How Hertford Landlords Can Nip Garden Disputes in the Bud

In this three-minute read, we look at who is responsible for maintaining the garden at a rental property.

The most significant property trend to emerge from the pandemic has been the surge in demand – from buyers and renters – for properties with gardens.

The race for space is undoubtedly good news for landlords marketing properties with a garden, balcony, or courtyard. 

And it’s not just easier to rent out a property with a garden; it’s more lucrative, too. New research shows renters are willing to pay on average 25% more for a home with a garden*.

But letting a garden property isn’t always a bed of roses (see what we did there?); almost a quarter of all deposit disputes are over garden maintenance**. 

Often, the cause of tension is confusion over who is responsible for what when it comes to maintaining outdoor spaces.

This all should be spelled out in the contract, but generally speaking, the tenant should keep the garden in good condition and return it in the same state it was in at the start of the tenancy. Jobs that fall under the tenant’s remit include weeding, watering, and removing litter.

The landlord is responsible for tasks that require expertise, such as lopping off tree branches, fixing broken fences, and any other structural work. 

Here are a few ways landlords can safeguard themselves from getting dragged into a garden dispute.

  1. Lay the groundwork

Ensure that the garden is in good condition before you rent out the property. Plant low maintenance shrubs, sort out uneven paving stones, and get rid of that rickety old shed. 

  • Outline responsibilities

Explain (in person and in writing) what you expect from the tenant and what they can expect from you.

  • Keep records

Often landlords diligently record the condition of the fixtures and fittings of the property’s interior but make little or no mention of the exterior. Check-in and check-out reports should detail the condition of the garden with photographs and descriptions. 

  • Regular inspections

When you carry out a property inspection during a tenancy, don’t forget to look at the garden. Document its condition (photographs are a must), and if any issues are apparent, ask the tenant to rectify them.

  • Be flexible

A tenant is not allowed to make changes to the garden without the landlord’s permission. But if they ask to plant a veggie patch or add some more plants, be flexible. If your tenant is reliable and responsible, allowing them to create the garden of their dreams will encourage them to stay long term. Always clarify any agreed changes in writing beforehand. 

If you have any questions about tenant/landlord responsibilities, get in touch with us here at Hertford.

*Analysis carried out by Paving Direct, based on the average price of renting a three-bed home in cities across the country on Rightmove. Read the full report: https://bit.ly/3gyOJEj

** Data from The Dispute Service. Figures cover the year up to March 2020. 

The Pros and Cons of Using the Help to Buy Scheme in Hertford

Three-minute read to help you consider the Help to Buy Scheme from all angles.

The Help to Buy scheme is a government-backed equity loan opportunity. It is also referred to as ‘shared equity’.

The scheme is currently only available on new build properties. The loan from the government is up to 20% of the purchase price (40% in Greater London). This means that you only need to raise a 5% deposit and get a 75% mortgage (55% in Greater London).

Let’s consider the benefits and downsides of using this option.

Pros

Although this can be called a ‘shared equity’ scheme, you will own the property 100% outright.

This low deposit amount is what can make the scheme appealing to many. It allows you to get onto the property ladder often much quicker than if you had to save for a 10% or more deposit. It’s also cheaper than getting a 95% mortgage, which is what you’d have to do without the scheme.

The first five years of the loan are interest-free and there is no maximum household income cap.

You have 25 years before it has to be paid back in full.

Cons

There isn’t a household income cap but there are regional price caps. For example, in the North West, you couldn’t purchase a property for more than £224,400 using this scheme. In London, you couldn’t spend over £600,000.

The first five years are interest-free but after that, you’ll be charged an annual fee of 1.75% on the outstanding loan amount. This fee goes up each year with inflation. The loan becomes more expensive over time but your wages may not increase at the same rate.

When you sell the property, you must pay off the loan in full. However, because the loan is a percentage of the market value of your home, the loan amount may end up being more if your home has gone up in value. This might mean that you are left with a lot less from the property sale than you would have otherwise had. This can make upsizing harder as you’re not scaling the property ladder in a linear manner.

It’s important to seek specialist financial advice if you are looking to take advantage of the Help to Buy scheme. We can recommend trusted independent financial advisers and mortgage specialists.

If you would like some support to explore what route to take when buying your first Hertford home, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on 01992 532 222.

Five Reasons to Leave Property Viewings to the Experts

In this two-minute read, we look at why it pays to get an experienced estate agent to handle viewings.

When it comes to selling a property, many people overlook the important role viewings play in the process.

They mistakenly believe that viewings are simply about opening doors and making sure would-be buyers don’t nick any valuables.

In fact, buyers share crucial information during viewings that can be helpful during negotiations and push up the final selling price.

Cutting corners on viewings – as many low-fee and online-only agents do by insisting the seller handles them – only chips away at the end result. Here are five reasons to entrust viewings to an experienced professional.

  1. Honesty

Brits are a polite bunch who don’t like hurting other people’s feelings – which is lovely if you’re hosting a tea party, but not much use if you’re selling a property. Buyers are much more likely to give honest, constructive feedback to an agent than an owner.

  • Personal safety

When you open your front door for a viewing, you’re essentially letting a stranger in to wander around your home. In most cases, buyers are genuine and well-meaning, but many sellers prefer to have a professional in charge for peace of mind.

  • Buyers prefer it

There’s a reason why sellers are asked to remove family photos and personal belongings before a viewing: too much personal information is a turn-off for buyers. Similarly, buyers can feel awkward when an owner, especially one with a strong emotional attachment to the property, conducts viewings.

  • Spot genuine buyers

Viewings are an opportunity for the seller to suss out if a buyer is for real. As well as achieving top price, you’re looking for a buyer who won’t mess you around or drop out at the last minute. A good agent will ask the right questions during a viewing to glean if the buyer means business.

  • Negotiation

If you’ve never negotiated a large transaction before (and let’s face it, selling your home will probably be the largest transaction of your life), why start now when so much is at stake? Let an experienced agent with a proven track record handle it for you. They’ll be calm and level-headed and immune to any buyer shenanigans.

To learn more about our sales success in Hertford, get in contact with us here at Abel. 

How to Boost Your 2021 Kerb Appeal in Hertford

This three-minute read will help you maximise the kerb appeal for your Hertford property.

A HomeOwners Alliance survey showed that 68% of potential buyers felt a property’s kerb appeal influenced their decision. Use these quick and easy tips to help your potential buyers fall in love at first sight.

Pathways and driveways

If you access your main entrance via a pathway or over a driveway, make sure you give it some TLC.

  • Refresh gravel
  • Pressure wash to remove discolouration or slippery bits
  • Remove weeds

Top tip: Add solar lights along the route for added elegance.

Front façade

The front of your property is like its shop window. Make sure any soffits, fascias, or guttering are clean and in good order. Clean the windows and frames, or repaint if necessary. Little things like that subliminally reassure viewers that the bigger things have been taken care of too.

Top tip: Clean or repaint your front door, polish the hardware, and add a hanging basket for a burst of colour.

Green fingers

There are low maintenance ways of making a front outdoor area more appealing. You can pick up outdoor plants, even from a supermarket. Pop a few around to brighten any space. If you have a lawn or hedging, keep it tidy. Alternatively, ask a responsible young person if they’d like to earn some pocket money by doing it for you.

Top tip: Choose plants without flowers if you won’t remember to deadhead them. The foliage and pots will still look striking.

Add storage

It might be that you don’t mind your bins and recycling boxes at the front of your home. However, for others it can be off-putting. Broaden your property’s appeal as much as possible by adding a bin store. You can use some trellising to create a divider or go all out and box them in.

Top tip: Surround or cover with pots of flowers or shrubs. You could even train climbers up the side.

Boundaries

If you have fencing or gates, make sure they’re looking their best. This might mean a lick of paint or wood stain. If you’ve got a fence post or panel that’s seen better days, just replace it. It’s unlikely to cost much in time or money. It does, however, prevent any offers from including that as a reason to knock the price down.

Top tip: Add trellising to a fence for some extra foliage.

Identification

You know where your house is. It seems obvious to you. But when you’re travelling around trying to find somewhere, possibly battling with family members, sat nav, or other traffic, it can feel stressful. Make it easy for your viewers. Add a house number or name that is clear and easy to read.

Top tip: Visit your local garden centre. They often have a range of signage so you can choose one that fits the style of your property.

Give your property the best chance of making a good impression. If you would like any advice, please do get in touch for a free, no-obligation chat on 01992 532 222.

COPYRIGHT Abel 2021

Change of Address Checklist for Hertford Property Owners

A two-minute read.

As if selling your home, packing your belongings, and remembering to take the dog isn’t stressful enough, unfortunately, you can’t escape the paperwork palaver that comes with moving. Notifying companies and authorities of your change of address can be monotonous, but (for some things), it’s mandatory. (Not to mention the risk of being deleted from Aunty Marge’s Christmas card list if you forget to tell her you’ve moved.)

To make your life easier, we’ve compiled a handy A to Z guide of who you need to notify.

A is for Animal Care (and includes your pet’s usual vet, groomer and if you use one, dog walker).

B is for Banks, Building Societies,and Broadband.

C is for Council, Clubs, and Cable/Satellite.

D is for Doctor, Dentist, DVLA, and DWP (if you receive money from the government).

E is for your Electricity Supplier (don’t forget to read the meter!) and the Electoral Roll.

F is for your Friends and Family.

G is for your Gas Supplier and Gym membership (or cancel your membership if you’re moving out of the area).

H is for HMRC.(We wish they didn’t know where we lived, either.)

I is for Insurance – House, Car, Business, Life, Pet, Travel, and Health. (You need to insure your new property from the completion date.)

J is for Job.

K is for the Kids’ School(s).

L is for Loyalty Cards and Loan Companies.

M is for your friendly Milkman and the Microchip Database for your pet(s).

N is for Newsagent for your paper deliveries.

O is for Optician and Online Shopping. (Where would we be without internet shopping?!)

P is for Premium Bonds and your Pension Investment Company.

Q is for Quick Food2Go. Imagine when you realise your takeaway’s been delivered to your old address?

R is for Royal Mail Redirect service. You can opt for your mail to be redirected for 3, 6, or 12 months.

S is for Subscriptions, Share Registrars and Services (if you have an accountant, solicitor, gardener, window cleaner or house cleaner).

T is for your Telephone Provider (mobile and landline) and TV Licence.

U is for Utilities and University.

V is for Vehicle Breakdown Cover and Vehicle Logbook

W is for Water Supplier.

X is for X Marks the Spot. Update your address for ‘Home’ on your car’s sat nav.

Y is for Your Buyer. It’s sensible to leave a forwarding address at your old property in case you’ve missed something.

Z is for the Zoo (or anywhere else where you might have an annual membership).

For more tips and advice about how to prepare for a property move in Hertford (or if you can add to this list), give us a call on 01992 532 222.

COPYRIGHT Abel 2021

How to Help Elderly Relatives Move Home in Hertford

A three-minute read.

For an elderly relative, moving on to the next chapter of their lives can be an emotional experience. The need to move home might stem from financial needs, bereavement, health reasons, or the wish to be nearer loved ones. But whatever the catalyst, time, diplomacy, and tact are the order of the day.

Don’t rush

It’s essential to broach the subject of a move sensitively. A move in the twilight years is likely to be a final move, so it’s important to think carefully about future needs. Consider one-level living, a spare room for live-in help, and proximity to local amenities and GPs.

Size matters

For 99% of elderly homeowners, the next home is likely to be smaller than their existing home (and for some, significantly so). Prioritise the essentials in terms of furniture and belongings, being mindful of what will fit in the new home.

Clear the loft

Try to avoid simply moving the contents of one loft to another. If you can, digitise old photos and upload keepsakes to a digital photo frame. Reminders of fond memories can make a new property quickly feel like ‘home’. Shred bank statements and other unneeded paperwork to avoid any risk of identity theft.

Be respectful

When it comes to letting things go, try to help your relative make their own decisions rather than substituting your own. While you may think that their Encyclopaedia Britannica collection is ready for the skip, it may be cherished by your relative. It may be less painful for them to see treasured items go to family, friends, or their chosen charity, rather than auctioned off on eBay.

Have fun

Getting the whole family involved can help make sorting out belongings a more enjoyable experience. If you can, have a photo slideshow scrolling while you work, play your relative’s favourite music, and reward your efforts with a family meal at the end of the day.

Enlist experienced experts

On moving day itself, consider choosing a removal firm experienced in helping elderly people move home. A packing and unpacking service can lessen the load and help make your relative feel settled more quickly.

We’ve been helping elderly Hertford property owners move home for 5 years; we understand the importance of treating seniors with care and respect.

For more advice on helping an elderly relative with their next property move, contact us here at Abel.

COPYRIGHT Abel 2021

How to Avoid Time Wasters When Selling Your Hertford Home

In this two-minute read, we look at ways sellers can identify genuine buyers.

With demand currently outstripping supply in the housing market, sellers are in the driver’s seat, but there is still one hazard that could derail a sale: the flaky buyer.

In a hot market, it’s not uncommon for panicky buyers to make an impulsive offer or go beyond their financial limits.

A buyer might do this because they fear that prices are rising and the market is getting away from them. Or perhaps they’ve been outbid in the past and don’t want to lose out again.

Whatever the motivation, the result is the same: the buyer isn’t committed and drops out weeks or months into the sales process.

Not only is it frustrating for the seller but it could also cost them financially if they’re part of a chain which then collapses because the parties involved grow impatient.

Here are some tips to help you identify genuine buyers.

–  Arrange a second viewing. If the buyer makes an offer after the first viewing, your agent should arrange a second visit to see if they are still as keen as mustard. The buyer should be quizzed about their plans for the property to see if they’ve thought through the purchase.

–  Do the admin. Ensure your agent gets the buyer to fill in an offer form that includes details about their mortgage provider and solicitor. It’s preferable to go with a buyer who already has their ducks in a row.

– What’s the story? Chat to the buyer about why they are moving. If they’re expecting a baby and have family in the same street, it’s a fair bet that they’re the real deal. If they know little about the area or their story keeps changing, question if they are committed to the sale.

Ensure the lines of communication are open. Ideally, your buyer will keep you informed of their progress on the survey, searches, and chasing solicitors. Be wary if things go quiet quickly.

– Work with an experienced agent. Even though it’s a buyer’s market, a good agent can streamline the process for you. They’ll be good at spotting the genuine buyers from the chancers.

For more advice about selling your home, contact us here at Abel.

COPYRIGHT Abel 2021

Three Good Reasons to Shop Local

In this two-minute read, we look at why it’s crucial that consumers shop local.

As we emerge out of lockdown, there’s one thing you can do to help Hertfordrecover from the pandemic – and that’s to shop local.

Independent traders are the lifeblood of communities, generating interest and footfall in our high streets and providing local jobs. But after an incredibly challenging year, small businesses need help to stay afloat.

The good news is that many of us discovered the benefits of shopping locally during the pandemic.

Figures show that 53% of us have shopped locally more in the last year, and 42% say that they will continue to do so in the future (source: Lumina Intelligence).

The momentum is there; we just need to keep it going as the economy opens up. If you’re still not convinced, here are three other reasons to support local enterprises.

It’s character building

If we give all our business to online multinationals, what will become of our high streets? Answer: they’ll become ghost towns. Small businesses, and the people who run them, bring character and personality to neighbourhoods. They make an area feel special and unique, rather than sterile and anonymous.

Social responsibility

Small businesses are rooted in the communities they serve and often support local charities, schools, and sporting clubs. Shopping locally is an easy way you can say thanks to them for lending a hand to the small organisations that make a big difference inHertford.

Good for the environment

Shopping locally can help to reduce the carbon footprint. For example, take the humble veg box. Many people gave them a try at the start of the pandemic – when a trip to the grocery store was like starring in an episode of Supermarket Sweep meets Gladiators – and have remained loyal customers.

Food grown in the UK and picked in season is not only tastier but it also generates far fewer carbon emissions than those transported thousands of miles around the world.

About 500 schemes in the UK provide seasonal, locally sourced fruit and veg (many also supply dairy products and eggs). Why not try one local to you?

From all of us here at Abel, take care, stay cheerful, and support your high street.

Abel 2021