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Tips for Getting the Best Deal on Landlord Insurance

In this three-minute read, we look at how landlords can avoid getting a bad insurance deal.

If you’re a landlord looking to take out insurance or renew a current policy, there are a few things you should know.

The insurance market is “hardening”, or in other words, insurers are tightening their belts. 

The rising costs of claims due to extreme weather events such as last year’s Storm Dennis and low interest rates (meaning insurance firms make less on their investments) have hit the industry hard.

As a result, insurers are upping the cost of premiums and employing other – less obvious – tactics to increase their bottom line.

But first, a quick reminder

Landlords need specific insurance; a standard home and contents policy will not suffice. Landlord insurance is usually a condition of a buy-to-let mortgage, but even if you’re debt-free, it’s worth getting. (You hope the worst won’t happen, but if it does, you’ll be covered.)

Standard policies include buildings and liability cover, although you can also opt to include things like legal costs, accidental damage, or loss of rent.

Insurance tips for local landlords – Follow this checklist to get the best deal

– If you already have a policy, read it thoroughly before you start your research. It might not be the most exciting few hours of your life, but your diligence could save you time and money in the long run.

– Note in your diary when your policy is due to expire and leave yourself enough time to shop around. You won’t get the best deal if you’re in a last-minute panic.

– Look at what the premium covers. Is there a gaping omission that could leave you exposed? If it’s an existing policy, has your coverage been reduced?

– Check the standard excess (excess rates have been creeping up). The policy premium might be appealingly low, but if the excess is high, you could wind up paying more in the long run.

– Be aware that some types of claims have a higher excess. For example, escape of water (which covers leaks and burst pipes) has a higher excess as it’s a more common occurrence.

– Check the rules around vacancy as some policies become void if the property is empty. As there could be a rise in tenant turnover when furlough ends later this year, ensure your policy gives you a bit of leeway on vacancy periods.

– Have your paperwork to hand when talking to insurers. They’ll want to know (and see proof of) the age of the property, state of repair, and claims history.

– Some policies only cover certain types of tenants – for example, professionals – who are viewed as low risk. It may pay to include other tenant groups, such as students, in your policy to give you more flexibility.

For more advice about protecting your rental property, get in touch with us here at Nest in Essex.

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Being a Landlord: The Risks and How to Avoid Them

A three-minute read.

Having a rental property can be a great way to earn some extra income. Like anything, there are a variety of things that can go wrong. We break down fiveof the most common ones.

The wrong property

Being a landlord means running a business. You’re not buying a property for you to live in. Tenants often have very different expectations when looking for a rental property. Don’t turn down a great opportunity because you wouldn’t like to live in it.

The wrong tenant(s)

Choosing a good tenant is the second most important decision you’ll make as a landlord, (selecting an excellent letting agent being the first). Rushing into it without applying the correct referencing and selection process could put you at risk. You can end up out of pocket with unpaid rent, no deposit to cover damages, or even squatters.

The wrong timing

Unexpected maintenance is a normal part of owning property, as you may well know from your own home. Tenants often don’t notice little things that need immediate attention. This is because they’re not the homeowners. What can start out as a small leak can quickly turn into a massive problem if not attended to promptly.

The wrong tradespeople

If your rental is not in the area where you live, you might struggle to find decent tradespeople. One common problem, even when you’re local, is finding someone who is great at their trade and available at short notice. You can end up with shoddy work that you have to repair later. We can recommend trusted local traders.

The wrong paperwork

In the UK, there are over 300 rules and regulations governing property rental. These can vary across the different countries. If you don’t have the right paperwork in place, if things go wrong and you end up in court, you will always lose. It doesn’t matter the ‘rights and wrongs’ of the situation at that point. If you don’t have every box ticked, the judge will always award against you.

The solutions

Treat your rental property like a business. Don’t buy with your heart. Find great tenants who understand and accept the correct referencing procedure. Don’t let to a friend’s “cousin who really, really needs the help right now, pretty, pretty please!”. Carry out regular property inspections, especially at the start of a new tenancy. Don’t fall into the trap of doing it all yourself. The government regularly changes the paperwork requirements. The advice online is often out of date. Don’t risk it. Use a lettings agency with the three Es – Experience, enthusiasm and expertise.

We’ve been helping landlords for 10 years. We know the pitfalls and how to help you avoid them. With regular training and professional bodies, we stay on top of the inspections and paperwork so you don’t have to.

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Agent Fees: How to Get the Best Value Deal When Selling Your Home

In this two-minute read, we look at why low agent fees don’t equal top selling price.

Unless your name is Elon Musk, selling your home will probably be the biggest transaction you make in your lifetime. So, who will you entrust to get you the best deal?

Option 1: You go for the agent with the lowest fee. This agent is a doppelgänger for Del Boy, but you love the idea of saving yourself a few hundred quid in fees.

Option 2: You go for an agent who makes properties look and sound A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. The fee is a little higher, but they have a reputation for achieving sales that are above asking price.

Do the maths

The agent in Option 2 offers the best value because they will put the most money in your pocket.

When an agent cuts their fee, they’re cutting back on the time and money they invest in marketing a property.

They might sell your home, but they won’t get the best possible price for it.

Here are five ways to tell if an agent will offer you good value.

  1. Images

Top agents use quality photography to capture properties at their best. Grainy, shadowy photos taken on a smartphone are a turn-off for buyers.

  • Property descriptions

Look at how agents market properties online. Do the descriptions create an aspirational picture? Or are you reading a list of measurements, plug sockets, and radiators? Good agents will also include a floorplan in listings.

  • Bringing a property to market

If an agent brags that they can have your property on the market by tomorrow, run for the hills because they’re cutting corners. The best agents have a tried-and-tested launch strategy that takes more than 24 hours to implement – but adds thousands of pounds to a sale.

  • Long tie-ins

An agent who is confident that they can sell your home doesn’t need to lock you into a lengthy tie-in (some agents push for 20 weeks’ exclusivity).

  • Social media

Even if you’re not on Instagram or Facebook, many buyers are, so go with an agent with a strong social media presence. Look for engaging posts that cover more than properties for sale. Community content, mortgage updates, and video sneak peeks are big winners.

We all love a bargain (that’s why Poundland exists), but with a low-fee agent, the person who lands the great deal is the buyer, not the seller.

If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market, get in touch with us here at Nest in Essex. We’ll exhaust every possible avenue to secure the best price for your home.

COPYRIGHT Nest in Essex 2021

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Ways to help the Earth from your home

In this two-minute read, we show you how to make your home a healthier place for the planet.

Yesterday was World Earth Day. People across the globe were encouraged to be more mindful about the impact we all have on the planet.

But doing our bit for Mother Earth is a process and not an event as this article explains.

In our own homes in Rayleigh, Hockley and Leigh on sea, we can continue to do things to help the Earth.  Here are some ideas.

Go local

The supermarkets are undeniably convenient. If you can though, frequent farmers’ markets. You’ll be reducing air miles, which is good for the environment and your health. It also means you’re not supporting the unethical, polluting mega greenhouses in places like the south of Spain. You can more often reuse egg boxes or berry baskets when revisiting your favourite stalls. There are also likely to be fewer plastic stickers on the produce.

Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk reduces the amount of plastic waste. You’re not buying lots of little ones just to throw them away. You can also often reuse the same containers too. This is great for cleaning products for the house or for humans. It’s also a great way to buy food. You’ll be doing good for the planet and your wallet too. Loo roll bought in bulk from hotel suppliers will reduce the amount of plastic wrapping around the packets. (You can also buy paper-wrapped toilet paper.)

In the garden

Prioritise native plants. Replace your lawn with short native grasses or, even better, plant vegetables. Use kitchen waste to create compost. Invest in a worm composter, or an electric one if you’re in a flat. You can even compost dog poop! (This is a special process, don’t just throw it in with your kitchen waste.) Buy seeds in bulk. Take any plastic containers back to the garden centre. Capture rainwater whenever you can to reuse later.

With the children

Refuse free pens and instead get refillable ones. Buy paperclips in bulk or get a staple-free stapler. Join your local library to borrow books and magazines. Teach children to draw or cut near the sides of pieces of paper. This offers more chances for reuse and instils the thoughtful use of resources from a young age. Always recycle used paper, after both sides have been filled. Make a bug hotel for the garden to encourage pollinators and explore the interconnectedness of the planet.

What eco-friendly ideas do you use at home? We’d love to hear your suggestions.

Copyright Nest in Essex 2021

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WARNING – The Property Survey That Every Landlord Should Read

In this three-minute read, we look at a study that found some landlords were putting themselves and their investment at risk by cutting corners on checks and maintenance.

Landlords are leaving themselves exposed to the risk of criminal and civil prosecution by failing to conduct critical safety checks and taking a back seat on maintenance, a survey of renters has revealed.

The study by property management platform Plentific found that a surprisingly high proportion of landlords aren’t meeting their legal responsibilities regarding gas safety and that in some cases, tenants are handling maintenance and repairs.

The survey of 1,000 tenants found that:

  • 46% of private tenants don’t believe their gas appliances have been checked in the last year.
  • 52% of private tenants don’t have a gas safety certificate.
  • 56% of private tenants don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm.

What the law says

Annual gas safety checks must be carried out at all rental properties by a qualified engineer and all tenants should receive a copy of the subsequent safety report.

Landlords who fail to meet these obligations could face prosecution – and be fined or imprisoned. 

Furthermore, landlords could wind up embroiled in a civil suit if a tenant is injured or killed in a fire, explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning at the property.

Other maintenance issues

The survey also looked at how landlords respond to maintenance concerns raised by tenants. 

About 40% of private renters said requested works were completed within three days, although overall, the average was ten days.

Issues raised included damage to the garden (26%), property damage (24%), ­maintenance (21%), and electrical problems (20%).

Worryingly, 37% of renters said they had organised repair works themselves (20% with permission from the landlord, and 16% without).

We would advise landlords in Rayleigh, Hockley and Leigh on seato oversee maintenance and repairs (or to entrust a property expert like a letting agent to handle it) to ensure that work is done to a safe standard for a fair price.

Faulty work could result in further problems down the line or damage to your property that proves costly to rectify.

Managing your responsibilities

Being a landlord comes with a host of legal responsibilities. If staying on top of all the paperwork and red tape feels overwhelming then you could benefit from working with a reputable letting agent like us. We can shoulder the burden for you and will advise you expertly and honestly.

Let us take the stress out of managing the property and use our experience to make your life a whole lot easier.

Please get in touch with us here at Nest in Essex if you have any questions about property management.

COPYRIGHT Nest in Essex 2021

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Helpful Information to Share with Your Estate Agent

In this two-minute read, we look at useful information which you might want to share with your agent to satisfy inquisitive buyers.

You can often tell whether a viewer is keen on a property from the questions they ask. And in our experience, the more specific the question, the warmer the prospect. When it comes to preparing for a sale, the more information that you can share with your agent, the better. Here are five typical questions to get you thinking.

  1. What are the neighbours like?

Your viewer is envisioning living in your property. Help them do this by letting your agent know the demographic of your neighbourhood. A good agent will assess the viewer’s preference and highlight those neighbours accordingly; families, elderly people, professionals, students, etc. Add extra information if you can: Are they friendly, quiet, helpful?

  • Where are the closest bus stops?

Go a step further and provide information on the bus routes and the frequency of the service. If it’s only a ten-minute ride into town, or there’s a direct service to the leisure centre, let your agent know.

  • Which way does the garden face?

For those with outside space, most people want to know which way the garden faces. If you’re unsure, there’s a helpful app called Lumos, which will point you in the right direction (excuse the pun!). Garden furniture purposely positioned in sunny spots will show potential buyers where to go for a bit of R&R.

  • Where do the kids next door go to school?

It’s good if you can let your agent know which school catchment your property sits in. It’s great if you can tell them where the local kids go. Parents’ school preferences vary – with some prioritising the same school as local friends over Ofsted reports.

  • Which takeaways deliver here?

If a buyer is wedded to their weekly teatime treat, this will be essential information. If you have a recommendation, let your agent know – you might tempt prospective buyers with new or unique culinary delights in your local neighbourhood.

If you’re thinking about a property move and want to know more about what information to start collating (or if you have a recommendation for a local takeaway), give us a call on 01268 500988.

Copyright Nest in Essex 2021

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How to Keep Your Tenants Happy and Staying with You for Longer

In this two-minute read, we look at how landlords can foster a good rapport with tenants.

Every successful landlord needs a rock-solid tenant retention plan or what we like to call “a happy tenant strategy”.

This is because happy tenants are loyal tenants. And loyal tenants are more likely to stay in your property for longer, helping you to avoid the ultimate landlord bugbear – high tenant turnover.

Whenever a tenant moves out, the landlord gets hit with extra costs such as end-of-tenancy cleaning and repairs and marketing and reference checks to cover the new tenancy.

Then there is the issue of lost rent when a property sits empty in between tenancies.

So, it makes good business sense to minimise turnover by going the extra mile to keep hold of good tenants.

Here are six tips for Rayleigh, Leigh on sea and Hockley landlords for avoiding tenant turnover.

  1. Choose the right tenant

By following a detailed selection process and carrying out thorough credit and reference checks, you’re more likely to land a “keeper” in the first place.

  • Good communication

Ensure your tenants can quickly get in touch with you (or your representative) when they need to. If they raise an issue, listen to their concerns and try to be accommodating. While you want the relationship to be business-like, it also needs to be personable.

  • Keep on top of maintenance and repairs

Ensure the property is kept in good condition and respond promptly when there is an issue. If you ignore a tenant’s complaints, they’ll wonder if the grass is greener elsewhere.

  • Be honest 

Don’t overpromise or be economical with the truth. Trust is important in the tenant/landlord relationship.

  • Don’t set the rent too high

Setting the rent too high can be a false economy. If a tenant feels that they’re getting ripped off, they’ll quickly move on – leaving you to fork out to find a new tenant.

  • Be flexible

Give requests about decorating or having pets due consideration (even if you’re initial instinct is to say no). If a tenant feels that they can create a home environment in your property, they’re more likely to stay for a long time. If a tenant is working out well, consider offering them a longer lease.

Get in touch with us here at Nest in Essex to find out how we can help you find and retain good quality tenants.

COPYRIGHT Nest in Essex 2021

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How Jeff Bezos Helps Local Landlords

A landlords’ advice article published recently said property investors need to think more like the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

The billionaire businessman is renowned for his long-term thinking. He thinks decades ahead, and let’s face it, he’s not doing too bad, is he?

The article said landlords should retain good tenants at a reasonable rate rather than aim to get the highest rents in the short term.

It’s wise advice and something we believe in.

When a landlord adopts a short-term view of their property investment, it can often lead to lasting headaches.

The advice you are given can often depend on your letting agent’s philosophy.

Some agents will say things like: ‘The rental market in Rayleigh, Leigh on sea or Hockley is on fire now. We can get you even higher rents and squeeze out every penny from tenants.’

That’s not the way we approach things. Why? Because if you hike up a person’s rent whenever possible, it may mean more money in the short run but can be more costly in the long run.

Our advice to clients and indeed anyone thinking of investing in rental property is this:

Getting higher monthly rents isn’t as crucial in the mid to long term as finding and looking after good quality tenants paying a fair rate.

Here are some of the plus points a good longer term tenant brings:

Fewer void periods.

Fewer unnecessary repair or maintenance call outs mean a reduction in the property’s running expenses.

Good tenants appreciate they are being treated fairly and respectfully, and they look after their home.

Never to be underestimated is that having a good tenant in your property reduces your stress levels.

Going for the highest monthly rent charge as a property rental strategy can often be a mistake.

At Nest in Essex, we take the time to find, vet and keep good quality tenants for our landlords. This is the best way forward in the long term.

So, take a leaf out of the wealthiest person in the World’s book (Bezos was ranked #1 by Forbes magazine last month) and think further ahead when it comes to achieving rental property success.

*Copyright 2021 Nest in Essex