Top tips for viewing empty properties

  • By philip safadi
  • 15 Feb, 2017
Empty properties can often be undesired or even overlooked but they can offer potential buyers many benefits. Find out why an empty home may be worth a second look.

Unfurnished homes can be beautiful but they do not appear to attract the same level of attention as furnished properties.
While it is true that good images help to entice viewers through the door, unfurnished homes with less inspiring internal photographs should not be ignored or dismissed outright. Seeing a property stripped back allows for a buyer’s imagination to take over and the property’s full potential to be realised.

Here are some top tips on what to consider when viewing empty properties:

Consider the bigger picture
An empty house offers full transparency in terms of the property’s current condition, as well as allowing prospective buyers to get an accurate understanding of the property’s actual size. Unfurnished homes allow buyers to view much more of the structure and space – rather than being obstructed by wardrobes, tables and curtains – so the internal condition of the house and the space it provides is much more obvious.

Use your imagination
For those easily influenced or put off by existing interior furnishings and designs, empty homes offer prospective buyers the chance to view a property as they would receive it and imagine their own furnishings in place without distractions. Empty properties are a blank canvas simply waiting for the buyer to make their mark.

Consider the selling chain
Sales tend to be much more straightforward when a property is empty because the seller no longer lives there. It can also allow potential buyers greater flexibility with their move in date. Empty properties can often result in a quick sale with any potential property chain less likely to fall through.

Don’t assume the worst
There could be a number of reasons why a property is empty and potential buyers should not assume it means there is something wrong. The sellers could be living overseas or could have moved to a different part of the UK due to work commitments. Also, there could have been a bereavement and the property has to be sold or it’s a second home.

This blog was written by Head of Sales at CKD Galbraith’s Aberdeen office, Hannah Christiansen.
By philip safadi 03 Mar, 2017
The lender made a similar call last year, to no avail – while separate research has shown a rise in Stamp Duty receipts for the Treasury over the last year.

Andrew McPhillips, chief economist at Yorkshire Building Society, said that based on Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) data, the proportion of first-time buyers able to find a home under the Stamp Duty threshold has almost halved in just a decade, as FTBs increasingly struggle to find properties under the £125,000 threshold.

According to the figures, 47% of FTB transactions were under the threshold in 2006, and that number fell to 26% in 2016.

He claims this data, and stagnant wages, shows that FTBs are struggling to get on the property ladder due to Stamp Duty and that making it a seller’s tax would help newcomers to the housing market.

McPhillips said: “In its present form, Stamp Duty does not suit today’s housing market – it pushes up costs for those looking to buy, exacerbating affordability issues in a market where prices have vastly outpaced wage growth.

“Levying the charge against sellers rather than buyers will help to reduce costs for first-time buyers, helping more people to get on the property ladder.

“It would also help those moving up the property ladder, enabling them to move to a more suitable property and potentially freeing up smaller homes for first-time buyers to purchase.

“Although this would help to alleviate some of the effects of the housing crisis, it does not address the root cause which is the lack of supply.
The government should implement the proposals in their recent White Paper and go further to boost housebuilding so that there are enough properties available for people to buy.”

However, the Yorkshire Building Society research doesn’t seem to delve further into the CML data, which actually shows that while overall numbers may be down, the percentage of FTB loans in the higher thresholds has actually increased.

The percentage of FTB purchases in the £175,000 to £250,000 bracket has increased from 18% to 23% between 2006 and 2016 while 23% of home loans to the same group were in the £250,000 to £500,000 bracket, up from 6% a year ago.

Just 4% of loans to FTBs were above £500,000 in 2016, but that is still up from 1% in 2006, the CML figures show in the table above.

But separate research from accountants Blick Rothenberg show just how valuable Stamp Duty receipts are to the Treasury, making it seemingly unlikely that Chancellor Philip Hammond will make any changes.

Other publications have, however, rumoured that Stamp Duty rules could be reversed due to a slowdown in higher end property transactions.

But Paul Haywood-Schiefer, assistant manager at Blick Rothenberg, said Stamp Duty receipts increased by 11.65% during 2016, mainly boosted by the 3% surcharge on second or additional properties.

He said this helped the Government to a 5.7% increase in total receipts from income, business and land taxes, giving it a record £9.4bn surplus.
By philip safadi 23 Feb, 2017
An advertisement for an online estate agent which quoted £495 as the fee has been banned because it was incumbent on sellers using the agent’s conveyancing and mortgage services.

If they did not, they would have to pay extra.

The ruling, which could affect other agents, is made public this morning by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The advertisement for HouseSimple was shown on television last July and August.

A voice-over stated: “Sell your home for just £495 upfront or choose ‘no sale, no fee’. How simple is that?”

A complainant said they were told they would have to pay additional charges unless they used HouseSimple’s conveyancing and mortgage service, and challenged whether the claim “just £495” was misleading.

HouseSimple told the ASA that it could offer the lower price of £495 because it earned a commission from the conveyancers and mortgage brokers, and could pass on the savings to the customer.

Clearcast – which clears adverts for broadcasting on TV – said that it had received substantiation from HouseSimple at script clearance stage which stated that customers could receive all the necessary services required to sell their property online for the featured price of £495 upfront.

The ASA said that a “significant limitation” had been left out of the advert, and that qualifying information was absent. The claim that consumers could sell their home for “just £495” was misleading.

The ASA has told HouseSimple not to use the advertisement again and to make clear in future that the advertised price was only applicable to customers using their recommended conveyancing and mortgage services.

The same TV advert also drew another complaint, this time because of its reference to “professional photos and floor plans” .

The complainant said that the person who took photos of their property told them they were not a professional photographer, and challenged whether the claim “professional” was misleading.

HouseSimple stated that their agents undertook home visits where they would take a full set of pictures on a professional standard camera and complete the floor plans to make sure that the valuation produced was accurate. They considered their agents’ photos were of a standard that could be described as “professional photos” .

Clearcast stated they had received confirmation from the advertiser that the photographs were of a high quality and professional standard, and were used online to sell the property, as would be seen on other online estate agent websites.

They considered that the average consumer would interpret the claim “professional photos” to mean the type of photos provided and that the agents and surveyors taking the photos would have the proficiency to take high-quality photos as part of their job, rather than that HouseSimple specifically employed professional photographers to take photos of properties.

The complaint was not upheld.

HouseSimple – backed to the tune of £5m by Carphone Warehouse founder Sir Charles Dunstone and his partner Roger Taylor is now quoting £595 including VAT as an upfront fee. A telephone enquiry told us that the fee is reduced to £545 if the seller uses conveyancing services, quoted over the phone at £595 plus VAT. The agent also offers a deferred payment fee, at £695 including VAT, and and no sale, no fee at £995, again including VAT.

Although there is a set-up cost of £195 for sellers wanting no sale, no fee, HouseSimple says this is refundable if the property fails to sell.

https://www.housesimple.com/#advert
By philip safadi 23 Feb, 2017
There is an on-going police investigation into the theft of £309,000 which should have gone to a couple who sold their flat two years ago.

Police believe that Roger and Christine Wilkinson, of Maidenhead, Berkshire, may have been victims of an international crime syndicate.

Police are said to be particularly interested in knowing how the fraudsters even came to be aware that the couple were selling their home.

The police investigation comes as property email frauds rise sharply – with nearly 160 actual losses last year, up from 86 the year before.

In the case of the Wilkinsons, the thieves hacked into the couple’s email account and, posing as the couple, sent emails to their conveyancer – and did so at the very earliest opportunity.

The conveyancer in question was the highly reputable firm of The Partnership, in Guildford, Surrey.

Founder Peter Ambrose told EYE yesterday that his firm had asked the Wilkinsons to fill in a form asking for their signatures and bank details. The form is emailed but designed to be downloaded and posted back.

The form, claims Ambrose, was intercepted by the fraudsters, who returned it complete with a forged signature and their own bank details on it.

After the property was sold, the £309,000 proceeds were transferred into a TSB bank account. The Wilkinsons do not bank with TSB. They later managed to reclaim some, but not all, of the stolen money through insurers.

Ambrose said: “The Partnership was not found guilty of any negligence or dishonesty and we have the greatest sympathy for our clients, who were hacked.

“We never email our own bank details to clients, and stopped doing so two years ago. We also tell clients not to email theirs to us. Nevertheless, they still do so – often.

“Lawyers generally email their bank details to clients the whole time, and clients email theirs to lawyers.

“But I think the real question in all of this is what are the banks doing.”

The case was the subject of a report in yesterday’s Mail under the somewhat exotic headline ‘Estate agent sent my flat deposit cash to Mr Jihad in Istanbul’.

The Mail’s report quoted a second case – this time involving a tenant’s deposit and agents Winkworth.

The £685 deposit, which was being returned to the tenant, was intercepted by hackers, who in fact banked it not in Istanbul but in the UK.

A spokesperson for Winkworth said: “This fraudulent incident involving one of Winkworth’s tenants took place just under a year ago and was taken very seriously. It was reported immediately to both the police and the fraud squad who followed up with an investigation. The tenant’s deposit was refunded in full by Winkworth.”

While this is the first instance we know of where a rental deposit has been intercepted by hackers – normally the fraudsters go for the much larger sums yielded by house sales – letting agents should be aware of the possibility.

As letting agents are the ones actually handling money, you may well want to review your processes.
By philip safadi 23 Feb, 2017
The last thing that you want to happen once you have found a dream home is to see your buyer walk away. According to Sam Samuel, Director at Edward Ashdale, Bromley, in a market supported by such strong levels of demand, once the price has been agreed, you can expect to see the sale go through but often a buyer will have to pull out due to a change in circumstance.

Mr Samuel explains that when there is a delay in obtaining solicitor’s details or a reluctance to provide the financial details, sellers start to think that the buyer is wasting time. “Everything should be in order from the outset and buyers must show signs they are motivated to buy, as well as to sell. Not answering the phone, returning calls or emails is also a pretty good indicator of their feeling towards the purchase.”

What can you do to protect yourself?
As the seller, you should protect yourself from the outset to ensure you don’t waste valuable time and expense chasing an uncommitted buyer. This is just one good reason to ensure you employ a locally-based estate agent who has the knowledge and skill to recognise committed buyers.

To keep things moving along, ensure your agent has checked the buyer has a mortgage offer in principle, providing assurance that they are able to borrow the desired amount. Chains with three or more sellers have a higher risk of a sale falling through. If your buyer is part of a chain, your agent should check the progress of this sale.

What to do if the worst happens?
If you have already found your dream home then you will want to replace the buyer quickly. Mr Samuel suggests that you work closely with your agent to establish two key factors:

1. An accurate valuation: In such a strong market the value of your property may have gone up or down in the time that it was off the market. Seek the expert advice of your local agent and check the price against similar homes in your area using sold prices, available at OnTheMarket.com.

2. Marketing: Does it need refreshing? Is the agent utilising all the marketing platforms available to them? If the property has been on the market for a while it may be time to refresh the photographs. Use floor plans, videos and comprehensive information.

It is frustrating when a buyer pulls out of a sale. However, as Mr Samuel points out, sometimes it can be for the best. “In such a strong market, we can usually replace buyers to re-complete chains quickly and get vendors an increase of one per cent to two per cent of the value on the price. In a tougher market we will have detailed discussions with vendors to find out what is important to them. Each circumstance is different, so we decide on an appropriate strategy on a case by case basis.”
By philip safadi 23 Feb, 2017
Graham Farthing, Partner at Austin Gray, explores the most common reasons why a seller may pull out of an agreement and highlights the buyer’s choices if this happens.

The latest set of housing policies are primarily focused on getting more Britons on the property ladder, but as we see the property market starting to pick up again, many buyers can feel anxious about being in a seller’s market.

Before a deal is sealed there are many reasons why a seller may choose not to complete on a sale. Some of these reasons can be traced back to the health of the specific local property market and potential changes that could affect price and demand.

In this expert blog, Mr Farthing explores the most common reasons for a seller to pull out of an agreement to sell their home, and the practical steps that buyers can choose to take.

Gazumping
Gazumping has declined across England and Wales, however, it is still a common issue that affects buyers in property hotspots, in up-and-coming areas and during times of heightened demand. For example, Brighton and London were gazumping capitals during 2014 due to property price increases that far outstripped predictions.

Gazumping occurs when a potential buyer has been outbid by another interested party, after their original offer was already accepted by the seller. The practice is questionable but legal in England and Wales – Scottish law does differ – however, if you have entered into a contract which states that the seller will not accept other offers during a set period, you can sue the seller for breach of contract.

Continuous involvement in gazumped deals can damage an agent’s reputation in the long-term, so it is in the agent’s best interest to prevent it from occurring. However, the best thing a buyer can do to avoid the situation is to prepare beforehand:

– Go in with a fair offer that is in line with the asking price and market conditions, unless other factors come into play – for example, damage to the property, a short lease or if the area is in need of regeneration

– Have your mortgage in place, and a solicitor to carry out the necessary checks to speed up the process

– Make sure that the property is withdrawn from the market after your offer has been accepted – typically four to six weeks after.

Offer withdrawals
The seller may wish to withdraw from a transaction at any time before exchange of contracts. Common reasons for doing this include another buyer putting in a higher bid, keeping hold of the asset during a period of price growth, or waiting to sell due to other market conditions and policies. The buyer does not have any rights to claim the property as their own before contracts are exchanged. You can ask the seller to contribute towards any costs such as legal fees that you have incurred during the process but the seller is not under any obligation to to do this.

Other reasons
Unless you buy a new build, a property sale is almost always part of a long chain that is dependent upon the success of linked transactions. This chain can collapse somewhere along the line, and there is little you can do about it. However, you can invest in home buyers protection insurance to safeguard you against financial risks. If you have sold your house and are looking for another home on the market, you should search for temporary accommodation options as soon as possible and consider a bridging loan to maintain your finances for the next sale.
If you have found your dream home, others may feel the same way. If the property is popular, or if the owner would like to sell quickly and a contract race has been started by the seller, your initial offer may be rejected. The seller or an assigned solicitor should inform all parties involved of the situation, either in writing or over the phone. If the seller does not treat every prospective buyer equally, or the same solicitor is used by the seller and buyer, then both of these scenarios are unlawful. The latter is a conflict of interest, so you may be entitled to challenge the motive and decision of the seller.

Finally, if the seller pulls out of a sale due to unlawful discrimination – basing a decision on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability or gender – you can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau or seek legal aid.
By philip safadi 23 Feb, 2017
Everyone knows that if they have a large hole in their roof, or leave their windows open during a thunderstorm, they will end up with soggy carpets. But they are far less familiar with some of the other causes of damp – and, just as importantly, how to combat them. This at-a-glance guide should put homeowners on the right track to a dry home.

1. Tackle rising damp at its source. Rising damp used to be a subject of comedy. It provided the title for one of Britain’s best-loved sitcoms. But actual rising damp can hit homeowners hard in the wallet and adversely affect their health. Rising damp, as the name suggests, is caused by groundwater finding its way into a home through stonework or brickwork. It can be combated through a modern, properly maintained, damp-proof course. “And make sure you have a certificate to show that the damp-proofing has been done to a high standard,” advises James Carter, partner at Knight Frank.

2. Keep an eye out for ‘tide marks’ on the walls. If your damp-proof course is defective, one of the first ways in which this will manifest itself is in ‘tide marks’ at the bottom of walls. You need to pinpoint the source of the problem, have the necessary building works done and, in serious cases, use a dehumidifier to dry out the room affected.

3. Maintain the fabric of the exterior of your property. Always remember that water can get into a property through its walls as well as through its roof and floors. Poor pointing or damaged masonry is often a harbinger of damp problems further down the line, so look out for potential weak spots.

4. Check that your guttering is in order. If your guttering is defective and rainwater streams down the side of the building, it will only be a matter of time before the water finds its way into your home. So check your guttering regularly and, if there are blocked drainpipes or other problems, deal with them sooner rather than later.

5. Watch out for black mould. Another warning sign to householders that they have a damp problem is black mould forming on either external or internal walls. The mould is not just unsightly, but potentially hazardous, because it attracts mites and, in extreme cases, could cause respiratory problems. You can get simple mould eradication kits online to combat the problem.

6. Remember that damp has internal as well as external causes. If you are boiling a kettle or having a shower and the windows mist over, it is a tell-tale sign of condensation. It is one of the most common forms of damp in the home, and its harmful consequences are often overlooked. You need to be on your guard to stop excess condensation from doing lasting damage.

7. Consider installing ventilation aids. When there is moisture in the air inside a property, the best way to stop it lingering is through ventilation. “Make sure you air rooms well, even in winter,” advises James Carter of Knight Frank. Opening windows will often do the trick, but in kitchens and bathrooms, where the problem is usually most acute, ventilation fans can help speed up the process.

8. Dry your washing outdoors whenever possible. This one is just common sense. Keeping damp clothes on a clothes-horse in the spare bedroom is only going to exacerbate the problem of condensation. Try to dry the clothes outside if possible, even in winter. Alternatively, dry them in a room that is well ventilated.

9. Temperature control is critical. Condensation is at its worst in cold weather, so it is worth keeping your home reasonably warm, even if nobody is at home, otherwise you may pay the price later. Thermostat-controlled heating systems are the optimum way to achieve this.

10. Check out grants for tackling damp related problems. Local authority grants are sometimes available for works to protect properties against damp. The website www.nihe.gov.uk gives a good overview.

If you remain vigilant and think proactively you will save yourself the stresses and strains – not to mention the financial costs – of unwanted damp in the home.

Content provided by OnTheMarket.com is for information purposes only. Independent and professional advice should be taken before buying, selling, letting or renting property, or buying financial products.
By philip safadi 23 Feb, 2017
Purplebricks is launching in America and yesterday evening successfully raised £50m through new shares to fund the move. The placing was “materially over-subscribed”, Purplebricks said this morning.

In a bombshell announcement to the London Stock Exchange yesterday shortly after the close of trading, it announced it would be raising the money  to enable expansion in the USA, likely to be in the second half of this year.

The announcement came at 16.57, with the company saying it hoped to complete the bookbuilding exercise by 7pm – giving just two hours for investors to subscribe for new shares at 220p.

Michael Bruce, chief executive of Purplebricks, which launched in Australia last September, said: “We are proud to announce our plans to launch Purplebricks in the US, a market we estimate to be worth some US$70bn in annual estate agent commission.

“Our customer proposition of high quality service and value, delivered through the combination of technology and people, is driving irreversible change in the UK and Australian markets.

“We are confident that with our understanding of the US market and our experience from having already launched in two markets Purplebricks can build a significant business in what could be one of the most fascinating and rewarding real estate markets in the world.

“For the realtors we recruit Purplebricks presents an exciting new platform to build scalable, profitable businesses in their own dedicated regions, supported by our strong technology infrastructure and marketing reach.

“For US customers we are seeking to offer a better deal in selling and buying their homes, with a more convenient, transparent and cost effective service.

“As with our UK and Australian launches we will adopt a state-by-state roll out strategy.

“The funds raised through the Placing will not only be deployed to build the Purplebricks brand in the US but, also, the people and infrastructure needed to manage rapid growth in that market.

“With trading in the UK and Australia in-line with the board’s expectations and with the development of the US opportunity, we are proud of the team’s achievements to date and excited for our global future.”

Net proceeds of the placing of shares, worth around £48.7m, will be used to establish Purplebricks in a number of key states. This will include finalising the recruitment of the management team in the US, the raising of consumer awareness, and the recruitment and training of Local Property Experts in the US.

The US, as the Purplebricks’ stock market announcement made clear yesterday evening, has a very different estate agency market from the UK.
In the US there is typically both a listing agent acting for the seller and an agent acting for the buyer. The listing agent gets a commission of up to 7%, with the buying agent getting a 2-3% share. Multi-listing is common.

The statement said that Purplebricks will be looking to recruit some of the most experienced real estate agents in the US: “The Purplebricks model should allow agents to spend more time focusing on looking after customers and selling homes, rather than a significant proportion of their time being taken up prospecting for the next listing.”

The statement said that Purplebricks has so far sold £6bn of property in the UK and has a 67% share of the online estate agency market.
In Australia, it said that it has over 50 Local Property Experts and that it has grown faster than any UK regional launch.
Few, possible no, UK agents have ever succeeded in the US market, and vice versa.

Foxtons, notably, lost money when trying to crack the American market.

In early reaction to the news Eddie Holmes, chairman of the UK PropTech Association,  said Purplebricks’ US plan could only be seen as “a vote of market confidence for the business model and management team”.

He said: “It will be interesting to see if the model works as successfully as it has in the UK, if not more so, in a maarket with higher average fees and a natural tendency towards self-employed realtors.

“This is tremendous news for the UK proptech industry on a micro level and is truly a welcome export story during the upheaval of Brexit.”
Yesterday, before the announcement, Purplebricks’ shares finished the day at 226p – over double its launch price of 100p in December 2015.

This values the company at £559m compared with, for instance, Countrywide’s market cap of £405m.

Reaction to the news of the successful placing sent the shares rocketing over 17% in early trading this morning to above 265p.
By philip safadi 17 Feb, 2017
The reminder emphasised that a property cannot be relaunched as a new instruction within that time-frame, which has been dramatically increased from two weeks.

It said: “If you have a property for sale that you take off Rightmove and put it back on within 14 weeks, it will display as usual but will keep the original listing date and will not go out in property alerts.

“If it has been longer than 14 weeks since the property was last listed, it will relaunch, the listing date will be updated and it will be sent out in property alerts.”

The change only affects sales properties, not rental listings.

Meanwhile, a new and independently developed anti-portal juggling system has been named ‘Ros’ after the editor of Property Industry Eye.
The system, consisting of new software and a £6,000 computer, is in the final stages of beta testing of the detection system launched by Robert May, and devised with help from a small number of agents determined to stamp out the practice.

The system scans property portals, and can do so quickly. At the moment, the data relates only to Rightmove listings, although the backers are working on Zoopla and OnThe market.

The system does not scrape properties, but claims to be able to identify which properties have been ‘juggled’ in some way and who the agents are. It can also identify actual property listings in any given time period.

In the preview of the system shown to EYE, it was very clear who the main culprits appear to be.

There is a truly astonishing amount of further information which is currently only accessible to a small handful of individuals, who do not include journalists. We understand it will be made available to the regulator, NTSEAT, and to redress schemes, as well as to commercial firms.

While the system has been built to combat portal juggling, it actually looks to breaks down information in a number of ways, including at the smallest local level, which could give a one-office high street business information about rivals.
By philip safadi 17 Feb, 2017
To buy-to-let or not to buy-to-let, that is a difficult question! It can be quite a conundrum for people with capital to invest who are dithering between the stock market or bricks and mortar.

Since April 1 2016 – as many homeowners will be aware – a stamp duty surcharge of three per cent has been levied on second homes with obvious implications for the buy-to-let sector. If you are contemplating a second home, whether for your own use or as a buy-to-let investment, here are the 10 key points to bear in mind.

1. Stamp duty – or to give it the full title, stamp duty land tax (SDLT) – is a tax paid by homebuyers when they purchase property or land. The tax is banded so that no tax is levied on properties worth less than £125,000, but £7,500 on a property worth £350,000 and £43,750 on a property worth £1million, and so on.

2. Since April 1 2016 second homes have been subject to a three per cent stamp duty surcharge. Under the banding system, second homes worth less than £125,000 now attract three per cent tax instead of zero. Those worth between £125,000 and £250,000 now have a five per cent rate rather than two per cent, and so on. At the top end of the scale, second homes worth in excess of £1.5million attract 15 per cent stamp duty rather than 12 per cent.

3. Visit the government’s stamp duty calculator to work out tax liabilities.

4. Second homes – for the purposes of the stamp duty surcharge – are homes other than a main residence whether they are let or not. It does not matter if a main residence is overseas because a second home in the UK will still be subject to the stamp duty surcharge. However, a buy-to-let property will not attract the higher rate if the main residence is rented, not owned.

5. Homebuyers helping a family member buy a property will still be treated as second home owners and the relatives will be liable for the surcharge.

6. Anyone owning two homes because they have bought a new one, but not yet sold the old home, will have to pay the three per cent surcharge. But if the old home is sold within three years, the three per cent will be refunded.

7. No one will be able to escape the higher rates of stamp duty by ‘flipping’ properties which is defined as moving into a new home, designating it a main residence, then letting out the old home.

8. Couples who have separated, but not yet divorced, and own two properties between them, will not be treated as second homeowners. But couples living together, whether married or not, will be treated as one unit. They will not be able to buy a second home and escape the surcharge by putting one property in one partner’s name and one in the other’s.

9. Stamp duty is not payable on caravans, mobile homes or houseboats.

10. It is sometimes possible to reduce stamp duty liabilities by designating a property, whether the main home or a second home, ‘mixed-use’: i.e. used for both residential and commercial purposes, such as running a small business. But this can also expose the homeowner to higher business rates and higher rates of capital gains tax. If in doubt, talk to an accountant or mortgage provider about tax liabilities.
By philip safadi 17 Feb, 2017
OnTheMarket.com’s renting guide

According to the Office of National Statistics, 36% of households in England and Wales were rented rather than owner-occupied in 2011.

Being a tenant is widely accepted as a viable alternative to home ownership, particularly among those who may not yet be willing or able to consider buying a permanent home. Renting a property should be an enjoyable experience and for those who are new to the process this renting guide from OnTheMarket.com will explain what to look out for with these nine renting property tips.

1. Preparing your finances
Decide how much you can reasonably afford to pay in rent each month. Take into account your general costs of living and the fact that you will be paying Council Tax as well as fuel bills, contents insurance, TV licence and broadband. In addition, you will need to budget at least six weeks’ rent as the amount to be put down as security deposit for the length of the tenancy.

2. Finding a suitable property to rent
Search at OnTheMarket.com for properties in areas that you want to live in. You’ll be able to filter the results by the amount of rent and the accommodation so that you can create a shortlist of potentials to go and look at. Remember that the rental market is usually fast-moving and that good properties in popular areas don’t stay on the market for very long. If you see something that may suit your needs, get your skates on and quickly go and see it. Get in touch with local letting agents (you’ll find many of them on OnTheMarket.com) and register to receive alerts when new places come available. Many letting agents belong to industry bodies such as the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA) or the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS). This can provide some peace of mind to tenants that they will be dealt with in a professional manner.

3. Asking questions
When you find a property that you would like to rent, you will most probably have read about it online or in an agent’s printed details. You will have seen only basic information, so if there is anything that is unclear or not stated don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, check who is responsible for maintaining the garden, and whether there are any restrictions concerning pets or smoking in the premises. If you clear such questions at the earliest stage you won’t waste money applying to rent an unsuitable property. Don’t hesitate to ask the letting agent for a list of all the charges that you may incur throughout the process of applying to rent the property.

4. The tenancy agreement
Assuming you pass the checks and referencing process, the agent will draw up an Assured Short hold Tenancy agreement (see the OnTheMarket.com “Jargon buster”) for signing by you and the landlord. Read the agreement very carefully before signing and if you are unsure of anything don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. The tenancy agreement is a legal document and binds you and the landlord to the terms within it. Make sure they are in accordance with your understanding.

5. The deposit
You will be required to pay a security deposit that will be held by the agent on behalf of the landlord for the duration of the tenancy. Its purpose is to provide the landlord with compensation if you damage the property or its contents. Fair wear and tear is excluded from these dilapidations (see the OnTheMarket.com “Jargon buster”). All deposits in assured short hold tenancies must be registered with one of the government-approved tenancy deposit schemes that guarantees no-one can run off with the money. The deposit scheme will also provide a dispute resolution service if, at the end of the tenancy, you cannot agree the amount charged by the landlord or their agent for the dilapidations.

6. Inventories
Even if the property is being let unfurnished, it is really important to have a properly prepared and comprehensively detailed inventory, which is carefully reviewed and signed by tenant and landlord. It will list any existing faults in the property such as areas of damaged decoration, marks on carpets or chips in bath enamel. This ensures that when the dilapidations are assessed at the end of the tenancy you will not be charged for those that were in the property when you took it over. A good inventory will include photographs of such faults.

7. Paying the rent
You will probably be paying the monthly rent by standing order to the landlord or their agent. Always ensure that rent is paid on time and in full. Non-payment of rent is a serious matter that can end up in court. If there is any problem with the property, do not withhold payment of the rent. Such an action is guaranteed to make resolution all the more difficult and puts you in breach of the terms of the tenancy agreement. It can also show up in future referencing checks and might cause problems if you come to rent another property.

8. At the end of the tenancy
When the tenancy period is nearing its end, you can ask if the landlord will agree to renew the tenancy (the amount of the rent may change and there may be some administration charges to pay) or you can leave the property. Arrange to move out by the agreed time on the agreed day. Make sure the property is clean and tidy and in at least the same condition as when you moved in. On the moving day, the inventory should be checked at the property by the landlord or their agent, with you in attendance, and it should be signed off by you as correct before you vacate. Take a note of the meter readings for gas and electricity and apply for final billing. Don’t forget to arrange with Royal Mail to redirect mail to your new address (ensure the redirection is specifically for mail in your name).

9. Repaying your deposit
Shortly after you move out, you will receive an account from the landlord or their agent detailing the charges for dilapidations, if any, that you agreed when the inventory was reviewed during the check-out. Providing you agree the amounts, the balance of your deposit should be returned without delay.

N.B. Scotland has specific rules governing rental property. For example, landlords must register with the local council. Properties must be kept in good condition, to what is known as the “Repairing Standard”, and a tenant can apply to a Private Rented Housing Panel if a landlord fails to carry out essential repairs. The PRHP will also deal with rent disputes. In Scotland, agents are not allowed to charge administration fees to tenants.

In November 2016 Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a ban on letting agent fees and a raft of measures to build new homes as part of this year’s Autumn Statement. See our latest blog on ‘A guide to the Autumn statement‘ for more information.
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