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How to Win at Playing Finders Keepers When It Comes to Great Tenants

In this three-minute read, we look at how landlords can find and keep terrific tenants.

‘Finders keepers, losers weepers.’ It’s a timeless rhyme used every day in school playgrounds and all over the UK.

It often applies to someone finding something that’s unowned or abandoned. But it also resonates with local landlords when it comes to having the second most important piece of the rental puzzle – great tenants.

Finding these excellent tenants is one thing. Keeping them is another. And some landlords lose these precious people because of basic, unnecessary errors. It’s enough to make a good landlord weep.

But put the tissues away because here are seven ways you can win at Rental Finders Keepers.

  1. Use a good letting agent. Earlier in this article, we mentioned that tenants were the second most crucial piece of completing a rental puzzle. The first? Well, in our opinion, it’s an excellent letting agent. That’s not because we are one, by the way. It’s because, over the years, we’ve seen countless landlords go down the DIY route to managing their properties and getting themselves in a stressful and expensive muddle. Look for agents with experience, testimonials, industry qualifications, and a clear plan on how they’ll market, manage, and maintain your tenancies.
  2. Know your target tenants. An experienced letting agent will be able to advise you on who your property will most appeal to. Is it a growing family, young professionals, or a retired couple? Knowing this will help with the next ultra-important step.
  3. Marketing matters. Perhaps the biggest error DIY landlords make is not taking the marketing of the property seriously enough. You are ‘selling’ an expensive product after all. This is why photography, property descriptions, and online advertising should be handled by professionals who do it day in, day out. The better your property’s marketing, the better calibre of tenants it will attract – giving you more choice when it comes to the next step.
  4. Setting the rent. By knowing your target tenant, marketing correctly, and listening to expert advice, you’ll be able to set your rent at the right amount. A correctly priced rental (not too cheap or expensive) will attract more interest and ultimately, more offers from quality tenants.
  5. Be prepared for questions. Good tenants tend not to just turn up at a property and say: ‘It’s great, where do I sign?’. It’s a big decision for them, and they’ll have questions such as ‘What council tax band is the home in?’, ‘What are the parking arrangements?’, ‘Are utilities included in the monthly rent?’. Remember, when it comes to the best tenants, this is a two-way selection process as they are savvy enough to research the rental market, so you’ll also need to make a good impression on them.
  6. Check them out. A tenant worth having will have no issue going through a referencing process. Here’s another area where a good letting agency reduces your risk of problems further down the line. Please don’t be shy about asking your letting agent for proof of the referencing process they’ve carried out, which should involve financial, employment, and past landlord checks. Skip this part at your peril.
  7. Keeping them. So, once you’ve found a great tenant, how do you go about keeping them? Well, this is an entire article in itself, but it would be along these lines: Be a good landlord by maintaining the property properly, dealing with issues quickly, charging rent fairly, and acting professionally.

At Nest in Essex, our job is to help landlords find and keep great tenants. To ask us anything about the rental market, contact us today.

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Seven Ways to Prepare Your Rental Property for Winter

In this two-minute read, we look at how landlords can make sure their rental investments stand up to the challenges of winter weather.

With winter officially only a few weeks away, the time is now ideal for landlords to take steps to ensure their properties are prepared for whatever December to February serves up.

By putting a winter property maintenance plan in place, you’re setting yourself and your tenants up for a trouble-free winter period.

Begin with boilers – The best time to service a boiler is in September, ahead of it being plunged into constant action in the months that follow. The second-best time to service a boiler is right NOW. By keeping on top of boiler and heating maintenance, you’ll save a lot of money and avoid hassle in the long run.

Remember your radiators – Bleeding your radiators is a simple, yet effective way of ensuring they are working as well as they should be.

Look at lagging – Frozen pipes that burst are the stuff of nightmares for any serious landlord. So, take the time to ensure pipes are wrapped in lagging to reduce the risks of freezing and potentially bursting.

Go to guttering – Don’t wait until the weather turns before you clean out your gutters. Blockages can build up over time and slowly cause unseen damage.

Insulate everywhere – Insulating a loft is an excellent way of keeping the warmth in and the heating bills lower. But don’t forget that even insulating against draughts can be a small way of making a big difference to how warm a property feels.

Fix that fence – The stronger seasonal winds love claiming a poorly maintained fence as one of its victims. So, act now to ensure any weak spots in your fencing are ready to stand up to whatever the winter winds throw at it.

Check it out – If your property is vacant for any sustained period over the winter months, diarise weekly or fortnightly visits to it to keep an eye on things. If you can’t do this, then it’s the kind of thing a good, local letting agent can do for you.

Your rental property is an asset, and having happy tenants is a key part of making the most of it, so take the time and spend the money on creating a safe, comfortable home for them this winter.

And don’t worry if you’re not a Handy Andy or a DIY Diana. At Nest in Essex, we have good working relationships with maintenance people who can do all the work for you.

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Things to Do Before Buying a Run-Down Property

In this two-minute read, we give you a quick checklist to make sure your project is as pain free as possible.

Got your eye on a property that needs some major TLC? Whether a rental investment or a new home, there’s lots to consider when buying a run-down property.

Finances

First things first, is the property mortgageable? Or is it so run-down that no one will lend you money? If it’s the latter, you may have to think of other financing options such as a bridging loan (a short-term loan), cash (if you have the money available), or a joint venture (if you have an investment partner).

And while we’re talking money, before exchanging any contracts, you need to budget, budget, and budget again. A property renovation is costly at the best of times but restoring a dilapidated property can feel like a black hole of endless expense. Make sure you set yourself a sensible budget and have a contingency fund in case of unexpected costs.

Survey

Getting a surveyor to inspect a potential property seems obvious, but when buying a run-down property, you’ll need more than a basic condition survey or HomeBuyer report. To be extra safe and to understand exactly what you’re buying, organise a Building Survey. This will examine the structural make-up of the property and make recommendations for repairs and potential costs. Don’t skimp on this stage of the purchase, as a surveyor can uncover issues you weren’t aware of and save you thousands of pounds.

Planning permission

If you’ve got plans to extend your doer-upper, be sure to do your research. Some properties are sold with planning permission while some benefit from permitted development. If your purchase has neither, keep in mind that planning is a time-consuming (and expensive) road to travel. This could hold up your renovation dreams, so you need to get the process started as soon as you exchange.

Top tip: Look at neighbouring properties to see what type of extensions have been given permission in the past.

Quotes and professionals

Whether you’re hiring a contractor to manage the renovation or want to project manage yourself, get the right team on board. Meet different builders, ask lots of questions, and make sure you outline exactly what you want done. Heed professional advice, they know what they’re doing. You may also need an architect’s advice and it might be worth speaking to the local planning department for extra information.

To find your dream restoration project speak to us a Nest in Essex.

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The Silent Killer: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Explained

In this three-minute read, we examine the dangers posed by carbon monoxide.

We recently read a statistic about private landlords that left us scratching our heads.

A whopping 56% of private renters say they live in a property that doesn’t have a carbon monoxide alarm*.

Can such a high percentage of landlords really be ignoring safety advice and flouting regulations on carbon monoxide alarms?

By law, landlords must have:

  • At least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their rental property which is used as living accommodation, and
  • a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used – after that, the landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.

Many experts also recommend having an alarm near a gas appliance (such as a boiler), although this is not a legal requirement.

These rules are there for a good reason – carbon monoxide poisoning can cause severe illness and even death. There’s no excuse for complacency.

How is it made?

Carbon monoxide is a by-product of burning fossil fuels. When fuels like gas, oil, charcoal, wood, or coal fail to burn properly (a process called incomplete combustion, caused by a lack of oxygen), carbon monoxide is produced.

Exposure to it is hazardous to humans and animals.

Detecting it

You can’t see, smell or taste it; hence its nickname, the Silent Killer. To keep safe, you need to ensure carbon monoxide alarms and fuel-burning appliances are in good working order.

Good ventilation is crucial, too. Blocked flues and chimneys are problematic, as are poorly fitted flues. 

Other warning signs include: 

  • Black or brown stain marks around heaters and fireplaces. 
  • Pilot lights on gas appliances that extinguish regularly or burn yellow (they should burn blue).
  • Flames that burn yellow or orange.
  • Excessive condensation in a room where there is a device that burns fossil fuels.
  • Excessive soot.

Symptoms

Signs of carbon monoxide exposure include vertigo, tiredness, nausea, headaches, chest pains, and blurred vision. The affected person may slip into a coma and then die. The NHS says 60 people die from carbon monoxide exposure every year.

Keeping your tenants and property safe

Landlords should:

  • Brush up on the regulations and install carbon monoxide alarms where required.
  • Ensure working fireplaces are serviced and swept by a competent person.
  • Have gas appliances regularly serviced by a qualified engineer.
  • Check any carbon monoxide alarms in the property are working when the tenant moves in (note this in the check-in inventory). 
  • Ask tenants to test carbon monoxide alarms regularly.
  • Test carbon monoxide alarms during mid-tenancy inspections. 
  • Endeavour to avoid cowboy builders who could bodge boiler and flue installations. 

For more advice about keeping your tenants safe and staying on the right side of the law, contact us here at Nest in Essex.

*According to a survey by property software company Plentific. 

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Top Tips for Choosing an Estate Agent

In this two-minute read, we look at how to select the best estate agent to sell your home.

When it comes to selling a property, it pays to do your research before choosing an agent to manage the sale. 

Now you might think that all agents are much of a muchness (they all flog homes, don’t they?), but you’d be wrong!

A great agent won’t just sell your property; they’ll sell it for the highest possible price (which is the whole point, obviously).

A mediocre agent will go through the motions and probably secure a sale – it is a seller’s market after all – but won’t go the extra mile to get the absolute best deal.

Given that you’ll most likely only sell a property once or twice in your life, why wouldn’t you go with someone who will secure the best transaction for you?

Here are six things to look for in a good estate agent.

Track record. Go with an agent who has a good local reputation and experience selling properties like yours. And don’t just take the agent’s word for it; a good agent will have client testimonials.

Fees and costs. It may be tempting to go with the agent with the lowest fee – but be wary. Low-fee agents skimp on marketing and photography (it’s the only way they can do the job for such a low price and stay afloat). That might be good for their business model, but it’s terrible for your bank balance.

Professional marketing. Buyers do so much of their research online that an agent must have a professional digital presence. Compare how local agents present properties for sale. Look for good quality photography and well-written property descriptions.


Read the fine print. Be wary of agents who want to tie you in for an excessive period. It suggests they don’t have confidence in their own abilities.

Valuation. If an agent vows to sell your property for a sum that is jaw-droppingly higher than market value, be suspicious. Most likely, they’re over-promising to lure you in and will have to drop the price later when savvy buyers don’t fall for it. This tactic just wastes time. Go with an agent who is optimistic but realistic.

Gut instinct. Do you trust the agent or feel like they’re pulling a fast one on you? Follow your instincts.

For a free property valuation or to find out more about our selling track record, contact us here at Nest in Essex.

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The True Cost of Clutter When Selling a Property

In this two-minute read, we look at one of the simplest ways to turbo charge the sale of your home – decluttering.

When it comes to selling a home, there’s a simple way to add thousands of pounds to the price you achieve – and that’s to get rid of your clutter.

By being a little bit ruthless with yourself, and those you live with, you really can achieve a quicker and more lucrative sale.

Here are five ways to say toodle-oo to your old toot.

Make a start

The first step is often the hardest, especially if you have a strong emotional attachment to the property. Make things easier by focusing on a single cupboard or box – and building up from there. Move on to other boxes, cupboards or shelves in the same room before progressing onto other rooms in the property.

Be honest

You don’t have to bin everything, but you do have to be honest. Will a buyer be impressed by your fishing rod collection, or your stash of Queen Mum memorabilia? Probably not. Buyers are looking for a property they can put their stamp on and might be turned off by your ‘special interests’. Put your beloved items into storage.

When did you last use it?

It’s amazing how many items we never use but keep ‘just in case’. Exercise equipment, camping gear, and sewing machines top the ‘I swear I’ll use it one day’ list. Consider selling these items online. That way someone else will get joy out of them – and you’ll earn some extra cash.

Take before and after photos

Before you start decluttering a room, take a quick snap of it in all its crowded glory. Once you’ve finished in a room, take an ‘after shot’. You’ll be surprised at how much more spacious the room looks, providing useful inspiration to keep going on your decluttering mission.

Reward yourself

It can be stressful – and even emotional – getting rid of things that you’ve had for a long time. When you finish decluttering a room, reward yourself with a nice meal out, a walk with a friend or trip to the cinema.

If you’d like more advice about selling your home, contact us here at Nest in Essex.

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Eight Reasons Why People Move Home

A two-minute read on what prompts people to sell up and buy elsewhere.

Most people looking to move home fall into one of eight categories. Learn what these categories are so that you can fine-tune your property selling strategy.

  1. Space Chasers – These movers want more space to accommodate a growing family, a home office or a Labradoodle puppy. Homes with a generous garden, garage, and loft conversion top their most wanted list.
  • New Lease of Lifers – These city slickers yearn to feel the sand between their toes or fresh country air in their lungs. They crave a quieter life surrounded by nature – but still covet creature comforts like high-speed broadband.
  • Lovers and Leavers – People in this category are buying with a new partner/spouse or looking to make a fresh start after a relationship breakdown.  
  • Empty Nesters – With the kids all grown up, Empty Nesters are rattling around large homes (that are expensive to heat). They’re keen to downsize to an energy-efficient, low maintenance home with top-notch security.
  • Family Guys and Girls – This category includes parents with young children looking to be closer to a family support network and those who want to live near an ageing relative who needs TLC.
  • Catchment Hunters – Members of this group can recite the Good Schools Guide verbatim. They’ll pay a premium for a property close to an ‘Outstanding’ school (especially a high-performing secondary).
  • Mortgage Freestylers – This group is looking to restructure their finances. They aim to sell up, buy a cheaper property and live mortgage-free (hopefully with a few extra quid to spend in their retirement).
  • Career Boosters – Thanks to a new job or promotion, members of this group need to move to be closer to their place of work.

Top tip

When marketing and presenting your property, think carefully about who is most likely to buy it and promote your home accordingly.

Don’t overlook small details like broadband speeds, catchment areas and home security. These factors can be very influential to some buyers.

And remember that movers often fall into more than one category (for example, an Empty Nester might also be a Mortgage Freestyler, and a Space Chaser also a Catchment Hunter).

To learn more about successfully marketing your home, contact us here at Nest in Essex.

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Step-by-Step Moving Guide for Renters

In this two-minute read, we look at how renters can take the hassle out of finding a place to live.

Are you looking to move into a new rental property? Here’s a guide to finding a new home.

  1. Research 

Identify where you would like to live and what kind of property you’re looking for. For example, if you work from home, you might need office space. If you have children, you may want a garden. Having a clear idea of your needs means you won’t waste time looking at totally unsuitable properties. Once you’ve made up your mind, make a list of local letting agents.  

  • Budget

Itemise monthly expenses such as rent, council tax, and utility bills so that you understand what your outgoings will be (and to clarify if your choice of property type is within budget). Make sure you also factor in moving costs and set aside money for a deposit.

  • Viewings

Finding a rental property is a bit like dating – sometimes it can take a while to find ‘the One’. It can be helpful to make notes (during viewings, that is, not dates – that would be weird, obviously).

  • Be decisive

If you see a property that ticks all your boxes and is within budget, don’t mess about. Good properties are always in hot demand, so make an offer.

  • Holding fees

If your offer is accepted, the landlord will expect you to pay a holding fee. This is usually the equivalent of one week’s rent and deducted from your first month’s rent (if you proceed with the tenancy).  However, if you get cold feet, you’ll lose this fee.

  • References

Before you get the okay to move in, you’ll need to provide several important pieces of information. Expect to be asked for photo ID and your National Insurance number, along with bank statements and payslips (covering the past three months). The landlord will also seek references from your employer and previous landlord.

  • Contract 

Once the reference checking process is complete, you’re on the home stretch. All you need to do now is sign your contract. Always read any agreement thoroughly, and if you don’t understand something, ask for further explanation. At this point, you’ll also receive details about the water, electricity, and gas suppliers at the property. Note: You’ll also have to cover the TV licence and council tax.

And finally

Confirm your moving date and get packing!

For information about renting, or putting a property on the rental market, contact us here at Nest in Essex.