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How to Switch Letting Agents (It’s Easier Than You Think)

In this three-minute read, we look at what’s involved in changing letting agents.

If your letting agent is delivering sloppy service or hitting you up for extra fees, then it’s time to think about switching.

Many landlords mistakenly think changing agents is a messy and complicated process, but it’s relatively simple.

Why change?

Most landlords switch because they’re unhappy with the level of service they’re getting from their agent.

It’s time to consider switching if:

– You find yourself doing more and more of the legwork when it comes to maintenance, repairs, and safety checks because the agent is disorganised or lazy – or both.

– The tenant is calling you because the agent’s not returning their messages.

– The agent adds a commission to contractors’ fees.

– Regular inspections are not taking place.

Finding the right agent

Before you switch, do your research and look for an agent who is:

–         Local. Many corporate chains outsource their property management services to out-of-town contractors (although they don’t tell you this when pitching for your custom). Choose a local, independent letting agent instead – they’re best placed to keep a close eye on your property and, if there’s an issue, can be on-site in a jiffy.

–         Accessible. Go with an agent who is hands-on and easy to get in touch with – they’ll be far more accountable than a third-party contractor who you’ve never met face to face.

–         Committed to using local tradespeople. Local plumbers, electricians, and gas engineers will be more likely to work to a high standard as they have a reputation in the area to protect. Avoid agents who use contractors from further afield and charge commission on contractors’ fees.

What does switching involve?

  1. Read through the contract you have with your agent and understand your notice period and any other restrictions you need to be aware of. Many landlords find it easiest to switch when a tenancy is ending or up for renewal.
  • Serve notice in writing to your letting agent. Instruct your agent to release all tenancy documents – such as electrical and gas safety certificates – to your new agent.
  • Instruct your existing letting agent to release the deposit to the new agent.
  • Notify your tenant about the change and give them the details of the new agent.

And that’s it! A few simple emails and you can be on the road to a less stressful, more successful landlord/letting agent relationship. Your new letting agent will keep a check to ensure all the right documentation arrives, and you can rest easy.

For more information about our property management services, get in touch with us here at Nest in Essex

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Great Time to Sell a Flat as Urban Life Reopens

In this two-minute article, we look at why now is a great time to sell your urban property.

Easing of pandemic restrictions has seen increased buyer demand for flats and city centre locations.

The data

Analysis of Rightmove’s 1.6 million property listings has shown that numbers of people enquiring about these types of properties has gone up by 39% since January. Bungalows similarly saw a rise in demand by 30% during the first quarter of the year. Village homes have seen a 32% increase in demand but city centres have seen an even higher rise of 35%.

Specific locations

In Sheffield city centre, there’s been a 57% increase in buyer demand. In Norwich, there has been a 63% jump, and in York, a whopping 76% since January.

Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s housing expert, said: “These are early signs but they certainly point to some good news for city centres across Great Britain, with a number of agents now telling me they’ve seen a marked uptick in demand from first-time buyers, and they’re managing to sell city centre flats more quickly than in earlier months of the year.”

What’s the ‘why’?

The government’s introduction of a 95% mortgage guarantee scheme has supported more first-time buyers to purchase their first home. Rightmove surveyed 1,000 first-time buyers and 17% are already using the scheme, or are planning to use it. That’s just under 1 in 5.

What does this mean?

Simply, it’s a great time to sell your urban property.

Country and coastal properties appealed to buyers when lockdown restrictions were limiting available activities. Those who were locked down in urban locations were suffering. People felt claustrophobic and missed nature and rural areas.

Now the rules have relaxed somewhat, the pleasures of urban living have become apparent once more. Young people are keen to get on the property ladder, live near their friends, and enjoy city life. Restaurants, shops, and even the cinemas need our support after the pandemic.

Also, with mortgage interest rates so low, it’s a good time to sell and put those funds into a new home.

If you’re looking to sell a property but would like to talk through your options, give us a no-obligation call today on 01268 500988.

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Landlords – Is Your Money Really Safe?

In this two-minute read, we explain why your letting agent should be part of a client money protection (CMP) scheme.

The lettings sector used to be the Wild West of the property market, with a small group of unscrupulous agents giving the industry a bad name.

Thankfully, the introduction of stricter regulations in recent years has sent many cowboy agents riding off into the sunset. 

But no industry is perfect, and landlords and tenants still need to be wary of rogue operators.

If you’re looking to do business with a letting agent, one of the first things you should check is that they are a member of a client money protection scheme (CMPS).

By law, all letting agents in England who handle ‘client money’ – in other words, hold rent or holding deposits on behalf of customers – must be a member of a CMPS. (Note: this is different to a tenant deposit scheme, which agents should also utilise.)

A CMPS is basically an insurance policy. It means that if an agent goes bust or does a runner while holding funds on behalf of clients, the landlords and tenants affected receive compensation. (This didn’t always happen in the old days.)

How can I tell if an agent is a member of a CMPS?                                        

There are six approved CMPSs: Client Money Protect, Money Shield, Propertymark, RICS, Safeagent (previously NALS), and UKALA Client Money Protection.

For the record, here at Nest in Essex, we’re members of Client Money Protect.

Agents must display details of their CMPS membership on their website and in their office. 

Always verify an agent’s membership claim by cross-checking with the relevant CMPS (you can do this online in minutes).

It’s good practice

If an agent gives you a blank look or the run-around when you ask about their CMPS membership, alarm bells should ring.

A good letting agent will have no trouble answering the question (and be impressed by your industry knowledge).

An agent who isn’t a member of a CMPS can be fined up to £30,000. Local authorities, through their Trading Standards operations, enforce these rules.

From all of us here at Nest in Essex, stay safe and thanks for reading.

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Advice on Choosing a Good Conveyancing Solicitor

This two-minute read will help you learn about conveyancing solicitors and how to find the right one for you.

Whether you instruct a conveyancer or a solicitor, they essentially do the same thing when it comes to dealing with a property transaction. The terms are often used interchangeably by people who aren’t working in the industry. This is the person who does the paperwork for you when you are buying or selling a property.

Cheap is rarely cheerful

You know the old adage: you can have fast, cheap, and good; but you can only have two at any one time. This is very true for conveyancers. ‘Fast’ isn’t always the best word to use as there are multiple variables that may slow down the process. ‘Efficient’ is what you’re looking for.

There’s no template

When getting quotes from different solicitors for the work, bear in mind that there isn’t a set template for how those quotes are presented. There can easily be hidden costs. Ideally, you’d find a solicitor who offers a guaranteed fixed fee and a ‘no sale, no fee’ promise. Otherwise, the whole deal can fall through, for whatever reason, and you still have to pay the solicitor.

Get recommendations

And then take them with a pinch of salt. Buying and selling property is something that happens so infrequently in most people’s lives. They may have had a good experience in the past but you don’t know what’s happened in that firm. Maternity leave, staff changes, even holidays can mean that a previously great firm takes a dip for a few months.

TOP TIP: Your estate agent has a great overview of the whole market. They deal with solicitors all day, every day. Ask them for their advice.

Different properties need different work

The advantage of asking your estate agent for a recommendation is that they’re used to dealing with the variety of properties in your area. Flying freeholds, chancel repair liability, coalman’s accesses: these are all things that are completely normal to deal with for some solicitors.

Others have never dealt with them before and can cause massive delays. Even worse, they can advise their clients that it’s a risky issue, simply because they don’t understand the nuances, even causing them to pull out from the purchase.

If you’re looking for a conveyancer or solicitor to help you to buy or sell a property, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We can chat you through the options. Call us on 01268 500988.

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What Rules and Regulations Are Landlords Falling Foul of the Most?

In this three-minute read, we take a look at the most common rules and regulations that landlords need to remember.

Being a landlord is a tricky business. There are nearly 200 different pieces of legislation covering the how, why, and when of managing a rental property. Here are just four that landlords are often not getting quite right.

Deposit protection

In England, Scotland, and Wales, the deposit must be registered with a deposit protection scheme. The 2021 UK Landlord Survey found that 81% of landlords find registering their deposit difficult.

The deposit must be registered within 30 days of receiving cleared funds. The schemes are government-approved and the tenant must be informed where the money is deposited.

Energy performance certificates

Every rental property in the UK has to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). They are stored on an electronic register that is publicly available. However, they also have to be included in any advertising you do for your property.

Electrical safety regulations

In June 2020, strict rules about electrical testing for new tenancies in rental properties came into force. Inspections must be carried out by a qualified person on all fixed electrical installations.

Since 1 April of this year, it also came into force for existing tenancies. A professional with an industry-recognised apprenticeship or Level 3 Certificate in Installing, Testing and Ensuring Compliance of Electrical Installations in Dwellings must carry this out. Any issues have to be resolved and the tenant must receive a copy of the inspection report within 28 days.

Gas safety check regulations

If you have gas going in to your rental property, all appliances, pipework, and flues must be checked annually.

As for the electrical safety tests, ensure that you use a qualified engineer and don’t plump for the cheapest. The report must be given to the tenant within 28 days as well.

TOP TIP: As with any time you need to visit, or arrange a visit to the property, make sure you give the tenant at least 24 hours’ notice. Keep a record of having given notice. If the tenant refuses access, you’ve then got the evidence that you tried.

If you’re a landlord and are not 100% sure on all the rules and regulations you need to abide by, get in touch with us at Nest in Essex. A free, no-obligation chat will show you what you might need to tweak or if you’re on the right track.

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How to Protect Yourself from Home Hijackers

In this three-minute read, we look at a devious dupe that fraudsters use to rip off homeowners.

Fraudsters will go to great lengths to make a buck – and that includes trying to steal a home from under the owner’s nose.

Now, this may sound far-fetched, but this type of crime – called home hijacking – is real. 

Last year, the Land Registry beefed up its fraud management systems in response to the threat. It also paid out £5.5 million in compensation for fraud and errors within its register.

House hijacking

The scam can work in various ways.

  1. The crook changes their name by Deed Poll to your name. They obtain ID in your name and put your house on the market. 

They claim they need to sell quickly, so ask for cash buyers only and market the house themselves on an online portal at a low price. A gullible purchaser then acts swiftly to grab the ‘bargain’. 

The house ‘for sale’ is often empty (it may be a second home) or in the process of being refurbished.

On other occasions, it’s rented out, and the tenant, or someone else with access such as a cleaner or gardener, cheekily takes the marketing photos and handles the ‘viewings’.

By the time the buyer realises they’ve been duped, the fraudster is long gone with their money. The genuine owner of the property finds themselves caught up in this tangled mess and has the stress of trying to rectify the situation.

2)    The fraudster assumes the owner’s name and identity and then takes out a loan against the property. Mortgage-free properties are common targets. The property owner usually only discovers the loan when they get a letter from a lender about missed repayments.

How to protect yourself

If you’re a buyer

  • Treat any ‘bargain’ that you spot online with suspicion, especially if it’s not marketed by a reputable estate agent.
  • Insist on viewing a property in person.
  • Never allow a seller to convince you to cut corners in the transaction process or pressure you to ‘pay up today’.
  • Always seek independent conveyancing advice.

If you’re a homeowner

  • Be aware that properties that don’t have a mortgage or have not been sold or mortgaged since 1998 are more at risk.
  • Check your property is registered with HM Land Registry.
  • Sign up to receive an alert from the Land Registry every time someone carries out an application or search on your home. 
  • Put a restriction on your title. This stops HM Land Registry from registering a sale or mortgage on your property unless a conveyancer or solicitor certifies you made the application. If you live in the property, this costs £40. If you don’t reside in the property, you can do it for free. 

For more advice about buying or selling a property, contact us here at Nest in Essex.

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Buy-to-Let Mortgages: What Landlords Need to Know

In this three-minute read, we compare the different types of buy-to-let mortgages.

When choosing the right buy-to-let mortgage, landlords face a key decision: go with an interest-only deal or opt for a capital repayment arrangement.

Both options have their pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look.

Interest-only mortgage

Your payments only cover the interest on the loan and have no impact on the capital. 

Pros

  1. Lower repayments

Your monthly repayments are lower than that of an equivalent capital repayment mortgage.

For example, with a 25-year interest-only mortgage of £200,000, monthly repayments would be £573 (4.45%, fixed for three years). With a similar capital repayment mortgage, you’d pay £996 a month*. That’s a difference of £423 a month.

  • Less financial stress in between tenancies 

If the property is vacant for any reason, it will fall on your shoulders to cover the repayments. Lower repayments equal less stress.

  • Bigger monthly income

As your mortgage repayments are lower, less of the rent goes to your lender. Instead, it winds up in your pocket.

  • More flexibility

You can spend this extra cash on the upkeep and improvement of the property or divert it to other investments.

  • Sell and make a profit

If the property appreciates in value over time, you can sell up and make a tidy profit.

Cons

  1. You won’t own the property

As you won’t be repaying the capital loan, you’ll still owe a substantial sum at the end of the mortgage. (Although you can sell the property, pay this debt, and hopefully still be ahead.)

  • The lender earns more

You pay more interest to your lender over time compared to a capital repayment mortgage. This is because you never reduce the size of the capital loan, so the interest charges never reduce.

  • Risk of negative equity

Historically, property prices have been on an upward trajectory – last year, they grew in the UK by a whopping 8.5% – so the risk of negative equity is low. 

And even if prices do drop, if you’re prepared to ride out market fluctuations, then the long-term outlook is positive.

The real risk comes if you need to sell in a hurry. If the property’s value has dropped, you could end up owing more than the property is worth.

Capital repayment mortgage

Your monthly repayments cover the interest and gnaw away at the capital.

Pros

  1. Ownership

At the end of the mortgage term, the property will be yours.

  • Less interest

You pay less interest overall because the capital loan decreases – albeit gradually – with every repayment.

Cons

  1. Higher repayments

As we mentioned earlier, the monthly repayments will be higher, and you’ll need to cover them when the property is vacant.

Choosing the right option

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, although most landlords opt for interest-only**. 

Landlords need to weigh up their circumstances and investment goals carefully. For some, the priority is earning a monthly income; for others, it’s working towards owning a property that they can pass on to their children or even move into themselves.

For advice about making a buy-to-let investment work for you, contact us here at Nest in Essex.

*Approximate figures only, based on a property worth £265,000. Always seek independent financial advice.

** National Landlords Association

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Tips for Getting a Good Mortgage Deal

In this three-minute read, we look at how homebuyers can get a good mortgage deal.

For most people, a mortgage is the biggest loan they’ll take out in their lifetime so, understandably, they want to land the best deal.

But with hundreds of mortgage products on the market, it’s easy for homebuyers to feel overwhelmed or confused.

There’s a lot to consider, including:

  • Interest rates (they’re currently low – but won’t be forever).
  • The term (most mortgages last 25 years, but some can stretch to 40 years).
  • Whether to go fixed (where the interest rate is set for a certain number of years) or variable.
  • Mortgage fees. Lenders can charge valuation, arrangement, early repayment, or missed payment fees. Now, you won’t necessarily be hit up for all of these fees – each deal is different – but it’s important to know what you’ll be charged.
  • An interest-only mortgage (you pay back the interest, not the capital) versus a repayment mortgage. 

Where to start

Given a mortgage is such a significant transaction, most people seek advice from a lender or independent financial adviser.

Talking to your bank or building society isn’t a bad idea (after all, they’ll know quite a lot about your financial situation). But this approach does have a significant limitation: the lender will only advise you on their products. 

For this reason, many people go with an independent mortgage adviser to get a broad picture of the overall market.

If you use an independent mortgage adviser

Always choose an experienced adviser with a good track record (ask friends or family for a recommendation).

Also, be aware that some mortgage advisers charge an upfront fee; others get paid a commission from lenders. So it’s best to know from the outset what the situation is.

Other mortgage tips 

If you’re re-mortgaging: Even if you think you know what you’re doing, it’s still worth getting advice as the market has changed significantly in the past 12 months due to Covid-19.

Get your paperwork in order. To make an application, you’ll need three months of bank statements, three months of payslips, ID, a P60 if you’re employed, or copies of your accounts if you’re self-employed.

Credit check caution: Avoid making multiple mortgage applications at the same time (either online or in-person), as this can negatively impact your credit rating. A single application won’t do any damage, but several ‘hard searches’ – when a lender takes an in-depth look at your credit history – will. Essentially, the system assumes that you’re trying to obtain several loans simultaneously and are in financial difficulty. 

Be honest. Like it or not, most, if not all, of our financial activity is tracked online. If you lie in a mortgage application, chances are you’ll be found out.

For more advice about buying a property, get in touch with us here at Nest in Essex. We’re here to help.