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The Safe Way to Let South Devon Children Play in Your Street

We all know that kids these days spend more time indoors (often on screens) and less time running around outside. If you’re a parent or carer frustrated by this trend, read on to learn how some parents are fighting back through a scheme called Playing Out. 

What is Playing Out?

Playing Out was set up in 2009 by two mums dismayed that their kids couldn’t play out on the street like they did when they were growing up.

The pair asked their local council for permission to temporarily close their road to traffic to allow the children to play, run, skate, cycle and scoot in the street safely.

After a bit of paperwork and consultation, the first Playing Out session was held and was such a success that it became a regular fixture.

Since then, more than 500 streets in the UK have introduced similar schemes. Here’s how it works.

  • To instigate a Play Street scheme, you must ask the council for permission to close the road for a few hours. If your council doesn’t have an official Playing Out policy, you can apply using the council’s Street Party policy.
  • Playing Out sessions usually last for three hours. Volunteer stewards patrol each end of the street to ensure a rogue driver doesn’t ignore the road closure signs. If a resident in the street needs to use their car, a steward will walk ahead of the vehicle to ensure it’s safe.
  • Some streets have occasional Playing Out sessions. Others opt for monthly events, while some keen beans do it weekly.

Playing Out benefits

Health: The scheme encourages physical activity, and with childhood obesity at record levels, that’s got to be a good thing.

Friendships: Kids make friends and develop social skills.

 Sense of community: Residents of all age groups can enjoy a natter and get to know each other better.

Top tips

  • The Playing Out website (playingout.net) offers a step-by-step guide to starting your own scheme. Save time by making use of their experience and expertise.
  • Before applying to the council, speak to your neighbours. Discussing your plan with them is important as the whole point of Playing Out is that it’s inclusive.
  • When you notify people about a session, remind parents that they must accompany their children and be responsible for their safety and behaviour.
  • To keep things manageable, don’t publicise your Playing Out event too widely.

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

 

 

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A Quick Guide to Equity Release

equity release

Have you heard of ‘unlocking the value of your home’? Do you know what it’s all about? If you’re over 55, chances are you’ve seen or heard this phrase several times from targeted advertising.

While ‘unlocking value’ might sound like an elaborate spiritual journey or magic trick, instead, it’s quite dull and refers to equity release.

So, what is equity release? Is it a good idea? How does it work?

In this quick read, we go through the essentials. 

What is equity release? 

In simple terms, equity release is turning some or all the value of your home into tax-free cash without having to sell or move. The amount depends on the value of your home minus the mortgage or any loans you have on it.

It’s a long-term loan that is repaid by the sale of your home once you pass away (or enter long-term care). It can be paid in a lump sum or smaller amounts over time in the form of a lifetime mortgage agreement or home reversion plan (when you sell part of your home to a home reversion company).

Why get equity release? 

There are many reasons, and often it’s pitched by lending companies as a way to enjoy your golden years.

People use the money to fund things such as home-based care, adapting a property to suit changing needs and helping children with property deposits. It’s your choice how you spend the cash that is released.

Is it a good idea? 

As with any large loan, equity release has advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages include regular cash payments or a one-off lump sum to top up your retirement income and the opportunity to enjoy any increase in value of your property since you purchased it.

If you choose a lifetime mortgage agreement, you can still live in the property and be a homeowner.

What are the disadvantages of equity release? 

It is a complex and binding financial agreement.

It impacts the amount of money the beneficiaries of your will are likely to get once you pass away. Also, equity release can lower the amount of means-tested benefits (such as pension credits and council tax support) you previously might have been entitled to and may reduce the amount of care you are eligible for.

If you opt for a home reversion plan, the financial company will part-own your property.

What to do if you’re considering equity release? 

If this is something you’re considering, it’s important to consult a financial adviser to understand the full implications. There are many specialist equity release advisers you can speak to, and charities such as Age UK may also assist.

At Chamberlains, we hope this short guide has been useful. If you are considering selling your home, please contact us on 01626 365055.

 

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What Are a Tenant’s Responsibilities?

tenant

Moving into a new home can be exciting, but renting a property comes with responsibilities. To avoid disputes – or paying for things that don’t fall within your remit – it’s helpful to know your obligations as a tenant.

Read on for a general guide to a tenant’s responsibilities (but please note that for specific detail, refer to your rental agreement).

It’s a two-way street

The most important thing to remember about the tenant/landlord relationship is that both parties have an important role to play. The landlord has a duty to ensure that the property they’re letting is safe and habitable, and the tenant should treat the property respectfully.

Your rental agreement

As with most relationships, things work best when everyone understands what’s expected of them. And that’s why your rental agreement is so important – it’s a legal contract that spells out the responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant. It should cover everything from rent and repairs to how to end a tenancy.

Always read, and make sure you understand the terms of a rental agreement before you sign on the dotted line.

While your contract will cover most eventualities, here are some common causes of confusion regarding tenant/landlord responsibilities.

Repairs and maintenance

Generally, landlords are responsible for the property’s structure (walls, chimneys and the roof), sanitation (toilets, sinks and pipework), boiler and electrical wiring.

Landlords are also responsible for the furniture and electrical appliances that are in the property when the tenant moves in.

Any items or goods brought into the property by the tenant are the tenant’s responsibility.

Damage

If a tenant (or their guest) causes damage to the property, then the tenant is obliged to handle the repairs. So if, for example, you invite a friend around and they spill red wine on the carpet, it’s your job as the tenant to get rid of the stain. 

Reporting issues

While the landlord has to take care of structural and external features, it’s a tenant’s responsibility to report problems. It’s best to do this when you first notice an issue so that it’s resolved promptly.

Access

If you’ve reported an issue to your landlord, a tradesperson will need access to the property to do the repairs. This work should be conducted at a reasonable time, and you should be given 24 hours’ notice before they arrive. A tenant can refuse access on ‘reasonable grounds’. But to get the problem resolved as soon as possible, it’s best to be accommodating.

Gardens

Landlords are typically responsible for fences, guttering and lopping trees. The tenant is obliged to carry out tasks such as weeding, watering and disposing of waste.

Cleanliness

Cleanliness can be a thorny issue – half of all end-of-tenancy disputes are about cleaning*. Before moving out, a tenant should ensure the property is cleaned to the same standard as it was at the start of the tenancy (although allowances are made for general wear and tear).  

Talk to your landlord – or their agent

While it’s essential to adhere to the terms of your rental agreement, if you have a question, raise it with your landlord or their agent. Sometimes disputes are caused by simple misunderstandings that can be sorted by having a quick chat. 

To find out about rental properties in the local area, get in touch with us here at Chamberlains.

 

*Tenancy Deposit Scheme

 

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The Latest Trends in Garden Gadgets and Accessories

garden

If you’re planning to entertain friends or family at home this summer, check out the latest must-have garden gadgets and accessories. A two-minute read.

Spending time in your own garden, be it pottering around alone or entertaining family and friends, is one of the true joys of summer.

And there’s a host of products on the market to help you make the most of the experience.

Here’s a list of what is proving popular at the moment. 

Garden fireballs – Fire pits were a hit last summer, but this year, it’s all about the fireball. Like a fire pit but spherical, fireballs look striking and keep you warm when the sun goes down. Just be a bit wary if you have young children or pets. 

Pizza oven – Bored with barbequed bangers but still want to cook al fresco? Then invest in an outdoor pizza oven. There’s one to suit every price range, from dinky, portable gas-fired models to built-in woodfired ovens that wouldn’t look out of place in a Napoli pizzeria.

Patio heater – A patio heater will allow you to make the most of your days and nights in the garden. (Let’s face it, this is the UK, so you know the mercury will plummet at some point.) We’re all familiar with the big outdoor heaters you see in pubs (clunky but effective), but many smaller models are available for domestic use. You can choose from free-standing or wall-hanging, gas or electric. Be mindful of those energy bills, though.

Smoke-free barbeque – Enjoy the taste of barbequed food without the smoke or smell (ideal if you live in a built-up area and the neighbours are prone to complaining about smoke wafting into their garden).

Sunken trampoline – Kids love trampolines, but many people find them visually intrusive because of their height and the safety net (which, by the way, is crucial if you want to avoid a visit to A&E). A sunken or in-ground trampoline can be the solution – they’re less impactful visually and safer for the kids. Most people get a company to handle the installation, although you could tackle the job yourself if you’re a confident DIYer (just check you don’t disturb any underground pipework).

From all of us here at Chamberlains, we hope you enjoy the summer.

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Guide for First-Time Property Sellers

Guide for First-Time Property Sellers

Selling a property for the first time? Here’s a helpful guide to help you navigate the process. A two-minute read.

Putting your property on the market can be stressful at the best of times, and even more so if you’ve never done it before. But don’t worry. With planning and preparation, you can avoid some common property pitfalls.

Let’s assume that you’ve made up your mind that it’s time to sell. Here are the next steps that you need to take.

Do your research

Look at similar properties already on the market and note their asking price and state of repair. How does your home compare? If it needs a spruce-up/declutter, make a to-do list and get started. You’d be surprised what a difference a lick of paint and a few minor tweaks can make.

Nail your admin

Go through bank statements and get a clear picture of your earnings and expenditure (no cheating), so you know what you can afford in terms of mortgage repayments. It’s also worth getting together all the paperwork for your home: deeds and details of leasehold or share of freehold arrangements (if applicable). This will speed things up further along the selling process.

Money talks

Your big move will most likely involve purchasing another property, so discuss your financing options with an independent mortgage adviser. Be aware that if you have an existing mortgage, you may get hit with an early exit fee if you sell and move mortgages to a different provider.

Choose an agent

Recommendations from family and friends can provide a useful starting point but always talk to more than one agent. We suggest you invite three agents around to value your property. Ask lots of questions and be wary of agents giving unrealistically high valuations – they’re telling you porkies to land the listing.

Also, steer clear of agents trying to lock you into an extended tie-in (some make you commit for 24 weeks and an additional 28-day notice period). If they need half a year to sell your home, they’re not very good.

Instruct a solicitor

It’s useful to have a legal eagle on board before the sales process kicks into full swing. Again, ask around for recommendations and talk to your agent, who will also have contacts. As with choosing an agent, the cheapest isn’t always the best. Go for a solicitor with a good reputation.

Get an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

You’ll need to get an EPC (it’s a legal requirement), and your agent will help you arrange this.

Dress your home

When it’s time for your property’s marketing photos, talk to your agent about how best to present your home. Take their suggestions on board because first impressions really do matter. 

Here at Chamberlains, we have a great sales track record. Get in touch to find out more about our winning formula. Download our first time sellers guide for more info..  

 

 

 

 

 

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Busting Landlord Myths in South Devon

landlords

Many people think that being a landlord is easy. Rent out a property, move some people in, sit back and rake in the cash… if only it was that simple.

Any experienced landlord knows that owning rental property is hard, and it can be a 24/7 job in the event of any issues. Preparing a property for rent is just the first hurdle; ensuring your tenants are safe and the property is maintained are ongoing requirements.

In this quick read, we bust some common myths about landlords and their obligations.

Landlords don’t care about safety

Wrong! It’s at the top of the list. Tenants deserve to live in homes that are safe, and a landlord has legal (and moral) duties to ensure this.

Gas safety is hugely important, and landlords throughout the UK must ensure that any gas appliances within the property are safe to use.

Tenants should be provided with a Gas Safety Certificate as soon as a tenancy starts.

Fire and carbon monoxide safety is also a legal priority for all landlords, and rental properties must be fitted with smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Landlords pocket deposits

Historically, deposits have always been a point of contention between tenants and landlords. But these days, there are strict laws regarding tenant deposits (and landlords can wind up seriously out of pocket if they flout them). Landlords must lodge all deposits with a government-approved deposit scheme. This ensures that a deposit will be returned if the terms of the tenancy are met, if no damage is caused (beyond fair wear and tear) and if all rent and bills are paid.

Landlords disappear once tenants move in

This is a big one, especially for tenants who experience problems after they have moved into a property. That’s why it’s always important to find a rental property through an experienced letting agent.

A good landlord will ensure the property is well maintained – after all, it is their source of income. Landlords should maintain any furniture or appliances that are in the property when a tenant moves in. An inventory should be carried out at the start and end of a tenancy to ensure that both parties have information about the general condition of the property and such items. The same applies to repairs if something stops working during a tenancy.

If you’re a tenant looking for a rental or a landlord looking for a new agent, please contact us on 01626 365055.

 

 

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Property Shows We Love to Watch

property shows

Hands up if you’ve ever lost a couple of hours sitting on the sofa watching a property show? Whether it’s a 30-minute fix or a full-on binge, programmes about other people’s homes are fascinating.

Entire cable channels are dedicated to home renovations, property sales, flipping houses and so on. We just can’t seem to get enough of them.

In this quick read, we look at some firm favourites and why they’re so good.

  • Homes Under the Hammer (BBC 1)

Daytime TV is like a warm, snuggly blanket. It’s easy watching and seemingly endless. Homes Under the Hammer is just that. You see properties transform from crumbling bricks and fluorescent wallpaper into homes you want to live in.

Gracing our screens since 2003, there are well over 1,000 episodes, which just goes to show that the fantasy of turning a dump into a dream home is one we all relate to.

  • Location, Location, Location (Channel 4)

While some of us tune in to Kirstie and Phil to enjoy their flirty, no-we’re-not-a-couple banter, the rest of us just can’t imagine buying a home without their wise input.

On our screens since 2000, 36 seasons in, and we’re still watching. The journey of unhappy buyer to elated homeowner has proven irresistible and it doesn’t seem like viewers are ready to switch off.

  • A Place in the Sun (Channel 4)

Ever fancied running off to Spain and opening a chip shop in Benidorm? Well, many of the participants in this long-running overseas property show have, and we love to see it. People look for homes all over the world, and they all seem to have sun, sea and dodgy tiling in common. Still going strong after 22 years, it seems that viewers have a never-ending appetite for sun-drenched property hunts.

  • Property Brothers (various channels)

A firm favourite over in the USA, twins Jonathan and Drew Scott help families find their forever homes. The show always seems to be on a random cable channel, and you can’t help but get strangely invested in finding out whether Billy-Jo and Emily-Sue find their dream property (which is always gigantic in comparison to our UK homes).

While one brother helps on the hunt, the other gets the current property ready for sale – no one knows which brother is which, but who cares, their passion for property is infectious.

  • DIY SOS (BBC 1)

Property renovation with a heart, this show is about well-loved homes begging for a much-needed makeover. While many of the changes are made to cater for a family’s needs, this programme combines heart-wrenching stories with good, old-fashioned demos. Amazingly, it’s been on our screens since 1999 (that’s a whole different century).

At Chamberlains, we live, breathe and watch property all the time. So, what’s your favourite property programme? Comment below.

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Estate Agent Myths: What South Devon Sellers Need to Know

estate agents

How much of what you know about estate agents is really true? This three-minute read debunks a few common urban myths.

The digital revolution has given rise to several assumptions about estate agents, but we’re here to tell you they’re not true. It’s time to separate fact from fiction and debunk four myths about estate agents. 

  • Estate agents just post stuff on the property portals. Anyone can do it.

Given that 95% of people search for their next home online*, any selling strategy that doesn’t have a strong digital element is a failed one (but more on that in a minute). When selling a property, dozens of decisive calls are made before and after a home is listed online. You must nail the asking price, presentation, photography, viewings and negotiations. Then, once a sale is agreed, you need a professional in your corner to keep the process moving, paperwork ticking along, and wrap up the deal ASAP.

  • Agents are redundant. Properties sell themselves these days.

You can sell a property, or you can sell it for top price. Which one would you prefer? (Bear in mind the difference could be tens of thousands of pounds in your pocket.) There are companies out there that encourage sellers to do it themselves. But as selling your home is probably the biggest (and most stressful) deal of your life, do you want to wing it? Don’t short-change yourself. Get a pro to help you do it properly and more profitably.

  • Digital selling strategies just involve property portals.

There’s no doubt that property portals are essential, but great agents take their digital strategy so much further. They’re active on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and work hard year-round to engage their local community. Before choosing an agent, analyse their social media presence and website. The best agents are proactive, professional and have engaged databases that help when it comes to selling your home for the best price.

  • The best valuation is the highest.

Since the dawn of time, some less scrupulous agents have pursued a strategy of making ridiculously high valuations just to land listings. But sellers these days are more price-savvy than ever as a huge amount of information about past sales is available online. Twitchy lenders are also unwilling to provide a mortgage if the price is outside market norms. If your valuation is astronomical, you’ll deter genuine buyers and drag out the sale (and wind up dropping your price eventually). Always go with an agent with a good track record, who gives you comparable evidence and who tells it to you straight.

Bonus myth-buster – Not all estate agents wear pointy shoes, flashy suits and only care about their commission. We take pride in not being your typical type of estate agency.

Get in touch with us here at Chamberlains to discover why people choose us to sell what is usually their biggest tax-free asset. 

* Survey by Property Price Advice

 

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Why Landlords Should Conduct a Property MOT

buy to let

It pays to sit down once a year and review how your buy-to-let is performing and flag up any potential issues looming on the horizon. A two-minute read.

We’re all familiar with an MOT, an annual check-up to ensure your car is safe and good to go for the year ahead. Well, let’s apply the same concept to a buy-to-let investment.

Even if your current tenancy is ticking along nicely, a property MOT can be a helpful exercise to ensure that you:

  • Are up to date with government regulations and maintenance
  • Have the right rental strategy
  • Are not spending more than you need to on your mortgage and repairs.

So, let’s go! 

Do the maths

Go through your records and calculate your return on investment and rental yield (there are online calculators to help you do this). See if you can identify any possible savings (consider everything from landlord insurance, mortgage deal, accountancy fees, etc.). Even if these gains are small, they all add up.

Repairs and maintenance

Often tenants are reluctant to raise minor concerns for fear they’ll look petty or get the blame, so don’t wait for them to call you. Be proactive and get on top of any leaks, mould or drainage problems. Ensure you’re up to date with mandatory gas and electrical safety checks.

Energy efficiency

We all know energy prices are soaring. Ensure your property is well insulated and draught-proof. Don’t wait until the winter to get this job done. And think longer term, as new energy property rules are on the horizon.

Décor review

Times change, but has your property? If your property looks tired and dated, you could be missing a trick. In some areas, the pandemic brought about a huge demographic shift that is being reflected in the rental market. Consider a cosmetic makeover or garden spruce-up so that you can target groups such as professionals, relocators or young families.

Property management

A property MOT isn’t just about money; it’s about time, too. If you self-manage, analyse the true cost of this task on your quality of life. If you’re finding the admin and legal requirements increasingly onerous, get a letting agent to take the burden off you. An agent’s expertise and market know-how may also save you money in the long run.

If you already have a letting agent, consider the quality of service you’re getting. Are your calls answered promptly? Is your agent meticulous when it comes to maintenance deadlines and routine checks? If you’re not happy, it’s time to shop around.

To learn more about the property management services we offer here at Chamberlains, get in touch.

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Off the Beaten Track: Unique Staycations in the UK

staycations

And just like that, it’s the summer holidays again. Six painful weeks of keeping the kids entertained, and the house in one piece. Oh, and to add to this woeful mix, you’ve forgotten to renew your passport and got no sun-drenched holiday planned.

If that sounds like your situation, keep reading, because it’s an ideal time to book a staycation. No passport needed, possibly a bit of sun, and plenty to keep the entire family amused.

While we’re all familiar with the big tourist spots around the UK (yes, we are very spoilt here in Devon!), what about some of our lesser-known attractions?

In this quick guide, we’ve pulled together a whistle-stop tour of some of the UK’s most unique holiday locations.

  • High Force, Durham, England

Despite being one of the most impressive waterfalls (yes, the UK has waterfalls, who knew?) in the country, this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is often overlooked by staycationers.

The waterfall is approximately 21m high and genuinely breathtaking. Enjoy guided walks, luxury accommodation nearby and lots of places to visit in the local area.

  • Loch Awe, Argyll and Bute, Scotland

Forget the Lake District, everyone goes there. How about visiting the longest lake in Scotland instead? At 24 miles, you might spot the occasional fisherman but that’ll be about it. It’s a stunning location for a family holiday surrounded by a rugged landscape and teeming with wildlife.

  • Tyneham, Dorset, England

Fancy a spooky summer break? This historical village is home to… absolutely no one, it’s completely deserted. Enjoy eerily quiet walks around crumbling buildings and empty houses. Perfect if you’re looking to get away from the crowds. And for something a bit different, the next day, why not jump in the car and visit one of Dorset’s many seaside towns? In less than an hour, you can be in busy Bournemouth for a completely different holiday experience.

  • Pembrokeshire, Wales

There are so many beautiful Welsh beaches to visit along this stretch of coast, picking just one was impossible. In fact, Pembrokeshire has a whopping 10 Blue Flag beaches (basically the best of the best). Soft sand, miles and miles of blue sea, rockpools, luxury accommodation… there’s just too much to ooh and ahh about.

If you’re looking for an experience rather than an actual area, how about searching for quirky accommodation? A few nights in a treehouse, lighthouse or shepherd’s hut could be great fun for everyone.

From all of us at Chamberlains, we hope you have an excellent summer and enjoy a well-deserved break.