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Tips for Avoiding Rent Arrears

In this three-minute read, we look at the steps landlords can take to protect against a tenant falling into arrears.

Landlords have always worried about tenants falling behind in the rent, but that fear feels particularly pertinent right now due to the pandemic.

There are many reasons why a tenant might be unable to pay their rent – such as illness, job loss, or relationship breakdown – but the bottom line is it’s stressful for both landlord and tenant.

The good news is there are things landlords can do to protect themselves from getting into this predicament. Here are some tips.

  • Always carry out credit and reference checks before a tenant moves in.
  • Make sure your tenant signs a contract. 
  • Keep your records up to date and when rent is paid, send the tenant a receipt – this is particularly useful if it’s a joint tenancy. If there’s a dispute, it’s easy to identify who has missed a payment.
  • If you’re dealing with a joint tenancy, ensure that all tenants understand they are equally responsible for the rent – and any unresolved debt. (If there’s an underpayment, often the tenant who has paid up can be a valuable and persuasive ally in getting the errant tenant to pay.)
  • Keep all tenants in the loop about the situation as they bear joint responsibility (even though they might tell you otherwise).
  • If a tenant misses a payment, talk to them but don’t go in all guns blazing. You’re trying to find a constructive way forward, not score points. Always remain professional.
  • Keep records of all conversations.
  • Consider adding rent protection cover to your insurance for some peace of mind.
  • If the tenant has a good track record, and you feel they can turn things around quickly, consider a payment plan. This is a revised payment schedule that gives the tenant a chance to get back on their feet. 
  • If you do agree a payment plan, make sure you put it in writing.
  • The tenant may decide that they can’t meet their obligations and serve notice that they want to move out. If this is the case, contact your tenant deposit scheme and ask them to deduct the unpaid rent from the deposit.
  • Legal eviction proceedings should always be the last resort. There is currently a huge court backlog, and lawyers are expensive. Do everything you can to find an alternative solution.

Contact us today on 01268 500988 and find out how we’ll help you avoid rental arrears.

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Now’s the Time to Sell if You Want a New Home for Christmas

A two-minute read.

The summer holidays have ended.

The kids are back to school, and the distractions of Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics have gone.

What have we got to look forward to? Easy, Christmas.

Yes, we know it seems a long way off, but if you’re thinking of celebrating it in a new home, it’s time to get things sorted.

Here’s why.

Recent research from one of the most respected organisations in the estate agency industry, Propertymark, highlights the need to get your selling skates on if a new abode is at the top of your Christmas wish list.

The organisation’s findings show the average time taken from an offer to exchange is now at 13-16 weeks. This doesn’t consider the period from when your property goes on the market, and an acceptable offer is made.

A statement from Propertymark’s CEO said the average time used to be around 6-8 weeks, but the post-pandemic market across the UK and is ‘a very different beast.’

This is due to several factors. Record levels of transactions, pressure on solicitors, mortgage companies and even overworked removal firms are slowing the process.

There are just over 15 weeks until turkey time (other culinary options are available), so speed is of the essence.

Here’s a simple ABC plan to put you on the path to opening presents in a new home on 25 December.

  1. Action – Take the first steps of calling in three agents to give you a valuation of your home. Always ask this question of them: How will you go about getting me the price you say my home is currently worth?
  2. Be Ready –Now is the time to get your house in order, literally and metaphorically speaking. Do those little maintenance jobs that have been left for ages. You’d be amazed how off-putting peeling fence paint or missing cabinet handles are for prospective buyers. And get all your paperwork organised. You’ll need warranties and receipts ready to help speed up the legal side of any sale.
  3. Check –We’re expecting a surge of sellers and buyers looking to move in the run-up to the festive season, so it’s worth thinking ahead. Call removal and storage companies for quotes and get dates pencilled in with them. The good moving companies get booked in advance even when the market isn’t as busy as it is now.

If you’ve a dream about waking up on Christmas morning in a new home, get in touch with us on 01268 500988 or info@nestinessex.co.uk and we’ll help make it a reality.

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Why Rental Property Is a Good Investment Right Now

In this three-minute read, we look at the rental property market and why now is a good time to invest.

Have you ever considered becoming a landlord? Investing in property can be a great way to make the most of any money you have to invest. Generally, it’s best if you’re prepared to invest over a long period of time. So, why is right now a great time to get into property?

High numbers of tenants

The latest stats* from May 2021 showed that numbers of prospective tenants continue to increase. Per letting agency branch, the average number of tenants jumped from 82 up to 97. In 2020, the highest average number in May was 70.

Low numbers of properties

The average number of properties managed by each letting agency branch for this year was at 203 in May. The year before, it was 208. This seems like a small reduction per branch but that’s an average and multiplied across the whole of the UK, it has a significant impact.

Limited negotiating

Some tenants want to negotiate over rent. Perhaps because of the lack of available properties, this number has reduced. This could be because they would rather secure the property than worry about negotiating. The number of tenants that negotiated rent reductions is at the lowest since records began – at 0.9% in May.

Mark Hayward, the Chief Policy Adviser from Propertymark, a respected estate agent industry organisation, said: “Yet again, we continue to see incredible demand from home seekers. There has been a record-breaking number of people registered per branch for the month of May. This demonstrates the continuation of a booming rental market.

We will be keeping a close eye on the sector in the coming months. The current strength of the sales market may be off-putting to private rental investors. Also, any potential impending taxation on property will be a consideration for all landlord types. But overall, it remains fantastic to see rent continuing to flow this month.”

Contrary to opinion

Between April 2020 and March 2021, the numbers of landlord possession claims have fallen. This suggests that tenants and landlords have invested in a collaborative approach to the challenges of the pandemic. This bodes well for the future of those relationships and the industry.

If you’re not sure how to become a landlord, or are a seasoned pro but want to maximise your yield, get in touch with Nest in Essex for a free, no-obligation chat.

*Figures from ARLA Propertymark

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Seven Ways a Prepared Seller Can Speed Up a Sale

In this two-minute read, we look at how sellers can fast-track property transactions.

We’ve all heard horror stories about property sales that drag on for months or even years, leaving the seller frustrated and frazzled.

But the sales you don’t hear much about are the ones that rattle through quite efficiently without any drama.

As a seller, you can’t control every element of the process, but you can influence the progress of a transaction.

By being proactive and accepting that selling a home takes a little effort and energy, you can minimise delays.

Here’s how to speed up the sale of your home.

Declutter

A home that is piled high with boxes and bric-a-brac is a turn-off for buyers. Have a good clear-out and put bulky items in storage (or take them to the tip). Decluttering will allow you to market your property at its best – and achieve the maximum possible price.

Have a good clean

Roll up your sleeves and get scrubbing or get professionals in to help. Either way, make sure your home is sparkling clean from top to bottom.

General repairs 

Fix wonky fences, broken cupboards, and dripping taps. Address all minor maintenance issues before you show buyers around.

Dress your property

Present your home so that it appeals to your target market. For example, if you’re marketing your property as having a home office, set the relevant space up with a computer, keyboard, desk, and chair.

Choose a solicitor

Instruct a solicitor (ideally one recommended to you by your estate agent, as they will have the most up-to-date knowledge and experience). Knowing who you will use for conveyancing will save time later in the process.

Be prompt with paperwork

Expect your estate agent to ask you to fill out a property information questionnaire detailing your home’s features, recent building works, etc. Meanwhile, your solicitor will need to see ID (as part of their anti-money laundering checks) along with deeds, notices, and lease information. Provide all relevant documents and complete all paperwork swiftly.

Be flexible

Once your property is on the market, respond to queries promptly. Whether it’s your estate agent, solicitor, or the buyer’s surveyor, be as efficient and amenable as possible.

Want more advice on achieving the best possible price for your home? Talk to us here at Nest in Essex on 01268 500988

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Who Is Your Dream Tenant?

In this three-minute read, we talk about three types of tenants and the pros and cons of each.

Currently, the UK rental market is booming, with landlords finding tenants quicker than ever according to Rightmove, and demand for rentals up 3% from last year. As a landlord, this is great news, so why not maximise the opportunity by finding the perfect tenant for your property.

Families

As the most common type of tenant in the UK market, is your rental family friendly?

Pros: Families tend to rent for the long term and once they’re settled, they often stay put. This is a massive plus, as a long lease requires minimal input. A typical family tenant will also be keen to furnish the property themselves, saving you costs and hassle.

Proximity to a school – especially one rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted – can boost demand for your property and command a higher yield. Similarly, if your rental offers outside space and is close to shops, you’ll see a surge in interest from the family sector.

Cons: With families comes the potential for more wear and tear. This means you’ll want to make sure your property is finished to the highest quality to protect against damage. You’ll also want to ensure that any repairs are dealt with quickly.

If a family is on a long lease, they will make the home their own by hanging pictures, decorating children’s rooms and so on. So, at the end of a tenancy, you can be pretty sure your rental property will need a spruce up.

Professionals

Often regarded as the dream tenant, working professionals want proximity to transport links or their place of work.

Pros: With professionals comes the stability of a secure rental income and less chance of arrears – a huge bonus for private landlords. Less wear and tear and reduced potential for noise makes working professionals the crème de la crème of the rental market.

Cons: Just because they’ve got a good job when they move in, you can’t guarantee your monthly rent without some sort of rent protection. As the last 18 months have taught us, jobs can easily be lost, and financial situations can change quickly.

Students

Typically, students have a bad rental reputation, but is this a fair conclusion?

Pros: If a rental property is located near a university, you have the option of renting a property room by room – maximising your rental yield.

With most students receiving some sort of finance to support their studies, your rental income is safe with a reduced risk of arrears. You may also have the backup of the ‘bank of mum and dad’ just in case funds run low.

Cons: Unfortunately, lots of students means lots of partying and could lead to a higher risk of damage. There’s also a chance that maintenance issues may not be reported promptly. You can also expect a high turnover of tenants as the academic year is only around 10 months. This means more admin, advertising, and a need for end-of-tenancy problems to be resolved quickly.

For more advice about what type of tenants are attracted to rental properties, contact us at Nest in Essex on 01268 500988

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What Social Media Tells You about an Estate Agent

In this three-minute read, we look at the critical role social media plays in reaching out to potential buyers.

When choosing an estate agent, it pays to channel your inner Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes and do a little online sleuthing.

As we all know, many estate agents are known for having the ‘gift of the gab’. You’d be hard-pressed to find one who doesn’t claim to have a strong community standing, good track record, and proven marketing formula.

But how do you know if they’re telling the truth? Social media is a good place to start.

We’re not suggesting you believe everything you see on the internet. But a quick online snoop will provide plenty of clues as to how proactive an agent is, and whether their claims marry up to reality.

Top tips for online sleuthing

Step into a buyer’s shoes

Even if you’re not a big Facebook or Instagram user, many people – including potential buyers – are, so peruse the social media of local agents and analyse what you see. The best agents are dynamic, professional, consistent, and personable – qualities that should come across on their social media channels.

Presentation of properties

Compare how different agents market properties. Look for an agent who uses high-quality images or video footage of clutter-free rooms and informative and engaging property descriptions. Steer clear of agents who use grainy snaps of darkened rooms. In our image-focused culture, dodgy pictures are a huge turn-off for buyers.

Engaging content

Top agents do more than just market properties on social media – they engage with the local community about a range of issues. Look for content about the area, shout-outs to sports clubs and charities, and articles about important topics of the day (these might cover property-related matters or more general talking points). Savvy agents use social media to build a following so that when they have a property to market, they have a ready-made audience.

Testimonials

Reviews and testimonials can give you an idea of an agent’s strengths and weaknesses. Feedback from sellers, buyers, and other professionals involved in the property chain, such as conveyancing solicitors, can provide useful insight.

Do they have personality?

Ideally, an agent’s social media will give you some idea of what motivates and drives their business. Why does this matter? Selling your home is one of the biggest (and possibly most stressful) transactions of your life. Better to go through the experience with someone you feel comfortable talking to and whom you trust.

For an example of how an experienced agent uses social media effectively, go ahead and follow us at: @nestinessex  

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How to Choose a Garden Room That’s Just Right for You

In this three-minute read, we look at the growing popularity of garden rooms as places to work and play.

Garden room. Man cave. Home studio. Shoffice (shed/office). Call it what you will but having a standalone space in the garden where you can work, unwind, or pursue a favourite hobby is one of the fastest-growing property trends in recent years.

Now, garden sheds are nothing new; Britain’s first shed was built in 1481. But a ‘garden room’ is far more than the old-fashioned lean-to your granddad used to store the lawnmower.

Garden rooms are high-spec spaces with plenty of mod cons: mains electricity, heating, and WiFi. They also often include full-height glazing, a kitchenette, toilet, hot tub, bar, or home cinema.

If you’re considering investing in a garden room, here are some tips to help you get it right.

Identify its purpose

Start by having a clear idea of how you’ll use the space. Will it be an office, yoga studio, gym, or games room?

If you don’t have a strong vision, your garden room could turn out to be a glorified storage cupboard, crammed with boxes and odds and sods.

Find the right location

If space is tight, your options will be limited. However, if you have a big outdoor area, give careful consideration to the location and orientation of your garden room.

If you’re creating a mini music studio, opt for a location some distance from the house so that noise isn’t an issue. On the other hand, a children’s playroom might be best near the house, so you can keep an eye on the little ones.

Also, remember that:

  • An east-facing garden room will catch the morning sun (ideal for early bird, work-from-home types).
  • A west-facing garden room will get the afternoon sun (perfect for a post-work parents’ chill-out space).
  • A south-facing garden room will catch lots of sun (great in the winter months) but will get quite warm in summer, so consider adding a louvred canopy.

Insulation

Keep your garden room cool in summer and warm in winter (and save money on heating) by opting for insulated walls, roof, and flooring.

When architects, builders, and manufacturers talk about insulation, they use the term U-value. The lower the U-value, the better (the best insulating materials have a U-value nearing zero).

Landscaping

It’s called a garden room for a reason, so make sure your space is surrounded by lush greenery – being close to nature is good for your mental health, after all.

Plant trees, shrubs, and bushes around your garden room so that it feels like an integral part of the space.

Planning

Before you get started, always seek confirmation from your local authority about whether any outbuilding you’re thinking about needs planning permission.

For more advice about how to add value to your property and market trends, get in touch with us here at Nest in Essex

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Why Being a Landlord Is a 24/7 Job

One of the best things about going on holiday is that once you’ve packed your bags and locked the front door, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

After months of hard work and stress, you can finally relax, unwind, and recharge – unless, of course, you’re a landlord.

If you manage a rental property, you’re always on call.

You can’t switch on your out-of-office and mute your WhatsApp for a fortnight and hope for the best. If there’s an urgent problem at your property, you have a legal responsibility to act promptly.

Sometimes you’re just unlucky

The best landlords are organised. They stay on top of routine maintenance and make sure that gas and electrical checks (that are required by law) are performed on time.

But no matter how diligent you are, the unexpected can still happen.

While emergencies are rare, they do occur – and often at the worst possible time (when you’re en route to an exotic location or living it up with friends at a wedding or birthday celebration).

Why not just risk it?

You may be tempted to cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen many landlords take this approach – and get caught out.

The exasperating thing about managing a property is that when something goes wrong, it can go very wrong.

And you can’t sweep an urgent issue – a gas leak, burst pipe, break-in, or fire – under the carpet and continue clubbing in Ibiza for a week.

If you do, you could be putting your tenant’s life at risk (cue costly legal action) or your property on the line (think of all the water damage that burst pipe will cause if you don’t fix it ASAP).

There is a solution

Get a professional to manage your property for you. That way, when you go on holiday, you can truly switch off and leave it to someone else to deal with any issues that occur.

You can be anywhere in the world, and someone will be keeping an eye on your property – and your tenants. It’s the best way to protect your investment.

To learn more about why many landlords use our property management services, get in touch with us here at Nest in Essex