cotton wool

– Glue

– Paper or cardboard

– Scissors

– Felt tip pens

– Coloured tissue paper or felt

Check your bathroom cupboards, it’s likely you’ve got an unused bag of cotton wool lurking around. So, get the kids to create some wintry wall art. Draw two circles on a piece of card for the snowperson’s head and body, and cut out. Glue cotton wool over the head and body, and hey presto, you’ve got a snowperson. Use bits of felt or tissue for the facial features, the scarf and buttons. Easy-peasy.

Tip: You can create a fluffy Father Christmas beard with cotton wool and draw/stick bits and pieces on his face, too. And if you’ve got some paper plates lying around, you can use these for faces or stick two together for a snowman/woman. 

Homemade cards

Save some pounds by getting the kids to make Christmas cards. After all, who doesn’t love the personal touch? Draw, stick, paint, it all works and keeps the little ones occupied while you enjoy a coffee (and get ready for the tidy-up afterwards).

To make the cards extra special, cut out some photographs of the kids that they can stick on and send to friends and relatives.

Festive hats 

What you’ll need:

– Coloured paper

– Scissors

– Glue

– Sequins/felt to decorate

Christmas hats are easy to make and are a great addition to a family s-ELFie (see what we did there?). Use brightly coloured paper to create a cone shape and stick the edges together with glue or tape. Add some cut-out ears for elf hats or some fluffy cotton wool for a Santa hat. Decorate with sequins or felt tip pens to add extra pizzazz.

 

 

 

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Saving Energy Could Mean a Higher Selling Price

energy

Energy is a hot topic. From price hikes to conserving energy, every day there seems to be a new thing to think about. And now, research has shown that being more energy efficient could even bump up the value of your home.

Boiler company BOXT found that increasing the EPC rating of your home to C or above could boost your house price by 23%. So, if you’re thinking about selling your property, you may want to consider improving its energy rating to maximise value.

For property newbies, an EPC is a measure of how energy efficient a property is. The ratings lie on a scale of A to G and are accompanied by a report on how to reduce fuel usage and decrease carbon emissions.

In this two-minute read, we look at some quick and simple ways to enhance your property’s energy efficiency level and/or reduce your energy bills.

  • Install a smart meter

Smart meters are a great way to let you and your supplier know how much energy you’re using and how much you’re spending. The government ordered all gas and electricity suppliers to provide smart meters to their customers, so they’re free of charge and do away with the need for individual gas and electric meter readings.

  • Switch to LED

If you haven’t done this already, then you’re missing out. Advantages of LED bulbs include lower energy usage, longer lifetime, different colour lighting and increased durability. This small change could make a huge difference to your bills and reduce your carbon footprint.

  • Upgrade your boiler

While this is one of the more costly changes on our list, it is the top way to improve the energy rating of your home and reduce your heating bills. But if you can’t afford a new boiler right now, get a professional in to give it a full service and ensure it’s running at optimal level.

  • Draught excluders

Probably the easiest way to keep your home warm and reduce energy loss, draught excluders quite literally plug the gap, preventing heat loss and reducing draughts. You can get movable draught excluders to put in front of doors and self-adhesive ones to stick around windows. If you’ve got a fireplace that you don’t use, think about ways to block heat escaping from the chimney.

  • Curtains

Thick curtains prevent heat loss from windows and keep your home nice and cosy. It may mean paying out for new drapes, but thick, lined curtains will make a difference to the comfort and cost of heating your home.

If you’re thinking about selling, speak to one of our team members at Chamberlains to find out how much your home is worth.

 

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Five-Step Guide to Making the Most of Your Property Portfolio

landlords

A property portfolio is a great way to generate income and build yourself a tidy retirement nest egg. But there’s more to it than shaking hands with new tenants and waiting for the rent to roll in.

You need robust systems and a professional attitude to protect your investment and ensure you don’t wind up out of pocket or on the wrong side of the law.

To find out what it takes to manage several rental properties, read our guide, the Five Rs of Making the Most of Your Property Portfolio.

Responsibilities

As a landlord, it’s important to understand your legal and ethical responsibilities.

There are more than 175 rules and regulations that you need to follow, covering everything from gas and electrical checks to handling deposits. Get something wrong, and you could be fined, face a lettings ban or even wind up in jail.

Landlords also have a duty of care to their tenants. In our experience, landlords who do the right thing by their tenants fare much better in the long run. Treat your tenants well, and they’re more likely to treat your property with respect.

Role

Your role is to ensure your property is safe and in good condition, but that doesn’t mean you literally have to do everything yourself. The most effective way to manage a portfolio is to draw on the expertise of professionals. A good accountant will advise you on being tax compliant and efficient, while a top letting agent will manage the day-to-day running of your properties. Having reliable tradespeople in your contacts and a savvy mortgage adviser is also worthwhile.

Rent

The key to a successful tenancy is to set the rent at the right price; this means finding the sweet spot between making a good return and securing a reliable tenant who stays the distance. And remember, the highest price isn’t always the best option. If you get too greedy and your tenant feels ripped off, they’ll move on quickly enough, meaning you’ll have to find new tenants and possibly cover a void period.

Repairs

Don’t skimp when it comes to repairs and maintenance. The longer you take to fix a small problem, the greater the risk that it turns into a major one. Set aside funds to cover repairs and maintenance, so you don’t get caught short.

Review

Even when things are going well, take time to review your situation. Are you paying too much for insurance? Are you still on the best mortgage deal? Does one of your properties need a makeover? It’s essential to regularly check how things are going and identify any potential savings or areas where you can improve.

To find out how you can ensure your properties are compliant and free up your time,  contact Steve Hill at Chamberlains on 01626 365055 or steve@chamberlains.co and find out more about our full management service.

 

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Ways to Keep Busy in South Devon without Spending Money

free

Having fun is important, no matter how old you are. But how can you enjoy yourself without breaking the bank?

Now the cold weather has set in, we’re all stuck at home after a blazing hot summer of being out and about. And if you’ve got kids, you’ll know the importance of keeping them busy and tiring them out.

In this two-minute read, we look at how you can beat the boredom without spending any money. 

Games night

Who doesn’t love a board game? And who doesn’t own at least one (with pieces missing, of course) that can still provide hours of entertainment? Great for families with older children or flat sharers with no money and lots of time, an organised games night can keep everyone laughing, bantering and getting competitive. And it’s totally free.

Luxury spa

Fancy a spa day but don’t fancy the extortionate prices? A DIY day of luxury is definitely called for. Grab your plushest dressing gown, wrap a towel around your head and you’re halfway there. Google ‘homemade facemask’ and use ingredients like honey, oatmeal, avocado and olive oil (providing you’re not allergic to any of these items) to get started. Stick on some relaxing music and spend a few hours lounging about.

Come dine with me

Remember lockdown? When we were all so desperate to see other people, we sat in the front garden or planned elaborate picnics. Well, now we’re allowed to see each other, why not take advantage of it and plan some TV-inspired dinner parties? You don’t have to be a top chef; you could even stick to themes like freezer food or canned food surprise. Don’t take it too seriously; keep it affordable and get your mates round.

Home cinema

You might not have a fancy cinema room, but we bet you’ve got a TV and at least one comfy chair. Make your cinema night a bit special with a bit of popcorn, dimmed lights and (if it’s cold) grab your duvet or a warm blanket. Cosy nights in are always a great idea.

Get crafty

This one’s for the kids in your life. Get them off their screens and away from the TV by enjoying a craft day. Make race cars or castles out of cardboard boxes, get those old paints and crayons out, make cards just in time for Xmas, there’s lots to do. And if you can’t think of anything, then good old Google will have plenty of ideas for those egg cartons and plastic milk bottles.

With the current cost of living crisis, there’s no better time to enjoy some good old-fashioned fun. At Chamberlains, we’d love to know your thoughts. What are the best ways to have fun for free? Comment below.

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What Homeowners Should Know Before Insulating Their Property

inmsulation

Get it right, and insulation can add value to your home. Get it wrong, and it could be difficult to get a mortgage for your property. Read on to find out why.

With energy prices sky-high and global warming a pressing issue, many homeowners are looking to insulate their homes.

While there are many benefits associated with insulation, one issue you should consider before committing to work at your property relates to a product called polyurethane foam, also known as spray foam. It is power-sprayed in liquid form, often in lofts and walls, where it then expands and sets.

Spray foam has been on the market for decades, and because it is relatively quick to install and can be used in hard-to-reach places, it is in hundreds of thousands of homes in the UK.

However, because of the problems associated with it, many lenders will not approve a mortgage on a property with spray foam (especially in the roof). Let us explain why.

The two most common types of spray foam are:

Closed cell: this is rigid when it sets and has high insulation values. However, because it blocks moisture, it can cause condensation. This can lead to wooden beams decaying.

Open cell: this has a soft and flexible texture when set. It’s less dense than closed cell spray, so you need more of it. However, it is permeable to vapour.

Given the potential for things to go awry, great care is needed during the installation process. However, Alan Milstein, Chairman of the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA), says many spray foam installations are “poorly executed and without proper consideration of moisture management within the property, leaving structural roof timbers at risk of damage or failure.”

As a result, the RPSA’s guidance to surveyors is to “recommend removal of spray foam insulation in every property they visit”.

Issues have also been raised surrounding cold-calling of vulnerable homeowners and mis-selling.

Homeowners left in a tight spot

Often, homeowners are unaware of the problems associated with spray foam until they try to sell up and discover that lenders are unwilling to provide a mortgage for their property.

Their only resort is to remove the spray foam, a process that can cost thousands of pounds – sometimes more than the original installation costs. There’s also a risk that you discover major issues with rotting beams when the foam comes out.

Demands for tighter regulation

The RPSA, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Property Care Association are calling for greater regulation of the spray foam insulation industry. While this is yet to happen, homeowners are warned to never agree to installation at short notice or under duress, and to carefully consider the ramifications on their property’s mortgageability before they act.

From all of us here at Chamberlains, thanks for reading.

 

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Why Landlords Should Go Digital When It Comes to Tax

landlords

A significant shift in how landlords file tax returns is looming on the horizon. Here’s what landlords need to know about the changes.

If you’re a landlord with a taxable income of more than £10,000, now’s the time to start thinking about new tax reporting rules that are coming down the line.

In April 2024, all landlords with an income of over £10K will have to comply with a scheme called Making Tax Digital (MTD).

While that deadline is 18 months away, it will come around quickly enough. It’s worth making plans now so that you can transition to MTD without any last-minute panic or getting on the wrong side of our good friends at HMRC.

Here’s a rundown of what MTD is and what it means for landlords.

MTD explained

MTD is a digital tax filing system which HMRC claims will make things easier and more efficient.

Larger businesses that claim VAT already comply with MTD, and in 2024, self-employed business owners and landlords will also be required to come on board.

Under MTD, people who self-assess, such as landlords, will be required to keep digital records of all income and expenses. They’ll have to send HMRC quarterly income and expenditure updates and file an End of Period Statement using approved third-party software.

Who will be most affected?

If you already use software to keep track of all your property-related admin, the changes won’t be such a big leap for you as you’re already tech savvy.

But if you’re someone who typically scrambles at the last minute to meet your tax deadline, and relies heavily on old-fashioned paper copies of receipts, then you’ll have to adapt.

If you fall into the latter category, it’s worth doing your homework on MTD now. This will give you time to get the right software and familiarise yourself with how to use it.

Tips and important considerations

  • HMRC has various educational resources on its website and runs free tax workshops for people who self-assess. Why not invest a bit of time in learning more about MTD?
  • If an accountant handles your tax affairs, talk to them about MTD and ensure they use MTD-approved software.
  • Landlords with several rental properties will still only need one digital account. You can file your income and expenditure for all your properties on one account.
  • A good letting agent will be an asset when it comes to MTD. If your property is managed by a letting agent, you’ll already have quick and easy access to the bulk of your outgoings, and they’ll also send you a monthly rental income statement.

This article is intended to provide general advice only. Always consult an accountant for advice and guidance specific to your situation. For more information, contact us here at Chamberlains. 

 

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How to Buy an South Devon Property without Blowing Your Budget

south devon property

Buying a home comes with a lot of dreams, needs and wants, but there’s another consideration, too – budget. Whether you’re taking your first step on the property ladder or moving on to bigger and better things, how can you make every pound count?

Maximising your budget might seem impossible; after all, a downstairs WC is a must, and you’ve always hoped for a driveway. But are these wants and desires preventing you from finding something you can actually afford?

Like everything else in life, buying a property needs a bit of compromise. You don’t have to bin your dreams of a garage or home office; you just need to think outside the box.

In this quick read, we look at ways to maximise your budget and get the home you’ve always wanted. 

Be real

Before you start house-hunting, jot down a list of things you must have and things that you’d like but aren’t necessary. This may help open you up to properties you might not have previously considered viewing.

Location 

If you’re driven by location, you’re always going to be limited in choice and price. Can you look beyond the area? Could you get more for your money if you extended your search? And in a time where WFH is the new norm, changing location could really help you save some pennies.

Get DIY ready

A property that’s perfect in every way will have a much higher asking price. Those kitchen appliances may be shiny and new, and the rainfall shower may look luxurious, but they will add to the purchase price.

Save money by looking at homes that need a bit of work. You don’t need to commit to a huge renovation project, but taking on some work yourself could mean you pay less upfront.

Look to the future

Ok, you wanted a big kitchen and were hoping for an extra room downstairs, but do you need these things right now? Look into properties that have the potential to extend (outwards and upwards), and this can be something you do later. You’ll be adding value by increasing square footage, so you can reap the benefits if you ever decide to sell. Also, check if there are permitted development rights which can save the hassle of a future planning application.

Buy what you need

Be wise with your budget, don’t pay out for things you just don’t need. A huge garden is a great idea, but not if you’re going to struggle to maintain it. Similarly, paying a premium for being close to transport links may be unnecessary if you work from home. Don’t get tempted by extras that tip your budget over the edge.

If you’re looking for a new home, call us at Chamberlains. We’ll help you find something within your budget.

 

 

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Is Rent Protection Insurance Really Necessary?

rent protection insurance

The rental market is a tough place to be, especially in the current economic climate.

With the cost of living crisis leaving many tenants feeling squeezed, now could be the right time for landlords to invest in rent protection insurance. But is it really worth it, or just another expense?

In this two-minute read, we look at rent protection insurance in detail to help you decide whether you need it. 

What is it? 

Rent protection is also known as rent guarantee insurance or landlord rent insurance.

It protects landlords against loss of rental income if a tenant is unable to pay.

Where a tenant continually defaults, the eviction process can take a long time, meaning you’re without rental income until you can resolve the situation. Rent protection insurance covers losses for up to 12 months; it also includes legal expenses which you may incur during the eviction process.

As with any insurance policy, there are lots of conditions and restrictions on what and when you can claim, so make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for.

How much does it cost? 

This depends on factors such as size and location of the property, type of property, the tenants you’re renting to, rental amount and so on. It’s best to shop around, and most insurance comparison sites will provide multiple quotes.

Rent protection insurance is tax deductible.

Many letting agents offer rent protection insurance to their landlords as part of their fees, which saves you the time and hassle of looking for an individual policy.

Why is it a good idea? 

Many landlords need their monthly rent to cover mortgage payments, so not having cover could prove a big risk in the long run. Some policies also cover short periods of vacant possession.

If you have landlord insurance (buildings, contents and so on), you may be able to add rent protection to the policy. Make sure you speak to your provider to see what they offer. And, if you own multiple properties, you may be able to arrange a single policy to cover them all.

Are you a landlord in need of a trustworthy and reliable letting agent? At Chamberlains, we’ve got you covered. Give us a call on 01626 365055 to see how we can help.

 

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Renters Reform

propertymark

Nathan Emerson, Propertymark CEO talks to Valerie Bannister, Propertymark Board Director, about the Renters’ Reform White Paper, and the pressing issues that agents and landlords want to know.

Watch as they talk about pets, Section 21, periodic tenancies and how it compares to the reform we have seen in other parts of the UK.

Chamberlains are proud members of Propertymark which is the leading professional body for the UK property sector with nearly 17,500 members. Visit https://www.propertymark.co.uk to learn more.

If you have any queries, or would like to discuss how we can help you with your buy to let property, please do give me a call on 01626 365055 or email steve@chamberlains.co

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The Good Sense Guide to Wowing Buyers

Buyers

Homebuyers are heavily influenced by what they see, smell and hear, so here’s a guide to ensuring your property appeals to their senses. 

Did you know that when it comes to impressing a buyer, you have just half a minute to knock their socks off?

Yes, you read that right. Most buyers decide if a property is the one for them in the first 30 seconds of a viewing.

So, with so much at stake in that short time, how do you make a good impression? Read on to find out.

Evidence versus emotions

First, let’s look at what drives the decision-making process. We humans love to think of ourselves as rational beings, but in truth, emotion drives most of our big decisions.

And our emotions are informed – often at a subconscious level – by our five senses. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to what buyers see, smell, hear or touch when they step through your front door (let’s hope they don’t taste anything).

Here’s a good sense guide to prepping your home for viewings. 

Sight – Make sure that the first thing a buyer sees is a clean, light and bright space. Avoid turn-offs such as grubby walls and floors and distracting personal items, such as family photos, clothes hanging on radiators and shoes lying in the hall.

Smell – It’s easy to get used to certain ‘aromas’ when you live with them, so ask a friend with a good nose for their honest opinion. If they catch a whiff of damp drains, pets or stinky trainers, you need to act. Once you’ve eliminated unpleasant scents, create an appealing one using candles or diffusers. Stick to one fragrance – citrus, vanilla, cinnamon, jasmine or pine – so you don’t overdo it.

Sound – Start by fixing off-putting sounds inside your property, such as squeaky doors or floorboards, then turn your attention to external noises. Traffic noise is hard to moderate, so if this is an issue, arrange viewings when the roads are less busy. And if you’re worried about the neighbour’s dog or children making a racket, leave a radio on to drown out barking or squabbling.

Touch – Check surfaces are clean in case a buyer runs their hand over furniture or countertops. Also, ensure your home is toasty. A Harvard study found that when we feel warm, we experience a sense of emotional wellbeing.

Taste – While a buyer is unlikely to taste anything in your property (that would be really weird, right?), remember our sense of taste and smell are closely intertwined, which is why it’s so important to nail how your property smells.

For more advice about marketing your home, contact us here at Chamberlains.